August Week 1 Wrap-Up #GrayeBeardChallenge

Like I said in the previous post. I’m participating in a month-long reading challenge to determine what I should read through a game of chance. So far I’ve only read 2 titles, but my time is pretty precious at the moment, I don’t actually have that much free time right now. I think I’m still on the right track. Plus, I picked up a title that I’ve been putting off for years:

Number 1 : GoGo Monster by Taiyo Matsumoto

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This is seriously one of the most beautiful manga publications in my collection. It has a full color cardboard sleeve, a full color wrap-around image, and the page edges are painted red with further designs. It’s gorgeous. And, for that alone, I think it’s worth collecting.

But, then you have the story… and “my god!” my brain feels like it’s melting. (that’s a good thing) Like most of Matsumoto’s works the protagonists are children working out their reality/trying to figure out their place in the world. It primarily surrounds two boys.

The first has been going to this school for a long time. He’s a loner. And has been ostracized by the entire class because of his strange behaviour and talk of the supernatural. His only friend is the school caretaker who listens quietly and intently in his stories, but rarely comments or encourages the behaviour. Throughout the story the boy begins to get agitated as the voices he’s been relying on have started to go quiet.

The second boy is new to the school. And as much as he’s been warned to stay away from the first boy, he finds his behaviour intriguing, if not bewildering, and makes friends with him. He also asks questions and listens to the stories, but is of course doubtful as to their validity.

DGRmue-UQAELy4yThe whole thing feels like a metaphor for growing up. There is constant concern over the other side, of adulthood, of breaking the rules, of death… all of these discussions between the characters seem to be markers of that pivotal moment in a child’s life when they’re no longer a child. They take a step into a limbo where they’re still children, but not children at the same time.

It’s a brilliant reading experience – delving deep into the psyche of children. But, I think is best understood intrinsically. I think if you’re trying to figure out what is going on during every panel, you’ll only wind yourself into knots.

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Number 2 : Descending Stories, volume 1 by Haruko Kumota

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The second thing I read was the first volume of Descending Stories. I’ve been pretty hyped to read this after hearing so many great things about the anime; many people touting this story as a “masterpiece”.

I’m less enthused after reading it than I was expecting. It has one major flaw in my eyes and that is it is written by a yaoi author. i.e. she brings with it a lack of character development. Because most yaoi series tend to be on the shorter side (at least what has been released here) authors have to develop their characters quickly. And they can do this because they are working with stock characters. The uke and seme are the most common character types complete with defining relationship roles, personality (both private and public), and even artistic design. If you’re a regular reader of the genre, you will instantly pick out which character belongs to which static character type and can enjoy the quick-ride which is the story.

But this is not yaoi (it might have some gay characters, but that doesn’t define the genre). So, it’s quick character development isn’t enough to engender an emotional response from readers. It falls flat. And this is my primary issue with this story.

It could make a recovery though. The way the story is structured could indicate that the two male character’s will get more focus throughout the story as Kumota unveils their intentions and feelings. But other characters, like the lead female character doesn’t have much left to give. Her character has been laid bare, and her intentions/motivations clear.

But the story! The story! The story could save this for me. It is one of the most unique subjects I’ve read about. It’s about a young man recently released from prison. While he was in prison he heard the comedic storytelling (rakugo) of the legendary master Yakumo Yurakutei and decided to become his apprentice. He persuades Yakumo to take him on, and is eager to get started to learn the art of rakugo.

This is the first time I’ve read anything about rakugo. I’ve had a little exposure to it through watching Japanese television. But, this purely Japanese art-form is fascinating to me to read about.

Now all Kumota needs is to develop her characters a bit more and this will be a great manga…I’ll wait!

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Tetris: The Games People Play / by Box Brown

Tetris: The Games People PlayTetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was okay. My opinion of it might be suffering for the fact that I just read a corporate history graphic novel that I enjoyed exponentially more about a month ago. It was too easy to compare the two.

I enjoyed the story well enough. But there wasn’t very much story to be had. If you had taken the first 50 pages, the last 10 and thrown in a few in the middle for good measure, you would have had your story.

But, then there were all of the other pages. Filled with rights negotiations… It’s not that this wasn’t important or interesting. But, it was just written in a way that made more sense in a report. This wasn’t supposed to just be facts with pictures. This was supposed to say something. Make me feel something. Like a good story should.

It was like facts were acquired. They were calculated to amount to a certain value. And then spewed out in sequence without vetting or embellishment. There was story to be had. I don’t even think that the content that existed was bad. It’s just that it was the skeletal information that a good story could have been built upon.

Obviously. I felt like the story was missing.

The art satisfied the report-style writing. It was okay. Cute enough. There were a few times when I got confused which character I was reading about and had to flip back to the pages they were introduced to figure it out.

I really liked the yellow/black pallette. Usually a harsh combination, but I found rather fun.

Overall, this was a quick read. I finished it in about an hour. I thought this was interesting and informative, if lacking in finesse and feeling. If you’re interested in the history of Tetris, or maybe the history of business partnerships between foreign-countries and Russia you might enjoy picking this up.

I didn’t mind Box Brown’s style — and am very curious in trying out his history of ‘Andre The Giant’ some time.

MANGA BOOKSHELF 12 TOUR | + manga review (DRAGON VOICE)

 

This video is the beginning of a challenge that I’ve posed to myself of sharing my manga collection. I’m randomly choosing shelves in my collection and doing more in depth discussion of the titles that are on it. I’m still planning on doing a full collection tour at some point later this year, but that will be a tour without any real discussion.

This is from shelf 12, or more appropriately books D to E. We’ve shifted our collection around so these titles are now sitting on a different shelf, but am planning on getting to all of the titles at some point.

 

Manga mentioned in this video:

  • Dragon Knights by Mineko Ohkami
  • Dragon Voice by Yuriko Nishiyama
  • Dramacon by Stvelana Chmakova
  • Dream Saga by Megumi Tachikawa
  • The Drifting Classroom by Kazuo Umezu
  • Drug & Drop by CLAMP
  • Dr. Slump by Akira Toriyama
  • Duck Prince by Ai Morinaga
  • ES (Eternal Sabbath) by Fuyumi Soryo
  • DVD by Kye Young Chon
  • Earthian by Yun Kouga
  • Eerie Queerie by Shuri Shiozu
  • Erica Sakurazawa (short stories)
  • Eternity by Park Jin-Ryong and Shin Yong-Gwan
  • Eureka 7 by Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou

#DIVERSEATHON wrap-up

Oops. A bit late to wrap-up… you put it off one day and all of a sudden it’s a week later. So, anyways.

I participated in #Diverseathon. This was a challenge to read as much own voices literature from diverse authors. As you may know, I decided to pick graphic novels written by Indigenous authors born in Canada.

I’m not sure I learned too much. Maybe because there are several Indigenous groups that live very closely… or, because so much of my degree was focused on the history and culture of these groups. It was pretty much as expected.

What seemed unfortunate is that the titles each had a heavy-handed focus on reclaiming the “old ways”. I take this to be because they were written for the group that they were written about, and because most of them were supported with grants from the Government of Canada… so of course would have a particular agenda. It’s not a bad position, just that 1. it is incredibly disheartening that a group needs to have this message repeated over-and-over in their own literature and 2. the repetition gets a little tiring.

I placed holds on a number of titles, but these are the ones that arrived in time, which I read during the readathon.

☆☆☆/5 Ak Skim Aan (Hunter) / Marshall Leigh George was probably the most unique comic in the pile. It was a very short story of an Indigenous Father in a dystopian future who can’t provide for his family until…he discovers the “old ways”. It was essentially posed photographs with a textured overlay to give it a science fiction feel. I personally was surprised with how much I enjoyed this short story. Plus, it was a bilingual comic in Blackfoot with English subtitles which is such a unique thing to read.

☆☆/5 A Blanket of Butterflies / Richard van Camp again is a very short story. This one was nominated for an Eisner award in 2016. It wasn’t “that” awesome unfortunately. I think the nomination made me have higher expectations. This was about a Japanese man who came to Canada to reclaim his family sword that was being held hostage by an out-of-control Indigenous man until he rediscovers the “old ways”. I didn’t find this one as meaningful. There was an emotional finale, but the connection between characters was awkward. It was just much much too short.

There was an interesting attempt at connecting the Denne culture with Japanese culture that was hinted at… I would love to see that explored more in a future comic.

☆☆☆☆/5 Moonshot: The Indigenous Collection this is a beautiful and professional production of short stories by Indigenous authors edited by Hope Nicholson. This title is worth picking up if only for the first short graphic novel/brilliant work of art “Vision Quest: Echo / David Mack” about a deaf Cherokee girl and the love of her father. Visually stunning, and beautifully moving. YES!! This story!! If I could buy pages of this to hang on my walls I would…

I wasn’t terribly interested in the rest of the compilation. But, the first title…

☆☆☆/5 The Outside Circle / Patti Laboucane-Benson is a story of a young Indigenous man surround by gangs, drugs and violence is sent to prison after fighting with his mother’s boyfriend and eventually finding his way to healing through an Indigenous rehabilitation program.

Again, a heavy-handed approach to rediscovering the “old ways” — but I think actually done to the best effect. In the end, this was thought-provoking, but also incredibly depressing. At the end one man finds reclamation but is just one man in a seeming never-ending cycle of destruction.

There is so much hurt in these cultures that it can’t help but being reflected in their literature. It’s a bit overwhelming to read over-and-over, but it is a reflection of something significant, complex, and seemingly insurmountable.  Compared to the experience of just reading about it, how much more overwhelming to live with?!

Top Manga of 2016!

A little late to post this, but this is a very quick run-down of all of the new manga published in English in 2016 that I also read in 2016!

What were your favourite manga last year?

New Manga I read in 2016:

  • Behind the Scenes
  • Cells at Work
  • Cigarette Girl
  • Complex Age
  • Giganto Maxia
  • The God’s Lie
  • Heiress and the Chauffer
  • Honey So Sweet
  • Kitaro the Birth
  • Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear
  • Kuroko’s Basketball
  • Liselotte & Witch’s Forest
  • My Monster Secret
  • My Pathetic Vampire Life
  • Nekogahara Stray Cat Samurai
  • Platinum End
  • The Prince and His Dark Days
  • School Judgment
  • Shuriken and Pleats
  • That Wolf Boy is Mine
  • The Tipping Point
  • Wandering Island

I also read “Yona of the Dawn” this year, but forgot to mention it in my video. I gave it a nice solid 3 stars!

We Were There, vol 1-16 / Yuuki Obata

We Were There, Vol. 1We Were There, Vol. 1 by Yuuki Obata

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this series because I’d been recommended it so often, and also because I own the series, and I owe it to my money to read the manga I buy.

Unfortunately it’s not the series I had hoped it could be. Every time you were left with a hanging question about where the story would go, I predicted the outcome. It was NEVER the outcome I’d hoped for. The outcome was always convenient. Always expected. And never profound.

The characters are weak. I think this is the overall problem I have with the series. Not weak in character, but just weak characters. They weren’t developed enough — and their relationship wasn’t believable enough for me to buy into it. Actually I was thinking their relationship was more toxic than romantic, there were moments where I thought the author was aware of it too — but if she was, she certainly didn’t do anything about it!

The story itself is fine, if a little slow and predictable. The art in it is suitable (if occasionally inconsistent).

There was a surprise thrown into this series that made the beginning worth reading. It comes at the middle of the series, around volume 11. High school is over. Yano is gone. And, Nanami hasn’t seen him in 5 years.

It’s from this point onward that the series gets interesting. And it’s at this point onward that you get SOME of the much desired character development. I’m not going to say it’s a lot — and I’m not going to say it isn’t completely predictable, but I will say that you do start to have some feelings for Yano and Nanami as characters.

Unfortunately these feelings didn’t come soon enough. I’m a person who is normally easily moved. I felt stone cold-hearted reading to the end.

But, do I recommend this series?!

Maybe. I would say try the series. If you don’t buy into the characters relationship right at the beginning it’s probably not worth reading until the end. But, if you completely get behind Yano and Nanami’s relationship (if their love moves you), this will probably be one of the best shoujo dramas you’ll ever read!

It all boils down to the characters…

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October Manga Reading Wrap-Up

My wrap-up for reading in October. I read a lot. I finally am starting to feel like I’m getting my regular reading pace back. In previous years I would read twice as much in a month. It’s hard to get back to that pace.

I would say that I’ll be back to my old reading self soon, but November will be significantly leaner – it’s been a hard month. Which means I’m spending my time doing other things besides reading.

Plus, my sister has decided that she & I should start a second channel together, dedicated to our second favourite thing: crafting. Actually, mostly “planning”. So, looking at that is also taking up a significant portion of my time.

I probably won’t be doing full wrap-ups starting next year. This is just too long. When you go to the video (if you go the video) I’ve time stamped all of the manga I talk about in the video in the description box on Youtube which you can use to only hear me talk about specific titles. Hopefully that will help. I’ve read quite a variety of things (old and new + various demographic reads). Enjoy.

 

Manga I talk about in this video:

  • Start with a Happy Ending, 1 / Risa Motoyama
  • Behind the Scenes, 2 / Bisco Hatori
  • Classical Medley, 1-2 / Sanae Kana
  • Color of Rage / Seisako Kano & Kazuo Koike
  • Flower in a Storm, 1-2 / Shigoyoshi Takagi
  • Flowers & Bees, 1-2 / Moyocco Anno
  • Fragments of Horror / Junji Ito
  • Hell Baby / Hideshi Hino (horror)
  • I Am a Hero, 1 / Kengo Hanazawa
  • Kuma Miko: Girl Meets Bear, 1 / Masume Yoshimoto
  • Lycanthrope Leo, 1 / Kenjo Kaji
  • Maid War Chronicle, 1-2 / Ran
  • Meteor Prince, 1-2 / Meca Tanaka
  • Naruto, 1-15 / Masashi Kishimoto
  • Oh, My Brother!, 1-2 / Ken Saito
  • Papillon, 1-6 / Miwa Ueda
  • Skip Beat!, 37 / Yoshiki Nakamura
  • St. Lunatic High School, 1-2 / Majiko!
  • Sweet & Sensitive, 1-2 / Park Eun-Ah
  • The World I Create, 1 / Ayami Kazuma
  • Until the Full Moon / Sanami Mato

Platinum End / by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Platinum End, Vol. 1Platinum End, Vol. 1 by Tsugumi Ohba

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A depressed youth is saved by a morally ambiguous angel who gives him supernatural gifts that he must use as a candidate to become the next “god”.

Platinum End has a pretty epic start but I’m not entirely confident in it’s future. At this point it may decide to go straight into battle fantasy manga, rather than really focus on the story, and that would be a shame. But, we won’t know for at least 2 volumes.

There was quite a bit of explanation on how this fantasy system works and what the rules of the competition are, so it doesn’t have as much impact or flow as smoothly as you’d hope from a first volume.

It feels a little bit like a re-imagining of death note. [A comparison that they can’t escape.] What if Light didn’t go on a killing spree? What kind of world would he create then? I think it’s an intelligent re-working of a fan favourite. And will create a different enough story from Death Note.

The concept bases itself in an idea that there are several candidates to become the next “god” and they must battle each other to find out who will be chosen. It is a pretty usual one that you’d see in shonen (fantasy battle) series like Shaman King, Hoshin Engi, Gestalt, and many others. So, if you liked any of these series, this might be for you.

However, as far as mood it might be a little darker than death note in terms of imagery, and it does deal with abuse, depression and suicide so if those are things that bother you, you might want to avoid this title.

Overall I enjoyed it! And, I’m crossing my fingers for the rest of the series.

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