Quick Thoughts On: A Proper Wife by Chikae Ide

A Proper WifeA Proper Wife by Chikae Ide

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I loved Chikae Ide’s artwork. There were so many large splash pages that are just begging to be coloured… even though this is obviously not a colouring book. Everything is so crisp and clear! Plus, I am so pleased with the constant barrage of flowery backdrops!

As for the plot, it was short, and very undeveloped compared to most other shoujo/josei manga I’ve read. But compared to other Harlequin manga, it has one of the stronger stories. It was light, fast-paced and completely ridiculous. I had a lot of fun reading it!

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a digital copy for review.

*Originally posted on GoodReads

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Review/Rant: 100 Manga Artists by Amano Masanao

100 Manga Artists.jpg100 Manga Artists / by Amano Masanao ; edited by Julius Wiedemann.

Köln : Taschen GmbH, [2017] ©2017

9783836526470

Original edition published as: Manga Design. Amano, Masanao. Köln : Taschen, c2004.

 

Before you get too far into this review, know that this is effectively the WORST book I’ve read on anime/manga… and I’ve read my fair share! It’s poorly written (I hope the parallel French and German text were better), is inconsistently formatted, provides no useful information, and is an unbalanced and creepy curation that leans heavily toward the over-sexualized.

I was fooled. I was fooled by photographs of a kindly online recommendation. I was fooled by the cover design/title (which I’ll get to later). I was fooled by the publisher whose works I usually appreciate (At least as coffee table books). And, I was fooled by the $10 price tag. I should have known better.

So before I get too far into rant mode, I should probably describe the book. This is a relatively small-trim sized 5.7 x 7.9 inches and chunky 672 pages hardcover book. As far as coffee table books go, it is appealing: a fun size crammed with black and white manga illustrations. Inside, each artist is introduced in a short paragraph with parallel text in English (first), followed by French and German, and 3 to 6 full page examples of that artist’s manga on thick glossy pages.

The actual publishing quality of the book is good, but the content leaves a lot to be desired.

 

Design:

I was originally hesitating to pick this up because of the hideous cover design, and also I’m not usually very interested in these types of encyclopedic surveys of anime and manga. I know because I read them. But, a little push from an online recommendation, and the $10 price tag were enough to reel me in. I’m always weak-willed to any books about manga.

The title “100 Manga Artists” sounds like it will be an encyclopedic work (which it is), featuring 100 different manga artists (which it does) and talking about those artists and/or why they are important (which it doesn’t). There are 100 manga artists named, and their work shown, but there is little to information about the artists themselves or why they were even included in this book. The text was merely there to briefly describe the plot of one or two of that artists’ more notable manga (notable, according to the author).

manga designThis lack of biographical information had me questioning the title. Why was it called 100 Manga Artists? I quickly realized that this had everything to do with marketing, and nothing to do with content. This is actually a “revised” edition of a previous book published by Taschen. That book was called “Manga Design”. Though, I would also take issue with that title, it is definitely more appropriate to the content of this book than “100 Manga Artists”. The Artists aren’t given any importance in this book. It is not at all about Manga Artists.

Book titles are changed for one reason – to make money. You most often see book titles change when there is a movie to tie-in (for example “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” was recently re-published under it’s movie name, “Love, Simon”). It also happens a lot when books are published in different countries (for example “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone”. There are a few other reasons, but these are the easiest examples to think of.

There was no reason to change the title of the book “Manga Design” except that the author or publisher wanted to make money. Best way to do that, especially if people have already read the first edition and realize they don’t need another copy, is to change the name and fool the idiots (i.e. me) who didn’t do their homework before picking it up.

This appears to be a quality published book, by a publisher who often puts out respected coffee-table style art history books. I have always trusted them to produce beautiful, well written books for the layperson. But, the quality of the content of this book is so poor, and the fact that they had to change the title of the book for no visible reason except to trick potential patrons, seriously damages my trust in this company.

 

Writing:

The first sentence of the introduction had me immediately excited, “Manga are Japanese comics created for Japanese readers.” Oddly enough, the term manga is rarely defined in these type of books as anything more than Japanese comics. Even academia seems to forget this important sentence when they are writing about manga for academic journals and other research papers. So, when I read this statement I was anticipating great things! Not only is it rare to get a definition about manga in writings on manga, but it is doubly rare for me to agree with said definition. This author has caught the most important defining aspect of what manga is in their first sentence, “for Japanese readers.” I’ve never read anyone write that before… except me. Unfortunately this wave of brilliance soon departed. The rest of the writing in this book, which I will say is fairly lean, is not brilliant. It is poor. And, I found myself having to read passages aloud to my sister (who was baking pies in the kitchen at the time) in exasperation.

The most hair-pulling example of this writing comes from the paragraph introducing Jiro Taniguchi (page 540).

Jiro Taniguchi is a talented artist who is always breaking new ground with different kinds of images for every new story or theme he pursues. He thoroughly researches each of his stories. When he was first starting out, he created interesting hard-boiled action pieces. He then experimented with a variety of themes. […]

ARE YOU KIDDING?!! A grade-schooler could construct better sentences than this! Forget that Jiro Taniguchi “researches each of his stories”, this makes me wonder whether this author researched for their book at all!

Now, not all of the blame can lie on the original author. This was originally written in Japanese (as far as I can tell), so the translator also gets to share in the brunt of my annoyance.

“He thoroughly researches each of his stories.”

I’m assuming that the author meant that he does research before working on a story, or researches for each of his stories, but to say “he researches his stories” implies that he goes back after the story is written and collects any articles or papers that discuss them.

I could go on.

On top of the plethora of problems with this writing there is also no style. If they had to write each sentence in a passive voice, and start 90% of the sentences (this may be an exaggeration, I’m really frustrated and don’t feel like counting) with the word “He”, wouldn’t it have been a better option to just use bullet points to organize?

But then, what is there to put into bullet points? Try this experiment: ask yourself what concrete information you have learned when you read the short paragraph above.

Give up?

Let me give you a hint:

Jiro Taniguchi created more than one art thing.

That’s it! This statement may seem a bit facetious, but NOTHING else is stated in these sentences. The rest is supposition and posturing with none of the necessary details or explanation which give concrete meaning to the words.

This wouldn’t frustrate me so much, except that I feel like these words are a complete waste of space (and waste of my time). This block of text is 1/3 of the description used for Jiro Taniguchi. The remaining 2/3 of text is a quick list of some of his more famous titles and their topics (NOT their themes). And to top it off, of all of the works listed, not one of them includes what anyone would call a “hard-boiled action piece.”

So the writing is poor. The content is non-existent. And I still have another objection! [Can you hear my voice getting louder, because it is!] That problem is inconsistent formatting.

I haven’t mentioned yet, but in addition to the short paragraph to introduce the artist (or whatever it’s doing, I’m not really sure), there is a short list of facts for each artist (in English only). These facts can include: when and where they were born, their debut work, their best known works, anime adaptations of their works, and some prizes they’ve won.

But the use of these facts is inconsistent, and therefore untrustworthy. In the category for anime adaptations, for example, some artists who have known anime adaptations of their works have a short listing, but some don’t. This is also true of the awards listings.

The listings of “best known works” is what tipped me off to this issue in the first place. Back to the example of Jiro Taniguchi:

Best known works

“Unu o kau” [Owning a Dog]

“Kamigami no itadaki”

“Botchan no jidai”

Umm…

So, someone explain to me why the first title was translated into English, but the other two weren’t? Especially considering that the other two titles are BOTH published in English, this wouldn’t have been difficult to resolve.

And if we ignore that gross oversight, why weren’t these titles printed in Japanese with the plain phonetic pronunciation beside them, instead of the phonetic pronunciation alone? Why?! Why, I ask you?!

 

Curation:

The last thing I want to talk about is the creepy curation. I don’t understand why certain artists were included, and some artists weren’t. And, why certain manga illustrations were included instead of something else. After reading this book, I did go online and check other people’s reviews, and some of them stated that they liked the variety of artists discussed. So, this may be more subjective than my other arguments. But let me at least describe what I see:

Page 6: Flipping to the introduction, the illustration to the left comes from (I’m assuming by the art style) Mitsuru Adachi where a girl appears to be boxing (probably from the manga Katsu), falls over, and lands with her panties exposed while a bunch of men watch.

Page 25: Koji Aihara. The illustrations used directly beside the introduction is a 4-koma sequence that ends in a rambunctious theesome.

Page 31: Ken Akamatsu. The illustration used directly beside the introduction is from Negima. The little wizard boy performs some magic, and the girl in question’s clothes blow off.

Page 49: Moyocco Anno. The illustration used directly beside the introduction is from Flowers and Bees. If you can’t read Japanese or haven’t read the original story, this wouldn’t look like much. But, this is the moment that the two female hairdressers proposition the main boy and suggest that having sex with them will make him more appealing to women (right before they rape him).

Page 79: Kiyohiko Azuma. The illustration used directly beside the introduction is from Azumanga Daioh. Again, you’d need to know the series or Japanese to get it. But, this is a sports scene where Tomo tells Sakaki-san to step back because her boobs give her too much of a lead when they race.

 

In my opinion there is an over-use of unnecessarily sexual content. Mitsuru Adachi, and Kiyohiko Azuma are far from artists who I would think of when I would discuss fan service. Yes, I know, it’s a major part of shonen manga, blah blah blah… but… there are much better, and more memorable aspects to these stories that could have been included.

The placement of these images is also a bit creepy to me. The majority of the more “tantalizing” illustrations are on the first page to a section, next to the introductory paragraph where you’ll spend the most time. There are of course exceptions.

I’m not offended by sexual content. But I don’t like the subtle leaning towards the so-called “male-gaze” that I feel all over this curation. I feel too much of the author’s “interest” in manga in this curation and in his writing. As an encyclopedic work this should have been more neutral.

Some of the illustrations are appropriate as a representation of an artist’s work. In my opinion, both the illustrations for Ken Akamatsu and Moyocco Anno fit fairly well.

And there were a few surprises. Shintaro Kago, for example, doesn’t really have any example art in this book that I would consider overly-sexual. I can’t read the Japanese, so can’t be sure about the content. But, for someone known for his EroGuro (grotesque erotica), and who often sells as pornography, there is only one small image of a naked woman being pulled apart by school children using her legs as rope in a tug-of-war. But that’s it. And that very much is indicative of his art.

Gengoroh Tagame who is a notable gay-manga (bara) artist has some of his non-censored work included in this book. These types of scenes are fine to include as a representation of his work, but they also make me nervous. This book doesn’t have any external clues that it’s intended for adults only. The least that could have been done is a rating on the back, like any respectable English-language manga would get.

[Also, before you congratulate this book on its inclusivity, just note that Tagame was only included in this book because he’s recently gotten popular outside of the gay-manga genre. The same is true for the inclusion of Fumi Yoshinaga. There aren’t any strictly yaoi, yuri, or gay-manga artists in this book.]

 

Conclusion:

This reads like a self-published mess. But, the art is nice, and the price tag of $10 for about 500 pages of glossy art seems relatively reasonable as someone who likes to do paper crafts. I wouldn’t be surprised if this didn’t meet my scissors in some mad crafting afternoon sometime.

 

Game:

Do you see what I see? Find the glaring omission. [hint: the original edition was published in 2004. This “revised” edition was published in 2017.]

obata scan update

obata scan update2obata scan update3

Manga Review: 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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Manga Review: Descending Stories, volume 1 / by Haruko Kumota

DGeQ-dKUIAAEvuuI’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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Manga Review: 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…

Manga Review: Platinum End / by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Platinum End, Vol. 1Platinum End, Vol. 1

by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

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.

Manga Review: Blood Sucker: the Legend of Zipangu / by Saki Okuse and Aki Shimizu

Blood Sucker: Legend of Zipangu, Volume 2Blood Sucker: Legend of Zipangu, Volume 2

by Saki Okuse

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

At this point in the series the only thing saving it is the action sequences and art drawn by Aki Shimizu. Shimizu is a great artist, it’s such a shame that only 1 of his series actually got a complete release in English.

As for the story, it is quite confusing. I don’t think that’s entirely the author’s fault though. There were quite a few times where I was questioning the translation decision. I don’t have the original Japanese so I can’t compare, but there was something off about quite a number of phrases. They just didn’t feel authentic.

This volume is basically an introduction of characters. There are short vignettes, some as short as a page, to introduce characters and situations. It has a feeling that all will be revealed and relative at one point in time. But, it is difficult to wait for any sort of clarity.

Then on top of the confusion, my particular volume has a printing error. A block of missing pages, and some duplicate pages. But, the fact that you don’t notice that there is something missing right away is a pretty good illustration of how jumpy the actual story is.

I’m going to keep reading since I have the rest of the volumes. And, at the very least, I believe I should read all of the manga I buy. But, I’m also not really able to recommend this title to anyone either (at least, not yet). And, I haven’t even gotten to the biggest blot on the series that happens at volume 7 when the series finished releasing incomplete.

Manga Review: Color of Rage by Kazuo Koike and Seisaku Kano

Color of RageColor of Rage

by Kazuo Koike

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this one expecting it to be a thriller. It wasn’t. But, it was a brilliant read and I can’t wait to get a chance to pick this up again.

This is about George, a Japanese man and King, an African man who’ve escaped from a slave ship and are now in a “historical” 18th century Japan trying to find a place to live in peace. Don’t expect an accurate depiction of history, this is more of a backdrop to a discussion on the ideas of slavery.

Through the story by Kazuo Koike attempts to illustrate the confinement of Japanese society through comparison of slavery in America. In it George is often explaining to King how they should act to get along in society. This basically requires them to humble themselves, prostrate themselves, and degrade themselves in a subservient manner to people who may be less than worthy. And, King making pointed observations about the problems with this.

There were a few moments which were pretty cringey, but there were also moments that were so beautiful and poignant…let’s just say, it gave me some significant “feels”.

This is the first time I’ve read a manga illustrated by Kano, who is a brilliant artist. There were so many gorgeous scenes, human figures, background scenes that I kept stopping just to absorb the art.

Highly recommended. (mature readers)

Manga Review: Meteor Prince by Meca Tanaka

Meteor Prince, Vol. 1Meteor Prince, Vol. 1

by Meca Tanaka

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I always enjoy reading Tanaka. She’s such a unique voice in modern shoujo manga.

This follows a girl who is the black hole for luck — bad things just happen to her. And one day, the worst thing yet… a handsome alien lands on earth claiming she’s his destined mate!

It’s definitely cute, quirky, innocent and pretty much everything you’d hope from Tanaka. Plus, it’s only two volumes long which makes it a great series to pick up when you don’t have a lot of time.

Manga Review: St. Lunatic High School / by Majiko!

St. Lunatic High School, Vol. 1St. Lunatic High School, Vol. 1

by Majiko!

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Niko and her brother are so impoverished they jump at the chance of a teaching job, free room and board…and free classes at the prestigious St. Lunatic high school. Only things aren’t as they seem, the house is dilapidated and on school grounds and the night school is a school for monsters…

I read this about 7 years ago, and since it was completely forgettable I decided to pick it up again and refresh my memory. I am so glad I did. This is such a silly and cute manga. The monsters are charming, the art is bold, and it’s all over just pure fun. I smiled reading the entire time.

This is a shoujo manga, so there is a little bit of romance. And, there are monsters, but they don’t come off as scary. You will probably enjoy this more if you’re middle-grade/pre-teen age.