Ajin Demi-Human, volume 1-8 (ongoing) / story by Tsuina Miura, art by Gamon Sakurai.
Translated from the Japanese by Ko Ransom.
Published by Vertical, 2014
Originally published as Ajin, in good! Afternoon magazine (Kodansha, Ltd.), 2012-
9781939130846 (volume 1)
High school student Kei Nagai is struck dead in a grisly traffic accident, but immediately revives to learn that he may not be like every other human. Instead, he may be a mysterious, almost immortal being, granted not only the powers of rejuvenation, but the abilities to see supernatural beings. Scared, he runs away, and is aided in his escape from society by his friend. Unfortunately for Kei, the manhunt is on and he will soon be caught within a conflict between mankind and others like him as they prepare to fight a new war based on terror. Continue reading
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.
The 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.
Blood 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.
Color 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)
My thoughts on Complex Age, volume 1 by Yui Sakuma.
This is a seinen (marketed to men) manga series about a young woman who loves to cosplay, but is having a hard time feeling comfortable sharing her passion with others. A very relate-able and interesting series!
One thing I didn’t mention in my video were the “translator notes” at the end of this volume. There were some really interesting insights into Japanese society and pop-culture in this manga that I’d never read before. I was very impressed with the inclusion of these notes! Just an extra thing to look forward to if you decide to pick up this manga!
Paradise Residence Vol. 1
by Kosuke Fujishima
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
An a-typical seinen slice-of-life comedy about high school girls dorm residents. A-typical in that most of the jokes used in this book can be found in any comedy series about all-girls schools… But, they are all fun situations.
You may find this a bit frustrating if you’re looking for a “story”, or “character development”. This is complete situational comedy. Fujishima has taken his own stock characters, rebranded them, and thrown them into a relatively new location. It’s basically “You’re under arrest”, except the girls are students instead of cops. Each situation is resolved within a chapter making this an easy book to dip in and out of. Actually, you will probably enjoy this more if you take breaks between each chapter.
There are drawbacks to the episodic nature. It allows the author to publish works out of order, or to captalize on origin stories, compiling them at a later date. It appears that this has happened here, where some early situations are published later in the volume… a volume 0?
Art-wise, all I can really say is this is soooo Fujishima. This is not your typical art of modern manga. Especially not of manga featuring young girls whose target readership is men… Yes, there is some nudity (aka fan-service), but it serves a function as a mode for comedy and not so much for titillation. I’m usually put off by fan service, because it’s not targeted to me… this I didn’t mind so much.
Generally the character design is stark. Girls are drawn as girls with as realistic shapes as you can expect in comics. Rendering and shadowing is clean, but simple. And screen tone use is purposeful, but limited. The art still has the flavour of 90’s manga, which I really respond well to.
Overall. I enjoyed this title and would recommend it. If only to get a wider view of what manga is.