Ken Akamatsu releases a new Manga!

UQ Holder

Ken Akamatsu, creator of Love Hina and Negima! has just released a new manga called UQ Holder! which is basically Negima!: The Next Generation. It takes place in the Negima! setting about 10 years after the world became aware of the existence of magic and centers around Negi’s grandson who has been living a sheltered country life and must now go out into the real (future) world.

Having read the first 80-page “chapter” of the story, I have to say that I don’t actually like it that much. It’s really typical, and while I thought I’d like the tie-ins with Negima! (which I liked overall) I found they weighed the story down more than boosted it. Negima! had a very whimsical and organic feel to it, but this story feels very forced and like Akamatsu is trying too hard to harness both the Negima! setting and fan base and start something new at the same time. It’s hard to explain without spoiling it, so you’ll just have to check it out and make your own decisions.

I will say that it was very clear during Negima! that Akamatsu was a guy doing a romantic comedy/harem book that desperately wanted to be doing a fantasy-action book instead. At least this time he’s doing what he wants, but ironically, not having the character-driven romantic-comedy story as a base might turn out to be this story’s downfall. He just doesn’t seem to be very good at doing “real” shonen-type battle stories without them devolving into clichés.

As a side-note, Negima! ends without us knowing who Negi finally marries (likely the editors wouldn’t let him pick since it might hurt future collection sales), but to those paying attention this story now more or less tells us the answer with a 50% chance of being correct. (Which might not seem certain, but when you consider the odds were formally about 1 in 30, that’s a pretty big jump!)

Rob

Fan-Translated Manga I’m Reading at the Moment

One of the great things about the Internet is that many things which aren’t considered considered commercially viable are distributed online by people who have a passion for them. This can be people sharing recipes, fansubbing their favorite TV shows from other countries, or fan-translations of Manga.

There are a couple Manga that I really enjoy which don’t have a strong enough English fanbase to actually publish for profit, but which fans have translated for fun. All of these titles can be around on sites like Mangafox or Manga Reader.

Black Joke- An action manga about the enforcers who work for a Casino in the future, and the dirty jobs they have to do. I wasn’t sure about this one at first, since it’s a bit odd and gory, but the more I read it the more attached to it I became. Now it’s one of my favorites, although it is definitely not for everyone!  (Rated Hard R)Black Joke 1: Odor at MangaFox.me

 

One-Punch Man– A superhero-action-comedy about a Superman-level superhero who can literally defeat any opponent in one punch, and how incredibly boring this makes his life. It’s a Japanese take on American superheroes, kind’ve like The Tick, but with more gore and nice art. (The whole thing seems to be an art experiment by the creator.) It’s gaining quite a following in American fan circles.Onepunch-Man 1: 1st Punch [One Punch] at MangaFox.me

 

Gamble Fish– Tomu Shirasagi is a young gambler who travels to the ShishiDo Academy (Japan’s most elite prep school) with the stated goal of making $100 million through gambling and betting with the school’s students. But the school and Tomu both have dark secrets, and these spiral out of control in a series of ever-escalating “games” based around a combination of wits, bravery and deception. It starts serious, gets more than a little over-the-top and silly, but is always fun an interesting.Gamble Fish 1: Truth and Lies at MangaFox.me

Killer StallIn this action Korean Manhua, Choo is an elite killer for an organized crime outfit who decides to start a new life because he falls in love. You can probably guess how well that works out. A well told tale of gangsters and assassins.

Killer Stall 2: The Legend of Dan-Gun at MangaFox.me

Liar Game- A young woman is drawn into a game of deception called the Liar Game. Similar to the manga Death Note, but based around psychological warfare and deception. It was on a break for a while, but new ones have come out recently. Not a breezy read, but worth the effort to follow.

Liar Game 18: Revival Round at MangaFox.me

Robot KeijiOldschool (like 1970’s oldschool) manga about an old police detective who is assigned a new partner- a robot. Surprisingly serious and dark, it has an edge to it that newer manga tend to lack. The characters are a little cartoony, but the story and presentation really draw you in. I didn’t think I’d like it and read it on a whim, now I really want to read more!

Robot Keiji 1 at MangaFox.me

Heroes of the Spring and AutumnIn this Chinese Manhua (comic), a Chinese prince is attacked by a group of mysterious martial artists and receives a head injury that leaves him with amnesia. However, that’s just the core story of an epic conspiracy surrounding the end of the Qin dynasty. Not a great comic, but nice art and a very different approach to storytelling.

Heroes of the Spring and Autumn 1 at MangaFox.me

 

Bakuman

I buy very few manga these days, in fact, I can count the number I do buy on one hand without using all the fingers.

But if I had to pick just one manga from that very short list, that manga would be Bakuman.

How do I describe Bakuman to someone who hasn’t read it? Well, I guess the simplest description would be it’s about two Japanese teenagers who want to draw manga (comics).

But, like most things, that simple definition doesn’t even begin to cover what it really is. You see, Bakuman is funny, witty, and charming, but it’s also an in-depth exploration of the creative process, the Japanese manga industry, and even the philosophical underpinnings of what it means to be a manga artist. It manages to critique the industry and the art form itself while at the same time making us fall in love with a sometimes kooky, lovable and weird cast of misfits who inhabit that industry and live in the pressure-cooker environment that it produces.

And, it’s those characters that keep me coming back each time a new volume comes out (I refuse to read it online), because it’s like getting together with old friends with each new release. You become a part of their world, invested in their successes and failures and in them as people.

You also learn from them. Volume 10 just came out this week, and it reminded me of one of the most important things to remember as an artist- failure is good.

Not blind failure, but learning from everything you do even if you fail or if your work doesn’t measure up. The audience will never see the pile of failures that each successful story is built on, but they’re what make an artist’s craft what it is.

It’s so easy to forget that as a writer, and only want to do projects that you think you can do 100% or not do anything at all. But, those risky projects, those experimental projects, and those failures are what will make you that successful artist you want to be.

Bakuman reminded me of this, this week, and helped get me back on the right writing path. So I want to give it thanks.

If you’re curious, some fans did what they call a “visual comic” (a comic with voiceovers, music and sound effects) of the first couple of stories of Bakuman, here’s the first one-

There is also a Bakuman anime, which I’m told is quite good and popular, but I’m enjoying the manga too much to switch over.

Rob

Manga- Liar Game – Who do you trust?

For those who love thrillers with a psychological bent, Liar Game is a unique story along the lines of the manga Death Note. It’s a story about trust, deceit and human nature filled with mind games and twists and turns. I highly recommend checking it out if you have the chance, the creator took a 1.5 year break for his health and has just returned to it, so now is a great time to catch up!

From wikipedia-

At the start of the manga, the lead protagonist – a scrupulously honest college student named Nao Kanzaki – receives a package containing 100 million yen (about 1 million dollars) and a note that she is now a contestant in the Liar Game Tournament. In this fictional tournament, contestants are encouraged to cheat and lie to obtain other contestants’ money; those who lose have to bear a 100-million-yen debt. When Nao’s first opponent – a trusted friend and teacher – steals her money, she seeks assistance from a con man named Shin’ichi Akiyama. Though they manage to defeat the teacher, Nao and Akiyama decide to buy out his debt and advance through different rounds of the Liar Game Tournament against merciless contestants, while at the same time attempting to free their opponents from debt and to defeat the Liar Game organization from within.

Liar Game 1 – Read Liar Game 1 Online – Page 1.

Live Action Ranma 1/2 Special will Air in December!

Akane Tendo

Apparently someone had decided to do a Live-Action Ranma 1/2 show in Japan, probably out of a mix of nostalgia and lack of ideas. I used to be a big Ranma 1/2 fan once upon a time, until it turned into an endless boring repetition of the same jokes and ideas, but it does have a great cast and fun core premise, so I look forward to seeing what they do with this. The actors look great for their roles, and I will definitely give this a look!

More information can be found here and more cast pictures here.

 

Boy-Type Ranma

Girl-Type Ranma

 

Mr. Tendo!

History in Manga Form

When many people think about manga (Japanese comic books) they they tend to think in terms of cliches– big eyes, hyperdrama, weird over-the-top sex and violence, and so forth. Of course, what they tend to forget is that ascribing those things to “manga” is a little like saying that all TV is stupid and vapid crap. Yes, it may have some general truth, but in fact there’s a lot of good stuff there that isn’t like that at all you’re mixing together with the crap. Manga is a medium, like TV, or Novels, or Podcasts, it’s not a genre or type of literature. It is neither good nor bad, and covers a huge amount of territory in it’s breadth and depth.

Today I’d like to discuss Historical Manga, or stories that are set in different historical periods than our own. This is a genre of manga that gets very little attention, but which is actually producing some really high quality works that people are really missing out on. Especially since almost all Japanese manga historians (people who do historical manga) tend to be consummate researchers about their periods and topics of choice, and can really bring those times alive in ways that pure text rarely does. I myself had an interest in various historical periods, but reading some of the manga I’m going to list here today has actually changed my perspective on how dry and boring history could be and made me see it as something much more exciting than we tend to portray it as.

So with that in mind, let’s look at some of the best I’ve found:

(Note, that because of the realist nature of these stories, take it for granted they are Mature stories and meant for adult audiences. As such expect realistic and sometimes graphic displays of sex and violence.)

Vinland Saga– An amazing story of a norseman named Thorfinn living through the events of early 11th century England that covers this period in a way I’d never imaged before. It’s foremost an action-adventure-war story, and extremely violent, but the story and art really captures the times and bring them to life in a way that’s more about capturing the times and less about trying to impose some modern filter on history.  My regret is that there’s no official translation of if so I can’t buy collections for my bookshelf. (One note, the very first story has a totally unrealistic weird little character in it (you’ll know him when you see him) which is the only time that style of character appears in the otherwise almost hyper-real story so don’t let that put you off.)

Historie– The story of Eumenes, a man who would later become the secretary to Alexander the Great, and his journeys around the ancient world of the Mediterranean in the 3rd century BC  (or ACE, for you young folks). The art here is simple, but the story is clear and straightfoward.

The Ravages of Time– A “re-interpretation” of the story known in English as the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, an epic set in 2nd and 3rd century China during it’s warring states period. This puts a new spin, and a much more human face on the epic war story, bringing the battles of hundreds of thousands of men down to the personalities of the different generals and their retinues. Great art, and a well-told story make it another one I wish someone would officially translate so I could have a bound set.

Vagabond– This one is another re-interpretation of history, but this is in many ways a more realistic version of the story of Miyamoto Musashi than the Eiji Yoshikawa novels it draws from. The artwork here is very lavish, detailed and realistic, and the events are very well told. This one is available here in North America and is a suggested buy if you enjoy it.

Ceasare– Set in Italy, it’s story of a young man and his student life with Ceasare Borgia, one of the most important figures in Italian history. A little bit romantic for my tastes, but an interesting period piece.

Mercenary Pierre– This one is the story of Joan of Arc as told from the point of view of a mercenary in her holy army.

Sidooh– Similar to Vagabond in tone and art style, but about two young brothers trying to become Samurai during the end of the Edo period. Again, real setting, but fictional characters.