Monday, December 22, 2008

Reviewing the Mail, Week of 12/20: Manga

After a couple of slow weeks, the mail picked up just before Christmas. So this week's "Reviewing the Mail" post is split in half: this one has all of the manga, and the one that will pop up in a couple of hours will have everything else (almost entirely SFF, as usual).

I do these posts every week because I like to note books, even when I won't be able to review them all. I think it's always interesting to see what's being published, and I hope I'm not along in that. So: on to this week's list.

The manga this week broke into two big clumps -- from Aurora and Yen Press -- with one outlier. I'll start with the outlier:

Genshiken Official Book by Kio Shimoku, is a companion to a manga series I haven't read. It's also one of those immersive companion books that's written, more or less, as if it's from the world of the story. It's very heavily illustrated with panels from the series, and is so Japanese (or maybe I mean otaku) that it reads right-to-left. Del Rey is publishing Genshiken Official Book on December 30th as a trade paperback.

Then there are the books from Aurora:

Kazuna Uchida's I Shall Never Return, Vol. 5, a yaoi story -- and the back-cover copy, as usual by this point in a series, is tightly about the main characters (here, Ritsuro and Ken) to the extent that someone like me just shrugs. It's from Aurora's Deux imprint, and publishes next week.

Hitohira, Vol. 2 by Idumi Kirihara -- I reviewed the first volume for ComicMix a few months back. It, I presume, continues the shy-girl-coming-out-of-her-shell story, involving a high school club full of misfits -- drama-club misfits, who are even more misfits that even the normal drama-club kids -- who help her to speak out. It's also coming out next week -- hm, I suspect a trend there.

Object of Desire is from Aurora's Luv Luv imprint, for sexy romantic redikomi for young women. This one is by Tomoko Nogucki, and appears to be about a young woman looking for true love in a world that seems to be filled entirely with men who only want to have sex with her. It, too, will be published the last week of December.

And last from Aurora is another Deux book, this one a stand-alone: Est Em's Red Blinds the Foolish. It sounds like an odd romance with psychological overtones, between a colorblind matador and the butcher who disposes of the dead bulls. This one is coming a week later than the others -- it's expected in stores on January 3rd.

And then there are the books from Yen:

Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning, Vol. 6 -- and that subtitle is remarkably subtle and precise at defining what this series is really about -- by Kyo Shirodaira and Eita Mizuno. I've been reviewing this one for a while -- volumes two, three, four, and five were covered in my "Manga Friday" column for ComicMix -- and it still strikes me as odd and a remarkable window into the strange corners of the Japanese psyche. (Although there's still the chance that something in the first volume, which I haven't read, explained everything in a bland and obvious way. But I hope not.) This is the story of a group of surgically altered young people -- some of whom are sort-of terrorists, in a very convoluted, double-crostics kind of way -- and the tormented young man who has been foiling their plans. All that and a cute young Englishman named Eyes Rutherford! This sixth volume will be published in January.

Next is the third volume of Croquis Pop, by KwangHyun Seo and JinHo Ko, which I've also been reviewing: volume one, volume two. This is a bit more conventional, being the story of an aimless young man (aka the obvious audience identification character) who's the newest assistant for a famous manwha-ga and also possessed of vast magical powers which he's just starting to learn to use (and which are related to his art. This is also coming in January.

January will also bring us the eighth volume of Angel Diary by Kara and Lee YunHee, which I'm afraid I haven't been reading. It appears to be a supernatural romantic drama, with various denizens of heaven and hell as our main characters.

Still in January, there's You're So Cool, Vol. 3. (Why, thank you! What do you mean, you don't think it was aimed at me personally?) It's by YoungHee Lee, and I've covered the first two books for ComiMix: one, two. It's about a ridiculously gawky and klutzy Korean teenage girl who fell for the most gorgeous boy in her school, and had him declare her his girlfriend, for complicated reasons of his own -- and then she realized, just possibly, that this isn't what she wanted.

January marches on with the sixth volume of Cynical Orange, by Yun JiUn. It's a Korean romance story that I haven't been reading, so I can only tell you that Hye-Min and Ma-Ha have their hundred-day anniversary while there are tensions between Shin-Bi and So-Ryu. And, as I've said before, I really don't know the gender markers in Korean names, so, though I think these are all straight people in boy-girl relationships, I can't swear to it.

And last from Yen in January is the fourth volume of Kazuto Okada's creepily kinky teenage sex drama Sundome. This is one of the best, and simultaneously most unsettling, comics series I've read in a long time, and my reviews of the previous books -- one, two, three -- swing back and forth from arousal to revulsion almost line-by-line as I try to figure out exactly how this story makes me feel. That's a sign of an excellent book, so I recommend these to anyone interested in a reasonably realistic -- meaning overwrought, nearly operatic in its desires and neediness, and obsessively focused -- look at adolescent sexuality.

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