Monday, April 27, 2009

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 4/25

And so it's Monday morning again, which means it's time for me to post the list of books that I got for review last week. As always, I do this to backstop the books that I won't manage to review -- though I'd generally like to read everything -- and make sure everything gets some notice and attention.

This time, there was only a small trickle in the mail, so I'm also including two books that I bought myself. As it happens, everything is comics this time, and all but one book are manga of one kind or another -- starting with the biggest and most exciting book of the week, one I spent my own money on and wished I'd found in a store sometime before:
A Drifting Life is the gigantic memoir in comics form of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, covering his life from the end of WW II to 1960 and taking him from a boy to one of the driving forces behind the gegika movement in Japanese comics. Drifting Life took Tatsumi more than a decade to write and draw; it's the acknowledged masterpiece of the creator whose earlier stories have been collected in the searing, compelling collections The Push Man, Good-Bye, and Abandon the Old in Tokyo. (It's such a major event in manga that even the New York Times took notice of it recently.) Drawn & Quarterly published A Drifting Life earlier this month as a trade paperback; I expect it will be the gigantic squarebound comic of the year the way Bottomless Belly Button was of 2008.

Tor/Seven Seas is publishing the third volume of the manga series Hayate X Blade this week; I reviewed the first book last year for ComicMix. The publisher describes it as "high-octane swordplay meets light yuri romance," which is pretty accurate -- the fighting was secondary in the first volume to introducing as many characters as possible, but the series was clearly organized around pretty girls hitting each other with swords. And the "yuri" part, for those of you not up on your manga sub-categories, is the female equivalent of "yaoi" -- same-sex romances, in this case generally chaste (and, in the first book, most repressed to the level of often-humorous subtext). I find it interesting that Japanese gay jokes seem mostly to be on the "OK, I'll act gay if I have to" level rather than the more common US "I'm not gay! Perish the thought!" style, but I'm not sure what it means -- if anything.

The best title of the week is clearly Maid War Chronicle, Vol. 1, which begins a fantasy series in which a young price escapes the invasion of his country and heads out to begin his insurgency...aided only by the six palace maids who escaped with him. Come to think of it, that's probably the best plot of the week, as well. This will be published by Del Rey Manga tomorrow, and it's by the manga-ka known as RAN, who did the art on Mao-chan (written by the nearly ubiquitous Ken Akamatsu, and reviewed by yours truly once upon a time).

Also from Del Rey Manga this month is a book with a more conventional (or well-trafficked) premise: Orange Planet, in which the main character is young Rui, a girl whose worst problem is that too many boys are in love with her. From a quick glance though, this looks very, very shojo, with huge eyes brimming with emotion, shirtless boys, and all manner of school activities leading to emotional confrontations. It's by Haruka Fukushima, whom Del Rey helpfully notes also did the manga Instant Teen and Cherry Juice.

The first time around, I had to admit that I just didn't get The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya; the word "melancholy" didn't seem to have anything to do with the manic, delusional main character, and it looked like something that was supposed to be extremely funny...and it wasn't. Well, the second volume has come around -- it was published by Yen Press in March -- and I might just have to take a second look at this thing and see if it makes any more sense to me this time around. (By the way, this is one of those complicated Japanese media entities that started as a series of light novels, turned into an anime show, and probably had substantial storylines running on lunchboxes, lipstick containers, and ramen noodle cups before finally becoming a manga, and the credits are equally complicated: Art by Gaku Tsugano, Story by Nagaru Tanigawa, Characters by Noizi Ito -- in that order.)

And last for this week is the other book I bought for myself: B.P.R.D.: The Warning, tenth in that series and the latest story in the extended Hellboy universe. This one is written by Mike Mignola and John Arcudi, with art by Guy Davis -- the usual, great B.P.R.D. team -- and it comes back to the modern day (after the flashback of the last storyline, 1946) to pick up right after the end of the previous volume, Killing Ground. Dark Horse published it earlier this month, and I wouldn't start reading this series here, by any means -- but the Hellboy and B.P.R.D. stories are great horror-tinged adventure tales with atmosphere and style to burn; they're wonderful and spooky and gripping.


Tor Hershman said...

"A Weblog by One Humble Bookman on Topics of Interest to Discerning Readers, Including (Though Not Limited To) Science Fiction, Books, Random Thoughts, Fanciful Family Anecdotes, Publishing, Science Fiction, The Mating Habits of Extinct Waterfowl, The Secret Arts of Marketing, Other Books, Various Attempts at Humor, The Wonders of New Jersey, the Tedious Minutiae of a Boring Life, Science Fiction, No Accounting (For Taste), And Other Weighty Matters."

Soooo, you're followin' the pattern of introduction introduced by (as far as moi know) the "rape rape" sidewindin' bushwhacker from "Blazing Saddles," ehh?

Andrew Wheeler said...

Tor: You missed "Books" and "More Books."

And no particular reference was intended.

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