Monday, September 21, 2015

Reviewing the Mail: Week of September 19

This week you'll be spared me trying desperately not to look like I'm whining about the lack of books in the past week. (While knowing that it will come across as whining anyway, and hating that.)

After several weeks of meager or non-existent mail -- which, honestly, meant I could do this post quickly, not feel guilty about it, and move on to other things, all of which are positives in my book -- I got a gigantic box from Yen Press this week, and so I have a lot to write about.

So much, in fact, that I'm not sure if I'll get to it. I've organized about half of it -- the regular-manga-sized volumes, since they were on top -- and I'll run through them. There should be a follow-up post later this week with the rest of the box, but I've learned not to make promises.

Anyway: everything in this post is a manga-sized book -- and I think they all contain manga, though I'll look at them as I go through and note if anything is a light novel or anything more exotic -- all from Yen, all published recently. And there's enough variety that I have to believe something will look interesting to anyone out there who actually likes reading comics. As is typical for big stacks like this, I've organized it by volume number, so we'll start off with one-shots and series openers and then move on deeper and deeper into continuity as we go.

So first up is RustBlaster, a 2006 story from Yana (Black Butler) Toboso, which seems to stand alone. It's set at Millennium Academy, the elite school for vampires, in a world where vampires seem to live openly. But a big once-in-a-millennium event is coming, which may Change Everything.

Another seeming standalone is Final Fantasy Type-0 by Takatoshi Shiozawa, which is about another group of elite students -- the cadets of Akademia's Class Zero. Now, I know essentially nothing about the huge and complex Final Fantasy universe: I do know that there are a lot of video games that I haven't played and that don't have a single consistent story, but that's about it. So I will point at this and hope that those who care will know how it fits.

Puella Magi Suzune Magica, Vol. 1 is the latest in a clutch of series about a group of magical girls. The cover only credits "Art by GAN," but the inside also gives story credit to the usual brain-trust, the Magicka Quartet. This is another one of those stories that spreads across media, and this particular piece seems to be a side-story based on things the fans already know.

Rose Guns Days Season 1, Vol. 1 has an overly complicated title -- my guess is that it ties into an animated series, but I've got more than a dozen more of these to get through so no time to Google now -- and an equally complicated backstory. There's a frame story set in the modern day, but the main story takes place in an alternate 1947, three years after a "catastrophe" destroyed Japan and forced them to sue for immediate peace. Japan was massively reconstructed, with an influx of people from other countries that turned ethnic Japanese into a minority in what used to be their country. (I see big flashing metaphors there.) Our main character is a sharpshooting, fast-talking womanizer, as of course it would be. This is credited "story by Ryukishi07, art by Soichiro," in that manga style that always seems to evoke post-human entities to me.

Next up is Black Bullet, Vol. 1, whose cover I have to admit staring at to try to figure out the exact pose of the two main characters. The guy on the left seems to be spin-kicking towards the viewer, while shooting at the same time (witness the spent shell positioned carefully to suggest a cigarette in his mouth). But the person to the right -- my guess is female, but it's a very rough guess -- seems to be pinwheeling forwards, with her (?) right arm and leg extended together just below the credits.
 Anyway, this is a very kinetic cover, presumably for a very kinetic story, and the art is from Morinohon, working from an original story by Shiden Kanzaki and character designs by Saki Uaki. (Which all sounds like "adapted from light novel" to me.)

And then there's Chaika: The Coffin Princess, Vol. 2, with an original story by Ichirou Sakaki, art by Shinta Sakayama, and character designs by Namantikuatk (Nitroplus). (And if that last one isn't a post-human consciousness, well, the world is not as interesting as it should be.) I believe this is yet another powerful-gorgeous-girl-drags-ordinary-guy-along-on-her-weird-mission story.

Another second volume: Big Hero 6, Vol. 2, from Haruki Ueno. This adapts the second half of the movie of the same name.

Pandora Hearts: Caucus Race, Vol. 2 is prose somehow related to the world of the Pandora Hearts manga, written by Shinobu Wakamiya and illustrated by series creator Jin Mochizuki. The main series is a very, very odd take on Alice in Wonderland, which partially explains "caucus race." Further explanations will be left to someone who knows more about this than I do.

Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, Vol. 2 continues yet another adaptation of a light-novel series, in this case by Kunieda from the novel by Fujino Omori, with additional credit given to the light-novel illustrator, Suzuhito Yasuda, for character designs. And the answer to the title question is, "No, as long as you're honest and don't make it a prerequisite for rescuing them."

Trinity Seven, Vol. 2: The Seven Magicians has a cover featuring a woman who I'd assume was about to sneeze if I had confidence that she has a nose at all. This is a wizard-school story, with a young male hero who just might be destined to be the Demon Lord, and a whole bunch of attractive (and probably barely-dressed) female wizard-students falling all over him to save him from Demon Lord-ship or help him on that path or both. It's by Kenji Saito and Akinari Nao, and it's rated M for mature, which means the women fall out of their clothes for silly reasons (bathing, visits to hot springs, possible a too-energetic sneeze), which certainly will help endear them to our hero.

Sword Art Online Progressive, Vol. 3 presents another art challenge -- how, exactly, is the woman on the cover posed? I've decided that the fleshy bits underneath the title are her knees, but her body seems to be twisted around enough that she might just be looking over her own shoulder. Again: very dynamic. This art is by Kiseki Himura, working from the original novel by Reki Kawahara and character designs by the entity known only as abec.

Ani-Imo, Vol. 4 continues the body-switch comedy from Haruko Kurumatani, in which highschool freshmen and step-siblings Hikaru and Youta became each other and immediately fell into the kind of sex-farce plot that only happens in Japan. (Incest is funny!) By this point, I see there's another body-switch duo of their schoolfriends, so I have confidence the entire world of Ani-Imo will find itself swapped if the series runs long enough.

Gou-dere Sora Nagihara, Vol. 4 is from Suu Minazuki, and it's another story of a schlubby guy who gets a dream girl who's obsessed with him. (And I'm not going to pretend that is a Japanese-specific idea, or even specific to schlubby guys.)

He's My Only Vampire, Vol. 4 continues the story about, um, well, it's probably not about a girl who has a few dozen werewolves and zombies and mummies, but only one vampire. If I remember correctly, this is a normal-person-dragged-into-the-secret-supernatural-world story, and I think the normal person is a girl and the supernatural world has the common Japanese thing of making "vampire" pretty much a synonym for "demon." This one is by Aya Shouto.

Shrinkwrap returns with High School DxD, Vol. 6, drawn by Hiroji Mishima from the light novel by Ichei Ishibumi and using character designs by Zero Miyama. (See my review of the first volume for more detail on this one.)

Bloody Cross, Vol. 8 feels like a particularly long installment, though it's hard to tell with the usual manga lack of page numbers. (One would think companies that publish 200+ page comics for only around ten-fifteen bucks would want to emphasize the value component, but I suppose not.) This is still by Shiwo Komeyama, and you can see my review of the first volume of this series for more details, as well.

Triage X, Vol. 10 features a volume-number placement that leaves no illusions about the appeal of Shouji Sato's series, and I for one am happy to see this kind of honesty and straightforwardness. Yes, this is a series about nudity and violence! Let's embrace that! (I reviewed the first five volumes together, and have more or less been keeping up with this, since Sato's a talented artist and it's so blatantly what it is.)

Junya Inoue is back with BTOOOM!, Vol. 11, more in the saga about a bunch of random people dropped on an island and forced to play Battle Royale with various types of explosive devices. I looked at the first one when it came out; it's not really my thing, but maybe it's yours.

And last for this installment is Spice and Wolf, Vol. 11, the latest manga volume from yet another series adapted from light novels. (This particular cast of characters: novelist Isuna Hasekura, artist Keito Koume, character designer Jyuu Ayakura.) I keep wanting to read more of this, because it's so oddly Japanese in its mix of mercantilism and fanservice nudity, but I've only looked at bits of it here and there.

With any luck, I'll cover the other roughly twenty books that came in last week later this week, but, if not, I can always hold them for next week's list. Let's see what I end up doing....

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