Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Reviewing the Mail: Week of October 3: Large-Format Manga

Part two of this week's epic trilogy of "Reviewing the Mail" posts collects all of the large-format manga books currently on my desk. With the exception of the first book, they're all numbered volumes in fictional series, telling stories about normal teenagers and demons and blind assassins and housemaids and Satan and magical girls. And they are all from Yen Press, either very recently published or very soon to be published, so look out for them wherever you prefer to buy books.

The outlier is Yana Toboso Black Butler Artworks 1, which has a title that explains it very well: it's a book of artworks by Yana Toboso, creator of Black Butler, and those artworks all relate to that series. If you like that series, or Toboso's art, you'll want this.

The rest are all manga collections, which I'll organize in my usual way: start with first volumes of series, and move on through higher numbers, getting more complicated and less friendly to new readers as I go.

So that means The Devil Is a Part-Timer! High School!, Vol. 1comes first -- and, yes, it does have two exclamation points in the title. This is related somehow to the regular The Devil Is a Part-Timer! series, in which the Lord of Demons is reincarnated as a young Japanese guy after an apocalyptic battle in his home world, and starts working in a fast-food restaurant as part of a long fiendish plot to conquer the world (as you do). In this one, the devil and his nemesis are in high school -- so I suspect this is the same story, but focused differently into school comedy rather than workplace comedy.

Speaking of refocusing, that's exactly what Puella Magi Homura Tamura, Vol. 1 does: it takes the characters of the various "Puella Magi" series -- the magical girls, their very short skirts and shiny giant eyes, and their battles against witches -- and drops them into a 4-koma comedy series. I find these kind of stories are the hardest things to translate, since they're all about cultural assumptions and everyday life in a different country, but comedy is fun, so I hope it works.

Emma, Vol. 2 continues the reprinting of Kaoru Mori's well-loved series about a maid in Victorian England in larger hardcover editions. I still have hopes to read this series one of these days.

Ubel Blatt, Vol. 3 is a dark fantasy from Etorouji Shiono, with some very Elric-y touches (arrogant weakling with a creepy black sword most prominently). I reviewed the zeroth issue -- yes, zeroth, this series comes in 400+ books and still needed a running start to get to number one -- last year.

Kaori Yuki's series is only up to Demon from Afar, Vol. 4, but there's already a complex backstory listed in the character pages that I don't think I entirely understand. There's a guy with a weird hand emblem who will bring about the end of the world, his servant (who is actually the devil, and scheming to get loose), and an evil Baron with unspecified sinister plans. All of this takes place in an unspecified "Imperial" time, and then in the modern day -- this volume says "Modern Day" on the table of contents, so maybe it bounces back and forth.

Fuka Mizutani is back with Love at Fourteen, Vol. 4-- I've already read, though not reviewed, the first two, and the third one is probably around here somewhere -- which is a nice, low-key story of two mostly realistically depicted teenagers and their tentative, halting first love. So far, it's cute, and the narration is only slightly intrusive, with its endless repetition of how advanced these kids are. (Which seems to mean something different in a Japanese context -- the words used imply to this American that they're screwing like bunnies, which is not at all what Mizutani means.) [1]

I've got two volumes of this Satsuki Yoshino series: both Barakamon, Vol. 6 and Vol. 7. (See my review from last year for the first volume -- I'm sure it's gotten more complicated since then, because that's what series fiction does, but it seems to be the same fish-out-of-water premise, a Japanese take on Northern Exposure.

I've explained this at least a dozen times, but I'm still not sure if I've ever gotten it exactly right. The Higurashi When They Cry and Umineko When They Cry series of manga are loosely related to each other and all based on a series of text-based video games, all about variations on the same story. And now we're up to Umineko WHEN THEY CRY Episode 5: End of the Golden Witch, Vol. 2. It has a story by Ryukishi07, art by Akitaka, and what I really hope is not a pre-teen girl in an inappropriate costume on the cover.

Last for this post is Until Death Do Us Part, Vol. 10, about a blind swordsman -- they're the most deadly kind, you know, like the spindly old men are always the most deadly opponents in karate movies -- and the cute little precognitive girl he protects from the usual sinister forces. This one is written by Hiroshi Takashige and has art from something that calls itself DOUBLE-S.

[1] For some reason, Blogger doesn't like the cover for this book -- it refuses to upload the image, in two different versions saved as two different files. So you'll have to guess or google to see what it looks like.

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