oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
(original title: 海獣の子供/Kaijuu no kodomo)

I read volume 1 of this last April, so my recollection is extremely fuzzy and bolstered by Wiki.

Ruka, who has never quite fit in at school, chances upon an odd, dark-skinned boy named Umi ("ocean" in Japanese) one day. Later on, she meets him at the aquarium her father works at, where she also meets Umi's protector Jim Cusack. Meanwhile, odd things are happening around the world, such as ocean species being discovered far from their natural habitats, or reports of animals like whales dissolving into light. Umi's brother Sora ("sky" in Japanese) eventually shows up. We get a little backstory of how Jim came across the two boys, as well as what he thinks might be happening and why he thinks Umi and Sora are different from other people—they can stay underwater for longer and seem to be able to communicate with sea creatures.

Overall, this feels like a Honored Piece of Work that I don't quite get. Don't get me wrong; it's lovely. I particularly like the sketchy quality of the drawings, as well as how broad the world in the series feels. Umi and Sora are connected to events around the world, and I like that we get practical looks at Tokyo trains and mom-and-pop convenience stores along with more evanescent imagery of manta rays and undersea happenings. I also like that Ruka's parents are divorced (I think), that her mother is not the standard stay-at-home mom, and that there are many alternative family structures in the series.

I wish Igarashi's larger view of the world extended to race and racism. Unfortunately, Umi is so far the main non-Japanese POC character, and I have issues with how Igarashi portrays the more "primitive" island villages where Jim Cusack connects with the sea. Although Jim believes more in what the "natives" believe, there's still the divide between the white and Japanese world (the Japanese world, unsurprisingly, allies itself with the white world), which is science-y and has aquariums and is about Saving the Whales, and the superstitious brown people on their islands, who have mystical rituals and old folktales that might be Wiser Than Our Science.

I'm not sure how much Igarashi is going to deconstruct this in later volumes, but so far, it doesn't seem like there's much deconstruction. It more feels like the scaffolding he's building his tale on, which is rather unfortunate.

Overall, interesting, outside the usual shoujo and shounen areas, but I'm not sure if it's outside enough in some ways.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I am so glad Del Rey released the rest of this series, even if it is in a slightly clunky omnibus format. (It is very hard reading the omnibus when you are desperately trying not to crease the spine!)

For anyone who hasn't read the series, it's largely a collection of short stories about Ginko finding various people influenced by mushi—strange little beings that have all sorts of odd effects—and attempting to help them. It's a very easy series to get into, as you don't have to read x number of volumes to wait for good plot to kick in, and the first volume is a good sample of what the entire series will be like.

The series ends as well as it begins; not much is different from the beginning because the story is so episodic, though it's nice to get a slightly more in-depth look at Ginko in these three volumes. Other than that, the strengths remains the same: Urushibara's delicate sketchy art is still gorgeous; the stories are still disturbing, beautiful, weird, and bittersweet; and the world is still as fascinating as ever.

Spoilers )

I always wish I had more to say about Mushishi.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
The main story arc of the series finished in volume 7; these two volumes are collected short stories. Some feature characters from the main arc, and some are only related in the most tangential of ways. As Mori notes in the omake, she just wanted to draw them! Handwave the connection!

The stories here are about some of the maids Emma worked with, the Meredith family, Eleanor, Kelly Stowner, Hakim and William, and a slice-of-life story following the trail of a newspaper and another bittersweet romance about opera singers.

My favorites are the story about Mr. and Mrs. Meredith, the one about Kelly Stowner and the Crystal Palace, and the one about Eleanor. I am probably biased about the one on Eleanor, since I liked her a lot and was simply glad to see more of her.

I find some of the ones on the maids problematic; Mori does beautiful detail about people's daily lives, but the class issues (complete lack thereof) frustrate me. And oh, Hakim. I love the character, and yet, there is the same complete lack of talk about empire that is also even more wrong because it has Indian royalty befriending British bourgeoisie! Mori does say she wanted to talk more about empire in her notes, but I am kind of doubtful as to how critical she would be about it.

On a non-political note, I was also not initially charmed by the one about Erich Meredith and his pet squirrel—I am biased! Rats, infinitely better!—Mori completely won me over with her careful depictions of squirrel mannerisms. The squirrel scratches himself with his hind leg! He washes his face! It is SO CUTE.

Not that I am at all biased about cute rodents...

In terms of craft, I loved the story about Mr. and Mrs. Meredith the most. I'm impressed that almost all of it takes place between the two of them in bed (with the occasional flashback to other scenes), and yet, it was not boring. I loved the detailed observations about hands and hair, the intimate looks at the tiny gestures within their marriage, and the way Mori so perfectly captures those tiny gestures and small moments. My favorite part is probably the sequence that begins with Mrs. Meredith examining Mr. Meredith's fingers. It continues with hand clasps and both of their memories of hands on the violin, hands brushing back hair, hands offered out for help. And almost all of it is completely wordless and reminds me of what very good sequential art is capable of. It's just... very impressive.

Overall, this is a good display of Mori's strengths—attention to detail and small moments—although I don't know how much it will resonate with those who haven't read the rest of the series. I think some of the stories are good standalones (the one about the Merediths, the Stowners visiting the Crystal Palace), while others need more context (the one about Eleanor).
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
It's always so difficult to blog about this series, since the volumes almost always consist of disconnected one-shots. Some of them connect back to what we know of the mushi and the mushishi, but many of them are simple stand-alone case studies of different mushi. I say simple, but almost all of them are haunting and lovely and ephemeral.

My favorites in these two volumes are, of course, the one with the sakura of DOOM, the one about heaven's thread and a missing bride, and the one about the family retainers. I am particularly amused to find that Urushibara seems just as obsessed with sakura of DOOM as me, since the story in volume 7 is the second sakura of DOOM story so far in the series. And she has little notes on sakura in volume 7 as well.

Speaking of which, I cannot remember well enough if the author notes are a newer thing in the series or not, but I appreciate them a great deal and enjoy them a lot.

The story about heaven's thread has particularly grown on me because of its sweetness; although many stories in the series can end well, most of them tend to be haunting and slightly discomforting, or they leave me with the feeling that people have narrowly avoided catastrophe. I also have the feeling that although most stories are about mushi, what they illustrate are very human foibles. As such, I'm glad this story had a happy ending, and I particularly love the image of someone tied down to earth very tenuously through human bonds. Although the narrative itself is somewhat similar to those of animal brides (fox wives, selkies, etc.), I like the way the story does away with the coercion and focuses on the woman not as a magical, mythical being, but rather as a slightly strange but completely human woman.

Again, my memory of previous volumes sucks because a) the volumes are released so rarely and b) my memory sucks in general, but I feel as though Urushibara is adding more to what we know of the mushishi and Ginko, albeit in tiny drips throughout. The soul-eating mushi in volume 7 connects back with Ginko's earliest memories, and I love that we see Tanyu once again.

Does anyone know if the anime covers everything in the manga or not? I've seen up through episode 20, and it's been nice reading parts of the manga that I haven't seen animated yet.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
This is by the mangaka of Chi's Sweet Home, which I have not read. And apparently it's a revival of a series or something, given the "New" in the title and the author's notes.

Fuku is the rather fat and spoiled cat of an old lady who is never named; the entire manga consists of their day-to-day adventures, like Fuku sleeping on the TV, only to discover that it's not on and is cold, or the old lady tempting Fuku with new toys, only to learn that she of course just wants the box or bag the toys came in.

I am not sure there's anything I have to say about this, except that the mangaka has clearly had cats before, and that it made me laugh and laugh at all the silly things cats and their owners do, and that it is cute and happy and round and I am so going to look for the mangaka's other cat manga.

Highly recommended if you like cats.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
This is an adaptation of the anime of the same name, although I can't tell if Shinkai Makoto mostly came up with the original storyline for the anime and Sahara Mizu did the adaptation, or if Shinkai wrote it and she illustrated it.

I've been a fan of Sahara Mizu's art for a while (she also works as Yumeka Sumomo); she's particularly good at bittersweet wistfulness and empty spaces and words left unsaid. This adaptation is no different.

In the future, humans have discovered the existence of alien life in the form of the Tarsians. No one knows yet if they're hostile or not, although missions are already being sent out to fight the Tarsians and to find new worlds. Mikako, a middle-school student, has volunteered to be the pilot of one of the missions' mechas. Unfortunately, this means that she has to leave behind her good friend Noboru. They try to keep in touch via text messages, but as Mikako is sent further and further away, the messages take longer and longer to arrive, until they're over eight years apart.

Normally I'm not one for stories that posit someone's One True Love is found in middle school, but Sahara and Shinkai handle the material with such delicacy that I found myself rooting for Mikako and Noboru. It also helps that both Mikako and Noboru are unsure of each other as well; Mikako is torn by the knowledge that years are passing by on Earth while she remains the same age, and Noboru tries and tries to move on with his life and not wait for increasing infrequent text messages. But the lack of resolution keeps both of them from moving on.

I loved the overall tone of this manga, the uncertainty and doubt, the simple and sweet flashbacks to Mikako and Noboru riding bikes or hiding from the rain, all of which distinguish it from all the other giant robot series that have middle-school students battling aliens. While there is some action when it comes to the giant robots and the Tarsians, the bulk of the story is about Mikako and Noboru and how they're separated by time. And though the ending is somewhat unresolved, it worked for me. There's no guarantee that anything will turn out all right; in fact, I'm fairly certain there will be more pain to come, but that's what makes the story work for me.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Still beautifully written and drawn, and they're getting to stories that I don't know from the anime (this is not saying if they're in the anime or not, as I haven't finished it yet). Also, volume 4 contains one of my favorite mushi stories so far (the one with the cocoon).

Spoilers )

I feel bad about continually having very little to say about this series, but the one-offs don't lend themselves to character or plot analysis. Instead, I just read and enjoy.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Spoilers )

Overall, the series makes a slight dip into melodrama midway through, but Mori handles it so well and so delicately that I don't mind. She even makes me not mind the love triangle! And I just love her focus on detail and intimate character moments, along with the time she spends on all the side characters. This series is a wonderfully solid, quiet romance.

Thankfully, CMX has licensed Shirley, which I like, and I hope they end up publishing the Victorian guide from Mori as well, which seems to be fairly well researched and full of neat illustrations.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Spoilers! )

All in all, a satisfying thriller with psychic kids. Now on to the next Soryo series on Cesare Borgia!
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Again I bemoan Del Rey's release schedule!

This volume contains the one about the inkstone, the one about the boat in the ocean, the one about the rust, the one about the extra tooth, and the one with the fish.

I continue to enjoy this series, and thankfully the slow release schedule is more tolerable because the stories are all one-offs.

Spoilers )
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Del Rey, why so slow?

I was pleasantly surprise to find this didn't overlap much with the anime (I'm up to episode 9 right now); I'd only seen one chapter before.

I like that we're getting more of a look at what being a mushishi means; Ginko finds another one in the first chapter. We later meet a woman who records information on mushi in what is currently my favorite part of this volume.

Ginko visits to tell her stories, and there is a room piled high with scrolls on mushi. Except sometimes, the words come to life..

I particularly love the image of the woman plucking entire sentences off the walls with chopsticks and re-securing them in her scrolls.

I'm still not quite sure how to describe the series. It's very episodic right now, with very little plot, and yet, it's very absorbing once you get into it.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Spoilers! )

Overall, Monster is a good, solid series, even though I feel the plot falls a little apart near the end.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I thought this series was boring up till around vol. 5, and now I cannot stop reading it. I think I've said this several times already, but the more I read, the more impressed I am with how solid Urasawa is, both as an artist and as a writer. I've been trying to sell him to other people (hi [livejournal.com profile] vom_marlowe, victim recipient of my latest attempts!) because he does great plots that are insanely addictive, likeable and moral characters, good women, and I really enjoy his side characters.

I keep saying this, but I'm still so impressed by how he can make me care about someone in the space of a volume, usually by a deft combination of time-skipping around in the narrative, tying the character into the plot, and giving them very memorable and believable backstories and motives that dovetail nicely into the themes of the story he tells.

Spoilers )
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
This is still not quite as awesome as 20th Century Boys, but it's pretty darn close. I'm just in awe of how quickly Urasawa can make me care about a just-introduced character and how insanely he plots. He manages a giant cast of characters and crazy complex plots like no one else.

Spoilers )
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Oh, I really love this manga, particularly Mori's attention to the tiniest details, of expressions and movements and still moments.

These two volumes are a little soapier than the previous ones; there's a level of coincidence that I don't quite find believable. But soapy for Mori Kaoru is so many levels below the usual drama of romances (shoujo and the romance genre), and I love the character Emma so much, that I'm willing to overlook that.

Also, Mori Kaoru's author notes are awesome, particularly the one that shows a pie chart of her brain (categories: Victorian-era maids, Edwardian-era maids, corsets, etc.).

Spoilers )
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Totally random note -- I can't seem to save and compile my custom layers; is anyone else having this problem? It's not my internet, because I've tested on a few computers, both on Firefox 2 and IE 6.

Spoilers )

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