oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
For [personal profile] wychwood, who asked, "What would you recommend as a good starting point for someone interested in reading some manga? Coming from a Western comics background, mostly superheroes, some indies etc."

First, yay! I'm always glad when more people are thinking of getting into manga! So the following have what I tend to think of when I think about superhero comics; namely, a large cast of characters, a lot of plot, and a lot of action.

Manga by Urasawa Naoki, especially 20th Century Boys. 20th Century Boys is definitely my favorite of his works, even though it's not necessarily the most comprehensible... it's got hidden bases and shounen/boys' manga tropes and time skips and a ragtag group of people fighting against large forces, and it's incredibly fun. Monster is also good, although it's more of a thriller, and Pluto is Urasawa's take on a famous episode from Tezuka Osamu's Astro Boy. Pluto is very SF, with the protagonist for most of it being a police robot. These are actually the only three series of his I've read, and all of them are finished, which is nice.

Claymore by Yagi Norihiro is the rare shounen manga that has a nearly all female cast. The Claymores of the manga are basically a monster-human hybrid created to fight monsters, kind of like Slayers. It's a pretty dark series, with a lot of gore, but I find the worldbuilding really cool, especially as a kind of very, very twisted version of Buffy in which the Watchers are totally evil. I haven't caught up with it for a while, so I'm not sure how the past few volumes have been, and it is an unfinished series.

Fullmetal Alchemist by Arakawa Hiromu is really good. It's about two brothers, one of whom is a disembodied spirit residing in a suit of armor and the other being an alchemist who's lost an arm and a leg. All the body part loss happened when they were very young and tried to bring their mother back to life via alchemy, and the story starts with them trying to find a way to get Al's body back. I also haven't finished reading this, although the series is finished. I love this for the scope of the worldbuilding and the way it doesn't flinch from consequences of actions, and it actually talks about things like state militarization and genocide in a not-stupid way.

7 Seeds by Tamura Yumi is a post-apocalyptic story about the few survivors of humanity. It unfortunately hasn't been licensed, but it's being scanlated if you're okay with that. This is my new favorite series! Tamura is amazing at juggling a huge cast of characters, and this has a Hunger Games-esque part with teens getting pitted against each other, survival against giant insects, stories of what happens to people right before the apocalypse hits, and zany hijinks. It is the BEST. There are so many awesome characters, and Tamura regularly breaks my heart.

Okay, this is not an action manga whatsoever, but it's probably a pretty good gen thing if you aren't opposed to cute kids. Kiyohiko Azuma's Yotsuba& is a slice-of-life manga based on the exploits of 5-year-old Yotsuba, who does stuff like paint her hands blue or get confused by air conditioner. I find it incredibly charming without being twee, and it's one of the things I always read when I'm down because it invariably cheers me up.
oyceter: Ed Elric looking at a grave (fma)
Wow, the plot has really started to speed up! And Arakawa's beginning to draw back on previous one-off characters or happenings and tying everything together. I'm guessing the manga is definitely in the final stretch now. Again, her characters don't break my heart the same way they do in the anime, but I still love them, and wow, the plot is great.

Spoilers are ordered not to die )

In conclusion: plot!
oyceter: (fma - hands hold fast)
I had caught up on this back in 2007, but lately [livejournal.com profile] rilina's been saying there is much awesomeness going on, so I went back and reread the entire series. I had watched the anime back in 2006; a year after that provided some distance when I read the manga, but not enough. I remember being almost hurt by some of the changes in the manga, even though the manga is the original.

Fast forward 2 years, and it's been so long since I've seen the anime that I'm finally able to read the manga as its own entity.

So far, my impressions from 2007 largely hold: the manga doesn't make me as worried for all the characters that the anime does, the manga has much better women, and the manga has much, much better worldbuilding. I love the anime, but really, it's not that hard to beat the anime for worldbuilding that makes sense. The alchemy in the manga series feels more forgiving, and I do actually think Al will end up with his body back (I'm hoping, on the other hand, that Ed stays with his automail).

However, even though I don't feel the same sense of danger for the characters, the larger-scale plot is much more threatening than that of the anime. And that's where I think Arakawa excels. She actually looks at issues of war and genocide and weapons of mass destruction, and although her treatment isn't always as radical as I want it to be, it's still refreshing to see manga in which non-Japanese POC exist and which talk about imperialism and colonialism.

Giant spoilers for both the manga and anime )
oyceter: Ed Elric looking at a grave (fma)
Ok, I am now completely addicted to the manga as well! For anyone interested, the anime follows manga vols. 1-5 very closely, with the addition of a few things. And then we hit vol. 7 and the anime and the manga part ways and everything is totally different, and yet, there are enough similarities to make things interesting.

Spoilers for manga and all of the anime!! )

So I am hooked on the manga now, though I'm still not as emotionally invested as I was in the anime. I think it's because the manga has fewer of the dark moments that the anime does; there isn't that relentless sense that all actions will have consequences, no matter what. On the other hand, there are more women who get to do more things, and much less saintly mother imagery.

Just in case this is necessary: please don't spoil me for the manga!
oyceter: Ed Elric looking at a grave (fma)
Hrm. It looks like I forgot to write up 1-2 when I first read them, which means I have forgotten a ton about them.

So far, the manga is following the plot of the anime fairly closely, with a few differences on the timeline of certain events. As of now, I like the anime timeline a little better, just because it introduces us to a more vulnerable Ed and Al much earlier on and got me emotionally invested sooner. The manga is a little snarkier and the art is a bit simpler.

Also, Scar is not hot. This makes me sad.

For those of you who haven't seen the anime: Edward and Alphonse Elric attempted human transmutation in order to resurrect their dead mother (never a good idea). Unsurprisingly, things go dreadfully wrong, leaving Ed without an arm and a leg, and leaving Al with pretty much nothing except a soul bound to a suit of armor. Currently, Ed is a State Alchemist; on the side, the brothers pursue the Philosopher's Stone in hopes of breaking the alchemical law of equivalent exchange and restoring their bodies. Meanwhile, these strange quasi-human things named after the seven deadly sins are wandering about, a guy with a scar is killing people, and Ed's superiors in the military don't seem all that trustworthy either.

I'm not quite as fond of the Elrics as I was in the series; part of that is probably the lack of the excellent voice acting. They're also a little snarkier and less vulnerable, as noted above. For example, in vol. 6, Ed and another person joke with Al about what I think was the single most terrifying image in the entire aniume series.

The action is happening fairly quickly; vol. 5 is around ep. 25 of the anime. The strange thing is, I felt that ep. 25 of the anime was like a mini-finale, but vol. 5 of the manga doesn't feel like the action has been ratcheted up that much. This is probably because a very dramatic part of the anime arc was added to the anime. But at vol. 6, it feels like things are starting to diverge a little more, and I'm getting curious as to where Arakawa is going.

Also, I like the manga's Winry better for some reason.

Please, no spoilers for the anime or the manga in the comments unless you want to use super-special spoiler code: <span style="color:#666666;background:#666666"> </span>


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