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: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
What I've just finished: Yotsuba 11! It is as cute and cheerful as all previous volumes in the series, and it encompasses dramatic events like Yotsuba's first experience with pizza, Duralumin getting slobbered on by a dog, Yanda bringing over bubble blowers, and bugs.

I also read Aliette de Bodard's On a Red Station, Drifting, which I enjoyed. I didn't really see the Dream of the Red Chamber connections until I read the author's notes, with the exception of a spaceship named after one of the characters. There's a comforting familiarity to the importance of magistrates and government officials and civil service that reminds me a lot of Chinese literature—I know the world is Vietnam-based, not China-based, but Wiki notes that the civil service examination system was modeled on China's. I also love the mention of fish sauce brewing as a fine art, and that one of the key conflicts happens while a character is writing poetry at a banquet. I didn't entirely understand all the shifts in the two main characters' attitudes, but overall, I prefer this to de Bodard's "Immersion," which won the Nebula. "Immersion" strikes me as being a little too on the nose, and while it makes a good point, I prefer how On a Red Station, Drifting incorporates more Vietnamese themes and background.

What I'm currently reading: I started book one of Alis A. Rasmussen's (aka Kate Elliott) Highroad Trilogy, but I haven't been able to track what's going on very well. I got a bit annoyed right off bat when I realized the martial-arts-practicing heroine is the lightest person in her brown family (I think she is POC? But she is described as pale so I am confused?), as well as when she rescues a robot early on and it devotes itself entirely to her. Still reading, and hopefully I will figure out what's happening soon.

I also started Jeffrey Brantley's Calming Your Anxious Mind, which is about using mindfulness to help with anxiety and fear. So far it's mostly been explanation of what mindfulness is and how it's effective as opposed to actual instruction, so I have no idea if it works or not.

I also started 7 Seeds volume 2 but am not very far into it.

What I'll read next: If I manage to finish book one of the Highroad Trilogy, probably book 2. Also, I keep meaning to read the latest Skip Beat chapter, so maybe that.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
At least this year I'm getting it out before Chinese New Year! Though that's mostly because it's super late this year...

As usual, these are my favorites out of the sequential art I've read this year, as opposed to what came out this year. The "new-to-me" series aren't actually always new to me; some series in particular are on the list because though I started the series earlier, what I read this year was enough to put them on my favorites list.

I was pretty terrible about writing things up this year, thanks to grad school getting increasingly busy every semester. If it's linked, I wrote it up, but feel free to ask in comments about anything!

Overall, I largely paused in my attempt to read more manhua, as there's still not very much being published in Taiwan right now, and the quality isn't so great. I am so sad there has been nothing new by Nan Gong Yu! At least I saw her series running in a magazine, so I'm fairly sure she's still writing. Just... very slowly?

I also read much less new stuff, at least, that's how I feel. I started two massive rereads during the summer (FMA and Fruits Basket), and mostly I was looking for rereading or at least a continuation of a series I knew thanks to my brain being extremely worn out by school. I also went on a brief superhero comics run to find out what happens to Catwoman; unfortunately, aside from Selina's Big Score, which I loved (and which started me on said spree), the rest largely reconfirmed that I'm not much of a superhero comics fan.

Favorite new-to-me series )

Also recommended )

Favorite ending series )

Favorite continuing series )

Total: 236 (74 rereads)

All sequential art read in 2009 )
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I really needed cheering up, so I went through a reread of Yotsuba&! 1-4, along with basically staying up all night catching up, aided by [livejournal.com profile] lnhammer's extremely excellent chapter-by-chapter write ups. He notices a ton of details that I didn't, from the way the Koiwais' living room gradually changes to the drawings on the side of the Yotsubox.

As he notes, Yotsuba's characterization gradually changes, and by volume five, you no longer wonder if she's human or possibly alien, and she's a fairly normal (she's still Yotsuba, after all!) five-year-old girl who runs out of energy, has tantrums, loves cake, and figures out the world the way five-year-olds do. As such, there aren't moments quite as hilarious as Yotsuba clinging to a telephone pole pretending to be a cicada, but the humor flows more organically from the action.

These volumes cover Yotsuba's obsession with milk, acorns, cake, puddles, and bikes, and oh, it makes me smile just thinking back on them.

I'm not sure you can actually spoil the series, given that everything lies in the execution, but here's a cut anyway:

Spoilers )
oyceter: (midori happy)
Five-year-old Koiwai Yotsuba and her dad move next door to the Ayase family (one mom, one largely absent dad, and three sisters).

There is pretty much no other plot. We don't know where Yotsuba is from or why she has green hair; her dad adopted her after finding her alone in some country. The manga basically just goes from day to day, as Yotsuba explores life and frequently gets her dad and her neighbors into weird situations. This is the epitome of a slice-of-life manga, and while it has the same calm happiness that all my favorite slice-of-life manga possess, this series is exuberantly joyful as well.

My favorite bit so far is Yotsuba a few feet off the ground, hugging a telephone pole and Fuka (the middle, practical Ayase sister) walks by.

"What are you doing?" Fuka asks, since one does not normally see five-year-olds clinging like koalas to telephone poles.

"Miiin! Miiiin! Miiin! I'm a cicada!" says Yotsuba. Obviously!

The entire series is just like this: Yotsuba discovers cicadas, or fireflies, or swings, or air conditioning. She is frustrating, like all five-year-olds are, and yet, she is utterly adorable, and she makes me so happy.

Since I am currently in grad school, I am not buying new series, but I will make an exception for this one. Even now, when I am stressed out of my mind, it's making me laugh out loud just remembering little bits of it, and oh, I cannot even tell you how much that is worth.

Go read! It is so happy-making and fun, and it's probably going to be one of my favorite series of the year.


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