oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Note to self: Do not read this before going to bed, as it has narrative drive like whoa, and you will also be afraid to go to sleep for fear of APOCALYPSE.

Mildly spoilery note about amount of bug content )

Spoilers will see you in the future )

Anyway, if people couldn't tell, I am very much into this now and rec it for those of you looking for good post-apocalyptic stories! I think people who want something like the Hunger Games could just read volumes 7-9, though of course I encourage reading everything. It's not light and fluffy reading by any means, but as apocalypses go, this one is very good.

Does anyone else have links to 7 Seeds reviews? Hook me up!
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)
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)
(original title: 失恋チョコラティエ)

Souta has been in love with his sempai Saeko ever since he laid eyes on her in tenth grade, but she's forever interested in cooler men than him. After a five-year stint in Paris, Souta has now returned to Japan to open his own chocolate boutique in order to win chocolate-loving Saeko's heart.

The characters consist of Souta, who is a bit idealistic and frequently makes me want to whap him; the flighty Saeko, who reminds me of Komatsu Nana, but without Nana's generosity or kindness; Souta's friend Olivier from France, who always seems optimistic and teasing; Souta's sister Matsuri, whom we only get glimpses of so far; and Souta's old co-worker Kaoruko, who is gruff, practical, and brusque in order to hide her emotions. (I, of course, love Kaoruko best so far.)

The premise of this sounds very much like a more flighty work of shoujo, but so far, the series actually reminds me most of Nana or Honey and Clover in tone. First, there's the mix of two stories: Souta and his store's rise in the small world of chocolatiers comprises one, while the other focuses on the lives and loves of Souta and his fellow chocolate store workers. But what really makes me draw the comparison is the way Mizushiro sensitively depicts everyone's love lives. Almost every character in the series has an unrequited crush on someone, and it's interesting to see how different characters use that emotion. Some choose to use it as inspiration or motivation to change themselves, while others choose to ignore it, to work to win over someone else's heart, or to simply enjoy being in love, even if it is unrequited.

The manga is full of small moments and significant glances, emotional subtext and things left unsaid. Some of the characters behave in ways the reader probably won't condone, but like Yazawa and Umino, Mizushiro has a great deal of sympathy for her characters and their frequently misguided hearts without necessarily agreeing with their actions.

And although Souta is the central character, I don't feel like the weight is terribly tilted toward the male characters. I suspect Kaoruko and Matsuri in particular will get more as the story goes along, and even though the women are frequently the objects of men's affections (the story so far is very heterosexual and cisgendered), I haven't gotten the sense that the are objects in terms of the plot. Instead, it seems as though Mizushiro will be delving into everyone's psyches.

The art is also very lovely; I don't remember any particular panels as standing out, but the character designs are pleasant and easy to distinguish between, and I of course love any of the sketches with chocolate in them. I'm a little sad Mizushiro doesn't go into raptures over assorted specific chocolates in her author's notes, but that's probably just me.

Sympathetic and complicated characters with some self knowledge and a narrative about chocolate: what's not to like?

I really hope this gets licensed along with Mizushiro's Kuro Bara Alice; it's lovely and feels very adult.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Oh, I cannot believe it is over (even though I know it has been over for two years now)!

First, I've extremely grumpy at TokyoPop for the lousy quality of the final volume. The paper for the cover and the pages are much flimsier compared even to volume 22. Yes, there's a nice color insert, which I appreciated, but seriously! I shouldn't feel like I can tear the pages by accident when I'm turning them.

But overall, this is a lovely grace note to the series. There isn't much plot movement; mostly it's tying up loose ends and giving the characters a proper send off.

Spoilers pile on the years )

I love this series so.
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.
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
This is embarrassingly late, and my other year-end posts will be even more so. It's so late that it's even late by the Lunar New Year!

OMG people! I actually read less manga this year! I suspect this was less because I was reading actual books and more because I moved to a place where the public library either does not have as much manga, or I have had a harder time finding it via the catalog, since they are never on the shelves.

Some people may also have noticed that I've switched from doing a post for manga to doing a post for sequential art overall. It's getting too annoying to distinguish between which OEL manga is manga and which is comics—some just read more like comics to me, and I cannot say why, except that they do. I'm also changing formats a bit, since having the same series on my best-of list for three years in a row or so feels odd. At least, that would be my reason if I wanted to look good. In actuality, it is merely because I am tired of trying to come up with blurbs that will sound different from last year's.

As with previous years, this is my list of favorites that I read this year, and it has nothing to do with the date published. Unlike previous years, I have each individual volume linked, thanks to my awesome new database! If there's no link, I haven't written it up, but feel free to ask about it in comments. The licensing information is only for the US, many apologies!

Favorite new-to-me series )

Also recommended )

Favorite ending series )

Favorite continuing series )

Total read: 197 (36 reread)

All sequential art read in 2008 )
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I read volume one of this in the summer and promptly forgot it. Shiina Sakuya loves the stars and star-gazing and draws strength from them. She's the president of her school's tiny star-gazing club, which consists of her and her two best friends, demon-with-perfect-lady-exterior Honjo Hijiri and goofball Murakami Yuri. Given their frequent spats, I am sure the two will end up with each other. Sakuya seems to be a perfect shoujo heroine, like Fruits Basket's Tohru: she's perky and always smiling even though she lives with her deadbeat cousin Kanade. But much like Tohru, there's more to the story than that.

On her eighteenth birthday, Sakuya meets a mysterious boy, Chihiro, who gives her a present and eats with her and Kanade. But it turns out that neither Sakuya or Kanade know him, and soon after, he transfers to Sakuya's school.

As noted, volume one is not very notable; like most series, a great deal of it is set up. I could not for the life of me figure out why Sakuya was obsessed with Chihiro when she hardly knew him. My assumption was that he was actually some star in human form and figured the series would follow the Fruits Basket formula, with cheerful girl gradually poking more into cute guy's past traumas.

Instead, volumes two and three deepen the mystery of Sakuya. It's hard avoiding the FB comparison when it looks like this series will also examine issues like child abuse, emotional abuse, and very hurt teenagers, but so far, I like it a lot. Sakuya has quickly become her own character, not another Tohru, and oh, I feel for her so. Takaya's paneling and art is as excellent as always, and it makes some of the revelations about Sakuya even more painful.

I'm hoping that future volumes will continue development of the secondary characters—I'm particularly interested in Hijiri, who's model-student-perfect on the outside but has a ruthlessness that reminds me a great deal of Shigure. Mostly, though, I'm really hoping we get more of Sakuya and that Chihiro's angst (I am certain he has angst) will not overshadow it.

Definitely recommended so far, although it takes a little time for things to get really good.
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)
Twenty-something Uekusa Ann is packing up to move with her boyfriend when she finds an old hourglass in her boxes, prompting her to remember her childhood move from Tokyo to rural Shimane. We're taken through her memories at 12, 14, and 16 in these three volumes, and the overall frame of the story as flashback works to give the series a sense of nostalgia and bittersweetness. It's incredibly effective, much like the framing narrative of Nana.

I actually read volume 1 almost a year ago, on David Welsh's rec, but I ended up being underwhelmed. Rereading, I can see why—in the first volume, you don't know that the first time skip is coming up (from age 12 to 14), or that that's how the structure of the series will go. But on a reread, it takes on added weight and significance, and I'm guessing the rest of the series will only get better over time and rereading. Which is not to damn by faint praise, because it's very good already.

I keep comparing this to Nana, even though the cast of characters is much smaller and the issues dealt with are much less thorny. A lot of it is the story structure, but some is that Ashihara has a similar feel and empathy for her characters that Yazawa does. Not only that, but the way the plot arises from the characters and their growth reminds me a lot of how Yazawa's series work.

It has me rooting for Ann and Daigo's relationship, even though I know that most relationships that start when two people are twelve rarely end up working, but even so, I want to know what happens to Ann and Daigo's best friends, siblings Fuji and Shika. I love how it's not just romance, but family and friends and community, the difficulties of moving and finding new friends, dealing with parents, dealing with adolescence and puberty and somehow ending up as the twenty-some woman we meet in the beginning.

Spoilers )

In conclusion: I really love this and am glad I picked it up again after dismissing it a while ago. Highly recced, especially for people who like character-driven shoujo.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I read the first two volumes of this and watched the anime about two years ago.

I'm continually surprised by how this series manages to evade the sketchiness that seems inherent in the premise. Instead, the series continues to examines the tragedies and trauma of the fratello and the girls, along with pulling in a few more side characters for a side arc involving a non-Agency assassin who parallels the cyborg girls—his father figure trained him as an assassin starting from youth.

I had complained that the first two volumes were too one-offish for me; the next four aren't strongly arc-y, but the plot to capture the terrorists (thankfully NOT Middle Eastern or Muslim for once!) thickens. The series has also been layering in characterization; we gradually begin to see more and more of where the girls come from and what the fratello's backgrounds are.

I also like how it's so far avoided glamorizing violence. Plus, I keep reading the Agency as an extended analogy of the patriarchy: men determining the fate of girls, from their faces to their very bone structures, and then proceeding to brainwash them into acceptance of their role. I'm not sure how much of this is intended by Aida, but I'm glad that we're clearly supposed to read the Agency as dysfunctional, and not in a romanticized way.

On the other hand, I am a little worried about the newest cyborg assassin we're introduced to; she's older than most of them, and I really do not want the manga moving into sketchy sexual territory with her.

I think I'll end up wanting to own this. It's a little slow, but very dense, and it seems like it'll reward rereading, particularly with regard to bits of characterization that are slowly being revealed.

Definitely recommended, and I'm glad to see that the second season of the anime's coming out next year.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
I first heard about this when it won a special prize from the Japanese Sense of Gender award (awards SFF works that examine gender); the people behind the SoG have been going to Wiscon regularly, which is how I heard of the award. Ooku (pretend there's a macron over the first "o") is an alternate history of Japan where a strange pox ends up killing three quarters of the men in the early 1600s. Because of that, the role of the shogun, like many other roles in Japanese society, ended up being matrilineal. The ooku was a harem formed for the shogun; with a female shogun, it was converted to hold about three thousand some men.

The story begins with Mizuno Yuunoshin's entrance into the ooku, but it also jumps back and forth in time to tell the story of how the role of the shogun ended up being female, along with how the disease affected Japanese history. When I first picked it up, I was afraid it wouldn't meet my expectations, as I've found Yoshinaga's work to be excellent but also uneven in terms of power differentials. I think Ooku is an excellent work of fiction so far; Yoshinaga carries off the broad scope and many time periods and characters with aplomb. As a work examining gender, I think it is awesome.

Why is this not licensed? Why why why?

At first, I was put off by the fact that we're following Mizuno's story. It's the same problem I have with Y: The Last Man; in a world where men are scarce, I still have to read something that's all about the guys? (I like Y and the women in Y, but it still irks me.) I was further put off by Mizuno taking on the more aggressive role with his childhood crush Onobu, as indicated by him kissing her and by the body language: he grabs her and pulls her in, she's slightly bent over backwards during the kiss, and he pushes her away to end it. I also wanted to know why all the women were still dressed in tightly wrapped kimono and obi when they were the ones running errands and doing business. While I love kimono, I think switching over to hakama might have been more practical! Similarly, the male dress in the first few pages is much less flowery than female dress; it looks like Edo in our history, with no hints of the changed male and female roles.

But! Yoshinaga is much, much better than that. Questions of clothing haven't entirely been resolved, but they've been brought up in the ooku already. And while we start with Mizuno, Yoshinaga does something very interesting: she switches between several POV characters, almost all male, and only has minor POV female characters. Yet the effect of this is to remind us how unstable the men's lives are; the shogun's favorites in the ooku may rise and fall, but the shogun and the women in power remain constant and dependable. There's a wonderfully claustrophobic feel to the ooku, a sense of limitation and constriction. I may have evilly cackled to myself and thought, "Bwahaha! See how it feels?"

Yoshinaga is also doing very interesting things with Japanese history; if I had known more about the Tokugawa shoguns, I would have picked up much earlier that she's following the exact same history as our own, only with female shoguns starting from Tokugawa Iemitsu. I particularly love that one of the greatest Tokugawa shoguns, Yoshimune, is a main character (and female). There's a wonderful scene in which Yoshimune meets with a Dutch captain: the pox hasn't spread to the rest of the world, and Yoshimune wants to know why only men are allowed on the Dutch merchant ships, which I read as a critique on how people will sometimes use feminism to justify nationalism or racism (I am not sure if it is, but whatever). And I particularly love what Yoshinaga's doing with Iemitsu, who began Japan's period of isolation, so disparaged by history books.

And there's so much more I'm not even touching on! The looks backward in history are even more fascinating, as they show a country struggling with changing gender roles. I would so suggest an Ooku book club panel for Wiscon, only given the lack of an English translation, I think it would be in vain.

To conclude on a completely random note, aside from being made of win, this manga also contains rodent death (traumatic only to me) and, more importantly, cat flinging as a form of affection.

(Please license this, someone!)
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
Despite Yoshinaga being widely praised, I tend to avoid her manga because her kinks are... most decidedly not mine, let us say.

Hanazono Harutaro's leukemia is in remission, and so he's enrolling in school late. He soon quickly makes friends with the somewhat short and chubby Shota, which is how he ends up in the school's manga club, run by super-otaku Majima. Not much happens in the three volumes, and quite a few chapters aren't even on Harutaro. What's great about this manga is how normal and ordinary it is, from Majima's all-too-real rants about manga to a young manga writer's love of art supplies (I forgot her name.. Shin something?).

It's a very difficult work to describe, because so much is in the details. Yoshinaga is excellent at observing people, and I especially love the Christmas arc in the third volume, which by all rights should be schmaltzy and cliched, but is instead wonderful and makes me smile. I love how Yoshinaga's geeky love of manga shines through even as she makes fun of it at times, and I particularly love how fond she is of her characters, even prickly Majima. My favorites, though, are manga writer girl and Shota (people talking about weight in a manga!), and I am so glad manga writer girl doesn't get a makeover.

There is one plot point that I very much dislike, but I love the others so much that I will keep reading. I'm not sure how well this will work for non-manga fans, because it is filled with such love and bemused affection for manga, but if you love manga and know anything about it, this is wonderful.

Yoshinaga fans, tell me -- should I read her other series? I loved the first half of Antique Bakery, but not the second about Tachibana's angst and Ono's assorted relationships, and I am very, very bad with non-consensual anything and/or huge power differentials. But I love her characters in this so much.
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
This is a slim volume about the aftermath of the atomic bomb on ordinary people, one being a woman in the Hiroshima of 1955, and one being a girl in present-day Japan. It's beautifully written and drawn; the art style seems to be less typically "manga" (whatever that means) for those of you who don't generally read manga; and Kouno does some particularly interesting things with the play between dialogue and picture.

The tone of the manga is very slice-of-life-ish: gentle and sweet and every day. Of course, that makes the references to Hiroshima even more gut-wrenching. My favorite panel was a man and a woman hugging or kissing on a bridge, with the ghosts of the dead strewn over the bridge and clogging up the river beneath them, present day and past experiences colliding, the specters of the dead forever there.

I have a very complicated reaction to the manga, though. It does what it wants to do extremely well, and if that were all, I'd be shoving this in everyone's hands. But, as it were, I keep thinking about a Japanese film class I took, in which we watched Grave of the Fireflies and the professor asked if the focus on the protagonist and his sister suffering from the war was fair, given the atrocities that the Japanese army was responsible for. Back then, I thought it was fair.

Now, I still think it is a valid and a necessary portrayal, but my reaction is complicated by Japanese textbook omissions of the Rape of Nanking, the colonization of Korea, and the treatment of comfort women; by attempts to shift the blame of wartime atrocities to the generals, which I don't mind, and focus on how the Japanese people were duped by their leaders, which I do mind; by Koizumi's visit to a shrine honoring the Japanese soldiers of WWII, which I am conflicted about; by how hibakusha are still discriminated against and disproportionately suffer; and by how Japan's actions affect the well-being and livelihood of Japanese people living elsewhere (internment and ostracization).

To put it more clearly, I do not think any Japanese civilians (or soldiers, even) "deserved" anything, particularly not something on the scale of the atomic bomb. And yet, I am constantly afraid of how history can so easily be overwritten and changed, how much easier it is to document suffering something as opposed to inflicting suffering on others, how we all edit the past to make it more palatable. All this is further complicated by my being from Taiwan but never having experienced Japanese occupation and by my consumption of tons of Japanese pop culture.

I don't know enough to say whether or not Kouno is doing this; right now, I am inclined to say not. But.

Note: please, no discussion on whether or not the atomic bomb was called for.
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
This is for books and Western comics only; manga and manhwa get a separate post.

Thoughts about the year in books )

Amazingly, I managed to blog about every single book I read this year! I didn't link the full list, but you can always look in my tags or memories.

The below are my favorites out of all the books I read this year, not books published this year.

  1. Emily Bernard, Some of My Best Friends )

  2. Emma Donoghue, Kissing the Witch )

  3. Ursula K. Le Guin, Voices )

  4. Megan Lindholm, Harpy's Flight )

  5. Laurie J. Marks, Elemental Logic series )

  6. Susan Beth Pfeffer, Life as We Knew It )

  7. Joann Sfar, The Rabbi's Cat )

  8. Ronald Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore )

  9. Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens )

  10. Elizabeth E. Wein, The Sunbird )

Also recommended: Carl Chu, Chinese Food Finder: The Bay Area and San Francisco; Brenda Dixon Gottschild, The Black Dancing Body: A Geography from Coon to Cool and Waltzing in the Dark: African American Vaudeville and Race Politics in the Swing Era; Theodora Goss, In the Forest of Forgetting; Margo Rabb, Cures for Heartbreak; Madeleine E. Robins, Point of Honour; Joanna Russ, What Are We Fighting For?: Sex, Race, Class, and the Future of Feminism; Sarah Smith, The Vanished Child; Beverly Daniel Tatum, Can We Talk about Race?: And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation; Lawrence Weschler, Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology; Ysabeau S. Wilce, Flora Segunda; Helen Zia, Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People

Total read: 131 (6 rereads)

Complete list of books read in 2007 )
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
This is why I don't make New Year's Resolutions to read less manga: the statistics would come out the next year, and I would laugh in my own face. The scary thing is this list doesn't include random scanlations or recent chapters of series I follow, and it's still at 275 volumes!

As usual, these are my favorite things read this year, not published this year. I'm also keeping manga separate from comics; this is an entirely arbitrary distinction and depends not only on the paper size of the book, but also whether or not I feel it's going for the manga feel or not. For 2008, I'm going to stick everything together as "sequential art," but since my spreadsheet from last year was set up to separate manga from everything else, no such luck for now.

Sadly, I have skimpy numbers for manhwa, which I am going to try to remedy this year. I was surprised to see I only have two repeats from last year (Emma and Cain Saga/Godchild), though I have four author repeats (Mori Kaoru, Minekura Kazuya, Mizushiro Setona and Yuki Kaori). I liked my runner ups much more than I liked my runner ups from last year, though that's mainly because I've been reading more manga. I know, what a shocker.

Continuing series Naruto, Fruits Basket and Saiyuki (including Reload and Gaiden) fell off my list this year. I don't even have Naruto on my list of manga read, but that's largely because I read chapters as they came out. Possibly reading individual chapters instead of volumes of manga dampened my enthusiasm, although I think a larger part of it is because we're stuck in another long fighting arc I don't care much about. I'm still waiting for my favorite characters to get back into action and very sick of Sasuke's angst about twenty volumes ago, thankyouverymuch. I just haven't read any Fruits Basket this year, aside from rereads, and while new volumes of Saiyuki Reload came out this year (most notably the exciting volume 7), they're all volumes I read last year in Japanese.

The only reason Honey and Clover isn't on here is because the first three volumes a) aren't out in the US and b) follow the anime so closely that I can't quite figure out what to say.

I have individual volume write ups linked via tags for the top ten and runners up, but I'm too lazy to link the entire list of stuff I read. Anything without an asterisk has been written up before; check my tags or memories. If you're curious about something I haven't written up, feel free to ask!

Series alphabetized by author.

  1. CLAMP, xxxHolic and Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle )

  2. Higuri You, Cantarella )

  3. Minekura Kazuya, Wild Adapter )

  4. Mizushiro Setona, After School Nightmare )

  5. Mori Kaoru, Emma )

  6. Soryo Fuyumi, Eternal Sabbath )

  7. Urasawa Naoki, Monster and 20th Century Boys )

  8. Urushibara Yuki, Mushishi )

  9. Yazawa Ai, Nana and Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai )

  10. Yuki Kaori, Cain Saga/Godchild )

  11. Yumeka Sumomo, The Day I Became a Butterfly )

Also recommended: Arakawa Hiromu, Fullmetal Alchemist; Svetlana Chmakova, Dramacon; Hayakawa Tomoko, The Wallflower; Ogawa Yayoi, Tramps Like Us; Takeuchi Mick, Her Majesty's Dog; Yoshinaga Fumi, Antique Bakery; Yun Mi-Kyung, Bride of the Water God

Notes )

Total read: 275 (40 rereads)

Complete list of manga read in 2007 )
oyceter: Stack of books with text "mmm... books!" (mmm books)
A dog gets a mail order robot and assembles it; the two go off together and have adventures. Along the way, dog and robot are separated.

I have no idea how to sum this up. It's a wordless comic, and on the larger scale of things nothing happens. But at the same time, everything happens in the course of a few months -- friends are lost and found again, people are changed, lives go on.

I love how sweet the art is, how Varon pays attention to all the little details, how she doesn't forget that her characters are dogs and ducks and anteaters, albeit anthropomorphized ones. And I just love how the ending isn't what I would have expected, but it's perfectly right.

Definitely recommended, particularly if you liked the movie The Iron Giant (I haven't read the story) -- and not just because the two are about robots! They've both got this old-fashioned but not necessarily nostalgic tone, and both of them are about friendships.
oyceter: (midori happy)
Oh, series, I had forgotten how much I loved you. While this definitely follows the shoujo template more closely than Yazawa's later series, particularly in the extent to which Midori bends over for Akira's angst, it does some very interesting things with shoujo tropes as well.

Spoilers )

Anyway, I am SO GLAD this lives up to my memories of it; I was a little afraid that it wouldn't, since I'd tried rereading before and the first volume didn't grab me as much. But it's really the latter volumes where the series finds its strengths, and I love all of the characters so much. They feel like people I wish I were; they are so human and try to be so kind even as they all stumble and make mistakes and hurt people. And the focus on the school reminds me a lot of Honey and Clover -- just that eventual reminder that graduation is always there, that you have to make those big life decisions in the end, that your school friends will eventually scatter and leave, but that that makes the time spent there more precious.
oyceter: (midori happy)
This was the first Yazawa Ai manga I read, and it was the one that made me fall in love with Yazawa Ai. I don't think it's the best she's written; Nana's taken that place for me, but this series still holds a spot in my heart. It also helps that the protagonist is one of my favorite manga characters and among the few fictional characters I would love to befriend.

Saejima Midori is a first-year student (10th grade) at the newly-formed Hijiri Gakuen. It's so new that her class is the first class there. Her class eventually gets her to run for student council, saying that Midori is the angel of their class and that she should become the angel of the school (ergo, the title, which roughly means "I'm no angel"). She's got a crush on the rebellious-looking Sudou Akira, and the series is mostly about her relationship with him and the relationships of the kids who make the student council.

All of this sounds incredibly boring, and the angel bit sounds eye-rollingly precious. Also, the art is awful -- the figures look stiff and wooden in some scenes, and Yazawa's still developing what will become her very distinctive style. I think the art gets a little better later on, but it's still fairly rough throughout.

And still, I love this and rereading the first three volumes have made me incredibly nostalgic. Much of the appeal is Midori herself. She's the one in my icon, and the picture perfectly encapsulates why I love her so much. She's one of those people who let every emotion show on their face. When she's happy, she beams. When she's sad, she cries. When she's touched, she says so. And she is happy so much. I love her because she's optimistic and sees the good in everyone and everything, because she is so generous with her affection, because there is not a mean bone in her body. She has her flaws and her weaknesses, but she strikes me as the kind of person who tries so hard and as the kind of person whose happiness is infectious.

While this series doesn't privilege female friendship the same way Nana does (the Akira/Midori romance is the central relationshpi of the series), Yazawa's keen eye for character is still there, and one of my favorite relationships in the series is that between Midori and Mamiya Yuuko, the somewhat icy, grumpy, antisocial, awkward girl who's the secretary of the student council.

So far, several plot complications have already come in, and since this is high-school shoujo, we've already had a school festival and a play. But I love the characters so much that I don't mind; there's less of an emphasis on hijinks (let's put the hero in drag!) and more of an emphasis on the rhythms of the school year, on the emotional highs and lows of being a teenaged girl, on friendships and schoolwork and clubs.

Highly recommended.
oyceter: man*ga [mahng' guh] n. Japanese comics. synonym: CRACK (manga is crack)
So far, I've liked all the Mizushiro Setona manga that I've read, and this is no different. Mizushiro seems to be particularly good at focusing on the small and the everyday, on the moments that make you think your world is ending, even if it's just your skanky boyfriend breaking up with you and immediately going out with another girl. Because as Buffy illustrated so well, those are world-ending moments. It's just not the world most people think of.

Rika's just been through aforementioned breakup; worse, she's had an injury that's taken her off the track team. She used to be the best high jumper in the school, but now the same girl her ex is now going out with seems to be taking her place there as well. One day, she meets three other disaffected people in a chat room and flippantly suggests that they blow up the school.

What follows isn't a description of how they plan to blow up the school, but rather, how four broken and hurt people can come together and find comfort in each other. Much like After School Nightmare, there are several elements in here that I should find extremely squicky, but I don't because of the atmosphere Mizushiro invokes (ex. the teacher/student relationship). I particularly like Rika and Mr. Money and how the both of them hide their pain behind smiles.

Although I was a bit iffy on the portrayal of one of the women in the series, who's shown as preying on one of the teachers, I like Rika and Polaris. If only the older women wouldn't be so consistently sketchy!

It's really hard to put down why I liked this so much, since it's very dependent on the pacing, the attention to detail, the over-the-top premise coupled with the grounding in emotional reality, the use of space and wordless panels.

The art style's closer to 1999nen than it is to After School Nightmare, but it's still more stylized than 1999nen.

Also, the series ends with a short story about human cows that [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija found incredibly disturbing and creepy and I did not, possibly because I've now read several manga in which the ultimate expression of love is the offer to let the beloved consume your own flesh! Oh manga. I love you.

Anyway, definitely recommended to people who liked the two other Mizushiro works I've read, and generally recommended to people who like slow, slightly creepy, but still quiet manga.


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