Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Manga Round Up

Well I caught up on my movie reviews. Now it's time to do my manga ones! Keep in mind I haven't finished most of these series. Instead these are just my thoughts on what I've read so far. Also not all of these manga are new or current. Some are pretty old. Just keep an open mind!

1. ATTACK ON TITAN (2009) by Hajime Isayama

By now just about everyone has heard of this series. The anime literally exploded in popularity! I started reading this a couple of years ago and actually have seen the series yet. I know! I know! But once I start with the book I gotta finish it before checking it out in any other medium. For those that have no clue what this is think of it as the Japanese Walking Dead. It's set in a post apocalyptic future with gigantic naked humans called Titans that eat people. So yeah it's pretty damn violent. For me though I really enjoyed the world building done in this series. There's all sorts of maps and diagrams that really explain and make real the world the characters inhabit. All the series is told with a great deal of flashbacks that aren't necessarily in order. This gives it a puzzle like nature that really make it interesting to figure out. The art is kinda love it or hate though as it has a very sketchy style. The action scenes look great and really have a feeling of motion. It's when the characters are standing still that things look kinda bad. If you haven't gotten into this yet than definitely check it out. Probably one of the best series for someone who isn't even into anime/manga to get them interested in it.

2. Mars (1976) by Mitsuteru Yokoyama

Gotta love that cover right? Despite what it looks like this is actually a manga about giant robots from the creator of Giant Robo and Tetsujin 28/Gigantor Mitsuteru Yokoyama. Its about the mystery of said boy's origins and how it ties into some god-like beings. It may seem like a pretty typical story by todays standards but was pretty original when it came out. Has a very ancient aliens vibe to it. I really enjoyed this one and found myself captivated by the boys story as it unfolded. The stakes just kept getting higher and higher till the entire planet is at risk. I will say the story drags a bit in the middle but damn if the ending isn't worth! Gotta give Mitsuteru Yokoyama big props for really delivering with the finale. The art may also be dated by todays standards but I really love that retro look. The action scenes are really fast and well choreographed. The stars though are the giant robots and here the art truly shines. Not a manga for everyone since it's kinda dated but if you get into the story you'll totally enjoy it.

3. ATOM CAT (1986) by Osamu Tezuka

Atom Cat. A Tom Cat! Get it? Gotta love Japanese humor! That pun alone is worth picking the book up for. This one is by the master of manga Osamu Tezuka and is pretty much a light hearted remake Astro Boy. And as awesome as Astro Boy is, Atom Cat is just that much cooler. I mean he's a flying robot cat! He battles bullies, mummies and even hellspawn cats! The book is just a ton of fun to read. It's designed for little kids so don't expect deep plot or anything. Still this is just a blast to read through and look at. Well worth picking up for fans of any age!

4. HEROMAN (2009) by Tamon Ohta and Stan LeeYes that STAN LEE! Not sure how much involvement he actually had but the story is basically what if Peter Parker found Gigantor. Obviously this is not a deep tale nor is it very original. Hell the hero even has his very own Eddie Brock style bully to contend with. Still the book has a lot of heart and is a lot of fun to read. Sometimes you just want to read about a kid trying to do good by fighting evil alien insects with his transforming toy robot. The art has a very Saturday morning kids cartoon feel to it and adds to that sense of awe and wonder. Maybe not the most engaging story out there but I really enjoyed reading it.

5. SHOWA: A HISTORY OF JAPAN 1926-1939 (1988) by Shigeru MizukiThis is easily the best manga I've read since finishing 20th Century Boys several years ago. From the moment I opened it up I just couldn't stop reading it. So yeah this is defintiely one to pick up! It's half a history book and half an autobiography. As the title implies it's merely the first volume covering the history of the Showa period in Japan. The Japanese divide their time periods based on the reigns of their Emporers and Emporer Showa lasted from 1926 to 1989. This volume only covers the years 1926-1939 and deals with the early years of World War 2. Besides all the fascinating historical information the book also details the life of Shigeru Mizuki as a child growing up in Japan at this time. It's both hilarious and amazing in see the very different world he grew up in from today. Truly a wonderful book with fantastic art. I just can't recommend this one enough.

6. NURA RISE OF THE YOKAI CLAN (2008) by Hiroshi ShiibashiThis is much more of a typical boys action manga. The difference here is it's focus on yokai, or Japanese folklore monsters. Being a big yokai fan myself the idea of combining them with action based heroes really appealed to me. The story also wraps all this up with a Sopranos like setting as all the yokai belong to mob clans. The titular character Nura is half human/half yokai and is next in line to be the head of the "family." This makes for an interesting dynamic as you route for the main family even if they're still a gangster group. Really though the best parts of the story are all the different yokai you get to see. Yuki-onna is my personal favorite but there are countless others. Any fans of yokai should give this a shout but those into Naruto, Bleach or Dragon Ball will also like it.

7. BILLY BAT (2008) by Naoki Urusawa and Takashi UrusawaNaoki Urusawa is the writer/artist of my all time favorite manga series 20th Century Boys so I was definitely excited to check out his newest series. As with 20th Century Boys this series is one gigantic mystery that spans all of human history. Its the story of comic book character called Billy Bat and the influence this character has had mankind throughout the ages. From World War 2 to the Civil Rights movement and all the way to the past with Jesus Christ, Billy Bat is always there! The art is also an interesting mix as Billy Bat the character channels both Osamu Tezuka (who is mentioned in the series) and Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse. Billy Bat even gets his own amusement park! This is definitely an engrossing mystery and one you'll find you can't put down.

8. ASTRO BOY (1952) by Osamu TezukaDespite having watched numerous Astro Boy series and a the recent CG animated movie I'd never read the original manga. Having done so now all I can say is damn that was depressing! Astro Boy may look like a goofy kids series but it has a definite dark side to it. The initial story, about the poor dog Pero, really pulls at the old heart strings. The stories are also incredibly fantastic and action packed. This keeps things moving despite how sad they always seem to be. The art may seem dated but I really enjoy Tezuka's style. For me though the true joy of reading this tale was it gave me a greater appreciation for the anime movie Metropolis (also based on a Tezuka manga.) In that there's a reference to Pero which I never understood till now. The datedness of this book makes it a little hard for everyone but kids and those a kid at heart will certainly appreciate it.

9. CASE CLOSED (1994) by Gosho Aoyama

This is one where I've been addicted to the anime for years. I'm just now getting into reading the series even though I already knows what happens in the cases. At this point though I've seen so many episodes that I've forgotten who the criminal is half the time! For fans of detective stories this is just a really great series. The main character may look like a kid but he's really a high school detective thats been shrunk by an experimental poison. While the mysteries are a great hook for me it's really the characters that keep me coming back. Especially the estranged romance between the shrunken detective and his high school sweet heart. For someone like me who's been used to watching the series the thing I really enjoy about the manga is the art. There's a certain charm to the cartoony style Aoyama uses that the anime really doesn't capture. I know many may be put off by the fact that it looks like a "kiddie" series but trust me this is a good one.

10. KINDAICHI CASE FILES (1992) by Yozaburo Kanari, Seimaru Amagi and Fumiya SatoThis is another detective series but no little kid this time around. Instead it's a full size high school detective and the mysteries he gets involved in. I gotta say the plots to these stories are really well thought out and very engrossing. However the characters themselves don't grab me as much as the ones in Case Closed. There's a definitely hint of romance to it but it lacks the overarching mystery that makes Case Closed story work so well. Still if your a detective fan and the pint size detective of the other series puts you off then you may enjoy this one more.
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