Magic school narratives have been and. I suspect, will always be very popular. With the overflowing fandom surrounding books like Harry Potter and other similar fantasy novels, the amount of stories of this type have proliferated far and wide into varying mediums. Anime and manga, in particular, took a strong interest in this narrative type. Manga like Witch Hat Atelier, Ancient Magus Bride’s most recent arc. Anime like Little Witch Academia, Gakuen Alice, and now Irregular at Magic Highschool (honestly the list goes on). It’s certainly not a new anime, having originally aired in 2014, but with the recent announcement that it would be getting a second season soon, I figured I had the perfect time to talk about it considering the time of year. The series started as a novel and then became a light novel series before being picked up by Madhouse for the anime adaptation. I became a fan shortly after, attracted by the unique view of magic presented in the series and the well-crafted fight scenes. I’m not saying this is a perfect series, but it definitely has its strengths, especially for fans of magic school narratives.
The anime follows two siblings, Shiba Miyuki and Shiba Tatsuya, who are accepted to one of the top magic schools in the country. Miyuki manages to pass all of the entrance exams with flying colors and is accepted into the full Course 1 program, while her brother Tasuya has a slower magic processing speed and winds up being accepted into the lower Course 2 class. The narrative follows these two siblings as they navigate the culture of their new school with its favoritism towards Course 1 students, while trying not to be dragged into the country’s various political struggles in the process. Continue reading
Mythical Beast Investigator is another manga that popped up one day while I was looking for some new series to get into. I wasn’t quite sure what I would think of it, but I have an interest in all things fantasy and especially a focus on magical creatures. When I was reading Ancient Magus Bride I was always drawn to all of the weird and mythical creatures that would appear in the series, whether covertly in the background or taking center stage for a particular chapter. Here is a series that focuses on one particular troublesome creature each chapter, exploring its history and looking at how its existence fits into the larger world of this fantastical manga. While I don’t think it’s the best fantasy manga I’ve read, it’s been interesting enough that I plan on completing the series when the final second volume comes out. But therein lies one of my concerns too, that the shortness of this series will not allow the narrative to fully explore the world and creatures in it. I’m hesitant to say that this is a great series without seeing the culmination of both volumes, but it’s interesting nonetheless for those who enjoy stories about mythical creatures.
This manga’s story takes place in a world where humans and magical creatures live side-by-side, humans living beside dragons, mermaids, or other possibly dangerous creatures. And when things do go wrong, that’s when Ferry is called in. Ferry is a mythical beast investigator who longs to see peace between beasts and humans eventually come to be real. Armed with an extensive knowledge of magical creatures and fierce and mysterious protector, Ferry travels from town to town solving the disputes between human and beast, and more often than not setting humans straight about the nature of mythical beasts. Continue reading
I’m always on the look-out for new manga to read and often make it a point to check in on all the major publisher websites at least once a month to see what new volumes are coming out. The Alchemist Who Survived popped up one day and its description intrigued me. The full title of the manga is The Alchemist Who Survived Now Dreams of a Quiet City Life. It’s quite a mouthful, so I’ll be using the shortened title throughout the rest of the review, but the full title does give you some idea about the nature and the story of this particular series. After reading through this first volume, I can predict that I’ll be falling in love with this series as more volumes come out. It reminds me so much of a combination of Snow White with the Red Hair in its focus on herbology and daily life and Ancient Magus Bride in its creation of the magic system. I have a deep love for series that focus on the daily life of mages, herbalists, or people in a magical setting, and I’m really interested to see where this series goes.
The Alchemist Who Survived follows the life of one of Mariela who wakes up from a magically-induced sleep to find that her former home has been destroyed by a monster stampede. To make matters worse, the spell has kept her asleep far longer than she wanted, finally allowing her wake after 200 years. In those 200 years, she finds that the city she used to live and sell her potions in has been decimated by the monster stampede, reduced to only part of its original size, and that she happens to be one of the last Alchemists in the area able to make potions. Mariela sets out to make a place for herself again, selling her potions, and trying to lead a quiet life. Continue reading
I have a hard time finding a better heart-warming comedy than those involving yakuza members. Hinamatsuri was a fantastic anime a couple seasons ago that highlighted a relationship between a young homeless girl (who happened to have psychic powers) and a yakuza member. Now we have Way of the House Husband that takes the over-masculinization of being in the yakuza and flips it on its head. I spoke about this series in the past when I wrote about it in the article “The Changing Face of Paternity in Japan as Told Through Anime and Manga,” but just last week it got its first English release to the states by Viz, introducing more people to this hilarious series. I honestly have to say that this series is up there with Hinamatsuri in its hilarious comedy and portrayal of the yakuza. With its fantastic art, great exaggerated gags, and hilarious premous, Way of the House Husband is sure to entertain fans of comedy manga.
This manga features Tatsu, the former Immortal Dragon, an ex-yakuza member turned house husband who is just trying to adjust to being the best husband to his wife. From cooking her lunches to running to the grocery store to doing all the cleaning in the apartment, Tatsu takes his duties as stay-at-home-husband very seriously, trying to leave his yakuza past behind him. But sometimes that’s harder than it might seem as people from his past start popping up around town. Created by Kousuke Oono, the English edition of this manga is now being distributed in North America by Viz. Continue reading
What are you willing to give up when it comes to making a relationship work? When does a compromise start to affect your values or sense of self? Volume four of Tokyo Tarareba Girls digs into these questions among many others, using the character’s relationships as a frame to examine some pretty tough questions about love and relationships. The series was recently nominated for and then won the award for “Best US Edition of International Material – Asia” during the Eisner Awards this year. Honestly, I definitely think it’s well-deserved considering the scope and gravity of some of the things this series talks about and they way Higashimura uses comedy to address serious topics. I wanted to revisit this series this week both because of the recent Eisner win and because the series is very soon coming to a close with its 9th volume next month. Higashimura has given us so many great manga series with Princess Jellyfish and now her autobiography Blank Canvas, which is currently on volume two, that I really think this hilarious Josei series deserves to sit equally next to her other series.
Volume four picks up with the story as Rinko continues with her relationship to her current cinephile, bartender boyfriend. But something is nagging at Rinko about their relationship, particularly his insistence that she change her hairstyle to match that of his favorite actress. Even as she dreams of marrying this man, she begins to question how much change is too much to ask for in a relationship and how much she’s willing to overlook for the man she wants to marry. With the 2020 Olympic deadline for marriage still looming on the horizon, all three women scramble to balance relationships and careers. Continue reading
What does it mean to like someone? How does someone know when a person becomes special to them? What does it mean to be in a relationship? These are all questions fundamental to the romance genre no matter the age, though usually found in those stories centering around a younger age group. How a person understands and interacts with the people closest to them is an important part of growing up and maturing as a human being. High school romance stories often focus on this key period of development as the main characters come to understand and discover both themselves and their relationships with those around them. That Blue Sky Feeling combines the self-discovery of youth with the queer story-lines of realizing and coming to terms with being gay. Volume one of this three-volume series is not only a great introduction into these concepts but also can act as a great first step into the boys love genre for anyone interested.
That Blue Sky Feeling focuses on the life of transfer student Noshiro Dai who meets the loner Sanada after coming to his new school. He doesn’t seem to have friends or really want any. And then there’s the rumor permeating the school that Sanada is gay that makes the other boys keep their distance from him. But that doesn’t seem to deter Noshiro who decides to embark on a campaign to win Sanada over and become his friend. The manga was adapted from an original webcomic by Okura with artist Coma Hashii collaborating for the adaptation. It’s currently licensed for English release by Viz Media. Continue reading
In the first volume, Fruits Basket presents itself as this semi-wacky comedy shoujo about a girl who discovers that the family she’s living with can all turn into animals, but as the story progresses we begin to see this for what it truly is: a mask, a facade if you will. Fruits Basket’s true story lies within the family’s it follows. The shame, guilt, and abuse that sometimes hides behind closed doors, or in some cases is right out in the open. But it also speaks to us about the families and relationships between people who care and have cultivated a space of love through struggle and personal growth. I talked about this a bit last volume in how Yuki and Rin’s family dynamics shaped their current personalities and character growth arcs. Yuki especially we see yearning for any kind of parental and motherly love to the point of gravitating towards Tohru, seeing her as someone who can fulfill this emotional hole in himself. In volume eight, we see a bit of a continuation of this, but with more of a focus on the steps he’s taking to grow past it. We also delve deeper into both Kyo and Tohru’s past by taking a look at Tohru’s mother, Kyoko.
Volume eight continues where we left off last time with Yuki recounting and remembering his childhood and relationship with Tohru to Kakeru. We see more of his nonexistent relationship with his mother, the abuse he faced from Akito, and finally the mystery of the baseball cap Tohru keeps with her is solved. In true shoujo fashion, the story moves on to feature the activities of the culture festival, with a play performed by Tohru and gang to the sort-of story of Cinderella. With Kyo as Prince, Tohru as evil step-sister, and Hana as Cinderella, it manages to be both amusing and entirely relevant to the story and characters. For the rest of the volume, we get a look at Kyoko’s past and how Kyo winds up knowing her and then the beginnings of a look into Machi and Yuki’s slowly growing relationship. Continue reading
I’ve been seeing this manga floating around Twitter for awhile with some very high recommendations from people who either read it before it came out in North America or from people who got early copies of the manga before it released earlier this week. Well it finally came out on Tuesday and I figured with all the talk around this title, it must be worth trying out. I have to say, everyone was right. Our Dreams at Dusk is a fantastic Boys Love title worth all the hype I’ve seen surrounding it so far. The art and page layouts are visually appealing and often break the mold in multiple places. The story is one of adolescent sexual discovery with some deep emotions and questions being asked about the acceptance of gay and queer people in Japan and the kind of emotional distress and mental illness that can come from having this dissonance between public and private persona and identity. I highly recommend this manga and I really do think I won’t be able to do it justice here in this short of a space, so definitely pick up a copy if it seems up your alley.
Our Dreams at Dusk follows high school boy Tasuku who may just have been outed at school for being gay, one of the worst things that could happen to him. Faced with the jeering of him peers for being a “homo,” Tasuku tries hard to deny everything. But standing on the edge of bridge later that day, he feels his way of life was ended in that moment and contemplates jumping. Before he can do the unthinkable, Tasuku meets a mysterious woman who leads him to a group of people dealing with problems similar to his own. The manga is created by Yuhki Kamatani (creator of Nabari no Ou) and is published in English by Seven Seas. Continue reading
There are few things I love more than cooking manga, except apparently cooking manga combined with gay relationships. What Did You Eat Yesterday is an interesting take on both cooking manga and boys love, though I guess you wouldn’t call it boys love since both main characters are 40-year-old men, but you get my point. I found this manga through I believe a recommendation on Twitter, which it seems is where I’m finding the most interesting recommendations now, and picked it up on a whim last week to finally check out. And while I wouldn’t say it’s the best or most interesting manga out there, I think how the mangaka, Fumi Yoshinaga, tackles big societal issues through the characters and their actions means I’ll be coming back for future volumes.
The story of this manga revolves around Shiro Kakei, a lawyer by day and gourmand cook by night, who lives with his boyfriend Kenji Yabuki, a hair stylist. Each chapter deals with a new issue surrounding being gay in Japan and a different made-from-scratch recipe. Whether it’s Kakei’s unwillingness to share the fact that he’s gay with his coworkers or the case of a male domestic abuse victim that comes to Kakei for legal advice. Each of the eight chapters in this volume pairs one serious issue with a recipe fit for food lovers. I can see why it was nominated for the first Manga Taisho Award and received a jury recommendation at the 13th Japan Media Arts Festival Awards. Continue reading
Ah CLAMP, just reading any of their series brings me back to my early teen years of reading Cardcaptors and Chobits. Over the years, they have wound up becoming one of my all time favorite manga creators. Their wide breadth of titles and stories make it easy to find something entertaining for almost every reader, and their ability to create meaningful stories for both younger readers and older ones is hard to match. Wish is one of the few series from them that I actually never had the chance to pick up and read, so I was excited to learn that Dark Horse had started to publish the entire 4-volume series in one collected omnibus. It’s a challenge to read with it being at least two inches thick and pretty heavy, but the series itself is definitely worth it especially if you like cute and innocent love stories.
The story of Wish follows a young doctor Shuichiro who notices an adorable flying thing trapped in a tree on his way home from work one day. It just so happens to be the angel, Kohaku, who offers to grant Shuichiro any wish he desires in gratitude. The only problem is that Shuichiro has everything he could ever want, a good job, enough money to be comfortable, and a nice house. But that doesn’t dissuade Kohaku, and Shuichiro soon finds himself with a new roommate who just so happens to draw more angels and even devils to their home, becoming a sanctuary for those looking to escape both hell and heaven. Continue reading