Posted by psgels on 27 September 2012 with categories: Manga Experiment

So, after years and years of people asking, I finally started to read some manga at the start of this summer season. I had the time for it, since it was quite a small season, and it seemed like a good moment to finally check up on the medium and explore my tastes. Thirteen weeks later, and I have to say that the experiment succeeded, and I’ve gotten warmed up to reading manga, and I’ve encountered quite a few gems that I’m really glad to have discovered.

So in this experiment, I found that I was most inclined to short manga that were easy to pick up and didn’t take ages to get somewhere. I most noticed this with the shoujo and josei genre, although there were also a number of gems in the seinen genre. It’s the type of stories that combine showing strong emotions with an intriguing and creative storyline that really did it for me.

Some pet peeves that I also found out is that I just cannot enjoy it when a character starts singing. It just feels awkward, and I can’t hear them at all. It may seem weird, but having watched anime for so long I’m just so used to things moving and there being music and audio to back it up that it just feels weird.

Another thing that rather annoyed me was something that a number of shoujo stories were rather guilty of: vague dialogues. It’s this attempt to be poetic by omitting entire sentences. this all makes the story very hard to follow and hard to reach in an attempt to be a bit poetic.Seinen stories on the other hand tended to suffer from being too dull: yeah they were nicely laid out and all, but the lack of emotions or poorly portrayed feelings didn’t catch my interest either.

Overall I am not completely sold on manga, and this blog won’t suddenly get renamed to Star Crossed Manga Blog, but I am going to keep up with the manga that caught my attention and read a bit here and there, because there are definitely awesome stories to be told there. I’m just a multimedia person who likes both visual animation, sound, music, storytelling and everything to come together. On the other hand though, the manga medium is so much easier to tell creative and unconventional storylines, and it’s also harder to screw up because there are fewer people involved in everything.

And finally, I’d like to rank the manga that caught my attention the most over the past season, based on how much I liked them. Perhaps there’s a good recommendation out there. Anyway, I’ve said this before, but next season will be huge, so I’m going to blog 12 series at once. Looking forward to it!

#9: Coelacanth

This is a very short mystery series with a lot of romance. It’s very shoujo, but at the same time it does have well written dialogue and it has quite a few interesting ideas, like a very cynical imaginary sheep that keeps bothering the lead female. The mystery unfolds slowly , but in the end it’s not really worth it in the end. The dialogue is very vague at times, making it hard to follow and because of that the build-up cannot really deliver what it wants to.

#8: With the Light – The Raising of an Autistic Child

With the Light tells the story of raising an autistic child, through a lot of different stages in the kid’s life. The perspective is really from the mother and the challenges she faces, and how to get her child accepted by the people around her. It takes so much work, and his manga’s strength is showing how she deals with them and conquers all this throughout the years (volume 1 already spans like five years). It’s a struggle, but it also shows that the payoff really is quite wonderful.

#7: The Music of Marie

What the Music of Marie did was quite interesting: from scratch, it created this really imaginative world and setting with its own customs, culture, habits, people, religion and folklore. The role of technology in this series is quite unique to watch, and its storyline is very deeply rooted in its own culture. The least interesting part is probably the romance, but the way in which it’s used allows for a lot of details to be able to fleshed out across the setting. The art is also a bit remarkable here: the characters themselves look quite plain and strangely drawn, but the different props, artifacts and backgrounds really are gorgeous and particularly imaginative.

#6: Wish

Wish is a short manga by Clamp, totalling four volumes and takes place in the same world as Kobato. The way it stands out, is how incredibly adorable it is, yet it’s also more than just that. The cast is very diverse and the slice of life is really well-balanced with the storytelling, leading to actually a very good cast emerging from this. The twist at the end is also really well-built up and really charming to watch, although there are a few too many gimmick characters around as well. It also has that singing bug that I mentioned above here.

#5: Shingeki no Kyojin

Shingeki no Kyojin. Oh boy. This one is a real shocker, and while it takes a few chapters to get going, it is just so consistently intense that it just had me in this intense state all throughout reading it. The way in which it portrays the despair of the characters during its fight scenes is much tenser than I could have imagined. The giant art is also something that you need to see for yourself. And then there are the plot twists. These things really make you think afterwards what the hell just happened.

#4: Hito Hitori Futari

Hito Hitori Futari was the first manga to catch my eye in this experiment, and it kept this all the way. It really drew me in where I found myself absorbed in continuing it for as long as possible, more than the other manga on this list in which I always found myself checking how many pages were still left. This is this really unique story about a guardian spirit being tasked to overlook the actual prime minister. Its mood is both really warm, and really cold at the same time, and I really like the way in which the author achieved this. On one hand the characters really sympathize with each other and the main couple fully accepts each other as they grow close together, and yet on the other hand there is so much darkness in this series and there are so many evil spirits present. The art is also just incredible. The facial expressions in particular are just gorgeously drawn.

#3: Hotel

For Hotel, this guy who names himself Boichi sat down with the intent to draw some standalone stories. At worst, these stories were gorgeous art experiments. At best however, holy crap what the hell did I just read. The tuna chapter was just delightful satire with an unbelievable amount of creativity put into it, on top of being very clever, while the pregnant girl story was just a complete mindfuck that was glorious in every single way. It’s all based on these really interesting thought experiments that do what you expect, only to go light-years further than that.

#2: A Lollipop or a Bullet

A Lollipop or a bullet was the kind of story that I hoped to find when starting this experiments. I managed to only find the first eight chapters of the story, but I was completely amazed at what it did there. In just eight chapters it created an amazing main character. Her inner monologues go deep, both into her own character as the character of the other main character. It’s also incredibly subtle: it nearly always just slightly hints at the really sad and pitiful things that happened, but never directly addresses them. The creators really made me sympathize with the cast and if you’re looking for something genuine, then by all means give this gem a chance. I also have a shout-out to the scanlators who brought this amazing series available for English audiences. Good luck with translating the final chapters, and I’ll definitely check them out as soon as possible.

#1: A Million-Pound Love

I am a huge fan of Himitsu ~ The Revelation and this is a collection of short stories from the same author. And really: they’ve got the same brilliance behind it. I mean, these were written by an incredibly talented writer. In Himitsu, what amazed me was how well it bit by bit revealed what was going on. That same style is present here. Bit by bit it develops its plot and it develops its characters like, majorly. It toys around with time and how characters can change in the span of a few years, and it just keeps building plot twist upon plot twist, yet making sure that everything fits once everything ends. On top of that, the art also rocks in how well it’s able to portray the emotions of the characters. I was really swept along with their emotions that just kept going from one scene to the other. There are times in which the twists themselves get a bit far-fetched (there is a lot of science fiction with creative liberties in this manga), but still: this is really is top-notch storytelling.

14 Responses

  1. Juno says:

    The thing about singing in CLAMP’s series (Wish, Clover, Kobato, etc.) is that they use the art to convey the beauty of the song. They do that intentionally and sometimes, it really stands out, even if they don’t give us lyrics. I’m not saying you’ll think differently about what you read, but with insight, you might understand it better.

    Also, like some people suggested in the Wish blog post, I highly recommend CLOVER. It is 4 short volumes long (they compiled them all into one volume in NA sorta recently, the length of which is shorter than most other 3-volume compiled books I’ve seen) and, even though it is considered “unfinished,” it doesn’t really suffer much from it because of how it is written/drawn. It is EXTREMELY artistic and has to have one of the most conscious layouts of any manga I’ve ever read. There’s also a really short music-video OVA to watch as supplementary material, if you can find it. It’s definitely unique in the world of manga, so please check it out if you can!

    • B. says:

      I recommend Clover too. It’s one of the best CLAMP manga in my opinion. Though there is a lot of manga singing.

      • Juno says:

        I think psgels might think differently about the singing in CLOVER. I mean, it’s done in a similar fashion to Wish and Kobato, but… it just looks so much more intentional because of the visual layout.

  2. B. says:

    The thing about the “vague dialogues” is that sometimes they are vague because they’re badly translated. Manga translation standards are much worse than the anime standard and sometime we have to guess what the translator really meant (or if they even understood what it meant). I’m thankful for the scanlators and translators, of course, but, well, most of them are not very good and it shows.

    I remember reading Coelacanth and liking it very much, but then time passed and I kinda forgot about it.
    Wish is a cute manga too, but after having read way too much CLAMP manga, it get’s a little stale.

    • Juno says:

      Translating is not easy. But I agree. Even professional translators screw up a ton if they don’t understand the original meaning. I’ve seen it happen again and again with the things I translate, whether I’m looking at other fansubs/scanlations/translations or the real material. And it’s frustrating as heck. Especially when it turns something that worked in the original, by the creator’s intent, into an accidental “deus ex machina”… Argh! It’s happened twice now! D:

  3. starsamaria says:

    “On the other hand though, the manga medium is so much easier to tell creative and unconventional storylines, and it’s also harder to screw up because there are fewer people involved in everything.”

    While I agree with the first part, I’m not sure I’m convinced by the second. Manga authors have to rely solely on art and dialogue to evoke feeling and give dimension to a series – and if either one fails it’s hard to be truly captivated or even sometimes difficult to understand what’s going on. Anime has many elements that are brought together to make a story work, and that’s why, for example, an anime with boring music but great writing and visuals can still be successful.

  4. Reverse says:

    I kinda like your manga trial, however 10 to 15 manga with 1 chapter each week is an horrible idea, it kinda amazing you last this long

  5. ChobitsChi says:

    I want to see you rate the manga version of Bokurano!
    It remains one of the best manga I’ve ever read. I mean now that you’ve gotten used to reading, you might want to pick it up again^^

  6. Litho says:

    With the Light is a wonderful manga, if a bit depressing at times. Synopsis for Hito Hitori Futari looks interesting so I’ll definitely have to check that out.

    Boichi is overrated in my opinion. Same goes for the mangaka or Coelacanth (yes, I’ve read… was too aloof). Shingeki no Kyojin started out well, and I don’t really have any complaints on an objective level, but personally I dislike stories where “extras” are treated like dirt and get killed of one after the other. Just too depressing.

    You really need to start reading stuff by Inio Asano. Nijigahara Holograph, Subarashii Sekai, Oyasumi Punpun, etc … all fantastic.

  7. Thanos says:

    You did not read the classics and masterpieces of the medium, then an experiment in a new medium is flawed without it.

  8. Machi says:

    I hope you plan to stick to Shingeki somehow… I don’t have such a good feeling about the series should it get an animated version. Of course if the anime is good then great, even better when you finally write comparisons or insights as to whether it actually is a good adaptation as you have something to go by this time around. Still somehow I am hesitant about Shingeki being adapted unless the studio behind Fate/Zero decides to adapt it, seeing as they did not necessarily shy away too much from the brutality of certain scenes and they have the ability to carry a clean but dark animation.

  9. astrocurrent says:

    Hi Psgels! I see you are starting to pick up some longer series. Do you mind if I recommend a few?

    1. Historie, a still on-going serires by Hitoshi Iwaaki, whcih based on historic tale of acient Greece. Very realistic. The author seams to take his time to develop this series which may taste as pale at first reading, but really, is skillful and bold… I would also recommend the short stoy collection,” Yuki no Touge, Tsurugi no Mai” by the same author, which will be the best statarter to getting used to his story telling skill and drawing style.

    2. Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou by Hitoshi Ashinano. If I remember correctly, you have reviewed the animated version of this title. A very unique quality that you can find in ages. Quiet, yet emotional moving; warm, yet homesick; sometimes it may even turns to dark, but darkness itself is quietness as well. Very easy to blend in if you are alone, and need something to read.
    In my own opinion, the animated version is still not quiet enough, or detail enough, despite the fact that Tomomi Mochizuki is a great choice for this series.

    3. Henkyou Keibi by Shitou Kyoko. I’ve got a impression that you prefer Shojo series than Shonen ones. But actually most Shojo manga is not as fun as their animated version. Repeating and cliche could be the common issue for most of the Shojo. Henkyou Keibi is a very different Shojo manga. It is funny, well paced, and beatifully dialogued. It is a bit of Heroic Poetry like, but the author manage to keep the series within the Shojo’s range throughout. My personal favorite Shojo, I might say. It is a bit raw comparing to the later works by the same author, but no doubt the best representative one of Shitou Kyoko. BTW, I find a bit weird that not many of her works has been translated into English.

    4. Getenrou by Masakazu Ishiguro. This one is a short story that only developped within one volume, but how clever. It is a suspence and mytery theme, which the author is Masakazu Ishiguro is best at. But I am still amazed by how much he is giving in this one-volume short story, and praise for his story telling skill and ambition as a manga artist. The ending may seams a bit cliche and predicable for a mystery (why is all Japanese mystery is like that), but acceptable. Besides, I enjoy the author’s dark hummor very much.

    5. The last but not least, the Ravage of Time. A Hong-kong comic/manga by Chen Mou. If you are familier with Hong-kong comic, you can recognize the drawing style right away, yet find it very different than the usual HK comics. It is based on the every-one-know-the-story Chinese acient heroic tale, the “Romance of Three Kingdoms”, but has a side of the historical text “Records of the Three Kingdoms” too. I could not find exact words to descibe this series, not only because it is still on-going, but also it has so much inside. People may often find it is kind of in-between the Romance (the tales) and the Record (what actually happended). But more to that, Chen Mou is telling his own version of the Three Kingdoms which has a lot of modern context in it. I would not recommend this to anyone, since one needs to have some knowledge of the stories of Three Kingdoms as a background of reading. But nevertheless, it is a very breathtaking, mind-blowing read, and fresh in every angle.

    That’s about it. Good day!

  10. Firechick says:

    “Another thing that rather annoyed me was something that a number of shoujo stories were rather guilty of: vague dialogues.”

    I KNOW, RIGHT?!? Seriously, why can’t fictional characters just talk to each other?!

    Also, in case you want to do the Manga Experiment again, can I suggest some more titles?

    1. Mimia Hime (It’s not fully translated, but MY GOD this thing just blew my mind. You need to read this too)
    2. Heart of Thomas (an old manga that supposedly started the shounen-ai genre, but don’t worry. It has no sex or anything like that).
    3. Kanata Kara (It’s basically Fushigi Yuugi done right, with great characters who play off each other well, and a very good setting even though I only read one volume).
    4. Sailor Moon
    5. Akage no Anne (Yes! There’s a manga for Anne of Green Gables! It’s only three volumes long so it’ll be easy to complete, but you can only find it online)
    6. Eien no With
    7. Imadoki!
    8. Land of the Blindfolded

  11. Dunk Johnson says:

    It is such nice experience you shared with us . As my view i don’t need a weather to read manga and describe it . In you list i liked Hito Hitori Futari most it is one of my favorite . The character that made with a passion full of love and joy .

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  • Emma
    (Tuesday, May 5. 2015 01:14 PM)
    Additionally Hammill’s joker got both sides of the character down perfectly.
    My favourite depiction of the joker though is definately in Grant Morrison’s arkham asylum graphic novel.
  • AidanAK47
    (Tuesday, May 5. 2015 12:56 PM)
    @bam, Ledger was the best possible live action joker. But Hamell is the real joker to me. When you read jokers lines in the comics, you hear Hammill. Still that fellow in batman arkham origins didn’t do too bad a job.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, May 5. 2015 12:19 PM)
    @Bam: I remember loving the hell out of that old animated Batman movie from the 90s, mask of Phantasm, that mystery of Batwoman one was worthwhile also.
    Here is the new Jared Leto joker: http://static1.squarespace.com/static/51b3dc8ee4b051b96ceb10de/t/54870f57e4b074be5ade38ad/1418137431644/jared-leto-as-the-joker-in-suicide-squad-fan-art
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, May 5. 2015 12:06 PM)
    Also it was neat for FF9 to include summons as a plot element. They always existed outside of the story, as most of that series’ battle mechanics seem to happen in a bubble separate from the actual stories.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, May 5. 2015 12:03 PM)
    *@Emma lol
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, May 5. 2015 12:03 PM)
    @Joker: he definitely had the quintessential Joker laugh. Ledger was good, but also a lot grirrier due to the film’s tone. That whole animated series is one of main reasons why Batman is still so popular even with the 90s kids who cared very little about comics at that point.
  • Emma
    (Tuesday, May 5. 2015 11:02 AM)
    @Bam: I feel the same way about Mark Hammill voicing the joker.
    As for FF9, I really liked that games take on the Alexander summon.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, May 5. 2015 09:45 AM)
    @K-off: That’s pretty cool. Conroy is easily the best portrayal of the Dark Knight- as somebody who got the Batman/Bruce Wayne dichotomy down like no other. The trick to get their attention is to be real with them, since they’ve heard every possibly fan praise a million times. I still remember how Maynard’s eyes lit up when my friend screamed “Hey Maynard! You’re a Tool!” at a Napa wine-tasting function he was hosting. You can always bank on weird.
  • k-off
    (Tuesday, May 5. 2015 07:17 AM)
    Very exciting, got to chat with Kevin Conroy in Vegas. I dropped 40$ to get a signature, but I met him afterwards outside the convention hall and talked some generic “fan-to-celebrity” talk, telling him how much I respected his work. I ain’t complaining though.
  • Bam
    (Tuesday, May 5. 2015 12:43 AM)
    I enjoyed Vivi’s storyline tho. I think even tho he was bland and quiet he still had the most emotional developments as a character, which tied in to identity and what it means to be alive. I also liked the “I want to be your Canary” play within the game, it was like a fleshed-out version of the Opera House scene from FF6.

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