Archive for the Manga Category

7 Seeds – the anti-grimdark post-apocalypse

Posted in Manga, Science fiction with tags , on January 3, 2014 by Cara Marie

7 Seeds is a post-apocalypse story for people who:

  • like to read about human cooperation and resilience
  • don’t like reading sad, grimdark tales of how awful humanity is or how doomed we all are.

Sometimes the story is heartbreaking, or horrifying – but it’s never pessimistic. Read more »

A Natsu appreciation post

Posted in Manga, Science fiction, Young adult with tags , , on November 10, 2013 by Cara Marie

I’ve recently been reading 7 Seeds, which is Tamura Yumi’s other post-apocalyptic manga. The basic conceit is that five groups of seven people wake up in the future to find that most of humanity has been wiped out, and we follow each of the groups at various points, and watch as they come together.

Natsu, who is our first protagonist, is very shy.

Natsu is telling herself off for not being able to talk to another character – she tells herself, 'Stop it. He's a kind person.' Her narrative text then reads, 'I want to say something, but I can't respond properly. Always, always ... I'm ...' and the final text is over a white panel.

I’m not as shy as Natsu is, but a lot of her thought patterns are very familiar to me. And Natsu feels true to me in a way a lot of supposedly shy characters don’t. For example, in Tamora Pierce’s Provost’s Dog books, we are told repeatedly that Beka is shy – but Pierce does a poor job of showing it. The only time Beka’s social anxiety actually seems to affect her is when it comes to public speaking. And being scared of public speaking is not the same thing. It surprised me, actually, because Pierce wrote Kel’s fear of heights so well in the Protector of the Small books. But I guess she doesn’t ‘get’ shyness in the same way.

Tamura clearly gets it.

Natsu's back suddenly starts hurting, and she wonders whether or not to tell the group.

She can't bring herself to tell anyone, so she keeps on walking, hoping, willing someone to notice. Pretty sure I have had this exact conversation with myself.

Over the course of the series, Natsu learns to speak up, to do things she’s scared of, to relate to (and stand up to) her teammates. And this is just as important as is learning to survive in the future, in a hostile and unfamiliar environment.

Semimaru grabs Natsu, and she squeaks for him to let go. 'That's all I needed,' he said.

Semimaru there is a character I’m very fond of, even though he starts off as a complete asshole. He gets a lot better over the course of the series, to the extent that it’s a shock to look back and see just how nasty he was. Now his relationship with Natsu is one of my favourite things. Because, yup, social anxiety can make you very self-centred, and Semimaru will call Natsu on that.

Semimaru calls Natsu out on her habit of talking to herself, rather than making the effort to interact with her teammates.

It’s not easy for her, but she learns. She’s able to become far more of the person she wants to be.

7 Seeds is unusual amongst post-apocalyptic stories in that it’s actually optimistic. To the point that you think, despite the many life-threatening situations, some of the characters are better off than they were in the present day. And Natsu is one of those.

In the present day, Natsu would have gone on as she was, often miserable, never able to connect. In the future, she has to connect to survive, and she’s a lot happier for it. She’ll never be an outgoing, vivacious person, but she’s able to stick up for herself when she needs to, and apologise when she needs to, and be there for people when they need her.

Natsu climbing up something which isn't closely spaced enough to be a ladder, thinking that she'll take responsiblity for her choice, and reassuring herself that no-one is watching, so they can't laugh or get angry at her. 'I'm giving it a go,' she things. 'Please let this not be a mistake ...'

And then it turns out her two male companions do see her, and she has to rescue them as well. And one of them is judging her the whole time. (He has issues.) But she makes it anyway.

Natsu might not be the easiest character to like, but she’s certainly the one I appreciate the most. And I look forward to where Tamura takes her in the future.

Comics by women: some recs for a friend

Posted in Comics, Fantasy, Manga, Science fiction, Young adult with tags , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2012 by Cara Marie

These are some recs for my friend Sarah, who has gone back to Sweden. I’d lent her some comics while she was home, and the night before she left, she commented on how all these Vertigo comics were written and drawn by men, and edited by women.

And that it was all very well that they had good female characters, but she’d like to see more women written by women.

Flatmate and I kind of laughed (it’s like self-defence).

But here are some comics recs for Sarah. I have no idea how easy they would be to get hold of in Sweden, of course!

ÅŒoku, by Yoshinaga Fumi

Alt-universe historical Japan: a plague has decimated the male population. Full of interesting what-if, the way things change, the way they don’t. Most of it is told from the point of view of men in the shogun’s harem, but it is a very expansive narrative – covering a huge period of time, and a variety of stories.

My favourite arc is in volumes 2 and 3. I have so much love for Iemitsu, the first female shogun. How her cruelty hides her hurt, how that hurt has shaped her, how it shapes the world. And how the male protagonist’s perspective on her changes, once he sees through her games.

It’s like ‘The Queen and the Soldier’ except (somewhat) less heartbreaking.

It’s an interesting comic intellectually, there’s a lot to chew on, but it’s also very emotionally gripping. And gorgeously drawn.

There’s a fabulous series of thinky posts on the first few volumes at The Lobster Dance – very spoilery, of course! But well worth reading.

Mystic, by G. Willow Wilson

Secondary-world fantasy, two best friends who dream of becoming magic users are torn apart when one of them is inadvertantly picked as a royal apprentice, and the other is not.

I’ve reviewed the first issue before, with pictures etc, and I found the whole thing to be very satisfying – except that I wanted more!

It’s very much a comic pre-teen Tamora Pierce fan me would have loved … and I haven’t changed that much.

Eternal Sabbath, by Soryo Fuyumi

A woman who feels disjarred from normal human relationships, who is a brilliant scientist but who is awful at social cues, gets involved with a man who can pass perfectly well in human society … but is really something else.

It’s a sci-fi thriller choc-ful of ethical dilemmas, and some of the most sparse and striking artwork I have seen. But also I can just relate a lot to Mine – knowing you’re not getting things right, but not being able to do differently; dissecting emotion, using it, and feeling like a cheat.

I could also hope to be as brave and forthright as she is.

Ceres: Celestial Legend, by Watase Yuu

I started reading this back when manga was still released issue by issue. Sarah read it then too, but I don’t think she ever got to finish it – I didn’t get all the trades for years, long after they stopped releasing the single issues.

Ceres is the story of Aya, a teenage girl who discovers the true legacy of her family: that they are descended from ‘celestial maidens’ (like selkies), and that some girls in the family are able to manifest as their foremother, Ceres.

Naturally, this means they have to die. Aya included.

The series is like, a billion doomed love stories, and the happiness you grab while you can, and not hiding from your feelings. About sacrifice, for the people who are your friends and your found family, and about the will to survive.

It has a lot about gender, not all of which I agree with, but it always feels very honest.

Also it’s just plain addictive shoujo manga, and the kind of comfort reading where you don’t mind you’ll be bawling by the end of it.

Off in the DCU

Posted in Comics, Manga, Middle fiction, Superhero with tags , , , , , , , on May 24, 2012 by Cara Marie

I always feel like Supergirl is way shorter than any of the other comics I read. Even though I’ve counted and it’s not. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because I am all for more panels showing less time, but it does make it rather frustrating to read issue by issue.

Last issue introduced Siobhan, whose super magic learning abilities meant she could actually talk to Kara … and thus that she immediately adopted her. It was adorable. I was rooting for bff-ery and epic hi-jinks, and would’ve been quite happy if that was all the issue had given us.

But then: reveal! Siobhan is actually heir to a magic power she doesn’t want, and her evil father has shown up and she has to fight them. Which was at the end of the last issue, which made me feel tired. It’s like back when I was reading Sailor Moon for the first time, and the senshi would just have defeated the big bad and I would be like, yay, time for hang-outs and Usagi getting some downtime!

Which would never actually happen – there would always be a new league of villains popping up to make life difficult for the senshi.

I suppose I did get nearly one entire issue that wasn’t plot-plot-plot, but I guess I was hoping for Siobhan to be a companion on Kara’s adventures, not a plot point.

But hey, maybe Siobhan will survive the next issue and not get overwritten by her own magic and Kara can have a friend.

I’m not very hopeful, though. That doesn’t sound like something that would provide Kara with much angst, and I suspect it’s the angst they’re going for.

I had a similar feeling of wanting the plot to slow down in the latest Flash. I don’t think giving your characters time to breath between enemies is going to stop people reading the next one! We don’t need a hook at the end of every issue!

Or maybe people do? It just feels too hectic, like they don’t have faith that we’ll want to keep reading next month if they don’t keep throwing plot! at us. (It’s not even like I’m not a narrative-driven reader.)

But I’ll forgive Flash because it’s so pretty. The splash pages especially are such a thing of joy, I’d probably buy it just for them. (It’s not that I don’t like the stories! Just that the rapid-fire of arcs is overwhelming.)

Children of the Sea 1-2 – Igarashi Daisuke

Posted in Manga, Science fiction with tags on May 31, 2011 by Cara Marie

This is science fiction of the “there are more things on heaven and earth” kind. I didn’t realise that when I picked it up – it was the gorgeous cover that drew me to it, and the promise of children raised by dugongs! Because one of my favourite genres growing up was children raised by animals. The story is not so much about that, and these kids are far stranger. But that is alright! Because I also enjoy stories where mythology is given a pseudo-scientific basis.

I especially like the art in this, which is rough in that intimidatingly competent kind of way. There are colour pages included, but I actually prefer the inked art, with its sketchiness and care to detail. The animals in particular are impressively drawn, considering their number and variety, and the character designs are simple and distinctive.

The story unfolds slowly – many of the images that do not move the story forward, but still contribute to the mood and themes of the story. I generally prefer more fast-paced things, but this works for me, and I’m intrigued as to how it will all play out – so much so that I’ve already ordered the next two volumes. I’m just sorry it seems the series is on hiatus and there aren’t any more.

Where have I been?

Posted in Action/adventure, Comics, Fantasy, Games, Manga, Science fiction with tags , , , , , on March 20, 2011 by Cara Marie

Today is my first day off after seventeen days of work. Finally! I will be happy never to do that again.

Most of my free time has been spent playing Dragon Age II, which I am enjoying – I don’t think it’s as strong as the first game, but it’s fun. I’m glad they went for a fully voiced PC for this one. I just don’t feel like the PC is actually a character when they’re the only one who’s not voiced. It really bothered me in the first game when Alistair was giving big speeches that ought to have been mine to give.

It’s been quite rambling so far – I know the cut scenes with Varric are meant to imply an overarching plot, but I’m not seeing it in the gameplay yet. Merrill is my favourite of the companions; she’s just so adorable and bloodthirsty. Her conversations with people crack me up, I need her with me all the time just for that. Also because my PC is a rogue, but I feel way more useful in battle if I’m controlling a mage, and she’s the one with the best attacks.

I’m actually playing on normal this time, I’m so impressed with myself.

The other thing I have made time for is reading A Distant Soil. I had been going to spread it out more, but after I read the second volume, I had to read three and four in a rush. It feels to me like Colleen Doran must have enjoyed exactly the same things as I did as a girl : epic shoujo manga, Elfquest, Anne McCaffrey and Tanith Lee. It has the same id-appeal.  And the art is absolutely gorgeous.

Speaking of ridiculously girly comics, I am one of those people who is really excited that Kodansha is going to be bringing Sailor Moon out in English again. Sailor Moon is one of the things that got me into comics in the first place. I never got to read the whole series, on account of when the Tokyopop editions were still in print, I was too young to have the money to buy it all. I’m so looking forward to these releases – I might own them already in Japanese, but that doesn’t do me much good :D


Posted in Comics, Manga with tags on December 5, 2010 by Cara Marie

I just read [personal profile] telophase‘s first article on Elfquest for The Hooded Utilitarian. Which I enjoyed as an Elfquest fan, remembering my own experiences coming to it, but also for when she talks about sharing it with friends, how battered her first copies became.

I never owned enough of Elfquest as a kid to share it, but it reminded me of passing around issues of Blue Monday. How the covers came away from the staples, and how after the Halloween special we went out and watched the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Lending my very precious NZ$50 Magic Knight Rayearth trades to people and getting them back with paint on them. And Sarah and I reading Call Me Princess together, revelling in the girly-girliness of it (I’ve often wondered what happened to Tomoko Taniguchi, after Spellbound never eventuated: it was supposed to be the first manga published in English first).

I remember that I’d got the impression somewhere that the trade of Taniguchi’s Aquarium had come out, and I made the staff at Graphix look back through three issues of Previews to try and find it for me. And a few months later, they gave it to me. Someone else had ordered it in, but that first one was a misprint (a strip of panels on one page had been switched with the omake on another), so obviously they couldn’t sell it. And I was simultaneously pleased and embarrassed that Shane had remembered I wanted it. You could say that is the root of why I even still go to a bricks-and-mortar comic store.

Anyway. I was thinking that it was nice, sharing comics back in high school. I read a lot more of them now, but I don’t have the same sense of community, the joy of passing things round. It’s no longer part-and-parcel of my comic-reading experience. Scott Pilgrim is probably the one I still have that for. She says, wondering when she’s going to get volume 6 back … (If you’re reading this, W, have you read this? You should.)

But that’s probably less my not trying to inflict things on people and more I just don’t see them every day to do so. Still. It was nice.

So I did some shopping while I was away

Posted in Books, Comics, Fantasy, Horror, Manga, Science fiction, Superhero with tags , , , , , , , on September 9, 2010 by Cara Marie

I do not think I am made for big cities. I am a walker, and I will accidentally walk for far longer than I meant to. Particularly trying to find places to eat in the CBD. I don’t know why it was so hard, Brunswick St was overflowing with places. Fitzroy in general was more comfortable for me, like the difference between Cuba Street and Lambton Quay. Only instead of streets, you have areas the size of my whole city.

But big is definitely better when it comes to book stores. And comic stores: I walked around Minotaur for about half an hour with my mouth open. All these things I wanted, that I would usually have to order in. Just sitting there. AMAZING.

It should be no suprise I bought a lot of books. The ones I have read so far:

A Drunken Dream and Other Stories – Hagio Moto

The awesome of Magic Knight Rayearth, and how Hikaru loves everybody

Posted in Fantasy, Manga, Middle fiction with tags , , , on May 7, 2010 by Cara Marie

Magic Knight Rayearth was one of my first manga. I’d stumbled across an issue of MiXX magazine, which had the very odd combination of MKR and Sailor Moon, with Parasyte and Ice Blade. I don’t really remember anything about the lattermost, but Parasyte sure traumatised me. To this day, I cannot see an image of a hand with eyes in it without freaking out.

MKR, on the other hand, was quite appropriate for a nine year old girl. The whole series is awesome, and I was the perfect age to discover it. I still enjoy it now :) It’s been out of print for a while, but in September, Dark Horse are bringing it back out in omnibus. I… may be going to replace my copies.

Three girls in frilly dresses - Umi, Hikaru and Fuu from Magic Knight Rayearth.

Those copies are falling apart now, or covered in paint, or stained, and even when they were new, the editing of the translation was appalling. But I loved them. I loved the art; I loved the sad, romantic plotline; I loved the three girls and their quickly forged friendship. But my favourite, whom I loved the most, was always Hikaru.

Two men, Eagle and Lantis, with Hikaru, all asleep.

Isn’t she sweet? Hikaru, in the end, is the one who decides the fate of Cephiro. She has the strongest will, the strongest heart. She loves the most. Fuu is smart, and geeky (and pretty, even before she takes her glasses off, thank you); Umi is the fierce one, elegant and with a temper. Hikaru is the simplest, with the most open heart.

So much so, she gets not just one love interest, but two. That’s Eagle and Lantis, in the picture (who are themselves BFFs or in love, or both, you choose). So much so, that she doesn’t ever ‘decide’ between them. She loves them both. It’s that simple.

This scene is the one that illustrates this, the one that means Hikaru will always and forever be my favourite:

Lantis asks, In your country, what do you say to confess your love? Hikaru suggests, Will you marry me, perhaps? Lantis: Marry? Hikaru: It's a promise to always be with the one you love!
Lantis asks, Is there someone you want to marry? Hikaru says, Lantis ... and Eagle! Lantis looks confused, and asks, Can you marry two people? Hikaru shakes her head.

Hikaru says, But... I love both Eagle and you... As well as both Umi, Fuu, Clef, Presea, Ferio, Ascot, Kardina, Lafarga... I love all of you! I want to be with you all forever!

Hikaru’s friendships are as important to her as her romantic relationships, with the same dedication. And as someone who’s not particularly interested in romance, that’s valuable to me. Friendship is not less; it can still mean wanting to spend your life with somebody.

All the girls have romantic interests, but it is the friendship that is reiterated over and over. Hikaru, Fuu and Umi don’t know each other before they are called to Cephiro, but their trials pull them together. Hikaru is the first one to call them her best friends, and then wonders if she’s said it too soon. But no-one argues. They have to rely on each other, they have to love and want to protect each other, or they could never become the Legendary Magic Knights.

The plot of MKR is driven by a romance: Emeraude, the ‘pillar’ of Cephiro, the one whose prayers and strong will hold that world together, falls in love. But to fall in love creates conflict, and distracts her from her role. But Mokona says at one point,

Princess Emeraude loved Cephiro and all its people. But she may not have believed in them enough. The Princess gave her life to protect the people she loved, but she didn’t allow them to understand her responsibility or help her with it.

And Hikaru says,

People can’t live all on their own… Cephiro’s Pillar is alone. She might be able to do anything, but she’s alone. I think that’s why Princess Emeraude fell in love with Zagato.

The tragedy isn’t that Emeraude couldn’t fall in love; the tragedy is that she couldn’t let herself rely on anyone, that she had to stand alone. She had to love as a Pillar, not as a friend. She had to protect everybody; she couldn’t let anyone protect her.

And that’s not acceptable to Hikaru. It’s not acceptable to sacrifice one person’s happiness for the good of all. In a way, it’s the same story as Those Who Walk Away from Omelas. But Hikaru is in a position to change the system.

And she does. It’s better to take your chances than to sacrifice someone else. What happens with Emeraude and Zagato breaks her heart (and there’s good reason it hurts her personally, but I’m trying not to be too spoilerish), it breaks her heart, but she says,

I could move on, because Umi and Fuu were with me. Because I’m not alone, I can live on.

Hikaru has the strongest heart in all Cephiro, but it does you no good if you don’t have people to love, and people to love you, and she knows it.

Basically, Hikaru is awesome and I love her :)

And then I died of manga

Posted in Fantasy, Horror, Manga, Movies, Superhero with tags , , , , , , , on May 3, 2010 by Cara Marie

L was rearranging his room over the weekend, and as a result, it was actually possible to get to his stuff! And he has a lot of stuff. Thousands of DVDs and books and, what I had never been able to get to before, his comics! Actually, I still couldn’t get to them all, because of the way they’re stacked and double-shelved. Nevermind, because I still couldn’t carry home everything I wanted. I’ve just finished the first seven volumes of Angel Sanctuary. Which is ridiculous and amazing. I am especially amazed at how awful Heaven is. More awful than Hell – so far, Hell actually seems to have decent people in it. The angels seem mostly not to have redeeming features. I found it kind of iffy at first, and difficult to follow – ‘I’m not going to announce this scene change, I’m just going to do it‘. Which also means it’s really dense, and I am probably going to be grateful for that, because it’s getting compelling. Lucky for me, L has the whole series. I just have to wait till next weekend to get it. I have never before had such easy access to an entire series of manga! Legal access! I don’t like reading comics on a computer screen. I’ve also read the first volume of The Drifting Classroom, which I really enjoyed and ended on a cliffhanger, ah. I don’t expect such blatant hooks and the end of a volume of manga! I am kind of bemused at how quickly violence gets used – if you’ve got dozens of panicking kids, of course the way to calm them down is to stab your son with your broken glasses. But that’s okay. I’m all about putting people in awful situations and watching them do awful things. Just as long as it’s actually meant to be horrific, not comedic. …yes, Kick-Ass made me extremely uncomfortable and I’m trying to figure out why. I think mostly it comes down to: don’t tell me to take your movie seriously and then expect me not to be disturbed when I take it seriously. Uh, not that I don’t like being disturbed, but that should really be the point. Other borrowed manga: volumes 9-10 of xxxHolic, which I read last night and already seem to consist entirely of Watanuki being a sweetie in my head; Erica Sakurazawa’s Between the Sheets, which mostly seemed to consist of people being awful. I don’t care if it’s hard having an unrequited crush on your straight friend, that’s no excuse for sleeping with her boyfriends. Next, I have three volumes of Please Save My Earth to read. More reincarnation! Hopefully more straightforward reincarnation! Obviously this is why manga has to be such an expensive hobby – otherwise, I would never achieve anything with my life.