In which I read and buy too much manga for another year. Seriously running out of space here.
As with last year, I divided up my favorite manga into four categories: new titles (titles released for the first time here), continuing titles (titles that started prior to January 2012 that I was already reading), discovered titles (titles that were released prior to 2012 that I started reading this year), and finished titles (titles that had their final volume published this year).
Paradise Kiss (rerelease): I already own Tokyopop’s out of print release of this story of aspiring fashion designers and their model, but Vertical license rescued it and improved it, printing it in a larger format, giving it a new and improved translation (at least, it reads better to me than TP’s version; for one thing, Arashi lost his British accent that TP gave him because he happens to like punk), and adding a few color pages. It is a truly gorgeous release, which is what Ai Yazawa’s beautiful series deserves. I just hope the final dress is in color somehow. I would love to see that. (Vertical)
Kaoru Mori’s Anything and Something: As a huge Kaoru Mori fan, this stand-alone collection of odds and ends was an instant buy as soon as it was announced. I wish I could own everything that’s Mori-related. The stories may have been a tad weak, but I didn’t care because the artwork just blew me away. Mori is a master at drawing the sexy, yet not salacious female form, full of curves, and not the overly top-heavy, stick-thin women that most comic artists think is sexy. Also, there was lots of art going back to Emma, which was a welcome addition. (Yen Press)
Thermae Romae: Yen Press did a stellar release with this book. Oversize hardcover, clear plastic dust jacket to resemble wetness with the title printed on it, heavy glossy pages. The story of a Roman bath architect who keeps accidentally traveling to modern day Japan and stealing their bath ideas to incorporate in ancient times, much to the delight of his clients. So far it’s fairly episodic. It’s educational, funny, and the art is great, but I’m hoping it gets a little deeper with some kind of continuous storyline in the future. Major props to Yen for this book. (Yen Press)
Drops of God: Possibly my favorite series I’m reading right now. This is the one series I try to get others to read more than anything else I’ve read. G, Shaz, and I will have drinking parties with DoG suggested wines (we can’t do vintages, but we can match everything else). So far, the best wine we’ve found is the Torbreck Woodcutter’s Shiraz (pictured), although the Laughing Magpie is pretty good as well. G also found the Clos Pegase Mitsuko’s Vineyard Chardonnay and is saving it for the next time we see Shaz. After G read it, he lent his copies to a non-manga reading friend who bought them all, and I got another friend in New York reading the series, plus gave out vol. 1 & 2 for Christmas to my aunt and another wine-drinking friend, who’s already bought vol. 3 on her own. Sadly, for some reason, the mangaka does not want to release any more volumes to the American publisher because it isn’t as big a hit as they would like, which I find completely absurd and irritating beyond belief. I would buy ALL the volumes of this wonderful series. Currently putting together a spreadsheet of the wines covered to facilitate shopping. (Vertical)
Bride’s Story: A new focus for Bride’s Story with another Central Asian bride. Amir still makes an appearance, but only as a side character. The main character (besides the bride) is Mr. Smith, the anthropologist. Still completely entrancing and gorgeous, but it comes out sooooooo slowly! (Yen Press)
Slam Dunk/Real: A tie between these two Takehiko Inoue basketball manga, because I can’t choose between them. Inoue finally returned to Real (still currently running in Japan) and Slam Dunk edges toward its English language finale. Such engaging, struggling characters and sports tension! Such dynamic art! I love them both! (both from Viz, with Real from the Signature imprint)
Skip Beat: I forget why I picked this up. I don’t know if it was general consensus this was good, or if someone specific recommended it (if you did and are reading this, please prod my failing memory so I can thank you). Whatever the reason, Viz was releasing this in omnibuses, so I figured why not. I immediately got hooked by the unique protagonist. Kyoko is in love with her childhood friend, Sho, who became a Japanese idol. She does everything for him, including dropping out of school to make sure he succeeds in becoming the number one idol in Japan. Only she finds out he thinks of her as some dumb dog and is using her affection to maintain his selfish laziness. When she discovers this, all hell breaks loose in her soul and she becomes fixated on utterly destroying him. She is frequently pictured with “grudge demons” swirling around her, cackling maniacally. This just delights me to no end and I find this hilarious (being one who has occasional grudge demons myself). I thought this was a 30 volume release and bought all 30 volumes (with a third omnibused), and then realized to my horror it’s still ongoing in Japan. Dammit! (Viz)
Dorohedoro: @ABCBTom LOVES this manga and talks about it all the time in twitter. Deb Aoki also recommended it at this year’s SDCC Best/Worst Manga panel. So, I got the first couple of volumes. It’s not something I usually read; it’s got some weird lizard-headed guy who has a tiny man inside him who’s trying to find the wizard who changed his head into a lizard head… and… yeah. It’s pretty dark, ’cause he will bite off wizards’ heads as the tiny man discounts them as the one he is searching for. He’s passionately fond of dumplings, which his partner-in-crime makes for him. An odd, engaging manga, both funny and sinister, and I need to pick up more volumes. Part of Viz’s Signature line. (Viz)
Saturn Apartments: Another unusual title that’s mostly slice-of-life about window washers in the future. Humans have been evacuated from Earth and now live on a man-made ring that encircles the planet. Upper levels get plenty of sunlight and are very well-to-do, while lower levels are in perpetual darkness and poor. To keep getting their precious sunlight, window washers are recruited from the lower levels to clean the upper levels. Mitsu, a novice window-washer, interacts with his clients occasionally, and dreams of possibly descending to Earth and finding his missing father, another window washer who disappeared via accident. The art is different featuring roundish squat people that are kinda cute. Another Signature title. (Viz)
Ikigami: see post. Yet another Signature title. (Viz)
Cross Game: I was sort of hoping for some deviation from the anime, but there wasn’t really (other than being way more meta and having some bizarre, out of place fanservice). But the anime was pretty faithful to the manga, and that’s ok, ’cause it doesn’t look like it’s getting released here in anime form, so I can at least have manga form. One of the best romances/coming of age type stories I’ve read in manga. I love this series so much. Ko and Aoba are hilarious with their bickering, and tied together by the tragic loss of Aoba’s sister, Wakaba. Akaishi is completely lovable with his solidness, dry humor, and faithfulness to Wakaba’s memory. People may dismiss this as a sports manga, but baseball is not the main focus of the story (it is a big focus, but is more a vehicle than belonging to the sports genre). I heard sales were abysmal, and that’s really too bad, because this is one of the best manga series I have collected so far. (Viz)
Ouran High School Host Club: This romcom dragged on a bit too long, but I still have a fondness for its silliness and sweetness. Haruhi is roped into pretending to be a boy in a host club at a ritzy high school to pay off a debt. In doing so, she finds herself making friends with the obviously insane other members, and causing some romantic turmoil with a few of them. It started off immensely silly and then slowly became semi-serious, but never really lost its sense of humor. (Viz)
Twin Spica: A very touching story about a tiny girl determined to become an astronaut who has an imaginary (or is he?) friend, Mr. Lion. (Vertical)
(There’s no real worst of manga in my list. There’s ones that I didn’t really enjoy reading that much, but none that were truly unpleasant or chores to read. The closest would be Limit, because I just don’t like stories about bullying and it makes me too uncomfortable (it resurrects preferably forgotten memories). I bought the first volume, but think I’ll stop there.)