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Random Whole-Series Ramblings of a Manga Munch 
4th-Jan-2009 02:14 pm
When it comes to multivolume manga series, my preference is always to read through the entire series run in one sitting (or a number of continuous, back-to-back sittings). It gives you an expansive, broad-stroke perspective on the creation and the creator(s). For time's sake, however, I prefer to do that in English. Especially for series that are more than a couple of volumes. And thanks to more compressed release schedules than were common a decade or so ago, there are a number of fun series from which to choose. I read these two over the past week:

Basilisk by Yamada Futaro/Segawa Masaki - What can I say; I have a perverse fondness for eroguro...and this is definitely indebted to the genre, even if it's heavier on the "guro" than the "ero." The character profiles at the end of the final volume were priceless. Lots of fun and a lightning-fast read.

ES -Eternal Sabbath- by Soryo Fuyumi - I tried to read this one in Japanese back when it was still in serialization, but after pondering one too many text bubbles, I gave up. The language--biology! physiology!--was way too advanced. Besides, I figured it would end with Shuro and his clone locked in an embrace of mutual destruction, anyway...and I was right. Still, Soryo is a great mangaka, and she is just getting more ambitious with age. I can't wait crack open the Cesare thingie she's doing now for Morning.
4th-Jan-2009 08:46 pm (UTC)
I rather enjoyed Eternal Sabbath (as predictable as it was). It reminded a bit of Death Note, only it actually considered the moral implications of character actions. It's hard to find good pyschological series.
4th-Jan-2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
ES reminded me of a ton of things, though Death Note wasn't one of them. ^^; If you're looking for Japanese psychological thrillers, you should definitely check out Kirino Natsuo's novel Out. It's disturbing as all get-out. Miyabe Miyuki's All That She Wants isn't bad either (but quite similar to Out in some ways).
4th-Jan-2009 10:36 pm (UTC)
I think it reminded me of Death Note because 1.) I was reading both around the same time and 2.) they both fall on the morally ambigious psychological thriller side of the drama genre (with ES being a more "sophisticated" title while Death Note was designed for a younger, more active, audience). Of course, it reminded me as well of Soryo's other manga that I've read, Mars, but obviously that's because the characterizations and art would be similar.

The reason I say it's hard to find psychological series is that shonen tend to fall on the side of violence and shojo tend to fall on the side of romance, and both distract from the psychological effect for me (violence is good for "shock value" not "thinking" and romance is simply a distraction all around, I tend only to like it when it serves itself and not as part of a greater story). Satoshi Kon found a balance that worked for me in Perfect Blue (though as far as my favorite Kon films go it is not at the top). Also, the feeling that The End of Evangelion (film) gave was very psychologically driven in a very disturbing way that worked for me. It wasn't "what" was happening to everyone during that part of the story, but "how" and "why" that made it hit harder. I don't think I'm explaining it well...

Anyway, I've bookmarked those titles you recommended and I'll check them out, thanks. I'm not huge into thrillers or anything, but once in a while is nice.
4th-Jan-2009 11:24 pm (UTC)
The reason I say it's hard to find psychological series is that shonen tend to fall on the side of violence and shojo tend to fall on the side of romance, and both distract from the psychological effect for me

Actually, I would argue that shoujo manga is nearly always focused on the human psyche (with love being only one emotion). It isn't surprising to me that you see a female creator, especially a veteran one like Soryo, who has been writing since the 80s, spending the most time testing personal and moral boundaries; the classic shoujo has a lot of that. Unfortunately, most of the stuff you see translated to English is dreck...not necessarily representative of the way the genre used to be.
5th-Jan-2009 01:58 am (UTC)
Well, as far as the focus of shojo being on human relationships (not necessarily romantic ones) I would agree, but too much of the stuff that we see in America, as you say, is the cheesy, melodramatic garbage that the market seems to assume appeals to the female demographic of manga readers here. That's really why I say it is hard to "find" the interesting psychological shojo series. They don't seem to make 'em like Soryo, or CLAMP, anymore. Suppli tried to be a decent Josei title, but then Tokyopop basically canned it.

And the older CLAMP stuff (that I have read) was great in the respect of focusing on personal motivations and interactions more than romantic ones, which more and more recently have become the entire purpose of the stories (even in their own series). Cardcaptor Sakura was a fantastic series about the emotional growth of a elementary school girl, but the way that Tsubasa has degenerated Sakura's relationship to Syaoran irritates me to no end. The point was that they saw each other as equals and the romance was incidental, and now it is the driving force of the "will she/won't she, but let's drag it out" scenarios of the series. The reason Tokyo Babylon was such a great series wasn't because a 16 year old boy tragically fell in love with a 25 year old man (and murderer at that), it was the way the story was told. It was the way it delved into human interactions and faced socially significant (at the time) issues head on.

When I walk down the aisle at Borders now, all I see on the Shojo Beat spines are "'Love' this" or "'Romance' that." Even Fruits Basket, which had such promise as an off-the-wall comedy with some serious undertones fell into "hey, let's resolve this story by pairing people up."

I'm not saying I don't like romance, but I feel like it has a time and a place and it has to be handled correctly. Like in Hana Kimi, another series that had such potential and then fell apart at the end. If you're going to do a gender-bending romantic comedy, you have to follow the formula or rewrite the formula, and Nakajo did neither. But I already went on about that one (though I could have gone on for another 400 words, at least).
5th-Jan-2009 02:45 am (UTC)
They don't seem to make 'em like Soryo, or CLAMP, anymore.

Well, technically they do--especially in the case of vintage CLAMP--but it's virtually all Japanese-only. Pretty much all of the modern shoujo manga greats are still alive, too. Two of my favorite periodicals as far as editorial policy goes are Wings and Flowers (formerly Petit Flower). Wings publishes things like RG Veda, Earthian, Immortal Rain, Antique Bakery, Flower of Life, Young Magician, and *bleh* Princess Princess. The only Flowers title EVER to be published in the US is Kaze Hikaru. Hana to Yume, LaLa, Princess, and Asuka occasionally do interesting titles as well. Zero-Sum kinda went the way of the old Duo--trying for a crossover audience and slowly but surely going more to gal-friendly (in one year, I saw boobs make way for bishounen ^^; ).

I despised Hana Kimi...but that's neither here nor there.
5th-Jan-2009 03:45 am (UTC)
About Wings: Wasn't Happy Boys licensed recently? I think I'm remembering that from somewhere. Not that I've actually read the series. I can't really read Japanese (just what I can manage with a kana chart and a dictionary), so I hardly ever get in on the ground floor of current titles. The only stuff I'll even read scanned are BL stuff I figure won't get licensed anyway, but that's another issue entirely.

My standards aren't all that high, though (not as high as yours, anyway). I'll pretty much try anything, and most things I haven't ever "hated," but my budget forces me to pick and choose what I get to try.

I feel like the more mainstream manga becomes the lower the common denominator gets for licensed series. The age range gets lower and lower and with the economy the way it is I don't see that changing anytime soon.
5th-Jan-2009 04:11 am (UTC)
About Wings: Wasn't Happy Boys licensed recently?

Are you talking about Tateno Makoto? Urk, a mangaka I despise (no matter what the heck she does). Wings has low points; when she shows up she's one of them. The other major low point of Wings these days is Tsuda Mikiyo. I wish her work would go out of fashion...now.

I'll pretty much try anything, and most things I haven't ever "hated," but my budget forces me to pick and choose what I get to try.

Oh, I'm willing to try anything, but my patience is minimal. The more you read, the better the perspective, and most things don't improve with perspective.

I feel like the more mainstream manga becomes the lower the common denominator gets for licensed series.

Lowest common denominator is how it works in Japan as well; and remember, the manga industry peaked in the mid-90s. It's been rather downhill from there. I subscribed to Bessatsu Margaret for a year just to remind myself of how bad it is. Heck, what Viz is putting out is the popular stuff in Japan right now. They have the lion's share of the properties, anyway. And they did try for quality shoujo in the past, but it didn't sell well: Banana Fish, Red River, Basara, etc.
5th-Jan-2009 04:35 am (UTC)
Wow, that's some serious hatred right there. You're entitled to your opinion, though, and I'll remember not to bring it up again. ^_^

I do find my tolerance for cliche diminishing the more titles I read (or the older I get?). BL is no exception. I simply can't read the high school romances anymore at all, and even the workplace romances are getting tiresome. Of course, "innovative" and "BL" don't generally go hand in hand.

I liked Banana Fish a lot. Even when I threw the last volume across the room in exasperation (okay, it was more of a flipping out of my hand and onto the floor). Seriously? That's how Ash goes out? *sigh* I'm actually glad I had already known how it was going to end, or I may have screamed. The way it was wrapped up was appropriate, though. Eiji's closure (or lack therof?) was handled well.

I thought Red River was selling okay? I haven't as of yet tried it out, but the teenager at Borders I met last year whose mother was trying to get me to buy it seemed to like it a lot...
5th-Jan-2009 07:09 am (UTC)
*snorts* I am famous for being negative. When it comes to things like books, I have opinions, but I don't care what other people think (and as far as I'm concerned they need not care what I think if they don't want to). Other things, like politics and good, empirically tested science, are a totally different story...heh heh.

I guess I have a soft spot for certain types of manga, such as BL, SF/fantasy, vintage shoujo, and eroguro. It's the stuff I read during my formative years, so if I am a "fan" of any particular genre of manga, it would be those. But I readily admit that 95% of manga is dreck, and with workhorse genres such as BL, it's probably more like 99%.
5th-Jan-2009 12:21 pm (UTC)
Being opinionated is just fine by me. I value opinions, even when they're harsh and even when I don't agree with them. In fact, I believe it is important to foster relationships with people whom you do not share the same opinions with, or else you're endanger of denying yourself valuable perspective. I was that kid in school that was always alone, whether by choice or the circumstances of social order is up for debate, but I do know I always hated the elitism that came with only surrounding yourself with "like-minded" people.

It's not that I "don't care" what other people think, it's that it doesn't affect me on a personal level when they don't agree with me, or when I don't agree with them. The superficial things: tastes, interests, preferences, are not important enough for me to define "friendship" by ("trust" would probably be the definitive thing by which I define friendship). What does bother me is when someone who clearly does not agree with me on something makes it about me, and not about what I do not agree with them about. That's passing relatively blind judgement on someone, and especially when that judgement is passed on something "superficial," that's when I get aggravated. But now I'm getting off topic and my grammar is suffering. ^_^
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