13 awesome manga for 2013

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I’d like to think that I read a lot this year but I’m not exactly sure if I did. In the last year I’ve been gorging on texts that I think I had around forty books, mostly academic, in my bibliography. Was there time for manga? I always wish there was more time for manga.

I did try to read some manga this year and this is the list of my favourites that I have read. I honestly wish I read more. Again, this list is not based on whether it was released this year but are based on titles that I managed to read this year. And I read a couple of awesome ones this year. Here’s 13 awesome titles from 2013.


Tropic of the Sea

Tropic of the Sea by Satoshi Kon

I love Satoshi Kon more than and sooner than I’d ever proclaim love for Hayao Miyazaki. His movies have always been very personal for me and knowing that he’s no longer around, it’s all about making the most of what he’s left behind. One of which was this manga, Tropic of the Sea, a manga I didn’t know existed and was pleased that it was made available in English. The story follows a a family at some coastal town and the myth that surrounds them. It is visually stunning and for a while reminded me of Jiro Taniguchi, particularly with how clean and smooth Satoshi Kon’s lines were. I didn’t see his Paprika-esque visuals here but it remains a good read and quite a solid manga that anyone can enjoy. If people are expecting Satoshi Kon’s mindfuck in this one they might be disappointed. It basks in the small town feel which I love dearly so it has a soft spot for my favourite reads this year.

oboreruknife

Oboreru Knife by George Asakura

Another one of my hick town manga. There’s something amazing and beautiful about small town stories and surprisingly, this was one I truly enjoyed. In this comic, the heroine moves to a small town and was far removed from the glitz and glamour of the city. Despite this, the city’s glamour continues to lure her and this leads to a very unfortunate event which leaves her disconnected from her town and the boy who showed her its beauty. I find this story compelling as it’s one of those shojo titles that is unafraid to tackle some uncomfortable topics relating to children in Japan: gravure idol culture gone wrong, bullying, rape, sex, etc. While it isn’t the first to do this, I have to commend it for not taking these matters lightly. Asakura and her heroine faces these problems head on and she does this with such grace and beauty. Quite mature for a shojo manga but one that I think some girls would like to have read in this day and age.

Takemitsusamurai

Takemitsu Zamurai by Taiyo Matsumoto

This manga was such an unusual art and style from Taiyo Matsumoto that I sincerely enjoyed every bit of it. It’s a refreshing read on old samurai tales and one that I immensely enjoyed with every page. Apart from Vagabond, this is perhaps my second favourite samurai manga. Sorry, Rurouni Kenshin.

Smellslikegreen

Smells Like Green Spirit by Saburo Nagai

This title is probably my most favourite BL to date. Surprisingly, from an author I have not read! I’ve spoken about this at length in my review and if I can sum up my thoughts on this title, well, it’s probably one of the best crafted BL stories that captures the youth of a transforming sexuality. It has humour, vibrant characters, and a beautiful setting that is alive and well.

Gundamtheorigin

Gundam the Origin by Tomino Yoshiyuki and Yasuhiko Yoshikazu

I’ve always been a Gundam 0079 fan but I actually never got to own these books. My friend Yue was really hooked on this and I mulled over to give the Japanese edition to try. However, since Vertical announced that they’re translating this title and is giving it the full service, I just thought of waiting for the English editions. Unsurprisingly, it was worth the wait. The glossy pages, the hardbound, and the fantastic beginning of humanity’s survival is well captured in the book. The team behind Gundam Origin really pushed the story of 0079 further, highlighting the complexities of human relations as it gets divided in space. I am honestly overwhelmed by the beauty of Yasuhiko’s illustrations having come from the rudimentary 0079 animation. It’s a beautiful start and honestly one that I look forward to until all the volumes come out in English.

sonoamatou

Sono Otoko Amatou Nitsuki by Est Em

Somehow, every year, there’s got to be an Est Em favourite right? One of the things that excited me last year was the release of this old series in Ohta Shuppan’s Poco Poco site. It’s a delightful story about a man and his love for chocolate which extends to the people dear to him. While not exactly a food manga, Est Em manages to entice our tastebuds with her delectable imagery which brings to life the sheen over a well-tempered truffle. This is a book that you can’t read without having a truffle to your side. It’s a lovely read and one I’d read over and over again.

nounai poison berry

Nounai Poisonberry by Mizushiro Setona

While this has been around for a while, I really only got to reading this title last year. This title takes a look at the voices inside a woman’s head. Literally. It’s a humorous story of how this woman tries to silence these opposing opinions, maintain her sanity, and decide which voice truly represents what she wants. It’s such a hilarious tale although a friend of mine has already noted her annoyance with the story. However, I can’t possibly consider it a Mizushiro Setona story if you can’t get annoyed! I stand by this interesting tale which I find quite relatable given the madness that I myself hear from the voices in my head.

kyouwakaisha

Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu by Fujimura Mari

I would put Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu (I’ll take a work holiday) as part of my “obachan OL needs some love” category. I suppose Nounai Poisonberry falls in this too but it’s more apparent in Kyou wa Kaisha Yasumimasu. While we don’t see struggling voices in her head, the heroine does have her apprehensions in dating a younger man more so when she has absolutely no experience in love. When she does score with a boy in her office, she takes a break from work and starts to reassess her life and her sudden love. It’s a title that tickles my obachan heart, one that makes me think that even if we’re a little older than most heroines, we’ve still got our tokidoki moments.

Daiya no Ace

Seven Deadly Sins by Suzuki Nakaba | Ace of Diamond by Terajima Yuki

This is a tie on the shonen battle since I really can’t choose one to let go. For one, I read Ace of Diamond first, curious on finding a baseball manga that fills the gap of Adachi’s Mix. As it turns out, this baseball story exceeds my expectations, giving me enough technical appreciation for the sport and endearing characters that I literally cried for. I… won’t forget you Tanba-senpai. ; ^; This is perhaps this generation’s new koshien champions.

7 Deadly Sins
While I was set on Ace of Diamond, I read Seven Deadly Sins to pass time and I was honestly surprised by this story. It’s a shonen story that centers on a political struggle and I was quite surprised at how youthful and refreshing a deeply complex story on war can get. Set at a magical universe of Brittania, a princess sets on a journey to look for the 7 Deadly Sins, a group of people who have committed the highest treason in the land. The journey leads her in a tavern where a young man reveals he holds much greater strength than what he looks. This probably deserves a proper review someday, but from what I read, it’s a refreshing tale on war dynamics. Shonen stories often gloss over the burden heroes bear for every battle they fight, but this story has this raised awareness of the heroes’ crimes. It’s also not one of those black and white tales which I appreciate when I cross it in shonen manga.

ballroom e yokoso

Ballroom E Yokoso by Takeuchi Tomo

When I first saw this in manga taishou last year, I thought, a manga on ballroom? Why not, right? I was expecting this title to be closer to Swan where it focuses on the relationships formed behind dancing. Something like a younger version of Shall We Dance. Instead, it’s a legit sports manga with drawings that matches the energy and vibe of sports dancing. It’s beautifully drawn and I think it serves as a better use of your time compared to watching Dancing with the Stars.

umibenoonna

Umibe no Onna no Ko by Inio Asano

This manga was actually one of my earliest reads last year. I got it mostly because it was Inio Asano and I’ve been a bit of a fan of his since Solanin. If you guys haven’t read Solanin, you should. Umibe no Onna no Ko was also published in Manga Erotics F and that’s always a plus for me. Some of my favourite titles have come from that magazine after all. This title is a rather cute and discomforting story of young love. It’s an unusual romance about two sexually curious kids and how that curiosity caught the best and worst of them. I remember having a very cathartic reaction with this manga after reading the first two volumes. Until now, I can’t place words on how or why I liked this other than “Well shit, that blows. But fuck, that’s good.” I think it’s going to be available in English too.

Udagawacho de Mattete

Udagawacho de Mattete by Hideyoshico

Prior to my read of Smells Like Green Spirit, this was in the running of my favourite BL from last year because of its approach towards transgender relationships. Hideyoshico writes a rather believable set of characters who bear the weight of their newfound sexuality with such responsibility and bravery. It’s a cute and heartwarming tale. Like if Wandering Son goes to high school.

kiraranohoshi

Kirara no Hoshi by Morinaga Ai

I just can’t quit Morinaga Ai. Her sort of new-ish story may not be as insane as Heavenly Hockey Club but it still contains her comedic energy which I just cannot forget. This time, she looks into the world of celebrities and her lead actress finds beauty in the most invisible boy in their school. To save her father’s crippling talent company, she hires the boy to be her next star.

So here’s my 13, actually 14, for 2013. I had a lovely time reading these manga. I… actually… read another manga which I can’t remember the title but I remember the plot. I suppose I’d be reading that and sharing that someday, but if I found 13 new titles to be enjoyable in the last year, I’m quite sure I’ll find a whole new slew of titles this year.


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9 thoughts on “13 awesome manga for 2013”

  • Great titles… I just wish more of them were in English in one way or another. I doubt The Girl by the Sea wil get published in English with such explicit content :/ Unless you know otherwise. I’ve already ordered the 1st book in German. Hideyosico’s work was decent but could do without the violent streak at times, so I’m not sure that Hourou Musuko is a good comparison. Generally, I’ve yet to find a good trans* story in BL :/

    • Oh! I thought Umibe no Onna no Ko was already licensed that’s why Vertical doesn’t want to get it. It’s a wonderful title for them but maybe Inio Asano has locked that title elsewhere. Maybe fantagraphics will pick it up.

      I can’t remember Udagawa being violent or maybe my tolerance of violence is relative. The reason why I compared it to Hourou Musuko was both titles captured the emotional unease that comes with transexual identity and acceptance. Both stories also have that quiet yet highly tense tone and while Hourou Musuko takes a slower pace (primarily due to the ‘growth’ of its leads), I feel that Udagawa pushed it further and placed us at that moment of sexual unease. The trans lead here, Yashiro, is actually quite ‘violent’ or rather, he was very harsh in accepting Momose’s affections because even he finds it difficult to accept his newfound sexuality. Of course Momose also reached his impatience for a bit but he didn’t push it enough to force Yashiro on what he doesn’t want.

      I love Udagawa because yes, opening up to a new sexuality is scary. Yes, in youth, we really never understand our newfound sexual urges (more so a non-heteronormative one). And there will be mistakes. And there will be tough times. In reading Udagawa-cho, I remember the stories of my trans’ friends who all found this part of this life as difficult (if not more. And to me, Udagawa-cho was brave for not turning a blind eye to that reality and did not abuse it either which to me made this a highly commendable story. It isn’t as harsh either. (Hahaha Smells Like Green Spirit is a lot more harsh, now that I think about it.)

      I am curious to hear what you consider a good trans story though! Maybe we can find a story like that someday. 😀

      • When I mentioned ‘violent streaks’ I meant how the black-haired guy ordered the MtF person around to wear girly clothes coz he liked seeing her, It kinda felt like bullying to me and a bit uhm :/ not well narrated in that aspect? The MtF person dressed like that for herself not for anyone else, so it kinda rubbed me the wrong way? But yes, it was better at what I’ve read so far. I need to check out J no Subete and the related works, though.

        In yuri magazines for example there have been some very good short stories about trans* like Ayumi and Aika, Cotton Candy Love and full volumes like Double House. In yaoi from what I’ve encountered the trans* person either is disregarded as such and turns back to being a man for the sake of the romantic interest or is fetishized.

        And of course Hourou Musuko was one good for MtF (coz in the end we don’t get any FtM, a real shame). Mascara Blues is another -short one, too. And perhaps After School Nightmare counts partially (I don’t remember if the main character got treated well).

        • Ah. I think that’s merely lost in translation. It wasn’t so much the case in Japanese. For one Momose’s a rather blunt boy so he has a very straightforward response. He’s not forcing him to but I think, how I read it, it’s that he was blatantly saying he’s okay with what Yashiro’s wearing. And Yashiro’s reaction is he shouldn’t be okay and in fact nobody should be okay with what he’s doing. Yashiro hasn’t come to terms with this new sexuality yet (it’s quite fresh for him) and started to cross dress really as an ‘experiment’ to see if he really feels comfortable doing this.

          I like how you point how that forwardness was not well executed. I think for me, I like that unpolished nature of it because it was quite organic.

          J no Subete is interesting. I think the MtF representation through J was mostly an aesthetic than it is a story on transition. I liked that story too but it’s very uncomfortable. lol.

          Yuri titles are quite interesting. I’ve read a few from Tsubomi magazine. It’s not quite trans but it’s closer to an LGBTQ magazine. Some of them really are smart and at ease with their sexuality so I’ve got to commend them for that.

          And that’s sad to hear about Hourou Musuko. I’ve got to catch up. I haven’t read the title in 3 years so I have a long time coming. XD

  • Great titles! I’ll have to put some on my list.

    If someone did. who do think would be more likely to pursue the English license of Smells Like Green Spirit? I really want to read it. Regarding Nounai Poisonberry. Gray Kyouichi (all three, really) was one of my favorite devices in Mouse/Carp. Does Nounai build on that concept?

    • I honestly wish there was someone who would license Smells Like Green Spirit. Sublime has done Saburo Nagai’s work with Boys! Be Ambitious and if it weren’t for their long run of titles, I hope they pick this up. I really wish they do because I don’t want this in DMGs hands. OTL.

      As for Nounai, hahahaha, YES! But it’s better executed in Nounai than in Mouse/Carp because they all have functions within the body and the brain. So there’s a girl who is based on bodily instincts, one of the guys is bound to rules, the others on agression, and so on.

      Mouse/Carp was supposed to be on this list too since I really only got to read them last year after seeing it in your site. But since this is in the general category, I had to weed it out for better ones. OTL.

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