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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.