Omamorishimasu, Dokomademo by Junko

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Omamorishimasu, Dokomademo is a BL from the author of Watashi ga Motete Dousunda / Kiss Him, Not Me.  (I feel the need to point out that this Junko is no relation to me, alas, even though she, like me, goes by only ‘Junko’ and no surname.)

I picked this one to read because I found it under ‘pen pals’ in Baka-Updates, and I was curious about Japanese pen pals.

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Akira is a mountain village boy who arrives in Tokyo only to discover that the company that hired him has gone belly-up.  Not only that, but the dorm they were providing is also closed.  Just when he’s at his wit’s end, an old childhood friend Chihira, texts asking to meet up.

Chihira is kind of a weird guy. He’s ultra rich and very much a loner. When Akira explains his situation to Chihira and begs a favor, Chihira invites Akira to live with him as a “bodyguard.”

Which all seems like a sham, until we discover there’s a reason Chihira might need a bodyguard. Turns out, Chihira is the second son of a powerful mafia family. We find out that Chihira and Aikira became friends due to some rather unusual circumstances.

Chihira never fit very well in this super-driven, yakuza family (for reasons, it is implied, of being gay,) and so one of the staff suggested he send off a ballon message (like a note in a bottle) and see who writes back.

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Akira finds it in a tree near his home and writes back.  They exchange letters all throughout childhood and Chihiro even comes to visit Akira’s village at one point when they’re both 10.

I found that part of the story very charming, honestly, but this is about all of it that you see.

The rest of the story is very action-oriented, though with a comedic bent. There’s a lot of attempted kidnappings of Chihiro because his older brother, who is the successor to the mafia throne, as it were, seems to have run off–only later we discover he was just on vacation.

The romance is fairly one-sided and is almost incidental.  Junko is a decent enough writer that I tolerated this, but, I’m going to be honest, I don’t normally go to yaoi titles to read plot.

So, would I recommend this one? Eh. I mean, it’s a good story, but there’s not a lot of it–it’s only one volume (about 4 chapters or so.) I guess I tend to feel like if I’m going to invest in plot, I want a multi-volume thing, like Blue Exorcist or Shimanami Tasogare.  For a quickie read, I prefer smut… or romance-heavy stories.

But, milage varies. If it sounds interesting, by all means. I will warn you that Akira is pretty straight and even though he agrees to live with Chihiro the sex comes only when he’s been drugged without his knowledge (not, at least, by Chihiro, but one of Chihiro’s henchmen, but still…)  It’s played for laughs, but it’s one of those things that could be problematic or triggering for some.

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Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-san / Skull-faced Bookseller Honda-san by Honda

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.Gifs of this kept floating past my Tumblr feed and another friend recommended the anime of Gaikotsu Shotenin Honda-San / Skull-Faced Bookseller Honda-san to me the other day, and, so, that seemed like the saturation point. Time to give it a try.

As  I was telling a friend this morning, I found this one somewhat impenetrable.  I know a lot about the American publishing industry (at least in terms of the back end, how novels get published) and I think that may have worked to my disadvantage here. To be fair, I have never worked in a book or comic bookstore, though my wife has. Perhaps this would be highly relatable content to her. There is, for instance, a lot of freaking out whenever stock is delivered. Which, I guess, makes sense, though I don’t exactly find it… hilarious, and I get the impression that I should.

 

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There is not a lot of the manga scanlated.  If you go to the link I provided at the top, you will only find about two chapters at this point. This is a shame because the scanlators do that thing that they do, where they provide translation notes and explanations of Japanese culture to help the jokes and references that would be obvious to a Japanese audience make more sense.

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So, the schtick is that we follow Honda, who is a bookstore employee. Everyone at this bookstore has some kind of mask over their face, presumably because they are loosely based on real people that the mangaka knows/has worked with. Honda, himself, however, is fully skeletonized, for reasons that are unclear–perhaps he is overworked?

There is a lot in this anime and manga that depend on a much deeper understanding of Japanese culture than I currently posses. I mean, as an American I find myself baffled by the things that Honda-san gets “sweaty”/freaked out over. And maybe it’s more that I’m an extrovert? Almost every single customer interaction seems to send him into a panic. I mean, I’ve worked with archivists that were more outgoing! But, I think this is an office culture thing, too–a fear of screwing up. (We really see that particular fear playing out in the anime episode where Honda is forced to go to job training and faces the horrors of role-playing, etc., which I CAN actually relate to, though I found it more accurate than hilarious, you know?)

I think the reason that it kept popping up in .gif form on my Tumblr dash, however, is because the mangaka skewers foreign otaku and, particularly, foreign fujoshi.  There is an entire episode/chapter under the banner of:

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Reads: “Yaoi Girls From Overseas!!!”

Which, you know, I feel like I need that screenshot from the Facebook complaint box with the option checked, “I see myself in this picture and I don’t like it.”

I mean, if I’m honest, that might be a lot of what I find “meh” about this. I felt the same way with the first several seasons of “The Big Bang Theory.” I don’t find my life particularly hilarious. I mean, it’s not that I can’t laugh at myself, but there is an entire set of panels in this chapter that is devoted to a woman finding a particular mangaka’s work that she loves and screaming about it for joy.

Um.

That’s literally me

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Kind of even looks like me, ya know?

So… am I laughing? Because a fat lady got excited over something she loves in public? I mean, I realize this is the sort of behavior that is not seen as particularly “Japanese,” but even in the manga, as Honda has written it, none of the customers reacted badly. They just ignored the lady, LIKE YOU DO.

This is funny, how?

This is 9/10ths of the humor, so it falls flat for me. I mean, I know Americans/Europeans are weird (believe me, I see it every day), but I don’t generally find cultural differences knee-snappingly comedic?

To be fair, I had this problem with Princess Jellyfish, too, which just makes me an outlier and probably “too sensitive.”  Or maybe I’m just SO ACHINGLY nerdy that I fail to find jokes that point out extreme geekiness as odd because it is LITERALLY my life.

I suspect a healthy combination of both of those is true, actually.

But, it is interesting for the insights into bookselling. One of the things I always enjoy about slice-of-life is exactly this: seeing how people do what they do in daily life.  So, even though I don’t understand the humor in the panicking over re-ordering particular manga because I’m at a loss about the cultural references, I do get the IDEA of it all. I can still appreciate learning that certain things cause books to sell out–like being mentioned on a popular game show or when an author dies.

Those things are true here, too, even if I don’t know WHICH shows or authors are being referenced.

What’s funny to me is that Tumblr has clearly taken the .gif I kept seeing out of context.  Honda meets a “handsome” American looking for what amounts to tentacle porn.

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The .gif and the Tumblr comments make it seem as though Honda’s discomfort is because he finds this guy attractive, but, if you watch/read the whole scene, Honda’s freak-out is actually over the fact that this clueless dad is trying to find R-rated material for his tween-age daughter.

The confusion is over the fact that Honda does seem to find him handsome, but I think it’s meant to be in a more ‘admiring’ way. I mean, I’m all for adding queer content where there is none, but I was suitably disappointed when I watched this because it was NOT nearly as gay as I hoped. Though, they do talk in a later episode (and presumably chapter) about how little true GLBT content there is in manga as opposed to all the BL/yaoi, when a foreign gay couple come in asking after ‘gay’ content and are shown (much like in US bookstores) the tiniest section of a tiny shelf.

Anyway, it was definitely worth checking out.  If you’re interested in this one, at the moment, I would recommend watching it, since you can get 9 episodes at least. It doesn’t even look like you can legally buy the manga yet, and, as I noted, there are only a couple of chapters scanned/pirated.

Merman Yaoi Round-up

After reading my review of Orenchi no Furo Jijou / Merman in My Tub, Mistress of Yaoi recommended that I try  Wagamama na Ningyo-sama / Selfish Mr. Mermaid.

But, I thought that as long as I was reading that one, I might as well see what other merman yaoi titles were out there. I found quite a few, so I will be giving you a quick and dirty merman yaoi round-up!

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Interestingly, despite having “mermaid” in the title, Baka-Updates doesn’t have this yaoi tagged under the category of ‘mermen.’ I suspect the reason is that the mer-people don’t have tails.

Sacrilege!

However, they do breathe underwater and spend a lot of time in bathtubs in the human world.

In fact, our heroes meet because the merman, just like the one in Orenchi no Furo Jijou / Merman in My Tub, takes up residence in the main character’s tub somewhat forcibly.  Our hero isn’t very convinced by this whole lack of a tail thing, either, but the merman proves himself by crying pearls and making a lot of noise about how delicious humans are to mermen (… which, of course, turns into to a double-entendre!)

This merman, however, is also the heir to the ocean kingdom.  A whole plot develops in which he returns to the sea and fights for his right to rule.

The sex is very much the ‘hidden by camera angle’ variety, which is fine with me, since the hero, though an adult, looks a bit too childish for my personal taste. Normally I’m not terribly fond of this old-fashioned art, but occasionally the mer-prince looked kind of hot to me.

The next one I found also had a ‘prince’ character in it, Wild Fish by Hiiro Reiichi…1.jpg

Our hero, Ayase Kai, “almost drowns in the ocean but is saved by a merman. He thinks it is all a bizare dream, until the merman shows up again at his company…”  Like with the vampire round-up I did a long time ago, the thing I found most interesting in comparing all of these stories, was the variety of world-building elements.  In Wild Fish, we discover there are half-merfolk, and Ayase is one. He finds out by going into ‘heat.’

I’m not terribly fond of the whole “heat” schtick, but the prince is a gentleman….26

…and this is fantasy and I enjoyed how Ayase thwarts the prince’s efforts to penetrate him. So, there is that. In fact, I would say this one, which is short, might be worth the read, just for the ‘clever’ plot twist/surprise ending.

The next up is Koi Uta / Love Song by Kamei Yogorouta, this is a one-shot chapter from a larger anthology about a mermaid who gets tricked by a wicked human into coming ashore.

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In this world, there has to be a kind of ‘Little Mermaid’ trade in order for a mermaid to live on the land. Our hapless hero, Sasa, becomes convinced that he is loved by a human, who has been spying on him in the human/mermaid marketplace. He goes to the mer-apothecary, Sou, and asks for a potion to grant him legs.  Sou explains that if Sasa takes this potion there’s no going back. In fact, it replaces his heart and if the desire of his true love doesn’t ignite the heart flame, it will turn to ash and he will die.

Well, turns out the human really just wanted to eat the flesh of the merman to get immortality (this property of mer-flesh is mentioned in Wagamama na Ningyo-sama / Selfish Mr. Mermaid, too.)

Luckily, Sasa’s true love is near-at-hand.

Next, I read Junketsu Ningyo / Pure Merman by Tsubaki Mikage.

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Which involves this startling detail: merpeople are forced to work on the land because of growing ocean pollution (and maybe overfishing?–since they need the money to buy food.) Our mermaid hero, Sango, works as a salaryman. He’s nervous about this new promotion he got because it means he has to work closely with the president, Minami.

When Minami is frustrated because a deal that needs closing is too far away, Sango agrees to go–not revealing that he intends to get there by ‘sea.’

When Minami arrives he demands to know how such an inhuman act could have been accomplished. Turns out, when asked directly, merfolk can’t lie (or they will turn into sea foam) and, so, Sango confesses (and demonstrates) that he’s a merman. This causes the president to pounce on him and break-up with his girlfriend.

I can’t say this one made a lot of romantic sense to me, but I really kind of enjoyed the constant environmental message (even as Sango heads off to broker the deal, he gets bonked in the head by trash someone threw into the ocean.)

The last one, another single chapter from a bigger work was the first chapter “Midori no Ude” by Rakuda Torino in Bakemono BL.

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Alas, THAT guy is not in it.

Instead, this was a fascinating story about an underwater photographer named Souya who appears to have washed up onto shore and into the arms of kindly, beautiful, Nagi. But, there’s something odd, under the surface, as it were.

There’s zero sex in this story, but this one was by far my favorite because it was a full-on fantasy story, including a surprise ending that I’m tempted to spoil, but I won’t, since it’s such a short read.

Those are the ones that I found in a quick search. Of course, as expected, there seemed to be a ton of Free! doujinshi, which is not something I typically review here.  If you find other mermen stories you love, yaoi or not, that you’d like me to review, just let me know!

 

 

Shimanami Tasogare / Our Dreams at Dusk by Kamatani Yuuki

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Shimanami Tasogare was recommended to me by a commenter, FacelessGrunt, as a true-to-life GLBTQ+ story.

I was skeptical at first, mostly because it was published as seinen, which made me worried that “realism” was going to equal tragedy and nothing more. But, Kamatani-sensei is, themselves, non-binary, so I needn’t have worried.

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How do I even begin to describe this manga? I suppose it’s basically the coming out story of Tasuku Kaname, except that the story starts with him being outed by his browser history.and a group of nosy high school boys.  He considers suicide, but by chance thinks he sees a woman doing the same thing in the distance, and runs off to try to save her. Only it turns out that what he saw was (a vision?) of Anonymous, who runs and owns a clubhouse for queer folks.

The manga follows all the people who are regulars there as Tasuku gets to know them all.  A lot of gender and sexual identities are represented at the club: there’s a straight trans man, a lesbian couple, an androgynous asexual, an older gay man, and a lot of people just trying to figure out what they are, including a young boy who likes to crossdress, but who isn’t sure that means anything more than that.

They also all have a rehabbing construction company because the island they live on is full of a number of houses that are in need of repair…and that pulls in a number of people from around the island, including the boy that Tasuku likes.

This is probably the first manga that I would consider categorizing as ‘magical realism.’ There are a lot of scenes where the metaphors are drawn out as physical manifestations and there are times when Anonymous seems to be a magical creature who can fly and become transparent. The manga asks the reader to roll with it, much like Anonymous herself, expects the characters to accept her as she is, without questions.

There is tragedy, but there’s also love and acceptance. I cried both kinds of tears reading this.

I would recommend, 150%

Orenchi no Furo Jijou / Merman in My Tub by Itokichi

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Orenchi no Furo Jijou / Merman in my Bathtub is a 4-koma shoujo title that looks like it’s yaoi, but it’s not.

The premise is pretty straight-forward, too. Our hero, Tatsumi, is an average high school boy living on his own (which is so weirdly common in manga) in his grandfather’s house. One day, he spies Wakasa beached on the shore of the canal near his home. Wakasa explains that he’s been poisoned by the pollution and algae, so Tatsumi brings him home, where he takes up permanent residence in the tub in the bathroom.  Hijinks ensue.

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I struggle to articulate why I enjoyed all six volumes of this, which I read over the span of about a day and a half.

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The art is decent and the humor is broad enough that I could appreciate it (except for that one chapter that was probably an amazing send up of a game I had zero familiarity with…)

I suggested to a friend of mine that I probably enjoyed it for a reason that I normally loathe things like this: for the queer-baiting.

Wakasa is pretty gay for a merman. He’s always explicitly adopting the female role in things, including following advice in women’s magazines–all for humorous effect, of course. There are innumerable panels in which Tatsumi says, “He’s imagining himself the woman in this?”  Wakasa is also routinely mistaken for Tatsumi’s girlfriend.

And it’s ENTIRELY played for laughs: “But, ho ho! They are both men, you see!”

There’s even ‘Black Butler-esque’ fan service, where, a scene is intentionally taken out of context to make it look as though the mer-octopus, Takasu, is sexually assaulting Tatsumi (it’s just a massage, but there are scenes of the tentacles sliding under shirts and up pant legs. You’ve seen tentacle porn. You can picture it.)

So, normally, I’d be turned off by this.

Yet, maybe because there’s an underlying kindness to Tatsumi and Wakasa’s relationship, I found it compelling.

I also really loved the cast of characters that come to visit Wakasa… it almost feels like a faux harem of magical creatures, ala Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid. Besides, the octopus, there’s a mer-snail, a mer-shark (who is mute and was my favorite), a mer-jellyfish, a mer-crab, a mer-starfish, and a mer-clownfish that changes gender (just like real world clownfish.) There are a couple of other human characters, too. Tatsumi has the requisite younger sister who has a older-brother complex, a best friend, and a creepy uncle who is trying to score with the ladies by making experimental bath salts. Tatsumi’s grandfather, even though he’s passed, is an emotionally present character in many ways, as well.

So.. there was a lot more going on here than a gag-manga.

Would I recommend you lose a day and a half to it, like I did? I’m not sure. I ended up recommending it to the class I talked to last night, only because I was talking about how free-form a lot of these stories are. A merman in your bathtub? Why not?

There is a thirteen episode anime available on Crunchyroll. The episodes are no more than 5 minutes long, and focus mostly on the broad humor, which leaves out, what is, in my opinion, the very best parts of the manga, which is a lot of the heartwarming stuff. I didn’t watch all of them, so it may be that one of the episodes touches on the ‘broken vase’ chapter, but a cursory glance did not make it look like it. (Basically, Tatsumi is talking about memories of his grandpa and shows Wakasa a vase that he made. It gets broken and that almost ends their friendship for good.)  The opening music scene, however, it 100% AMAZING. It looks like a hardcore anime, ala Bleach or DeathNote, complete with screaming heavy metal…. and then it’s a merman in a tub.

It’s worth the five minutes to just experience the whiplash between opening credits and content.

But, it’s kind of silly?  I’d say read/watch only if you’re in the mood for something truly brainless.

Status Update, Part 2… My Amazing Library System

After I went to all that trouble to make a list of manga that I thought it would be nice for various libraries to consider purchasing, it finally occurred to me that maybe I should see if our local library already had the things on my list.

  1. Bleach. Yep, pretty much everyone has it.
  2. Blue Exorcist. All three local library systems: Ramsey, St. Paul, and Hennepin.
  3. Haikyu!! St. Paul and Hennepin County.
  4. Yowamushi Pedal. Hennepin County has it.
  5. The Girl From the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún. Ramsey County, St. Paul, and Hennepin.
  6. Barakamon. Saint Paul and Hennepin County have it.
  7. Fruits Basket. Everyone has it.
  8. Skip Beat! Everyone.
  9. Ouran High School Host Club. Everyone
  10. Natsume’s Book of Friends, Ramsey and Hennepin Counties have it.
  11. Descending Stories Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū. Hennepin County has it up to vol. 10. (I now know where I’m going later today.)
  12. Kids on the Slope. So far the only title that one no one has.
  13. Princess Jellyfish. Ramsey and Hennepin county have the manga, St. Paul only has the anime DVD.
  14. Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku. Ramsey and Hennepin County both have.
  15. Mushi-shi. Hennepin County. Again, looks like I may be taking a trip to Mpls. today.
  16. (Wonder Cat, Kyuu-chan) This one can’t count. I mistakenly assumed it had been collected in tankoban/officially licensed and it doesn’t appear to be.
  17. Laid-Back Camp. Hennepin.

 

This, right here, is why I extol the virtues of my public library system.  Just so you understand, I live within four blocks of a St. Paul Public Library, I work at Ramsey County Public Libraries (some of which are a distance, but one of which is accessible by a twenty minute bus/light rail ride from my house), and a Hennepin County Public Library is no more than a ten minute drive away…. if that, because I think there’s still a Hennepin County Library in Dinkytown and I bet I could hop on a light rail and be there in two minutes.

So, I live in a manga wonderland. (Not, Deadman Wonderland, which both Ramsey and Hennepin County both carry!)

All of the titles that I’ve been talking about, I can get for FREE in, like, official licensed format.  I mean, there’s a lot of convenience to reading online, but I _do_ still love reading in the bathtub and you shouldn’t really do that with your phone/device/laptop… or so my family tells me.

I have a feeling that my list of yaoi/yuri/bara titles might be a little LESS likely to be found in the library system, but let’s test that.

I already recommended My Brother’s Husband, which is actually seinen, but is written by a bara mangaka. I know Ramsey County carries volume 1 and a quick check shows that both St. Paul and Hennepin have 1 & 2 available.

Ten Count is carried, uncensored, by Ramsey County.

Hennepin County has NightS, which I reviewed here, Hetalia, which they tagged as yaoi, something called Dear Myself (2006) by Eiki Eiki, which appears to be about an amnesiac teenager, His Favorite (2018) by Suzuki Tanaka, about a gawky kid who hooks-up with the high school prince, maybe, About Love / Koi ni Tsuite  (2012) by Narise Konohara/ Tomo Ootake  about a wedding planner, which does not appear to be scanlated by anyone.

They also have:

  1. In the Walnut by Toko Kawai, which appears to be centered around the love affair of a art gallery owner and a art forger.
  2. Awkward Silence by Hinako Tanakaga, a typical-looking high school pairing.
  3. The Left Hand Dreams of Him/Only the Ring Finger Knows by Satoru Kannagi, when ‘paired rings’ are the rage at his high school a boy dreams of sharing a ring with another guy.
  4. I Hear the Sunspots: Theory of Happiness by Yuki Fumino, which I reviewed here about a hard of hearing college student who hires someone to take notes for him in class.
  5. Love Stage!! by Eki Eki, the story of an average joe born into a super-famous creative family and I guess whatever queer hijinks he gets up to.
  6. The World’s Greatest First Love by Nakamura Shungiku about gay love in the manga industry.
  7. Don’t Be Cruel / Hidoku Shinai de  by Yonezou Nekota, a BL/yaoi anthology.
  8. Go for It, Nakamura! / Ganbare! Nakamura-san by Syudei, about a shy gay high schooler, which looks kind of adorable and I might have to read it.
  9. La Esperança by Chigusa Kawai which looks like it’s about Catholic school
  10. Il Gatto Sul G / G Senjou no Neko by Milage Tooko about a high school violinist with a split personality?
  11. World’s End by Eki Eki, which I can’t link to, because it only exists in official format, no one has scanned it. It appears to be in the same world as Dear Myself.
  12. Glass Sky by Yamada Yuki, more high school queer drama.
  13. Our Kingdom / Bokura no Oukoku  by Koujima Naduki another one you can only find at the library as it is not scanlated. Country boy comes to town to inherit his family fortune and falls for his rival, who is also his cousin.
  14. Silent Voice by Kyoyama Atsuki, some baseball high school boys’ loving.
  15. Invisible Boy / Toumei Shounen by Odagiri Hotaru, I think Ramsey County has this one and I tried to read it and found it too rapey… this is the one about a high schooler at some fancy college who gets picked by school president or something.
  16. Same Cell Organism / Dousaibou Seibutsu by Yumeka Sumomo, description implies that the story is about *gasp* two boys “very much in love with each other.”
  17. Time Lag by Gotoh Shinobu / Odagiri Hotaru another high school romance, this one involving the AV club, maybe.

And those are just the manga that are officially tagged ‘yaoi’ and/or ‘boys’ love’ in Hennepin County Libraries.

I guess I have some reading to get to, eh?

 

Status Update: Still Alive & Kicking

You all have probably worried that I’ve disappeared off the face of the earth. Alas! I have just been distracted by my birthday and (American) Thanksgiving.

In fact, I thought I might use this space to help myself prep for a class I will be guest lecturing at on Wednesday (Nov. 28) night at the College of St. Katherine’s here in Saint Paul, MN.

I’m going to be talking to a bunch of library science students (aka future librarians) about manga.

In fact, I just wrote up a list of definitions for the instructor–everything from mangaka to yaoi, and now I’m going to make an annotated list of (my) recommended titles.  So, y’all might as well enjoy the fruits of my labor as well.

I would also love to hear from my readers about what YOU would recommend to librarians.  Please drop me a suggestion in the comments! Even if I don’t get them in time for Wednesday’s class, I can always ask my library to buy them–and, if I haven’t read them, I will review them here!

 

 

RECOMMENDED MANGA TITLES (in no particular order)

 

Shōnen

Libraries are pretty good at stocking the ‘hot new’ shōnen titles. My favorites in this publishing category include.

Bleach by Tite Kubo

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I mean, who would I be if I didn’t list Bleach as one of my favorite shōnen manga, am I right?  My only caveat is quit before the final chapter. It screeches to a halt much like Naruto for the same reasons (publisher pulled the plug.)

Why I like Bleach in a nutshell:  the cast of characters is diverse af.

The story follows Ichigo Kurosaki, a high schooler who can see ghosts. The story quickly picks up steam, however, when Ichigo enters the spirit would in order to rescue a friend.

 

Blue Exorcist by Kazue Kat

Ao_no_Exorcist.jpgI’ll admit that initially bounced out of Blue Exorcist, but I’ve really grown to love this one.

The story follows Rin and Yukio Okumura, twin brothers, who are literally Satan-spawn. However, Rin joins a group of exorcism students to fight demons… and therein lies the conflict/complications.

Why do I like it? It’s harder to quantify than Bleach, but what I love about Blue Exorcist is ‘shōnen-ness,’ maybe? There’s a lot of persevering for FRIENDSHIP and BEING A TEAM, in a way that I find super-duper compelling–which is maybe ironic because all this ‘boy-ness’ is actually written by a woman.

 

Haikyu!! by Haruichi Furudate

Haikyū_Volume_1.jpgSpeaking of that undefinable ‘shōnen-ness’ that I love, Haikyu!! is so shōnen to almost be a parody of shōnen, yet I lap up its cheesy goodness without irony.

This story can be summed up the easiest, however: Shōyō Hinata wants to become good at volleyball and learns that part of what that means is that he must become a team player.

Hinata is life, okay? Everything about his manically enthusiastic self is who I am at my core, except 150% more athletic. And add the rest of the team and all the other characters… yep. This is one of my favorites of the year.

 

Another sports manga that I loved, but which don’t see as often at libraries would be Yowamushi Pedal by Wataru Watanabe about a high school bicycling club.

 

A more unusual shōnen manga that I really enjoyed this year was The Girl From the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún by Nagabe.

Also, I’d love to see more libraries carrying Barakamon by Satsuki Yoshino, a story about a big-city calligrapher who is forced to relocate to a small island after an altercation with a calligraphy contest judge. This is a very sweet and heartwarming slice-of-life shōnen title in the flavor of Yatsuba&!.

 

Shōjo

I don’t read much in this category, so these ‘recommendations” are more of the variety of “hey, if you’re wondering what shōjo is like, these are the ones that other people say are must-reads and/or ‘the classics.'”

Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya, which I have never read, so I have to crib this description: “Through a series of wacky circumstances, schoolgirl Tohru Honda takes up residence at the swank residence of the very wealthy, but very cursed Sohma family. Their magical burden? They turn into Chinese zodiac animals whenever they’re hugged by a member of the opposite sex.”

Skip Beat! by Yoshiki Nakamura–another one I have never cracked, but which is apparently about, “Plain Jane Kyoko Mogami moves to Tokyo with her childhood friend (and lifelong crush) Sho Fuwa, who is pursuing his dream of becoming a rock star. To support Sho, Kyoko quits school and works at several part-time jobs. But her illusions of romance are shattered when she discovers that Sho sees her only as a servant, not a girlfriend. Now burning with anger, Kyoko vows to get her revenge. Her plan? To enter the world of show business and become an even bigger star than Sho.”

Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori is a classic, which I tried to watch as an anime and bounced out of. This is the story of Haruhi Fujioka, who is a scholarship student at a prodigious high school, who ends up in a kind of cross-dressing indentured servitude to a ‘host club’ inside the high school. Of Hatori-sensei’s work, I like Behind the Scenes!! better. I actually managed a couple of volumes of that.

 

Josei

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Descending Stories Shōwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjū by Haruko Kumota. Wikipeida encapsulates the plot this way: “A man is released from prison and becomes the apprentice of a famous rakugo performer. The story focuses on the backstories of the performers and their struggle to gain popularity”

This is fascinating for what you learn about rakugo, as an art form, and the character’s stories are super compelling, IMHO.
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Kids on the Slope by Kodama Yuki

A boy discovers jazz and life gets complicated. I kind of love/hated this due to the ending (and the fact that this was the first josei title I was ever exposed to and I was not prepared for Real Life ™ to intrude.)

This is a complex story about social-economic class and classism, racism, Catholics (a religious minority) in Japan, and all sorts of complicated, grown-up stuff. The anime is beautiful and well worth a watch as well.

For humorous josei, a person could try Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura and Love is Hard for Otaku by Fujita (originally a web manga) both of which are essentially the same story: nerds finding love.

 

Senien 

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Mushi-shi by Yuki Urushibara. The anime is amazing and I have to confess to not having read the manga, but based on the anime alone this is got to be worthwhile.

How do I describe this? It’s about our wandering hero, Ginko, who acts an intermediary between humans and supernatural beings the ‘mushi.’ The stories have a lush, otherworldly, folk tale feel to them that I have never experienced anywhere else.

Highly recommend.

The anime is gorgeous, as well. Well worth a watch.

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Wonder Cat Kyuu-chan by Nitori Sasami surprises me by falling into this category. It’s a 4-koma about picking up a stray cat and completely mundane adventures that are had.

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Laid-Back Camp by Afro.  A story about going camping in Japan. Also, there’s a kind of introvert-meets-extrovert friendship stuff going on, but really, it’s about good spots to go to (complete with actual maps on how to get there, if you go,) and buying camping equipment.

Ugh, I need to go to bed. I will add some yaoi, yuri, and bars to this list, maybe in a second installment.