Gokushufudo: The Way of the House Husband by Oono Kousuke

Interior page from Gokushufudou: The Way of the House HusbandThe only way Gokushufudo: The Way of the House Husband  could get any better was if our eponymous house husband were gay–but, I mean: yakuza! house husband!  battles with roombas! kawaii bento!!

And tattoos….

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The summary reads like this:

The Immortal Tatsu is an ex-yakuza who’s given up violence for making an honest man of himself – but is it still possible for a devoted stay-at-home husband to get into a few scrapes?

An amazing premise for a fairly amazing manga.

 

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The comedy in Gokushufudo: The Way of the House Husband sometimes is a near-miss for me.  Don’t get me wrong. I find it hilarious nine out of ten times. But, sometimes, I feel like the mangaka stops short for a gag, rather than going fully into how absurd and humorous a situation Tatsu has made for himself.

Like, the very first chapter sets up the whole schtick is fairly hilarious as a study in contrasts, right? Here’s this terrifying-looking guy working his a$$ off to make breakfast for a wife who runs off without even remembering her bento.  That’s funny all by itself, but then we cut to a scene where some cops have stopped Tatsu on his way to deliver his wife’s lunch. He freaks them out for reaching for something–a coupon, it turns out–and the curtain falls.

I actually wanted MORE. I wanted to see him make his getaway AND his wife’s office reaction to him bursting in with her bento.

That being said, when what I’m complaining about is wanting MORE, that’s  good sign that the whole manga (of which, at the time of this review there were only six chapters scanlated,) is pretty dang awesome.

The taking on of the roomba is really fairly amazing.

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The best part? He’s talking TO the roomba, which he does all day long… until it finally defeats him before the Women’s Association arrives.

I highly recommend this one.  I’m going to have to figure out how to keep track of it so that I can keep following.

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Dosei Mansion / Saturn Apartments by Iwaoka Hisae

I came across the complete run of Dosei Mansion / Saturn Apartments at my library, so I checked all seven volumes out at once.  You can read up to the end of volume 3 on-line, so far (last update was six months ago, so scanlators may still be working on this one.)

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I liked this one a lot.

I’ve been struggling with how to describe this manga to friends of mine in order to make it sound cool enough for them to want to read it, and I think I fail partly because: “You guys, you guys!  It’s about window washers in SPAAAAAAAAACE!” sounds much cooler in my head than it does out loud.

But, but… window washers in SPAAAAAACE!

Am I convincing you yet?  No?  Okay, okay, so the story follows a young orphan named Mitsu, who is following in his father’s footsteps. Dad was an affable window washer who, one day, had an accident and likely plummeted to the surface of Earth. See, despite ‘Saturn’ being in the cover, this story actually takes place in a human-built ring in the stratosphere of Earth (35 kilometers/ 21.8 miles above earth.) We built this spinning apartment complex in order to escape the environmental collapse. Life in the apartment ring has become stratified.

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The people in the upper levels are all super rich, and those down below are poor working class.

Several people from below (and a few above) dream of a returning to Earth and starting afresh… including our little hero, Mitsu.

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For a slice-of-life manga, Dosei Mansion/Saturn Apartments, actually has a lot of plot.

Remember when I had the revelation while reading Yotsuba&!/Yotsuba to! that maybe slice-of-life manga are some kind of weird propaganda?  When I got to the final line of the manga, I really, really felt that I might be on to something. There’s a revolution fomenting up above that never comes to pass, our hero gets to Earth and discovers that the people on the bottom were once on the top, and his only thought is, “Wow, the ring is so pretty because the windows are so clean!”

I mean, he even goes to jail for a few years?  It’s… I mean, the end seems to imply that maybe you should just be happy where you are, enjoy hard work, and don’t rock the boat because, ultimately, you can’t change the world all that much (there does seem to be a bit more freedom of movement by the end, to be fair.)

It kind of reminded me of the dreaded ending of Bleach, in that there’s this major push against the status quo, but by the end, everything just falls back into its place and we’re all supposed to be okay with that.

People will no doubt tell me that I’m looking at this with too Western an eye.  That’s likely true. I can’t entirely help that.  However, I do think it’s worth noting, regardless.

Especially since, in the case of Dosei Apartments/Saturn Apartments, I really enjoyed the story…. all the way through. Even though the ending was a quiet sort of change, I really loved the constant pride that Mitsu had in his window washing work and how his love for his job actually made other people like him and accept him.  He both followed his dad AND surpassed him in all sorts of quiet, yet meaningful ways.

Quiet yet meaningful.

That’s a fine revolution, IMHO.

So, with the caveat of the ending doesn’t seem like much, I say this manga is well worth the read. I can see why this series won the 15th Japan Media Arts Festival Grand Prize for Manga (according to Baka-Updates.)

 

Isekai Izakaya ‘Nobu’ / Otherwordly Izakaya “Nobu” by Semikawa Natsuya / Virginia Nitohei

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After all that yaoi, how about something ridiculously wholesome?  I stumbled across Isekai Izakaya ‘Nobu’ / Otherworldly Izakaya ‘Nobu’  thinking it was Isekai Shokudou / Restaurant to Another World, the anime for which I’ve been seeing advertised on Crunchyroll.

Given that they’re both seinen, both based on a light novel, and BOTH out about the same time (‘Nobu‘ came out in 2015, ‘Shokudou‘ in 2016,) I’d say it’s a pretty easy mistake to have made.  I haven’t read Isekai Shoukudo yet, but I found Isekai Izakaya ‘Nobu’ really quite charming.

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I want someone to look at me the way people in foodie manga look at their meal.

The look of pure wonder combined with unspeakable lust

I want someone to be so surprised and amazed by my beauty that they simultaneously blush and start to sweat.

Also, dude. It’s fried chicken.

To be fair to the people frequenting this izakaya, they’re clearly living in some fictitious part of  Medieval Germany and are probably eating things like wurst and blood sausage and knoephla on the regular. More to the point, like the MCU Captain America so famously said in “Winter Solider” about food prep from the past: “We used to boil everything.”

The real magic here is that the izakaya owners actually live in modern Japan, and the izakaya has an unexplained doorway to this alternate Germanic world.

Which is possibly why something this simple: salted cucumber gets an “OMG WHAT IS THIS GLORIOUS, LIFE-CHANGING WONDER???!!” reaction from the guests.

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I will not argue that fresh food is amazing.

But, I have my theories as to why ‘Nobu’ couldn’t make it over on the “other side.”

I had cucumbers with salt yesterday. It’s good, but I’m not sure I’d pay to eat it at a restaurant, you know? Maybe it’s the plating?  I mean, that’s a really nice plater and the cucumber is artfully laid out. Perhaps this is enough to “elevate” the “taste profile” of regular, plain cucumber?

It’s still just salted cucumber.

It’s not actually explicitly stated that ‘Nobu’ failed as a business back in modern Japan, but there’s a panel that strongly implies it. In one of the later chapters (Vol. 3, chapter 16), we see our heroine returning from an antique dealer on ‘our’ side and she pauses in front of their storefront an it’s clearly shuttered.

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But over in the other world, Nobu is well loved.

The entire schtick of this manga is that good food is magical and can change your outlook, lift your spirits, and melt cold, dead hearts.

Honestly, I’m not sure I disagree. Yet, I started to find something about the miraculous and curative power of SALTED CUCUMBERS quite unintentionally hilarious.

None of that, however, diminished the charm of this story. I totally signed on for each and every ‘very special episode,’ more than happy to see which type of food changed what person’s attitude/position/etc.  The characters aren’t deep, but they innocuous and sweet in the way of a lot of these foodie manga. I’m also super curious about what, if anything, will be the fallout from our world (it’s hinted that maybe they shouldn’t be bringing over so much gold and silver and copper from the alternate universe.) After all, they’ve had a couple of scares/threats to their business from the alternate universe.

There are apparently 6 volumes of Isekai Izakaya ‘Nobu’ out in Japan. Scanlators have, as of the time of this review, posted three of those. I only mention this because if you rush off to read this RIGHT NOW (or anytime before the next update), it might seem as though the manga has reached a natural conclusion at Vol. 3, chapter 18.

In fact, when I went to do my usual cursory research of this manga, I was surprised to discover there was three volumes more of story.

Not that I’m complaining!

This is exactly the kind of stuff I love in a foodie slice-of-life:  Little to zero drama, light character moments, and lots and lots of people sitting around talking about how amazing food is while cooking and eating it.

If you want to read the light novel that Isekai Izakaya ‘Nobu” is based on, there are people translating that, as well. (If you go, be sure to click on the chapter number.) There is an anime that has only just begun its run available on Crunchyroll as well (as of this review they have two episodes available.)


 

Quick additional commentary:  Having watched the two episodes of the anime for this, it continues to be adorable.

My favorite part, however, is that the Japanese tourism board has clearly realized that people getting excited over salted cucumbers and other simple bar food is a GREAT selling tool, so there are mini live-action adverts/cooking prep/bar crawls post the show.  Complete with directions to the pubs serving this food and telephone numbers so you can BOOK YOUR RESERVATIONS NOW.

I mean, it’s kind of amazing.

Owari Nochi, Asanagi Kurashi / Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale (Vol. 1) by Morino Kikori

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Okay, so you thought the last thing I read was a little weird.

Let me tell you, folks, Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale might actually take the blue ribbon for weird.

Like, I don’t know, I was good with the idea of a quiet friendship with picnics and a whole lot of just living life in an ‘after the fall’ world, even when one of the friends was a giant hairy spider with a half-dozen eyes, creepy tentacles, and too many teeth—until I hit the first recipe.

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Suddenly, I’m like, wait, wait, WAIT….  this is also a FOODIE manga?????

Then, I looked up from the book, clutched it to my chest, and whispered to myself: “This just got super-AWESOME.”

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Here’s the bad news first: from what I can tell, no one is currently scanlating this amazing bit of weirdness.

I’m super, duper sad about this, because volume one ends on a serious cliffhanger.  I’m going to ask my library to get this in the hopes that they will continue to buy the volumes as they come out (so I don’t have to. Admittedly, I just up an bought this one for actual money… it was kind of an accident? It was just that when I read the description of this, I was so enchanted, I HAD to have it.)

Okay, so what can I tell you about this manga?

Our hero is a twelve year-old girl named Nagi.  Nagi lives on her own in a big house in the woods.  Her father used to live with her, but according to Nagi, Dad has a bit of wanderlust and just leaves her on her own for months at a time.  He apparently used to send seed back from his travels (they have a massive garden), but he… stopped.

Savvy readers are already thinking: Oh, Nagi. Your papa is DEAD.

But, who knows? I mean, after all, what happens next is that Nagi stumbles across a giant spider… and befriends it.  At first, she sees this thing and thinks “Eek!” and tries to run and hide.

LIKE YOU DO WHEN YOU MEET A SPIDER THE SIZE OF A CAR.

But, you know, spider is kind of cute in its own way, and is clearly scared of her, too, and… a little lonely.

Spider follows Nagi home and she tries to feed it.  At no point does she look around for a giant fly or anything like that, but instead tries all sorts of human food on it.  The spider doesn’t much care for anything she has in her pantry, but when she makes pumpkin-stuffed dumplings for herself, the spider LOVES this… and her cooking.

 

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Real spiders are scary enough. Did you have to add the extra row of internal teeth, sensei?

Such begins their lives together.

Nagi names the spider ‘Asa,’ because she met it (them, the manga uses they/them) in the morning.  She spends some time reading up on spiders, trying to figure out how to communicate better with Asa.  It’s all to no avail, but they clearly have a bond, anyway.

It’s the food.

We know from all of these manga about cooking and eating that if you take the time to make someone good food and then share it with them, that’s about the purest expression of love there is.  Cooking and eating good food makes a family.

(I despair for any Japanese people out there who are terrible cooks. I mean, if I grew up reading these kind of manga and my parent or my partner was shitty at making food or too harried to anything but throw in pre-made, pre-packaged food into the oven, I might seriously think: YOU DON’T LOVE ME.)

Luckily, this is not Nagi’s problem. She’s an excellent cook, and she’ll happily talk you through any recipe you–or your mutant spider companion!–might possibly want.

Things go along like this until a stranger arrives at the door.  The first person to show up is actually not scary, but then….

That’s where the volume ends.

The things I kind of love about this manga beyond the cooking and the recipes are: the mystery of what the spider is.  When the kindly stranger shows up, he’s very, “Uh, are we sure your friend is a spider? I mean… extra teeth?????” and, okay, so even if this is a mutated regular spider there’s a kind of intelligence there you wouldn’t necessarily expect from an arachnid.  And, then there’s how… lonely the spider is. Is it just another victim of the apocalypse that destroyed the cities–if so, why does the  spider seemed shocked to see the submerged city? Why does it like homemade human food? Was it once human? Or… given the prehensile tentacle are we sure the “spider” is… shall we say, native? Perhaps the sudden destruction of humanity had some extraterrestrial help….

Which might explain the guy in the gas-mask at the end who calls Nagi and her spider-friend “monsters.”

We’ll see, because I’m definitely tuning in for more of this one.

I mean, if nothing else, for the recipes.

Fushigi Neko no Kyuu-chan / Wonder Cat Kyuu-chan by Nitori Sasami

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In my never-ending quest to read manga about absolutely nothing (and cats!), I have discovered this adorable 4-koma (four panel) manga called Fushigi Neko no Kyuu-chan/ Wonder Cat Kyuu-chan.

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I’m not really sure a person could spoil a story this simple, but let me try.

Some cold-hearted person has abandoned this cat in a box, in the snow, in what looks like public park.

Our unnamed protagonist strolls by and sees the cat:

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I’m not even entirely sure what gender this person is, and I kind of love that.

At first, it looks like our unnamed hero will pass this cat by without picking it up.  Spoiler! Chapter 2, our hero totally comes back for the cat.

In the way of these things, they become fast friends and hilarity ensues in a very cat-like manner:

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Clearly, Nitori-sensei has a cat.

There are, in point of fact, a lot of four panel chapters, like this, with little to no words. Nitori-sensei is also not beyond pure silliness (at one point we discover that our cat doesn’t want to take a bath before removing their ‘mittens,’ which are literal this once, for comedic effect.)

There are currently 30 chapters of this 2018 manga. Would I recommend it? Yeah, absolutely! I mean, cats! Doing nothing but cat things! CAAAAAATTTTS!!!

The thing that makes Fushigi Neko no Kyuu-chan / Wonder Cat Kyuu-chan stand out is that the protagonist occasionally seems heartless.  Like, how initially they walk by Kyuu-chan and seem to leave the cat in the snow, alone.  Normally, this kind of humor can bounce me out, but, for some reason (maybe the shortness of the scenes) it worked for me here.

I honestly don’t know what’s in the air in 2018, but between this and Ojii-sama to Neko, I could potentially die from all teh cute cat stuff.

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So, yeah, two thumbs (mittens?) up for this one.

Lupin Sensei / Lupin III (Vols. 1 – 4) by Monkey Punch

Today, I happened to read through some of the other blogs that I follow, and I came across MangaHoarder‘s Manga Reading Challenge 2018.  It looks like a fun list, and so I’ve decided to give it a try… somewhat passively. I figure I’ll just continue to read the things I read and see which boxes I can check by the end of the year.

Occasionally, if I’m looking around for something, however, I might try to hit a particular category.

Like, “a manga that is older that you.”

When I saw that one, I thought, “Whoo boy, where am I gonna find a manga published before 1967?”

Turns out, I had four volumes at home.  Lupin Sensei / Lupin III was first serialized TWO MONTHS and 8 days before I was born.

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I first came across the characters of Lupin III in the late-1980s/early 1990s, when the Uptown Theater in Minneapolis did a midnight showing of The Castle of Cagliostro.

I was enchanted and… energized. There’s a scene in this movie that had me getting up out of my seat, and I remember thinking, “Holy sh*t! This ‘Japanimation’ stuff is amazing!”  (I didn’t know the word ‘anime’ yet and, honestly, The Castle of Cagliostro was originally released in 1979.)

In fact, I often credit The Castle of Cagliostro as being one of the first major influences in my later interest in anime and manga.

Thus, several years ago, when I saw four tankōban of the original manga in the used section of my local science fiction store, I snapped them up.  Baka-Updates informs me that I have no where near the entire run, which is apparently 14 volumes. But, you’ll notice, should you go the link to Mangakalot that I provided above, the most you can find  scanned on-line seems to be the first four chapters of volume 1.

So, what can I tell you about this series?  Lupin III is a master thief. He’s kind of the original international man of mystery who galavants around the world dodging the law and having (mostly) comedic capers (some of which break the 4th wall.)

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I’m really disappointed that more chapters haven’t been scanned. Even with reading glasses, I found a lot of the panels difficult to parse.  As you can see from the above panel (and the one below), too, Punch-sensei has a very crude, loose style.

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Now, imagine this a fourth of the size it is here….

Plus, you know me, gentle reader. I’m a tough sell on humor, and a lot of the humor of Lupin Sensei / Lupin III is crude and even slapstick.  I had a hard time actually tracking some of the action…. and there are a lot of naked ladies getting ravished.

A LOT.

That being said, it’s often a lot of fun to see just how Lupin III is going to outsmart Detective Zenigata this time. Plus, you gotta love lines like this one:

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But do I recommend it to you?  Ah, maybe for the head-trippiness of it… but, honestly, the movie is much better.

Peace out, man.

Futari no Renai Shoka / Our Romance Bookshelf by Yamakazi Kore

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I found Futari no Renai Shoka / My Romance Bookshelf by hitting the “surprise me” button at Mangareader.  Normally, I’m not much for straight people romances, but this one was cute (and complete in two volumes.)

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The premise is pretty straight-forward. Kanako and Akio are two book nerds that fall in love.

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The complication is that when they meet and Kanako blurts our “marry me!” she’s a college graduate and he’s in middle school.

I’d be more squicked about the age-gap, only he’s not drawn like a middle schooler and, perhaps more importantly, Kanako is only partly serious when she says it.  Akio has eidetic memory and can repeat full passages from books he’s read. When he recites one of Kanako’s favorites, she has the same moment I had when it was revealed in Dream Daddy that Damien had Naruto fan fiction in his library. I turned to my son and said, “I’m sorry, I have to marry this man.”

A lot of the rest of this manga is occupied with the question of how people are like books, and, particularly, the thought: sometimes you just like what you like.

There are some weird familial issues, too. Akio moves in with Kanako while still a high schooler, which he’s able to do because he’s that manga/anime phenomenon of the abandoned child of business workers, who just left town for a better job and abandoned their adolescent at home alone, sending the occasional packet of money home. (I just tried to do some Googling on this, and it does not seem to be a Real Thing, or is at least certainly not as prevalent as it is in anime and manga. If you have a source that proves me otherwise, PLEASE link me. I’d love to know more about this, if it’s a Done Thing in Real Life ™. )  Kanako, meanwhile, has a father who stopped caring for her after her mother died because “all his love was used up.”

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A lot of that is resolved by the end of the second volume, except Kanako’s parents. They’re just gone.

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But, beyond being baffled by some people’s (realistic?) lack of compassion, I enjoyed this manga and you might too.  It is, you could say, a ‘book’ you could curl up with while warming yourself under your comforters/kotatsu.

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