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.

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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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Gangsta 48 by Kosuke (46 & 47, anyone?)

Speaking of splatter-fests, the newest chapter of Gangsta. is out at various scanlation sites. It is labeled as 48, though the last one I reviewed (and which seems to be out) is 45.

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I’m a terrible Gangsta. fan.  I mean, here it is, the end of Marco/Connie and I should be in tears. Yet, my only source of any feels is this panel spread:

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Do not hurt my PRECIOUS CINNAMON BUN, KOSUKE-sensei. I will hunt you down and kick you in the shins and yes I know you’re sick but DO NOT WITH MY BABY BOY.

I will be happy, however, if Connie is able to take out Striker with her final act. I hate that guy.

Likewise, given this couple of panel teaser with Nic, I am hopeful that the next chapters will bring us back to the main story arc.  “Hopeful” being a relative term, given that, if I remember correctly, Worick is working for the biggest anti-Tag doucenozzle, Corsica, in his guise as “Storage,” which just bodes so, so ill. Of course, speaking of “this can’t end well” scenarios, Nic has already agreed in Chapter 43 to give Dr. Theo his corpse to study, after he completes an ominous “final order” (which one PRESUMES is from Worick.)

So, we may be hurtling towards a grim, grim ending.

I mean, I do hope that Kosuke-sensei gets a chance to see her story to completion while she is still well enough to write and draw it, so you know, god speed and all that.

But, to quote the Star Wars franchise: “I have a VERY BAD feeling about this….”

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Brief UPDATES (with spoilers) of other manga chapters:

 

For anyone who depends on me (not likely) for alerts as to when some of the things that I follow have been updated, here’s a few that I’m reading, but have not individually reviewed:

Wombs: there have been three chapter updates since last I posted. As of this date, MangaHere has published up to: Chapter 35: Homecoming (19 weeks). What can I report about it? These last few chapters have gone deep on the political machinations between Dr. Lin and our stalwart Sargent Armea.  Something is rotten in transfer space and Olga is trapped in some kind of faux utopia… until she isn’t. This is getting into weird territory, but this manga has kind of been like that from the start. I’m glad someone seems to be continuing the work of scanlating this, however.

Watashi ga Motete Dousunda / Kiss Him, Not Me: has two new chapter updates since I last reviewed it. They’re now up to Chapter 52: Their First Time?? The question of is Yoshiro stealing our heroine’s boyfriend is answered:

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And then this whacky “it should have been over when she picked one guy” reverse harem manga continues with an installment in which our two love birds realize that both of them are virgins and have zero clue how to get it on. They solve this in a typical for this manga way: our heroine realizes she’s straight and checks out shoujo manga; our hero talks to his fellow harem members who give him the straight talk (as it were) on how to take the lead (and remember consent!)

Shi ga Futari wo Wakatsu Made / Until Death Do Us Part by Takashige Hiroshi / Song Ji-Hyoung (Double-S)

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I haven’t been in the mood for anything like Shi ga Futari o Wakatsu Made / Until Death Do Us Part for a long, long time. But, holy crap, when I want a blind, katana-welding vigilante to protect a clairvoyant middle schooler, the only one for me is Hijikata Mamoru.

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Look at this badass mofo

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Seriously, what’s not to love?  The story starts with Haruka Tooyama, a middle schooler, who has the power of precognition. Everyone is after her for her predictive skills, and some baddies have murdered her parents and kidnapped her.  The problem for them? She knows just who she needs to get herself out of this mess: enter the blind ‘samurai’, Hijikata Mamoru.

Mamoru is loosely affiliated with an paramilitary organization that fights international crime called the Elements, or something like this. It doesn’t much matter, except that because of this tangental relationship, Mamoru has access back-up in the form of a hacker named Igawa in a bullet-proof van who supplies him all the best tech, including a cane-katana made from a space-age microfiber that can literally cut ANYTHING and fancy sunglasses that allow Mamoru something akin to “sight.”

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Aren’t you all in? Because at this point, I was ALL IN!

I mean, holy sh*t, is this whole thing some kind of high octane ‘way of the sword,’ but there was hardly a misstep in all 214 chapters for me.  The final arc gets a little political and “scheme-y” for me with the introduction of a spy/game master character known as “Wiseman”, but I can attest to the fact that a lot of that can be skimmed and the gist of it is still very enjoyable.

The women characters in this have gigantic boobs (Double-S, indeed!) with a lot of what my gamer friends would call “jiggle physics,” but that’s the worst of the fan service, IMHO. And, for all of that, we also get a lot of lingering on the male form, as well,

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This is my boi, Dai, the hot-headed motorcycle ace introduced late in the series. Dude, if you had red-hair and tattoos, I would marry you.  

The only other problematic bit in this manga is the relationship between Mamoru and Haruka Tooyama, THE MIDDLE SCHOOLER.  Girl is YOUNG.  I mean, you see her at the top there? She’s a child.  Mamoru is AT LEAST ten years older than she is, if not more.  But, Haruka announces early on that her precognition has told her that Mamoru is her future husband.

Mmmm, yeah, that hits my squick button pretty darn hard.

However, don’t let that stop you from the rest of this amazingly over the top, cheesy-awesome ride. Having read all the way to the end, I can assure you that the relationship stays mostly platonic.There’s no courtship beyond them fighting side-by-side an the occasional awkward promise.  If you can stand Haruka cooking for Mamoru from time to time and the people around them making crass jokes about her being “wife-y” you’ll be okay. There is ONE kiss in the chapter near the end, but it’s: “you’re probably dying so here is a chaste kiss on the lips.” For me, that was almost too much, but since most of the rest of the story was about other stuff, I was okay with it.

9/10ths of this manga is Mamoru being bada$$ with a katana.  But they do go there at the end — as in, after a timeskip where Haruka grows-up, they do utter the titular phrase in the kind of setting where you’d expect that. (Psst, they get married.)

For me, knowing that was likely coming helped me ignore it, you know?  Personally, I kind of hoped they’d go an unexpected direction, given what they set up in terms of the limits of Haruka’s precognition, but alas.  Honestly, I think because it was stated as a possibility at the start, it didn’t get under my skin that this was yet another adventure that seemed to have end in the dreaded wedding bells ™.

At least, the ensemble cast is so interesting that I could also ignore that weird relationship for all the others. (So many ships!) In fact, I was excited to see that several of the characters got manga of their own:

Aegis gets two separate spin-off manga: a six volume manga called Akatsuki no Aegis / Aegis of the Dawn (which no one appears to be scanlating) and Yami No Aegis / Aegis in the Dark, an on-going prequel (7 volumes scanlated so far out of 27) by a different author/artist team: Nanatsuki Kyoichi and Fujiwara Yoshihide.

The Aspergers genius behind “Elements” and the creator of SPARC, Tatsumi Daiba, gets a three volume spin-off called: Alcbane.  No one seems to be scanlating this one either, which is a shame because it looks almost like a superhero manga, with a cover showing Daiba wearing SPARC in its helmet form. This one is written by Takashige-sensei, but illustrated by Kinutani Yuu.

Jesus also gets a couple of spin-off manga, as well. He gets Jesus – Sajin Kouro, (14 volumes) and Jesus , a prequel, (13 volumes.)  Both of these manga are produced by the Nanatsuki/Yoshihide team. Only the prequel is currently being scanlated, alas.

I’m sad to see that “Double-S” (a.k.a. Song Ji-Hyoung) was not associated with any of the spin-offs, because in so many ways, his art makes this story.  The action is AMAZING:

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I also just really loved the way Mamoru is rendered:

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But, I was interested enough in this vaguely futuristic world enough to consider checking out the spin-offs that are available.

I loved this one. I totally recommend it for anyone who can handle violence and enjoys sh*t like pages of people talking about various sword-forms and The Art of War. Plus, did I mention?  BLIND MODERN-DAY SAMURAI.  I mean, what the heck more could you possibly need??

My Neighbor Seki / Tonari no Seki-kun (Vol. 1) by Morishige Takuma

I actually picked up all nine volumes of My Neighbor Seki /Tonari no Seki-kun that my library had in hopes of having a manga to last me over winter break. It should have been right up my alley being a light, slice-of-life, low drama sort of story.  That’s exactly the sort of thing I’ve been craving lately.

Alas.

I stopped reading this one after about a volume and a half, because the gag seemed repetitive.

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The story is about a middle grade girl, Rumi, and her desk neighbor, Seki. Seki brings toys to school and plays imaginative games with them that Rumi gets emotionally invested in… to the point that SHE’S the one who gets in trouble for goofing off, not him.

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This seems to be a never-ending gag.  I could have read the remaining eight volumes that I’d checked out of the library, but I just didn’t trust that the story would ever move beyond this. TBF, normally, I don’t need it to.

If this turns awesome a few more chapters in, let me know. I can always check it out again. But, this time, for whatever reason, I was just much less willing to push forward on my own.

As long-time readers of MangaKast know, I’m a really hard sell on certain types of broad humor–in manga (often the exact same stuff will work just fine for me in anime.) Luckily, there is an anime for this manga: Tonari no Seki-kun: The Master of Killing Time, which is available on Crunchyroll (linked above.)

I haven’t tried it out yet, but I will put it in my ever-expanding queue.  I mean, I went from feeling “meh” about One-Punch Man to absolutely loving it, so just because I bounced out of the manga, doesn’t mean I won’t love My Neighbor Seki / Tonari no Seki-kun in a different format.