It seems like no matter how busy one is, there is always time for manga. Also, one occasionally finds that rather little known titles are quite good. As such, a large assortment of manga finds itself on my reading list. The only problem with manga is that they are the madeleines of fiction: if one’s brain is not sufficiently satisfied with heavier works, no amount of manga is going to fill one up. I suspect that one day I shall only read manga in Japanese–as I am currently doing for Busou Renkin, which counts as my second favorite manga from Nobuhiro Watsuki, the author of Rurouni Kenshin.
Be that as it may, I would like to suggest these eight manga to enliven your new year. Some are a little old, but you may not have stumbled upon them. Without further ado. here is my list of short reviews:
The title translates to “Winter Fireworks” and relates a romance between a washed up actress and a boxer trying to come out of retirement. They meet at Gon’s gym, where the heroine, Maki, shall learn a thing or two about boxing. Their relationship starts off rocky, as Gon whacks Maki on the head with a slipper for coming into the gym with her boots on and smoking therein. They gradually are drawn to one another as they learn to respect each other’s work and to feel comfortable around each other. This manga lasts a mere 9 chapters, making this touching and humorous manga a good way to pass the time on a lazy afternoon.
2) Zippy Ziggy written by Kim Un-jung and illustrated by Hwang Seung-man
This manwha stands completed at 86 chapters. Korean comics can often be about as interesting as manga if not more. This comic features a true anti-hero whose motto is that it is better to seem good than to be good. (Please, no one follow that logic!) However, this starts to change after he starts falling for a girl who moves in next door and she discovers that he is not the perfect student he makes others think that he is. In return for keeping his dark side a secret, he must train in her mother’s dojo, which becomes necessary anyway after all the enemies he rapidly makes. The heroine hopes that the martial arts can excise the vices from his personality. (The Japanese belief that martial arts can perfect the soul might be seen from such schools as Aikido, whose syllables, despite the kanji’s meaning of “Way of Harmonious Energy,” could also be understood as “Way of Eternal Love”–as any die-hard Aikidoka could tell you.) This rather fanservicey and somewhat standard shonen manwha separates itself from the pack in the quirkiness of the humor and often outrageous antics of the anti-hero.
3) Tripeace by Maru Tomoyuki
Before I begin this review, let it be known that I dropped this one. I included it here, however, because the manga does not appear objectively bad–just not my cup of tea. At any rate, it concerns an immortal human being, who joins a peculiar organization with the goal of finding a way to end war. Somehow, cross dressing gives him extra courage in battle and makes him more liked by one particular female in the organization, who believes the male and female versions of the protagonist to be two separate persons. The battles are suitably outrageous and the protagonist often uses his wits or good luck in order to save the day. Some of you might like it–some.
4) Tonari no Seki-kun by Morishige Takuma
This high school comedy has a very Calvin and Hobbes like feel to it in that one wonders whether the action does not all derive from the overactive imagination of the heroine and narrator Yokoi, who sits next to the eccentric Seki-kun in class. Seki-kun is always playing some random game rather than paying attention in class. He brings in mechs to form a robot family, has chess pieces face off against shogi pieces, and follows his over-active imagination wherever it leads him. These games always become ridiculous and Yokoi interferes in them occasionally. This one was recommended to me by Sean Bishop, the author of The Freeloader, who had learned about it from his writer. And am I glad that he recommended it! Read this one for a good laugh.
5) Seishun For-get by Mikabe Sesuna
Why the hyphen? I have no idea. This stands as a rather short romantic comedy at only 20 chapters. It concerns the struggles of Natsuki to make the girl he has fallen for remember him. You see, after saving his life and hearing Natsuki’s proposal that they become girlfriend and boyfriend, she readily agrees; however–like the heroine of Ef – A Tale of Memories, she cannot remember anything which happened the previous day. The constant struggle of Natsuki to make Hinata remember him and the reversal which occurs in the second half of the manga make this a very fun and hilarious read.
6) Psycho Busters written by Aoki Yuya and illustrated by Nao Akinari
This numbers among standard shonen fare, but, for all that, it’s very entertaining to read. (Perhaps why some mangaka produce nothing but standard shonen manga.) A high school student named Kakeru is impressed into a group of psychics by a pretty girl for whom he falls. This happens while his family is away vacationing or working overseas–conveniently fitting in two weeks and 32 chapters of manga. Among the psychics, he discovers that he happens to have the most powerful psychic ability, which is integral to him saving the world from destruction. Yep, this manga is as standard as they come, but the characters are very likable and the plot well orchestrated.
7) The Breaker: New Waves written by Jeon Geuk-jin and illustrated by Park Jin-hwan
Another somewhat standard shonen, but the intrigues of the martial arts’ world adds an extra dose of fun. Basically, a young man who had been training under a famous master leaves martial arts because his ki center gets destroyed. But, the Sun-woo clan discovers him to be the heir to the leadership of their clan, thrusting him back into the world of martial arts. This forces him to undergo martial arts training despite his broken ki center if he wants to survive. A hot-headed young lady named Jinie is assigned as his bodyguard both at and outside of school, which stands as a very entertaining relationship. The series excels at the fights and contains a moderate level of fanservice made better by the artist’s skill in describing the contours of a woman’s body. Anyway, I highly recommend this one.
8) Youkai Apato no Yuuga na Nichijou by Kouduki Hinowa and illustrated by Waka Miyama
(As a side note, will someone please explain to me how a Japanese person can have the syllable “du” in his name? I checked three websites to see whether this was a mistake, but they spelled it the same way each time.)
This one falls into your introspective supernatural category. (Something about ghosts seems to make the Japanese reflective.) Inaba, a college student eager to be liberated from his foster family, has the misfortune of having his dorm burn down. This would mean that he would have to commute from home and the loss of liberty if he cannot find some place with an affordable rent. He finds an apartment for 25,000 yen per mensem; however, the catch is that the apartment is haunted–very haunted indeed. Fortunately, most of the ghosts are rather cool. The kinds of stories here range from sentimental to spooky to action packed. Most have a vein of humor running through them and are very enjoyable.