Medieval’s Manga Recommendations for February

Here is the first article to derive from my Candlemas Resolutions.  You might expect the article on C. S. Lewis’ The Discarded Image soon, which shall meet another of these resolutions.  By the way, comment not only on the manga, but if you feel like there’s a better way for me to write these recommendations.  I’d like to make these posts as interesting as possible now that I’ll be doing them on a monthly basis.

Hachi Wan

1) 81 Diver by Shibata Yokusaru

You can read my thoughts on the series in this post.  (Incidentally, it seems like that post influenced D. M. Dutcher to do his own version of Quick Takes.  Click here for his post.)  Unfortunately, a Japanese person uploading 81 Diver was arrested.  If he was the only one, who knows if more chapters shall ever be released.  Actually, looking at the copious numbers of Japanese arrested for this crime is appalling.  Check out all the links under that article too!!!  Almost makes me want to stop reading manga online.  At least, Crunchyroll has a decent selection of legal manga.

cerberus-cover

2) Cerberus by Fukui Takami

This stands as the only horror anime on my list.  Certain elements of the manga remind me of Bleach, but it has a darker mood than that popular show.  Evil demons/monsters/youma/youkai/whatever-you-prefer named kuzure (Never heard of them before) are intent on devouring human beings.  Our hero, Kei, and a childhood friend suffer the misfortune of meeting one of these monsters while exploring a grave site.  But, within that graveyard is a grave protector named Yukifusa, with whom Kei makes a contract in order to save the life of his childhood friend.  Now, Kei becomes tasked with the mission of destroying kuzure lest his powers deplete, which will cause his demise.

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Gunslinger Girl Ends with a Bang!

What a great ending to a rather original series!  The last volume of Gunslinger Girl finally found its way to my shelves.  For the past couple of years, it’s been the only manga I’ve purchased translated.  On returning home, however, I discovered that I had never read the penultimate omnibus!  But, unwilling to wait for that book to arrive through Amazon (I don’t recall ever seeing that volume in a bookstore), I read those chapters in an online reader before turning to the last volume.

GSG opening

Despite how boring most people find the anime version of this work, the manga never bored me, and the anime hooked me until the end–even when it got slow.  The last three volumes of the manga, which have yet to have an anime version (But, I can still hope), blew me away by their non-stop action.  The last three volumes include more gun fights and agonizingly suspenseful situations than the other twelve volumes combined!  This even includes the fight between Triela–my favorite character–and Pinocchio, whose arc still stands as my favorite and features in Gunslinger Girl: Il Teatrino.

A picture of Triela.  The modifications to her body prevent shots to the arms from being disabling.

A picture of Triela. The modifications to her body prevent shots to the arms from being disabling.

Part of the fun of Gunslinger Girl is how the cybernetically modified young girls in the service of the Italian government contrast the vision of human beings with cybernetic parts found in Ghost in the Shell.  (Nota bene, I have not seen more than a few episodes Ghost in the Shell, but draw the following ideas from two essays in Anime and Philosophy: Wide Eyed Wonder edited by Josef Steiff and Tristan D. Tamplin: “The Making of Killer Cuties” by Christie Barber et al. and “Just a Ghost in the Shell?” by Angus McBlane.  That’s a book well worth owning!)  Basically, where Ghost in the Shell offers a future where cybernetics allow mankind to overcome human weakness, the heroines of Gunslinger Girl are still weighed down by their humanity as the machines inside them drain away their lifespan.  Henrietta, Triela, and the rest still retain the hopes and dreams of girls their age, but are forced to suppress them as they are mere tools of the Social Welfare Agency.  The author of this manga, Yu Aida, leaves one with the impression that the bad consequences of modifying human nature might outweigh the benefits.

Alfa Romeo

The struggles of the heroines to make the most of their limited lives create some very deep characters and engross the reader in their fates.  Few mangaka do characterization so well!  This, along with the great action of the final volumes, almost caused me finish the remaining chapters in a single sitting.  Indeed, they would have had not something important torn me away from them!  I might also add that Yu Aida is incredibly literate and well-versed in Western culture.  Gunslinger Girl contains allusions to the Bible, Thomas Macaulay, Beethoven, and others.  Few manga combine action with learning so well!

Triela with shotgun