Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bakuman - The Non-Mainstream, Mainstream Battle Manga

I was living in Japan during the height of the Death Note boom. My students would come in imitating L in their seats during class and would pull out their copies of the manga in the lobby as they were waiting for class to start. A bilingual student and I often talked about manga, anime, and light novels in class because I openly talked about how I liked them to get my students to talk to me. One of the best decisions I ever made because the students didn't feel embarrassed telling me their favorite series and characters. Since most of their favorites were mainstream hits like Naruto, One Piece, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Bleach it was easy for me to jump, pun unintended, into a conversation with them. So when I confessed to never having read Death Note I got gasps and numerous remarks about how I HAD to read it. Needless to say I did, and that was where I was introduced to the glory that is the Obata-Oba mangaka duo.

It is always the sophomore effort that gets the most scrutiny from fans and critics. People can pull out an amazing work and get lucky with the popularity, but it actually takes skill to pull out that same popularity with a different idea and setting without failing to the hype and the inevitable comparison. Bakuman is a one series wonderland. I'm not sure how else to describe how amazingly wonderful and enjoyable this manga is. Not only was it a genius move by the veteran manga duo of Obata and Oba, it celebrates everything that fans enjoy about manga. This manga is compelling, funny, relatable, and with a large cast of entertaining and wonderful characters. A plot filled with suspense, comedy, tension, intrigue, and romance brings all of those characters and that world to life in a way that I have yet to see in a Weekly Jump manga series.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Eyeshield 21 - Shōnen Jump Manga Marathon #2

To continue with my Shōnen Jump Manga Marathon, I picked an older manga that is also related to the post that I made last week about Kuroko no Basuke when I quoted a forum post comparing the characters and their "super skills". Even before I made the last post, I knew that Eyeshield 21 was going to be the next Jump manga I read specifically because I wanted to weigh in on the comparison. The Eyeshield 21 anime came out while I was in college and the manga was serialized from 2002 - 2009 in Weekly Shōnen Jump. Spaning 37 volumes and 333 chapters all together, the manga focuses on Sena and how he becomes involved with his schools American Football Club; which consists of 3 members including himself. The manga-time for this story is only a year, or a little less than.

As an American, I was tickled pink by the fact that there was a manga that dealt with American Football. From what I understood American Football is like Aussie Rules Football, way more popular in their home countries and generally ignored by the rest of the sports loving world. Was I wrong about that? Soccer is still king my friends.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Shonen Sports Manga and Kuroko no Basuke

As you all saw for my last post, I read the Kenshin manga in anticipation for the live action Rurouni Kenshin movie coming out at the end of this month.  While I was reading the manga, I got to thinking, 'How long has it been since I read any Jump manga?' I stopped reading and thought about it for a while and I decided that it had been a solid couple of years since I had put Naruto on hold because I had caught up with all the scanlations I could get my eyes on. 

Then when I thought about it a little harder, I admitted to myself that I really hadn't read other Weekly Jump manga besides Naruto. Case and point is that it took me many years to actually read Rurouni Kenshin or Shaman King, I gave up on Prince of Tennis when I was in college, I never read Eyeshield 21, and when the anime for Nurarihyon no Mago was a flop I stopped reading. These titles are really the only Weekly Jump manga I've ever read. Prince of Tennis was probably the first one I got into and then Naruto followed, but I started those back in high school and that was almost 10 years ago now. 

Being a self-proclaimed manga scholar, I am actually a little disappointed in my own readership. A couple years ago, I was talking with a friend about how we both knew and could recognize One Piece cosplayers and knew of the manga, but we had no idea what it was about. Later that same friend told me she was going to watch the anime since, 'It's so popular that I feel I need to watch it to really understand why and have an opinion on it'. Weekly Jump manga have the most readership and usually the largest audience. Look at how Naruto and One Piece are all over Japan. Not just in manga and book stores, but there are Naruto, Gintama and One Piece goods in souvenir shops, Uniqlo makes branding deals and sells special graphic t-shirts, and travel agents book trips for families on a replica Lufy ship. They have become a central point in Japanese popular culture and not only for the original manga readers. 

Now that I have opened my eyes to this error in my read habits, I have decided that a marathon of Weekly Jump manga was in order. I will be looking at manga that has been or is currently being serialized in the Weekly Jump magazine. I will mostly be looking at the manga that is currently being serialized and also has scanlations out on the Internet. So, I started with the manga that had the most recent anime, Kuroko no Basuke.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rurouni Kenshin and Historical Redemption

At the end of this month, the long awaited live action Rurouni Kenshin movie will be hitting theaters in Japan. Never before have I seen such a large response from the anime and manga community over a live action adaption. Yet with Kenshin being such a beloved manga for the community and having hoards of fans not only in Japan but in America, it is unsurprising that this movie is getting people to sit up and take notice.

With the sheer amount of attention and anticipation this movie is receiving, it can only be concluded that this manga has keft a strong impression on the manga reading community. Since I actually hadn't read the manga before, it was pretty obvious that I wouldn't be able to jump into any type of discussion on it's merits and failings without actually reading it. At around 255 chapters, it was a lot of reading and I'll admit to gorging myself on it and then having to stop for a while to pick it up again.