Otaku Reader’s Corner: December 2020

Look Into My Eyes (One Shot)

Look Into My Eyes is a one-shot manga about an idol group on the verge of disbanding. While it appears that most of the members are ready to move on to bigger and better things, one of them can’t let go, and in the early pages of the manga has an outburst onstage during their final show. The one-shot continues and shows the reader the perspective of each member of the idol group as they came to the decision to disband. It also pulls back the curtain in its brief narrative of the idol group, highlighting the sadness behind the fake cheers seen on stage. The mangaka, Miyako Yoko, packs a ton of emotion into the pages and has a fantastic art style. Look Into My Eyes has definitely made me interested in investigating some of Yoko’s other, single volume works. This is one of first few, lesser known manga that Star Fruit Books has picked up and I’m glad they did. It’s good to see less popular titles, including one-shots like this, getting more widespread attention—especially when they’re this good. ~ MDMRN

Look Into My Eyes is available through Star Fruit Books.

Skip Beat! Vol. 1

My renewed interest in shoujo has me looking toward the classics, which include Skip Beat. Although I’ve watched the series, the opening volume still startled me (in the best of ways) by how captivating its protagonist, Kyoko, is, as she undergoes transformation. I don’t want to give too much away to readers who may not be familiar with this older work (volume one was originally released nearly two decades ago), except to give the general setting of the entertainment industry, which Kyoko will navigate, with volume one revealing both possible rivals and love interests, with neither seeming to be particularly interested in her. The writing is sharp and often unflattering to Kyoko, which adds this sense of authenticity and I should say a surprising “punk” tone to a romantic work. And while the art style of the time, which sometimes means impossibly long limbs (think four or five foot long arms) and angular chins that could cut glass, is on full display, more noticeable is mangaka Yoshiki Nakamura’s complicated paneling and artwork, which adds a complex and satisfying dimension to this shoujo tale. Also engaging are the extensive artist notes, which explain the process of creating Kyoko and Skip Beat, reaching back to her days on her previous manga series, and shed light on how characters are created and the sometimes contentious relationship between mangaka and editor. All in all, this is one of the great opening volumes of shoujo, and all readers of manga, shoujo fans or not, shouldn’t neglect it. ~ Twwk

Skip Beat! Vol. 1 is available through Viz Media.

A Very Fairy Apartment (Series)

While J-Novel Club is best known for its light novels, they also publish a number of manga. Unsurprisingly, most of those manga are adaptations of light novels, but they do have a few manga originals like this series. It’s a gag 4-koma centered around a college student whose apartment is shared with a bunch of fairies. And by “fairies” I mean actual, mythological “fay” of various sorts, such as Kobold, Cait Sith, Goblin, and even some beings like Jack Frost. Indeed, while this series is perfectly enjoyable for its wacky fairy hijinks, it’s also surprisingly educational if you’re interested in learning about this sort of mythology. There are 5 volumes in this completed series, though keep in mind that it is currently digital-only. ~ stardf29

A Very Fairy Apartment is available from J-Novel Club.

Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju (Series)

As part of the 25 Days of Manga challenge in December, I decided to pick up Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, about Yakumo VIII, a master of rakugo (a Japanese storytelling performance art), as he takes on his only apprentice, a former convict who is referred to throughout the series as Yotaro. As one who knew nothing about the medium going into the series, I was introducted to it as Yotaro is, since he learns rakugo over the course of the series. Featuring the storyteller sitting alone on an elevated platform, rakugo was, traditionally, a male dominated field. However, the manga avoids a stagnant tale, taking so many divergent paths while introducing fascinating characters and providing them some of the best character development I have read in years. Honestly, my enjoyment of the series is the reason why I plan to invest time in 2020 in watching the anime adaptation. I never expected a series about the workings of rakugo and a new apprentice could draw me in so well; yet, here I am, singing it’s praises. Definitely glad I read it. ~ MDMRN

Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju is available through Kodansha.

Street Fighter Classic Volume 1: Round 1 – Fight!

Recently, I’ve been discovering the wealth of video game manga, comics, and novels, which extend to many franchises, including some of my favorite series, like Street Fighter. Volume 1 of this iteration of the franchise is a collection of several comics in one with full-colored pages and exquisite detail. It is definitely not a volume for children, as there is a lot of violence, blood, mature dialogue, and some foul language. Volume one of Street Fighter Classic follows Ryu, who is seeking revenge for the death of his master, as two other notable characters, Chun-Li and Guile, look for Charlie, the latter’s missing partner. The work also features a few side stories, like Cammy and Sakura’s, and the art changes with each tale since different artists contributed to the collection. Beautiful cover art is featured for each “Round,” (chapter), and the story is fast-paced. This excellent volume has me looking forward to collecting and reading the others, as well as to other gaming manga and comics in the future. ~ Samuru

Street Fighter Classic Vol. 1 is available through Udon Entertainment.

Super Mario Bros.: Manga Mania

Do you like gag manga? Do you like the Super Mario franchise? Do you like occasional fart jokes? If you said yes to these questions, I have to ask if you’ve ever heard of Super Mario-kun. A long-running gag manga series about the exploits of Mario and his friends, Super Mario-kun follows the plot of the various video games that have come out over the past 29 years. So far, the 54 volumes of this series have yet to come out in the US. Until now. Well, kind of. A single volume “best of,” as selected by the mangaka, was released in the US through Viz Media and let me tell you, I’m so glad they did. It’s a lot of fun as it gives silly adaptations of stories from the Paper Mario games, Mario & Luigi games, and Super Mario Sunshine. It’s also an all ages series; immediately after I finished it, my 11 year old picked it up and started reading it. If you are remotely interested in a joke comic about Mario, absolutely check this out. It’s a single volume and gives you a great taste of the original series. I hope word spreads on this so that the world sees that there’s an appetite for this manga here in the US and we receive more of it.  ~ MDMRN

Super Mario Bros.: Manga Mania is available through Viz Media.

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