RG Veda by CLAMP
There are few CLAMP works that one could actually say go under appreciated so while RG Veda is certainly not wholly forgotten, CLAMP’s current and growing fan base may not have gone all the way back to the beginning. RG Veda involves many familiar, but well done, fantastical elements including a worn torn land, magic, desolated clans, gods, a mysterious prophecy, an orphaned child, and a group of warriors who come together to fight a great traitor. The setting is distinctly another time and place sufficiently ingrained in many mythologies of the world. The crux of the story centers around Yasha and Ashura, two beings that are destined to meet and cause great deeds and calamities in the world. Yasha is a great warrior who defies both Taishakuten the Emperor, what his clan wants him to do, and even fate itself to protect Ashura who is but a child at the beginning of the story. Once he does this, there is no turning back, his path is set and he has no choice but to see it through. Along their quest to free the world of Taishakuten’s wrathful rule they encounter allies and foes, sometimes having difficulty telling one from the other. There are very fatalistic themes presented so pick your favorites carefully because no one is safe and it’s never clear what paths all will take. While CLAMP reexplores this theme in X (possibly with more polish), RG Veda is still an engrossing fantasy tale with rich characters and a setting that shows off an ability to carve out a memorable tale in just 10 books.
Maison Ikkoku by Rumiko Takahashi
If I had to pick one manga as the only manga I could ever read again it would be a tough choice but I am almost certain I would pick Maison Ikkoku. While she is hardly the best manga-ka Rumiko Takahashi is my favorite manga-ka. And my favorite work she has ever done is Maison Ikkoku. It captures everything that is wonderful about Rumiko Takahasi’s ability to write comedy and romantic drama that pulls at the hearts string while simultaneously tickling the funny bone. Most importantly it has a solid and wonderful conclusion that lets it avoid some of the criticism of her other work.
Yusaku Godai is a ronin desperately studying to get into college but the people in his apartment building keep disrupting his studies. Finally reaching his breaking point he is about to move out when he discovers there is a young and beautiful new apartment manager named Kyoko Otonashi. Godai instantly decides to stay and try and win her affections but he faces some major obstacles. First he is perpetually broke and horrifically unlucky. If anything can go wrong for him it will go wrong for him in the worst possible way. Secondly he quickly gains a rival for her attentions in the form of the handsome, witty, and rich tennis coach, Shun Mitaka. And the most important obstacle is the fact that Kyoko is a widow who has not moved on from her the death of her husband. Can Godai find happiness or is he doomed to remain a loser for the rest of his life?
I doubt most people are going to connect as personally to the story of Maison Ikkoku as I have. I so empathize with Godai. I understand how it feels to be continually a day late and a dollar short. I know how it feels to wonder if you seemed destined to fail no matter what you do. I know how it is the continually reach for a goal that always seems ever distant. To feel you will never measure up to those around you. I also understand perfectly Godai’s love for Kyoko. Kyoko has a dignified beautify and a refined grace. She is strong yet gentle. She can be stern and even stubborn when pushed but by default she generous and kind. She always pushes Godai forward believing that he can be a better man and do more. At the same time she never lets him get away with giving up or slacking off. More than anything else she feels real. She is a mixture of sadness and happiness and strength and weakness that makes her feel authentic. Their slow building relationship and their give and take is what sold me on the series. But make no mistake I think this series will resonate with anyone who reads it. The delightful mixture of comedy and romance is superbly balanced and draws you in. By taking the scenic route towards the conclusion it makes the overall trip much fun and ultimately rewarding. I could go no but what you should take away from this is that more than any other manga I suggest everyone go out an read at least the first book of Maison Ikkoku.
If anyone knows me well enough they know that I do not whip out Maison Ikkoku as anything but The Big Gun. And with that I announce that Manga on the Month is going on hiatus. This blog is always a work in progress so we decided to mix things up once again. We are replacing the manga of the month with the Speakeasy. Once a month Narutaki and I will pick something that is on our mind and give you a little dissertation on the subject. I think it will be a little more personal and should thought provoking and entertaining for both you the readers and us. See you next year!