Manga of the Month: The Ghost and the Lady

The Ghost and the Lady (黒博物館 スプリンガルド) by Kazuhiro Fujita

hisui_icon_4040_round I have generally made it a rule not to randomly attend industry panels anymore. For the longest time, you can see almost any announcements instantly thanks to Crunchyroll News and Anime News Network when they cover conventions. On top of that between fans, bloggers, journalist, and industry reps I have found that Twitter covers all of your other bases. You can even often ask the people running the panel a question over Twitter. But I recently realized I might have spoken a little too soon. What I should have said is that anime panels are not that big a priority but there are some unexpected benefits to going to manga panels.

I say that because I realized that streaming makes people aware of 95% of what is playing in Japan at any time. Other than kids shows and some odd exceptions you can watch almost every major TV show and most of the minor ones. Therefore I feel most hardcore fans have a decent awareness of what is available and what anime is out there. On the other hand, manga is still mostly an ocean of undiscovered country. You need to be able to read Japanese and have access to manga magazines and manga apps to even have a decent overview of what comes out every week in manga.

This problem is only compounded by the fact that I always feel the manga localization companies are mediocre at making people aware of anything but their most prominent titles. Vertical is probably the best about advertising their whole catalog but at most I can only name the big titles from most companies unless I have a personal investment in some of their other series. I am regularly shocked when I see half of  VIZ’s catalog because I was totally unaware that many of their titles exist let alone they were licensed.  I don’t claim to be an advertising wizard that has the solution to this lack of penetration but it is clearly a case where most fans who care have to put in the work otherwise they can easily miss some gems.

One of those diamonds in the rough is The Ghost and the Lady. I had been trying to see as much anime and manga content at NYCC in 2016 one of the panels I attended was the Kodansha Comics panel. There I saw several titles I was totally unaware of. The one that interested me the most was a historical supernatural tale that teamed up Florence Nightingale with Man in Grey of Drury Lane. It has secret histories, magic, dueling, and mystery. SOLD!

If I had not gone to that panel I would have never known this existed. That would distinctly be a shame because this is all up my alley. (I also might have gotten Florence Nightingale as a Servant in Fate/Grand Order so I am doubly interested in various interpretations of her now. That is sort of silly but it is true none the less.)

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Manga of the Month: Haikyu!!

Haikyu!! by Haruichi Furudate

narutaki_icon_4040_round While Haikyu!! is not the first manga focusing on men’s volleyball, it’s probably the first most of us American fans have heard of. The current season of anime just wrapped up so it seemed a perfect time to re-experience the series from the beginning with the manga.

From the start Haruichi Furudate’s detailed art caught my attention. Sense of movement, strength, and atmosphere are well-composed to capture the intensity of volleyball; a sport that many may have not considered so intense prior. The facial expressions and humor get an equal amount of artistic love, plus the comedic timing is great whether it is breaking up a moment, showing the bonds between comrades, or creating a rapport with other teams.

But one of Haikyu!!’s biggest strengths lies where is should: with the main character. Hinata’s exuberance is infectious. His moment of epiphany towards volleyball happened years earlier, and he is now pursuing his dream. He is not a total novice, he doesn’t need to be taught the basics, but he hasn’t gotten to experience a full team. He is the little guy who jumps with wild abandon in a sport that often prioritizes height. His ego is in check. He simply glows so much when it comes to volleyball that you can’t help but smile. Perhaps best of all is how quickly his rivalry sputters out when his rival ends up being on the same team.

That rival, Kageyama, is as sour as Hinata is bright. Once nicknamed “The King of the Court,” Kageyama has fallen from grace because of his attitude towards his teammates. Hinata and him make an unlikely but essential duo if they hope to see their team gain glory on the court.

And you really, really want to see their team regain their former title. The emotional hooks of Haikyu!! are the strongest I’ve found for the recent crop of popular shonen sports series. This is in part because so many of the other teams we meet are just as interesting as our main group. Do I ultimately want to see Hinata and crew stand proudly at the top? Yes. But that doesn’t mean I won’t shed some tears for the other teams along the way.

Reading the manga has served as an excellent reminder that the series has been strong from the get-go.

~ kate

Manga of the Month: The Ancient Magus’ Bride

The Ancient Magus’ Bride (魔法使いの嫁) by Kore Yamazaki

hisui_icon_4040_round As someone who has been playing tabletop role-playing games for decades, I am always a fan of a good magic setting. I love exploring magic systems, learning about magical organizations, and thinking about spell possibilities. So fantasy series in anime and manga certainly scratch this itch. Kate and I usually give all but the most lecherous and/or despicable fantasy series a chance to see what they have to offer. While I love the standard sword and sorcery medieval setting my preferred setting is series where magic lies hidden beneath the world we know today. There is a strong appeal to the idea that magic is hiding just around the corner right outside of your vision. In my humble opinion, it is a reason Harry Potter is so popular. I know it is the reason I like Mage: The Ascension and Type-Moon material.

Therefore I was naturally inclined to see out The Ancient Magus’ Bride. It’s a rich magical world set in the shadowlands of England where a half fae mage takes in a young lady as his new apprentice and his wife. The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a stunning combination of fantastic art, rich world building, and subtle storytelling draw fans of fantasy into a beautifully melancholy dream of fairyland.

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