Manga of the Month: Kigurumi Guardians

Kigurumi Guardians by Lily Hoshino

Lily Hoshino takes her experience from Mawaru Penguindrum and puts it to good use in her very own absurd, surreal magical girl series.

One day Sasakura comes home to find an animal mascot named Ginger living in her home. Her family willing accepts this as an experiment conducted by her school, and sure enough when she arrives to school the next day two other students have their own mascot companions. The student council president informs them they are chosen warriors who will protect people’s hearts from The Puppet Guild. The mascots can transform with a kiss into handsome warriors of their own to aid the heroes in defeating the evil invaders.

Kigurumi Guardians does a great job of mixing things up. The mascots are giant, human-sized, and they are the ones who transform instead of the warriors. There is a clear sexual charge to just about everything without the series exploiting the characters. An unease to the setup is palpable, you know right away that nothing is what it seems. Despite that, everyone in the series readily accepts the bizarre in a way that makes you as a reader just roll with it.

I found myself thrown off, then quickly on board, with this delightful, strange, and funny series. Kigurumi Guardians is both familiar and fresh. Lily Hoshino’s sleek and sharp artwork elevates everything in the series from the humor to the beauty of the student council president and everything in between.

~kate

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Manga of the Month: Restaurant to Another World

Restaurant to Another World (異世界食堂 ) by Takaaki Kugatsu

hisui_icon_4040_round It only makes sense that there would be demand for anime and manga centered around food. With the sheer diversity of topics that manga touches upon and considering how much eating is just a fundamental part of being a human, it would be bizarre if there were not some manga about food. And make no mistake there have been plenty of series about food and cooking from Mister Ajikko to Ristorante Paradiso. Some are extremely mundane like Sweetness and Lightning but you also have the crazy over the top antics of Yakitate!! Japan. You even have the ultra-macho Iron Wok Jan as well as the soft and gentle Yumeiro Patissiere. But recently I feel there has been an increase in the number of food-related manga being adapted into anime. Our recent New Shows for Older Fans panel had four food-based shows on the list and Crunchyroll recently started a Cooking With Anime column.  So cooking manga has always been around but it has gotten a bit of a bump thanks to some higher profile anime.

Therefore I wanted to talk a bit about Restaurant to Another World this month. I feel it is an exciting mixture of many of the extremes of food manga. It is fairly fantastical while still feeling pretty grounded. A nice medium between the poles of Oishinbo and Toriko. The base of an Iyashikei series like Bartender with the fantasy spice of Delicious in Dungeon.

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Manga of the Month: Ace of the Diamond

Ace of the Diamond by Yuji Terajima

I can go on for a long LONG time about how much I love Ace of the Diamond. That podcast is a spoiler minefield by the way. Yet, I haven’t put that love into writing here on the blog before. In fact, the only time I talked about it on Reverse Thieves proper, I wasn’t actually very taken with it. It is a series with a slow roll; after giving it a second chance, I discovered it pays off big time.

Eijun wasn’t planning on playing baseball seriously, he just wanted to spend time with his friends. But after he is invited to see a major high school team’s practice, everything changes. He gets to pitch a few, piss nearly everyone off, and gets recruited thanks to star catcher Miyuki and coach Kataoka.

Eijun, however, is not the ace of the Seido baseball team. He dreams it. He wants it. But he isn’t it. You might think it is obvious that Eijun will become the ace, but the series has a lot of uncertainty. As I see it, there are many aces of the diamond because this, as with all good sports series, is about a team and not a single player. Different moments have different aces.

At first, Eijun is hard to like. He begins the series as a sincere baseball lover but also a bullheaded jerk. More than likely you’ll be like me and become very passionate about the stories of catcher Miyuki, captain Yuki, injured Chris, the Kominato brothers, and the many other players. However, Eijun, for all his flaws, learns so much in the early parts of the series thanks to the stellar cast. It doesn’t take too long (but certainly more than a couple of volumes) for him to realize the error of his ways and start down his true path.

And finally what keeps me glued to Ace of the Diamond for the long haul is the emotional resonance. The series is top-notch when it comes to showing the determination and heart of the Seido team. I have cried harder, cheered louder, and raged more fiercely when it comes to Ace of the Diamond than I have for any other sports series.

So you may not like Eijun at first. And the series is more than 50 books and climbing (Ace of the Diamond is 47 book, Act II is 8 and ongoing). But I am here to tell you that it is absolutely worth the investment.

I’ve been beyond elated with the recent offerings of sports manga in English. Ace of the Diamond is another series that is getting a digital release which is a great way to go with these long-running series.

~kate