Manga of the Month: Again!!

Again!! by Mitsuro Kubo

hisui_icon_4040_round I always wonder how much those stickers that say “From the artist who brought you Title X” help sales. Did “From the Author of Fruits Basket” help Yen Press with the sales of Twinkle Stars? Fruits Basket was one of most popular manga back in the day whereas I never hear anyone talking about Twinkle Stars. Now you can’t make a statement like mentioning a previous title will boost the sales of a new title by a fixed 46% because there are too many factors. Did the artist have one title with mass appeal that caught on but their other works are too esoteric? Will their initial audience go along with an artist if they go with a radically different direction? Are the readers burnt out on the formula of the artist’s last title? Was the initial success just a product of right time right place? Most of the time you would be foolish not to remind people of some earlier successes if you have the chance. It is a low effort way to possibly greatly increase your sales. The real question is how much is that boost with any particular title.

I mostly bring this up because I have at last one example of it working. When I went to the library I was a manga I had not heard of before. When I looked to see what it is about I saw a sticker that said, “story and art by Mitsurou Kubo the co-creator of Yuri!!! on ICE.” Now Sayo Yamamoto clearly shaped a good deal of what that anime would be but any anime is a collaborative work. The thing is Mitsurou Kubo has credits for her work on the original concept, the character designs, character names, insert song lyrics, and screenplay of all 12 episodes. She pretty much worked on everything that people liked about that show other than the animation. The sticker might as well have said, “may contain everything you liked from that ice skating show.”

So I had to see what this series is about. We go from the world of professional ice skating to time traveling oendan. You can’t say that the woman just has one story to tell with slight variations.

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Manga of the Month: Holmes of Kyoto

Holmes of Kyoto (京都寺町三条のホームズ) by Ichiha Akizuki

 Based on the ongoing novel series, Holmes of Kyoto brings Holmes into the modern era as a young graduate student and apprentice in an antiques shop.

Aoi has only recently relocated to Kyoto. When we first meet her she is skulking outside the Yagashira antique shop debating whether to go in for an appraisal. There she meets Kiyotaka (aka Holmes) who not only reveals much about the items she brings in, but also reads her intentions like an open book. Before Aoi knows it, she has agreed to work part-time at the shop and hone an eye for antiques. Together they find themselves wrapped up in minor mysteries around the Kyoto area.

The Holmes of this story possesses many qualities that have become a staple of the character like being able to read deeply into tiny details of a person’s demeanor, words, clothing, and other attributes; a penchant for being aloof; and not always being completely tactful. Kiyotaka is far less abrasive that some versions of the character. He does have a teasing streak, but is often kind and shows himself to be vulnerable early on.

Both Aoi and Kiyotaka are dealing with loses of love and form a bond over it. While Kiyotaka is further along in his recovery, and has wisdom to share on the subject, it is still clearly a painful piece of the past.

So far the mysteries they’ve encountered have been family affairs where Holmes is brought in to quietly decipher the answer. He gets to the bottom of things, but not without dredging up some family troubles or secrets along the way.

What I enjoy most in the series is the interjection of bits of history whether it be on the intricacies of antiques like pottery and paintings, or on Kyoto’s traditions like the Saio-dai chosen for the Aoi Festival or the Tengu spirits of Kurama-dera.

I initially started watching the anime for this, but I’ve put it aside in favor of the manga. Both are adaptations, but I found the pacing and artwork in Ichiha Akizuki’s version a better matched to the atmosphere of the series.


Manga of the Month: Frau Faust

Frau Faust by Kore Yamazaki

hisui_icon_4040_round It is always interesting to compare various titles by the same author. Sometimes it will be immediately obvious that two stories are by the same author to the point where you can’t imagine anyone else writing them. Other times you will be blown away when you discover that two stories have the same author. Rumiko Takahashi is a great example of this. It hardly takes a manga expert to figure of that Ranma ½ and InuYasha are by the same woman but Mermaid Saga feels very different from her normal work. But no matter where on the spectrum any pair of titles is there are usually a few subtle thumbprints that are always present in an artist’s that work can appear no matter who radically different the base story is. It is just some artists have a distinct repertoire that is unmistakable in almost anything they do whereas others are more chameleon like. Throw a rock on the internet and you will find something about the common practices of any prolific artist.

I mention this because some of the most interesting analysis can come from looking a two titles from the same artist that are fairly distinct while still having enough in common that you can also get a sense of their core style while also seeing where they tweak their formula to create a different story. For a good analysis you have to pick two titles that don’t just feel like carbon copies with different names at the top. I bring this up because I feel Frau Faust and The Ancient Magus’ Bride are two manga that are perfect for this sort of examination. While you would never mistake a chapter of Frau Faust as one from The Ancient Magus’ Bride at the same time they are both unmistakably by Kore Yamazaki. Lets look what makes these two series different from each other while still having many of the same points of appeal.

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