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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Manga of the Month: Isabella Bird in Wonderland

Isabella Bird in Wonderland (ふしぎの国のバード) by Taiga Sassa

Adventuress and writer Isabella Bird arrived in 1870s-era Japan with a grand plan to travel all through the country recording her experience with the culture and people along the way. But Japan was extensively closed to foreigners; few if any were let past the major cities and left to explore the greater country.

Isabella’s fame as a traveler, the help of a friend, and a little extra time spent in Edo gained her access to a rare, unrestricted passport. With her indispensable interpreter Ito in tow, Isabella set off to see the country and make her way north to meet the Ainu people.

During the Meiji-restoration Japan was in a place of great transition. New political rule and a move to new technological advances were soon to change the face of the country and make certain ways of life by-gone. Isabella’s culture shock was played for laughs, but she was deeply interested in the ways of this foreign world and respected it. She was full of humor, wit, kindness, and curiosity.

Taiga Sassa’s art is lush with minute details bring the period to life, and it was inevitable that I would pour over each crafted item, piece of clothing, or architectural component just as Isabella did. Sassa’s precise line work extends to the characters and their expressions as well whether conveying something subtle with their eyes or an over-top reaction. A beautiful manga that feels in line with the work of Kaoru Mori.

Isabella and her travels are real! This manga is based on her actual writings. Having not read Isabella Bird’s travel diary Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, I don’t know how closely this manga sticks to its source material. A rare bilingual edition of the first volume of this manga came out in Japan (which is how I read it).

~kate

Manga of the Month: Flying Witch

Flying Witc(ふらいんぐうぃっち) by Chihiro Ishizuka

hisui_icon_4040_round If you were hoping for a trifecta of titles where the anime and manga are radically different I feel this pick will sadly disappoint you. Flying Witch has a very consistent feel between its various iterations. No matter how your experience Flying Witch you will get a similar relaxed down home feel with vibrant magic, warm friendships , and hilarious family bonding. The manga provides all of this in spades and the anime merely uses the original as a spectacularly solid template.

Flying Witch is the exemplar of magical slice of life shows. It is hardly the first in the genre. Heck most of the original magical girl manga would actually be classified as magical slice of life manga if they were made today. The thing is if you want a title that perfect encapsulates the idea of slice of life with witches then there are few other manga that are so close to a platonic ideal. Other than Makoto and Chinatsu trying to be witches there is nothing even resembling an overarching plot but magic is omnipresent in the manga. This is not Kimagure Orange Road with its almost aggressive disinterest in its super natural aspects. It is a careful balance of the mundanity of country living and fantastical awe of magic. They are seemingly opposite ideas that blend together surprisingly well for a greater whole.

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