Manga of the Month: Skip and Loafer

Skip and Loafer by Misaki Takamatsu

Mitsumi has moved from a small town to Tokyo to live with her aunt and start a new chapter of her school life. She has grand ambitions of becoming a public servant (and mayor of her hometown someday)! Only come to find out, she is a bit less astute than one might imagine. She get hopelessly lost on the first day of school, pukes on a teacher after her opening ceremonies speech, but befriends a handsome slacker along the way and thus her new school life full of missteps begins.

I honestly picked up Skip and Loafer because the girl’s face on the cover made me laugh (and sums up the character perfectly btw). It just got better from there. The series balances the things you expect from a school comedy (navigating friendships, low-stakes misunderstandings, budding romance) with a willingness to show how flawed everyone is. Mitsumi has the classic can-do, nothings-gonna-get-me-down attitude of a shojo lead (despite running in a seinen magazine), but all her intelligence is in book smarts. In contrast, she lacks self-awareness, making for a protagonist who feels normal but not average. That robustness of character extends to every member of the cast and is what makes Skip and Loafer comedy gold while also being incredibly endearing.

It has been sometime since a school life story really captured me, but Takamatsu has given the genre a fresh twist with a heroine who is earnest and well-intentioned but also an overconfident blockhead.



Manga of the Month: Urusei Yatsura

Urusei Yatsura by Rumiko Takahashi

I could have always made Urusei Yatsura a manga of the month. There was nothing stopping me. While Ranma is what really made me a hardcore anime fan it was Urusei Yatsura that solidified me as a Rumiko Takahashi fan. As one of my favorite manga of all time it has always been a simple choice. It was always a question of when more than if. I was just waiting for the right time and this just seems to be just the perfect moment. With the premium Viz rerelease of the manga coming out regularly and the new anime on TV this seems like the best time to talk about Rumiko Takahashi’s major break out hit.

Ataru Moroboshi is the unluckiest boy in the world and probably the most horny as well. These two qualities come to a head when he is chosen as Earth’s champion in a game of tag against alien invaders. When he catches the alien princess and saves Earth but accidently becomes engaged to the electric oni, Lum in the process. The town of Tomobiki soon becomes an vortex for aliens, monsters, and all sorts of other weirdness. Atatru is trying his best to get an alien girlfriend or two but his fiancĂ© is determined to keep her “darling” in line.

For better or for worse Rumiko Takahashi’s later series always have a much tighter theme and flow. You have a fairly good idea what your going to get in any chapter of Inuyasha or Maison Ikkoku. But Urusei Yatsura feels much more like jazz in its freeform nature. One chapter could be a sexy comedy about aliens, the next is nothing more than a giant set up for a pun with folk creatures, and the next chapter a touching romantic interlude. The only main theme is that the Urusei Yatsura cast are horrible people who are very amusing when they are horrible to each other.

There are some classics of manga and anime which are amazing pieces of history that give the reader a far greater understanding and context for the medium as a whole but can feel like homework. They are rewarding in the end but you have to put in major effort truly digest them. Urusei Yatsura is a key foundation of modern shonen romance and comedy manga but it also just darn fun to read. It is simultaneously educational and entertaining.

Plus Shinobu is the best Rumiko Takahashi character ever. This is a fact. If you disagree you are just wrong.


Manga of the Month: The Men Who Created Gundam

The Men Who Created Gundam
by Hideki Ohwada, Hajime Yatate, and Yoshiyuki Tomino

The Men Who Created Gundam is a definitely 100% accurate, not exaggerated in any way, portrayal of the creation of Mobile Suit Gundam and its rise to cultural phenomenon.

Told through a series of vignettes, The Men Who Created Gundam gives us glimpses into the defining moments of Gundam’s beginning and takes us through the 1981 festival that kicked off the premiere of the 1st movie. Unsurprisingly, it was no mean feat to bring this series to life at the time. Yoshiyuki Tomino worked tirelessly to recruit first Yoshikazu Yashuhiko (who set the defining look for the series) and then many others whose desires to create something new, dark, dramatic, and beautiful aligned with his. All the while the cast and crew were dealing precariously with sponsors’ demands, money, health crises, and finite time. So turn back the clock to 1978 and get ready to learn just what a brilliant, manipulative, pervy, trash-talking, visionary Tomino is.

In addition to its hyperbolic depiction of Gundam’s history, the book includes non-fiction prose sections which delve into greater detail about things like like Tomino’s Gundam cancelation announcement in Animec magazine and the rise of Gunpla.