Manga of the Month: ACCA

ACCA: 13-Territory Inspection Department by Natsume Ono

The Kingdom of Dowa is subdivided into thirteen autonomous states, all of which coexist peacefully. Or do they? Jean Otus finds himself in the middle of a country-wide coup, and he doesn’t even know it. Or does he? And with all thirteen districts renowned for their unique snacks, only one food can reign supreme. Or can it?

Independent civilian agency ACCA keeps an eye on the workings of each section of Dowa’s kingdom. With an impending coronation assumed, a power struggle is bubbling just below the surface. As vice-chairman of the Inspection Department, basically internal affairs, Jean often travels for business, crisscrossing the thirteen territories. Gaining the nickname The Cigarette Peddler for his love of the now-extravagant luxury good, Jean finds himself in possession of many unique cigarettes over the course of the series, but just what is their significance? The Chief Officers of ACCA have their suspicions about Jean, but they also have their own agendas.

Jean seems to look at the world with an all-knowing gaze. He has a quiet charm with a dry sense of humor, is a thoughtful big brother, and has an appreciation for all types of bread. But he is also a character who plays his cards very close to the vest. Part of the fun of the series is trying to figure out just how much he actually knows. Which in turn makes me questioning whether I really know anything for sure, not because ACCA is confusing, but because it is quiet and subtle.

ACCA is a refreshing political thriller that seamlessly integrates cuisine and comedy among the intrigue. I am just as likely to remember the conspiracies, royal secrets, and double (triple?) agents, as I am the office politics, attentions paid to sandwich breads, and thwarted romances.

~kate

Advertisements

Manga of the Month: Tokyo Tarareba Girls

Tokyo Tarareba Girls by Akiko Higashimura

Are you in the Olympic spirit like me? Then enjoy Tokyo Tarareba Girls! I’m sure a dramedy about single 30-somethings discussing their lives and loves isn’t the first series that seems relevant to an international athletic competition, but these women have a plan: get married before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

From the creator of Princess Jellyfish comes a hilarious and searing look into the concepts of youth, beauty, love, sex, and society’s expectations on women, especially as they age. Successful screenwriter Rinko and her friends meet-up to commiserate their “old age” and play the what-if game of continuously rehashing their past decisions and speculating on how things could have turned out differently. Their feelings about their failed relationships and their desires to find love are complex. They embrace society’s demands of them while also trying to reject those demands; it’s a tough and true place they find themselves in.

Funny, heartbreaking, a little too on the nose at times, and over the top at the right points, Tokyo Tarareba Girls speaks with authenticity about the actual experience of your 30s VS what you thought it would be like in your 20s. Just because life didn’t turn out the way you planned doesn’t make it wrong, but will Rinko learn this herself by the end?

~kate

Manga of the Month: In This Corner of the World

In This Corner of the World (この世界の片隅に) by Fumiyo Kouno

hisui_icon_4040_round When there is both an anime and a manga of the same story the natural question is which of the two should you experience before the other. The simple answer is usually to seek out the original first and then look at the other one if you have the time and money.

When a title is originally an anime seeking out the manga is usually only for those who are gluttons for punishment. They tend to be pale imitations of the original with truncated narratives and inferior storytelling. There are some notable exceptions but they are mostly the exception that proves the rule.

Titles that are manga first fare better when translated to anime. They tend to be hit or miss if they can live up to the original but good anime adaptations of manga are hardly shocking. The real rarity is the anime that surpasses its origin. If anything the anime are usually just very competent direct translations that add little to the story but also don’t lose much either. Overall your best bet is to stick to manga and maybe watch the anime if it has some cool fights or pretty scenery. It also means if you saw the anime there is little reason to read the manga.

This formula is a quick criterion that does a pretty good job of making effective use of your time.  It is important to note that there are some special examples that stand out as prime examples of flying right in the face of that simple rule of thumb. The rare case where the anime and manga are both are each brilliant pieces of art in their own way and worth experiencing twice. Each version tells the same story but is able to do it in a way that is complementary to both versions. Akira and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind are the two titles that come to mind when talking about this. People often prefer one over the other but still recommend that you see both. I would say without hesitation In This Corner of the World is also on this short list of titles that are worth experiencing in both of its forms.

Continue reading