Manga of the Month: Land of the Lustrous

Land of the Lustrous (宝石の国) by Haruko Ichikawa

hisui_icon_4040_round Back when Anime Strike was still a thing it was a bit of the kiss of death for discussion surrounding any series that was put on the service. With the need for subscription to both Amazon Prime and Anime Strike it made the service extremely unpopular. The double pay wall meant that all but the most dedicated (and well to do) fans used the service. Now the normal “alternative methods” of watching licensed shows still exist but shows that are not easily to stream tend to get left out of the general conversation of fandom. It takes a very special show to stand out in a way that a larger audience will spend the time and/or money to find a show that is not just dropped in their laps. Land of the Lustrous was one of those shows.

I was honestly surprised that people were talking about Land of the Lustrous despite being on Anime Strike. Now some shows on Anime Strike are just not very good so it makes sense they would disappear from discussions but even very good shows like The Great Passage did not stand a chance. So when Anime Strike finally died the few shows that people were still talking about before the lowering of the second pay wall stood out. One of the shows that I remember having lots of buzz was Land of the Lustrous. It was as impressive as I had heard and made me very curious to see what the manga was like. Haruko Ichikawa’s work on the manga opened my eyes even more.

The last time I did the Manga of the Month I mentioned the somewhat rare case where the manga and the anime but both very good but also have enough of a difference in execution to make both version worth experiencing. I’m happy to say that Land of the Lustrous falls into that same illustrious category. It gives the reader a very different experience than the anime but being just as good. That alone makes it worth talking about. The fact that the series is a unique mixture of philosophy, mystery, and action takes it from the realm of should talk about to must talk about.

Continue reading

Manga of the Month: The Promised Neverland

The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demiz

hisui_icon_4040_round Sometimes you finish all your work for the day but you will have 20 minutes before you can go home. As anyone who has ever worked in an office will tell you that is YouTube time. It is not enough time to start working on anything you need to do but it is also not enough time to waste doing nothing. Finding myself in that sweet spot I loaded up a video that caught my eye about The Current State of Shonen Jump. It was an examination of the magazine since the conclusion of Bleach and Naruto. It is a solid analysis of the state of the magazine after they lost two of the recent Big Three titles. The thing that caught my attention the most was mostly just a footnote in the greater context of the video. One of the most popular titles in the magazine was currently The Promised Neverland. Other than Hinomaru-Zumou I was fairly familiar with all the other titles on the list. Hinomaru-Zumou is a sports manga about sumo without an anime so it is essentially invisible to the English-speaking fandom. I was far more surprised that I had never of heard of The Promised Neverland. That made me immediately buckle down and do some research.

The more I looked into The Promised Neverland the more I was surprised I had not heard at least a bit of buzz about it. Now it started in the middle of the pack rankings wise in Japan but really jumped up in popularity as the series has gone on. Carl from Ogiue Maniax described it as Death Note with tiny orphans. While it is hardly a perfect description it works perfectly as an elevator pitch. Demonic Seraph of the End or a cat and mouse version of Attack on Titan also work as broad overviews that sort of hint at what the series is about. Sufficed to say much like Death Note it feels a little different from the normal fare found in Shonen Jump. If you find that intriguing like I did then you definitely want to read the rest of this.

Continue reading

The Fiend with Twenty Faces: Many Masks Hiding One True Face

narutaki_icon_4040_round Reading the Boy Detectives (or the Detective Boys) by Edogawa Rampo (or Ranpo) is like picking up the American classics Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. Various people might have different reactions to hearing the name Nancy Drew, but we can probably all agree it conjures the idea of a bygone era. And yet these stories endure and are still childhood classics; the same is true of the Boy Detectives. Well-worn copies of the Boy Detectives books will always be found in Japanese libraries.

The Fiend with Twenty Faces is the first of the Boy Detectives stories and became a mega hit. The story cements not only the Boy Detectives, but also phantom thief Twenty Faces, and even the already known Detective Kogoro, as characters that would remain popular for generations.

hisui_icon_4040_round “This time I have them for sure.” says the detective. This time will be different. Each time this thief has made law enforcement a laughing-stock by boldly send a letter to the victim in advance as if daring anyone to stop them. The phantom thief has gotten past the police several times but now they think they understand their criminal mind. The thief is part spy, part magician, and part strategist all blended together in a villainous package. Every precaution has been taken. The museum has been swept for surprises that may have been planted there. Every staff member and officer are known to the detective so no flimsy disguises can be used. And this time there is an unexpected trap in place to catch the thief unawares. Tonight will be different. Tonight justice will triumph.

If you have been reading manga and watching anime for more than a few years that story should be very familiar to you.  The great battle between the phantom thief and the great detective has played out many times over the years in Japan media. The Lupin Gang vs. Inspector Zenigata. Detective Conan vs. the Kaito Kid. Cat’s Eye vs. Toshio Utsumi. Saint Tail vs. Asuka Jr. The list goes on but you see a pattern there. Each of those rivalries is a little different. One might add a romantic angle while another might sprinkle in a magical girl twist. How evil or benevolent the thief is can vary from story to story. Sometimes the thief and the detective are even forced to work together. But no matter the iteration they all have a common ancestor. They all trace their conflict back to the battle of Detective Kogoro and his Boy Detectives vs. the dastardly Twenty Faces.

The Fiend with Twenty Faces has become part of the very DNA of Japanese storytelling. While the concept of the Phantom Thief is older than the book it is clearly the story that took an idea that was somewhat popular in Japan and made it a part of the cultural lexicon. Any book that influential to detective fiction in Japan seems necessary reading to us on the Reverse Thieves so with decided to give this book a long overdue look.

Continue reading