Manga of the Month: The Ancient Magus’ Bride

The Ancient Magus’ Bride (魔法使いの嫁) by Kore Yamazaki

hisui_icon_4040_round As someone who has been playing tabletop role-playing games for decades, I am always a fan of a good magic setting. I love exploring magic systems, learning about magical organizations, and thinking about spell possibilities. So fantasy series in anime and manga certainly scratch this itch. Kate and I usually give all but the most lecherous and/or despicable fantasy series a chance to see what they have to offer. While I love the standard sword and sorcery medieval setting my preferred setting is series where magic lies hidden beneath the world we know today. There is a strong appeal to the idea that magic is hiding just around the corner right outside of your vision. In my humble opinion, it is a reason Harry Potter is so popular. I know it is the reason I like Mage: The Ascension and Type-Moon material.

Therefore I was naturally inclined to see out The Ancient Magus’ Bride. It’s a rich magical world set in the shadowlands of England where a half fae mage takes in a young lady as his new apprentice and his wife. The Ancient Magus’ Bride is a stunning combination of fantastic art, rich world building, and subtle storytelling draw fans of fantasy into a beautifully melancholy dream of fairyland.

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Baccano! Novel 1: The Rolling Bootlegs—Immortal Gangsta’s Paradise

hisui_icon_4040_round I was recently at the Kinokuniya Bookstore since it is on the way to the Mid-Manhattan Library. After looking at the new English-language manga I sent out two tweets. The first was the cover of  Queen Emeraldas manga and the second was the cover of the Baccano! novel. I asked if anyone had read either book and what they thought of it. Interestingly enough the Queen Emeraldas manga got quite a few responses but I did not see any conversation around Baccano! That was not the expected reaction at all.

I say that because I always thought that American fandom (or at least the anitwitter portion) loved Baccano! Whenever Durarara!! comes up it seems like someone always has to bring up that “they are fine with more Durarara!! but what they are really waiting for is more of the far superior Baccano!” It even has all the classic hallmarks for mainstream popularity: It has a Western setting, it has lots of violence, it can be sexy but it does not have excessive fan service. Not every series that has that combination is popular, they still have to be good, but any show that has all three is far more likely to be very popular.

It seemed like a formula for instant success. Now it might have been that I posted my tweet at a time that all the Leiji Matsumoto fans were out in full force but the Baccano fans were AFK but it made me extremely eager to read the first book. Was the silence just bad timing, a sign that Baccano! fandom has sadly died off since there has been no new anime since 2007 or is the book itself the weak link in the chain.

narutaki_icon_4040_round Baccano! like its (more?) well-known cousin Durarara!! is based on a very long running series of novels by Ryohgo Narita. But unlike DRRR!!, Baccano’s anime only finished up a couple of story arcs before ending. Though many of us still hold out hope that more anime is in-store, we’re lucky enough to now have access to the original novels in case those hopes are never met.

The first Baccano! novel covers some familiar ground and characters of the anime but in a more linear fashion.

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The Birth of Kitaro: The God of All Yokai

narutaki_icon_4040_round Having just recently finished Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa: A History of Japan, it seemed like a golden opportunity to sample his most enduring work Gegege no Kitaro. So when D+Q offered us a review copy of The Birth of Kitaro we jumped at the chance.

hisui_icon_4040_round If you have ever enjoyed Mushishi, Natsume Yuujinchou, Mononoke, xxxHolic, Kekkaishi, or Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan then you owe a great deal of thanks to Shigeru Mizuki. Much like Osamu TezukaGo Nagai, or Rumiko Takahashi he is an artist that has influenced countless titles in an unmistakable manner. Every manga and anime that has spirits, demons, ghouls, ghosts, gods, devils, or monsters has a touch of Gegege no Kitaro in it. In fact most of them are either borrowing heavily for the structure of Gegege no Kitaro or dipping into the cavalcade of mythical Japanese creatures that Shigeru Mizuki popularized. In fact most of them do both.

Yokai existed before Shigeru Mizuki started writing about them and would have been the topic of anime and manga even if he had never been born. They are an integral part of the Volksgeist of Japan. What Shigeru Mizuki did was put his own very particular take on the concept that has become just and much part of Japanese storytelling as the Yokai themselves.

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