Welcome to this week's 2nd Sunday! If you haven't yet, I'd advise giving the preview here a look for the TOC, preview for next issue and Aozakura color page! (Though the last of those I'll post again here in higher quality.) There's an issue there for the takin' so I'm gonna hop, hop, hop right to it.
As seen on the preview, this week's cover is AKB48. What I didn't know when I did the preview was just how much Idols would be taking over the first part of the mag. I'll post a few pages, but really unless you're in Japan it won't matter too much.
This issue is advertising the start of an "Idol ace" vote off where fans of the ladies can vote for who they think is the best idol of them all. I've said it countless times here that I really have little knowledge (and quite frankly interest) in Idols so I can't say I know too much about them, but as mentioned above, if you intend to be in Japan then you can vote for your favorite.
In slightly more Sunday related news, RINNE's 3rd season will get a 2nd ending theme by Mone Kamishiraishi called "Puzzle". Kamishiraishi is an actress who's breaking into singing now --though many overseas probably know her for playing the heroine in "Your name", which I can say was a pretty stellar performance. I wish her well in her new endeavor, even though watching Rinne is difficult due the Anime network having it in an unpleasant choke-hold.
I posted it in the preview but here it is in higher quality --the color page ringing in the 49th chapter of Aozakura! The 4th volume is also due out soon, but I'm pretty sure this lead color page is more celebrating the fact that the series is now upon it's 1st year of serialization which is a pretty major landmark in the world of weekly manga magazines.
When we left Kondo last time, his friend had come to alert him of the seriousness that is being part of the Japanese defense force by tell him of the "Mysterious ship of Noto Peninsula" incident in 1999 where a group came upon a mysterious ship which might be in peril --or be the trap of a suicide bomber. Even knowing this the sailors would have to press on even if it meant they could very well lose their lives. The incident seems to be referring to a time in 1999 where Japanese authorities had to give up pursuit of suspected Korean spies. You can read a bit more about it here, as while I'd love to talk more about it, this is a blog about manga, not historical events
as interesting as this whole thing is.
In any case he asks Kondo again --"do you have the resolve to kill...or be killed?" Kondo replies that while he's not sure if he does or not at this moment, that he has made good friends and had plenty of positive experiences in his training even if there have been hard times as well. For now he can only dedicate himself to his training and studying. Y'know, I really like this answer --it would have been really out there if he had straight up said yes, and obviously ended the manga if he said no. He's a new recruit so it makes sense that he hasn't really thought about the implications, and him having this self awareness is refreshing.
That being said, Kondo still thinks about his conversation with his upperclassman and it does weigh on him. What does he want to protect? What does he want to do?
The chapter ends after this page here, but I think Nikaido does a good job with what is unsaid. Kondo and his childhood friend simply share a moment of silence and then begin a conversation about his days of training. Definitely the tune in this chapter was a lot of what is unsaid versus what we're given verbatim. I may have to give Aozakura more focus on the blog a bit more if the writing can remain as strong as this!
With just 4 more files to go until his 1,000th, Mr. Shounen Sunday is...taking a vacation?! Yup, Conan's off for three weeks after this chapter. Although the implications here --Ran is going on a school trip which Conan obviously can't go on, are pretty huge. Conan, er, Shinichi wants to go...so how will this quandary be solved? You'll have to find out in issue 33!
We go from Detectives to Gunslingers with Evans who's been asked to keep watch over a dance hall for bad hombres. When he's asked to join in the festivities, he makes it sound like such activities are beneath a professional such as himself, but in truth this lawman doesn't have the moves. --Evans is afraid of dancing.
In what is probably the cutest thing in Sunday this week, Pheebs is also in attendance of this dance party, but is shy because she doesn't know anyone there. I mean look at her face on the bottom panel, left page....this is premium moe content, people! Anyway she overhears from the party goers that Evans is here, and despite herself brings a drink to him just to find that he's awkwardly trying to learn the way of the dance. As my policy is not to upload entire chapters to this blog ever, I had to skip the page where his attempts are shown in detail --a hard decision as they're pretty hilarious, but the point is still clear. Evans wants to get on the dance floor but is too socially awkward.
Pheebs is feeling particularly awkward because (on another page I had to unfortunately skip) because the one friend she runs into is here on a date, and so to save face she leaves the party and finds Evans who manages to lie his way out of an awkward situation by saying he's stretching to ensure he's in top condition as the guard of this party. This is where things get great though, since Evans has enough self awareness (the theme this week I suppose?) to know that having a drink with a pretty lady under moonlight is the perfect place to be confessed to! What surprises me is that Evans is totally prepared to say yes to her --though I guess he is pretty desperate for a girlfriend, heh. Sadly, Pheebs is waaaay too shy to ask him outright and instead asks if he'd dance with her. Swing and a miss. Though Dad lecture mode comes up and Dad says that maybe, just maybe when a girl is alone with you and wants to do a thing, that she likes you?
Though hey, they're both awkward which is what makes this series a joy. Evans turns her down saying that he sucks at dancing, and Pheebs rather than just admitting her feelings instead says she was just hoping to see him flustered, --which they both are, so much so when the patron says they'll be closing up soon the two gunslingers act as if they're aiming for bad guys and play it off like they've seen a cat or something. I'm still amazed that Kuriyama is able to keep this plot as fresh as it is this far in, honestly! Especially now that it seems clear that the girl in Evans's sights is Phoebe --I was thinking it'd be like James Bond but with more awkwardness. In any case the teaser for the next chapter indicates that he --or someone gets a love letter from Pheebs which I'm admittedly interested in seeing.
Next up is RINNE, except this week Rokumon is the character in the spotlight.
Rinne sends Rokumon on a errand to pick up some Shinigami tools of the trade with the warning that he shouldn't waste the very little money they have on anything else but what he asked for. Rokumon is ready to comply with this request but on his way to the sale he runs into the ghost of a little girl who isn't able to pass on and can't help but ask if she's okay. --Though I guess it's pretty obvious in that page that she really isn't, not with her leg in a bear trap. In any case it seems this lass is strapped for cash and looking to capture a ghost to hit it big.
The problem is that the wanted posters going around (shown above) of that ghost are fake as Rinne finds out in a Shinigami meeting. A shame Rokumon doesn't know this, and uses a bit of his (Rinne's) money to save the girl under the pretense that they'll make it big once they capture the ghost depicted on the fake wanted poster. Unfortunately for him not only does he not know the reward is fake, but the little girl is extremely accident prone (which explains the situation she was in when he met her.) When Rokumon falls into a lake and she's unable to save him, she does the noblest thing and...abandons him.
Rinne is able to save his cat ---though it's more like because Rokumon is the only one who knows where the girl who has his money is he's saving that information. Hey, at least he's honest. Rokumon's murderous glare is so good though. In any case they manage to find the girl and it turns out she's after some cash lodged in a tree?
It turns out the poor girl couldn't pass on because her poor parents were going to get her little brother a video game for his birthday despite being poor, but when she died in an accident all of their funds went toward her funeral so she feels bad her brother never got the game he wanted. Rinne wants to turn in the lost money for some of the reward, but the girl brings it back herself so he gets nothing. Meanwhile her little brother has grown up into a man who makes tons of money so it seems the whole thing was a waste for everyone....or well, the quintessential RINNE ending, hah.
We jump from June to December in the 23rd chapter of Maiko-san. The scanslations are making pretty big strides to catch up to the Japanese releases of the series so it may receive less coverage in the future...consider this fair warning. I want to represent the series that aren't getting any focus in English at all, so those that are getting scanslated quickly or are officially picked up by licensing companies may drop from focus. That being said, this cover page looks really stunning. I wonder if those are drawn or photographs? Either way Koyama knows how to arrange the panels in an aesthetically pleasing way.
It's Christmas time, but for the girls in training this doesn't really mean much. While the city outside of their world is illuminated and full of merriment, their days continue as usual. The only thing they really have to look forward to are the cakes brought in by patrons as presents. While the other girls have had their fill from customers, Su-chan hasn't gotten a single one from anyone, poor thing.
It's a good thing she's friends with a chef though! Together Su-chan and Kiyo make a cake and we get more of Koyama's penchant for letting art tell her story over words. I feel like in another manga this would be explained via text, but here we're taken through each step of preparation --it makes for some super good immersion.
Today's dish is Fruit Cake, and it's with this that Christmas comes to Su-chan. A Christmas with someone you care about is the best kind isn't it?
As stated in the preview, next up are two series from Sunday's web publication "Sunday Webry". "Hitotsubana" and "Bocchi Hakase to Robot Shoujo Zetsubou Teki Utopia". Both of these series recently dropped a first volume which is why they're being represented here. "Hitotsubana" is being tagged as a "Dark Love Comedy" while "Bocchi Hakase" is a "Daily life comedy". I ended up reading both before getting this week's Sunday, and while I can say Hitotsubana isn't my cup of tea as someone who dislikes the romance genre in any form, Bocchi Hakase charmed me almost immediately, and I even went as far as working on the translations for the first two chapters as well as buying the first volume. I'll talk about both below, so let's go~
For one thing, I'm not sure why it --Hitotsubana is tagged as a "dark love comedy" because chapter one was just, well, dark. Minami --the author has a very shoujo-esque art style, but the web publication isn't inherently for one demographic over another so I guess I should drop such pretentious demographic titles and enjoy what's there right?
Things start simple enough with the protagonist starting school and meeting a girl who he's immediately smitten with. Akito --the boy is one who apparently never smiles and he's apparently the attention of a girl who's introduction to him is to force feed him a meat pie. She is pretty cute, I'll give her that.
The first chapter is mainly their interactions over a certain summer "a year ago". Which as you probably guessed means that this chapter is actually a flashback before the real story. I really like Minami's sense of lighting panel work on this page. Everything seems so gentle as if it'd break if you touch it....somewhat like a first love in high school would be.
To my (and seemingly his) surprise, Akito blurts out a confession to the girl --Yuiko which she seemingly accepts. The right page says it all "And such 'we' began". Akito had always thought he was someone others mostly ignored but meeting Yuiko changed him, though this may not necessarily be for the best as we'll see.
A bit of an errata, but I think I translated "Hitotsubana" last week as "One flower" but we get an explanation of that here. I'm not wrong
as usual but the meaning has a bit more significance than a single flower would imply. --It is a flower that one puts their all into searching for and supporting. Some call it a "cursed flower" because it can doom people who search frantically and never find it, but in short it's less of a number and more of a thing that one pursues with all their might. Akito wonders then if rather than it being a "thing" it could be a "person"?
As Yuiko is older than Akito, her graduation is coming up soon, she asks Akito to come to her high school once he's graduated, going as far as saying that she's glad that they met.
On the top panel, Akito thinks about how he's been able to feel all sorts of emotions within himself since he met his upperclassmate Yuiko. He runs to the class to ask her to wait for him until they're able to attend the same school together and....
To make matters worse the guy she's with --Miyoshi has a girlfriend and isn't interested in pursuing a relationship with her. Yuiko says she can't imagine herself with anyone else through her tears, even going as far as saying she won't tell Miyoshi's girlfriend about their tryst which he could care less about. Two relationships, two hearts, too much turmoil.
And here's where the "cursed" part of the Hitotsubana comes in. Akito put everything on the line to pursue his "flower" and in the end only has a bunch of grief to show for it. It's then that the shy boy dies, and something else is born...Minami's choice to show the kiss in the final panel in the right being obscured by marker-like ink strokes is pretty striking, as is the lack of BG on the left. Also the fact that the character designs go from very classic shoujo to something a bit more contemporary is an interesting touch as the story changes gears.
A year later, Yuiko and her friends are preparing to welcome in the new underclassmen, one of which is Akito Kurauchi....the very same shy boy has leveled up his looks in an effort to teach a certain someone "all sorts of emotions."
Getting revenge has now become Akito's "hitotsubana". Again, romance isn't my cup of tea, but I can say it's an interesting start to the series --if you want to see more you'll have to pick up the first volume which is out in stores now.
Now to the other side of the spectrum is Bocchi Hakase which is more of a light hearted comedy. Admittedly the title and this title page really conjures up less than light hearted images, but this is definitely a case where you can't judge a book by it's cover.
The series chronicles a professor and the robot girl he built --neither character has names aside from what we'd use to describe them, and their misadventures in living together. What's interesting here is that the professor doesn't have any dialog, leaving the robot girl to carry conversations on her own. Yamada Kanehito makes this work though through just how deadpan the robot girl is to her creator(?) Here she asks the professor to move aside so she can clean the room, and asks if he wants to be treated like garbage when he doesn't. On the right, the robot girl asks for a pet, and when the Prof trusses himself up in a dog collar, her response is "I asked for a dog, not a pig." The humor is very low key without relying on the manzai that Japanese comedies often do (where there's a straight man and the comic relief) simply because the robot girl does all of the talking.
While that premise alone would be pretty cute and funny, it's within the first chapter that Yamada hits us with some surprising worldbuilding --the apparently a meteor crashing into the earth some time ago has eradicated mankind leaving the prof and robo girl as the only survivors.
The art is also pretty stunning for a comedy series --you can see from Yamada's mastery of perspective and paneling just how big, beautiful and desperately lonely this world without people is.
The first chapter is told through a series of vignettes between the Prof and the robot girl, and ends with the prof sending transmissions out to look for other humans despite the robot girl's assertions that there are no survivors. The series charmed me enough to leap upon a translation and the first volume from amazon Japan in the same week, simply because of how...well, simple it is. Yamada has crafted a world where anything is possible --a rare comedy series that has a bit of heart and world building in it. It's actually very reminiscent of the western cartoon "Adventure Time" which I'm a big fan of, so it's no wonder I gravitated to this series so quickly. In any case there's more than meets the eye, but since I'm working on translations, you'll just have to wait for them to come out! I'll be sure to link them once they do, no worries.
We move back to the magazine proper with this week's chapter of Tenshou no Quadrable, where two of the protags have teamed up with Oda Nobunaga in a bid to keep from being killed in a gladiator match by a tyrannical royal. Let's see how they fare.
Mansho activates his ability "Jugon Ame no aohada" which is able to absorb the blows of he spears aimed at them. (The translation is something like "Cursed seal: Heaven's blue skin". As he explains, he's able to use seals to manipulate the way blood flows in his body, and as such strengthen parts to a point that even spears just bounce off him like toys.
Nobunaga is rightfully shocked by this while Migel who has been incredulous in regard to Nobunaga this whole time laments having to use the seals on small fry --something Mansho says was for the purpose of showing the enemy how outclassed they are. Meanwhile their enemy decides to ramp up the ante, with an egg?
I gotta say between Fujita and Arai, WSS has some of the more awesome monster designs in shounen magazine-dom. I mean look at that zebra thingy, and how Arai tilts the panel over as a perfect way of showing just how massive it is and give us a dual page spread in the process. Also the zoom in of it's eyes to show just how creepy it is is a nice touch.
Luckily for them, the other boys show up just in time to provide backup....but as the spoiler text on the bottom asked, how the heck did they find out that their friends were here? We'll have to find out next issue.
Let's get our seiyuu on with Tenshi and Akuto's 120th chapter. Akuto is annoyed that his co workers aren't as open to practicing as he is, and it makes sense --they do have jobs and lives outside of voice acting after all! Meanwhile since he treats voice acting like one would treat fighting in a regular shounen manga, he's annoyed with how everyone else isn't striving to greater heights.
It's while he's complaining that he runs into Daikoku Ichiriki who's the "principal" of Seven Star productions --the agency that Akuto works for. Daikoku says he'd like Akuto to meet someone --a voice actress who's been in the game since when anime was broadcast in black and white. Akuto is surprised that a veteran like that would work for the same agency he's a part of. We aren't given her name right away, but he is introduced to the veteran seiyuu who thinks he's a cute little thing.
She introduces herself as the "last boss" of the Sugar girl anime, which surprises Akuto --how long is this anime supposed to run anyway? In any case she's not just here to voice act, but to teach as well. She explains that back when she was younger that a 30 minute anime could take up to ten hours to record, and one mistake meant doing the whole episode again from the start. Which is to say that "resets" are forbidden and each time they step to the mic they should do it as if their lives are on the line.
We finally get her name on the final page of the chapter --Tamaki Tokiko --and look at that game face! The gentle elderly lady from the lecture is gone and someone befitting the mantle of "last boss" has appeared. How will Akuto stack up? Next issue...!!
If there's one series that I keep thinking I'll put down, but refuses to stay down it'd have to be Meteor Girl. As much as I thought i'd be done with the series after the obligatory first three chapters, it's managed to stay consistently compelling, and this chapter is no different. Picking up from last time, Hane wants to talk to a meteor girl, and apparently she's found one...though oddly enough the girl who jumped into their midst doesn't seem to remember how she got here...
The girl seems completely confused as to how she got here, but she at least seems to remember that she was transporting the old lady on her back to the hospital. What's even more perplexing is that the girl doesn't even seem to be from around this area as she asks the old lady where the hospital is. Has she been in some sorta trance or something? In any case, Ishiyama shows their proficiency with horror manga like panels with Hane's eyes on the right --she looks scary and the only thing she's asking is if the girl they're talking to is a Meteor Girl.
Tetto jumps in this situation, apparently defusing something as the girl's eyes indicate she was about to head back to trance mode until he showed up. She comes back to her senses and asks him where the nearest hospital is, and while Hane doesn't want to let go of her lead she realizes this isn't the time for it and offers to go to the hospital with the girl --while dragging Tetto with her.
It seems the old lady is suffering from motion sickness --probably related to being on this girl's back. The Doc here is less than hospitable and tells them to take her home since her sickness isn't critical, and when Tetto asks if it wouldn't be better to let her rest there for a bit, he refuses. The girl from earlier thinks this is awful of him, but Doc says he basically gets off on young girls being rude to him which gets him a slap to the face.
The girl is clearly stronger than the average bear, and is about to show the Doc her stuff when the nurse comes in and defuses the situation, but to her and everyone's surprise she reveals that the clearly younger than her girl is her older sister? Meanwhile two mysterious guys in black are looking for a girl that they only have a more than ten year old photo of --and she looks quite familiar. --They even say she looks exactly like this picture despite it being so old. The side blurb says the story is only going to get more intriguing from here, so I guess I'm on the hook for another week.
In a strange position near the back of the magazine this week is Souboutei, which starts with Frol's past and the first time she used her ability --by mistake. It's heavily implied that she was about to lose her innocence by way of prostitution, though Fujita doesn't directly say that --just that she was with a "customer", and that her father (an alcoholic) and mother are derelict in their duties as parents.
The chapter title is "Frol Skies" which I suppose means something in Swedish...ah how I wish I had time to look it up. Anyway as I mentioned last week it seems the more we learn of her, the more developed her character design becomes. Also obligatory dual page spread. --Oh and she's from Helsinki apparently.
One thing I do really like about Fujita is that he doesn't spear expressionism on his female characters in a bid to have them look "cute" or "beautiful" all of the time. Here Frol is going to use her powers --probably for the last time to bring in the Nitrogen the fighters in the Souboutei need to bring down the house once and for all. Prof. Auguste knows the significance of this and commands her to stop as Takoha is treated to her past via telepathy. --Frol is an extra mouth to feed and as such is thrown out by her parents as a monster --it's the same from other kids as she seems to always be able to "summon" things they forgot somehow.
Dr. Auguste takes her in as part of his research --going as far as naming her his adopted daughter. Meanwhile in the present, Frol explains herself to Takoha as well as thanking him for saving her from the house earlier. Takoha wants her to stop this --from killing herself to save them, but Frol is undeterred as the final panel on the right shows.
This is the only thing she can do to save them, so she asks Takoha to please not interfere. Her whole life she's been looking out of her "window" to see "bluer skies" than she ever has, and now they're in reach.
Meanwhile Rokuro and the truck drivers are being pursued by the defense force and it's looking like they're going to run right into the house if someone doesn't do something, however a strange sound stops them in their tracks....what's going on?
A dual page spread as Frol leaps summoning all of the Nitrogen they need, but by doing this she's not only doomed herself to die of over exposure but to the whims of the house and it's slaves.
"I've finally seen them, Takoha...Such beautiful skies". It's unclear if this is the end or not, but either way...you were too good for this world Frol...
On the climatic battle front, Mushibugyo won't be beat as Mugai and Jinbee go up against the final threat in this manga, and Fukuda continues to strut his stuff even in the back of the magazine like this.
There's not much to say about these sequences except how intense they are. There's no need for words as these warriors go at it with each and every panel being dedicated to landing that one decisive blow against the foe. This is shounen manga in it's purest form --it's true essence.
Fukuda's inclusion of the ink splots on the top page as Jinbee releases his ultimate attack --Mt. Fuji cleaver lends so much character to the page as well as the intensity of him slicing clean through all of the panels on the page. Meanwhile on the right, the baddie reaching out of the panel to dodge Mugai and Jinbee's strikes is especially wonderful in creating a sense of space and atmosphere on an otherwise flat page.
What's really important here --though it's hard to convey if you haven't been reading this manga from the start, is Jinbee who has always looked up to Mugai --in fact one could say that he (Mugai) is what Jinbee strove to be, now talks to him like an equal. Furthermore Mugai who has been the lone wolf of this manga admits to himself that he's scared of dying, but can maintain his composure and charge into battle because Jinbee is here with him. Again this tacit understanding without words and change of attitudes is the shounen pathos at work. Characters grow through battle --not just physically but mentally and spiritually. Jinbee now acknowledges his own strength, while Mugai acknowledges his need for others. It's a beautiful thing --especially with Fukuda's art leading the way.
It is because they have this trust in one another that Mugai is able to fufill the promise he made to Jinbee so long ago that he'd have his back. Again it doesn't make much sense if you haven't been reading, but man is it satisfying when a shounen manga reaches it's climax like this.
This week's Youkai Giga features the "Toufu Kozou" or "Tofuu boy". A youkai who appears in many picture books despite people not really knowing what it actually looks like. It's said it takes the form of a child many times, but what is it really? This week is about a lower ranked Samurai and his run in with the youkai who...doesn't sound or look much like a boy or child at all.
The young man makes sandals that don't seem to be selling at all, and is seemingly considering throwing his life away in service as he has nothing else --something the youkai seems to know all about strangely enough, as well as him giving his money away to a crying boy despite being dirt poor himself. Despite this it says if he's wanting to die so badly then he should just dunk his head in it's toufu. --but if he chooses to stay alive good things will happen to him. After all it is an honest youkai! The man is incredulous to the youkai's claims and in response to that, it shoves toufu in his face....
And thanks him for looking after her(?) little brother. The youkai asks if her(?) face seems monstrous, and he answers with a vague "Dunno about that". The blurb on the side says "If you keep on living..." Which is a nice moral to this story, and probably(?) the first youkai giga that didn't actually feature any youkai --just the legend of one, which is a pretty interesting way of staying on subject while playing around with the narrative in different ways. Satou's work is definitely grand and I'm having a good time covering it.
And that's it for this week's Sunday! Check out the preview for the next issue contents, and be sure to hit up this space next week around this time for more Mid week Sunday fun! Until then, take care!