7 Billion Needles Vol. 1

By Nobuaki Tadano
192 pages, black and white
Published by Vertical

You might think about buying 7 Billion Needles based entirely off the cover. That’s because Vertical has designed it like an old science-fiction paperback, complete with orange band up at the top, and a large font text description on the back. If this is the sort of thing to make you think, "I need to read this book" then you are fortunately also in luck, because Nobuaki Tadano’s 7 Billion Needles is inspired by the 1950 science-fiction novel Needle by Hal Clement, and this is a book where the cover tells you exactly what you’re in for.

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Slam Dunk Vol. 12

By Takehiko Inoue
192 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

I am rapidly running out of comics by Takehiko Inoue to read. When the next volume of Real is published in November, the translations will have caught up to the series in Japan. And while I have the last couple volumes of Vagabond stashed in reserve for a rainy day, once again the series in English is about to catch up to the series in Japanese. So, after quite a few years, it seemed like a good a time as any to read an older series from Inoue that’s being translated, his other basketball comic: Slam Dunk. Having read his more recent works as of late, going back to Slam Dunk feels a little surprising in places.

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House of Five Leaves Vol. 1

By Natsume Ono
208 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

With House of Five Leaves Vol. 1, another one of the SIGIKKI website’s online strips is making the jump to a print edition. As it’s by Natsume Ono (not simple, Ristorante Paradiso), I knew it wouldn’t be your typical samurai story. What I found, though, was a nice play on the genre where no one is quite what they seem, and I think it’s probably the best of Ono’s works brought into English to date.

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Kobato Vol. 1-2

By CLAMP
164 pages, black and white
Published by Yen Press

Kobato is the latest comic from Japanese creator collective CLAMP, and based on many of their past works that I’ve enjoyed (Suki, xxxHolic, Wish, Cardcaptor Sakura, Legal Drug) I figured it was worth a shot. Yen Press chose to release the first two volumes of the series simultaneously in English, and now that I’ve read them I have to say this was a smart move on their part. Had I only read the first volume on its own, I’m not entirely sure I’d have gone back to the store for a second helping.

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Bakuman Vol. 1

Written by Tsugumi Ohba
Art by Takeshi Obata
208 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

It’s a fair statement to say that Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s series Death Note was a huge, career-making hit for them. It would also be a fair assumption by most readers, at that point, to think that Ohba and Obata were set for life in terms of publishers and the world of manga. As their follow-up series Bakuman shows, though, that’s hardly the case in the manga industry. Bakuman is two parts story, and one part manga business world primer, and I am finding it utterly fascinating.

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Afterschool Charisma Vol. 1

By Kumiko Suekane
208 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

The idea behind Afterschool Charisma has a lot of potential: a school populated almost entirely with clones of famous historical figures, being all raised together. Told primarily through the eyes of the one non-clone (Shiro, the son of one of the professors), it offers up a chance to let us see how given a second chance these characters might either end up the same, or radically different. What we actually get, though, is a book that has a couple of great moments but otherwise ends up feeling more like a clone of far too many other manga series out there.

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Black Blizzard

By Yoshihiro Tatsumi
136 pages, black and white
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

Drawn & Quarterly, over the past few years, has dipped its toe into translating manga into English, primarily the works of creator Yoshihiro Tatsumi. Books like Tatsumi’s autobiography A Drifting Life and short story collections Abandon the Old in Tokyo have proven to be fascinating, looking at his attempts to break free of genre and industry constraints at the time. So when Drawn & Quarterly announced Black Blizzard, Tatsumi’s debut graphic novel, I was intrigued. (And not just because the creation of Black Blizzard is part of the time period retold in A Drifting Life.) What I found, though, was a creator that shows talent but was still beginning to learn his craft.

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Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit Vol. 5

By Motoro Mase
240 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

I’ve noticed more and more that in this day and age where we have long-form stories running in comics, books, television series, and anything else you can imagine, audiences seem less inclined to jump into the middle of a series. I know I’ve been equally guilty of that problem, and so when I received a copy of Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit Volume 5 in the mail, I decided to put it to the test and see how well it would read considering that I’d never read volumes 1-4. As it turns out? I must have picked the right series of which to jump into the middle, because I had a blast.

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Twin Spica Vol. 1

By Kou Yaginuma
192 pages, black and white
Published by Vertical, Inc.

I almost didn’t buy Twin Spica because of the cover. There was something about it, with its creepy little girl holding two glowing objects, while strange lights fell from the sky, that was an instant turn-off. Was it because it felt like a science-fiction version of Children of the Corn? Or a strange reversed-gender riff on Akira? Fortunately, I have friends who are less afraid of strange cover design, and their repeated ravings over Twin Spica made me finally reverse my stance and pick up the first volume. I’m here to tell you that they were right, and I was wrong. If anything, I’m kicking myself for staying away as long as I did.

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Kingyo Used Books Vol. 1

By Seimu Yoshizaki
208 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

As you probably by now, in Japan, there are comics about everything. Cooking, tennis, life in the office, true stories of being homeless, you name it, there’s a manga for you. That’s part of the point of Kingyo Used Books, but I couldn’t help but be a little amused that with this manga, there’s a comic about the joy of comics. It’s simultaneously funny and really fantastic, isn’t it? I will warn you right now, though. Reading Kingyo Used Books might cause you to buy more comics, Japanese or otherwise.

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