Real Vol. 8

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

I don’t just dislike basketball. I actually semi-loathe the sport. At my office we have lunchtime discussions that veer off onto topics like, "Which reality show would be your worst nightmare?" and "What sport would you least want to be forced to watch hours of?" And for the latter, I must admit, basketball was a high contender. I mention this because I feel it’s important that you understand how much the sport is unappealing to me, so that you understand the power of the next statement I’m about to make. Real isn’t just a good comic about basketball. Real is one of the best comics being published, period.

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Ristorante Paradiso

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

Viz looks to be making a major push on Japanese comic creator Natsume Ono. Several months ago had the release of not simple, and House of Five Leaves is running on SIGIKKI as well as getting its first print edition later this year. They’re both strong comics, and after experiencing both of them it seemed like a natural to try Ono’s earlier work that just hit stores, Ristorante Paradiso. What I found, though, was a surprise in several different ways.

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One Piece: East Blue 1-2-3

By Eiichiro Oda
600 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

I remember reading One Piece when it was first published by Viz back at the launch of SHONEN JUMP and enjoying it. But in what was a modern golden age of manga translations, there were so many books being published at the same time that I quickly fell behind, and before long it dropped to the wayside. Now that Viz is putting a lot of publishing muscle behind the book (unleashing a wave of One Piece books to catch the series up to where it is in Japan, like they did before with Naruto, and releasing a series of 3-in-1 omnibuses), it seemed like a perfect chance to catch up with the series and see just what I’ve been missing.

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Yotsuba&! Vol. 7

By Kiyohiko Azuma
208 pages, black and white
Published by Yen Press

There are some series where the publication schedule can try its fans’ patience. One of them is, easily, Yotsuba&! if you’re reading it in English. Its original publisher released the first three collections in fast succession, then there was a 20-month gap before volumes 4 and 5 showed up. Then, the company decided to get out of the book publishing game, and it was another two years before Yotsuba&! wriggled its way free to Yen Press. With volumes 6 and 7 now out, and an eighth one scheduled for later this spring, it looks like for now the drought is over. The reason why I mention all of this is that there are few series that I think would hold my attention so much over the course of this many delays, but Yotsuba&! manages quite nicely.

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Biomega Vol. 1

By Tsutomu Nihei
216 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Depending on what sort of comics you read, Tsutomu Nihei is best-known in English language comics for the science-fiction manga Blame! or the Wolverine mini-series Snikt!; I can only assume that the exclamation points in both titles is a coincidence. I think it says a lot about Nihei’s comics that while I’ve never actually read one of his comics, I already knew exactly what his art style looked like. That’s actually exactly why I wanted to read Biomega, to see if his stories were as impressive as his visuals.

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Nightschool: The Weirn Books Vol. 1-2

By Svetlana Chmakova
192 pages, black and white
Published by Yen Press

A little over a year ago, I read the fifth Flight anthology and was enthralled by Svetlana Chmakova’s short story, "On the Importance of Space Travel." I’d promised myself since then that I’d give some of her other comics a try, and recently picked up and read the first two volumes of Nightschool. And while the idea of a school for the supernatural is something we’ve all seen before, it’s Chmakova’s style of how she tells the story that makes this series stand out and become memorable.

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Bokurano: Ours Vol. 1

By Mohiro Kitoh
200 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Everyone who’s been reading comics for more than several years has at least one; a discontinued series that they wish would return. Sometimes the creators stop working on the book, other times it’s a problem at the publisher’s end. For me, one of those series is Mohiro Kitoh’s Shadow Star. Cancelled (along with the other series being initially serialized in Super Manga Blast!) by Dark Horse several years ago, the book had just gotten past the halfway point. Hopefully Kitoh’s new series to get translated into English, Bokurano: Ours, won’t fall to such a similar state. Because, in terms of story, it’s hard to ignore the obvious parallels between the two.

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All My Darling Daughters

By Fumi Yoshinaga
208 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

It’s nice to see some creators getting pushed by their publishers. I think that’s the case with Fumi Yoshinaga; her new series Ooku: The Inner Chambers began translation into English last year, and now Viz has brought out All My Darling Daughters, a one-off collection of five stories revolving around relationships. And while I enjoyed Ooku and Antique Bakery, I think that All My Darling Daughters is my favorite comic from Yoshinaga to date.

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not simple

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

I think a lot of people have a fixed idea in their minds of what all manga looks like. Depending on the person’s age, it’s probably something like Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, or Akira Toriyama’s Dragonball Z. It’s almost certainly, though, not anything like Natsume Ono’s not simple. I think it was the incredibly distinctive look of not simple that initially attracted me to the book, but the more I read it, the deeper I was pulled into the book. For a book that starts at the conclusion and then jumps into the past to explain how everything got to that point, not simple manages to hold the reader’s interest quite well.

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Children of the Sea Vol. 2

By Daisuke Igarashi
320 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

I’m finding myself continually loving Viz’s new online IKKI magazine, serializing all sorts of off-beat and different Japanese comics for free. As time goes on, though, we’re eventually seeing collected editions of these comics hit stores. It’s a pleasure to see Children of the Sea already on its second volume, because it and Saturn Apartments regularly vie for the title of my favorite IKKI comic. Chances are, it’s whichever just released a new chapter. And while not overtly full of environmental themes (or at least not yet), its looking towards the ocean in this day and age seems particularly timely.

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