Sunny Vol. 1

By Taiyo Matsumoto
224 pages, black and white, with some color
Published by Viz

I’ve always appreciated that you never know quite what you’re going to get with a Taiyo Matsumoto comic. Some are rooted firmly in reality (Blue Spring, Ping Pong), others utter fantasy (No. 5, Tekkon Kinkreet/Black and White), and a few a strange mixture and melding of the two (Go-Go Monster). In the case of his latest series, Sunny, it’s a book that might at first look to fall into the latter category. But as you read more about this book’s group of young children and the car that can bring them anywhere they want to go, the more you’ll find yourself glad that it’s one without any magical elements whatsoever.

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Pepita: Inoue Meets Gaudi

By Takehiko Inoue
108 pages, color
Published by Viz

I’ve been a fan of Takehiko Inoue’s for quite a while, especially with his series Slam Dunk, Vagabond, and Real. When I saw that a new art book by Inoue titled Pepita: Inoue meets Gaudi was coming out, I reserved a copy without even thinking twice. I figured based on the cover art that it would be perhaps a travel journal of sorts involving the Catalan architect. What I found was actually a historical telling of Gaudi’s life with some art and photographs mixed in. And while it’s an interesting book, it was definitely not what I was expecting.

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Art of the Secret World of Arrietty

By Studio Ghibli and Hiromasa Yonebayashi
200 pages, color
Published by Viz

As much as I love Studio Ghibli’s films, occasionally they’ll sneak past me in the movie theatres. That was the case with The Secret World of Arrietty, an animated movie based on the novels of The Borrowers that was released in North American earlier this year. While I continue to wait for a DVD release, though, I’ve found that yearning at least partially satiated by The Art of the Secret World of Arrietty, a book detailing the artistic creation of the film.

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Cross Game Vol. 6

By Mitsuru Adachi
376 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

With the wealth of manga being published in North America right now, it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite. Were I forced to narrow it down to a top ten or even top five current series, though, there’s no doubt in my mind that Cross Game would be on the list. Mitsuru Adachi’s series has done the seemingly impossible right from the beginning—create a series about baseball interesting—and with this new volume, he’s taken it a step further. He’s taken one of the most time-honored manga romantic clichés, the new rival introduced around the two-thirds mark, and made the situation engrossing.

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Tesoro

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

Natsume Ono is a comic creator who, much to her credit, has no problem leaping from one subject to the next; one minute it’s samurai stories like House of Five Leaves, the next it’s romantic drama at a restaurant, or a young man trying to figure out questions of family and identity. I was delighted as a result to find out about Tesoro, a collection of Ono’s short stories. In doing so I found confirmation that while the plots are often different, there are definitely some threads that run through her works.

Ono writes a lot about loss and family. Missing parents are often elements in these shorts, and it’s to Ono’s credit that each character feels different in their own way, no matter what they’re going through similar to ones in different stories. Even when there’s no particular loss, like in "Froom Family," Ono still understands the hold that family members have on one another; there’s no way that young Nils could get the same amount of anguish from people that weren’t his sisters, able to get under his skin just so. Italy also crops up several times here, a favorite setting of Ono’s, but she often uses it as little more than a backdrop. Ono’s enchantment and fascination with the country none the less rubs off on the reader; I’d have expected to start groaning, "Oh no, not another story set in Italy" but instead I found myself hoping for one more glimpse. My favorite piece in the book, though, is probably "Three Short Stories About Bento." The three stories have little connection other than being about the Japanese lunch boxes, but each of them managed to both give a glimpse into Japanese culture and also bring their characters to life better than some full-length books I’ve read. Add in Ono’s trademark scratchy, loose-lined style, and you end up with a charming sampler from Ono. With 14 stories, even if you (like myself) find a small number to not quite be up to par, there’s more than enough here to keep you entertained for quite some time.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com | Powell’s Books

X 3-in-1 Vol. 1

By CLAMP
584 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

X is a strange little duck in the manga world, in terms of its publication history. Created by the four-person creative collective CLAMP, X began in Japan in 1992, but was halted in 2003 as it neared its conclusion due to concerns by the publisher over the "increasingly violent stories." Meanwhile, in North America, due to Dark Horse Comics’ series X, its publication by Viz ran under the name X/1999, referencing the pivotal year in which the series was set. It’s now 2011 and CLAMP hasn’t found a new publisher in Japan to run the final chapters of X, but the series is now coming back into print in North America in a series of 3-in-1 omnibuses, and under its original title of X. As the comic focuses around the apocalypse, saying "the end is near" is extremely appropriate no matter how you look at it. And based on what I found in X 3-in-1 Vol. 1? I am a little boggled at the idea how just how violent these later chapters must be.

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Cross Game Vol. 3

By Mitsuru Adachi
376 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

I’m normally not into reviewing a series again right after tackling the previous release. So after reviewing Cross Game Vol. 1-2, I figured it would be safe to wait a few volumes before bringing it back up. But by the time I was done with Cross Game Vol. 3, I was so struck by the direction of the series that I found that I couldn’t wait any longer. In short, I feel like Mitsuru Adachi gets just as frustrated at other long-form series as I do, and took steps here to show that he’s not going to fall into that same trap.

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March Story Vol. 2

Written by Hyung-min Kim
Art by Kyung-il Yang
192 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

A lot of people have become a bit obsessed with starting at the beginning of a series, or nowhere else at all. It’s not exclusive to comics, either; the number of people who won’t jump on board to a television series without seeing all the previous episodes is a prime example. But lately, I’ve found myself increasingly curious on seeing how well a series holds up if you don’t begin with the first volume. So when I came upon the second volume of March Story, I decided to give it a whirl even though I’ve never read the first book. Quite frankly, I’m glad that I did.

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Rin-ne Vol. 5

By Rumiko Takahashi
200 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

I’ve been having fun reading brand-new chapters of Rumiko Takahashi’s series Rin-ne on the Shonen Sunday website each week; for those who like something a little more permanent, though, the book is also being published in a series of collections. (Doubly so since once the collections are released, the individual chapters come off of the official site.) Picking up the latest volume, it strikes me that while I’m enjoying the series overall, in some ways this feels like a slight step backwards for Takahashi.

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Cross Game Vol. 1-2

By Mitsuru Adachi
576 pages (v1) & 376 pages (v2), black and white
Published by Viz

First, a quick point that I need to bring up: I’m not a fan of baseball. Watching it on the television just does nothing for me, and while I have a good time at the occasional trip to the ballpark with friends, it has to do with the experience (and getting a chili cheese dog and a beer) rather than the game itself. I mention this not because I think it’s any sort of superior viewpoint (I’m actually a little envious of my friends who love it), but because you need to know that before I tell you the next fact. Cross Game, Mitsuru Adachi’s comic about high school students playing baseball, is now probably one of my favorite manga series of all time.

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