Bakuman Vol. 3

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

When I first started reading Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Bakuman last year, I was almost instantly intrigued by the glimpse into the manga publishing world, and getting a look into the mechanics of pitching to and being published by the big leagues. Through the eyes of two high school students, Ohba and Obata looked to be making a fictionalized version of, "How the publishing industry works." As Bakuman has progressed, though, what we’re starting to get now is something even more interesting—most notably a question of what happens when you try and become more "commercial" in your comic-creating.

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Kurozakuro Vol. 1

By Yoshinori Natsume
200 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

The first volume of Kurozakuro performs a rather effective fake-out on its reader. Its first 50 page chapter sets its reader’s expectations up on just what sort of comic Kurozakuro will be, letting everyone imagine how the rest of the series will slowly unfold. And then, just when you’re convinced of the status quo, the second chapter rolls along and cheerfully proves you wrong and sends the book zipping down a different, more interesting path. That’s the kind of fake-out I approve of, wholeheartedly.

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Genkaku Picasso Vol. 1

By Usamaru Furuya
256 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Usamaru Furuya’s Short Cuts is one of the strange, off-beat comics that Viz published in its PULP anthology back in the day, and which you still hear its fans talk about in hushed tones. It was silly, irreverent, and unpredictable, and a feature I always looked forward to. I’d never seen a comic longer than a one- or two-page gag strip by Furuya before, though, so Genkaku Picasso being translated into English felt like perfect timing. What I wasn’t expecting, though, was a bizarre mixture of "special powers to help others" mixed with pop psychology.

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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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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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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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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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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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