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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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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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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What a Wonderful World! Vol. 1

By Inio Asano
208 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

When I read Inio Asano’s Solanin at the start of the year, I remember hoping that more of Asano’s works would be translated into English; Solanin had just the right mixture of angst, aimlessness, and growing up all wrapped up in its emotional core. Clearly I wasn’t the only person wanting to see more comics by Asano; Viz is now publishing one of his earlier works, the two-volume What a Wonderful World! collection of short stories. Both volumes hit stores this week, but I was lucky enough to dip into the first half early, and it’s a joy getting to read more Asano and his stories about people whose lives are on the brink of crisis.

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20th Century Boys Vol. 4

By Naoki Urasawa
216 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

It’s hard to believe that it was just earlier this spring when I first encountered the opening volume of 20th Century Boys. That first book, about the mystery of a former school mate who started a cult, drew me right into the series and made me want to read more. Now that I’m on the fourth volume, though, I find myself amazed at all of the surprises that Naoki Urasawa has unleashed upon his characters since that first book. To say that this is a series that keeps getting better and better is an understatement—and we’re only 1/6th of the way through the entire saga.

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Ooku: The Inner Chambers

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

If you’re like me, a book called Ōoku: The Inner Chambers might make you think that perhaps an Ōoku is some huge slavering monster that lives in the depths of a cave. And like me, you would be utterly wrong. In Japan’s Edo Castle, the Ōoku was where the women who were attached to the current Shogun lived; aside from the Shogun, no other man would enter those chambers. Once I realized my error, though, I found myself drawn into Ōoku almost instantly with its alternate history concept that resulted in most of Japan’s men dying of a plague. For there, it seems, the Ōoku is something entirely different.

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