Favorite Manga of 2015

Welcome to the first blog post I’ve made in soooooo many months! And of course it’s about manga! Here are my Top 10 Manga from 2015, featured in no particular order.

If you’re a manga lover I highly recommend reading all of these series, and if you’re a librarian you should definitely have them all in your library! Akame ga Kill, Attack on Titan: No Regrets, and Citrus should probably be in the adult GN section, but everything else can go in YA!

My Little Monster, Vol. 1 by Robico    

Servamp Vol. 1 by Strike Tanaka    Citrus, Vol. 1 by Saburo Uta

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Manga Writing Workshop for Teens

I recently ran a Manga Workshop for grades 6-12 at my public library. With very little artistic skill, and no manga drawing experience, I drew on my experiences as a writer and a manga reader to design the workshop. I also used the knowledge gained from the incredibly informative and well done manga series Bakuman, which follows two high school students on a quest to be the best manga writing/drawing team of their time. The series is done by a best-selling author/illustrator combo, and they reveal the inside world of the manga publishing world. I find that when working on manga, most teens get stuck in the character designing phase, and just draw characters – this is great, but not productive as far as creating an actual manga.

So I worked from my prior knowledge and experience to come up with a step-by-step process for designing a manga story and drafting it into a storyboard. My workshop focused only on those activities, and attendees were encouraged to practice drawing on their own, with the assistance of drawing books and guides they could check out from the library. The activities detailed below are things that anyone can do, regardless of drawing ability. At the end of the workshop the participants will have a draft of a story that they can continue working on!

Step 1: Complete the Manga Story Worksheet that I designed. As the instructor I went through each section of the worksheet and defined terms and described what was required for each. If you’re unfamiliar with the sections or terms just leave a comment and I’ll answer, or look up definitions for unfamiliar terms somewhere like About.com’s Manga section, which is very helpful.

Step 2: Brainstorm sample chapter ideas with the participants. A lot of common manga tropes and plots can be used here. For example:

  • It’s a boring summer vacation day and the characters must find something fun to do.
  • A transfer student arrives in the main character’s class.
  • The main character sleeps through their alarm.
  • A character loses something very important to them.
  • A character finds something important from their childhood.
  • Someone from the MC’s past shows up unexpectedly.
  • The main character gets sick.
  • A new enemy appears.
  • An old friend returns.
  • A parent or friend is injured in an accident.
  • The characters discover they have magical powers or superpowers.

Step 3: Draft a quick chapter sketch. This will be a one or two page layout of what happens in a single chapter (or half a chapter) of the story. See the Manga Story Example for an example of what this could look like. The sketches will be rough, if there are sketches at all. In my example, there are no drawings, and only text and lines are used to indicate what is happening in the story.

Step 4: Draft a detailed storyboard. This will be a more detailed version of the chapter sketch done in the previous step. Each page of the chapter will be drawn out on its own piece of paper, featuring panels, character sketches (preferably with little detail, so as not to distract from the plotting), and text bubbles. Again, see the Manga Story Example for what this might look like. This step could take the students some time to complete, so encourage them to take their work home and complete a storyboard on their own.

 

storyboard

A page from the manga “Bakuman” by Takashi Obata

Manga Review: UQ Holder

UQ Holder 1

UQ Holder by Ken Akamatsu

Volume 1 published March 18th 2014 by Kodansha


Ken Akamatsu’s newest manga is set in a world in which there is magic, futuristic technology, and the majority of Japan’s population is clustered in the Capitol city. Those in rural villages are seen as backwater, stupid citizens – but not everyone dreams of going to the big city. Touta is a short boy with huge dreams and an endless source of motivation and energy, and his dream is to travel to the city, go up in the space elevator tower, and perform in space. He’s a little bit crazy, really reckless, and a lot of fun. 

What makes UQ Holder stand out from all the other shonen manga out there is the touch of seriousness to Touta and his story. Of course Touta is an orphan, but the circumstances under which his parents died is mysterious and secretive. Touta also has a frightening source of power that just multiplies once his epic mentor, Evangeline, lends him her immortal power. 

For example, at one point very early in the first volume, Touta nearly dies after getting his arm cut off. And then he does die. And then he comes back – only to once again lose his limps AND THEN HIS HEAD. Holy shit. Touta grabs his own freaking head, sticks it back on his neck, grins like a maniac, and then keeps on fighting. The story continues with Touta and his mentor going on a journey to the Capitol city, and Touta resumes his happy-go-lucky demeanor. 

UQ Holder is very different from Akamatsu’s previous work, Love Hina and Negima, and I highly recommend it. 

2015 Reading Challenge Update

I’ve read 59 books so far this year! I am well on my way to meeting my goal of 200 books. Here’s a breakdown of what I’ve read, and in what format:

Picture books: 11

Manga: 14

Graphic Novels: 2

Novels: 26

Novellas/Short Stories: 2

Non-fiction: 3

Other: 1 (poetry collection)

E-books: 11

Audiobooks: 0 (1 in progress)

ARCs: 8

Library books: 41

If you want to stay up to date with what I’m reading, add me on Goodreads! You can also see my 2015 Reading Challenge Books here

Favorites:

The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson Unmade by Amy Rose Capetta The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons The Boy with the Hidden Name by Skylar Dorset

Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay The Alex Crow by Andrew  Smith Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine Roy The Wild Cat Book by Fiona Sunquist World Trigger, Vol. 1 by Daisuke Ashihara Bloody Brat, Vol.1 by Yuuki Kodama

Citrus, Vol. 1 by Saburo Uta Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio

Manga Review: Apple and Honey

Apple and Honey

Apple & Honey by Hideyoshico

Published by Digital Manga Publishing

Volumes 1 & 2 currently available in English

No further volumes currently planned.

Genre: Yaoi, LBGTQ


A sweet story of a blossoming relationship between two very different young men, Apple and Honey is a great addition to the world of translated yaoi manga. 

Natsuki and Komano are opposite sides of the same coin – dark and light, introverted and outgoing, overlooked and popular. Komano is immediately drawn to the lonely Natsuki, and pursues him relentlessly. Even after they start dating, Natsuki prefers to hide the relationship, while Komano wants to open up about it and show everyone how much he cares for his boyfriend. Eventually they do come out to their friends, who are not at all surprised, and they are much happier for it.

While this sounds like the basis of most of the yaoi manga I’ve read, the dynamic between Natsuki and Komano is anything but typical. Ko is very respectful of Natsuki’s boundaries, and doesn’t pressure or force him into anything. There is no forced kissing in a dark corner of the hallway, no pressure to have sex in a semi-public place, and no secrets hidden between them about other lovers or relationships. The boys are very open with each other, very honest, and refreshingly tender and caring.

Unfortunately, the sweet romance is ruined by the sudden inclusion of a sex scene at the very end of the volume. I was not expecting this scene, and its graphic nudity. No offense taken – I’ve read gay sex before and it’s not a problem – but this scene really didn’t fit with the tone of the rest of the novel and felt very gratuitous. 

Complementing this tender romance between two college boys is a different short story, following 2 young men who haven’t spoken for almost ten years, since high school. Many translated yaoi manga feature this format of alternating between chapters of 2 different stories, and I was very pleased with the differences between the characters in the two stories featured in Apple and Honey

I would highly recommend this series to anyone looking for a different kind of romance, or who is a fan of yaoi manga. 

Manga Review: Seraph of the End

Seraph of the End, Vol. 1 (Seraph of the End, #1) Seraph of the End, Vol. 2 (Seraph of the End, #2) Seraph of the End, Vol. 3 (Seraph of the End, #3)

Seraph of the End by Takaya Kagami

Published by Viz Media

Volumes 1-4 currently available in English. Further volumes tbd.

Seraph of the End has been marketed as Attack on Titan with vampires – and I have to say that isn’t far off. If you’re a fan of Attack on Titan, World Trigger, and Blue Exorcist, than you’re going to enjoy Seraph of the End.

It’s the story of a boy, Yuichiro, who joins an elite group of soldiers that fights the vampires that have taken over Japan, and possibly the rest of the world. Yui grew up in a vampire orphanage – a place where vampires basically grew humans like cattle and drained their blood to drink it. When Yui and his best friend, Mika, attempt to escape from their vampire keepers, but they don’t make it – and all of the other orphans pay for their mistake. 

Yuichiro is headstrong and never listens to authority or follows the rules. He is brave and generous to a fault, putting the lives of innocent civilians first over the lives of his soldier teammates, all in order to exact revenge on the vampires that killed his friends when he was little. Sound like anyone else we know? Yui has a grudge as deep as the Pacific Ocean, and he’ll stop at nothing to kill every last vampire. 

The manga is well-drawn, with nice color pages in the front and some interesting extra content in a couple of the volumes. The action is good, the suspense is okay, and the twists are completely predictable, but it’s still a really fun manga. In volume 2 the characters get special weapons and you meet an even higher up team of vampire hunters in volume 3, so there’s a lot to keep you reading. Highly recommended!

Manga Review: World Trigger

World Trigger, Vol. 1   World Trigger, Vol. 2     

World Trigger by Daisuke Asihara

Published by Viz Media

Volumes 1-4 currently available in English.

Volumes 5 & 6 publishing 2015

Summary: World Trigger is a sci-fi adventure manga originally published in Japan by Shonen Jump. It follows 2 unlikely friends who must work together to save the city from otherworldy monsters known as Neighbors. Osamu is a low-level Border agent, training to defend the city; he is generous to a fault and will do anything he can to save people in danger, even if it gets him in trouble with Border. Yuma is a quirky, seemingly young kid who helps Osamu out of a few dangerous situations and also attends Osamu’s school. Osamu quickly finds out that Yuma is a humanoid Neighbor. They’re found out by Border, the city’s defense agency, and we’re quickly introduced to a bunch of high-ranking Border agents that have to figure out what to do with the troublesome Osamu and potentially deadly, yet friendly, Yuma.

ReviewWorld Trigger is a very Shonen Jump-style manga. The characters follow certain tropes, but each have their own slightly unique aspects. The action is flashy and large-scale, but not very thrilling or suspenseful. Instead, the reader is drawn to the cool weapons and interesting character and monster designs. The high level Border agents are flashy and cool, but there are a lot of them. Each volume of the English manga features extra content and the original character designs and backstories of most characters, which makes it easier to keep track of them all. 

I really liked the futuristic city setting, with its isolation and personal defense force – it reminded me a lot of Attack on Titan and Neon Genesis Evangelion. The neighbors are cool monsters, but not too creepy and not gory at all. The hints of secrets and mystery about the world the Neighbors come from is a definite page-turning aspect, and will keep me reading once I can get my hands on volumes 3 and 4!

Verdict: Loved it! 5 big shiny futuristic laser-shooting stars for World Trigger. 


Attack on Titan, Vol. 1 (Attack on Titan, #1)  Neon Genesis Evangelion, Vol. 01  Seraph of the End, Vol. 1 (Seraph of the End, #1)

If you like these manga or anime you might like World Trigger!