io's manga diary

― 22 mar ―

'menhara-chan' by toko kotoha is, in my mind, bookended by two biographical notes about the author: first, that she wrote it at 15, and second, that she passed away at 23. i don't mean for these to overshadow the work itself and the effort and love put into it, but rather, i think going into it without keeping these in mind may lead to cruel assumptions. it begins as a cliché comedy, but transcends that and becomes a heartfelt, simple story about a middle school girl's struggle with mental illness, told through kotoha's endlessly charming illustrations. when i finished it, i was incredibly grateful that the author put it out into the world, and just as distraught that i'd never be able to talk to her. it reinforced in my mind that what, for me, makes a work great is not the level of polish or complexity of symbolism but the imprints the creator leaves on it that gives one the delusion that it speaks to you as a fellow living thing.

― 6 feb ―

'go with the clouds, north by northwest' isn't in a genre i would usually read, but i was drawn to it because i'm a massive Icelandaboo. indeed, it feels like the author had only the setting and main character in mind before starting to write it, and it slips between touristy travelouges, murder mysteries, romance drama, and the outlandishly supernatural in a disjointed way, to the point where it feels like the author is rolling a die to decide which type of chapter will be next. the art is lovely and the artist's affection for the land is deeply felt, with attention paid to minute details like grocery store chains and the types of restaurants in each town.

― 6 feb ―

'usuzumi no hate' tells the story of a girl living in the vacant ruins of a city, and it immediately invites comparison to girls' last tour down to the presence of a white blob companion. when compared to girls' last tour, it takes a less interesting path, but it's still an admirable feat. the intensely detailed world is striking against the stark white of the protagonist. it feels like the author is still learning how to use the medium, and considering this i recommend it if you're interested in the setting.

― 22 jan ―

it's taken me quite a while to read 'fire punch' considering how many times i've reread 'chainsaw man', hasn't it? anyways, fire punch has no shortage of interesting ideas and evocative scenes. it's messy, grungy, gross, but memorable in spite of and thanks to its shortcomings. i don't know if i'd describe agni as a complicated character or simply a confusing one: he vacillates between intense selflessness and unprecedented cruelty, and what fueled (lol) these shifts remained completely incomprehensible to me. i guess it's the battle between unfathomable hatred and the desire to be human, or something.

― 21 jan ―

writing about a manga that only has six chapters out feels like cheating, but anyways, 'ruri dragon' is a charming and well-executed school comedy with endearing characters. it's nothing groundbreaking, but it's NICE, you know? i hope the mangaka's doing alright.

― 20 jan ―

i've been meaning to read 'chi no wadachi' for a while and now that i'm caught up with it i'm not sure how to concisely state my feelings. shuzo oshimi isn't sure how to either, though-- this story doesn't deserve to be dragged out for 140+ chapters, time skips and all. anyways, it's deeply unsettling in a way that i didn't enjoy experiencing, for entirely personal reasons. there's no technical qualms i have with the pacing or structure. i'm personally pretty fond of oshimi's art, too.

― 16 dec ―

'shounen no abyss' is a truly deranged trip through a world where, seemingly, suicide has replaced sex as something you do with a partner who you love deeply, or perhaps someone you've met that night after a few drinks. the constant escalation of stakes with no breathing room or variation in pacing gives it the quality of an edgy melodrama. it plays a little with the cyclical nature of suffering, with its characters being trapped in an intergenerational web of trauma, but it ends up as some kind of cheap parody of the story it was trying to tell.

― 16 dec ―

i remember reading the back cover of 'otoyomegatari' in my local library as a 12-year-old and being totally outraged by the premise. i picked it up eight years later, curious about its portrayal of central asia. it's a relaxing read with stunningly detailed art. the characters are a little flat and it doesn't have much in the way of emotional depth. it's a personal nitpick, maybe, but for how often i see it praised for its accuracy, it's liberal with mixing the whole region into one homogeneous mass-- the author describes the main character as kazakh, but her clothing looks armenian, and the patterns and embroidery are distinctly not kazakh either! but by god, the art is gorgeous, and by skimming through the most recent chapters it seems like more effort has been put towards accuracy.

― 12 dec ―

with only eight chapters of 'umi ga hashiru end roll' out at the time of me writing this, it's hard to label it as a masterpiece, but it's certainly interesting: its main character is a 65-year old widow returning to university to study filmmaking. it's an empathetic portrayal of an experience which is rarely (if ever) depicted in manga, and the art style is truly lovely. the sea motif is applied a little too heavily for how little it communicates, though.

― 5 jul ―

when i think of the manga adaption of 'nhk ni youkoso', the two words that come to my mind are "raw" and "vomit". neither of these are insults. it's a truly disgusting, disjointed mess which falls apart in the second half, but at the same time it feels genuinely real and visceral in a way few manga manage. its characters are wretched people, but i feel like i know them-- they could be me beneath all of the truly awful theatrics and gags. the trope of a cute girl saving an outcast man is intensely overplayed, and misaki and sato's relationship is one of the few intelligent takes on this idea. as a side note, i can't stand how many people bash the manga for its portrayal of misaki-- her repulsive manipulativeness makes her more than another one-dimensional fantasy.

― 4 jul ―

'parasite in love' is the manga adaption of miaki sugaru's novel of the same name. it wouldn't be worth a mention without yuki hotate's truly gorgeous illustrations. the level of detail in each panel astounds. the story is another take on the "mentally ill man becomes involved with a mysterious cute schoolgirl who (almost) saves him" trope set against the backdrop of a medical mystery involving parasites. the parasite is physical, but the story invites a wealth of allegorical readings. overall, while the manga is certainly competent, for me it didn't do enough to break free from the trope of its premise.

― 30 may ―

i read 'yofukashi no uta' by kotoyama... er, well, as i write this in july now i'm already rereading it, after first reading it in may. yikes. i struggle to explain why i like this series as much as i do, but simply put, it's fun. it's fast-paced, schlocky, and fun. no doubt the premise of the series-- a budding relationship between a 14 year old boy and a ??? year old vampire-- has drawn a lot of ire, and if you're grossed out by that, there's nothing i want to say to convince you to give it a try. once the shock of the first few chapters has passed, 'yofukashi no uta' transforms into a kind portrayal of the awkwardness of adolescence, though it struggles with its own identity crisis (noir detective story? battle shounen? school slice-of-life?).

― 15 april ―

i read every translated short story i could find by fuyumushi kaiko, most of which are collected in 'kimi no kureru mazui ame'. kaiko's art is sublimely charming, and the premise of each story is promising. nonetheless, one gets the feeling that the author isn't completely confident with the medium, and as a result no story sticks the landing as well as it could. i think their work oozes with promise, though, and i'll be reading their longer manga if/when they get translated!

― 10 april ―

'takopi no genzai' enjoyed enormous popularity in japan this spring, and it's easy to see why. the art is cute (and not just generic moe), and the story is soul-crushingly depressing in a way which makes people want to say 'i bet you can't survive reading this!'. the story's short length and tentative optimism stop it from feeling like another sadistic slideshow of children suferring. though, i do think that it would've benefited from being three volumes rather than two-- the conclusion is satisfying and logical, but the path there is a little too rushed.

― 8 april ―

i read 'hikaru ga shinda natsu' despite my apathy for BL (no moral superiority, it's simply that i'm a lesbian). the art is truly gorgeous, and the body horror is so lovingly rendered. i think the story is promising, too. with only six chapters out, it's hard for me to say anything definitively; it still needs time to develop, and hopefully it'll take its time and let us wander in the forest some more.

― 21 march ―

i reread 'sasurai emanon'. it was difficult to choose my favorite panel among all of the intricate renderings of emanon naked and/or smoking in various vistas. i loved it more than i did before, surely not only because of an increased appreciation for boobs (lol), but because i appreciate how confident it is in its silence. wandering emanon understands that you don't need a text bubble on every page-- simply let the environments speak for themselves! they convey as much dread/loneliness/warmth as any hackneyed dialogue. i love you, emanon.

― 30 december ―

i reread chainsaw man, having first read it six months ago. again, i felt that beneath all of the schlocky hyper-violence there's a cogent emotional throughline. regardless, if it was only the gutspilling and bloodbaths, i would find it just as fun, but it's the heart which makes it so memorable. the ninety-seven chapters pass very quickly, and i'm quite excited for its continuation, not to mention the anime... i hope it's good...

― 10 november ―

i've been reading ningiyau's 'school zone' over the past week or so. it's hard to sell me on a school comedy manga, but the perfectly relatable patheticness of its characters are charming enough to make it an enjoyable read. the gags are good, the characters feel real, and the emotional throughlines are genuine. the art is consistently high-quality, and of course, it's yuri. i don't like yuri unless its characters are pathetic enough to resonate with me, and school zone definitely works in that regard.

― 29 october ―

today, i read 'cocoon' by machiko kyou. it's a tale about wartime okinawa and a girls' nursing unit. the whimsical lightness of kyou's art is strikingly juxtaposed against the story's brutality. unfortunately, its minimalism also lends panels an unfinished quality. it's a memorable story for its style and subject matter, but i don't think i'll reread it anytime soon.

― 30 september ―

what does 'daidai wa, hantoumei ni nidone suru' mean? MAL translates it as 'the bitter orange, translucent it goes back to sleep'. it doesn't make any more sense after reading the two-volume manga, which is an eccentric collection of short stories taking place in a small port town. to be honest, i wanted to like it more than i did. the art is breathtaking, with each panel defined by heavy hatching and bold lines. the synopsis is fantastic, and there are a handful of stories that are memorable (like 'sitting mermaid', chapter 9) but besides that...

― 28 september ―

someone needs to keep masakazu ishiguro in check. his art has only gotten better since soremachi, and the synopsis of tengoku daimakyou is promising, but the level of self-indulgence in his writing is simply too much for me. i think my breaking point was when one of the main characters was revealed to be a boy transplated into the body of his dead sister, which he is aroused by. ugh! it's a shame. i'll go reread soremachi.