Manga for older readers has been few and far between, as teen manga dominates bookstores and sales. But as manga readers grow up, there needs to be something to appeal to them and keep them interested in the medium. Viz Media has been working in that direction with their Signature line, and now with a website that provides manga to read for free. Working with Ikki Monthy magazine, they have brought out a diverse line of titles, many of which I liked, but not all will appeal to everyone. But the beauty of doing this online, it doesn’t have to.
Children of the Sea
This is the first title that was put online. It follows three kids, Ruka, Umi and Sora, as they search for answers about fish disappearing from the seas and how Umi and Sora are connected. This series had a slow start, but one it gets going it becomes a great mystery. It took me until reading into volume 2 to really get what was going on, but one I did, I became hooked. The first volume is no longer available online, but is available in print. I would encourage getting this and reading it before delving into volume 2. I also think the print copy would make for a better reading experience with this title. Must Read.
This title is a sci/environ/slice of life title. In the future, the Earth has been declared a natural preserve. Humanity has evacuated the earth, and now lives in a giant structure 35km above it. Mitsu, a boy who has just graduated junior high, has gotten a job as a window washer, taking over for his father who disappeared while working and is presumed dead. The title follows Mitsu in his job and the lives he sees while on it. I wasn’t impressed with the first chapter of this title, but the second is starting to turn me around. I liked the second much more and will continue to give it a chance. Mitsu is turning out to be a more interesting character, as are the stories of the people wanting the windows washed. Would Trade For.
This is a sci-fi/mecha title. 15 kids on a school trip find a cave filled with computers and a man living in it. He offers them the chance to test a game about piloting a robot that is protecting the Earth from alien invaders. All they have to do is sign a contract. It’s not until after signing do they find out the truth of what they’ve signed up for. This is not your typical kid-jumps-in-mech-and-saves-the-world story. These kids sign up for something they know nothing about and blindly trust a stranger. The first battle shows it’s going to be harsh, hard, and people will die. I did like this one, but I’m not convinced yet. I think it’s got some great potential, but I want a few more chapters before making my decision. Would Trade For.
I’ll Give It My All…Tomorrow
This is a slice of life title. 40 year old salary man Shizuo Oguro quits his job and decides to be a manga artist. He lives with his father and teenage daughter and the story follows his interactions with them and his attempts to become a mangaka. This title didn’t wow me. I usually like titles about people working to become mangaka, but this one just doesn’t because Shizuo just isn’t an interesting character to me. His relationship with is father is typical. The only thing I really liked about this was the stunted interaction between Shizuo and his daughter Suzuko. Despite all this talk and lack of typical fatherliness, the moments when Shizuo actually does act like a father to Suzuko are nice. Good Way To Waste An Hour Or So.
Tokyo Flow Chart
This is a 4-koma with a twist. It’s a series that follows the four-frame comic strip, but with a twist. From the frames, in flow chart style, we see other perspectives, other directions or additional information that adds to the main strip. I think the concept of the Flow Chart manga is a really clever one, but I didn’t find this title funny at all. The punchlines fell flat more times than not, and any smiles I made was just because it was so stupid I didn’t know how else to react. I’ll read it if I’ve got nothing else to do, but I won’t go out of my way to read it. Good Way To Waste An Hour Or So.
After School Charisma
This is one of the titles I was looking forward to when I first heard the premise. There is an exclusive academy where the students are all clones of famous historical people such as Queen Elizabeth I, Mozart and Napoleon. Except for Shiro Kamiya. His father is on the staff, so Shiro is the only “normal” human going to the school, and must find a way to adjust to his new surroundings. This title turned out to be just as good as I had hoped it would. In the first two chapters, we meet all our characters, see the problems Shiro must deal with, and the potential problems with the program, as well as outside opposition that threatens the program. The characters are great, and the questions posed in these first two chapters show a lot of wonderful potential for the series. Must Buy.
Kingyo Used Books
This is the other title I was really looking forward to. Kingyo Used Books is a bookstore that buys and sells used manga. At first, it sounded like a Pet Shop of Horrors/Antique Gift Shop type of book, where the people in the shop influence the people who come in looking for something. It hasn’t really turned out to be like that at all. The two chapters so far have been more about people and their stories, than about being influenced by the shop itself. There’s nothing supernatural about the shop. It’s more of a catalyst that helps the people find their resolution rather than pushing them in one direction or another. It’s terrific. Must Buy.
House of Five Leaves
This was a title I didn’t think I would like. The art looks funky and the premise didn’t sound like something I’d be interested in. Akitsu Masanosuke is a masterless samurai. He is skilled and loyal, but his introverted personality keeps him for being employed for long. Then he is hired by Yaichi, the leader of a gang of kidnappers. Akitsu is fascinated by Yaichi and his easy going attitude but repulsed by his illegal activities. I actually like Akitsu. The dichotomy of his character is really interesting, and he’s got a cat. Always a plus in my book. I liked the first chapter, and the second really pulled me in more. I’m really liking this one. Would Trade For.
This is another title I thought I wouldn’t like. I like sci-fi stories, but don’t care for the dismal city settings or sorcerers praying on the innocent just trying to survive. The story actually turned out to be interesting, and that’s because of the main character. Caiman was “experimented” on by a sorcerer, who gave him a reptile head and a severe case of amnesia. Caiman is searching for the sorcerer that changed him, and kills any others that get in his way. I really liked Caiman. He isn’t bitter or angsty about his situation, just determined to find the one responsible and take his out. He very pragmatic, but also very cool. This is another title I’m definitely going to keep reading. Would Trade For.
I Am A Turtle
This title just appeared last week. It’s a 4-koma about an African turtle living in Japan. It’s told from the turtle’s perspective, one I always enjoy. We see how the Turtle came to Japan, was found by his master and the things he observes in his daily life. I absolutely loved this title from the first page. It funny, cute and the art is spot on. I can’t rave about this one enough. Must Buy.
These are my impressions so far, from two chapters of most of the titles. I will do full reviews as full volumes become available. I love that Viz is doing this and making these titles available for everyone to try out. Definitely check out these titles and see if you agree with me.