The Western New Year has come and gone with January, but with the coming of February means it’s time for the Eastern, or Lunar New Year. It also means a new zodiac animal rolls over, and this year is the Year of the Monkey. Here are some manga that feature monkeys or monkey-like characters.
No matter what the culture, knowledge has been equated with power. For centuries, this knowledge has been stored as words in books. Whether it’s a list of names or a wizard’s tome, books have been regarded as being magical. It’s no different in manga. There are several titles that feature books and the power of words with the ability to create, transport its readers to other worlds, and even kill.
Fushigi Yugi and it’s prequel Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden, both feature a magical book, The Universe of the Four Gods, that pulls the main characters, Miaka and Yui in the original, and Takiko in the prequel, into its story. Each of the girls is found to be a Priestess of one of the four gods, and Miaka and Takiko are tasked with finding the celestial warriors after which they can summon their god and make a wish The book itself isn’t used much in the story, but is the catalyst for the girls to start their adventures. Fushigi Yugi is available in 6 omnibus editions and Genbu Kaiden just finished its print run at 12, and both titles are available at Vizmanga.com
Read or Die and the related Read or Dream, isn’t so much about books themselves having power, but what they are made of, paper as having the power. In Read or Die, Yomiko Readman, a papermaster who can control paper and shape it into anything she wants. Yomiko is a secret agent for the British Library, and uses her powers to keep the peace. She loves books and often spends her money on them rather than food. Read of Dream is a spin-off of read or Die and follows three sister papermasters in Hong Kong, who run a detective agency. The three sisters, Maggie, Michelle and Anita, are very different and control different elements of papermastry. Like Yomiko, Maggie and Michelle are big book lovers, but surprisingly Anita hates books. Both titles are four volumes each and are available in print.
In Muhyo and Roji’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigation, Muhyo is an executor, a graduate from the Magical Law School that allows him to be Judge, Jury and Executioner on supernatural beings found to be breaking the law. He does this through his Book of Magic Law, a thick tome that holds all the laws of magic and allows Muhyo to pass judgement on the wrong-doers and summon the envoys that take them to either heaven, hell or the river styx. The Book of Magic Law is Muhyo’s proof of being an executor and no one can use his book but him. The series went 18 volumes and is available in both print and digital.
In the world of Kiichi and the Magic Books, people known as Librarians travel the land bringing books that people can borrow and read. Mototaro, one such librarian is also special. He has the power to make images in books come to life. Part of the reason he travels is to find old books that have become unstable; the pictures come to life on their own. This series was published by CMX and is unfortunately out of print, but a great story if you can find all five volumes.
In Death Note, while the book, the Death Note has power, it’s what’s written inside that makes it work. The Death Note is a book used by Shinigami, Death Gods, to send people to the afterlife. One Death God, Ryuk, drops his death note into the human world to see what happens. It is found by high school boy Light Yagami. With the death note, he can write anyone’s name into and that person will die of a heart attack if no means of death is provided. Light uses the Death Note to go on his own personal killing spree, intent on cleaning the world or criminals, until only people he deems worthy live. Death Note was a big hit when it came out and had anime adaptation, though came under some criticism as kids around the world came up with their own “death notes”, writing names of people they wanted hurt or dead in them. There are 13 volumes in print, digital, box set, or omnibus editions.
Books aren’t always necessary to hold power, sometimes just a word is all that is needed. Alice 19th is about Alice, a high school girl destined to become a Lotis Master. Lotis Masters use the power of words to reach the inner heart of others and banish the darkness from their hearts. Here, there are no books, just words used to find the darkness in people, and turn that darkness into words to be banished. There are also maram words, dark reflections of lotis words. Alice 19th was written by Yuu Watase, the creator of Fushigi Yugi and Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden. It went for 7 volumes and can be found in both print and digital.
In Natsume’s Book of Friends, there is a book, but it’s what’s written in it that matters. Takashi Natsume has the ability to see spirits and yokai. He moves in with some relatives and finds his grandmother’s book of friends, a book filled with the names of yokai his grandmother fought and won the names of. With the book, Natsume has power over these spirits. While he doesn’t want this power, there are other spirits who do, and Natsume is hunted by them until he befriends Madara, a power ayakashi, who makes a deal with Natsume to protect him until he dies a natural death, at which point Madara can take the book. Here, names have the power, as it forms a contract between the spirit and the human, and only Natsume’s breath can release the name and end the contract. This series is still ongoing with 17 volumes available in print and digital.
March is National Craft Month (among other things). So being a crafty person, I thought I would do some features about crafts in manga. I already did one post back in 2009 about some handicrafts, but it was focused more on knitting. This time, I’m expanding to sewing and fashion.
V.B. Rose is about Ageha, a girl with a serious big sister complex. When her older sister announces she is getting married, Ageha is against it at first, but goes with her to the boutique where the dress is being made. There she meets Yukari and Mitsuya, the two-man team that run Velvet Blue Rose. But when Mitsuya’s hand it hurt, Ageha volunteers to help keep her sister’s marriage on track. V.B. Rose features several kinds of crafts. Dressmaking the main one, with wedding dresses being the main focus. There is plenty that goes into making a wedding gown, designing and sewing the gown, and making the accessories such as corsages, beadwork, and the veil. Ageha also has her own skills as she enjoys making purses and bags, impressing Yukari and Mitsuya enough with her work that they let her help at the shop when she offers. This series is 14 volumes long and was published nearly complete by Tokyopop. They got as far as vol 13 before they shut down. It is now out of print.
Paradise Kiss follows the story of high school student Yukari who becomes tangled up with four college fashion designer students as they prepare for the fashion school final and want Yukari to model their gown for them. She is drawn into the world of fashion professionally and into the romantically into the arms of George, the charismatic leader of the group. Dressmaking is shown in detail, from the design, to choosing the fabric, to putting on the flourishes. The story is as much a romance as it is about fashion and dressmaking. This series was first published by Tokyopop, and was rescued by Vertical, Inc., that published it in three volumes. It is still in print, but it is unknown for how long.
Stolen Hearts is about Shinobu Okuma, a petite girl and Miharu Koguma, a boy who looks intimidating, but is really gentle. Koguma’s grandmother owns a kimono shop and needs models to wear the kimonos as advertisements for her shop, and Okuma is tricked into helping by Koguma. At Koguma’s grandmother’s shop, kimonos can be bought or custom-made, and Koguma’s other brothers help out with designing and making the garments. It was licensed by CMX, but only 2 volumes were released before CMX went under. The series went for six volumes and is now out of print.
Buriki no Kanzume is about Nabiki Oukawa, a girl who dreams of being a stuffed toy maker. Itsuru Fukamachi wants to be a silverwork designer. They both join Kousei High’s Crafting Club, intent on working hard to become professionals in their chosen fields. They both have their obstacles to overcome. Fukamachi’s father opposes his choice of professions, while Nabiki’s grades threaten her club activities. Since it’s set in a crafting club, there more crafts that the main characters stuffed animal and silverwork. Beading, glass work, and woodworking also get shown. This series is complete in one volume and was published by Hakusensha. It is currently unlicensed.
Handmade Oujisama is about Michiru Asaba, a successful fashion magazine editor who is dumped by her boyfriend because she can’t even sew on a button. Lacking in sewing skills, she decides to make a change and goes to a sewing class run by Shou Igarashi, who has been given the nickname “Handmand Prince.” This title looks cute, and has an older lead, something that appeals to me. This is another one-shot volume. It is a josei, and was published by Shogakukan. It is currently unlicensed.
Osen follows Sen Handa, nicknamed Osen. She is a popular hostess at the longstanding restaurant Isho-an. As well as being a good hostess, Osen is a “jill of all trades.” She is a master chef, entertainer, potter, and art connoisseur. She uses her many skills to solve the problems that pop up around Isho-an. While crafting isn’t the focus of this series, it still sounds really interesting, and has a cool-looking female lead. This series is 16 volumes long. It is a seinen and was published by Kodansha. It is currently unlicensed.
Chinese New Year moves back up to middle February after starting at the beginning of the month last year. And with a new year comes a new zodiac animal. This year, it is the sheep/ram or goat, depending on where you look. The majority of posts I’ve seen about it seem to use sheep, so I’m going with that.
Fruits Basket – Since this series is about the Chinese Zodiac, it always has an animal to contribute. Hiro Sohma is a 12-year-old boy who rarely smiles except when he is being sarcastic or mischievous. He is the youngest of the cursed family members. He has a crush on Kisa Sohma and can be over protective of her. He is initially jealous of Tohru’s friendship with Kisa, but eventually comes to like her. He is also about the only Zodiac member to have a normal, loving parent in his mother, who loves hugging him in his sheep form. It is out of print but was previously published by Tokyopop.
Spice and Wolf – In as series where on of the characters is a giant, ancient wolf, it should come as no surprise that there is sheep as well. When Holo and Lawrence have to travel from Lamtra to Ruvinheigen, they hire the Shepherdess Nora to help as guide and to use her sheep to smuggle in gold to get themselves out of a large debt. Nora was a really interesting character with her well-trained sheep dog Enek. Together they keep the sheep safe and together. It is published by Yen Press.
Merry-chan to Hitsuji – This series is the only unlicensed title on the list. It is about a little girl, Merry who lives with her uncle after her parents passed away. But her uncle is actually a sheep! But she isn’t alone as her other friends also have animals for relatives such as a panda papa, a fish father and a lion father! The series is a comedy 4koma, and would probably fit in well with sienen titles Azumaga Daio and Yotsuba&!.
Pet Shop of Horrors – Count D’s pet shop features all kinds of exotic animals, and Tetsu, or T-chan as he’s often called is one. He is a totetsu, a carnivorous animal that is a distant relative to the goat. He is often testy and likes to annoy Detective Chris, often trying to bite him whenever he comes to the shop. He is very cute in his animal form, looking like a long-haired goat, and in his human form he is a good-looking guy with large, curved ram horns. Either way, he’s a pleasure to look at and usually funny to watch. It is also out of print but was previously published by Tokyopop.
Karneval – This series was licensed by Yen Press last year, with the first volume scheduled to come out next month. It is about two boys, Nai and Gareki who are coerced into joining Circus, the country’s most powerful defense organization. Working for this organization are the Hitsuji, creatures that look like sheep and serve on Circus’ Second Ship defense system. They are very obedient and follow any rule or instruction given them, but are also very strict about what happens on the ship with respect to safety and unauthorized personnel getting on board.
One Piece – The sheep in this series isn’t so much a sheep as he likes to look like them. Merry is the loyal servant and butler to Kaya, the very rich, sick girl in Syrup Village where Usopp also lives. He has curly white hair like a sheep, with small horns sticking out it. He thinks only of Kaya’s well-being, to the point that he tried to stand up to Kuro, the captain of the Black Cat Pirates who wanted to steal Kaya’s wealth. He is also a capable ship designer and designed the Going Merry, the Straw Hat Pirates first and most beloved ship. It is published by Viz Media.
That what I could scrounge up of sheep in manga. Do you know of any titles I may have missed? Leave a comment on this post and let me know!
Carnival is the big celebration before the beginning of the religious even known as lent. It is often marked by parties and parades with people dressing up and wearing masks. A mask hides who you are or lets you be someone else. In manga, there are a few titles that use masks to transform the characters who use them.
Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – Based on the video game of the same name, the single volume features Link trying to save the world from being destroyed in three days. To do so, he must collect a series of masks that allow him to transform into different creatures that give him the abilities he needs to complete his quest. While the game it is based on is considered darker, Akira Himekawa does a good job of keeping the story intact while making it appropriate for younger readers. It’s rated All Ages and published by Viz Media.
Kamisama Kiss – In this series, a girl, Nanami Momozono becomes homeless when her father skips out to escape his debts. She saves a mysterious man from a dog, and in gratitude, he gives her his home. The man just happens to be a god, and now Nanami is too! Two of Nanami’s helpers are Onibi-warashi, will-o’-the-wisps, and both where masks, one with a big smile and one with one wide eye. It’s rated Teen and is published by Viz Media.
20th Century Boys – Learning who’s behind the mask is one of the major plotline’s in this title from Naoki Urasawa. Friend is the leader of a cult who always where a mask with the symbol of a hand pointing up with an eye in the middle. Finding Friend’s identity is what the whole first fourth of the manga is all about. In the 1960s flashbacks there is another character who wears a mask, a boy in Kenji class, Sadakiyo. It is an Ultraman mask that he wore all the time so he could escape being himself. It’s rated Older Teen and is published by Viz Media.
Bleach – This series follows the adventures of Ichigo Kurosagi, a high schooler with high spiritual pressure that allows him to see spirits. He accidentally absorbs the Soul Reaper powers of Rukia which are then taken from him when it is discovered. In order to recover them, Ichigo must undergo training and keep his chain of fate from consuming itself, making him into a hollow. Ichigo succeeds, but in the process acquires a hollow mask, that lasts only as long as his power. The longer he can keep the mask intact, the longer he can use the powers he gains from his hollowfication. It’s rated Teen and published by Viz Media.
Knights of the Zodiac: Saint Seiya – In this series, females may only train as saints if they throw away their femininity and hide their faces behind masks. Marin and Shaina are two silver saints who are assigned to mentor candidates for the bronze cloth Pegasus. Shaina trains Cassios and Marin trains Seiya. Both women have feelings for Seiya, though for different reasons, and both help him throughout the series. It’s rated Teen and published by Viz Media.
Sailor Moon/Codename: Sailor V – Tuxedo Mask is the dashing young man in a tuxedo, cape and white mask who is constantly helping out Sailor Moon and the other Sailor Scouts. He is really Mamoru Chiba, a high school student. He also possessed a silver crystal, giving him the power to protect the Earth just like the Sailor Scouts. Minako Aino is Sailor Venus who awakened before the other Sailor Scouts and protected the Earth as Sailor V, with said sailor outfit and red mask. It’s rated Older Teen and published by Kodansha Comics.
Glass Mask – This is the only unlicensed series on the list, and probably will always remain so. This series started in 1976 and is currently at 49 volumes. It is about two girls, Maya Kitajima and Ayumi Himekawa. Both girls want to become professional actresses worthy of taking on the prestigious role of “The Crimson Goddess” in a play of the same name. Maya is the underdog in the story, having to work hard and fight for her talent to be recognized, which it is when she is called “the girl with a thousand masks.” It would be Rated Older Teen and is published by Hakusensha.
Know of any more manga that features masks? I’m sure there are. I added four after coming up with the initial idea for this post. Leave a comment and let me know what they are.
Earthquakes are a way of life when you live along the Ring of Fire around the Pacific Ocean. This is true for those of us along the West Coast of the US, just as it is for the Japanese. So it should come as no surprise that there have been several manga titles about disasters caused by earthquakes. With end of the world scenarios being so popular lately, this seems like a good time to look at some of them.
Metro Survive is a two-volume series published by DR Master in 2008. It’s about Mashima, a repairman who works in Exopolis Tower, a new and popular high-rise in Tokyo. Trying to get home for his son’s birthday, he gets trapped in the subway with several other people who were waiting for the train as well when an Earthquake hits. Thanks to shotty constructions, the Exopolis has collapsed, so it’s up to Mashima to lead the people out of the subway and to find a way out. But as rescue seems less likely, and food starts to run short, the survivors start to turn against each other. It’s up to Mashima to keep the group together and alive until help arrives. This was an entertaining title, and in general was a good disaster story. It has some heart pounding moments, but has a happy ending.
51 Ways to Save Her is a 5 volume series that we almost got. It was scheduled to come out one month before CMX stopped publishing. It is by Usamaru Fuyura, creator of Genkaku Picasso and Lychee Light Club. It is about college senior Jin Mishima, who is Odaiba to attend a recruitment orientation for a job at a famous TV Station. There, he runs into Nanako Okano, a goth lolita who was in Odaiba to attend a concert but was tricked out of her ticket by some jealous girls. Just as they are re-acquainting themselves, an 8.1 earthquake hits, turning Odaiba island and the entire city into ruins. It’s up to Jin to help get Nanako out safely. I was really looking forward to this series. I enjoyed Genkaku Picasso by Furyura, as well as his adaptation of No Longer Human. I really wanted to read this one. Hopefully a publisher (Vertical? Jmanga?) will rescue it and release it in the US.
Probably the best known earthquake disaster story from Japan is Nihon Chinbotsu, or Japan Sinks. Originally a novel, this story has had not just manga, but movies made of it as well. A wave of earthquakes hit Japan, awakening a long dormant volcano. This is followed by another wave of mysterious natural disasters and one scientist believes he knows why as well as the consequences. If only he can get anyone to listen to him in time. A 4 volume manga based on this story by Takao Saito, the creator of Golgo 13, is available on Jmanga.com. There is a second, much longer series that came out in 2006, the same time as a remake of the movie was released. This one is 15 volumes long, and less likely to get released here.
Taiyou no Mokishiroku or A Spirit of the Sun, is a 17 volume series by Kaiji Kawaguchi, the creator of Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President. It is a melding of Japan Sinks and another well-known story in Japan, The Three Kingdoms. Japan is hit with a series of natural disasters (starting with an earthquake), that fragments the country, leaving it and its people devastated. The story follows the lives of its citizens as they must go to emigration camps on mainland Asia while also trying to solve the political problem of rebuilding their country. I soooo want to read more of Kawaguchi, but there is little to no chance of his titles making it over because of both their length and content. No one wants political thrillers that are 17 volumes or more long.
Nae ga Yuru or An Earthquake Rocks, is a two-volume series from 2006. It’s by Yumisuke Kotoyoshi, creator of Saber Marionette J. It follows Akito and Yuki, two young adults who meet after a gigantic earthquake has hit the Tokyo area. They start traveling together in order to survive. This title might actually have a chance, since it is short and would probably appeal to young males, considering the creator is well-known for ecchi titles. I just don’t know which publisher would take a look or chance on it. Maybe Yen Press would be a good fit?
Know of any other manga that features earthquakes prominently in the story? Leave a comment and let me know about it!
The Chinese New Year has arrived, which means two things; a slow down of shipments at work as factories shut down for 3 weeks, and a new post about manga featuring this year’s zodiac animal! We move from the majestic dragon down to the more common snake, but as you will see, there are no such things as common snakes in manga!
Fruits Basket – Let’s get the obvious out-of-the-way with Fruits Basket, which features all the zodiac animals. Ayame Sohma is the snake of the zodiac in the Sohma family. He is the older brother of Yuki, one of the main characters of the series. He is very handsome with silver hair and striking eyes. He is flamboyant, self-confident and self-centered, and annoys Yuki and Kyo to no end. He is very demanding that Yuki return his love as his brother, but Ayame’s treatment of Yuki when he was growing up has made that a difficult request for Yuki to comply with.
Naruto – This long running series is about a screw-up boy ninja, Naruto Uzumaki, who wants to prove himself and become the leader of his villain, the Hokage. Orochimaru is the first major antagonist in the series. He is a powerful ninja, and with his other team mates, Jiraiya and Tsunade, was known as the Three Legendary Ninja. His totem animal is a snake, and is able to summon and command them in battle. His thirst for power and immortality gets him exiled from Konohagakure, leading him to eventually start his own village and continue his experiments. He tries to take over Sasuke’s body to continue his own life.
One Piece – This even longer running series is about Luffy D. Monkey who is determined to become the Pirate King and gathers a crew of like-minded misfits to going him on his adventures. In the Skypiea arc, there is a giant python named Nola. He came to the island with Noland and the Shandorians. He is over 400 years old and is very hot-tempered and hostile. After hearing the bell from his childhood, he becomes the gentle snake he once was. He even becomes part of an attraction, Nola-bungee. In the Sabaody arc, we meet one of the Warlords of the Sea, a group of powerful pirates who work for the world government. Boa Hancock, is the leader of the all-female Kuja Pirates from the island Amazon Lily. She has a pet snake named Salome, who is always with her, and helps her in battles.
Saint Seiya – This old school series is from the 80s, and while it enjoys great popularity almost everywhere else in the world, it never caught on here, which is a great shame. It is about 5 Bronze Saints, who are the protectors of the Greek Goddess Athena who was reborn as a Japanese girl Saori. In the series, there are actually three tiers of saints. The heroes are the lowest at bronze, but there are two others, silver and gold. The silver saints served as trainers to the bronze. One of those trainers was Shaina who wore the Ophiuchus, or Serpent Bearer’s, cloth. Her power is based on a snake’s as she moves quickly and strikes without warning. Shaina starts out appearing like a villain with a grudge against Pegasus Seiya, but the truth is revealed that she is actually in love with him.
That’s all I’ve got for this edition of the Year of the Snake. Did I miss any other titles with snakes getting a featured role? I’m sure I did. Let me know what they are in the comments!
Arr, it be that time o’ year again. Aye matey, it be Talk Like o’ Pirate Day! To shiver yer timbers, I be reviewin’ a pirate manga that also be fittin’ in ta da Movable Manga Feast this month. So grab yerself a bottle o’ rum ‘n find out about Wanted Arrrr…
In the Mediterranean at the end of the 17th century, former songstress Armeria disguises herself as a boy and boards the ship of the pirate Skulls–the man who kidnapped Luce, her first love. Captain Skulls is arrogant, violent, and a skirt chaser! And unfortunately for Armeria, he discovers she’s a woman…
My introduction to Hino’s work was through the serialization of her most current title Vampire Knight in Shojo Beat. I really didn’t care for it, so when this volume came out, I had little interest in it. But, curiosity got the better of me, and I picked it up. I am slightly surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did, but it is about as different from Vampire Knight as night is to day.
The thing I disliked most about Vampire Knight is the way drama oozed from every pore of every character. The characters in Wanted are the exact opposite. Armeria doesn’t just sit around bemoaning her loss or wait for Luce to come for her. She take the initiative, disguising herself as a man and joins different ships searching for the pirates that kidnapped him eight years ago. Armeria is spunky and headstrong. She is determined to remain on the ship with Skulls until she finds Luce, and she doesn’t let his barbs get her down.
Skulls, the pirate captain, tries to come off as a scoundrel and a ladies man, but he is essentially a good person. He saves Armeria several times, and only robs from nobles who take advantage of the people and then give the wealth back to them. He is like a pirate Robin Hood and his crew are his Merry Men. And it’s a motley crew of merry men at that. They are never formally introduced, but there are a few that are featured in the chapters. His first mate, Second, is a big, shirtless, bald black man who knows his captain all too well. Doc is an older man who like the father figure of the crew, and Fourth and Fifth, crewmen skilled in sailing and swordsmanship. The names aren’t very original, but they are all fun none the less.
There are three chapters about Armeria and Skulls, and a bonus chapter that takes place in Meiji Japan. I really enjoyed the pirate chapters. They were light and fun. There is swashbuckling, raiding, cannon fire, battles with the navy, and secret treasure; everything that makes pirate stories fun. I didn’t care so much for the bonus chapter. It has the same feel as the Wanted chapters, but it just didn’t work as well for me. It moved too fast for me to really believe it, though I did kind of like the characters.
The art is very Hino, with the girls having big eyes and the men all being bishonen. And the hair is everywhere. But I was fine with it in this volume. The characters were different and varied enough that it didn’t get on my nerves. It was to have a beard, dreadlocks and even no hair at all!
Wanted is a fun romp for a romantic pirate adventure. I liked the relationship between Arto (Armeria) and Skulls. I love that they are always at odds. Even though Skulls’ identity was pretty obvious, it’s reveal didn’t ruin the story. So matey, if ye be wantin’ some good pirate romance, be pickin’ up Wanted!
It’s May and that means it’s time to show some love to our furry (and sometimes not so furry) friends! It’s National Pet Month, where the benefits of pet ownership is promoted and pet adoptions are supported. I wrote about some pet manga available in English before, but now it’s time for an update!
The most common way of getting a pet in manga is through taking in a stray. My Cat Loki was a Tokyopop original title that sadly didn’t get to finish its three-volume run due to low sales. It’s about a young man, Ameya, who withdraws from those around him after his long-time pet cat dies. But he soon takes in a stray who looks a lot like his first cat, that he names Loki. The two available volumes show Ameya and Loki first coming to terms with each other, and then Ameya coming out his shell and starting to live again. I enjoyed the volumes I read and was disappointed I wouldn’t see the third. I thought I would be put off with seeing Loki as a “cat boy”, as Ameya would sometimes see him as human, but it actually worked in the context of the story.
Milkyway Hitchhiking is a Yen Plus exclusive title from Yen Press about a cat with a coat that looks like the Milkyway. She is a special cat that has the ability to grant wishes. She wanders the world interacting with people and cats, both strays and pets, and sometimes even helps them. I’ve found this series to be hit or miss, and haven’t really enjoyed the stories where Milkyway is the observer and not really involved. The art is very pretty though, as being online, it gets to be in color, and is often done with a water-color look.
PoyoPoyo Observation Diary is a new digital manga from Jmanga, the Japanese publisher collaboration site. It’s a about a round, fat cat, that is found a woman who then brings his home. It’s a 4-koma, or comic strip style comic that shows Poyopoyo with his new family. I’ve bought the first volume, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. But it looks very funny. There is also an anime available on Crunchyroll, which Jmanga links to as well. The anime episodes, much like the Chi’s Sweet Home anime are short, only about 3 minutes long, making them a great time filler, or sucker as your schedule will allow.
Guru Guru Pon-Chan gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “puppy love.” Ponta is the pet labrador retriever dog to the Koizumi family. The grandfather invents a bone that when licked allows the animal the power of human speech. Ponta eats the bone and is turned into a human girl. She falls in love with Mirai, a boy who saves her when she rushes out into traffic while in human form. Ponta enrolls in Mirai’s school so she can be near him as well as trying to learn how to be human. Del Rey released this 9 volume series back in 2005, so the series is out of print, but used copies may still be had.
While not specifically a pet manga, Fruits Basket, a book formerly published by Tokyopop, features several animals that are pets. This title is about a girl, Tohru, who gets involved with a family, the Sohmas, that are cursed by the Chinese zodiac. Everytime they are hugged by a member of the opposite sex not afflicted in the same way, they turn into one of the animals of the zodiac. The first three Sohmas that Tohru meets, Yuki, Kyo, and Shigure are the rat, cat and dog of the zodiac story. Momiji the rabbit and Ayame, the snake, also represent common house pets. In a bit of a reversal, Tohru is the stray that is taken in, and it’s her unconditional feelings that help to heal the Sohma family and break the curse. This is another series that is out of print, and it would behoove Kodansha to bring it back. Fruits Baskets is just too good of a series to stay out of print.
Continuing my ASPCA Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month coverage, I started to notice a pattern in some of the titles I’ve read. In manga, animals are often used to make a point about a character in the manga. They can help to define a character, be indicators from the past that explain the characters situations or used as plot devices. My big problem with some of these uses, is that I usually involves said animal being dead. And said animal is usually a cat.
This pattern started out rather innocently. In Fullmetal Alchemist volume 5, when Ed and Al go back to their teacher, Izumi, she is shown helping the kids in the village by fixing their toys using alchemy. But then, a little girl comes to her with a dead kitten, asking her to fix it. It’s a sad moment as Izumi has to explain why the kitten is not the same as a toy, but it works into the whole theme of the manga, so it fits in well. And we didn’t have to get to know the kitten first, so it’s more heartbreaking for the girl than the reader.
On the other hand, Karakuri Odette decides to get the reader involved. In volume 1, another inventor’s android, Asia, is staying with Odette and going to school with her. She seems to be more popular since she is more expressive with her emotions. Both she and Odette find a stray cat and start taking care of it. But it gets run over. The difference between Asia and Odette becomes clear when Asia starts playing with cat’s corpse while Odette is horrified, not just by the cat’s death, but by Asia’s behavior. I can’t blame her. I was too.
Sometimes, a character will have omens early on in life that things are going to go well for them, and for some reason, that means killing a cat. In O-Parts Hunter volume 1, when Jio was young, he had found a kitten to play with. The next day, he found it dead. It’s later revealed his alter ego, Satan, killed it because he wanted Jio to be lonely. In Jack Frost, No-ah lived a cursed lived life with everyone she ever cared about getting killed, including stray animals she shows kindness to. Adding insult to injury, in volume 3, the stray dog gets an off-screen death with a tire screech and a whine, while the stray cat gets a horrific death for the reader to see! Why? What did the poor cat do to deserve that other than being cute?
You want to show how vile a villain is? Do what Daniel X volume 2 did, and show them eating cats. You want to prejudice your leader against a rival? Then steal her kitten, kill and burn it, and incriminate your rival like in Ooku: The Inner Chamber Volume 2. You need to show how uncaring your character has become? Have him feed a stray cat and then show that same cat dead in the street a short time later for him to see as in Sprial: Bonds of Reasoning Volume 5. I’m sure there are more examples, but I’m good stopping here. I don’t really need to know about the ways more cats are tragically ended for a story to advance. Really, can’t dogs get picked on more? Or hamsters even?
April is the ASPCA’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. Human cruelty to animals is nothing new. Our faithful companions can become the focus of our anger and hate. So it’s not surprise that the problem has come up in manga. Matsuri Akino’s title Petshop of Horrors often has stories and themes of animals exacting their revenge on cruel and thoughtless humans. In the pages of Milkyway Hitchhiking, an online-only title in Yen Press’ Yen Plus, cats are often see enduring some torture at the hands of kids who view it as a fun past time. Other titles get right to the heart of the matter and help to give the animals a voice.
Genju no Seiza – This is another title by Matsuri Akino that sadly was never finished in the US. It is about a boy, Fuuto, who lives in Tokyo, and also seems to be the reincarnation of the Holy King of Dhalashar. In volume 4, the first chapter is “A Wordless Voice.” There have been a rash of mutilations and killings of stray animals in Fuuto’s neighborhood. With the help of his guardian animal friends, he decides to find the culprit, and is surprised by the identity. This chapter doesn’t pull any punches about Akino’s opinion of people who abuse animals. Kurgahara at one point says “Only a coward would harm a defenseless animal that can’t even ask for help.” Amen to that sister.
Free Collar Kingdom – This title is a three-volume series from Del Rey Manga’s early days. I picked it up because it had otaku cats. Can you really get a better combination than that? While the story has plenty of humor as it pokes fun at otaku and has the requisite fan service to keep most males interested, it also has a more serious underlying theme. Cyan, the hero of the story, was owned by a boy named Kokoro, who gets sick and has to go to the hospital. His parents, not knowing what to do with the cat since Kokoro can’t keep it at the hospital, and aren’t even sure if he will pull through, just leave Cyan in the basement of their apartment complex. There he meets the Free Collars, a gang of former pets who were abandoned by their owners and have banded together to survive. The point of their name is made most poignantly, when Cyan, after staying with the Free Collars for a while, starts to feel his collar tighten. He has continued to grow, but his collar has not. He could be choked by it. The ring left by the too-tight collar becomes a symbol of their release from their former human’s abandonment.
Apollo’s Song – While this title by Osamu Tezuka isn’t about animals, it does show some graphically violent moments of animals being mutilated and killed. Shogo Chikaishi can’t stand to see any showing of affection. Whenever he sees animals doing it, he goes into a rage and kills them. Worried that his rage will be turned on humans, he is admitted into a mental hospital. While the other titles in this post only imply the abuse, or show before and after scenes, Tezuka shows the violence for what it is; cold and brutal. It was harsh enough that I couldn’t read these scenes for a second time. I had page past them. Leave it to the God of Manga to not pussy-foot around the issue.
Hell Girl – This manga, based on the anime, is about tweens and teens going to a website to get revenge for some betrayal done to them or someone close to them. Enma Ai, Hell Girl, gets the request and decides if the person is worthy of her help. There is a catch for getting her help though. The person asking for the revenge will be cursed to hell as well as the person they curse, they just get a longer life. In volume one, the fourth chapter called “The Inaudible Scream,” is about a veterinarian who only helps the pets of rich people. When the beloved dog of an orphaned girl dies because he doesn’t operate, she calls on Hell Girl for help. Enma Ai obliges, and gives the greedy, heartless vet a taste of his own medicine. It’s scary to think that there are people that we put our trust in to care for our pets that might betray us. This is an example of one or worse kinds of abuse an animal can endure.
I know this isn’t a fun or happy theme, but it is an important one to get out. Pets can become just as important as loved ones, often filling a void when one is lost, keeping us company, and bringing a little light to some of our darkest hours. It is really important that we return that favor and keep them from being abused and abandoned. We must give them a voice.
Easter is just around the corner, so it’s time for some more marginally related manga! This time I’ll introduce some manga that features the Easter Bunny’s favorite treat; eggs!
In the first volume of Dr. Slump, inventor Senbei Norimaki invents the Time Slip, Which allows he and Arale to travel back to prehistoric times. Arale brings back an egg, which hatches to reveal a cherub-like being, with wings, antenna that can shoot laser beams, and curly green hair. Arale proceeds to name him/her (not sure which), Gatchan which is short for Gadzilla (Gojira). Gatchan becomes Arale’s constant companion, following her everywhere, eating most everything, especially liking metal but not rubber. Gatchan even clones itself to become twins!
In Dragon Ball, another Toriyama title, villain King Piccolo, the old version, has a particular ability, Pokopen, to create subordinates. He creates an egg in his body and spits it out, out of which the subordinates would hatch. They come out of the shell full formed and ready to do their master’s bidding. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and took a lot out of Piccolo. But these henchmen, who had names like Tambourine and Cymbol (keeping the musical instrument motif), proved to be a lot of trouble for Goku and his friends, even killing Kuririn.
Yusuke of Yu Yu Hakusho, in order to return back to life, is given a Spirit Beast egg to nurture. The egg feed off Yusuke’s aura and would determine what kind of creature hatched from it. It could either help him return to his body or gobble him up and take him to hell. Yusuke used that energy to rescue Keiko who was protecting his body from a fire in his apartment set by an arsonist. The egg was stored away in the underworld and later hatches during the Dark Tournament arc. It turns out to be a cute spirit beast with floppy ears who is named Pu. He, like Yusuke, is very attached to Keiko. Pu helps Yusuke during Genkai’s final disciplineship test, and in the last arc changes into a large blue bird, looking much like a phoenix.
Shugo Chara‘s Amu Hinamori makes a wish for the courage to be more like her “would be” self, the person she wants to be instead of the shy introvert she is. The next morning, she wakes up to find three colorful eggs – pink, blue, and green – in her bed. They hatch into Guardian Characters, each of which represents an aspect of Amu’s true self. Soon, other characters with Guardians begin appearing, and there is even a company, the Easter Company, who is searching for a special egg, the Embryo, that can grant any wish of the one who possesses it.
Are there more manga that feature eggs prominently? I’ll bet there are! These are just the first four that came to mind. Let me know what other titles I’m missing in the comments.
Have a Happy Easter!