Category Archives: Themed Manga

Manga titles that fit into a theme, such as holidays

Horror MMF: Survival of the Fittest

Ever since the days of the Cold War, people have been worrying about surviving through a nuclear war and all the horrors, real and imagined, that could come in the aftermath. Movies have imagined the world becoming a wasteland, populated by mutated monsters, and a few survivors that struggle to survive. Of course, the most fun to have with this is drop the unsuspecting into the middle of this wasteland and see what they’ll do. Known as Survival Horror, this is a relatively new sub-genre of horror, popularized most recently by video games. But manga seems to really enjoy using it too. So here are a few titles that do just that.

Drifting Classroom is a horror manga by its master Kazuo Umezu, and first started serialization in 1972. It’s about an elementary school that is mysteriously transported to a wasteland during an earthquake. The students must struggle to survive in the face of teachers and students going insane, wandering monsters from the wasteland, disease, lack of food and water, and dissent from within. These kids, the oldest of which are only in 6th grade (11-12-years-old), must not only learn how to survive, but keep some semblance of order amongst the chaos and fear all the kids are feeling. The story went for 11 volumes and won the 20th Shogakukan Manga Award in 1975. It was also adapted into a live-action movie in 1987. Viz Media releases all 11 volumes under their Signature line.

Dragon Head also uses school-aged children to convey its horror. The return from a school trip goes horribly wrong as the train is trapped in a tunnel by an earthquake. The survivors must find a way out, and then try to survive in a world turned wasteland by a volcanic eruption/comet strike/nuclear attack. This series is more of a psychological horror, with the monsters being people who have given up and given in to their fear. What happened is never made clear, but the need to survive and not give in to fear is very much so. This series went 10 volumes and was published by Tokyopop. It won the Kodansha award in 1997, and was adapted into a live action movie in 2003.

King of Thorn is survival horror with a sci-fi twist. A group of people are put into suspended animation to escape a plague that turns people to stone. When they wake up, they find the research facility has been taken over by a jungle that seems to have a mind of its own and monsters roam the landscape. They must fight to survive as well as try to discover what has happened while they were asleep. This series is 6 volumes long, and was released in full by Tokyopop. It well received in the US, as well as getting an anime movie adaptation in Japan. which was released in 2010 and nominated for the 4th Asia Pacific Screen Award for Best Animated Feature Film.

Psyren is the newest addition to the survival horror genre. The story takes place in both the world as we know it today, and in another that is a wasteland where monsters roam the landscape. The wasteland world is known as “Psyren”, and people “chosen” by the entity known as Nemesis Q are transported to Psyren to play a “game”. They must find their way through the wasteland to return home. On each “mission,” the “players” are confronted by both insect and humanoid monsters that kill without compassion or restraint. The truth of Psyren is more than a mere game, which is why I include it with this list. Psyren has only had one volume released far in the US, and is being published by Viz. It started serialization in Shonen Jump magazine in January 2011, but will not move over to the digital verison of the magazine in January 2012.

Horror MMF: Just Desserts

Horror stories aren’t all just about blood, gore and monsters. Many stories end with a twist, where something totally unexpected happens right at the end. Twilight Zone was very good at this, as in “Eye of the Beholder,” where the woman’s bandages are removed and her beautiful face turns out to be ugly in her world. Sometimes, the twists show people getting what they deserve as in “The Masks,” where the characters must where ugly masks that reflect their ugly personalities, and when the masks are taken off, their faces are shaped the same as the masks. These kinds of twists are almost a subgenre in horror manga. It showed up so often that blogger John Jakala dubbed them “comeuppance theater”, a term eagerly picked up by other manga bloggers.

Pet Shop of Horrors was among the first of these titles to be translated. The series features the bishonen Count D who knows just what pet you need. Everyone who takes a pet from Count D either dies at the hand of their pet, or is protected from someone horrible by said pet. Most of the stories feature animals getting their revenge on an uncaring humanity, but sometimes the animals themselves are just killers. There isn’t a lot of gore, but there is a lot of death, which leads to Count D coming to the attention of the LA Police and one Detective Orcot, who is convinced D is responsible for all the deaths. It is complete at 10 volumes, but out of print with the demise of Tokyopop. There is also a sequel series, Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo which has D up to his old tricks, this time in Tokyo. Only 8 volumes of this series was released, and suffered the same fate as it’s predecessor.

Presents was from the non-defunct CMX. It features a girl, Kurumi, who was never given any presents when she was young, so she never aged, and now delivers presents to others, the contents of which are usually what they deserve, not what they want. The volumes are a collection of short stories with Kurumi being the connecting factor. Kanako Inuki’s art is cute but creepy, adding to the sense of dread the morality tales have already set up. The title is short at only three volumes long, but is also sadly out of print.

Hellgirl was from Del Rey and is based on the anime of the same name. There is a website that can only be accessed at midnight. If you can get to it, you can put in the name of the person you want revenge on, and if Emna Ai agrees, she will take that person to hell, but you will be cursed to hell as well when you finally die. The anime was created for teens and up, but the manga is written for a tween audience, with lots of melodrama, and not a lot of blood or gore. While it is rather satisfying to see bullies get what’s coming to them, there is also a theme of Emna Ai trying to talk her “clients” out of wishing the revenge, or at least reconsider and find another way. The series is 9 volumes long, and is technically out of print, unless Kodansha decides to bring it back.

When Aurora, a publisher that specialized in shojo and josei manga started, one of their debut titles was Nightmares For Sale. This series featured a pawn shop run by a not-so-human bishonen Shadow and his opinionated female assistant Maria. They sell items that have the ability to grant the buyer’s wishes, but usually at a very high price. These stories are darker and have a little more gore, as is it written for an older audience. The series was only two volumes and are out of print, as is its publisher.

Only One Wish is another Del Rey title, that is in the same vein as Hellgirl, only this time, instead of a website, it’s a cellphone, and one must text a dark angel. Got to keep up with the times, it seems. This title doesn’t have the same gravitas of some of the other titles. The chapters are self-contained stories and aren’t really all that dark, Most of them have a fairly happy ending. It’s not a bad title, but only the first chapter has the “comeuppance theater” feel, and even then it doesn’t do it very well. I think it was meant to be in that vein, but it just didn’t carry it through, which may be why it only when on volume.

“Comeuppance Theater” can be filled with tropes that can make it seem boring or cliché. But with the right characters or set up, it can still be an enjoyable romp through the things we know we shouldn’t want, but may secretly wish we could do. Enjoy these titles at your own risk.

Hark! The Manga Angels Sing!

Christmas isn’t exactly a holiday that gets titles dedicated to it. There are often chapters with a Christmas theme, especially in romance titles, since in Japan the holiday is more for lovers. But it finally occurred to me, that there are titles with angels, and there is no Christmas in the US without angels in song or on a Christmas tree. So here are some manga with/about angels!

Continue reading Hark! The Manga Angels Sing!

2010 Manga Gift Guide

Continuing the tradition from last year, I’ve decided to put together a new gift guide for the manga reader(s) in your life. I changed up some of the types this year, and am featuring all new titles. Check out last year’s guide for some other types that might not be on this list or for more variety. And check out All About Manga for other lists part of the Great Manga Gift Guide for 2010.

Continue reading 2010 Manga Gift Guide

Thanks for the Food!

Thanksgiving is a traditionally US holiday. It’s a harvest festival that has roots in a religious celebrations of family, friends and a bountiful harvest. It has since moved away from those beginnings, and today, Thanksgiving is seen as a time for families to get together, to eat lots of turkey, and to watch football. If you’re not into all of that, but still want the day to have a Thanksgiving feel, here are some manga that can put you into that Turkey-Day mood.

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Bread is a staple of most American meals, so no Thanksgiving can be complete without some hot rolls. And of course, there’s the stuffing for the turkey, and the weeks of turkey sandwiches afterwards. So we start with Yakitate! Japan, a battle manga about bread. Kazuma Azuma wants to create the national bread of Japan. The series starts with him going to Tokyo to work at Pantasia, and then follows his exploits with his co-workers. originally, Yakitate!! Japan explains a lot about bread making the baking industry, but as the series goes on, it gets heavily into gags, especially puns, of which the title is included.

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There are plenty of dishes to go with the main course at a Thanksgiving dinner. Finding the right combinations for a family isn’t easy. In the world of Hunter x Hunter, Hunters are people who specialize in finding rare and/or difficult things. One such Hunter is the Gourmet Hunter, who specializes in rare ingredients to create a special meal. Gon, the protagonist of this title, as part of his Hunter exam, must satisfy two Gourmet Hunters in order to move on. This turns out to not be easy, as they are very picky, but Gon and his friends to finally succeed. This part of the exam can be found in Volume 2

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The main course, is of course, the turkey, whether it’s roasted or fried, or however else you like to cook your turkey, no Thanksgiving can really be complete with that golden bird on the table. Toriko is another title that goes for the meat. Toriko is a Gourmet Hunter in the same vein as Hunter x Hunter. In his world, gourmet food is all the rage, and hunting the best and most rare beasts is left to Hunter like him. Toriko himself is also after the ultimate dinner course with only the best of the best ingredients making it up. Komatsu, a timid chef joins Toriko in his hunts and search for perfect ingredients. This title is very over-the-top, with lots of time spent eating, sometimes leaving the characters in an overstuffed stupor, also a common occurrence at Thanksgiving.

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If you’re not into the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, there are other options. Oishinbo is about Shiro Yamaoka’s search for the ultimate menu for the 100th anniversary of Tozai News newspaper. In the a la carte series Viz released, you can enjoy Japanese Cuisine, Fish, Shrimp and Sashimi, Ramen, Rice and even Saki. There lots of different dishes in each volume, and the stories present them in a way that makes learning about the food and it’s preparation interesting. Yamaoka is a great character to follow, though the battles with his father can be a little tedious, the dishes they feature more than make up for it.

For dessert, check out my Themed Manga post Trick or Treat and scroll down to check out titles Antique Bakery and Kitchen Princess, both of which feature lots of pies and cakes to finish off your Thanksgiving feast.

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Now that you’ve stuffed yourself and are in a Turkey coma, it’s time to move on to the other Thanksgiving tradition; football. There’s only one manga that can satisfy this need; Eyeshield 21. It’s about Sena Kobayakawa, who after entering Diemon Private Senior High School, is spotted by the captain of the American Football team, Yoichi Himura. He isn’t big or power, but he is fast and agile, skills that land him as the teams running back. Because Yoichi is afraid some other team might try to recruit him away, he has Sena wear a helmet with a green-tinted eyeshield, so no one will be able to see his face. The Diemon team then goes on to face several different school teams as they struggle to go to the Spring and then Fall tournaments. The teams are a little wacky, with plays that sound more like shonen attacks, but the series is a lot of fun, and if you keep from taking the sport too seriously, you will really enjoy this title.

So, whether you enjoy Thanksgiving for the food and family, or are just spending a quiet night at home, this list will hopefully get you through the day.

Pocky Day!

Ah, Pocky, that tasty treat, the preferred snack of otaku everywhere! November 11th, or 11-11 is Pocky Day! Can you guess why? This “holiday” was started in South Korea, with their version of pocky, Pepero, where it is similar to Valentine’s Day. Pocky Day hasn’t taken off in Japan like Pepero has in Korea. I heard about it from the SciGuys podcast. I like the idea, so here are some manga titles that give a heads up to that biscuit cookie dipped in chocolate (or an assortment of other flavors), Pocky!

There are a lot of manga titles where characters are seen nomming on a stick of pocky. Card Captor Sakura, Gravitation, Tramps Like Us (Kimi Wa Pet), Harlem Beat, Nodame Cantabile and The Wallflower (Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge) all feature scenes of characters loving their pocky! But here are five titles I’d like to focus on where pocky gets more of a spotlight.

Onegai Teacher – This was originally an anime that was adapted to a manga and light novel series. Mizuho is half-alien, half-human. She has been sent to Earth by the Federation to watch over it and keep humans from making the same mistakes. Mizuho is seen eating pocky a lot. Her father died when she was young, and her only memory of him is related to a pocky box, so she eats pocky to be reminded of him. There are two volumes of this manga available, that were published by the now-defunt ComicOne, but you can probably find copies on trading sites or at used bookstores.

Zatch Bell (Kojiki no Gash) – In this shonen battle manga, every 1000 years, 100 Mamodo come to Earth to battle out for the title of King of the Mamodo. To do battle, Mamodo need a human partner to read the spells they use. Zatch Bell is one such Mamodo, and is the hero of the series, with his human partner Kiyo Takamine. Volcan 300 is Zatch’s cardboard toy robot friend, made out of an empty box of pocky and some disposible chopsticks. There have been several versions of the Volcan 300, but you’ve got to empty though boxes first, before you can make a new one! Viz Media released 25 of the 33 volumes of Zatch Bell before discontinuing the series.

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Dramacon – This is a 3 volume OEL series created by Sveltana Chmakova. The series is about fledgling writer Christie Leroux and her first experiences at a big anime convention. In this series, we see pocky used as comfort food. Christie celebrates being at the con by buying lots of pocky, as well as drowns her sorrows by buying lots of pocky. This is the best, and probably most realistic portrayal of the use of pocky by most anime and manga fans in the US. Dramacon was released by Tokyopop and is among the few celebrated titles of OEL manga. You can get the whole series in one omnibus volume.

Lucky Star – This title is a 4-koma, or 4 panel series, much like the comic strips in American newspapers. It follows 4 Japanese girls as they go through high school. There is no real ongoing plot and the strips are mostly about the girls daily lives. The leader of the group is Konata Izumi, a smart and athletic girl, but who would rather play video games and read manga than study or compete. But for this article, we want to look at Kagami Hiiragi, the older of the Hiiragi fraternal twins. Like Konata, Kagami likes to play video games, and she reads light novels. She also indulges in that more favorite to Otaku treats, pocky! She can often be seen munching on pocky sticks. Lucky Star has eight volumes, and is being released by Bandai Entertainment.

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Vampire Knight – When I asked for suggestions on Twitter for titles with Pocky in it, this series kept coming up, so I’ll include it. Vampire Knight is about Yuki Cross, the adopted daughter of the Headmaster of Cross Academy and her run-ins/relationships with the Night Class, a special class for Vampires to learn how to co-exist with humans. Shiki Senri is a member of the Night Class and is apparently “Pocky mad”. He is seen eating it several times throughout the manga. Vampires eating pocky. I wonder, does he stick the pocky in his mouth and pretends he has reaaalllllyyyy long fangs? Just kidding. Viz Media releases Vampire Knight and there are currently 10 volumes out. Thanks to @ShroudDancer, @aicnanime, @girlg33k_Kris and @PhoenixTerran for their suggestions and help!

These are just a few examples of pocky in manga. For more, and/or to find pocky in anime, check out these sites, which were I also used for several references:

Know of a series with scene I missed? Leave a comment about it!