Tag Archives: Vertical Inc.

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall Novel

Before the fall, and before the trials of “the Titan’s son” Kyklo, a young smith by the name of Angel Aaltonen grapples with the giants as only a craftsman could… 

Attack on Titan Before the Fall
Attack on Titan Before the Fall novelCreated by Hajime Isayama; Written by Ryo Suzukaze; Art by Thores Shibamoto
Publisher: Veritical, Inc.
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Light Novel/Horror
Price: $10.95
Rating: ★★★★½

I’m usually hesitant about reading spin-off material of a series that doesn’t involve the characters that made me enjoy a series, but Attack on Titan is different. The world that Isayama created is so big and full of questions that spin-offs and prequels are a must for fans craving more. This novel is one of those must haves. It tells the tale of the creation of the 3-D maneuvering gear used by the Survey Corps, at a time when they were little more than “meals on wheels” to the Titans.

Angel Aaltonen is a craftsman living in Shinganshina District. He has two childhood friends, Maria Carlstedt who is in the Garrison and guards the gate of Wall Maria, and Solm, who is in the Survey Corps. Angel works in a workshop that contracts with the military to make weapons to defend the walls from the Titans, giant creatures that by all appearances are unkillable. Angel wants to create weapons to help the Survey Corps and his friend survive their encounters with the Titans, and maybe even find a way to kill them. Given the new materials Iron Bamboo and Iceburst stone, Angel begins developing an idea, but in order to really find its practical applications, he needs to go on an expedition with the Survey Corps, go beyond the walls and face the greatest terror known to Man.

I really liked Angel. He was passionate about both his work and his beliefs that humans should be trying to find a way to defeat the Titans instead of hiding away behind the walls. His motivations run deeper that just freeing humanity. He wants to help his friend Solm, and protect him the only way he knows how; by giving him the tools to kill Titans. His determination is so great that even after seeing a Titan in action, and how unstoppable they are, he still wants to go on an expedition with the Survey Corps, despite the paralyzing fear the Titans inspire in him. He is a man of conviction, who never stops trying, even when it may cost him his life.

I enjoyed watching Angel’s journey to create new, effective equipment for the Survey Corps. He grows with every obstacle to overcome, and there are plenty. Opposition to the government nearly impedes his trip to the Factory City where they learn of the Iceburst stone and first process the iron bamboo. Forces within the government are also pressuring to end the Survey Corps expeditions. When it’s impossible to kill a Titan, why bother? Despite all this, Angel continues to press on, and finds plenty of help along the way from fellow craftsman Xenophon and his assistant Corina. Solm and Maria are his moral support and part of his motivation to keep trying. It is thanks to his perseverance that the Survey Corps not only get their maneuvering equipment, but also find the Titan’s one weak spot, thus preserving hope for humanity.

There were plenty of good scenes in this volume. Having already read the first volume of the manga for the second part, it was neat to see the Titan attack on Shinganshina from another perspective. Watching Angel start to work out the concept of the Equipment was interesting. Angel’s first attempt using the Equipment was funny, though it quickly became serious as he tried to work how the Survey Corps would use it. As part of the Attack on Titan Universe, Before the Fall is also filled with plenty of gory scenes. Titans shoot half-digested heads over the wall of fallen Survey Corps members. People are flattened to pulps of meat, and brains, guts and body parts are strewed everywhere. While these scenes tend to be few and far between, they still leave an impact. Reader discretion is advised.

Fortunately, the illustrations for this volume chose not to portray any of these scenes. Instead we get illustrations of Angel, some with Solm, Maria and even Xenophon. There isn’t one with a Titan, which I am just fine with. Angel’s visage is much more pleasant to look at. Shibamoto’s art is well done while still feeling like it belongs in the Titan Universe. The adaptation is smooth and reads well in English, but that’s a given with Vertical titles.

I wish this first part of Attack on Titan Before the Fall had gotten a manga adaptation like the other two volumes in the series. Angel’s journey is filled with just as much excitement, action, and danger, and really deserved the same treatment. It makes me doubly glad that Vertical gave us this volume so we can at least read it. If you love Attack on Titan, you owe it to yourself to pick up this volume. It’s an important moment in the world’s history, and one that should not be passed up.

This Week’s Manga: Almost All Shojo

This Week's Manga

This week is a good week for shojo readers. Kodansha releases the 4th volume of Say I Love You, their new shojo Say I Love You 4title that I was surprised I not only liked but also managed to distinguish itself from other titles by taking a more direct approach to teens, their relationships and feelings. Viz Media has a lot of shojo titles I like, and this week releases three that are high on my list. My Love Story is a new series that I’m hoping will end my bad luck with romantic comedies. Volume 2 is out this week. Natsume’s Book of Friends is a title I would call a comfort manga. It’s relaxing story and engaging characters is perfect to relax to after a rough day. Volume 17 is out this week. Happy Marriage?! is a shojo for a more mature crowd. I’ve enjoyed watching Chiwa’s and Hokuto’s relationship get over the bumpy spots and grow. It’s sad that the series is almost done with Volume 8 now out, but I’m looking forward to a Happy Ending.

It’s not all shojo this week, as the title of this post says. Seven Seas Entertainment releases a title that has me curious but I’m not so sure I’m excited about. Magical Girl Apocalypse takes the next step in the deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre and moves it further into the horror genre. I liked the darkness in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, but I’m afraid Magical Girl Apocalypse may go a step too far. Vertical also has a brush with horror with their new title Ajin. It  is also being streamed digitally on Crunchyroll, but for the best translation and presentation, go with the Vertical edition.

My Love Story 2Natsume Book of Friends 17Happy Marriage 8Magical Girl Apocalypse 1Ajin 1

This Week’s Manga: Monster Heart

This Week's Manga

My Little Monster 4Gundam the origin 7With September having five Tuesdays, most of the big releases will hit next week. That leaves this week open for some of the smaller titles to get the attention. Kodansha’s My Little Monster is a series I’m continuing to enjoy. The unusual relationship between Shizuku and Haru is a lot of fun to watch, and the uncertainty of where it will be at the end of each volume makes it stand out from many of the other shojo titles out there. Volume 4 comes out this week. Vertical’s Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin has proven there is not only a market for Gundam manga, but that premium hardcovers will be coveted too. The series passes the half way point with Volume 7‘s release.

This week welcomes back an old publisher to print. Netcomics has been missing from the print releases for a while. They were one of the first publishers to rent chapters online and to put other publisher’s titles online digitally. Finally they release a new print volume of a new series, Give to the Heart. The premise has a bit of a Bride of the Water God feel, with a Water God trying to win a human woman’s heart, and that woman with something of a grudge against him. It’s sounds intriguing enough that wouldn’t mind checking it out.

Give to the Heart 1


This Week’s Manga: What Manga?

This Week's Manga

Attack on Titan GuideWow. I thought I was stretching it last week. This week there is hardly any manga being released. Kodansha and Viz Media are about the only companies with anything coming out, and barely any at that. So let’s spotlight some related-but-not-manga titles.

Attack on Titan Before the Fall novelKodansha releases the first to 2 books about Attack on Titan. Attack on Titan Guidebook: Inside and Outside is a look behind the scenes of the manga and anime. At nearly 400 pages, it features interviews with creator Hajime Isayama, his editor and staff of the anime adaptation, concept art from both the manga and anime, and an exhaustive guide to the characters and world of Attack on Titan. There is even a papercraft kit to make your own Colossal Titan head! This is a must for any Attack on Titan fan.

Vertical, Inc. isn’t just a manga publisher. They also print novels, so it’s of no surprise that their leap onto the Attack on Titan bandwagon was to get the light novel series, Attack on Titan Before the Fall. This first novel is a prequel not only to the Attack on Titan series, but also to the manga of the same name as well. This first novel focuses on a blacksmith named Angel who helps to fight the Titans the only way he know how. If you’re hungry for new Titan material that also expands the world more, this is the title for you.

This Week’s Manga: Stray Killers

This Week's Manga

This week has some interesting titles coming out, as well as ending. Kodansha has just one title; Noragami: Stray God Vol. 1. This title was announced to some excitement last year, as it also has an anime that was streamed on Funimation, giving it name recognition that may help move the volume. We’ll have to see if it makes to the NYT bestseller list next week.

Vertical Inc., releases the 4th volume in their foodie series, What Did You Eat Yesterday? Seriously, if you’re not reading this series, why not?! It has something for everyone, foodie or not, and Vertical always puts out great editions.

Viz Media says good-bye to two of its titles. Midnight Secretary, the josei-as-shojo ends this week with Vol. 7. I did enjoy the first two volumes with caveats, but am still interested in reading more. It’s on the to-read list. Dawn of the Arcana, a true shojo also ends it’s run with Vol. 13. I have the first two volumes that have been languishing in my to-be-reviewed pile for a while now. Maybe this is a good time to pick them up and finally check them out. Finally, Time Killers by Kazue Kato comes out. It is a series of short stories by the creator of Blue Exorcist, another series I should read the first volume of some day.

Noragami 1What did you eat yesterday 4Midnight Secretary 7Dawn of the Arcana 13Time Killers


Insufficient Direction

Read this energizing comic and feel proud (or simply unashamed!) of your geek hobbies. Although manga artist Rompers (Happy Mania, Sugar Sugar Rune) doesn’t consider herself too far gone, she’s gotten married to a towering figure of the otaku persuasion, Director-kun (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cutey Honey).

Insufficient Direction
Insufficient DirectionBy Moyoco Anno
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Slice of Life/Geek Culture
Price: $14.95
Rating: ★★★★☆

Insufficient Direction is the semi-autobiographical story of manga artist Moyoco Anno’s daily life with her husband director Hideaki Anno. Starting with their marriage, Anno, who calls herself Rompers and depicts herself as a baby with swirly eyes, picks humorous moments showcasing her husband Director-kun’s otakuness, and her slow but steady slide to join him.

When Vertical first announced this title, I was looking forward to it. I enjoy stories about otaku and the otaku lifestyle, so this title sounded right up my alley. And it does lay on the otakuness thick. Director-kun is very much a tokusatsu, live action sci-fi, fan, and most of his otaku obsessions revolve around these series’. Ultraman, Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, and other shows that fit that genre are mentioned constantly. Director-kun has lots of toys and figures for these shows that he wants to display, and gets up early on Sunday Mornings to watch the latest episodes of the current shows. He also loves anime, but most of the shows mentioned are older series from the 80s; Mobile Suit Gundam, Space Runaway Ideon and Time Bokan. There’s no mention of Director-kun own work though, beyond amateur films he made of Ultraman in his college days.

Rompers enters into this relationship with Director-kun knowing what a big otaku he is, but still feeling ambivalent about it becoming an Ota-wife. Sometimes she worries about being a good ota-wife, and at others she tries to fight his ota-ways by limiting the number of toys he can display, making him clean up his office, and just showering and changing clothes. If there has to be some kind of conflict in this series, this is it, though it is obviously a losing battle. In the first chapter she worries that she hasn’t watched all of Ideon yet. On car trips, she resisted listening to Director-kun’s many hours of anime and tokusatsu music, but soon gives in. She even starts to get up early on Sunday mornings with him.

I know a lot of the humor is supposed to come from this conflict, but I have to admit I found it a little annoying. I’m someone who was never made to feel ashamed of their fannish-ness, or ignored any attempts by my peers to do so, so really don’t understand why someone who want to hide the things they enjoy from others, especially if they are adults. But it’s good to see Rompers come to accept her otakuness. Fortunately this isn’t the only source for the humorous episodes shown. Dieting is always a good source we there is quite a dose of it in here, as are the normal conflicts a husband and wife can get into.

Overall, I did enjoy Insufficient Direction. The amount of otaku references was daunting. Vertical included 29 pages detailing them, including taking four pages alone to explain the book titles referenced in just one panel! This title will appeal most to the thorough fan. If you are just an anime fan, and aren’t interested or familiar with tokusatsu, most of the references you won’t get or care about. But, if you recognize Ultraman poses, know what a transformation belt is, or know who Battle Fever J is, and are a fan of 80s mecha anime, then this manga is for you.


What Did You Eat Yesterday? Volume 1

Shiro Kakei, lawyer by day and gourmand by night, lives with his boyfriend, Kenji Yabuki, an outgoing salon stylist. While the pair navigate the personal and professional minefields of modern gay live, Kenji serves as enthusiastic taste-tester for Shiro’s wide and varied made-from-scratch meals.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? Volume 1
What did you eat yesterdayBy Fumi Yoshinaga
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Cooking/Slice of Life
Price: $12.95US
Rating: ★★★★½

Fumi Yoshinaga is best known here in the US for her BL titles, but any porn that might be found in What Did You Eat Yesterday? will only be in the kitchen. Yoshinaga is also a big food enthusiast, and this title combines her love of preparing (and eating) food with the life situations of a gay couple. While at first appearance, this title is a foodie’s dream come true, there is still plenty of story to make the book interesting to us non-foodies.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? starts with that very question being asked of Shiro and his co-workers. While the others are vague with their answer, Shiro recites a long list of dishes including ingredients. This is the first sign, other than the title, that food will be a big part of the story. Yoshinaga doesn’t disappoint as every chapter has at least 3-4 pages dedicated to Shiro planning and preparing the nightly meal. No detail is spared as Shiro’s internal monologue catalogs the ingredients, how they should be cut, how long they are cooks or boiled and even at what temperature. If quantities were included, this part of the story could be a how-to instruction for cooking many of the meals. I’ll come out and say this right now, these parts of the book were the ones I found the most uninteresting. I’m not foodie, and never will be. Watching people cook doesn’t interest me, and didn’t even stir my appetite, so if they were cut down to one panel, or even cut out, it wouldn’t bother me.

But to Yoshinaga’s credit, these scenes could be condensed or cut out and the story wouldn’t really suffer. Shiro’s and Kenji’s relationship is really the heart of the series, and the part I thoroughly enjoyed. Each chapter looks at the daily life of Shiro or Kenji, at their job interacting with co-workers or clients, or friends and family. It’s through these interactions that we get to know them. Shiro is the serious and straight-laced half of the relationship. He hasn’t told his co-workers about his sexual orientation, and keeps them at a distance with regards to his personal life. He doesn’t like anyone, including Kenji to talk about it to anyone else. He is very frugal with both his money and his emotions. This helps him in his job, but can cause problems at home.

In contrast, Kenji is very open about his feelings. He is gregarious with his clients and is the “bomb disposal specialist” for the shop he works for, his tenacity giving him the ability to take on the more difficult customers. He is also the more insecure of the two, worrying that Shiro might be attracted to a client and being jealous of Shiro’s former girlfriend who now runs a bakery. He isn’t afraid to show his emotions, from joy to breaking down into tears.

The supporting characters are just as fun and eccentric as you’d expect from a Yoshinanga series. Shiro’s mother is just plain crazy as she tries to be accepting of Shiro’s orientation, but ends up driving him nuts. The introduction of Kayoko, Shiro’s straight female friend was really funny, and she makes a great cooking buddy for Shiro. I also really like Shiro’s co-workers. Kenji’s boss and co-workers haven’t done too much in this first volume, but Kenji taking on the difficult customers was really funny.

I love Yoshinaga’s art. He draws her characters realistically in a minimalist way, but can easily and quickly drop them in a caricature with wide, long faces that get these great expressions. She gets the feeling across of surprise or  impishness with little more than a look.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? is starting out to be a really fun series. This first volume has lots of great moments of humor and realistic relationship issues that anyone gay or straight can understand and relate to, but at the same time also show some of the things that only gay couples would have to deal with. I really enjoyed this series, and if you’re not reading it, or passing it by because you think it’s BL or too foodie, then you’re making a big mistake.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Sickness Unto Death Volume 1-2

When college freshman and future psychotherapist Kazuma Futaba responds to a curious call for a room to let, he ends up living in a mansion owned by Emiru, a frail beauty his own age. Although neighborhood kids call the place haunted, if anything the young mistress nurses a darker affliction. Kazuma learns that his young landlord and love isn’t who he thought she was. Aided by Danish thinker Kierkegaard’s titular proto-existentialist treatise, the future counselor finds a way forward.

Sickness Unto Death 1Story by Hikaru Asada; Art by Takahiro Seguchi
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Romance/Psychological drama
Price: $11.95

Sickness Unto Death starts out by misleading the reader into thinking the story has a supernatural spin, but turns it back around with a compelling and completely natural twist. While the psychological drama dominates the story, at it’s core, it’s really a tragic love story.

The story starts with Futaba, a practicing psychotherapist and instructor, visiting a grave with no name or inscription. He is found by a student, Minami, and proceeds to tell the story of Emiru, a young woman he met when he first started college, who is slowly wasting away due to some great despair that plagues her. In the first volume, there is a sense that something supernatural is going on. Emiru speaks of a ghost living in the house and being responsible for drawing on her bedroom wall. Combined with the grave at the opening and it’s easy to assume that there’s a supernatural element to the story.

Sickness Unto Death 2The second volume plays on this and throws out a twist that not only makes perfect sense, puts everything in the first volume into perspective. It’s an explanation that shows not just how fragile the human psyche can be, but how desperate we can be to be to want to live and remembered. I was riveted by this part of the story. The whole psychology and how it played with the title and Kierkegaard’s treatise was fascinating.

Tied in with all of this was the love story between Futaba and Emiru. She was his first love, and it appears to be one he has not gotten over. Their feelings for each other go beyond the physical, though they do enjoy each other’s company a lot. But there is a quiet desperation to their time together, especially from Emiru. As the truth is revealed, the tragedy of their love just becomes more heart-breaking as Futaba becomes more desperate for it not to end while Emiru becomes more resigned.

Sickness Unto Death is a powerful story about love and accepting ourselves, both the bad and the good. Part of that is being accepted by those around us and more importantly, that we won’t be forgotten after we are gone. While the love story has a tragic ending, the story as a whole is inspiring and ultimately uplifting. I highly recommend this title.


Manga Dome Podcast Episode 46: Sharing the Manga Love

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This week  I have regular departments Weekly Wish List, Vizmanga.com and New York Times top 10s, and then I take a look at the new licenses announced this last week by Vertical, Inc., Yen Press and Kodansha Comics.

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 46: Sharing the Manga Love

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 39: 2013 in Review


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This week I take a look back at 2013 and some of the trends in manga that were seen over the year; What became popular, who started and who stopped publishing and comment on what I’d like see more of in 2014. I also have regular features the Weekly Wish List, Vizmanga.com update and the New York Times Bestseller List.

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 39: 2013 in Review

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 34: Manga Gift Guide 2013


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This week I look at the new licenses from Seven Seas Entertainment, the Vizmanga.com update, the NYT Best Seller List, and a new gift guide of manga for 2013.

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 34: Manga Gift Guide 2013

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 28: Manga at New York Comic Con

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This week I check out some news stories, the goings-ons at Vizmanga.com, and all the new manga licenses from New York Comic Con.

If you like to hear more analysis of the New York Times bestseller list, leave a comment and let me know! And there’s no wishlist again this week.

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 28: Manga at New York Comic Con