8th Manga Taisho Awards Announced

Manga TaishoBack in January, the nominees for the 8th Manga Taisho awards were announced. This year there are 14 titles, and again, there are several titles manga readers will be familiar with. Koe no Katachi, A Silent Voice has been announced for print from Kodansha Comics, and was streamed digitally on Crunchyroll. Maho Tsukai no Yome, The Ancient Magus’ Bride has been licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment, and Boku no Hero Academia, My Hero Academy has just been announced by Viz Media to run simultaneous with the Japanese releases. The rest of the nominees include Innocent, Osama-tachi no Viking, Kakukaku Shikajika, Kasane, Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, Kodomo wa Wakatte Agenai, Dimitri Tomkins, Blue Giant, Houseki no Kuni, Ballroom e Youkoso, and Boku dake ga Inai Machi.

nozakikun01Several of these titles look interesting, the problem with most them being they are seinen. One of the titles that isn’t and should be a no-brainer for license is Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. This comedy series follows Sakura Chiyo who tries to confess to her crush Nozaki, a shoujo manga artist, but instead he asks her to help him with his manga. The anime of this series was streamed here and was well received. It’s from Square Enix, so Yen Press really needs to get on licensing this one!

Ballroom e Youkoso is one of those unusual sports manga that might make it here, especially with the popularity of Dancing with the Stars. The story follows middle school student Fujita Tatara who has no goal in life until he is saved from some delinquents by a mysterious man. He leads him to a dance studio where Fujita becomes inspired to join in dancesport. This shonen could be the one to break the sports manga curse. This is from Kodansha.

housekinokuni01Innocent is a historical series about an executioner during the French Revolution, while Osama-tachi no Viking follows a genius hacker and a spoiled rich kid who join forces. Blue Giant appears to be about a school-aged jazz musician who plays the tenor saxophone. All three of these are seinen titles that Viz would have to be convinced to look at. Houseki no Kuni, Kingdom of Gems is a fantasy series about a new life form known as Gems who have to fight to keep from being made into decorations. This seinen series is from Kodansha.

Since three of these nominees have already be licensed, there’s a good chance some of these others will be too. I was pretty good with predictions last year, when the two titles I highlighted ended up getting licensed, so I hope at least a couple of the titles I mentioned will get the nod.

The Manga Taisho Award nominees are nominated by bookstore staff in charge of their stores manga section. Manga titles released in 2014 and that are under 8 volumes are eligible for nomination. There will be second round of voting that will decide the winner, and will be announced later this year.

 

This Week’s Manga: Kiss From a Rose

This Week's Manga

Whispered Words 3It’s a big Viz week with both their shonen and shojo titles as well as plenty of Pokémon from their kid imprint Perfect Square. Everyone else is slumming it with one volume each. Dark Horse has New Lone Wolf and Cub Vol 4, while Kodansha releases the 5th omnibus of xxxHolic. Whispered Words from One Peace Books and is a yuri series about a girl who is secretly in love with her best friend, but who isn’t her type. It keeps getting good word of mouth, so it might be worth picking up even with the higher price point

RequiemRoseKing-GN01Viz’s avalanche of shonen and shojo is hard to escape. I recently re-read the first volume of Kamisama Kiss, and now I’m feeling the itch to binge read, but catching up will hurt the pocket-book with volume 17 coming out this week, even if it were available as an e-book! Rose lovers have two titles to choose from this week, with Kiss of the Rose Princess Vol 3 being released, but even more exciting, and a week early, is Requiem of the Rose King Vol 1. This historical shojo by Aya Kanno, the creator of Otomen, is based on Shakespeare’s play Richard III, and is about one of England’s most hated and most misunderstood monarchs. I so can’t wait to read it, but I wasn’t planning for it until next week! Now I have grabby hands!!

Full list per Diamond Distributors:

DARK HORSE COMICS
New Lone Wolf And Cub Volume 4 TP, $13.99

KODANSHA COMICS
xxxHOLIC Omnibus Volume 5 TP, $19.99

ONE PEACE BOOKS
Whispered Words Volume 3 GN, $16.95

PERFECT SQUARE
LBX The Super LBX Volume 4 GN, $9.99
Pokemon Adventures Volume 27 GN, $9.99
Pokemon XY Volume 2 GN, $4.99

VIZ MEDIA
07-Ghost Volume 15 GN, $9.99
Arata The Legend Volume 21 GN, $9.99
Claymore Volume 26 GN, $9.99
D.Gray-Man 3-In-1 Edition Volume 6 TP, $14.99
Dragon Ball 3-In-1 Edition Volume 8 TP, $14.99
Eyeshield 21 Volume 1 GN (New Printing), $9.99
Kamisama Kiss Volume 17 GN, $9.99
Kiss Of The Rose Princess Volume 3 GN, $9.99
Naruto Volume 69 GN, $9.99
Nisekoi False Love Volume 8 GN, $9.99
Oresama Teacher Volume 18 GN, $9.99
Ranma 1/2 2-In-1 Edition Volume 7 TP, $14.99
Requiem Of The Rose King Volume 1 GN, $9.99
Resident Evil Marhawa Desire Volume 3 GN, $12.99
Rin-Ne Volume 17 GN, $9.99
Seraph Of The End Vampire Reighn Volume 4 GN, $9.99
Skip Beat 3-In-1 Edition Volume 10 TP, $14.99
Terra Formars Volume 5 GN, $12.99
Yu-Gi-Oh 5D’s Volume 7 GN, $9.99

Seven Seas Announces Two New Licenses for 2016

This last Wednesday, Seven Seas Entertainment announced two new licenses on their twitter feed for calendar year 2016. Both titles fall into their wheelhouse, though one doesn’t so too bad.

New TestamentThe Testament of Sister New Devil is an adaptation of the light novel series. It is about Basara Tojo, a high school student who suddenly gets two new sisters when his father announces he has decided to remarry, and then promptly leaves for an overseas trip, leaving the trio alone. But Basara’s new step sisters, Mio and Maria are not what they seem. They are actually a novice Devil and Succubus. After trying to get Basara into a master/servant relationship with a Mio, an error occurs and Basara becomes the master, throwing him into all kinds of erotic situations. On top of all this, Mio is being hunted by both monsters and heroes. This series doesn’t interest me at all with its harem, male gaze elements, but it does fit perfectly in Seven Seas’ catalog. There are four volumes so far, and an anime adaptation is being streamed by Crunchyroll. The first will be available here in February 2016.

My Monster SecretMy Monster Secret is a romantic comedy that follows Asahi Kuromine. He has a crush on Yoko Shiragami, a cute but mysterious girl at his school. Asahi can’t keep a secret, but everyone has them, including Shiragami. Asahi learns her secret, that she is a vampire, but he is determined to keep it for her. This is another “monster girl” series, but doesn’t fall into the heavy male gaze category thankfully. It does seem to make the harem side, but it sure seems shonen rom-coms can’t be successful without it. The art looks cute though, so I might be willing to check out a volume or two. It currently has 10 volumes available, and the first volume will be released in January of 2016.

Seven Seas has been making some interesting choices with their licenses, and have been sticking with some genres that sell. These titles certainly do fit with their male gaze/monster girl categories, but at least with My Monster Secret appear to be looking to mix it up with the latter category. It’s something to look forward to in 2016.

PR: Ultraman Makes His Manga Debut With Viz

Ultraman has been in a bit of a revival with the many incarnations of the TV series coming to DVD and streaming on Crunchyroll. This manga is a sequel to the first TV series, and just started in 2011, effectively updating the 1960s series for a 21st century audience. I’m really looking forward to seeing it later this summer.

Continue reading PR: Ultraman Makes His Manga Debut With Viz

PR: My Hero Academia Gets Print and Digital Releases

My Hero Academia was already announced to have joined the Weeky Shonen Jump line up, but this new announcement makes the series available to more readers beyond the WSJ base. But with the simultaneous chapter releases, fans will have to wait until August to actually read what happens in between the first chapter and chapter 24, when it starts. Recaps are okay, but just not as good as the actual chapters.

Continue reading PR: My Hero Academia Gets Print and Digital Releases

Weekly Top Ten – February 28, 2015

Weekly Top Ten Manga

Every week, the New York Times and Amazon posts the top ten bestselling books. The New York Times gets their numbers from print sales from retailers, while Amazon and Vizmanga.com calculates their own numbers. Offered here is a listing of these books with their status this week compared with the previous week, and some way-off analysis of the activity.

NYTBS

 

New York Times Bestseller List for the week ending February 21, 2015

  1. AkameGaKill_V1_FINAL-199x300Akame ga Kill Vol 1     ↑ 7
  2. Deadman Wonderland Vol 7     ∗
  3. Gansta Vol 5     ∗
  4. Black Butler Vol 19     ↑ 6
  5. Attack on Titan Vol 1     ↓ 1
  6. Unofficial Hatsune Mix     ↓ 3
  7. Black Butler Vol 1     ↵ 44
  8. World Trigger Vol 4     ∗
  9. Death Note Black Vol 1     ↵ 5
  10. Assassination Classroom Vol 2     ↓ 8

There are some dramatic movers and shakers on the list this week. Two Yen Press titles, Akame ga Kill Vol 1 and Black Butler Vol 19 make some big jumps to return to the top 5. Also of interest is the return of Black Butler Vol 1. This used to be the Volume 1 power mover until Attack on Titan came along. Viz gets some of their shonen titles on the list with a new Deadman Wonderland debut at #2, and an unusual Signature title appearance with Gansta debuting at #3. Death Note makes a return for some reason, and Assassination Classroom takes the longest fall, 8 spots, after only 3 weeks on the list.

Amazon

 

Amazon.com for the week ending February 28, 2015

  1. LegendOfZelda-LinkToThePast-3DLegend of Zelda: A Link to the Past     ↔
  2. Monster Musume Vol 6     ↑ 7
  3. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 1 Phantom Blood Vol 1     ↓ 1
  4. Attack on Titan Vol 15     ↔
  5. Naruto Vol 69     ↔
  6. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 1 Phantom Blood Vol 2     ∗
  7. High School DxD Vol 4     ∗
  8. Death Note Box Set      ↵
  9. Attack on Titan Vol 1     ↓ 6
  10. Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon Vol 1     ∗

Pre orders are making quite a dent in the list this week, half of the list to be exact. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Vol 1 is finally released and Vol 2 immediately makes the list, and it won’t be out until May! The new Monster Musume moves up the most, 7 spots, to come in behind Legend of Zelda which seems to have staked out the top spot for a while. Attack on Titan Vol 1 takes the biggest fall, 6 spots, but just holds on at #9. This list has the most static titles with three keeping the same spot, and surprising all in the top five.

Viz Digital

 

Vizmanga.com for the week of February 15, 2015

  1. Boys over Flowers 1Boys Over Flowers Bundle     ↑ 4
  2. Bleach Vol 63     ↑ 1
  3. Assassination Classroom Vol 2     ↓ 2
  4. Food Wars Vol 1     ↑ 2
  5. World Trigger Vol 1     ↵
  6. Deadman Wonderland Vol 7     ∗
  7. Assassination Classroom Vol 1     ↵
  8. All You Need is Kill Vol 1     ↓
  9. Food Wars Vol 3     ↵
  10. Nisekoi Vol 1     ↵

The great price on the Boys Over Flowers Bundle pushes it up to the top spot this week. There’s only one debut with Deadman Wonderland Vol 7, while several volume 1 return. Many of these titles were featured in the Fresh Jump Bundle as well as Assassination Classroom Vol 1 returning with Vol 2. Food Wars also got an addition volume, though Vol 3 seems a little odd.

∗ = New Release
↑ = Title moved up specified # of spots
↓ = Title moved down specified # of spots
↔ = Title didn’t moved from previous week
↵ = Title returned after dropping off list with total # of weeks (when available)

 

Prophecy Volume 1

A newspaper-masked vigilante who broadcasts his acts of vengeance before committing them. A newly formed police division tackling the new frontier of internet-based crime. As the sun rises on the Era of Information, can a group of people who found themselves at the bottom of the food chain rattle society through the web and avenge a fallen friend?

Prophecy Volume 1
Prophecy 1By Tetsuya Tsutsui
Publisher: Vertical Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Thriller
Price: $12.95
Rating: ★★★★½

For anyone who has spent any time on social media, Prophecy will feel like a story ripped from the headlines. Anonymous threats coming from websites that have the police stumped and running in circles trying to find the perpetrators. This first volume sets up the cat and mouse game between Paperboy, an online presence that makes threats and carries them out and the newly formed Anti-Cyber Crimes Division, a unit of the Tokyo Metro Police Department who are trying to stop him.

The story starts like a police procedural with the crimes being discovered and the ACCD starting to investigate. The ACCD is a three person unit led by Lieutenant Erika Yoshino. She is hard-nosed, no-nonsense, and borderline vindictive toward the accused, almost as if the crimes were committed against her personally. She doesn’t pull any punches which can lead to conflicting feelings about her, but she is smart and capable, and is quick to pick up that Paperboy is more than he seems. Her two subordinates, Daiki Okamoto and Manabu Ichikawa have varying degrees of experience with the internet, allowing them to fill different roles in the unit. Daiki was kind of cute with his newbie questions about flame wars and why people get into them. They are the good guys, the protagonists meant to stop Paperboy.

The antagonist, Paperboy, comes off at first like a cyber vigilante, taking on people who have committed some sort of crime as he sees it and administers the seemingly appropriate “justice”. He isn’t taken seriously at first, but as his “sentences” escalate, his popularity grows. At first, it’s easy to write him off, but after he does a live cast that speaks to a lot of people, his approval rating starts to go up as well. Paperboy isn’t committing these crimes for the notoriety, but from a sense of justice that stems from a society and system that has failed a class of people called the “atypical employed”; contract workers, temps, and part-timers. After seeing his origin, it’s hard not to want to root for him.

This is what really makes this series fascinating. It’s easy to see the ACCD as the heroes at first when the issues are black and white. But Paperboy represents a veiled part of society, those without power or a voice to speak with, the poor, the 99%. While his actions are extreme, they are also things a lot of people have thought should happen, such as a rape apologist getting a taste of his own medicine. It isn’t just individuals he takes on, but companies as well, who instead of being accountable for their mistakes trying to shift blame. He is fighting for all the people who think there is nothing they can do, much like the Occupy movement tried to do a few years ago, so it’s morally gray issue.

Paperboy’s origin is tragic, so it’s hard not to sympathize with him. I was mildly sympathetic to him at first, but after  seeing how he started, I was ready to cheer him on. Tsutsui’s writing and character development played a lot into getting the reader to this play. The art is realistic, and a little gritty, adding to both the story’s and character’s realism. It’s use of online social media such are Twitter and You(r)tube only adds to its genuine feeling. It’s that authenticity that really draws you in.

Prophecy is off to a fantastic start and a serious read. It is only three volumes, so it’s not a big investment. If you have any interest in social media networks and how they affect our lives today, pick this title up. It really does seem prophetic with the way social media is being used as a weapon against people and groups by others with a “twisted” sense of justice. This story is too good to pass up. Vertical Comics has done it again with absolute must read.

 

This Week’s Manga: Dark Horse Before the Dawn

Weekly Top Ten Manga

SeraphimSome interesting titles debut this week. Dark Horse releases the second of their two manga by Satoshi Kon, Seraphim 266613336 Wings. Kon does the art while the writing was done by Mamoru Oshii, another anime director. It’s been highly anticipated by fans of both creators. Kodansha Comics’ new title is Maria the Virgin Witch. It’s by Masayuki Ishikawa, the creator of the short-lived release Moyashimon by earlier publisher Del Rey. The subject of this series, a witch who must remain a virgin to keep her powers is more up the alley of western readers than germs were.

Nurse Hitomi 1Seven Seas Entertainment releases the first volume of Nurse Hitomi’s Monster Infirmary. I wasn’t too sure about the series, but a fair-to-middling’ review has me curious enough to flip through it. Yen Press has a whole lot of nope in their releases this week. Ani-Imo, Gou-Dere Sora Nagihara and BTOOOM! are all titles I pass by on guilt free. I keep wondering if I would be curious enough to check out High School DxD, but fortunately, I’ve got a lot of other titles to keep distracting me. I do still need to dig into Barakamon. I have the first two volumes sitting in my TBR pile, and should get to it soon. I’ve heard mixed reviews of it that have me curious as well, but the material is more my type.

Viz Media has the highlight title. The print edition of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 1 Phantom Blood Volume 1 finally comes out. This deluxe hardback has been on a lot of minds, and it’s been on Amazon’s top 10 as a pre-order for a while. We’ll have to see if it makes the NY Times Bestseller list as well.

Full list per Diamond Distributors:

DARK HORSE COMICS
Seraphim 266613336 Wings TP, $19.99

KODANSHA COMICS
Maria The Virgin Witch Volume 1 GN, $10.99
Wallflower Volume 34 GN, $10.99

SEVEN SEAS ENTERTAINMENT
Devils And Realist Volume 4 GN, $12.99
Monster Musume Volume 6 GN, $12.99
Nurse Hitomi’s Monster Infirmary Volume 1 GN, $12.99
Sacred Blacksmith Volume 7 GN, $13.99

VIZ MEDIA
Gangsta Volume 5 GN (not verified by Diamond), $12.99
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 1 Phantom Blood Volume 1 HC, $19.99

YEN PRESS
Ani-Imo Volume 2 GN, $13.00
Barakamon Volume 3 GN, $15.00
BTOOOM Volume 9 GN, $14.00
Certain Magical Index Volume 2 Light Novel SC, $14.00
Gou-Dere Sora Nagihara Volume 2 GN, $15.00
High School DxD Volume 4 GN, $13.00
Judge Volume 6 GN, $12.99

Vertical Comics Adds Three New Licenses

At their panel at Katsucon over Valentine’s Day weekend, Vertical Comics showed readers the manga love with three new licenses; 1 manga and 2 light novel series.

Kizumonogatari Kizumonogatari is part of the Monogatari light novel series by writer NisiOisin. While Kizu is the third novel in the series, it is a prequel to the first, Bakemonogatari. It tells the story of how protagonist Koyomi was turned into a vampire by the female vampire Shinobu, and his journey to return to being human. I’ve heard about the Monogatari series, but never knew what they were about. With the description of mystery and supernatural, I’m now interested. So far, only this volume of the 18 available so far has been licensed. More will depend on how well this one does. It will ship in November of this year.

Seraph Light Novel Seraph of the End is a series already familiar to manga fans. Viz Media has been releases the manga and running concurrent chapters with Japan in Weekly Shonen Jump. This license from Vertical, Guren Ichinose, Catastrophe at 16, is another prequel to the main story. It follows Guren Ichinose in his early days, before he became a Lieutenant Colonel in the Japanese Imperial Demon Army. There are currently 4 light novels, and Vertical plans to publish them as 2-in-1 omnibus editions. I have to read more of the manga to see if these light novels will hold any interest for me. I wasn’t impressed with the first volume, but the first three volumes made it to the YALSA GGNT list, so I’m going to give the series a second chance. No release date was announced for omnibus editions, but I would expect another end of the year release for it.

Ninja SlayerNinja Slayer: Machine of Vengeance is the final license announced by Vertical Comics. It is a manga based on a light novel series originally written by Americans Bradly Bond and Phillip Ninj@ Morzez and translated and published in Japan. This is the first of two manga adaptations published. Ninja Slayer takes place in a dystopian future where ninja souls have been resurrected and now wreak havoc on the city of Neo-Saitama. The story follows Kenji Fujikido, a salary man who lost his wife and daughter to a ninja turf war, and in nearly losing his life, is possessed by an enigmatic ninja soul. Fujikido survives and becomes a Ninja Slayer, destined to kill evil ninja and takes on the Soukai Syndicate. Ninja Slayer sounds like a title fans of sword wielding story like Blade of the Immortal or Crying Freeman would enjoy. It’s not really my cup of tea, so this is one I will pass one. It is scheduled to be released in October.

It’s an interesting selection from Vertical. Light Novel fans have much to rejoice, but they will only see more if they put their money where their mouth is. More titles are promised to be on the way, so here’s hoping there will be more manga announcements this time around.

 

 

PR: JJBA Phantom Blood Part 1 Debuts in Print

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure has had a difficult time in the west. The first print run of Part 3 didn’t do so well back in the aughts. The release of the series in digital along with an anime simulcast on Crunchyroll propelled the series into the fan spotlight. While Part 1 has been available in digital for a while, anticipation for this deluxe hardcover has been stewing for a while, as a check of Amazon.com’s top ten list will show.

Continue reading PR: JJBA Phantom Blood Part 1 Debuts in Print

Weekly Top Ten – February 21, 2015

Weekly Top Ten Manga

Every week, the New York Times and Amazon posts the top ten bestselling books. The New York Times gets their numbers from print sales from retailers, while Amazon and Vizmanga.com calculates their own numbers. Offered here is a listing of these books with their status this week compared with the previous week, and some way-off analysis of the activity.

NYTBS

 

New York Times Bestseller List for the week Ending February 14, 2015

  1. Evangelion 14Neon Genesis Evangelion Vol 14     ∗
  2. Assassination Classroom Vol 2     ↓ 1
  3. Unofficial Hatsune Mix     ↑ 3
  4. Attack on Titan Vol 1     ↑ 6
  5. Sword Art Online: Progressive Vol 1     ↑ 2
  6. Dragonar Academy Vol 5     ∗
  7. Say I Love You Vol 6     ∗
  8. Akame ga Kill Vol 1     ↓ 5
  9. Alice in the Country of Joker: Circus and Liars Game Vol 7     ∗
  10. Black Butler Vol 19     ↓ 1

The final Neon Genesis Evangelion, a series over a decade old, takes the list, debuting in the top spot, forcing Assassination Classroom Vol 2 down one to #2. Attack on Titan Vol 1 makes an aggressive move back up the list to reach the top five. Seven Seas Entertainment gets two titles to debut, one for male gaze, and one for female. Yen Press has kept three titles on list for a month now. Black Butler is a perennial favorite, but Sword Art Online is becoming a proven seller, and Akame ga Kill! is off to a good start with its first volume.

Amazon

 

Amazon.com for the week ending February 21, 2015

  1. LegendOfZelda-LinkToThePast-3DLegend of Zelda A Link to the Past     ↔
  2. Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 1 Phantom Blood Vol 1     ↑ 2
  3. Attack on Titan Vol 1     ↔
  4. Attack on Titan Vol 15     ↑ 1
  5. Naruto Vol 69     ∗
  6. All You Need Is Kill Omnibus     ↵
  7. Neon Genesis Evangelion Vol 14     ↓ 5
  8. Sword Art Online: Aincrad Vol 2     ↵
  9. Monster Musume Vol 6     ∗
  10. Attack on Titan Vol 8     ↵

Amazon’s top five hasn’t changed all that much. Legend of Zelda is going to be a big seller for Viz with the pre-order hanging onto the top for the last few weeks now. More pre-orders join it with the new Naruto and Monster Musume charting. Returnees are making a good show as well with All You Need Is Kill and Sword Art Online: Aincrad Novel Vol 2 charting. Attack on Titan volumes are constantly returning, so I don’t see them as too much of a big deal. The only surprise is which ones will be joining Volume 1.

Viz Digital

 

Vizmanga.com for the week of February 8, 2015

  1. Assassination Classroom 2Assassination Classroom Vol 2     ↔
  2. Happy Marriage?! Vol 10     ∗
  3. Bleach Vol 63     ↓ 1
  4. World Trigger Vol 4     ↓ 1
  5. Boys Over Flowers Bundle     ∗
  6. Food Wars! Vol 1     ↵
  7. All You Need Is Kill Vol 1     ↵
  8. Seraph of the End Vol 1     ↵
  9. Toriko Vol 26      ↓ 4
  10. Honey Blood Vol 1     ↵

Vizmanga’s top title doesn’t change as Assassination Classroom Vol 2 holds on. The debut of the Happy Marriage?! vol 10, the last volume in the series, is a nice surprise. Viz Signature titles don’t makes the list as much as they should. The Boys Over Flowers Bundle was obviously too good of a deal for people to pass up, getting it just into the top five. All the volume 1 returnees are interesting, and kind of unexpected. Two volumes, All You Need Is Kill and Seraph of the End were part of the YALSA Good Graphic Novel Of Teens list, so maybe that had something to do with it.

∗ = New Release
↑ = Title moved up specified # of spots
↓ = Title moved down specified # of spots
↔ = Title didn’t moved from previous week
↵ = Title returned after dropping off list with total # of weeks (when available)

 

Spice and Wolf Volume 1-6

Lawrence Kraft is a traveling merchant, going to towns and villages, making deals for items to barter and sell. While passing through the village of Pasloe on day, he picks up a stowaway on his chart; Holo the Wisewolf, the Harvest Goddess of the village. The villagers no longer need Holo, and she wishes to go home, in the north. She and Lawrence strike a deal, and they begin their adventures together on the trip north.

SPICEWOLFm_1Spice and Wolf Volume 1-6
By Keito Koume
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Mature
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $12.99/ea
Rating: ★★★★☆

Spice and Wolf is a series that started out as a light novel and was adapted into both an anime and a manga. After the anime was favorably received by fans, Yen Press licensed both the light novel series and manga. There was a bit of an uproar when the first light novel came out, because Yen Press had chosen to use a cover that would appeal to Young Adult readers more than to anime fans. To appease the fans, Yen Press offered a book cover with the original cover art on it. I’d heard reviews of the first light novel, and while the idea of a series that looks at economics sounded interesting, it didn’t seem to translate as well in practice. After receiving some copies of the manga for review, I gave in and read the first six volumes.

SPICEWOLFMANGA_2Spice and Wolf takes place in a fantasy world similar to late middle ages Europe. There are kings and knights, and a church stretching out its influence to wipe out all “pagans.” There is also a lot of commerce. As a merchant, Lawrence is always on the lookout for a chance to make a profit, so the stories focus a lot on economics and trade. If you’re looking for swords and battles this isn’t the manga for you. If you aren’t interested in the finer details of currency speculation or identifying counterfeit coins, then this title might not be for you either. Honestly, this title nearly lost me after the first volume. It was very slow-moving and the all the economics made me wonder if anything was going to happen. The action started to pick up in the second volume, relieving some of the tedium of the first. But what really grew on my were the characters.

SPICEANDWOLF_3Kraft Lawrence is a traveling merchant. He is always on the move and always looking for something to buy or sell to make a profit. He is young and has been traveling for 7 years. His dream is settle down and own a shop in a town somewhere. He is kind and perhaps a little too soft-hearted when dealing with people, but in business, he is very shrewd, though sometimes becoming overconfident, which puts him into some serious trouble in volumes 4-6. He is also quite likable. He has a dry sense of humor, and easily trades barbs with Holo.

Holo is a little more complex. She is literally a giant wolf and has lived for hundreds of years. She was already old when she settled in the village of Pasloe. Her age, strength and wisdom does make her haughty at times, and she can be vain as she is constantly grooming her tail. But, after years of being alone and disregarded by the village she protected, she is also very lonely. If she fears anything, it is being alone again. I wasn’t sure how to feel about Holo at the beginning. Her haughty attitude did start to sway me toward disliking her. But when she stopped trying to be superior and opened up a little to Lawrence, I started to like her more. She often speaks in an old-fashioned dialect and has her vulnerable moments, which endeared her to me.

SPICEMANGA_4It’s Lawrence and Holo’s relationship that really made this an enjoyable series for me. It builds slowly, as they get to know each other. Just like in any relationship, they have their misunderstandings, but they work them out. Their feelings for each other grow though they both think a relationship wouldn’t be possible. But that doesn’t stop Holo from getting jealous of Norah, a young shepherdess they meet on the way to the town of Ruvinheigen. Lawrence has his share of young men to ward off as well. I really enjoyed the sweet moments between Lawrence and Holo, such as when Holo asks Lawrence to say she’s important to him. It only lasts for a few panels before she laughs it off, but it is a heartwarming moment nonetheless. It’s all of these little moments that really made me want to keep reading the series. I’m torn as to whether I want to see them eventually get together. I think they make a great couple, but at the same time, I like them playing the unresolved tension game as they keep their feelings to themselves.

SPICEWOLFMANGA_5There are all kinds of adversaries for Lawrence and Holo to face as they work for their profit, but the one that is a constant through these volumes is the Church. It appears to be based off the Catholic Church of the late Middle Ages, with all its power, and burning pagans at the stake. Fortunately, they don’t have power everywhere, as there are towns where it doesn’t wield any, but in the ones it does, it’s pretty terrible. Norah, the shepherdess introduced in volume 4, appears to be an orphaned girl who works for the church. But the more she works and succeeds, the more she is seen as a witch and comes under suspicion. And the fact that she works for the church, keeps people away so she can’t live a normal, happy life. I’ve never cared for religion, and this portrayal of it just reinforces my feelings, since this isn’t just written for the drama. Religion has really done and endorsed such things, and sadly still does. I did like how Lawrence is a pragmatist about religion. He doesn’t seem to believe in it, but he knows the rules enough to play along so as to keep him out of trouble and keep him trading. Even with Holo in tow.

SPICEWOLFMANGA_6This series is rate M for mature, has a warning label for “Explicit Content”, but really, all it has is some nudity. Holo, as a wolf, doesn’t give a second thought about going around with no clothes and really the only thing shown are her breasts. I didn’t mind it, and think the warning label might be overkill, since all the nudity is done in a non-sexual way. But, this is the United States, with its over reactive, puritan views of nudity that have to be hidden away from teens, while violence is perfectly acceptable.

It took a volume to for the art to grow on me. It’s the big eyes that took awhile for me to get used to. You’d think as a long time manga and anime fan, I would be used to “big eyes”, but really, there is such a variety of that look in manga, and Koume’s was different from what I was used to. I really liked Lawrence’s design, and he and Holo together make a cute couple. Holo in her wolf form is quite impressive as well. She has some jaws that you do not want your head between.

Once Spice and Wolf stopped lecturing and starts showcasing its charming characters, it became a very entertaining series. I don’t mind the economic elements sprinkled here and there, but the when it over does it, it’s easy to lose interest. If you can get past the slow-paced first volume, there is a lot of fun and action to be enjoyed.

Volumes 4-6 provided by the publisher.

Manga News, Reviews and Commentary