This Manga Moment is brought to you by our new Manga-based column, by a returning Nick Rowe, called Manga Madness which you can, and should, look out for the first edition next week. Until then, I’ve decide to steal some of the spotlight away from Nick and take a look at a few volumes that I’ve read recently.
Vinland Saga: Book Three
A continuation of my coverage of Vinland Saga by Makoto Yukimura which, quite frankly can, and should, be credited with infecting me with the Manga bug. Yukimura just hits all the elements needed for a story about Vikings and that time period—with a little added Manga embellishment sprinkled on top. It’s brutal and touching, while still having space for these larger than life characters to move around and grow in.
It’s a also a great twist on the perspective on this period. There’s been so many “Western” looks at Vikings and their culture and this time period, while this one feels more like a perspective from the East; Maybe it’s the fact that this Manga comes from Japan, and it just has that style to it, but perspectives on family life and honor and fighting just take on a different tone. It’s fresh and yet familiar to someone who, like me, is big on Vikings and subsequently the period the Vikings were dominant.
Aside from the feel of the book and the story that Yukimura is craft, the art that accompanies it really flies on the page. In no uncertain terms, so far it has absolutely stolen the show on this book and, frankly, sets a high bar for the other Manga that I’ll inevitably read in the future. The dynamic movement and speed of his art is just jaw dropping to the point that there might not be a comparison that comes to mind from Western comics—maybe James Harren (BPRD), but cranked up to eleven. It’s truly something to pour over and with the amount of care and detail that went into every page and every character, it’s a shame this wasn’t printed in an oversized edition. If the story and art from this book doesn’t get it’s fangs into and make you want to explore a genre that has been around for a long, long time I’m not sure there’s anything out there that can. Vinland Saga Book Three is an absolute treasure and even if you’ve never touched Manga before, please, please do yourself a favor and check it out. ★★★★/★★★★★ (Kodansha USA)
Pluto: Urasawa x Tezuka, Volume 1
Next up is something I picked up recently, simply based on the fact that it had Tezuka’s name, known affectionately as the “God of Manga”, on the cover. This was before, of course, I knew anything about it so after reading some of the bonus stuff, before jumping into the book, and it’s interesting to note that this series is basically Naoki Urasawa’s homage to Tezyka’s Might Atom series, which is better known as Astro Boy. Now, having not (yet) read Astro Boy didn’t stop me from being interested in this series. I mean, it has robots and has a interesting look at Urasawa’s ideas of what the future might hold—who doesn’t like that kind of stuff?
This first collection wasn’t enough to satisfy my own curiosity about the series or the characters introduced so far, so expect more on Pluto to come, but it was a hell of a hook that sank in deep. Three connected stories, one that almost felt like something different entirely, combined to make something unique and utterly captivating. I sat down and read this volume in the span of a couple of hours (large break in between for errands and such, unfortunately) and the last time something captivated me that much was… I guess Vinland Saga, actually. To me it’s new, and of course it’s so different from the comics that normally take up room on shelves, desks, tables, and pretty much everywhere else in my life. As I write this, I’m considering doing a lunch time run to my local shop specifically to get more Pluto, it’s really that good.
Urasawa’s art is seamless, and I’ll be checking out more of his work in the future outside of Pluto for sure, and just packed full of raw emotion with great character designs, expressions and moments. While, so far at least, it doesn’t quite share the same movement that Vinland has, it’s at least long the same lines of quality that I’ve become used to when reading Manga (and yes, I’m fully aware that my range of Manga only includes Vinland and three big volumes of DBZ) while still being something all its own. Regardless of the Manga high I might currently be experiencing, Pluto so far is spectacular. If you’re looking to get into Manga, or even just get your toes wet and trying things out, Pluto should be on your list. ★★★★★/★★★★★ (VIZ Signature)
Speaking of Nick Rowe (you know, earlier) here’s a few Manga Moments he’s had this week:
Toriko, Volume 22
Manga from the 1980s and 1990s brought a new flavor to action titles: hulked out dudes, proportions that made absolutely no sense, and outrageous fighting scenes with amazingly named techniques. Some of my favorite manga came from that period of time, and it was a shame during the time when out of control shonen action went out of style. With so many homages and reprints of older titles it’s no surprise a phoenix would rise from the ashes. And thus, now we have Toriko, a title about hulked out dudes with proportions that make no sense, complete with outrageous fighting scenes. Set in a world with strange and unique creatures, Toriko tells the story of a gourmet world and those who seek to eat increasingly rarer and harder to catch animals. The title’s namesake character is on a quest to compile the perfect menu, a complete dinner with the best ingredients the world has to offer. A menu that would make even the most elite foodie green with envy.
Toriko has remained consistently amusing and fun throughout each of its 22 volumes. Shimabukuro continually manages to keep every volume fresh, and lacking any sort of preservatives. Just when you think you’ve met the most ridiculous character, the most unbelievable creature, your jaw will drop as you reach the next chapter. Each new volume is a treat to read and is constantly reminiscent of my favorite periods for manga. Toriko has certainly earned his spot amongst the genre’s heavy hitting protagonists, like Jotaro and Kenshiro, and is able to do so while staying true to itself. It never attempts to be a different comic, to wholeheartedly emulate its predecessors or contemporaries; Toriko is one of those rare comics that deserves the label, “unique.”
You’ll have to do a bit of catch up, but the reading is well worth your time and money. Very few long running titles manage to stay fresh throughout the entire run, and Toriko isn’t stopping any time soon. Even if you’re not into pompadours, or Toriko’s specific brand of action, it has a little something for everybody. Do yourself a favor and give this manga a try, all 22 volumes are available now from Viz. ★★★★★/★★★★★ (VIZ)
Dragonball Z Full Color, Volume 3
Dragonball was among the first manga titles I ever read, and it remains one of my all time favorites. Having read it end to end more times than I’m willing to count, I can safely say it’s one of those titles that continues to grow, continues to evolve every time I open it up. At the time I discovered it, the secondary Z storyline captured my imagination more thoroughly than the exploits of Goku’s youth. As I’ve grown older the early stories hold a much different appeal to me than when I first read it, and going back to re-examine my thoughts shed new light on a favorite. Like any gateway title, manga or otherwise, Dragonball is one of those titles that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
With all the above in mind, re-re-re-re-rereading this undeniable classic in color has re-stoked the fire of my interest. It’s truly a rarity when color manga pages make their way out of the weekly phone book anthologies, or even the seldom special edition versions of a title (see the Attack on Titan Colossal Edition). Yet for a manga to be in full color, now that’s a serious treat. Adding color to a title I’ve only known in black and white adds a whole new dimension to the reading experience. Toriyama’s art opens up in ways I never could have imagined. His action becomes even more vibrant, as if animation frames were wholly unnecessary to be on TV. The barrier between comic and anime is slowly broken down page by page, embodying a reading experience thankfully devoid of filler episodes. It almost feels as if I’m reading an entirely new comic, like I’m discovering Dragonball for the first time, and that’s truly an exciting feeling.
It’s not often a classic is improved upon, but the folks at Viz have done it. For long time fans of Dragonball, or for new fans looking to get their feet wet, these color editions are truly a unique reading experience. I can only hope once Z has wrapped up we’ll be treated with full color editions of the first storyline. ★★★★/★★★★★ (VIZ)