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My Brother’s Husband: Volume Two

My Brother’s Husband concludes in a beautifully written two book series about preconceived notions about the LGBTQ+ community and how to fight those prejudices.

Author and illustrator Gengoroh Tagame is a well known openly gay Japanese artist whose previous manga series are extremely adult orientated. Tagame typically writes gay erotic manga, but in this case he decided to write an all ages book written to combat prejudices against gay culture. He succeeds brilliantly.

In the first volume, we first meet Yaichi, a divorced dad to daughter Kana. He receives a visit from Mike, a hulking Canadian, who was married to Yaichi’s twin brother Ryoji. Ryoji has recently died, and Mike wants to meet his family and see where his husband had grown up. Kana is absolutely shocked to meet him, for first of all she didn’t even know her father had a brother as the twins were estranged, and secondly she did not know men could marry.

This second volume continues with the reminder of Mike’s visit, three weeks in all. Yaichi, Kana, and Natsuki (Yaichi’s ex, whom he remains on good terms with) take Mike to an onsen, which is a traditional Japanese hot spring. The four of them have an enjoyable time there together, which makes Yaichi further reflect on his previous ideas of who makes up a family unit.  While he regrets that his relationship with his twin ended so sadly he can go forward teaching his daughter to make better choices than he did.

We get further acceptance when Kana’s teacher calls in Yaichi for a conference regarding Kana’s sharing with her classmates that her gay uncle is visiting. Yaichi schools the teacher on being accepting, which is one of the first times he he is outspoken in public about changing perceptions that are ingrained in Japanese culture. When Mike heads home back to Canada, you know Yaichi and Kana’s life has been changed for the better by his visit. You will be hopeful that this new family will continue their relationship, and they will stay connected.

This quiet slice-of-life manga deftly shows how one family can start to break a cycle, and for those people to then branch out in sharing their awareness and how it could radiate out to others. So I was pleased to find out that these two books was adapted into a three episode Japanese television program, which hopefully gave it a medium for reaching even a larger audience. Kudos to Tagame for showcasing an important message and for changing perceptions in a loving and positive manner!

-Nancy

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A Bride’s Story (Vol. 4)

We turn our focus back on Mr. Smith in this volume, as he and his guide continue on their road to Ankara. As they skirt the Aral Sea, they are led to a fishing village by a lively pair of twins named Laila and Leily. They are of an age to marry, but their father hasn’t gotten started on making them a match yet! Since they know the kind of men they want, they decide to take their nuptials into their own hands – which, more often than not, gets them into trouble! Meanwhile, Pariya’s father has met with the father of a boy that has taken an interest in her! Pariya is extremely nervous – she likes the boy as well, but won’t her forceful personality scare him away, just like all the others?

I cannot overstate it – I adore this manga. The illustrations are so lovingly detailed, and really ground you in the setting. The only thing I didn’t like about this volume were the introduction of the twins. Their comedic relief was a bit overdone for me. The leisurely pace is still a big draw for me. Even if I wish we would meander back to Amir and Karluk at some point, the journey is still worth it.

– Kathleen

Mori, Kaoru. A Bride’s Story (Vol. 4). 2013.

A Bride’s Story (Vol. 3)

In this volume, we catch up with Mr. Smith! He is a researcher from England who was a guest in the Eihon household for a long time. He departed in Vol. 2 to continue his research about the people who live on the Silk Road. He meets a young woman named Talas at the market in the next town, where he is waiting for his guide. Their horses are stolen, and upon their recovery, she invites him to stay with her and her mother-in-law. Talas had been married previously – to every one of her mother-in-law’s sons. Her mother-in-law soon gets the idea that Talas and Mr. Smith should marry! But they don’t feel romantically towards each other – or do they?

Talas’ story reminded me of Draupadi, a character in the Indian epic Mahabharata, who married all five of the Pandava brothers. The circumstances that befall their husbands are equally tragic, though both women display a certain tenacity to weather troubled times. Mr. Smith is a great character; as he learns more about the land and people as an outsider, we do too. He acts almost as a lens! The characters in this volume are drawn tenderly, and you can’t help feeling for them. The art is so detailed, intricate, and vibrant – there is a scene where everyone is eating at the public market, and my mouth was watering from the imaginary smells!

I feel like I’ve reached a record with manga – 3 volumes in and I’m still as engaged with it as when I first started! Woo hoo! Looking forward to the next volume ❤

– Kathleen

Mori, Kaoru. A Bride’s Story (Vol. 3). 2011.

A Bride’s Story (Vol. 2)

Things are good in the Eihon household. Amir has met a young woman named Pariya, an outspoken, accomplished baker, and the two become fast friends. Mr. Smith, a long-time guest of the household, has finally decided to move on to continue his research, resulting in a bittersweet parting. Amir and Karluk’s bond has deepened. However, Amir’s family has come to take her back. They were turned away by Karluk’s grandmother in the first volume, but they are back to take Amir by any means necessary. They insist Amir wasn’t the girl they intended to send to marry Karluk. The entire family – even the village – stands their ground to protect Amir. When it’s all over, how can Amir forgive, forget, and move on?

The first volume was mostly about Amir and Karluk’s relationship, but here we have multiple plot threads going for different characters. It added some much-needed plot and depth to the story. It’s really more of a study in the traditions and customs of the people as it is an actual story, but the leisurely pace is appealing to me at the moment. I’m happy to report the art in this volume was just as superb as the last! Looking forward to the art in the next volume too 😉

– Kathleen

Mori, Kaoru. A Bride’s Story (Vol. 2). 2010.

A Bride’s Story (Vol. 1)

I mentioned in a previous post that I’m not really a fan of manga – mostly because I can’t finish a manga to save my life! But I think I may have finally found one here 😉

Amir is a young woman who has been sent to marry her betrothed and live with his family. She’s in for a surprise – Karluk, the young man, is eight years younger than she is! Amir cheerfully takes it in stride. Life in nineteenth century Asia isn’t easy, but the family gets by. They have strong bonds with one another, and Amir is quickly accepted and loved by the Eihon family as if she was one of their own. For twelve-year-old Karluk, it’s a little strange to be married to a woman who’s twenty, but Amir is optimistic, kind, and knows how to hunt and ride horseback. Their bond is something like brother and sister, but could it go deeper? However, Amir’s family wants to take her back… they say that Amir wasn’t the one they meant to send! How can the Eihon family possibly give up one of their own?

Atmosphere is the name of the game with this manga. The art is simply stunning. The amount of detail in the clothing, rugs, and landscapes is overwhelming – in the best way! I found myself stopping and lingering over one page for minutes at a time, multiple times. You’re transported to central Asia in the nineteenth century with ease. Just look at this panel of Amir and Karluk sitting together!

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Isn’t it beautiful? ❤

There are a few family members who make appearances, but there is thankfully a family tree in the back in case you get confused. All the characters, Amir most of all, are charming and absolutely lovable. I’d keep coming back for the art alone, but the characters sealed the deal for me. I can’t remember the last time I said this for a manga, but I am so looking forward to the next volume!!!

– Kathleen

Mori, Kaoru. A Bride’s Story (Vol. 1). 2009.

Edgar Allan Poe adaptations

Edgar Allan Poe has always fascinated me. I love his work, as his poems and short stories have always struck me as the perfect level of macabre and creepy. I wrote a discussion post a few months back about if novels should be adapted into graphic novels once the author can no longer give their go ahead. But Poe’s works are now in the public domain so many feel his work is fair game, with some adaptations having greater success than others.

Image result for edgar allan poe gareth hinds
Hinds, Gareth & Edgar Allen Poe. Poe: Stories and Poems. 2017.

I have been looking forward to this adaptation by Gareth Hinds that recently came out, for his previous adaptions of classics such as Beowolf, Macbeth and The Odyssey have received rave reviews. I was not disappointed, although I didn’t feel it was a home run either.

The Masque of the Red Death– Using vivid imagery, this story incorporates the theme of “death comes for us all” quite effectively.

The Cask of Amontillado– Revenge most sweet. Fortunato insulted Montresor one too many times, and his own vanity led to his demise with no guilt from Montresor. I have to admit this story appealed to me, for don’t we all at times wish revenge on those that have wronged us?

Annabel Lee– My favorite of Poe’s works, hands down. The poem of lost love and eternal devotion has always appealed to me. I didn’t care for the illustrations for this poem initially, but his interpretation of sacrifice and years going by grew on me.

The Pit and the Pendulum– Hind’s illustrations were evocative of the fear of the unknown as the prisoner awakes in a jail cell, in which he is tortured by unseen guards and has to use cunning to escape.

The Tell-Tale Heart– An interesting retelling of the tale of a guilty conscience, Hines frames the confession coming from an inmate in an insane asylum.

The Bells– I was not familiar with this poem, but the imagery Hines paired with the stanzas helped build the rhythm, and truly made the bell chimes seem real in your ears.

The Raven– Another of Poe’s stories that lament lost love, Hinds makes the choice to make the narrator look like Poe to great effect. This story’s illustrations were my favorite, and he incorporated little visuals from the other stories into this tale. The classical motifs were represented and the raven aptly symbolized the narrator’s grief and his descent into madness.

The illustration style skews young, where I almost felt I should place it in the Juvenile collection at my library, did it not have such dark themes of murder and violence. I feel that this is a strong adaptation, and with the author’s notes about Poe and his stories, it is an excellent introduction for younger readers to then make the choice to study Poe’s additional works.

 

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King, Stacy & Edgar Allan Poe. The Stories of Edgar Allen Poe, 2017.

I am typically not a fan of Manga books, but I was intrigued to read it in comparison to Hinds’s adaptation of Poe’s work, with both works coming out within months of each other.

The Tell-Tale Heart (art by Virginia Nitouhei)- The first story was challenging for me, as I felt the unnamed narrator was too perfect looking (aka Manga-like). But once I got past that, the illustrations told the story very effectively.

The Cask of Amontillado (art by Chagen)- The background of the festival where they two men meet and later the catacombs they enter were well drawn and really gave it a sense of atmosphere. The last page was chilling.

The Raven (art by Pikomaro)- The art work in this story is gorgeous. The visions that the narrator has of his lost Lenore were heartbreaking and the last page of the raven with the grieving man was perfect.

The Masque of the Red Death (art by Uka Nagao)- This ended up being my least favorite, for the story’s very essence centers around the colors of the rooms and what they represent. The lack of color affected the interpretation and it fell flat.

The Fall of the House of Usher (art by Linus Liu & Man Yiu)- I have never been a fan of this story, but the illustrated version of the story elevated it to me. The crumbling estate is aptly drawn and the madness of twins Roderick and Madeline is evident. The sense of impending doom and Gothic despair shine through.

This adaptation is the latest in a series of Manga classics, and I would recommend it if you enjoy Manga and already own previous classics from this collection. I would hope that readers would look at Poe’s additional works, if they enjoyed this strong version of five of his short-stories. I received the online book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, and the timing worked out well for me to compare both excellent adaptations of the premier horror writer’s work.

And finally, just for fun, look at this video of Poe and Stephen King having a rap battle of who is the best writer. Poe for the win!

-Nancy

Picture of Poe is from artist Cris Vector on Deviant Art.

My Brother’s Husband

I am typically not a fan of manga series, although I do admire the art and storytelling style. In over a year and a half of blogging, this is my first manga review and Kathleen has only reviewed one manga title herself, Vinland Saga: Book One.  But after reading this fun and affirming book, I will reconsider and try other series.

Author and illustrator Gengoroh Tagame is a well known openly gay Japanese artist whose previous manga series are extremely adult orientated. Tagame typically writes gay erotic manga, but in this case he decided to write an all ages book written to combat prejudices against gay culture. What results is a beautifully written book about preconceived notions and how to fight them.

We first meet Yaichi, a divorced dad to daughter Kana. He receives a visit from Mike, a hulking Canadian, who was married to Yaichi’s twin brother Ryoji. Ryoji has recently died, and Mike wants to meet his family and see where his husband had grown up. Kana is absolutely shocked to meet him, for first of all she didn’t even know her father had a brother as the twins were estranged, and secondly she did not know men could marry.

Yaichi had reservations about Mike, as shown by his early biased thoughts, but when Kana asks him to stay over Yaichi is shamed into offering the hospitality he would have given other friends or family. Slowly the three of them get to know each other better, and Yaichi’s learned bigotry starts to fall away. He is forced into confronting bias he was not aware he had, and learns much from Kana’s love and acceptance of Mike. While her natural curiosity can at times be embarrassing, Mike is a willing teacher and a model of decency to his new niece.

There are no major events in this book beside the three becoming a family unit. It naturally introduced gay acceptance in Japanese culture and showed how parents and children can acknowledge differences in a honest and sensitive way. I also liked how Kana’s mother was still shown in a loving maternal role, even if she broke gender norms by not being the parent that Kana lived with.

Tagame draws his trademark bearish men, and his artwork was traditionally manga-ish, but yet unique enough to stand out for someone like me who does not read manga. The only mis-step I saw in the illustrations was a pose between the two men in one panel that could be interpreted in a sexual manner. Normally, I wouldn’t even point this out, but for an all ages book this suggestive pose could be misconstrued.

I will definitely be on the look out for future books in this new series (edit- the series concludes with volume two), and will be adding them to the collection at my library as they are released.

-Nancy

Tagame, Gengorah. My Brother’s Husband. 2017.

 

Vinland Saga: Book 1

I used to read manga in high school. My favorite titles were Fruits Basket, Chibi Vampire, and Mars. But with that interest came a curse… I could never, ever, no matter how hard I tried or how many times I restarted the series, finish it. So, I would have called myself fans of these, but never actually finished them. Good job me XD

(Lucky I’d never been spoiled for the ending of any, especially Furuba, given how popular it was at the time and how many of my friends were into it, too.)

I came across this in the computer at work and ordered it for the heck of it. I was quite surprised when it came in and I saw it was a manga. But I figured I’d try it anyway – maybe the curse had since been broken!

Thorfinn is a young Viking, a deadly warrior for someone of his age. He’s got plenty of reason to be. His village was destroyed when he was a child, and his family slaughtered. He belongs now to Askelaad, the very man who murdered his father. Thorfinn has no choice but to go with Askeladd into battle, but is plotting, ever plotting, to challenge him to a duel and avenge his father’s death. Ever since he was a child, listening to Leif Erikson’s stories, he’s wanted to be a Viking explorer, but not like this…

… I’m sad to say I’m still under the curse. I couldn’t finish it and gave up about halfway through. The beginning chapters were action-packed and moved incredibly fast, and I was sucked in! But then it started taking us back to Thorfinn’s past and it just stayed there. It seemed to want to reveal his entire backstory in one go, and I’m not really about that fast reveal. The art is pretty good, dynamic and more atmospheric than I remember manga being. There is a looot of blood in the battle scenes though, so watch out for that if you’re queasy. The history seemed to be well-researched. I can definitely see how it would be engaging for another reader, but sadly, I’m just not that reader!

– Kathleen

Yukimura, Makoto. Vinland Saga: Book 1. English translation: 2013.

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