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Yes, this is the only title. Look how pretty Masakazu Katsura’s art is!
On all seriousness, Matt Blind of Rocket Bomber recently asked manga bloggers to give thanks to the manga industry for all their hard work. He also asked folks to highlight what manga titles we’re thankful for on Thanksgiving 2012. I decided to join in on this feast since hey, creators and publishers really do look out for their fans. With a bit of Jimmy Fallon quirkiness, here are some notable manga series (both licensed and a few unlicensed titles) that make me go, "Arigato, Soushite, ARIGATO!"
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Have you ever thought about what it’s like to be a vampire? What if I told you that there are people that there are vampires out there and you could be one too? No, I’m not talking about those crazy people that try to be real-life vampires by drinking blood, but those who put a mental strain on others relationship-wise. The crazy world of Hiroya Oku’s GANTZ has been known to freak readers out with its violence and monstrous aliens. Midway through the series, things took an interesting turn as Oku introduced the Vampires, a group of individuals whose existence is to make the Gantz players’ lives a living hell. While not true “vampires”, the Vampires in this series reflect the desires of those who want to drain your life emotionally. In essence, we can all be “vampires”.
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If you think Chi from Chi’s Sweet Home is adorable, you haven’t seen what this cat can do.
When you think about the shoujo manga titles under VIZ Media’s Shojo Beat imprint, there are a good number of memorable characters. However, they don’t compare to the little rascal that is Nyanko-Sensei of Yuki Midorikawa’s “Natsume’s Book of Friends (Natsume Yuujinchou)”. He’s a yokai (spirit) that protects the main protagonist, Takashi Natsume, from other yokai that want to kill him. Although the series is different from a typical shoujo manga, perhaps Nyanko-Sensei is a strong indicator that a cat can be a man’s (and woman’s) best friend.
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When it comes to Takehiko Inoue’s “Vagabond”, many words come to mind for those who follow it. Amazing. Breathtaking. Vivid. Emotional. For me, one of the most memorable scenes happened around Volumes 26-27 when our main hero, Miyamoto Musashi, takes on 70 members of the once-heralded Yoshioka School. It was a realistic interpretation of one man defining the odds and taking down an army by himself. The emotional impact after the battle became a huge focal point in Musashi’s life. It poses an question that some people should ask themselves: what does it really mean to be strong?
On one side, you have a wandering warrior who would go on to become Japan’s most-famous swordsman. On the other, you have a school of men who want revenge on that warrior for killing both of their masters. Musashi initially wanted to escape the assault by the Yoshioka School, but decided to fight them all. What occurred was a major event that would become well-known throughout Japan. Musashi looked to be getting a bit too much for what he bargained for because of the strength in numbers, but he begins to enter a mental zone where he’s living on the “sword’s edge”. As the 70 men of Yoshioka fight and fall to their deaths, they develop a newfound respect for Musashi. Musashi is left wondering about his future afterwards as his leg is wounded to the point where he can’t fight again and is possibly forced to forego the path of a swordsman. He also begins to question whether he has grown after taking out the Yoshioka School.
Does running around with a sword and killing people count as “strength”? Are humans’ perceptions of strength invalid because some of their teachings incorporate a sense of violence? What does true strength entail? True strength is being able to overcome any unfavorable conditions from the start and reaching the goals that you want to achieve. Unfortunately, people continue to focus on the physical aspects of strength since appearances are everything and we are blasted by constant messages about it. Some folks also tend to manipulate the idea of strength unto others for their own purposes. Being insecure gives people with the wrong ideas an incentive to prey on you. Does being physically fit really make you a better person?
While recuperating, Musashi begins to believe that he has been deluded for 22 years because of his need for battle. Takuan Soho, a monk and close comrade of Musashi’s, even wonders if the katana provides a false sense of security for those who wield it and whether it hinders their true strength. Part of true strength is the ability to gain and retain knowledge. Although it took a long time for Musashi to realize it, knowledge is indeed power and one of the most powerful things in one’s arsenal. It also didn’t hurt that being away from the sword for a brief time made him see things differently as his attachment to the sword could have enhanced his inner demon. You never want to be too attached to something.
In Volume 32, Musashi confronts Ito Ittosai (a swordsman of great power and strength) and tries to tell him about his realization and that no one is truly unrivaled under heaven. Everyone is the same under heaven’s light. What that means is that physical strength does fade and being mentally strong is what it all comes down to in the end. Though you can argue that being mentally strong can make you unrivaled to a certain degree.
Musashi’s growth (and continued struggles) from his battle with the Yoshioka School highlights a greater emphasis on the mental aspect of training. As Musashi once said, what will you do when you achieve a certain level of physical strength? You try asking people that question and they may not know how to respond accordingly. Our minds need to be honed since without a sound mind and a firm belief system, our bodies will fall.
Here’s a quote that I hope will inspire you guys:
“Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.”
Isn’t it about time that you start exercising your greatest weapon (the brain) and develop the true strength that will get you where you want to be?
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How many of you readers love spicy food and get a kick every time something hot just burns in your mouth? If that’s the case, you might want to check out Kazuki Funatsu’s “Addicted To Curry”. It’s an interesting and humorous tale that mixes romance, comedy, and the wonderful world of curry.
The story revolves around curry chef Makito Koenji and his attempts to save a curry restaurant named Ganesha from going out of business. Koenji was once saved by a young girl named Yui Sonezaki, whose father owns Ganesha. He proceeds to show of his amazing curry cooking skills to Yui and decides to help her in making Ganesha successful. This is not an easy journey as Koenji faces many challenges and obstacles along the way. Addicted To Curry is a series that focuses a great deal on why curry is arguably the number one comfort food in Japan.
With the popularity of Japanese curry possibly growing in the West (mostly in due part to the globalization efforts of places like GO GO Curry!), it would be great to see this manga being localized here in the West. If you have never tried Japanese curry before, it’s really, really good. The main difference between Japanese curry and other notable curries (like Indian curry) is that Japanese curry tends to make their curry thick and creamy. Think of it as Japan’s version of macaroni & cheese. Foreigners in Japan really love it.
Addicted To Curry can be summed up as a mix of Yakitate! Japan (another popular food manga) and Great Teacher Onizuka. One reason why it’s compared to GTO is because Koenji is noted to be a huge pervert. There are a lot of ecchi scenes used for gag purposes throughout the series. Dramatic moments are plenty as well as you find out more about the various characters and their motivations for investing themselves in curry. Like "The Drops of God", Addicted To Curry can also be described as a battle manga using food as a physical and emotional weapon. There’s also a book of recipes used in the manga written by culinary expert Takeshi Morieda.
When I look at a title like Addicted To Curry, I think about the importance of spices in health. With everyone freaking out over sodium, sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup, spices are a godsend when used in cooking. They provide benefits in terms of keeping your brain in fine shape. Even curry is good for you. Tumeric, the spice that gives curry its yellow-ish color, apparently helps prevent heart disease.
So yeah, Shueisha, once Japanese curry really explodes over in the West, perhaps it will be time to bring Addicted To Curry and its 45+ volumes for a run here. Put it in the VIZ Signature series (well, it is published in Young Jump, the home of GANTZ, ZETMAN, Liar Game and other mature titles) and I think we have a title that can make an impact to fans of comfort food and those who love to learn about new things through manga.
Now, if you excuse me, it’s time to feed my addiction to that brown sauce that heats up my soul and I hope it’s an addiction that you will develop to spice up your life.
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