Keep updated with Manga Therapy via RSS & e-mail! "Like", "Follow", or "+1" me for more lovely conversations about manga & Japanese pop culture!
Text with 7 notes
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!”
Text with 5 notes
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”.
Text with 16 notes
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.
Text with 33 notes
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?
Text with 10 notes
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.
Text with 20 notes
When you think about leaders, you think about how strong and powerful they generally are. However, there comes a point where leaders eventually fall. If the leader was passionate and charismatic, the group without its head often falls into ruin. There are times when someone else decides to step up. Now what happens if the person stepping up isn’t someone who may not look the part, but ends up possibly a person who manages to do a good, possibly even better, job than his/her predecessor. This happens to be quite the case with Yoshitsune, a major supporting character from Naoki Urasawa’s Eisner-Award winning (and once again nominated) “20th Century Boys”. Yoshitsune is someone who makes you believe that we all can be leaders and that we can step up to the task with proper support.
Yoshitsune’s past involved growing up with a group of kids (including the main protagonist, Kenji Endo) playing “heroes and villains” in Japan during the late 1960s’. The kids playing heroes created a secret base to play at and came up with some ideas/scenarios of villainous acts the kids would overcome. They put the scenarios on a notebook entitled “The Book of Prophecy”. It wasn’t until 1997 that events detailed in “The Book of Prophecy” were brought to life by a mysterious cult leader named the Friend, who happened to be associated with the kids in the past. Kenji, who is appalled at seeing his childhood fantasies become horrible reality, forms a group consisting of the childhood friends he played “heroes and villains” with to stop Friend. Despite not having a tough personality, Yoshitsune sacrificed his normal life to join Kenji. The group took a stand against Friend in 2000, but lost and Kenji went missing. Since then, Yoshitsune became the leader of his own rebel group to continue the fight against Friend. Despite being a leader, Yoshitsune feels that he is not quite adequate to be one.
It is very enlightening to see Yoshitsune’s growth from being timid to inspirational. Yoshitsune may not see it, but he has six qualities that make him a great leader.
Decisiveness - Yoshitsune stands firm in his decisions to protect the people around him and to discover the truth about Friend. He actually worked as a janitor in enemy territory to rescue people who have been victimized by Friend.
Competence - Yoshitsune manages to create and maintain his own secret base for his group and provide members with the welcoming-comfort of safety.
Integrity - Yoshitsune’s followers believe in him and respect whatever he chooses to do. The trust between Yoshitsune and his men is developed because of Yoshitsune’s continued heroics.
Vision - In Volume 12, Yoshistune gave a speech to his followers at a New Year’s party he hosted and proclaimed that in 2015, the goals were to prevent further events detailed in the Book of Prophecy from happening by researching more about the mystery of Friend and to finally end Friend’s reign.
Modesty - Despite working extremely hard, Yoshitsune feels he isn’t as great a leader as people think he is and will praise others that he feels are better/smarter than him.
Persistence - For the last 14+ years since 2000, Yoshitsune just kept on fighting against the Friend despite the Friend’s worldwide celebrity status and never gave up hope that the Friend would one day be stopped.
As Ed Sizemore of Comics Worth Reading pointed out in a review of Volumes 12-13 of the manga, people often confuse charisma with leadership. It doesn’t hurt to have charisma, but it’s not the ultimate solution to being an effective leader. Having a huge sense of focus while being supportive is the best way to go to have a chance of getting people to follow you.
Yoshitsune represents the type of leader who’s not always featured in the spotlight. He’s a leader that doesn’t completely focus so much attention on himself and is more about actually get things down. What’s also special about Yoshitsune is that he chose to lead his own life into a specific path that would help cultivate future leaders. The way Yoshitsune is modest about himself is similar to the way some people believe their efforts aren’t special. We’ve all been through moments where we believe we don’t deserve credit for our efforts, but forget the fact that we tried means something. Trying something is a huge step forward and is something to be really proud of. If you never go out and try, then you might feel even worse and nothing will change.
Need some more motivation? Here’s a quote from Teruyuki Kagawa, the actor for Yoshitsune in the live-action movie adaptation of 20th Century Boys, about the character.
“Yoshitsune may appear insignificant and may never excel in a working environment, but I think his character evokes an important message about taking responsibility for our own life because each of us is the star of our own lives.”
We are all leaders, believe it.
This entry is part of the VIZ Signature Imprint Manga Movable Feast. More wonderful articles covering the vast titles under the imprint can be found at the page linked above.
Text with 9 notes
“I got here without getting lost. My directional sense has never led me right. But now I came straight where I want to be! It’s the power of love, Akane!”
Love really does wonders, doesn’t it? Though it didn’t work out in the end, now did it?
This week’s entry is focused on Ryoga Hibiki, one of the more interesting characters in Rumiko Takahashi’s hit martial arts/romantic comedy anime/manga series, Ranma 1/2. This entry was made in support of this month’s Manga Movable Feast (hosted by Rob of Panel Patter) and also suggested from a commenter on the blog (Thank you, Kelly!)
Ryoga is characterized as someone who seems to be always lost. His sense of direction is absolutely terrible, but he is a reflection of people in this world who are “lost” in many ways and are trying hard to fight for direction in life.
Text with 6 notes
“I named my main character Gen in the hope that he would become a root or source of strength for a new generation, one that can tread the charred soil of Hiroshima barefoot, feel the earth beneath its feet, and have the strength to say “NO” to nuclear weapons. I myself would like to live with Gen’s strength, that is my ideal, and I will continue pursuing it through my work.” - Keiji Nakizawa in 2004 on Barefoot Gen
No one should go through the horrors of war. However, in this age we live in, the threat of war seems to be present & ready to strike, with regards to nuclear weapons. Devices made by humanity with only one sole purpose: to destroy. Keiji Nakazawa’s epic tale, Barefoot Gen, highlights the truth of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan back in 1945 and its effects upon Japan the next few years afterwards. Not only is the series an emotional powerhouse, it also reflects why the governments of certain countries have an unhealthy need for nuclear proliferation.
Barefoot Gen goes through the life of a boy named Gen Nakaoka as he struggles to support himself, his family, and his friends after going through the bombing of Hiroshima. Gen experiences the bombing firsthand as people all around him start dying and becoming injured (this is shown in great detail). His father and two of his siblings were left to die, due to an inability to save them. Since then, Gen showcases his hatred for both the Japanese & American governments and becomes resistant of any form of propaganda involving both of them. He believes that courage can get anyone through hardship. Gen is one of the most influential manga protagonists out there even to this day. Barefoot Gen is also an autobiographical tale of Keiji Nakazawa’s experiences growing up as he personally witnessed the bombing at the age of 7.
Nuclear proliferation is an extremely serious issue and you have to wonder why nukes are still being made. Yes, you can say that countries want to show off their superiority compared to others. It’s an intimidation factor. However, there’s another factor in that decision. It’s the leaders’ conception of their own country. According to Jacques E.C. Hymans, author of “The Psychology of Nuclear Proliferation”, leaders who are heavily frightened by a foreign rival & have a lot of pride in their country taking down a foreign enemy are more likely to acquire and/or make nuclear weapons. Was Harry S. Truman (U.S. president at the time) afraid of Japan after what happened in Pearl Harbor, but held a strong belief that the U.S. could put Japan out of its misery? Was he desperate to win at all costs? Did Truman love America so much that he was willing to do anything to protect it? Sometimes, an extreme nationalistic view of your own country combined with power can cause serious complications.
In Volume 5, Gen quotes what his father said about Japan only starting the war because a “handful of rich people” (quoted from Volume 5) could profit from it. In a sense, important decisions were made on personal values. What Barefoot Gen teaches us is how we need to look at the leaders that are chosen so that future nuclear weapon tragedies can be prevented. Yes, credentials are important, but are they more important than the lives of innocent people? Gen resents the Emperor of Japan because he feels the Emperor is a leader who has disappointed his people. The Emperor was someone who went with his personal beliefs and was possibly influenced by those who shared his views.
So what can we do besides raising awareness? One thing is that we cannot completely rely on lockdown politics to save us. That can lead to secrecy behind closed doors. Another thing is that there needs to be more people heavily supporting leaders in making the correct decisions regarding nuclear technology. We need to learn what makes their brains tick. Understanding one’s thought process can go long way in determining how much they will be influenced by nuclear weapons. Nakazawa has said that he plans to present all 10 volumes of Barefoot Gen to U.S. President Barack Obama & initiate a stand against nuclear proliferation. Let’s hope this move becomes the start of something greater.
(A story I would like to share with others right now: last year, I got a chance to be around an actual atomic-bomb survivor (hibashuka) from Nagasaki, Japan during Japan Day NYC 2010 at Central Park. She was surrounded by Japanese press and when asked if she harbored any resentment towards those responsible for the bombing, she said, “No, I just wish for all nuclear weapons to go away”.)
Quote with 5 notes
Our generation must continue to tell of the horrors of atomic bombs and war.
- Keiji Nakazawa on hoping to continue his legendary manga series, Barefoot Gen, in a new video and/or film. He was hospitalized for 3 months and had lung cancer treatment. This month’s Manga Movable Feast will focus on Barefoot Gen. Nuclear weapons are truly an abomination.
Text with 4 notes
This week, I decided that I’m going to join the Manga Movable Feast by doing an entry on this month’s MMF book, Karakuri Odette, by Julietta Suzuki. It is an interesting series that takes a look at how androids & humans interact with one another. Karakuri Odette represents a world that could be our reality someday. Going forward, will we be able to treat androids (& robots in general) as more than just tools & toys?
(For more information on what the Manga Movable Feast is, you can read this great description of the monthly event by Katherine Dacey, the Manga Critic.)
Karakuri Odette is a science fiction/romantic comedy series about an android girl named Odette Yoshizawa. The story chronicles her life in high school. She is fascinated with human emotions and is programmed not to hurt anyone. Odette decides to go to school because of her experience watching a drama about high school girls. She gets her creator, Professor Hiraoki Yoshizawa, to enroll her into one to see the difference between herself & high school girls. The series goes into love, friendship, loneliness, & what it means to be human.
The first thing that came to my mind while reading about Odette’s adventures was Chi, from the manga series, Chobits. That was another series about a robotic female who liked a human male. There is another android character that Odette also reminds me of: Aigis from the video game, Persona 3 (her story is almost similar to Odette in terms of understanding to be human).
With society’s fascination with robots, making robots that appeal to people is really a grueling task. There are a lot of psychological factors to consider when making one. The issue of gender in robots is also a concern and can draw a lot of controversy. Female robots have often been portrayed as domestic servants or sex objects in fiction. It’s refreshing to see the character of Odette as a innocent android who wants to understand how people live. The Professor is very supportive of her ventures & her attempts to become more “human”. The student body doesn’t know that she is a robot, but they have warmed up to her. Although a couple of students know Odette’s identity (Asao Kurose & Shirayuki Ringozaka), they have kept it to themselves.
Regarding the two characters mentioned, Asao & Ringozaka help to make sure that Odette doesn’t get into trouble. What gets us attached to things that seem human? According to an article at Psychology Today, the oxytocin hormone plays a huge role in how we develop bonds. Human beings enjoy being around strangers & communicating with them. The hormone makes us feel good whenever we find joy in being around and/or talking to certain people. Oxytocin can also cause people to develop a habit of bonding with objects with human-like qualities and giving life to them (e.g. naming cars, pets, etc.). It doesn’t differentiate what’s exactly human and what isn’t.
Karakuri Odette shows much how much humans want to bond, whether it’s with a person, place, or thing. It’s part of human nature. Both Asao & Ringozaka represent normal people being motivated by an inner need for an attachment with someone/something (Odette) that plays an important role in their lives & makes them feel comfortable.
The most important thing is comfortability. Unfortunately, most people tend to have a very depressing view on androids in regards to them being creepy and possibly being smart enough to destroy the world. (Though in Japan, things are very different since some Japanese don’t seem to enjoy talking to strangers and prefer speaking with an android) Media stereotypes do not tell the whole story. There is also the “uncanny valley theory”, which states the more realistic a robot looks & behaves, the more likely people will find the robot to be disturbing. It is possible to treat androids as people, since we do have a tendency to form attachments over many things. However, we cannot expect so much from android creators since AI development is very tricky & can get extremely complicated.
So is Odette the “perfect” android for society because of her good & non-judgmental nature? What really defines a “perfect” android? Finally, I want to ask all the MMF folks who have written about the manga: how would you interact with Odette if she existed & was a close friend of yours?
With many advancements in robotics, many issues could be raised regarding possible relations with androids. Before anyone freaks out, remember two things: ask questions first, then judge later. That is probably the one lesson that is stressed throughout Karakuri Odette & one that should be taken to heart.
Karakuri Odette was originally published by Hakusensha in “Hana to Yume” Magazine in Japan. The series is collected into 6 volumes. The English version is currently published by Tokyopop in North America.