Monthly Manga – Sanju Mariko

Forewarning for some, this is going to be a bit heavier discussion that deals with death, but it is uplifting in the end.

Many of my generation joke about how old we feel when there’s new Internet lingo we don’t know or some younger generation doesn’t know one of our favorite artists we listened to when we were in high school.  It’s fun to joke about and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.  However, the feeling of growing old is a very real thing.  Visiting my own grandparents, my grandmother would discuss at length the struggles she faces as she grows more frail and watches those she was closest with pass on.  It’s hard to accept the inevitability of growing old, let alone make the best of it.

Sanju Mariko is a story about this, dealing with the loss of your own ability as well as the loss of those around you, yet still finding a way to go on and enjoy life.

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Monthly Manga – She is the Rokurokubi

I’ve always enjoyed the idea behind a childhood friendship that turns into something more.  I’ve felt I could relate to the idea of being friends but then feeling the boundaries and limits of that relationship lengthen into something else.  It’s scary, too, which I think is part of the fun of reading them.  There’s a fear that something changing may cause that something to break or be hurt, or the people involved equally hurt.  It can be annoying when two characters play this constant pull back and forth and the reader is basically screaming at them to just finally make that last step.  However, even when I’m pulling my hair out, I still feel a sense of empathy for that fear.

She is the Rokurokubi is definitely one of those stories.  Set in a world where Youkai live in an unfortunate “separate but equal” place from humans, a human boy, Itsuki, and a Youkai girl, Natsuki, have been friends since childhood and go to school together on the Youkai side.  A Rokurokubi is a type of Youkai that can stretch its neck indefinitely.  And while that could make the boy and girl very different from each other, they couldn’t possibly be closer.  Both of them love a lot of the same things, they hang out and do the same things, and constantly fight with each other like siblings.  However, both of them are starting to realize their feelings are changing.  As the series goes on, Natsuki’s friends try to help, but inevitably, it’s Natsuki and Itsuki who have to take that final step.

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Monthly Manga – Golden Kamuy

If you missed it a couple years back, there was an anime that came out called Golden Kamuy, adapted from a historical fiction manga by the same name.  I ended up missing out when it came around the anime circuit but at the behest of a friend, I decided to give the manga a shot.  Boy howdy, am I glad I did.  This series is a really interesting story set in a unique backdrop filled with history and intrigue.

Set after the Russo-Japanese War at the beginning of the 20th century, Golden Kamuy is about a Japanese veteran of the war, Saichi “Immortal” Sugimoto, meagerly getting by through gold panning when he stumbles across a secret story about a lost treasure.  After finding a native Ainu girl, Asirpa, whose family was killed for the very same treasure, the two team up to find it, facing off against escaped convicts, soldiers, and many more to find the reward.  The trouble is, the only “map” to their reward was split into multiple pieces, each one tattooed onto escaped convicts that need to be tracked down in order to solve the puzzle.

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Monthly Manga – Hero-San and Former General-San

I’ve never gotten into Super Sentai style shows and manga outside of Power Rangers as a kid, and Gatchaman Crowds’ wonderful story and absolutely brilliant theme song.  However, of the ones I’ve happened to catch, this is one of my personal favorites.  A twist on the Super Sentai-style genre, Hero-San and Former General-San is a story about two unlikely women falling in love.  After defeating the hero, Rapid Rabbit, and forcing Rabbit to transform back into her regular self, Honjou Hayate, the evil Antinoid general sent to destroy humanity immediately gets the hots for her nemesis.  Unwilling to kill Hayate, the general, Honey Trap, runs away back to base, upon which the evil leader X fires Honey for not doing her job and sends an assassin to finish her off.  By happenstance, Hayate finds Honey and nurses her back to health. Falling deeper in love and pissed at being fired, the ex-general joins forces with the hero and fights against her old employer.

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Monthly Manga – The Girl Who Can See It

I’m a bit of a newcomer to the scarier elements in Japanese culture, only recently seeing both adaptations of The Ring as well as getting started on the collected works of Junji Ito.  However, I think because of my initial hesitation into scarier media, I found myself in a perfect spot for something horror-light – a series that can give you chills without endless nightmares if read right before bed.  And so, in a strange mix of genre, I stumbled across an indie manga from Pixiv called Mieruko-chan or, its English title, The Girl Who Can See It.

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Monthly Manga – Go with the Clouds, North-by-Northwest

Author’s note: What’s up, nerds! This is your captain, General Tofu, speaking. Our regular Monthly Manga host, Mythos, is not currently helming this month’s selection. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to fill in for this month’s post, and then to slowly take over the series as if it was mine all along. Nothing sinister at all! Anyway, thanks for hopping in, and enjoy!

Sometimes, I just get the urge to go through a bookstore and peruse the manga section. (Obviously, we can’t really do that much right now, given the whole badness going on, but join me and journey into this mind palace we’re gonna create together. Just imagine you’re doing it.) Most of the time, I’m not going with the intention of grabbing anything specific. I’ll find volumes of series that I love, or that I’ve heard great things about, and I’ll happily grab them. Really, though, what most draws me to a volume or a series is the art itself. There have been numerous series that I knew nothing about, but I dropped some cash to buy a volume simply because it looked gorgeous.

Nothing quite fits this “that’s absolutely coming home with me today” status quite like Aki Irie’s series Go with the Clouds, North-by-Northwest. I literally had nothing to go off of for this series. Where the back of manga volumes usually give you a synopsis of what’s gonna happen in that edition, Go with the Clouds has…well, it’s better to just show you.

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Monthly Manga – Cheerful Amnesia

We all know the trope.  A character wakes up in a hospital bed and doesn’t remember anything.  Next to them is someone claiming to be their lover.  However, instead of lamenting the loss of a relationship with this person, what if this amnesiac is so stoked to be in a relationship that they dive headfirst into loving this new person?

That’s the premise for Cheerful Amnesia, in which a character not only finds that in the three years they’ve lost they were able to find love, but that they’re gay and hella into it.  Arisa wakes up to find a slightly older Mari by her bedside, who explains the situation.  Arisa is overjoyed and immediately falls back in love with her.  They then begin a journey together helping Arisa regain her old life and romance, with plenty of hijinks from the lack of memory.  For instance, like when Arisa who only remembers being a kid in high school who seemingly never dated, finds herself sleeping in the same bed as another woman.

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Hand to Hand – A Vile and Disgusting Manga

Before I begin, I need to warn our dear readers that this topic is not just Not Safe For Work, but delves into a depravity that is shocking.  Were it not for the need for people to know of this, I wouldn’t even whisper a word of this degeneracy to the community. However, this needs to be known so as to prevent any further falling of humanity.  Read on with caution.

Hand to Hand is very much what it seems and is unashamed of its filth, shoving it in our faces on even just the very first page.

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Monthly Manga – I'm a Villainous Daughter, so I'm Going to Keep the Last Boss.

Ah, the classic love story.  A shy, quiet girl of common birth falls in love with a prince, far above her reach.  However, fate plays its part to bring these two together, though many troubles stand in their way.  For instance, the jealous noblewoman, betrothed to the prince finds herself at odds with this common child who opposes the nobility.  Spiteful and angry, she attempts to poison her nemesis’ love. However the nobleman and our common girl’s love for each other is too strong, and not only is the day saved but the heroine and prince are finally wed in happiness.  The nobleman woman gets her just desserts and ends up destitute and dead.

Or should she?  What was her deal, anyway?  Was she really a rich bitch or was there more to this that a new perspective would uncover?  That is where I’m a Villainous Daughter, so I’m Going to Keep the Last Boss comes in.  While a technical isekai, this manga likes to play uniquely and so twists a few things on their head, including certain isekai tropes.  Obviously, the story is about the jealous rival rather than the “protagonist” of the love story, who in finding out her fiance is actually in love with the protagonist and not her, finds herself suddenly remembering odd things she hadn’t before.  Like, for instance, how this is all a game and because she’s played it to death in a previous life, she knows exactly how this story will play out…

And also that she winds up dead at the end.

Right to left

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Monthly Manga – Shadow House

Some of my favorite stories involve elements of what made classic fables so enthralling to me.  Some aspects are easy to see, like the fantasy setting, but I also enjoy the darker world that’s mixed with a child-like innocence which tinges each story, allowing us to take in the horror aspects a little easier.  Fairies and other creatures of myth are no joke, and the original stories attest to how devious they can be.  However, we always see their pranks rather than their murderous rampages when we read those stories of old.  Fables historically were made to teach a lesson and help to educate children on the dangers of life. So the palatability of a darker world that we only catch a glimpse of has always intrigued me.

Shadow House is very much a story like this.  The story follows Emilyko, a “living doll” in a very dark and mysterious mansion, who serves Kate, a member of the Shadow Family, who owns the property. Emilyko spends most of her time taking care of Kate but also ponders on the behavior of the Shadows.  The Shadows are creatures seemingly made up of some dark material that creates soot, as everything they touch is dirtied with it, along with their negative emotions causing them to release a black smoke that can cover the room in the same material. Added to this is the odd behavior that they have some physical control over the soot they produce and leave behind.

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