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.
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.
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.
Starting the year off right with two of my favorite types of stories: Romance and Representation! I’m a sucker for a fun, no major bummers or big drama, kinda romance where two people can comfortably get to know each other. This is also the perfect way to positively represent various issues and types of lives while being respectful to both, so it becomes a great way to experience another person’s perspective while also getting all those warm feelings about people in love. Love and empathy! Great combo.
Welcome to our first Campfire Cast! These are going to be an offshoot of our current suite of stuff where we talk about pretty much anything and everything anime and manga-adjacent that we’ve been into recently or recent events in the industry.
In this one, we talk about shounen manga and anime series, some Japanese originated video games, and even share how we all got into anime to begin with and why. Also, there’s some random discussion about the English alphabet, but that’s just par for the course for us.
I’ve always been a sucker of sorts for shinobi or ninja-based series. Rurouni Kenshin was my first love in that regard, as I quickly fell in love with the weird, diverse cast of characters, Kenshin’s code of honor and ever-present desire to help and protect those in need, as well as the flashy swordplay and sword arts, moves, and styles. For a young Tofu, it was absolute heaven. Other series caught my eye similarly – Naruto was an early favorite, for instance. Between the hype that came from watching it as it aired and the ever-present escalation and new uses of interesting and powerful jutsu, the show had me hooked. As I grew older and branched out beyond the shonen genre, I found myself deep in the throes of shows such as Samurai Champloo, which took the idea of warriors embodying the idea of the samurai I had come to love and re-positioning it in a way I had up until then not seen.
Back when Ryan Lewis and Macklemore were writing the songs for their album The Heist, Ben Haggerty (Macklemore) was having a hard time coming up with the lyrics for “Same Love.” He finally decided on an idea of telling the story from a gay individual’s perspective. However, when he showed this to Ryan Lewis, Ryan shot it down immediately. He stated to Ben that there was no authenticity behind these words, and that if he really wanted to make an impact, he should tell it from his perspective. Ben rewrote the song with this in mind, taking his own perspective and feelings of support for the gay community and translating them musically. The song went on to be an anthem for the gay community and a banner for allies to rally under as they pushed harder to finally enact legal gay marriage in the United States.
As someone who likes to write in his free time, I always suffer trying to find how to write characters that aren’t the same background as me, whether it’s a different ethnicity or a different sexuality. To be honest, it genuinely is an impossible thing to try and do this by myself. I can’t understand the struggle or the abuse people have gone through for being gay because I’m just not. That is why I always talk to those around me from these backgrounds in order to help me understand on some scale, and then constantly keep the conversation going as I write. Any writer who is gay would far better be able to detail how that feels than me, and we should encourage them to write those feelings. However, for those of us that are allies, I feel that if we want to express these types of characters in the stories we tell, we have to make damn sure we do it right.
That is why I love My Brother’s Husband as a series. This short but endearingly sweet manga very much acts as an instructional guide for the ways allies can help and make the best of being the support class in the Equality Squad. Gengoroh Tagame in this manga shows people, such as myself, how to be that ally that the gay community needs, how to accept them and work with them to make a better place.
This manga is this perfect little cap off to the day for me. Mado Kara Madoka-chan is a cute little series about a office worker who walks the same path to work every day outside of a woman’s house, who loves to play games and roleplay with him as he passes by. Every time that our protagonist comes by, Madoka-chan begins a different kind of game with him to keep both of their lives fun, dramatically changing the layout and look of her home.
Each chapter is a different strange experience with the eccentric Madoka-chan as she performs something within her four walls either for the salaryman passing by, or seemingly to entertain herself. However, her eccentric nature and the dramatic transformations of her place, sometimes in a matter of minutes, makes me feel as if there’s a hint of Magical Realism in this series. Like, there are some chapters where she closes her shutters and not five seconds later, they slam back open to reveal a restaurant. It’s insane but also always fun, especially because as magical as she may seem, Madoka-chan doesn’t always get everything right and so interactions between the two characters can become dynamic and sometimes downright hilarious.
Mousou Telepathy is a story that takes a look at what having a super power most consider cool would really be like of it came with no off button. Ayako Nakano is a student in high school who ever since she could remember has been able to see other people’s thoughts. However, after being called creepy by her mother when she was very little, she’s always kept this to herself. Unfortunately, this becomes harder to hide when a seemingly stoic popular boy in her class with a very overactive imagination falls madly in love with her, constantly thinking about her throughout the school day.
This is genuinely one of the most heart-warming things I’ve read in awhile. My Brother’s Husband is a multiple award-winning story about a single father, Yaichi, living in Japan. His twin brother Ryoji, had moved to Canada and there found love and legally married his fiancé. However, after ten years living abroad, Ryoji suddenly died. Now, a month has passed and suddenly, Ryoji’s husband, Mike, has decided to come to visit Japan to learn more about his husband and his family that he never got a chance to meet. While living with them, Mike helps to change the lives of our main character Yaichi and his daughter, helping them to not only come to terms with his brother’s passing, but also his own biases that didn’t allow Yaichi to fully accept his brother.