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.
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.
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.
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.
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.