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This blog is a storage space for various thoughts, observations and musings centering on shōjo manga (少女漫画, Japanese comics for girls and women) in the widest sense and manga written by women. Topics from other fields of relevance, such as music, art, literature and film may be discussed here as well.

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[Manga News] Start of Nishi Keiko’s new series in Nakayoshi

The ever-busy Nishi Keiko has a new series out and it’s called Kisu suru machikado ~Himitsu~ (The Streetcorner Where They Kiss ~Secret~). The first chapter of it is featured in the March issue (3/2017) of Nakayoshi (Kodansha). This means Nishi-sensei’s back to writing something primarily targeted at a younger audience again – just like her hit series Koi to gunkan (Love & Battleships) which also ran in Nayakoshi and managed to capture a very wide readership age-wise, both female and male.

Colour illustration for the title page of chapter one of Nishi Keiko's Kiss suru machikado in the March 2017 issue of Kodansha's NakayoshiThe preview image and sample pages have a certain calm retro charm to them, with the most prominent visual feature being the exaggerated huge round eyes of the main character, a young middle-school girl called Koharu. And yes, I’m very much aware of the irony of stating the obvious for shōjo manga but – to readers familiar with Koi to gunkan and its heroine Kana, the character design is pretty similar here – the forehead and eyes of the younger characters, especially the heroine’s, are pretty large even by comparison with other titles running in Nakayoshi.
The story starts with Koharu having to stay at home instead of going on vacation with her family for the spring break because she wants to take care of her sick grandmother. Koharu happens to find two old letters addressed to her grandmother which were both sent from abroad… The series promises both the usual romance (with kissing/kisusuru the serie’s proclaimed theme) and dokidoki with secret adventures so chances are high this is going to be as much of an exciting rollercoaster ride as Koi to gunkan. I think the grandmother’s past may play a huge part in the plot and one can already sense quite a bit of heartbreak just from the teaser pages.

Preview image for Nishi Keiko's Kiss suru machikado starting in the March 2017 issue of Kodansha's NakayoshiFrom a more formal point of view, Nakayoshi is calling this a shiriizu (シリーズ) instead of the usual rensai (連載) for longer works, so if I’m interpreting this correctly the story around Koharu might not become as epic as the 8-volume Koi to gunkan and the cast of main characters might change sooner than later. Either way, I’m not expecting the first tankōbon to be released before the end of the summer. It’s going to be a long long fight with my impatience until then as I can’t wait to read what adventures Nishi Keiko has prepared for her characters this time!

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Categories: Manga, Manga News.
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Posted on Feb 18, 2017 (Sat, 5:12 pm).

[Manga News] Asahi Prize 2016 awarded to Hagio Moto & Poe no Ichizoku back in Flowers magazine

Hagio Moto is one of the recipients of the Asahi Prize (Asahishō) for the year 2016. Since its establishment in 1929, the Asahi Shimbun Company and the Asahi Shimbun Foundation have been awarding the prize to individuals and groups for outstanding achievements in fields such as the humanities and natural sciences and for extraordinary contributions to cultural and social progress in Japan. Hagio Moto is only the third manga artist honored for her achievements after Tezuka Osamu in 1987 and Mizuki Shigeru in 2008. She has most recently been awarded the prize of the Japan Cartoonists Association and the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in 2011, the Medal with Purple Ribbon by the Emperor of Japan in 2012 and the Sense of Gender Prize in 2013.

The cover for the July 2016 issue of Shogakukan's flowers magazine featuring Hagio Moto's Poe no ichizokuThe artist, born in 1949 and referred to by many as the ‘mother of shōjo manga’, was honored for revolutionizing shōjo manga in the 1970s, when she brought a high degree of literariness to shōjo manga with works such as Poe no ichizoku (“The Poe Family”) and Thomas no shinzō (The Heart of Thomas) by combining poetic language and elegantly flowing images to represent love torn apart over the course of time, and the pain and conflicts of adolescent boys, the jury said in their statement. They also honored Hagio’s long dedication to the Poe series which originally ran from 1972 to 1976 but which she started to continue to work on in 2016.

The cover for the March 2017 issue of Shogakukan's flowers magazine featuring Hagio Moto's Poe no ichizokuLast summer, the July issue of Shogakukan’s flowers magazine sold out in record time and had to be reprinted due to popular demand when it featured the beginning of a new story arc of Poe no ichizoku called “Haru no yume” (“A Spring’s Dream”). It was definitely one of the biggest events for shôjo manga fans of the past year and I felt super lucky to manage to get a copy of the first run of the magazine. The second chapter of the new arc can now be found in the current (3/March 2017) issue of flowers (it also comes with a Poe ticket holder as furoku!) and the series is going to be continued in regular installments from now on. Good news for fans of the Poe series, bad news for fans of Hagio Moto’s second ongoing series, Ōhi Marugo – La Reine Margot which is published in Shueisha’s YOU magazine but is currently on hiatus in favour of the continuation of the former series.

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Categories: Manga, Manga News.
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Posted on Feb 17, 2017 (Fri, 6:54 pm).

[Review] Mutsu A-ko: Tenshi mo yumemiru rōsokuya

The cover of the bunko version of Mutsu A-ko's Tenshi mo yumemiru rōsokuya published by Shueisha Every year, I’m getting a little giddy with anticipation as February 14th is drawing nearer. And not for the obvious reasons of impending showers of chocolate, flowers, jewellery and all that stuff Valentine’s Day is supposedly made of if a whole industry dedicated to it were to be believed. No, it’s close but it’s not quite the reason. That feeling usually gets really strong in January, with the warm lights of Christmas long gone and the cold cruel wind blowing, as I’m making my way through snow (or even just rain). But I put that feeling of longing and excitement off, until on Valentine’s Day or one day later, on February 15th, I grab a certain volume of short stories from the shelf and – indulge in warm, fuzzy shōjo manga nostalgia!

The book that I blew imaginary dust off yesterday for its big moment is called Tenshi mo yumemiru rōsokuya by Mutsu A-ko, a small bunkobon released in 2005 by Shueisha as one of three volumes in the Ribon Otometic Memorial Selection (the other two being short story collections by Tabuchi Yumiko and Tachikake Hideko, respectively). And it’s the very same title story from it, which roughly translates to “The Candlelit Night When Even The Angels Dream”, that is such fantastic material for annual re-readings in synchronicity with the outside world.

It’s Monday, February 15th, in the quiet neighbourhood of Asahigaoka, the day after Valentine’s Day. The two angels Spinet and Vivace are a little exhausted from their work the previous day but still they manage to watch over the love lives of a handful of girls and young women who are all connected to some degree on that fateful snowy night of candles lit and stories told during an electricity blackout in the small residential area.

For example, there’s Sasae celebrating her 17th birthday with three of her friends on that Monday evening. She is in love with her childhood friend Shikawa-kun who told her recently he needed some time to see her as anything more than just a friend. The girls dream about their future lives, their ideal partners and marriages, when in the present, love is something bittersweet and hard to reach for most of them, even for Olive who has a boyfriend but has to keep a long-distance relationship with him because he goes to university in far away Tokyo. But there is quite a bit of hope for Sasae herself who happens to meet Shikawa-kun when the girls go out into the dark of the blackout, the hope that his feelings for her finally might have changed when he greets her with a present.

Kari, a young woman with an inferiority complex caused by her boyfriend’s all too perfect ex-girlfriend, meets an alien girl named Piin while she’s sitting on a park bench in the snow during the blackout. The alien seems to know Kari from the inside out and takes her on a ride in her spaceship. From this higher viewpoint, Kari sees her world in a completely new light and realizes there is no reason to worry so much about her boyfriend and his dedication and earnestness towards her.

The school girl Kimako has been secretly watching her mysterious new neighbour, a boy called Haneo who has the whole school buzzing with gossip because of his excentricities, through her window. She learns he’s obsessed with extraterrestrial lifeforms and finally gets to meet Haneo in person in the snow during the blackout when he’s following a spaceship with an alien and a human girl on board through the neighbourhood.

And Banana, who has taken some time off after her graduation from university because she doesn’t know what to do for a living, daydreams about becoming an essayist when she suddenly gets the chance to win a trip to Paris and work as a professional travel writer through a competition in a womens’ magazine. But as the deadline is drawing nearer and nearer, she’s facing a massive episode of writer’s block, which she’ll finally (and successfully!) be able to overcome on the night of the blackout, remembering a trip to a lovely antique toy store in the north-east of Japan which brought back so many memories from her childhood.

This short voyage into Mutsu A-ko’s world provides an excellent introduction to the author’s early works: These bittersweet romantic comedies are decorated with cute details and settings (kawayui being the keyword here, yes, even cuter than kawaii) and follow girls in preppy clothes – most of them shy, some of them quite free-spirited – who are mainly focused on getting their crush to notice them, while the male characters range from the level-headed to the geeky.

The original tankōbon of the title story was published in 1982, the other 4 short stories also included in the bunko version date back to even earlier, so you’ll get a good impression of the sense of carefreeness both of youth and adolescence portrayed in shōjo manga in general but even more specifically during the prosperous times of Japan’s high-speed economic growth. The ideas some of the characters have about gender roles or romantic love might be a little dated. But in the end, what wins the reader over even today is Mutsu A-ko’s idiosyncratic mixture of slightly over-the-top comedic elements and beautifully nostalgic or melancholy romantic scenes with pretty artwork that has become the very definition of what clever editors of Ribon magazine once coined otometic. No matter how old you are, if you’re reading this for the first time or out of nostalgia, Mutsu A-ko manages to draw you into her very unique, charming, magical world, a universe you’ll want to revisit again and again, and not just once a year ;)

More about the author, whose birthday it happens to be today (February 15th), about a recent new edition (Best Selection) of her early works published by Kawade and about the otometic ‘way of life’ is soon to come! But for now, if you’re proficient enough in the Japanese language, buy your copy of this lovely little book!

Title: Tenshi mo yumemiru rōsokuya (天使も夢みるローソク夜)
Author: Mutsu A-ko (陸奥A子)
ISBN: 4-08-618395-1
Publisher: Shueisha
Format: Bunko, 320 pages
Year: 2005
Additional information: Contains the 4-chapter (‘omnibus’) title story and four other short stories (“Kintarou-kun”, “Oshaberi na hitomi”, “Milky Sepia Monogatari”, “Magical Mystery Instant Coffee”). Published as part of the 3-volume Ribon Otometic Memorial Selection (りぼん おとめチックメモリアル選) celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ribon. More info @ Shueisha Manga Net.

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Categories: Manga Review.
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Posted on Feb 15, 2017 (Wed, 6:54 pm).


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