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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 josei manga (女性漫画, Japanese comics for 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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Viewing all posts in category: Manga



[Manga Review] Beware the Witch Boy: Komori Yōko’s Kokage-kun wa Majo

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)From mid-2015 to late 2016, a strange candy-coloured jewel sparkled brightly in Shueisha’s Gekkan YOU, a monthly josei manga magazine which has a target demographic from youngish female office workers to women in their 50s who all have been reading shoujo manga for a long time, and which usually offers a line-up of mostly romance, comedy and slice of life josei manga by shoujo manga veterans. Yet sometimes it is in the most unexpected places you can find the most unusual, charming little gems, in this case a short series called Kokage-kun wa Majo (subtitled Kokage-kun Bewitched, but more literally translated Kokage-kun is a Witch), published separately in 3 comic volumes.

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)Its young artist, Komori Yōko, is a very recent graduate of Bunsei University of Art and neither a former Betsuma author now graduated to YOU nor a veteran like Hagio Moto, who are all more typical for the latter magazine’s roster. But Komori’s unique art style and inventive story-telling definitely deserve a closer look if you’re interested in exciting new talents. She only has two previous 2-volume series under her belt, one astronomically themed, the other one taking place in a maritime setting, which were also serialized in YOU. In these two works, she has already been able to impress readers with her quiet but entrancing stories and her stunning yet clean art relying heavily on natural motifs. Here, in Kokage-kun wa Majo it’s the plants-growing-out-of-cute-boys-and-girls, slightly pagan aesthetics so popular among professional and amateur artists right now which are combined with pastel secondary colors, playful gothic lolita accessories and fairy tale elements in a suburban and later on more fantastic setting providing a backdrop for a surprisingly dark love story.

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)Yumeko, our female protagonist, is a cute but lazy and self-indulgent girl who likes rolling around on the floor of her room in just a pair of panties and her school uniform top. Together with her mother, she lives in a decrepit community apartment building, a fact she’s been trying to hide from the girls in her class – and often from herself as she dreams herself away, imagining herself to be a princess swimming in cute clothes, candy and cakes. (We’re back to an old danchi as the childhood home of a shoujo manga heroine here; see Yamakawa Aiji’s previously reviewed Yajirobee for another example.) But that creepy old apartment building appears to have been hiding one secret from her too, as Yumeko finds out one day: there’s a boy living deep in the mysterious forest located on the roof of the building. The two argue a lot from their first meeting on, but there is something special about him that draws Yumeko back to his green oasis on top of the house. When Yumeko finds herself in a dangerous situation, it turns out that Kokage-kun, while biologically a boy, possesses helpful magical powers linked to nature which he inherited from his mother, making him a male witch!

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha) Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)Kokage-kun was supposed to take part in an “orgia” with a demon (akuma) to gain his full magical powers. He didn’t want to, though – for hidden reasons closely connected to Yumeko. The demon, however, never accepted Kokage-kun’s rejection and can’t let go of his desire for the witch boy and his right to an orgy with him. (And yes, that orgy is exactly what it sounds like ;) His plan is to get closer to Kokage-kun by using Yumeko who is flattered by the sudden attention of the demon in the disguise of a rather good-looking schoolboy. Of course, Yumeko is doomed to get hurt once she finds out the demon’s true intentions and is shocked when she hears about that orgia business.

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)Things get even more complicated when Yumeko realizes that her own feelings for the witch boy are slowly changing when her best friend Nanao falls in love with him. But there is a mysterious strong bond between Yumeko and Kokage: they seem to have a shared past Yumeko doesn’t remember, the proof being a photograph she finds of her and him smiling happily in a field of sunflowers… This is just the beginning of Yumeko’s and Kokage-kun’s dangerous journey to the bottom of darkness which is lightened up by hope, friendship and wonders, more witches, demons and a puppet master, a journey to recover Yumeko’s lost memories of a forgotten love – and to overcome death.

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)Like mentioned in the beginning, Komori Yōko’s artwork is absolutely delightful! From the beautiful color illustrations for the book covers, sweetly pastel-hued like Yumeko’s beloved candy, to the retro but sparkle-free character designs, which convey emotions expertly through lively facial expressions, to the atmospheric settings – there’s just so much that pleases the eye without ever being overwhelming. The page designs throughout are mostly clean, with the action often put into tidy panels, but also feature pretty details and natural ornaments, like insects, flowers, or even leaves growing out of bodies. But the pages never appear overwrought or overloaded, just as the story is not convoluted but – despite its growing complexity – easy to follow throughout the three volumes. And what is important to stress is that the art of a wildly growing nature is not just a visual gimmick here, as the life force of nature is crucial to the bitter but ultimately sweet story. Komori is also a master of creating memorable scenes just by putting her whimsical characters, fully fleshed out with their own weaknesses and quirky habits, into charming sceneries and settings: the run-down yet retro-cute community housing complex, a haunted forest, a day at the beach that envelopes the reader in its atmosphere so successfully you’ll find yourself able to smell the salty air and hear the cries of the seagulls!

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)Komori Yōko is not just a wizard of ink and colours: her series is brimming with small inventive ideas which are delivered both through the art and the story itself. Her talent for plotting and story-telling is just as outstanding as her art, as she presents us with a narrative full of twists and turns. Our starting point is witnessing the antics of our lazy heroine, her hilarious lack of self-discipline and her little quarrels with the witch boy, the tone being light and fun with a slight hint of melancholia. As the story unravels it turns surprisingly complex and deeply emotional, combining elements of comedy, fantasy, romance, adventure and even boys’ love. It sometimes even ventures into the surreal which again provides the reader with some unusual art to go along with it.

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)The cast is growing too as Yumeko and Kokage later on are joined by more and more magical companions. And it’s the deepening bonds with Yumeko’s friend from school, Nanao, and another witch girl called Moe that are really nice to watch, as this manga is not just a fantasy romance manga but also depicts friendships among girls in a realistic, multi-layered way. However, the heart of the manga remains Yumeko’s and Kokage-kun’s dangerous journey, as the question of whether the two will be able to save their future together is what will keep readers devouring the pages, desperately hoping for a happy end…

Kokage-kun wa Majo by Komori Yoko (Margaret Comics YOU, Shueisha)It’s been a while since Kokage-kun wa Majo ended its run and there has been no word on a new work by Komori Yōko, neither short nor long. But now that the artist has finished her art school education, we have to keep our fingers crossed she’ll be able to continue her career as a manga artist and find a lot of support in the future as both her quirky art and story-telling abilities truly stand out in the often rather homogenous sea of mainstream shoujo/josei manga.

Title: Kokage-kun wa Majo – Kokage-kun Bewitched (木陰くんは魔女。)
Author: Komori Yōko (小森羊仔)
Volumes: 3 (2016; completed)
Magazine: Gekkan YOU
Label: Margaret Comics YOU
Publisher: Shueisha
Additional information: Have a look at the first pages of volumes 1, 2 and 3 on the publisher’s site.

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Categories: Manga, Manga Review.
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Posted on Apr 16, 2018 (Mon, 11:36 pm). .

[Manga & Anime News] The April Agenda

We’ve already entered a new month and April ’17 looks like it has some very exciting things waiting for us – some new beginnings that might bring a sparkle to our eyes in best old-school shoujo manga fashion and some endings that will hopefully not be too tear-inducing…

Fukumenkei Noise/Anonymous Noise TV anime by Tokyo MX based on the manga by Fukuyama RyoukoThe second week of April marks the start of an anime TV series based on Fukuyama Ryōko’s Fukumenkei Noise (Anonymous Noise). The series has been destined for the whole multi-platform treatment it will be getting (there’s also a movie coming out in November this year) from the start. Yes, it’s literally screaming for a form that goes beyond the printed medium and brings sound into the whole affair because it is about just that – sound, music! From April 11 on, which is the day the first episode airs in Japan, we can expect some pop punk noise accompanying the story of the love triangle between the girl Nino who turns into Alice, the lead singer of the massively hyped newcomer band in No hurry to shout (called Inohari by fans and the media), whose members wear bandages and eye-patches to hide their identities. Their guitarist and main songwriter Yuzu brings Nino into the band after Nino had inspired him to write songs for her back when they were kids and Nino had to overcome the fact that her first love Momo had suddenly moved away. Yuzu himself is still in love with Nino while Nino tries to find Momo through her voice but when she finally does, he rejects her. Momo is now a famous composer of pop songs, feeling guilty about making money with the songs he originally wrote for Nino for whom he still has feelings. He’s just in senior high, the same one Nino and Yuzu attend. And what makes the situtation even more complicated, he’s the bassist in band called SILENT BLACK KITTY who’s being criticized for being nothing but a copy band of Inohari.
Fukumenkei Noise follows Nino and the two very different boys, Yuzu and Momo, and their bands all the way to the top of the pop music world. With the added element of ‘real’ music, the anime will hopefully express even more powerfully the youthful energy and passion of the manga, currently running in Hana to Yume. I can’t wait. And please note: a post for the manga is coming to this very space next week!

Palace Meiji by Kuze Banko (Hakusensha)The end of the month will bring readers the final chapter of Kuze Banko’s series Palace Meiji in Hakusensha’s Betsuhana (Bessatsu Hana to Yume), with its June issue in stores April 26. To commemorate the conclusion of the magazine’s number one title, Palace Meji will be getting the magazine’s cover, a color spread and a furoku fan book called “Palace no omoide” (literally “Memories of the Palace”) along with the last chapter. And I’m getting my tissues ready because I really enjoyed young hero Kimiyori’s years of training and working at Meiji Palace, serving the young, tough and beautiful (fictional) empress Akiko. 6 comic volumes filled with episodes of court life in alternative modern-meets-traditional Japan, subversions of gender roles and lots of action, human drama, warm humour and suspense have been published so far, already destined to become classic shōjo manga material.
In related news, another long-running series, the romantic comedy Pochama ni by Hirama Kaname will come to an end in that same issue of Betsuhana.

The final volume of Izumi Kaneyoshi's Joou no HanaFollowing up from this post and the publication of the final volume of Izumi Kaneyoshi’s Joō no hana, it’s only fair to say the fantasy romance series stuck out like a rainbow-colored swallowtail butterfly among the brownish grey moths usually running in Shogakukan’s Betsucomi. The publisher itself must have come to the same realization and transferred the artist to the place she rightfully belongs on its roster of shōjo magazines, that being Monthly flowers. Izumi’s new series of one-shots will start with its first story titled Suisō Yakyoku (let me see, Nocturne of the Water Tank?), a whopping 60 pages including color pages plus the cover of the magazine, published in Gekkan flowers 6/2017 out on April 28. Looks like we’re back in the present day with a ‘it’s slightly complicated’ type of romantic comedy, judging from the short bit of description and the illustration of the two main characters on the flowers preview page.
The current flowers issue (5/2017) celebrates the 20th anniversary of Watanabe Taeko’s Kaze hikaru along with a sticker calender furoku, the beginning of the final story arc of Tamura Yumi’s long-running post-apocalyptic action manga 7SEEDS (which I must admit has the ability to give me nightmares, that series is just not for the faint of heart), and the very last chapter of Kodama Yuki’s Tsukikage Baby, the follow-up to her hit series Sakamichi no Apollon (Kids on the Slope).
My order with the limited edition of the final volume of Joō no hana with the memorial fan book isn’t here yet but I noticed it’s already sold out at most places and going for slightly crazy prices at amazon… See the cover for it, which wasn’t out when I wrote my post last month, on the top right!

So this looks like a fun-packed month that is guaranteed to bring lots of material to shorten rainy spring days and long commutes to and from school/work!

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Categories: Anime, Manga, Manga News.
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Posted on Apr 2, 2017 (Sun, 2:34 am). .

[Manga & Movie News] Movie adaptation of Okazaki Kyōko’s River’s Edge announced

River's Edge by Okazaki Kyouko (Takarajimasha)The most exciting news of the past few days to me came in the form of the announcement of a movie adaption of Okazaki Kyōko’s iconic manga River’s Edge. Principal photography is already being done while the movie is scheduler for a 2018 release in Japanese theaters. Okazaki started her work as a professional mangaka in the early 1980s, releasing mostly short stories and one-volume series both in manga magazine but also sub-culture and fashion magazines. Her extremely productive career – which earned her a cult following among readers and critics alike – was brought to a sudden tragic halt when she was hit by an SUV in 1996. To this day, she hasn’t been physically able to publish a new manga. She is thoroughly missed by her fans and throughout the years has influenced and inspired a lot of creative and intellectual people, among them artists, musicians, film directors, as well as cultural critics and scholars.

River’s Edge (published from 1993 until 1994 in the fashion magazine CUTiE and as a tankōbon in 1994 by Takarajimasha) tells the story of Haruna, a girl in senior high school who recently broke up with her bully and drugdealer boyfriend, and Yamada Ichirō, who is secretly gay and one of the victims of Haruna’s ex-boyfriend’s cruelties. Yamada one day tells Haruna her about his strange ‘treasure’ – a dead body he found by the edge of the river… River’s Edge is undoubtedly among Okazaki Kyōko’s most accomplished works. It is carried by Okazaki’s characteristic way of portraying young people in the 1980s and, in this case, the 1990s, their boredom, loneliness and lack of direction, partly due to their parents’ affluence, their fears and ambitions, their obsession with appearance – but Okazaki goes deep below the surface and finds the ugliness people try to hide and, at the same time, the very moving and fleeting beauty of what it means to be human.

The movie adaptation is currently in its filming stage, with director Yukisada Isao collaborating with Setoyama Misaki on the script. Yukisada rose to fame in 2001 with GO, a romantic zainichi action drama based on the same-titled novel written by Kaneshiro Kazuki. I’m very interested in seeing how he translates Okazaki’s very distinctive visual style into moving pictures. Haruna, the heroine, will be played by Nikadō Fumi and Yamada by Yoshizawa Ryō. (Coincidently, the two have previously acted together in the 2016 movie adaptation of Hatta Ayuko’s manga Ōkamishoujo to Kuroōji (Wolf Girl and Black Prince, serialized in Betsuma/Shueisha).) This will be the second movie adaptation of a manga by Okazaki Kyōko, following Helter Skelter for which Okazaki received the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize and which she worked on until the accident in 1996. The movie starring Sawajiri Erika was directed by photographer Ninagawa Mika and released in 2012.

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Categories: Film/TV, Manga, Manga News.
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Posted on Mar 27, 2017 (Mon, 1:08 am). .




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