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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 with tag: magazine: hana to yume



[Manga Review] After the Curse: Takaya Natsuki’s Fruits Basket another

Fruits Basket another 1 by Takaya Natsuki (HC online, Hakusensha)If you were a manga reader around the time the world moved into the current millenium, you probably remember the birth of an unforgettable shōjo manga mega hit series featuring a lonely girl meeting a mysterious clan of people cursed to turn into animals under various circumstances. While Takaya Natsuki‘s manga Fruits Basket, published in Hakusensha’s bimonthly magazine Hana to Yume, had already started its run in 1998, it was in 2001, with the winning of the Kodansha Manga Award in the shōjo manga category and – most importantly – the airing of its TV anime adaptation, that Fruits Basket crossed age and gender barriers and captured the hearts of so many people, girls and women, boys and men alike. And it turned the series not just into a stellar success story in Japan but internationally as well where it also gained a huge fan following. The manga series itself ran until 2006, its 23 tankōbon volumes selling millions of copies in its home country and, as translated versions, abroad.

Fruits Basket Aizouban/Collector's Edition 1 by Takaya Natsuki (Hana to Yume Comics, Hakusensha)In 2015 the publication of a 12-volume Fruits Basket Collector’s Edition (aizōban), designed in a slightly larger format than the original tankōbon version and with additional color illustrations and features like interviews and character profiles, was announced. To create some buzz and promote the sale of this edition (released monthly until August 2016), Takaya Natsuki returned to the world of Fruits Basket and began to publish chapters of a new Fruits Basket series via Hakusensha’s digital platform Hana Lala online. A year later, these chapters saw a serialization in paper form in the monthly magazine Bessatsu Hana to Yume before the first volume was finally published in tankōbon format in August 2016. This new series is titled Fruits Basket another (or Furubana, similar to the abbreviated Furuba of its predecessor), which hints at an alternative universe kind of relationship with the original series about the the girl Honda Tōru and the members of the Sōma (Sohma) clan who are cursed to transform into one animal of the Chinese zodiac plus a cat respectively when they’re either in bad physical or mental states or touched by members of the opposite sex. However, the events in Furubana take place in the very same Sōma clan universe as Furuba!

Sawa from Fruits Basket another by Takaya Natsuki (HC online, Hakusensha)Chronologically, Fruits Basket another is set several years after the original series. A girl called Mitoma Sawa is supposed to start her first day at Kaibara-kōkō, the same senior high school the main Furuba characters used to go to back in their days. Sawa is an only child living with her cold, mostly absent mother. She doesn’t want to cause trouble for anybody after a bad experience in elementary school which left her alone without friends. In best shōjo manga fashion she wants to start fresh in high school. She might be on her way to a catastrophic beginning when she is late for her first day and gets scolded by a teacher but she is then saved by a good-looking boy called Sōma Mutsuki (why hello there, Furuba Yuki!). Together with another student and member of the Sōma clan, Hajime (a look-a-like of none other than Kyō, of course), Mutsuki wants Sawa to become a member of the student council and makes it publically known she was selected as a new member. Timid Sawa doesn’t really have a choice anymore, accepts her new position and joins president Hajime and vice president Mutsuki.

Fruits Basket another by Takaya Natsuki (HC online, Hakusensha)Mutsuki saves Sawa from awkward social situations more than once. He appears outwardly gentle but is a bit of a bully towards Hajime who has a very short temper. (That should ring a bell concerning the relationship of the Furuba generation protagonists, Yuki and Kyō.) The Sōma family members are hugely popular at their school and even have their own fan club led by the overzealous Kakeyama Ruriko, who hysterically guards Mutsuki’s well-being and is highly suspicious of Sawa’s closeness to the Sōma clan which complicates Sawa’s life at school only further. By meeting more members of the Sōma clan who either also go to Kaibara-kōkō or come to visit Hajime and Mutsuki in their house, Sawa gets to know the clan members’ very unique personalities. Little by little she starts to relax and make friends among the Sōmas, but will she be able to overcome her past trauma and find a place – or in this case, a family clan – she belongs to? And how will her presence in return affect the Sōma clan and their complicated relationships with each other?

From this short summary alone it should be obvious that just like its predecessor, Fruits Basket another belongs to the healing (iyashi-kei) manga genre. The premise of the original – how is Tōru changed by the Sōma clan and how does she in return change the Sōma clan dynamics – is kept and applied to the protagonist Sawa. Unfortunately for the reader, Sawa so far seems like a rather plain and uninteresting heroine by comparison and is mainly used as a tool to build a stage for the new generation of Sōma clan members who make their appearances one by one. Furubana is planned as a 3-volume series so there clearly isn’t enough space to draw out the story as elaborately as Furuba did which means some Sōma family members here disappear just as quickly as they’ve entered the stage. In the first volume we do get some dark foreshadowing when Mutsuki repeatedly calls a mysterious person called Shiki who avoids meeting Sawa face to face, a hint that the series might hide some darker secrets below its surface, just like the original series did.

Fruits Basket another by Takaya Natsuki (HC online, Hakusensha)Throughout the manga long-time followers of the series will be able to play guessing games trying to match Furubana children with their supposed Furuba parents by their looks, behavior and character traits. The Furubana offspring are missing the key characteristic of the Fruits Basket generation though (as a result of the ending of the original series, which I’m not going to spoil here), which is exactly what made Fruits Basket so special, plot-wise and visually: the transformation into animals and the problems this caused. It might seem like an extremely lazy analogy but try to imagine a Sailor Moon another as a high school comedy of the children of the Sailor Senshi without their magical planet powers and transformations and ask yourself if you’re enough of a die-hard fan to find entertainment in that…

Yuki and Kyō from Fruits Basket volume 3 by Takaya Natsuki (Hana to Yume Comics, Hakusensha, 1999)

Hajime and Mutsuki from Fruits Basket another volume 1 by Takaya Natsuki (HC online, Hakusensha, 2016)

[Compare these two images: Pictured above Yuki and Kyō from Fruits Basket volume 3, published in 1999 and pictured below Hajime and Mutsuki from Fruits Basket another volume 1 published in 2016. Not that much seems to have changed between these two and the next generation. The character designs remain simple but cute, though.]

Fruits Basket was always character-driven with lots of back story and psychological development provided through the dialogue. The story here is paper-thin however, with depth and darkness as of yet only hinted at. While the character designs are solid and very similar to those of the later volumes of the original series, the main setting of the school itself makes for some boring and repetitive page layouts. So far there have been only very few scenes set outside, at the Sōma house for example. After reading the first volume one cannot shake the feeling that everything here is just a taste of past glory. Even the main character constellation – Sawa, Mutsuki, Hajime – is all too similar to the Tōru-Yuki-Kyō triangle. Owing to the planned shortness of the series, the chances of it going as dark as the original or putting its readers on an engaging emotional rollercoaster in the future are admittedly low. This is a real weakness of this sequel, as fans of the original who followed it in ‘real time’ back in the early 2000s are all adults now, doubtlessly possessing the mental capabilities to process a slightly more complex story.

Fruits Basket another by Takaya Natsuki (HC online, Hakusensha)The characters, in their visual appearances and behaviors but also in their dialogues, provide recurring hints and references to the original Fruits Basket series which are only comprehensible to those who know and remember (!) the original series. In this way, Fruits Basket another can be seen as a present to long-time fans and was clearly not made to win people new to the series over. The author constantly plugs the aizōban/collector’s edition that was released with the start of Furubana, encouraging people to (re)buy and (re)read the original. However, I have my doubts if people with no prior knowledge of Fruits Basket who start with Furubana find the latter fascinating enough to start the original series, especially because it lacks everything that made Fruits Basket so entertaining and fascinating.

The unique characters of the second generation of the Sōma clan and their gorgeous character designs, the bickering between its two main family members (Mutsuki and Hajime here, the supposed sons of Yuki and Kyō) and the sometimes over-the-top humor here are reminders of key elements of the original. Hints at darker motives of characters are given throughout the first volume and especially at the end, providing a cliffhanger to buy the next volume which should be out by late summer/early fall 2017. In its current form, I have to admit this spin-off doesn’t leave much of a lingering impression. Maybe it will be more satisfying once the series has ended and it can be enjoyed in full. It did however make me want to revisit the original which I find has aged perfectly, with its soft and kind gentleness winning over cruelty and isolation.

Title: Fruits Basket another (フルーツバスケット another)
Author: Takaya Natsuki (高屋奈月)
Volumes: 1 (on-going; 2016-)
ISBN: 9784592218517
Format: B6
Prize: 580 Yen (excluding tax)
Magazine: Hana LaLa online (digital), Bessatsu Hana to Yume (printed version)
Label: HC online
Publisher: Hakusensha
Additional information: The series originally started its run in September 2015 at Hana Lala online. Following the digital release, it is published in printed form in BetsuHana first, before about 4 chapters are collectively published in one comic tankôbon.
Chapters for volume one are offline; a preview the first chapter is located here. The chapters to be published in volume 2 have also been taken offline because the series re-started its 4-month run in the current issue of BetsuHana (number 7/2017, out since May 26th). Volume 2 is slated for a late summer/early fall publication. Chapters for future printed publication (volume 3 onwards) are still online, read them for free while you can :)

And I can’t end this Fruits Basket post without the wonderfully soothing opening song of the anime series by Okazaki Ritsuko:

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Posted on Jun 9, 2017 (Fri, 12:27 am). .

[Manga Review] My Voice Is A Lighthouse – Fukuyama Ryōko’s Fukumenkei Noise (Anonymous Noise)

Nino/Alice on the cover of Fukumenkei Noise/Anonymous Noise volume 1 by Fukuyama Ryoko (Hakusensha)As a young girl, Arisugawa Nino used to sing with Yuzu, the boy living in the house next to her family’s, which gave her strength and comfort when her parents were fighting. Yuzu moves away one day but Nino is lucky enough to become friends with Yuzu, a boy who composes songs for Nino until he too moves away. Nino is determined to find both Nino and Yuzu again through her singing voice which might lead them back to her. Now, in senior high, Nino is surprised to meet Yuzu who is secretly in the popular newcomer band in NO hurry to shout (Inohari) whose members are wearing bandages and eye-patches to hide their identities. Yuzu asks Nino to join them as their lead singer Alice and this inspires him to write new songs for the band. Nino doesn’t yet know that none other than Momo is now a) a famous pop composer, b) the bassist of a band called SILENT BLACK KITTY (Kuroneko) criticized for being an Inohari copy band plus c) a student in the school Nino and Yuzu attend. When they finally meet again, Momo rejects Nino as he secretly feels ashamed he sold his songs originally written for Nino to other pop singers while Yuzu also has his eyes set on Nino, his Alice – another one-sided love in this triangle that fuels the creative energy of these three young people.

Alice in Fukumenkei Noise/Anonymous Noise by Fukuyama Ryoko (Hakusensha)This is the premise of Fukuyama Ryōko’s manga Fukumenkei Noise (Anonymous Noise) which has been running in Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume magazine since 2013, with 12 comic volumes published so far. This is already quite a long series with probably much more material to follow but it doesn’t take more than the first and a little bit of the second volume for the foundation of the plot to be established. One copyline repeatedly used for the series is “Kokoro kakushita kataomoi melody” which roughly translates to “The melody of unrequited love hiding our try feelings” and cleverly refers to Fukumenkei Noise‘s two main elements: romance and music. Inohari’s and Kuroneko’s respective roads to success and their rivalry always run parallel to the main love triangle with all those feelings of attraction and the need for distance it entails plus the side stories also filled with stories of unrequited love. We have Nino who is in love with Momo, Momo who won’t allow himself to return Nino’s feelings, Yuzu who has more than just feelings of inspiration for Nino, Miou who has a crush on Yuzu, Haruyoshi who wants Miou to forget about Yuzu, Kuro who is in love with his older brother’s wife… Yes, we’re in for quite a bit of heartache.

Momo on the cover of Fukumenkei Noise/Anonymous Noise volume 9 by Fukuyama Ryoko (Hakusensha)But the backbone of the series is definitely the music aspect. Nino’s journey toward becoming a stronger singer who tries to reach out for her audience and the other main characters’ developments as artists give the series an interesting focus beyond the romance aspect. The dynamics within Inohari make the manga fun and entertaining, as Nino/Alice, Yuzu, Miou, Haruyoshi and Kuro have a lively (but also emotional and complicated) chemistry among themselves. Their rise within the music scene is maybe not completely realistic but it doesn’t leave out the hard work, planning and practice it takes to compose, record and perform hit singles and albums. And it’s that last aspect, the live performances so powerfully put into images in the manga that lend Fukumenkei Noise an almost irresistable sense of pressing urgency and youthful energy. Fukuyama Ryōko relies a lot on her own research and photos she’s taking at concerts and festivals for her visual portrayal of Inohari as a live band. And it definitely pays off because as a reader you do feel the adrenaline rush both of the band and the audience – which is so important because as a manga, the series can’t rely on the key ingredient of the story, the music itself!

Yuzu on the cover of Fukumenkei Noise/Anonymous Noise volume 2 by Fukuyama Ryoko (Hakusensha)A very minor flaw I’ve noticed is the series is already quite long and there are parts where the plot stalls a little and doesn’t move along as quickly as you’d like. For example, the urgency and speed of the first two volumes are soon replaced by somewhat repetitive scenes of Nino/Alice running amok on stage with her voice, Nino running after Momo has heard her voice while Yuzu’s looking sadly after her, determined to make her voice his. We often get poetic monologues, with sometimes Nino’s and Yuzu’s thoughts running in synchronicity throughout a scene. This can be both a little overwhelming and confusing from time to time, but in the original Japanese version you can at least formally tell their lines apart as Yuzu’s are displayed in hiragana. At the same time, this adds to the sense of chaos and sheer NOISE in the manga which helps build up a very unique atmosphere. And ultimately, the slower chapters serve to build up tension until a change finally happens, for example when Nino overcomes her slump after the band’s first festival appearance and realizes she needs to become a better vocalist by training hard and trying to reach out to the audience in front of her.

Nino is a strong-willed, passionate heroine. She often cuts herself off from the world around her, blocking herself from articulating her thoughts through her voice – the mask she often wears being a symbol of that – and it’s captivating to follow her overcome that isolation. Nino’s main evolution as a character is her road from a rampaging berzerk on stage who races through songs because she can’t control her voice to a somewhat accomplished rock singer. Her obsession with singing and her passion for making herself heard make her a heroine full of ambition and energy. Her vulnerability, after temporarily losing her two childhood friends or when she realizes her shortcomings as a vocalist on stage, makes her even more believable and human.

Miou on the cover of Fukumenkei Noise/Anonymous Noise volume 5 by Fukuyama Ryoko (Hakusensha)Momo and Yuzu both have complicated relationships with their mothers which is something we only realize bit by bit through hints dropped in short dialogues and backflashes. There are some really cute childhood scenes, especially for Yuzu and Nino. The scenes of their meetings at the beautiful shore of Yuigahama, when they’re kids and then later after they’ve met again, are really powerful. But there are comic elements too, with the constant joke being Yuzu and his omnipresent carton of milk because he’s quite vertically challenged and would love to be taller. We get slapstick elements, some fighting and bickering among the members, some idiosyncratic patterns of behaviour and speech from certain members, like Haruyoshi who refers to himself as atashi, a pronoun reserved for females, and uses a lot of female speech patterns because he grew up with 6 sisters :) And one thing I love is the portrayal of the friendship between the two Inohari girls, Nino and Miou, despite the fact that it’s Nino who gets all that attention from Miou’s crush Yuzu. (I shall forever worship at the shrine dedicated to Miou while everyone else is deciding whether they’re Team Momo or Team Yuzu ;) There’s also a cast of more or less charming minor characters, the Kuroneko band members, other artists and models they work with, the managers and producers, journalists and some fans who serve to shed light on the bands’ stories from their respective perspective, but they always remain somewhat sidelined in the presence of the triangle Nino-Momo-Yuzu.

Nino/Alice on the cover of Fukumenkei Noise/Anonymous Noise volume 7 by Fukuyama Ryoko (Hakusensha)Fukumenkei refers to the fact that both Inohari and Kuroneko use masks, eye-patches and bandages to hide their true identities; this gives them very unique looks, one might say they look slightly visual-kei, with a gothic lolita-inspired Alice. Fukuyama’s forte as a mangaka are definitely her illustrations, especially the ones in color. (In that respect, it’s a real loss for the charms of the series that most of the color illustrations are printed just black and white in the tankōbon versions and can only be fully enjoyed by magazine readers until an artbook is released.) These images match the aesthetics used for ‘real’ albums covers, concert posters, ads and magazine spreads perfectly, giving readers the chance to follow Inohari almost like a band that exists in real life. This experience will now become only stronger with the anime series starting today, April 11 on Japanese TV with a long list of soundtrack singles and albums soon to be available and a live-action movie to follow with a scheduled opening day of November 25. The 13th comic volume has been announced to hit book stores in late June, a limited edition with a drama CD will be available as well.

Haruyoshi on the cover of Fukumenkei Noise/Anonymous Noise volume 10 by Fukuyama Ryoko (Hakusensha)Fukumenkei Noise has the ability to captivate a wide readership, both female and male, despite being a shōjo manga title. It might be similar to another HanaYume series in that respect, i.e. Takaya Natsuki’s Fruits Basket which was also able to reach even more people after it received its anime adaptation and it remains to be seen if Fukumenkei Noise can manage the same. And you cannot help but feel that Fukumenkei Noise also pays homage to the cult classic, the iconic, the one and only music and romance manga for girls by Yazawa Ai – the unfinished NANA! With the genre and a heroine called Nino which isn’t all that far from Nana, the shared name of the two heroines of Yazawa’s hit series, Fukumenkei Noise has been predestined for comparisons with the former. And it is definitely not wrong to call Fukumenkei Noise a NANA for middle schoolers, targeting mainly 13 or 14-year old girls, unlike NANA with its slightly older fan demographic. Fukumenkei Noise is fun, energetic and eye-catching but it sometimes lacks the depth and emotional scope of NANA as it never looks for too long into the abyss of desperation the way Yazawa’s unfinished masterpiece does.

International readers rejoice, the manga is not exclusive to readers fluent in Japanese! It has been licenced for an English publication as Anonymous Noise by Viz Media and the first volume should be in stores around the time I’m posting this. Glénat started its French version (titled Masked Noise) a year ago in April 2016. If you’re interested in more manga by Fukuyama Ryōko, her first series Nōsatsu Junkie has been published in English by Tokyopop, in French by Panini and in German by Carlsen (as Charming Junkie); and her second series Monokuro Shōnen Shōjo is available in French as Monochrome Animals through Glénat and as Monochrome Kids in German via Egmont.

Basic facts:
Title: Fukumenkei Noise – Anonymous Noise (覆面系ノイズ)
Author: Fukuyama Ryōko (福山リョウコ)
Volumes: 12 (on-going; started in 2013)
Magazine: Hana to Yume
Label: Hana to Yume Comics
Publisher: Hakusensha
Additional information: The official site for the manga run by Hakusensha can be found here.

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Posted on Apr 11, 2017 (Tue, 2:57 am). .

[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). .




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