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Dec 04

December 2014 Manga Releases

Gotta read ’em all!

So as it turns out I have been missing a manga publisher for the past few months. Good old Kodansha! Thanks to somebody on Twitter who reminded me about them. Anyway, time now to look at the final batch of Japanese comics making their way to UK shelves this year.

Oh, and for the record, all release dates are based off the Amazon UK listings as they are now. Which as it turns out is not the most accurate of systems when All You Need Is Kill has a million versions and Seven Seas push forward a batch of their stuff by a week from December into November. Damnit all.

Viz Media

Featured Release – Assassination Classroom 1

Every now and again you get a series whose premise alone is enough to turn your head and pique your interest. Attack on Titan and Sword Art Online are past examples of this (let’s ignore how they turned out for now), and now so is Assassination Classroom. An evil creature that annihilated most of the Moon has threatened to destroy the Earth in a year, but gives humanity one chance. He’s going to be a homeroom teacher for a school class for that year, and with the Japanese government offering a ludicrous reward for anybody who offs him, the best junior assassin’s around congregate to try and kill him off. Shame he can, amongst other things, move at Mach 20.

Its gone done a storm in Japan, with the first volume selling over a million copies, and all of its first 6 volumes in the top fifty best-selling manga of last year. With a bunch of awards under its belt too, needless to say, it’s pretty popular. Yūsei Matsui’s art does a great job of merging happy innocent kids with their psychotic murderous intent, even if it does look a little too juvenile at times. As for Koro-sensei, the octopus-esque teacher with a smile to give you nightmares that they’re trying to kill, his simple design works wonders to make him distinctive and terrifying. I’ve been told the series gets a little repetitive down the line, but even so this first volume is well worth checking out.

For those of you looking for something new that isn’t AssClass (hurr), Viz offers unto you the first two volumes of Little Battlers eXperience, or LBX for short. Set thirty years of so into the future, mini-robots made of “super strong cardboard” (yes, really) fight it out and there’s some story back there but it’s a kids product look at the fighting robots. It got made into an anime and had several video games developed by Level-5, so you can guess what kind of series it is.

And speaking of video games, there’s the debut of Resident Evil Marhawa Desire which acts as a prequel story to Resident Evil 6 and features BSAA employee Doug Wright looking into a viral outbreak at the Marhawa school. I wonder what happens there. And there’s also the first volume of the Pokémon Adventures XY arc, where X and Y (who needs real names) travel Kalos after their hometown is destroyed by two legendaries fighting it out.

There’s also the debut of Kiss of the Rose Princess, which I mentioned last month before it got delayed, and for Vampire Knight fans there’s the short story collection Fleeting Dreams which with the series now fully translated could well be the last VK thing to ever be released over here.

For those of you who need a Kindle fix, there’s Zone-00 2, Trinity Blood 11 and Future Diary 9 all coming to your devices. And if you’re an omnibus kind of guy, then there’s plenty of those coming out. There’s a double dose of InuYasha with VizBig volumes 11 and 12, the sixth volume of Vagabond, the fourth one of High School Debut, the fifth of Ranma 1/2, the ninth of Skip Beat and the seventh omnibus of good old classic Dragonball.

And lastly the usual truckload of continuations with Magi 9, Naruto 68, Kamisama Kiss 13 & 14, Phantom Thief Jeanne 5, Arata The Legend 19, Itsuwaribito 13, Seraph of the End 3, Nura Rise of the Yokai Clan 24, Gangsta 4, My Love Story 2, Voice Over Seiyuu Academy 8, 07-Ghost 13, Afterschool Charisma 10, Rin-Ne 16, Black Rose Alice 2, Terra Formars 3, World Trigger 3, Spell of Desire 2, False Memories 2, Dorohedoro 14, Pokémon Adventures 25, Food Wars 3 and Toriko 25. Phew.

Yen Press

Featured Release  Demon From Afar 1

One of Kaori Yuki’s newest works, Demon From Afar revolves all around the residents of Blood Blossom Manor. There’s Sorath, who was orphaned by an earthquake, the Baron of the Manor, Kamichika, and then his son and his betrothed, Garan and Kiyora. And with this being shoujo, they all have feelings for each other, which only get more chaotic as the Walpurgis Night (guess that was a thing before Madoka then) draws ever nearer.

Even if the story isn’t her finest hour, the artwork has that veteran touch, as detailed or simplistic as it needs to be, though the blood effects do leave something to be desired. If you’ve not read a lot of Kaori Yuki’s works before, this could serve as a fine introduction, and with their only being 6 volumes in total, the entire thing is short and sweet.

Yen Press’ other two new series this month are both geared towards romance fans. Love At Fourteen is exactly what it says, featuring 14 year olds and childhood friends Kanata and Kazuki in a straight up teenage romance, while He’s My Only Vampire features another childhood friend duo in Hana and Aki, except Aki’s a vampire who saves Hana from the reaper, with the two now having to collect powers and I get the feeling I’ve written this plot description before. Several times.

Elsewhere we have a Highschool DxD special in Asia and Koneko’s Secret Contract, which is just… well, those two. Doing Occult Club Research things. As for light novels, they keep coming with Spice and Wolf LN 13 and Sword Art Online LN 3, the latter being set during the Alfheim arc. You remember that bit right? The part which served no point at all and if you skipped it you’d never be the wiser. They’re even releasing an artbook this month, Pandora Hearts Odds and Ends, a perfect farewell song now that the manga has finished being translated with a ton of sketches and imagery from the first half of that series.

Rounding off Yen’s lineup is Barakamon 2, Are You Alice 7, Bloody Cross 5, Tena on S-String 6, Accel World 2, Kingdom Hearts 2 3 and Spice and Wolf 10. That’s the tenth volume of the manga, not to be confused with the light novel release I mentioned.

Dark Horse

Featured Release – Satoshi Kon’s Opus

Before Satoshi Kon would make his name directing and writing movies such as Paprika and Tokyo Godfathers, and before he was sadly taken before his time, he used to do manga. Opus was his final series before he jumped into films, and is Dark Horse’s tribute to the legendary man, and now you can buy it both in paper and Kindle format.

Full of his trademark surrealism, the plot revolves around a manga artist preparing to shock readers with a surprising ending to his series. But the surprise is for him instead when he gets pulled into his own work and must face the consequences he himself penned. The short series (it was only two volumes, which have been combined into one book by Dark Horse) looks great as you’d expect, with the crazy detail and insanity that would show up in his later works on full display. If you like Kon’s films, or have a taste for the bizarre in general, this is a must buy.

Not much else from Dark Horse otherwise. Kindle owners can enjoy Bride of the Water God 4, a manhwa where poor Soah is sacrificed to the water god Habaek, but instead of death the water god himself saves her and drags into his world, changing Soah’s life forever. It’s still going today, so if you like it, there’s plenty to read in paperback or plenty to come to your device.

For Evangelion fans who don’t want to spent five billion dollars on a BluRay set, you can make do with the Shinji Ikari Raising Project 15, which is set in the alternate universe of the final episode and changes up some of the circumstances and is still going today a decade after the game it was based on came out.

Lastly there’s New Lone Wolf and Cub 3, the sequel series to Lone Wolf and Cub which I’ve talked about before. Set after the finalé of the previous manga (that’s the original, not 2100), this carries on with the next generation of characters and also features characters from beyond Japan, something that never happened in the original.

Vertical

Featured Released – Black Jack 1/2/3/4

They may have been out in paperback for years, but seeing as they’re hitting the Kindle this month you bet I’m gonna take the opportunity to talk about industry legend in Osamu Tezuka, who kickstarted the whole genre with Astro Boy.

Lead character Doctor Black Jack travels the world healing the poor and forgotten while sticking it to the rich and arrogant. Tezuka’s traditional themes of doing good deeds with no ulterior motives are present here, and the series retains his distinctive artstyle even if it does its age a little.

While it may “only” be Tezuka’s third most famous work, the series ran for 10 years and still influences Japanese culture today, with the good doctor helping promote House M.D. when that aired in Japan. If you want an in to his work and Astro Boy doesn’t tickle your fancy, here’s your answer.

What else are Vertical offering? There’s the longer running Knights of Sidonia 12 which I really need to get around to watching the anime of, and then there’s the second volumes of Witchcraft Works and Ajin Demi-Human which I’ve talked about back in October when they both made their debuts. I’m actually reading the first volume of Ajin currently, and so far, so good.

Lastly we have Mobile Suit Gundam The Origin 8, which adapts and retells the original Gundam series (that aired waaaay back in 1979). Part of the Universal Century (please don’t ask me to recite Gundam history), and eight months into a war between Earth and Zeon, we follow the plight of the White Base’s crew as they ferry some experimental robot around. I wonder what that could be. But it’s a great in to the franchise without having to know anything about Gundam, and if you’re too much of a cheapskate to buy the gorgeous hardcover releases of this series, then at least check out the anime adaptation airing next year.

Kodansha

Featured Release  Attack on Titan Before the Fall 3

Spinoffs, spinoffs everywhere. Titan’s had more than most, and after the anime catapulted the series out of the weeaboo niche and into public knowledge, it should come as no surprise Kodansha have been releasing as much as they can. Before The Fall is set, shockingly, before the events of the original series. Anheru, a weapons developer for the Survey Corps, is sick of the suffering and wants to build Titan-killing machines, as at this point nobody has ever killed a Titan, or knows about the weak point.

Based off of the prequel light novels (wonder when we’ll start seeing those) and freed of Isayama’s fluctuating artwork (the first volume looks soooo bad), Satoshi Shiki does an arguably better job, though it lacks the gravitas of the main series. And with their being a 70 year gap, you don’t have to worry about old characters which are guaranteed to survive showing up and ruining the suspense. If you want another AoT fix and the thought of waiting until 2016 for the second season is too much, give it a try, but don’t expect as thrilling a ride as the original.

Accompanying Kodansha’s cash cow is the fourth omnibus of Clamp classic xxxHolic. The longest running series Clamp ever finished, you get to see poor highschooler Kimihiro essentially have his puppet strings pulled into a weird shop where you can have whatever you want, but everything comes at a heavy price. In his case, he gets to work for her. Crossing over with Tusbasa and almost everything else in the Clampverse, this is generally praised as another great work by them, with a sequel series that’s currently halted like everything else they’ve done in the last few years damnit.

Ahem, where was I? For Battle Angel Alita fans you can get the fifth omnibus of Last Angel, which takes place after an alternate ending to the original BAA series. In this version, Alita was killed but is resurrected by good old nanotech, revealing more about the unexplained events of the original as she heads into space to fight new foes and get answers once and for all.

And for continuations we have Sankarea 10, Manga Dogs 2, Say I Love You 5 and the I wish I knew why it was so popular Fairy Tail 45. I’ll never get Hiro Mashima…

Seven Seas Entertainment

Featured Release – The Sacred Blacksmith 6

Unusual choice, no? Well, it’s more of a “winner by default” as it’s the only thing SS are releasing this month. Weird. A seinen manga set 44 years after a war ravaged the world and people made contracts with demons to rend the land asunder, we follow Cecily, a knight who fights to defend her city, and Luke, a blacksmith who bails her out of a fight one day and whom Cecily asks to make her a weapon. Humble beginnings for a story that merges light and fluffy cutesy rubbish with the darker shades of seinen.

Based off a light novel series and with the anime having come and gone, TSB was never going to be a leader of the genre, but what it does it does well. Yamada’s artstyle doesn’t do any disservice to the product and while it does occasionally devolve into fanservice (despite having no problem showing nudity when it wants to either) it’s nothing that damages the overall tone. Not what I’d recommend as your first seinen then, but if you like fantasy it’s worth a looksie.

The other reason why that’s the only December release is because they pushed everything back into November for some reason. I’ll have to watch out for this in the future. It’s mainly just continuations, with Kokoro Connect 2, Monster Musume 5, Alice in the Country of Clover Knight’s Knowledge 3, Dragonar Academy 4, Devils and Realist 3 and Zero’s Familiar Chevalier 3 all out now.

Joining them is Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer, which I’ve seen a lot of hype for on Twitter. This release combines the first two volumes, and sets the scene of an Earth in grave danger from the titular Biscuit Hammer. Sir Noi is sent to find warrior Yuuhi and Princess Samidare to help save the world, only to discover that neither of them want in on this saving the world lark. It’s currently in the MAL Top 100, so make of that what you will, but it does prove it has its fair share of fans.

 

And so ends the year of manga. We’ve seen a bunch of cool new stuff come out over here, such as Nisekoi and Gangsta, along with the re-releases of old classics like Monster. And then of course there’s Yen Press bringing countless light novels over here, and that line up is only going to increase throughout 2015. And for the comics fans? Well, you’re gonna get Howard the Duck soon. That’s cool, right?

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And if you are buying manga (or comics) this month, why not tell us about it, perhaps on Facebook, perhaps on Twitter or perhaps on the forums! Time to start planning where my Christmas money going towards. Maybe I should start reading some more old school series. Or finish the stuff I currently have…