Happy holidays ya nerds! Here’s what I read from VIZ for the last half of November through December and January. Sorry this is so late! Life juiced lemons into my eyeballs for a few weeks and here we are.
The Promised Neverland
Kaiu Shirai (writer), Posuka Demizu (illustrator)
December 5, 2017
The Promised Neverland is a serialised manga written and illustrated by newcomers Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu, respectively. Originally published in Weekly Shonen Jump, the story revolves around a group of orphans ages two to twelve, housed at a special pristine orphanage where everything seems normal, but of course, it’s not. The orphans must stick to a strict schedule of meals, intense testing, and recess.
Posuka Demizu does a really interesting job with the art: when things are “normal,” the art has a sense of childlike fun with soft lines and light blended colors. When the plot turns weird and/or dangerous, the art, too, follows; the lines become hard and haggard, and pairs well with the switching tones throughout the plot. While the storytelling is average, the plot twist is expected, but actually caught me off guard.
While I don’t find the series absolutely amazing myself, The Promised Neverland has had good reception in Japan: it was ranked as the number one series aimed towards young men for a bit. So, it makes sense why Viz would want to license and publish it.
I give it 5/10 Mackenzies, I like it but I can see myself forgetting about it.
Read if you like: M. Night Shyamalan movies.
Children of the Whales
Abi Umeda (writer and illustrator)
November 21, 2017
Children of the Whales is a surprising treat. The atmosphere is warm—in both setting and tone—and Umeda excels at expressing the feelings of safety and naivety that surrounds the mud whale and its residents.
Debuting in 2013 through Monthly Mystery Bonita, Children of the Whales is the fourth serialized publication by artist Abi Umeda. The main character, Chakuro, is an archivist for the Mud Whale, the moving island upon which he and his village live, detailing the village’s daily lives in hope of preserving their culture as most of the village population die before thirty. Those who do die early, though, are able to manipulate magic with their emotions. As they drift on an endless sea of sand, they come across a wrecked island, presumably empty like the last several mud whales they’ve passed. As luck would have it Chakuro finds a single girl, apparently surrounded by her fallen comrades, who can control a version of Chakuro’s people’s magic, but she is without emotions; apparently her people sacrifice their emotions to a creature to get power. Chakuro and the gang take the girl back to the council of elders—anyone over the age of forty—and it turns out that they know other people are out there on other whales, and running into just one of them puts the village in great danger.
It was a pretty good volume; the story is interesting and the art, especially the cover art, is elaborate and detailed, but very grounded in the environment it’s creating. To me, it’s like environment design and character movement in Nausicaä meets Moto Hagio’s sense of detail and color.
Interesting to note, this series was licensed and published in America only after the success of the anime adaption, which started in October 2017 in Japan. Which makes sense—Viz, especially with newer publications, will only license and publish manga based on its ranking in Japan, like The Promised Neverland, or if the anime adaption is going well.
I give it 7.5/10 Mackenzies, I love emotions and post-apocalyptic desert settings!!!!
Shiver: Junji Ito Selected Stories
Shiver is the English edition of the 2015 Ito Junji Self-Selected Masterpiece Collection. It contains ten stories total, the last of which was a new story at the time of the original printing. They are as follows:
The Long Dream
Fashion Model: Cursed Frame
This is the first time that any of these stories have gotten an official English release, and the first time since Dark Horse’s 2006 Museum of Terror Vol. 3 that any of Junji Ito’s short stories have been published. The hard copy of Shiver has notes, sketches, and commentary from Junji Ito himself, a nice touch when most of Ito’s work can be easily found and downloaded online. The comics themselves are classics—Junji Ito isn’t considered the master of Japanese horror for nothing. Though all short, each comic manages to unfold an interesting plot with the exquisite art for which Ito is known. To me, each reads like an EC Tales from the Crypt comic. Of the selection, Used Record, Hanging Balloons, and Marionette Mansion are my favorites. Hanging Balloons is the story that really stands out from the rest, it’s just so bizarre it makes many of the other stories seem tame in comparison. It actually got me kind of spooked!
I’m glad to see Ito’s less major stories officially published in English. It’s extremely easy to find horror manga, specifically Ito’s work, scanned and translated online. In fact, about thirty seconds of googling can lead you to scanlations of every story in Shiver except the last. Because of the online community of English speaking J-horror fans, it can be very difficult to convince publishers to commit to publishing works, especially short stories since they have already been consumed by fans. It’s a good example of why it’s much harder to license and publish older manga in general.
I give it 9.5/10 Mackenzies each story is a masterpiece of genre horror.
Read if you like: body horror, powerful female characters, EC Horror.
Splatoon Volume 1
December 12, 2017
This graphic novel is so much fun. That’s really all there is to it, fun and friendship. The series revolves around Goggles and his squid crew as they fight in turf wars and prove that it’s more important to have fun, friends, and practice, than it is to be powerful, tactical, and have special weapons. Each chapter is episodic and similar to the last, yet still silly enough to stay whimsical and light hearted. Plus, Goggles is very dumb and very sweet to everyone, which is my favourite trope for any character.
I give it 7/10 Mackenzies. If the game was more like the manga I would play it more.
Read if you like: Splatoon, fun, dumb but sweet boys, characters named for their clothing.
That’s it for now!
What else came out from VIZ that was of note but not reviewed, you ask?
Sweet Blue Flowers Volume 2
Children of the Whales Volume 2
Fire Punch Volume 1