So what’s on the map for Seven Seas today? A whole lot of blast from the past. You’ve seen some of the reboots, now take a moment to catch up with the originals:
Cutie Honey: The Classic Collection Omnibus
Honey Kisaragi is just an ordinary girl whose ordinary scientist father sends her to school in an ordinary Catholic boarding school in the mountains. Wait, no. Honey’s father is a scientist, Honey is an android housing his greatest creation, and also, the school is full of lesbians. After Honey’s father is killed by a shadowy crime organization called Panther Claw, Honey dedicates herself to finding and killing all her father’s enemies.
When Go Nagai first wrote Cutie Honey, he’d already developed a reputation for being shameless in his erotic toeing of the line, so he decided to see how much further he could push things along. While there is no actual adult content, Cutie Honey is nude a great deal of the time, and there is a lot of “tee-hee” winks to the audience and awkward situations. This especially comes up when reporter Seiji’s father and younger tween brother often spend several tiresome pages at a time shamelessly lusting over Honey’s body and trying to get a peek. I was familiar with Cutie Honey (if you’ve seen the anime opening, you’re probably not surprised by this either) so that wasn’t a shock; what did surprise me was the open lesbianism. Two of Honey’s teachers are shown in a relationship, and quite a lot of the girls are after Honey too (and Honey occasionally engages with some playful skinship with her roommate Aki Natsume.) This is from the 1970s, so it’s presented with an element of “they’re so strange, lololol” but at the same time, I appreciated how overt it was.
Another thing you might not expect with Cutie Honey, given the eroticism, is the violence. From the start, Honey kills her enemies without hesitation—some android, but some human as well. And Panther Claw itself is not shy about killing people, even (and especially) those close to Honey. It’s a bit of emotional whiplash given how comedic the non-violent parts of the story tend to be. The humor itself is largely ecchi or bawdy, which in itself is fine, but I felt a lot of the jokes were run into the ground.
Unlike its reboot, Cutie Honey does end up striking at the heart of Panther Claw, facing off against Sister Jill. Like the reboot, though, things aren’t fully resolved: Sister Jill isn’t the head of Panther Claw. That’s a shadowy figure named Zora, about whom we never really get that much information. Between that and the introduction of ten high-powered special androids (which felt like a setup for monster-of-the-week battles one at a time, but that never actually happens), the series feels like it was truncated, which is odd given how popular the Cutie Honey anime was and continues to be to this day.
Devilman: The Classic Collection Vol. 1
Devilman starts with a brief textless overview of ancient demons killing and being killed, before switching us into the present day and to our hero, Akira Fudo. A couple more short scenes are presented to give us a glimpse at Akira before everything falls apart: he’s depicted as a crybaby who’d rather not get in fights (which is presented as a bad thing). Meanwhile, his quasi-girlfriend Miki is more than ready to throw down with the local thugs. It isn’t until Ryo, Akira’s best friend, shows up with a dire secret that the truth about demons and the plan to fight them comes out. Akira’s idea is to lasso themselves a couple of strong demons, bending them to their human will, and kill all the other demons before humanity itself is killed.
It works. Akira is possessed by a demon named Amon and becomes Devilman, and thus begins his war. The next bit of the story is spent fighting against a couple of strong enemies to give us a taste for both this revised Akira and the demons themselves. The back section of the book is devoted to some time-travel shenanigans fighting demons in various eras of history. I’m not really fond of ill-explained and athematic time travel (which this is, thus far) but there’s a nice little bit of story involving Amon’s history during the ancient Greek chapter.
This is one of Go Nagai’s earlier works, and the art has his trademark style in the older cartoon-esque shapes in the eyes and such and his unabashed use of (largely female) nudity. Unlike Cutie Honey, in Devilman it’s rarely used as an element of titillation, but rather of horror: that woman isn’t naked because she’s sexy, but because she has teeth coming out of her breasts. It definitely feels like an older work, though, in the sort of messiness of the panels and unevenness of the lines. For example, there’s some panels where Devilman’s trademark head bat-wings are not well defined. In contrast, the first part of the story is presented with several color pages that are really quite beautiful.
While it’s stated that Akira is in control of Amon, there’s really not much material devoted to the fact that his personality does a complete 180 into a confident, violent man whose bloodlust is barely held in check. It almost feels like foreshadowing that Akira is actually not in control, that his personality is slowly being warped like Ryo’s father was, and I’m not sure that’s what was intended. Speaking of Ryo, though, I really love his character. Unlike Akira, we don’t see him before—just as a young man who’s discovered a terrible world-ending secret and is willing to make cold-blooded sacrifices, even of his own best friend, to try to avert fate.
Captain Harlock: The Classic Collection Vol. 1
In the future, Earth has expanded into space, but mostly just to plunder the rest of the solar system of its resources. Its people have become blithe and pampered, more concerned with the golf course that got flattened by the giant sphere that came from the sky than, you know, the giant sphere that came from the sky. Dr. Daiba and his son, Tadashi, know that it’s no mere rock, but a portent from an alien race. After one of those aliens murders Dr. Daiba, Tadashi is approached by a mysterious man who offers him the chance to avenge his father and leave the rotting planet—if he’s brave enough. That man is the captain of the space pirate battleship, Captain Harlock.
One thing that strikes me about Leiji Matsumoto’s work is how deeply colored it feels by his own personal experience of growing up in post-war Japan. The fatalistic narrative of Earth, of people facing their own extinction because they’ve lost their hopes and dreams in favor of fleeting pleasure, is his view of Earth. Too, his views of gender roles are the story’s; there are multiple instances of men lusting after women because that’s just the natural way of the world. There are a total of two women who are not evil, alien, or both, and of course, the enemy Mazon are an all-female (but all beautiful females, mind) race. That part of it feels quite outdated, which isn’t surprising for a manga of its age, but the view of humans being feckless and self-sabotaging feels pretty relevant to 2018.
Art-wise, Matsumoto is distinctive, not being as cartoonish as his contemporaries. Harlock, Tadashi, and the female characters are more shoujo-esque. And while his designs are quite good, they’re usually either “attractive” or “hag,” leading to a lot of the characters looking alike. In particular, Tadashi and Harlock are not as distinctive from each other as they are in the animated versions or Dimensional Journey.
In comparison to its reboot, the original spends more time thinking, contemplating the failure of Earth, the nature of the Mazon, and the philosophy of Harlock and the Arcadia. There’s quite a good chunk of story in the omnibus, giving the story a proper sense of urgency and progress. There’s also a side story of Harlock’s past at the end, which is a bit difficult to follow (is the red planet meant to be Mars, or a ruined Earth?) but makes great use of color.
And in less classical releases…
Harukana Receive Vol. 1
This manga revolves around cousins Haruka and Kanata (Naruto fans and Japanese speakers, go ahead and groan at that pun now). After moving to Okinawa, the tall Haruka is introduced to beach volleyball by the short Kanata, who has had trouble finding a partner on the sand. After trying it out, Haruka is so enthused both by the game and the partnership with her cousin that she decides to commit to the sport.
Like any good sports manga, the first volume does a good job in laying out the basics of the game and little insider details and strategies that make the sport manga so interesting for non-players. For those who aren’t fans of sports manga or familiar with them, the pacing will probably feel odd. There’s not really a sense of urgency or stakes, and not much in the way of plot happens. Rather, the volume focuses on the two girls, as well as a couple of other beach volleyball pairs. Despite this, we don’t really get a good feel for the personalities of the main characters. Haruka is kind of a generic genki girl, while Kanata is somewhat of a withdrawn ice queen burdened by her own inadequacies.
Given that the series revolves around girls in bathing suits, I expected it to be rather fanservicey, but it actually isn’t. Making the entire cast female definitely gives this a different feel from your typical male-dominated sports manga. The girls are the actors, not love interests, and there’s not even a whiff of straight romance. There’s a bit of joking about the swimsuits and a couple of lesbian-esque butt slaps, but it comes across more as clowning around with friends, not done for the pleasure of the audience. Is there such a thing as shoujo sports manga? ’Cause this is kind of that.
There is one detail that bugs me, though: while there’s a (good!) chapter dedicated to the details of the bathing suits and how they’re tailored for the sport, I just cannot believe that a girl as busty as Haruka is supported by the flimsy strings of her bikini top. It seems weird to be complaining about boob physics when they’re not bouncing all around the place, but here we are. Get a sports bra already, Haruka! Sand in your bikini is still going to be better than how sore your chest is going to be!
Also for Sail:
Accomplishments of the Duke’s Daughter Vol. 1 by Reia (writer), Suki Umemiya (artist): You’ve seen all the isekai about being reincarnated into an RPG… now how about being reincarnated into a visual novel? Iris finds herself as the star of her favorite otome game—and by star, we mean antagonist.
Akashic Records of Bastard Magic Instructor Vol. 4 by Tsunemi Aosa (artist), Hitsuji Tarou (writer): As the school’s magic tournament draws to a close, someone is plotting behind the scenes to assassinate the star student of Glenn’s class.
Alice & Zoroku Vol. 4 by Tetsuya Imai: No rest or fun for Sana—something has gone wrong with the world itself. Almost as if it’s become a Wonderland…
Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest Vol. 3 by Ryo Shirakome (writer), Takaya-ki (artist): The third volume of the light novel series involves missing persons and a black dragon with a crush on the hero, because who doesn’t like the commonplace, right?
Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest Vol. 2 by RoGa (artist), Ryo Shirakome (writer): And meanwhile, in the manga, Hajime ventures deeper into the Labyrinth to meet its
Arpeggio of Blue Steel Vol. 13 by Ark Performance: It’s battle after battle for this submarine-slash-girl, whose captain is being held aboard another ship.
Bloom into You Vol. 5 By Nakatani Nio: Touko and Yuu alternate between preparations for a school play and a summer break that just maybe, possibly, includes a date.
Boogiepop Overdrive: The King of Distortion by Kouhei Kadono (artist), Kouji Ogata (writer): The light novel series of this classic ’90s anime continues with a digital release of Volume 5. The titular Boogiepop, a phantom grim reaper/urban legend, is pitted against the also-titular King of Distortion.
The Bride & The Exorcist Knight Vol. 1 by Keiko Ishihara: Anne, a demon magnet, has to beat all her lovestruck monsters off with a stick. So she hires an exorcist to help her with the stick-beating… only to have him fall for her too!
Captain Harlock: Dimensional Voyage Vol. 5 by Leiji Matsumoto (writer), Kouiti Shimaboshi (artist): Harlock duels with the Queen of the Mazon while Tadashi investigates one of their bases.
Citrus Vol. 8 by Saburouta: Summer camping is for slipping away from the group for secret rendezvous. Now the challenge: keeping them secret.
D-Frag! Vol. 12 by Tomoya Haruno: Kazama is a delinquent who gets strongarmed into joining an all-girls game creation club. It’s a race to see which will happen first: making himself a harem, or becoming as weird as they all are.
Devilman VS. Hades Vol. 2 by Team Moon (artist), Go Nagai (writer): The fight between Hades and Devilman begins in earnest, only to be interrupted by a new challenger: none other than the giant robot Mazinger Z!
Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life? Vol. 1 by FUNA (writer), Nekomint (artist): In the start of this female-led isekai manga series, Mile discovers that in a past life, she asked a god to make her not quite as awesome in her next life. God thought about it and went “nah lol.” It’s hard being talented.
Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! Vol. 2 by FUNA (writer), Itsuki Akata (artist): Volume 2 of the light novel sees Mile graduated from magical school and ready for quests—which might make hiding her exceptional abilities harder.
Dreamin’ Sun Vol. 7 by Ichigo Takano: Shimana runs away from her neglectful home and ends up moving in with a total stranger who offers her a place to stay if she goes for her dreams. Cute concept, cute art.
Giant Spider & Me: A Post-Apocalyptic Tale Vol. 2 by Kikori Morino: Time for Asa, the giant spider, to go meet the neighbors. And also, let’s get that hole in the roof repaired, right?
Go For It, Nakamura! by Syundei: A single-volume story about a gay boy with the cutest crush on one of his classmates.
Himouto! Umaru-chan Vol. 2 by Sankakuhead: It only took until the second volume for someone to discover Umaru’s double life. Will she convince Motoba to keep her secret, or, more likely, just blackmail them?
Hollow Fields by Madeleine Rosca: A rare English-language manga about a school for mad scientists and the “ethically unfettered.” Our heroine, Lucy, is unfortunately neither gifted nor unfettered, only enrolled by mistake.
Holy Corpse Rising Vol. 5 by Hosana Tanaka: In fifteenth-century Rome, Nikola wages a war against witches by… marrying all their most powerful members.
How to Build a Dungeon: Book of the Demon King Vol. 4 by Toshimasa Komiya (artist), Yakan Warau (writer): Most isekai starts with the hapless hero dying by accident. This time, it’s on purpose, in order to become the Demon Lord and fulfill all his dark fantasies. Including summoning a succubus servant.
Little Devils Vol. 1 by Uuumi: The hero Byron’s quest isn’t to defeat the Demon Lord, it’s to raise them—all twelve of them! For the sake of world peace, Byron babysits twelve literal devils and tries to steer them on to the path of good.
Made in Abyss Vol. 3 by Akihito Tsukushi: Well, Riko and Reg haven’t died or been dragged back to the surface yet… time to go face more unimaginable terrors!
Magical Girl Apocalypse Vol. 15 by Kentaro Sato: What makes a magical apocalypse better (worse)? Fighting a literal demon.
Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka Vol. 3 by Makoto Fukami (writer), Seigo Tokiya (artist): While searching for her friends, Asuka gets drawn into the underworld of the magical girl world.
Monster Girl Doctor Vol. 3 by Yoshino Origuchi (writer), z-ton (artist): What do you need to do surgery on a dragon? Apparently, a spider woman, a cyclops, and Cthulhu.
Mushroom Girls in Love by Kei Murayama: Same author as A Centaur’s Life. It’s fungi girls. They’re getting married. It’s cute. What more do you need?
My Monster Secret Vol. 12 by Eiji Masuda: After twelve volumes, our secret-not-keeper and his vampire are finally going on a date! I’m sure nothing wacky or hijinky will happen given how many weirdos they know…
Non Non Biyori Vol. 10 by Atto: The country girls wax poetic about Children’s Day dolls.
Occultic;Nine Vol. 3 by pako (artist), Chiyomaru Shikura (writer): Nine wackos get together through an occult website and end up getting sucked into an actual supernatural mystery. I am always down for an ensemble of weird.
Precarious Woman Executive Miss Black General Vol. 1 By Jin: An ecchi comedy about a supervillain general’s daily life.
Saint Seiya: Saintia Sho Vol. 3 by Chimaki Kuori (artist), Masami Kurumada (writer): Training montage over, Shouko gets ready for her first confrontation with her now-possessed sister.
Servamp Vol. 11 by Strike Tanaka: Black cats aren’t just unlucky; in this world, they’re a plot device. Kuro is a vampire servant who ends up getting ordinary human Mahiru caught up in vampire shenanigans.
Sorry for My Familiar Vol. 2 by Tekka Yaguraba: The incompetent summoner Patty (with human familiar in tow) is looking for her father. So are the cops.
Species Domain Vol. 5 by Noro Shunsuke: Kazamori’s friends become hardcore Kazamori/Ohki shippers.
Spirit Circle Vol. 4 by Satoshi Mizukami: You’ve seen his past lives, now time to see Fuuta’s… future life?
The Testament of Sister New Devil Vol. 9 by Miyakokasiwa (artist), Tetsuto Uesu (writer): The final volume has Basara going up against an actually evil devil.
The Testament of Sister New Devil Storm! By Tetsuto Uesu: The obligatory beach episode has arrived, with swimsuits and sensualness abounding.
Toradora! Vol. 2 by Yuyuko Takemiya (writer), Yasu (artist): The second volume of the light novel introduces a transfer student, who strikes up a bitter rivalry with Taiga, because girls in love triangles can’t be friends.
Toradora! Vol. 2 by Yuyuko Takemiya (writer), Zekkyo (artist): The second volume of the manga, on the other hand, has his classmates shipping Ryuuji and Taiga, and they’re apparently into hate-shipping, because these two are on rocky ground at best.
Ultra Kaiju Humanization Project feat.POP Comic code Vol. 1 by Shun Kazakami (writer), POP (artist): Lose a fight against Ultraman? Congratulations, you’ve been isekai’d into a pretty young girl. Monster Musume for Ultraman fans.
The Voynich Hotel Vol. 1 by Seiman Douman: Tagged as “the Yelp reviews of this place must be wild,” this hotel is host to a gathering of spooky occurrences. Great for Halloween!
Releases from the mature line Ghost Ship:
World’s End Harem Vol. 2 by Kotarou Shouno: How dare Reito not impregnate women immediately? Japan decides it’s time to go fetch a new man out of cryogenic sleep instead.
Yuuna and the Haunted Hot Springs Vol. 3 by Tadahiro Miura: Kogarashi adds a dragon handmaiden to his harem, and because that’s not enough titties for the readers, goes to investigate a haunting at an all-girls school.
In Other News
Seven Seas announced a plethora of licenses during San Diego Comic Con: six manga, three light novels, and a card game. Standouts for me are Sorcerous Stabber Orphen, which appears to be a reboot of the 90s manga a la Captain Harlock: Dimensional Journey and Devilman Grimoire, and Dragon Quest Monsters+, retelling the classic Game Boy Color game’s plot. Fans of A Certain Magical Index and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid also have new spinoffs to look forward to.
In case you missed it, I did an interview with Jocelyne Allen, who has translated a number of Seven Seas’s popular titles.
Also something new on their website I’ve noticed recently: the pages on their website for their individual books now lists full credits, including translators, adapters, and letterers. Great to see all the hardworking individuals bringing us these books getting credit!