Hello and welcome to Say It With Manga, where I’ll be talking about a handful of manga in brief every week. I’ll read just about anything, and here I’ll be discussing it by genre. The genres should shift every week, although it’s likely that action and romance will make frequent appearances, as there are many fine series that fall into those categories.
ACTION: Tenjo Tenge – Oh! great?
There are plenty of people that hate Tenjo Tenge, and for good reason. The first few volumes are rough, and it’s difficult to believe it gets good after it sets up a fairly un-interesting school fighting story, then puts two female characters in compromising/rape-y situations. But the best thing about Tenjo Tenge is that it’s clear, once Oh! great has gotten past the part where he lures readers in with enormous breasts and constant action, that he has a very clearly defined direction for the story. It’s obvious from the first flashback sequence that the story is going somewhere, and Tenjo Tenge is destined for more than just a 22-volume fighting tournament. Granted, it’s not the most original story in the world, but the plot concerning the characters reconciling the past and present, the hierarchy of well-respected fighters, and the eventual bizarre outcome of a bad guy trying to take over the world with an army of supernatural fighters all works well in this series. It helps that Oh! great has very nice-looking art and knows how to draw an action scene. The Viz edition has just caught up to where CMX left off in English, so readers will be treated to the last four volumes after a wait of three years.
ROMANCE: 13th Boy – SangEun Lee
Admittedly, I am a romance manga junkie, and easy to please. It’s difficult to explain the appeal to a general audience, but I think for me it’s the fact that there wasn’t really an English equivalent when manga companies started releasing them here, and I simply kept reading them. 13th Boy isn’t technically a manga, as it is Korean, but it’s close enough, and it’s a fine example of a romance comic. Hee-So is a young girl who is addicted to having a boyfriend, and has gone through more than a dozen before she’s entered high school. 13th Boy begins when she asks out her 12th boyfriend, and then is reunited with her first, who is still one of her favorites. And then we find out the first boyfriend is a sullen boy who has some sort of wish-granting magical power that has no place in the otherwise reality-based series. Also, Hee-So has a talking cactus that lives with her, and transforms into a human boy during the full moon. It’s fairly straight-faced about its fantasy elements, and weaves them into the narrative beautifully. Otherwise, it’s a perfect balance of funny and very individual characters (very important!), a love story with ups and downs, and just friendship in general. It’s a good general audiences book, as it is fairly safe for tween-ish readers, too.
SPORTS: Slam Dunk – Takehiko Inoue
The better Takehiko Inoue series is Real. Real is fantastic, but Slam Dunk is the one I read this week. I should preface this by saying that I have zero interest in basketball, and my only experience with the sport is watching a handful of games in high school. Somehow, Slam Dunk is still ridiculously addictive, despite being about nothing but basketball on every page. Perhaps it’s because it’s a relatively simple story about the main character, Hanamichi Sakuragi, and his hilarious selfish desire to be the best player on his team and win the championship. Perhaps it’s because the characters are a perfect balance of quirky and dead serious about the sport. And maybe it’s because Inoue has a God-like ability to make the basketball games come to life on the page. Whatever it is, I can’t put it down, and it feels like a volume takes about three minutes to read. Fun fact: They don’t actually play a game until volume 4, and they only play 3-4 games over the course of the 31-volume series. They are very long games.