Thursday, January 10, 2013

2012 in Manga

I did this last year, remember?
If not you can read it here. I'm just gonna go through all these series I've been reading and how they did this year.

We didn't get a whole lot of Bakuman this year as it ended in April. Most of the chapters focused on the arc of Miho getting the lead role in the protagonists' anime, which was a pretty fine arc all things considered. It brought her relationship with Saiko back to the forefront, good for making the actual finale less arbitrary. But like the whole relationship part, despite being the "core" of the story, is still pretty... shaky, y'know? Pretty silly. I mean sure it's the sort of megapure shonen-style relationship that seems somehow romantic without actually having to subject the disinterested audience to actual romantic scenes but I really can't get over just how downright silly it is fundamentally. Oh well. The finale was perfectly... fine, if not spectacular. Pretty emotional while still having a nice lighthearted tone. Subplots with other characters got resolved nicely (although I wanted more Hiramaru!) without ever really dragging on. So yes, a happy ending to a pleasant series. A


So we got... like 7 chapters of Berserk this year I think. 6 maybe? But hey! We finally got off that damn boat! Hallelujah! There was also some three-chapter flashback thing with a fairy that seemed really out of character. Sheesh. Berserk really has become nothing much but... some Final Fantasy type party dicking about in some mid-2nd disc haze... Fairy Island better be good, like, really good. But hey! Still the best art of like anything! And uh, 332 was pretty interesting? B

So the stupid fullbringers arc is finally over and the much-hyped FINAL ARC begins and it's... actually pretty decent? Well... it's better paced, at least, some of the fight scenes were alright, and it seems like it might have a pretty crazy ending. The premise is wonky and a lot of the twists were certainly Kubo-esque. I cringed pretty hard when the first wave or whatever ended and we shifted gears way down again but it turns out that wacky shenanigans and character interactions and such is really the best aspect of Bleach. And sure I don't think most of these new characters are actually good, but they're... something. Maybe I'm just getting less cynical or something. There's still a loooot of problems with Bleach. The art is still just... either kinda lame or nonexistent. Geez, who even knows with Bleach. C-

Fairy Tail
Fairy Tail was pretty weird this year but generally in good form. We had this weird-ass time skip finally resolved and for awhile it seemed like we'd get some new/side characters being relevant but... pretty quickly the old cast got slapped with the most disappointing and arbitrary powerup in the manga's history (saying a lot!) and suddenly the only people relevant were the old gang yet again. So then they move into the big tournament arc! This is a shonen mainstay that doesn't really get invoked that often these days, which is sort of a shame, I think, because it's hard to screw up and is mostly just action. Sure, it's the most literal "action for the sake of action", but if you're reading a shonen series for the action - which you are most of the time - who cares? It really played to Mashima's strengths: character designs that hold up well for a couple of chapters, fight scenes, etc. He did a good job with little miniarcs with Raven Tail and now this fairly involved (and relevant to the main plot with the dragons! Remember that? I legitimately forget often). And yeah the fights were asspully and full of FRIENDSHIP POWER and fanservice but whatever. More importantly, the plot itself wasn't asspully, and I never groaned at a twist, and every chapter I was just excited for someone to do something nonsensically badass, and I was rarely that disappointed. A good year for Fairy Tail. B+

Fukumoto Stuff
Kaiji's serialization isn't really in line with its scanlation so I'm not sure how I'm supposed to qualify "this year"... anyways I finally got around to (really voraciously) reading through the Fukumoto bibliography and, of course, I was extremely impressed. Hopefully soon I'll finish a "top 10 mangaka" list that I've been dooting around with for awhile and that'll contain thoughts you might expect to see here.

It's Not My Fault That I'm Not Popular
Last year it was a sudden cult classic but this year it's ballooned into a legitimate (sub)cultural phenomenon. Tomoko's face has been reacting to posts all over blue-land and even makes the occasional presence in the heathen NWS boards. The tankobons sell out on online retailers everywhere. There's going to be an anime! Seriously! An anime! Wow!! And it deserves it all. This year we were blessed with over 20 chapters, all of them full of laughs, despair and an art style refined to perfection. Formulaic? Sure yeah, few chapters deviate much from the pattern of Tomoko gets idea -> makes many bad choices -> despair. Shallow? Maybe, like... if you can relate to a given chapter's specific horrors, you'll probably get a pretty severe emotional knock, but if not, you'll likely just get some good laffs. Oh, but here's a counterexample: Chapter 27, when she tries to start a club. This was just BRUTAL, man. This is like... Chris Ware levels of brutality. This manga is truly amazing at times, when she was imagining her club life, so mundane, so realistic, and yet, for her, the ultimate, unreachable fantasy... wow. So yes, this is a dang good manga, not just pandering or whatever you want to say, not just formula humour. *

Medaka Box
Medaka Box started this year off with a BANG! Seriously. Wow. Sheesh. It hit the absolute limit of metaness in a showing of reflexivity and media-awareness and deconstruction that I think any POMOer would be proud of. We had a character actively trying to end the fiction she was contained in! That's awesome! And Zenkichi's DEVIL COOL win over Medaka was about as thrilling as it could have been. Seriously, good job everybody. That should have been the ending, seriously, but the way Medaka argued for the continuance of the series was pretty badass too. Since then there's been a few things that made continued serialization (and my continued reading) worth it, namely Iihiko. The Black Wedding arc had some good stuff, mostly just Ashin'in's fight scenes, the game of shiritori was pretty good too. The rest seemed to be more just Nishio's pun/language fetish exerting itself and weird philosophical posturing that seems better suited for -monogatari. Oh and I was really mad that they didn't go to space. Then we went into the Shiranui arc, where I began to have absolutely no idea what was going on, but there were certain parts I definitely really enjoyed, particularly anything with Iihiko who was about the most FRESH villain in shonen manga recently. All of his stuff was hilarious and exciting. But yeah half the time I can't even be bothered to read the actual like text of new volumes since every page is packed with like a dozen loaded speech bubbles and I know it's all just stuff that references characters and things I've forgotten about. Yes, that's more a personal problem, but the fun things about this manga were never the convoluted "science" behind the various supernatural elements, it was the metaness and KUMAGAWA. This year didn't have nearly enough Kumagawa. A-

Molester Man
This was a 2ch story adapted by the doujin artist Yoko (of Fapnote fame) and I think it might have changed my life. Well, no, not actually, but I do really want to praise this. This is a really warm, funny and heart-rated sort of series. The balance between really compelling drama and adorable romance and comedic relief - seriously hilarious stuff at times, too - is just perfect. The art is fantastic, full of energy and expressiveness without ever losing a sense of real humanity. The story is true and really feels like it, even the (spoiler alert) happy end seems realistic despite being so unilaterally good. Yoko is really becoming a mangaka to be reckoned with, Tsunbaka (also maybe from this year?) shows his potential for absurdity, and some original story hybridizing that with his matured look at, uh, romantic comedy I guess you'd call it that you see in this series could be a real masterpiece. **

So I think this year the big war finally ended? Zombie ninja magic was over, and I think the army of Zetsus has stopped? The big showdown with Kabuto was stupid as hell, his flashback was cheesy and generally uninteresting. Sasuke's interactions with Itachi were all just twists of the knife in the back of one of the series' few real interesting character interactions in part 2. The five kages fighting Madara ought to be about the most hype thing for any Naruto fan but I'm not sure who could be satisfied by them throwing a bunch of generic ninja-wave-thingies before losing "off screen". Then boom, Tobi is Obito, sure, of course. Kishimoto really really should have revealed it a long time ago if it was actually the most obvious possibility, drawing it out this much lead a lot of people to wildly speculate, which lead to wild disappointment. So then we get the obligatory flashback which managed to both have no surprises and also often be completely bizarre and nonsensical. Then alright, final boss fight?? Probably penultimate. Everybody standing around doing nothing/throwing themselves in front of Naruto, who is engaged in some sort of Godzilla rubber suit battle with something that looks as ugly as a big asspull ought to be. At this point I just want to get this all over with and I suspect Kishimoto does too. I feel like Naruto is a rollercoaster, not in the typical rollercoaster analogy, but in the sense that the excitement is from seeing how far and fast it can go downhill. F

One Piece

Punk Hazard is absolutely completely insane and I love it. I can't believe it's all occurred in less than 50 chapters. See, the typical way a One Piece arc works is that Oda will set up maybe a dozen plot elements and then sort of dole them out over like, 100 chapters, and by the end, everything gets nicely resolved. Here he's been setting up like twenty plot elements per chapter, and then half of them get completely resolved a chapter later, and some of them just pop up again and get wholly resolved in a single chapter a month or so later, or maybe they don't get resolved at all (yet). It's completely insane. Sometimes it really feels like he's neglecting stuff or that stuff has been forefronted too suddenly. Sometimes things get resolved too definitively too fast - it's rare of Oda to have plot elements of an arc that don't show up in some capacity during the climax, but where are like, the Yeti Cool Brothers, for instance? And then suddenly the stuff with Doflamingo switches from being the sort of next-arc foreshadowing to actually being an element of this arc, no idea what's going on there, not to mention the absolute crazy amount of characters and plots thrown at us via the "underworld brokers" element. Add to this some often confusing and exposition requiring "science" - artificial devil fruits, whaaat? - and one of the more difficult geographies (especially when everyone starts running around the lab) and this arc starts seeming pretty underwhelming. On the other hand, almost all of this stuff also adds up to nonstop excitement. This arc has probably more jaw-dropping, get hype, crazy moments per chapter than any other arc. Everything was amped up to 12/10, the jokes were more direct, the fights were given immediate and full attention, explosions were bigger, WE GOT SOME WANO COUNTRY SAMURAI ACTION, Ceasar is a crazier villain than any we've seen, nearly every character is doing something badass all the time (unless they're doing nothing at all for like a dozen chapters), and they even called in some of the series' all-star badasses to run around doing badass things too. Crazy. Insane. I can't wait for more. S+

Oyasumi Punpun

This year we got volumes 10 and 11, both pretty stellar. These have been fairly controversial volumes, really, escalating Punpun's character to a place that a lot of people - myself included - have found wholly irredeemable. What's interesting is the schism this created, a lot of people revealing that they were only really reading Punpun because they identified with Punpun so much and wanted to see him become happy. Well, those people were optimistic to the point of delusional. And was Punpun ever that likable of a guy? I ask the question honestly. He tries his best maybe but he's pulled some pretty big dick moves in the past - although nothing on this tier, of course. And oh man, the scenes where Punpun explains to Aiko how he now realizes that some people aren't actually fundamentally good, deep down? That is some really moving characterization, regardless of the actual moral validity. So where the hell are we going next on this Nabokovian trainwreck? I can't wait to find out. **

To-Love Ru Darkness

Is this the worst manga on the list or the best? I mean, really, a mangaka's job, first and foremost, is to deliver the goods, to keep people coming back, to give the audience what they want. And few can hit a consistency that Yabuki does. Seriously, when have you heard anything from a TLR fan like "TLR is really going downhill" or "TLR is NOT super interesting". Never, yeah, that's right. This year we got two new characters, each hitting an extreme edge of fetishization to absolute devastating effect. I'm a bigger fan of Master than Tearju, but they're both pretty crazy. And hey sometimes there's even an actual plot! S

The World God Only Knows

So this year we got the big finale of the Namek-esque durdling Goddess arc. I actually didn't really mind most if it, but that could be because I didn't follow it weekly most of the time and Ayumi and Chihiro are among my favorite characters. Really I prefer it to all the weird mythological stuff that followed, and I prefer that to the confusing time travel wackiness of this current arc, but I prefer that to WHAT THE HELL IS THIS, BERSERK? WHY ARE WE BATTLEMANGAING? I really just want this to go back to moe girl capturing fun, and if it's escalated beyond that, I just sorta want it to be over with. At the same time there's still a lot of elements I like, lots of humor that's still good and the art's still amazing and all that. A-


Hooray Yotsuba! We got 7 chapters this year, several of them less than 10 pages, but all of them a simply wonderful slice of joy. And oh boy the CAMPING ARC! Get PUMPED because we're three updates in and no brakes on this swinging hammock of hype. **

Okay that's it

1 comment:

zhfac said...

I will check out these mangos brosef.