Manga Challenge – January Update

Wow, the first month is already over. That feels like it went by suspiciously quick. Maybe it’s the lack of alcohol messing with my perception of time. Maybe it’s all the manga I’ve been reading. Let’s talk about manga.

PHOTO: Ayami Kazame has an emotional moment, imagining countless sperms failing to become people.

Before anything else, I need to issue a correction. People pointed out that the rules I set for this challenge seemed arbitrary. It was my intention to block off any easy ways by which I could hit my target, like binge-reading oneshots and doujins. Works that can certainly be great, but it’d feel very cheap to read the 2-page magnum opus “This Gorilla Will Die In 1 Day” and claim I’ve hit my daily quota.

However, these considerations shouldn’t get in the way of me reading anthologies and doujins that fit the spirit of this challenge. For example, how could I argue that Junji Ito’s Sensor counts because it’s a linear story, while Deserter does not in spite of being far longer. To spare us all a bunch rules-lawyering, I am going to loosen the restriction to only exclude very short manga.

With that out of the way…

PHOTO: Kabi panics recalling her horror when her parents read her first book.

My first objective for this challenge was to catch up on the works of Kabi Nagata. I was a big fan of My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness and recently read My Alcoholic Escape from Reality; not realizing that I was skipping some books in the process. I have now picked up the rest of her work and proceeded to cry my eyes out reading them.

Being autobiographical, Kabi’s manga lack the emotional filter that usually sits between the author and the reader. You really are reading this woman’s lifestory, as she relates her experiences with depression, sexual abuse, addiction, and loneliness. Being immersed in a real person’s story like that feels intimate and, maybe, a little too real at times. It’s hard not to cry as Kabi shares her darkest moments, to cheer at her victories, or even get annoyed when she falls back into old habits.

It’s also eye-opening in a lot of ways. Depression is notoriously hard to understand for an outsider, but reading about Kabi’s experiences makes it more tangible. She goes into great depths about what was going through her mind during everything that happened, or what thoughts inspired her often-baffling decisions. Having her explain everything in such detail, there were times when I could relate to her. Those were the most educational moments of all.

PHOTO: Miho's friends are amazed by her family's tank.

After that emotional rollercoaster, I decided to take care of some items on my shelves, followed by tie-ins for anime that I already liked. The latter turned out to be a poor choice, as most of these were rubbish. Manga for the likes of Madoka Magica, Nagatoro, Saga of Tanya the Evil, and Girls und Panzer are all fairly uninspired. Most of them are comedy anthologies that recycle the same few jokes dozens of times or bland cooking manga. Most dire of all are the actual side-stories, however.

I’d already read some of these for Madoka before and Oriko did little to change my opinion of them for the better. It and the various Girls und Panzer prequels are lame reinterpretations of their original materials. Most of which quickly reveal themselves to be absurdly incompatible with the canon story. Phase Erika, Saga of Pravda, and Little Army are all prequel origin stories that can’t even coexist together, let alone fit with the main series. It’s fanfiction granted an undue level of legitimacy.

PHOTO: Miku serves her teacher a crepe with way too many ingredients.

Most of my time this month went into reading various comedy manga. First up being Gal Gohan. It’s a story about Miku Okazaki; a gyaru who is rapidly failing at everything a high schooler can possibly fail at. The staff have given up on teaching her anything and now even the principal is looking for a way to get rid off her. As a last-ditch effort, home economics teachers Mr. Yabe takes her under his wing and decides to teach her cooking. A decision that ignites a new sense of self-confidence in Miku, as well as a romantic interest in her handsome teacher.

Gal Gohan neatly combines comedic stories, delicious food, and ample amounts of fanservice. In such a way that fans of gyaru characters will certainly be pleased with it. Even for a general audience, it’s a nice bit of light reading, if you don’t mind how blatantly sexualized it all is.

I do have to admit that it kind of loses its core, however. There is initially a focus on how cooking helps Miku overcome her internal anxieties, but this gets lost amidst all the fanservice and side-plots. A shame too, as the manga could have been that much more impressive if it had more focus.

PHOTO: An evil dragon in loli disguise cries pathetically.

An Evil Dragon That Was Sealed Away for 300 Years Became My Friend” is a mouthful of a title. It’s also exactly the kind of emotional healing comfort food that a lot of people seem to be into lately. It follows the story of an all-powerful dragon queen and the hapless loser who summons her to his world. As it turns out, however, both of them are crushed by loneliness. Thus they decide to forego any evil schemes in favor of just becoming friends.

It’s a fun comedy story for a while, though it feels like it runs out of juice quickly. After it began serialization, the gags started to dry out quickly. An attempt to introduce a bunch of lore leads to tedious exposition dumps and also felt like it ran contrary to the simple, wholesome appeal that got people interested in the first place. It’s the only manga in this month’s batch that was outright cancelled. Sad, though I can see why it turned out like that.

PHOTO: The hero is overwhelmed by a low-level monster, so his fairy companion kills it for him.

Sekai Maou is your bog-standard J-RPG fantasy story about a hero rising up to oppose the demon king. Except this time, the hero kind of sucks. He is weak both in strength and willpower; easily outclassed by level 1 monsters or even the local townfolk. People also don’t really believe in him, because it’s been 300 years since the last demon king. The heroic legends of old now mostly serve to inspire tourist traps.

Parodies on J-RPG tropes are a dime a dozen, but Sekai Maou has great characters and some solid material. I was very fond of the demon queen herself, who is secretly acting as the hero’s fairy companion. She is staggered by the hero’s ineptitude and frequently has to save his skin. Yet something in the back of her mind keeps her from just ending the pathetic fool, no matter how easy it’d be to do so.

PHOTO: Two cute girls kiss in VR before the next panel cuts to a balding man in VR goggles standing alone.

Aside from the comedy manga, I also very much want to recommend An Older Guy’s VR First Love. From chatrooms to Habbo Hotel to MMORPGs to social media to VR; generations of people have grown up surrounded by warnings about online perverts. VR Ojisan no Hatsukoi is aware of this stigma and uses that to tell an expectation-defying story. I can’t explain further without getting spoilers, however. All I’ll say is that I was very pleasantly surprised and ended up reading through it twice.

  1. 5 Seconds Before a Witch Falls in Love
  3. Sensor
  4. Garden Dreams
  5. Iwakutsuki Bukken
  6. My Divorced Crybaby Neighbor
  7. My Solo Exchange Diary
  8. Youjo Senki Shokudou
  9. My Wandering Warrior Existence
  10. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker – Link’s Logbook
  11. Sekai Maou
  12. I Don’t Know How To Give Birth!
  13. Deserter
  14. Came the Mirror & Other Tales!
  15. An Evil Dragon That Was Sealed Away for 300 Years Became My Friend
  16. Gal Gohan
  17. Trans Trans
  18. Raid on Tokyo
  19. Yoru no Uta
  20. Girls und Panzer: 4-koma Anthology Comic
  21. Girls und Panzer Saishuushou: Keizoku Koukou Harapeko Shokujidou
  22. Limbo on the Border Line
  23. Shells and Alternarock
  24. Useless Ponko
  25. Girls und Panzer: Little Army
  26. An Older Guy’s VR First Love
  27. Be Very Afraid of Kanako Inuki
  28. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica: Anthology Comic
  29. Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro: Anthology Comic
  30. Puella Magi Oriko Magica
  31. Girls & Panzer: Saga of Pravda
  32. Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha INNOCENT
  33. Qualia the Purple
  34. The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka)
  35. No Longer Human
  36. Youhei Pierre
  37. Devilish Darlings Portal Fantasy

1 thought on “Manga Challenge – January Update

  1. My sentiments regarding the dragon girl manga mirror your own. I really enjoyed the characters but it just worked better as a web comic.

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