Not gonna lie, I’ve been feeling kinda discouraged this past month. With much of my existing backlog completed, the time had come to start looking for new manga. An effort that quickly lead to frustration because this industry is—frankly—garbage.
So much manga is forever condemned to obscurity because it is plainly not available in any format legal or otherwise. There is no way to say this without sounding elitist, but the world simply doesn’t care for manga that don’t fit an easy mold. I keep finding these fascinating series with unique themes and settings, only to discover that they might as well not exist. Not on Bookwalker, no version in print anywhere, and no scanlation. Or worse, only a few chapters were translated before abruptly cutting off. “Last updated 5 years ago”.
These series exist as records in anime databases, but some are so thoroughly lost that I wasn’t even able to obtain raws of them. This is not a rare occurrence either. On some days, I had to give up on tracking down 4 interesting manga before I finally found 1 that was complete. Oftentimes, the least interesting of the bunch.
Meanwhile Bookwalker and my local shops are drowning in copies of self-aware gimmick isekai series. Scanlation groups are tripping over each other to rush out translations of the latest romcom with a quirky main girl. But nobody gives a shit about Gaku. Even winning prestigious awards and scoring a movie adaptation are not enough to keep your manga on (digital) shelves.
All this is to say that I have been slacking off this month. Most of what I read were shorter series, since those were more frequently complete or easy to acquire. Since this is me we’re talking about, that means it was mostly hentai. Those links below are extra risky this month!
One of the first non-hentai series that I read was fucking awful though. Cheer Cheer is a story about a dude called Ouji who uses his father’s influence to become the lone male student of an all-girls academy. He promptly turns the school into his domain of lechery by harassing the female students nonstop. Knowing perfectly well that none of them have the power to get him punished for any of it. That is, until the school threatens to go co-ed due to financial trouble. Suddenly concerned for the safety of his girls, Ouji hatches a plan. He’s going to start a cheerleading team!
I can’t exactly rail against the sexism in this manga after just fessing up to reading hentai for half a month. Instead, my issue with the manga is that it’s boring and looks absolutely atrocious. The basic anatomy of its characters is so hideous that I couldn’t even be aroused by it if I wanted to. It tries so hard to pull off convincing fanservice, but the art is so bad that none of it works. Without a doubt, one of the worst manga I have read for this challenge thus far.
A work that resonated with me far better ended up being RCU: Rapid Commuter Underground. This whole challenge started because I missed reading manga on the train after all. Meanwhile, here is author Zajirogh, who uses his daily commute to make manga. What kindred spirits we are.
While initially starting as a meta story about his motivations for drawing manga, RCU soon develops into a delightfully-weird tale. Zajirogh’s daily train rides turn into surreal adventures tied together with mystery. Yet, at the same time, his role as an unreliable narrator keeps you guessing as to how many layers of misdirection are at play here. I’d like to explain what I mean by that, but I really don’t want to spoil too much.
For such a short manga, RCU really is a fascinating read. Though you will have to be tolerant of the atypical artstyle.
I also finally got to read all of Outlanders. The OVA adaptation of this sci-fi manga was one I enjoyed a lot, so I was perplexed when I learned that the original author absolutely hated it. So much so that he cut the intended run of the manga down by 2 volumes because it soured his passion for the series he created. Having now read the original manga… I get why he was so upset.
The anime presented Outlanders as a kooky romcom about a warrior princess from outer space falling in love with a dopey Earthling. While that does happen in the manga, it’s evident that author Jouji Manabe had grander ambitions. Outlanders is a tragic space opera about an alien invasion of Earth, which is gradually revealed to be about so much more than just conquest. A story that has its comedic relief and charming characters, but which never pulls its punches either.
It’s a story about how a deeply-senseless war consumes billions of lives. How the ego of a select few can condemn countless people to suffering. And how only through love and camaraderie we can overcome such violence. It is depressing that whoever handled the adaptation looked at that and turned it into a toothless ecchi series.
It is quite long, but I can not recommend Outlanders enough. It has an amazing story and Manabe’s art is absolutely gorgeous. Particularly when it comes to spaceships and the battles waged between them.
Closing out this month, I wanted to talk about a manga that surprised me a lot. I picked up Human Ranch when I was feeling crap and wanted to read something more miserable than I was. Turns out that it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought. Not particularly good, mind you. Just… not as abysmal as I had presumed.
Its story revolves around a school bus full of kids that are isekai’ed to a fantasy world of complete horror. They have been sold by an unknown party to this world’s resident elves, who will keep them as livestock. Human meat is quite a delicacy in this world and supply is hard to get by. Yuki, an awkward nerdy guy, is fortunate enough to be spared the worst treatment. He and his friends are delegated to cleaning duty, allowing them to extend their sorry lives through rigorous labor. It also allows them to dream of possibly escaping.
While Human Ranch has some gore and sexual violence in it, these are surprisingly understated. You rarely get to see the humans that are being treated like actual cattle, while sex scenes are both short and mostly obscured. Any recommendation of it should still come with a laundry list of trigger warnings, but it’s not the torture-fest that I thought it would be.
Instead it’s an engaging story about an isekai prison break. 4 characters with wildly different personalities who have to figure out the rules and limitations of this fantasy world to enable their escape. All the while knowing that the slightest miscalculation will be instantly fatal. There’s a nice push-and-pull to the story. Even when Yuki thinks he has something figured out, new obstacles might appear that complicate his plans. People act irrationally or can’t actually be trusted. If you can bear with the grim setting and sexual violence, it’s remarkably engaging. I binged through it in 1 sitting.
- Rankou de Wakarou!
- Shocking Pink!
- Nee-chan wa, OneShota Doujin Sakka
- Cheer Cheer
- Custom Maid!
- Renai 3 Jigen Debut
- NeuTRal Actor
- After visiting an odd website, I transformed into a girl.
- The Clueless Fairy
- Matching App Yuri Anthology
- Sweet Valerian
- Yuusha wa Shimei wo Wasureteru
- Stalking Girl
- Watashi no Shinyuu
- Harem End
- Darling in the FranXX!
- Konya ha, zutto, senpai to Soushuuhen
- Messages to KENTAROU MIURA
- Rapid Commuter Underground
- Mankan Pocha Muki!! N
- My Former Divorced Crybaby Neighbor
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Gurren Gakuen-hen
- Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Yoko’s Belly Button
- Tabi to Gohan to Shuumatsu Sekai
- Human Ranch
- Suki dakedo Suki dakara Uketorenai
- Boku ni Harem SeFri ga Dekita Riyuu
- Koisuru Otome wa Eromanga ni Yume wo Miru
- Doutei Otouto to Bitch Ane
- Chotto Bijin de Mune ga Dekakute Eroi dake no Baka Nee
- Kuro Gal-chan wa Kimi dake wo Miteru
- Ano Ko to Ii Koto
- Summer Love Geek Girl
- Amayakashi Onee-san ni Ochinchin wo Torottoro ni Sarete Nukedasenai
- Loads of Love
- Uso Bitch Senpai
- Junai Irregulars