Manga Challenge – July Update

The horrors persist, but so do I.

Welcome to another update on the Manga Challenge. Half a year has already passed and we’re well on schedule for reaching the main goal of finishing 365 manga. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting ones that I got to read this last month.

One of the first manga that caught my eye this month was Ane Comi. Mostly because it’s a manga about making manga.

21-year-old Ane is an aspiring mangaka, whose greatest weakness is her halfheartedness. Her stories always feel like they are lacking impact and inspiration. If they even get finished to begin with. One day she is handed an amazing opportunity. A popular magazine wants her to put together a raunchy romcom story, for which they’ll provide the script. Ane just has to handle the art. The only problem being that Ane is entirely oblivious to romance and all things sexual. She has no clue how to give these illustrations life or even what some of it means. Fortunately, she has a guinea pig.

Her teenage brother Ryouta is an ordinary dude who dearly wants his sister to succeed. In a bid to help her find inspiration, Ryouta is tasked with acting out all kinds of embarrassing scenes from the script. Scenes that frequently push the siblings into taboo territory, even though Ane is only interested insofar as it helps her manga career.

Ane Comi is a fun, raunchy romcom with a likeable cast of characters and quite a few surprises. Nothing mind-blowing, but definitely worth checking out if you want a mid-sized ecchi series. Also be sure to keep an eye out for the numerous references.

The second big manga I tackled has been I Think Our Son Is Gay. A story that had been on my radar for a while, but I was waiting for it to finish releasing before I committed to it.

Hiroki is a teenager of high school age, whose mother suspects that he is actually gay. The things he says, the way he acts, all of it strongly suggests that Hiroki is exclusively interested in other men. Even though he isn’t ready to admit any such thing, his mother doesn’t mind. Day after day, chapter after chapter, she watches over Hiroki from the sidelines and subtly encourages him.

I Think Our Son is Gay is mostly an uplifting comedy. We read about Hiroki going about his life and how he keeps trying to cover up his interests, unaware that his family already knows and largely supports him. His mother especially is a treasure. She doesn’t entirely understand homosexuality, but puts in great effort to be as supportive as possible. She wants nothing more than to make her son feel comfortable about coming out for real.

At the same time, it does also touch on some of the more serious challenges that LGBT+ youth and their families face. I was very captivated by how the manga deals with Hiroki’s father for example. A man who means well, but who is very insensitive when it comes to sexuality. Being hetero is what he considers normal. Homosexuals are weird and somewhat disgusting to him, so he doesn’t even stop to consider that his son might be one of them. He constantly makes jokes and weird comments about gay people, all of which clearly have an impact on Hiroki.

Resolving this and other difficulties is quite a journey, during which I appreciate that I Think Our Son is Gay doesn’t fall back on easy, wishful solutions. Dad doesn’t get a stern talking to once and instantly fixes his behavior. It’s a long road towards getting him to understand why his lighthearted jokes about transvestites make his kid miserable.

Another romantic manga I read was Tedama ni Toritai Kurokiya-san. Loosely translated to “Kurokiya-san wants to lead him around by his nose.” This manga stood out to me because it was sorely lacking in originality, yet still ended up being enjoyable to read.

It’s yet another story about a gyaru who falls behind in academics, prompting a responsible, smarter person to help her out. In this case, Kurokiya Ruu is tutored by her childhood Tadao Tadashi. A dude who transformed from being a meek, awkward kid into an athletic honor roll student. He also prides himself on being entirely straightforward; always speaking his mind and not overthinking anything. This trips Kurokiya up completely, as it deflects any teasing she attempts to do back at her. In an early chapter she tries to steal Tadao’s pencil case and hide it in her cleavage, but the dude just reaches in and grabs it back when he needs it. No shame, no second thoughts, he just stuffs his hand down the void.

I say that it lacks originality because it’s really missing some kind of twist. Like Gal Gohan from a few months back was also the typical gyaru story, but with cooking. Kurokiya-san feels more like a straight rehash of the usual template for romcoms about gyaru characters. At the same time, a lot of its gags and twists felt eerily reminiscent of Nagatoro. I am not prepared to outright call these moments rip-offs, but it certainly put the suspicion in the back of my mind.

What salvages it is the art and writing. The characters are endearing despite their simplicity and Kurokiya especially benefits from some amazing expressions. The manga lands its jokes well and it kept me engaged with its quick pace. In fact, I ended up binging all 38 chapters in one evening.

Finally, there is Pet Shop of Horrors. A manga that I was delighted to have recommended to me because I had been putting it off for a literal decade. Having someone else tell me I should read it was the push I needed to quit slacking off.

The story is mainly set in Los Angeles. Police detective Leon Orcot is convinced that the enigmatic shopkeeper of a pet shop in China Town is secretly involved in all manner of crimes. This shopkeep is Count D, a beautiful young man with a fondness for sweets and a deeply-rooted resentment for humans. He exclusively cares about animals and claims to have anything from ordinary cats and dogs to mythological beasts in his possession. Those who wish to own the likes of mermaids and kishins are subject to certain rules, however. Violate these contracts and the consequences may be lethal.

Many stories are isolated tales of customers coming in and buying more than they bargained for. Later volumes distance themselves from this approach however and become a mishmash of genre-hopping adventures for Leon and the Count. There are comedic stories about life at the shop, action, mystery, romance. Even some touching stories like one where Leon processes the grief over losing a coworker in the line of duty. It does always maintain theme of supernatural animals throughout and all these different stories fit together really well.

Perhaps a weakness is that its very reliant on that theme. Especially in the mystery stories, you often know beforehand that the twist will be that someone is an animal pretending to be human. Even in these cases though, the writing is gripping and the storylines often fascinating.

There is a 1999 OVA that I’ve seen a few times now, but it only covers 4 random stories from a manga that counts over 40 of them. These are long stories too with individual chapters regularly having over 50 pages to them. It’s definitely worth watching, but largely to see if the premise is interesting enough for you to then read the full manga.

  1. A Brave Heart of Red Rose
  2. Kamisen
  3. Ane Comi
  4. Phantom Wizard
  5. A Witch’s Love at the End of the World
  6. Extra Existence
  7. I Think Our Son Is Gay
  8. Try! Try! Try!
  9. Hell Mother
  10. Kanojo ga Flag wo Oraretara: Ooyuusha yo, Flag wo Tateteshimau to wa Nanigoto da!?
  11. Gesuigai
  12. Tedama ni Toritai Kurokiya-san
  13. Azrael’s Edge
  14. The Papaya Gang
  15. Yoru ni Uro Tsuku
  16. Midashitai Giya-san to Midarenai Tadamichi
  17. Natural Airhead Kawaguchi-san!
  18. Acid Flower
  19. Unstable Castle of Tokarev
  20. Ranman
  21. My Neighbor the Lusty Elf
  22. The Legend of Giants
  23. Wandering Senior Don Quixote
  24. Room Share
  25. Ojousama to Youkai Shitsuji
  26. O.SHI.GO.TO.
  27. Uesugi Kenshin
  28. Pet Shop of Horrors
  29. Pet Shop of Horrors: Ark Ardrift
  31. EARTH GIRLS Tsumugi
  32. Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms
  33. Doujima-Kun Won’t Be Disturbed

3 thoughts on “Manga Challenge – July Update

  1. I hadn’t realized that “I Think Our Son Is Gay” had finished publishing. It was one of those series everyone and their mom told me to read, but I haven’t made time to do so yet. I’m glad that it remains pretty recommendable.

    And I’m glad you finally read Petshop of Horrors! One of those series that when it clicks with the right audience it really works, but rather forgotten as of late.

      1. I haven’t seen the anime yet. I’m sure it was kinda a product of it’s era – produce something small rather then nothing at all!

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