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Manga Before Flowers — Recommendation Post #4

Matthew E. (who might hate me just a little) wrote,  “Well, my favourite comic book is Legion of Super-Heroes.  I like stuff that suggests that some intelligence went into its creation.  I like baseball.  I like Arthuriana.  I like stuff that’s funny.”

Because Matthew gave no indication that he’s read any manga at all I decided to offer recommendations of fairly well known titles to help him get his feet “wet” with stories I feel are very friendly to the American comic book reader.

1.  Slam Dunk, by Takehike Inoue, published by Viz.

Slam Dunk 1

Description by publisher: Basketball. The court, the ball, the hoop. The hopes, the dreams, the sweat. It takes dedication and discipline to be the best, and the Shohoku High hoops team wants to be just that—the best. They have one last year to make their captain’s dream of reaching the finals come true—will they do it? Takehiko Inoue’s legendary basketball manga is finally here, and the tale of a lifetime is in your hands!

Sakuragi Hanamichi’s got no game with girls—none at all! It doesn’t help that he’s known for throwing down at a moment’s notice and always coming out on top. A hopeless bruiser, he’s been rejected by 50 girls in a row! All that changes when he meets the girl of his dreams, Haruko, and she’s actually not afraid of him! When she introduces him to the game of basketball, his life is changed forever…


2.  Planetes, Makoto Yukimura, published by Tokyopop.

planetes

Description by publishers: In the 2070′s, mankind has established a mining base on the moon and dispatched men to explore Mars. The first manned mission to Jupiter is also in progress. As a result of this interplanetary activity, space debris is increasing and its collection has become a new profession.

In the 1st volume of Makoto Yukimura’s Planetes, we meet Yuri, Hachimaki, and Fee. Hachimaki’s dream is to buy his own spaceship. He thinks he can earn money quickly by joining the crew of the first expedition to Jupiter. Yuri lost his wife in a space travel accident, and became a debris collector out of a desperate desire to discover some remembrance of her. Fee takes great pride in her profession and works very hard, having left behind her husband and young son on earth.

In a dark and cruel universe, each of these space junkers grapples with his or her own personal problems.


3.  Bleach, by Tite Kubo, published by Viz.

bleach

Description by publisher: Bleach tells the story of Ichigo Kurosaki, who is just like any other ordinary 15-year-old high school student — except for his special ability to see ghosts. So when a teenage girl materializes through his bedroom wall, it should be no call for alarm. However, this girl, named Rukia, is a shinigami (Soul Reaper) who is hunting a Hollow (an evil spirit that consumes souls). The Hollow proceeds to attack Ichigo’s family and Rukia is badly wounded. In order to defeat the evil spirit, Rukia must let Ichigo temporarily become a Soul Reaper by absorbing some of her energy. However, Ichigo inadvertently ends up with all of Rukia’s powers and after defeating the Hollow, she informs Ichigo that since she has relinquished all her powers, he must now take on all the responsibilities of a Soul Reaper until she can figure out how to get her powers back. Now this 15-year-old high school student begins a brand new vocation as a hyperkinetic, all-purpose ghost buster. With enough attitude to make a grown demon blush, Ichigo and crew are cleaning up the afterlife, one ghoul at a time.

27 Comments

Matthew E. (who might hate me just a little)

I might?

Matthew gave no indication that he’s read any manga at all

I haven’t, actually; I probably should have mentioned that.

Thanks for the recommendations; I’ll give them a try!

I’d also suggest H2 (a good manga about baseball) and even Hunter x Hunter (which has definitely faded a bit in quality in recent times, but had some good work for the first 15 or so volumes). Slam Dunk is definitely one of my favorites though.

Matthew — sorry, I just was having a little fun at your expense because you gave me three such different interests it would be hard to find a manga that could adequately encompass them all.

There’s a great baseball manga which has not been licensed in the U.S. although the anime has and it is really wonderful — they are calling it “Big Windup!” in English (didn’t want to recommend an anime but since you mentioned baseball I felt I had to call your attention to this title).

Is there a baseball manga being published in the US? Thanks for bringing Big Windup to my attention. I’ll move it onto my Netflix queue.

JimYung — As far as I know there are no manga about baseball being published in the U.S. (the only example I can think of off the top of my head is High School Debut, where the main character has some connection to girl’s softball. However, that title is really a romance and only has a few scenes related to her sports history).

H2, which Jordan mentions above, doesn’t seem to have ever been licensed for the U.S.

When I think baseball manga I think Mitsuru Adachi, but the only manga of his to be published in the US is Short Program, a two-volume set of short stories (technically three if you count the one that wasn’t released here) that is pretty hard to find.

There is, however, Bob and His Funky Crew, which will be coming soon to VIZ’s SigIkki lineup. Here’s a quote from this About.com post:

Bob and His Funky Crew (Bob to Yukaina Nakamatachi) by Puncho Kondoh – November 19, 2009

The other new addition the the SigIkki.com lineup is a baseball manga. Now, don’t be expecting the earnest, fresh-faced lads of The Big Wind-up here. Uyloan described Bob and His Funky Crew as “wacky, slightly demented baseball manga” about a somewhat middle-aged Major League baseball player and his teammates.

Bob and His Funky Crew was originally featured in Big Comic Spirits from 1993 – 1994, and returned for another turn at bat in the pages of IKKI Magazine in early 2009.

Actually, that date makes it look like the first chapter will go up today!

Ohhhh good catch, Michelle! For those reading the comments that means this manga will be available, free, online for a certain period of time at the Viz SigIkki.com page.

And, if reader interest is enough, eventually published in a print edition! :)

Here’s the update calendar that confirms its appearance sometime today.

Wow, that was bad! It seems like a baseball manga about American baseball without any knowledge of American baseball.

i could recommand a lot of mangas, i’m french so i don’t really know how much different mangas you have in usa but by the way : Beck (really great, talks about the construction of a rock band), blame! (SF mangas really strange), Tekkonkinkreet, Number 5 and Ping-pong (from taiyou matsumoto), chobits, xxx holic, blade of the immortal (isn’t famous in usa ?), bagabondo (an other excellent manga by the great Takehiko Inoue, yes the same that did slam dunk)

well, there’s others of course but they’re the first that came in my mind.
hope it helps people !

If he likes Legion of Super-Heroes, I’d think you’d be better off going with Naruto and One Piece rather than Bleach because both those books have superhero-style action (done better than American superhero books today though) but with the HUUUUUGE types of casts Legion tends to juggle.

Actually, I think of Bleach as the most basic kind of superhero-esque type book out there! (That was my reasoning for including it). There is a basic “team” in Bleach — Ichigo, Chad, Ishida, and Orihime (& Rukia depending on which arc we’re talking about) that is augmented or adapted according to what’s happening in the story. (And in later arcs the cast grows considerably).

Also I just like Bleach more than Naruto and One Piece. ;-)

It’s a real shame there’s no Mitsuru Adachi stuff in America yet. Honestly, I remember reading H2 a couple years ago, and it was the perfect manga for me to read at that time. As much as I think baseball is boring, any baseball manga by Mitsuru Adachi is a complete win in my opinion.

I’m hoping that, with the recent trend towards omnibus editions, someone will license Adachi’s Touch and put it out, like, 3 volumes at a time.

When someone hasn’t read Manga you should either recommend the absolute, slam bang, no miss classics like Lone Wolf and Cub or series that are good but have a low number of volumes like Buddha or MPD-Psycho.

I realize these picks don’t really correspond to his interests, but his interests are uniquely American. Looking to a foreign culture for Superheroes and Baseball (something America obviously does best) is foolish. If you’re going to give Manga a try, look to something Manga does well.

You’d be foolish to disregard Japan’s love of baseball, Ryan. High school baseball over in Japan is as big as college football is over here.

Yeah, I’m with Joe on this one.

The shonen/action story is a huge field in Japan, it makes sense to recommend the one that I see as fairly superhero-like but also an engaging read for a new reader.

[...] Leigh has more customized manga recommendations at Comics Should Be [...]

I realize these picks don’t really correspond to his interests, but his interests are uniquely American. Looking to a foreign culture for Superheroes and Baseball (something America obviously does best) is foolish.

Interesting that you said that, since I’m Canadian. Well, I like Canadian takes on superheroes and baseball; why not see what Japan has to say about them too?

If it wasn’t for the specific criteria mentioned, I’d have recommend “Monster” by Naoki Urasawa for the new-to-manga.

it’s intelligent, it’s action-packed, it’s a thriller, but it’s definitely not ‘funny’, and it has absolutely nothing to do with baseball.

Adachi’s great, but his baseball stories tend towards the ‘development’ of boy, and doesn’t really have any ‘Arthurian’ confrontations.

The one manga I can think of that actually fits all the criteria set forth here is ‘One Outs’ by Shinobu Kaitani. It’s intelligent, it’s got some thought put into it, it’s funny at times, and it’s got Arthurian confrontations between pitcher and batter, being put forth into challenges and duels by the owner.

Scanlations are out, albeit slowly, but it’s essentially about a pitcher whose goal is to pitch games without giving up runs. The problem here: He’s armed with essentially what is an 83 MPH fastball, and he’s paid with an unique contract where he is paid 5,000,000 yen per out he makes, but has to -pay- 50,000,000 yen per run he gives up.

So naturally, a lot of the manga is about the strategy of -pitching- and the psychology of fooling hitters.

(Well, depending on how you define Arthurian, anyway!)

I also agree with T. that One Piece and Naruto represent the “huge ensemble cast” better.

Unlike Bleach, both have an enormous diverse cast of evil antagonists, with varios different designs instead of the uniforms that share the two main groups of adversaries in Bleach (which have their little quirks, but share a similar look overall). Though One Piece definitely has a huge advantage on that over the other two: It’s probably the closest you will ever get to a “gallery of rogues” in manga; they are just as good as comic supervillains at surviving or going to jail instead of getting killed which is the norm in manga and anime.

Also I feel the unique superpowers of characters in both Naruto and One Piece is more “superheroic” (and specially relatable to the Legion style) than the generic Bleach ones (which only differentiate after a second and third powerup).

Though I will recognize this observation is partly due to how I feel Bleach has become stagnant while the other two seem to be still going places in their plots.

I’m taking notes.

(Just so I don’t come off as unreasonable, I’d like to mention that the criteria I mentioned were supposed to be linked by unions and not intersections.)

Thanks, everybody.

Just wanted to point out that “Ninja Baseball Kuyuma!” Is a baseball manga currently coming out in the US, published by Udon’s kid’s lineup. It’s for kids, but it’s really cute :)

“Princess Nine” is another anime title about a girl’s high school team that takes on boys’ teams.

I’d love to see Adachi’s stuff come out in the US. Baseball is a love that Americans and Japanese share, so it’s a shame that there isn’t more baseball manga coming out in the US (or Canada :P)

Yeah, perhaps I was wrong to discount Japan’s love of baseball. I stand by my comment, though, that a person reading his first ever manga should go for a classic and not look for something that fits in with his specific interests–particularly when doing so will yield worse reads than just looking for some of the best, easily accessible, manga out there.

But that sorta kills the theme of these posts.

Bleahc is pretty good, but I get a distinct feeling of Tite Kubo making up up as he goes along. He’s freely admitted that he doesn’t have an ending yet. And he tends to put the damsels in distress a bit too often, instead of letting them be truly strong presences.

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