web stats

CSBG Archive

Say It With Manga, 1/3/2013

This week, I thought I’d take a look at a trio of long-running Dark Horse series. Two are rather spiritual in nature (and I use that term loosely and literally), while the third contains only the inhabitant of infinity.

 

Action/Historical: Blade of the Immortal – Hiroaki Samura, 26+ volumes
Swordsman Manji is cursed to never die until he has slain 1,000 bad men. He teams up with a girl named Rin who is on a personal quest to slay a man named Anotsu and his entourage. Rin shows him she can hold her own as a fighter, until the bad men start showing up with two dead heads sown onto their shoulders and other creepy things. Manji is drawn completely into Rin’s fight, and the story takes advantage of the fact he can’t be killed, slicing him up bloodily at every turn and throwing every sort of terrible enemy at him. Manji is the best part of the series for a good while, but it’s surprising when he leaves the story and one of the strongest arcs is carried mostly by Rin. While there is plenty of well-drawn physical violence, the story takes its time to show all sides of the conflict as well, and to ponder the nature of “bad men.” Anotsu slew Rin’s parents in an effort to eradicate the antiquated dojo system, which caters exclusively to the wealthy and is no longer adequate for taking on different and new kinds of enemies. Is he a bad man? Is Rin like him in her quest for revenge? There are many interesting characters and rather horrifying situations that play out during the course of the series, but it’s also worth taking a look at because of the art. Samura is a wonderful illustrator, and uses an unusual-for-action-manga sketchy pencil style.

 

Romance/Drama: Bride of the Water God – Mi-Kyung Yun, 12+ volumes
Admittedly, the reason you want to pick this series up is because the art is not to be believed. Bride of the Water God is the story of a woman named Soah that is sacrificed to the Gods by her village. The world of the Gods is beautiful to look at, and the character and costume designs outdo themselves volume after volume. The story itself is interesting, with Soah trying hard to get along with her new groom, Mui, a type of water/storm god, and the intrigue in the world of the gods. Mui takes the form of an uncaring child named Habaek by day, but by night he turns into smoking hot random god Mui that attempts to seduce Soah and make her untrue to her vows. But there are a lot of other characters in the world of the gods, and they are introduced so fast it is difficult to keep them straight, and also difficult to care about the intrigue in their lives. I’ve only read the first five volumes, but I like the art so much I keep hoping that the story will simplify and sort itself out enough to follow in all its soap opera glory.  This is also a good example of a Korean manhwa, and one of the only ones that’s currently being translated into English.

 

Slice of Life: Oh My Goddess! – Kosuke Fujishima, 43+ volumes
This is another that’s difficult to recommend to a new reader, but I’ve been following it for almost 10 years, and I enjoy the characters and mundane charm in each new volume in the same way I might sit down to a favorite television show every week. Rather famous and long-lived, Oh My Goddess is about college student Keiichi accidentally dialing a wrong number and summoning the goddess Belldandy, who offers to grant him one wish. Thinking it a joke, he asks her to stay with him forever, and she does. Wacky goddess hijinx ensue, and the pair is quickly joined by Belldandy’s two sisters and a thousand other characters. If it sounds like a cliche, it is, but Oh My Goddess started its run in 1989 and was ripped off mercilessly by the many other harem comedy manga that came after. Oh My Goddess is somewhat better because the comedy isn’t so much about Keiichi being awkward with women (at least, not after the first few volumes). Each volume usually contains 2-3 short stories, sometimes about Keiichi, but just as often focusing on the huge cast of side characters. They are almost always funny and charming in a way that few writers can pull off, especially with a cast this big and for such a long-running series. Time does move forward slowly (Keiichi gets his masters degree, then finds a job), and there is an occasional long and dramatic story arc (the recent volume in English are about the gang going to fight demons, and it is the longest story arc in the entire series), but mostly the pleasure is in the day-to-day details and struggles. It’s not overwhelmingly fastastic, and it’s probably hard to see the good in it for many, but it’s always been a favorite of mine.

8 Comments

I was interested in Blade of the Immortal for awhile but petered out around volume 14 or so. That there was no ending in sight drained my resolve to continue. Do you get the feeling that the story will wrap any time soon?

@Seth: It was announced a while ago that it was ending with volume 29. In fact, I think the 29th volume was released in Japan around Christmas. [checks wikipedia] Yeah, on Christmas Day exactly.

Thanks Joe! Good to know. Have you kept up with the series? Would you recommend it?

@Seth

I understand how you feel, I sometimes look at my BOTI volumes on the shelf and think “Maybe it’s time for those to go” but then a new (and all-too sporadic) volume will come in and I’ll be reminded why I love the series. It’s still very good, and I can see all the various sub-plots starting to come together towards what will hopefully be a satisfactory conclusion.

If you stopped at volume 14, then be prepared for a little bit of a slog through volumes 15-21, where Manji is captured by one of the shogun’s generals and spends most of the time in a cell being tortured and “experimented” on by a doctor obsessed with western medicine and immortality. Rin spends most of the storyline trying to figure out how to rescue him. The story really shows her maturity as a character, but the Manji scenes devolve at times into basically torture porn, and I found myself skimming those pages.

Still, the artwork is as beautiful as ever and Samura’s huge cast is all starting to come back into play (to the point where I had to look some of them up, having forgotten who some of the cast even were…)

And on another note, I can’t even believe that OMG is on volume 43! I’ve been following it since it was released in single comics followed later (much later) by expensive flipped trades. The series is as enjoyable as ever, and it’s one of the few manga I would be happy to go on for about another 20 years…

I actually started on the book real late in the game, on volume 24. I enjoyed it well enough that I decided to go back and start from the beginning. I’m only up to volume 8 from there, so I haven’t read anything between 9 and 23.

I’m not sure if I want OMG to go on another 20 years, but it IS a lot of fun and I haven’t thought “gee, when will this end?” yet. Although, like BotI, I’m not completely caught up (moreso than BotI though).

I read OMG long time ago, back when it started to come out in English, it being one of the first manga I read, and while I generally enjoyed it I do not really like that much the whole harem comedy thing and my interest did wane after some volumes. So I am a bit surprised to note how long this has been running…

(Oh, and two others I know by name and favorable reviews and should probably check out at some point).

Tom Fitzpatrick

January 4, 2013 at 8:06 pm

All things should have an ending. That should apply to mangas.

I don’t mind long running series, as long as they do get to the end. I remember when BOTI was in print form that ran mostly monthly for 11 or so years and then Dark Horse stopped the monthly and converted to trade paperback.

My annoyance with this format is that it only came out one-two times a year. Which is frustrating that you didn’t know when the series was going to end.

Other such mangas that I’ve read are GANTZ and LONE WOLF and CUB.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives