published by Viz
This school manga is made more unusual by its premise: all the students are clones of famous people, such as Florence Nightingale, Napoleon, Marie Curie, John F. Kennedy, or Freud, while Shiro is the one normal kid.
The art is exceptional, clear and dramatic and even beautiful. No one’s recognizable by appearance, since they’re all in uniform and lacking the period costume that would help, and personality-wise, they’re more manga students than famous people, but the conflict is appealing. They’re told that they have the genetic heritage to do great things, and they should strive to surpass their personage’s accomplishments. But what a legacy to burden a kid with! What if they want to do something else? How much of ourselves is due to nature, anyway?
The search for individual identity is a component of many manga series, since it’s a key conflict of the teenage years, but here, it’s brought into much sharper relief. Expectations aren’t just cultural or familial in this story, but genetic. There’s an undertone of creepiness going on, too. Obviously, creating a bunch of kid clones is strange enough, but there are also hints questioning the motives of those running the school, of whom Shiro’s father is one.
I want to read more of this now. Definitely a series I’d buy.
House of Five Leaves
Samurai gangs. Excellent choice for manga aimed at older readers, since it keeps the exoticism and honor that attracts many, but not for me. The dissolute appearance of the characters has more in common with a downbeat alternative comic than a traditional manga style, which will be refreshing to some readers’ eyes.
A ronin, a masterless samurai, is let go because he’s not intimidating enough. His employment agency tries to place him as a laborer, since he keeps getting fired from the other jobs, but he sees that work as beneath him. His morose, ghost-like skull face makes it clear that he’s unhappy and his former employer is correct in his assessment.
I was confused by the setting of the story; from the costumes and premise, I’m assuming it’s meant to be historical, but it doesn’t really look it, and the situation reminded me more of a modern-day slacker with lots of training but without the self-awareness needed to live up to his skills. (Did samurai really have employment agencies?) Translation notes would have been helpful, too — maybe they would have addressed my uncertainty.
The samurai’s new employer has a lot more self-possession, confidence, and a way with words — all helpful, since he’s an outlaw. I’m guessing the two will learn from each other as their relationship continues, while the samurai deals with the conflict of honor he finds himself in. If I were to continue reading, it would be because of their interaction, since the one small fight scene I found incomprehensible.
Kingyo Used Books
Manga makes dreams come true. Literally, at this odd bookstore.
The opening chapter features a man who wants to get rid of his manga, since they’re taking up too much space (I so sympathize!) and he thinks they’re for younger people and it’s time for him to put away childish things (wrong!). When he goes to pack up the books to sell, he finds himself getting caught up in re-reading. (Again, that’s me.)
Finding a place like this would be the dream of many readers, which means this shades a little close to fan wish fulfillment for my tastes, but the material about the way manga captures memories and inspires readers and brings people together is heart-warming. Certainly, it shows deep emotions shared by many of its readers. I’m very curious to see where the author takes this series.
Tokyo Flow Chart
Four-panel comic strips (4-koma) are given a new twist by calling them flowcharts and adding additional panels that spin out of intermediate points. The art is crude and ugly, while the content seems to mistake rudeness and randomness for humor. I couldn’t read more than a few pages.