Sherlock Bones Book 7

The series comes to an abrupt end in this final volume of Sherlock Bones.

Book 7 starts by wrapping up the plastic surgery case from Book 6 with help from friend and journalist-in-training Miki. I wish we’d seen more of her work, but she’s treated like an information source, a way to explain Takeru getting certain bits of data without having to pound the pavement himself.

As usual, the detective team with dog doesn’t do much deduction — instead, they hypothetize and then find proof for their assumptions. The driving impulse is to confront the murderer with enough evidence that he confesses (a strategy I’m told is typical of Japanese crime investigation). That’s the standard wrap up to these stories, with Takeru and the criminal playing verbal ping-pong with bits of evidence and contradiction until the bad guy gives up.

There are two more cases in this final volume, making it jam-packed with crime. The first focuses on former classmate Nanami, who’s become a policewoman. She’s working the traffic beat with an older mentor when she’s framed for causing an accident. The few chapters are also an indictment of texting while driving.

The last case, an abbreviated one, involves a murdered actor, but the real drama comes when Takeru’s partner becomes suspicious of why he’s bringing a dog everywhere. He says, “I notice that every time you make any astute observation, it’s after that dog barks or makes some other sound.” Amusingly, the partner goes on to assume that Takeru isn’t smart enough to make the successes he’s achieved, so the dog must be of genius level. Sherdog will magically become just another puppy if he’s discovered, so Takeru has to tackle this one on his own.

The final, rushed chapter explains what’s going on with Sherdog and throws in plenty of fanservice on top. (Particularly Takeru’s well-built sister, who rushes in strangely wearing a shirt that says “Interrupting Boobs” all over it.) There’s a substantial setup for a historical mystery, dealing with Sherdog’s origin, but it will never be resolved, as there’s a brief author’s note at the end mentioning that “Sherlock Bones had to get put on hiatus” and hoping that there’s opportunity for a sequel some day. I don’t know what the circumstances there were, but I’m guessing low sales or better opportunity elsewhere for one of the creators. At least everything wraps up reasonably well.


Legal Drug Omnibus Out; Sequel Drug & Drop Available to Pre-Order

Out today in comic book stores is the Legal Drug Omnibus, a manga license rescue collection. CLAMP’s Legal Drug originally was published in three volumes in English by Tokyopop. (You can get the three books cheaply used, possibly because the story wasn’t concluded… but see below.)

Dark Horse has now reprinted the series in one big volume, complete with color pages. It’s a hard-to-describe tale, about two boys who are drawn to each other while working at a drugstore. One is saved from death lying in the snow by the embrace of the other, then they yell at each other while sharing an apartment above the store.

The rescued one can see visions of the memories of others, while the rescuer can break things with his mind. Together, they investigate ghost stories, such as a living book that captures people or invisible fireflies. The short version is, it’s very CLAMP. (See also xxxHOLiC.)

There’s more than one reason to reprint the series, though — the followup, Drug & Drop, will be coming from Dark Horse in January. This ongoing manga series is promised to contain “many crossover references to the CLAMP universe”, which fans should enjoy. It can be preordered now from your local comic store with Diamond code SEP14 0116 at a list price of $10.99.


SuBLime Announces Special Deals for YaoiCon Attendees

Global yaoi manga publisher SuBLime has announced its plans for YaoiCon, held this coming weekend in San Francisco.

At their booth, all titles currently available in print will be available at a discount, with an additional 10% off if you buy all available volumes of a series. They’re also debuting Blue Morning Volume 5 ahead of its October 14 release date.

SuBLime will also host giveaways of Awkward Silence Volumes 1-4, Crimson Spell Volumes 1-5, or a digital title of the winner’s choosing. Their panel, scheduled for Saturday, September 13, at 2 PM, will feature news, series updates, games, and prizes, as well as the promised announcement of a new acquisition.


Jump Start Brings New Japanese Series to Weekly Shonen Jump Same-Day

Viz Media has launched “Jump Start“, bringing the first three chapters of every brand-new manga series appearing in the Japanese Weekly Shonen Jump to English. The digital translated Weekly Shonen Jump will feature these chapters, one per week, on same-day release as the parent country.

Weekly Shonen Jump with Judos

The first three titles are

  • Judos by Shinsuke Kondo, a martial arts series about a 15-year-old village kid who wants to be the best judo practitioner in his village full of the world’s most powerful fighters — available now
  • Hi-Fi Cluster, starting September 15, a sci-fi crime thriller by Ippei Goto
  • Sporting Salt by Yuto Kubota, about sports medicine (interesting!) and debuting September 23

Fans, who are often concerned about authenticity, should love the chance to check out brand-new series in super-timely fashion. (This cuts the legs out from under scanlation sites, too, as who would want a sometimes-sloppy translation when they can get the official in the same time frame?) Readers also get the chance to leave feedback through an online survey. Magazine Editor-in-Chief Andy Nakatani says,

“The ‘Jump Start’ initiative begins a new era in digital manga publishing that will give seasoned readers, as well as those new to the genre, seamless, same-day, simultaneous access like they’ve never enjoyed before to what’s hot and brand new in the world’s most popular manga magazine. ‘Jump Start’ gives new titles an important opportunity to develop an international following. Our readers can play a more active role than ever to help VIZ Media and Shueisha discover what new series resonate on an international level and decide what might possibly be featured on a regular ongoing basis.”

So put in those surveys, kids, and you too can have a voice in manga to read. Weekly Shonen Jump is 99 cents an issue or $25.99 for a yearly subscription (48 issues).


Chibis: Recent Manga Updates — Say I Love You, Midnight Secretary, Sherlock Bones, more

Midnight Secretary Book 7

by Tomu Ohmi
Viz, $9.99

The Midnight Secretary series concludes with Kaya and her boss finally coming to an understanding of how their relationship will proceed. He’s been kicked out of the vampire clan for refusing to give her up.

Both Kaya and the reader are misled into thinking that a very attractive woman he’s making dates with is a source of jealousy — but the plot’s more convoluted than that. Which makes this volume less satisfying than some of the others, which focus more on the pair’s emotions and less on the cultural politics. The core conflict remains the same, whether Kaya can be a perfect secretary for her boss at the same time her feelings are involved with her love for him. Everything is answered with, “yours is the only blood I want.”

Typical of a final volume is how the series concludes with plans for marriage, with meeting Kaya’s mother, working out living arrangements, and love vows along the way. It all moves very quickly, with a final reminder of the virtue of competence. More entertaining to me was a short bonus story, “Midnight Butler”, that flips the genders. Another vampire, Marika, picks up a guy who then refuses to leave. He’s handsome but homeless, and he insinuates himself into her life by cleaning up both himself and her home. I was fondly reminded of the much-missed Tramps Like Us.

Sherlock Bones Book 6

story by Yuma Ando
art by Yuki Sato
Kodansha Comics, $10.99

We’ve fully moved out of the school arena, a process that began in the previous volume. Here, in Sherlock Bones Book 6, Takeru is a rookie police officer completing his first case. Also working on the force with him are former classmate Miki and import showoff Kento. Kento’s convinced that the murder of the anchorman’s wife was a mugging gone wrong, but Takeru knows the truth. The anchorman did it, but how to prove it?

That’s my problem with most of the cases in this series. There’s no deduction involved. Instead, the victim is revealed by being worn down by a series of small glitches observed by Takeru until he finally confesses. Sherdog doesn’t do much of anything but encourage Takeru that he can become a detective on his own.

The second case involves a plastic surgery clinic. A client whose treatment went horribly wrong, due to counterfeit drugs, is killed by the doctor to cover up his shoddy treatment. Between her exaggerated ugly face and his mask-like countenance, the art in this section is horrific on several levels. There is the occasional amusing moment, though, as when the surgeon thinks to himself, in response to Takeru’s focus on detail, “Nitpicky men will never impress women, you know?”

I think this series concludes with the next volume, and it’s about time. The cases aren’t getting any more clever, and while still adorable, Sherdog has become less relevant. It’s a tough challenge for the writer, showing Takeru growing up by becoming more competent, which makes his magical companion less necessary.

Say I Love You Book 3

by Kanae Hazuki
Kodansha Comics, $10.99

Former loner Mei is still getting used to her new relationship with popular boy Yamato. The world is full of rivals who want him, though, from Aiko, former fat girl embarrassed by her stretch marks, to Megumi, teen model who wants a “prince charming” who’ll look good next to her. She ropes Yamato into modeling with her as a pretend volunteer.

Although Mei is open with him about her feelings, she’s still struggling with how to be human and reach out to others. She gets jealous, understandably, and she feels pressured by others’ expectations. Say I Love You Book 3 has the classic “I have to make chocolate for my boyfriend for Valentine’s Day” chapter, adding to the stress.

My favorite part, though, is when Mei meets and consoles Yamato’s younger sister Nagi, a girl hurt by discovering how she’d been used by false friends. That chapter also portrays Mei’s discomfort with physical feelings and uncertainty over how far to go with Yamato. I like this series because there are odd bits of wisdom in it, as when Mei says, “Once you decide you hate everything, that’s it. You’ll never like anything.”

What Did You Eat Yesterday? Book 4

by Fumi Yoshinaga
Vertical, $12.95

If you look closely at the cover to What Did You Eat Yesterday? Book 4, you’ll see a number of European-sounding dishes listed: hamburgers in mushroom sauce, leek consommé, spaghetti neapolitan. And they all appear in the book, as Shiro cooks a variety of meals, but they all have a uniquely Japanese spin to them. The tomato in the spaghetti sauce, for example, comes from ketchup, shudder.

The material in this series continues to get more and more interesting, as we learn more about Shiro and Kenji’s life together. Shiro’s uncomfortable being identified as gay in public, so he and Kenji wind up inviting another gay couple to dine at their home. But Shiro’s concerned that his cooking won’t live up to one of the guest’s gourmet tastes. In another story, Kenji is happy that Shiro is sick because Shiro is so self-sufficient otherwise, and this is the only way Kenji gets to take care of him and cook for him.

Kenji’s rolled omelet recipe, in Japanese-style layers, looks simple enough I may actually end up trying to make it someday. I felt rather proud of myself, when it came to the chapter about how Shiro doesn’t feel comfortable making tempura, since I’ve successfully made it before (although mine wasn’t as complex as his, it’s true).

There’s a tiny lettering technique used here that I loved but have never seen before. Kenji is still waking up when talking to Shiro, and it’s portrayed with a tilde in the middle of words to signify his yawning, like this: “Have a good da~y.” He later uses the same pattern when getting cute about his boyfriend to show how he’s extending his syllables in sing-song fashion.

As for cooking tips, I’ve learned from the recipes herein two keys to successful meals: keep a variety of seasonings and sauces on hand to jazz up dishes quickly, and the same few ingredients can be assembled in a delicious-sounding variety of ways. Shiro’s hamburger-making tips are right on, although I’ve never dared mix raw onions in the meat before. And he serves them in sauce with a side of rice instead of on a bun, of course.

Happy Marriage?! Book 7

by Maki Enjoji
Viz, $9.99

The punctuation in the title Happy Marriage?! is really important, because the series does not focus on good times. Instead, every book, Chiwa and Hokuto face another challenge. Sure, by the end, they’ve usually reinforced their feelings for each other, but it’s important to remember that the premise is that these two people got married without knowing each other. (And I feel silly that I just realized that this series probably reads very different in a culture where some people still experience arranged marriages, where that could be true for them.)

In Happy Marriage?! Book 7, the challenge is time. Hokuto has been working a lot of overtime for an important new work project. Chiwa is already feeling insecure about not knowing a lot about finance or international politics or other topics he works with, and now she’s feeling neglected. However, her own work starts becoming more troublesome as well, keeping her from him at a key moment.

Those sensitive to how this situation would feel if played out in real life will want to skip this volume (and the series, frankly), since there are lots of control issues on display, and his behavior is right on the line of abuse, as he manipulates an injury of hers to make her listen to him. He also has a habit of dragging her into sex when he’s feeling insecure. However, in my opinion, these two characters are so ridiculous (and two-dimensional) that a realistic interpretation just doesn’t work for me, so I have no problem rooting for them — in spite of their exaggerated behavior — to talk to each other and be happy together.

I find the story with Hokuto’s father — who raised him to be coldhearted and self-sufficient — more sympathetic. Now that they’re adults, and the father is in the hospital with no hope of recovery, Hokuto won’t visit him, because he doesn’t care about family. Chiwa is torn between who she thinks her husband ought to be and a honest glimpse at who he really is. This isn’t resolved in this volume, instead changing focus for each of them to worry about the other’s past partners.

(The publishers provided some of the above as review copies.)


*What Did You Eat Yesterday? Books 2-3 — Recommended

I adore this series. I’m so thrilled that Vertical has committed to What Did You Eat Yesterday?, since it combines such favorite things: art by Fumi Yoshinaga, a focus on cooking as an achievable skill, and insightful underlying relationships.

Book 2 opens with a flashback, showing how Shiro and Kenji met at a gay bar and got to know each other. They’re so cute together, both unsure in various ways, creating a relationship anyone can identify with. To commemorate, the first meal in the book is a lavish Christmas special, focused on spinach lasagna and marking their anniversary.

Shiro’s cooking is home-taught, often with non-specifics, particularly when it comes to seasonings and timings. He’s working to his taste and demonstrating that one doesn’t have to be precious when it comes to making tasty food. A delicious meal is a great way to show the depth of feeling for someone. His cooking is home-based, not restaurant-style, and the character’s focus on economy and value — not buying expensively, reusing ingredients so nothing is wasted — is particularly timely and inspirational.

The food is also inspiring in how the meals are made up of various small dishes, not meat-heavy and including plenty of vegetables. That’s a style of cooking that the Japanese do well, balancing flavors to provide satisfaction without huge portions or overly unhealthy ingredients.

Because I love this series, I also have gripes. The biggest is the lack of endnotes. With so much based in the particular culture of the author and characters, a few pieces of additional information would be much appreciated. Many food terms aren’t translated. Perhaps it can be argued that someone interested in this series likely already knows what ponzu, yuzu, mitsuba, and wakame are, but I love Japanese food, and I had to look them up. I want more people to try and love this series, and I wish this was less of a potential stumbling block for readers. I’d love to see an additional text page or two where a knowledgeable cook comments on the dishes. However, I suspect that the additional cost to develop the editorial material might not weigh favorably on the book’s profit-and-loss statement.

I am thrilled to see the recipe steps and dishes illustrated in such detail, but at times, I wasn’t sure the words used to describe the illustrations matched up. For instance, at one point, Shiro is said to be chopping leeks, but they look more like green onions in size. This may not matter to most readers, who aren’t likely to try and replicate the recipes. Heck, some of them — such as the stewed yellowtail scraps and heads — are unlikely to be possible in this country unless one lives near a specialty retailer. It’s still fun to dream about sharing the meals with someone you care about.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? Book 2 also has a story about a legal case where Shiro’s trying to help a divorced mom, punctuated by the hilarious panel where Shiro’s clearly having a bad day. His co-workers, unaware of his boyfriend, assume he must have had an argument with his girlfriend, but it’s really because one of his food purchases went bad before he could use it. That’s another virtue of this series, the way the structure allows for stories focusing on different aspects of Shiro’s life, from work to home to family.

Key for a visual artist, Yoshinaga has a great gasp of how appearances affect character, as shown by a story about a co-worker whom everyone assumes is about 20 years older than she is, based on how she talks and dresses. I also like how she recognizes how relationships really work, as in a later chapter, Kenji is explaining to Shiro how bad he felt about an incident with a friend. Shiro wants to advise Kenji on what to do, but Kenji just wants sympathy and a listening ear.

The book concludes with more insight into Shiro’s family life, as his father goes into the hospital for cancer surgery. He’s thinking about home, and the seasons are changing to fall, so he makes meat-and-potato stew.

Book 3 sends Shiro home for New Year’s, a family holiday, to spend more time with his recovering father and trying-to-be-supportive mother. That means we get to see Kenji cook ramen for himself, showing that he’s got a few culinary skills of his own. The story also hints at how being a gay man in Japan, with various expectations about families, can be difficult for an older generation to accept. A childless couple of any gender, though, can identify with the occasional worry of “who will take care of me when I’m older?” Shiro also struggles with the question of whether to help support his parents financially, with all the feelings that entails about loyalty and gratitude and pride preventing the acceptance of help. They have a lot to negotiate, since they’re not 100% accepting of their son’s choices, but they still love him.

At work, Shiro has trouble working with a female apprentice, while Kenji picks up a new customer by being sensitive to her needs. Shiro and his female bargain-hunting friend also talk about their relationships — as one gets older, one may understand that staying together is easier than all the work in finding a new partner. That doesn’t deny their love for each other, but adds a realistic reason to work at staying together, too.

What a beautiful series, reaching so many points of appeal — taste, emotion, and satisfaction. What Did You Eat Yesterday Volume 4 is out tomorrow, and having caught up with the series so far, I’m already ready for more.