It’s a slow week in terms of numbers, but a good week if you’re looking for something fresh, with two new series debuting from Kodansha and two one-shots, one by Osamu Tezuka and one from the Alice series.
Kodansha Fights the Power: Kodansha Comics kicks off two very different new series this week. “No. 6” is about a teenage boy living in a dystopian future society—no, wait! Don’t run away! The premise may be familiar, even hackneyed, but the story has quite a bit of life to it. Like a lot of manga heroes, Shion is a fairly bland guy who does what’s expected of him, except that sometimes he doesn’t. On his 12th birthday, he opens up his window during a raging thunderstorm, leans out, and yells. This startles the escaped criminal who is hiding in his garden. The intruder, who calls himself Rat, is wounded, and Shion takes him in and stitches up his wounds. Rat disappears, and when the authorities find out about it, Shion loses his placement in an elite school. What’s interesting about Shion is that while he goes along with his society, he doesn’t really buy into it, even before Rat comes along to shake his foundations. Rat re-emerges when Shion is 16, amidst a series of odd murders, and the two team up and go underground. Good characters, an imaginative story, and clear art lift this book above the standard escapees-in-a-dystopia genre.
The second new series is “Sankarea,” the story of a teenage boy who is obsessed with zombies; he tries to resurrect his pet cat, but through a series of events he ends up with a zombie girlfriend as well. Not quite my cup of tea, I’ll admit, but if you like zombies it’s worth a look.
Atomcat Saves the Day: Osamu Tezuka’s “Atomcat” is not one of the Godfather of Manga’s greatest works but makes a pretty entertaining light read if taken on its own merits. The hero, Tsugio, is a big fan of Tezuka’s earlier creation, “Astro Boy” and the frequent target of bullies at his school. In one of those freakish scenes only Tezuka could come up with, Tsugio and his pet cat are hit by a car driven by two space aliens masquerading as Prince Charles and Princess Diana, or at least two people very like them. Tsugio is not seriously hurt, but the cat is, and the aliens restore him to what they think is his previous state, using Tsugio’s memories as a guide. Except that, since Tsugio is an Astro Boy fan, they wind up with a flying, super-powered cat with human intelligence. Tsugio and his new superhero pet proceed to humiliate the bullies and go off on a series of fairly outlandish adventures. Tezuka’s humor is broad and a bit crude, and the book is not great literature, but it is a lot of fun to read.
Go Ask Alice: Seven Seas continues its run of manga based on QuinRose’s “Alice in the Country of Hearts” video games with a one-shot, “Alice in the Country of Clover: Ace of Hearts,” in which the kind and tenderhearted Alice must conquer the cruel and violent Ace of Hearts. If you like complicated adventure stories with plenty of bishies, this is the series for you. If not, well, they also have vol. 4 of “Jack the Ripper: Hell Blade” on deck this week.
Assorted Volumes: Finally, Vertical and Viz have some later volumes in longish series this week. It’s not too late to start reading Vertical’s “Knights of Sidonia,” actually, as this week’s release is only volume 3, and this teens-and-mechas space opera is a pretty quick read. You’ll have a bit more catching up to do with vol. 9 of “GTO: 14 Days in Shonan,” but honestly, there are plenty worse ways to spend your summer vacation. Viz has vol. 14 of Yuu Watase’s “Arata: The Legend” to round out a week of good reading.