Summer’s here, and the time is right for hiding out and reading manga. Here’s a roundup of the most promising titles coming out this month, including the manga adaptation of Makoto Shinkai’s film your name., a cool historical action story, and a how-to book by the master of the trade, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure creator Hirohiko Araki.
Golden Kamuy, Vol. 1, by Satoru Noda
Saichi Sugimoto, the main character of Golden Kamuy, is searching for lost gold, but there’s more to this story than just a treasure hunt. It’s a historical tale (set in 1904) that weaves in the culture of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan’s northern Hokkaido prefecture. Sugimoto, a veteran of the Russo-Japanese war, is caught up in the Hokkaido Gold Rush. He comes across several clues to the location of a stash of Ainu gold; the treasure map has been tattooed on the backs of 24 prisoners, so each only has a fragment of it. Sugimoto heads out to find it, eventually teaming up with an Ainu girl who helps him in his quest. Noda had an expert in Ainu language supervise the Ainu sequences. Golden Kamuy won the Manga Taisho award and was nominated for two other major Japanese awards, the Osamu Tezuka Cultural Priza and the Kodansha Manga Award.
your name., Vol. 1, by Makoto Shinkai
This the manga adaptation of Shinkai’s animated film of the same name, which has been a critical and commercial success both in Japan (where it took in over 10 billion yen at the box office, a level of success unprecedented for anime other than those directed by Hayao Miyazaki) and around the world. It’s a body-switch story with a time-travel twist: a country girl and a city boy, both teenagers, start inhabiting each other’s bodies. At first they don’t realize what’s happening, but their family and friends keep telling them they have been acting weirdly, and they figure out ways to communicate with each other. The story gets more complicated when a tragedy occurs and they must go back in time to rewrite history to prevent it. In different hands this could be merely a cheesy sci-fi plot, but Shinkai has a talent for creating quietly emotional drama. The manga is adapted from the film, and Shinkai also penned a light novel during production, so if you can’t get enough of this story, there are plenty of options to experience it again and again.
Tokyo Ghoul, Vol. 13, by Sui Ishida
We’re just one volume away from the conclusion of Tokyo Ghoul, and Ishida is bringing his complex story to a climax. The Commission of Counter Ghoul investigators is launching an attack on the Anteiku Café, where the story began, and where the ghoul known as the One-Eyed Owl may be hiding.
Erased, Vol. 2, by Kei Sanbe
The first volume of this time-travel mystery was one of my favorite debuts of the year so far, and the second pulls us even deeper into the story. Failed manga-ka Satoru Fujinuma has been experiencing time-slips, where time moves back a few minutes so he can prevent a catastrophe. When his mother is murdered, he suddenly makes a big jump back in time, to his childhood. As he literally relives the past, he must figure out how to stop a murder he knows is going to happen—but that he barely remembers, because everyone covered it up at the time. And once he starts changing things, everything else changes as well. Yen Press is publishing this manga as two-in-one hardcover omnibus editions, so you get twice as much story with each volume—and in this configuration, it’s just four volumes long.
Hardcover $17.99 | $19.99
Manga in Theory and Practice: The Craft of Creating Manga, by Hirohiko Araki
Here’s a how-to-draw-manga book with a difference: the author is a successful—legendary, in fact—manga-ka. Hirohiko Araki is the creator of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and he’s a master of drawing action, especially fights, and outre characters. This handsome hardcover book includes plenty of concrete information on how to compose a page, create compelling characters, and write a convincing story. Araki claims his storytelling is inspired by Ernest Hemingway, something that I have to say is not obvious from reading his manga, but the man certainly knows what he’s doing.
After Hours, Vol. 1, by Yuhta Nishio
Viz launches a new teen romance series about a quiet girl and a cool girl. Emi, the quiet girl, goes to a club with a friend but the friend ditches her for a dude. She’s not taking it well, but things turn around when the DJ, Kei, swoops in to help. Emi is enthralled by Kei’s sureness and self-confidence, and a romance begins to blossom. This is not a shoujo romance: the story was serialized in HiBaNa, a seinen (young men) magazine that seems to carry a lot of smart series, so hopefully it will break a little new ground. And even if it doesn’t, the random glimpses of Tokyo’s nightclub scene should keep it interesting.
Haikyu!!, Vol. 12, by Haruichi Furudate
There’s always another hurdle coming in Haikyu!!, and with this volume, the Karasuno team begins the preliminary rounds for the spring tournament. They have been working hard for the past 11 volumes to build a repertoire of moves and resolve their personal conflicts, so they’re as ready as they will ever be. Haikyu!! continues to be an entertaining mix of high school drama and sports action, bringing a surprising amount of insight to the game of volleyball.
Assassination Classroom, Vol. 16, by Yusei Matsui
We’re five volumes away from the end of this series, but the time has come for a number of reveals, as Matsui starts to roll out the answers to the questions that popped up way back in the first volume: Who is Koro Sensei, exactly? Where did he come from and what made him the way he is? Why on earth does he want to teach high school? And why does he look like a deranged octopus? We’re not quite at the denouement of the story, but things we have been getting glimpses of since the early volumes begin to come into sharper focus.
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, by Kabi Nagata
This autobiographical manga is not for everyone. For one thing, it’s a mature-rated title—it opens with the author’s first sexual experience, with a paid escort—and it also goes to some fairly dark places. However, it’s an important book with a lot to say. At the age of 28, the author is a virgin, living at home, and has never had a real (i.e. salaried) job. The manga is basically a first-person account of her depression, her self-harm, and her low self-esteem, and it chronicles years of floundering as she tries to deal with it. Hiring the escort is something of a turning point for her, but it’s also part of the recovery process, as she moves toward greater understanding and a better life.
Nisemonogatari, Part 1, by NISIOISIN
Nisemonogatari is just one story arc in Nisioisin’s Monogatari series of light novels, all of which are narrated by Koyomi Aragi, a high school student who was attacked by a vampire, briefly became a vampire himself, and is almost back to normal now. Nisemonogatari, the second story arc of the series, is two volumes long and introduces Aragi’s younger sisters, Karen and Tsukihi, whose energetic approach to life has (and the characters in their names) has earned them the title “Fire Sisters.” Like many teenage girls, the Fire Sisters feel strongly about things, and this plays out as a sort of vigilantism as they try to correct things they feel are amiss. Aragi is dubious about this, but it’s summer, and the girls have time on their hands—and there are not too many distractions in their sleepy country village.