This month’s new manga releases include a Japanese spin on American superheroes and a beautifully drawn manga by a Japanese artist whose repertoire includes work for Marvel and DC. Plus yokai, robots, more horror from Junji Ito, a new volume of Attack on Titan, and a new series about awkward teens talking about sex. Let it rain—we’ve got plenty to read!
Witch Hat Atelier, Vol. 1, by Kamome Shirahama
This magic-school manga is beautifully drawn in a style reminiscent of early 20th-century European and American children’s books—think Andrew Lang’s fairy books, but with the humor and energy of manga. Shirahama, who frequently does cover art for DC and Marvel comics, seamlessly blends a clear, detailed, quasi-Art Nouveau style with lively manga tropes to create a book that adults will love for the look and children will read for the story—which is actually pretty good, too, although it breaks no new ground. Coco, the lead character, helps her widowed mother run a dry-goods shop. One day, when messing around with a book of magic, she accidentally turns her mother and her home to stone. By happy coincidence, there’s a powerful witch nearby, and he shares a secret with Coco: although most people believe that only someone who is born with special powers can do magic, in fact, anyone can do it with the proper training. He takes Coco to his special school so she can learn magic and undo the spell she unwittingly cast on her mother. Shirahama fills her tale with wondrous magical objects and sets Coco up against a bully in this first volume, but she also clues us in that there’s more going on than just a simple school story. A great pick for Harry Potter fans, manga readers who like really good art, or just about anybody, really.
Batman and the Justice League, Vol. 2, by Shiori Teshirogi
And now for something completely different: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the rest of the Justice League get the manga treatment. In volume 1, we met a youngster named Rui who had just arrived in Gotham City searching for his parents, missing after an accident. The cops gave Rui a Gotham City welcome by beating him up, robbing him, and attempting to kill him, before Batman swooped in to save the day. That was just the beginning of this complex story, which features manga versions of classic DC superheroes and villains, some startlingly off-model. In volume 2, the villains come forward with their dastardly plan. This manga delivers the same sort of pulpy fun as old superhero comics and new superhero movies, with a minimum of angst and plenty of action.
Mega Man Mastermix, Vol. 1, by Hitoshi Ariga
Mega Man started out as a video game and then became a manga, anime, and an American comic (published by Archie Comics). This collection brings back classic stories created by Hitoshi Ariga and originally published in English as Mega Man Megamix, but in a larger format (7” x 10”) and in full color. This first volume includes the origin story of Mega Man, originally a lab assistant named Rock who allowed robot scientist Dr. Light to transform him into a fighting robot to protect the world from other fighting robots under the control of the evil robot scientist Dr. Wily. Really, it’s just good, clean robot-fighting fun in a new, colorful package.
Smashed: Junji Ito Story Collection, by Junji Ito
Junji Ito’s particular brand of horror, which involves twisting some aspect of everyday life into madness, works particularly well in short stories, and recently, Viz has been serving them up in nice, big hardcover volumes. This latest collection weighs in at over 400 pages and collects 13 stories featuring seemingly ordinary people trapped on the up escalator to crazytown.
My Hero Academia, Vol. 18,by Kohei Horikoshi
My Hero Academia Vigilantes, Vol. 4, by Hideyuki Furuhashi and Betten Court
My Hero Academia School Briefs, Vol. 1, by Anri Yoshi
April is a triple-threat month for fans of My Hero Academia, with three new volumes to look forward to. In vol. 18 of My Hero Academia, the epic battles continue, with Midoriya straining to match the power of Overhaul and getting some help from his friends. In vol. 4 of My Hero Academia: Vigilantes, which features a team whose quirks fall short of superhero standards, Knuckleduster is tracking down the source of a sinister drug while Pop Step organizes the entertainment for a department store opening. And we’re back to the main cast in the first volume of My Hero Academia School Briefs, a prose story about the antics inside UA, the school for superheroes. The story starts with the students’ parents being held in a cage over a pit of flames—but this is My Hero, so we know things won’t go too far (although the adults might think twice about coming back to Parents Day next year).
Kitaro’s Yokai Battles, by Shigeru Mizuki
Shigeru Mizuki’s yokai boy Kitaro finds himself in a pickle—literally—when his former friend Nezumi Otoko sells him out, steals his horse, and gets involved in a shady pickled-daikon scheme. That’s just the first of seven self-contained stories in this volume, which includes fights with giant wigs, a mud monster, and other assorted yokai. These stories date from the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Kitaro was at the height of his popularity in Japan, starring in an anime and several different manga series. Translator Zack Davisson pulls it all together with historical notes about the manga in the front and a guide to the featured yokai in the back. This manga is billed as “kid-friendly,” and it is, but it’s also a bit dark and has a lot to offer adult readers too.
O Maidens in Your Savage Season, Vol. 1, by Mari Okada and Nao Emoto
This one’s a little… different. It’s about high school kids and sex. They’re not having sex; it’s still a big mystery to them. But they can’t seem to stop thinking and talking and wondering about it. The lead characters are the five members of the literary club, although in this first volume the focus stays firmly on two: Uptight Rina Sozenaki, who can’t bear to even think about it but can’t avoid the topic, and everygirl Kazusa Onodera, who can’t think of her childhood friend Izumi that way until (spoiler alert!) she walks in on him when he’s masturbating. Despite all the blushing and sweating and near misses and weird euphemisms, this isn’t one of those awful leering walking-the-edge-of-porn manga. It’s a brutally honest look at the awkwardness of teens, and because of that, it’s probably a better read for those of us who are thankfully done with adolescence than those who are still going through it.
Attack on Titan, Vol. 27, by Hajime Isayama
Zeke has been smuggled back to Paradis Island, and now the powerful weapon is in place, but it won’t necessarily deter an all-out war. Attack on Titan has moved pretty far away from the original premise but continues to deliver plenty of action alongside a story of politics, struggle, and conquest.
What new manga is on your spring reading list?