The Best New Manga of August 2019

August is the laziest month, as summer heats up and then starts to wind down. Labor Day is just around the corner, but first, we’ve got a month’s worth of new manga releases for every taste from thought-provoking to action-packed to just plain easy on the eyes. Find a place in the shade and chill out with a stack of these new volumes.

Grass, by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim
Grass is a Korean manhwa that tells the true story of a woman forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army during their occupation of Korea. Complete in a single, oversized volume, the book starts with the adult Lee, who lives in China, returning to her home town of Busan, then uses flashbacks and interviews to tell her story. Grass is bound to be one of the standout graphic novels of the year; it presents a side of war that is seldom discussed outside Asia, and does so via a compelling personal story, communicated in expressive, slashing brush-and-ink artwork.

Star Blazers 2199 Omnibus, Vol. 1, by Michio Murakawa
The Star Blazers anime came to the U.S. in 1979 and was one of the first successful anime on American TV. It was popular in Japan as well, so much so that in 2012, a bunch of kids who grew up on the series did a remake, titled Star Blazers: Space Battleship Yamato 2199. Now that anime has been adapted into a manga—the latest accounting of the noble fight of the Space Battleship Yamato against the Gamilans in order to reach the fabled planet Iscandar and save the world. Dark Horse is publishing the series in 300+ page omnibus editions that deliver plenty of space battle action for fans and newcomers alike.

My Hero Academia, Vol. 20, by Kohei Horikoshi
When we last saw Deku, he was heading out to pick up a few last-minute items for the school festival, and we all know that wasn’t going to go smoothly. Sure enough, he encountered the Gentle Criminal, and that battle spills over into this volume as he uses all his skills to stop the destruction of UA. Then with the retirement of All Might, Endeavor sees an opportunity to stop playing second fiddle, but nothing is ever as easy as it seems in this world of crazy quirks.

My Hero Academia: Smash!! Vol. 1, by Hirofumi Neda and Kohei Horikoshi
As often happens with popular manga, My Hero Academia has spawned a four-panel gag manga, one that the creator describes as a “blooper reel,” offering a goofy take on the events of the manga. The bad news is that if you haven’t read the manga, the comics won’t make much sense; the good news is that if you are a fan, you’ll find plenty to laugh at here, with alternate takes on some of the events of the main series and some sly insider humor as well.

Yuri Life, by Kurukuruhime
Lovers of slice-of-life yuri, rejoice! Each story in this single-creator anthology is a collection of one-page gag comics about a particular couple: Life with a Writer, Life with a Grim Reaper, Life with Little Miss Vixen. The art is cartoony and super cute, and the stories are long on giggles and short on angst. Even the Love-Hate Life Together story is pretty chill. It’s really just a book to makes you smile, which is something we could all use more of these days.

Dracula: Manga Classics, by Bram Stoker
Why wait till Halloween to start reading horror? A sunny day is a great time to read a classic vampire novel. The Manga Classics adaptations are faithful adaptations of the originals, and while this volume is unquestionably manga, it’s not overly stylized. In fact, it’s not too far from the Classics Illustrated of old—the adapters have kept all the dialogue and enough of the other text that the reader gets the flavor of Bram Stoker’s original writing without getting bogged down in the wordy descriptions.

Stravaganza, Vol. 1, by Akhito Tomi
A warrior woman wanders through a forest, fights strange beasts, then slips back into her other role as the queen in the iron mask. The plot unfolds at a leisurely pace, but where Stravaganza really delivers the goods is with the fanservice: the story starts with two water sprites frolicking provocatively, then shifts to Claria, the warrior, who wears a teeny-tiny outfit, bends over a lot, gets drenched with water, and generally finds herself in a lot of situations that resemble pin-ups, fantasy posters, and the covers of pulp novels. Hey, not everything has to be great literature, and Stravaganza is very good at what it does, even if its ambitions are not particularly lofty. Enjoy!

Fairy Tail: 100 Years Quest, Vol.1, by Hiro Mashima and Atsuo Ueda
When Hiro Mashima put down his pen after 63 volumes (and numerous spinoffs) of Fairy Tail, it looked like the adventures of the Fairy Tail guild had come to an end. But like Naruto and Dragon Ball before it, Fairy Tail has risen again with a sequel. Fairy Tail: 100 Years Quest features the same lead characters and a new artist, although Mashima is responsible for the story and the layouts. In a 2017 interview, Mashima said he took an improvisational approach to his manga, often ending a chapter on a cliffhanger without knowing what would happen next. That bodes well for this series, which takes Natsu, Lucy, and the rest of the Fairy Tail guild to a new land for a new quest.

Go with the Clouds, North-by-Northwest, Vol. 2, by Aki Irie
The first volume of this series was intriguing and a bit of a tease. It started out with a young man driving across Iceland on various quests: finding a lost dog, a missed connection, a lost flask. The hero, Kei, can communicate somehow with his car, and sometimes other inanimate objects, and he has a roguish grandfather who adds to the light feeling of the story; it seemed safe to say this was going to be a puzzle mystery series. But then it began to shift gears: while looking for the flask, Kei is also trying to call his brother back in Japan, but the brother isn’t answering. Concerned, Kei and his grandfather fly to Japan, only to find that the brother has left for Iceland. By the end of the first volume and into the second, the story has gotten much darker: Kei is attacked by a stranger and begins to wrestle with the question of whether his brother is a murderer. Nonetheless, the manga has plenty of light moments, including some fanservice/romantic interest in the shape of an enigmatic woman named Lilja. Manga-ka Aki Irie, the creator of Ran and the Gray World, has a nice way of drawing expressive, elongated characters; in this story she gives free rein to her fascination with the landscape of Iceland and the everyday clutter of Icelandic life. The first volume was so good that picking up the second is a no-brainer.

Blank Canvas, Vol. 2, by Akiko Higashimura
The first volume of Akiko Higashimura’s memoir of her life as an art student was a delightful read, chronicling the beginning of her art studies under a demanding and unconventional teacher who wielded a bamboo sword. In this second volume, those classes pay off as she passes her exams for art school and a new chapter of her life unfolds. Higashimura is the creator of Tokyo Tarareba Girls, which just won the Eisner Award for best manga, as well as the delightful geek-girl story Princess Jellyfish.

Tokyo Ghoul: re, Vol. 12, by Sui Ishida
Ken Kaneki, who has been through many changes in the course of this series, is now the leader of an organization called Goat whose goal is to allow humans and ghouls to coexist in peace. The Commission of Counter Ghoul, on the other hand, is sticking to its mission of exterminating all the ghouls, and thanks to Nimura Furuta, they have come close to succeeding. Kaneki and the remaining ghouls take shelter in the 24th Ward, but their situation is precarious.

One Piece, Vol. 91, by Eiichiro Oda
After the daring escape of the last volume, Luffy washes ashore in the land of Wano, separated from the rest of his crew. A girl named Tama rescues him and gives him a meal of her only bag of rice. Wano is a place of extreme poverty: the land, the water, the crops, and the animals have been poisoned, and the only clean area is controlled by super-bad guy Kaido. After Tama becomes ill from drinking the water, Luffy decides to bring her to the capital, riding a giant dog and armed with a special sword—but friends and foes await him along the way.

One-Punch Man, Vol. 17, by ONE and Yusuke Murata
Garo, the Hero Hater, has been the villain for the past few volumes. His schtick is that he really, really hates superheroes, and in the beginning of this volume we get a glimpse into why. After that one introspective moment, though, the fists and energy beams start flying again as the battle between Garo and the superheroes Genos and the Bang brothers resumes. Just as the thee heroes have him on the ropes, he gets snatched up by a giant bird, and then a giant centipede appears and starts laying waste to the landscape and the superheroes, because everything is over the top in this manga—including the spectacular punch that Saitama uses to lay waste to the monster.

Barakamon, Vol. 18, by Satsuki Yoshino
Although it seems like much longer (and it has been in real time), the runaway calligrapher Seishu Handa has only now finished his first full year on the remote island where he fled to master his craft after he fell apart due to some criticism from a master of the art that hit too close to home. The little kids are not so little any more, the older kids are graduating, and a lot has changed. This final volume ties this delightful slice-of-life series up in a bow and ends the story with a flurry of farewells.

What manga is on your list this month?

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