The Best New Manga of July 2016

asteriskJuly’s new manga releases include plenty of variety, from a classic space opera by Leiji Matsumoto, to an action-packed volleyball manga, to a beautiful slice-of-life story about a girl and her plane in search of an elusive island. Plus, battles galore with a school-tournament story, a futuristic tale of humans who can’t be killed, and a new volume of One-Punch Man.

Haikyu!!, Vol. 1, by Haruichi Furidate
Haikyu!! is a Shonen Jump manga that plays with the formula a little bit. Shoyo Hinata, our hero, is short, and ever since he heard a volleyball player described on television as a “little giant,” he has been determined to play the game—although his height puts him at a serious disadvantage. Even worse, his middle school has no volleyball club. He gets his friends who play other sports to help him practice individual skills, having them throw the ball at him so he can spike it, but the first time he plays a real volleyball game, it’s in a tournament, and the team consists of Shoyo, his two friends, and three first-year students. The game pits him against the talented and conceited Tobio Kageyama, and it’s hate at first sight. That’s the Shonen Jump formula right there, but the situation becomes more complicated when they both end up not only at the same high school but on the same volleyball team—and their teammates don’t have any tolerance for intramural rivalries. This story takes volleyball seriously as a sport, with the characters spelling out the different positions and discussing strategy, and Shoyo and Tobio’s teammates are a lot of fun to watch. And while Shoyo and Tobio are rivals, Haikyu!! is more about the importance of coming together as a team than rooting for an individual who is fighting hard for his own dream.

Wandering Island, Vol. 1, by Kenji Tsuruta
This beautifully drawn story moves at a deliberate pace, and many questions remain by the end of the first volume, but in a very real way, it’s about the journey, not the destination. And in this case, the destination keeps shifting just out of sight. Mikura Amelia is a pilot who works for a small delivery service in the Japanese islands in the Pacific. When her grandfather, who taught her to fly and with whom she was very close, dies, she finds a package with a mysterious journal, addressed to her in a place she has never heard of, Is. Elektrikeit (Electric Island). This turns out to be a mythical island that moves with the ocean’s currents, and Mikura turns her considerable navigational talents to finding it. She quizzes a number of different people, and in between these sequences, we see her studying maps and charts that fill the walls and floors of her house. Everything in this book is lovingly drawn—Mikura’s airplane, the traditional style house she inherits from her grandfather, her cat, and Mikura herself. In this way, Wandering Island is like a slice of life manga—but it’s a slice of a very interesting life, with a mystery at its heart.

Queen Emeraldas, Vol. 1, by Leiji Matsumoto
Emeraldas is an interstellar assassin, a mysterious, lone woman with a scar on her left cheek. Part of her mystique is that so few people have seen her, because she leaves no survivors—she learned that lesson the day she got the scar. Hiroshi is a young boy who built a rickety spaceship to escape from an unhappy life on Earth. His prospects are grim, until Emeraldas takes an interest in him—but he is determined to go it alone. This episodic story follows both characters through a series of space adventures. There’s some repetition at the beginning and end of each story, because it was published in a monthly magazine, and the art style is old-school and takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s a classic of the sci-fi manga genre and not to be missed. Leiji Matsumoto is the creator of Galaxy Express 999 and Captain Harlock and was the art director for the anime Space Battleship Yamato, which was broadcast in English as Star Blazers.

One-Punch Man, Vol. 7, by ONE and Yusuke Murata
The battle that began in volume 6 continues in this volume, with the Class S superheroes fighting aliens on Earth while Saitama, our bald-headed, laconic hero, dukes it out with their leader on their battleship. The ending is up in the air until Saitama gets bored and lands a punch in just the right place. This series continues to walk the line between parody and serious superhero action, with a ridiculously complicated spaceship that looks like a floating junkyard, dim-witted and egotistical side characters, and dramatic punching action.

Immortal Hounds, Vol. 1, by Ryoh Yasohachi
In the future, everyone will be immortal—unless they get a deadly disease. That paradox is at the heart of Immortal Hounds: Most people are able to come back to life after a traumatic injury or most diseases, but a new disease has sprung up that is proving to be fatal. The government has a special squad that is hunting down the carriers of the disease and executing them to prevent it from spreading, while another group is attempting to protect them and give them shelter. It’s not clear whether the disease is natural or some sort of bioterrorism, and conspiracy theories abound. The story pits the policeman who is responsible for capturing the disease carriers (and who lost his sister to the disease) against a woman who is fighting to save them. This is a pretty gory manga (Anime News Network describes it as “splatter gun action”) with a complex story and some dark humor.

The Asterisk War, Vol. 1, by Yuu Miyazaki
Rokka is an academy city and the home to the Sebusai, a massive tournament in which superpowered students battle each other for glory and fame. New student Ayato arrives in Rokka with a mission in mind—he wants to find out what happened to his sister, who has mysteriously disappeared—but he immediately gets caught up in a duel and makes an enemy on his first day. This manga series is based on the light novels of the same name, which are also being published in English by Yen Press.

What manga are you reading this month?

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