25 September, 2009

Friday Babble: M is for Manga

Yeah, I'm a total dork (as if you couldn't already pick that from the fact that I write a blog about the books I read). Not only do I read books, but I also read graphic novels, comics, and manga. A lot of people spend a lot of time debating the differences between those three terms, but those are clearly people with nothing better to do.

I, on the other hand, have something much better to do: recommend some awesome manga to you! In case you're unfamiliar with the word, manga are comics originating in Japan that use a particular type of stylised drawing. You may be more familiar with anime, the Japanese cartoons which are often based on a manga story. A lot of people still think that comics and cartoons are for kids, but in Japan a wider audience is acknowledged than that in the West, and there's a lot of stories aimed at teens, dealing with the normal teen dramas of school and relationships. There's also sci-fi, fantasy, mysteries - basically, any genre you can think of, all in delicious manga form.

Like any form of media, there's good and bad manga. The good is well-drawn, has character development, intelligent plots, interesting themes. The bad is - well, recently I tried to read Okane Ga Nai. It's about a guy who buys another guy as a sex slave. That's all I'm sayin'. In order to try and help you separate the good from the bad, what follows is a small, detailed list of manga I'm currently reading, including excerpts and links to website where you can read them online. (The pages read from right to left, by the way! And if you are having trouble reading them you can click on them for a bigger image :))

Title: Chi's Sweet Home
Mangaka: Konami Kanata
110 chapter, ongoing
FACT: If you are not saddened by a lost kitten there is something wrong with you.

This isn't exactly a hugely taxing story to read, but it is so ridiculously cute and sweet that I dare you to try and stop reading once you've started. Chi's Sweet Home is the story of a kitten who loses her mother and is adopted by a young family. A lot of the first arc of the story relates to the fact that the family aren't allowed to keep a cat in their apartment, and try to keep Chi hidden - while Chi, of course, doesn't understand and keeps risking discovery.

Not convinced? Watch this:

If you are still not convinced, I shudder to think what kind of terrifying, hard-hearted monster you are.

Title: Fruits Basket
Mangaka: Natsuki Takaya
Status: 136 chapters, complete
Turning into a rat every time a girl hugs you really puts a damper on your love life.

Details: Since the death of her mother, high school student Tohru has been living in a tent in the forest, and working a night cleaning-job to earn enough money to stay in school. Her hard lifestyle pushes her to the limit, and one night she collapses, sick from not looking after herself properly. Luckily, she's rescued by two cousins - Shigure Sohma, and Tohru's classmate Yuki. There's something mysterious about the Sohmas, and Tohru soon finds out what - they're both cursed to turn into animals from the Chinese zodiac, as are ten other members of their family. But there's more to the Sohma Clan than a secret curse - they're also controlled by the manipulative and selfish Akito. Akito slowly becomes convinced that Tohru is a threat to her power over the other Sohmas - and she's prepared to do anything it takes to see that nothing changes.

Title: Rin-ne
Mangaka: Rumiko Takahashi
Status: 21 chapters, ongoing
Haunted phones seem less scary here than in The Ring.

This manga is still pretty new, so it's kind of hard to see where the story's going so far! But Takahashi is a prolific writer and artist - her work includes my all-time favourite, Ranma 1/2, and the more recent Inu-Yasha. Rin-ne is about a young girl who can see ghosts - some of whom are incredibly annoying - and her new classmate who turns out to be a shinigami, a death-god. Together, they do their best to exorcise the ghosts they find - a process hampered by Rinne's constant lack of money and his long-term rivalry with a demon. Despite the subject matter, it's a pretty light-hearted story, at least so far!

Title: Ouran High School Host Club
Mangaka: Bisco Hatori
Status: 74 chapters, ongoing

...he asks, after he's developed a crush on her.

Can you say gender-bending romcom? Yes you can! When scholarship student Haruhi breaks an extremely expensive vase, he's offered a way to repay it - by joining the school's host club, and earning money by entertaining the rich female students. There's only one problem - Haruhi's really a girl. Wacky hijinks ensue! You can probably guess where this is going! My favourite storyline is where an unpopular student discovers Haruhi's identity, starts spending time with her, and gains instant popularity when all the girls decide he must be gay.

Title: Fullmetal Alchemist
Mangaka: Hiromu Arakawa
Status: 99 chapters, ongoing

Details: All the manga I've listed are good, but Fullmetal Alchemist is brilliant.

Turning stones into gold is, of course, strictly forbidden (which is why Ed
totally didn't do it.)

Ed has a metal arm and leg, and his brother Alphonse is nothing but a soul attached to an empty suit of armour - punishment, of a kind, for breaking one of the strictest rules of alchemy. The brothers are travelling the land, dodging in and out of trouble, and trying to find a philosopher's stone that will help them return to their original bodies. As they inch closer to their goal, they and their friends discover that they are not the only ones searching for the philosopher's stone; there are other creatures, creatures that may have once been human, who are doing everything within their power to gain immortality. Ed and Al unravel a conspiracy that runs through the army and the government, and leads all the way back to their country's founding. Just who, exactly, is pulling the strings, and what does it have to do with Ed and Al's own father...? (God, I just reread this, but I find all those cliches and mixed metaphors hysterical and am going to leave them in. Bed time for me, obviously.)

If you're going to read just one manga based on what I've rec'd, it should be this one. It has all those qualities I listed at the start, and something more - that indefinable quality which makes a story impossible to let go. Do yourself a favour and check it out.


Sadako said...

Awww, the kitty is so cute.

Sadako said...

No update?! It's been almost a month! :(