The Battle Angel Alita Manga Is An Essential Read


I’ve been waiting a long time for the Alita:Battle Angel movie, which is based on the Gunnm manga series by Yukito Kishiro. I fell in love with the nine-volume epic, which was called Battle Angel Alita in its English versions, when I first discovered the series in high school. I’m going through the books again, and…

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On the Page, Battle Angel Alita Is a Cyberpunk Classic

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The James Cameron-produced, Robert Rodriguez-directed film Alita: Battle Angel is now in theaters. The trailers lay out the basics of the story: a beautiful, if strange-looking young woman with a powerful cyborg body lays waste to a slew of mechanized, mohawked villains, but still manages to find time to share a few quiet moments with the scientist who acts as her wonky, bespectacled father figure.

The movie spirals out of Yukito Kishiro’s manga Battle Angel Alita, starting with the basic ingredients and plot of the first arc and adding its own elements. Whether or not you see the movie (for some, it appears the decision to give Alita oversized manga-style eyes is a voyage too far into the Uncanny Valley), the original Alita—and its sequels—are their own awesome cyberpunk thrill ride.

As a manga, Battle Angel Alita mixes dynamic action sequences with a real story, featuring characters who are more than just fighters, but have real personalities as well. The story begins with repairman Daisuke Ido finding a cyborg head, complete with functioning brain, in a junk heap. He names her Alita and builds a body for her out of spare parts—but although he has assembled her, it’s clear from the beginning that she is very much her own person.

Although she has no memory of her previous life, Alita reacts instinctively when she sees Ido in danger, using a set of fighting moves known as Panzer Kunst. Realizing that she has mastered a lost martial art, Ido gives her a new body, one originally designed for a warrior, and the knowledge combined with the upgrades are literally a killer combo. Alita is more than just a fighting robot with a pretty face, though; she is also smart and strategic. Kishiro resists the temptation to let the battle scenes dissolve into a network of speedlines, instead focusing on the important elements and changing angles to show the motion of the characters. (When Alita spins, she does so in a perfect circle, which is both an impressive feat and a beautiful image.) He also populates his story with an assortment of bizarre and intimidating villains, each one imaginatively designed and intricately drawn, and sprinkles footnotes throughout the pages to explain the real and unreal science behind his creations.

The setting for Battle Angel Alita is The Scrapyard, which sits below the floating city of Zalem and is literally its trash heap. Zalem is a refuge for the well-off, while the residents of the Scrapyard have given up on any semblance of civil society. With no police, the hunter-warriors track down and capture criminals for a bounty. That’s Ido’s moonlighting gig, and when Alita decides to follow in his footsteps, massive ass-kicking results.

The first Battle Angel Alita series was published in Japan from 1990 to 1995. It was one of the first manga to be released in English: Viz published it in comic book format starting in 1992, and as graphic novels starting in 1995. Viz also licensed the sequel, Battle Angel Alita: Last Order. The Viz editions of both series are long out of print, but Kodansha has recently republished new editions with a new translation. Battle Angel Alita is 9 volumes long. Battle Angel Alita: Last Order was originally 19 volumes, but Kodansha’s editions cover the same material in five hefty 3-in-1 omnibuses, followed by four single volumes. Four additional stories are collected in another one-off, titled Battle Angel Alita: Holy Night & Other Stories. Finally, Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicles is an ongoing series set during an earlier period of Alita’s life; the sixth volume arrives in April.

All five deluxe omnibuses of Battle Angel Alita, recently reissued by Kodansha, are available now.



The post On the Page, Battle Angel Alita Is a Cyberpunk Classic appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

The Best New Manga of February 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

February is nasty, brutish, and short—in other words, a good month to stay indoors and read manga. This month’s new releases will make the gray days fly by, from the return of Rumiko Takahashi’s Urusei Yatsura, to a spinoff of Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler, and a new manga about girls and magical bears. Read on for our picks of the month’s best new manga.

Urusei Yatsura, Vol. 1, by Rumiko Takahashi
Viz brings back a classic in double-volume omnibus format. Urusei Yatsura is a fast-moving gag comic about a hapless teenage boy who is constantly pestered by space aliens, most of them beautiful women. Ataru Moroboshi is just an ordinary schlub, but for some reason when space aliens threaten to take over the earth, they hang the whole thing on a game of tag between Moriboshi and Lum, a voluptuous, bikini-clad space princess. Moriboshi’s troubles don’t end there, though, as Lum decides she wants to marry him, much to the dismay of his long-suffering girlfriend Shinobu. To make matters even worse, Moriboshi’s friends form a Lum fan club and follow him everywhere, as does a Buddhist monk who keeps telling Moriboshi he has an inauspicious face. The story is episodic, with a new set of troubles besetting Moriboshi in every chapter. All the girls are beautiful, all the boys are doofuses, and the art is straightforward and easy to follow. The series first ran in Japan in the 1970s and 1980s, and Viz published nine volumes in the 1990s under the title Lum and The Return of Lum. Takahashi was inducted into the Eisner Awards Hall of Fame last year and awarded the Grand Prix at the Angouleme International Comics Festival last month.

Kakegurui Twin, Vol. 1, by Homura Kawamoto and Kei Saiki
This manga is a spinoff of Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler, the compulsively readable series about a school where gambling is more important than stupid stuff like grades. Kakegurui Twin is set in the same school a year earlier, and it focuses on Mary Saotome, who also appears in the main series. Mary comes to Hyakkaou Private Academy as a scholarship student, so she doesn’t have the wherewithal to pay the school “taxes,” let alone indulge in high-stakes gambling. Turns out an acquaintance from middle school, Tsuzura, is also at Hyakkaou and, having lost big, is now a “housepet,” required to act as a slave to another student. Disgusted by this, Mary sets out to win enough money to free Tsuzura and secure her own position. With the same writer but a different artist, this book offers many of the same pleasures of the original—complex games and cheats, over-the-top characters, high drama—as viewed through the lens of a different character with different motivations.

Shut-in Shoutarou Kominami Takes On the World, by Dan Ichikawa
Hopelessly shy 22-year-old shut-in Shoutarou is forced to leave his home and to go to the employment agency after his mother announces she will stop sending him money. At the agency, he bumps into a young woman who is looking for a man who is “Shlocken”—shy, lonely, and chicken. Shoutarou fits the description nicely, and she brings him back to her co-worker, who wants to study a Shlocken man. Shoutarou thinks he’s a psychologist writing a self-help book, but he’s actually a gag manga writer, and the tasks he has for Shoutarou are not therapeutic, they are situations that will make him uncomfortable—and hopefully end in hilarity.

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid: Elma’s Office Lady Diary, Vol. 1, bycoolkyousinnjya and Ayami Kazama
In the original series, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, a powerful dragon, Tohru, becomes the maid to an ordinary woman. This spin-off focuses on another character, Elma, a water dragon who takes on human form in order to bring Tohru back. She ends up as an office lady, making copies and doing odd jobs (although she’s supposed to be a software engineer trainee). This is a 4-panel gag manga, with plenty of jokes about Elma’s love of sweets and the mismatch between a dragon’s life and the workplace. Although there are references to the original, this series works pretty well on its own.

Yuri Bear Storm, Vol. 1, by Kunihiko Ikuhara and Akiko Morishima
This is a quirky take on the schoolgirl yuri (lesbian romance) genre. Kureha is quiet and almost invisible to her classmates until a new student, Ginko, goes out of her way to make friends with her. Their friendship quickly blossoms, but Kureha keeps having these weird dreams about Ginko and magical bears. Ginko insists she’s not a bear, but when Kureha’s new roommate arrives in bear cosplay costume, insisting she is Ginko’s ex, things start to get really weird. Morishima’s art is clear and uncluttered, even when the story is a bit convoluted. The manga is an adaptation of the anime Yurikuma Arashi, but the two have different storylines.

Fairy Tale Battle Royale, Vol. 2, by Soraho Ina
Aoba is a schoolgirl who was bullied until the day she found a magic contract that granted her one wish. She wished that everyone would be friends with her, and now they are, which is a little weird. Even weirder is the fact that she turned into Alice in Wonderland and was transported to a strange land where she is stalked by zombie-like versions of fairy tale characters. She meets Noah, who is in a similar situation, and together they have to figure out the rules of the strange fairytale land. This is a very readable new series that puts some original twists on the fairy tale horror genre. The action flows naturally, the lead characters are likable, and Ina springs plenty of surprises as Aoba and Noah move between their everyday lives and the strange land of zombie fairy tale characters.

My Solo Exchange Diary, Vol. 2,by Nagata Kabi
After struggling with loneliness and depression, Nagata Kabi hired an escort service so she could have sex for the first time. Her manga about what happened, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, became a huge success, both in Japan, where it was first published as a webcomic on the online art site Pixiv, and in the U.S. My Solo Exchange Diary picks up her life story from there, as she tries to strike out on her own, still struggling with depression, loneliness, and her relationship with her family. Kabi has a light, cartoony style that keeps these diary comics (actually letters to herself) from getting too heavy, even when she is talking about serious problems.

My Hero Academia, Vol. 17, by Kohei Horikoshi
The battle with the Hassaikai gang continues in this volume, as Midoriya and his friends go head to head to rescue the little girl, Eri. As always, the bizarre quirks of the characters make this an interesting spin on the standard action manga, and as the fight rages on, we learn a bit more about Eri and why she is important. Even 17 volumes in, Horikoshi keeps the story fresh and entertaining.

What new manga are you reading in February?

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Watch WETA Transform Rosa Salazar Into Alita: Battle Angel’s Living Weapon


There’s much to be said about the rest of Robert Rodriguez’ Alita: Battle Angel. But the two things that stand out most about the film are actress Rosa Salazar’s performance, and how much work the movie’s VFX put into making her look like the most lifelike cyborg to ever set foot outside of the uncanny valley.

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Rosa Salazar Shines in an Otherwise Unfocused Alita: Battle Angel


Alita: Battle Angel is an ambitious project, one that’s been years in the making, but the end result falls short. It’s a middling sci-fi drama, fueled by clunky exposition and special effects that might look cool now but won’t hold up. The film’s only saving grace is the actual angel leading the way.

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The Disastrous Life of Saiki K Perfectly Captures the Agony of Wanting to Be Left Alone


Comics, shows, and films about people blessed with incredible gifts almost invariably end up telling stories about how understanding the balance between power and responsibility is what keeps them human despite the overly-dramatic lives they lead. Shūichi Asō’s The Disastrous Life of Saiki K dabbles in that space…

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Shueisha Is Making a Huge Push Toward Accessible, Official Digital Manga


Shueisha is home to some of the biggest manga on the planet—from Dragon Ball, to My Hero Academia, to One Piece, and many more. And now, the company is making it easier than ever to read official translations of its most beloved titles across the world, in one of the most interesting moves digital comics publishing…

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5 Kid-Friendly Manga for Middle Grade Readers

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

A trip to the manga aisle of Barnes & Noble will confirm: manga is incredibly popular with young adult readers. But finding age-appropriate series for that tween-or-younger sibling can be a challenge—especially for parents unfamiliar with the art style. Happily, American publishers have lately been bringing out more manga aimed squarely at the middle-grade crowd. These titles are good for readers who are 8 and up, with engaging, fast-moving plots featuring magical adventures or super-cute people and animals.

We highlighted some favorites last year, but if you’re looking for fresh manga for a voracious younger reader, here are some newer titles worth a look. (And one to look forward to: The My Little Pony manga will be out next summer!)

Zo Zo Zombie, Vol. 1, by Yasunari Nagatoshi
Fifth-grader Isamu is walking through the park when he sees a zombie sleeping in a sandbox. He’s terrified as the creature slowly rises… then takes off its feet to shake out the sand. That first encounter sets the tone for this goofy monster manga, in which Zombie Boy finds a new way to astonish Isamu on just about every page, whether it’s making a jacket out of his own boogers, pulling out his stomach to remove a postcard he swallowed, or letting his lower body go off on its own to pee while he’s sleeping. With its short chapters and slapstick humor, this book is the next best thing to watching the anime. It’s full of fart jokes, detachable body parts, and in general, the sort of gross-out body humor that delights second-graders (and horrifies their parents). Dave Scheidt’s Wrapped Up,a hilarious all-ages comic (not manga) about a mummy family, would be a great companion volume (and it’s much, much less gross).

Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! by Ryo Takamisaki
There are a million Pokémon books out there, which can be a problem if you’re trying to buy one for a gift. This is a good first Poké-manga, as it tells the story of how Ash and Pikachu first met and introduces the other characters and Pokémon one at a time. The basic plot is that Ash and Pikachu are journeying to see the Ho-Oh, a legendary Pokémon who lives at the end of the rainbow. Along the way they have a series of adventures, hunting and capturing various Pokémon and meeting other trainers as well. The ending is weirdly anticlimactic, but this manga is charming anyway, and there are some genuinely poignant moments as well as some good messages about friendship and respect.

Little Witch Academia, Vol. 1, by Yoh Yoshinari, Keisuke Sato, and TRIGGER
Atsuko Kagari, known as Akko, has wanted to be a witch ever since she was transfixed by an encounter with the witch Shiny Chariot. Thus it is that she ends up as the only student at the elite Luna Nova Witchcraft Academy that doesn’t have any magical powers. While some of the other students are mean to her, she makes friends and not only works hard but ends up with a magical artifact that is a game-changer. Of course, someone is watching over it all and keeping an eye on Akko. It’s a nice mix of Harry Potter touches and the standard shoujo manga tale of a girl who is struggling to do her best at an elite school filled with snobs, plus enough original elements to make it interesting. This series is adapted from the anime of the same name.

The Boy and the Beast, Vol. 4, by Mamoru Hosoda and Renji Asai
This is the final volume of the manga adaptation of Hosoda’s animated film, so be warned that it does not stand on its own. On the other hand, the four-volume series would be a great choice for a kid who either loves the film or just loves a good story. Kyuta, the hero, has been living his life in two worlds, the ordinary human world and the world of the beasts, where he has been the disciple of an unruly bear named Kumatetsu. As he grows and matures, he has to choose which one he will live in, and in this fourth volume, he makes some important choices as well. With strong characters and clear, easy-to-follow artwork, this is a great choice for middle-grade readers.

Yotsuba, Vol. 14, by Kiyohiko Azuma
Azuma tells the story of the super-cute 5-year-old Yotsuba as a series of short stories, more or less independent of one another, so this volume stands nicely on its own, despite being the 14th in the series.  Kids can jump right in and enjoy the adorableness of Yotsuba doing yoga, making bead necklaces, and dressing up as a princess. In the last three chapters, Yotsuba and her father travel to Tokyo, where she is enthralled by Harajuku, saves the earth from an alien invasion, and has lunch in a fancy restaurant. While Yotsuba’s naivete and full-on enthusiasm for everything she sees are the real draw of this series, there’s a lot of pleasure to be had in Azuma’s depictions of Tokyo scenes.

What manga do you recommend for the under-12 set?

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8 Classic Manga Worth (Re)Discovering

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

We know it’s hard to resist that latest shiny volume of My Hero Academia, but with the rise of digital rescues, a growing trend of anime adaptations of older properties, and a renewed interest in classic manga, there’s a slew of titles from the 1980s and ’90s becoming newly available after spending a stint out of print (or just being ignored for a few decades).

Instead of being swept off your feet by the hot new thing, let yourself be wooed by one of these older manga, well worth rediscovering.

Banana Fish, by Akimi Yoshida
Originally published in Japan from 1986 to 1994, this gritty shojo crime drama has experienced a deserving resurgence due to the 2018 anime adaptation. Following Ash Lynx, a young New York gang leader, and Eiji Okumura, an assistant photographer from Japan, Banana Fish dives headlong into a thriller plot chockablock with Vietnam War stories, government conspiracies, organized crime bosses, and Risky Business-era Ray Bans. After falling out of print in English for quite awhile, Banana Fish is back with a new reprint from Viz to coincide with the anime, so get these volumes while they’re hot. Under mounds of ’80s pulp grit and Miami Vice fashion, Banana Fish is an incredibly compelling, emotionally complex story well worth a twenty-first century read.

Parasyte, by Hitoshi Iwaaki
Another ’80s/’90s series brought back to prominence by a belated anime adaptation, Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Parasyte is a science fiction horror manga perfect for fans of Tokyo Ghoul. Unbeknownst to high school student Shinichi, extraterrestrial creatures called parasites have quietly begun to invade the earth, commandeering human bodies and consuming their hosts. When a parasite makes a botched attempt to nab Shinichi’s brain and instead gets stuck as his right hand, the two form a bizarre symbiotic relationship. After changing hands a few times over the years, Parasyte is now safely with Kodansha Comics, and available in both print and digital. Mixing the anxieties of young adulthood with body horror and alien invasions, Parasyte has a certain timeless quality that makes it as compelling in 2018 as it was in 1988.

Slam Dunk, by Takehito Inoue
If you ask someone to name a basketball manga these days, the go-to is probably Kuroko’s Basketball. But long before the Generation of Miracles burst onto the scene with their Technicolor hair, there was another hit Weekly Shonen Jump basketball manga: Slam Dunk. Sakuragi, a delinquent high schooler with a fabulously ’90s pompadour, is uninterested in sports—until he falls for a girl who who’s a basketball fan. Notoriously unlucky in love, Sakuragi thinks joining the school team might finally be the his chance at succeeding with a girl—as long as, you know, he can learn to play. The Japanese publisher has recently announced an all-new edition with fresh covers by Inoue, and one might hope that Viz will follow suit and bring this classic sports manga back into the limelight—or at least spring for a digital release. For now, you can still purchase all 31 paperback volumes online and experience the thrilling highs and lows of one of the bestselling sports manga of all time.

Black Jack, by Osamu Tezuka
Originally published in the 1970s, this series of episodic adventures follows the titular character, a medical genius who sells surgical miracles on the black market for exorbitant fees to those in the know. Despite his shady reputation, Black Jack’s plotlines usually end with him redressing injustice or corruption, good deeds for which he rarely gets credit. Often described as “the father of manga,” Tezuka is the quintessential classic creator, and his synthesis of bizarre medical mysteries and humanistic morality tales in Black Jack makes it one of his more accessible for a modern audience. Luckily, it’s also one of the easiest to pick up: Vertical’s recent omnibus editions are available in both print and digital.

Magic Knight Rayearth, by CLAMP
It seems like these days Cardcaptor Sakura gets all the love, but CLAMP’s other magical girl series is worth rediscovery while you can get it. Combining magical girls with magical mecha (are you sold yet?), Magic Knight Rayearth is a parallel-world, JRPG-style fantasy in the tradition of other ’90s classics like Escaflowne or Fushigi Yuugi. Three eighth grade girls are whisked away from their mundane existence in Tokyo to save the world of Cephiro using magic (and magic robots), but unfortunately for them, all is not as straightforward as it seems. After disappearing from print for a few years, this manga was picked up by Dark Horse for CLAMP’s 20th anniversary—but even this omnibus version seems to be in somewhat scarce supply, so make sure to pick up this twisty magical girl story up while you can.

Monster, by Naoki Urasawa
Naoki Urasawa is a multiple award-winning creator for good reason; if you haven’t checked out his stuff, what are you waiting for? One part medical drama and three parts crime thriller, Monster follows doctor Kenzo Tenma, a brilliant brain surgeon working in Soviet-era Germany. When he chooses to operate on a boy with a life-threatening injury instead of treating a high-ranking politician, Tenma thinks he’s made the right decision, despite the cost to his career. But when a series of unexplainable murders begin to crop up around Tenma, he realizes his choice to save a life may have had consequences he could never have imagined. Monster was repackage by Viz several years ago into a nine-volume Perfect Edition, so there’s never been a better time to rediscover this classic.

Please Save My Earth, by Saki Hiwatari
It’s always a good time for retro shojo manga, right? Especially retro shojo sci-fi manga. Please Save My Earth, originally published in Japan between 1986 and 1994, is one of the best-selling shojo manga of all time, and is said to have influenced such shojo greats as Naoko Takeuchi (Sailor Moon). Alice Sakaguchi is a shy girl who is coping with moving to a new city and high school, an adjustment made no easier by having to watch over the bratty neighbor kid. But when her stint as babysitter ends in a tragic accident, it’s the first of a series of events that will bring seven students together who share strange dreams of past lives on the Moon. The entire run of this series, replete with all the tears and gasps of high shojo drama, is available digitally from Viz.

Maison Ikkoku, by Rumiko Takahashi
With Rumiko Takahashi’s recent induction into the Eisner Hall of Fame—and Viz’s announcement of their re-license of Urusei Yatsura—one might hope that Maison Ikkoku, a series she wrote concurrently with Urusei, might be rescued as part of the great 2018 Takahashi resurgence. Probably the original boarding house romcom, Maison Ikkoku revolves around Yusaku Godai, a credulous college student, and Kyoko Otonashi, the beautiful, widowed manager of the boarding house, who Godai naturally falls head over heels for, much to the amusement of the other mischievous tenants. Paperbacks of this bittersweet, character-driven comedy can still be found kicking around the internet, so snatch them up and rediscover a classic from one of the gods of manga.

What’s your favorite old school manga series?

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Best New Manga of January 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The new year means a fresh start, and January brings a handful of promising new series to the manga scene, and introduces new characters and new twists to some old favorites. Black Butler gets even darker, My Hero Academia: Vigilantes gets even funnier, and One-Punch Man keeps doing what it does best—delivering the action alongside the laughs. New series launching this month include street-fighting cats, a girl who must work in a yokai inn, and a new sports manga about competitive diving. Jump in: the water’s fine!

My Hero Academia: Vigilantes, Vol. 3, by Hideyuku Furuhashi and Betten Court
This volume starts out on a philosophical bent, as Koichi’s senpai Makoto tutors him on the sociology of heroes and asks the key question: what distinguishes heroes from villains? It turns out that Makoto is doing some research on this herself. Then, the handsome but shallow Captain Courage—the number one superhero in America—comes on the scene, sporting glinting white teeth and towing a quintet of cheerleaders, and tells Koichi that this hero stuff should be left to the professionals. Completing Koichi’s misery, his mother comes to visit and doesn’t spare the critiques. With its uncluttered and fluid art, crazy villains, and over-the-top situations, My Hero Academia: Vigilantes continues to be a great spinoff, and a great series on its own merits.

One-Punch Man, Vol. 15, by ONE and Yusuke Murata
With the martial arts tournament behind him and the Monster Association invasion quelled (at least for now), Saitama complains that he is bored. Of course, that’s why he became a superhero to begin with, but now he is finding the whole thing meaningless. King (who is sort of an accidental superhero with no real superpowers) tries to be helpful, but none of his suggestions seem to be work for Saitama. Meanwhile, Garo, the hero hunter, gets clobbered by another deadpan superhero, Watchdog Man (that’s him on the cover), and then pushes his luck by trying to take on King, interrupting the chat with Saitama—but not for long. This volume continues the mix of fast-paced, high-pitched action and goofy humor that has drawn so many fans to the series. Collectors take note: the B&N edition of this volume exclusively includes a fold-out poster featuring OPM man taking a, er, break from punching monsters.

For the Kid I Saw in My Dream, Vol. 1, by Kei Sanbe
Kei Sanbe, the author of the time-travel mystery Erased, is back with another story of murder and family, but the focus this time is on revenge for a killing, not the prevention of one. Senri Nakajou was just a young child when he witnessed the murder of his entire family, and the desire for revenge consumes his adult life—to the point where he is willing to get his hands dirty to raise the money necessary to carry it out. Sanbe is a superb storyteller, with an eye for subtle details and a fresh, open style that makes his work easy to read, even for those who only pick up the occasional manga.

Kakuriyo Bed and Breakfast for Spirits, Vol. 1, by Waco Ioka, Midori Yuma, and Laruha
This is a familiar story done well: Aoi Tsubaki is a teenage girl who was raised by her grandfather. After his death, she is snatched away to the land of the yokai (also known as ayakashi, or spirits), learning that her grandfather could travel between worlds. While on a trip there, he ran up a huge bill at a yokai-run inn and tried to dodge it. To pay the debt, he promised his granddaughter’s hand in marriage to the Odanna, the master of the inn. Aoi wants nothing to do with this, but she has little chance of getting back to the human world, so she makes a deal: she will not marry the Odanna, but she will work off her grandfather’s debt. That’s easier said than done, as the yokai despise her and would rather devour her than hire her to work for them, but by the end of this volume, she has begun to make a bit of progress.

Dragon Quest Monsters+, Col. 1, by Mine Yoshizaki
First there was Dragon Quest, a video game in which the players went on quests and fought battles, and then there was Dragon Quest Monsters (once known as Dragon Warrior Monsters), a spinoff in which the characters didn’t fight their own battles but trained monsters to fight for them, and now there is Dragon Quest Monsters+, a manga about a boy named Kleo who gets whisked off to a strange land to become a monster master. If this all sounds a bit like Pokémon, well, it’s definitely pitched at the same youthful audience, with cute, rounded characters, lots of exaggerated emotions and double-takes, and an array of monsters of all shapes, sizes, and degrees of fierceness. Despite all that, this manga actually has a very different look, delivering the same sort of entertainment in a new way. It’s not deep, but it’s a lot of fun.

Dive!!, Vol. 1, by Eto Mori
Things are looking grim for the Mizuki Diving Club: after a string of mediocre performances, their sponsors are ready to walk away, leaving the team with no financial support. Their only hope lies in a new coach—and the determination of the lead character, Tomoki. Oh, and a long-shot attempt to qualify for the Olympics in just one year. More than just a sports manga, Dive!! started out as a quartet of novels that were then adapted into not one but two manga series, a theatrical film, and an anime—all of which suggests there’s a lot of story there.

Nyankees, Vol. 1, by Atsushi Okada
The title of this series is a portmanteau of “nyan,” the Japanese equivalent of “meow,” and “yankees,” slang for street gangs, who generally appear in manga as juvenile delinquents with a sense of style. Put those two words together and you have … scary-looking guys who brawl a lot and are sometimes depicted as human and sometimes as cats. They aren’t cat-boys—as you can see from the cover, the humans look very human and the cats look very feline—and yet somehow, it’s very clear who is who no matter what form they are in. Okada has managed to combine seinen street-fighting action with well-drawn cats, and if you are a fan of either, this series is well worth a look.

Wandering Island, Vol. 2, by Kenji Tsurata
When I picked the first volume of this series as one of the best manga of 2016, I noted that the author seemed to be working at a slow pace, and the second volume wasn’t even out in Japan yet. Two-and-a-half years later, it’s finally here, and it starts with a rather anticlimactic solution to the mystery posed in the first volume, as young aviatrix Mikura lands her plane on the elusive Electric Island. She can’t find the person she came to deliver a package to, and the residents mostly stay out of sight. When they do appear, most of them are hostile, and just tell her to go away. She sticks around, partly because her plane is damaged and partly because she’s still trying to solve the mystery of the island, which truly does appear to be moving. As in the first volume, Tsurata’s art is superb. Here he focuses on the deserted streets of the island, as Mikura wanders around in a bikini, passing row after row of vaguely European-looking buildings and occasionally spotting another person in the distance. Although she has found the island, she hasn’t really found any answers… yet. Let’s hope they arrive sooner than 2021.

Blue Exorcist, Vol. 21, by Kazue Kato
As this volume opens, demons are openly attacking all over the world, and the Japanese prime minister himself addresses the country, revealing what the government had tried to keep quiet, that demons do exist. A gunshot interrupts the press conference, taking Mephisto out of action for a while. Yukio appears to be the shooter, but something just ain’t right there. Meanwhile, up in the Arctic, all hell starts to break loose—literally.

Black Butler, Vol. 27, by Yana Toboso
In volume 26 of Black Butler, released last August, Earl Ciel Phantomhive and his butler Sebastian returned from one of their adventures to find a bloody scene of carnage in Ciel’s townhouse—and a message that evoked the past. This volume goes more deeply into Ciel’s earlier life, as well as the devil’s bargain he has struck with Sebastian, the protector to whom he must someday surrender his soul.

What new manga is on your list this month?

The post Best New Manga of January 2019 appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.