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Interested in Chinese Mythology?

Thu, 03/03/2016 - 8:11pm by hanxanth

If you answered yes to the above question, I recommend you check out Hoshin Engi! This manga series is based on an ancient Chinese epic called Investiture of the Gods, a romanticized story of the fall of King Zhou during the Shang Dynasty and all of the mythological figures that were supposedly involved in the event.

Hoshin Engi is a little different. Set in ancient China, the story follows Taikobo, an immortal-in-training who is asked to participate in the Hoshin Project. His task: trap the beautiful fox spirit Dakki who is controlling emperor and spreading evil throughout China. But it's not so easy. In order to accomplish this task, he has to search out and defeat 365 specific people whose names are written in the Hoshin Scroll. I know I wouldn't want that job! And neither does Taikobo. Rather than follow through on the mission, he attempts to infiltrate Dakki's stronghold. When that doesn't work, he flees the kingdom and helps establish another kingdom to rival Dakki's control. Fighting ensues.

This series is full of combat, magic, political intrigue, Chinese mythological and historical figures, and is all around a nicely presented story. So if any or all of that sounds interesting, check out volume 1 here!

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Take a Walk with "The Walking Man"

Thu, 02/25/2016 - 5:29pm by gulickb

Every so often a book comes along that defies labeling. A book so different from others that are being published that it's hard to exactly put your finger on what it is. The Walking Man by Jiro Taniguchi is one of those books.

At first glance, this manga graphic novel appears to be your standard fare for Japanese slice of life manga, but to list it merely as slice of life would be doing it a great disservice. The book is a series of short stories about a man who walks, but again, to say it's just a book about walking is to belittle the masterful art that has gone into its creation. So it's a slice of life manga about a man who takes walks, and on those walks, it could be argued that he explores the Japanese concept of "ikigai" or the reason for being.

The stories are almost meditative in their simple complexity (I know this is an oxymoron but somehow it works) and after reading them, it is entirely possible for you to walk away with a little more understanding of life and humanity, as the stories will resonate with different people in different ways.

So if you are looking for something different, something new and unusual check out The Walking Man.

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Yokai Watch - The New Pokemon!

Thu, 02/04/2016 - 6:44pm by hanxanth

Yes, you heard right! Your local AADL is getting the Yokai Watch manga! Yokai Watch is the new phenomenon that's sweeping Japan and, thanks to the 3DS game getting an English release back in November, it's sweeping through America too. Starting as a game (just like Pokemon) and expanding into a TV show (just like Pokemon), Yokai Watch has also recently started releasing various merchandise and manga (just like Pokemon). Meet Nate, a young boy who wanders into an old forest behind his local shrine and finds the yokai named Whisper, a type of ghost. He gives Nate a Yokai Watch that lets him see the yokai that are all around his home town. So follow Nate along as he meets new yokai, befriends them, and captures them so that they can fight at his side! (just like Pokemon)

At this point you may be asking, what are yokai? Basically, yokai are strange creatures in Japanese folklore. They come in all shapes and sizes and do all sorts of different things. For example, a prominent character in the Yokai Watch series is Jibanyan, who is based off of the yokai nekomata, a type of cat yokai with two tails who can do things like control fire and walk on it's back legs. Or you have Kyubi, based on the kitsune, a fox yokai who can do magic, shape shift, and becomes very powerful after it grows it's ninth tale (which is when it becomes called a kyuubi). These are animal ones, but there are also yokai that look like umbrellas, ghosts, or giant skeletons! These yokai and more are all available for your entertainment in Yokai Watch!

If you want to learn more about yokai, check out this website by Matthew Meyer. It contains an encyclopedia of yokai (in English) with Matthew's awesome drawings. And check out his personal website for other information, including his two books on yokai. Be careful though, Yokai Watch makes the yokai seem really cute and friendly, but quite a few of the original yokai and their stories can be a little creepy or scary!

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All's Fair in Love and War, as Long as You're Sakamoto

Thu, 01/28/2016 - 2:14pm by hanxanth

The library is acquiring the manga Haven't You Heard? I'm Sakamoto by Nami Sano (her manga debut!) and you should definitely check it out. The series was released in 4 volumes and while volume 3 won't be released in English until March, the library has it on order. Volume 4 will finish the series in July of this year so you won't have long to wait! In the mean time, make sure you place holds on volumes 1 and 2 in the link above.

The series focuses on a high school student named (as you might have guessed) Sakamoto. But he isn't just any student. He's the perfect model student: top of his class, smart, cool, and all the girls think he's the ideal man, though this tends to make him the enemy of all the other boys in his school. That doesn't slow down Sakamoto though, and he uses his 'secret techniques' to save his fellow students (while remaining cool and stoic of course). From dancing around to alert his teacher to a fire, to having a super dramatic duel with a bee, Sakamoto always comes out on top. I really can't take this series seriously, and I think that's the point. It's weird, it's funny, it's overly dramatic, and I can't even tell if it has an overarching plot! So why not give it a read?

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Sometimes Love Means Cooking for Someone

Sun, 01/17/2016 - 5:38pm by hanxanth

I've put up lists of the library's yaoi manga before. Now, most scholars and readers will tell you that most yaoi manga, despite depicting boys love, is aimed at a female audience(check out this book if you're interested in learning more). These series are highly dramatized, romanticized, and on the whole very misleading about relationships between men. Thus I bring to you What Did You Eat Yesterday?

This manga series focuses on Shiro and Kenji, a gay couple that lives in Tokyo. Kenji works as a hair stylist, and Shiro works at a law firm. But no matter how busy their days are, they always share dinner together. The series focuses a lot on the relationship between the two main characters and how they deal with being gay in the conservative city of Tokyo, and how they discuss their difficulties over dinner, which Shiro usually cooks (there are quite a few pages in this series devoted to cooking). This is a more down-to-earth relationship, very believable, with none of the drama or overly romanticized scenes of standard yaoi series. The best part about this series is that it isn't entirely marketed to a female audience! So if you want to see a manga that more accurately depicts a gay relationship as well as a sweet story, check it out!

Then, whether or not you like the series, you can try Antique Bakery. This is a more standard yaoi series, short with only 4 volumes, but it still has an emphasis on food! And the series has even been made into an anime and a Korean drama if you're interested.

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Time for Some Hack and Slash! It's Chanbara Manga!

Thu, 01/14/2016 - 10:57am by hanxanth

The first question you may ask after reading the title of this post is "What is Chanbara?" Simply put, chanbara refers to samurai films in Japan and must include three things: samurai, sword fighting, and a historical setting. Samurai are differentiated from other warriors by their code of honor, and they must be skilled fighters to qualify. The historical setting is typically the Sengoku Era (1478-1603), the Tokugawa Era (1603-1868), or the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Obviously this post is about manga, not films, but the categorization of chanbara applies to lots of things outside the cinema!

So if you're wanting some action, drama, and samurai, check out these series!

Rurouni Kenshin: Set in the Meiji Period, Kenshin Himura was the famed battosai assassin and helped bring about the fall of the Japanese government. Now, in a time when samurai are no longer needed, Kenshin seeks a path of redemption and peace after all the lives he took. But that isn't easy when every powerful warrior in Japan is set on fighting and killing him.

Lone Wolf and Cub: Set in the Tokugawa Era, Ogami Ittō held the role of executioner for the shogun. Disgraced after false accusations and forced to flee, he takes on the role of assassin and seeks revenge, all while caring for his 3 year old son.

Lady Snowblood: Lady Snowblood Oyuki (a Japanese play on the name of Snow White) becomes an assassin, using her feminine looks to lure in her targets. Set to the task by her imprisoned mother, Oyuki seeks vengeance on the men that killed her family and imprisoned her mother.

If you're not in the mood for reading manga though, here are some anime titles that the library has that are classified as chanbara!

Sword of the Stranger: A young boy and his dog are fleeing from a mercenary group on mainland China and come across a ronin (former samurai) who has a mysterious past and refuses to draw his sword.
Samurai Seven (the anime series based on the famous film The Seven Samurai): A group of seven samurai are brought together to help defend a poor village from bandits, but this leads them on a journey to overthrow the corrupt and power-hungry Emperor who has risen to power.
Sengoku Basara: Super over-the-top fighting action and totally worth the watch. Based on a series of video games by the same name.
Afro Samurai: Afro is a master samurai, seeking to obtain the legendary Number 1 headband from the man who killed his father, thereby giving him revenge and the power of a god that comes with the headband.
Shigurui: Competing in a tournament hosted by the daimyo, this story follows two unique individuals-The one-armed swordsman Gennosuke and the blind warrior Seigen.

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You Want Cute? I'll Give You Cute!

Thu, 12/03/2015 - 8:29pm by hanxanth

And I mean it. If you're looking for an adorable manga to read, Wish is the series for you. This short 4-volume series is written and illustrated by CLAMP, a publication company known for their all-female staff and famous for series such as xxxholic, Tsubasa Chronicle, and Chobits.
In Wish we meet Kohaku, an angel who has come to Earth to find one of the missing Angel Masters. Kohaku isn't necessarily the best angel for the job though. She's clumsy and a little dense, but she has a pure soul and is considered one of God's favorite angels! Luckily for her, she meets Shuichiro at the beginning of her journey when he saves her from a raven. In order to repay his kindness, Kohaku promises to grant Shuichiro one wish, but when Shuichiro says there's nothing he'd wish for, Kohaku stays at his place until he can come up with one. During her stay, Kohaku and Shuichiro have to deal with the demon Koryu, who loves picking on Kohaku. And lets not forget Kohaku's mission! God has only allowed Kohaku to come to Earth for a short period of time, so can she find the missing Angel Master? And put up with Koryu's teasing? AND deal with Kokuyo, the son of Satan? AND what about these odd feelings she has when she's with Shuichiro?! Poor Kohaku... Anyway, check it out if you're wanting a cute series with angels, demons, and of course, love.

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Return of the Battosai, Kenshin Himura!

Tue, 11/10/2015 - 10:41am by hanxanth

Ok, it's not really the return of everyone's favorite former samurai, more like a retelling of his story. But that doesn't make Rurouni Kenshin: Restoration, a 2-volume set, any less enjoyable!

Back in 2012, Japan released the first in a trilogy of live-action Rurouni Kenshin movies, an adaptation of the 28 volume manga series written by Nobuhiro Watsuki. The series is about Kenshin Himura, a former assassin who was known as the infamous Hitokiri Battosai (or Battosai the Man-Slayer) at the start of the Meiji period of Japan. After the wars are over, he devotes himself to wandering and protecting people, hoping to atone for all the blood he spilled while trying to bring about a better future for Japan. Along the way he meets Kamiya Kaoru, a swordswoman in charge of the Kamiya Dojo, as well as other friends who eventually convince him to stop being a wanderer. This reboot of Kenshin's story doesn't cover all of the material in the original series, but serves as a tie-in to the first film. That means that while some of the story is different and Kenshin is portrayed a little younger, we still see Kaoru confront the corrupt merchant Takeda Kanryu, and end with Kenshin having to take on another former assassin known as Udo Jin-E. It is in this climactic fight, present in the films, manga, and anime, that Kenshin has to make a choice: keep to his code and not kill Jin-E with his reverse-blade sword, or once again drown himself in a pool of blood in order to save the captured Kaoru.

See Kenshin in a new light with more of his feelings and emotions presented in this reboot, but still keeping the awesome action and speed of his deadly Hiten Mitsurugi fighting style, and read some of the author's thoughts on the film and reboot spread throughout the second volume! Whether your an old fan or a new fan of Rurouni Kenshin, you'll want to give this reboot a read!

You can also check out the library's volumes of the original series here (the library doesn't have all of the volumes though), or Nobuhiro Watsuki's other series Buso Renkin. And if you're in the mood for more historical samurai fiction, check out Kaze Hikaru by Taeko Watanabe!

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Three Warriors and a Demon Sword

Sun, 11/01/2015 - 1:21pm by hanxanth

Dive into the world of Takeru~Opera Susanoh Sword of the Devil and meet the three Takeru's: Izumo-no-Takeru, the light-hearted swordsman, Kumaso-no-Takeru, the super-strong clutz, and Oguna-no-Takeru, the mysterious and swift assassin.

Through complete coincidence, these three are brought together in the land of Oyashima (basically Japan). Izumo has traveled from the mainland (basically China) and is on a journey to find the legendary Sword of the Forest God, also called the Sword of Susanoh (if you know Japanese mythology, you'll probably recognize that name). He meets up with Kumaso and Oguna and convinces them to travel with him to find the sword. Unfortunately this also leads them right into the middle of a war. The kingdom of Amamikado is at war with the forest-dwelling warrior women of Jagara. The three Takeru's have to walk through the front lines because, lucky for them, the sword is said to be right in the middle of the Jagara's maze-like forest. But it seems that the three Takeru's might be the prophesied heroes of legend and the queen of the Jagara decides to test them. Will they find the legendary sword (and is it really all that great?), or will the Amamikado and it's ruthless tyrant of a leader (who commands a hoard of undead dirt soldiers by the way) stop them?

This is a nice, short series (only 4 volumes) written by Kazuki Nakashima, the scripter for the anime Gurren Lagann. If you know anything about Gurenn Lagann, you know what to expect. If you don't, then prepare yourself for crazy awesome action involving magic swords, bombs, giant axes, giant robots, and those weird dirt soldiers.

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Girls Love Boys Love!

Thu, 10/22/2015 - 1:31pm by hanxanth

Manga fans rejoice! Below you will find a list of the teen manga in the library that falls under the yaoi or shonen-ai genre (this doesn't include manga in the adult section; hopefully that list will come later!). What is yaoi you may ask? It's when the main relationship in the story involves two male characters. Sometimes this evolves into a romantic relationship, sometimes it's just heavily implied that a romantic relationship could exist between the characters. Forget about looking for yaoi subtext in these series, the love is right in front of you!

La Esperanca - Georges Saphir is the perfect student: good grades, good looks, and beloved by everyone. But his world is turned upside down when Robert Jade shows up. The ultimate delinquent, Robert is annoyed at Georges' act, so he makes it his mission to shatter Georges' perfect image. As Robert pushes Georges to his limits, the two boys realize they may be more similar than they had thought.

Gravitation - When your dream is to become the biggest rock star in Japan, nothing is easy. Especially love. Shuichi Shindou is the lead singer of the band Bad Luck. He's a little goofy and childish, but his band mates find it endearing. When Shuichi accidentally bumps into Eiri Yuki, a cold, stoic, novelist, Eiri criticizes Shuichi's song lyrics. Not one to take that lying down, Shuichi attempts to confront Eiri about his harsh words, and over the course of the story Shuichi keeps finding himself inexplicably drawn to Eiri. Can romance truly bloom between such different people?

Loveless - Set in a world where youth have cat ears and tails and adults don't, Ritsuka Aoyagi has just started attending a new school when he meets Soubi Agatsuma. Soubi turns out to be a friend of Ritsuka's older brother, who had recently been murdered. Ritsuka is determined to find the cause of his brother's death and teams up with Soubi. The two form a duo and compete in magical duels where Soubi is the 'Fighter' and Ritsuka is the 'Sacrifice.' Together they seek the truth and attempt to take down the secret organization, Septimal Moon.

Tokyo Babylon - As a powerful magician and heir to a long line of onmyouji that have served the emperor, Subaru Sumeragi lives in Tokyo and solves occult murders with his twin sister and their mutual friend, Seishiro Sakurazuka. The three face off against magic and demons that plague the world, but not all is as it appears. Seishiro declares his love for Subaru, but will Seishiro's dark secrets prevent the two from being together?

Cantarella - Cesare Borgia is the illegitimate son of an Italian aristocrat. As an infant, Cesare's soul was sold to the devil to ensure his father became Pope. As a young boy, Cesare is shunned by his father and the boy realizes that he has demons and dark spirits that protect him. As he grows older and his life begins to fall apart, Cesare begins to rely on the darkness within him. He uses his skill and seductive looks to manipulate men and women alike, but can he regain his humanity when he keeps pushing away those he loves?

Some other series that aren't specifically yaoi but have those yaoi undertones that fangirls can't get enough of (at least according to the fanbase) include: No.6, Godchild, Petshop of Horrors, and Vampire Doll.

Happy reading!