I was reading volume 11 of Takehiko Inoue’s Slam Dunk, quite likely
the most exciting sports comic I’ve ever read, when it hit me that
I was far more eager to read the next volume of my favorite manga
titles than I was almost all of the series being published by DC or
Marvel. Indeed, when I tried to think of which Marvel or DC books
affected me this way, the only titles I came up with were Christos
Gage’s Avengers Academy and Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin’s Grey All-
Star Western starring Jonah Hex. That’s a far cry from the 1960s
when I used to ride my bike miles to a convenience store that got
the latest Marvel comics three days before the drug store in my own
This is not a complete list, but I am currently reading six manga
series simultaneously. When possible, I’m reading them one chapter
(issue) per day. In the case of Slam Dunk, especially during one
of the series multi-chapter basketball games, my will power weakens
and I’ll read several chapters in a single day.
Slam Dunk stars Hanamachi Sakurai, a first-year high school student
who joins the basketball team to impress a girl and discovers he’s
got a talent for the game. It’s a rough talent, to be sure, and he
manages to foul out in most of his games. But it’s been exciting
watching this borderline juvenile delinquent find his place on the
team, interact with his fellow players, and strive to win victory
on the court and, though he doesn’t realize it, in the real world.
It’s a subtle coming-of-age tale wrapped in exciting sports action.
Bakuman by Tsugumi Ohba (story) and Takeshi Obata (art) follows two
young men, still in school, on their quest to become manga super-
stars. I can’t vouch for how accurately this series is portraying
the manga business, but it’s thrilling to watch them battle against
deadlines, editors, and their fellow manga creators. Additionally,
I’m intrigued by the subplots to which the young creators are not
privy: the meetings and negotiations taking place in the officers
of their publisher.
Each volume of Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack contains a dozen done-in-
one stories about a brilliant-but-unlicensed surgeon who succeeds
in cases when other doctors have surrendered. Black Jack commands
the highest fees and has a reputation as a man who cares more about
money than his patients. But there’s much more to him than that
and, in his own sometimes twisted way, he’s a force for justice and
I’m reading Death Note in the “Black Edition,” which reprints two
volumes in each book. Written by Tsugumi Ohba with art by Takeshi
Obata, it revolves around a brilliant young man who possesses the
mystical “Death Note.” It’s a notebook dropped by a death god and
gives the young man the power to kill by simply writing a person’s
name in the book. He starts by eliminating criminals. But, once
the authorities figure out what’s going on, the young man begins to
kill to protect his identity as well. His aim is to create a much
better and kinder world, but we know where the road leads. Scary
suspense with many surprises.
Seimu Yoshizaki’s Kingyo Used Books is a continuing love letter to
manga itself. This series is set in and around a manga bookstore
with “a thousand stories to tell.” It tells how manga defines and
sometimes helps its readers. While there are continuing characters
in the series, most of the stories found in each volume are done-
in-one tales about individual readers. The concept cries out for
an American version.
I’m only one volume into Aya Kanno’s Otomen, but I’m intrigued by
its story of a young man with feminine tenancies who, despite that,
is a pretty masculine guy skilled at various martial arts and with
a strong will. The hero’s father left him and his mother to change
his sex and, as a result, his mother was determined her son would
be “all man.” It’s a sometimes funny and sometimes thoughtful look
at gender roles and relationships.
Six manga series. All of them different from each other. Now ask
yourself how different DC’s “New 52" or Marvel’s endless stream of
all-encompassing super-hero events are from each other. Variety is
what drew me to manga originally and what keeps me looking for that
next great manga series.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2011 Tony Isabella