Frequent visitors to the bloggy thing know I read a lot of manga. If I had to estimate, I’d say about a third of the comics I borrow from my local library or buy are manga. One of the big draws for me is the variety to be found in Japanese comics. That said, my manga reading tends more towards crazy comedies and human dramas than the battle and supernatural stuff. But just as manga itself isn’t one size fits all, I’m always going beyond my favorite genres. Here are some of the manga I’ve read recently.
The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home Part 4 by Konami Kanata [Vertical; $24.95] is a heartwarming, honestly suspenseful conclusion to the series. Here’s a summary from Wikipedia:
A grey and white kitten with black stripes wanders away from her mother and siblings one day while enjoying a walk outside with her family. Lost in her surroundings, the kitten struggles to find her family and instead is found by a young boy, Youhei, and his mother. They take the kitten home, but, as pets are not allowed in their housing complex, they try to find her a new home. This proves to be difficult, and the family decides to keep the kitten. While being housebroken, the kitten mistakenly answers to "Chi" (as in shi- from shikko, the Japanese word for "urine") and this becomes her name. Chi then lives with her new family, learning about different things and meeting new people and animals.
Chi’s frolics and explorations in the world are always amusing, but the series takes a somewhat darker turn as two events converge. At the same time Chi’s human family is preparing to move to Paris, they learn Chi’s original owners are still looking for the kitten. Will they return Chi to his mother and siblings? Which family will Chi decide to stay with? Will Youhei’s heart be broken? I believe my heart was in my throat as I got closer to the conclusion.
This is one of the very best manga series I’ve ever read and it’s suitable for all ages. There’s also an anime and I’ll be checking that out as soon as possible.
I recommend borrowing the first part of the series from your local library. If you like it, Amazon is offering a boxed set for $78.30, down from the list price of $109.80.
BL Metamorphosis Vol. 5 [Seven Seas; $13.99] completes this Kaori Tsurutani series about the power of friendship and boys love manga. Yuki Ichinoi is 75 years old, living alone after the death of her husband. She comes across a BL manga in the bookstore and, curious, buys it. 17-year-old clerk Urara Sayama notices this unusual sale. Though painfully shy, Sayama becomes friends with Ichinoi when the woman returns to buy subsequent volumes in the series. The two are 58 years apart, but bond over their love of BL manga.
Though BL Metamorphosis is a quiet series, the friendship between the two women is nicely developed. Ichinoi and Sayama attend some manga conventions together and the older woman encourages her young friend to create and publish her own manga. Both women experience some life changes in this final volume, but the conclusion of the series is satisfying.
I recommend BL Metamorphosis to those manga readers willing to try something different and subdued. It won’t be for every reader, but I’m glad I read it.
Love Me for Who I Am Vol. 4 by Kata Konayama [Seven Seas; $12.99] is the penultimate volume in this manga series. Here’s a Wikipedia summary:
Love Me for Who I Am follows non-binary high school student Mogumo, who lives away from their family home. At school, fellow student Tetsu Iwaoka invites them to work at Question!, a maid café. Mogumo signs on, happy at first because they can present how they want, but soon discovers the reason Tetsu invited them to work there was because he mistook them for a cross-dressing boy. Incensed, Mogumo tells Iwaoka not to assume their gender based on presentation, causing Iwaoka and the rest of the cafe's staff to re-think what they know about gender.
For me, the strength of this series was how the characters educated themselves about gender. I’m of the opinion that no one size fits all, that no one is entirely one type of person or another. We are vast, we contain multitudes. I enjoyed seeing good people trying to be allies to one another and overcome misconceptions. Eventually, Konayama injects some family drama into the story, which actually contrasts nicely with the easy acceptance from the cafe’s workers. I’m looking forward to seeing how the story ends.
Seven Seas rates this as “Older Teen (15+)” and that’s probably a decent guideline. I didn’t find anything unsuitable for a younger reader in the four volumes, but we live in times when many people would rather eliminate everything that doesn’t fit nearly into how they think people should be. However, if the issues raised in this series are of interest to you and your own kids, I highly recommend Love Me For Who I Am to you.
Gender issues are also the driving theme of Peyo’s Boy Meets Maria (Seven Seas; $13.99). Taiga wants to be an actor. On his first day in high school, he joins the drama club and meets the beautiful, mysterious Maria. It’s love at first sight for Taiga, but what he doesn’t learn until a little later is that Maria is a boy.
Maria is Arima, a young man with a troubled past who eschews male roles. He’s more comfortable playing female parts in the school’s plays. Though confused, Taiga still loves them. (Maria/Arima does not express preferred pronouns, so I’m going with one that seems to fit as well as any other.) How Taiga navigates his friendship and desire for Maria/Arima drives the story.
This is a single-volume manga. Peyo (aka Kousei Eguchi) passed away at the tragically young age of 23. I don’t know if he had plans to continue this series. The volume does end on a fairly satisfactory note, but I think there was more that could have been done with Taiga, Maria/Arima, their friends and their families.
Seven Seas rates Boy Meets Maria as “Older Teen (17+)”, which is a good call. Recommended.
That’s all for today. Look for more manga (and general comics and graphic novels) reviews in the weeks to come.
© 2022 Tony Isabella