Weekly Reads Round-Up 28th August

It’s been a manga-heavy couple of weeks, largely due to a 3-for-2 offer at Forbidden Planet (I swear I only went in to buy OPM #17!). I also have a couple of charity shop finds, and some blog posts worth looking at.

One Punch Man #17 was the first book in the series that I was hesitant to buy. Having watched the final episode of season 2 and already knowing how that part of the Garo arc was left, it was my first time going into the manga already knowing the plot (and already feeling a little preemptive disappointment). There are no major additions here, but fortunately the volume does continue the story beyond the end of that final episode, so at least I got some new material for my money.

What we get is a look at how the different hero factions are now mobilising against the Monster Association. With Garo currently being held by the MA as a special guest, Narinki is still intent on saving his son (remember him?), and commissions soldiers with custom battle-suits to go directly into enemy territory to save him. At the same time, Child Emperor is trying to locate the elusive S-Class hero Blast, while other S- and A-class heroes including Tatsumaki, Atomic Samurai, Zombie Man and Amai Mask play politics over what they want to do. Meanwhile, the heroes who actually have done something useful against the monsters and Garo are…chilling in Saitama’s apartment.

It’s a scene I’m looking forward to seeing animated: Fubuki seeks out Saitama to form a new plan, but once again is caught off-guard by the growing number of S-Class heroes just casually hanging out at Saitama’s place (well, recuperating in some cases) instead of at the Hero Association HQ. I’m hoping the anime, should we get a season 3, will do the scene justice in terms of the comic potential of Fubuki’s exasperation and disbelief at all these top-ranked heroes associating with Caped Baldy. 

We also, finally, get a brief glimpse of Sonic, still intent on taking on Saitama once more. The story treads a fine line in in terms of expanding the cast of characters, sometimes tipping into too many to track, but the primary A-class and S-class we see regularly are entertaining enough. I want to learn more about Amai Mask in particular, as we’ve only had the briefest of glimpses but there’s clearly more to him than meets the eye.

I also took the plunge into the Mob Psycho 100 manga this month, although UK stockists have priced it a little on the steep side, so I don’t know if I’ll keep up with it. If you’ve only seen the anime, then the rough art style of the original comics can be a bit jarring, but personally I see MP100 as fitting into Japan’s Heta-Uma art movement (it’s usually translated as either ‘bad but good’ or ‘unskilled-skilled’). The art style, if it can be called a ‘style’, is about focusing on artistic works that come from creators who may not be traditionally trained or who may favour less aesthetically pleasing styles, but whose work has something important to say, and I think that’s definitely the case with One and MP100 in particular. The story and the characters are the key players here, and the distinctive ‘simplistic’ style of MP100 means the work has to have substance in order for readers to deem it worthy.

If you want to learn more about Heta-Uma, then this article is a good place to start.

Along with OPM #17, I picked up volume one of another BL series from SuBLime Manga. Hide and Seek jumped out at me for two reasons: firstly, the leads are actually adult men with jobs (one even has a kid!), and you know by now how I enjoy the rarity of manga about proper relatable grown-ups, and secondly, they are not drawn in typical super-pretty bishounen style. It’s actually a plot-point that one of them has a particularly stern and scary face, so there’s no swooning over hot guys here. Instead, what we have is the story of a divorced single dad, Shuji, who’s approached by his daughter’s new doctor, Takafumi (he of the stern face). Takafumi confesses to finding Shuji attractive, and when Shuji’s water heater breaks and he needs a place to shower, naturally Takafumi offers use of his bathroom. The initial get-together requires just a smidge of suspension of disbelief, but after that it’s a surprisingly sweet story about two adults getting to know each other and learning to enjoy each other’s company.

Volume one ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, and I’m intrigued enough to look for volumes two and three when funds allow.

Right now, I’m still working through volume 2 of Coyote, a BL series from SuBLime Manga (find my review of volume 1 here). As expected, the werewolf Coyote has discovered that his lover Marleen is actually a member of the family currently hunting down werewolves, which rather puts a dampener on their relationship. I haven’t had much time to sit and read the last couple of days, and it’s not exactly a book one can read on public transport, so I’m waiting until Friday after work before I can finish this one.

You’ll see a few more books in the stack-photo up there that I haven’t mentioned yet. I only just picked up ‘Skull-face Bookseller Honda-san’ today, but I’m chuffed to bits that it’s available in the UK. I also have a couple of charity-shop purchases which I’ll be writing about during Second-hand September.

Around blog-world, I’ve enjoyed ‘Falling Out Of Love With American Voice Acting‘ by Amanda.Actually. In the UK, it’s often hard to watch English dubs without paying for DVDs (at least not through legitimate channels) so it’s rare for me to watch dubs – I tend to look either for shows I’ve really enjoyed in Japanese (like ‘Sarazanmai’) or shows with particular actors I follow. But as the actors I discovered some time ago are largely in production roles now, directing or scripting other actors, I’ll admit I don’t recognise a lot of the newer, younger generation of dub actors. That’s not to say I’m in any way anti-dubs, but I do agree with Amanda.Actually to some extent regarding the lack of variety in the voices being cast lately.

And further afield, if you’re following the never-ending Twitter debates about whether it’s okay yet to read BL, this Guardian comment-piece from Sunday may add an interesting perspective, serving as a reminder that some of us grew up with barely any media representations of queer people we could relate to, and have developed a tendency to take whatever we’re given regardless of how problematic it might be.

It really is great to have my own Internet connection back, instead of taking my laptop out to coffee shops to be able to post anything (and of course to be able to watch anime again!). So hopefully I should be back to up to a regular schedule of four posts a week. Do remember that I’m still looking to showcase fanworks by other Fans Of A Certain Age – if you or someone you know would like me to feature your fanfiction, art, comics, cosplay or geek crafts, do get in touch.

Remember also to follow me on Twitter or Tumblr for more up-to-date anime ramblings.

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