manga


This manga is based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books. He’s quite young in the series.

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Writer: Ryosuke Takeuchi

Artist: Hikaru Miyoshi

This manga makes professor James Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime, into, well, if not exactly a hero, at least a man who is a hero in his own eyes.

The first volume has three stories. The first centers on Moriarty’s childhood and sets up his background, the other two are set in a village where the noble landowners have cruelly oppressed

the peasants for generations.

The first story gives us a couple of surprises. It’s set in 1866. Count Moriarty and his wife pretend to be kind-hearted toward the peasants in public but in the privacy of their home, their attitudes are very different. They adopt two orphan boys, commoners, but in their home, the boys must work hard and are abused. The end of the story is quite a twist so I won’t spoil it.

The rest of the story concentrates on three brothers: Albert James, William James, and Lewis James. So it’s not clear who is the machiavellian criminal in Doyle’s books or if, indeed, they all are.

William James Moriarty hates the class system. He’s convinced that the classes are the root of all evil. They divide people so that the nobility loathes and belittles the peasants and in turn, the commoners hate and fear the nobles. He wants to bring down the class system, violently. The other two boys agree with him and together they work for a ”better future”. Starting from the second story, William’s plan is working on the background. Albert James works in the military so William gets military contacts for his plan.

In the second story, set in 1879, the three Moriarty boys move to their country estate that is next to the oppressed village, Durham. The local nobles keep so high rents that the commoners don’t have any hope for a better future, just endless hard work. James decides to help the locals. He has set himself up as a private consultant and he’s also a professor of mathematics at Durham University. The worst of the local nobles is Baron Dublin who openly admits that he keeps the rent high so that he can enjoy his life.

The third story is set half into the university. One of the local barmaids is seen dancing dangerously on the edge of a bridge. She falls and dies. The local papers claim it was a suicide but she was a cheerful, happy person and nobody believes that she killed herself. William James Moriarty starts to investigate and uncovers some of the small but terrible things the local university boys can do because they’re nobles, future decision-makers.

The Moriarty in this comic has quite different motives than the criminal in Doyle’s books. While this Moriarty is also a genius who has a memory palace, he is also eager to help the people he meets.

This was a very interesting beginning to the series. It has also been adapted to an anime but I haven’t seen it.

A slice of life humor manga set in a high school. The main characters are demons and angels.

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Finnish publication year: 2014
Finnish publisher: Sangatsu Manga
Format: print
Finnish translator: Antti Valkama

Page count: 147

This is a weird one. Right in the beginning, Gabriel White Tenma is a new angel who has just graduated from angel academy with the highest honors. She’s eager to go to Earth and help humans. But when we see her next, she’s a slacker. She’s only interested in playing MMORPGs and is in danger of failing both Earthly high school and possibly her angelic support as well. She doesn’t really care about anything outside video games and the others have to coax her out of her apartment.

Her friend Vignette April Tsukinose is a demon but she’s the opposite of Gabriel. She attends school and makes Gabriel attend, too. She’s very responsible, almost angel-like. However, sometimes when she really wants something, she can be manipulative. The other major demon is Satanichia who wants to become the mistress of Hell. But the evil things she does are pretty minor even though she thinks they’re major evil. She’s a bit naive. The other angel is Raphiel who is, again, not very angelic. She manipulates people (and demons) for fun. She becomes obsessed with Satanichia and stalks her.

This group of sort-of-friends attends classes and wacky things happen. Gabi also works one day a week at a cafe. She’s terrible at it but the poor cafe owner assumes that Gabi is young and a foreigner so not just tolerates her but also encourages her when she gets even something right. The angels have small angelic powers, but for Gabi they don’t really work and she doesn’t use them much. But Raphiel can teleport to Satanichia when she wants.

As is usual for humor, most of the chapters work for me but some don’t. It’s a nice change of pace every once in a while. The Finnish edition also has explanations about a couple of Japanese cultural things, such as food and eating customs, which I found fascinating.

Gabriel Dropout is also an anime, but I haven’t seen it.

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Original anime: Gainax
Original publication year: 1995
Finnish translation: 2006

NGE is a classic giant mecha anime and manga. It was originally an anime which I haven’t seen. The manga has 14 volumes and I believe it’s a reimagining rather than a faithful adaptation of the anime. It has also a series of movies which I believe are again different.

The story is set in year 2015. Fifteen years earlier, in 2000, a meteorite hit Earth and half of humanity died in the resulting events. Now, a giant mechanical thing, called an Angel, attacks Japan. Fortunately, the UN has a secret organization NERV which has built a giant mecha to fight it. The mecha requires a human pilot which in the beginning of the comic is Rei, a 14-year old girl.

Shinji Ikari is a depressed 14 year old boy. He feels that nobody cares if he lives or dies. He feels that his father abandoned him 10 years ago and his uncle has raised him.

However, one day his father sends a message that he wants to talk with Shinji and is sending a gorgeous woman to get him. But at the moment he’s supposed to meet her, a city-wide alarm is given and the citizens are evacuated. However, Shinji stays in the rendezvous place hoping to see his dad again. Instead, he sees a giant mecha battling an Angel. Then the woman arrives and, after dodging the fighting giants, manages to drive him to the headquarters of NERV.

The woman is Captain Misato Katsuragi and she brings Shinji to see his dad, who is the head scientist at NERV. He wants Shinji to operate the giant mecha, EVA-01. At first Shinji refuses. But then he sees the young girl who piloted EVA just moment ago. She’s badly hurt but willing to go to battle again. Shinji agrees to take her place. Everyone thinks it’s madness to put an untrained boy in the mecha but Shinji and EVA manage to repel the attack.

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In the second volume, Shinji feels even more down. His father won’t talk to him and he feels that the only value he has is as a pilot. He goes to a new school where one of the boys claims that Shinji is responsible for people who got hurt during his fight with the Angel. Shinji keeps to himself and even runs away.

While the manga has giant robots fighting, the main theme is relationships, especially between Shinji and Misato. Shinji’s dad has just one conversation with him, but he has profound impact on Shinji. Shinji is left yearning for his approval and love but it seems that his dad is incapable of giving them. Shinji’s uncle doesn’t appear. Shinji ends up living with Misato because she’s worried about his mental state, but Shinji thinks she’s just being charitable which seems to worsen his depression. On the one hand, this is a prime example of “Chosen one” trope because Shinji is able to “bond” with EVA quickly and on a very deep level. On the other hand, Shinji hates that he doesn’t have value as himself, just as a pilot. Duty is another strong theme.

The manga is quite dark and depressing. Things aren’t explained. If I remember correctly, the angels are never explained. However, it does have a few comedic scenes, mostly with Misato’s pet penguin.

Stylistically, it’s striking and cool. The NERV HQ is underground and EVA rises on a platform to do battle. But I didn’t care for the way that the few women characters are quite sexualized. Misato is shown in the shower and her cleavage is pointed out with arrows. Yes, the main character is 14-year old boy but still. However, Misato is good character: she’s competent in her job and has a fun side, as well. But she’s also Shinji’s superior so she must be hard on him when he disobeys her.

The first two volumes are a good start to the series, introducing the characters and the setting and diving into the relationships between the characters.

The first volume in a manga series.

Creator: Fuse
Artist: Taiki Kawakami

This is a manga apparently based on an internet novel, at least at the back of the Finnish edition, Fuse writes about how he wondered if it was even possible to make a comic from his book.

Mikami is a 37-year old Japanese man who is unsatisfied with his life because he doesn’t have a girlfriend and while he has a passable job it’s not very good. However, he seemed to be a kindhearted man because when his friends’ girlfriend is attacked suddenly, Mikami intervenes. Unfortunately, he’s stabbed and dies. But when he’s dying, he hears a strange voice talking to him: because he’s a virgin he can reincarnate as a wizard.

When his consciousness returns, at first he can’t see or hear anything but can “talk” in his head with a strange voice who tells him things about the world and himself. It turns out that he’s reincarnated as a blob of slime in a fantasy world. However, he has two powers to begin with and every time he digests something or someone, he gets their abilities. He also changes his name to Rimuru. The first person he encounters in this world is a dragon.

The comic has lots of humor but it’s not slapstick. In this first volume, we get a brief scene from totally different characters talking about the wider world. But the rest is from Rimuru’s POV. He’s mostly a fun POV character and is mostly ready to help others. However, he emotionally he felt like a teenager to me, not a middle-aged man.

The artwork is mostly nice but in the last two chapters women are drawn in sexualized ways.

The world feels like it’s put together from various famous fantasy works with dragons, orcs, dwarfs, elves, and humans. The characters also don’t have character development, as such, but get additional abilities, upgrades, like in computer games. This surprised me at first but I got used to it quickly. However, Rimuru gets very powerful very quickly, so the story focuses more on humor and exploring the world rather than danger. Also, people kept saying the dragon which has been imprisoned for 300 years is somehow protecting the valley.

A fun and light read but the volume ends in a cliffhanger.

This is a goofy school manga with a very specific focus: Rumi Yokoi is a studious and quiet girl who just wants to study but unfortunately, she sits next to Seki who does everything else than study. To amuse himself, he invents the most elaborate games. Sometimes, Yokoi tries to warn him to stop and pay attention to the teachers, but invariably she instead starts to follow his antics closely. Yokoi is also the one who gets in trouble for not following the teachers.

Seki sits behind the tallest boy on the class so he can do pretty much what he wants, such as building long domino rows, sculpting structures from sand with almost surgical precision, or bringing in cats to class. When he brings chess or go pieces with him, he ignores the official rules and plays his own games.

In a couple of strips, we get some continuity but the vast majority of the strips are stand-alones. At first, Seki and Yokoi seem pretty different from each other, but clearly Yokoi, too, has a great imagination; sometimes she invents her own stories from Seki’s play. Seki never talks.

Funny and goofy manga, although there’s some repetition. A few strips are set outside the class room. I liked the clear and detailed drawing style a lot.

The Finnish edition has three volumes called Pulpettinaapurit. Apparently, ten volumes have been published in Japan (and English). The Finnish editions have some clarifications about a couple of Japanese cultural points and the names. Apparently, most of the names of the characters are some sort of play on words.

This is a three volume Japanese comic based on Makoto Shinkai’s animated movie of the same name. I haven’t seen the movie.

The idea is very interesting: two young people switch bodies when they’re asleep. They know nothing about each other or each other’s lives. This is a very fine way to mess up each other’s lives.

The beginning of the story is somewhat confusing. Mitsuha is a young woman who lives with her little sister and grandma in a small village. She dreams of living in Tokyo and perhaps even being a young man in Tokyo, where life would be far better. Her father is the mayor of the town but they’ve grown very much apart.

One morning she wakes up, not knowing who she is. Then we jump to the next morning. Mitsuha hears from her family and friends that she behaved oddly the previous day, not even knowing her name. She has no memory of it. Then the next morning, she wakes in a boy’s body in Tokyo. Of course, his life isn’t as rosy as she thought.

Taki is the boy who switches his mind with Mitsuha. He works in the local restaurant and has a crush on his beautiful co-worker. He’s not happy about the switch.

I really enjoyed the art work. The beginning of the first volume was rather confusing but otherwise I quite enjoyed the story. However, I thought that the strange things that Taki and Mitsuha did during the first day in each other’s bodies was brushed off rather quickly. But when the dramatic story line started, it really drew me in.

A dystopic science fiction series of six volumes.

The series is set in a future Japan where the computer system Sibylla oversees everyone. Using psychometric scanners it scans the moods, emotions and thoughts to find out if the person is stressed enough to possibly commit a crime. It does it all the time and the results are seen in that person’s Pscyho Pass which everyone must wear at all times. If the indicator number is too high, the person is classified as a latent criminal and they must either submit to therapy or go to jail.

The Sibylla system is also in charge of figuring out which job each person is best suited for, and therefore the happiest doing just that. People can’t apply for jobs which the system doesn’t assign for them. In theory, Japanese people are happier than ever and crime, especially violent crime, is very low or non-existent. Of course, this is a dystopia, so things don’t work like they should.

The Public Safety Department is responsible for capturing any latent criminals. They have inspectors who are the equivalent of detectives and the enforces who are responsible for capturing the (latent) criminals, usually with violence. Enforces are usually themselves former inspectors who over the years have started to resemble too much like the criminals they’re trying to capture. This, of course, creates friction between the enforces and the inspectors.

Akane Tsunemori is the only one of her class who got the perfect score and so she can choose any vocation, including the inspector. Which she does. Capturing criminals is a very demanding job; most criminals seem to be devilishly ingenious murderers or serial murderers.

She’s immediately put to the field where she meets her team: one experienced inspector, four enforces, and one tech. Also, Akane’s immediate boss and a couple of other people from the department have significant roles in the story.

This is a pretty violent, grim and almost hopeless story. It calls into question the role of Sibylla but also the roles of inspectors and enforces and their relationships to the criminals. On the other hand, the violence isn’t an end for itself: the criminals are murderers and their victims are a necessary part of the story. Also, the characters, some of the criminals included, think about their world and their role a lot. The ending is good and appropriate.

This is a very high-tech world. The enforces use weapons called dominators which kill or stun a latent criminal. The weapons themselves need to scan a high indicator number before they function. Also, hologram characters and virtual reality are a big part in a couple of the chapters. Akane’s apartment can also change how it looks whenever she wants.

The manga is based on anime called Psycho Pass which I haven’t seen. I read the Finnish edition which is called Tarkastaja Akane Tsunemori and translated by Suvi Mäkelä.

I recommend this series for anyone interested in grim detective stories and dystopia lovers.

A ten-volume manga comedy series.

Nichijou (which apparently means Everyday in English) is a surreal comedy manga series set in a Japanese high school. It doesn’t have plot lines, but rather strips of varying length. Most of the time the strips have an ensemble cast of character but sometimes focus on just one character. We’re first introduced to trio of friends: the class clown Yukio who is often late and dodges doing her homework, quiet and industrious Mai, and Mio who is often cheerful and has a real drawing talent. We’re also introduced to Nano who is a robot girl but doesn’t want anyone to know that she’s a robot… except that she has a giant wind-up key in her back, and her eight-year old creator the Prof who loves sweets and building sneakily more stuff inside Nano. They later adopt (or are adopted by) a cat who can talk because of one of the Prof’s inventions. Later, the cast grows a lot larger.

Many of the strips start with an ordinary situation but either something surreal happens or something escalates to surreal proportions. It’s easy to read a strip now and then because there’s not much continuity between them. The further the series continues, the more absurd the humor becomes. However, if you like the first volume, you’re likely to like the rest, too. One of the strips has a science fiction / science fantasy feel and it was one of the few which actually had continuity. I enjoyed it and thought at first that is was some sort of weird video game one of the characters was playing. But no. The end left me quite baffled.

I read the Finnish editions and the translator has put in some notes about Japanese customs, foods, and other things which are shown in the series. They were very helpful. Here, it’s translated under the name Arki (ordinary days in a life).

The balance between the first three friends (Yukio, Mio, Mai) is quite good. Yukio tries to get the other two to do funny things with her, not always succeeding. She tried to copy off the other’s homework, also not always succeeding. At one point Yukio and Mio fight, which starts off a bit uncomfortable but end sweetly. Mio draws mostly handsome boys and is afraid that someone else sees her work.

I enjoyed the series and enjoyed most of the strips and the characters. However, some left me baffled. There’s also an anime series based on this manga, but I haven’t seen it.