Here are notes about some of the new series I’ve sampled recently.
Kurogane by Kei Toume (amazon)
In Kurogane the samurai Jintetsu is near death when he is rescued by an eccentric inventor who rebuilds his body by using machine parts. Jintetsu can’t speak any more, but he’s aided by a talking sword. He returns in his new body to check up on the girl he left behind in his old villiage and is caught up in a battle between local yakuza.
Toume’s art makes Jintetsu’s stare incredibly expressive, which is good because that is really his only way of communicating other than through his actions. As usual, the production from DelRey is great. I always like reading the translation notes they included at the end of a manga volume. I’d recommend this title if you like quirky samurai series with a dark sense of humor.
VS. (Verses) by Keiko Yamada (amazon)
Verses is the story of an extremely ambitious violinist. Reiji is so single-minded that he’s almost unlikeable. He’s very aware of his own talent, and determined that nothing will prevent him from reaching the peak of his profession as a musician. Although he doesn’t get along with anyone at his school, his life begins to change when he is assigned to work with an unconventional new teacher named Mitsuko. Reiji struggles with his musicianship and his family problems. While one of CMX’s other fine arts titles, Swan, includes tons of ballet information along with the story of the manga Verses uses the world of music as a backdrop for heavy melodrama. I think I would have preferred a little bit more music and less angst in this manga.
Yakitate! Japan by Takashi Hashiguchi (amazon)
I’d watched the first few episodes of the anime version of Yakitate!, so I was looking forward to being able to read the manga. Yakitate follows the typical shonen formula showing the ascent of a young boy with ambition working hard to suceed. In this case the chosen field for Kazuma is baking. He wants to make a national bread that will be loved by the Japanese people as much as they love rice. He’s aided by his magical “solar hands”, which knead the bread at a high temperature which produces miraculous baked goods.
Kazuma is a likable character and the bakery setting is so much fun that even though the plot of Yakitate is familiar, the manga seems new and fresh. I might not be collecting 20+ books of this series, but I’ll be sure to pick up a volume occasionally.