Over my adult life I have tried to be more openminded in the media I consume, to stop seeing and talking about things in a Newgrounds-like “Everything is the best or worst, 1 or 5, nothing inbetween” standard.
I think this has been (mostly) successful and can be seen in the podcast I cohost, Screentone Club.
However the time has come to temporarily stop lying to myself- I’m correct, anyone who disagrees with me is wrong, and it’s time everyone else got with the damn program already. So I’m going to take the limiters and talk about the manga I read in 2019 and be upsettingly blunt about it. I will also include spoilers but will try my best to talk around them. Enjoy!
Series that went to crap
The Promised Neverland
The luck for this series had to run out sometime, and its uncanny ability to present a dubious plot transition but then manage to pull it off finally ran out a while back.
The most recognisable point of failure (The Turn) was when the series re-introduced a key character with only the most perfunctory of explanation for how they got there. Sure, the explanation made sense in a cold, clinical manner that you would see written up in a wiki plot synopsis but the actual story of how they got there should have been worthy of its own manga series or at least an extended side story/flashback.
It doesn’t help that since The Turn the series constantly decides to put its weight and focus on answering questions no-one asked. These digressions and explanations take up huge amounts of space and time going deep on elements that bulk out the already creaking structure of the world.
Frankly the Demons were far more interesting as a straightforward antagonist and background threat for the main cast rather than introducing multiple layers of politics and history that I cannot bring myself to care about and actively dislike the series wasting time on. I don’t care about the economics and class warfare of the bloody Demons! It’s boring! And stop trying to force me to care by making Emma care about it! It just makes me think less of Emma!
At this stage I am still reading the series in order to see how the remaining plot points get tied up but boy is it a shadow of its former self. Also because its on the Shonen Jump app and so its basically “Free”.
My Hero Academia
The longer this series goes the more apparent it becomes that it is actually two series forced into an uncomfortable co-habitation.
The Hero-Kids at Hero-School element keeps leaving the toilet seat up, using the last of the milk, and leaving ratty socks all over the flat. Meanwhile the other storyline, the one examining the burden of superpowers on a maladjusted society that still does not properly understand or accommodate them, continues to suffer, pick up the tab, and get let down.
Getting the wretched metaphor out of the way, it has become a cruel joke that the initially-gripping story of an underdog kid grasping to inherit the mantle of his hero has now faded into a boring treadmill of upgrades and foreshadowing. The rest of the class (outside of the incandescently popular bad boys Todoroki and Bakugo) have faded even further into obscurity as the focus of the story is frequently ripped away from the classroom to indulge on fleshing out the wider world.
Then, once you are fully interested in the stories of the antagonists, or the wider questions of the structure and danger around quirks, you get dragged sudden back to kiddy school time which was once nice but is now rather pedestrian.
Frankly, once you have seen such treats as the “Meta-Human Liberation Front” and the “Quirk Singularity Theory” you don’t fancy much the adventures of speed-dork class representative. I’m still reading the series for the same reason as Promised Neverland and out of a small glimmer of hope that it will manage to merge the multiple scopes into a elevated whole. Doubtful, though.
Finally, the series’ constant attempts to rehabilitate Endeavour are interesting but honestly I cannot buy into them.
Series you should read
Our Dreams at Dusk
This series is sublime. 4 volumes, not a single wasted page, beautiful art and layouts, and a scalpel-like incisiveness to every single look or line spoken by the wonderful cast.
It is not only entertaining but also powerful and (crucially) Important. I could go on but I would only dilute my message.
No matter who you are, you should read this manga.
READ CHAINSAW MAN.
I was initially predisposed toward disliking this series because the author’s previous work is the utter dog turd Fire Punch, a series that I detested so much after reading the extended first chapter that it honestly helped me break free from reading /a/ on 4chan because a subset of idiots on there would not stop praising it. So, uh, thanks for that Fire Punch, you utter shite.
Anyway, Chainsaw man rules. Everything it does it is in full control of and full-well knows how stupid it is and how it can work for it. The cast are a group of utter fuck-ups and wretches but at the same time don’t deserve the utter crap they go through, and you care about them. Even the most questionable of them.
The art is amazing, the fights absurd, and the overarching plot is both very, very simple and also a massive engrossing threat.
I just wish I could shake the constant feeling that the series is on the verge of cancellation. It has the stink of “Oh god, please Jump don’t cancel me” that both keeps it both interesting and fraught.
Thank Christ this series is finally available digitally, now I can recommend it wholeheartedly rather than making upset noises at the £10-a-pop cost of the physical version. It rules.
It’s by the creator of Full Metal Alchemist and they utterly nail every element of the series. I don’t need to write any more - just go read it.
Andy and I have gushed about this series on the Podcast and I don’t like repeating myself so I’ll sum up:
Three perfectly formed volumes that tell an amazing complete story of love, romance, uncertainty about your life/direction/place complete with wonderful art and an overwhelming amount of heart.
A breath of fresh air in so many ways - in Romance manga, in Yuri manga, in manga in general. Read it.
Manga to Avoid
Do you fancy a version of A Bride’s Story set in Tibet, but somehow missing the Magical Ingredient that made that series pop off the page?
Blissful Land is made of good ingredients - nice characters, great art, a clear love of the material and solid research, but when put together it comes off a being a very charmed thing - saccharine and twee to a degree that pushes you away.
By the end of the first volume I was solidly out of love with it and actively irked by its cadence.
Alicia’s Diet Quest
My initial fear with this manga that it would fall victim to the boring tropes of fat-shaming and “women be illogical lol” but instead it just manages to be very boring.
For the Kid I Saw in my Dreams
ERASED (Also by this author) is shit, and so is this. Also it looks hella ugly.
Stuff I wanna read
Please Save My Earth
I watched the OAVs for this series all the way back in the University anime club but I have fond memories of it even though I could not pinpoint a single thing about it outside of “Reincarnation???”
This is available digitally in the US but not the UK, but heres hoping the manga fairies can help me access it.
It’s you guys fault I’m not Popular!
I have the first 6 volumes of this purchased but have still not got past the 2nd volume. Everything I see about this series in its later (10+) volumes makes me think it undergoes some wild development and has kept me on the hook.
Cutie Honey: The Classic Collection
In fact, all of the Go Nagai stuff not available digitally can go here. Why isn’t it available digitally? What the fuck?
Basically all of Shigeru Mizuki’s output
Again, what the fuck, put it out digitally! Showa is basically 8KG, I dont have the space for it!
And with that, thank fuck 2019 is over. My best wishes to all of you.
May 2020 finally bring us the Fully Automated Luxury Queer Space Communism we all deserve. Eat the Rich.