Kodansha Comics Gift Guide 2017
Are you looking for the perfect gift for your manga loving friends and family this holiday season? Or perhaps you’re looking for the perfect series for someone who’s new to manga? With so many series to choose from –from shonen to shojo, from action-packed series to drama-driven ones, from series for younger readers to the experienced fan –it can be hard to choose just one title in what seems like an overwhelming sea of stories.
But never fear – Kodansha Comics’s got your back! Our Gift Guide is in full swing once again this year, and from classic tales to new fan favorites, we’ll help guide you to the perfect manga that’s sure to put a smile on someone’s –or your own –face!
Part 3: Manga from Me to You
There’s nothing quite like getting an amazing manga recommendation from someone – and then being able to bond with or make new friends when you discover you like the same series. But what could be better than getting a manga recommendation from the folks who help bring it to you? Our third, and final, part of our Gift Guide is a gift from us to you – our personal favorite staff picks! If you haven’t checked these series out already, we hope you come to love them as much as we do!
Aho-Girl (Ages 16+)
Emi Lotto, Assistant Production Manager
Life in 2017 is hard. We live in a world where none of us know what to believe, and you might think conscious engagement and critical thinking are for chumps. Well, you may be right. Let clueless high schooler Yoshiko Hanabatake offer you a master class in the life-changing magic of tidying up all those pesky thoughts that are stressing you out. You’ll learn to concern yourself with the important things, like where your next banana is coming from, or perfecting your sweet dance moves for the summer festival, or how to get your stick-in-the-mud crush to stop studying already and just come hit the beach with you. So grab a banana, turn on some Cutie Cure, and leave the rest to take care of itself. The unexamined life may be the only one worth living.
Tiff Ferentini, Publishing Associate
I have manga to thank for cultivating a lifelong love and passion for many of my interests today – one of which is my love for Japanese history and culture. So naturally, with its dash of history, plot rooted in rakugo, and cast of incredibly compelling characters, I knew from the start that Descending Stories: Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju would earn its place on my list of all-time favorite manga.
There’s so much going on in Descending Stories that it’s hard to pinpoint one single factor that draws me to the series. Haruko Kumota’s elegant art style and masterful story telling skills – which introduced me to an entertaining world engrained in Japanese culture like none I had discovered before – certainly were among the first things that caught my attention. But as the series progresses, I find myself more and more captivated by Rakugo’s diverse and deeply developed cast of characters – particularly Kikuhiko, and his complicated relationship with Sukeroku and Miyokichi. Discovering your passion, your identity, who it is you exactly are, what it is that drives you, how you can live a life that is originally and uniquely your own – we see Kikuhiko grapple with and confront these challenges and more throughout the course of his life – a life which, thanks to Kumota, we get to see come full circle: starting from childhood, to his early days as a rakugo artist struggling with his craft, all the way to him being a well-established, seasoned veteran. It’s the kind of storytelling, character development, and relatability I’ve never quite seen before in a manga, and Kumota leaves me spellbound, constantly yearning for more – eager to turn the page, to grab the next volume, to dive deeper and deeper into Kiku’s story. Take that, add some arguable, underlying commentary on gender and sexuality, and you have the ingredients to what kind of manga captivates me the most – an enchanting story driven by a real, complex protagonist; that tackles what it means to discover and drive oneself, and what it means to be human.
Stephen Pakula, Senior Production Manager
Out of all the manga we’ve had the pleasure of publishing in 2017, for me, personally, Ichi-F has been the most memorable project – as both a reader and a publisher. Kazuto Tatsuta’s humble, honest account of the clean-up efforts at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake is both fascinating and informative – offering truth and light on a topic often shrouded in fear and mystery. The English-language version of Ichi-F has also been adapted to read in a left-to-right reading format, allowing those who may be unfamiliar with manga, but who still want to read and learn more about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the accessibility to dive into Tatsuta’s story – of the challenging work, of the trials faced by the local citizens, and of the unique camaraderie that built up between the workers as they faced the invisible threat of radiation on a daily basis.
Whether you’re looking to discover a new graphic memoir for yourself, long to read more nonfiction manga, or know someone who’s wanted to hear an authentic, candid, first-hand account of the aftermath at Fukushima, you’ll not want to miss checking out Ichi-F.
Kigurumi Guardians (Ages 13+)
Lauren Scanlan. Editor
My taste in manga has always been pretty divided — I love a good romance just as much as I enjoy a wacky adventure story. So when Kigurumi Guardians came into my life, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Fourteen-year-old Hakka is a fun, plucky protagonist, whose belief in her friends and in the goodness of all people makes me hope that she and her friends succeed against their evil adversaries. Her sassy kigurumi partner, Ginger, is a good foil to Hakka’s enthusiasm, protecting her from others and her own insecurities, when the need arises. The fact that he and the other kigurumi happen to turn into attractive men doesn’t hurt, either! Hoshino-sensei’s past as a BL-artist shines through in Kigurumi, with a host of good-looking men and women who straddle the line between sweet and sexy, though the plot keeps things fairly tame (so far!).
All in all, Kigurumi Guardians is a love letter to shojo manga, a goofy but earnest take on a adolescence, good vs. evil, and the magic of a kiss.
To Your Eternity (Ages 13+)
Ben Applegate, Publishing Director
There’s no other way to put it, so why beat around the bush: To Your Eternity is the best new manga of the year. It begins with a dying wolf pulling itself, bleeding and desperate, across a bleak Arctic landscape, but where it will end no one knows but Yoshitoki Oima, its creator. Only two volumes in, we’ve met and left behind characters, landscapes, entire villages. Oima is recognized as a brilliant artist and writer for her moving seven-volume series A Silent Voice, about a girl who can’t hear and the boy who bullied her. On its surface, To Your Eternity is as different from A Silent Voice as it could possibly be: With its spiritual (even theological) themes, unusual protagonist, and invented language, it is the very definition of “high concept.” But this is no dry treatise, nor is it some avant-garde experiment. This is a manga about things we all experience: survival, friendship, loneliness, loyalty, grief, growing up. And it’s on this level – the level of “feels” – that fans of A Silent Voice will love To Your Eternity. It is both epic and intimate in a way that’s highly reminiscent of the work of the God of Manga, Osamu Tezuka, who was also fond of reincarnation as a device to take the reader on a journey and show how humanity is united by our capacity for struggle and love. It’s a message we all need to hear.
Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty (Ages 16+)
Haruko Hashimoto, Editor
A love story isn't complete without a ghost. I stand by that. But first, this manga immediately drew me in with its impeccable, polished art. Morino captures the character’s emotions so well in their expressions and eyes, whether it’s fear, ambivalence, compassion, or anger. It's my favorite take on shojo art styles right now. Her covers and color pages just stopped me in my tracks—they look like high-quality movie stills.
What I stayed for, is the earnestness of the characters, particularly our protagonist: a teenager named Tetsu. The story opens with him working really hard as a part-time housekeeper at a huge estate, taking care of his two little sisters, and quitting his beloved soccer team to focus on making ends meet. When he meets Shizu, the daughter of his wealthy employers, she is secreted away in a secluded building, and he realizes something isn’t right. Shizu doesn’t remember much, and never feels like she’s all there.
This story is about two kids trying their best to be honest with their fears and shortcomings. They grow on their own terms, and while it can be brutal, there are truly heartwarming moments. At times, it is also heartbreaking to see how much emotional labor Tetsu takes on and processes. Though, it is refreshing to see a male protagonist in a shojo manga finally do that, while also balancing loads of domestic labor. Of course, this story’s also about ghosts. And honestly, some of the ghosts are doing the best they can.
While there’s a good sprinkling of hijinks and light-hearted humor, this story is still grounded well in reality, which is why I got so invested. For one, Morino takes the difficult question of Shizu’s mental health status and adds a filter of the supernatural around it. While Morino writes a seemingly hollow character in Shizu (who comes in and out of consciousness as separate personalities), the author is explicit about how wrong it is to exploit someone who may often be very uncertain of themselves—a relatable trait which Tetsu shares. Throughout the series, Shizu grows immensely, maintaining her own agency in powerful moments. Tetsu is an encourager and a witness to that, while also confronting his own inner demons. Morino’s ability to write intimate, interior moments so genuinely is my favorite part of this story. It’s the reason why I read manga at all.
If you checked out last year’s staff picks, you probably already know how I describe my favorites. And it’s true for Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty as well: This got some real certified emotional tears from me. I’ve cried at several key scenes. Read it and guess which parts!!! It’s short and sweet at only 6-volumes (like my other ugly cry faves: A Silent Voice and That Wolf-Boy is Mine!).
This wraps it up for our Gift Guide series this year! We hope we’ve given you plenty of ideas for what to wrap up for your loved ones – and put on your own wish list!
All of us at Kodansha Comics wish you a safe and happy holiday. Thank you for helping us make 2017 a great year to read manga – we can’t wait to give you more in the New Year!