Gen Manga Monday 2

Written and Illustrated by Shige Nakamora, Yu Suzuki, Gunya Mihara, and Karino Arisa
Gen Manga

Welcome to the second in my series of looks at the Gen Manga anthology series until I get myself caught up.  What did I think of the first four stories in their second outing?  Find out below!

In case anyone is coming into this new, Gen Manga is an anthology series that features indie manga artists--effectively the equivalent of Western artists who write/draw for Oni Press and similar outlets.  They are collected here, Shonen Jump style, telling their story in a serial manner every month.

There are no additions or subtractions to this second month, with each story staying in its same position within the magazine.  Wolf once again leads off, as Naoto tries to stay one step ahead of his father but manages to be upstaged at every turn, complete with a strange announcement that the father wants to return to the ring.  We also get a comedy relief character in the form of Gin, a love-sick boxer whose main purpose for now, at least, is to diffuse some of the tension in the room.  Nakamora's art here was not as clean as the first installment, which is a little bit worrying, but I liked the character actions more this time, and the closing sequence on Naoto's mom, is both telling and heartbreaking.  She's in line to lose both men in her life now, a fact that Naoto seems to have overlooked.

The pieces of the puzzle hinted at in VS Alien start to fall into place quickly here, as yet another manga-ka in this anthology shows a desire to get the story moving as soon as possible.  Kitaro and Aya help their friend as she discovers her mother has left and the aliens are after her!  There's an almost too detailed sequence where the protagonists go over all their options, but I think it shows their intelligence.  Kitaro shows he's human--he is with two cute girls, after all--and there's still a small window open that Sakuma might not be an alien.  What's not in doubt, however, is that she and her young friends are definitely in danger.  There's definitely a concern that the art might not support the story, but only time will tell.  If you kept reading to this point, I think the second chapter really shows that VS Aliens is shaping up to be the best story in the magazine.

I mentioned last week that Kamen significantly improved in its second appearance, and the evidence of that is here.  We find out the link between the man and the mask, though why he has it and how they joined together remains a mystery.  It also turns out that the leader of the troops is a strong-willed woman who must fight against her odious Uncle, who wants the army to be ruthless even as she tries to grow the empire more peacefully.  There's plenty of conflict and drama built up here, and I only wish the story had started here--I'm not sure the first chapter we saw in issue one was even necessary.  Mihara's art is the most consistent of those in the anthology, telling the story slickly and cleanly.

If there's a problem with Gen Manga, it's that the final story, Souls, just isn't getting any better.  The storytelling continues to be stiff and feeling very much like something that should have stayed in the editing room for more seasoning.  This second section is extremely confusing to follow, shifting back and forth between several generations and leaving me still unsure of exactly what is going on.  I just don't think Arisa's work is up to publication standards, even in an electronic anthology.  There's definitely a story in there somewhere, about the cycle of abuse and the guilt the victims carry that may lead to bad decisions, but it's just too muddled to keep my interest.  I would stop reading Souls, but it's not like it's costing me extra to read it.

Gen Manga 2 moves three of its stories in good storytelling directions, which I think is a very good sign for the magazine as a whole.  The art is still a bit rough, but those looking for manga from a smaller publisher will find a lot to like here.  Next week, we'll see if the characterization of the first three stories continues as we move to issue 3!