Gen Manga Monday 3

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

Welcome back to my periodic feature on Gen Manga, now in its third installment, as I read and review the series until I get myself caught up.  The series are all well underway at this point, so it's time to start making judgments about what is worth reading and what might be safely skipped.

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.

Naoto's training begins in the third installment of Wolf, the lead story in the anthology.  As his star rises, his father looks on, waiting for the inevitable match up between them.  There's not a lot of plot advancement this time around, other than to show that Naoto can handle himself in the ring with a slate of low-level opponents, and I miss some of the really strong character moments that punctuated the first two chapters, though the scene at the end builds on a theme established last issue relating to Naoto's repetition of his father's sins.  There's also the slight problem that because of boxing body shapes, identifying the fighters was a bit harder than it should have been this time out, though as with past chapters, the overall artwork and pacing from Nakamora is quite good.  I'm still enjoying this series a lot and looking forward to seeing where it goes next.  Hopefully, things will be a bit more character-driven in chapter four.

It's a rough night for the three teens trying to avoid Sakuma's alien pursuers as we return to VS Aliens.  Most of the multi-chapter installment involves Kitaro talking to Sakuma, as they try to make sense out of their predicament and Kitaro thinks about the implications of what they are doing.  The whole point of this sequence is to bring the characters closer, and as such, it succeeds admirably.  However it does fall into the trap of being effectively a entire series of talking heads, as the action is limited until we build to the big reveal at the end, as it looks like perhaps the quest to keep Sakuma safe will end almost before it's begun.  Suzuki has a great eat for realistic dialog, and that continues into the translation.  (I would have credited the translator here, but I cannot find one for this issue.)  This is the most traditional of the series in Gen Manga so far, not that I consider that to be a bad thing.

The darker turn of Kamen continues, as Simba's evil uncle's order to execute 200 prisoners is about to be performed before her very eyes.  We don't get a lot about the strange character in the mask, as most of the focus is on the cruelty of the act, especially in relation to a young girl who is dying.  The masked figure waits as the action plays out and Simba makes a fateful choice that should drive the action in the next chapter.  From a very weak opening chapter, Kamen has become a story I look forward to reading each time out.  Mihara's characters really pop, even in crowd scenes, especially in a panel where the prisoners realize they aren't going to be farm workers, but sacrifices instead.  There's also a lot to be learned just by looking at the faces of Simba and her uncle.  The only artistic issue I have is that for a period piece, there's a strange lack of backgrounds.  I'm really curious to see where this one goes next.

I think I've finally given up on Souls, however, as it just isn't getting any better.  The story is plodding, confusing and looks obviously like it was heavily created in Photoshop.  I was giving it some time due to the ghost angle, but sometimes you just have to admit when something isn't work for you, and for me, that is this time.  The plot of the angry, resentful mother and her dealings with a dead daughter continue, but I don't have a desire to find out what happens to them.  I'm looking forward to when this story is concluded and another takes its place.

Overall, Gen Manga continues to be a fun read, and for the only $1.99 an issue, I can deal with having one bad story out of four.  Not everything in an anthology is going to appeal to everyone.  I continue to find this a source of cool manga stories to read, and those who want to look outside the usual sources of Viz, Vertical, and the rest should definitely check it out.

See you next week (I hope!) when we move into the fourth installment of Gen Manga!