Gen Manga Monday 5

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

This is entry five of my periodic feature on Gen Manga, as I read and review the series until I get myself caught up.  I'm no longer reading Souls, and despite being in the opening credits, Sorako is not in this issue, We have another new manga, Alive, in its place.  How does this edition of the anthology shape up?  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.  It's a chance to see a side of the Japanese comics industry that we might otherwise not get.

Naoto faces challenges both personal and profession, as an expose forces his father out of his life for a second time and Morimoto, who we saw a few issues back, is ready to end his career before it's had much of a chance to begin.  We're really into the heart of this story now, with lots of conflict and moving pieces.  Nakamore juggles a lot of ideas here, but they all work together in harmony, showing strong plotting.  I really like that Naoto's father is running away again in the face of adversity, denying the reality of the situation. Each of the primary supporting characters get a moment to shine and react to the changing situation.  The story ends on a big cliffhanger, with the future of Naoto in serious doubt.  Gen really picked a strong manga to open with and it hasn't lost a bit of steam from the start.

On the other hand, I have to admit to being rather disappointed by this entry in VS Aliens.  It's hard to write about without giving too much away, but the short version is that everything is not as it appeared to be, which  kind of crushes some of the life out of the story.  Instead of being a twist on a shojo story, the truth is that it's actually an incredibly shojo-like story.  The breakdown of all that has gone on is actually well done and fits the details we've seen, but I couldn't help but wish it had kept going in its original direction.  Suzuki definitely has the makings of a good manga-ka in the genre if she can make it into the mainstream, as her ability to use the tropes cleverly, both in text and illustration, are really strong.  This closes the book on VS Aliens, making it the first manga to finish its run in the anthology.  Overall, I enjoyed VS Aliens, but I hope that quirky twists aren't going to be a pattern in these manga.

The man in the mask fights not only for his life, but those of the others in a battle-heavy edition of Kamen, the manga that's written in a very decompressed, Bendis-style format.  We learn that he does not wish to kill and a bit about the fighting style (he apparently has a sleeper slap, if I am understanding things right) used by the mysterious figure, but not a lot else.  At first I thought the mask was making him such a good fighter, but the narrative here makes me think that might not be the case.  Mihara puts the character through his paces, once again showing a talent for group shots, but the panels showing slow-motion attacks did not work for me and I can't help but wish something would happen soon.  This isn't a bad story, but it's like trying to read Ultimate Spider-Man in single issue form--frustrating as all hell.  I have a feeling Kamen might read better in a trade.

Souls happens.  I really hope this one is replaced soon.  A casual look-through shows me that the things I did not like about it have not changed.

Alive is our new manga, and, like Sorako, the setting is modern and focuses on characters who aren't sure about their future.  The tone is very different, however.  Split into two stories that blend together ever so subtly in a great storytelling touch by Hajime Taguchi, the first half stars a girl who feels nothing.  She gets no thrills out of anything while she seeks something truly remarkable.  A young man refuses to let her give up and tries to find something, anything to change her mind.  The result might drive Harvey Dent mad, but I found the resolution appropriate, unique, and funny.  Alive's second part involves a man having an affair with a women who loves his body but wants the money of a wealthier man.  He wrestles with the nature of his life, ultimately feeling that ending it all is the only option when even sex with the woman no longer satisfies him.  The ending to this story is a bit ambiguous, but I actually like not knowing for sure how it resolves.  Alive is a great addition to the series and I look forward to reading more.

Gen Manga 5 features beginnings and endings, but overall, it's still a solid anthology that shows the variety of independent manga.  Join me next time (maybe two Mondays in a row for a change!) as I move on to Gen Manga 6 and see if Alive can keep up its strong start and whether or not something happens in Kamen.