Gen Manga Monday 4

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

Welcome back to the fourth edition of my periodic feature on Gen Manga, as I read and review the series until I get myself caught up.  I've opted out of Souls after issue three, but now there's a new series to try.  Let's see what I think of it and the three others I'm still reading in this issue.

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.

As per usual, Wolf opens the anthology, with a chance to see Naoto and his father in their debut bouts, while Noato's mother is faced with the fact that her son has in fact joined her estranged husband.  Unfortunately what could produce some powerful drama just doesn't, as the mother takes things in stride and neither Naoto nor his father face real adversity.  There are a few tense moments, but overall the whole thing is played more for comedic effect than anything else, as Nakamora's art becomes far looser than in the previous three chapters and typical manga exaggerations abound.  Wolf feels like a story that isn't sure what it wants to be, and I think it's suffering a bit as a result.  I hope it straightens out in the next installment, because I really like the way the story was headed, but this veering into comedic territory is a misstep.

Perhaps the biggest surprise this issue are the revelations we see in VS Aliens, which features multiple chapters in each issue so is technically on its 11th section.  Kitaro starts to wonder about the whole setup and confronts Segawa, who immediately caves.  Just as the reader is about to throw the book across the room (a terrible idea if you are reading on an electronic device, just in case you're considering it), Suzuki drops a second bombshell, one that potentially changes everything.  I was not expecting what we see at the end of this chapter at all, and that made this the highlight of Gen 4.  I'm really impressed with how Suzuki uses shojo ideas in such an innovative manner.  She's not afraid to feed into a reader's expectations, both visually and with the plot, then pull the rug out from under.  This is a solid story that just keeps getting better.

The mysterious masked figure reveals a bit of itself in the newest part of Kamen, as the evil uncle condemns his own niece to death for daring to challenge him.  The story is still moving along at a glacial pace, with a lot of posing, posturing, and ominous warnings, but I am absolutely captivated by what is going on.  I *need* to know the story behind this damned mask and why it exists.  It looks like I'm in the same boat as the other characters in the story, as they react to this new development and the very dramatic use of powers by the masked figure.  Mihara once again shows great skill in crafting crowd scenes and making the odds look helpless.  The story may be on the Brian Michael Bendis pacing plan, but it's still interesting to me and I want to keep reading.

I can't say the same for Souls, which I guess started a new story, but I did not bother to keep reading this one.  A quick scan showed the same overly photoshopped art and what appeared to be another story high on the melodrama.  Others may like this one, but I'm not a fan.

That brings us to the new addition to the roster, Sorako.  In this opening story, a young woman loses her pet dog and goes through her daily routine while she hopes for his safe return.  In the process, we meet her friend, her parents, and learn that she is tiring of living in the same town.  Just as the dog returns, however, our protagonist starts to think that maybe she wishes to stay, too.  Sorako is a visit to a person who could be any one of us, doing the same kinds of things we do every day.  I'm used to seeing this in many Western comics and minis, but it's interesting to see a take on the theme from a different culture.  The creator, Takayluki Fujimura, does a great job with the backgrounds in this chapter, which really help ground the story in the real life it seeks to emulate.  Her animals aren't quite as strong, but I do like the character designs for the people in her world.  They aren't quite typical manga figures, but neither are they completely Westernized.  I'm not sure if this is a one-shot or a new ongoing, but I liked it a lot and it makes for a good closing story for the anthology.

Gen Manga continue to be a solid comics anthology that I look forward to reading each time I open the file. If you like independent comics, even if you aren't the biggest manga fan, this monthly anthology is worth looking into.  For manga fans, it's a great way to see that there's more out there than Bleach or even Viz Signature.  See you next time when we move on to the fifth chapters and possibly other new stories!