Thursday, October 22, 2009

My First Manga

Tanabata at In Spring it is the Dawn has started a new challenge whose purpose is to introduce world readers to the culture of Japan. It's called Hello Japan! and consists of a monthly task. Here's the one for October --
The task this month is to read or watch something scary, spooky, or suspenseful, and Japanese of course! You can read a book (for those that like to multi-task, remember that a Japanese spooky read would also count for both the R.I.P. IV Challenge and the Japanese Literature Challenge 3!), but if you don't have time this month for a whole book you can read a short story, a ghostly folktale (there are some available to read online, see below), or a manga. Or you could watch a movie, or an anime.

I was searching through Netflix looking for a J-horror film but then decided to be a little more bold and try my first manga. I looked through some review sites and finally found one that looked interesting to me, The Cain Saga: Forgotten Juliet. Here's the brief description on Amazon --
Born under an evil moon harboring dark secrets, Earl Cain C. Hargreaves, the youthful heir of the aristocratic Hargreaves family, is a man on a quest to find the truth about his family's past. Written in dark, harrowing episodes, The Cain Saga chronicles how Cain solves the strange crimes that seem to plague his cursed existence, yet somehow bring him closer to deciphering the puzzling circumstances surrounding his father's tragic death.

Five gripping stories of love, friendship and betrayal--"Forgotten Juliet," "Branded Bibi," "The Youths Who Stopped Time," "Double," and "The Death of Cleo"--comprise this poignant first installment of Kaori Yuki's hit gothic manga series. Gothic fans will be left in awe long after this series has ended!

This is the start of a prequel series to the Godchild series by Kaori Yuki. She is apparently rather private although she has brief "letters" to her fans throughout her work that explain some of her influences like Twin Peaks, Young Sherlock Holmes and Dead Poets' Society. Funnily, I recognized some of these references and styles and was quite amused by them. The stories were all short but well fleshed-out and entertaining.

The hardest part of this reading was of course getting used to the right-to-left style. Also, I had trouble keeping track of characters because of changes in appearance. Still, I enjoyed reading these stories and am somewhat curious about the main series. Cain seems to be somewhat typical of the handsome loner that you see in other Japanese animation -- like Roger Smith in Big O. The husband and I used to watch a lot of Japanese series but it really is a different experience in print.

Since this read was mostly about learning more about Japan, I also went and read a bit about manga. This image is the kanji (Chinese characters) for manga and the word translates to "whimsical pictures". Most manga are in black-and-white and the artist of the manga is called the mangaka. Modern manga started showing up after World War II and incorporates both traditional Japanese themes and many American influences that came to Japan during the Occupation. You can find a manga about almost any topic or genre and just like graphic novels, many are written specifically for an adult audience. There are words designating whether the target audience is girls (shōjo manga), younger males (shōnen manga) or adult males (seinen manga). Some popular manga series in the U.S. are Sailor Moon, Ghost in the Shell and Akira -- though most Americans know these better as animated series and movies or anime.

I am going to count this one as another read for the R.I.P. Challenge. This little book had it all -- a poisoning, a stabbing, a shooting, an axe attack, a supernatural anti-aging potion and revenge, lots and lots of revenge. It was interesting to see these stories come to life through the illustrations. Since this manga was in black and white, it wasn't gory or anything but the faces of the characters were certainly expressive. Also, the text helped to fill in some of the details like in the story with the green poison. Yuri is a talented artist!

Using someone else's imagination for a bit,

Support our site and buy Forgotten Juliet (Cain Saga, Book 1) on Amazon or find it at your local library. We borrowed this book from the library.


  1. I've read a couple of mangas, but overally I've never been able to sink into them the way I would another graphic novel. I do love that the illustrations are very dynamic--much moreso than American comics on the whole. Enjoy the rest of your tasks!

  2. I like your thought that since the challenge is about getting to know Japanese culture, you went beyond reading the book. I'llkeep that in mind for the next challenge (only a week away ;)

    I got myself some graphic novels for tomorrow's 24 hour read-a-thon, that's a first! But no manga. Maybe next time, if all goes well ;)

  3. Andi - The stories in this one were VERY short. I think that next time I will read one with only one plot through the whole manga.

    Gnoegnoe - I didn't originally include the manga research in my post but then as I thought about it some more I realized that I needed to get into the spirit of the challenge!

  4. I so admire your willingness to try new things, and thanks to the link about manga. I've heard the term but didn't know EXACTLY what it was!

  5. i've read a tiny bit of manga, but not gothic manga. this sounds neat-o and i think i'll give it a go. i'm curious about the twin peaks references.

  6. I thought I'd left a comment before, sorry. That's so great that you read your first manga for the mini-challenge this month! :)
    I'm still pretty new to manga myself but this one sounds interesting, I'll have to check it out.
    And thanks for the great little introduction to manga. It's so true that there are manga about pretty much any topic or genre. So which one will you be reading next? :P

  7. Jenners - That's part of why I researched it. I had a vague notion but not a specific one.

    vvb32 - It was pretty cool! I used to be a HUGE Twin Peaks fan too ...

    Tanabata - I actually downloaded the first half of a Wizard of Oz manga on my iPhone and it's really cool so far!