Comics Alternative, Manga: Finishing Up Monster, Othereworld Barbara, and Other Manga Series

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:02:33 – Setting up the episode
  • 00:04:17 – More listener mail!
  • 00:06:49 – Completing Monster
  • 00:49:03 – Completing Otherworld Barbara
  • 01:14:28 – Completing other manga series
  • 01:26:25 – Wrap up
  • 01:27:47 – Contact us



On this episode of the monthly manga series — the April show, actually, albeit late — Shea and Derek revisit some of the titles that they had previously discussed. They talk about these series now that they have more volumes under their belts, and in some cases, have completed the entire series. The first of these that they discuss is Naoki Urasawa’s Monster (VIZ Media), a title that they first discussed in their July 2015 episode. The last volume of the English-language Perfect Editions was released in summer of 2016, and both Shea and Derek explore their experiences finishing up the series. As they reveal, Urasawa has a penchant for vast, multi-leveled narratives, filled with a wide cast of characters, and the guys discuss this style of storytelling, its thrills as well as its challenges.

Next, they turn to the completion of a story they first discussed on the September 2016 manga episode, Moto Hagio’s Otherworld Barbara (Fantagraphics). The second volume of this series was published in August of last year, and the guys revisit Hagio’s storyworld and its wrap-up. As they mentioned on their earlier episode, this is a complex, even vertiginous, narrative that involves dreamscapes, multiple narrative levels, and time interplay. Both of them appreciate Hagio’s conclusion, although at times they wonder about the story’s lapses into sentimentalism, and if the various narrative threads may not be a bit unwieldy.

Finally, the guys discuss other manga series that they’ve been keeping up with, even completing, individually. For Shea, that includes ONE and Yusuke Murata’s One-Punch Man and Yusei Matsui’s Assassination Classroom, both published by VIZ Media. Derek waxes enthusiastically about Inio Asano’s Goodnight Punpun (VIZ Media), Kengo Hanazawa’s I Am a Hero (Dark Horse Manga), and Akiko Higashimura’s Princess Jellyfish (Kodansha Comics).

Deconstructing Comics #584: Don’t “get” manga? Try these two.

Many Westerners feel a bit puzzled by Japanese comics — the subject matter, the art style, the pacing, etc. Koom has been trying for some time to grasp what he’s not “getting” about manga. Meanwhile, manga translator Kumar is about done with “explaining” Japanese comics to people, but he makes an exception for Koom (and the podcast). They discuss I Am a Hero by Kengo Hanazawa, and A Distant Neighborhood by Jiro Taniguchi — both translated by none other than Kumar!

Deconstructing Comics site

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Princess Jellyfish, Vol. 1 and I Am a Hero Omnibus 1

Listen to the podcast!

“Hip and now”


This month, Shea and Derek have a fun time discussing two recent manga releases. They begin with the first volume of Akiko Higashimura’s Princess Jellyfish (Kodansha), a series that is new to both of the guys. In fact, Derek comments that he might not have given this title a try if they hadn’t decided to discuss it for the podcast. Given the “princess” part of the book, he had wondered if this might not be too cute for him, a fluffy shojo title that may not appeal to him (while at the same time, admitting that he might be shortsighted). But as the guys discuss, Princess Jellyfish is anything but insubstantial. It’s a multi-layered story exploring friendships, gender identity, and fandom. Yet, “fandom” isn’t the right word when discussing this manga, and Shea and Derek spend a good deal of time understanding the character and behavioral nuances that Higashimura weaves into her narrative, supplemented by a useful glossary that she include in the back of the book. This is definitely a title that both of the guys will continue reading in the months to come. Next, they look at a completely different kind of manga, the first omnibus volume of Kengo Hanazawa’s I Am a Hero (Dark Horse Manga). This book has been getting a good deal of press, especially given its apparent similarity to The Walking Dead. In fact, Derek and Shea discuss the expectations surrounding I Am a Hero and how calling it “zombie manga” may be a lazy way of categorizing this series. At least in this first volume, there is much more to Hanazawa’s story that the undead rising. I Am a Hero is also a self-aware meditation on the place of manga in our culture, with the book’s protagonist, Hideo Suzuki, serving as its focalizing agent. Plus, there are many unanswered questions surrounding Hideo, non-zombie-based, that makes us question his reliability. And as Shea and Derek point out, it’s not entirely certain where Hanazawa’s sympathies actually lie regarding his hero…and that’s a good thing, at least for Derek, who appreciates ambiguity and authorial distance. Shea suspects that next volumes of the series will more firmly embed themselves in the zombie side of the story, although Derek is hoping that won’t entirely be the case. Time will tell.

Be sure to check out Shea’s recent review of I Am a Hero on the AV Club!


This is also the one-year anniversary of The Comics Alternative‘s manga series. So celebrate with them and let them know what you think of their episodes!