Crunchyroll Manga Sampler: Course Two

I swear I did not rig this week’s selection.  I just happened to get very lucky with the random number generator this time around.  That’s probably a good thing considering the rather eclectic offerings we’ll be looking at today.  Without further ado, let’s take a look at the second course:



Really?  Are people still making works like this in this day and age?  I would have expected this sort of nonsense to come out of Tokyopop’s OEL line around a decade ago, but not on modern-day Crunchyroll.  Hypersonic Music Club is a bit of a cheat to include, as it’s an independent, American-made work.  Of course, arguing the point about it being truly manga or not is moot when the fact remains that it’s honestly kind of garbage.

The ostensible plot is that the girls of the titular club have to use their mad music-making skills to fight back against a gang of sexy aliens looking to pick a fight for…um…er…reasons.  It’s hard to say much more about because at this point, there’s only a single 13-page chapter available to read.  We barely get any notion of who anyone is or where the hell they’re supposed to be other than some futuristic high school before it’s all over.  Instead what we do get is a veritable assault on the eyes thanks to the artwork.  The characters all look like the sort of half-baked anime-inspired designs that can be found all over DeviantArt, and they seem to live in a world of pure, cluttered nightclub-themed chaos.  Panels are messy to the point of becoming incomprehensible, and this is not helped by the fact that everything has been colored in garish, almost neon colors with no regards to style or good taste.  It’s a tacky bit of nonsense without a single sliver of promise, and I don’t honestly know why this series is even here.  RATING: 1/10


Ichiro Inuyashiki has a hard life.  He’s pushing 60, he has a family who regards him with indifference and scorn, and on top of all that he has stomach cancer.  In spite of all that, Ichiro is so mild-mannered that all he can do is quietly, silently seethe, at least until a mysterious light literally blows him up.  It turns out that the light was some friendly fire from some passing aliens, and in an attempt to correct their error they try to rebuild him from what they have on hand.  What that means for Ichiro is that now his frail body is now made of super-strong metal and weaponry, and he’s determined to use his new lease on life to escape the mendacity of his life and start righting some of the wrongs of the world.

I can’t say I was entirely looking forward to this one.  Inuyashiki was written by Hiroya Oku, the creator of Gantz, and I simply could not get into Oku’s own particular brand of cynicism and violence in that series.  I feared that reading this would only bring more of the same, and in a sense I was half-right.  This is a fairly cynical series and it does occasionally get violent, but Ichiro manage to give this story a bit of heart and inspiration just by being himself.  He’s an ordinary, rather meek man who tries to live up to the middle-class dream but all he gets in return for it is a family that treats him like a nuisance and a world that’s utterly indifferent to him and all those like him.  Then he basically becomes a superhero, and for the first time ever he can find some satisfaction in helping others (even if most of his action is involuntary, as his artificial body is still prone to getting knocked out by random street thugs).  It’s a simple, satisfying and concise character arc that gives me a kernel of hope that Oku will stretch himself as a writer here and not just indulge in a lot of cynical, grim-dark excess.  I’m also intrigued by the bits of body horror Oku has managed to slip in as well.  The most powerful chapter is the one where Ichiro realizes the true nature of his new body, and the build-up to the big reveal is masterful.  All of this is on top of Oku’s typically well-rendered, gritty art, although the scanned photographs he uses for backgrounds do have a tendency to turn into a mess of pixels in Crunchyroll’s reader unless you zoom in closely.  Still, I was pleasantly surprised by Inuyashiki and I hope that it can keep up that tenuous balance between hope and despair.  RATING: 6/10


Every girl grows up to be a princess.  That’s what Tsukimi’s mother used to say to her before she died.  Unfortunately, Tsukimi didn’t so much turn into a princess as she did turn into a jellyfish otaku with a serious case of social anxiety.  If there’s one thing that Tsukimi and the other otaku girls in her apartment complex know, it’s that the stylish people of the world are meant to be avoided at all costs, especially the men.  Then Tsukimi runs into a beautiful woman one night while trying to save a petshop jellyfish, only to discover that this stunning young woman is in fact Kuranosuke, a stunning young crossdresser.    Tsukimi now has a stylish new friend with a rich and influential family, and neither of them are ever going to be the same.

Princess Jellyfish was seen by many as a long-shot of a manga license.  While the animated series was critically well-received, it wasn’t exactly burning up the sales charts.  Worse still, Princess Jellyfish is josei, and most manga publishers have had an abysmal history when it comes to josei works.  It’s little wonder then that the manga bloggers of the web rejoiced when Kodansha announced that they were putting this out in both print and digitally.  Of course this begs the question: does Princess Jellyfish live up to the hype?  Personally, I would say yes, but it’s hard to say if a larger audience weaned on the high drama of shoujo would say the same.

Princess Jellyfish is an unusual manga in a lot of ways.  It’s a series where the youngest person in the cast is 18 when most books on the shelves feature kids in their mid teens.  It’s a series about female otaku, but instead of being obsessed with boys’ love and similar pop-culture pursuits they’re into things like trains, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, or jellyfish.  It features a crossdresser who is neither a fetish object nor a joke.  What isn’t unusual is that the focus of the story isn’t on any of these things, but instead on understanding both Tsukimi and Kuranosuke as people.  While the two are practically polar opposites in temperament, they end up complementing one another quite well.  They’re also unknowingly united in the fact that their respective obsessions are deeply tied to the missing mothers in their lives, a fact that fuels Kuranosuke’s fashion-based rebellion and keeps Tsukimi mired in her own insecurity and grief.  This connection only grows as Tsukimi accidentally finds herself in a sort of love triangle.  Kuranosuke’s politican brother Shu gets a crush on Tsukimi after seeing her after a makeover, and Kuranosuke himself starts to feel a twinge of jealousy over it.  Honestly, at this point I might be reading this more to follow Kuranosuke in all of his blunt, big-hearted, free-spirited, and fabulous glory than I am for Tsukimi.  Regardless, I was still quite impressed with Princess Jellyfish and I’m eager to read more, and I hope that going up on Crunchyroll will give people a chance to discover this quiet little gem of a manga for themselves.  RATING: 8/10

Well, it's always nice to see a fan favorite live up to the hype around it.  It's just as nice as seeing a mangaka expand their boundaries as an writer or even...ok, I still can't think of anything nice to say for Hypersonic Music Club.  Will my next installment surpass my expectations?  We'll just have to wait for the next course.


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