Off-topic post: Manga reviews and discussion

For this post I will be talking about some of the manga I’ve taken an interest to. Due to the fact that not much manga I’m interested in are licensed in my region, I’m often forced to either import them or read them on less-than-trustworthy sites. There are even more problems if the manga I’m interested in are not even licensed in any English-speaking region (or scanlated into English). This means I have to read the original Japanese, and my Japanese is not at the point where I can read seinen/josei without a dictionary (yes, there are programs which allow you to search kanji by drawing them; I use one myself).

In this post I will be talking about Manga Time Kirara manga. The manga in this magazine series cover a wide variety of genres (particularly those in Manga Time Kirara Forward), ranging from the “standard” schoolgirl slice-of-life, to genres such as romance, harem, yuri, and even action and adventure (including fantasy and science-fiction), and this is not an exhaustive list. Regardless of the genre of its manga, the series mainly focuses on moe, so expect many cute girls. I will talk about some of the manga in this series, and for some of them, give very short reviews or grades. For the grading system I use, it is similar to that used for anime, as detailed here.

The Manga Time Kirara series consists of many magazines, of which at least six are currently running. The magazines which have been part of the Manga Time Kirara series are:

  • Manga Time Kirara (first publication 2002-05-17)
  • Manga Time Kirara Carat (first publication 2003-01-18)
  • Manga Time Kirara MAX (first publication 2004-05-24)
  • Manga Time Kirara Forward (first publication 2006-03-23)
  • Manga Time Kirara Miracle! (first publication 2011-03-16)
  • Manga Time Kirara Magica (first publication 2012-06-08, focusing on Puella Magi Madoka Magica)
  • Manga Time Kirara Carino (first publication 2012-01-27)
  • Comic Gear (first publication 2009-08-11)
  • Comic Yell! (first publication 2007-05-11)
  • Tsubomi (first publication 2009-02-12, focusing on yuri)

Most manga which have been serialised in one of the above magazines are part of the Manga Time KR Comics label. In addition, three Manga Time manga (Ruri Miyahara’s Love Lab, Hinako Seta’s Re-Kan! and Cool-kyō Shinja’s Komori-san Can’t Decline!, all of which have received anime adaptations) are considered part of a Manga Time Kirara Plus label (interestingly, Love Lab was once serialised in Comic Yell! for a period). Some manga which were never serialised in a Manga Time Kirara maagazine (such as Cherry Arai’s Mio’s Diary and Yuka’s Diary, which were originally Manga Time manga, and Yui Hara’s Wakaba*Girl, which was originally published by a different company) have been moved into the Kirara label.

Originally, Manga Time Kirara was considered part of the Manga Time series of magazines. However, with the rising popularity of moe in the 00s, the magazine has not only become editorially independent, but has also spawned many sister magazines of its own. The magazine itself began with manga from authors such as Hai Ran (Tori Koro) and Tōko Shiwasu (Super Maid Chirumi-san). While none of the manga which were published in the first issue are currently running in the magazine (the last, Super Maid Chirumi-san, ending publication in the magazine in the March 2007 issue), it has the oldest currently-running manga in the entire series (Cherry Arai’s Three Leaves, Three Colors) and (along with Kirara Carat) has four currently-running manga dating from before 2010 (in addition to Arai’s manga, there are Satoko Kiyuduki’s Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro, Ishiki’s Place to Place and Komata Mikami’s Yuyushiki). In my opinion, the most popular Manga Time Kirara entry in Japan right now is probably Yuyushiki (with around 4,000 pictures uploaded to Pixiv as of writing). Its most successful entry was most likely Kakifly’s K-On! (with its anime adaptation generating 36 full-length episodes and a movie; it also has its own category in the Japanese Wikipedia).
List of Manga Time Kirara manga with anime adaptations (for broadcast):

  • Dōjin Work by Hiroyuki (Summer 2007)
  • K-On! by Kakifly (Spring 2009, Spring-Summer 2010, movie on 2011-12-03)
  • Place to Place by Ishiki (Spring 2012)
  • Yuyushiki by Komata Mikami (Spring 2013)
  • Three Leaves, Three Colors by Cherry Arai (Spring 2016)

Manga Time Kirara Carat was the first sister magazine of Manga Time Kirara to be published. The magazine itself began with manga from authors such as Sesuna Mikabe (Akuma-sama Help) and Ryūko Kanzaki (Tart Mix!). While none of its first-issue manga are currently running in the magazine, it has the second-oldest currently-running manga in the entire series (Ume Aoki’s Hidamari Sketch). Its currently-running manga dating from before 2010, other than Hidamari Sketch, are Daioki’s Harumination, Kaduho’s Kill Me Baby and Kuroda bb’s A-Channel. In my opinion, the most popular Manga Time Kirara Carat entry in Japan right now is Hidamari Sketch (with over 13,100 pictures uploaded to Pixiv as of writing), and is most likely the most successful entry (with its anime adaptation generating around 60 full-length episodes; it also has its own category in the Japanese Wikipedia).
List of Manga Time Kirara Carat manga with anime adaptations (for broadcast):

  • Hidamari Sketch by Ume Aoki (Winter 2007, Summer 2008, Winter 2010, Autumn/Fall 2012)
  • GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class by Satoko Kiyuduki (Summer 2009)
  • A-Channel by Kuroda bb (Spring 2011)
  • Kill Me Baby by Kaduho (Winter 2012)
  • New Game! by Shōtarō Tokunō (Summer 2016)

Manga Time Kirara MAX was the second sister magazine. The magazine itself began with manga from authors such as Cherry Arai (Wonderful Days). None of its first-issue manga are currently running in the magazine (Wonderful Days was the last, ending in the August 2012 issue), and none of its currently-running manga date from before 2010 (its oldest manga, Yui Hara’s Kiniro Mosaic, began in the February 2010 issue as a guest). In my opinion, the most popular Manga Time Kirara MAX entry in Japan right now is Koi’s Is the Order a Rabbit? (with over 13,600 pictures uploaded to Pixiv as of writing), and may be its most successful entry (with Kiniro Mosaic a distant second; these two manga have anime adaptations which have 25 full-length episodes each either released or planned).
List of Manga Time Kirara MAX manga with anime adaptations (for broadcast):

  • Kanamemo by Shōko Iwami (Summer 2009)
  • Kiniro Mosaic by Yui Hara (Summer 2013, Spring 2015)
  • Is the Order a Rabbit? by Koi (Spring 2014, Autumn/Fall 2015)
  • Magic of Stella by cloba.U (Autumn/Fall 2016)

Manga Time Kirara Forward was the third sister magazine, and is notable for having manga in a more “traditional” format (i.e. not yonkoma), unlike the other magazines. The magazine itself began with manga from authors such as Akira Ishida (Oninagi; please do not confuse the mangaka with the voice actor) and Sesuna Mikabe (Tena on S-String). While none of its first-issue manga are currently running in the magazine, it has two manga which date back from before 2010 (Yoshitaka Ushiki’s Dream Eater Merry and Kinusa Shimotsuki’s Tonari no Kashiwagi-san). In my opinion, the most popular Manga Time Kirara Forward entry in Japan right now is Norimitsu Kaihō and Sadoru Chiba’s School-Live! (with over 5,100 pictures uploaded to Pixiv as of writing).
List of Manga Time Kirara Forward manga with anime adaptations (for broadcast):

  • Dream Eater Merry by Yoshitaka Ushiki (Winter 2011)
  • Hanayamata by Sō Hamayumiba (Summer 2014)
  • School-Live! by Norimitsu Kaihō and Sadoru Chiba (Summer 2015)
  • Anne Happy by Cotoji (Spring 2016)

Manga Time Kirara Miracle! is another sister magazine. It began with manga from authors such as Tachi (Sakura Trick), Harikamo (Yorumori no Kuni no Sorani) and CUTEG (Sweet Magic Syndrome). As of now, Sakura Trick is the only first-issue manga currently being serialised as of writing. In my opinion, the most popular Manga Time Kirara Miracle! entry is Sakura Trick (with around 1,000 pictures uploaded to Pixiv as of writing).
List of Manga Time Kirara Miracle! manga with anime adaptations (for broadcast):

  • Sakura Trick by Tachi (Winter 2014)
  • Gourmet Girl Graffiti by Makoto Kawai (Winter 2015)
  • Castle Town Dandelion by Ayumu Kasuga (Summer 2015)
  • Urara Meirochō by Harikamo (release TBA)

Now that I’ve introduced the magazines themselves, I’ll talk about some of the manga. While some of the manga are quite well known (particularly Hidamari Sketch, K-On! and the many Puella Magi Madoka Magica manga), most of them are obscure to the Western audience. In particular, some of the obscure ones include those which have not received an anime adaptation. As of now, I will only talk about the manga with no anime adaptation (for those with an adaptation, I may review the anime instead in a later post).

From Manga Time Kirara Carat I will talk a little about Tetsuko Tachitsu’s Custom Maid!. It follows a rich high school girl named Yū Hōōji, who is a closet otaku. This, of course, conflicts with the fact that she’s the sole heiress to her family, and to avoid lowering her family’s reputation, she hides her interests. However, it turns out that the personal maid hired for Yū, Masaki, is, in fact, her favourite dōjin artist. And this maid can do literally anything if given time (such as duplicate a fast food chain’s hamburgers).
Overall, I found this manga somewhat interesting. I found it a bit funny that Masaki would literally follow Yū to school, to the point of masquerading as a teenager and transferring into her class. Of course, when the girls go to a public bath, some of Yū’s friends mention that Masaki doesn’t really have a teenager’s body. Some of the gags also poke fun at Yū’s lack of height and childlike appearance (in one chapter, she was offered a kid’s meal at a fast food restaurant because of this), as well as her naïvety with regards to more mundane things (which rich people typically do not experience).
I won’t give this a rating, since it’s fairly new. However, I’ve yet to find anything which makes it stand out from the other Manga Time Kirara manga.

From Manga Time Kirara MAX I will talk about Kaori Hanzawa’s Comic Girls. It follows four up-and-coming mangaka, as they work on their respective manga. Kaoruko Moeta (pen name: Kaosu), a yonkoma mangaka, moves into the dormitory where she will live alongside her fellow mangaka, Koyume Koizuka (shōjo mangaka, pen name: Koisuru Koyume), Ruki Irokawa (teens love mangaka, pen name: Bakunyū♥Himeko) and Tsubasa Katsuki (shōnen mangaka, pen name: Wing V).
In Japan, people have been saying that this is the “new Gochiusa*”, partly due to some similarities with Is the Order a Rabbit?. On a side note, when I’m reading this manga, I sometimes imagine Ruki with Rize’s voice (and to a lesser extent, Koyume with Cocoa’s voice). Gochiusa comparisons aside, the manga details the struggles mangaka face when trying to complete the next chapter of their manga, complete with the ever-looming deadlines, which would make some people compare it to New Game! (which is a somewhat similar take on the video game industry; much like how Tokunō draws on experiences of working in the video game industry for his manga, Hanzawa uses her experience as a former shōjo mangaka to write this manga). Kaosu struggles with even getting any of her works accepted, due to deficiencies in quality (e.g. heads are too small, etc.) and the one thing which did get decent reviews, she got everyone else to help. Some of the jokes relate to manga creation (or its effects on the authors, such as having Ruki act like her characters while she is at school, which understandably freaks the teachers out, or one of the girls falling asleep in the break at school), but other parts poke fun at Kaosu’s diminuitive stature (apparently she stopped growing when she was ten years old, or something).
If you ask me, I believe that there is some overlap between the fandom of this manga and those of New Game! and Magic of Stella, due to how all three of these manga go into how some of our favourite forms of entertainment are created. Like New Game!, Comic Girls does not show an entirely realistic view of its industry; it is fairly toned down to make it suitable for Manga Time Kirara; if you want to see how the manga industry actually is, one suggestion is to look at the schedule of a mangaka who publishes weekly (if you look at such a schedule, you’ll be lucky to find even three hours of free time, or enough sleep hours; that’s probably why they’re not playing Pokémon Go).
My rating for this manga would be an A, which is identical to the ratings I gave to New Game! and Is the Order a Rabbit?. Out of all the Manga Time Kirara manga without anime adaptations, this is my favourite, and I want to see it animated. From my point of view, what makes this manga interesting is how it goes into the life of a mangaka.

There are other manga I wish to talk about, but I have written over 2,000 words at this point; maybe I should stop. Maybe I’ll end this post with this rant:

To all those who automatically assume that yonkomas are always adapted into short-episode anime, I’d like to beat you over the head for your ignorance. Just because the strips are four panels each doesn’t mean that the manga can only be adapted into three-minute episodes. Take a look at all the Manga Time Kirara adaptations. All Kirara adaptations for broadcast but one (and that was because there was only one volume) have, to this point, been adapted into full-length episode anime. Just because your experience of yonkoma adaptations was outside of Manga Time Kirara (or perhaps your experience is limited to very recent anime; someone has pointed out that there has been an increase in short-episode anime in recent years) doesn’t mean you can make this gross generalisation to all yonkoma adaptations. If you still want to play the “guess whether this is a short” game, take a look at the dates of announcement and airing (generally, I’ve found 6+ months difference means a fair chance of a full-length anime) and how much source material there is (two-three volumes of yonkoma are usually enough for 12 full-length episodes). If you’re still not convinced, maybe you should watch the K-On! movie (which, of course, lasts as long as a feature film for theatrical release), or all 60+ episodes of Hidamari Sketch (including OVAs, all of them full-length).

* Gochiusa (ごちうさ) is the shortened version of Is the Order a Rabbit?‘s Japanese title Gochūmon wa Usagi desu ka? (ご注文はうさぎですか?).

P.S. It’s the end of July, and the last day for me to pick up any currently-airing anime. If I don’t pick up any anime now (and it’s highly unlikely I will; I’m currently watching three by the way), any currently-airing anime I take an interest to in August or September will go straight to my backlog.

P.P.S. And Rui Tamachi’s Gokicha has come to an end, after five years of serialisation in Manga Time Kirara Carat. It’ll be sad to see the cute cockroach go.

Edit (3/8/2016): Urgh… so many minor errors I’ve corrected over the past few days.