Insufficient Direction by Moyoco Anno

Vertical is such a great publisher. I’m turning into even more of a fangirl because Gundam: The Origin, What Did You Eat Yesterday?, and Insufficient Direction all make me very happy. Some of the online reviews I’ve skimmed about this manga tend to focus more on the opportunity to find out what Hideaki Anno is like, but I always found myself more intrigued by getting a bit of an autobiographical glimpse into Moyoco Anno’s home life. She’s obviously fiercely intelligent, with a cynical edge to her manga like Happy Mania and Sakuran.

Insufficient Direction
is an affectionate and humorous look at what it is like to be married to the Ultimate Otaku. Anno portrays herself as a toddler wearing a one piece suit named Rompers and her husband looks like a bearded five-year-old with a beer belly, who is referred to as Director-kun. The manga details the hazards of geekdom, including how to shop for wedding outfits when one part of the couple wants to cosplay as Ultraman, anime song earworms, large collections of action figures and dvds, and superhero posing contests. Rompers gradually finds her personality slowly adjusting to Director-kun’s as she accidentally binge watches Gundam and finds herself making random geeky cultural references.

Anno’s style in Insufficient Direction is basically a cartoonish chibi way of drawing both her and her husband, but I was amused by the panels here and there where her normal manga style peeked through, when she was sitting around talking to her assistants or portraying a goofy story made up by her husband. Overall, this manga is an affectionate portrayal of a marriage, with give and take on both sides as Rompers tries to get Director-kun to be more healthy and Director-kun tries to get his wife to become the ultimate otaku bride.

There’s an essay by Hideaki Anno in the back of the book, and it is clear how much he respects his wife’s talent. I also appreciated the copious notes included in this volume, which are necessary for anyone who doesn’t have a ton of knowledge about Japanese tv shows and anime from the 60s and 70s. I enjoyed the episodic nature of this manga, which made it easy to pick up and put down if I was just in the mood to read a chapter or two. This is a must read if you enjoy slice of life manga, or if you are a fan of either Hideaki or Moyoco Anno.

What Did You Eat Yesterday, Vol. 1

What Did You Eat Yesterday? Vol 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga

What Did You Eat Yesterday?
is one of those holy grail manga that I thought would be tough to get here in America in translated form, so you can imagine my delight when Vertical announced that they would be publishing it. No one does slice of life foodie manga like Yoshinaga, so I was looking forward to this series about a gay couple and the food they eat.

Shiro Kekei is a lawyer for his day job, determined to take on boring cases that will allow him to leave work by 6 every day. He doesn’t share much about his personal life at work, seeming very aloof. Shiro’s enthusiasm comes out when he’s shopping for and preparing food for his outgoing boyfriend Kenji who works at a salon. Ordinarily reading someone’s thoughts as they scan the supermarket for bargains and contemplate the nuances of the seasoned rice that they are cooking wouldn’t be all that exciting, but Yoshinaga’s wit and humor makes these every day occurrences fascinating. What Did You Eat Yesterday? is all about food, but Yoshinaga also includes details of character interaction that make you want to spend more time with the people she introduces. Shiro’s mother calls him and browbeats him about not being out at work, yelling over the phone “Proclaim it loud and proud! Being homosexual is nothing to be ashamed of!” Shiro zealously guards his privacy, while Kenji brags about his hot lawyer boyfriend at work while he’s cutting hair.

Shiro has another close friend outside of work, an older housewife who he bonds with over their shared love of cooking, and they meet in an amusing way. Seeing the contrast between Shiro’s job as a lawyer and the hobby that takes up so much of his interior life is interesting, as well as the way the different personalities Shiro and Kenji complement each other. There are a few recipes in the book, and for the dishes that Shiro prepares that aren’t as fully described, it would be easy to track down a recipe online. I did find myself wondering towards the end of the book if I could start using my rice cooker more creatively. This was a pleasure to read, from the opening scenes to the next volume preview that includes a list of all the foods the reader can expect to see in volume 2.

One Punch Man, Vol 1

I make no secret of my affection for shoujo manga, but occasionally even I want to read shonen manga featuring kicking or punching, preferably both. One Punch Man, as one might suspect, is centered on punching. This is available on the Viz Digital site for your various devices! One Punch Man provides an amusing twist on the typical shonen manga plot about a young protagonist who has to work hard to develop his extraordinary abilities. In this case the hero of the manga, formerly unemployed salaryman turned hero Saitama has already train to develop his powers with such intensity that all his hair has fallen out. He is called “One Punch Man” because he is so strong he can easily defeat any opponent with just one punch, and as a result is incredibly bored.

In One Punch Man, Saitama’s town seems to be an unfortunate focus of giant villains or monsters with satirical origin stories. One Punch Man punches Vaccine Man, who exists due to pollution, a crustacean made angry by graffiti, and a group of subterraneans. Throughout the manga, One Punch Man is vainly hoping for a non-boring battle, only to be disappointed every time. As drawn by Yusuke Murata, One Punch Man often resembles a slightly perturbed superhero with an egg-like head, which only serves to highlight the ridiculousness of his opponents. Towards the end of middle of the volume One Punch Man even takes on a sidekick Genos, “a lone cyborg fighting for justice.”

I found One Punch Man‘s send up of superhero conventions amusing, the art was well executed, and it perfectly fit in my desire to read goofy fighting shonen manga. The send-ups of villains and heroic origin stories mixed in with some spectacular punches made this manga fun to read, and I hope it does well for Viz as a digital first release. I’d buy the next volume, for sure.

Phantom Thief Jeanne, Vol 1

Phantom Thief Jeanne Volume 1 by Arina Tanemura

Phantom Thief Jeanne is by far my favorite Arina Tanemura series. It is also one of her earlier ones, since it came out in 1998. It might be less polished than her more recent series, but I have always found it amusing because it has a certain magical girl “throw the spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks” approach to plotting that I find amusing. It also has one of the most bonkers ending volumes I’ve experienced in shoujo manga. I already own the full set of this series from the CMX edition that came out in 2005, but this reissue from viz is based on what I assume are the Bunkoban volumes in Japan, so instead of a seven volume set, this edition will be 5 longer length volumes. There’s a new translation, a color page, and a couple extra sketches in the back.


The Jeanne in the title is in real life the ordinary high school student Maron Kusakabe, who is in the rhythmic gymnastics club at her school. At night, she magically transforms into Phantom Thief Jeanne, who fights for the forces of good in the universe by detecting demons hidden inside masterworks of art and exorcising them. The demonic possession will also extend to the owner of the piece of art, leading Maron to have plenty of encounters with oddly acting art collectors. Maron is aided in her holy quest by her helper, the tiny angel Finn. Maron’s phantom thief name is due to the fact that she’s the reincarnation of Joan of Arc, so she is extra skilled at being a art thief warrior for God. As the volume begins, Maron attempts to deflect her friend Miyako’s interest in her secret alter ego and she’s made a bit nervous by Chiaki, the flirty new boy who just moved in next door in her apartment building.

Maron has a frustrating day and heads out for her typical night out phantom thieving. Her best friend Miyako, who’s father is a police detective, is on the scene determined to capture Jeanne. Like any good phantom thief, Jeanne tends to leave warning notes with clues about where she intends to strike. Jeanne has one of the best magical girl introductions, as she proclaims “I am the Phantom Thief Jeanne…sent down before you by God!” It is hard to argue with the power of the Almighty. When she seals the demon inside the painting, she yells “Checkmate!” and a white chess piece appears. The painting changes into a depiction of an angel, and usually the owner of the painting is so happy at the quality of the new work of art and the lack of danger to their immortal soul that they don’t tend to mind Jeanne’s intervention.

Jeanne is bounding along in the night, trailing ribbons when an enemy appears! It is Phantom Thief Sinbad and he announces his intention to challenge her! Maron goes through her regular school activities, fending off Chiaki by day and dealing with Sinbad’s sudden appearance near all the works of art that she’s targeting at night. It is amazing how Sinbad basically looks just like Chiaki but with a headband and a cloth covering the lower half of his face. Sinbad has similar powers as Jeanne, but he can turn captured demons into black chess pieces and has a dark angel helper as a counterpart to Jeanne’s angel Finn. As a shoujo manga heroine, Maron is both exuberant and kind. Chiaki clearly starts developing feelings for her as he spends more time with her. Maron is also desperately lonely, because her parents went away and haven’t been in touch with her. Maron has a great deal of difficulty trusting people, but she starts opening up to Chiaki a little bit. As Jeanne’s missions continue, Sinbad acts as more of a helper than a rival, but he seems very conflicted about it.

The art in Phantom Thief Jeanne is exactly what you would expect from a Tanemura title, but maybe a tiny bit less detailed than her later works. I enjoyed having a chance to read the manga again in a new edition. I thought that the new Shojo Beat translation was a bit more subtle and smooth than the CMX editions. I also preferred the lettering in the Shojo Beat edition. The CMX version tended to use a great deal of variation in font size and font weight to convey emotional aspects of the dialog, and while that can be an interesting approach, when I was reading a few pages from each edition side by side, I thought that the CMX edition was a bit more choppy in terms of reading experience. Since this is a reissue, I almost wish that the edition had been a bit more deluxe, with a few more color pages or some other extras. I did like the new edition very much, I’m not sure I’d recommend that everyone who already has the CMX version rush out and buy it right away but it has been so long since the first edition of Phantom Thief Jeanne came out there’s a whole new group of readers that can experience this title for the first time!

Dawn of the Arcana Vols 11 and 12

Dawn of the Arcana Vol 11 by Rei Toma

Dawn of the Arcana is a series that I think is best experienced in mini bursts of 2 or 3 volumes, simply due to the deliberate pace of the storytelling in the manga, as well as the fact that it sometimes takes a half volume or so for my brain to kick in with my memories about what happened in the previous volume due to all the relationships developing and the shifting nature of the geopolitical situations happening in Toma’s world. Usually I’m far too impatient to let the volumes pile up like this though!

After 10 volumes, the new status quo for red haired socially outcast with alarming powers of precognition Princess Nakaba and formerly arrogant but really a nice guy who has a social conscience inspired by the power of love Prince Caesar is to be separated. Nakaba has returned to Senan, determined to do some ruling in her own right, and Caesar is back in his home country of Belquat, dealing with his evil family. This volume shows the emotional impact of Nakaba’s power, the Arcana of Time, as she is determined to save the outcast child of a village that is in the direct path of an avalanche. This becomes a story that further explores the position of the humanoid animal hybrid race called ajin, as Lala the child with bunny ears is actually the product of a human/ajin encounter, leading to her abandonment. Lala has one human friend, and Nakaba’s ever present ajin protector Loki is there to save the day as always.

Loki always seems to have a new revelation every few volumes, either about his emotions or background, and a secret is revealed in this volume that shows that he and Nakaba have even more in common than I previously thought. While there’s the more conventional romantic storyline with Caesar and Nakaba, I actually find Nakaba’s relationship with Loki much more interesting, as they trade off protector duties in unexpected ways. Nakaba decides to take power in her home country, and her choices are largely driven by wanting to prevent Loki from going too far for her.

Dawn of the Arcana Vol 12 by Rei Toma

Everything keeps zipping along, as now that Nakaba and Caesar are in power in their respective countries, they have a chance to finally see each other again, when Caesar is ordered to invade Senan. Nakaba’s been looking in on Caesar and remarks that he’s going to start a revolution, so she’s “Here to lend a hand.” Nakaba’s power also provides Toma with a great way of providing more backstory about her characters. Nakaba looks back at Caesar’s father when he was young, even though Loki warns her that it might be difficult for her to see because she’s “too kind”. Nakaba sees King Guran’s first meeting with his unconventional first queen, the commoner Sara. The unhappy ending of this romance provides a reason for why King Guran might have ended up so twisted and bitter, but it doesn’t prevent a confrontation that is sure to cause even more fallout to happen in the volumes ahead.

One of the things that I really like about the art in this series is that it is so clear and easy to read. Toma might not have the most intricate backgrounds or innovative approach to paneling, but I’m never left puzzled about action scenes or finding that I have to go back and reread a page to make sure I understand the sequencing. The wordless exchanges between Nakaba and Caesar and the sidelong glances between Loki and Caesar do more to express the tensions between the characters than several pages of dialog. Overall, these were two very solid volumes in a fantasy series that is always surprising me with unexpected depths. I’m looking forward to the next few volumes to see what will become of Nakaba, Caesar, and Loki (well, really mostly Loki).