Manga of the Year

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime

Manga of the year is a lot harder to do than Anime of the year. A manga can be completed in Japan, but is still published overseas or the scanlations are not that fast. Also, if it’s not by a famous manga-ka, a new manga is usually not even translated starting chapter 1. Scanlators and official publishers alike usually pick popular manga to translate, so there’s a lot of stuff I can’t possibly have read, simply because there’s no translation available – and in some cases not even raws.

Another problem is the longevity of manga. Of course there are great short manga, but more popular manga tend to run a lot longer than your average anime (12-24 episodes), especially when the title is published semi-monthly (Fruits Basket) or monthly (Fullmetal Alchemist) and the magazines sometimes skip a week/month, too.

To make a long story short: I’ve read way too much to remember everything I read, you usually don’t start reading a manga starting from the first chapter published in Japan, especially when you don’t live in Japan and long runners such as Conan or Ippo will probably still going in 10 years from now, so I’m just going with whatever I still remember I read this year. I’ll try choosing titles that left an impression on me.

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso already appeared on my anime of the year list

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Ichi Ni No San!

and it’s here again. I’d like to mention this one, because I rooted a lot for a happy ending, even though I knew it would end up having tragic ending. It was well done and you need some guts to kill off a main character.

Shokugeki no Soma has also been on my anime of the year list and I started reading the manga because of the anime. Especially in recent chapters there’s been a lot going on and when Azami took over the school, it feld like every new chapter came with a huge new surprise and that was very cool.

Diamond no Ace Act II started off on the really wrong foot with me, so it’s mostly negative memories I have with this one. It’s still more Furuya no Ace, even though every idiot should see just how much Sawamura is worth. The manga-ka is in love with Furuya and that’s super annoying. That’s the reason it was even more satisfying when Miyuki “said” about Sawamura: “Make them realize that you exist!” in chapter 13 and in chapter 14 Sawamura delivered a flawless game, exceeding the expectations from every single person in the stadium. That was cool. Unfortunately the focus is yet again on someone else…

Hirunaka no Ryuusei is a nice Shoujo with a surprising twist at the end. Suzume is in love with her teacher, an old childhood friend of hers, and I have to admit in most manga like this, the girl gets her man. However, in this case, even though he fell in love with her as well, he pushed her away and she got together with another guy. He realized too late, that she won’t just come back and in the end, she decides to let go of him an stay with her current boyfriend. While the end was disappointing for me, because I was rooting for the teacher, it was nice to see a manga actually going for this route.

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Sakamoto desu ga?

Sakamoto desu ga? will soon be over and there haven’t been that many chapters scanlated this year, but I’m super excited every time I see a new one. It’s a manga I enjoy a lot, because it’s a great parody of the perfect guy every girl falls in love with. It’s so overexeggerated that it’s absurd and it’s one hell of a joy to read that. It doesn’t even follow a real plot, it’s just Sakamoto reacting to everyday life situations or dealing with jealous guys.

Blue Sky Complex is a yaoi manga I recently discovered and I like it especially because it’s less about two guys being in love as opposed to two people being in love. The former hetero partner doesn’t care at all that his new partner is a guy, because he fell in love with the person and not the gender. It’s also quite funny the delinquent ends up as the uke and the more serious and silent former hetero guy is the seme.  You’d expect it the other way around.

My two top contenders for Manga of the Year 2015 are Piano no Mori and Ballroom e Youkoso. A story about a boy who learns the piano and another story about competitive ballroom dancing. That’s just so much like me. Both manga are being scanlated, but both are behind in recent chapters. Ballroom saw a few more scanlations lately, but I’m desperately following

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Ballroom e Youkoso

the raws as well. The characters and energy this manga delivers are amazing. I’ve done ballroom dancing myself and it’s really hard, so I can relate to it. Piano no Mori on the other hand was finished in Japan this year and the scanlations still have a long way to go, but it was a great and very satisfying ending, even without understanding a single world. Let’s just hope the actual translation won’t ruin it for me.

After all, I guess Ballroom e Youkoso makes the cut and is my manga 2015. I’ve been obsessed with it from the day I discovered it and I would love to see a proper anime  adaptation – that usually means more popularity and faster scanlations.

Diamond no Ace Act II and …Slam Dunk – What am I smoking?

This Koshien is Sawamura’s last chance to plat at Koshien with Miyuki and who’s blocking the mound? Furuya, obviously. Act II started off by praising Furuya more than ever and getting more and more time by that assh*ole coach, who loves his own personal wunderkind so much. Just great. Even though Sawamura worked so hard and achieved so much, Furuya is praised to heavens for every little thing and is the king of the mound. After only 4 chapters Act II is already pissing me off more than Act I was for a pretty long time actually.

I guess what’s pissing me off so much is that instead of making progress, we’re actually going backwards right now. You don’t always need the Pince of Tennis- like genius who stands above them all, not at all. You also don’t need the likable rookie that you see in Baby Steps, who slowys clibs his way up and makes tons of friends with all kinds of other players – inclusing those who’re better than him and he learns from them. He doesn’t really has an archrival like Sawamura does, so it’s less… “charged up” in general, I guess.

However, there is a manga with a somewhat similar setup and the genius archrival who rules them all and it’s done amazingly well. I admit I’m very biased, because frankly speaking, Slam Dunk by Takehiko Inoue is my faorite “classic” sports manga and I admit Takehiko Inoue is my favorite Mangaka, but Slam Dunk is incredibly well written. And guess what? It’s not even nearly as frustrating as Ace of Diamond is.

The reason is rather simple. Sakuragi, the main character, has never played basketball before, he’s a rookie and way too full of himself. Rukawa deserves all the praise he gets and Sakuragi does not. However, as he grows stronger, Sakurai’s talent and achievements are met with appropriate praise by his team-mates and his coach. Obviosuly, Rukawa still has his fanclub and is the ace and everything, but Sakuragi grows into a well deserved and valuable member of the team. The entire team grows and the manga makes a much bigger effort to develop Sakuragi as a character, compared to much time is spent showing Rukawa in the spotlight.

As for Sawamura, he’s very likable from the start and you know he has a huge potential as a pitcher, combien that with his wish to become the ace of the team, a very realistic dream, you root very strongly for him from the start. Even more so after his first encounter with Miyuki. Sakuragi on the other hand is so laughably bad, his jealously against Rukawa is absurd, because he’s no match for him at all. You root for him, but he’s not a good character and on the field, he literally has nothing to prove himself with. He earns every single ounce of respect by hard word and this is met with appropriate acknowledgement by the other characters and the reader.

Diamond no Ace is already 400+ chapters long, by now, Sawamura should have moved up, but instead re recenly seems to drift farther away than ever. This is very hard to stomach teasing. Sawamura needs the number of the ace during this tournament, because this is Miyukis last tournament. We’re running out of time.

Still, Diamond of Ace is a great sportsmanga and I still celebrate every single time Miyuki walks through a panel (I love that devil), but after 400+ chapters, I really want Sawamura to come visiably closer to his dream.