Monday, December 05, 2005

the best of 2005: manga (+ sharp jolt o' reality)

I went to the mall the other night to finish up my Christmas shopping and return two sweaters to Anthropologie. I wore the same thing I’d worn to work earlier: a black sweater, a long silk floral print skirt, and high-heeled mary janes.

Yes, this is semi-relevant.

So I did my returns and bought my presents and gave myself synesthesia in Sephora, and then I had a cup of pretzel bites that came drenched in butter and were insanely delicious, and then as I was walking towards the mall exit, I noticed that Electronics Boutique had Resident Evil 4 on the PS2 demo machine.

Oh, like I could resist that.

A previous player had stranded Leon inside the safe room. I reloaded my shotgun and went a-huntin’. Expertly, I popped the heads off a couple of cult members, and then I went to the inventory screen, equipped a fire grenade, and blew some shit up. I did this for about five minutes before realizing the mall was about to close. I set the controller down, and I turned around to see a teenage boy wearing a Misfits shirt and an eyebrow ring staring at me in awe.

“Dude, you’re like the coolest mom ever,” he breathed.

I didn’t know whether to hug him or commit suicide.

Yeah, so anyway, here’s the second in my “Best Of 2005” series. I’m starting with the lists least likely to be updated; I know the movie list will be last. Shit, if the trailer for Brokeback Mountain made me cry, I’m thinking the movie will have me on the floor.

  • Not everything here was first released in 2005, but if that's the first time I read it, then onto the list it went.
  • I read all of these in English, but not all of them are commercially available in the United States. I put an asterisk after the titles that have been licensed and/or published here.
  • These are not in preferential order, but I did make note of my definite favorite.

    1. Itadakimasu! by Yoshihara Yuki: A woman working at a bridal salon starts seeing the younger brother of her ex-husband just to spite him, but she winds up falling in love with him. A smutty and extremely funny series by one of my all-time favorite mangaka. (Note: The title doesn't translate well into English, so I left it in Japanese. Basically, it means "I will receive" and is said before meals.)

    2. Darling by Yoshihara Yuki: The hilarious and steamy adventures of two newlyweds.

    3. Loved One by Yoshihara Yuki: A woman is obsessed with one of her college professors, and through an improbable (albeit hysterically funny) series of events, she winds up living with him and his lecherous brother.

    4. Brother Dear Brother by Riyoko Ikeda: The basis for one of my all-time favorite anime series, this is about the psychological damage girls inflict upon each other in an effort to be popular.

    5. Nana* by Ai Yazawa: Two young women, both named Nana, meet by chance on a train to Tokyo and become immediate friends. Through a series of coincidences, they wind up sharing an apartment, and the manga follows them through their friendship and various romantic entanglements. Beautiful art and an alternately touching and funny storyline; one of the most realistic depictions of female friendships I've ever read in any medium. My favorite manga of the year.

    7. Death Note* by Ohba Tsugumi and Obata Takeshi: A teenage boy finds a notebook which includes written instructions on how to kill people from a distance: write down their name while thinking of their face, and they'll be dead in a matter of seconds from the method you choose. The boy, skeptical at first, tries it out on a criminal featured on the news and is astounded when it seems to work. He develops a major god complex and decides he'll use the notebook to clean up the scum of society, and when the police finally figure out that some sort of strange vigilante is at work, they send the brilliant and mysterious detective known only as "L" (one of the greatest, oddest manga characters ever, in my opinion) to find him. The boy can't kill his pursuer with the notebook because he doesn't know the guy's real name...and the chase is on. Unfortunately, it does start to lose steam eventually, but it's still addictive and raises all sorts of profound ethical questions.

    8. I Want to Lose Myself by Yuki Yoshihara: Amusing romantic stories. I just discovered this mangaka recently, but she's damn good, as you can tell from her domination over this list. Her heroines are unrepentantly raunchy, which I love.

    9. Yotsubato* by Azuma Kiyohiko: From the genius who brought you Azumanga Daioh comes this great series about a strange little girl and her daily adventures.

    10. Swan* by Ariyoshi Kyoko: I am an absolute sucker for 70's shojo, and this ballet manga is an excellent example of the genre at its best.

    WORST: Bambi and Her Pink Gun* by Atsushi Kaneko. Unusual art and an interesting storyline, but it's very nihilistic; I felt really grimy after reading it. Not everything has to be unicorns pooping rainbows, of course, but this is just too ugly.