Otaku USA Magazine
Checking in with IKKI

It’s been a while since we talked about IKKI here at Otaku USA, at least in any formal regard. In fact, Ed Chavez’s features on the Japanese manga anthology were hitting the site before anyone (anyone on our side of the fence, that is) knew that Viz would be providing comics fans with a free online glimpse into this starkly different world of manga. Now that it’s had some time to develop, let’s take a look into the current world of IKKI, and the titles that make up its unique roster.

Also, be sure to check out the Otaku USA word on IKKI in the latest issue, straight from the mouths of the manga maniacs.

Saturn Apartments
By Hisae Iwaoka

 

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Earth is now essentially a nature preserve, its citizens residing on a manmade ring that rests 35,000 ft. above the surface. Mitsu, fresh out of    junior high, is but one of the ring’s residents, not exactly enjoying the highest of status among the class-divided citizens.

 

After the disappearance of his father, Mitsu takes up his occupation, which happens to be both dangerous and strikingly mundane: window washing. This isn’t quite like shining the side of a highrise, though, as there’s a great deal of risk inherent to the job; you know… like plummeting to your death from 35 kilometers.

 

Hisae Iwaoka’s squat characters mesh nicely with the meticulously detailed backgrounds, making the apartments and their surroundings just as crucial to the proceedings as Mitsu and his peers. At the point Saturn Apartments currently stands, it’s really just now about to get interesting. The core concept itself is enough of a draw, but it should be nice to see Mitsu face some adversity that extends beyond his past, while also following the trail of the mysteries that remain.

 

Chapters 1-3 are currently available here.

 

I Am a Turtle

By Temari Tamura

 

I Am a Turtle is the toughest of these titles to give a solid impression of based on what I’ve read. In the four-panel format, it follows a turtle that slipped out of a smuggler’s sock and was found by a man he now calls his master. He’s an insecure creature, to say the least, and is constantly seeking the approval of his master, as if he could be dumped in favor of a more cuddly pet (a penguin, perhaps?) at any given moment.

 

I’ll have to give Temari Tamura’s series some more time, as it currently sits at a single chapter, containing seven pages of strips that are more curiosity than comedy gold. With such a brief investment of time required—it only takes a few minutes to burn through them all—it can’t hurt to give it a shot, and maybe this turtle’s low-key shenanigans will strike a chord in someone else right away.

 

Chapter 1 is currently available here.

House of Five Leaves
By Natsume Ono

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Akitsu Masanosuke is a masterless samurai who lacks one of the most crucial elements of the position: intimidation. He’s meek and quiet, he slouches rather than standing at his full towering height, and it’s thanks to all of this that he can barely afford to eat. It’s not his strength that’s an issue, however, it’s his personality.

 

Akitsu ends up being hired by a man named Yaichi, who appears to see something special in him despite his flaws. After going on what seems like a routine bodyguard outing, though, he ends up unwittingly taking the first step into a gang known as “Five Leaves.” Akitsu isn’t scared off by the prospect of fraternizing with these kidnapping outlaws. Rather, he sticks around, as intrigued by Yaichi as Yaichi is by him.

 

Ono’s artwork is a real standout here. The designs, especially that of the lead, complement the personalities perfectly. Akitsu comes off visually as somewhat morose and detached, which isn’t too far from his attitude in general, and the way he peers about from lofty but low-craned heights captures his desire to find a place where he can fit in and be accepted. House of Five Leaves is one of IKKI‘s best offerings yet in my opinion, and I can’t wait for the next chapter to surface.

 

Chapters 1-4 are currently available here.

 

Kingyo Used Books
By Seimu Yoshizaki

Kingyo Used Books represents the ultimate zap of nostalgia, and not just in a childhood-milking sense. This is true, raw nostalgia that affects its targets with frightening accuracy, and its power all centers on the titular bookstore and the ceiling-high stacks of manga within.

 

The bookstore acts as a hub of sorts for multiple stories, the first chapter telling the tale of a man who feels he’s grown too old for manga, and is planning to sell it all to the store to clear up some space in his apartment. Something strikes a chord in him during a class reunion, though, as everyone sits around, getting drunk and eventually enthusiastically recalling the various manga that rocked them so much in their youth. Sounds like a good opportunity for a trip to Kingyo Used Books, where these feelings never die.

 

The second and third story currently online are just as powerful for fans of manga, each showing a deep reverence for the format that can only come from a true manga lover. IKKI has quite a few good series sitting on these virtual shelves, but I think I may be most looking forward to spending some time in Kingyo, soaking in Seimu Yoshizaki’s potent pride.

 

Chapters 1-3 are currently available here.

Bokurano: Ours
By Mohiro Kitoh

 

Kids need to learn that, no matter how thick a crew you run with, it’s rarely if ever a good idea to venture into some strange cave. A group of fifteen seventh-graders on a dull nature retreat discover this for themselves when they do just that, and end up running into a room full of computer equipment, like a LAN party in the middle of the Batcave.

 

The man to whom this all belongs, simply known as Kokopelli, presents them with a simple offer: do you want to play a game? It may sound like something Jigsaw would say, but there’s no torture here, just the promise of an experience that involves defeating enemies with their very own armor-clad colossus. As out-there as it sounds, Kokopelli gives them a display of their robot’s power sooner than later, doing battle with another oddly-designed robot right in public. After this is over, the fate of the world will be in their hands.

 

When I first saw the enormous cast of Bokurano: Ours courtesy of the profiles on the opening pages, I thought it might end up being a little unwieldy; after all, it’s tough to create a compelling story with such an expansive group of characters. But Mohiro Kitoh makes it work, and the hooks sink in pretty early with this title. Most interesting are the mechanical designs, which are pretty far out from the kids’ robot on forward. I have a feeling this one is going to find a lot of fresh fans at a rapid rate if word is getting out as it should be.

Chapters 1-4 are currently available here.


I’ll Give it My All… Tomorrow

By Shunju Aono

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Shizuo Oguro lives the life of many an otaku, which is one of the reasons Shunju Aono’s I’ll Give it My All.. Tomorrow may hit close to home for some. Of course, one needn’t share all of Oguro’s qualities to understand where he’s coming from. He’s 41, has a daughter that’s nearing college age, and his latest aspiration reaches toward the lofty heights of the professional manga artist.

 

Most people—especially his father, who tires of watching him waste away in front of his video games—think Shizuo is a little… past his prime to pursue such an endeavor. It also doesn’t help that, as one so eloquently puts it, he always did stink at drawing. Nevertheless, Shizuo is going to give it his all, even if he does get a little sidetracked from time to time.

 

This series was first covered here before it hit our shores in translated form, and you can get a more in-depth look at it courtesy of Ed Chavez’s write-up. I was personally delighted to see I’ll Give it My All… Tomorrow as one of the initial IKKI launch series, and it lives up to any praise it received beforehand. Shizuo’s world is as fantasy as it is reality, coasting by with relatively few concerns despite reality constantly knocking on his door.

 

Best of all, despite the middle-aged, potentially depressing subject matter, I’ll Give it My All actually has kind of a positive vibe to it. See if it doesn’t inspire you to give it your all in a not-so timely but still well-meaning manner.

 

Chapters 1-4 are currently available here.

 

Dorohedoro
By Q Hayashida

 

In a dumpy, run-down city called “the Hole,” sorcerers frequently pop in and out, creating doorways through which they can experiment with magic. A woman named Nikaido found one of the results of their magic in a dark alley: a lizard-man named Caiman. Now her ally, the two are forced to kill off sorcerers until they find the one that put Caiman in his current state, an identity that’s determined by…a mysterious man living inside Caiman’s mouth.

 

Yes, Dorohedoro is a weird title, but I burned through the first chapter more quickly than anything else in IKKI‘s lineup. That’s partly because there’s so much action in the beginning, but the story itself—following the burgeoning war between these two disparate worlds—makes for some prime manga absorption.

 

Q Hayashida has the rawest style of them all, with some panels looking like a hybrid of Kentaro Miura and Pushead. The first few pages alone really rocked me, as they do a great job of literally throwing the reader right into the slobbering maw of a very bizarre conflict. It’s rough and sketchy, but painstakingly detailed, and it easily lands somewhere in my top three IKKI titles.

 

Chapters 1-4 are currently available here.

Afterschool Charisma
By Kumiko Suekane

 

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 Afterschool Charisma is the story of a group of students at St. Kleio Academy, most of which happen to be clones of historical figures. Freud, Marie Curie, Napoleon; they’re all here, and they’re all burdened by the weight of their progenitors’ achievements. The odd man out is Shiro Kamiya, a boy who stands alone as, well, completely normal.

 

Things take a sharp turn when the clone of John F. Kennedy is assassinated in the middle of giving a speech. This tragedy raises the question of whether or not these clones are doomed to repeat the pasts of the originals, or if something/someone more sinister is pulling the strings.

 

While the premise of this manga is certainly intriguing enough, it hasn’t managed to suck me in quite yet. Maybe it’s the characters constantly referring to each other by name in every situation that makes it seem like Suekane is trying a little too hard to ram the concept into everyone’s head. It’s a decent read, but compared to the rest of the IKKI offerings, it comes off as a little uninspired. I’ll stick around for at least a volume to see where else it takes us.

Chapters 1-4 are currently available here.


Tokyo Flow Chart

By Eiji Miruno

If you like both flowcharts AND manga, then Tokyo Flow Chart is right up your alley. In a self-proclaimed first (hey, I can’t argue that), Eiji Miruno is taking gag comics into the world of flow charts, increasing the gags by x, if x equals the amount of additional panels generated by the chart. That’s right, there are gags within gags within gags, and it’s actually a successful experiment, in that it made me laugh a handful of times.

 

Now, for someone like myself that’s a fan of humor ranging from the highest brow to the lowest puff of rear-loaded gas, that may not be a tall order, but Tokyo Flow Chart is enjoyable enough to recommend for your very own comedy experiment. With so many punchlines per page, at least a few are guaranteed to hit, even with such a tall translation order that still leaves some references suspended far above most non-Japanese heads.

 

Chapters 1-2 are currently available here.

 

Children of the Sea

By Daisuke Igarashi

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Here we have the OG IKKI title, at least as far as the sigikki homepage is concerned. Anyone that hasn’t had a chance to dig into this series should really start soon, because it’s fantastic on a few levels. The tone is really hard to put my finger on; it’s not quite somber, but it’s also not terribly upbeat. Daisuke Igarashi manages to capture the mood of his subject matter on each page, projecting that rolling tide feel of days by the shore, swimming in the ocean, wet sand drifting under pruned feet.

 

Ruka’s connection to the sea starts off as tenuous at best, but begins to slowly develop as she gets to know Umi and Sora, two boys that were raised in the ocean by dugongs. They feel more at home in the sea than anywhere else, and their stay at Ruka’s dad’s aquarium triggers a change in her, strengthening the bond between them all as the next leg of their journey begins to unravel.

 

There’s much more to Children of the Sea than that fairly vague description, but it’s worth discovering on your own. Igarashi’s light touch paints a vivid picture of sea life, and the first volume alone contains some pretty sublime spreads. Speaking of that first volume, if you want to read it, you’ll need to fork out for the hard copy at this point. Fear not, because the retail release of Children is a great buy anyway; a big, thick collection that does the content justice. After that’s been properly devoured, hop on the IKKI site to start taking in volume two.

 

Chapter 1 and Chapters 9-14 are currently available here.

 

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Afterschool Charisma © 2009 Kumiko SUEKANE/Shogakukan
Bokurano: Ours © 2004 Mohiro KITOH/Shogakukan
Children of the Sea © 2007 Daisuke IGARASHI/Shogakukan
Dorohedoro © 2002 Q HAYASHIDA/Shogakukan
House of Five Leaves © 2006 Natsume ONO/Shogakukan
I Am a Turtle © 2008 Temari TAMURA/Shogakukan
I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow © 2007 Shunju AONO/Shogakukan
Kingyo Used Books © 2005 Seimu YOSHIZAKI/Shogakukan

Saturn Apartments © 2006 Hisae IWAOKA/Shogakukan

Tokyo Flow Chart © 2006 Eiji MIRUNO/Shogakukan

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