salinea: (smug)
I never properly most of the manga I read. I justify this to myself by saying I don't like reviewing little bits of stories, but I don't even when I suddenly devour a huge chunk or even complete series - so, yeah. Let's try to remedy that.

Natsume Yuujin Chou - titled the "le Pacte des Yokai" in the French translation - is an episodic shoujo series about a highschool boy, Natsume, who has the gift of seeing spirits and monsters; and which has always considered this as a curse - being seen as weird by his classmates, and being passed on from adoptive families to adoptive families. His grandmother had the same power and used it to bully spirits into forming many a "pact of friendships" which she collected in a book which is now in Natsume's possession. This brings Natsume a lot of unwanted attentions from yokais which want to steal the book for their own advantage, or to be released from their pacts of friendship. Natsume forms an agreement with one such powerful feeling - Nyanko Sensei - which takes the form of a Maneki Neko to be his bodyguard against the other spirits, and in exchange will inherit the book of pacts once Natsume dies. Meanwhile Natsume will try to release as many yokai from the pacts as he can.
I've started hearing about the anime adaption of this series - mostly in good - a lot lately. There's three volumes of the manga translated in French so far, and it is very good. The art is very thin, delicate and expressive in a way that suits perfectly the sensitive and melancholy nature of the stories. There's also a lot of natural landscapes adding to the lovely poetic atmosphere. The characters and their relationship (Nyanko Sensei is a rather snarky trickster mentor) is well depicted. Despite their very episodic nature, the stories are well developped and usually quite touching, articulated around themes of loneliness, friendship and the difficult of connections between the human world and the spirit world.

Hyakki Yakou Shou - "le cortège des cents démons" in the French translation - is a series with a very similar summary : Ijima Ritsu is the grandson of horror stories writer and medium and has had the same power to see spirits and monsters since he was a little kid. Before his death his grandfather set spirit Aoarashi to protect Ritsu from other monsters - and to possess the just recently dead body of Ritsu's father. Follow episodic stories of Ritsu dealing with some kind of supernatural happenstances, being (snarkily) protected by Aorarashi and bemoaning about his power.
Despite the similarity of formula, Hyakki Yakou Shou has a very different mood from Natsume Yujin Chou, being more truely horror, with a touch of dark humour, and less focussed on feelings, and targetted to a slightly older audience. It's slightly less epsiodic in nature too, having a larger cast of regular characters, including two of Ritsu's (female) cousins who also have some medium powers if less powerful ones. It's just as high quality, though, very intriguing and compelling stories.
Sadly the translation was discontinued after the 6th volume due to lack of money (the series is still ongoing in Japan); and the scanlations available don't reach this point yet.

To keep going on with traditionnal Japanese supernatural stories, Onmyouji is an adaption from famous Baku Yumemakura novel which also had two movies adapted from it; about legendary onmyouji Abe no Seimei solving supernatural cases during the Heian era along with his friend court noble Hiromasa who plays The Watson to Seimei's Sherlock.
This is a gorgeous manga, with exquisite and detailed art (although I occasionnaly have trouble telling characters apart but I blame the Heian fashion - all those hats) and great storytelling. The stories are subtle, complex, sometimes creepy, sometimes touching. Seimei's character is awesome, mischevious and charismatic, and play up to Hirosama's earnest, clumsy and kind personnality with a lot of humour and chemistry. The French adaptation is also extremely well done, with several coloured pages, and annexes going into depth about historical, geographical and esoteric details. There's three volumes translated so far out of a total of 12.

Now for something completely different, Kami no Shizuku - "Les Gouttes de Dieu" in French - is a seinen manga about wine. More specifically, when a famous oenologist dies, his testament determines that the one to inherit his impressive wine collection will be, between his son, Shizuku Kanzaki, who's never tasted wine in his life so disgusted was he with his father's extantricities, and his adoptive son another oenologist; a contest in identifying 12 great wines from descriptions. In order to be his father's inheritor, Shizuku will have to learn all about wine very quickly, with the help of apprentice sommelière Shinohara Miyaba.
One of the thing I love about manga is the capacity to pick any random subject a tell a great story out of it. This is the case here : the art is beautiful, the characters are endearing, and the story is actually very compelling... Sure, it's far-fetched that Shizuku keeps on falling onto situations which his growing knowledge of wine helps solve and lets him develop his knowledge at the same time; and, sure, the way wine is described through full panel landscapes is a ridiculously case of what do you mean it is not awesome... but it works. It makes the idea of wine tasting as something cool, plot carrying and full of imagery accessible, and, also, it's hysterical. Characters both main and secondary and very well developed and plays in and out of the story showing a great mastery of storytelling. I've read up to volume 4 so far, and the plot develops, slowly but surely, with a lot of suspense, humour and entertainment. If this manga doesn't make you into an alcoholic, you have no heart.

That's it, I'm done making you drool about the stuff that gets translated into French for today.

February 2016

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