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April 23, 2012

Bento Bako Weekly: Celebrating Viz Signature (MMF)

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Written by: Kristin
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This April, the manga blogging community is celebrating the Viz Media Viz Signature (and Sig IKKI) line. The Viz Signature line (formerly the Editor’s Choice line) features a not insignificant amount of fantastic titles, most of which don’t get anywhere near the attention and sales they deserve. As manga bloggers, we do what we can to draw attention to the great titles out there, so this month the Manga Moveable Feast is honoring one publisher’s efforts to bring the interesting and the unique to American readers. In this article you’ll find a summary of each of the Signature titles reviewed on ComicAttack.net, with links to the reviews. To follow this month’s April Moveable Feast, head on over to The Manga Critic, where the feast is being hosted, for reviews, essays, conversations, and more about the Viz Signature line. The archive for all of this month’s MMF posts can be found here.

20th Century Boys, by Naoki Urasawa. Currently in its final volumes, 20th Century Boys tells the story of a close-knit group of friends battling against a person known only as Friend. On Bloody New Year’s Eve, this group of friends, led by a man named Kenji, fought back against Friend, but were framed by Friend as villains. Kenji died in the battle, and now, over fifteen years later, it’s up to his niece, Kanna, to carry on the fight against Friend and save all of humanity from his deadly machinations. Expertly written by Urasawa, this science-fiction series is filled with mystery, plot twists, engaging characters, and a fantastic story.

Afterschool Charisma, by Kumiko Suekane. This intriguing series centers on private high school St. Kleio Academy, which boasts a very unique student body. Each of the students at St. Kleio is a clone of a famous historical figure. The series throws together such figures as Napoleon, Adolf Hitler, Joan of Arc, Elizabeth I, Sigmund Freud, Florence Nightingale, Albert Einstein, Amadeus Mozart, and many others into an academic setting, where they learn about their originals and strive to equal their great accomplishments. As the clones struggle with their emerging individual identities and the pressure to live up to their originals, the only non-clone at the school, Shiro, struggles to fit in and find his own purpose. A dark cloud hangs over this otherwise remarkable institution, and the daily lives of the students are thrown into chaos when a renegade group of past clones attacks the school.

Biomega, by Tsutomu Nihei. This post-apocalyptic science fiction story, uh…well, to be honest, although I reviewed two volumes, I still don’t really know what exactly this series is about. A virus is ripping through the population, turning everyone into zombie-like creatures. Zoichi Kanoe has been charged by TOA Heavy Industries to locate humans immune to the disease so they can stop the infection. Lots of techno-babble and confusing artwork. I can’t personally recommend this one, which is rare for Viz’s signature line.

Black Lagoon, by Rei Hiroe. Japanese salaryman Rokuro Okajima was kidnapped by the crew of the Black Lagoon. Abandoned by his company, Rokuro changed his name to Rock and joined the crew, becoming a member of Lagoon Company with Dutch (the boss), Benny (the techie), and Revy (the gunslinger). A gritty tale of a man’s attempt to keep his humanity in a world filled with death. Filled with action, ass-kicking women, explosions, and shootouts, Black Lagoon is a blast to read.

Bokurano: Ours, by Mohiro Kitoh. A group of children are chosen to pilot the giant robot Zearth to save their world. At the end of each battle, the chosen pilot mysteriously dies. If a pilot loses the battle, the entire world is destroyed. Faced with a bleak, and short, future, the children do their best to leave the world without unfinished business, even if it means using Zearth to kill a person who wronged them. There’s a lot more to it than that, including the truth behind the battles, and what victory or defeat really means for the universe the children live in. A dark, twisted, and psychological science fiction tale, reminiscent of series like Evangelion.

Children of the Sea, by Daisuke Igarashi. Breathtaking artwork is the highlight of this incredible series that gives a new twist to the origin of all life on Earth. Mysterious children emerging from the ocean, a scientist driven to solve an ancient mystery, and an innocent child drawn in by the mysticism of the sea. Science, philosophy, and mythology combine to present a tale that deserves to be read, and absolutely must be seen.

Detroit Metal City, by Kiminori Wakasugi. An outrageously (and purposefully) vulgar gag comedy series, Detroit Metal City follows the lives of some very ordinary men who become very extraordinary when they don their costumes and pick up their instruments to perform in the black metal group DMC.

Dogs: Bullets and Carnage, by Shirow Miwa. The world of Dogs is a dark place, divided into the Above world and the Below world, with the Below world filled with the unsavory aspects of society, and ruled by an organization that performs genetic experimentation and is known for using extreme violence. The main characters search for a way into the Below, in order to discover the secrets of their pasts.

Dorohedoro, by Q Hayashida. As Caiman, a large man with the head of a lizard, searches the Hole and the world of magic for his missing (original) head, powerful sorcerer En searches for a partner who can use time magic. Caiman and his friends’ paths cross with En and his family’s as they search for answers about their pasts. A unique and well drawn story, this series creates a vast hidden world of powerful magic than can lead to horrifying (and occasionally humorous) ends.

Gente, by Natsume Ono. A spin-off of Ristorante Paradiso, Gente continues (or rather, pre-dates) the look into the lives of a group of handsome, middle-aged men working in a small but well loved cafe. A slice-of-life, intimate look into the lives of the employees and patrons of Casetta dell’Orso.

House of Five Leaves, by Natsume Ono. This series follows disgraced samurai Masanosuke, who finds himself engaged as a body guard for a kidnapping group called the Five Leaves. During his time with the gang, Masa learns about the gangs’ past and the individual stories of each of its mysterious members. The most mysterious of them, their leader Yaichi, has the darkest and most dangerous past of them all.

Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, by Motoro Mase. In a world where random citizens are chosen by the government to die within twenty-four hours notice, a lone Ministry of Health and Welfare employee named Kengo begins to question the necessity of the National Welfare Act and its supposed purpose to instill the value of life among citizens.

I’ll Give it My All…Tomorrow, by Shunju Aono. Shizuo Oguro has a mid-life crisis and quits his office job. Aimlessly working a fast food job, Shizuo wonders what he should do with his life…as long as it doesn’t take too much effort. On a whim, he decides to become a manga artist. The series showcases the ups and downs (mostly downs) of Shizuo’s life as he deals with his family, friends, and his quest to become a full-fledged manga creator.

Jormungand, by Keitaro Takahashi. Arms dealer Koko Hekmatyar leads a rough and tumble gang of mercenaries, make up of loyal members from various walks of life. Interaction between the characters is its strong point, as they bond or try to kill each other throughout the series. Excellent characterization, plenty of explosions, with a brand new anime currently airing in Japan (and simulcast by FUNimation).

Kingyo Used Books, by Seimu Yoshizaki. A delightful collection of stories centering around a used books store and its legendary collection of manga. This series proves that manga can transcend gender, age, employment, and all walks of life, bringing even the unlikeliest of people together, and stirring the emotions of the hardest hearts.

La Quinta Camera, by Natsume Ono. A collection of heartwarming stories about four men who share an apartment, and the interesting people who rent out their fifth room.

March Story, by Hyung Min Kim, with art by Kyung Il Yang. In a world where demons called Ill are drawn to strong emotions and hide in precious objects, Ciste Vihad like March must hunt down such objects and exorcise Ill from those already possessed. Unfortunately, March has an Ill living inside her, waiting for the day when March falls in love so it can devour her. Tales of morality accompany each unique Ill that March must defeat, in her own rather unorthodox way.

not simple, by Natsume Ono. Another slice-of-life one-shot from Ono, not simple tells the story of a very unlucky young man who meets with one disaster after another during his life. A beautiful, though sad, story, told expertly by Ono, with emphasis on the bonds of friends and family.

Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, by Fumi Yoshinaga. A unique series that details the Tokugawa era of Japanese history with an interesting twist – the males of the time are hit hard by a mysterious plague, turning conventional gender roles on their heads as women take over managing households and even ruling the country. Heart-wrenching and beautifully written and drawn, this is one of my favorite series from any publisher.

Saturn Apartments, by Hisae Iwaoka. In a future where mankind lives in a giant ring orbiting in Earth’s upper atmosphere, a young man follows in his father’s footsteps and takes on the dangerous job of cleaning the windows on the outside of the ring. Charmingly drawn and beautifully written, this wonderful science fiction title speaks volumes with very little.

Tenjo Tenge, by Oh! Great. Todo High boasts a unique student body. The Juken Club, a martial arts club led by Maya Natsume, is forever at war with the Executive Council, led by one-time close friend Mitsuomi Takayanagi. The delicate balance of power in the school shifts when Maya begins recruiting new club members, and the Executive Council retaliates brutally. Over-the-top violence and fan service galore are the highlights (if you want to call them that) of this series. Unfortunately, due to it’s overly complicated plot and absurd amounts of fan service, it’s not a title I was able to get behind. CA.net writer Drew McCabe took over reviews after volume 2.

Tesoro, by Natsume Ono. A collection of charming short stories spanning Ono’s career as a manga artist.

Well, there you have it! There are, of course, many other titles making up Viz Media’s Signature line. This list only includes the ones that have been reviewed here on ComicAttack.net. I encourage you to check out the MMF archive for even more reviews of these titles and the many others that make up this collection.




  1. I’ve got to find time to start 20th Century Boys and Black Lagoon!

  2. Kristin

    Yes. YES. What is taking you so long.

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