A year has passed. I’m glad I moved into my own home! It’s unfortunate that I was laid off! There have been a lot of highs and lows, but I can’t really complain too much because it wasn’t 2020.
Even if anime had a mediocre year, I once more didn’t find myself turning to j-dramas for entertaining content. That being said, I read a ton of manga. It took me until 2023 to truly master my manga-reading arrangement (note: on my phone, in bed), but after I overcame that challenging obstacle, it was only a matter of determining what worked.
That’s why I’m here, assuming, for the most part, that your likes in manga are similar to mine, to spare you some of the labor. Out of all the stories I’ve read this year, these are the ones that are still on repeat in my mind.
Would you like to read a manga about running a zoo in which the animals are all dinosaurs? You do, of course; that’s awesome. However, Dinosaur Sanctuary isn’t about dinosaur zoos being awesome; rather, it’s about how many of them have become less popular since dinosaur clones became publicly available, and the day-to-day challenges faced by a small zoo in an attempt to attract visitors.
I’m reminded of The Aquatope on White Sand’s first part by this story. Particularly, observing a small, committed group of individuals who enjoy their work of providing animal care, even in the face of the inevitable doubts about the operation’s viability. If you like to read about people like them, this book is definitely worth a try; in addition, the creatures are dinosaurs.
It didn’t take long to get into the manga after seeing the Blue Giant movie at this year’s Scotland Loves Anime, which I really enjoyed. Several excellent character moments, such as Dai’s amazing music teacher singing with him at his high school culture festival and Dai finding his awesome bassist when completely out of his element in a foreign nation during Blue Giant Supreme, making it an instant favorite.
It was actually less of a shock than I had anticipated to go from the film’s lengthy jazz pieces to a medium that, you know, doesn’t have audio. Even if a full adaptation—an anime series or a box set of films—would still be fantastic, the manga does a great job of portraying Dai’s talent as a jazz musician and his continuous quest to become the world’s greatest tenor saxophone.
The Fragrant Flower Blooms with Dignity
This one has a bit of an asterisk connected to it, largely because some people will find some of the dialogue in it amusing. Still, it’s important to discuss this one as an uncommon instance of young men being genuinely honest about their problems. Because Rintarou and his three closest pals are so close, it’s almost a relief to watch them not hold their feelings within and brood over them.
The plot of the narrative is essentially Romeo and Juliet, with the exception that the houses are next to one other and are schools that are exclusively for boys and girls. In spite of what the long-standing rivalry suggests, the majority of the story is about overcoming biases and seeing that their neighbors are also people. Most importantly, though, is that the primary pair is adorable.
Smoking Behind the Supermarket with You
This one, which featured two exhausted adults shooting the shit behind a convenience store after long, exhausting shifts, was pretty true comfort food earlier in the year. Furthermore, the main character Sasaki is a moron because he fails to recognize the similarities between Yamada, his favorite heavenly store employee, and Tayama, his friend who smokes a lot and is physically sick of you.
You can’t help but cheer for Sasaki even though he may be the only person on the planet to fall for a Team Rocket disguise. Not romantically, though there are occasional indications of that; rather, it’s just for his enduring friendships. It’s good to watch him unwind after a difficult day with someone who is pleased to see him and talk about anything and everything because he’s middle-aged and a little lonely.
The Summer You Were There
This selection is for those of you who simply want to cry a little bit. Because of a traumatic event that occurred years ago, Shizuku is a recluse at school. She makes the decision to pour all of her emotions into creating a novel, which she will later destroy. The popular girl in her class, Kaori, catches her attempting to throw it away and takes the novel before Shizuku can object. Shizuku is initially pushed to carry on the story by Kaori, who advises that it become a romance novel about their own relationship, despite Shizuku’s horror at this turn of events.
The Summer You Were In one scenario, Kaori demonstrates to Shizuku that it’s acceptable to move on as she seeks redemption. Although the story’s concepts are not particularly novel, it is executed really well. Even though I know this narrative can’t end well, I can’t wait to read more of it.
I always intended to read the Barakamon manga after appreciating the anime in 2014!? In any case, some ten years later, it was time to finally dive into the upcoming exploits of Handa-sensei, the young man with lofty goals in the calligraphy world, and Naru, the young island village kid who instantly takes a shine to him.
The lack of a strong overarching plot is what I enjoy most about this comic. It’s true that there are brief tales that start and finish, but overall, Handa-sensei’s life is essentially captured in a single year. As a result, you get to witness the development and learning of characters in what seems like real time—something that isn’t done nearly as well as it is in Barakamon. You can witness relationships grow, interests shift, and residents of the hamlet come and leave throughout the course of the manga’s first 14 volumes, which cover an entire year on the island. From a grumpy calligraphy who wishes he was anywhere but in the country, Handa transforms into a grumpy calligrapher who genuinely loves his new family and friends.
The reason I say “original 14 volumes” is since, strangely, a 15th volume was published this year, around 4 years after the manga’s conclusion. This new volume continues where the last volume left off, even including jokes about it. However, it can accomplish so without causing strange retcons because Handa-sensei still has a few days remaining on the island, making it appear as though we never left.
The bond between Handa and Naru, a first-grader who lives in the hamlet with her grandfather, is what draws readers to this comic, though. Handa-sensei grows to be her father figure even though at first he doesn’t want anything to do with her or the other children on the island. Inadvertently, she also gives Handa the support he needs to advance in both his calligraphy and personal development. Best of all, their relationship doesn’t end with a Bunny Drop, which makes it amazing. I strongly advise you to check out Barakamon, regardless of whether you have watched the anime.
Have a great 2024 everyone!