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The Wednesday Club’s Comic Picks: Koko Wa Wednesday

The Wednesday Club’s Comic Picks: Koko Wa Wednesday

This week on The Wednesday Club, Geek & Sundry’s show discussing all things comics, guest Emma Fyffe stopped by to talk manga with hosts Taliesin Jaffe, Matt Key, and Amy Dallen.

“Manga” is the Japanese word for comics, and refers specifically to manga produced in Japan. (Some American comics, like Scott Pilgrim, are clearly inspired by manga, but wouldn’t fall under the definition.) Emma, Taliesin, Matt, and Amy talked about manga and its impact on the culture of both Japan and the United States.

The Wednesday Club

“In Japan, literally everybody reads manga,” said Emma. “Manga covers so many different topics, you have stuff about superheroes, stuff about people who bake bread, it’s the whole gamut.”

“The narrative and visual cultures have been linked a long time over there,” said Amy.

And those stories haven’t just stayed in Japan.  “Japan is one of the only other countries that exports its pop culture [to the U.S.],” Taliesin said. “It’s this crazy conversation that we’ve been having [as cultures].”

Here are manga that have both found an audience in the U.S. and are recommended by The Wednesday Club for anyone looking for somewhere to start reading.

The Wednesday Club

Maison Ikkoku

Rumiko Takahashi’s slice-of-life manga Maison Ikkoku was originally published in the 1980s, but remains a timeless romantic comedy. Yusaku Godai, who’s trying his best to get into college, finds himself surrounded in his boarding house by “his complete nutballs of neighbors,” described Amy. Kyoko Otonashi is his new landlady, and Yusaku can’t help falling for her.

“It was the sheer ordinariness of it that was a revelation to me,” Amy said. “There’s a lot of very heart-wrenching emotional stuff that happens, and then there’s a lot of really wacky comedy.”

“It was brilliant,” Taliesin agreed.

Koko wa Greenwood

Koko wa Greenwood, or This is Greenwood, follows the lives of four boys living in the same dormitory at Ryokuto Academy. Kazuya Hasekawa enters the school year late, and so ends up in the last available room in the dorm. He’s paired with Shun Kisaragi, whom he mistakes for a girl, due to his long hair and personal style.

“It’s a great little high school story,” said Taliesin.

Boys Over Flowers

Another high school story in the shoujo (“girl”) genre, Hana Yori Dango or Boys Over Flowers is so popular that it’s been adapted into anime and live action series in multiple countries. Makino Tsukushi has just enrolled in the elite Eitoku Academy. When she crosses paths with the most popular boys in school, known as the “F4,” her life will never be the same.

“I believe it is the best-selling shoujo manga of all time,” said Emma.

Sailor Moon #7

Sailor Moon

Usagi Tsukino is a typical middle school girl, clumsy and prone to tears, but has a good heart. When she meets Luna, a black cat that can talk, Usagi is shocked to learn she’s actually one of the Sailor Senshi: guardians who fight against evil and have a cosmic destiny.

Amy recommends Sailor Moon as an entry point into manga. “You get the growth of their friendship as they’re dealing with these supernatural challenges over time,” Amy said, “so you’re balancing the everyday story with the crazy, fantastical elements.”

“It redefined the magical girl genre,” said Emma.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

Written and illustrated by Hayao Miyazaki, Nausicaä tells the story of a girl living in a post-apocalyptic future who develops a connection to the monstrous insects that roam the land. “Warring kingdoms, greed, and corruption” round out the story, said Emma.

Nausicaaä is credited as the very reason [Studio Ghibli] came into existence,” she said. “I cannot recommend it enough.”

Monster

While Matt doesn’t have a lot of experience reading manga, he is getting his feet wet with the medical drama Monster. Kenzo Tenma is a skilled surgeon in Germany. His future father-in-law, the hospital director, tells him he’ll succeed as long as he does what he says. When Kenzo lets one patient die to save another because the director told him to, he stops doing as the director says and his career suffers as a result.

Monster [is] one of the best psychological thrillers,” said Taliesin, and compared it to Hitchcock’s work.

And More

The hosts also mentioned some of their favorite titles in passing, such as Taliesin’s love of  Kodomo no Omocha, Kimagure Orange Road, and Saint Seiya, and Emma is a fan of Ouran High School Host Club and Death Note.

If you want to try out manga before you buy, Taliesin also suggests visiting Viz.com for free manga samples, and check out Overdrive if the service is offered by your local library.

He also tossed out titles One Punch Man, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Black Clover, Magi, Kamisama Kiss, and JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure if you’re looking for your next manga to read.

Hang out on the Geek & Sundry Twitch channel every Wednesday afternoon to catch the next amazing episode of The Wednesday Club.

Which manga title is your favorite? Tell us about it in the comments.

Images: Geek & Sundry and Kodansha Comics

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