For whatever reason, this year, 2023, I’ve been mostly interested in reading comics and manga. I have a wonderful local public library which have a free reserve system and a bountiful catalogue of graphic novels and manga.
I’ve been borrowing liberally from the library and reading through books I’ve already bought and left on the shelf waiting to be read. So let’s go, here’s my picks for awesome graphic media.
Ascendance of a Bookworm
by Miya Kazuki and Suzuka
This manga is long, there are a lot of installments, and they all have long titles like a Fall Out Boy song. Start with Ascendance of a Bookworm; I’ll do anything to become a librarian! Part one: If there aren’t any books, I’ll just have to make some!
but don’t let the title put you off. This series is fantastic.
The premise is this: a book-obsessed woman from modern-day Tokyo dies and wakes up, resurrected in the body of a small girl (Myne) in a medieval world that bears a lot of resemblances to Earth, but is not Earth. The problem is, this little girl’s family is low-born, peasantry, and can’t read or write, let alone own costly books.
But she wants to read books more than anything..
Thus begins a wholesome and intriguing saga of Myne attempting to craft books from remembered craft from her past life, trying not to seem too out of place, discovering the world around her and deciding which technology and knowledge she ought to share with the people around her. It’s wholesome, full of interesting characters, some drama, some crafting sequences reminsicent of Studio Ghibli.
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou
by Hitoshi Ashimaro
This book is the sweetest, most optimistic climate apocalypse book I’ve ever encountered. The main character is Alpha, an android who runs a coffee shop in the absence of her owner.
There are some people who come to buy coffee, but not many, people are scarce now. But Alpha is full of curiosity about the world. She wants to understand the people around her, what they want and what makes them happy. We learn about the world slowly, as Alpha does, and some moments are breathtakingly beautiful and some are a bit of a gut-punch, but overall the message is so beautiful. It’s about making the most of the moment you have now, and the community around you. Can’t wait for the reprint of volume two!
The Lost Carnival
by Micharl Mordeci and Sas Milledge
The Lost Carnival stars my favourite boy from all of DC comics ever, Dick Grayson. This is a pre-Batman Dick. A teenager travelling with the circus he grew up in and straining against the expectations of his parents.
Haly’s Circus has pitched next to a bizarre, strange carnival that lures Dick in with its mystery and a particularly good-looking girl.
I don’t want to spoil the story, but it’s lush and strange and absolutely enchanting. If you liked The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern you’ll enjoy this.
The Me You Love in the Dark
by Skottie Young and Jorge Cortona
This one fooled me a couple of times – is it a love story? is it a horror? is it the story of a woman with creative block losing her mind?
Sure, yeah. It is.
It’s gorgeous, weird and horrible, an examination of the creative process, the notion of a muse, and what love is. How do you have a relationship with something that might not truly be there?
I loved it.
Wonder Cat Kyuu-chan
by Sasami Nitori
Pure adorable fluff about a lonely guy adopting a cute cat who’s devoted and weirdly intelligent.
It started as a comic online, so you might have seen one or two strips. This is the collection which went deeper and I love it.
Nice, chill, relaxing reading.
I had that same Dream again
by Yoru Sumino
A lonely little girl makes friends with weirdos and outsiders, accompanied by a beautiful black cat.
Slice of life, examination on inter-human relationships, overshadowed by the main question “what is happiness?”
The story is another slow reveal, I’m such a sucker for them, so I won’t say too much more, except in her innocence the little girl calls her neighbour ‘Skank-san’ because she’s had Skank scrawled on her apartment’s intercom by an ex.
Check it out, it’s beautiful.
In Real Life
By Cory Doctorow
Cory Doctorow has a few books that deal with the power of being online, and sympathy for the people who are forced by circumstance to do things which may be less than ethical.
An American girl dives into the world of MMORPGs and making money from actions that happen in game.
What do you know about gold farming? I didn’t know much before I read this, and it’s all handled ethically and well.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up with Me
by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’connell
A queer love story, about teenage heartbreak and what it’s like when you’re attracted to someone who is careless with your heart.
It’s framed around letters to an advice column, and over various encounters and school dramas.
Beautiful art, lovely emotive character work. Mariko Tamaki also wrote some wonderful books I’ve enjoyed called Skim and This One Summer. She’s brilliant at evoking longing and intense emotion that is so characteristic of the teenage experience.