Sunday, June 17, 2012

Commentary: Monthly Comic @Bunch

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Monthly Comic @Bunch (Banchi), 680 pages, 650 yen
According to the wiki entry, Nobuhiko Horie, former editor-in-chief at Weekly Shonen Jump co-founded a manga editing company called Coamix, in 2000, with Shinchosha as a business partner.  Coamix then produced their first magazine, Weekly Comic Bunch, in 2001.  Shinchosha ended Comic Bunch in 2010 and redesigned it as Monthly Comics @Bunch in Jan., 2011.  Coamix also started up the supposedly independent anthology magazine Zenon in Oct., 2010.

Past titles from Comic Bunch include Angel Heart and Brave Story.  The current incarnation continues the seinen theme, with its college-aged male market, by focusing on the military, family life, video game, police drama and SF genres.  There are a fair number of well-drawn stories, with good solid character designs and interesting plots.  In contrast, there is one deliberately crudely drawn toilet humor series as well.  Most of the titles are ongoing series, with a couple that have just recently started up, plus the requisite yon-koma gag strips, and 1 one-shot this time.

Stories that may be familiar to western fans:


Stories worth mentioning:

Gunka no Baltzar, (cover) an up and coming military officer in an 1800's European-like universe finds himself reassigned as an adviser to a backward neighboring country with little outside support.  In this issue, Baltzar ends up siding with the lone female officer being picked on by everyone else, while also introducing bicycles to the cavalry unit.  Good artwork, semi-realistic character designs, predictable soap opera scenarios.

Umi no Nioi (Smell of the Sea), this is a one-shot by Tomoko Mitani. A girl opens up a bottle that contains a ship and finds herself on the bridge inside.  She tells the crew that the person who built the ship, her grandfather, has died and she's going to fulfill his last wish by breaking the bottle and setting the ship free on the open sea.  Decent artwork, simplistic character designs, interesting premise.

Kuraudo, (Cloud) by Junichi Noujou.  A young man, who is a master hacker, breaks into Tokyo's central computer system in his quest to make "a kingdom above the clouds", bringing him into direct conflict with the police and the central transportation ministry. It's kind of like the mindgames played in Death Note.  Junichi has at least 25 titles to his name.  The ones I've seen the most are based on shogi players.  He has a very strong, distinctive character style that makes everyone look constipated.

Mukai Usagi Dou Nikki (Facing Rabbits Building Diary), by Hisa Takano.  There's nothing in English for either the title, or the artist.  It's a new story, only on chapter 2, so it's understandable that there's little documentation yet, but there's only one other entry for Hisa in Japanese and that's bringing up an error on the publisher's page.  This is another "consultant living in a big house with lots of books solves weird psychic events".  The guy's name doesn't seem to be given in this chapter, but he works with a young woman named Chiyo, and a talking 2-tailed cat.  They're visited by a flying goldfish that seems to have become allergic to water.  The goldfish asks for their help in returning it to the young girl raising it.  When the mystery is resolved, the office is visited by paramilitary police.

Nangoku Tomusouya, (Not sure how to translate this.) By Ume (Takahiro Ozawa and Asako Seo). There's nothing in English on this title, and little in Japanese.  The artwork is very good, although I'm not sure about the story.  It's up to chapter 11. Ume has AOZORA Finder Rock licensed in the U.S.  In this chapter, a TV director gets into a fight with his daughter over whether he can stay to watch her perform a traditional dance with what appears to be a male miko.

Ouroboros, up to volume 13 already. The caretaker for two orphans gets killed, and the boys vow revenge on the murderers and the police that botched the investigation.  15 years later, one is a detective and the other is a yakuza leader, helping each other out behind the scenes.  Very good artwork, but kind of overly cartoony character designs.

Area 51, by Masato Hisa. Thick, heavy line style that looks like woodblock prints.  Nothing in English about this story, but this one chapter looks like a horror comedy.  Some robbers try to hit a maid cafe, only to discover that the "maids" are part of a flesh-eating monster using the cafe to raise money.  Funny story. I translated it and put it on Nihongo Hunter

Saigo no Resutoran (Last Restaurant), by Michihiko Touei. Another title with nothing in English.  Marginal artwork and erratic character designs, but a possibly interesting premise.  In this chapter, the ghost of Salvador Dali shows up in the restaurant and won't leave until he eats a specific dish that's flavored just right.  Otherwise, just another cooking manga.

Wood Stock, by Yukai Asada.  A 21-year-old guy lacking self-confidence but in love with music makes up a fake band and uploads cover songs to his blog.  Hyper-realistic character designs, and good poses of bands playing on stage.

Tsumi to Batsu (Crime and Punishment), by Man Gatarou. This is the deliberately ugly story, by the guy that makes a living drawing ugly people and toilet gags (I think I last saw him in AX magazine).  A fair amount of both male and female frontal nudity.


One of the key elements of @Bunch is that every story is followed by a "My Page" omake, or comments section from the artist.

There is some nudity in this issue, and one or two brief sex scenes.  Probably worth an R rating in the U.S.

No freebies.  There are quite a few titles in this volume, and some of them look promising.  I'd be interested in following Tomoko Mitani's works more, plus Mukai Usagi Dou Nikki, Nangoku Tomusouya and Area 51.


Bunny said...

Southern Country (Okinawa?) Tom Sawyer ^^!

Vito said...

I was wondering do you buy this magazine regularly?

TSOTE said...

Hi Vito. No, I'm just sampling each of the magazines. I only like maybe 1 or 2 manga from any given magazine, so I think it's too expensive to buy magazines every week or every month just for 1 story. Why do you ask?

Vito said...

Ah, was looking for a color spread for Gunka no Baltzar (ch14) I think it was reprinted b&w in the tank. It'd help if you could let me know which chapter was in this issue, at least that way I know what issue I need to track down. Thanks!

TSOTE said...

I'm not sure how the chapter numbering works here. I don't have the volume pictured above anymore, but I wanted to read more of Area 51, so I picked up the latest issue. The one above is volume 6, 2012, and what I just got is volume 8, 2012. The latest volume claims to contain chapter 16 (and also says that book 3 of the series is now on sale). So, theoretically, the chapter in volume 6 should be chap. 14. But, normally, that would not allow for enough chapters to allow 3 volumes to be out this quickly. Anyway, I assume that the answer to your question is that chapter 14 appeared in volume 6, 2012, of @Bunch (pictured above).