The Favorites Alphabet: C

Welcome to another installment of the Favorites Alphabet, where the Manga Bookshelf battle robot sift through our towering stacks of dog-eared paperbacks to pick a favorite manga title from each letter of the alphabet, whenever possible. We’re trying to stick with books that have been licensed and published in English, but we recognize that the alphabet is long, so we’re keeping a little wiggle room in reserve.

“C” is for…

City Hunter | By Tsukasa Hojo | Gutsoon — One of the saddest parts of the collapse of Raijin Comics and Gutsoon for me was the loss of one of my favorite Shônen Jump titles, City Hunter, which ran in Shueisha’s flagship magazine from 1985 – 1991. A classic action comedy, it focuses on “sweeper” Ryo Saeba, a handsome gun-for-hire who lives in Shinjuku and acts as a private detective for people (invariably young ladies) who need his services, assisted by his spunky young partner Kaori, who is also his love interest. They aren’t together, though, because Ryo is a complete and utter horndog – he will try to sex up any pretty girl he sees (which are many – Hojo draws beautiful women) and his huge erections are not only a running gag, but almost omnipresent – the term “mokkori” is used by City Hunter fans like “baka” or “hai” by other Japanese anime fans, referring to Ryo’s visible manhood (as well as his term for girl hunting). As for Kaori, her anger at Ryo’s antics, short tomboyish persona and use of huge mallets to flatten Ryo into the ground may sound familiar to some fans of Ranma 1/2 – the series ran in rival magazines. The combination of comedy, action and romance was a huge hit in Japan, but less so here, and no one has been able to restart the series. I believe that Hojo has the rights himself. As he’s currently with Shinchosha, perhaps we could ask them if they want to try it as a JManga title? Or even the semi-sequel, Angel Heart? — Sean Gaffney

Club 9 | By Makoto Kobayashi | Dark Horse — If you told me that one of my favorite manga would focus on a country girl-cum-hostess, my inner feminist would have scoffed at you: how could I possibly enjoy a series that celebrated one of the seamier aspects of Japanese business culture? Yet Club 9 is totally, thoroughly winsome, even if it isn’t very progressive. The story focuses on Haruo, a teenager who leaves her backwoods town to attend college in the big city. Through a series of improbable circumstances, she lands a job at a hostess club, disarming salarymen, tycoons, and manga-ka with her direct, down-home manner. Haruo’s innocence is the source of many comic misunderstandings, but Makoto Kobayashi never makes his heroine the butt of cruel jokes; Haruo always gets the last laugh, no matter how outrageous the circumstances. Fabulous caricatures and an imaginative re-write are the frosting on this very tasty cake. – Kate Dacey

Cross Game | By Mitsuru Adachi | Viz Media – I really love sports manga. I love it when it’s kind of juvenile (Eyeshield 21) and I love it when it’s kind of ridiculous (The Prince of Tennis), but mostly I love it when it’s kind of bittersweet, which is where Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game comes in. The depiction of the baseball games themselves are a lot of fun, but there is also strong character drama, as lead characters Ko Kitamura and Aoba Tsukushima, united in tragedy by the loss of Aoba’s sister some years ago, butt heads due to their similar personalities but gradually grow closer as they mature and develop a greater appreciation of the other’s worth. Reading this series always makes me sniffle (in a good way), and I am grateful that VIZ has licensed it. Not so grateful that I won’t take this opportunity to beg for more Adachi, however. Might I suggest Rough? — Michelle Smith

Cross Game | By Mitsuru Adachi | Viz Media — There’s a Japanese phrase, mono no aware, that I suspect I probably overuse to the point that I end up sounding pretentious. I actually don’t care, because that phrase, which is often translated as “the pity of things,” frequently pops to mind when I’m really, really loving a given manga. It may seem unlikely to link that phrase, defining a wistful awareness that everything ends eventually, to Adachi’s baseball comedy, but Adachi is about as good at embodying this haunting, preemptive kind of nostalgia as just about any of his peers. So, yes, Cross Game is hilarious, and, yes, it’s about baseball, but it’s also about youth in all of its awful glory, from the off-the-diamond losses you never quite figure out how to endure to the grand possibilities the future presents, even though they scare you a little because you’re not sure you’ll be able to realize them. And there’s a really cute cat. I don’t know what else you could reasonably expect. – David Welsh

Crown of Love | Yun Kouga | Viz Media — Unlike the first two letters we’ve explored here, “C” is a tough one for me. While there are a number of “C” manga I’m very fond of (Cardcaptor Sakura, Chi’s Sweet Home, and Children of the Sea all spring immediately to mind), I don’t have a deeply personal favorite—that kind of manga that just really gets me regardless of its more objectively-measurable qualities.  Except that I totally do. I don’t generally believe in “guilty pleasures” (why feel guilty over taking pleasure in storytelling?), but if I did, this would be at the top of the list. It’s a twisted josei love story that isn’t afraid to explore the possibility that its male protagonist may be genuinely creepy—made even more twisted by the fact that he’s got nothing on the people around him. Though its final chapters are a bit too romantic to suit the story as a whole, at four volumes total, it’s an addictive whirlwind of a series. And sometimes, honestly, that’s “favorite” enough for me. – Melinda Beasi

What starts with “C” in your favorites alphabet?