The Favorites Alphabet: I

Welcome to another installment of The Favorites Alphabet, where the Manga Bookshelf battle robot pick a favorite title from each letter of the alphabet. 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.

“I” is for…

Ichigenme… The First Class is Civil Law | By Fumi Yoshinaga | 801 Media – There are some pretty terrific manga that begin with the letter “I,” but as a devoted fan of Fumi Yoshinaga, it’s impossible to pass up an opportunity to talk about Ichigenme, which has the distinction of being not only my favorite of Yoshinaga’s BL works, but one of my very favorite BL series of all time. In terms of my personal taste in the genre, Ichigenme has everything going for it. It’s a character-driven romance between smart, idiosyncratic adults, set in a competitive, career-minded environment that includes smart, idiosyncratic women and gay men who are actually gay. It also features quite a number of genuinely erotic, emotionally affecting sex scenes that actually move the story forward rather than getting in its way. I could go on and on about this two-volume series (and have), but instead I’ll just urge people to read it, especially those who think they don’t like BL. This is what good adult romance should look like. Melinda Beasi

I Hate You More Than Anyone! | Banri Hidaka | CMX – Yes, once again I’m picking a series that never finished in North America due to the company closing down.  But I can’t help it.  Intellectually I know this series is flawed – the early volumes have very sketchy art, the plot meanders, the emphasis on cartoon violence has disturbed some – but in the end, it doesn’t matter.  The characters in IHYMTA are hilarious, likeable, and magnificently talkative.  The series is filled with more dialogue than any other shoujo series I’ve seen, as everyone needs to give Kazuha Akiyoshi advice, or listen to her freak out about the latest crisis.  The title, of course, ceases to be true fairly quickly – it’s no spoiler that the series ends with a wedding – but that’s OK too.  This series for me is a tribute to the best and worst of Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume magazine – its high-spirited, tomboy-ish heroines, its silly love stories, and its fly-by-night plot resolution.  And Japan clearly agrees with me – the Akiyoshi family appeared in V.B. Rose as well, and Hidaka-san’s new series running today deals with their offspring.  Clearly folks cannot get enough of this family and their adventures.  (I just wish the companies would stop folding before they finish!) Sean Gaffney

Imadoki! Nowadays |Yuu Watase | Viz – All Yuu Watase manga are not created equal, but when I like one, I tend to really, really like it. That’s the case with this super-charming series about a country girl who enrolls at a snooty school in the big city. If you’re experiencing uncomfortable flashbacks to Tammy and the Bachelor, you aren’t far off. Like the titular hick played by Debbie Reynolds in that film, homespun Tanpopo upsets the elitist apple cart and falls in love with the cutest, snootiest boy in town. The difference is that Imadoki! is genuinely funny and surprising. Tanpopo is utterly sincere and completely indefatigable in her effort to make friends, and she does it on her own terms. The romance is sweet, the supporting cast is uniformly great, and there’s even an adorable pet fox to raise the cuteness level just that much higher. This book offers a fine blend of warm fuzzies and snarky chuckles. – David Welsh

InuYasha | By Rumiko Takahashi | Viz – Few manga have gone through as many English-language editions as InuYasha, which began its life as a floppy in 1997 and is now enjoying new life as a digital download. Easy as it may be to dismiss InuYasha as second-rate Takahashi, the series’ longevity is no fluke: InuYasha is Rumiko Takahashi’s most accessible story, a rollicking shônen adventure that incorporates elements of folklore, fantasy, and flat-out horror, as well as generous helpings of humor and romance. InuYasha also boasts some of Takahashi’s most appealing characters, from Sango, the tenacious demon-slayer, to Sesshomaru, whose chilling indifference to others makes him a more terrifying figure than the malicious Naraku. Great artwork and imaginatively staged combat help bring the story to life, and carry it through its more repetitive moments. – Katherine Dacey

Itazura Na Kiss | By Kaoru Tada | DMP – Because I can rest assured that my other “I” favorite, InuYasha, is in Kate’s capable hands, I can devote my pick to the shoujo classic Itazura Na Kiss, being released in deliciously chunky two-in-one volumes by Digital Manga Publishing. Some of its plot points might seem cliché—a ditzy heroine in love with a brilliant and aloof guy, circumstances that force them to live together, etc.—but then you realize that it’s Itazura that most of those other series are copying! Lamentably unfinished due to the mangaka’s untimely accidental death, the series is sheer pleasure to read, with a storytelling style and large cast of eccentrics that reminds me more of the seinen Maison Ikkoku than anything you’d find in the Shojo Beat lineup, for example. Goofy, addictive, and satisfying, I love this series and am extremely grateful to DMP for licensing it. Michelle Smith

What starts with “I” in your favorites alphabet?