Welcome to another installment of the Favorites Alphabet, where the Manga Bookshelf battle robot cast our loving gaze upon the titles in our respective collections to pick the manga title (or… ahem… titles) from each letter of the alphabet that stands (or… ahem… stand) above the rest, 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.
“E” is for…
Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President | By Kaiji Kawaguchi | VIZ – As we prepare for another presidential election cycle, I find myself wishing, once again, that fictional New York Senator Kenneth Yamaoka would finally run for office. Yamaoka is, of course, the hero of Kaiji Kawaguchi’s Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President, and, unlike most American politicians, Yamaoka is unapologetically liberal, thoroughly persuasive on controversial issues, and seemingly atheist. It’s a swell fantasy for older readers like me, who feel a twinge of nostalgia for the days when a presidential candidate could actually use the “L” word (that’s “liberal,” kids, for those of you who’ve only heard it used in a pejorative fashion) without embarrassment. At the same time, however, it’s a great, pulpy manly-man manga in which an ambitious character uses wit and integrity to defeat his rivals. Eagle is long out of print, but well worth the time and effort to track down. – Katherine Dacey
Emma | By Kaoru Mori | Published by CMX – Okay, okay, I sometimes pick titles that are out of print, but come on. How can I not include Mori’s beautifully subdued tale of a maid who falls in love well out of her class? For those who are just discovering her work through A Bride’s Story (Yen Press), this is the series where many English-language readers discovered Mori’s ability to turn tiny, mundane moments into arias of subtle emotion. To be honest, the plot here is secondary to the meticulous slices of period life that Mori serves up. Of course, those slices would probably have less impact without the acute observations about social constraints, not just between domestics and their employers but between old money and new and country and city and British and everyone else. And, as if that wasn’t enough, Mori does the hands-down funniest, most witheringly self-deprecating autobiographical strips I’ve ever seen in the back of a Japanese comic. – David Welsh
ES: Eternal Sabbath | By Fuyumi Soryo | Published by Del Rey – I have a particular fondness for creators who defy categorical constraints, so when I learned that shôjo manga-ka Fuyumi Soryo had done a sci-fi series for Kodansha’s Morning and that Del Rey was publishing it, I had to read it. I find that this partiality to fence hoppers is almost always rewarding, and that’s certainly the case with ES. It’s about a hot clone with amazing psychic powers who casts off the shackles of his scientist overlords to go see what life is like in the real world. His primary prism in that effort is a brilliant but emotionally remote scientist who senses something unusual in her new acquaintance but can’t quite figure out what it is. At least she can’t until a second, much less benevolent clone surfaces and starts exacting horrible and violent revenge on humanity. ES offers a great combination of thoughtful romance, scientific philosophy, and creepy horror. What more could you want? – David Welsh
Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga | By Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takekuma | VIZ – Profane, raunchy, and thoroughly on the mark, this blistering satire pokes fun at every conceivable niche of mangadom, from ladies’ comics to salaryman manga. Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takekuma gleefully skewer narrative cliches and overused tropes, all while offering solid (if sarcastically delivered) advice on how to produce a commercially successful manga. The highpoint (lowpoint?) of volume one is a table comparing sex scenes in different genres, with helpful suggestions for choosing appropriate sound effects. Yes, it’s rude, but it’s also a virtuoso display of artistic skill; Aihara and Takekuma are equally adept at drawing for mature female audiences and hormonal teenage boys. – Katherine Dacey
Excel Saga | By Rikdo Koshi | VIZ – Oh come on, you can’t pretend to be surprised that this is my pick. My pet series for the last 8 years, ever since Viz started to publish it in North America, Excel Saga has had a rough ride ever since folks realized that the anime it was based off of was telling the truth – Rikdo was giving permission for the anime to do whatever it wanted, while he made the manga into his own thing. After readers realized it wasn’t simply the anime on the page, sales dropped sharply – this is why Volumes 7 and 8 are so hard to find today. But the hardcore fans who stayed with it were rewarded with a satire of sentai shows and the collapse of the economic bubble, and characters who were no less insane than their anime counterparts. They get a deeper backstory, though, and there are touching and dramatic moments sprinkled through this comedic story. Carl Horn’s translation is also a classic example of a loose adaptation that’s handled correctly – it’s not word for word from the Japanese, but conveys the same spirit. And his end notes are the best in the business, bar none. There are only 5 volumes to go till its conclusion now, so maybe Viz can speed it up a bit from its one-per-year schedule – but if not, it makes a rare but delightful treat. – Sean Gaffney
Eyeshield 21 | By Riichiro Inagaki and Yusuke Murata| VIZ Media – As mentioned back on letter C, I love sports manga, even when it’s kind of juvenile like Eyeshield 21. But even though the overuse of bathroom humor makes me sigh heavily, there are still many reasons to recommend Eyeshield 21. For one, it’s delightfully over-the-top, with the (possibly literally) demonic Hiruma, captain of the Deimon Devil Bats football team, doing everything possible to ensure the success of his team, including and not limited to blackmail. Secondly, it’s got some wonderful characters. My personal favorite is Komusubi, a small but fierce defensive lineman who looks like a muppet, but I also have a soft spot for “the Hah?! Brothers,” who started off as juvenile delinquents but have begun to experience what it’s like to actually be good at something and receive positive feedback for it. Growth like that will get me every time. – Michelle Smith
What starts with “E” in your favorites alphabet?