True Lunar Legend Moon Princess novel


The anime/novel franchise Gakusen toshi asterisk developed from the untranslated “visual novel” video game Tsukihime. For the first half of volume 1, the light novel is awesomely creepy; in something almost like first-person video game perspective, it tells the story of Shiki Tohno, who wakes up in a hospital to find that he can see frightening fissures that run through all people and things. He, and he alone, has the power to cut the “death cracks,” destroying any object, and potentially any living thing. Things get more conventional when Shiki encounters Arcueid, a female vampire who tells him that the world is secretly full of vampires, magicians, and supernatural creatures. The story is consistently gloomy and atmospheric, even when Shiki starts fighting vampires, but the generic character designs drag it down; Arceuid’s “anime girl” look makes it difficult to take her seriously as an immortal creature of power.


Read more: Shen Yin Wang Zuo


Creeping out of the night in search of women, money, or thrills, a grinning rascal at home in dark castles and underground lairs, comes the master thief Lupin III—one of the most famous novel characters of all time. (His name is a homage to Maurice LeBlanc’s master thief Arsène Lupin, although the homage was not appreciated by LeBlanc’s estate, resulting in Lupin appearing in foreign editions under several pseudonyms, such as “Rupan” and “Wolf,” until the name passed into the public domain in the 1990s.) Inspired mostly by Mad magazine and Mort Drucker, Lupin’s episodic adventures bear little in common with any novel before or since. Each self-contained story involves some bizarre theft or heist, or opens with some shocking situation such as a train crash or Lupin on death row. The plots are full of clever twists; American comic readers may be reminded of the physical comedy of Spy vs. Spy and the devious plot constructions of Will Eisner’s The Spirit. This is a crazy, groovy 1960s world of dynamite and backstabbing, hippies and gangsters, a world where guns kill people but bombs leave them as smoldering black silhouettes with surprised eyes staring out of their blackened faces. Men are gangly goons with big feet and narrow heads; women are buxom sex dolls who murmur dialogue like “Mmm, Lupin, you’re an animal …” as boxers go flying off and knobby knees bump against the bedsprings. Fans of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro should know that Monkey Punch himself disliked the movie; he felt that its altruistic, noble Lupin strayed from his own vision of Lupin as an amoral skirt-chaser. The original Lupin III is more like a cartoon from a men’s magazine, which it was; a fascinating homage to Mad and a four-star example of comics as pure comedy.

Read Yakuza light novel

Ancient strengthening technique

One classic crime genre involves yakuza, the Japanese equivalent of gangsters. With their scars and sunglasses, colorful suits, and colorful tattoos, yakuza are instantly recognizable in manga, and often in real life, too. Although they sometimes clash with the authorities or citizen groups, they are considered (or at least consider themselves) a semilegitimate part of the community; after the 1995 Kobe earthquake, the local yakuza openly helped provide food and supplies to the victims. Today, they make most of their money from protection rackets and gray-area businesses such as pachinko, gambling, prostitution, and loan-sharking. Yakuza represent the extreme of traditional Japanese machismo; in the 1960s and 1970s yakuza movies were a massive genre, traditionally depicting their heroes as noble samurai warriors in a corrupt modern world, although later portrayals became more ironic and nihilistic, following Kinji Fukusaku’s 1973 film Jingi naki Tatakai (“Battles Without Honor and Humanity”). While many manga are willing to use yakuza thugs as cannon fodder, others are more ambivalent. In Masaomi Kanzaki’s Gun Crisis: Deadly Curve, before the heroic cop blows away the drug-dealing yakuza, it’s made clear that he’s a “bad” yakuza (“I met with your head boss earlier … I’m to inform you that you are banned for life from the Kanto-kai!”).

Battle through the heavens

Yakuza manga, usually serialized in men’s magazines or rougher shônen magazines such as Weekly Shônen Champion, are traditionally a popular genre: some of the longest-running titles include Ayumi Tachihara’s Maji! (1987) at 50 volumes, Kazumasa Kiuchi and Jun Watanabe’s time-traveling yakuza story Emblem Take 2 (1990) at 62 volumes, and Tatsuo Nitta’s Shizuka naru Don (“The Quiet Don”) (1989) at 80 volumes and still running. Possibly due to their generally old-fashioned themes and art styles, almost no yakuza manga have been translated, with the exception of Sho Fumimura and Ryoichi Ikegami’s Santuary (1990). Kazuma Kodaka, a female artist, was forced to draw under a male pen name when working in the traditionally manly genre; perhaps in retaliation, she went on to create the yaoi yakuza manga Kizuna: Bonds of Love (1992).