Sweet GEN 16

GEN Manga wraps up 2012 with a solid issue 16 that’s satisfying if not exceptional. This issue, like its previous installments, brings English-speaking readers exclusive new indie manga straight from upcoming Japanese doujin artists. Each chapter is presented with smooth, natural, accurate translation and authentic original Japanese presentation that retains original Japanese sound-effects and background signs & text. Issue 16 contains the latest chapters of five ongoing stories.

The issue kicks off with Lumo’s sci-fi/fantasy hodgepodge story Psycho. This chapter continues to be characterized by abrupt shifts in narrator and setting that frequently make following exactly who’s speaking and what’s going on somewhat challenging to follow. While previous chapters have been filled to overflow with characters, this chapter focuses a bit more effectively, finally beginning to tie together some of the story’s multiple plot threads. Although the story remains quite convoluted and confusing, it’s now, at last, starting to feel like it’s coming together into a cohesive total image. Unlike previous chapters that have incorporated a gamut of sometimes clashing visual styles, this chapter sustains its shoujo-esque delicate line work, creating a greater sense of uniformity and purpose that some of the previous chapters.

While Psycho is a fascinating example of amateur underground manga, it’s both the most ambitious and most flawed work contained in GEN issue 16. It’s followed by the continuing saga of Kosuke Kabaya’s Android Angels. Continuing directly where the previous chapter ended, this installment of the story foregoes much, but not all, of the dramatic thematic and emotional depth of recent chapters to provide some transitional storytelling and progressive plot development rather than focusing heavily on character relationship building. Kabaya’s visual art continues to improve and define itself in this chapter, which features a distinctive, indivdualistic character design style that’s now far removed from the derivitive style that Kabaya began the story with.

Isora Azumi’s supernatural drama Stones of Power continues to be one of GEN Manga’s highlights, seeming like a professional work misplaced in a collection of promising amateur creations. Even more than prior chapters, this interesting installment reveals the strong narrative connection between the story’s first and second narrative arcs. The biggest disappointment of this chapter of Stones of Power is its short length. The especially evocative artwork that makes excellent use of dynamic, beautiful splash panels is striking and lovely, and the chapter climaxes with a tense cliffhanger that leaves the reader eager for more.

The new chapter of Nukuharu’s supernatural school adventure comedy story Anomal concludes its first story arc with a narratively satisfying mix of action and humor. The story borrows heavily from familiar manga tropes, but personality goes a long way to compensate for lacking originality. The chapter is quite cute & fun, but also feels like it moves too quickly. Plot points that would benefit from multi-panel illustration receive only one panel, creating the sense that the author is too anxious to get ideas on paper without leaving the sequential art with enough space to breathe and illustrate the story rather than narrate the story.

This month’s issue of GEN includes only one extended length “Alive” story by Hajime Taguchi rather than the typical multiple short stories. The existential, morally and philosophically oriented series goes a bit more heavy-handed this month with a tale that’s faithful to the tone of the serial but a bit more obvious with its message than usual. Readers that appreciate Taguchi’s abstract, esoteric storytelling may find this month’s offering too blunt, but readers that prefer a straightforward story with some ethical substantce will appreciate the story.

The integrity and quality of GEN Manga’s presentation continue to be top-notch and highly praiseworthy for offering international readers an exclusive peek into the otherwise inaccessible Japanese world of amateur, underground manga. One never knows which of these novice artists will be tomorrow’s legendary creators. GEN issue 16 is a must-read for regular subscribers, but with most of its stories wrapping up story arcs, this may not be the most ideal jumping-on point for new readers. GEN 16 is a solid presentation but not the magazine’s strongest singular issue due to the coincidental weakness of four of its five serials. This month’s chapters are far from bad, but several of the ongoing stories in this issue have had stronger individual chapters published in earlier issues.


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