Welcome back to Graphic Novel Weekly, a column that will bring you exciting graphic novel content each week. This week, I’ll look at a handful of slice of life stories. The spread is a little up and down, but there are some interesting items within. This week, I’ll be reviewing:
- Manfried Saves the Day
- Book Love
- Hidden Heartbreak: From Breaking Up to Waking Up
- Futaribeya: A Room for Two, Volume 1
Stop back every Thursday for your weekly fill up! Next week, I’ll take a look at three enormous comic collections. Now then, let’s get after it!
Manfried Saves the Day
Manfried Saves the Day is the second book to follow the adventures of Manfried, the pet man. In a world where cats are sentient humanoids and the have pet men, Manfried seems to always find a way to get himself into trouble, much to the chagrin of his owner.
I’ll be honest here: I really struggled with Manfried Saves the Day. The core joke is that cats and people have switched roles, so that men are pet cat analogues. If you find that funny, then this book will be for you. However, if that on its own doesn’t carry a book for you, then you’ll likely struggle to enjoy this title.
There really wasn’t a whole lot to the plot here, beyond a slice of life story with a pet that is a little out of control in a manner that is intended to be charming. But the role swapping didn’t add anything to the story. I didn’t find myself either rethinking the roles we play with pets or even just getting much of a chuckle out of the idea. Manfried Saves the Day fell completely flat for me.
Content Warning: At first glance, this appears to be an all ages-friendly book. However, there is a chubby naked man on just about every page, and there are depictions of male genitalia. Nothing here is anatomically explicit, but generally cartoony depictions of the size and shape of genitalia are found within this book. Consider skimming through this title before passing it along to younger readers to make sure that you are comfortable with the age-level of the content.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going into my reading of Book Love. Not to say that I didn’t have an idea of the content, but more so the idea behind it. The brief preview I saw seemed to be of cartoons that get posted onto Facebook, with everyone commenting “same” or “me.” Which isn’t necessarily wrong, but an entire book of that? I wasn’t sold that it would be enough for me.
In the end, it was and it wasn’t. At times, the book seemed to drag and just not have much to it. Pages would pass by in which I felt nothing, or even mild frustration that I wasn’t finding much in the way of content or enjoyment.
In other parts, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the simple cartoons and their message of loving reading. Some I might even want to post in my classroom in the future. They spoke to a broadening of horizons and an enjoyment of other worlds that I really felt.
I think the simple take on Book Love is that you what you get out of it will depend on how much you relate to the content. If you find this mirrors you exactly, you will likely really enjoy it. If you are more like me and it only reaches some parts of you, this may not be the book for you. Book Love is a good book for a very specific audience.
Hidden Heartbreak: From Breaking Up to Waking Up
It’s hard to say much about Hidden Heartbreak: From Breaking Up to Waking Up. There isn’t much to it. There is plenty of room to explore lost love in graphic format, with Jeffery Brown’s Clumsy coming to the top of my mind. And while Clumsy is a graphic novel and Hidden Heartbreak is a collection cartoons, the ability to delve into deep-seated emotions is still very much present.
Hidden Heartbreak seems to want to flirt the line between cartoon collection, motivational self-help, and journalistic work book. And in this, it tries to do too much with too little. The places for readers to write things in are few and far between, and given that the rest of the book is more passive, it seems like more of a chore to stop reading, grab a pencil, and fill in a random page. The self-help and motivational aspects are trite and cliché, and do not seem to add anything of significance to a reader’s relational process. And the cartoons are not particularly well done, with most seeming to take the same set of a couple images and then just moving them around. The through-line that connects the cartoons is that of the author’s experience of a break up, which seems to take a personal experience and then generalize it, which also does not work particularly effectively here.
Hidden Heartbreak: From Breaking Up to Waking Up had the potential to be meaningful and deep. Instead, it felt more like a messy hodgepodge of content that tried to be three things at once without actually succeeding at any of them.
Futaribeya: A Room for Two, Volume 1
Translator: Katie McLendon
Physical Copy: $12.99
Digital Copy: Currently unavailable.
Futaribeya: A Room for Two is part of TOKYOPOP’s International Women of Manga initiative, which features women creators from across the globe. Undead Messiah and Sword Princess Amaltea are also both a part of this initiative, and presented some very entertaining beginnings. I hoped for this to continue with Futaribeya.
Sakurako is starting high school, and she is attending a school that requires students to live in school housing. Shortly after Sakurako’s arrival, her roommate, Kasumi, shows up. The two are opposites in many ways, including academics, level of social engagement, even how much they choose to bring to school. How will Sakurako and Kasumi navigate high school together?
I had hoped Futaribeya would be a cute, light-hearted story of a quirky friendship and growing as a teenager. Instead, I found this to mostly be a tedious recounting of events. Futaribeya uses the yonkoma style for the most part, which consists of four panel strips laid out from top to bottom. There is some internal consistency of overarching plot to these, but mostly they are stand alone and not with a particular punchline and resolution. In many ways, Futaribeya reminded me of an ineffective comic strip.
Rather than being terrible, I mostly found Futaribeya boring. Perhaps my sense of humor just isn’t aligned with the authors. If you really are intrigued by the concept, give the first few pages a look, and then make your decision.
Luke Forney and/or GeekDad received copies of each of the graphic novels included in this list for review purposes.