It’s the return of Swag Bag! It’s been a while hasn’t it? Many months in fact. Yikes. 2012 wasn’t a very good year for me after the summer hit so both my buying and my enjoyment of said purchases dipped a lot. Fortunately things are looking up, and it’s a brand new year! It’s the perfect time to kick back into some enjoyable old habits and Swag Bag shall be one of them, my semi-weekly column where I briefly share my first impressions on what I bought that week.
So, without further ado, here are my first purchases of 2013, courtesy of (as almost-always) my favourite local store, Strange Adventures:
This is the first time in a while that I’ve purchased a single volume of Bleach. This week’s new volume, Bleach (Vol.54), marks the end of Viz Media‘s speed up of the print editions. They’ve come really close to catching up with the Japanese releases now after their recent two-books-a-month trend. I still haven’t gotten used to Rukia’s new hair cut, as seen on this volume’s cover. I like it, it’s cute, but it definitely doesn’t help with confusion between characters when hair styles are often one of few defining features. As for the volume content itself, I’m looking forward to the return of Uryuu Ishida! Ah, one track mind sometimes…
Also out from Viz Media was Otomen (Vol. 14). I really loved what happened in the previous volume, but it made me wonder where the series would go now that one of the biggest plot points had been pretty much resolved. In what seems like a well decided move, this newest volume spends more time focusing on the secondary characters. I’m not an especially big fan of Kitora and his flower obsession, but it was nice seeing him grow as a character. I do really want to see what Hajime chooses to do when forced to confront his Father about his love for make-up and makeovers someday, and this volume does a great job setting up that conflict.
Then there’s Danza, which despite my thought that it was after seeing the book, did not in fact come from Viz Media. Published by Kodansha Comics, Danza uses the larger cut size I’m more accustomed to from Viz Media’s signature line, not to mention it’s Viz that usually publishes Natsume Ono’s work. It’s definitely a nice touch though, for collectors like me who enjoy putting creator’s work together. Danza fits very nicely on the shelf with my other Natsume Ono books. It’s another collection of her short stories, which I always enjoy, even if admittedly I would still describe them as rather dull. Consistently pretty good, but never something I’d rant, rave and weep over the completion of.
I can’t say the same for the last two books this week however – Heart of Thomas and Girlfriends (Vol.02). Girlfriends is now over with this second omnibus edition. I really adored this series, and greatly lament we don’t get more yuri series available in English. I found myself empathizing far more with the characters in Girlfriends than I have in 90% of the shoujo series I’ve read over the years. It made it a somewhat emotional read but all the more satisfying for it.
Heart of Thomas was similar for me in ways, resonating a lot more on an emotional level for various reasons. While Girlfriends is a great example of a modern yuri, Heart of Thomas is probably the best example of the earliest of boys’ love works. It helped define the genres of shoujo and boys’ love as we know them today, and I couldn’t wish for anything more substantial as a starting point. I hope to go into my thoughts with more detail in a full review someday, but as I’m still in the hazy afterglow of completing it, I will say for now that this story of suicide, love, abuse, friendship and family was very, very good.
That does it for this week’s Swag Bag. As always, feel more than free to share what purchases you’ve made recently and if you’d recommend them!