This month, we are thrilled to be welcome our newest manga imprint. One of the biggest companies in gaming, Square Enix also has a rich history when it comes to publishing manga with hits under their umbrella such as Fullmetal Alchemist, Soul Eater and Black Butler just to name a few. Starting in February, Square Enix will now be directly releasing titles in English in both the manga and gaming departments. And they’ve started with a bang with two titles that have long been in demand from Western manga readers.
First, we have A Man and His Cat. Having built a huge following worldwide thanks largely to author Umi Sakurai’s tremendous Twitter account, this series has been a bestseller in Japan and was is bound to be a hit with western readers. In the pet shop he calls home, a chubby, homely cat whiles away the hours listening to coos of delight from potential pet parents… but he knows it’s not him they’re fussing over. Even as his price drops with each passing day, no one spares the kitty a glance. Having all but given up on life, the feline dejectedly awaits his first birthday, when he’ll officially be past his sell-by date. So when an older gentleman comes into the shop and wants to take him home, the kitten himself is most shocked of all! Will the man and the cat find what they’re looking for… in each other?
Voted one of the top manga series of 2018 by Japanese booksellers, this is a unique series which stands out in a genre where there are admittedly a lot of strong titles. Sakurai’s art manages to maintain a great balance of homeliness and zany comedy. Fukumaru ─ in particular ─ is an all-time great manga cat. Far removed from the traditional cutesy kittens that normally permeate the genre, he has a unique appeal and design which lends himself to the antics throughout the series. Likewise, Mr. Kanda is not the typical human character that would own said pet. As a result, readers get a genuinely touching and insanely funny tale of friendship that will win over even the most jaded fan.
Next we have Hi Score Girl. Adapted into a hit anime series on Netflix which has a second season on the way, Rensuke Oshikiri’s loving tribute to 90s video games gets its long-awaited English language release. The year is 1991, and the world is on the cusp of the golden age of 2D fighting games. And on the outskirts of town, in a shady arcade that’s a second home to delinquents and businessmen, one girl descends with dignity into her seat at the game cabinet… Her name is Akira Oono, and she’s about to humiliate hardcore gamer Haruo Yaguchi, who fancies himself something of an arcade king, at Street Fighter! Will Haruo ever live down losing to a girl from his class?!
Hi Score Girl has a very broad appeal for multiple reasons. Firstly, any passionate gamer will find something relatable in Haruo. Granted, most will not have hallucinations of Guile from Street Fighter or have amassed the collection he has at his age. Nevertheless, plenty of gamers will either know someone like him or see some of themselves in him. Secondly, it is a fun take on the mismatched romance trope. Oono is the refined tsundre type but is also a gaming pro. It’s a fun case of eating humble pie which has every gamer has had to do sometime in their life. Finally, it’s a fantastic journey through the history of 90s video games that delves into the arcade scene and the rise in prevalence of advanced home consoles. All this is aided by Oshikiri’s fantastic art which is far removed from the usual style you’d expect in this genre.
If these two titles are anything to go by, it looks like Square Enix will quickly become a major player on the English reading manga scene. These are two launch titles fans won’t want to miss.
A Man And His Cat 1 is published on 13 February from Square Enix Manga (9781646090266, p/b, £10.99)
Hi Score Girl 1 is published on 27 February from Square Enix Manga (9781646090167, p/b, £10.99)