This month, Shea and Derek have a fun time discussing two recent manga releases. They begin with the first volume of Akiko Higashimura’s Princess Jellyfish (Kodansha), a series that is new to both of the guys. In fact, Derek comments that he might not have given this title a try if they hadn’t decided to discuss it for the podcast. Given the “princess” part of the book, he had wondered if this might not be too cute for him, a fluffy shojo title that may not appeal to him (while at the same time, admitting that he might be shortsighted). But as the guys discuss, Princess Jellyfish is anything but insubstantial. It’s a multi-layered story exploring friendships, gender identity, and fandom. Yet, “fandom” isn’t the right word when discussing this manga, and Shea and Derek spend a good deal of time understanding the character and behavioral nuances that Higashimura weaves into her narrative, supplemented by a useful glossary that she include in the back of the book. This is definitely a title that both of the guys will continue reading in the months to come. Next, they look at a completely different kind of manga, the first omnibus volume of Kengo Hanazawa’s I Am a Hero (Dark Horse Manga). This book has been getting a good deal of press, especially given its apparent similarity to The Walking Dead. In fact, Derek and Shea discuss the expectations surrounding I Am a Hero and how calling it “zombie manga” may be a lazy way of categorizing this series. At least in this first volume, there is much more to Hanazawa’s story that the undead rising. I Am a Hero is also a self-aware meditation on the place of manga in our culture, with the book’s protagonist, Hideo Suzuki, serving as its focalizing agent. Plus, there are many unanswered questions surrounding Hideo, non-zombie-based, that makes us question his reliability. And as Shea and Derek point out, it’s not entirely certain where Hanazawa’s sympathies actually lie regarding his hero…and that’s a good thing, at least for Derek, who appreciates ambiguity and authorial distance. Shea suspects that next volumes of the series will more firmly embed themselves in the zombie side of the story, although Derek is hoping that won’t entirely be the case. Time will tell.