There are two universal truths in today’s rapidly changing comics industry. The first is that Dog Man is the defining comic of our era. The second is that more people are reading manga and webtoons (aka vertical scroll comics) than ever before. Therefore we at The Comics Beat have chosen to embark on a new venture: Beat’s Bizarre Adventure. Every week we’ll have three writers recommend some of their favorite books and series from Japan, Korea and elsewhere. This week we have monster-slaying in the Philippines, romantic comedies, and, of course, mermaids.

katlaya rising logo katlaya with knife

Katlaya Rising

Writer/Artist: MariaMediaHere
Editor: Aria Villafranca
Assistant: Soupbot
Platform: WEBTOON

I discovered the podcast Trash Taste on YouTube during the pandemic. I watched a few clips here and there but didn’t think much of it. Weeks later, YouTube recommended animations by MariaMediaHere capturing moments from the podcast. Her art style caught my attention and I have been keeping tabs on her work ever since.

Cut to 2022 and she started a new webtoon after the success of her girls’ love Canvas series Ghoul Crush. This was Katlaya de los Kalye, a Shonen Jump-style webtoon oozing with Filipino culture and designs. The protagonist Katlaya is a monster exterminator tasked with defending her town of Pilipit and its people, all while falling for the attractive women in her life. The Canvas series went silent after it was announced it would be made a WEBTOON Original.

It was re-released in 2024 under a new title, Katlaya Rising. Maria’s art is as good as ever. The simple character designs and the setting draw heavy inspiration from Filipino culture, which is quite unique on the WEBTOON platform. This time, the webtoon is entirely in color. The story and world are fleshed out further so that readers might understand Katlaya’s career as a monster exterminator. The monster infestation is so bad that not only are there fewer exterminators than ever, but they are also stretched far too thin.

Scenes featuring blood and gore cleverly change the color of blood from red to magenta. This lets Maria go all in on exciting monster fights while fitting within WEBTOON’s guidelines. The monster designs are dynamic and drawn with animated, flowy movement. They pair well with Maria’s character designs, which balance a chibi aesthetic with proper human proportions.

Each character maintains a soft look that still allows for dynamic poses and a wide variety of expressions. They are readable and easy to draw, which is very important for webtoon projects. The female character designs are also bound to have fans of girls’ love comics on their hands and knees barking alongside Katlaya.

Katlaya Rising is a refreshing webtoon that is worth reading for its art style alone. It also has great action and a unique cultural background. Unfortunately it is not being promoted nearly enough. More people should be reading this series and giving their love and support to Maria and her team. As of writing there are only 6 episodes out so it can all be read in less than a day. But each episode will leave you wanting more, so beware! — Justin Guerrero

let's do it already keiichiro blocking yuri

Let’s Do It Already!

Writer/Artist: Kusaka Aki
Translator: Jan Mitsuko Cash
Designer: Shawn Carrico
Editor: Nancy Thistlewaite
Touch-up Art & Lettering: Inori Fukuda Trant
Publisher: VIZ Media

Let’s Do It Already! immerses readers in a delightful mix of romance and comedy. Authored and illustrated by Aki Kusaka, this manga, published by VIZ Media under the Shojo Beat imprint, finds a fresh take on teenage love and its many challenges. If you enjoy lighthearted romantic escapades with a twist, this manga is a must-read.

The story revolves around Yuri Hasegawa, a carefree high school student, and Keiichiro Katsuragi, an uptight boy from an elite political family. Despite their differing personalities, they fall deeply in love. But an obstacle stands in their way: Keiichiro’s family has a strict rule prohibiting male descendants from engaging in any sexual relations until they turn 18. The affectionate Yuri and rule-abiding Keiichiro are forced to keep their relationship strictly chaste, leading to a series of humorous and heartfelt moments as they navigate their desires and the stringent restrictions imposed on them.

This manga has similar vibes to other classic romance manga that feature opposing male and female leads in a bumpy relationship. Examples include Lovely Complex, Absolute Boyfriend and Kaichou wa Maid-Sama. But Let’s Do It Already! introduces a unique conflict that adds depth and intrigue to the plot. The tension between Yuri’s passionate nature and Keiichiro’s adherence to rules creates a dynamic and engaging narrative that keeps readers hooked.

The manga’s art is another highlight. Aki Kusaka’s illustrations are beautifully crafted, with dynamic layouts that convey the intensity and complexity of teenage drama. The use of bold and sudden lettering transitions, varying face sizes on the same page, and the creative inclusion of supporting characters all contribute to a visually engaging experience.

The scene where Yuri makes a passionate love confession to Keiichiro, only to be humorously thwarted by the no-touching rule, perfectly encapsulates the manga’s blend of romance and comedy. Keiichiro’s silent yet palpable longing to touch Yuri, as he looks for loopholes in his family’s rules, adds depth to his character and highlights the genuine connection between the two protagonists. The creative and comedic scenarios they find themselves in, coupled with the beautifully illustrated emotional expressions, make Let’s Do It Already! a delightful read. — Ilgın Side Soysal

mermaid saga woman in kimono

Mermaid Saga

Writer/Artist: Rumiko Takahashi
Translation and English Adaptation: Rachel Thorn
Letterer: Joanna Estep
Editor: Amy Yu
Publisher: VIZ Media

Mermaid Saga is an outlier in the career of Rumiko Takahashi. Not just because it’s one of her shorter series, or because she forgoes the romantic comedy elements that made her famous. But because it is Takahashi’s lone series that is pure horror.

Five hundred years ago, Yuta ate mermaid flesh and became cursed with immortality. Now he longs to become human once again so he can finally die. When he finds the similarly cursed Mana, they spend the series searching for a way to once again become human.

Not everyone who eats mermaid flesh becomes immortal. Most turn into the Lost Souls, Lovecraft-esque fish people. The monsters in the series are both supernatural and human. Some people are out to get them hoping Yuta and Mana can provide them immortality. Others are immortals warped by their lengthy life spans. Then there are folks made immortal in even worse ways.

Takahashi is really good at horror comics. It isn’t the first time for her, as her short story collection Came The Mirror has a few. But the legend loves drenching pages in shadows and setting scenes at night. While her future work features yokai and the supernatural in fantastic settings, Mermaid Saga uses folk tales purely for terror. Images in this series are among the most grotesque of her career. The villains are some of her cruelest, and the monsters bulge with dead eyes and warped physiques. The romantic overtones to Yuta and Mana’s relationship take a back seat to the horror surrounding them.

Mermaid Saga is also fascinating as a transitional work. Takahashi drew it while creating Urusei Yatsura, Maison Ikkoku and Ranma 1/2. After Ranma 1/2, she began Inuyasha, which also includes supernatural elements and grotesque monsters. While it’s less horrific than Mermaid Saga, I can’t imagine the hugely successful Inuyasha existing without its predecessor.

In a just world, Takahashi would have given Mermaid Saga a more satisfying ending. Even so, it’s a miracle that she delivered a horror series this good. The Queen of Manga is a master of any genre she tackles. — D. Morris

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