Ep. 111: Heavenly Delusion Vol. 1, by Masakazu Ishiguro

Season 4 is nearing its conclusion, and it’s time for David’s last pick: Heavenly Delusion, by Masakazu Ishiguro! This sci-fi (comedy?) manga has a huge fan-following already thanks to its great art and story AND a hit anime series too! But will that be enough to meet the high standards of the VERY choosy Mangasplaining crew? Listen and find out!

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00:01 Heavenly Delusion vol. 1
53:30 SHOUT-OUTS! Manga, Movies, A Novel, and a Life Lesson too!

Heavenly Delusion vol. 1

Heavenly Delusion vol. 1
by Masakazu Ishiguro
Translated by: Ko Ransom
Production: Nicole Dochych
Digital: Taneli Vatanen

Published by Denpa. Available in print / digital

Audio editing by David Brothers. Show notes by Christopher Woodrow-Butcher and Deb Aoki


Some real audio problems this week, but David did an amazing job fixing it so that it shouldn’t be TOO noticeable. Thanks, David!

SPOILERS in this episode for Heavenly Delusion, but also in the shout-outs Deb spoils THE SUMMER HIKARU DIED, out of nowhere, lol.

[DEB:] Sorry. >_>

So, anyway — at least we gave you an early heads up on that, right?


Masakazu Ishiguro was born in Fukui Prefecture on September 8th, 1977. A fan of manga from an early age, he cites watching the anime film AKIRA as a child as having had a major influence on his work. He decided to be a manga artist from a young age, graduating from the Osaka University of Arts in 2001.

Prior to graduating though, he had his manga breakthrough in 2000 with the one-shot Hero, submitted to Kodansha’s Monthly Afternoon Magazine. Ishiguro took home the Afternoon Shiki Award (Four Seasons Award) for that work. Ishiguro’s work has also won numerous other awards, including the Manga Taisho, The Japan Media Arts Festival manga prize, the Seiun Award, the Tezuka Osamu Cultural Prize, a Japan Expo Award, and has topped the best manga lists of DaVinci magazine and Kono Manga ga Sugoi (This Manga is Awesome, an annual list of the most notable new manga) –twice!

While many of his early works came from the sci-fi genre, Ishiguro is possibly best known for his comedies; particularly the Japan Media Arts Award winning And Yet The Town Moves (18 Volumes, Shonen Gahosha, Untranslated). The And Yet The Town Moves anime got a Western release from Sentai Filmworks.

[DEB:] A little context here. That’s not quite true about it not being available in English. And Yet the Town Moves was previously published in English via the short-lived J-Manga website (2010-2013), but a perfunctory look for it on eBook stores like Kindle and Apple Books pulls up nothing. HOWEVER, it is available to read in English on Manga Planet, as SoreMachi: And Yet The Town Moves — so go check it out there.

[Christopher:] Wow, that’s great news! I had no idea! 😀

SoreMachi: And Yet the Town Moves by Masakazu Ishiguro
SoreMachi: And Yet the Town Moves vol. 1 by Masakazu Ishiguro

His most recently released work in English is today’s title, Heavenly Delusion (9 volumes, ongoing, originally from Kodansha). There’s also a one-shot volume Sky Grazer that was released as a digital-first title from Kodansha.

Sky Grazer by Masakazu Ishiguro

Despite not having a ton of work in English, Ishiguro seemingly has a very involved fanbase in the Western world! When we posted that we would be covering Heavenly Delusion on BlueSky, our mutual Theozilla replied enthusiastically:

There’s a discord dedicated to Ishiguro’s works that holds a lot of [interesting trivia about Heavenly Delusion] (such as [a] useful character chart for the expansive cast of characters) discord.gg/4MzXK3uH

Theozilla, on BlueSky

I haven’t headed to that Discord yet, click that link at your own risk, but if that’s something you’re interested in it sounds pretty cool! Theozilla also sent us a link to this very rare English language interview conducted with the author by Lynzee Loveridge at Anime News Network last year.

It’s a good little interview, check it out!

[DEB:] Perhaps not as well-known, but Ishiguro WAS a guest at a N. American anime convention a few years ago — he attended New York Comic-Con in 2013, where he was interviewed by Brigid Alverson for MTV Geek. Too bad that the photos / images seem to be broken, but at least the interview is still there to read.


Here’s what Denpa has to say about Heavenly Delusion Volume 1:

Within the safety of the walls, youths are raised in a nursery-style setting by robots. While life there may appear stale on the surface, the children are full of potential and curiosity. In many ways it is like a slice of heaven. The outside world is a hell-scape. It is almost entirely void of anything mechanical and is now inhabited by bizarre, yet powerful super-natural beings.

Maru, with the aid of Kiruko, is out there crisscrossing what was once Tokyo searching for heaven. But after searching for so long, maybe heaven is more of an untenable dream than a potential reality.

Denpa Publishing, on Heavenly Delusion

00:55  I’m sure David is referencing church here, but I choose to believe he is referencing the beginning of Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy

03:51 We’ve covered a few titles by Denpa, including Episode 88: Under Ninja and the title we reference here, Invitation from a Crab by Panpanya.

05:00 To be clear, trawling weird websites for scanlated manga was 15 years ago, back when it was closer to fan-translations and free distribution, and further away from crappy websites driven by advertising revenue that are looking to circumvent copyright.

09:00 If you’re new here (hi!), you might not know that Katsuhiro Otomo’s manga series AKIRA is the title that gives structure to our podcast, being the series that we kicked off the podcast with and we return to at the end of every season. For more on both creator and creation, there are 4 episodes to listen to on Otomo’s Akira here on the podcast, and I’ve written probably 10,000 words on it in show notes. And another one coming next episode too.

But here’s an example of some of those faces in Heavenly Delusion that have some Otomo vibes.

Here’s a group that Chip later calls “Otomo by way of Daniel Clowes” which is hilarious and spot-on:

It’s funny, we actually ragged pretty hard on the shitty otaku rapist dudes that Otomo drew in Akira volume 4 (and throughout the rest of the series):

11:46 The environmental drawings in Heavenly Delusion really are quite lovely and add a lot to the setting and scenery.

13:29 One of the many reasons that I enjoy listening back to the podcast (Hi, it’s Chris) after being on it, is catch the real weight of Chip describing the reveal of the boy Maru’s powers being done in a very matter-of-fact way, whereas in a Marvel comic you’d need to do things much differently, probably with splash pages and things.

It’s very manga, lots of moment-to-moment panels, and the drama and the intensity is of course still there. But yeah, there’s no splash, the reveal is subtle but then keeps surprising by showing how the power is working. I’ve never seen a ‘psychic’ power depicted that way before.

15:07 Funny or horrifying? Or both? This sequence where a woman is convinced that the gruesome beast above won’t hurt her is… well, it’s certainly something isn’t it?

15:40 Yeah, elephant in the room, there’s some underage nudity in this book. It’s not gratuitous to the story, IMHO, and we go through it and what it means pretty clearly I think? Room for disagreement though.

Of course, we’re not dumb enough to include it in the show-notes, are we?

24:00 Deb references a few manga that Heavenly Delusion called to mind for her, specifically The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shirai and Posuka Demizu and published by VIZ/Shonen Jump, and Brutal by Kei Koga on Comikey. The former is about a group of kids in a facility with no access to the outside world, much like half of Heavenly Delusion. The latter though captures some of the girsly brutality and gore of certain series…

26:16 Another reference? The lady up top getting sliced in half recalled a building getting sliced in half from another David pick, Episode 104: Blood Blockade Battlefront. That clean slice is a hell of visual, and manga and anime do it so, so well.

31:00 Christopher references two manga titles that Heavenly Delusion reminded him of, Bokurano: Ours and ShadowStar, both by the mangaka Mohiro Kitoh. Bokurano features a group of children who ‘test a game’ and enter a contract, which ends up with them piloting giant robots and also dying, one at a time. (Okay, that’s a spoiler too, but it’s revealed pretty early on in the story…) It’s a heavy, heavy series, but it did very well in Japan. All 11 volumes were released in English by VIZ Media, as was the anime television series!

While searching for info here, I noticed that the first link on the Wikipedia page for Bokurano: Ours was… me. And Deb. Apparently, back in like 2010, I didn’t like it very much. Haha, blast from the past there. Shadowstar got an aborted run from Dark Horse back in the early 2000s due to low sales and/or the content getting a bit more seinen than they were expecting for a story about a girl riding a flying alien starfish. Lots seinen content in seinen manga, watch out.

And… yeah, this whole section of our chat got a bit heavy, but there’s some surprisingly heavy stuff in this book, and more to come down the road. It kinda looks like it might be a teen-friendly work, and I think for the right teenager it would be, but it’s also got some stuff that would probably merit content warnings for a lot of readers.

33:00 So let’s lighten things up with jokes! There are a ton of funny moments in Heavenly Delusion, even a few COL moments (chuckle-out-loud). For example, I forgot it during the podcast, but I loved this sight-gag that ties into the Yakuza manga we’ve been reading and talking about. “Wow, this house is really nice!”

It belonged to a Yakuza Syndicate. Heh. David on the other hand, goes right to… The Incest Joke. David’s favourite gag in the book.

Click for larger.

David also really liked the way the kid who fell while climbing bounced, and then looked up at everyone with an aw-shucks sort of vibe.

Another fave moment is the judo throw so the one boy can talk to the other he has a crush on:

Chip and Deb both just loved the dark humor of the head-slicing, as seen above. But don’t worry, it’s not all darkness! The bit where the girl prunes the foliage growing out of the toilet so she can use it is also a humorous image.

And finally, there’s this moment where someone tries to be very cool while saying something that implies that they… aren’t. 🙂

37:45 We’ve mentioned illustrator and manga creator Hisashi Eguchi on the podcast before, as David really likes his stuff. Eguchi got his start in manga, making his debut in Shonen Jump all the way back in in 1977(!). His biggest hit is the sex-comedy Stop!! Hibari-kun! but his manga output has dwindled over the years, as he moved into illustration full-time. Eguchi is renowned for being one of Japan’s foremost cute-girl illustrators, and the cute faces on display in Heavenly Delusion remind David more of his work than of Otomo’s.

Luckily I found a review of a Hisashi Eguchi artbook online at Halcyon realms, and I think that this will give you a sense of what Eguchi’s current work is like, and what David means:

38:35 I’ve also previously mentioned  Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder, a far future science-fiction story about a world that’s rebuilding after tremendous loss. It’s set at an indeterminate point in the future, and so some of the things that the current society doesn’t know how to do like repair or rebuild the giant dome that protects their cities from solar radiation, for example. But some things from the past have endured in this world, like styles of music that we love today. It’s a really interesting science fiction series, and it’s collected in a couple of big library editions from Dark Horse.

41:00 Switching to discussing the artwork in the book, Chip mentions that the scenery and world-building through establishing shots and background pages is really nice. Specifically, page 53, with the road signs and crosswalk markings crumbling, and nature coming through them.

43:00 And for those of you looking for this specific image, here’s the bad guys who look like they’re Otomo meets Dan Clowes again. Haha.

44:30 Tomato Heaven, we keep mentioning this, and it’s a really good reveal in the book and we don’t want to spoil it, which is why I haven’t included any shots of it, or what it all means. But tomatoes are a hell of a theme in this first volume, with tomato imagery appearing more than once. I wonder what that’s about? I wonder if it continues through the rest of the series?

But then we keep going off topic to talk about tomatoes, so please enjoy this photo of a fruit cup which also features cherry tomatoes, that I purchased from the convenience store downstairs JUST for these show notes, but of course I will also eat the fruit:

And what better note to go out on than this quote? Is this why we’re not on the back of any books yet?

“Someone should Maze Runner this shit into the ground.”

Christopher Woodrow Butcher and David Brothers, Mangasplaining, on Heavenly Delusion


And now it’s time for Shout-outs!

DEB shouts-out the new manga The Summer Hikaru Died! WITH HUGE SPOILERS! So uh, sorry about that? Lol. Anyway, The Summer Hikaru Died is a new ongoing manga series by Mokumokuren, published in English by Yen Press. Three volumes are currently available, and it’s already won a ton of awards and got a LOT of attention in Japan.

CHRISTOPHER (that’s me!) recommends the manga Summertime Rendering by Yasuki Tanaka and published in English by UDON Entertainment. It is a suspense/thriller/horror manga set on a beautiful tropical island in Japan, with some great suspense, a few funny gags, sexy characters, and more. I think it’s good enough that the Mangasplaining crew would probably really dig it, actually, but I’m always a bit anxious about recommending books by people I work for. Still, recommended if you wanna check it out.

I also recommend this hilarious short story, the first chapter of Skygrazer by Masakazu Ishiguro. It’s available for free on the Kodansha website (first chapters are always free) and while it’s secretly an introduction to a much larger story, it works perfectly on its own. 

And now, the secret reveal to CHIP’s shout-out from last week… It turns out he really liked the non-fiction book Doppelganger by Naomi Klein! It apparently explains a lot of what’s going on in society right now, which would be welcome, I feel. Maybe time to add another book I can’t get around to reading to the Kindle… :-/

He also recommended the 1983 film King of Comedy starring Robert De Niro and directed by Martin Scorsese (not to be confused with the 1999 King of Comedy movie directed by Stephen Chow). The 1983 one features Jerry Lewis and Sandra Bernhart.

I’d watch that. I mean, who knows if it’ll come anywhere close to Sandra Bernhart’s majestic performance in Hudson Hawk, but…

DAVID saw The Creator, and didn’t love it. But really liked the juxtaposition of the two trailers for The Marvels and Killers of the Flower Moon. Let’s run all three then?

But his actual shout-out was for the concept of “get used to being bad at something, there are no consequences.” I think that’s probably good advice. 🙂


We go back to the one that started us on Chip’s journey of manga discovery – that’s right, we’re now up to AKIRA vol. 5 by Katsuhiro Otomo

After this, we’ve only got one more volume of AKIRA to go! WHAT WILL WE PICK FOR OUR NEXT BIG READ?!!!  Hm. We’ll figure that out then? Maybe? (sweat drop)

And that’s this week in Mangasplaining! This episode is also available wherever you get your podcasts, so please subscribe and leave a review, so others can discover our show. 

Also, if you’d like to get the latest episode delivered straight to your inbox along with exclusive interviews, articles and new chapters of manga you can’t read anywhere else, (like Search and Destroy by Atsushi Kaneko and Wandering Cat’s Cage by Akane Torikai) subscribe to our Mangasplaining Extra Substack newsletter. See what you’re missing at Mangasplaining Extra!

Thanks so much for listening! Please support your local comic and manga specialty shop when purchasing these books, and you can find one near you at comicshoplocator.com. You can also check your local library for print and digital lending options, they have TONS of manga! Finally, thanks to D.A.D.S. for their musical accompaniment for this episode.

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4 Responses

  1. Erica Friedman says:

    I’ll second Summertime Rendering. I reviewed V1-3 for Anime New Network. It’s an interesting, twisty, paranormal mystery.

  2. Ann says:

    Very cool podcast! I hope it gets more people reading the manga, although it makes sense such explicit content is only available by an indie publisher. I’m glad more readers can appreciate serious adult themes that are treated normally in art.

    The comment that it’s directed like a movie is accurate, and it’s also all planned ahead, without giving away too much too early. I hope you keep reading! Volume starts with an amazing flashback.

  1. February 17, 2024

    […] Over at the Mangasplaining podcast, David Brothers convenes a round table on Masakazu Ishiguro’s sci-fi series Heavenly Delusion. [Mangasplaining] […]

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