All posts by Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is the writer and reviewer for the manga blog, Manga Xanadu. She also keeps a personal blog at Fangirl Xanadu, and a writing blog at Muse of Xanadu. She contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. As the mother of two teen daughters, she needs all the escape she can get, which reading and writing about manga gives her.

Manga Wrap Up Week Five: Chibi Vampire

January has come and gone, and I have completed my next series. Chibi Vampire was one of Tokyopop’s moderate successes. At least it usually hit the top 10 when a new volume came out. I originally picked it up because I liked the premise; a vampire that gave blood instead of taking it. I read the first 7 volumes and then got distracted. Volume 7 was the end of an arc, so it was at least a good place to stop.

Volume 8 starts a new arc, focusing the vampires of Japan and the truth behind Karin’s blood loss. The story continues with the lightness of the last previous volumes. Karin and Kenta have worked out their issues and are trying to be a normal High School couple. But the appearance of a half human/half vampire, and Anju’s early awakening throw more emotional obstacles in their path. Still they find a way to keep going. Finally, the truth behind Karin’s blood loss is revealed and she is kidnapped by another vampire clan, prompting the Markers and Kenta to work together to get Karin back safe.

Chibi Vampire gets to join the growing list of titles that has brought me to tears. Karin and Kenta’s relationship continues to have its ups and downs, with misunderstandings causing most of them. But now that they’ve confessed their feelings for each other, they aren’t as big, or last as long. The story of the vampires and their plight is the more compelling part of this arc. In these back volumes we learn why the vampires left Europe and how they arrived in Japan. We also see how James and Elda got together and Caldera’s family. I liked how things set up in earlier volumes do return and become important in these later volumes. The lack of vampire children is only mentioned in volume 5, but then becomes the reason for so much more.

I absolutely love all the other characters in this series. They are fun and funny most of the time. But when things get serious, they really know how to get down to business. Henry, who seems to be a buffoon as he is dominated by his wife Caldera and such a doting father becomes a serious threat after Karin is taken. He is ready to give up everything, including his life to get Karin back. Everyone in Karin’s family is ready and willing do anything to protect her. Anju, her younger sister, fights sleeping during the day to use her bats to watch over her. Even Caldera, her domineering mother and Ren, her playboy older brother, both of who seem more annoyed with Karin are ready to fight to get her back. That’s what makes the end of this series so heartbreaking.

I’m really glad I didn’t read the last volume at work. I hate trying to explain to co-workers why I’m crying over essentially a comic book. But dammit, the twist at the end of this series, I SO WASN’T expecting it and it got me straight in the heart. And that’s one of the things that makes this such a good series. You get to know the characters so well, that anything that happens to them affects you as well. Even though what happened may have been in Karin’s best interest, it was so hard to see. I think Tokyopop really did this series a disservice by changing its name. It was originally called Karin, and should have stayed that way. It was all about her. The story was done well enough that I think it would have done just as well without the gimmicky name that really had nothing to do with the story.

I was going to donate this title to my local library, but now I’m not so sure. I really enjoyed it, quirky characters and all. It really hit an emotional bone in me. I may have to rethink things. Since I burned through these volumes so fast, I then read the last two volumes of Zombie Loan. It left me scratching my head, wondering where that ending came from. The story takes a serious left turn at the end, though maybe it wouldn’t be as confusing if I’d read volumes 3-8, but somehow I don’t think so. Full review to follow soon.

I’m not sure what I’m going to read next. Looking at my review pile, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to get through some of those first before going back to my full series catch ups. I do try to balance not only between personal and review books, but also between publishers. I’m looking at doing some more Viz, as Yen and Vertical have been getting the lion’s share of dedicated reviews. Check back next week to see what I decide on.

  • Chibi Vampire 8-14
  • Zombie Loan 12-13

Manga Wrap Up Week Four: Black Cat

Here we are at week four of the great Manga Wrap Up, and thanks to being sick on Monday, I was able to get through four volumes of the next series I’ve decided to finish, Black Cat. I was off by how many volumes I had to read. I thought I had to start at volume 14, but I actually had to go back to volume 10 to find anything I remembered, so the extra time came in good use, but the being sick sucked.

Black Cat is about Train Heartnet, a former Chonos assassin who gives up his life of killing turns Sweeper, or bounty hunter. His weapon of choice is a gun that he can make fast and impossible shots with. His partner, Sven Vollfied, a former IBI agent also turned Sweeper. He possesses a “Vision Eye” that allows him to see a few seconds into the future, and makes all kinds of gagdets to help them catch their quarry. Joining them is Eve, a young girl whose body is filled with nanites that she can control and transform into any kind of weapon. She was created as an ultimate weapon, until Train and Sven freed her. Now, she travels with them, wanting to be a Sweeper as well. Train’s past comes back to haunt him in the form of Creed Diskenth, also a former Chonos assassin who want Train to join him in taking over the world, along with his revolutionary group, Apostles of the Stars.

I really enjoyed reading the back half of this series. All of the introductory of plot and important characters was done and it could get straight to the problem at hand; stopping Creed. One of the things I really like about Black Cat is that it doesn’t have a bunch of multiple arcs with multiple big bosses to beat. Through the 20 volumes there is only Creed and his minions. That isn’t to say that there aren’t obstacles, but the series doesn’t have to be a series of battles, powers up and more battles that I’ve started to grow tired of in shonen manga. Train only gets one major power up throughout the series, and it’s just at the half way point. He’s already strong enough, and smart enough, to take on all of Creed’s lieutenants. He only needs the power up to stop Creed, and even then, he still has aces to pull out of his sleeve before resorting to that power up to finally defeat Creed.

The story is tightly written. Once Train and his friends decide to go after Creed once and for all, the story is dedicated to following that path. The characters, which have seen some growth up to now, really come into their own in not only prepare for the battle, but in accepting who they are the path they have chosen. Sven finally accepts his “Vision Eye” as his own, and not just a gift from a friend. Eve grows not just in her ability to transform herself, but also accepts the path of protecting instead of just killing. And Train throws away the ideas of revenge and decides to take Creed alive so he can pay for his crimes. And along the way, as they battle the Apostles of the Stars, our heroes are able to reach out to the misguided members and show them there is another way to live.

These back volumes also give us more of Train’s past, as we learn about what happened to Saya, the Sweeper that pushed Train off the assassin path, and there’s even a bonus story that shows how Train and Sven met and became partners. The final volume ties up loose ends nicely as we get a glimpse of where our heroes, and villains, are a few years into the future, and things seem to be looking well everyone. It’s a happy ending, and not at all forced.

Yabuki called this series “Part 1”, implying that there would/could be more stories with these characters. I really hope so. He created a great bunch, and I would love to read more about them. I especially liked Train, with all of his cat-like traits, and his love of milk is really cute. Yabuki has a great sense of humor that borders on wicked. I loved one scene when they are attacking Creed’s hideout, and Eve uses a new attack that renders the guards….naked. The strategic positioning of some cats was hilarious! Black Cat is a series I may have second thoughts about giving away.

Since I finished up Black Cat so quickly, I decided to keep with the “Black” theme and also finished off Black Jack by reading the last two volumes. I’ll be doing a full review of these two volumes, but let me just say I felt these were the weakest of all the volumes I’ve read. Not bad, just not as good.

  • Black Cat volume 11-20
  • Black Jack volume 16-17

Next up is Chibi Vampire. I know I stopped on volume 7 on this series, so I only have seven more to go. If time permits, I will finish up another series, though not one I’ve been reading regularly, Zombie Loan.

Genkaku Picasso Volume 1: Manga Movable Feast

Hikari Hamura, nicknamed Picasso because of his natural artistic abilities, survived a horrible accident, but his friend Chiaki wasn’t so lucky. Suddenly, Chiaki appears in front of him and tells him in order to keep living he must help the people around him. Can Hikari save people with his sketchbook and a 2B pencil?

By Usamaru Furuya
Publisher: Viz Media – Shonen Jump
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Supernatural/Mystery
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★

I read the first chapter of this series when it was previewed in Shonen Jump. While I liked it, I didn’t run out and buy the first volume when it came out. It wasn’t a “must have” at the time. But with an MMF coming up featuring Usamaru Furuya, I thought Genkaku Picasso would be the most accessible of his available titles. I definitely enjoyed the full volume more than the just the first chapter. There is some dark imagery, but it is balanced with plenty of light moments and a bright resolution for all the people Hikari and Chiaki help.

What makes Genkaku Picasso work so well are its characters. Furuya has created a quirky lead with a cast of characters to match. Hikari Hamura, aka Picasso, so named for a spelling error and his love of drawing, is a fun yet endearing lead. He is a bit of an introvert, and reacts with some hostility to his classmates. He has a nervous habit of chewing on his thumbnail, but has a real talent for art and greatly admires Leonardo Da Vinci. His only real friend is Chiaki, a childhood friend who likes to read while Picasso draws by the riverside. We don’t get to know Chiaki too well, as she is killed in the first few pages, but their bond of friendship is strong. Chiaki cares for Picasso, but not romantically so. She seems more like a big sister than a love interest.

Picasso beings to develop a circle of friends as he starts helping his classmates. The first classmate he helps is Sugiura, a popular boy who liked to tease Picasso, but after his help becomes more friendly with him. Akane, the girl Picasso helps next, not only becomes his friend, but also develops a sort-of crush on him. Of course, Picasso isn’t too happy about this change, but he seems to accept it, as Sugiura and Akane start eating lunch with him, and are usually the ones who take him to the Infirmary when he dives into a picture and can’t move or speak.

The pictures that Picasso draws of his classmate’s hearts are often dark, and sometimes disturbing. Though, the images can also be misleading. Manba’s picture wasn’t of anything he desired, but rose from his concern for Kotone, who he also has a crush on. Akane’s picture I found to be the most disturbing, but that has more to do with my love of animals. I can’t believe any animal would be treated like that for any reason. Anyway, the chapter still has a good ending, but it’s one I can’t read over.

The darker imagery is balanced by the more light-hearted moments, most of which are at Picasso’s expense. His inability to interact with his classmates, which often results in him asking blunt, inappropriate or completely off base questions based on the pictures he draws puts him into a lot of awkward situations. I don’t usually like seeing characters in awkward situations, but Picasso causes his own problems. One scene that particularly struck me was after helping Sugiura, he felt happy that he could help someone, and then immediately felt down because he was going to have to do it again. It’s these short, quick moments that are true to the character that make them funny rather than some attempt at humor.

I admit to being a bit put-off by the art at first,especially Picasso’s lips. It looked like he was wearing lipstick, and it bothered me. But once I got past that I could better appreciate Furuya’s work. Picasso’s “heart” sketches are great, and I really liked the detail he put into Picasso’s practice sketches. It really shows his potential, and makes his “heart” sketches that more believable.

Genkaku Picasso is different from other shonen titles but in a good way. The characters are odd but entertaining, and watching their interactions so far has been fun. The problems Picasso and Chiaki have to solve are realistic and different from the usual teen problems that other manga tend to focus on. It’s this difference that really makes Genkaku Picasso stand out. I will definitely be picking up the other two volumes of this series.

No Longer Human Volume 1-2: Manga Movable Feast

I wasn’t going to read No Longer Human. I’m one of those people who hears “literary classic”, and my brain shuts down. I’ve never been big on the drama and tragedy that usually permeates these kinds of books, but I’m making an effort to “expand my horizons”, so I decided to at least give the first volume a chance. What I found was a compelling human drama that didn’t feel like homework at all.

By Usamaru Furuya; Based on the novel by Osamu Dazai
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: 16+ (Older Teen)
Genre: Drama
Price: $10.95
Rating: ★★★★★

No Longer Human, written by Osamu Dazai, originally took place just after Japan’s defeat in World War II. Furuya takes this story and updates it for the 21st century, making it relatable to modern-day readers. He starts the title with a great hook. While he is surfing the internet for ideas for his next manga, Usamaru Furuya stumbles onto a link to Yozo Oba’s “Ouch Diary”, a blog about his life. This was a great way to start out the story since it’s so believable. Web surfing can lead to some strange places, and the fact that he gets sucked in in spite of himself was another great touch.

I think the choice of setting the story in modern times was the right one. It makes what Yozo goes through more relevant to the audience. While the themes of the story may be universal, a setting from over 60 years ago can make it too far removed to grab the reader. The original story will still bring in readers, but modernizing it will bring in more.

Furuya also does an excellent job of portraying Yozo’s emotions. At the beginning, Yozo doesn’t know what emotions really are, or what it means to feel them. He doesn’t understand what it means to be human and Furuya shows this by depicting Yozo as a puppet. He dances on the strings to fit into whatever situations he’s in. When he tries to commit suicide with Ageha, he is shown as a doll breaking apart. It’s after this incident that he starts to understand emotion and is no longer depicted that way.

In some way, these first two volumes show Yozo maturing backwards emotionally through the women he meets and lives with. When he’s with Ageha, he ready to give up on life, thinking there’s nothing left to experience or live for. When he lives with Shizuko and her daughter Shiori, he gets a taste of what being married could be like. And, when he runs away to Mama, he can finally be a teenager. She acts like a real mother figure to him, one he doesn’t seem to have ever had. When he meets Yoshino, he acts like a schoolboy with a crush, which really shows his emotional growth. Before, he looked at women as objects to have sex with, not understanding, or even trying to understand their feelings. With Yoshino, he doesn’t seem to feel that way at all.

Things seem to be looking up for Yozo by the end of volume 2. He has a home where he is accepted unconditionally, and he seems to have found true love. The words at the end though seem to hint at more bad times to come. After he has started to rise up, it seems that Yozo is destined for a fall. But while the words are ominous, it’s Furuya’s panels on the last page that really gives meaning to the darkness in them. The last panel almost makes you shudder at the implications.

No Longer Human is a classic in the truest sence of the word. It tells a story that is not only universal, but also timeless. The feelings and experiences of Yozo can be found in any time period and any society. Dazai’s story is compelling on its own, but Furuya’s art just drives home the story that much more. His imagery adds so much to the words and expresses what words alone can’t. I can’t recommend this title more highly.

Manga Wrap-Up Week Three: Bizenghast

Three weeks into the new year and I’ve wrapped up my second series. Bizenghast is an eight volume series that was among Tokyopop’s first original titles, and was also the longest. I first discovered it when Tokyopop ran the first few chapters online. It’s a fantasy mystery series about a young girl, Dinah, who lost her parent when she was young. With her only friend Vincent, she discovers the Mausoleum, and accidentally enters into a contract with it, and must solve riddles to free trapped spirits. It’s a coming of age story for Dinah as she learns to live again and starts to become someone who can rely on herself. Both the story and the art are uneven, especially at the beginning, but improve as the story goes on. The improvement in the art is very telling, especially in the last volumes.

I enjoyed watching Dinah’s journey overall, but did have some problems with it. It felt rushed at times and dragged at others. I would have liked to have seem more about Bizenghast’s past more in the first volumes, so that it doesn’t seem like a thrown on after thought at the end. I also didn’t really care for the way Vincent’s fate was handled. It was too abrupt and passed over too quickly to really make an impact. Despite these problems, the characters really make this series shine. The first guardian Dinah gains is Edaniel, and some of his lines and antics can make a volume worth the read. He is usually seen as a demon cat, but in human form is a total bishie. I prefer his cat form. He makes a lot of pop culture references, but it was the Mythbusters one that not only caught me off guard, but totally sold me on him.

I was going to donate this series to my library. It seems perfect for teens and I think they would really enjoy the series, until I got to the end of volume 7. It wasn’t the end of the series like I thought. It ends on a big cliffhanger, and while there is a post on LeGrow’s blog about being in talks with Tokyopop about getting volume 8 out (it was scheduled for release in July 2011), that post was from September with no updates. So my question to all you readers is, do I donate this series knowing it may never end and leave all its new readers hanging? Is that really fair?

  • Bizenghast Volumes 1-7

This week I also read the first volume of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. In a previous post I had said I couldn’t bring myself to take the chance of buying it and then find out I didn’t like it. I had seen plenty of reviews and opinions, and people seemed split about it. But, thanks to Ash Brown of Experiments in Manga, I won a copy of volume 1! I have to admit that I did like the first volume, but only because I listened to Erica Friedman on the Manga Outloud podcast about it. She explained that the series was based on Tokusatsu shows like the Super Sentai series. When I read it with that in mind, I could not only totally see the Super Sentai influence, I could also see past a lot of the problems people had with the volume. I’ll go into that more in my full review. I may look into further volumes.

  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Volume 1

In the next week I will be starting on Black Cat, a shonen series from Viz. I got to volume 14, though I may have to go back a volume or two since I haven’t read a volume since 2007 or 2008. I’m going to be interspersing some newer manga in this week as well, so I can keep up on reviews too. Maybe some Black Jack or Zombie Loan.

 

Oresama Teacher Volume 4

Troublemaking student council chairman Hanabusa thinks the best way to solve the problem of two similar clubs at school is to have them fight to the death! Actually, the losers just have to disband their club. But a silly club rivalry quickly gets out of hand when Mafuyu is kidnapped by the enemy!

By Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $9.99
ISBN: ISBN: 1-4215-3866-0
Rating: ★★½☆☆

Oresama Teacher succeeds in turning out another uneven volume. A fun chapter is sandwiched between two less-interesting ones. Even though the first chapter does have some good moments, they aren’t enough to tip the balance completely.

Mafuyu and Hasakaya, as the new formed “Public Morals” Club goes up against the Yojimbo Club, as their charters claim to do the same thing. This chapter sees the return of Nastuo-Mafuyu, as she tries to get Hakasaya to learn to dodge hits in a fight. While I didn’t care very much for these chapters, they did have their moments. Hakasaya and Nastuo-Mafuyu have a good heart-to-heart talk, and Mafuyu comes to understand Hakasaya better. It was nice to see Hakasaya show that he cares about Mafuyu, even if it means doing something dumb. But that’s what we expect from the good guys, right?

Yuto, the second from Mafuyu’s old gang comes to visit Mafuyu and deliver some treats made by them. He meets up with Hakasaya and the Bancho, and they try to find Mafuyu, and consequently miss each other for pretty much the entire story. What was really funny was the misunderstandings that went on between Yuto and Hakasaya and Bancho over who Mafuyu really was. Yuto has all of his memories of Mafuyu (slightly rose-tinted) as a demon fighter, while Hakasaya and Bancho think of her as a weak girl. The chapters were funny and the best of the chapter.

The volume ends with Takeomi needed to blow off steam from work, and drags Mafuyu off to the beach with him. This chapter felt rather odd to me. If this is supposed to be a teacher/student relationship story, it’s going at it in a really strange way. Takeomi and Mafuyu looked more like friends, or even siblings. I didn’t feel any kind of connection between them beyond their past. I’m still not sure what to think about Mafuyu’s missing memories of Takeomi.

I’m still teetering on the fence with this series. It has shown it can be a really funny series, but only if it can keep the focus on the students and their relationships. I still really enjoy Mafuyu and Hakasaya’s relations, and Bancho needs more page time with Mafuyu. I still detest Takeomi. He still doesn’t seem to have a good reason to become a teacher. He’s still too much of a delinquent to be an interesting character for me. The other “villains” in this series, such as the Student Council President is the same. So, the good and bad points of Oresama Teacher are about even at this point, but it’s still not a series I want to keep or re-read.

Manga Wrap-Up Week Two: Rurouni Kenshin

Week two ends on a better note than last week. After so much talk, I finally finished reading Rurouni Kenshin. I can’t really say I cared much for the last arc. I liked all the flashback scenes and Watsuki did a good job of balancing it’s telling with the present. But there was so much fighting, and lot of it seemed pointless. The big battle with Enishi and his “allies” was just to show how powerful everyone had grown over the series. And the battle against the 4 Stars felt like it was just filler. The ending did tie up everything nicely. I liked that everyone went their separate ways, following their own paths instead of staying together in Tokyo. I was glad to see some hope for resolution for Enishi as well. That is one of the things I liked about the series overall. There was feeling of hope and redemption all the way through the series. Kenshin never gave up one anyone, and redemption was always in reach, if one chose to reach for it.

The ending did have a cliché feeling to it, especially with Kenshin and Kaoru’s son Kenji being such a crybaby, mama’s boy, the exact opposite of Kenshin. It wasn’t bad, it just felt meh. But I like Watsuki’s suggestion for a sequel even less. I would rather like to see Kenji and Yahiko and Tsubame’s son fighting together as buddies but competitive rather than against each other.

Overall, Rurouni Kenshin is a great series and really deserves the praise it has gotten. I think the first volumes and the Tokyo arc are the strongest of the series. At least, they are the volumes I enjoyed the most. The light humor was more prevalent in these volumes. I don’t mind the darker elements that were introduced as the series progressed, especially since the series still ended on a happy note, but I do like the lighter elements more.

  • Rurouni Kenshin Volume 21-28

Next up, I’ll be starting the Tokyopop series Bizenghast volume 1-7. I’ve only read the first volume of this series, and it was several years ago, so I’ll be starting back at the beginning.

Oresama Teacher Volume 3

Mafuyu is heading home for the weekend to get some much-needed TLC. But neither her mom nor her hometown seem to be in the mood for a warm welcome. Trying to walk off the weird feelings, Mafuyu and some of her old East High comrades are caught in a trap set by the gang from West High! Can she help her former friends without compromising her fresh start?

By Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $9.99
ISBN: 1-4215-3865-2
Rating: ★★★☆☆

The progress that was starting to be made in volume 2 gets eroded away at by a couple of manga tropes. The volume ends up being uneven as a good beginning is weighed down by a meh end.

This volume starts out by giving us a glimpse at Mafuyu’s past when she goes home for the weekend and meets up with her old gang. They are caught up in a rivalry with another school over turf. We meet Mafuyu’s former second and third, who are now the bancho and second. I liked Kohei, the current bancho. He really looks up to Mafuyu, but not quite the idolizing that Hayasaka does. He might even have feelings for her. Yuto, Kohei’s second, I didn’t care for quite as much. He a total masochist, always putting himself into positions to get hit by Mafuyu, and fantasizing about it. I found his character just a little too stereotypical.

The whole story with the gang was good. The boys push Mafuyu away as they prepare for a big fight, and she has to come to terms with the fact that they have moved on and don’t need her anymore. I liked that the gang was still fumbling some as they filled the whole Mafuyu left, and that the reason they pushed her away wasn’t just to stand on their own. Kohei’s inability to express his feelings for Mafuyu was just as responsible. The scene at the train station at the end was sweet.

Sadly, the rest of the volume couldn’t keep up with the beginning. The volume ends with two stories featuring Takeomi and introduces another new character, Student Council President Miyabi. Takeomi’s story is a big shojo trope, with Mafuyu discovering that he is her next door neighbor. The story really could have done without this. I didn’t like Miyabi either. He almost ties with Takeomi in my dislike for him. There is nothing interesting about him. He’s about as cliché as you can get, being the son of the School President, enjoying being evil, and has a “power” to dazzle anyone into becoming his slave. I really found his “power” to be outrageous, and not really fitting with rest of the series.

I was starting to feel good about Oresama Teacher after volume 2 and really hoped it could keep up the momentum. But the second half of this volume really puts on the brakes and has me thinking I may have been right after the first volume, and the second was just a fluke. I’ll give the series one more volume to convince me.

Manga Wrap-Up: Week One

“Manga wrap-up, manga wrap-up
Let’s finish up these series
Manga wrap-up, manga wrap-up
Cause there’s no more room in here!”

“Manga wrap-up, manga wrap-up
Let’s finish up these series
Manga wrap-up, manga wrap-up
Cause there’s no more room in here!”

“Cause there’s no more room in here!”

Hey! Welcome to my first post of the new year chronicling my attempt to catch up on all the titles I’ve fallen behind on and may even give away! I even have a theme song! (Bronies will recognize the tune. I blame my youngest daughter for its creation. 🙂 ) Anyway, this first week didn’t go quite the way I had planned, but that should come as no surprise.

I started 2012 by preparing for the January Manga Movable Feast. This month features the works of Usamaru Furuya. I’ve been saving Genkaku Picasso for this and finally read volume 1. I will have to get 2-3 now. I really liked it. Too bad it’s not available digitally, but at only 3 volumes it won’t be so hard to fit on the shelf. I hadn’t planned on reading Furuya’s version of No Longer Human from Vertical, but I decided it wouldn’t hurt to check out the first volume. I flew through that one, as well as volume 2. I really didn’t think I would like it, as I don’t care much for “classics”, this one was a compelling read, and well worth the time.

Also not on the long-term reading list, but still a volume I’ve had for several months, I read volume 4 of Degenki Daisy. It s a series I like, but since it’s available digitally, I’m going to move it over to that realm as a space saver. I’m not sure how much of a re-read it will be, so going digital with it is probably the best option. Volume 4 will be my last physical copy. If Viz has another good sale, I’ll probably replace 1-4 as well.

It took me until Friday night to finally get into the pile I want to work on. I picked up Rurouni Kenshin, but it had been soooo long since I read it, I wasn’t sure what volume I had stopped on. I know I had finished the Kyoto arc and was starting on the final. I ended up re-reading volumes 18 and 19 before determining volume 20 is where I want to start. I finally got to that Saturday afternoon.

I knew this was going to be a long, uphill battle. With so many other books to distract me, it might be harder than I anticipated to get through this pile. But I am determined to do it. As my new theme song says, there is no more space. So, the final tally for the week is:

  • No Longer Human v1-2
  • Genkaku Picasso v1
  • Degenki Daisy v4
  • Rurouni Kenshin v18-20

Check back next week to see how far I get with Kenshin. Only 7 more to go, in this series.

Looking Ahead to 2012

Looking back over 2011, I realize it didn’t quite turn out as I had intended it. RL seriously intruded on my blogging and reviewing, though I have tried to at least update once a week. My company’s move to a new computer system not only took up a lot of time, but sucked a lot of life out of me. (BTW, if you ever hear the word ‘Oracle’ at your company, run away. Very fast. Or stock up on alcohol. I’ve heard that helps a lot.) I even missed this blog turning 4 in November! That’s how out of it I was!

With all of that behind me, I know look ahead to 2012, and my plans for the new year. In my last anniversary post, I said I was going to donate some of the manga I wasn’t reading anymore to my local library. In the last week of 2011, I finally did it. I took 71 volumes to the children/teen librarian after communicating my wishes. A look at the library’s graphic novel collection showed that it really needed some help. I took over mostly completed series’ or one shots, so that there wouldn’t be gaps of hangings. The only exceptions to this were Detective Conan/Case Closed and Ranma 1/2, of which I had the first 5 volumes of, and the first volume of Twilight. If Twilight proves popular (yeah, if), I’ll try to see about getting the second volume for them. It was still hard for me to do this, even after I had made up my mind, put the books in a separate book and even put the box by my desk. Even now, I feel pangs of regret, even though I know the title I gave away are things I won’t read again. It’s hard to be a packrat/collector.

In order to continue to reduce my manga collection, I have to really start to read more. I have several completed titles that I’ve read most, half, a few volumes or even none of! I’m making it a goal this year to get through these titles and see more of them go to the library. It should come as no surprise that most of these are shonen titles. I finding I’m not as enthusiastic about shonen as I was 10 years ago. There are exceptions of course, such as One Piece, but reading the latest Shonen Jump made me realize how much I didn’t care about the story or characters in most of them. I’m kind of glad Viz went digital with Shonen Jump. Now I can read them with out having piles of magazines cluttering up my house. In order to help me keep up on this, I’m going to keep track of the titles I read here, and maybe even do a short review consisting of a couple of lines if the mood hits me.

And speaking of digital, I will be trying to get more manga that way, at least as much as the publishers will allow me. I’m going to rant now for a few lines (paragraphs). I want to support publishers and their move to the digital realm. Digital manga is great, doesn’t take up shelf space and on the right devices, can actually look as good as print. The problem is that publishers AREN’T making their digital manga as available as their print. Viz, Yen, and new comer Kodansha are keeping their manga on mostly proprietary devices. iOS devices still get the preferential treatment, and recently both Viz and Yen put manga on Barnes and Nobles Nook tablets. Yet they continue to ignore Android. Just over Christmas, 1.3 million android devices were activated. Do they really think it’s a good business plan to continue to ignore this market? Yes, they give lip service to Android, saying they’re “working on it”, but I’m really tired of that excuse. Just as I’m tired of “Android is difficult to program for.” Sorry, that doesn’t cut it any more. Nook tablets and readers are Android based. If they can make their manga for those devices, they can make it regular Android devices. I want to be a legal buyer of manga, but right now, the aggregators and scanlators hold the Android market. How is that helping their cause? And if they give the excuse of the Japanese publishers are keeping them from going it, and then Jmanga gets an Android app out before them, then they should just hang their heads in shame. Both the US and Japanese publishers who are limiting the readership.

And before anyone says I should vote with wallet and not support the publishers, let me say I AM. I will not buckle under and buy the hardware they are putting their manga on. Content should never be limited to a hardware platform, and yet that is EXACTLY what all the manga publishers are doing. If you don’t buy this other company’s hardware, you can’t have our books. That’s not the way to expand readership. That’s how you limit it to an elite few, and I don’t believe books should ever be limited to one group over another.

And while I’m ranting, Jmanga, GET SOME VOLUME 2s OR MORE UP! It’s nice that you are getting titles up, but there have been hardly any second volumes go up since the site started. I’m not going just keep getting the first volumes of titles if there is no hope of the titles continuing! Yen Press, even if you do finally put your manga out on a platform I can read, I’M NOT PAYING $8.99 FOR THEM! I wouldn’t pay Jmanga that much, what makes you think I’ll pay you that? And Square Enix…just get over yourself. Did anyone notice your site was down and unavailable? No? That should tell you something. Alright, I’m done.

I’m looking forward to a more productive year here at Manga Xanadu. And while I do feel a little prideful at the size of manga collection, logistically it’s not feasible for me to have over 1000 volumes (which I probably had at one point this year). I’m hoping for more manageable shelves, and to fill more digital shelves. This will also hopefully mean more content for this blog. I hope you’ll continue to follow me into the new year.

BTW, little known fact. 2012 and the end of the Mayan calendar wasn’t originally meant to mean the end of the world. It was supposed to be when the Maya, who are actually beings from the star Arcturus in the Pleiades cluster, will return to earth via their “galactic synchronization beams” and transform reality. So, no worries about the world ending. 🙂 (Source: Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries; Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology by Kenneth L. Feder, 1990 edition.)

 

Oresama Teacher Volume 2

Mafuyu’s plan to be an ordinary student seems to be working out so far. She’s got a friend (Hayasaka) and a plan to join a totally normal school club (crafts). But homeroom teacher Mr. Takaomi has something different in mind—he wants Mafuyu to take down the notorious leader of the campus gang!

By Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

I really didn’t care for the first volume of Oresama Teacher. While it had its moments, I thought they weren’t enough to overcome the parts I didn’t like. But I went ahead and checked out a few more volumes. I started to see some potential in volume 2 as the story revolved more around Mafuyu and Hayasaka.

I really enjoyed this second volume, which came as a big surprise to me. I was expecting to see more of Takaomi abusing Mafuyu, but Takaomi was just a side character.  Instead there was more interaction between Mafuyu and Hayasaka, and the introduction of Kyoutaro, the school Bancho. Hayasaka and Mafuyu’s search for a club to join so they could avoid Takaomi was funny. I loved the Craft club, which was filled with Macho men who looked straight of Fist of the North Star or Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. I know it’s becoming cliché, but I couldn’t stop laughing at seeing the big, muscular men embroidering and making stuffed animals. Their pressuring to get Hayasaka to join, who turned out to be surprisingly good at embroidery just made that chapter one of the best in this series so far.

Kyoutaro was amusing too. He acts tough and loves to fight, but has a soft side. He loves a children’s show, Nekomata and it self-titled main character. The day Mafuyu spends with Kyoutaro was just a lot of fun to read. The reveal at the end of the chapter was great and has a lot of potential for the future.

Hayasaka’s denseness knows no bounds. He searches for Usa-chanman and eventually figures out that she is Mafuyu, but is easily tricked out of it again. His denseness might annoy me, if he wasn’t such a great match for Mafuyu. But now Mafuyu has a good reason to keep her identity a secret from him. She wants to be friends, not idolized by Hayasaka because of her fighting ability. So she has to keep it a secret. This means then that she has to come up with another disguise, a boy named Natsuo, who Hayasaka treats as peer instead of an idol. I liked this second disguise. Mafuyu looks better as Natsuo than as herself!

I still dislike Takaomi. While his scenes are kept to a minimum this volume, his plan for Mafuyu is revealed and it’s typical of a low-life punk. He intends to use Mafuyu and Hanasaka to help him win a bet with the School President. So he’s still complete slime, but with less of his slimy trail in the title and the addition of the Bancho actually got me feeling more upbeat about Oresama Teacher. I just might change my mind about it.