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.

Tech Friday: Nothing Changes

Viz has been hyping changes lately. Back in July, at SDCC, they promised big changes for Shonen Jump. Two weeks ago, they started hinting at “big changes” coming “soon”. Those “big changes” have finally been revealed. Shonen Jump will have some exclusive online manga that only subscribers can access, and they will be selling manga through an iPad app.  Whoo. Big changes. Yeah….uh, no. There is nothing really big about these announcements, nor are they any real changes.

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Shonen Jump November 2010

The countdown continues to the “big changes” promised for Shonen Jump. This issue is more of the same. At only 280 pages, it was a fast read, especially with most the titles being in big action scenes without a lot of reading necessary. The magazine has settled in to have all the TV and video game tie-in updates at the beginning before getting into the manga, which starts with the preview title.

It’s the second chapter of Genkaku Picasso. When last we left Picasso, he was just told by his guardian angel Chiaki that in order to stay alive he had to help people, but he has no idea how. A glance at a classmate reveals a dark aura that translates into a surreal scene under Piccaso’s pencil. He starts following this classmate, Sugiura, to try and find the meaning of the picture. Trying to figure it out, he and Chiaki get sucked into the picture, where they start to learn the truth. I’m starting to enjoy this title more. I wasn’t sure I was going to at the beginning, but this chapter really intrigued me. I’m now even more interested in seeing how it’s resolved. It will make or break if I buy the first volume.

Bleach is next, continuing the fight between Nelliel and Nnoitora and Szayelaporro and Renji and Uryu. The truth about what happened between Nel and Nnoitora is revealed, and Pesche and Dondochakka show themselves to not necessarily to be the goofballs that they first played at being. They take on Szayelaporro themselves as Renji and Uryu are getting walked all over. I hope Szayelaporro finds out how much of a bitch payback can be. I wasn’t too thrilled about the way the last chapter ended, however, if the reason for Nel changing back to a little kid is because of what I think it is, and not just to get Ichigo back in the fight, then I can forgive it. I’m almost interested in Bleach again. I loved Nel’s second transformation, but you might call me biased, being a Capricorn myself. If things go as I hope they will, Bleach might be able to win back some love from me.

Ultimo is up next with its single chapter. Yamato, trying to understand Iruda better has gotten himself stabbed by Jealousy, but gets some surprising help from the very person he is trying to stop. Dunstan appears and promises to help Yamato anytime he’s in trouble. He is looking forward to their final confrontation, or at least Ultimo’s. If there was any doubt about the inspiration for Dunstan, those doubts are dispelled in this chapter. I don’t care much for the meddling from Dunstan, but the shadow of doubt that his actions cast on Ultimo’s loyalty, actually all of the karakuris might be interesting. Or it might lead to a bad plot twist. Only time will tell.

The battle continues in One Piece,and the tide seems to be turning against the pirates. Sengoku prepared well, but no one is giving up. Whitebeard still has a suprise up his sleave that gets the pirates out of the water and into the plaza where Ace is, but there are still the Three Admirals in their way, and Garp who finally steps in. Luffy is getting the crap beat out of him, as he has no where near the power he needs to face off against the Three Admirals, but he absolutely refuses to give up. Here we are seeing where Luffy’s greatest strength is becoming his weakness as well. His devotion to family and friends has served him well up to now, but his determination to save Ace is making him make reckless decisions. He keeps getting back into the fight even though there’s no way he can win. He has always scraped by before, but I don’t see it happening this time. It’s going to take more than spirit, determination and talk to save Ace, and Luffy just doesn’t have what it takes. I also find myself wondering if Ace can be saved. For some reason, this battle feels different than the others. I think it would be shame though. I don’t think the world of One Piece should be without a decendant of Gold Roger.

Naruto finishes off the issue, with Sasuke and Kakashi preparing to go at it before Naruto interrupts. It’s the meeting that we’ve been waiting volumes for. Both words and blows are exchanged and what’s said isn’t surprising. Naruto and Sasuke must fight to resolve their friendship and save Konoha from Sasuke, who believes its distruction is the only way to redeem the Uchiha. Sasuke talks big, but you have to wonder if any of Naruto’s words got through to him. It was nice to see him thinking about what everyone has said to him about dealing with Sasuke before he arrives. But enough with the Sakura trying to kill Sasuke. Not only does she not have the power, she doesn’t have the will. In a way, you can see that her friendship and feelings for Sasuke aren’t strong enough to do what must be done. Just killing Sasuke isn’t the answer. It doesn’t stop the cycle of hatred, which is Naruto’s ultimate goal.

Well, that’s it for this issue. Next issue should have the “big announcement” that Viz touted at SDCC earlier this year. Is it the same one that was touted on Twitter only a week or two ago? I’m of that opinion. Otherwise why put it off? The only other things that would cause an announcement to be put off would be a license or online announcement, and neither of those are the “game changers” they claimed it would be. The only real game changing announcement they could make would be a legal aggregator site of say, all Viz titles to be read online for a fee (ex. subscription), but I doubt they could pull that off. We should know soon enough though.

This Week in Manga: 10/16-10/29/10

Another weekend sick meant missing a week of news. Whatever is going around really sucks. My whole department at work was coughing and sneezing all week. Hopefully this post will make up for my absence. We’ve got new licenses, movie plans, the return of aggregators, “big” changes, more NYCC/NYAF, and some trick or treating from around the mangasphere.

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Tech Friday: E-Reader Roundup

With the holidays rushing towards us (I saw Christmas trees at K-mart across from the Halloween costumes!!), retailers are pushing out their announcements for the coming shopping season.

Amazon started with the announcement that they would be adding a lending feature to the Kindle. Kindle owners will now be able to lend their books out to other Kindle owners for a two-week period. During that time, the book will not be available to the original purchaser, and the book can only be to one person at a time, one time only. Not all books will have this feature enabled as it’s up to the publisher to enable it, just like the audio feature on the Kindle. Of course, the Kindle is only playing catch-up by adding this feature. The Barnes and Noble Nook has had it from day one. But with the e-reader market getting more competitive, the Kindle will have to do everything possible to keep itself at the top.

Especially with announcements like the Nook Color. Earlier this week, Barnes and Noble announced they would be releasing a reader tablet for the holidays. It has a full color, android-based touch screen e-reader. It’s 8.1 inches tall with a 7 inch touch screen, 8GB storage with a micro SD slot expanding it to 32GB, built-in WiFi and a promised 8 hours of battery time. It will also include a full web browser, free word and chess games, Pandora music streamed over WiFi and Quick Office to create, edit, and view Microsoft Office documents. It will retail at $249.00

Barnes & Noble will also release Nook Developer, which will allow developers to create android apps for the Nook Color. They are asking for apps that are “reader-centric” and have “engaging content”. Apps will start to become available next year. The Nook Color will also feature in store exclusives, and has some kid-friendly features that includes expanding text, zooming pictures and the device can read the story out loud.

Of the two announcements, the Nook Color is definitely the more exciting. It expands the e-reader into a more versatile device without losing sight of what its primary purpose is; to read e-books. The Nook Color fills a gap people have been feeling since the iPad came out. This device could be the bridge that a lot of people are looking for, that don’t want a big, unwieldy device that comes with a lot of baggage like the iPad, but is more than just a scaled down computer like a netbook or limited like the current generation e-readers. Of course, nothing’s for sure until it’s in the wild, but, if I were to put my money on an e-reader device right now, I would go with the Nook Color. It has the greatest potential. I hope publishers, especially manga publishers will see that potential too.

Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide

Forget Godzilla. Forget the giant beasties karate-chopped into oblivion by endless incarnations of Ultraman, Kamen Rider, and the Power Rangers. Forget the Pocket Monsters. Forget Sadako from The Ring and that creepy all-white kid from The Grudge. Forget everything you know about Japanese tales of terror. The yokai are the spookiest Japanese creatures you’ve never heard of, and it’s high time they got their due.

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Black Butler Volume 2

As high sciety’s social calendar opens up and the Season draws to a close, London is gripped by fear. Someone has taken to stalking women of the night and painting the town red…in their blood. But while the name on everyone’s lips is “Jack the Ripper,” the name on Queen Vitoria’s lips is Phantomhive. Summoned to London to clean up the mess created by this madman, young earl Ciel Phantomhive arrives with his extraordinary butler Sebastian, at his side to pour him tea, polish his silver, and …investigate a serial killer!

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By Yana Tosobo
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Supernatural
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★½

The second volume of Black Butler starts off as light-hearted as the first. It opens by showing us a day in the life of Sebastian, as he deals with idiotic servants and a caprious master who off-handedly mentions that several orphans will be visiting…the next day. Sebastian’s internal dialog throughout this chapter is just hilarious as he tries to keep his cool with each new catastrophe interrupting his attempts to prepare for the visit. And his stress-reliever at like this is just awesome. Cats. He loves them, and where he comes from, they don’t have pets like cats. I love the image of the pets they do have. Even though I enjoyed the first volume, this chapter cemented Black Butler as a must have title.

Things start to get more serious after this chapter, as Ciel is called by “her” to look into the murders that have been happening in the East End of London, Jack the Ripper. It’s a slow build up as the search for him starts. Ciel’s aunt, known as Madame Red is introduced as is her friend, Lau, the British Branch Manager of the Chinese trading company Kong Rong. We also meet one of Ciel’s underworld contacts, a very odd man known as the Undertaker, a rather appropriate contact considering the case. Sebastian gets some payback here, as he engages in some misdirection that leads to Ciel being forced to attend a ball dressed as a girl as part of the investigation. He is a devil after all. The volume ends with Jack’s identity being revealed, and it’s quite a twist. There is more to the killings that just being random murders.

I’m still really enjoying Black Butler. There is still a good amount of humor, even without the comedy relief servants. The wicked humor between Sebastian and Ciel balances well with the darker drama that is growing in the series. And Sebastian’s moments with cats really make me smile. But when it get serious, it doesn’t hold anything back. Even though we don’t get to see the scene of the last murder, we can tell from Ciel’s reaction that it is truely horrifying.

There are some nice extras that round out the volume, including a bonus scene that shows Ciel’s “training” to act like a proper lady, a look behind the scene of making the manga with Toboso, and a picture of the cast as in a medical drama. And doctor just might be needed with the promise of a serious fight coming up in the next volume. I look forward to seeing Sebastian in action after the small glimpses we’ve gotten so far.

Ghost Hunt Volumes 1-2

Ordinary high school student Mai Taniyama is drawn into the world of ghosts and spirits when her school hires Kazuya Shibuya of Shibuya Psychic Research to investigate alleged haunting of an old school building. After accidentally breaking a very expensive camera and injuring Shibuya’s assistant Linn, Mai becomes his assistant. They are soon joined by a Shinto Miko, a Buddhist monk, a psychic medium and a Catholic priest. The school wants to be very sure there are no spirits to interrupt the buildings demolition.

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Story by Fuyumi Ono; Adapted by Shiho Inada
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Horror
Price: $10.95
Rating: ★★★★★

Ghost Hunt is based on a series of light novels originally published in the late 80s to mid 90’s. It follows the cases of Shibuya Psychic Research as they investigate alleged hauntings and find the cause, whether it is natural or otherwise. Of course, more often than not, the hauntings will be real.

The first volume introduces all the characters that will become the ensemble cast for the rest of the series. The case of the supposedly haunted school building is really secondary to the characters introductions. We first meet Mai, a seemingly normal high school girl who is blackmailed into being Shibuya’s assistant. She gets pushed around by him, but she doesn’t take it meekly. She happily pushes back. She fairly smart and makes a good, strong female lead. She does find Shibuya handsome, as do all the females in the series, but his less than friendly personality and narcissistic behavior mostly cancels that out. She even gives him the nickname of Naru-chan, which is quickly picked up by the rest of the cast. Despite that, she does seem to develop feelings for him.

Shibuya, the aforementioned Naru-chan, is the president of SPR, Shibuya Psychic Research. He is only 16 years-old, yet is very learned about the supernatural and can read and writing several languages, including English. His personality is rather cold and indifferent, and he seems more concerned about getting the job done than other people’s feelings. Though, he does show to be surprisingly compassionate at the resolution of both these first two cases. He tends to look down at people, and has a very high opinion of himself, though he does seem to like Mai, as he asks her to work for him part-time. He is a ghost hunter, using technology to find and confirm spirit activity, though again, he surprises everyone again with another skill.

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The rest of the cast is rounded out by four exorcists. Ayako Matsuzaki is a self-proclaimed miko with a bit of an attitude. Takigawa Houshou is a monk from Koya Mountain with long hair and pieced ears who is “taking a break”. John Brown is a Catholic priest from Australia with a Kansai accent who is also an exorcist, a Masako Hara is a psychic medium who also has her own TV show. They all start out competing with each other, and especially with Shibuya, and egos are checked as they go through the first case. By the second case though, they are working together more as a team. The second case is much more serious, and everyone’s skills are needed to keep the ghosts at bay and protect a little girl and her aunt from harm.

The stories are more psychological horror than gore. No one is killed, though characters do get hurt, especially Mai. In both stories, Mai is knocked out and has a dream about the current case and that features a kinder, gentler Naru-chan. This Dream-Naru-chan helps her with these dreams which end up contributing to the case, suggesting there might be more to Mai than we, or even she, knows.

While the stories are fun ghost tales, the real heart of this title is the characters. It’s a really good ensemble cast that works well together. There isn’t a shirking violet among them, and they are all ready to take up the challenge, whether it’s Naru-chan’s sharp tongue, or facing a vengeful spirit. Even Mai, without any power or knowledge, is ready to jump into the fray, usually without thinking of the consequences. There is also a sort-of love triangle being set up between her, Naru-chan and Masako. There are hints of feelings between them, but it’s keep to the background. It never becomes the focus of the story, which is as it should be.

Ghost Hunt has started out as a good title with strong, entertaining characters, and some eerie ghost stories. While ghosts or spirits aren’t always the culprits, there is usually some sort of paranormal explanation for the phenomena they encounter. I definitely recommend this title if you like some mystery, ghost tales, and lots of good character interaction.

Hanako and the Terror of Allegory Volume 1

We’ve all heard urban legends–stories that we tell one another late at night., Just to make us cringe and freak ourselves out. WE dismiss these stories as just plain old creepy. But what happens when they become real…? Enter Detective Aso Daisuke. When he isn’t dealing with cheating spouses, con artists or his ero-manga collection, he dives deep into the intense fear of these horrors. With his first case–the man under the bed–can he stop a disturbed killer with a blood axe?

By Sakae Esuno
Publisher: Tokyopop
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Horror
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

I’ve always loved stories about myths and legends, and urban legends are the mythology of modern-day. We don’t believe in witches, vampires or werewolves. Instead we have axe murders, men with hook-hands, and ladies with slit-mouths. So, I was intrigued by the premise of Hanako and the Terror of Allegory which looks at what happens when these legends become real, and fortunately, I wasn’t disappointed.

In Hanako and the Terror of Allegory, urban legends are just that, legends that get passed around by word of mouth. But every once in a while, a person can hear a story and start to believe it. As they believe it more, it becomes more real. The person is then possessed by the allegory. To be honest, the stories aren’t really spine tinglers, but I still found them to be entertaining. The first chapter with the man under the bed was pretty cliché, but the second with slit-mouthed woman had a nice twist at the end, as did the final story with the human-faced fish. I liked seeing each legend in action. The stories written for them were competently done. While it was fun to see the monsters in action, it’s the humanity in the stories that really make them work. As Hanako says, the allegories can’t exist without humans, and it’s the human elements of the stories, and their resolutions that I found to be the most interesting.

The same goes for most of the characters. I didn’t really care for Kanae. Just as the cover shows, her only purpose seems to be someone for Aso to rescue. She is useless for most of the volume, and even though she acknowledges her uselessness, I still didn’t really like her. Hopefully things will improve for her in the next volume. Aso on the other hand, really drew my attention, especially in the last story, where we learned more about him. He became more than just a porn-reading loser. And Hanako’s thoughts at the end of the Human-faced fish really stirred my curiosity. Hanako herself had her moments. Her talk with Kanae about the nature of allegories made her fascination with technology all the more interesting. Though, the use of that same technology against the allegories somehow lessen the effect of the endings of the stories. I don’t know, but it felt like a crutch to use computers to stop the allegories.

The art is serviceable. It’s fairly average in the portrayal of the humans, but the monsters are the show of this title. Every one of them is creepy and sometimes downright disturbing, particularly the human-faced fish. I also really liked the man under the bed. He was really creepy with the one eye staring out of the darkness. There is also some mild fanservice, porn magazine covers not withstanding. But it’s kept to a minimum, and I think I missed a panel or two of them the first read through.

I’m going to keep reading Hanako and the Terror of Allegory despite, or perhaps because it isn’t really a horror title like say Hellsing. It’s more of the psychological horror that I prefer, and I just can’t get enough of its folktales, yokai and urban legends. If you’re looking for a light read with just a touch of the shiver factor, then check this title out.