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.

Saiyuki Volumes 1-3: Manga Movable Feast

Saiyuki is among the first few manga I started to read. Having been a fan of the original Dragon Ball manga and knowing how it was based on the Chinese story Journey to the West, I was interested in seeing other takes on the story. While I came to Saiyuki for the story, I definitely stayed for hot guys. This title is a perfect blend of action, bishonen and angst, that it’s no wonder is was such a big hit with the ladies when it was released.

By Kazuya Minekura
Publisher: Tokyopop
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Action/Fantasy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★

The basic premise of Saiyuki is simple. In the land of Shangri-la, humans and demons known as youkai live together in peace. But the peace is threatened when someone attempts to resurrect Gyumaoh, a youkai known as the Ox King using a combination of demon magic and human science. The forbidden practice causes a Minus Wave of negative energy to spread across Shangri-la, and causing the youkai to lose their minds and attack humans. The gods summon a monk, Genjyo Sanzo, to travel to India in the west to find out who is attempting the revival and stop them. Accompaning him are former traveling companions Son Goku, Sha Gojyo and Cho Hakkai, three youkai that seem to be immune to the minus wave.

But getting to India isn’t the point of this series. It’s just an excuse to get these four traveling together because it’s the characters and their interactions that really make this a fun title to read. Sanzo, the defacto leader, is not what you would expect a Buddhist monk to be like. He doesn’t shave his head. He drinks, smokes, and gambles. He carries a gun to use against enemy youkai, and a paper fan for Gojyo and Goku. Gojyo is the bad boy of the group with a cigarette in one hand and an eye on the hottest girl in sight. He likes the act like he’s grown up, but always ends up in childish arguments with Goku. The youngest looking of the group, he’s really over 500 years old. He’s also the most powerful, but is kept in check with the power limiter headband he can never take off. He thinks more with his stomach, and looks up to Sanzo. Hakkai is the quiet one, always ready with a gentle smile and a helping hand. The smile can also be quite menacing, especially when he has a ball of his chi ready to fire at an enemy or make into a force field to protect friends and innocents alike.

For the most part, this odd quartet gets along like old friends, or almost a family. Gyojo and Goku are the siblings, constantly bickering and teasing each other. Sanzo is the father constantly getting angry at their bickering and issuing threats of “I’ll kill you”, while Hakkai tries to keep the peace. But for all the light-hearted moments, the boys have some tragic pasts that not only influence who they are now, but also come back to haunt them on the journey. Sanzo’s almost takes his life, and Gyojo’s comes back in a most unexpected way. Their tragic back stories are wrought with emotion, but never quite tip into melodramatic territory. Hakkai’s back story is just starting as volume 3 ends, but portents in the final chapter doesn’t bode well for him.

Their enemy, Kougaiji, the son of Gyumaoh, and his trio of subordinates are almost a mirror image of the group. Youkai with tragic pasts of their own, they drum up an almost friendly rivalry with Sanzo’s group. They even end up working together at the end of volume 3, and actually make a good team. But Kougaiji’s own past keeps the groups enemies, though he isn’t happy about who he has to work with, or even really trusts she’ll keep her promise to him.

The is a lot of action in these first three volumes, as Sanzo’s group has to fight off youkai attacks and assassins sent by Kougaiji. They give the boys lots of opportunities to be glib and toss off one liners. In one chapter, they even rate a youkai assassin on his laugh and even how he falls down. Minekura is also not afraid to be graphic in these scenes. Heads get cut off, or sliced in two, and intestines are seen as torsos are sliced and youkai eat.

Whether they are in the middle of a fight, or relaxing in an inn after a long ride, they always look good. And I happily admit this is one of the reason I enjoy this series. All of the guys, good or bad are hot. There is lots of long, flowing hair, and bangs that fall over and/or cover eyes. They are all tall, thin, and lithe (mostly), and Minekura dresses them in a modern-ish fantasy style, combining jeans with tunics and sashes. Even Sanzo with his traditional garb looks good when he lets his robes down.

Tokyopop did a really job with this release. The dialog is very readable and catches the personalities of the characters perfectly. The cover is a nice heavy paper stock, and they presevered the original Japanese wraparound cover, and put the back text on the inside of the front. Volume one also features color plates of the four main characters. A lot of time and effort went into these volumes and it really shows.

Saiyuki isn’t just one of the first manga I read, it’s one of my top favorite titles of all time. The action, comedy, drama and hot guys makes this a title I read and gladly re-read again and again. It’s really just a lot of fun, which is exactly how I want my manga to be.

Yen Plus May 2011

One of the good things about Yen Plus is that it isn’t filled with a lot of articles about things I don’t care about. There aren’t color spreads of anime I don’t want to watch, video games I don’t play, or ads for devices I don’t and will never own. It’s just all about the manga. The ads in the magazine are all in-house for YP titles. I don’t have to skip a lot of articles to get to the good stuff. And there is a lot of good stuff in this month’s manga.

Maximum Ride – I may have to re-evaluate my stand on this series. Things seemed to have taken an interesting turn, and I may start reading it again. If the major angst is over. This chapter has Max faced off against Max 2.0. It was a battle set up by Jed to see who was stronger. Original Max won, but defied her “programming” by refusing to kill Max 2.0. An explosion gives the flock the cover they need to escape. Jed is given an ultimatum from his higher-ups; the flock must be eliminated before their “New world Order” plan can go into effect. The whole NWO plan has the most interested, so I think I’ll read a few more chapters to see where this all goes.

Milkyway Hitchhiking – This chapter has Milkyway at a school. There is a timid boy who tries to speak to his fellow classmates, but he just can’t get the words out. Milkyway leads him to an old house where there is an old cello. With Milkyway’s help (though actions, not words), the boy learns to play the cello, where his first “concert” has more than a cat for an audience. This is the nice start to a story, but I wonder if it will be continued in the next issue. This title hasn’t had any two-part stories yet, and while this chapter does have an ending, it’s not really a satisfactory one. I’d really like to see more of the boy and the school.

Witch & Wizard – Whit and Wisty escape the Shadowlands with Sasha’s help and make it to Freeland, where a bunch of kids that have escaped the New Order live and continue to resist the N.O. by freeing other accused “witches” and “wizards”. Whit and Wisty aren’t ready to commit to help the others, but a description of their abilities puts them immediately onto a higher level than many of the other witches and wizards, but also makes them prime candidates for being the “Liberators”. Now that there seems to be a plot in full swing, this series isn’t as boring (or melodramatic) as the first few chapters. Where it seems to be going though, does seem rather obvious. But maybe it won’t be boring-obvious. Svetlana’s art does keep it fun.

Aron’s Absurd Armada – The truth behind the attempted assassination on Aron is revealed, and I was half right. The crew is distracted by the appearance of an island where Ronny, Anton and Gilbert go in search of treasure. They find only half. The chest. Fear of facing the demon that is Robin has them worried, but the appearance of Luthor is just the distraction they need. I’d really love to see more webtoons like this show up in Yen Plus. It’s really funny.

Daniel X – After learning Number 5’s plan, Daniel and his imaginary crew goes to work. First, they take out Number 21 and then go to face Number 5. Number 5 is waiting for them of course, and tries to distract Daniel with the story that he was there when Daniel’s parents died, filming the whole thing. But Daniel doesn’t rise to the bait and tests Number 5 himself. It doesn’t seem to inconceivable that Number 5 could have been there, but at the same time it does sound like an attempt to get a rise from Daniel. But with this being from a YA novel, it’s probably going to be closer to the former. We’ll have to wait for next issue to see what Daniel’s next move will be.

Highschool of the Dead – An argument on the bus erupts that give Shidou the opportunity to take over. Rei won’t stand for it, so she gets off. Takashi follows her and makes an arrangement with Saeko to meet at the Easter Police station at a specific time. The two students fight with a zombie motorcyclist, and take his ride. It’s strange where the hostility toward Takashi comes from. It seems to just be a reason to get him and Rei off the bus and on their own again. This is just a transition chapter to get the plot moving on to Rei and Takashi killing zombies, which is what this title is better at than coming up with plot.

The Innocent – Johnny is given his next assignment. Deliver a letter for a man on death row, wrongly accused of murder. Of course, Johnny isn’t interested at first, but when he sees what the man, Norton Graves has been working on, he goes to look in on Graves’ wife. The angel goes to try to find out how Johnny/Ash became an emissary, and meets another angel how taunts him. Johnny arrives too late to get the evidence Grave was hiding, but meets Whirl, a man who can see him. They fight, and Johnny is almost killed in the process. The angel saves him while Graves’ wife and child escape. In the end Johnny fulfills assignment. Once freed from the chains that bound him, he goes after Whirl, who seems to have had a hand in harming his sister. The introduction of Whirl adds a new dimension to the series. of everyone in the room, he was the only one who could see Johnny, and even injured him. It leaves a big question about who or what he is.

K-On! – It’s summer, so Yui is of complaining about the heat. The girls try to come up with ways to practice and keep cool. Then Ritsu runs into Tsumugi and shows her how “the little people” have fun with little money. Some cute but obvious moments.

Yotsuba&! – Yotsuba, Koiwai, Fuuka and Jumbo continue their adventures in the electronics store. While Koiwai and Jumbo look at cameras (the reason they are there), Fuuka and Yotsuba explore the rest of the store, checking out refrigerators, exercise machines and massage chairs. Yotsuba rocks out with some headphones to some loud sample music. This was a “been there, done that” chapter, and I don’t need to live vicariously through Yotsuba.

This month’s issue was a good read over all. The Innocent is going in interesting directions, and I’m looking forward to mindless zombie killing. I may be back to reading all of the Patterson adaptations. It they weren’t soooo angsty at the beginning, I wouldn’t have such doubts about them. I would like to see at least on more Japanese title, and some more Korean manwha. The adaptations are really overrunning the English/Korean side. Something needs to balance against the Patterson/angst.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Volume 1

When a high-ranking government official is kidnapped, the Prime Minister must call in his top crime fighting force know as Section 9. Lead by the beautiful (and deadly) Major Kusanagi, the cybernetically enhanced squad must use all their skill to take down the kidnappers and rescue the hostages. But that’s only half of the mission; can Kusanagi and company find out who’s behind the kidnapping, and, more importantly, just what they’re after?

Continue reading Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Volume 1

Tech Friday: Beating the Competition

This week Digital Manga Publishing announced that their manga, starting with Vampire Hunter D, would be available on the digital comics site, Comixology. At first this sounded like good news, until I saw the pricing. Each volume on Comixology will cost $9.99.  This is only about $3, or 23%, off the print pricing. That didn’t seem like a very good deal to me, so I went looking around at other sites DMP has put VHD up on and checked the pricing.

Continue reading Tech Friday: Beating the Competition

Wish List: Pet Diary

Say what you will about scanlations, there is one thing they do really well, and that is to be an eye catcher. Just like the billboards along the sides of freeways, the right title or group name can draw a potential reader in. Case in point: I was over at Baka-Updates Manga when I found the title Pet Diary. Always being interested in titles about pets and looked at the description. There wasn’t much to it.  There is a school where they only way to be accepted into the dormitory is to adopt a pet. This title follows four students who adopt different pets in order to stay in the dormitory.

Looking over the first few chapters, it looks to be a pretty fun title. In the first four chapters, we are introduced to the four main characters and their animals of choice, a hamster, a rabbit, an older dog and a cat. How they came to choose their particular animal (or human) is funny in and of itself, and the pairings are very appropriate. The series is from Korea and is a webcomic, or webtoon as they are known there.

I really liked what I saw in the first few chapters and would love to see this title brought over officially. A glance at some of the other titles on the site looked interesting too, such as Welcome to the Convienence Store and Supernatural Investigation Department. Since they are already digital and made for the medium, it would be great to see them on Yen Press’ Yen Plus digital magazine. Their selection for the Korean/OGN side has always impressed me more, and seeming more color titles like this would be a great way to take advantage of the digital format. And they could be easily made into apps too! (And PLEASE, not just i* devices!)

Other Casualties

With Tokyopop’s closing, a lot of attention has been paid to the loss of the Japanese licenses. Of course, this is what most manga fans are concerned with. The loss of such an extensive line, for what will probably be forever really hurts. But Tokyopop had another line of books that were actually doing quite well, that as a parent, I am acutely aware of losing; the HarperCollins YA adaptations.

Continue reading Other Casualties

Lost the Battles but Won the War?

Manga has had a tough go of it lately. Publishers have been cutting back on titles and people, and now, we’ve seen the first casualty of 2011.  Tokyopop, one of the three biggest publishers of manga in the US is closing down its publishing division. I’m not going to go into the details about why this may have happened. I’ve already given some of my thoughts in this post, and other people have dissected Tokyopop’s 14 year history already. No, I’m looking at the final message from Stu Levy, president of Tokyopop. After the announcement was made, he put up a message at Tokyopop.com, now long gone, but other people posted copies on their own sites. He talks about the history of Tokyopop and it’s accomplishments, and then gives himself a pat on the back with this:

Fourteen years later, I’m laying down my guns. Together, our community has fought the good fight, and, as a result, the Manga Revolution has been won –manga has become a ubiquitous part of global pop culture. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished – and the incredible group of passionate fans we’ve served along the way (my fellow revolutionaries!).

“Won” the revolution? Really? And how do you come to that conclusion? Tokyopop can definitely claim starting the “manga revolution”. Comics for girls were practically unheard of in the late 90s and early 2000s. Manga has been responsible for creating more readers of comics, some that even jump over to floppies. But Tokyopop isn’t responsible for that. They had some hits early on with Sailor Moon and Fruits Basket, but if anyone was responsible for bringing manga out of shadows and into light of mainstream, that has to go to Viz Media, and their mega hits with Dragonball, Rurouni Kenshin, Naruto and Bleach. It’s these titles that really sold and made the mainstream really take manga seriously, not Tokyopop’s catalog of mostly ‘B’ and ‘C’ list titles.

Survived the revolution, maybe I could see. But how is it a win when you start-up something only to drop it before it has a chance to go anywhere? Where would the US and Europe be right now if Patton had had the same follow-through as Stu did at Tokyopop? How is it a win when the company had to go into reorganization in 2008, putting several titles on “hiatus” and putting even more on a once-a-year release schedule? With all these lost battles, how can anyone claim to have “won?”

I really hate this excuse to get out of Doge. I’ve heard the same thing from old-time, former anime fans who want to give an excuse for no longer being interested in anime, and need to justify all the time they spent promoting anime through clubs. If Levy was so “proud” of what was done, why was he so anxious to pull the plug, especially when Tokyopop was starting to become relevent again? They had some good titles coming out that was making people (like me) take them serious again.

Please, Stu, just spare us the lip-service and tell us the truth. You weren’t getting the attention you wanted anymore as a publisher and wanted the spotlight again as a “director”, so you’ve left thousands of “fellow revolutionaries” out in the street and killed lots of titles that will probably never see the light of day. Good job Stu.

The Tokyopop of E-Readers

With Mother’s Day this Sunday, retailers are pushing tablets, and especially e-readers as gifts for dear old mom. There are ads for the Amazon Kindle, which can be found in Staples, Target and Best Buy, the Barnes and Noble Nook Color, which are at Barnes and Noble and Best Buy, as well as tablets from Apple, Dell, Motorola and Samsung. But you don’t see anything for the Sony e-Reader.

Continue reading The Tokyopop of E-Readers

Shonen Jump May 2011

The Drive-Bys are a little late this week do to the blog moving to a new host, the Manga Movable Feast, and most importantly, I didn’t get my subscription again, and had to go out and buy it. This is the 4th time in the last 6 months that I haven’t gotten my subscription. I can’t blame SJ though. I know it’s my local post office and mail carrier that can’t seem to figure out the difference between the streets Alabama and Tennessee, which is where a lot of my mail ends up. Oh well, I’ve got my sub extended to August now. One thing I learned from having to buy this month’s issue it that Yu-Gi-Oh CCG cards are more popular than Naruto. Last issue I had to buy had all the Yu-Gi-Oh cards removed from the magazines at my local Barnes and Noble. This issue has the Naruto card intact.

SJ continues its celebration started last month by spotlighting the heroes from all the Shonen Jump manga that didn’t appear in the magazine. It’s quite a list with over 30 titles, both new and ongoing as well as complete. This month’s manga highlight is Blue Exorcist, and I’ll have more on that later. Also featured are the new 3-in-1 omnibuses that Viz is releases with Naruto, Bleach, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Kekkaishi, as well as a re-release of the One Piece 3-in-1s that cover the East Blue arc.

Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s starts off the magazine with the arrival of a new duelist, Jack Atlus who is obviously not looking to make friends. Fresh off his duel with the Skeleton Knight, Yusei is taking Sect to the hospital when he is attacked by Atlus and forced into a duel. Atlus has all the making of a typical archrival. He’s gunning to be the “king” and is taking on all duel runners to prove how great he is. I do like Yusei still. He acts a lot like “Other Yugi” and even looks a little like him. His hair though, looks like he has dragon antlers, which just makes him all that more cooler. Yeah, I’m still liking this title.

Naruto continues the story of the day Naruto was born and the attack of Nine Tails against Konoha. We the man who calls him Uchiha Madara (I have my doubts about that) is the cause, and had his crazy plan to take over the world back then. Minato faces him, and breaks his control over Nine Tails. But, in order to save the village, both he and Kushina must sacrifice themselves and make baby Naruto the new Jinchuriki. With the end of the story, so ends Kushina’s chakra and she disappears. While we learn a little more about “Madara”, and how far back his plans started, it’s still just tidbits. Naruto himself takes the story of his birth pretty well, but I wonder if it’s just going to make him all that more determined to stop “Madara.”

Bleach finally ends the battle between Kenpachi and Nnoitora, where we get a few flashbacks of Nnoitora and Nelliel, and some insight into why Nnoitora did what he did. Not that I really cared. But he’s no longer a problem. With this battle over, Aizen makes his move, taking Orihime as further bait for Ichigo while he, Kaname, and Gin prepare to destroy Karakura Town, gloating first. But it seems the Soul Society might not be as unprepared as he believes. I really hope this ends the Hueco Mundo arc. It went on way too long, and had no point other than to have lots of fighting with zero plot movement. If that’s what Kubo was after, he should have just held a tournament like everyone else, and left us thinking the arc might go somewhere.

One Piece continues the story in the past with Luffy, Ace, and their friend Sabo. Background is given about the Kingdom of Goa and the set up of the capital city. Sabo’s past is revealed as well, as is his reason for waiting to become a pirate. A plot by the nobility of Goa though threatens their lives and lives of everyone in Trash Mountain. Luffy and Ace try to fight the pirate Bluejam who did the bidding of the nobility but gets betrayed by them. Dadan comes to their rescue, just as Dragon, who has returned to the land of his birth does some rescuing of his own. These chapters show just how oppressive society can be in the world of One Piece. Not just of the wealthy over the poor, but over each other as well. Freedom is just a wish for someone like Sabo who has to fight not just society, but his own family as well. I liked seeing Dragon as he was just starting out as a pirate. Goa is a great reason to start a revolution.

In Psyren Ageha and Hiryu finally meet Matsuri, Sakuranko’s psi teacher. She was once a Psyren Drifter, who survived game. She explains what she knows about the game, and confirms that it is happening in the future. There is a mystery about what happened to Japan, and where the Taboo came from. She also explains about the psi powers and starts Ageha and Hiryu on their training. Sakuranko takes over, where Hiryu catches on quickly, but of course it takes Ageha longer. We are also introduced to a new character, Oboro. He is a famous actor who has acquired a Psyren card, but hasn’t tried to use it…yet. I really liked all the background Matsuri gave about Psyren. I like that Nemesis Q just might not be a villain, but is actually trying to save the future. But I’m not taking anything on face value. Hopefully more info in the future will reveal more about his and his goals.

The preview this month is the new title Blue Exorcist. Viz did the thing that I really HATE them doing with their previews. They didn’t start with the first chapter. This preview starts with the second chapter with a note to go find the first volume to read the first one. Jerks. Anyway, the story picks up with Mephisto Pheles, the President of True Cross Academy taking Rin and Yukio with him back to the Academy. Yukio already goes there, and Rin will just be starting. Rin wants to become an exorcist to stop his real father, Satan, the god of demons. His first day in his first class comes with quite a shock when he learns who his instructor is. I’m on the fence about this series, especially started from the SECOND chapter. Sorry Viz, this isn’t the way to convince me to buy your first volume. I really don’t care for the way Yukio treats Rin at the end. It felt really wrong to me. I may, or may not, try to find out more.

There were 4 chapters online for Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, finishing up the fight with Gyuki as well as the second volume. Gyuki’s history is also revealed, explaining why he has such a problem with Nura becoming the Third. But, at least Nura finally commits himself to taking on the role. In the final chapter, Kana’s jealous really starts to grow as she spys on Nura and Yukio, thinking they might be dating, but she’s got bigger problems. A yokai seems to have targeted her… I’m glad Viz put Nura online, because I never would have made it past the first volume. The end of the second volume does give me hope for the series, and that it will move out of the internal squabbles about Rikuo taking over, and into more serious conflicts with more yokai. Cause really, I’m just into it for the yokai. And the Night version of Rikuo.

Alright, I’ll admit it. I’m hooked on Bakuman now. The four chapter preview of volume 4 really sold me on it. Moritaka and Akito try going solo after Akito couldn’t come up with a story by the deadline. Unknowingly, they start working on the same kind of story. Mr. Hattori realizes it, and tries to slow the boys down. But after a month, they start talking to each other and realize they are better as a team and decide to trick Mr. Hattori just as he tried to trick them, and come up with 10 storyboards for their detective manga. Mr. Hattori then challenges them to do a one shot for the next Gold Future, and at the same time, a final draft every two weeks to see if they can handle it and go to school. If they can, he will submit their story at the next serialization meeting. It’s hard to explain why I was so hooked in by these four chapters. I think I just find the whole process of making manga fascinating. Because these are the parts that really keep me reading. I don’t really care about Moritaka and Miho’s relationship. I like the insights into the decision-making at Shonen Jump. And the competition between would-be mangaka isn’t something that has to be made up. With these chapters, Bakuman jumps into my must read pile.

I’m not sure when next month’s post will go up. I’m not sure I’m even going to get my subscription issue! But I do wonder what is going on with next issue. Viz is calling it the June/July issue. Does that mean it’s going to be a bigger issue? Is the magazine going bi-monthly? Nothing has been said so far in press release or on the Shonen Jump website. Maybe it’s something they are trying to push through quietly?

Yen Plus April 2011

Yen Press continues to add to the Japanese side of Yen Plus (finally!) with a new series, The Innocent. It’s an interesting collaboration of an American writer, Avi Avad (yes, THAT Avi Avad) with a Japanese writer and a Korean artist to create a unique story about love and vengeance. It has me intrigued to say the very least. Yen Press’ talent search round is over (and they emphasis talent search, not competition),but nothing was found to be showcased in the magazine. It was interesting to hear that they are not just taking their time to find good creators, but that they are also giving advice on where promising creators can improve and be ready for the next round. I wonder if Tokyopop had taken as much care, if OEL would have actually taken off.

Milkyway Hitchhiking – In this chapter, Milkyway is just an observer, as the story is about Baek-Ryun a gesaeng and Chung who is a shoemaker. They seem to be constantly fighting, this time it’s over Chung’s cat Miya (Milkyway). He accuses Baek-Ryun of taking her, which she denies, but did. Their bickering leads to a confrontation where they both end up in a lake, and though they don’t stop fighting, there is an implicit acknowledgement of feelings. It’s a cute story of budding romance, though what happened to the premise of the series, that Milkyway is a cat that grants wishes? Did that get worn out fast, or is this just a long break? Or are we to think that Milkyway grants wishes that are left unsaid?

Witch and Wizard – Celia, Whit’s friend, appears to Whit and Wisty, and tells how they can escape by going to the Shadowlands, though a brick wall that is guarded by several vicious dogs. The pair make it through, as well as one of the dogs, and gain a new friend. They are joined by Byron the ferret and introduced to Sasha who will take them to Freeland, one of the realms in the Underground not under the New Order, or,N.O.’s rule. But before they can get going they are surrounded by residents of the Shadowlands, the Lost Ones, who don’t seem to want them to leave. Now that the story is out of prison, and the angst of their torture is past, the story is starting to take a turn for the interesting. Hopefully when they reach Freedomland, we’ll get more information on the N.O. I’m not happy though that it’s Wisty’s girly scream that gets them into trouble at the end of the chapter. Realistic, maybe, but very cliche as well.

Aron’s Absurd Armarda – Aron’s feeling a little paranoid, and believes that the crew is out to kill him. It turns out he’s not too far off, as the new crewman, Mercedes, is actually an assassin, sent to kill Robin. But why Robin? I have an idea about that. There’s a short break while the crew celebrates the 100th strip (yes, it’s that kind of comic) And the ship’s cook gets some more abuse, not just from his shipmates from this his own body parts, when an attempt to appease his fellow shipmates goes awry. Aron’s is that great breath of fresh air that keeps you from taking anything too seriously, especially after the angst of the James Pattison titles.

Daniel X – Using a time machine (of sorts), Daniel is able to see what happened with No. 5 first appeared on Earth and how he got the townspeople to forget about everything alien after a scene has been ‘shot’. He takes Judy out on a date, which becomes a spying foray. He gets rid of the alien block for her, so she can truly understand what is going on. Though, I still don’t completely get what’s going on. What is No.5 up to? Is he filming a show, or is he planning an invasion? Or is it a little of both? It’s still hard to tell. There still aren’t enough clues to piece it together. Hopefully things will start to make more sense soon.

Jack Frost – As I predicted, there was a flashback with Avid, that showed how he became a vampire. Seems he and Sigfried were in competition for control of the South District. Guess who got betrayed. But it seems the Iyel that Avid met may not be the real one. With Avid gone now, Sigfried feels safe in declaring war on the Ethan and the East District. Hansen meanwhile has found No-Ah and Ethan. He tries to get No-Ah back, but Ethan’s control over her father’s soul keeps her from escaping. I’m not sure if this is an interesting turn of events or not. I suppose it all depends on what happens when Jack and Sigfried meet up with Ethan. I don’t think it’s going to go well for him, but then, that might not be such a bad thing.

The Innocent – The story starts with an angel being sent to find a man who has been executed for a crime he didn’t commit. Johnny, a detective before he died, has been chosen by the mysterious Committee to help out others in order to clear out his misdeeds so that he can get a chance at reincarnation. Angel, is there to show him how to use his powers and keep him in line, which isn’t going to be easy. He picks up quickly on his ability to use ash to affect the physical world, but is just as quickly swallowed by vengeance when one of the men who helped to frame him shows up while he is trying to help a woman. While playing by the rules isn’t his forte, he decides to go along with the Committee, just for another chance at the men who framed him. There isn’t anyone nice in this first chapter. The angel who is sent to help Johnny has nothing but contempt for humans, but has a job to do. Johnny himself is an anti-hero. He’s definitely no angel, but he really cared for his sister and will do anything to avenge her. And there are indications that he has a greater power than most spirits. Is that why he was chosen? Or has the committee bitten off more than they can chew with him? It will be interesting to find out.

Highschool of the Dead – This chapter introduces more survivors. School nurse Shizuka Marikawa and Saeko Busujima,the captain of the Kendo club (of course). They pick up a military otaku Houta Hirano and self-proclaimed smart girl Saya Takagi.  Takashi and Rei get out of the astronomy club room and meet with the new characters, and make a break for the school van, intent on finding their families. A newscast has shown them that it’s not just their town, but the whole world that is dealing with the zombies. As they make a break, another group of students, led by Shidou follow. Rei warns not to help Shidou but they do anyway. He is obviously not a nice guy. The addition of this obviously power-hungry opportunist doesn’t fill me with hope. I really am not interested in reading “Lord of the Flies in Zombie Land”. I’m really hoping he doesn’t stick around long. Though, he’s obviously going to be thorn in everyone’s side if not now, then later.

K-On! – It’s the start of another school year, that has the girls now seniors. They have their class trip to Kyoto, which they proceed to spend at a music shop. They have to decide on their future plans after high school, which of course Yui and Ritsu can’t seem to come up with anything. And then Azu starts to get panicky about possibly being the only member of the Pop Music club next year. Yui’s past is revealed, and it shows she hasn’t changed much from elementary school, and Yui freaks out about leaving her guitar at school overnight. The best thing I can say about these chapters, is that at least they are different from the first two volumes.

Yotsuba&! – Yotsuba, Koiwai and Jumbo are headed to the electronics store to buy a camera. Fuuka decides to come along since her midterms are finished. Once they arrive, Yotsuba finds the cellphone displays, and her imagination takes off again. This single chapter doesn’t really go anywhere, and it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, if you care about what it is that Yotsuba is imagining.

The addition of The Innocent continues to add to the breakup of the moe block that dominated the Japanese side for so long, but it’s only a one volume story, so it’s only going to last for 6 months or so. K-On! is also coming close to its end. With the last volume scheduled to come out in December, you know it’s going to end the magazine well before that. We already know that Yen has another OEL planned with the adaptation of Soulless, but do they have anything more planned for the Japanese side? Or is it becoming the neglected side with no Japanese publishers willing to serialize online? Square Enix shouldn’t have a problem with it. It’s not like it’s putting content that isn’t already available in print in English and has been for months or even years.