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.

Why Can’t I Find This Volume?

Like a lot of people, I can’t keep up with all the titles I want to read, so some have to fall back and wait to be caught up on. Usually this isn’t a big deal. If it’s a recent series, within the last two years or so, and the publisher hasn’t gone under, or lost the license, catching up is usually as easy as getting online to Amazon or some other online retailer and ordering the missing volumes. In trying to do this though, I’ve run into some stumbling blocks, and it is absolutely perplexing to me as to why.

Continue reading Why Can’t I Find This Volume?

Yen Plus June 2011

Would you know, just as I decide to start reading Maximum Ride again, it doesn’t show up in the magazine this month! But it’s absence is made up for with 2 chapters of Witch and Wizard. And then I didn’t even notice that Jack Frost wasn’t in the magazine last month, but it’s back this month with a new chapter not collected into a volume yet in Korea. So, Yen finally caught up to its releases in Korea. I guess it will become more sporatic. That’s okay though, since next month starts the serialization of a new adaptation, and it isn’t a James Patterson title! Gail Carriger’s Soulless, drawn by another former Tokyopop RSoM winner, Ren.

Daniel X – Daniel finally defeats No. 5, but quickly learns there was more to him that just an electric alien catfish. Gathering all of the electronics in Hollingswood and destroying them in a decidedly non-environmental way makes his end final. Then No. 3 shows up to warn Daniel off, but that just makes him think he will definitely be his next target. The end of No. 5 was kind of anti-climatic, and I don’t know that I buy this one. No. 6 had a much better end.

Milkyway Hitchhiking – Milkyway’s adventures continue at the school from last chapter. She is passing through a forest that is near the dormatory where he runs into Shasha, a human with a cat in him. To everyone around him, Shasha is more cat than human, and this bugs the heck out of Lime, Shasha’s classmate. Lime seems to have a bird inside him, and he is constantly pecking at Shasha. Despite this, they share watching a sunrise together and Lime finds he can be friends with Shasha, even though their spirit animals usually can’t be. I’m getting the feeling that this title has strayed very far from its stated plot, and now is just a vehile for the artist to tell whatever short stories she wants. Milkyway is just an excuse to use to justify whatever story she’s telling.

Witch and Wizard – Whit and Wisty are taken on a tour of the City of Progress, the blueprint of the N.O.’s perfect city. There Wisty is accused by an older woman of being a witch, but Wisty turns the tails on the old woman who DOES turn out to be a witch. She makes eye contact with Wisty before disappearing. Then, the kids learn their parents have been captured and taken to the same place as the children the resistance was planning to break out, so Whit and Wisty join the team. The chapter ends on a cliffhanger for both Whit and Wisty, who split up. The first chapter with the visit to the city seemed pointless since it was so short, but perhaps the meeting of the witch will have some meaning later.

Aron’s Absurd Armada – Luthor, who was only following orders to kill Aron finds his own motivation, and reduces Aron’s ship to a floating hull. The crew relocates to the island, where it seems like paradise, until the volcano explodes. Running back to the remains of the ship, the crew learns from Aron there was one other crewmember no one knew about. The ghost of the builder of the ship still haunts the ship. I can’t help but feel sorry for Ronnie. She tries so hard to tell Robin the truth about herself, and still no one believes she’s really a girl. I hope her hair grows back soon. Though with this creator, something worse than burning will happen to it.

Jack Frost – Jack finally catches up to Hansen, who isn’t happy with Jack not staying with No-Ah. Jack doesn’t seem to have any kind of response when he hears No-Ah has got to the East District except to turn and walk away…to the east. No-Ah and her father are locked up in a room, but Milita at least offers to make them comfortable, which earns her some gratitude from No-Ah. We’ll see how that affects her. After all the hype Yen made about this chapter being in the mag, it was actually kind of anti-climatic. It will be back again in the next issue, so we’ll see if there was anything to get excited about.

High School of the Dead – Takashi and Rei take a motorcycle to try to get back home. They see the extent of the damage the zombies have done. They find a police car, with its occupants dead, and relieve them of their guns. A stop at a gas station give Takashi an opportunity to bash in the register, and Rei gets some breast sqeezing as a survivor tries to take her and the motorcycle. Takashi uses the gun for the first time, and they leave him to the zombies attracted by the noise. I liked Takashi’s reaction to holding a gun for the first time. And Takashi and Rei’s argument was a nice break from the zombie tension and showed some actual character development.

The Innocent – While continuing his search for Mira Jones, Johnny learns that the laywer that represented him (and subsequencely lost the case) is now representing Jonas. He decides to help Jonas and promises Angel that he will try not to kill anyone or break the rules while doing it. He then proceeds to break Jonas out of jail. There have been lot of little clues dropped here and there through these first three chapters, but nothing seemst to fit together yet. Hopefully things will start to connect in the next chapter.

K-On! – Instead of going to the beach, the girls go to a music festival in the mountains with tickets provided for by their advisor, for their club trip. Azumi tans immediately, adn the girls see other bands, but get distracted by things like how the band members get their hair to stand up, and left handed players. Afterward, Azumi goes to the pool with Ui and Jun and has to deal with tan lines, while making Jun regret not joining the Pop Music Club with her. At least it wasn’t another trip to the beach. And Jun and Ui aren’t anywhere as annoying as Yui and Ritsu.

Yotsuba&! – Yotsuba gets to take Fuuka’s excersize ball home, and while bouncing it down the hallway, accidentally breaks some dishes. When confronted by her father, she tries to lie about what happened. So her father takes her somewhere that makes her think twice about lying. Putting fear into a child about lying might seem like a good idea, and might even work for a while, but in the long run, I don’t believe this is the best way to displine a child.

It’s going to be a full plate next issue! Maximum Ride will be back, as will more Jack Frost, and then there’s the debut of Soulless. That’s going to put the magazine up to 12 titles! It’s good to see Yen Press expanding its titles. That’s a good sign, right? That things are going well for the digital magazine? I really hope so.

Shonen Jump June/July 2011

The big but strangly never mentioned news for this issue of Shonen Jump is that it is not long a purely monthly magazine. Subscriptions cards in the mag advertise a yearly subscription as being 10 issues. And you’ll notice this issue covers June and July. Of course, nothing is mentioned in the magazine about this change or why. The obvious reason is cost. Cut out 2 issues (this isn’t any bigger a normal issue) and save printing costs. If there was any other reasons, Viz isn’t saying, since they’ve said nothing about the change. Maybe they were hoping no one would notice?

The issue starts out with a video game feature, looks at the Nura anime and vol 3 of the manga, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds trading card and strategy and the Reborn anime which has started streaming on Vizanime.com. The manga starts up with Psyren.

Oboro, the famous actor goes on a TV show about Psyren, and nearly feels the wrath of Nemesis Q. He is saved by Elmore Tenjuin, the woman who put up the 500 million to solve the mystery of Psyren. Another player isn’t so lucky. Ageha’s training contiues to surprising results that Sakurako can’t explain, but the call to return to Psyren interrupts them. It’s a new batch of new recruits that includes Oboro. Sakurako tries to explain what’s going on again, and of course, no one believes her. Oboro decides to see for himself and leads most everyone out except for a kid who decides to stick with Sakurano because she’s cute. Outside the group learns that Sakurano wasn’t kidding with the appearance of a monsterous sand worm. I really hope we get past the introduction of newbies and explaining things again and again. Let’s just get the team that’s going to be fighting in Psyren and get this title going!

One Piece finishes the flashback with Luffy, Ace and Sabo. Luffy and Ace learn a hard lesson with Sabo’s loss, and both resolve to become pirates and go out to see at 17 and live the lives they want. They continue training to become stronger. Ace learns to care for Luffy and they become real brothers. We see Ace’s send off as well as another view of Luffy’s. Luffy continues to struggle with his grief until Jimbei gets him thinking about what he still has instead of what he’s lost. We see the graves Shanks creates for White Beard and Ace, and Garp comes home to Windmill Village and ends up facing Dadan’s wrath. These were more great chapters, as we saw how far Ace’s apple DIDN’T fall from the family tree. And I still think Ace is cute, especially with his freckles. The moment that it dawns on Luffy that he still has something to live for is another emotional moment, and just shows again why One Piece continues to be superior to the likes of Bleach and Naruto.

Speaking of Bleach, the battle is set as the Soul Reaper Captains and Seconds stand ready to face Aizen and his Espada army. Back in the Hueco Mundo Ulquiorra waits for Ichigo to come and save Orihime. A fade to black (so to speak) and story goes back in time to 100 years in the past, to see where the seeds of Aizen’s plans were planted. There are lots of familiar faces, but not in familiar roles, and the story begins with the promotion of one Kisuke Urahara to the Captain of the 12th Company. While it’s nice to get away from the long and drawn out Hueco Mundo arc, I do question the need to put this in now, and how abruptly the story jumps from just about to start the big battle to this more plot heavy arc. I wonder if reader surveys had anything to do with the change.

Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds continues the duel between Yusei and Jack Atlas. Yusei’s having trouble with the duel as he tries to hold on to Sect and his duel runner is coming apart. Jack mocks Yusei’s devotion to helping his friend, and because Yusei puts his friend’s like first, he loses the match, and we are left wondering if he even survived. But since we already know Yusei has script immunity, we know this isn’t the end. And that Jack, and the first antagonist of the series, will have to see the light by the end of the arc, that friends are the best thing to have in a duel.

Naruto shows off his new ability to control the Nine-Tails chakra, and senses Kisame hiding in Killer Bee’s sword. Kisame tries to escape and instead has to face Guy, in a rematch. Kisame thinks he’s going to win thanks to his ability to absorb chakra, but he’s in for a surprise from Guy’s fighting style, and is captured instead. While he thought he would gathering intelligence on Naruto and the alliance, he instead is probed and we get a flashback to his life before becoming Akatsuki, but he bites his own touge off rather than betray Madara and the Akatsuki. Naruto’s new abilities with the control of the Nine-Tails Chakra is interesting, as it seems he also inherited his father’s teleportation ability. More cool and confident Naruto would be a huge welcome to this series. With memories of his parents now, may be we can keep getting more of that and less of the angst.

Online in Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, Rikuo has to save Kana from a yokai who promised to come get her on her 13th birthday. He then takes her to a yokai party where she seems to start to fall for Night Rikuo. Then, a new arc is introduced. Now that Rikuo has accepted his position as successor to the Nura Clan, the internal squabbling is mostly over, but a new threat from outside now threatens the Clan. The 88 Demons of Shikoku start to move in on Nura territory, even killing an executive, Hihi. Thinking the Nura clan is an easy target, they go straight for Nurarihyon. I like the sort-of romance starting between Rikuo and Kana, his childhood friend. Kana seems rather jealous of Yuki-Onna when she’s with Rikuo, and how she becomes smitten with Night Rikuo isn’t too surprising. I’ve already said I prefer him to day Rikuo anyway. I wonder how much this part of the story will be advanced, or if it will stay in the shadows.

The preview for May/June is for Toriko volume 5. Toriko, Rin, Terry, Sunny and Komatsu get separated as they race to reach Regal Plateau before the GT robots do to get the Regal Mammoth and its jewel meet. Toriko and Rin end up goign north, through the Devil Athletic, while Sunny and Komatsu go south through the Prehistoric March. Terry, the battle wolf that impressed on Toriko is following after Toriko to warn him of more GT Robots who are roaming and killing anything that gets in their way. Sunny guesses what the GT Robots are really up it, and explains to Komatsu (and the reader) the idea of Gourmet Cells, which also explains why Toriko, Rin and Sunny are so powerful. These chapters are mostly either battling or appreciating the strange foods found on the island. Neither activity interests me, so neither do these chapters.

With the reduction of the print issues, I wonder how, or if, it will affect the release of the graphic novels. The issue of costs have me worried. Viz could probably take their whole magazine online, like Nura, but the fact that they have been heavily i*, I’m afraid if they go all digital that that is the format they would go with and not through the browser. I would have to completely drop my Shonen Jump subscription. And I really do like having the magazine to read. It is nice to have some non-screen time.

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!)