When one thinks of the holiday season, it tends to be of being merry, giving gifts, and celebrating the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. But the holiday season also has a history of ghostly stories and ghoulish things. So in that spirit, here are two titles to make you clutch your blanket closer on these cold, dark winter nights.
Once again, I dive into the list making with a “best of” list for 2010. All of the titles on this list are books I’ve read at least one volume of, and most started this year. The few exceptions should be obvious.
Setsuna Mudo has some serious problems. He is always getting into fights, doesn’t care for authority, and worst of all, has incestuous feeling for his sister, Sara. To top all this off, he also seems to be the reincarnation of the angel Alexial, who is being punished by God for rebelling against him. Now, Alexial’s twin, Rosiel is trying to kill Setsuna before Alexial awakens, the demon Kurai wants Alexial to awake and lead the demons against heaven, and all Setsuna wants to do is run away with Sara.
Angel Sanctuary Volume 1-4
By Kaori Yuki
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Older Teen
I read the first volume of Angel Sanctuary a few years ago, and at the time didn’t care much for it. But after reading, and enjoying, other works by the same creator, Kaori Yuki, I decided to give the series another try, and read a few more volumes to give it a real chance.
The story revolves around Setsuna Mudo, your typical angst-ridden teenage boy with the usual problems you’d expect a teenage boy to have; getting into fights and not caring for authority. But the one problem he does have, that makes him unusual, is the incestual feelings he has for his sister, Sara. He tries not to express them, coming off more like an overprotective brother, but his inner thoughts are consumed by her. This has completely alienated him from his mother, who seems to sense there’s something wrong with her son, and doesn’t trust him with Sara. This plotline dominates the first four volumes, as Setsuna struggles with his growing feelings and finally gives in to them, convincing Sara to run away with him.
But Setsuna has another problem. He is also the reincarnation of the Archangel Alexial. The demons, led by Kurai, want to awaken Alexial, so she can lead them against the armies of heaven. But the angels fear Alexial, and one angel, Katan, takes it upon himself to use forbidden magic in the form of a computer program, Angel Sanctuary, to free Rosiel, the only angel that has a chance going up against Alexiel. Rosiel is too consumed by revenge and himself to care much for heaven’s problems, and will use anyone or everyone to kill Alexiel.
When I first read this series, I was bothered with the incest angle. But after reading more of Yuki’s titles, I came to realize it was just a plot device she used to create angst in her characters. And there is a lot of angst in this series. I nearly lost all interest in the series, as the first three volumes is consumed with Setsuna and Sara willing to sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of the other. The actual angel plot took a back seat to this as the importance of Setsuna’s and Sara’s relationship was emphasized, as it becomes the catalyst for Alexiel’s awakening. I understand the need to emphasize a point, but was 3 volumes of angst-ridden teens really that necessary?
The angels of Angel Sanctuary are not your typical “dressed in white with halos and hands together in prayer”. They are little different from humans, with many of the same desires and animosities. They are also the biggest jerks you could ever imagine. They think nothing of raping a demon survivor of a massacre they had just done. Female angels are persecuted for being temptresses, and they have little to no interest in humanity. They seem to be more preoccupied with a power struggle of who will be in charge now that God has had to go to sleep as his power weakens. They will go to any length to succeed. The entire time I was reading these volumes, I couldn’t help but notice the striking similarity between the way these angels acted and the angels in the TV series Supernatural. The angels in that show were in a struggle with each other to cause Armageddon while God was absent. The Supernatural angels were just as big of jerks, and cared just as much about humanity. I wonder if the creators of Supernatural were familiar with this manga?
My interest returned with the fourth volume, as the story turned toward a more traditional quest plot. Setsuna is determined to rescue Sara, and must take a Orphean journey to the underworld to find her. Along the way, he will have gain followers, both angel and demon and return before his time is up (literally). He starts out with a familiar face as a guide, and while he may have it in for Setsuna, there do seem to be indications that he may become Setsuna’s first follower. The quest plot was infinitely more entertaining than the angst-ridden teenagers of the first three volumes. I may continue with the series, but only because of this turn of events. If I had stopped reading at three, I wouldn’t have considered continuing.
The art is ver recognizable as Yuki’s, with longs of beautiful boys and long, stringy, flowing hair. You can tell this was written early in her career, as the art is rougher and not as refined as Godchild. It doesn’t look bad, but you can tell it’s not her latest work.
I wanted to like Angel Sanctuary, since I’ve enjoyed so many of Kaori Yuki’s other titles, but the first three volumes made it really hard. A little bit of angst I can take to establish a conflict. Spread it out over length of the story, such as Godchild does, if you must, but concentrating so much at the beginning really turns me away. I think I will investigate further volumes of this series, just to see where it goes, but I think I’ll borrow, or if it ever becomes available digitally. I want to know better what I’m getting before investing in a 20 volumes series, especially with such a shaky start.
Christmas isn’t exactly a holiday that gets titles dedicated to it. There are often chapters with a Christmas theme, especially in romance titles, since in Japan the holiday is more for lovers. But it finally occurred to me, that there are titles with angels, and there is no Christmas in the US without angels in song or on a Christmas tree. So here are some manga with/about angels!
Finally there is some news this week. It’s not a lot again, but it’s pretty juicy! We have license announcements from a surprising source, an online manga store opening, and some publishers throwing their weight around. And then there are the regular features of the NYTBSL, podcasts, and a roundup of what happening at Manga Village.
Good Idea: Putting manga on the Barnes and Noble Nook.
Digital Manga Publishing has announced that titles from their catalog will start appearing on the Nook and B&N’s newest e-reader the Nook Color. They already have titles on the iphone/itouch and Kindle. Just as they had with those other devices, they are starting with their adaptation of Vampire Hunter D volume 1. The book will be available in black and white or color (for the Nook color) and will be split in half, each half going for $3.99. I don’t know about the splitting the book in half, but getting their manga on as many of the digital platforms as possible is making them the most versatile manga publisher.
Bad Idea: Selling Subscriptions to Scanlated Manga
Two years ago I wrote an article about hacking the Kindle to view images, which could be used for digital manga as well. This article has attracted a lot of views and some comments about other programs people have created to make image viewing easier. I let a lot of these side since the technology can be used for legal images, but I have to draw the line somewhere, and the latest comment I got was that line. The link that appeared in the comment was for the site Manga on the Kindle, which claims to have over 100 manga volumes formatted for the Kindle, which are available for a $5 monthly subscription. Um….no. This is worse than the aggregator sites, since it’s soliciting money directly from people. Now, if publishers were to do something like this, that would make it a good idea.
Good Idea: Updating Your e-Reader For More Functionality
Barnes and Noble has said that the Nook Color, which is currently running on an older version of Android will be getting the 2.2 update in January. This update will give Nook Color owners access to the Android Market as well as other features. This is fantastic news for comics and manga fans, as apps come out for the Android, they will be available to use and read on their Nook Color. It will also give them the option of using their Nook Color as a full tablet, at half the price and more convenient size than the Apple iPad.
Bad Idea: Censoring e-books you’ve already sold
From the “I Wanna Be Like Steve Jobs” Department
Word has come from writers on blogs and on the Amazon forums, that Amazon has started removing erotica fiction from the Kindle store, which includes deleting the book from people’s accounts that have already purchased the books. This is one of the reasons I am hesitant about joining the e-reader revolution. When I purchase I book, I don’t want to be told somewhere done the line that I can no longer read the book I purchased. It doesn’t say “rent” on Amazon. It says “purchase”, and that should mean it’s mine until I decide to get rid of it, not when Amazon decides to back pedal on their “no censorship” stance that they claimed to have, but seems to have changed their mind about. This is especially frustrating for both writers and readers as Amazon has not clean statement about what is appropriate for the store and what is not, and they seem to be choosy about who gets to stay and who goes. Just like Apple and their Apps Store. Not a good model to emulate, Amazon.
As the impromptu dad and his charge learn to adapt to both one another and their very new living situation, Daikichi is plagues by thoughts of Rin’s mother. Who is she? Why has she been quiet all this time? Hot on the trail after discovering a modem at the old man’s computer-less abode, Daikichi plays detective in a search for answers. But elementary school enrollment, extracurricular activities, and other parental obligations wait for no man, so when the day of confrontation with the mysterious Masako arrives, will Daikichi be prepared?!
By Yumi Unita
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Rin has been with Daikichi for 6 months now, and both seem to have settled into their new situation. Daikichi’s demotion to the warehouse has him interacting with more parents than the single guys in the sales department. Rin is finding more acceptance from Daikichi’s immediate family and starts to open up to them more. But it’s Daikichi’s obsession with finding Rin’s mother that’s the focus of this second volume.
I really enjoyed watching Daikichi’s continued adjustment to parenthood. In his new position in the distribution department, he has other parents to interact and commiserate with. The stressing over extracurricular activities, preparing to start elementary school are all things parents deal with, so seeing Daikichi stumble through them is a familiar feeling. I loved the scene at Rin’s graduation ceremony, where Daikichi is the only one there without *at least* one camera. Though, he read through Rin’s Mother-Child Health Record, and even commented on how thorough the mother was in filling it out, so it was odd that he would have to ask about immunizations. It did make for a good panel for the dirty looks he got from some of the other mothers.
Most of this volume though, was about Daikichi’s search for Rin’s mother. He has a hard time understanding why she hasn’t tried to get Rin back. When he finally meets her, the answer is rather shocking to him. She chose her career over raising Rin. Choosing to continue working while raising a child is a decision a lot of women must face, as we do see in the volume with Kouki’s Mom trying to juggle work with Kouki just as Daikichi does with Rin. Daikichi’s mother tried working after having him and becoming pregnant with his sister Kazumi, but was forced out by the company she worked for. But Masako takes things a step too far by not even trying, and convincing Rin she isn’t her mother. Masako’s whole attitude toward it though seems a little extreme, and it’s hard not to agree with Daikichi’s reactions. But it probably is the best for Rin to not be with her. Children only do better with their parents when they care. They will always flourish with people who truly care for them, and there’s no doubt Daikichi cares for Rin.
Bunny Drop continues to be a great title that is charming while being very relatable. Daikichi fumbles though his sudden parenthood just as well as a parent that’s been raising their child all along. He struggles through the same choices and decisions, and even parents from the beginning have doubts about their abilities to raise their child properly. He makes good decisions though, and respects Rin’s feeling, perhaps more than actual parents might. I continue to recommend this title highly.
It’s the 4th issue of the digital version and the third subscription issue. The monthly payment has been very smooth so far, and is a good reminder for me when the new issue comes out, as I am bad at remembering/checking for these things. I really need an RSS feed to keep me up-to-date, something Viz should think about. I’d be more of a regular at their site if I had a reliable reminder. The Editor’s letter brought about some bad news, as the last chapter of Time and Again appears in this issue. JuYoun talks about some of the reservations that existed for a very Asian title like Time and Again, but it won over the editorial staff, and hopefully a lot of readers. I know I really enjoyed the karmic theme. I didn’t find it unrelatable, despite the different mind set. I enjoyed it just for that reason.
Aron’s Absurd Armada – This is my favorite 4-koma at the moment. We learn more about Nelson’s background and family, and as usual, things aren’t what they seem, and the sailors get the wrong impression. It’s very well done and very funny with the reveal. His story is told as a tradition manga, so there are only a couple of 4-koma panels, that end up getting Ronnie’s goat as Robin is forced to fend off Nelson’s half sister from trying to arrest Aron. This title is probably the most fun and funniest title in the magazine.
Daniel X – Daniel is saved by Blaleen, who turns out to be his grandmother. He is then introduced to the rest of his relatives in a large family gathering. He also learns more about his parents, and where is powers may have come from, as well as his friends. Daniel then goes on the offensive, and takes care of Seth in a rather imaginative if not disturbing way. Not a way I would want to go, but you can’t say he didn’t ask for it. With Alpar Nok free, Daniel is also free to return to earth, and to continue his alien hunt. I’m still enjoying Daniel X. Daniel is a great character, and I do like the interaction with his friends. This is becoming my reason to continue reading the magazine.
Time and Again – It is lamentable to have to say good-bye to this series with this, the last chapter. There has been war in Luoyang, and Baek-On and Ho-Yeon return to the city as they continue their wanderings. There Baek-On spots a boy that seems different than the others. But once again, things aren’t quite what the seem. The title ends with Baek-On reaffirming his resolution to remain alone in the world, and continue to walk the path of grudges going against no one but him. Ho-Yeon reaffirms himself to protect Baek-On’s path, and they continue on alone, together. It’s as happy an ending as this title can get, but it’s still a satisfying ending. I’m really glad this title was released, and I will miss it dearly.
Jack Frost – The look back at Hansen’s past continues as Hansen and his brother try to fight off Avid the vampire. Hansen is bitten, but Agathe saves him. The same can’t be said for Kay and Agathe. Hansen comes out the only survivor, and learns that the bodies of his friend and family are never recovered, and he is made the head guidence counselor of the West District. So now we know all about Hansen’s past, but who knows if it’ll help any with the present problem of dealing with someone who shoots just like Kay, and could very well be Kay reanimated. I can’t say I really cared about Hansen, and seeing his tragic past hasn’t really changed anything. Sigfried is mentioned a lot in connection with the Avid and is starting to shape up to be Helmina’s rival in Amityville. I wonder how long we’ll have to wait before he actually shows up not no just be the puppetmaster behind the strings he’s been up till now.
Yotsuba&! – Yotsuba give a tour of her house to the neighbors who end up cleaning up for her and her father, and then they all go out to the country to see a Hot Air Balloon competition. Yotsuba spills more coffee, gets dirty and waves to the Hot Air Balloonists as they rise up. Yotsuba is cute to most people, but having lived with a girl like her in so many ways (ie my youngest daughter), these stories are more ho-hum to me. Everyone else can gush over her. Watching her just make me tired.
K-On! – Second verse is the same as the first. It’s like a repeat of the first chapter, as the Pop music club is threated to be shut down again by the student council for not doing anything. So they decide to hold a concert at new student orientation. Mio freaks out about singing in front of everyone, again. Yui has to study for midterms and then forgets how to play the music they’d been practicing, again. Their advisor dressing them up as maids, again. It’s just the same plot points used over and over, and it’s frankly getting monotonous. The cute girl thing just isn’t enough for me.
With Time and Again gone, the magazine goes down to 7 titles, with no indications of anything new being added. I really hope Yen Plus doesn’t start down the path that Shonen Jump did for so long, of just being a stagnant collection of titles with only short story/previews that only give momentary relief from the monontony. As it stands, there are only two titles I really care about; Aron’s Absurd Armarda and Daniel X. Once again, the Japanese side holds no interest what so ever, just like when the magazine first started but for different reasons. One good Japanese title and a new good Korean title would be a marked improvement. As it is, for $2.99 I’ll keep subscribing, but not enthusiastically.
It’s been another quiet week, with just a few stories, all being digital related. I almost think I should have just done a Digital Friday post with these stories. Of course, I almost didn’t get this posted at all. I just want to say, that migraine headaches SUCK! But, please do still enjoy stories on digital guilds, advice, revamps, and some Japan news, and of course, all the regulars you’ve come to expect; podcasts and the Manga Village roundup. More after the break.
Continuing the tradition from last year, I’ve decided to put together a new gift guide for the manga reader(s) in your life. I changed up some of the types this year, and am featuring all new titles. Check out last year’s guide for some other types that might not be on this list or for more variety. And check out All About Manga for other lists part of the Great Manga Gift Guide for 2010.
This month’s installment of the Shonen Jump drive-by is late because my subscription issue seems to have gone astray in the mail, and had to go buy one. The subscription provider’s answer to a missing issue is always “We’ll extend your subscription by a month.” But of course, that doesn’t help me get the mag! Fortunately, my local Barnes & Noble still had issues, so I could pick it up. The big news for this issue has already been all over the interwebs, but I’ll mention it here too. There will be two new titles added to the magazine. FINALLY! Psyren and Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D will start in the next issue, January 2010. I’ll be fighting to get the issue first now. My youngest daughter has discovered Yu-Gi-Oh! and has already gone through all my old Shonen Jumps. The other big news is that suppliment titles will be put up online for subscribers only to read online. There isn’t any more information on that other than some of the titles will be Bakuman, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan and Toriko. We also don’t know if these will be full series serializations, how long they will be available online, or just extended previews. Next issue will hopefully have more infor about that.
The layout at the beginning has been refined some, as the video games and anime sections are cleaned up a little, and become easier to read. And there’s a handy guide telling you where you can find Shonen Jump anime online. It’s on a quick and easy to read grid, if you like to watch your anime online.
The manga starts out with the final preview chapter of Genkaku Picasso. Sugiura’s problem is solved, and it turned out to be a rather unexpected resolution. The picture of Sugiura’s heart afterword has a lot of hope in it. The picture of his father’s heart was a nice one too. I enjoyed this preview, and this title will go on to my want to read list. I don’t know it it’s a must read, but I enjoyed these chapters enough to want to see how a whole chapter stands up.
Naruto is next with Sasuke bailing with Madara and takes his next step down to total darkness. The plot to get the Eight-tails beast by the Akatsuki, while the Daimyos of the 5 different lands ratify the alliance. With Danzo’s death, the issue of a new Hokage comes up, but proves to be less of an issue than thought. Naruto gets summoned back before the Giant Frog Sage and gains the key to the Fourth Hokage’s seal, allowing him to be able to free the Nine-Tails. Then Kabuto makes his move toward the Akatsuki. These chapters are all about tying up old threads and starting up the new ones for the comimg ninja battle. They feel a lot like moving pieces on a chess board. There’s plenty of information expounded, but not a lot of action. It’s the lull before the storm.
Bleach follows up with Ichigo continuing to get his butt kicked, Pesche and Dondochakka not getting to be as impressive as they could have been (which I consider disappointing), and the a suprise rescue comes in the form of several of the captains to rescue Ichigo and the gang. And of course, the captains are matched up against espadas that match their own talent. Kenpachi takes on Nnoitora, Mayuri against Szayelaporro, and Byuakuya against Zommari. Retsu and her assistant are only there to heal the wounded, friend and foe alike. The chapters in this issue end at 299, so the new year can start with 300 which looks to be another big, blowout fight. It’s a lot of posturing between the Captains and the espadas, as you would expect. I really didn’t care for the way Kubo had Nnoitora “gag” Orihime. It’s too easy to take it the wrong way.
Ultimo finishes up with Yamato returning from the past right back into the fight he just left. He tries to save Iruma again, but it’s all in vain. Musayama takes a hit and Jealosy tries to claim Yamato for being incompetant “the supreme evil”. But he’s stopped by what, or who, is in Yamato’s heart, and the past is set up to repeat itself again. Yamato and Musayama are saved by the Doctor Koun, who is parterned with Pardonner, on of the six perfections. He leaves with Ultimo while two other perfections, Machi and Hiroshi speak with the doctor. I was hoping Ulitmo would get better with the time traveling, and for a moment it almost seemed that it would, but a return to the present sends it back to the same old, same old. I don’t see any hope of this series getting better.
One Piece ends the issue with even more serious fighting. I didn’t think things could get more tense than they already were, but Oda managed to do it. The struggle to reach Ace on the platform continues as White Beard’s pirates seem to be losing to the navy. Ace is about to lose his head when Luffy comes racing in, unintentionally using his Haki, which gives Ace a few more minutes, and gives him the full support of White Beard and his men. He nearly makes it to Ace but is blocked by Garp. It becomes grandfather vs grandson, but Luffy doesn’t stop, and it seems blood is thicker than water. Now it’s a race to free Ace and it becomes a tit-for-tat as everything Luffy tries is countered by the Navy, until Mr. 3 comes to the rescue. Then it’s Fire Fist and Straw Hat against the Navy! I have to say, I was surprised by this outcome, but I didn’t take Luffy’s haki into consideration. I was going by his bute strength, which didn’t seem to be enough. I love that Luffy just continued to earn the respect of the pirates and scorn of the navy, when all he wanted to do was save his brother. This has been some really awesome action, but I think I’m ready for a breather, and I’m sure Luffy is too.
I’m really looking forward to the next issue, with all the changes that have been promised. Yu-Gi-Oh! GX didn’t impress me (but the manga is waaaayyyy better than the anime), so hopefully 5D will be an improvement. And having a sci-fi oriented title in the magazine with Psyren will hopefully shake things up a bit. SJ has been dying on the vine with no new blood for so long. This time when they call the changes an evolution, they can actually mean it.
In the news this week; the November/December Manga Movable Feast begins! Critics become critical of the manga blogging community, but not in a constructive way, more digital news from both sides of the Pacific, news from Japan, podcasts, and the Manga Village Roundup. So make with the click-y…