Category Archives: Confessions of a Mangaholic

Manga Wrap Up Week Five: Chibi Vampire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manga Wrap Up Week Four: Black Cat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manga Wrap-Up Week Three: Bizenghast

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

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

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

  • Bizenghast Volumes 1-7

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

  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Volume 1

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

 

Manga Wrap-Up Week Two: Rurouni Kenshin

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

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

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

  • Rurouni Kenshin Volume 21-28

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

Manga Wrap-Up: Week One

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

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

“Cause there’s no more room in here!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Can't Quit You

Over on her blog, The Manga Critic, Kate Dacey talks about how she’s moved away from reading longer manga titles, that now she has a “fear of committment” for titles more than 4-5 volumes long. Johanna Draper Carlson of Manga Worth Reading sympathizes with Kate and talks about some longer titles that she’s lost interest in as well. Reading these two posts made me think about how I look at the titles in my collection. I have several titles that go well beyond 10 volumes. In fact, I think I might have MORE titles that go over 10 than not. Is it because I’m really committed to these titles? Not so much.

I’m a collector. I love to collect things. Books, comics, toys, if I have an interest in it and it’s part of a series, I’m probably gonna get it. All of it if possible. And in a lot of ways, that how I’ve treated my manga. It’s become something I collect more than something I get to read. Just like the toys on the shelf and the comics in boxes, manga has become in many ways something with holes to fill in and a lined shelf of different colored spines to look at. I don’t even always read everything I collect. I have a run of The Wallflower from 1-15 and I haven’t read a volume of it yet. For a while, I was getting the volumes to keep my collection complete, and ready for the day I would start reading it. (That day still hasn’t come yet, but I sense it’s not too far away.)

I don’t shy away from long titles, and even though I don’t read everything I buy immediately, I can’t say I’ve lost interest in too many titles because of length. I suffer more from the same ADHD as Kate does. My problem is to not stop buying even when my attention has drifted to other titles. I know I’m just filling in holes when I buy or trade for manga. But you know what? I’m okay with it. It makes me happy to find a volume that fills a spot that’s been empty for long time. Sales and trading is a great way to feed this since they don’t happen often, and the discovery is more exciting than just going out and buying the missing volumes. I didn’t think I enjoyed the chase of collecting, as a discussion with my husband revealed is what he enjoyed about it. He’s a hunter. I seem to be more of a stalker. I’m happy to just watch and wait, and then strike when the time is right. I still get the thrill of collecting, I just spread it out.

Where the Seed Was Sown

I sometimes wonder where my obsession for collecting manga, for in many respects that is what I do, came from.  It’s easy to assume that it started with comic collecting, but I wasn’t that big of a comic collector when I was growing up.  There were a few series I followed, but it was nothing like the “gotta catch ’em all”, feeling I sometimes get with manga.  It finally hit me, as I was driving home from work, listening to a podcast.

200px-Doctor_Who_CastrovalvaI had grabbed the mp3 of a BBC Radio program, “On the Outside It Looked Like an Old Fashioned Police Box”.  It’s a radio documentary about the old Target book novelizations of the Doctor Who TV series from the 70’s-80’s.  This series of books made available all the episodes of Doctor Who long before there were VCRs or DVDs.  And I used to read them.  I was a big Doctor Who fan long before I was a manga/anime fan.  And with the show not starting in the US until the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker, there was almost 15 years of the show that couldn’t be seen, but through the novelizations, could be read.

As I’m listening to this program, I start my own trip down memory line as I though about how much loved those books.  And there were so many of them! As well as the old stories, there were novelizations of the current ones coming out as well.  I remembered how obsessed I was at getting them.  My mother would buy me one or two for just about any holiday, including Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day!  She always encouraged by love of reading.  The subject didn’t matter, just that I enjoyed reading.  I remembered going to the local Walden’s books, with their card board display and trying to decide which book for which Doctor I should buy next.  I would line up on my bookshelf and constantly reorganize them either by number or by doctor, or alphabetically.

When I remembered all that, I suddenly realized I had the same feeling for manga now as I did for the Doctor Who Target books I had back then.  It’s a strange connection, but true.  Doctor Who was the seed to my manga addiction.

Diamond Not Distributing

It’s that time of month again when I have to place my Previews order.  But now, besides my usual problems of deciding what to buy, I have to wonder if the books I order will be canceled.  Diamond Distributing has had their red pen going at break-neck speed, what with canceling the entire Yen Press solicitation from last month’s order.  They’re back again and while not the only publisher to get red-lined, they just the most jaw-dropping. So, do I chance another manga order through Previews?  I want to support what titles I can with pre-orders, but is it a losing battle with Diamond who seem happy to slash their catalog back to the stone age of  just DC, Marvel, Dark Horse and Image?

If I want a manga to survive, and I want the publishers to know I enjoy the title by pre-ordering it, will the publisher still get my message even after Diamond cancels my order?  Do the publishers see the numbers before the cancellation order comes down?  Am I wasting time pre-ordering with Diamond and risking my favorite, not so popular manga to an untimely death?

I ponder these questions even as I prepare my next order.  I’m playing it fairly safe, though, that’s just the way it came down, and not because I chose not to order from anyone in particular for fear of the titles getting canceled.  These are my orders for this month:

  • CMX – Two Flowers for the Dragon v5
  • Tokyopop – Chibi Vampire v14
  • Viz Media – Gimmick! v9
  • Viz Media – Knights of the Zodiac v27
  • Viz Media – Wild Ones v8
  • Viz Media – Pokemon Diamond & Pearl v5

Chibi Vampire is a must, as it’s the final volume, and the same goes for Gimmick! Knights of the Zodiac: Saint Seiya is on the penultimate volume, and there is no way I am missing out seeing this title finish!  I still really enjoy Wild Ones even if no one else seems to, and Two Flowers for the Dragon has the double bonus of being good and having a good discount.

I hope Diamond lives up to their name, and keeps distributing the manga, not just comics, we love.  I can see the divide between manga and comic readers growing if Diamond continues to feel the need to cancel manga from their catalog.  And that’s something we really don’t need.  There is already a wide chasm, that those of us that read both can barely straddle.  We shouldn’t be forced to chose one over the other.

I Hate Being Good

When times get tough, and bank accounts become lean, that’s when you have to start slashing the non-essentials from the budget.  As much as I hate to say it, manga is one of those non-essentials.  With not much hope for recovery in the next six months, or if the state will be solvent (I live in California), that’s meant I’ve had to cut down on the manga I pre-order.  In happier, healthier times, my average order is 7-10 volumes, depending on who has what (ie Viz doesn’t flood me) or if there are title for others in the family (Husband and kids).  With pre-order discounts, that averages around $70 a month in manga.

Continue reading I Hate Being Good

Spoiled Rotten

I talk a lot about buying manga on this blog.  Living on a budget means that I have to make every manga dollar count, and get the best deals I can to keep up on the series’ I enjoy.  This is why I subscribe to Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat, watch for sales at Bookcloseouts.com, Deepdiscount.com, very occasionally search eBay, wait for 4-for-3 deals on Amazon.com, and trade.  So it’s no surprise, that the bulk of my collection is from Viz, because they have provided the best deals with tiered pricing that let me get more than the other publishers.  This fall, that’s all changing.

Continue reading Spoiled Rotten

Where'd that Paycheck Go?

I was pleasantly surprised when I got this month’s Previews catalog.  There are actually books (not just manga) that look interesting enough to get this month!  OMG!

Marvel, the company that we had just finished dropping ALL our titles for (mainly because they killed the Ultimate Universe) has two titles we’re going to check out this month.

Continue reading Where'd that Paycheck Go?

Previews Waffling

I haven’t done this for a while, and last month’s Previews had some tough choices for me, so I thought I’d talk about it a little.  There were a lot of titles I collect/want that were up for ordering last month.  It’s very hard to keep my numbers down when publishers do this to me.  (Yes, I do think they are all out to get me.)

It isn’t that publishers had a lot coming out.  There were just a lot of publishers that had titles I wanted.  Bandai, CMX, Del Rey, Tokyopop, Viz and Yen Press all had an average of 2 books.  Well, except Viz who always has at least 5-7 alone that I want.  Doing a quick tape of everything (less the Naruto wave I already said I would have to pass on), if I had ordered everything I read, it would have come to over $100, and that with my 30% discount!  Even in a good economy, that’s a lot for one month!  15 titles in all!

Continue reading Previews Waffling