Category Archives: Manga Movable Feast

Hikaru no Go Volume 12-17: Manga Movable Feast

Hikaru has passed the Pro test, and is waiting to hear about his official schedule. In the meantime, Sai pesters him to let him play more, and Hikaru relents, allowing Sai to play Akira’s father in the Shindodan series with a handicap, and then again on the internet in an even game. Hikaru’s skills are growing fast, and Sai worries he won’t be able to remain with him for much longer. Just as Hikaru’s pro games start, something happens that causes him to have a crisis of faith, and nearly gives up on Go. But the return of Isumi, a fellow Insei from the previous year, shows Hikaru he hasn’t lost anything. Hikaru returns, more determined than before to not only be Akira’s rival, but to surpass him.

Hikaru no go 12Written by Yumi Hotta; Illustrated by Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Viz Media – Shonen Jump
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Gaming
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★

Hikaru no Go 13I started reading Hikaru no Go when it debuted in Shonen Jump back in 2004, and read it religiously until it was “graduated” out in 2008. Once it went to graphic novels, I stopped reading, as my acquiring of volumes was sporadic. I only finished collecting my missing volumes this last year. With the MMF schedule for this month, I put off reading the series until now to participate. I had thought this might be a series to pass on as part of my Manga Wrap Up, but after reading these 6 volumes, I have come to realize that this is not just a compelling series, it’s one that needs a spot on bookshelves.

Hikaru no Go 14Over the last 11 volumes, we have been watching Hikaru develop and grow into a Go player in his own right. Sai continues to want to play games, but now he is getting resistance from Hikaru, who wants to play more himself. In these 6 volumes, we see how much Hikaru takes Sai for granted. He assumes he’ll always be around to play, so he’d rather play other people. But after finally getting to play Koyo Toya, Sai sees something much different in the future. It really feels frustrating to see Sai almost pleading with Hikaru, and Hikaru just brushing him off as being annoying. But Hikaru is just acting like the kid he is, so while it’s not surprising, that doesn’t mean you still don’t want to smack him for it.

Hikaru no Go 15There are a lot of emotional punches in these volumes that stem from that not-so-distant future that Sai sees. It’s emotionally draining to see Hikaru running around to all the sites where Hon’inbo Shusaku, the boy Sai possessed before Hikaru, lived, played and died. It was just heartbreaking when he looked at old records of Shusaku’s and could see Sai’s moves in them. He not only realized Sai’s genius, but could truly appreciated it. The effect is devastating for both Hikaru and the reader. But all of the emotional moments are sad. After being talked into a game with Isumi, who has just spent a couple of months in China to improve his game, Hikaru has an epiphany, that not only shakes him out of his funk, but reignited his passion for Go, and seemingly for life. The final chapter of volume 17 is bittersweet as a sort of passing-of-the-baton occurs, but knowing that Hikaru will be alright now is worth it.

Hikaru no Go 16It’s these strong, emotional moments that really make Hikaru no Go such a compelling read. When a writer and artist came make the emotions they want to express feel real to the reader, they have truly succeeded in making a great story. Hotta and Obata do that, not just with Hikaru’s story, but with all the characters that are followed throughout this series. Obata’s art is beautifully rendered, and realism with which she draws just makes the emotional punches to the gut all the more stronger. I’m gonna miss Sai, with his Heien dress, and often cute expressions.

Hikaru no Go 17Because it had been so long since I read Hikaru no Go, I thought it would be a series I could let go. But after getting through this gantlet of an arc, I’ve come to realize that not only can I not let go of this series, but I must have it in print. It’s too good to relegate to a digital bookshelf. It needs to be on a bookshelf for all to see and reach for.

Giving Thanks: Manga Movable Feast

While I usually do reviews for the Manga Movable Feasts, this month’s topic, manga we are thankful for, definitely calls for something more. It was hard to try to think of a particular manga I was thankful for reading. I wasn’t really introduced to manga. I was already reading coming in Jr. High, and was introduced to anime fandom in high school, and US floppy comics editions of manga came with that. I bought my first Japanese manga, Dragon Ball, after seeing my boyfriend’s (now husband) collection. I didn’t buy my first US manga Dragon Knights, until 2003, and that was while looking around at our local comic shop. So I guess the first one I am thankful for is Comic Quest, who always had, and still does have, a good selection of manga. It was through them that I was able to start my manga collection and make it grow. We didn’t have a Borders or Barnes and Noble nearby at the time, so for several years, this was my only source of manga.

I am thankful to Viz for not just bringing out all the popular Shonen Jump titles, but also for their monthly magazines Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat. Both magazines introduced me to titles I might not have picked up and tried otherwise, especially Shojo Beat. At the time, I looked down on shojo manga as being girly and needlessly melodramatic. Shojo Beat showed me how wrong I was, and how great some of these manga can be. Nana and Godchild are the titles that turned me around. Now, shojo manga probably makes over half my collection, where before it was dominated with shonen.

I have to be thankful to Tokyopop and CMX for showing that Shueisha and Shogakukan weren’t the only publishers to put out good manga. Tokyopop brought out lots of great Kodansha titles such as Fruits Basket, Case Files of Young Kindaichi, and Sailor Moon. They are also responsible introducing CLAMP to the US, and dabbled in non-Japanese manga such as manhwa from Korea and their branded OEL manga from American creators. CMX for all it’s faults at the beginning, brought us some great shojo manga such as King of Cards, My Darling, Miss Bancho and Stolen Heats. The last two titles were never completed which leads me to my next things to be thankful for.

License rescues can be risky business, but for us fans that don’t get to see our favorite titles completed, they are something we are very thankful for. It’s a wonderful thing whenever a publisher announces the return of a series from a publisher that went belly up, because it means a book that went out of print becomes available again, can get a new translation, and may very well be completed! This isn’t always the case, such as Aria with Tokyopop, but we did get more than ADV Manga released, and that is better than nothing. While Yen Press and Viz has done some amazing license rescues lately, Jmanga has to get the biggest pat on the back with rescuing titles from CMX, Tokyopop and Kodansha! Being able to read more tactics and Fairy Navigator Runa is just awesome.

I’m thankful that publishers have come to realize that there are older readers who want something more sophisticated than what a shojo or shonen manga can provide. Tokyopop short forays into josei manga such as Suppli, and the whole Viz Signature line with includes both josei and seinen manga such as Dorohedoro and Ooku: The Inner Chamber have been great for us readers who want mature to mean something more than sexually graphic.

Lastly, I’m thankful to the manga blogging community who helped either directly or indirectly in creating this blog so I could write this post. Brigid Alverson and her Manga Blog that introduced me to the manga blogging community and got me my first reviewing gig, and Craig Johnson of Manga Life/Comics Village for giving me the opportunity. Thanks to John Thomas, Dan Polly, Charles Tan, Katherine Farmar, and Justin Colussy-Estes for writing for Comics Village/Manga Village, and to Alex Hoffman and Amy Groki for continuing to do so. Thanks to everyone who gave words of encouragement and advice, and who even just read my blog. I wouldn’t be here without any of you.


Chibi Vampire: Airmail and Bites

Chibi Vampire is a title I ended up really enjoying. So, after finishing the series, I picked up the two spin-off volumes that came out after the title finished publication here in the US; Airmail and Bites. While both return you to the world of Karin and her family and friends, they do have their ups and downs.

Continue reading Chibi Vampire: Airmail and Bites

Dracula Everlasting Volume 2: Manga Movable Feast

Nicholas Harker discovered he is heir to the legacy of an ancestor he never knew he had: Dracula. Under his progenitor’s evil influence, Nicholas has begun, with a vast fortune at his disposal, to rebuild Castle Dracula in the outskirts of Boston, leaving behind a wake of corpses. While the love of Jill Hawthorne seems to be the only thing that weakens Dracula’s hold over Nicholas, Mason Renfield realizes he must remove her from the picture, in order to usher in the full reemergence of his dark lord. But Jill’s new friend, the fiery wiccan Cate, has plans of her own—to destroy Nicholas and avenge her mother’s death.

Story by Nunzio De Filippis & Christina Weir; Art by Rhea Silvan
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

After reading volume 1 of Dracula Everlasting, I had some doubts about the series. I was under the impression that Nick was to be the protagonist, but this volume proves that isn’t the case. Cate and to some extent Jill are the ones to really move the story. While I do like good, strong female characters, as Cate and Jill are portrayed, I imagined a different story in my head. It’s not that this story is bad. It’s just not what I expected.

Cate, who was introduced half way through volume one, takes the initiative in this volume. She does the research and the footwork to put together an arsenal of holy water, silver bullets and stakes to use against Dracula. She also finds the Van Helsing who will be needed to defeat the vampire. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise who is it. Sadly she discovers this too late for Detective McAllister, who was her initial candidate. His spirit is still around, whether because of magic or his unsolved murder is unknown, but I do hope he comes in handy later. It’s too bad he’s gone. He and Cate make a cute couple.

The one person who isn’t much help is Jill. She knows something is up with Nick, but doesn’t do anything about it. She lets him kiss her, and then lets him push her away. Nick is stupid to use Jill as he does with just getting a touch from her and then bailing, but Jill should have been more assertive with him. He’s obviously easily dominated. When Cate mentions her mother was killed by Dracula/Nick, Jill asks which victim she was without batting an eye. I’m glad Cate calls her on it, but she doesn’t have a good response. I thought she was smart, but she falls too easily for Mason’s advances. Again, it’s Cate who has to verbally smack her to get her to wake up. I get that she doesn’t believe Cate about her connection to the whole Dracula thing, but I really didn’t like that it took killing her mother for her to finally accept it.

The middle volume in a three-volume series is usually the weakest, as it has to either keep the status quo, or be the dark before the dawn. This volume is the latter, but I enjoyed this one more than the first. Now that I realize that Nick is not the main character, but that the girls Jill and Cate are, the story makes more sense. It’s nice to have a “Prince in distress” for a change. Though, I think the story I originally thought this would be, the internal struggle between Nick and Dracula, would still be interesting, if Nick had the will power. Another plus was that there were only a few scenes with the Renfields, which also included a possible foreshadowing of some just desserts for Mason.

I did like this second volume of Dracula Everlasting, but Cate was its saving grace. Without her, this would have been very dull with Jill doing nothing and Nick being the Prince of Darkness, asking why it’s so important to dispose of a body, and shaking an old man fist at the cell phone. The lack of vampire action was a little disappointing too. There was only one on-screen kill, and the battle at the end. I’m gonna stick around to see the end of this series. I want to see the girls take out Dracula and find out if they can save the (cute) boy.

Digital review copy provided by publisher.

Blood Alone Volumes 1-3: Manga Movable Feast

For recently turned vampire Minato Misaki, vampirism and the beastly powers that come with it are something that she wouldn’t wish upon her worst enemy, let alone her beloved Kuroe. But Kuroe’s supernatural investigations make him a regular target of not only vampires but of all sorts of undead creatures of the night. The only way to save him from these deadly threats may be to do the one thing that Misaki fears the most: to turn Kuroe into a vampire for his own protection.

By Masayuki Takano
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Vampires/Horror
Price: $15.99
Rating: ★★★★★

I’ve had this volume in my review pile for a while, and kept meaning to read it. I’d heard a lot of good things about it, and after reading a review of it for the Manga Movable Feast I hosted last year, I was really interested, but I am easily distracted, and it was soon buried by the growing review pile. With this month’s MMF being about vampires, it seemed the perfect time to dig it out. And I’m really glad I did. Blood Alone isn’t the typical vampire series with a lot of angst and melodrama. Instead, it is populated with rich, interesting characters and a story that is a mix of slice of life and murder mystery with a sprinkling of vampires.

Blood Alone revolves around Kuroe, a former Vampire Hunter and Misaki, a young vampire girl. It might seem like an odd pairing, until you get to know them. As the story begins, we don’t know how long they’ve been together, but it’s obviously been a while, as they are comfortable with each other and have a set routine. Masaki isn’t a vampire who just looks like a 10 to 12-year-old girl, she actually is still a tween. She doesn’t like to sleep alone, is afraid of thunder, and can be melodramatic. She has a big time crush on Kuroe, and is quick to get jealous when any other women speak to him. She is sweet and innocent in a charming kind of way. She doesn’t like being a vampire and hates having to drink blood. She doesn’t know much about her new abilities, so it’s cute when she tries them on Kuroe for the first time.

Kuroe appears rather laid back. He is a writer, but to cover bills between books he also works as a private investigator, taking jobs as varied as finding a lost cat to being a bodyguard. He appears unassuming, but he’s actually a well-trained fighter and seems to have quite a reputation in the vampire community. He is absolutely devoted to Masaki, often worrying about her when she goes off on her own, and trying to give her time alone with him. His feeling for her however are much more of a brotherly kind. Kuroe doesn’t appear to have an interest in anyone romantically. He was infatuated with his older sister, who was taken by a vampire several years earlier, and is probably the reason he became a Vampire Hunter. He does have a special ability that he earned while trying to save his sister. His eyes were wounded by the vampire, and now he can see when something is trying to be something it isn’t. And he’s immune to vampire tricks. A rather useful trait for a vampire hunter.

Assisting Kuroe and Masaki is an interesting supporting cast. Sayaka Sainome is a long time friend of Kuroe’s who is the head of a police forensics department. She often asks Kuroe for help in cases where the supernatural might be involved. She is also Masaki’s potentially biggest rival for Kuroe’s attention. Higure is an elder vampire who looks like a boy, but is really very old. He controls the vampire territory where Kuroe and Misaki live, helping Misaki learn about her vampiric powers and tolerating Kuroe. Sly is an underworld figure who is a friend of both Kuroe and Misaki who also happens to be a vampire. He helps them out with information. His partner is a cat named Larry. While it doesn’t seem right to call any cat “owned” by a human, it seems especially inappropriate for Larry.

The stories range from slice of life stories, such as Misaki’s humming inspiring a down and out musician to write again, to murder mysteries, with Sayaka and Kuroe hunting down a serial killer’s soul, to action with Kuroe fighting a vampire guild of assassins. The mix of stories keeps the series from getting boring or bogged down, as it never spends too much time on any vampire angst. The side characters get some attention too. Sayaka gets a story to work out issues she had with her deceased father. What I really enjoyed about this omnibus, was how easy it was to get lost in volume. At three volumes it was the perfect length, and the kinds of stories covered made for a perfect introduction to the characters and the world. The art is beautifully rendered as well. The characters never get too silly looking. All of their emotions are handled realistically, without being too realistic.

Blood Alone is exactly the kind of vampire title I’ve been looking for. It has a strong and varied range of characters and stories to suit. It has its own vampire mythos that doesn’t stray far from established canon, and doesn’t dwell on the angst of being a vampire. It acknowledges it without letting it overwhelm the story. This is a great title for readers who want more from their vampires than just killing things or moping. I highly recommend it.

Digital review copy provided by publisher.

Otomen Volume 1-5: Manga Movable Feast

Asuka Masamune enjoys the girly things in life, such as sewing and cooking. But due to a traumatic event that happened with his father when he was young, he can’t ever let his mother know about this side of himself. In fact, he thinks he can’t let anyone know, and so he plays the part of a stoic manly man, excelling in kendo and reading Bushido. But there is one person in his class who does know about the real Asuka; Juta Tachibana. He is a mangaka, and has created a popular series using Asuka as the model for his female lead. In order to further his manga, he encourages Asuka get closer to Ryo, a new girl at their school that Asuka has fallen for. As his relationship with Ryo slowly develops, Asuka meets other otomen and learns he isn’t alone.

By Aya Kanno
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

When Otomen first came out, I wasn’t impressed by the premise or the preview that ran in Shojo Beat at the time. I also didn’t care for Kanno’s previous title Blank Slate, so I didn’t have a lot of hope for this new one. A podcast review convinced me to re-evaluate and give the series a try. I’m glad I did. Otomen is cute and funny, and is more comedy than romance.

What really makes Otomen is the characters. When Asuka is first introduced, he looks the part of the manly man. Strong and silent, dressed in this kendo robes, he looks like he could have stepped out of a shonen manga. And then he starts to fall for Ryo, and his true self comes out. I love the scene with him after going on a “girly” spending spree and bringing home all kinds of crafty things and shojo manga. His despair over this is made more funny when he puts together a stuffed bear without really realizing his was doing it! I really enjoy the role reversal that Kanno has created with Asuka. He is very much the shojo lead, as all his inner thoughts and turmoil are shared with the reader. He even blushes a lot like most shojo leads. I really love Asuka’s dichotomy of still being a man while having all of these traditionally female hobbies. If only more men could be like him.

Surrounding Asuka is quite a cast of characters. Ryo, his love interest, complements him well. She can’t cook, or clean, and is hopeless at sewing and crafts. She has a masculine outlook, and though she says she prefers manly men, she doesn’t mind his feminine ways. She often takes the traditional male role such as being the brave one in a haunted house, or riding in on a white horse to rescue him from an arranged marriage. Juta Tachibana is a bit of a playboy, and has been orchestrating a lot of Asuka and Ryo’s relationship for the sake of his shojo manga, “Love Chick.” He will go to any length to get good material for his manga, including playing a rival for Ryo’s affections, breaking and entering Asuka’s potential bride, and staying outside the old school building in a blizzard so Asuka and Ryo can be alone in a romantic Christmas moment. He is also adament about not letting his real identity get out, and is even willing to dress up as a woman to keep it secret. I think in a lot of ways, Juta is the first fellow Otoman that Asuka meets.

And there are more otomen out there. Asuka’s self-proclaimed kendo rival, Hajime Tonomine turns out to have a secret passion for makeup and giving women makeovers. They end up working together when they are asked to help out at a women’s event and don the costumes of members of the Harakiri Ronin Samurai Five, and then volunteer to give a makeover when the artist gets stuck in traffic. I love when manga references Tokusatsu shows, so I really enjoyed this chapter in volume 3, and was thrilled when they made a come back in volume 5. Then there’s Kitora Kurokawa, who loves flowers too much. He is very tall and since he doesn’t talk much is seen by the other girls as mysterious. His weakness is wanting to cover beautiful things in flowers, which includes Ryo, Asuka, Hajime and even Juta.

The story starts out focusing on Asuka and Ryo and Juta using them for his manga, but then shifts toward more with discovering more otomen. I’m glad the story did start to shift, because Asuka and Ryo’s relationship really wasn’t going anywhere by volume 3, so it really needed something more. But I did start to miss hearing about developments for Love Chick, and really enjoyed the chapter in volume 5 where Juta has to accept an award, and has to come up with a way to do with revealing he’s really a man as his editor wants, and he’s rescued by his idol mangaka. Kanno also does a good job of balancing Asuka’s two sides, the masculine and feminine. He can be really cute sometimes when he blushing, and others thinking he’ll make a good wife. But he’s still a man and it still comes through when he leaps to action to save Ryo from a bull, a bomb, or a little boy from falling out a window. Asuka is the ideal man.

Otomen is a great series, filled a lot of great characters and funny situations. It’s romantic comedy at its best, because it is so unconventional in its material. I look forward to reading more about Asuka, Ryo, Juta and the rest of the otomen. And since this title is available on Viz’s manga site, I can just right back in where I left off without overloading the bookshelf. If you want some light, fun reading, definitely pick this title up.

Wanted: Manga Movable Feast-Arrr!

Arr, it be that time o’ year again. Aye matey, it be Talk Like o’ Pirate Day! To shiver yer timbers, I be reviewin’ a pirate manga that also be fittin’ in ta da Movable Manga Feast this month. So grab yerself a bottle o’ rum ‘n find out about Wanted Arrrr…

In the Mediterranean at the end of the 17th century, former songstress Armeria disguises herself as a boy and boards the ship of the pirate Skulls–the man who kidnapped Luce, her first love. Captain Skulls is arrogant, violent, and a skirt chaser! And unfortunately for Armeria, he discovers she’s a woman…

By Matsuri Hino
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $8.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

My introduction to Hino’s work was through the serialization of her most current title Vampire Knight in Shojo Beat. I really didn’t care for it, so when this volume came out, I had little interest in it. But, curiosity got the better of me, and I picked it up. I am slightly surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did, but it is about as different from Vampire Knight as night is to day.

The thing I disliked most about Vampire Knight is the way drama oozed from every pore of every character. The characters in Wanted are the exact opposite. Armeria doesn’t just sit around bemoaning her loss or wait for Luce to come for her. She take the initiative, disguising herself as a man and joins different ships searching for the pirates that kidnapped him eight years ago. Armeria is spunky and headstrong. She is determined to remain on the ship with Skulls until she finds Luce, and she doesn’t let his barbs get her down.

Skulls, the pirate captain, tries to come off as a scoundrel and a ladies man, but he is essentially a good person. He saves Armeria several times, and only robs from nobles who take advantage of the people and then give the wealth back to them. He is like a pirate Robin Hood and his crew are his Merry Men. And it’s a motley crew of merry men at that. They are never formally introduced, but there are a few that are featured in the chapters. His first mate, Second, is a big, shirtless, bald black man who knows his captain all too well. Doc is an older man who like the father figure of the crew, and Fourth and Fifth, crewmen skilled in sailing and swordsmanship. The names aren’t very original, but they are all fun none the less.

There are three chapters about Armeria and Skulls, and a bonus chapter that takes place in Meiji Japan. I really enjoyed the pirate chapters. They were light and fun. There is swashbuckling, raiding, cannon fire, battles with the navy, and secret treasure; everything that makes pirate stories fun. I didn’t care so much for the bonus chapter. It has the same feel as the Wanted chapters, but it just didn’t work as well for me. It moved too fast for me to really believe it, though I did kind of like the characters.

The art is very Hino, with the girls having big eyes and the men all being bishonen. And the hair is everywhere. But I was fine with it in this volume. The characters were different and varied enough that it didn’t get on my nerves. It was to have a beard, dreadlocks and even no hair at all!

Wanted is a fun romp for a romantic pirate adventure. I liked the relationship between Arto (Armeria) and Skulls. I love that they are always at odds. Even though Skulls’ identity was pretty obvious, it’s reveal didn’t ruin the story. So matey, if ye be wantin’ some good pirate romance, be pickin’ up Wanted!

St. Dragon Girl Volumes 1-5: Manga Movable Feast

Momoka Sendou (nicknamed “Dragon Girl”) and Ryuga Kou are childhood friends. Momoka is a martial artist, and Ryuga is a Chinese magic master who banishes demons. In order to increase his power, Ryuga calls on the spirit of a dragon to possess him, but the spirit enters Momoka instead. Now the two must unite forces and fight demons together!

By Natsumi Matsumoto
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

St. Dragon Girl is a title that has two things going for it. Dragons and a couple that denies their feelings for each other. While the second thing is a bit of a trope for shojo titles, I can’t help having a soft spot for their kind of relationship; the childhood friends who tease, bait and strike back.

The female lead of this story, Momoka, has a lot of tomboy traits. Her father is the head of a kenpo dojo, so she is constantly practicing, and is even an instructor. She will take on anyone who threatens her friends, spirits and demons, and even teachers! But she has one weakness; pandas. Ever since she received a stuffed panda as gift from Ryuga, she has loved them, and Ryuga as well. Momoka knows how she feels about Ryuga, but doesn’t want to tell him, thinking he’ll tease her and not return her feelings.

Ryuga, the male lead, comes from a family of Chinese magic masters, and is gifted in the arts as well. He is often being asked to tell fortunes, perform prayers or make charms. Where Momoka is more gung-ho and charging into a situation without thinking, Ryuga is the calm, thoughtful one. He is always having to protect his cousin Shuran, a gifted psychic that demons are always coming after. He comes to Momoka’s rescue as well, usually when her thoughtless gets her in over her head. He is constantly teasing Momoka, which can get him a fist or kick to the face, but he can sometimes counter with his spell Paper Army Formation made up of pandas. Ryuga can be serious at times, letting slip little comments that can be interpreted as his having feelings for Momoka too, but he usually denies them, or changes their meaning by the end of the chapter, to keep her from learning the truth; that he really does love her too.

And since they continue to deny their feelings, this leaves rooms for rivals for their affections to step in. Momoka get the most, starting with Ryuga’s cousin Kouryu, who tries to kidnap Momoka and take her back to China. He’s arrogant and egotistical, and I still didn’t like him ever after the explanation of his back story. Touya is another boy who has a crush on Momoka, but turns out to have a deeper secret. He ends up hanging around though, as thorn in Ryuga side. Even Saint Dragon, the dragon possessing Momoka has him moment of infatuation, but it doesn’t last. It doesn’t stop Ryuga from still feeling jealous.

Ryuga has his suitors as well. Raika is a distant relative of Ryuga’s who wants to be his fiance. She ends up being friends with Momoka after she realizes the truth of Ryuga’s feelings for her. Akira is another new member of the Kendo club. She is a Onmyouji, as well as a competitor for Ryuga’s affections, though he doesn’t really acknowledge her beyond being a friend. She likes to use her magic to take over Momoka’s body and make it move to her will.

While I really like the ensemble of characters that have gathered through these five volumes, it’s the mythical creatures that keep appearing that really won me over. I love the dragons, and they are drawn so gorgeously and with such care! There’s also a phoenix that appears that is cute in human form, and beautiful in bird form, and a mermaid and cat demons. The variety of beasts is great and just as entertaining as the characters!

The stories are mostly stand alone at the beginning, and are fairly light. They mostly involve demons coming after Shuran, or school activities such as Kendo club or the school festival. As the series goes on though, it does start to get more serious and move into longer stories lasting more than one chapter, but Ryuga and Momoka’s relationship remains on the teeter-totter of admitting/denying their feelings.

St. Dragon Girl is a fairly light and fun romance. Matsumoto’s artwork is beautiful to look at (especially the dragons), and she uses a lot of great Chinese costuming, making the series another plus in my book. There is next to no drama, and the comedy is well-timed with the more serious moments. I can’t think of a single complaint I have about this series. Even the constant denial of the leads doesn’t bother me, but they have great chemistry, it wouldn’t matter to me if they ever got together or not. While the series is rated for teens, tweens will enjoy this series as well. Definitely read this series if you get the chance.

RG Veda Volume 1-10

At the dawn of creation, gods and men walked together in Tenkai, the place between heaven and earth. The former God-King Tentei was betrayed by his general Taishakuten and killed along with the most powerful Guardian Warrior, Ashura. Now, Taishakuten rules Tenkai with an iron hand, killing the entire clan for one person’s opposition to him. A prophesy foretells the end of Taishakuten’s rule, and it starts with the awakening of the last of the Ashura tribe by Lord Yasha, king of the Yasha tribe. These two being a journey filled with blood and tragedy, as they try to end Taishakuten’s rule while defying prophesy.

Publisher: Tokyopop
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

And the quest continues to find a CLAMP series I like. Right now it’s one yay, one nay, and one abstention. This series will be the tie-breaker, and is the last CLAMP series I own. It’s also the first CLAMP series I ever bought, and completing it took a while, so it was easy to put off. This Manga Movable Feast motivated me to finally read it. RG Veda is CLAMP’s debut series as professional manga artists, and tells the story of ancient gods and humans and the struggle against destiny, in the vein of the Hindu Veda text. And while I was warned off this series on Twitter, I found I really enjoyed it.

RG Veda follows Lord Yasha, the Guardian Warrior of the North, as he goes on a journey with Ashura, the last of the Ashura clan, in defiance of the God King Taishakuten. They follow a prophesy that is believed to foretell the end of Taishakuten’s reign, gathering “the Six Stars”, others who hold a grudge against Taishakuten. Meanwhile, Taishakuten is trying to stop them, as he send his “Four Gods”, powerful warriors and their armies after them, killing anyone who gets in his way. But stopping Taishakuten isn’t really the point of the journey. There is another purpose that isn’t revealed until the end, but like life, the story isn’t really about the destination, but the journey.

What really makes the story fun to read is the characters, and there is quite a cast of them. Lord Yasha is the strong, stoic hero, who can be dense sometimes, but is deeply loyal to his friends and family and keeps his promises. He is also a bit of a softy when it comes to Ashura, who he develops and father-son relationship with. Ashura as he is seen through most of the series, is a sensitive boy. He cares greatly for his friends, and feels it personally when someone dies because of him or for him. There is another personality within Ashura we’ll call Dark Ashura, that doesn’t care about anyone, or anything other than causing destruction. Ashura doesn’t know about this side of him, and Dark Ashura only pops up occasionally until the end. The relationship between these two is really the focus of the series. Yasha sacrifices everything for Ashura, who he is told is destined to kill him. At first Yasha does this for a promise he made, but soon really does care for the boy. Ashura is able to grow and become stronger thanks to Yasha’s faith and love for him, which all leads to the climatic ending.

Joining Yasha and Ashura are the prophesied “Six Stars.” Souma is the last of her tribe which was killed by Taishakuten because of the ability to give immortality to one person, and was saved by Lady Kendappa, the Royal Musician. Souma acts as scout and spy, gathering information for the group. Lord Ryuu of the Dragon Tribe, is there for the comedy relief mostly, joining so he can become and better fighter and take on Yasha in a duel. He and Ashura become friends, as Ryuu is the closest in age to him. Jukaju adds a lot of comedy relief as well. He isn’t one of the stars, but is more of an observer, giving out clues to Yasha about the prophesy they seek to fulfill. Lady Karura of the Karura tribe has deep grudge against Taishakuten, and who can blame her. He kidnapped her weak sister, forced her to sing with her last breath before Karura and then fed her body to his pets.

Speaking of Taishakuten, there is no other way to describe him than to say he’s a total bastard. What he did to Karura sister is a prime example. All the way through to volume 5, that is exactly how he acts. I thought he was going to be one of those rare pure evil villains in manga. But starting in volume 6, there are hints that he might not be as bad as he seems. Even after his past is explained, I don’t buy it. He’s still a bastard. He ruthlessly kills Karura and Kisshouten, saying he was doing them a favor. He claims that he’s doing what he’s doing to keep the Six Stars from gathering, but if anything, he’s just encouraging them! I think he just wants to fight Ashura, and isn’t really serious about stopping them. The general he sends after them, Koumokuten, is closer to comedy relief, and his minions, the elemental gods, ARE comedy relief. He doesn’t want anyone to kill Ashura but himself.

I really enjoyed RG Veda. I love myths and legends, and this story is very much in that vein. It feels like a myth you would here Joseph Campbell talking about. The story’s theme, that love can overcome all, even destiny, is very much in the tradition of the Arthurian legends and courtly love. The fact that the lovers are two men, well that is definitely more of CLAMP touch. While it’s mostly action and drama, there a good moments of humor to break the tension and keep the story from being a complete downer. A lot of people die that you want to see live. There are also a lot of twists! The last two volumes are one twist after another, nearly giving me whiplash, but they were well planned and executed. I totally did not expect the reveal of the God of the East, even though the signs were there. What made these twists work is the way CLAMP played with the reader’s expectations and kept the changes in character. So while the twists were a surprise, they weren’t a shock.

One of the things I use as a meter for how much I like a title is how involved I get in the story and characters, and I got really involved with RG Veda. Every person who died for Ashura and Yasha only made me want to see them succeed more. When Karyoubinga was killed, I felt Karura’s grief and anger. That moment moved Taishakuten from jerk to bastard, and he became unforgivable. The stronger I feel about a story and or characters, the more likely I’m to enjoy the story. And I felt very strongly about these characters and their journey. The art is filled with lots of beautiful men and women with long flowing hair and ornamental jewelry. Everything I love in a fantasy manga.

I had my doubts at first, but RG Veda has won me over, and my count goes to 2 yays, one nay, and one abstention. So I can now say I have read and do like some CLAMP titles. But I can now also see the polarizing effect it can have on people. The two titles I’ve liked the most, are also the two I’ve heard the least good about from other reviewers. But that’s okay, I’m not one to jump on a bandwagon. I do tend to want to check things out that people are talking about, but I’ll still make my own decision about how I feel. And that’ what I love about these Manga Moveable Feasts. I’ve read more titles that I probably wouldn’t have without them. I am more likely now to try out other CLAMP titles as well, with Card Captor Sakura being at the top of my list. If only Dark Horse had their omnibuses available in digital format.

Gate 7 Volume 1

An innocent sightseeing trip to Kyoto opens up a magical realm to shy high schooler Chikahito Takamoto. Visiting a legendary shrine, Chikahito stumbles into the mystical world of Hana and her comrades–and his immunity to their powers leads them to believe that he’s no ordinary awkward teenager! Protecting our world from violent supernatural creatures, Hana and her team welcome the confused Chikahito–who isn’t quite sure that he wants to be caught in the middle of their war!

Publisher: Dark Horse Manga
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $10.99

This series is my third attempt to find a CLAMP series I like. The first volume of xxxHolic didn’t thrill me, but I did enjoy the last two volumes of Kobato enough to want to find the rest. Gate 7 is CLAMP’s newest series  and one I thought would have a lot of potential for me. It’s fantasy, the cover is very pretty with flowers and a pheasant, and it takes place in Kyoto. And I might still like it, but while this first volume makes the introductions, I really don’t have any idea what is going on.

Gate 7 starts by introducing Chikahito, a high schooler with an overprotective mother, who has dreamed of going to Kyoto. When he finally convinces his mother to let him go, he stumbles into a battle between a young girl and two men and some supernatural creatures. Chikahito reacts in a most realistic way. He faints. He doesn’t really understand what is going on, and the three don’t explain much either, and try to erase his memories of them, but fail. Three months later, Chikahito is back as a transfer student, thanks to some magic Hana, the young girl, pulled off. He goes to live with Hana and her partners Sakura and Tachibana. We get some history of the Toyotomi clan with a supernatural spin and the volume ends with another battle.

There is a lot said in this first volume of Gate 7, but very little is explained. “Inou” users are introduced, but it isn’t explained what they are, though through two battles it is shown what they do. Oni connected to historical figures and passed down through blood lines is actually a pretty cool concept, but it isn’t connected with the Inou users other than they can see the oni. There was a lot of information thrown out for the reader, and some of it might be interesting enough to be a hook, but it comes off as random, and left me wondering more what was going on rather than what was going to happen next.

I did like the characters. Chikahito’s confusion was not only realistic, it was understandable. I felt as lost as he did, and while relating to a character is good, I don’t think it should be to this degree in this case. His enthusiasm and preconceived notions of Kyoto were fun and cute. Hana is very child-like, and nearly borders on annoying, but fortunately doesn’t cross the line. Hana’s partners Sakura and Tachibana are typical bishonen, with personalities that match their powers. Sakura is light, so he’s more friendly while Tachibana is dark, so he’s more serious.

For now, I’m going to take a “wait and see” stance with Gate 7. I’m going to need at least one, maybe two more volumes before I know for sure how I feel about it. But at least I *want* to read a few more volumes before making a decision, unlike xxxHolic, where I was sure by the end that it didn’t interest me that much. Hopefully things will become more clear in the next volume. There are a lot of questions I want to see answered, though not all of them have to be done immediately. That’s the difference between this title and xxxHolic for me. I want to know more about this world and it’s characters.

Vagabond Volume 1

Shinmen Takezo is destined to become the legendary sword-saint, Miyamoto Musashi-perhaps the most renowned samurai of all time. For Takezo is a cold-hearted killer, who will take on anyone in mortal combat to make a name for himself. This is the journey of a wild young brute who strives to read enlightenment by way of the sword-fighting on the edge of death.

By Takehiko Inoue; Based on the novel “Musashi” by Eiji Yoshikawa
Publisher: Viz Media/Viz Signature
Age Rating: Mature
Genre: Historical
Price: $12.95
Rating: ★★★★☆

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Takehiko Inoue’s Vagabond. I had read an excerpt of it a few years ago in a Viz Signature sampler I got at SDCC, but it didn’t really interest me then. Based on recommendations however, I picked up volume 1 to see what everyone was talking about. It’s filled with a lot of great action and drama, but I think I have to go with my original reaction and say this is not a series for me.

Vagabond starts out at the end of the battle of Sekigahara, a pivotal battle in Japanese history that gave the Tokugawa control of the shogunate. Shinmen Takezo and his childhood friend Hon’iden Matahachi, seventeen-year-olds looking to make a name for themselves, have somehow survived. Wounded, they search for shelter to recover while being chased by Refuge Hunters. They are found by a woman, Oko, and her daughter living alone in the mountains. Takezo kills the leader of a band of robbers who harass Oko, but it’s Matahachi who takes her and runs off, leaving Takezo with the responsibility of telling Matahachi’s mother and fiancée of his decision.

I’m not quite sure what I was looking for in this first volume, but I felt ambivalent through most of it. Takezo’s journey doesn’t have to auspicious a start. He somehow survives the battle at Sekigahara, including nearly being trampled by several horsemen. He fights off Refuge hunters and a band of thieves, ends up being deserted by Matahachi and betrayed by that Matahachi’s mother when he goes to tell her what has become of Matahachi. The Hon’iden family are jerks. He seems to have a way with the ladies, even if he doesn’t seem interested. Both Oko and her daughter Akemi seem to like Takezo more than Matahachi, and when pressed by Matahachi’s mother, Otsu, Matahachi’s fiancée, couldn’t agree with her that she hates Takezo.

The one thing he does know is how to fight. With either a sword or a stick and some rocks, no one who tries to kill Takezo seems to come out of it alive. He takes on practically the whole Tsujikage gang alone, as Matahachi proves to be more of a lover than a fighter. There are several pages that run black from all the blood and severed body parts. This is very much not a story for the faint of heart. Inoue has no problems with showing every graphic detail. I don’t really have a problem with the realism, it just doesn’t appeal to me personally. I read to escape the real world, not to relive it.

One thing I did enjoy was Takezo’s character design. He is very much the brash older teen with wild hair, and piercing eyes that make one think twice about taking him on. I really didn’t care for the look of most of the other characters, but their designs matched their personalities, which should tell you how I felt about a lot of them. Matahachi lacks the look of confidence he thinks he has after making his first kill, and Granny Hon’iden is as ugly on the inside as the outside. All of the characters are drawn realistically, but still seem just off enough to not feel real.

For a historical drama, Vagabond hits all the right marks. It’s gritty and realistic look does make it feel like the 15th Century Japan. The action hits hard and fast, and the drama feels as real as it looks. But in the end, it’s just not a series that interests me. while I like Takezo, the rest of the characters and the story didn’t engage me. This is how I felt when I first read the preview chapter, and now having read a whole volume, I can say nothing much has changed. If you enjoy this kind of story though, I would highly recommend it.

Neko Ramen Volume 1

Taisho was a former kitten model, who ran away from home and had a hard life on the streets…until the day he was saved by a kind ramen shop owner who later served as his mentor. Now Taisho takes pride in his noodles…and is easily angered when customers are dissatisfied! So step aside, Soup Nazi – there’s a new cat in town!

Continue reading Neko Ramen Volume 1