Category Archives: Mini Musings

Short reviews of manga I’ve read.

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.

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Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan Vol 8 and Bakuman Vol 10

Two very different volumes are featured in this Shonen Jump edition of Mini Musings. We complete a trip to the past in Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, while Moritaka and Akito fight for their future in Shonen Jump in Bakuman. But only one of these titles gets my recommendation. Read on to find out which.

Continue reading Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan Vol 8 and Bakuman Vol 10

Bokurano Ours Volume 1 and Biomega Volume 5: Manga Movable Feast

As I looked through my piles of manga, I realized I had more unread Viz Signature titles than I thought. I actually have more, but these were single volumes and made for quick enough reads that I could get them in. While they are two different titles in tone, they do not differ very much when it comes to my reactions to them. I am a sci-fi fan, but can I be a fan of these two titles? Read on to find out.

Continue reading Bokurano Ours Volume 1 and Biomega Volume 5: Manga Movable Feast

Amnesia Labyrinth vol 2 and Dracula Everlasting vol 1

Playing catch-up doesn’t just mean reading manga, it also means writing reviews of titles I’ve read, but hadn’t got around to reviewing. So here are a couple of Seven Seas Entertainment titles that I’d read a while ago, but needed some time to figure out what I wanted to say.

Continue reading Amnesia Labyrinth vol 2 and Dracula Everlasting vol 1

Season’s Screaming: Only One Wish and xxxHolic

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. Here are two Del Rey Manga titles that try to fit into the Comeuppance Theater genre, but just don’t quite make the grade.
Continue reading Season’s Screaming: Only One Wish and xxxHolic

Vampire Cheerleaders/Paranormal Mystery Squad Volume 1

The Bakertown High School cheerleading squad has a secret: behind all their pretty make-up and short skirts are five hungry vampires who sure know how to show their school spirit!

When one of their own turns up missing, the senior cheerleaders have no other choice but to induct one of the eleventh grade girls from the B Squad into their vixenous ranks. But siring new recruit Heather Hartley is the easy part…keeping a sheltered virgin from not going wild and draining the entire football team on the eve of their big homecoming game is another matter!

Written by Adam Arnold; Art by Shiei and Comipa
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Comedy
Price: $10.99

I like Seven Seas Entertainment. Really, I do. They have a nice mix of original and licensed titles, with a very eclectic selection of genres. Sadly though, I didn’t like one of their biggest hits, AOI House. So I didn’t have high hopes for Vampire Cheerleaders when it was announced, but I was looking forward to Paranormal Mystery Squad. Boy, did I get those turned around.

Vampire Cheerleaders is just as cliché as it sounds. Good girl Heather is invited to join the ‘A’ cheerleading squad after one of its members goes missing. Once “initiated” into their coven, she goes wild with her new power and ends up draining the football team just before the big homecoming game, and the girls have to figure out a way to keep their team from losing.

Even though everything about the characters is cliché, from Heather’s strict parents, to Heather’s transformation from goody-two shoes to vamp, to all the clique-y in-fighting between the girls, to even the geeky best friend who knows the cheerleaders are vampires and get pushed by the wayside once Heather becomes popular, the story is mildly amusing. The characters are varied enough to be interesting. While I don’t generally like stories about popular clique girls, these girls were engaging enough to keep me from getting bored.

I was even intrigued by the coven’s leader Lori’s past (and not just because we share a name, though, she does spell it right) and her need to keep coming back to the school and have a “perfect senior year”. There seems to be something there. The art is nice and clean and the character designs are well done. I wouldn’t mind reading another story from this series.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Paranormal Mystery Squad is a whole ‘nother story.

Double-featuring with Vampire Cheerleaders is Paranormal Mystery Squad, written by Adam Arnold with art by Comipa, in a ghostbusting Aoi House spin-off.

Goth girl Stephanie Kane always thought she was special; that there was something different about her. It turns out that she’s the most normal person out there and everyone else around her is some kind of paranormal freak! Seriously: her sister is a werewolf, her best friend is a witch, and her next door neighbor is a dhampir. Together, this motley crew of unlikely friends travel the country in their trusty Winnebago in search of cryptids and all manner of supernatural beasties!

With a title like “Paranormal Mystery Squad”, I was hoping there would be some really mystery and at least interesting paranormal activity. I got neither. Instead I got characters that are completely unlikable, and a story that drags on and goes no where. There is absolutely no character in this story that I can find even tolerable. Stephanie and Katie are unpleasant and spiteful, the very definition of the word “bitch.” I just grew to hate them the more I read. And what I was reading was boring at best, and insulting at worst. About half way through, I kept hoping the story was over, but it just kept going. I think all the parts about women and their menstruation were supposed to be funny, but it really wasn’t. Even the title gets into the act. It’s exactly this kind of crude humor that I disliked in AOI House. I should get combat pay for making it to the end.

The art in this story was rough and uneven. Overall, the story a few (very few) decent moments. I did like the Ghostbusters reference, but it’s just not something I can recommend in good conscience. You couldn’t pay me to read another story in this series, which leaves me in a conundrum. How do I read the next Vampire Cheerleaders without supporting Paranormal Mystery Squad? Digital versions of the titles sold separately please, Seven Seas!

Rating: ½☆☆☆☆

Shonen Jump June/July 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speed Racer vol 1-2 and Project X: Cup Noodle

Speed Racer: Mach GoGoGo volume 1-2

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By Tatsuo Yoshida ♦ Digital Manga Publishing ♦ Teen ♦ Action ♦ $39.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Speed Racer is the son of famous race car engine builder “Pops” Racer. Speed wants to be a race car driver. Pops thinks it’s too dangerous. Speed decides to enter races anyway with a car Pops designed and build for him, the Mach 5. With the help of his girlfriend Trixie, best friend and mechanic Sparky, and some interference by his little brother Spridle and his pet/friend Chim Chim, Speed enters dangerous races to prove to Pops and the world that he is the best race car driver in the world.

This title is an unabridged printing of the original Mach GoGoGo manga, and was published to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the series. The stories in the manga involve Race participating in some dangerous race where his skills as a driver are tested, and he always defeats the villain. most of these were animated in the cartoon, and reading them was like going back in time to my childhood. It was very nostalgic. I could almost hear the voices from the cartoon as I read the chapters, fast talking and all. I really enjoyed the trip back to my childhood.

There were some problems though. First and foremost, these two volumes were more Speed Racer than Mach: GoGoGo. All the names in the stories used the localized, goofy American names, such as Inspector Detector. I really wanted to see a more accurate translation, with the characters using their Japanese names. This was a big disappointment. Also, Tatsuo Yoshida took some serious short cuts, reusing not just panels, but entire pages of art and dialog. In the chapters with Racer X, “Challenge of the Masked Racer” and “Most Dangerous Race”, the exact scenes with Speed and Racer X meeting are used, with the same dialog, to the point that I thought it was a printing error.

Overall, Speed Race: Mach Gogogo is a great piece of nostalgia for people in their forties, who remember sitting in front of the TV, sometimes without their parents knowledge or permission, and watching the cartoon. The hardback binding gives it a prestigious look. But that’s all it’s really worth; a piece of childhood to look back on and remember fondly.

Review copy provided by publisher

Project X: Cup Noodle

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By Tadashi Katoh ♦ Digital Manga Publishing ♦ All Ages ♦ Educational ♦ $12.95
Rating: ★★★★½

In the early 1970s, the Instant Ramen industry was like a war zone with many companies competing for market share and profits. Momofuku Andou, director of Nissan Foods Corporation had an idea for a revolutionary product to make instant ramen fast, convenient and portable. He assembled a team of researchers to come with this product, starting with the container, through noodle frying and condiments. Despite the many hurdles they had to get over, Andou remained resolute and finally created and sold a product that is known the world over; Cup Noodle.

Project X: Cup Noodle tells a fascinating tale of determination and ingenuity. Unlike Project X: Seven Eleven, this title really focuses on the people as well as the product. Not only do we see the research team working on the problems of coming up with a new container or taste testing the noodles, but we also see how the work affects their personal life. We see Masahiro Sasaki having nightmares of being buried in containers, and how troubled Toshiko Matsumoto was that her new husband Kunio wasn’t eating her cooking. These moments really made the title more personable, and the reader care more about the people and their project. The director of Nissan Foods, Momofuku Andou is shown as a real driving force for the project, but also as a fatherly figure to the research team. He always had some bit of advise, or would ask questions that would get the team’s mind working. Sometimes he had to taunt a little, but everything he did motivated the team to create the product he envisioned. He wasn’t idle either. Andou led the sales promotion on the “Pedestrian Paradise” in Ginza, and was just as enthusiastic there as with his team.

Project X: Cup Noodle is not only a story that is educational, it is also entertaining. The story moves at a good pace, never lingering too long on a problem. The team members are alway seen doing something such as experimenting with new techniques, and not just sitting around discussing the issues. I really enjoyed the epilogue, which listed all the disaster relief efforts that Nissan Food has contributed to with servings of Cup Noodle. I would recommend this title whether or not one is interested in business. It’s a good story filled with strength and determination that succeeds despite the odds.

Review copy provided by publisher

Wolf God vol 1 and Fafner: Dead Aggressor vol 1

Wolf God vol 1

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By Ai Tenkawa ♦ Digital Manga Publishing ♦ Teen ♦ Supernatural ♦ $12.99
Rating: ★★½☆☆

Kyounosuke will have to become the alpha of the Inugami clan unless his older brother Kokuyou returns. Believing his brother is more deserving to lead, Kyounosuke follows his scent to Tokyo where he meets Koyuki, a girl with no direction for her life, who helps Kyounosuke and unwittingly has a connection to Kokuyou. Kyonosuke will stop at nothing to find his brother, no matter the cost to him personally.

Continue reading Wolf God vol 1 and Fafner: Dead Aggressor vol 1