Category Archives: Reviews

Hikaru no Go Volume 18-23: Manga Movable Feast

After a short break with a series of short stories, the action starts back up with Hikaru hungry to climb the Pro ladder and start competing at the same level as Akira. Hokuto Communications, a telecom, decides to sponsor a Go tournament for young pros from Japan, Korea and China called the Hokuto Cup. Akira is a shoe in, but Hikaru has to fight for a place on the three-man team. When the tournament finally starts, it’s a battle of wills, ego, and pride.

Hikaru no Go 18Written by Yumi Hotta; Art by Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Viz Media – Shonen Jump
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Game
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

While I really enjoyed the previous six volumes, these six volumes which also finish the series were not as strong. It was really great to see Hikaru get his fire back, but the short stories, while cute, took away from the building excitement of seeing Hikaru play again, and the Hokuto Cup was too much drama and not enough intense play, which is what has been so addicting about the story.

Hikaru no go 19After the end of volume 17, the story doesn’t pick up immediately. Instead, we are treated to 5 stories that feature mostly side characters, in times of their lives before or after they meet Hikaru. For the most part, these are good stories. I enjoyed seeing how things were for Akira right up to before he and Hikaru played their first game. I also liked seeing what led up to Yuki’s game with Dake, and what’s like to try to date as an Insei with Asumi. While I enjoyed these stories for what they were, their placement in the middle of the series didn’t feel right. These were stories that were better off as bonus stories to fill at the end of volumes, or as a filler at the end. They didn’t feel so well after such an emotional moment at the end of volume 17. I didn’t want to be entertained with cute stories, I wanted to get back to seeing Hikaru play.

Hikaru no Go 20And in Volume 19 that is precisely what we get. Hikaru is playing to make up for the lost time from all the games he missed while in his slump. He takes no prisoners, especially against Pros, as he continues his race up the ladder. In his rematch against Gokiso 7 Dan, the pro Hikaru beat back in volume 12 with Sai’s help. This time, he doesn’t need any help to take this haughty pro down. He gets his first real taste of defeat when he goes up against his teacher Morishita, who shows Hikaru a player can have more than one face, and more that one style of play. Morishita’s advice to Hikaru is forthright, and it along with some other things said hint at a possibly broader arc coming up, but instead, the story goes into the Hokuto Cup.

Hikaru no Go 21The final volumes of the series show the prelims in Japan, and the tournament itself. As a lead up to it, a reporter for Go Weekly, the newspaper for Go players in Japan, goes to Korea to speak to the players in the Hokuto Cup, but arrives a day early, so there is no translator there for him. He tries to interview Ko Yong Ha, but a poor translation of his words causes a misunderstanding that carries through the Hokuto Cup and the series. I really didn’t like how or more why this misunderstanding was perpetuated. Ko Yong Ha was an arrogant jerk to not only keep the misunderstanding from being straightened up, but then throws gas on the fire. I hated the whole plot point and Ko Young Ha. This made the end so much harder for me to accept. He didn’t deserve Hikaru’s true feelings, and really just needed a good whop upside the head for being so full of himself.

Hikaru no Go 22The series also ends rather abruptly. It really doesn’t feel like the story was meant to end there. In the volumes building up to, and even during the Hokuto Cup, there was a lot being made about Japan not remember their Go history, only focusing on the present, and how that is a weakness for them. It really felt like this show plot line should have been taken somewhere. Instead, it feels like it got cut off prematurely with the end of the series. I really would have liked to have seem more about Japanese players rediscovering their past as they continue into the future.

Hikaru no Go 23Despite these complaints, I still really enjoyed these volumes of Hikaru no Go. I loved seeing how much Hikaru has grown, not just emotionally, but physically. By the time of the Hokuto Cup, he is standing tall and looking confident. The whole series only covers three years, basically Hikaru and Akira’s time in middle school. In that short amount of time, he’s come to look like a serious pro, and not the goofy kid the started out the series as. Losing Sai had the most profound effect on Hikaru. While Akira always had a serious air about him, his rivalry with Hikaru gave him the focus he needed, and gained the both of them lifelong friends.

Hikaru no Go is one of those rare shonen titles that makes the battles about brains and not brawn, and shows rivals can also be friends. I think this is one of the title’s strengths. Hotta created some great characters, and developed them with such depth, while Obata’s art struck the perfect balance between realism and comedy. Hikaru no Go is one of the best titles you will ever read. It is a must for any manga collection. Do no pass this one up.


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.

Oresama Teacher Volume 10-11

The Public Morals Club has been infiltrated by the Student Council as ninja Yui joins the club to spy on them. But with his reasons for switching being done in secret, not everyone on the Student Council is as understanding. It could be the end of Public Morals Club if the club can’t get a stamp of approval from the Student Council Auditor. Then a member of the Student Council, Ayabe challenges Mafuyu to a one-on-one battle, where the unthinkable happens. Mafuyu loses.

By Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

It’s been 5 volumes since I last read Oresama Teacher. I’ve enjoyed the series for the most part, but I’ve never been so enamored that I wanted to do anything more than just read it. These two volumes fall into the same category. A lack of Takaomi and more emphasis on Mafuyu, Hayasaka, and new club member Yui did make for some fun reading, but not enough to bring the series up that extra notch.

Yui has been having trouble gaining the trust of Mafuyu and Hayasaka, and with the club needed the stamp of approval from the auditor, this seems like the perfect opportunity to get it. The only obstacle is Wakana Hojo, the auditor who isn’t too happy with Yui’s  apparent defection. I liked the Auditor story a lot, mostly because of Hojo and Yui and the unspoken feelings between them. Hojo and Yui have known each other since Middle School, and Hojo has liked Yui, but Yui is completely clueless about his own feelings let alone Hojo’s. It takes Mafuyu verbally hitting Yui with a 2×4 for him to at least start to understand that everything is not black and white, especially when it comes to feelings. Hayasaka also turned out to be the hero of this volume as his studious ways allowed him to create an activity log for the club that, along with the arrival of Super Bun gets the club their stamp.

Then, Mafuyu is challenged by Reito Ayabe, another member of the Student Council, and loses. It’s her first time losing, as far as she can remember. This was my favorite chapter in volume 11. Seeing Mafuyu shaken up and trying to deal with her loss was a good development for her. She had to stand up and face her fear. Ayabe seems like a jerk at first, but Mafuyu has a habit of disarming people, which she does to him over lunch where she finds his home cooked meal so much better than her convenience store lunch. Their second battle goes differently, as Mafuyu continues by telling him she just wants to get to know him, and wins through words instead of force. I hope Ayabe becomes a friend to the Public Morals Club. I rather like him and his odd affliction.

The short chapters that precede or end the main chapters weren’t bad either. I enjoyed seeing Hojo’s past with Yui and Hayabusa, the Student Club President that explains her feelings for Yui. And the Christmas chapter with Hayasaka and Mafuyu as Super Bun was fun too. I like that Hayasaka sees Super Bun as a hero and bud, and not a romantic figure. Hayasaka’s hero worship of Super Bun is too funny,and it would get really weird if it went anywhere else.

The one think I didn’t care for in these volumes are the continued hints that there might be feelings between Mafuyu and Takaomi. Mafuyu blushes deeply when Takaomi tries to put her hair in a pony tail to help her Super Bun disguise. Then Takaomi lets his guard down slightly when he tries to wrap Mafuyu’s arm after her fight with Ayabe. I really dislike Takaomi’s manipulation of Mafuyu and find him repulsive. Mafuyu really deserves better than him, and has better suitors in Hayasaka, and her old 2nd, Kangawa.

Oresama Teacher manages to pull off to fun volumes, but their re-readability is too limited for me to let them take up precious bookshelf space. As fun as they are, the characters aren’t compelling enough despite Mafuyu and Hayasaka being a good couple to watch.

Review copies provided by publisher.


Demon Love Spell Volume 1

Miko is a shrine maiden who has never had much success at seeing or banishing spirits. Then she meets Kagura, a sexy demon who feeds off women’s feelings of passion and love. Kagura’s insatiable appetite has left many girls at school brokenhearted, so Miko casts a spell to seal his powers. Surprisingly the spell works–sort of– but now Kagura is after her!

By Mayu Shinjo
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Supernatural Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I had completely missed the license announcement for Demon Love Spell, so it came as a complete surprise when I saw it. I’ve only ever read one other volume by this manga creator, Ai Ore!, and had a sort of love/not-love thing with that volume. After reading this volume, I found I had the same feeling for this volume as well.

Demon Love Spell is about a demon, an Incubus, who is bound by bumbling exorcist who can’t even see the spirits she is trying to exorcise. With his powers diminished, he has to stay with her until she can figure out what spell she used to bind him. Because he was a powerful demon, both of them become targets to other demons that want to defeat him and eat her. They must grudgingly work together to survive.

I started reading this title without making any connections to who the creator was, and as a result has hopes this wouldn’t be too bad. And it’s not bad per se. It just isn’t my kind of series. The first warning bell came from Kagura with his leering eyes and seductive manner. Granted, he is an incubus and he’s supposed to be seductive, so I can’t fault him or the series for that. But what it gave me was a serious “Black Bird” vibe. I found the sexual innuendo in that series to be creepy and got the same feeling while I was reading this one.

A lot of that feeling stems from the similarity between the female protagonists. Both Miko and Misao are kind of clueless and easily manipulated by their respective supernatural “suitors.” While Miko is more defiant during the day, Kagura uses her dreams to get what he wants, and her dream self is much more willing and submissive than her conscious self. Miko is also innocent in the ways of the heart and is often vulnerable to Kagura when he tries to seduce her. I don’t find Kagura to be very likable either. Even in his “cute” form, when he is bound and the size of doll, he’s pervy and really not that cute. His favorite hiding spot on Miko is of course between her breasts.

All the innuendo aside, Demon Love Spell does have some good points. Miko isn’t completely defenseless. She may have to relay on Kagura for some of the more powerful demons and to see them, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to exorcise them herself, and she doesn’t run or cower when confronted with danger. Kagura, for all his sleaziness, does seem to have some real feelings for Miko. He doesn’t appear to just be using her, and the feelings they are developing for each other seem to be happening at the same time. I appreciate this approach more than a one-sided relationship developing. I also really liked the fox spirit that was introduced at the end. He is cute in both his animal and human forms.

Demon Love Spell was an okay story, but not a keeper. The chapters seem to balance battling demons and Miko and Kagura’s relationship well. I have no complaints with the art either. The bishi are appropriately bishi and demons are appropriately scary. As I said earlier, the story isn’t badly written, it just isn’t written for me. This is a title more for Black Bird and Vampire Knight fans, of which I am really neither. I won’t follow this title regularly, but I won’t object to the occasional check in.

Review copy provided by publisher.

13th Boy Volume 1

It was love at first sight. the moment Hee-So’s eyes met Won-Jun’s she knew it was meant to be. Their relationship took off when Hee-So confessed her feelings on national TV, but less than a month later, Won-Jun is ready to call it quits without any explanation at all. Hee-So’s had a lot of boyfriends–Won-Jun is number twelve–bu being dumped is never easy. She not ready to move on to the thirteenth boy just yet. Determined to reunite with Won-Jun, Hee-So’s on a mission to win over her destined love once more.

By SangEun-Lee
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

I read the preview of 13th Boy in Yen Plus why back when it first came out, and wasn’t impressed. I thought it was going to be another “stalker girl” title like Sarasah, which I hated. But with being given a second chance to read the first volume, I decided to give it a shot. And like Won-Jun to Hee-So, I don’t hate it, but I don’t know if I like it yet.

13th Boy is not your average high school romance. It starts out like it might be. Hee-So, is the earnest, sometimes blunt girl madly in love with a cute boy in her class, Won-Jun, who comes off as cold, and almost robotic. For a few moments, I thought maybe he was one. But things quickly go askew when Beatrice, Hee-So’s walking, talking cactus is introduced. Yes, I said walking and talking. I don’t know what’s stranger, that Beatrice can talk, or that Hee-So takes it so calmly. There’s no explanation for what Beatrice could be, but the end of the volume hints at something supernatural. And then there’s Won-Jun’s best friend, Whie-Young Jang. He comes off kind of jerky, but there more to him than he seems. He can do magic. He’s shown levitating a book and makes his and Hee-So’s legs disappear so some classmates won’t see them.

I wasn’t expecting a supernatural element to this story. It started out like a typical high school romance with a weird mascot character, but there seems to be a lot more going on. The idea that there is a destined love for everyone is strongly emphasized in this volume. Hee-So is banking on Won-Jun being hers. And for all the scoffing Whie-Young does about it, I get the feeling he might think the same of Hee-So to him. The last scene with Won-Jun and Whie-Young sets up the love triangle, which seems to be destined to be a bumpy ride for all three of them.

While I wasn’t wowed by this first volume of 13th Boy, I am intrigued enough to be willing to check out more. I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would, and while I don’t care for the stalker-obsession that manhwa seems to favor for its female leads, the integration of a destined love at least lessens the impact.

Strobe Edge Volume 1

What is love, anyway? Ninako Kinoshita’s friends tell her it’s one thing, but Ninako wonders what this mysterious feeling is. When she meets Ren Ichinose, the handsome, enigmatic guy that all the girls worship, her life takes an unexpected turn. With just a few words and a smile, he changes her world. Ninako’s friend Daiki throws her for a loop when he expresses romantic interest in her. She cares for him, but can she return his feeling? As she tries to short out her confusion, Ninako realizes that there are many different facets of love–strange and wonderful sides…

By Io Sakisaka
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

Falling in love for the first time is a strange, wonderful and sad feeling all at the same time. Watching Ninako slowly realize that the feelings she’s starting to experience are those of first love was a fun and delightful experience.

Strobe Edge starts out seeming like the typical love triangle. Ninako is a first year in high school, and a little gullible. She is also completely clueless about the feeling of her best friend since elementary school, Daiki. Her chance encounter with the school’s “idol prince”, Ren, seems innocent at first. But, as she gets to know him, and sees the real him outside of school, it’s hard for her not to have feelings for him, even knowing he already has a girlfriend, or Daiki’s true feelings, doesn’t chance her mind.

And I really can’t blame her, since Ren does seem to be a really good guy. He buys Ninako a new cell phone charm when he accidentally steps on it. He helps her on the train when she is being harassed by another passenger, and misses his stop and walks her home after she has hurt her ankle at school. He even gives up his seat on the train for a pregnant woman, telling he’s about to get off even though his stop is still a ways away. Daiki doesn’t seem like a bad guy either though. He’s the loyal best friend who waited too long to tell Ninako how he felt, though it might not have mattered, since Ninako just doesn’t feel the same way.

I really enjoyed watching Ninako change little by little. Her starting to appreciate girly things, like the butterfly charm Ren gets her, and just thinking about painting her nails and being glad they looked nice as Ren helped her home. I also liked how her feelings for Ren grew slowly and weren’t the usual instant love that so many romance manga like to do. She starts out just wanting to show her friends that they take the same train, but her awkwardness endears her to him and she is even graced with a smile that he never seems to have at school. Even her stalker-ish behavior when she waits at the train station to see if he really has a girlfriend wasn’t creepy. She just had to know, and even knowing doesn’t change her.

The fact that she doesn’t change fundamentally is what really makes her a good character. She doesn’t try to be someone else for Ren. Her changes come from her feelings. The volume had a nice twist at the end with Daiki, and Ninako reaching out to Ren even though she knows what his answer will be was a really sweet moment. You really can’t help but root for Ninako and that is what really made me like this title. I cared about Ninako, and what happened to her, especially since she knows this is just her first love and wants to cherish the feeling even if it means breaking heart as well.

Strobe Edge is starting out to be a sweet romance. While I do hope that the triangle between Ninako, Ren and Daiki continues, I really just want to follow Ninako on her journey of discovering love. I actually think following all of them would be interesting. The art is well done, and different enough from a lot the other romance titles that it should stick out in a good way. I really looking forward to more volumes of this series. If you are a fan of love and not just romance, you should too.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Bleach Volume 33-34

Ichigo, Uryu, and Renji continue their battles with the espadas Nnoitora and Szayelsporro in their attempt to rescue Orihime, but things aren’t going so well. It takes some surprising interventions to save the boys from defeat.

By Tite kubo
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Action
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I haven’t enjoyed Bleach since the end of the Soul Society arc, but continued to read the series since it was serialized in Shonen Jump. These two volumes are a bit of an exception, as they stand out by being more entertaining than most of the volumes in the Hueco Mundo arc so far. Two characters that I hadn’t cared much about show another side that has me thinking twice about them.

I never really liked Nel, the little hollow girl who’s also a big cry baby, and always following Ichigo around. She was annoying and always making things for Ichigo. She finally makes amends in this battle, as she regains her original form, a full-grown, and well endowed, espada called Nelliel. How she came to be the little girl with no memory is revealed as she takes on Nnoitora. The battle is sadly short-lived, but not before Nelliel transforms into her Capricorn Knight form. I liked that form and would have liked to have seen it in action more. Pesche and Dondochakka also prove to be more than just comedy relief as they reveal their combined Cero against Szayelsporro who joined Nnoitora in his treachery against Nelliel.

It’s not enough of course, for both Ichigo and Renji and Uryu get their buts handed to their by the espadas they are fighting, so it’s time for reinforcements. Enter four of the captains from Soul Society; Kenpachi, Unohana, Byakuya, and Mayuri. Unohana, as captain of the 4th company is only there to heal the injured, but Byakuya gets a battle with Zommari which unsurprisingly doesn’t last long, and Kenpachi takes over Ichigo’s battle with Nnoitora, but the majority of the volume goes to Mayuri taking on Szayelsporro, the espada scientist vs the Soul Society scientist. Their battle becomes a game of one-upmanship, as each tries to prove he is not just more powerful than the other, but also more clever. But it’s obvious who the winner will be. Mayuri is consistantly one step ahead of Szayelsporro, and uses his adjutant Nemu as the bait to lure him into his web. I’ve never really liked Mayuri and his superiority complex, but I liked Szayelsporro even less, so I’m okay with Mayuri winning. He had some good taunts, and even got a laugh at his wall-eyed, tongue out taunt.

I was bothered by a few things. I liked Nelliel’s character design as a whole, and do understand why so little of herself would be covered when going from little Nel to full-size Nelliel, but what is she doing on the cover of the volume? Is that pose even physically possible? I’ve looked at it a lot as I’ve been writing this review, and it just baffles me more every time. While I can at least deal with it, I really didn’t like was a scene with Orihime. When Nnoitora sends Tesla to finish off Ichigo, she starts to yell out to Ichigo, but Nnoitora silences her by sticking his fingers in her mouth. Really? Was that really necessary? Covering her mouth wasn’t enough? And she just meekly accepts this. Fan service I’ve learned to live with, but this was crossing the line for me.

Bleach lost me as a devoted fan a while a go, but I keep holding out hope that it will get better and I will enjoy it again. These two volumes show that all hope isn’t lost, but it still has a long way to go to win me back. A little less fighting, a little more humor would definitely help.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Angel Heart

Peace Pet Rental’s Lag is a robotic dog. He can be pretty slow at times and can’t perform tasks aside from those written in his program, but despite all this, he’s everyone’s favorite dog. Soon, however, he is tackling people’s problems in ways not included in his program, and it seems almost miraculous… Something mysterious has awakened within his heart even though he’s supposed to be a machine with no emotions. What is Lag’s true nature? For those lost in despair and sorrow and those with wounded hearts comes this healing tale of love, kindness, and sacrifice.

By Udou Shinohara
Publisher: Digital Manga Guild
Localized: Cynical Pink
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Fantasy/Shojo/Slice of Life
Price: $6.95 eManga/$7.95 Kindle/Nook/Wowio
Rating: ★★★★½

While I am a big cat lover (crazy cat lady in training), I’m really a sucker for all animals, including dogs. So it should come as no surprise that when given the chance, I would read a manga featuring a dog, even if it is a robot dog. While the basic premise is far from original, Shinohara still creates an entertaining story with some quirky characters, an interesting world for them to live in, and a charming pooch to bring them all together.

Angel Heart takes place in an unspecified future, where phone calls are made with holographs, and robots can be made and programmed to act like animals. The Peace Pet Rentals creates dogs, and Shiki is in charge of gathering data and programming Lag, a medium-sized dog that looks like a Sheltie. He does this by taking the dog to a hospital (whose director is also the Chief’s sister) and letting Lag interact with the patients, which has the added benefit of helping the patients. Over the course of the volume, Shiki gets to know many of the patients and watches Lag as he seems to grow beyond his programming, and like Pinocchio become thought of as a “real” dog.

I really enjoyed this title. Shiki is the reluctant programmer, who isn’t very good with people, but through working with Lag, starts to learn how to better interact with them. His big rival is Rena, the youngest sister of the Chief Rin and Director Kira. She also has a robot dog that she brings, a small Pomeranian named Nikita, whose programming is simpler, and therefore is more energetic, but not as authentic as Lag. She is always calling Lag dumb, because of his slow reactions, and comparing Shiki to his creation. The Rin, Shiki’s boss, is very stoic, but believes in his work, while Kira is more friendly, always smiling and encouraging Shiki, even if she is a little blunt about Lag’s lagging.

And then’s the star of the book, Lag. He is often shown with a blank stare, one I often associate with dogs anyway. When ever he does a dog action, like wag his tail, or lick someone’s face, the programming why he’s doing it is explained off to the side. This might seem annoying after a while, but I think it’s actually cute. It makes the times Lag isn’t following his programming stand out more. Throughout the story, it’s Lag’s unexplained actions that show how he’s changing and growing into something more than his programming. Doing a handstand and wagging his tail for a girl scared of her upcoming operation, or going to comfort a former soccer player depressed after an accident that affected his legs, show how he is becoming more empathetic toward people. I really liked it when his “brain” was put into a larger, scarier-looking dog, Lag’s personality still shone through. It was so cute seeing his stubby tail wag!

Angel Heart is a fun, light one-shot, though I wouldn’t object to reading more about Shiki and Lag,  or another robot animal in this universe. Shinohara has created a cast of characters I enjoyed with stories that warm the heart. The localizer, Cynical Pink, did a really good job with this title as well. The writing was fluid and read very naturally. It’s great that DMP/DMG has made this title available on several different platforms, though it’s obvious by the price which one they want you to buy from. Definitely check out Angel Heart if you enjoy titles about dogs or just want a light, quick read. It’s worth it.

Digital review copy provided by publisher.

Yokai Doctor Volume 1

Yokai are mysterious, troublemaking spirits and demons that have tormented Japan for centuries. Kotoko’s grandfather exorcised them for a living, but Kotoko never thought that her family lineage was an asset. Then she meets Kuro, a yokai doctor. Yokai have doctors? Now Kotoko is learning firsthand that healing the yokai is a lot more challenging than getting rid of them!

By Yuki Sato
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Comedy/Horror
Price: $10.99 OOP
Rating: ★★★☆☆

When I first ordered Yokai Doctor back in 2009, I was hoping for a more serious look at yokai. So imagine my disappointment when I read it and found out it featured a perverted protagonist and fan service galore. I was ready to pan it back then. With three years to get over my expectations, I find the title isn’t quite so bad, but the pandering is still annoying.

The protagonists of this title are Kotoko, the granddaughter of a powerful and well-known exorcist who inherited some of his powers, and Kuro, a yokai doctor. The introduction to these characters is handled in an unusual way. The first chapter is told twice, once from Kotoko’s perspective and once from Kuro’s perspective. While this novel concept might have seemed like a good idea at the time, it really failed in execution. Kuro comes off as really shallow in the first chapter, and scenes are held back from one chapter to make a bigger impact in the other. Sato would have made a much better impression had he just written the two as one chapter, and allowed the reader to see both characters perspective at once.

Of the two characters Kotoko is the more interesting, or at least the more developed. As would be expected of someone who can see spirits, she was teased and mocked when she was young. But now in high school, she is more popular because of her ability, causing her to feel the need to live up to her classmates expectations. She sees a kindred spirit in Kuro, and reaches out to him as a friend. She has the courage to stand up to yokai despite not having any way of defending herself, but also the compassion to see they aren’t all bad. By the end of the volume, I had warmed up to her.

Kuro, on the other hand, needs more work. He is a yokai, and while it might seem his pervy ways are just his attempts to interpret human culture, such as the bowing incident, his open confession for his love of “boobies” doesn’t make him any points with me. Neither did the wearing of underwear on his head. He is fascinated by humans, despite the fact it was a human that killed his mother. Like Kotoko has started to learn, he knows there are good sides to humans as well as bad, and doesn’t paint them all with a broad brush. He has potential, if the perviness can be toned down. Not that I’m holding my breath though.

I really enjoyed the stories about the yokai. The tsuchikorobi was touching and the baby oni was cute. They showed how easy it was for the yokai to be misunderstood because of their appearance or nature. It just took a little explaining from Kuro, and maybe some action from the yokai, for Kotoko to learn the nature of their heats. Now, I know not all yokai are going to be like that. But I like that the series starts off with some silliness. I loved the scenes where Kotoko would throw some of the smaller yokai at Kuro’s head when he was being dense or pervy. Add to that the touching moments and it starts to become apparent that this title isn’t all about T & A.

I was harsh on Yokai Doctor when I first read it, and didn’t get anymore volumes. Now, I regret that. I would really love to read more about Kotoko and Kuro, and the yokai they will encounter and try to heal. Unfortunately, being a Del Rey title, that won’t be easy, or even a series that will ever be finished, since they are no more. All I can hope for, is that, who has already picked up several Del Rey titles to publish and complete online, will pick up this one as well. It has a lot more to offer than some fan service, and though I was slow to pick up on it, I’m now glad I did.

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.