Category Archives: Reviews

The Manga Guide to Relativity

Everything’s gone screwy at Takai Academy. When the crazy Headmaster forces Minagi’s entire class to study Einstein’s theory of relativity over summer school, Minagi volunteers to go in their place. There’s just one problems: he’s never even heard of relativity before! Luckily, Minagi has the plucky Miss Uraga to teach him.

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Saiyuki Volumes 1-3: Manga Movable Feast

Saiyuki is among the first few manga I started to read. Having been a fan of the original Dragon Ball manga and knowing how it was based on the Chinese story Journey to the West, I was interested in seeing other takes on the story. While I came to Saiyuki for the story, I definitely stayed for hot guys. This title is a perfect blend of action, bishonen and angst, that it’s no wonder is was such a big hit with the ladies when it was released.

By Kazuya Minekura
Publisher: Tokyopop
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Action/Fantasy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★

The basic premise of Saiyuki is simple. In the land of Shangri-la, humans and demons known as youkai live together in peace. But the peace is threatened when someone attempts to resurrect Gyumaoh, a youkai known as the Ox King using a combination of demon magic and human science. The forbidden practice causes a Minus Wave of negative energy to spread across Shangri-la, and causing the youkai to lose their minds and attack humans. The gods summon a monk, Genjyo Sanzo, to travel to India in the west to find out who is attempting the revival and stop them. Accompaning him are former traveling companions Son Goku, Sha Gojyo and Cho Hakkai, three youkai that seem to be immune to the minus wave.

But getting to India isn’t the point of this series. It’s just an excuse to get these four traveling together because it’s the characters and their interactions that really make this a fun title to read. Sanzo, the defacto leader, is not what you would expect a Buddhist monk to be like. He doesn’t shave his head. He drinks, smokes, and gambles. He carries a gun to use against enemy youkai, and a paper fan for Gojyo and Goku. Gojyo is the bad boy of the group with a cigarette in one hand and an eye on the hottest girl in sight. He likes the act like he’s grown up, but always ends up in childish arguments with Goku. The youngest looking of the group, he’s really over 500 years old. He’s also the most powerful, but is kept in check with the power limiter headband he can never take off. He thinks more with his stomach, and looks up to Sanzo. Hakkai is the quiet one, always ready with a gentle smile and a helping hand. The smile can also be quite menacing, especially when he has a ball of his chi ready to fire at an enemy or make into a force field to protect friends and innocents alike.

For the most part, this odd quartet gets along like old friends, or almost a family. Gyojo and Goku are the siblings, constantly bickering and teasing each other. Sanzo is the father constantly getting angry at their bickering and issuing threats of “I’ll kill you”, while Hakkai tries to keep the peace. But for all the light-hearted moments, the boys have some tragic pasts that not only influence who they are now, but also come back to haunt them on the journey. Sanzo’s almost takes his life, and Gyojo’s comes back in a most unexpected way. Their tragic back stories are wrought with emotion, but never quite tip into melodramatic territory. Hakkai’s back story is just starting as volume 3 ends, but portents in the final chapter doesn’t bode well for him.

Their enemy, Kougaiji, the son of Gyumaoh, and his trio of subordinates are almost a mirror image of the group. Youkai with tragic pasts of their own, they drum up an almost friendly rivalry with Sanzo’s group. They even end up working together at the end of volume 3, and actually make a good team. But Kougaiji’s own past keeps the groups enemies, though he isn’t happy about who he has to work with, or even really trusts she’ll keep her promise to him.

The is a lot of action in these first three volumes, as Sanzo’s group has to fight off youkai attacks and assassins sent by Kougaiji. They give the boys lots of opportunities to be glib and toss off one liners. In one chapter, they even rate a youkai assassin on his laugh and even how he falls down. Minekura is also not afraid to be graphic in these scenes. Heads get cut off, or sliced in two, and intestines are seen as torsos are sliced and youkai eat.

Whether they are in the middle of a fight, or relaxing in an inn after a long ride, they always look good. And I happily admit this is one of the reason I enjoy this series. All of the guys, good or bad are hot. There is lots of long, flowing hair, and bangs that fall over and/or cover eyes. They are all tall, thin, and lithe (mostly), and Minekura dresses them in a modern-ish fantasy style, combining jeans with tunics and sashes. Even Sanzo with his traditional garb looks good when he lets his robes down.

Tokyopop did a really job with this release. The dialog is very readable and catches the personalities of the characters perfectly. The cover is a nice heavy paper stock, and they presevered the original Japanese wraparound cover, and put the back text on the inside of the front. Volume one also features color plates of the four main characters. A lot of time and effort went into these volumes and it really shows.

Saiyuki isn’t just one of the first manga I read, it’s one of my top favorite titles of all time. The action, comedy, drama and hot guys makes this a title I read and gladly re-read again and again. It’s really just a lot of fun, which is exactly how I want my manga to be.

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Volume 1

When a high-ranking government official is kidnapped, the Prime Minister must call in his top crime fighting force know as Section 9. Lead by the beautiful (and deadly) Major Kusanagi, the cybernetically enhanced squad must use all their skill to take down the kidnappers and rescue the hostages. But that’s only half of the mission; can Kusanagi and company find out who’s behind the kidnapping, and, more importantly, just what they’re after?

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Mermaid Saga Volume 1-2: Manga Movable Feast

Yuta was a simple fisherman until a fellow fisherman brought some special meat to share. It was the flesh of a mermaid, said to grant eternal youth and longevity. But it can also be a deadly poison. For Yuta, it was the former. Hundreds of years later, Yuta searches for a mermaid that might be able to help him return to normal.

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With the Light Volume 1

To new mother Sachiko Azuma, her baby boy is the light of her life. Accordingly, she names him Hikaru, Japanese for “to be bright.” Eager to raise her son, Sachiko gradually begins to notice that Hikaru seems a bit different from other children. He is reluctant to be held or hugged, and his growth and development appear slow. Sachiko’s suspicions are confirmed when it is suggested that Hikaru, at a year-and-a-half, may be deaf. A specialist, however, reaches a different diagnosis: autism.

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One Fine Day Volume 2-3

With No-Ah’s childhood friend/tormentor added to the mix, all sorts of new adventures are brewing at the green-roofed house. Nanai the dog, Guru the cat, and Rang the mouse have cooked up even more fun this time around: visiting the library, searching for treasure–and tailing Rang on her first date?! But life isn’t always strawberries and cream — it’s all kinds of experiences that make happy times taste even sweeter.

By Sirial
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Fantasy/Slice of Life
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

New and more permenant characters open up the story opportunities as Aleriu becomes a regular, Rang gets a suitor in the form of a stray cat, and No-Ah takes on a renter, the just-as-poor girl Lili. Even with all the new friends, Nanai, Guru and Rang still find all kinds of fun and adventures to go on their own.

The days continue to roll by in these next, and last, two volumes of One Fine Day. Aleriu, who was introduced in the first volume, now lives with No-Ah and the animals. Aleriu has a knack for finding (or creating) trouble. A magician like No-Ah, he is better skilled and tends more toward the dark side. He like to place curses on people, which has become his livelihood, and has a dark shadow living in his room that is always laughing. While his pranks in the first volume were annoying, Aleriu is toned down, with more threatening looks and less actual follow through. Captain, the gray cat who takes a liking to Rang, is very soft-hearted for a street cat. He likes cute things, so of course he falls for Rang. This human form is a tall, rather bishonen man, making walking and holding Rang’s hand rather difficult.

The last new addition is Lili, who is introduced in volume 3. She seems to be as poor as No-Ah, though we never see if she has a job. She moves in to the green-roofed house since it’s the cheapest room she can find, despite discouragement from the real estate company. She takes the weirdness of No-Ah’s house and roommates fairly well, and even ends up not minding finding Aileru in her bed. I really didn’t see a point to adding her to the cast so late, unless the series ended sooner than expected. Lili only appears in three stories, and only does anything in two.

There are some very enjoyable stories in these two volumes. “Night with the Moon” has a fairy tale feel to it, where the animals try to help the moon and a star return to the sky. “Talking About You” is funny as the animals all complain about Aleriu. “Mabrit’s Treasure” and “Home Sweet Home” have an innocent magic to them, as the animals go on a treasure hunt set up by No-Ah and Aileru, and we finally hear from the house they have all been living in. The dancing furniture was fun and the what the house had to say was sweet. “Little Voyage” tells of Rang’s past and is a real bittersweet tale. “Summer Explorer” shows the animals exploring the woods near their home and getting into general trouble. “La Vie En Rose” is another magical tale of everyone working together to fix up a doll for a little girl. My favorites are “Mabrit’s Treasure”,”Summer Explorer” and “Home Sweet Home”.  The ending of “Summer Explorer” was especially heart-warming.

Overall One Fine Day is an enjoyable series. There is nothing objectionable in it, and the simple, straightforward stories make it great material for younger readers. The art is cute, and the kids are especially so when they are in their animal forms. The stories are fun and light, and makes a good pick-me-up after a stressful day.

Tena On S-String Volume 4-5

Now in France at one of Arun’s family’s homes, Kyousuke starts trying to control his new tuner abilities, but things don’t go so well. The group goes to find Tena’s teacher Kokyuu for help, but are attacked by Bell Lyre Ricercare, who turns out to Mezza’s sister as well as head of the 5th Ochestra and Tuner Intelligence. Escaping her traps, the group is then caught be Lord Chord who locks them up while the Tuner Headquarter’s plan is finally put into action. A revolution within the Tuner organization stops the plans, and the truth about Kyousuke’s past is finally revealed.

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Aria Volumes 1-2: Manga Movable Feast

One-hundred and fifty years after its terraforming, Aqua, the planet formerly known as Mars, is now almost completely covered in water. A young girl named Akari Mizunashi lives in the city of Neo-Venezia, an exact replica of the old Italian city of Venice, where she works as a gondolier tour guide. While giving people tours of her beautiful city, Akari learns to appreciate her city when she helps an elderly tourist find his daughter, teaches a friend some history about ancient Venice and discovers the secret behind Aqua’s unusual sun showers.

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The Dark Hunters Volume 2

Kyrian is an immortal Dark-Hunter who just lost his Dark-Hunter powers and along with it, his immortality. Now he is faced with the chance to regain not only his humanity, but his very soul. The problem is that it couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Desiderius is closing in, and if Kyrian and Amanda are going to save humanity, Kyrian must take the war to his enemy–or it may be too late.

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