Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Tena on S-String Volume 2

For all Kyousuke’s resistance to Tena and her bossy ways, he seems to have settled in quite nicely to being a sort of househusband to her and the other tuners. But while Mezzo and Sopra have agreed not to collect Kyousuke’s viral notes, there’s no telling what might happen if he meets yet another tuner! So when Kyousuke runs into Arun, an elite tuner at the top of her class, could this spell the end of his musical aspirations…and his life?!

by Sesuna Mikabe
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy/Romantic Comedy
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆
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I love stories that relate to music in some way, but hate stories with obnoxious, bossy female leads, so I picked up Tena on S-String with guarded curiosity. I was very intrigued by the idea of tuners and seeing the music of others, but Tena is a complete turn off, and practically ruins every scene that she is in.

The protagonist of this story is Tena, an obnoxious, haughty, pushy, violent girl with no social graces. This is the character we as readers are supposed to want to read about and follow through a potentially long series? Sorry, I don’t think so. These kinds of female leads make me want to just put the book down and move on to something else. There is absolutely nothing to like about her, and I would certainly hope no one would want to be like her! She pushes Kyousuke around like a servant, which I think is supposed to be funny, but it really isn’t. She’s supposed to be a great tuner, but we don’t see her doing it. All she does through this volume is berate Kyousuke, go shopping and eat. And since she’s the lead, she’s of course falling for Kyousuke, but her pride won’t even let her be nice to him once, let alone think such a think might be possible. I couldn’t stand Tena in any of the panels she was in, and just grew to dislike her with every turning page.

Kyousuke, the male lead, isn’t as bad. He has aspirations to become a composer. But he’s surrounded by these viral notes, that if any other tuner discovered were around him, they would try to take away his freedom, or even his life to retrieve them. Tena and her fellow tuners Mezzo and Sopra help him hide from other tuners. Kyousuke is a nice guy, and good with household chores, but he’s pretty clueless when it comes to women. He doesn’t know how to talk to them in general. And he doesn’t notice Tena’s growing feelings for him, which only makes things worse for him.

But get the to parts where there’s no Tena, and this title is actually pretty decent. All of the scenes where Kyousuke is with Arun, at the theater and sightseeing were fun to read. Even though Kyousuke is Japanese and Arun is French, they can still communicate through the language of music, which in this case is French. I really liked Arun and the scheduled life she leads. Everything neat and orderly, every moment of her day is set in advance, and she keeps to the schedule like clockwork. Until she meets Kyousuke. Their time together starts to change her. I want to see more of her and Kyousuke together.

All of the mysterious talk of the “grand play” performance and finale is intriguing too. Even though it didn’t get a lot of mention in the volume until the end, I found myself growing interested in finding out more about what this “great play” is, and how it relates to Kyousuke. This part of the story has the greatest potential. If the title could concentrate on it and drop Tena completely, it would be a story a I would be much more interested in reading.

The art is fairly standard for a romantic comedy. A lot of attention is given to Tena and her constantly changing wardrobe. Clothes are what she spends the majority of the volume shopping for, since she just can’t wear the same thing twice! The character designs are all similar too, especially with the girls, but there are enough differences in dress and temperament to be able to tell them apart.

Overall, Tena on S-String is well done, as long as you like titles where the female lead abuses the male lead. Definitely check this title out, you won’t be disappointed. If not, borrow or trade for it and just read the non-Tena parts, which is about half of this volume. It’s still worth it for all those other parts.

Manhwa Movable Feast: The Color Of… Trilogy

The Color of Earth, The Color of Water, and The Color of Heaven are the three books that make up this trilogy. The story is about two women, Ehwa, and her early widowed mother. The series follows Ehwa from age 7, when she first starts to realize her gender, through her growing sense of sexuality and first crushes, to her falling in love and getting married at age 18. Parallel to Ehwa’s story is her mother’s, who after 3 years of being alone, has her own feelings reawakened by the arrival of a traveling pictographer.

Color of Earth (2)The Color of… Trilogy
By Kim Dong Hwa
Publisher: First Second
Age Rating: 16+
Genre: Drama
Price: $16.95/ea
Rating: ★★★☆☆
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The story is set in Turn-of-the-Century Korea, in the countryside. It is a time and place where most of the men are farmers and are valued more than women. A very chauvinistic attitude prevails throughout most of the series, which both Ehwa and her mother must endure. Ehwa is first introduced to this by the boys she see’s having a peeing contest, and who tell her that anyone who doesn’t have a gachoo (penis), is deformed. Ehwa’s mother has to deal with it more overtly, as she learns that the villagers think she sleeps around , and has to endure a lot of harassment as a single woman inn-keeper. But Ehwa’s mother holds her own pretty well with the men, and isn’t afraid to let them know when they’ve crossed a line.

Women of this time are also forced into arranged marriages, often sold off for money and land. Ehwa’s mother doesn’t agree with this though, and fights to save her daughter from it, refusing offers of money and land from Master Chou, an old, but well-off land owner. She encourages Ehwa to find a man that she loves, even as she herself finds her own in the traveling pictographer.

Color of WaterAn interesting aspect of this title was the relationship between Ehwa and her mother. They seemed more like sisters than mother and daughter. Ehwa’s mother shared a lot of her feelings with her daughter, leading to conversations that sounded more like competing sisters, especially as Ehwa matured and understood her mother’s feelings. This relationship does lead to some conflict between the two, though not seriously. Ehwa puts down the Picture Man to her mother after meeting Duksam, in a way that sisters arguing over who has the better looking boyfriend might. It’s obvious she likes the Picture Man, and wants her mother to be happy with him, but she just can’t help putting her own just a that mush higher. I think this relationship made Ehwa and her mother’s interactions more interesting, and gives Ehwa a more independent attitude, to the point that she contemplates going out on her own to find Duksam, something unheard of at the turn of the 20th century, in either Korea or America.

Nature is used a lot as metaphor in this series. Flowers are used to represent feelings, especially for women, and insects represent people. Ehwa expresses her first crushes on Chung-Myong and Master Sunoo with Tiger Lilies. For her mother, it is the gourd flower, that only blooms at night, and represents her longing for the Picture Man. Throughout the volumes, flowers are used to represent some emotion that a woman feels or expresses her lot in life. While I like the language of flowers, its use in this series went a little too far, diluting the meanings, and at some points becoming downright sappy. The use of flowers at the end of Heaven for the consummation scene between Ehwa and Duksam got especially tiring.

Color of HeavenThe use of insects wasn’t quite as overused, but it definitely got the point across. Earth starts with two boys comparing Ehwa’s mother with a beetle, in that she will sleep with anyone. Butterflies are used most often though, to go with the flower analogies. Ehwa favors the Fire Butterfly through the last two volumes. Like a moth, it is drawn to flames and will die in them. That is the kind of man Ehwa wants, one that will stay in her flame and not dance from flower to flower. I found this expression of monogamy more interesting than the Mountain Butterfly that mates for life.

Sexual maturity also plays a big role in this series, as part of Ehwa’s growing up. She learns most of this from her friend Bongsoon, who is quite promiscuous. The author is very upfront about things such as sex and masturbation, but I think he does it in a realistic way. Much of Ehwa’s “education” of these things comes in conversations between her and Bongsoon in way one could easily imagine happening. I find it refreshing to see it handled in a straightforward manner and as just another part of growing up. There’s already enough metaphor in this book.

Overall, I liked reading The Color Of… Trilogy. It’s an interesting coming of age story with characters and relationships that develop over the three volumes. But it’s not a series I would re-read. The heavy use of dialog and flowery language (no pun intended) was somewhat off-putting, and tedious to get through at times. I felt like I was back in 12th grade reading The Good Earth as an assignment. I read for entertainment, not to feel I’ll be tested on it later. I would recommend it be read at least one though. Young adults, both male and female, could get something useful from this series.

Bunny Drop Volume 1

Going home for his grandfather’s funeral, thirty-year-old bachelor Daikichi is floored to discover that the old man had an illegitimate child with a younger lover! The rest of his family is equally shocked and embarrassed by this surprise development, and not one of them wants anything to do with the silent little girl, Rin. In a fit of angry spontaneity, Daikichi decides to take her in himself! But will living with this overgrown teenager of man help Rin come out of her shell? And hang on, won’t this turn of events spell doom for Daikichi’s love life?!

BUNNYDROP_1By Yumi Unita
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: 16+
Genre: Drama
Price: $12.99
Rating: ★★★★★
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When I first heard about this title, I didn’t think it would appeal to me. But, after seeing so many comments recommending it, I decided to give it a chance, and I’m glad I did. Bunny Drop turned out to be a well written story with engaging characters that evolve over the course of this first volume.

Bunny Drop looks at the lives of two people. Daikichi is a 30-year-old bachelor. He is the section chief at a clothing manufacturer, so he works longs shifts and has no social life, or prospects of one anytime soon. Rin is a quiet 5-year-old girl. She is shy around other adults, and is the daughter of Daikichi’s 80-year-old grandfather, essentially making Rin Daikichi’s aunt. At Daikichi’s grandfather’s funeral, his family is arguing over who should take in Rin, as no one knows who the mother is. Daikichi, disgusted by their attempts to push the child off onto each other, impulsively decides to take her in himself. Here is where the story really starts.

In order to properly care for Rin, Daikichi’s whole life has to change. He can no long live the life of a bachelor, working until late into the night, and leaving his porn magazines around. He has to keep the apartment relatively clean, learn to shop for Rin, find her daycare, and even transfer to another department at his job to get lesser hours. But the changes he experiences aren’t just external. Internally, he is changing as well. In order to care for Rin, his whole way of thinking has to change. He needs to think more like a parent. Slowly, he begins to understand Rin and her needs, such as helping her deal with the concept of death, and that he’s not going to die so soon as her father/his grandfather did. Helping Rin also makes him look at his life and health, which starts him thinking about the future differently.

This was a fantastic story. I really enjoyed it a lot. It was very touching in a lot of ways, with the way Daikichi reaches out to Rin, not knowing what he is getting into, and really tries to care for her without overcompensating. The characters and story are rendered realistically, making the whole title believable. There’s nothing weird or disturbing about the way the situation is presented. The changes in the characters occur gradually, naturally. Watching Daikichi’s adjustments from bachelor to “Dad” are both amusing and touching. It’s hard to put into words, but the whole volume just felt good to read.

The art suits the story very well. It’s has a mostly realistic look to it, with some weird faces showing up, but these are just moments of exaggerated emotion and well within the range of reality.

I highly recommend Bunny Drop. It’s a title that both men and women can enjoy and relate to. The characters are great and the situations have humor mostly because they are so true. Anyone who has had to get daycare on a moment’s notice can really relate to Daikichi’s predicaments. It’s well written, well drawn, and just plain a pleasure to read.

Review copy provided by Publisher

My Darling! Miss Bancho Volume 1

Souka and her recently divorced mother are looking for a fresh start, so they move to a new place where no one knows them. Souka embraces the idea of starting over and takes it as an opportunity to leave her private school days behind and enroll in the local tech school. The first day of school is nothing quite like she imagined it would be — she is the only female around! Unfortunately, not everyone welcomes Souka with open arms, including the school leader who tries to ambush her. But when she takes him down in front of everyone, Souka becomes the new school leader!

mydarlingmissbanchoBy Mayu Fujikata
Publisher: CMX Manga
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★

My Darling! Miss Bancho is a romantic comedy where there’s more comedy than romance going on in this first volume. It’s got a lot going for it with a good cast of characters, cute art, and a just plain fun story.

Souka, the female protagonist, is trying to be a responsible daughter and help her recently divorced mother, by deciding to go to a public technical school, which will cost a lot less than the private high school she had been attending. Even though she researched the schools thoroughly, she didn’t check the student body. The school she choses, Tokugawa Tech turns out to be full of delinquents.

Souka is a strong female lead, just the way I like them to be. She isn’t easily intimidated. She returns to the school even after seeing the delinquent students, and classes ending early on her first day due to fighting. She can certainly hold her own somewhat with the boys, especially in her class, as she has some violent tendencies of her own, though, they only seem to come out when Katou is in trouble. Trying to help him is what gets her into her predicament in the first place.

Katou is a fun male lead and love interest for Souka. He is the leader of Sophomore class and is a tough fighter, even daring to take on the bigger seniors. He’s also very motherly to his fellow classmate. He’s constantly scolding them about their appearance, and fixing their uniforms. He even fixes Souka’s tie on her first real introduction to him. This dichotomy in his character comes across as very funny, as it’s easy to see.

The chapters in this first volume mostly document Souka’s gradual, and accidental take over Tokugawa Tech and then Toyotomi Agricultural. She never means to get involved with the fighting, but a simple iron plate in her book bag, given for her protection, becomes the vehicle to her rise in power. And it’s still funny the second time around, even when you see it coming. Souka is constantly trying to deny her position as bancho, but she does show an affinity for the position, especially in the chapter where they all go to the beach. One of the funnier moments in the title, is how it keeps track of Souka’s growing minions. I really enjoyed those.

The romance takes a backseat throughout the volume to all the comedy about Souka’s new title. There is an attraction between Souka and Katou, but neither of them see it. They both act as if they’re trying to protect each other out of duty or friendship, but the strange feelings Katou gets when Hideyoshi shows an interest in Souka are obviously not based on duty alone. I have to say, I prefer it this way. Their inability to see their romantic potential really suits the characters, and it keeps the romance from getting in the way of the comedy. It actually adds to it, as we the audience see in the Beach chapter that Katou is reacting to Hideyoshi’s advances towards her, while Souka thinks she’s don’t something to make him mad at her.

The art, like the story, is light and fun. All the characters have a cute appearance rather than anyone looking hot. And there are some ugly guys too so far. Some of the characters make funny faces, but it never goes so far as to going chibi.

This first volume of My Darling! Miss Bancho is a great start to what looks to be a fun series. Unfortunately, we will never know, as the second volume was scheduled to come out in July, AFTER DC’s publishing cut off date. It’s a real shame too, since this title was shaping up to be another great tween title, and CMX seemed to be the only publisher to find titles that really appealed to this demographic. This is a title definitely worth a license rescue. Check out volume 1, even if there might not be any hope of a second. The characters and story are a lot of fun, and since the final chapter ends neatly, it will still be a satisfying read.

Review: Broken Blade Volume 1

Rygart Arrow is the only one in his world who lacks the inherent abilityto power up quartz, the energy source that makes all of the machines run. Good thing the King and Queen of the country of Krisna happen to be old college friends! But so is Zess, the leader of the army of mechs invading Krisna. As usual, Aroow feels useless in the face of battle, until he comes across a powerful, ancient battle suit that no one else can run. His natural affinity for the suit’s operating mechanism may just turn Arrow into the most important player of all.

Broken Blade v1aBy Yunosuke Yoshinaga
Publisher: CMX Manga
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Action/Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★½☆☆
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It’s hard to be original in a genre like mecha, where stories of battling robots all seem to look the same. To make these titles appealing, they need interesting characters and/or compelling stories that make the use of the mecha seem necessary. Broken Blade is unable to do either unfortunately, as it presents a “by the numbers” plot and characters that are remarkable only by being unremarkable.

The plot for Broken Blade feels very much like it was created from a checklist of generic mecha plot points.  A mecha is found that it seems no one else is able to pilot except the protagonist because he has a special ability. Or in the case of this title, because he doesn’t. An old friend from school days is now the enemy, who has to prove his loyalty to his county and family. The protagonist doesn’t want to fight, but is thrown into a situation where he has to pilot the mech, and ends up saving the day.

The generic plot wouldn’t be so bad if the characters weren’t so bland. There is nothing about any of the characters that really make them stand out, or even seem interesting. The King and Queen of Krisna are more like scientists than royalty. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just that neither appear really commanding. Rygart is right out of “Mecha Heroes 101” with his peaceful stance and his angst at not having any magic. It’s low-level angst, but angst all the same. Zess is too gung-ho to please his brother, so he is unwilling to talk or listen to anyone, just like any other antagonist. There is nothing introduced in this first volume to make want to care about these characters. There is an attempt to introduce a possible love triangle, and the question of why Zess is trying to please the brother he wanted to stop back in the Academy days, but it’s just not enough.

Like the story and characters, the art is fairly standard. The mecha are well drawn, and the action scene with them are actual pretty good. They are easy to follow. The characters have a good variety of appearance that you won’t be mistaking Rygart for Hodr, the King of Krisna as do the mecha. There’s no confusing the Zess’ and Arrow’s mechs. But there’s nothing outstanding about it.

I had high hopes for this title. I wanted it to be good, since there is so little mech/sci-fi manga licensed, but this title just fell short of the mark. If you’ve never read a mecha title, or seen any of the Gundam series, this title might seem fresh to you. The most fantasy setting might be more attractive than the harder sci-fi of most mecha, so if you’ve been curious about what’s so appealing about mecha titles, Broken Blade is a good place to start. Long time mecha fans will probably be disappointed by it though, as it feels like it’s just going through the motions, with no real life to the story and characters.

Review Rerun: Samurai Commando: Mission 1549 Volume 1

A military test accidentally sends a unit from Japan’s Self-Defense Forces back in time to their country’s feudal past.  When their actions begin to alter the present, a second unit is dispatched to retrieve them.  But Colonel Matoba, commander of the lost battalion, is determined to use his advanced technology to conquer Japan and change his country’s destiny.  It’s up to Kashima, Matoba’s former protégé, to stop him.  But he only has a narrow window of time, and it is rapidly closing.

Samurai Commando v1Samurai Commando:  Mission 1549
Creators:  Ark Performance & Harutoshi Fukui
Publisher:  CMX
Genre:  Action/Sci-Fi
Age Rating: Teen+
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆
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I love historical/time travel plots like The Final Countdown, and Zipang.  So, when I heard about this manga, I was definitely interested.  Based on a novel, for once we aren’t traveling back to WWII to try to not change the outcome.  No, this time, we’re going back to the Warring States Era of Japan, to just before the country was unified.

The volume opens with Matoba killing Nobunaga Oda, the man who was to conquer all of Japan.  Oops.  Well, not really.  Apparently Matoba’s got some sort of plan.  Hell if we know what it is though.  And that’s part of the problem with this volume.  It’s all set up; going to find Kashima, and recruiting him, making the preparations to repeat the experiment that sent the first battalion back.  And in the past, it’s basically the same, with Matoba preparing for future to come after him.  We get little hints here and there about what might be driving Matoba, but nobody, not even his own soldiers seem to know that he’s up to.

While this might be good in a 3-4 volume series, this title only has two.  So everything HAS to be resolved in the next volume, and that makes me think things will get rushed, and in a story like this, that’s not good.  This story is really about Matoba and Kashima, their relationship in the past, how they’ve changed since parting, and what are they going to do when they meet again.  The sci-fi elements of “the changing of the past will affect the future, and the world as we know will disappear” is just there to get them back together. But with what we’ve seen so far, we don’t know enough about either to really make any judgments yet.  And with only one volume to go, I don’t see how we really can.

The art in this volume is very clean-looking, but I was put off my the larger use of grey tones.  Being used to dark inks in other books, the lighter grey made is seem…unfinished, like the inker was just skipped.  I got used to it after a while, but it was really distracting at first.

I have to give CMX props for coming out with a manga like this.  It is very different from the shonen/shojo fare that we get inundated with.  So seeing a story with a more mature plot and real sci-fi elements is really refreshing.  And I do have to admit that I am intrigued to find out what Matoba’s plan is.  I’m just worried that with all that’s been set up in this volume, it won’t all be satisfactorily resolved in the next.  But, it’s piqued my curiosity enough want to see it through.

Review Rerun: Gon Volume 1

65 million years ago, dinosaurs experienced a catastrophic extinction that ended their dominance on Earth except for ONE!  Now Gon marches across the wilderness, defending the friendly and furry from the mean and hungry.  Follow the journey as he encounters creatures big and small along the way and learns new things about himself from each of them.

Gon 1By Masashi Tanaka
Publisher: CMX
Genre: Action/Adventure
Age Rating: Teen
Price: $5.99
Rating: ★★★★☆
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Gon is a unique series, as it is told complete without words.  But the wordlessness gives the mangaka an opportunity to write to a wide audience with multiple levels of meaning.  Originally published by DC Comics in the 1990s, Gon is being given another chance, printed this time in its original, unflipped format.

Gon is a small orange dinosaur that looks like a t-rex and lives in the post dinosaur-pre human world, interacting with other animals.  The opening pages show how tough Gon as, as first a leopard breaks his teeth on Gon’s head, and then he’s rammed by a Rhinoceros, sent flying, hits a tree and then a rock, before landing on his back.  And he sleeps through the whole thing, until a leaf floats down from the tree and lands on his head.  It’s this kind of physical humor that makes Gon appealing to the younger audience.  And there’s plenty of it as Gon takes on a Grizzly Bear, a lion and a Bobcat, showing them all who’s boss.

But if you take a close look at these stories, you’ll see another layer underneath, one that seems to be meant for an older audience.  Gon is not as altruistic as the back cover seems to imply.  Even though he does help out other animals, usually weaker ones, it’s usually to his benefit as well.  Is Gon a hero for protecting a nest of baby eagles?  Or is he doing it because he gets to sleep in the nest and eat with chicks?  And when he decides to build a dam like a beaver, he ends up flooding the valley, and making all the other animals lose their homes for his own.  There is no black and white in this series, even though Gon doesn’t seem to like to see the little guy get put down.

The art in this series is absolutely fantastic.  It is very realistic and detailed, down to the veins in Gon’s legs when he jumps.  All of the animals are very expressive, making it easy to tell what they are thinking or feeling without a single word. Though, at times it felt a little too realistic, as Gon beat up the Bobcat. Even though he was the villain of the chapter, I couldn’t help feeling for him after all the damage he took.

Gon is an example of a title for all ages, as opposed to an all ages title. Some of the scenes can be disturbing to younger readers or the squeamish, but only in the same way as Animal Planet shows or Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom can be. Younger readers can handle this book, especially since there are no words, and its all up to the reader and their imagination to decide how severe the stories can be.

I gave this volume to my daughter to read when she was 8, and here’s what she said about it:

I liked Gon a lot.  It is about a dinosaur who beats up on the big guys so he can get what he pleases.  The funny storyline has cute animals that make the manga come to life.  In general, it is a good manga.

It confused me at first.  It was hard to understand what was going on without speech bubbles.  The book got less confusing the more I got through.  I felt dumb not knowing how to read the manga correctly.  Never the less, it was enjoyable.

Gon is a title and series that definitely worth your time and attention. Tanaka brings up some interesting issues that adults will enjoy, and that kids can grow to appreciate. And its got a dinosaur and other wild animals. How can anyone resist?

Review: Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1

When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret…

TWILIGHT_1Written by Stephenie Meyer; Art and Adaptation by Young Kim
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Supernatural Romance
Price: $19.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆
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I don’t care for the Twilight franchise. I didn’t read the books. I watched the movie, only because Rifftrax did such a great riff on it, but hated it in general. But surprisingly, I wasn’t repulsed by the graphic novel. It read like an average young adult romance, and the characters were typical of a shojo title. To quote my oldest daughter when I asked her why Twilight was popular with her friends, “Bella is a blank slate so anyone can be her, and the guys are all hot.” It was filled with lots of wish-fulfillment and angst, but it wasn’t the worse thing I’ve ever read.

This first volume covers the first half of the first book, Twilight.  It starts with Bella moving to Forks, WA, and ends with Edward’s sparkly-secret reveal. Everything else in between, was filled with days of Bella at school, being with her new friends, and, most of all, angsting over Edward.

I don’t have much to say about the story so far. Most of this first half had Bella and Edward thinking that the one hates the other. I can’t really complain about this too much. People tend to think like this when judging by action alone, and as awkward teenagers, of course neither would think to ask. Though, considering Edward’s age, I would have thought he’d be more mature, but then, the story might not appeal as much if he did. The other half is spent with Bella trying to figure out Edward’s secret, while Edward is just rying to figure Bella out. Of course she has to be different from all the other girls. While Edward is about as average as a modern-day vampire can get. He and his “family” only drink animal blood, want to live in peace with humans, and are angsty about their eternal life.

The art, on the other hand, I really enjoyed. Seeing Young Kim’s work made it easier to get through the story. The characters are drawn realistically. One of the things I really appreciate is how they DON’T look like the actors from the movie. I would have been easy to just cop-out and use their likenesses. I can’t say if their likenesses are anything like their described in the books, but they aren’t anywhere as hard on the eyes as the movie was. I also didn’t have a problem with font or unusual word balloon placement used in the book. It actually flowed fairly well once you understood it. And the font did add to the atmosphere of the book. I guess it also helps that I’m partial to flowing text.

Overall, I don’t feel like I wasted my time reading Twilight, but it’s not something I would go looking for either.  It’s not a bad way to kill an hour or so if you’re curious to see what all the fuss is about. You can skip all the long-winded text and get straight to the story, and have lots of pretty pictures to boot!

Review: Maoh: Juvenile Remix Volume 1

In the city of Nekota, where rapid modernization threatens everything the longtime residents hold dear, one young man has stood up to oppose progress. Inukai and his team of vigilantes, known as Grasshopper, protect the citizens from the rising crime wave and the greedy hands of businessmen bent on turning every block into a modern strip mall. But what is this public hero’s true motive? Is this angelic man actually a devil in disguise?

High school student Ando has the special ability to make others say out loud what he’s thinking. But will this be enough to uncover Inukai’s secrets and stop the plot to control the city?

Maoh JR 1By Megumi Osuga
Publisher: Viz Media/Shonen Sunday
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Mystery/Drama
Price: $9.99/Free Online
Rating: ★★★★☆
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Change is unavoidable. It’s a contradictory constant. But the forces for change can be either good or bad. This first volume of Maoh: Juvenile Remix shows how words can bring about change, but leaves the question of its benefit open to interpretation.

The volume starts by introducing the protagonist, Ando, a high school student in the 11th grade. Because of an incident when he was young, he tries not to stand out.  He has the ability to make people say what he’s thinking and was ridiculed by his classmates for it. Now, he likes to blend in with the crowd, and not get involved with other people’s business. He is a bystander to the world around him.

Enter Mr. Inukai, the leader of a vigilante group known as Grasshopper. His is good-looking, confident and charismatic. He always has a benign expression and gentle smile on his lips. He and his followers patrol Nekota City, protecting the people from harm. Inukai’s greatest weapon in this fight seems to be his words. He can sway a crowd to his way of thinking or inspire individuals to action. Even Ando, who sees him in action one day. Inukai’s claim that anyone can change the world if they believe it enough, stirs Ando from his inaction. Using his ability, he helps a girl being groped on a train, and tries to help a classmate who is being bullied.

Ando’s fascination with Inukai gives him a glimpse in a darkness that seems to exist in Inukai and the Grasshoppers. Instead of being scared away by this revelation, Ando becomes more interested in Inukai and determined to find out what his real motives are.

When I first started reading this title online at, I didn’t think much of it. Reading the first volume however, has really changed my opinion. There is a lot going on here, between And’s ability and Inukai’s true intentions.  Inukai seems helpful, and to have good intentions toward the people of Nekota City. But like other charismatic leaders from the past, he may have more sinister motives. Ando says it as he’s talking to his classmate Kaname and asks what if Inukai is the devil? It’s a powerful question and gives the reader a lot to think about.

The panel layout is easy to follow, and the art is decently done. It was difficult at first to figure out Inukai’s gender, and he has several female qualities, but I found the ambiguity about his gender added to the mystique of his character.

Maoh: Juvenile Remix isn’t an action title but neither is it boring. There is a bit of talking, both in internal dialog and in discussions between characters, but it’s not just exposition. There is a real story going on here, one that’s definitely worth checking out.

Review copy provided by publsher. Images © Viz Media

Rin-Ne Volume 4

This volume starts off with a new arc about Rinne’s family, specifically his father. The truth behind Rinne’s constant debt is revealed, as is more about the criminal shinigami organization, the Damashigami, and Rinne’s connection to it. And there’s some tidbits thrown out about Rinne’s and Sakura’s relationship, and for once, it’s not what you’d expect from Takahashi.

By Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Comedy
Price: $9.99/Free Online (Chapters 29-38)
Rating: ★★★★☆

I’ve been disappointed by the previous volumes of Rin-Ne so far. It’s been so much “been there, done that,” but this volume is different. The quality went up for the chapters covered in this volume, to what I expect from a Takahashi series.  The weak start made getting this far difficult, but I’m glad I waited it out.

This volume introduces Rinne’s father, Sabato Rokudo. He is key to a lot of the problems in Rinne’s life, specifically his debt and the Damashigami.  Sabato is a dead beat dad in every since of the word. He left Rinne with his parents after his wife (Rinne’s mom) disappeared. He is constantly withdrawing money from Rinne’s bank account using a forged stamp. He’s unlike any dad seen so far in a Takahashi series. None of them have ever been this bad. Genma and Ranma always fought, but there was still a feeling that Genma cared about Ranma. Inuyasha’s father left a legacy to his half-demon son so he could survive as well. Sabato doesn’t seem to care about Rinne except how he can use him to his own benefit. Conflict between fathers and sons are nothing new, but the level of animosity introduced between Rinne and Sabato is. One thing that is still cliche for a Takahashi series is Rinne’s mother “disappearing”. She did it Ranma 1/2, and I’m just waiting for something similar to happen again here.

The truth about the Damashigami is revealed in this volume as well. Rinne finds out he’s connected to them in a way he never would have expected, and it just makes him all the more determined to stop the organization. I’m looking forward to more confrontations with the Damashigami. The battles that were seen in this volume reminded me why I enjoy her titles so much. It’s the action and fighting that she does so well. They are imaginative and fun, and it’s what this series has been lacking. So I hope there’s more to come.

There’s also an interesting twist in the relationship between Rinne and Sakura that is shown in this volume. For once, it’s not the girl chasing after the uninterested guy. Rinne is shown to be the one developing feelings for Sakura, while she just thinks of them as friends. She’s not falling for him at all. I think this is a great change from all the girls-chasing-guys that always shows up in shonen titles, and might make the series more interesting to follow.

This volume of Rin-Ne turned out to be surprisingly strong. It had a lot of good action and fighting sequences, as can be expected from a Takahashi series. Sabato is incredibly annoying. I really disliked him, but that’s what makes him a good antagonist. I want to see Rinne beat him now. If Rin-Ne can keep this moment going, then it will turn out to be a really good series. The potential from the beginning is finally starting to pay off. I just wish it hadn’t taken so long to get here.

Honey Hunt Volume 4

As Yura continues her foray into the glamorous world of acting, she’s starting to learn that success is often marred with setbacks and compromises. Although she fails to land the lead role in a new drama penned by famous screenwriter Maki Todo, she does succeed in getting offered the part of the heroine’s friend. However, her boss Keiichi cautions Yura that her increasing popularity will result in greater scrutiny of her private life by the paparazzi. Can Yura continue growing as an actress while keeping her budding relationships with Q-ta and Haruka in check?

Honey Hunt v4By Miki Aihara
Publisher: Viz Media/Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Romance/Drama
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★½☆☆
Buy This Book

The short answer? No. When I started reading Honey Hunt in Shojo Beat magazine, I thought it had a lot of potential. I really enjoyed the first 2 1/2 volumes. They concentrated on the building of Yura’s career and her confidence as an actress, with just bits of budding relationships thrown in here and there. Volume 4 reverses that trend, and not in a good way.

Yura seemed to be on track to start her career. She showed she had guts by telling her parents off on TV, and then decided to be an actress herself despite her shy personality and the sheltered life she lived until then. She had shown she had talent and got the gig to start in a series of ramen noodle commercials. She was finally starting to go somewhere. At the start of this volume, the commercials were successful, and her face was starting to be seen everywhere. She auditioned for a part on a prime time TV drama, and even though she didn’t get the lead, she did get a part, and it’s soon to premiere.

But instead of continuing on the strong career story line, this volume careers off into the relationships with twin bothers Q-ta and Haruka, and then, just for good measure, and because a love triangle isn’t enough, Yura’s boss, Keiichi, is introduced as a possible love interest.  Huh? This comes out of absolutely nowhere. Every scene we’ve seen with Keiichi, is him pushing Yura to concentrate on building her career, but with a few panels, it all gets twisted around, and made to look like his interference with her relationships with the twins is personal. It makes what he’s done seem like petty jealousy. I really didn’t like this twist on Keiichi. He really didn’t deserve it. I became interested in this title to see Yura best her mother, not to her fall for every guy that comes around and visa-versa.

And Yura shows herself to be pretty dumb. This disappoints me too, since I thought she was smart. She gives up her chance to have her first “family” celebration while watching her debut on the prime time TV drama to run off and be with Q-ta, and she lies to do it. Sure, you can chalk it up to her sheltered upbringing, and being naive, but is she serious about her career or just having a boyfriend? I’m getting to like Yura less and less.

I did like the bonus chapter at the end that was the first episode of the drama. In a manga all about making TV shows with scripts and rehearsals that we only get glimpses of, it’s nice to be able to actually see the full story. Aihara’s art has a rather distinct style.  It’s clean and simple. It also appears to be more refined from her previous series Hot Gimmick. I enjoy it more.

Honey Hunt was on a good track, but if it continues in a direction that emphasizes Yura’s relationships over her career, then I’m not interested. She needs to smarten up and fly right, because I want to see her show up her mother on the stage, and not in the bedroom.

Review copy provided by publsher. Images © Viz Media

Review: The World I Create Volume 1

Being a “Projectionist” can bring lots of money and fame, but only if you are good at it. If you want o become one, first you need to have the power to cast a four-dimensional image. The it is really important to be able to hone and perfect you projecting abilities. The best place to do that, of course, is at a high school filled with other aspiring projectionists. Step into this multi-dimensional world with a very special student body and see how each student deals with his or her special gifts!

World I Create v1By Ayami Kazama
Publisher: CMX
Age Rating: Everyone
Genre: Romance/Fantasy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Buy This Book

It’s an interesting world that is created in The World I Create, where completely realistic “projections” are created for entertainment.  It’s a lot of hard work, and can be very rewarding.  In this volume, we are introduced to 8 students, all attending school to learn to perfect their abilities.  The all have different reasons for wanting to be a projectionist, but in the end this title just doesn’t distinguish itself well enough from other rom-com titles.

The first volume is comprised of 4 stories that feature two characters each it. It’s usually a boy and girl, and they are all from different grades in the school.  All have different motivations (or none at all) to be Projectionists.  The first story is about a boy and girl who keep failing their first year final and must work together to get a passing grade. The second is about a boy who calibrates other student’s lanterns, and a prodigy girl who only has one projection left in her. The third story is about a boy of meager means who accidentally angers a girl with height issues, who then tries to sabotage his tests.  The last story is about a boy who hates projectionists, and must come to terms with his female best friend becoming one.  Each story is self-contained, though characters from the other stories can make cameo appearances.

Overall, I enjoyed this first volume.  The characters are well developed and each couple compliments each other.  They are different from one another, but not so much that they can’t get along. And none of the main characters are annoying or dumber than bricks. My favorite story of the four was the second one with Akitsu the lantern cleaner and upperclassman Kawanami, the prodigy with only one projection left in her.  Akitsu is quiet and reserved, while Kawanami is more outgoing.  Their story is touching, and while it’s kind of a sad ending, it’s a good kind of sad.

While there’s nothing really bad about this volume, the characters are well written and stories are competent enough, there’s really nothing great about them either.  Nothing about this title really inspired me or got me excited to read more.  It was entertaining and I don’t regret the time I spent with it, it just isn’t a memorable read.  There’s nothing remarkable about the art either.  It’s decent enough, but also very standard.

The World I Create is still a good title, and I would recommend it for the tween-to-teen crowd.  The stories aren’t too complex or overwrought with melodrama.  This title would make a great addition to an elementary and/or middle school library, where the readers may get more out of it that I did.  This isn’t a title that should be passed up.  It has some good stories to tell, just don’t expect to be wowed.

Review copy provided by publisher. Image © CMX Manga