Category Archives: Reviews

Manga Movable Feast: Mushishi Volume 1

Some live in the deep darkness behind your eyelids. Some eat silence. Some thoughtlessly kill. Some simply drive men mad. Shortly after life emerged from the primordial ooze, these deadly creatures, mushi, came into terrifying being. And they still exist and wreak havoc in the world today. Ginko, a young man with a sardonic smile, has the knowledge and skill to save those plagued by mushi…perhaps.

Mushishi v1By Yuki Urushibara
Publsiher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: 16+
Genre: Drama
Price: $12.95
Rating: ★★★★★
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The back cover text make this book sound more sinister than it actually is. This first volume introduces the concept of the mushi, and the man we will follow who has the arcane knowledge to deal with them, Ginko, the Mushishi. Through a series of episodic stories, we see how mushi and men can interact, and how Mushishi bridge the gap and try to foster understanding between them.

Ginko is a wandering Mushishi. He studies and tries to understand mushi. He is often called to a village that needs his expertise, but can also stumble upon people in need of help, even if they don’t realize it themselves. Strange and ancient, mushi are not actually malicious, but like so many other creatures, they can be parasitic. But because they are so strange and mysterious, their work is often mistaken as the supernatural. Mushishi know the signs and diagnose the problem, almost like a doctor. Ginko, like the mushi he studies, is also a bit of a mystery. Little is given away about him, except for the clues that wherever he goes, mushi react to his presence, and the cigarettes he smokes aren’t filled with nicotine, but a special mushi that can trap other mushi or drive them away. He’s also missing an eye, and perhaps has just a little too much knowledge about the source of life, something mushi are closer to than humans.

What makes Mushishi an interesting series is that the focus isn’t solely on Ginko. The mushi get quite a bit as well.  As Ginko identifies the mushi that is the cause of each problem, he also explains about them, though it never feels like a lecture. Mushi are so strange and different, it’s interesting to find out about them, both to the characters and to the reader.  While they are often portrayed as being parasytes that can take a person’s sight, hearing, or even their life, not all are like that.  In a few instances, mushi are shown to have a sentience, that can lure humans in to turn them into mushi, or can show emotion, as in the story of “The Traveling Bog.” A mushi that is making it’s last journey home to die, saves a girl who was sacrificed to a Water God to save the village.

Mushishi is a very well written series.  It’s easy to get drawn into the stories and it’s open world. We only see Ginko as he travels in the wild, going from village to village.  There are no big cities, and while everyone is dressed in traditional kimonos, Ginko has a more western style.  By keeping the setting of the series open, Urushibara gives herself a lot of leeway with her stories. The mushi are very diverse and interesting, though at times, their expulsion can be a little disturbing.  The enigma of Ginko is another draw. We know little of him beyond him being a Mushishi. An interesting story seems to be waiting behind that.

The art is drawn realistically, with none of the manga trappings.  No one makes goofy faces or goes chibi.  It’s an understated style without a lot of detail.  Like the stories, it is simple and straightforward, and at times rather dark.  Mushishi is a slow paced series.  There are no fights against the mushi, and no melodramatic relationships.  It’s more about thinking things through and solving the puzzle of the mushi.  Brains are more important than brawn, and at times it can be rather contemplative.  It’s a great change of pace.

Review: Olympians: Zeus: King of the Gods

Zeus CoverHere’s where it all starts: the beginning of the everything–the world, the gods, and even humanity.  Mighty Kronos, the most terrifying of all the Titans, reigns as the unchallenged tyrant of the cosmos… until his son, the god Zeus, stands up and takes on his own father in a battle intense enough to shatter the universe! Who will emerge triumphant?

By George O’Connor
Publisher: First Second
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Action/Mythology
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★
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A recent re-watching of the classic Clash of the Titans has inspired me to write this review.  I’ve been in love with mythology since I was first introduced to the Greek myths in the 5th Grade.  They were my gateway to other mythologies, such as Norse and Egyptian.  Now, the Greek myths are getting a face lift of sorts.  They are being retold in the way they were meant to be told; as tales of action and adventure, with monsters to be fought and maidens to be rescued.  Zeus: King of the Gods tells the tale of not just Zeus’ beginnings, but also of the world and the Olympian gods themselves.

The Greek gods are like the original superheroes.  They possess super powers such as invulnerability and the ability to transform, and yet were just as fallible as the humans they ruled.  They suffer from all the same emotions and faults that humans do.  When he is first introduced, Zeus is shown to be just as active and full of energy as any youth in his prime would be.  He is impatient, reckless and a bit of a rake, as he chases the nymphs that watch over him and flirts with Metias.  These are not the traits one would usually associate with their supreme being, but Zeus was all this and more.  He was also brave and shows himself to be a born leader as he faced his father and freed his siblings.

There’s plenty of action in this volume, with Titans battling the Olympians, Zeus going on a quest to gain his birthright, and the final battle with Kronos, though most of it’s toward the end.  The beginning is just that; the beginnings of the universe and the world.  Gaea and Ouranos, and their children, the Titans Kronos and Rhea, and Kronos’ reign all have to be set up so that Zeus and his siblings have some to fight, and something to fight for.  It also sets up a cycle of father against son, and warns you don’t anger Mother Earth.

Zeus: King of the Gods is great retelling of the original myth.  It emphasizes the action and adventure that makes the myths thrilling, while still imparting it’s lessons. The other gods are introduced, with just the brothers Hades and Poseidon helping Zeus in the battle against Kronos and his brothers.  It’s good to see the women show some sense and let the men bash their brains out.  I liked how each sibling, when spit out, landed in an area that would become their domain; Poseidon in the sea, Hades under ground, Demeter in a field of grain.  I also really enjoyed the small seeds that were planted through out the story, hinting to connections to other myths.

The art was very well done.  O’Connor does a great job bringing the creatures of myth to life, especially the Cyclops and the Hekatonchieres, creatures with 50 heads and 100 hands.  The Titans are just otherworldly enough to make the transition from Earth and Sky to the human sized Olympians.

If you love Greek mythology or are just a fan a tales of adventure, then this book is definitely for you.  It’s definitely safe for a middle school library.  Kids will love not just the story, but the extras at the end that give the stats for key characters, like a trading card, and parents and teachers will like the study guide and bibliography.  There’s even included reading for younger readers.  I highly recommend this title.  It’s a great resource, and just plain great reading.

Check out the Good Comics for Kids Book Club for more on this title.

Review copy provided by publisher. Images © First Second

Stolen Hearts Volume 1

Everyone’s afraid of Koguma– the biggest, most intimidating guy at school.  So when Shinobu accidentally spills milk on his bag, you can bet she’s pretty scared about what’s going to happen next.  Turns out the bag contains an antique kimono, of all things.  It belongs to Koguma’s grandmother, who runs a kimono shop. To make up for ruining the outfit, Shinobu’s going to have to start modeling kimonos as part of grandma’s big plan to market her products to younger customers. Big, scary Koguma’s into kimonos? Turns out there’s a lot no one knew about this tall, quiet boy, and now Shinobu’s out ot change that. But in doin so, will she also end up with a new boyfriend?

Stolen Hearts v1By Miku Sakamoto
Publisher: CMX
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance/Comedy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★
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I’ve never been interested in fashion much, not as a teenage, and certainly not now, so I was wary about Stolen Hearts.  The novelty of being set in a kimono shop did spark my curiosity, but I really wasn’t expecting much.  I was pleasantly surprised then by the very sweet romance and great characters that I found in it’s pages.

The title starts out like an average shojo manga with a gimmick.  A boy and girl work at a kimono shop, modeling the wares.  The boy is big, and intimidating looking.  He is the strong, silent type.  The girl is small and average.  There’s nothing really special about her.  Like everyone in her school, she is scared of him.  Turns out though, the boy is a gentle giant, and not really all that scary.  They develop feelings for each other.  Sounds likes like every other shojo ever written, right?  Don’t be so quick to judge!  It turns out this title isn’t so average.

While the setting of a kimono shop seems like a new gimmick, it really isn’t.  Koguma and Shinobu don’t actually work in the shop.  They actually model them.  Dressing in them and walking about in the streets outside the shop, they hand out flyers for the store.  I like this idea, as it gives more opportunities for interactions with different people other than just customers.  With customers you have to assume a certain kind of  person will come into the shop.  Walking around on the street gives a greater variety of people for the main characters to interact with.  It also gives them time alone (sort of) to get to know each other better. And trouble is easier to find out in the open, either from rivals or schoolmates, who can bring a whole other class of trouble.  It’s also a great excuse to show off all sorts of different outfits.  They are fashionable, and some of the themed designs are cute.  It’s also very cool to get to see styles of men’s kimonos as well.  Women always get featured in kimonos.  Men don’t get that as often, so it nice to see some equal treatment.

But it’s the characters that really make this title, and their interactions with each other.  Shinobu is the female protagonist.  She actually rather average as shojo protagonists go.  She doesn’t have some burning passion, or a crush on some boy in her class.  She’s just an average high school girl doing things with her friends and just being normal.  It’s kind of a nice change of pace.  Once she gets to know Koguma, and finds he’s not the scary monster every thinks he is, she gets this enthusiasm for everyone to know the nice side of him too.  This was a nice touch, and a realistic reaction, one I enjoyed a lot.

Koguma is big and looks scary.  He towers over everyone at school, being over 6ft. and rarely smiles, but he’s actually rather shy.  Most of the rumors that float around him are exaggerations of actually very tame stories.  But because everyone avoids him, he’s not every good in social situations.  He doesn’t really know how to act, even with Shinobu’s help.  In many ways, he reminds me of Sawako from Kimi ni Todoke.  Everyone’s afraid of him, until one person learns the truth and shows them they are really very nice.  I really started to enjoy the volume more when I came to this realization.

The last character is truly a character.  Granny Koguma, Koguma’s grandmother, is the 76-year-old owner of the kimono shop.  She is a very feisty woman who likes to get her way and usually does.  She’s very modern in her thinking, and wants to get more younger kids into wearing kimonos, and does so with more fashionable styles.  She’s happy to help out Koguma and Shinobu when they need it, as long as she can get some sort of a profit as well.  She often beats on Koguma, who submits to her smaller grandmother with barely a word.  It seems she may have some yakuza ties as well, as just the mention of her name gets Koguma and Shinobu special treatment at a festival.  She steals every scene she’s in.

Stolen Hearts starts out slow, but picks up the pace very quickly.  The art took a little while for me to get used to.  I thought it looked kind of funky looking at first, but really got to like it by the end of the volume.  This title is a great read, and it’s going into my must buy pile.  Make sure it’s in yours.

Review copy provided by publisher. Images © CMX Manga

Review: Pichi Pichi Pitch Mermaid Melody Volume 1-7

Lucia is the new girl at school. She and her sister run a public bath that’s all the rage. When Lucia meets a terrific-looking surfer boy, there’s just one little problem: Lucia is a mermaid–not just any mermaid, but a princess on an important mission to save the seven seas from an evil force bent on taking control of the marine world. Such a responsibility doesn’t leave much time for romance. But Lucia vows to protect her world and win the heart of handsome Kaito.

Mermaid Melody 1By Pink Hanamori
Publisher: Del Rey
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Price: $10.95
Rating: ★★★½☆
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This series is a a magical girl-fantasy-romance.  Mermaids exist and live in the seven seas.  Each sea has a princess with a pearl that gives them special powers.  For not only can mermaids appear as human and walk on land, the princesses can transform into Idols, microphones and all.  This series centers around three of the princesses.  Lucia is the pink Princess of the North Pacific.  She has come to land to find her pearl before her coming of age ceremony.  She gave it to a boy she saved from a ship wreck when she was young.  Hanon is the blue Princess of the South Atlantic and Rina is the green Princess of the North Atlantic.  They join Lucia after escaping the destruction of their kingdoms and protecting their pearls from the mysterious Gakuto, who is determined to get all the mermaid princesses’ pearls and rule the seven seas.

Along side the fighting Gakuto’s evil minions and protecting their pearls, the three princesses’ lives are complicated by the human males they meet.  Lucia is in love with Kaito, the boy she gave her pearl to.  Kaito is in love with her too, but only her mermaid side.  Of course, Lucia can’t tell Kaito who she really is, or else she’ll turn to sea foam.  Hanon is likewise smitten with the music teacher at school, but he only has eyes for another mermaid he saw several years previously.  Rina, the tomboy, doesn’t claim to like anyone human boy, but one persistent, older boy seems to capture her attention.  The chapters mostly alternate between the romance and the fight against Gakuto.

The series is divided into two arcs.  The first four volumes are devoted to the Aqua Regina arc.  The mermaid princess’ are charged by the mermaid deity, Aqua Regina, to stop Gakuto, save the other princess’ and protect the humans from the devastation Gakuto and a mysterious woman with him plans to wreck on the world.  This first arc has some good twists which lead up to an exciting and climatic battle.  If I were to rate just this first arc, I would give it 5 stars.  It was well written and everything led up to the ending, tying all the loose ends together for a happy ending.  And it should have ended there.

Instead, the series goes into a second arc.  Much like the unplanned sequel to a successful movie, Kaito and Lucia are separated.  Kaito gets amnesia and disappears, causing them to start their relationship all over.  I really hate stories that resort to this kind of plot.  This second arc, the Resurrection of Michel, is only two volumes.  Michel is an ancient being known as a Winged One.  He wants to destroy the human world and and bring back his race.  Lucia and the other mermaid princesses declare they will fight Michel instead of joining him, and it’s a race now to find all the pieces of the Orange Princess pearl to help the new princess be born before Michel can and be resurrected.

This second arc didn’t hold a lot of interest for me.  The story seemed sloppy and thrown together instead of carefully plotted out.  It takes the power of everyone we’ve encountered over the entire series, enemies and all, working together to defeat Michel. It tries to make it feel like it was planned all along, but that isn’t how it comes off.  This arc is filled with a lot of melodrama, between Kaito’s guilt for wanting to leave the young girl Michal that has latched on to him, and Lucia constant attempts to win him back.  Once again, the story arc is tied up neatly, so I will give credit where it’s due.  Hanamori does a good job of bringing her story to an end, and does so satisfactorily. The final volume is filled with one shots more than having a specific story arc.  It ties up some left over romance and gives a glimpse into Kaito and Lucia’s future.

Overall, Pichi Pichi Pitch Mermaid Melody is a decent series.  It stresses themes of friendship and true love that kids like to read, and that teens should see more often than the “mean girl” stories that seem to get more play.  The romance is cute with lots of blushing and light kisses traded between couples.  It’s filled with fashion and while the music can’t be heard, their pop idol personas are still full of energy and fun.  This is a great title for tween-to-teens and would make a great edition to any teen library collection.  For older readers, it’s a fun read that really rocks at the beginning, but starts to drag at the end.  Only pick this up if you like mermaids/magical girl manga.

Manga Drive-By: Shonen Jump April-May 2010

So, I fell behind on Shonen Jump.  It’s been an eventful month or so.  But, I’m caught up now, and ready to share by insights on the last two issues.  The magazine has some new features, but no new permanent series to replace Yu Yu Hakusho.  I really hope they don’t keep this trend going.  One Piece, Naruto, Bleach and Ultimo are not enough to hold my attention for an extended length of time.  I’d rather go to waiting for GNs for the few titles I want than to continue to sludge through some of these chapters month after month.  One thing of interest I noticed as I was tossing the insert subscription cards.  Shonen Jump is now offering 6 month subscriptions, just like Yen PlusSJ‘s are less expensive, obviously, but with the current SJ line up, the Yen Plus subscription definitely feels like the better deal right now.

Continue reading Manga Drive-By: Shonen Jump April-May 2010

Digital Review: Prisoner of the Tower

It’s the social season, and 17 year old Emma heads to London, with her family’s hope of finding a rich husband weighing heavily on her shoulders. One night, a mysterious man approaches her. A refined handsome face, curly black hair and deep blue eyes… Emma falls in love at first sight and shares with him her first kiss. 12 years later and now a widow, Emma visits the Earl of Greyston to discuss the marriage of her stepdaughter. It is the Earl’s younger brother who is betrothed to her stepdaughter, but the Earl never shows himself. While staying there, Emma spots the man she kissed all those years ago in a portrait on the wall…!

Prisoner of the Towerby Karin Miyamoto, Gayle Wilson
Publisher: DMP/eManga/Harlequin K.K./SOFTBANK Creative Corp.
Age Rating: 16+
Genre: Historical, Romance
Price: $4.99 Kindle/Digital Edition
Rating: ★★★★☆

I’m not a big romance fan, but when I was given the chance to read some of the Harlequin romances from DMP, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.  For the most part, I found the stories to be entertaining but formulaic.  One story did stand out; Prisoner of the Tower.  This is a historical romance that hits all the right marks.  It captures the feel of  Victorian England without being overbearing, and has characters that are believable and likable at the same time.

Victorian England wasn’t the best time or place to be a woman.  Women were treated more as property than people, and were often married off for the benefit of the family than for love, especially among the upper classes.  This is the situation Emma is in when we first meet her.  She is going to the Court at London to find a husband of means that can save her family from ruin.  She knows this and hopes for the best that she will find a man that will be kind to her at least.  But before reaching London, her first kiss is stolen by a mysterious man who is headed off to war.  Neither expect to see each other ever again after that night.

12 years later, Emma is going with her stepdaughter and brother-in-law to meet Earl Greystone and get his permission for her and his younger brother to marry.  Emma wants Jorgina to have a good life with her true love, something she couldn’t have herself.  The only thing standing in their way is the Earl himself.  Alexander has no problem with his brother Jamie marrying Jorgina, he just doesn’t want to meet with Emma.  Honor was very important to the upper classes, and with his disfigured face, and the disgrace he feels from his time in the war, he doesn’t want to face anyone.

Even though it’s Jorgina and Jamie that are trying to get the blessings to get married, the story is really about Emma and Alexander getting together.  Both have given up on finding love.  Alexander doesn’t believe anyone could love him because of his disfigurement and disgrace, and Emma is ready to just accept the life of a widow and live alone and out of Jorgina’s life.  Emma doesn’t realize though, that Alexander is her mystery man from all those years before.  What follows is a series of miss communications and missed opportunities as these two star-crossed lovers stumble toward their happy ending.

I really liked the setting of this story.  I enjoy stories where the main characters spur the conventions of their time and/or society, and that is just what Emma is trying to do for Jorgina.  The characters are very well developed, even for a short manga.  They felt real to me, especially with their foibles.  I really wanted to see Emma and Alexander get together, and felt some frustration at their every misstep.  I really wanted to slap Alexander for his assumptions about Emma.  Emma’s determination to win over Alexander was well done.  She was strong without being overbearing which fits the time perfectly.

I also really enjoyed the art.  The 70’s shojo style with the big, sparkling eyes, flowing hair and elaborate clothing fit the story perfectly.  I was drawn in more because of it.  The only thing that marred the look was the typesetting, which looked like it was typed in with a typewriter.  The font is stiff, and the words don’t fit into the text or word bubbles.  But this was the only problem I had with the volume.  It’s only available in digital form, either for the Kindle or through eManga.  I can’t speak for the Kindle, but the eManga site is very easy and intuitive to use.  The story is also short enough that reading online isn’t a bother.  It is smart and well written.  If romances were more like this, I would gladly read them more.

Review copy provided by publisher. Images © Digital Manga Publishing

Jenny's Journal: 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 v1By Stephenie Meyer;
Art & Adaptation by Young Kim
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Romance
Price: $19.99
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Buy This Book

The book I’m reviewing now is called Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1. I think I regret reading this, and I may never touch it again after setting my eyes upon it. But hey, as long as I’m allowed to bash it for what it is, I’m cool. Anyways, let’s talk about what the story is about.

Continue reading Jenny's Journal: Twilight: The Graphic Novel Volume 1

Review: Nightschool Volume 2

When Alex’s sister, Sarah, vanishes and all memory and evidence of her existence is erased, Alex is determined to get to the bottom of her sister’s disappearance.  What better place to start her investigations than the Nightschool itself?  But when she discovers that sneaking into the Nightschool isn’t as simple as it might seem, Alex enrolls as a student.  But is she prepared for what she might find?

Nightschool 2By Sveltlana Chmakova
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★★
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The action in this volume moves to the titular Nightschool as Alex is forced to enroll in order to find out about her sister’s disappearance.  We learn more about the school and it’s inhabitants as Alex goes through orientation and attends a class.  We also see more of the Hunters as well as the seer Marina, as they relax and train at home, and more clues about the broken seal mentioned in volume 1 are dropped.

In order to find her sister, Alex tries to enter the Nightschool, and is twice evicted, but not before meeting Ronee, another weirn that is somehow connected with the prophesy and Alex.  So instead, she has to enroll in the school.  Mrs. Hatcher, the Day Keeper is great, and I love the dragon hatchery that she has to take care of.  They are so cute!  Another possible clue is dropped about Alex’s past as her pencil hovers over a cursed check box.  Once enrolled, she starts to play detective, and gets a tour of the school as orientation.  The best scene though, was her in the Astral Training class and showing up teacher Mrs. Murrey.  I especially liked Alex’s astral making the origami, and the page with Alex sprouting the wings really made this volume.

Also in this volume we get to see the Hunters on their home turf, studying and training.  They appear to be home schooled in much the same way as Alex.  They seem to be like a family, with all the sibling rivalry and play that comes with it.  Daemon, their “teacher” continues to be a mystery, as he is shown to have a connection to a teacher at the Nightschool, Mr. Roi, who also seems to have a connection to the broken seal seen in Marina’s vision.  He also looks like someone you don’t want to make angry.  There is more background on the prophesy, but still no answers.

Nightschool: The Weirn Books continues to move at a good pace.  The clues about the prophesy, the mysterious hooded shades who keep appearing, and the Alex’s sister’s disappearance are dropped at a slow but steady rate.  It’s at just the right speed to keep readers interested and wanting to know more.  The next volume should definitely prove interesting as Alex and Mr. Roi seem destined to meet.  This title remains on my must have list and it should be on yours.

Review copy provided by publisher. Image © Yen Press

Manga Drive By: Harlequin Manga @

eMangaI’ve never been much of a romance fan, and have never read a Harlequin romance novel in my life.  So, when I was given the opportunity to read some of the Harlequin manga released by DMP on their online manga site eManga, I decided to check some of the titles out.  I read 7 titles in total, that seemed to run the gambit from historical to modern settings, and from chaste fade-to-black love scenes to those slightly more explicit, but not enough to rate a M rating.

Some general observations first.  DMP’s eManga site is very well done.  The navigation is clean and concise, and easy to get around.  The reading list displays all of your titles, including how long your rental will last.  The manga reader is also easy to navigate.  It allows for either one or two page viewing, as well as zoom in and out.  The two page view fit my monitor just fine though, and I could read the text easily without zooming.  My only complaint here was about the bookmark feature.  It didn’t really work.  I tried to use it, but it didn’t remember my page when I came back the next day.  Luckily had written down my last page as well, so I wasn’t too inconvenienced.  It would have been nice though, if it had worked properly.

For the most part, I enjoyed the Harlequin titles.  They all went fairly quickly and make for good light summer reading, such as a relaxing day at the beach. They are very much wish fulfillment, with strong, independent women (in their own way) meeting men that seem jerky at first, but then turn out to be kind and great lovers. They were fun, but they’re not anything I’d be interested in re-reading.  They can get rather formulaic and cliche, which gets boring fast.  The only real problem I had with all of these titles was the text.  It doesn’t appear that much time or effort was put into it.  The text looks like it was typed in, and no effort was made to make the text fit in the word balloons.  You do get used to it after a while, but really, even scanlators do a better job.  For something you’re paying for, you expect a better presentation.

Honor’s PromiseRating: ★★½☆☆ – I liked most of the characters in this story,  especially the protagonist.  She was feisty and fun.  The plot wasn’t too over used, though the Greedy Family Lawyer as the villain was kind of obvious and cliche.  It’s a decent read, and was a pleasant introduction.  Would Trade For.

Keeping Luke’s SecretRating: ★★★½☆ – I really liked this one.  I enjoyed out the protagonist, who is a historian that was asked to write a long awaited biography, stays true to herself, and her work.  She’s not looking for money or fame.  The story ends with a bit of a twist and a fairy tale ending.  Must Buy.

Marriage Under An Italian SunRating: ★★★☆☆ – This one I also enjoyed.  It was a well written story and the setting in an Italian villa was nice.  The story had a nice mature feel to it, as it dealt with different kinds of loss and trying to make the right choices in order to be happy.  It had some nice twists that kept it from becoming predictable.  Must Buy.

Millionaire Husband: Justin’s StoryRating: ★★★½☆ – This was my second favorite story of the seven I read.  I liked the switch up of making a guy the protagonist instead of it being a woman.  I found his portrayal to be realistic considering his past and his slow by steady change to be well done.  Must Buy.

Prisoner of the TowerRating: ★★★★☆ – This was the best of the seven I read.  I love historical dramas, and this fit right into that.  The characters were well developed and very likable.  I found myself rooting Emma on and wanting to slap Baron Greystone.  The art is also a treat.  I highly recommend this title and a full review will be forthcoming.  Must Buy.

Sale of Return BrideRating: ★★☆☆☆ – This was the most cliche of all the stories I read, both in story and in characters.  I was predicting every story element before they happened, and the ending was no surprise.  It wasn’t badly written or anything like that.  It was just predicatable, and that lowered the enjoyment for me.  Good Way to Kill an Hour.

The Sheikh’s Reluctant BrideRating: ★★½☆☆ – This was another average title.  The Middle Eastern setting and situation with the female protagonist was different from the other titles I read, and I did find it refreshing.  Again, the characters are well written and the story isn’t as predictable, but neither is it very interesting.  The old school feel of the art was a nice touch too.  It just wasn’t all that appealing to me.  Good Way to Kill an Hour.

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Digital Review: Rin-Ne Volume 3

This set of chapters starts out stumbling under the weight of more “been there, done that”, but manages to shake some of it off by the end, leaving a volume of work that is at least palatable.

By Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Comedy
Price: $9.99/Free Online (Chapters 19-28)
Rating: ★★★☆☆
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Chapter 19 starts out with another typical shtick of Takahashi’s; the rival love interest. Every one of her romantic comedies has one, all the way back to Urusei Yatsura, and Tsubasa Jumonji is right out of that boiler plate.  He tries to look cool and in control, but in reality he’s just a bumbling fool.  He’s ineffectual as a exorcist, his soul dust only causing people and spirits to cough, but not get rid of them.  Of course, he fell in love with Sakura when they were children.  Sakura was nice to him after he transferred to her school for a few days, and it was enough that now he’s declaring his love for her, and treating Rinne as his rival.

These chapters also introduce the damashigami.  They are rogue shinigami that take the life of a person who isn’t meant to die to fill their quota.  I found them to be an interesting development.  I prefer there to be some sort of antagonist outside the group rather than the infighting that usually runs through Takahashi’s romantic comedies, or a new random ghost-villain every few chapters.  It’s good to have a reason for all the rivals to come together and fight a common foe rather than each other all the time.

I still get a “meh” feeling about this series.  The introduction of the rival is another typical plot device that feels very tired to me.  Tsubasa just screams Mendo to me so much, it’s not even funny.  However, I did enjoy the stand alone stories in this volume, especially the final one with the “ghost” haunting the art students.  These chapters play out as a nice little mystery, with an ending you might not expect.  The quality of the stand alone stories are improving, and if a plot other than Rinne’s poorness is introduced, it could break up the “ghost of the week” feel the first two volumes had.  It’s enough for me have hope for further improvement of the series as a whole, and to keep reading.

Review: Nightschool: The Weirn Books Volume 1

Schools may lock up the the night, but class is in session for an entirely different set of students.  In the Nightschool, vampires, werewolves, and weirns (a particular breed of witches) learn the fundamentals of everything from calculus to spell casting.  Alex is a young weirn whose education has always been handled through homeschooling, but circumstances seem to be drawing her closer to the Nightschool.  Will Alex manage to weather the dark forces gathering?

Nightschool 1Nightschool: The Weirn Books Volume 1
By Svetlana Chmakova
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★★

[May Contain Spoilers]

Mystery, magic, and a little mayhem have always made for a good combination in a story.  Nightschool: The Weirn Books provides all of these elements in a way to make an intriguing world and a great cast of characters to live in it.

The world of Nightschool is one divided between the normal, human world of the day, and the magical, supernatural-filled world of the night.  As is usual for this type of world, the daytime world is unaware of the nighttime world, while the reverse is the opposite.  The Nighttime world is filled with the usual suspects as well.  Vampires, witches, demons and seers all roam the world of this first volume.  But there are some new creatures of the night as well.  Rippers are vampires that have become nothing but shells of their former selves and crave blood for the touch of life it gives.  And of course weirns, a witch with a different kind of familiar.  It’s the latter of these that is the focus of the story.

Alex Treveny is a weirn.  She lives with her older sister Sarah, who works as the Night Keeper at the Nightschool.  Alex, however, is home schooled, for reasons that are left unclear.  She works on her assignments while Sarah is at work with her Astral, a black and white smokey-like creature.  The Astral has no name, and acts like an extension of Alex, but is still an independent character.  She can be like a conscious to Alex, but also easily bribed.  The two work together to accomplish things such as getting Alex over a tall fence, and the Astral seems to be aware of things about Alex that even she herself isn’t.

Because there is something strange about Alex.  A hooded figure seems to be shadowing her.  This is just one of the mysteries this first volume presents.  Along with the shadowy figure come powers that Alex isn’t aware she possesses, and a prophecy of her and others like her bringing down disaster on the world.  There’s also the not just disappearance, but erasure, of her sister, seemingly from existence.  All traces of Sarah disappear both physically as well as from people’s minds, until it’s only Alex that has any memory of her.  Could these two events be tied together?

Part of the strength of Nightschool‘s story is the characters.  Alex is a strong female lead.  She is serious and determined, though for some reason there are attempts to make her seem tough, which I don’t really see as necessary.  Alex stands just fine on her own strengths.  We don’t need other characters tell us that she’s tough on the outside, but really a softie on the inside.  Sarah, Alex’s sister is more of a ditz, but obviously really cares for her.  She adds some humor in this first volume, with her inability to get up, running an anime/manga club at the school, and her encounter with Mr. Roi, one of the teachers.  Hunters, which the Night folk seem to fear, are humans that patrol the night and protect other humans from the Night.  A group of them are introduced as well as a seer, and they become connected to Alex and prophecy in more ways than one.

Nightschool: The Weirn Books is a shining example of what OEL can and should become.  It has a well written story that hooks the reader in right from the beginning and builds on it creating a strong foundation for the series.  The mix of silly and serious moments balance each other out to make an entertaining drama that doesn’t drag or feel overdone.  Svetlana’s art is that perfect style of feeling like manga but definitely being of her own design.  I especially enjoy the look of the Astrals.  They look so completely non-human, and yet are still very expressive. Definitely check this series out.  It’s a keeper.

Manga Drive By: Shonen Jump March 2010

87_largeThere’s no real news in this month’s Shonen Jump, which is kind of surprising.  You’d think they would want to start hyping any new titles coming soon now.  But not this month.  So what do we learn in this issue of SJ?  I learned that Bleach has entered the endless “lather, rinse, repeat” mode of shonen manga.  I still don’t find Gin Tama funny, and the magazine is going to get boring real fast if they don’t add something that isn’t just about fighting.

Continue reading Manga Drive By: Shonen Jump March 2010