There are a lot more changes coming to Shonen Jump, according to this latest issue. The issue starts with the first of a three part preview of the new manga Toriko. It’s a food manga done shonen style, so everything is exaggerated to the extreme. It is the Gourmet Age, with man is constantly striving to find best ingredients to make the ultimate menu. Toriko is one such man. He is a gourmet hunter. He travels the world catching the most delicious and dangerous foods, since, of course, the best tasting food is in the form of giant monster-like animals. And in best shonen tradition, he is also the best at it. In the first chapter he is hired to catch a Garara Gator. It’s very over the top, with Tokiro looking like a character out of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. He’s all upper body muscle. He also eats. A lot. I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve read the other two parts before rating it. But for now, it feels kind of average.
Balancing a normal existence and an unbreakable pact with a divine being is anything but easy. Much to his chagrin, Keita is discovering this the hard way. Try as he might to distance himself from recent events, Keita can’t shake Kuro, the mototsumitama who saved his life. But when the stakes get higher and another human-mototsumitama pair comes looking for a fight-one with Keita’s childhood friend, Akane, as the prize-Keita is forced to reevaluate his attitude and stand by both his old and new friends. Who will emerge victorious?
Several different plot lines pick up in this volume. Keita and Kuro starting training, beginning with Kuro, and growing to include Keita working with her. Keita’s game coding start to take off with a company showing an interest in both the game and Keita’s skills, and the group that is searching for the doppeliners continues to reduce the thirds down to the root. I get the feeling that these three plot lines are related, but it’s hard to tell how.
I’ve never written a “Best of ” list since I never thought I knew enough to make such choices, but I’ve decided to make the attempt this year. All of the titles on the list are books I’ve read at least one volume of, and most started this year. The few exceptions should be obvious.
Sudou Mikuzu has a very special talent – she can see ghosts. And because of this predisposition, she’ become a magnet for all sorts of unwelcome monsters. Luckily for her she’s just met Seto, a friendly, cross-dressing young exorcist. Sudou needs protection from all the creepy phantoms bugging her, and Seto needs to practice his exorcism skills. consequently, the pair decides to team up and help each other. In return, Sudou promises to back a cake every time a ghost gets zapped!
At first glance, Heaven’s Will appears to be a typical supernatural romance title with a cross-dressing twist. Once you start reading though, you’ll find that it’s actually the start of an interesting that should have been given more of a chance to develop. The characters really grown on you, and the story, which has some sad twists to set it up, could have gone on to do so much more.
Comic is a manhwa that is very much the typical high school romance. It’s stuffed full of melodrama, which doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. It’s the fact that none of the characters are likable enough to carry it off and the story veers too far of it’s tracks that makes it bad.
BakéGyamon Volume 3
By Mitsuhisa Tamura
Publisher: Viz Media/Vizkids
Age Rating: All Ages (8+)
The battle begins in earnest as the final 32 contestants are paired up tournament-style. With the playing field a mock Tokyo Tower, there’s only one way to go…up! Sanshiro will now have to use his battle skills against the very people he wants to befriend!
This volume falls into the tournament style of fighting that most shonen titles eventually get to. But unlike those shonen titles that become tired and uninteresting in their constant need to power up, this volume doesn’t fall into that trap. Sanshiro remains true to himself, and while his goal is now to win the game, he won’t sacrifice his monsters or having fun to do it.
I wasn’t impressed with the initial release of Yen Plus when it debuted last year, but the last couple of issues of the second volume has really started to turn me around. I really enjoyed this latest issue, quite a bit more than the latest Shonen Jump. The issue starts off with an editorial about light novels and how and why the covers have been different than the original releases. It’s a reason that makes perfect sense for a publisher; appeal to a wider audience. Pure and simple. Maximum Ride was missing again this month. The artist, NaRae Lee, has been sick. I don’t mind Maximum Ride. It’s a good title, just not for me, so I didn’t miss it all that much.
Eagle: The Making Of An American President Volume 5
By Kaiji Kawaguchi
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Political Drama
Age Rating: Older Teen (16+)
The final volume of this series starts out with Yamaoka and his team trying to find a way to turn the leaders of the World Machinists and Aerospace Union into his supporters. The President of the Union, Michael Kozlov, has a chip on his shoulder about Yamaoka, and any other immigrant who had it “easy”, and is determined to back the Republican Grant. By playing Kozlov against the Union Secretary Zamal, both men break the other with secrets they had been keeping, and in the end, Yamaoka is able to win another supporter in Kozlov and in turn, the Union. Then, the series finally turns to the great white elephant in the room. Racism. With Yamaoka winning so much support, the question starts to turn if a non-white can really become president. All the kooks come out, such as neo-nazis, rallying against Yamaoka, and violence breaks out in the south, which culminates in not one, but two assassination attempts on Yamaoka, neither of which succeed, and ends with Yamaoka winning more widespread support.
In the last years of the 20th century, a cult has been growing in power and popularity, led by a mysterious man known only as “Friend” This has little bearing on convenience store owner Kenji, until a childhood friend of his seemingly commits suicide. A closer look into it reveals that there may have been more to it, and it could have something to do with the cult. As Kenji looks further in, he finds that the cult and it’s leader is following a story he and his friends wrote when they were just kids, about an evil power trying to take over the world and the heroes who stop them. Kenji decides to try and stop The Friends with only the help of his childhood friends.
[May contain spoilers]
20th Century Boys is a mystery/thriller story, something of a specialty for it’s creator, Naoki Urasawa. The story spans 45 years, from 1969 to 2014. These first five volumes cover mostly the 1969-1997-1999, and only touch on 2014 at the end of the fifth. The story isn’t told linearly. It jumps from 1969 to 1997 and all around 1997 to 1999. The scenes in 1969 sow the seeds of the story, telling the beginning. In 1997, the Friend’s plot is uncovered and this is where the investigation starts. 1999 becomes the race to stop The Friends, but is far from the end of the story, as the sudden jump 15 years to 2014 shows.
The story starts out strong. It introduces the characters as they were kids, in 1969. We see what they were like, what they did, and how their friendships were made. In the 1997 present, we see how their lives turned out. Most, like Kenji, didn’t get to live out their dreams. They married, took salary-man jobs or took over family businesses. While the characters are being established, clues about the mystery are starting to be dropped. Everything we see in the 1969 scenes have some bearing on the clues dropped in 1997. Kenji and his friends built a clubhouse in an overgrown grassy field where they could listen to the radio and read manga. While hanging out there, they created the story, The Book of Prophecy, that starts to come true in 1997.
The first three volumes is spent building up the mystery of the Friends and their connection to Kenji and their childhood. An elementary school reunion gets the ball rolling, and one person’s memory sparks another and another as they begin to piece everything together. They become a rag-tag group of heroes fighting against a huge, evil organization bent on world domination. Just like in their story. It’s easy to get behind Kenji and his group, the underdogs fighting for right.
It was in volume 4 that I started to have a problem with this series. The time jumping narrows greatly to between 1997 and 1999. It becomes very difficult to keep these time jumps apart, and left me scratching my head, and having to go back and re-read sections to figure out what was going on. A mystery is about pitting your wits against the author, not fighting to just read the story in the first place. This really pulled me out of the trance their first three volumes had cast on me. I became less engaged with the characters that I had really started to like. It was a big let down.
Volume 5 didn’t do anything to improve this. It’s 1999 now, and Kenji and his group, now branded terrorists, go to fight against the terror they have seen coming for the last 3 years, but are still unprepared for. As they race away into the night, the story suddenly cuts to 2014. We never hear any details of what happened, but enough clues are dropped that it probably didn’t go well. Even as I read the last half, I still spent a lot time wondering “What happened?” While this and other questions should have kept me enthralled and dying to read more, it didn’t really. It actually left me more frustrated, and not in a good way. I’m curious, but not that I’m counting down the days to the next volume.
Urasawa has quite an ability to start a story, and build up the mystery. He drops hints judiciously, leaving clues for the readers to connect in the next chapter, volume or even several volumes later. A few chapters in volume 2 that seemed to have little relevance suddenly take on a whole new light in volume 5. He is also very good at misleading the reader. One scene that is seen several time throughout these five volumes takes on a completely different meaning at the end of volume 5 than you would think from seeing it in volume 1. I was impressed with that. It was a great turnaround. But volumes 4 and 5 lost the momentum that volumes 1-3 built up for me. I’m not quite as excited as I was to read this title. I’m still intrigued by the mystery, and I do want to know what happened and what’s to come. There are still 17 more volumes in this series, so I expect a lot more twists and turns. But I don’t know if it can regain the momentum it had at the beginning.
After the NYT posted a graphic novel gift list now with manga on it, David Welsh sent out a call to action on Twitter, for manga gift guides. This is my response to that call. I’ve decided to put together a manga gift guide for 10 different possible types of people in your life. I really could have kept going with this list. There are so many good titles to recommend, but I’ll leave those to my fellow bloggers who also answered the call.
07-Ghost Volume 2
By Yuki Amemiya & Yukino Ichihara
Publisher: Go! Comi
Age Rating: Older Teen
Teito Klein, inheritor of the Eye of Mikhail, has found refuge from the military in the Sanctuary of the Barsburg Church. But dark forces are conspiring to return Teito to the ruthless hands of Chief Ayanami, the manga who killed his father, when Teito’s best and only friend arrives at the church under suspicious circumstances, Teito warmly embraces him, only to discover to his horror that Mikage has been turned into a tool of the military, and is bent on capturing Teito – even if it means his own destruction.
The story continues to move along as a steady trot in this second volume of 07-Ghost. Teito must deal with tragedy again, one that could easily break him, but with Frau and Castor’s help, he is able to find the strength to go on. This volume introduces some new characters, while increasing the danger to Teito in his supposed sanctuary.
Rin-ne Volume 2
By Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Price: $9.99/Free online
It’s more ghostly hijinks with Rin-ne and Sakura, as Rin-ne works to pay off his grandmother’s debt to the spirit world. The stories get longer in this volume, with more multi-chapter stories, but that doesn’t mean they get any better. More of Takahashi’s formula kicks in as a new character are introduced with some petty motivations.