Category Archives: Reviews

Yen Plus – One Year Later

anthology13a-210x300It’s been a year since Yen Press debuted their manga anthology magazine Yen Plus.  I picked up the first issue at SDCC and reviewed it in two posts, one for each side.   I wasn’t thrilled with the Japanese side, and really enjoyed the Korean/OEL side.  A look at the second issue re-enforced those feelings.  It’s been a whole year, and at SDCC this year Yen Press had their anniversary issue, so I picked it up again.  I wanted to see if the magazine had improved over the year.

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Cute Dogs: Craft Your Own Pooches

Cute Dogs: Craft your own Pooches
By Chie Hayano
Publisher Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Craft
Price: $14.95
Rating: ★★★★★

Vertical Inc is a unique publisher in the manga world.  They are a boutique publisher who does more than bring manga over from Japan.  They also publish novels from horror to business, Sudoku puzzle books, and coolest of all, craft books.  Their newest release is Cute Dogs, which is filled with exactly that; little stuffed dogs that don’t just look cute, but look fun to make.

Cute Dogs is a thin book at just 79 pages, but it’s packed with 16 different dogs you can create on your own.  Ranging from the Boston Terrier, Chihuahua, Welsh Corgi, Miniature Dachshund, to the Miniature Schnauzer, you’ll find many of the most popular dog breeds.  The first half of the book is filled with pictures of each of the finished pieces, showing them from different angles so you know how they should look.  They are all posed with accessories like food bowls, wagons, bowls and baskets.  All the dogs have names and little sayings that give them personality.  It’s fun just looking at these pictures and reading about each dog.  After seeing all the stuffed dogs, we are introduced to the real dogs that worked as models.  They all have wonderful personalities too.

The second half of the book gets into the crafty stuff.  All the materials needed to make these pooches are pictures and described, as well as all the tools.  There is also a basic sewing guide that shows all the stitched needed and how to do them.  There are only three, and they are pretty simple.  Then it gets into the nitty-gritty of cutting, preparing, and sewing the dogs together.  It’s step-by-step, taking you from start to finish through Bob, the Boston Terrier.  He’s the template.  The rest of the dogs have their own variations, but the construction is the same for all.  The directions are clear and concise, with pictures illustrating them, making them easier to understand.

I really enjoyed Cute Dogs.  The dogs are cute, and they look to be fairy easy to make.  Teens would have no problem making these, and even Tweens, with some supervision could do them!  I’m definitely going to try making some of these pooches.  Just paging through the book started giving me ideas of what could be done with them.  Crafters and dog-lovers alike with love this book.  Now, where’s the Cute Cats book?

Review copy provided by publisher.

Shonen Sunday


Viz’s second big foray into the online world of manga is Shonen Sunday.  It’s based on another manga magazine from Japan.  Several popular titles came from this magazine, such as most of Rumiko Takahashi’s works (Urusei Yatsura, Ramna 1/2, Inuyasha, Mermaid Saga), Detective Conan, Zatch Bell, and Yakitate!! Japan, just to name a few.  Now Viz has brought some titles from the magazine online.

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Dark Hunters Volume 1

It’s just another night on the prowl for vampires for Kyrian of Thrace when he meets the most frightening thing imaginable. And accountant. But Amanda Devereaux is much more than she seems. Hunted by one of the deadliest of vampires, Amanda is the key to our survival. If she goes down, so does he, and –no offense– he doesn’t want to die (hence the whole immortality thing). And he doesn’t want humanity dead either, which is a good thing for us since he and Amanda are all that stands between us and oblivion. Let’s hope they win.

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Viz Signature Ikki



Manga for older readers has been few and far between, as teen manga dominates bookstores and sales.  But as manga readers grow up, there needs to be something to appeal to them and keep them interested in the medium.  Viz Media has been working in that direction with their Signature line, and now with a website that provides manga to read for free.  Working with Ikki Monthy magazine, they have brought out a diverse line of titles, many of which I liked, but not all will appeal to everyone.  But the beauty of doing this online, it doesn’t have to.

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Children of the Sea Volume 1

When Ruka was younger, she saw a ghost in the water at the aquarium where her dad works. Now she feels drawn toward the aquarium and the two mysterious boys she meets there, Umi and Sora. They were raised by dugongs and hear the same strange calls from the sea as she does.

Sora begins investigating their strange connection to the sea. But the current research is too slow for Sora, who is lured away by with the promise of answers. This leaves Umi severely depressed, and it is up to Ruka to help her new friend find his brother. But time is quickly running out…

Children of the Sea Volume 1
By Daisuke Igarashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Mystery
Price: $14.95
Rating: ★★★★★


In an attempt to draw in more adult readers, Viz has been expanding their Signature imprint.  The titles in this imprint are meant for a more mature audience that have out grown or aren’t interested in the eternal power ups of shonen or the angsty drama of shojo.  Children of the Sea, the first title from the online manga magazine Ikki, is the perfect debut title.  With none of the usual manga conventions, beautifully rendered art, diverse characters, and a compelling mystery, this is a title that both non-manga readers and long time fans will enjoy.

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Property Taste Test

A few days ago on Twitter, @debaoki mentioned she liked Animal Academy, an all ages title from Tokyopop, and thought that kids would like it.  She mentioned she thought the books based on properties, like Disney were boring, but ended by saying, she didn’t know, since she wasn’t the target audience.  Well, I have a daughter that’s in the target audience range, and both Animal Academy and Disney’s Kilala Princess.  So, I gave both books to my youngest daughter Krissy and asked her to read them.  When she finished, I asked her questions about the books.

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Brian’s Spot: Broken Blade Volume 1

Broken Blade Volume 1
By Yunosuke Yoshinaga
Publisher: CMX/Flex Comics
Rating: T+ (Older Teens)
Price: $9.99
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1882-9
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Rygart Arrow is a man with a problem.  He’s one of the tiny minority, perhaps one in a million, who cannot charge the quartz crystals that power all of the machines in his world.  He cannot drive vehicles, he cannot use machinery, he’s what is known as an “unsorcerer”.  However, he is well educated and old college friends with the King and Queen of Krisna, who are facing an incursion from their neighboring nation of Athens.  When they learn that the Athen army is led by Zess, the final part of their college foursome and he’s marching on their borders, they call on Rygart in their time of need.  Can he figure out how to operate the Under-Golem, an ancient magic-less machine in time to save his friends?

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Digital Review: Rin-ne Volume 1

rin_c16RIN-NE Volume 1
By Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Comedy
Price: $9.99/Free online
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Ever since a childhood incident Sakura Mamiya has had the power to see ghosts. Now her life has gotten a lot more complicated with the arrival of her mysterious classmate Rinne, who seems to know a thing or two about detecting ghosts himself!

Having enjoyed so far Takahashi’s shonen titles since Urusei Yatsura, I was thrilled to hear that we in the US would not only be getting her newest, Rin-ne, at the same time as Japan, but it would available for free online to read.  Having now read the first volume’s worth of chapters, I have to say my initial excitement may have been premature.

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Krissy’s Korner: Pokemon Adventures Volume 1

Pokémon Adventures Volume 1
By Hidenori Kusaka
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Game/Action
Price: $7.99
Rating: ★★★★★

Red doesn’t just want to train Pokémon, he wants to be their friend too. Bulbasaur and Poliwhirl seem game. But independent Pikachu won’t be so easy to win over!

What was the story about?

This story is about a 10 year old trainer named Red.  He goes through many adventures.

What did you like about the story?

I loved the part when Bill was picked up by Fearow.  I just couldn’t stop laughing at Mr. Director.  I love the part when a Pidgey poops on Professor Oak.  I think the pokemon Red chose were great because they help him.

What did you dislike about the story?

I just hate Blue for hurting the Kangaskhan and it’s young.

Would you recommend the story to kids your age?  Why?

Yes, because pokemon are so loveable!

Review: Naruto Volume 32

Naruto Volume 32
By Masashi Kishimoto
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Action
Price: $7.95
Rating: ★★★★½

A new ninja causes trouble among the ranks of Team Kakashi when they return from the battle against Sasori.  The secrets this stranger hides could be disastrous for Naruto.  Meanwhile, Naruto’s old nemesis Orochimaru has troubles of his own-his stronghold may be infiltrated by a spy!

After saying their goodbyes at the Sand Village, Teams Kakashi and Guy return to the Hidden Leaf.  Kakashi is laid up since his new jutsu takes so much out of him, so a new leader is needed for the team as well as member to even it out to four members.  There’s only six days left until the rondevou Sasori told them about.  Naruto goes searching out his old friends to get them to join, and we see Choji, Shino, Kiba and Hinata.  But the team has already been decided.  Sai, a member of the Foundation of the Black Ops is chosen, and Yamato, also Black Ops, is chosen to lead.  Sai gets on Naruto’s nerves immediately, and on Sakura’s only a few moments later.  But, in order to accomplish the mission, both try to tolerate Sai.

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Oishinbo a la Carte: Fish, Sushi, and Sashimi

Yamaoka and his father Kaibara Yuzan, have never enjoyed an ideal father-son relationship.  In fact, it’s about as far from ideal as possible, and when they start arguing about food–which they inevitably do–the sparks really fly.  In this volume of Oishinbo, the subject of dispute is fish, starting with the question of whether mackerel can ever be truly good sashimi.  Later, things come to a head during the “Salmon Match” which pits father against son in an epic contest to develop the best dish before a panel of judges.  Will Yamaoka finally defeat Kaibara?  Or will he once again be left in his father’s shadow?

Story by Tetsu Kariya; Art by Akira Hanasaki
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Food
Price: $12.99
Rating: ★★★★½

The overall premise of Oishinbo is that Yamaoka and his partner Kurita are compiling the “Ultimate Menu” of Japanese cuisine for the 100th anniversary of the publishers of Tozai News.  Each volume of Viz’s compilation of this long running series is centered around a type of food. This volume is all about fish.  The stories are episodic, and can be broken down into two types; Yamaoka helping someone out or putting someone in their place about food, and Yamaoka vs. Kaibara, his father, over some kind of food dish.

Yamaoka comes off as lazy and a cynic, but at heart he really is a good guy.  Whether it’s coming to the defense of a young boy’s opinion, helping a man get over being dumped by a girl, or a student accept getting into his second choice college instead of the first, Yamaoka finds a way through food.  I really enjoyed these stories, as they showed both Yamaoka’s knowledge and skill as well as his good heart.

What I didn’t enjoy were the stories with Yamaoka competing with his father Kaibara.  Now, I don’t mind the competitions themselves.  They require both skill and knowledge, with much of the latter being imparted to the reader.  What makes a good sashimi, why salmon and other fresh water fish shouldn’t be used as sushi and what’s really important when making a meal for someone are all topics covered in this volume.  While I found the information interesting and informative, I just couldn’t stand Kaibara.  His overly smug attitude toward Yamaoka, and people in general really struck me the wrong way.  I know I’m not supposed to like him, but his whole demeanor made some of these chapters just unpleasant to read.

The art in Oishinbo isn’t very realistic.  It’s rather simplistic, with a newspaper comic feel to it.  There aren’t a lot of the manga conventions you see in a lot of other titles, making this very friendly to a non-manga reading audience.  The food and the fish are very realistic, on the other hand, showing the emphasis is on the food more than the people.

Overall I found Oishinbo A la Carte to be an enjoyable read, though Kaibara did drag it down some.  Other people may not be bothered by Kaibara so much, so this is still a title I recommend.  If you’ve ever wanted to try a manga without all the baggage, or are just curious about Japanese cuisine, this is a title you definitely want to check out.