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.
This issue of Shonen Jump is the preparation issue for the One Piece speed up. Just like with the Naruto jumps, there is a dedicated section the gives short descriptions of the arcs to be covered in the volume releases. That’s right. I said arcs. Unlike with Naruto, which could give summary of each of the volumes, One Piece has too many volumes coming out to cover them all, so they just described the arcs, what volumes they cover and what villains the Straw Hat Pirates would be facing. There are 4 arcs to be covered, with the next arc, “Skypieda”, being 10 volumes long! This is a whole lot to take in. I really hope Viz knows what they’re doing and aren’t dooming One Piece. This property, which should have been as big or even bigger than Naruto has been mishandled by so many, I really don’t want to see it happen any more.
07-Ghost Volume 1
By Yuki Amemiya & Yukino Ichihara
Publisher: Go! Comi
Age Rating: 16+
Teased unmercifully for his past as an orphan and a slave, Teito has only his best friend Mikage to ease his days to the elite Barsburg Academy – and his mastery of the magical art of zaiphon! But even that will not be enough to save him when he discovers a horrifying secret behind the ruling empire. Trapped in an ancient battle between a wicked god and Seven Ghost, guided by three mysterious priests, Teito discovers a power that could save the world…and shed light on his own mysterious past.
A first read through 07-Ghost can leave you feeling confused. A lot of information and characters get thrown at you with little explanation of what’s going on, who anyone is, or why they are important. This can leave a bad taste in your mouth if you’re not willing to let it sink in or give the book another read. Of course, you shouldn’t have to for a book that isn’t heavy on plot. But, if you give this title another chance, you’ll find and intriguing story and some really fun characters.
Cute Pups: Canine Friends and Accessories
By Chie Hayano
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Age Rating: All Ages
Even…More…Puppies!!! It’s like “The Littlest Pet Shop” for adults!
Even though by nature I’m a cat person, I can’t resist a puppy. They are just so cute and cuddly! Vertical must know how irresistable puppies are, as they release their second craft book of little dog making: Cute Pups.
Yokai…Japanese spirits. Most people fear them, and a few people even hunt them, thinking they are horrible monsters to be destroyed at all costs. But young Hamachi wants to be friends with them! He sees them as mischievous creatures that could co-exist peacefully with humans if only given a chance. When his grandmother dies under mysterious circumstances, Hamachi journeys into the Yokai realm. Along the way, he encounters an ogre who punishes truant children, and angry water spirit, and a talking lantern. Will Hamachi be able to find his grandmother’s killer, or will he be lost forever in another world?
Yokaiden Volume 1
By Nina Matsumoto
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: 13+
The plot of Yokaiden sounds very generic. Orphaned hero goes off to another realm filled with monsters to avenge his grandmother’s death. But Yokaiden turns out to be much more than it’s basic plot. It’s a showcase for many of the strange and sometimes playful, sometimes dangerous creatures that make up Japanese folklore. The interplay with these beings often overshadows the plot, and its clueless main character.
Hamachi is your typical happy, often oblivious protagonist. Despite losing his parents at young age, and being cared for by his harsh grandmother, he’s a good-natured and obedient boy. He has a bit of a temper, but his anger is very short lived. He gets angry at a Ronin Samurai who comes to the village to offer his services as a yokai killer, but just as quickly asks for forgiveness. And I guess it could be determination to find his grandmother’s killer that he doesn’t really grieve for her death, other than a single outburst. He really doesn’t have much of a personality outside of his yokai obsession. I didn’t find him interesting at all, especially when compared to all the yokai he encounters.
It’s in his search to find the kappa he thinks could have killed his grandmother and the yokai realm that we get to see the wide range of yokai. It’s these encounters that make up the high points of this volume. Right after finding his grandmother dead, Hamachi runs in a Grime Licker and a Bean Washer. Upon entering the forest where the entrance to the yokai realm is believed to be, he encounters all kinds of smaller yokai, such as the Shin-Rubber which trips people, and the Namahage, an ogre that skins the feet of delinquent children. Inside, Hamachi first befriends a Tsukumo Gami, in the form of a paper lantern, is chased by a Chimera and meets another Tsukumo Gami, this time, a one-legged, one-eyed paper umbrella that has just come to life, and was once the property of Hamachi’s grandfather. All of these encounters, and the short facts about them at the end of each chapter are what kept me interested in this volume. Hamachi’s quest was just the vehicle to meeting all these interesting creatures.
Yokaiden isn’t a serious title. There are touches of humor all through the volume, usually from Hamachi and his interactions with yokai. The kappa that he rescues at the beginning has some great sarcastic barbs that seem to go right over Hamachi’s head. Many of the yokai he meets and tries to be friends with think he’s weird. Little jokes are thrown in all over, such as Hamachi talking back to the narrator, or King Enma rising up with a portal to hell when Hamachi is looking for the portal to the yokai realm. The villagers have their laughs too, such as the gossiping women who sound sympathetic to Hamachi’s hardships, but really don’t care, or the discussion the villagers get into about what kind of irony it is that Hamachi’s grandmother was killed by a yokai.
I liked Nina Matsumoto’s art. It uses all the best elements from manga without going overboard. There aren’t any chibis or sweat drops, but there are some starry looks, which aren’t so bad. And the yokai all look great. With so much variety, Matsumoto does a great job making them look different, not just from each other, but also from what we as westerners expect monsters to look like.
Overall, Yokaiden was a good time killer. I loved seeing and reading about all the yokai, but the overall story of Hamachi and his quest to avenge his grandmother, not so much. I didn’t really like the grandmother, and didn’t feel bad when she had died. If you like yokai and enjoy a chuckle or two, then Yokaiden is worth the time. If you’re looking for more than a light read, then this title isn’t for you.
The History of the West Wing
Written by: Sun Jiayu; Illustrated by Guo Guo
Age Rating: Teen
Lavishly illustrated in full color and based on the classic Chinese play Xixiang Ji by Wang Shifu, The History of the West Wings tells of the illicit romance between the daughter of a Chinese Government Official and the roaming scholar who seeks to win her hand. But before he can turn his attentions to his ladylove, the young man must win the heart of her mother! When it seems even heroic deeds in the face of murderous bandits will not please the strict matriarch, the young man goes off to become a civil servant. Will he return in time to marry his true love?
With a description like that, you’d expect a story filled with drama and romance. Too bad this book provides doesn’t live up to it. It opens with an introduction that explains the history of XiXiang Ji and its significance to Chinese culture and literature. It is a play written in the 1200’s and is based on an earlier fable that tells of the romantic setbacks of a girl that gives herself to a roaming student. A character in the story, the girl’s servant, Hong Nianging, worked so hard to get the two together, that her name came to mean “matchmaker” in Chinese culture. Reading the story after this buildup is a real let down.
Volume 1 Summary:
Mamoru Kagemori is a dull high school boy who’s not handsome, athletic or intelligent. but things aren’t always what they appear. He’s actually the eldest son of a 400-year-old Ninja clan that specializes in protecting their neighbors, the Konnyakus. And the object of Mamoru’s protection is none other than their only daughter, Yuna Konnyaku, a natural-born troublemaker. Mamoru must continue to protect her to carry out his duty, no matter what adversaries strong, bizarre or stupid. And will Yuna ever learn who her protector is?
Volume 2 Summary:
When Yuna enters an idol contest and makes it to the finals, despite her hilariously bizarre performance. Mamoru has to go all out with his ninja skills in order to fend off perverted judges and crazed fans! But if Yuna becomes an idol will Mamoru still be able to protect her?
Mamoru: The Shadow Protector is a lot like it’s main character. It starts out showing you a fun-filled romantic comedy, heavy on the comedy, but then like a ninja, tries to switch out into a harem comedy, where the laughs fall flatter than a dull shuriken.
Nephylym Volume 1
By Rei Kusakabe
Publisher: DR Masters
Age Rating: 13+
Shun has a unique power to electrically charge metal materials. A mysterious winged being named Ale picks up on his powers and chooses him to be her partner. Shun’s classmate and school crush, Sanari, finds out and reveals her winged partner, named Blissful. She explains that the beings are called Nephylym, and their chosen partners are called Answerers. Together with Sarari and Tsukasa (Shun’s rival in love and an Answerer as well), they battle along side their Nephylym against Noirs that possess human beings.
I can’t remember the last time I read a volume that was so lackluster. The story and characters are just cookie cutter cutouts of typical shonen action fare with some moe and moments of fanservice to draw in a audience that will hopefully be too enthralled by the cute little girls to notice the complete lack of a decent story.
It’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.
Cute Dogs: Craft your own Pooches
By Chie Hayano
Publisher Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: All Ages
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.