Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Zombie Powder Volume 4


Zombie Powder Volume 4
By: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz Media/Shonen Jump Manga
Genre: Action
Ratng: T+ (Older Teen)
Price: $7.99
ISBN: 1-4215-1122-3
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Wolfina fights a solo battle for her brother’s life as Emilio, his body fused to a locomotive racing across the desert, faces a fate worse than death.  Luckily, Gamma and C.T. Smith manage to stop the train just before it plows into Alcantara and we get a happy ending and an obvious way for the story to continue…

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Review: Dragonball Evolution Junior Novel

dbm_jrnovel_cover_final__scaled_300Dragonball: Evolution Junior Novel
Adapted by Stacia Deutsch & Rhody Cohon
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: All Ages (9-12)
Genre: Action
Price: $5.99
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Goku thought he was a normal high school student until he found out he’s actually a martial-arts whiz with all kinds of powers.  Now he and his fellow teen warriors are on a quest to find all the Dragon Balls before they fall into the wrong hands.  But they may already have!  Goku must battle the evil madman Piccolo with all he’s got to save the planet Earth!

Taking the title and character names from a manga does not make it “based on”, as it says on the front cover of this book (in very small letters).  Not even the description from the back cover has much to do with the story inside.  This story takes only the barest of elements from Akira Toriyama’s original manga and weaves them into a generic and boring story that has none of the charm or fun of the source material.

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Review: Zombie Powder Volume 3

Zombie Powder Volume 3
By: Tite Kubo
Publisher: Viz Media/Shonen Jump Manga
Genre: Action
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Price: $7.99
ISBN: 1-4215-1121-5
Rating: ★★★½☆

We open with Gamma Akutabi, Elwood, C.T. Smith and Wolfina Lalla Getto hot on the heels of circus-master Balmunk who has kidnapped Wolfina’s comatose brother Emilio, hoping to recover the mysterious Ring of the Dead which has been fused inside of his body.

As they face off against Balmunk, he calls upon his minions to fight against them, aiming to fight a personal battle against Gamma, with whom he apparently has a mysterious past.  Who was Gamma and what link does he have with Balmunk?  Can they overcome the deadliest circus performers of them all?  And how can Gamma save Emilio and recover the Ring of the Dead at the same time?

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Review: Project X Challengers: Seven Eleven

project-x-seven-elevenProject X Challengers: Seven Eleven
Writer: Tadashi ikuta Artist: Naomi Kimura
Publisher: DMP
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Business
Price: $12.95
Rating: ★★★★☆

In a time when giant department stores and supermarkets dominated the Japanese retail industry, two businessmen, Toshifumi Suzuki and Hideo Shimizu, discovered a new type of small retail store flourishing in America – the Seven Eleven.  Called a “convenience store,” it was a concept new to the Japanese.  Intrigued by this new idea and convinced that it would succeed in Japan as well, the two men put together a project team of fifteen members, all virtual novices to the retail trade, to bring this venture to their land.  Staking his entire livelihood, young store owner Kenji Yamamoto volunteered to convert his family-owned liquor store into the first Seven Eleven in Japan.  The hardship of negotiations, the oil shock, the struggle to cope with inadequate space were all met with resolve and innovation, culminating in what is now call the retail revolution!

Project X Challengers: Seven Eleven is not your typical manga.  There are no powered up heroes, or pretty boys, or magical girls.  Instead, it’s about real people facing real life challenges.  While the average teen might find these stories boring, adults with an interest in business, history, or just a good story of a team of underdogs struggling against all odds, will enjoy this title.

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Review: Ninja Baseball Kyuma Volume 1


Ninja Baseball Kyuma Volume 1
By Shunshin Maeda
Publisher: Udon Entertainment
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Sports
Price: $7.99
Rating: ★★★★★

Kyuma and his dog Inui live in the mountains, where Kyuma trains every day to become a great ninja. But when Kyuma mistakes a baseball coach for his training master, the local baseball team ends up with its first ninja player! Can a ninja step up to the plate and learn how to play ball? Find out in Ninja Baseball Kyuma!

Boys love ninjas and baseball, so it seems only natural to put them together, right?  Fortunately, in this title, the combination works.  Thanks to some great characters, good stories and a lack of “ninja magic”, Ninja Baseball Kyuma is a title anyone can read and enjoy.

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Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #1 – First Look

I just read the first issue of Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers, and I have to say, I really liked it.  I wasn’t sure what I was in store for when I first ordered it, but I can safely say, it was $3 well spent.

lockpa001_covThrog (Frog Thor) is really the character that really made this issue.  He is the first “teammate” that Lockjaw goes to after he finds one of the Infinity Gems.  Apparently Lockjaw has decided that animals are better for finding the gems than the humans.  Throg’s whole backstory is just what you’d expect from a Marvel Universe origin.  Bad things happen to a good man who is then rewarded with superpowers; after being turned into a frog.  Throg himself is just great.  He speaks for Lockjaw, jabbering on with the other animals as he convinces each of them to join the cause and journey to find the gems.  Just like Thor, he speaks with lots of “thee”s and “thou”s, and “wouldst”s and “dost”s.

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Review: Fairy Idol Kanon Volume 1


Fairy Idol Kanon Volume 1
By Mera Hakamada
Publisher: Udon Entertainment
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Magical Girl/Fantasy
Price: $7.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Can a regular girl become a superstar celebrity? Kanon is an ordinary fourth grader who loves to sing more than anything else. When a magical fairy princess named Alto meets Kanon and decides to help start her singing career, their journey to fame takes off! Friendship and magic combine in this cute musical story!

Fairy Idol Kanon is another title aimed directly at girls.  Singing, fashion, stardom and fairies all make this the perfect title for young girls.  Almost too perfect.  It’s a safe story with all the messages that parents and teachers will love, while the girls will love the magic and bits of drama.

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Lunar Legend Tsukihime Volume 1-5

Lunar Legend Tsukihime is about Shiki Tohno. Eight years ago, he was in an accident that left him weakened, and with a mysterious power.  He can see the hidden lines, or death lines, in all things, organic or inanimate. By cutting along these lines, he can destroy or kill anything, or anyone.  While in the hospital he meets a woman who claims she is a magician, and gives him some special glasses that make it so he can’t see the lines as long as he wears them. After recovering, Shiki was sent away from the main Tohno family home to live with relatives.  Now, after the death of his father, his younger sister Akiha has asked him to live in the big house again with her. Shiki accepts, but on his way home from school the same day he is to move in, he sees a woman in the park. Something seems to take over him, and he cuts the woman into several pieces. Then he faints.  He awakens the next day, in his new home.  Believing the events from the day before a dream, he goes to school, and meets the woman again, who then berates him for killing her. She is Arcueid Brunestud, a true ancestor vampire. And thanks to Shiki’s attack, she is weakened and needs help with her job to stop other vampires that have been killing people in the city.  To make up for his attacking her, Shiki agrees to help her.

Lunar Legend Tsukihime Volume 1-5
Illustrator: Sasakishonen/Creators: Type Moon/Tsukihime Project
Publisher: DrMaster Publications
Age Rating: 15+
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Price: $9.95
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Lunar Legend Tsukihime is an intriguing horror/thriller story. At first it seems like a typical vampire horror story, with lots of people being torn apart and blood splattered everywhere. But the further you get into the story, the more about Shiki’s mysterious past starts to come out. It’s this part of the story that’s really intriguing. The only problem is, it takes a while to get there.

The first two volumes work as an introduction.  We meet all the main characters and learn about Shiki’s special power.  It’s a slow build up, and you’re not quite sure what you’re in for until Shiki and Arcueid meet in an alley and are attacked by Nero Chaos, an assassin sent to kill Arcueid.  By the end of the second volume, Nero is dead, killed only with the help of Shiki’s power.  The third volume is a sort of breather, that gives a lot of exposition and introduces the real story; the hunt for the vampire, Roa.  He is a former human who was turned into a vampire, and tried to gain immortality.  Instead, he gained the power of reincarnation.  It is Arcueid’s mission to find and kill Roa whenever he appears.  At the same time, Shiki, who lost his  memories of his life before the accident, are starting to come back.  He starts to realize that something horrible happened eight years ago, and he may have been responsible for it.  He also starts to wonder if he has some connection to Roa, or worse, be Roa.

This series starts out seeming like a typical blood and gore horror series, but the slowly built mystery around Shiki gives it some depth.  There isn’t much time given to Shiki’s life in the first two volumes as he and Arcueid essentially fight for their lives against Nero. But, there are clues about his mysterious past that are dropped almost from page one.  You don’t realize it though, until you get further into the story.  In volume 1, Ahika looks at a picture of her and Shiki when they were children, but the pictures been cut and pieced back together.  By the time you get to volume 5, what’s missing from the picture becomes obvious.  It’s little things like this that slowly add up that make the story interesting.  It was obviously well plotted out, and for all the gore, is well executed.  But if you don’t know this, the pacing will seem really off.  The story has a lot of talking going on, which can seem to drag the story down.  But it’s necessary to keep the mystery moving forward.

The characters are surprisingly well-developed for a vampire story.  There aren’t any of the typical manga stereotypes.  The main characters, Shiki and Arcueid are the most developed with many of the others falling to the wayside.  Shiki is a typical high school student with normal friends, who is thrust into a strange world that he has difficult dealing with, but because of his power doesn’t really deny. Arcueid is rather interesting.  She is a vampire that doesn’t drink human blood, so she doesn’t have her fangs in someone’s neck constantly.  She hasn’t lived around humans for centuries, so she doesn’t really understand them very well. She is technically knowledgeable about the human world, but sometimes seems more like a child when actually encountering things, or deal with people.  We meet his friends at school, but that’s the only place we see them. Ciel, who starts out as one of Shiki’s school mates, turns out to have some secrets as well as Akiha. They both seem to know more about Shiki than he does, and not very willing to tell him anything, making them suspicious to Shiki and the reader.

There is a relationship growing between Shiki and Arcueid, as would be expected of the protagonists of a vampire story, but it isn’t straightforward.  It’s more of an attraction based not so much on looks.  But Shiki can’t keep away from Arcueid.  He keeps telling himself he’s seeing her because she needs his help.  But a dream from the third volume shows he would like to be more than just friends with her.  Arcueid, despite trying to get rid of Shiki after the defeat of Nero, finds she wants to be with him too.  When he is late coming to their meeting place one night, she’s angry.  But it seems she’s more hurt than upset, and she waits for 5 hours for him.  That not something you do with someone who’s “just helping”.  The relationship between them seems natural though with all the time they spend together and all they go through.  It’s another good element.

Lunar Legend Tsukihime was originally a ero visual novel game.  It grew in popularity and got an anime and this manga made from it.  But it’s ero roots are still visible.  Arcueid and Ciel, are very well endowed.  Though, to the manga’s credit, there are no panty shots (despite all the girls wearing skirts or dresses all the time), and next to no nudity in these first five volumes.  There is only one implied sex scene that is a dream with very little being shown.  Story and character development takes precedent over any possible fetishes or pandering.

Dr Masters printing of this series has been rather inconsistent in quality.  The first two volumes have raised lines on the front and/or back covers to simulate the death lines that Shiki sees.  It’s a cute gimmick, but is stopped after that.  The paper quality has also varied, with volume 1 being a flexible, more newspaper paper, volume 2 is a more white paper that is stiffer, and 3-5 being a compromise between the two.  One thing I really dislike about all the volumes is that they are obviously cropped.  The books are about an inch shorter than the average manga, and it shows on the covers which always has some part of the character one it cut off.

Something that Dr Masters has no excuse for are the constant typos.  In every volume there are typos with words being broken incorrectly in bubbles, or whole bubbles just plain empty!  A good editor should be able to catch and correct these before the book goes to be published.  Little mistakes like these should not be so prevalent in the professional work.

Overall, Lunar Legend Tsukihime has been an interesting mystery wrapped in vampire horror.  If you can get through the slow pacing and gore of the first three volumes and into the heart of story in volume 4, you will be rewarded.  Strong characters and a thoughtfully laid out plot make this a thriller to be read.

Review: Mamotte! Lollipop Volume 4

Mamotte! Lollipop Volume 4
By Michiyo Kikuta
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $10.95
Rating: ★★½☆☆

The Magic Exams have arrived and changes are on the way.  Nina will no longer have the cute boys Zero and Ichi to look after her.  What’s a girl to do–perhaps go out for a lollipop?  But which flavor should she choose?

It’s the end of the Magic Exams, and everyone and their brother (or sister) is after Zero and Ichi.  Nina finally gets the potion to remove the Crystal Pearl, but because she doesn’t want to be separated from Zero and Ichi, chooses not to drink it.  She has second thoughts as the competition stiffens.  She stays with them to end though, with new complications arising.

The light-hearted romance of the last volume gets tossed out the window, as the final days of the Magic Exam grow closer.  The first half of this volume shows that the Magic Exam isn’t supposed to the game the first three volumes made it out to be.  Examinees get tougher, and no one is pulling punches.  The entire end of the Magic Exam feels completely different from the story so far, and very out of place.  It’s like there’s a comedy/drama switch that the mangaka can flip.  It’s sudden, comes without warning, and his very jarring.

The second half of the volume picks up the romantic comedy back up, with the only differences being that Zero and Ichi are now full wizards, and Pearl the familiar to come out the Exam is attached to Nina instead of a wizard.  This is a convenient plot device to keep the boys with Nina so the romance can continue.  Immediately the story jumps right back to Nina’s love life, complicating it unnecessarily.

After seeing the way Nina, Zero and Ichi worked together during the end of the exam, it’s hard to imagine how Nina choosing one or the other can have a satisfying end.  They are a team, and work best that way.  But leaving no choice made isn’t any better.  The only reason to continue to read this series to find out how/if there is any solution to this love triangle.

This volume includes another short story, this time about how Rokka met Ichi and fell in love with him.  It’s cute, but doesn’t offer anything new or interesting.  She’s still an annoying, spoiled brat.

Mamotte Lollipop is a series for the tween-teen set.  It’s more fluff than melodrama, with lots of “love fortunes” for the romance, and the drama being hit-and-run.  There’s nothing serious for parents to fret over as the triangle of Nina, Ichi and Zero is more friendly than loving.

Review: Phantom Volume 5

Phantom Volume 5
By Ki-Hoon Lee/Seung-Yup Cho
Publisher: Tokyopop
Age Rating: 13+
Genre: Action/Mecha
Price: $9.99
ISBN: 9-781598-167740

Rating: ★★★★½

K and his team, after their all-out battle against Iron, are left battered and bloody.  Dison calls in the Solbalow, Athena’s flying aircraft carrier to evacuate the crew when they’re suddenly under attack by Iron forces.  They barely manage to escape to their base in Guam.  Once he awakens, K is told where his power came from, apparently the Meteor Shower wasn’t actually a meteor shower, it was a shower of alien nano-symbiotes that invade the human body and grow in the brain.  Those who cannot handle their symbiote die, the others can develop special powers, like K’s ability to imitate or react to anyone else’s battle tactics.  Dison and Eaimi, on the other hand, are products of Iron’s Ice Project, altered human beings just like the female cyborg found by Eric.

We jump ahead one year and the tide has turned against Iron.  Repeated attacks by Athena and Rynus Corporation have cost them not only land but public opinion but Iron has a few tricks up it’s sleeve.  First, the return of Colonel Kas Stein, now a cyborg in his own right and leader of a trio of psychic girl pilots who can perfectly interact with his new and most powerful TC, the Diablo.  Second, it’s ruthlessness as it nukes Rynus, reducing it’s forces to near zero.

But Athena hasn’t been sitting on their laurels for the past year either, they have a new secret weapon, the Phantom, commanded by a much more powerful and confident K, that heads out to save the day from certain doom.

In the end, I suppose I am relatively satisfied with their explanations for the psychic powers.  I don’t really like them, but it’s a lot better than saying “there are just magical pixies running around giving people power” or something ridiculous like that.  The aliens in the brain, while a bit hackneyed, is at least remotely plausible, I suppose.  Still, I think the story would have been better off without it, it lowers my overall score a bit.

Back in the review for Volume 2, I mentioned the harem manga angle and to be honest, I don’t know why they brought it up at all, it’s never referenced again.  None of K’s admirers ever mention being attracted to him at all, even Sara, who came off as very jealous, simply goes back to being a mechanic and in the end, TC pilot.  The whole subplot with Yura seems tacked on as well, she wakes up at the end of Volume 5, suddenly healed and goes off to look for K.  The end.  It’s just not convincing at all.  Lily and her mother?  Well Lily shows up once more in the story as a tagalong character  but her mother is nowhere to be seen.  The whole romance angle is completely dropped and I’m not sure how I feel about it.  On the one hand, I detest harem stories, but on the other, since they brought it up in the first place, they should have gone somewhere with it.

Overall, Phantom is an interesting, albeit very cliche mecha story.  It’s got plenty of action, plenty of drama, lots of giant robots smacking each other, but none of it is very original.  If you’ve read a lot of mecha manga or seen a lot of mecha anime, you won’t come away from Phantom with anything new, but for the time you’re reading it, it’s a fun ride with good characters and a lot of twists and turns along the way.

Review: The Big Adventures of Majoko

The Big Adventures of Majoko Volume 1
By Tomomi Mizuna
Publisher: Udon Entertainment
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $7.99
ISBN: 1897376812
Rating: ★★★★☆

While cleaning her room, a young girl named Nana finds a mysterious diary. As soon as she opens it, out pops Majoko, a rambunctious wizard girl from the Land of Magic! Together, these two girls explore a fantastic world full of magic spells, wondrous creatures, and endless surprises. Every day is a big adventure when Majoko is around!

The Big Adventures of Majoko has ever thing to please a young girl; easy to relate to characters and stories that are filled with fun and adventure.  The simplistic and self-contained stories are perfect for the emerging to chapters reader, but don’t expect to see it in the hands of many over the age of 10.

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Brian’s Spot: Gimmick Volume 1

Gimmick! Volume 1
By Youzaburou Kanari
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: T+ (Older Teens)
Genre: Action
Price: $9.99
ISBN: 1-4215-1778-7
Rating: ★★★★☆

In 1986, the movie F/X, starring Bryan Brown as special effects maestro Rollie Tyler and Brian Dennehy as Lt. Leo McCarthy came out, followed by F/X 2 in 1991.  It was so popular that they made a TV series out of it in 1996 which ran for 40 episodes.  Now we get the manga adaptation… wait, it isn’t?

Could have fooled me.

Gimmick is the story of Kohei Nagase and his crew at Studio Gimmick, a small special effects house that seemingly does work for just about everyone.  Kohei is a makeup wizard that can do just about anything with his silver spatula and people come to him from far and wide for his expertise.  Kohei and his sidekick, stuntman Kannazuki, move from job to job, and rescue the odd actress along the way, as Kohei tries to become the ultimate special effects man.

It’s really impossible not to compare Gimmick to F/X, especially when in the back of the manga, Youzaborou Kanari tries desperately to take credit for the whole idea.  He says he came up with the idea in 2003 and was afraid someone would use the idea before he could find an artist.  You’re about 15 years too late for that, pal.  I wouldn’t say, but your stories come almost entirely from the TV series.  Kohei is working on a theme park house of horrors?  Rollie Tyler did effects on a movie being filmed in a theme part house of horrors.  There’s nothing particularly original about this idea, Kanari can give up claiming that there was.

That said though, Gimmick is actually pretty good.  Yes, Kohei’s effects are really pretty silly and teetering dangerously close to magic, if I had a dime for every time he did something that is ridiculously unrealistic, I’d be rich.  F/X showed, at least in the movies, that effects are a matter of lighting and viewpoint and if you aren’t careful, the whole house of cards comes down. Kohei and his amazing spatula whip up things that can pass any amount of muster in seconds and there are times when you’ll be fighting to maintain your credulity at his magic.

Fair warning, this is an older teen title which means there is a fair bit of gratuitous fanservice, nudity which has no other reason than to make guys living in their mother’s basements drool.  It’s pointless and unnecessary and I was unable to find a single nude shot in the book that actually had to be there for story purposes.

If you’re looking for something silly for a quick read, Gimmick fits the bill.  If you’re looking for a good story about special effects saving the day, just go straight to Best Buy and pick up the two F/X movies.  You’ll be glad you did.