Category Archives: Reviews

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.

Review: Naruto Volume 31

Naruto Volume 31
By Masashi Kishimoto
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Action
Price: $7.95
Rating: ★★★★★

Naruto and his fellow ninja engage in deadly conflict with the enemy.  If any of them makes the wrong decision, it could be one of Naruto’s closest friends who pays the ultimate price.

This volume finishes up the rescue of Gaara arc started back in volume 28.  Granny Chiyo and Sakura are fighting Sasori of the Red Sand, and Granny Chiyo’s grandson.  Meanwhile Naruto and Kakashi are chasing Deidara to get Gaara back.  Kakashi uses his Sharigan eye to get Deidara to drop Gaara, and then his new technique when Deidara tries to blow everyone up.  But is there any chance of saving Gaara?

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Review: Naruto Volume 28-29

Naruto Volume 28-29
By Masashi Kishimoto
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Action
Price: $7.95
Rating: ★★★★★

Volume 28 marks the start of Part Two of the Naruto saga.  Two years have passed since the end of volume 27.  Naruto returns to the Hidden Leaf Village after training with Jiraiya.  No soon does he get back that he, Sakura and Kakashi are sent off on a mission.  The Akatsuki have attacked the Sand Village and kidnapped Gaara, now Kazekage.  Distracted from Sasuke, Naruto is determined to save him.  He understands Gaara’s pain, and will do whatever it takes.  On the way, Kakashi’s team, now including Granny Chiyo from the Sand Village confront Itachi while Guy’s team, sent by Tsunade to help Kakashi’s team face another Akatsuki, Kisame.  They are diversions, sent to keep Kakashi’s team from reaching the Akatsuki base before they finish extracting the One-tailed demon from Gaara.

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Brian’s Spot: Gimmick Volume 3

Gimmick! Volume 3
By: Youzaburou Kanari & Kuroko Yabuguchi
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Action
Age Rating: T+ (Older Teens)
Price: $9.99
ISBN: 1-4215-1780-9
Rating: ★★★★☆

Gimmick! is the story of Kohei Nagase, an up-and-coming young makeup and special effects artist who loves his work and is capable of amazingly intricate work.  If you ever saw the movie F/X, starring Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy, you get the idea.  If you didn’t see it, go out, rent the movie and watch it right now.  Go.  I’ll wait.

This volume finishes the “Over the Rainbow” story started in the last volume, plus most of a second story, “TB Confidential” and a one-shot.  There aren’t any spectacular reveals in “Over the Rainbow”, it’s obvious it was simply room that prevented it from being printed in the previous volume and it’s a bit disappointing to have waited a couple of months for what is essentially wrap-up.  At least this time, “TB Confidential” ended on a cliffhanger, but I can’t help wondering why they didn’t just put the complete story into this volume and move the one-shot elsewhere?

Continue reading Brian’s Spot: Gimmick Volume 3

Eagle: The 2008 Election Edition Volume 4

eagle-v4-2Eagle: The Making of an Asian American President Volume 4
By: Kaiji Kawaguchi
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Drama/Politics
Age Rating: Teen+ (16+)
Price: $22.95
Rating: ★★★★☆

I know it’s been a while, but I’ve only go 2 volumes left of this series, and I’m determined to finish it!  Okay, so this volume ends the cliffhanger from the last about Yamaoka possibly having an affair, and that Rachel was the result.  Takashi helps clear that up, as he had a personal stake in the possibility.  Then it’s on to the National Convention in Chicago.  Here we see Bill Clinton step in, trying to get his wife “Ellery” the vice-president nomination.  He goes to Noah first, who turns him down outright, so it’s off to Yamaoka, who seems more receptive.  With the political weight of the Clintons behind him, Yamaoka takes the nomination, but instead nominates Noah for VP.  With the Democratic players in place, the campaign can move to the national front, and we finally meet the Republican Candidate Richard Grant.  He’s a Lt. General in the Air Force Reserve, former Astronaut and Senator from Colorado.  He is also very much a flag-waving republican and supporter of the military complex.  Yamaoka starts off a controversy at a Remembrance Ceremony at the Vietnam Vets Wall, denouncing the war.  After some uproar, Yamaoka clarifies his statements by declaring he wants the US to stop being the world police and build up the UN to do it.  He does this by courting his former CO, General Kerrigan, who is Special Advisor to Peacekeeping Forces to the UN.  The volume ends with a trip to Seattle to see Yamaoka’s family and meet the next hurdle, the unions who represent the military and aerospace workers.

Continue reading Eagle: The 2008 Election Edition Volume 4

Brian’s Spot: Gimmick Volume 2


Gimmick! Volume 2
ByYouzaburou Kanari & Kuroko Yabuguchi
Publsiher: Viz Media
Genre: Action
Rating: T+ (Older Teens)
RRP: $9.99
ISBN: 1-4215-1779-5
Rating: ★★★★☆

Volume 2 opens with the continuation of the Alien Panic storyline, Kohei and his partner Kannazuki are hot on the trail of the criminals who tricked him into constructing a complex alien animatronic creature in the last issue.  Now they’re using the prop as a diversion while they commit crimes and Kohei is none to happy about it.  What’s worse, the criminals have framed Kohei for their crimes!  Next, in The Mask of Del Fuego one-shot, Kohei helps a famous actor disguise himself from a stalker, only to find that she’s not the only one out to get him.  Finally, in the beginning chapters of Over the Rainbow, a young woman named Mone is convinced that Kohei killed her father.  He has to find the truth and discovers it’s closer than he thought.

Honestly, all I can say is if you liked the first volume, you’ll enjoy this one as well, it’s more of the same entertaining stories.  Kohei comes up with an endless array of nifty gadgets and gizmos, most of them pretty over-the-top, to save his never-ending list of clients.  I’ll have to admit, however, that the “oh no, the police are after me” started to run very thin as time wore on in Alien Panic.  Also, I have to wonder where Kohei gets the time to create some of these masterful appliances, does he always wear a blood squib chestpiece, just on the off-chance he might get shot?  Some stories are a bit long on the “ooh, ah” factor, a little short on the logic.

That’s not to say these aren’t fun, light-hearted manga, the character of Kohei is wonderful, Kannazuki is fun to read about, and seeing how they get out of the various jams is always interesting, so long as you don’t think about it too hard.  Just accept that whatever happens, happens, don’t wonder why, don’t try to figure out how, it just does.  If you can do that, you’ll have a good time and blow some time chuckling.

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?

Continue reading Review: Zombie Powder Volume 3

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.

Continue reading Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers #1 – First Look