Being a reviewer isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sure, anyone can write “That manga sucks”, or “This manga totally rules!”. But to thoughtfully read a book and then put down into words not just your feelings about the book, but do it in an interesting and intelligent way that people will want to read is a lot harder than it sounds.
Being too subjective: Yes, I am writing a review and giving my personal opinion about the title. But at the same time, I don’t want to go all “fan girl” either, and just go on and on about how much I like the title. I want to give enough information for readers to have a basic idea what the title is about, while at the same time expressing my likes and dislikes. If I really like a title, I will go on more about what I consider it’s good points, but it’s hard some times not to become a cheerleader for a title. That’s appropriate for a blog post, not a review.
We meet Wolfina Lalla Getto, a self-described “journalist of justice” who has been responsible for toppling various criminal organizations in her illustrious career. She’s got a peculiar choice of weapons, a camera tripod, with which she is very effective. However, when Gamma Akutabi rescues her from a camera-shoot gone wrong, he gets the idea that she might know where one of the Rings of the Dead might be, especially when he finds out that her younger brother Emilio lies in a coma, the sure sign, he thinks, of their knowlege of the rings. Supposedly, the Rings of the Dead can turn innocent victims into mindless vegetables by feeding off their life force.
These three volumes finish up the Greed Island arc (thankfully), though in retrospect it wasn’t as bad as it could be. Volume 16 continues “The Bomber” arc within Greed Island that was started in Volume 15. Genthru and his team has 96 and only need 4 more to win the game. Several teams of hunters, including Gon’s gather to come up with a way to stop Genthru. They decide to get a card no one else has and keep it from them. By creating a team of 15 they can activate the quest. After gathering the requisite number (including Hisoka), they reach the challenge of a killer dodgeball game. Volume 17 finishes the game, and starts the war between Genthru’s team and the winners of Plot of the Beach card. There’s more training for Gon and Killua while Tsezguerra’s team buys them time to come up with a strategy to beat Genthru. Volume 18 is the final three-on-three battle between Genthru’s team and Gon’s, and the end of the Green Island arc.
A Samurai during Japan’s Warring States period (1467-1573), Daigo Kagemitsu wants complete control over Japan. He promises his unborn son’s 48 body parts to demons in exchange for that control. When the baby is born deformed, Daigo throws the newborn into the river to die, but it is miraculously found by a doctor, Jukai, who makes prosthetics for the child and adopts him as his own. When the boy Hyakkimaru is grown, he leaves home and begins a journey to recover his body parts. Along the way he runs into a brash young thief, Dororo, whom he teams up with; together they battle demon and monster on their adventure to reclaim Hyakkimaru’s wholeness.
By Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Age Rating: Teen
Price: $13.95 Rating:
Dororo, first serialized in 1967, can be seen as a proto-shonen story. It has many of the elements we now see in shonen titles today, though these were new at the time. Tezuka spins a memorable supernatural action/adventure tale and characters that really draw you in, and only disappoints at the very end, though not in story, but lack of it.
The first volume of this title is the introduction. Tezuka jumps from past to present, first telling of Daigo’s deal, then introducing Hyakkimaru and Dororo. Hyakkimaru tells Dororo his story, trying to convince the young thief not to follow him, but Dororo doesn’t give up so easily. After a few chapters fighting a demon that returns Hyakkimaru’s arm, it’s Dororo’s tragic past that is revealed. It ends with another demon defeated and Hyakkimaru gaining another body part.
This volume is the strongest of the three, with the great action sequences interspersed with the story telling. One of the themes introduced this is volume that continues through all three seems to be that of “No good deed goes unpunished”. After Hyakkimaru and Dororo go through so much trouble to help rid villages of the demons that plague them, always their reward is to chased off with nary a thank you. Tezuka’s fascination with human nature is seen here as the excuses the villagers often give is refusing to help a thief (Dororo) or Hyakkimaru’s different appearance. Of course, it doesn’t bother them when Hyakkimaru reveals his sword hidden in his arm when he’s fighting a demon; Only after the demon’s defeated and he might need something like food or shelter to rest.
Volume two gets into more character development for Hyakkimaru. He meets his father, the ruthless Daigo and his second son Tahomaru. Things don’t go well, and Hyakkimaru ends up killing Tahomaru in a duel and his father demanding his head. He sends Dororo away deciding he was better off dead when the old man from the first volume that gave Hyakkimaru the hope of becoming a great swordsman despite his handicap, appears. He helps Hyakkimaru see that he needs more in life than just killing demons, and a map to that mysteriously appears on Dororo’s back proves to be it. Hyakkimaru decides to help Dororo find his father’s treasure. This volume ends in must the same way as the first with Hyakkimaru defeating a demon, gaining a limb, and getting chased out of the village.
I’ve seen this volume described as making the series darker, and with all the needless killing of innocents in the first half, one could agree. But, the first volume already established that life was hard, and that Daigo was evil. Maybe “serious” would be a better description. We see just how hard life is and how evil Daigo can be. We gain more insight into Hyakkimaru as well. He has no real purpose beyond finding his missing body parts. He isn’t killing demons to help people. He has to kill a demon before he will know if it was one of the 48. The old man tried to get Hyakkimaru to realize this, but it’s really Dororo that makes him see. Through their journey, Hyakkimaru and Dororo have formed a bond that neither can see, but certainly feel. It’s this bond that makes Hyakkimaru more human than just his regained body parts.
Volume three picks up with the search for Dororo’s father’s treasure. Then there are a few demon hunting stories and the final story involves Hyakkimaru facing his father again and helping a village of farmers overcome him. Hyakkimaru parts ways with Dororo again after a revelation, and then leaves. And…that’s the end.
This volume starts out full steam and stays that way to the very end. Tezuka never shows any indication that these would be the last stories. Nothing is resolved, and if anything, things are set up to imply more to come, so that when you come to the end, it’s like hitting a brick wall. The last page is nothing but a few lines that are woefully inadequate for what was up ’til now an exciting ride!
This brings me to the things I didn’t like about this series, and there aren’t a lot. The biggest problem I had with it was Tezuka continually breaking the fourth wall. Now, I don’t mind a manga being referential, but I really don’t like it when characters speak to the reader, break through panels and refer to things completely inappropriate to the title. Tezuka did this in every volume, though sparingly. But it was enough to distract from an already riveting story. He already had good comedic moments the Dororo. He didn’t need to add these others.
The other problem was the abrupt ending. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the pace had slowed some, or if there had been some indication that the story would be ending, but there wasn’t. You get to the end of the last story, turn to the last page and are left stunned, wondering where the rest of the story went. It is a real disappointing end of an otherwise great story.
Overall, Dororo is a great story. The characters are fun and well-developed. The demons that Hyakkimaru and Dororo face are varied and interesting. The art is classic Tezuka, but it really grows on you. Do not pass this title up just because the art doesn’t look modern and polished. If you are interested in action and/or folklore/supernatural than this is a must read. Tezuka’s shonen classic shows why so many creators used him as a template. This great story is only marred by a jarring end.
One of the regulars at Suguri’s pet shop finds out that his precious little French bulldog, Zidane, has a weight problem! He tried everything from diet food to yoga and even an exercise machine to help the little guy lose that doggy fat! Could someone else be feeding him, too?!
By Yukiya Sakuragi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Older Teen
Price: $9.99 Rating:
Dog lovers rejoice! It’s another volume of dogs and their owners doing doggie things. Then for the second half of the volume, there’s a new plot stirring up, that could be the end of Woofles and the gang.
The first half of this volume is all about Hiroshi Akiba, an otaku-goverment worker, and his bulldog Zidane. Zidane was teased by Chizuru about his weight, so Akiba decided to do something about it. He buys low-calorie dog food, he stops buying treats and even gets a doggie treadmill! This story is mildly amusing, though it has all the typical trappings and pitfalls of a diet storyline.
The story of how Lupin, Suguri’s mutt, got his name is mildly amusing too. The source isn’t all that surprising, nor why she chose. This story really just seems to fulfill the title’s fanservice quotient.
The rest of the volume introduces a new storyline. Woofles has been targeted as the best pet store in the area, and the place to top for a new pet shop that is backed by an online retailer. Not only are they trying to be better than Woofles, but they have their eye on Woofles top employee, Suguri!
This new storyline could be interesting, if it wasn’t so obvious where it was going. Already, the spy that is working at Woofles has shown his “good side”, and the whole “steal Suguri from Woofles” just isn’t plausible. Anyone that’s read even one volume of this series would know that. Of course, Lupin catches on to Mikage right from the beginning. He barks at him, and when he invites Suguri to a cafe for lunch and to try to get her to leave Woofles, Lupin is all over him, interrupting him at every chance. That scene was also mildly amusing.
Inubaka continues to be a title aimed squarely at the male dog lover. The fanservice was much more under control in this volume. It wasn’t too prevalent, except for the one story. And for dog lovers, this continues to be a windfall. Lots of different dog doing lots of cute doggie things. As a cat person, I’m still not impressed, but I didn’t mind the read either.
“I’m going to uncover the mystery of the ‘Blade Children’.”…World-class detective Kiyotaka Narumi’s last words prior to his sudden disappearance continue to haunt his younger brother, Ayumu. The cheeky 10th-grader becomes equally embroiled in the mystery of the doomed “Blade Children” when he is mistaken for the prime suspect in a murder at his school. Led by Ayumu’s sister-in-law, Kiyotaka’s wife and fellow detective, Madoka, the investigation into the murder gives Ayumu a chance to clear his name. But in doing so, he not only uncovers ties to the Blade Children but also more questions than answers about who and what they are.
Story by Kyo Shirodaira; Art by Eita Mizuno Publisher: Yen Press Genre: Mystery Rating: Teen Price: $10.99 Rating:
Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning is a title that started out as a novel and was then turned into both a manga and an anime series. This first volume introduces us to the main characters and the overarching mystery of the “Blade Children”, with individual mysteries giving us the pieces to the larger one.
Ayumu Narumi is a 10th grader at a private high school, and brother to Kiyotaka Narumi, a world-class pianist in his teens and a “Great Detective” by his twenties. Ayumu wants to surpass his brother, and find out what happened to him. It seems he has a knack for solving mysteries as well, and when he is accused of murder on the anniversary of his brother’s disappearance, Ayumu sets out to prove his innocence himself. But as one crime is solved, it seems to lead to another as the culprit is killed, which reveals clues to another. That murderer is found, and all have a connection to the Blade Children mystery.
Spiral has all the earmarks of a “boy detective” story. The “boy detective” who possess’ extraordinary reasoning powers, the detective on the police force who believes in his powers, the bumbling detective partner who doesn’t get it, and the pretty girl sidekick. Ayumu even has a trademark saying when he has figured out the case; “So this is the melody of the truth…”. But these things don’t make this a bad series, just a familiar one. Ayumu is unlike any of the other boy detectives. He’s more of a loner, obsessed with his brother’s mysterious disappearance. His attitude is more of a devil-may-care, and just sees the mysteries as a chance to find his brother. His sidekick, Hiyono, is actually helpful to Ayumu, getting him the information he needs to put all the pieces together. His sister-in-law, Madoka, understands Ayumu, and really sees the sibling resemblance as he puts the pieces together before she does.
This volume is a great introduction to the characters, and all the little clues that are dropped around about the Blade Children really get one wondering about who and what they can be. The art is well done, with no chibis, and only the occasional funny face, at appropriate times. The designs are cute without being bishi or annoying. The way Yen Press does the SFX is different, with a more literal translation of the mood the author wants to get across than just a sound. It takes a little getting used to, but after while, it just seems natural. As one of Yen Press’ debut titles, this is a great beginning.
Are Manami’s grades slipping because of her dedication to her favorite card game? Her math teacher thinks so and threatens to tell her mother — unless she can beat him in a Chaos match! Also, a seemingly unbeatable player who actually hates Chaos is gunning for Manami. What’s this girl’s connection to Manami’s card-playing cousin Tamotsu?
In this volume, there is plot development in two different directions. The first half of the volume continues the love triange between Manami, Tamotsu and Misa, with a revelation relating back to the last volume that makes this a true triangle. The second half returns to a plot point not seen since the first volume revolving around the Sahgan card.
By Gosho Aoyama Publisher: Viz Media Age Rating: Teen+ Genre: Mystery Price: $9.99
Parental Note: Yes, this title is rated for older teens, and yes, it has a lot of death and blood. However, this title is written for a younger audience in Japan, and is closer to an all ages in terms of characters and plot. That’s why I let my younger daughter read this when she asked if she could. I don’t have a problem with the blood and death if she doesn’t.
What is the story about?
It’s about a teenage detective that is turnded into a kid, and names himself after famous detective authors. He solves all the cases the adults can’t.
What did you like about the story?
I like it when Rachel does Kung Fu. I also like when the dad, Richard Moore would get drunk. The dog in the girl kidnapping story was cute but also ugly.
What did you dislike about the book?
Would you recommend the story to kids your age? Why?
Hellsing Volume 8
By Kohta Hirano
Publisher: Dark Horse
Age Rating: 13+
London is already bathed in blood, its citizenry almost entirely slaughtered by vampiric, reborn Nazi soldiers. And marching through the rivers of blood–thousands of extreme Catholic warriors in creepy cloaks. But the focus of this chaotic either volume is the return of Alucard, the slave-paladin of the British Protestants, who’s just piloted an aircraft carrier up the Thames to join the fray. It’s a crazy face-off between three gory armies and their primary killers, and if you think that sounds nuts, wait until you dive into the crimson-stained new volume of Kohta Hirano’s creepy-cool Hellsing manga series.
Now, I generally don’t read blood-spilling horror manga, but for Hellsing, I make an exception. My husband started getting this series originally, but, having nothing to read one day I picked it up, and was instantly hooked. This volume is a good example why.
We are still in the middle of a battle that started back in volume 6 with first the vampiric Nazis and then the invasion of the Catholics to take back Protestant England. It was not a good day to be a Londoner. England’s protectors, Hellsing, is down to three warriors, but one is really all they seem to need: Alucard. He makes a grand entrance, and holds control for the rest of the volume. It is all about him. Literally. We learn who Alucard really is and see his past, as he defeats one enemy after another on the ground. This also leads to another battle with Alucard’s arch rival, Father Anderson. This volume goes non-stop from beginning to end, with only short moments catch your breath with some plot teasing. This fight still isn’t over.
The art is as bold as the story telling. Thick black lines really give the characters definition, and the blood runs so thick, that some pages seem almost completely black from it all! And Alucard is hot in all of his incarnations!
Hellsing is a title that totally lives up to it’s hype. The art is fantastic, and the story strings you along just enough to keep you coming back for more. And Hirano-sensei’s zany extras are enough to want to buy the volumes alone! They makes the long wait between volumes worth it.
I’m almost caught up with reading my back issues of Shonen Jump. I started reading October last night. Both October issues of Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat had previews for new manga, and I thought I’d share my thoughts on them.
In Shonen Jump, the preview was for Nora: The Last Chronicle of Devildom. I wasn’t sure what to make of this title when it was first announced, and when I started reading it, the first thing that came to mind was that it seemed like a cross between Inuyasha and Death Note. We have a demon who can take the shape of a dog (or hell hound) that needs to be controlled. He is sent to the human realm and put in the hands of human high school student who is successful at everything and bored. I was thinking the “demon animal under human control” was also a genre that was getting old. Inuyasha, Her Majesty’s Dog, and Mugen Spiral (from Tokyopop), had all done it before, so I really wondered if this series could do anything better. By the end of the preview chapter, I was actually liking it! It doesn’t do anything new. But for some reason, I found myself liking Nora and Kazuma, and their very antagonistic relationship. I’m going to read the first volume of this title for sure.
Shojo Beat previewed a new Matsuri Hino title, Captive Hearts. I had no hope whatsoever for this title. I haven’t liked any of the other titles by her that I’ve read/previewed, so I didn’t think this one would be any different. The whole premise of a boy being controlled by a girl because of a curse sent up all kinds of red flags, and I imagined the worst. But, when I started reading it, it turned out to be the complete opposite of what I had thought. What’s more, I actually liked it! Megumi was very funny as he started to feel the effects of the curse, and Suzuka was just cute. The art is nice too. There are a lot of light moments that seem to set his manga up for some fun. I’d definitely consider buying this title.
When I like a magazine enough that I want to read it every month, I subscribe to it. That’s why I get both Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat. But, sometimes I don’t quite get my renewal in on time, and that happened unfortunately to me this last April with Shonen Jump. Sooo… I missed getting an issue. May 2008. By the time I realized I wasn’t getting it, It was already gone from news stands, and both my local and online comic shop didn’t have it. No big deal, I thought, it’d show up somewhere. And it did. Finally. Two weeks ago! So I have six months worth of Shonen Jump to catch up on, because I won’t read an issue without reading the preceding chapters. Silly sounding, I know, but I want the full story, in order.
This weekend I dove back into Shonen Jump with this ill-fated issue. It would figure it was the April Fool’s issue too. Boy did I miss it! After two volumes of that overstuffed and over hyped Yen Plus, I was glad to get back into some real shonen stories and battles! It started with four chapters of Naruto. Not a lot of exciting action with Granny and Sakura fighting Sasori, but it was a good start. Two chapters of Slam Dunk followed. I’m giving this series some time, but for the moment, it’s still in the take-it-or-leave-it category. Bobobo-Bo Bo-Bobo I can leave, but I only have to suffer through one chapter. Yu Yu Hakusho was only two chapters, but man, they were brutal! It’s chapters like these that remind me why I got hooked on the series. One Piece got three chapters of mostly flashback, but Luffy’s revelations at the end make it worth it.
Bleach got three chapters as well, but they were the most action-packed of the whole magazine. And, I just gotta say, IKKAKU MADARAME IS TOTALLY FRICKIN’ AWESOME! The three chapters are mostly just his fight with Arrancar Trece Edorad Leones, but the fight scenes here totally rule! Ikkaku has some cool poses and moves. If you’ve ever just thought he was a side character, these chapters show how wrong you were! I was riveted for the whole three chapters! Kubo-sensei’s art only added to his awesomeness!
Then, the magazine finished with a chapter of Yu Gi Oh GX, another title I can take or leave. What made this such a thrilling read wasn’t just getting back to stories I really love. It was getting back to stories that weren’t painful to read. The Japanese side of Yen Plus doesn’t have any titles like the Shonen Jump titles. None of them pumped me and or made me so excited that I didn’t want to put the magazine down, even if my family was dying of starvation. And even if there are any in that selection that can, they won’t be given the chance. Shonen Jump is half the size, yet gives double the punch. I got 16 chapters from 7 manga instead of 12 excrusiatingly short one. But the real different between Yen Plus and Shonen Jump is that Shonen Jump felt like that from the start.
In my continuing evaluation of Yen Plus to decide if it’s worth subscribing to, I picked up issue 2. I read it the same way as last issue, reading the Japanese side first, and then flipping to the OEL/Korean side. With this second issue, most of my original impressions stand, if not becoming more ingrained. The entire Japanese side is a complete and total waste. The fan service continues unabated, and overrides any story that might be there, especially in Soul Eater and Sumomomo Momomo. Bamboo Blade has really deteriorated in it’s next two chapters. Higurashi and Nabari stand on the edge, but they are not intriguing enough to hold up the other three. The whole Japanese side is a write off as far as I’m concerned.
The OEL/Korean side carries this magazine. Nightschool and Pig Bride stand as the strongest titles, with Maximum Ride and Sarasah close behind. One Fine Day is a take or leave title, and Jack Frost continues to show it’s Hellsing influence. Actually it’s just plain a rip-off, but still has some potential.
All of these titles together as a package just doesn’t do it for me. I’m paying $9 a month or $50 a year to read half a magazine? I don’t think so. Yen Press’ best bet would be to divide the magazine up and bring out two different mag and market them to two different audiences. The Japanese side is purely for the guys. It’s hard to find anything substantial for females to really latch onto and enjoy. I don’t mind some fanservice, but these just go too far for even my tastes. Actually, most of it is just plain offensive pandering. The OEL/Korean side is closer to what a general audiences magazine should be. Action, fantasy, romance, and slice of life all together. This is the side that has the best chance of surviving as it has the greatest ability to appeal to a wider audience. The Japanese side for the fanboys. Why not just give it to them, and leave the rest of us to have 1 or 2 titles we don’t like rather than 6-7.
I will not continue to pick up Yen Plus, but will follow my favorite series in graphic novels. It was a good idea, but the titles in Yen Plus just doesn’t make it worth it. Maybe when Hero Tales is added, as was just announced at NYAF, things might change. I may pick up the first issue with Hero Tales and see if there is any improvement, but at the moment, I don’t have a lot of high hopes for it. I’ll pay $4.99 monthly/$29.99 yearly for the OEL/Korean side, but I’m not sinking my few spare dollars into a year of titles I couldn’t care less about.