Category Archives: Reviews

Rurouni Kenshin Restoration vol 1

A condensed retelling of the beloved samurai tale–one of the best-selling manga series of all time—released in conjunction with a new live-action movie.

During the violent upheaval of the Bakumatsu era, Hitokiri Battosai was a feared and ruthless assassin. But now that the Meiji Restoration has begun to heal the wounds of civil war, Battosai has taken up a new name…and a new calling! He is now Himura Kenshin , a rurouni wanderer who has vowed to only draw his sword to protect those in need. But not everyone is pleased with Kenshin’s new direction, and enemies from his dark past have vowed to bring him down!

Rurouni Kenshin Restoration 1

By Nobuhiro Watsuki
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy the Volume

It took a while, but I finally read all of Rurouni Kenshin last year. With a live action movie having been released last year in Japan, a re-imagining of the manga was created by original creator Nobuhiro Watsuki. This can sometimes lead to new and interesting directions for the title and characters to go. Too bad that’s not what happened here.

It uses the same characters, but the story has been turned around a bit. Himura Kenshin is still a rurouni who stumbles upon a man masquerading as the Hitokiri Battosai, but this time it is during a tournament run by a merchant Takeda Kanryu. He is buying out the rights to dojos and using the leaders of them in the tournaments with the promise that they can buy their land rights back. Kaoru Kamiya is of course one of the participants. Yasuhiro works for Takeda, and is used as a reverse hostage to keep Kaoru in line. Kenshin gets involved of course, and defeats Takeda, who then hires eighteen assassins to kill Kenshin. In this volume Sanosuke and Saito are introduced with their stories greatly compressed. It also includes a chapter zero, which tells a tale of Kenshin before he arrives in Tokyo.

The volume is rather lean for a shonen jump title, coming in at 142 pages. I read all of these chapters in Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha where they ran monthly. I didn’t care for this re-imagining then, and I still don’t now. I don’t have anything against re-imagining titles in general. I like to check out remakes, and can enjoy them and the originals separately. This new Rurouni Kenshin rubbed me the wrong way. Everyone seems angrier this time around. The art is also much sharper and more spartan. I didn’t enjoy reading it or looking at it. This is definitely not the “meiji swordsman romance” and is much more a harder action title. I’m sure this will please a lot of the Shonen Jump crowd, but as I’ve grown tired of all but the best of shonen, it doesn’t please me. If you think Kenshin would have been better with more of an edge and less of the character development, then this is the title for you.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Attack on Titan Volume 8-10

Facing a royal summons, Eren and his friends make one final attempt to capture the female Titan. While they are successful, a new crisis faces them as it appears Titans have breached Wall Rose and are pouring into the interior. The 104th scramble to evacuate the villages in their path and find the breach. A night at Utgard Castle is meant to be a refuge, but instead becomes a battle for their lives as the Titans attack at night.

AoT 8By Hajime Isayama
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Horror
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

I didn’t think Attack on Titan was going to be a series I would enjoy. It’s categorized as a horror title, a genre I’m very picking about. Reviews about the series were mixed with people either liking or hating it. I did read the first chapter in Kodansha’s Unreal sampler, and wasn’t impressed. But with the series rising steadily up the New York Times Best Seller list and Nielson Bookscan, there had to be something good that people were seeing about it. I received these volumes for review, and decided it was time for me to see for myself.

AoT 9I was a little unsure, jumping into this series so far in. A comment on Twitter said that the series got better after volume 4, so I was encouraged slightly, but I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to figure out what was going on or get any of the relationships. It was actually surprising how easy it was to pick up on the relationships between the characters. I really liked the relationship between Eren, Mikasa and Armin. The bond between the three of them was obvious right from the start. The scene where they were preparing to fight the female Titan really sold it without trying. They complement each other well. Armin is the brains, as his deductive reasoning figured out who the female Titan was. Mikasa is the quiet, brawn of the three. She is an awesome fighter, and looked cool as she took down the female Titan, flying up the wall and cutting off her fingers to prevent her escape. Eren is the conflicted hero that Armin and Mikasa support. His battle with the female Titan was actually pretty exciting. What really makes this trio work for me though, is the complete lack of romantic tension. These three are pretty solidly friends, and with all the action already, any romantic conflicts would detract from the already tense story.

These volumes also included a bit of character development for other members of the 104th. They are sent out to warn the outlying villages of the Titan breach. Sasha, a member of the 104th and Military Police Brigade, gets some nice exposition as she faces down a Titan alone. I enjoyed her back story. Ymir and Krista, two more members of the Military Police Brigade, have their story shown, which makes that seemingly harsh Ymir more sympathetic. This also leads to some shocking reveals by the end.

AoT 10But then, that’s what this series is good at; making shocking reveals, and then instead of explaining anything, just teases with possible answers that only lead to more questions. That’s what really hooked me in. First it was the mystery of the Wall Rose, then it was the animistic Titan, and then revelation from Reiner and Bertolt. As one mystery is pursued, these other pop up that keep me intrigued and wanting to get that next volume just to see if there will be some answers.

There were a lot good battles in these volumes. Eren and the female Titan’s battle was exciting, as was the battle at Utgard Castle. Not all of the battles were big, such as Sasha’s small fight. but when they were, like at Utgard Castle, they were devastating. Everyone had to pitch in to protect the castle, but it was Ymir who really showed her mettle, proving herself to be smart as well as self-sacrificing.

If there is any problem I have with these three volumes, it’s the art. It is very uneven, as there are times when the faces don’t look like they are on straight, to very fluid moments in battle such as Mikasa’s strike on the female Titan. But the story really overrides the art, and makes the not-so-great moments bearable. It fortunately also makes the gory moments not so gory. The Titan on Titan violence has such a surreal look to it, as eye balls pop, and Titan’s grin with childish glee as they attack each other just as much as the humans. I thought the gore would be worse, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared.

Attack on Titan is a weird combination of action, mystery and horror that it actually makes it a compelling read. I don’t know how the beginning of the series is, but these later volumes show why every new volume hits the NYT top 10 and stays there for weeks on end. It’s a series you don’t want to put down. At least I didn’t.

Review copies provided by Publisher.


Pandora Hearts Volume 8-10

The truth about Xerxes Break’s past is revealed in these volumes as is more about Alice and her relation to the Intent of the Abyss. Oz continues to pursue the truth behind the tragedy of Sablier, and he, Gilbert and Alice go to the remains of the city. Vincent and Gilbert’s past is revealed along with more about Glen Baskerville and Jack Vessalius, but when Oz’s incuse moves forward, it is a reminder that his time is running out.

PANDORA_8By Jun Mochizuki
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $11.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

There are a lot of revelations made throughout these volumes, about Alice, about the Abyss, about the chains about Alice and Oz, but not a lot of questions are answered. We know the who’s and how’s but still not a lot about the why’s, which is what will keep readers coming back.

Keeping track of all the revelations got to be a bit of a task. The only real saving grace was the way they all connected that told more of the story of the tragedy of Sablier. It was really all very timey-wimey. Xerxes Break fits in as a figure from after the tragedy looking to change the past with the usual tragic results. Gilbert and Vincent turn out to be pieces to the puzzle as well with connections that were rather unexpected. The real reason for the tragedy leads back to an event that affected Glen Baskerville to the point that controlling the Intent of the Abyss was the only way he knew to change it, and Alice is the key to it all. But we still don’t know the full story behind that event, which as the root, really needs to be revealed before any real answer can be disclosed.

PANDORA_9Most of these revelations delved into the tragic. Xerxes only wanted to save his Master, but instead destroyed a whole family. Gilbert and Vincent had a tragic childhood that shaped who they are. The events are especially tragic for Vincent, as he is shunned as a child of ill omen, and tries to save his big brother, to such results that he is truly driven insane. Though, I don’t think he was really all that stable in the first place, with the way he tortures Alice, cutting up her dolls and then her cat (why is it always the cat?!). Even with all he’s been through, I really can’t muster any sympathy for him. He is a good match for Lottie Baskerville, who is just as psychotic.

I enjoyed the chapters with Oz taking Echo out on the town during the Blue Angel festival. It had a lot of sweet moments, and was one of the few moments that helped get me through all the tragedy that followed. Though I wasn’t happy with what happened to Echo afterward. Guess you can’t have the happy last too long in this series. I also felt sorry for Alice in the past. She didn’t deserve the hate that was piled on her, and her fate at Glen Baskerville’s hand probably wasn’t going to be a good one. Jack asks not to be called the Hero of Sablier because of what he was forced to do to stop it, but what Glen planned wasn’t any better. If anything Jack’s remorse only reinforces his heroism, especially considering his fate.

PANDORA_10Also included in these volumes was the pilot story for Pandora Hearts. I enjoyed it just as much as what it became. It keeps a lot of the elements, with chains and characters from Alice in Wonderland. Gil and Oz are still together, and Oz is chained to the B-Rabbit, but it takes a slightly different form. It was a good, action story, and quite enjoyable.

I don’t know that I can say I enjoyed these volumes, but they were good, compelling reads. The few moments of camaraderie between Oz, Alice and Gilbert were uplifting, and Alice’s first attempt at a kiss was cute. But it seems tragedy is meant to rule this series as a meeting between Oz and his father is anything but warm, and with the forward movement of Oz’s incuse, he takes another step toward losing himself and becoming more like the B-Rabbit. Pandora Hearts continues to keep me coming back, as it’s questions are too fascinating to let go.

Review copies provided by Publisher.

Voice Over! Seiyu Academy Volume 1

Hime Kino’s dream is to one day do voice acting like her hero Sakura Aoyama from the Lovely♥Blazer anime, and getting accepted to the prestigious Holly Academy’s voice actor department is the first step in the right direction! But Hime’s gruff voice has earned her the scorn of teachers and students alike. Hime will not let that stand unchallenged. She’ll show everyone that she is too a voice acting princess, whether they like it or not!!

To make matters worse, Sakura’s grouchy son, Senri, is in Hime’s class, and he seems determined to stomp on her dreams. He even has the nerve to call Lovely♥Blazer stupid! But Hime won’t be deterred by naysayers, her new nickname (“Gorilla Princess”), or even getting demoted to the Stragglers group. She’s ready to shine, and nothing is going to stand in her way!

Voice Over_01By Maki Minami
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

Voice acting has always interested me, and after ready Koetama on Jmanga, I became interested in reading manga about it. So when Viz announced this series, I was happy to finally have a series I could own about it. The only downside was that I hadn’t enjoyed Minami’s previous series SA, so I didn’t know which side would win out. Fortunately, I ended up liking this series much more than SA. The female protagonist didn’t come off dumber than bricks, which helped a lot.

The protagonist of the series, Hime, is anything but a princess, despite how desperately she want to sound like one. She isn’t cute and girlish like her younger sister, who is constantly reminding her and the reader of that fact. Her voice is rough and gravelly. Her attempts to sound feminine end in people imagining old women or effeminate men. She isn’t a princess at all. But she’s not willing to give up. When she finally does find her niche, it isn’t what she thinks is should be and doesn’t accept it. It’s not that she can’t accept it, she won’t because it goes against her dreams. I liked that about her. I don’t think she’s ever going to reach her dream of having a princessy voice, but that her journey is the accept and appreciate what she does have.

Hime’s rival and potential love interest is Senri Kudo, the son of Hime’s favorite voice actress who is already landing parts and becoming successful while still in high school. He comes off cold and uncaring, until he is shown to have a soft spot of small animals, but mostly cats. That put him in a new light for me. Anyone who loves and rescues cats can’t be a bad person. Senri won’t acknowledge Hime at first, until he hears her potential. In some ways she also reminds him of a stray cat, causing his soft spot to kick in. Right now, I like them more as rivals than a couple, but that could change.

Hime is surrounded by quite a cast of characters. She becomes part of the “Straggler” group when she can’t keep up with the lessons and is joined by the soft-spoken Tsukino, who becomes her friend. Sho, who acts more like an underboss than actor and Mitchy, who is full of himself, but gets stage fright. I loved Sho with his short temper and ready to lend a fist when one of his fellow “Stragglers” is threatened. Two more characters that become part of Hime’s circle are Mizuki and Shuma, the boy idol group Aqua. Hime borrows Mizuki’s closes to help Tsukino out of difficult situation and gains the ire of Shuma. His attempt at revenge on Hime is devious, but she is able to turn the tables on him, as well as feeling the ire of MIzuki. It was a great scene at the end.

This first volume of Voice Over! Seiyu Academy is a good foundation for the series. It sets up the characters well, as well as Hime’s problems and potential without beating the reader over the head about it. I thought the scout was a little harsh with Hime by calling her unsuitable when it was obvious she wasn’t, but she can’t start recording yet. I did like that Hime not only didn’t become depressed over her “failure”, but that she accepted the extra work she was given for if. She wouldn’t accept help from Tsukino and took responsibility for it herself. It’s a good example for anyone to follow.

I’m giving away a copy of Voice Over! Seiyu Academy volume 1 to one random reader. Leave a comment on this post about whether you prefer subs or dubs in anime to be entered to win. US residents only please.

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 37: Sweet Rein

Manga Dome header

Seasons Greetings! This week there are regular features the Weekly Wish List, the update and the New York Times Bestseller List. And keeping with the season, I review Sweet Rein from Viz Media.

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 37: Sweet Rein

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan Volume 10-15

Rikuo and his allies reach Kyoto, where the seals the that hold Hagoromo-Gitsune have been broken. They must fight the enemy yokai and with the help of Yura and her human allies replace them.  Along the way, Rikuo must face Tsuchigumo, and to do so, must gain a power that was one his father’s. The battle finally makes it to Nijo Castle, but it is too late as the reincarnation of Nue is born, and Rikuo and Hagoromo-Gitsune begin to battle.

Nura 10Nura 11Nura 12 Nura 13 Nura 14 Nura 15





By Hiroshi Shiibashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genra: Action/Supernatural
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

I’ve been lukewarm about Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan in general, but the story in these six volumes brought it up. I got sucked in by the end of volume 10, and each subsequent volume just kept feeding my hunger. While I thought the fighting and training was tedious in previous volumes, here, in the midst of battle, it seemed to fit right in. A lot of characters backgrounds are revealed in these volumes as well, which proved to be the biggest draw for me.

Volume 10 starts out slow, concentrating on the human side of the battle in Kyoto with Yura and her onmyoji clan, the Keikain clan, defending the humans as Hagoromo-Gitsune’s yokai grow stronger. But once the ship Rikuo and the rest of the Kanto yokai forces reach Kyoto airspace, that’s where the story starts to move. I loved Rikuo’s battle with Hakuzozu. He shows his guardians that he has come into his own, and doesn’t need to be shielded by them all the time. Rikuo’s growth in strength and as a leader continues to the volumes, as he learns Equip, a power his father developed that allows him to use his followers fear with his own. This was a power-up that I actually liked, as it isn’t just about strength. It’s about trust that both he and his followers feel for each other. It actually meant something more than having a stronger punch, which is what I find tedious in a lot of these shonen manga.

Throughout all the action, there is some good character development as the past of several characters are revealed. I loved the reveal of Ao’s past and how he became a yokai as he protects the children at the Keikain main house. Kubinashi’s past is also revealed as he gives into his anger at not being able to protect Rikuo in the battle against Tsuchigumo. His connection to Kejoro is explored some, and their battle together at the sixth seal was great. Finally seeing Abe no Seimei’s past was illuminating, as it explained not just his desire for immortality, but also his hatred for humans despite being half human. But what I liked best was the glimpses into Rikuo’s past and the death of his father. By the end of volume 15, I was dying to read the next volume and find out more.

There were some really fun shorts in these volumes too. Watching the Supreme Commander taking care of his baby son was funny, and I loved the Mysterious Tales of Ukiyoe Middle School. Seeing that all the mysteries were really just yokai was amusing, and seeing another potential girl enter Rikuo’s life was entertaining.

It took long enough, but now that Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan is getting into its own mythology, and having battles that not only move faster, but move the story along, it has become something worth reading. The growing ensemble of yokai is a real draw too. I love not only seeing, but also learning about new yokai, which his title does as well as incorporate them into the story. I would now recommend Nura to fans of yokai as well as shonen fighting manga.

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 27: Umineko When They Cry Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch Part 2

Manga Dome header


This week I look at some manga news, news from, the Nielson Bookscan for September, and review the Yen Press title Umineko When They Cry Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch Part 2.

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 27: Umineko When They Cry Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch Part 2

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Official Casebook Volume 1: The Phoenix Wright Files

Only one name strikes fear into the hearts of evildoers everywhere: Phoenix Wright, ace attorney. Join Phoenix Wright and his adorable assistant Maya–plus Miles Edgeworth, Detective Gumshoe, Franziska von Karma, and others–as they investigate twenty intriguing cases. And find out why Phoenix Wright has devoted his life to fighting injustice!

Phoenix Wright Case FilesBy CAPCOM
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Mystery;Video Game Adaptation
Price: $14.95 (OOP)
Rating: ★★★★★

I think it is safe to say my kids can influence my reading habits. Some people might say it’s good that I’m looking into what my kids are reading and playing. I’ve been reading the web comic Homestuck after they told me about it. And now, after my oldest daughter discovered the Phoenix Wright Nintendo DS video games, and basically told me the whole plot of them, I am now reading the Phoenix Wright manga. I read the first volume of the ongoing series of Phoenix Wright, and didn’t find it appealing from a mystery-lovers perspective. But having gotten this title for her, I decided to read it and see if it could win me over as the ongoing couldn’t. And it did so, in spades!

This volume is a thick 304-page anthology with 20 different stories written and drawn by 20 different artists, as well as 4-koma strips that appear between chapters. Like each creator, each story is different, some being cases, some looking at the characters relationships, and some just going completely meta! The first story, “Progress Toward Tomorrow” has Nick looking inward, trying to answer a simple question posed by Maya; Why did he decide to become a defense attorney? It’s a really nice story that has Nick questioning his reason and motives, and ultimately his effectiveness as a defense attorney. Fortunately for him, Miles is there to slap some sense into him, and get him out of his self-doubt. It was a nice story validating Nick’s choices and his friendships.

“Turnabout Kitten”, “Spirit Medium or Bust”, and “It’s Not Easy Being a Defense Lawyer” are three stories in a row that gave me some laugh out loud moments. Fortunately, no one else eats in the lunchroom at my work. In “Turnabout Kitten”, Maya finds a kitten, and Nick, determined not to have it in the office, tries to find a home for it. He calls Miles, Gumshoe and Larry, all with increasingly funny results, especially between Larry and Gumshoe. “Spirit Medium or Bust” has former client Mr. Grossberg trying to repay Nick and Maya for their help, and goes a little overboard. But the funniest of the three was the meta “It’s Not Easy Being a Defense Lawyer.” Everyone convenes on the Phoenix Wright Offices when they hear Nick isn’t getting any cases. They all have their own ideas, but end up ganging up on Nick for being a weak lead character.

The 4-komas had some great hits too. “Anything But That” is hilarious while also being the stuff nightmares are made of with Larry finding a new job. I also really liked “Let’s Turn It Around.” It explains a lot about Phoenix’s hair.

Because there are different artists for each story, the art does vary greatly, but I really didn’t have a problem with it. I actually liked the different styles. Kaname Uchimura’s big-eyed, shojo-esque portrayal in “Turnabout Misunderstanding” was cute, as was the SD-ish art in “Ball Search Team, Head Out!” by Tomo and “The Mystery of the Missing Manju” by Tsukapon. Not all of the more realistic artwork worked for me, but I think Daigo’s for “It’s Not Easy Being a Defense Attorney” was the style I liked best.

While I really enjoyed this volume, this isn’t the book to pick up if you’re just getting into Phoenix Wright. This is a title for someone who is already a fan, and who knows who the characters are and their relationships to each other. Even with knowing a lot about the characters, I was still thrown by Maya channeling Mia and who Mia was. I had to consult the Encyclopedia Daughterica for that information. If you’re a fan of the Phoenix Wright games, you really owe it to yourself to pick this volume up. It is out of print, but volumes are available new and used for reasonable prices. It’s mostly funny, sometimes emotional, but always enjoyable.

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 22: Alice in the Country of Hearts

Manga Dome header

This week I check out a new manga kickstarter from Manga Reborn, what’s up at Vizmanga, and review the last two volumes of Alice in the Country of Hearts.

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 22: Alice in the Country of Hearts

Paradise Kiss Volume 3

As the much-anticipated Yaza Arts fashion show gears up, an unexpected visitor from George’s past makes an appearance. Yukari’s modeling career heats up just as George makes an announcement that shocks the ParaKiss group to the core. George is hearing the siren call of the City of Lights, but where does that leave Yukari? Will she find the key to Paradise?

Paradise Kiss 3By Ai Yazawa
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fashion
Price: $19.95
Rating: ★★★★★

In this final volume of Paradise Kiss, fashion takes a back seat to all the relationship drama that is going on. George and Yukari’s relationship remain turbulent and with the introduction of Kaori Aso, an important female friend of George’s, things just go to an 8 on the Richter scale. The reason behind the complex relationship between Miwako, Arashi and Tokumori is finally revealed, as is Isabelle’s past. The series ends with everyone having to make choices about their future, the biggest in question being George and Yukari’s; do they have one together?

While fashion was a backdrop, the focus of this series has always been on George and Yukari, and with the fashion over, that focus just intensifies. Yukari, who wants to be the center of George’s universe gets booted out of the limelight as Kaori Aso, a close friend of George’s, comes back to Japan to see the fashion show, but more importantly, to try to convince George to continue designing. Yukari gets a lot of shocks during this meeting, as she learns George has shared many things with Kaori that he didn’t with her. The realization she comes to from this is harsh but true; she more of a dress-up doll for George than an equal partner in their relationship. I was disappointed when even after realizing this, she was still willing to go along as long as she was with him. I really expected better from Yukari.

The Miwako-Arashi-Tokumori relationship finally gets some attention in this last third as the root of Arashi’s jealously is revealed to both Arashi and the audience. Tokumori is a great character, the only real voice of reason in all the madness. Even though he has been Arashi’s rival for Miwako, he gives Arashi the pep talk he needs to accept Miwako’s feelings. Their talk is one of my favorite scenes of the volume. I also really enjoyed finally seeing more of Isabelle outside of the atelier, and seeing how she became the person she is now.

The big question of the volume, and really the whole series, is, will Yukari and George stay together? Yukari and George are fine together as friends. Yukari was a muse for George, inspiring him to create some great things. George also helped Yukari get out of her rut of being a student and find something she could enjoy and be passionate about. But as a couple, I never liked them together. They didn’t fit well for me. There was a lot of passion, both in their feelings and their interests, but I didn’t feel any love between them. If Yukari were to follow George, I think she would suffocate in that relationship, and George wouldn’t really be happy with Yukari not taking advantage of her full potential. The way Yazawa ended the story was just right. Everyone ends up with just who they should.

Paradise Kiss is a great story filled with rich and colorful characters. It’s fashions are outrageous but fun, and the drama of the relationships are a bit over the top, but just realistic enough to ring true. This is a series that should not be passed up, especially since readers have been given a second chance with it. Do regret not picking it up. This title is a Buy It Now.