This week I look at eManga’s September promotion, the bestselling and new releases at Vizmanga.com, and I review Backstage Prince vol 1-2 as a comfort manga.
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!
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Mystery;Video Game Adaptation
Price: $14.95 (OOP)
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.
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.
Sparkler Monthly Magazine
This week is the usual Vizmanga.com features with the spotlight going on Sparkler Magazine as I take an in-depth look at its titles and features.
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?
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.
This week I check out some news, the goings-on at Vizmanga.com and review the Yen Press title Umineko When They Cry: Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch.
This week I check out some news stories, see what’s new at Vizmanga.com and review the first 11 volumes of Skip Beat for this month’s Manga Movable Feast!
This week I check out the ranking from Bookscan for May, the Vizmanga top 10 and other happenings, the new manga streaming site Manga Reborn and do some short reviews of three manga titles; Until Death Do Us Part vol 2, Rurouni Kenshin Restoration vol 1, and Kingdom Hearts Final Remix vol 1-2.
This week I check out some licensing news, the Vizmanga top 10 digital manga, and review the Vertical title Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin Volume 1: Activation.
High school junior Wakaba Sakimoto is a normal girl, no matter how you look at her. Everyone around her is thinking about the future, but Wakaba still doesn’t know what she wants to do. Then one day, she meets voice actress Touko Hosaka by accident, and Wakaba’s future changes in a big way…
Koetama was another impulse buy from Jmanga. I’ve always been intrigued with voice acting, and after reading the scenes in Bakuman, I wanted to read more. Then Jmanga licensed this series. The characters are fun, and the premise isn’t bad, even though the whole thing comes off as feeling very generic. But being only the first volume where all the set up takes place, this is to be expected.
Wakaba Sakimoto is a high school junior who doesn’t know what to do about her future goals. Her two best friends, Tomo and Serina already have goals that they are working for; Tomo is practicing karate and Serina wants to be an author. But Wakaba doesn’t have anything she feels passionate about. When Tomo, Serina and Wakaba go to an amusement park, Wakaba finds a lost girl and tries to help her by reading a book the girl is carrying. She starts to reach the girl, but then gets nervous. She is rescued by well-known voice actress Touko Hosaka, and then Wakaba knows what she wants to do; be a voice actress. She has a bit of a rocky start, but then she meets Kuu Sonozaki, another aspiring voice actress, and the two apply to Voice Connect voice acting school.
I had a hard time getting into this title at first. I started reading it three times before I finally got through the first chapter. It wasn’t that the story was bad, it was just so generic. The girl with an untapped special talent, supported by her two best friends, gets dropped into a situation where her talent is needed and noticed by someone important. Even after I finally got through the first chapter, things didn’t really change. The rival, the country bumpkin with dreams in the big city, and the stuck up snob who looks down everyone all make their appearance in this first volume.
Despite all the tropes, I actually liked Koetama. Wakaba, the main protagonist of the series was quite likable. Once she decided she wanted to be a voice actress, she didn’t hesitate getting down to work. She bought books about voice acting and breathing, and practiced on the roof of her school everyday. I liked that his was a decision she made on her own, and didn’t have to be told and pushed by friends into doing it. Even when she seems to have a change of heart, her friends, Tomo and Serina never pressure her, but just support her from the background. Throughout the volume there are hints that Wakaba has a special talent for voice acting, the “soul of the voice”, and a flashback with Tomo shows the idea of voice acting was planted in her at a young age.
I liked all of the supporting characters as well. Tomo is the male childhood friend who seems to have a crush on Wakaba, but never comes out and says anything. Serina is the best friend that has no problem with beating up on Tomo. She is constantly running him over with her bike. Kuu is the spunky girl from eastern Japan and an accent. She has her quirks, such as speaking her mind and getting lost, but her accent was kept in check, so she wasn’t as annoying as she could have been. Amane is the spoiled rich girl who goes into the audition expecting the wow the judges, and does. She is of course prejudice against Kuu just because of her accent and tries to woo Wakaba away from her. I’m sure she’d be won over by Wakabe by the second or third volume. Runa is the seasoned pro who is tough on others but really means well. She is the one the other girls will be chasing to become a star voice actress. She is more talked about than really seen but she doesn’t appear to be haughty star.
Koetama, had a lot of potential. The character conceptualizations were down by four seiyuu: Nakahara Mai, Ueda Kana, Hayami Saori and Yahagi Sayuri, all of whom are credited in the title. We’ve been getting titles about the inside workings of manga lately, so it’s not a stretch for voice acting, since these actors will not only work on anime, but also drama cds. I’m disappointed that I won’t be able to read more of this title. I was starting to look forward to see what happened with these girls next. I don’t hold out hope for Jmanga titles to be rescued, since they were rescuing titles from defunct publishers themselves. I can only hope someone will see the worth of this series and license it on its merits.
Chaos reigns as the curtain descends on the age of the samurai. Atsuhime, born to the Satsuma branch of the Shimazu clan is to wed Iesada Tokugawa, the 13th shogun. However, soon after their marriage, Atsuhime’s beloved husband dies, leaving her to defend the clan as she is tossed about by the waves of history. Watch as this exceptional woman from Satsuma lives out a trouble-filled life while resolutely moving forward no matter what in this moving historical comic!
Well, what do you know, another historical title. What a surprise. Yes, I do love my historical titles. The last one I reviewed, King’s Moon, dealt with Japan just before the start of the Tokugawa Shogunate. This title, Hanagatari Tenshion Atsuhime, deals with the last years of the Shogunate, as told though the eyes of Atsuhime, the wife of the 13th Shogun.
Hanagatari Tenshion Atsuhime begins with the girl Okatsu playing in the fields behind her home in Satsuma. It is decided that she is to become the next wife of the Shogun, Iesada. After a few years and several name changes, she arrives as Atsuhime. She makes a not-so-good impression with the palace staff when she arrives and worse with Iesada himself when she slaps him and basically tells him off. This leads to a real relationship between Atsuhime and Iesada to the point that she turns against the Satsuma Clan in support of her husband, which seems to turn the Satsuma against the Tokugawa, leading into the Bakumatsu. Atsuhime, who becomes Tenshion sees two more Shoguns before the final fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
I really like Atsuhime. When she is first introduced, she seems to be a more timid woman, there to do as her clan wishes. That all changed when she faced Iesada, who sounded more like a whiny child. Her outburst breaks him out of his apathy, and she truly challenges him to rise up beyond his physical problems. She shows a strength that not only did no one truly see, but then gives some of that strength to Iesada, who despite his health problems becomes more active in living. She becomes the strength of the Tokugawa as she becomes mother to the next shogun, finds a way to relate to her daughter-in-law, the younger sister of the emperor, holds the palace together through a rebellion led by her own former clan, the Satsuma, and sees the last Shogun to his surrender, and then end of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
There is a bit of introspection toward the end as Atsuhime thinks about the decisions she made and if things could have gone differently. In the end though, she stands by her choices, being as resolute as the mountain her mother told her would always watch over her from her home in Satsume. Even after the Tokugawa fell, and she is given the option to return to Satsume, she chooses to remain with the family she created with the Tokugawa. She may be sad at the path her life took, but she never regretted it.
Hanagatari Tenshion Atsuhime was presented in the way I like my historical manga. It just tells the story without having to resort to long narrations to bridge scenes or time changes. It did have a few narration bridges, but they were brief, and the story carried the narrative most of the time. It made it feel more like a story and less like a documentary. I really enjoyed this title and am glad I got to read it before Jmanga closed.
Hiroshima, 1955. Ten years after the city was consumed by a scorching flash of light, the soul of Minami Hirano is still deeply shaken by the earth-shattering explosion that devastated her home and changed her life forever. To the weak, the victims, what did the war mean? What pieces of certainty changed and broke that morning, when the sky lit up with a fire like a thousand suns? A controversial story of the aftermath of disaster, long after conflict is over and the dead are long buried.
This isn’t the first time The Town of Evening Calm, The Country of Cherry Blossoms has been published in English. Last Gasp first published it in print in 2007. Jmanga then got a hold of it and used it as one of its launch titles. It was well received originally, but it took me until the last days to get it and read it. It is a story that deserves every once of praise it received.
The Town of Evening Calm, The Country of Cherry Blossoms, is essentially the story of one family over 3 generations. It follows the Hirano family, starting 10 years after the bombs fell with older sister Minami. She and her mother are survivors of the bomb, and live in a shanty town in Hiroshima. Minami works and takes care of her mother. Uchikoshi is a boy who works in the same office and comes to check on her when she doesn’t come in one day. He likes Minami, but she chases him away. Minami has memories of that day the bomb were dropped, and they haunt her. Survivor’s guilt gnaws at her, and just as she seems to ask forgiveness for living, she succumbs to radiation sickness.
This first chapter, The Town of Evening Calm, was incredibly powerful. Minami seems okay as she goes to her job and helps out her mother at home. But the memories that haunt her, of the burnt bodies everywhere, the desperation to find family members, it was all burned into her mind, making her think the world after, the one where she lived wasn’t the one where she belonged. But more powerful than that was her slow death from radiation poisoning. Much of it is shown from Minami’s perspective, as she loses her energy, coughs up black blood and then loses her sight. All of her observations from this point are heart-wrenching, and it gave me a cold feeling in my stomach when she asked if the people who had dropped the bomb were glad she was dying. If there was ever needed a short story about why atomic bombs should never be used again, this is it.
The Country of Cherry Blossoms follows Minami’s younger brother Asahi, who wasn’t in Hiroshima at the time and was spared the devastation. It starts 30 years later, with Asahi’s children, Nanami and Nagio, and their next door neighbor Toko. Nagio is in the hospital with asthma and Nanami and Toko bring cherry blossoms to cheer him up. The second chapter is another 20 years after the first with Nanami and Toko following Nanami’s father as he visits people around Hiroshima, and how he and Nanami’s mother met.
This second half of the volume didn’t have the punch the first half did. The memory of the bomb is faint now for Nanami and Nagio. But the stigma of being a survivor or related to a survivor remains. Asahi, who after being adopted by his Aunt and Uncle, returns to help his mother, and meets Kyo, a girl who lives nearby and helps out his mother. Asahi watches Kyo grow up and eventually falls in love with her. Kyo, as a survivor, suffers some prejudice at school as her slow learning is blamed on it. His mother, a survivor herself, is against Asahi marrying her at first, because she doesn’t want to see anymore loved ones taken because of the bomb. Later in a letter to Toko from Nagio, Nagio implies that his asthma might be because his mother was an atomic bomb victim, and gives it as a reason why they can’t be together. Nanami has a good answer to that.
Taken as a whole, The Town of Evening Calm, The Country of Cherry Blossoms is a wonderful generational story of a very dark moment in human history. Toko’s reaction to seeing the Peace Museum for the first time is a very real and visceral feeling, even 60 years later. Kouno’s art is simple and cute, contrasting against the darker, heavier story. Minami’s story is a reason why it should never happen again, and Nanami and Toko’s story reminds us why we should never forget. I highly recommend it.