Tag Archives: catch-up

2012 Wrap Up

Manga Wrap-up

At the beginning of 2012 I decided I needed to do some catch-up reading. I had so many series’ sitting on my bookshelves unread, many of which I never read more than the first few volumes. I decided in 2012 I would try to weed some of them out. Well, that lasted about 6 months. And actually, I didn’t do too bad. I got through 100 volumes of manga covering 18 series’. I even resolved to give away 11 of these, though I haven’t quite done so yet. I’m still debating if it’s worth trying to sell them, or if I should just give them to my local library. This also constituted about 1/2 of all the books I read this year.  I’ve still got less than a week, but my tally at the moment is 215 of a commitment to read 200 books. Not to shabby, I think.

Homestuck 1I got distracted from my Manga Wrap-Up due to a growing review pile. Another distraction I discovered this year is Homestuck. I know a lot of people dismiss this webcomic as dumb or silly, but it’s actually a very good comic. It’s deeper than it appears, and gets longer with each new act. I am currently reviewing each act at Good Comics for Kids. Check it out if you haven’t read Homestuck yet. You might discover something fun like I did. I also found online manga to be rather distracting. Once Jmanga.com got their Android reader app up and I could read manga on my tablet, it was way too easy to start goofing around with the app, and end up reading a volume or two. For 2013, I’m going to continue to work down the review pile and catch-up on Homestuck, but then I’m going to return to the wrap-up.  I found I had a better feel for a series reading it in bigger chunks that a few volumes at a time. I discovered I liked some more than I remembered, and others that were better off as digital than taking up space.

ShonenJumpAlphaOne thing I’m not going to continue in 2013 is Shonen Jump Alpha. I could not keep up with the weekly format, and trying to catch-up to it (I just got to October) has become more of a chore than it’s worth. There really aren’t enough titles in the magazine anymore to warrant me continuing my subscription. I’m just waiting for Bleach and Naruto to end, Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal is better in volume chuncks than weekly, and I don’t care for Toriko, or any of the other new series I’ve seen so far; Barrage and Taka-Ga-Hara. I also don’t care for the new Rurouni Kenshin. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it guys. And Blue Exorcist… I’m too far behind to care if I keep reading or not. Going day and date is meaningless to me, so I’ll put my sub money toward something else. I’m thinking may be Gen Manga. I can at least download the issues to read on my tablet, something I can’t do with Viz’s “read anytime, anywhere, except for Android 10″ tablets” app.

Soulless 1There were quite a few titles I enjoyed that debuted in 2012. Top on my list is Thermae Roma from Yen Press. I didn’t think this comedy series about a Roman who can travel between Ancient Rome and Modern Japan could ever get any legs, but the first volume really surprised me. For the all ages group, I would highly recommend Young Miss Holmes from Seven Seas Entertainment. Christie is a fun and smart character, and the support she has around her is just great. Kaoru Shintani makes great use of the Sherlock Holmes stories and fits Christie into the works marvelously. Another title I fell in love with from Yen Press was Soulless, the manga adaptation of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate  series. Alexia has a sharp wit and sharp tongue to match, and her courtship with Lord Maccon in the first volume was priceless! Rem’s artwork is just beautiful.

Yen Press actually surprised me with all the titles of theirs that I ended up liking that I didn’t think I would. Durarara!, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Olympos, and ever the picture book Kitty and Dino were all surprises that came out of nowhere. Vertical hit me with some titles I was sure I wouldn’t enjoy too. Book of Human Insects, Princess Knight, No Longer Human and The Drops of God made me reconsider my “no classics” policy. Viz couldn’t get me with a lot of their new shonen, but I did discover some good shojo. The Earl and the Fairy was good, as was Strobe Edge and through their 3-in-1 editions I discovered the classic series Hana Kimi.

tactics 11Jmanga.com did a good job of filling in gaps left by the other publishers. They have been keeping me happy with cat manga such as Poyopoyo Observation Diary and Edo Nekoe Jubei. Their license rescues have made me very happy such as the return of tactics, a title left unfinished by Tokyopop, and many of the older Del Rey/Kodansha titles. Hopefully there will be more of those. They’ve also had some great, quirky titles that never would have come out here otherwise, such as Urameshiya and the aforementioned cat manga.

All in all, 2012 was a good year in manga for me. While I have cleared some shelf space I have a whole lot more to go. It’s been fun rediscovering old titles while discovering new ones. Digital manga is still working to come into its own. It’s made some positive strides this year, but it won’t be complete until it can be read on any device, regardless of platform or connection. I look forward to what 2013 will bring and hope you will continue on the journey with me.

 

 

 

Hikaru no Go Volume 18-23: Manga Movable Feast

After a short break with a series of short stories, the action starts back up with Hikaru hungry to climb the Pro ladder and start competing at the same level as Akira. Hokuto Communications, a telecom, decides to sponsor a Go tournament for young pros from Japan, Korea and China called the Hokuto Cup. Akira is a shoe in, but Hikaru has to fight for a place on the three-man team. When the tournament finally starts, it’s a battle of wills, ego, and pride.

Hikaru no Go 18Written by Yumi Hotta; Art by Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Viz Media – Shonen Jump
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Game
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

While I really enjoyed the previous six volumes, these six volumes which also finish the series were not as strong. It was really great to see Hikaru get his fire back, but the short stories, while cute, took away from the building excitement of seeing Hikaru play again, and the Hokuto Cup was too much drama and not enough intense play, which is what has been so addicting about the story.

Hikaru no go 19After the end of volume 17, the story doesn’t pick up immediately. Instead, we are treated to 5 stories that feature mostly side characters, in times of their lives before or after they meet Hikaru. For the most part, these are good stories. I enjoyed seeing how things were for Akira right up to before he and Hikaru played their first game. I also liked seeing what led up to Yuki’s game with Dake, and what’s like to try to date as an Insei with Asumi. While I enjoyed these stories for what they were, their placement in the middle of the series didn’t feel right. These were stories that were better off as bonus stories to fill at the end of volumes, or as a filler at the end. They didn’t feel so well after such an emotional moment at the end of volume 17. I didn’t want to be entertained with cute stories, I wanted to get back to seeing Hikaru play.

Hikaru no Go 20And in Volume 19 that is precisely what we get. Hikaru is playing to make up for the lost time from all the games he missed while in his slump. He takes no prisoners, especially against Pros, as he continues his race up the ladder. In his rematch against Gokiso 7 Dan, the pro Hikaru beat back in volume 12 with Sai’s help. This time, he doesn’t need any help to take this haughty pro down. He gets his first real taste of defeat when he goes up against his teacher Morishita, who shows Hikaru a player can have more than one face, and more that one style of play. Morishita’s advice to Hikaru is forthright, and it along with some other things said hint at a possibly broader arc coming up, but instead, the story goes into the Hokuto Cup.

Hikaru no Go 21The final volumes of the series show the prelims in Japan, and the tournament itself. As a lead up to it, a reporter for Go Weekly, the newspaper for Go players in Japan, goes to Korea to speak to the players in the Hokuto Cup, but arrives a day early, so there is no translator there for him. He tries to interview Ko Yong Ha, but a poor translation of his words causes a misunderstanding that carries through the Hokuto Cup and the series. I really didn’t like how or more why this misunderstanding was perpetuated. Ko Yong Ha was an arrogant jerk to not only keep the misunderstanding from being straightened up, but then throws gas on the fire. I hated the whole plot point and Ko Young Ha. This made the end so much harder for me to accept. He didn’t deserve Hikaru’s true feelings, and really just needed a good whop upside the head for being so full of himself.

Hikaru no Go 22The series also ends rather abruptly. It really doesn’t feel like the story was meant to end there. In the volumes building up to, and even during the Hokuto Cup, there was a lot being made about Japan not remember their Go history, only focusing on the present, and how that is a weakness for them. It really felt like this show plot line should have been taken somewhere. Instead, it feels like it got cut off prematurely with the end of the series. I really would have liked to have seem more about Japanese players rediscovering their past as they continue into the future.

Hikaru no Go 23Despite these complaints, I still really enjoyed these volumes of Hikaru no Go. I loved seeing how much Hikaru has grown, not just emotionally, but physically. By the time of the Hokuto Cup, he is standing tall and looking confident. The whole series only covers three years, basically Hikaru and Akira’s time in middle school. In that short amount of time, he’s come to look like a serious pro, and not the goofy kid the started out the series as. Losing Sai had the most profound effect on Hikaru. While Akira always had a serious air about him, his rivalry with Hikaru gave him the focus he needed, and gained the both of them lifelong friends.

Hikaru no Go is one of those rare shonen titles that makes the battles about brains and not brawn, and shows rivals can also be friends. I think this is one of the title’s strengths. Hotta created some great characters, and developed them with such depth, while Obata’s art struck the perfect balance between realism and comedy. Hikaru no Go is one of the best titles you will ever read. It is a must for any manga collection. Do no pass this one up.

 

Hikaru no Go Volume 12-17: Manga Movable Feast

Hikaru has passed the Pro test, and is waiting to hear about his official schedule. In the meantime, Sai pesters him to let him play more, and Hikaru relents, allowing Sai to play Akira’s father in the Shindodan series with a handicap, and then again on the internet in an even game. Hikaru’s skills are growing fast, and Sai worries he won’t be able to remain with him for much longer. Just as Hikaru’s pro games start, something happens that causes him to have a crisis of faith, and nearly gives up on Go. But the return of Isumi, a fellow Insei from the previous year, shows Hikaru he hasn’t lost anything. Hikaru returns, more determined than before to not only be Akira’s rival, but to surpass him.

Hikaru no go 12Written by Yumi Hotta; Illustrated by Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Viz Media – Shonen Jump
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Gaming
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★

Hikaru no Go 13I started reading Hikaru no Go when it debuted in Shonen Jump back in 2004, and read it religiously until it was “graduated” out in 2008. Once it went to graphic novels, I stopped reading, as my acquiring of volumes was sporadic. I only finished collecting my missing volumes this last year. With the MMF schedule for this month, I put off reading the series until now to participate. I had thought this might be a series to pass on as part of my Manga Wrap Up, but after reading these 6 volumes, I have come to realize that this is not just a compelling series, it’s one that needs a spot on bookshelves.

Hikaru no Go 14Over the last 11 volumes, we have been watching Hikaru develop and grow into a Go player in his own right. Sai continues to want to play games, but now he is getting resistance from Hikaru, who wants to play more himself. In these 6 volumes, we see how much Hikaru takes Sai for granted. He assumes he’ll always be around to play, so he’d rather play other people. But after finally getting to play Koyo Toya, Sai sees something much different in the future. It really feels frustrating to see Sai almost pleading with Hikaru, and Hikaru just brushing him off as being annoying. But Hikaru is just acting like the kid he is, so while it’s not surprising, that doesn’t mean you still don’t want to smack him for it.

Hikaru no Go 15There are a lot of emotional punches in these volumes that stem from that not-so-distant future that Sai sees. It’s emotionally draining to see Hikaru running around to all the sites where Hon’inbo Shusaku, the boy Sai possessed before Hikaru, lived, played and died. It was just heartbreaking when he looked at old records of Shusaku’s and could see Sai’s moves in them. He not only realized Sai’s genius, but could truly appreciated it. The effect is devastating for both Hikaru and the reader. But all of the emotional moments are sad. After being talked into a game with Isumi, who has just spent a couple of months in China to improve his game, Hikaru has an epiphany, that not only shakes him out of his funk, but reignited his passion for Go, and seemingly for life. The final chapter of volume 17 is bittersweet as a sort of passing-of-the-baton occurs, but knowing that Hikaru will be alright now is worth it.

Hikaru no Go 16It’s these strong, emotional moments that really make Hikaru no Go such a compelling read. When a writer and artist came make the emotions they want to express feel real to the reader, they have truly succeeded in making a great story. Hotta and Obata do that, not just with Hikaru’s story, but with all the characters that are followed throughout this series. Obata’s art is beautifully rendered, and realism with which she draws just makes the emotional punches to the gut all the more stronger. I’m gonna miss Sai, with his Heien dress, and often cute expressions.

Hikaru no Go 17Because it had been so long since I read Hikaru no Go, I thought it would be a series I could let go. But after getting through this gantlet of an arc, I’ve come to realize that not only can I not let go of this series, but I must have it in print. It’s too good to relegate to a digital bookshelf. It needs to be on a bookshelf for all to see and reach for.

Manga Wrap Up Week Seventeen: Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning Volume 11-15

I had finished reading Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning a few weeks ago actually, but I’ve been distracted by other things lately (Manga Movable Feast, National Pet Month, etc.) But now that those are over with, I can finally sit down and finish this series up. Spiral turned out to be nothing like I had hoped it would be, and the ending just continues that trend. I found the ending disappointing in a lot of ways.

With these last five volumes Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning is complete. The final arc, Hizumi, acts as a kind of “answers” arc. Who and what the “Blade Children” are is explained, as well as Kiyotama and Ayumu’s relationship to them. I didn’t like the implications that were made with the explanation, as it went into the realm of the supernatural. This series, as even by its title own admission, is based in reality and reasoning, not appealing to the supernatural to explain itself. The answers that come lately work just fine, and don’t need a creator/destroyer god/demon. The author Shirodaira tries to explain why he went down this path, but it’s a weak justification.

Just as weak is Ayumu’s sudden “enlightenment.” We are supposed to believe that after 10 volumes, that Ayumu’s deductive reasoning kicks into high gear and he is able to figure out EVERYTHING, so nothing is a surprise, and he can’t be plunged deeper into despair, as per his brother’s plan. I suppose, after all that he’s gone through in those 10 volumes, he might be more focused, but it got real boring after a while, when someone would make some revelation, and Ayumu’s reaction is just “I already knew that.” It made so much of these last volumes anticlimactic. Much like the final confrontation. It left me thinking not only “That’s it?” but also “What just happened?” Ayumu and Kiyotaka obviously understood why their exchange had to end that way. Too bad they couldn’t be bothered to share it with the reader.

By the end of this series, I really didn’t like Kiyotaka, and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to or not. He caused a lot of pain and suffering, but it seems that he also really wanted to help the Blade Children. I still don’t know if he was good or bad, or even something in between. But really, it doesn’t matter either. No matter what his intentions were, he caused a lot of harm, and then essentially gets off scot-free and return to his life while Ayumu suffers a slow and painful end completely out of his control. Does he get this because he’s “God?” I thought it was just wrong, and it made the ending suffer all the more.

I wanted to like Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning. The title and the first few volumes were full of promise, but it went off in an entirely different direction than I would have liked. Even the title turned out to be misleading. In his end notes of the last volume Shirodaira couldn’t justify “The Bonds of Reasoning” subtitle of the series. That was really disappointing to learn. At least the first part of the title was worked in reasonably well. Spiral might not make a bad thriller, but it should have started out that way, and not set up false expectations. If you go in NOT expecting the murder mystery series it starts out seeming as, you might enjoy it more. In the end, I didn’t.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do for next week. I still have series’ to read, but I also have still more review copies to get through. I’m thinking of going through more of that pile before returning to the Manga Wrap Up. I was pleasantly surprised by the last title I read, and am actually looking forward to trying out some more.

  • Sprial: The Bonds of Reasoning Volume 11-15
  • Free Collars Kindom Volume 1-3
  • Chi’s Sweet Home Volume 5-8
  • Drops of God Volume 3
  • Bamboo Blade Volume 8-13
  • Hana Kimi Omnibus Volume 1
  • Shonen Jump Alpha Feb 7-Mar 6, 2012

Manga Wrap Up Week Sixteen: Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning Volume 6-10

It’s been quite the jugglefest for me lately. I’ve read 5 volumes of Spiral, finished Black Gate (review coming soon), and started The Drops of God volume 3 for the MMF next week all this week. I’m actually shocked I got so much done! I guess not going out to lunch everyday with co-workers helps productivity a little bit. But those days are over for a while, so I should be able to get though more volumes. It would be so much nicer if my work didn’t block Jmanga.com so I could read more of my digital manga. The website filter has it marked “sexual.” Not what I want to read though!!!!

Anyway, on to Spiral: Bonds of Reasoning. I really enjoyed the first five volumes of this series. At the beginning, it seemed like the series would be another “boy detective” series. Narumi had everything; the seemingly impossible cases, the mind to pick up the clues and put them together, and ever the catch phrase when he had solved the crime! “So this is the melody of the truth…” I was really looking forward to more mysteries being solved and more information about the Blade Children being revealed. Instead, volumes 6-10 start what the author calls the “Kanon Hilbert” arc. It’s basically about a boy, one of the Blade Children, Kanon Hilbert, coming to Tsukiomi High. He has been trained from a very young age to be a killer. And now, he has come to kill all the Blade Children, most of whom also just happen to go to Tsukiomi High.

I really didn’t enjoy this arc as much as the introductory one. There isn’t any mystery going on other than the Blade Children main mystery, but nothing is done with that either. The first three volumes are mostly about Kanon going around trying to kill Eyes and Rio, Kousuke and Ryoko following Kanon, and Ayumu whining about how he’s just his older brother’s puppet, just like everyone else. Rio, Kousuke, and Ryoko plot ways to try to stop Kanon, and Ayumu has to decide who’s side he’s going to take. The last two volumes is the extended battle that is all just a set up to get Ayumu to “mature.” Kanon believes that Ayumu has to kill him, and initially so do the others. It’s up to Ayumu, with prodding from Hiyono to use his reasoning power to find another way.

These volumes have a lot of long, drawn out talking scenes punctuated by short fight scenes. Even the final battle has to be narrated by Rio to explain Ayumu’s reasoning to the reader. It really pulls the reader out of the action and dulls the whole thing greatly. The author, Shirodaira, admits that there is too much talking going on, but then tries to defend it by saying it’s still a mystery since reasoning is being used. But that isn’t all that there is to a mystery. It’s a sense of not knowing the answer and searching for the clues to find it, and putting the pieces together. Yes, you do need reason to do that, but that can’t be relied on exclusively. These five volumes were all one big lead up to Ayumu’s solution at the end, but by the time it got there, I really didn’t care anymore. The series had nearly lost me, and if I had been reading this as it came out it probably would have. But the end of volume 10 started hinting at giving some answers to who or what the Blade Children are, and for that reason alone, I will continue with the series. I haven’t lost my curiosity about the mystery of the Blade Children, but for a while there it sure felt like the author did.

For next week I’ll finish up Spiral volumes 11-15, and then I think I’ll dig more into my growing TBR pile. I still want to read some pet manga, and Free Collars Kingdom is sitting high on the list since it’s only 3 volumes. But I’m also 4 volumes behind on Chi’s Sweet Home, and those are quick reads. I guess I’ve got my lunch time reading set. I still need to finish The Drops of God volume 3 for the next Manga Movable Feast as well. I’m kind of seeing where the excitement for the series is coming from, but my lack of interest in wine is keeping me from reaching that level. I’ve already read the first volume of Oishinbo, the real focus of the MMF, but since any food manga is welcome, and I had a volume of The Drops of God to available, I decided I had to try it.

  • Sprial: The Bonds of Reasoning Volume 6-10
  • Black Gate Volume 3

Manga Wrap Up Week Fifteen: The Wallflower Volume 11-15

The Wallflower got off to a rough start with me, but by the end of volume 10, I was starting to warm up to the series. I still had 5 volumes left to get through, and these were going to make-or-break the series for me.

I have to admit, this series is really starting to grow on me. The problems I had with the first five volumes are gone. The stories in these volume vary quite a bit, as the boys get their own spotlight instead of focusing solely on Sunako. Takenaga and Noi’s relationship takes some baby steps forward. Ranmaru continues to try to come to terms with his new fiancée Tamao. He continues his womanizing, but can be made to feel guilty about it by her honest and naive personality. There is definitely potential for them. Yuki’s younger siblings are introduced, and he is shown to be a good older brother. He also gets a boost of confidence, but of course, at the wrong time. Kyohei just keeps being Kyohei, and that’s just fine with me. Sunako starts to show some progress as well. She makes some friends at school outside of the boys and Noi. She’s able to move on from some of the past that has haunted her, and start to accept herself.

And the person most responsible for this change is Kyohei. Their relationship continues to be more combative, and in my opinion, the most fun. I love watching them battle, and the way they competed in the Sports Day competitions was great. Both continue to refuse to admit they have any interest in each other, but Kyohei continues to be there to help Sunako, either with his actions or blunt words.Sunako shows she cares for Kyohei in her own way, even if she still clings to the thought that she’s just biding time until his life is hers. Even though their relationship is progressing at a snail’s pace, I’m fine with it. At this point it would seem more out of character to see either of them even thinking any kind of romantic feels for the other. I actually think it would be out of character for them to do so at all, but I do want to seem them together, eventually. That’s probably where the series should end. Once you get them together I just don’t think there’ll be anything more left to say.

I want to also take a moment to mention the author’s comments at the end of the volume. Hayakawa likes to do long notes at the end, mostly about her favorite jpop musician, some of which she based the bishonen boys on. I really didn’t care for these, because I’m not that kind of fan girl, and don’t really care about reading other people’s obsession over celebrities. I usually just scanned this section, until Hayakawa got a kitten. A Scottish Fold, a breed that is popular in Japan for some reason. She added real photos as well as little tidbits about the kitten, names Ten. So, by the time I got to these volumes, I did want to read the notes, but only for those about Ten. Yes, I am destined to be a crazy cat lady.

I’ve definitely turned around from my feelings about The Wallflower at the beginning. It’s a series I would like to continue, if I could borrow it or get it digitally. I liked it, but not enough for it to keep taking up space on my bookshelf. So if Kodansha ever releases this title digitally and/or for a non-iOS device, I’ll be there. While I’m not interested in keeping it, I would recommend this title to anyone with my more twisted sense of humor and romance. Just push through the first five volumes because it does get better.

I’m moving on to Spiral: Bonds of Reasoning next. I think I will have to go back a volume or two for a refresher, since it seems to have been quite a while. I also want to get some pet manga read and reviewed, and then there’s the next MMF, which I plan on participating in. Where I’m going to find the time is anyone guess.

  • The Wallflower Volume 11-15
  • Yen Plus April 2012

Manga Wrap Up Week Fourteen: The Wallflower Volume 1-10

I’ve had The Wallflower sitting on my bookshelf unread for 3-4 years now. I didn’t know anything about the manga until the anime was announced. Having watched and enjoyed the anime, I started to pick up the manga. I mistakenly picked up volume 7 first, and finding the first 6 took a little longer, so I put off reading it for while. Of course, after that, it was easy to continue to put it off. Even after collecting up to volume 15, I continued to put it off. But now, with space becoming a premium, a title that had 15 volumes of that I hadn’t even read the first volume of became an easy target for culling. Since I was also preparing for the MMF this week, I only got through the first 5 volumes.

The Wallflower is about 4 incredibly handsome boys, and their quest to live rent free in the mansion of an eccentric woman who is constantly traveling, and always with a new male companion. To reach this goal, all they have to do get their landlady’s niece to look an act like a proper lady. This is easier said than done, since said niece, Sunako looks like Sadako from The Ring, and wants to be by herself, in a dark room watching horror movies and talking to her anatomical dolls and skull, all of who she’s named. Repulsed at first, the boys learn that Sunako could be beautiful if she just tried. But after an incident with a boy she liked in middle school, Sunako rejects all things beautiful and doesn’t believe she can live in the with the other “creatures of light.” The manga follows the boys attempts to make Sunako a normal girl, or hide the fact that they have failed so far from the landlady.

I really didn’t care for the first 5 volumes of this series. I think part of it is because the anime was based on them. I’d already seen all of the stories before, so there was nothing new in them. Also, the stories focused mostly on how scary Sunako was, and what new scheme the boys had come up with to try to make her a lady. The anime took a much more comedic tack with this, I was expecting the manga to be like that. I liked volumes 6-10 a lot more. Not only were the stories not familiar, but they also started to focus on more of the characters. It wasn’t just “Sunako vs the Creatures of Light.” The other characters started to get some actual depth. Kyohei’s troubled past is investigated. Oda and Noi’s relationship gets to take a step forward. Ranmaru might have found love. Yuki’s powers of cuteness are further revealed. The characters started to be more than just cardboard cutouts, and I’m actually interested to read more about them.

One thing I’ve enjoyed throughout all 10 volumes is Sunako and Kyohei’s relationship. It’s the kind of advesarial relationship that I enjoy. Sunako is determined to live in darkness, and Kyohei is determined to live rent free. This put the two constantly at odds, sometimes with them coming to blows. These are some of the scenes I like the most, partly because it’s also most often when Sunako will be show as a person and not a chibi. I really got tired of her chibi form in the first 5 chapters, but it wasn’t so bad in the next 5. And for all their fighting, they do seem to care for each other. Kyohei is trying to help Sunako through his harsh words. And Sunako won’t let anyone else but her harm Kyohei, so that is something, right? I keep rooting for these them to get together. They are like two sides of the same coin. They are yin and yang; darkness and light.

I have mixed feelings about this title now. After the first 5 I was ready to chuck it. After the second 5, now I’m not so sure. The next 5, 11-15 will be the deciding factor I guess. I wish this series was available digitally. It would be a much easier decision then. At 15 volumes, I’m still only half way through the series, and 30 volumes is far too much space for a series I like, but don’t love. Kodansha, please put this on Jmanaga, so I at least have some hope of reading it.

I’ll finish up The Wallflower this week. I was going to start on Spiral: Bonds of Reasoning after, as it’s another 15 volumes, but I need to make a dent in my TBR pile. I’m running out of room on my desk as well. And I think I’ll start with some of the omnibuses I have; Black Gate, and the infamous Sasameke volume 2. Really, how bad can it be? I also have to catch up with the April issue of Yen Plus, since May starts Tuesday.

  • The Wallflower volumes 1-10
  • Dorohedoro volume 1
  • Bokurano Ours volume 1
  • Biomega volume 5

Manga Wrap Up Week Thirteen: Antique Gift Shop 1-10

Wow, how oddly appropriate that I not only have week 13 of my Manga Wrap Up happen during a week with a Friday the 13th in it, but the title I read also dealt with bad luck and curses. I didn’t think I would get through all ten volumes of Antique Gift Shop in one week. I thought I would have to break it up over two weeks. But it proved to be a hard title to put down, even if I didn’t enjoy it all that much.

The Antique Gift Shop is about a girl named Bun-Nyuh Cho. She is the owner of said shop. In order to escape her destiny of becoming a shaman, she must sell all the antiques from her grandmother. She has one employee, Mr. Yang, a bishie beyond belief. Bun-Nyuh doesn’t believe in the supernatural despite being good at telling fortunes and being able to see and hear spirits of the dead. She does believe in science and money. Because of her denial, she doesn’t realize that all of the antiques in her shop are haunted. Mr. Yang does seem to know this, as he is always ready with some cryptic words to help sell an item, and is always around to help those he’s sold items to, in order to help them out of whatever jam the spirit has caused.

While this series is supposed to be about Bun-Nyuh, she doesn’t actually do a lot, especially at the beginning. It is part-time employee Mr. Yang that does most of the sales and is involved with the antiques. Bun-Nyuh spends all of her time whining about having to sell the antiques, about how the store never makes any money and that the antiques always come back. She really is an annoying lead, and what probably makes the series readable is that she doesn’t appear all that often. But I can’t entirely blame her for her attitude. She has basically been deceived her entire life. Her grandmother, who essentially raised her since her own mother went insane never told her the truth of why she is destined to be a shaman, or why she has to sell all the antiques, or even who Mr. Yang is. After an incident when she was young, her grandmother basically deserts her in Seoul until three days later when a missionary friend of the grandmother tries to take her in.

This series has a bit in common with Petshop of Horrors, with stories that show the antiques either helping or avenging their owners. But it doesn’t pull off the irreverence that Petshop of Horrors had. It doesn’t have that “gotcha” feeling, and the humor falls flat for me more often than not. It did have some good chapters. “The Fox Lantern”, and “The Four Posts of Fate” are stories that I enjoyed. The final chapter “Door”, has some good drama as well as a nice resolution for the antique. Otherwise most of the other chapters were hit or miss for me. I’m glad I read this series, it’s just not a keeper.

Due to some damage to some of the books, I won’t be giving this series to the library, but will be trading them instead. This next week I’m going to start on The Wallflower from Del Rey Manga. I have the first 15 volumes and haven’t read a page of it yet. I am familiar with it since I’ve seen some of the anime, which is what prompted me to check out the series in the first place. I’ll decide after I read it as to its fate. I’ll also be preparing for the MMF next week, which is on the Viz Signature line. I’ve already read (and re-read) two volumes I will definitely review, and I hope to have time to squeeze a third.

  • The Antique Gift Shop Volume 1-10
  • Dorohedoro Volume 1
  • Bokurano Ours Volume 1

 

Manga Wrap Up Week Twelve: Honey and Clover Volume 9-10

I’m working to get back on schedule after my 2 week manga break. I decided to take it easy and finish up a couple of Shojo Beat titles that I’ve only have the last few volumes left to read. Honey and Clover and Sand Chronicles are two titles I associate together, since they started in Shojo Beat very close together. I enjoyed reading both in the magazine, and decided to continue getting the volumes after the Shojo Beat was canceled. They both went 10 volumes, but I only have the ones starting after the end of the magazine. I’m only going to talk about Honey and Clover here, and will give Sand Chronicles its own review, for reasons that should become clear.

I had previously reviewed Volume 8, which I really liked. The unicorns that stood guard over Yamada’s virginity were hilarious! And that was one of the things I really liked about Honey and Clover; it had its share of drama, punctuated with moments of humor. A lot of that light-heartedness disappears in these last two volumes. An event at the beginning of volume 9 really changes the tone, and most of the rest of the chapters revolve around resolving this one event. There is some tying up of loose ends. It’s finally revealed why Morita needed all that money. Hagu finally resolves the Morita and Takemoto triangle by turning it into a polygon, and like most of the characters, I didn’t see that turn coming.

I wouldn’t say the story ended with a happy ending, but it was satisfying enough. I didn’t feel cheated or that anything was left hanging. Relationships were resolved, or left unresolved as the case may be, as were the character’s personal stories. This is the end of the a chapter in this particular group’s life, and it made sense to end the series here as well. After following these characters for 8 volumes, you would think the coming end would elicit some sort of emotional response though the last two.

But to be honest, I didn’t really feel anything. As I read through these last two volumes, I felt kind of “So, this is the end.” After caring about these characters and following their stories for so long, I’m not sure why I felt so little about them going their separate ways. I think maybe it’s because so much of the last two volumes focused on Morita and Hagu and not so much on the others. It was the ensemble cast that I really liked about this series, and not the individuals so much. When that interaction was lost, so was my interest. It was a good closing chapter on the lives of these young people. It just didn’t affect me much. Would it also be heartless to say the whole situation with Hagu didn’t really upset me? The whole thing felt contrived, and may have contributed to my lack of feeling.

Sand Chronicles is a completely different story. For good or for ill, that story has stuck with me much more than Honey and Clover. It has made me cry on more than one occasion, and for all that I decry melodrama, this is one melodrama that I will read again. This is why the final three volumes need a post of their own.

My next series will be Antique Gift Shop, a manwha from Ice Kiun/Yen Press. It’s ten volumes and will free up a lot of space on my bookshelf, which I desperately need. I also have to find some time to read for the next MMF, which as just been decided to be on the SigIkki line from Viz. I have several volumes from that line that I’ve been meaning to read/review, and this is the perfect motivation to get me to do so.

  • Honey and Clover Volume 9-10
  • Sand Chronicles Volume 8-10
  • Yen Plus March 2012

Manga Wrap Up Week Eleven: Shiki Tsukai Volume 1-4

I almost didn’t get through my next series this week. I had two things working against me. With the Jiro Taniguchi MMF coming up, I had Samurai Legend to read, and I received The Quest of the Missing Girl, a volume didn’t think I would get on time, so I had to read that too. And then I was on vacation with the rest of the family, and we had to find a car to replace our 15-year-old car as well as hit Wondercon on the weekend. It was a busy week! But since we commuted to Wondercon, I had the evenings to read Shiki Tsukai. I’ve had the first four volumes for a couple of years now, and after reading the first volume, I thought it had potential. After reading all four, I now know I was wrong.

The thing that attracted me to this series was the use of the seasons as an ability and the cards each Shiki Tsukai use. I like game manga, especially those about trading cards, so this series seemed to be right up my alley. I also thought the use of the seasons, birthdays, and birthstones was a unique idea. It really seemed to have a good setup and could be a fun series. Then I read the remaining volumes.

The premise of Shiki Tsukai is that with global warming and all the other things humans are doing to the environment, it’s affecting the seasons. Shiki Tsukai are connected to the season and to some level and feel the Earth crying out, so they have divided into two camps. Summer and Autumn want to do something about the human population, namely, decrease it dramatically. They blame all humans for the condition of the Earth, and if it means kills over half the population off, so be it. On the other side is Winter and Spring, who don’t believe killing is the answer. Stuck in the middle is Akira Kizuki, who is believed to be the “Shina Bashou,” or “The Law of the Universe.” Basically, he can control all of the seasons, but he hasn’t awakened yet, so it’s a race between Summer/Autumn and Spring/Winter to get to the boy first and sway him to their way of thinking.

Once I got past the set of the first volume, I found that I really didn’t like any of the characters. There was no substance to them. Summer and Autumn was populated with characters that were vicious, loved battle just for its sake, and who blindly obeyed their masters. They were set up to so obviously be the villains it almost hurt. Winter and Spring was filled with very bland characters, none of whom seemed to have any personality. This is especially true of the lead, Akira. He seems happy to be led along on a lease by Koyomi, the first Spring Shiki Tsukai he meets, never really questioning what’s happening. So many of the relationships are stereotypical as well. Akira’s mother and his teacher Rei know each other and appear to have been rivals for Akira’s father’s affections. Rei and the Shiki Tsukai of Autumn, Kureha seem to have vendetta against each other, making their fights more personal. And then there’s the sadly obvious set up of Akira and his best friend Fumiya to have to be on opposite sides. So much of this series is very tired with nothing interesting to offset the clichés.

The other thing that really put me off from this series is all the fan service. The women are either impossibly large breasted, or the small, moe-type. The well-endowed women are usually dressed in-modestly, and Akira is constantly put into awkward situations with Koyomi, and beat by his mother for having done nothing wrong. I know this is supposed to be funny, but it never was before, and it isn’t going to start now. The art is very much like the characters; nothing new to see here, move along.

There is no way I am inflicting this series on my local library. While where would probably be some boys who would enjoy the fan service, but the rest is just so bad, that I don’t think even the fan service could hold their attention. So this series is going up for trade. I really couldn’t recommend this title to anyone.

Not sure what I’ll be reading next. I’m doing some prose right now (yes, I do read books without pictures), and nothing is really sparking with me. Though, I think I’m leaning toward Antique Gift Shop as my next series.

  • Samurai Legend
  • The Quest for the Missing Girl
  • Shiki Tsukai Volume 1-4
  • Shonen Jump issue 110

Manga Wrap Up Week Ten: Kiichi and the Magic Books

Week 10 comes to an end, and I almost didn’t make it. Fortunately, I chose a short series this week and could easily catch up. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to read this series, but my kids are on spring break, and it meant a week where I could go walking, and catch up on some podcasts, and not worry about their homework. Well, my youngest anyway. I don’t have to worry about my oldest.

The series I finished this week is Kiichi and the Magic Books. It is from the now-defunct CMX and is sadly out of print. It was part of the Flex Comics deal that CMX made in 2007. This same deal brought such titles as the all ages Suihelibe, the incomplete Deka Kyoushi and Break Blade (Broken Blade). Kiichi and the Magic Books is a five-volume series that’s rated for Teen, but is also appropriate for Tween readers.

Kiichi and the Magic Books is about teenage orphan Kiichi. He lost his mother to disease when he was young, and has live alone ever since. He is shunned by the villagers of his home for the horns growing out of his head, and called an Oni. One day, a Librarian comes to his village. Librarians are wanderers that bring books to villages for people to borrow and read. They only stay for a short time before moving on. This particular Librarian is known as Mototaro, and he has the ability to bring the pictures in books to life. He is traveling a young girl named Hana. Kiichi sees what Mototaro can do, but when he tries to tell the other villagers, no one believes him. As part of his journeying, Mototaro is searching for old books that become unstable; that is, the pictures in the books come out on their own. When a tiger escapes from one such book, Kiichi helps to catch it, and convinces Mototaro to let him join him and Hana on their journey to find out more about himself and why he has horns.

Being a bit of a bibliophile, this series got my attention by having the words “magic books” in the title. But the series isn’t really about books. It’s about Kiichi and how his journey helps the people he meets and travels with. At the beginning of their journey, Mototaro is cold and closed-hearted. He doesn’t want Kiichi to join him and Hana on their travels. He rarely smiles, and seems more annoyed with not just Kiichi joining them, but by having anyone traveling with him. By the end, Mototaro has warmed up to Kiichi and does everything in his power to save him. Even after learning a terrible secret about Hana, he worries about her and keeping her safe as well. Saame, an Amamori, is changed by Kiichi as well. He starts out seeing the boy as a means to an end to help his people, but by the end, he learns who Kiichi really is and also fights to keep him alive and safe. Kiichi’s ernest and caring nature affects those around him, even if they find his good-heartness naive or foolish.

The story itself is an exciting, coming-of-age adventure. As soon as Kiichi leaves his village, he is off on a journey of discovery, both about himself and the world. The horns growing out of his head mark him as an Oni, one who is destined to become a “tree” and save the world, though no one really knows what that means. Is it literal or symbolic? The people he meets, first Mototaro, and then Mori, the leader of the Amamori tribe, all have pieces of the puzzle, but they don’t know it, until they start to help Kiichi on his quest. Even though this is Kiichi’s quest, everyone grows from the knowledge that is gained along the way. While the story has its dark moments, especially in the last volume, it ends happily, with Kiichi not only finding his answers, but finding a family and place to truly call home.

The art is clean, and the characters designs are simple. They vary perfectly so that it’s not required to identify characters by their clothes or hair. Mototaro has a bit of a bishi look to him, when his hat is off. Mori looks like a bit of a buffoon, but that is really for show only. He is a strong, capable, and wise man, perfect to lead his people. The little bird living in the messy mass of hair on his head is a nice touch too.

Kiichi and the Magic Books was a fun read. Each volume moved at a quick pace, making it hard not to just pick up the next one and keep going. Tweens, and young teens will really enjoy this series. It’s a series I think will do well at the library. With a title like “magic books” and traveling librarians for characters, how can it not?

Next week I’m on vacation, and probably won’t have as much time for reading as I’d like. We have to find a new-used car and then we’re Wonder Con bound! But I’ll still try to squeeze in the one Jiro Taniguchi volume I have as well as my next series, Shiki Tsukai volume 1-4. I’m also going to finish the last print Shonen Jump. I’ve been waiting for it to end before I start on Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha. I’m a subscriber, so I’ve got a year to read them. Watch out for a separate post on that.

  • Kiichi and the Magic Books Volume 1-5

Manga Wrap Up Week Nine: Dazzle Part 2

I really liked Dazzle when I first started reading it, but I was starting to lose interest by volume 5. Unfortunately volumes 6-10 didn’t do anything to reverse the course. Any charm that I may have felt at the beginning was not only gone by volume 10, it had been stomped into the ground.

With these next 5 volumes, I was really hoping to seem some real plot development. You would think with 10 volumes under its belt, the reader would have an idea where the story is going. Sadly, that isn’t so. These next 5 volumes has more tragedy, especially for Rahzel, but still little in plot development. There has been no explanation for Kiara’s interest and subsequent frienemy treatment of Rahzel. As the series’ villain, you would think his motives would be the most important to understand. But I have yet to see any rhyme or reason for his actions. It’s implied that he is seeking away to try to get back a life that was lost with the death of Natsume, but that doesn’t even begin to give a hint as to what that has to do with Rahzel. So far, the only connection between the two is that they both have black hair and blue eyes. That’s kind of sketchy to say the least. What worse is that there doesn’t seem to be any interest on the author’s part to impart any of this vital information.

I’m also really sad that the dynamic between Rahzel, Alzied, and Baroqueheat that started the series seems to be gone with this second half. Revelations that are made and not made seem to distance the three from each other. And the addition of a whole group of new characters really keeps them from mending it. Rahzel’s father, the scientist Shogetsu and his entourage and Rahzel’s school friends keep the three apart and kills the fun of the first 5 volumes. I also really didn’t like that Alzied was demoted to comedy relief. It really doesn’t suit his character. I’m okay with him going emo about not being as strong as he thought, but turning him into a character that everyone laughs at and kicks around was just wrong. He didn’t seem like the same character anymore and wasn’t any fun to read.

Another thing I didn’t like was the change of venue. Rahzel, Alzied and Baroqueheat stop traveling and go to Rahzel’s home, all because she can’t say no to her father. The boys follow because they don’t want to be separated from Rahzel, but the story really takes on a different tone, and becomes more of a high school drama than the fun and excitement of the travel.

Dazzle is not a series I will be donating to my library. They deserve better than this, and with the cliff-hanger ending that volume 10 ends on, it really wouldn’t be right. So I will either trade it or put it up on Paperbackswap when I start getting low on credits. If you’re interested, make me an offer. This is also a series I don’t see being picked up as a license rescue. A search around the web informed me that the mangaka tends to take off months, even a year at a time from this series in favor of her more popular series. It’s not exactly licensing material, and if Tokyopop knew where the story was going, would have still licensed it? Yeah, probably.

Next week I will be starting on Kiichi and the Magic Books, a former CMX title, and one that is finished at least. I’ll be working on some new releases as well, such as Durarara!!, and even though I didn’t intend to participate in this month’s Manga Movable Feast, I have been able to get my hands on a few Jiro Taniguchi titles, so I will be reading them this week as well. Well, one of them at least. Hopefully the other will arrive in time for me to read and review for the Feast.

  • Dazzle Volume 6-10