Tag Archives: Del Rey

Yokai Doctor Volume 1

Yokai are mysterious, troublemaking spirits and demons that have tormented Japan for centuries. Kotoko’s grandfather exorcised them for a living, but Kotoko never thought that her family lineage was an asset. Then she meets Kuro, a yokai doctor. Yokai have doctors? Now Kotoko is learning firsthand that healing the yokai is a lot more challenging than getting rid of them!

By Yuki Sato
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Comedy/Horror
Price: $10.99 OOP
Rating: ★★★☆☆

When I first ordered Yokai Doctor back in 2009, I was hoping for a more serious look at yokai. So imagine my disappointment when I read it and found out it featured a perverted protagonist and fan service galore. I was ready to pan it back then. With three years to get over my expectations, I find the title isn’t quite so bad, but the pandering is still annoying.

The protagonists of this title are Kotoko, the granddaughter of a powerful and well-known exorcist who inherited some of his powers, and Kuro, a yokai doctor. The introduction to these characters is handled in an unusual way. The first chapter is told twice, once from Kotoko’s perspective and once from Kuro’s perspective. While this novel concept might have seemed like a good idea at the time, it really failed in execution. Kuro comes off as really shallow in the first chapter, and scenes are held back from one chapter to make a bigger impact in the other. Sato would have made a much better impression had he just written the two as one chapter, and allowed the reader to see both characters perspective at once.

Of the two characters Kotoko is the more interesting, or at least the more developed. As would be expected of someone who can see spirits, she was teased and mocked when she was young. But now in high school, she is more popular because of her ability, causing her to feel the need to live up to her classmates expectations. She sees a kindred spirit in Kuro, and reaches out to him as a friend. She has the courage to stand up to yokai despite not having any way of defending herself, but also the compassion to see they aren’t all bad. By the end of the volume, I had warmed up to her.

Kuro, on the other hand, needs more work. He is a yokai, and while it might seem his pervy ways are just his attempts to interpret human culture, such as the bowing incident, his open confession for his love of “boobies” doesn’t make him any points with me. Neither did the wearing of underwear on his head. He is fascinated by humans, despite the fact it was a human that killed his mother. Like Kotoko has started to learn, he knows there are good sides to humans as well as bad, and doesn’t paint them all with a broad brush. He has potential, if the perviness can be toned down. Not that I’m holding my breath though.

I really enjoyed the stories about the yokai. The tsuchikorobi was touching and the baby oni was cute. They showed how easy it was for the yokai to be misunderstood because of their appearance or nature. It just took a little explaining from Kuro, and maybe some action from the yokai, for Kotoko to learn the nature of their heats. Now, I know not all yokai are going to be like that. But I like that the series starts off with some silliness. I loved the scenes where Kotoko would throw some of the smaller yokai at Kuro’s head when he was being dense or pervy. Add to that the touching moments and it starts to become apparent that this title isn’t all about T & A.

I was harsh on Yokai Doctor when I first read it, and didn’t get anymore volumes. Now, I regret that. I would really love to read more about Kotoko and Kuro, and the yokai they will encounter and try to heal. Unfortunately, being a Del Rey title, that won’t be easy, or even a series that will ever be finished, since they are no more. All I can hope for, is that Jmanga.com, who has already picked up several Del Rey titles to publish and complete online, will pick up this one as well. It has a lot more to offer than some fan service, and though I was slow to pick up on it, I’m now glad I did.

Free Collars Kingdom Volume 1-3

Cyan is a young Abyssidian cat who is abandoned by his family when becomes sick and has to go to the hospital. Left in the basement of the family’s apartment building, Nyan-Nyans Mansion, he soon meets a gang of stray cats know as the Free Collars, who have made their base there. They are fighting to protect Nyan-Man from being taken over by another gang of strays led by a Siamese cat called Siam. In order to protect his home and keep waiting for the promised return of his master, Cyan joins the Free Collars to fight for their “kingdom.”

By Takuya Fujima
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy
Price: $10.95
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I must be getting cynical in my old age. When I first read Free Collars Kingdom 5 years ago, I liked it, even if I thought the fanservice was a little over the top. This second time around, I didn’t enjoy it as much, and as it got closer to the end, I was more annoyed than amused. While I love cats, I don’t care so much for cat boys and girls, and this title seems to be more otaku that look like cats than cats who are otaku.

I was looking forward to reading a fun title about otaku cats battling to protect their home from the evil otaku cats who want to take over the world. The protagonist, Cyan, wants to become like the legendary cat Wild Cat, who once ruled over all cats in the area from the place where Nyan-Man now stands, so he can protect his home while he waits for his master’s return. That’s not what I got from Free Collars Kingdom. The otaku part was there at the beginning, with battles being interrupted by broken limited edition statues, dressing like, and using moves from, video games, and fighting over manga. The otakuness wouldn’t be complete without some cosplay, which this title has plenty of. This element was cute and sometimes funny, but it wasn’t enough to carry the title for me.

The same goes for the shonen elements. There were plenty of battles with Siam’s underlings, who always had to lose to the Free Collars. Cyan, being young and inexperienced, had to win to show his hidden strength and that it wasn’t just pure luck. He spends a lot of time talking about how he wants to be as strong as Wild Cat, but he never really trains to start reaching that goal. It’s all talk and gets dangled out as a hook that there may be more to come, but it never materializes.

Think part of my problem with this title is that is too much going on. It feels like it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It has both comedy and shonen elements, but at the same time, it has some serious themes about the way cats are sometimes treated, and mistreated, by humans. One chapter can be light and funny, and then the next throws Cyan into conflict over his continued dedication to his old master. It was really hard to get past these two conflicting themes, which is probably why I found it so annoying. It also spend way too much time showing the characters as cat boys and girls. Fujima draws some really cute cats, especially Cyan. And if you’re not familiar with all the breeds, such as Korat, naming their breed and never showing them as such loses the benefit of using cats in the first place.

Free Collars Kingdom is a title I wanted to love, but in the end only found mildly funny with the otaku elements, and completely unsatisfying with other story elements that are brought up but never explored. Because of this, the ending, while making sense, wasn’t satisfying either. I can’t recommend this title for cat lovers, but fans of otaku culture, cat boys and girls, or moe characters may find something of worth from it.

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

Giving Them A Voice

April is the ASPCA’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. Human cruelty to animals is nothing new. Our faithful companions can become the focus of our anger and hate. So it’s not surprise that the problem has come up in manga. Matsuri Akino’s title Petshop of Horrors often has stories and themes of animals exacting their revenge on cruel and thoughtless humans. In the pages of Milkyway Hitchhiking, an online-only title in Yen Press’ Yen Plus, cats are often see enduring some torture at the hands of kids who view it as a fun past time.  Other titles get right to the heart of the matter and help to give the animals a voice.

Genju no Seiza – This is another title by Matsuri Akino that sadly was never finished in the US. It is about a boy, Fuuto, who lives in Tokyo, and also seems to be the reincarnation of the Holy King of Dhalashar. In volume 4, the first chapter is “A Wordless Voice.” There have been a rash of mutilations and killings of stray animals in Fuuto’s neighborhood. With the help of his guardian animal friends, he decides to find the culprit, and is surprised by the identity. This chapter doesn’t pull any punches about Akino’s opinion of people who abuse animals. Kurgahara at one point says “Only a coward would harm a defenseless animal that can’t even ask for help.” Amen to that sister.

Free Collar Kingdom – This title is a three-volume series from Del Rey Manga’s early days. I picked it up because it had otaku cats. Can you really get a better combination than that? While the story has plenty of humor as it pokes fun at otaku and has the requisite fan service to keep most males interested, it also has a more serious underlying theme. Cyan, the hero of the story, was owned by a boy named Kokoro, who gets sick and has to go to the hospital. His parents, not knowing what to do with the cat since Kokoro can’t keep it at the hospital, and aren’t even sure if he will pull through, just leave Cyan in the basement of their apartment complex. There he meets the Free Collars, a gang of former pets who were abandoned by their owners and have banded together to survive. The point of their name is made most poignantly, when Cyan, after staying with the Free Collars for a while, starts to feel his collar tighten. He has continued to grow, but his collar has not. He could be choked by it. The ring left by the too-tight collar becomes a symbol of their release from their former human’s abandonment.

Apollo’s Song – While this title by Osamu Tezuka isn’t about animals, it does show some graphically violent moments of animals being mutilated and killed. Shogo Chikaishi can’t stand to see any showing of affection. Whenever he sees animals doing it, he goes into a rage and kills them. Worried that his rage will be turned on humans, he is admitted into a mental hospital. While the other titles in this post only imply the abuse, or show before and after scenes, Tezuka shows the violence for what it is; cold and brutal. It was harsh enough that I couldn’t read these scenes for a second time. I had page past them. Leave it to the God of Manga to not pussy-foot around the issue.

Hell Girl – This manga, based on the anime, is about tweens and teens going to a website to get revenge for some betrayal done to them or someone close to them. Enma Ai, Hell Girl, gets the request and decides if the person is worthy of her help. There is a catch for getting her help though. The person asking for the revenge will be cursed to hell as well as the person they curse, they just get a longer life. In volume one, the fourth chapter called “The Inaudible Scream,” is about a veterinarian who only helps the pets of rich people. When the beloved dog of an orphaned girl dies because he doesn’t operate, she calls on Hell Girl for help. Enma Ai obliges, and gives the greedy, heartless vet a taste of his own medicine. It’s scary to think that there are people that we put our trust in to care for our pets that might betray us. This is an example of one or worse kinds of abuse an animal can endure.

I know this isn’t a fun or happy theme, but it is an important one to get out. Pets can become just as important as loved ones, often filling a void when one is lost, keeping us company, and bringing a little light to some of our darkest hours. It is really important that we return that favor and keep them from being abused and abandoned. We must give them a voice.


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

Season’s Screaming: Only One Wish and xxxHolic

When one thinks of the holiday season, it tends to be of being merry, giving gifts, and celebrating the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. But the holiday season also has a history of ghostly stories and ghoulish things. Here are two Del Rey Manga titles that try to fit into the Comeuppance Theater genre, but just don’t quite make the grade.
Continue reading Season’s Screaming: Only One Wish and xxxHolic

Ghost Hunt Volumes 1-2

Ordinary high school student Mai Taniyama is drawn into the world of ghosts and spirits when her school hires Kazuya Shibuya of Shibuya Psychic Research to investigate alleged haunting of an old school building. After accidentally breaking a very expensive camera and injuring Shibuya’s assistant Linn, Mai becomes his assistant. They are soon joined by a Shinto Miko, a Buddhist monk, a psychic medium and a Catholic priest. The school wants to be very sure there are no spirits to interrupt the buildings demolition.

Buy Volume 1

Story by Fuyumi Ono; Adapted by Shiho Inada
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Horror
Price: $10.95
Rating: ★★★★★

Ghost Hunt is based on a series of light novels originally published in the late 80s to mid 90’s. It follows the cases of Shibuya Psychic Research as they investigate alleged hauntings and find the cause, whether it is natural or otherwise. Of course, more often than not, the hauntings will be real.

The first volume introduces all the characters that will become the ensemble cast for the rest of the series. The case of the supposedly haunted school building is really secondary to the characters introductions. We first meet Mai, a seemingly normal high school girl who is blackmailed into being Shibuya’s assistant. She gets pushed around by him, but she doesn’t take it meekly. She happily pushes back. She fairly smart and makes a good, strong female lead. She does find Shibuya handsome, as do all the females in the series, but his less than friendly personality and narcissistic behavior mostly cancels that out. She even gives him the nickname of Naru-chan, which is quickly picked up by the rest of the cast. Despite that, she does seem to develop feelings for him.

Shibuya, the aforementioned Naru-chan, is the president of SPR, Shibuya Psychic Research. He is only 16 years-old, yet is very learned about the supernatural and can read and writing several languages, including English. His personality is rather cold and indifferent, and he seems more concerned about getting the job done than other people’s feelings. Though, he does show to be surprisingly compassionate at the resolution of both these first two cases. He tends to look down at people, and has a very high opinion of himself, though he does seem to like Mai, as he asks her to work for him part-time. He is a ghost hunter, using technology to find and confirm spirit activity, though again, he surprises everyone again with another skill.

Buy Volume 2

The rest of the cast is rounded out by four exorcists. Ayako Matsuzaki is a self-proclaimed miko with a bit of an attitude. Takigawa Houshou is a monk from Koya Mountain with long hair and pieced ears who is “taking a break”. John Brown is a Catholic priest from Australia with a Kansai accent who is also an exorcist, a Masako Hara is a psychic medium who also has her own TV show. They all start out competing with each other, and especially with Shibuya, and egos are checked as they go through the first case. By the second case though, they are working together more as a team. The second case is much more serious, and everyone’s skills are needed to keep the ghosts at bay and protect a little girl and her aunt from harm.

The stories are more psychological horror than gore. No one is killed, though characters do get hurt, especially Mai. In both stories, Mai is knocked out and has a dream about the current case and that features a kinder, gentler Naru-chan. This Dream-Naru-chan helps her with these dreams which end up contributing to the case, suggesting there might be more to Mai than we, or even she, knows.

While the stories are fun ghost tales, the real heart of this title is the characters. It’s a really good ensemble cast that works well together. There isn’t a shirking violet among them, and they are all ready to take up the challenge, whether it’s Naru-chan’s sharp tongue, or facing a vengeful spirit. Even Mai, without any power or knowledge, is ready to jump into the fray, usually without thinking of the consequences. There is also a sort-of love triangle being set up between her, Naru-chan and Masako. There are hints of feelings between them, but it’s keep to the background. It never becomes the focus of the story, which is as it should be.

Ghost Hunt has started out as a good title with strong, entertaining characters, and some eerie ghost stories. While ghosts or spirits aren’t always the culprits, there is usually some sort of paranormal explanation for the phenomena they encounter. I definitely recommend this title if you like some mystery, ghost tales, and lots of good character interaction.