The “Curse Killing Arc”…The “Time Killing Arc”… As each incarnation of the terrible events in Hinamizawa unfolds, Rika Furude must watch as her friends descend into madness and despair, knowing the only fate that awaits her is death. With the unique ability to see all these worlds, Rika desperately searches for the common links between them, which will help her break the cycle and give her and her friends a happy future beyond June 1983. but with less than a month before the Cotton Drifting in her current life, will Rika be able to change destiny in time?
If you’re taking your favorite ghost or ghoul out trick or treating this weekend, be sure to check your local comic shop and see if they are participating in Halloween ComicFest. Viz Media has two samplers you can partake of; Fragments of Horror from the master of horror manga Junji Ito, and Yokai Watch, the new all ages series out next week. It’s the perfect selection so everyone can leave happy and spooky.
Yurei is the Japanese word for “ghost.” They are the souls of the dead unable-or unwilling-to shuffle off this mortal coil. Just as in the West, some yurei haunt a specific place; others tend to foam freely. But the similarities with foreign ghosts end there. The yurei are driven by emotions so uncontrollably powerful that they have taken on a life of their own: Rage. Sadness. Devotion. Revenge. Or even the simple belief that they are still alive.
An imperial capital in an era of splendor and romanticism… Orphaned in an earthquake, Sorath is taken in by Baron Kamichika, the lord of “Blood Blossom Manor.” There, he pledges eternal friendship with Garan, the Baron’s heir, and Kiyora, Garan’s fiancée. But their friendship turns grisly by events none of them could foresee. The tender feelings each secretly harbors, the machinations of Baron Kamichika and his strange and seductive female companion, and a fateful encounter with a young girl with bizarre powers…all draw them to the Walpurgis Night and the nightmare’s climax!
Demon From Afar Volume 1
By Kaori Yuki
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
In general, I’ve enjoyed more of Kaori Yuki’s works than not. Her blend of bishonen characters with elements of horror and a touch of humor usually appeal to me. In Demon From Afar, all of the elements are there, they’re just not striking the right chord for me.
Sorath, the protagonist, is a boy with no memory of his past and is saved by Garan, the heir to Baron Kamichika, after a terrible earthquake strikes the capital. There really isn’t anything remarkable about Sorath. He is devoted to Garan, taking responsibility for anything Garan might get punished for, and always holding himself back to make Garan look good. He acts as a bodyguard to Garan and his fiancée Kiyora. But beyond that, nothing seems to motivate him. He is content in his role, not interested in finding the meaning behind the symbol on his hand or learning about his past. He’s the character we are supposed to be most invested in, but there’s nothing interesting about him.
Garan and Kiyora aren’t much better. Kiyora seems more like comedy relief with her inept social skills and love of eating. Of course, she is more interested in Sorath than her fiancée, and Garan is oblivious to the differing feelings. Baron Kamichika is about as one-dimensional as the paper he’s printed on. The evil villain who care about no one but his own ambitions, not even his own heir. Everything and everyone is a tool for him to use to reach his goal; immortality. I didn’t really hate him as much as I hated his shallow motives. His demon servant Liece/Mephistopheles wasn’t much better, playing along, but helping to betray the Baron at the end.
What I did like was some of the horror elements. The belief by locals that the spider lilies that surround the Baron’s manor are red from soaking up human blood was made all the more creepy by the discovery that Sorath makes when he finally starts investigating what the Baron is up to. I also like the idea of the yin/yang miko, with the darker one becomes, the more pure the other. The way Noella was restored wasn’t what I was expecting and definitely one the disturbing side.
I didn’t dislike Demon From Afar, but it didn’t hook me either. This first volume feels like a prologue. It’s setting up the background and characters before getting to the real story. It feels more like it’s just spinning its wheels as it doesn’t set Sorath up with any kind of goal or motivation. The higher price for this volume is because it is printed in hardcover with a dust jacket. There is one color plate. More would have been better. Overall, it is a nice presentation and worth the extra dollars. I’ll give this series another chance and check out the next volume, but something had better happen soon.
I must confess I have read any Junji Ito titles. They either freak me out or gross me out too much. The one title I will even try is his cat manga, Cat Diary: Yon and Mu that Kodansha is releasing. I’m not sure if a collection of short stories would be either better or worse than a full length title. Being short they would be over fast, but sometimes a shorter story can be more creepy, and gross. I’ll just have to wait to see if I can stomach these stories. Fans of Ito and horror in general should snag this title up regardless.
I’d heard about this series when the anime came out, and was curious, until I read about how graphic it was, and was about the flesh-eating undead. Not my cup of tea. But fans of the series have been pre-ordering this series like gangbusters, even with releasing the digital version early, so Viz has another potential hit on their hands. This is one series I’ll have to watch from the sidelines, but readers with no qualms about characters that don’t eat just brains, but the rest as well should check this series out.
For the past two weeks Seven Seas Entertainment has been raining down manga license announcements. Four titles have been announced. Some were surprising not just for Seven Seas to get, but just to plain see in print in the US. The collection does have a little something for everyone.
The first title announced was Franken Fran. This dark parody series is about Fran Madaraki, the “daughter” of a highly skilled surgeon who has disappeared. Fran, takes up the family profession by performing surgeries in her secluded gothic home with her “sister” Veronica and a monstrous entourage. If you are willing to pay her price, Fran will perform any operation, including bringing back the dead. Her creed, “Lives must be saved, no matter the cost,” means the end justifies the means when fulfilling her duties. The title will be released in 4 2-in-1 omnibuses and will include color inserts. This title has gotten a lot of good word of mouth recommendations, so I’m looking forward to checking out the first volume at least. It will be coming out February 16, 2016.
Their next pickup was Not Lives, a “virtual gender-bender” manga. It is about game designer genius and high school student Mikami whose next big project is a romance game. Among the materials he received for research was a game he didn’t remember getting. Curiosity gets the better of him and his plays it, only to find himself thrust into a survival game and transformed into a girl. And in this game, it isn’t just his character on the line, but also his own life. This series sounds a like BTOOOM! meets Sword Art Online meets any generic gender-bender series. None of these titles really interest me so this looks like a series will pass up on. There are currently 7 volumes and the series is ongoing. The first volume will be released with color inserts on March 29, 2016.
The third license announced was Orange, a time-travel shojo. In this series, 16-year-old Naho Takamiya receives a letter from herself 10 years in the future. In the letter, she tells of an incoming transfer student named Kakeru Naruse, and that her biggest regret was that Kakeru was no long with them. She asks her past self to look after him. Naho didn’t believe the letter at first, but as things in the letter start to come true, including Kakeru’s transfer, she has to decide what the letter means for herself and Kakeru’s future. The series will be printed as 2 omnibus volumes with wraparound covers and color inserts. They will each be 380 pages long, or the equivalent of 2.5 Japanese manga, confirming the length of the series at 5 volumes. There are currently 4 in print. I was intrigued by this series when Crunchyroll announced it would stream it digitally. But now that it’s coming out in print, I will definitely be checking it out. The first volume will be released January 26 and the second in May, 2016.
The final series announced was Hour of the Zombie. Guess what genre this title is from. The story is about Akira, a typical high school student who has dreams and aspirations like everyone else, an unrequited crush on his childhood friend Kurumi, who seems to be more interesting in his best friend Umezawa. Their love triangle is trival in comparison to the drama that hits their school. Students start to turn into zombie, eating their friends and fellow students alike, and just as quickly, stop. Soon the school is divided between the turned and the unbitten, with unanswered question looming; how long will this peace last, and why did the students turn in the first place? I’m not normally interested in Zombie manga. Much like vampires, I feel they’ve run their course, but this series has some intriguing aspects that I might just want to check out. There are two volumes out and it is ongoing. The first volume will be released with color inserts April 5, 2016.
Gyo is one of those titles, that just one look inside stays with you forever. The story of nature gone horribly wrong features some the most disturbing images, such as fish running around on crab/lobster/spider legs, as well as some of the most absurd, like a man being stalked by a shark. A shark head peering around a corner is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Together, you get a title that is quite frankly unforgettable, and well deserving of the hardcover deluxe omnibus Viz is giving it.
Erwin’s political enemies have hired Levi and his crew to take back some incriminating documents. Their reward: the right to live a proud life above ground, in the royal capital. But deep in titan territory, it’s going to be tough to break formation and steal from a squad leader, and Levi still insists on killing the man who humiliated him after the mission is complete. Of course, beyond the walls anything can happen, and a sudden change in Levi’s fortunes will force him to face the greatest regret in his life…
Attack On Titan: No Regrets Volume 2
Written by Gun Snark (Nitroplus); Art by Hikaru Suruga
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
I really enjoyed the first volume of Attack On Titan: No Regrets, and was really looking forward to this one, and again it didn’t disappoint. The series takes a darker turn from the lighter first volume, but keeps all the drama and excitement to deliver an ending you won’t regret.
After their first encounter with a titan, Levi, Isabel and Furlan all start to change a little. Isabel is drawn into the Corps more, sympathizing with their cause. Furlan goes in the opposite direction, wanting to push his plan forward and get out of the Corps and into the life of luxury they’ve been promised. Levi, as usual, remains a mystery, his true feelings being veiled by his desire to protect his friends. I do like that about Levi. Part of his appeal is his silent, stoic demeanor. Hearing his thoughts would ruin some of his mystery. We meet Hange Zoe in this volume, as he barges in on the trio to ask Levi about his tactics in taking down the titan. I love his expression before and how he deals with Isabel constantly interrupting him. It was a smile-inducing moment.
With a subtitle of No Regrets, it should come as no surprise that regret is a major theme throughout the volume. Erwin speaks of the sacrifices members of the Survey Corps make to further their cause and do so without regret. Levi must struggle with regret as well after he makes his own fateful decision. It leads to a fantastic confrontation between Levi and Erwin. Erwin’s speech says so much about what he believes and shows how he is able to get people to follow him even to face the hell that the Titans represent.
Suruga does a wonderful job with the art again. His action sequences continue to be thrilling as Levi shows once again why he is called “humanity’s greatest soldier.” The few moments of emotion that Levi shows for Isabel and Furlan are all the more moving because he shows his feelings so rarely. Levi and Erwin’s expressions are superb in their confrontation, which leads into a beautifully symbolic awakening for Levi.
Attack On Titan: No Regrets is a great piece of storytelling with some very compelling characters. Even though you don’t get to spend a lot of time with them, you care about what happens to them. I was happy at the end that we got some side stories about Levi, Isabel and Furlan set before they joined the Survey Corps. I would gladly welcome more like them. If you have even a passing interest in Attack On Titan, pick this series up. You won’t regret it.
With their identities revealed, the Colossal Titan and Armored Titan kidnap Eren and Ymir and try to escape. The Survey Corps is on their tail though, led by Erwin, Commander of the Corps himself. It is another massacre, but they still escape with the help of a new ability exhibited by Eren. Back behind Wall Rose, Levi and Hange begin experimenting on Eren to learn his strength and weaknesses. But with the internal MPS under royal command on their trail, it becomes apparent more drastic measures will need to be taken to save humanity from annihilation.
The one thing I find frustrating about Attack on Titan is how well the story can continue to ask more questions about the mysteries of the world than it ever answers. These three volumes throw out lot of clues that only lead to asking more questions about what’s going on, tantalizing the reader with the possibilities of answers and then leaving them hanging. But the questions are so compelling that you have to keep coming back for more.
Since the start of the series, the question of how humans can turn into Titans has been on everyone’s lips, especially with Eren not having any idea that he could do it. It’s been clear that Eren is special, but it becomes more clear in these volumes. Reiner and Bertolt were on a mission to kidnap Eren. Annie had the same objective. They intend to take him to their “home town,” a mysterious destination we’ve heard about, but know nothing else. Reiner and Bertolt seem to know Eren has a special ability, that he finally displays in order to save Mikasa during the Survey Corps attempt to rescue him and Ymir. The bigger question though, is, how did they know, and who sent them? Ymir has a clue, but she chooses not to share it with Eren when she thinks there’s a chance of reuniting with Krista, leaving Eren and the reader in the dark.
There are some revelations in these volumes, though they are small. The Ape Titan, last seen in volume 8 is brought up again, as Ymir makes the connection between it and the Titans mysteriously appearing behind Wall Rose. Hange makes the same connection with Connie, between the Titans and his village. So that mystery is solved, but not how or why. Again. Krista’s/Historia’s past is revealed, as is a possible connection between the Reiss family and Eren. Another mystery left dangling in front of the reader, as is the continued mystery of the Wallists and the secret of Wall Rose.
There was some good character development in these volumes. Mikasa finally confesses her feeling to Eren, and they make it through. It was offset by the desperate situation the rest of the Survey Corps was in, but worked very well. After so much heavy action and death, the lighter moments that made up the first have of volume 13 was a nice reprieve. Sasha earned back her name of “potato girl.” Jean still has a crush on Mikasa, and they all bicker like the friends they became in training. I really loved Eren’s concern about getting their hideout cleaned enough to satisfy clean-freak Levi. The look on his face when Levi brings it up is priceless. Krista’s transformation into Historia definitely made her a better character. She seemed so weak-willed as Krista. But her new, devil-may-care attitude as Historia made her more appealing to me.
Attack on Titan Volumes 11-13 do a wonderful job of continuing to build up the plot while also letting the characters grow. Eren sees how his big talk is all just that. He still doesn’t know enough about his abilities to beat either the Colossal Titan or the Armored Titan. Levi says Eren needs to be sent to the depths of despair, and his fall starts with that knowledge, but he is just stubborn enough to keep going. The question of Eren’s father and what he might have done to him before the attack on Wall Maria keeps coming up, and I have a feeling will play a big role in the mystery of the humans-turning-into-Titans. If we ever get more than sublte clues. These were another great set of volumes with a lot of great moments. I can’t wait for the next one.
Before the fall, and before the trials of “the Titan’s son” Kyklo, a young smith by the name of Angel Aaltonen grapples with the giants as only a craftsman could…
Attack on Titan Before the Fall
Created by Hajime Isayama; Written by Ryo Suzukaze; Art by Thores Shibamoto
Publisher: Veritical, Inc.
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Light Novel/Horror
I’m usually hesitant about reading spin-off material of a series that doesn’t involve the characters that made me enjoy a series, but Attack on Titan is different. The world that Isayama created is so big and full of questions that spin-offs and prequels are a must for fans craving more. This novel is one of those must haves. It tells the tale of the creation of the 3-D maneuvering gear used by the Survey Corps, at a time when they were little more than “meals on wheels” to the Titans.
Angel Aaltonen is a craftsman living in Shinganshina District. He has two childhood friends, Maria Carlstedt who is in the Garrison and guards the gate of Wall Maria, and Solm, who is in the Survey Corps. Angel works in a workshop that contracts with the military to make weapons to defend the walls from the Titans, giant creatures that by all appearances are unkillable. Angel wants to create weapons to help the Survey Corps and his friend survive their encounters with the Titans, and maybe even find a way to kill them. Given the new materials Iron Bamboo and Iceburst stone, Angel begins developing an idea, but in order to really find its practical applications, he needs to go on an expedition with the Survey Corps, go beyond the walls and face the greatest terror known to Man.
I really liked Angel. He was passionate about both his work and his beliefs that humans should be trying to find a way to defeat the Titans instead of hiding away behind the walls. His motivations run deeper that just freeing humanity. He wants to help his friend Solm, and protect him the only way he knows how; by giving him the tools to kill Titans. His determination is so great that even after seeing a Titan in action, and how unstoppable they are, he still wants to go on an expedition with the Survey Corps, despite the paralyzing fear the Titans inspire in him. He is a man of conviction, who never stops trying, even when it may cost him his life.
I enjoyed watching Angel’s journey to create new, effective equipment for the Survey Corps. He grows with every obstacle to overcome, and there are plenty. Opposition to the government nearly impedes his trip to the Factory City where they learn of the Iceburst stone and first process the iron bamboo. Forces within the government are also pressuring to end the Survey Corps expeditions. When it’s impossible to kill a Titan, why bother? Despite all this, Angel continues to press on, and finds plenty of help along the way from fellow craftsman Xenophon and his assistant Corina. Solm and Maria are his moral support and part of his motivation to keep trying. It is thanks to his perseverance that the Survey Corps not only get their maneuvering equipment, but also find the Titan’s one weak spot, thus preserving hope for humanity.
There were plenty of good scenes in this volume. Having already read the first volume of the manga for the second part, it was neat to see the Titan attack on Shinganshina from another perspective. Watching Angel start to work out the concept of the Equipment was interesting. Angel’s first attempt using the Equipment was funny, though it quickly became serious as he tried to work how the Survey Corps would use it. As part of the Attack on Titan Universe, Before the Fall is also filled with plenty of gory scenes. Titans shoot half-digested heads over the wall of fallen Survey Corps members. People are flattened to pulps of meat, and brains, guts and body parts are strewed everywhere. While these scenes tend to be few and far between, they still leave an impact. Reader discretion is advised.
Fortunately, the illustrations for this volume chose not to portray any of these scenes. Instead we get illustrations of Angel, some with Solm, Maria and even Xenophon. There isn’t one with a Titan, which I am just fine with. Angel’s visage is much more pleasant to look at. Shibamoto’s art is well done while still feeling like it belongs in the Titan Universe. The adaptation is smooth and reads well in English, but that’s a given with Vertical titles.
I wish this first part of Attack on Titan Before the Fall had gotten a manga adaptation like the other two volumes in the series. Angel’s journey is filled with just as much excitement, action, and danger, and really deserved the same treatment. It makes me doubly glad that Vertical gave us this volume so we can at least read it. If you love Attack on Titan, you owe it to yourself to pick up this volume. It’s an important moment in the world’s history, and one that should not be passed up.
It is the distant future, and giant beings known as Titans who have a taste for human flesh have decimated the planet. Humanity has been beaten back into a three walled city where for 100 years they felt safe and became complacent. The sudden appearance of a 150 meter tall Titan changes everything as humanity loses a wall to the Titans. One boy to survive the initial attack is Eren Yeager, whose hate for the Titans makes him work hard and join the Survey Corps, so he can face and fight the creatures that destroyed his home and family. But in his first battle, he is eaten. When all seems lost for his unit, something happens that changes everything.
Attack on Titan Volume 1-7
By Hajime Isayama
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Teen+
I thought I was going to be able to let the Attack on Titan bandwagon pass me by. I wasn’t wowed by the first chapter, so I felt no inclination to look further into it. But curiosity and some review copies got me to crack open a volume and I was hooked from that moment on. I thought I could make do without going back to earlier volumes, but as I read further, references to events from the beginning made me think I should catch up. I binge read the first seven volumes, which filled in some gaps, explained a lot of things and even cleared up some misconceptions I had.
The series starts just before the wall breach, introducing Eren Yeager, Mikasa Ackerman, and Armin Arlert, who live in the outer city of Shinganshina. After some wanton destruction by the Titans, the story jumps 5 years and we see the three friends again, graduating from military academy. Eren has only one intention; to join the Survey Corp and fight Titans. The first fight doesn’t go well for his squad, but Eren reveals an ability no one, not even he, was aware he could do. He transformed into a Titan. These first seven volumes jump between the past and present, telling the past of the three friends, their time in training, and how they continue to fight to protect humanity.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed these volumes. I’d heard plenty about how slow these first volumes were, and that the story didn’t really pick up until volume 4. I didn’t find that to be the case at all. Maybe it was because I had read volumes 8-13 first, and I had a lot of questions that I was looking for answers to. These volumes moved quickly as I got to see the beginning of the friendship between Eren, Mikasa and Armin, something that had become a foundation for me when I started reading. The pure commitment between the trio held them together through Eren’s revelation, and solidified their relationship into the one I so enjoyed in volumes 8-10. It also struck down a misconception I had about their relationship. I didn’t think there were any romantic feelings between the three, but reading these volumes made it abundantly clear that Mikasa has some feelings for Eren, that as a typical shonen hero, he is completely oblivious to.
These volumes also gave me a different perspective on some of the side characters. Connie and Sasha, who seemed more comedy relief in the later volumes, were shown to be more serious and capable at the beginning. My first exposure to Levi and Erwin were in the spin-off title No Regrets, so seeing their first appearance was bit of a surprise. Especially Levi. I was expecting a more serious and dark character, but he was surprisingly relaxed. He was still blunt, and a clean freak.
I enjoyed the way the story unfolded, with more questions than answers being presented with every volume. Why could Eren transform? What did his father do to him and what did he know? Were there any other humans inside the walls that could transform? What did this mean about the relationship between humans and Titans? I liked the way the reader was drawn in to ask the same questions as the characters and want to search for the same answers. I also felt the time jumping was handled well. The transitions between past and present were easy to distinguish and often related to what was going on in the story, making them feel integral to the story and not just tangents.
The only problem with these volumes is the art. It really isn’t very good, especially at the beginning. The Titans are supposed to look weird and surreal, but not the humans. Faces are often not one the head straight and there are some problems with proportion. The art did start to improve as the story went on, but it’s fortunate that the story and characters are so engaging that the poor art can be overlooked.
I really didn’t want to get drawn in to Attack on Titan. Post Apocalyptic horror stories really aren’t my thing, but I’m glad I did. Isayama has managed to create an engaging story on several levels, and characters that you care about from the start. While the art does leave a lot to be desired, it gets better, and it’s worth getting through for the story. If you’re looking for a bandwagon to jump on, this one is definitely worth the ride.