Hellsing, a secret organization also known as the Royal Order of Protestant Knights, has protected the United Kingdom and the English crown since ancient days from supernatural threats. Whether it is vampires or the mindless ghouls they create, the Hellsing Agency is ready to take on the fight local police are unable to handle.
It was a slow news week for manga, as companies and bloggers alike prepared for NYCC/NYAF. But there was still a few items that flew across the internet, including news about Del Rey, Kodansha, license announcements and of course, the first day of NYCC/NYAF.
It’s been a while since I updated my post on manga for Halloween. The titles I choose to put on this list don’t just have death, vampires, horror, or supernatural elements. I try to choose titles that have a creepy atmosphere to them as well. Something that can send a chill up your spine, and not just gross you out.
Going in order of publishers again, let’s start with Dark Horse, who still has the most titles to fit this genre.
School Zone – This is a 3 volume series that tell stories of ordinary kids who encounter the strange and terrifying in their school. Ghosts, urban legends and superstitions turn out to be horribly real. This series is by Kanako Inuki, who is known as the Queen of Manga Horror. She also created CMX’s Presents. You can read a review of volume 1 here, and all three volumes here.
Viz Media has a couple of new titles and both of them come out this month!
Grand Guignol Orchestra – This is a new 5 volume series by Kaori Yuki, creator of The Cain Saga, Godchild and Fairy Cube. Lucille is the head of the travelling Grand Orchesta. For a price he and the orchestra will go to a town and rid them of the Guiynol infected people called puppets who threaten the town. This is done by Kaori Yuki, so you know it’s going to be good. Read reviews of this new series here and here.
March Story – This title was just announced at Anime Expo this year, and it’s scheduled to come out in the next week or two. It created by Korean artists, but the story is published by Shogakukan’s Sunday Gene-X (thanks @toukochan!). Set in 18th Century Europe, demons know as the Ill hide in works of art, waiting to attract unsuspecting humans and possess them. Only hunters of the Ciste Vihal can dispel them, and March is one such hunter, tracking down Ills and stopping them before they can possess anyone. This sounds like a really cool series and I can’t wait for it to come out. There have been only 2 volumes released so far in Japan, so expect this one to be on a long release schedule.
Tokyopop added one title that I really enjoyed.
Hanako and the Terror of Allegory – What if urban legends were true? The killer under the bed, the slit-mouthed woman, human-faced fish are all well known urban legends, and they can possess you, making you believe they are real. And if they are real, they can kill you. This title is about Daisuke Asou, who is known as an Allegory Detective. He’s the person you to if you are possessed by one of these legends or allegories. The stories are well done, and the urban legends are very creepy. It was a lot of fun to read, but then, I love urban legends. Read other reviews here and here.
Yen Press added a title that has some stories to send chills up your spine.
Time and Again – Serialized in Yen Plus, this manhwa follows exorcist Baek-On and his bodyguard Ho-Yeon as they travel the country in search of grudges and ghosts. A lot of the stories deal with karma and re-incarnation, and have very tragic tales behind the hauntings. The art is very well done, and some scenes will make you have second thoughts about reading at night. I’ve really enjoyed this series so far. There are three volumes out so far, and here are reviews of each. It can also be read online through Yen Plus magazine.
DMP seems to have embraced the horror genre with two titles new this year.
Taimashin: The Read Spider Exorcist – This title is from the creator of Vampire Hunter D, Hideyuki Kikuchi. Akamushi Fujiwara travels between the world of the living and the dead, using his shamanistic spider powers to combat demons from the underworld. As mysterious as he is handsome, if you need Akamushi’s help, you are in dire straits indeed. There are two volumes out so far with all of Kikuchi’s great action and horror, as well as some sexual innuendo. I’ve reviewed both volumes here.
Tale of a White Night – This is a one-shot collection of short stories of supernatural and suspense. The tales are more in the vein to make you cautious and constantly looking over your shoulder than outright scare you. It’s a good light horror for those that like the more psychological scare than physical gore. Reviews can be found here and here.
Udon has dabbled in manhwa and licensed one Korean horror title.
Reading Club – This title is about a girl, Eun-Sae, who agrees to help clean the student-run school library with her crush Kyung-Do. While cleaning they discovers a book with an evil aura, that may be responsible for the death of not just the library’s previous advisor, but also another student and Kyung-Do’s own father years before. This is a strongly plot driven story with supernatural and horror elements. Sadly though, only one volume has come out so far. You can read reviews of this title here, and here.
Seven Seas Entertainment has really made a name with OEL manga, and with all their different genres has one title that takes on the Cthulu mythos.
Arkham Woods – You can’t say horror and not think of H.P. Lovecraft and Cthulu. This one volume title takes you into Lovecraft’s world with Kirsti Rivers, an LA girl transplanted to the sleepy New England town of Arkham Woods. While cleaning out the old house her mother’s uncle left to them, Kirsti and her friends uwittingly unleash an ancient horror that could destroy the world, if they don’t stop it first. You can read this title online as well as in print, and check this review to see how it stands up to a Lovecraft fan.
Did I miss any titles that should be added to these lists? Leave a comment and let me know so I can start to work for next year!
Leaving her internship at Sushi Hyuga to go on her family’s annual trip to France is the last thing Hanayu wants to do. On the other hand, a pastry-research trip in Europe is Hayato’s idea of a dream come true–can the two aspiring chefs ever catch a break? Plus, Hayato has become suspicious of patisserie assistant Maezawa, who has expressed an interest in Hanayu. As it turns out, both Hanayu and Hayato may have their wires crossed about what Maezawa is really after!
I read the first 2 preview chapters for this series back when Shojo Beat was still around, and wasn’t impressed. Further reviews from fellow reviewers didn’t inspire me to look further into the series, and I’m not a foodie, so this volume had three strikes against it going in. But it actually wasn’t so bad. There wasn’t anything great about it. It’s a fairly average title, but I didn’t regret the time I spent reading it.
Hanaya and Hayato, the leads that I found so annoying in the preview chapters of volume 1, aren’t so bad by this volume. Hanaya no longer has to plot to get Hayato to marry her, which is what I disliked so much about her initially. She and Hayato have admitted their feelings for each other, and by this volume, Hanaya is working in Hayato’s family sushi shop. I found the characters much more likeable this time around, which greatly improved my reading experience.
Hanaya’s family plan a trip to France, and with Hanaya and Hayato trading places, each of them gets the chance to become immersed in their preferred environment. Hanaya, while already working at the Sushi shop, hasn’t actually been able to work in the kitchen. In this volume, she gets some time in, and shows her ability to combine foods and flavors that compliment each other, creating new and interesting dishes. Hayato gets to go on a pastry-tasting trip with Ashifuba, Hayana’s father, where he shows his ability to identify who made a pastry just by sight and flavor.
As is typical with any romance, there are forces seemingly conspiring to keep Hanaya and Hayato from staying together, especially now that they’ve decided to be together. The threat of Maizawa turns out to not actually be one, but the volume ends on a cliff hanger that just could. It’s actually a pretty cliché route to go, especially with the way the series has been set up. But it wasn’t poorly done, just not unexpected.
Overall, this volume wasn’t a bad read. It could have been worse, but it wasn’t an inspiring read either. There’s nothing really interesting about the characters in general. The lead characters particular talents are mildly interesting but not enough to really be a draw. Hanaya’s side of the story was definitely more entertaining. It focused more on the food and preparation than on the angst Hayato was facing. The art is average, but some of the characters are rather distinctive-looking. Maizawa comes to mind. I did like that as well. Mixed Vegetables isn’t a bad time killer, but it’s not a keeper.
Canon is a story of revenge, regret, love and redemption. Canon Himura is the sole survivor of a vampire attack where 39 of her fellow students died and she herself was made into a vampire as well. Six months have passed, and now she is searching for the vampire she believes is responsible to avenge her friends and herself. She is accompanied by a vampiric crow, Fui, who helps her sniff out other vampires. At first, all they find are servants, humans infected with vampire blood, until Sakaki appears. He is half human/half vampire, and he has a grudge against the same vampire as Canon. His parents were killed and he left for dead for being a “half”. He offers to help her find and destroy their mutual enemy.
This seemingly straightforward setup quickly starts taking twists and turns as Canon learns the truth about who killed her friends, her connection to the elder vampire Rod, and who holds the strings to her heart. As the truth comes out and the battles between Sakaki and the pure blood vampires continue, people change sides, enemies become allies, and all the way through Canon is the lynch pin that changes people’s hearts and lives.
Canon is the heart of this title. She is a great female lead. Strong-minded and determined, she chooses her course and can not be easily swayed from it. She doesn’t care about her odds of succeeding. She will still try her best, whether it’s facing powerful vampires or trying to save humans from becoming servants. She draws a lot of her strength from being able to hold on to her humanity. She is able to fight off the thirst for human blood and keeps a hold of her self, and in doing so also keeps much of her compassion. She argues with Sakaki about killing and even convinces him to spare the pure blood Machua. It’s this compassion, even in the face of her, enemy that makes Canon a force to be reckoned with. It helps her to overcome her desire for revenge, as she tries instead to break the cycle, and keep anyone else from dying. The lengths she will go for this impress even Glenn, a vampire elder determined to follow the laws of his clan.
The story is well written and moves at a good pace. Each volume can almost be said to have a theme running through it. Volume 1 is about revenge. Canon spends most of the volume going on about the desire for revenge, and we quickly learn Sakaki wants the same. In volume 2 we meet Rod, and learn the truth about what happened to both Canon and Sakaki. Rod shows his regret for what he had to do and it resonates with Canon. In Volume 3, Canon acknowledges her feelings for Sakaki, despite all the pain he has caused her. Volume 4 is about redemption, for Rod and especially for Sakaki, and only Canon can help him find it.
The world of Canon is laid out quickly and remains internally consistent to the end. One of the things I really appreciated about it was the focus remained on Canon and her goals, and not on getting her and Sakaki together. Canon doesn’t dwell on him and what he might think of her. She only thoughts are if she can trust him, and then if she can kill him. There are very few suggestive bite scenes and they are short at that. Most of the time, the biting is brutal, and there is a lot of blood flowing, just as you would expect in a vampire story. The romance is secondary to the story, which makes the suspense all the more thrilling.
Shiomi’s art is just beautiful. Set in modern Japan, Canon is dressed in smart but (mostly) sensible clothes. I have doubts about the spike heel boots, but as a vampire, she must have balance to do the high jumps and land on them just fine. In some scenes, she looks like she could be a professional working in an office. All of the characters had a professional look to them. No one was flamboyant or outlandish in style or dress.
Canon is a great series and at 4 volumes it shouldn’t be hard to track down. It’s more about action than romance and is character driven as many of Shiomi’s titles are. Not only does Canon grow and change over the course of the story, but so does Sakaki, Rod, and even Glenn. when you get to the end, you can not just see the changes, but feel them. It’s also a title that keeps you on your toes to the very end, and doesn’t romanticize vampires. They are the scary, blood sucking creatures of the night they were always meant to be, just a little more thoughtful for having met Canon.
Things are heating up in both worlds! Determined to prove himself a guy, Mashiro goes the distance to win Kureha. But will the new power of their bond survive the most shocking revelation so far – the true identity of the malevolent knight?
Due to illness, I was unable to do a roundup last week, so this week combines the two weeks. So what’s in store? More licenses found and announced from Viz and Vertical, several digital manga stories, some news from Japan and Korea, 2 weeks worth of best seller lists, podcasts and the Manga Village roundup.
Just before the Labor Day weekend, Yen Press sent out the announcement that the new issue of Yen Plus was available and subscriptions were being accepted. I immediately forked over my $2.99. At that price, and with no bulky magazine to take up more space I don’t have, it’s totally worth it. Just as I do with Shonen Jump, I will be giving a brief report of the chapters each month. I will not be reading Maximum Ride or Gossip Girl though. Neither story interests me. If this were the print mag, I might page through them because they were there, but online, I have no problem with just skipping them. Even without reading those two titles, Yen Plus still beats out Shonen Jump with a total 368 pages, most of which are manga chapters and not news on anime, video games or card games. Already a big plus for me! It also keeps it’s origianl format of a side “A” and “B”. The “A” side is for the Manhwa/OEL titles and the “B” side is for the Japanese titles.
First up is Jack Frost, a title I haven’t been impressed with over the last three volumes. But, since I’ve read that much of it, and it’s in the magazine, I’ll keep up with it, and see if anything improves. This chapter shows the aftermath of Helmina broadcasting the whereabouts of the Lost Lake and the Pillars of Solomon to all of Amityville. Of course, the guardians of Lost Lake aren’t too thrilled with the revelation, since now they are a target, but the man in charge, Mr. Fury, believes that Helmina has something in mind. Whether that’s a good or bad thing…well we’ll see. Meanwhile, Jack has another challenger who wants to take him on, and he’s assisted by someone Hanson says should be dead, Ridicule of Samiel. This chapters follows the routine that Jack Frost seems to have set up. Talking heads, panty shot, fight; lather, rinse, repeat. It would be nice to see that routine shaken up a bit. Many less panty shot and more plot?
Nightschool ends in this issue with the last two chapters. This makes me sad since Nightschool is one of the draws of Yen Plus for me. I love Alex, her astral, and the whole set up of the world. Yen has promised more Nightschool stories, but they can’t come fast enough for me! After the reveal of who was responsible for releasing the Sohrem last chapter, Daemon, Mr. Roi and Madame Chen then have to figure out how to stop the Sohrem, remove them from their hosts, seal them away and reverse all the damage that was done to the world. No small feat mind you. But between the three they are able to do this surgery on reality and give the story a happy ending. I’m glad. I like Alex’s sister Sara and am happy that she’s back, dragon hatchlings and all. Please come back soon!
I think Aron’s Absurd Armada is starting to grow on me. This month featured Ronnie, the girl they rescued last issue. Everyone thinks she’s a boy though. She shows off her knowledge of the sea and sets the ship’s course to intercept her ship. Some of the strips are pretty funny, such as when Anton lets Ronnie go down to the wreck of her ship by herself, because he knows what she’ll find. Actually Anton and Gilbert strike he as the two smartest people on the ship. It’s a good quick read.
We get another two chapters of Daniel X this month. His attempt to get to Ergent Seth isn’t going well, as Ergent is always one step head of him. He tries to warn Daniel off a few more times through some cats, but he won’t back down, so Ergent shows him what he’s really up against, and it doesn’t go well for Daniel. The new love of his life, Phoebe, doesn’t go the way he planned either. A captive of Ergent, he is whisked away with the other of Ergent’s captive children and taken to his home planet, Alpar Nok. It’s nice to see that Daniel isn’t invincible, though Ergent’s ploy was a little cliché to say the least. Though, I do like Ergent’s design. It’s not everyday you see a horse in a suit. With a scar. It will be interesting what Daniel’s real home planet is like and how he’s going to get away from Ergent.
Time and Again is one of the titles that made subscribing worth it. In this month’s chapter, we get to see into Baek-On’s past. Thoughout the series so far, we have seen Baek-On’s regrets regarding a girl and what he did to her. This chapter shows who the girl is and what she meant to Baek-On. But it’s not all love and roses, otherwise Baek-on wouldn’t be on the path that he is. Once again it has to do with reincarnation, and an animal spirit’s desire for revenge. Hunters should be careful lest their kills start coming back to get them. Animals do not fight fair. This was the best chapter of the magazine, behind Nightschool. It was rather heartbreaking to finally see the truth.
Yotsuba&! is one of the newest titles to the magazine as well as one of the first for the Japanese side for the digital edition. In the chapter, we see Yotsuba have a nightmare and try to create a schedule. Then she and her father go shopping at a mall, and she finds the perfect teddy bear. Frankly, Yotsuba&! isn’t a draw for me. The series is nice, and I did find the chapter with Yotsuba going through the teddy bears and checking them for huggability cute. But I’m not enamored by Yotsuba’s cuteness. I’ll read it, but it’s not a must have for me.
The first debut title for Yen Plus’ digital edition is K-On! This is another 4-koma series about a high school girl,Yui Hirasawa, who can’t decide on what club to join, so she joins the pop music club, not realizing it’s a band. She can’t play an instrument, but she gets talked into staying and learning to play guitar by the other members so they can keep the club going. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this title or not. I’ve heard a lot about it online, but my tastes don’t always run with the crowd. But so far, I do like it. Yui is fairly typical for a high school student, not knowing what she wants to do. And the way she gets convinced to stay was well done. I also like Tsumugi. She is really nice, but also really rich. The way she gets the guitar discounted for Yui was funny. I will definitely keep reading this one.
This issue wasn’t bad for a first pay issue. The transaction was easy through paypal. I had access immediately after paying. It’s next issue that gonna be a deal breaker for a lot of people probably. With Nightschool gone, even for me the only must read title is Time and Again. The rest I can either take-or-leave or I like, but not really like. The Japanese side really needs a few more titles, and something with some action would be nice. I was excited about Yen Plus before when it had Black Butler and Hero Tales in it. Without a really good anchor though, I don’t see this lasting very long, even with the $2.99 price. Hopefully Yen has some titles in the pipe that they are just waiting for approval on.
Woofles regular Chizuru advises her friend Serina, who is contemplating motherhood, to try looking after a dog first. Can Chizuru’s dog melon and a new puppy convince Serina that their affection and cuteness are worth the aggravation?
My first two reviews of this series were lukewarm, due to the fan service and doggie-ness of the title. I’m a cat person and don’t care much for dogs. This volume however, dealt with more plot and general animal care than just doggie-ness, so I could appreciate it and it’s message much more.
This volume picks up where volume 15 left off with Amuro being seriously injured in a car accident. Suguri’s quick thinking and level head saves the dog long enough to get to the animal hospital. Despite her dislike for Amuro’s owner Fujita, who kidnapped her as a child and is now stalking her, she allows Lupin’s blood to be used in a transfusion. Even though this doesn’t help get rid of him, and he keeps showing up throughout the volume, Suguri does gain some valuable information about Lupin’s grandfather, the dog that rescued her. It seems he may not be the only good samartian dog around. I found the introduction of this plot point to be very interesting. Who trained these dogs, and why do they help people and then disappear? It actually sounds intriguing.
The rest of the volume is spent showing some of the difficulties of being a pet owner. First, Chizuru has to wrestle with the decision to have Melon fixed. while this may seem like a no-brainer to veteran pet owners, seeing Chizuru agonize over the decision, and then see things turn out alright in the end, may help other new owners realize it’s okay to alter a pet. And then there’s Chizuru’s friend Serina. Her story realistically shows the problems of getting a puppy and the work it really is to take care of one. The parallels to having a child are obvious, with such things as having to clean up after them and dealing with their crying. Serina, and her husband show themselves to be irresponsible, and not taking the job seriously. Whether it’s a child or a pet, the same amount of responsibility is required, and these chapters show this very well.
I really enjoyed this volume, much more than the previous ones I’d read. The plot of Lupin’s heritage and the Good Samaritan rescue dogs is really intriguing. Suguri handles herself really well with Fujita as well, making it very clear that she doesn’t want to see him or have anything to do with him. But being the stalker that he is, he doesn’t listen. The chapters with Chizuru and her friend are excellent lessons in pet ownership, and would make good pamphlets on their own about caring for pet and thinking carefully about why and how committed you are to getting one. There are a few panels of fanservice, but they are as blatant as earlier volumes.
If Inubaka had been like this from the earlier volumes, it could have made a fan of me sooner. It’s still a series for dog lovers, but it’s also finally showing itself to have appeal for the non-dog persons like me.
Once again, this month’s Shonen Jump feels light as it’s only at 280 pages. Along with the four regulars, there is a preview of a new series, Genkaku Picasso by Usamaru Furuya. He has had a few previous series’ published in English, including Short Cuts from Viz, nearly had 51 Ways to Save Her from CMX and will have Lychee Light Club from Vertical next year. This series was published in Jump SQ, and will have the first three chapters previewed in Shonen Jump.
Genkaku Picasso starts off by introducing the main character Hikari Hamura, the Picasso of the title. He isn’t very sociable and has just one friend, Chiaki Yamamoto. They have their own club, the Riverside Club, where Hikari draws and Chiaki reads books on psychology. A helicopter crash ends the club early, leaving Chiaki dead and Hikari miraculously alive, but not without a price. Hikari learns this in a rather shocking way, in class of course, from a small, winged Chiaki. He has to help people otherwise his body will decay. It’s an intriguing start to the series. Only a few titles start with killing off their protagonists. I do want to read more to see where the “helping people” goes. I’m guessing it has something to do with his artistic ability.
Naruto shows the end of Danzo with a flash back to his youth with the Third Hokage. It doesn’t really make him a more sympathetic character with just this flashback. If that is what Kishimoto was going for, more was needed before his last dying moments. He doesn’t have the same flare of revealing backgrounds at crucial moments as does Eiichiro. Sakura arrives claiming to want to join Sasuke but it’s just a ruse that doesn’t work. Kakashi then arrives to take on Sasuke with Naruto racing on his way. So it’s setting up for another clash between Naruto and Sasuke, with a big battle in between with Kakashi, or Sasuke’s gonna escape before he and Naruto can really get into it. I wish they would just get it over with between Naruto and Sasuke. All the emo-ness going on between Naruto and Sakura is getting boring. Sasuke isn’t going to just change his mind, and even Naruto fighting him isn’t going to be enough. I get the feeling that this is going to be a at-the-brink-of-death change of heart. With the way things have gone, I just don’t see how Sasuke can become friends again with them and still live with what he’s done.
One Piece continues the fight to save Ace. Luffy faces off with Mihawk, one of the Warlords of the Sea, who starts his attack by slicing the massive iceberg in half. Whitebeard sends his men in to keep Luffy free to reach his brother. An army of Kumas then appear and attack and Sengoku makes his move to execute Ace early. In the midst of all this, Whitebeard is attacked by Squard, on of his own men, who fell for a Marine ruse. But that doesn’t stop him from joining the fray, and really showing off the power of the Quake-Quake fruit. These chapters end with the Admiral Akainu using his power to melt the ice that the pirates have been using to get to the plaze where Ace is being held. These chapters are more fighting, but they also show how the World Government continues to try to keep the truth from the people. The truth that in many ways they are no better than the pirates they claim to be protecting them from as they shut off the broadcast so the rest of the world can’t see them execute Ace earlier than they announced. The more I see of the World Government and the Marines, the more I want Luffy and other pirates take them down. What the World Government does and has done is infinitely worse than any of the pirates we’ve seen so far.
I’m still on the fence about Ultimo. This month’s chapter starts off with Yamato getting the usual stuff about time travel; arriving naked, limited time, no changing events, etc. Then he gets to the estate and actually meets Iruma, and finds out, he’s not such a bad guy after all. The lord of the estate is rather familiar as well. The arrival of Dunstan with Jealousy changes Iruma as he gives in to the envy in his heart. It will be interesting to see how Yamato reacts/deals with this and if he can resist getting involved.
Bleach has the newly transformed Nel with the number 3 emblazoned on her back taking on Number 5 Nnoitora. She intends to protect Ichigo, but she might not be up to current Espada standards. Renji and Uruyu are still fighting Szayel-Aporro, though Renji does bring the house down, so to speak. This causes Szayel to release this true power, voodoo dolls that allow him to crush his opponents innards. So, how are Ichigo, Renji and Uruyu going to get out of this? Or should I say who’s going to pull their butts from the fire this time? A miraculous recovery from Chad or Rukia? Or maybe someone else? Or even more cliché, Ichigo powers up again. Meh.
There were some changes to the features in the magazine as well. All of the anime at the front is now divided between DVD, TV and Streaming, and only features SJ titles. But at least it features all the SJ titles, including Hikaru no Go, Prince of Tennis and Buso Renkin. The other noticeable change is in the New SJ Manga and In the Next Issue… sections. Reduced to just a few titles and one page each, it does look kind of sad when the In the Next Issue especially used to span two pages. But that’s when there was more titles. Changes were promised in the December issue which is coming up fast. And NYCC/NYAF is only a few weeks away, so hopefully there will be more news on what those changes are, and especially hope they will be good. This mag needs an infusion of Fresh, and soon!
I picked up volume 5 of You’re So Cool without having any idea what I was getting into. Reading random review copies from publishers can be hit or miss, but for me, it”s part of the fun of reviewing. A series that doesn’t look interesting from the back blurb or cover can turn out to be a diamond in the rough. That’s what You’re So Cool turned out to be for me.
You’re So Cool is about the tumultuous relationship between the seemingly perfect Seung-Ha, and clumsy, clueless Nan-Woo. By volume 5, their relationship seems to be stabling out, but personal issues in Seung-Ha’s life staying weighing down on him. After getting sick from walking in the rain, and a night of feverish dreams, he decides to leave everyone behind, including Nan-Woo. The stubborn Nan-Woo can’t accept his leaving and goes searching for him, which includes camping out in front of his house, telling off his family, and finally finding him where she then proceeds to beat him up. The series ends happily for both Seung-Ha and Nan-Woo, and the sub-plot of relationship between Nan-Woo’s uncle Jay and Hyun-Ho.
I wasn’t sure what to think of this series at first. I didn’t have the background of the previous four volumes to explain who everyone was and what their relationships were, but by the end of volume 5, I was able to work it all out. The quirky collection of characters that make up this cast is what eventually won me over, in particular, Nan-Woo’s mother. She’s a tough, no-nonsense type a person who doesn’t mince her words. She’s also rather violent. She kicks down doors and emphasises her words with her fists, though always in comedic rather than serious kind of way. But for all her violent tendencies, she really does care for Nan-Woo, so it was nice to see the more caring and rational side of her after the violent outbursts.
Nan-Woo is definitely her mother’s daughter, as she has her own violent moments, but her sincerity and conviction is hard to resist. Seung-Ha plays the jerk well, but doesn’t come off as one in these last two volumes. His personal problems mitigate any dislike I might have had for him if I’d read from the beginning. Jay was a mystery until the last volume. I spent most of volume 5 trying to figure out if he was a guy or a girl,and didn’t get any kind of confirmation until volume 6. His more gentle personality balances well against his sister’s, but he did come off as rather emo.
These last two volumes deal with Seung-Ha having to make the choice of facing his problems, or running way from them. I think Lee did a good job of showing his emotional turmoil, and how he comes to the decision that he does. He doesn’t make any reversals of personality, and the makes the choice that seems to make the most sense to him. Of course, it takes Nan-Woo to show him the error of his ways, and finally find the forgiveness that has evaded him for so long.
Lee does a good job at drawing bishonen guys. Seung-Ha and Hyun-Ho are especially hot looking. And as I said with the aforementioned Jay, it was impossible to tell if he was male or female. But since his gender was supposed to be difficult to tell, Lee gets props for it. The one thing I had a problem with, and actually fixated on for about half of volume 5 was the size of the characters hands. They are HUGE compared to the rest of the character’s proportions. Seung-Ha’s hands were as big as Nan-Woo’s head! I honestly didn’t think I would be able to get over that, but I found myself drawn into the story so much that I stopped noticing them. It was only when I went looking for it that I saw the size difference. The character’s eyes are overly large too, and for people who may be a barrier to checking out this series. Don’t let it be. This story is worth looking past these artistic styles.
Overall, I found the ending of You’re So Cool it be a good and satisfying one, and I didn’t even start at the beginning. I’m glad I took the chance to read it and didn’t let the art keep me from getting to the end. It proved to be an enjoyable read, with characters that are fun and funny at the same time. If you get a chance, and you like romances with quirky and some times violent characters, then definitely give this title a try.
Japan is approaching a tipping point, with increasing pressure from the West to open its borders. The Shinsengumi are being trained to use firearms, but Ikita refuses, insisting on the way of the sword. he represents many in the group who cling to old samurai values. But it is clear that the times are changing and the Shinsengumi embodies the “old guard.” Will they survive the coming upheavals?
The tone for this volume is set at the beginning, with one of the soldiers being sentenced to death for having an ilicit affair that was discovered. From then on, it’s one character after another dealing with some relationship, or potential for one; Ito and Hijikata, Ito and Nakamura, Soji and Kohana, Kondo and Miyuki-Dayu, and the ever-present Soji and Sei, all dealing with some problem. Some aren’t too serious, such as Ito’s and Captain Kondo’s. Ito has a wandering eye, and seems more interested in using his wiles to further his plots, while Captain Kondo suffers from “love at first sight”, falling for women he doesn’t even know and often behing taken advantage of by them.
Soji’s relationship with Kohana comes to a head, and he doesn’t even realize there was one. Kohana had fallen in love with Soji, but he didn’t notice. He can’t. If he were to notice Kohana’s feelings, then he would have to acknoweldge Sei’s feelings, and that can’t happen yet. Soji’s cluelessness about women’s feelings is very frustrating, and not just to the characters. After 18 volumes I would imagine many readers getting frustrating at the lack of movement between Soji and Sei. I know it’s become tiresome for me. Though, perhaps this resolution could be removing a block that could get them closer together.
What I enjoyed about this volume was the historical and cultural references that are explored. Bushido is always talked about in reference to samurai, but this volume explified it in several scenes. First is opening chapter with the soldier being forced by honor to kill himself. Captain Kondo makes the decision to leave Osaka, letting the Shinsengumi take the blame for any disgrace that might be placed on the Aizu Clan, their sponsors. And Okita’s decision not to participate in rifle training, because it doesn’t allow him to look in the eyes of the person he is about to kill. The concepts of Bushido really hit home when you see the characters showing how it affects their own actions, even if it isn’t the wisest decision.
Historically, there is a tease about Nakamura Goda, who in this volume is played to just be another soldier infatuated with Sei. It was fun to see the Japanese people’s reactions to coming of the Black Ships, and the possiblity of being invaded. The rumors that spread about the European/Americans, such as they have demons on the decks of their ships, that they eat the heads of young girls, are perfect examples of the anxiety the people were feeling. And of course, among the Shinsengumi soldiers, the rumors of “size” were what mattered most.
Kaze Hikaru is a well written story, with some great historical references and cultural insight to the time before the end othe Bakufu, but the romance side is so frustrating. You would have to have a lot of patience to put up with Soji’s cluelessness. But with a large ensemble cast, it’s easy to keep moving the focus. And with intrigue moving into the Shinsengumi ranks, the posibility of drama not related to romance gets greater.