Tag Archives: OEL

Orange Junk Volume 2

The awkward feelings between Louise and Bruce are growing, though it seems like Louise will never realize what’s going on in Bruce’s head. But when Bruce’s family runs into even more financial trouble and he needs money fast, a modeling competition may be the best–and most embarrassing–way to solve all his problems at once.

Orange Junk Volume 2
orangejunk_vol2_ebookcover_finalBy Heldrad
Publisher: Chromatic Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $6.00/eBook – Free at Sparkler Monthly
Rating: ★★★★½

The second volume of Orange Junk starts a new arc that takes the characters out of school and into a modeling competition. The change of venue brings in new characters, including a rival for Louise’s affections, and plenty of new opportunities for comedy and drama.

I really enjoyed this second volume, possibly more than the first. While the series does use the shojo tropes well, all the time spent at school was starting to drag. This volume changes that as the characters move into new environments. Bruce’s mother has to be hospitalized, and as the bread-winner with no insurance, it’s up to him to try to find a way to cover everything. Enter the male modeling competition with a cash prize for 1st place. While Bruce is away, Drew and Louise spend more time at Bruce’s helping out with his siblings and being all domestic. Drew is really cute with the kerchief on his head, baby on his back and broom in his hand. While Louise isn’t much help domestically, it is a chance to get out of her house and away from the drama brewing there. While we don’t see it as much in this volume, there are subtle hints that things may be getting worse instead of better.

The modeling competition is really where all the fun and excitement is. Bruce’s change from tough guy to chic is amazing, though I do like his “hedgehog” hair better. It’s cute seeing how uncomfortable and vulnerable he was answering the personal questions, going through the makeover, and walking the runway in a speedo. A couple of new characters are also introduced. Ryan is one of modeling competitors, who Louise calls Flower Boy. He looks much younger than his stated 21 years, and isn’t really interesting in winning the competition. He becomes friends with Bruce. Miles Reagan, who Bruce’s sister Jenny calls “Refined Boy,” is the son of the man who cause Louise’s family to go bankrupt. He has feelings for Louise and thinks he can turn her around and get her to reciprocate them. The scene where he first talks to Louise with Ryan and Bruce is really funny and shows everyone’s level of comprehension of the situation. It was great.

Miles’ declaration to win Louise back is going to be a problem for Bruce and Louise as the pair have been slowly realizing their feeling for each other. Both spend a lot of time blushing as Bruce dreams of Louise, and through the competition, Louise sees a lot of more of Bruce’s body. It’s hard to imagine Miles having any kind of chance getting between them, but some things he says to Louise implies more was going on than she knows between their families. But he comes off so smarmy that I really don’t want to see him either win the competition or even Louise’s friendship.

This second volume of Orange Junk was very addicting, making it hard for to pull away. The competition should really start heating up now that Bruce has decided to get serious, and the stakes were raised by Miles. I love that it’s the guy that gets to be the model and objectified instead of the girl. This twist is part of what really made this volume fun for me. I’m really looking forward to seeing where the story goes in the next volume, and am really glad Sparkler added it to the magazine, so I can get in monthly chunks.

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Orange Junk Volume 1

When Louise’s wealthy family loses everything, she has to pull herself up by her bootstraps and start over in a new high school – where the smartest boy is the meanest, and the hottest boy is the weirdest. But Louise needs tutoring, so the three become a team…and it’s heaven, hell, and everything in-between.

Orange Junk Volume 1
orangejunk_vol1_ebookcoverBy Heldrad
Publisher: Chromatic Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $6.00/eBook – Free to read at Sparkler Monthly
Rating: ★★★★☆

In general, I don’t care for the riches-to-rags stories. I don’t find financial hardship to be funny no matter who is writing it, so I had my doubts about Orange Junk when it was announced as a new addition to Sparkler Monthly. But I have a terrible case of curiosity and decided to check the series out on my lunch break at work. I ended up reading all 7 available chapters over lunch and break. Orange Junk spins an engrossing story filled with appealing characters and a story that balances the humor and drama just right.

The protagonist of Orange Junk is Louise Barton. Her family used to be wealthy, but her father’s company went bankrupt and they lost everything. They move into a regular neighborhood where Louise has to go to the local public high school. It’s like a whole new world for her, but she does adjust and makes friends. Bruce Daniels starts out as Louise’s nemesis. He is quick to anger and is always getting into fights. He also hates rich people, so sees nothing good in her. Andrew Grey is the third member of the trio. He is a new student like Louise. He lost his parents and now lives with his Grandmother who spends a lot of time traveling. He is good-looking and a bit clumsy. The trio become friends when Bruce is forced to tutor Louise in math to keep their teacher Jack from telling his mother about his fighting and Drew lets the use his house when rumors start to fly at school.

I really like all three of these characters. I wasn’t sure I would like Bruce at first. He was so quick to judge and jump to conclusions about Louise. He is hyper-sensitive about his family’s financial situation, while Louise isn’t. She seems to have accepted the change in her lifestyle, though she does hold a bit of a grudge against her father’s partner who was responsible for the family’s downfall. For most of the first volume they spend a lot of time bickering. I loved that Louise called Bruce and hedgehog, and imagined him as a pineapple when his mother described him as tough on the outside but sweet on the inside. They do finally come to an understanding, mostly with the help of Drew. He starts to hang out with Louise and Bruce during their tutoring, and the reason why is not one you would expect. I thought is was a good twist.

The humor is strong emphasized in this first volume, but dramatic elements still get dropped in. The trios’ back story is revealed as well as glimpses into their family lives are shown. Bruce is tricked into revealing his when Louise opens up to him first. All three have very different homes to go to. Bruce’s is lively and happy. Louise’s is still filled with anger and resentment. You can’t see the bonds in Louise’s that you can in Bruce’s. Drew’s family quickly becomes Bruce and Louise since he is essentially alone, but he always has an upbeat attitude and smile.

The art of Orange Junk is charming. It has a shojo feel to it, while having a life of its own. Both Bruce and Drew are good-looking in their own way. Louise is comely, though I like her better with her hair down. I also really like Bruce’s hedgehog spikes. The characters also have their own fashion styles, and I enjoyed seeing them in different outfits.

Orange Junk is a fun series that delighted me, all the more since I wasn’t expecting it to. It has a lot of shojo manga tropes, but handles them in a way that they don’t feel old or tired. I was riveted as I torn through the pages, the story and characters growing on my with every chapter. If you are a fan of shojo manga or just good stories, check this series out.

Become a member and get Sparkler Monthly every month with a $5 monthly subscription, pay for a year at $50 and save $10, or become a VIP for $125 and get back downloads of serialized titles as well as Cherry Bomb adult stories.

Dracula Everlasting Volume 2: Manga Movable Feast

Nicholas Harker discovered he is heir to the legacy of an ancestor he never knew he had: Dracula. Under his progenitor’s evil influence, Nicholas has begun, with a vast fortune at his disposal, to rebuild Castle Dracula in the outskirts of Boston, leaving behind a wake of corpses. While the love of Jill Hawthorne seems to be the only thing that weakens Dracula’s hold over Nicholas, Mason Renfield realizes he must remove her from the picture, in order to usher in the full reemergence of his dark lord. But Jill’s new friend, the fiery wiccan Cate, has plans of her own—to destroy Nicholas and avenge her mother’s death.

Story by Nunzio De Filippis & Christina Weir; Art by Rhea Silvan
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

After reading volume 1 of Dracula Everlasting, I had some doubts about the series. I was under the impression that Nick was to be the protagonist, but this volume proves that isn’t the case. Cate and to some extent Jill are the ones to really move the story. While I do like good, strong female characters, as Cate and Jill are portrayed, I imagined a different story in my head. It’s not that this story is bad. It’s just not what I expected.

Cate, who was introduced half way through volume one, takes the initiative in this volume. She does the research and the footwork to put together an arsenal of holy water, silver bullets and stakes to use against Dracula. She also finds the Van Helsing who will be needed to defeat the vampire. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise who is it. Sadly she discovers this too late for Detective McAllister, who was her initial candidate. His spirit is still around, whether because of magic or his unsolved murder is unknown, but I do hope he comes in handy later. It’s too bad he’s gone. He and Cate make a cute couple.

The one person who isn’t much help is Jill. She knows something is up with Nick, but doesn’t do anything about it. She lets him kiss her, and then lets him push her away. Nick is stupid to use Jill as he does with just getting a touch from her and then bailing, but Jill should have been more assertive with him. He’s obviously easily dominated. When Cate mentions her mother was killed by Dracula/Nick, Jill asks which victim she was without batting an eye. I’m glad Cate calls her on it, but she doesn’t have a good response. I thought she was smart, but she falls too easily for Mason’s advances. Again, it’s Cate who has to verbally smack her to get her to wake up. I get that she doesn’t believe Cate about her connection to the whole Dracula thing, but I really didn’t like that it took killing her mother for her to finally accept it.

The middle volume in a three-volume series is usually the weakest, as it has to either keep the status quo, or be the dark before the dawn. This volume is the latter, but I enjoyed this one more than the first. Now that I realize that Nick is not the main character, but that the girls Jill and Cate are, the story makes more sense. It’s nice to have a “Prince in distress” for a change. Though, I think the story I originally thought this would be, the internal struggle between Nick and Dracula, would still be interesting, if Nick had the will power. Another plus was that there were only a few scenes with the Renfields, which also included a possible foreshadowing of some just desserts for Mason.

I did like this second volume of Dracula Everlasting, but Cate was its saving grace. Without her, this would have been very dull with Jill doing nothing and Nick being the Prince of Darkness, asking why it’s so important to dispose of a body, and shaking an old man fist at the cell phone. The lack of vampire action was a little disappointing too. There was only one on-screen kill, and the battle at the end. I’m gonna stick around to see the end of this series. I want to see the girls take out Dracula and find out if they can save the (cute) boy.

Digital review copy provided by publisher.

Manga Wrap-Up Week Three: Bizenghast

Three weeks into the new year and I’ve wrapped up my second series. Bizenghast is an eight volume series that was among Tokyopop’s first original titles, and was also the longest. I first discovered it when Tokyopop ran the first few chapters online. It’s a fantasy mystery series about a young girl, Dinah, who lost her parent when she was young. With her only friend Vincent, she discovers the Mausoleum, and accidentally enters into a contract with it, and must solve riddles to free trapped spirits. It’s a coming of age story for Dinah as she learns to live again and starts to become someone who can rely on herself. Both the story and the art are uneven, especially at the beginning, but improve as the story goes on. The improvement in the art is very telling, especially in the last volumes.

I enjoyed watching Dinah’s journey overall, but did have some problems with it. It felt rushed at times and dragged at others. I would have liked to have seem more about Bizenghast’s past more in the first volumes, so that it doesn’t seem like a thrown on after thought at the end. I also didn’t really care for the way Vincent’s fate was handled. It was too abrupt and passed over too quickly to really make an impact. Despite these problems, the characters really make this series shine. The first guardian Dinah gains is Edaniel, and some of his lines and antics can make a volume worth the read. He is usually seen as a demon cat, but in human form is a total bishie. I prefer his cat form. He makes a lot of pop culture references, but it was the Mythbusters one that not only caught me off guard, but totally sold me on him.

I was going to donate this series to my library. It seems perfect for teens and I think they would really enjoy the series, until I got to the end of volume 7. It wasn’t the end of the series like I thought. It ends on a big cliffhanger, and while there is a post on LeGrow’s blog about being in talks with Tokyopop about getting volume 8 out (it was scheduled for release in July 2011), that post was from September with no updates. So my question to all you readers is, do I donate this series knowing it may never end and leave all its new readers hanging? Is that really fair?

  • Bizenghast Volumes 1-7

This week I also read the first volume of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. In a previous post I had said I couldn’t bring myself to take the chance of buying it and then find out I didn’t like it. I had seen plenty of reviews and opinions, and people seemed split about it. But, thanks to Ash Brown of Experiments in Manga, I won a copy of volume 1! I have to admit that I did like the first volume, but only because I listened to Erica Friedman on the Manga Outloud podcast about it. She explained that the series was based on Tokusatsu shows like the Super Sentai series. When I read it with that in mind, I could not only totally see the Super Sentai influence, I could also see past a lot of the problems people had with the volume. I’ll go into that more in my full review. I may look into further volumes.

  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Volume 1

In the next week I will be starting on Black Cat, a shonen series from Viz. I got to volume 14, though I may have to go back a volume or two since I haven’t read a volume since 2007 or 2008. I’m going to be interspersing some newer manga in this week as well, so I can keep up on reviews too. Maybe some Black Jack or Zombie Loan.


Tech Friday: Beating the Competition

This week Digital Manga Publishing announced that their manga, starting with Vampire Hunter D, would be available on the digital comics site, Comixology. At first this sounded like good news, until I saw the pricing. Each volume on Comixology will cost $9.99.  This is only about $3, or 23%, off the print pricing. That didn’t seem like a very good deal to me, so I went looking around at other sites DMP has put VHD up on and checked the pricing.

Continue reading Tech Friday: Beating the Competition

Other Casualties

With Tokyopop’s closing, a lot of attention has been paid to the loss of the Japanese licenses. Of course, this is what most manga fans are concerned with. The loss of such an extensive line, for what will probably be forever really hurts. But Tokyopop had another line of books that were actually doing quite well, that as a parent, I am acutely aware of losing; the HarperCollins YA adaptations.

Continue reading Other Casualties

The Dark Hunters Volume 2

Kyrian is an immortal Dark-Hunter who just lost his Dark-Hunter powers and along with it, his immortality. Now he is faced with the chance to regain not only his humanity, but his very soul. The problem is that it couldn’t have happened at a worse time. Desiderius is closing in, and if Kyrian and Amanda are going to save humanity, Kyrian must take the war to his enemy–or it may be too late.

Continue reading The Dark Hunters Volume 2

Review: Nightschool: The Weirn Books Volume 1

Schools may lock up the the night, but class is in session for an entirely different set of students.  In the Nightschool, vampires, werewolves, and weirns (a particular breed of witches) learn the fundamentals of everything from calculus to spell casting.  Alex is a young weirn whose education has always been handled through homeschooling, but circumstances seem to be drawing her closer to the Nightschool.  Will Alex manage to weather the dark forces gathering?

Nightschool 1Nightschool: The Weirn Books Volume 1
By Svetlana Chmakova
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★★

[May Contain Spoilers]

Mystery, magic, and a little mayhem have always made for a good combination in a story.  Nightschool: The Weirn Books provides all of these elements in a way to make an intriguing world and a great cast of characters to live in it.

The world of Nightschool is one divided between the normal, human world of the day, and the magical, supernatural-filled world of the night.  As is usual for this type of world, the daytime world is unaware of the nighttime world, while the reverse is the opposite.  The Nighttime world is filled with the usual suspects as well.  Vampires, witches, demons and seers all roam the world of this first volume.  But there are some new creatures of the night as well.  Rippers are vampires that have become nothing but shells of their former selves and crave blood for the touch of life it gives.  And of course weirns, a witch with a different kind of familiar.  It’s the latter of these that is the focus of the story.

Alex Treveny is a weirn.  She lives with her older sister Sarah, who works as the Night Keeper at the Nightschool.  Alex, however, is home schooled, for reasons that are left unclear.  She works on her assignments while Sarah is at work with her Astral, a black and white smokey-like creature.  The Astral has no name, and acts like an extension of Alex, but is still an independent character.  She can be like a conscious to Alex, but also easily bribed.  The two work together to accomplish things such as getting Alex over a tall fence, and the Astral seems to be aware of things about Alex that even she herself isn’t.

Because there is something strange about Alex.  A hooded figure seems to be shadowing her.  This is just one of the mysteries this first volume presents.  Along with the shadowy figure come powers that Alex isn’t aware she possesses, and a prophecy of her and others like her bringing down disaster on the world.  There’s also the not just disappearance, but erasure, of her sister, seemingly from existence.  All traces of Sarah disappear both physically as well as from people’s minds, until it’s only Alex that has any memory of her.  Could these two events be tied together?

Part of the strength of Nightschool‘s story is the characters.  Alex is a strong female lead.  She is serious and determined, though for some reason there are attempts to make her seem tough, which I don’t really see as necessary.  Alex stands just fine on her own strengths.  We don’t need other characters tell us that she’s tough on the outside, but really a softie on the inside.  Sarah, Alex’s sister is more of a ditz, but obviously really cares for her.  She adds some humor in this first volume, with her inability to get up, running an anime/manga club at the school, and her encounter with Mr. Roi, one of the teachers.  Hunters, which the Night folk seem to fear, are humans that patrol the night and protect other humans from the Night.  A group of them are introduced as well as a seer, and they become connected to Alex and prophecy in more ways than one.

Nightschool: The Weirn Books is a shining example of what OEL can and should become.  It has a well written story that hooks the reader in right from the beginning and builds on it creating a strong foundation for the series.  The mix of silly and serious moments balance each other out to make an entertaining drama that doesn’t drag or feel overdone.  Svetlana’s art is that perfect style of feeling like manga but definitely being of her own design.  I especially enjoy the look of the Astrals.  They look so completely non-human, and yet are still very expressive. Definitely check this series out.  It’s a keeper.

This Week in Manga 12/12-12/18/09

The End of Time in Japan

Haruka ~Beyond the Stream of Time~ manga series will end serialization with the January issue of LaLa DXHaruka, which was licensed by Viz and was serialized in Shojo Beat until the magazine’s cancellation, is a reverse harem manga and based on a playstation game.  The series, which started in 2000 will end at 16 volumes.  Here in the US, Viz has released the first 6 so far.  Haruka was a series I enjoyed in Shojo Beat, but found the collected volumes to be less interesting.  It remains to be seen if the series can continue without the support of Shojo Beat.  I think it will be on a long release schedule.  It’s not a bad title, but it’s not a great one either.

Continue reading This Week in Manga 12/12-12/18/09

Review: Yokaiden Volume 1

Yokai…Japanese spirits.  Most people fear them, and a few people even hunt them, thinking they are horrible monsters to be destroyed at all costs.  But young Hamachi wants to be friends with them!  He sees them as mischievous creatures that could co-exist peacefully with humans if only given a chance.  When his grandmother dies under mysterious circumstances, Hamachi journeys into the Yokai realm.  Along the way, he encounters an ogre who punishes truant children, and angry water spirit, and a talking lantern.  Will Hamachi be able to find his grandmother’s killer, or will he be lost forever in another world?

Yokaiden Volume 1
By Nina Matsumoto
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: 13+
Genre: Supernatural/Humor
Price: $10.95
Rating: ★★★½☆

The plot of Yokaiden sounds very generic.  Orphaned hero goes off to another realm filled with monsters to avenge his grandmother’s death.  But Yokaiden turns out to be much more than it’s basic plot.  It’s a showcase for many of the strange and sometimes playful, sometimes dangerous creatures that make up Japanese folklore.  The interplay with these beings often overshadows the plot, and its clueless main character.

Hamachi is your typical happy, often oblivious protagonist.  Despite losing his parents at  young age, and being cared for by his harsh grandmother, he’s a good-natured and obedient boy.  He has a bit of a temper, but his anger is very short lived.  He gets angry at a Ronin Samurai who comes to the village to offer his services as a yokai killer, but just as quickly asks for forgiveness.  And I guess it could be determination to find his grandmother’s killer that he doesn’t really grieve for her death, other than a single outburst.  He really doesn’t have much of a personality outside of his yokai obsession.  I didn’t find him interesting at all, especially when compared to all the yokai he encounters.

It’s in his search to find the kappa he thinks could have killed his grandmother and the yokai realm that we get to see the wide range of yokai.  It’s these encounters that make up the high points of this volume.  Right after finding his grandmother dead, Hamachi runs in a Grime Licker and a Bean Washer.  Upon entering the forest where the entrance to the yokai realm is believed to be, he encounters all kinds of smaller yokai, such as the Shin-Rubber which trips people, and the Namahage, an ogre that skins the feet of delinquent children.  Inside, Hamachi first befriends a Tsukumo Gami, in the form of a paper lantern, is chased by a Chimera and meets another Tsukumo Gami, this time, a one-legged, one-eyed paper umbrella that has just come to life, and was once the property of Hamachi’s grandfather.  All of these encounters, and the short facts about them at the end of each chapter are what kept me interested in this volume.  Hamachi’s quest was just the vehicle to meeting all these interesting creatures.

Yokaiden isn’t a serious title.  There are touches of humor all through the volume, usually from Hamachi and his interactions with yokai. The kappa that he rescues at the beginning has some great sarcastic barbs that seem to go right over Hamachi’s head.  Many of the yokai he meets and tries to be friends with think he’s weird.  Little jokes are thrown in all over, such as Hamachi talking back to the narrator, or King Enma rising up with a portal to hell when Hamachi is looking for the portal to the yokai realm.  The villagers have their laughs too, such as the gossiping women who sound sympathetic to Hamachi’s hardships, but really don’t care, or the discussion the villagers get into about what kind of irony it is that Hamachi’s grandmother was killed by a yokai.

I liked Nina Matsumoto’s art.  It uses all the best elements from manga without going overboard.  There aren’t any chibis or sweat drops, but there are some starry looks, which aren’t so bad.  And the yokai all look great.  With so much variety, Matsumoto does a great job making them look different, not just from each other, but also from what we as westerners expect monsters to look like.

Overall, Yokaiden was a good time killer.  I loved seeing and reading about all the yokai, but the overall story of Hamachi and his quest to avenge his grandmother, not so much.  I didn’t really like the grandmother, and didn’t feel bad when she had died.  If you like yokai and enjoy a chuckle or two, then Yokaiden is worth the time.  If you’re looking for more than a light read, then this title isn’t for you.