Tag Archives: older teen

Case Closed Volume 43-44, 46-47

Super Sleuth Jimmy Kudo, who was physically transformed into a first-grader, continues to solve crimes as Conan Edogawa while living with family friend Richard Moore and his daughter Rachel. In these four volumes, Jimmy must solve cases such as a missing cell phone, a bomber at the Koshien baseball finals, the murderer of the head of a toy company, and stop the Kaito Kid from stealing the legendary gem The Blue Wonder, all while trying to find the men who changed him, and keep Rachel from finding out Conan and Jimmy are the same person.

Case Closed Volume 4344, 4647
Case Closed 43By Gosho Aoyama
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Mystery
Price: $9.99

It’s been a while since I read a volume of Case Closed. I had the first twelve volumes, but sold them awhile ago, and apparently never reviewed them. Bad me. Since it’s been so long since I’ve read any volumes, I forgot how much I enjoy  reading a good mystery manga. These four volumes have the added bonus of touching on Jimmy’s ongoing search to find the “Men in Black” who changed him, Rachel’s suspicions about Conan and Jimmy being the same person, and a good old-fashioned treasure hunt.

Case Closed 44Case Closed, or Detective Conan as it’s known in Japan, is very much a formulaic series. Every volume has 2-3 cases, most of which carry over to the next volume. They are all several chapters long, and deal with some sort of mysteries, many of which involve a murder. But, I am perfectly fine with this. It’s not the formula that’s important, but seeing the characters in action and the mysteries they must solve.

Case Closed has an extensive cast. After going for 20 years, it’s hard not to have expanded it, but Aoyama does a good job of balancing who gets featured where. Hattori and Kahuza pop in for a couple of cases, police detective love birds Sato and Takagi as well as Inspector Meguire work on some cases, Serena gets to help out in a case versus Kaito Kid, and of course, the Detective Boys and Rachel and Richard are all one hand to help Conan solve the cases, in one capacity or the other.

Case Closed 46 I enjoyed all the cases in these volumes, I really enjoyed the ones where Conan could take the credit for himself. Thwarting Kaito Kid, the Koshien bomber, and solving the toy company president’s and magician’s murder were all his own, even if he had to share some of that with Hattori. My favorite case was the treasure hunt for Kichiemon’s treasure, a diamond. It involved finding clues that related to the past or historical references, my favorite kind of treasure hunts.

Case Closed is all about the mysteries. Conan has personal issues to deal with, that are related in a way, but are also at the heart of the series. He doesn’t want to go through growing up again. He needs to find the “Men in Black” who gave him the poison that shrunk him down to a first grader. He’s made some headway in previous volumes, but in this one, he finally  figures out a clue; the email of the boss of the gang. I liked that he was cautious with it, debating whether or not to send to it and see what the response would be.

Case Closed 47But while the gang may be dangerous, Conan has more to fear closer to home. This whole time, he has been fooling Rachel that he and Jimmy were two different people. But Rachel isn’t stupid, and one careless clue too many puts her on Conan trail. The looks of fear he gets when he realizes Rachel may be one to him were just priceless. The relationship between Jimmy and Rachael is a central one to the series, so I really wonder how it will be resolved, assuming the series ever ends, that is. I do want Jimmy to regain his body. The stories when he does are my favorites, but he’s got a lot to answer for with Rachel when he finally does.

Case Closed is a great murder mystery series, that any lover of cozy mysteries, or mysteries in general would love. The title is rated Older Teen, but I think tweens could easily handle it. The murders aren’t gory, and far from the only types of mysteries Conan and company must solve. For good old fashion mystery lovers like me, this is the only option we have in manga, which is a great shame. But I’m glad we have it.

Manga Dogs Volume 1

Kanna Tezuka is a serious 15-year-old manga artist, already being published as a pro. So when she finds out her high school is starting a manga drawing course, even she gets excited. But it’s a fiasco! The teacher is useless, and the only other students-three pretty-boy artist wannabes-quickly adopt Kanna as their (unwilling) sensei. But they all have ridiculous delusions about being an artist, and if Kanna can’t bring them back down to Earth, she’ll never get any work done!

Manga Dogs Volume 1
Manga Dogs 1By Ema Toyama
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Comedy
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Manga Dogs is a manga about being a mangaka, somewhat in the vein of Bakuman. But where Bakuman is a serious take about what it takes to be a successful mangaka, Manga Dogs takes a more satirical route, poking fun at the fans and wanna be creators. It’s only problem is that it’s just not that funny.

The story revolves around Kanna Tezuka, a mangaka who has already debuted in a shojo magazine, but her title just isn’t popular. When her high school starts a manga track, she thinks it’s a way to be able to draw manga at school. Three pretty boys going the class, and latch onto Kanna, calling her sensei, but they are all talk. They think they can become successful without doing any of the work, causing Kanna all kinds of stress.

While this might sound like a funny premise, in practice it fails. The three guys, Fumio Akatsuka, Fujio Fuji and Shota Ishinomori, are lifeless and stale. They are meant to poke fun at readers who think being a mangaka is easy, and have all kinds of delusions of being successful without doing any work. They talk about what they would do with prize money from a contest with no thought of creating anything, and give up immediately when faced with real work. They are the worse kind of fans, and annoyed me to no end.

What was worse was that Kanna was just as uninteresting as the boys. She is the protagonist, but she does nothing but react with shock to the things the boys say and do, and lets her editor, who seems to be just as bad as the boys, push her around. She has no personality and barely speaks to anyone. Almost all of her dialog is internal. Her lack of interaction with anything or anyone gets tedious very quickly.

Manga Dogs wasn’t all bad. I liked the use of manga history, with the characters last names being well known mangaka, and the name of the school is the same as the apartment building where Osamu Tezuka and several other famous mangaka lived and worked for many years. I also liked most of the chapter where Kanna is taking pictures of her school for research. It the only time where she has an expression other than blank or shocked.

I wanted to like Manga Dogs. I was really hoping for a title that would make me laugh and would have some clever satire about the manga industry. Instead it is filled with boring characters and situations that are anything but funny. The satire wasn’t so much funny as sad since a lot of it was so true. Maybe it will get better, but there are a lot better titles out there to put your money on.

xxxHolic Rei Volume 1

Yuko, Watanuki, Domeki and Himawari are back! xxxHolic Rei represents a “return” to the otherworldly setting of Yuko’s shop, where wishes are granted., but always for a price. The visitors are as strange as ever–two best friends whose cell phone trinkets share eerie similarities, a disembodied voice that is impossible to resist–but even by Yuko’s sordid standards, something is truly odd…Return to the elegant world of CLAMP’s metaphysical masterpiece.

xxxholic rei 1xxxHolic Rei Volume 1
By CLAMP
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Supernatural
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★½☆☆

xxxHolic returns after a 19 volume run to continue the adventures of Yuko, Watanuki, Domeki and Himawari as they grant wishes at Yuko’s wish-granting shop. While this is a return for the characters, only returning readers will really have an idea of what is going on.

xxxHolic Rei starts out as if it were another chapter of the xxxHolic series before it ended. Watanuki is the cook and housekeeper for Yuko, the shop owner with strange mystical powers that draw people to the shop “because they need to.” Domeki is Watanuki’s classmate who also works at a shrine, and drops by for Yuko’s help. While the opening scene shows that there is an established relationship between these three people, how or why is never explained to the reader. The assumption is made that someone picking up this volume will already have read the first series, and knows all about these people, how they are related and why they all work together. As someone who only read the first volume of the first series, this felt very alienating. There was a lot I could guess as a reader, but it diminished by potential enjoyment of the series to have work out all these things as I read it. A first volume of a series, continuation, sequel or whatever should have enough of an introduction that new readers don’t feel left out. This volume failed in this respect.

There are two stories in this volume. The first is about two “best friends”, who are drawn to the shop for some reason. As the story progresses, one of the girls keeps getting her, and her injuries are mirrored on cell phone charms both girls share. This story was okay. It showed how ugly women can be toward each other when they feel betrayed, and what lengths they will go to for some sort of retribution. The second story involves Watanuki being used by Yuko to lure a spirit to her shop where she can destroy it. This story was close to what I would can an arc story. It implies there is something about Watanuki and a choice he will have to make. I didn’t care for this story as it left more feeling confused and lost more than anything else. With there being so much I don’t know already about the series, is this a new mystery that will be played out, or is it connected to the previous series and I am just missing something? Neither story really engaged me.

The characters didn’t engage me either. Watanuki comes off as a jerk, especially to Domeki, who doesn’t seem to do much of anything to incur his wrath. Even his compliments are met with hostility. Domeki seems unemotional and apathetic, and Yuko–she’s all over the place. Mostly she’s mysterious in that frustratingly annoying way.

The are is very CLAMP. Lots of tall and lanky characters. Yuko’s kimonos are elaborate and beautiful. Just looking at the cover design with the play between Watanuki’s and Yuko’s is amazing. The styles continue in the volume along with some elaborate hair styles. CLAMP continues to do incredible art work.

xxxHolic Rei is a series that is made just for fans of the previous series. There is nothing here to help ease a new reader in, or make the characters appealing to those who don’t know how they got to this pint in the series. I don’t mind a story that starts in middle, there should be something for the new reader to latch onto as an anchor. This volume doesn’t do that. A first volume to pull the reader in, not push them away. Fans of CLAMP will by this series regardless. New readers should exercise some caution.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? Volume 4-5

Shiro turns down an offer to become a celebrity and Kenji’s culinary adventures are reprised. Accomplished home chef though he may be, Shiro proceeds on the assumption that no two of his curries will ever taste the same in a manga about a gay couple for mature–in the true sense–readers.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? Volume 4-5
What did you eat yesterday 4By Fumi Yoshinaga
Publisher: Vertical Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Cooking/Slice of Life
Price: $12.95
Rating: ★★★★½

What Did You Eat Yesterday? continues to follow the lives and menus of two gay men, Shiro and Kenji. These volumes expand more on their personal lives served up with a staggering menu of dishes such as bean rice, horse mackerel tataki, hamburgers in mushroom sauce and caramel-simmered apples on toast.

Shiro, the cook and penny-pincher of the pair gets pulled into personal problems with his co-workers and friends with the temptation of free food. It seems like a good deal at the start, but there is always a catch, and seeing Shiro’s reaction, usually internal is always funny. But even though he has to listen to his boss complain about her daughter-in-law, or his female friend Kayoko’s husband butt into their daughter’s life. Shiro also gets a nemesis; a checker at his favorite grocery store who always finds a way to own him, but helps him at the same time. I loved that he got one that was so dead-panned and oblivious to Shiro’s dismay.

What Did You Eat Yesterday v5These volumes also brought in more gay couples for Shiro and Kenji to interact with. Tetsu and Yoshi are a couple who don’t live together but have been together for a long time. Yoshi is the owner of several restaurants, so Shiro is put on the spot when he has to cook for them. Through Kayoko, they also meet Daisaku and Wataru, a couple more like them. It was really interesting watching the interactions between the couples. Shiro, who one would think would be more comfortable with other homosexual couples, was just as uptight, and afraid of being out. Going to a jewelry store to get matching rings for them nearly kills Shiro from the stress. But knowing when someone is gay can be useful as it helps Shiro get out of a difficult situation where he was being pressured to appear on TV.

Dealing with family doesn’t improve much though. A glimpse of Kenji’s home life growing up is given as the tells Shiro about his mostly absent father. But Shiro going home for New Years was the best. It was like a ticking time bomb as Shiro and his mother got on too well before it exploded into usual shouting match about Shiro not being proud of his gayness. It was great, with every page turn, just wondering when Shiro’s mother would finally say something. It was so funny when it finally came out.

The food making was in full swing through these volumes, sometimes even playing a part in the story. Shiro really stressed out over what to make for the dinner party with Yoshi and Tetsu. When Shiro and Kenji have a fight, it’s Kenji who gets Shiro to relax again by asking for a specific meal for dinner. And when he has a particularly difficult day at work, he takes it out on dinner, with lots of chopping and a few servings too many being made. While I can still do without the long-winded food commentary, I did enjoy it being pulled into the story more and not feeling so tacked on.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? remains a fun slice of life. Shiro and Kenji continue to deal with problems anyone of any orientation can relate to, while also sharing more insights into gay relationships. This series is relaxing and a real pleasure to read.

Noragami Stray God Volume 1

Yato is a homeless god. He doesn’t even have a shrine, not to mention worshippers! So to achieve his ambitious goals, he’s set up a service to help those in need (for a small fee), hoping he’ll eventually raise enough money to build himself the lavish temple of his dreams. Or course, he can’t afford to be picky, so Yato accepts all kinds of jobs, from finding lost kittens to helping a student overcome bullies at school.

Noragami Stray God Volume 1
Noragami 1By Adachitoka
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

Noragami is about Yato, a god who is at the bottom of the bottom of the deity hierarchy. He has dreams of gaining thousands of followers and building lavish shrine where he will be worshipped. In order to do this, he needs to be known and collect offerings. To this end, he puts up his number all around town, advertising his services, and only those who truly need it will see it. Yato’s big problem; he is unmarketable. He is egotistical, and can be a real jerk, but he does have good intentions, and truly wants to help people. It’s getting that last part across that is so difficult for him. His chance meeting with Hiyori gives him someone to help, but she isn’t the average teenage girl. She saves Yato from being hit by a bus, but in the process, her spirit is thrown out of her body. As it starts to happen more and more, she seeks out Yato to fix it.

I didn’t think I’d like this volume at first. Yato’s attitude bothered me at with his self-absorbed delusions of grandeur. But he quickly grew on me with his blunt talk. The first story, where he helps a girl being bullied by her classmates, does a good job of showing his different sides. He doesn’t show any sympathy for Mutsumi, despite his Shinki Tomone’s, pleas. Her classmates are pretty mean, but she isn’t completely without fault for the position she is in. I actually found myself taking his side when she was ready to just give up. He finally does help Mutsumi with her classmate problem, and his solution was really what she needed, despite Tomone’s protests. I really warmed up to him at the end, where he looks so vulnerable, clutching his bottle of coins in the small shine.

I liked Hiyori as Yato’s partner for the rest of the volume. She comes off as oblivious to the dangers around her, but she isn’t afraid to take on a challenge or defend herself or others when in a pinch. Her less-girlish hobby of being a wrestling fan actually comes in handy when Yato is attacked by an Ayakashi. She jumps in without thinking, using a move by her favorite wrestler to save the day.

Noragami has a good amount of humor. Both Hiyori and Yato get to be the subject of the situation, though I found Hiyori’s obliviousness more amusing that Yato being constantly disparaged. The argument Yato and Hiyori have while running away from an Ayakashi Hiyori found was one of the funnier moments in the volume.

I really liked the art. It is very realistic and detailed, reminding me a lot of Takeshi Obata’s work. I also liked how Adachitoka used Yato’s eyes to express his non-humanness. The character’s emotions are conveyed masterfully, and rarely does he revert using more cartoonish caricatures, which would feel very out-of-place otherwise.

I was pleasantly surprised by Noragami, and am looking forward to future volumes. I am interested in seeing more of Yato’s journey to becoming a proper god. While there was a majority of comedy in this volume, it did have its serious moments, and I hope we get more of these as the series goes on. Noragami is a series with a lot of potential to become another hit for Kodansha. It has an anime that streamed earlier this year, so it has name recognition. But really, it should succeed because it was just a fun read. And it has a cute cat name Milord.

Attack on Titan Volume 11-13

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.

Attack on Titan Vol 11-13
AoT 11By Hajime Isayama
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★½

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.

Attack on Titan 12Since 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.

Attack on Titan 13There 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.

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall Novel

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
Attack on Titan Before the Fall novelCreated by Hajime Isayama; Written by Ryo Suzukaze; Art by Thores Shibamoto
Publisher: Veritical, Inc.
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Light Novel/Horror
Price: $10.95
Rating: ★★★★½

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.

Yen Press Adds Another Two Titles

Yen Press has really been piling on the licences lately, both in manga and light novels. One of each was just announced and confirmed in the last couple of weeks.

KarnevalThe one manga was announced on Twitter. Karneval follows the mysterious young boy Nai, who knows nothing but his name and Karoku. With only Karoku’s bracelet from “Circus,” he goes in search of Karoku. He is helped by an older boy Gareki and after an incident, they are recruited by the National Defense Agency Circus. As they travel, searching for Karoku, they meet new people and find new opportunities along the way. A lot of people were excited for this license when it was announced. There was an anime that aired last year, which was streamed and licensed by Funimation. I’m not really seeing anything from the description that excites me, but that’s nothing new. This is a title I will have to wait and see. It is currently 13 volumes and is scheduled for release in March 2015.

So I can't HAdding to their YenOn imprint is So, I Can’t Play H!, a romantic comedy light novel series. This one follows Ryuosuke Kaga, a high school student who is both a hopeless romantic and hopelessly perverted. One day he meets a beautiful girl in the rain and invites her back to his house. He offers her anything she needs; dry clothes, help changing out them…but the girl, Lisara Restole has other plans. She stabs him in the chest. Lisara is a shinigami, and Ryuosuke has thoughtlessly offered his essence to allow her stay int he world, and the part of his she seems interested in taking is his lecherous side. Yeah, can’t say I’m surprised Yen Press got this series. It fits in perfectly with their other heavy male-gaze titles. Which makes it another title I will let pass by. There are currently 11 volumes of this series out, and Yen Press will release the first one in English in April 2015

Say I Love You Volume 1-2

Mei Tachibana has always been a loner. In her 16 years, she has never had a friend or a boyfriend. She doesn’t talk to anyone at school, and is teased mercilessly. All that starts to change when she catches the eye of the popular Yamato, who decides she will be his girlfriend. Mei doesn’t know what to think of Yamato, or if she can trust him, but she does think she might be falling in love with him.

Say I Love You Volume 1-2
Say I Love You 1By Kanae Hazuki
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $10.99USD
Rating: ★★★★½

Say I Love You has the all too familiar premise of the popular boy taking a liking to the most unpopular girl, but this series succeeds with its quirky yet relatable characters and a realistic look at the problems teens face in high school.

Mei Tachibana is a loner. Betrayed by those she thought were her friends in elementary school, Mei turns her back on friends and friendship, and relies on herself. She is strong-willed and speaks her mind when she thinks it’s called for which can get her into scuffles. Her dislike of her fellow students and the cliques they get into makes her the target of bullying, but she suffers them with complaint or even little thought. She doesn’t believe anyone will come if she calls for help, so she never tries.

She meets Yamato when his friend Nakanishi teases her and she roundhouse kicks Yamato instead. This attracts his interest in her and he starts to pursue her. Yamato is popular for both his looks and personality. He is friendly with everyone, but isn’t seeing anyone. He doesn’t like the bullying that goes around at the school, so most of it happens when he’s not around. Mei doubts Yamato a lot at first, especially as she hears the rumors about him, but he keeps trying to prove his sincerity and always comes when she calls for help.

Say I Love You 2Along with Yamato comes new friends for Mei. Asami is a girl with large breasts who hangs around Yamato. He doesn’t tease her or make her feel self-conscious about her breasts, so she really likes him. She and Mei become friends as Mei hangs around more. Yamato’s friend Nakanishi takes a little longer to come around, until Mei helps him get with Asami, who he has had a crush on for a while. Mei’s first real rival is Aiko, a girl Yamato knew in middle school. She used to be overweight, and after a bad breakup asked Yamato to sleep with her and he agreed. Aiko has serious body issues and crush on Yamato, but he doesn’t reciprocate. She tries to warn Mei off, but she doesn’t scare so easily.

Say I Love You shows Mei’s journey to going from a loner to finding first love, but it also shows a lot of the problems teens face physically and emotionally. Asami and Aiko both have problems with their bodies, and it affects the way they interact with others. Asami just wants to be accepted for who she is, not what she has. Aiko can’t accept who she’s become with Yamato validation even though she has Masashi who does accept her. Another of Yamato’s friends, Hayakawa, has a lot of “friends with benefits” but no real connections. He has to get put into the hospital before he realizes how empty his life has been and what he really needs to fulfill it. The series also doesn’t beat around the bush about teen sex, as a lot of characters do it or talk about it. This is treated realistically as well, and even Mei and Yamato get a moment, though nothing happens.

Say I Love You has plenty of drama and a budding romance that is a lot of fun to read. The realistic ring to the characters and situations makes it more interesting and stand out from the shojo crowd. You may think you’ve read manga like Say I Love You, but it’s really nothing like anything other series out there.

Review copies provided by publisher.

Puella Magi Oriko Magica Volume 1-2

Oriko is a magical girl with foresight. She is struck with a terrible vision of the future-of the devastation to be caused by one powerful witch. She decides she must do something about it, and she is willing to use, and if necessary sacrifice, anyone to stop this threat. But what will she do when her unstoppable force hits an immovable object determined to protect the very one Oriko seeks to destroy?

Puella Magi Oriko Magica Volume 1-2
OrikoMagica_V1Story by Magica Quartet; Art by Mua Kuroe
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy/Magical Girl
Price: $11.99
Rating: ★★★★½

I didn’t care of Oriko Magica when I read the first volume. I didn’t like Yuma, and didn’t see where the story was going, until I read the second and concluding volume, which not only put everything into perspective, made the series a fantastic read.

Oriko Magica is set in an alternate universe to the main Madoka Magica universe. In this world, Kyouko save a young girl Yuma, and takes her in. But Oriko, with her foresight, has seen that she has the potential to be a magical girl and manipulates both Yuma and Kyubey into making her a magical girl. Meanwhile, Mami learns of another magical girl, a black magical girl, that is hunting other magical girls. These distractions allow Oriko to get close to her target; Madoka, but Homura is there to protect her, and final, climatic battle ensues to decide the fate of both Madoka and the world.

When this series began, I struggled with the differences in the characters. I had read the main Madoka series, and knew the characters. This series is a slightly different take on them, with Mami living past the first few chapters, and Kyouko being more willing to help out others. She takes in Yuma, and does her best to protect her, both from danger and Kyubey. I really enjoyed seeing Mami in action. She gets an extended battle with Kirika, the black magical girl, where her power and intelligence really shines. Homura only really shows up for the final battle and Madoka and Sayaka are more side characters despite Madoka being everyone’s target.

OrikoMagica_V2_FINALSince it is a Puella Magi * Magica series, the characters have to have tragic back-stories. In these two volumes we only get Oriko’s, Yuma’s, and Kirika’s, but they hit pretty hard on the tragic scale. There is child abuse, bullying and neglect, and even some self-hatred, but they all fuel each girl’s reason to become a magical girl, and each fulfills their wish in the end.

Oriko’s wish and motive didn’t seem obvious, even though she made it very clear from the beginning. She wanted to protect her world. As the story unfolds, and we learn more about Oriko’s past and her present target, things start to make sense. It’s really interesting that the two people who most want to stop Madoka’s transformation have a form of time manipulation as their magical power.

What really sold me on this story was the twist at the end. I have to admit it blew me away. It wasn’t until I saw that scene and made the connection to the main series that it all clicked and the title went from being “meh” to being awesome. What ever you do, don’t read this series without reading the main Madoka Magica series first! The twist at the end is all the more powerful when you know what Homura’s been trying to do.

Puella Magi Oriko Magica is a fantastic side story to the Madoka Magica story. It still holds the ray of hope against the despair the magical girls face when they learn their eventual fate. It’s also fun to watch Oriko play with Kyubey. A little “turnaround is fair play” isn’t a bad thing. It can easily slip into the main Madoka story-line and feel perfectly in place. This title is a must for Madoka Magica manga fans.

Review copies provided by publisher.

Attack on Titan No Regrets Volume 1

The young Erwin Smith is a rising star in the Survey Corps, humanity’s only hope of defeating the man-eating monsters known as Titans. Ruthless and dispassionate, Erwin’s mind is devoted to strategies and intrigue. But beneath Erwin’s feet is another world, the Underground, where humans are born and die surrounded by the garbage the Capital throws away. Here, the criminal Levi survives on his wits and agility. But when these two ambitious men cross paths, who will prove himself stronger?

Attack on Titan: No Regrets Volume 1
Attack On titan no regrets 1Written by Gun Snark (Nitropolis); Art by Hikaru Suruga
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Horror/Shojo
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★★

I went into this volume with no preconceived notions. I started reading Attack on Titan late in the series, at volume 8, so while I had heard of the characters Erwin and Levi, I didn’t know who they were. I knew they were important leaders in the Survey Corps, and big deals to fans. This story alone was enough to increase the circulation of the magazine it was published by 10 fold. Even though this story is supposed to be about both Erwin and Levi, this volume at least, is really all about Levi.

Levi is the leader of a trio of thieves who use Survey Corps maneuvering gear to get around the Underground where they struggle to survive. Levi is a stoic man of few words. He has perpetual dark circles under his eyes and doesn’t seem capable of smiling. But he cares a lot for his friends Furlan and Isabelle, the only two people in the world he trusts. He will fight and possibly kill for them, and they look up to him as a protector and leader. He is incredibly skilled in using the maneuvering gear, despite having never been taught formally, which is what catches the attention of Squad Leader Erwin Smith.

Erwin is a very earnest member of the Survey Corps, and rather savvy with manipulating the political side of things to get what he wants. He is determined to do anything and everything it takes to build up the Survey Corp. He recognizes the threat the Titans pose, even as the people and politicians grow complacent after so many years without a breach. He is even willing to work with criminals, by bringing in Levi and his group. Erwin isn’t seen much in this volume, but it is obvious he is watching them.

Levi and his friends have some prejudices to get pass after joining the Survey Corps. Some members and the leaders object to people from the Underground being brought with no military training. But, as they train with the other squad members, many of them start to see their strengths. Isabelle has an affinity with animals, which lets her show off her riding skills. Furlan is the calm and sensible one of the three, trying to keep the peace, mostly between Levi and the others. He also has some plan in mind, that somehow involves Erwin, but only hints have been dropped so far. Then there’s Levi. His skills are no illusion as he shows in both training and actual combat. His more unorthodox methods bring down a Titan, and his skills take it out. Levi is almost as awesome in combat as Mikasa!

The art is a well done, looking enough like Isayama’s style while still being good. I love Levi’s fashion sense, both in his civilian clothes and in his Survey Corps uniform. The Ascot is just perfect on him! The action sequences are well done, with lots of lines flying, clouds of smoke from the canisters and swords gliding through the air. There really isn’t a moment of this volume I didn’t enjoy.

Attack on Titan: No Regrets Volume 1 is a great start to a series about some provocative characters. Since this is an origin story, it’s not necessary to have read the main series to enjoy this one, but a basic understanding of the universe would help since there are no explanations. I’m looking forward to volume 2 but not the wait until October. I’m also sad that it will also be the last volume. I wouldn’t mind watching Levi and the gang for another couple of volumes.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Sumomomo Momomo Volume 6-12

Having defeated Tenga Koganei of the Tiger clan and recovered from the poison, Koushi and Momoko continue to face challengers to their engagement from other clans. Koushi, seeing how much his friends go through to help, decides to start training seriously. While makes good progress, the Monkey clan makes their move and usurps the Inuzuka claim to lead the Eastern army. Koushi’s only hope to save the clans and regain his engagement to Momoko is to master the Myriad Seal and face Yuusuke in battle to the death.

Sumomomo 6By Shinobu Ohtaka
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Action/Comedy
Price: $11.99 ea
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Sumomomo, Momomo was one of the debut titles in Yen Press’ Yen Plus magazine. It was also a title I despised. The art was bad, and the story was worse. I never dreamed I would ever read another chapter of it, but I had these review copies, and no one else seemed interested in reviewing them, so I decided to see if it had improved at all. I will admit, these later volumes weren’t as painful to read as the earlier ones, but the systemic problems of the series kept it from being memorable.

Sumomomo 7There were several things I despised about this series, the chief among was Momoko. I hated her. She was annoying with her obsession with wanting to bed Koushi. Koushi’s pathetic attitude was just as bad. It’s not a good sign when the two main leads are so unlikable. This starts to change by volume 6. Momoko seems to have settled down some what. She still wants to bed Koushi, but it’s not her focus. It’s become something that just comes up every once in a while, with Momoko trying to trick Koushi into agreeing. She is still a gungho fighter, and has no problem with coming to Koushi’s defense.

Sumomomo 8While watching Momoko fight Koganei, Koushi starts to realize he can’t let everyone else fight his own battles, and decides he needs to train seriously. This becomes his main arc to the end. Both his father and friends try to help him, but it’s only once he understands the seal his mother put on him and he trains alone in the jungle that he finally finds his strength. Even before the last volume, I was finding Koushi to be less annoying, as he stopped cowering and starting stepping up to take responsibility for himself.

Ultimately, that was the theme of the story; to make your own decisions and walk your own path. Koushi didn’t become a real fighter until he found his own way, and even in his final battle with Yuusuke, he chose when and how to use the Myriad Seal despite what others thought. He used words first to try to beat this idea into Yuusuke, but in the end his had to use the Seal to end the duel mercifully for both him and Yuusuke. It was actually a decent ending.

Sumomomo 11There were also parts in the middle that were decent. I liked Iroha’s journey to try to resurrect her clan and regain their respect. Despite the betrayals of those she considered closest, she never gave up hope. She continued to fight and help Koushi against the Endou until the very end. I felt sorry for Sanae. Her power was just humiliating, and her grandmother had no sympathy, putting her on parade even to her friends.

And here is where things start to head downhill for me. I didn’t care for the whole love polygon around Koushi that started with Iroha and Sanae, and soon added Shintarou, the daughter of the Inoue clan who was raised as a boy. The dip into harem territory didn’t work for me at all, and actually felt distracting from the growing tension from the Endou clan’s machinations. The humor didn’t do much for me either. The getting into bed, Sanae’s humiliation, the other boys’ jealousy of Koushi, none of these things ever seemed funny to me, and the humor fell flat every time.

Sumomomo 12Sumomomo, Momomo worked best when it was being a martial arts fighting series, and was “meh” at best at being a high school harem comedy. There were some good character arcs, and the final message of putting yourself and your own will ahead of conflicting obligations was a good one. The final volume was the best, with this message and showing how everyone not only went their separate ways, but took paths that they chose on their own. I can’t say I liked Sumomomo, Momomo, or that it was a good series overall. But it did have its moments and an ending worth reading. So borrow this from the library or a friend if you’re curious.

Buy Volume 6                         Buy Volume 7                          Buy Volume 8                          Buy Volume 9

                       Buy Volume 10                        Buy Volume 11                        Buy Volume 12

Review copies provided by publisher.