Tag Archives: older teen

What Did You Eat Yesterday? Volume 1

Shiro Kakei, lawyer by day and gourmand by night, lives with his boyfriend, Kenji Yabuki, an outgoing salon stylist. While the pair navigate the personal and professional minefields of modern gay live, Kenji serves as enthusiastic taste-tester for Shiro’s wide and varied made-from-scratch meals.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? Volume 1
What did you eat yesterdayBy Fumi Yoshinaga
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Cooking/Slice of Life
Price: $12.95US
Rating: ★★★★½

Fumi Yoshinaga is best known here in the US for her BL titles, but any porn that might be found in What Did You Eat Yesterday? will only be in the kitchen. Yoshinaga is also a big food enthusiast, and this title combines her love of preparing (and eating) food with the life situations of a gay couple. While at first appearance, this title is a foodie’s dream come true, there is still plenty of story to make the book interesting to us non-foodies.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? starts with that very question being asked of Shiro and his co-workers. While the others are vague with their answer, Shiro recites a long list of dishes including ingredients. This is the first sign, other than the title, that food will be a big part of the story. Yoshinaga doesn’t disappoint as every chapter has at least 3-4 pages dedicated to Shiro planning and preparing the nightly meal. No detail is spared as Shiro’s internal monologue catalogs the ingredients, how they should be cut, how long they are cooks or boiled and even at what temperature. If quantities were included, this part of the story could be a how-to instruction for cooking many of the meals. I’ll come out and say this right now, these parts of the book were the ones I found the most uninteresting. I’m not foodie, and never will be. Watching people cook doesn’t interest me, and didn’t even stir my appetite, so if they were cut down to one panel, or even cut out, it wouldn’t bother me.

But to Yoshinaga’s credit, these scenes could be condensed or cut out and the story wouldn’t really suffer. Shiro’s and Kenji’s relationship is really the heart of the series, and the part I thoroughly enjoyed. Each chapter looks at the daily life of Shiro or Kenji, at their job interacting with co-workers or clients, or friends and family. It’s through these interactions that we get to know them. Shiro is the serious and straight-laced half of the relationship. He hasn’t told his co-workers about his sexual orientation, and keeps them at a distance with regards to his personal life. He doesn’t like anyone, including Kenji to talk about it to anyone else. He is very frugal with both his money and his emotions. This helps him in his job, but can cause problems at home.

In contrast, Kenji is very open about his feelings. He is gregarious with his clients and is the “bomb disposal specialist” for the shop he works for, his tenacity giving him the ability to take on the more difficult customers. He is also the more insecure of the two, worrying that Shiro might be attracted to a client and being jealous of Shiro’s former girlfriend who now runs a bakery. He isn’t afraid to show his emotions, from joy to breaking down into tears.

The supporting characters are just as fun and eccentric as you’d expect from a Yoshinanga series. Shiro’s mother is just plain crazy as she tries to be accepting of Shiro’s orientation, but ends up driving him nuts. The introduction of Kayoko, Shiro’s straight female friend was really funny, and she makes a great cooking buddy for Shiro. I also really like Shiro’s co-workers. Kenji’s boss and co-workers haven’t done too much in this first volume, but Kenji taking on the difficult customers was really funny.

I love Yoshinaga’s art. He draws her characters realistically in a minimalist way, but can easily and quickly drop them in a caricature with wide, long faces that get these great expressions. She gets the feeling across of surprise or  impishness with little more than a look.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? is starting out to be a really fun series. This first volume has lots of great moments of humor and realistic relationship issues that anyone gay or straight can understand and relate to, but at the same time also show some of the things that only gay couples would have to deal with. I really enjoyed this series, and if you’re not reading it, or passing it by because you think it’s BL or too foodie, then you’re making a big mistake.

Review copy provided by publisher.

21st Century Boys Volume 2

The climax of our story is finally at hand! Mankind faces a crisis and Kenji is hustling to save the world and the people he loves. But he also must solve the mystery of the Friend. Who is he and why did he become evil? The answer is tied to a memory Kenji has from when he was a twentieth century boy.

21st Century Boys Volume 2
21st Century Boys 2By Naoki Urasawa
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Price: $12.99USD
Rating: ★★★☆☆

In my previous review of volume 1 of 21st Century Boys, I had hopes of the this part would redeem what I thought was a non-ending of the first part, 20th Century Boys. While this volume does tie up many of the loose ends and does finally answer the question “Who is the Friend?”, it still doesn’t satisfy like I had hoped.

The search for the remote to the proton bomb continues, both in reality and in the virtual world. The UN Forces show their distrust of Kanna and the rest of the group, but that doesn’t stop them from continuing the search. Kanna’s powers come into play in discovering the bomb’s button and the location of the remote. Kenji and Yukiji work in tandem to stop the bomb from going off, and then Kenji returns to the virtual reality to tie up some personal loose ends, that if he had done in the real world at the time, might have kept Friend from being created.

The race to stop the proton bomb was actually exciting. Yukiji getting to kick Shikishima’s daughter’s butt with her judo skills was cool, as was Kenji using those same skills to stop the robot from detonating the bomb. Kanna’s supernatural powers do come into play, but at least they are minimal, mostly just communicating with Kenji in the virtual world. I really didn’t find any of the supernatural elements to be compelling, so I’m glad they were kept to a minimum. Once again the twists run wild, but they are believable and kept the action moving.

Going into this final volume, you may start to wonder if everything will be tied up. It takes most of the volume to stop the robot, with Kenji and the gang getting obstacles thrown at them left and right. But some how, Urasawa is able to do it. The major loose ends are tied up, all for the better. Manjome and Sadakiyo got happy send offs. Kanna got her man and her mom, and Otcho returns to be Shogun, fighting human traffickers. But the end that needs most to be tied is Friend’s.

Who was he and did Kenji really know him? The answer relates back to the scene at Jijibaba’s shown in the previous volume. Older Kenji finally realizes the truth, and has younger Kenji do what he didn’t all those years ago. Not that this fixes anything for anyone but Kenji. But it does make him take a look at the choices he’s made and how he can make better ones. He and Yukiji come to an understanding too about their feelings in a way that only Kenji and Yukiji could.

It’s not until the last few pages is Friend’s identity revealed in one of the most anti-climatic ways possible, in a single frame with next to no explanation about who he was. This is where the volume and ultimately the series let me down. The whole series was touted to be about the question “Who is Friend?”, but in the end that question and his motives are left to the reader to figure out. While this is usually fine in a mystery, in order for it to work the author has to leave enough clues to lead the readers to the right answer. Anything else is just a cheap twist, which is ultimately exactly what this series boiled down to.

Overall, 20th Century Boys and 21st Century Boys is a decent enough series. It was enough to get Urasawa not only a nomination, but ultimately an Eisner Award. But I think the execution could have been better. The series went off the rails after volume 15, and while these last two volumes brought it back, it was too little, too late. I would still encourage people to read this series, just be prepared for some bumps in an otherwise smooth road.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall Volume 1

Cut alive from his mother’s womb after she had been eaten by a rampaging Titan, Kuklo has spent his life in chains as a freakish curiosity and a feared abomination. Eventually the boy they call the “Titan’s son” finds himself sold to wealthy merchant Dario Inocencio as a plaything for his cruel and ambitious son Xavi. Kuklo knows nothing but abuse and neglect, but help may come from the most unexpected place…

AoT Before the Fall 1Written by Ryo Suzukaze; Art by Satoshi Shiki
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Horror
Price: $10.99US
Rating: ★★★★☆
Buy the Book

Even though it was easy to get into the original Attack on Titan fairly late in the series, it’s even better when you can start at the beginning. Attack on Titan: Before the Fall is prequel to the original series, taking place 70 years in the past. While it didn’t take much to get me onto the original Attack on Titan bandwagon, I was jumping even faster to ride with Before the Fall.

The story follows Kuklo, who has been persecuted and abused his entire 13 years for doing nothing but surviving. He burst from his mother’s womb after she had been eaten by a Titan, and people’s fear and misunderstanding made him the freak and outcast we see at the beginning. He can barely speak and has very few thoughts beyond surviving. He doesn’t understand why he’s beaten and ridiculed, and can barely speak, but he does have the presence of mind to know when he wants it to end.

Enter Sharle, the daughter of Dario Inocencio. She fears the Titans and their “son.” She decides to do something about him one night, and discovers Kuklo is no Titan, but just as human as she is. She is a kind and caring person. She helps Kuklo, first by feeding him, then by understanding him. A friendship grows between them as he learns about Titans and the human world, and he plots his escape.

I enjoyed this volume. Kuklo’s and Sharle’s relationship really pulled me in. I understand why Kuklo’s origin and dark history had to be shown, but it didn’t compel me as much as Kuklo’s realization and growing determination to learn about both humans and Titans. His driving need to know if he really was a “Titan’s son” made the continued abuse tolerable. Sharle was just as interesting. The daughter of an aristocrat wouldn’t be expected to pick up a dagger and try to kill a Titan. She showed strength along with her tenderness, and a mercy Kuklo had never known. I was really glad the volume ended the way it did. Kuklo shouldn’t be the only one escaping a cage, and Sharle is stronger than she thinks.

The volume did feel kind of short, with only three chapters. The original “trailer” for Before the Fall was included to help fill up the space. It does look like a movie trailer, with narration, lots of Titan action and one shocker to reel you in. If you look at it that way instead of as a chapter, it makes a lot more sense.

The art is very different from the original manga. In a lot of ways it’s better. The style reminded me a lot of The Guin Saga Manga published by Vertical, Inc and illustrated by Kazuaki Yanagisawa. Shiki did a good job of expressing the characters’ emotions, especially Kuklo’s. His expressions are the only way to tell what he’s feeling for much of the volume.

You don’t have to have read Attack on Titan in order to enjoy Before the Fall. The story stands on it’s own with two great lead characters that I am looking forward to following in the coming volumes. In no way is their journey going to be easy, but it is sure to be filled excitement.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Inu x Boku SS Volume 1-3

Ririchiyo Shirakiin is a girl from a family of old money who also has Ayakashi blood as a genetic throw back to a human ancestor who coupled with an Ayakashi. She moves to Maison de Ayakashi because she want to become independent, but every one who moves into the apartment building is assigned a member of it’s secret service. Soushi Miketsukaim is assigned to Ririchiyo, and he is about as devoted and protective as a dog, much to Ririchiyo’s chagrin.

INUxBOKU_SSv1_TPBy Cocoa Fujiwara
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Romance
Price: $11.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

I had my doubts about Inu x Boku SS as I started to read the first volume. I wasn’t sure what to make of Ririchiyo at first. Her throwback is to a demon, and in some ways it seems to show. She speaks without thinking and comes off as mean and blunt. But that’s not the real Ririchiyo. After speaking like that, she immediately regrets her words but doesn’t know how to apologize properly. She is very awkward and is sincere in wanting to change. I didn’t like her at first, but as I continued reading, I found her growing on me. I found myself sympathizing with her as bits of her past is revealed. I also found her naiveté endearing, since she isn’t so much clueless as inexperienced with someone having feelings for her.

That someone is Soushi. He is very over the top at first with his devotion to Ririchiyo. He asks her to “dispose” of him when she tells him she doesn’t need him at first. He waits outside her apartment for hours until she comes out. He even overreacts when she just leaves him alone for a few minutes while they are shopping. The devotion does get annoying at times. He uses it to manipulate Ririchiyo, something she realizes after he’s gotten what he wanted. The reason Soushi feels so strongly for Ririchiyo is revealed, and all of his mysterious hints from when they first meet now make sense. Ririchiyo’s interactions with Soushi start to change her, for the better.

Inu x boku ss 2And it’s not just Soushi that helps her change. Interacting with the other tenants of the building help her as well. Sorinozuka is Ririchiyo’s childhood friend, and isn’t fazed by her personality. He has ittan-momen blood in him, and spends as much time as a bolt of cloth as he does a human. Roromiya, a SS and Watanuki, a tenant, go to the same school as Ririchiyo, and they become friends, despite Watanuki’s continued claim that he is a delinquent. Watanuki has tanuki blood, but is a smaller type, and usually ends up as comedy relief. Zange is Watanuki’s SS, and he is rather mysterious and meddlesome. He helps Ririchiyo reach out to others and make friends. He also has a second sight that bode ominous things in the volumes to come.

Sadly, not all of the characters are likeable. After the first volume, I though Yukino, Sorinozuka’s SS was the most annoying with her yuri inclinations and shouts of “smexy” at Rirchiyo and Roromiya. And then Kagerou Shoukiin was introduced. He is a tenant of the building, and Roromiya is his SS. He is always traveling and isn’t at the building much. He is also a sadist, always wearing a masking and calling people “trollop” and “sow”. He labels everything as a “S” or a “M”. I dislike him, and can’t decide if he’s supposed to be funny or menacing. Either way, I can’t take anything he says or does seriously.

Inu x Boku SS 3Overall, I do like the direction of the story. While Ririchiyo and Soushi are the main couple, I like that the other tenants aren’t just there to support them. Watanuki gets a nice chapter that explains his obsession with being seen as a delinquent. Even the staff at the apartment building get some page time. After everyone is introduced, they continue to show up, such as cook Kawasumi and his son, and Concierge, the scary-looking nekomata throwback that is more pussycat than lion.

Zange’s premonition at the end seems to predict something dark on the horizon for Inu x Boku SS. As much as I’ve enjoyed these volume and their slice of life stories so far, these characters have ayakashi blood in them. There have only been short moments of action with them turning into their throwback forms. I’m looking forward to more of this, along with all the relationship development we’ve seen so far.  If you like supernatural romances or stories about yokai and ayakashi, definitely pick this series up.

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Buy Volume 2
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Review copies provided by publisher.

Black Bird Volume 16

Misao has made the choice to forego college and a normal human life in order to be Kyo’s wife and mother to the demon child she carries. But her pregnancy is unusual, even for the demon world. The last pages of the Senka Roku will reveal the truth of the matter, but now that Kyo has it in his hands, does he really want to know…?

Buy the Volume
Buy the Volume

By Kanoko Sakurakouji
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Supernatural Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Black Bird for a while now. I found Kyo’s skeeviness annoying, as well as Misao’s submissiveness. A lot of that changes with this volume. After defeating his older brother Sho, Kyo has learned the final fate of the Senka Maiden, and it doesn’t bode well for Misao. Kyo sets the Daitengu to work trying to find a way to keep both mother and baby alive. A single clue left by Sho and some information from the Senka Roku just might hold the answer.

There are a lot of emotions flying around this volume. Misao is faced with the prospect of either she dying or her baby. Neither are acceptable to her. But there are a lot of tearful moments as she faces Kyo and the Daitengu about not only what will happen to her and Kyo, but also the others. It’s kind of sad that it’s surprising that she figures it out on her own. Misao would be a much better character if she wasn’t played to be so dumb.

Kyo’s internal dialog was the big draw of this volume. Now that Kyo and Misao are married, all the skeevy scenes are done and gone. Kyo is serious about his love for Misao and is desperate to find a way to keep her alive. This volume is probably the most convincing he’s been about his feelings for her. He isn’t leading her own or playing around. Everything he says and does is all for her, and it shows.

Kyo’s observations about Misao and the changes he sees in her were the most interesting parts. He doesn’t know what a pregnant human female is like, so he doesn’t connect the changes at first. But as he starts to make the connections with the Senka Roku, and some of Misao own behaviors change, it really becomes clear that what she’s going through is different. I do wonder if Misao’s fear of Kyo isn’t in some way an extension of the baby she’s carrying. The change of perspective definitely makes these revelations more interesting, and Kyo into more of a detective as he works to solve the mystery of the Senka Maiden.

Once the story gets past all the drama and emotion between Kyo and Misao, the volume of Black Bird become what I’ve been waiting for all this time. Finally, the mystery of the Senka Maiden is being delved into. While there are no answers now, with this being solidly in the final arc, those answer will be coming soon, making the final two volumes must reads. I’m actually looking forward to them now.

Until Death Do Us Part Volume 2

Protecting Haruka from Ex Solid has gotten Mamoru involved in an even more sinister plot, organized by the terrorist group known as the Plunderers. The swordsman’s reckless tactics generate results, but they have also attracted the attention of the terrorists’ leader, Edge Turus. Mamoru’s allies in the Wall and the very people who hired him begin to fear that Mamoru’s methods are too extreme and could endanger those around him, including Haruka herself. Meanwhile, the police are connecting the dots between Haruka’s abduction and the recent string of attacks. As they and Edge close in, it may only be a matter of time before Mamoru has nowhere to run!

16 UntilDeathDoUsPartV2_TPWritten by Hiroshi Takashige; Illustrated by Double-S
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Action
Price: $18.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

The African country of Galboa is revealed to be the force behind the terrorist acts, and through some intel from Ex-Solid and discover Haruka’s ability. The leader, Edge Turus decides he wants her as well. Mamoru does his stuff, stopping Ex-Solid and their cloning operation as well as Turus, cutting off his arm in the process, which makes him none too happy. He puts a contract out on Mamoru. In the meantime, Mamoru officially becomes Haruka’s bodyguard and Sierra, the female agent that’s been helping them, decides to stay with him and Igawa, so Haruka will have a female influence. Haruka gets a fake id and to go to school, but a new enemy shows up, an invisible one that Mamoru must try to figure out how to defeat.

I wasn’t impressed with the first volume, though I did like the “Global Frequency” vibe that it initially had. This volume had none of that. It was a lot of Mamoru being awesome with his sword and Haruka fretting over him. I’m okay with the Mamoru being awesome part, but really for the most part, I don’t care about any of these characters or what happens to them. I’m not too thrilled with “The Wall” suddenly deciding to turn on Mamoru for doing just what they pay him to do; get past the bad guys and get them results. That’s all he and Igawa have done. They keep dwelling on what could be instead of keeping what they have now.

An explanation is given for Haruka’s powers, and I’m actually okay with it. It’s still mixed up with some techo-babble, but as long as it sounds plausible, I’m good. I actually liked the “invisible” enemy that Mamoru has to take on. It actually becomes timely with some of the news that’s been going up lately, and puts Mamoru’s skills to the test.

I’ll still read the third volume, but more for “Can this get better?” than “I like it!” There is still a lot I don’t care for such as Haruka as the female protagonist and all the upskirt shots that get thrown in, mostly with Sierra. It’s run for 19 volumes in Japan so far, and is still ongoing, so it’s got to have something going for it. Maybe if I keep reading, someday I’ll find it.

Review copy provided by publisher.

 

Jack Frost Volume 7-9

Seeing her father killed before her eyes, Noh-A flies into a rage, with most of it directed at Jack. As the two square off, the story of the previous Mirror Image unfolds, explaining who Noh-A’s parents are, how they met, and why Noh-A had to be the next Mirror Image. It ends with the plans laid by Solomon and Camille in that past finally coming to fruition.

JackFrost_Vol7_TP By JinHo Ko
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Horror
Price: $13.00
Rating: ★★★½☆

Jack Frost has been a series I don’t go out my way to read, but if it’s available I’ll give a perusal. I read it when I had a Yen Plus subscription, but it was a story that never seemed to have a specific direction. It was all a lot of fighting with Jack taking on opponents from the different factions within Amityville. Finally, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, as events from the past are shown and connected with current events, and the story seems to have a direction.

JackFrost_Vol8Jack and Noh-A face off against each other as Noh-A confronts Jack about the death of her father. This begins a long
flashback that shows how Noh-A’s father, revealed to be Jack the Ripper and her mother, the previous mirror image, met and became a couple. I shouldn’t be surprised that I found this interesting. I love getting the back-story of characters, a place or time. This is mostly Jack R’s story. He drives the action, protecting Noh-A’s mother and in the process falls for her. Noh-A’s mother, who is unnamed for most of the story, is mostly dead weight. She is practically emotionless, letting Jack R take her wherever and just being the damsel in distress. I didn’t care for her, and found Jack R’s growth much more interesting.

What really made these volumes for me was all the back-story about the North District and the connection between Helmina, the Tailor and Solomon. What happened in the faculty lounge was shown, and it’s revealed that Helmina’s title of “Witch of the North” is more than just a nickname. She has a connection to Solomon, and more of who he was and why he was sealed away is revealed. But, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of him in the next volume. The Tailor’s motives continue to be vague in the past as it is in the future. He is key to Noh-A’s birth and her inevitable return to Amityville. I find his possible agenda intriguing.

JackFrost_Vol9As the main character, Jack Frost himself doesn’t get as much development as the other characters. He is still the one to beat around Amityville, and he still takes great pleasure in the killing. He and Jack R are sort of rivals, as Jack R was the previous wearer of the Devil’s Thread, and even though he loses, Jack R gladly gives Jack F his showdown when they are face to face in the real world. This last scene for Jack R also explains the seeming contradiction of Jack F killing him, and yet telling Noh-A to look to Jack F for protection.

I still haven’t been won over with these volumes of Jack Frost. But they do introduce enough new elements that I wouldn’t mind reading the next volume. With Yen Plus is no longer being printed and the title no longer serialized, there shouldn’t be as long a delay between volumes. But with Yen Press being one volume away from being caught up, it’s gonna be a while until the next one anyway. At least with not a lot going on, there won’t be much to forget.

 

Missions of Love Volume 5-6

Yukina is running into some trouble with rivals. Mami is a childhood friend of Shigure’s who has feeling for him, but hasn’t been able to tell him. She instead tries to trick or chase away any girls who might get close to him. Then there’s Akira, her cousin, who is now trying to be in serious competition with Shigure to win Yukina’s feelings. In the middle of these battles, Yukina and Shigure are trying to figure out their own feelings for each other. How much of it is real, and how much is still a game?

Missions of Love 5
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By Ema Toyama
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★½

I read the first chapter of Missions of Love in Kodansha’s sampler Real and really enjoyed it. I initially had doubts about it from just the series description, but the first chapter was enough to convince me otherwise. Despite being 4 volumes behind, I had little trouble getting into these two volumes and continuing Yukina and Shigure’s competition to see who would fall for who first.

What initially attracted me to Missions of Love was the friction between the two protagonists, Yukina and Shigure. Neither really liked the other much; Yukina for Shigure’s shallowness and Shigure for Yukina’s cold reputation. By these volumes those feeling are still there, but there is a lot more sexual tension now between them. Yukina is starting to think about how Shigure feels about her, but she doesn’t seem to understand why. She doesn’t recognize that the reason she’s bothered by Shigure spending time with Mami is because she’s starting to have feeling for him. Shigure is just as bothered by the attention Yukina gets from Akira, but he isn’t as oblivious as to the reason why. He’s just in denial. They are both trying to keep their relationship to be game, but the feelings are growing, and it isn’t just for fun anymore.

Missions of Love 6
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Akira and Mami stepping up their game to get their respective crushes to notice them doesn’t help matters much. Mami’s tricks only gets Yukina thinking more about what her relationship with Shigure is rather than pushing her away. Akira’s attempts to make Shigure jealous by spending time with Mami only helps him to let her go. Akira thinks he’s gotten a step on Shigure when he notices Yukina is sick and stays the night to take care of her, but what’s going through Yukina’s mind isn’t what he thinks it is.

These complications affect the missions. There aren’t as many in these volumes as more attention is put on the growing relationships. Yukina throws a few out at Shigure and Akira, but they are minor, and all come out of Yukina’s attempts to figure out her own feelings. She pushes for more compromising situations such as her mission to seduce Shigure, and for Akira to forcefully kiss her.

Overall, I enjoyed these two volumes of Missions of Love. While I don’t generally like clueless characters, Yukina is different. She’s not dumb, just inexperienced, and she’s trying to change that with the missions. She is very logical in her thought processes about love, which is probably why she is slow in understanding. I like that. So many shojo protagonists are overly emotional and think they know all about love. Yukina is trying to work it out herself. While she claims it’s for her writing, it is affecting her own emotional growth, in a good way. Missions of Love is a fun romance that I can’t wait to read more!

Attack on Titan Volume 8-10

Facing a royal summons, Eren and his friends make one final attempt to capture the female Titan. While they are successful, a new crisis faces them as it appears Titans have breached Wall Rose and are pouring into the interior. The 104th scramble to evacuate the villages in their path and find the breach. A night at Utgard Castle is meant to be a refuge, but instead becomes a battle for their lives as the Titans attack at night.

AoT 8By Hajime Isayama
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Horror
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

I didn’t think Attack on Titan was going to be a series I would enjoy. It’s categorized as a horror title, a genre I’m very picking about. Reviews about the series were mixed with people either liking or hating it. I did read the first chapter in Kodansha’s Unreal sampler, and wasn’t impressed. But with the series rising steadily up the New York Times Best Seller list and Nielson Bookscan, there had to be something good that people were seeing about it. I received these volumes for review, and decided it was time for me to see for myself.

AoT 9I was a little unsure, jumping into this series so far in. A comment on Twitter said that the series got better after volume 4, so I was encouraged slightly, but I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to figure out what was going on or get any of the relationships. It was actually surprising how easy it was to pick up on the relationships between the characters. I really liked the relationship between Eren, Mikasa and Armin. The bond between the three of them was obvious right from the start. The scene where they were preparing to fight the female Titan really sold it without trying. They complement each other well. Armin is the brains, as his deductive reasoning figured out who the female Titan was. Mikasa is the quiet, brawn of the three. She is an awesome fighter, and looked cool as she took down the female Titan, flying up the wall and cutting off her fingers to prevent her escape. Eren is the conflicted hero that Armin and Mikasa support. His battle with the female Titan was actually pretty exciting. What really makes this trio work for me though, is the complete lack of romantic tension. These three are pretty solidly friends, and with all the action already, any romantic conflicts would detract from the already tense story.

These volumes also included a bit of character development for other members of the 104th. They are sent out to warn the outlying villages of the Titan breach. Sasha, a member of the 104th and Military Police Brigade, gets some nice exposition as she faces down a Titan alone. I enjoyed her back story. Ymir and Krista, two more members of the Military Police Brigade, have their story shown, which makes that seemingly harsh Ymir more sympathetic. This also leads to some shocking reveals by the end.

AoT 10But then, that’s what this series is good at; making shocking reveals, and then instead of explaining anything, just teases with possible answers that only lead to more questions. That’s what really hooked me in. First it was the mystery of the Wall Rose, then it was the animistic Titan, and then revelation from Reiner and Bertolt. As one mystery is pursued, these other pop up that keep me intrigued and wanting to get that next volume just to see if there will be some answers.

There were a lot good battles in these volumes. Eren and the female Titan’s battle was exciting, as was the battle at Utgard Castle. Not all of the battles were big, such as Sasha’s small fight. but when they were, like at Utgard Castle, they were devastating. Everyone had to pitch in to protect the castle, but it was Ymir who really showed her mettle, proving herself to be smart as well as self-sacrificing.

If there is any problem I have with these three volumes, it’s the art. It is very uneven, as there are times when the faces don’t look like they are on straight, to very fluid moments in battle such as Mikasa’s strike on the female Titan. But the story really overrides the art, and makes the not-so-great moments bearable. It fortunately also makes the gory moments not so gory. The Titan on Titan violence has such a surreal look to it, as eye balls pop, and Titan’s grin with childish glee as they attack each other just as much as the humans. I thought the gore would be worse, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared.

Attack on Titan is a weird combination of action, mystery and horror that it actually makes it a compelling read. I don’t know how the beginning of the series is, but these later volumes show why every new volume hits the NYT top 10 and stays there for weeks on end. It’s a series you don’t want to put down. At least I didn’t.

Review copies provided by Publisher.

 

Pandora Hearts Volume 8-10

The truth about Xerxes Break’s past is revealed in these volumes as is more about Alice and her relation to the Intent of the Abyss. Oz continues to pursue the truth behind the tragedy of Sablier, and he, Gilbert and Alice go to the remains of the city. Vincent and Gilbert’s past is revealed along with more about Glen Baskerville and Jack Vessalius, but when Oz’s incuse moves forward, it is a reminder that his time is running out.

PANDORA_8By Jun Mochizuki
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $11.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

There are a lot of revelations made throughout these volumes, about Alice, about the Abyss, about the chains about Alice and Oz, but not a lot of questions are answered. We know the who’s and how’s but still not a lot about the why’s, which is what will keep readers coming back.

Keeping track of all the revelations got to be a bit of a task. The only real saving grace was the way they all connected that told more of the story of the tragedy of Sablier. It was really all very timey-wimey. Xerxes Break fits in as a figure from after the tragedy looking to change the past with the usual tragic results. Gilbert and Vincent turn out to be pieces to the puzzle as well with connections that were rather unexpected. The real reason for the tragedy leads back to an event that affected Glen Baskerville to the point that controlling the Intent of the Abyss was the only way he knew to change it, and Alice is the key to it all. But we still don’t know the full story behind that event, which as the root, really needs to be revealed before any real answer can be disclosed.

PANDORA_9Most of these revelations delved into the tragic. Xerxes only wanted to save his Master, but instead destroyed a whole family. Gilbert and Vincent had a tragic childhood that shaped who they are. The events are especially tragic for Vincent, as he is shunned as a child of ill omen, and tries to save his big brother, to such results that he is truly driven insane. Though, I don’t think he was really all that stable in the first place, with the way he tortures Alice, cutting up her dolls and then her cat (why is it always the cat?!). Even with all he’s been through, I really can’t muster any sympathy for him. He is a good match for Lottie Baskerville, who is just as psychotic.

I enjoyed the chapters with Oz taking Echo out on the town during the Blue Angel festival. It had a lot of sweet moments, and was one of the few moments that helped get me through all the tragedy that followed. Though I wasn’t happy with what happened to Echo afterward. Guess you can’t have the happy last too long in this series. I also felt sorry for Alice in the past. She didn’t deserve the hate that was piled on her, and her fate at Glen Baskerville’s hand probably wasn’t going to be a good one. Jack asks not to be called the Hero of Sablier because of what he was forced to do to stop it, but what Glen planned wasn’t any better. If anything Jack’s remorse only reinforces his heroism, especially considering his fate.

PANDORA_10Also included in these volumes was the pilot story for Pandora Hearts. I enjoyed it just as much as what it became. It keeps a lot of the elements, with chains and characters from Alice in Wonderland. Gil and Oz are still together, and Oz is chained to the B-Rabbit, but it takes a slightly different form. It was a good, action story, and quite enjoyable.

I don’t know that I can say I enjoyed these volumes, but they were good, compelling reads. The few moments of camaraderie between Oz, Alice and Gilbert were uplifting, and Alice’s first attempt at a kiss was cute. But it seems tragedy is meant to rule this series as a meeting between Oz and his father is anything but warm, and with the forward movement of Oz’s incuse, he takes another step toward losing himself and becoming more like the B-Rabbit. Pandora Hearts continues to keep me coming back, as it’s questions are too fascinating to let go.

Review copies provided by Publisher.

Second Chance Manga

Going digital can be a big decision, especially if you are like me, and still like to hold paper in your hands. But there are times when buying digital is an advantage, as is when a publisher, like Viz, has a big backlist of titles that are lengthy or difficult to find. One thing you can say about Viz, they have been working hard to make their backlist titles available again in digital. With Viz having their 20% off holiday sale, now is a good time to catch up on some older titles you may have missed out on.

Dragon Ball 1 bigViz really made a name for itself with Shonen Jump and bringing over many of the well-known and loved titles from that magazine. Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z is probably the most beloved series to come out of Weekly Shonen Jump. The first half is action and comedy, while the second half all action that set the standard for fighting shonen manga for years to come. It is 42 volumes, but if you haven’t checked it out yet, what are you waiting? Rurouni Kenshin was another series that helped establish shonen manga in the US. This title brought both men and women, with it’s heavy action, historical backdrop and hints of romance that is realized in the end. It is 28 volumes over 3 story arcs. Yu Yu Hakusho came on the heels of Rurouni Kenshin in the world of anime on Cartoon Network, and was one of the debut titles in the US Shonen Jump. It is a mix of supernatural and action, with a punk lead and an ensemble cast to please any taste. It’s shorter at only 19 volumes. Shaman King was another debut title in Shonen Jump, and is also a supernatural action series. It veers more into the ghost and spirits side of the supernatural, and has a health dose of comedy to balance the more serious action. It’s a healthy 32 volumes.

Hikaru no Go 1Hikaru no Go is a very different kind of shonen, as it’s battles take place on the Go board instead of an arena. It’s smart and intense writing matched with beautiful art keeps is a must for any gaming manga fan. It’s 23 volumes and worth every one. Black Cat is an action title that skirts the supernatural, but is more about being true to yourself and following the path you’ve made despite where others think you should go. It’s the shortest, at only 20 volumes. Almost all of these titles are complete at vizmanga.com, except for Black Cat, and Yu Yu Hakusho which has been coming out for past several weeks and making the top 5 titles every week.

Basara 1Viz isn’t one to ignore the lovers or drama and romance. Over the years they have brought out a lot of shojo titles. Basara is a historical title that thrusts a young woman into the role of her brother to protect the oppressed while gaining allies against her enemies. A late 90s-early 2000s title, volumes for this series are hard to come by, and later volumes can go for big bucks on eBay or Amazon. This digital release puts the series back in a more reasonable price range. It is 27 volumes. Boys Over Flowers is another early shojo title. It is a poor girl against the elite boys story, though the girl is no shrinking violet and stands up to the boys. It been made into live dramas all around Asia and even has an adaptation coming out in America. It is a whopping 37 volumes. From Far Away is a big hit with librarians, who like to recommend it for tween girls looking for action and romance. It features a girl from modern-day being swept away into a fantasy world of adventure. She is rescued by a boy who holds a great evil that she can unleash, binding the pair together. It is only 14 volumes. Fushigi Yugi is the title that started the girls swept to a fantasy world plot and is often the one most other titles are compared to. A teenage girls is pulled through a book to a world where she is believed to a priestess to one of the four gods and must find her seven warriors to save the kingdom before she can go home. It is available in the VizBIG edition in digital, which was a high quality three-in-one release. It only 6 volumes, but are double the price.

Here is Greenwood 1Hana Kimi is a girl disguises as a boy to get close to the boy of her dreams at an all boys school, and has to keep her gender a secret. It’s got lots of humor using the gender-bending a lot, though is more a romance than comedy. It is 23 volumes. Here is Greenwood is another cross dressing all boys school story, but this time, it’s a boy cross dressing as a girl. The boy lead is trying to escape heartache at home, and is thrown into the craziness that is Greenwood dormitory. It is another early aughts series that can be difficult to find volumes of, though it ended after only 9. Please Save My Earth is a rare sci-fi/romance story. A group of teenagers start having the same, recurring dreams of being alien scientists observing the Earth. It deals with love and fate and is another title that is difficult to get volumes of. It is 21 volumes. Red River is a historical romance for the older teen to young adult. It features another modern girl drawn to past to fulfill a destiny, but this time, the past is ancient Mesopotamia, which is in conflict with Egypt. It’s romance is more mature and throws plenty of action. It’s 28 volumes.

There are so many more titles available at Vizmanga.com, but these are taste of older titles that you might not have heard or known about. Many of these are from the 90s and the art might seem a little dated, but the stories are strong, with some of them being the basis for whole new sub-genres. There’s a lot her to take in, so take your time in checking them out. They all feature first full chapters to give you an idea what the stories and art is like. The 20% off sale lasts until December 31, 2013, so don’t take too long. But definitely give some of these titles a try.

 

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 27: Umineko When They Cry Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch Part 2

Manga Dome header

 

This week I look at some manga news, news from Vizmanga.com, the Nielson Bookscan for September, and review the Yen Press title Umineko When They Cry Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch Part 2.

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 27: Umineko When They Cry Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch Part 2