Tag Archives: older teen

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

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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

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 22: Alice in the Country of Hearts

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This week I check out a new manga kickstarter from Manga Reborn, what’s up at Vizmanga, and review the last two volumes of Alice in the Country of Hearts.

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 22: Alice in the Country of Hearts

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 13: Too Many Alices!

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This week I’ve got a few short news stories, the goings on at Vizmanga.com and I look at the similarities of three Yen Press titles that are based on or inspired by Alice in Wonderland: Are You Alice?, Alice in the Country of Hearts and Pandora Hearts.

The podcast is on Facebook now too! Like it there too for new episodes and updates about what’s coming up!

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 13: Too Many Alices!

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 12: Umineko When They Cry: Episode 1 Legend of the Golden Witch

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This week I check out some news, the goings-on at Vizmanga.com and review the Yen Press title Umineko When They Cry: Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch.

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 12: Umineko When They Cry: Episode 1 Legend of the Golden Witch

Grand Guignol Orchestra Vol 1-5: Manga Movable Feast

In a world infected with a deadly virus that turns its victims into zombie-like dolls call Guignols, a traveling band of musicians, known as the Grand Orchestra, wander the world, and bringing music to the uninfected. For the right price they will perform any song and maybe even a miracle. Led by Lucille, the beautiful singer, the Orchestra searches for the legendary Black Oratorio, which is said to hold the answer to ending the Guignol Virus.

GrandGuignolOrchestra_GN01_coverBy Kaori Yuki
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Horror/Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

Grand Guignol Orchestra is latest Kaori Yuki title to be released in English. It is a Gothic horror,  that puts a different twist on the zombie phenomena. I’ve enjoyed Yuki’s work since I first read Godchild, and was looking forward to reading her take on zombies. I wasn’t disappointed. The interesting characters, mixture of music and zombies, and a story with lots of twists and turns all wrapped up in a fairy tale-like setting made this a fun read.

Grand Guignol Orchestra 2Right from the beginning I liked the characters. Lucille, the beautiful, gender-ambiguous leader of the Orchestra starts as rather capricious and a little sinister. But after seeing the “Divine Lightning” in action, a more serious and grim side to him is shown. His motives aren’t revealed at first, and a lot of doubt is cast on him as being good or trustworthy. But as the story progresses, the truth is revealed, and we see that not only Lucille but his sister were manipulated into their circumstances, but Lucille had the strength and courage to find a way out for them.

Lucille’s companions in the Orchestra, Kohaku and Gwindell also have their sinister sides. It is revealed at the beginning, that they are convicted criminals, and travel with Lucille in order to pay down their bail. Kohaku plays the violin, and loves his guns. He is also able to hide and infinite number of weapons on his person. Gwindell, the cellist, is the strong but silent type. He drives the hearse they travel in and carries a hedgehog with him, a memento of his daughter. Both of them claim to not like Lucille, that they are forced to be with them, but when push comes to shove, they do come to his aid. They backgrounds are revealed toward the end, and like Lucille, they are not as bad as they were made out to be.

Grand Guignol Orchestra 3The final member of the Orchestra is Eles/Celes. She is masquerading as her twin brother after her piano playing accidentally sends the surrounding guignols into a frenzy, infecting or killing the rest of the children in town, as well as several of the townspeople. At her father’s behest, she joins Lucille to find a reason to live as herself. She is the sane member of the Orchestra, trying to make sense of the insanity around her. She is also the one person all the members of the Orchestra care enough about to truly want to protect.

The story moves at a brisk pace, as there is only one story to introduce the characters before diving headlong into the plot. No chapter after the first is really a stand alone, as each revelation adds another piece to the puzzle that is finally put together in the final chapters. The twists the story takes, from who and what Lucille really is, to Gwindell’s past, to the final reveal of the true villain made for a great ride. I did like how Le Senat, who seemed to be the villains at the beginning, are slowly revealed to be more than they seemed, and even honorable enough to stop one of their own, and allowing Lucille to complete his mission. I also really liked how all the seeming supernatural elements, such as the Queen’s divine lightning, were explain scientifically. Sadly, it doesn’t take much imagination to see how the world ended up that way, or that one man’s obsession could cause such a world-wide catastrophe.

Grand Guignol Orchestra 4Now, I’m not a big fan of blood and gore, so zombie stories don’t tend to be something I enjoy. This title is a definite exception. Yuki’s zombies are different from the usual rotting, meandering creatures with their flesh falling off. They are more like wooden dolls, with hardened skin and joints, and frozen expressions. I think having them like dolls is much more scary, since dolls are real things, and can be scary on their own in the right circumstances. The “clankity” sounds they make are really creepy. They aren’t completely mindless. Under certain circumstances they can regain their selves, making them less like monsters and more something to be pitied. Music is one of those circumstances.

Music is an important element in this series. The guignols respond to it for some reason, whether its Celes’ piano playing, Lucille’s voice or even a single tone, music can drive the guignols to attack, become themselves for a few moments, or break some control over them. Music is also the way the Queen controls her divine lightning and even some guignols. Ultimately, it is music, a song from the Black Oratorio that finally ends the terror of the guignols. And with the shadows of the original Queen and the King that created her gone as well, the series can reach a happy finale.

Grand Guignol Orchestra 5I really enjoyed Grand Guignol Orchestra. It wasn’t as dramatic or angsty as Yuki’s earlier titles such as Angel Sanctuary or Godchild. Considering what those protagonists had to go through, Lucille had it pretty easy. He still had a lot of difficult obstacles to get through, but he never gave up, no matter how hopeless the situation seemed. That is one of the things I love about Yuki’s protagonists. I was also really happy to see the series had a definitive happy ending, and we are not left to wonder what happened to the Orchestra. Though, Lucille’s face is left in shadow, so we don’t know what effect the destroying of the guignol virus had on him. But then, some things are best left unsolved.

I didn’t have any real issues with this series, other than it felt rushed. I would have liked a few more stories of the Orchestra helping other towns before plowing into the main plot. A little more of Lucille, Gwindell and Kohaku arguing and fighting guignols would have been nice, but not having doesn’t diminish the series any.

Grand Guignol Orchestra ended shy of half a volume, so one of Yuki’s short stories, Camelot Garden was used to fill it out. This is another story that mixes fantasy with science to good effect. It’s premise is similar to Grand Guignol Orchestra with a father determined to keep his daughter to himself though it uses the poem ‘Lady of Shalott’ by the English poet Lord Alfred Tennyson as it’s core. I really enjoy stories that do this, weaving the story and pictures around a poem or song.

I really enjoyed Grand Guignol Orchestra. It has the perfect balance of humor, drama, action, romance and a happy ending. It’s hard enough to get this in any series, let alone a Kaori Yuki manga. This series is rather atypical of most Yuki titles, so while I do recommend it for readers looking to get into her work, be warned that the warm and fuzzies from this series aren’t translated to a lot of her other works. Pick it up in print or in digital on Vizmanga.com.

A Bride’s Story Volume 3-4: Manga Movable Feast

Researcher Mr. Smith has left the Eihon family and is on his way to Ankara. As he awaits his guide in a village, he meets the widow Talas, but his honorable intentions toward her are not seen that way by her uncle who has his own plans for her, and lands the Englishman in jail. Rescued by some familiar faces, his journey takes him through a fishing village along the Aral Sea, where a pair of twins are plotting to land themselves some rich, healthy brothers as husbands.

Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Historical/Slice of Life
Price: $16.99
ISBN: 978-0-316-21034-8/978-0-316-23203-6
Rating: ★★★★☆

These two volumes of A Bride’s Story leaves Amir, Karluk and the Eihon family behind, and follows Mr. Smith as he travels across the desert on his way to Ankara, where a colleague waits for him with an item he’s been searching for. We meet two different kinds of brides in these volumes, the five-time widowed Talas and the over-eager twins Laila and Leily. While I still enjoyed these volumes, the new characters didn’t grow on my as much as the Eihons did in the first two volumes.

Mr. Smith gets the spotlight in volume 3. After arriving in the village where he is to meet his guide, he meets a young woman, Talas. She offers to put him up until his guide arrives. She and her mother-in-law have been alone for a while, after the death of five sons and the father. Talas thinks having Mr. Smith stay will make her mother happy. I liked Talas. She was quiet and unassuming; the  opposite of Amir in a lot of ways. She’s had a hard life, going through so many husbands so quickly without ever producing an heir, but she bears it all with a quiet strength. Her mother is much the same, having lost 5 sons and her own husband, she continues on alone, thinking only of Talas’ happiness.

Mr. Smith becomes caught in the middle of this, as the mother tries to get him to take her as his bride. It’s interesting to see him struggle with what to do. He doesn’t have a wide emotional range, and often has a bewildered look on his face, except when he has learned some new cultural aspect. When he finally comes to a decision, the circumstances change on him. The change shows how different betrothal and marriage is treated between Europeans and the Western Asians, and the importance of a father in a woman’s life. Even when it is explained to him, he doesn’t seem to fully get it. He doesn’t show any emotion about it until he is alone, and a single act shows his disappointment.

Brides story 4In volume 4 we don’t see much of Mr. Smith, as his arrival in the seaside town causes a stir when his cover story of being a doctor has him overwhelmed with patients from all over the area. This leaves the story open for trouble-making twins Laila and Leily. The two girls are determined to get husbands, and spent most of the volume plotting ways to get them. I really didn’t care much for the twins. They bordered on obnoxious for me. But their story gave an excuse to concentrate on the women’s side again. Laila and Leily were recounted with stories from the older women of how they found their husbands and the tricks they used to land them. And when husbands are found for the girls, their mother has to give them whirlwind lessons in being proper wives, teaching them cooking, cleaning and sewing.

I still enjoyed this series. The cultural aspects shown in every volume are fascinating. In these two volumes we see the importance of being generous and hospitable, as an impromptu meal becomes an event to be shared with. We also get a glimpse on being a groom, as Mr. Smith’s guide, Ali, explains why he took the job even though it was dangerous. He wants to take a bride, but has to come up with the betrothal money himself since his family is poor. So far, we have only been seeing that the bride’s family has to do, and haven’t heard much about what the groom must do as well. Information on the wedding preparations start to get more in-depth as Laila and Leily’s wedding approaches which of course, will delay Mr. Smith who will want to stay and see an actual wedding.

While my enthusiasm cooled a little over these volumes, volume 4 mostly, I still love it. The cultural details that Mori is able to present in the story without it feeling like a lesson is great. This series could easily be used as a teaching aid for the time period. And of course her meticulous art continues to delight. The different costumes she used for the different regions are just beautiful. I’ll continue to give this series my highest recommendation, because, personal feelings or no, this is still one of the best series you will ever read.

A Bride’s Story Volume 1-2: Manga Movable Feast

Along the nineteenth-century Silk Road, Amir Halgal, a young woman from a nomadic tribe, is betrothed to a twelve-year-old boy eight years her junior. Coping with cultural differences, blossoming feelings for her new husband, and expectations from both her adoptive family, and her birth family, who now wish to see her wed to another, Amir strives to find her role as she settles into a new life and a new home in a society quick to define that role for her.

BRIDE_1By Kaoru Mori
Publsiher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Historical/Slice of Life
ISBN: 978-0-316-18099-3/978-0-316-19446-4
Price: $16.99/ea
Rating: ★★★★★

I remember when this title was first announced and how excited people were to get a new Karou Mori title. Having not read anything by her at the time, I didn’t see what the excitement was about. But after hearing some discussion of the title, I decided to check out the first volume. I absolutely loved it, and had to buy volumes 2 and 3 immediately afterward. The charming characters and immersion into 19th century Central Asia was a delight to read.

These volumes start by introducing Amir and her young husband, Karluk Eihon. They first meet on their wedding day, and while both seem surprised at seeing the other, both also accept each other. Many of the chapters show their everyday life, with Amir showing Karluk’s family, now her family, her way of doing things, while she learns theirs. There are also stories about other members of the Eihon family, and the Eihon’s nomadic relatives. Also introduced almost immediately is the stirring trouble with Amir’s birth family, who have decided they need her back since her younger sister, who was married off to another tribe, died and they will lose the grazing land they got in the deal. This leads to an armed conflict between the two families, as well as some between Amir and Karluk.

I absolutely loved Amir and Karluk from their first introduction. I adore Amir and her enthusiastic and earnest personality. She can be impulsive, such as when she jumps up to hunt rabbits immediately when she learns the Eihon family hasn’t had rabbit stew before. When given a gift, she feels the need to return the favor and proceeds to shoot down a bird to exchange. She is dedicated to Karluk and treats him like an equal and not a child. Karluk in turn tries to be a husband to her, but still has some problems with being intimate with her. When they are sleeping together in the Yurat while visiting Karluk’s Uncle, he feels more like a child with his mother than man and wife. He proves himself though when he defends Amir from her own father when the Halgal family try to take Amir back by force. He takes his duties as husband seriously, trying to protect her from danger. They make a really cute couple.

The supporting characters are great too. Seleke, Karluk’s older sister, tries to be strick with her four children, but ends up doting more. Their parents are kind and supportive. I loved Balkirsh, the grandmother and matriarch of the family. She doesn’t meddle in the affairs of other family members, but will step in when necessary. She diffused the confrontation between Amir’s brother and her grandson-in-law, and was able to get Amir to rest while Karluk was sick with a cold. She’s feisty, and doesn’t mince her words. And then there’s Mr. Smith, an Englishman living with the Eihons. He is an anthropologist, studying the life and culture of Western Asia. He is constantly asking questions about customs in the village, or for help with translating documents he has found. He is played a lot for comedy relief.

Bride's story 2Mr. Smith and to some extent Amir, is also used to show the culture and customs of the area. Amir, who has come from a semi-nomadic tribe, has a lot to learn about town living. One of the biggest is that the townspeople are much more modest. Amir is constantly causing a stir, such as when she misunderstands Mother and thinks she must clean her clothes and runs out in her underwear. Amir’s hunting skills fascinate the townsfolk, as she hunts rabbits from horseback and brings back deer. The children become fascinated by her bow, and soon she is teaching them how to use it. Through Mr. Smith, more general cultural elements are explained. The importance of embroidery and cloth for dowry is shown in detail, as is entertaining. The townsfolk try to compete to entertain the messenger who bring letters for Mr. Smith.

Because this is “A Bride’s Story”, a lot of focus is put on the women. There is the impression that women are seen as nothing more than property, especially when Amir’s family tries to reclaim her, and the Eihons counter that they have no claim. But it’s not like the women are treated poorly or without rights. Balkirsh commands a lot of respect, even from Amir’s brother when he first comes to reclaim Amir. And as is shown with Amir, they can be hunters and herders, and not limited to the household. I don’t see the arranged marriages as a way to control women, but as part of the complex social structure passed down through the generations. Compared to European women of the time, the women of western Asia had a lot more personal freedom.

The art is just exquisite. The detail that Mori puts into the clothes and rugs is amazing. The costumes are beautiful and varied, reflecting their different origins. It’s not just material that is so ornate. Wood carving and even the making of bread is shown to be decorated with beautiful designs, and their creators are shown to put great care into their craft. I loved the chapter with the carpenter, and the time he spends creating ornate doors and posts. I also love the wide-eyed expressions that both Amir and Karluk have. It makes Amir’s enthusiasm all that more infectious, and Karluk just looks cute, even when he’s trying to be heroic.

I can’t say enough good things about this series. I loved it from cover to cover, and it just gets better with every re-read. Amir’s story is funny, exciting, and touching. A Bride’s Story is one of the best series you will read, filled with great characters, fun slice of life moments and charming characters that you will never want to leave. It’s a great investment of both time and money.

Soul Eater Not Volume 1-2

Ding-Dong! Dead-Dong! Class is about to begin, and you don’t want to be late on your first day of school! Join Tsugumi Harudori in the “NOT” class at Death Weapon Meister Academy, a school dedicated to training transforming weapons like Tsugumi and the Meisters who will wield them. Many “NOT” (Normally Overcome Target) students aspire to join the elite “EAT” (Especially Advantaged Talent) class, but it may take Tsugumi some time to find her confidence — and a partner — at this crazy school!

SOULNOT_1By Atsushi Ohkubo
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Slice-of-Life/Fantasy/Action
Price: $11.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

Soul Eater NOT! is a spin-off series of another Yen Press title, Soul Eater. Soul Eater was a debut title for Yen’s manga magazine Yen Plus, starting its US serialization there. I didn’t care for Soul Eater, so I wasn’t sure what my reaction to Soul Eater NOT would be. I was pleasantly surprised by the slice-of-life story, that moved a slower pace and had some likable characters. Not interesting, just likable. If the characters weren’t used for mostly fan service, I would like this title a lot more.

Soul Eater NOT! starts by introducing Tsugumi Harudori. She is just starting at Death Weapon Meister Academy, in Death City, Nevada, United States of America. She has the ability to turn into a weapon, which is a genetic mutation one is born with. She has come to DWMA to learn to control her power and live a normal life. Tsugumi is a plain, rather dull, and indecisive girl. On her first day she meets two meisters; Meme who to say she has short-term memory problems would be an understatement and Anya, a upper-class European girl who wants to see what the “common people” are like. Both girls want to partner with Tsugumi, but she just can’t decide, so the three of them live and work together until a decision is made. Meanwhile, a witch is at work within DWMA, experimenting on people, and Tsugumi, Meme and Anya always seem to get involved with the situations some how.

The three main characters, Tsugumi, Meme, and Anya are all fairly likeable characters. At least, there’s nothing annoying about them. Tsugumi is an average teenage girl whose only remarkable trait is how unremarkable she is. She wants to become stronger, like Maka, a Weapons Meister who she meets on her first day, and is a main character from Soul Eater. Tsugumi puts her hair up in pigtails to emulate Maka, but the look doesn’t work for her. I liked Anya a lot. She tries to be so aloof, but really wants to be included in the things Tsugumi and Meme do. Her modesty over the cafe uniforms was cute. I didn’t like that she never got to pair with Tsugumi. She would make a better partner for Tsugumi, as she proves when she uses Tsugumi in fight. Meme is the closest to an annoying character this title has. Her inability to remember simple things gets annoying fast. She only seems able to fight efficiently when she is sleep walking. Her only real purpose seems to be for fan service. She has the largest chest of the three girls, and is always slipping into bed with Tsugumi. I really didn’t care for this aspect of the title at all.

Soul Eater Not 2I liked a lot of the supporting characters too. Eternal Feather is a year ahead of the girls and is very helpful and sympathetic to them when they become prey of the “witch of the girl’s dorm”, Kim. This makes what happens to her at the end of volume two really sad. I liked Kim too, with her tsundere ways. She acts tough, but really has a kind heart. I also really liked the Master of the Death’s Back Cafe where the girls work for money part time.I’m not sure what to think of the two boys in their class, Akane and Clay. Even though they are in the NOT class, they seem to be working to get into the EAT class. They are working with their teacher Sid to weed out witches which may be hiding at the academy.

And there is definitely one running around. This is more of a subplot to add some action to the otherwise slow-paced slice of life that Soul Eater Not usually is. The girls aren’t actively involved with hunting the witch, but they always seem to be around when the witch is making a move. While this part of the plot hasn’t taken over the story, I hope it stays that way. What I like most about Soul Eater Not is the slice of life stories following the girls around school and interacting with the other characters in their dorm and that they meet in town. As long as the story stays that way, and the witch plot stays in the background, I’ll be happy.

Soul Eater NOT is a better than average title, and while it does have some fan-service-y moments, they aren’t as bad as they could be. The characters are quirky enough to be likeable, but not really memorable. As long as the story stays on the lighter side, it will continue to be a fun title to read and enjoy.

Durarara!! Volume 3-4

After twenty years of searching, Celty, the headless black rider, has at last found her missing head bobbing through the streets of Ikebukuro on someone else’s neck! Though Celty prsues, the girl escapes on the arm of Mikado Ryuugamine, taking refuge in his apartment. Both the legendary rider and Yagiri Pharmaceuticals come bearing down on Mikado and the scarred girl. But when Yagiri crosses the line, the true leader of the Dollars steps forward to take command of the vast network of members at his disposal. though this unobtrusive boy holds a disturbing degree of power in the palm of his hand, Celty is preoccupied by the powers that still control her head. At the end of the day, will her search all have been for naught? Or has she found something even more precious along the way?

DURARARA_3Story by Ryohgo Narita; Art by Akiyo Satorigi; Character Design by Suzuhito Yasuda
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Action/Supernatural/Romance
ISBN: 9780316209328; 9780316209335
Price: $12.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

With such a large cast, it’s hard to believe that these last two volumes of Durarara!! could tie everything up easily, but that’s precisely what it does. All of the relationships are resolved (for the moment), and characters’ secrets are revealed. Some are surprising while others aren’t so much.

There are at least three different relationships going on in Durarara!! We really get in the mind of Celty (can’t really say head), as she really starts to consider the ramifications of getting her head back. Fear of death, and her, a Dullahan, being in a relationship with Dr. Shinra, a human, really shake her confidence. Shinra, who is usually just being a jerk, is surprisingly understanding with Celty. He shows some real tenderness and affection for her, but also deserves the punch in the face she gives him. But, in the end, Celty is happy with her situation, and not so obsessed with finding her head. Which might not be such a good thing as well learn late on.

Durarara 4Seiji Yagiri gets what he deserves as the head he believes is his “soul mate” turns out to not be what he expected. He really needed the beat-down that Shizou gave him about it. His “pure love” proved to be nothing more than skin deep, making him easily fooled, and well deserved of the one who now has the face of his “soul mate.” I did enjoy the scene of them together at the end, pretending to like each other, but each still having their own agendas. Perhaps he really did find his soul mate. Even Mikado got a start on his relationship with Sonohara. They had the typical “too shy to admit their feelings” relationship throughout the series, but by the end, Mikado finally got up the courage to ask her out, but not before kicking Masaomi for trying to horn in on her first.

Most of the mysteries presented in the series were resolved by the end. Who started the Dollars and why is revealed, and its leader was a complete surprise to me. I was also surprised by Shizuo. I started out not really caring for him, but his actions in these last two volumes really warmed him up to me. His archenemy Orihara wasn’t so surprising his motives. He’s always seemed to be a dark character, but his true ambitions aren’t revealed until the end. They are quite grand, and involve Celty’s head. His theory about Dullahans is interesting, but his intend working from that theory isn’t good for Ikebukuro or its inhabitants.

While Durarara!! started out slow for me, I ended up really enjoying the series. What really helped is how the characters were developed over the four volumes, and became either people I liked or who got what they deserved. Durarara!! is based on a series of light novels, and I would love to see more manga adventures with these characters. There are 11 novels to pull from, and the manga ends really feeling like that could be more. And Yen Press has answered my unspoken prayer as Durarara!! Saika Arc is scheduled to begin in March. I can’t wait now! Durarara!! turned out to be a fun ride that is definitely worth reading, and might be worth keeping.