Chibi Vampire is a title I ended up really enjoying. So, after finishing the series, I picked up the two spin-off volumes that came out after the title finished publication here in the US; Airmail and Bites. While both return you to the world of Karin and her family and friends, they do have their ups and downs.
For recently turned vampire Minato Misaki, vampirism and the beastly powers that come with it are something that she wouldn’t wish upon her worst enemy, let alone her beloved Kuroe. But Kuroe’s supernatural investigations make him a regular target of not only vampires but of all sorts of undead creatures of the night. The only way to save him from these deadly threats may be to do the one thing that Misaki fears the most: to turn Kuroe into a vampire for his own protection.
I’ve had this volume in my review pile for a while, and kept meaning to read it. I’d heard a lot of good things about it, and after reading a review of it for the Manga Movable Feast I hosted last year, I was really interested, but I am easily distracted, and it was soon buried by the growing review pile. With this month’s MMF being about vampires, it seemed the perfect time to dig it out. And I’m really glad I did. Blood Alone isn’t the typical vampire series with a lot of angst and melodrama. Instead, it is populated with rich, interesting characters and a story that is a mix of slice of life and murder mystery with a sprinkling of vampires.
Blood Alone revolves around Kuroe, a former Vampire Hunter and Misaki, a young vampire girl. It might seem like an odd pairing, until you get to know them. As the story begins, we don’t know how long they’ve been together, but it’s obviously been a while, as they are comfortable with each other and have a set routine. Masaki isn’t a vampire who just looks like a 10 to 12-year-old girl, she actually is still a tween. She doesn’t like to sleep alone, is afraid of thunder, and can be melodramatic. She has a big time crush on Kuroe, and is quick to get jealous when any other women speak to him. She is sweet and innocent in a charming kind of way. She doesn’t like being a vampire and hates having to drink blood. She doesn’t know much about her new abilities, so it’s cute when she tries them on Kuroe for the first time.
Kuroe appears rather laid back. He is a writer, but to cover bills between books he also works as a private investigator, taking jobs as varied as finding a lost cat to being a bodyguard. He appears unassuming, but he’s actually a well-trained fighter and seems to have quite a reputation in the vampire community. He is absolutely devoted to Masaki, often worrying about her when she goes off on her own, and trying to give her time alone with him. His feeling for her however are much more of a brotherly kind. Kuroe doesn’t appear to have an interest in anyone romantically. He was infatuated with his older sister, who was taken by a vampire several years earlier, and is probably the reason he became a Vampire Hunter. He does have a special ability that he earned while trying to save his sister. His eyes were wounded by the vampire, and now he can see when something is trying to be something it isn’t. And he’s immune to vampire tricks. A rather useful trait for a vampire hunter.
Assisting Kuroe and Masaki is an interesting supporting cast. Sayaka Sainome is a long time friend of Kuroe’s who is the head of a police forensics department. She often asks Kuroe for help in cases where the supernatural might be involved. She is also Masaki’s potentially biggest rival for Kuroe’s attention. Higure is an elder vampire who looks like a boy, but is really very old. He controls the vampire territory where Kuroe and Misaki live, helping Misaki learn about her vampiric powers and tolerating Kuroe. Sly is an underworld figure who is a friend of both Kuroe and Misaki who also happens to be a vampire. He helps them out with information. His partner is a cat named Larry. While it doesn’t seem right to call any cat “owned” by a human, it seems especially inappropriate for Larry.
The stories range from slice of life stories, such as Misaki’s humming inspiring a down and out musician to write again, to murder mysteries, with Sayaka and Kuroe hunting down a serial killer’s soul, to action with Kuroe fighting a vampire guild of assassins. The mix of stories keeps the series from getting boring or bogged down, as it never spends too much time on any vampire angst. The side characters get some attention too. Sayaka gets a story to work out issues she had with her deceased father. What I really enjoyed about this omnibus, was how easy it was to get lost in volume. At three volumes it was the perfect length, and the kinds of stories covered made for a perfect introduction to the characters and the world. The art is beautifully rendered as well. The characters never get too silly looking. All of their emotions are handled realistically, without being too realistic.
Blood Alone is exactly the kind of vampire title I’ve been looking for. It has a strong and varied range of characters and stories to suit. It has its own vampire mythos that doesn’t stray far from established canon, and doesn’t dwell on the angst of being a vampire. It acknowledges it without letting it overwhelm the story. This is a great title for readers who want more from their vampires than just killing things or moping. I highly recommend it.
Digital review copy provided by publisher.
This chilling tale of murder, secrets, and revenge centers on a home and the ugly events that transpired there. The place now has new owners, but there is a vile presence that permeates the building and pollutes every surface. What wickedness set off this unstoppable angry spirit? Why has its bloody grudge infected the home and its inhabitants? In the spirit of The Ring, Ju-On –Video Side– delivers a dark warning of a cursed spirit and the corrupting influence it has on the living.
While I don’t care for most horror movies in general, I do like the J-Horror movies that came out in the early 2000s. I have been on a quest to read as many of the manga adaptations that have come out as I can. So far I have read The Ring 0-3, Dark Water and One Missed Call. The manga adaptations have been hit or miss for me, so when I finally got my hands on Ju-On: Video Side, I wasn’t sure which way it would go. It’s actually a pretty good adaptation, just not of the movie as released here in the US.
Ju-On: Video Side tells the story of the Murakami family, the family to live in the house after the Saekis, who were the originators of the curse. Their story was originally told in the 2000 direct-to -video film Ju-On, or Ju-On: The Curse, and is a prequel to the theatrical movie. The story follows Tsuyoshi Murakami and his friend Mizuho, the daughter of Tatsuya Tamura, a friend of Tsyuoshi’s father, and the realtor who sold the Murakami’s their new house. Starting with Tatsuya’s mysterious dismemberment, one person after another is killed at the hands of Kayoko and Toshio’s hands. Some for doing nothing more than walking into the house.
I liked this adaptation. It didn’t follow the theatrical movies, so the story was fresher. It also told the story straightforwardly and in chronological order, so there was no trying to get your head around what was going one. I also liked a lot of the little differences that happen in the manga. Tsuyoshi’s sister Kanna isn’t killed feeding rabbits, but stray cats, which makes some sense since Toshio’s spirit is merged with a cat. The scene is very disturbing though. It’s gives a good shock too, as two police officers investigating the attack stare at something off-screen, taking about what it could be, which is inter-cut with scenes of Kanna dragging herself home. The build up is paid off in the reveal.
I also like what happened between Tsuyoshi and Mizuho. The story builds them up as not just the protagonists, but with a budding romance as well. This makes what Tsuyoshi does disturbing yet touching, even if he was under Kayoko’s influence at the time. The volume ends not on an uplifting note, but with a feeling that there could be hope. Kayoko and Toshio are shown to be just as much victims of the curse as the people who move into the house, and that adds to the overall emotion. Ju-on isn’t a personal vendetta, or mindless serial killer killing for the pleasure. It’s like a force of nature, and sweeps up anyone and everyone in its path.
If you’re interested in picking up the manga of a J-Horror, Ju-On: Video Side is a good choice. It hits different notes than the videos and movies, and hits them well. There is some blood and gore, but nowhere near as much as many western horror movies, and you can turn the page fast if it really bothers you. Just don’t read this in the dark, when you’re alone, and where there are cats. You might not get any sleep for a while.
From on high, the gods make sport of the mortals who toil below them. None knows the cruelty of these beings better than Ganymede, a beautiful prince who was torn away from his family by the gods’ divine hands. Granted immortality, Ganymede now whiles away his days in an inescapable miniature garden for the amusement of the gods, particularly Apollo. But the gods themselves are no stranger to the boredom of eternal life, and as Ganymede quickly discovers, they will do anything to keep themselves entertained, both at his expense and at one another’s…
I love mythology, so anytime there’s a series that comes out that has to do with some myth or legend, I want to check it out. This made Olympos a must for me to read. While I wasn’t too sure about the title at first, it had completely won me over by the end. Olympos brings up some interesting ideas about gods and immortality.
Olympos starts by introducing the reader to Ganymede, a beautiful prince who it trapped in a miniature garden. His current plight is shown, and then it flashes back to the past to show how he came to be there, and became immortal. But he isn’t really the protagonist of the book. It’s really about Apollo, the sun-god who kidnaps Ganymede and becomes his captor and tormentor. Apollo is bored, and Ganymede is just one of his diversions. After learning about Ganymede, the story focuses on Apollo and the other gods who he interacts with; Poseidon, Hades, Artemis and even Zeus.
At first, Apollo appears to be a complete jerk. He torments Ganymede mercilessly with escaping from the garden, forces him to watch his brother die, calls all humans insects, and tips a stone onto some humans building a temple to him. He also mocks Posiden, the middle brother and god of the oceans, calling him an idiot. But as I read more of his story, he became more sympathetic. The more he interacts with humans, including Ganymede, the more we see how hollow his life, and really the lives of the gods are. Even though Apollo looks down on humans as inferior, he is fascinated by the things they can do that gods can’t, such as lying, or saying things they can’t do. While he never stops looking down on Ganymede, the pair do grow some, and come to understand where each other is coming from, and it’s that understanding that made me more forgiving of Apollo’s cruel behavior.
I really enjoyed how well each character fits his description from the myths. Apollo is very capricious in his behavior toward humans, though we don’t see his amorous side. The portrayal of his relationship with his sister was intriguing as well. Poseidon is show to be very argumentative with his fellow gods and trying to get Apollo and Hades to join him in overthrowing Zeus. Hades is pragmatic and cryptic, as you would expect the god of the underworld to be, while Zeus is kept a complete mystery. As god of the sky, he is portrayed as not really seeing those around him, especially humans, though he did grow curious about Ganymede. I also really liked the idea of “the gods can not speak false”, and how that affects Apollo.
The art is just stunning. All the gods are drawn as bishonen, as is Ganymede. There is a lot of beautiful, flowing hair for everyone. Zeus is shown to be all feathers and wings, and Hades is all in black with horns, though he can appear differently depending on who is looking at him. Another touch I really enjoyed was Apollo having eyes the color of sunrise/sunset. Aki put a lot of thought into the look of the characters to match their personalities and it shows in the beautiful artwork.
Olympos is a fantastic read. The almost tragic circumstances of everyone makes it very different from most other manga out there, since it isn’t because of fate or the gods, or any of the other reasons usually given. It’s just the way their life is, and that is infinitely more interesting than having some higher thing to blame. Immortality might not be as great as we think it might be, and boredom a fate worse than death.
Yozo Obo seems to have finally found happiness with his wife Yoshino, and his job as a mangaka. But one single event sends him spirally back down into the darkness, farther than he’s ever gone before. One by one, he loses everything, even his sanity.
Mikado is an average high-schooler whose life has been anything but since moving to Ikebukuro! After coming face-to–Neck?–with the legendary “Headless Rider,” Mikado can hardly wait to encounter more of the city’s peculiar residents. But when Midako is caught in the middle of a feud between Izaya Orihara and Shizuo Heiwajima, he soon realizes that Ikebukuro’s most unbelievable characters are also among its most dangerous…
Cyan is a young Abyssidian cat who is abandoned by his family when becomes sick and has to go to the hospital. Left in the basement of the family’s apartment building, Nyan-Nyans Mansion, he soon meets a gang of stray cats know as the Free Collars, who have made their base there. They are fighting to protect Nyan-Man from being taken over by another gang of strays led by a Siamese cat called Siam. In order to protect his home and keep waiting for the promised return of his master, Cyan joins the Free Collars to fight for their “kingdom.”
I must be getting cynical in my old age. When I first read Free Collars Kingdom 5 years ago, I liked it, even if I thought the fanservice was a little over the top. This second time around, I didn’t enjoy it as much, and as it got closer to the end, I was more annoyed than amused. While I love cats, I don’t care so much for cat boys and girls, and this title seems to be more otaku that look like cats than cats who are otaku.
I was looking forward to reading a fun title about otaku cats battling to protect their home from the evil otaku cats who want to take over the world. The protagonist, Cyan, wants to become like the legendary cat Wild Cat, who once ruled over all cats in the area from the place where Nyan-Man now stands, so he can protect his home while he waits for his master’s return. That’s not what I got from Free Collars Kingdom. The otaku part was there at the beginning, with battles being interrupted by broken limited edition statues, dressing like, and using moves from, video games, and fighting over manga. The otakuness wouldn’t be complete without some cosplay, which this title has plenty of. This element was cute and sometimes funny, but it wasn’t enough to carry the title for me.
The same goes for the shonen elements. There were plenty of battles with Siam’s underlings, who always had to lose to the Free Collars. Cyan, being young and inexperienced, had to win to show his hidden strength and that it wasn’t just pure luck. He spends a lot of time talking about how he wants to be as strong as Wild Cat, but he never really trains to start reaching that goal. It’s all talk and gets dangled out as a hook that there may be more to come, but it never materializes.
Think part of my problem with this title is that is too much going on. It feels like it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It has both comedy and shonen elements, but at the same time, it has some serious themes about the way cats are sometimes treated, and mistreated, by humans. One chapter can be light and funny, and then the next throws Cyan into conflict over his continued dedication to his old master. It was really hard to get past these two conflicting themes, which is probably why I found it so annoying. It also spend way too much time showing the characters as cat boys and girls. Fujima draws some really cute cats, especially Cyan. And if you’re not familiar with all the breeds, such as Korat, naming their breed and never showing them as such loses the benefit of using cats in the first place.
Free Collars Kingdom is a title I wanted to love, but in the end only found mildly funny with the otaku elements, and completely unsatisfying with other story elements that are brought up but never explored. Because of this, the ending, while making sense, wasn’t satisfying either. I can’t recommend this title for cat lovers, but fans of otaku culture, cat boys and girls, or moe characters may find something of worth from it.
The first of the heaven-sent bottles is revealed in these pages. No less gripping: the dramas of memory that unfold as Shizuku helps out an amnesiac painter, Chosuke hears from the French lady of his unrequited longings, and Miyabi meets a former classmate turned newly-rich snob for whom wires are but brands.
Welcome to Ikebukuro, where Tokyo’s wildest characters gather!! Meet an ordinary boy who daydreams about the extraordinary. A naive stalker girl. The strongest man in Ikebukuro. A shut-in doctor with questionable credentials. A hedonistic informant…and the “headless rider” astride a pitch-black motorcycle!? As their paths cross, this eccentric cast weaves a twisted, cracked love story…
I’ve had The Wallflower sitting on my bookshelf unread for 3-4 years now. I didn’t know anything about the manga until the anime was announced. Having watched and enjoyed the anime, I started to pick up the manga. I mistakenly picked up volume 7 first, and finding the first 6 took a little longer, so I put off reading it for while. Of course, after that, it was easy to continue to put it off. Even after collecting up to volume 15, I continued to put it off. But now, with space becoming a premium, a title that had 15 volumes of that I hadn’t even read the first volume of became an easy target for culling. Since I was also preparing for the MMF this week, I only got through the first 5 volumes.
The Wallflower is about 4 incredibly handsome boys, and their quest to live rent free in the mansion of an eccentric woman who is constantly traveling, and always with a new male companion. To reach this goal, all they have to do get their landlady’s niece to look an act like a proper lady. This is easier said than done, since said niece, Sunako looks like Sadako from The Ring, and wants to be by herself, in a dark room watching horror movies and talking to her anatomical dolls and skull, all of who she’s named. Repulsed at first, the boys learn that Sunako could be beautiful if she just tried. But after an incident with a boy she liked in middle school, Sunako rejects all things beautiful and doesn’t believe she can live in the with the other “creatures of light.” The manga follows the boys attempts to make Sunako a normal girl, or hide the fact that they have failed so far from the landlady.
I really didn’t care for the first 5 volumes of this series. I think part of it is because the anime was based on them. I’d already seen all of the stories before, so there was nothing new in them. Also, the stories focused mostly on how scary Sunako was, and what new scheme the boys had come up with to try to make her a lady. The anime took a much more comedic tack with this, I was expecting the manga to be like that. I liked volumes 6-10 a lot more. Not only were the stories not familiar, but they also started to focus on more of the characters. It wasn’t just “Sunako vs the Creatures of Light.” The other characters started to get some actual depth. Kyohei’s troubled past is investigated. Oda and Noi’s relationship gets to take a step forward. Ranmaru might have found love. Yuki’s powers of cuteness are further revealed. The characters started to be more than just cardboard cutouts, and I’m actually interested to read more about them.
One thing I’ve enjoyed throughout all 10 volumes is Sunako and Kyohei’s relationship. It’s the kind of advesarial relationship that I enjoy. Sunako is determined to live in darkness, and Kyohei is determined to live rent free. This put the two constantly at odds, sometimes with them coming to blows. These are some of the scenes I like the most, partly because it’s also most often when Sunako will be show as a person and not a chibi. I really got tired of her chibi form in the first 5 chapters, but it wasn’t so bad in the next 5. And for all their fighting, they do seem to care for each other. Kyohei is trying to help Sunako through his harsh words. And Sunako won’t let anyone else but her harm Kyohei, so that is something, right? I keep rooting for these them to get together. They are like two sides of the same coin. They are yin and yang; darkness and light.
I have mixed feelings about this title now. After the first 5 I was ready to chuck it. After the second 5, now I’m not so sure. The next 5, 11-15 will be the deciding factor I guess. I wish this series was available digitally. It would be a much easier decision then. At 15 volumes, I’m still only half way through the series, and 30 volumes is far too much space for a series I like, but don’t love. Kodansha, please put this on Jmanaga, so I at least have some hope of reading it.
I’ll finish up The Wallflower this week. I was going to start on Spiral: Bonds of Reasoning after, as it’s another 15 volumes, but I need to make a dent in my TBR pile. I’m running out of room on my desk as well. And I think I’ll start with some of the omnibuses I have; Black Gate, and the infamous Sasameke volume 2. Really, how bad can it be? I also have to catch up with the April issue of Yen Plus, since May starts Tuesday.
- The Wallflower volumes 1-10
- Dorohedoro volume 1
- Bokurano Ours volume 1
- Biomega volume 5
As I looked through my piles of manga, I realized I had more unread Viz Signature titles than I thought. I actually have more, but these were single volumes and made for quick enough reads that I could get them in. While they are two different titles in tone, they do not differ very much when it comes to my reactions to them. I am a sci-fi fan, but can I be a fan of these two titles? Read on to find out.
Mountaineer Shiga made a promise to his best friend following his tragic death in the Himalayas. Twelve years later and he is called upon to honor that promise. When 15-year-old student, Megumi, fails to arrive home from school her mother calls on her dead husband’s best friend for help. Shiga abandons his mountain refuge and enters the city to look for the girl. With the police investigation at a standstill, Shiga decides to go it alone. But the metropolis can be a much more hostile and dangerous ground than the mountains. What has happened to the youngster and will Shiga find her before it is too late? Multi-award winning creator, Jiro Taniguchi, builds the tension to a massive climax in this exciting drama!
By Jiro Taniguchi
Publisher: Ponent Mon
Age Rating: Older Teen
I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to participate in this month’s Manga Movable Feast. While I’d heard of Jiro Taniguchi and seen reviewers rave about his work, none of his titles really seemed to interest me. But once I went through a full list of his titles available in English, the first I found that looked interesting was Samurai Legend, which was drawn by him. But I wanted to read a title that he had both written and drawn for the MMF, and that’s when I came upon this title. I enjoy a good mystery, but The Quest for the Missing Girl is more than that.
The Quest for the Missing Girl isn’t strictly a mystery. It’s a character study wrapped in a mystery. Megumi’s disappearance is just an excuse to get Shiga off his mountain and involved again with her and her mother Yoriko, the widow of his best friend, Tatsuko. Tatsuko died while climbing Mt Daulaghiri, so Shiga feels some survivor’s guilt since he had turned down Tatsuko’s offer to join him on the climb. And that is really what is at the heart of this story. As Shiga searches for Megumi, he is also dealing with memories and feelings that he had pushed aside. Throughout the story, there are flashbacks about Tatsuko and Yoriko deciding to get married, Tatsuko deciding to do the one last climb on Mt. Daulaghiri, and Yoriko and Shiga claiming Tatsuko’s body, as well as a younger Megumi climbing with Shiga. There is the distinct feeling that Shiga had feelings for Yoriko as well, and that he didn’t approve of Tatsuko climbing again after promising to not to when he and Yoriko married. It’s these feelings that lead to the regret that later rules him. It takes climbing his own Daulaghiri, Oribe Element building, to finally overcome his guilt and regret.
The mystery itself is pretty standard. Shiga has to play detective, talking to Megumi’s friends, wandering around Shibuya, finding the clues and making the connections the police can’t because of Oribe’s power and status. A subplot to this is “compensated dating” that Megumi is involved in. Taniguchi gets a little heavy-handed with it, almost lecturing adults and parents that the reason girls get involved with these older men is because they feel unloved at home. But this might also be the point, since Yoriko is shown as not being aware of Megumi’s activities, other parents might not be as well, and this story can serve as a warning.
Besides Shiga and Yoriko, there are some great characters in this title. Maki, Megumi’s “bad girl” friend is nicely complex. She starts out being very annoying, but slowly opens up to Shiga, especially after he promises to become her champion as well. I really like Yoshio, the man who helps Shiga navigate the teen scene in Shibuya. He’s open and honest, and can see Shiga sincerity. I really liked who he could relate to the kids without trying to “be” one of them, and it gains their trust more than anything else. The villain of the story Takuya Oribe is shown as a manipulative, abusive man who is ultimately a coward that uses the power of his corporation as a shield. His character is definitely a damning of the way corporations, and not just in Japan, can get away with so much.
I enjoyed all the elements of this story. All of the different layers made it much better than just the mystery is appears to be on the surface. Taniguchi proves himself to be just a good as storyteller as an artist. The awkwardness between Shiga and Yoriko is almost palatable. The way they continue to be formal with each other, despite all the tragedy they have shared shows there are still unresolved issues between them, though the end gives hope that they soon will be.The art is as well done as the story. The wide variety of character designs is refreshing. I love the way he draws Shiga glaring when he gets into scrapes.
If you pick up The Quest for the Missing Girl just expecting a straight mystery, you are going to be disappointed. But if you allow yourself to look deeper into the characters, you will find a rich, satisfying story. While it does have its predictable moments, they do not in any way detract from the story. I’m glad I decided to give this title and mangaka a try. it just might lead to me reading more of his work.