Tag Archives: older teen

Durarara!! Volume 2

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…

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Free Collars Kingdom Volume 1-3

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.”

By Takuya Fujima
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy
Price: $10.95
Rating: ★★★☆☆

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 Drops of God Volume 3: Manga Movable Feast

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.

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Durarara!! Volume 1

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…

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Manga Wrap Up Week Fourteen: The Wallflower Volume 1-10

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

Bokurano Ours Volume 1 and Biomega Volume 5: Manga Movable Feast

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.

Continue reading Bokurano Ours Volume 1 and Biomega Volume 5: Manga Movable Feast

Quest for the Missing Girl: Manga Movable Feast

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!

Buy This Book

By Jiro Taniguchi
Publisher: Ponent Mon
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Drama
Price: $25.00
Rating: ★★★★½

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.

Apollo’s Song: Manga Movable Feast

Apollo’s Song follows the tragic journey of Shogo, a young man whose abusive childhood has instilled in him a loathing for love so profound he finds himself compelled to acts of violence when he is witness to any act of intimacy or affection whether by human or beast. His hate is such that the gods intervene, cursing Shogo to experience love throughout the ages ultimately to have it ripped from his heart every time. From the Nazi atrocities of World War II to a dystopian future of human cloning, Shogo loses his heart, in so doing, healing the psychological scars of his childhood hatred.

By Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: Vertical, inc.
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Drama
Price: $10.95/part
Rating: ★★★★☆

I first read Apollo’s Song 2 years ago, but could never get my thoughts about it to coalesce enough about it to get a review done. I decided to try again with the latest MMF. And again, I was at a loss for what to say. The story didn’t really speak to me, and some parts repulsed me. I had to give it a lot of thought to really come up with the reason why.

It really all came down to what the essence of this story is. It’s a tragedy. Anyone looking for some kind of happy ending here need not apply. In fact, I wouldn’t just call this story a tragedy, but it’s a tragedy’s tragedy. Because when you think it might not be so dark an ending after all, that little ray of hope is snatched from your fingers and trounced to death in front of you. Can you tell I’m not big on tragedies? It’s not that I don’t like them. I enjoyed the Sophocles tragedies, and with this title so strongly influenced by Greek myth, you’d think I’d enjoy it too. But I just couldn’t connect to it.

Apollo’s Song is composed of four stories essentially. Each lets Shogo experience a different kind of love. The first is about love at first sight with Shogo as a Nazi falling for a Jewish girl. The second is love that grows as Shogo and Naomi gradually fall in love despite their social differences. The third story shows the power of love, as Queen Sigma, a synthetic human who learns to love Shogo and then kills herself after he dies. The fourth story is the overarching plot in which Shogo experiences the other stories through dreams and hypnosis. By the end of this story, Shogo seems to be cured as he has fallen in love with Hiromi, the woman who has been secretly trying to heal him. Of course, this story couldn’t end well either.

Each of the stories make well-conceived, well written vignettes. I liked each of the stories when looked at by themselves. It’s when I look at the volume as a whole that I start to have problems. When I got to the end, I was left wondering, “What was the point?” My biggest problem with this title was all the killing of animals. I am a big animal lover, and can’t even watch the nature specials that show animals just struggling to survive. So seeing animals killed for showing affection really disturbed me. On this second reading, I skipped  over those pages. Knowing the scenes were coming didn’t help me get past them. I understand the scenes were necessary for Shogo’s story, but it was just too disturbing for me.

The ending was so pessimistic. To me, Tezuka is saying there is no happiness to be found in love. It will aways end tragically, and humanity has no choice but to keep going through the vicious cycle of love, loss and death. There is no joy in love, and no hope for humanity to escape. I also don’t get the whole beginning and ending with the anthropomorphized sperm and egg. Is Tezuka trying to imply that love is biologically driven? The opening scene at the beginning is an interesting way to show how children are conceived, but it didn’t have any relation to the rest of the book. Apollo’s Song is about the concept of love, not its biological byproduct. Children can be conceived without love, so I didn’t see the point of opening the book like that, and then revisiting it at the end.

Even though I don’t agree with the themes of Apollo’s Song, Tezuka’s ability to convey them can not be debated. One scene that particularly stands out to me is in the second story, “No Man’s Land”. While Shogo is exploring the island, the animals keep him out of one area. He finally convinces them to let him in. What he finds is a clearing where the animals of the island mate. Shogo feels uncomfortable watching and leaves. In that scene, Tezuka does an admirable job of conveying the reverence that is felt for that clearing. I felt just as uncomfortable as Shogo.

Apollo’s Song is not a title for everyone. It definitely falls into Tezuka’s dark side, though not in the way as MW or Book of Human Insects. In those stories, the good guys are just outsmarted by the bad guys. In Apollo’s Song, Shogo never had a chance in the first place. I would recommend this title but only to those interested in tragedy and all its forms, or die-hard fans of Tezuka. Apollo’s Song is a title worth reading, It’s just not something I would want to read again.

Book of Human Insects: Manga Movable Feast

Toshiko Tomura is a genius; she has already been an established international stage actress, and up-and-coming architect, and an award as Japan’s best new writer. Toshiko is also the mastermind behind a series of murders. The ultimate mimic, she has plagiarized, blackmailed, stolen and replicated the works of scores of talents. And now as her star is rising within the world of the elites and powerful she has amassed a long list of enemies frustrated by the fact that she has built critical and financial acclaim for nothing more than copying others’ work. Neglected as a child, she is challenging the concepts of gender inequality while unleashing her loneliness upon the world as she climbs the social ladder one body at a time.

By Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: 16+
Genre: Thriller
Price: $21.95
Rating: ★★★★★

I wasn’t going to read this title. It seemed to have all the hallmarks of being another MW, and I’ve had quite enough of that. But I started paging through it, and as should be expected, got sucked into the story, and had to read it from the beginning. While it has some superficial similarities to MW, I was relieved to find the story and protagonist Toshiko, is really very different.

On the surface, Yuki from MW and Toshiko do seem to have a lot in common. They are both sociopaths that use anything or anyone to get their way. They have their own agenda and will kill anyone that stands in their way, showing no remorse. But just below the surface lies the one thing that makes a big difference between these two; their motivations. Yuki didn’t start out as a sociopath. Circumstances beyond his control helped to make him into the monster he eventually became. The effects of the poison gas and disregard for life made him into a killer. Toshiko was born with her abilities and used them to their fullest. She does not kill for the pleasure of seeing someone die. She kills those who could be of a threat to her. She does it out of a perverse sense of survival. The contrast of Yuki and Toshiko could be framed in the nature vs nurture argument. Yuki is a product of his environment while Toshiko is an example of survival of the fittest. I like to use the analogy of Godzilla. Yuki is 1954 Godzilla, a man-made monster who turns on his creators. Toshiko is Heisei/1990’s Godzilla, a force of nature who doesn’t hold any real malice toward anyone, but is just doing what she must to survive.

And surviving is what Toshiko does best. Even though insects are used as the analogy for Toshiko’s abilities, it really looks like evolution to me. She goes into a new environment, adapts to it, and uses her new skills to move on to a new environment. Her acting skills allows her to blend into any social situation. Her time married to the CEO taught her to be shrewd and calculating in her inevitable destruction of him, though for a while it seemed that she had met her match in him. But nothing is taboo to Toshiko. She will do anything and everything to make sure she stays on top. She is the ultimate survivor, and as a result is the least human.

But even Toshiko has a kink in her armor. That kink is Mizuno, the designer she stole a design from. His story becomes a counter balance to Toshiko’s, as he struggles in the wake of Toshiko’s betrayal. He is the most human character just as Toshiko is the least. Instead of doing whatever it takes to move ahead, Mizuno accepts his the low paying job he has to take, and marries a woman who looks like Toshiko on the outside, but is nothing like her on the inside. But Mizuno truly loves her, and proves it by throwing away his life to avenge her, something Toshiko could probably never understand. Toshiko is portrayed as not needing anyone, but at the end, we get a glimpse that she isn’t completely invulnerable to feelings as the news of Mizuno’s fate seems to upset her. Even though she seems unable to show it, Mizuno may have really gotten to her.

The Book of Human Insects is another great thriller from Osamu Tezuka. The story was much easier to read than MW, as it was not anywhere as disturbing or outrageous. Toshiko was a much more sympathetic character than Yuki, especially at the end. She never appears to kill out of pure folly, and only does so to protect herself. She truly is an embodiment of nature; taking what she needs to live, and only killing to protect herself and survive. Definitely pick this volume up if you get the chance. The cat and mouse between Toshiko and Kamaishi, the steel executive, is worth it in and of itself, but the whole volume is a compelling read.

One Missed Call 1+2

It’s an epidemic of accidental death! Multiple college students receive odd voicemails from themselves, messages from the future, and all they contain are the screams of their own deaths. A few days later, at the date and time of the message’s posting, they die in mysterious accidents, and oddly enough, each have a candy in their mouths.

Original Story by Yasushi Akimoto; Manga by Mayumi Shihou
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Horror
Price: $14.95
Rating: ★★½☆☆

One Missed Call was a novel written by Yasushi Akimoto that was adapted into a movie by cult director Takashi Miike. It was received well enough that it got a sequel under a different writer and director. This manga adapts both movies into one volume. The first story is a standard, but fairly coherent j-horror. The second story feels more like a bunch of j-horror elements glued together and slapped with the One Missed Call label.

One Missed Call starts out like a fairly standard j-horror. People are being killed in what looks like accidents. The only link between the victims are contact lists on cellphones. The police don’t believe anything strange is going on. There is an intrepid reporter who hooks up with a potential victim to try to solve the mystery. There are misdirects, a connection between the female victim/protagonist and killer, and a strange clue; a piece of red candy left in the victim’s mouth.

There are a lot of murder mystery elements in the first story, which is probably why I liked it. Yumi and Yamashita make a good team as they try to race against time to save first Yumi’s friend Natsume, and then to save Yumi herself from the same fate. The misdirect with the mother is classic for a mystery. The child abuse subplot was slightly different, but the twist at the end with revelation of the real culprit was good. I liked that it wasn’t really a vengeful spirit, but a psychopath who took her action in life to the next level in death. The red candies were a nice touch. The ending is ambiguous, and is just one of the few serious flaws I had with the first story.

The second story is filled with them sadly. One Missed Call 2 has a mostly new cast with the only returning characters being the police detective, now a believer, investigating the new string of murders, and just a few mentions of Mimiko, the spirit from the first movie. Instead, a new vengeful spirit is introduced, a cursed girl from a village in Taiwan, where Mimiko’s grandfather was from. Kyoko, a woman who works at a daycare center becomes the new victim that must be saved, and between grusome deaths, she and her friends must go to Taiwan to find the source of the curse and stop it.

The plot of this story is poorly conceived, making it very confusing. There are two story lines running through it, instead of a plot and subplot. The death calls are continuing, but the telltale candy isn’t being left. Instead, coal is found in the stomach of the victims. So Mimiko’s story get’s left in the dust as the main characters go in search of this new spirit that is using the same method as Mimiko to kill her victims. This whole story line just doesn’t make sense, and feels forced into the One Missed Call world. While Kyoko and her friend struggle against Lily, the Taiwanese spirit, intrepid reporter Nozoe helps, but is haunted by the death of her twin sister many years before. These two storylines collide like two freight trains at the end, leaving the same kind of mess, and the twist at the end might have been clever, if the rest of the story hadn’t been so disappointing.

That art is fairly realistic, if not some what generic. In the second story, it’s especially difficult to tell Kyoko and Nozoe apart. It’s only through hair styles that it’s really possible. The death scenes aren’t really gory, and really don’t come off as scary.

If you are at all interested in One Missed Call, just see the first movie. It’s very atmospheric and plays up the scares well. Also, the ringtone that signifies a “missed call” is a big part of the story, and not being able to hear it, as in the manga, really reduces the tension which is a hallmark of j-horror. The manga, while a decent adaptation of the movies just can’t do them justice.

The Innocent

Wrongly executed for crimes he did not commit, a former detective is given a second chance at life. To earn that chance, however, the man now known as Ash must use the supernatural abilities with which he has been infused to prevent the deaths of other innocents. But is Ash willing to dedicate himself to helping others, or is his thirst for vengeance against those who destroyed his life and his loved ones too powerful to ignore?

By Avi Arad; Script by Junichi Fujisaku; Art by Yasung Ko
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Action
Price: $11.99
Rating: ★★★★½

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I first heard about this title. With a collaboration of Japanese, American and Korean creators, anything was possible. And I wasn’t too sure about the story when it first started serialization in Yen Plus. But as the characters and world was built up, a solid story emerged that both fans of manga and comics could enjoy.

The Innocent is the story of Johnny Wright, a detective who is far from a hero, but does want to see justice done. In the case of Frame Burns, crime boss, he wants revenge. And he’s given that chance when the mysterious “Committee” allows him to return to Earth as an Emissary after he is executed for a crime he didn’t commit. With the help of Angel, his handler assigned by the Committee, he must help others who have been wrongly accused in order to move on. As long as he doesn’t keep getting distracted by his desire for revenge. The chapters start out with an “Innocent of the week” feel to them, as Johnny is getting a new person to help in each chapter. But they soon turn back to Johnny and his background story.

Johnny is very much an anti-hero. He doesn’t follow the rules, in life or death. Even though he’s been mandated to help others, his thoughts become focused on revenge after running into Frame’s enforcers on his first assignment. He is violent and doesn’t seem to care about anyone, but he still manages to get the job done. He also has an amazing command of his Emissary abilities, something that, like his attitude, surprises Angel. He (yes, HE), is put in charge of Johnny, giving him his assignments, helping or reigning him in when necessary. Angel doesn’t like humans, and seems to have had a problem with a former emissary that lost him his wings. Johnny and Angel are constantly at odds, as Johnny keeps trying to do things his way, while Angel has to get him to do it the Committee’s way.

There are two other characters that are central to the story. Rain was Johnny’s lawyer, and as the story progresses we learn she was his sister’s friend and may have been something more to Johnny. She feels guilty about losing Johnny’s case (and him), because she chose the law over him, and is now trying to pick up where Johnny left off against Frame. And then there’s Frame’s assassin, Whirl, a very strange and creepy guy who is always asking his victims “Wanna play?” and brandishes a knife. He seems to love to kill things for fun and can somehow see Johnny. He is also very determined, becoming quite the thorn in Johnny’s side at the end.

I enjoyed reading The Innocent. The story read much better as a single volume than serialized. It didn’t feel disconnected or confusing as it did in Yen Plus. It’s got a great cast of characters, and it quickly builds up a world that is consistent, interesting and not too different from our own. The story moves as a quick pace, and ends on an open-ended note, leaving enough loose ends for the possibility of seeing these characters again. It’s a good origin story. The art looked great. I really like Johnny always looking perfect in his suit. The action scenes were easy to follow, and as Johnny gets better with his powers and challenged by Whirl, they grow in complexity without getting a “shonen-power-up” feel. Yen Press’ presentation of the book is very nice as well. The matte cover with silver lettering gives it a classy feel.

Overall, The Innocent is a good single volume story. It has strong characters and a well written story that is thrilling and thoughtful. Non-manga readers can find plenty to like in this series as well, as it lacks a lot of the manga conventions they say they hate. I really wouldn’t mind seeing more stories written with these characters. I hope it sells enough to justify bringing them back.

No Longer Human Volume 1-2: Manga Movable Feast

I wasn’t going to read No Longer Human. I’m one of those people who hears “literary classic”, and my brain shuts down. I’ve never been big on the drama and tragedy that usually permeates these kinds of books, but I’m making an effort to “expand my horizons”, so I decided to at least give the first volume a chance. What I found was a compelling human drama that didn’t feel like homework at all.

By Usamaru Furuya; Based on the novel by Osamu Dazai
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: 16+ (Older Teen)
Genre: Drama
Price: $10.95
Rating: ★★★★★

No Longer Human, written by Osamu Dazai, originally took place just after Japan’s defeat in World War II. Furuya takes this story and updates it for the 21st century, making it relatable to modern-day readers. He starts the title with a great hook. While he is surfing the internet for ideas for his next manga, Usamaru Furuya stumbles onto a link to Yozo Oba’s “Ouch Diary”, a blog about his life. This was a great way to start out the story since it’s so believable. Web surfing can lead to some strange places, and the fact that he gets sucked in in spite of himself was another great touch.

I think the choice of setting the story in modern times was the right one. It makes what Yozo goes through more relevant to the audience. While the themes of the story may be universal, a setting from over 60 years ago can make it too far removed to grab the reader. The original story will still bring in readers, but modernizing it will bring in more.

Furuya also does an excellent job of portraying Yozo’s emotions. At the beginning, Yozo doesn’t know what emotions really are, or what it means to feel them. He doesn’t understand what it means to be human and Furuya shows this by depicting Yozo as a puppet. He dances on the strings to fit into whatever situations he’s in. When he tries to commit suicide with Ageha, he is shown as a doll breaking apart. It’s after this incident that he starts to understand emotion and is no longer depicted that way.

In some way, these first two volumes show Yozo maturing backwards emotionally through the women he meets and lives with. When he’s with Ageha, he ready to give up on life, thinking there’s nothing left to experience or live for. When he lives with Shizuko and her daughter Shiori, he gets a taste of what being married could be like. And, when he runs away to Mama, he can finally be a teenager. She acts like a real mother figure to him, one he doesn’t seem to have ever had. When he meets Yoshino, he acts like a schoolboy with a crush, which really shows his emotional growth. Before, he looked at women as objects to have sex with, not understanding, or even trying to understand their feelings. With Yoshino, he doesn’t seem to feel that way at all.

Things seem to be looking up for Yozo by the end of volume 2. He has a home where he is accepted unconditionally, and he seems to have found true love. The words at the end though seem to hint at more bad times to come. After he has started to rise up, it seems that Yozo is destined for a fall. But while the words are ominous, it’s Furuya’s panels on the last page that really gives meaning to the darkness in them. The last panel almost makes you shudder at the implications.

No Longer Human is a classic in the truest sence of the word. It tells a story that is not only universal, but also timeless. The feelings and experiences of Yozo can be found in any time period and any society. Dazai’s story is compelling on its own, but Furuya’s art just drives home the story that much more. His imagery adds so much to the words and expresses what words alone can’t. I can’t recommend this title more highly.