Two new Shonen Jump Advanced titles are featured in this new Mini Musings, neither of which really float my boat. Keep reading to find out why.
Zombie Loan was one of Yen Press’ premiere titles when started in 2008. I read the first two volumes back when they came out, but didn’t find a reason to continue reading it. So three years and 7 volumes later, has it gotten any better?
[Warning: May Contain Spoilers]
Yen Press continues to add to the Japanese side of Yen Plus (finally!) with a new series, The Innocent. It’s an interesting collaboration of an American writer, Avi Avad (yes, THAT Avi Avad) with a Japanese writer and a Korean artist to create a unique story about love and vengeance. It has me intrigued to say the very least. Yen Press’ talent search round is over (and they emphasis talent search, not competition),but nothing was found to be showcased in the magazine. It was interesting to hear that they are not just taking their time to find good creators, but that they are also giving advice on where promising creators can improve and be ready for the next round. I wonder if Tokyopop had taken as much care, if OEL would have actually taken off.
Milkyway Hitchhiking – In this chapter, Milkyway is just an observer, as the story is about Baek-Ryun a gesaeng and Chung who is a shoemaker. They seem to be constantly fighting, this time it’s over Chung’s cat Miya (Milkyway). He accuses Baek-Ryun of taking her, which she denies, but did. Their bickering leads to a confrontation where they both end up in a lake, and though they don’t stop fighting, there is an implicit acknowledgement of feelings. It’s a cute story of budding romance, though what happened to the premise of the series, that Milkyway is a cat that grants wishes? Did that get worn out fast, or is this just a long break? Or are we to think that Milkyway grants wishes that are left unsaid?
Witch and Wizard – Celia, Whit’s friend, appears to Whit and Wisty, and tells how they can escape by going to the Shadowlands, though a brick wall that is guarded by several vicious dogs. The pair make it through, as well as one of the dogs, and gain a new friend. They are joined by Byron the ferret and introduced to Sasha who will take them to Freeland, one of the realms in the Underground not under the New Order, or,N.O.’s rule. But before they can get going they are surrounded by residents of the Shadowlands, the Lost Ones, who don’t seem to want them to leave. Now that the story is out of prison, and the angst of their torture is past, the story is starting to take a turn for the interesting. Hopefully when they reach Freedomland, we’ll get more information on the N.O. I’m not happy though that it’s Wisty’s girly scream that gets them into trouble at the end of the chapter. Realistic, maybe, but very cliche as well.
Aron’s Absurd Armarda – Aron’s feeling a little paranoid, and believes that the crew is out to kill him. It turns out he’s not too far off, as the new crewman, Mercedes, is actually an assassin, sent to kill Robin. But why Robin? I have an idea about that. There’s a short break while the crew celebrates the 100th strip (yes, it’s that kind of comic) And the ship’s cook gets some more abuse, not just from his shipmates from this his own body parts, when an attempt to appease his fellow shipmates goes awry. Aron’s is that great breath of fresh air that keeps you from taking anything too seriously, especially after the angst of the James Pattison titles.
Daniel X – Using a time machine (of sorts), Daniel is able to see what happened with No. 5 first appeared on Earth and how he got the townspeople to forget about everything alien after a scene has been ‘shot’. He takes Judy out on a date, which becomes a spying foray. He gets rid of the alien block for her, so she can truly understand what is going on. Though, I still don’t completely get what’s going on. What is No.5 up to? Is he filming a show, or is he planning an invasion? Or is it a little of both? It’s still hard to tell. There still aren’t enough clues to piece it together. Hopefully things will start to make more sense soon.
Jack Frost – As I predicted, there was a flashback with Avid, that showed how he became a vampire. Seems he and Sigfried were in competition for control of the South District. Guess who got betrayed. But it seems the Iyel that Avid met may not be the real one. With Avid gone now, Sigfried feels safe in declaring war on the Ethan and the East District. Hansen meanwhile has found No-Ah and Ethan. He tries to get No-Ah back, but Ethan’s control over her father’s soul keeps her from escaping. I’m not sure if this is an interesting turn of events or not. I suppose it all depends on what happens when Jack and Sigfried meet up with Ethan. I don’t think it’s going to go well for him, but then, that might not be such a bad thing.
The Innocent – The story starts with an angel being sent to find a man who has been executed for a crime he didn’t commit. Johnny, a detective before he died, has been chosen by the mysterious Committee to help out others in order to clear out his misdeeds so that he can get a chance at reincarnation. Angel, is there to show him how to use his powers and keep him in line, which isn’t going to be easy. He picks up quickly on his ability to use ash to affect the physical world, but is just as quickly swallowed by vengeance when one of the men who helped to frame him shows up while he is trying to help a woman. While playing by the rules isn’t his forte, he decides to go along with the Committee, just for another chance at the men who framed him. There isn’t anyone nice in this first chapter. The angel who is sent to help Johnny has nothing but contempt for humans, but has a job to do. Johnny himself is an anti-hero. He’s definitely no angel, but he really cared for his sister and will do anything to avenge her. And there are indications that he has a greater power than most spirits. Is that why he was chosen? Or has the committee bitten off more than they can chew with him? It will be interesting to find out.
Highschool of the Dead – This chapter introduces more survivors. School nurse Shizuka Marikawa and Saeko Busujima,the captain of the Kendo club (of course). They pick up a military otaku Houta Hirano and self-proclaimed smart girl Saya Takagi. Takashi and Rei get out of the astronomy club room and meet with the new characters, and make a break for the school van, intent on finding their families. A newscast has shown them that it’s not just their town, but the whole world that is dealing with the zombies. As they make a break, another group of students, led by Shidou follow. Rei warns not to help Shidou but they do anyway. He is obviously not a nice guy. The addition of this obviously power-hungry opportunist doesn’t fill me with hope. I really am not interested in reading “Lord of the Flies in Zombie Land”. I’m really hoping he doesn’t stick around long. Though, he’s obviously going to be thorn in everyone’s side if not now, then later.
K-On! – It’s the start of another school year, that has the girls now seniors. They have their class trip to Kyoto, which they proceed to spend at a music shop. They have to decide on their future plans after high school, which of course Yui and Ritsu can’t seem to come up with anything. And then Azu starts to get panicky about possibly being the only member of the Pop Music club next year. Yui’s past is revealed, and it shows she hasn’t changed much from elementary school, and Yui freaks out about leaving her guitar at school overnight. The best thing I can say about these chapters, is that at least they are different from the first two volumes.
Yotsuba&! – Yotsuba, Koiwai and Jumbo are headed to the electronics store to buy a camera. Fuuka decides to come along since her midterms are finished. Once they arrive, Yotsuba finds the cellphone displays, and her imagination takes off again. This single chapter doesn’t really go anywhere, and it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, if you care about what it is that Yotsuba is imagining.
The addition of The Innocent continues to add to the breakup of the moe block that dominated the Japanese side for so long, but it’s only a one volume story, so it’s only going to last for 6 months or so. K-On! is also coming close to its end. With the last volume scheduled to come out in December, you know it’s going to end the magazine well before that. We already know that Yen has another OEL planned with the adaptation of Soulless, but do they have anything more planned for the Japanese side? Or is it becoming the neglected side with no Japanese publishers willing to serialize online? Square Enix shouldn’t have a problem with it. It’s not like it’s putting content that isn’t already available in print in English and has been for months or even years.
Yuta was a simple fisherman until a fellow fisherman brought some special meat to share. It was the flesh of a mermaid, said to grant eternal youth and longevity. But it can also be a deadly poison. For Yuta, it was the former. Hundreds of years later, Yuta searches for a mermaid that might be able to help him return to normal.
To new mother Sachiko Azuma, her baby boy is the light of her life. Accordingly, she names him Hikaru, Japanese for “to be bright.” Eager to raise her son, Sachiko gradually begins to notice that Hikaru seems a bit different from other children. He is reluctant to be held or hugged, and his growth and development appear slow. Sachiko’s suspicions are confirmed when it is suggested that Hikaru, at a year-and-a-half, may be deaf. A specialist, however, reaches a different diagnosis: autism.
Yen Press is really taking advantage of having their magazine online. Back in January we got the debut of a new manhwa in color, Milkyway Hitchhiking, and now this month we get, not only a new Japanese title, but we get it in color! Highschool of the Dead is a zombie title that combines brain munching with fanservice, and it’s made to be put into color. Finally, a new title in the Japanese section that isn’t about little girls being cute! Is it a good addition to the magazine? You’ll have to read on to find out!
Woofles regular Chizuru advises her friend Serina, who is contemplating motherhood, to try looking after a dog first. Can Chizuru’s dog melon and a new puppy convince Serina that their affection and cuteness are worth the aggravation?
My first two reviews of this series were lukewarm, due to the fan service and doggie-ness of the title. I’m a cat person and don’t care much for dogs. This volume however, dealt with more plot and general animal care than just doggie-ness, so I could appreciate it and it’s message much more.
This volume picks up where volume 15 left off with Amuro being seriously injured in a car accident. Suguri’s quick thinking and level head saves the dog long enough to get to the animal hospital. Despite her dislike for Amuro’s owner Fujita, who kidnapped her as a child and is now stalking her, she allows Lupin’s blood to be used in a transfusion. Even though this doesn’t help get rid of him, and he keeps showing up throughout the volume, Suguri does gain some valuable information about Lupin’s grandfather, the dog that rescued her. It seems he may not be the only good samartian dog around. I found the introduction of this plot point to be very interesting. Who trained these dogs, and why do they help people and then disappear? It actually sounds intriguing.
The rest of the volume is spent showing some of the difficulties of being a pet owner. First, Chizuru has to wrestle with the decision to have Melon fixed. while this may seem like a no-brainer to veteran pet owners, seeing Chizuru agonize over the decision, and then see things turn out alright in the end, may help other new owners realize it’s okay to alter a pet. And then there’s Chizuru’s friend Serina. Her story realistically shows the problems of getting a puppy and the work it really is to take care of one. The parallels to having a child are obvious, with such things as having to clean up after them and dealing with their crying. Serina, and her husband show themselves to be irresponsible, and not taking the job seriously. Whether it’s a child or a pet, the same amount of responsibility is required, and these chapters show this very well.
I really enjoyed this volume, much more than the previous ones I’d read. The plot of Lupin’s heritage and the Good Samaritan rescue dogs is really intriguing. Suguri handles herself really well with Fujita as well, making it very clear that she doesn’t want to see him or have anything to do with him. But being the stalker that he is, he doesn’t listen. The chapters with Chizuru and her friend are excellent lessons in pet ownership, and would make good pamphlets on their own about caring for pet and thinking carefully about why and how committed you are to getting one. There are a few panels of fanservice, but they are as blatant as earlier volumes.
If Inubaka had been like this from the earlier volumes, it could have made a fan of me sooner. It’s still a series for dog lovers, but it’s also finally showing itself to have appeal for the non-dog persons like me.
Amidst the chaos of World War II, two Japanese soldiers hear of Zephyrus, an utterly captivating woman rumored to exist on an island in the South Pacific. The tales of this bold enchantress seducing men to their dooms are both chilling and fascinating. Over twenty years pass, and Zephyrus resurfaces in Japan, seemingly unchanged, to wield her mysterious power over men once more.
The one man immune to Zephyrus’ charms is simple drunkard, Gohonmatsu Seki, son of one of the wartime soldiers. Employed to spy on Zephyrus, what will Gohonmatsu uncover about her ultimate plot to create international discord and consume the world of men? What brought this woman to conspire for decades against patriarchal society-against an entire gender-and can anything be done to stop her plans?
Swallowing the Earth is a strange tale of revenge as a few women start a war against the entire male gender for the wrongs done to the female gender. It takes a long and meandering path to come to a simple conclusion; true happiness is only attainable if one is free of lust, power and greed. Or, as the Beatles would say, “All You Need is Love.”
A woman, Zephyrus, is betrayed by her husband during World War II because of his desire for money and power. She runs away with her 6 daughters and finds peace on a South Pacific island, away from the world of men. Her dying wish to her daughters is for them to take revenge on all men for what happened to her by making all money worthless and creating anarchy, and to scorn all men. The daughters plot and prepare, and 20 years later, set their plan in motion. One man stands in their way; Gohomatsu Seki. He is a simple dock worker who doesn’t care about anything but alcohol. He is immune to Zephyrus’ charms and travels to the South Seas and the United States to try to stop her plans.
In between chapters of the main plot line there are short side stories. These stories relate back to what is happening in the main plot, often illustrating the effects of Zephyrus’ plans on ordinary people. With the introduction of the synthetic skin, 5 strangers in the US south become a family. And in another, after the economic collapse, a doctor tries to help a young woman with no memory of voice.
I’m not really sure what to make of this title. On the surface, it appears to be about women using their intelligence and other tools to turn the tables on men. They are shown to be strong and taking the initiative by showing men the folly of their ways for last few decades. Zephyrus is portrayed as taking revenge on men for the way women have been treated and men are shown getting their just desserts.
A closer look at the work however, shows the opposite. It portrays women as petty and vindictive. The whole plot is concocted because one woman was betrayed by one man. She wasn’t the first, nor would she be the last. The sisters aren’t working against man for the good of women. They are doing it for one person, their mother. Zephyrus created a look that men would find irresistible, exploiting their desire for lust, but woman as seductress are always shown as a negative. This is a pattern I’ve noticed in Tezuka’s other work Black Jack. Beautiful women are greedy and will betray the men attracted to them. And even though the sisters are working take down men, they are making women suffer as well. The side story of the Doctor and female patient illustrates this. There is nothing good or noble in their acts. In many ways, they are no different from the men they wish to punish.
Gohonmatsu is an unusual protagonist. He is an alcoholic, and doesn’t care about anything but drinking. While this would normally keep him from being the good role model most protagonists are usually portrayed as, his lack of desire for power, money and sex keeps him from falling under Zephyrus’ spell and thus the only man capable of standing up to her plans. So, he’s got something good going for him. Even as the world falls apart over greed and vanity, Gohomatsu remains unaffected as long as he can get, or make, alcohol. Material things have no hold on him as he can easily barter a drink of his alcohol for them, and they trade them all for a wedding ring for Milda. It’s the intangible that matters most to him, whether it’s the taste of alcohol, or the happiness of the woman he loves, he can throw all material things away for the things he loves. In many ways this makes him a noble character.
Swallowing the Earth is an intriguing title if you are a fan of Tezuka or older gekiga manga. It isn’t as dark as MW, and does have some interesting things to say about men and women. I don’t regret reading this title, but it’s not one I would pick up again. I enjoyed reading the vignette stories more than the main narrative, which often felt disjointed. By the end though it feels like little has changed. Zephyrus’ plans had succeeded, and the world returned to a simpler way of life before technology and to a barter economic system, but not people. The cycle of revenge tries to start again, and while it is stopped, this time by Gohomatsu’s son, it makes me wonder what was the point of this title. But then again, maybe that was the point. Fundamentally, people don’t change.
Digital review copy provided by publisher.
Ayu still can’t give up on her love for Mayama, even though his relationship with Rika seems to be deepening. Nomiya’s growing interest in Ayu might be a balm to her broken heart, but he’s moving to Tottori for six months! Is Ayu cursed to suffer hopeless love affairs forever?
This volume is all about the love polygon of Mayama, Ayu, Rika and Nomiya. Ayu seems to be deliberately torturing herself by working with Mayama and Rika, and seeing their relationship grow. Rika is preparing for the Valencia Art Museum Annex, a project she and her late husband submitted for and won, and seems prepared to also make it her last, something Mayama’s not prepared to let Rika do. And Nomiya, the player, finds himself doing something he never thought he would, falling for Ayu.
There’s a lot of drama going on in this volume, especially with Rika. She still haven’t been able to get over her husband’s death, no matter what kind of face she puts on. A flashback from Hanamoto shows what a difficult time she had after the accident, and how she became a ghost of herself, like part of her was lost with Harada. Mayama seems to sense that too, as he watches over Rika, even to the point of invading her privacy by reading her emails. But it doesn’t feel like he’s trying to be controlling or possessive. He senses that she doesn’t want to keep living and fights to keep her alive, despite her. It’s this that seems to make a stronger impression on her than his feelings for her.
Ayu’s drama isn’t any less than Rika, but it isn’t quite as serious either. Her problems are dealt with a lighter tone. Though we see her suffering, her way of dealing with it is by eating. A lot. And when Nomiya gets involved, the humor really ramps up, as Ayu is shown to be surrounded by unicorns, intent on protecting Ayu’s virtue. Very aggressive and mouthy unicorns. It’s a really good balance of humor to the some of the tenser moments in the volume. The unicorn appearances are my favorite scenes.
Honey and Clover continues to be a good romance that balances the drama without going over the melodramatic cliff, and makes a really good read for older audiences. The relationships are realistic, making you want to laugh and cry. This volume picks up right where Shojo Beat left off, so if you were following it in the magazine, this is a must have. Even if you weren’t, Honey & Clover is a title anyone who loves a good story should be reading.
One of the regulars at Suguri’s pet shop finds out that his precious little French bulldog, Zidane, has a weight problem! He tried everything from diet food to yoga and even an exercise machine to help the little guy lose that doggy fat! Could someone else be feeding him, too?!
Dog lovers rejoice! It’s another volume of dogs and their owners doing doggie things. Then for the second half of the volume, there’s a new plot stirring up, that could be the end of Woofles and the gang.
The first half of this volume is all about Hiroshi Akiba, an otaku-goverment worker, and his bulldog Zidane. Zidane was teased by Chizuru about his weight, so Akiba decided to do something about it. He buys low-calorie dog food, he stops buying treats and even gets a doggie treadmill! This story is mildly amusing, though it has all the typical trappings and pitfalls of a diet storyline.
The story of how Lupin, Suguri’s mutt, got his name is mildly amusing too. The source isn’t all that surprising, nor why she chose. This story really just seems to fulfill the title’s fanservice quotient.
The rest of the volume introduces a new storyline. Woofles has been targeted as the best pet store in the area, and the place to top for a new pet shop that is backed by an online retailer. Not only are they trying to be better than Woofles, but they have their eye on Woofles top employee, Suguri!
This new storyline could be interesting, if it wasn’t so obvious where it was going. Already, the spy that is working at Woofles has shown his “good side”, and the whole “steal Suguri from Woofles” just isn’t plausible. Anyone that’s read even one volume of this series would know that. Of course, Lupin catches on to Mikage right from the beginning. He barks at him, and when he invites Suguri to a cafe for lunch and to try to get her to leave Woofles, Lupin is all over him, interrupting him at every chance. That scene was also mildly amusing.
Inubaka continues to be a title aimed squarely at the male dog lover. The fanservice was much more under control in this volume. It wasn’t too prevalent, except for the one story. And for dog lovers, this continues to be a windfall. Lots of different dog doing lots of cute doggie things. As a cat person, I’m still not impressed, but I didn’t mind the read either.
Worried that she’s been far too lenient with Lupin, Suguri starts him on a strict training regimen. But then Lupin disappears, and Suguri blames herself. When standard search methods fail, it’s time for some creative problem solving. With a little luck and a little talent she just might be able to find her precious pooch!
Lupin runs away during a thunder-storm, and jumps into a moving truck just as its finished packing. Lupin is whisked away from Suguri, who has been searching for him. Arriving in another perfecture (county), Lupin has his own set of adventures as he tries to find his way home. Suguri, devastated by Lupin’s disappearance, goes to any extreme to find him.
I want to be honest here. I’m not a big dog person. I don’t mind having one around, but I’m much more of a cat person. This preference seems to have colored my view of this manga, as I just didn’t care for it. Not because it was badly done, I just wasn’t interested in the dogs or their owners. Neither the characters nor dogs really endeared themselves to me. Suguri was just annoying. She naive and an air head. Lupin wasn’t as bad. The white female dog that took to him, Natsuko was more interesting though. It’s really all a shame too, since I wanted to like this series. I love animals, and would like to see more animal manga. But this one isn’t it.
Another thing that bothers me about this series is all the panty shot/up skirt shots we get of Suguri. Does a title about dog lovers working in a pet store really need at least one shot for every page Suguri is on? And it’s mainly just her that’s gets this treatment. These just turned me off the book even further.
It wasn’t a complete turn off though. The last two stories were more to my liking. The first dealt with Baby Boomers, and the “empty nests” their homes have become. This issue hits home for Teppei when his mother comes looking for a puppy to fill her home again. And the final story, where the fan service has a point, has the girls going to the beach on their day off. Suguri really wanted to go with Teppei, as an almost date, but Teppei is too dedicated to his store and spends his days off seeing breeders to find more different puppies. This one is filled with rumors as the girls speculate what Teppei does on his day off, but the truth makes Suguri all the more happy.
If you’re an animal lover of any kind, you will be able to relate to the feelings expressed in this volume of Inubaka. If you are a dog lover, then this story will really hit home. If you like cats, and can take or leave dogs, and/or fan service, then you may want to skim through this before buying.