Tag Archives: OOP

Fire Investigator Nanase Volume 1-4

Firefighter academy student Nanase Takemine is a promising rookie fire investigator who is haunted by her parents’ fiery death. Three years ago, she saved a man from a burning building. But he was no innocent victim–he turned out to be the arsonist responsible for the death of her parents. Now this serial fire-starter has started help her solve fire-related crimes. His intentions seem good, but how can Nanase reconcile his willingness to help with his role in her own personal tragedy?

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Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Official Casebook Volume 1: The Phoenix Wright Files

Only one name strikes fear into the hearts of evildoers everywhere: Phoenix Wright, ace attorney. Join Phoenix Wright and his adorable assistant Maya–plus Miles Edgeworth, Detective Gumshoe, Franziska von Karma, and others–as they investigate twenty intriguing cases. And find out why Phoenix Wright has devoted his life to fighting injustice!

Phoenix Wright Case FilesBy CAPCOM
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Mystery;Video Game Adaptation
Price: $14.95 (OOP)
Rating: ★★★★★

I think it is safe to say my kids can influence my reading habits. Some people might say it’s good that I’m looking into what my kids are reading and playing. I’ve been reading the web comic Homestuck after they told me about it. And now, after my oldest daughter discovered the Phoenix Wright Nintendo DS video games, and basically told me the whole plot of them, I am now reading the Phoenix Wright manga. I read the first volume of the ongoing series of Phoenix Wright, and didn’t find it appealing from a mystery-lovers perspective. But having gotten this title for her, I decided to read it and see if it could win me over as the ongoing couldn’t. And it did so, in spades!

This volume is a thick 304-page anthology with 20 different stories written and drawn by 20 different artists, as well as 4-koma strips that appear between chapters. Like each creator, each story is different, some being cases, some looking at the characters relationships, and some just going completely meta! The first story, “Progress Toward Tomorrow” has Nick looking inward, trying to answer a simple question posed by Maya; Why did he decide to become a defense attorney? It’s a really nice story that has Nick questioning his reason and motives, and ultimately his effectiveness as a defense attorney. Fortunately for him, Miles is there to slap some sense into him, and get him out of his self-doubt. It was a nice story validating Nick’s choices and his friendships.

“Turnabout Kitten”, “Spirit Medium or Bust”, and “It’s Not Easy Being a Defense Lawyer” are three stories in a row that gave me some laugh out loud moments. Fortunately, no one else eats in the lunchroom at my work. In “Turnabout Kitten”, Maya finds a kitten, and Nick, determined not to have it in the office, tries to find a home for it. He calls Miles, Gumshoe and Larry, all with increasingly funny results, especially between Larry and Gumshoe. “Spirit Medium or Bust” has former client Mr. Grossberg trying to repay Nick and Maya for their help, and goes a little overboard. But the funniest of the three was the meta “It’s Not Easy Being a Defense Lawyer.” Everyone convenes on the Phoenix Wright Offices when they hear Nick isn’t getting any cases. They all have their own ideas, but end up ganging up on Nick for being a weak lead character.

The 4-komas had some great hits too. “Anything But That” is hilarious while also being the stuff nightmares are made of with Larry finding a new job. I also really liked “Let’s Turn It Around.” It explains a lot about Phoenix’s hair.

Because there are different artists for each story, the art does vary greatly, but I really didn’t have a problem with it. I actually liked the different styles. Kaname Uchimura’s big-eyed, shojo-esque portrayal in “Turnabout Misunderstanding” was cute, as was the SD-ish art in “Ball Search Team, Head Out!” by Tomo and “The Mystery of the Missing Manju” by Tsukapon. Not all of the more realistic artwork worked for me, but I think Daigo’s for “It’s Not Easy Being a Defense Attorney” was the style I liked best.

While I really enjoyed this volume, this isn’t the book to pick up if you’re just getting into Phoenix Wright. This is a title for someone who is already a fan, and who knows who the characters are and their relationships to each other. Even with knowing a lot about the characters, I was still thrown by Maya channeling Mia and who Mia was. I had to consult the Encyclopedia Daughterica for that information. If you’re a fan of the Phoenix Wright games, you really owe it to yourself to pick this volume up. It is out of print, but volumes are available new and used for reasonable prices. It’s mostly funny, sometimes emotional, but always enjoyable.

Emma Volume 1: Manga Movable Feast

In Victorian England, a young girl named Emma is rescued from a life of destitution and raised to become a proper British maid. When she meets William, the eldest son of a wealthy family, their love seems destined. But in this world, even matters of the heart are ruled by class distinctions.

Emma 1By Kaoru Mori
Publsiher: CMX (OOP)
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Historical/Drama
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1132-5
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

I didn’t expect to like Emma. I have a split track record with Kaoru Mori’s work. I loved A Bride’s Story, but wasn’t impressed with her short story collection Say Something and Anything, especially the maid stories. But as I started reading, I couldn’t help being enchanted by the charming characters she populates the series with, and sets up so simple an obstacle, but it still seems just as insurmountable.

Emma starts with the unceremonious meeting of Emma and William, the former student of Kelly Stownar, who was William’s governess, and is Emma’s employer. William is immediately smitten with Emma, which Kelly picks up on, while Emma seems not to notice. But William is not the first or only man to be drawn to her, as the pile of love letters she receives shows. Even Prince Hakim, William’s friend from India is taken by her charms at first glance. This first volume introduces these main players, and gives a little insight into who they are.

I absolutely loved every character in this volume. There isn’t a single one that I found annoying or dislikable. William is wonderfully nervous around Kelly, and a little over-excitable when he’s around Emma. Emma herself comes off rather innocent, or naive. While she is able to turn down most of her would-be suitors, William elicits a blush from her. I loved Kelly, who seemed to take great joy in making William feel uncomfortable with her memories of his childhood, but didn’t discourage his interest in Emma. Hakim brought a lot of comedy, with his elephants marching through London, or his motorcar whizzing around the inside William’s house. I also loved his Indian women attendants. Their expressions never change, whether they are draped over Hakim or driving the motorcar, they are always straight-faced, almost bored-looking.

The introduction of William’s father, Mr. Smith, also introduces the main conflict of the story. In order for William and Emma to be together, they must not only overcome class distinctions, but also the attitudes of the people around them. Kelly doesn’t have a problem with Emma marrying up obviously. She seems to be encouraging their relationship. It’s William’s father, and his other family and friends that will be the biggest obstacle to their budding relationship. Mr. Smith makes his feelings very clear at the end of the volume about the relationships between classes, describing them like people from two different countries who just happen to speak the same language.

Because of Karou Mori’s obsession with Victorian England, this title is filled with historical details. From the fireplaces and wallpaper in the homes to the clothing of both the men and women, reading Emma is like watching a BBC historical drama. I’ve never been a fan of the Victorian era, but I love Mori’s depiction of it. The men in their suits and hats and the women with their hair done up and their long dresses and ball gowns, I love the look of them all. But most important was the attitudes and beliefs of the people at them. Mori really gets these, from the working class grocer who doesn’t see the worth in his daughter going to school and learning when she will just get married, to Mr. Smith’s constant harping on William about proper manners. Social etiquette was a big deal to the upper class, as they saw it as one of the things that separated themselves from the lower classes. Having good social graces was just as important as one’s family and blood line. Mori really seems to get this, and isn’t just using stereo types to portray the classes.

This first volume of Emma was an engrossing read that just makes me want to read more. I’m really glad this MMF gave me an excuse to read it. Of course, the problem with reading the first volume of a hard-to-find OOP series is that if you turn out enjoying it, that means finding  the rest of the series will be like pulling teeth. The volumes will tend to be difficult to find or worse, very expense. An incomplete set of the series just recently sold on eBay for $135.00! This is probably the only bad thing about the entire volume that I could find. And with Jmanga ending their service, the chances of seeing this series in print again is very unlikely. Unless Yen Press, who has published two of Mori’s other titles, sees some worth in. Though Yen Press has done some license rescues lately, I’m not holding breath for this one, which is really a shame.

Yokai Doctor Volume 1

Yokai are mysterious, troublemaking spirits and demons that have tormented Japan for centuries. Kotoko’s grandfather exorcised them for a living, but Kotoko never thought that her family lineage was an asset. Then she meets Kuro, a yokai doctor. Yokai have doctors? Now Kotoko is learning firsthand that healing the yokai is a lot more challenging than getting rid of them!

By Yuki Sato
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Comedy/Horror
Price: $10.99 OOP
Rating: ★★★☆☆

When I first ordered Yokai Doctor back in 2009, I was hoping for a more serious look at yokai. So imagine my disappointment when I read it and found out it featured a perverted protagonist and fan service galore. I was ready to pan it back then. With three years to get over my expectations, I find the title isn’t quite so bad, but the pandering is still annoying.

The protagonists of this title are Kotoko, the granddaughter of a powerful and well-known exorcist who inherited some of his powers, and Kuro, a yokai doctor. The introduction to these characters is handled in an unusual way. The first chapter is told twice, once from Kotoko’s perspective and once from Kuro’s perspective. While this novel concept might have seemed like a good idea at the time, it really failed in execution. Kuro comes off as really shallow in the first chapter, and scenes are held back from one chapter to make a bigger impact in the other. Sato would have made a much better impression had he just written the two as one chapter, and allowed the reader to see both characters perspective at once.

Of the two characters Kotoko is the more interesting, or at least the more developed. As would be expected of someone who can see spirits, she was teased and mocked when she was young. But now in high school, she is more popular because of her ability, causing her to feel the need to live up to her classmates expectations. She sees a kindred spirit in Kuro, and reaches out to him as a friend. She has the courage to stand up to yokai despite not having any way of defending herself, but also the compassion to see they aren’t all bad. By the end of the volume, I had warmed up to her.

Kuro, on the other hand, needs more work. He is a yokai, and while it might seem his pervy ways are just his attempts to interpret human culture, such as the bowing incident, his open confession for his love of “boobies” doesn’t make him any points with me. Neither did the wearing of underwear on his head. He is fascinated by humans, despite the fact it was a human that killed his mother. Like Kotoko has started to learn, he knows there are good sides to humans as well as bad, and doesn’t paint them all with a broad brush. He has potential, if the perviness can be toned down. Not that I’m holding my breath though.

I really enjoyed the stories about the yokai. The tsuchikorobi was touching and the baby oni was cute. They showed how easy it was for the yokai to be misunderstood because of their appearance or nature. It just took a little explaining from Kuro, and maybe some action from the yokai, for Kotoko to learn the nature of their heats. Now, I know not all yokai are going to be like that. But I like that the series starts off with some silliness. I loved the scenes where Kotoko would throw some of the smaller yokai at Kuro’s head when he was being dense or pervy. Add to that the touching moments and it starts to become apparent that this title isn’t all about T & A.

I was harsh on Yokai Doctor when I first read it, and didn’t get anymore volumes. Now, I regret that. I would really love to read more about Kotoko and Kuro, and the yokai they will encounter and try to heal. Unfortunately, being a Del Rey title, that won’t be easy, or even a series that will ever be finished, since they are no more. All I can hope for, is that Jmanga.com, who has already picked up several Del Rey titles to publish and complete online, will pick up this one as well. It has a lot more to offer than some fan service, and though I was slow to pick up on it, I’m now glad I did.

Black Gate Volume 1-3

Senju is a “Mitedamashi,” an agent with the power to summon or seal Gates, and save people’s souls. He is a guardian to Hijiri, a boy whose life he once saved. After Hijiri discovers his own hidden powers, he begins a journey of self-discovery where the distant past comes back to haunt him and his choices determine life and death, not only for those he cares about, but the whole world!

By Yukiko Sumiyoshi
Publisher: Tokyopop
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $19.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

When I got Black Gate, I didn’t know anything about it other than it was a series about the supernatural, so it was an easy book to put off. But seeing it take up the space of three potential volumes, I decided to dust it off and see if it deserved that bookshelf space. While it’s not a bad series, it does take some turns, especially that the end that doesn’t make it deserving to remain on my limited bookshelf.

This series is about Hijiri, the son and last living Gate Keeper, a person born with the ability to open or close the gates that draw people’s souls out of this world and into another. His family was killed on the same day he was born, and he has been raised by Senju, a Mitedamashi, a person with the power to see these gates, and is tasked with closing the Black Gates, gates that take souls forcefully rather than waiting for the person to die. The first volume is all about the world building and introducing Hijiri and guardian Senju. The second volume follows Hijiri as he attempts to make a life for himself as a Mitedamashi, and the friends he makes along the way. The third volume has Hijiri confronting his past and facing his destiny.

I didn’t like Hijiri or Senju right off the bat. Hijiri was a brat, intent on doing whatever he wanted, and Senju was a jerk right back to him. Hijiri does mature some mentally, if not physically, as the story goes on. Of much more interest to me where Tsurugi, and Michitate, cousins who belong to a group tasked with protecting the Gate Keepers, as well as Michitate’s half-brother Michizane, a Mitedamashi that Hijiri wants as his partner. Tsuguri is the happy-go-lucky type that hides a tragic past, and Michitate is the quiet, serious type who hates Michizane, who is the loner type. While rather stereotypical, they were more interesting than Hijiri’s big talk and Senju’s weighted guilt.

The title itself is about death and how people deal with it. The whole tragedy of Hijiri and the end of the Gate Keepers begins with the desire of normal humans to have the gates closed permanently, so there is no more death. Throughout the story, there are examples of fear of death, and dealing the loss of a loved one, and how the promise of returning them to life can turn friend into foe. While the presentation of these ideas were mildly interesting, I didn’t like answers that came from them, especially for Hijiri. What Hiriji believed was right, but caved in the end. And Senju, for all the death he caused in the name of revenge, certainly didn’t deserve the second chance he got. Hijiri would have been better off with his real friends, who we see drift away with time.

Black Gate had potential, but it got lost somewhere along the way. While there were moments that I liked, mostly in the first volume, the ending trumped any of these good moments by giving a happy ending to the most undeserving. I don’t think it’s message was a good one. We should do all we can to keep our loved ones alive, but not at the cost of someone else, and we should learn when to let go. This title didn’t do that, as a result committed a real injustice to its readers.

Fruits Basket Volume 1-4: MMF

Tohru Honda recently lost her mother, and through certain circumstances, is living alone in a tent in the woods. The same woods, as it happens, as her classmate and school “prince” Yuki Sohma. Through a strange twist of fate (and her own clumsiness) she discovers that Yuki, and other members of the family, have been cursed, and through weakness or a hug from a member of the opposite sex, change into one of the animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Tohru ends up living with Yuki, Shigure, and Kyo Sohma, and is soon meeting more members of the zodiac.

By: Natsuki Takaya
Publisher: Tokyopop
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $9.99/OOP
Rating: ★★★★½

I wasn’t interested in shojo at the time that Fruits Basket started to come out, and didn’t develop one until the series was already well into the teens. But, like so many other titles, the Manga Movable Feast has given me an opportunity (and excuse) to finally check it out. I wasn’t really impressed after reading the first volume. I took the ending of volume 4 to really get me to give the series a chance and continue on with it.

I didn’t really care for the characters at the beginning. Tohru, the female protagonist of the series, and really the focus, came off as really ditzy, and even a little naive at first. But it soon becomes apparent, that she is just very kind, often to a fault. She always tries to keep a positive attitude, even though she is still trying to deal with the sudden loss of her mother in a car accident. She doesn’t want to impose on others, which is why she decides to live in the woods instead of “inconveniencing” her friends. She is very accepting of people for who they are, and after the initial shock, isn’t surprised by all the transformations that keep happening around her.

I was mostly fine with Tohru. It was Yuki and Kyo that I really didn’t like at first. Yuki is the quiet, and very handsome boy who is often mistaken for a girl. He is aloof and comes off cold at the beginning. He is the rat of the zodiac, who is responsible for the cat not being at the banquet. He doesn’t want to be a part of the zodiac, and just wants to live with “normal” people. He takes ill easily, but is physically very strong. I really disliked his contemptible nature towards others, especially Kyo at first. He gets better over these first four volumes. Kyo is Yuki’s cousin and the cat of the legend. He’s not part of the zodiac, but he still transforms. He hates Yuki as the rat, and the feeling is completely mutual. He is constantly attacking Yuki to try to beat him. He is filled with anger at the beginning, and lashes out at everyone around him, including Tohru, even when she’s trying to be nice to him. She seems to have a calming effect on him, and though he is still competitive with Yuki, their fights tone down to bickering instead of destroying the house. I didn’t really care for Kyo at first either, but as he toned down the anger, he became easier to like.

Two characters I liked immediately though were Tohru’s two best friends, Arisa Uotani, a former gang member/yanki and Saki Hanajima, who seems to possess some sort of psychic powers. They are like family to Tohru and are very protective of her. They have a lot of lighter moments in these volumes, with Uotani acting menacing, and Hanajima’s “poisonous electrical waves.” They also get along rather well with the Sohmas, to whom them give their approval for Tohru to stay with. Uotani and Kyo seem to get along especially well, with their competitive natures.

Through these first four volumes, about 2/3 of the zodiac is presented; the dog, boar, rabbit, dragon, cow and snake are introduced in fairly quick succession, usually through an accidental (though sometimes intentional) hug with Tohru. With several of these introductions, glimpses into their past are given, and they are almost all tragic, from being verbally abused by relatives and parents, to losing a lover, to Momiji’s past, that nearly brought me to tears after reading it.

While these first few volumes seem to have a light, rom-com feel to them, there is a sense of something darker lurking beneath, which increases with every volume. Shigure, the dog of the zodiac, and whose house Yuki, Kyo and Tohru share, seems friendly and easy-going, but also seems to have an agenda that involves using Tohru somehow. Something that he said makes him a horrible person. And then there’s Akito, the mysterious head who is not formally introduced until volume 4. He has a menacing feeling about him, disturbing Yuki when he sees him, and gets a glare from Kyo. It’s this darkness, and the mystery of the curse that really helped to encourage me to continue. The hints about this mystery is sprinkled throughout these first four volumes, and with every new one, it only made me want to know more. There also seems to be a mystery around Kyo and his “other form” that begs to be found out about.

Fruits Basket is slow to build up, but once you get past them whole “OMG! They turn into animals!” and the “Which zodiac animal will Tohru meet this time?” parts of the story, it really start to have something to say.  The themes of being alone and finding a place to fit in and call home are ones that strike a chord with teens, which is probably one of the reasons it sold so well. This is another series that the MMF has convinced me I want to read, but since it’s OOP, that going to be kind of hard. Wouldn’t it be nice if another company could rescue it and make it available in Omnibuses (3 not 2 volumes) or better yet, digitally?

Why Can’t I Find This Volume?

Like a lot of people, I can’t keep up with all the titles I want to read, so some have to fall back and wait to be caught up on. Usually this isn’t a big deal. If it’s a recent series, within the last two years or so, and the publisher hasn’t gone under, or lost the license, catching up is usually as easy as getting online to Amazon or some other online retailer and ordering the missing volumes. In trying to do this though, I’ve run into some stumbling blocks, and it is absolutely perplexing to me as to why.

Continue reading Why Can’t I Find This Volume?

Saiyuki Volumes 1-3: Manga Movable Feast

Saiyuki is among the first few manga I started to read. Having been a fan of the original Dragon Ball manga and knowing how it was based on the Chinese story Journey to the West, I was interested in seeing other takes on the story. While I came to Saiyuki for the story, I definitely stayed for hot guys. This title is a perfect blend of action, bishonen and angst, that it’s no wonder is was such a big hit with the ladies when it was released.

By Kazuya Minekura
Publisher: Tokyopop
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Action/Fantasy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★

The basic premise of Saiyuki is simple. In the land of Shangri-la, humans and demons known as youkai live together in peace. But the peace is threatened when someone attempts to resurrect Gyumaoh, a youkai known as the Ox King using a combination of demon magic and human science. The forbidden practice causes a Minus Wave of negative energy to spread across Shangri-la, and causing the youkai to lose their minds and attack humans. The gods summon a monk, Genjyo Sanzo, to travel to India in the west to find out who is attempting the revival and stop them. Accompaning him are former traveling companions Son Goku, Sha Gojyo and Cho Hakkai, three youkai that seem to be immune to the minus wave.

But getting to India isn’t the point of this series. It’s just an excuse to get these four traveling together because it’s the characters and their interactions that really make this a fun title to read. Sanzo, the defacto leader, is not what you would expect a Buddhist monk to be like. He doesn’t shave his head. He drinks, smokes, and gambles. He carries a gun to use against enemy youkai, and a paper fan for Gojyo and Goku. Gojyo is the bad boy of the group with a cigarette in one hand and an eye on the hottest girl in sight. He likes the act like he’s grown up, but always ends up in childish arguments with Goku. The youngest looking of the group, he’s really over 500 years old. He’s also the most powerful, but is kept in check with the power limiter headband he can never take off. He thinks more with his stomach, and looks up to Sanzo. Hakkai is the quiet one, always ready with a gentle smile and a helping hand. The smile can also be quite menacing, especially when he has a ball of his chi ready to fire at an enemy or make into a force field to protect friends and innocents alike.

For the most part, this odd quartet gets along like old friends, or almost a family. Gyojo and Goku are the siblings, constantly bickering and teasing each other. Sanzo is the father constantly getting angry at their bickering and issuing threats of “I’ll kill you”, while Hakkai tries to keep the peace. But for all the light-hearted moments, the boys have some tragic pasts that not only influence who they are now, but also come back to haunt them on the journey. Sanzo’s almost takes his life, and Gyojo’s comes back in a most unexpected way. Their tragic back stories are wrought with emotion, but never quite tip into melodramatic territory. Hakkai’s back story is just starting as volume 3 ends, but portents in the final chapter doesn’t bode well for him.

Their enemy, Kougaiji, the son of Gyumaoh, and his trio of subordinates are almost a mirror image of the group. Youkai with tragic pasts of their own, they drum up an almost friendly rivalry with Sanzo’s group. They even end up working together at the end of volume 3, and actually make a good team. But Kougaiji’s own past keeps the groups enemies, though he isn’t happy about who he has to work with, or even really trusts she’ll keep her promise to him.

The is a lot of action in these first three volumes, as Sanzo’s group has to fight off youkai attacks and assassins sent by Kougaiji. They give the boys lots of opportunities to be glib and toss off one liners. In one chapter, they even rate a youkai assassin on his laugh and even how he falls down. Minekura is also not afraid to be graphic in these scenes. Heads get cut off, or sliced in two, and intestines are seen as torsos are sliced and youkai eat.

Whether they are in the middle of a fight, or relaxing in an inn after a long ride, they always look good. And I happily admit this is one of the reason I enjoy this series. All of the guys, good or bad are hot. There is lots of long, flowing hair, and bangs that fall over and/or cover eyes. They are all tall, thin, and lithe (mostly), and Minekura dresses them in a modern-ish fantasy style, combining jeans with tunics and sashes. Even Sanzo with his traditional garb looks good when he lets his robes down.

Tokyopop did a really job with this release. The dialog is very readable and catches the personalities of the characters perfectly. The cover is a nice heavy paper stock, and they presevered the original Japanese wraparound cover, and put the back text on the inside of the front. Volume one also features color plates of the four main characters. A lot of time and effort went into these volumes and it really shows.

Saiyuki isn’t just one of the first manga I read, it’s one of my top favorite titles of all time. The action, comedy, drama and hot guys makes this a title I read and gladly re-read again and again. It’s really just a lot of fun, which is exactly how I want my manga to be.