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Review: King of Cards Volume 2

King of Cards Volume 2
By Makoto Tateno
Publisher: CMX
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Fantasy/Romance/Game
Price: $9.99

Rating: ★★★★☆

A lovesick Manami passes out when she sees the object of her affection with another girl.  When she wakes up, she finds herself in the world of the cards, where matches aren’t simply imagined: players summon actual monsters and gods to do physical battle!  Later, back in the real world, she must take on Japan’s number one Chaos player!

Finally!  My long awaited review of this book!  At least, I hope someone’s been waiting for it.  After much trial and tribulation, I finally got an error free copy of this title, and then after another long time, I finally read it.  This volume turns up the romance, though it’s more unrequited love, and it’s only through the Chaos cards can any resolution be found.

Continue reading Review: King of Cards Volume 2

Inubaka: Crazy For Dogs Volume 8

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!

By Yukiya Sakuragi
Publsiher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen+
Genre: Slice of life
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

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.

Brian’s Spot: Project D.O.A. Volume 1

Project D.O.A. Volume 1Project D.O.A. Volume 1
By Jeffrey Nodelman & Wagner Fukuhara
Publisher: Tokyopop
Genre: Action
Rating: 13+
RRP: $9.99

Rating: ★★★★½

Reviewed by Brian Henderson

I’ll do this review, even though I don’t really consider Project D.O.A. to be a manga. To me, and some may disagree, it needs to be written and published initially in Japan in order to be a manga. Graphic novels that come from Korea or China or France or the United States, while they may be generally modeled after the manga artform, are not manga, any more than animation that comes from anywhere but Japan is not anime.

That said though, Project D.O.A. is from one of the minds that brought you the wonderful Cartoon Network show Venture Bros.and in a lot of ways has that kind of vibe. In other ways, it strikes me as similar in feel to Buckaroo Banzai and maybe a little bit like Crusher Joe although officially, Jeff Nodelman attributes his inspirations to films like Indiana Jones, Flash Gordon and the works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. In any case, it’s a not-quite-serious romp around the world, adventure-style.

Meet Dr. Dylan Oliver (also the name of Jeff Nodelman’s real life son) and his team of scientists and adventurers. Like Buckaroo Banzai, they seem to be doing science because it’s fun, not necessarily because it’s profitable. Unlike BB however, they’re not fabulously wealthy where they can just do whatever they want with no thought of the consequences, there’s a lot of worrying about the money. Luckily, Dr. Oliver always has a plan, some cockamamie scheme for finding lost treasure in some far-off locale that will give them enough cash for their short-term scientific schemes.

As the book opens, an experiment goes horribly awry and one of his team, Lilly, loses her life when she’s trapped in the same room as an unshielded nuclear reactor. Wracked with guilt, Dr. Oliver thinks that maybe he can find a way to bring her back to life but his plan will be expensive and dangerous and the only way he can figure to fund his little experiment is to drag the whole team around the world in search of a lost temple hidden inside an active volcano on a deserted island. Of course, there are Nazis involved. Why does it always have to be Nazis? Read the volume and find out.

Project D.O.A. really is a sort of fun, mindless romp through campy adventure-film tropes but it’s clear that Nodelman not only recognizes them as tropes, but he tips them on their heads often enough that what happens is unexpected. In fact, a lot of the fun is trying to figure out where the various ideas, from the giant-gorilla-filled temple to the Amazonian warriors, come from. It’s not all that deep, it won’t keep you in suspense, it certainly won’t win awards for realistic artwork, but it all comes together into something that’s fun to read and interesting enough to hold your interest and make you look forward to the next volume. I recommend it.

Dragon Voice Roars!

(Originally posted on Popculture Shock)

Rin Amami is a regular middle school student—regular, that is, except for his gruff, gravelly voice. Though his classmates tell him he sounds like Godzilla or a toad, Rin has a secret dream: he wants to sing. He has an idol’s looks, and can pick up any dance style after seeing it once, but his voice crushes any attempts to go after that dream. While working on a street corner selling pictures of pop stars and taking dance requests, he literally runs into The Beatmen, an up-and-coming boy band. He becomes entangled with the group when the owner of Red Shoes, The Beatmen’s agency, declares that Rin possesses the legendary “Dragon Voice,” possessing the qualities of both a demon and an angel. Boss is determined to prove that Rin that will blend with The Beatmen’s already balanced sound, and adds Rin to the group.

Dragon Voice Volumes 1-7
By Yuriko Nishiyama
Publisher: Tokyopop
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Music
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★

So begins Rin and The Beatmen’s rocky journey to become idols in Japan’s cutthroat entertainment industry. Their career gets off to a rocky start after The Beatmen lose a bet to a rival band, preventing them from performing and forcing Boss to close the Red Shoes agency. Their fortunes improve when an action show director casts them in his dream TV show, “The Voice Rangers.” Unable to find a TV network for the show, they air it on the internet, where it becomes an instant hit. To capitalize on the show’s success, The Beatmen need to release singles, but the don’t have an agency to help them. After struggling to write their new single, the newly reopened Red Shoes tries to promote The Beatmen’s music, only to be is shut out by rival agency S-Field. Piggy-backing it with music from “Voice Rangers,” Red Shoes gets The Beatmen’s CDs into stores—where they and Privee, S-Field’s own band, get trounced by Baby Naked, an American boy band. This leads to a live, battle-of-the-bands performance starring all three bands.

Dragon Voice is NOT your typical shonen title. It isn’t about the forces of good and evil fighting for control of the universe. It’s about an ordinary young man who challenges and changes the people around him. The story begins when band mate Shino helps Rin rekindle his dream of performing by showing Rin what makes his voice special. From then on, it is Rin that challenges The Beatmen to get better and accept his voice. It’s Rin that pushes to find a way to get Voice Rangers aired. It’s Rin that makes the leader of Privee, Tohma, want to be better and compete with The Beatmen on abilities alone. Rin’s optimism and sheer strength of will inspire people, especially his fellow Beatmen.

Despite the roadblocks The Beatmen and Rin encounter, Dragon Voice is an optimistic, upbeat series. The characters are very likeable and easy to relate to. They may seem cookie-cutter at first: the likable leader Shino, the wild loner Goh, the cold and calculating Yuhgo, and the nervous, shy Toshi. But the varied personalities make for lots of good comedy and conflict. Just as The Beatmen learn to blend with Rin’s voice, they soon learn to mesh with Rin’s upfront personality. You find yourself cheering them on, especially when they stumble and there seems to be no way out. The trust between the Beatmen and Rin is built up slowly, so that by the concert battle, they believe in both themselves and Rin enough to take chances with their performance.

And what a performance it is! Nowhere else will you see three bands simultaneous battle it out in an arena! This epic concert takes up a whole volume, and is non-stop surprise after surprise as the groups keep upping the ante to capture and keep the audience’s attention: transforming a ballad into a rap, doing a dance-off with Tohma, and even hijacking Baby Naked’s signature song. It was more exciting than any battle I’ve ever read in any fighting manga—I could not put this volume down! What really made the concert thrilling was that even though Privee and The Beatmen were competing for the right to perform at the Baseball Championship Opening, Baby Naked participated for the sheer joy of performing. You could almost feel how much lead singer Seiren was enjoying herself when Rin dances and sings with her. Could a Seiren-Rin romance be in the making?

The art is excellent. Nishiyama-sensei uses a lot of thick, bold lines, like her characters.  Her style is very clean, and not cluttered, even though she uses speed lines for dancing and quick movements. The boys, being idols, are all good looking, but aren’t annoyingly bishonen about it. And each has a distinct look, so there’s no confusion about who’s who.  The backgrounds are clean, and easy to read.

So why isn’t this series more popular? I wish I knew. I don’t know what Tokyopop did to promote this series, but I do remember reading a few early reviews that described it as “Jem with boy bands.” This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Unfortunately, this comparison seems to have hurt the series’ popularity, as Jem and the Holograms seems to invite ridicule.

Notwithstanding the comparison with Jem, Dragon Voice is a series with a lot of heart and soul, offering a perfect blend of comedy and drama. Without guns, aliens, or super powers, it still packs a lot of action into every volume. This series isn’t just about showing up the rival band, and climbing the stairway to stardom. It’s about putting your all into achieving your dreams—that with hard work, self-confidence, and a dream, nothing is out of reach.