Playing catch-up doesn’t just mean reading manga, it also means writing reviews of titles I’ve read, but hadn’t got around to reviewing. So here are a couple of Seven Seas Entertainment titles that I’d read a while ago, but needed some time to figure out what I wanted to say.
It’s Ryuji’s first day as a junior in high school and it seems as if things are looking up. He gets to sit in between his only friend, Yusaku, and, more importantly, the girl he’s secretly crushing on, Minori Kushieda. But just when he thinks the stars are aligned in his favor, he unwittingly crosses the most feared girl in school, Taiga Aisaku, making her onto his arch enemy. To top it off, Taiga has moved in right next door to Ryuji and happens to be Minori’s best friend! Can this school year possibly get any worse?!
Toradora, like most romantic comedies, depends on its lead characters to sell the series. If you don’t like the leads, you aren’t going to care who they get together with, or if they get together at all! Unfortunately, that’s exactly how I feel about the leads and this story.
Toradora starts out by introducing Ryuuji Takasu. He’s a second year high school student who has squinty eyes that makes all of his peers think he’s glaring at them, and a flaky mother who couldn’t take care of herself if she were on her own. He has an accidental run-in with Taiga Aisaku, the “palmtop tiger”, called that because of her small size and fierce attitude. These two become entangled because they have crushes on each other’s best friends. But Taiga won’t let Ryuuji near Minori until she can get with Yusaku. So it’s hair-brained schemes and missed opportunities as Ryuuji tries to get Taiga and Yusaku together.
Right from the start, I didn’t like Taiga. I don’t mind the “tsundere” type, but she goes to an extreme that I don’t like. She is physically and verbally abusive to Ryuuji, calling him a “dog,” or “mangy mutt.” She’s pushy and demanding and a serious clutz. I know these traits are supposed to be funny and cute, but they really aren’t. Not to me anyway. Ryuuji isn’t a complete push-over. He takes on Taiga’s unspoken challenge to get her and Yusaku so he can try to get Minori, but he takes on the “dog” role too quickly for my taste. The banter between them just isn’t interesting. It’s either her telling him what to do, or him yelling at her and she ignores him. These two just didn’t appeal to me.
There’s nothing new or different about the story. As a rom-com, it has to really on the characters to give it life, and as I’ve said, they don’t work for me, so the story really fell flat. I didn’t find any of the physical comedy funny, especially Taiga clutzy moments. But Ryuuji’s reaction to Taiga’s kitchen did get a smile out of me. I have no complaints about the story, it’s just, without interesting characters it feels “been there, done that.”
Zekkyo’s art is very well done. Even if I didn’t like the characters, I did like their designs. There’s a good mixture of designs among the characters, and their attitudes really come through in the art. From Ryuuji’s squinty eyes, which I personally didn’t see as troublesome, but that just me, to Taiga switching from cute and vunerable to a mean and determined, there was no ambiguity about what anyone was feeling. I really could have done without Ryuuji’s mom. Her only purpose seems to be for fanservice, which along with her ditzy personality makes her very unappealing to me.
Overall, Toradora isn’t a bad title, it just got a “meh” reaction from me. Without liking the characters, I just can’t get into the story. I know I’m in the minority with regards to my opinion about this title, but that’s nothing new. I may give it another volume to see if anything changes, but as it stands, it’s a series I’m not going to follow regularly.
The Bakertown High School cheerleading squad has a secret: behind all their pretty make-up and short skirts are five hungry vampires who sure know how to show their school spirit!
When one of their own turns up missing, the senior cheerleaders have no other choice but to induct one of the eleventh grade girls from the B Squad into their vixenous ranks. But siring new recruit Heather Hartley is the easy part…keeping a sheltered virgin from not going wild and draining the entire football team on the eve of their big homecoming game is another matter!
I like Seven Seas Entertainment. Really, I do. They have a nice mix of original and licensed titles, with a very eclectic selection of genres. Sadly though, I didn’t like one of their biggest hits, AOI House. So I didn’t have high hopes for Vampire Cheerleaders when it was announced, but I was looking forward to Paranormal Mystery Squad. Boy, did I get those turned around.
Vampire Cheerleaders is just as cliché as it sounds. Good girl Heather is invited to join the ‘A’ cheerleading squad after one of its members goes missing. Once “initiated” into their coven, she goes wild with her new power and ends up draining the football team just before the big homecoming game, and the girls have to figure out a way to keep their team from losing.
Even though everything about the characters is cliché, from Heather’s strict parents, to Heather’s transformation from goody-two shoes to vamp, to all the clique-y in-fighting between the girls, to even the geeky best friend who knows the cheerleaders are vampires and get pushed by the wayside once Heather becomes popular, the story is mildly amusing. The characters are varied enough to be interesting. While I don’t generally like stories about popular clique girls, these girls were engaging enough to keep me from getting bored.
I was even intrigued by the coven’s leader Lori’s past (and not just because we share a name, though, she does spell it right) and her need to keep coming back to the school and have a “perfect senior year”. There seems to be something there. The art is nice and clean and the character designs are well done. I wouldn’t mind reading another story from this series.
Paranormal Mystery Squad is a whole ‘nother story.
Goth girl Stephanie Kane always thought she was special; that there was something different about her. It turns out that she’s the most normal person out there and everyone else around her is some kind of paranormal freak! Seriously: her sister is a werewolf, her best friend is a witch, and her next door neighbor is a dhampir. Together, this motley crew of unlikely friends travel the country in their trusty Winnebago in search of cryptids and all manner of supernatural beasties!
With a title like “Paranormal Mystery Squad”, I was hoping there would be some really mystery and at least interesting paranormal activity. I got neither. Instead I got characters that are completely unlikable, and a story that drags on and goes no where. There is absolutely no character in this story that I can find even tolerable. Stephanie and Katie are unpleasant and spiteful, the very definition of the word “bitch.” I just grew to hate them the more I read. And what I was reading was boring at best, and insulting at worst. About half way through, I kept hoping the story was over, but it just kept going. I think all the parts about women and their menstruation were supposed to be funny, but it really wasn’t. Even the title gets into the act. It’s exactly this kind of crude humor that I disliked in AOI House. I should get combat pay for making it to the end.
The art in this story was rough and uneven. Overall, the story a few (very few) decent moments. I did like the Ghostbusters reference, but it’s just not something I can recommend in good conscience. You couldn’t pay me to read another story in this series, which leaves me in a conundrum. How do I read the next Vampire Cheerleaders without supporting Paranormal Mystery Squad? Digital versions of the titles sold separately please, Seven Seas!
Souji Kushiki, a high school student from a well-to-do family returns home from boarding to school to find things have changed. His three sisters are strangely clingy, and their behavior borders on inappropriate and bizarre. At school, he learns that over the summer, three of his fellow students were murdered, and the links to the murders seem to lead back to his sisters. With the help of his new friend, the cheery and spunky Yukako Sasai, Souji goes in search of the truth behind the murders, the answers to which may just end everything he believes to be true.
Amnesia Labyrinth is a thriller-mystery that gave off Higurashi-When They Cry vibes when I started reading it. Many of the characters have creepy and unsettling sides to their personalities, that it seems only Souji sees. While the story moves into some areas of taboo that I don’t really care for, the mystery is intriguing.
Amnesia Labyrinth centers around Souji Kushiki, the second son of the Kushiki family and now head of house when his older brother Kazushi takes off. Souji is smart and athletic, and is very stoic to his home situation. He rarely smiles and seems very detached from the people around him. But his family dynamics are key to the story. We do meet his stepmother, but his father, a powerful politician, is never introduced. So the focus revolves around Souji and his three sisters.
Youko is the oldest sister, but is younger than Souji. She is both disturbing and disturbed. She likes to hold Souji from behind with her arm around his neck, almost threatening to choke him. She always has a faint smile on her lips, so it’s impossible to tell what she’s thinking. She looks as if she could go psycho at any moment. She’s tried to sleep with Souji but was soundly rejected. Saki is Souji’s half, illegitimate sister, and works as a maid in the house. She not as creepy as Youko, but she has her moments. She IS sleeping with Souji. Harumi is Souji’s step sister, the daughter of his father’s current wife, and the youngest. She is shy and meek; nothing like the other two sisters. She looks up to Souji, but is too self-conscious to say anything to him. Souji is the most brotherly with Harumi.
Outside this odd family is Yokako. She is Souji’s first friend at school, and is the sole member of the Intelligence Committee. She is very outgoing and upbeat, and latches onto Souji, despite his dour attitude. She is investigating the murders that have occurred at school, and has a personal interest in the last one. She drags Souji into helping her, and after learning some of the facts, he finds himself pulled in further.
The mystery of the murdered students is just one part of the story. They do appear to be connected to Souji. Each murdered person could have been a competitor to Souji; a track star, a smart student, the class president. This makes Youko and Saki look good as suspects, especially with their behavior near the end, but they also appear too obvious. It’s difficult to pick up what’s a red herring at this point.
The other mystery of this title seems to be about Souji and the Kushiki family. Souji doesn’t trust his full sister Youko. He doesn’t believe she is the real Youko. And even though he believes he has seen his older brother Kazushi walking around town, Youko takes him to a building on the family land where Kazushi is imprisoned. The question of dopplegangers seems to be brought, as does the fact that Souji is missing some of his memories, a fact that both Youko and Kazushi bring up along with dropping a potential bombshell on the last page. Yokako posits an interesting thought as well. The world they are living in now is really a dream world/land of dead, but no one knows it. It’s a bit of a Matrix reference, but it’s also something I can almost see, in relation to the visuals.
Amnesia Labyrinth is a strange but intriguing title. It has several disturbing moments which to me makes it deserving of its older teen rating. Youko comes off as borderline psycho, and all the incest that treated almost matter-of-factly would make me think twice about giving this title to anyone under 16. But the mystery of the murders and the truth behind the Kushiki family has me intrigued enough that I will check out the second volume to see where things go.
It was back in 2004 I think, when I first saw the solicitations from a new manga company in Previews. Seven Seas had 3-4 full size pages advertising it’s titles. I remember thinking how cool it was that an American company was making a go at creating original titles. At the time, only Tokyopop had any OEL. From those original titles, there weren’t a lot that caught my attention. Just one did actually. Captain Nemo. I had been a big fan of Captain Harlock in the eighties. I loved his cape, the high collar, and the way his hair fell over one side of his face. The cover of Captain Nemo mimiced this, so of course I had to get it.
When the first volume finally came out in 2005, I of course ordered it, and have to say I actually enjoyed it. It very much captured the feel of Harlock’s brooding, and the lone captain trying to save the world that doesn’t realize it’s in danger. I couldn’t wait for the next volume. Unfortunately, I had to do just that. Seven Seas expanded, got into licensing manga and this meant the writer of Capntain Nemo, Jason DeAngelis, who is also president of the company, had less time to script. So Captain Nemo was put on hiatus. Permanently. Well, I had hoped not, but 4 years later and things look as bleak as they did in 2007 when I last checked the status of the series.
Now, just to torture those of us who have been waiting in vain for the series to return, Seven Seas has put up the unfinished pages from Volume 2. The first 24 pages were done by Aldin Viray from an outline and not a completed script. That means there are no words, just the pictures. And all they do is tantilize with an intriguing background story for Mrs. Wakely. It’s just too much to bear! So, I’m sharing my pain with you. Misery loves company after all. Check out these pages and see what could have been an entertaining manga.
It’s time to play Matchgame! Let’s meet our contestants! Seven Seas Entertainment has teamed up with big publisher Tor books according to this press release. The company will release licensed, and original manga as well as light novels under the Seven Seas imprint beginning in March 2008.
Of course, this alliance is nothing new in the manga world. Big “respectable” publishers seems to be looking for ways to get in on the manga revolution. Tokyopop and Harper Collins made a mutually beneficial deal. Del Rey created it’s own division, as did the Hachette Book Group, which created Yen Press. All these pubs license manga of course. But there seems to be more going on here. Both Del Rey and Yen Press will be publishing original manga as well. Tokyopop, of course, led the way for OEL. By teaming up with Seven Seas, which initially started as an original content only publisher, Tor can jump into this market with a ready made imprint.
Is this a new trend now? Do publishers see a future in original content manga? Del Rey announced a new series based on the popular novel series “Odd Thomas”. Yen Press has promised to premiere an anthology of original and licensed content by the next San Diego Comic Con. Tokyopop hit it big with their Warriors manga based on the young adult series by Erin Hunter, and has another hit with Vampire Kisses, also based on an YA series. Is adapting novels to manga finally catching on here? I hope so. Despite what so many other people think, I like OEL manga, and do want to see more. It will be interesting to see what Tor has in store.
Also, if this means Seven Seas will start getting more of their books out (I’m talking to you Jason DeAngelis. Finish Captain Nemo!) then I’m all for any alliance!