To the eyes of high school student Chiyo Sakura, classmate Umetarou Nozaki–brawny of build and brusque of tongue–is a dreamboat! When Chiyo finally works up the courage to tell Nozaki how she feels about him, she knows rejection is on the table…but getting recruited as a manga-ka’s assistant?! Never in a million years! But for someone who makes a living drawing sweet girly romances, Nozaki-kun is a little slow on the uptake when it comes to matters of the heart in reality. And so Chiyo’s daily life of manga making and heartache begins!
Yen Press surprised manga readers last Friday, when it announced that they had rescued the license for Fruits Basket, as well as two other titles by creator Natsuki Takaya, Liselotte & Witch’s Forest, and Twinkle Stars.
It’s a question that’s been plaguing manga readers since Tokyopop quit publishing in 2011. Who would get the license to Fruits Basket? I don’t think there’s been much doubt that the title would be picked up again. It was Tokyopop’s license to print money back in the early aughts, and kept the company afloat throughout the decade. It was a Kodansha title, so that seemed a sure bet, but the last four years have been a wasteland of news. But Yen Press gave readers an early Christmas present by announcing the return of the shojo series. I missed it the first time around, so I will be picking it up.
Vampires seem to still be an “in” thing as Viz Media release its newest shojo series Bloody Mary. But don’t let the names of the main characters fool you. This isn’t your typical, “supernatural hero seduces human heroine.” Mary and Maria are both guys, but with a teen rating, don’t expect any Boys Love action. It’s gonna be all talk and no action, which is just fine by me.
I haven’t read a lot of Tanemura’s work that’s available in English, and of the titles I have, it’s been hit and miss. But this new series, featuring a mature woman has definitely caught my interest. The fact that she turns into a teenage idol doesn’t lessen my interest. If anything, it increases it as a sort of mirror image of the magical girl anime of the 80s, where young girls got older to be idols. I’m intrigued to see how Tanemura handles this one.
Maid-Sama is a license rescue from Tokyopop. It was a series they launched after their restructuring in 2008 and they published 8 volumes before shutting down publication in 2011. While a lot of Viz’s rescues are digital only, this title is not only getting a print release, it is coming out as 2-in-1 omnibuses. This should get the series through the previous published material fast and into the unpublished that fans will really be looking for.
Viz is a little late in getting this press release out. Not only did the series come out at the beginning of July, but pre-release copies were sold at Anime Expo. Better late than never though, right? I’m interested in this series, and hope my copy will arrive soon. I’ve seen people seeing it’s similar to Kamisama Kiss, but since I like that series too, I can only see this as a good thing.
An imperial capital in an era of splendor and romanticism… Orphaned in an earthquake, Sorath is taken in by Baron Kamichika, the lord of “Blood Blossom Manor.” There, he pledges eternal friendship with Garan, the Baron’s heir, and Kiyora, Garan’s fiancée. But their friendship turns grisly by events none of them could foresee. The tender feelings each secretly harbors, the machinations of Baron Kamichika and his strange and seductive female companion, and a fateful encounter with a young girl with bizarre powers…all draw them to the Walpurgis Night and the nightmare’s climax!
Demon From Afar Volume 1
By Kaori Yuki
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
In general, I’ve enjoyed more of Kaori Yuki’s works than not. Her blend of bishonen characters with elements of horror and a touch of humor usually appeal to me. In Demon From Afar, all of the elements are there, they’re just not striking the right chord for me.
Sorath, the protagonist, is a boy with no memory of his past and is saved by Garan, the heir to Baron Kamichika, after a terrible earthquake strikes the capital. There really isn’t anything remarkable about Sorath. He is devoted to Garan, taking responsibility for anything Garan might get punished for, and always holding himself back to make Garan look good. He acts as a bodyguard to Garan and his fiancée Kiyora. But beyond that, nothing seems to motivate him. He is content in his role, not interested in finding the meaning behind the symbol on his hand or learning about his past. He’s the character we are supposed to be most invested in, but there’s nothing interesting about him.
Garan and Kiyora aren’t much better. Kiyora seems more like comedy relief with her inept social skills and love of eating. Of course, she is more interested in Sorath than her fiancée, and Garan is oblivious to the differing feelings. Baron Kamichika is about as one-dimensional as the paper he’s printed on. The evil villain who care about no one but his own ambitions, not even his own heir. Everything and everyone is a tool for him to use to reach his goal; immortality. I didn’t really hate him as much as I hated his shallow motives. His demon servant Liece/Mephistopheles wasn’t much better, playing along, but helping to betray the Baron at the end.
What I did like was some of the horror elements. The belief by locals that the spider lilies that surround the Baron’s manor are red from soaking up human blood was made all the more creepy by the discovery that Sorath makes when he finally starts investigating what the Baron is up to. I also like the idea of the yin/yang miko, with the darker one becomes, the more pure the other. The way Noella was restored wasn’t what I was expecting and definitely one the disturbing side.
I didn’t dislike Demon From Afar, but it didn’t hook me either. This first volume feels like a prologue. It’s setting up the background and characters before getting to the real story. It feels more like it’s just spinning its wheels as it doesn’t set Sorath up with any kind of goal or motivation. The higher price for this volume is because it is printed in hardcover with a dust jacket. There is one color plate. More would have been better. Overall, it is a nice presentation and worth the extra dollars. I’ll give this series another chance and check out the next volume, but something had better happen soon.
Makoto Amano wants to be come an actor instead of taking over the family dojo. His stern father decrees he can only do so if he spends the last two years of high school disguised as a girl and no one finds out. Ito Miura is a popular girl in her school’s drama department, but is always being given boy’s roles due to her tomboyish ways. The two become friends after Ito discovers Makoto’s secret, but as they constantly protect Makoto’s secret, they start to become something more.
W Juliet Volume 1-5
Age Rating: Teen
Price: $9.99 print/$6.99 digital
When I was tracking the new releases on Vizmanga.com, the release of W Juliet in digital caught my eye. I remember seeing the series in my local comic book store back in the day, but I never got around to picking it up. With it out in digital, and my daughter taking drama in school, I decided to try it out. It wasn’t a bad series, but neither did it ring any bells.
The two leads, Makoto and Ito are likable enough. Makoto is very earnest in his desire to be an actor and takes playing a girl seriously. He pulls off pretty well too, as everyone is convinced he’s a girl. It’s funny how he reacts to the girls swarming around him and questioning him relentlessly. But he is still a man, and is very protective of Ito, and risks his secret being discovered to be with her. Ito is the tall, tough, straight-figured girl who is constantly being mistaken as a boy. She thinks she can’t be feminine, and doesn’t look good in skirts, so she doesn’t try. She very insecure about her femininity, and is even slight jealous that Makoto makes a better girl than her. She discovers Makoto’s secret by accident, but it becomes the bond that draws them closer.
The story in these first five volumes involve one of two things; either Makoto’s secret is about to be discovered, or a boy falls for Ito and Makoto has to come to her rescue. Having these two elements be an issue occasionally would be okay, but when they are the problem in every single chapter, the story quickly becomes tedious. In first volume, Makoto is investigated twice and is thought to be a guy, Makoto Narita (who he really is) but his detractors are fooled by theater prosthetics. Makoto also has a fiance, Takayo, who tries at first to force him back, but later transfers with her brother to get between him and Ito. Ito gets a pair of suitors in Toki, an alumnus of the drama club, and Sakamoto, a boy she meets on a school trip who transfers to her school. Both are determined to make her theirs despite what she wants.
Makoto and Ito have plenty of allies, both willing and not so helping them out. Makoto’s older sister Akane is his biggest supporter. She is a make-up artist and helps him with his make-up, wig, and bringing him clothes when he’s in a jam. Ito has two older brothers and a younger brother, all of whom look are very overprotective of her. This comes in handy when Makoto’s father sends men to watch him when he is staying at Ito’s home over New Year’s. I liked the brothers a lot, but I do have a soft spot for overprotective brothers.
Overall I look at this series favorably, but I have to admit it had trouble holding my attention. It took two tries to read all five volumes. The monotony of Makoto’s secret always being on the verge of being discovered, and the guys that kept forcing themselves on Ito made it difficult. And I know this is a shojo series, but the fact that Makoto was always having to save Ito, despite her having martial arts training started to grate after a while. The stories I enjoyed most were where Makoto and Ito worked together as partners, such as during the ugly duckling performance the club put on to bring in new members. These chapters didn’t happen as often as I would have liked.
I wanted to like W Juliet more, but in the end, it was just average. The art was serviceable, but it was nothing to get excited about. I liked the characters and the story was fun at times. I don’t know if it would have been better to string out Makoto’s secret before Ito found out. I like it being the thing that bonds Makoto and Ito, and brings them together, and through the story, keeps them together. W Juliet definitely works as a rom-com, but it’s one of the more forgettable ones.
Review copies provided by publisher.
Yul continues his machinations against Shin, determined to get both Chae-Kyung and the title Crown Prince. His mother only cares about him becoming prince, and even sets him up in an engagement with the daughter of a powerful business man who is possibly more horrible that her. Shin and Chae-Kyung’s relationship continues down a rocky road as they alternate between loving and alienating each other, and causing the royal family public humiliation. Add to that the King who won’t show his feeling for his own son and royal baby on the way that could just complicate things further, and you have just another day at the Royal Palace.
The drama continues to crank up, as if that’s possible, in these two volumes. The soapiness just froths over like a wrongly loaded washing machine from a sitcom. The power plays and political intrigues start coming to the forefront, while Shin and Chae-Kyung’s relationship hit more bumps than smooth patches. While I still find Goong a compelling read, it isn’t as satisfying as it once was.
The main problem I have had with these two volumes is that everyone has become unlikable. Chae-Kyung spends all of her time whining about not wanting to be in the Palace while still pining for Shin. She is so completely selfish that she falls for Yul’s manipulations and betrays Shin even after he tells her it’s what he fears most. This isn’t how you’re suppose to treat someone you claim to like. Shin isn’t blameless in any of this though. His big mouth and bigger pride keeps him from actually showing Chae-Kyung his true feelings, which leads in part to her betrayal. So much of their problems come from their inability and/or unwillingness to talk to each other. It’s become more frustrating than entertaining at this point.
I really disliked Yul for using Chae-Kyung against Shin, despite his claims to love her. You don’t win someone’s love by hurting the person they love, even if it the hot-and-cold relationship Shin and Chae-Kyung have. And then he has the gal to think Shin manipulated Chae-Kyung for not telling her about her grandfather, after all he’s done to try to sabotage her and Shin’s relationship? As much as I hated Mi-Roo Oh, Yul’s chosen fiance, she is exactly who Yul and the Daebi-mama deserve for their manipulations. The King isn’t much better, with the way he keeps favoring Yul over Shin for so many personal reasons and none of them good. Whether it’s because of his feeling for the Daebi-mama, the promise he made to his older brother or some of reason we haven’t heard yet, none of them are excuses for ignoring the good of the country, which putting Yul and Daebi-mama in charge may jeopardize. Hyo-Rin proves she’s on the same level as Daebi-mama, as she manipulates Shin by first exposing the truth of Shin and Chae-Kyung’s engagement, then pleading with Shin to divorce Chae-Kyung for her own good. Despite her situation, she isn’t someone I feel sympathy for.
The only people who I still have any respect for are the Queen and the Queen-Mother. They are the only two without any secret agendas, who actually care about others and aren’t afraid to admit their feelings. The Queen has to plead with the King to allow Shin and Chae-Kyung to move to Changduck palace not as the Queen but as Shin’s mother. They are the only two who think to investigate the Daebi-mama as a possible suspect in her own arson. Honestly, I think they are the two smartest in the series and the Queen should be leading instead. She dealing with a difficult pregnancy and is still the most rational person in court at the moment.
I’d really like to see more political intrigue than relationship drama. Shin’s position as Crown Prince has been iffy at best for most of the series, but as soon as decides to take his duties seriously, is when the King seems to really turn against him. Most of the time the problems come from Chae-Kyung. The mention of divorce on National TV and the revelation of their engagement pushes the King to seriously consider demoting Shin. Yul and his mother want to push for a stronger monarchy which doesn’t make them very popular with many in the National Assembly, giving Shin more support. It is going to be tough to get any support for Yul to become Crown Prince. I hope this will be explored more in future volumes.
While these two volumes of Goong didn’t leave a favorable impression on me over all, I did still enjoy reading them. Soaps are supposed to have characters you love to hate, but I don’t think you’re suppose to hate everyone. Hopefully future volumes will change this and give me someone to sympathize with and root for. I still love all the costumes and the detail Park puts into them. I also really like the different fashions Chae-Kyung gets when she’s in everyday clothes. Even though I’ve grown weary of the miscommunication and manipulation in the personal relationships. I will keep reading. It’s like the train wreck you can’t look away from.
Review copies provided by publisher.
Gender-Bender titles aren’t usually my thing, but because it’s twins switching places rather than some science/magic causing it, it might not be too bad. We’ve seen lots of titles of a girl passing off as a boy in an all-boys school plenty of times. Seeing how a boy deals with pretending to be a high school girl would be much more interesting. Hopefully it won’t hurt to read.
After coming to the realization that Kirishima-sensei was her first love, Yukina goes to face him on her own to finally know the love that she’s been seeking all this time. Meanwhile, Shigure hears a rumor that reveals Kirishima-sensei’s dark past and rushes off to tell Yukina, but before he can catch up with her, Yukina is whisked away by Kirishima-sensei in his car. Can Shigure reach them in time before Kirishima-sensei repeats an action from his sordid past?
Missions of Love Volume 9
By Ema Toyama
Age Rating: Older Teen
I liked the first two volumes of Missions of Love that I read, so when I was given the opportunity to read more, I couldn’t wait. But after two volumes, it seemed that little had changed, and I was bored with seeing Yukina still being completely clueless, Shigure still as cagey about his feelings for her, Akira is still plotting against Shigure and Mami is still holding out hope that Shigure would love her back.
Honestly, I don’t know what exactly I was hoping for, but this volume wasn’t it. I just felt frustrated at the complete lack of movement with the characters. Everything felt the same as it had back in volume 6. I guess I had hoped for something to have changed in those two intervening volumes, but it really felt like nothing had. What frustrated me most was Yukina. She’s had all these “missions” with Shigure and it seems like she hasn’t learned a thing. After eight volumes you would think something would have sunk in, but she’s still as oblivious to feelings of love as she was at the beginning. She makes big proclamations, but when she finally gets some true feelings she still can’t figure it out? Seriously? I also didn’t care for the cheap shot of using her teacher to set up a seduction when all he really wanted was to find out if she was being bullied or abused by Shigure. The set up was too obvious.
Fortunately there was some character development, but it seemed to be all reserved for Shigure. I liked that he was against Yukina going off with Kirishima to learn “what love really is.” Considering his feelings for her, it’s natural that he wanted to be the one to show her that. Akira agreeing to let Yukina go felt fake, like he was trying to rack up points with her. Shigure also took several steps forward in admitting his feelings for her. He told Mami that he could see her as a friend, not a girlfriend, and he told Yukina that for her, he would stop acting fake. It was a relief to see someone in this series acknowledge their changing feelings and actually act on them.
It’s also about time the story looped back around the cell phone novel plot that the whole “missions” are supposed to be helping her with. She’s supposed to be applying what she’s learned to her novels to make them better. Considering her rankings, she hasn’t been doing that, or even writing at all. Hopefully contact from her rival will change that, and that by applying what she’s learned in her novel it will finally get through to her as well.
I started out liking Missions of Love, but too much of the same can really kill the fun. There has to be some development in the characters, otherwise, what’s the point in reading about them? Unless Yukina is revealed to be a robot, I’m having a hard time buying her continued inability to understand the emotion love, especially now that Shigure is stepping up his game. Toyama needs to step her game too, otherwise this title will really stagnate. I’m not looking for the proverbial lightbulb, just a few connecting the dots.
Review copy provided by publisher.