Tag Archives: shojo

Paradise Kiss Volume 3

As the much-anticipated Yaza Arts fashion show gears up, an unexpected visitor from George’s past makes an appearance. Yukari’s modeling career heats up just as George makes an announcement that shocks the ParaKiss group to the core. George is hearing the siren call of the City of Lights, but where does that leave Yukari? Will she find the key to Paradise?

Paradise Kiss 3By Ai Yazawa
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fashion
Price: $19.95
Rating: ★★★★★

In this final volume of Paradise Kiss, fashion takes a back seat to all the relationship drama that is going on. George and Yukari’s relationship remain turbulent and with the introduction of Kaori Aso, an important female friend of George’s, things just go to an 8 on the Richter scale. The reason behind the complex relationship between Miwako, Arashi and Tokumori is finally revealed, as is Isabelle’s past. The series ends with everyone having to make choices about their future, the biggest in question being George and Yukari’s; do they have one together?

While fashion was a backdrop, the focus of this series has always been on George and Yukari, and with the fashion over, that focus just intensifies. Yukari, who wants to be the center of George’s universe gets booted out of the limelight as Kaori Aso, a close friend of George’s, comes back to Japan to see the fashion show, but more importantly, to try to convince George to continue designing. Yukari gets a lot of shocks during this meeting, as she learns George has shared many things with Kaori that he didn’t with her. The realization she comes to from this is harsh but true; she more of a dress-up doll for George than an equal partner in their relationship. I was disappointed when even after realizing this, she was still willing to go along as long as she was with him. I really expected better from Yukari.

The Miwako-Arashi-Tokumori relationship finally gets some attention in this last third as the root of Arashi’s jealously is revealed to both Arashi and the audience. Tokumori is a great character, the only real voice of reason in all the madness. Even though he has been Arashi’s rival for Miwako, he gives Arashi the pep talk he needs to accept Miwako’s feelings. Their talk is one of my favorite scenes of the volume. I also really enjoyed finally seeing more of Isabelle outside of the atelier, and seeing how she became the person she is now.

The big question of the volume, and really the whole series, is, will Yukari and George stay together? Yukari and George are fine together as friends. Yukari was a muse for George, inspiring him to create some great things. George also helped Yukari get out of her rut of being a student and find something she could enjoy and be passionate about. But as a couple, I never liked them together. They didn’t fit well for me. There was a lot of passion, both in their feelings and their interests, but I didn’t feel any love between them. If Yukari were to follow George, I think she would suffocate in that relationship, and George wouldn’t really be happy with Yukari not taking advantage of her full potential. The way Yazawa ended the story was just right. Everyone ends up with just who they should.

Paradise Kiss is a great story filled with rich and colorful characters. It’s fashions are outrageous but fun, and the drama of the relationships are a bit over the top, but just realistic enough to ring true. This is a series that should not be passed up, especially since readers have been given a second chance with it. Do regret not picking it up. This title is a Buy It Now.

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 13: Too Many Alices!

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This week I’ve got a few short news stories, the goings on at Vizmanga.com and I look at the similarities of three Yen Press titles that are based on or inspired by Alice in Wonderland: Are You Alice?, Alice in the Country of Hearts and Pandora Hearts.

The podcast is on Facebook now too! Like it there too for new episodes and updates about what’s coming up!

Continue reading Manga Dome Podcast Episode 13: Too Many Alices!

Manga License Mania

It started with Kodansha announcing they licensed Sherdock, and then the unconfirmed (but hopefully true) license by Seven Seas of Dictatorial Grimoire. But starting on Valentines Day, February 14, it started to rain manga licenses from Viz Media and Seven Seas Entertainment (officially).

yoroshiku-master-1Viz announced at total of 5 titles, 4 shojo/josei and one shonen. The two shojo titles are by creators who have already been published in the US. Yoroshiku Master, or Sweet Rein as Viz is calling it, is by Sakura Tsukuba. Two of her titles, Land of the Blindfolded and Penguin Revolution were originally published by CMX. It’s a 3 volume title about a girl and boy who bump into each other and become bound together, and the boy tells the girl, Kurumi, that is a Santa Claus and his master. This one looks a little shaky for my taste. I don’t quite get the obsession the Japanese seem to have to make Santa Claus a cute girl, so this one will have to get a “wait and see.”  This title will be available in November. Seems appropriate to come out right before Christmas.

Seiyuu Academy 1Voice Over! Seiyuu Academy has a little more appeal to me. This 11 volume shojo series was created by Maki Minami who created Special A, which I wasn’t impressed with, so I’m hoping this one is better. The subject matter is already more appealing. It’s about a girl, Hime Kino who enrolls in Hiiragi Academy to follow her dream to become a voice actress. Stories that go behind the scenes of anime and manga creation interest me, so this one will be one I “can’t wait to read!” This title will be out in October.

Midnight_Secretary_vol01Midnight Secretary is one of the josei titles. It’s release will be the debut of its creator Tomu Ohmi. It’s a 7 volume supernatural series about an excellent secretary, Kaya Satozuka, who is assigned to be the personal secretary to the difficult managing director of Touma Foods, Kyohei Touma. Being the professional that she is, Kaya takes Kyohei’s attitude in stride, and soon learns the reason for it; he’s a vampire. I like the sound of the premise of this series, and that it’s in a more professional environment appeals to my aging side. This is another “can’t wait.”

happy-marriageHappy Marriage sounds like something out of a Harlequin romance, so I have my reservations about it. This 10 volume series is by Maki Enjoji, another new creator to US audiences. Chiwa Takanashi agrees to an arranged marriage to company president Hokuto Mamiya, a man she doesn’t even know, in order to save her father from debt. Chiwa doesn’t think the arrangement is binding, but Hokuto seems to think otherwise. I find Harlequin-esque romances to be a guilty pleasure at best, so I don’t hold a lot of hope for this one. I also find it going 10 volumes a little hard to believe, so it gets a “wait and see.” It comes out in August.

MagiCover01Also coming out in August is a new Shonen Sunday title, something we sadly haven’t seen for a while. Magi is ongoing with its 16th volume having just come out a week ago. It’s by Shinobu Ohtaka whose previous series Sumomomo Momomo was published complete by Yen Press. Magi is based on characters from One Thousand and One Nights, and re-imagines them for a new adventure. Aladdin is searching for the Dungeon, a place where untold riches are told to be kept. With his genie Hugo, and his friend Ali Baba, he sets out into the desert to find his fortune. This is a good title for Viz to bring out, as it currently has an anime that is streaming here, and is getting a lot of good word-of-mouth about it. My only worry is that, I really didn’t like Sumomomo Momomo. I hope she learned her lessons from that, and judging by the good things I’ve heard about Magi, she just might have. This is another “can’t wait.”

A-Centaurs-Worries-1-JPSeven Seas Entertainment also announced three new titles with a romantic theme. All three feature creators that haven’t been published in the US yet and all have a supernatural bent. A Centaur’s Life is a slice-of-life comedy series about a centaur girl Himeno, her dragon-winged friend Nozomi, and spiral-horned Kyoko dealing with the issues of life and love in a high school setting. It’s an ongoing series by creator Kei Murayama, with 3 volumes out and will be released in November. Of the three Seven Seas titles, this is the one I am most interested in. It at least seems the least scary. I like mythical creatures, and slice-of-life stories, so this one gets a “can’t wait.”

Love-in-Hell-1-JPLove in Hell is also an ongoing series with only 2 volumes out so far. It’s by Reiji Suzumaru and will come out in October. It’s about regular guy Rintaro Senkawa who gets himself kills after drinking too much. He gets sent to hell and into the hands of sexy succubus Koyori, who acts as his guide. Rintaro must either repent the sins of his past, or spend the rest of his afterlife eternally tormented and teased by a scantily clad devil with a spiked club. Yeah, I don’t see this one leaping to the top of my reading pile any time soon. Comedy and spiked clubs don’t make good bed partners as far as I’m concerned. This one gets a “wait and see.”

Monster-Musume-1-JPMonster Musume is ongoing and also at 2 volumes so far. It’s by Okayado and will also be coming out in October. It’s about teenager Kurusu Kimihito who is “volunteered” in the government exchange program for mythical creatures after they are discovered to be real. The snake woman Miia is sent to live with Kurusu, and it’s his job to take care of her and help integrate her into society. Only problem; she’s hot and there is a strict rule against inter-species breeding. Add a flirtatious harpy and ravishing centaur, and you’ve got the makings of a harem comedy. The first thing that tells me this isn’t a series for me, besides the word harem, is the size of the girl’s breasts. This is definitely meant to cater to a male audience. I’ll give this series a “wait and see, bordering on hell no!”

After this landslide of manga, Seven Seas World War Blue 1announced one more license. World War Blue is a 9 volume fantasy manga. It’s by Crimson and Anastasia Shestakova and re-imagines the video game console wars in a fantasy world. In the land of Consume, the kingdoms of Segua and Ninteruda fight for dominance. Ninteruda, led by their Emperor Marcus on his dinosaur steed are pushing Segua back, until a boy named Gear, who brags of his great speed appears and starts to turn the tide. The first volume will come out in July with subsequent volumes coming out in August and November. Included in the volumes will be extras such as color maps and features on video game history. While it can often come off silly to make inanimate objects into people, I like this concept. We have a lot of video games and consoles, and opinions on which are the best to match. This definitely gets a “can’t wait!”

Kingyo Used Books 1With some much new manga coming out in the last half of the year, it’s sad to also have to say goodbye to another series. Kingyo Used Books has been cancelled in English. The series, which started serialization online as part of the SigIkki experiment by Viz Media, was like a primer in manga history, as it covered different titles through the people who came through a used manga bookstore. While the title no doubt had low sales, it was licensing difficulties that ultimately did the title in, as reported by Shaneon Garrity in a series review she did recently. This saddens me, as I really enjoyed the series. I loved learning about the different manga, and really enjoyed the stories where people’s love of their favorite manga was rekindled. And I would LOVE to have the underground storage to store all my manga!

 

A Different Kind of Grimm

Dictatorial-Grimoire-1-JP-coverSeptember is shaping up to a good month for new releases. All-Fiction.net dug up a new solicitation on Amazon for a new series from Seven Seas. Dokusai Grimoire, or Dictatorial Grimoire as Seven Seas is calling it is a three-volume manga series. It follows Grimm Otogi, a far-flung descendant of the original Brothers Grimm, has inherited a mansion from the deceased father he never knew. Along with that inheritance comes a curse; his ancestors made a deal with the mystical beings known as Marchen Demons who now have a claim on his soul. Otogi, with the help of a male Cinderella, must find a way to free himself by unlocking the power of a manuscript and stop the demons before they get him.

I had found a love for fairy tales back in college, when for a paper, I had to write about Andrew Lang, an inspiration for Joseph Campbell, the well-known mythologist. Since then, I grab up titles that have something to do with fairy tales, which makes this title a must have for me. Over the course of the volumes Otogi will have to deal with tales featuring Cinderella, Snow White, and Little Red Riding Hood. While this title might not seem to be breaking new territory, it does appear to have two things going for it. One, it has bishies, and two, it’s a supernatural story that isn’t a romance! As much as I enjoy supernatural romances, it’s nice to take a break every now and then.

Paradise Kiss Volume 1-2

Yukari Hayasaka is a studious, straight-laced high school senior, racing toward college exams yet with no real sense of purpose in her life. One day she’s kidnapped by a troupe of fashion design students and whisked away to their lounge-like atelier. There they ask her to be their model for their school fashion show. At first she resists, scornful of the odd-looking design students, until George, the lead designer, uses his wiles to join them while forcing Yukari to take a good, hard look at her life.

parakiss1By Ai Yazawa
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fashion
Price: $19.95
Rating: ★★★★½

I first read Paradise Kiss two years ago for its Manga Movable Feast. The series was originally released by Tokyopop, who has since gone the way of the Dodo, and at the time I could only get a hold of the first volume. But Vertical, Inc. has, in its infinite wisdom, rescued this title and re-released it not only with a new translation, but also as an omnibus edition. With a much better translation and bigger chucks of story, these two volumes really delve into the characters and starts to give glimpses of the fashion world.

In these first two volumes, we not only meet all of the characters of Paradise Kiss, but see the complex relationships that Yazawa has set up. Miwako and Arashi are childhood friends who have become lovers. Arashi has piercings all over his face and looks scary, but is actually kind and the most responsible of the group. Miwako is very childlike and refers to herself in the third person. She becomes Yukari’s first close friend that she can confide into. Isabelle is a male transvestite who likes to cook and worries about Yukari as well, but doesn’t push too much. She really doesn’t get as much development as the others. And then there’s George, or Jorji. He is the leader of the group and prodigy designer. He is suave, handsome, and at times real jerk.

Yukari gets dragged into their world as her college exams approach. She doesn’t take their request for her to be their model, or even their work seriously at first. But when she learns about how hard they are working to make their dreams of creating their own label of clothes, she has more respect for them. They have a dream, a goal for their lives. She’s just been going through the motions, trying to appease her rank-hungry mother. Being with Parakiss and George, gets Yukari thinking about her life and her future, and what she wants to do with it rather than just what her mother wants. She also becomes romantically involved with George, who is a complex person. Yukari’s emotions get bounced around like a pinball as he manipulates her feelings leaving both the reader and Yukari wondering if his feelings for her are real.

parakiss2There is a third side to the Yukari-George relationship. Hiro Tokumori is a class mate of Yukari’s who also, co-incidentally is a childhood friend of Miwako and Arashi. He starts out as Yukari’s crush, and seemingly not interested in her, but as she gets more involved with Parakiss and George and less involved in school, he starts to worry about her. Hiro is the complete opposite of George. He is never manipulative of Yukari, but he does speak his mind, and his words get Yukari thinking rather than just reacting. As he becomes more involved in the story, I found I was liking him more and more. He’s a better match for Yukari than George. He is understanding her feelings without the manipulation.

I really enjoyed these first two volumes of Paradise Kiss. It was great watching Yukari start to grow as a person, and face some of the things she’s been avoiding. She finally finds something she wants to do, modeling, thanks to Miwako’s sister, Mikako, who is already a famous fashion designer. She confronts her mother about her life’s direction, and finally wins some freedom. She even learns that, once it is her own choice, college might not be as bad she thought. But she is still growing up in other ways, especially emotionally. She makes George angry at her over a choice she made that was more about her inexperience than anything else.

If you missed Paradise Kiss the first time around, don’t make that mistake again. Vertical has done a terrific job with this re-release. The volumes are larger than a regular manga volume, and just thick enough to give good chunks of story, and still be comfortable to hold. And you won’t want to put these volumes down. The story is very addicting, as you have to know what happens next. It was very difficult to reach the end of volume 2 and realize I had to wait for the next. Ai Yazawa’s artwork is realistic with a few comedic moments, which mostly involve Arashi punching George. The series is also rather self-aware, at least among the Parakiss crew, as George and Isabelle are seen reading the magazine the series was serialized in, and are constantly making references to events being in previous chapters. Paradise Kiss is a fun, funny, and sometimes frustrating series, but it is worth every moment.

Review copies provided by publisher.

 

Demon Love Spell Volume 1

Miko is a shrine maiden who has never had much success at seeing or banishing spirits. Then she meets Kagura, a sexy demon who feeds off women’s feelings of passion and love. Kagura’s insatiable appetite has left many girls at school brokenhearted, so Miko casts a spell to seal his powers. Surprisingly the spell works–sort of– but now Kagura is after her!

By Mayu Shinjo
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Supernatural Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I had completely missed the license announcement for Demon Love Spell, so it came as a complete surprise when I saw it. I’ve only ever read one other volume by this manga creator, Ai Ore!, and had a sort of love/not-love thing with that volume. After reading this volume, I found I had the same feeling for this volume as well.

Demon Love Spell is about a demon, an Incubus, who is bound by bumbling exorcist who can’t even see the spirits she is trying to exorcise. With his powers diminished, he has to stay with her until she can figure out what spell she used to bind him. Because he was a powerful demon, both of them become targets to other demons that want to defeat him and eat her. They must grudgingly work together to survive.

I started reading this title without making any connections to who the creator was, and as a result has hopes this wouldn’t be too bad. And it’s not bad per se. It just isn’t my kind of series. The first warning bell came from Kagura with his leering eyes and seductive manner. Granted, he is an incubus and he’s supposed to be seductive, so I can’t fault him or the series for that. But what it gave me was a serious “Black Bird” vibe. I found the sexual innuendo in that series to be creepy and got the same feeling while I was reading this one.

A lot of that feeling stems from the similarity between the female protagonists. Both Miko and Misao are kind of clueless and easily manipulated by their respective supernatural “suitors.” While Miko is more defiant during the day, Kagura uses her dreams to get what he wants, and her dream self is much more willing and submissive than her conscious self. Miko is also innocent in the ways of the heart and is often vulnerable to Kagura when he tries to seduce her. I don’t find Kagura to be very likable either. Even in his “cute” form, when he is bound and the size of doll, he’s pervy and really not that cute. His favorite hiding spot on Miko is of course between her breasts.

All the innuendo aside, Demon Love Spell does have some good points. Miko isn’t completely defenseless. She may have to relay on Kagura for some of the more powerful demons and to see them, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to exorcise them herself, and she doesn’t run or cower when confronted with danger. Kagura, for all his sleaziness, does seem to have some real feelings for Miko. He doesn’t appear to just be using her, and the feelings they are developing for each other seem to be happening at the same time. I appreciate this approach more than a one-sided relationship developing. I also really liked the fox spirit that was introduced at the end. He is cute in both his animal and human forms.

Demon Love Spell was an okay story, but not a keeper. The chapters seem to balance battling demons and Miko and Kagura’s relationship well. I have no complaints with the art either. The bishi are appropriately bishi and demons are appropriately scary. As I said earlier, the story isn’t badly written, it just isn’t written for me. This is a title more for Black Bird and Vampire Knight fans, of which I am really neither. I won’t follow this title regularly, but I won’t object to the occasional check in.

Review copy provided by publisher.

13th Boy Volume 1

It was love at first sight. the moment Hee-So’s eyes met Won-Jun’s she knew it was meant to be. Their relationship took off when Hee-So confessed her feelings on national TV, but less than a month later, Won-Jun is ready to call it quits without any explanation at all. Hee-So’s had a lot of boyfriends–Won-Jun is number twelve–bu being dumped is never easy. She not ready to move on to the thirteenth boy just yet. Determined to reunite with Won-Jun, Hee-So’s on a mission to win over her destined love once more.

By SangEun-Lee
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

I read the preview of 13th Boy in Yen Plus why back when it first came out, and wasn’t impressed. I thought it was going to be another “stalker girl” title like Sarasah, which I hated. But with being given a second chance to read the first volume, I decided to give it a shot. And like Won-Jun to Hee-So, I don’t hate it, but I don’t know if I like it yet.

13th Boy is not your average high school romance. It starts out like it might be. Hee-So, is the earnest, sometimes blunt girl madly in love with a cute boy in her class, Won-Jun, who comes off as cold, and almost robotic. For a few moments, I thought maybe he was one. But things quickly go askew when Beatrice, Hee-So’s walking, talking cactus is introduced. Yes, I said walking and talking. I don’t know what’s stranger, that Beatrice can talk, or that Hee-So takes it so calmly. There’s no explanation for what Beatrice could be, but the end of the volume hints at something supernatural. And then there’s Won-Jun’s best friend, Whie-Young Jang. He comes off kind of jerky, but there more to him than he seems. He can do magic. He’s shown levitating a book and makes his and Hee-So’s legs disappear so some classmates won’t see them.

I wasn’t expecting a supernatural element to this story. It started out like a typical high school romance with a weird mascot character, but there seems to be a lot more going on. The idea that there is a destined love for everyone is strongly emphasized in this volume. Hee-So is banking on Won-Jun being hers. And for all the scoffing Whie-Young does about it, I get the feeling he might think the same of Hee-So to him. The last scene with Won-Jun and Whie-Young sets up the love triangle, which seems to be destined to be a bumpy ride for all three of them.

While I wasn’t wowed by this first volume of 13th Boy, I am intrigued enough to be willing to check out more. I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would, and while I don’t care for the stalker-obsession that manhwa seems to favor for its female leads, the integration of a destined love at least lessens the impact.

Angel Heart

Peace Pet Rental’s Lag is a robotic dog. He can be pretty slow at times and can’t perform tasks aside from those written in his program, but despite all this, he’s everyone’s favorite dog. Soon, however, he is tackling people’s problems in ways not included in his program, and it seems almost miraculous… Something mysterious has awakened within his heart even though he’s supposed to be a machine with no emotions. What is Lag’s true nature? For those lost in despair and sorrow and those with wounded hearts comes this healing tale of love, kindness, and sacrifice.

By Udou Shinohara
Publisher: Digital Manga Guild
Localized: Cynical Pink
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Fantasy/Shojo/Slice of Life
Price: $6.95 eManga/$7.95 Kindle/Nook/Wowio
Rating: ★★★★½

While I am a big cat lover (crazy cat lady in training), I’m really a sucker for all animals, including dogs. So it should come as no surprise that when given the chance, I would read a manga featuring a dog, even if it is a robot dog. While the basic premise is far from original, Shinohara still creates an entertaining story with some quirky characters, an interesting world for them to live in, and a charming pooch to bring them all together.

Angel Heart takes place in an unspecified future, where phone calls are made with holographs, and robots can be made and programmed to act like animals. The Peace Pet Rentals creates dogs, and Shiki is in charge of gathering data and programming Lag, a medium-sized dog that looks like a Sheltie. He does this by taking the dog to a hospital (whose director is also the Chief’s sister) and letting Lag interact with the patients, which has the added benefit of helping the patients. Over the course of the volume, Shiki gets to know many of the patients and watches Lag as he seems to grow beyond his programming, and like Pinocchio become thought of as a “real” dog.

I really enjoyed this title. Shiki is the reluctant programmer, who isn’t very good with people, but through working with Lag, starts to learn how to better interact with them. His big rival is Rena, the youngest sister of the Chief Rin and Director Kira. She also has a robot dog that she brings, a small Pomeranian named Nikita, whose programming is simpler, and therefore is more energetic, but not as authentic as Lag. She is always calling Lag dumb, because of his slow reactions, and comparing Shiki to his creation. The Rin, Shiki’s boss, is very stoic, but believes in his work, while Kira is more friendly, always smiling and encouraging Shiki, even if she is a little blunt about Lag’s lagging.

And then’s the star of the book, Lag. He is often shown with a blank stare, one I often associate with dogs anyway. When ever he does a dog action, like wag his tail, or lick someone’s face, the programming why he’s doing it is explained off to the side. This might seem annoying after a while, but I think it’s actually cute. It makes the times Lag isn’t following his programming stand out more. Throughout the story, it’s Lag’s unexplained actions that show how he’s changing and growing into something more than his programming. Doing a handstand and wagging his tail for a girl scared of her upcoming operation, or going to comfort a former soccer player depressed after an accident that affected his legs, show how he is becoming more empathetic toward people. I really liked it when his “brain” was put into a larger, scarier-looking dog, Lag’s personality still shone through. It was so cute seeing his stubby tail wag!

Angel Heart is a fun, light one-shot, though I wouldn’t object to reading more about Shiki and Lag,  or another robot animal in this universe. Shinohara has created a cast of characters I enjoyed with stories that warm the heart. The localizer, Cynical Pink, did a really good job with this title as well. The writing was fluid and read very naturally. It’s great that DMP/DMG has made this title available on several different platforms, though it’s obvious by the price which one they want you to buy from. Definitely check out Angel Heart if you enjoy titles about dogs or just want a light, quick read. It’s worth it.

Digital review copy provided by publisher.

Otomen Volume 1-5: Manga Movable Feast

Asuka Masamune enjoys the girly things in life, such as sewing and cooking. But due to a traumatic event that happened with his father when he was young, he can’t ever let his mother know about this side of himself. In fact, he thinks he can’t let anyone know, and so he plays the part of a stoic manly man, excelling in kendo and reading Bushido. But there is one person in his class who does know about the real Asuka; Juta Tachibana. He is a mangaka, and has created a popular series using Asuka as the model for his female lead. In order to further his manga, he encourages Asuka get closer to Ryo, a new girl at their school that Asuka has fallen for. As his relationship with Ryo slowly develops, Asuka meets other otomen and learns he isn’t alone.

By Aya Kanno
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

When Otomen first came out, I wasn’t impressed by the premise or the preview that ran in Shojo Beat at the time. I also didn’t care for Kanno’s previous title Blank Slate, so I didn’t have a lot of hope for this new one. A podcast review convinced me to re-evaluate and give the series a try. I’m glad I did. Otomen is cute and funny, and is more comedy than romance.

What really makes Otomen is the characters. When Asuka is first introduced, he looks the part of the manly man. Strong and silent, dressed in this kendo robes, he looks like he could have stepped out of a shonen manga. And then he starts to fall for Ryo, and his true self comes out. I love the scene with him after going on a “girly” spending spree and bringing home all kinds of crafty things and shojo manga. His despair over this is made more funny when he puts together a stuffed bear without really realizing his was doing it! I really enjoy the role reversal that Kanno has created with Asuka. He is very much the shojo lead, as all his inner thoughts and turmoil are shared with the reader. He even blushes a lot like most shojo leads. I really love Asuka’s dichotomy of still being a man while having all of these traditionally female hobbies. If only more men could be like him.

Surrounding Asuka is quite a cast of characters. Ryo, his love interest, complements him well. She can’t cook, or clean, and is hopeless at sewing and crafts. She has a masculine outlook, and though she says she prefers manly men, she doesn’t mind his feminine ways. She often takes the traditional male role such as being the brave one in a haunted house, or riding in on a white horse to rescue him from an arranged marriage. Juta Tachibana is a bit of a playboy, and has been orchestrating a lot of Asuka and Ryo’s relationship for the sake of his shojo manga, “Love Chick.” He will go to any length to get good material for his manga, including playing a rival for Ryo’s affections, breaking and entering Asuka’s potential bride, and staying outside the old school building in a blizzard so Asuka and Ryo can be alone in a romantic Christmas moment. He is also adament about not letting his real identity get out, and is even willing to dress up as a woman to keep it secret. I think in a lot of ways, Juta is the first fellow Otoman that Asuka meets.

And there are more otomen out there. Asuka’s self-proclaimed kendo rival, Hajime Tonomine turns out to have a secret passion for makeup and giving women makeovers. They end up working together when they are asked to help out at a women’s event and don the costumes of members of the Harakiri Ronin Samurai Five, and then volunteer to give a makeover when the artist gets stuck in traffic. I love when manga references Tokusatsu shows, so I really enjoyed this chapter in volume 3, and was thrilled when they made a come back in volume 5. Then there’s Kitora Kurokawa, who loves flowers too much. He is very tall and since he doesn’t talk much is seen by the other girls as mysterious. His weakness is wanting to cover beautiful things in flowers, which includes Ryo, Asuka, Hajime and even Juta.

The story starts out focusing on Asuka and Ryo and Juta using them for his manga, but then shifts toward more with discovering more otomen. I’m glad the story did start to shift, because Asuka and Ryo’s relationship really wasn’t going anywhere by volume 3, so it really needed something more. But I did start to miss hearing about developments for Love Chick, and really enjoyed the chapter in volume 5 where Juta has to accept an award, and has to come up with a way to do with revealing he’s really a man as his editor wants, and he’s rescued by his idol mangaka. Kanno also does a good job of balancing Asuka’s two sides, the masculine and feminine. He can be really cute sometimes when he blushing, and others thinking he’ll make a good wife. But he’s still a man and it still comes through when he leaps to action to save Ryo from a bull, a bomb, or a little boy from falling out a window. Asuka is the ideal man.

Otomen is a great series, filled a lot of great characters and funny situations. It’s romantic comedy at its best, because it is so unconventional in its material. I look forward to reading more about Asuka, Ryo, Juta and the rest of the otomen. And since this title is available on Viz’s manga site, I can just right back in where I left off without overloading the bookshelf. If you want some light, fun reading, definitely pick this title up.

St. Dragon Girl Volumes 1-5: Manga Movable Feast

Momoka Sendou (nicknamed “Dragon Girl”) and Ryuga Kou are childhood friends. Momoka is a martial artist, and Ryuga is a Chinese magic master who banishes demons. In order to increase his power, Ryuga calls on the spirit of a dragon to possess him, but the spirit enters Momoka instead. Now the two must unite forces and fight demons together!

By Natsumi Matsumoto
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

St. Dragon Girl is a title that has two things going for it. Dragons and a couple that denies their feelings for each other. While the second thing is a bit of a trope for shojo titles, I can’t help having a soft spot for their kind of relationship; the childhood friends who tease, bait and strike back.

The female lead of this story, Momoka, has a lot of tomboy traits. Her father is the head of a kenpo dojo, so she is constantly practicing, and is even an instructor. She will take on anyone who threatens her friends, spirits and demons, and even teachers! But she has one weakness; pandas. Ever since she received a stuffed panda as gift from Ryuga, she has loved them, and Ryuga as well. Momoka knows how she feels about Ryuga, but doesn’t want to tell him, thinking he’ll tease her and not return her feelings.

Ryuga, the male lead, comes from a family of Chinese magic masters, and is gifted in the arts as well. He is often being asked to tell fortunes, perform prayers or make charms. Where Momoka is more gung-ho and charging into a situation without thinking, Ryuga is the calm, thoughtful one. He is always having to protect his cousin Shuran, a gifted psychic that demons are always coming after. He comes to Momoka’s rescue as well, usually when her thoughtless gets her in over her head. He is constantly teasing Momoka, which can get him a fist or kick to the face, but he can sometimes counter with his spell Paper Army Formation made up of pandas. Ryuga can be serious at times, letting slip little comments that can be interpreted as his having feelings for Momoka too, but he usually denies them, or changes their meaning by the end of the chapter, to keep her from learning the truth; that he really does love her too.

And since they continue to deny their feelings, this leaves rooms for rivals for their affections to step in. Momoka get the most, starting with Ryuga’s cousin Kouryu, who tries to kidnap Momoka and take her back to China. He’s arrogant and egotistical, and I still didn’t like him ever after the explanation of his back story. Touya is another boy who has a crush on Momoka, but turns out to have a deeper secret. He ends up hanging around though, as thorn in Ryuga side. Even Saint Dragon, the dragon possessing Momoka has him moment of infatuation, but it doesn’t last. It doesn’t stop Ryuga from still feeling jealous.

Ryuga has his suitors as well. Raika is a distant relative of Ryuga’s who wants to be his fiance. She ends up being friends with Momoka after she realizes the truth of Ryuga’s feelings for her. Akira is another new member of the Kendo club. She is a Onmyouji, as well as a competitor for Ryuga’s affections, though he doesn’t really acknowledge her beyond being a friend. She likes to use her magic to take over Momoka’s body and make it move to her will.

While I really like the ensemble of characters that have gathered through these five volumes, it’s the mythical creatures that keep appearing that really won me over. I love the dragons, and they are drawn so gorgeously and with such care! There’s also a phoenix that appears that is cute in human form, and beautiful in bird form, and a mermaid and cat demons. The variety of beasts is great and just as entertaining as the characters!

The stories are mostly stand alone at the beginning, and are fairly light. They mostly involve demons coming after Shuran, or school activities such as Kendo club or the school festival. As the series goes on though, it does start to get more serious and move into longer stories lasting more than one chapter, but Ryuga and Momoka’s relationship remains on the teeter-totter of admitting/denying their feelings.

St. Dragon Girl is a fairly light and fun romance. Matsumoto’s artwork is beautiful to look at (especially the dragons), and she uses a lot of great Chinese costuming, making the series another plus in my book. There is next to no drama, and the comedy is well-timed with the more serious moments. I can’t think of a single complaint I have about this series. Even the constant denial of the leads doesn’t bother me, but they have great chemistry, it wouldn’t matter to me if they ever got together or not. While the series is rated for teens, tweens will enjoy this series as well. Definitely read this series if you get the chance.

Young Miss Holmes Volume 1

Christie Holmes is a prodigy. At ten-years-old, she’s as familiar with the sciences and classics as any older student at Cambridge or Oxford. And her facility with logic is reminiscent of her uncle, the eminent Sherlock Holmes himself. So, what’s a brilliant young girl to do when her parents are away in India, leaving her behind in the care of maids and servants? Why, solve mysteries, of course. Along with her giant hound Nelson, Christie’s implacable curiosity leads her from one dangerous adventure to another, often joining forces with Uncle Sherlock and Doctor Watson on their famed investigations. Christie may look pint-sized, but her clever mind is never to be underestimated!

By Kaoru Shintani
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Mystery
Price: $16.99
Rating: ★★★★★

I was really excited when I heard about Seven Seas’ acquisition of Young Miss Holmes. I love mysteries and Sherlock Holmes, but have also lately acquired a taste for stories about female relatives of Holmes also solving mysteries. First, his sister Enola Holmes in novel form, and now his niece Christie.

Young Miss Holmes takes classic Sherlock Holmes stories and makes changes to them, mostly to add Christie to the story, but also to make other changes as well. The way Christie becomes part of the story varies. Either she is visiting her Uncle Sherlock and deduces what is going on such as in the “Mazarin Stone”, or she stumbles onto a case the Sherlock is brought in on, such as “The Problem at Thor Bridge”. Christie can find cases on her own as well, as in the “Red-Headed League”, or takes on the whole case herself as she does in “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”. Her inclusion is done very naturally, sometimes needing only minor changes. In “Mazarin Stone”, instead of there being a dummy of Sherlock that he switches places with, Christie plays the part of a life-like doll and gets Sylvius’ confession.

Some of the changes to the story itself include adding characters such as Arthur, the adopted son in “The Problem at Thor Bridge”, and a slightly happier ending to “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire”, with the inclusion of real vampires in the guise of characters from the series Dance in the Vampire Bund by another creator, Nozomu Tamaki. This story is book-ended nicely with a short story by Tamaki herself.

Christie is just what you would expect from a relative of Sherlock Holmes. She is hyper observant and very knowledgeable in the sciences and classics. She has a strong will and stomach to go with it, and is willful to the point of being reckless. At times she wishes she was born a man and has little patience for other girls her age. She may be just as sharp as Sherlock, but she doesn’t have the experience to put it all to use. Fortunately for her, she has Grace Dunbar as her governess. While there isn’t much Miss Dunbar can do to further Christie’s education, she still assists Christie by helping her look at things in a different way, such as there can be value found in girl’s gossip, and her quiet demeanor calms Christie so she can think more clearly. She is like Christie’s Watson.

There are two maids who often accompany Christie, Ann Marie and Nora. Ann Marie is the head maid and is Christie’s Handmaid. She is the one most often put out when Christie goes on one of her adventures, but she also seems to have a temper and carries two revolvers, which she brandishes whenever Christie is threatened, leaving Christie to sometimes beg Ann Marie not to harm the perpetrator. Nora is another maid, and comes from the lower class. She can’t read or write, and speaks with a lower class accent. She always carries a whip called the Snake Tongue, which she will whip out for any reason necessary. These traits are made all the more fun by the maids’ appearances. Ann Maria appears very proper, but when she pulls her guns, she is far from reserved. Nora has an innocent look with freckles and curly hair, that turns done right demonic when she has her whip in her hands.

I really enjoyed this first volume of Young Miss Holmes. The characters are great, and the stories retain their Holmesian feel while adding a feminine touch. I also liked that Shintani kept the Victorian mores that restricted women so much at the time. Not only does Christie have the mysteries to solve, but she must also do it within the confines of Victorian society. I really enjoy watch females break through that barrier. The art is beautiful, and the dresses Shintani comes up for Christie are just as elegant as they are varied. The art is geared more toward a younger female audience, but that doesn’t make it any less attractive. I had a lot of fun reading Young Miss Holmes, and anyone who loves mysteries and/or Sherlock Holmes will love it too.

Wish List: Garnet Cradle – Gekkou no Aria

Researching on Baka-Updates Manga can be a dangerous thing. While looking for Flex titles that CMX had licensed for another post, the title of this manga caught my eye. The garnet is my birthstone, so I had to click on the link to find out more. The description included supernatural events and mysterious black cats, uping my interest even more. The deal was sealed when I saw that it was based on a Otome game, a reverse harem game for girls. Yes, I know most of these games are silly and shallow, with the lead character just being a stand in for the reader, but it’s a guilty pleasure for me.

Garnet Cradle – Gekkou no Aria is an ongoing series, with 3 volumes out so far. It follows first year Amahashi Miku as she starts at elite Mifuta Academy. She gets chosen to join the student council and is given the title of Miftah, arabic for Key. It turns out her title is quite literal, as only she can open a special door in the Student Council room that leads to mystical kingdom filled bishies who all fight with one another for Amahashi’s heart.

It seems to be popular online, second only to the otome game Starry Sky. Does that title sound familiar? It should. DMP announced it for release in April of this year. Maybe if Starry Sky does well, there’s a chance of seeing this series come out as well, and I can mark off another Wish List item!