Tag Archives: shojo

Manga Wrap Up Week Twelve: Honey and Clover Volume 9-10

I’m working to get back on schedule after my 2 week manga break. I decided to take it easy and finish up a couple of Shojo Beat titles that I’ve only have the last few volumes left to read. Honey and Clover and Sand Chronicles are two titles I associate together, since they started in Shojo Beat very close together. I enjoyed reading both in the magazine, and decided to continue getting the volumes after the Shojo Beat was canceled. They both went 10 volumes, but I only have the ones starting after the end of the magazine. I’m only going to talk about Honey and Clover here, and will give Sand Chronicles its own review, for reasons that should become clear.

I had previously reviewed Volume 8, which I really liked. The unicorns that stood guard over Yamada’s virginity were hilarious! And that was one of the things I really liked about Honey and Clover; it had its share of drama, punctuated with moments of humor. A lot of that light-heartedness disappears in these last two volumes. An event at the beginning of volume 9 really changes the tone, and most of the rest of the chapters revolve around resolving this one event. There is some tying up of loose ends. It’s finally revealed why Morita needed all that money. Hagu finally resolves the Morita and Takemoto triangle by turning it into a polygon, and like most of the characters, I didn’t see that turn coming.

I wouldn’t say the story ended with a happy ending, but it was satisfying enough. I didn’t feel cheated or that anything was left hanging. Relationships were resolved, or left unresolved as the case may be, as were the character’s personal stories. This is the end of the a chapter in this particular group’s life, and it made sense to end the series here as well. After following these characters for 8 volumes, you would think the coming end would elicit some sort of emotional response though the last two.

But to be honest, I didn’t really feel anything. As I read through these last two volumes, I felt kind of “So, this is the end.” After caring about these characters and following their stories for so long, I’m not sure why I felt so little about them going their separate ways. I think maybe it’s because so much of the last two volumes focused on Morita and Hagu and not so much on the others. It was the ensemble cast that I really liked about this series, and not the individuals so much. When that interaction was lost, so was my interest. It was a good closing chapter on the lives of these young people. It just didn’t affect me much. Would it also be heartless to say the whole situation with Hagu didn’t really upset me? The whole thing felt contrived, and may have contributed to my lack of feeling.

Sand Chronicles is a completely different story. For good or for ill, that story has stuck with me much more than Honey and Clover. It has made me cry on more than one occasion, and for all that I decry melodrama, this is one melodrama that I will read again. This is why the final three volumes need a post of their own.

My next series will be Antique Gift Shop, a manwha from Ice Kiun/Yen Press. It’s ten volumes and will free up a lot of space on my bookshelf, which I desperately need. I also have to find some time to read for the next MMF, which as just been decided to be on the SigIkki line from Viz. I have several volumes from that line that I’ve been meaning to read/review, and this is the perfect motivation to get me to do so.

  • Honey and Clover Volume 9-10
  • Sand Chronicles Volume 8-10
  • Yen Plus March 2012

Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura Volume 1

Sakura is the granddaughter of a mysterious moon princess who slew demons with her Blood Cherry Blossom sword. All her life Sakura has been forbidden to look at the full moon without knowing why. Then one night, unhappy over her impending marriage, Sakura gazes up at the moon, only to see a demon attacking her…

Continue reading Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura Volume 1

Flower of Life Volume 1-4: Manga Movable Feast

For some, high school represents the best days of their lives. For others, they would rather bury the memories in the deepest, darkest corner of their minds. For Harutaro Hanazono, the ball is still up in the air. Forced to enroll one month late after recovering from a serious illness, Harutaro does his best to remain optimistic about the whole situation. The other students try to make Haru feel welcome – especially his chubby, loveable pal, Shota – but Kai Majima, president of the manga club and all-around hard case, seems intent on making Harutaro’s high school life a living nightmare. Join Harutaro as he makes new friends, learns to draw mang and discovers surprising facts about his “kinda gay” teacher!

By: Fumi Yoshinaga
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Slice of Life
Price: $12.95
Rating: ★★★★★

While I enjoyed my first Yoshinaga series, Antique Bakery, I wasn’t wowed by it like I expected to be. Yoshinaga has gotten a lot of praise from the mangasphere, but I just didn’t see it in Antique Bakery. But I’m always willing to give a creator another try, and with Yoshinaga’s series Flower of Life, I’m really glad I did. This 4 volume series is filled with quirky characters, funny and dramatic scenes, and a story that offers a portrayal of high school life that feels real.

Flower of Life revolves around Harutaro Hanazono. He has just recovered from leukemia, after getting a bone marrow transplant, and is starting high school late. He is an honest and forthright person, sometimes too much so for his classmates, as when in his introduction to the class, he tells them about his illness. He is friendly and in general easy to get along with. He is also rather possessive of his first friend, Shota Mikuni. Shota is quiet and shy when he first meets Harutaro, but through their friendship he starts to be more assertive. Kai Majima, who is also Shota’s friend is a full-blown otaku who doesn’t get along with people very well, and is always looking to turn any situation to his advantage. He is oblivious to other people or their concerns, and really not a likable character for the entire series.

In contrast, Harutaro’s family and classmates are quirky and fun. His older sister Sakura, is a bit of a shut-in, living at home and doing all the domestic chores. She loves to cook and bake, and has a thing for khaki clothes. His father works two jobs, his main one being as a chicken sexer. He looks tough but is really just a big softy. His mother is also a chicken sexer who is working overseas teaching her craft. As a family, they care for each other, but also bicker like the dickens! And it’s Mom who wears the pants in the family. At school, Sumiko Takeda becomes part of Harutaro’s circle of friends despite not being his class, when she is outed when Majima learns she likes to draw manga. She seems timid at first, but turns out to be more than a match for Majima. Tsuki is one of Harutaro’s male friends who likes to party and has a crush on Sakura. Harutaro’s teacher, Shigeru Saito, is just a bundle of issues, much like the students. Yoshinaga did a great job with Shigeru, keeping the character’s sex ambiguous all the way through the series, even after it’s revealed.

All these characters would be wasted without a great story, and that’s where this series really shines. Since it’s a slice of life, it doesn’t have a plot like you would normally think a story would have. Instead, every chapter is a glimpse into the life of Hartaro and his friends as they go through their first year of high school. I have to say, this is the best slice of life series I have ever read. Yoshinaga does a great job of capturing both the good and the bad moments of high school life, as well as showing all the teenage insecurities. The characters and situations she creates feel real, and that makes them all the more interesting. Even tired clichés, like the Cultural Festival become interesting and fun in her hands. It doesn’t matter if it’s humor or drama, she portrays them both with the playfulness or power needed to make the right impact without falling into the trap of silly or melodramatic.

It was such a pleasure to read this series. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. The ending was just right as well. I felt satisfied at the end. While I enjoyed all of the characters, I didn’t feel I had to have more. The four volumes felt just right (not that I wouldn’t read more if given the chance). Even in this school life series, Yoshinaga’s love of food still comes through in the characters of Sakura and Isonashi, one of Harutaro’s classmates. There is even a bonus chapter about how to make one of the breads featured in a chapter!

Flower of Life is a series I not only high recommend to manga readers, but I think the casual comic reader would enjoy it as well. The realistic characters and story and lack of manga tropes should make it more appealing to a casual reader. Yoshinaga does have some funny faces, but these are used in obviously comic moments and enhance the effect rather than distract from it. If you get the chance to read this series, do not pass it up.

Oresama Teacher Volume 1

Mafuyu, determined to make the best of the situation and make her mother proud, decides to turn over a new, feminine, well-behaved leaf. But her yanki soul can’t be kept down, and the night before school starts she finds herself defending some guy who’s getting beaten up. One slip wouldn’t have been a problem, except the guy is…her teacher?! How can Mafuyu learn to be a girly girl if her teacher won’t let her forget her yanki past?

Continue reading Oresama Teacher Volume 1

Fruits Basket Volume 1-4: MMF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karakuri Odette Volume 1: Manga Movable Feast

Odette is an android created by the young talented scientist Dr. Yoshizawa. Wanting to find the ultimate difference between humans and his android, Odette decides to persuade Dr. Yoshizawa to enroll her in a local high school. Follow Odette’s adventures as she ventures through high school, in search of the true meaning of being a human.

Continue reading Karakuri Odette Volume 1: Manga Movable Feast

Angel Sanctuary Volumes 1-4

Setsuna Mudo has some serious problems. He is always getting into fights, doesn’t care for authority, and worst of all, has incestuous feeling for his sister, Sara. To top all this off, he also seems to be the reincarnation of the angel Alexial, who is being punished by God for rebelling against him. Now, Alexial’s twin, Rosiel is trying to kill Setsuna before Alexial awakens, the demon Kurai wants Alexial to awake and lead the demons against heaven, and all Setsuna wants to do is run away with Sara.

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Angel Sanctuary Volume 1-4
By Kaori Yuki
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Shoujo
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I read the first volume of Angel Sanctuary a few years ago, and at the time didn’t care much for it. But after reading, and enjoying, other works by the same creator, Kaori Yuki, I decided to give the series another try, and read a few more volumes to give it a real chance.

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The story revolves around Setsuna Mudo, your typical angst-ridden teenage boy with the usual problems you’d expect a teenage boy to have; getting into fights and not caring for authority. But the one problem he does have, that makes him unusual, is the incestual feelings he has for his sister, Sara. He tries not to express them, coming off more like an overprotective brother, but his inner thoughts are consumed by her. This has completely alienated him from his mother, who seems to sense there’s something wrong with her son, and doesn’t trust him with Sara. This plotline dominates the first four volumes, as Setsuna struggles with his growing feelings and finally gives in to them, convincing Sara to run away with him.

But Setsuna has another problem. He is also the reincarnation of the Archangel Alexial. The demons, led by Kurai, want to awaken Alexial, so she can lead them against the armies of heaven. But the angels fear Alexial, and one angel, Katan, takes it upon himself to use forbidden magic in the form of a computer program, Angel Sanctuary, to free Rosiel, the only angel that has a chance going up against Alexiel. Rosiel is too consumed by revenge and himself to care much for heaven’s problems, and will use anyone or everyone to kill Alexiel.

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When I first read this series, I was bothered with the incest angle. But after reading more of Yuki’s titles, I came to realize it was just a plot device she used to create angst in her characters. And there is a lot of angst in this series. I nearly lost all interest in the series, as the first three volumes is consumed with Setsuna and Sara willing to sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of the other. The actual angel plot took a back seat to this as the importance of Setsuna’s and Sara’s relationship was emphasized, as it becomes the catalyst for Alexiel’s awakening. I understand the need to emphasize a point, but was 3 volumes of angst-ridden teens really that necessary?

The angels of Angel Sanctuary are not your typical “dressed in white with halos and hands together in prayer”. They are little different from humans, with many of the same desires and animosities. They are also the biggest jerks you could ever imagine. They think nothing of raping a demon survivor of a massacre they had just done. Female angels are persecuted for being temptresses, and they have little to no interest in humanity. They seem to be more preoccupied with a power struggle of who will be in charge now that God has had to go to sleep as his power weakens. They will go to any length to succeed. The entire time I was reading these volumes, I couldn’t help but notice the striking similarity between the way these angels acted and the angels in the TV series Supernatural. The angels in that show were in a struggle with each other to cause Armageddon while God was absent. The Supernatural angels were just as big of jerks, and cared just as much about humanity. I wonder if the creators of Supernatural were familiar with this manga?

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My interest returned with the fourth volume, as the story turned toward a more traditional quest plot. Setsuna is determined to rescue Sara, and must take a Orphean journey to the underworld to find her. Along the way, he will have gain followers, both angel and demon and return before his time is up (literally). He starts out with a familiar face as a guide, and while he may have it in for Setsuna, there do seem to be indications that he may become Setsuna’s first follower. The quest plot was infinitely more entertaining than the angst-ridden teenagers of the first three volumes. I may continue with the series, but only because of this turn of events. If I had stopped reading at three, I wouldn’t have considered continuing.

The art is ver recognizable as Yuki’s, with longs of beautiful boys and long, stringy, flowing hair. You can tell this was written early in her career, as the art is rougher and not as refined as Godchild. It doesn’t look bad, but you can tell it’s not her latest work.

I wanted to like Angel Sanctuary, since I’ve enjoyed so many of Kaori Yuki’s other titles, but the first three volumes made it really hard. A little bit of angst I can take to establish a conflict. Spread it out over length of the story, such as Godchild does, if you must, but concentrating so much at the beginning really turns me away. I think I will investigate further volumes of this series, just to see where it goes, but I think I’ll borrow, or if it ever becomes available digitally. I want to know better what I’m getting before investing in a 20 volumes series, especially with such a shaky start.

Review: Itazura na Kiss Volume 1

High school senior Kotoko Aihara has had a crush on Naoki Irie since freshman year. Unfortunately, there a few things are discouraging her from to him: he’s a member of “Class A,” the top ranking class in school, whereas she’s in “Class F”; he gets the top score on every exam; and he’s so smart, popular and handsome that he’s been class president every year. When Kotoko finally musters up the courage to present him with a love letter, though, Naoki outright refuses it, telling her point blank–with a look of disgust and boredom—that he doesn’t like “stupid girls.” Poor Kotoko’s worst nightmare! Her heart is broken, but then a change in circumstance forces Naoki and Kotoko to be together every day…!?

By Kaoru Tada
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
Age Rating: 13+
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $16.95
Rating: ★★★☆☆
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Itazura na Kiss was originally published in the 1990’s and was very popular. It was never finished, however, due to the untimely death of the mangaka, Kaoru Tada, in an accident in 1999. Initially, I wasn’t going to read this title. But encouragement from other bloggers, particularly on Twitter, piqued my curiosity enough that I decided to give it a try anyway. When I’m reading a title, I can forgive a lot of things, but if I don’t like at least one of the main characters, it just isn’t going to work for me. And that’s the problem I have with this title.

I found nothing likable about either main character Kotoko Aihara and Naoki Irie. Kotoko, the female lead is portrayed as not only not very bright, but as just plain stupid. First, I’ve said many times before that I hate airhead female leads, which does fit Kotoko somewhat. But she showed she could do so much more if she’s instructed properly, as her reaching the top 100 at mid terms showed. She never cared enough to try until Naoki’s rejection, which I also find annoying, but I don’t find characters calling other characters stupid all the time funny. And it does happen constantly throughout this volume from both Naoki and his little brother Yuuki. I really don’t like how mean-spirited it feels. Naoki is no better. He’s obnoxious, rude and colder than the iceberg that sank the Titanic. He seems to enjoy looking down on others and feeling superior. I expect to see this in a rival or comedy relief character, not in the lead I’m supposed to be rooting for the female lead to get together with.

Tada does do a good job of capturing what teenagers are like in high school. Kotoko and her friends from F class are like average high school students. They’d rather go shopping rather than study. They wait until the last-minute to do their school work over summer break. They assume they will be going to college, but they just don’t know what they’ll major in yet. These elements of the story I liked. There aren’t many titles out there that really reflects a teenagers frame of mind. One element that she does capture, that I don’t like, yet is the corner-stone of the series, is that even through Kotoko knows what a complete jerk Naoki is, she still loves him. Her motives are rather shallow, as you’d expect from a teenage crush. She loves him for his looks and abilities, but there doesn’t seem to be anything underneath that is redeeming about him.

The art is very dated. The series was originally drawn in the early nineties, and it shows. But after a few chapters, you get used to it. In a lot of ways, her style reminds me of Rumiko Takahashi’s style, and Urusei Yatsura in particular. There were several scenes with Kotoko and her friends that brought up visions of Lum and Ataru and their friends.

Overall, Itazura na Kiss is an okay series. There are some nice moments with Kotoko and Naoki. Mostly they are when Naoki is forced to help Kotoko, through blackmail, to get through midterms and help most of F class get through finals through sheer numbers. Naoki really does help everyone out, even if it is done begrudgingly. Classic or not, this just isn’t a series for me. Unlikable leads keep me from really enjoying the series.

Honey Hunt Volume 4

As Yura continues her foray into the glamorous world of acting, she’s starting to learn that success is often marred with setbacks and compromises. Although she fails to land the lead role in a new drama penned by famous screenwriter Maki Todo, she does succeed in getting offered the part of the heroine’s friend. However, her boss Keiichi cautions Yura that her increasing popularity will result in greater scrutiny of her private life by the paparazzi. Can Yura continue growing as an actress while keeping her budding relationships with Q-ta and Haruka in check?

Honey Hunt v4By Miki Aihara
Publisher: Viz Media/Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Romance/Drama
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★½☆☆
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The short answer? No. When I started reading Honey Hunt in Shojo Beat magazine, I thought it had a lot of potential. I really enjoyed the first 2 1/2 volumes. They concentrated on the building of Yura’s career and her confidence as an actress, with just bits of budding relationships thrown in here and there. Volume 4 reverses that trend, and not in a good way.

Yura seemed to be on track to start her career. She showed she had guts by telling her parents off on TV, and then decided to be an actress herself despite her shy personality and the sheltered life she lived until then. She had shown she had talent and got the gig to start in a series of ramen noodle commercials. She was finally starting to go somewhere. At the start of this volume, the commercials were successful, and her face was starting to be seen everywhere. She auditioned for a part on a prime time TV drama, and even though she didn’t get the lead, she did get a part, and it’s soon to premiere.

But instead of continuing on the strong career story line, this volume careers off into the relationships with twin bothers Q-ta and Haruka, and then, just for good measure, and because a love triangle isn’t enough, Yura’s boss, Keiichi, is introduced as a possible love interest.  Huh? This comes out of absolutely nowhere. Every scene we’ve seen with Keiichi, is him pushing Yura to concentrate on building her career, but with a few panels, it all gets twisted around, and made to look like his interference with her relationships with the twins is personal. It makes what he’s done seem like petty jealousy. I really didn’t like this twist on Keiichi. He really didn’t deserve it. I became interested in this title to see Yura best her mother, not to her fall for every guy that comes around and visa-versa.

And Yura shows herself to be pretty dumb. This disappoints me too, since I thought she was smart. She gives up her chance to have her first “family” celebration while watching her debut on the prime time TV drama to run off and be with Q-ta, and she lies to do it. Sure, you can chalk it up to her sheltered upbringing, and being naive, but is she serious about her career or just having a boyfriend? I’m getting to like Yura less and less.

I did like the bonus chapter at the end that was the first episode of the drama. In a manga all about making TV shows with scripts and rehearsals that we only get glimpses of, it’s nice to be able to actually see the full story. Aihara’s art has a rather distinct style.  It’s clean and simple. It also appears to be more refined from her previous series Hot Gimmick. I enjoy it more.

Honey Hunt was on a good track, but if it continues in a direction that emphasizes Yura’s relationships over her career, then I’m not interested. She needs to smarten up and fly right, because I want to see her show up her mother on the stage, and not in the bedroom.

Review copy provided by publsher. Images © Viz Media