Tag Archives: shonen

This Week’s Manga: Time to Say Goodbye

This Week's Manga

Nura 25All good things must come to an end, and several of the titles on this week’s list are doing just that. Viz Media has a huge catalog of titles, and most of those titles have an end. This week, we see four of them. Nura Rise of the Yokai Clan has been following third generation Yokai Yakuza Rikuo, and with volume 25, we see his story come to an end. It took a while for me to get into Nura, but I really started to enjoy the story at around volume 8. I’ll have to get back to finish it some day. High School Debut gets to end a second time, as the 3-in-1 omnibus editions roll out with Volume 5 which includes volumes 13-15. This series had its moments, but was never a favorite for me.

Happy Marriage 10Viz is also one of the few publishers taking a chance on josei titles, and two of them end this week as well. Honey Blood is a short-lived vampire romance series, but this volume, Tale Zero is filled with short stories that may (or may not) help the abrupt ending of the original two volumes. Happy Marriage!? finally comes to an end at volume 10. It’s a series I’m following, albeit slowly, and really need to do the long overdue review of the first two volumes I read ages ago. Maybe I’ll try for Valentine’s Day. This year.

Also worth checking out is the first 3-in-1 of the original Yu-Gi-Oh! I was a naysayer for the anime series, but really enjoyed the first 7 volume arc. This volume is the first three, and covers more than just the Duel Monsters card game that became the focus of the second arc. It was the variety and really the shadow games that made this first arc so much fun.

Full list per Diamond Distributors:

Gantz Volume 34 TP, $13.99

Heroic Legend Of Arslan Volume 2 GN, $10.99

Pokemon Black And White Volume 20 GN, $4.99

Centaur’s Life Volume 5 GN, $12.99
Haganai I Don’t Have Many Friends Volume 10 GN, $12.99

Assassination Classroom Volume 2 GN, $9.99
Black Rose Alice Volume 3 GN, $9.99
Bleach Volume 63 GN, $9.99
Deadman Wonderland Volume 7 GN, $9.99
Dendera SC, $15.99
Food Wars Shokugeki No Soma Volume 4 GN, $9.99
Happy Marriage Volume 10 GN, $9.99
Hayate The Combat Butler Volume 25 GN, $9.99
High School Debut 3-In-1 Edition Volume 5 TP, $14.99
Honey Blood Tale Zero GN, $9.99
Magi Volume 10 GN, $9.99
Nura Rise Of The Yokai Clan Volume 25 GN, $9.99
One Piece 3-In-1 Edition Volume 11 TP, $14.99
Spell Of Desire Volume 3 GN, $9.99
Tiger And Bunny Volume 6 GN, $9.99
Toriko Volume 26 GN, $9.99
Voice Over Seiyu Academy Volume 9 GN, $9.99
World Trigger Volume 4 GN, $9.99
Yu-Gi-Oh 3-In-1 Edition Volume 1 TP, $14.99
Yu-Gi-Oh Zexal Volume 6 GN, $9.99

Bakuman Volume 19

With their new series, Moritaka and Akito start beating Eiji Nizuma in the Shonen Jump rankings for the first time. But in the actual book sales Eiji is somehow still on top. The duo is as determined as ever to achieve their dreams, but a new scandal threatens to destroy everything!

Bakuman Volume 19
Bakuman 19Written by Tsugumi Ohba; Art by Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Drama
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

This is it; the second to last volume of this series. When I read the first volume back in 2010, I didn’t think I would enjoy it or it would be able to hold my attention. But against all odds, it not only got past the problems I had with the first volume, it surpassed all my expectations. Ten years have passed since Moritaka, Akito and Azuki started chasing their dreams, and now those dreams appear to be in reach.

The volume starts on the manga side of the story, showing further the rivalry between Ashirogi and Nizuma. I really like the rivalry between these. It’s very friendly. Both sides can not only appreciate the other’s work, but they can come out and say it, while in the same breath vow not to give up. These kinds of rivalries are rarely shown. Usually the two sides are shown as adversaries, with one having to win. The wonderful thing about Ashirogi’s and Nizuma’s rivalry is that it never has to end. Both sides can continue to push the other to grow. It’s a positive competition that would be nice if more people embraced.

The real conflict in the volume comes from the voice actor side. Azuki is a rising star, but voice actors are like idols, and to fans, to have a boyfriend is sacrilegious. For ten years Moritaka and Azuki have been able to keep their relationship a secret, not just for Azuki’s career, but for the promise they made. A slip up by one of Azuki’s fellow voice actors and a jealous middle school classmate blows their cover and the rumors start to fly over the internet, and into the press.

The good part of this potentially crippling event is the support Moritaka and Azuki get from the people around them. There are the regulars like their editor, and Azuki has her mother’s support, but the best reaction comes from Fukuda, a fellow manga artist that started at the same time as Ashirogi. He is very impassioned, melting down into tears when he hears about Moritaka’s and Azuki’s relationship, to indignation at the way they are being treated by fans. He doesn’t back down even he asked to by his editor.

It’s really kind of sad, but both Azuki and Moritaka have to keep reiterating that they have done nothing wrong. They have done nothing to hide their relationship because there has been nothing to hide. They have kept it as pure as humanly possible, but there seems to be this constant assumption that they have done something wrong. Ishizawa, the trio’s middle school classmate who failed at becoming a manga artist, is truly a terrible person as he deliberately tries to derail Azuki’s career with his rumors posted anonymously online. What’s even sadder is that he’s not a fictional character. There are too many people online just like him ready to destroy other’s lives for no more than petty jealousy.

Bakuman continues to be a fantastic read. After spending the last 18 volumes watching these characters change and grow, it’s almost sad to think it’s nearly over. As a reader you are rooting for Azuki and Moritaka, and hate any more obstacles that get in their way. The real strength of this volume is that the obstacles are introduced reasonably and who they come from are believable. I’m looking forward to the last volume and seeing how it all works out.


Nisekoi: False Love Volume 1

It was hate at first sight… rather a knee-to-the-head at first sight when Raku Ichijo meets Chitoge Kirisaki! Unfortunately, Raku’s gangster father arranges a false love match with their rival’s daughter, who just so happens to be Chitoge! However, Raku’s searching for his childhood sweetheart from ten years ago, with a pendant around his neck as a memento, and he can’t even remember her name or face!

Nisekoi: False Love Volume 1
Nisekoi-GN01By Naoshi Komi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Rom-Com
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

Nisekoi started out as a digital only series that did well enough to move up to a print release. I’d heard others raving about it before it was officially licensed, so despite my poor luck with rom-coms, I decided to give this series a try. So far, it’s not too bad.

The basic premise of the series is far from original. Boy who doesn’t want to be a gangster like his father gets thrown into relationship with rival gangster boss’ daughter to keep the peace between the two gangs. And of course, they have to hate each other, so there is plenty of conflict as they pretend to like each other for the benefit of the gang members. But Nisekoi surprises by actually making this premise entertaining.

Raku and Chitoge are key for making the series work. Their first meeting if far from ideal, as Chitoge uses Raku as a landing pad when she jumps the school’s wall since she’s running late for her first day.  Their dislike for each other is established very quickly, while everyone at school thinks their constant bickering is cute and a sign they really like each other.  This feeling extends to their extended families, the gangs, so the pair finds themselves trapped, otherwise a lot of people could get hurt.

Chitoge is the one who has the hardest time making the false relationship work. She is quick to anger, and the first to resort to violence. We don’t know how she feels about being part of a gang, other than how difficult it can be to make friends, but she has definitely embraced the violence of her father’s trade. She does have her softer moments, but they are few and far between, and for some reason only Raku gets to see them.

Raku definitely doesn’t want to be the heir to his father’s gang. He has dreams of living a normal,legal life as a civil servant. He doesn’t like violence, and is the cook for the gang, being very precise in his measurements, down to nearly the gram. He also likes to rescue animals, creating what is essentially at zoo at his school. Raku’s nice streak extends to people, as he offers his Japanese notes to Chitoge when he sees her struggling the class, and even helps her in cooking class after she tells him she wants to make a good impression with their classmates.

Even though Raku has to pretend to like Chitoge, he is actually attracted to his classmate, Onodera, a quiet girl who is on the student government, and is nice to Raku, but who also harbors her own crush on him. This sets up the classic love triangle, with the nice girl to contrast against the violent girl. I don’t know how I feel about Onodera yet. She could be the girl of Raku’s dreams, literally.

For ten years, Raku has harbored the dream, a distant memory now, of a girl he made a promise with to meet again someday. Even though he doesn’t know the name or face of the girl, he has a lock that he wears around his neck, and the girl will have the key to open it. Onodera has a key that could go to the lock. The girl in his first dream has dark hair like Onodera. But then, after meeting Chitoge, he has another dream/memory of a different looking girl with blonde hair. Could there be more than one girl?

Most of the comedy in Nisekoi is based around Raku and Chitoge bickering and then suddenly having to pretend they really like each other. One of the members of Chitoge’s gang, Claude, the member who has been watching over Chitoge doesn’t believe in the pair’s sudden declaration of love, and spies on them at school, the one place they had hoped they could be themselves. They are forced on a date, and followed (and cheered on) by both gangs, though the rank and file guys have totally bought into the act, as bad as it is. Most of these scenes weren’t bad, but I found I liked Raku and Chitoge’s bickering more than Chitoge’s macho behavior, or the sudden 180s they have to do every time they are almost caught.

I don’t know if Nisekoi will be able to keep my attention for long. Despite enjoying this first volume, the potential for this to turn into a harem series, which I really dislike, is high. Raku and Chitoge’s bickering punctuated by quiet moments are what really kept me interested. The thought of adding more girls to the mix really sounds unappealing. But then, I know I’m in the minority on this point. Nisekoi: False Love was a fun read, and if given the chance, I’d read more, but it’s not on my must have list.

Kodansha Announces One Last License for 2014

Your Lie in AprilJust in time for year-end, Kodansha announced one last title on its Tumblr account. Your Lie In April is by Naoshi Arakawa, a relative unknown to Western readers, and currently has an anime airing in Japan that is also streaming on Aniplex Channel, Hulu, and Crunchyroll.

Your Lie in April is about Kosei Arima, a piano prodigy until his cruel taskmaster of a mother dies suddenly. His life forever changed, he abandons piano, and resigns to live in a colorless, monotonous world. His bland world is shaken when he meets Kaori Miyazono, a violinist with an unorthodox style, and possibly the only one who can teach him not only to play, but to live again.

This series is currently at 10 volumes, with the 11th due out in May 2015. Kodansha plans to publish the first volume here in Spring 2015. This series looks really cute, and it features music, so it’s got my attention. It also won the Best Shonen Category at Kodansha’s 37th Annual Manga Awards last year. With the anime preceding it, it will at least have some name recognition when it comes out to draw people in and good writing to keep them. I’m looking forward to it.

Noragami Stray God Volume 1

Yato is a homeless god. He doesn’t even have a shrine, not to mention worshippers! So to achieve his ambitious goals, he’s set up a service to help those in need (for a small fee), hoping he’ll eventually raise enough money to build himself the lavish temple of his dreams. Or course, he can’t afford to be picky, so Yato accepts all kinds of jobs, from finding lost kittens to helping a student overcome bullies at school.

Noragami Stray God Volume 1
Noragami 1By Adachitoka
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

Noragami is about Yato, a god who is at the bottom of the bottom of the deity hierarchy. He has dreams of gaining thousands of followers and building lavish shrine where he will be worshipped. In order to do this, he needs to be known and collect offerings. To this end, he puts up his number all around town, advertising his services, and only those who truly need it will see it. Yato’s big problem; he is unmarketable. He is egotistical, and can be a real jerk, but he does have good intentions, and truly wants to help people. It’s getting that last part across that is so difficult for him. His chance meeting with Hiyori gives him someone to help, but she isn’t the average teenage girl. She saves Yato from being hit by a bus, but in the process, her spirit is thrown out of her body. As it starts to happen more and more, she seeks out Yato to fix it.

I didn’t think I’d like this volume at first. Yato’s attitude bothered me at with his self-absorbed delusions of grandeur. But he quickly grew on me with his blunt talk. The first story, where he helps a girl being bullied by her classmates, does a good job of showing his different sides. He doesn’t show any sympathy for Mutsumi, despite his Shinki Tomone’s, pleas. Her classmates are pretty mean, but she isn’t completely without fault for the position she is in. I actually found myself taking his side when she was ready to just give up. He finally does help Mutsumi with her classmate problem, and his solution was really what she needed, despite Tomone’s protests. I really warmed up to him at the end, where he looks so vulnerable, clutching his bottle of coins in the small shine.

I liked Hiyori as Yato’s partner for the rest of the volume. She comes off as oblivious to the dangers around her, but she isn’t afraid to take on a challenge or defend herself or others when in a pinch. Her less-girlish hobby of being a wrestling fan actually comes in handy when Yato is attacked by an Ayakashi. She jumps in without thinking, using a move by her favorite wrestler to save the day.

Noragami has a good amount of humor. Both Hiyori and Yato get to be the subject of the situation, though I found Hiyori’s obliviousness more amusing that Yato being constantly disparaged. The argument Yato and Hiyori have while running away from an Ayakashi Hiyori found was one of the funnier moments in the volume.

I really liked the art. It is very realistic and detailed, reminding me a lot of Takeshi Obata’s work. I also liked how Adachitoka used Yato’s eyes to express his non-humanness. The character’s emotions are conveyed masterfully, and rarely does he revert using more cartoonish caricatures, which would feel very out-of-place otherwise.

I was pleasantly surprised by Noragami, and am looking forward to future volumes. I am interested in seeing more of Yato’s journey to becoming a proper god. While there was a majority of comedy in this volume, it did have its serious moments, and I hope we get more of these as the series goes on. Noragami is a series with a lot of potential to become another hit for Kodansha. It has an anime that streamed earlier this year, so it has name recognition. But really, it should succeed because it was just a fun read. And it has a cute cat name Milord.

Attack on Titan Volume 1-7

It is the distant future, and giant beings known as Titans who have a taste for human flesh have decimated the planet. Humanity has been beaten back into a three walled city where for 100 years they felt safe and became complacent. The sudden appearance of a 150 meter tall Titan changes everything as humanity loses a wall to the Titans. One boy to survive the initial attack is Eren Yeager, whose hate for the Titans makes him work hard and join the Survey Corps, so he can face and fight the creatures that destroyed his home and family. But in his first battle, he is eaten. When all seems lost for his unit, something happens that changes everything.

Attack on Titan Volume 1-7
AoT 1By Hajime Isayama
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Fantasy/Horror
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

AoT2 I thought I was going to be able to let the Attack on Titan bandwagon pass me by. I wasn’t wowed by the first chapter, so I felt no inclination to look further into it. But curiosity and some review copies got me to crack open a volume and I was hooked from that moment on. I thought I could make do without going back to earlier volumes, but as I read further, references to events from the beginning made me think I should catch up. I binge read the first seven volumes, which filled in some gaps, explained a lot of things and even cleared up some misconceptions I had.

AoT 3The series starts just before the wall breach, introducing Eren Yeager, Mikasa Ackerman, and Armin Arlert, who live in the outer city of Shinganshina. After some wanton destruction by the Titans, the story jumps 5 years and we see the three friends again, graduating from military academy. Eren has only one intention; to join the Survey Corp and fight Titans. The first fight doesn’t go well for his squad, but Eren reveals an ability no one, not even he, was aware he could do. He transformed into a Titan. These first seven volumes jump between the past and present, telling the past of the three friends, their time in training, and how they continue to fight to protect humanity.

AoT4I was surprised by how much I enjoyed these volumes. I’d heard plenty about how slow these first volumes were, and that the story didn’t really pick up until volume 4. I didn’t find that to be the case at all. Maybe it was because I had read volumes 8-13 first, and I had a lot of questions that I was looking for answers to. These volumes moved quickly as I got to see the beginning of the friendship between Eren, Mikasa and Armin, something that had become a foundation for me when I started reading. The pure commitment between the trio held them together through Eren’s revelation, and solidified their relationship into the one I so enjoyed in volumes 8-10. It also struck down a misconception I had about their relationship. I didn’t think there were any romantic feelings between the three, but reading these volumes made it abundantly clear that Mikasa has some feelings for Eren, that as a typical shonen hero, he is completely oblivious to.

AoT 5These volumes also gave me a different perspective on some of the side characters. Connie and Sasha, who seemed more comedy relief in the later volumes, were shown to be more serious and capable at the beginning. My first exposure to Levi and Erwin were in the spin-off title No Regrets, so seeing their first appearance was bit of a surprise. Especially Levi. I was expecting a more serious and dark character, but he was surprisingly relaxed. He was still blunt, and a clean freak.

AoT 6I enjoyed the way the story unfolded, with more questions than answers being presented with every volume. Why could Eren transform? What did his father do to him and what did he know? Were there any other humans inside the walls that could transform? What did this mean about the relationship between humans and Titans? I liked the way the reader was drawn in to ask the same questions as the characters and want to search for the same answers. I also felt the time jumping was handled well. The transitions between past and present were easy to distinguish and often related to what was going on in the story, making them feel integral to the story and not just tangents.

AoT 7The only problem with these volumes is the art. It really isn’t very good, especially at the beginning. The Titans are supposed to look weird and surreal, but not the humans. Faces are often not one the head straight and there are some problems with proportion. The art did start to improve as the story went on, but it’s fortunate that the story and characters are so engaging that the poor art can be overlooked.

I really didn’t want to get drawn in to Attack on Titan. Post Apocalyptic horror stories really aren’t my thing, but I’m glad I did. Isayama has managed to create an engaging story on several levels, and characters that you care about from the start. While the art does leave a lot to be desired, it gets better, and it’s worth getting through for the story. If you’re looking for a bandwagon to jump on, this one is definitely worth the ride.

Naruto Manga Ending in Sight

Naruto 66Last week, the official website for Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump announced that Naruto would be ending in this year’s 50th issue of the magazine out November 10. Creator Masashi Kishimoto has been hinting that the series would be winding up soon. Back in 2012 he had stated the series was reaching its climax, and would be ending in about a year and a half. Finally, that end is in sight.

Naruto follows the adventures of a boy by the same name who lives in the ninja village of Konoha. After a difficult childhood and being shunned by the people of his village, Naruto becomes a ninja and joins his fellow teammates Sakura and Sasuke to go on jobs assigned to them. Naruto is determined to earn the respect of Konoha and become the Hokage, leader of the village. Naruto started in 1999, and became wildly popular both in Japan and here in the US through fan subs of the anime and scans of manga. Viz Media licensed the manga and it joined their newly launched Shonen Jump print magazine in January of 2003. The manga was one of the first to receive an acceleration in releases as Viz released 12 volumes in 4 months to start closing the gap between US and Japanese releases. A second acceleration occurred in 2009. Viz just released volume 67, while the Japanese releases are on 71, but Viz has been releasing current chapters in their digital magazine Weekly Shonen Jump.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Naruto. I really enjoyed Part I, the first 27 volumes of the series. I liked the first 4-5 volumes of Part II, but found Naruto’s journey into emo-ness to be annoying and really not enjoyable, so I stopped reading the series with the second acceleration. I’ve read random volumes since then, and have liked some more than others. Though, this last half, with the Ninja War, has felt more like the beginning of the series, with more action and less emo, so my enjoyment has gone back up so.

Naruto has been a big part of not just Viz Media growth, but also a lot of readers have grown up and grown out of the title. But the fact that new volumes always hit the top ten sellers lists, and spends at least a couple of months on the Bookscan top 20 shows the power the franchise still has. It’s ending will leave a vacuum in Viz’s lineup that will no doubt be difficult to fill. It will also be interesting to see how readers, both new and old, react to the ending.



Durarara!! Yellow Scarves Arc To End

DRRRYellowScarvesArcV1_TP.jpgJust this week, Yen Press released the first volume of Durarara!! The Yellow Scarves Arc. This is an adaptation of the third light novel and continues the outrageous story of Mikado, Shizuo, Izaya, Celty, Anri, Kida and more. However, in the October issue of Square Enix’s Monthy G Fantasy magazin that came out in September, it was announced that the manga will end in the November issue out next month. The final chapter will feature a color page, and it looks like the series will be three volumes total.

Seems Yen Press picked the perfect time to pick up this series, as it’s just started. But with their first two volumes coming out in quick succession, there’s no tell when the last volume will be out. I hope it won’t be long. I hope even more that Yen Press will license the Durarara!! light novels soon. This is the last manga adaptation. How will I get my Shizuo fix after this?!


Monster Soul Volume 1-2

In the Monster Soul world, a war was waged between humans and monsters, with the monsters falling on the losing end of a treaty. The peace between the monsters and humans is tenuous and monsters are frequently persecuted by humans. As a result, monsters tend to stay away from humans and keep a low profile. One group of monsters, known as the Black Airs, lives boldly with a purpose: to have fun and take care of each other. They get into all kinds of trouble with reckless abandon, but as long as they stick together, they’ll be all right…probably.

Monster Soul Volume 1-2
Monster Soul 1
By Hiro Mashima

Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Action/Fantasy
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

Monster Soul is a two-volume series created by Hiro Mashima before starting on his latest title, Fairy Tail. In the world of Monster Soul, humans and monsters share the land of Elvenland. Since losing the war, monsters have retreated underground, living in dungeon cities. There is still a lot of anger and mistrust between humans and monsters, especially with humans coming down to steal from the monsters’ dungeons. Enter the Black Airs, Mummy, James, Toorah and Aki, four monsters commandos who fought in the war, but now fight to help those in trouble, monster or human.

The Black Airs don’t look all that tough at first meeting. Mummy is a mummy and is the leader of the group, acting often more like a big sister. She is wrapped in pink wrappings that she can control and carries a huge syringe. She also likes to strip out of her wrappings. James is a Frankenstein and was built by humans to hunt monsters, but was too kindhearted to hurt any. He is equipped with all kinds of weapons, and has a propensity for losing his face. Toorah is a golem and is made of a sand she can control at will. She can be a bit ditzy, but also cunning when needed. Aki is very much about his stomach and his fists. He appears to be human, except for the horns on his head. He is a special monster, known as an S-type. He can transform into his soul form, a Dire Wolf, with increased speed and strength. His only problem is that he falls asleep as soon as the battle is over.

Monster Soul 2The Black Airs face off against both humans and monsters looking to cause trouble. Human bounty hunters who try to capture rare monsters for their bounty, more monsters rising up in revolt against the humans for revenge. What you are doesn’t matter to the Black Airs, only what you do. Along the way their past is revealed as well as the adversity they faced and overcame to become the heroes they are seen as today.

I enjoyed reading Monster Soul. The characters are goofy and quirky with just enough pathos for the reader to care about them. I liked Aki a lot, with his one track mind to his stomach, and his Dire Wolf form is cool. James’ face constantly falling made for some good laughs. I didn’t care so much for the male gaze with Mummy and Toorah, but that goes with the territory of a Mashima title. The story breaks up easily with the first volume being stand alone stories that introduce everyone, and the second volume is one arc that brings together the themes of friendship and harmony. There is plenty of action, and each of the Black Airs get to show off in at least one battle. It also has quite a bit of humor. I liked the in joke about human kids catching monster for play fighting. The drama is well done, and emphasizes the Black Airs bonds of friendship.

While Monster Soul is fun, it’s also fairly average for a shonen series. The action is the focus as the Black Airs fight different and eventually more powerful foes. The art is very Mashima. You can see some of Lucy in Toorah, and Natsu in Aki. Mashima straight out states that Mummy became the model for Erza. Mashima set out to do a series about the flip side of RPGs, wondering how the monsters in those games felt, and in this respect he succeeded. He does a good job showing the monster’s side and making them sympathetic. But with the series being so short, it felt rushed at the end, as the pasts of the Black Airs were revealed in short flashbacks. If you’re a fan of Mashima, or enjoy fun action stories, you can’t go wrong with this series. And at only two volumes, it won’t hurt your pocketbook either.

Review copies provided by publisher.

Slam Dunk Volume 25-28

Shohoku has made it to the second round of the Nationals, and are matched up to play against Sannoh, last year’s National champions. While Sannoh seems to be on a whole different level from Shohoku, the boys are ready to give up on their dreams of advancing just yet, especially Sakuragi. It going to take everything they got and every trick in their book to make it through this game. The question is, will it be enough?

slame dunk 25By Takehiko Inoue
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Sports
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★

Slam Dunk is one of those titles that can suck you in and keep you glued to your seat whether you think you’ll like the series or not. I’ve read previous volumes and have enjoyed them all, but these volumes, some of the last before the end of the series are just amazing. There really is no other way to describe it. I know nothing about basketball and really don’t care for it, but I could not put down a single one of these volumes and had to grab the next, the game was so gripping.

Slam Dunk 26The entirety of these four volumes is dedicated to a single game; Shohoku’s semi-finals game against Sannoh, the previous year’s national champions. And they don’t even end the game! These volumes only cover the game through to seven minutes left in the second half. They start out with both sides scoping out the competition through tapes of the teams playing. For Sannoh, this is no big deal. They easily spot Shohoku’s player’s weaknesses. For Shohoku, it’s more of a shock to see how far out of their league Sannoh seems. It really shakes the confidence of the players, especially Mitsui, Shohoku’s Center. Sakuragi isn’t shaken though. He goes into the game with the complete confidence that they can win, and even if that confidence seems misguided, it helps the other players to go on the court with that same confidence.

The majority of volumes 26-28 happen all on the court. Even before the game officially starts, both sides show off for the crowd and the other team. Sakuragi is right up there, trying a flying slam dunk and failing, but he isn’t fazed at all. As soon as the game starts, it becomes a battle of not just skill but also wills. Sannoh is taken by surprise by Shohoku starting play, but they soon get their rhythm and throw Shohoku off theirs and the game is like a teeter totter, the tide turning from Shohoku to Sannoh and the slowly back to Shohoku.

Slam Dunk 27It is incredible how Inoue is able to put the reader on the court and in the players heads. All through these volumes, we are constantly seeing what the player is thinking and feeling as the game progresses. We also see how easy it is to get trapped by those thoughts. Akagi gets caught up in his belief that he has to beat Sannoh’s Kawata, and it puts him and his team in the bad place. It takes his older brother and Sakuragi’s outrageous antics to get his head back in the game. While Inoue draws exciting and dramatic shots and moves down court, it’s the characters that really make this title awesome.

And it’s Sakuragi that really gets to shine in this game. He might not know better when the others see how much better Sannoh is, but he never lets them intimidate him, and he never loses hope. He may be the loudmouth and a bit of a showboat, but he knows his teammates and what they need to get them focused on the game. Whether it’s taking big about being a “phenom”, or jumping on the tables on the sidelines to declare Shohoku will win, he knows what’s needed and isn’t afraid to do what it takes. He also finally has the skills to back up some of his words. He is the “offensive rebound king”, and it’s this skill that helps the team get their rhythm back at the critical moment in the second half.

Slame Dunk 28Slam Dunk is a Shonen Jump title that embodies the spirit without having to resort the to tropes. Building friendships, facing adversity and beating the odds, Slam Dunk does all this without being obvious about. Sakuragi was an annoying mess at the beginning of this series, but now, he is one of the strengths that the team can rely on. He smack talks his teammates, but they know they can trust him to do what is needed, and he isn’t willing to give up, no matter what is in front of them. Whether or not you like basketball, if you like a good story with some real driving action and great characters, then you should be reading Slam Dunk.

Review copies provided by publisher.

Buy Volume 25
Buy Volume 26
Buy Volume 27
Buy Volume 28

Bakuman Volume 15

With Nanamine’s manga struggling, he proposes an interesting challenge to Moritaka and Akito. But will the duo accept and risk what they’ve worked so hard to achieve? And when the news media puts the spotlight on their series for the wrong reasons, how will it affect Akito?

Bakuman 15Written by Tsuguimi Ohba; Art by Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

One of the things I’ve come to enjoy about Bakuman is all of the behind the scenes peeks it gives about the manga publishing industry. The importance of the creator-editor relationship, the support the publisher gives their creators and the shattering of the myths behind being successful are all covered in this volume.

The relationship between creator and editor is a big deal in the manga world. When it doesn’t work out, the situation can get out of control such as what happens with Nanamine and his editor Kosugi. Both Nanamine and the manga suffers for it. But when it’s a strong relationship, such as with Moritaka, Akito and Hattori, the support Hattori gives them helps them, most especially Akito through a tough spot when a copycat criminal uses their manga to justify their crimes. I really enjoyed the scene with the Editor-in-Chief and Hattori talking about it. The Chief seemed concerned for Muto Ashirogi and reminded Hattori about the importance of supporting the artists.

The Chief showed his support as well by standing behind Muto Ashirogi’s Perfect Crime Party, when it is used to commit some crimes and is reported on the news. I loved seeing how supportive not only he was that PCP not change, but that the other editors felt the same way. The manga shouldn’t be censored because it was being used by other to do illegal things. That was never the point of PCP, and even through Akito hits some bumps, he and Moritaka find a way to show that and put the whole thing behind them.

The biggest bit of reality that is dropped in this volume is when Morishita and Akito plan to go to their 2nd grade reunion. Akito ends up missing it, but Moritaka meets his old classmates and the difference in their lifestyles becomes painfully obvious. They all think Moritaka has it easy because he’s successful, while Moritaka sees how easy it is for them to make plans to go off on vacation while he can only think about work. His ink-stained hands are a testament to his dedication to the work. While this could have been a moment of crisis for Moritaka, it instead becomes a reaffirming moment. He doesn’t regret the last ten years or the young adult moments he’s missed. It’s a simple scene with Akito, but still a moving one.

Bakuman continues to surprise me, since it was a title I expected to hate at the beginning. But every volume has managed to show me something that has entertained or moved me. Moritaka’s concern for his fellow manga artists and rivals always warms me, and I really like how Fukuda, who seems so tough and unsympathetic is always right there with him. I just can’t stop recommending Bakuman. It never stops being a great title.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Until Death Do Us Part Volume 2

Protecting Haruka from Ex Solid has gotten Mamoru involved in an even more sinister plot, organized by the terrorist group known as the Plunderers. The swordsman’s reckless tactics generate results, but they have also attracted the attention of the terrorists’ leader, Edge Turus. Mamoru’s allies in the Wall and the very people who hired him begin to fear that Mamoru’s methods are too extreme and could endanger those around him, including Haruka herself. Meanwhile, the police are connecting the dots between Haruka’s abduction and the recent string of attacks. As they and Edge close in, it may only be a matter of time before Mamoru has nowhere to run!

16 UntilDeathDoUsPartV2_TPWritten by Hiroshi Takashige; Illustrated by Double-S
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Action
Price: $18.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

The African country of Galboa is revealed to be the force behind the terrorist acts, and through some intel from Ex-Solid and discover Haruka’s ability. The leader, Edge Turus decides he wants her as well. Mamoru does his stuff, stopping Ex-Solid and their cloning operation as well as Turus, cutting off his arm in the process, which makes him none too happy. He puts a contract out on Mamoru. In the meantime, Mamoru officially becomes Haruka’s bodyguard and Sierra, the female agent that’s been helping them, decides to stay with him and Igawa, so Haruka will have a female influence. Haruka gets a fake id and to go to school, but a new enemy shows up, an invisible one that Mamoru must try to figure out how to defeat.

I wasn’t impressed with the first volume, though I did like the “Global Frequency” vibe that it initially had. This volume had none of that. It was a lot of Mamoru being awesome with his sword and Haruka fretting over him. I’m okay with the Mamoru being awesome part, but really for the most part, I don’t care about any of these characters or what happens to them. I’m not too thrilled with “The Wall” suddenly deciding to turn on Mamoru for doing just what they pay him to do; get past the bad guys and get them results. That’s all he and Igawa have done. They keep dwelling on what could be instead of keeping what they have now.

An explanation is given for Haruka’s powers, and I’m actually okay with it. It’s still mixed up with some techo-babble, but as long as it sounds plausible, I’m good. I actually liked the “invisible” enemy that Mamoru has to take on. It actually becomes timely with some of the news that’s been going up lately, and puts Mamoru’s skills to the test.

I’ll still read the third volume, but more for “Can this get better?” than “I like it!” There is still a lot I don’t care for such as Haruka as the female protagonist and all the upskirt shots that get thrown in, mostly with Sierra. It’s run for 19 volumes in Japan so far, and is still ongoing, so it’s got to have something going for it. Maybe if I keep reading, someday I’ll find it.

Review copy provided by publisher.