Tag Archives: shonen

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.

 

Rurouni Kenshin Restoration vol 1

A condensed retelling of the beloved samurai tale–one of the best-selling manga series of all time—released in conjunction with a new live-action movie.

During the violent upheaval of the Bakumatsu era, Hitokiri Battosai was a feared and ruthless assassin. But now that the Meiji Restoration has begun to heal the wounds of civil war, Battosai has taken up a new name…and a new calling! He is now Himura Kenshin , a rurouni wanderer who has vowed to only draw his sword to protect those in need. But not everyone is pleased with Kenshin’s new direction, and enemies from his dark past have vowed to bring him down!

Rurouni Kenshin Restoration 1

By Nobuhiro Watsuki
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy the Volume

It took a while, but I finally read all of Rurouni Kenshin last year. With a live action movie having been released last year in Japan, a re-imagining of the manga was created by original creator Nobuhiro Watsuki. This can sometimes lead to new and interesting directions for the title and characters to go. Too bad that’s not what happened here.

It uses the same characters, but the story has been turned around a bit. Himura Kenshin is still a rurouni who stumbles upon a man masquerading as the Hitokiri Battosai, but this time it is during a tournament run by a merchant Takeda Kanryu. He is buying out the rights to dojos and using the leaders of them in the tournaments with the promise that they can buy their land rights back. Kaoru Kamiya is of course one of the participants. Yasuhiro works for Takeda, and is used as a reverse hostage to keep Kaoru in line. Kenshin gets involved of course, and defeats Takeda, who then hires eighteen assassins to kill Kenshin. In this volume Sanosuke and Saito are introduced with their stories greatly compressed. It also includes a chapter zero, which tells a tale of Kenshin before he arrives in Tokyo.

The volume is rather lean for a shonen jump title, coming in at 142 pages. I read all of these chapters in Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha where they ran monthly. I didn’t care for this re-imagining then, and I still don’t now. I don’t have anything against re-imagining titles in general. I like to check out remakes, and can enjoy them and the originals separately. This new Rurouni Kenshin rubbed me the wrong way. Everyone seems angrier this time around. The art is also much sharper and more spartan. I didn’t enjoy reading it or looking at it. This is definitely not the “meiji swordsman romance” and is much more a harder action title. I’m sure this will please a lot of the Shonen Jump crowd, but as I’ve grown tired of all but the best of shonen, it doesn’t please me. If you think Kenshin would have been better with more of an edge and less of the character development, then this is the title for you.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Pandora Hearts Volume 8-10

The truth about Xerxes Break’s past is revealed in these volumes as is more about Alice and her relation to the Intent of the Abyss. Oz continues to pursue the truth behind the tragedy of Sablier, and he, Gilbert and Alice go to the remains of the city. Vincent and Gilbert’s past is revealed along with more about Glen Baskerville and Jack Vessalius, but when Oz’s incuse moves forward, it is a reminder that his time is running out.

PANDORA_8By Jun Mochizuki
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $11.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

There are a lot of revelations made throughout these volumes, about Alice, about the Abyss, about the chains about Alice and Oz, but not a lot of questions are answered. We know the who’s and how’s but still not a lot about the why’s, which is what will keep readers coming back.

Keeping track of all the revelations got to be a bit of a task. The only real saving grace was the way they all connected that told more of the story of the tragedy of Sablier. It was really all very timey-wimey. Xerxes Break fits in as a figure from after the tragedy looking to change the past with the usual tragic results. Gilbert and Vincent turn out to be pieces to the puzzle as well with connections that were rather unexpected. The real reason for the tragedy leads back to an event that affected Glen Baskerville to the point that controlling the Intent of the Abyss was the only way he knew to change it, and Alice is the key to it all. But we still don’t know the full story behind that event, which as the root, really needs to be revealed before any real answer can be disclosed.

PANDORA_9Most of these revelations delved into the tragic. Xerxes only wanted to save his Master, but instead destroyed a whole family. Gilbert and Vincent had a tragic childhood that shaped who they are. The events are especially tragic for Vincent, as he is shunned as a child of ill omen, and tries to save his big brother, to such results that he is truly driven insane. Though, I don’t think he was really all that stable in the first place, with the way he tortures Alice, cutting up her dolls and then her cat (why is it always the cat?!). Even with all he’s been through, I really can’t muster any sympathy for him. He is a good match for Lottie Baskerville, who is just as psychotic.

I enjoyed the chapters with Oz taking Echo out on the town during the Blue Angel festival. It had a lot of sweet moments, and was one of the few moments that helped get me through all the tragedy that followed. Though I wasn’t happy with what happened to Echo afterward. Guess you can’t have the happy last too long in this series. I also felt sorry for Alice in the past. She didn’t deserve the hate that was piled on her, and her fate at Glen Baskerville’s hand probably wasn’t going to be a good one. Jack asks not to be called the Hero of Sablier because of what he was forced to do to stop it, but what Glen planned wasn’t any better. If anything Jack’s remorse only reinforces his heroism, especially considering his fate.

PANDORA_10Also included in these volumes was the pilot story for Pandora Hearts. I enjoyed it just as much as what it became. It keeps a lot of the elements, with chains and characters from Alice in Wonderland. Gil and Oz are still together, and Oz is chained to the B-Rabbit, but it takes a slightly different form. It was a good, action story, and quite enjoyable.

I don’t know that I can say I enjoyed these volumes, but they were good, compelling reads. The few moments of camaraderie between Oz, Alice and Gilbert were uplifting, and Alice’s first attempt at a kiss was cute. But it seems tragedy is meant to rule this series as a meeting between Oz and his father is anything but warm, and with the forward movement of Oz’s incuse, he takes another step toward losing himself and becoming more like the B-Rabbit. Pandora Hearts continues to keep me coming back, as it’s questions are too fascinating to let go.

Review copies provided by Publisher.

PR: Nisekoi Digital First Makes Print At Last

Nisekoi: False Love started as a digital only title for Weekly Shonen Jump and became a surprise hit for Viz Media. The digital volumes are consistent best sellers on the Vizmanga.com site, hanging on for several weeks, a feat usually reserved for big titles like Naruto, Bleach, Black Bird and Demon Love Spell. Now, the gang of Nisekoi are breaking through the digital barrier and coming to a bookshop near you. The print version of volume 1 will be available January 7, 2014, bringing with it the promise of making the New York Times Best Seller List. Find more details after the break.

Continue reading PR: Nisekoi Digital First Makes Print At Last

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan Volume 10-15

Rikuo and his allies reach Kyoto, where the seals the that hold Hagoromo-Gitsune have been broken. They must fight the enemy yokai and with the help of Yura and her human allies replace them.  Along the way, Rikuo must face Tsuchigumo, and to do so, must gain a power that was one his father’s. The battle finally makes it to Nijo Castle, but it is too late as the reincarnation of Nue is born, and Rikuo and Hagoromo-Gitsune begin to battle.

Nura 10Nura 11Nura 12 Nura 13 Nura 14 Nura 15

 

 

 

 

By Hiroshi Shiibashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genra: Action/Supernatural
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

I’ve been lukewarm about Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan in general, but the story in these six volumes brought it up. I got sucked in by the end of volume 10, and each subsequent volume just kept feeding my hunger. While I thought the fighting and training was tedious in previous volumes, here, in the midst of battle, it seemed to fit right in. A lot of characters backgrounds are revealed in these volumes as well, which proved to be the biggest draw for me.

Volume 10 starts out slow, concentrating on the human side of the battle in Kyoto with Yura and her onmyoji clan, the Keikain clan, defending the humans as Hagoromo-Gitsune’s yokai grow stronger. But once the ship Rikuo and the rest of the Kanto yokai forces reach Kyoto airspace, that’s where the story starts to move. I loved Rikuo’s battle with Hakuzozu. He shows his guardians that he has come into his own, and doesn’t need to be shielded by them all the time. Rikuo’s growth in strength and as a leader continues to the volumes, as he learns Equip, a power his father developed that allows him to use his followers fear with his own. This was a power-up that I actually liked, as it isn’t just about strength. It’s about trust that both he and his followers feel for each other. It actually meant something more than having a stronger punch, which is what I find tedious in a lot of these shonen manga.

Throughout all the action, there is some good character development as the past of several characters are revealed. I loved the reveal of Ao’s past and how he became a yokai as he protects the children at the Keikain main house. Kubinashi’s past is also revealed as he gives into his anger at not being able to protect Rikuo in the battle against Tsuchigumo. His connection to Kejoro is explored some, and their battle together at the sixth seal was great. Finally seeing Abe no Seimei’s past was illuminating, as it explained not just his desire for immortality, but also his hatred for humans despite being half human. But what I liked best was the glimpses into Rikuo’s past and the death of his father. By the end of volume 15, I was dying to read the next volume and find out more.

There were some really fun shorts in these volumes too. Watching the Supreme Commander taking care of his baby son was funny, and I loved the Mysterious Tales of Ukiyoe Middle School. Seeing that all the mysteries were really just yokai was amusing, and seeing another potential girl enter Rikuo’s life was entertaining.

It took long enough, but now that Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan is getting into its own mythology, and having battles that not only move faster, but move the story along, it has become something worth reading. The growing ensemble of yokai is a real draw too. I love not only seeing, but also learning about new yokai, which his title does as well as incorporate them into the story. I would now recommend Nura to fans of yokai as well as shonen fighting manga.

Manga Dome Podcast Episode 13: Too Many Alices!

Manga Dome header

 

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!

Soul Eater Not Volume 1-2

Ding-Dong! Dead-Dong! Class is about to begin, and you don’t want to be late on your first day of school! Join Tsugumi Harudori in the “NOT” class at Death Weapon Meister Academy, a school dedicated to training transforming weapons like Tsugumi and the Meisters who will wield them. Many “NOT” (Normally Overcome Target) students aspire to join the elite “EAT” (Especially Advantaged Talent) class, but it may take Tsugumi some time to find her confidence — and a partner — at this crazy school!

SOULNOT_1By Atsushi Ohkubo
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Slice-of-Life/Fantasy/Action
Price: $11.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

Soul Eater NOT! is a spin-off series of another Yen Press title, Soul Eater. Soul Eater was a debut title for Yen’s manga magazine Yen Plus, starting its US serialization there. I didn’t care for Soul Eater, so I wasn’t sure what my reaction to Soul Eater NOT would be. I was pleasantly surprised by the slice-of-life story, that moved a slower pace and had some likable characters. Not interesting, just likable. If the characters weren’t used for mostly fan service, I would like this title a lot more.

Soul Eater NOT! starts by introducing Tsugumi Harudori. She is just starting at Death Weapon Meister Academy, in Death City, Nevada, United States of America. She has the ability to turn into a weapon, which is a genetic mutation one is born with. She has come to DWMA to learn to control her power and live a normal life. Tsugumi is a plain, rather dull, and indecisive girl. On her first day she meets two meisters; Meme who to say she has short-term memory problems would be an understatement and Anya, a upper-class European girl who wants to see what the “common people” are like. Both girls want to partner with Tsugumi, but she just can’t decide, so the three of them live and work together until a decision is made. Meanwhile, a witch is at work within DWMA, experimenting on people, and Tsugumi, Meme and Anya always seem to get involved with the situations some how.

The three main characters, Tsugumi, Meme, and Anya are all fairly likeable characters. At least, there’s nothing annoying about them. Tsugumi is an average teenage girl whose only remarkable trait is how unremarkable she is. She wants to become stronger, like Maka, a Weapons Meister who she meets on her first day, and is a main character from Soul Eater. Tsugumi puts her hair up in pigtails to emulate Maka, but the look doesn’t work for her. I liked Anya a lot. She tries to be so aloof, but really wants to be included in the things Tsugumi and Meme do. Her modesty over the cafe uniforms was cute. I didn’t like that she never got to pair with Tsugumi. She would make a better partner for Tsugumi, as she proves when she uses Tsugumi in fight. Meme is the closest to an annoying character this title has. Her inability to remember simple things gets annoying fast. She only seems able to fight efficiently when she is sleep walking. Her only real purpose seems to be for fan service. She has the largest chest of the three girls, and is always slipping into bed with Tsugumi. I really didn’t care for this aspect of the title at all.

Soul Eater Not 2I liked a lot of the supporting characters too. Eternal Feather is a year ahead of the girls and is very helpful and sympathetic to them when they become prey of the “witch of the girl’s dorm”, Kim. This makes what happens to her at the end of volume two really sad. I liked Kim too, with her tsundere ways. She acts tough, but really has a kind heart. I also really liked the Master of the Death’s Back Cafe where the girls work for money part time.I’m not sure what to think of the two boys in their class, Akane and Clay. Even though they are in the NOT class, they seem to be working to get into the EAT class. They are working with their teacher Sid to weed out witches which may be hiding at the academy.

And there is definitely one running around. This is more of a subplot to add some action to the otherwise slow-paced slice of life that Soul Eater Not usually is. The girls aren’t actively involved with hunting the witch, but they always seem to be around when the witch is making a move. While this part of the plot hasn’t taken over the story, I hope it stays that way. What I like most about Soul Eater Not is the slice of life stories following the girls around school and interacting with the other characters in their dorm and that they meet in town. As long as the story stays that way, and the witch plot stays in the background, I’ll be happy.

Soul Eater NOT is a better than average title, and while it does have some fan-service-y moments, they aren’t as bad as they could be. The characters are quirky enough to be likeable, but not really memorable. As long as the story stays on the lighter side, it will continue to be a fun title to read and enjoy.

Durarara!! Volume 3-4

After twenty years of searching, Celty, the headless black rider, has at last found her missing head bobbing through the streets of Ikebukuro on someone else’s neck! Though Celty prsues, the girl escapes on the arm of Mikado Ryuugamine, taking refuge in his apartment. Both the legendary rider and Yagiri Pharmaceuticals come bearing down on Mikado and the scarred girl. But when Yagiri crosses the line, the true leader of the Dollars steps forward to take command of the vast network of members at his disposal. though this unobtrusive boy holds a disturbing degree of power in the palm of his hand, Celty is preoccupied by the powers that still control her head. At the end of the day, will her search all have been for naught? Or has she found something even more precious along the way?

DURARARA_3Story by Ryohgo Narita; Art by Akiyo Satorigi; Character Design by Suzuhito Yasuda
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Action/Supernatural/Romance
ISBN: 9780316209328; 9780316209335
Price: $12.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

With such a large cast, it’s hard to believe that these last two volumes of Durarara!! could tie everything up easily, but that’s precisely what it does. All of the relationships are resolved (for the moment), and characters’ secrets are revealed. Some are surprising while others aren’t so much.

There are at least three different relationships going on in Durarara!! We really get in the mind of Celty (can’t really say head), as she really starts to consider the ramifications of getting her head back. Fear of death, and her, a Dullahan, being in a relationship with Dr. Shinra, a human, really shake her confidence. Shinra, who is usually just being a jerk, is surprisingly understanding with Celty. He shows some real tenderness and affection for her, but also deserves the punch in the face she gives him. But, in the end, Celty is happy with her situation, and not so obsessed with finding her head. Which might not be such a good thing as well learn late on.

Durarara 4Seiji Yagiri gets what he deserves as the head he believes is his “soul mate” turns out to not be what he expected. He really needed the beat-down that Shizou gave him about it. His “pure love” proved to be nothing more than skin deep, making him easily fooled, and well deserved of the one who now has the face of his “soul mate.” I did enjoy the scene of them together at the end, pretending to like each other, but each still having their own agendas. Perhaps he really did find his soul mate. Even Mikado got a start on his relationship with Sonohara. They had the typical “too shy to admit their feelings” relationship throughout the series, but by the end, Mikado finally got up the courage to ask her out, but not before kicking Masaomi for trying to horn in on her first.

Most of the mysteries presented in the series were resolved by the end. Who started the Dollars and why is revealed, and its leader was a complete surprise to me. I was also surprised by Shizuo. I started out not really caring for him, but his actions in these last two volumes really warmed him up to me. His archenemy Orihara wasn’t so surprising his motives. He’s always seemed to be a dark character, but his true ambitions aren’t revealed until the end. They are quite grand, and involve Celty’s head. His theory about Dullahans is interesting, but his intend working from that theory isn’t good for Ikebukuro or its inhabitants.

While Durarara!! started out slow for me, I ended up really enjoying the series. What really helped is how the characters were developed over the four volumes, and became either people I liked or who got what they deserved. Durarara!! is based on a series of light novels, and I would love to see more manga adventures with these characters. There are 11 novels to pull from, and the manga ends really feeling like that could be more. And Yen Press has answered my unspoken prayer as Durarara!! Saika Arc is scheduled to begin in March. I can’t wait now! Durarara!! turned out to be a fun ride that is definitely worth reading, and might be worth keeping.

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!

 

The Drops of God: New World

Zooming ahead to a story arc that presents New World wines for a New World audience, this special episode of the international best-seller features scenes set in Napa Valley and labels from outside the traditional European production centers. Delectable on its own too, the Apostle revealed is the lucky Seventh.

Drops of God 5Story by Tadashi Agi; Art by Shu Okimoto
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Food/Drama
ISBN: 9781935654520
Price: $14.95
Rating: ★★★★☆

The Drops of God takes a huge leap in time, as the last US volume covered Japanese volumes 7-8, this one covers volumes 22-23, and reveals the 7th Apostle. The last Apostle revealed was the second in US volume 3. This is a big risk, as so much of the story is skipped. But New World is dedicated solely to finding the identity of the Seventh Apostle, so many of the side stories that I enjoyed so much in volume 3 are not present in this volume. At  first, I thought this to be a liability for the volume, but by the time I reached the end, I realized again how good this title really was, and lamented that we will probably not see any more.

This special volume of Drops of God moves Issei and Shizuku out of Europe and into the New World. Of course, New World in wine circles basically means anywhere outside of the traditional European wine-making countries. This mean North and South America and Asia. That’s a lot of area to cover with not much time. Issei had straight to the United States, to Napa Valley, with Shizuku, after some consideration (which didn’t include Napa wines) heads for Australia.

While in their respective countries, both Issei and Shizuku have run-ins with the locals. Issei’s reputation precedes him as he is blackmailed into helping some crooked wine sellers at a blind auction. Thanks to his assistant Loulan’s quick thinking, his reputation escapes unscathed. Shizuku has a run-in with the environmentalist father of Nadia Simon an employee of Taiyo Beers’ Australian brand. Shizuku’s sharp nose helps Jack Simon save his ecovillage Emerald Forest. This meeting turns out to fateful to Shizuku, as Jack met his father when he was in Australia 15 years previously. It’s this meeting that makes Shizuku sure he made the right choice. Issei has a fateful meeting as well, which makes him just as sure.  The outcome leaves Shizuku with a lot to think about.

At first, I wasn’t thrilled with this volume, mostly because I don’t like Issei. At the beginning of the series he was very haughty and looked down on Shizuku as a potential rival. His whole attitude made you want to cheer on Shizuku all that much more. At the beginning of this volume it seemed that not much had changed. He was still the stoic professional. But as the volume went on, there did seem to be a subtle change in his character. He has an assistant, a protegé of sorts that goes with him to Napa. Issei seems more thoughtful now, and by the end seemed a little more humble from what he learned of the people who created Napa Valley. It’s a growth in character that he desperately needed. Maki hasn’t learned anything yet, so it was gratifying to see her unrewarded by Issei for her taunts.

For Shizuku, the search for the Seventh Apostle was more than just a search for wine or gaining an inheritance. It was a journey to reconnect with his father by walking in the same places he did, and visiting the vineyard he spent a lot of time watching. He even imagines he sees his father for an instant in the fields when he visits. Shizuku spent so much time resenting his father for his passion, but by the end of this volume realizes he feels the same about wine. His father’s passion is becoming his own.

While Drops of God is fun for the wildly fantastic descriptions given for the wines, this is really a story about sons and their father, gaining insights into not just their father, but also themselves. It really feels that the competition to find the Apostles is just a cover for Issei and Shizuku’s father to continue teaching them, and helping them grow both as wine enthusiasts and as people. No matter who wins in the end, both Shizuku and Issei will have gained much more than any material wealth or recognition could give them. And this is what I am going to really miss being able to read. Drops of God hasn’t been the seller that Vertical hoped it would be, so this will most likely be the last volume we see printed in English, which really is a shame. A story with this much growth and depth of character needs to be read by more people. While I still find the wine terms intimidating, the human drama trumps any discomfort I might feel. Drops of God is a series that deserves more recognition than it’s gotten, and there will only be regret when it is no longer released.

Heroman Volume 1

Like most teens at Central City  Middle School, Joey Jones is in desperate need of a hero. But the hero of his desire isn’t someone in tights, instead it’s the latest technological fad, a remote-controlled bot called The Heybo. Without much in terms of savings, Joey’s little hero seems out of reach, but in a twist of fate not only does he come to possess one of these machines, his new Heroman comes to life to help him save the Earth from alien invasion!

heroman1Created by Stan Lee + BONES; Adapted by Tamon Ohta
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Action
Price: $10.95
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I wasn’t impressed with Stan Lee’s first collaboration with a Japanese artist, Ultim0, so I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for Heroman. For most of this volume, my low expectations were met. But once the story started to incorporate more Japanese hero elements, it started to pique my interest.

The protagonist of Heroman is typical of most Stan Lee protagonists. Joey is poor, and living with his grandmother, since both of his parents are gone. He has to work a part-time job as well as go to school to help supplement the household income. He has no self-confidence and only a few friends; Cy, who needs crutches to walk, and Lina, a girl from a well-to-do family who likes Joey, but whose brother hates Joey because he’s poor, and picks on him because of it.

This is the main part of the title that I disliked so much. Joey and most his friends are so two-dimensional. I didn’t feel any life or motivation from from any of them. Lina is so much the damsel-in-distress that it was annoying, and her brother Will’s obsession with her borders on disturbing. Only Cy doesn’t seem to fit the “sidekick” bill. He is more self-confident than Joey, and while he does encourage him, it’s never from the position of an inferior. Cy almost comes off as he should be the hero, and Joey his sidekick. But if that were true, it wouldn’t be interesting, as it’s the struggle to become a hero that makes books like this appealing. And as is typical of all Stan Lee related projects, there’s a character that looks just like him. He is a customer in the coffee shop that Joey works at. I think he must have stipulation in any contract he signs that his likeness has to be included.

I actually started to like Heroman more when Joey started acting more like the protagonist from a super sentai than an American super hero. When Joey realizes that he’s made himself a target because of H.M.’s strength, he doesn’t embrace that strength. He tried to distance himself, and pretend that it’s not his problem. It will all go away if he just isn’t near H.M. Of course, things don’t work out that way. The aliens are determined to defeat H.M. and come after him and Joey. It’s only when Joey accepts his role to fight with H.M. that he not only gains confidence, but also a new power for H.M. This is a very Japanese superhero trope. The structure of the alien invaders, the Skrugg, is very reminiscent of sentai villains, with underlings based on everyday objects (insects) swearing allegiance to the boss, and trying to defeat the heroes. Hero Man himself, reminds me of the giant robots of the sixties, specifically, Jonny Sokko and Giant Robot. The robot never spoke, like Hero Man, but you could still feel the connection between them. Jonny would also risk his life for Giant Robot, and Joey starts to do the same for H.M.

While I felt a lot of this volume of Heroman left a lot to be desired, there is still some potential that could turn this title around. Serious fans of super heroes and/or super sentai probably won’t like the fusion of the two genres, but casual fans of either would probably find something of interest. I’d like to read the next volume to see if this fusion of east and west can live up to the potential I see, or if it’s like Ultimo, potential wasted.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Hikaru no Go Volume 18-23: Manga Movable Feast

After a short break with a series of short stories, the action starts back up with Hikaru hungry to climb the Pro ladder and start competing at the same level as Akira. Hokuto Communications, a telecom, decides to sponsor a Go tournament for young pros from Japan, Korea and China called the Hokuto Cup. Akira is a shoe in, but Hikaru has to fight for a place on the three-man team. When the tournament finally starts, it’s a battle of wills, ego, and pride.

Hikaru no Go 18Written by Yumi Hotta; Art by Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Viz Media – Shonen Jump
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Game
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

While I really enjoyed the previous six volumes, these six volumes which also finish the series were not as strong. It was really great to see Hikaru get his fire back, but the short stories, while cute, took away from the building excitement of seeing Hikaru play again, and the Hokuto Cup was too much drama and not enough intense play, which is what has been so addicting about the story.

Hikaru no go 19After the end of volume 17, the story doesn’t pick up immediately. Instead, we are treated to 5 stories that feature mostly side characters, in times of their lives before or after they meet Hikaru. For the most part, these are good stories. I enjoyed seeing how things were for Akira right up to before he and Hikaru played their first game. I also liked seeing what led up to Yuki’s game with Dake, and what’s like to try to date as an Insei with Asumi. While I enjoyed these stories for what they were, their placement in the middle of the series didn’t feel right. These were stories that were better off as bonus stories to fill at the end of volumes, or as a filler at the end. They didn’t feel so well after such an emotional moment at the end of volume 17. I didn’t want to be entertained with cute stories, I wanted to get back to seeing Hikaru play.

Hikaru no Go 20And in Volume 19 that is precisely what we get. Hikaru is playing to make up for the lost time from all the games he missed while in his slump. He takes no prisoners, especially against Pros, as he continues his race up the ladder. In his rematch against Gokiso 7 Dan, the pro Hikaru beat back in volume 12 with Sai’s help. This time, he doesn’t need any help to take this haughty pro down. He gets his first real taste of defeat when he goes up against his teacher Morishita, who shows Hikaru a player can have more than one face, and more that one style of play. Morishita’s advice to Hikaru is forthright, and it along with some other things said hint at a possibly broader arc coming up, but instead, the story goes into the Hokuto Cup.

Hikaru no Go 21The final volumes of the series show the prelims in Japan, and the tournament itself. As a lead up to it, a reporter for Go Weekly, the newspaper for Go players in Japan, goes to Korea to speak to the players in the Hokuto Cup, but arrives a day early, so there is no translator there for him. He tries to interview Ko Yong Ha, but a poor translation of his words causes a misunderstanding that carries through the Hokuto Cup and the series. I really didn’t like how or more why this misunderstanding was perpetuated. Ko Yong Ha was an arrogant jerk to not only keep the misunderstanding from being straightened up, but then throws gas on the fire. I hated the whole plot point and Ko Young Ha. This made the end so much harder for me to accept. He didn’t deserve Hikaru’s true feelings, and really just needed a good whop upside the head for being so full of himself.

Hikaru no Go 22The series also ends rather abruptly. It really doesn’t feel like the story was meant to end there. In the volumes building up to, and even during the Hokuto Cup, there was a lot being made about Japan not remember their Go history, only focusing on the present, and how that is a weakness for them. It really felt like this show plot line should have been taken somewhere. Instead, it feels like it got cut off prematurely with the end of the series. I really would have liked to have seem more about Japanese players rediscovering their past as they continue into the future.

Hikaru no Go 23Despite these complaints, I still really enjoyed these volumes of Hikaru no Go. I loved seeing how much Hikaru has grown, not just emotionally, but physically. By the time of the Hokuto Cup, he is standing tall and looking confident. The whole series only covers three years, basically Hikaru and Akira’s time in middle school. In that short amount of time, he’s come to look like a serious pro, and not the goofy kid the started out the series as. Losing Sai had the most profound effect on Hikaru. While Akira always had a serious air about him, his rivalry with Hikaru gave him the focus he needed, and gained the both of them lifelong friends.

Hikaru no Go is one of those rare shonen titles that makes the battles about brains and not brawn, and shows rivals can also be friends. I think this is one of the title’s strengths. Hotta created some great characters, and developed them with such depth, while Obata’s art struck the perfect balance between realism and comedy. Hikaru no Go is one of the best titles you will ever read. It is a must for any manga collection. Do no pass this one up.