Tag Archives: shonen

Hikaru no Go Volume 12-17: Manga Movable Feast

Hikaru has passed the Pro test, and is waiting to hear about his official schedule. In the meantime, Sai pesters him to let him play more, and Hikaru relents, allowing Sai to play Akira’s father in the Shindodan series with a handicap, and then again on the internet in an even game. Hikaru’s skills are growing fast, and Sai worries he won’t be able to remain with him for much longer. Just as Hikaru’s pro games start, something happens that causes him to have a crisis of faith, and nearly gives up on Go. But the return of Isumi, a fellow Insei from the previous year, shows Hikaru he hasn’t lost anything. Hikaru returns, more determined than before to not only be Akira’s rival, but to surpass him.

Hikaru no go 12Written by Yumi Hotta; Illustrated by Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Viz Media – Shonen Jump
Age Rating: All Ages
Genre: Gaming
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★

Hikaru no Go 13I started reading Hikaru no Go when it debuted in Shonen Jump back in 2004, and read it religiously until it was “graduated” out in 2008. Once it went to graphic novels, I stopped reading, as my acquiring of volumes was sporadic. I only finished collecting my missing volumes this last year. With the MMF schedule for this month, I put off reading the series until now to participate. I had thought this might be a series to pass on as part of my Manga Wrap Up, but after reading these 6 volumes, I have come to realize that this is not just a compelling series, it’s one that needs a spot on bookshelves.

Hikaru no Go 14Over the last 11 volumes, we have been watching Hikaru develop and grow into a Go player in his own right. Sai continues to want to play games, but now he is getting resistance from Hikaru, who wants to play more himself. In these 6 volumes, we see how much Hikaru takes Sai for granted. He assumes he’ll always be around to play, so he’d rather play other people. But after finally getting to play Koyo Toya, Sai sees something much different in the future. It really feels frustrating to see Sai almost pleading with Hikaru, and Hikaru just brushing him off as being annoying. But Hikaru is just acting like the kid he is, so while it’s not surprising, that doesn’t mean you still don’t want to smack him for it.

Hikaru no Go 15There are a lot of emotional punches in these volumes that stem from that not-so-distant future that Sai sees. It’s emotionally draining to see Hikaru running around to all the sites where Hon’inbo Shusaku, the boy Sai possessed before Hikaru, lived, played and died. It was just heartbreaking when he looked at old records of Shusaku’s and could see Sai’s moves in them. He not only realized Sai’s genius, but could truly appreciated it. The effect is devastating for both Hikaru and the reader. But all of the emotional moments are sad. After being talked into a game with Isumi, who has just spent a couple of months in China to improve his game, Hikaru has an epiphany, that not only shakes him out of his funk, but reignited his passion for Go, and seemingly for life. The final chapter of volume 17 is bittersweet as a sort of passing-of-the-baton occurs, but knowing that Hikaru will be alright now is worth it.

Hikaru no Go 16It’s these strong, emotional moments that really make Hikaru no Go such a compelling read. When a writer and artist came make the emotions they want to express feel real to the reader, they have truly succeeded in making a great story. Hotta and Obata do that, not just with Hikaru’s story, but with all the characters that are followed throughout this series. Obata’s art is beautifully rendered, and realism with which she draws just makes the emotional punches to the gut all the more stronger. I’m gonna miss Sai, with his Heien dress, and often cute expressions.

Hikaru no Go 17Because it had been so long since I read Hikaru no Go, I thought it would be a series I could let go. But after getting through this gantlet of an arc, I’ve come to realize that not only can I not let go of this series, but I must have it in print. It’s too good to relegate to a digital bookshelf. It needs to be on a bookshelf for all to see and reach for.

Gate 7 Volume 1

An innocent sightseeing trip to Kyoto opens up a magical realm to shy high schooler Chikahito Takamoto. Visiting a legendary shrine, Chikahito stumbles into the mystical world of Hana and her comrades–and his immunity to their powers leads them to believe that he’s no ordinary awkward teenager! Protecting our world from violent supernatural creatures, Hana and her team welcome the confused Chikahito–who isn’t quite sure that he wants to be caught in the middle of their war!

By CLAMP
Publisher: Dark Horse Manga
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $10.99

This series is my third attempt to find a CLAMP series I like. The first volume of xxxHolic didn’t thrill me, but I did enjoy the last two volumes of Kobato enough to want to find the rest. Gate 7 is CLAMP’s newest series  and one I thought would have a lot of potential for me. It’s fantasy, the cover is very pretty with flowers and a pheasant, and it takes place in Kyoto. And I might still like it, but while this first volume makes the introductions, I really don’t have any idea what is going on.

Gate 7 starts by introducing Chikahito, a high schooler with an overprotective mother, who has dreamed of going to Kyoto. When he finally convinces his mother to let him go, he stumbles into a battle between a young girl and two men and some supernatural creatures. Chikahito reacts in a most realistic way. He faints. He doesn’t really understand what is going on, and the three don’t explain much either, and try to erase his memories of them, but fail. Three months later, Chikahito is back as a transfer student, thanks to some magic Hana, the young girl, pulled off. He goes to live with Hana and her partners Sakura and Tachibana. We get some history of the Toyotomi clan with a supernatural spin and the volume ends with another battle.

There is a lot said in this first volume of Gate 7, but very little is explained. “Inou” users are introduced, but it isn’t explained what they are, though through two battles it is shown what they do. Oni connected to historical figures and passed down through blood lines is actually a pretty cool concept, but it isn’t connected with the Inou users other than they can see the oni. There was a lot of information thrown out for the reader, and some of it might be interesting enough to be a hook, but it comes off as random, and left me wondering more what was going on rather than what was going to happen next.

I did like the characters. Chikahito’s confusion was not only realistic, it was understandable. I felt as lost as he did, and while relating to a character is good, I don’t think it should be to this degree in this case. His enthusiasm and preconceived notions of Kyoto were fun and cute. Hana is very child-like, and nearly borders on annoying, but fortunately doesn’t cross the line. Hana’s partners Sakura and Tachibana are typical bishonen, with personalities that match their powers. Sakura is light, so he’s more friendly while Tachibana is dark, so he’s more serious.

For now, I’m going to take a “wait and see” stance with Gate 7. I’m going to need at least one, maybe two more volumes before I know for sure how I feel about it. But at least I *want* to read a few more volumes before making a decision, unlike xxxHolic, where I was sure by the end that it didn’t interest me that much. Hopefully things will become more clear in the next volume. There are a lot of questions I want to see answered, though not all of them have to be done immediately. That’s the difference between this title and xxxHolic for me. I want to know more about this world and it’s characters.

Durarara!! Volume 1

Welcome to Ikebukuro, where Tokyo’s wildest characters gather!! Meet an ordinary boy who daydreams about the extraordinary. A naive stalker girl. The strongest man in Ikebukuro. A shut-in doctor with questionable credentials. A hedonistic informant…and the “headless rider” astride a pitch-black motorcycle!? As their paths cross, this eccentric cast weaves a twisted, cracked love story…

Continue reading Durarara!! Volume 1

Shonen Jump September 2011

This month’s Shonen Jump starts out with a Feature on Pokemon: Black and White, the newest incarnation of the game and spans the trading card game, the video games, the anime and the manga. The fan art section also has a neat piece by guest artist Mr. Warburton, the creator of Cartoon Network’s Codename: Kids Next Door. But where’s Nami?

Continue reading Shonen Jump September 2011

Shonen Jump August 2011

It’s back to the monthly business as usual with August’s Shonen Jump. Since this issue came out before SDCC, it doesn’t have any of the news from the con, and nothing new was added from its month off. Not that really expected there to be any. Anyway, on to the issue! Neuro ended this month on vizanime.com and you can now divine your horoscope with Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds cards, and probably as accurately as Weird Al Yankovic. Now on to the manga!

Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds introduces a new character, Akiza Izinski, the “Queen of Queens” of duel racing. We get to see her in action before jumping to Yusei and Sect in a clinic on Satellite. Angry at his loss to Atlus, Yusei is presented with an invitation to the D1 Grand Prix where he has a chance of a rematch with Atlus. And it seems Akiza has a grudge to settle with Atlus as well. Even as the introductions continue, the manga is moving to the heart of the story, racing and dueling. This title was declared a Worst manga at the SDCC Best/Worst of manga panel, which I think is totally undeserved. 5Ds is far from the worst manga, or even the worst Yu-Gi-Oh! we’ve seen so far. I think GX gets that honor.

One Piece has Rayleigh showing up on Amazon Lily, where he’s apparently on good terms with the women. He come in search of Luffy with a proposition and some advice. Meanwhile, the rest of the Straw Hats has all learned of Ace’s death and are now searching for a way to get back to their Captain and we get to see their predicaments beyond the chapter openers that kept us up to date during the Impel Down and Paramount War arcs. The Thousand Sunny is being protected at the Sabaody Archipelago by Shakky and her allies. More perplexing, is something that Luffy seems to have put in the newspaper that gets confused looks from old friends and allies. Of course the chapters end without telling us what it is. It’s good to see Luffy’s desire to live return as he dives into the food Hancock brought him. Jimbei tells him to eat is to live, and Luffy starts to dive in like the Luffy of old. So we only get chapters, not volumes of grieving Luffy.

Bleach continues its tale of the past with Urahara as captain of the 10th company. These chapters introduce Kurotsuchi and the creation of the Research and Development Department. A young Byakuya and his grandfather is shown as well as his competition with Yourichi. Gin Ichimaru is also introduced as a new addition to Aizen’s company and the Ninth company launches an investigation into some disappearances where their konpaku seemed unable to maintain their form, leaving only clothes behind. What these chapters show is that both Gin and Aizen were always cruel, Byakuya was once not so cold, and the assistant captain on the 9th company was the most annoying character ever. At least this arc seems to be actually going somewhere, unlike the Heuco Mundo arc.

Psyren has Ageha, Sakurako, and Hiryu trying to save the newbies from the giant sand worm. They rescue Oboro, some of the others are eaten, while the rest are shot by a new player that Sakurako calls a Blaster. He also appears to be the friend Hiryu has been looking for, but it’s not the reunion he imagined. Oboro and kabuto come down with their fevers while they are still trying to get to the exit. Sakurako takes on the Blaster and sets to look into his mind leaving Hiryu and Ageha to protect the other two. This stint in Psyren is lasting longer than the previous, and psychic powers are appearing a lot faster, so this is looking like these five will be a team. I’m really curious to find out about the Blaster, and why he’s working against the drifters.

Kisame has one more trick up his sleeve in Naruto, which does finally end him, but his intel gets out as well. Konan faces Madara, determined to end him, but things don’t go exactly as planned for her either, though she does inflict a lot of damage. And even through Madara wins the battle he still loses. We learn more about Madara and what he thinks of himself, which is apparently a lot. The dichotomy of Naruto and Sasake is going to have to shift as Madara is proving to be the real threat, and he doesn’t seem to have Sasake under his complete control just yet. But on the other hand, I don’t see Sasake coming to anyone’s aid as he is now. It’s still a wait and see game here.

The manga preview goes to Prince of Tennis, whose final volume just came out. It’s only half a chapter that pits Ryoma against Seiichi in the final match to decide to National Title. This preview is really a disappointment as it throws you into a match already in progress with little to go on. It’s a very dramatic part of the volume and cuts off at a critical moment, it’s really not enough to get me to want to read it. And with what is shown, it looks so ridiculous that I wouldn’t want to pick it up. This is probably one reason why sports manga hasn’t take off in the US. I don’t mind seeing these kinds of powers in fantasy/action titles. I just don’t for them in sports titles.

Online, Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan sees the Shikoku start their attack on the Tochigami by Lord Sodemogi. When Rikuo’s friend Torie is attacked and cursed by him, Rikuo joins the search for him, but it is Kurobado who finds and stops him. Rikuo becomes the next target while he is human, at school Inugami, who is very loyal to Tamazuki, poses as a student to get at him. But when he sees Rikuo getting the attention and respect he wanted, he looses control and attacks during a school assembly. I really liked Senba, the tochigami at the hospital where Torie’s grandmother is. His power to use the 1000 cranes to makes wishes come true is pretty cool. I can’t say I’m thrilled with the Yakuza-like power struggle that going on now. It is different for a shonen title, but I just don’t care for these kinds of stories.

I was really hoping for more manga announcements from Viz at SDCC. Actually I wanted to hear they had licensed the Neuro manga. I guess I’ll have to hope for NYCC/NYAF.

Amnesia Labyrinth Volume 1

Souji Kushiki, a high school student from a well-to-do family returns home from boarding to school to find things have changed. His three sisters are strangely clingy, and their behavior borders on inappropriate and bizarre. At school, he learns that over the summer, three of his fellow students were murdered, and the links to the murders seem to lead back to his sisters. With the help of his new friend, the cheery and spunky Yukako Sasai, Souji goes in search of the truth behind the murders, the answers to which may just end everything he believes to be true.

Story by Nagaru Tanigawa; Art by Natsumi Kohane
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Mystery
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Amnesia Labyrinth is a thriller-mystery that gave off Higurashi-When They Cry vibes when I started reading it. Many of the characters have creepy and unsettling sides to their personalities, that it seems only Souji sees. While the story moves into some areas of taboo that I don’t really care for, the mystery is intriguing.

Amnesia Labyrinth centers around Souji Kushiki, the second son of the Kushiki family and now head of house when his older brother Kazushi takes off. Souji is smart and athletic, and is very stoic to his home situation. He rarely smiles and seems very detached from the people around him. But his family dynamics are key to the story. We do meet his stepmother, but his father, a powerful politician, is never introduced. So the focus revolves around Souji and his three sisters.

Youko is the oldest sister, but is younger than Souji. She is both disturbing and disturbed. She likes to hold Souji from behind with her arm around his neck, almost threatening to choke him. She always has a faint smile on her lips, so it’s impossible to tell what she’s thinking. She looks as if she could go psycho at any moment. She’s tried to sleep with Souji but was soundly rejected. Saki is Souji’s half, illegitimate sister, and works as a maid in the house. She not as creepy as Youko, but she has her moments. She IS sleeping with Souji. Harumi is Souji’s step sister, the daughter of his father’s current wife, and the youngest. She is shy and meek; nothing like the other two sisters. She looks up to Souji, but is too self-conscious to say anything to him. Souji is the most brotherly with Harumi.

Outside this odd family is Yokako. She is Souji’s first friend at school, and is the sole member of the Intelligence Committee. She is very outgoing and upbeat, and latches onto Souji, despite his dour attitude. She is investigating the murders that have occurred at school, and has a personal interest in the last one. She drags Souji into helping her, and after learning some of the facts, he finds himself pulled in further.

The mystery of the murdered students is just one part of the story. They do appear to be connected to Souji. Each murdered person could have been a competitor to Souji; a track star, a smart student, the class president. This makes Youko and Saki look good as suspects, especially with their behavior near the end, but they also appear too obvious. It’s difficult to pick up what’s a red herring at this point.

The other mystery of this title seems to be about Souji and the Kushiki family. Souji doesn’t trust his full sister Youko. He doesn’t believe she is the real Youko. And even though he believes he has seen his older brother Kazushi walking around town, Youko takes him to a building on the family land where Kazushi is imprisoned. The question of dopplegangers seems to be brought, as does the fact that Souji is missing some of his memories, a fact that both Youko and Kazushi bring up along with dropping a potential bombshell on the last page. Yokako posits an interesting thought as well. The world they are living in now is really a dream world/land of dead, but no one knows it. It’s a bit of a Matrix reference, but it’s also something I can almost see, in relation to the visuals.

Amnesia Labyrinth is a strange but intriguing title. It has several disturbing moments which to me makes it deserving of its older teen rating. Youko comes off as borderline psycho, and all the incest that treated almost matter-of-factly would make me think twice about giving this title to anyone under 16. But the mystery of the murders and the truth behind the Kushiki family has me intrigued enough that I will check out the second volume to see where things go.

Dororo Volume 1-3

A Samurai during Japan’s Warring States period (1467-1573), Daigo Kagemitsu wants complete control over Japan.  He promises his unborn son’s 48 body parts to demons in exchange for that control.  When the baby is born deformed, Daigo throws the newborn into the river to die, but it is miraculously found by a doctor, Jukai, who makes prosthetics for the child and adopts him as his own.  When the boy Hyakkimaru is grown, he leaves home and begins a journey to recover his body parts.  Along the way he runs into a brash young thief, Dororo, whom he teams up with; together they battle demon and monster on their adventure to reclaim Hyakkimaru’s wholeness.

Dororo 1-3
Dororo 1-3

By Osamu Tezuka
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Action/Adventure
Price: $13.95
Rating: ★★★★½

Dororo, first serialized in 1967, can be seen as a proto-shonen story.  It has many of the elements we now see in shonen titles today, though these were new at the time. Tezuka spins a memorable supernatural action/adventure tale and characters that really draw you in, and only disappoints at the very end, though not in story, but lack of it.

The first volume of this title is the introduction. Tezuka jumps from past to present, first telling of Daigo’s deal, then introducing Hyakkimaru and Dororo. Hyakkimaru tells Dororo his story, trying to convince the young thief not to follow him, but Dororo doesn’t give up so easily. After a few chapters fighting a demon that returns Hyakkimaru’s arm, it’s Dororo’s tragic past that is revealed.  It ends with another demon defeated and Hyakkimaru gaining another body part.

This volume is the strongest of the three, with the great action sequences interspersed with the story telling. One of the themes introduced this is volume that continues through all three seems to be that of “No good deed goes unpunished”. After Hyakkimaru and Dororo go through so much trouble to help rid villages of the demons that plague them, always their reward is to chased off with nary a thank you. Tezuka’s fascination with human nature is seen here as the excuses the villagers often give is refusing to help a thief (Dororo) or Hyakkimaru’s different appearance. Of course, it doesn’t bother them when Hyakkimaru reveals his sword hidden in his arm when he’s fighting a demon; Only after the demon’s defeated and he might need something like food or shelter to rest.

Volume two gets into more character development for Hyakkimaru. He meets his father, the ruthless Daigo and his second son Tahomaru. Things don’t go well, and Hyakkimaru ends up killing Tahomaru in a duel and his father demanding his head. He sends Dororo away deciding he was better off dead when the old man from the first volume that gave Hyakkimaru the hope of becoming a great swordsman despite his handicap, appears. He helps Hyakkimaru see that he needs more in life than just killing demons, and a map to that mysteriously appears on Dororo’s back proves to be it. Hyakkimaru decides to help Dororo find his father’s treasure. This volume ends in must the same way as the first with Hyakkimaru defeating a demon, gaining a limb, and getting chased out of the village.

I’ve seen this volume described as making the series darker, and with all the needless killing of innocents in the first half, one could agree. But, the first volume already established that life was hard, and that Daigo was evil. Maybe “serious” would be a better description. We see just how hard life is and how evil Daigo can be.  We gain more insight into Hyakkimaru as well. He has no real purpose beyond finding his missing body parts. He isn’t killing demons to help people. He has to kill a demon before he will know if it was one of the 48. The old man tried to get Hyakkimaru to realize this, but it’s really Dororo that makes him see. Through their journey, Hyakkimaru and Dororo have formed a bond that neither can see, but certainly feel. It’s this bond that makes Hyakkimaru more human than just his regained body parts.

Volume three picks up with the search for Dororo’s father’s treasure. Then there are a few demon hunting stories and the final story involves Hyakkimaru facing his father again and helping a village of farmers overcome him. Hyakkimaru parts ways with Dororo again after a revelation, and then leaves.  And…that’s the end.

This volume starts out full steam and stays that way to the very end. Tezuka never shows any indication that these would be the last stories. Nothing is resolved, and if anything, things are set up to imply more to come, so that when you come to the end, it’s like hitting a brick wall. The last page is nothing but a few lines that are woefully inadequate for what was up ’til now an exciting ride!

This brings me to the things I didn’t like about this series, and there aren’t a lot. The biggest problem I had with it was Tezuka continually breaking the fourth wall. Now, I don’t mind a manga being referential, but I really don’t like it when characters speak to the reader, break through panels and refer to things completely inappropriate to the title. Tezuka did this in every volume, though sparingly. But it was enough to distract from an already riveting story. He already had good comedic moments the Dororo. He didn’t need to add these others.

The other problem was the abrupt ending. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the pace had slowed some, or if there had been some indication that the story would be ending, but there wasn’t. You get to the end of the last story, turn to the last page and are left stunned, wondering where the rest of the story went. It is a real disappointing end of an otherwise great story.

Overall, Dororo is a great story. The characters are fun and well-developed. The demons that Hyakkimaru and Dororo face are varied and interesting. The art is classic Tezuka, but it really grows on you. Do not pass this title up just because the art doesn’t look modern and polished.  If you are interested in action and/or folklore/supernatural than this is a must read. Tezuka’s shonen classic shows why so many creators used him as a template. This great story is only marred by a jarring end.