Reading Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda’s book Yurei Attack! The Japanese Ghost Survival Guide gave me a lot of ideas as a writer, but one that spurred my imagination was a story I didn’t want to write, just read.
In Edo, there is a woman with incredible supernatural powers known as Oyou, the Urameshiya. She is able to banish spirits haunting humans. But her power is a double-edged sword as she is feared by the same people who ask for her help, except for the outcast pickpocket, Saji. After a chance meeting, Saji is attracted to both her beauty and ability, and together they take on the supernatural in Edo.
Urameshiya was among the first selections available when Jmanga went live. I had seen it recommended by fellow bloggers, but its mature rating left me with some trepidation. I put off reading it until Jmanga released their Android reader app. My misgivings were completely unfounded, as I started reading the first volume, and worked obsessively through to the third, with little desire to put my tablet down. This title combines complex characters in realistic relationships with well told tales of the supernatural to create a very entertaining manga.
Oyou, the protagonist of this title, is an outcast from society. Her strong powers make her someone people fear to anger, but at the same time do not want around. She has no family and few if any friends to speak of. Because of her circumstances, she has little use of the niceties of society. She direct, and often blunt when dealing with people, wielding her sharp tongue will little what other will think. No one will want her around or stay with her, so why bother trying to make friends? Even with this attitude, Oyou still helps when she is asked, and sometimes even when she isn’t. She doesn’t tend to take payment for her services, as she doesn’t want to profit from her powers. She believes she will always be alone until she meets Saji.
Saji is also an outcast. He works as a pickpocket at the beginning, which is how he first meets Oyou. He tries to steal her purse, but she catches him. They end up spending the night together. Afterwards, he seeks her help avenging his friend who was killed by a ghost. While Saji is spooked by Oyou at first, he is able to see Oyou for who she is, not what she can do, and promptly moves in with her. Over the three volumes, Saji shows himself to actually be a good-hearted man, taking on more legitimate work, and even takes over a food stand to help out a friend when he gets sick. His devotion to Oyou is unquestioning, though he does get frustrated with her attitude and secrets about her past.
I enjoyed the relationship between Oyou and Saji. It came off feeling very realistic. After a lifetime of being rejected because of her powers, it is difficult for Oyou to let Saji in. Why bother when he is just going to end up leaving her. But Saji is persistent, and doesn’t let her push him away. His frustration with her is understandable, since she can be inscrutable at times, leaving him in the dark about her feelings for him. This forces him into some bad situations, such as trying to make Oyou jealous by sleeping with a promiscuous daughter of a well-off business owner, but he really is devoted to her. Oyou shows her feeling for him too, in her own way, though she is still loathed to admit them.
The supernatural side of the series is just as interesting as the characters. Most of the stories feature someone coming to Oyou for her help, or Oyou and Saji stumbling on a problem that Oyou’s powers can solve. They confront ghosts, yokai, and curses that coast the edgy side, such as the girl who is curse with vagina dentata. That was a hard chapter to forget. While some of the hauntings were by spirits wronged in life, not all of them were ghosts looking to be avenged. Some, like the fallen God of Spring were just plain malicious, and maybe the scariest of them all. By the second volume they are joined by Touka, a fox spirit, who wishes to win Oyou away from Saji by hook or by crook. He becomes a sort of sidekick, helping Oyou out when he can. While I enjoyed all of the chapters in these volumes, I most enjoyed the stories based in more traditional Japanese horror, such as the Yuki-Onna, and the 100 Ghost Stories chapter.
The art of Urameshiya isn’t perfect, but it’s serviceable. Because I love the characters and enjoy the stories so much, I can forgive most of its imperfections. The title is rated mature and for good reason. There are plenty of sexual situations, but they aren’t gratuitous or graphic. They are what you would expect to appeal to older women, which makes me the ideal audience.
The biggest problem I have with Urameshiya is that we only got 3 volumes. The series is currently at 19, and unless Crunchyroll decides to pick it up, There is probably very little chance we will ever see this series again, print or digital. But if Crunchyroll wanted a way to get my money, licensing Urameshiya is one sure way to get it.
Gen Tsukiomi appears to be a normal high school student but there is more to him than meets the eye. So when his old caretaker asks him for help in protecting his current charge, Hikari Kuze, Gen wonders what is going on. Besides being a ditzy junior high school student, is Hikari like Gen, with a secret of her own? In what often feels like a comedy of errors, Gen tries to figure out who is after them while struggling to maintain his quickly dwindling control over the situation. As if that wasn’t enough, a new romantic rival appears! But which one of them is he actually after?
Moonlight Kreuz Volume 1
By Yasumi Hazaki
Publisher: Digital Manga Guild
Age Rating: Teen
Price: $7.95/eBook only
Moonlight Kreuz had an interesting sounding premise with romance, comedy and werewolves. But the first warning was there, with the female leading being described as “ditzy.” And though I keep trying romantic comedies, I’ve yet to find one I really enjoy. This volume wasn’t a bad read, but neither was there anything that made want to pick up more.
The lead characters, Gen and Hikari, needed first and foremost to be interesting to me. Unfortunately, Hikari is exactly the kind of female lead I dislike. She has two forms; her human form which is small, clumsy and ditzy, and her werewolf form which tall, hot and powerful. She is much more powerful than Gen and is always coming to his rescue even though he’s supposed to be protecting her. I actually don’t mind that so much, and it’s nice that he doesn’t seem to mind, but he ends up comes off as rather bland. I don’t feel any real personality from him, while Hikari has too much.
The supporting characters are just as hit and miss. Hikari’s grandfather and Gen’s old Master is the typical lecherous, old man. His grandson Shino is the quiet ninja type who is always dressing in female disguises to help protect Hikari. Gen’s father is a powerful corporate executive who has an eye for the ladies. Only Hikari’s mother, who works overseas teaching Japanese, seemed the most grounded.
The villains aren’t much better. The volume starts with a bunch of horny werewolves who want to mate with Hikari so they will stop turning into wolves and be more human like Gen and Hikaru. They are mostly bumbling misfits who Hikari defeats easily. The tables do get turned as Gen also becomes the target of both the Wolf Association, and of an English werewolf named Claude who doesn’t care which of them changes gender, as long as he can get with Gen.
I know these characters and situations are supposed to be funny, but none of them really got much of a laugh from me. Hardly even a smile escaped my lips. Hikari’s and Gen’s relationship fell as flat as the humor. I just didn’t buy it, especially with Hikari looking more like a little kid trying to get her big brother to notice her. The art has a 90s feel to it, which I don’t mind at all. The wolf-form werewolves were given a moment to look scary, but were quickly turned much more humorous. You can understand the female werewolves wanting to get a human form since their wolf form is far from flattering.
On the whole, Moonlight Kreuz Volume 1 just didn’t work for me, which is really a shame because I was hoping it would. It was nice to see a supernatural romance with some creature other than vampires. The series is only three volumes long, so I wouldn’t mind reading the other two volumes to see if it improves, but this is a series I’d rather borrow than buy.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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).
Viz 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.
Voice 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 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 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.
Also 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.”
Seven 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 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 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 announced 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!”
With 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!
September is shaping up to a good month for new releases. All-Fiction.net dug up a new solicitation on Amazon for a new series from Seven Seas. Dokusai Grimoire, or Dictatorial Grimoire as Seven Seas is calling it is a three-volume manga series. It follows Grimm Otogi, a far-flung descendant of the original Brothers Grimm, has inherited a mansion from the deceased father he never knew. Along with that inheritance comes a curse; his ancestors made a deal with the mystical beings known as Marchen Demons who now have a claim on his soul. Otogi, with the help of a male Cinderella, must find a way to free himself by unlocking the power of a manuscript and stop the demons before they get him.
I had found a love for fairy tales back in college, when for a paper, I had to write about Andrew Lang, an inspiration for Joseph Campbell, the well-known mythologist. Since then, I grab up titles that have something to do with fairy tales, which makes this title a must have for me. Over the course of the volumes Otogi will have to deal with tales featuring Cinderella, Snow White, and Little Red Riding Hood. While this title might not seem to be breaking new territory, it does appear to have two things going for it. One, it has bishies, and two, it’s a supernatural story that isn’t a romance! As much as I enjoy supernatural romances, it’s nice to take a break every now and then.
Miko is a shrine maiden who has never had much success at seeing or banishing spirits. Then she meets Kagura, a sexy demon who feeds off women’s feelings of passion and love. Kagura’s insatiable appetite has left many girls at school brokenhearted, so Miko casts a spell to seal his powers. Surprisingly the spell works–sort of– but now Kagura is after her!
I had completely missed the license announcement for Demon Love Spell, so it came as a complete surprise when I saw it. I’ve only ever read one other volume by this manga creator, Ai Ore!, and had a sort of love/not-love thing with that volume. After reading this volume, I found I had the same feeling for this volume as well.
Demon Love Spell is about a demon, an Incubus, who is bound by bumbling exorcist who can’t even see the spirits she is trying to exorcise. With his powers diminished, he has to stay with her until she can figure out what spell she used to bind him. Because he was a powerful demon, both of them become targets to other demons that want to defeat him and eat her. They must grudgingly work together to survive.
I started reading this title without making any connections to who the creator was, and as a result has hopes this wouldn’t be too bad. And it’s not bad per se. It just isn’t my kind of series. The first warning bell came from Kagura with his leering eyes and seductive manner. Granted, he is an incubus and he’s supposed to be seductive, so I can’t fault him or the series for that. But what it gave me was a serious “Black Bird” vibe. I found the sexual innuendo in that series to be creepy and got the same feeling while I was reading this one.
A lot of that feeling stems from the similarity between the female protagonists. Both Miko and Misao are kind of clueless and easily manipulated by their respective supernatural “suitors.” While Miko is more defiant during the day, Kagura uses her dreams to get what he wants, and her dream self is much more willing and submissive than her conscious self. Miko is also innocent in the ways of the heart and is often vulnerable to Kagura when he tries to seduce her. I don’t find Kagura to be very likable either. Even in his “cute” form, when he is bound and the size of doll, he’s pervy and really not that cute. His favorite hiding spot on Miko is of course between her breasts.
All the innuendo aside, Demon Love Spell does have some good points. Miko isn’t completely defenseless. She may have to relay on Kagura for some of the more powerful demons and to see them, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to exorcise them herself, and she doesn’t run or cower when confronted with danger. Kagura, for all his sleaziness, does seem to have some real feelings for Miko. He doesn’t appear to just be using her, and the feelings they are developing for each other seem to be happening at the same time. I appreciate this approach more than a one-sided relationship developing. I also really liked the fox spirit that was introduced at the end. He is cute in both his animal and human forms.
Demon Love Spell was an okay story, but not a keeper. The chapters seem to balance battling demons and Miko and Kagura’s relationship well. I have no complaints with the art either. The bishi are appropriately bishi and demons are appropriately scary. As I said earlier, the story isn’t badly written, it just isn’t written for me. This is a title more for Black Bird and Vampire Knight fans, of which I am really neither. I won’t follow this title regularly, but I won’t object to the occasional check in.
Review copy provided by publisher.
When one thinks of the holiday season, it tends to be of being merry, giving gifts, and celebrating the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. But the holiday season also has a history of ghostly stories and ghoulish things. Here are two Del Rey Manga titles that try to fit into the Comeuppance Theater genre, but just don’t quite make the grade.
Continue reading Season’s Screaming: Only One Wish and xxxHolic
The Bakertown High School cheerleading squad has a secret: behind all their pretty make-up and short skirts are five hungry vampires who sure know how to show their school spirit!
When one of their own turns up missing, the senior cheerleaders have no other choice but to induct one of the eleventh grade girls from the B Squad into their vixenous ranks. But siring new recruit Heather Hartley is the easy part…keeping a sheltered virgin from not going wild and draining the entire football team on the eve of their big homecoming game is another matter!
I like Seven Seas Entertainment. Really, I do. They have a nice mix of original and licensed titles, with a very eclectic selection of genres. Sadly though, I didn’t like one of their biggest hits, AOI House. So I didn’t have high hopes for Vampire Cheerleaders when it was announced, but I was looking forward to Paranormal Mystery Squad. Boy, did I get those turned around.
Vampire Cheerleaders is just as cliché as it sounds. Good girl Heather is invited to join the ‘A’ cheerleading squad after one of its members goes missing. Once “initiated” into their coven, she goes wild with her new power and ends up draining the football team just before the big homecoming game, and the girls have to figure out a way to keep their team from losing.
Even though everything about the characters is cliché, from Heather’s strict parents, to Heather’s transformation from goody-two shoes to vamp, to all the clique-y in-fighting between the girls, to even the geeky best friend who knows the cheerleaders are vampires and get pushed by the wayside once Heather becomes popular, the story is mildly amusing. The characters are varied enough to be interesting. While I don’t generally like stories about popular clique girls, these girls were engaging enough to keep me from getting bored.
I was even intrigued by the coven’s leader Lori’s past (and not just because we share a name, though, she does spell it right) and her need to keep coming back to the school and have a “perfect senior year”. There seems to be something there. The art is nice and clean and the character designs are well done. I wouldn’t mind reading another story from this series.
Paranormal Mystery Squad is a whole ‘nother story.
Goth girl Stephanie Kane always thought she was special; that there was something different about her. It turns out that she’s the most normal person out there and everyone else around her is some kind of paranormal freak! Seriously: her sister is a werewolf, her best friend is a witch, and her next door neighbor is a dhampir. Together, this motley crew of unlikely friends travel the country in their trusty Winnebago in search of cryptids and all manner of supernatural beasties!
With a title like “Paranormal Mystery Squad”, I was hoping there would be some really mystery and at least interesting paranormal activity. I got neither. Instead I got characters that are completely unlikable, and a story that drags on and goes no where. There is absolutely no character in this story that I can find even tolerable. Stephanie and Katie are unpleasant and spiteful, the very definition of the word “bitch.” I just grew to hate them the more I read. And what I was reading was boring at best, and insulting at worst. About half way through, I kept hoping the story was over, but it just kept going. I think all the parts about women and their menstruation were supposed to be funny, but it really wasn’t. Even the title gets into the act. It’s exactly this kind of crude humor that I disliked in AOI House. I should get combat pay for making it to the end.
The art in this story was rough and uneven. Overall, the story a few (very few) decent moments. I did like the Ghostbusters reference, but it’s just not something I can recommend in good conscience. You couldn’t pay me to read another story in this series, which leaves me in a conundrum. How do I read the next Vampire Cheerleaders without supporting Paranormal Mystery Squad? Digital versions of the titles sold separately please, Seven Seas!
Muhyo & Roji’s Bureau of Supernatural Investigation Volume 2
By Yoshiyuki Nishi
Publisher: Viz Media
Muhyo and Roji head to the Magic Law Association for Roji’s promotion exam, where a series of bizarre incidents turn out to be the handiwork of Muhyo’s old nemesis, Enchu!
New characters and information about Muhyo’s past and his connection to Enchu are revealed in this volume, setting the conflict for the first major arc of this series.