I was never really interested in court room dramas until my daughter got me interested in Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney. Gakkyu Hotei can be best be described as a younger reader version of Phoenix Wright, with the cases all occurring in school, and Inugami being the defense attorney who never loses. I read a few chapters in Weekly Shonen Jump and liked it so much I pre-ordered the first volume. Obata’s art and Enoki’s school appropriate cases make for an entertaining combination.
To the eyes of high school student Chiyo Sakura, classmate Umetarou Nozaki–brawny of build and brusque of tongue–is a dreamboat! When Chiyo finally works up the courage to tell Nozaki how she feels about him, she knows rejection is on the table…but getting recruited as a manga-ka’s assistant?! Never in a million years! But for someone who makes a living drawing sweet girly romances, Nozaki-kun is a little slow on the uptake when it comes to matters of the heart in reality. And so Chiyo’s daily life of manga making and heartache begins!
Bell Cranel is just trying to find his way in the world. Of course, in his case, the “world” is an enormous dungeon filled with monsters, below a city run by gods and goddesses who have way too much time on their hands. He’s got big dreams but not much more when a roll on the random encounter table brings him face-to-face with the girl of his dreams-but what does a beginning adventurer have to offer a brilliant swordswoman? And what if the lonely goddess who sponsors his solo adventuring gets jealous…?!
What should have been a simple day out with friends turns into a mysterious disaster when powerful demonic beasts appear. Kazuya and Atsuro were supposed to meet Naoya, their enigmatic friend, but he doesn’t show up and instead sends another friend, Yuzu to meet them and give them specially modded game devices. It becomes apparent that Naoya has given them much more than they bargained for when demons spawn from these devices! These demons seem to be intent on killing humans, but could they actually be allies?! Kazuya and his friends must figure out what the devil is going on as the world around them inexplicably begins to fall apart!
At school, Kyouko Hori is known for being smart, attractive, and popular. On the other hand, her classmate, the boring, gloomy Izumi Miyamura, tends to get painted as a “loser fanboy.” But when a liberally pieced and tattooed (not to mention downright gorgeous) Miyamura appears unexpectedly on the doorstep of the secretly plain-Jane homebody Hori, these two similarly dissimilar teenagers discover that there are multiple sides to every story…and person!
It has been announced that the manga, Knights of Sidonia, will be coming to an end in the November issues of Kodansha’s Monthly Afternoon magazine due out in September.
On her sixteenth birthday, orphan Himari Momochi inherits her ancestral estate that she’s never seen. Momochi House exists on the barrier between the human and spiritual realms, and Himari is meant to act as guardian between the two worlds. But on the day she moves in, she finds three handsome squatters already living in the house and one seems to have already taken over her role!
Demon Prince of Momochi House Volume 1
By Aya Shouoto
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
I was really looking forward to reading the first volume of Demon Prince of Momochi House, and was lucky enough to get a friend to pick it up for me as SDCC (along with one of Viz’s con bags). I read it the same night it arrived, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. I was let down by the stale characters and a story that didn’t seem to go anywhere.
An imperial capital in an era of splendor and romanticism… Orphaned in an earthquake, Sorath is taken in by Baron Kamichika, the lord of “Blood Blossom Manor.” There, he pledges eternal friendship with Garan, the Baron’s heir, and Kiyora, Garan’s fiancée. But their friendship turns grisly by events none of them could foresee. The tender feelings each secretly harbors, the machinations of Baron Kamichika and his strange and seductive female companion, and a fateful encounter with a young girl with bizarre powers…all draw them to the Walpurgis Night and the nightmare’s climax!
Demon From Afar Volume 1
By Kaori Yuki
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
In general, I’ve enjoyed more of Kaori Yuki’s works than not. Her blend of bishonen characters with elements of horror and a touch of humor usually appeal to me. In Demon From Afar, all of the elements are there, they’re just not striking the right chord for me.
Sorath, the protagonist, is a boy with no memory of his past and is saved by Garan, the heir to Baron Kamichika, after a terrible earthquake strikes the capital. There really isn’t anything remarkable about Sorath. He is devoted to Garan, taking responsibility for anything Garan might get punished for, and always holding himself back to make Garan look good. He acts as a bodyguard to Garan and his fiancée Kiyora. But beyond that, nothing seems to motivate him. He is content in his role, not interested in finding the meaning behind the symbol on his hand or learning about his past. He’s the character we are supposed to be most invested in, but there’s nothing interesting about him.
Garan and Kiyora aren’t much better. Kiyora seems more like comedy relief with her inept social skills and love of eating. Of course, she is more interested in Sorath than her fiancée, and Garan is oblivious to the differing feelings. Baron Kamichika is about as one-dimensional as the paper he’s printed on. The evil villain who care about no one but his own ambitions, not even his own heir. Everything and everyone is a tool for him to use to reach his goal; immortality. I didn’t really hate him as much as I hated his shallow motives. His demon servant Liece/Mephistopheles wasn’t much better, playing along, but helping to betray the Baron at the end.
What I did like was some of the horror elements. The belief by locals that the spider lilies that surround the Baron’s manor are red from soaking up human blood was made all the more creepy by the discovery that Sorath makes when he finally starts investigating what the Baron is up to. I also like the idea of the yin/yang miko, with the darker one becomes, the more pure the other. The way Noella was restored wasn’t what I was expecting and definitely one the disturbing side.
I didn’t dislike Demon From Afar, but it didn’t hook me either. This first volume feels like a prologue. It’s setting up the background and characters before getting to the real story. It feels more like it’s just spinning its wheels as it doesn’t set Sorath up with any kind of goal or motivation. The higher price for this volume is because it is printed in hardcover with a dust jacket. There is one color plate. More would have been better. Overall, it is a nice presentation and worth the extra dollars. I’ll give this series another chance and check out the next volume, but something had better happen soon.
Makoto Amano wants to be come an actor instead of taking over the family dojo. His stern father decrees he can only do so if he spends the last two years of high school disguised as a girl and no one finds out. Ito Miura is a popular girl in her school’s drama department, but is always being given boy’s roles due to her tomboyish ways. The two become friends after Ito discovers Makoto’s secret, but as they constantly protect Makoto’s secret, they start to become something more.
W Juliet Volume 1-5
Age Rating: Teen
Price: $9.99 print/$6.99 digital
When I was tracking the new releases on Vizmanga.com, the release of W Juliet in digital caught my eye. I remember seeing the series in my local comic book store back in the day, but I never got around to picking it up. With it out in digital, and my daughter taking drama in school, I decided to try it out. It wasn’t a bad series, but neither did it ring any bells.
The two leads, Makoto and Ito are likable enough. Makoto is very earnest in his desire to be an actor and takes playing a girl seriously. He pulls off pretty well too, as everyone is convinced he’s a girl. It’s funny how he reacts to the girls swarming around him and questioning him relentlessly. But he is still a man, and is very protective of Ito, and risks his secret being discovered to be with her. Ito is the tall, tough, straight-figured girl who is constantly being mistaken as a boy. She thinks she can’t be feminine, and doesn’t look good in skirts, so she doesn’t try. She very insecure about her femininity, and is even slight jealous that Makoto makes a better girl than her. She discovers Makoto’s secret by accident, but it becomes the bond that draws them closer.
The story in these first five volumes involve one of two things; either Makoto’s secret is about to be discovered, or a boy falls for Ito and Makoto has to come to her rescue. Having these two elements be an issue occasionally would be okay, but when they are the problem in every single chapter, the story quickly becomes tedious. In first volume, Makoto is investigated twice and is thought to be a guy, Makoto Narita (who he really is) but his detractors are fooled by theater prosthetics. Makoto also has a fiance, Takayo, who tries at first to force him back, but later transfers with her brother to get between him and Ito. Ito gets a pair of suitors in Toki, an alumnus of the drama club, and Sakamoto, a boy she meets on a school trip who transfers to her school. Both are determined to make her theirs despite what she wants.
Makoto and Ito have plenty of allies, both willing and not so helping them out. Makoto’s older sister Akane is his biggest supporter. She is a make-up artist and helps him with his make-up, wig, and bringing him clothes when he’s in a jam. Ito has two older brothers and a younger brother, all of whom look are very overprotective of her. This comes in handy when Makoto’s father sends men to watch him when he is staying at Ito’s home over New Year’s. I liked the brothers a lot, but I do have a soft spot for overprotective brothers.
Overall I look at this series favorably, but I have to admit it had trouble holding my attention. It took two tries to read all five volumes. The monotony of Makoto’s secret always being on the verge of being discovered, and the guys that kept forcing themselves on Ito made it difficult. And I know this is a shojo series, but the fact that Makoto was always having to save Ito, despite her having martial arts training started to grate after a while. The stories I enjoyed most were where Makoto and Ito worked together as partners, such as during the ugly duckling performance the club put on to bring in new members. These chapters didn’t happen as often as I would have liked.
I wanted to like W Juliet more, but in the end, it was just average. The art was serviceable, but it was nothing to get excited about. I liked the characters and the story was fun at times. I don’t know if it would have been better to string out Makoto’s secret before Ito found out. I like it being the thing that bonds Makoto and Ito, and brings them together, and through the story, keeps them together. W Juliet definitely works as a rom-com, but it’s one of the more forgettable ones.
Review copies provided by publisher.
Yul continues his machinations against Shin, determined to get both Chae-Kyung and the title Crown Prince. His mother only cares about him becoming prince, and even sets him up in an engagement with the daughter of a powerful business man who is possibly more horrible that her. Shin and Chae-Kyung’s relationship continues down a rocky road as they alternate between loving and alienating each other, and causing the royal family public humiliation. Add to that the King who won’t show his feeling for his own son and royal baby on the way that could just complicate things further, and you have just another day at the Royal Palace.
The drama continues to crank up, as if that’s possible, in these two volumes. The soapiness just froths over like a wrongly loaded washing machine from a sitcom. The power plays and political intrigues start coming to the forefront, while Shin and Chae-Kyung’s relationship hit more bumps than smooth patches. While I still find Goong a compelling read, it isn’t as satisfying as it once was.
The main problem I have had with these two volumes is that everyone has become unlikable. Chae-Kyung spends all of her time whining about not wanting to be in the Palace while still pining for Shin. She is so completely selfish that she falls for Yul’s manipulations and betrays Shin even after he tells her it’s what he fears most. This isn’t how you’re suppose to treat someone you claim to like. Shin isn’t blameless in any of this though. His big mouth and bigger pride keeps him from actually showing Chae-Kyung his true feelings, which leads in part to her betrayal. So much of their problems come from their inability and/or unwillingness to talk to each other. It’s become more frustrating than entertaining at this point.
I really disliked Yul for using Chae-Kyung against Shin, despite his claims to love her. You don’t win someone’s love by hurting the person they love, even if it the hot-and-cold relationship Shin and Chae-Kyung have. And then he has the gal to think Shin manipulated Chae-Kyung for not telling her about her grandfather, after all he’s done to try to sabotage her and Shin’s relationship? As much as I hated Mi-Roo Oh, Yul’s chosen fiance, she is exactly who Yul and the Daebi-mama deserve for their manipulations. The King isn’t much better, with the way he keeps favoring Yul over Shin for so many personal reasons and none of them good. Whether it’s because of his feeling for the Daebi-mama, the promise he made to his older brother or some of reason we haven’t heard yet, none of them are excuses for ignoring the good of the country, which putting Yul and Daebi-mama in charge may jeopardize. Hyo-Rin proves she’s on the same level as Daebi-mama, as she manipulates Shin by first exposing the truth of Shin and Chae-Kyung’s engagement, then pleading with Shin to divorce Chae-Kyung for her own good. Despite her situation, she isn’t someone I feel sympathy for.
The only people who I still have any respect for are the Queen and the Queen-Mother. They are the only two without any secret agendas, who actually care about others and aren’t afraid to admit their feelings. The Queen has to plead with the King to allow Shin and Chae-Kyung to move to Changduck palace not as the Queen but as Shin’s mother. They are the only two who think to investigate the Daebi-mama as a possible suspect in her own arson. Honestly, I think they are the two smartest in the series and the Queen should be leading instead. She dealing with a difficult pregnancy and is still the most rational person in court at the moment.
I’d really like to see more political intrigue than relationship drama. Shin’s position as Crown Prince has been iffy at best for most of the series, but as soon as decides to take his duties seriously, is when the King seems to really turn against him. Most of the time the problems come from Chae-Kyung. The mention of divorce on National TV and the revelation of their engagement pushes the King to seriously consider demoting Shin. Yul and his mother want to push for a stronger monarchy which doesn’t make them very popular with many in the National Assembly, giving Shin more support. It is going to be tough to get any support for Yul to become Crown Prince. I hope this will be explored more in future volumes.
While these two volumes of Goong didn’t leave a favorable impression on me over all, I did still enjoy reading them. Soaps are supposed to have characters you love to hate, but I don’t think you’re suppose to hate everyone. Hopefully future volumes will change this and give me someone to sympathize with and root for. I still love all the costumes and the detail Park puts into them. I also really like the different fashions Chae-Kyung gets when she’s in everyday clothes. Even though I’ve grown weary of the miscommunication and manipulation in the personal relationships. I will keep reading. It’s like the train wreck you can’t look away from.
Review copies provided by publisher.
Gender-Bender titles aren’t usually my thing, but because it’s twins switching places rather than some science/magic causing it, it might not be too bad. We’ve seen lots of titles of a girl passing off as a boy in an all-boys school plenty of times. Seeing how a boy deals with pretending to be a high school girl would be much more interesting. Hopefully it won’t hurt to read.
Kosei Arima was a piano prodigy until his cruel taskmaster of a mother died suddenly, changing his life forever. Driven by his pain to abandon piano, Kosei now lives in a monotonous, colorless world. Having resigned himself to a bland life, he is surprised when he meets Kaori Miyazono, a violinist with an unorthodox style. Can she bring Kosei back to music, and back to life?
Your Lie in April Volume 1
By Naoshi Arakawa
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Teen
I knew nothing about Your Lie in April when it was first announced other than it was a musical title that was often compared to Nodame Cantible, a musical title that featured a straight-laced violist/pianist as the male lead, and a highly unorthodox pianist as the female lead. Having now read Your Lie in April, the fact that the two leads are a violist and pianist with one being straight-laced and the other unorthodox, the two stories really have nothing to do with each other.
Playing the piano was everything to Kosei Arima. He lived and breathed playing to please his mother, who was determined he would become the great pianist she was. But when she died, in a way, so did Kosei. Her dream was his dream. Without her, he had no reason to live. No dream of his own. He has been stuck, marking time, unable to move forward. Kosei is haunted by the piano. He can no long hear himself playing, but he also can’t move on from it. His life is the same, day in and day out.
Then he meets Kaori Miyazono. She is the classmate of his childhood friend Tsubaki. Kaori wants to meet their mutual friend Watari, and Tsubaki gets Kosei to tag along. Kaori is the opposite of Kosei in many ways. She is full of life, always smiling and energetic. She performs in much the same way. She participates in a competition, but plays the assigned piece her own way, ignoring the tempo and even her own accompanist. She isn’t playing to impress the judges, but to entertain the audience and have fun all at the same time.
I really liked both Kosei and Kaori. They don’t get off on the best foot at first, but Kaori ends up making a big impression on Kosei. Her performance is the opposite of everything his mother told him it should be like, and he has a hard time processing it. Kaori becomes kind of obsessed with Kosei, determined to make him her accompanist for the next round of the competition. I really liked that she didn’t feel sorry for Kosei when he told her about how he can no longer hear the piano. Her reaction was great, and pretty much the same as mine. I also liked that Kosei didn’t automatically assume the feelings he was starting to have for Kaori was love, but instead thought there were inspiration.
Tsubaki and Watari, their friends, make good supporting characters. They both support Kosei in their own ways. Tsubaki cares for Kosei like a little brother, and just wants to help him move on with his life, in whatever direction it takes him. I loved the way she plotted with Kaori to try to convince him to be her accompanist. Watari, despite being a bit of a playboy, has some insightful things to say to Kosei about life and specifically girls. His words have a surprising impact on Kosei.
Your Lie in April vol 1 was a really fun read. The art is well done. The characters were all portrayed very playfully. Kaori was always playful. I loved when she knocked Kosei away from the cat he was feeding so she could pet it. Tsubaki had some good moments with trying to get Kosei to lighten up and Watari was funny when he got a text from another girl. The final scene of the manga, with the four friends rushing off to the competition was another wonderful scene, filled with exuberance. It was a strong ending to a strong first volume. I can’t wait to read more.