Tag Archives: teen

Monster Soul Volume 1-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review copies provided by publisher.

Sword Art Online: Aincrad

In the year 2022, gamers rejoice as Sword Art Online–a VRMMORPG (Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) like no other–debuts, allowing players to take full advantage of the ultimate in gaming technology: NerveGear, a system that allows users to completely immerse themselves in a wholly realistic gaming experience. But when the games goes live, the elation of the players quickly turns to horror as they discover that, for all its amazing features, SAO is missing on of the most basic functions of any MMORPG–a log-out button. Now trapped in the virtual world Aincrad, their bodies held captive by NerveGear in the real world, users are issued a chilling ultimatum: conquer all one hundred floors of Aincrad to regain your freedom. But in the warped world of SAO, “Game Over” means certain death–both virtual and real…

Sword Art Online: Aincrad
SwordArt_Aincrad1_mangaArt by Tamako Nakamura; Original story: Reki Kawahara
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Drama/Game
Price: $20.00 USD
Rating: ★★★★☆

Sword Art Online: Aincrad manga is based on the first two light novels from a series of the same name, and belongs to a genre that become popular lately; players of an MMORPG become trapped in the game world and must fight the game to get out. I’ve never been interested in this genre, but I was still curious enough about it to at least read the manga, an omnibus of the two-volume series. I did enjoy the story as a whole, but there are still a few spots that felt lacking.

The story centers around Kirito, a teenager who was a beta tester for Sword Art Online and became trapped along with the 10,000 other players on the game’s first day. It is two years later, and there are only 26 levels to beat before reaching the final boss, the creator of the world Akihiko Kayaba. The players have settled into their new life in Aincrad, fighting, getting stronger and clearing levels. There are towns with tradesmen and farmers, and guilds to organize everyone. The strongest of these guilds is Knights of the Blood. Returning to a town to trade and heal, Kirito runs into Asuna, a commander in the Knights of the Blood. She wants to recruit Kirito for the next level they are about to take on, but Kirito and Asuna make a deeper connection, and the story becomes just as much about their romance as their battles.

As the two main characters, I did like Kirito and Asuna. Kirito was a loner, also known as a Beater. Beta testers were also considered cheaters to new players because of their greater knowledge of the game. He isn’t unfriendly, just reluctant to make connections. Asuna is his opposite in many ways. She is cheerful and outgoing, also known as a celebrity in the game. They work well together, a feeling that translate on and off the battlefield. Their feelings for each other becomes a focal point of the story, but I didn’t see the chemistry between them. Their romance felt rushed, as if getting them together was just a formality for the rest of the story. I just didn’t feel any emotions between them. We were told rather than shown how they felt about each other and that lessened the effect.

The supporting cast was a pretty interesting bunch. Klein, a fighter, and Agil, a shopkeeper were friends of Kirito and Asuna. They help out the couple both off the field and on. They also brought some of the lighter moments to the story. Klein getting flustered around Asuna made for some fun moments. Agil’s honesty about joining the 75th floor battle was refreshing.

The story moved at a quick pace, slowing down only for some character development for Kirito, or some development for Kirito’s and Asuna’s relationship. References to the world being a game were fairly constant, and players had to keep it in mind even as they came to accept it as the real world. I did like that the manga dealt with PK, or Player Killers. Kuradeen, an evil man who joins the Knight of the Blood to be near Asuna, turns out to be one these players. Kuradeen makes some references to Kirito that killing him make Kirito a murderer, even though he just did the same thing for the sake of returning to the guild as the “lone survivor” of a trial. These references just get left hanging.

This was the biggest problem I had with the volume. It felt more like bullet points being hit on the page than a cohesive story. The scenes didn’t flow well and changed abruptly. The characters seem to know things without there being any or very little groundwork laid for it. With the manga having only two volumes to cover two novels, it felt like a lot was left out. The story had to be compressed so much that only major points could be hit, leaving out a lot of development.

Overall Sword Art Online: Aincrad is an entertaining read. While the art is rather generic, some characters such as Klein and Kuradeen did stand out. If you’re interested in the plot and don’t want to take the time to watch the anime or read the original light novels then this adaptation will serve well. A lot is being missed with just this manga adaptation, and I am considering reading the light novels to see what was dropped. A third volume would have made a big difference in the character development. If nothing else, this manga is a good gateway to the light novels.

Review copy provided by publisher.




My Little Monster Volume 1-2

Shizuku Mizutani has a goal; to have an annual income of 100 Million Yen. To do that, she has to have perfect grades and is always studying. She doesn’t have any friends and doesn’t think she needs any. Then she meets Haru Yoshida. He is a First Year like her, who should be in the desk next to her, but hasn’t been to school since the first day. She takes some printouts from their home room teacher to him, and he decides they are friends. This starts Shizuku on a path of making friends and maybe even falling in love, as long as they don’t get in the way of her grades.

My Little Monster Volume 1-2
My little Monster 1By Robico
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $10.99USD
Rating: ★★★★☆

My Little Monster sort of sounds like a “good girl falls for the bad boy” story, but it really couldn’t be further from the truth. The characters are more like misfits, damaged from events in their past that have kept them from finding real friendship and relationships, making them much more interesting to watch and their stories more compelling.

The story centers around the relationship of Shizuku and Haru. Neither has any real friends. Shizuku doesn’t because of an incident in elementary school that made it difficult for her to trust other and just rely on herself. Haru got a “bad boy” reputation because of his physical strength, but is really a good guy. Their personalities are somewhat different. Shizuku is straightforward, to the point of being blunt sometimes. She comes off as cold and unemotional, but just doesn’t know how to act around people since she has spent more time studying than interacting. Haru seems scared of the other kids at school, except when someone is being bullied or threatened. He’ll jump right into the fray and start fighting. He is also clueless about how to act around people, but he is more naive than cynical. They are both socially inept be for different reasons.

Their relationship is like a see-saw. When Haru has feelings for Shizuku, she doesn’t for him and visa-verse. Haru confesses first, and then when Shizuku is ready to reciprocate, he just wants to be friends. Then when he comes to realize he might like her as something more, she wants to go back to just being friends. Up and down, up and down. Just like a see-saw. I think that’s what I find most intriguing about their relationship. There aren’t any big dramatic moments that make them change their minds. There are these moments of realization. Haru, when he kisses Shizuku and doesn’t see stars, starts to think he doesn’t like her that way. Shizuku realizes her life has changed, but that she doesn’t have to lose focus of her goal, and can just be friends with Haru. It’s such an unusual take on a teenage romance that it really intrigues me.

My Little Monster 2The cast of supporting characters really helps. Shizuku gets a girl friend in Natsume, a girl with really poor study skills who wants to make friends. She’s really pretty, and can get the boys attention, but the cold shoulder from the other girls. Sasayan is on the baseball team and is just hanging around Haru and Shizuku because he thinks they are interesting. He’s also a regular at the arcade and batting cages owned by Haru’s cousin Mitchan. And then there’s Nagoya, the chicken. Haru found him and started bringing him to school until they got the administration to let him keep it as a school pet. I love the chicken. He doesn’t do anything, but it’s just funny to watch Haru dote over it.

The stories start out like the usual shojo fare, but turn out like anything but. The boys that bullied Haru for money come back to apologize and end up helping to build Nagoya’s henhouse. Haru starts smiling more and girls start to pay attention to him more, but a fight with upperclassmen sends him back. Upperclassman Oshima starts to like Haru, but instead of confessing her feelings, she explains Shizuku’s to Haru. I really enjoy all these twists. It’s great not knowing how things are going to turn out.

My Little Monster is a great read, especially if you are getting a little tired of all the upbeat, perky heroines in shojo. Shizuku’s cynical and analytical view on life is a refreshing change. I am really looking forward to seeing how the see-saw is going to change this time, and really want to find out more about Haru’s and Shizuku’s background. There have been a lot of tantalizing hints dropped, but I really want to see more.

Review copies provided by publisher.

Insufficient Direction

Read this energizing comic and feel proud (or simply unashamed!) of your geek hobbies. Although manga artist Rompers (Happy Mania, Sugar Sugar Rune) doesn’t consider herself too far gone, she’s gotten married to a towering figure of the otaku persuasion, Director-kun (Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cutey Honey).

Insufficient Direction
Insufficient DirectionBy Moyoco Anno
Publisher: Vertical Inc.
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Slice of Life/Geek Culture
Price: $14.95
Rating: ★★★★☆

Insufficient Direction is the semi-autobiographical story of manga artist Moyoco Anno’s daily life with her husband director Hideaki Anno. Starting with their marriage, Anno, who calls herself Rompers and depicts herself as a baby with swirly eyes, picks humorous moments showcasing her husband Director-kun’s otakuness, and her slow but steady slide to join him.

When Vertical first announced this title, I was looking forward to it. I enjoy stories about otaku and the otaku lifestyle, so this title sounded right up my alley. And it does lay on the otakuness thick. Director-kun is very much a tokusatsu, live action sci-fi, fan, and most of his otaku obsessions revolve around these series’. Ultraman, Kamen Rider, Super Sentai, and other shows that fit that genre are mentioned constantly. Director-kun has lots of toys and figures for these shows that he wants to display, and gets up early on Sunday Mornings to watch the latest episodes of the current shows. He also loves anime, but most of the shows mentioned are older series from the 80s; Mobile Suit Gundam, Space Runaway Ideon and Time Bokan. There’s no mention of Director-kun own work though, beyond amateur films he made of Ultraman in his college days.

Rompers enters into this relationship with Director-kun knowing what a big otaku he is, but still feeling ambivalent about it becoming an Ota-wife. Sometimes she worries about being a good ota-wife, and at others she tries to fight his ota-ways by limiting the number of toys he can display, making him clean up his office, and just showering and changing clothes. If there has to be some kind of conflict in this series, this is it, though it is obviously a losing battle. In the first chapter she worries that she hasn’t watched all of Ideon yet. On car trips, she resisted listening to Director-kun’s many hours of anime and tokusatsu music, but soon gives in. She even starts to get up early on Sunday mornings with him.

I know a lot of the humor is supposed to come from this conflict, but I have to admit I found it a little annoying. I’m someone who was never made to feel ashamed of their fannish-ness, or ignored any attempts by my peers to do so, so really don’t understand why someone who want to hide the things they enjoy from others, especially if they are adults. But it’s good to see Rompers come to accept her otakuness. Fortunately this isn’t the only source for the humorous episodes shown. Dieting is always a good source we there is quite a dose of it in here, as are the normal conflicts a husband and wife can get into.

Overall, I did enjoy Insufficient Direction. The amount of otaku references was daunting. Vertical included 29 pages detailing them, including taking four pages alone to explain the book titles referenced in just one panel! This title will appeal most to the thorough fan. If you are just an anime fan, and aren’t interested or familiar with tokusatsu, most of the references you won’t get or care about. But, if you recognize Ultraman poses, know what a transformation belt is, or know who Battle Fever J is, and are a fan of 80s mecha anime, then this manga is for you.


World War Blue Volume 1

In the continent of Consume, an endless war rages between bitter rivals: the Segua Kingdom vs. the Ninteldo Empire. Upon his dinosaur steed, the stern Emperor Marcus has led the Ninteldo Empire to near victory. Now, with the majority of Consume under its control, Ninteldo has Segua up against the ropes.

Enter a fleet-footed lad named Gear, who seeks vengeance against Ninteldo for his brother’s death. After joining Segua’s Army, Gear is enlisted in the Special Forces to put his preternatural speed to good use. But will the inexperienced, impulsive youth be ready to face the realities of war?

World War Blue Volume 1
wwb_vol1_fullStory by Anastasia Shestakova; Art by Crimson
Publisher: Seven Seas Entertainment
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Action/Game
Price: $11.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

When I first heard the premise of World War Blue, I was intrigued. I’ve always been interested in the console wars, and seeing them brought to life sounded like a fun idea. In practice, I found the execution problematic, though the story isn’t without it’s merits.

World War Blue starts by introducing three characters; the fleet-footed Gear and his friends Tial and Nel. They are the only survivors of a Ninteldo attack five years previous, on their village of Marcthree. When Ninteldo soldiers return, Tial is killed, which spurs Gear to join Segua’s Army. But Gear’s extraordinary speed isn’t the only thing special about him. He is what is called a “Killer”, warriors that possess great power. Along with fellow Killers Opal and Tejirov, Gear trains to become stronger before going on a mission to save the Segua Army’s leader, General Alex.

There were a lot of things I liked about this volume. I liked Gear. He’s pretty much how I would imagine a human version of Sonic the Hedgehog to be. He is very much the shonen hero, with the tragic loss that sends him on his journey, his direct attacks and reliance on pure strength. He’s confident in his abilities, but also willing to learn more. He makes a good lead, and that seemed like a good start.

I also liked how the video games were translated into characters. All the characters in this story are based on Sega video games. Gear and Tial is obvious. Nel is based on a character from Fantasy Star Online, a popular RPG back in the day. Ramses, a Lt. General in the Segua Army is based on the game Columns. Her roots aren’t so obvious. Opal has a better connection to her game, Fantasy Zone, in both her name and power. Seeing Nintendo’s Mario as the big, buff armored Emperor Marcus was kind of weird. Tejirov is a mercenary from the neutral country of Lorgue, and is based on Tetris. This is fairly obvious as he obsesses over the number 4. Shestakova did a good job creating their characters and integrating the important traits from their games to make them recognizable, but not glaringly so.

In between each chapter there were short talks about the history of video games and the “war” between Nintendo and Sega. I loved these sections. They tell about the hardware, focus on some of the games, and tell of the fall of Atari that led to Nintendo and Sega’s rise. Shestakova integrates these elements into the story as well with great success.

Since I likes so much of the title, you may be wondering what it was I didn’t like. It was all the male gaze. The women are mostly big breasted and in short skirts. The artist Crimson spared no time in getting in upskirt shots and nearly nude moments for them. Most of that I can handle, but Tejirov is the straw that breaks this manga’s back. His not so subtle inudendo bordered on annoying as was his groping. It really broke what I thought was an otherwise enjoyable story.

World War Blue is a title that won’t appeal to everyone. It’s focus on an older time in video game history may not be of interest to newer gamers who only know the next-gen systems; Playstation, Game Cube/Wii, and XBox. But for those who are interested, or those of us old enough to remember playing Tetris on the NES, or buying a Genesis just to play Sonic the Hedgehog, this is a great series. If you can get past the male gaze.


Cross Game Volume 8

The Seishu Gakuen baseball team is one win away from fulfilling Wakaba’s final dream of seeing Ko pitch in front of a packed crowd at Koshien. But they’ll have to beat powerhouse Ryuou Gakuin in the North Tokyo Tournament finals in order to get there. Meanwhile, Akane Takigawa’s health takes a turn for the worse, and she’s scheduled to have surgery…on the day of the big game.

Cross Game 8By Mitsurs Adachi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Sports
Price: $14.99US
Rating: ★★★★½

When Cross Game first came out, it got a lot of praise. It was also featured in a Manga Movable Feast, but the first chapter preview Viz made available didn’t interest me. So, I passed on the series, until I received a copy of the final volume. I decided to give the series a shot and see what everyone was so excited about. I did enjoy the volume. It was easy to  get into, even with being the final volume, but ultimately it still didn’t make a convert out of me.

This volume starts out with Ko and the Seishu Gakuen baseball team departing to play the final game that will decide who will go to Koshien. Any potential drama with Akane’s health problems are swiftly dealt with so the characters and the reader can concentrate on the game which is the majority of this 2-in-1 omnibus volume. It is a very tense game, as both pitchers are determined to pitch a no-hitter. The sides switch quickly, and the few hits that do get through puts the game into extra innings, with the twelfth ending it all.

In many ways this feels like a final volume. Everything the characters have been working for is leading up to this moment, this game. As the game is played, there are call backs to previous moments in the series with Ko dealing with Wakaba’s death, and working to become a baseball player good enough to go to Koshien. Ko and Aoba’s relationship is also strengthen throughout this volume, tying things up for the last scene.

While there are a lot of characters, and many of their stories are tied up, this volume is really all about Ko. This final game is his. He goes into it with a calm confidence that many of his teammates don’t seem to feel. He is relaxed before the game, sleeping on the way to the stadium, and all through the game itself, he never seems fazed. He doesn’t get mad when his no-hit game is ruined, and his only surprise is when a ball flies at only 98 mph, not the 100 mph he had hoped for. It almost makes you want to shake him, he is so placid throughout the game, like a still lake. This is a moment he has worked for since he was in the 5th grade, and he will let nothing stand in his way.

The game itself isn’t filled with over-the-top dramatics. Adachi doesn’t need to go to such lengths to build the tension. His game is filled with great baseball, and helped to remind me why I loved the sport so much when I was younger. Compared to other sports, baseball can seem laid back or even boring, but there is nothing boring about this game. Both teams can taste victory and are determined to win. Ko and his rival Oikawa are throwing their best pitches, both intent on throwing no-hitters. The balls fly fast and hard, and you can almost hear the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt with every pitch. It’s not an “edge of your seat” kind of excitement, but really a thrill of watching athletes at the top of their form pushing themselves even further.

Ko and Aoba’s relationship is handled much more subtly. Things that the readers probably already knew were revealed to the characters. Ko and Aoba never verbally express their feelings for each other. They don’t have that kind of relationship. Instead, they’re shown in a more subdued manner with something as simple as holding hands revealing their feelings more elegantly than any words could.

Although I enjoyed this volume of Cross Game as a whole, and really enjoyed the baseball game, I don’t know how much I would have enjoyed the journey. It’s easy to tell where Ko and Aoba came from and what it was they were striving for, but I don’t know how much I actually like them as characters. They do have the more contrary type of relationship that I prefer, but they didn’t really click with me. I appreciated Ko as a baseball player, and seeing he and Aoba get together, but I’m not sure I would have had the patience to get to there. I may the first volume though, just to see. Still Cross Game has all the elements to be a great series, and the sports parts is very well done. It was a great game, and a really good series. I’m glad I got to read it.

 Review copy provided by publisher



Slam Dunk Volume 25-28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review copies provided by publisher.

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

Sailor Moon Short Stories Volume 2

This second collection of short stories is really one long story and two ones. First Luna, Usagi’s cat falls head over feet for a human astrophysicist whose discovery of a new comet also heralds new doom from an old enemy for the Earth. Then some of Rei’s backstory is revealed is a tale of reflection and revenge, and finally in an undisclosed future, the children of Usagi and the other Sailor Scouts prove they don’t fall very far from the tree.

Sailor Moon Short Stories 2
Buy this Book

By Naoko Takeuchi
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

I have limited experience with Sailor Moon, but I know just enough to know who everyone is and what is going on. The stories in this volume, while not all short, are still fairly entertaining, even if all them don’t quite hit their intended mark.

There are three stories in this volume, “Princess Kaguya’s Lover”, “Casa Blanca Memory”, and “Parallel Sailor Moon.” Of these three, “Princess Kaguya’s Lover” is the longest, and features the strange love triangle of Luna the cat, Kakeru Ohzora, an astrophysicist, and his childhood friend Himeko Nayotake. There were a lot of things I liked about this story. Luna getting to be the center of attention was a nice change, but I really loved the villain, Princess Snow Kaguya. She was supposed to rule over the solar system but was banished 4.5 Billion years ago, but has returned to reclaim reign. I liked that she wasn’t after any of the sailor scouts, or to take the Earth specifically, but to rule over the whole solar system. It wasn’t people that banished her, but the spirits of the planets, and that just appealed to me. The love triangle didn’t so much, since it was obvious that Luna didn’t have a chance as a cat, but the Christmas gift the other give her was very sweet.

I liked “Casa Blanca Memory” much more. It has a more traditional villain, but I liked that the weapon was memories and sentimentality. It’s so easy for people to fall under the spell of these things, including the rather unromantic Rei. It makes a good vehicle to explore Rei’s past and possible love interest without feeling forced. The seemingly never-ending rain adds to the atmosphere, drawing the reader into the melancholy mood of the story. Rei breaks out of the spell of course, because of her vow to never reflect on the past or fall in love. If anything, this episode only reinforces Rei’s personal beliefs, which is rather refreshing.

The last story, “Parallel Sailor Moon” takes place several years in the future, where the sailor scouts are married and have children. The kids run off for their own adventure, with Usagi’s youngest daughter Ko-Usagi stepping into her mother’s shoes, cat and all. I didn’t care for this story as much as the other two. It was supposed to be more humorous, but most of it fell flat for me. I just didn’t care for the other girls trying to lose Ko-Usagi for most of the story, though I can see that happening in real life. The threat they have to defeat is a herd of rabbits which was cute, but overall, it didn’t appeal to me.

What I really enjoyed about these stories, especially the first two, is the way Takeuchi incorporated antiques into the stories. Princess Kaguya was based on an Art Deco piece called Salome and her Snow Dancers were based on a porcelain piece called the Dancer. She wove these two pieces beautifully into the story and really gave those characters a unique appearance. I also loved the Art Deco lamp that became the basis of the Rain Tree. It looked like water cascading and made for a wonderful effect.

Overall, Sailor Moon Short Stories Volume 2 has some good stories with some solid moments. Takeuchi incorporates the holidays of Christmas and Chinese New Year without it being overt and creates some fun stories from objects you wouldn’t normally expect to be used as models for a manga. Even through this is called a volume 2 the stories stand alone, and only basic knowledge of Sailor Moon is needed to enjoy them.

The Earl and the Fairy Volume 1-4

Lydia Carlton is a fairy doctor, one of the few people with the ability to see the magical creatures who share our world. During one of her rare trips to London to visit her father, Lydia’s quiet life is suddenly transformed when she is rescued by kidnappers by a mysterious young man! Edgar Ashenbert claims to be descended from the human ruler of the fairy kingdom, and he urgently needs Lydia’s help to find and claim his birthright, the legendary sword of the Blue Knight Earl. Things will never be the same for Lydia as she is pulled into a dangerous quest against dark forces!

Earl and Fairy 1
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By Ayuko; Original concept by Mizue Tani
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural/romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

The Earl and the Fairy is a title I enjoyed the first volume of, but fell behind as subsequent volumes came out. I still collected the volumes and they have been sitting on my self until I realized the series would make a good addition to my St. Patrick’s Day themed manga. With only four volumes, it would be quick read too. It was easy to get back into the flow of the story and characters, for whom my love of only grew with each subsequent volume.

Earl and Fairy 2
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The story follows Lydia Carlton, a young woman trying to make it as a Fairy Doctor, a person knowledgeable in the ways of fairies and magical folk and tries to help humans and fairies live in harmony. I loved Lydia right from the beginning. She is determined and strong-willed. She doesn’t let what people think or say about her deter her. She accepts Edgar’s challenge to find the Treasure Sword more because of her pride than any desire to help him. She is soft-hearted, sometimes to a fault, but will always help other in need, both fairy and human. I liked that she isn’t drawn as some bishojo. She wears plain clothes and her hair is usually an unruly mess. She complains that it looks like the color of rust.

Edgar Ashenbert seems to be the opposite of Lydia. He has the air of a noble and is able to easily fool people. He can be manipulative and seemingly cruel, but underneath his cool facade, is the heart of one who cares about his friends and will do anything for them, including lie or kill. He has a tragic past, but his deceptive nature makes it hard to tell if he should be believed or not. Traveling with him are his two servants, Raven and Ermine, half-brother and sister. They are completely loyal to Edgar, and have been through many of the trials he has. Their shared ordeals has created a strong bond between them. It is for them, the last of his comrades, that Edgar continues the quest for the Treasure Sword.

Earl and Fairy 3
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The Earl and the Fairy is based on a light novel series that is currently at 33 volumes, but the manga only went four. Two volumes tell a complete story, no doubt making one volume of the light novels. The story for the first two volumes involves a lot of chasing and a treasure hunt that reminds me of National Treasure or The Da Vinci Code with the clues to be unraveled and the treasure, the Sword, to be found at the end. The second story has Edgar now officially recognized as the Earl Ibrazel and Lydia employed as his Fairy Doctor. More of Edgar’s past is explored as is the possible attraction between Edgar and Lydia, in the midst of finding a kidnapper and stopping an evil fairy.

One of the best elements of this series is Edgar and Lydia’s relationship. It’s hard to tell when Edgar is being serious about his attentions toward Lydia, and his deceptive nature makes it difficult for her to believe him even when he is being sincere. Their relationship is complicated at best. Edgar tries to only use Lydia, and she knows it, but either seems unable to give up on the other. Watching them maneuver and try to figure out what the other is thinking is a lot of fun.

Earl and Fairy 4
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Also a lot of fun is all the creatures that appear in the series. Nico is Lydia’s friend, a fairy that looks like a cat. He talks, and is very particular about his clothes, food and drink. He is suspicious of Edgar right from the start, constantly warning Lydia to get away from him. Though he doesn’t object when he receives new fineries from Edgar after Lydia comes under his employ. Brownies make several appearances in the first story, and the end takes place in the fairy realm, in a merrow town. The second story has an evil fairy known as the Fogman, and his servant, a Bogey-beast, using a nouveau noble girl to release him. It takes a group of Sylphs to truly defeat them.

The Earl and the Fairy was a really fun series, and I enjoyed reading it a lot. The biggest problem I have is that there are no more volumes to come. I want to keep reading about these characters and learn more about this world. I love all the bits with the fairies, and with 33 novels available, there is a lot more to learn. I guess I will have to be happy I got these volumes and that the anime was released here as well. It goes further than the manga in its short 12 episodes. It’s too bad it never got another series, or that the light novels will ever be licensed. Still, it’s a great series, and I highly recommend it.

Bakuman Volume 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review copy provided by publisher.

Oresama Teacher Volume 13

So far ever Student Council member who has gone up against Mafuyu has fallen to the team’s superior friendship skills. But Kanon Nonoguchi has a plan to turn their strengths against them! She’s spreading rumors that Midorigaoka girls are in danger and counting on Super Bun to run to the rescue…and right into her trap!

Oresama Teacher 13By Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

Oresama Teacher has fallen into a bit of a rut as this volumes continues the Public Morals Club’s battle with the Student Council, just as the previous 3 volumes have. This time they are up against man-hating Kanon Nonoguchi, who leads the special all girls class at the school. But the possible monotony this could get into is kept at bay by less Mafuyu and Takaoka, and more Natsuo and Bancho Okegawa, making this fun read after all.

The story starts out typically with Kanon trying to figure out who Natsuo and Super Bun, the “secret” members of the Public Morals Club, really are. Her plans are foiled by Mafuyu’s clumsy and clueless nature, and Akki’s willingness to cross dress. But it quickly turns from this into Kanon’s story as her background is revealed, both her men-hating and her admiration of the Student Council President. I liked this switch up in the story. It kept the volume from becoming a “Student Council Member of the Week” volume into a more interesting story. I don’t blame Kanon for her dislike of boys considering what happened to her. Boys teasing girls they like is one thing, but things really got out of hand with Kanon.

I loved that Natsuo, Mafuyu’s boy disguise, got to feature so prominently in this volume. I like him better, both personality and appearance wise. I know Natsuo and Mafuyu are the same person, but I just really prefer Natsuo, so seeing him instead of Mafuyu made this a much better volume. The confusion Natsuo caused Kanon was more entertaining because the reader knows he’s really a she. I also enjoyed the return of Okegawa, the cute-animal-loving former bancho of Midorigaoka. He’s been a favorite of mine since his appearance in the second volume, so not only getting more of him, but also possibly getting him into the Public Morals Club just makes me more happy. The surprise appearance by Ayabe at the end was cool too.

I still can’t say Oresama Teacher is a title I really like, but I’d be lying if I said there I didn’t enjoy it. Parts of it anyway. I wouldn’t mind continuing to check out the random volume. It’s good for borrowing but It’s still not making it onto my permanent print or digital bookshelf.


Voice Over! Seiyu Academy Volume 1

Hime Kino’s dream is to one day do voice acting like her hero Sakura Aoyama from the Lovely♥Blazer anime, and getting accepted to the prestigious Holly Academy’s voice actor department is the first step in the right direction! But Hime’s gruff voice has earned her the scorn of teachers and students alike. Hime will not let that stand unchallenged. She’ll show everyone that she is too a voice acting princess, whether they like it or not!!

To make matters worse, Sakura’s grouchy son, Senri, is in Hime’s class, and he seems determined to stomp on her dreams. He even has the nerve to call Lovely♥Blazer stupid! But Hime won’t be deterred by naysayers, her new nickname (“Gorilla Princess”), or even getting demoted to the Stragglers group. She’s ready to shine, and nothing is going to stand in her way!

Voice Over_01By Maki Minami
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

Voice acting has always interested me, and after ready Koetama on Jmanga, I became interested in reading manga about it. So when Viz announced this series, I was happy to finally have a series I could own about it. The only downside was that I hadn’t enjoyed Minami’s previous series SA, so I didn’t know which side would win out. Fortunately, I ended up liking this series much more than SA. The female protagonist didn’t come off dumber than bricks, which helped a lot.

The protagonist of the series, Hime, is anything but a princess, despite how desperately she want to sound like one. She isn’t cute and girlish like her younger sister, who is constantly reminding her and the reader of that fact. Her voice is rough and gravelly. Her attempts to sound feminine end in people imagining old women or effeminate men. She isn’t a princess at all. But she’s not willing to give up. When she finally does find her niche, it isn’t what she thinks is should be and doesn’t accept it. It’s not that she can’t accept it, she won’t because it goes against her dreams. I liked that about her. I don’t think she’s ever going to reach her dream of having a princessy voice, but that her journey is the accept and appreciate what she does have.

Hime’s rival and potential love interest is Senri Kudo, the son of Hime’s favorite voice actress who is already landing parts and becoming successful while still in high school. He comes off cold and uncaring, until he is shown to have a soft spot of small animals, but mostly cats. That put him in a new light for me. Anyone who loves and rescues cats can’t be a bad person. Senri won’t acknowledge Hime at first, until he hears her potential. In some ways she also reminds him of a stray cat, causing his soft spot to kick in. Right now, I like them more as rivals than a couple, but that could change.

Hime is surrounded by quite a cast of characters. She becomes part of the “Straggler” group when she can’t keep up with the lessons and is joined by the soft-spoken Tsukino, who becomes her friend. Sho, who acts more like an underboss than actor and Mitchy, who is full of himself, but gets stage fright. I loved Sho with his short temper and ready to lend a fist when one of his fellow “Stragglers” is threatened. Two more characters that become part of Hime’s circle are Mizuki and Shuma, the boy idol group Aqua. Hime borrows Mizuki’s closes to help Tsukino out of difficult situation and gains the ire of Shuma. His attempt at revenge on Hime is devious, but she is able to turn the tables on him, as well as feeling the ire of MIzuki. It was a great scene at the end.

This first volume of Voice Over! Seiyu Academy is a good foundation for the series. It sets up the characters well, as well as Hime’s problems and potential without beating the reader over the head about it. I thought the scout was a little harsh with Hime by calling her unsuitable when it was obvious she wasn’t, but she can’t start recording yet. I did like that Hime not only didn’t become depressed over her “failure”, but that she accepted the extra work she was given for if. She wouldn’t accept help from Tsukino and took responsibility for it herself. It’s a good example for anyone to follow.

I’m giving away a copy of Voice Over! Seiyu Academy volume 1 to one random reader. Leave a comment on this post about whether you prefer subs or dubs in anime to be entered to win. US residents only please.