Tag Archives: teen

Emma Volume 1: Manga Movable Feast

In Victorian England, a young girl named Emma is rescued from a life of destitution and raised to become a proper British maid. When she meets William, the eldest son of a wealthy family, their love seems destined. But in this world, even matters of the heart are ruled by class distinctions.

Emma 1By Kaoru Mori
Publsiher: CMX (OOP)
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Historical/Drama
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1132-5
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

I didn’t expect to like Emma. I have a split track record with Kaoru Mori’s work. I loved A Bride’s Story, but wasn’t impressed with her short story collection Say Something and Anything, especially the maid stories. But as I started reading, I couldn’t help being enchanted by the charming characters she populates the series with, and sets up so simple an obstacle, but it still seems just as insurmountable.

Emma starts with the unceremonious meeting of Emma and William, the former student of Kelly Stownar, who was William’s governess, and is Emma’s employer. William is immediately smitten with Emma, which Kelly picks up on, while Emma seems not to notice. But William is not the first or only man to be drawn to her, as the pile of love letters she receives shows. Even Prince Hakim, William’s friend from India is taken by her charms at first glance. This first volume introduces these main players, and gives a little insight into who they are.

I absolutely loved every character in this volume. There isn’t a single one that I found annoying or dislikable. William is wonderfully nervous around Kelly, and a little over-excitable when he’s around Emma. Emma herself comes off rather innocent, or naive. While she is able to turn down most of her would-be suitors, William elicits a blush from her. I loved Kelly, who seemed to take great joy in making William feel uncomfortable with her memories of his childhood, but didn’t discourage his interest in Emma. Hakim brought a lot of comedy, with his elephants marching through London, or his motorcar whizzing around the inside William’s house. I also loved his Indian women attendants. Their expressions never change, whether they are draped over Hakim or driving the motorcar, they are always straight-faced, almost bored-looking.

The introduction of William’s father, Mr. Smith, also introduces the main conflict of the story. In order for William and Emma to be together, they must not only overcome class distinctions, but also the attitudes of the people around them. Kelly doesn’t have a problem with Emma marrying up obviously. She seems to be encouraging their relationship. It’s William’s father, and his other family and friends that will be the biggest obstacle to their budding relationship. Mr. Smith makes his feelings very clear at the end of the volume about the relationships between classes, describing them like people from two different countries who just happen to speak the same language.

Because of Karou Mori’s obsession with Victorian England, this title is filled with historical details. From the fireplaces and wallpaper in the homes to the clothing of both the men and women, reading Emma is like watching a BBC historical drama. I’ve never been a fan of the Victorian era, but I love Mori’s depiction of it. The men in their suits and hats and the women with their hair done up and their long dresses and ball gowns, I love the look of them all. But most important was the attitudes and beliefs of the people at them. Mori really gets these, from the working class grocer who doesn’t see the worth in his daughter going to school and learning when she will just get married, to Mr. Smith’s constant harping on William about proper manners. Social etiquette was a big deal to the upper class, as they saw it as one of the things that separated themselves from the lower classes. Having good social graces was just as important as one’s family and blood line. Mori really seems to get this, and isn’t just using stereo types to portray the classes.

This first volume of Emma was an engrossing read that just makes me want to read more. I’m really glad this MMF gave me an excuse to read it. Of course, the problem with reading the first volume of a hard-to-find OOP series is that if you turn out enjoying it, that means finding  the rest of the series will be like pulling teeth. The volumes will tend to be difficult to find or worse, very expense. An incomplete set of the series just recently sold on eBay for $135.00! This is probably the only bad thing about the entire volume that I could find. And with Jmanga ending their service, the chances of seeing this series in print again is very unlikely. Unless Yen Press, who has published two of Mori’s other titles, sees some worth in. Though Yen Press has done some license rescues lately, I’m not holding breath for this one, which is really a shame.

Heroman Volume 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review copy provided by publisher.

Oresama Teacher Volume 10-11

The Public Morals Club has been infiltrated by the Student Council as ninja Yui joins the club to spy on them. But with his reasons for switching being done in secret, not everyone on the Student Council is as understanding. It could be the end of Public Morals Club if the club can’t get a stamp of approval from the Student Council Auditor. Then a member of the Student Council, Ayabe challenges Mafuyu to a one-on-one battle, where the unthinkable happens. Mafuyu loses.

By Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

It’s been 5 volumes since I last read Oresama Teacher. I’ve enjoyed the series for the most part, but I’ve never been so enamored that I wanted to do anything more than just read it. These two volumes fall into the same category. A lack of Takaomi and more emphasis on Mafuyu, Hayasaka, and new club member Yui did make for some fun reading, but not enough to bring the series up that extra notch.

Yui has been having trouble gaining the trust of Mafuyu and Hayasaka, and with the club needed the stamp of approval from the auditor, this seems like the perfect opportunity to get it. The only obstacle is Wakana Hojo, the auditor who isn’t too happy with Yui’s  apparent defection. I liked the Auditor story a lot, mostly because of Hojo and Yui and the unspoken feelings between them. Hojo and Yui have known each other since Middle School, and Hojo has liked Yui, but Yui is completely clueless about his own feelings let alone Hojo’s. It takes Mafuyu verbally hitting Yui with a 2×4 for him to at least start to understand that everything is not black and white, especially when it comes to feelings. Hayasaka also turned out to be the hero of this volume as his studious ways allowed him to create an activity log for the club that, along with the arrival of Super Bun gets the club their stamp.

Then, Mafuyu is challenged by Reito Ayabe, another member of the Student Council, and loses. It’s her first time losing, as far as she can remember. This was my favorite chapter in volume 11. Seeing Mafuyu shaken up and trying to deal with her loss was a good development for her. She had to stand up and face her fear. Ayabe seems like a jerk at first, but Mafuyu has a habit of disarming people, which she does to him over lunch where she finds his home cooked meal so much better than her convenience store lunch. Their second battle goes differently, as Mafuyu continues by telling him she just wants to get to know him, and wins through words instead of force. I hope Ayabe becomes a friend to the Public Morals Club. I rather like him and his odd affliction.

The short chapters that precede or end the main chapters weren’t bad either. I enjoyed seeing Hojo’s past with Yui and Hayabusa, the Student Club President that explains her feelings for Yui. And the Christmas chapter with Hayasaka and Mafuyu as Super Bun was fun too. I like that Hayasaka sees Super Bun as a hero and bud, and not a romantic figure. Hayasaka’s hero worship of Super Bun is too funny,and it would get really weird if it went anywhere else.

The one think I didn’t care for in these volumes are the continued hints that there might be feelings between Mafuyu and Takaomi. Mafuyu blushes deeply when Takaomi tries to put her hair in a pony tail to help her Super Bun disguise. Then Takaomi lets his guard down slightly when he tries to wrap Mafuyu’s arm after her fight with Ayabe. I really dislike Takaomi’s manipulation of Mafuyu and find him repulsive. Mafuyu really deserves better than him, and has better suitors in Hayasaka, and her old 2nd, Kangawa.

Oresama Teacher manages to pull off to fun volumes, but their re-readability is too limited for me to let them take up precious bookshelf space. As fun as they are, the characters aren’t compelling enough despite Mafuyu and Hayasaka being a good couple to watch.

Review copies provided by publisher.

 

13th Boy Volume 1

It was love at first sight. the moment Hee-So’s eyes met Won-Jun’s she knew it was meant to be. Their relationship took off when Hee-So confessed her feelings on national TV, but less than a month later, Won-Jun is ready to call it quits without any explanation at all. Hee-So’s had a lot of boyfriends–Won-Jun is number twelve–bu being dumped is never easy. She not ready to move on to the thirteenth boy just yet. Determined to reunite with Won-Jun, Hee-So’s on a mission to win over her destined love once more.

By SangEun-Lee
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

I read the preview of 13th Boy in Yen Plus why back when it first came out, and wasn’t impressed. I thought it was going to be another “stalker girl” title like Sarasah, which I hated. But with being given a second chance to read the first volume, I decided to give it a shot. And like Won-Jun to Hee-So, I don’t hate it, but I don’t know if I like it yet.

13th Boy is not your average high school romance. It starts out like it might be. Hee-So, is the earnest, sometimes blunt girl madly in love with a cute boy in her class, Won-Jun, who comes off as cold, and almost robotic. For a few moments, I thought maybe he was one. But things quickly go askew when Beatrice, Hee-So’s walking, talking cactus is introduced. Yes, I said walking and talking. I don’t know what’s stranger, that Beatrice can talk, or that Hee-So takes it so calmly. There’s no explanation for what Beatrice could be, but the end of the volume hints at something supernatural. And then there’s Won-Jun’s best friend, Whie-Young Jang. He comes off kind of jerky, but there more to him than he seems. He can do magic. He’s shown levitating a book and makes his and Hee-So’s legs disappear so some classmates won’t see them.

I wasn’t expecting a supernatural element to this story. It started out like a typical high school romance with a weird mascot character, but there seems to be a lot more going on. The idea that there is a destined love for everyone is strongly emphasized in this volume. Hee-So is banking on Won-Jun being hers. And for all the scoffing Whie-Young does about it, I get the feeling he might think the same of Hee-So to him. The last scene with Won-Jun and Whie-Young sets up the love triangle, which seems to be destined to be a bumpy ride for all three of them.

While I wasn’t wowed by this first volume of 13th Boy, I am intrigued enough to be willing to check out more. I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would, and while I don’t care for the stalker-obsession that manhwa seems to favor for its female leads, the integration of a destined love at least lessens the impact.

Strobe Edge Volume 1

What is love, anyway? Ninako Kinoshita’s friends tell her it’s one thing, but Ninako wonders what this mysterious feeling is. When she meets Ren Ichinose, the handsome, enigmatic guy that all the girls worship, her life takes an unexpected turn. With just a few words and a smile, he changes her world. Ninako’s friend Daiki throws her for a loop when he expresses romantic interest in her. She cares for him, but can she return his feeling? As she tries to short out her confusion, Ninako realizes that there are many different facets of love–strange and wonderful sides…

By Io Sakisaka
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★☆

Falling in love for the first time is a strange, wonderful and sad feeling all at the same time. Watching Ninako slowly realize that the feelings she’s starting to experience are those of first love was a fun and delightful experience.

Strobe Edge starts out seeming like the typical love triangle. Ninako is a first year in high school, and a little gullible. She is also completely clueless about the feeling of her best friend since elementary school, Daiki. Her chance encounter with the school’s “idol prince”, Ren, seems innocent at first. But, as she gets to know him, and sees the real him outside of school, it’s hard for her not to have feelings for him, even knowing he already has a girlfriend, or Daiki’s true feelings, doesn’t chance her mind.

And I really can’t blame her, since Ren does seem to be a really good guy. He buys Ninako a new cell phone charm when he accidentally steps on it. He helps her on the train when she is being harassed by another passenger, and misses his stop and walks her home after she has hurt her ankle at school. He even gives up his seat on the train for a pregnant woman, telling he’s about to get off even though his stop is still a ways away. Daiki doesn’t seem like a bad guy either though. He’s the loyal best friend who waited too long to tell Ninako how he felt, though it might not have mattered, since Ninako just doesn’t feel the same way.

I really enjoyed watching Ninako change little by little. Her starting to appreciate girly things, like the butterfly charm Ren gets her, and just thinking about painting her nails and being glad they looked nice as Ren helped her home. I also liked how her feelings for Ren grew slowly and weren’t the usual instant love that so many romance manga like to do. She starts out just wanting to show her friends that they take the same train, but her awkwardness endears her to him and she is even graced with a smile that he never seems to have at school. Even her stalker-ish behavior when she waits at the train station to see if he really has a girlfriend wasn’t creepy. She just had to know, and even knowing doesn’t change her.

The fact that she doesn’t change fundamentally is what really makes her a good character. She doesn’t try to be someone else for Ren. Her changes come from her feelings. The volume had a nice twist at the end with Daiki, and Ninako reaching out to Ren even though she knows what his answer will be was a really sweet moment. You really can’t help but root for Ninako and that is what really made me like this title. I cared about Ninako, and what happened to her, especially since she knows this is just her first love and wants to cherish the feeling even if it means breaking heart as well.

Strobe Edge is starting out to be a sweet romance. While I do hope that the triangle between Ninako, Ren and Daiki continues, I really just want to follow Ninako on her journey of discovering love. I actually think following all of them would be interesting. The art is well done, and different enough from a lot the other romance titles that it should stick out in a good way. I really looking forward to more volumes of this series. If you are a fan of love and not just romance, you should too.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Bleach Volume 33-34

Ichigo, Uryu, and Renji continue their battles with the espadas Nnoitora and Szayelsporro in their attempt to rescue Orihime, but things aren’t going so well. It takes some surprising interventions to save the boys from defeat.

By Tite kubo
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Action
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I haven’t enjoyed Bleach since the end of the Soul Society arc, but continued to read the series since it was serialized in Shonen Jump. These two volumes are a bit of an exception, as they stand out by being more entertaining than most of the volumes in the Hueco Mundo arc so far. Two characters that I hadn’t cared much about show another side that has me thinking twice about them.

I never really liked Nel, the little hollow girl who’s also a big cry baby, and always following Ichigo around. She was annoying and always making things for Ichigo. She finally makes amends in this battle, as she regains her original form, a full-grown, and well endowed, espada called Nelliel. How she came to be the little girl with no memory is revealed as she takes on Nnoitora. The battle is sadly short-lived, but not before Nelliel transforms into her Capricorn Knight form. I liked that form and would have liked to have seen it in action more. Pesche and Dondochakka also prove to be more than just comedy relief as they reveal their combined Cero against Szayelsporro who joined Nnoitora in his treachery against Nelliel.

It’s not enough of course, for both Ichigo and Renji and Uryu get their buts handed to their by the espadas they are fighting, so it’s time for reinforcements. Enter four of the captains from Soul Society; Kenpachi, Unohana, Byakuya, and Mayuri. Unohana, as captain of the 4th company is only there to heal the injured, but Byakuya gets a battle with Zommari which unsurprisingly doesn’t last long, and Kenpachi takes over Ichigo’s battle with Nnoitora, but the majority of the volume goes to Mayuri taking on Szayelsporro, the espada scientist vs the Soul Society scientist. Their battle becomes a game of one-upmanship, as each tries to prove he is not just more powerful than the other, but also more clever. But it’s obvious who the winner will be. Mayuri is consistantly one step ahead of Szayelsporro, and uses his adjutant Nemu as the bait to lure him into his web. I’ve never really liked Mayuri and his superiority complex, but I liked Szayelsporro even less, so I’m okay with Mayuri winning. He had some good taunts, and even got a laugh at his wall-eyed, tongue out taunt.

I was bothered by a few things. I liked Nelliel’s character design as a whole, and do understand why so little of herself would be covered when going from little Nel to full-size Nelliel, but what is she doing on the cover of the volume? Is that pose even physically possible? I’ve looked at it a lot as I’ve been writing this review, and it just baffles me more every time. While I can at least deal with it, I really didn’t like was a scene with Orihime. When Nnoitora sends Tesla to finish off Ichigo, she starts to yell out to Ichigo, but Nnoitora silences her by sticking his fingers in her mouth. Really? Was that really necessary? Covering her mouth wasn’t enough? And she just meekly accepts this. Fan service I’ve learned to live with, but this was crossing the line for me.

Bleach lost me as a devoted fan a while a go, but I keep holding out hope that it will get better and I will enjoy it again. These two volumes show that all hope isn’t lost, but it still has a long way to go to win me back. A little less fighting, a little more humor would definitely help.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Otomen Volume 1-5: Manga Movable Feast

Asuka Masamune enjoys the girly things in life, such as sewing and cooking. But due to a traumatic event that happened with his father when he was young, he can’t ever let his mother know about this side of himself. In fact, he thinks he can’t let anyone know, and so he plays the part of a stoic manly man, excelling in kendo and reading Bushido. But there is one person in his class who does know about the real Asuka; Juta Tachibana. He is a mangaka, and has created a popular series using Asuka as the model for his female lead. In order to further his manga, he encourages Asuka get closer to Ryo, a new girl at their school that Asuka has fallen for. As his relationship with Ryo slowly develops, Asuka meets other otomen and learns he isn’t alone.

By Aya Kanno
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

When Otomen first came out, I wasn’t impressed by the premise or the preview that ran in Shojo Beat at the time. I also didn’t care for Kanno’s previous title Blank Slate, so I didn’t have a lot of hope for this new one. A podcast review convinced me to re-evaluate and give the series a try. I’m glad I did. Otomen is cute and funny, and is more comedy than romance.

What really makes Otomen is the characters. When Asuka is first introduced, he looks the part of the manly man. Strong and silent, dressed in this kendo robes, he looks like he could have stepped out of a shonen manga. And then he starts to fall for Ryo, and his true self comes out. I love the scene with him after going on a “girly” spending spree and bringing home all kinds of crafty things and shojo manga. His despair over this is made more funny when he puts together a stuffed bear without really realizing his was doing it! I really enjoy the role reversal that Kanno has created with Asuka. He is very much the shojo lead, as all his inner thoughts and turmoil are shared with the reader. He even blushes a lot like most shojo leads. I really love Asuka’s dichotomy of still being a man while having all of these traditionally female hobbies. If only more men could be like him.

Surrounding Asuka is quite a cast of characters. Ryo, his love interest, complements him well. She can’t cook, or clean, and is hopeless at sewing and crafts. She has a masculine outlook, and though she says she prefers manly men, she doesn’t mind his feminine ways. She often takes the traditional male role such as being the brave one in a haunted house, or riding in on a white horse to rescue him from an arranged marriage. Juta Tachibana is a bit of a playboy, and has been orchestrating a lot of Asuka and Ryo’s relationship for the sake of his shojo manga, “Love Chick.” He will go to any length to get good material for his manga, including playing a rival for Ryo’s affections, breaking and entering Asuka’s potential bride, and staying outside the old school building in a blizzard so Asuka and Ryo can be alone in a romantic Christmas moment. He is also adament about not letting his real identity get out, and is even willing to dress up as a woman to keep it secret. I think in a lot of ways, Juta is the first fellow Otoman that Asuka meets.

And there are more otomen out there. Asuka’s self-proclaimed kendo rival, Hajime Tonomine turns out to have a secret passion for makeup and giving women makeovers. They end up working together when they are asked to help out at a women’s event and don the costumes of members of the Harakiri Ronin Samurai Five, and then volunteer to give a makeover when the artist gets stuck in traffic. I love when manga references Tokusatsu shows, so I really enjoyed this chapter in volume 3, and was thrilled when they made a come back in volume 5. Then there’s Kitora Kurokawa, who loves flowers too much. He is very tall and since he doesn’t talk much is seen by the other girls as mysterious. His weakness is wanting to cover beautiful things in flowers, which includes Ryo, Asuka, Hajime and even Juta.

The story starts out focusing on Asuka and Ryo and Juta using them for his manga, but then shifts toward more with discovering more otomen. I’m glad the story did start to shift, because Asuka and Ryo’s relationship really wasn’t going anywhere by volume 3, so it really needed something more. But I did start to miss hearing about developments for Love Chick, and really enjoyed the chapter in volume 5 where Juta has to accept an award, and has to come up with a way to do with revealing he’s really a man as his editor wants, and he’s rescued by his idol mangaka. Kanno also does a good job of balancing Asuka’s two sides, the masculine and feminine. He can be really cute sometimes when he blushing, and others thinking he’ll make a good wife. But he’s still a man and it still comes through when he leaps to action to save Ryo from a bull, a bomb, or a little boy from falling out a window. Asuka is the ideal man.

Otomen is a great series, filled a lot of great characters and funny situations. It’s romantic comedy at its best, because it is so unconventional in its material. I look forward to reading more about Asuka, Ryo, Juta and the rest of the otomen. And since this title is available on Viz’s manga site, I can just right back in where I left off without overloading the bookshelf. If you want some light, fun reading, definitely pick this title up.

Wanted: Manga Movable Feast-Arrr!

Arr, it be that time o’ year again. Aye matey, it be Talk Like o’ Pirate Day! To shiver yer timbers, I be reviewin’ a pirate manga that also be fittin’ in ta da Movable Manga Feast this month. So grab yerself a bottle o’ rum ‘n find out about Wanted Arrrr…

In the Mediterranean at the end of the 17th century, former songstress Armeria disguises herself as a boy and boards the ship of the pirate Skulls–the man who kidnapped Luce, her first love. Captain Skulls is arrogant, violent, and a skirt chaser! And unfortunately for Armeria, he discovers she’s a woman…

By Matsuri Hino
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $8.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

My introduction to Hino’s work was through the serialization of her most current title Vampire Knight in Shojo Beat. I really didn’t care for it, so when this volume came out, I had little interest in it. But, curiosity got the better of me, and I picked it up. I am slightly surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did, but it is about as different from Vampire Knight as night is to day.

The thing I disliked most about Vampire Knight is the way drama oozed from every pore of every character. The characters in Wanted are the exact opposite. Armeria doesn’t just sit around bemoaning her loss or wait for Luce to come for her. She take the initiative, disguising herself as a man and joins different ships searching for the pirates that kidnapped him eight years ago. Armeria is spunky and headstrong. She is determined to remain on the ship with Skulls until she finds Luce, and she doesn’t let his barbs get her down.

Skulls, the pirate captain, tries to come off as a scoundrel and a ladies man, but he is essentially a good person. He saves Armeria several times, and only robs from nobles who take advantage of the people and then give the wealth back to them. He is like a pirate Robin Hood and his crew are his Merry Men. And it’s a motley crew of merry men at that. They are never formally introduced, but there are a few that are featured in the chapters. His first mate, Second, is a big, shirtless, bald black man who knows his captain all too well. Doc is an older man who like the father figure of the crew, and Fourth and Fifth, crewmen skilled in sailing and swordsmanship. The names aren’t very original, but they are all fun none the less.

There are three chapters about Armeria and Skulls, and a bonus chapter that takes place in Meiji Japan. I really enjoyed the pirate chapters. They were light and fun. There is swashbuckling, raiding, cannon fire, battles with the navy, and secret treasure; everything that makes pirate stories fun. I didn’t care so much for the bonus chapter. It has the same feel as the Wanted chapters, but it just didn’t work as well for me. It moved too fast for me to really believe it, though I did kind of like the characters.

The art is very Hino, with the girls having big eyes and the men all being bishonen. And the hair is everywhere. But I was fine with it in this volume. The characters were different and varied enough that it didn’t get on my nerves. It was to have a beard, dreadlocks and even no hair at all!

Wanted is a fun romp for a romantic pirate adventure. I liked the relationship between Arto (Armeria) and Skulls. I love that they are always at odds. Even though Skulls’ identity was pretty obvious, it’s reveal didn’t ruin the story. So matey, if ye be wantin’ some good pirate romance, be pickin’ up Wanted!

St. Dragon Girl Volumes 1-5: Manga Movable Feast

Momoka Sendou (nicknamed “Dragon Girl”) and Ryuga Kou are childhood friends. Momoka is a martial artist, and Ryuga is a Chinese magic master who banishes demons. In order to increase his power, Ryuga calls on the spirit of a dragon to possess him, but the spirit enters Momoka instead. Now the two must unite forces and fight demons together!

By Natsumi Matsumoto
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romance
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

St. Dragon Girl is a title that has two things going for it. Dragons and a couple that denies their feelings for each other. While the second thing is a bit of a trope for shojo titles, I can’t help having a soft spot for their kind of relationship; the childhood friends who tease, bait and strike back.

The female lead of this story, Momoka, has a lot of tomboy traits. Her father is the head of a kenpo dojo, so she is constantly practicing, and is even an instructor. She will take on anyone who threatens her friends, spirits and demons, and even teachers! But she has one weakness; pandas. Ever since she received a stuffed panda as gift from Ryuga, she has loved them, and Ryuga as well. Momoka knows how she feels about Ryuga, but doesn’t want to tell him, thinking he’ll tease her and not return her feelings.

Ryuga, the male lead, comes from a family of Chinese magic masters, and is gifted in the arts as well. He is often being asked to tell fortunes, perform prayers or make charms. Where Momoka is more gung-ho and charging into a situation without thinking, Ryuga is the calm, thoughtful one. He is always having to protect his cousin Shuran, a gifted psychic that demons are always coming after. He comes to Momoka’s rescue as well, usually when her thoughtless gets her in over her head. He is constantly teasing Momoka, which can get him a fist or kick to the face, but he can sometimes counter with his spell Paper Army Formation made up of pandas. Ryuga can be serious at times, letting slip little comments that can be interpreted as his having feelings for Momoka too, but he usually denies them, or changes their meaning by the end of the chapter, to keep her from learning the truth; that he really does love her too.

And since they continue to deny their feelings, this leaves rooms for rivals for their affections to step in. Momoka get the most, starting with Ryuga’s cousin Kouryu, who tries to kidnap Momoka and take her back to China. He’s arrogant and egotistical, and I still didn’t like him ever after the explanation of his back story. Touya is another boy who has a crush on Momoka, but turns out to have a deeper secret. He ends up hanging around though, as thorn in Ryuga side. Even Saint Dragon, the dragon possessing Momoka has him moment of infatuation, but it doesn’t last. It doesn’t stop Ryuga from still feeling jealous.

Ryuga has his suitors as well. Raika is a distant relative of Ryuga’s who wants to be his fiance. She ends up being friends with Momoka after she realizes the truth of Ryuga’s feelings for her. Akira is another new member of the Kendo club. She is a Onmyouji, as well as a competitor for Ryuga’s affections, though he doesn’t really acknowledge her beyond being a friend. She likes to use her magic to take over Momoka’s body and make it move to her will.

While I really like the ensemble of characters that have gathered through these five volumes, it’s the mythical creatures that keep appearing that really won me over. I love the dragons, and they are drawn so gorgeously and with such care! There’s also a phoenix that appears that is cute in human form, and beautiful in bird form, and a mermaid and cat demons. The variety of beasts is great and just as entertaining as the characters!

The stories are mostly stand alone at the beginning, and are fairly light. They mostly involve demons coming after Shuran, or school activities such as Kendo club or the school festival. As the series goes on though, it does start to get more serious and move into longer stories lasting more than one chapter, but Ryuga and Momoka’s relationship remains on the teeter-totter of admitting/denying their feelings.

St. Dragon Girl is a fairly light and fun romance. Matsumoto’s artwork is beautiful to look at (especially the dragons), and she uses a lot of great Chinese costuming, making the series another plus in my book. There is next to no drama, and the comedy is well-timed with the more serious moments. I can’t think of a single complaint I have about this series. Even the constant denial of the leads doesn’t bother me, but they have great chemistry, it wouldn’t matter to me if they ever got together or not. While the series is rated for teens, tweens will enjoy this series as well. Definitely read this series if you get the chance.

Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright Volume 1

Mystery and intrigue, crime and punishment, uncovering the truth–all in a day’s work for the ace defense attorney Phoenix Wright and his beautiful assistant Maya Fey. Based on the hit game series, Ace Attorney brings new adventures to the games’ colorful cast. Can Nick successfully swing the gavel of justice or will he be crushed by the weight of incriminating evidence?

Story by Kenji Kuroda; Art by Kazuo Maekawa
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Mystery
Price: $10.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

There’s not a lot of mystery manga available in English (unfortunately), so when a new series does come out, I like to check it out. Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright is based on a video game of the same name, and features many of the characters from it. It’s a decent police procedural, but the goofy characters, both in design and personality throws it off-kilter for me.

This first volume of Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright features one-and-two-thirds cases, which serve to introduce most of the characters. The first case has Nick defending his old friend from elementary school who doesn’t have the best luck with the ladies, as he is accused of murdering his new girlfriend’s old boyfriend. The second is much longer, and has Nick meeting a potential client, only to have the client killed in a locked room scenario.

Both stories are well written. The first takes place mostly in the court room, and uses several elements from the video game, including Nick’s “Objection!” pose. The comedy is played up more, particularly between Winston Payne, the prosecutor and Larry Butz, the defendant. In between there is murder and a woman scorned, but the impact of the case is lessened with the more comedic acts in the courtroom. The full impact doesn’t hit until the last page of the story. The second mystery takes itself much more seriously, possibly since it doesn’t take place in the courtroom, and Nick can be more of the detective than attorney. A lot of time is spent setting up the scene and the suspects, with the actual crime not happening until the end of the volume. It’s a good cliffhanger to get the reader back to find out more.

The art is on the cartoonish side, but most of this is because of the source material. The characters all look like their video game counterparts, which does sometimes swing on the silly side. Nick’s hair looks like it was blown back by a hurricane and stuck like that permanently. Larry always looks good with big red cheeks and a lot of cartoonish expressions. I know this can’t be helped as it is the way they characters were designed for the video game, but the whole look didn’t work as well as a manga for me.

I did enjoy the mysteries presented in this first volume of Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright, but I’m still on the fence about getting more. If it were available digitally, I wouldn’t be so hesitant since it wouldn’t take up precious shelf space. For now, Ace Attorney Phoenix Wright will have to sit on the back burner unless I get a craving for some more mysteries.

Bakuman Volume 12-13

Moritaka and Akito’s newest series Perfect Crime Party does well enough that they can start working on other things, such as beating their rivals. But some unexpected news sends them back to try to come up with a second series. But as each of them works on their specific talents individually, will it break up the team of Muto Ashirogi?

Story by Tsugumi Ohba; Art by Takeshi Obata
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★½

Now that Moritaka and Akito have a series running in Jump again, the story can go back to their personal lives, as well as those of their rivals and assistants. While I do enjoy seeing process of making a successful manga through Moritaka and Akito, I’ve really come to like the other manga artists and assistants, and I do enjoy seeing what’s going on with their lives and titles.

The artist we see the life most of in these two volumes is Shun Shiratori. He is an assistant to Moritaka and Akito. His mother, who wears the pants in the family, doesn’t approve of Shun working on manga, so he runs away so he can work on creating his own title. Moritaka and Akito get involved to the point that Akito ends as the writer for Shun’s manga. There is a lot of drama created from this, not just from Shun’s family life, but also between Akito, and Moritaka and Kaya. It all comes down to a simple lack of communication, and Akito is so clueless that he doesn’t see what he’s doing to Moritaka and Kaya. A few words could have avoided the whole situation, but would have made the volumes just a little less dramatic and a lot shorter. Though I think it was Akito who deserved the punch more than Moritaka.

Hiramaru has always been fun to follow. Like, Eiji, he is a “genius” creator, but hates the work, so he is always trying to get out of it. His editor is constantly having to trick or bribe him into getting his chapters done. It’s a lot of fun to see how his editor is going to manipulate him. One way he does this is by using Hiramaru’s feelings for Miss Aoki. Promises of helping him get through afternoon tea with her gets Hiramaru to write a romantic one shot that becomes popular enough to submit for serialization, but when the day finally comes Hiramaru turns the tables on his editor and meets Miss Aoki alone. The ensuing chase is really funny, and when he finally decides to confess his feelings to Aoki, it’s great to see Fukuda, Moritaka, Akito and Kaya show up to cheer him on.

I also enjoyed seeing Eiji finally create a manga that isn’t a hit. His attempt at a romance doesn’t break the top 5. It was good to see him finally feel what it’s like, even if it was only for a one shot. Another thing I like about Bakuman, is the teasers for titles we get to see. Moritaka’s romantic one-shot looked cute, and Hiramaru’s romantic one-shot looked very funny. An entry for a contest that Akito and Moritaka are judging is shown at some length, Classroom of Truth, and is a title I would really like to read! It’s really too bad so many of these will never really be serialized.

I haven’t gotten tired of Bakuman yet. Ohba does a great job of keeping the story fresh, and balancing between the manga creation process and the lives of the artists. Just concentrating on one or the other too much would ruin the charm.

Review copies provided by publisher.