Tag Archives: teen

Gate 7 Volume 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rin-ne Volume 8-9

Rinne once again has his hands full as he has to take care of the young Shinigami Shoma during the boy’s homestay, but if Masato the demon has anything thing to do about it, it won’t be easy. Tsubasa’s failure to exorcise the evil spirit of a beautiful girl brings him more misfortune, and as usual, it’s up to Rinne to bale him out.

By Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I kind of took a short break from Rin-ne, ie, I stopped reading the chapters online. The series has been all hit or miss for me, but since I’ve enjoyed so much of Takahashi’s work, I want to keep giving the series another chance. So when these two latest volumes became available for review, I decided to give the series another go.

Nothing has really changed. Rinne is still helping spirits to the afterlife, pining for Sakura and being dirt poor. He’s also still fending off Ageha’s advances and battling Tsubasa for Sakura’s affections. The demon Masato still tries to make Rinne’s life hell with more debt, and his father continues to try to take the souls of his classmates. The stories are still hit and miss. The “being poor” jokes still rub me the wrong way. Rinne taking Shoma to eat bread crumbs thrown by an old man for the birds or hoping that Home Ec doesn’t work out so he can have all the burnt food doesn’t strike me as funny, just sad. But I did like the story of the “magic square” (the kotatsu) as well as Sakura learning to knit to try to lure out the strangling scarf.

One thing I have come to realize is that the Shinigami are big on gadgets; devices that help them move spirits to the afterlife. Rokumon is always popping up with some strange gadget that usually helps Rinne with problem spirits. The Demon-Tool-Cutting-Shears, the Ghost Trap Box, the Tsukumogami Net and Capturing Bolas, the Childhood Channeling Balloon, the Splitting Incense, and the Single Use Spirit Path all come in handy as Rinne takes on a Tsukumogami, helps a boy give peace to a childhood friend, and tries to stop the misguided Shoma from helping Masato. I’ve come to like the gadgets. Some of them seem obvious, but others, like the Childhood Channeling Balloon and the Single Use Spirit Path are clever.

When I first started reading Rin-ne, I couldn’t help comparing it to Takahashi’s earlier series Urusei Yatsura. The more I read, the more the comparison seems to fit. Like UY, Rin-ne is  a gag manga. It’s got its cast of characters, its running jokes (Rinne’s financial situation, Tsubasa’s failure to exorcise anything), and its out-of-the-ordinary situation (the supernatural). When you think it about it, there are too many parallels to be a coincidence. This series is the UY for a new generation, but much more toned down. It has all the wackiness and comedy of its predecesor without the sheer insanity that was UY. Whether that is good or bad is anyone’s guess. I don’t think I’ll every love Rinne, but I guess I do have to admit to liking it enough to read it, just not keep it.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan Vol 8 and Bakuman Vol 10

Two very different volumes are featured in this Shonen Jump edition of Mini Musings. We complete a trip to the past in Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan, while Moritaka and Akito fight for their future in Shonen Jump in Bakuman. But only one of these titles gets my recommendation. Read on to find out which.

Continue reading Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan Vol 8 and Bakuman Vol 10

Hana-Kimi Volumes 1-3

Mizuki Ashiya is no slouch when it comes to a challenge. She’s a star of track and field at her high school, after all. So When she falls for fellow athlete Izumi Sano, she figures out an ingenious plan to get close to him. Now she’s moved to Japan, enrolled in the all-male high school Sano goes to, and becomes his roommate! How? She’s disguised herself as a boy! Whatever happens next, things are about to get seriously complicated!

By Hisaya Nakajo
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Romantic comedy
Price: $14.99
Rating: ★★★★★

I’ve tended to avoid gender-bending, or cross-dressing titles, because on the whole, they haven’t sounded interesting to me. A girl dressing up as a boy to go to the all-male school where her ideal mate goes seems prime for lots of comedy and hi-jinx, just not the type that I enjoy. Hana-Kimi really surprised me. It plays the comedy aspect well, but it’s not the focus of the story. It’s really about the characters and the love triangle the is created by Mizuki’s presence.

I really liked the characters in this story. Mizuki Ashiya is very earnest about just wanting to see Izumi Sano do the high jump in person. She isn’t clumsy or dizty, though she does get a little emotional for the boy she’s supposed to be. I liked that she didn’t go into this already having feelings for Sano, and that her feelings grow slowly from wanting to be friends with him to wanting to always be with him. It was a very natural progression. It’s obvious that Mizuki thought things through before coming to the school and had reasons why she couldn’t do some things, like swimming, so her excuses didn’t sound half-hazard or unlikely.

Izumi Sano is the sullen, quiet type. It takes some time for him to warm up to Mizuki, and then he figures out she’s a girl, and things take a turn for him. He doesn’t turn her in, but instead starts to work at doing the high jump again. He almost never lets on to her that he knows, but he becomes very protective of her. I like how he continues to relate to her like she’s a boy, but inside has to struggle with his own growing feelings for her. Shoichi Nakatsu is very much the comedy relief and third side to this love triangle, even if he doesn’t completely realize it yet. He was immediately attracted to Mizuki, but has not idea that “he” is a she. He feels a lot of confusion over it, and even starts to wonder if he might not be gay. This struggle is handled humorously, and made more funny to the reader because we know he’s not.

Rounding out the supporting cast is Doctor Umeda, who works in the school infirmary and really is a gay man. He knows Mizuki’s secret, as does his sister, Io, both of whom have promised to keep it. Minami Nanba, Mizuki’s Dorm R.A., is Umeda’s nephew and a ladies man who doesn’t know her secret. Kagurazaka is Sano’s rival in the high jump, and starts out being very obnoxious, but turns out to be not so bad, just very needling. I really like the entire cast of the series. They are all fun and interesting to follow.

The many of the stories are typical of a cross-dressing and high school title. Mizuki is constantly getting into situations where she could be found out, such as with Doctor Umeda and her brother coming to visit her. She is bullied for becoming the school’s new “idol”, and is asked for advise by a potential rival for Sano’s affection. But despite how common place a lot of the story lines have become, they didn’t feel that way here. I enjoyed all of the chapters, probably because there isn’t a lot going that seems unreasonable or over the top. So many of the characters reactions seem plausible and reasonable that it’s easy to believe they could happen. Nakatsu thinking he gay for being attracted to Mizuki, other people thinking Sano is gay for his overprotectiveness towards Mizuki after he learns her secret. Io pointing out to Mizuki she’s not going to be able to keep the charade for long as body matures. These things gave the story a ring of reality to it, making it so much more enjoy.

I found Hana-Kimi to a charming series so far. I really enjoyed the characters and the stories were fun, and for the most part, light. It does have its serious moments, and towards the end the of third volume it got a little dramatic, but not enough to change the tone of the series. The humor still prevails overall. I also liked how the issues of homosexuality were used and portrayed. It isn’t ignored or glossed over. Mizuki gets very upset when some boys say Sano must be for like her, and Dr. Umeda is very open and honest about his preference. The characters reactions rang true to me. I hope Viz continues to put out these omnibus editions. It was easy to hold and read and it a great price point. I can’t wait for the next volume!

Black Gate Volume 1-3

Senju is a “Mitedamashi,” an agent with the power to summon or seal Gates, and save people’s souls. He is a guardian to Hijiri, a boy whose life he once saved. After Hijiri discovers his own hidden powers, he begins a journey of self-discovery where the distant past comes back to haunt him and his choices determine life and death, not only for those he cares about, but the whole world!

By Yukiko Sumiyoshi
Publisher: Tokyopop
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Fantasy
Price: $19.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆

When I got Black Gate, I didn’t know anything about it other than it was a series about the supernatural, so it was an easy book to put off. But seeing it take up the space of three potential volumes, I decided to dust it off and see if it deserved that bookshelf space. While it’s not a bad series, it does take some turns, especially that the end that doesn’t make it deserving to remain on my limited bookshelf.

This series is about Hijiri, the son and last living Gate Keeper, a person born with the ability to open or close the gates that draw people’s souls out of this world and into another. His family was killed on the same day he was born, and he has been raised by Senju, a Mitedamashi, a person with the power to see these gates, and is tasked with closing the Black Gates, gates that take souls forcefully rather than waiting for the person to die. The first volume is all about the world building and introducing Hijiri and guardian Senju. The second volume follows Hijiri as he attempts to make a life for himself as a Mitedamashi, and the friends he makes along the way. The third volume has Hijiri confronting his past and facing his destiny.

I didn’t like Hijiri or Senju right off the bat. Hijiri was a brat, intent on doing whatever he wanted, and Senju was a jerk right back to him. Hijiri does mature some mentally, if not physically, as the story goes on. Of much more interest to me where Tsurugi, and Michitate, cousins who belong to a group tasked with protecting the Gate Keepers, as well as Michitate’s half-brother Michizane, a Mitedamashi that Hijiri wants as his partner. Tsuguri is the happy-go-lucky type that hides a tragic past, and Michitate is the quiet, serious type who hates Michizane, who is the loner type. While rather stereotypical, they were more interesting than Hijiri’s big talk and Senju’s weighted guilt.

The title itself is about death and how people deal with it. The whole tragedy of Hijiri and the end of the Gate Keepers begins with the desire of normal humans to have the gates closed permanently, so there is no more death. Throughout the story, there are examples of fear of death, and dealing the loss of a loved one, and how the promise of returning them to life can turn friend into foe. While the presentation of these ideas were mildly interesting, I didn’t like answers that came from them, especially for Hijiri. What Hiriji believed was right, but caved in the end. And Senju, for all the death he caused in the name of revenge, certainly didn’t deserve the second chance he got. Hijiri would have been better off with his real friends, who we see drift away with time.

Black Gate had potential, but it got lost somewhere along the way. While there were moments that I liked, mostly in the first volume, the ending trumped any of these good moments by giving a happy ending to the most undeserving. I don’t think it’s message was a good one. We should do all we can to keep our loved ones alive, but not at the cost of someone else, and we should learn when to let go. This title didn’t do that, as a result committed a real injustice to its readers.

Manga Wrap Up Week Seventeen: Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning Volume 11-15

I had finished reading Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning a few weeks ago actually, but I’ve been distracted by other things lately (Manga Movable Feast, National Pet Month, etc.) But now that those are over with, I can finally sit down and finish this series up. Spiral turned out to be nothing like I had hoped it would be, and the ending just continues that trend. I found the ending disappointing in a lot of ways.

With these last five volumes Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning is complete. The final arc, Hizumi, acts as a kind of “answers” arc. Who and what the “Blade Children” are is explained, as well as Kiyotama and Ayumu’s relationship to them. I didn’t like the implications that were made with the explanation, as it went into the realm of the supernatural. This series, as even by its title own admission, is based in reality and reasoning, not appealing to the supernatural to explain itself. The answers that come lately work just fine, and don’t need a creator/destroyer god/demon. The author Shirodaira tries to explain why he went down this path, but it’s a weak justification.

Just as weak is Ayumu’s sudden “enlightenment.” We are supposed to believe that after 10 volumes, that Ayumu’s deductive reasoning kicks into high gear and he is able to figure out EVERYTHING, so nothing is a surprise, and he can’t be plunged deeper into despair, as per his brother’s plan. I suppose, after all that he’s gone through in those 10 volumes, he might be more focused, but it got real boring after a while, when someone would make some revelation, and Ayumu’s reaction is just “I already knew that.” It made so much of these last volumes anticlimactic. Much like the final confrontation. It left me thinking not only “That’s it?” but also “What just happened?” Ayumu and Kiyotaka obviously understood why their exchange had to end that way. Too bad they couldn’t be bothered to share it with the reader.

By the end of this series, I really didn’t like Kiyotaka, and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to or not. He caused a lot of pain and suffering, but it seems that he also really wanted to help the Blade Children. I still don’t know if he was good or bad, or even something in between. But really, it doesn’t matter either. No matter what his intentions were, he caused a lot of harm, and then essentially gets off scot-free and return to his life while Ayumu suffers a slow and painful end completely out of his control. Does he get this because he’s “God?” I thought it was just wrong, and it made the ending suffer all the more.

I wanted to like Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning. The title and the first few volumes were full of promise, but it went off in an entirely different direction than I would have liked. Even the title turned out to be misleading. In his end notes of the last volume Shirodaira couldn’t justify “The Bonds of Reasoning” subtitle of the series. That was really disappointing to learn. At least the first part of the title was worked in reasonably well. Spiral might not make a bad thriller, but it should have started out that way, and not set up false expectations. If you go in NOT expecting the murder mystery series it starts out seeming as, you might enjoy it more. In the end, I didn’t.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do for next week. I still have series’ to read, but I also have still more review copies to get through. I’m thinking of going through more of that pile before returning to the Manga Wrap Up. I was pleasantly surprised by the last title I read, and am actually looking forward to trying out some more.

  • Sprial: The Bonds of Reasoning Volume 11-15
  • Free Collars Kindom Volume 1-3
  • Chi’s Sweet Home Volume 5-8
  • Drops of God Volume 3
  • Bamboo Blade Volume 8-13
  • Hana Kimi Omnibus Volume 1
  • Shonen Jump Alpha Feb 7-Mar 6, 2012

Oishinbo A la Carte Volume 1: Japanese Cuisine: Manga Movable Feast

Japanese Cuisine introduces us to the fundamental ingredients–rice, sashimi, green tea, and dashi (cooking stock)–that constitute the soul of the Japanese kitchen. In each story we learn about the proper preparation and presentation of different dishes, as well as their history and cultural significance. The result is a moveable feast of a book, as informative as it is engaging.

Continue reading Oishinbo A la Carte Volume 1: Japanese Cuisine: Manga Movable Feast

Manga Wrap Up Week Sixteen: Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning Volume 6-10

It’s been quite the jugglefest for me lately. I’ve read 5 volumes of Spiral, finished Black Gate (review coming soon), and started The Drops of God volume 3 for the MMF next week all this week. I’m actually shocked I got so much done! I guess not going out to lunch everyday with co-workers helps productivity a little bit. But those days are over for a while, so I should be able to get though more volumes. It would be so much nicer if my work didn’t block Jmanga.com so I could read more of my digital manga. The website filter has it marked “sexual.” Not what I want to read though!!!!

Anyway, on to Spiral: Bonds of Reasoning. I really enjoyed the first five volumes of this series. At the beginning, it seemed like the series would be another “boy detective” series. Narumi had everything; the seemingly impossible cases, the mind to pick up the clues and put them together, and ever the catch phrase when he had solved the crime! “So this is the melody of the truth…” I was really looking forward to more mysteries being solved and more information about the Blade Children being revealed. Instead, volumes 6-10 start what the author calls the “Kanon Hilbert” arc. It’s basically about a boy, one of the Blade Children, Kanon Hilbert, coming to Tsukiomi High. He has been trained from a very young age to be a killer. And now, he has come to kill all the Blade Children, most of whom also just happen to go to Tsukiomi High.

I really didn’t enjoy this arc as much as the introductory one. There isn’t any mystery going on other than the Blade Children main mystery, but nothing is done with that either. The first three volumes are mostly about Kanon going around trying to kill Eyes and Rio, Kousuke and Ryoko following Kanon, and Ayumu whining about how he’s just his older brother’s puppet, just like everyone else. Rio, Kousuke, and Ryoko plot ways to try to stop Kanon, and Ayumu has to decide who’s side he’s going to take. The last two volumes is the extended battle that is all just a set up to get Ayumu to “mature.” Kanon believes that Ayumu has to kill him, and initially so do the others. It’s up to Ayumu, with prodding from Hiyono to use his reasoning power to find another way.

These volumes have a lot of long, drawn out talking scenes punctuated by short fight scenes. Even the final battle has to be narrated by Rio to explain Ayumu’s reasoning to the reader. It really pulls the reader out of the action and dulls the whole thing greatly. The author, Shirodaira, admits that there is too much talking going on, but then tries to defend it by saying it’s still a mystery since reasoning is being used. But that isn’t all that there is to a mystery. It’s a sense of not knowing the answer and searching for the clues to find it, and putting the pieces together. Yes, you do need reason to do that, but that can’t be relied on exclusively. These five volumes were all one big lead up to Ayumu’s solution at the end, but by the time it got there, I really didn’t care anymore. The series had nearly lost me, and if I had been reading this as it came out it probably would have. But the end of volume 10 started hinting at giving some answers to who or what the Blade Children are, and for that reason alone, I will continue with the series. I haven’t lost my curiosity about the mystery of the Blade Children, but for a while there it sure felt like the author did.

For next week I’ll finish up Spiral volumes 11-15, and then I think I’ll dig more into my growing TBR pile. I still want to read some pet manga, and Free Collars Kingdom is sitting high on the list since it’s only 3 volumes. But I’m also 4 volumes behind on Chi’s Sweet Home, and those are quick reads. I guess I’ve got my lunch time reading set. I still need to finish The Drops of God volume 3 for the next Manga Movable Feast as well. I’m kind of seeing where the excitement for the series is coming from, but my lack of interest in wine is keeping me from reaching that level. I’ve already read the first volume of Oishinbo, the real focus of the MMF, but since any food manga is welcome, and I had a volume of The Drops of God to available, I decided I had to try it.

  • Sprial: The Bonds of Reasoning Volume 6-10
  • Black Gate Volume 3

Manga Wrap Up Week Thirteen: Antique Gift Shop 1-10

Wow, how oddly appropriate that I not only have week 13 of my Manga Wrap Up happen during a week with a Friday the 13th in it, but the title I read also dealt with bad luck and curses. I didn’t think I would get through all ten volumes of Antique Gift Shop in one week. I thought I would have to break it up over two weeks. But it proved to be a hard title to put down, even if I didn’t enjoy it all that much.

The Antique Gift Shop is about a girl named Bun-Nyuh Cho. She is the owner of said shop. In order to escape her destiny of becoming a shaman, she must sell all the antiques from her grandmother. She has one employee, Mr. Yang, a bishie beyond belief. Bun-Nyuh doesn’t believe in the supernatural despite being good at telling fortunes and being able to see and hear spirits of the dead. She does believe in science and money. Because of her denial, she doesn’t realize that all of the antiques in her shop are haunted. Mr. Yang does seem to know this, as he is always ready with some cryptic words to help sell an item, and is always around to help those he’s sold items to, in order to help them out of whatever jam the spirit has caused.

While this series is supposed to be about Bun-Nyuh, she doesn’t actually do a lot, especially at the beginning. It is part-time employee Mr. Yang that does most of the sales and is involved with the antiques. Bun-Nyuh spends all of her time whining about having to sell the antiques, about how the store never makes any money and that the antiques always come back. She really is an annoying lead, and what probably makes the series readable is that she doesn’t appear all that often. But I can’t entirely blame her for her attitude. She has basically been deceived her entire life. Her grandmother, who essentially raised her since her own mother went insane never told her the truth of why she is destined to be a shaman, or why she has to sell all the antiques, or even who Mr. Yang is. After an incident when she was young, her grandmother basically deserts her in Seoul until three days later when a missionary friend of the grandmother tries to take her in.

This series has a bit in common with Petshop of Horrors, with stories that show the antiques either helping or avenging their owners. But it doesn’t pull off the irreverence that Petshop of Horrors had. It doesn’t have that “gotcha” feeling, and the humor falls flat for me more often than not. It did have some good chapters. “The Fox Lantern”, and “The Four Posts of Fate” are stories that I enjoyed. The final chapter “Door”, has some good drama as well as a nice resolution for the antique. Otherwise most of the other chapters were hit or miss for me. I’m glad I read this series, it’s just not a keeper.

Due to some damage to some of the books, I won’t be giving this series to the library, but will be trading them instead. This next week I’m going to start on The Wallflower from Del Rey Manga. I have the first 15 volumes and haven’t read a page of it yet. I am familiar with it since I’ve seen some of the anime, which is what prompted me to check out the series in the first place. I’ll decide after I read it as to its fate. I’ll also be preparing for the MMF next week, which is on the Viz Signature line. I’ve already read (and re-read) two volumes I will definitely review, and I hope to have time to squeeze a third.

  • The Antique Gift Shop Volume 1-10
  • Dorohedoro Volume 1
  • Bokurano Ours Volume 1

 

Manga Wrap Up Week Six

This week I didn’t work on any particular series. I said it was because I wanted to catch up on some newer review copies, but really, I couldn’t decide what series I wanted to to work on next. I thought I would be making some room on my review copy shelf, and I will be moving 3 volumes off my shelf, and on to my younger daughter’s shelf. Another 5 may be moving on my keep shelf, with another 3 to add to them.

First, I read a trilogy of Pokemon movie adaptations. The Rise of Darkrai, Giratina and the Sky Warrior, and Arceus and the Jewel of Life are movies 10-12 in the Pokemon universe. I will be doing a full review of them for Good Comics for Kids. I first read The Rise of Darkrai, and then I got Arceus, and noticed it referenced back to Darkrai, and a title I didn’t have yet, Giratina. So I traded for Giratina and finally read all three volumes. Since I’m doing a full review of these volumes, I’ll just say that like all trilogies, the middle volume was the weakest.

I finished up Pokemon quickly and moved on to a shojo series from Viz. I’ve had St. Dragon Girl volume 1-5 for a while, and had started on the first two volumes, but kept getting distracted. I finally decided to finish the volumes I have. I think this series is going to be another keeper. It’s only 8 volumes total (unless Viz licenses the sequel series), and it’s filled with beautifully drawn dragons. That alone is enough for me to want to keep on my shelf. I’m going to give this series a dedicated review in the near future.

Since the Osamu Tezuka Manga Movable Feast is next week, I’m going to try and read and review two titles that I’ve gotten recently. I liked the preview chapter of Princess Knight that was run in Shojo Beat issue 25, back in July 2007, so I’m looking forward to reading the whole series. I’m also going to give Apollo’s Song another try. I couldn’t get anywhere with my last attempt at writing a review. Maybe I’ll do better this time, with another reading.

I’ve already pulled more books, so next week I’ll be getting back on track with my cleaning up titles. I’ve already filled up my box, so it may be time for another trip to the library soon.

  • Pokemon: The Rise of Darkrai
  • Pokemon Giratina and the Sky Warrior
  • Pokemon: Arceus adn the Jewel of Life
  • St. Dragon Girl Volumes 3-5

Manga Wrap Up Week Five: Chibi Vampire

January has come and gone, and I have completed my next series. Chibi Vampire was one of Tokyopop’s moderate successes. At least it usually hit the top 10 when a new volume came out. I originally picked it up because I liked the premise; a vampire that gave blood instead of taking it. I read the first 7 volumes and then got distracted. Volume 7 was the end of an arc, so it was at least a good place to stop.

Volume 8 starts a new arc, focusing the vampires of Japan and the truth behind Karin’s blood loss. The story continues with the lightness of the last previous volumes. Karin and Kenta have worked out their issues and are trying to be a normal High School couple. But the appearance of a half human/half vampire, and Anju’s early awakening throw more emotional obstacles in their path. Still they find a way to keep going. Finally, the truth behind Karin’s blood loss is revealed and she is kidnapped by another vampire clan, prompting the Markers and Kenta to work together to get Karin back safe.

Chibi Vampire gets to join the growing list of titles that has brought me to tears. Karin and Kenta’s relationship continues to have its ups and downs, with misunderstandings causing most of them. But now that they’ve confessed their feelings for each other, they aren’t as big, or last as long. The story of the vampires and their plight is the more compelling part of this arc. In these back volumes we learn why the vampires left Europe and how they arrived in Japan. We also see how James and Elda got together and Caldera’s family. I liked how things set up in earlier volumes do return and become important in these later volumes. The lack of vampire children is only mentioned in volume 5, but then becomes the reason for so much more.

I absolutely love all the other characters in this series. They are fun and funny most of the time. But when things get serious, they really know how to get down to business. Henry, who seems to be a buffoon as he is dominated by his wife Caldera and such a doting father becomes a serious threat after Karin is taken. He is ready to give up everything, including his life to get Karin back. Everyone in Karin’s family is ready and willing do anything to protect her. Anju, her younger sister, fights sleeping during the day to use her bats to watch over her. Even Caldera, her domineering mother and Ren, her playboy older brother, both of who seem more annoyed with Karin are ready to fight to get her back. That’s what makes the end of this series so heartbreaking.

I’m really glad I didn’t read the last volume at work. I hate trying to explain to co-workers why I’m crying over essentially a comic book. But dammit, the twist at the end of this series, I SO WASN’T expecting it and it got me straight in the heart. And that’s one of the things that makes this such a good series. You get to know the characters so well, that anything that happens to them affects you as well. Even though what happened may have been in Karin’s best interest, it was so hard to see. I think Tokyopop really did this series a disservice by changing its name. It was originally called Karin, and should have stayed that way. It was all about her. The story was done well enough that I think it would have done just as well without the gimmicky name that really had nothing to do with the story.

I was going to donate this title to my local library, but now I’m not so sure. I really enjoyed it, quirky characters and all. It really hit an emotional bone in me. I may have to rethink things. Since I burned through these volumes so fast, I then read the last two volumes of Zombie Loan. It left me scratching my head, wondering where that ending came from. The story takes a serious left turn at the end, though maybe it wouldn’t be as confusing if I’d read volumes 3-8, but somehow I don’t think so. Full review to follow soon.

I’m not sure what I’m going to read next. Looking at my review pile, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to get through some of those first before going back to my full series catch ups. I do try to balance not only between personal and review books, but also between publishers. I’m looking at doing some more Viz, as Yen and Vertical have been getting the lion’s share of dedicated reviews. Check back next week to see what I decide on.

  • Chibi Vampire 8-14
  • Zombie Loan 12-13

Manga Wrap Up Week Four: Black Cat

Here we are at week four of the great Manga Wrap Up, and thanks to being sick on Monday, I was able to get through four volumes of the next series I’ve decided to finish, Black Cat. I was off by how many volumes I had to read. I thought I had to start at volume 14, but I actually had to go back to volume 10 to find anything I remembered, so the extra time came in good use, but the being sick sucked.

Black Cat is about Train Heartnet, a former Chonos assassin who gives up his life of killing turns Sweeper, or bounty hunter. His weapon of choice is a gun that he can make fast and impossible shots with. His partner, Sven Vollfied, a former IBI agent also turned Sweeper. He possesses a “Vision Eye” that allows him to see a few seconds into the future, and makes all kinds of gagdets to help them catch their quarry. Joining them is Eve, a young girl whose body is filled with nanites that she can control and transform into any kind of weapon. She was created as an ultimate weapon, until Train and Sven freed her. Now, she travels with them, wanting to be a Sweeper as well. Train’s past comes back to haunt him in the form of Creed Diskenth, also a former Chonos assassin who want Train to join him in taking over the world, along with his revolutionary group, Apostles of the Stars.

I really enjoyed reading the back half of this series. All of the introductory of plot and important characters was done and it could get straight to the problem at hand; stopping Creed. One of the things I really like about Black Cat is that it doesn’t have a bunch of multiple arcs with multiple big bosses to beat. Through the 20 volumes there is only Creed and his minions. That isn’t to say that there aren’t obstacles, but the series doesn’t have to be a series of battles, powers up and more battles that I’ve started to grow tired of in shonen manga. Train only gets one major power up throughout the series, and it’s just at the half way point. He’s already strong enough, and smart enough, to take on all of Creed’s lieutenants. He only needs the power up to stop Creed, and even then, he still has aces to pull out of his sleeve before resorting to that power up to finally defeat Creed.

The story is tightly written. Once Train and his friends decide to go after Creed once and for all, the story is dedicated to following that path. The characters, which have seen some growth up to now, really come into their own in not only prepare for the battle, but in accepting who they are the path they have chosen. Sven finally accepts his “Vision Eye” as his own, and not just a gift from a friend. Eve grows not just in her ability to transform herself, but also accepts the path of protecting instead of just killing. And Train throws away the ideas of revenge and decides to take Creed alive so he can pay for his crimes. And along the way, as they battle the Apostles of the Stars, our heroes are able to reach out to the misguided members and show them there is another way to live.

These back volumes also give us more of Train’s past, as we learn about what happened to Saya, the Sweeper that pushed Train off the assassin path, and there’s even a bonus story that shows how Train and Sven met and became partners. The final volume ties up loose ends nicely as we get a glimpse of where our heroes, and villains, are a few years into the future, and things seem to be looking well everyone. It’s a happy ending, and not at all forced.

Yabuki called this series “Part 1″, implying that there would/could be more stories with these characters. I really hope so. He created a great bunch, and I would love to read more about them. I especially liked Train, with all of his cat-like traits, and his love of milk is really cute. Yabuki has a great sense of humor that borders on wicked. I loved one scene when they are attacking Creed’s hideout, and Eve uses a new attack that renders the guards….naked. The strategic positioning of some cats was hilarious! Black Cat is a series I may have second thoughts about giving away.

Since I finished up Black Cat so quickly, I decided to keep with the “Black” theme and also finished off Black Jack by reading the last two volumes. I’ll be doing a full review of these two volumes, but let me just say I felt these were the weakest of all the volumes I’ve read. Not bad, just not as good.

  • Black Cat volume 11-20
  • Black Jack volume 16-17

Next up is Chibi Vampire. I know I stopped on volume 7 on this series, so I only have seven more to go. If time permits, I will finish up another series, though not one I’ve been reading regularly, Zombie Loan.