Tag Archives: teen

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.

Genkaku Picasso Volume 1: Manga Movable Feast

Hikari Hamura, nicknamed Picasso because of his natural artistic abilities, survived a horrible accident, but his friend Chiaki wasn’t so lucky. Suddenly, Chiaki appears in front of him and tells him in order to keep living he must help the people around him. Can Hikari save people with his sketchbook and a 2B pencil?

By Usamaru Furuya
Publisher: Viz Media – Shonen Jump
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Supernatural/Mystery
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★★★

I read the first chapter of this series when it was previewed in Shonen Jump. While I liked it, I didn’t run out and buy the first volume when it came out. It wasn’t a “must have” at the time. But with an MMF coming up featuring Usamaru Furuya, I thought Genkaku Picasso would be the most accessible of his available titles. I definitely enjoyed the full volume more than the just the first chapter. There is some dark imagery, but it is balanced with plenty of light moments and a bright resolution for all the people Hikari and Chiaki help.

What makes Genkaku Picasso work so well are its characters. Furuya has created a quirky lead with a cast of characters to match. Hikari Hamura, aka Picasso, so named for a spelling error and his love of drawing, is a fun yet endearing lead. He is a bit of an introvert, and reacts with some hostility to his classmates. He has a nervous habit of chewing on his thumbnail, but has a real talent for art and greatly admires Leonardo Da Vinci. His only real friend is Chiaki, a childhood friend who likes to read while Picasso draws by the riverside. We don’t get to know Chiaki too well, as she is killed in the first few pages, but their bond of friendship is strong. Chiaki cares for Picasso, but not romantically so. She seems more like a big sister than a love interest.

Picasso beings to develop a circle of friends as he starts helping his classmates. The first classmate he helps is Sugiura, a popular boy who liked to tease Picasso, but after his help becomes more friendly with him. Akane, the girl Picasso helps next, not only becomes his friend, but also develops a sort-of crush on him. Of course, Picasso isn’t too happy about this change, but he seems to accept it, as Sugiura and Akane start eating lunch with him, and are usually the ones who take him to the Infirmary when he dives into a picture and can’t move or speak.

The pictures that Picasso draws of his classmate’s hearts are often dark, and sometimes disturbing. Though, the images can also be misleading. Manba’s picture wasn’t of anything he desired, but rose from his concern for Kotone, who he also has a crush on. Akane’s picture I found to be the most disturbing, but that has more to do with my love of animals. I can’t believe any animal would be treated like that for any reason. Anyway, the chapter still has a good ending, but it’s one I can’t read over.

The darker imagery is balanced by the more light-hearted moments, most of which are at Picasso’s expense. His inability to interact with his classmates, which often results in him asking blunt, inappropriate or completely off base questions based on the pictures he draws puts him into a lot of awkward situations. I don’t usually like seeing characters in awkward situations, but Picasso causes his own problems. One scene that particularly struck me was after helping Sugiura, he felt happy that he could help someone, and then immediately felt down because he was going to have to do it again. It’s these short, quick moments that are true to the character that make them funny rather than some attempt at humor.

I admit to being a bit put-off by the art at first,especially Picasso’s lips. It looked like he was wearing lipstick, and it bothered me. But once I got past that I could better appreciate Furuya’s work. Picasso’s “heart” sketches are great, and I really liked the detail he put into Picasso’s practice sketches. It really shows his potential, and makes his “heart” sketches that more believable.

Genkaku Picasso is different from other shonen titles but in a good way. The characters are odd but entertaining, and watching their interactions so far has been fun. The problems Picasso and Chiaki have to solve are realistic and different from the usual teen problems that other manga tend to focus on. It’s this difference that really makes Genkaku Picasso stand out. I will definitely be picking up the other two volumes of this series.

Manga Wrap-Up Week Three: Bizenghast

Three weeks into the new year and I’ve wrapped up my second series. Bizenghast is an eight volume series that was among Tokyopop’s first original titles, and was also the longest. I first discovered it when Tokyopop ran the first few chapters online. It’s a fantasy mystery series about a young girl, Dinah, who lost her parent when she was young. With her only friend Vincent, she discovers the Mausoleum, and accidentally enters into a contract with it, and must solve riddles to free trapped spirits. It’s a coming of age story for Dinah as she learns to live again and starts to become someone who can rely on herself. Both the story and the art are uneven, especially at the beginning, but improve as the story goes on. The improvement in the art is very telling, especially in the last volumes.

I enjoyed watching Dinah’s journey overall, but did have some problems with it. It felt rushed at times and dragged at others. I would have liked to have seem more about Bizenghast’s past more in the first volumes, so that it doesn’t seem like a thrown on after thought at the end. I also didn’t really care for the way Vincent’s fate was handled. It was too abrupt and passed over too quickly to really make an impact. Despite these problems, the characters really make this series shine. The first guardian Dinah gains is Edaniel, and some of his lines and antics can make a volume worth the read. He is usually seen as a demon cat, but in human form is a total bishie. I prefer his cat form. He makes a lot of pop culture references, but it was the Mythbusters one that not only caught me off guard, but totally sold me on him.

I was going to donate this series to my library. It seems perfect for teens and I think they would really enjoy the series, until I got to the end of volume 7. It wasn’t the end of the series like I thought. It ends on a big cliffhanger, and while there is a post on LeGrow’s blog about being in talks with Tokyopop about getting volume 8 out (it was scheduled for release in July 2011), that post was from September with no updates. So my question to all you readers is, do I donate this series knowing it may never end and leave all its new readers hanging? Is that really fair?

  • Bizenghast Volumes 1-7

This week I also read the first volume of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. In a previous post I had said I couldn’t bring myself to take the chance of buying it and then find out I didn’t like it. I had seen plenty of reviews and opinions, and people seemed split about it. But, thanks to Ash Brown of Experiments in Manga, I won a copy of volume 1! I have to admit that I did like the first volume, but only because I listened to Erica Friedman on the Manga Outloud podcast about it. She explained that the series was based on Tokusatsu shows like the Super Sentai series. When I read it with that in mind, I could not only totally see the Super Sentai influence, I could also see past a lot of the problems people had with the volume. I’ll go into that more in my full review. I may look into further volumes.

  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Volume 1

In the next week I will be starting on Black Cat, a shonen series from Viz. I got to volume 14, though I may have to go back a volume or two since I haven’t read a volume since 2007 or 2008. I’m going to be interspersing some newer manga in this week as well, so I can keep up on reviews too. Maybe some Black Jack or Zombie Loan.

 

Oresama Teacher Volume 4

Troublemaking student council chairman Hanabusa thinks the best way to solve the problem of two similar clubs at school is to have them fight to the death! Actually, the losers just have to disband their club. But a silly club rivalry quickly gets out of hand when Mafuyu is kidnapped by the enemy!

By Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media – Shojo Beat
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $9.99
ISBN: ISBN: 1-4215-3866-0
Rating: ★★½☆☆

Oresama Teacher succeeds in turning out another uneven volume. A fun chapter is sandwiched between two less-interesting ones. Even though the first chapter does have some good moments, they aren’t enough to tip the balance completely.

Mafuyu and Hasakaya, as the new formed “Public Morals” Club goes up against the Yojimbo Club, as their charters claim to do the same thing. This chapter sees the return of Nastuo-Mafuyu, as she tries to get Hakasaya to learn to dodge hits in a fight. While I didn’t care very much for these chapters, they did have their moments. Hakasaya and Nastuo-Mafuyu have a good heart-to-heart talk, and Mafuyu comes to understand Hakasaya better. It was nice to see Hakasaya show that he cares about Mafuyu, even if it means doing something dumb. But that’s what we expect from the good guys, right?

Yuto, the second from Mafuyu’s old gang comes to visit Mafuyu and deliver some treats made by them. He meets up with Hakasaya and the Bancho, and they try to find Mafuyu, and consequently miss each other for pretty much the entire story. What was really funny was the misunderstandings that went on between Yuto and Hakasaya and Bancho over who Mafuyu really was. Yuto has all of his memories of Mafuyu (slightly rose-tinted) as a demon fighter, while Hakasaya and Bancho think of her as a weak girl. The chapters were funny and the best of the chapter.

The volume ends with Takeomi needed to blow off steam from work, and drags Mafuyu off to the beach with him. This chapter felt rather odd to me. If this is supposed to be a teacher/student relationship story, it’s going at it in a really strange way. Takeomi and Mafuyu looked more like friends, or even siblings. I didn’t feel any kind of connection between them beyond their past. I’m still not sure what to think about Mafuyu’s missing memories of Takeomi.

I’m still teetering on the fence with this series. It has shown it can be a really funny series, but only if it can keep the focus on the students and their relationships. I still really enjoy Mafuyu and Hakasaya’s relations, and Bancho needs more page time with Mafuyu. I still detest Takeomi. He still doesn’t seem to have a good reason to become a teacher. He’s still too much of a delinquent to be an interesting character for me. The other “villains” in this series, such as the Student Council President is the same. So, the good and bad points of Oresama Teacher are about even at this point, but it’s still not a series I want to keep or re-read.

Oresama Teacher Volume 2

Mafuyu’s plan to be an ordinary student seems to be working out so far. She’s got a friend (Hayasaka) and a plan to join a totally normal school club (crafts). But homeroom teacher Mr. Takaomi has something different in mind—he wants Mafuyu to take down the notorious leader of the campus gang!

By Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

I really didn’t care for the first volume of Oresama Teacher. While it had its moments, I thought they weren’t enough to overcome the parts I didn’t like. But I went ahead and checked out a few more volumes. I started to see some potential in volume 2 as the story revolved more around Mafuyu and Hayasaka.

I really enjoyed this second volume, which came as a big surprise to me. I was expecting to see more of Takaomi abusing Mafuyu, but Takaomi was just a side character.  Instead there was more interaction between Mafuyu and Hayasaka, and the introduction of Kyoutaro, the school Bancho. Hayasaka and Mafuyu’s search for a club to join so they could avoid Takaomi was funny. I loved the Craft club, which was filled with Macho men who looked straight of Fist of the North Star or Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. I know it’s becoming cliché, but I couldn’t stop laughing at seeing the big, muscular men embroidering and making stuffed animals. Their pressuring to get Hayasaka to join, who turned out to be surprisingly good at embroidery just made that chapter one of the best in this series so far.

Kyoutaro was amusing too. He acts tough and loves to fight, but has a soft side. He loves a children’s show, Nekomata and it self-titled main character. The day Mafuyu spends with Kyoutaro was just a lot of fun to read. The reveal at the end of the chapter was great and has a lot of potential for the future.

Hayasaka’s denseness knows no bounds. He searches for Usa-chanman and eventually figures out that she is Mafuyu, but is easily tricked out of it again. His denseness might annoy me, if he wasn’t such a great match for Mafuyu. But now Mafuyu has a good reason to keep her identity a secret from him. She wants to be friends, not idolized by Hayasaka because of her fighting ability. So she has to keep it a secret. This means then that she has to come up with another disguise, a boy named Natsuo, who Hayasaka treats as peer instead of an idol. I liked this second disguise. Mafuyu looks better as Natsuo than as herself!

I still dislike Takaomi. While his scenes are kept to a minimum this volume, his plan for Mafuyu is revealed and it’s typical of a low-life punk. He intends to use Mafuyu and Hanasaka to help him win a bet with the School President. So he’s still complete slime, but with less of his slimy trail in the title and the addition of the Bancho actually got me feeling more upbeat about Oresama Teacher. I just might change my mind about it.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan Volume 5

Rikuo has successfully defended his classmates from the vicious Inugami’s mad-dog attack. But that battle is just a hint of what’s to come. The sinister Tamazuki has remained in his human form so far, but now he’s unleashing his true form: a ferocious yokai leading the 88 Demons of Shikoku, a disciplined demon horde hell-bent on taking the Nura clan out. With Nurarihyon missing, Rikuo must step up as a warrior and a leader.

By Hiroshi Shiibashi
Publisher: Viz Media
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Action
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★★½☆

Rikuo really starts to step up as under-boss in this volume. With his grandfather, the Nurarihyon, gone, it’s up to him to defend the Nura territory. He finally shows some initiative when he sends Gozumaru and Mezomaru to infiltrate a Shikoku yokai gathering to gather intelligence. And he acts on that intelligence by taking the fight to Tamazuki rather than waiting for him and his forces to attack the Nura Main house. He’s pretty impressive in his night form during this fight until he gets blindsided, literally.

This battle with Tamazuki really shows the cycle of the generations within the Yokai clans. Tamazuki is ambitious and hungers for power, just as his father, Inugamigyobu once was, reaching out into Nura territory, while Rikuo considers creating a new 100 demon parade rather than working so hard to keep his Grandfather’s retainers together. Both young yokai can be seen as walking in their predecessor’s footsteps, while still making their own mark.

This volume of Nura was better in terms of moving the plot forward. It isn’t just about Rikuo having to deal with some threat and having his Night Form save the day. There is a confrontation between Tamazuki and Rikuo, but it and the events that lead up to it carry some weight. Yukki-Onna might even prove to be worth something more than a maiden-in-distress, though I don’t’ think I’ll hold my breath on that one.

Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan continues to be a series that I don’t mind reading online for free (as part of a Shonen Jump subscription), but it still hasn’t shown itself to be a series worth keeping on the shelf.

Dark Water

Inspired by the Japanese thriller, these pages hold the macabre tales of a mother’s psychological torment in a rundown apartment complex, another man’s terror upon the open sea, and a message from a watery grave. A haunting will begin, and these people will learn that no one is safe from the mysteries that lie within the murky depths of Dark Water.

Written by Koji Suzuki; Art by Meimu
Publisher: Dark Horse
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Horror
Price: $9.99
Rating: ★★½☆☆

I picked up Dark Water, expecting another single story adaptation of a novel by Koji Suzuki. This impression is really emphasized by the cover text that claims it’s the book that inspired the “major motion picture.” So I was really surprised when I discovered it was only the first story of four that “inspired” the movie. A movie that was decent, and didn’t need a Hollywood adaptation that couldn’t improve on it any.

I was actually kind of disappointed when I discovered that Dark Water was just a short story, and not a full novel like The Ring. I really enjoyed the manga adaptation of that novel, and was hoping for another experience like that. While “Dark Water” was a tighter read, it wasn’t as interesting or scary as the longer movie. It really needed more disturbing moments to make what happened hit home. It’s not a bad story, but a few more scenes could have made it better.

Of the remaining three stories, the only one with a good “creepy” factor was “Island Cruise”. It did a good job of balancing the supernatural with the non-believer, who must hold on to his non-belief at all costs, or be literally dragged down into the water. “Adrift” was the shortest and left me scratching my head about what happens in it. I’ve read it several times now, and while I think I get the idea Suzuki was trying to get across, it was lost in the manga adaptation. “Forest Beneath the Waves” really doesn’t have anything dark or scary about it. It’s a story about a son connecting to a father he never knew through the place where the father died. This story really doesn’t seem to fit in a volume that is otherwise filled with menaces coming from the water.

Dark Water isn’t a title that will keep you up at night or make you wary of taking a bath. It’s isn’t dark so much as it is murky. It wants to drag you to the bottom, but instead ends up losing its way. I really can’t recommend this book to anyone but Koji Suzuki fans.

The Ring Volumes 0-3

Somewhere in Japan there’s a cabin in which you might watch a program that will change your life…in fact, it will take your life. She will take your life. She calls out from the afterlife, from the dark bottom of a forgotten well. And if she calls you, one week is all you have left to find the answer to her curse.

The Ring Volume 0-3
Written by Koji Suzuki, Hiroshi Takahashi; Sakura Mizuki
Art by Meimu, Misao Inagaki; Sakura Mizuki
Age Rating: Teen
Genre: Horror
Price: $12.95
Rating: ★★★½☆

In the late 90s to early 2000s, Japanese horror, also known as J-horror was really popular in the US, and the title to start it all was The Ring. Based on a novel, the original movie was so popular, it was remade with American actors for wide release. Of course, publishers were ready to cash in on the action with releases of manga adaptations of the novels and/or movies.

The Ring series starts off with a great creepy premise, but seems to lose steam with each volume. The first volume is a nice and thick and stays true to the novel. This first story was more compelling and didn’t make Dr. Ikuma into the villain the movies did. It has a good pace and makes the feeling of time running out seem real. The first volume was a great read, and I would recommend it even if you’ve seen the movie.

The Ring 2 follows the plot of the movie instead of the book, and isn’t nearly as compelling as first story. It recaps the first movie before replacing the lead with Takayama’s assistant Takano as she tries to stop Sadako from taking over Yoichi, Takayama and Asakawa’s son. The story doesn’t have the same creepy feeling and the art just looks bad at times. Birthday is a prequel that continues to follow the movie’s plot line and shows Sadako’s life just before she died. It’s sad but not really creepy. Spiral is an adaptation of the novel sequel of The Ring, and takes Sadako’s story in a more scientific direction. The idea behind the replication is interesting, but the overall story wasn’t.

The big problem all three of these volumes had was the constant re-telling, and re-writing of the original Ring story. The first third of The Ring 2 is a compacted retelling of the movie version of the story. Spiral completely ignores most the original characters of The Ring to tell it’s own version of Sadako’s story, and The Ring 0 goes with another modified version of the movie. All these different versions of the same story got confusing and really monotonous after the second version.

The Ring is a good, suspenseful manga, but keep your reading to the original. The rest really don’t add much to the overall story, and will leave you scratching your head more than worrying about that static-filled TV.