A few weeks ago my Twitter TL is was filled with comments about a post that went up on Vice about Tokyopop. It is a very long puff piece that espouses the virtues of the old Tokyopop, blames its fall on the economy, and then puffs it back up with all the great things they will be doing. Continue reading They Never Learn
Tokyopop, the former manga publisher that ceased publication and closed its doors in 2011 has been slowly coming back to life. In the last few years it has begun showing signs it might want to return to the stage, starting with a newsletter soon after shutting down, publishing more Hetalia in conjunction with Rightstuf, and the bringing back their website and making the OEL titles they still held rights to available as eBooks. In June, the website made mention of Tokyopop “evolving”, and that evolution was revealed at their panel at Anime Expo.
The panel was headed by founder Stu Levy, who announced the company would start publishing manga again in 2016. They had no titles to announced, but claimed they were looking to license “hidden gems that are not yet noticed” from small and independent publishers. They also planned to publish art books and will consider light novels.
On the multimedia side, Levy said the company had 20 properties lined for both animation and live action, and highlighted Knockouts, a Ikkitousen knockoff with a live action concept trailer, and Riding Shotgun, one of their OEL properties that only got two volumes, which already attempted an indigogo crowd-sharing project to create an animated series. Also announced was a youtube series of anime reviews.
The final announcement was a comics app for iOS and Android called “POP Comics”. The app would be free to readers, and would allow users to upload their own comics to share, while retaining 100% of their copyright and creative control, and getting a 70/30 split of any ad-generated revenue.
It all sounds reasonable. Sure, there are plenty of titles out there being ignored by the big publishers with ties to Japanese companies. Yes, there are fans who would love to see manga and/or manga inspired stories adapted to animation and/or live action. Yes, there are lots and lots of creators who want to get their works out to a wider audience. It appears that Tokyopop has learned from their past and are trying to make up for the bad reputation they got in the manga and comics community. Not a lot of people are buying it though.
As soon as the tweet went out about POP Comics and Tokyopop doing portfolio reviews, creators who had worked with Tokyopop previously came out and started tweeting warnings and telling their stories. Every single one had the same message. Don’t trust Tokyopop or Stu Levy. Blog posts and articles came out written by creators or that interviewed creators, mostly warning NOT to give up any of their rights. No one seemed to believe Stu when he said at the panel creators will keep their copyright and creative control. But when you read about what a lot of them went through, you can’t really blame them for their mistrust.
And with some of the statements Levy made, it’s easy to see why fans would feel the same way. For many people, Tokyopop was their introduction not just to manga, but to comics in general. Their website, before they went to that awful “3.0 update,” was where a lot of manga bloggers like Kate Dacey got their start, talking about manga and building an audience. They introduced a lot of creators that went on to do bigger and better things; Svenlana Chmakova, Amy Reader Hadley, Becky Clooney, and Sophie Campbell. They did do a lot of good things for the budding manga community, which I think is what made some of Levy’s statements feel like a betrayal. The most memorable for me was, after another round of layoffs were announced, Levy posted on his twitter feed:
Wow #GDC2011 is blowing my mind. Why have I been stuck in such an old-school, out-of-touch industry for so long?! (yes I mean books!)
Levy has always been his own worst enemy. He seemed to have ADD when it came to initiatives at Tokyopop. He would jump on one idea and stay with it for a while until a new shiny came along and he was jumping on that, leaving the previous unfinished. Everything Tokyopop did at the time seemed half-assed. If something seemed to be going somewhere, it would be left to its own devices, whether it could stand on it own yet or not to chase down the next, “big thing.” Always seemed to be about what ever Levy was excited about at the time, whether it was writing kids books, making movies, or social media, what really mattered, the books became less and less important to the company as Levy lost interest. He burned a lot of bridges with fans the closing of publishing in 2011. It’s going to take a lot to rebuild them, if they can be rebuilt at all.
With these new announcements, it seems that Tokyopop will try to balance their different interests instead of jumping from one to another haphazardly. They encompass everything that Levy tried to do previously, but not so ostentatiously. Manga, multimedia and social media. The next several months will be crucial for the company as they (hopefully) announce titles and launch their app.
But what I really wonder is, has Levy really learned from the past? Brigid Alverson talked with Levy at San Diego Comic Con for Comic Book Resources and some of the answers he gave really feels like the doesn’t think any *he* did was to blame for the company’s downfall. He admits mistakes were made, but not by him. He boils it down to too much too fast, creators weren’t ready, audience wasn’t ready. Not once does he address or even acknowledge the lack of editorial for many creators that no doubt led to books being created poorly and audiences not liking. He tried to spin the “too much too fast” as he was too big-hearted and wanted to help creators get published. Come on Stu, step up. It’s time for some personal accountability.
Another think I don’t like that he said was about the creators not being given their properties back. He claims it was purely business and that most didn’t make back their advances, but if they wanted to pay, they could have them back. Well as to why most didn’t sell, see above. Also marketing is usually required for books to sell, and that seemed to be missing too. It really looks like a lot of creators were set up to fail just so Tokyopop could get a bunch of properties cheap that they could sell the IP for. Though, if they didn’t sell, who would want to buy those IP, which makes Tokyopop holding on to them make no sense. I’m certainly not going to buy into an IP without the original creator, or that was a proven failure in the market.
So, is this new Tokyopop a phoenix rising from the ashes, or zombie shambling out of its grave? I’m really not sure yet. I want to be optimistic about the former, but the more hear about Tokyopop’s practices under Levy’s direction, the more I fear it will be the latter. The question that really needs to be asked, is, does Tokyopop in general, and Stu Levy specifically, deserve another chance? The old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me,” comes to mind. Tokyopop fooled fans once that they were serious about a come back after the 2008 restructuring. We do not intend to be fooled again.
As I was pulling together titles for my post update on crafting manga, I remembered I had a couple of volumes of V.B. Rose. I won volume 7 from a blog a few years ago. I remember there being a lot of hype for the series back in the day, and being ever curious, wanted to see what all the hoopla was about. Then found volume 1 on Paperback Swap and snatched it up.
V.B. Rose is about high school student Ageha Shiroi. Her older sister Hibari, who she idolizes, is getting married and Ageha doesn’t approve. But, Ageha loves weddings and can’t resist when she is invited to see the dress design with Hibari at the boutique Velvet Blue Rose. The boutique is run by two men, Yukari Arisawa and Mitsuya Kuromine. Ageha gets off on the wrong foot with Yukari when she explodes over the wedding, and Yukari literally throws her out of the shop. Ageha, with the help of her friend Mamoru, realizes she did wrong and goes back to apologize. Things go awry again, and Mitsuya hurts his hand. Ageha volunteers to help out in Mitsuya’s place. Yukari balks at first, but Ageha is very crafty, and already know for the handmade purses she makes for Hibari and her friends, so he relents. It becomes a race to get the Hibari’s dress done on time as Ageha has to learn bead embroidery and how to deal with Yukari’s strict management and Mitsuya’s constant glomping.
I read volume 7 first and at the time wasn’t too impressed. I passed on reviewing it since I didn’t have anything useful to say. For this re-read, I read volume 1 first and then volume 7 and found I liked the series a whole lot more. The first volume set up the characters and relationships really well, so when I got to volume 7, it wasn’t difficult to see how they got there. I think when I first read volume 7, it just didn’t work as well without that context.
Ageha and Yukari are amusing characters. Ageha is rather hot-headed and speaks without thinking, or worse, saying things she doesn’t really mean. Yukari can be just as abrasive, saying exactly what he means, when he chooses to speak. He more often reacts first without full explaining why. This poor communication, or complete lack thereof, leads to misunderstandings between them. It’s not so bad at first, when the misunderstandings are Ageha getting the wrong impression about what Yukari thinks of her craftwork. When it gets into their budding relationship, it’s easy to see how this will only complicate things.
Ageha and Yukari are the main couple, but Ageha seems to have plenty of suitors for Yukari to worry about. Mitsuya isn’t serious about his advances, but there are other men around who could be serious competition. Mamoru’s younger brother, Nagare has feelings for her and declares them over Christmas, while Ageha is talking to Yukari. His anxiety over Ageha being courted by other men is fun to watch. Ageha has her own things to worry about as she wonders if Yukari’s ex-girlfriend Kana, who he still works with, still has feelings for him.
Since the setting of this series is a wedding dress boutique, there are plenty of beautiful gowns. In volume 1, there is a gorgeous Chinese inspired gown I would have loved to have worn. The gown that Kana makes the corsage for in volume 7 is just elegant. Ageha’s handmade purses are both cute and useful. What I wouldn’t give for a friend that could make a custom bag.
V.B. Rose is a romantic comedy that is a lot of fun. Tokyopop originally licensed the series, and nearly published it complete. They released volume 13 the same month they shutdown, making this one of the most difficult volumes to find in English. The series was originally published by Hakusensha in Japan, a publisher that doesn’t have an established relationship with a US publisher. This title would be a perfect candidate for Viz Media’s Viz Select program. While I would prefer getting this series digitally, I do have to admit that Tokyopop’s early prints of the series were very nicely done with gold imprinting on the cover to make it extra sparkly! Viz Select has already picked up and published several of Tokyopop’s old titles digitally. V.B. Rose would be another great addition to this program. It is probably completely translated, and is a shojo title that would an ideal fit their Shojo Beat catalog.
The Chinese New Year has arrived, which means two things; a slow down of shipments at work as factories shut down for 3 weeks, and a new post about manga featuring this year’s zodiac animal! We move from the majestic dragon down to the more common snake, but as you will see, there are no such things as common snakes in manga!
Fruits Basket – Let’s get the obvious out-of-the-way with Fruits Basket, which features all the zodiac animals. Ayame Sohma is the snake of the zodiac in the Sohma family. He is the older brother of Yuki, one of the main characters of the series. He is very handsome with silver hair and striking eyes. He is flamboyant, self-confident and self-centered, and annoys Yuki and Kyo to no end. He is very demanding that Yuki return his love as his brother, but Ayame’s treatment of Yuki when he was growing up has made that a difficult request for Yuki to comply with.
Naruto – This long running series is about a screw-up boy ninja, Naruto Uzumaki, who wants to prove himself and become the leader of his villain, the Hokage. Orochimaru is the first major antagonist in the series. He is a powerful ninja, and with his other team mates, Jiraiya and Tsunade, was known as the Three Legendary Ninja. His totem animal is a snake, and is able to summon and command them in battle. His thirst for power and immortality gets him exiled from Konohagakure, leading him to eventually start his own village and continue his experiments. He tries to take over Sasuke’s body to continue his own life.
One Piece – This even longer running series is about Luffy D. Monkey who is determined to become the Pirate King and gathers a crew of like-minded misfits to going him on his adventures. In the Skypiea arc, there is a giant python named Nola. He came to the island with Noland and the Shandorians. He is over 400 years old and is very hot-tempered and hostile. After hearing the bell from his childhood, he becomes the gentle snake he once was. He even becomes part of an attraction, Nola-bungee. In the Sabaody arc, we meet one of the Warlords of the Sea, a group of powerful pirates who work for the world government. Boa Hancock, is the leader of the all-female Kuja Pirates from the island Amazon Lily. She has a pet snake named Salome, who is always with her, and helps her in battles.
Saint Seiya – This old school series is from the 80s, and while it enjoys great popularity almost everywhere else in the world, it never caught on here, which is a great shame. It is about 5 Bronze Saints, who are the protectors of the Greek Goddess Athena who was reborn as a Japanese girl Saori. In the series, there are actually three tiers of saints. The heroes are the lowest at bronze, but there are two others, silver and gold. The silver saints served as trainers to the bronze. One of those trainers was Shaina who wore the Ophiuchus, or Serpent Bearer’s, cloth. Her power is based on a snake’s as she moves quickly and strikes without warning. Shaina starts out appearing like a villain with a grudge against Pegasus Seiya, but the truth is revealed that she is actually in love with him.
That’s all I’ve got for this edition of the Year of the Snake. Did I miss any other titles with snakes getting a featured role? I’m sure I did. Let me know what they are in the comments!
Chibi Vampire is a title I ended up really enjoying. So, after finishing the series, I picked up the two spin-off volumes that came out after the title finished publication here in the US; Airmail and Bites. While both return you to the world of Karin and her family and friends, they do have their ups and downs.
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!
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.
Continuing my ASPCA Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month coverage, I started to notice a pattern in some of the titles I’ve read. In manga, animals are often used to make a point about a character in the manga. They can help to define a character, be indicators from the past that explain the characters situations or used as plot devices. My big problem with some of these uses, is that I usually involves said animal being dead. And said animal is usually a cat.
This pattern started out rather innocently. In Fullmetal Alchemist volume 5, when Ed and Al go back to their teacher, Izumi, she is shown helping the kids in the village by fixing their toys using alchemy. But then, a little girl comes to her with a dead kitten, asking her to fix it. It’s a sad moment as Izumi has to explain why the kitten is not the same as a toy, but it works into the whole theme of the manga, so it fits in well. And we didn’t have to get to know the kitten first, so it’s more heartbreaking for the girl than the reader.
On the other hand, Karakuri Odette decides to get the reader involved. In volume 1, another inventor’s android, Asia, is staying with Odette and going to school with her. She seems to be more popular since she is more expressive with her emotions. Both she and Odette find a stray cat and start taking care of it. But it gets run over. The difference between Asia and Odette becomes clear when Asia starts playing with cat’s corpse while Odette is horrified, not just by the cat’s death, but by Asia’s behavior. I can’t blame her. I was too.
Sometimes, a character will have omens early on in life that things are going to go well for them, and for some reason, that means killing a cat. In O-Parts Hunter volume 1, when Jio was young, he had found a kitten to play with. The next day, he found it dead. It’s later revealed his alter ego, Satan, killed it because he wanted Jio to be lonely. In Jack Frost, No-ah lived a cursed lived life with everyone she ever cared about getting killed, including stray animals she shows kindness to. Adding insult to injury, in volume 3, the stray dog gets an off-screen death with a tire screech and a whine, while the stray cat gets a horrific death for the reader to see! Why? What did the poor cat do to deserve that other than being cute?
You want to show how vile a villain is? Do what Daniel X volume 2 did, and show them eating cats. You want to prejudice your leader against a rival? Then steal her kitten, kill and burn it, and incriminate your rival like in Ooku: The Inner Chamber Volume 2. You need to show how uncaring your character has become? Have him feed a stray cat and then show that same cat dead in the street a short time later for him to see as in Sprial: Bonds of Reasoning Volume 5. I’m sure there are more examples, but I’m good stopping here. I don’t really need to know about the ways more cats are tragically ended for a story to advance. Really, can’t dogs get picked on more? Or hamsters even?
April is the ASPCA’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. Human cruelty to animals is nothing new. Our faithful companions can become the focus of our anger and hate. So it’s not surprise that the problem has come up in manga. Matsuri Akino’s title Petshop of Horrors often has stories and themes of animals exacting their revenge on cruel and thoughtless humans. In the pages of Milkyway Hitchhiking, an online-only title in Yen Press’ Yen Plus, cats are often see enduring some torture at the hands of kids who view it as a fun past time. Other titles get right to the heart of the matter and help to give the animals a voice.
Genju no Seiza – This is another title by Matsuri Akino that sadly was never finished in the US. It is about a boy, Fuuto, who lives in Tokyo, and also seems to be the reincarnation of the Holy King of Dhalashar. In volume 4, the first chapter is “A Wordless Voice.” There have been a rash of mutilations and killings of stray animals in Fuuto’s neighborhood. With the help of his guardian animal friends, he decides to find the culprit, and is surprised by the identity. This chapter doesn’t pull any punches about Akino’s opinion of people who abuse animals. Kurgahara at one point says “Only a coward would harm a defenseless animal that can’t even ask for help.” Amen to that sister.
Free Collar Kingdom – This title is a three-volume series from Del Rey Manga’s early days. I picked it up because it had otaku cats. Can you really get a better combination than that? While the story has plenty of humor as it pokes fun at otaku and has the requisite fan service to keep most males interested, it also has a more serious underlying theme. Cyan, the hero of the story, was owned by a boy named Kokoro, who gets sick and has to go to the hospital. His parents, not knowing what to do with the cat since Kokoro can’t keep it at the hospital, and aren’t even sure if he will pull through, just leave Cyan in the basement of their apartment complex. There he meets the Free Collars, a gang of former pets who were abandoned by their owners and have banded together to survive. The point of their name is made most poignantly, when Cyan, after staying with the Free Collars for a while, starts to feel his collar tighten. He has continued to grow, but his collar has not. He could be choked by it. The ring left by the too-tight collar becomes a symbol of their release from their former human’s abandonment.
Apollo’s Song – While this title by Osamu Tezuka isn’t about animals, it does show some graphically violent moments of animals being mutilated and killed. Shogo Chikaishi can’t stand to see any showing of affection. Whenever he sees animals doing it, he goes into a rage and kills them. Worried that his rage will be turned on humans, he is admitted into a mental hospital. While the other titles in this post only imply the abuse, or show before and after scenes, Tezuka shows the violence for what it is; cold and brutal. It was harsh enough that I couldn’t read these scenes for a second time. I had page past them. Leave it to the God of Manga to not pussy-foot around the issue.
Hell Girl – This manga, based on the anime, is about tweens and teens going to a website to get revenge for some betrayal done to them or someone close to them. Enma Ai, Hell Girl, gets the request and decides if the person is worthy of her help. There is a catch for getting her help though. The person asking for the revenge will be cursed to hell as well as the person they curse, they just get a longer life. In volume one, the fourth chapter called “The Inaudible Scream,” is about a veterinarian who only helps the pets of rich people. When the beloved dog of an orphaned girl dies because he doesn’t operate, she calls on Hell Girl for help. Enma Ai obliges, and gives the greedy, heartless vet a taste of his own medicine. It’s scary to think that there are people that we put our trust in to care for our pets that might betray us. This is an example of one or worse kinds of abuse an animal can endure.
I know this isn’t a fun or happy theme, but it is an important one to get out. Pets can become just as important as loved ones, often filling a void when one is lost, keeping us company, and bringing a little light to some of our darkest hours. It is really important that we return that favor and keep them from being abused and abandoned. We must give them a voice.
I really liked Dazzle when I first started reading it, but I was starting to lose interest by volume 5. Unfortunately volumes 6-10 didn’t do anything to reverse the course. Any charm that I may have felt at the beginning was not only gone by volume 10, it had been stomped into the ground.
With these next 5 volumes, I was really hoping to seem some real plot development. You would think with 10 volumes under its belt, the reader would have an idea where the story is going. Sadly, that isn’t so. These next 5 volumes has more tragedy, especially for Rahzel, but still little in plot development. There has been no explanation for Kiara’s interest and subsequent frienemy treatment of Rahzel. As the series’ villain, you would think his motives would be the most important to understand. But I have yet to see any rhyme or reason for his actions. It’s implied that he is seeking away to try to get back a life that was lost with the death of Natsume, but that doesn’t even begin to give a hint as to what that has to do with Rahzel. So far, the only connection between the two is that they both have black hair and blue eyes. That’s kind of sketchy to say the least. What worse is that there doesn’t seem to be any interest on the author’s part to impart any of this vital information.
I’m also really sad that the dynamic between Rahzel, Alzied, and Baroqueheat that started the series seems to be gone with this second half. Revelations that are made and not made seem to distance the three from each other. And the addition of a whole group of new characters really keeps them from mending it. Rahzel’s father, the scientist Shogetsu and his entourage and Rahzel’s school friends keep the three apart and kills the fun of the first 5 volumes. I also really didn’t like that Alzied was demoted to comedy relief. It really doesn’t suit his character. I’m okay with him going emo about not being as strong as he thought, but turning him into a character that everyone laughs at and kicks around was just wrong. He didn’t seem like the same character anymore and wasn’t any fun to read.
Another thing I didn’t like was the change of venue. Rahzel, Alzied and Baroqueheat stop traveling and go to Rahzel’s home, all because she can’t say no to her father. The boys follow because they don’t want to be separated from Rahzel, but the story really takes on a different tone, and becomes more of a high school drama than the fun and excitement of the travel.
Dazzle is not a series I will be donating to my library. They deserve better than this, and with the cliff-hanger ending that volume 10 ends on, it really wouldn’t be right. So I will either trade it or put it up on Paperbackswap when I start getting low on credits. If you’re interested, make me an offer. This is also a series I don’t see being picked up as a license rescue. A search around the web informed me that the mangaka tends to take off months, even a year at a time from this series in favor of her more popular series. It’s not exactly licensing material, and if Tokyopop knew where the story was going, would have still licensed it? Yeah, probably.
Next week I will be starting on Kiichi and the Magic Books, a former CMX title, and one that is finished at least. I’ll be working on some new releases as well, such as Durarara!!, and even though I didn’t intend to participate in this month’s Manga Movable Feast, I have been able to get my hands on a few Jiro Taniguchi titles, so I will be reading them this week as well. Well, one of them at least. Hopefully the other will arrive in time for me to read and review for the Feast.
- Dazzle Volume 6-10
After a short Tezuka break, I’m back to playing catch up. Of course, mid-week I realized I had at least two other Tezuka manga titles I could have read for the MMF, but I barely got the two I had planned to do done, so there was no way I would be able to squeeze in two more! But I think three reviews here and two at Manga Village should be sufficient.
I dug back into Dazzle this week, an older Tokyopop title that was never completed. Only 10 of the available 12 were printed so far, but the series is also ongoing, so even if volume 11, which had been announced before the shut down, had come out, the series would still be incomplete. Now, I had thought I’d read the first 4 volumes previously, but since it had been so long, I decided to re-read them This was a good thing, since I didn’t remember a thing since half way through volume 2. I got through the first five volumes this week, and will finish the series up next week. Dazzle is another manga that Tokyopop renamed, and I’m completely baffled why. The original title is The Unprecedented Game. Considering how much a game is referenced in the overarching plot of the story, at least keeping that part of the name would have made sense. I haven’t found any way in which “Dazzle” seems to fit.
Dazzle is about a teenage girl named Rahzel, who is suddenly sent on a journey by her father, and told to go out and see the world. As she starts her journey, she meets a young man named Alzied, who has white hair and red eyes. He is good-looking but also very stoic. He is looking for the woman who killed his father. Rahzel decides to tag along with him, and he begrudgingly allows her to join him. Shortly after, they meet two of Alzied’s friends from the army, Baroqueheat and Soresta. After some trouble, Baroqueheat decides to join Alzied and Rahzel, and the duo becomes a trio and continue on their journey, having lots of adventures and learning about each other, even as they are watched by a mysterious man who may have connections to all three.
I originally picked Dazzle after reading a short review about it, comparing it to Saiyuki. And in many ways there is a resemblance. The cast is made up of three people who fight and bicker at each other more than get along. Alzied is the stoic straight man filling in the Sanzo part. Baroqueheat makes a perfect Gyojo as he has an eye for the ladies and a cigarette constanly hanging out of his mouth. And Rahzel is Son Goku. She’s young, impetuous, and holds more power than she appears to be capable of wielding. Alzied carrying a gun, and is constantly whipping it out and shoving it into Baroqueheat’s mouth when he says something he doesn’t like. as well as Rahzel is constantly beating on Baroqueheat whenever he tries to make a pass at her. Baroqueheat takes all the abuse in stride, keeping a mellow attitude. Alzied and Rahzel trade verbal barbs, but it’s obvious they care about each other even if neither will say it out loud. The story is also vaguely related as they are all traveling together, but they don’t have the same reasons.
I really enjoyed the beginning of the series due to this initial similarity. I loved the character interactions. The abuse Baroqueheat takes is funny and often deserved. I also enjoyed watching them grow together and grow closer to each other. All three characters have secret, and often tragic pasts that they don’t reveal immediately to each other or to the reader. Their stories slowly unfold as they travel, meeting new people, and get into sticky situations, usually due to Rahzel sticking her nose into other people’s business. Early on, there are hints of something darker waiting in the wings. By volume 5 though, there had been plenty of character development, but I still had little idea about what was going on. There have been common themes about the failure of god, and as I said early, some sort of game that involves Rahzel. A surprising connection between the strange man who keeps appearing before Rahzel (and later Alzied) and Baroqueheat is also made, but so far I’m still not seeing a coherent story. So far it’s just been the adventures of Rahzel, Alzied and Baroqueheat. The end of volume 5 does hint at more to come. But since I’ve seen this before in previous volumes I’m not holding my breath.
So far, Dazzle has been a fun slice of life as we follow the trio on their journey, but it’s been really slow at getting to a point. Hopefully the next 5 volumes will actually start going somewhere. I hope the silly banter between Rahzel, Alzied and Baroqueheat continues although, I don’t see that happening if the story starts to get more dark and serious. It’s really the biggest draw for me, and unless something big starts soon, it will be the only thing it really has going for it. If you are a fan of Saiyuki, check out these first couple of volumes (if you can find them) and see what I mean.
For this next week, I will be continuing Dazzle, and will no doubt finish it. I’m also gonna sneak in some more recent titles, as I finally read A Bride’s Story. The art is absolutely gorgeous, and I’m really enjoying Amir’s story so far. I think I’m going to have to definitely order the next two volumes. It’s a story that’s right up my alley.
- Dazzle Volumes 1-5
- Shonen Jump March 2012
- Tsugumomo Volume 1
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
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.