Welcome to Ikebukuro, where Tokyo’s wildest characters gather!! Meet an ordinary boy who daydreams about the extraordinary. A naive stalker girl. The strongest man in Ikebukuro. A shut-in doctor with questionable credentials. A hedonistic informant…and the “headless rider” astride a pitch-black motorcycle!? As their paths cross, this eccentric cast weaves a twisted, cracked love story…
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
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?
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
When a little boy brings home a dinosaur egg, the cat of the house isn’t too keen on her new reptile roomie. But after a few weeks of showing the ropes to the new baby, Kitty and Dino form a fast friendship that transcends species!
With February’s Manga Movable Feast being about Osamu Tezuka, I spent this week concentrating on the few titles I had left that I hadn’t reviewed yet. In going back and looking for the links of older reviews, I couldn’t believe how much Tezuka I had actually read over the years. The first manga by Tezuka I ever read was MW, which was a serious eye-opener for me. Next came Dororo, a title I enjoyed a lot, and thought was criminally short. And then there came Black Jack. I loved it from the first volume, and I have managed to review all but one of the 17 volumes that Vertical released. In between all that amazing medical work came the bizarre Swallowing the Earth. There were some titles I could have read but chose not too, like Ayako. I almost passed up on Book of Human Insects, but curiosity got the best of me, and I was sucked in.
This week, I read Princess Knight Parts 1 and 2, and Apollo’s Song. Princess Knight was a title I was looking forward to, and was glad to get a hold of the volumes before the MMF. I loved this series. It was a lot of fun and made a great fairy tale of a modern world. In stark contrast to this series, I then read Apollo’s Song. This isn’t the first time I’ve read this title, or tried to review it. My first attempt just left me with a bunch of jumbled thoughts that I couldn’t get to come together. Hopefully this second attempt will be better. I really didn’t like Apollo’s Song as much of most of the other Tezuka titles I’ve read. I’ll try to get my thoughts out to explain why.
In between these two titles, I squeezed in a new Viz title, The Earl and the Fairy. I remember when the anime for this series was announced, and at the time, the premise didn’t sound too interesting. But I was still intrigued enough to want to read the manga. And I am glad I did. The story was fascinating, and I really liked the characters. I look forward to reviewing this title and reading more.
I also read the latest issue of Yen Plus. I think I’m going to be skipping Witch and Wizard. As much as like Sveltlana’s artwork, the story is just too melodramatic for me. And I hate stories with villains who seem to be so powerful and without any kind of flaw. I’m hoping Infernal Devices starts going somewhere. It’s not nearly as fun or exciting as Soulless. I do like Soul Eater Not more than Soul Eater, and it’s nice that Yen Press has been able to get on simultaneous release with Japan, but the Japanese side has again become woefully small. As in, Soul Eater Not is the ONLY title on the Japanese side. It would be nice to get some symmetry back.
For the next week, I’m going to get back on my catch-up reading. I’m going to work on another Tokyopop title, one that was sadly never completed. Dazzle is a title I picked up on some recommendation I read, and did enjoy the first 4 volumes that I read. The interaction of the main characters reminded me a lot of Saiyuki. But it went on a long release schedule, so it kind of fell to the weigh-side for me. But I have gradually picked the remaining volumes, and just recently got the final volume Tokyopop released, though sadly not the final volume in the series, number 10. So I’ll be finished up this series this week.
- Princess Knight Part 1-2
- Apollo’s Song
- The Earl and the Fairy Volume 1
- Yen Plus February 2012
Wrongly executed for crimes he did not commit, a former detective is given a second chance at life. To earn that chance, however, the man now known as Ash must use the supernatural abilities with which he has been infused to prevent the deaths of other innocents. But is Ash willing to dedicate himself to helping others, or is his thirst for vengeance against those who destroyed his life and his loved ones too powerful to ignore?
I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I first heard about this title. With a collaboration of Japanese, American and Korean creators, anything was possible. And I wasn’t too sure about the story when it first started serialization in Yen Plus. But as the characters and world was built up, a solid story emerged that both fans of manga and comics could enjoy.
The Innocent is the story of Johnny Wright, a detective who is far from a hero, but does want to see justice done. In the case of Frame Burns, crime boss, he wants revenge. And he’s given that chance when the mysterious “Committee” allows him to return to Earth as an Emissary after he is executed for a crime he didn’t commit. With the help of Angel, his handler assigned by the Committee, he must help others who have been wrongly accused in order to move on. As long as he doesn’t keep getting distracted by his desire for revenge. The chapters start out with an “Innocent of the week” feel to them, as Johnny is getting a new person to help in each chapter. But they soon turn back to Johnny and his background story.
Johnny is very much an anti-hero. He doesn’t follow the rules, in life or death. Even though he’s been mandated to help others, his thoughts become focused on revenge after running into Frame’s enforcers on his first assignment. He is violent and doesn’t seem to care about anyone, but he still manages to get the job done. He also has an amazing command of his Emissary abilities, something that, like his attitude, surprises Angel. He (yes, HE), is put in charge of Johnny, giving him his assignments, helping or reigning him in when necessary. Angel doesn’t like humans, and seems to have had a problem with a former emissary that lost him his wings. Johnny and Angel are constantly at odds, as Johnny keeps trying to do things his way, while Angel has to get him to do it the Committee’s way.
There are two other characters that are central to the story. Rain was Johnny’s lawyer, and as the story progresses we learn she was his sister’s friend and may have been something more to Johnny. She feels guilty about losing Johnny’s case (and him), because she chose the law over him, and is now trying to pick up where Johnny left off against Frame. And then there’s Frame’s assassin, Whirl, a very strange and creepy guy who is always asking his victims “Wanna play?” and brandishes a knife. He seems to love to kill things for fun and can somehow see Johnny. He is also very determined, becoming quite the thorn in Johnny’s side at the end.
I enjoyed reading The Innocent. The story read much better as a single volume than serialized. It didn’t feel disconnected or confusing as it did in Yen Plus. It’s got a great cast of characters, and it quickly builds up a world that is consistent, interesting and not too different from our own. The story moves as a quick pace, and ends on an open-ended note, leaving enough loose ends for the possibility of seeing these characters again. It’s a good origin story. The art looked great. I really like Johnny always looking perfect in his suit. The action scenes were easy to follow, and as Johnny gets better with his powers and challenged by Whirl, they grow in complexity without getting a “shonen-power-up” feel. Yen Press’ presentation of the book is very nice as well. The matte cover with silver lettering gives it a classy feel.
Overall, The Innocent is a good single volume story. It has strong characters and a well written story that is thrilling and thoughtful. Non-manga readers can find plenty to like in this series as well, as it lacks a lot of the manga conventions they say they hate. I really wouldn’t mind seeing more stories written with these characters. I hope it sells enough to justify bringing them back.
Looking back over 2011, I realize it didn’t quite turn out as I had intended it. RL seriously intruded on my blogging and reviewing, though I have tried to at least update once a week. My company’s move to a new computer system not only took up a lot of time, but sucked a lot of life out of me. (BTW, if you ever hear the word ‘Oracle’ at your company, run away. Very fast. Or stock up on alcohol. I’ve heard that helps a lot.) I even missed this blog turning 4 in November! That’s how out of it I was!
With all of that behind me, I know look ahead to 2012, and my plans for the new year. In my last anniversary post, I said I was going to donate some of the manga I wasn’t reading anymore to my local library. In the last week of 2011, I finally did it. I took 71 volumes to the children/teen librarian after communicating my wishes. A look at the library’s graphic novel collection showed that it really needed some help. I took over mostly completed series’ or one shots, so that there wouldn’t be gaps of hangings. The only exceptions to this were Detective Conan/Case Closed and Ranma 1/2, of which I had the first 5 volumes of, and the first volume of Twilight. If Twilight proves popular (yeah, if), I’ll try to see about getting the second volume for them. It was still hard for me to do this, even after I had made up my mind, put the books in a separate book and even put the box by my desk. Even now, I feel pangs of regret, even though I know the title I gave away are things I won’t read again. It’s hard to be a packrat/collector.
In order to continue to reduce my manga collection, I have to really start to read more. I have several completed titles that I’ve read most, half, a few volumes or even none of! I’m making it a goal this year to get through these titles and see more of them go to the library. It should come as no surprise that most of these are shonen titles. I finding I’m not as enthusiastic about shonen as I was 10 years ago. There are exceptions of course, such as One Piece, but reading the latest Shonen Jump made me realize how much I didn’t care about the story or characters in most of them. I’m kind of glad Viz went digital with Shonen Jump. Now I can read them with out having piles of magazines cluttering up my house. In order to help me keep up on this, I’m going to keep track of the titles I read here, and maybe even do a short review consisting of a couple of lines if the mood hits me.
And speaking of digital, I will be trying to get more manga that way, at least as much as the publishers will allow me. I’m going to rant now for a few lines (paragraphs). I want to support publishers and their move to the digital realm. Digital manga is great, doesn’t take up shelf space and on the right devices, can actually look as good as print. The problem is that publishers AREN’T making their digital manga as available as their print. Viz, Yen, and new comer Kodansha are keeping their manga on mostly proprietary devices. iOS devices still get the preferential treatment, and recently both Viz and Yen put manga on Barnes and Nobles Nook tablets. Yet they continue to ignore Android. Just over Christmas, 1.3 million android devices were activated. Do they really think it’s a good business plan to continue to ignore this market? Yes, they give lip service to Android, saying they’re “working on it”, but I’m really tired of that excuse. Just as I’m tired of “Android is difficult to program for.” Sorry, that doesn’t cut it any more. Nook tablets and readers are Android based. If they can make their manga for those devices, they can make it regular Android devices. I want to be a legal buyer of manga, but right now, the aggregators and scanlators hold the Android market. How is that helping their cause? And if they give the excuse of the Japanese publishers are keeping them from going it, and then Jmanga gets an Android app out before them, then they should just hang their heads in shame. Both the US and Japanese publishers who are limiting the readership.
And before anyone says I should vote with wallet and not support the publishers, let me say I AM. I will not buckle under and buy the hardware they are putting their manga on. Content should never be limited to a hardware platform, and yet that is EXACTLY what all the manga publishers are doing. If you don’t buy this other company’s hardware, you can’t have our books. That’s not the way to expand readership. That’s how you limit it to an elite few, and I don’t believe books should ever be limited to one group over another.
And while I’m ranting, Jmanga, GET SOME VOLUME 2s OR MORE UP! It’s nice that you are getting titles up, but there have been hardly any second volumes go up since the site started. I’m not going just keep getting the first volumes of titles if there is no hope of the titles continuing! Yen Press, even if you do finally put your manga out on a platform I can read, I’M NOT PAYING $8.99 FOR THEM! I wouldn’t pay Jmanga that much, what makes you think I’ll pay you that? And Square Enix…just get over yourself. Did anyone notice your site was down and unavailable? No? That should tell you something. Alright, I’m done.
I’m looking forward to a more productive year here at Manga Xanadu. And while I do feel a little prideful at the size of manga collection, logistically it’s not feasible for me to have over 1000 volumes (which I probably had at one point this year). I’m hoping for more manageable shelves, and to fill more digital shelves. This will also hopefully mean more content for this blog. I hope you’ll continue to follow me into the new year.
BTW, little known fact. 2012 and the end of the Mayan calendar wasn’t originally meant to mean the end of the world. It was supposed to be when the Maya, who are actually beings from the star Arcturus in the Pleiades cluster, will return to earth via their “galactic synchronization beams” and transform reality. So, no worries about the world ending. 🙂 (Source: Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries; Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology by Kenneth L. Feder, 1990 edition.)
The first day of panels at NYCC/NYAF was certainly full of surprises. And it started right off first thing in the morning for me, at 6:30 am (PST) when news started on Twitter about Viz Media’s big announcement. Weekly Shonen Jump Alpha will be a digital manga magazine that will run new chapter of the manga Bakuman, Bleach, Naruto, Nura, One Piece, and Toriko two weeks after they run in Japan. The magazine will be available through Vizmanga.com and through the iOS apps. The price is $25.99 for 48 issues, or you can rent single issues for .99 for 4 weeks. I’m a little confused on the .99 rental though. I’ve seen it described as .99 a month, which implies only paying .99 for four issues which is a lot better than 25.99 for a year, unless of course, the year subscription means you can keep the issues permanently. Whether the weekly issues are for keeps or for a limited time as the Nura serialization is now hasn’t been clarified. The digital magazine will start in January 2012, with the print magazine ending with the March issue.
I can’t say I’m thrilled with the new line up. One Piece and Bakuman are the only ones I’m interested in, and the fact that I can only stream the titles, since no one wants to even try to make an android tablet app (hint: if it’s so hard to do an app with all the different flavors of Android, then just do what most pub do now anyway; make just a tablet app on Honeycomb), this severely limits my ability to take the mag and “read anywhere”, something I can currently do with my print mag. I’m going to need more details before I decide to stay with the digital magazine. I’ll also admit that I’ll miss reading Psyren and Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds. They aren’t titles I want to actively go after, but I enjoyed reading them in the magazine. Now, Shonen Jump is returning to it “only the top sellers can appear” approach, which is a shame, since going digital should be the opportunity to experiment. And I agree with others on Twitter, that a Shojo Beat digital magazine would be awesome.
Next came Yen Press and Seven Seas with new license announcements. Yen Press announced Soul Eater Not, a side story to Soul Eater. I wasn’t impressed with the first series, so I don’t anticipate caring much for this one. They’ve also announced it will appear in the current issue of Yen Plus, but is that going to be permanent, or just a couple of chapters to push the series as High School of the Dead Color was, and a way to pad the scant Japanese side? I like that Yen is continuing to adapt YA novels, the newest editions being Infernal Devices, which sounds interesting, and a Dark Hunters side story Infinity. And I’ll admit to some curiosity to the Japanese licenses Madoka Magica and Until Death Due Us Part. I might check out Alice in the Country of Hearts, a Tokyopop license rescue (that they said they wouldn’t do…) I missed it the first time around.
Then Seven Seas hints at a new license through anagrams again on Twitter, which turns out to be the sequel to Alice in the Country of Hearts, Alice in the Country of Clover. This was a pleasant surprise and a boon for AitCoH fans. Seven Seas also announced the new title from the creator of Dance in the Vampire Bund. Angel Para Bellum takes on christian mythology with a battle between heaven and hell brewing and only a boy named Mitsuru holds the key to preventing it. I think Supernatural has killed my interest in such stories, but I’ll check ou the first volume if given the chance.
Kodansha announced two new licenses, Attack on Titan and Miles Edgeworth. I don’t know how much Attack on Titan will appeal to me, but if I like the Phoenix Wright manga, I might check out the Miles Edgeworth. They also announced omnibuses of former Del Rey titles Genshiken and Kitchen Princess, two good titles to keep in print. And then there was the obligatory iOS app announcement (yawn).
Vertical had the biggest surprises for me. The licenses lately haven’t been my cup of tea, with Princess Knight being the only new title I really wanted to read. But in their announcements at their panel, they had two that really piqued my interest. I”ve heard a lot about Osamu Tezuka’s Adolf (Messages to Adolf), but it’s been out of print for so long, I didn’t hold by breath at ever reading it. Until now. It will be releases in 2 hardback volumes next year. Sakuran really looks intriguing too. It’s a historical title about courtesans in the Edo era. And I can’t resist historical titles.
While all of these announcements sound great, I’m going to remain cautiously optimistic about them. What looks good in a press release might not be so great in reality. So I’ll watch and wait for now. Most of the books announced won’t be out until next summer, so there’s plenty of time for things to change. Only the digital announcements have any immediacy, and only Viz’s really concerns me. But it’s still nice to see things to get excited about again.
A mysterious illness is spreading rapidly through the halls of Fujimi High School. In a matter of hours, the campus is transformed from a place of learning into a hive of nightmares, as the infected students collapse and are reborn as flesh-hungry zombies! Only a handful of students escape the outbreak – among them Takashi Komuro and his childhood friend Rei. He manages to protect Rei from the initial onslaught, but how long can Takashi and the other students hope to survive when the whole school – maybe the whole town – is out for their blood?!
Highschool of the Dead is “interesting” in the same way that we are currently living in “interesting times.” It all depends on how you look at it. There were times when I was really interested in the story it was telling, as well as the characters. At other times I just wanted to roll my eyes, put the book down and walk away. And that is what made this series so frustrating to me. It has a real story to tell, if you can get past the rampant fan service and blood.
Let’s look at the good points about this series. First and foremost, there is a fascinating story being told in these pages. As the infected start to outnumber the uninfected, you can see the fabric of society start to break down. This is shown through the monologues Takashi often goes into, and the obstacles our heroes face. Throughout the volumes, Takashi is constantly commenting on how quickly he and his friends adapt to a new world where the old rules no longer apply, like smashing a cash register for cash is acceptable for survival, and the worse thing you can do to an enemy is to NOT kill them. In just 12 hours they can go from running for their lives to happily taking on a group of zombies without a second thought. It was these observations that drew me into the story most. But even as our heroes seemed to start to lose their humanity, they do find ways to reclaim it, such as in their saving of the young girl Alice.
Another aspect I really liked was the denial about the reality of the situation. When the outbreak first starts, Takashi comes right out and says they aren’t in a movie or video game, and yet everyone is behaving like a zombie from one. Though, he never gets to say the whole word “zombie”. He gets cut off. And later Hisashi, his friend and Rei’s boyfriend, dubs them all “they” because he can’t bring himself to believe they are something from the movies, and this is how they are referred throughout the books. No one wants to cross that line.
I also really appreciated that there are so many female characters that are smart and self-reliant. Rei, Takashi’s childhood friend is full of fire, and is bashing heads with her mop handle/spear. She also recognizes the danger Shidou poses and would rather take her chances with the zombies than him. Saeko is everything you would expect from the captain of the kendo club. Wielding her wooden sword, she is calm and cool in the face of danger, and always ready to protect the a person’s honor. Saya is constantly proclaiming that she is a genius, but it isn’t just boasting from her. She is the first to figure out that it’s sounds that attract the zombies. And even though she hides behind Hirano, she will get her hands dirty when necessary. The guys aren’t so bad either. Takashi shows a lot of leadership, even though he would say he’s just trying to keep him and Rei alive. And Hirano is hesitant at first, but once he gets a gun in his hand, he really proves his worth.
The biggest downside of this series is also the women. It’s not the way they act, but the way they are drawn. All of them are drawn with big breasts, with the school nurse Shizuka having back breakers. I’m not sure which is more unbelievable, the breast sizes or the zombies. It gets worse in volume 2 when all the women take a bath together, and they are comparing sizes and feeling each other up. It’s like a pseudo lesbian love fest. All through these three volumes, almost every other page has a panty shot. It gets really close to being overwhelming. It also takes all the wind out of the more serious elements of the story. You can have this wonderful monologue from Takashi about how they world they knew was gone on one page, to the women half-naked and bouncing around in the next. It’s hard to take the series seriously with gratuitous breast grabs going on.
The art is fairly standard for a shonen series. The characters are rather generic looking, though they are just distinct enough to tell apart at sight. I was much more impressed with the horror side of it. There were a lot of nice details on the zombies, with chunks of flesh torn out and bones sticking out. While graphic horror isn’t usually my thing, I found I could appreciate the look of the zombies. They are just what you’d expect for a zombie apocalypse.
Highschool of the Dead isn’t going to be a title for everyone. Both the horror and fan service will keep some readers from even picking up the volumes. But I think the story of society collapsing and how people react to it is an interesting one, and worth digging through the gore and gratuitous boob and panty shots to get to. I would recommend Highschool of the Dead to veteran manga readers and horror fans. Anyone easily offended or disturbed need not apply.
It’s been a year since Yen Plus went digital and things don’t seem to have changed much, at least not for the Japanese side of the magazine. It’s still meager at best, and is losing another title this month with the final chapter of The Innocent appearing. We can hope Yen Press will be able to announce something soon, otherwise having the two sides of the magazine is going to be pretty pointless.
Arrr, guess what time of year it be again. That’s right! It be International Talk Like a Pirate Day! And that means lot’s of “Arrrs” and “ye bes” and “yo ho ho”ing and sounding like ye should have a parrot on yer shoulder. A few years ago I did a post about pirate manga what was available to help enjoy the day. Normally I would do a post updating what’s new, but sadly, there hasn’t been any new additions in the last three years, except one.