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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free Collars Kingdom Volume 1-3

Cyan is a young Abyssidian cat who is abandoned by his family when becomes sick and has to go to the hospital. Left in the basement of the family’s apartment building, Nyan-Nyans Mansion, he soon meets a gang of stray cats know as the Free Collars, who have made their base there. They are fighting to protect Nyan-Man from being taken over by another gang of strays led by a Siamese cat called Siam. In order to protect his home and keep waiting for the promised return of his master, Cyan joins the Free Collars to fight for their “kingdom.”

By Takuya Fujima
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy
Price: $10.95
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I must be getting cynical in my old age. When I first read Free Collars Kingdom 5 years ago, I liked it, even if I thought the fanservice was a little over the top. This second time around, I didn’t enjoy it as much, and as it got closer to the end, I was more annoyed than amused. While I love cats, I don’t care so much for cat boys and girls, and this title seems to be more otaku that look like cats than cats who are otaku.

I was looking forward to reading a fun title about otaku cats battling to protect their home from the evil otaku cats who want to take over the world. The protagonist, Cyan, wants to become like the legendary cat Wild Cat, who once ruled over all cats in the area from the place where Nyan-Man now stands, so he can protect his home while he waits for his master’s return. That’s not what I got from Free Collars Kingdom. The otaku part was there at the beginning, with battles being interrupted by broken limited edition statues, dressing like, and using moves from, video games, and fighting over manga. The otakuness wouldn’t be complete without some cosplay, which this title has plenty of. This element was cute and sometimes funny, but it wasn’t enough to carry the title for me.

The same goes for the shonen elements. There were plenty of battles with Siam’s underlings, who always had to lose to the Free Collars. Cyan, being young and inexperienced, had to win to show his hidden strength and that it wasn’t just pure luck. He spends a lot of time talking about how he wants to be as strong as Wild Cat, but he never really trains to start reaching that goal. It’s all talk and gets dangled out as a hook that there may be more to come, but it never materializes.

Think part of my problem with this title is that is too much going on. It feels like it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It has both comedy and shonen elements, but at the same time, it has some serious themes about the way cats are sometimes treated, and mistreated, by humans. One chapter can be light and funny, and then the next throws Cyan into conflict over his continued dedication to his old master. It was really hard to get past these two conflicting themes, which is probably why I found it so annoying. It also spend way too much time showing the characters as cat boys and girls. Fujima draws some really cute cats, especially Cyan. And if you’re not familiar with all the breeds, such as Korat, naming their breed and never showing them as such loses the benefit of using cats in the first place.

Free Collars Kingdom is a title I wanted to love, but in the end only found mildly funny with the otaku elements, and completely unsatisfying with other story elements that are brought up but never explored. Because of this, the ending, while making sense, wasn’t satisfying either. I can’t recommend this title for cat lovers, but fans of otaku culture, cat boys and girls, or moe characters may find something of worth from it.

Neko Ramen Volume 1

Taisho was a former kitten model, who ran away from home and had a hard life on the streets…until the day he was saved by a kind ramen shop owner who later served as his mentor. Now Taisho takes pride in his noodles…and is easily angered when customers are dissatisfied! So step aside, Soup Nazi – there’s a new cat in town!

Continue reading Neko Ramen Volume 1

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

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

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

The Drops of God Volume 3: Manga Movable Feast

The first of the heaven-sent bottles is revealed in these pages. No less gripping: the dramas of memory that unfold as Shizuku helps out an amnesiac painter, Chosuke hears from the French lady of his unrequited longings, and Miyabi meets a former classmate turned newly-rich snob for whom wires are but brands.

Continue reading The Drops of God Volume 3: Manga Movable Feast

Durarara!! Volume 1

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…

Continue reading Durarara!! Volume 1

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

National Pet Month Manga Update

It’s May and that means it’s time to show some love to our furry (and sometimes not so furry) friends! It’s National Pet Month, where the benefits of pet ownership is promoted and pet adoptions are supported. I wrote about some pet manga available in English before, but now it’s time for an update!

The most common way of getting a pet in manga is through taking in a stray. My Cat Loki was a Tokyopop original title that sadly didn’t get to finish its three-volume run due to low sales. It’s about a young man, Ameya, who withdraws from those around him after his long-time pet cat dies. But he soon takes in a stray who looks a lot like his first cat, that he names Loki. The two available volumes show Ameya and Loki first coming to terms with each other, and then Ameya coming out his shell and starting to live again. I enjoyed the volumes I read and was disappointed I wouldn’t see the third. I thought I would be put off with seeing Loki as a “cat boy”, as Ameya would sometimes see him as human, but it actually worked in the context of the story.

Milkyway Hitchhiking is a Yen Plus exclusive title from Yen Press about a cat with a coat that looks like the Milkyway. She is a special cat that has the ability to grant wishes. She wanders the world interacting with people and cats, both strays and pets, and sometimes even helps them. I’ve found this series to be hit or miss, and haven’t really enjoyed the stories where Milkyway is the observer and not really involved. The art is very pretty though, as being online, it gets to be in color, and is often done with a water-color look.

PoyoPoyo Observation Diary is a new digital manga from Jmanga, the Japanese publisher collaboration site. It’s a about a round, fat cat, that is found a woman who then brings his home. It’s a 4-koma, or comic strip style comic that shows Poyopoyo with his new family. I’ve bought the first volume, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. But it looks very funny. There is also an anime available on Crunchyroll, which Jmanga links to as well. The anime episodes, much like the Chi’s Sweet Home anime are short, only about 3 minutes long, making them a great time filler, or sucker as your schedule will allow.

Guru Guru Pon-Chan gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “puppy love.” Ponta is the pet labrador retriever dog to the Koizumi family. The grandfather invents a bone that when licked allows the animal the power of human speech. Ponta eats the bone and is turned into a human girl. She falls in love with Mirai, a boy who saves her when she rushes out into traffic while in human form. Ponta enrolls in Mirai’s school so she can be near him as well as trying to learn how to be human. Del Rey released this 9 volume series back in 2005, so the series is out of print, but used copies may still be had.

While not specifically a pet manga, Fruits Basket, a book formerly published by Tokyopop, features several animals that are pets. This title is about a girl, Tohru, who gets involved with a family, the Sohmas, that are cursed by the Chinese zodiac. Everytime they are hugged by a member of the opposite sex not afflicted in the same way, they turn into one of the animals of the zodiac. The first three Sohmas that Tohru meets, Yuki, Kyo, and Shigure are the rat, cat and dog of the zodiac story. Momiji the rabbit and Ayame, the snake, also represent common house pets. In a bit of a reversal, Tohru is the stray that is taken in, and it’s her unconditional feelings that help to heal the Sohma family and break the curse. This is another series that is out of print, and it would behoove Kodansha to bring it back. Fruits Baskets is just too good of a series to stay out of print.

Manga Wrap Up Week Fifteen: The Wallflower Volume 11-15

The Wallflower got off to a rough start with me, but by the end of volume 10, I was starting to warm up to the series. I still had 5 volumes left to get through, and these were going to make-or-break the series for me.

I have to admit, this series is really starting to grow on me. The problems I had with the first five volumes are gone. The stories in these volume vary quite a bit, as the boys get their own spotlight instead of focusing solely on Sunako. Takenaga and Noi’s relationship takes some baby steps forward. Ranmaru continues to try to come to terms with his new fiancée Tamao. He continues his womanizing, but can be made to feel guilty about it by her honest and naive personality. There is definitely potential for them. Yuki’s younger siblings are introduced, and he is shown to be a good older brother. He also gets a boost of confidence, but of course, at the wrong time. Kyohei just keeps being Kyohei, and that’s just fine with me. Sunako starts to show some progress as well. She makes some friends at school outside of the boys and Noi. She’s able to move on from some of the past that has haunted her, and start to accept herself.

And the person most responsible for this change is Kyohei. Their relationship continues to be more combative, and in my opinion, the most fun. I love watching them battle, and the way they competed in the Sports Day competitions was great. Both continue to refuse to admit they have any interest in each other, but Kyohei continues to be there to help Sunako, either with his actions or blunt words.Sunako shows she cares for Kyohei in her own way, even if she still clings to the thought that she’s just biding time until his life is hers. Even though their relationship is progressing at a snail’s pace, I’m fine with it. At this point it would seem more out of character to see either of them even thinking any kind of romantic feels for the other. I actually think it would be out of character for them to do so at all, but I do want to seem them together, eventually. That’s probably where the series should end. Once you get them together I just don’t think there’ll be anything more left to say.

I want to also take a moment to mention the author’s comments at the end of the volume. Hayakawa likes to do long notes at the end, mostly about her favorite jpop musician, some of which she based the bishonen boys on. I really didn’t care for these, because I’m not that kind of fan girl, and don’t really care about reading other people’s obsession over celebrities. I usually just scanned this section, until Hayakawa got a kitten. A Scottish Fold, a breed that is popular in Japan for some reason. She added real photos as well as little tidbits about the kitten, names Ten. So, by the time I got to these volumes, I did want to read the notes, but only for those about Ten. Yes, I am destined to be a crazy cat lady.

I’ve definitely turned around from my feelings about The Wallflower at the beginning. It’s a series I would like to continue, if I could borrow it or get it digitally. I liked it, but not enough for it to keep taking up space on my bookshelf. So if Kodansha ever releases this title digitally and/or for a non-iOS device, I’ll be there. While I’m not interested in keeping it, I would recommend this title to anyone with my more twisted sense of humor and romance. Just push through the first five volumes because it does get better.

I’m moving on to Spiral: Bonds of Reasoning next. I think I will have to go back a volume or two for a refresher, since it seems to have been quite a while. I also want to get some pet manga read and reviewed, and then there’s the next MMF, which I plan on participating in. Where I’m going to find the time is anyone guess.

  • The Wallflower Volume 11-15
  • Yen Plus April 2012

Why Is It Always The Cat?

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?

Manga Wrap Up Week Fourteen: The Wallflower Volume 1-10

I’ve had The Wallflower sitting on my bookshelf unread for 3-4 years now. I didn’t know anything about the manga until the anime was announced. Having watched and enjoyed the anime, I started to pick up the manga. I mistakenly picked up volume 7 first, and finding the first 6 took a little longer, so I put off reading it for while. Of course, after that, it was easy to continue to put it off. Even after collecting up to volume 15, I continued to put it off. But now, with space becoming a premium, a title that had 15 volumes of that I hadn’t even read the first volume of became an easy target for culling. Since I was also preparing for the MMF this week, I only got through the first 5 volumes.

The Wallflower is about 4 incredibly handsome boys, and their quest to live rent free in the mansion of an eccentric woman who is constantly traveling, and always with a new male companion. To reach this goal, all they have to do get their landlady’s niece to look an act like a proper lady. This is easier said than done, since said niece, Sunako looks like Sadako from The Ring, and wants to be by herself, in a dark room watching horror movies and talking to her anatomical dolls and skull, all of who she’s named. Repulsed at first, the boys learn that Sunako could be beautiful if she just tried. But after an incident with a boy she liked in middle school, Sunako rejects all things beautiful and doesn’t believe she can live in the with the other “creatures of light.” The manga follows the boys attempts to make Sunako a normal girl, or hide the fact that they have failed so far from the landlady.

I really didn’t care for the first 5 volumes of this series. I think part of it is because the anime was based on them. I’d already seen all of the stories before, so there was nothing new in them. Also, the stories focused mostly on how scary Sunako was, and what new scheme the boys had come up with to try to make her a lady. The anime took a much more comedic tack with this, I was expecting the manga to be like that. I liked volumes 6-10 a lot more. Not only were the stories not familiar, but they also started to focus on more of the characters. It wasn’t just “Sunako vs the Creatures of Light.” The other characters started to get some actual depth. Kyohei’s troubled past is investigated. Oda and Noi’s relationship gets to take a step forward. Ranmaru might have found love. Yuki’s powers of cuteness are further revealed. The characters started to be more than just cardboard cutouts, and I’m actually interested to read more about them.

One thing I’ve enjoyed throughout all 10 volumes is Sunako and Kyohei’s relationship. It’s the kind of advesarial relationship that I enjoy. Sunako is determined to live in darkness, and Kyohei is determined to live rent free. This put the two constantly at odds, sometimes with them coming to blows. These are some of the scenes I like the most, partly because it’s also most often when Sunako will be show as a person and not a chibi. I really got tired of her chibi form in the first 5 chapters, but it wasn’t so bad in the next 5. And for all their fighting, they do seem to care for each other. Kyohei is trying to help Sunako through his harsh words. And Sunako won’t let anyone else but her harm Kyohei, so that is something, right? I keep rooting for these them to get together. They are like two sides of the same coin. They are yin and yang; darkness and light.

I have mixed feelings about this title now. After the first 5 I was ready to chuck it. After the second 5, now I’m not so sure. The next 5, 11-15 will be the deciding factor I guess. I wish this series was available digitally. It would be a much easier decision then. At 15 volumes, I’m still only half way through the series, and 30 volumes is far too much space for a series I like, but don’t love. Kodansha, please put this on Jmanaga, so I at least have some hope of reading it.

I’ll finish up The Wallflower this week. I was going to start on Spiral: Bonds of Reasoning after, as it’s another 15 volumes, but I need to make a dent in my TBR pile. I’m running out of room on my desk as well. And I think I’ll start with some of the omnibuses I have; Black Gate, and the infamous Sasameke volume 2. Really, how bad can it be? I also have to catch up with the April issue of Yen Plus, since May starts Tuesday.

  • The Wallflower volumes 1-10
  • Dorohedoro volume 1
  • Bokurano Ours volume 1
  • Biomega volume 5

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