Manga Wrap Up Week Seven

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

One Missed Call 1+2

It’s an epidemic of accidental death! Multiple college students receive odd voicemails from themselves, messages from the future, and all they contain are the screams of their own deaths. A few days later, at the date and time of the message’s posting, they die in mysterious accidents, and oddly enough, each have a candy in their mouths.

Original Story by Yasushi Akimoto; Manga by Mayumi Shihou
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Age Rating: Teen+
Genre: Horror
Price: $14.95
Rating: ★★½☆☆

One Missed Call was a novel written by Yasushi Akimoto that was adapted into a movie by cult director Takashi Miike. It was received well enough that it got a sequel under a different writer and director. This manga adapts both movies into one volume. The first story is a standard, but fairly coherent j-horror. The second story feels more like a bunch of j-horror elements glued together and slapped with the One Missed Call label.

One Missed Call starts out like a fairly standard j-horror. People are being killed in what looks like accidents. The only link between the victims are contact lists on cellphones. The police don’t believe anything strange is going on. There is an intrepid reporter who hooks up with a potential victim to try to solve the mystery. There are misdirects, a connection between the female victim/protagonist and killer, and a strange clue; a piece of red candy left in the victim’s mouth.

There are a lot of murder mystery elements in the first story, which is probably why I liked it. Yumi and Yamashita make a good team as they try to race against time to save first Yumi’s friend Natsume, and then to save Yumi herself from the same fate. The misdirect with the mother is classic for a mystery. The child abuse subplot was slightly different, but the twist at the end with revelation of the real culprit was good. I liked that it wasn’t really a vengeful spirit, but a psychopath who took her action in life to the next level in death. The red candies were a nice touch. The ending is ambiguous, and is just one of the few serious flaws I had with the first story.

The second story is filled with them sadly. One Missed Call 2 has a mostly new cast with the only returning characters being the police detective, now a believer, investigating the new string of murders, and just a few mentions of Mimiko, the spirit from the first movie. Instead, a new vengeful spirit is introduced, a cursed girl from a village in Taiwan, where Mimiko’s grandfather was from. Kyoko, a woman who works at a daycare center becomes the new victim that must be saved, and between grusome deaths, she and her friends must go to Taiwan to find the source of the curse and stop it.

The plot of this story is poorly conceived, making it very confusing. There are two story lines running through it, instead of a plot and subplot. The death calls are continuing, but the telltale candy isn’t being left. Instead, coal is found in the stomach of the victims. So Mimiko’s story get’s left in the dust as the main characters go in search of this new spirit that is using the same method as Mimiko to kill her victims. This whole story line just doesn’t make sense, and feels forced into the One Missed Call world. While Kyoko and her friend struggle against Lily, the Taiwanese spirit, intrepid reporter Nozoe helps, but is haunted by the death of her twin sister many years before. These two storylines collide like two freight trains at the end, leaving the same kind of mess, and the twist at the end might have been clever, if the rest of the story hadn’t been so disappointing.

That art is fairly realistic, if not some what generic. In the second story, it’s especially difficult to tell Kyoko and Nozoe apart. It’s only through hair styles that it’s really possible. The death scenes aren’t really gory, and really don’t come off as scary.

If you are at all interested in One Missed Call, just see the first movie. It’s very atmospheric and plays up the scares well. Also, the ringtone that signifies a “missed call” is a big part of the story, and not being able to hear it, as in the manga, really reduces the tension which is a hallmark of j-horror. The manga, while a decent adaptation of the movies just can’t do them justice.

Manga Wrap Up Week Six

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Innocent

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?

By Avi Arad; Script by Junichi Fujisaku; Art by Yasung Ko
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Older Teen
Genre: Supernatural/Action
Price: $11.99
Rating: ★★★★½

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.

Manga Wrap Up Week Five: Chibi Vampire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manga Wrap Up Week Four: Black Cat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genkaku Picasso Volume 1: Manga Movable Feast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Longer Human Volume 1-2: Manga Movable Feast

I wasn’t going to read No Longer Human. I’m one of those people who hears “literary classic”, and my brain shuts down. I’ve never been big on the drama and tragedy that usually permeates these kinds of books, but I’m making an effort to “expand my horizons”, so I decided to at least give the first volume a chance. What I found was a compelling human drama that didn’t feel like homework at all.

By Usamaru Furuya; Based on the novel by Osamu Dazai
Publisher: Vertical, Inc.
Age Rating: 16+ (Older Teen)
Genre: Drama
Price: $10.95
Rating: ★★★★★

No Longer Human, written by Osamu Dazai, originally took place just after Japan’s defeat in World War II. Furuya takes this story and updates it for the 21st century, making it relatable to modern-day readers. He starts the title with a great hook. While he is surfing the internet for ideas for his next manga, Usamaru Furuya stumbles onto a link to Yozo Oba’s “Ouch Diary”, a blog about his life. This was a great way to start out the story since it’s so believable. Web surfing can lead to some strange places, and the fact that he gets sucked in in spite of himself was another great touch.

I think the choice of setting the story in modern times was the right one. It makes what Yozo goes through more relevant to the audience. While the themes of the story may be universal, a setting from over 60 years ago can make it too far removed to grab the reader. The original story will still bring in readers, but modernizing it will bring in more.

Furuya also does an excellent job of portraying Yozo’s emotions. At the beginning, Yozo doesn’t know what emotions really are, or what it means to feel them. He doesn’t understand what it means to be human and Furuya shows this by depicting Yozo as a puppet. He dances on the strings to fit into whatever situations he’s in. When he tries to commit suicide with Ageha, he is shown as a doll breaking apart. It’s after this incident that he starts to understand emotion and is no longer depicted that way.

In some way, these first two volumes show Yozo maturing backwards emotionally through the women he meets and lives with. When he’s with Ageha, he ready to give up on life, thinking there’s nothing left to experience or live for. When he lives with Shizuko and her daughter Shiori, he gets a taste of what being married could be like. And, when he runs away to Mama, he can finally be a teenager. She acts like a real mother figure to him, one he doesn’t seem to have ever had. When he meets Yoshino, he acts like a schoolboy with a crush, which really shows his emotional growth. Before, he looked at women as objects to have sex with, not understanding, or even trying to understand their feelings. With Yoshino, he doesn’t seem to feel that way at all.

Things seem to be looking up for Yozo by the end of volume 2. He has a home where he is accepted unconditionally, and he seems to have found true love. The words at the end though seem to hint at more bad times to come. After he has started to rise up, it seems that Yozo is destined for a fall. But while the words are ominous, it’s Furuya’s panels on the last page that really gives meaning to the darkness in them. The last panel almost makes you shudder at the implications.

No Longer Human is a classic in the truest sence of the word. It tells a story that is not only universal, but also timeless. The feelings and experiences of Yozo can be found in any time period and any society. Dazai’s story is compelling on its own, but Furuya’s art just drives home the story that much more. His imagery adds so much to the words and expresses what words alone can’t. I can’t recommend this title more highly.

Manga Wrap-Up Week Three: Bizenghast

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

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

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

  • Bizenghast Volumes 1-7

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

  • Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Volume 1

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

 

Oresama Teacher Volume 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manga Wrap-Up Week Two: Rurouni Kenshin

Week two ends on a better note than last week. After so much talk, I finally finished reading Rurouni Kenshin. I can’t really say I cared much for the last arc. I liked all the flashback scenes and Watsuki did a good job of balancing it’s telling with the present. But there was so much fighting, and lot of it seemed pointless. The big battle with Enishi and his “allies” was just to show how powerful everyone had grown over the series. And the battle against the 4 Stars felt like it was just filler. The ending did tie up everything nicely. I liked that everyone went their separate ways, following their own paths instead of staying together in Tokyo. I was glad to see some hope for resolution for Enishi as well. That is one of the things I liked about the series overall. There was feeling of hope and redemption all the way through the series. Kenshin never gave up one anyone, and redemption was always in reach, if one chose to reach for it.

The ending did have a cliché feeling to it, especially with Kenshin and Kaoru’s son Kenji being such a crybaby, mama’s boy, the exact opposite of Kenshin. It wasn’t bad, it just felt meh. But I like Watsuki’s suggestion for a sequel even less. I would rather like to see Kenji and Yahiko and Tsubame’s son fighting together as buddies but competitive rather than against each other.

Overall, Rurouni Kenshin is a great series and really deserves the praise it has gotten. I think the first volumes and the Tokyo arc are the strongest of the series. At least, they are the volumes I enjoyed the most. The light humor was more prevalent in these volumes. I don’t mind the darker elements that were introduced as the series progressed, especially since the series still ended on a happy note, but I do like the lighter elements more.

  • Rurouni Kenshin Volume 21-28

Next up, I’ll be starting the Tokyopop series Bizenghast volume 1-7. I’ve only read the first volume of this series, and it was several years ago, so I’ll be starting back at the beginning.

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