Black Rose Alice 1

February 13, 2015

Setona Mizushiro – Viz – 2014 – 6 volumes

I love Setona Mizushiro pretty much unconditionally.  I would read anything she wrote, and she rarely disappoints me.  Little of her work makes it into English, though.  I’ve been expecting this one for years, as it goes with the vampire shoujo vibe that tends to be pretty popular, and it’s AWESOME.  I think its late arrival may have something to do with the fact it’s published by Akita.  Very little of their series make it into English anymore, and what little has made it out here is mostly incomplete.  I think Battle Royale is probably one of the bigger exceptions, but even that’s way out of print.

Black Rose Alice offers a slight twist to the vampire story.  Dimitri “dies” in Vienna in 1900, but his life is saved by the parasitic insect companion of a local vampire (this is difficult to explain well, it’s much smoother than that).  Dimitri basically wakes back up from the dead, but isn’t himself.  Turns out his profession kills people, and his personality is reverting to that of the master vampire that saved him.  He winds up turning against his friends/family, and seeking solace as the strongest vampire in the neighborhood.

Flash-forward to the present.  Azusa is a teacher in an ill-advised relationship with one of her students.  While trying to break it off, they are both killed.  Dimitri saves the soul of her young love in exchange for hers, who he puts into the body of his old lover.

This is some gothic, soapy stuff.  First rate.  But as I said, it also offers an alternate take on normal vampire powers.  These vampires use their powers through insect familiars.  The soul is saved, or stolen, using bugs.  Life energy tends to be what they feed on, and their methods for obtaining it are sometimes novel.  Also, they “propagate” using the insects, and once they do so, they will die.

Dimitri is a rather distant, hard character right now, and I’m curious to see how he’ll interact with the new woman in his former lover’s body.  He hasn’t shown much personality post-change.  I’m actually curious how everyone will react to this situation, because it’s a really weird one.

I’m definitely on board for this whole ride.

Hoshin Engi 20

February 13, 2015

Ryu Fujisaki – Viz – 2010 – 23 volumes

So here’s one I inexplicably stopped reading around 5 years ago!  I decided to finish it off on my Christmas vacation.  Starting this volume, I think I know why I didn’t go back.  I’m pretty sure a lot of the most exciting stuff already happened in this series.  The war is over, and not even the final fight with King Chu was that exciting here.  I imagined the last three volumes containing something… rather ridiculous.  So far, I’m right.  Joka scared me away.  But I’m going to finish anyway.

This series also suffers for having 5,000 characters (which might be a thing I hate, considering a lot of the series I stopped reading years ago and picked back up today have the same problem).  Happily, it was easy to get back into this one because it ran in Shounen Jump, and it doesn’t really matter who all the side characters are.  The first story arc in the volume is Tenka’s fight with himself and his father’s legacy, and his attempt on the life of King Chu.  I love that Taikobo continues to insist that King Chu must be killed by a human, or the revolution is meaningless.

This all went about as planned, honestly, save for the surprise for Tenka at the end of the fight.  But that was happening anyway, so it wasn’t that surprising.

Highlight of the volume:  King Chu’s thought that he missed Dakki, even without the temptation jutsu.  It was just so sweet, even considering how much I hate Dakki.

The war finished up basically uneventfully.  The second half of the volume begins the expected Sennin end-of-the-series.  Again, I’m not looking forward to this, because there are a thousand characters and I feel like something insane and nonsensical is about to happen.  The end of this volume didn’t make much sense because of the thousand characters, and I suspect I wouldn’t care about most of them even if I had read this in sequence with the rest of the volumes.

But at least they’re fast reads.  I do want them to somehow explain… what Joka is (even though I can see she’s an alien gray, for some reason), and I want to know about Otenkun.  I’ve got three volumes to find out, I guess, and I think even more characters, Paope, magical lands, superpowers, et cetera are going to be introduced.  Hooray.

It’s a real shame, because there was some solid gold in this series all the way through.  I’m sad I can’t be more excited about the ending.

Blade of the Immortal 24

February 13, 2015

Hiroaki Samura – Dark Horse – 2011 – 31 volumes

I decided to read the end of this series.  The last volume won’t be out until March/April, but I’m going to read the rest of them in the meantime, and snatch that one up when it comes out.

At this point, I need to heave a heavy sigh.  Blade of the Immortal… has its ups and downs.  One of my big problems right now is that there are way, WAY too many characters.  It’s been some time since I’ve read it, but this volume spends very little time with Manji and Rin, which is what I want to read about.  I have a feeling the story is headed into Itto-Ryu territory, and isn’t really going to be about them for awhile.  Which is a shame, because I really, really don’t care about most of the other characters.

Having said that, the meat of this volume was the Itto-Ryu breaking into Edo Castle.  With only four members, they take out almost all the guards in the outer gates, and penetrated almost all the way to the Shogun.  Then, they got tired, told the head of security that they wanted him to remember that he failed so miserably so that it would never happen again, and left.

It was excessive, crazy violent, and very badass.  You’d have to see this section of story to believe it.  One would think that most of the crazy excessive members of the Itto-Ryu were beaten by Manji at the beginning of the story, but there’s three, in addition to Anotsu, that have made it this far.  While I hate giving nods to characters that appear for a second, I do think that Ozuhan is a badass.  Magatsu is also a member of this raid, and he’s regular enough that I’ve grown fond of him.

I’m… still not really sure where the main plot is going from here.  Retaliation for this strike, and Itto-Ryu centric?  Is anyone even chasing Rin and Manji anymore?  What about Shira?  Do I even want to know?  He appears briefly here, and does something appalling, as usual.

Crimson Spell 2

February 13, 2015

Ayano Yamane – SuBLime – 2014 – 5+ volumes

Surprisingly, Vald and Havi spend most of this volume apart.  I love that the schism occurs because Havi kisses Vald while he’s not a demon.  But it’s not really because of the kiss that they wind up apart.  They go to a town thanks to a thief that steals Havi’s books, and the town is infested by demons, there’s some big baddies after Vald and Havi, blah blah blah.  It’s pretty good though, and better because Amane is not forcing the characters to have sex.  Actually, they pretty much don’t in this volume, which is a little shocking for an Ayano Yamane story.  I still liked it a lot, though.

The big baddies are mainly aiming for Havi, to use him as a source of power/take him over to get to Vald.  The bad guys have a really hard time taking Havi over completely (they need to try, like, three times after capturing him), and Vald feels bad since it’s supposed to be his job to defend Havi, since the latter isn’t a fighter.

I don’t have that much else to say here.  I was still delighted, despite most of the content flying under the radar, so to speak.  But I’m tickled that Amane is taking the time to build up the story like this, since I’m all about well-done smutty fantasy like this.  And again, I binge-bought the rest of the available volumes, so I’m having myself a little marathon.  On to the next!

Sakura Hime 11

February 13, 2015

Arina Tanemura – Viz – 2013 – 12 volumes

Ooh, evil evil evil!  My two favorite characters are Asagiri and Rurijo, and in that way, this is the volume for me.  I love their relationships with Sakura, and Rurijo’s only gets better here.

The Rurijo storyline at the beginning of the volume basically wraps up her part in things, and it was just about everything I could have hoped for.  There’s a rather ugly scene between her and Enju, and she eventually confronts Princess Sakura.  Even they get a wonderful scene together.  Then, everything changes, and it’s great, and I couldn’t be happier.  Honestly, I had not imagined anything like that for Rurijo.

Then I thought to myself, “Of course that happened!  This is Tanemura!  She wrote a manga about a little girl with terminal throat cancer where not even the dead people were really dead!  Nothing bad is going to happen here.”

But then the volume kept going.

I’m not at all upset about what happened, just sad.  And yes, it was surprisingly evil.  But I’m happy to see it.  Perhaps her stories are now growing out of Ribon (she’s said before she wanted to draw for Ribon indefinitely).  None of her three newest stories have run in Ribon.  I’d love to try out the *gasp* slightly more mature Tanemura story.  And when I say that, I know full well Margaret stories aren’t actually that much more mature.  But Melody stories sometimes are, and I’d love to read that one.  But I’ll talk more about that next time.

Insufficient Direction

February 13, 2015

Moyoco Anno – Vertical – 2014 – 1 volume

This makes me so happy!  I will read anything by Moyoco Anno, without exception.  This is an autobiographical work about her life with her husband Hideaki Anno, member of Gainax, director of Evangelion, and generally much more famous than she is.  But it’s my site, so Moyoco needs no introduction, but Hideaki does.

Long story short, honestly, this reminds me a lot of Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! by Fumi Yoshinaga.  As much as I adore Yoshinaga, and as much as I liked the quirky autobiographical bits in that book, it was mostly reviews of Tokyo restaurants that I would never go to, and it was boring.  Insufficient Direction is mostly Hideaki and Moyoco swapping lines from obscure ’60s and ’70s Japanese TV shows, as well as Ultraman and Gundam.  Vertical does an excellent job of footnoting the whole thing, and you’ll find copious notes in the back that explains each and every reference.  But it’s hard to read if you don’t get them.  I don’t get most of them, but I knew enough that I was kept interested throughout.  In the spirit of a plotless journal comic, I’m going to continue with unrelated comments as I read the book.

– On a page where Hideaki (called Director-kun here, which is adorable) criticizes the authenticity of the Gundam ride in the Highlander amusement park, there is a flawed reference to Star Wars.  BOOOOOOOO.  Such a huge western geek faux pas!  It would be like me saying Gundam are controlled by an external remote operator in the same sentence I criticize the character design of 4-Lom in Tiny Death Star.  Also, disappointed that the name of the amusement park passed without comment.

– I wonder if the Time Skeletons in Time Bokan were the inspiration for the weird skeleton henchmen in Ratman.

– The note for page 43 explains at length about the shows they turn into Power Rangers here (aka the annual Super Sentai series).  One of the factoids is that instead of casting different types of characters (going off the original Power Rangers, things like cool guy, geek, Asian girl, black guy, white girl), they cast only hot guys the same age as the kid’s mothers, and female adult film stars as the supervillain to attract the fathers.  Self-fulfilling stereotype FTW!  Speaking of Power Rangers… GODDAMN I wish I was rich.

– The drawing of Moyoco traveling through a picturesque countryside, but trapped in a car listening to Tokusatsu music, is priceless. As is the depiction of Hideaki’s absolute joy over the ability to make compilation CDs.

– SaruManga!  Excuse me… I teared up a little.

– Eroica!!!~~~<3<3<3  *stops reading Insufficient Direction to binge-read Eroica*  I need the last volume, though.  Boo.  And in the super-nerd spirit of the thing here, Eroica was first serialized in Viva Princess, not Princess, as stated in the end notes.  Sons of Eve was still running in Princess when Eroica first started.

– I love the note that delicately spells out the derogatory associations of cosplaying in Japan.

Kimi wa Pet got made into a what now?  Drama?  That would be awesome!

– I’ve not seen Mahoromatic, but I myself have Mahoro de Mambo on my iPod.  It’s a great song!  But I feel weirdly ashamed now…

– Love the thorough end note for Naruto, too.  I wonder where the notes come from?  Are they in the Japanese edition too?  Some of them seem weirdly personal, but maybe Hideaki Anno’s life is a matter of public record in Japan.  Or something.

– Bewitched started the Magical Girl genre in Japan?! WHAT. It couldn’t have been it’s cooler sister, I Dream of Jeannie…

– Rally ho!

– But then again, the notes also talk about how much Moyoco likes certain songs, so she must’ve written them.

– I laughed when the inn Moyoco used to impress Hideaki’s parents sent her the map with a Gatchaman stamp on it.  She was trying so hard!

– Also, where she’s drinking beer and humoring Hideaki by complimenting his Kamen Rider belt, then draws the typical shoujo manga panel with the girl trying to brag about her clothes to her boyfriend… perfect.

– Secretly, all the reasons Moyoco lists for buying a house are why I want one. And my partner knows it, too.  I really am a closet otaku.

– The chapter title, based on the book title (confused, since I thought its Japanese name was Soku-chu), based on the Evangelion episode title, based on the Harlen Ellison title.  Socrates in Love… ah.  The manga wasn’t very good.

– I liked Moyoco’s fear of Director-kun turning into a regular guy that liked spa treatments, and the manga intervention.

– Aww, I don’t have Happy Mania with me, I can’t check the error.

– See, but then there are notes explaining who Nobita is, which would be totally unnecessary in Japan.  I can’t decide!

– And then Hellmouth passes without comment.  Perhaps that was an addition for the English version?  I can’t imagine they’d explain Nobita, but Buffy was just too ubiquitous to say anything about.

– OH MY GOD YES that panel where they talk about being excited about buying geek stuff whenever they want because they didn’t have the money as kids.

– Also, recognizing that they would necessarily do embarrassingly personal creative endeavors about their kid if they ever had one.  Too perfect.

– I can’t help but laugh every time I see the references to Thunderbirds and other APF series. I refused to stop watching the Thunderbirds movie on Netflix one day until I saw them get out of the cockpit and do something. To which my partner patiently explained that the characters live in a world of rampant paraplegy, and were never going to stand. The condescending explanation still makes me laugh.

– The note credits! A bit of both, then. Thank you, Ed Chavez!

Honey Hunt 5

February 13, 2015

Miki Aihara – Viz – 2010 – 6+ volumes

I’m not sure what happened to this series.  It went on hiatus in 2010, and I don’t think Miki Aihara has made another series since.  I was waiting for this series to resume to read the rest of what I had, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

I used to LOVE Hot Gimmick, even knowing that the characters were terrible to each other.  I was also a lot younger.  I’m not sure if Honey Hunt is worse (it probably isn’t, since Q-Ta at least sort of treats Yura well), but I think my tolerance for such things has matured with time.

Basically, this volume is a fighting match between Q-Ta, who wants to date Yura, and Keiichi, her manager.  Keiichi is an adult, and his behavior bothers me a bit more than Q-Ta’s does.  Q-Ta’s got a bit of an obsessive stalker thing going (“I want to talk to Yura.  I wonder if she can stay out two nights in a row?  She’s not answering her phone, she says her schedule’s full, but I miss her.  I want to see her face.”), but he’s not openly awful to Yura, and seems to really like her, which is nice.

Keiichi seems to be telling Yura not to date Q-Ta because he’s jealous.  Which… no.  No.

Add to that the chapter on Yura’s awful mother, where we find out that she’s been putting Yura down her whole life because she doesn’t want a single person to think Yura is better than her in any way… uh.  Right.

Q-Ta does make a jerk move at the end of the volume, and his motives for doing so are pretty slimy and infuriating.  There is a nice guy dating candidate for Yura (because she needs at least three), but he’s in a distant third right now.

Yura is also… not that interesting.  Her motivation for being famous, that she wants to be more famous than her d-bag parents, is pretty weak.  And she’s otherwise unremarkable, aside from the fact that every character in the series claims she has a natural magnetism.

Sigh.  I missed you, Miki Aihara.  I do wish I could lose myself in this one again, because despite all the awful stuff, I’m a terrible sucker for shoujo drama, and this is top notch.  One more volume probably won’t be enough to pull me back in.

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