Eiji Otsuka / Housui Yamazaki – Dark Horse – 2015 – 20+ volumes

I am so, so very happy about this series coming back.  Tell your friends they should buy the omnibus!  Apparently if that doesn’t do well, we may not see more.  I think it’s coming out in a week or so (from now, which is August 24th, I’ll probably post this in my next round of reviews).  If you haven’t given it a try yet, and you have any love at all for horror manga, this is one of its true gems in English.  Forgive the art in the first volume, it gets way better.

I was re-reading the series a bit before this arrived, or else the content might have… surprised me.  Not because it’s particularly graphic (although Karatsu does, at one point, resurrect dozens of murder victims that had been dumped over the course of 40+ years), but because it’s just plain strange.  In a 2-chapter story in the middle of the volume, the drawing style reverts… to be more cartoony?  Like Saturday Morning Cartoons in America cartoony.  Which is precisely what it is, Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service retold in an American setting, drawn in a broad caricature.  For some reason.  The best reason I can come up with is the bad joke at the end of the second chapter, but that seems like a lot of work.

The two more “realistic” stories deal with political protest, mostly, this time around.  In the first, a corrupt politician campaigns to end dam building across the country (presumably because he sees it as a government handout job-kinda situation), but continues the construction project in his own hometown.  He is hiding something.  There is also an ugly internet rumor about the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, which turns out to be related to a copycat group that uses the same logo and, hilariously, look and dress like members of the team.

The third story is about another politician who feels that we waste too much time conferring in committees to get things done, so he conducts a massive experiment involving murder victims that is very Kurosagi-like.  Sasaki finds herself in the line of fire this time.

The characters (and Carl Horn, a bit, in the back) seem to have a little fun at the expense of unusual museums.  The characters visit, for all intents and purposes, The Museum of Torture of Japan.  If you, like me, are a fan of both the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and macabre museums, and happen to be in America, then you may want to check out The Museum of Torture (hilariously located) in Wisconsin Dells , the Mutter Museum of Medical Oddities in Philadelphia (whose tagline is “Are You Ready to Be Disturbingly Informed”), the Museum of Death in Hollywood, the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices in Minneapolis/St. Paul, or the Museum of Surgical Science, located in a Gold Coast mansion in Chicago. Of those, the Mutter Museum is the best by far. <3  The Iron Maiden also comes up in this volume, those are sometimes on display in Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museums, which are all over.  I’ve seen six of them.  I live the life.

Anyway, we even get a couple tidbits about the characters this time around, I live for that in these volumes.  Here, we learn a little about Numata’s family and the ultimate end of a man involved with them.  We also get a few rare glimpses of unguarded Sasaki (she gets kidnapped, texts for help, and we also find out about her internship), which is also worth mentioning.  Funny that, 14 volumes in, we know next to nothing about these characters save for the fact they may or may not be attending college together.

Basically, this volume does not disappoint.  The editor notes in the back are hilarious as always, and made even better by the fact that the cartoon segment doesn’t have sfx translations because they are all in English or Romanized in that section.  We’ve been waiting years for this to come out, and I was not disappointed.  I will only be bummed if we never see more again.  Buy the omnibus of the beginning of the series!  This is the good kind of wacky, very smart and interesting, and reads kind of like a corpse-resurrecting Scooby Doo, where they pull the flesh off people’s dead skulls at the end instead of the usual rubber mask.

 

Toradora! 6

August 30, 2015

Yuyuko Takemiya / Zekkyo – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2014 – 7+ volumes

Mmm… Toradora dives into, then sidesteps another cliche when this volume focuses on the school festival.  I was a little worried when the characters discussed maid/Chinese/loli cafes, but they wound up doing a (bizarre) wrestling match, and I forgave the story immediately.

The bigger plot point is that Taiga’s dad comes back into her life.  Taiga hates him so much she refuses to talk to him, and when he cuts off her funds, she sends Ryuji to talk in her place.  To Ryuji, he looks like a nice, caring man who genuinely wants to make amends with Taiga, and wants them to be a family again.  But Taiga will not believe Ryuji, nor talk to her father.  They fight for a bit, but Ryuji gets genuinely mad, since he’s secretly envious Taiga still has a father.  This causes a very serious fight between himself and Minori, and doesn’t go well in general at the end of the volume.

There’s actually not a whole lot of character interaction here, although Ami seems to be softening up, and the other characters take notice.  Ryuji also loses his temper rather epically, which is something he berates himself heavily for.  He tells himself he always has to be nice, kind, do whatever anyone wants, because fighting only makes him look meaner, and it’s a sad scene.  Ami, of all people, brings him out of it.  And the fight he has with Taiga ends with Taiga humoring him/believing him, which is all kinds of cute and heartbreaking.  I guess I just like the characters a lot.  They have different hang-ups than what you normally see in rom-com, and maybe because it was condensed from a novel, the story doesn’t linger over-long on stuff, so serious moments pass and have the gravity they need.

And it ends on a freaking cliffhanger.  Of course it does.  At least I don’t have long to wait to see that resolved.

No. 6 4

August 30, 2015

Atsuko Asano / Hinoki Kino – Kodansha USA – 2013 – 9 volumes

Huh.  I just realized that Atsuko Asano also wrote Manzai Comics, a series that probably nobody remembers or read.  One volume was published by Aurora in 2009, and it disappeared after that, but I really liked what I read in that one.  It’s cool that we have a little more of her work in English, and that it was still pretty good.  I really wish Kodansha would release the No. 6 novels.  That doesn’t really seem to be their thing, though.

Anyway, I still love No. 6.  In this volume, Rat finds out that Shion is planning to go by himself to save Safu.  Shion tries to play it cool and leave Rat without him knowing, but Rat catches him, beats him up, and makes him promise to never say goodbye to him again.  Shion punches him back, and makes him promise never to hide things from him again.  It’s adorable.

Later, they capture someone from high-up in No. 6 and make him divulge plans for a new facility, and what is going on in the city.  The man seems to honestly have no idea what they’re asking him.  He claims there’s no way Safu was kidnapped, that nobody knows what the new strange bunker is about because the health department built it themselves, and he also has no knowledge of the bee outbreak.  Shion’s interrogation techniques wind up being more effective than Rat’s.

We also learn about the manhunt, which should take place next volume.

This is a pretty straightforward section of story, though if you’re at all a fan of Rat/Shion, there’s about as much as this series has to give in here.  Which is not much, but it’s still adorable.  And the series is very focused on the pair of them, which is awesome, even if it isn’t necessarily romantically.  The interrogation scene I mentioned above is pretty intense.  Shion eventually stops it, and tries it his way.  We get a little peek at Rat, and Rat gets a little taste of Shion being right.  It’s a great scene, and one of the nice bits of character development this series offers pretty frequently.

Again, as an adaptation of an anime that was adapted from a novel series, this is pretty good.  The novels are a little long-winded, so I like this more concise version of the story.  And the art is nice, clear, and readable.  Nothing fancy, but I like how quick these read.

Kamisama Kiss 11

August 30, 2015

Julietta Suzuki – Viz – 2012 – 21+ volumes

It’s been forever since I read this series!  That’s a shame, because it’s pretty good.  Very low-key, very upbeat episodic stories with lots of interesting one-shot characters.  The only thing I had trouble with after jumping in here was the terminology the series uses, but there are handy indexes in the front and back that cover most of that.

Let’s see… well, Tomoe and Nanami still aren’t together, which shocked and dismayed me, or would have, if I hadn’t been reading shoujo manga for the last 15 or so years.  I like their relationship a lot, although it’s also taking me a moment to get a bead on Tomoe.  He’s very cranky and doesn’t outwardly show affection to Nanami, in word or deed, but again, since this is a shoujo manga we can assume he really likes her.  Admittedly, even during the cutest scene in the volume, where he basically proposes to her, he doesn’t look all that lovey-dovey.  I guess that’s just who he is.

The plot is tapping back into a story from a volume or so ago, where Akura, formerly BFF evil buddies with Tomoe, is trapped in the body of a human and trying to resurrect his demon body.  He ventures into the deadly underworld where his body is kept, but not much comes of it.

The cutest, and longest, story in the volume is about Nanami running under a set of torii that make you review the past 12 years of your life.  Tomoe and Mizuki review it with her, and we see Nanami’s horribly sad childhood.  Even Tomoe is so depressed he needs to intervene.  It doesn’t really seem to make Nanami that sad, though.  This goes cute places, and I was super-thrilled it was in here.

There’s also a story at the end about how Nanami’s Kamisama powers may or may not be growing, and how she continues to make a nuisance of herself to Tomoe.  It’s a nice story though, and has a bit of a wake-up for both characters.  And everything in this volume leads up to New Year’s Eve, which recaps several characters I only vaguely remember, but who all seem to be having a good time.

But that’s really the point of this series.  Some light fun, where all the characters have a good time and there’s not a ton of drama.  I love reading it.  I’m surprised to see it’s still going, as 21 volumes seems long for something like this.  I plan on catching up to the English volumes, so I’ll see if it becomes more plot-centric shortly.

Bakuman 19

August 30, 2015

Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2013 – 20 volumes

On one hand, they talk a lot about Reversi anime in this volume, and I’m right there with them.  They’re just so excited, and the whole series has been building up to this.  The pages where they get various pieces of news are some of the best we’ve seen in awhile.

On the other hand, this of course ties in to the relationship between Mashiro and Azuki.  I hate it when the series glorifies their weird relationship.  The characters call it “pure” and say that the pair are “endangered species”… but both of them are in their mid-twenties now, and have been “dating” since middle school, and haven’t seen each other in years and years.  I’m glad they both had a dream to work towards, and I’m glad they’re finally there, but I’m still not real clear on what that has to do with not seeing each other.

Their ambiguous relationship status causes problems here, and is a major point of contention at the end of the volume.  As weird as their relationship is, fans of idols in Japan are even weirder.  I actually saw two news stories today about people threatening women or being arrested for harassment, so I suspect there’s not much exaggeration in this story.  Also fairly realistic was the fact that, when someone told the true story of Mashiro and Azuki’s relationship, nobody believed it.

Aside from the main event, there’s a New Year’s holiday chapter at the beginning of the volume that may be my second-favorite chapter of the series, after the one where Hanamaru tries to ask Aoki out and Yasuda tries to stop him with the world’s best backhanded compliments.  The New Year’s chapter being great is somewhat more of a feat than even the Hanamaru chapter, because I don’t like Shujin, Saiko, or Kaya that much.

There’s some Nizuma in this volume too, who I do like, though other than some weird comments and stuffing his face with food, he doesn’t really have a huge role.

The next volume is the last.  I do like this series, despite itself, but I think I’m ready to see it end.

Earthian 3

August 30, 2015

Yun Kouga – Blu – 2006 – 4 volumes

Ahh… hm.  Hmm.  So, the story ends here.  The fourth volume is a gaiden volume, that sounds like it’s mostly about Raphael and Michael.

Honestly, I’m not really clear on what happened here?  Maybe because it took me a couple months to pick up volume 3 after I finished 2.  But I don’t think that’s it.

The ‘;plot comes back with a vengeance here.  The black angels are suddenly all about attacking Eden.  Also, when I say black angels, there’s also suddenly an army of them.  Some of them are offspring, which hasn’t come up before now.  Elvira also has a new lover who isn’t introduced… he’s just kind of there.  Also, just as suddenly, Raphael decides to attack and eradicate humans/Earthians.  It’s not really clear why he’s doing this, though he does mention offhandedly one time that it may be because the humans are destroying Earth.  But this doesn’t really make sense, since the angels have their own land/planet that is doing just fine, and killing all Earthians won’t save the angel race.  In fact, Michael points this out, and puzzles over it just as I did.

The story leaves a lot of loose ends.  It basically ends in the middle of an explosion.  An explosion that isn’t… really well explained?  They need to cripple the transporter on the Metatron, but since it’s already near Earth, this only makes it so they can’t go back?  Maybe they need to go back because the black angels also damaged the ship?  Maybe they get scared when they realize they can’t go back?  But then Chihaya, Kagetsuya, and Raphael are apparently back on Isana?

???

Hopefully more will be explained in one or two stores in the gaiden volume?

So let’s ignore the hot mess that is the second half of this volume.  What we actually came for is in the first half.  The second volume ended in a rather spicy place, but apparently that didn’t go anywhere.  It goes a little bit of (well-masked, because this is a Wings series) somewhere here.  Hilariously, Kagetsuya and Chihaya are interrupted almost immediately, which is the only way they would get in trouble for their relationship, other than their guilty consciences.  I say this is funny, because Michael and Raphael have obviously been involved for some time, but have never been caught.

The aftermath isn’t that funny though, and is rather heartbreaking.  I felt bad for everyone, but I thought it was a nice touch that Kouga spotlighted Michael here, Chihaya’s foster father.  Michael is torn up about it all, especially the fact that Chihaya and Kagetsuya are scheduled for execution for their homosexual indiscretion.  Again, I’m blown away by the logic in this series.  The race of angels are dying out, so they have strict laws against homosexuality since they want the birth rate to increase.  But to enforce this, they kill members of their dying race?  I suppose I really shouldn’t think too hard about it.

Kouga has some lovely art in this book, and there are even a couple color pages for us to ogle.  Some truly nice layouts, and even a few that incorporate both pages, which I am a sucker for.  That messy battle at the end may be confusing, but since it takes place in the sky, space, and the void, there’s some truly great composition at work there.

Hm.  The Blu editions aren’t pricey right now, and you can also buy the series digitally at eManga.  I suspect most will be disappointed with it.  But it does have lovely art, and there’s a beautiful love story buried in there somewhere (which I suspect will continue in volume 4, I can’t wait to read more about Michael and Raphael).  I’d say go for it if you’re up for a challenge.  If you’re a big book nerd, the Blu editions may be worth hunting down.  They’ve got colored pages, high quality paper, a textured, shiny cover, and are generally Very Nice.

Dengeki Daisy 14

August 30, 2015

Kyousuke Motomi – Viz – 2014 – 16 volumes

It finally happened. There’s a Teru’s birthday story.  They go on a date.  They are affectionate as two romantic leads in a shoujo manga should be. I’ve waited so long for this.  So long.  It feels even better because of the wait.  Which means that our heads will explode when Ren and Kyoko finally hook up and kiss in Skip Beat.

The plot takes an interesting turn here.  We find out that M’s last will mostly deals with Akira, and we learn a lot more about him.  Then the story shifts away from computer hacking, and becomes about thwarting a high-level hit put out on Akira.  Problem is, Akira is a despicable human being, and stopping this hit could be life-threatening.  Do you stick your neck out for this stranger, loved by your dead mentor (but, oddly, unknown to all of you), but basically a horrible person who’s been trying to kill you/mess you up for the past year or so?  Do you risk your life for him?

Sigh.  I’m not sure if I like this better or not.  It’s at least less technical, which I do like, but is still a bit too secret agent-y for my tastes. The moral question is an interesting one in a shoujo manga, though.  Part of me wonders how this will play out.  Will Akira be Teru and Kurosaki’s adopted son in the end?  I hope not.  I hate that little jerk.  Sympathetic backstory did not save him, in my eyes, although I do feel bad for him.

The Teru/Kurosaki relationship does strengthen here.  I also like the message it sends.  A strong message of caution when dating an older partner.  Most series will gloss over this, and make the older partner rather glamorous, whereas in reality that is pretty much never true, and it leads to creepy and illegal situations more than good ones.  Even after Teru and Kurosaki more or less become an “official couple,” they can’t really be together, and they have to be really careful about how they act in front of others.  And they do little more than hold hands, really.

Mmm… I don’t know about this last-minute Akira thing.  But so far, there’s been a little something for me in each of the last couple volumes, so I still think I’m really going to like the ending.  Here’s hoping!

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