Skip Beat 32

April 12, 2015

Yoshiki Nakamura – Viz – 2013 – 34+ volumes

Oh man, the Sho volume didn’t disappoint.  I think Sho is a terrible human being, but I can’t help but love his effect on Kyoko and Ren.  He gets both of them stirred up so much.  The way he was teasing Kyoko at the beginning of the volume was priceless.  I especially loved the fact he bought the last of the rice balls he knew she would like, and then taunted her with one.

But really, the clear winner in that scene was the look on Kyoko’s face when she saw Ren. There is nothing quite like the look of terror that Yoshiki Nakamura can conjure on her good days.

Sho in general is very funny.  That his manager can peg his bizarre behavior so accurately is still quite amusing (his terrifying deity faces when he talks to Kyoko, the fact she guessed correctly where he went to see Kyoko, how he knew she was there, and exactly what his reward was for the service, et cetera).

Meanwhile, Ren is sort of the winner/loser here.  He has a great scene with Kojima at the beginning of the volume, where he seems to (cheerily?) imply he’s interested in Kyoko.  Apparently Kojima doesn’t know this, and isn’t actually trolling him?  The look on his face was cute, at any rate.

Later, he’s so pissed off that he can’t even keep up his professional “Ren Tsuruga” personality, and people start to notice.  While this is kind of cool, it’s also annoying, since there’s no reason for him to be rocked so hardcore professionally by jealousy over Sho.  Jealousy he doesn’t even ask Kyoko about directly.

“Kuon” does make himself known more and more, which is the point of the Heel Siblings storyline.  I do like that Ren has a persona he hides away from people, one who is kind of a blunt asshole, the same way Kyoko has a persona she keeps from most of her professional contacts (the blunt asshole part is, of course, the Shotaro persona, but there’s also the crazy girly side that nobody knows about).  They kind of match, although I’m having a hard time warming up to Ren’s harsher side.  Then again, we haven’t seen very much of him yet.

The end of this volume though!!! While I am angry that so much pressure was put on Kyoko over a phone call she didn’t even answer, the result.



Phantom Thief Jeanne 1

April 12, 2015

Arina Tanemura – Viz – 2014 – 7 volumes
(this is volume 1 of a 5-volume omnibus edition)

I’ve already reviewed this entire series on this site, as it was released by CMX more years ago than I like to admit.  However, I love Arina Tanemura to pieces, and can’t resist the re-read and the nice omnibus edition.  And more press for her never hurts, as it seems there’s been a delay in announcing a localization for one of her new series (note: I wrote this in December, and a new one was announced recently. I cried real tears of joy).  I hope little girls still buy her series!

The first thing I noticed here is that all of Tanemura’s commentaries are missing.  I had wondered about this.  They’ve gotten much better over the years, and the most recent ones do add to the story.  These early ones are… hm.  Not very good.  At one time, her author commentaries were my least favorite to read in shoujo manga.  Part of me is relieved I don’t have to read them again.  I went back to the CMX version, and can confirm that we are not missing out on much.  But I wonder if it was Tanemura’s decision or Viz’s to leave them out.

The second thing is that her art has gotten so much better over the years!  This is a huge compliment, because I liked it plenty when I first started reading her series.  But comparing Sakura Hime to Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne makes it obvious she’s improved so much.  There’s so much more detail, the hairstyles are better, the backgrounds are prettier… again, the artwork in Jeanne is good, but I’m blown away by the difference.

The story is still cute.  Maron is a magical girl, the titular Phantom Thief Jeanne.  It runs along the rails through this volume… Maron hides her identity from her best friend, goes out at night to steal paintings, has her rival that is also her main love interest, et cetera.  It’s cute, there’s a lot of funny jokes, and I enjoy reading it even as simple as this volume is.  It gets better, though.  I love the Finn/Access moments later in the series, as well as the wicked twist.

I also like that Tanemura works so well with the limited number of characters here.  The main trio of Maron, Chiaki, and Miyako, which is supplemented later with the class president.  Chiaki and Maron both have cute helpers in Access Time and Finn Fish.  Miyako’s dad recurs occasionally.  And… that’s about it.  It works well with just a few people, and I love that Miyako stays strong as a best friend/police rival/unconvincing rival in love throughout the series.

Can’t wait to read more!  I have to dig the rest out of my stacks.

Love Pistols 3

April 12, 2015

Tarako Kotobuki – SuBLime – 2012 – 8+ volumes

OH GOD THIS SERIES.  I randomly picked up volume 3 after a two-year hiatus, since I hadn’t reviewed it here yet.  I remember liking it, and I actually read the first four Tokyopop volumes before the SuBLime release.  The books tend to cover different couples, and usually has all the notes about the “Zooman” system inside each volume, so I thought I’d be okay.

And it started off great!  There’s a cute story about a surgeon and nurse.  They were childhood friends, and the nurse’s twin brother dated the surgeon when they were all in high school.  But it was the nurse that wound up having a connection, and the two fooled around casually in high school.  But their families didn’t get along, so they were separated until the surgeon wound up at the same hospital as the nurse.  The two start up another friendship, and become casual sex partners, no strings attached.  But the twin still has a major crush, and the nurse runs away when the twin declares his feelings for the surgeon.

Cool BL story, right?  It pretty much had me until the (male) nurse got knocked up, and then I remembered how weird and sorta freaky this series is.  I forgot the zoomans were all about “fertility” and had special “womb worms” that aided homosexual couples in childbearing.  Thankfully, they don’t go much past the mechanics of that, because it freaks me out a little bit.

If you’re curious about the zooman connection, the couple is a snake and a mongoose (some category of cat?).  Also, the snake is one of those seme giants, the type that are, like, twice the size of the uke, that periodically show up in BL.  Norio is pretty tiny compared to Kunimasa, but man.  The surgeon’s huge.

But most of the book goes back to Norio and Kunimasa.  Kunimasa is rather heartless, and while their relationship is passionate, it’s not very romantic, and Kunimasa is treating Norio badly here.  Unusually for BL, this story explores that, and has Norio… kind of break up with Kunimasa after Kunimasa makes jokes about sharing Norio and comes right out and says he doesn’t love him.  This is a cliffhanger ending, and I assume that Kunimasa will see the error of his ways and reform next time, because this is BL and that’s what happens.  But again, that it bothered to call attention to the poor treatment is unusual.

If I recall, the woman that shows up on the last page is one of the reasons this series stuck with me for so many years, and why it’s worth a re-read.  It is, again, batshit crazy in nearly every way, but it’s just so creative, and fairly easy to follow in its mechanics, that it’s worth the read for the brave souls that try.

Also, I love author notes in BL books that are super cheerful and innocent that come right on the heels of something absolutely filthy in the afterward.  This book may have the best transition yet.  The last sentence on one page is Kunimasa’s wish:  “Penetrate him and come deep inside him.  But first, just do him.”  At the top of the next page is Kotobuki’s author note:  “Thank you so much.  This is Tarako Kotobuki.  I’m so happy you’ve been reading my series.  Please continue reading!”  I… got whiplash.

Afterschool Charisma 2

April 12, 2015

Kumiko Suekane – Viz – 2011 – 12+ volumes

Okay, this volume was much better.  I’m not really feeling the whole Dolly plot (everything’s just a little too cryptic), but I think what’s happening is far more interesting than “high school with famous people, except that they’re famous people doesn’t really matter because they act like regular manga high school students.”

Mostly, this volume left off on a bit of a cliffhanger.  Granted, it was one I anticipated, but now I’m sad it’s going to take some time to track down volume 3.

Mostly, “Almighty Dolly” fanaticism is sweeping the school, and some of the students are taking it creepily seriously.  I can’t figure out if they genuinely believe (though I’m willing to bet Joan of Arc does), or if some are plants (they are), or… what.

Also, there’s an anti-clone organization, and someone who’s spying on the clones, and then there’s the president of the school, Rockswell.  He’s kind of like Lory from Skip Beat, or Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club, in that he’s just an eccentric, off-beat rich person.  But he’s obviously spying the clones, and he seems sort of anti-clone.  So I’m not sure where all of this is going.

Also unfortunate, there are a few too many characters, and so far, I don’t like any of them.  The main character is a little weak for my tastes, and I thought it was weird he got swept up in clone religion even though he wasn’t a clone.  I guess he wanted to empathize that badly, but it didn’t read quite right, especially when that became almost entirely what was going on with him this volume.

But I think my favorite so far is Clone Himiko.  She actually hasn’t had very many lines, or much of a part at all.  I just like that, somehow, they cloned Himiko.  She’s been dead about 1,800 years, and they don’t even know where her court was.  But somehow, they found her remains and cloned her.

Also, Rockswell is… very eccentric.  Quote of the volume, on the benefits of adoption:  “I mean, it’s a lot of work having a kid on your own, right?  Once you decide you want one, you’ve got to have sex, and then you have to wait around till it’s born, and by then you might be over the whole thing.  Besides, when they’re first born they’re like little rodents!  This size [pointing to a 4-year-old] is way better!”

I’m not sold, but I need to read more volumes to make a decision.  It’s interesting, at least.

Black Bird 15

April 12, 2015

Kanoko Sakurakouji – Viz – 2012 – 18 volumes

This series and I have a checkered past.  But actually, I’m kind of excited to read the ending.  I lost volume 15, and had to do a massive clean-out of my to be read stacks (seriously, it was ridiculous).  I have all my volumes of all my series together sequentially again, so I can finish this up.  Hooray!

Black Bird isn’t always good to me, but this was a really cute volume.  Unfortunately, discussing it is going to be a huge spoiler for the last story arc, so I have to leave out most of the details.

Kyo and Misao have to deal with a couple situations that come up in shoujo manga a lot.  Kyo makes Misao really think about her future, and what she wants.  Honestly, she just wants to marry him and be a housewife, and going to college and holding down a job don’t appeal to her.  So they move forward on that front.  It’s pretty sweet, and not something you see very often in shoujo manga.

Also rare:  the couple talks to Misao’s parents, and discuss their future plans with them.  Parents are also usually a non-issue in manga when it comes to couples like this, so that was also a nice touch.  The scene was brief, but still, it was there.

Foes are minimal here, as almost everything is Kyo/Misao-centric.  And that’s good, because the bad stuff is kind of what drags this down, and I was half expecting another clan war thing to come up and deal with a thousand characters that don’t really matter anymore.  Something along those lines will probably happen in the next few volumes, but this volume is all about the happy feelings and good vibes between Kyo and Misao.

And actually a really, really serious issue that almost never happens.  I should have expected it really, because this is Black Bird, but still.  I did not.

On one hand, after the dark and sudden way this ended, I know I only have two volumes of bad stuff to look forward to in the immediate future, maybe two and a half.  So I’m kind of bummed about that.  But again… it’s Black Bird, and it’ll be nice to finish it.

QuinRose/Psyche Delico – Yen Press – 2012 – 2 volumes

I was a little excited about this one, since I’d read and enjoyed Psyche Delico’s books before (she does BL… Love Full of Scars was awesome, and I’ve purchased but not read Pure Love’s Sexy Time on eManga).  Also, I like the Alice series, so there’s that too.

This was one of the first of the Alice spinoffs that came out, but I was not at all excited about reading it.  I thought “My Fanatic Rabbit” would be about Peter White, who creeps me out badly.  I had forgotten about Elliot though, the March Hare.  Though Peter is in the second half of the book, this series seems to focus on Alice and Elliot, which is fine.

One of the main conflicts is that Alice is living with the Hatter Gang, a collection of bad guys, in a world where death doesn’t really mean that much.  So they’re pretty violent guys, and kill a lot of people.  Alice can’t reconcile this with Elliot’s pleasant and goofy demeanor, and when he makes a disturbing offhanded comment towards the end of the book, it drives Alice away and into the arms of Peter White and the Queen of Hearts.

Alice is cute, and Elliot is cute, but there’s not a whole lot more to this book.  I wasn’t really getting into either, though I expect things to pick up in the second volume, since there is a situation at Heart Castle here.  One of the big downsides is that the book takes the time to explain the world and situations to the reader, which IS necessary if you aren’t familiar with the story… but if you are, it’s a bummer they waste so much time with that, to the detriment of the characters.

Oh well.  Elliot and Alice are cute, and he will probably rush in and save her heroically in the second volume.

I am also just going to put these series in categories by their “world,” so any Hearts series are going with this and the main volumes, Clover series are going in with Bloody Twins and Cheshire Cat Waltz, Diamond goes by itself, et cetera.  There are a LOT of these.

Hoshin Engi 22

April 12, 2015

Ryu Fujisaki – Viz – 2011 – 23 volumes

Oh man, the end of this series is BORING.  Now we’re getting into the plots behind the plots behind the plots, and some sort of metaphysical paope that Joka uses that makes it so whatever it touches never existed, and I’m not even sure what happened in this volume except they rumbled Joka, she has some crazy soul-splitting abilities that make her almost invincible, and… UGH.

Fujisaki straight-up admits he can’t explain how her paope works, because it doesn’t make sense.  I also learned that the super-powerful good guy introduced last volume exists only because Fujisaki drew him for a game and liked the design enough to put him in the series.  It’s his series, and he can do whatever he wants.  I’ve quite enjoyed the sense of humor here all the way through.  But man, I’m having trouble dealing with this ending, because there are too many characters, and it doesn’t make sense.

One more volume after this.  Dakki’s still running around out there somewhere, so I’m hoping Taikobo will demand satisfaction after he wipes Joka out.  That would be great.


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