Hiroaki Samura – Dark Horse – 2010 – 31 volumes
I forgot to write this one up! I thought I had forgotten to read it, but volume 23 made too much sense. A shame, because this was an awesome volume. I wound up re-reading it for the review to figure out if I actually finished it, but it was totally worth it.
This was a good aftermath/prologue volume, which shows us what happened to the official who was in charge of the experiments on Manji and wound up killing all the prisoners and almost flooding Edo castle. He’s ordered to commit suicide, but he gets 30 days to hunt down the members of the Itto-Ryu along with several death row inmates. Meanwhile, the new official that took his place makes a deal with Anotsu to get the Itto-Ryu out of Edo in 7 days, so the stakes are raised and the remaining members of the Itto-Ryu are hunted down. Except their numbers are only increasing, and they don’t really seemed too concerned.
Highlight: The conversation between Anotsu and the new official. I still don’t know which way that situation would have gone, which is something that very few series are good at.
That was the boring wind-down part. Elsewhere, there are adorable parting scenes between Rin and Doa, and lots of cute domestic stuff between Rin and Manji. Rin is pampering Manji due to his loss of an arm, and Manji isn’t that into it. Manji also looks like one of the Itto-Ryu members, so he’s also being hunted by the death row assassins, which is mostly just a silly feint.
There’s one… really intense scene between Manji and Rin. It took me by surprise, since romance isn’t something the series has bothered with all this time. It feels right at the time though, especially with Rin still buzzing after her victorious liberation of Manji.
Another nice addition is a pair of shinobi girls who are spying for the secret organization. They wind up staying at the same place as Manji and Rin without realizing who they are.
There’s also a cute scene between Anotsu and Rin at the end of the volume, which is more common as the series goes on, though still fairly unlikely.
Lots of good stuff on offer here, although that scene with Manji and Rin alone is worth the price of admission.
Rikdo Koshi – Viz – 2003 – 27 volumes
I started this series towards the end, and I liked it well enough to go back to the beginning. The problem was, I was afraid to read additional volumes of it because the first volume was a bit too nonsensical for my taste. But I had bought the first few together, and I don’t want to read the later volumes that have accumulated without giving the beginning of the series a try again, so I dove in.
I… liked the second volume a lot better! Maybe I was in the mood for it this time more than the last, but the missions that Excel and Hayate did seemed a lot more cohesive in this volume, and the sense of humor has stabilized and just struck me as much funnier. Hayate’s sudden illnesses are much better timed. Doctor Kabapu was very funny. The terrible part-time jobs that they eventually skipped out on and stole food from were good, as was the fact they made the food last too long and it made Excel very sick.
There’s still not much plot to speak of, though it does seem like, somehow, Il Palazzo knows someone is after him, and Doctor Kabapu has organized the Environmental Security Administration to, uh… combat Hayate and Excel. I did like the chapters about that organization forming quite a bit.
As it is still kind of a gag series at this point, I don’t have much to add other than that. The humor was better, the stories seemed more on target, and I can see it’s going somewhere. I loved it, so I’m going to pick up volume 3 now that I’ve got the review for 2 out of the way.
Kairi Yura / Sai Yukino – Viz – 2012 – 9 volumes
I do like this series. I like the art, the setting in ancient China, and I love the fact that the goal is for Shurei to become a civil servant, a difficult thing since no woman can be one. It actually sidelines the romance with the prince in order to achieve this goal, which is unheard of in shoujo manga. But I have a bad habit of reading the same volume I just finished when I pick this series up, so I’m a few volumes behind. Part of this is because many of the chapters deal with side stories, and all of them include a huge cast of characters I can’t be bothered to remember. My ardor for this series has cooled, but I’m going to try to read the last several volumes straight through and see if I can’t remember why I liked it.
This volume starts off on a bad foot, in the middle of a story about a character with multiple personalities from an outside city getting his token for the civil servant exam stolen, and Shurei and company have to have a big fight to get it back. In addition to the main set of men who usually look after Shurei (who all look the same to me, and don’t have distinct enough roles in the story anymore for me to tell apart), there’s an underworld set that’s helping her through this trial, none of whom are likely to factor into the story again. And if they do, it’s going to be with a side story like this that has no real bearing on the plot.
But this chapter does introduce a character that proves to be important for the second half, and is a young boy to boot, so I can tell him apart from everyone else. The second half of the book find he and Shurei in the same boat during their trial period as civil servants, as the others who passed the exam, and the instructors, do not want women and children joining their ranks. They’re forced to clean and do more paperwork than any of the other candidates. This part of the book was more enjoyable, especially seeing Shurei’s resolve to deal with it all in order to pursue her dream. But it was hard for me to believe all of her “friends” just sat back and let this happen as a character building exercise. It was a pretty intense hazing. But the clouds are breaking in the last chapter, so maybe the next volume will be cheerier.
On one hand, I hate to say this was a slow volume, because the post-exam story was exactly the plot of the series. But I was so uninterested in the first half of the book that I couldn’t really get into it. Let me see if volume 7 is any better for me.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.
My column for this week’s Say It With Manga over at Comics Should Be Good covers zombies. Admittedly, this topic is played out, but man, there’s still some good stuff out there, and one of these in particular I miss terribly. Check it out, these three are less tacky and about as different as you can be while still dealing with zombies.
Since I love the work of Al Ewing unconditionally, and this is my blog and I can say what I want, I would also recommend Zombo. Not a manga, but quite funny and worth checking out.
SangEun Lee – Yen Press – 2012 – 12 volumes
Hooray! So happy to see the end of this! It wound up being very satisfying, but admittedly, it would have been hard to upset me in almost any way here. I’ve loved this series all the way through, and any of the scenarios I was imagining would have been fine.
I can’t say too much without spoiling it, but one of the things I liked most about the ending of this one was that the usual romantic triangle was difficult (or impossible) to resolve without actually killing one of the characters. While most romance comics are content to pair up the other boy with someone else for a lukewarm ending, that wasn’t going to be possible here, so I liked the extra emotional impact.
I did like how everything was dealt with. One of the characters undergoes a personality change… actually, technically all three do, I suppose, but one was done well. Hee-So goes through a lengthy period as not herself, and watching her snap out of it at the very end of the book was quite rewarding.
I can really only comment on one other small thing, which is Christmas in the Eun household. I loved that all three girls asked for outrageous things, and their dishrag father did his best to get them all, despite their mother’s protests that they didn’t earn them. Plus, he put on a Santa suit to do it, which is just sweet.
Similarly, the epilogue was very funny, if only to see the extra bit added on about Hee-So’s terrifying older sister. That was quite funny.
Actually, the whole thing was funny all the way through, which was one of the best parts for me. Funny, sweet, eccentric, and just a little bit different from the usual romance comic. It’s worth picking up, and it was one of my favorites of the last few years. Too bad these Korean romance series don’t do so well, because I would love to read more by SangEun Lee. Or anyone, for that matter.
But! It looks like Goong is re-starting soon, so I have that to look forward to. That’s another incredibly addictive series.
QuinRose / Soumei Hoshino – Yen Press – 2012 – 6 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 1-2
I was a big fan of this series as it was coming out from Tokyopop, much to my surprise. I was thrilled when Yen Press picked the license back up, which meant I could read volume 6. I bought all three omnibus volumes again, and I’ve been buying all the spinoff series that have appeared from Seven Seas and Yen Press both. I was so happy that all of this has made it here.
Aaaannd… then I didn’t read them. I resolved to clear out at least some of my Alice backlog while I was on vacation, so I tackled the first omnibus again to re-acquaint myself with the series.
I’ve already reviewed it here, so I’m not going to get into it again (and, in fact, I am going to skip the second omnibus review unless I have something constructive to add). I liked it because it took a very tired idea, basing a story off of Alice in Wonderland, and made it into a completely different kind of story. The characters are the same, but the plot and circumstances are completely different. There’s also a mess of new characters, some new… areas (for lack of a better term), and the pre-existing characters don’t act like they should. But the best part is that the whole thing is absolutely crazy, and doesn’t make any sense. But it’s clear it’s working on its own logic, and the whole series takes its time revealing little pieces of the puzzle. Why do the residents of Wonderland murder each other so frequently? Why is absolutely everyone falling into a creepy kind of love with Alice? What’s up with the clocks and faceless people? How can Alice get home? There’s lots of stuff going on, and I found it to be worth my time to investigate.
One of the reasons all the characters fall in love with Alice is because this is based on a visual novel-kind of game for women, where Alice winds up following the story path of the many eligible suitors. That only made me like this series more though, since manga adaptations of other media (but especially video games) is usually very weak.
The mystery aspect did make me eager to re-read it to see if I could fit the pieces together sooner, plus it had been a year or so since I last gave it a try. I started this volume right after it came out, then put it down. Then I tried again, and put it down. I was determined to finish it this time, so I did, but I have to admit, a bit of the love is gone. Now that I know most of the mysteries, it’s frustrating to wade through all the admiration for Alice to try and make it to a section of story I can’t remember. Turns out, my memory for this series was pretty good. I do like it a lot, but I have little patience for series with a ton of characters right out of the gate like this.
Part of my difficulty might also be that I’m forcing myself to read this before I can tackle volume six, or any of the spinoffs I do want to read. Perhaps its best not to punish myself like this, but man, I really did think I would like this after a re-read. Hopefully the second omnibus fares better.
Last week’s column over at Comics Should Be Good covered pet series. What I learned was that I need to read What’s Michael badly, and I will do so soon. But Stargazing Dog is the other thing you should take away from this column. Inubaka… not so much.
I forgot to link this one in my last update, but a recent column I did over at Comics Should Be Good focused on disaster-themed manga. I liked these three titles a lot and felt they went with the topic nicely, and I think everyone should read them (or at least the first three volumes of Dragon Head).
Part of me felt bad writing this the day after Chicago was so flooded I couldn’t get to work, but the poor taste thing didn’t occur to me until I was finished, and none of the stories are about flooding. Plus, when else am I going to get to talk about Drifting Classroom?
CLAMP – Viz – 2012 – 18+ volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols 7-9
I always forget that the Twin Star bit doesn’t happen until much later in the series (the end of volume 8/beginning of volume 9! So late!). I sit and wait impatiently for it every time I re-read it, knowing that things can’t really get going until it happens. It’s the catalyst for Kotori meeting the last Dragon of Earth, and with generals all around, the battle truly begins.
After some rather heavy stuff at the beginning of the volume, we get little snippets of what every character in the series is up to, particularly in a “I was here when it happened” moment for X. Again, this series probably has way too many characters for its own good, and that’s without the very minor characters that we’re still keeping track of, but still. Zooming around to check all of them out was a nice touch.
Lots of Fuma, Fuma, Fuma in these volumes, and for good reason. It took me a minute to get used to this when it happened, but later on, I kind of liked it. One of my favorite scenes in the series wouldn’t be possible if this wasn’t the case, and I’ll talk more about that later.
Speaking of favorite scenes in the series… Subaru becomes more of a major player here. We get to see a rather heavy fight with Seishirou, though not the fight we really want. He’s a surly, depressed adult here, but towards the end of the volume he gets to do his Tokyo Babylon trick, and opens up to Kamui in a way that only he can. Not only because of his powers, but because he’s been here. This part always struck me as rather beautiful, even in the ridiculous context of X.
We also get to see one of the Kekkai landmarks fall here, just before all the big stuff goes down. I love that Seishirou is in charge of this, like he’s just enjoying the rampant destruction immensely. Though one wonders, if it’s that easy to rock the balance, couldn’t you just keep doing this for most of the landmarks, knowing that a Dragon of Heaven isn’t going to show up to stop you until you’re done? Whatever.
And the artwork. Do I really have to tell you it’s the best shoujo artwork there is? I’m a huge fan of CLAMP, and while their current stuff hasn’t been good to me, I still say that Mokona draws some of the absolute best shoujo artwork there is, and X is her best series. It’s just so pretty to look at, even if the whole thing is a bit complicated and difficult to work out.
Oh, X. My heart will always belong to you.
Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2013 – 24 volumes
this is the second and final volume of the coda series to 20th Century Boys, for all intents and purposes volume 24
This is mostly going to be short and cryptic, since I don’t want to spoil anything. Needless to say, I enjoyed every page of this strange series, much more than I thought I would. It’s my favorite by Urasawa, which is saying something. I liked Pluto when I read it, but it seems a bit dark and slow lately, and I never really cared for Monster. But 20th Century Boys was different. It was ten times stranger than both of those series combined, yet without getting so out-of-hand that it was difficult to follow from volume to volume, let alone with a month or so between readings of said volumes. The character map in the front always made it easy to remember what was going on, and with who. And man. A lot of parts were just shocking, or triumphant, or awesome, or all of those combined. Usually something about every volume threw me for a loop. Reading this series was a ride, and it made me happy to pick up the volumes and keep up during a time when I haven’t been reading as much manga. Easily recommended to anyone looking for a good comic story. It’s a bit long for some, but it really is worth it. Great stuff.
I was so sad when my prediction didn’t pan out. Honestly, it would violate the theme of the series. But come on. It would have been so awesome.
There is a subplot about a last-minute bomb being a threat. Honestly, at this point I was done with the Friend’s surprises, but what the hell. One last time isn’t going to hurt anything. This sort of combines all the best points about the previous scares, including the fact that Kenji has to travel back into the past to find out what’s going on, the grass hideout, and a giant robot. The latter is always a treat in this series.
Extraneous bad guys are also still milling around. One of my favorites was an absolutely creepy nurse that was stalking Takasu. That nurse will give me nightmares for a long time.
I was wondering if it would end with a scene similar to the cryptic first few pages. It totally did. I love when that happens.
Also, the Friend’s identity still doesn’t matter. I also adored that about the series.
Oh, Kenji. Always the hero.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.