November 26, 2015
Meca Tanaka – Viz – 2015 – 2 volumes
Oh, this was so good! I was not expecting that! The cover and title both look like regular shoujo romance, and even flipping through it, it looked like just a short version of what I normally like. 2 volumes, why not?
This had me from literally the first page, inside the cover. The three pages before the manga starts are a discussion about how excited the author was to draw the first chapter title page with the main male protagonist naked. Not “excited,” maybe, but very enthusiastic and analytical. And all but one of the first seven pages discusses nudity, story and commentary combined. This series is WEIRD, and I was delighted.
The premise is pretty shoujo-simple. Hako has a lot of bad luck. Comically so. The supernatural club at her school recruited her because the bad luck is so abnormal. But she deals with it, and she’s happy because she has her friends in the supernatural club. One day, a naked boy falls out of the sky and declares his intentions to mate with Hako. He’s an alien prince named Io, and he insists on mating with Hako because their wavelengths match, and that’s how it’s done on his planet. Hako’s best friend eventually convinces him that he needs Hako’s consent for that, and Hako adds that the two of them need to be in love. So the first volume is about Io trying to figure out ways to love and to fall in love with Hako. In the most extreme, outrageous way possible.
Hako’s bad luck is actually pretty funny. I was sold on it when, early on, Hako walks out of school and is assaulted by two birds and a baseball in the same panel. It’s bad enough that she can’t swim (lest the large waves drown her, she can barely walk along the shore), can’t go out without it raining during monsoon season, can’t stay in because the roof will leak extensively, and can’t hang around construction sites. This series doesn’t do anything in half-measures.
Both Io and Hako are both extremely positive individuals. Hako takes her bad luck in stride, and does all sorts of cute things to keep other people safe. Io is very gung-ho about learning everything on Earth and getting Io to fall in love with him. He thinks nothing of her bad luck, and winds up hanging out with her while things collapse on her, the ground gives way, et cetera. Typical shoujo hero things, but it’s super cute. He continually tries to convince Hako that she shouldn’t be scared to do things. He’s also magic, because he’s an alien, so he can do things like sprout wings, turn into a dolphin, show them what an enormous octopus alien looks like on another planet, et cetera.
Everything about it is funny, positive, cute, weird, et cetera. It even pulls out a few Serious Moments that work pretty well. The end of this volume broke my heart, even though I knew a shoujo manga would never end that way and there was a volume two.
I immediately picked up volume two. I also have an older series called Omukae Desu by Tanaka that I haven’t read. I need to unearth that and read it, too. She’s great. Really.
November 26, 2015
Riichiro Inagaki / Yusuke Murata – Viz – 2010 – 36 volumes
For some reason, I was pining hard for Prince of Tennis. I only have the first five volumes, and a ton of other manga to read. I made a deal with myself that I could buy Prince of Tennis if I finished one of my other pending sports manga (Slam Dunk and Eyeshield 21). I broke that deal immediately, but I’ll probably finish Eyeshield 21 anyway, because I loved this series.
I stopped reading just before the final game, the much-talked-about Christmas Bowl, where they are playing the (explained at exhaustive length) unbeatable Teikoku Alexanders. There’s some man-to-man training with the best opponents they faced previously, which was a little fun. Additionally, there’s some drama with Monta about having to face the son of his greatest hero. Said son is a huge jerk, so I was glad to see Monta get over this quickly.
I haven’t read this series in about six years, but sports manga are never hard to jump back into, and Eyeshield 21 has some truly funny and memorable characters. I can only remember 2 characters from Slam Dunk, and maybe 3 from Cross Game. I was surprised how many of the opponents I remembered, too. Not all of them, but some.
There was the briefest hint of some of the Deimon trickery that makes this series the best, but we haven’t really gotten into that yet. Hiruma’s strategies and role in the game are absolutely the reason to read this title, and much more interesting than the “who is the real Eyeshield 21?!” fight.
Five volumes left. Unless we get to the Deimon trickery soon, the man-to-man fights with Sena and Monta are going to get tiresome quickly. I hope at least one is resolved next time.
November 26, 2015
QuinRose / Mamenosuke Fujimaru – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2013 – 1 volume
UGH. Why is Ace so creepy?! This is one of the last spin-off volumes for me, and I’ve been putting it off because I just don’t like Ace. He doesn’t try hard here. He forces himself on Alice (although she doesn’t stop him, and it’s okay because “she loves him”), basically picks fights with everyone and gets really aggressive when she admits to liking him, and later, begins to strangle her for liking Julius, and she’s okay with him killing her.
So, yeah. Ace is hard to like. Interestingly, this is one of the naughtier books. There is an unambiguous sex scene that cuts before and after, but can’t be anything else. I enjoy this series’ fondness for cursing, or perhaps just Peter’s lewdness. Here, he has a line that goes “No! My greatest fear! That OOOOing Knight has OOOO my dear!” (censors not mine) which I enjoyed immensely, not only because it rhymed, but also because I rarely see sensical cursing in a manga. The back cover has a “promise it won’t hurt” joke on its 4-panel gag strip.
There’s not really a plot, other than Ace being a creep and everyone warning Alice away. Gray plays a larger role than normal, and is implied to be a competing romantic interest, but that doesn’t go anywhere. So this is just Ace and Alice wandering around together, going through the Clover world transition, missing Julius, going to convention, and being awkward.
There is a pair of Crimson Empire short stories in the back. I SWEAR I’ve read “Pregnancy Panic” before, but I don’t have it noted in my other reviews and I don’t have my volumes here with me right now. I’ll have to check on that. Anyway, that’s the rare Byron/Sheila story. The other Crimson Empire story is the usual Edvard/Sheila story, called “Yes, Your Highness.” I like Edvard best, so if we do get stuck with Crimson Empire stories, I’m glad they focus on him. There was also an amusing gag comic at the end about a character getting “love gifts” (basically relationship boost items in the game), but getting ignored otherwise. He feels strangely attracted to Sheila, but also unfulfilled. It made me laugh.
So, yeah. Ace isn’t my flavor, but this is one of the more “mature” volumes, if you’re into that.
November 22, 2015
Arina Tanemura – Viz – 2015 – 2+ volumes
I was unbelievably excited about this. I’ve been waiting for an announcement for Tanemura’s new series, worried that her popularity was waning. She’s one of my all-time favorites, and I’d be heartbroken if we couldn’t get volumes in English anymore. When I heard about this series, which features a 31-year-old main character, I was SO EXCITED. I may or may not be a 31-year-old fan of Tanemura, stretching back about 15 years or so.
But… it’s definitely different from what I’ve read before. As Tanemura states in the back, it’s like one of her series, but they asked her to not do all the stuff that makes her stories unique. Use less screentone, light on the comedy, tone down the fashion, and make the main character a little less strong-willed. It kinda reads like a stripped-down magical girl story right now (sorta Full Moon-ish), except… a little off.
It’s pretty dark, and I did like that. Chikage is a straight arrow, and mostly keeps to herself. She decides to take a risk, and talk to the boy she had a crush on at their high school reunion. He had confessed his feelings for her at graduation, but she was too shy to admit she liked him back. So she decides her life is boring, and she could really use a boyfriend. Unfortunately, an old friend humiliates her at her reunion by loudly announcing Chikage is a 31-year-old virgin. At work the next day, she discovers she’s badmouth and reviled by coworkers, the worst offender being a woman she’d covered for in an earlier chapter. The final nail in the coffin (literally) is when she finds out the friend that humiliated her at the reunion is going out with the guy she had a crush on.
So Chikage tries to kill herself. She was popular in high school, but has done nothing with the past 15 or so years of her life. Luckily, she is stopped by another high school classmate, Tokita, who talks her out of killing herself and tells her that if she really wants to be a different person and do everything over again, she can take the experimental drug I-Dream. This reverse-ages her 15 years 6 hours a day. Because this is a manga, Chikage is immediately scouted as a model, then as an idol singer.
Part of me wants to shake Chikage really hard (she’s definitely meek, and not a lot like Tanemura’s usual), but part of me likes the idea of a magical girl series for adults. Chikage seems like a good fit for this kind of story, because… while it’s not something I can wrap my head around, there are plenty of people who feel that their glory days are in high school. I don’t know that it necessarily translates to “everything since then has been a waste,” but it’s an interesting idea, and I’m curious to see how the two parts of Chikage’s life reconcile themselves. I’d love to see this make Chikage a stronger adult.
The only thing I don’t like about it is that there’s an implied romance between Hibiki, a fellow male idol, and 15-year-old Chikage. Happily, this crush is mostly one-way on Hibiki’s end, and part of my little black soul is waiting for the inevitable scene where Chikage has to break his heart. Part of me worries about the fact that Hibiki looks like Chikage’s high school crush… but she seems mostly oblivious right now, and adult Tokita is crushing much harder, so she does have a candidate elsewhere (who she is also oblivious to). I’m rooting very hard for Tokita, because I find Hibiki/Chikage a little creepy.
It wasn’t quite what I had imagined, but I like the idea of Tanemura trying something new, and I’d like to see where this goes, as a sort of not-Tanemura story. Alas, there’s only one more volume in Japan right now (although a third is coming out in December), so this may be a slow one. I hope we get Neko to Watashi no Kinyoubi soon! We can read that while we’re waiting.
November 22, 2015
Atsuko Asano / Hinoki Kino – Kodansha USA – 9 volumes
Yes! Shion and Rat speed up through the Correctional Facility, and this volume’s pretty much non-stop action. Lots of disturbing stuff, and lots of cute/horrifying moments between Rat and Shion. Everything from Rat resigning himself to the fact that he’s thrown his way of life out the window for Shion, to Shion doing something horrifying and out-of-character to protect Rat.
Actually, I can’t talk too much about this volume without spoiling it, but it’s also hard to talk about because it was so action-oriented. Lots of Shion and Rat running through hallways, dodging scientists, finding brainless bodies on a conveyor belt, ducking into air vents, and thwarting security systems.
We take a peek elsewhere occasionally, with Karan and Dogcatcher/Rikiga doing their things. We also hear rumblings about Dogcatcher’s distraction, which was spreading garbage all over No. 6 so that it stank terribly. Shion comments at one point that the smell isn’t nearly so bad as the one in West Block, and the No. 6 residents really are fragile. Elsewhere in No. 6, the bees are loose.
Powering through this one. Hope to have the last two volumes read tonight! Though this, along with the other three, probably won’t get posted for some time. (edit: I was right. I finished this in August)
November 22, 2015
Shungiku Nakamura – Blu – 2009 – 19+ volumes
Okay, I’m consuming these last few pretty fast. I’m going to be bummed when I run out. Kind of. I mean, not a lot happens in this volume. There’s not even a really great emotional scene. But somehow, I am pretty addicted to Usagi and Misaki.
Misaki and Usagi take a trip to a hot spring in mid-January, after Usagi sorts out some family inheritance stuff. Part of this story is that Usagi’s father is sort-of harassing Misaki. I think he’s supposed to be somewhat nefarious, but I can’t bring myself to dislike him. He has an ardent love of wooden bear carving, and goes out of his way to be nice to Misaki. Even his talks where he kind of warns Misaki away from Akihiko tend to be pretty good-natured and not really threatening. He’s threatening in that he makes Misaki doubt whether he’s right for Akihiko, and most of the conflict in this chapter is about that. But he’s really only guilty of being a snob. He doesn’t even mind that Misaki is Akihiko’s male lover, and he does seem quite fond of him. His only objection seems to be that Misaki isn’t from a wealthy family, and that “marrying into” a family like the Usamis might be too difficult for Misaki, based on Fuyuhiko’s own personal experience. Honestly, since he is a dad who blows his nose on $100 bills, so to speak, I don’t really mind that he’s a snob. Akihiko confronts him, but not even in an antagonistic way. He just tells him that he appreciates his fatherly concern, but that he’s going to keep living with Misaki.
I just really like the guy, what can I say. So far, he’s the least creepy and annoying of the Usami clan, Akihiko included. Well, apparently that’s because he wasn’t raised as an Usami.
I liked the second Romantica story a bit better. Misaki goes to Usagi’s publisher and runs into a handful of people there, including elder brother Haruhiko Usami. There’s an awkward scene where Misaki turns him down firmly, and it goes much better than it usually does. Isaka is a major player in this chapter, and I’m… still not sure about this guy. But he uses Misaki to encourage a popular mangaka to finish his chapter, and I loved that Usami got horribly jealous over Misaki’s ardent love for that manga. Also, that Misaki’s reason for reading that manga instead of Usami’s books was that manga had pictures and was easier to read.
Also also, I loved that Nakamura used Usagi’s Junai Romantica series to announce the anime for Junjo Romantica, and that Misaki was horribly offended. It was a cute detail.
There’s a cute, very short Valentine’s Day Egoist chapter, where Nowaki wants chocolate just because it would be a gift from Hiro. Hiro has to hide in the bathroom out of embarrassment when he gives it to Nowaki.
I think I’m going to inhale the last two volumes of this series and regret it terribly. I may have to watch the anime. I’ve heard the sex is toned way down… so if the rape scenes are gone from the early stories, and if the other awkward borderline non-con parts are gone, I might really like the anime. I vowed never to watch BL anime again, but this may be an exception.
November 17, 2015
Q Hayashida – Viz – 2014 – 20+ volumes
Hmm… this crossed the line from “tantalizing hints” to “telling story without explaining things,” so it got a little confusing. Not that I don’t like it, but I am happy I have a few more volumes to read after this, because it would be annoying if this is where I stopped for several months.
So… Aikawa… just goes back to school. And Risu is there. There’s something weird between them, and it has something to do with Risu’s magic, and what happened to him, and why he’s still alive. Aikawa… is he Caiman? Is Caiman both of them? Does Caiman have something to do with Risu’s magic? With Aikawa’s magic? With both of them? And what about the boss of the Cross-Eyes? They’re just… going to wizard school.
Things… I don’t want to say get explained, but… I guess make a little more sense at the end of the volume when we find out one of the characters can switch heads. I love that this was within the realm of possibility for this series.
Actually… I re-read the volume just now, and the Risu/Aikawa/Boss Cross-Eyes connection makes a little more sense, given the revelation at the end? Not much, and I would still like it to be explained, but I can see more sense now. Depending on what the head-switching is about.
We also get a couple hints about Haze. He’s an adult in someone’s… dream/fantasy/vision/something, and his wife turns him older at one point. But this is also not explained. I love his wife, though. She’s on the cover this time, as well as in the extra evil in the back. She is delightful.
The Cross-Eyes are overrunning En’s mansion, and we also find out one of them is a very powerful wizard, which is awesome. Everyone’s magic is personal in this series, so each sorcerer does something outlandish, and it’s always fun to see someone new. En’s family is regrouping, recovering, trying to find stray members, Judas’s Ear is on the lamb with Chota, and Judas’s Ear is ardently sought after for obvious reasons.
Elsewhere, Nikaido is getting Devil Training to learn to control her magic. She and Aikawa meet up at the end, and it is most heartbreaking.
The extra evil is fantastic, as always.
I’m hoping that the most mystifying bits of story are out of the way now, and more will be explained. Then again, I was hoping that would happen when Risu “died” in volume 10, but we still… don’t quite have an adequate explanation for that? Unless his magic was explained earlier in the series and I forgot, but a previous explanation for strange behavior in Dorohedoro seems unlikely.
This is still the best series I’m reading right now. I’m shortly going to run out of volumes, then I’ll have to wait until December for 17 (note: I wrote this in September, it’s just about out now). I keep hoping we won’t catch up to the Japanese version until it ends in Japan, especially since volumes only come out once a year in Japan. I thought it was going to end soon, but I haven’t heard about that in awhile.