November 28, 2015
Chika Shiomi – Viz – 2015 – 4 volumes
I had a big, unhealthy shoujo splurge today, as I read this, Idol Dreams, and Black Rose Alice. They were all released earlier this week (note: the first week of November, I’m posting this late), and just arrived in the mail. Reading them all on the same day was ill-advised, because they were all awesome, and now I don’t have more to look forward to.
I’m lying, I love lots of manga. But seriously, that was a high concentration of shoujo goodness, and such things are hard to come by.
It’s hard to talk about the ending of this one without spoiling it. Yukari has to figure out how the past and present are intertwining, and needs to somehow stop possessed-Mahoro from killing Katsuhiko. We do find out how Yumurasaki died, although the big reveal at the end, why the killer did it, wasn’t nearly the surprise twist that the story made it out to be. I thought we were supposed to have figured this out way back?
The ending sequence, where Mahoro has to twist a bunch of curses, figure out how the past lives are intertwining and connected, and… basically be by him/herself at the end… it’s heartbreaking. I LOVED the very ending, where Yukari really comes through for Mahoro. It’s got nothing to do with their past lives. It’s pure shoujo manga, and it’s beautiful.
I love Chika Shiomi, and this is exactly the type of dark magic/contemporary series she pulls off so well. This was exactly the right length, too, and I loved the past lives and the little bit of mystery. I even liked learning about Oiran! It’s a quick read, and comes recommended if you’re looking for somewhat unusual shoujo.
I’d read another one of Shiomi’s series, too. Just sayin’.
November 28, 2015
Kosuke Fujishima – Dark Horse – 2014 – 48 volumes
I got the last Dark Horse volume in hand last week! (note: I wrote this in October) I need to catch up on these last two reviews. Seriously, I’m so crushed this is over.
This is a strange volume, since not much happens. The first few chapters tell the story of the Goddess in the Pond and the Bard, who Belldandy and Keiichi are sort-of inhabiting. They live a full, happy life together, but of course the ending is sad since the Bard is mortal. The Gate tries to impress the sadness on Belldandy and Keiichi, but it doesn’t really work. Of course. It really is a beautiful story, which is sort of Oh My Goddess’s thing.
There is one rather shocking panel in the story. It was subtle, and fits in with the flow of the story wonderfully, but it blew my mind because Oh My Goddess doesn’t go there, especially without comment.
We get to meet Tyr, the CEO of Heaven, in a manner of speaking. This excited me. It’s a bit of a cop-out, but I can understand. We got a pretty big gift last volume, I don’t know that it was time for another yet.
The last few chapters made me smile. Tyr makes Keiichi perform a miracle. Because it’s Keiichi, this miracle is heavily motorcycle-racing-based. We’ve seen this so many times, I was surprised Keiichi was even nervous. One of my favorite story arcs was the one where he and Belldandy rode in a pair race, and it talked about how he basically knew everything there was to know about racing, and Belldandy. I was thrilled that this was the final challenge.
November 28, 2015
QuinRose / Mamenosuke Fujimaru – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2013 – 1 volume
Hmm… I’m gonna put this in the Hearts category, because there are less stories in that one, but this has both Hearts and Clover shorts in it. Along with Crimson Empire and Arabians Lost.
Arabians Lost was first, and was rather interesting, since we haven’t seen anything from this setting before. But that’s kind of where the novelty stopped. It’s like reading the Crimson Empire shorts, except worse, because at least I’ve read enough of those to have some sense of the characters. These Arabians Lost stories are like walking into the middle of a love story that you know nothing about. I did kinda like the characters, though. Weirdly, it has some characters in common with Crimson Empire, which I did not expect. The three stories focus on different love interests: a thief, a stubborn ally (possibly a diplomat?), and the guy that trained Sheila in Crimson Empire.
The Alice stories in both settings were a little… eh. They’re pretty short (some only a handful of pages long), and are more reflections of Alice’s thoughts on the focus character than anything else. Hearts has stories about Julius (an unusually emotional, spicy Julius story), Elliot, and the Bloody Twins (possibly the only Hearts story that features them, since they… uh, can’t turn into adults in Hearts). Clover has Gray (the only Mamenosuke Fujimaru story I’ve seen that features him), the rare Peter White story, and a Blood story that does the best job I’ve seen of explaining how their relationship could possibly work, since Blood is an asshole.
Crimson Empire is three stories, the usual prince story, one featuring his older brother, and an unusual one that features the demon. I need to read more of this series, I’m actually starting to like these.
Admittedly, I couldn’t really sink my teeth into this volume since the stories are so short, but the Alice ones were pretty unique. I wouldn’t recommend it as a place to start, or even for someone who’s trying to go deeper into the series. But, you know, I’ve read almost all the spin-offs at this point, and I don’t regret picking it up. It’s a nice read for the end of my Alice journey.
November 27, 2015
Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2013 – 20 volumes
Ugh, this was painful. I like this series for the manga-making parts. The ending was pretty much exclusively about the terrible relationship between Mashiro and Miho. One whole volume of focus on that situation.
The most exciting thing that happened was that Miho had to do a public audition for the role in Muto Ashirogi’s anime, after what happened last time. That was entertaining, because it was such a circus and I was amused by the pettiness of everyone involved. But the outcome wasn’t really in question, so it wasn’t that cool.
Also, I was a little disappointed that the ending of Reversi was only confined to a chapter or two. That they were ending it “early” was sort of awesome, and I wish the whole last volume would have been about that drama (what happens when the most popular series in Jump ends early, the fallout when the anime hasn’t even started yet, who all’s involved in those calls, merchandising fallout, etc). It was not, though. It was all about Miho and Mashiro.
If you’re into them, you’ll love this volume.
I hate leaving this series on such a sour note, though. I liked it as a whole well enough, and I thought it was fascinating. But… it had so many things not to like about it. Just in case you were forgetting some of them, Kaya’s holding a broom and sweeping on the front cover. Because that’s what she does.
November 27, 2015
Nana Haruta – Viz – 2010 – 4 volumes
I was debating picking up the first three volumes of this, because I knew I’d love it. But I’ve been putting off reading this forever (I probably got it when it came out five years ago), and I wanted a cute shoujo manga today. This fit the bill perfectly.
It’s not too hard to jump into these, even at the end. This one was even more real-life than usual. Miku’s a quick-tempered high school senior, a good student. Kyohei is her boyfriend, laid-back, and formerly a troublemaker. Not such a good student. Only the first half of this volume was their story, and it was about a miscommunication about what would happen once they graduated. Kyohei didn’t know what he wanted to do post-high school, and Miku was getting pressured to attend school outside the prefecture, far away from Kyohei and her family. There’s also a cute new nurse that Miku gets jealous over.
It was cute stuff, and exactly what I wanted out of it. Plus, the second half was another cute shoujo one-shot (this one about a childhood friend becoming a boyfriend), and with the long one-shot, the book read like two very cute shoujo short stories. Great!
There’s also some very brief shorts involving Cactus’s Secret characters. One was about Kyohei’s brother, who I’m tempted to go back for. Honestly, I’m more inclined to pick up the beginning of the series now that I’ve read the end, because it’s very much my flavor of cute shoujo romance.
I didn’t read the author side-bars throughout, and there were quite a few. I did read the afterward, though, which was depressing. She said she did a pencil sketch because she ran out of time, then proceeded to apologize to her editor again and again, for, among other things, getting a part-time job while she was drawing Cactus’s Secret and not telling her about it (probably because the time commitment was strictly forbidden). Presumably, because she wasn’t making enough money drawing manga. She was also 19. Hopefully, she’s gone on to be a successful mangaka and doesn’t have to worry about that anymore. Her new series sounds cute as well.
November 27, 2015
Tetuzoh Okadaya – SuBLime – 2013 – 1 volume
I am so, so sorry it took me forever to read this. For some reason, I thought this was a volume of short stories instead of a one-shot, and I usually have to be in the mood for those. But the burly men on the cover have been begging me for a read, and I succumbed. It’s definitely a one-shot.
Seriously, this is everything I love in BL manga. The men are older (one is at least 40), and they are very manly-looking. Their relationship isn’t forced, and I loved how Hiro fell for Angie.
Plus, tango. Angie is a tango instructor that drifts from relationship to relationship without feeling anything. While performing one night, he meets Hiro. His dance partner Bene invites Hiro out for drinks, and after over-imbibing and pouring out the details of his sad relationship with his recently deceased grandfather, Hiro winds up spending the night with Angie. Hiro is too drunk to remember much, but Angie, madly attracted to him, presses his advantage. Hiro is confused at first, but goes back to Angie when he can’t stop thinking about him. Angie convinces him that he can love for himself, and can do what feels good without worrying about what others think about it. And Hiro falls hard.
Okadaya explains that this is part of a much longer work, and it feels that way. We get snippets of info about the three main characters (Bene is Angie’s roommate as well as his dance partner), and they seem much more developed than what we’d normally see in a one-shot. The magazine this ran in folded, and Okadaya drew an extra story for this English edition (which was also published in Japan) that let her show Hiro and Angie dancing, and what happened with their lives.
The dance scenes are beautiful. Okadaya also gives a lot of background about how much she enjoys Argentine Tango, and how the story first came to her when she went to a gay Argentine Tango lesson and saw how much the men (of all orientations) enjoyed dancing with one another. Dance is a huge part of the volume, too, and Okadaya does a great job communicating with it.
Seriously, everything I love is in here.
Okadaya has a lengthy essay about the work. I think my favorite detail is that she didn’t really draw BL until asked by an editor, and had to have it explained to her. When she learned, she thought BL might be what Gengoroh Tegame draws. He does not, he draws big buff men having sex for the enjoyment of gay men, not like the female-centric BL stories she was asked to draw. Apparently she was a little off-message at first. But I love that her confusion led to the excellent character designs here.
My only regret is that I only got a peek into what Angie and Hiro are like. There was obviously so much more to them, and I felt like I didn’t get to know them quite enough (as opposed to other BL one-shots, which will usually have very shallow characters). But that’s such a minor quibble. I loved this volume dearly, and would read anything else by this artist. Or anything else about men in grown-up relationships. Or anything else about dance.
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.