March 13, 2010
Yasuko Aoike – CMX – 2010 – 36+ volumes
Oh man. It’s been eight months, and I’ve been very patient. You know what time it is now, right?
Normally I comment on the cover, but I have nothing to say this time since the cover matches the Japanese edition. Please allow me to distract you with these color illustrations from the newest installment, then. Maybe it would be more interesting to start pointing out where the small back cover illustrations come from, though. Some of those are pretty obscure. This volume’s is from a phone card, but I couldn’t find it in any of my artbooks.
Hmm… The ending to the Seventh Seal story didn’t go at all like I thought it would. I was wondering who would come out on top, since there was no way to make anyone happy in this situation. There were two nice twists to the end of the story, and I liked that part a lot. The twists also explain why the story was called Seventh Seal, something that has been bothering me. But since the ending was strictly business, there wasn’t as much humor. Actually, it was just the opposite, the Major nearly died, and wound up in the hospital. Which then opened the door to a few side stories that made up for the lack of humor in this brief part of the Seventh Seal.
One was a short two-page gag about Agent Lawrence writing the Major a “get well” letter. The second… the second was where all the funny was. It was about the office betting poll concerning when the Major would get angry and let himself out of the hospital. When they all realize that the Major intends to stay there as long as it takes, the espionage and begging starts. For the most part, it’s a fight between the Chief of NATO and Charles Lawrence/NATO’s Head of Accounting over two specific dates that would make them the winners. Dorian shows up to throw a wrench into the works, of course. It’s funny, and I especially love all the desperate/terrible methods that the NATO agents use to try and trick the Major, but it’s not quite as good as the birthday party for the Chief a couple volumes back.
The third story is about a supposedly haunted statue that Dorian takes an interest in. It’s mostly serious, and a pretty good mystery, to boot. There’s a strange scene with him and the Major where the latter shows up out of nowhere to “interfere” and the two seem rather friendly. Actually, there are a few scenes like this in the volume, where the Major seems to tolerate Eroica more than usual and the two are almost friendly, as pposed to the Major absolutely loathing the presence of Eroica. Then again, he also punches him and trips him, so it’s not like anything’s really changing.
One thing that made me uncomfortable were the weird STD jokes that were in this volume. There are three. The first was in such poor taste that it made me cringe when the other two came up. I mean… a line was crossed. It was kind of weird.
Another thing… the adaptation seemed slightly different this time. A little off, and not as punchy as usual. The story’s a little different in this volume, of course (not the usual humorous case), and the volume summary on the back cover is still absolutely spot on, but I wonder if the translator changed. I would check, except the last thirty pages of the Temptation on the Rhine story and all the stuff that comes at the end of the book (ads, next volume preview, and publication info) were replaced with the pages from the end of the first volume of My Darling Miss Bancho. Printing error. I’ve never had one that bad, and of course it had to happen in my favorite series. Usually these don’t affect many copies, so I’m going to pick up another volume from elsewhere, but still. Bah.
The next volume, which should come out in November, will begin the “Emperor’s Waltz” story. Now, this story was the end of the original series. I’ve got the Japanese volumes of this. It’s… very beautiful. It would have been an appropriate end, and it’s got absolutely everything good about this series in it, except for the disappointing and unfortunate fact that Dorian is afraid of ghosts through the first part of it. I absolutely cannot wait.
August 14, 2009
Yasuko Aoike – CMX – 2009 – 35+ volumes
Wait, what’s this? Is it… could it be… a new volume of From Eroica with Love?
The world is in shock. Or at least I am.
I’ll put this here, because this review is very long and most of you won’t make it to the bottom: Because I’m prone to commenting on these things every time, the volume cover was changed to a somewhat less fanservice-y picture of Klaus. To be fair, that picture sends signals that are not in the series itself, and would probably alienate some potential readers. I do hope the dapper portrait of Klaus on the next volume stays, though.
As much as I love this series (which is an awful lot), I forget just how good it is until the new volume is in my hand. In fact, with every new volume, I fear it will lose the magic of the old volumes. That there’s no way it can continue to be funny, that it can maintain its magic, for one more volume. And then it does. It actually took me a couple hours to read this, because I had to stop so frequently and laugh or ponder just how great it really is.
“The Seventh Seal” storyline continues through this volume, doing the standard From Eroica with Love thing. Klaus chases after the KGB, Dorian somehow gets himself wound up in things, all three parties keep outwitting each other… you know how this goes. Every storyline is still quite well thought-out though, so despite the fact it uses some of the same plot devices, it’s always fresh and fairly interesting, even without the humor.
But I probably wouldn’t read it if it wasn’t funny. Yasuko Aoike is honestly the funniest writer you will find in manga. Her style of humor is akin to that of Naked Gun. There’s a lot of slapstick, a lot of double entendre, and a lot of jokes that only work because the characters are written so well. In this volume especially, there are a lot of jokes about Klaus and women that only work because we know that Iron Klaus does not imbibe in sexual pleasure of any kind. There are lots of jokes, both from and towards Klaus, about where he met and just how well he knew one of his agent’s wives. One line, “I’ll do the women. Bang, bang, it’ll be over quick,” is an excellent double entendre that had one of the characters reacting exactly how the reader does: “OkaWAIT WHAT?!” It’s less subtle out of context because it sounds like it really can have only the one crude meaning, but knowing that Klaus would never say something like that makes it very, very funny in the book itself.
The humor succeeds more here than in a lot of other manga series because it is in no way over the top. It’s goofy, in the same way that Naked Gun is goofy and kind of corny, but it’s not like other series where the characters have extreme reactions to every joke, or all of the humor is spelled out for the reader (and I realize I just mentioned a character yelling in response to a crude joke, but that happens for one panel and is not spoken of or followed up, much different than the awkward exchanges that would happen in other manga). Eroica succeeds because of its subtlety. It also makes the jokes and then moves on to something else, so I frequently had to pause in order to laugh and marvel at them.
Some of it falls flat, of course. James is still around, and jokes about James and money (his reluctance to part with it and his love of collecting it) stopped being funny about ten volumes ago. But as annoying as he is, he appears infrequently, and James is just something that feels right at this point, as much as I hate the guy. Sometimes the James jokes still work, like when his thriftiness is coupled with an American’s desire for hamburgers for maximum Dorian disgust. Usually they aren’t funny at all, though.
I also kind of like the complete lack of fanservice in this series. I went back and read volume 1 when I finished this, and was shocked to see how different the series was. Volume 1 is kind of bad in comparison. Klaus doesn’t absolutely hate Dorian, and there were a handful of moments where he softened and you could imagine shoujo-type feelings between them. Dorian has kept the flame alive all this time, but their relationship works because Klaus is completely dismissive and horrified by Dorian’s attentions. There are occasional scenes like the one at the beginning of this volume, where Dorian and Agent G fight to see who gets to undress the unconscious Klaus and give him mouth-to-mouth, but those only work because it’s funny to try and predict when the Major will regain consciousness and what his reaction will be. I mean, I guess that’s fanservice in a way, but it never really crosses that line that even teases about Klaus entertaining thoughts of Dorian (or anyone else, really). It works a lot better because of it, because you don’t have to worry about romance at all.
Fanservice comes in other ways. Klaus holding big guns is something that always happens that I figure must be a stab at fanservice (because it is way awesome). Things like Dorian describing what he would like to do to Klaus, or contemplating his butt for several pages, might be another form. But you can see why these work where traditional fanservice would make it a less amazing series.
Speaking of the American’s love for hamburgers, I also noticed Aoike is better about naming her characters here. In volume one, we had English characters named Sugar Plum and Leopard Solid. Here, we had Greek characters named Kazantzakis and Zorba. I thought that was pretty funny, but I’m not sure if it was intentional or not.
The biggest tragedy is that NOBODY READS THIS. Seriously. Do you not like to laugh? Keep in mind it only hits its stride after the first couple volumes, and the first one in particular is pretty mediocre. We can’t be friends, you and I, until you’ve at least given it a try. It’s because nobody reads this amazing series that volumes only come out once a year. Volume 15, the conclusion to the “Seventh Seal” storyline that began in volume 12, isn’t comign out until March. Just… buy this series to give CMX a reason to keep publishing it. They really don’t have to, and I’m glad they are continuing to crank it out for the loyal fans. We just need to get more people on the bandwagon.
As a hat tip to CMX, one of the other reasons this series works is because of its phenomenal adaptation. Klaus and Dorian both speak with affectations that suggest their German or English accent, other characters speak with nods to their country of origin (Russian, Scotland, et cetera), and all the characters and their jokes are absolutely spot-on in a way that I can’t believe translates so well into English. It makes me very happy. Also a nice touch are the “letters” from the characters on the back of every volume as a summary. Those are always in character and absolutely spot-on. They are the best volume summaries on any series. Period.
On a final note, I love that panel I posted at the top because Klaus and Dorian are reacting in mutual wordless shock. Out of context, Klaus looks more angry than surprised. I suppose that is just his way.
June 29, 2008
I’m not sure why I feel compelled to comment on the cover every time, but CMX chose my favorite image for this cover. It replaced this really terrible one from the original volume 13. We came out way better in that deal.
This story sort of started last volume, but it took me a bit to remember the last one ended with the Major snoozing on his roof. Things get underway here, and the Major winds up in Liechtenstein trying to locate a KGB cover company to access a Swiss bank account, while Dorian is there to steal the principality’s royal art collection. Things get off to a good start with Dorian in a suit attending a social function in London with a Lawrence look-alike trying to gain his favor since he’s apparently some sort of celebrity, being an Earl and all. Dorian doesn’t like it, and he also doesn’t like the fact that faux Lawrence got invited to the party in Liechtenstein that he was going to crash. Bonham points out, rightly so, that the Queen in his own country has never even invited him to anything, so why should he be invited out to another country? He also warns about not becoming too popular, which seems important.
Also important is the fact that Dorian crashes the Liechtenstein party dressed as a woman for no real good reason. He was the belle of the ball.
Klaus finds him.
Much of the second half of the volume is pretty serious and basically just deals with Klaus and his men tailing the KGB. Their mission morphs into one where they have to rescue a computer technician (one from an agency which I suspect is IBM) who is being kidnapped along with stolen technology to fix sabotaged Soviet computers. Mischa’s back, and both Klaus and Dorian have run-ins with him. The reactions for the various German agents being back at work are also pretty humorous. There are various jokes mixed into the espionage bits, but the plot without Dorian is quite good, and Dorian’s promise of revenge was enough to tide me over for the next volume.
Well, that and the fact that the volume’s cliffhanger, which involves Klaus needing to disrobe while passed out with certain key characters present.
God I love this series. I love it hard.
April 21, 2008
So I started buying some of the artbooks associated with this series, because it is my undisputed queen of girl comics. There are no less than 4 different artbooks in print at the moment along with a few older things which are harder to find, but only one is an actual “artbook.” The others can be disappointing, but make it up to you with the insanity of the illustrations they contain. Consider this, which is a parody of Mars Chastising Cupid. I had a moment of Zen on the bus ride home while I was flipping through that book, since that’s one of my favorite paintings, and I thought it was fairly obscure… plus, it’s just… what the hell. I can’t read the text on it or on the page next to it, so it’s without context, which makes it even better. My school owns that particular painting, and if their interpretation is to be believed, Cupid is enjoying it just as much as Dorian is.
Anyway, I wanted to share that. I put off the review because I was trying to get my scanner to work. Putting it off meant I got to read the book again a couple days ago, which… again, is just something I do not do since I have about 100 other things I haven’t read yet sitting within arm’s reach. I like this series that much.
This volume is the end of the “Laughing Cardinals” arc along with a few one-shot short stories. The main story sort of ends abruptly, but not before cramming in a few jokes about the Major’s butt in for the road. As part of a clever ploy to get Klaus a gun in front of a KGB agent, Bonham sort of… I don’t know, fondles him to get his attention and to remind him that he had a gun hidden away. For his efforts, Bonham is booted rather hard in the shin, and the Major states that “Usage of my rear for other than its intended purpose is strictly verboten” while Dorian yelled “Spoilsport! It won’t break!” from a chandelier. It was beautiful.
After all the dust settles, since it turns out that every single one of the Major’s men was captured and the lines they were feeding the KGB turned out to be the true location of the information they were looking for, Klaus fires every single one of them on the spot and sends them to Alaska, all except for Z. Amidst all their own suffering, the men find time to offer Z their condolences since they figure he’s gotten the worse end of the deal, staying all by himself with the Major.
There are two one-shots that deal with the only thing that could make the Major more angry in his situation (chained to his desk doing paperwork meant for 25 people, no missions in sight), which is Lawrence showing up from England to help him out. On one hand, I kind of hate Lawrence because I can’t figure out if he’s actually a decent agent or just an idiot through and through. These two chapters have definitely lowered my opinion of him considerably. On the other hand, everyone hates him with such a passion that it’s hilarious to see the reactions to him. The Director shows Klaus a kindness when he gives him a simple surveillance mission, but the trick is that Lawrence has to come with him so that he doesn’t hang around NATO headquarters. While on this mission, Lawrence decides that the Major got his “Iron Klaus” nickname by being tireless with the ladies, and the two are also forced to share a bed when the hotel has only one honeymoon suite left to rent.
After their intended target flees from the Major in terror, Klaus decides to send Lawrence to Lucerne with the restored Laughing Cardinals fresco as an “escort” so that he can pester Dorian. Lawrence does his job well, bonding with James to create double the irritation, but the Major’s plan backfires when Lawrence actually returns with Dorian in tow, because Dorian just can’t believe that Lawrence and Klaus have shared a bed.
I just… am consistently blown away with how funny each volume is. I go into them thinking that the newest one can’t be better than the ones I’ve already read, but I’m always pleasantly surprised. There’s a ton of jokes and plot I’ve left out… for instance, Lawrence strolling into the Monastery in Lucerne and laughing to himself for about half a page before he notices Dorian and blows a gasket, or the whole encounter with Dorian, Lawrence, and Klaus in the NATO office. That part is priceless. Klaus questions Dorian’s gaydar, and tells him he should be kicked out of the club. I was dying. Plus the adaptation is always really top notch. A lot of German words and British slang terms are inserted into the character’s dialogue, which makes the European setting much easier to keep in mind.
I love it. There’s nothing more I can say about it. Once again, if you’re not reading this and you love shoujo manga, you’re some sort of criminal. This series is fantastic.
December 30, 2007
This time, the English cover favors a portrait of Dorian over Led Zeppelin (or at least most of them, maybe John Paul’s on the back). I prefer the portrait of Dorian myself, but that was probably Bonham’s only chance at making the cover.
This series still just kills me with every volume. It consists entirely of stupid jokes, but it knows what stupid joke to make to be the most effective in any situation. There’s a scene where Klaus promises to give Dorian special NATO epoxy that will fix artwork, and when he gives up the goods, it is revealed that it is a box of nothing more than “James” Bond, an epoxy available so cheaply that James himself often buys it. It’s really funny in context, I promise.
There’s also some aftermath for the party thrown last volume. When the agents spot James in Zurich, they pelt him with food (egged on by G over the phone), which James happily gathers and consumes. There’s a scene where the Major just can’t bring himself to give Dorian CPR, and there’s a fight between he and Bonham over who will do it, Bonham’s argument being that Dorian would enjoy it more from Klaus. Later, while the characters are scaling a mountain, Dorian regrets that it is not light enough out to enjoy the view, then a page full of nothing but panels of Klaus’s butt follows, and Dorian comments that at least there are some sights he can enjoy. Later, an argument breaks out about the vitality of the Major’s butt. Obviously there are a lot of jokes about Dorian and Klaus in this volume, and I loved every goddamn second of it.
There are also some gags which you can very clearly visualize in your head in a movie. At one point, when Dorian isn’t getting into an assignment, James and Bonham decide that they will play their trump card. There is a panel at the bottom of a page that zooms in on Dorian’s face, while Bonham, way off in the background, Bonham tells him the Major will be at a party he needs to go to. The top of the next page features the Earl in the back of a car, smoking a cigarette, decked out in full evening regalia and laughing merrily. You can just see the jump cut on the page. It’s a stupid gag, but it’s just the best when this series does it. There’s another couple moments that are fun to picture, two of them quiet moments between the Earl and the Major, one the moment where the Major decides he absolutely cannot perform CPR, and one where Dorian describes the CPR Bonham would have administered: “From Bonham with Love, it would be slow and hot.” Quite frankly, that was the best line in the series yet. It was entirely worth my ten dollars for this volume.
So yes. So far, the series is showing no signs of slowing down or stopping as far as being the best shoujo series I’ve ever read goes.
October 20, 2007
CMX usually keeps the cover illustrations from the Japanese original (tragically, not the awesome bunko covers which makes the series look like a James Bond spy adventure starring Klaus), but I notice sometimes the illustrations get swapped out if Dorian is being too much a lady.
Anyway, a new volume of this series means another chance for me to express my love for it in great detail. I caught myself singing “Unchained Melody” while ordering this online, which made me feel stupid. When it came, I sat it next to my computer and waited for a bad day to roll around before I read it, because reading this would automatically make it the best day of the month.
This one ends the Seven Days in September storyline that’s been running the past few volumes. It ends, much to my satisfaction, with an awesome swordfight between Dorian and Salim with assists by Klaus. If that wasn’t enough for you, there’s feats involving a large fire at the end as well. Klaus doesn’t look as mad as usual when going about his business here, which seems a little odd, but far be it for me to stop him from being happy around Dorian.
There’s a side story involving the NATO Director’s birthday and all the alphabets throwing a party for him since the Major is away on a mission with Z. The party is Lawrence’s idea, who happens to be in town. Of course, Dorian et al happen to be in town as well (trying to spy on Klaus), and when Dorian finds out the Major isn’t around, he suggests having the party at the Major’s house. James helps the alphabets organize things within a budget in an awesome scene where everyone keeps calling James to see if they got a good deal or not. There’s some weirdness between Lawrence, the Director, and Dorian, and I believe Dorian wins a bet about whether or not the Director really likes him or not. I… wasn’t sure what was going on with that weirdness… but yes.
Of course, the Major comes back early, and he walks in with Z instead of the Director. The result is a perfect joke and one of the most amazingly immature scenes I’ve ever seen in a manga. This entire chapter was a work of genius, and there were a ton of really stupidly funny jokes that had me cracking up the whole time. Not good jokes, though, and nothing sophisticated. These were things like a character strolling into the airport and commenting on agents “E, F, and Gay,” or the Director spotting the Major while enroute to the party and just turning around, not wanting anything to do with the scene that was sure to unfold.
Once again: Marry me, Yasuko Aoike.
The next story, “Laughing Cardinal,” is also several volumes long, and starts off with the aftermath of that party, including an amazingly calm Klaus and his jumpy coworkers. I think one of my favorite things about this manga is that its characterizations are perfect. Not so much that the characters are well-developed, but that they interact well and make for funny jokes and situations. A bunch of things come to mind at the NATO headquarters at the beginning of this chapter, but it would be too much for me to name them all, and really, you have to read to appreciate.
The plot of “Laughing Cardinal” so far is that Klaus almost literally has only that phrase to go on to find out why a NATO agent died. Dorian… hm, wants to save some art that’s being demolished somewhere? I think?
I just… I love this manga so much. It is absolutely what I would like to be reading right now.
June 29, 2007
Unlike Guru Guru Pon-chan, I DID save this one. I have to savor this series like a fine wine. I was going to save this until September, when the final volume in the “Seven Days in September” storyline comes out, but silly me, I put it right next to my bed, where I have to look at it every night. The Earl, his call was too great. I don’t feel too bad now that I know CMX is running this slightly more frequently than twice a year. Three times a year still isn’t too fast, but for a series which I am sure is not selling, it’s fine by me as long as they can keep cranking it out.
I read this before going on a long road trip, so I don’t think I was in the right frame of mind. I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I usually do, but that certainly wasn’t the volume’s fault. Within the first few pages, the Major and Mischa get drunk and beat each other up in a really incredible bar fight, complete with childish name-calling (“boild octopus” and, with my hat off to the editor, “Taterbach”). It takes all of the Major’s men to get him out of his soiled barfight clothes. The Major is duly embarassed. Of course, when the Earl hears that the Major can be undressed when he gets a few drinks in him, he tries that… except it backfires, and it turns out that the Earl undresses himself when he gets a few drinks in him.
That’s right, Dorian does a STRIPTEASE. A drunken striptease. Marry me, Yasuko Aoike.
These things are not even part of the plot! The plot is okay, and doesn’t move very far in this volume (NATO and the KGB team up to boss Eroica around, basically he’s got to steal the report from the oil baron he ripped the paintings off from in the story before this one), but it’s dressed up in so much man/man flirtation, with some desperate stabs at heterosexuality made by some characters, it’s easy to forget why you’re reading. Well, no, those things actually don’t take over the plot. It does those things while coasting through it’s globetrotting madcap adventures, perfectly balancing the flirtation and the action between the dashing Earl and the grumpy Major. It’s just SO GOOD.
It also gets away with a surprisingly base level of juvenile humor. The “Taterbach” nickname is a good example, another is a really funny scene where it seems the Alphabets are making fun of the size of James’ manstuff off camera. James in general is a good example, because he hasn’t really been referred to by name by anyone in a long time… just “it.”
PLEASE READ THIS SERIES. I may say this a lot, but I mean it this time. In fact, this is the only time I mean it. For God’s sake, READ THIS SERIES.