Kazusa Takashima – Tokyopop – 2011 – 5 volumes
This was a real surprise favorite of mine, and I was absolutely dying for the last volume. I read it, about a month ago, and somehow forgot to write it up here.
I love it to pieces, but there’s not that much to say about the ending that won’t spoil it. The story basically goes through its logical conclusion, where the characters all have to return to hell and deal with their actions. Kaito is prince of hell, and seeing him as a serious and competent demon ruler is… rather a shock. The two forms he has couldn’t be more different. Still, I love it. There’s lots of drama, of course, as Touma, Souya, and Taiki are blamed for Kaito’s disappearance and are punished, with Kaito protesting the whole time. Things get sad, bloody, prison is involved… blah blah blah. Lots and lots of emphasis on friendship. You know how these things go. The ending wasn’t spectacular, but it was what I’ve been looking for all this time. I also loved seeing all the characters stand up for each other and try and take the blame. Especially Taiki and Kaito. The whole thing’s about them anyway, right? And the heavy BL implications continue, but never really go anywhere of course. Taiki absolutely broke my heart with how hard he tried for Kaito, though.
This is definitely a series for shoujo fans only (especially those who want a slight BL flavor), but if you’re looking for a light, silly read that’s not a huge time/volume investment, this series is definitely worth checking out. The characters are a lot of fun, the chapters are mostly one-shots that are a great mix of humor and light drama, and… well, Taiki and Kaito just make for really fun leads. I loved it to pieces all the way through, and I’m glad I happened across that first volume, because otherwise I almost certainly would have passed it over. It deserves better.
Though I still don’t know why the original name of the series is “Harlem Beat Until Dawn.”
Kazusa Takashima – Tokyopop – 2010 – 5 volumes
I’m trying to stick to Halloween/horror themes today. This one’s only marginally related, but it does have demons in it, so it sort of counts.
Not really, though. I like it because it’s a goofy comedy with good friends and demons, all things I can appreciate. The one-shot chapters are usually very entertaining, if a little over-the-top, and the characters are way more charming than they have any right to be. This really should be a middle-of-the-road title of limited interest, but quite honestly, I love it to pieces.
This volume had a kind of reckoning in it, and I loved the way it played out. Yamato and Taiki are obviously BFFs, but I always thought it was interesting that Taiki knew from almost the first day that Yamato was the Demon King he was sent to retrieve. yet nobody else knew he knew, nor did they figure out Yamato’s identity. Considering how deep the friendship between Yamato and Taiki runs, I always thought it was odd that Taiki never admitted who he was to Yamato. With a new character thrown into the mix (yet another 3rd party sent from the demon world to find Yamato), the whole situation blows up and everyone finds out what Taiki knows. It’s bad. But it also goes into a lot of detail about just how much Taiki and Yamato mean to each other. It gets about as close as you can to slashing two characters without actually doing it (and even then, I’m not entirely sure it’s not implied), but man, those are some really awesome scenes between Taiki and Yamato. I love stories like this sometimes, where two characters are just really great friends.
There are some sub-par one-shots mixed in, even while the whole plot about Taiki is running, and it did get a little sillier and more slapstick than I like. The new character introduced at the beginning of the volume, a wizard, did add something interesting since he seemed uninterested in Yamato or his disguise, but did like to mess with Taiki and company. At the end of the volume, three women are sent from hell for the retrieval, and so far their main function seems to just be comedy relief.
I’m looking forward to the last volume. Part of me thinks that the majority of the Taiki/Yamato moments were taken care of this volume, but I suspect it will have a pretty grand finish. It’s going to be some wait, but hopefully it’ll be worth it. In the meantime, feel free to catch up to the current volumes. This is a decent series that is fairly underrated.
Kazusa Takashima – Tokyopop – 2010 – 5 volumes
It’s almost scary how much I like this series. The overarching plot is nothing to speak of (“let’s find the demon prince! Who is he? We need to see the tattoo on his back”), and the episodic stories aren’t all that great either (“I hope they don’t see the tattoo on my back! Taiki, help me!”). The good vibes are almost all Yamato’s fault, his dopeyness is somehow acceptable within the context of the series, and I think that’s largely because he is genuinely fascinated by everything in the average high school life. His joie de vivre is infectious, and even things like school trips and summer festivals are a little better because it’s Yamato that’s going to them.
It also helps that his reactions to being hunted down aren’t as helpless as most characters in his situation. Taiki does help him out almost every time, so much that Yamato often isn’t aware there’s a problem, but Yamato is also fairly competent about cleaning up his own messes.
Sometimes the stories are bad about… well, explaining things. On a school camping trip, rather than going through the usual “plot to expose the tattoo” as planned by the two stooges of hell, Reibun inexplicably winds up in a lake, for some reason prompting Yamato to turn into the prince of hell to save her. I don’t know how any of that works, but I still liked that story quite a bit.
Also in this volume, the… uh, friendship between Yamato and Taiki is fujoshi-ed up quite a bit. In previous volumes, it was a nice friendship, and I could see how the female readers might want to read things into it, but it was certainly nothing more than that. But the BL trap was baited in this volume thanks to several “special” conversations. I’m not 100% sure this isn’t going to turn into a romance, now, which is a little strange and… I think I like it.
Also in this volume, we get a chapter explaining how Taiki and the two stooges worked together previously in hell, and how their team and friendship works. It’s a big sacrifice not only for Taiki, but for the others too, when he makes it clear that he’s going to go against them to protect Yamato.
It’s a fun read, but it’s a lot more fun that the shallow premise and what the first volume might lead you to believe. There’s not a lot to sink your teeth into, but the characters are a whole lot more likable than these stories typically are.
Kazusa Takashima – Tokyopop – 2009 – 5 volumes
I liked the first volume of this series well enough to continue, even though middle-of-the-road wacky comedies aren’t really my thing. It must be the demons that I like.
I still like it far more than I should, though. It would be very easy for this series to fall into a formula, with the three minions continually trying to get Kujou to strip to see if he’s got the royal emblem, but it does manage to avoid this rut. The chapters are relatively varied, too, for the type of series this is… though most take place at the school, and another at a summer festival.
Why do I like it so much, then? I think it has a lot to do with Taiki, simultaneous bad guy and best friend. He’s more of a friend to Kujou than a bad guy, and he really is a wonderful friend. He sticks up for Kujou pretty often, even when it interferes with his fellow demon’s investigations. He has to suspect Kujou… especially since he’s seen him transform back from a demon, but he doesn’t seem to be pushing the issue too hard, and actually does try to talk the others into laying off. He’s a great character, and I think his role in the story is what makes this so fun to read, especially when there’s nothing particularly interesting about the other characters.
And I do love demons. One of the short stories involves secretly slipping Kujou a drug to turn him back into a demon, and it works. Kujou makes for an awesome demon. Another chapter has Haga transform back into a cat and have a little run-in with Taiki, which is a nice, calm chapter in the middle of all the madness.
But the wacky gags aren’t really my thing, nor are the characters. I like it enough to keep reading… but it’s not really anything special.
Kazusa Takashima – Tokyopop – 2009 – 5 volumes
Oh, weird. I didn’t know until I looked up the number of volumes that this was Harlem Beat wa Yoake Made. I’d heard about this series several years ago and I know it used to have its share of fans. Hm. I reviewed the first volume for Manga Recon, so you can check out the review over there.
It kind of reads like a strange cross between Go Go Heaven and Bride of Deimos. Those series are at complete opposite ends of the quality scale, and appropriately, this series landed right in the middle. It was… okay, but I wasn’t completely won over, even considering my inexplicable love for any series with demons in it. The characters were very promising, but I was already hoping for a change of pace in the stories by the end of the first volume. There isn’t a real overarching plot aside from “drag the prince back to hell,” so I’m hoping one develops a bit later.
Also, I can see why the title was changed. I have absolutely no idea what “Harlem Beat Comes Down” means in the context of the series.