Afterschool Charisma 1

December 19, 2014

Kumiko Suekane – Viz – 2010 – 12+ volumes

I read a random volume of this series, and was intrigued enough to go back to the beginning and start fresh.  Or, at least, to buy the first couple volumes and sit on them for years.  But I’m reading them now, which is the important part.

The premise is that the main character, Shiro Kamiya, goes to a high school filled with clones that his dad created.  He has a crush on the recently-transferred-out Marie Curie, is friends with Napoleon, frenemies with Freud, and gets beat up by Mozart.  So there’s that.

It inevitably reminds me of Clone High, which was only on for a second and I watched a couple episodes of.  From what I recall, it’s a lot like Clone High with different historical figures.  It’s kinda weird.

Anyway.  The first chapter of Afterschool Charisma is rough, since it handles the subject matter rather awkwardly and unsubtly.  It’s mostly a flashback to a tearful outburst from Marie Curie, who doesn’t want to be a physicist and only wants to make music.  Shiro agrees with her, and intervenes with his dad on Marie’s behalf.  She is transferred out, and all the various student reactions (Shiro has a crush!  Her friend Florence Nightingale misses her!) are shown.

It was pretty awful.  Then, in chapter two, we are shown the first successful clone grown to maturity, John F. Kennedy (he is very pretty in this manga).  His first foray into public life is a speech he delivers about picking up where the original Kennedy left off.  He is promptly assassinated.

I… wasn’t sure what to make of that, honestly.  Is it brilliant?  Accidental?  In any case, it kept me reading.

Sadly, this first volume is mostly high school stuff.  Shiro doesn’t fit in because he’s the only “normal” one.  As such, he’s the outcast in a school full of strange outcasts.  He has friends, blushes at girls, fights with Mozart, and all of it isn’t super-interesting yet.  Towards the end of the volume, we start to get hints of a terrorist organization that doesn’t like the clone program and wants to kill them all.

Hmm.  I have the second volume, and will probably keep reading.  I’m a bit disappointed with the wasted premise so far, though.  Maybe once it focuses more on the private lives of the clones, the story will get more interesting.

New Season of Young Leaves

December 19, 2014

Venio Tachibana / Akeno Kitahata – DMP/June – 2014 – 1+ volume

I was super-excited about this one, since I loved Tachibana’s Seven Days so much.  New Season of Young Leaves isn’t as good, but has some of the nice, subtle qualities that made Seven Days so good.

The two main characters are the popular, outgoing Mariya and quiet, introverted Nachi.  Nachi has earned himself the nickname “Mr. Mannequin” for being so emotionless and unapproachable.  The story opens with one of Mariya’s friends challenging the friendship between Mariya and Nachi, since it seems Mariya can’t hang out unless he asks Nachi’s permission.

Nachi winds up at a Mah Jong game with Mairya’s friends to make the number of players even, and they soon find out that no matter what Nachi does, he will be better than you at it.  This leads to Nachi hanging out with Mairya’s friends a lot and Mariya getting jealous.

Nachi later tells the story about how the two of them met in Middle School to a friendly classmate.  Nachi, who sees Mariya stand up for a friend and likes him for it, later asks him how they can be friends, as Nachi has none and doesn’t know how such things work (Nachi is painfully socially awkward.  He has no pride or shame, and always asks or says what’s on his mind).  This makes Mariya uncomfortable at first, but he soon realizes he loves being close, exclusive friends with Nachi.  Later, a girl begins to try for Nachi’s affection, and there’s a little drama.

The nice thing about New Season of Young Leaves, and Seven Days, is that they’re both life-shattering drama-free.  They’re mostly just regular people dealing with regular situations.  The relationships move nice and slow, and they have sort of an embarrassed, hand-holding quality I like.  It’s a rather unique, subtle flavor.

Having said that, I had a hard time getting into New Season of Young Leaves.  I do like to see stories where the characters are in a regular setting, interacting with other students like they aren’t the only two people either of them know.  But there are a few too many characters that are featured a little prominently for having no role in the story.  I had a hard time telling Mariya and another character apart for the first chapter or so.  The story is also… oddly fragmented.  It’s about how Nachi is “Mr. Mannequin” and doesn’t fit in.  It’s about their weird friendship/relationship that isn’t explained for a long time.  It’s about Mariya getting jealous.  Then it’s about them in middle school, then about the girl that came between them?

Apparently the story continues in another volume, which would explain why there are several characters whose specialty seems to be giving significant looks.  But if there’s another volume, I’m not sure why the middle school flashback (which takes up half the book) wasn’t expanded into its own volume?  That was my favorite part of the book, and I would have adored it if that was the first volume.

Good, but a little scattered.  The second volume isn’t scheduled yet, but hopefully we’ll see it inside a year.

 

Itazura na Kiss 8

December 18, 2014

Kaoru Tada – Digital Manga Publishing - 2012 – 23 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 15-16

The good folks at DMP have just started a new Tezuka Kickstarter (EDIT: I wrote this 6 months ago, so for a current Tezuka Kickstarter, go here), and I thought I’d celebrate by rummaging through my unread DMP backlog. For some reason, it did not occur to me to add my missing Tezuka reviews, but perhaps that’s because I had a powerful craving for some sugary shoujo.

Again, I’ve been taking a break from manga lately, and I’m not sure how wise it is to sample this series. It’s very predictable, to say the least. But it is also one of the sweetest, most adorable series I can lay hands on, and it is what I crave in my secret heart of hearts.

In this volume… well, there’s about what you’d expect. Kotoko gets accepted into the nursing program, and most of these stories are about her new friends/classmates. She gets assigned to a study group with four other students who, unsurprisingly, almost all have a huge crush on Naoki.

The first story is an entertaining one about how Kotoko doesn’t want to admit she’s the (disappointing) wife of the fabulous Naoki Irie. Other stories are about mixers between the doctor and nursing students, study sessions that (of course) interrupt peaceful vacations with Naoki, and lots about various topics in class. Kotoko is, of course, hilariously bad at drawing blood, securing patients to the bed, blood pressure readings, et cetera.

If there’s something I dislike about this series (other than Naoki), it’s that Kotoko has to be completely incompetent at everything. She’s always portrayed as sweet, and very tenacious, but very stupid. I keep hoping she’s going to find that one thing she’s good at… But it hasn’t happened yet. On one hand, I do like the positive message about her working hard for everything she does and not being naturally gifted (questionable relationship with Naoki excluded), on the other hand, I’m tired of these types of jokes.

There’s a cute subplot about a nerdish classmate of Naoki’s falling for a gold-digging classmate of Kotoko’s that is now ongoing. A nice story near the end discusses the unplanned pregnancy of one of Kotoko’s oldest friends, and the impossible family situation she finds herself in. And the meat of the second half of the volume is about a nursing student with a crush on Kotoko who goes for it in light of Naoki’s horrible treatment of Kotoko.

That storyline… yeah. The potential beau is right, of course, and is only proven more right when Naoki senses his attraction and doesn’t speak to Kotoko for months, despite her complete devotion to him. His behavior is so bad that even Naoki’s mom thinks Kotoko should leave him for the nice boy. This fairly abusive relationship makes the series hard to read through stretches like this, and the resolution isn’t very romantic or satisfying. Still, here I am, hoping DMP will get around to releasing the last volumes of the series in a 3-in-1.

Be that as it may, I love that we’ve moved on to married life and its grown-up problems. There are still a lot of the same types of stories from the early volumes, but I love that the storytelling has matured over the run of the series. It also keeps its charm and sense of humor, and I’m happy to see the upbeat Mrs. Irie continue her appearances, despite the fact she’s forever doing the same jokes.

Still great! And I have a feeling this one flies way under the radar, so here’s hoping we do get to see the end. Check it out if cute shoujo is your thing!

In Clothes Called Fat

November 16, 2014

Moyoco Anno – Vertical – 2014 – 1 volume

I bought and read this the same week it came out, which again, I haven’t really been doing.  But this.  I’ve been waiting years for this book.  Here’s an article I wrote in 2011, for instance.  I was so happy that we were getting more Moyoco Anno (and Kyoko Okazaki! and Asumiko Nakamura!) in English.

So I’ve already talked about the plot, then.  An overweight woman named Noko endures teasing by a specific coworker with a vendetta against her.  Said coworker seduces Noko’s long-time boyfriend and sends happy, introverted Noko into a body-centric depression.

Noko tries initially to get back at her boyfriend by sleeping with a random stranger.  She finds a rich old man.  Said old man is the kindest person in this unkind story, which isn’t saying much, because he winds up being weirdly unkind in the end.  This man worships Noko’s body, and tells her not to be ashamed, there’s nothing wrong with the way she looks.  Noko thinks that being thin is the only way she can be happy, and the old man tells her that being thin definitely won’t help.  But he gives her enough money to go to an expensive weight loss clinic.

Noko takes the treatments and begins a dieting process, but with the constant torment from the spiteful coworker and her d-bag boyfriend, she loses self-confidence and develops bulimia.

She doesn’t admit this to anybody, but she does lose a lot of weight.  But being thinner doesn’t solve Noko’s problems.  She still lacks self-confidence, and she still lets her d-bag boyfriend and coworkers walk all over her.

This is a depressing story, and still reads as contemporary even though it’s almost 20 years old.  Somehow, Anno is a master of depressing main characters who try to solve their problems and can’t.  This one’s even more depressing because Noko doesn’t have anyone to help her with happiness, so she latches on to being pretty.  She has a coworker that tries to help her with the bullying at work, but unfortunately Noko latches on to the fact that this woman is bullied for her looks, as well.

The kindest character is probably the harsh coach at the weight loss clinic.  She’s quite mean to Noko, but gives her what advice she can on what is and isn’t good for Noko, and tries to help her out.  But she can’t, which is one of the crueler and more confusing plot twists in this story.

The art is pretty vintage Anno.  Think Happy Mania rather than Sakuran or Sugar Sugar Rune.  Spare and contemporary, it looks like a josei manga, with large eyes, angular characters, and not a whole lot of detail.  But the spareness for this story fits very well.

Very good, and very different (few manga deal with weight loss issues, and they are even more rarely so dark), but just remember… it is a downer.

I need to read Buffalo 5 Girls on Crunchyroll!

Bakuman 17

November 16, 2014

Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2012 – 20 volumes

Even after an extended break, this is still absurdly exciting.  I was surprised how easily I got back into this.  I remembered all the characters, and exactly what was going on.  Still wasn’t all that surprising when the mastermind behind the “manga factory” was revealed.  Of course it was him.

I loved that they analyzed the analytical manga-making process, talked about how to beat it, and found its flaw (which was, admittedly, kinda underwhelming, but makes total sense in the context of this series).  The tactic where you go back to the beginning of your series to make the most exciting storyline you can is a good one.

I also liked all the talk about the older manga artists, and their place in Jump.  Interesting, since a lot of the current top artists have had series running for 15 or so years.  Of course, the real guys are super-successful, and the ones in Bakuman are almost-gave-ups.  But still.

Shujin and Saiko are still grinding away on PCP.  I’m waiting for that to change sometime soon, probably within the last three volumes.  But next time, if I’ve been good, we get to find out what Eiji Nizuma is up to.  And Shujin and Saiko may be starting their own new series.  One that is, and I quote, “cult-type mainstream battle manga with good-versus-evil powered characters.”  Hm.

Hm.

Okay.

Dengeki Daisy 11

November 16, 2014

Kyousuke Motomi – Viz – 2012 – 16 volumes

Sometimes, I worry that this series lost its spark after Teru found out about Daisy.  Then, Kurosaki wishes gout upon Teru, and I remember why this is still good to read.  Also, I like that he complains about being poor, but apparently wears D&G underwear.  And I really like that a reader comment in back said that one of Kurosaki’s bad points is that he’s not going bald like everyone is hoping.  So maybe I have that to look forward to in future volumes.

So I do still like it.  But having said that, I’m still not sure I’m all that into the direction the plot is taking right now.  This volume starts in on a new threat, this time headed by Teru’s friend Rena’s fiancee.  It’s a new version of Jack Frost, and Morizono is a pretty sleazy guy who tries to bribe Teru and does all sorts of awful stuff to Rena.

But… again, I don’t really want to read a shoujo manga about computer hacking and espionage.  Teru is still kinda in danger, because she’s being targeted as Daisy’s contact person.  But most of this volume is about Rena, and about Morizono slowly being unveiled as a sleaze.

I do still like Teru and Kurosaki, and I adore the sense of humor that’s still slipping in occasionally.  But I think I’m gonna need to get through this storyline before I start getting bigger doses of what I want.

Oh My Goddess 42

November 16, 2014

Kosuke Fujishima – Dark Horse – 2012 – 48 volumes

Though I read relatively few volumes of manga this year, the end of Oh My Goddess did not escape me.  I really, really like this series, and even during other periods where I read little manga over the years, I still read Oh My Goddess (this one included, I’m behind on reviews, but not reading it).  There’s nothing spectacular, really, I’ve just grown to genuinely love the characters over the years, and Fujishima has been good at continually coming up with interesting situations.  Dark Horse hasn’t scheduled the last volume yet, but it’s sad to think that the next time I take a break, Oh My Goddess won’t be there for me.

I was surprised to see yet another foe in this volume.  Again, I wasn’t expecting the storyline to last this long, since Oh My Goddess stories generally do not.  But it goes on for a little longer still.  Another foe is mainly featured in this volume, Mokkurkalfi.  Mokkurkalfi is a machinist, which of course means that this fight belongs to Skuld.

Again, I know it’s not exciting to people who haven’t been reading this series for, like, 15 years, but seeing Skuld fight in a situation that defeats both Belldandy and Urd, and getting an explanation about what makes Skuld great, is awesome.  She is often played for laughs, and acts childishly, but here she fights like no other.  Even Banpei gets to be super-cool.  But then again, Banpei always is.

There’s also a great moment towards the end of the book where Mokkurkalfi proves that, while they all look like smoking hot older women, the demons and goddesses are just magical beings, and can look like whatever they want.  Then she proves it by going super-dark-powerful-creepy on Keiichi.  And yes, he realizes, he forgets what he’s lived with all these years.  Again, a great moment because Oh My Goddess doesn’t often get dark like that, nor call attention to the fact that the Goddesses are… well, just that.  This storyline in particular is great, because Keiichi can do almost literally nothing against these demons (except for last time <3).

And we get more of the good stuff in the next volume!

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