Crimson Empire 1

October 4, 2015

QuinRose / Hazuki Futaba – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2013 – 3 volumes

I have a bad habit of buying everything by the writers/artists I read, even if I know it probably isn’t very good.  I bought this 3-volume series while I was consuming volume after volume of QuinRose Alice stories, but when it arrived I immediately had buyer’s remorse, so it’s been sitting in my TBR pile for some time.

This has a few strikes against it… manga adaptations of video games are rarely good (to be fair, though the Alice books are a guilty pleasure, those probably don’t count either), and this one also stars a “battle maid,” which is a huge red flag for me.  But I was surprised to find that I liked the first volume a lot better than I thought!

Sheila is a battle maid.  Sold by her parents at an early age, she’s adopted by a band of assassins and forced to go through horrible, immoral training.  She never really “becomes” one of them, and after a falling-out with the boss, she’s sold to a prince named Edvard and serves as his “secret” bodyguard.

Sheila is a little… bland.  She’s got spirit, and she fights her own battles, but her personality isn’t that well-defined.  She also has Cute Maid Friend and Professional Maid Friend to back her up, and a variety of good-looking men from the games that range from a joking traveler, a serious devil (that Sheila entered a pact with), a cold Butler, an equally cold Prince who wishes (?) to eliminate Edvard to claim the throne for himself but also protects Edvard, et cetera.

I think the reason I liked it was mostly due to Edvard.  A handsome crown prince, Edvard takes full advantage of how capable Sheila is.  He doesn’t lift a finger in his defense, and Sheila has no problem taking out the assassins that constantly come after him.  He’s also somewhat cold and calculating, and though he seems to be charismatic and everything that a prince should be, he also gives off rampant misanthropy/psychopath vibes.  So I’m excited to see where that goes.

The story isn’t that coherent, unfortunately.  At one point, I had to read a few pages three times to figure out that the scene shifted.  The male dating prospects are all dumped into your lap without much explanation (though, because they were written into the game, they are a bit better developed than this indicates).  Aside from Sheila’s intro at the beginning of the volume, there’s only one easy-to-follow story about an assassination attempt on Edvard.  The rest are vignettes, character snippets and introductions, and plotting.

I’m hoping it gets a bit better in the next two volumes, but at least it isn’t super-long if it doesn’t.

Junjo Romantica 6

October 4, 2015

Shungiku Nakamura – Blu – 2008 – 18+ volumes

Hmm… most of this volume was Romantica, but it was kind of a downer volume.  Usagi’s work supervisors tell Misaki he probably isn’t good for Usagi, and that Usagi isn’t the best judge of that.  So Misaki’s fairly depressed, but then, inexplicably, Usagi’s asshole older brother Haruhiko starts making a play for Misaki after meeting him once and basically blowing him off.  At one point, Haruhiko kidnaps him and locks him in a room.

Generally, I hate rough, abusive stuff like that, especially when it’s played off as no big thing like it is here.  And on one hand, Haruhiko is delightfully eccentric in the same way Usagi is, and I liked the contrast between eccentric successful businessman and eccentric shut-in.  But on the other hand, Haruhiko is actively off-putting and unkind to the characters, which is harder for me to swallow.

That’s kind of disappointing, because I was looking forward to Usagi’s brother.  Oh well.

The last chapter here is a Terrorist chapter, which is even worse about rough stuff than Romantica.  So far, I really hate reading this story.  On one hand, Shinobu did ardently pursue Miyagi.  Which is a bit easier for me to take.  But after Miyagi assents to their relationship, Shinobu pulls away, and Miyagi tends to force him into romantic situations.  I get that Shinobu is supposed to be shy and not like outright romance, but Hiro and Nowaki are like that too, and their relationship works much better.  Come to think of it, Misaki and Usagi are like that too, but in both those couples, it’s obvious (at least, after awhile) that Misaki and Hiro do like their partners.  But with Terrorist being told from Miyagi’s POV, we have no idea how Shinobu feels.  With the huge age difference, and with the plot frequently turning towards Shinobu going to Australia to escape Miyagi… I mean, what am I supposed to think?

Sigh.  There was one cute Hiro/Nowaki story here, but with the Terrorist story ending on a cliffhanger, I suspect the next volume will be weighted towards the Terrorists.  Hopefully the Romantica story will be a bit more positive next time.

QuinRose/Mamenosuke Fujimaru – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2014 – 7 volumes

Basically, things heat up between Alice and Blood.  It’s… pretty mutual at this point, although I still have some doubts about Blood.  We get some flashbacks from the Country of Hearts, too.

It’s implied that, because Alice has made a decision, the Jokers may no longer harass her, and April season may be coming to an end.  But there’s still the matter of the jail, and what she wants to free from that jail, and what it is that she’s doing bad.  Though that might be that she’s lying to herself about wanting to go back home and feeling guilty about her sister.  Especially with Blood… she apparently doesn’t want to free her sister in the Country of Joker, since it’s implied that since Blood looks like the teacher she had a crush on that fell in love with her sister, Blood may fall in love with her sister as well if she appears in this world.

Still lots of vagueness.  We also sneak a peek at the executioner, I think?  Here, he looks like Ace in different clothes, which is also what all signs point to in this series so far.  Some other artwork makes it look like a different character, but I’m not sure if that’s because he is, or if it’s because the artwork isn’t by Fujimaru.

Still not a lot of clues… this is a short review since I want to get to the next volume.

Phantom Thief Jeanne 5

September 20, 2015

Arina Tanemura – Viz – 2014 – 7 volumes
this is a 5-volume edition

THIS SERIES IS SO FREAKING BEAUTIFUL.  I think I like the ending to Sakura Hime more, but man, Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne will always be my favorite.  I think it’s my favorite magical girl series, period.

Some good things in this volume:  The story of Adam and Eve is retold so that God lives with them in the garden, and Eve’s consumption of the apple meant that she gained knowledge that she and Adam were different from God, and the two of them fell in love and decided to leave Eden in order not to hurt God, who also loved them both.  It was really sweet.  KKJ has the power to shoujo-fy even the Bible.

Also good:  Maron and Chiaki have sex before the final battle, which is Maron proving once again that it’s your perception of yourself, and not your virginity, that makes you a good person (in this case, a “pure” enough person to fight/seal demons as God’s rep).  I still like that detail, since I find the barrier of virginity as a sign of “purity” in series like this to be ridiculous.

Somewhat unexpected:  Maron and Chiaki have sex before the final battle, which NEVER HAPPENS IN MAGICAL GIRL SERIES.

Also:  Finn Fish, you made me cry.  I didn’t think I was going to do that, but again, there’s just something rather beautiful about KKJ.

Also also:  The friendship between Miyako and Maron was very beautiful.  The cliffhanger from last volume was resolved in such a friend-positive way as to make even Tomoyo Daidouji weep.

Finally:  I adore how completely obsessed Chiaki was with Maron throughout the whole series.  That doesn’t stop here.  He’s adorable, and again, it’s nice to see a non-creepy love interest pursuing the heroine so ardently.  It rarely works like that.

I… kind of liked the final battle, it was very clever, and resolved the themes of the series well.  We got to see how Maron grew as a person.  But there’s part of me that turns away from somewhat side-step-y sentimental stuff like that, too.  Tanemura made it up to me in Sakura Hime, so I’m all about this ending in KKJ.

Lots of short stories afterwards!  I’m not sure that I liked any of them as much as the Finn Fish stuff in this volume, but it’s fun bonus stuff for sure.  And I think there’s a new story just for this 5-volume collection (I’m too lazy to check right now, though).

I don’t have a whole lot else to say.  I can’t spoil anything, and I’ve already talked a lot about why I like this series so much, and about its themes, in previous reviews.  I’m glad this has withstood the test of time.

My heart is already shrinking away from my bold declaration of this being my favorite magical girl series, though.  I love Cardcaptor Sakura hard, but I haven’t read it in a long time.  Part of me thinks that Sakura and Syaoran may beat out Maron and Chiaki, but I hate that little jerk Syaoran, so Chiaki has that going for him.  But is Maron and Miyako better than Sakura and Tomoyo?  That’s a close one.  I also don’t remember the themes well enough, though memory is only serving me card battles right now, and while they are cute, I don’t know if they work the same as this series.

Well, guess I’ll have to re-read CCS and see.  It’ll be a good follow-up to KKJ, as both are such classics.


X 4 (omnibus ed.)

September 20, 2015

CLAMP – Viz – 2012 – 18+ volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 10-12

Another one from my read-but-not-reviewed pile.  But I’ve read X so much, it doesn’t matter.  Still, I re-read it anyway, because it’s one of my all-time favorites.

The art is so good.  I say this every time, but it bears repeating.  CLAMP has drawn some very beautiful series over the years, but X is really a labor of love.  It breaks my heart that this is still unfinished, when sequels to Tsubasa and xXxHolic are ongoing.  Sporadically.  Though not Gate 7 or Drug and Drop.  I should try the latter out again.  I’m a little scared of the former.

Anyway, most of volume 10 is fallout from what happened last time.  A little downtime, if you will, after the intensity last time  There are two swords, and now both Kamui have one.  We also get to see the members of the Dragon of Earth react to the new Kamui.  Kamui goes to talk to Hinoto, whose dream with Kamui is hijacked by Kakyo.  As it turns out, after the terrible events, The Earth’s Final Saga Has Begun, and Kamui Is Going To Get Fuma Back.

God, I wish this manga had been completed.  I always imagined the movie, TV series, and manga having different endings, and I would have loved to see it here.  It was SO CLOSE.

Anyway.  The second volume is some cute stuff with Kamui at school.  A look at regular life.  He has his cheerful, upbeat friend Keiichi to offer him a little bright spot in an otherwise bleak life.  He’s being tutored by Subaru, who definitely doesn’t provide any sort of cheerfulness.  We learn that Keiichi is afraid of earthquakes after one caused by the Dragons of Earth kills his father, and during one, Kamui leaves him when he realizes the Dragons of Earth are attacking another barrier.  There’s some Nataku drama, and another meeting between Fuma and Kamui thrown in for good measure.

Aahh… volume 12 has a “If thine eye offend thee” act between Fuma and Subaru.  Most heartbreaking, especially when Subaru has to explain to Kamui it was his wish.  Fuma is, after all, all about granting people’s wishes.  But just not Kamui’s.  As a result of that cruel twist of fate, Kamui of course can’t produce a kekkai, which is discussed here.  Also discussed is that tragedy also strikes cheery Keiichi, who continues to be cheerful, but now also horribly depressing at the same time.  Thanks, X, for making even the happy character horribly sad.

Blade of the Immortal 31

September 20, 2015

Hiroaki Samura – Dark Horse – 2015 – 31 volumes

In the afterword, we find out that Hiroaki Samura doesn’t really like period dramas, and didn’t even read the novel series he based Manji’s looks on.  He drew this series for almost 20 years.  I feel bad about that.  Hopefully he really likes drawing fight scenes.

This was what I expected.  Makie fought some more, and was defeated Indiana Jones-style.  Kagimura, incredibly, is not done fighting, so he and Anotsu go at it another round.  And Manji fights one last time.

As does Rin, which I was not expecting.  She’s not even awake at the end of Manji and Anotsu’s fight.

For some reason, Manji took the big, beefy arm off his last opponent and put it on his body backwards (like, left arm in right socket, though because of the way this series is flipped, I’m not sure which arm it is).  Admittedly, he uses this arm well, but I’m not sure why…

Oh.  Ooooh. I guess that’s why he was able to crush the colossus’s arm to a pulp with his hand?  That makes sense.  But, I mean, Manji being able to do it with his own arm makes as much sense as anything else in a Blade of the Immortal fight.

So, he has this backwards arm on his body that is huge and ridiculous.  It bugged me in every panel it appeared in.

The resolution to the Manji/Rin pair was not what I expected.  Rin did spell it out last volume, but… I don’t know what I was expecting.  Manji is immortal, and Rin is not.  So it was resolved, and that’s fine.

I liked the flash-forward at the end.  That was nice.  I would’ve loved to see him in a more modern setting, though.

And… that’s it.  It was an amazing series, but ultimately, I wasn’t very interested after the prison arc due to the number of characters.  But it still did what it did well (lots of intense, bizarre fights), and I loved that the strongest member of the Itto-Ryu was Makie, and not Anotsu.  There’s a lot of philosophizing about revenge, and death, and a lot of other themes in the series at the end… but ultimately, Rin’s singular drive to kill Anotsu was what I was most interested in, and how far Manji would go to see that through.  I liked the series for that, and that’s why the second half didn’t appeal to me.  There wasn’t a whole lot of that to be seen.

But it is an intense, stylish period drama, and worth picking up if you’re into that.  Not to be missed if you’re into that, actually.  And perhaps you’ll be more interested in the miscellaneous characters and their politics than I was.

Cross Game 6

September 20, 2015

Mitsuru Adachi – Viz – 2012 – 17 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 12-13

Where’d my review for volume 5 go?!  I guess I’ll have to re-write it…

Anyway, it’s been a long time since I read this series, which is a shame.  I’m polishing it off during my vacation this week.  Part of me realizes I should have chosen Slam Dunk, as I’m staying south of Cleveland, and there is a lot of buzz about the Cavaliers in the NBA Championship.  But Cross Game is an awesome series, and the only things I know about basketball all came from Slam Dunk, whereas I actually watch baseball.

This series is just so sensitive!  In this omnibus, the team starts gearing up and training for their summer season, but the baseball’s a bit low-key compared to the character stuff.  Ko and Akane begin to grow closer, and it’s nice that everyone embraces Akane (including Wakaba’s family), and don’t just see her as a replacement for Wakaba.

An injury takes Aoba off the field, and her coaching for Ko intensifies as the team keeps training.  But that’s secondary.  Her injury also means Ko continues to be kind to her, but… when it becomes clear that Ko doesn’t really want to date Aoba, Azuma steps in and begins courting her in the subtle way this series has.  Equally subtle is… I’m not sure what this character’s name is, I think it’s Akaishi, who used to have a crush on Wakaba, treats Akane well, but with distance.  He likes to see her smile, as he liked to see Wakaba smile.  He tries to get Ko and Akane together, since he likes Ko, and figures he was always the one that made Wakaba happy.

I’m not entirely sure I like the way everyone in the series just replaced Wakaba with Akane.  Seems like someone would have a problem with that?  It’s not Akane’s fault, of course, but she’s sort-of seeing Ko, hangs around the Tsukishima house, and everyone that liked Wakaba now likes Akane.  It’s a little weird, but this series is so full of good vibes it’s hard to deny something like that.

I’m surprised I don’t have more to say after reading two volumes, but these are fast reads, and the pacing is fairly breezy, with a lot of the content of each chapter sometimes hinging on a moment.  It’s a pleasant experience, and I wish more people enjoyed sports manga.  This one wasn’t even all that sport-y this time around.  But the baseball games are exciting!  Those will probably start in the next omnibus.


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