Ayano Yamane – DMP/June – 2014 – 7+ volumes

Ah, more Finder.  And even more than this, as all the volumes of the series recently got funded for a reprint via Kickstarter (holy crap, I can’t believe that raised $60,000).  Again, my links aren’t working in WordPress, so you’re going to have to take my word for that.  But that’s wonderful, as someone who knows the pain of trying to track down an OOP BL book.  I hate you, All You Need is Love Volume 1!

Anyway.  This is the start of a new storyline.  After Akihito takes a photo of a politician with a hostess, the politician is embroiled in a scandal, the hostess disappears, and the club they are at is in danger.  Said club is owned by Asami, of course.  Asami doesn’t seem to care what Akihito does to the club’s reputation, but Akihito is hit by a wave of jealousy when he sees Asami with the weeping manager.  Ai, the idol from last volume, is friends with the disappeared girl, and asks Akihito to find her.  Along the way, Akihito runs into some rather unpleasant associates of Asami’s, and begins to wonder why Asami hangs out with a low class guy like him.

But of course Akihito doesn’t ask Asami about this, because this is a BL series.  Their relationship is rather stilted throughout, and the normally distant Asami is completely unapproachable here, so Akihito can’t ask for reassurance.  At one point, after crossing the club owner wrong, the club owner spells it out for him:  Asami doesn’t love Akihito, and Akihito can choose his career or Asami.  And, of course, though he would never admit it out loud, he wants both.  And he wants Asami to be a more normal guy.

It’s cute (if you read between the lines), when it’s not frustratingly distant.  But there is a ton of sex, even with the distance, which is what Ayano Yamane kind of does.  It’s also disturbing, which is what Finder does, but that’s par for the course.

I probably don’t mention this a lot, but I do like Yamane’s art quite a bit.  Her dark eyes, gritty style, and sharp faces suit this series well.  She’s got a bit of an annoying size discrepancy going on between Akihito and Asami, but it’s more rare for that not to be a thing.

The bonus story is worth the price of admission.  It starts off a little weird and confusing, with a fake scenario where Akihito is manager of a company staffed by Asami, Fei Long, and a few of the other dangerous men from the series.  Only Asami will go with him for a difficult meeting, where the client makes fun of Akihito, and makes him tie up and abuse Asami.  I was so relieved when Akihito woke up, and this turned out to be a dream, because it was far too corny for Ayano Yamane.  Not only was it a dream, it was a dream he had while passed out from having too much sex.  He then tricks Asami into being tied up and abused.  Asami breaks free, and there is hell to pay.

What can I say.  It’s the little things.

I was also deeply touched by the essay Yamane wrote in the back about writing this volume.  Apparently her father died during a rather intense part of the story, and she wrote the rest of it while horribly depressed and unmotivated.  I have to say, I imagine that being exquisite torture.  Your beloved parent dies, and when you don’t want to do anything from grief, you are forced to write porn.  I felt really bad about that.

 

Blade of the Immortal 26

April 12, 2015

Hiroaki Samura – Dark Horse – 2013 – 31 volumes

Okay, this volume was awesome.  This is the sort of thing I miss when the fighting switches over to the other warring factions.  I miss Manji going one-on-one with crazy people.

Admittedly, the spotlight was stolen by the two shinobi girls and Magatsu.  Well, the spotlight goes all around here, technically.  One of the shinobi girls works on freeing Rin from a boulder strapped around her legs in a freezing lake, and the other fights Shin.

The lake thing is made more sadistic by the fact that Shin apparently also wove wires into the ropes, so that knives would break when rescuers struggled to free her underwater.  This guy is… remarkable.

The fighting is pretty violent.  The shinobi girl’s fight is pretty awesome, though she doesn’t realize he’s immortal, and Magatsu’s commentary makes her sound like an exceptional fighter without a chance.  I liked some of her clever rigged stuff.

Magatsu is in bad shape after his initial fight with Shin, but he manages.  As does Manji, who is potentially not immortal due to the blizzard and his blood worms freezing.

Shin… something really insane happens to him.  I don’t think his end is quite as awful as some of the girls he tortured, but it’s still pretty bad.

His sidekick points out that Shin has probably killed far less people than Manji, yet he’s dying on the street and everyone is helping Manji live.  The sidekick has a beef against Manji for killing his father, who was an Itto-Ryu swordsman.  Rin fails to explain to the boy’s satisfaction why his father had to die, but Magatsu does.

Now… admittedly, I’m not looking forward to the rest of the series.  We have to settle the fighting between the Itto-Ryu and the Rokki-Dan.  I don’t really care about any of them except Anotsu and Magatsu, but there are a million characters who all have grudges to settle.  Most of it has nothing to do with Rin and Manji.  Buckle up.

I seriously doubt there really will be a showdown between Anotsu and Rin.  It’s almost pointless now.

Sakura Hime 12

March 18, 2015

Arina Tanemura – Viz – 2014 – 12 volumes

THIS IS WHAT SHOUJO MANGA SHOULD ALWAYS BE LIKE.

ALWAYS.

I was a little taken aback, because this is like Game of Thrones:  The Shoujo Manga in this last volume, and it’s a little uncharacteristic of Tanemura.  And Ribon manga.  But man, I loved every page.  There was a thing that kept happening over and over again, and I couldn’t believe it every time.  There wasn’t really that much take-back, though.  And I liked that about it.

I loved this ending.  I got ridiculously caught up in it.  Best scene was probably when she took her soul symbol back.

It’s volumes like this one that make me wish I had real-life friends I could call and just gush.  I can’t do it here without spoiling anything.

But man.  Sakura Hime was worth reading.  I liked it so much better than Gentleman’s Alliance and Full Moon.  Did I like it better than Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne?  Well, I’m going to have to re-read that one and find out.  Good thing Viz is giving me the opportunity.  I did re-buy it, because it now matches the rest of my Tanemura volumes.  And I desperately want to support Tanemura in English.

And I really, really, really hope that Tanemura isn’t falling out of favor with US shoujo fans.  The KKJ reprint is wrapping up, but there aren’t any more Tanemura books currently scheduled.  I hope they announce something this spring.  There are three titles currently untranslated.  Fudanjuku Monogatari, which is a one-shot that I’m not holding out much hope for.  There’s The Cat’s and My Friday, which sounds like a contemporary romance thing and her main series, and the newer Thirty-One I Dream, which sounds like a love letter to me, and I have my fingers desperately crossed for.  Admittedly, that one is less likely since the target audience in the US probably couldn’t relate to a 30-year-old heroine like I can.  But I would still like to see it.

EDIT: I AM SO HAPPY.  I wrote this up in November, and since then, Viz licensed the one I call “Thirty-One I Dream,” which is now called “Idol Dreams.”  Can’t wait!

Tanemura also mentions a couple times that she’s retiring from Ribon, despite her former wish to always write stories there.  Her letters of thanks to the magazine and readers nearly made me tear up, so it sounds like it really was a big deal to move to Margaret/Melody.

Basically, I’m a huge Arina Tanemura fangirl, and I was happy with the end of Sakura Hime.  If you like shoujo manga, you should check it out.

Skip Beat 31

March 18, 2015

Yoshiki Nakamura – Viz – 2013 – 34+ volumes

As per usual, it’s hard for me to be fair and reasonable about this series, as my passion burns with the energy of a thousands suns.  My fair and reasonable opinion is that this is great, very funny shoujo, and any shoujo fans should probably give it a try.  Even 31 volumes in, there are still awesome character quirks thrown in for no reason.  One of my favorites here is the energy that Yashiro puts into creepily eavesdropping on the conversation between Ren and Kijima.  Pick it up, and start from the beginning.  Do yourself a favor.

Now I’m just going to fangirl for awhile.

THIS VOLUME WAS SO BORING.  I’ve been waiting three years for the good stuff!  This is Ren acting out in his role as Cain again, and everyone freaking out, and then everyone holding their heads, because they don’t know what’s wrong with Ren and/or whether he will win his internal battle.  WE’VE BEEN READING THIS FOR SEVERAL VOLUMES NOW.  I’m tired of the Cain/Setsu plot!  I want the story to move on to something else, like maybe Kyoko or Ren actually opening up to one another.  It’s been thirty-one freaking volumes.

There were two bright spots, though.  One was the e-mail conversation between Kijima (who is obviously trolling Ren at the end of the volume) and Kyoko.  Everything about this was great.  Especially Kijima preying on Kyoko’s love for cute things, and Kyoko’s war with herself about how cute she could be in an e-mail to a senior actor.

The other bright spot was NEXT VOLUME (hopefully) IS A SHO VOLUME.  I live for these.

I am sorry not sorry for the emphasis.  This volume was recently excavated from the depths of my to-read pile, and I have the luxury of three volumes of this series to read.  My heart will burst with joy.

QuinRose / Mamenosuke Fujimaru – Seven Seas – 2012 – 1 volume

I won’t lie, I love this franchise.  I’m a little surprised, usually series based on games with relationship paths don’t work out that well.  But the original Alice in the Country of Hearts was so delightfully weird that I had a hard time putting it down.  I was delighted when the spinoffs started coming out, and even more delighted when I realized they were popular and we’re getting what appears to be ALL the spinoffs.  I’m playing catch-up with these now.

The titles generally tell you everything you need to know about these books.  “Country of Hearts” and “Country of Clover” are technically different settings.  This one was one of the first spinoffs released, and I was excited to see how different Clover was, but it’s pretty much not.  There’s only a couple different characters and events, most everyone else is there (which I should have suspected, since it’s bad business to cut people’s favorite characters out of new game installments).  “Bloody Twins” tells me that this is about Dee and Dum.  If you like girly stories, and you like Alice in Wonderland, and you’ve read the original series, that’s about all you need.  I’m not sure that these are going to attract an outside audience, though.

When I started, I had forgotten Dee and Dum were kids, which creeped me out at first.  But due to the story’s logic, they can age themselves into adults for no reason, and spend most of the story that way.  They still act like little brats, so that’s a potential creep thing, but this is an entirely fluff-based story anyway, so there’s nothing off-putting in it.  The story kind of passes over their age the same way it passes over the fact that they’re homicidal maniacs.  Otherwise, it’s just Alice hanging out with the two of them, and they call her big sister and talk about how much they like her, et cetera.  It’s cute, and the fact they keep their bratty personalities even after they grow into attractive adult bodies was an unexpected humorous plus.

The art is nice… it took me a few pages to get used to the faces, for some reason, but otherwise everything looked awesome.  This is a frilly, detail-oriented series in terms of art, and Fujimaru delivers adequately.

Great!  If you liked the original series, pick this up!  It’s a nice quick read, and is relatively angst and problem free.  Fluffy, cute, and padded out with some surprisingly cute one-shots with the other characters at the end.

Murmur of the Heart

March 18, 2015

Makoto Tateno – DMP/June – 2014 – 1 volume

Another new-ish one!  I grabbed this one because I liked Tateno’s Yellow quite a bit.  But this one didn’t really do it for me.  It was okay, but not spectacular.  Looking back through the other books by her, I see I apparently didn’t like most of the other books, either.  A shame.

The story is about two doctors.  One is a surgeon ladies’ man, and the other is a physician with a crush on him.  An intern notices the physician’s crush, coerces him into sex in the break room one day, and the surgeon walks in.  The Physician is devastated, but begins kind-of dating the intern while the Surgeon kind of simmers in the background.  Turns out, the Surgeon liked the Physician all along!  There’s lots of doctor stuff liberally spread throughout, including a little girl with a bad heart whose condition kind of holds the story together.

It is unusual for these books not to have both main characters pining after each other the whole time, or at least unsure.  The Surgeon literally flips a switch and hops into bed with the Physician at the end, though.  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but it kind of didn’t read right.

Meh.  It was okay, a quick read, but there are better books out there.  It didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of romance here, and I didn’t wind up liking any of the characters.

Anomal

March 18, 2015

Nukuharu – Gen Manga – 2013 – 1 volume

Yay, another Gen one-shot!  This one came out in time for Halloween ’13, which is when I read it.  But of course I suck lately, so I’m writing it up in February 2015.  But it’s still good, and you should read it.

These were all cute, short stories about Japanese yokai.  The first was about a hundred-eye monster, a human, and a sparrow-spirit-boy.  The second is a silly story about a shy detective investigating a murder.  That sounds somewhat horrifying, but it’s really not.  Next is a longer story about a kotodama, someone who has the power to say something and make it so.  I LOVE stories about kotodama, and this one’s a great one.  There’s a longer one about a girl that senses spirits, and one last cute short one, this time about some magical gadgets.

I loved this book.  It’s short, and all the stories are very short, but they stand well on their ideas.  Normally I don’t get that into short stories, but these ones are written well, and have interesting subject matter.  The art is good… the style is a bit plain, and the backgrounds can be sparse, but there’s some wonderful details (some of the monsters especially, and the hundred-eye monster in particular was a favorite of mine).

This is sort of a horror manga that’s not really a horror manga, and would probably make an interesting read for fans of something like Natsume’s Book of Friends.  Try it out!  For some reason, the links stopped working on my WordPress editor, but you can check it out at this address:  http://www.genmanga.com/books/index.html

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