Hoshin Engi 21

March 18, 2015

Ryu Fujisaki – Viz – 2010 – 23 volumes

Ugh.  Do we really need a Sennin Tournament and a new, Most Powerful Character at this stage in the series?  I probably should have expected this.  Not just because there was an unfamiliar character on the cover, but also because Taikobo flew into Dakki/Joka’s territory with about 500 characters.  What else are they going to do?

I was also bummed that, in order to facilitate something, there was a major event concerning Taikobo.  But it lasted two pages, and there was no fanfare whatsoever.  Even though this has been on the cusp of happening the whole series.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME.

As cool as Otenkun’s design is, I hate him appearing.  He is nothing but an enigma, and this story has enough of them.  He propositions Taikobo at the end of the volume and explains himself, but I’m still not satisfied.

Ho-hum.  Two volumes left.  Other than a fight with Joka, I’m not sure what else we’re covering here.  Unless they really want to go into aliens.  Maybe they do.

Gakuen Heaven

March 18, 2015

SPRAY / You Higuri – Blu – 2010 – 1 volume

I was disappointed when I realized that this was a spinoff of the original Gakuen Heaven series.  The “series” is actually a BL game, but I was expecting this to be a manga version of the story.  Instead, it’s kind of a sequel-spinoff focusing on one of the characters.  Endo.  Who isn’t actually in it that much.  But really, I bought it because I really like You Higuri.

After the events of the first series (Keita was almost expelled from school), Bell Liberty seems like a happier place for Keita.  He’s hooked up with his childhood friend/secret rich dude head of school, and the festival where everyone gets to show off what they’re best at is coming up.  Exciting!  But it turns out Keita’s boyfriend, Endo, is being forced to leave the school by his rich father, and is being replaced with a jerk VP that spreads rumors about him.  Also, Keita is in charge of the huge festival, which is actually enormously stressful, but even more so when people realize they have to excel or be expelled when the VP spreads rumors to wreck the mood of the school.

There are a LOT of characters here, but they are easy to ignore, and most of them don’t really have more than a few lines.  Those who do… aren’t really introduced.  Surprisingly, the story isn’t that hard to follow, and Keita makes for a cute protagonist.  It’s a pretty standard “save the school and my boyfriend!” storyline, so if you’re looking for a fun read, this will do the trick.  There’s definitely better out there.

And while Keita and Endo are adorable, they are almost never together.  There’s a couple scenes of them kissing that cut away with heavily implied sex (they live together), and one slightly more graphic scene at the end.  I was a little shocked since I’d read part of a different Gakuen Heaven series in Princess Gold magazine, and there’s a suggestion of a rimjob in one panel, which is very un-Princess-like behavior.  Apparently this was a Libre series, though.  There’s a single panel where you can kind of make that out, but the rest of the scene is them naked and hugging each other, and it lasts two pages.  Nothing graphic.

Higuri points out my favorite part of this story in the author’s notes.  Endo is a student, but also the chairman of the school.  His father wants him to move on to head their banking division, which implies that this guy is probably not high-school age (the flashbacks also make him look a bit older than Keita, but Keita is drawn to look young anyway).  Higuri wants to know how old Endo is, as do I.

Higuri’s art is good, as always.  With all the male characters, her art makes them easy to tell apart, which isn’t always the case in BL stories with a big cast like this.  I read this because I am woefully low on Higuri books in English now.  You can read her other stories though, and they are better than this.  Try Ludwig II.

Also, in case the Bell Liberty Academy joke sailed over your head as it did mine, the characters refer to it as BL Academy after the first page.

Sweet Rein 2

March 18, 2015

Sakura Tsukuba – Viz – 2014 – 3 volumes

This volume brings us another Santa pair, and one more Christmas (mostly, it’s Christmas for a second in another chapter), but otherwise, just more of the changing-into-a-reindeer weirdness.  Cute, but still very middle-of-the-road, and it doesn’t look like the characters are getting developed.

It’s strength is actually in the cute sentimental stories of Kurumi and Kaito interacting with giftees.  The first story in the volume was my favorite, where Kurumi gave presents to a young boy who lives at an orphanage and tried to give candy to the kids who still believed in Santa.  How can you not like that?

For some reason, summer holidays are still a very prominent theme here.  One story is about a “Black Santa” testing the bond between Kurumi and Kaito.  Another is about Kaito’s reindeer brother hanging out with his santa on the beach and disgracing some bullies.

The second santa pair is Kaito’s brother and his 17-year-old construction worker stereotype santa.  They’re pretty cute, in that they both kind of hate each other and gruffly like doing cute, good things.

There’s an unrelated one-shot at the end about boys trying to sneak from an all-boys school to an all-girl’s school next door.  The author says she drew it as an excuse to show crossdressing, and is now embarrassed of it.  Okay.

One more volume.  Still a cute, Christmas-y read, so I’m happy I picked it up this time of year (which, because this will inevitably be posted later, is a few days before Christmas).

Black Rose Alice 1

February 13, 2015

Setona Mizushiro – Viz – 2014 – 6 volumes

I love Setona Mizushiro pretty much unconditionally.  I would read anything she wrote, and she rarely disappoints me.  Little of her work makes it into English, though.  I’ve been expecting this one for years, as it goes with the vampire shoujo vibe that tends to be pretty popular, and it’s AWESOME.  I think its late arrival may have something to do with the fact it’s published by Akita.  Very little of their series make it into English anymore, and what little has made it out here is mostly incomplete.  I think Battle Royale is probably one of the bigger exceptions, but even that’s way out of print.

Black Rose Alice offers a slight twist to the vampire story.  Dimitri “dies” in Vienna in 1900, but his life is saved by the parasitic insect companion of a local vampire (this is difficult to explain well, it’s much smoother than that).  Dimitri basically wakes back up from the dead, but isn’t himself.  Turns out his profession kills people, and his personality is reverting to that of the master vampire that saved him.  He winds up turning against his friends/family, and seeking solace as the strongest vampire in the neighborhood.

Flash-forward to the present.  Azusa is a teacher in an ill-advised relationship with one of her students.  While trying to break it off, they are both killed.  Dimitri saves the soul of her young love in exchange for hers, who he puts into the body of his old lover.

This is some gothic, soapy stuff.  First rate.  But as I said, it also offers an alternate take on normal vampire powers.  These vampires use their powers through insect familiars.  The soul is saved, or stolen, using bugs.  Life energy tends to be what they feed on, and their methods for obtaining it are sometimes novel.  Also, they “propagate” using the insects, and once they do so, they will die.

Dimitri is a rather distant, hard character right now, and I’m curious to see how he’ll interact with the new woman in his former lover’s body.  He hasn’t shown much personality post-change.  I’m actually curious how everyone will react to this situation, because it’s a really weird one.

I’m definitely on board for this whole ride.

Hoshin Engi 20

February 13, 2015

Ryu Fujisaki – Viz – 2010 – 23 volumes

So here’s one I inexplicably stopped reading around 5 years ago!  I decided to finish it off on my Christmas vacation.  Starting this volume, I think I know why I didn’t go back.  I’m pretty sure a lot of the most exciting stuff already happened in this series.  The war is over, and not even the final fight with King Chu was that exciting here.  I imagined the last three volumes containing something… rather ridiculous.  So far, I’m right.  Joka scared me away.  But I’m going to finish anyway.

This series also suffers for having 5,000 characters (which might be a thing I hate, considering a lot of the series I stopped reading years ago and picked back up today have the same problem).  Happily, it was easy to get back into this one because it ran in Shounen Jump, and it doesn’t really matter who all the side characters are.  The first story arc in the volume is Tenka’s fight with himself and his father’s legacy, and his attempt on the life of King Chu.  I love that Taikobo continues to insist that King Chu must be killed by a human, or the revolution is meaningless.

This all went about as planned, honestly, save for the surprise for Tenka at the end of the fight.  But that was happening anyway, so it wasn’t that surprising.

Highlight of the volume:  King Chu’s thought that he missed Dakki, even without the temptation jutsu.  It was just so sweet, even considering how much I hate Dakki.

The war finished up basically uneventfully.  The second half of the volume begins the expected Sennin end-of-the-series.  Again, I’m not looking forward to this, because there are a thousand characters and I feel like something insane and nonsensical is about to happen.  The end of this volume didn’t make much sense because of the thousand characters, and I suspect I wouldn’t care about most of them even if I had read this in sequence with the rest of the volumes.

But at least they’re fast reads.  I do want them to somehow explain… what Joka is (even though I can see she’s an alien gray, for some reason), and I want to know about Otenkun.  I’ve got three volumes to find out, I guess, and I think even more characters, Paope, magical lands, superpowers, et cetera are going to be introduced.  Hooray.

It’s a real shame, because there was some solid gold in this series all the way through.  I’m sad I can’t be more excited about the ending.

Blade of the Immortal 24

February 13, 2015

Hiroaki Samura – Dark Horse – 2011 – 31 volumes

I decided to read the end of this series.  The last volume won’t be out until March/April, but I’m going to read the rest of them in the meantime, and snatch that one up when it comes out.

At this point, I need to heave a heavy sigh.  Blade of the Immortal… has its ups and downs.  One of my big problems right now is that there are way, WAY too many characters.  It’s been some time since I’ve read it, but this volume spends very little time with Manji and Rin, which is what I want to read about.  I have a feeling the story is headed into Itto-Ryu territory, and isn’t really going to be about them for awhile.  Which is a shame, because I really, really don’t care about most of the other characters.

Having said that, the meat of this volume was the Itto-Ryu breaking into Edo Castle.  With only four members, they take out almost all the guards in the outer gates, and penetrated almost all the way to the Shogun.  Then, they got tired, told the head of security that they wanted him to remember that he failed so miserably so that it would never happen again, and left.

It was excessive, crazy violent, and very badass.  You’d have to see this section of story to believe it.  One would think that most of the crazy excessive members of the Itto-Ryu were beaten by Manji at the beginning of the story, but there’s three, in addition to Anotsu, that have made it this far.  While I hate giving nods to characters that appear for a second, I do think that Ozuhan is a badass.  Magatsu is also a member of this raid, and he’s regular enough that I’ve grown fond of him.

I’m… still not really sure where the main plot is going from here.  Retaliation for this strike, and Itto-Ryu centric?  Is anyone even chasing Rin and Manji anymore?  What about Shira?  Do I even want to know?  He appears briefly here, and does something appalling, as usual.

Crimson Spell 2

February 13, 2015

Ayano Yamane – SuBLime – 2014 – 5+ volumes

Surprisingly, Vald and Havi spend most of this volume apart.  I love that the schism occurs because Havi kisses Vald while he’s not a demon.  But it’s not really because of the kiss that they wind up apart.  They go to a town thanks to a thief that steals Havi’s books, and the town is infested by demons, there’s some big baddies after Vald and Havi, blah blah blah.  It’s pretty good though, and better because Amane is not forcing the characters to have sex.  Actually, they pretty much don’t in this volume, which is a little shocking for an Ayano Yamane story.  I still liked it a lot, though.

The big baddies are mainly aiming for Havi, to use him as a source of power/take him over to get to Vald.  The bad guys have a really hard time taking Havi over completely (they need to try, like, three times after capturing him), and Vald feels bad since it’s supposed to be his job to defend Havi, since the latter isn’t a fighter.

I don’t have that much else to say here.  I was still delighted, despite most of the content flying under the radar, so to speak.  But I’m tickled that Amane is taking the time to build up the story like this, since I’m all about well-done smutty fantasy like this.  And again, I binge-bought the rest of the available volumes, so I’m having myself a little marathon.  On to the next!

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