I forgot to link this one in my last update, but a recent column I did over at Comics Should Be Good focused on disaster-themed manga. I liked these three titles a lot and felt they went with the topic nicely, and I think everyone should read them (or at least the first three volumes of Dragon Head).
Part of me felt bad writing this the day after Chicago was so flooded I couldn’t get to work, but the poor taste thing didn’t occur to me until I was finished, and none of the stories are about flooding. Plus, when else am I going to get to talk about Drifting Classroom?
CLAMP – Viz – 2012 – 18+ volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols 7-9
I always forget that the Twin Star bit doesn’t happen until much later in the series (the end of volume 8/beginning of volume 9! So late!). I sit and wait impatiently for it every time I re-read it, knowing that things can’t really get going until it happens. It’s the catalyst for Kotori meeting the last Dragon of Earth, and with generals all around, the battle truly begins.
After some rather heavy stuff at the beginning of the volume, we get little snippets of what every character in the series is up to, particularly in a “I was here when it happened” moment for X. Again, this series probably has way too many characters for its own good, and that’s without the very minor characters that we’re still keeping track of, but still. Zooming around to check all of them out was a nice touch.
Lots of Fuma, Fuma, Fuma in these volumes, and for good reason. It took me a minute to get used to this when it happened, but later on, I kind of liked it. One of my favorite scenes in the series wouldn’t be possible if this wasn’t the case, and I’ll talk more about that later.
Speaking of favorite scenes in the series… Subaru becomes more of a major player here. We get to see a rather heavy fight with Seishirou, though not the fight we really want. He’s a surly, depressed adult here, but towards the end of the volume he gets to do his Tokyo Babylon trick, and opens up to Kamui in a way that only he can. Not only because of his powers, but because he’s been here. This part always struck me as rather beautiful, even in the ridiculous context of X.
We also get to see one of the Kekkai landmarks fall here, just before all the big stuff goes down. I love that Seishirou is in charge of this, like he’s just enjoying the rampant destruction immensely. Though one wonders, if it’s that easy to rock the balance, couldn’t you just keep doing this for most of the landmarks, knowing that a Dragon of Heaven isn’t going to show up to stop you until you’re done? Whatever.
And the artwork. Do I really have to tell you it’s the best shoujo artwork there is? I’m a huge fan of CLAMP, and while their current stuff hasn’t been good to me, I still say that Mokona draws some of the absolute best shoujo artwork there is, and X is her best series. It’s just so pretty to look at, even if the whole thing is a bit complicated and difficult to work out.
Oh, X. My heart will always belong to you.
Naoki Urasawa – Viz – 2013 – 24 volumes
this is the second and final volume of the coda series to 20th Century Boys, for all intents and purposes volume 24
This is mostly going to be short and cryptic, since I don’t want to spoil anything. Needless to say, I enjoyed every page of this strange series, much more than I thought I would. It’s my favorite by Urasawa, which is saying something. I liked Pluto when I read it, but it seems a bit dark and slow lately, and I never really cared for Monster. But 20th Century Boys was different. It was ten times stranger than both of those series combined, yet without getting so out-of-hand that it was difficult to follow from volume to volume, let alone with a month or so between readings of said volumes. The character map in the front always made it easy to remember what was going on, and with who. And man. A lot of parts were just shocking, or triumphant, or awesome, or all of those combined. Usually something about every volume threw me for a loop. Reading this series was a ride, and it made me happy to pick up the volumes and keep up during a time when I haven’t been reading as much manga. Easily recommended to anyone looking for a good comic story. It’s a bit long for some, but it really is worth it. Great stuff.
I was so sad when my prediction didn’t pan out. Honestly, it would violate the theme of the series. But come on. It would have been so awesome.
There is a subplot about a last-minute bomb being a threat. Honestly, at this point I was done with the Friend’s surprises, but what the hell. One last time isn’t going to hurt anything. This sort of combines all the best points about the previous scares, including the fact that Kenji has to travel back into the past to find out what’s going on, the grass hideout, and a giant robot. The latter is always a treat in this series.
Extraneous bad guys are also still milling around. One of my favorites was an absolutely creepy nurse that was stalking Takasu. That nurse will give me nightmares for a long time.
I was wondering if it would end with a scene similar to the cryptic first few pages. It totally did. I love when that happens.
Also, the Friend’s identity still doesn’t matter. I also adored that about the series.
Oh, Kenji. Always the hero.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.
Tsugumi Ohba / Takeshi Obata – Viz – 2012 – 19 volumes
A Nizuma volume! It’s been a while! Crow reaches first place, and the editors are worried that Eiji will make good on his previous stipulation that if he reaches number one, he can cancel whatever series he wants in Shounen Jump. He brings it up with the Editor-in-Chief, who promises him he can if he stays in first place for ten weeks in a row.
Word gets out, and the other artists and writers featured in the series gather to try and figure out which series Nizuma is likely to cancel. Many of them think that this will be +Natural, which hasn’t been doing well in the ratings and hasn’t been good story-wise in a long time. This triggers a dramatic storyline for Iwase, who no longer believes she’s good enough to write shounen manga. Anyway, after some debate, they decide to ask Nizuma himself. Nizuma doesn’t say, but a gauntlet is thrown, and all the artists decide to write the best stories they can in order to break Nizuma’s first-place streak and force him to start the ten-week run at number one over again. Nizuma enthusiastically agrees, and the whole volume becomes a contest to see which artists and writers can outdo themselves, and how.
It’s really, really exciting, guys. It’s still got all the geeky stuff in it about what would make their specific story good, and even people that seem like they wouldn’t be any threat, like Fukuda’s car series, get really good places. Interestingly, there’s always been a gap in the first and second place spots in the chart, a series that isn’t mentioned, which I always assumed was One Piece and something else. Hilariously, that disappears in this volume, so the only series in the top of the charts are Bakuman series.
The Perfect Crime Party storyline is awesome, and is about a play on a particular image. It’s very clever, though I admit I don’t know that I would be that impressed in real life as Bakuman seems to think I would be. Then again, I’m not reading it. It’s possible it would be completely triumphant in real life, though it sounds like it does a lot of reaching and weird logical leaps, as Detective Conan is wont to do.
Nizuma’s actual intention? Awesome, admirable, and completely understandable. It’s an Akira Toriyama kind of thing, actually, and I liked it a lot. Sadly, nothing about what he’s doing is revealed or shown, but I loved all the different character reactions to it.
The end of the volume starts another storyline about a bunch of old artists that come back with unbelievable stories. Bakuman acts like you aren’t supposed to know why this is and who is behind it, but I knew where this was going immediately. Perhaps because I’m 15 years older than the target audience, so I shouldn’t gloat too much.
Man, volumes that aren’t about Shujin and Saiko make me so happy. Volumes like this are what make Bakuman such an awesome page-turner, and it’s a shame so many people were turned off by the blatant misogyny and terrible main characters in the first couple volumes. I can totally understand, but the rest of the series is so good. It makes me sad that people always call out the misogyny when I recommend it, because while it is rather offensive, it’s a non-issue after the writer realizes the side characters are more interesting. And at this point? Awesome stuff. Seriously.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.
SangEun Lee – Yen Press – 2012 – 12 volumes
I somehow almost forgot this series. It’s extraordinarily adorable, and it’s unforgivable I let the last two volumes slide to the bottom of my to-read pile. It deserves better than that.
This is winding up for the big finish, and honestly, there’s only a couple things that happen here. Hee-So begins to act strangely around Whie-Young, and can’t quite figure out why. It starts to happen more after they share some rather intimate kisses, and then she has some embarrassingly steamy dreams. A friend helpfully points out that she has a crush on him, and while she doesn’t believe it at first, Hee-So then switches into full gear and begins her whole boyfriend act, doing a complete 180 personality-wise, which creeps Whie-Young out.
I like this series a lot for several reasons here. One is that Whie-Young rejects her completely, telling her over and over again to be her usual obnoxious self, and Hee-So has to process that. Another section features a conversation with Beatrice. Beatrice still has a crush on her, and Hee-So knows that it’s cruel to discuss her feelings for Whie-Young with him, but he’s such a major part of her life, and Beatrice knows there’s something wrong, so she breaks down and tells him. During the course of this conversation, she reveals that the usual thing she does to get a boyfriend is to get excited and go after him with all she has, but she compares it with bargain shopping. She burns herself out on one, and then is on the eye out for the next big sale after the relationship ends. Even though she really likes Whie-Young, she knows their relationship will end sometime soon, and the thought depresses her.
Meanwhile, Whie-Young still has the weird life-threatening condition that means that he can’t really like Hee-So back. This is kind of funny to me, since it means that Whie-Young is a huge jerk to everyone, but Hee-So has never really been phased by this. Anyway, Beatrice is faced with a problem. He knows he will have to give his life in order to make sure Whie-Young doesn’t die and can have a proper relationship with Hee-So. While he is “irreplaceable” in Hee-So’s life, he will never be the man she loves. Plus, Whie-Young is on the cusp of dying, and all it’s going to take is one more instance of him using his powers just for Hee-So, which he can’t help but to do. Whie-Young refuses to take back what he gave Beatrice, however, since he created Beatrice in the first place in order to stop Hee-So from crying, and he knows losing him would absolutely break her heart.
I talked forever, but there’s really only a few points being made in this volume, and a lot of discussion to go with them. One of the other things I liked about it was that all the romantic interests sort-of had an even chance all the way through. That’s still the case going into the last volume. There are certainly heavy odds on one of the boys, but the situation isn’t one that’s going to be resolved to anyone’s satisfaction, so I wonder if it will be as clear-cut as that.
I think I’m going to go read it now, actually.
Arina Tanemura – Viz – 2012 – 12 volumes
I haven’t read this in awhile, but it’s still addictively good, though I’m not sure how many fans it will win outside the shoujo audience. Arina Tanemura is always good for it, and this series is particularly good. I’m not sure that it’s my favorite, but it’s probably the most solid and enjoyable all the way through.
Less drama in this volume, most of which is dedicated to the odd friendship between Hayate, the young ninja who was accidentally turned into a frog, and Rurijo, a kind of Nataku/Golem-type creature that looks like Sakura and was brought to life by her brother. Rurijo is a particularly nasty villain. While all the others have a reason for following Sakura’s bitter brother, Rurijo does so because he created her, and she loves him.
This volume shows a wonderful side of her, though. While it can be a bit tiresome to see villains made to be “good” over and over again, I thought it was nice to see the bright, cheery side of her personality. And that’s pretty much all it is, her personality, as we learn later. I liked that part of it, too. We also get to see a new side to Hayate, who feels neglected by Kohaku. While he thinks of nothing but Kohaku, he’s not sure that she shares his feelings since she tends to be completely devoted to whoever she’s serving (in this case, Sakura). The friendship between Rurijo and Hayate is quite lovely, and was an unexpected bright spot in a story that has been tending towards darkness lately.
Speaking of which, we get some of that in the beginning when we learn about Aoba’s curse (which is pretty awesome) and settle the matter of cheating, alternate wives/spouses in general, et cetera. That part was never very interesting since there was no chance Sakura and Aoba were going to spit up. I wish there was, especially since Aoba was so terrible in the early volumes, but that’s not the case.
Tanemura expresses some dismay at having to draw Rurijo in the nude so much, which I thought was funny. As a golem-type creature, she needs to soak up a lot of water, so Hayate actually runs across her (and keeps meeting up with her) while she’s bathing. Being naked doesn’t really bother Rurijo, and that adds a lot to the personality thing I mentioned earlier, too. It’s nice to see that she can be naked without it being a super-sexual thing, too. Tanemura is right, it seems to suit her.
Tanemura talks a bit about the volume Fudanjuku Story that she was working on around the same time this was released. I mentioned before that this was totally coming out in English as an inevitability, but as she was talking about it here, I realized that it was apparently about some sort of idol group? In which case, it’s totally not coming out here. I was bummed, but an online summary I read just now made it sound like a very typical shoujo manga, so maybe she takes the band members and puts them in a school club, or something? In which case, there’s a chance, depending on if the manga’s only a small part of the book or the whole thing? I’m a little curious now. Then again, it’s also possible that Arina Tanemura’s manga aren’t selling that well in English anymore, which would also explain why it hasn’t been licensed. That would be most heartbreaking, though.
Basically, I’m still enjoying this immensely, and I am curious to see how it ends. I’ve expressed doubt over the end of a Tanemura series before and been surprised by Time Stranger Kyoko, but then again, Full Moon. She mentioned Sakura Hime was going to be long, but then ended it at volume 12. I’m curious to see how cleanly this happens. We’re mostly caught up with Japan, which means the next few volumes will come out slowly. That’s fine, because I do enjoy this series a lot and will be sad to see it end, something that doesn’t really occur to me much anymore. And I do hope to see more of her work in English. If not Fudanjuku Story, maybe her new series.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.
Yuki Amemiya / Yukino Ichihara – Viz – 2012 – 15+ volumes
I got the first two volumes of this series at the same time. I thought they had come out together (turns out this isn’t true), and I remembered the last time that happened was with Blue Exorcist, which is an amazing series. So I picked up the first volume of this, thinking I was going to be blown away. I… probably shouldn’t have started with such high hopes.
Honestly? It’s a very standard shounen manga, at least so far. Teito is a small kid whose favor among the higher-ups at the Military Academy he attends earns him a fair amount of flak from other students. But his skills in battle (using some sort of esoteric electronic-type battle system) are the real thing, and he’s one of the few students that passes his final exam. But chaos reigns after this, as a misplaced word to a superior triggers some memories of his orphaned childhood he doesn’t want, and the former favored student of the academy becomes a criminal that’s being actively hunted by the military. Teito takes sanctuary in a nearby enormous church, the one place the military isn’t allowed to track criminals into, and as his memories continue to unlock, he learns more and more about the church.
One of the problems is that all this is abridged. The battle system isn’t explained well, why a misplaced remark suddenly turns him into a criminal isn’t adequately explained, especially since he’s a kid and one of the few recent graduates they have, the setting isn’t explained well, and while I do believe his memories are meant to be a mystery revealed at a later date, the way they keep coming back to him here is just confusing, rather than mysterious. The church has this whole separate thing going, with seven grim reaper-like guardians protecting them from some evil, all of which apparently still exist, monsters track Teito down in the chuch, some of the higher up members he defend have yet another inadequately-explained scythe battle system, his friend from military school has been turned against him and his good soul killed, Teito winds up being some sort of political prisoner from the past, there are two very powerful stones that Teito can apparently control, and WHAT IS GOING ON HERE THIS IS ONLY ONE VOLUME.
Seriously. I have the next two, which I hope will clear up some of the rushed mess in this volume, and I will give it a chance. Whatever is going on in the church does sound kind of cool, if it eventually makes sense, and it seems to have been made into a very popular anime and is still running at 15 volumes, so it must eventually get better. It also runs in the magazine Zero-Sum, which has some pretty awesome series, so I do have some hope for later volumes. I’m going to read what I have and see how it goes from there.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.