Sgt Frog 15

May 16, 2015

Mine Yoshizaki – Tokyopop – 2008 – 25+ volumes

I haven’t read this series in a long time.  I got tired of it, as the chapters tend to be repetitive… and there’s no overarching plot.  That’s still the case, but it has been long enough that I can appreciate it being cute again.

There is a longer story at the end of the volume, about Alisa finding a small Moai head and Fuyuki and Keroro going to Easter Island to conquer/see the Moai/fight some aliens.  It was a cute story.  I do not remember who Alisa is, but that’s not very important.  She just fights, and shows up to trash the aliens, et cetera.

Other stories… we get to meet Keroro’s childhood friend, and female Keronian, Pururu.  Natsumi has a weight gain crisis.  Koyuki has a “being normal” crisis, which was one of the cuter stories (possibly because Dororo is not an idiot).  Keroro and company try to invade, and fail.

You know.  Not much changes from volume to volume.  I was happy to see the longer story at the end was Fuyuki-centric, because he was almost completely absent from this volume otherwise.  A shame, because he seems to genuinely like the frogs, unlike Natsumi.

I have four more of these to read (I think I read 18 out of sequence, as it’s not on my shelf anymore).  That will be all of them in English.

My Bad!

May 16, 2015

Rize Shinba – DMP/June – 2010 – 1 volume

I bought this after liking Shinba’s Mister Mistress so much.  Then I read it and let it sit on a pile of BL I had read and hadn’t reviewed for, like, three years.  So I read it again last night.

I liked Shinba’s sense of humor in Mister Mistress, though admittedly, that book wasn’t very good.  I liked this one less, mostly because it was a collection of lukewarm short stories.  But there’s something to be said about Shinba’s oddball sense of humor.  The first story features an underwear thief that eventually gets together with his victim.  Another features a student that falls in love with a cheery train operator.  Yet another is about a man that likes his cheery delivery man so much that he sends registered mail to himself so that the delivery man can bring it.  The fourth is about two students whose fathers are on opposite, combative political parties, and they are meant to be at odds as Student Council President and Vice-President, but they are actually engaged in a secret and embarrassingly sappy love affair.

All are cute, in their way, and Shinba has a gift for upbeat characters, something that can be rare in BL.  These stories contain surprisingly little drama, save for the crisis at the end of each that unites the couple.  The one I thought was the most serious (the train one), was apparently the one that people found the most irreverent, judging by the author notes.  So whatever.  The Student Council story at the end is a lot of silliness, and just plain cute.  But the jokes never rise much above amusing.  I’m sure re-reading a bunch of Yugi Yamada before I picked this up didn’t do it much of a service, either (Yugi Yamada is very funny, and one of my favorite BL authors).

I’d read more Rize Shinba, because I still like her.  In fact, I’ve got Intriguing Secrets in my to read pile right now.  But this wasn’t one of the better ones.  Or maybe it was, and like I said, it just suffered because I read Close the Last Door before I picked this back up.  I remember liking My Bad the first time I read it, so there’s that.

And there’s my contradictory, completely pointless thoughts.

Ikigami 7

May 16, 2015

Motoro Mase – Viz – 2011 – 10 volumes

Ah, this volume is slightly less depressing, and more about good things coming from the people who were served their Ikigami.

In the first story, a young man developed an interest in photography after being mentored by the owner of a neighborhood studio.  He goes to a technical school to learn skills to take over the shop, but the owner is devoted to analog, and the youth learns that digital is the way of the future, and they part ways in anger.  When the young man gets his Ikigami, he goes back to the shop owner and learns the shop is failing because nobody uses analog film anymore.  He wishes for the chance to save the shop himself, but instead inspires the owner to find a way himself.

In the second story, a young teen who loves dancing quits and studies for a year in order to take over his father’s cram school and open a dance studio there (the exam school is failing, and the dance studio course is an idea to save it).  When he gets his Ikigami, he wishes he never quit breakdancing in the street.  Though out of shape and overweight, he competes in a competition before death, inspires his dad to open the dance studio anyway, and gradually changes local opinions of “street dancers.”

There’s not much else in the way of overarching plot here.  The Messenger begins to get scrutinized by a National Welfare governing body, who feels he isn’t paying enough lip service to their noble cause.

And… that’s it.  The deaths are not exactly inspiring (they’re still a little depressing), but at least this time I don’t feel like I need to smother myself in shoujo fluff when I finish.

Skip Beat 32

April 12, 2015

Yoshiki Nakamura – Viz – 2013 – 34+ volumes

Oh man, the Sho volume didn’t disappoint.  I think Sho is a terrible human being, but I can’t help but love his effect on Kyoko and Ren.  He gets both of them stirred up so much.  The way he was teasing Kyoko at the beginning of the volume was priceless.  I especially loved the fact he bought the last of the rice balls he knew she would like, and then taunted her with one.

But really, the clear winner in that scene was the look on Kyoko’s face when she saw Ren. There is nothing quite like the look of terror that Yoshiki Nakamura can conjure on her good days.

Sho in general is very funny.  That his manager can peg his bizarre behavior so accurately is still quite amusing (his terrifying deity faces when he talks to Kyoko, the fact she guessed correctly where he went to see Kyoko, how he knew she was there, and exactly what his reward was for the service, et cetera).

Meanwhile, Ren is sort of the winner/loser here.  He has a great scene with Kojima at the beginning of the volume, where he seems to (cheerily?) imply he’s interested in Kyoko.  Apparently Kojima doesn’t know this, and isn’t actually trolling him?  The look on his face was cute, at any rate.

Later, he’s so pissed off that he can’t even keep up his professional “Ren Tsuruga” personality, and people start to notice.  While this is kind of cool, it’s also annoying, since there’s no reason for him to be rocked so hardcore professionally by jealousy over Sho.  Jealousy he doesn’t even ask Kyoko about directly.

“Kuon” does make himself known more and more, which is the point of the Heel Siblings storyline.  I do like that Ren has a persona he hides away from people, one who is kind of a blunt asshole, the same way Kyoko has a persona she keeps from most of her professional contacts (the blunt asshole part is, of course, the Shotaro persona, but there’s also the crazy girly side that nobody knows about).  They kind of match, although I’m having a hard time warming up to Ren’s harsher side.  Then again, we haven’t seen very much of him yet.

The end of this volume though!!! While I am angry that so much pressure was put on Kyoko over a phone call she didn’t even answer, the result.



Phantom Thief Jeanne 1

April 12, 2015

Arina Tanemura – Viz – 2014 – 7 volumes
(this is volume 1 of a 5-volume omnibus edition)

I’ve already reviewed this entire series on this site, as it was released by CMX more years ago than I like to admit.  However, I love Arina Tanemura to pieces, and can’t resist the re-read and the nice omnibus edition.  And more press for her never hurts, as it seems there’s been a delay in announcing a localization for one of her new series (note: I wrote this in December, and a new one was announced recently. I cried real tears of joy).  I hope little girls still buy her series!

The first thing I noticed here is that all of Tanemura’s commentaries are missing.  I had wondered about this.  They’ve gotten much better over the years, and the most recent ones do add to the story.  These early ones are… hm.  Not very good.  At one time, her author commentaries were my least favorite to read in shoujo manga.  Part of me is relieved I don’t have to read them again.  I went back to the CMX version, and can confirm that we are not missing out on much.  But I wonder if it was Tanemura’s decision or Viz’s to leave them out.

The second thing is that her art has gotten so much better over the years!  This is a huge compliment, because I liked it plenty when I first started reading her series.  But comparing Sakura Hime to Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne makes it obvious she’s improved so much.  There’s so much more detail, the hairstyles are better, the backgrounds are prettier… again, the artwork in Jeanne is good, but I’m blown away by the difference.

The story is still cute.  Maron is a magical girl, the titular Phantom Thief Jeanne.  It runs along the rails through this volume… Maron hides her identity from her best friend, goes out at night to steal paintings, has her rival that is also her main love interest, et cetera.  It’s cute, there’s a lot of funny jokes, and I enjoy reading it even as simple as this volume is.  It gets better, though.  I love the Finn/Access moments later in the series, as well as the wicked twist.

I also like that Tanemura works so well with the limited number of characters here.  The main trio of Maron, Chiaki, and Miyako, which is supplemented later with the class president.  Chiaki and Maron both have cute helpers in Access Time and Finn Fish.  Miyako’s dad recurs occasionally.  And… that’s about it.  It works well with just a few people, and I love that Miyako stays strong as a best friend/police rival/unconvincing rival in love throughout the series.

Can’t wait to read more!  I have to dig the rest out of my stacks.

Love Pistols 3

April 12, 2015

Tarako Kotobuki – SuBLime – 2012 – 8+ volumes

OH GOD THIS SERIES.  I randomly picked up volume 3 after a two-year hiatus, since I hadn’t reviewed it here yet.  I remember liking it, and I actually read the first four Tokyopop volumes before the SuBLime release.  The books tend to cover different couples, and usually has all the notes about the “Zooman” system inside each volume, so I thought I’d be okay.

And it started off great!  There’s a cute story about a surgeon and nurse.  They were childhood friends, and the nurse’s twin brother dated the surgeon when they were all in high school.  But it was the nurse that wound up having a connection, and the two fooled around casually in high school.  But their families didn’t get along, so they were separated until the surgeon wound up at the same hospital as the nurse.  The two start up another friendship, and become casual sex partners, no strings attached.  But the twin still has a major crush, and the nurse runs away when the twin declares his feelings for the surgeon.

Cool BL story, right?  It pretty much had me until the (male) nurse got knocked up, and then I remembered how weird and sorta freaky this series is.  I forgot the zoomans were all about “fertility” and had special “womb worms” that aided homosexual couples in childbearing.  Thankfully, they don’t go much past the mechanics of that, because it freaks me out a little bit.

If you’re curious about the zooman connection, the couple is a snake and a mongoose (some category of cat?).  Also, the snake is one of those seme giants, the type that are, like, twice the size of the uke, that periodically show up in BL.  Norio is pretty tiny compared to Kunimasa, but man.  The surgeon’s huge.

But most of the book goes back to Norio and Kunimasa.  Kunimasa is rather heartless, and while their relationship is passionate, it’s not very romantic, and Kunimasa is treating Norio badly here.  Unusually for BL, this story explores that, and has Norio… kind of break up with Kunimasa after Kunimasa makes jokes about sharing Norio and comes right out and says he doesn’t love him.  This is a cliffhanger ending, and I assume that Kunimasa will see the error of his ways and reform next time, because this is BL and that’s what happens.  But again, that it bothered to call attention to the poor treatment is unusual.

If I recall, the woman that shows up on the last page is one of the reasons this series stuck with me for so many years, and why it’s worth a re-read.  It is, again, batshit crazy in nearly every way, but it’s just so creative, and fairly easy to follow in its mechanics, that it’s worth the read for the brave souls that try.

Also, I love author notes in BL books that are super cheerful and innocent that come right on the heels of something absolutely filthy in the afterward.  This book may have the best transition yet.  The last sentence on one page is Kunimasa’s wish:  “Penetrate him and come deep inside him.  But first, just do him.”  At the top of the next page is Kotobuki’s author note:  “Thank you so much.  This is Tarako Kotobuki.  I’m so happy you’ve been reading my series.  Please continue reading!”  I… got whiplash.

Afterschool Charisma 2

April 12, 2015

Kumiko Suekane – Viz – 2011 – 12+ volumes

Okay, this volume was much better.  I’m not really feeling the whole Dolly plot (everything’s just a little too cryptic), but I think what’s happening is far more interesting than “high school with famous people, except that they’re famous people doesn’t really matter because they act like regular manga high school students.”

Mostly, this volume left off on a bit of a cliffhanger.  Granted, it was one I anticipated, but now I’m sad it’s going to take some time to track down volume 3.

Mostly, “Almighty Dolly” fanaticism is sweeping the school, and some of the students are taking it creepily seriously.  I can’t figure out if they genuinely believe (though I’m willing to bet Joan of Arc does), or if some are plants (they are), or… what.

Also, there’s an anti-clone organization, and someone who’s spying on the clones, and then there’s the president of the school, Rockswell.  He’s kind of like Lory from Skip Beat, or Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club, in that he’s just an eccentric, off-beat rich person.  But he’s obviously spying the clones, and he seems sort of anti-clone.  So I’m not sure where all of this is going.

Also unfortunate, there are a few too many characters, and so far, I don’t like any of them.  The main character is a little weak for my tastes, and I thought it was weird he got swept up in clone religion even though he wasn’t a clone.  I guess he wanted to empathize that badly, but it didn’t read quite right, especially when that became almost entirely what was going on with him this volume.

But I think my favorite so far is Clone Himiko.  She actually hasn’t had very many lines, or much of a part at all.  I just like that, somehow, they cloned Himiko.  She’s been dead about 1,800 years, and they don’t even know where her court was.  But somehow, they found her remains and cloned her.

Also, Rockswell is… very eccentric.  Quote of the volume, on the benefits of adoption:  “I mean, it’s a lot of work having a kid on your own, right?  Once you decide you want one, you’ve got to have sex, and then you have to wait around till it’s born, and by then you might be over the whole thing.  Besides, when they’re first born they’re like little rodents!  This size [pointing to a 4-year-old] is way better!”

I’m not sold, but I need to read more volumes to make a decision.  It’s interesting, at least.


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