Gravitation 7

July 21, 2015

Maki Murakami – Tokyopop – 2004 – 12 volumes

I did read this one before, because I recall… rather vividly a page near the end where Eiri lets Shuichi come up with disguises for the pair of them.  Hiro and K react to them.  It’s almost wordless, and so ridiculous, and so sublimely beautiful.  I still laughed really hard at that.  It’s difficult to describe out of context, though.

Actually, Shuichi comes up with a choice disguise earlier in the volume, too.  There’s a reaction meter for Eiri that is not to be missed.

This volume chugs along with few surprises.  Hiro wants to quit Bad Luck, everyone tells Shuichi to get over it, but Shuichi never believes that Hiro would quit on him, and they have a big dramatic getting-back-together moment where Hiro catches Shuichi’s “gotta sell a million” fever.  They’re both getting dates, you see.

Meanwhile, Eiri is very ill.  So ill, in fact, he’s going to move and break up with Shuichi.  This is dropped towards the end of the volume, but I’m pretty sure if Eiri doesn’t do the break-up himself, creepy Tohma will force them apart.  And we’ve seen what he’s capable of.

I guess I know why I stopped here.  I don’t really want to see the two of them broken up.  So sad!  And this is too funny a series for that.  But I’m sure patience will be rewarded.

Earthian 2

July 21, 2015

Yun Kouga – Blu – 2006 – 4 volumes

You know, I don’t give Kouga enough credit for her art.  Her pages look AMAZING here.  She draws very pretty series.  Her character designs do suffer a little bit for it, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off.  The later stories in this volume are absolutely gorgeous.  Great composition, good mood, lots of pretty shoujo effects, and her linework is lovely.

I’m… not entirely convinced this is actually BL/yaoi.  It ran in Wings… which has other, similar borderline series, but what I’ve read from there I would consider more shoujo than BL.  Antique Bakery is another fellow Wings alumni that I wouldn’t call BL.  Tokyo Babylon is as well, and is also not BL, though Subaru and Seishirou are sort of in a relationship.  Adekan also ran in Wings, and while it wishes with all its heart it was about the two main characters having sex, realistically, there isn’t any romance between the two at all.  I think the distinction, for me, is if the relationship is featured alongside a plot that is just as important to the series.  Many/most chapters of Earthian are not really about Chihaya and Kagetsuya’s relationship most of the time (though that the plot interferes with it in this volume is definitely a factor). This is a fine line, because you could argue that Crimson Spell also has a plot that takes over after the first volume.  But Crimson Spell also features many chapters of graphic sex, so I feel like that’s the other factor.

Again, I’ve heard about this as a BL classic for years, and it was published by Blu, who I thought mostly did smut.  But unless the next volume convinces me, I’m going to pull it from my BL tags.  It doesn’t have what I’m looking for in a BL series.

The second volume endeared me much more than the first.  The plot picks up, as Seraphim and Elvira do their thing.  Elvira vows vengeance on angel-kind for Seraphim needing to live as an outcast.  Meanwhile, because Seraphim was the head of the pluses count in the Earthian do-or-die thing the angels were working on, Chihaya and Kagetsuya are recalled to heaven and split up, since Chihaya is the only one who can take Seraphim’s place.  Chihaya is initially okay with this, which bugs Kagetsuya.  The split eventually wears on both, until Chihaya demands they be partnered up again towards the end of the volume.  The last chapter lets us know that both are still too clueless to really express their feelings, or be a couple, though Kagetsuya is now “in season.”  If that ends with this last chapter, I’m going to be disappointed.  Kouga dumps sexual symbolism in heavily (and it is very, very pretty), but again, both characters seem clueless to what’s between them.

Kagetsuya and his new partner are sent down to retrieve Elvira, who has all of Seraphim’s data on the black angel disease (the disease that killed him).  Elvira proves to be a handful, and doesn’t really want to cooperate unless she gets to see Eden.

Chihaya is depressed with his new position, and takes a break to visit android boy and his fire-starter girlfriend from last volume.  There’s a couple chapters that feature that pair, and the girlfriend’s insecurities about not being good enough for him.

There are also a few… Seraphim/Elvira chapters.  These are CREEPY.  Elvira is Seraphim’s daughter, and it’s clear she has a huge sexual crush on him.  She makes herself grow to adulthood fast so that she can be a suitable mate (she’s actually… not very old at all, maybe 2?).  Seraphim also eventually admits he desires his own daughter.  They have a couple chapters together, though again, no physical relationship is implied between them.

There’s also some chapters about Kagetsuya’s new partner, the two of them working together, and he and Chihaya eventually butting heads at the end of the volume.

More coherent story, and while I don’t like all the side characters, I was pretty engrossed in the story here.  I think the next volume wraps up the main story (I assume the “main story” has something to do with Elvira, and the synthetic boyfriend/girlfriend pair?), and volume 4 is a gaiden volume of short stories.  I’m promised Raphael/Michael stories in that volume.  I’m excited about that.  I hope there’s some Chihaya/Kagetsuya as well.

QuinRose/Mamenosuke Fujimaru – 2013 – 7 volumes

This is my favorite of all the spin-offs so far!  I had to wait awhile to get volume 4 (looks like it was reprinted, which is good for Seven Seas and future spin-offs), so I’ve read several others in the meantime.  It makes sense, since this one is long enough to take its time to develop the relationship and story.  But still.  I’m so happy I get to finish it now!

The characters (mostly Peter and Nightmare, who can somehow tell) are a little worried that even though Alice has “chosen,” she has enough guilt about her sister that she still might leave, despite her bonds to Boris.  Peter tests her and tries to show her Boris’s true colors.  There’s a plot point that none of the Role Holders ever change, really, although while that may be true, Boris is still trying really hard to do things that make Alice happy, so he doesn’t succumb to Peter’s test (which, ultimately, is about whether he will shoot Peter in the head when provoked).

Elsewhere, Alice also comes to terms with Boris’s feelings for her, and his… physical demands.  I… was not expecting a sex scene.  That does not happen in shoujo manga.  And I am slightly ashamed to admit I was a little shocked when I got one, and the only thing I could think was “She fucked the cat man!”

Anyway, those parts were awesome.  They were made better by a side story in the back where Boris walks past Nightmare the morning after, who gets very upset and tells him to censor his thoughts (Nightmare can read minds).  Boris is completely unapologetic.

I’m curious to see what’s in the other three volumes?  I guess Alice still has the vial, so she’s not quite a resident of Clover?  One of the one-shots implied that the vial shatters and she gets a clock when she decides 100%, so maybe we still have to do that.

Black Rose Alice 2

July 5, 2015

Setona Mizushiro – Viz – 2014 – 6+ volumes

This… got better.  It’s difficult to describe, because it is so unlike other series.  I like that we got it in English because it’s a shoujo vampire story… but they’re not really vampires.  Dimitri describes them as “plants” that inhabit corpses and gather energy with bugs, and need Alice (the soul of the woman who died in the last volume grafted into the 100+-year-old corpse of Dimitri’s Viennese love) to bear a healthy vampire child.  This act will kill both the vampire she chooses and Alice, but it is apparently the only way they have to make new vampires.  Which is a little weird… because Dimitri wasn’t made that way?  Maybe he is different because he’s mostly the vessel for the soul of Maximillian… I should probably re-read volume one.

But this does lend itself to re-reads.  The first chapter or two were hard to read, because Azusa still hadn’t woken up in her new life, and she was dreaming of the lover she sacrificed herself to save.  That was some powerful stuff.  The vampires slowly acclimate her to life with them, and explain their way of life to her.  She accepts, and grows slowly used to them.  She gets to choose one of the men herself, and has to love them in order to bear a healthy child/vampire.  But she doubts whether she can fall in love again.

Dimitri isn’t one of the men she can choose, though he’s obviously the main character and, so far, the most interesting.  There’s a complication with one of the other men (Leo) later in the volume, that makes me think the clock might be ticking.

And it’s pretty.

There’s… a lot going on here.  I’ve talked about the plot, but some of the best things about it are the way Mizushiro isn’t rushing the unusual premise.  There is an information dump here, but it’s not too much.  I’d actually love to hear more, because everything here is so bizarre.  And Mizushiro is also taking her time to introduce the characters.  Their interactions are all similar to awkward strangers still, and I love that the reader is getting to know them the same way Alice is.

It’s excellent, and I am so so happy that we’ve got more Setona Mizushiro in English.  I would read anything by her.

Toradora! 5

July 5, 2015

Yuyuko Takemiya / Zekkyo – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2012 – 7+ volumes

I am ridiculously fond of this series.  I’ve put off reading it because only about 1 volume a year comes out.  Sometimes less.  We’re getting volume 7 in June, so I thought I’d catch up a little.

This was a bad place to jump in, because this is basically the summer trip story arc.  And I’ve read a lot of these.  But this one was a little different.  Ryuji does get Minori alone at one point, and puts his foot in his mouth and almost confesses.  But Minori turns his gaffe into a conversation about ghosts.  She doesn’t believe in them, but she might if she sees it.  Similarly, she doesn’t believe in love because she’s never fallen.  The two use ghosts as a metaphor for talking about their feelings.  It’s a cute scene, and Minori really seems to open up to Ryuji.

Ryuji and Taiga are planning to scare Minori so she seeks refuge in Ryuji’s arms.  But rather than the usual rom-com plot where this may happen, or somehow the hero may trip into her cleavage and she gets mad, this has a better, more entertaining twist.  Although… to be honest, someone still seeks refuge in Ryuji’s arms.  It’s not romantic yet, though.

There’s also lots of nice humor sprinkled throughout.  Kitamura is apparently an exhibitionist, which I would not have pegged him as.  He reminds me a bit of Teratani from Katsura’s I”s, in that way.  Also, his glasses.  There aren’t really any Kitamura/Taiga scenes in this volume.  But everyone is falling for Ryuji.  Ami nearly confesses her feelings once or twice, and even Taiga looks jealous at the attention he shows to Minori.

The last chapter is an adorable one-shot where Taiga takes a day out with her female friends and gets her nails done, learns how to put on makeup, and other cute stuff.

I just find this to be charming, with somewhat fun characters and (usually) free of the usual shounen rom-com traps.  And when it’s not, it side-steps them just a little, to be less raucous and ridiculous and a little more touching.

I wish light novels did better in English!  I’d love to read these!

No. 6 1

July 5, 2015

Atsuko Asano / Hinoki Kino – Kodansha USA – 2013 – 9 volumes

So, I’m not really an anime watcher, but I sure did watch this one.  I loved it.  I even read about half the novels (got bogged down – they’re a little slow).  So I bought this series immediately when it came out a couple years ago.  But because I had watched the anime twice, and read the novels, the first couple volumes of the manga didn’t appeal to be because… it’s basically the same story.  Re-reading this today, it’s still a great story, and I’m glad it’s a little fresher after stepping back a couple years.

The city of No. 6 is a utopia.  Everything’s perfect all the time.  There’s no crime, the city is beautiful and well-maintained, it is impregnable, and everyone is happy all the time.  Except Shion, who is 10-12 at the beginning of the series.  He’s one of a very special number of elites, children tested at the age of 2 and determined to be geniuses, and he just got a promotion to the elite of the elites.  He lives in a special luxury housing area called Chronos.  But he’s indifferent to it all.  On his birthday, he opens the window during a storm, and Rat runs in.  Rat (who I wil accidentally call Nezumi more than once) is a scraggly boy who’s been shot.  Which is impossible, because nobody would shoot another person in No. 6!  Rat hangs around long enough to get patched up, fed, sleep, and threaten and belittle Shion.  Then he disappears out of Shion’s life.

Flash forward 4 years.  Shion’s “bad judgement” for hiding an obvious criminal earns him a demotion.  He and his mother are now living in the low-rent district of No. 6, and Shion isn’t sure he’s going to be able to graduate from school.  But he works for the park services office, and he and his mother are finally happy.  But Shion’s life suddenly takes a turn when his ladyfriend Safu suddenly asks him for sex, Rat’s voice suddenly comes out of a rat on the street, and an old man dies in the park and defies all science.  After the second park death, Shion is framed for the murders, and Rat shows up to rescue him and abuse him some more.  The pair escape No. 6 and start their life in the poverty-stricken, crime-riddled West Block outside the city gates.

Admittedly, the two main characters are a little annoying.  Shion is a little too optimistic and harps on the goodness of man, Rat is pessimistic and harps on how stupid Shion is for thinking the best of people.  But they balance each other well.  There is a slight whiff of romance, though Shion and Nezumi realistically never rise above the level of bromance, save for Shion’s inner monologues about Rat’s eyes.  Actually, they’re pretty close despite all their complaining about one another, and their friendship is one of the reasons this series is so addictive.

This is a bring-down-the-city story, but it’s a fun ride.

Whispered Words 1

July 5, 2015

Takashi Ikeda – One Peace Books – 2014 – 9 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 1-3

I read the first volume of Citrus the other day, so I thought it was only fair to give Whispered Words a try.  I’ve got a few other yuri-ish series as well (Kisses Sighs and Cherry Blossoms Pink, Sweet Blue Flowers, and maybe the second volume of Maka Maka somewhere…), but Whispered Words seemed like the best choice.  These volumes are HUGE.

The premise is the usual romance manga set-up.  Sumiko has a huge crush on her best friend Ushio.  Ushio is a lesbian, but only likes cute girls, who Sumiko is not.  Not wanting to ruin their friendship, Sumiko says nothing, but it kills her to watch Ushio chase cute girls and get her heart broken regularly.

I liked this series a lot, actually.  It was quiet, subtle… read a lot more like real life than the usual rom-com.  I liked the character of Sumiko in particular.  Tall, very athletic, and very smart, she believes there’s nothing cute about her.  Normally such characters are popular savants, but in this case, all these things make Sumiko (allegedly) less desirable to Ushio.  And Ushio is clueless to Sumiko’s feelings pretty much all the way to the end of the omnibus here, though things are changing towards the end.

There’s a lot of fun characters that pass in and out of the story here, too.  Sumiko and Ushio gain a lot of friends along the way.  They have a third background-ish friend at the beginning of the series, and later a pair of lesbians start hanging out with them, as Ushio wishes for like-minded ladies to help her land a girlfriend.  The couple sees through Sumiko’s struggle, and try to help her out with the clueless Ushio.  Though not in the usual romcom manga way.  They do legitimately helpful things that don’t backfire, like helping their groups split up so that Sumiko and Ushio will be together, pushing one or the other into a situation, et cetera.  It’s cute.

At one point, there’s a cute boy with a crush on Sumiko.  He also likes (?) to dress in women’s clothes, and in his female persona, he’s cute enough that Ushio is wild for her.  It’s not clear if he’s trans, or merely likes women’s fashion, but later he does point out his gender doesn’t really make a difference, since Sumiko is the one he loves, and she loves someone else.

Sumiko picks up another admirer later, a lover of yuri romance novels who has never had a friend before.  Her story is legitimately sad, and I loved that Sumiko made a friend out of her over the course of a couple chapters.  Later, Lotte, the adorable German exchange student, latches on to Sumiko as a (wo)manly role model, which drives Ushio up the wall since Lotte is a cute girl who refuses to do anything cute.

There’s a couple of downsides.  One is that it moves SLOWLY.  This is a by-product of its realistic, slice-of-life nature, but as much as I like the characters… it feels like not a whole lot changes in this first omnibus… then it starts to change really fast in the last third.  Which is good, I tore through the last part of it.  But it took me several days to work my way through the first 2/3rds.  The other problem with it being slow is that it does All The Manga Things.  Chapters start moving through the usual tropes:  the beach, the water park, the sports festival, the new exchange student coming between them… I’ve read too much manga, because these things in succession are painful to read if not done right, and this series is just a little too ponderous to pull them off.

And there are rom-com elements.  Maid outfits are out in full force.  There’s some outright gags thrown in from time to time, and some characters make a habit of being loud and clueless.  But it’s toned way down from the usual romcom manga, which I appreciated.

But I did like it better than Citrus.  I thought it was a better, more sensitive romance, and I loved the characters.  Sumiko is a likable heroine, and she’s easy to root for (though I liked the boy from the beginning of the series).  I’m happy that we get three huge omnibus volumes that cover the entire series in English.  No waiting, thanks One Peace Books!

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