One is Enough

February 13, 2015

love – Gen Manga Entertainment – 2013 – 1 volume

So, I am slowly working my way through the catalog at Gen Manga (http://www.genmanga.com, apparently my hyperlinks stopped working).  I gave this one a try sooner rather than later, because obviously I’m a big fan of BL stories, and I was curious to see a doujinshi-style one.

I do like the stories published by Gen.  They are usually a little less polished, but less hands touch them, and they do often have some interesting ideas and styles as a result, stuff you wouldn’t find anywhere else.  I like what they’re doing.

One is Enough reads… kind of like the Outsider Art version of a BL story.  When I think of a doujinshi or amateur work, I think of something that’s so much like a regular story that there’s not a whole lot interesting about it.  One is Enough reads like it contains the basics of a BL story, but… uh, doesn’t really know what to do after that.

The art and story are so different that I almost don’t think this is Japanese.  There are panels of sublime beauty in here, but overall the style put me off and was kinda all over the place (sometimes detailed, sometimes sketchy, sometimes I couldn’t tell who the characters were, etc).  Again, I don’t really hold that against it, as the different styles are part of what makes Gen Manga interesting.  It didn’t really work for this title, though.

And the story was much crazier than the usual BL story.  The main character is swept off his feet one day by a guy who he thinks he gave a cut to.  Cut guy inexplicably invites him over to his place.  Main character then begins to crazily loiter outside cut guy’s apartment.  When he sees cut guy out with a girlfriend, he confronts him in front of his girlfriend about how he dates women.  Cut guy tells the main character to get lost, but the main character continues to hang outside his apartment for hours, uninvited.  Main character then begins to get beat up at school for being gay, and at one point is raped.  Later, the main character says he needs sex so much that he begs his best friend to anally pleasure him.  Said best friend is sort of implied to have a crush on him, but this is still incredibly awkward.  None of it makes a whole lot of sense.

It’s unfortunately not even very romantic.  I’m pretty easy to please as far as that goes, but there was nothing for me in here.

I think one of the problems is that it’s taking plot elements from BL stories, then not really expanding on them.  If you want your main character to loiter obsessively outside his love interest’s apartment, they should probably have more than one scene together first, or your main character needs to have a reason to like this person, or be likable himself.  Confronting the love interest about having a girlfriend after one meeting where you don’t exchange names is not a good enough reason.  Also, your main character should probably have an opinion about being raped, and dealing with that should probably take up some serious story time.

This got mixed reviews on Amazon, so I think it worked as a quick BL fix for some readers.  By all means, give this a try.  I love supporting Gen Manga, and for $3, it might be worth a look.

Sweet Rein 1

February 13, 2015

Sakura Tsukuba – Viz – 2013 – 3 volumes

It’s Christmas time (when I wrote this), so what better series to clear out of my backlog?  I bought this one because of the cute Santa covers, but I didn’t read the premise before I pre-ordered all the volumes last year.  Turns out it’s way weirder than I thought.  Kaito is from a family of “reindeers” who need to find their santa “masters” so that they can make Christmas happen.  Kaito bumps into lonely Kurumi one day, and the magical rein binding them together appears, so Kurumi and Kaito are fated to be Santa and Reindeer partners.  Kaito does absolutely everything Kurumi says, including impossible things like flying, appearing next to her from several towns over, et cetera.  He also turns into a reindeer, and Kurumi has magical powers that help her find good children and give out presents at Christmas.

Kaito and Kurumi’s reltionship is a little creepy, but not quite for the reasons you’d suspect.  Kaito is openly attracted to and a bit clingy around Kurumi, who’s not really into the whole touchy-feely thing, or completely sure she wants to date Kaito.  This is neutralized by the fact that Kaito is magically compelled to do everything Kurumi says (keep away, don’t touch me, et cetera), a dynamic that would be super-creepy if he had that power.  Thus, it balances itself out, but you feel bad for both characters.

Aside from the bizarre premise, it’s a cute, middle-of-the-road series.  Only the first chapter really characterizes either of the characters, and it’s the only one that deals with Santa/Christmas directly.  The other two take place at the beginning and end of summer.  The first is about Kurumi and Kaito befriending a terminally ill little boy and wanting to pull off a Christmas miracle for him ahead of schedule.  The second is about Kaito’s legendary grandfather and his Santa pairing.

The fourth chapter is about vampires.  It was… surprisingly okay, but not overwhelming.

This is clearly a collection of chapters that ran intermittently throughout the year, so I’m curious to see if the other volumes get back to Christmas content, develop Kaito’s intriguing family further, go into more detail about Kurumi’s loneliness, etc.  It doesn’t here, because it sounds like Tsukuba wrote the story to be a one-shot.  I wonder if she was ever given more than random one-shot chapters.

In any case, it’s still an adorable Christmas story.  Not super-memorable, but bizarre and worth reading this time of year.

Dogs 8

February 13, 2015

This series comes out slowly.  Once upon a time, I really liked it, and because the release rate is so slow, I will probably finish it.  But not much compels me.

There is a single fight in this volume, between Naoto and Heine battle was the only one.  The fighting in this series can be cool (or vague, depending on who, where, and what is happening), and this one was all right.  Badou busts it up later.

There is a plot revelation in this volume concerning the Priest that is supposed to be mind-blowing, perspective-flipping material.  Unfortunately, there’s not enough going on to make that shocking, or I just don’t care enough about the plot or the characters.  Part of me thinks this is unfair, and I should try from the beginning before dismissing a twist like this.  But man.  That’s pretty hard.

Apparently swords can defeat the regen abilities in this series?  Odd?  Not much else can.

Mostly though, there is lots and lots and lots of talking in this volume.  More soldiers enter the scene to shake things up.  Yawn.  Some more talking.  Apparently pretty much everyone and their mom has been genetically modified, which gets increasingly less interesting the more I have to hear about it and the more characters have it.

But!  Gasp!  The only person in the whole series who I was sure was dead is not!  What fresh madness is this?!  I will have to tune in next time!

 

Berserk 37

December 19, 2014

Kentaro Miura – Dark Horse – 2013 – 37+ volumes

Sigh.  I put off reading this, because we only get one a year, if we’re lucky.  We don’t get one this year, for instance, and next year’s not looking really good right now, either.  Having read this, I have none left for the foreseeable future.  Which is a sad thing, because Berserk is AMAZING.

Even still.  I wasn’t really on board with the end of the sea monster fight at the beginning of the volume, honestly.  That’s just a huge heaving mass of abstractions, with battles going on with its tentacles, in the sea outside its body, and with Guts inside.  I mean, it was really cool that Guts was stumbling around inside trying to stab its heart, and couldn’t, because the beating was too loud.  That’s the kind of extreme that’s hard to come by outside of Berserk.  While that’s going on, the thing is being swarmed by mermaids, which is also cool.

Alas, they STILL don’t get to Elf Island.  How many years have I been waiting for this, now?  Unless they have another detour, or some character-building on the open sea, I expect it should happen next volume.  Maybe.  It’s hard to tell with Berserk.

The sea monster fight was a little abstract for me, but that was made up for by the side story we got in the middle of the volume.  It went back to tell the story of young mercenary Guts and his encounter with a little flower elf/fairy.  It was an adorable story, and a good reminder of what the series was about before Guts was fighting huge heaving masses of tentacles and weird stuff in dark, cursed armor.

We also get a check-in with Falconia.  Nothing we don’t already know, other than it’s going to look really bad if Falconia gets invaded.  We also get to see more of the demon archer Griffith has working for him, who is my favorite of those new demonic types.

The art is still super-amazing, and this is still completely and totally Berserk.  It was great, the volume went by too fast, and now I have to wait forever for the next brief installment.

You know, I’ve never read the text on the ad that always appears in the back of the volume that lists all the ISBNs for the different volumes.  One of the ways the series is described is… “mercilessly funny.”  I don’t… know about that.

Ranma 1/2 1 (2-in-1 ed.)

December 19, 2014

Rumiko Takahashi – Viz – 2014 – 38 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 1-2

I tried really hard to resist these editions.  They weren’t the nice 3-in-1s with bonus art and larger trim size, and I have the full set of Ranma already.  But my roommate and I have been watching the first season of the anime.  He watched the anime a hundred times while he was in high school, and I read the manga a hundred times while I was in high school.  We were able to give each other the blow-by-blow and have a lot of fun.  I wanted to re-read the manga, but my early volumes of it are the old editions, and the binding is rotten on them.  So that’s was the weak justification I used.

I regret nothing.  I love this series.  Admittedly, reading this after watching the anime made it lose its impact a bit (the lines are almost verbatim between the two), but this still brought back a lot of memories.  The first volume of Ranma was the first collected manga graphic novel I ever read.  I mail-ordered it, and when I cracked it open and saw Ranma and Akane’s bare breasts half a dozen pages in, my innocent mind was blown.  I hid it under the bed and didn’t get it out for another week.  I was 14.

Amazingly, I’ve talked about this series a lot on this site before.  I looked up how long ago that was, and got depressed, so I’m not going to mention it.  But basically, I’ve talked about this, and you probably know what the deal is, so I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail.

These first couple volumes, after a break of I-don’t-want-to-think-about-it since reading them, seem a little more manic than I remember.  There’s some longer storylines (particularly the Ryoga introduction, but I’d also count the Dr. Tofu stuff since he stops recurring in a couple volumes), but mostly these are character introductions.  Granted, Ranma isn’t known for its substantial storylines, but this seems a little skip-y compared to sitting down with a volume that covers, say, martial arts cheerleading and some sort of pervert-jellyfish, and that’s it.

And again, I was a little less charmed than I could have been because I’d just seen the exact same stories in the anime, and still had all the lines memorized because I literally did read these two volumes that many times.  But I still loved it, and I still loved seeing Ryoga’s introduction.  He and Ranma were always my favorite characters, and I still love that Ryoga is such a great frenemy.

Compared to the originals – again, I have the old-old ones (not the $10 modern-trim-size ones that match the last volumes), but the most noticeable difference is that the print quality is way, way better.  The first chapter was in color in Shounen Sunday, and the reproduction is awful in the old volumes I have.  Otherwise, the retouch artwork is the same (in the parts I remember), and I’m fairly sure the translation is mostly the same as well, though I don’t have them to do a side-by-side comparison.  Slang, colloquialisms, and odd phrasings seem to mostly be what I remember, though again, some spot-changing could have happened, and my memory could be faulty.

Actually, I lied, the most notable difference is that the 2-in-1 volumes are unflipped.  That’s not really worth the price of admission for me, but it’s still pretty awesome, since I’ve never read Ranma that way before.

These are coming out quarterly, and though I’ll hate myself for it, I’m probably going to follow it again.  Next volume is Kodachi/Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics, so I’m not sure that I can stop now.  Though I probably will stop reviewing them when I catch up to the reviews I’ve already done… then again, I could just delete those old ones and do myself as well as the internet a service.  Seriously, don’t read those.

Rumic World Trilogy 1

December 19, 2014

Rumiko Takahashi – Viz – 1996 – 3 volumes

Protip:  If you’re looking for volumes of this trilogy, there’s two versions of volume 1 floating around.  This one (from 1996) has two extra stories that the other (from 1993) does not.  The two stories are Those Selfish Aliens and Time Warp Trouble.  The former is Takahashi’s professional debut, so you’ll probably want to see it if you’re bothering to seek these volumes out.

Unfortunately, I can’t distinguish them much more than that.  Both are black (though the older is black and purple, and the newer is black and red), and both have cover illustrations from The Laughing Target.  The newer volume also has the archers from The Laughing Target in the illustration, and the older just has the girl’s portrait.  They’re also titled slightly different things – Rumic World (1993) versus Rumic World Trilogy (1996), though that may not mean much in the world of bad internet data.  Here’s a link to my LibraryThing account with the data and covers for both.

Anyway!  These are among the oldest of Takahashi’s short stories, and as such… are a little rough.  The aforementioned Time Warp Trouble was my least favorite in the collection.  A chemistry experiment goes awry and some folks in period costumes rush the school and steal the lunches.  Much is said/yelled about food and farming preservation.  The interlopers escape back through a time warp.  There is a twist on the last two pages that made this somewhat more interesting, though not necessarily worth the price of admission.  It reads a lot like the characters are continuously belaboring a current event that I am unaware of.

Those Selfish Aliens isn’t much better, although I enjoyed the cute premise of a delivery boy becoming the ultimate weapon of three different races, unbeknownst to anyone but the reader.  This is also where the fishman in the spacesuit comes from, who appeared regularly in Urusei Yatsura (kind of like a Tezuka cast member).

Fire Tripper was probably the best story in the collection, about a girl who is spirited away to the distant past after a gas explosion in the present.  She befriends a local teen boy and realizes a young boy who’s hand she was holding during the explosion was also brought over with her, and tries desperately to find him.  There’s some more back-and-forth time travel, and the ultimate explanation was… a little mind-blowing, honestly.  I had to put the book down to process the crossing paths properly.  Basically, the plot of the story is very sound, but the development is a little harder to sit through.

The Laughing Target is a good horror story, very Mermaid Saga-esque.  A woman is promised in marriage to her cousin at a young age, and re-enters his life as a teen obsessed with him.  She begins terrorizing his current girlfriend, and we find out later she has some rather wicked powers.  This one didn’t have very interesting characters, but was still a good story.

Finally, Maris the Chojo was a very Urusei Yatsura-esque comedy story about a burly alien trying to get out of debt.  Cute.

An interesting collection, but the other two I’ve read have better stories.  Still, a must for the huge fan of Takahashi, as “Those Selfish Aliens” is her first, and “Fire Tripper,” “Laughing Target,” and “Maris the Chojo” were all animated as 90s OAVs.  Still available on VHS!

Ikigami 6

December 19, 2014

Motoro Mase – Viz – 2010 – 10 volumes

For the holiday weekend (Thanksgiving, in case I post this later), I grabbed a big handful of Viz Signature/Ikki manga to read.   Since Ikigami 6-7 were on the shelf together, I assumed I had helped myself out and shelved the TBR together.  That was not the case, and I’m going to have to dig through my stacks for volume 5 (and apparently 8 as well).

For Ikigami though, reading 6 ahead of 5 is fine, since each volume is two stand-alone stories.

There’s a slight story arc in the framing device of the man that delivers the death warrants.  He decides to be a patriot and an informer, and deals with that decision.

But mostly, the first story is about a relatively optimistic homeless youth, formerly a battered child, who is served an Ikigami.  He lives it up (an Ikigami can be used as currency in most stores/restaurants/hotels/etc), and it’s sad, but then he later decides to reconcile with his guardians.  Turns out, his uncle is still a jerk, and the nearly departed decides to implicate them as enemies of the state so they don’t get his Ikigami benefits/death cash.  There’s some commentary about the homeless youth, and an unusually happy ending, given the nature of this series.

The second one is about a young man who loses his mother to illness, and is disillusioned with his father, who has given up his journalistic fight with the government.  He is secretly part of an anti-government movement (strictly forbidden), and when he is served his Ikigami, he causes a scene with our friendly neighborhood Ikigami Messenger in order to disgrace his father.

This series is a real downer, which would explain why it’s taken me so long to pick up another volume.  I am going to read 7 this weekend though, which will tell me how “fast” the regular plot is moving, and I’ll probably check out 5 within the next week or so in order to fill in the hole.  I’m happy the series is over at 10 volumes… but reading the last 3 after this is a depressing prospect.  The stories are always really good… but they don’t make me wanna celebrate life and/or rebel against the government.  They make me want to read something less depressing.

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