Black Rose Alice 4

January 17, 2016

Setona Mizushiro – Viz – 2015 – 6+ volumes

Hm.  There’s still a lot going on here, and I’m not sure what to make of it all.  Which is a good thing!  It keeps me guessing.  It’s pretty far from the shoujo vampire story it presents itself as.

One thing is that we’re four volumes in, and Dimitri and Alice are still not even close to liking each other.  In fact, this volume drives them further apart when Alice finds diaries kept by the daughter of the man who took the vampires into his home.  The daughter has a huge crush on Dimitri, but believes he has eyes for no one but the comatose body of his lover.  This leads Alice to believe that she only receives attention from him because she is animating said body, and she begins to act coldly.

Admittedly, this volume also doesn’t paint a flattering portrait of Dimitri.  Because he wants Maximilian to live on, we find out that he uses the feelings of the daughter of the house to ask her to propagate with Maximilian.  A death sentence for her, but, you know, Dimitri asked.  Later, we find out Leo propagated just before death, and the vampires need to look after the woman for the month it will take her to… seed.  Dimitri makes sure to do this in front of Alice, because it involves passing “sap” mouth to mouth, an obviously intimate activity.

Alice finally gives him his at the end of the book, when she accuses him of using an emotional moment to come on to her.  Never has a shoujo heroine figuratively slapped a dude in the face so hard.  I loved that she called him out on it.  The thing is, it’s impossible to tell what Dimitri is thinking.  Was he being sincere?  Was he really just preying on her emotional vulnerability?

I cannot recall if we know how close Dimitri is to death.  I need to re-read this series, actually, because we learn a lot more about the vampire biology here, and I feel like I need to brush up on what they’ve been doing.  I love how original their makeup is, but if I had one complaint, it’s that this is too weird to leave off explaining for so long, and we get a bit of an info dump here.

The twins are also around, and it’s implied there may be a new member joining at the beginning of next volume.  Hooray!  Again, though he is a major jerk, I’m still fairly curious where Dimitri and Alice’s relationship is going.  They’re making out on all the covers, so it has to be going somewhere, right?

I should be caught up by the time volume 6 comes out in… a few weeks?  December?  I’m not sure.  But let me say again how good it feels to be reading Setona Mizushiro in English again.  I love her dearly.

Eyeshield 21 33

January 17, 2016

Riichiro Inagaki / Yusuke Murata – Viz – 2010 – 37 volumes

So the catching battle with Monta ended here.  Sort of.  It wasn’t the definitive ending you were looking for, but it was slightly more realistic than sports manga usually are, so that was nice.

There was also a nice scene where American Eyeshield 21 admitted that Sena and Monta were true athletes, even though they were weak and wimpy against their opponents in Teikoku.  He liked that they kept getting back up, even though they were completely beaten.

Which they were.  Most of this volume is a trouncing.  They have 9 minutes left in the 4th quarter, and the score is 42-0 Teikoku.  Since this is a manga, there is a chance they will win, even though that’s pretty much impossible.  I’ve read several sports manga, but somehow, that deficit struck me as hilariously unrealistic in a way that no sports manga has before.

They start making it up by tricking their opponents outlandishly, though not the usual Deimon tricks.  No, these are the types of real football trick plays like you’d see in a real football game.  I like watching Hiruma get all fired up, but I was a little disappointed they weren’t funnier, and that it didn’t last longer.

Seriously though, this volume is depressing.  They take a beating.

There’s hints that next volume will decide the game in the definitive battle of Eyeshield 21s.  I’m… not sure what the last three volumes will be about after that, though?  Hopefully one will be about Hiruma.  There’s a shadowy figure in the crowd that mentions that Hiruma made a tactical error trusting his friend Sena.  I want to know more about Hiruma.  I’d be fine with no football for that.

QuinRose / Riko Sakura – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2013 – 2 volumes

Ehh… eh.  This one’s only okay so far.  It doesn’t have a lot of story re-hash, which is good.  All that’s passed over pretty quickly.  It’s also another rare non-Fujimaru volume, and I really like Riko Sakura’s artwork.

It’s a fairly typical Blood story.  Peter White is acting crazy, and drives Alice out of Heart Castle.  After a brief stay at the Clock Tower, she stumbles across the Hatter Mansion and meets all the characters there for the first time (it’s been a long time since I read a Hearts story with a fresh start, so this was fairly novel).

From there, she starts falling for Blood, of course.  He’s a tease, and while he’s still harsh here, he’s not nearly as much of a jerk as he usually is, which is a huge plus.  Let’s see… I suppose the main conflict is that there is a very early, very heavily-but-not-explicitly-stated sexual relationship between Alice and Blood.  This is rare in these books, so I was a little taken aback.  There is a slight dodge, in that the scene is prefaced by a dream-meeting with Nightmare, who tells Alice if she’s dreaming, she should enjoy it more and dive a little deeper, at which point she promptly and unambiguously hooks up with Blood.  This could be a dream, but later it sounds like the two are somewhat involved, so I don’t think it is.

Alice wants their relationship to be casual (she doesn’t want to deal with falling in love), which Blood consents grudgingly to.  Later, she sees Blood in the rose garden with Vivaldi, thinks the two of them are involved, and begins to suspect that Blood is playing around with her.

And… this will be resolved next time.  Again, nothing too out-of-the-ordinary.  Pretty straightforward relationship drama, and I did like that Blood was nicer than usual.  I like it a lot better than most of the one-shots, and pretty much all the Blood stories I’ve read except for the 6-volume main storyline.  So that’s a big plus.  But I still like the Nightmare books the best.

Chihayafuru 2

December 24, 2015

Yuki Suetsugu – Kodansha – 2012 – 27+ volumes

The pace of this series is a little slow, so it feels like so much happens in these volumes!  I love it.  Here, Taichi and Chihaya go to find Arata.  They do, and we learn why he stopped playing karuta, but it appears as if he’s not going to join the story just yet.  Interestingly, he’s a viable love interest, even from far away.  Taichi crushes on Chihaya hard in this volume, but not much comes of the love triangle here.  I love that everything seems to be unspoken, even to the point where the characters don’t think about or admit their crushes.

So Taichi promises that he’ll help Chihaya start a karuta club at their school.  They quickly recruit an old karuta club comrade named Meat Bun.  We get a bit of story about a character named Desk, second place in the academic rankings to Taichi and possessing a huge complex about it, as well as the fact that Taichi seems to effortlessly have friends and attract attention and generally be a great guy.  Because he seems smart, Chihaya targets him and relentlessly cajoles him until he joins the club.

My favorite character was the only new member with a name, Kanade.  She’s awesome.  Her family runs a kimono shop that’s struggling, and Kanade is really, really into traditional Japanese study.  She’s currently in the kyudo club, presumably because she can wear hakama and kyudo is pretty Japanese.  She’s attracted to the karuta club because she adores the artistic sentiments behind the 100 poems themselves.  This is alien to Chihaya, and when Kanade finds out that Chihaya and Taichi are only playing a game, and not appreciating Japanese culture, she leaves.  But Chihaya pursues her relentlessly again, and begins studying the poems as poetry, rather than just pieces to memorize.  It improves her game!  Kanade agrees to join the club as long as they play in kimono, and Chihaya models for her family’s catalogue.

So they do sports manga things like have a karuta camp and play as many games as possible.  Chihaya refuses to go lightly on the new players, since she got into karuta by being totally dominated by Arata.  They celebrate her birthday, then go to a high school tournament.

I loved this tournament.  Sentiment turned against them immediately when they showed up in traditional attire.  Apparently one has to wear such things in the upper ranks of karuta, and the other players took it as arrogant “practice.”  The main struggles at the tournament are playing as a team, which I enjoyed, since it put a unique spin on the early team dynamic I’ve never seen in a sports manga before.  It’s implied they don’t play well as a team because the players are selfish, which I thought was interesting.  Usually you don’t play well as a team because you don’t know each other well enough.

This tournament was also fun, since we got to see some combative karuta strategies.  One player in particular towards the end of the volume was playing some pretty hilarious mind games against Chihaya.  The weaker players start coming into their own here, too, and unfortunately, the volumes ends in the middle of the tournament.

I am devastated.  I didn’t realize there was an anime, so I’m going to pick up the story there, but I like this well enough that I probably will bother to puzzle through the rest of it in Japanese.

Gunslinger Girl 9-10

December 24, 2015

Yu Aida – Seven Seas Entertainment – 2012 – 15 volumes

I can’t say too much about this volume without spoiling what happens in the first half.  But the story finally gets around to addressing the impending deaths of the first generation of cyborgs.  It’s pretty sad stuff, predictably, though the girl in question takes it pretty well.  Her handler does not.  The other cyborgs… don’t seem to care, save for the fact their handlers treat them better now.  That was fairly disturbing, but in an intentional way, and I liked that detail.

The second half of the book focused on Triela.  We learn about what happened in her past, and what the connection between her past self and her handler is.  Hilshire’s position in the organization is pretty unique, and I’m a little surprised that he’s allowed to be Triela’s handler, if close relationships between cyborg and handler are frowned upon after what happened to the doomed pair.  Triela and Hilshire’s relationship does feel a lot like father and rebellious daughter though, especially from Hilshire’s side.  Though Gunslinger Girl does make sure to cross that line and let us know that Triela doesn’t really see it that way.

There’s obviously a whole army of 2nd gen cyborgs, though Petra and Sandro are the only pair we see in action.  They duck in and out of the story here, though it’s clear they have a lot more of a “romantic” relationship than the other cyborgs.  I dread reading about that.

I suspect next volume will deal with the Croce brothers, and their cyborgs Henrietta and Rico.  The last chapter or so left a dangerous witness in the hands of the good guys, and Pandania wants that person back.  We are re-told the story about the slain DA, and somehow (perhaps because I tune out the heavily political parts of the story) I missed that the slain DA was related to two of the handlers.  This made me feel bad, because they have been talking about Jose and Jean seeking revenge for awhile now.  I don’t think I realized they were brothers, either, until the end of this volume.  Perhaps this series isn’t really for me after all.  But I have the rest of it, and it’s getting more exciting the closer it gets to the end, so I’ll probably just finish up the last 5 volumes.

My copy of this volume was a 4th printing, which is great, I’m glad Seven Seas is doing well with this series and keeping it in print.  My copy of the 4th printing had bad binding though, and fell apart before I finished it.  Again, I’m too lazy to get a replacement copy, but you can always return defective copies like this and get a refund/new book from wherever you bought it from.

Shungiku Nakamura – SuBLime – 2015 – 9+ volumes

So, let’s see if I’ve got my Junjo Romantica lineage straight.

There’s the main Junjo Romantica series, which is 19+ volumes, and includes Junjo Romantica, Junjo Egoist, Junjo Terrorist, and Junjo Minimum.

There’s a one-volume spin-off manga called Junjo Mistake.

There’s World’s Greatest First Love, which is 9+ volumes and includes “Cases of” Ritsu Onodera, Kou Yukina, and Shouta Kisa (separate chapters for the latter two?  They are the same couple, I think).

There’s a 6+ volume World’s Greatest First Love novel series for Takafumi Yokozawa.

There’s a World’s Greatest First Love novel series for Chiaki Yoshino, which is 4+ volumes long.

There’s… apparently, a compiled Junjo Minimist manga.

There’s three volumes of an Egoist novel series, 8+ volumes of a Romantica novel series (these two might technically be novelizations of what Usagi is working on).

And that might be it, aside from the drama CDs and various adaptations?

That’s a lot of stuff.

Anyway, here’s hoping we can see the main series soon.  I have hope, despite its length, since apparently the last couple Tokyopop volumes wound up on the New York Times Bestseller list, and as I said, the early volumes got 6+ reprints.  I suppose it depends how well The World’s Greatest First Love does.  Then I can start hoping for the novels, which are far less likely to happen.

Anyway anyway, I’m talking about the second volume of The World’s Greatest First Love, which is still just Ritsu Onodera.  I liked it much better this time.  Each volume only has two chapters, the end of which tells us how long it will be before Ritsu falls in love with Masamune.  He’s got a long way to go, considering the sex they have here.

Masamune does seem to be rather smitten with Ritsu, but Yokozawa fills us on on what may have happened.  Ritsu has blocked out his relationship with Masamune, so he doesn’t remember the details.  Yokozawa tells him to stay away, as he’s the guy that threw Masamune to the curb, had a fiancee he was cheating on with Masamune, and later, went back to dating women.  Yokozawa says that Ritsu’s heartlessness really set Masamune back, and made a complete mess of him.  Ritsu doesn’t remember any of this.  I’m not sure what to believe here.  Masamune would know best, and his vote is for banging Ritsu.

Yokozawa (edit: when I wrote this months ago I kept calling him Yoshizawa, my apologies if that’s actually his name) is a little annoying.  He’s one of those characters who’s not really dating the love interest, but wishes he was, and won’t let others near him.  He’s constantly giving Ritsu grief, despite the fact that Ritsu adamantly refuses to have anything to do with Masamune.

Mmm… sometimes, Nakamura’s art bothers me.  She’s got the big hands thing going on, which is more pronounced in Junjo Romantica.  She also has a tendency to make even her ukes tiny, hilariously disproportionate to the huge semes.   And sometimes, there are small things that bother me.  Here, there’s a fantastic dramatic kissing scene, but the way the mouths are lined up isn’t quite right.  I couldn’t figure out if Ritsu was biting Masamune’s neck, and in the next panel, a weird part of their faces is kinda smashed together.  But I’m horribly addicted to her stories, and her art works most of the time.  I like it much better here than in Junjo Romantica, but I’m not sure how far along that series was when this started coming out, so she may have improved a lot since then.

Let’s see, what else… Isaka appears as a CEO-type guy in this volume, and seems to be comically laid-back.  At one point, he realizes Ritsu is the son of the owner of Onodera publishing, and is in a similar scion position to him.  He yells down a crowded hallway “from one coattail rider to another, good luck!”  Ritsu is mortified.

And there are a ton of other Ritsu and Masamune scenes here.  Ritsu is slowly getting better at his job, and when Masamune is not yelling at him, he’s giving good advice and trying to get into his pants.  And when Ritsu isn’t thinking about work (there’s much less of that in this volume), he’s thinking about Masamune.  The romance is great, except for the fact we know Ritsu isn’t going to give in until the deadline at the end of the chapters lapses.  The wait is terrible.  And now I know that other characters are going to start sneaking into the volumes, too.

Yukarism 4

November 28, 2015

Chika Shiomi – Viz – 2015 – 4 volumes

I had a big, unhealthy shoujo splurge today, as I read this, Idol Dreams, and Black Rose Alice.  They were all released earlier this week (note: the first week of November, I’m posting this late), and just arrived in the mail.  Reading them all on the same day was ill-advised, because they were all awesome, and now I don’t have more to look forward to.

I’m lying, I love lots of manga.  But seriously, that was a high concentration of shoujo goodness, and such things are hard to come by.

It’s hard to talk about the ending of this one without spoiling it.  Yukari has to figure out how the past and present are intertwining, and needs to somehow stop possessed-Mahoro from killing Katsuhiko.  We do find out how Yumurasaki died, although the big reveal at the end, why the killer did it, wasn’t nearly the surprise twist that the story made it out to be.  I thought we were supposed to have figured this out way back?

The ending sequence, where Mahoro has to twist a bunch of curses, figure out how the past lives are intertwining and connected, and… basically be by him/herself at the end… it’s heartbreaking.  I LOVED the very ending, where Yukari really comes through for Mahoro.  It’s got nothing to do with their past lives.  It’s pure shoujo manga, and it’s beautiful.

I love Chika Shiomi, and this is exactly the type of dark magic/contemporary series she pulls off so well.  This was exactly the right length, too, and I loved the past lives and the little bit of mystery.  I even liked learning about Oiran! It’s a quick read, and comes recommended if you’re looking for somewhat unusual shoujo.

I’d read another one of Shiomi’s series, too.  Just sayin’.