+ Anima 10

February 24, 2009

Natsumi Mukai – Tokyopop – 2008 – 10 volumes total

This series has been an absolute joy to read.  I think it’s one of the few kid-oriented series I’ve ever enjoyed this much.

We get the expected Cooro background in this volume.  Surprisingly, the friend we met last volume plays little part in this revelation.  I kind of pegged him for an orphan, but the characters go to the orphanage where Cooro grew up and learn that he was also involved in some +Anima experiments conducted by a nobleman with an obsession with +Anima, the same one who was implanting +Anima into people who hadn’t earned them.  I have to say, I could not have guessed what was shown in his very earliest flashback.  That was, quite frankly, kind of weird.

Nana and Husky start to doubt Cooro’s motives, and some of their worst fears are realized, though Cooro takes everything pretty stoically, as is his way.  Their lack of trust in Cooro versus believing something they were told by a random stranger was a little sad.

We learn that the artificial +Anima are actually real ones that were removed from children who didn’t want them anymore.  Both Nana and Husky comtemplate the surgery, and Cooro… well, has it comptemplated for him.

We also get to see an entirely artificial being that has been implanted with many different +Anima, something that the researchers call an angel.  The last scene, with her, the lord, Cooro, Nana, Husky, and Senri, is pretty fantastic, and was a really, really nice way to end the series.

I think there are plenty of adults out there who would really enjoy this.  It’s a pretty solid story, the random stories are fun as the characters move from place to place, the characters are strong, and it’s one of those stories that always manages to put you in a better mood, though life is actually kind of hard for the four kids.  The real beauty of this series is not so much that I enjoyed it, but that I would not hesitate to give it to kids.  There are very few series that I can say this about, but +Anima is probably the best of the bunch.

+ Anima 9

January 17, 2009

Natsumi Mukai – Tokyopop – 2008 – 10 volumes total

So, wrapping up the Sailland stuff in the first chapter, the characters find themselves back in Astaria.  What else is there to deal with besides Cooro’s past?  Nothing.  I am very excited.

Nana and a few of the other characters talk about what they’re going to be doing now that they don’t have a particular destination in mind.  They aren’t being followed, and are basically wandering from place to place, making a living and enjoying each other’s company.  There’s a great panel where Nana imagines everyone as adults.

They still set themselves to little tasks, like helping other + Anima and whatnot.  There’s a little story about a swan + Anima periodically appearing to the people of a small town as an angel and a legend springing up around him.  Cooro and the others teach him a Very Important Lesson about how he doesn’t have to be an angel to stand out, and he should be himself if he wants to win the girl.  Despite the cheesiness of the message, I still liked the story.

Oh, also.  People throw rocks and Cooro has to hide because they think he’s the messenger of death.  Cooro doesn’t seem to mind, but that still struck me as kind of weird.

Actually, the stuff about him being a messenger of death isn’t left at that story, and it’s also hinted that Cooro didn’t get his + Anima the same way everyone else did.  There is a + Anima race that Cooro and Senri run in where they run into one of Cooro’s old friends, and it’s implied that Cooro has always had his + Anima… like, there was no hardship that he needed help with that was overcome by him suddenly having a crow + Anima.  Cooro, in fact, seems like he’s never let himself be unhappy.

We also get to see that there’s apparently some organization that is not only giving kids fake + Anima, but is catching kids that get them for real for research purposes.  The guy that runs the organization doesn’t seem like a bad guy… in fact, in his backstory, we get another little girl’s story about how she got a pidgeon + Anima, and it’s all very sad.

One more volume.  I am very much looking forward to the Cooro backstory.

+ Anima 8

August 24, 2008

Natsumi Mukai – Tokyopop – 2008 – 10 volumes total

How many volumes does this series have, 9 or 10?  I’m going to be somewhat disappointed if we don’t ever get any background on Cooro before the series ends.  This entire volume was basically taking care of all of Husky’s background, which may be slightly more important than Cooro’s anyway since it’s been alluded to all throughout the series.

Husky gets sold into slavery and winds up close to the castle and its inhabitants.  He sort of gets what he wants, but then is stolen away against his will by Nana and Cooro.  The two of them help him into the castle anyway, and he explains to them that his mother is one of the King’s wives and how he wound up as a + Anima and how he escaped and stuff like that, along with his real name.  There are some fun parts where he tricks a few people into thinking he’s a ghost, and I thought those parts were pretty good.  Nothing spectacular, but I still maintain this series is one of the better light fantasy series you can get.  Good for kids too, despite some of the more recent slavery developments in the plot.

This has been the longest continuous story in the series so far, and I do like it a lot.  Getting honest-to-God story, especially story segments this long, is kind of a treat, especially since right before this, we got some backstory for Senri right before this.  That leaves us with some background details for Nana, a whole ton of background for Senri, and a rather extensive story for Husky.  What about Cooro?

The next volume summary makes it sound like things are moving back to the simple, one-off stories, which is fine by me.  I still like the cute stories, and I love the characters.  Looks like it is 10 volumes, so maybe I’ll get my Cooro story yet.

+Anima 7

May 27, 2008

Natsumi Mukai – Tokyopop – 2008 – 10 volumes total

The story in this volume was much more developed than usual. The characters stay on track through the mountain to get to Sailand, and after a minor distraction in the pitch black tunnel, they emerge in the new country. It’s revealed that Husky wanted to come this way because he was looking for his family.

This new country has some strict laws that the characters have to stick to. Husky and Nana nearly get captured for entering the country illegally, but they are quickly assisted by another +Anima. The initial awe that +Anima walk around with their powers clearly visible in front of regular humans quickly wears off when it’s revealed that all +Anima are kept as slaves in that country, and if you are walking around free, you will be quickly captured and sold. I was kind of surprised to find something so dark and twisted in this series.

Well, anyway, some other things happen, and we learn even more about Senri and what happened to him after he lost his short-term memory. He meets someone from his past, and there’s a scene or two which are quite touching in their own minimal way.

Despite the rather dark thread of slavery that popped up suddenly, the series still does a good job of keeping its lighthearted fantasy themes going. Most of the characters (especially Cooro) stay pretty upbeat, and I’m still pretty happy with the way its been going. I’m still itching to find out what Cooro’s story is though, and I’m hoping it comes after the next part, which will likely be a lot about Husky.

+ Anima 6

February 11, 2008

Natsumi Mukai – Tokyopop – 2007 – 10 volumes total

Give me a minute to shift mental gears from MPD Psycho to + Anima.  They’re just… very different, you see.

Anyway.   This volume is mostly just a big chunk of explanation about the Kim-un-kur tribe and Senri’s past.  All the chapters are connected into one long story, and the characters struggle against some military men from one of the neighboring kingdoms who… either want the Kim-un-kir on their side or want to conquer them, I can’t quite remember.

I always feel like the story is just about to reveal something wonderful about the children who are +Anima users, but always winds up sort of taking it back in the end.  The Kim-un-kur featured in this story are all +Anima users, but I don’t think it’s for quite the same reason that the children are.  Well, for Senri it is.

The story in the volume was pretty satisfying.  It fleshed out many aspects of the story as well as a few of the characters.  The children had a clear goal in mind at the end of the volume, so I’ll be excited to see where that takes them.

I would love more than anything a background story on Cooro, but I don’t think we’ll get one.  Maybe if we do, it’ll be tied into the series finale.  I can imagine it being fantastic.  This series has a way with doing really understated, emotional kind of stories.   I kind of feel that it’s overlooked, the author is wonderful at telling the stories with the animal children and getting across the themes, plus it’s just a great adventure series, and I love all the different places the characters travel to.  The different one-shot stories stay just shy of using tired devices, and I really like them for that.

What I’m trying to say is that more people should really be reading this great series.  It’s not the kind of thing you run out and buy, I guess, but pick it up while you’re at the store getting something else, maybe.  You won’t regret it.

+Anima 5

October 3, 2007

Natsumi Mukai – Tokyopop – 2007 – 10 volumes total

We didn’t get to see any new +Anima this time around, but we did learn some background on a few of the characters.  Vague background, but some background all the same.  We learn something about the way that Husky may have come to be a +Anima, we learn how Cooro was raised (and also how he was… born, I guess, but this bit lasts about one panel, so it’s not as enlightening as you would think, and I suspect more will come later), and we learn a very little bit about Senri, with more promised next volume.  That’s pretty good.

The longest story is about Husky being a merman, and kind of helping out a boy who thinks he descended from mermaids with several things, including an inadvertent crush on Husky.  It was a really cute story.

There was another cute story about a woman waiting for her son to come home who takes the four +Anima children in to live with her.  Cooro is especially taken with her.  The chapter ends on kind of a weird note, where Cooro acts as a kind of trigger for the woman’s memories.

The last two chapters I believe will finally be a story involving the Kim-Un-Kir.  This story has Senri getting quite involved, and carries over into the next volume.

The first chapter has Cooro making friends with a girl who loves +Anima.  She begins to act as a narrator, and it makes me wonder where she’s going to wind up in the scheme of things.

This is still a really tragically under-appreciated series.  It’s also one of the few really good fantasy series I’ve read.  It’s definitely aimed at little kids, but it’s good little kid stuff, unlike… well, Pichi Pichi Pitch, which I’ve already drug through the mud tonight.  It’s episodic, but each episode is very different, and none of the usual plot devices are anywhere to be found as far as hot springs and festivals go.  It’s also finally starting to pick up an overarching plot, so it’s as good a time as any to jump in.

+ Anima 4

July 5, 2007

Natsumi Mukai – Tokyopop – 2007 – 10 volumes total

This is another series I feel is a little unfairly overlooked.  It isn’t very high quality, but it’s cute and entertaining, and it’s certainly better than a lot of the other mediocre Japanese series Tokyopop is releasing right now.

This volume is almost entirely made up of one story, and I can’t figure out if I like that better or worse than the episodic ones we’ve been getting.  Once again, the characters are trying to earn money, and they’re told that the best way to do it in the town they’re currently in is to participate in a gladiatorial tournament, which is kind of odd, but really fits the story.  Rose, the cat +Anima, is along for the ride, and there’s a subplot involving rescuing her brother from the depths of the coliseum.  In addition to the fights, the characters are imprisoned in various ways by various people, and they meet up with the future queen of the town, Maggie, who can’t stand people running away from her.

A couple cool things happen.  Rose’s brother is not a +Anima*, which means that it’s not inherited (they mention on and off that for awhile it was thought that only Senri’s tribe could be +Anima).  It’s actually revealed how one becomes a +Anima at the end of the main story, and it’s quite remarkable.  We immediately see how Nana became a +Anima, and she raises the question, hopefully answered in future volumes, of how the others got to be as well.  It’s really original things like this that make me love this series so much.  Well, that and the whole human/animal thing, I’m kind of a sucker for that, too.

One of the other cool things deals with the fights themselves.  Only Cooro and Husky wind up fighting, and both times the events are brief in order to deal with the more complex plot of being stuck in the coliseum.  Cooro’s fight goes about how you’d expect it to, but Husky is surprisingly good at fighting, and it’s awesome to see him in action.  You wouldn’t think he had it in him.

The last chapter is a short story about the relationship between Nana and Husky.  It’s not quite romantic at this point, but it is adorable, and it could easily go in that direction.  One of the things that stops it, though, is that Husky still wavers somewhere in the middle of the boy/girl gender assignment.  Though we’ve had lots of evidence of him being a boy, he’s still portrayed as quite effeminate for some reason.  Maybe there’ll be an explanation later on.

*the grammar here assumes that the plus is pronounced.  I’m not sure how this is handled in the story, or even how I handled it before, but it gave me fits tonight when I was trying to decide whether “a” or “an” was more appropriate before +Anima.