Captive Hearts 5

June 12, 2009

Well, it ended like any good shoujo manga should, which is about the best thing I can say about Captive Hearts.

It maintained the status quo all the way through.  I never really got into the story or characters, and even in this volume a lot of what was happening was silly and repetitive.  In China, Megumi and Suzuka run into a village full of people cursed by the dragon god that are looking to seek vengeance.  They figure out that Suzuka is protected by it, so lots of attempts to evade capture and get away from the village happen before the climax.  Of course Suzuka winds up wanting to save these villagers too, who are nothing but cruel to her and wind up causing Megumi a lot of harm.  Lines about breaking the curse and scenes were Suzuka tries to do something and is protected by Megumi are repeated ad nauseum.  I thought it was a lot shallower than most comparable shoujo series, but it’s not so bad that it’s unreadable, and I’m sure there’s any number of people who will enjoy it for the love story.  It’s just wasn’t really my thing.

I still had a lot of problems with the story’s pacing and setting.  Frequently the scene would cut and I wasn’t sure where the characters were or how much time had elapsed.  It’s never a huge problem, and it only bothered me at the beginning of the book, but I felt like it was worth mentioning all the same.  I was also pretty furious about the total cop-out about Suzuka’s parents we got at the end of the book.  I mean… come on.

I did like the scene where the dragon god found his true love at the end though.  It was cute, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Captive Hearts 4

April 20, 2009

This just seems a whole lot better after reading the first volume.  I think it helps that Hino has improved somewhat in four volumes, so the random humor and cluttered panel layouts have since been at least somewhat refined.

The story is still pretty much in the same place it’s been in this entire time, though.  The difference seems to be that both Shizuka and Megumi admit and accept each other’s feelings, so everything is out in the open.  Shockingly, there’s a very steamy scene prompted by Shizuka, which is not… well, you know, series like this just don’t do that.  Characters hold hands and blush about saying what they’re thinking out loud and stuff.  It was very much a surprise.

I was also kind of surprised the scroll showed up before the end.  I’m not sure what the point of having the boy from earlier in the series wind up in possession of it is, but he comes back for a few panels.  You know, just in case you missed him.

And it looks like things will be moving to China for the last volume.  I kind of wonder how that will turn out.  I’m sure there will be an adventure with lots of romance and magic and whatnot.  It’s really come a long way since the first volume, but it’s still kind of a bland series.  I know she’s gotten better since Captive Hearts, so it’s probably okay to hate this series just a little bit.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Captive Hearts 1

April 17, 2009

Well, I thought I’d pick up volume one of this series since I’ve been reading along all this time.  I don’t really like this series, so it wasn’t so much because it was good.  More like it was because I saw it cheap, and I wanted to see if it filled in some stuff for me.

Mostly I was curious to see how the child slavery stuff fit in.  That came up in volume two, but hasn’t really been mentioned since.  It didn’t really fit the mood of the series, but I thought maybe Shizuka had been rescued from child slavers before coming to Japan.  That… er, was not the case.  Maybe I missed the brief part where that was explained in volume 2.  But there was no mention of that stuff in this volume.  Apparently that was just a random thing that happened and wasn’t referenced before or after.  That dropped my opinion a few more notches.

The main problems with this series is that it’s really cheesy, random, the characters are shallow, and the plot is all over the place.  I like the idea of Megumi being cursed to be Shizuka’s servant, but the way they are suddenly mutually attracted to one another in this volume was kind of forced.  Their relationship was distanced in the second volume, but that seems more as a result of something Megumi said at the end of this volume.  I think it works much better as a sort of awkward attraction than the sudden mutual passion they both seem to be experiencing.

And the manservant fit joke was just repeated over and over and over again.  As much as I like it, it just wasn’t funny anymore.Aside from that, it’s mostly just the characters freaking out around each other as they get Shizuka accustomed to Japan, school, and living around Megumi.  I… just don’t like it.

Captive Hearts 3

February 11, 2009

Unfortunately, after having read volumes 2 and 3 together, I can say that I’m pretty sure this story isn’t going to be something I can enjoy.

At this point, the story is still messy and there’s not much of a central plot other than curing Megumi from the servant curse.  While I still think the “manservant attacks” are pretty awesome, a lot of other things about the series are starting to wear thin.  The two main characters need to constantly reaffirm their love for each other, which can get a little annoying.  A rival for Megumi’s love is introduced in one chapter and promptly discarded.  The thing about Suzuka being sold into child slavery from last volume is not mentioned in this volume, and it seemed like it was a pretty significant event in her past.  The weird plot threads and stories are all over the place.

The characters are also still a little off and I can’t bring myself to like them.  I do like Megumi all right, mostly because he’s so devoted and for the manservant fits, but Suzuka is fairly two-dimensional and does everything you would expect her to in any given situation with no personality whatsoever.  I have to say, I’m also becoming a little uncomfortable with the whole master-servant relationship, because these people are being forced to serve Suzuka against their will, basically.  Suzuka doesn’t take advantage of that, but the fact she’s supposedly “better” than Megumi, his father, and the maid character introduced in the last volume is implied off and on, and I’m never sure how I should stand on it.  I don’t know.

I did like the flashback to the original pair that started the curse, the master and servant and why it was the dragon decided to curse the ancestor.  In that story, it depicted the two as in love, but the girl could not marry the man because they were in different social classes, so the man decided to be her servant, and she thought this was okay and married someone else?  This seems a little weird, but maybe I just need to consider the time period.  Or something.

Yeah, this isn’t really happening for me.  I may finish it though, just to see how things wrap up.  And I did buy the first volume just before I read this one, so maybe there is some context I’m missing that will help make the characters better or clarify their roles.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Captive Hearts 2

February 1, 2009

You know, I’ve had pretty good luck jumping into series without reading the first volume.  For a shoujo series, there’s only so much that can go on in the first volume, and only so many ways to start a story.  But this one started way different, enough to think that I probably should have attempted the first volume first.  It does have a very unusual plot, and everything is explained fairly clearly in the intro to the book, but I was lacking a basic knowledge of the characters, which probably hurt my enjoyment of it.

I actually kind of fell in love with it a bit at the beginning, because the plot is that the main male character Megumi’s family is cursed to serve the main female Suzuka’s family for 100 generations.  Whenever he is given orders, or whenever their eyes meet, he goes into an extremely sparkly “manservant fit” that made me laugh everytime I saw it.  Since he’s got a crush on Suzuka, these fits don’t make him particularly angry, but I like that he sometimes feels embarassed by them.

I also liked that Megumi and Suzuka were actually in love, and sort of a couple.  That can be sort of rare in a short shoujo series like this.  Of course, they can’t officially be a couple because of the curse, and because of Suzuka’s family’s status and all that, but they act all couple-y, which is what counts.  They make for a good couple.

Suzuka’s family isn’t actually all that prestigious anymore, both her parents died and she was thought to have passed away with them and was actually raised by a foster family in China.  There’s also a weird and uncomfortable sub-plot involving child slavery that came up suddenly towards the second half of the volume that perhaps was discussed briefly in the first volume.  It… was not something I was expecting.

The main thing was that I wasn’t sure what to expect of the characters.  I felt I was missing out on knowing Megumi better by not seeing how he acted before Suzuka came back and the curse was activated.  I’m willing to bet his personality is not all that different, but some part of my brain is telling me it really should be since he’s basically being forced into servitude, whether he loves her or not (a big question is whether his love is part of the curse or not.  It’s not, but the characters bring it up frequently).  I also can’t quite get a bead on Suzuka’s personality either.  It leaves me a little lost when trying to figure out how and why they are reacting to certain situations.  I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and say it’s because I didn’t read the first volume, but I suspect I would have had the same problems with the characters even if I had.

The other problem I had was with the really cramped page layouts.  It’s not as bad as some series I’ve seen (Go Go Heaven is literally the worst, but I still love it), but it makes it a bit harder to read.  I know it sounds silly, but I like to be able to read a light shoujo series like this quickly, and a dense page layout that slows me down hampers my enjoyment unless the story is excellent, which is not so much the case here.

I’m willing to bet this was Matsuri Hino’s first series, or close to it, because a lot of the problems I have with this were definitely not present in Wanted.  There are some cute moments and funny moments, and some stuff you can expect from all shoujo series (a romantic rival for Megumi, both Megumi and Suzuka dragging their feet about their relationship), but overall I wasn’t particularly fond of this title, and it may just be because it’s an early series of hers.  I’ve got one more volume of it though, so I’m going to try a little more to see if maybe I can figure out the characters or if the story takes off.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.