Thursday, March 29, 2007

Series Update: Eternal Sabbath, v. 3 & 4


Their first encounter with the enemy having gone badly, our three main characters fall back, regroup, and get subjected to Issac's ability to unhinge people a few more times. This costs them a few friends and allies. But they start doing their homework (rather than relying on a magical revelation/weapon/asspull) and trying to formulate ideas of how to strike back.

Still enjoying this series very much and looking forward to more.

ES vol. 3 and vol. 4 are both available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, v. 1

Adapted by Shiro Amano
Released in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: Wanting better stories than this is what got me to
stop watching Disney movies.

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is a follow-up to the best-selling Kingdom Hearts, which incorporates Disney characters into a manga story. Sora, an original character, leads a rescue party of Jiminy Cricket, Goofy and Donald Duck to find King Mickey. I wish the story explained the title's popularity, but after reading it, I am afraid that I am going to ascribe its popularity to having Disney characters and being based on a video game.

This title is a continuation of the original Kingdom Hearts,
drawing directly from the previous series often and without clear explanations, meaning that despite this being the first volume, it still would be better to read Kingdom Hearts first. And if the reader has watched Disney movies before, scenes from the movies are repeated rather than expanding on them.

The title earns a low ranking because while it is
technically well executed, if you are not a young Disney fan or looking for a gift for someone who is, there is very little to draw one in. This is rated all ages, but in this case it really means it is best suited for only its target ages, 9-12.

Kingdom Hears: Chain of Memories vol. 1 is available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Series Update: Kamui 2 - 5


Long overdue, yes. Had very mixed opinions about the next few volumes... they seemed so... limp... so flat... and then I... realized... that it wasn't the dialog... it was... too many... ellipses... draining... the passion... from the text... I know... English doesn't fit well... in Japanese word balloons... but come on guys... everybody... sounds like... they're sighing... and hopeless... and it's hard to keep reading when you're fighting the urge to call the waahmbulance.

And the sad part is, the art's nice. The plot isn't bad. There's decent worldbuilding, too. The pacing of the dialogue is a major problem for me, though, and I think the blame lies with the translation and the layout. Can anybody who has read the Japanese confirm/deny this for me?

Kamui vol. 2, vol. 3, vol. 4 and vol. 5 are all available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

Kung Fu Klutz & Karate Cool

Created by D.J. Milky, Written by Mark Seidenberg with Art by Erich Owen.
Released by TokyoPop as a Manga Chapters

Slugline: Why yes, bullies are easily fended off and
embarrassed and never immediately return any humiliation tenfold.

TokyoPop's Manga Chapters are a combination of manga and text
pages intended for the eight-and-up audience. In this one Marvin is the Klutz of the school and is the continual target of bullies. He decides that he needs to learn Karate in order teach the bullies a lesson. Unsurprisingly, Marvin remains a klutz in karate class, despite his best imaginings otherwise. He does remember one piece of advice that his sensei gave him regarding patience, and despite his best efforts, it manages to be useful and literally trips up his tormentor.

Okay, I am always willing to give titles some slack over
suspension of disbelief, but not for something as basic as human motivation and response. Bullies do not crumble that easily. Teachers would, or at least should not tolerate the amount of disruption that Marvin creates daily without some sign that he is absorbing some of the lessons. The fact that he has a rich fantasy life isn't a problem, but the fact that his fantasy life does nothing to help, and only serves to reinforce his obliviousness to the world around him, is. Not a good message and not a believable story. There was nothing in this story that was bad, per se, but it was bad idea well executed.

Kung Fu Klutz and Karate Cool vol. 1 is available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Poison Cherry Drive

by Motoni Modoru
Published in the U.S. by Kitty Media

Slugline: Some guys of flexible sanity run an internet revenge site for victims of gay rape. Naturally, wackiness ensues.

Needless to say, this is an odd single-volume manga. Some of it succeeds at being funny, but some just comes across as confused and strange. Mamezo and Ai, who run the revenge service, claim to be gay and this manga seems to claim to be yaoi, but there isn't much going on in that department. There's no romance to speak of, very little sex, and in the full-frontal shots there's... nothing there. At all. So this is more of a very adult comedy than a yaoi romance or porn.

The comedy derives from outrageous claims and non sequitors, with some success... and some not so much. (What's funny about OPEC? I don't know either.) Character development is slight and the dialog is sometimes clunky, so it's not exactly a big recommendation but it's mildly amusing.

Poison Cherry Drive is available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

100% Perfect Girl, v.1

Art and Story by Wann
Published in the US by NETCOMICS

Slugline: A manhwa Cinderella story where the girl dumps the

Will the girl eventually get back to the boy? Probably. But
Jay Jin has every right to dump the guy, since the magic of shoujo plot manipulation first arranges for J. Max first get a little too frisky and then get a little too upset. J. Max is the fairytale prince though, so it should not be too much of a surprise that he is the more unrealistic of the characters, a little too perfect and a little too unreal. J. Max is also the one that suffers from the fall-in-love-at-first- sight syndrome, something that he even mocks himself for.

Jay Jin is a student who wants to study art, but because of
her older brother's medical schooling everything in the family has been sacrificed in order to pay for that, including her love of art. So when a foreigner bumbles into her path, she ends up helping him out of a sense of duty, since one of her additional jobs is being a foreigner host. J. Max on the other hand is just smitten with her, not because of any particular beauty on her part, though she is cute, but because she just fits in a way he doesn't pretend to understand.

Now of course there are the all the usual
problems that shoujo likes throw at a relationship, and while there are some problems with J. Max, prince of a small European principality, Jay Jin feels more honest and true, confused, angry at her family but at the same time forgiving, and just trying to understand what J. Max means to her.

100% Perfect Girl vol. 1 is available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Wishing for the Moon

by Dany & Dany
Published by Yaoi Press

Slugline: Those silly Italian theater boys! Don't they know they're in love?

Well, it's not explicitly said that they're in Italy, but it's implied. This is a single-volume romance with exactly one explicit scene, which is a bit conspicuous for being the only scene with bare butts (no full frontal) despite other opportunities.

But it's pretty well written, otherwise -- maybe a bit heavy on the narrative boxes, which is unusual for a manga and even a bit odd for current American comics. It's right-to-left reading and obviously manga-influenced, but the authors come from the European school of graphic novels and that makes for a slightly different flavor of yaoi.

From what is on their web page, it looks like there will be plenty more from Dany & Dany in the future. Maybe it's time to renew that Heavy Metal subscription and get myself back into the European fantasy/scifi/erotic side of graphic novels...

- Miranda

p.s. I wanted yaoi boys willing to take turns and boom! Here they are! Bonus points to the writers for not treating gay men like a heterosexual couple.

Series Update: Genshiken, v. 3 & 4


It is in these volumes that the anime and the manga start to diverge, with the differences being more issues of timing than radical changes in the story. We are introduced to Chika Ogiue, and while we don't quite get the fact that she is into yaoi (a sin that many in the US gleefully indulge in) she starts out very bitter but is brought short by Kasukabe of all people, who points out that Ogiue needs these people, these otaku, for companionship if for nothing else. Also in the manga you can see the weird trajectory of Kasukabe's and Madrame's non-relationship a little better, along with Kasukabe's journey if not to otakudom, at least to her acceptance of it. Sasahara starts growing into a leadership role by helping the Genshiken move out of their apathy and into action. This is a strong continuation of the series, with no major missteps that shows that the characters can remain true to themselves yet still grow.

Genshiken vol. 3 and vol. 4 are both available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, v.2

by Eiji Ohtsuka and Housui Yamazaki
Published in the U.S. by Dark Horse Manga

Slugline: If the victim is already dead, is it murder?

This is a strange and compelling horror story, well written, well drawn, and complete within the volume. I'm going to have to track down v.1.

Kurosagi Delivery Service is made up of people with unusual abilities who try to make a living helping the dead fulfil their final wishes. It's not a very profitable line of work. Between their attempts to get paying jobs, they are drawn into the strange goings-on at a funeral home that involve a young girl who can raise the dead -- sort of. Mostly.

The author does not feel the need to make the reader laugh much -- this is a straight-up, dark and uncensored thriller. Which is not to say that it does not have its lighter moments, or that it doesn't end on an hopeful note. It's a nice change of pace: a horror story that doesn't involve ongoing, grim situations.

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol.2 is available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

Series Update: Genshiken v. 1 & 2


Genshiken is another series that we started partway through, with volume five, so here we are backtracking a little bit to talk about it. As we have said before, Genshiken is an unapologetic look at otaku life in college. If you have seen the anime series, the first 2 volumes of the manga are almost entirely used in the first 8 or so episodes of the anime. This is where the "Seduction of the Innocent" (and if you don't get the reference, read up on your comic history or look here) of our main character Sasahara begins: being introduced to the perils of the otaku lifestyle, especially the doujinshi-loving end of it. Kasukabe is introduced with her original hard edge, being far from accepting of the otaku lifestyle but desperate to lure Kousaka into her grasp. It also shows that this series is unveiling in anything but real time, with time between chapters uncertain but certainly moving quickly. I would definitely pick this up, for no other reason than that the progress of Kasukabe's character is easiest to see with this as a reference point to show the beginning of her journey.

Genshiken vol. 1 and vol. 2 are both available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.


Series Update: Pastel v. 4 & 5


The random cover story that Yuu and Mugi are related is starting to fray around the edges, but still I guess it is mostly believable. Volume 4's highlight is the appearance of a foe of Yuu, a girl who is certain that all guys are scum and when people are not, she wants to "help" them no longer hide who they truly are. For once, a romantic opponent who does not have a long term hidden crush, or has a secret hidden past? Nah, she's just mean. And by the end of the volume she has not hopelessly fallen for Mugi. Well, maybe she will in another volume, but it hasn't happened yet. In Volume 5, the interesting bit is Mugi finding a job in a restaurant so he can finally use that cooking skill that has been a running subplot so far in the book. The romantic entanglements of the restaurant just aren't interesting to me, and quite frankly smack of paternalism.

Pastel vol. 4 and vol. 5 are both available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Thunderbolt Boys Excite, v.1

By Asami Tojo
Published in the U.S. by Kitty Media

Slugline: Four guys in the modeling business are busy seducing each other.

This story is set in that manga universe where all men are gay, even the would-be rapists. These four guys spend the volume pairing up and agonizing over each other -- some more than others, and some more convicingly than others.

There's a modest amount of character development and slightly different story trajectories, but on the whole it's a fairly standard set of two romances driven by insecurity and hurt/comfort. There's some not-quite-hardcore porn which is well placed in the context of both fantasies and reality. No surprises about who's on top, either. I think it would be refreshing for the smaller guy to be the dominant one or, even wilder, that they could take turns. I mean hey, it's a lot easier for two guys to switch off than for a hetero couple -- what, these semes can dish it out, but they can't take it?

Thunderbold Boys Excite vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

Series Update: Pastel, v. 1

SERIES UPDATE (v.2, v.3)

One of the things that we are doing here at Prospero's Manga is filling in some of the holes in our reviews. When we first started receiving out review copies from the publishers, we ended up starting up in the middle of some series, such as Pastel. My sense of completism drives me to at least try to talk about the previous volumes in the series. Sometimes when I look back at some of my earlier reviews I wonder if I was being too easy on them back then, or more appropriately after months of reviews I've become jaded and bitter. Well, more jaded and bitter than before I started reviewing manga regularly. The first volume of Pastel sets up the situation of the series and why Mugi doesn't feel like he can just admit his feeling for Yuu, and it just barely makes sense. Barely. Making that setup work requires the sort coincidences that are de rigeur in these sort of titles. I know I originally said I liked this title, but maybe it is the effect of reading a whole whack of the series in a sitting that other than the occasional moment of interest it is just not grabbing me.

Pastel vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Series Update: Suzuka 2 & 3

Series update

When I put down Suzuka 2 after reading it, I was more than a little worried. The characters were starting to degenerate into the same old same old stereotypes that moan about the lack of love in their life, and why nothing ever goes their way, and other things along those lines that make me want to pluck out my eyes and use them for racketball. But in Suzuka 3 the reason for Suzuka running hot and cold was revealed, and while not the deepest rationale, it is one that is believeable. And Yamato has decided to do something about his love rather than just mope about it, to become worthy of Suzuka's attention. Maybe it isn't the smartest or best decision he could have made, but at least it was a decision and showed that he had a little bit of spine.

Suzuka vol. 2 and vol. 3 are both available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Pixie Pop, v.1

by Ema Toyama
Published in the U.S. by Tokyopop

Slugline: Because of an accident, Mayu is cursed to transform whenever she drinks something.

You can believe I picked this book up reluctantly -- it has all the marks of an awful cookie-cutter story. Well, it's not perfect but it ain't half bad either.

Mayu's parents run a cafe (oddly, she hasn't been conscripted to work there, it seems) and she runs afoul of a "drink fairy," which is something like a house elf/brownie/water sprite, only chibi. As a result, drinking liquids makes Mayu transform in various ways and Pucho the fairy is acting as both the un-transformer and the comic relief/PITA.

Mayu is also slightly obsessed with The Cute Boy At School, who shows little interest in girls. (Well, they are only twelve -- girls may be hitting puberty, but it could be a year or two off for the boys.) Some aspects of the story are predictable, like transformations wearing off at the worst moment, and some parts are realistic, like using her invisibility (from drinking water) to spy on The Boy. Yes, transforming has been used plenty of times in manga, but the variety of changes balances that out somewhat.

I was expecting to write a Dishonorable Mention, but Pixie Pop beat the odds. I wonder if she will start using her ability to fight crime...

Pixie Pop is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
- Miranda

Kedamono Damono, v.1

By Haruka Fukushima
Released in U.S. by TokyoPop

Slugline: Is it still bisexuality if you are attracted to both sexes of the
same sex-changing person?

You know, I hate to bring this up, and it may shock some people, but women
have sexual desires of their own at times. From manga it would seem that all women want is LOVE in the epic sense, but don't lust or think about initiating sex much. In Kedamono Damano, there is a girl who is very forward in her affections, which could be a refreshing change but since she is only a she at night -- during the day he is normal shy Japanese schoolboy -- I am not sure if this some sort of backhanded compliment for women or showing the dark side of male self-control. Or maybe I am giving the creators too much credit.

Konatsu begins the book as the manager of basketball team with a crush on Yamaguchi, the head of the team. In pursuit of her lust she discovers that Haruki, another basketball player, has a tragic condition which turns him into a girl in the evening. Once determining that Yamaguchi is a jerk not worthy of her time, Konatsu starts a relationship with Haruki by way of the usual confusion and plot twists that fill these gender-twisting romances. While those elements of the story are forgettable, the confusion of which version of Haruki Konatsu is attracted to, and her willingness to be emotionally accessible to them both, does pique my interest slightly.

- Ferdinand

Friday, March 02, 2007

Wild Adapter, v.1

by Kazuya Minekura ublished in the U.S. by Tokyopop

Slugline: We meet Makoto as his path begins to cross that of a strange new street drug.

It's taken me a week or so to sort out my opinion of this volume. There's not much that's easy about it -- particularly, it's not easy to sympathize with the characters and that makes it difficult to stick with. Makoto is an assassin, and possibly a serial killer or at least a mass murderer, and the author offers only a few hints of complexity behind the face. His friend Komiya is a bit more human, but it's not a lot to hang a story on.

And on the other hand, it's well written in the gritty action style ("noir" the back cover says, and it's a very modern, sociopathic noir.) The art is harsh and angular, which complements the story well. It comes shrink wrapped due to a few stray boobs and butts.

The other problem is that the back cover actually tells you more about the big picture than the book does. I think this all averages out to a mild recommendation, with hopes the writer cashes in on the potential this story has.

Wild Adapter is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

Get Backers, v.1

Story by Yuya Aoki with Art by Rando Ayamine
Published in the U.S. by TokyoPop

Slugline: For guys that have superpowers, it does seem odd that they can't
afford food out of snack machines.

Get Backers is about the specialist recovery team of Ginji and Ban, a pair of hapless guys who are barely making enough money to feed themselves despite having an "almost 100% success rate" in their job. This also is despite Ban having electric powers while Ginji has the evil eye, allowing him to inflict illusions on his victims. By the end of the first volume part of their support network is revealed, but only the most basic caricatures of them are shown.

Get Backers is a long, ongoing series that still has not been completed, but
the first volume makes it hard to understand how this title survived long enough to grow in popularity. Not that it is bad, but the characters of Ban and Ginji are walking stereotypes. They want to help an old man reconcile with his daughter, but there is yakuza in the way. How the story unfolds from that premise is so predictable that as soon as a character spoke I could tell what was going to happen for the next ten pages or so, and that included the "tragic" ending that could be seen as far off as when the character was introduced. The fact that the art and layout just confused things at times didn't help either.

Get Backers is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand