Monday, December 31, 2007
Published by Dark Horse
Slugline: A title that revels in its own absurdity.
Don't you wish that more people gave manga a try rather than just knee-jerking writing it off as something strange and foreign? I am going to give you the same challenge for Empowered, a title by the original OEL artist, Adam Warren. It is a title about superheroes. Yes, yes, I understand, superhero comics are the devil compared to the purity of the manga, but then you are just as guilty as the people that are decrying manga, right? And let's face it, are the ninja feats that Naruto pull off or badassitude of Rurouni Kenshin that far off superheroes like Batman?
And if you strip all that out, the genre trappings, this is ultimately a story about college aged people trying to figure out what to do with their lives. And screwing up, and wondering what the hell they are going to do to pay the bills until the stuff they really like doing starts paying off. With boyfriends, booty calls, going out with girlfriends until you come home more than a little tipsy. After reading probably hundreds of high school stories where everyone seems so prim and proper, even the hooligans following a constrained set of behaviors, it was great to finally read some truly bad and but also behavior that felt more real. And relationships that start with sex and hormones and evolve towards love and that other sort of stuff rather than vice versa.
Empowered is a superheroine with a name that was best she could come up with and a supersuit that nothing to hide her butt or any other embaressing body parts. Worse still, while bulletproof it tears easily, and until it regenerates most of her powers are gone, so she ends up tied up way too often. Fortunately she has her boyfriend Thug Boy and her girlfriend Ninjette to bolster her while Sistah Spooky and the rest of the Superhomies continually belittle her. As you can see, this is something of a parody, something of a slice of life and a whole lot of the funny.
And as for Adam Warren, his first OEL was the US version of Dirty Pair in 1989. He has the experience and style, learned through years of practice and experience, so that it comfortably straddles both US and Japanese art styles and so it has become its own. Read it and realize that OEL can be and is it's own thing, and should be judged for what it is, not what you think it should be.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Tanpenshu, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Just letting people know that RightStuf.com, one of our sales affiliates, is running a sale until 11:59 pm CST of January 6th, 2008 on all in-stock items. The sale is an additional 20% off retail by entering the coupon code newyear2008! Check out all of 4.5 star and 4 star reviews for some ideas!
Prospero's Manga does take time for us to run, and sales through this RightStuf.com link or any of our other Rightstuf.com links kicks us a percentage, which helps pay for the site. So everyone wins!
Released in the US by Dark Horse
Slugline: Is this story just about being stuck between two girls or stuck between Korea and Japan?
Joonho has finally had the courage to confess his love to Sae-un, the girl he has been attracted to in his Korean high school in and for once in these stories she actually reciprocates right there rather than refusing or running off. Unfortunately, as soon as he gets home from having his confession accepted, he find outs his family is moving Seoul that day. Once he complete the move he begins a long distance (well, medium distance) relationship with Sae-un, but his Japanese neighbor Hanami keeps on intruding on his thoughts and she keeps on finding herself thinking of him. But both of their lives in Seoul are complicated by cast of ludicrous characters.
I do find that there is an interesting subtext in the title. To say that there is an apathy between Japan and Korea on the cultural and historical level is to understate the case. Koreans who were relocated to Japan in World War 2, their grandchildren who remain in Japan are still not citizens. And let's not even bring up the issue of the comfort women (If you don't know what I am talking about, well, the wiki entry is here, and it is not pleasant.) So the fact that Hanami's grandfather actually married his Korean wife and then moved to Korea, well, just from that you can tell this is a manwha because the whole Korean issue is still very unspoken in Japan. That whole issue is something I hope that gets touched upon more seriously in later volumes.
Despite the cheese, cliche and chibi aspects of the story, the fundamental conflict that is driving Joonho and the story is handled well. Joonho is torn between Sae-un who he has been attracted to for a while before moving and the friendship and possibly something more he could have with Hanami. Sae-un is someone that he understands, liked for a while, but he is also separated from her, not by a great deal but still a distance. Meanwhile Hanami is right there, foreign and so exotic, yet needing him. But Joonho is right to wonder if she likes him on his own merits or because he is a substitute for the love she had previously lost. And while the issue of language/miscommunication is first played up for laughs it is then is played a little more straight. Joonho's sense of detachment and discomfort at the Japanese language study group feels right, and I think Hanami is purposely misunderstanding Joonho's explanation of his relationship with Sae-un. I wish that the early chibi /cliche aspects could just be forgotten, but if they continue to treat the love triangle as a real dilemma rather than an excuse for broad comedy, the series can only strengthen. If the story could perhaps begin to deal with Japanese/Korean issues, this could be an exceptional series.
Hanami: International Love Story, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Published in the US by Dark Horse
Slugline: We're introduced to the action-heavy world of shaman-based fighters. Sort of.
So much time is spent on the action, in fact, that almost nothing is said about what a "shaman warrior" actually is. Little is said about our apparent main character, Yarong, too -- but that doesn't matter because this first volume is something of a bait-and-switch.
The action is gritty and un-glamorous, which is fine, and a bit of back story is provided, but this is ultimately more of a prologue than a first volume. And as such, I don't know where the story will go from here except, probably, to more combat. Which is fine, too, but I have no reason to expect that there will be anything more than that.
Shaman Warrior, v.1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Published by Dark Horse
Slugline: Do you choose your fate, or does your fate choose you?
This manga is the collection of webcomic. To read the webcomic, which includes the material in this volume, click here.
Miharu's parents have always been a little odd, but they have just dumped on her the biggest shocker, that they already have arranged for her marriage while she was still a baby with the son of a family friend. Needless to say, she does not take welll to this announcement and storms out. While out, she runs into an older boy that helps give her some perspective on the whole ordeal. And because this is a manga, that boy is Kazuo, the boy that is supposed to marry. Wackiness could ensue, but merely the mundane confusion as the series deals with these issues, along with the other problems of Miharu's friends and family.
I admit I do have a fondness for Red String, because I first discovered it a few years ago at SPX (read a report about the latest SPX here) and picked up an ashcan of the first chapter back then. But looking at the first volume as a whole, you can see the seams in it, for a webcomic flows differently in a published format. The chapters do not flow into each other easily and it feels like the overall story is moving in fits and starts. That being said, the art seems very old-school. As in the use of obvious tones and very sparse line art. It is the style that fans first imagined that American Manga would take back in the early 90s. Now that isn't a knock on the art style, but it is very realistic, refusing to fall into moments of kawaii and chibi art. For a realistic romance story, that is what you need. I am not sure how 'Japanese' it really is, but it has enough of those touches that it feels real. I took a look some of the later chapters that were available on the website, and it does seem to flow together better. There are no big flowery dramas, but Red String, despite it's talk of fate and the like, feels more real and grounded than most other shoujo.
Red Strings, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
I know, I know, but they have pictures and other evidence, so we have no choice.
From Ferdinand and Miranda
Friday, December 21, 2007
Me2, v.1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Released in the
Slugline: Is becoming invisible a curse or a blessing for a teenage girl?
Shizuka is a teenage girl who has a medical condition that makes everything in her life harder to deal with. No, not diabetes like in an earlier review, but she is translucent. She turns invisible and back to visible in a monthly cycle (much like another cycle girls her age learn to deal with.) It is treated like an uncommon but still normal disease in the title, which frees the title to talk about how Shizuka lives with it rather than focusing on the disease itself. This is a slice of life title, with no overarching plot as such, and Shizuka and her friends, especially Tadami, in turn deals with and try to work around Shizuka’s translucent state.
The writers of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer had a saying about writing their episodes, "What is the metaphor?" While there was always a monster, each monster had to tie in some way back to the themes of growing up and high school. While this is a slice of life of comic, it is also has the metaphor of withdrawing from life and society made physical through the use of the translucent syndrome. Here, the metaphor is not particularly deeply hidden, where the confusion of wanting to be noticed and to be like everyone else is made concrete (irony only somewhat intended.) Shizuka's feelings of shame and confidence directly feed into her appearance, and the confusion in the steps between childhood and being a young adult is also expressed through her ‘disease’ and her friends, especially Tadami’s, attitudes and willingness to relax into childish games, but also to reject them. It needs to dial down the obviousness of the metaphor sometimes, but it is still an outstanding title.
Translucent, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Released in the US by CMX Manga
Slugline: Could it finally be? A spoiled girl that isn't really hiding a heart of gold? Nahhhh.
Shinobu is the haughty princess of the school, loved and hated at the same time by many there. She is also the literal princess of her family, which according to rumor, once supported to ninja. Everyone in school is shocked to determine that there is someone new transferring in, someone from Shinobu's past that she doesn't hate. But Saizou is nothing at all what they expected. He, despite being small and slight of build, is a ninja, admittedly one who is loathe to use his skills unless it is necessary. He fends off several attacks on Shinobu, quickly determining that it was all a test to determine his fitness to protect Shinobu from a real threat that is still coming.
This is like several high school comedies, where there is one really competent person dedicated to protecting someone else, even though that other person treats him like dirt. Here it is depicted realistically without the giant hammers and chibi-like knock out effects. Without the over the top effects to show that this is not real, the tasks that Shinobu inflict upon Saizou come off as cruel rather comedic. But the threat that she is supposedly really under is not as fleshed out or concrete as her seeming cruelty. It is no wonder it is hard to feel sympathetic with the characters or feel their jeopardy. I do think that there are some interesting character work here, but the story itself is letting the characters down as it is not giving the characters much to work with.
BTW, this has turned into a early review, for some reason CMX Manga sent me this one way early.
Teru Teru X Shonen, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Published in the US by CMX
Slugline: A military fantasy version of "The Prince and the Pauper" complete with assault weapons and fiery dragons.
The inclusion of guns as the enemy's strange new weapon comes across as rather unoriginal in a manga -- the genre has a history of strange and fantastic weaponry, so a 9mm or a shotgun is downright mundane in this context.
Otherwise, this fantasy world is presented in a fairly standard manner with a fairly standard cast of characters, particularly Fana who is more competent injured and in her undies than the entire Royal Guard.
Princess Orfina's country is being invaded, and though either innocence or incompetence the kind does not go out to investigate, issue any orders, or do more than worry out loud until the enemy is at the gates. By the end of volume 1, the capital city is well on its way to falling.
I didn't find the story compelling and the art is in a somewhat older style than readers may be accustomed to. It's all right, but unless volume 2 pulls out some real surprises, I doubt I would keep reading.
Orfina, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Released in the US by Viz Shojo Beat
Slugline: A teenage girl becomes a successful mangaka and gets a boyfriend raised by a shoujo writer. Seems like a Penthouse Letters version of Shojo Beat.
Rena is secretly a mangaka, and her manga is all about tawdry teenage school romances. But despite what she writes and draws about, she does not have a boyfriend herself, and her friends and her editor all suggest that her work will only become stronger if she did. Tomoya is the hottest boy in school, and when he discovers some pages of Rena's work in progress, agrees to become Rena's boyfriend so that she can research boyfriends and dating. But of course as time goes on she discoverers that she really does like him and he reveals that he was looking for a girl just like Rena, one who was passionate about something other than going out with him.
First of all, Tomoya was raised by his mangaka sister and ends up dating a mangaka? Can we say 'romantic transference' class, I know you can! Okay, all drama, irrespective of their medium have some fudge factor and need some coincidence to work, so other than the fact Tomoya starts out all perfect bishi-boy, the manga itself is pretty good. Rena's insecurities come off as real to me, as Tomoya is her first real boyfriend and in those sort of relationships someone is always wondering just what is attracting the other person in the relationship. It might also help that almost a third of the volume is not directly involving Rena and Tomoya , with a prequel short and the creator's first story also included in this volume. This is a story I think, that will rely on its second volume to determine whether or not it really holds together as we dig deeper into the characters, so I will try to keep my eye out for it and give you an update if I can.
Fall in Love Like a Comic, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Prospero's Manga does take time for us to run, and sales through this Amazon Gift Cards link or any of our other Amazon links kicks us a percentage, which helps pay for the site. So everyone wins!
Friday, December 14, 2007
Style School, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Released in the US by Broccoli Books
Natsuki has a magical box that she says has been in her family forever, but she as never been able to open it, so it wants to sell it to her good friendKeita. Imagine Keita's surprise when a 'genie' pops out of it to give him three wishes. He quickly figures out that the genie is actually a devil, and thatMaki will take his soul and kill him once he makes his three wishes. But despite that, he manages to accidentally make a wish, and thus has started a contract withMaki that cannot be broken except by his death. Needless to say, this is not a good thing from the perspective of heaven so they send an angel to make sure that the contract is not fulfilled, even if that means killingKeita themselves. Of course, since Maki is a cute yet powerful demon, she can't let her contract die on her, and so wackiness ensues.
As for the slugline, how else are you going to make a Japanese schoolboy lower his defenses and make three wishes but act all hapless and helpless? This 'innocent' act is the perfect way to getKeita to lower his defenses and make his three wishes. At which point cute little Maki will turn into a 150 ft tall being of crawling chaos and eats his soul. Well, maybe not, but it is still a good image, right? This is a fan-service filled story, but it has been portrayed in a natural way, such asMaki taking a shower. In a public fountain. They seem to flow more naturally out of the characters, rather than being contrivances of the plot. I also like the portrayal of angels here, because it hearkens back more to the original iconography of angels, where in the Bible the first words out of the angel's mouth usually was "Be not afraid" because angels were the kick ass of the Lord, as compared to the modern representation of them being more like "Touched by an Angel." So while there is a lot of the standard plug-in story elements there are also some interesting background character bits.
My Dearest Devil Princess, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Released in the US by TokyoPop
Slugline: Why is it that the dolls she makes seem to have more spine than the female protagonist?
Kotoko is in high school but she has already decided to make dolls for a living. In that pursuit, she has been inspired by the works of the reclusive doll maker Fool. But when she submits her work to a contest in which Fool is a judge, she attract his interest in the worse way. Fool has his brother (who I somehow doubt is his real brother) lure Kotoko to his home/workshop and curses her to a rather rapid death by aging her internal organs so that she sprays out blood from her mouth. That is how I always want to go through at a job interview. Fool lifts the curse in exchange for her becoming his apprentice (something that I suspect that Kotoko would have be happy to do anyways pre-blood spewing) and then tells her she has to kiss the human models for the dolls in order to capture their essence and mood, so that they can place those feelings into the doll. So in addition to being needlessly cruel, he is also an emotional vampire and grants that same ability into Kotoko.
So of course Kotoko promptly forgets the fact that Fool caused her to upchuck blood and turned her hair white and treats it as if something that was merely annoying. If she laughs this off and quickly forgives him, I hate to see what hazing is really like in Japanese high schools. The fact is, Fool for all of his supposed ability, merely captures someone essence via mystical means and puts it into a doll. We don't see him do any work, so we have no idea whether or not he has any real skill or does he rely completely on his hocus-pocus . So the reason he does not make mass market versions of his doll is that he can't replicate the process on a mass scale, not any particular desire to keep quality high. The art is nice and open, and Higashiyama is credited as a co-creator of the series tactics as an incentive for fans of that work to check this out, but I hope that all he contributes to that series is the art, for the writing and the character's motivations here is scattered all over the place and doesn't hold together.
Shinshoku Kiss, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
Released in the US by TokyoPop
Slugline: Is this a title without teenagers in high school?!? Do people that old even have romance?!?
Lou makes his living, barely, by winning drinking contests in New York City while Sunny have been abandoned by her boyfriend and has been forced to sell herself to survive, even though she is not very good at it. She goes home and sleeps with Lou in a very badly handled pickup, and when he can't pay, she stays at his place. They come to rely on each other, and when the opportunity comes up, they flee New York City and try to create a new life for themselves out in the boondocks. They manage to get jobs and start to actually become the people that their roles have demanded of them. In addition, the short 99 Roses sets up a tragic love story, then reveals it to be really a farce.
Jo Chen has gotten some good press due to her work on some of the mainstream comic titles, such as Runaways and Buffy, Season 8, and while she claims that her style here is in transition, it is still recognizable at her, just not as light as it will become. As for the title itself, I give TokyoPop points for allowing themselves to escape the endless releases of high school romances. I admit that this is not an especially original take on adult dysfunctional relationships, but it is one that is rarely seen in manga and it is well executed.
The Other Side of the Mirror, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
Friday, December 07, 2007
NOiSE is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Released in the US by TokyoPop
Slugline: A version of the Cinderella story that I haven't seen before.
The manga has been previously reviewed here.
Firiel has lived with her father, an astronomer, at the very edge of her country for her entire life. But after begging to go to the annual ball, she is gifted with a piece of dead mother's jewelry by her father. At the ball she learns that the jewelry reveals that she is the daughter of an exiled queen to be, and upon returning home she discovers that her father has left. Quickly her life falls apart, and the only person that is left that she can rely on is Rune, her father's apprentice who was left behind, and even he is quickly kidnapped by people who want her father's knowledge of the stars. She is forced to turn to her recently discovered royal cousin Adale for assistance and in exchange for Rune's safety she must take her place in the intrigues of the nobles and the royal succession.
I was not impressed at all with the manga (I would have rated it lower than Miranda did, for instance) and was preparing myself for a slog through this, but I was pleasantly surprised on how quickly the pages flew by. It is a variation of the Cinderella story, but while some of the characters start out ignorant, they are not dumb and rapidly put together evidence about their own lives. And rather than Firiel immediately starting on the path of the throne, she is intelligent enough to not reach for that, and support someone who is better qualified. If anything Rune, the smarter of the two, does not have a surfeit of common sense considering their situation. There are fudges, people who are nice for no other reason that it makes it easier for the story to flow, but it is not presented out of nowhere or a radical change, merely the defaultpersonalities when characters are introduced. And wildly implausible and spur of the moment rescue plans are handled appropriately, and not everything goes according to plan, so that these small injections of reality help ground the story.
Good Witch of the West, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Released in the US by CMX Manga
Slugline: You know that feeling when you get that you have a target on your back? Sometimes that is a really big target.
Disclaimer: I also work in the hobby gaming industry, so perhaps I have a little bit of a soft spot for this.
Manami has been convinced by her cousin to try out the card game Chaos, so she begins with a starter deck. She has the good and bad fortune of pulling the rarest card of the game, Sahgan the Sorcerer, in her starter deck. That immediately puts a target on her, since virtually no one has even seen the card, so people in the gaming community start offering to trade for the card and challenging her to games, with Sahgan as the prize. Some of her competitors become friends and some remain her enemies, but she manages to keep her card, for in her dreams she receives guidance from it.
I have some sympathy for the main character here. In another uncomfortable hint on just how old I am, back when Magic: the Gathering first came out, I bought a starter and some boosters. Played a couple times, then the Magic frenzy hit, and I put away my deck because no one would just play. Fast forward a few years and I take out my deck to play a couple friendly games, and everyone in the store wanted to start trading for my black-bordered Beta printing Magic cards. Those friendly games didn't stay friendly for long as everyone started to want playing me for ante. Of course, King of Cards ramps that up to the nth degree. There is the fudge factor that Manami is not naturally talented but rather relies on dreams that Sahgan sends here in order to win, but that is still better than the Yu-Gi-Oh! GX vol. 1 I reviewed a while back, where it seemed that main character's ability relied solely on his ability to draw the right card at the right time. As far as I know, there is no Chaos game, but the rules seem simple enough that one doesn't have to be a card game master to understand the various strategies. The concept of respecting your cards shows a little bit of naivety, because that sort of emotional connection to your deck very rarely happens. But with clean art style helps compensate for some the simplistic story elements, and while I don't find this title particularly awe-inspiring, it was an entertaining read.
King of Cards, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
To check out our earlier reviews of Trinity Blood, you can click here for Miranda's review of vol. 1 and here for the link to Ferdinand's review at CBGXtra. Also, here is a review of Trinity Blood: Return on the Mars, vol. 1 The Star of Sorrow.
By the end of v.3, signs of the larger plot and the factions involved are emerging. Some are more interesting than others, but on the whole they are keeping me involved in the series. On the down side, the arrival of some visually complicated opponents means that the action sequences require careful reading. Also on the down side, all Sister Esther has to do to get called "exceptional" is not be totally useless. But still, Trinity Blood will stay on my short list for the time being.
Trinity Blood vol. 2 and vol. 3 are both available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Released in the US by TokyoPop
Slugline: Amphibians make lousy invading hordes. Unless you live in Australia.
This Ultimate edition has the first three volumes of the original series packaged together.
The Hinata family has managed to accidentally capture an alien invader. Which wasn't too difficult, since they are two feet tall frogs with advanced technology and a love for Gundam action kits. Wackiness ensues.
If there was anything ever made to be turned into an anime, this was it. An episodic structure, simple clean lines, super competent kids with comically over the top impulse control issues, hapless aliens and random rich folks and evil geniuses to make any impossible situation or item possible. And while it is rated 13+, considering today's environment, it would not be jarring for most kids a few years younger. Though if Sgt. Keroro was among the best Sergeants that his world has to offer, well, I think they don't conquer that many planets. Or that his proclamation of being an alien invader is all in his own mind and that he and his platoon was left behind at the first sign of trouble, because who wouldn't want to find any excuse to leave these guys behind? It is competently written, but it is not very exciting, and it relies a lot on telling us stuff and using many of the cliches of manga and anime. And when that well runs dry, they start pulling MacGuffin plot devices, a 'magical' alien ray or device that is used once, never seen again and is mostly used for comic effect. I think I about hit my limit with this collection. I suspect that if I read much more of this, the rating will start dropping.
Sgt. Frog, Ultimate Edition, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.