Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No Posting on New Year's Day

Behold, another holiday on a post day. Miranda and I will be recovering from... something (haven't worked out the fine details yet) so there will be no posting.

Have a good holiday!


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

St. Dragon Girl, vol. 1

Story and Art by Natsumi Matsumoto
Released in the US by Viz

Slugline: Every good town has to have a teenage demon removal service...

Momoka is a hard charging kenpo student, daughter of the master of a martial arts school, whose childhood friend Ryuga Kou is a Chinese sorcerer who often deals with the demons that plague their town. Momoka is secretly in love with Ryuga, well, not so secretly. Apparently everyone in town, including Ryuga, is fully aware of it but she refuses to acknowledge it. Even when Ryuga gets in over his head with a demon and is forced to summon a dragon to possess him, Momoka insists that rushing in to take the blast of magical energies herself is just a show of friendship. Still, that means that she is possessed by the dragon and when the dragon is not bound, she can be very powerful. That can attract all sorts of attention from demons that Ryuga has to help her with, and with her dragon derived powers she can help him with his own duties chasing down demons.

Reasonably okay story, but there is no romantic tension at all here. She knows she loves him, he knows she loves him, the neighbors down the street know that she loves him, and while he hasn't said anything (typical boy) it is pretty clear he is at least fond of her and there are no obstacles in their way. That is all that is needed for true love nowadays in most manga, so what is the point of dragging it out any further? True, he binds her dragon powers for no readily apparent reason so that he controls whether or not she is powerful, but when is that ever a problem in manga? Sure, most real people would have problems being forcibly constrained in such a way, but as manga misogyny goes, that is relatively mild. But those two in combination, and the lack of anything really interesting going in the plots, drags this title down to two stars.

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


Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Break

Miranda and I will be traveling for Christmas, reassuring our respective families that anime and manga have not completely taken over our lives, so posting would bust our cover stories. Regular reviews and posting will resume on Dec. 30th!

Have a great Christmas!

-Ferdinand and Miranda

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pokémon: Pokémon Ranger and the Temple of the Sea

Story and Art by Makoto Mizobuchi
Released in the US by VizKids

Slugline: Exactly like a TV episode, and that is not a compliment.

This volume is a Pokémon single episode dragged out to fill a single manga volume. Ash gets to save the day, Brock gets to moon over a pretty girl, a new Pokémon is introduced but does not become a repeating member of the cast and there is a fantastic setting (in this cast the Temple of the Sea) that we will never see again. Of course, the cast will make some new friends and old enemies reappear. Change out the name of the Pokémon that is the focus of the volume and it's specific native environment, and I swear it is over a half dozen of Pokémon episodes that I have accidentally watched over the years. No new revelations or interesting story bits are readily apparent from my reading, though I suppose that if you are a Pokémon aficionado there may be some hidden importance over the appearance of the Pokémon Ranger or something along those lines. I was just bored for most of it, with the only reason it didn't get a lower rating is because the story didn't screw up what little it was trying to accomplish. That was because it was trying to accomplish so very, very little. This is for very young Pokémon fans who somehow haven't already watched every episode ever made.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

J-Pop Idol, vol. 1

Story by Millenni+M with Art by Toko Yashiro
Released in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: Do Idol producers pay manga publishers to keep on churning out idol manga, I wonder?

The three person band No Escape wins a singing contest but only Mika is offered a music contract. Naomi is understanding about the snub but the third member of the band Kay is furious. Mika is torn over whether to accept the offer but one of her idols from her youth (all of two years ago) Ken agrees to be her manager and gives the requisite pep talk to become a star. Ken prepares Mika for her debut over a year's time, with Mika and Ken drawing closing together over that time. But Ken keeps everyone at a distance because he is sick but unwilling to take his medication because it's side effects include hearing loss and thus possibly robbing him of his music. By at the end of volume Kay is thinking of ways to complicate Mika's life.

Idol manga are a dime a dozen, well not literally (not even on EBay) but it certainly feels like it sometimes. The idea of skipping over the year or so preparation of Mika's debut is actually a useful conceit. It allows for Mika's love for Ken to grow offstage in a believable manner. Usually it happens on panel and I always snort in disbelief when it is shown that treating a woman rudely and in a high-handed manner will get them to fall in love with you. By pushing it off-panel and giving it a year, it can just be taken as given rather than dissecting the emotion growth at it's most vulnerable stage. Despite the early tension between Mika and Kay, it is overlooked for most of the volume, with Naomi drifting into the background. So despite the occasional interesting touch, there is little here beyond the standard idol manga.

J-Pop Idol, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kyo Kara MAOH!, vol. 1

Temari Matsumoto with Original Story by Tomo Takabayashi
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: Smart kid. The first thing out of his mouth after traveling between worlds was were was the princess he needed to rescue.

The toilet must represent some deep repressed fear, for once again a hapless guy is transported to another world through one. YuriShibuya meets up with angry human villagers but it is rescued from representatives from his kingdom. Yes, his kingdom, for rather than being brought to this new world to confront an ancient evil or rescue a princess, he has been brought there to be a king. Which doesn't sound so bad until he is told that it is a kingdom of demons (who look just like humans) that has been waiting for their reincarnated king (that's him) to lead them against the humans and wipe them out. Thatis not the worse of it, since Yuri manages to trample all over local traditions and gets engaged and agrees to a duel to the same person with five minutes of each other.

First of all, the yaoi subplot that is mentioned in all of the descriptions of the title is something very minor in the first volume. You may breathe a sign of relief or disappointment as necessary. This is a fairly standard 'welcome to a strange new world' story with a couple of minor twists to keep it out of the ruts that trap many other stories of a similar type. Though I wonder if the baseball references in the original version were for Japanese rather than American teams. I wish the difference between humans and demons was clearer, so that the conflict between them would be more understandable. Hopefully that will be something that changes in the later volumes but a solid foundation has already been build with some small interesting feature, it just needs something more to be truly exciting.

Kyo Kara MAOH!, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

500 manga volumes!

With today's review, we at Prospero's Manga have reviewed 500 manga volumes. Now, some reviews have dealt with multiple volumes, so that is why we have yet to hit 500 reviews, but it still a lot of reading and reviews!



Story and Art by Akira Toriyama
Released in the US by Viz

Slugline: A main character that is half vampire/were-koala? What does he eat, the juice of a Eucalyptus tree?

Paifu is a half vampire/were-koala that lives in the isolated village of Batwing Ridge, where humans and monsters live together far from the intolerance of the big cities. But all of the kid monsters are afraid of the human that lives on the outskirts of town, Murayama. It turns out that there is a reason that everyone in town avoids Murayama, he was once a sumo wrestler who accidentally killed a competitor in the ring. So despite being called the Volcano and having been famous for being really strong, Murayama exiled himself to Batwing Ridge and even there had little to do with the rest of the village. But when an epidemic of monster flu starts to spread through the village, Paifu convinces Murayama to go with him to get the cure from the witch. Paifu bends the truth a bit along the way, Murayama learns a bit about himself and others, and all have a grand time rescuing the village.

Akira Toriyama is better know for the Dragon Ball saga (reviews here), but here he turns in a perfectly balanced one volume story. Everything here has some meaning and both Paifu and Murayama change and improve themselves and both are forced to stretch themselves. Even the fights are well choreographed, not at all over the top or confusing as it was sometimes with DragonBall, but is still not too intense for the kids that are presumably the audience for this all ages title. It even has a sense of sly, self-aware humor that is funny without ruining the story's illusions. This shows an Akira Toriyama as a creator to be reckoned with, far better than the one that did the early volumes of the DragonBall saga.

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


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Mao-Chan, vol. 1

Story by Ken Akamatsu with Art by Ran
Released in the US by Del Rey

Slugline: Cuteness as a weapon of mass destruction.

Aliens are attacking the Earth and stealing our monuments, but the traditional military are helpless in the face of the alien threat because the creatures they send are so cute. Apparently the public would not stand carpet bomb big eyed critters stealing our stuff, so instead Japan uses excessively cute prepubescent girls to combat the alien menace. The story is both better and worse than that brief description would imply. It is everything you expect, being excessively cute, characters that use 'cute' phrases, weapons that deal with ouchies rather than city leveling devastation and so on. But the actual storytelling itself is rather deft. Things are foreshadowed, clever story structures (considering the genre) are used and all the characters have moments in the sun, even if the characters themselves are just cliches. Oddly enough, this is rated as a 16+ title, but the cuteness factor and the characters' youth make me think it is intended for a younger audience. Maybe it is the bunny outfits or there is some nudity in a later volume. But this first volume is an example of storytelling winning over both the characters and the plot.

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


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, vol. 1

Story and Art by Akira Himekawa
Released in the US by Viz

Slugline: A quest manga that doesn't stop to smell the roses

Link lives in the forest under the protection of the living tree Deku, but when Deku comes under attack, Link saves the forest and learns that he has to go out into the world to fulfill the mission that Deku gives him with his dying breath (or whatever trees do.) Link meets Princess Zelda after leaving the forest and learns that he needs to collect three jewels. After collecting the three jewels, making friends along the way, he returns to see Zelda to become a Hero. When getting the Hero's magic sword, Link is put to sleep for seven years so that he will be old enough to wield it effectively. In the intervening time the evil has spread and now a young man, Link has to now free five temples. In his travels he encounters many of the same character that he did seven years previously, and by the end of the first volume he is already halfway through his search for the temples.

This almost read like a collection of traditional comics, in that each chapter tells a complete part of the overall story. The plot does not linger, with each chapter advancing the story. Normally I would have expected by the end of the first book that Link maybe would have retrieved the second jewel, rather than already be on his second quest. Maybe the quick chapter are part of it's legacy as a computer game or since this rated an all ages book, a deliberate choice in order to appeal to younger readers. Other than this willingness to buck manga convention, the story is a pretty standard “quest for the X number of magic items to save the world!” For adults, it is rather shallow but the title has been optimized for younger readers and will probably enjoy the title more.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga