Thursday, May 31, 2007

Princess Resurrection, v.1

By Yasunori Mitsunaga
Published in the U.S. by Del Rey Manga

Slugline: The children of the night... they make such beautiful music... (chainsaw revving up).

The cover may be trying to pass this off as a horror, but it's a comedy. It's honest about the chainsaw, though; Hime ("Princess") does seem to favor the chainsaw over the rapier. She has recently added Hiro, a classically clueless abuse magnet, to her stable of servants, and keeps him alive and useful by feeding him her blood. We also have a classically clueless older sister to Hiro as a housemaid and a classic chibi sidekick/superstrong robot/only-says-one-word girl. Plus a half-werewolf angry-and-violent-stereotype girl who will be the backup asskicker for the series.

They're not the most original group of characters. And the storyline is not shaping up to be too unusual either - Hime and her siblings are trying to kill each other, and I'm sure we'll be regaled with stories of mutual trauma soon enough. And sadly, the artist had a lapse of physical plausibility when Hime delivered a strong upward slash to an enemy standing in front of her and the next frame depicted the rapier stuck through his forehead. Skewered upward through his chin, I would have bought, but I'm sorry. Yes, I am picky.

Still, it's got chainsaws, and that counts for something around here.

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

- Miranda

Platina, v. 1

By Yeon Joo Kim
Published in the U.S. by CPM Manhwa

Slugline: I am not sure that there is a story here, but it is amusing to read.

Auna was a rich girl whose family lost everything, and was forced to work for the government and her kingdom's demanding princess to maintain the old family home which was foreclosed on. The Princess gives Auna a fox cub, who promptly turns into a boy thief with a mother complex that defies easy description. Needless to say, the transformations from fox cub to boy and back again, are half of the humor of the book. All of the characters have hidden depths, but it is hard to actually pick out a coherent storyline here. We have secret pasts, but also an awareness that they are in a manhwa since they reference things that they know will not happen until the next chapter. Evil background characters are evil because they are in the background, and they know it. But hidden in the midst of all this frivolity there are the character's secret pasts. And what the hell is the Princess up to? Is she supposed to be a sympathetic character or not?

So as long as you don't mind being purposefully confused and seeing the structure of the story laid bare to you, this is a pretty good read. I rank it above stories that are confused because the author thinks that is the best way to be mysterious, or the author just can't tell the story coherently, which are sins of commission, whereas I think the omissions here are very purposeful.

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

- Ferdinand

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Series Update: Basilisk 4 & 5


The series wraps up in volume 5, after much bloodshed, much anguish, and some really bizarre death scenes. I haven't mentioned Segawa-sama's lovely artwork, which makes his women look soft and lush even while they're dishing out the pain. Needless to say, this war of attrition between superpowered ninjas comes to a very Japanese ending (or Shakespearian tragedy, if you prefer) and in the end, despite some serious contenders, I have to give the award for Most Bizarre "Ninja Technique" to the superpowered nose hairs. Yes, you read that right.

Links to reviews of v. 1, v. 2 & 3

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

- Miranda

King of Thorn, v. 1

Created by Yuji Iwahara
Published in the U.S. by TokyoPop

Slugline: A good zombie movie, probably because it has no zombies.

The Medusa virus is sweeping the world, painfully turning its victims into chalky statues after a incubation period of weeks. Without a cure, one sibling of a twin sister set, Kasumi, wins a lottery to be put into suspended animation until a cure is found. After an unknown amount of time, she along with a number of the other lottery winners awaken to discover that their animation center is now overgrown with vines, and there are unknown creatures right outside the chamber waiting to eat them. Kasumi, the shyer of the twins, is left wondering why she was spared, what happened to the world, and how long she has left until the Medusa virus claims her and the rest of the survivors. Tensions among the small group that manages to escape, for the time being, only rise.

This is a horror title that feels very reminiscent, but still different from, of the isolation and paranoia of the best zombie movies. But instead of the infected losing their identity to become just another zombie, here, the Medusa virus strips everything but their identity away, leaving a statue. The shy Kasumi has to find meaning in herself, no longer relying directly on her sister, to make her way in a strange world that is familiar like a badly remembered echo.

Not sure if the later volumes will keep up with this book's quality, but for setting up a situation and immediately placing characters into jeopardy, this book is very good. In addition, this is second book we have reviewed here on Prospero's Manga from Yuji Iwahara, the first being Chikyu Misaki released by CMX, but now I am going to look forward and for any other works by this creator.

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

- Ferdinand

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Love Pistols, v.1

By Tarako Kotobuki
Published in the U.S. by Blu

Slugline: Monkeys and leopards and bears, oh my! Let's get it on!

Norio turns out to be a special critter in a previously unknown world of spirit-critters and he spends most of his time freaking out amusingly while various giant-shouldered guys hit on him. It comes down to two guys, quickly, and my one complaint is that the guy who's trying to be nice about seducing Norio is obviously losing out to the one who's being an ass about it. I've never bought the whole "jerks are sexier than nice guys" thing, personally.

But for a yaoi, this story contains an unusual amount of world-building to explain these alternatively evolved human-animal-spirit beings amung us -- which I like, because porn deserves just as much effort as any other story, in my opinion. It goes a long way toward making the "must breed! don't care if it's male!" situation feel less contrived. Plus, it's a good excuse for people to turn into animals.

There's a parallel story about another romance in development, one that will take more work and may be more interesting in the long run. In the meantime, everyone's fantasizing about hot, non-explicit monkey sex (kinda literally) and I'm sure we'll get around to the real thing eventually.

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

- Miranda

My Heavenly Hockey Club, v. 1

Created by Ai Morinaga
Published in the U.S. by DelRey Manga

Slugline: For once, the boy and the girl are both incredibly ludicrous.

Hana has worked long and hard to get into a prestigious local school. But for once it was not to prove something to her parents or to meet up with a cute guy that she had a crush on ever since she was a small child. No, she wants to sleep in, and the closest school just happened to have the hardest standards. But on the way there, she is accidentally hit by the car of one of the most powerful students at the school, Izumi, who decides upon meeting her that her indestructibility would be useful to have around in the Hockey Club. A club of course, that doesn't know how to play hockey, but they do go very far during away games, stay at nice resorts and indulge in food. All of which seems to be ideal to Hana, but unfortunately the morning practices involve learning which end of the stick is up and mean that she has ended up not getting any extra sleep. And despite all of their practice they never actually get to play a game, despite their best efforts to at least end up on the field to play.

Do Izumi and Hana have something going on between them? Yes, but it's overshadowed by the fact that their obsessions blind them to, well, reality. Usually one of the main characters in a manga is the voice of sanity or reason, but fortunately here that character seems to be relegated to a minor supporting role so he is easily ignored. It is the story's fidelity in taking itself not very seriously, but never pushing the characters in areas of insanity, that walks a fine line. Why the characters do crazy things is never unbelievable, but what they do they is. Despite being over-the-top, I still felt that the characters were real. The subject of the story is fluff, nothing out of the ordinary and one may even say it is less important than most other such stories, but the writing is such that you never really notice that the story is really about nothing. Well, less than the nothing that most relationship manga seem to fall into.

My Heavenly Hockey Club, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Crossroad, v.1

by Shioko Mizuki
Published in the U.S. by Go!comi

Slugline: "Blended" families are unusual, in Japan, and here we see a little of why.

In the US, the scenario would be sad but not strange at all: three kids were dropped off at various times at Grandma's house after their footloose mom fell in and out with various men. They go their separate ways, but are drawn back together by Grandma's death -- including Mom, who ditches yet another child with them and takes off for parts unknown.

Ranging from the 20-year-old, delivery-man eldest brother to the newest, elementary schoolgirl sister, they decide to make a go at being a family. The standard-issue transfer-student dramas and the teens awkwardly attracted to each other are well and humerously written, but it's the mundane problems of getting a place to live, getting themselves into school at all, that make this title stand out. In many shojo, these things are glossed over or handled by grown-ups, if they are even mentioned at all. As a grown up who has to worry about these things, I find it fascinating to see how it's done in Japan. And since our heroine is just a teenager, she's learning the ropes right along with us.

This title was first published in the U.S. in 2003, but it's worth looking for.

We have also reviewed
Crossroad vols. 2 & 3 and Crossroad vols. 4-7.

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

- Miranda

May vacation, 2007

We will be away on vacation, so no posts on May 15th, 17th and probably not on the 22nd either. Enjoy!

Grand Theft Galaxy, v.1

Written by Tricia Riley Hale, Illustrated by Jim Roy N. Jimenez
Published by TokyoPop

Slugline: "Intergalactic gentleman thieves" is not a good thing to put down on your pre-law application undr "parents' occupation."

A college student (at last, a college student, as compared to a high school student) is finally the lead in an OEL. True, how it is treated in the manga is not much different from high school, but I will take my little victories where I can. Samantha is an exceedingly and proudly normal girl just trying to get into pre-law when she discovers that her parents are actually intergalactic thieves of the first order, and that some detectives with rather big, planet-busting weapons are going to blow up the planet Earth unless they get a cube that Samantha's parents can't remember stealing and don't know where it is. Samantha, if she wants her romantic date with her boyfriend to ever happen, needs to save the planet.

The is a nice action fluff. Even the destruction of the planet is treated rather lightly, with the sort of over-the-top humor and action that one would expect from a Teenagers From Outer Space story (a classic RPG.) Good art, fun action, but nothing that will probably stick out of my mind after a couple of days. Not saying it is bad, but it is not going to be in the same place in my library as Earthlight is, a title that I remember more of now than I do from Grand Theft Galaxy which I read just a couple hours ago.

And no, this has nothing to do with the
Grand Theft Auto series.

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

- Ferdinand

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Lovers in the Night

by Fumi Yoshinaga
Published in the U.S. by Blu

Slugline: There's just something about frilly shirts and yaoi, isn't there...

Like Yoshinaga's Gerard & Jaques, this collection of short stories is set in Revolution-era France and involves a master and butler relationship. Of the two, I would say Lovers in the Night is more developed and rings true -- the repartee is wittier, there's good back story, and even if Antoine is sometimes clueless as only a pampered aristocrat can be, he isn't nasty.

Set partly in Versaille and partly in German exile, there is a slight attempt at tension over Antoine and Claude's feelings for each other, but it's not like there's any real doubt. As a slice of "upstairs-downstairs" life, it never really addresses the differences between server and served. The story glides mainly on dialog, character, and a bit of porn (which is much better integrated into the story here than it was in Gerard & Jaques.)

Lovers in the Night is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

Warriors: The Lost Warrior, v. 1

Created by Erin Hunter, Written by Dan Jolley and art by James L. Barry
Published by TokyoPop

Slugline: When in doubt, assume your cat is plotting escape and your downfall, in that order.

I have heard that Warriors is a popular young adult series, with something like 12+ books released since 2003. But fortunately this book explains everything you need to know about the world of Warriors without having to read the whole series, and not in a boring, infodumpy way. Graystripe is a warrior of a clan of cats who, in the effort of freeing them, is captured himself and ends up in a human home. He suffers a crisis of faith, so to speak, but thanks to his dreams of the passed-on cats of his clan, and a local pet cat named Millie, he begins the trip that will hopefully reunite him with his clan.

This is a nice, solid piece of story. It is whole upon itself, it has both internal and external struggles, along with a love interest. It is nothing specutular, once you get it is about the story of a cat trapped in the world of man, but it works. I get the feeling that Graystripe is an older cat, almost world-weary but still willing to shoulder his burden of being a provider and defender of his extended family. There are some tantalizing hints about the rest of the world of Warriors, which I am sure will please fans of the series. I find myself particularly driven to find out more about them since we have three cats, so I'm feeling a need to understand what is going on in their minds and make sure that they don't kill me in my sleep. The art is okay, nothing too exicting, but I never got confused over which cat is which, which a nice touch.

Warriors: The Lost Warrior vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Series Update: OldBoy 2 & 3


In the original review, I mostly talked about the movie version of this story. To give the manga a fair shake, it's well written and drawn, but it's still slow-paced (even for a manga) and our hero's revenge still depends entirely on those he is pursuing. He hasn't become proactive, yet.

Goto, our hero, pursues his revenge with great deliberation, and it's only when the enemy reaches out to contact him that things start happening. The artist also spends a great deal of time -- too much, actually -- establishing the mood and the surroundings and how many cigarettes everyone is smoking. I think I'll stick with the movie, mean-spirited as it was.

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

- Miranda

Rhysmyth, v. 1

Story by Anthony Andora with Art by Lincy Chan
Published by TokyoPop

Slugline: The best sign that the fans have taken over the kingdom is when they start writing about the fan-intensive stuff.

I have to admit a cardinal sin. Despite being in the prime demographics of my life, I have never owned a Nintendo, PS2, XboX, or even an Atari for that matter. It was a matter of acknowledging my sucky hand-eye coordination and the fact that I would spend time I didn't have in the fruitless pursuit of improving it. So my appreciation of Dance Dance Revolution is at best an cerebral one. But now here is a manga about a souped-up version of it. If that isn't a sign that we have arrived, nothing else is.

But once you strip out the DDR, all that is left is another underdog sports story, which in the first volume doesn't seem to move forward much and not much out of the ordinary happens. Elena can't get into any sports even though she clearly shows grace under pressure, a grace that she somehow has never shown before despite numerous chances and attempts on her part. There is the queen bee of the school putting her down, the jealous guy, the dark and mysterious guy, the wise sensei, and so on. All of the components are there, but they are not meshing together well. Maybe I have just read one too many sports manga recently, but other than the DDR aspect, I felt a little jaded by it, and since I don't play DDR, that failed to excite me.

So maybe for some fans this is exactly what they are looking for. I feel it needs something more.

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

- Ferdinand

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Shugo Chara, v. 1

by Peach Pit
Published in the U.S. by Del Rey Manga

Slugline: Amu recieves not one, not two but count'em
three guardian character eggs, simply by wishing for them. Nothing unusual about that, is there?

Well, of course it's unusual. Who'd read a manga about
a girl with just one guardian character, like everyone else?

And not only does she get three guardian characters who
can power her up (complete with costume change), they're an athelete archetype, an artist and a domestic goddess. I suppose that's as feminist as we're going to get in a Japanese elementary-school drama. Amu's new alternate personalities qualify her for the elite cliques of private elementary school politics and guardianship -- yes, this story is a direct descendant of Revolutionary Girl Utena, and I'll admit it could be worse.

While there are a lot of typical magical girl elements
in the story, some of the characters show signs of growing beyond their initial impression. The art is a bit better than your average tweener shojo and while the artist's chibis are roughly sketched, they are used quite effectively to convey shock and anger.

There are, of course, also overtures of romance. I'm not quite sure that I believe they've cured boy-
cooties in fourth and fifth graders yet, but this is Japan. Who knows?

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

- Miranda

Gothic Sports, v. 1

By Anike Hage
Published in U.S. by TokyoPop

Slugline: For a German title called Gothic Sports, I
expected more pillaging and violence on the field.

More evidence that the manga phenomenon is worldwide: this title was an OGL (Original German Language) mangaput out by TokyoPop Germany. I had seen the title and some cover art pieces, but even with little information I was looking forward to this series just from the title. It immediately conjured up images and a style that, while it is part of this manga, was nowhere near as strong or as important as I hoped.

In fact, in this first volume there is little to tell you that this was first released in Germany. Perhaps that's proof of the saying that there are no new stories, so far as this story is unfolding much like other sports stories do. There is the plucky new girl at school, Anya who wants to be on any sports team she can get on, the mysterious boy Leon from her past who wants to be on her team, and the school's already-existing soccer team that doesn't want any girls on it for fear it would harm their chances of winning.

There are a couple of character mysteries, such as why
Anya is so desperate to go to school and be on a sports team despite not having any sport in particular in mind, Leon's role, and what is the deal with Delia, a member of the basketball team. But the reason the series is called Gothic Sports is because in order to attract attention the team wears Gothic-Lolita inspired uniforms. Funny, but I thought the Gothic connection would run deeper than that. This is not a particularly bad series, but I think it is missing opportunities by being, for the current volume at least, just another inspirational sports manga.

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

- Ferdinand