Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Deathnote, v. 1 - 6

Story by Tsugumi Ohba, art by Takeshi Obata
Published in the U.S. by Viz

Slugline: It's simple: write someone's name in the Deathnote and they die. Getting away with it is the tricky part.

I know, Deathnote is old news and everybody loves it already, but this review is for everybody who hasn't tried it yet. I only just started it, myself.

It took me five volumes to think to myself that normally, this amount of dense exposition would be godawfully boring to slog through. With how short my attention span has gotten from reviewing manga, that should tell you something right there. The dialog is packed with information. There's not a lot of action. The plot is Byzantine, to say the least. The artwork is good but not what I'd call fabulous. And it's got a few blazingly unique characters.

The only thing I can think of that might turn readers off is the complexity, in fact, but everybody's actions are well documented beforehand -- which in itself ought to be godawfully boring, too. How is the writer getting away with this?

I think I'll need to read all 83 (or whatever) volumes to get to the bottom of it.

Check out our review of Deathnote vols. 7-10 also on Prospero's Manga

Death Note vol. 1, vol. 2, vol. 3, vol. 4, vol. 5 and vol. 6 are all available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

Time Guardian, v. 1

By Daimuro Kishi and Tamao Ichinose
Released in the U.S. by CMX

Slugline: There is no manga that could not improved by a monkey. A monkey’s paw, that is.

Miu, a girl who always seems to be late, by fiddling her watch while trying to get ahead of things manages to finds a curious little shop. The proprietor Kusaka calls it a pawnshop for time: by placing a precious memory as collateral, you can borrow time from your future in order to accomplish what needs to be done now. Though Miu has no need for it (despite appearances to the contrary) apparently one of the clocks of the pawnshop has selected her as the Go-Between, and her role is to guide the people who are borrowing time in a direction that is ‘just.’ Miu is one of those typical spunky girls, and has a mild infatuation with Kusaka, so she takes to the role, helping a sick girl have the perfect date, a pop idol reconcile with her father, and helping a fellow student confront his parents and tell them of his true love.

At first I was thinking that there was going to be a monkey’s paw aspect to this story, as in the gift that will turnaround and bite you. While Kusaka is very mercenary in his choices, he seems to be following both the letter and spirit of his agreements. At first I was little down on this story, for while it is okay it doesn’t exactly sizzle, and none of the characters exactly leap off the page and are immediately interesting.But then I saw that this is rated for E for Everyone, and got it.There is nothing here that is offensive, and the story is not too challenging but still has goals -- just not for Miu, at least not yet.It also explains the use of the talking frog Ginzo, whose purpose I didn’t immediately get but who serves as a foil to Kusaka to fully bring out his thinking.So I think this is a good intro-level or early reader manga title, while someone who has read a few, or is just more sardonic, may find it a little slow.

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

- Ferdinand

Monday, June 25, 2007

Right Stuf and referrals

We had one comment, and a couple emails about this, so I thought I would lay things out.

Yes, we do get referral fees from both Right Stuf and Amazon, along with all the Google Ads.

No, we have not become rich. I don't even think we have earned more than $20 from all sources of revenue from Prospero's Manga.

That being said, we are currently not thinking of shutting Prospero's Manga down, but I hope you can understand that the site can be time sink, and sometimes we have to prioritize our time with the stuff that pays.

Yes, Right Stuf does gives us a better referral fee than Amazon, and anything you find via both the links and our link to the search page (right column, just under the Pocky ads and above the ratings/genre listing) gets credited to our account.

That seem reasonable and fair?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Oh My Goddess!, v. 1

by Kosuke Fujishima
Released in the U.S. by Dark Horse

Slugline: If you haven't already heard about Oh My Goddess, reading a slugline isn't going to help.

Let me you tell you a tale. Way back in the year 1994, when there was nary a single manga in ye ole bookstore, back before people had the book larnin' to read right to left, there was a small little title called Oh My Goddess...

Sorry, I just can't keep that going and I suspect what I have already written is bad enough. Oh My Goddess is one of the grand dames of US manga publication, and here it is presented in its original format. Initial print runs of the title were flipped, but this reprint brings it back to its original orientation and includes several color pages that were left out of previous versions released in the US. The basic story is almost universally well known in anime/manga fandom: the lovable loser Keiichi dials the wrong phone number and the goddess Belldandy appears to make his wish come true. For the more experienced manga readers, reading the first volume may illuminate the roots of all harem comedies (except without the full harem as of yet) -- but that feeling comes not from copying the other comedies, but instead this being one of the parents of that genre.

That being said, how is it as itself, rather than as the vanguard of the entire manga boom? I have to admit, the first volume does show its age. The art style is starting to look old-fashioned (these pages were first drawn in the late 80s) so readers expecting something something else will be disappointed. These are mostly standalone stories that don't quite link together right and you can see the seams between them. That is the downside of its age -- most people have seen the other versions of the story in anime, so they were introduced to the stories in their most finished form, while here it is still raw. So while it is put together well, it is not up to the standards that many people are expecting out of more current titles that are being licensed, which I hope explains my less than stellar rating for the title.

- Ferdinand

Series Update: Kuro Gane 4 & 5


Volume 5 ends the series, and this is still a series of individual adventures with some recurring characters and a lot of recurring themes. I hadn't realized that yakuza, moneylenders and vengeance-driven youngsters were so thick on the ground in 19th-century Japan. Jintetsu doesn't seem to have made a dent in their numbers, despite his efforts.

I would average the series out at two and a half stars -- some interesting elements, more predictable elements, and characters who are not very unusual for this genre.

- Miranda

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Right Stuf links

I originally added the Right Stuf sales links for items that were not sold through Amazon (mostly the adult titles) but then started adding them to all entries to give people more choice. However, so few people have used them I am thinking of no longer including them for all entries, and just put them as needed.

So do readers have any thoughts about this? Email or comment here if you want to keep the Right Stuf links around...

Gunsmith Cats Burst, v.1

by Kenichi Sonoda
Published in the U.S. by Dark Horse Manga

Slugline: A follow-up to the original Gunsmith Cats, this series puts the girls back in action.

This volume contains a few very short stories and a longer story that only gets more and more complicated as it goes. I'm not sure whether the author expects us to know the characters already (I managed to miss both the anime and manga Gunsmith Cats) or if he just has not burdened them with a lot of personality, but I didn't find Rally or Minnie May terribly interesting.

The short stories were light and amusing and even the detailed gun-describing episode was interesting (then again, I've been known to find Punisher's equipment issues "interesting" -- though I'm not a gun nut at all.) The longer story was, however, increasingly tedious though I will give points for a more accurate portrayal of America than I've seen in other manga. The gun-toting granny was fun and the story has its good points, but on the whole it failed to grab me.

Fans of the Cats shouldn't let me stop them from trying Burst, of course. But if you're new to it, like me, this isn't the best place to start... try to find the original anime instead, it has a good reputation from what I hear.

- Miranda

Eden: It's an Endless World, v. 1

By Hiroki Endo
Released in the U.S. by Dark Horse Manga

Slugline: Ho-hum, just another post-apocalyptic disease ridden future with killer robots. How sad is that?

Eden is a rarity nowadays: a post-apocalyptic future that was wiped out by a plague that did not turn everyone into zombies. Instead it is more about what the people that survive the aftermath of an apocalypse, admittedly one that leaves the survivors relatively intact (dying of radiation disease is not very conducive for anything but a story about a slow slide into death.) (Hey, On The Beach pulled it off -- Miranda) There is a lot of dime-store philosophy, but I am not sure if I buy it. Plus there seem to be two completely different stories going on here, centered on different children of the same man (I think.) However, the stories are told consecutively rather than being intermingled so that they could play off each other. But this jump between characters makes me wonder how much the stories are separated by time, because a robot is in both of them and I am not sure if it is the same robot or different ones. That uncertainty is not entertaining, actually, it's just confusing. Plus the big bad of the series is an organization that apparently is trying to take over the world -- what remains of it -- but for the moment it exists just as a name, nothing more. Mysterious, without having a point to it.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Trinity Blood, vol. 1

As some of you may know, I also do reviews for the Comic Buyer's Guide over on their own website. Their format is a little different from what we use here, they have a 4 star system as compared our five star system, and the focus is on titles that would appeal to the readers of traditional western comics, but I thought it would be easier if I just directly linked them from here.

First up, a review of Trinity Blood, vol. 1

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


Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Twelve Kingdoms, Sea of Shadows

Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow
Written by Fuyumi Ono
Released in the U.S. by TokyoPop

Slugline: Even in Japan, the books are better than movies/anime

Yoko was the stereotypical good girl, desperately working too hard just to be like everyone else in her high school and fulfill everyone else's expectations of her, but she is swept out of this world and into the Twelve Kingdoms, with demons, flying tigers (I wonder if that is some sort of joke on the WW2 US flying unit in China) and green monkey swords. This is what the anime is based on, and you can see the hasty joints of the work where it broken apart in order for it to work in the anime format.

Because the story is basically about Yoko's journey, a solitary one, in which she first discovers what it means to be alive rather than dead to the world, then what it means to be open to others and trust once you decide that what you are and what you do mean something. The novel expands the time experienced by the characters, so that weeks and months fly by and developments that felt odd and rushed in the anime are smoother here. In the anime the solitary nature of the journey had to be overcome because it wouldn't have been much fun to run episodes where the main character doesn't even talk, so they gave Yoko companions. However, that immediately and irrevocably changes the nature of her journey. While the anime was okay, this light novel is much stronger and still is a relatively quick read with a large type on small pages.

The Twelve Kingdoms, Sea of Shadows is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Site updates and other slowness

Hey there, sorry for the slowness in updating, both of us are working like madmen at our RL work, partly to catch up and pay for that vacation a few weeks ago, add in the typical couple miscommunication, and you get a little lagging in the posting.

But if you check out along the side, you will find that we were able to accomplish something. We now have links on the side for Pocky! Necessary fuel for when you are trying to read six different manga in a row.

More posting soon!


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dragon Eye, v. 1

By Kairi Fujiyama
Released in the U.S. b
y Del Rey Manga

Slugline: Is there much of a difference between Dragon Eyes and Nine Tailed Demon Foxes?

In the near future, a virus that acts like the ones in zombie movies but turns the victims into Dracules -- creatures that are transformed from into something large, nasty, immortal and crazed with a desire for killing and infecting humans -- has forced the survivors of humanity to live in protected cities. They are protected by the VIUS, those that have an immunity to the virus and also have kick ass mystical martial art skills. Leila is a new VIUS recruit, wanting to gain the Dragon Eye, a semi-mythical artifact that allows one to kick even more Dracule patootie, but discovers that her new superior has it/one, but it is a curse. Plus the same superior, Issa, has recruited another VIUS, one who hates his guts, thinking he is the one who killed his sister without reason years ago.

Okay, this looks and feels a lot like Naruto, with Issa being a very close stand-in for Naruto himself. But the missing element is that despite a similar mystery around both main characters -- who and what they are -- Issa by design is in on his secrets and is party to them, while Naruto is discovering what is going on with the readers. For with Naruto it is a joint journey of discovery. With Issa and Dragon Eye it is more like trying to worm information out of someone who takes far too much pleasure in hiding it from you. Maybe if there wasn't Naruto to be such a close comparison to I would be able to rank this title higher -- it does have nice art and a clearly written story -- but it still suffers in comparison.

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


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Canon. v. 1

By Chika Shiomi
Published by in the U.S. CMX Manga

Slugline: A story about vampires that aren't vampires. You can sense my thrill through the computer screen, can't you?

Canon is requisite lucky student who survived a mysterious attack on her entire class by a vampire -- albeit a vampire who seems to operate under strange rules completely inconsistent with ones that we are familiar with, and whose minions can be cured of their vampire state with some willpower. Once cured, they are fortunately completely unaware of what they did while under the vampiric bloodlust. This is fairly episodic: the situation is set up, her sidekick is fleshed out (a vampiric crow!) and we meet the hot guy who will be a mysterious figure of assistance and hotness in the story glides through. I could go on describing it, but it is like so many other stories of its ilk.

I tried to find some aspect of originality or interest, but everything I found in this manga reminded me of at least a dozen other manga. The art is okay, and the story structure is functional, so it's not bad. It is just completely uninteresting and aspects of the vampire's nature that would normally create tension and danger are so waterd down that becoming a vampire is, well, like a headcold that can be easily cleared up. So there is not even the ambiguous moral choices of what to do with the innocent driven to bloodlust. Ho hum.

Though if someone can point toward any folklore references (Japanese or otherwise Asian, since these definitely aren't Western-style vampires) which explain these vampires, please do.

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

- Ferdinand

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Apothecarius Argentum, v.1

By Tomomi Yamashita
Published in the U.S. by CMX

Slugline: From enslaved food taster to free apothecary -- but things only get more complicated for Argent.

At last, an explanation for the hair color of "platinums" -- it's a side effect of being acclimated to poisons. Argent is a "basilisk", a slave raised on toxins until he's toxic himself (a story idea explored long ago by, believe it or not, Nathaniel Hawthorne in "Rappaccini's Daughter"), used as a food taster for a young princess, Primula, whose kingdom is under a great deal of pressure.

Escaped and/or freed by the princess (there's some difference of opinion), he returns as a healer to help rather than kill. But it's never that simple for a basilisk.

The art is fairly standard. The plot has some non-surprises but also some good, unpleasantly realistic moments. The same can be said of the characters. It's set in a generically European fantasy world and the violence is indeed mild as noted on the cover, so I'm interpreting their age rating as 13+.

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

- Miranda

Brave Story, v.1

Story by Miyuki Miyabe and Art by Yoichiro Ono
Released in the U.S. by ToykoPop

Slugline: For once, a manga about a video game player whose game has not come to life (yet)

It's a sad situation when I read the outline for the story on websites and they talk about this epic journey on the part of the main character Wataru, which I presume is the main thrust of the series? I say presume because there is not a single hint at the end of the first volume that Wataru is even thinking of, let alone packing for, an epic journey. I know manga takes some time to get going, but if that is going to be the main arc of the series, at least drop some hints by the end of the first volume. Yes, there is some need for setup, but by same token one of the tenets of writing is to start as close as possible to the main action of the story. Sure, there is action in this volume, but now I am not sure if it really was there for any particular reason other than that you need to beat something up in every episode of a shonen story.

The one bit of the story I found interesting was the conflict within Wataru about his parents' unfolding breakup, divorce, and his father's apparent abandonment of him. It is the process of currently trying to deal with those tragedies which is interesting, rather than it being some abstract tragedy in his past. Everyone has a tragic past in manga; it is watching the present that is engaging. Interesting contrast between the two main characters here: one has a father who can't let go and the other has one that can't hold on.

Maybe in the next volume things kick in and the 'real' story begins. You know, I have often found stories which go immediately into a lost world, so that the main character leaves his life, sort of annoying in that we don't see the character in his more normal state before he is thrown into the deep end and we don't have anything to compare his behavior to. Here, the fact that we get to see the character in his normal state makes it feel like a lie since we know (thanks to the outline) that it is soon going to all go out the window. If they had timed it better, maybe so it kicks in at the end of this volume so we are building up to it, I would be more forgiving. Despite this being a solid title with some interesting character bits, I am still pretty annoyed at it.

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

- Ferdinand

(That's too bad. I like the cover design. - Miranda)