Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Good Luck, v.2

by E-Jin Kang
Published in the U.S. by Tokyopop

Slugline: Not confused enough yet? Don't worry: at the end of v.2 we start throwing random passers-by into the mix.

I will admit that I have more trouble keeping Korean names straight than I do Japanese names. It does not help that "Shi" and "Hyun" both show up in more than one person's name. But I'm trying, because this series has gotten a few genuine lols out of me and that's worth fighting for when you're old and jaded.

Shi-Hyun both survives the betrayal of a friend and consents to a first date with the hot boy at school, which then turns into a tangled web of romantic interests including the hot girl at school and Shi-Hyun's adopted brother. And then she starts flirting with a guy on the train and it looks like he'll be sucked into all of this too. (Run! Run while you can!)

The art swings from fun to romantic at will, and the dialog drifts toward the melodramatic but still rings true. So it's still a thumbs-up and I'm glad to have finally found v.2 -- I was starting to worry they'd canceled it right out of the starting gate.

Check out our review for Good Luck, vol. 1.

Good Luck, vol. 2 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

Series Update: The Drifting Classroom, v. 4 - 6


The numbers are whittled further and further down, as tends to happen in horror stories, by increasingly strange, unlikely, and a situations that might be convincing if I didn't already know that bubonic plague is transmitted by fleas, not by touch. And believe me -- if you've got fleas, you know about it. Those kids should be itching up a storm if they've got fleas. And then there was the mummy, which starts out great, even funny, and devolves into a plot device.

But despite the occasional stretching of credulity, Umezu-sensei continues to present scathingly honest reactions to outrageous situations. We take a right turn at Lord of the Flies and head into pogrom territory -- all the more grimly realistic because history is littered with purges like this.

I thought volume 6 would be the end, but there's more to come. Our narrator is safe, we know, but will anybody else be left when it's all over?

The Drifting Classroom vol. 4, vol. 5 and vol. 6 are all available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Alive, v.1

by Tadashi Kawashima, art by Adachitoka
Published in the U.S. by Del Rey Manga

Slugline: After a worldwide rash of suicides, things start getting wierder for Taisuke, Megu and Hirose.

This is an odd first volume. First, for a solid week thousands of people commit suicide, many of them publicly or in front of loved ones. Then, there seem to be strange new powers afoot and Hirose's got them. Taisuke may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he's loyal. Megu, so far, is just a skirt.

There's a faint Akira vibe to the story, since one friend has acquired a mysterious power -- I'll put even odds on it destroying him -- and the other friend may not be capable of helping him in any significant way. The art and characters are standard-issue at first glance, but there are a scattering of poignant moments that caught my eye.

This was not an instant-grab series, for me, and the rating reflects its lack of impact. But I'm just curious enough that I may seek out volume 2 on my own.

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

- Miranda

Clubbing, vol. 1

By Andi Watson and Josh Taylor
Released by Minx, of DC Comics

Slugline: Why is it that goth girls have to face undying horrors from beyond who want to snack on the world? Why not wholesome Midwestern farm girls?

We are going to do something a little bit different here, we are going to talk about Clubbing, a title from DC Comics' Minx line that is aimed at girls. While not a manga, it is certainly trying to aim at the same demographic and there is some crossover potential, or at least DC Comics is hoping that there will be.

Charlotte Brook is a goth girl from the West End of London who has been banished from the city for trying to pass a fake ID. She has been sent off into the country to work at her grandparents' golf course and play as dumb as humanly possible in order to sneak out of said work as much as possible. But her hopes for a quickly passing summer are dashed when one of the neighborhood ladies is killed. Charlotte and the groundskeeper's son Howard, who is the only male in town under the age of 50, try to understand what is going on, what that strange symbol was on the murdered woman's neck, and what connection Charlotte's grandparents have to the whole mess.

Both Andi Watson and Josh Howard are well known US creators, with Josh Howard's Dead@17 title being one of the popular horror titles of recent memory, but here the story just does not jell together properly. It feels like there were several pages missing -- not that there were actual holes in the storyline, but instead moments when the whole ending seemed rushed and tacked on after a leisurely exploration of the world that Charlotte found herself in. The conclusion feels unsatisfying, as in afterwards I am still not sure what exactly Charlotte did in the book to be the protagonist. Was she just the observer of the action going on around her, or was she actually part of the story? I came away uncertain of that very basic fact.

Still, the art and dress style were fun, and the language, if not accurate, sounded right and seemed to fit the goth attitude better than most. There were a couple good character moments, especially over whether or not Charlotte was actually goth enough or a poseur when confronted by the countryside goths, and the use of British slang was enough to make you realize that you were actually in a different country without being so heavy that you had a hard time following it.

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

- Ferdinand

Monday, July 23, 2007

We are now ProsperosManga.com

We have been around long enough, and have enough of a readership that we decided to make it a little easier for people to reach us. Starting, well, today, you can simply just enter www.ProsperosManga.com and you will get here, without having to remember all that blogspot nonsense.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

We Shadows, v. 1

By Sonny Strait
Released by TokyoPop

Slugline: An epic story manages to emerge from an confusing mess of a beginning.

We Shadows has a rather inauspicious, confusing beginning. As far as I can tell, there are several strands of storyline that eventually coalesce into a tapestry, though admittedly I am not sure where all the pieces go yet. There is a man that keeps on having blackouts, has a job that's driving him crazy, a psychologist who seems to know way too much of what is going on, and the annoying ability to snap and threaten everyone around him with a magical control over plants. That is the first section of the book -- just work past that and get to what ends up being the main meat of the book. A character, Puck, has been a mercenary away from Earth for a long time and ends his existence due to ennui. The queen of the Faeries -- and in this case the faeries are more like Tinkerbell -- Titania, has been napping, usually more asleep than awake, along with most of her subjects since the beginning of the age of industry. The Glamour Gloms, creatures that first appear to be faeries but are later revealed to be both more and less than just that, have been using glamour in all of its forms to stay awake and in power. Goat is a wingless faerie who has been kicked about by the Gloms, thinking that she is in training to be a faerie princess -- a belief that is fostered by a talking mushroom that no one else can hear. That being said, the mushroom has been misleading her, and that there is a fate both greater and lesser than what she is hoping for awaiting her.

If this synopsis is a little bit all over the place, that is partially an result of the story. The first half is slow going, and there are a lot of things going on that don't seem to hold together. By the end of the book, well, you are sure that Goat is the main character, and what the central story is, but there are some peices that still seem left over. Much like those Lego sets you would get in Christmas, there would always seem to be a few pieces left over that you had no idea where they went, but still you knew that they have to belong somewhere. I am betting that they will fit in the next volume, but at the moment they just lay there.

It may be just me, but I also sense an attempt to follow the Star Wars archetype of storytelling. The first story injects hope, the second volume despair, and the final volume triumph. Then again, I may have read more articles about myth structure than are good for me.

Sonny Strait also includes a lot of extras in the back, including his entry in the 24 hour comic, something that many manga fans may not be aware of: a challenge to create a 24-page comic in 24 hours. It is, in theory, a superhero comic, so that means at long last TokyoPop has finally published one.

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

- Ferdinand

Series Update: Deathnote 7 - 10


Volume 7 wraps up the first story arc, and then we skip a few years to start round two with some new characters. How do you keep a story fresh and interesting, especially one so saddled with exposition and complexity?

Well, leather pants would not have been my first choice but it works. The Deathnote show moves to the U.S. for a little while and the portrayal of Americans, particularly the president, does not ring very true. (Particularly if you try placing Bush in the role.) On the other hand, the story does begin to branch in some new and complicated ways -- and the writer runs the risk of it all turning into deadwood now that the novelty of the series has worn off.

We'll see what happens.

Check out our review for Deathnote vols 1-6 also on Prospero's Manga.

Deathnote vol. 7, vol. 8, vol. 9 and vol. 10 are all available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Me & My Brothers, v.1

by Hari Tokeino
Published in the U.S. by Tokyopop

Slugline: After Grandma dies, Sakura comes home to find she has an assortment of stereotypical half-brothers.

This is almost exactly the same setup as Crossroad, but in a more typical, sitcom-ish vein. Nobody bothered to tell Sakura that her father had four sons by a previous wife, and so when Grandma dies (yes, her parents are dead too -- it's a deadly job, in Japan) it's a big surprise when they turn up instead of Child Protective Services (does Japan even have a CPS?)

Much is made of the fact that Sakura is not even her father's daughter, though I'm not clear on why that matters when you're building a family from scratch anyways. Sakura doesn't remember the brief time they all lived together when she was a baby, so it's a houseful of strangers and all the awkwardness that comes with.

The flashbacks are sweet without being too syrupy. However, the boys fall neatly into stereotype -- the angry one, the cross-dressing housekeeper, the responsible one, and the shy one -- and Sakura herself is a typical manga girl. So this is a competent, but not exceptional, first volume.

(Note that only in manga would "cross-dressing houskeeper" be a stereotype. Oh, how jaded I've become...)

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

- Miranda

Kingdom Hearts II, v.1

By Shiro Amano
Released in the
U.S. by TokyoPop

Slugline: Isn’t this supposed to have Disney characters? Or, you know, real characters rather than ciphers?

I understand that the Kingdom Hearts franchise has its fans and I don’t want to knock them, but I hope the video games are a lot better than the manga, since I understand that the videogames came first. This first volume of the new series doesn’t tell you what is going on, implies that nothing you see is real, and has discontinuities in storytelling that I hope are part of the plot -- but I have no idea of whether this is true or not. It is just all over the place, I have no idea what is going on with the characters, and except for a single panel there are no Disney characters that I recognize.

If you are going to have the main character driven by a mystery about what he is, you need to have some kind of payoff along the way rather than stringing things along hoping people will stick with you. That is what happened with the X-Files and after a while people stopped giving them the rope to hang themselves because there were never even any minor payoffs along the way to the big one. Maybe if I was willing to read every single Kingdom Hearts manga before this one, and the background for the videogame, I could appreciate what they were doing here, but if so, they should have labeled this part 7 of 20 or something along those lines, rather than #1.

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

- Ferdinand

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sale on Icarus Publications at Right Stuf

There is a sale going on at Right Stuf International for the Icarus Publications titles. Since those titles are not usually available via amazon.com, I thought I would point them out here. Remember, all of the Icarus Publications are adult!

Check out all of the reviews from us for Icarus here!


Friday, July 13, 2007

Re: last night's lack of post

Last night fell into the "Too busy with paying work and oh no it's late already, I need to get to bed" category. Hopefully, next week won't be as crazy -- and we will be able to do all three days of Otakon, with any luck. Weekend after that, we are off to San Diego Comic Con, so no post on the 26th, and maybe-maybe-not on the 31st.

Stay cool,

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Million Tears, v.1

by Yuana Kazumi
Published in the U.S. by Tokyopop

Slugline: Immortals wrestle with the meaning of existence, since they don't have much else to do.

Another reviewer compared this story to Anne Rice's work, which added tremendous depth and dramatic possibility to vampires. I don't think this is at all on par with Interview with the Vampire -- Lestat has more passion for life in his pinky finger than the three characters here have, combined.

And if you're going to live forever, being as dispassionate, petty and purely ornamental as possible is even more pointless than when mortals do it.

But about the story: starts out a bit interesting, falls into a standard-issue romance, then picks up a few more interesting elements which, unfortunately, seem to disagree with the beginning. This is supposed to be a two-volume series, so hopefully things will be explained in the next book. Our three immortals are bland, thus far, and the only character of any real interest -- or in any real danger -- is the "extra" girlfriend. The artwork is described on the back cover as "gorgeous" but I don't find it particularly noteworthy. The cover's nice, I'll give them that.

This is the kind of story that's bound to have its devoted fans and probably a slew of fanfic, but on the grand scale of things I can't say that it's dealing in any novel ideas or personalities.

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

- Miranda

Avalon High: Coronation, v. 1

Written by Meg Cabot, art by Jinky Coronado
Published by TokyoPop

Slugline: Meg Cabot is a great writer, but not a great

I admit I have read some of Meg Cabot's books for teens, most of which are aimed at girls. Her most famous series is the Princess Diaries, which have very little to do with the movies. But I appreciate good writing no matter what the genre, and she is able to provide a view of teen life that at least seems real, if not exactly accurate. Avalon High: Coronation is a sequel to a previous work, where tomboy Ellie moves to a new town, ends up dating Will Wagner. Will's best friend Lance ends up dating Arthur's ex Jennifer, and helps Arthur survive a confrontation with his half brother Marco. If all this sounds familiar, there is a reason for it. An ancient society believes that Arthur is the reincarnation of King Arthur, and that many of the people in their shared lives are reincarnations of Arthurian legends, with Ellie herself the reincarnation of the Lady of the Lake.

For the actual story, not much actually happens here.
Ellie, Jennifer and Jennifer's former best friend Morgan are all nominated for homecoming queen. Ellie has been having unnerving dreams about Marco, and there is an attempt to get Arthur to reconcile with his father, who expected him to go to the Naval Academy instead of aiming for a liberal arts education, and his mother, whom he had never known until recently was more than his step-mother. There is a lot of back story, presumably from the first book that was in prose, taking up what feels like the first third of the book. That is the downside of prose versus graphic novels -- you can cram a lot more story in just a few words than in graphic fiction, where each moment has to be its own panel. So this doesn't feel like its own story, merely a continuation of another, and one that ends definitely in the middle so that you just got the second act and nothing else. And some of the character moments, which Meg Cabot usually handles so deftly, come across like a sledgehammer, telegraphed both coming and going. I presume that is because of her unfamiliarity with the medium rather than anything else.

I wanted to like this a lot but I found it hard to do
so, and this may only be worth your while once the additional volumes are out so you can go from the prose novel into a completed graphic fiction storyline.

Avalon High: Coronation, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Le Chevalier d'Eon, v.1

Story by Tou Ubukata, art by Kiriko Yumeji
Published in the U.S. by Del Rey Manga

Slugline: d'Eon, spy for Louis XV, lets his dead sister do the dirty work of cleaning up the mass murderers in Paris.

Apparently, horror can be spiced up with a few random Bible verses and throwing the name "Thoth" around. (Why would the Egyptian god of scribes patronize a sword?) And also by setting it in pre-Revolutionary France so we can enjoy the costuming even though it's terribly impractical for fighting in. Add yet another goofy action hero -- one who seems more inept than usual, even though he's supposedly the king's spy -- who's posessed by the vengeful spirit of his dead sister, the "Chevalier", crazed "poets" prone to turning into toothy snakes, and a big heaping pile of publisher's hype and here we are. Chevalier d'Eon.

The art reminds me of Priest, deliberately rough, reminiscent of woodcuts, and so busy in the details that I think clarity begins to suffer. Sadly, there's also a certain lack of imagination here. There's plenty of combat, but none of it particularly original. There are plenty of characters, none of them particularly innovative in their depiction or their actions within the story. Toward the end, a little effort is put into developing what may be a real character but by that time, I was thinking of the next manga I had to read.

And the most discouraging point is, I think, that anybody with the slightest observational powers ought to notice the rather distinctive cat who hangs out with both the Chevalier and d'Eon. Duh, people.

Maybe the anime kicks ass. I'll still give that the benefit of a doubt.

Le Chevalier d'Eon, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

War Angels, v.1

By Jae-Hwan Kim
Released in the U.S. by Tokyopop

Slugline: I may have paid attention in school more if we had nuns like these!

In 2504, mankind has been decimated by a nuclear apocalypse and the starvation that followed killed most of humanity. What remains lives in fear of the Beastmen, genetic amalgamations of man and beast that were created before the apocalypse to fight in wars, but now rule over the remainder of humanity. There is a hope that there will be a messiah born to free humanity, but the Mother of said messiah has been captured by powerful Beastman. Archangels, powerful agents of the Church who are dedicated to the Messiah, have been sent out to rescue her but they are just as evenly matched by the Beastmen, with superhuman abilities.

There is a nun with a big gun, a sword guy and a martial arts master for the Archangels team. Their names barely were noticed, because they fell so easily into stereotype, and to complete the typecasting, the villain muses philosophically as he brushes off martial arts attacks that compress stone. Jae-Hwan Kim does have a US fanbase because of his prior work on King of Hell and Warcraft, both from TokyoPop, so they will be attracted to this because it delivers what Jae-Hwan Kim's titles always promise: action that is so over the top that it needs an oxygen mask. It may also be of interest for Original Global Manga fans, since this was made for TokyoPop, rather than being licensed like the rest of Jae-Hwan Kim's work.

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

- Ferdinand

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Battle of the Bands

by Steve Buccellato
Published by Tokyopop

Slugline: Lightweight, slapstick action. Please check your brain at the door to avoid damage.

This book caught me at the wrong time, and I'm trying not to blame it for that. It's a silly romp through a world where punk bands battle more literally, but despite the katanas and light anti-tank weapons, nobody really gets hurt. Unless it's useful to the plot, of course.

I do have to call the writer on a detail that I bet he thought nobody would be old enough to catch: the climactic battle between our heroines in Led Salad and their dastardly French enemies, the Whores d'Oeuvres, is a rip-off (or a homage) of the the classic Duran Duran "Wild Boys" video. Gotcha!

The story felt rushed, as there's a lot to cram in for one volume... and I'm not a fan of the dialog. It gave me whiplash going from heavy, intellectual Deathnote to this much lighter fare, and that put me in a bad mood. But slapstick has its place and it can be fun, so fill your flamethrower with tar and feathers, and have at it.

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

- Miranda


Flashbang! and all other explicit titles have been moved to Prospero’s Manga – Mature, a review blog for explicit manga titles. Please check there for reviews of such titles.