Friday, August 31, 2007

Captain Nemo

I have just posted a review for Captain Nemo on the CBGxtra site.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pick of the Litter, v.1

by Yuriko Suda
Published in the U.S. by Tokyopop

Slugline: Riku's reclaimed by the family he didn't know he had... and they've got bunny ears.

I looked at the cover of this one with dread. Much to my surprise, Litter is fairly witty and charming, and the art is both cute and full of cute details.

Riku lost his memory and his family five years ago, and now his family finds him and brings him back to their fantasy land. Riku becomes a part-time employee in the family store, selling whimsical fantasy-world groceries/dry goods/magic supplies or whatever they're supposed to be. There's no larger storyline as yet, just a series of adventures in the odd new world. Riku still goes back to Japan for school, and there's sure to be trouble explaining the strange, bunny-eared "cousins" who keep turning up on school grounds.

I'm a bitter old fart, but even I was charmed by the light-hearted fun and the detailed artwork.

Pick of the Litter, v.1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

Kanna, v.1

by Takeru Kirishima
Published in the U.S. by GoComi

Slugline: Did you know you had to pay child support for a child you had in alternate reality?

Kagura is living the typical life of any student in manga of going to prep school and juggling a job when he wakes up one morning with an eight year old girl sleeping on the futon next to him. Before he can find out much more than her name, Kanna, a female co-worker shows up to remind him to go to work. They make it to work late, with Kanna sneaking along after them, but they discover that everyone there is dead, and their employer is now either possessed or always has been some evil being from another reality. The object of his attention is Kanna, who is Kagura's daughter from another reality.

After being temporarily possessed by his own other half to fend off the attack on Kanna, a good half of the book consists of Kanna and Kagura getting used to each other. Kanna eventually convinces Kagura that it would be better to go back to his home town in order to throw off any other evildoers who are seeking her. On foot. And taking a circuitous route that includes every shrine even remotely possible that is on the way. So they begin the long walk to Kagura's hometown and Kanna's non-mother (in this reality) who is a childhood sweetheart of Kagura's.

This is another title that I am not sure if the cover art or the back cover copy really prepares you for its contents. After I read the ad copy I was thinking this would be like an after-school special: college age guy has kid dumped on him from a summer romance of a few years ago, he has to adjust his life to take into account said child, and hilarity ensues. Instead we have a fantasy story that turns very dark, then flips back to being very light, then goes all comedy gold for the last chapter (with the required co-ed hot bath scene.) I am not sure how long the book will follow Kagura and Kanna walking through Japan, but the implication is that it will be a long trip. The whiplash of mood and tone makes it difficult to judge exactly what the story is aiming for and how well it is succeeding. Until its tone has settled down, even knowing what the story is really about is difficult to judge.

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

- Ferdinand

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Devil Within, v. 1

By Ryo Takagi
Published in the U.S. by GoComi!

Slugline: Okay, I was going to come up with something clever, but these are some seriously messed-in-the-head characters.

Rion, when she was way too young, watched an adult movie of her adopted father's, which has convinced her that men are devils and boys are angels. She is becoming heavily shota-con by the time she is fifteen, as in she is only attracted to underage boys. On her way home one day she meets a boy she is attracted to, but discovers that he is really her age though he has stopped aging. That matter-of-fact revelation is merely the beginning of the weirdness, for when she gets home there are three young men (devils) there, and her father is telling her she must choose from among the three of them to marry. Not to worry, they are not devils, they are really angels -- and they unfurl their wings to prove it to her. And she is really a devil, and the young-looking boy that she likes ages with just a kiss from her, and the three guys have passkeys to her apartment, and her father left that video out for Rion to find to turn her against men until he was ready to introduce her to her fiances... and I can just go on and on.

Ugh. This story is a mess and it's all over the place. I am not automatically against shota-con, but I do ask that they be handled carefully -- which this definitely is not. What the father has done to Rion, and continues to do to her, should be counted as child abuse. Her fiances are not really much better, knowing that she is at best damaged but needing to marry her in order to be rich, or because it is destiny, or for some reason justifies all of this abuse. That reason was not revealed by the end of this volume, and I really, really needed to have a some attempt at a rationale, to try to salvage what I could, but that was dashed. The cover and the back cover text makes it sound like a reverse harem comedy, and I wish it was. And considering my distaste for harem comedies, that should give you a hint about how I feel about this title. Not to say it wasn't funny at times, but once you took those times into the greater context of the story, you feel sorry for Rion and want to make a long-distance phone call to Japanese Child Protective Services.

- Ferdinand

Poison Candy, v.1

by David Hine, art by Hans Steinbach
Published by Tokyopop

Slugline: How can it get worse than finding out you have a fatal cancer that gives you super powers? Well...

I wanted to see what this artist did after Midnight Opera, and here it is -- overcaffeinated and raw. I mean that as a compliment. And finally, a manga by a comics writer that I can give an unreserved thumbs-up to.

Sam's rock-star dreams get sidetracked by the SKAR virus -- seriously sidetracked. Volume 1 is a prologue, and if the action sequences and the time spent on even throwaway characters are any indication, this could be a fun ride. Sam spent a century in deep freeze waiting for a cure, and how he's healed, mutant-powered and freshly traumatized by realizing that he has nobody left now. What happens next is very much up in the air.

I hope to catch volume 2 when it comes out. Hopefully, in less than a hundred years.

Poison Candy, v.1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

Friday, August 24, 2007

Shiki Tsukai, vol. 1

Story by To-Ru Zekuu with art by Yuna Takanagi
Released in the U.S. by Del Rey Manga

Slugline: It's an educational Yu-Gi-Oh!

The main character Akira... well, sorry, there is no way that I can take a main character whose name is Akira seriously. It's just that I hearing in my head the long cries of "Kaneda!" and "Tetsuo!" from the climax of the movie Akira whenever I even hear that name, and it just completely derails my train of thought. Basically, Akira discovers that he is part of this yadda yadda secret group that control the seasons, yadda yadda, cool powers based on cards and symbols representing seasons and the days, yadda yadda yadda, evil factions that want to destroy humanity for messing around with the seasons, and so on. I'm sorry, I am not trying to make fun of it, but when you reduce its story to the broad strokes, it does seem very plug and play, filled with elements that we have seen before.

The only part that really captured my attention was the interesting details that were part of the magic/power system and how it interacted with the characters and their abilities. There are specific rules to the system of magic, including how to cast spells, built around the various calendars that Japan has had, its seasons, and the meanings of the days. For once the translator's notes in the back of the book were a necessary reference, just so one could understand what was going on under the surface. But the good part of how this was done was that it wasn't necessary to understand all of detail in order to follow the story. The first time somebody cast a spell it was mentioned how it was done, and afterwards it wasn't rehashed. You didn't have to start searching in the notes to understand what was going on in the story. So I was actually intrigued by it rather than feeling lost, wanting to know more rather than tossing the book away in frustration. And unlike Yu-Gi-Oh, when I read the background fluff to understand how everything worked, I actually learned about Japanese society and culture. Hence, despite the rather pedestrian storyline and the complete lack of story surprises, I still gave it a rather forgiving rating.

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


SERIES UPDATE: Kashimashi vols. 2 and 3

Please check out our review for the first volume of Kashimashi

First of all, Kashimashi the manga diverges significantly from Kashimashi the anime, so if you like one, you may not necessarily enjoy the other. Volume 2 is pretty much a holding pattern with Hazumu and the two other members of his/her love triangle, along with their friends, trying to have typical high school adventures and shenanigans, but the undercurrents of Hazumu's transformation into a woman and the status of his/her feelings for Tomari and Yasuna keep on reasserting themselves. In the beginning of the third book Tomari and Yasuna have come to an understanding, and even a weird kind of friendship between the three of them (try to keep your minds out of the gutter,) but a revelation at the end of the third book will undoubtedly put pressure on all three of them as they try to deal with a ticking time bomb that now is part of the story.

Maybe it's just my fondness for yuri, but some of the problems of Hazumu's transformation come up in the third volume, along with a compelling reason (even if it involves a lot of handwaving to believe) that the status quo of their relationship/non-relationship has to be upset, make it more interesting for me. The second volume is actually fairly skippable, with some of the character's traits being revealed, especially among the supporting characters, but what I feel as the main drive of the story is starting get into gear only at the end of volume three. And I think it has a good ending, suggesting that everyone's relationship will have to change but not invalidating what has gone on before. It also gives the main character Hazumu a reason to stop being a pushover, which is good. Right now I would say that the 3 1/2 stars I gave to the first volume is teetering down to a 3 star rating, but if the fourth volume lives up to the promise of the end of volume 3, it will easily keep its current rating and possibly climb.

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

- Ferdinand

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tetragrammaton Labyrinth, v.1

by Ei Itou
Published in the U.S. by Seven Seas

Slugline: Nuns! Demons! Scythes! Gatling guns! And it's yuri!

This has many of the same elements as Chevalier d'Eon -- Christian-based horror, demonic transformations, regenerating heroines, deity-patronized weaponry (but they get the deity right) -- set in Victorian London and presented in a clearer art style. Our two girls, Meg and Angela, are standard-issue tormented killing machines as of v. 1, and while this is part of Seven Seas' Strawberry (yuri) line, there isn't anything particularly romantic or unusual about their relationship. Yet.

I don't see anything particularly unique about this story so far, but the action is well handled and large amounts of blood are dished out via dismemberments, large-bore automatic weapons, and the weaponized farm implement du jour, our magic scythe. The artist is less worried about striking dramatic poses than Chevalier's artist, and more interested in getting to the flying body parts. Other plot elements, all of which we've seen before, serve to get us from Combat A to Combat B. If you're in the market for girls and gore, this is a good pick.

Tetragrammaton Labyrinth, v.1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Only Words

Written by Tina Anderson, art by Caroline Monaco
Published by Iris

Slugline: Yaoi of a Nazi and a Catholic seminarian. Turn back now or forever hold your peace.

A short review for a short, intense study on the powerful lure of the forbidden. And with the multiple layers of wrongness come stronger desire and more serious fallout -- political, religious, and ethnic on top of the usual homosexuality taboo... potent stuff. There's sex, yes, but it's part and parcel of these characters' trajectories. Kudos all around.

- Miranda

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Peace Maker, v.1

By Nanae Chrono
Published in the U.S. by Tokyopop

Slugline: Tetsu wants to join the Shinsengumi to train and get revenge, naively thinking that the Gumi is some kind of martial arts club.

Nominee for Potentially Misleading Cover, 2007: it looks like a serious and artistic manga, but inside it's actually a slapsticky shonen romp. In v.1, at least.

Volume one assaults us with several characters we've seen before - the tiny, high-octane guy, the effeminate-yet-manly guy, the tormented killing machine - and a standard revenge plot on top of what could be a more interesting story: the Shinsengumi's side of the story, in Meiji Japan. For those of us who first met the Shinsengumi in Ruroni Kenshin (speaking of tiny, high-octane guys), hearing their side of the story could be interesting. But there's no guarantee that Peace Maker is the series to do that. Any politicking is firmly set in the background, behind the comedic beat-downs and the background sob story.

Beneath the physical comedy, there may be rumblings of the serious story the cover portrays this as -- Tetsu is eager to "become a demon" to get his revenge, obviously not knowing what he's getting into in his hurry to become the man he thinks he wants to be.

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

- Miranda

Dark Moon Diary, v.1

Story by Che Gilson with Art by Brett Uher
Released by TokyoPop

Slugline: Didn't I already review something like this?

Priscilla's parents have died and she moves to Nachtwald, a small European country/city -- where monsters, such as vampires, witches, and so on, are the majority of the population -- to live with her aunt and uncle. Priscilla finds out that her mom was a vampire (the normal rules about sunlight and so on obviously don't apply here) and thus her aunt, uncle and cousin are all vampires. Their efforts to try to feed her create one of the running subplots of the book, since their diet seems to consist of items that require you you to best them in battle first. Her cousin, Kitten, is the queen bee of the school and doesn't want her talking to the requisite tall dark and handsome (actual) prince of the school. As retaliation, she lights Priscilla's locker on fire, and at that point Priscilla loses it (the locker had a picture of her mother in it), punches Kitten, and stalks back to their castle to leave. She gets as far as the airport when her uncle catches up with her, calms her down, and brings her back with a peace offering of a small picture/painting of Priscilla's mom when she was Priscilla's age. Her aunt and uncle realize that they have been a little clueless about her troubles adapting and promise to try harder to help her adjust.

This not a bad book. In fact, I found some bits of it very good. Priscilla's reaction to having her locker destroyed -- the first instance of someone actively trying to get her rather than passively just letting bad things happen to her because of her lack of knowledge -- was to immediately stand up for herself and punch Kitten out of her shoes. And the food bit, something so small but it became a great gag that not only drove some of the action (she made a friend by having someone show her where the ice cream parlor was) but it also became emblematic of all the little annoyances and craziness that she was forced to put up with in Nachtwald. Despite all that, I felt that I had I seen the setting and the basic plot too often before. It was that sense of tiredness, of having seen the same routine so many times, that dragged me down. I want to see what this writer can do in the following volumes, because I sense that the overall storyline can be different and exciting, but with this volume basically setting up the characters, the plots and the setting, I felt, well, bored.

(Strangely, there's nothing in Amazon with this ISBN!)

But Dark Moon Diary, vol. 1 is available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I Hate You More Than Anyone!, v.1

by Banri Hidaka
Published in the U.S. by CMX

Slugline: When is falling in love, in a shojo manga, ever simple? Kazuha gets the old bait-and-switch treatment.

Despite that it's a classic case of bait-and-switch romance, Hate You is full of snappy dialog and fun physical comedy. It also features some rare charater details: Kazuha is the eldest of six (!), both of her parents work (understandably), and the youngest kid is in daycare.

It's the hunky daycare teacher who is the first target of Kazuha's affection, and then she gets thrown into the arms of his friend the hairdresser -- against her will, at first. Sugimoto is starting to charm her, by the end of v.1, so we're sure to hit the rocks in v.2 before the series title become totally inaccurate.

The art is fun and funny -- though the artist drops details at will, especially parts of Sugimoto's sunglasses -- and Kazuha's role as default mom to her siblings rings truer here than it does in other manga. Most of the sound effects have been translated and replaced in the artwork, which I know angers some purists, but you know what? I can't read Japanese, I don't have the time or energy to learn a whole new writing system with six billion different characters, and I appreciate that CMX made the effort.

I Hate You More Than Anyone!, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

Fantamir, v.1

By Eun-Jin Seo
Released in the U.S. by TokyoPop

Slugline: Something is different about this title. No, it's not that it's Korean. Wait, I know, it's because no one is madly in love with anyone else!!! Is this even a high school drama?

Mir is a young sorceress, but she has lost her powers and rather than disappoint her family she fled the isolated compound she has grown up in and runs away to the big city, in this case Seoul. One of her family's retainers follows her, and reassures Mir that her mother, who is in charge of her clan, will let her stay in the city and will allow her to go to a school. Of course, once she gets to the school she immediately gets swept up into the competition between the Wonhwa and the Hwarang, the leading girls and boys of the high school. Mir quickly is challenged to a duel with Ba-Ri, the leader of the female Wonhwa, which begins with a swordfight. Mir wins unexpectedly (she still has a touch of her enhanced abilities, just not her full sorceress's powers) and claims as her prize a vow of friendship with Ba-Ri. That is all that Mir really wanted, to make some friends rather than be isolated like she was previously. The other parts of the duel are put off until Ba-Ri recovers from a minor injury, but meanwhile Mir discovers that her mother was once a member of the Wonhwa. Mir runs away from the school in frustration, certain that this is just another one of her mother's stratagems to get Mir to do as she wishes.

As I mentioned in the slugline, there was something that I was enjoying in the title, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. Then it hit me: no one was pining over somebody else. Not to say there weren't romantic interests, they were there, but they are not the drivers of the action or the definition of the characters, they were just part of them. Romance is the usual source of conflict for any sort of high school drama, but here the characters were trying to react to each other as people, not necessarily as lovers or competition. There is a moment of jealousy in Ba-Ri that starts the duel, but I am not sure if that was really jealousy or just a subtle power play of the factions, and that ambiguity is exciting. And there is a whole supernatural element that has yet to be really played around with. So I am cautiously optimistic about the series, and could easily seeing myself giving this series a high rating in a volume or two.

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

- Ferdinand

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Shoujoai Ni Bouken: The Adventure of Yuriko

Written by Erica Friedman and Illustrated by Kelli Nicely
Published by ALC Publishing

Slugline: How often do con mascots get novels?

First of all this is not a manga, but instead a light novel, in a way. Yuriko is the mascot for Yuricon, an anime/manga convention dedicated to all thing yuri, aka lesbian relationships. As in, real lesbian relationships rather than what guys want to see. ALC Publishing, an arm of Yuricon, has been publishing OEL in that genre for several years now, and it is only recently that any other publishers have stepped into the breach, the only one having a deliberate yuri line/focus so far being Seven Seas.

Yuriko is a openly lesbian idol, with a reputation of being a little bit of a player, who has been shanghaied into returning to high school for a reality television show. So she has to juggle her professional commitments, her personal friendships and the return to high school -- something that no amount of money would ever entice me back to. And as an adult suddenly being dropped into high school, she has to remember all those things they promised in high school that you would need in life, like calculus, which she had quite reasonably forgotten as soon as she became an idol. Fortunately, she has a sempai, a girl almost a decade her younger, to guide her through the mess. I think the relationships she makes with the students, who may be younger than her but still face their own challenges, are interesting and realistic.

This rating is for the entire story arc, including the followup volumes that have not been published but have been made available online. In fact, everything has been made available online, but I believe from a quick perusal that the illustrations that grace the printed volume are not. I think for the most part the story is good, juggles relationships, both short-term and possibly longer, fairly well, but while I can believe Yuriko can fall in love, I have a hard time accepting the speed it happens in. The quality of the art, even when used as spot illustrations, is what I would charitably call uneven. While interesting, ultimately it still reads as a a very lightweight shoujo story that does not make a deep mark on the mind.

And as for the link, it is here.

- Ferdinand

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Series Update: Crossroad 2 & 3


To see our review of Crossroad, vol. 1, click
here. We followed up this review with one of Crossroad vols. 4-7.

These two volumes are full of romantic pining, confusion, and comedy -- which is standard fare for shojo manga, but the dialog is so fresh and believeable that it singlehandedly keeps the story from going stale. Kudos to Go!comi for having the guts to publish a manga where a high school student dates a teacher, risky as that is.

I would give these two volumes a 3.5, same as the first volume, for injecting fun into familiar relationship problems (everyone's too terrified to actually speak their minds, of course...) and handling a tricky subject (students dating teachers) with humor, yet drama. From how volume 3 ends, I'm guessing 4 will begin a new problem cycle. Check the bargain bins for this one -- I cleaned out the dealers at Otakon and got these cheap!

Crossroad, vol. 3 is available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

Stand By Youth, v. 1

Story by Young-Bin Kim with Art by Juder
Released in the U.S. by TokyoPop

Slugline: What if your SATs really did determine what you did for the rest of your life?

Sometimes it is easy to forget that the differences between the US and Japan are more than just cosmetic, that there are some deep differences aside from just wearing school uniforms. And those differences are even bigger once you add Korean manwha to the picture. In Stand By Youth, we are talking about tests that define what schools you get into to a much greater degree than the US's SATs do. If you do not do well enough, you go to cram school for a year in order to take the test again and repeat the process as often as need be. Stand By Youth is about one of these students, Hyungmo, who usually does well in school but manages to choke big time in the exams and places dismally in them. He has to go to one of the cram schools to prepare for the test again and due to his scores he ends up in a class filled with juvenile delinquents. Once there he meets Sora, a fellow student who has to study for the test. After consoling Sora because her alcoholic father has shown up at the school threatening to withdraw her, they start, or at least Hyungmo thinks they have, dating. But she has a secret and whether or not they are really are dating in anyplace but in Hyungmo's mind is a question that has yet to be answered.

This is an interesting title, especially given that it gives us a view of the cram school environment (though they are not exactly cram schools by the Japanese definition) in Korea. There are some cliches wandering around and I think I see some story elements coming, but neither is this title a complete cookie cutter. The guy is spineless, but he's not clueless. He can see through the front that others are putting up to encourage him, though it does take a little effort on his part. It is also a snapshot of that point between high school and college, where people whom you've known all your life leave you behind -- literally in the case of Hyungmo -- and you have to figure out what you are going to do next and how you will shoulder the new responsibilities that come out of that time. Hyungmo does still have his parents around to rely on, but he now sees his relationship with them differently, as he has to prove to them that their faith in him is justified. But then those annoying cliches masquerading as characters wander back in, so while it has something worthwhile story-wise, there is a lot of other stuff obscuring those elements.

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

- Ferdinand

Friday, August 03, 2007

Venus Versus Virus, v. 1

By Atsushi Suzumi
Published in the U.S. by Seven Seas

Slugline: Two hot goth girls in action! Plus they may be one of the Seven Seas yuri titles! Can this possibly ever get any better?

Sumire is a typical girl who has one problem: she can see dead people sometimes, and sometimes the dead people can see her back. One day a ghost threatens her, and a goth girl shoots it dead. Which is an interesting feat since it was already a ghost, but is beside the point. They go back and forth and the goth girl named Lucia uses her as bait for the Virus, a type of contagious ghost, so to speak. In the process of getting the ghost that been haunting the school, Lucia has to shoot Sumire with her spirit bullets, which has the dual effects of making Sumire a great target for roaming Virus ghosts, but also gives her the ability to kill them. Sumire realizes that she needs help, training and protection and moves in with Lucia, much to the consternation of her friends who do not realize exactly what is going on. She goes on a couple of jobs, but only barely survives them just trying to avoid invoking her own strange abilities.

There are some interesting character bits here, despite my claims of yuri fandom. As in, the women looking longingly at each other is not what I am talking about here. While Sumire starts out shy, her development to being a little more outgoing is organic, and while she currently plays the helpless female, she may have a monster inside and the cynical, world-weary Lucia may be the one to drag her back to reality. Decent action, interesting characters and some different story twists make this an enjoyable read. 3 stars, with a bullet.

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

- Ferdinand

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Hollow Fields, v. 1

Story and Art by Madeleine Rosca
Published by Seven Seas

Slugline: What if Harry Potter was a girl, attended a school for mad scientists, and had no idea how use a wand/screwdriver..?

Lucy Snow manages to get a little bit lost on her way to a new boarding school and ends up at a different school instead, one that offers free room and board, and expects the very best of its students. Or else. Because after she has signed on the dotted line, she discovers that the school is intended to train the next generation of mad scientists, with classes like graverobbing and how to build killer robots -- things that Lucy has no experience or skill in. But she better not have the lowest grades at the end of the week, because that is when the student with them is sent to detention. And no student has been seen after they have been sent to detention. Considering the nature of school, no one is thinking that is because the kids in detention are having so much fun that they have completely forgotten to come back to their dorm room or the dining hall. Lucy stumbled across some secrets, some of which help her along and set up things for the next volume, provided she survives the first detention selection at the end of her first horrible week. But that experience gives her a goal to focus on.

This is one Seven Seas' successes, and they have already gone back to press within a month of its release. It's also the only book that was created by someone outside of Asia to win a major international contest for manga in Japan. The title revels in finding an expectation and then breaking it. The fellow outcast she meets on the first day? Gone in less than ten pages rather turning into the Ron to Lucy's Harry. Her Hermione, on the other hand, definitely has his own agenda, and despite being the child of dentist, she has no idea how to be a mad scientist, she has no inherent skills or prophesied abilities, but she is willing to work long and hard at it in order to become better. Not only just to survive, but to have a goal greater than that, a goal that the rest of the students, perhaps due to their expectations, have apparently never have thought of.

The art is the mad scientist clockwork design, and all of the teachers of the school, the Engineers, show both their strangeness but at the same time their approachability in their design. Miss Notch goes from kindly doorkeeper to ferocious jailer without any radical transformation sequence but instead through just demeanor -- which is a harder trick than one would think. There are a few points where I thought it just didn't quite close the gap or hit just the right note, but because the story was willing to ignore what it was supposed to do and with an art style that is impeccably matched with the material, this book is still worth a look.

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

- Ferdinand