Monday, March 31, 2008

Innocence, 2nd ed.

Innocence, 2nd ed. and all other review of explicit titles have been moved to Prospero’s Manga – Mature, a review blog for specifically for those titles. Please check there for reviews.

Blogging frequency update

Right now I am looking at my stack of manga to be reviewed and I am completely uninspired. I am worried that I may be little my ennui affect my reviews, so for the time being I am going to pull back to three reviews a week, MWF to combat that. Hopefully I will get exicited about titles again in a few weeks.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Dark Wraith of Shannara

By Terry Brooks, Adapted by Robert Place Napton and Illustrated by Edwin David
Released by Del Rey

Slugline: Not fantasy byproduct, very specific generic fantasy product.

The Shannara series is a classic fantasy series but I only read the first few volumes, so the Dark Wraith of Shannara starts from a point in the series that I am not familiar with. That being said, the book does a good job catching you up so that you can follow it easily. Jair has destroyed the Ildatch, a mystical living scroll, but in the process tapped something dark within himself and his wishsong, the fighting spirit of a slain comrade. His sister Brin who once had similar abilities but gave them up and is concerned that his wishsong power may yet consume him, but circumstances conspire to force Jair to rely on his wishsong in order to rescue comrades that had helped him in a previous quest.

The fact that you can follow the story, reflects on the reason that I originally stopped reading the series, that everything is spelled out in detail. I have not this many editorial boxes explaining the action to use in years, in either US comics or manga. Perhaps that is merely of its origin as a novel series, but I think it is more from the Terry Brook's style. It just feels very workmanlike, A is followed B followed by C, then there is handy set of instructions, then some audio-visual aids showing from a different perspective and so on. But the Shannara series does have its fans and putting the title together with other fantasy titles may introduce them to other titles.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fairy Tail, vol. 1

By Hiro Mashima
Released in the US by Del Rey Manga

Slugline: Feels like Rurouni Kenshin with magic.

Lucy is a minor magician that wants to be part of the Fairy Tail, a group of wizards that are respected but also make other wizards very anxious because of their stunts. Lucy thinks she has found a wizard that will help her join Fairy Tail, but that wizard is actually luring women to be slaves. Fortunately, the bumbling kid from earlier in the manga is revealed to be Natsu, a powerful fire mage of Fairy Tail, who after wiping the floor with the impostor brings Lucy to meet the rest of the Fairy Tails. And afterwards, Lucy ends being Sancho to Natsu's Don Quixote to find a missing member of Fairy Tail.

While Natsu does not have the tragic past of Rurouni Kenshin, there are some echoes. The comedic bumbling character who turns out to be super-competent, a female lead that is talented but not very powerful and the impostor drawing on the reputation of the bumbling character's real identity (of being a Fairy Tail member.) I am not saying that this is bad, the art style reminds me a little of One Piece for instance, but there were so many similarities to other works that I have read and no real sense of dramatic weight to the title to make me feel the character's jeopardy, I just never got engaged or really cared over what was going on. Maybe I am just being a little jaded here, maybe for someone who picks this off the shelf this would be an average title, but for me, I need something more.

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


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Third, vol. 1

Original Story by Ryo Hoshino, Art by Ariko Itou with Original Character Design by Nao Goto
Released in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: As a prequel, this manga reminds me of The Phantom Menace

This manga is the prequel of the anime title The Third, another anime title that I have not watched (hrm, I wonder if there is a pattern) so I have to look at this title as is, not as a teaser for the anime. Hundreds of years into the future after a war the majority of the world is desert, and Honoka , who suspiciously habitually wears a bandanna, is a beginning Dune Runner. Dune Runners are the guides and guards of the desert, but Honoka is still working out her approaches and gaining experience. This volume is basically a series of vignettes as she helps her clients and learns about herself.

Back to the slugline, for us old school fanboys, when we went into to see The Phantom Menace, we were subconsciously comparing it to our memories of the original series, which had achieved an unrealistic perfection over time. I got that feeling in reading The Third, that somehow that as a prequel it was not as powerful or simply as well structured as the anime it is based on. The writing and art itself is competent, but it just seems to lack a unifying plot or theme to bind it together. Maybe the characters that were introduced in this volume show up in the anime, and you needed to know that in order to bind the plot together, but at that point that is information outside of manga that I had no way in knowing, especially if I just picked this manga off a store's bookshelf.

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


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

eV, vol. 1

Created by Roger Mincheff, written by James Farr with art by Alfa Robbi and Papillon Studio
Published by TokyoPop

Slugline: Beware the Evil Bunnies

The slugline makes me want to sprinkle some of the lines from the Buffy:the Vampire Slayer musical, Once More with Feeling in the review, but I am afraid most people won't get people the reference. For the people who do, just remember Anya's bunny song.

Now that I have that digression out of the way, eV is set 20 minutes and five year's from now. Ev's father is a scientist specializing in nanotechnology and with the arrival of aliens asking for a Earth representative for an interstellar congress. Ev has some issues with her father basically disappearing for 5 years while preparing nanite enhancements for whomever eventually ends planetary representative, but car accident at the last minutes forces Ev's father to sacrifice the last five year's work to save her. But in return, she ends up having to become Earth's planetary rep, and let's just say aliens can be suckered just as well as humans by multi-dimensional creatures beyond anything's ken.

I wanted to like this more, but the pacing of the story seemed to be way off, sometimes skipping past things with barely any explanation, other times slowing down to show us details that don't seem to forward the story that much. I suspect that this was originally intended to be in another format (not manga) simply because of how the pacing seems off. There are some big sci-fi ideas, please I am always a sucker for Lovecraftian horrors.

And if the last scene doesn't scream out "sequel" I don't know what does. Is this the continuation of the trend of TV/Movie types getting involved in comics? Comic publishers have had an influx of Hollywood creators, is it nowmanga's turn? And is that a good or bad thing? I don't know, but in this particular instance, maybe the creators needed to acclimate more to the format.

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


Monday, March 24, 2008

Spy Goddess: Chase for the Chalice

Created by Michael P. Spradlin, Script by Rachel Manija Brown and Illustrated by Rainbow Buddy
Released by TokyoPop

Slugline: A literary rest stop between Spy Goddess novels

Rachel Buchanan and the rest of her friends from the Spy Goddess novels, which are about a bunch of teen spies after the mythically inspired Mithras sect, have to go to Japan to track down one of Mithras latest criminal capers. Rachel is denying any connection with the goddess that once defeated the Mithras cult, but needless to say when captured and as her friends race to rescue here, some evidence to the contrary is introduced.

I think I have noticed a pattern when novelists do manga adaptations (even if it not a direct adaptation) of their titles, it seems like they rely on the words to tell the story, rather than balancing between words and pictures. Not that I am an expert here, but that is my impression. Maybe because they have spent so much time in the world of their novels as purely written experience, it has hard to dial it back when they have to continue it in comic/manga format. As such, this title feels like I experiencing it from a distance, that all of the emotional cues that I am supposed to be getting are actually coming from a distance so that are just not connecting. Also, it feels like that there is, or should be, more going on with the characters that is actually expressed in the word or thought balloons. The art is nice, though I wish there was more of a difference between the two female leads, I had to work to keep them separated while reading.

Spy Goddess: Chase for the Chalice is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Dragon Sister!, Vol. 1

By Nini
Released in the US by TokyoPop

Dishonorable Mention
Slugline: What an exciting and suspenseful story. Not.

Okay, maybe I have been away too long and my tolerance of stuff has dropped down, but I couldn't bring myself to finish Dragon Sister! because it was so boring and cookie cutter. The characters were flat, all surface, and not even the art was enough to save it. It felt like a condensation of another work, where the characters moved from plot point to point, without any apparent motivation or reason for them to do so. Unlike yesterday's review of Your & My Secret, where reading it got me mad, this just failed to engage on any level other than wondering how many pages I had left.

Edited to Add: Over the weekend, I started feeling bad that perhaps I had let my negative review of Your & My Secret bias this review, so I tried to reread it, and gave it to Miranda to consider. Miranda is the one that pointed out for an action title, two of the fights were skipped over (we see them posing at the beginning of the fight, then we skip ahead to all the opponents on the ground) and the third is aborted after a couple of punches are thrown. At which point we threw up our hands and decided to let sleeping manga lie.

Dragon Sister!, Vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Your and My Secret, vol. 1

By Ai Morinaga
Released in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: Body swapping leads to new kinds of emotional abuse.

Update: For some additional insight into the title, please check out the comments for this entry!

Okay, I fully admit that I am guy. Not the most manly sort of guy in the world, but I still suffer from the XY set of chromosomes and I realize that there are some kinds of romantic tomfoolery that I will never get. I am fine with that, and I also admit that I am not fully immersed in all that is Japanese society and culture, so sometimes I don't get the attraction of some of the things in manga.

BUT, I am sorry, but I just can't wrap my head around the fact that this title is supposed to work as either a romance or a comedy. Nanako is tomgirl and Akira is the boy that likes her. They suffer a body swap, and Nanako takes to having a boy body with gusto, getting a girlfriend and ingratiating him/herself with the rest of the school and Akira's parent far better than Akira has ever managed to do. Akira, in Nanako's body, has to work to bring in money so that the body transfer can be reversed, but Nanako's scientist grandfather seems to be no hurry to do so, enjoying the money that Akira in Nanako is making and the fact that Akira is now a live-in maid. Akira's best friend is making the moves on Nanako, even though he knew that Akira liked her. So here we are, Akira in Nanako is having his dreams of maybe Nanako liking him back shattered, Nanako is using his body for her own enjoyment and seems to have hijacked Akira's life, while Akira's friend is going behind his back to hit on the girl the friend knew he liked and Akira's attempts to get his life back are stymied by the selfishness of Nanako's grandfather.

Where the hell in comedy and romance in this? I am thinking that this is more a tragedy and if something doesn't change soon, Akira is going to mentally break down or have to take radical action in order to take control of his/her life back.

So, I didn't think like this at all. And if someone can explain to me where the romance or the comedy is hiding in this story, please tell me via comments.

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


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Rose Hip Rose, vol. 1

By Tohru Fujisawa
Released in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: Perverts and the Psychopaths of the World, Unite!

Shohei Aiba has a problem, in that he is bored with school and the life that school seems to be preparing for him. So he does some things that he is not exactly proud of just to alleviate his boredom, such as taking under the skirt shots of students on the subway and putting the pictures up on a website. This was working fine until a new student at the school named Kasumi catches him taking cellphone pics. Kasumi is more than a little bit odd, with gymnastic skills and an interest in men's magazines. Because of course Shohei does not make the connection between Kasumi and the mysterious new police officer Rose Hip. Not that in real life a person would really make that connection, but the connection was so obviously made for the reader that you have to wonder why Shohei doesn't make it himself. Actually, I liked it as an action piece, though at the end where any reasonable cop would have take the sniper headshot and taken down the antagonist of the piece, the fact that Kasumi or Rose Hip does not seems to be a bit of disconnect for me. I don't know how much of a connection that there will be made with the other Rose Hip series, since I have only reviewed the first volume of Rose Hip Zero (reviewed here) but there seems to be some. It is an okay action story, but if the characters continue to insist on pulling punches, so to speak, I can see this going downhill quickly.

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


Monday, March 17, 2008

CBG Review: Emperor's Castle, vol. 1

I have written a review for Emperor's Castle, vol. 1, available on the Comic Buyer's Guide website. Please remember that the CBG website uses a 4 star rating. Check it out!

Emperor's Castle, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

What has been going on

We have been a little quiet this last week, as we head into the last bits of the TokyoPop project that I have earlier mentioned. That project is making it hard to do reviews with the appearance of minimum of bias. We are hoping to finish it and hand it over to the artist, and thus be able to go back to a regular schedule with reviews next week. Thank you very much for your patience!


Friday, March 07, 2008

In the End

by Pink Psycho
Published in the U.S. by Tokyopop

Slugline: A shallow tour of a teenage wasteland.

This is saved from getting a Dishonorable Mention by fairly good artwork.

Kaito has settled comfortably into the role of a whipping boy as a teenager, and apparently can't think of anything to do besides lay around the house provoking his father or lay around his favorite club looking for other people to emotionally abuse him. It's just a matter of time before easy meat like Kaito is picked up on by a more substantial predator like Ren, lured in with a bit of manipulation and stroking, and then it falls apart.

This could have been an ugly look at the real world of abuse, but instead the author wants the reader to feel some kind of sympathy for Ren without putting enough work into describing Ren's motivations. And Kaito's change of heart speaks more to his lack of self than any real change. Thus, the ending rings false after a string of predictable incidents that don't convey much in the way of "romance."

I was never a punk or a goth, but I also feel vaguely insulted on their behalf because this story will, in the eyes of a parent, reinforce the idea that punk/goth kids are lost and vulnerable and can be "saved" by getting them into a more normal wardrobe. Most of the people I knew who wore lots of black or dyed their hair were far more vibrant and stable than the go-with-the-crowd types.

In the End is available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Miranda

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Please Miss Yuri

Please Miss Yuri and all other review of explicit titles have been moved to Prospero’s Manga – Mature, a review blog for specifically for those titles. Please check there for reviews.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Fever, vol. 1

by Hee Jung Park
Published in the US by Tokyopop

Slugline: Screw-ups and lovelorn of Korea, unite!

The structure of this volume is nice and tidy: we meet Hyung-In, we meet Ji-Jun, and Kang-Dae brings them all together for a first meeting. What happens next is anyone's guess, but if the dialogue maintains this quality and Bong-Nam the spaniel sticks around, I will too.

Hyung-In is wrestling with the consequences of her friendship with an unpopular girl. Ji-Jun is...unlucky, in more ways than one, and more or less adrift in life. And Kang-Dae is the sort of scattered oddball that could make things interesting. Bong-Nam brings the drool and a waggy tail.

4 stars, with a bullet.

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