Tuesday, June 23, 2009

KimiKiss, vol. 1

Art by Taro Shinonome with Story by Enterbrain, Inc
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: Why bother having doubt or suspense in a shoujo manga?

Kouchi begins the second semester wanting to have a girlfriend and start kissing. So far he has not had much luck but his childhood friend Mao takes him under her wing teaching him how to be the perfect boyfriend. While learning how to date Kouchi realizes that he wants to turn Mao's 'practice' dates into something more real.

KimiKiss is based on a popular virtual novel/dating sim (for a definition check this wikipedia entry.) Virtual novels often give you a selection of different several girls to date. It appears that this manga series will have each volume focus on a different female character from the virtual novel, with how each girl ends up with the boy. Mao, the girl from this volume, is one of the childhood friend that becomes the girlfriend archetype. All she needs to do is show up, makes herself available and be friendly, and before page 100 they are liplocking away. Kouchi is a blank slate with only a few details brushed in, with many of his character bits coming from Mao's revelations about herself. There are no real challenges or other challengers for Mao to overcome before starting a relationship with Kouchi beyond that he is a boy and they sometimes need to have things spelled out for them. The art is nice in fan servicey way, not that many panty shots and the like, but Mao's, umm, assets still get to ignore gravity.

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

- Ferdinand

Thursday, June 18, 2009

the 9 Lives, vol. 1

Story by Bayou and Rachel Manija Brown with Art by Bayou
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: Why are cat-boys always effete?

Conri is an uncollared cat boy in a world like ours except that humans keep alien cat people as slaves and pets. Conri has no wish to be a pet but it is illegal to be uncollared so he has to dodge the authorities. After nearly being caught for stealing food he is rescued by the human Adrian. Curious why a human would help a cat person without demanding favorsConri follows Adrian back to his apartment. Conri later sneaks in, eating his food and sleeping on the bed, so when Adrian returns and sees the damage that Conri has done, Conri agrees to do housework to pay for the damage. Conri is wary around Adrian, causing several misunderstandings, as Conri expects that Adrian will eventually try to collar him. The reason why humans want collared cat-people is that they literally have nine lives and can share them to bring someone back from the brink of death.

What is it about cat-boys that make them androgynous and desperate to be featured in an yaoi like title? While this isn't a yaoi title per se, it certainly leans that way. Some sexual overtones are inevitable in any title that deals with a slave race (and is deftly handled early in the story) it just becomes gratuitous innuendo later. The idea of the nine lives that can be shared is revealed late in the book though the concept would suggested it ought to be a far more central part of the story for it makes believable the public acceptance of slavery. While issues of trust are brought up and explored,Conri is a juvenile so he handles them in a juvenile and superficial way. There is a lot of potential and a good foundation is laid, but using it is left for another volume.

the 9 Lives, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cat Eyed Boy, vol. 1

Story and Art by Kazuo Umezu
Published in the US by Viz

Slugline: A horror manga that has gone horribly wrong.

Cat Eyed Boy is an abandoned monster that has been forced to live on his own, living in house's attics and observing the people live there. Either trouble follows him or he follows trouble, but either way the people he spies upon often have things go terribly wrong. Eventually he comes across a group of human freaks who are behaving as monsters to get revenge on humans that are monsters on the inside. This perversion of monsters (comparatively speaking) good name sets him in opposition to them.

Kazuo Umezu created The Drifting Classroom manga, so when this title come up for review the expectation was that it would be very good. Instead, The Cat Eyed Boy is more memorable for the lack of internal consistency and the meandering and purposeless main character. Sure, maybe that reflects the character's true nature as a cat rather than a human being, but it still makes for a very poor story. Even the opposition that makes their appearance in the last half of this super-sized volume doesn't make much sense, and because their victims deserve their fate it is hard to sympathize with them. Still you can't help but feel annoyed that the Cat Eyed Boy is completely incompetent in trying to stop them. As a result the art rather than conveying a horrific mood merely has a gross out factor.

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

- Ferdinand

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ballad of a Shinigami, vol. 1

By Asuka Izumi and Original Story by K-She Hasegawa
Published in the US by CMX Manga

Slugline: Featuring a death that never shows up

Momo is a shinigami, a reaper like spirit born from a suicide who takes on the the appearance of a young girl wearing white. Despite her supernatural connection to death she is not especially dangerous or even girl-like, but she does carry messages or other hints from the dead to the living. The living often need the help in order to deal with their own pasts and quite frankly to get the girl/boy.

White symbolizes death in many eastern cultures, so the fact that Momo is wears white is not as reassuring as one would first think when she is introduced. But it seems like that it is not very important who or what Momo looks like as long as she gets to say her one line per story that forces the potential couples to change and survive the fate that would otherwise lay in store for them. Momo barely more involved in the stories than the old Cryptkeeper character that once introduced horror stories, and in that sense the supposed main character does not feel very necessary to the stories. This is more like an anthology of tortured teen romance than actual supernatural stories or even a single continuing story, and while the individual stories are done well, there is nothing holding them together and making the title as a whole interesting enough to rise above average.

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

- Ferdinand

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blue Eyes, vol. 3

Blue Eyes, vol. 3 is an explicit manga title so the body of the review is on Prospero’s Manga – Mature, a review blog for adult manga titles. Please check there for the review.


Friday, June 05, 2009

Gravitation Collection, vols. 1 & 2

By Maki Murakami
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: Is love without meaning still love?

Shuichi wants to avoid school as much as possible and sing his songs but his life insists on throwing complications his way. After meeting Eiri and being insulted for his lack of song-making ability, Shuichi falls in love with the older man, despite the apparent disinterest. Shuichi's best friend wants to leave the band out of the desire to get a real life and stop disappointing his parents. Eiri has his own complicated life, with a sister who tries to manipulate him through Shuichi and a younger brother that is everything that their father wanted, never mind the betrothal that Eiri has been dodging. Through it all, Shuichi works harder to become a professional musician and keep Eiri's attention.

Is it too much to ask for romances, even the shonen-ai variety, to have some actual romancing going on? Shuichi sees Eiri and falls in love immediately and Eiri does little to return or even deserve it in this collection of the first two volumes. Yes, Gravitation is considered a classic of the genre, and quite frankly everything around Shuichi and Eiri's pairing is done well, but the actual relationship of the two is pretty unrealistic even by the loose standards of the genre. If you just skip a few pages, there is a half decent rock and roll story in here, but the romance at its center just seems unreal and more than a little creepy.

The sequel for this series, Gravitation EX, has been reviewed on Prospero's Manga here. Frankly, it sounds that it takes the silly aspects of this series and pushes further to be really funny.

Gravitation Collection, vols. 1 & 2 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Orange Planet, vol. 1

By Haruka Fukushima
Published in the US by Del Rey

Slugline: One of each shojo cliche

Rui has boy problems that many girls in junior high would love to have. There is the neighbor boy who has long liked her, the school's hottest boy who is returning her interest and a playboy student teacher that has invited himself to live in Rui's apartment. Rui is pushed and pulled between the boys and the young man through humorous and embarrassing situations. But Rui's childhood memory of a boy who comforted her after the death of her parents continues to haunt her.

Gah. This has all of the annoying shojo cliches concerning potential boyfriends wrapped together into a single manga. Childhood loves, lack of parents or any adult supervision and college students being friendly with junior high girls does not improve the final result. I like the fact that Rui is human enough to try weasel the answers for an exam from her live-in teacher, but other than that she acts like one of the saints that only exist in manga, setting completely unrealistic expectations of behavior for girls. Technically, the work is fine and the story holds together (such as it is) but it just jams together too many of the shojo cliches to put up with.

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