Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit, vol. 1

Story and Art by Motoro Mase
Published in the US by Viz

Slugline: Worst Government Health Plan Ever!

Fijimoto has started a job with a government ministry as a messenger of Ikigami. This government has decided so that the citizens will live to their fullest, some have to die. All citizens receive immunizations and in those immunizations some receive a capsule that will kill them at a predetermined date and time between the age of 18 to 24. Their only warning is that 24 hours before their death, the victims receive an Ikigami with their death information. Fujimoto questions the ethics of this, but not too loudly since social malcontents also receive a capsule. He delivers two Ikigami in this volume, one to victim of bullying who now has to wonder how to get revenge and the other to a street musician that has sold out in order to be a success that he will now never enjoy.

This series acts more along the lines of an anthology, with Fujimoto only being involved in the beginning of each story as the background of the Ikigami and the world that permits it is touched upon. The rest of the stories are about the last days of the victim and how they chose to use their death. These are character studies, as the victims have just a day forcing them to pare their goals and themselves down to fit that day. Despite the implicit questioning of Ikigami by the characters, on how there is no need for it to be used to bind the society together, in the two cases here the final acts of the victims are to help others, thus undercutting the argument against them. The strength of the title is in the character examinations rather than the overarching story which has too much useless infodumps.

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

- Ferdinand

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gestalt, vol. 1

Story and Art by Yun Kouga
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: I guess the cover art is nice

Father Olivier of the Valeria Order has evaded his superiors and is going to the island of 'G,' the home of a banished demon. Along the way he acquires the slave Ouri , who rapidly reveals that she has hidden abilities and a connection to the island of 'G' herself. There are some traveling companions and some complications, but the story was so choppy and all of the characters drawn so similarly that it rapidly become too much work for too little reward to actually care what could be going on. Character motivations and powers appear and disappear with no explanation, bad video-game terminology is used as an excuse to avoid actual world building and plot lines are created and discarded apparently randomly. This was painful to read, and despite the creator's otherwise compelling body of work, this title is one to be avoided.

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

- Ferdinand

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tail of the Moon, Prequel: The Other Hanzo(u)

Story and Art by Rinko Ueda
Published in the US by Viz

Slugline: They only way to keep the peace is through treachery and assassination

Kaguya, who was discovered wounded and without her memory in a bamboo field, works as a servant at a brothel during the Japanese Warring States period. All of the ladies there are interested in the playboy warriorHansou, though when he sees Kaguya he decides that he needs to meet her. At first she is flattered by the attention until she learns that he visits all of the red light district's ladies. Honsou insists he feels differently for her but as they get more intimate he realizes that the scars from her wounds are identical to ones he gave to an assassin. This jogs her memory, enough to remember that she is a ninja trying to keep the peace through carefully aimed violence. Despite their roles on opposite sides of the Warring States,Kaguya (now using her real name Sara) and Honsou keep their relationship alive in the face of her missions to marry and spy on other members of Honsou's family.

As a prequel, this volume helps explain the background and relationships of several of the supporting characters of the main Tail of the Moon series. The art style is appears to be a touch out of date, which helps create the illusion that this story predates the main series. While sometimes the logic of the characters seems spurious, especially when they try to justify how despite being on opposite sides their objectives remain the same, the story still does not read all that badly. This is one of those stories where you don't really need to justify everything, just go along with the characters' emotions and feelings. If this was a continuing story, it's structure would be more of a problem, but as a standalone or a side story, it works.

Tail of the Moon, Prequel: The Other Hanzo(u) is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rasetsu, vol. 1

Story and Art by Chika Shiomi
Published in the US by Viz Shojo Beat

Sluglines: Love and Roses must always have thorns

Rasetsu is the lead exorcist of an agency that casts out spirits and other supernatural menaces despite her young age. Part of the reason that she is so talented is that an early age she was marked by a rose tattoo as the possession of the spirit to be claimed by it on her 20th birthday. The only way for her to escape her fate is to fulfill a very specific set of conditions that she has little confidence in herself in fulfulling. Despite her competence, she does not look it, so when Yako Hoshino, a character from Chika Shiomi's earlier work Yurara needs the help of an exorcist he is reluctant to hire her agency. Rasetsu steamrolls over his protests and when she realizes that he has his own ability, she arranges for Yako to lose his current job and be hired to work for her agency so that she can have someone halfway competent to help her. What Rasetsu doesn't realize that she bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love, a relationship thatforms the core of Yurara.

This is a sequel to the Yurara manga but so far only Yako has appeared in Rasetsu in more than background role. The focus in far more on Rasetsu, a new character, than Yako. She is an interesting mix of competent and carefree, doomed and light hearted. She is reticent to discuss her need to find true love to escape the spirit which makes the plot stronger, as it is believable that her experience makes her wary of any kind of love even if it would be her salvation. Yurara has not been reviewed so there is no way to really compare this title to it's prequel, but the mere fact that this is not another high school shojo gives it a leg up. While it has been certainly been implied that Rasetsu and Yuko will be getting together because of Rasetsu's fate and her resemblance to Yuko lost love, the plot does not feel like it is predetermined or just an exercise of filling in the blanks, which is partly why it is so well rated.

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

- Ferdinand

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Battlestar Galactica: Echoes of New Caprica

Stories by Emily Salzfass, Richard Hatch and Mike Wellman and Art by Chrissy Delk, Christopher Schons and Anthony Wu
Published by TokyoPop

Slugline: Just as dark and depressing as the original.

This is an anthology of Battlestar Galactica stories based on New Caprica storyline, when the humans were under Cylon occupation. Former President Roslin becomes a teacher and tries to balance educating and keeping her students safe with the demands that the Resistance and Cylons make on their parents. Temporary President Zarek after the escape from New Caprica makes decisions that are both difficult and easy on how to deal with humans collbators with the Cylons. Kara (the pilot Starbuck) has to decide after New Caprica what her relationship with her false daughter Kacey will be now that she has rejoined the fleet and the only lies left are the ones she tells herself.

Despite not having watched the new series, the volume gives enough information to understand what happened during the New Caprica storyline and why it was important to the characters. But this is probably one of the books that should be read in conjunction with the series in order to get the most enjoyment out of it, since the storyline in Battlestar Galactica was constantly changing and this touches on issues that the series could not take the time to examine. The Roslin story was an interesting view of life under occupation and featured its uncertainty, but the ending was weak and confusing, robbing the story of much of its power. The Zarek story covered ground that was already gone over during the series, but the Kara story did not, exploring the emotional fallout of Kara's time on New Caprica along with how it did not change despite her wanting it to, making it the strongest entry.

Battlestar Galactica: Echoes of New Caprica is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Thursday, July 16, 2009

You Will Drown in Love

Story and Art by Hinako Takanaga
Published in the US by TokyoPop Blu

Slugline: Emotional stunted guys are apparently irresistible.

Jinnai has been working in a fabric shop for years so when the manager retires, he thinks he is a shoe-in for the position. Unfortunately the owner's son takes over as the manager instead of him Reiichiro gladly admits that he has a lot of learn from him. As Reiichiro relies on Jinnai to guide him in running the store they grow closer together and become friends. Reiichiro asks Jinnai for advice for all sorts of issues including his emotional life, making Jinnai to realize his jealousy of Reiichiro's romantic entanglements. When the opportunity arises, Jinnai makes his move to awaken Reiichiro to his own and Jinnai's feelings.

While the back cover text says that this is a sequel to You Will Fall in Love it is more of an intersecting story, with characters from that manga as supporting and background characters in this one. But other than connection, there is not much here that is any different from every otheryaoi manga. There is a very masculine lead who is aggressive in the relationship and a more passive character that lets the other declare his love first and even initiate physical intimacy over their own initial objections. If this was a traditional heterosexual relationship very few people would say that it was healthy or even attractive. The only attractive aspect of the manga is the art.

You Will Drown in Love is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fushigi Yûgi, VizBig Vol. 1

Story and Art by Yuu Watase
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: I still remember the endless cries of "Tamahome!"

Miaka is a typical junior high school student that is studying hard to get into a prestigious high school, when while studying at the library she discovers a book describing a magical world. That book transports both her and her best friend Yui to that world where they meet Tamahome, a money obsessed martial artist. They girls travel back and forth from Japan and the world of the book, separately and together until misunderstandings and deceptions cause Yui and Miaka to be allied to different empires. This is important because they can fulfill a prophecy by becoming priestesses, allowing them to have wishes that can make or break empires. Each priestess will have seven protectors, who are necessary to fulfill the prophecy so Miaka begins the search for them even as she falls more in love with Tamahome.

Fushigi Yûgi was one of the first big shojo animes so it had and probably still has a fairly big following but by modern standards it is about as subtle a brick. Not that modern shojo is very subtle either, but people could mock it by randomly calling out Tamahome since Miaka seemed to cry it out every 10 minutes in the anime. The manga is not quite as bad but Miaka still is an airhead and you wonder how she can manage to focus on anything long enough to finish it. But despite that, the story does carry you along and it becomes almost addictive, reading (or watching) as much as you can just to see what happens next. Or to see if Miaka will ever be mature enough to avoid calling to Tamahome every time her moods change.

Fushigi Yûgi, VizBig Vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Manga: Bounkenshin

Stories by David Gerrold, Diane Duane, Christine Boylan and F.J. DeSanto with Art by E.J. Su, Chrissy Delk, Don Hudson and Bettina Kurkoski
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: Can a story be too faithful to its source material?

This an anthology title, with the first story being patterned on the tried and true "Wesley Crusher learns an important lesson" style of episode. There is also a scientific mystery story while the final two stories explore the fallout of broadcast episodes. These stores are reminiscent of early Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes in that they are more cerebral rather than action oriented and are humanistic, as in the outcomes are determined by human emotions and instincts. That results in very specific kinds of stories, ones that Star Trek: TNG moved away from in later episodes and in the spirit that Gene Roddenberry created the series in. This is not necessarily a judgment on the stories, but it does describe them and if you are expecting stories from other eras of Star Trek you will be disappointed.

The cover proclaims that one of the stories is written by David Gerrold, who is best known for writing the original series episode The Trouble with Tribbles. However, his contribution is the Wesley Crusher story which feels like it goes over ground that has been covered in many episodes before. David Gerrold has written some very adult oriented material, but in this case it feels like that he wrote a story that was more kid or comic book oriented. All of the stories are relatively self-contained, even the ones that spin out of broadcast episodes, with the only thing that you really need to know is that Picard once was taken over by the Borg. The stories are almost too much like the broadcast episodes, taking on many of the same themes without adding anything new.

Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Manga: Bounkenshin is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Monday, July 13, 2009

Updates to the Blog

So soon after our last delay, now we are having computer problems. Add together a cat, a glass of water and a keyboard and you end with a keyboard with only half the keys working. Until we get a new keyboard updates may be a bit random as we wait for access to a public computer.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Amefurashi, vol. 1

By Atsushi Suzumi
Published in the US by Del Rey Manga

Slugline: More little kids who exist to force the plot along.

Gimmy is a mechanic of a desert village that depends on a nimbus tree, a giant magical tree that provides the village's water. In exchange for water, the tree's goddessAmefurashi asks for dolls. Gimmy as the village's handyman is asked to make the doll, but is so caught up in the details that he blows the deadline for the doll's delivery. Gimmy's younger siblings Mel and Mil run off and pretend to be dolls to appease the goddess, with Gimmy climbing the tree to recover them. On the way he finds an annoying young girl named Sora and discovers too late that she is actually the Amefurashi. Gimmy tries to make a deal to get his siblings back, but while working out the deal Ciel, another amerfurashi without a tree steals Sora's tree's heart. Without it, the village will no longer get water so Gimmy decides to help Sora get back her tree's heart.

For once none of the characters are stupid. While they make mistakes, there are mistakes that are believable and match their character traits. Gimmy is a little too perfectionist for his own good, Mel and Mil are impetuous and Sora has a hard time understanding what the heck the humans want or are even actually are saying. The only concern is with the plotting, with the story first looking like it will be about howGimmy is going to convince Sora to return his siblings and only later it being about Gimmy and Sora teaming up. Ordinarily it would be better if the story didn't feel the need to switch tracks, but this feels like a mostly organic change rather than desperate flailing around to find something to do.

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

- Ferdinand

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Loudest Whisper, vol. 1

By Temari Matsumoto
Published in the US by Blu

Slugline: Not much whispering or meaningful conversations here.

This is an anthology of yaoi romances that focuses on their start. There are two multipart stories, the first one showing two friends in school that are so close that rumors begin that they are dating. Apparently that is that is need to date and then quickly move into a physical relationship. The other story, which ends the volume, concerns with a young heir of a vast fortune and the bodyguard that has protected him since he was a boy, and their bond that turns into something more. In addition there are several single chapter stories sandwiched between the two longer stories in the volume.

In the first story of the manga there is about as much passion as one could find in a church bake sale. The characters begin a relationship simply because other people suggest it there is no drive on the part of the characters that suggest they find it good for anything other physical release. The final story has an unbalanced power relationships that just scream wrongness and exploitation to me. The relationships that seem somewhat balanced between the partners and have some emotion attached are the stand alone stories but it is not enough to overcome the damage that the two longer stories inflict on the volume.

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

- Ferdinand

Friday, July 03, 2009

Game X Rush, vol. 1

By Mizuho Kusanagi
Released in the US by TokyoPopo

Slugline: Isn't it supposed to be easy to tell a bodyguard and an assassin apart?

Memori may be one of Japan's best bodyguards but because he works for his brother's small agency he is chronically overworked and underpaid. Yuuki could be a new hire for the agency, taking some of Memori's workload though he is more than a little bit off by Yuuki's casual attitude. That casual attitude hides a core of competence that Memori starts to warm up to, only to have it revealed almost too late that Yuuki is an assassin that is after Memori's client. Though Yuuki does not succeed, Memori cannot just forgive or forget as they continue their relationship, as it becomes strained and strange with Yuuki eventually becoming a employee of a large rival agency.

The premise of the manga begins as an entertaining one, as an assassin and a bodyguard becomes friends and rivals, but once their roles are revealed to each other it is difficult to keep the premise believable. For a while it feels like the story is flailing about trying to keep Memori and Yuuki snarking but not getting any more aggressive at each other. While at the end of the volume the premise has been recast enough for them to be friendly rivals, it is now difficult to believe in the competence of either one of the main characters after the previous shenanigans. Realism is not be demanded in manga, but the characters need to at least act in ways that are consistent with who and what they are.

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

- Ferdinand

Updates to the Blog

Sorry that there has been a posting lag, but I was sick for a few days. We will get back to posting on a regular schedule along with making up our backlog.