Friday, October 30, 2009

Detroit Metal City, vol. 1

By Kiminori Wakasugi
Published in the US by Viz Signature

Slugline: A (rude) one hit wonder

Negishi is a musician that has moved to the big city to make his name and fortune. Unfortunately it is not in folk or pop music, his true musical passions, but instead in the death metal band Detroit Metal City (DMC). He takes on the persona of Krauser II, the foul mouthed and depraved lead guitarist of the band. This causes no end of trouble for Negishi who tries to keep the halves of his life separate, but sometimes when he is stressed or nervous he falls into his Krauser II persona confusing those around him since he has not shared his dual identity with most people. Despite the popularity and fame that DMC has, Negishi still just wants to talk to his old college friend Aikawa who likes the same pop music that he does without having to let her know about Krauser II or DMC.

The title is rated M for Mature for wildly excessive use of swears. Every time Krauser II is in the panel expect a least a dozen words that you can't repeat in front of your mom. It's played for laughs but it after a while the joke just isn't funny anymore as the swears lose their power to shock and quickly move into the realm of annoyance. It is never quite explained how Negishi ended up or started DMC and considering his attitude to his role and the music, the reasons why he was willing to split his life so severely would explain why he bothers keeping up with the illusion. Some of the characters' behaviors, especially towards women, is just not funny no matter how tongue in cheek it claims to be. This might have been a good short story but stretching the joke out over an entire volume just makes it feel thin and unless new angles are explored there seems to be little reason to continue reading it.

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

- Ferdinand

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Deka Kyoshi, vol. 1

By Tamio Baba
Published in the US by CMX Manga

Slugline: Old school detective

Toyama is a police detective investigating the suspicious suicide of fifth grade school teacher. He goes undercover as the teacher's replacement and befriends the class misfit,Miyahara, who see things no one else can. Miyahara is seeing the various mental disturbances that the students have so Toyama believes his descriptions. Toyama uses them to deal with the various afflictions that the students have while making a friend and an unofficial partner of Miyahara while also drafting the school nurse into his efforts. What is certain that someone is behind the teacher's death and there is a mysterious figure lurking in the background that makes all of the students' problems worse, but by the end of the first volume his identity remains unknown.

The art and story feels very old school, like the title was produced in the 70's or 80's with the art simplified and the storytelling straightforward. The rational explanation for the supernatural abilities is weak, even by the liberal standards of manga, which still bugs me. The stories worked best when both theToyama/Miyahara team and the student of the week deal with the problem together rather having Toyama punching a psychosis that only Miyahara can see leaving the student confused. The best example of this was the "Swimming Girl" chapter where the student confront her guilt over her parent's breakup by speaking with her mom in addition to Toyoma and Miyahara's own efforts. It still feels like an After School Special at times but in the better stories reader isn't being preached to.

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

- Ferdinand

Friday, October 23, 2009

Four-Eyed Prince, vol. 1

By Wataru Mizukami
Published in the US by Del Rey

Slugline: Cruel to be kind... No, it's just cruel

Sachiko is attracted to one of the princes of her school, Akihiko. Part of her attraction is due to his stylish glasses while the rest is from his kindness to her when her father died, but when she approaches him she is rebuffed. Later that daySachiko has to move in with her mother, meeting her for the first time but making her day a complete nightmare Akihiko is her mother's stepson (no blood relation of course) and that they will be living together. Akihiko tries to ditch her, but she discovers that he works as bartender to get extra money, but protects his identity by going by a different name and without wearing his glasses. Since girls seem to want him irrespective of name or appearance, he has a poor opinion of them and of love in general. That makes him the target ofSachiko's desperate romantic assaults for the rest of the volume, while which he claims to be softening his positions but his actions would drive away all but the most lovelorn teen girl. Which, fortunately for him and the story, Sachiko is.

This is another entry in the "What do they think a relationship is?" sweepstakes. Akihiko pulls a stunt halfway through the volume, to 'help' another couple, that shows how little respect and empathy he has for Sachiko. Everything after that scene basically made me wonder why Sachiko was sticking around despite the offers of a full mountain spa vacation. While Akihiko is not a 'bad boy' in the traditional sense, Sachiko reacts as if he is, as she tries to 'change him.' That is something that only works in cookie cutter made romance novels.

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

- Ferdinand

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Karakuri Odette, vol. 1

Created by Julietta Suzuki
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: Robots who want emotion because of peer pressure

Karakuri Odette
like many other 'humanoid robots goes to high school' stories with a brilliant professor who sends his advanced robot to a high school who has various adventures. The title manages to avoid most of the obvious traps of that premise by keeping the stories small and focusing on slices of life. It also helps that the robot Odette actually does act detached from her emotions, unlike in other stories where robots insist on becoming more 'human' even though they already display a full range of human reactions. Though it is billed as a comedy it feels more like a drama since it is more about the characters rather than setting up weird situations and characters to be mined for humor.

A lot of manga suffer from something I call cast bloating, with many minor characters who readers still want to follow as over time a manga's cast gets larger. That happens when a creator introduces a new character to be bounced off the rest of the cast to create new and zany situations rather than utilizing the current cast. The problem is when these guest star characters may be so open-ended that they will end up sticking around to finish their story. If the guest character is ignored it will feel like the title has distracting dangling plotlines but if they are left onstage they take time and focus from the main characters. Karakuri Odette manages to avoid that by making the guest stars' stories feel complete with enough wiggle room that the guest stars could return but that they don't have to. It is a narrow line to walk, but it shows the care and craft that went into manga better than any story summary.

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

- Ferdinand

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Ninja Girls, vol. 1

Created by Hosana Tanaka
Published in the US by Del Rey

Slugline: Resisting making the horn/horny puns here.

Raizo has a little problem in that he has a horn on his head, which makes the local villagers fear him and call him demonchild. It is that same deformity that marks him as the last scion of a noble house. Only four ninjas remain to protect Raizo from the enemies of his previously unknown ancestors so inevitably they bicker with each other over the best way to protect him and reestablish their house. The ninja fall into easily recognizable stereotypes such as the cross-dresser and the silent one, while as usual the bubbly one, here named Kagari, wants to get 'closer' to Raizo.

Scantily clad ninja girls protecting a younger hapless guy should be its own genre because I swear I have seen this plot before many times. The only question I have after reading the title is whether or not the ninja girls are color coded in the colored art of the series. Sure, some of the details are different such as what makes the male character 'special' which here is his horn. But the characters and the story itself are so familiar that I can feel the story beats coming by merely looking at the chapter heading art. While the manga by itself is well executed the manga itself doesn't yet offer anything interesting other than for collectors of fan-service as they marvel at the ridiculous situations created to give the fan-service a veneer of plausibility.

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

- Ferdinand

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Domo: the Manga, vol. 1

Created by Tsuneo Goda, Stories by Clint Bickham and Art by Rem, Sonia Leong, Lindsay Cibos and Jared Hodges
Published by TokyoPop

Slugline: Speaking of characters who have a wide-ranging vocabulary...

Domo is the mascot of NHK, a major Japanese TV network who has been featured in a variety of formats already including a series of stop motion shorts on cable. The manga however is the product of TokyoPop creators and features the whole range of Domo characters in a color anthology. Most of them involve Domo developing a monomania about an object or activity that all of his friends are caught up in much to their dismay. This usually ends whenDomo's battered friends manage to convince him to stop. Considering that Domo has one word vocabulary you can understand that most of the stories are read quickly.

Domo is an all ages title that is definitely aimed toward kids. Most of the stories are built around very simple and repetitive gags that are done by Domo round-robin style on the entire cast of characters. While the stories are cute they are fairly predictable nor do they really add much to the characters. This title seems to be more for people who already know who Domo is and wants more of what they already know rather than being introduced to the characters.

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

- Ferdinand