Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Oh! My Brother, vol. 1

By Ken Saito
Published in the US by CMX Manga

Slugline: Siblings who are way too close.

Masago is the younger sister of the popular class president Shiro. Even though he is far more popular and gets better grades than her, Masago looks up to him even as she plays second fiddle to him. After all, being close to her brother gives Masago an opportunity to indulge her crush on his best friend, a fellow school council member. One day while walking home from school Shiro sacrifices himself to save Masago from a traffic accident and everyone at their school, including Masago herself, is devastated. Shiro is not gone, because his spirit has apparently set up a time sharing arrangement with Masago's body. Mosago and Shiro have to work together to finish his last project for the school council while making accommodations for each while using Masago's body.

Despite all expectations, the fact that Shiro is overly protective of Masago in that way manga often describes as 'sister-love' the story manages to not come across as too creepy. Creepiness all too easy even when the siblings aren't forced to share a body so that makes Oh! My Brother stand out more. The manga comes to a natural conclusion about three quarters of the way through the volume but the story is picked up in the next chapter and is crudely restarted. While the resulting story is fine, continuing it seems to have been last minute decision which may explain the story's uncertainty afterwards. This is only a two volume series so that may be a hindrance that the story never really recovers from, but in this volume it does pretty well.

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

- Ferdinand

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

World of Warcraft: Death Knight

Story by Dan Jolley and Art by Rocio Zucchi
Published by TokyoPop

Slugline: A common tragedy

Thassarian was once a soldier under Prince Arthas, so when the call was made he left his farm and remaining family to go with the Prince and attack the evil forces of the Scourge to keep them from his homeland. Thassarian and the rest of their force was betrayed by their Prince and was killed. Brought back as a Death Knight he has to blindly follow orders until a raid on a chapel which housed the bodies of heroes made him confront the ghost of his heroic father. That brought Thassarian back to himself, but while under the Lich King's control he had done horrible things and even though he had pledged to fight the Scourge and the Lich King, his allies and the common folk he seeks to save hate and fear him. The evil he was once part of has many faces so that it is hard to find them even though there are ones right next to him no matter where he goes.

This is the first of the class focused manga titles for World of Warcraft, which reveals the background of a character of the class example from the game. It is hard to judge this manga by the fact that it is a prequel to part of the World of Warcraft game background which I have not experienced. Some of what seems to be dangling plotlines may turn out to link into the greater story of World of Warcraft, but without that knowledge it is hard to judge. If this is supposed to be about the Death Knight class, at the end of the volume I am still not quite sure what a Death Knight can do, even though I do not expect shouted out names of abilities or other in-game information. As a action fantasy story it succeeds even though the tragic elements seem almost by the number, but the story does not seem to fully embrace or divorce itself from the World of Warcraft background.

World of Warcraft: Death Knight is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Friday, November 13, 2009

Night Head Genesis, vol. 1

Story by Georgbe Iida and Manga by You Higuri
Published in the US by Del Rey

Slugline: More veterans of the Psychic Wars

Naoto and Naoyo are brothers who were taken from their parents at an early age because of their psychic abilities. The older brother Naoto has more physical powers to move and destroy objects while Naoya the younger brother has visions. They were studied at a research center but escaped in their teen years though without realizing it was with the assistance of a female psychic of their own age. While outside Naoyo has a vision of the extinction of the human race through the accidental creation of a super-virus by an unknowing researcher. Another psychic has seen that but has decided that the researcher has to die while the brothers want to keep her alive but stop the research while . Lurking in the background is a far more powerful psychic with his own agenda.

This is another psychic powers manga with teens caught between a secretive organization and powerful psychics. Fortunately the book focuses on the brothers using their abilities rather than them trying to have a life on the run. Their powers are strong but are not building-shattering (no Akiras in other words.) The virus apocalypse storyline was not dragged out with the challenge of it is matched with the characters' abilities as they were introduced and the storyline sets up rising difficulties later on. Some of the character interaction was a bit stiff and suffered from "professional woman who is really just a girl" syndrome, but that is a common problem in manga. This is a very good first volume, introducing the characters, their major opposition and possible future storylines in a way that you do not feel that the rest of the story has been given away.

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

- Ferdinand

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Moyasimon, vol. 1

By Masayuki Ishikawa
Published in the US by Del Rey

Slugline: Who knew that E. coli were so cute?

Tadayasu and Kei are childhood friends that grew up on farms and have decided to go to an agricultural college. Tadayasu has a mysterious talent to literally see microbes and identify them that the agricultural college can enhance. Since both of theirfamilies rely on fermentation in their agricultural products, Tadayasu's ability means that both could thrive. An old friend of Tadayasu's grandfather teaches at the college and has heard of Tadayasu's ability. The professor hopes to use it further his own research while some of the upperclassmen think that Tadayasu could be useful in their get rich quick schemes. Despite all of the confusing attention Tadayasu and Kei just want to get through and enjoy college.

The major problem with this manga is that is filled with major info-dumps making it read as something between a love letter to Japanese agriculture and a microbial science textbook. Despite that concern the info-dumps are handled well, reminding one of the technical asides that are found on CSI or Numb3rs. The manga can be really disgusting as it show faux food products that people are willing to eat once they have been fermented or pickled, but it isn't too gory. In spite of these concerns the manga was still enjoyable. The characters were fun, the manga managed to give microbes a sense of personality and none of the plots were overwhelming silly. I'm not sure over how manga episodes that this premise could be stretched, but here at least it works.

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

- Ferdinand

Friday, November 06, 2009

Mikansei, vol. 1

By Majikoi
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Sluglines: Singers who don't pretend to be able to sing.

In the 23rd century, the 21st century is seen as a crude and immodest era. That is also the reason why Neo likes it, especially because of the singing, dancing and short skirts. She is accidentally hurled back in time and immediately finds a reluctant singing partner in Sayaya. Despite early disastrous performances, Neo so loves singing she manages to keep Sayaya involved as they work together as they move towards a seemingly impossible goal of impressing a talent manager. There are additional complications ranging from Neo's inability to contact her future, the resemblance of a 21st century singer to her missing 23rd century childhood friend and who is secretly supporting her in the 21st century.

One of the problems of idol manga is how to represent singing in that format. Since it is nearly impossible to get a tune or melody from reading the lyrics, I tend to just scan over them because if they become important they will be repeated. When the manga tries to have characters hailed as talented musician with only the lyrics to go by it is hard to take it seriously. Mikansei gets around this problem by having the first audiences boo the characters offstage. Considering how often lead characters of manga just have to sing once to become stars, when that didn't happen here it was a pleasant surprise. The characters are putting in the time and effort means that when they finally 'really' perform their applause will have been earned. Neo is facing many challenges not just in her musical profession or romantically, but on different levels as well but none are such thatNeo's sunny attitude appears to be denying reality. Mikansei succeeds because it subverts and deals with the cliches of idol manga rather than ignoring them.

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

- Ferdinand

Monday, November 02, 2009

Bloody Kiss, vol. 1

By Kazuko Furumiya
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: They promise the next volume is better?

Kiyo has always fough against others impressions of her family, so when her grandmother wills her decrepit mansion to Kiyo she can only see that selling it would make the law degree she needs to clear her family's name possible. The problem is that two vampires are already squatting at the property having been invited to live there by Kiyo's grandmother and want to stay despite Kiyo's plans. To make things even more complicated one of the vampires, Kurobashi. wants Kiyo to be his 'bride,' his sole source of human blood which will strengthen him supernaturally. Kiyo initially refuses, but when (evil) lawyers try to forcibly sell the mansion out from under her, she reluctantly agrees to giver her blood to him, permanently linking them together. Since she is now his 'bride' he uses his new supernatural abilities to help her at work and school.

The back cover blurb extols that the end of the second volume is great. Well, the question is why bother to buy the first volume if they feel that they need to talk about the second on it? This is only a two volume series, and maybe TokyoPop wanted people to know they could have a complete story in just two volumes that has a great ending, but if that was the intent it was not communicated clearly. This is another poor but hardworking girl stuck between two supernatural guys story, but the second guy, Kurobashi's servant, just too thinly sketched out so the sense of a competition over her is not clear. As it is, that better be one heck of twist/surprise in the next volume because at the moment it just feels like every other shoujo/vampire story.

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

- Ferdinand