Thursday, April 15, 2010

The World I Create

By Ayami Kazama
Published in the US by CMX Manga

Slugline: Believing is Seeing

This manga is about people that have the ability through magic lanterns to create illusionary environments that can encompass all of the senses.  These 'projectionists' share their school grounds with a more traditional high school so that they share many of the same problems of typical students except that their conflicts are not just over grades but over their special abilities.  A couple of students that have had trouble advancing  in their training end up creating worlds not for their teachers but for each other.  A student that is losing her projectionist ability has to decide what her last illusion will be and how she will keep her projectionist friends despite moving back to the ordinary school.  Two students first aggravate each other then help each other reach ever greater heights in their abilities.  A student is worried that he will lose his girlfriend if she pursues her projectionist abilities.  In all of these different stories characters from the others visit but the problem of each story remains their own to resolve.

This is an all ages title, and the conflicts in each story reflect that rating in that none of them are intense though they can be bittersweet and their relationships while having the beginnings of romance for the most part are innocent and sweet rather than hot and heavy. It is not much of a surprise to find out that at the heart of each story is the revelation, the showing of a truth. That ties in with the characters' projectionist abilities, because in most cases that truth can only be shown through those abilities. But this is one of those times were the all ages ratings holds back the title, because the stories could be so much more bold than they end up being. A less restrictive rating could have allowed higher and more varied stakes rather than leaving the reader with a sense of repetition and a mild disappointment that the manga was not more.

The World I Create is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Red Hot Chili Samurai, vol. 1

Created by Yoshitsugu Katagiri
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline:  Just as spinach gives you strength chilis make you a swordsman.

Kokaku is the son of the Han's (or province) leader.  The province is small and poor so Kokaku has to help in keeping the peace, which he is glad to do because it allows him to kick butt on a regular basis.  Unlike many other samurai Kokaku does not feel the need to use his sword to kill, having been taught while he was young and impressionable that the sword was to protect people.  Kokaku has some friends who help out in upholding justice and other cool sounding catchphrases like that.  These are the studious and serious guy, the competitive girl and the silent ninja, all of whom do not really need names since they are their appearances.  Despite his need to make sure that the people are protected and justice is served, Kokaku still has more than a healthy ego, often revealing his family tattoo of a black crane when knocking out his opponents so that they know who beat them.

Something about the name Red Hot Chili Samurai led to the impression of the title being more energetic and interesting than the resulting rather standard adventure story with samurai trappings.  The samurai aspect does not seem to be that important since anachronisms are introduced on the flimsiest of reasons.  The use of the chilis, rather than being symbolic of characters or having some subtle meaning becomes just another gag.  The supporting characters are straight out of central casting with only the smallest of flourishes to make them unique.  While there is an attempt to show Kokaku's motivation, by the time it is introduced there is already ample evidence that shows instead his desire to be the center or attention and put his opponents in their place.  That way, Kokaku gets to be arrogant in an acceptable way.  None of the characters are mean, but neither are they as heroic as they think they are.

Red Hot Chili Samurai, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga