Archive for Manga

Manga Review: Deka Kyoshi (vol 1)

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Detective Toyama is assigned to investigate the apparent suicide of an elementary school teacher. He goes undercover as a teacher himself and fills in for the victim’s class of fifth grade students. He is determined to find out if the suicide was just that, or if there was any foul play was involved that could put the kids in danger too.

He quickly discovers Makoto, a strange boy who seems to be an outcast and bullied by his classmates. But it turns out that the reason why Makoto is so strange is because he has a special gift. He is able to look at people and see all their stresses and worries manifest into hideous demons and monsters. So with the help of the kind undercover detective, the two work together to fix the problems that plague these early adolescent students.

While its “monster-of-the-week” episodic formula seems very simple and shallow on the surface, Deka Kyoshi turns out to be a very delightful read.


Manga Review: Oh! My Brother (vol. 1)

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Masago has the best older brother a girl could ask for. Shiro is popular. He’s goofy. He’s good looking. He’s the head of his student council. But most of all, he’s a kind boy and loves his little sister dearly.

But his niceness and his love ultimately leads to his death as he is accidentally hit by a car while protecting Masago from being hit by it herself. Masago and all of her classmates are devastated over Shiro’s tragic death, and while she cries out for her big brother, a gust of wind blows in through the window into her room.

Next thing you know, Masago is her older brother. That is, Shiro’s soul now possesses the body of his little sister, and they alternate back and forth for who controls the girl’s body or not. They believe it is because Shiro left the world with unfinished business. Now with the help of his little sister, they will set out to ensure his soul can finally move on to the other side, all the while trying to keep the fact that Shiro’s soul is inside his sister a secret.

Hold on… you go through that huge, tragic setup just to create a story of two people sharing the same body?! Really?! What kind of contrived plot is that?!  Have we not seen this done a million times before?!

I wanted to hate Ken Saito’s Oh! My Brother on this premise alone, I really did.  But with all of its charm and subtle comedy, I ended up loving this goofy – albeit flawed – shojo story.


Manga Review: A Tale of an Unknown Country

Monday, August 24th, 2009

A Tale of an Unknown Country is the story of Rosemarie, the young princess of a poor but stable kingdom. Her older brother, Mache, believes their land can improve by aligning with the wealthier kingdom next door, so he betroths his little sister to that nation’s prince Reynol.

But Rosemarie is not happy with this marriage arrangement as rumor has it that Prince Reynol is a mean and nasty boy. So she devises a plan to disguise herself as a maid to enter the palace incognito. Once she’s inside and spends some time with the prince, she can find out if the rumors are true about Reynol’s bitterness and she can find a way to pull the plug on the marriage.

This is CMX’s second comic release from Natsuna Kawase after they have just released her Lapis Lazuli Crown only a few months ago. I didn’t formally review Lazuli for this blog, but I did read it and found it to be a very enjoyable shojo comic. So I had high exceptions going into Unknown Country, Kawase’s debut series from 2001.

But unfortunately, Kawase just hadn’t developed the right skills yet to make this as good as Lazuli.


Manga Review: The Battle of Genryu: Origin

Monday, July 27th, 2009

I’ve been pretty hit-or-miss when it comes to releases from CMX Manga. In general, I’ve found their shojo releases to be very enjoyable and quite entertaining. Their Densha Otoko release was the best manga adaptation I read of that series, and their Emma series is one of the best manga releases out in the US, period. But shonen action series – the bread and butter of the American manga market – is obviously not CMX’s forte, and Shoko Fukaki’s The Battle of Genryu: Origin is one such shonen series.

Jun is a goofy young martial arts fighter who gains superhuman fighting ability once every month. At school, he practices with the help of his sparring partner, the hot Fusano. But there’s trouble one day when a group of thugs gang up on Jun, and he just barely survives the attack. The thugs were hired by Jun’s older brother, who (for reasons unknown to the reader) appears to be starting a war with his younger brother and their sister.

The cover art, lore, and overall attitude of this comic reminded me a lot of Ikki Tousen – just without any fan service.

And what’s Ikki Tousen without the fan service?

Not very much of anything. (-_-)


Manga Review: Swallowing the Earth

Monday, July 6th, 2009

When I read the fifth volume of Black Jack a few weeks ago, I decided to give in to the peer pressure of my fellow manga enthusiasts and open myself up to the grandfather of manga, Osamu Tezuka. I wanted to dive deep into this man’s massive catalog of decades old works. So when I found out that Digital Manga Publishing was releasing the 1968 Tezuka classic Swallowing the Earth this week, I leapt at the chance of securing a review copy for my second fray into the world of this legendary manga artist.

In World War II, an American soldier dies with a smile on his face in front of the Japanese. He uses his final breaths to tell his oppressors the name of one woman, Zephyrus, and hands them a photo of a beautifully buxom blond woman.

The Japanese soldiers are absolutely infatuated with the woman in the picture, and begin to ask around about Zephyrus. What they come to learn were stories of a goddess among women, a seductress with the power to charm any man into bed with her. After nights of the most incredible pleasure, the men literally shrivel up dry and get thrown aside, then the blond siren moves on to her next boy toy.

Twenty years after the war, those former soldiers still remember the picture, and they just so happen to hear that a woman named Zephyrus just checked into a Japanese hotel. To add to the mystery, she is said to be just as beautiful as she was in the picture, and hasn’t age at all in all these years. So one of the soldiers employs his drunken slacker of a son named Gohonmatsu Seki to spy on the girl. If there’s any man strong enough, or just plain stupid enough, to not fall for the siren’s tempting advances, it would be him!


Manga Review: Ballad of a Shinigami

Monday, June 29th, 2009

CMX’s newest release, Ballad of a Shinigami by Asuka Izumi, is the manga adaptation of the light novel by K-Ske Hasegawa. It follows Momo, the cutest little shinigami (a “God of Death” or grim reaper) that you’ve ever seen. Along with her animal familiar Daniel, Momo watches in the shadows as the human drama plays out in front of her in the world of the living.

Ballad is not so much of a serialized series as it is a collection of short stories that Momo watches from the sidelines. Volume one includes a short prelude and three stories.

Each story generally centers around a person who has recently suffered the loss of someone close to them, so they become all too aware of the cute death god watching over them. They become too preoccupied in contemplating their own mortality to realize all the love and life that still exists around them.

Man, who would have thought that shojo could be this gloomy and depressing! (o_o)


Manga Review: Yuri Monogatari vol. 6

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

In my years of fandom, one of the most interesting people I have ever met has been Erica Friedman. As a lesbian and hardcore manga fan, Erica has become very vocal and passionate about the yuri subgenre of comics. She’s so into it that she writes in her Okazu yuri-blog many times each week, runs the occasional Yuricon in both America and Japan, and has even started her own independent publishing company called ALC Publishing.

The somewhat annual yuri anthology Yuri Monogatari is Erica’s pride and joy. A combination of short stories from both Japanese and Western manga artists, Monogatari offers a wide variety of “authentic yuri” manga compiled together from the queen of the genre herself.

So how does this compilation play out for a more mainstream manga fan such as myself? Well, I got to check out the latest volume, and I discovered that like pretty much every manga anthology, you’ve gotta take the good with the bad.


Review of “The Manga Guide to…” Series

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

One time when I was getting a job interview for an entry level position, my potential employer took a good look over my resume.

“So I see you’re really into this anime stuff,” he said. Since I had run a number of anime clubs in college and minored in Japanese, it was a pretty obvious theme through out my resume.

“Yes,” I told him, “I collect Japanese animation and Japanese comic books.”

I am a little worried about bringing up this subject at job interviews. How would these potential employers interpret my hobby? Would they consider it unique and interesting, or would they think it was silly and childish?

But luckily for me, he seemed to have a very favorable impression on the medium.

“You know, the best book I have ever read about business and business practices was a Japanese comic book. I couldn’t believe how educational it was. I learned so much from that one book.”

And a week later, he hired me for the job.

So when No Starch Press sent me over their current selection of The Manga Guide to… educational series, I remembered what my boss had said about learning his trade from just one comic book. Can manga actually be used in education?

After reading through three books that have been released in the series, I can confidently say that yes, manga does make a great educational tool.


Manga Review: Black Jack vol. 5

Monday, May 18th, 2009


Tezuka! Tezuka! Tezuka!

You cannot be into manga without having hearing that name mentioned at least once every few months of your otaku wanderings.

Osamu Tezuka has come to be known as the grandfather of manga – the pioneer of the medium – and his works like Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion have been staples in both American and Japanese popular culture.

Unfortunately, my problem with Tezuka is that he’s at least one generation away from me and my tastes. The man died when I was only five, and most of his work would be better known from my father’s childhood than my own. So while I recognize Tezuka and his place in manga history, I have never read or watched any of his work and mostly stuck to the comics and anime of my generation.

But Tezuka, like most fixtures of pop culture’s recent past, is making a comeback in the 21st century with many of his works finding a refresh in recent years. Niche publisher Vertical is leading the manga charge by diving deep into the Tezuka archives and releasing many of his works to the American audience. Thanks to this publisher, decades-old titles like Dororo and MW are now being seen in English for the first time ever.

At the forefront of Vertical’s Tezuka revival is Black Jack, the story of a rogue doctor who’s purpose in life is to save anyone who needs saving, despite the circumstances or option of payment. The series has seen almost universal approval from the manga community since its stateside release.

So when Vertical’s brand new marketing director Ed Chavez offered up review copies of their fifth Black Jack collection, I very eagerly requested a copy to find out what all the hype’s been about.

And wow, now I know, because reading Black Jack has changed my view and perception of the medium I thought I knew completely.


Manga Review: Venus Capriccio

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

It’s been a long time since I last read shojo manga. As a fan of the more moé and shonen series, I very rarely pick up shojo titles in my eight years of collecting manga. But some time ago, I had a girlfriend who was also into manga, and she (literally) forced me to take in series like Hot Gimmick, Marmalade Boy, and Fushigi Yuugi. Fortunately, the girl had good tastes in manga, so despite following outside the target demographic of these titles, I found myself enjoying them a lot.

But again, that was many years ago, and I haven’t picked up a truly shojo title since then. So when CMX sent me a copy of Mai Nishikata’s Venus Capriccio to review for this site, I was worried that I might be a little rusty in being able to evaluate such a title.

Much to my surprise, however, Capriccio was an enjoyable read.