Library Love, Part 7

Support manga, support your library!

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Akira, Volumes 1-2 by Katsuhiro Otomo. Several years ago I watched the anime of Akira and enjoyed it. I think I like the manga it’s based on even better. I find it to be a marvelous, page-turning, science fiction romp. And because it’s an entire series, Otomo is able to explore aspects of the story that he wasn’t able to include in the two hour film; I feel like I can connect with the characters more and understand them and their actions better. There’s plenty of action and violence with all of the delinquent youths, bike gangs, military forces, and resistance organizations, but the manga also has a fair amount of humor to it too that prevents things from getting too dark.

Banana Fish, Volumes 18-19 by Akimi Yoshida. I had a feeling that things weren’t going to turn out well, but damn this is still heartbreaking. The ending is appropriate and the two side stories included in the final volume were a very nice touch. Yoshida ties up everything by the end, sometimes in surprising ways, but the result is very satisfying. The relationships, good and bad, are what this manga is all about and they are intense. Ash is an extremely charismatic character who profoundly affects those around him. Although the plot developments felt a bit repetitive at times, overall Banana Fish is a great series and I’m really glad that I read it.

Godchild, Volume 6-8 by Kaori Yuki. I think that these last three volumes of this manga are also the best in the series. The plot has gotten very dark, and very cruel, but things are starting to make some sense and are pulled together nicely by the end. Cain’s father and his family history are more thoroughly explained although I still don’t understand everything that’s going on. There are some characters that seem to be introduced out of nowhere to force the plot along, and there are still some developments that I’m not entirely convinced by, but for the most part I liked how things ended and how references to earlier volumes were incorporated.

Hana-Kimi: For You in Full Blossom, Volumes 20-23 by Hisaya Nakajo. While I am satisfied for the most part with the ending of Hana-Kimi, the series is definitely a fantasy and not at all how things would have really turned out. The manga seemed to go on a bit too long with a bit too much filler, and the climax was a bit anti-climatic, but it did make me happy to some extent in the long run. However, I will be the first to admit that how Ashiya is finally discovered and outed to be posing as a guy at an all boys school is really, really stupid. I don’t need to read the series again, and a lot of things frustrated me about the manga, but it was kinda fun while it lasted.

My Week in Manga: October 24-October 30, 2011

My News and Reviews

Today is the last day of the Horror Manga Moveable Feast and it’s been a great one! My quick takes from last week featured vampire themed manga while this week I’m featuring a variety of other horror influenced manga (plus Sugar Sugar Rune which isn’t horror, but reminds me of Hallowe’en). Last week I also posted a review of Otsuichi and Kendi Oiwa’s Goth manga adaptation. And after some encouragement from the Feast’s host Lori Henderson, I made a last minute contribution—Random Musings: Nightmare Inspector. (Which is one of the reasons this week’s new and reviews section is rather brief.)

Also! October’s manga giveaway for Moyoco Anno’s Sugar Sugar Rune, Volume 1 is up and going. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, so there’s still time to enter for a chance to win the first volume of a great fantasy series—Manga Giveaway: Happy Hallowe’en! (Sugar Sugar Rune Giveaway)

Quick Takes

Berserk, Volume 35 by Kentaro Miura. Guts and his companions are still on the high seas when the wind of change passes over the world. He is also still recovering from his last battle, but his skills are needed when the ship must face a hoard of demons from the sea. Occasionally Miura’s monster designs can feel somewhat repetitive, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less frightening. The art in Berserk is detailed and the battles are chaotic. Guts’ ordeal continues as he fights to protect those he’s come to consider friends. But the very power that he must use might also be the power that destroys them all. Berserk remains one of my favorite manga series; now begins the long wait for the next volume. 

Dragon Head, Volumes 1-10 by Mochizuki Minetaro. I enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction and Dragon Head is one of the best examples of the genre that I’ve come across in manga. The series explores the fear and the darkness, both literal and figurative, that cataclysmic events bring about. Dragon Head is fiction, and so some of the human responses to the tragedy feels overly dramatized, but the story is still very engrossing. I did find the inclusion of the scar heads somewhat odd, but they do provide another interesting perspective on fear. One of the most terrifying things in the world is the unknown, and the characters are never able to determine for certain what has happened. Minetaro’s art works fantastically well for the series, particularly the ravaged landscapes and scenes of destruction.

Grand Guignol Orchestra, Volume 1 by Kaori Yuki. I have a feeling that Grand Guignol Orchestra is a series that I like in theory but am unsatisfied with in reality. I mean, an orchestra that fights zombies with music (among other things)? How great is that? Pretty great in my opinion, but after reading the first volume I haven’t been convinced that Yuki will be able to pull it off. Even the characters haven’t settled in yet. The first volume seems unfocused and rushed at the same time, as if Yuki was trying to shove in too many manic ideas all at once. Still, the ability to take out a zombie with a tuning fork is pretty awesome. And even though it seems to have nothing to do with the actual story, I really like Gwin’s pet hedgehog.

King of Thorn, Volume 1 by Yuji Iwahara. The extremely deadly Medusa virus is running rampant across the world. In an effort to find a cure, a group of people chosen by lottery are put into stasis. But some awake to a world drastically different from the one they left. The facility they are in is in an extreme state of decay and carnivorous dinosaur-like creatures are roaming the grounds. The virus is no longer their immediate concern as they must struggle to simply survive. One of the things I like best about King of Thorn is that the ensemble cast is so diverse in both character design and personality. It is obvious from the way they interact with each other that Iwahara has put some thought into exactly who these people are. I’ll definitely be picking up the rest of the series.

Sugar Sugar Rune, Volumes 1-8 by Moyoco Anno. For a series that was created with elementary school students in mind, Sugar Sugar Rune is incredibly engaging for adult readers as well. It starts out innocently enough, two young witches have come to the human world to compete to become the next queen of the magical world, but the story quickly becomes deeper and more complex. The characters and setting are wonderfully well-rounded. Anno’s art is great even if some of the pages become a bit overwhelming. Marvelous attention is given to details such as clothing. Sometimes plot developments come out of nowhere, but they generally work in the long run. I really loved this series and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

Black Jack, Episodes 18-28 and Black Jack Special: The 4 Miracles of Life directed by Makoto Tezuka. I wouldn’t necessarily classify Black Jack anime as horror, although the potential is certainly there. I, for one, wouldn’t want to have to face the various diseases and conditions that afflict Black Jack’s patients. I find Black Jack to be a fantastic character and prefer the episodes where he plays a greater role in the story. He can be an absolute ass, but underneath he’s really very compassionate. Also, he’s a baddass. The Black Jack anime ran for sixty-one episodes but only the first twenty-nine episodes and the special are available through Crunchyroll. Fortunately, Black Jack is primarily episodic, so at least we’re not left with unresolved plot arcs. Plus, there’s always the original manga!

Library Love, Part 4

Support manga, support your library!

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Eden: It’s an Endless World, Volumes 6-8 by Hiroki Endo. This seems to have become a completely different story from where the series began. It is still interesting, with great writing, but I do find I miss the heavier and more integral science fiction and post-apocalyptic elements. I also hope some of the earlier characters, like Kenji, make a reappearance. Elijah is becoming a very complex character—he makes mistakes and pays for them; Endo does not take it easy on his characters. The art is still great, especially in action sequences, although the body proportions seem a bit off on occasion.

Godchild, Volumes 3-5 by Kaori Yuki. I’m starting to like Cain much better than I did previously, but he can still be a whiny brat at times. The story is getting kinda dark and heavy and is much less episodic than when the series first began. I still don’t understand Cain’s father’s motivations or the purpose of his secret organization Delilah—maybe because I didn’t read the previous series. Despite this, the plot is starting to be more coherent. I’m particularly interested in learning more about Cain’s brother Jizabel who gets center stage for a bit in these volumes. Yuki’s artwork is rather gothic and her costume designs in particular are great.

Hana-Kimi: For You in Full Blossom, Volumes 18-19 by Hisaya Nakajo. The Sano family drama has been mostly resolved and the networking track meet has finished up. We get some more dorm vs. dorm craziness (I love when RAs get mad at each other and drag the rest of the school into it), and Nakajo seems to have remembered there’s supposed to be some romantic comedy going on, too. Dr. Umeda makes a couple of appearances which makes me happy since he’s my favorite character and hasn’t been seen much lately. There aren’t many more volumes left in the series, but it doesn’t seem to be heading anywhere in particular anymore.

Kitchen Princess, Volumes 8-10 written by Miyuki Kobayashi and illustrated by Natsumi Ando. Mizuno turned out to be a much better character than I expected and I’m glad. There is a lot of over-the-top melodrama going on in Kitchen Princess, but I enjoyed the series anyway, especially the delicious, delicious food. It’s a cute series, and I’m happy with how things turned out. I particularly liked the ending side-story/epilogue between Mizuno and Akane. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Fujita’s story, who I adored, but oh well. Apparently Kitchen Princess won the Kodansha Manga Award for a children’s series in 2006, which I wasn’t aware of while I was reading it but I think the series deserves it.

Library Love, Part 1

Support manga, support your library!

Here’s what I’ve been reading:

Godchild, Volume 2 by Kaori Yuki. I’m pretty sure that Cain is supposed to be this angsty romantic figure, but so far I think he comes across as an ass most of the time. He does truly care about his half-sister and Riff, though. I also like the fact that he collects poisons—something that fascinate me. This volume loads on more Hargreaves family mystery but doesn’t really go anywhere yet. The introduction of Japanese characters in the first story of this volume seemed out of place to me. But, I do enjoy Yuki’s costume designs quite a bit.

Hana-Kimi: For You in Full Blossom, Volumes 16-17 by Hisaya Nakajo. I enjoyed this series much more than I was expecting to, but I must admit that it’s now starting to feel like it’s dragging on and on. These volumes return to one of the series roots: high-jumping. There’s less silly antics and more Sano family drama going on. I think I’m supposed to be worried about the developing love triangle between Sano, Ashiya, and Nakatsu but the intensity just isn’t there.

Hikaru No Go, Volume 1, written by Yumi Hotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. I hardly know anything at all about Go (I should really fix that), but that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying the first volume of Hikaru No Go. I know Obata’s work from Death Note and while the designs are definintely different here, the art is still excellent. Sai is very pretty and Hikaru is fairly adorable. Their interactions are fun to watch although the humor can be rather juvenile at times. Even from reading only the first volume I can understand how this series sparked a Go craze. Now, if only we could get some of those mahjong titles licensed…

Skip Beat, Volume 2 by Yoshiki Nakamura. I don’t really care about show business, but the revenge plot is great and isn’t something I’ve seen much of in shōjo manga. This volume sees the creation of the somewhat bizarre “Love Me Section” which, as far as I can tell, Kyoko is the only member. The story gets a bit silly at times, but I love Kyoko’s over-the-top reactions, even when she manages to keep them in her head. She’s spunky and can be very enthusiastic to say the least.