Cy-believers volume 1

February 16, 2009 at 2|36|am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Cy-Believers, volume 1
Shioko Mizuki
Go! Comi
Rated 16+

No, this isn’t a cool cyberpunk adventure manga.  Damn.  It’s actually a very weird mix of Miki Aihara-type shojo (now with more assholes!) and random humor, with a bit of “are-they-gay-maybe!” posturing.  In the hands of a more competent writer, this could’ve been cool.  Instead, it’s a bit of standard-shojo-fare that tries a little too hard to be edgy and offbeat.

Rui is a teenaged girl who’s just transferred to this school, Domus Somethingorother; I don’t remember the school’s full name, except that it’s Latin and very, very annoying and really pointless.  She’s there to meet her fiance, some guy who’s name starts with N (I forgot it already; that says something about this manga).  She’d thought he’d be a total sweetheart, based on his emails – but he’s actually a semi-rapist-ish, pigheaded jerk who delights in disbanding all other school clubs.

There’s also two guys who may or may not be gay.  One of them may or may not be a robot.  It’s effing weird.

In short: a very weird, forgettable manga with some nice art moments and an all-over-the-place plot that’s too faux-weird for it’s own good.  Try it out yourself and form your own opinion.

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Your and My Secret volumes 1-3

January 22, 2009 at 10|36|pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Akira is a rather good-looking sixteen-year-old boy, but girls don’t like him because he has little to no personality whatsoever (he’d fit in well in Hana-Kimi.  Sorry, that was rude).  Momoi is a brash, rude sixteen-year-old girl who’s incredibly pretty until she opens her mouth.  Yet despite her personality, Akira has a crush on her.  Then, due to an accident with one of Momoi’s grandfather’s experiments, the two end up switching bodies; that is to say, Akira’s soul is now in the body of the girl he likes.

This could be just normal shojo (if told from Momoi’s P.O.V.) or a particularly fan-service-filled seinen manga (seriously, think about it), but somehow, this series takes all the cliches, keeps half, and proceeds to screw the othe 50% up so much that it’s just WRONG.  And yet… I loved it.  I’m a cynic at heart, so seeing shojo tropes turned on their head was awesome for me.

An example of the series’ half-offending, half-completely-hysterical humor: after the body switch, Momoi proceeds to lock herself in the bathroom and, um, examine her new body, as I would have expected the male character to do.  This causes un-ending embarassment for Akira, who can’t bear to think of what she must be doing in there – the role a girl would have taken, if this were any normal shojo.

Then there’s Sebongi, Akira’s pre-swap best guy friend, who now has feelings for Akira-in-Momoi’s-body.  Even after the swap is revealed to him, he still keeps trying, knowing that it’s his old best friend, which I found completely hilarious.  Better yet, Sebongi’s ‘hit on everything that moves’ attitude and Momoi’s possible feelings for Akira lead to some very, very weird situations… including one in Volume Three that’s just too funny to spoil here (one word: doujinshi!)

All in all, I’d have to say this is the best antishojo (although it ran in a shojo magazine) I’ve read in 2009.  There’s a bit of Ouran (although more offensive to some), a bit of Hot Gimmick (from what I know of it), and a healthy dose of subverting gender stereotypes.  Not for those who still believe there’s good in everyone, but if you’re sick of cookie-cutter shojo manga, why not give it a try?

Art – 6/10.  It’s really not all that great, but hey, I didn’t read it for the flower backgrounds and hot guys.
Story – 8/10.  FUNNY AS HELL, enough said.
Extras – Had nothing to do with the story.  Actually they were all about creator Ai Moringawa’s cats.  A little boring, really.
Overall – Cynics who believe that the shojo genre is just recycling ideas, come one, come all.  Here’s a slightly screwy shojo that will either make you laugh your brains out, or offend you so much you’ll start a campaign to ban it from your local library.  Myself?  I’ll go with the former.

Nana volume 5

January 6, 2009 at 12|15|am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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…Whew.  I’m kind of exhausted from all that!  I spent last night unable to sleep, reading Nana, and I came to this realization:

Holy mother of cupcakes, I’m Hachi!

Er… right.  Onto the review then.

This series just keeps getting better and better with every volume!  I’m not exaggerating!  I’m just using exclamation points because it is THAT AWESOME!

First of all, maybe it’s just me and my slash-goggles, but is Yazawa-san hinting at some sort of… unrequited Hachi/Nana… thing?!  I mean, it’s kind of obvious with a few of the Hachi monologues at the end of a few chapters.  These are some sixteen-ton-weight size hints she’s giving us here.  (And I’m not even a yuri fangirl.  Sigh.)

The romance plotlines are getting more and more twisted, as well.  Hachi’s hooking up with Takumi, the bassist from Nana O’s rival band; Ren and Nana O reunite after two years; and Nobu is totally pining over Hachi.  Oh, what a tangled web we weave.  Fortunately, all this romantic confusion adds up to some completely amazing scenes, such as when Shin and Nobu (from Nana O’s band Blast) go out drinking after a concert with Ren, Takumi, and Reira from their rival band Trapnest.  This is a day or so after Takumi and Hachi slept together, and Takumi offends poor love-struck Nobu by comparing Hachi to a tail-wagging dog.  (Um, note to Takumi: you probably shouldn’t call the girl you’re screwing a dog.  It’s a bad idea.)

I don’t think I have to mention the art.  If you’ve even read a PANEL of this manga you know that it’s gorgeous.  ‘Nough said.

Art – 10/10
Story – 9/10
Extras – Quite cute, though there isn’t much.  Creator commentary would have rocked my world, but ah well.
Overall – If you’re over the age of 15 and are looking for a manga that will rock your world, this is it.

Punch volume 1

December 27, 2008 at 5|40|pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Title: PUNCH volume 1
Author: Rie Takada
Rating: Older Teen

Elle’s the granddaughter of a Muay Thai boxing champ set to inherit his dojo and marry his best friend’s son.  The problem?  Elle wants nothing to do with fighting.  While the other girls growing up were playing house, she was watching the boys beat eachother up, and she hates it.  All she wants is a normal relationship with a guy who ISN’T her betrothed, Ruo, a long-haired fighting champ trained by all the best coaches.

When Elle meets Kazuki by chance, he catches her eye with his gorgeous face – and then with his rough attitude.  It turns out this guy she thought she might like is a street fighter who’ll mess up anyone in his way.  It only complicates matters when she blurts out his name to Ruo, and it gets worse from there.  What’s a girl to do?

I love Rie Takada’s art style and her chibis are to die for, totally expressive and cute in an offbeat way (I especially liked chibi!Grandpa with his eyepatch.)  The writing’s sharp and definitely shojo-y.  And the heroine isn’t particularly doormat-like either.  I was cracked up by Takada’s Gaba Kawa in Shojo Beat, and Punch doesn’t disappoint.  It’s an above-average shojo manga in a line that’s been rather disappointing lately.  Nice liscensing, SB.

Art – 8/10
Story – 7/10
Extras – None
Overall – A fluffy, fun shojo manga… although what was with the bath scene?

Genshiken review

November 18, 2008 at 4|54|pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Don’t get me wrong. Genshiken is not a manga that non-otaku can pick up and immediately fall in love with. It isn’t meant for people who can’t laugh at their own nerdiness, either. So what exactly is this little 9-volume series for?
Nerds, plain and simple. It’s the only answer. Who but a nerd would want to read ALL ABOUT NERDS? Doing nerdy things and saying nerdy words (ooh, that rhymes!)?
Yup. Nerds.
Now that I have got that “nerd” overload outta my system… basically, Genshiken is about a confused college freshman with about 0.2% of a life. Yes, ladies and gents, meet Kanji Sasahara, who’s looking for a club to join as the new year begins. His choice? The “Genshiken,” aka the Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture, which consists of about three people. (Of course, he could have just joined the much bigger and better-funded Anime or Manga clubs, but where’s the fun in that?)
Another new member of the Genshiken is Kousaka, who’s even more of a geek than Kanji yes, it is actually possible and his friend/kinda girlfriend Saki, who is dragged along and hates EVERY SECOND OF IT.

Basically: this manga is hilarious if, like me, you are a high school/college aged otaku who doesn’t mind laughing at themselves.  The characters are actually very real, and every otaku can find something that they relate to.  (Oguie’s shame about her fangirlishness made me go, “Whoa, that’s me!”)  And… okay, it can get a leetle bit… 16+ at times (well, it does have a rating on it!) but honestly, that’s just how real college students act.  Get used to it.  And get ready to laugh your butt off! (No, I’m not quoting that Nerima Daikon Brothers preview)

EDIT: By the way, I took a quiz about Genshiken.  Apparently I’m most like Ohno-san.

… Success!!!  I was scared they’d say I was Madarame-kun.

Bleach: Not Just For Washing Your Clothes, Anymore

July 31, 2008 at 2|28|pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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bleach_urahara0187.jpg image by kissablexlies
Translation: “Read Bleach or I’ll poke you with a big stick!  Seriously!”

Jacket Copy:

Ichigo Kurosaki has always been able to see ghosts, but this ability doesn’t change his life nearly as much as his close encounter with Rukia Kuchiki, a Soul Reaper and member of the mysterious Soul Society. While fighting a Hollow, an evil spirit that preys on humans who display psychic energy, Rukia attempts to lend Ichigo some of her powers so that he can save his family. Much to her surprise, Ichigo absorbs every last drop of her energy. Now a full-fledged Soul Reaper himself, Ichigo quickly learns that the world he inhabits is one full of dangerous spirits and, along with Rukia—who is slowly regaining her powers—it’s Ichigo’s job to protect the innocent from Hollows and help the spirits themselves find peace.

While Tite Kubo’s smash-hit manga Bleach is published by VIZ’s Shonen Jump line, which to me is full of manga that follow the same formulaic plot (Unlikely boy hero wants to be best [ninja/samurai/tennis player] in the land,) even if it does run into a whole lotta cliches, somehow it all seems new when you pick up the first volume.

Here’s what I love so much about the ten volumes of Bleach I’ve read so far:

1) Character design.  The looks of all the characters are completely different.  You know in some manga how you can’t freakin’ tell half the guys apart?  Thankfully, that doesn’t happen in Bleach.  Every character has something you’ve just never seen before.  Uryu’s awesome asymmetrical hair, Renji’s weird eyebrows, and a guy who’s followed around by a giant pig… and let’s not even get into the fact that the “Rukia Rescue Squad”‘s leader is a freakin’ cat.

2) Really cool stuff.  Explosions!  Big scary monsters!  Toys running around in cosplay!  Oh my!

3) Most of all… there are some truly emotional moments in Bleach that I wasn’t expecting.  The flashback to Ichigo’s mother’s death, for one, was drawn really well and fit in so well with the story.  Another scene I really loved was when Orihime thought about how Tatsuki had protected her throughout the years and knew she had to save her this time.  And it’s interesting seeing inside the workings of Rukia’s mind when she starts wondering if maybe she’s developing “human” feelings, like friendship, jealousy, fear…

All in all, Bleach is a really great manga.  It’s funny, action-packed, emotional, explosive-y, sword-y, and just generally awesome.  If you haven’t picked it up by now, go down to the local library and ask for a copy of volume one today.

Warning: May cause uncontrollable urges to scream “Sooooul caaaaandy!” at Pez dispensers.

Azumanga Daioh

July 30, 2008 at 7|50|pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It’s amazing when you look closely at Azumanga Daioh, just how different it is from other school comedies.

For instance, there is no adorable blushy love triangle.

There are no incidents of girls having to be carried to the nurse’s office.

And there are no paranormal twists such as seeing the past (Land of the Blindfolded), leading past lives (Please Save My Earth), or having a robotic lover (*shudder* Absolute Boyfriend).

Instead, you’ve got a main cast of six girls and two teachers, very talented pigtails, a stuffed cat dressed as Santa, very bad hiccups, and…

Well.  I could go on forever with this mysterious, catchy-sounding review blah blah blah, but I know most of you want me to get straight to the story.

Basically, Azumanga Daioh is about eight main characters.  There’s the fanatical English teacher Miss Yukari, who throws chalk at students more often than she teaches them.  Her complete opposite is her best friend Nyamo, the gym teacher, who’s more easy-going and definitely a lot smarter.  Their students include: Tomo, the most annoying girl you’ll ever meet (but really, you’ve got to love her); Yomi, a studious brunette with glasses and a fixation on her weight; diminuitive little Chiyo-chan, ten years old and already starting high school; Kagura, whose athleticism is nearly unsurpassed; Sakaki, who looks tough and hard but really only wants a cuddly plushie; and Osaka, who dreams about flying and giant cat plushies when she should be paying attention in class.

Sound confusing?  It is, a little.  But it’s goddamn funny.  Almost every page made me laugh out loud, and the ones that didn’t made me smile.  There are even some moments that made me go, “Aww,” and wish for a friendship like the ones the girls share, like the scene at the graduation ceremony or their winter outing to karaoke and dinner (cut short by a very rude appearance by… well… I won’t tell you yet.)

You know how some reviewers say that a manga isn’t for everyone?  I’m not going to tell you that.  I’m going to say that Azumanga Daioh is a must-read for any manga fan out there.  Because no matter what genre you like, how old you are, or how much you hate hate hate teenaged girls in school uniforms, this manga will definitely bring a smile to your face.

And if it doesn’t?  Well, fuhgeddaboudit.

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