Fri, 30 October 2009
Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 4 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Jake Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.
From the back cover:
In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and his leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Equipped with mechanical "auto-mail" limbs, Edward becomes a state alchemist, seeking the one thing that can restore his brother and himself...the legendary Philosopher's Stone.
Trapped and injured in a secret alchemical laboratory, Edward Elric is at the mercy of his enemies, Lust and Envy. But they don't want him dead...they have other plans for him. As the laboratory goes up in flames, the brothers find themselves back at square one, with only an inkling of the massive scale of the Philsopher's Stone conspiracy. But then, Lieutenant Maes Hughes uncovers a shocking secret...
My Grade: A+
Thu, 22 October 2009
Magazine review of the second part (The Korean and OEL titles) of the Yen Plus December 2008 issue. First up in this issue is an interview with Ryukishi07, the creator and author of Higurashi, and Karin Suzuragi, the artist of the Higurashi manga.
Now on to the reviews:
Sarasah by Ruy Ryang, Chapter 5:
Ari, (or should I say Ji-Hae) has finally found the ancestor of Seung-Hyu, and boy is he naked! No, don't worry, it's just because he's bathing in a pond. She looks away in embarrassment, and when she turns around, he's disappeared. She and Mita frantically begin to search for him in the nearby town without knowing his name or anything. Does she find him? Well, let's just say by the end of the chapter, Ari ends up in bed with him.
I'm still really liking this series and all the mysteries that come with it, even though Ari dressed as a boy brings up all the cross dressing cliches you can think of.
My Grade: B
Pig Bride by Kookhwa Huh & Sujin Kim, Chapter 5:
Si-Joon's life becomes more complicated when his parents not only approve of his "marriage" to Mu-Yeon, but actively work to have them consummate it! The thing is that a priest has told them that if the couple doesn't get married Si-Joon could die within a year. His parents, not wishing him to come to any harm, have decided to move things along by allowing Mu-Yeon to move in... and even sleep in Si-Joon's room. We also get to see another side of Doe-Doe, Si-Joon's love interest, and you just be shocked to learn what she is really like.
The art is beautiful and wispy and the laughs are good in this 5th chapter. Si-Joon reminds me a lot of Koushi from Sumomomo, Momomo because he appears to be fighting a losing fight against his destiny. Both characters are trying to escape the environment they are in, but you sense that their fates are inevitable. But the fight is what makes them funny. The clever twist of making Doe-Doe have an evil side also makes the title more interesting.
My Grade: B+
Legend by Kara and Woo SooJung, Chapter 1: "The Thousand Year Old Legend":
The Bulkirin is a creature that was summoned by a selfish king to fulfill a wish. Pretty soon, more and more people asked for wishes. In fact, so many asked that the Bulkirin went crazy and turned evil, destroying 50% of humanity. It took a hero brandishing the "seven blade sword" to bring the monster under control. The tale opens long ago with a young boy named No-Ah Joo confronting the man that kidnapped his sister, only to be asked about the seven blade sword which has been broken into pieces. Flash forward to modern times where a young 15-year-old girl named Eon-Gyo Sung has visions of the sword while she is daydreaming in class...
Well, this preview chapter did its job. Color me intrigued. Reading this intro to the series got me interested and is definitely going to motivate me to buy the first volume. I do get the sneaking suspicion that it's gonna turn out to be in the Inuyasha mode though. I bet Eon is going to meet the reincarnation of the No-ah character and they're gonna travel around the country looking for the pieces of the sword, all the while being hounded by the guy that kidnapped No-ah's sister. The excellent art will probably make up for that though.
My Grade: B
One Fine Day by Sirial, Chapter 7: "Typhoon in a Tiny Teacup"
No-Ah gets a letter in the mail stating that an old friend (enemy?) is coming by for a visit. Apparently it's a childhood friend whose magic has unpredictable and sometimes dangerous results. We find out that Mr. and Mrs Raspberry, the walking talking birds, were actually human at one time before the friend cursed them! No-Ah decides to take off before he gets there, leaving his "pets" behind to fend for themselves.
Why is this title even being printed? It is so horrible and meaningless. Did Yen have to make some sort of backroom deal where they had to agree to print it. It is truly the worst Korean or Japanese title I have ever read. It did get a nano-bit better with the arrival of someone who might actually be bad to contrast with all the creampuff characters in the title.
My Grade: D
Night School by Svetlana Chmakova, Chapter 5:
Sarah is acclimating herself a little better to her position as she negotiates a deal with Ronee, the unofficial school boss to get a Night School yearbook printed. Things aren't all good though, as Sarah is led down a magical staircase that might just wipe her from existence.
This is the first chapter of Night School that has actually looked finished. There aren't too many open panels with character dissolves like earlier installments. Too many times Chmakova's work suffers from poor panel layout and laziness. She seems to be trying to experiment but the pages come out jumbled and messy. It seems like she is getting better though. As for the story, it's almost as cluttered and confusing as Jack Frost. You have all these characters and factions running around, but none of the mythology of the world has been set out. The effect of this that the "who", "what", "why" questions are currently unanswered. And then you have dumb froo froo, like vampire parents getting upset about the yearbook because their kids don't show up in photographs. Hopefully, the disappearance of Sarah makes this title better.
My Grade: C+
Maximum Ride by James Patterson & Narae Lee, Chapter 5:
Max is taken in by Ella and her mom. Ella is the kid she saved from gang members a couple of issues back, which got her shot. Fang and Nudge are still waiting for Max to catch up, not knowing that she is wounded and staying with Ella. They decide to go find her but are detoured when Nudge finds out her own mother may be nearby.
Ok, this seems to be the most lackadaisical and incompetent rescue ever. Poor Angel. Who knows what horrible tortures she is going through back at the School? Well, actually, we do know, but her "family" doesn't seem to be in any hurry to get her back. Max gets shot helping a stranger. Fang and Nudge take a detour to look for Nudge's mom. It just doesn't seem like anyone is in any hurry. Angel will probably be dead or mutated even further by the time they reach her. It's pretty bad when you have to admit that a blind guy and a fart challenged kid have taken the most action in the series.
My Grade: C+
Jack Frost by Jinho Ko, Chapter 5: "Genie and Hansen"
While Jack Frost battles Blood Pirate Avid in a duel to the death, Noh-A (decapitated as usual) and Hansen have to take on Avid's "meals". His meals are the zombies that are produced by his bite. They only have two driving urges: to obey Avid's will and to eat human flesh! Hansen is going to have to take on a whole army of the undead, all the while juggling Noh-A's head.
First up, the story sucks on this title. No idea what is going on STILL. But I can understand one thing. A dude battling for his life against hungry zombies! I get it-- dude with gun shooting undead. So since the story was brought down to dog level I could deal with it. Hopefully, some day Ko will throw us a bone.
My Grade: B+
Thu, 22 October 2009
Manga review of Sorcerer Hunters Volume 8. Story by Satoru Akahori. Art by Ray Omishi. Translated by Anita Sengupta. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.
You would think that after defeating their archnemesis, Lord Sacher, last volume, the Sorcerer Hunters would take a well deserved break. But they're going through all kinds of different emotions, from great sadness to happiness and elation. Tira and Chocolat are mourning the death of their adopted father (even if he was an evil psycho), while Gateau and Eclair celebrate their reunion with a brother/sister muscle-flexing exhibition, much to Carrot's disgust. It seems like every Hunter is finding someone to share their feelings with except Carrot. He's trying to deal with the fact that, Naruto-like, he has the God of Destruction sealed within him and that it might be his destiny to destroy the world. Can't anybody spare a little pity for Carrot? Their first post-Sacher mission is to take down a sorcerer named Count Poisson, who has enslaved hundreds of Parsoners to build a magic labyrinth that will make him more powerful.
This funny series keeps on chugging along even though Tokyopop placed the 2nd edition printings on hiatus. Even though Volume 8 contains the Hunter trademark slapstick humor it takes a turn for the more sentimental and bittersweet as Carrot encounters the young daughter of Jingo Row, the designer of Poisson's labyrinth. It's not clear at first whether she's real or just a spirit, but she develops a crush on Carrot. The art is so inconsistent that it almost reminded me of an OEL manga like Night School at times. What I mean is that some panels were drawn very beautifully with lots of detail and backgrounds while others looked almost like amateurish rushed sketches that needed to be touched up. Overall though, I have enjoyed Sorcerer Hunters and will continue reading it.
My Grade: B
Wed, 21 October 2009
Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 46: Naruto Returns by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.
From the back cover:
Naruto is a young shinobi with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja!
Naruto's friends are tested as an attempt to overthrow Tsunade begins and they must all fight - or fall. New secrets about Pain are revealed, but they only add to the mystery of his identity. As Pain commences with the final destruction of Konoha, Naruto and the Toads prepare to take him on in battle. Can Naruto save his beloved village?
My Grade: A+
Sun, 18 October 2009
Here's a beautiful Hikaru Utada song from her cd "Ultra Blue", which is available on Itunes for $7.99:
Category:Video -- posted at: 4:05pm CDT
Sat, 17 October 2009
Podcast manga review of Eden Volume 12 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Lettering by Steve Dutro. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature 18+.
From the back cover:
Eden returns with a thrilling, 224-page volume packed with brutal and realistic battles, character revelations, strange sci-fi surprises, political intrigue, and an "intelligent virus" that's taking over the world! Still investigating the Australian Wilhelm Corporation and its connection to the murders of several police officers, Miriam and Wendy track down some key figures in the conspiracy-- who begin to die mysterious deaths of their own. Elijah and his new bodyguard, Letheia Aletheia, are tracked down by the Propater Federation's seemingly unstoppable cyborg assassin, and this beast proves to be quite a match for both of them! Elijah's kidnapped sister unveils some startling family secrets, as her relationship with the elusive and powerful being known as "Maya" continues to grow. Also-- the secrets behind the mysterious data discs that Elijah found in Eden Volume 1 are finally revealed! Hiroki Endo's titanic Eden series pays tribute to multiple genres, while exploring man's role in the planet's natural order and humanity's possible demise.
My Grade: A+
Listen to podcast of Volume 1:
Mon, 12 October 2009
Podcast anime review of Love Hina: The Complete Series, Episodes 8-13. Directed by Yoshiaki Iwasaki (Hayate, Familiar of Zero). Series Composition by Kurou Hazuki. Published by Funimation, Rated 16+, List Price: $49.99.
In this second batch of episodes, Keitaro's efforts to get into Tokyo U take a backseat to stories focusing on the female leads. Motoko, the samurai girl, finally has to confront her turtlephobia when Su lets a giant mecha-turtle loose. Then she has to enter Keitaro's dream, which is based on an old Japanese RPG, which pisses her off, even though she's in an unconscious state. Kitsune plays the role of Sherlock Holmes (she actually cosplays as him) to find out what has become of the missing monthly Hinata rent payments. Naru might just be leaving her friends and Tokyo U behind as she attempts to break into the cutthroat world of Japanese pop idols, managed by none other than the male diva, Kentaro. We also get a little more background info on the always mysterious Su, as the residents try to find out more about her older brother and sister. Whoops, I almost forgot Shinobu and her desire to experience her first kiss!
I actually enjoyed this second disk more than the first because, let's face it, Keitaro is a bit of a wanker. The girls are much more interesting, seeing as how they don't have a single goal in life that obsesses them to extremes. Actually, maybe they all do. Motoko with her sword training, Su with her absent family members and gadgets, Kitsune with her drinking, and Naru, whose quest mirrors Keitaro's. I guess I meant that the girls seem to have more texture, and the writers of the show are making them even more individual in these episodes. Even though Love Hina was one of the first harem anime, it still works better than most because there are only five girls, unlike Negima where you have over 30. So it's much easier to get to know them and add layers to their personalities. The animation is top of the line, supplied by Production IG, which wisely modified their super realistic style to suit the design of the original manga. The voice acting is done very well also.
My Grade: A
Listen to podcast of Episodes 1-7:
Sun, 11 October 2009
Yep, I'm still catching up on Yen Plus. Basically, I will be breaking the review for each issue down into two parts: The Japanese first, and then the OEL and Korean section.
Higurashi When They Cry, Chapter 5: "Isolation"
Keiichi is becoming more and more paranoid. You would too if your sweet friends seem possessed at times by a demon and strange murders had occurred and someone put needles in your food! Keiichi's conflict lies in the fact that most of the time his best friends seem like the cute girls he has known for the past few months, but every once in a while, when he asks about the town secrets, their eyes change and they start talking with weird voices. He even starts carrying around a baseball bat for protection.
I would say that Higurashi stands heads above all the titles in this magazine with its mix of moe and its never-ending sense of dread and suspense. I watched the first dvd of the anime version a while back so I know how this ends, but the weirdness and horror of the story still packs a powerful punch. I look forward to the undiscovered country beyond this first arc.
My Grade: A
Nabari No Ou, Chapter 5: "Attack"
Raimei has led Miharu and company to her home village of Fuuma to consult with the ninja master Kotaru Fuuma, only to find it under attack. The Iga Grey Wolves are conducting a raid to steal Fuuma's "Forbidden Art Scroll", which they believe will aid them in capturing the Shinra Banshou. It seems to be their lucky day as that very person falls into their hands! On their side is a particularly dangerous individual named Yoite who appears to be able to cut his enemies in two just by pointing at them!
I must admit that the earlier chapters of Nabari No Ou were a little too girlish for my taste, especially with Miharu being such an emo brooder with no apparent interest in his special status. But for chapter 5, my hat is off to Yuhki Kamatani, who lets loose a can of whoop ass in the action sequences of this chapter. The art was just incredible and her choice of angles right out of film just blew me away. It's not just that the artist didn't shy away from blood. It's her mastery of pace that captures your eye, pushing you through pages with insistence. Great work.
My Grade: A+
Soul Eater, Chapter 2: "Remedial Lesson (part 2)"
The two teams of Maka/Soul Eater and Black Star/Tsubaki have a dubious distinction in common. They were supposed to have claimed the souls of 99 humans and one witch. Their current soul count combined: ZERO! So they've been given a remedial mission which they must complete or face expulsion from the DWMA. They must take the soul of Dr. Franken Stein. Yes, that's right, get it? "DR. FRANKENSTEIN". Problem is he's very powerful, being the former partner of Shinigami-Sama's Death Scythe. Both sets of partners will have to attain a higher level of cooperation and skill if they hope to defeat the evil scientist.
The early installments of this series left me at a complete loss. Atsushi Ohkubo kept on jumping from character to character each chapter and never really got a story going. I had no idea or context in which to place them so it was starting over with the plot over and over again. Starting last issue, he started bringing the cast together and laying down at least a semblance of a story arc. But the lack of a sensible plot is what makes this the weakest title in the Japanese half of Yen Plus. It does seem like the title is getting better. Good enough to buy the tankoban version, the first volume of which should be out as I write this? Not sure on that point. I'm probably gonna skip it for now. I will say this. Ohkubo's art is very unique and cool, with its absurd expressionistic surrealism, but not enough to sell me on Soul Eater as a whole.
My Grade: B
Sumomomo Momomo Chapter 4: "Dinner, A Bath, Or Me"
This chapter serves mainly as exposition, as Koushi's dad explains what the "Heavenly General's War" is all about and why Koushi and Momoko's marriage is so important to the future of Japan. Apparently, there are two large martial arts bloodlines, East and West factions, in Japan that have been fighting for centuries, like the Capulets and Montagues. Koushi and Momoko represent the two sides. It is believed that their union could finally bring about peace. But to do this means that Koushi will have to get involved in a world that he wants no part of.
Don't really have a lot to say about this chapter since it was mainly informational, but there is an extremely funny exchange between Momoko and Tenka at its beginning that made me laugh. I enjoy this title.
My Grade: B
Bamboo Blade Chapter 9: "Kojiro and the Day He Gave Up the Shinai of His Heart" & Chapter 10: "Kojiro and Bento"
With the acquisition of Tamaki Kawazoe, Kojiro still needs one more girl for his Kendo team (even though one of them, Saya, has rarely shown up for practice). When Tamaki kicks Kojiro's ass in less than a second during a practice match, it sends him into a funk, wondering how he has come to be so out of form. He also finally gets around to buying his new team some decent equipment for the big match against his rival, now a month away.
What can I say, I am a sucker for a manga or anime that features characters dwelling in poverty or at least struggling to make ends meet. That's what really got me hooked on Cowboy Bebop back in the day. They always seemed to have enough money for rice or noodles but never enough for meat. And featuring a poor teacher as the main protagonist in Bamboo Blade is even more laser sighted up my alley. Kojiro is not putting this Seven Samurai-like team together to fight for the honor of Kendo. He's doing it so he'll be able to eat! It's just so inherently funny. I really like all the characters and the humor as well. The weakness comes in the art, mainly in the kendo fights. They tend to be hard to understand and I had difficulty differing between the fighters and exactly what blows they were landing. It's rather unfortunate but the matches, at least in terms of presentation, seem to be getting better.
My Grade: B+
Sat, 10 October 2009
Podcast manga review of It Takes A Wizard: The Complete Saga. Written by Thomas R. Hart from an original concept by Jason DeAngelis. Art by Sean Lam. Published by Seven Seas. Rated Teen, $12.99.
From the back cover:
To Catch a Wizard!
No outsider has set foot on the island of Manhattan for the past three years, and with good reason. It's become a place of wild, dark magic, where technology and the laws of science do not work. The Manhattan Kingdom is ruled by a sorceror known as Everett Winterthorn, the Midnight King, who commands a army of trolls, goblins, ghouls, and harpies. On the other side of the river, the US military holds the dark forces at bay. But just barely.
Isaac Silverberg is Winterthorn's former apprentice, plucked from Death Row and given a final chance to redeem himself. He must enter the Manhattan Kingdom and rescue a damsel in distress in exchange for his life. But is he truly the mage for the job?
My grade: C-
Read a preview at the following link:
Sat, 10 October 2009
Here are the bestselling manga volumes for last week:
1) Chibi Vampire 14
2) Vampire Kisses 3
3) Naruto 46
4) Fullmetal Alchemist 20
5) Naruto 45
6) Bleach 28
7) Shugo Chara 7
8) Yotsuba 6
9) Negima Neo Magister 3
10) Vampire Knight 7
It's nice to see Tokyopop grabbing the two top spots instead of the ever-present Viz. Sadly, for Tokyopop, it's the last volume of Chibi Vampire. I remember buying the first volume of that title a couple of years back, before all the current vampire fad had started. I bet Tokyopop never had a clue that it would become one of their top sellers. I read the first couple of volumes but drifted away from it for whatever reason. I guess now that it's ended, it would be a good time to pick it back up. I also need to check out the Vampire Kisses series. While I'm on the topic of blood suckers, Vampire Knight is another series I need to begin again. There's just so many books out there and so little time.
I would surmise that because only the sixth volume of Yotsuba has charted, I would then think Yen might have gambled and lost by relying on Yotsuba fans to pick up their re-released editions of volumes 1-5. I know I didn't get any of them, only buying the new volume 6. I have all the old ADV versions and do not have an extra $60 laying around to buy something I already have.
I'm still waiting for a callback or email from the New York Times. I thought that joining in during the "disrespect for manga" controversy that I could insinuate that I could do a better job writing the little manga blurbs for the books than their current writer. I even told them that I was willing to work for Nike shoe factory wages, but still no response. I know other bloggers have written secret emails lobbying for the job, but I'm straight up about it, so stay out of the way!
(The subliminal point of the above parody was to state my opinion that some in the manga world wanted to work for the New York Times and that they overreacted simply through a repressed desire to work for the very monster they were getting angry at.)
"LEAVE YOTSUBA ALOOOONNEEE!"
(Oh yeah, by the way, I DO want to work for ADV manga too. PLEASE ring me back!)