Sesho's Anime And Manga Reviews
My main focus is reviewing manga and anime, but I also review Japanese literature, movies, and videogames. Basically, if it has anything to do with Japan, I'll talk about it, along with a dash of Korea and China.

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  • Podcast review of Ratman Volume 1 by Inui Sekihiko. Translated by Adrienne Beck. Adapted by Bryce P. Coleman. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated Older Teen 16+ .

    From the back cover:

    "Shuto Katsuragi is a superhero otaku. Only problem is, he's too short and always getting teased for his height...especially when he tries to emulate his favorite superhero! To make matters worse, Shuto suddenly get abducted and tricked into participating in some rather sketchy and super-villainous experiments! What's a shrimp to when his dreams come true in ways he never expected?"

    My Grade: A+

    You can look at a free preview for volume 1 at: http://www.tokyopop.com/product/2848

     

    Direct download: Episode_230--Ratman_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:40pm CST

    Podcast manga reveiw of Omamori Himari Volume 1 by Milan Matra. Translated by Amy Forsyth. Originally published in Japan by Fujimishobo. Published in US by Yen Press, $10.99, Rated M for Mature.

    From the back cover:

    "Severely allergic to felines, Yuuto Amakawa spends his mornings nursing a drippy nose courtesy of his friend Rinko's cat. But on his sixteenth birthday, it's not just Rinko's pet that's riling up his allergies - to say nothing of his hormones! Appearing before him is Himari, a buxom, sword-wielding cat spirit in human guise who has sworn to protect Yuuto, now the target of vengeful spirits! It's clear that Yuuto's allergies are the least of his problems - he's gonna need Himari's help if he wants to live to see his seventeenth birthday!"

    My Grade: B+

    Omamori Himari was adapted into an anime at the beginning of this year in Japan. Here is a promotional trailer for the series:

    Direct download: Episode_229--Omamori_Himari_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:12pm CST

    Podcast manga review of Andromeda Stories Volume 2 by Keiko Takemiya. Story by Ryu Mitsuse. Translated by Magnolia Steele. Published by Vertical, $11.95, Rated 13+.

    From the back cover:

    "The machine race known only as the "Enemy" has swiftly taken over the Cosmoralian Empire, but Queen Lilia and her son, Prince Jimsa, manage to flee. The only place to escape to, however, is the desert wasteland where the elements, predatory beasts, and bandits pose almost as great a threat to survival as the machine invaders. Prince Jimsa, growing ever stronger in the face of adversity, prepares to inherit his mantle as the Sun King, the descendant of combined Murat, Ayodoyan, and Cosmoralian legacies. It will fall upon his shoulders to turn the machines away before it's too late."

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: Episode_228--Andromeda_Stories_volume_2.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:18pm CST

    Podcast manga review of Andromeda Stories Volume 1 by Keiko Takemiya. Story by Ryu Mitsuse. Translated by Magnolia Steele. Published by Vertical, $11.95, Rated 13+.

    From the back cover:

    Cosmoralia's Prince Ithaca is about to wed Princess Lilia of Ayodoya and be crowned Astralta III. The apparently favorable celestial bearings mean he will be no mere monarch but holy king of a new "papacy". Alas, the peaceful inhabitants of Planet Astria have no clue that they're next in line for invasion by a ruthless machine force--a threat that seems to metaphorize the inherent perils of politics and desire in this multilayered saga. The tension slowly mounts to an unbearable pitch in this ominous first volume of three.

    Following the conclusion of her award-winning and epochal To Terra..., Keiko Takemiya paired up with science fiction legend Ryu Mitsuse to create yet another milestone that was shortly made into an animated TV feature. Andromeda Stories is comics pioneer Takemiya's second work to appear in English.

    My Rating: A+

    You can read a free preview of Volume 1 at: http://www.vertical-inc.com/previews/andromeda/index.html

    Direct download: Episode_227--Andromeda_Stories_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:38pm CST

    Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 12

    Manga review of The Prince of Tennis Volume 12: Invincible Man by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Michelle Pengilinan. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

    Seishun is tied 1-1 with Yamabuki after losing one of their doubles matches. Now it's on to the singles as Momo takes on Kiyosumi "Lucky" Sengoku.  Kiyosumi's signature move is the "Tiger Cannon", a high serve that allows him to put the full force of his body weight behind it. Even as Momo begins to counter, he starts to suffer from movement inhibiting leg cramps. And it hasn't gone unnoticed by Sengoku, whose only interest is in winning. The second singles match features Ryoma going up against the psychotic Jin, the dude that's been bullying some of Ryoma's younger teammates and physically assaulting other tennis team members since last volume. It's pretty cool when Ryoma hits Jin in the face with the ball on their first volley to avenge his team. But the words "back down" aren't in Jin's vocabulary and he steals himself to give Ryoma all he can handle.

    I am currently in awe of the master Takeshi Konomi. Emerson and Thoreau might have been Transcendentalist writers but Konomi is a Transcendentalist manga-ka. I am constantly impressed by his work, mostly because of his constant inventiveness and control of his panel layouts. The Prince of Tennis never gets boring because Konomi surprises you with every page. He does full page layouts, 2 page splash pages, breaks up panels into interesting angles, sprawls characters across entire pages with the action as the backdrop, creating a 3D effect...wow, I'm out of breath. When I read these books, I feel alive, I feel like I'm a part of the action, almost like I'm on Ecstasy or something. When I mentioned Transcendentalism before, what I meant in reference to this book is that it almost seems alive, like you're really there in the stands watching the Seishun team play their matches. It's such an incredible accomplishment. To take static art and imbue it with such energy and kinetic movement. Konomi is a great.

    My Grade: A+

     

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 6:07pm CST

    Podcast manga review of One Piece Volume 3: Don't Get Fooled Again by Eiichiro Oda. Translated by Andy Nakatani. Adapted by Lance Caselman. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen. Show correction: I said "Jolly Roger" when I meant to say "Gold Roger". Please forgive me!

    From the back cover:

    "Sure, lots of people say they want to be the King of the Pirates, but how many have the guts to do what it takes? When Monkey D. Luffy first set out to sea in a leaky rowboat, he had no idea what might lie over the horizon. Now he's got a crew--sort of--in the form of swordsman Roronoa Zolo and treasure-hunting thief Nami. If he wants to prove himself on the high seas, Luffy will have to defeat the weird pirate lord Buggy the Clown. He'll have to find a map to the Grand Line, the sea route where the toughest pirates sail. And he'll have to face the Dread Captain Usopp, who claims to be a notorious pirate captain...but, frankly, Usopp says a lot of things..."

    My Grade: B

    Direct download: Episode_226--One_Piece_3.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:04pm CST

    Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 2 Demo Ready To Download

    Just checking out the Playstation Store and was happily surprised to see the demo for the new Naruto Shippuden videogame. Definitely gotta check it out. I never got around to playing the first one. I was quite happy playing Ubisoft's Naruto Rise of a Ninja at the time and didn't see any sense in repeating myself with the same storyline. But I'm definitely excited about playing through the more mature storyline as Naruto and the Leaf Village take on the Akatsuki. The game is due out October 19, 2010. Watch the trailer below:

    Category:Videogames -- posted at: 7:42pm CST

    Podcast manga review of Afterschool Charisma Volume 1  by Kumiko Suekane. Translated by Camellia Nieh. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz SigIkki, $12.99, Rated T+ (Older Teen) for boobs.

    From the back cover:

    "St. Kleio Academy is a very exclusive school. To enroll, a student must be a clone of a famous historical figure. Wolfgang Mozart, Queen Elizabeth, Sigmund Freud, Marie Curie, Adolf Hitler-- With such a combustible student body, it's only a matter of time before the campus explode! Shiro Kamiya is the only non-clone at St. Kleio, a school where his father is a teacher. Why is a regular kid taking classes at the school? Nobody seems to know for sure."

    My Grade: D-

    You can read Chapters 1 and 7-12 for free at: http://www.sigikki.com/series/afterschoolcharisma/index.shtml

    Direct download: Episode_225--Afterschool_Charisma.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:59pm CST

    Warning! A Huge Podcast About Japanese Videogames

    Ok, I hardly ever talk about videogames on this site, not because I don't play them, but just because I've never gotten around to it. I wish I had done a review for the Naruto Xbox 360 game, which was excellent or for the Wii's Sky Crawlers, but I just never did. I hope to rectify that in the future. Because to me at least, Japanese anime, manga, novels, movies, and games all flow together as one in a symbiotic relationship.

    But I just wanted to let everybody that reads my blog know about my fantasy Japanese videogame podcast. It really is my dream come true. It would be the podcast I would do if I knew Japanese and was a hardcore gamer. The name of it is "Warning! A Huge Podcast"  and it's hosted by ex-writers from my favorite dead magazine, Play. Namely, Nick Des Barres, Casey Loe, and Shidoshi. They talk about Japanese games and while they're at it they also discuss other aspects of Japanese pop culture. To me, you don't have to like games to find the conversation fascinating. They have 7 episodes out so far. Since I just discovered they had a show, I've only listened to the latest one.

    The funny thing is I'd been hunting ex-Play writers for the longest time. No, not in a serial killer way. I just thought the crew on Play was doing the best writing about games in the publishing business and so I am always on the look-out for their work. They were always more intelligent, more eloquent, and more entertaining that the other "Official" Whore magazines. I also really admired Heather Anne Campbell's articles. She wasn't afraid to punch even the great Mario himself in the face. Really, the mag felt more like a literary journal. A thinking man's/woman's take on the industry. Play was also unique for the fact that it had a section entitled "Play Japan" that covered current and upcoming releases in my favorite island country. The thing that stuck out about Play was the fact that all the writers seemed versed in the history and mythology of games themselves. They were all-stars. So check out the podcasts at:

    http://radio.morningproject.com/

    And while I'm at it, even though Play Magazine died, its publisher, Dave Halverson, has started a new magazine called Gamefan which is currently on its 3rd issue. A lot of the staff from Play can be found in its pages. Really, its just Play by a different name. Besides games, it covers a bit of manga, anime, movies, and more offbeat US comics. The website doesn't have much up on yet, since it's so new, but you can look at a 20 page preview of the third issue.

    http://gamefanmag.com/

     

    Category:Videogames -- posted at: 8:55pm CST

    Manga Review: Blade of the Immortal Volume 2

    Manga review of Blade of the Immortal Volume 2: Cry of the Worm by Hiroaki Samura. Translated by Dana Lewis and Toren Smith. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $14.95.

    Rin has decided that it's a wasted cause to track down every member of the Itto-Ryu sword school to take her revenge since they will just recruit more swordsmen to replace the ones she and Manji kill. Instead she wants to track down the leader, Anotsu Kagehisa. Even so, Rin and Manji go up against two of Anotsu's disciples in this second volume of Blade of the Immortal. The first, Magatsu Taito, bears the Chinese sword that belonged to Rin's father, a sword that means all the world to her and her family. Secondly, there's Eiku Shizuma, a 200 year old fighter that, just like Manji, also has the holy bloodworms inside his body.

    I enjoyed this second book a lot more than the first. The translation of Lewis and Smith is much more tolerable, or at least more subtle in its jarringness. There are some moments where Manji talks like a ghetto dweller with his constant use of "Shit, man!" but I guess I'm getting more used to it. Or maybe I'm understanding what the translators were TRYING to do, but horribly failing at. To make Manji a streetwise smartass bad mofo. But I think they could have done it in a different way. An awkward moment that really stood out at the end of the book was when Rin tells Manji his blood pressure is too high. Ok, can someone please tell me how the medieval Japanese knew anything about blood pressure?

    The art by Samura rises to an even higher level than in the first installment. He seems to be more adept at blending his contrasting styles of intense line work and using different edges of his pencil. Whereas before his different techniques were a bit haphazard, and at times, disconcerting, the flow is a lot better here. I'm really beginning to like the relationship between Manji and Rin. Except for grabbing her butt one time last volume, there is a lovely big brother/little sister bond forming between them. It feels very genuine. Perhaps that bond will prove more of a redemption for Manji that his task of killing 1000 evil men. That brings me back to an argument I put forth in my podcast for the first volume. Namely, who is truly EVIL in this series? Out of the three Itto-Ryu Manji has faced so far, probably given enough time, 2 of them could have been saved from the murderous lives they led. Most of them have some sort of emotional scar that has led them to their fate. But Manji isn't a psychotherapist. He lets his swords perform the twelve step program of chopping his enemies into pieces.

    My Grade: A

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 7:52pm CST

    Podcast manga review of One Piece Volume 2: Buggy the Clown by Eiichiro Oda. Translated by Andy Nakatani. Adapted by Lance Caselman. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in the US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

    From the back cover:

    "As a kid, Monkey D. Luffy vowed to become King of the Pirates and find the legendary treasure called the "One Piece". The enchanted Gum-Gum Fruit has given Luffy the power to stretch like rubber-- and his new crewmate, the infamous Roronoa Zolo, strikes fear into the hearts of other buccaneers! But what chance does one rubber guy stand against Nami, a thief so tough she specializes in robbing pirates...or Captain Buggy, a fiendish pirate lord whose weird, clownish appearance conceals even weirder powers? It's pirate vs. pirate in the second swashbuckling volume of One Piece!"

    My Grade: B+

    Just hit the play button below:

    You can also listen to my podcast review of One Piece Volume 1 at this link:

    http://www.sesho.libsyn.com/podcast_episode_207_one_piece_volume_1

    Direct download: Episode_224--_One_Piece_volume_2.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:32pm CST

    Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 10

    Manga review of The Prince of Tennis volume 10: "Seize the Moment" by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

    Volume 10 opens with Ryoma being conned into taking over his dad's tennis lessons (he's probably too busy looking at porn). Suprisingly, his tutorees end up being Sakuno and her friend. In a strange twist of fate, an errant ball by Sakuno leads to her getting bullied by the Ginka Jr. High tennis team. Ginka happens to be Seishun's next opponent in the upcoming City Tournament Semifinals. And Ryoma decides to take them on by himself. All 30 members! We also meet a new character named Jin, a Yamabuki Junior High tennis player who has a slight psychopathic streak. He starts kicking and punching anybody that tells him what to do. Instead of a chip on his shoulder, he appears to have a mountain! His new target of hostilty seems to be Ryoma Echizen. As the semifinals approach, Captain Tezuka decides to prep everyone by having intrasquad matches. First up is Ryoma vs. Shusuke.

    I have to say that even though he's not a common pompadour sporting street thug, Ryoma is quite the badass when he wants to be. He's not afraid to stand up against 30 guys if it means protecting Sakuno. He also doesn't back down from confrontation with Jin, who appears to strike the fear of god into all those that cross him. It's just really cool seeing Ryoma being brave even if he is a little dude.

    I also wanted to comment on the genius of Takeshi Konomi's character designs. As you can tell from the cover of this volume, Konomi is not afraid to show off his team in a shojoesque, maybe even faintly yaoish way. It says on the splash page that while the Prince of Tennis was originally intended to be a comic for boys, it attracted legions of female fans. And it's easy to see why. The main cast would not look out of place, with some minor modifications, in the pages of Fruits Basket. And that's what makes Konomi so smart. I think you have all the Shonen Jump action and level progression along with the good looks of the guys and their relationships with each other which leans more towards the shojo side of things.

    My Grade: A

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 5:52pm CST

    Podcast manga review of Blade of the Immortal Volume 1: Blood of a Thousand by Hiroaki Samura. Translated by Dana Lewis and Toren Smith. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $14.95.

    From the back cover:

    "Manji, a ronin warrior of feudal Japan, has been cursed with immortality. To rid himself of this curse, regain his mortality, and end his life of misery, Manji must slay one thousand evil men! His quest begins when a young girl seeks his help in taking revenge on her parent's killers. His quest ends ends only after he has spilled the blood of a thousand!"

    My Grade: B

    Direct download: Episode_223--Blade_of_the_Immortal_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:55pm CST

    Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 9

    Manga review of The Prince of Tennis volume 9: "Take Aim!" by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

    The City Tournament is in full swing as Seishun finds itself all tied up 1-1 after its doubles matches with St. Rudolph. Seishun's "Golden Pair" of Eiji and Shuichiro were supposed to have a cakewalk through the tournament but ended up losing. Kaoru and Momo had to take the team's fate on their shoulders and squeak out a win. Now it's on to the singles matches. First up is Ryoma vs. Yuta, who just happens to be gunning for his older brother and Ryoma's teammate, Shusuke. Yuta originally was a student at Seishun but always felt overshadowed by his "genius" older brother. So when Hajime, the scheming and sly captain of St. Rudolph came to recruit him for the tennis team, Yuta was all ears. The unseeded Fudmoine has its hands full as they have to face last years City Tournament defending champs, Hyotei.

    Reading a volume of The Prince of Tennis when it gets into tournament mode is like watching a heavyweight boxing title match. In a word, exciting. You have all these disparate characters with their contrasting styles and attitudes and you just wonder how its gonna play out, literally. I guess you could say there are some "kinda" badguys in the series, like Hajime, for instance. He tells Yuta to aim for Ryoma's injured eye. But that's just because, to these characters, winning is everything and losing is nothing. I've yet to see any legitimate player try to cheat, but I'm sure that's in the offing somewhere down the line.

    My Grade: A

    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:47pm CST

    Podcast  manga review of Polyphonica: Cardinal Crimson volume 1. Original story by Ichiro Sakaki and ocelot. Illustrated by Tomo Hirokawa. Translated and adapted by Sheldon Drzka. Originally published in Japan by Flex Comix. Published in US by CMX, $9.99, Rated Teen+.

    From the back cover:

    "There's a magical place known as Polyphonica, where humans and spirits live side by side. In face, spirits are sustained by a very special music known as "Commandia", which humans play. As a young boy, Phoron's singing accidentally summoned a female spirit named Corticarte. She made a pact to always protect him in exchange for the beautiful sounds he created. But Phoron thought her to be a figment of his imagination and forgot about her. Now a bumbling student at Tolubath Commandia Academy, the teenage Phoron accidentally summons Corticarte while practicing his music. Though she's not pleased to have been forgotten, she remembers her oath to Phoron. The struggling musician could use all the help he can get, but this feisty spirit may be more than he can handle. "

    My Grade: C

    Here is the opening for the original PC visual novel Polyphonica:

    Direct download: Episode_222--_Polyphonica_volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:33am CST

    Podcast anime review of 11Eyes, Episodes 1-12. Directed by Masami Shimoda (Ai Yori Aoshi, Boys Be, Saber Marionette J). Series composition by Kenichi Kanemaki (Hell Girl, El Cazador de la Bruja, Negima). Animation by Dogakobo. Series currently streaming at: http://www.crunchyroll.com/11eyes

    Satsuki Kakeru and Minase Yuka have been best friends ever since they were in an orphanage together. They've endured some hard times but nothing can prepare them for the "Red Night". As they are walking home from high school one day, they experience a rending pain, and then find themselves in what looks like their city. But it is overcast with a red sky and a black moon. And there's no living inhabitants except some weird looking monsters. Just when they're surrounded and about to be killed, the Red Night ends and they find themselves back in our world again. But they find themselves getting dragged back to that hell over and over again. But they are not alone. They begin to discover that some other students from their school are also being drawn into the Red Night. The difference is each one of them has a power or skill that allows them to fight against the monsters and their masters, the Black Knights. Do Kakeru and Yuka also have powers they don't know about? They better hope they do because the Black Knights are obsessed with killing them all.

    The anime was based on an adult visual novel released in Japan that was subsequently released in a more sanitized form on the Xbox 360 and PSP.

    My Grade: C

    Here is the opening from the original PC game. Pretty cool song:

    Direct download: Episode_221--11Eyes.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:15pm CST

    Podcast manga review of I'll Give It My All...Tommorow volume 1 by Shunju Aono. Adapted by Akemi Wegmuller. Originally published by Shogakukan in Japan. Published in US by Viz Signature Ikki Comix, $12.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen.

    From the back cover:

    "Shizuo Oguro is living his dreams...sort of. A complete waste of a human life until now, 40-year-old Shizuo breaks free from the corporate rat race and charts himself a fairly random and new career course: to become  a published manga artist. Sure he lacks the talent, discipline, or any other skill necessary to become a success in the manga industry, but that's not enough to stop Shizuo!"

    My Grade: A

    You can read Chapters 1, and the unpublished Chapters 5-9 for free at http://www.sigikki.com/series/illgiveit/index.shtml

     

    Direct download: Episode_220--_Ill_Give_it_my_All_Tomorrow_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:02pm CST

    Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 6

    Manga review of The Prince of Tennis volume 6: Sign of Strength by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

    Volume 5 ended with Tezuka asking Coach Ryuzaki to let him play Ryoma. We don't really get to see the match in Volume 6. We just see the end and the effect it has on Ryoma. His match against Tezuka fires his competitive spirit and makes him want to learn how to improve his game. He even asks his dad for help, which would have been out of the question before this volume. In fact, everyone on the Seishun team is doing their best to train for the City Tournament. Of course, Sadaharu, the master trainer and statistican, has a sinister plan to help them reach their true potential, even if they get killed in the process. As the City Tournament gets under way, Seishun is the #2 seed behind Hyotei Academy. Seishun is hoping to get some payback since they lost to Hyotei in the Tournament last year. And of course, the pesky but talented Fudomine is looking for their own payback after losing to Seishun last volume.

    I was a bit let down by volume 6 because it only showed the LAST shot of the match between Ryoma and Tezuka. And it was also a bit confusing. It seemed like Tezuka won it, but when another players comments on the match, it made me think that Ryoma had won. I'm still not 100% sure of the outcome. This is due solely to Konomi's failure to easily convey what happened. I feel as though the REAL match between these two players is yet to happen. I'm sure when Tezuka fully recovers from his arm injury, and Ryoma faces some more challenges, we'll arrive at this same spot and a whole volume of this series will be spent on the match. But it just seemed cheap to me. If you're not going to show the match, don't even have them play each other yet. Because Konomi was being too much of a tease, it led to my confusion. Otherwise, as always, this series is a cool read, and I'm getting excited about seeing all the players and schools in the City Tournament.

    My Grade: A

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 12:33pm CST

    Manga Review: Blame! volume 4

    Manga review of Blame! Volume 4 by Tsutomu Nihei. Translated by Stephen Paul. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated OT, 16+.

    The Safeguard, the rogue security system put in place by the Authority to combat unauthorized access to the Netsphere, continues its assault on Toha Heavy Industries.  With Cibo dead, Killy basically has to take on a Safeguard army and a Godzilla size Gigeresque monster that can shoot graviton beams out of its mouth by himself. But even though Cibo's body is dead, her consciousness still lives inside the Netsphere. Within it, she and the Authority hatch a plan to emplant her mind into Sana's body.

    I have to say that volume 4 of Blame! was a lot more enjoyable and coherent than the last volume, which lost itself in arcane plot developments and dark indecipherable art. Even though some of the art in volume 4 was just as murky, there seemed to be less of those "what's going on?" moments during the action sequences. What made it even better was the fact that Nihei actually wrote some dialogue that answered some questions, especially about Killy,  that I've had about the series since the first book. Only time will tell if this title is showing a resurgance or this is just a blip of reason in an otherwise messy work.

    My Grade: B

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 9:05am CST

    Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 5

    Manga review of The Prince of Tennis volume 5: New Challenge by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

    Seishun only has to win one more match against the unseeded but talented Fudomine tennis team to win a berth in the City Tournament. Ryoma faces off against a Fudomine player named Shinji in a singles match. Shinji isn't going to be a pushover and he's not one to be awed into submission by Ryoma's talent. One of his weapons is to alternate topspin and backspin returns which causes something called "spot paralysis" which makes an opposing player's arm freeze up. Will Ryoma be able to figure out a counterattack against this strategy? Meanwhile, Inoue and Shiba, editors of the magazine Pro Tennis Monthly try to get an interview with Ryoma's dad, the legendary Nanjiro Echizen. It seems Inoue was one of his biggest fans before Nanjiro retired due to injury. Nanjiro agrees to answer any questions the two might have....IF Inoue can hit a ball past him on the tennis court!

    I wish I had known some of these moves that Ryoma and the others use during my time on my own high school tennis team. I would have been paralyzing everyone, snake serving, and twist popping the whole time. Of course 99% of these "shots" are a bunch of hokey. But it's fun hokey. I enjoy every page of The Prince of Tennis simply because it takes itself way too seriously, detailing each shot with the preciseness of a giant robot attack. Nanjiro, Ryoma's dad, seems to be a real piece of work. He's a porn mag monk? Why is it that most monks in manga and anime are the biggest perverts? Something to do with irony, I suppose? The setup for the next volume is a match between Ryoma and Tezuka. No, not Osamu, but the captain of the Seishun team.

    My Grade: A

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 9:11pm CST

    Manga Review: Blame! Volume 3

    Manga review of Blame! volume 3 by Tsutomu Nihei. Translated by Stephen Paul. Adapted by Brandon Montclare. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated OT 16+.

    Killy and Cibo have finally come upon a structure left over from a time when humans could still communicate with the Netsphere. It is not part of the city so the Authority holds no sway there, which means their runaway Safeguard mechanisms don't either. Surprisingly, the name of the structure is Toha Heavy Industries. Hmmm...any connection to the Toa Heavy Industries in Biomega? Is this book taking place in the same world as that series, but in the future? It's unknown at this point. Maybe it will become clearer as I continue reading Blame. The humans that live outside of it say they are descended from "The Planters", the people that used to work inside of Toha, but none of them know how to read and they have no idea how to get inside it. Of course there's lot of battles with the Safeguard in this volume as well.

    My patience is starting to wear a little thin with this series. After 3 volumes, Nihei's messy artwork hasn't gotten any better. With so much emphasis on action, the artist finds himself woefully lacking in being able to illustrate it. Over and over again, I have to reexamine panels to figure out what is going on. Sometimes I am successful. Sometimes I just give up and move on. It doesn't help that during the fights, so much of the art is very black and dark which just adds to the visual confusion of already poorly constructed panels. And then there's the "gun thing". Killy's graviton emitter pistol is so powerful that it sends him sprawling through the air every time he fires. Nihei always draws him in the same nondescript poorly posed manner every time it happens, so much so that the whole firing of the weapon has become a unintentional example of comic relief. While there is a bit more scattered peices of plot in this volume, on the whole it's a bit scatter shot, just like the art. The worst thing about this book is that there is a giant monster fight straight out of a Godzilla movie. At that point, my eyes began to roll back into my head, especially since one of the monsters is a straight up rip-off of H.R. Giger's Alien designs. In fact, a lot of the designs seem ripped off from Giger and Akira. I am losing faith in this book. We'll see if find it in volume 4 or the series continues it's slow crawl to complete dumbness. I like the "vibe" of the book but it just seems so derivative and lamebrained at certain points.

    My Grade: C-

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 9:01pm CST

    Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 4

    Manga review of The Prince of Tennis volume 4: The Black Unit by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

    If seeds in a tournament were guaranteed wins everybody would win the NCAA basketball March Madness brackets every year. There's always a team that comes out of nowhere to shake up the brackets. The District Prelims in Prince of Tennis are no different. It was supposed to be a sure thing that Seishun would be facing Kakinoki Jr. High next. One of its players had even gotten in the face of Seishun's captain, Tezuka, last volume. But Kakinoki is eliminated by the unseeded team from Fudomine Junior High. Fudomine has a bit of a bad reputation because they had to forfeit the city tournament the year before because their captain, named Kippei, had assaulted his own coach! We find out he did it for a good reason. This year they're back with all-new starters and Kippei serving as their defacto coach. Volume 4 mainly covers the first two matches between Seishun and Fudomine. Shusuke and Takashi team up for doubles, while Kaido and his "Snake Shot" is entered in singles.

    As with a lot of sports manga that I read, or even a title like Hikaru No Go, I get excited about each match like it's really going to happen. That's the magic of manga that American comic books will never be able to capture. The excitement and thrill of a sport, a game, or just an ordinary event in an ordinary life, is something only manga seems capable of doing. Of course, there is always an element of hyper reality to a Shonen Jump title. I played tennis on my high school team, and let me tell you, I've never heard of any of these giant robot-like shots that I see in The Prince of Tennis. But it's there to make it fun. The thrill to me comes in seeing the characters face off against each other. I'm always in suspense wondering what secret shot each player is going to have and how Ryoma or the other Seishun team members will counterattack. It's not for everybody, but I love that kind of thing. The other thing I like about the series is watching Ryoma kick ass against other players that THINK they are kick ass. There's nothing better than seeing an megalomaniac egotist or bully be knocked down. If anything, Ryoma reminds me very much of Michael Jordan, who knew he was good and didn't hide it but let his game do most of the talking.

    My grade: A

    You can listen to my podcast review of Volume 1 of The Prince of Tennis here:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/podcast_episode_176_the_prince_of_tennis_volume_1

    You can also read the first chapter of volume 1 for free at Viz:

    http://shonenjump.viz.com/onlinemanga/sjom.php?chap=pot-hi-preview

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 8:04pm CST

    Manga Review: Blame! Volume 2

    Manga review of Blame! volume 2 by Tsutomu Nihei. Translated by Stephen Paul. Adapted by Brandon Montclare. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated OT 16+. (This book should definitely be rated Mature for its ultra-violence and gore).

    We do get some answers as to what is going on in this series at the beginning of volume 2 of Blame! Apparently, people with "Net Terminal Genes" are able to access the "Netsphere", which seems to be the computer program running the megastructure that all the humans and non-humans of the setting are entrapped within. Net genes allow their hosts to communicate with the Authority, kinda like a middleman between the humans and the machines. Somewhere along the line the ties seem to have been severed, leading to the chaos and nightmarish world of Blame. Killy continues his lonely quest in search of the genes. He gets a lead at a human colony when he hears about genetic engineers living in Cluster Town and hitches a ride on a transport heading that way. A transport that just happens to get attacked by hostile humanoids. Even when he makes it to Cluster Town, he discovers he's jumped from the frying pan into the mutated tyrannical police state fire.

    Early on in Blame volume 2 I came to a stark realization about the utter isolation and loneliness of the setting and its characters. I hadn't really thought about it until I looked at one panel where Killy is sleeping cowered against some pipes trying to keep warm. Killy is surrounded by things and people that want to kill him. His only comfort is miles and miles of dark, cold corridors and metal. Nobody in the world of Blame seems to have established any ties between different levels or cultures. Every group looks upon each other with suspicion and thoughts of murder. It's a mutant eat human world. Killy does gain a companion towards the end of this book, but in Blame, you're never really sure how long any character is going to survive. There's always danger lurking. I did appreciate getting some answers to the questions raised by the first volume. Nihei's writing is a lot better in this second volume, while his character designs still smack of the generic, so much so that I mistook a woman character for Killy in one part of the book. Blame so far is a work of flawed beauty, messy but imaginative.

    My Grade: B+

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 1:36pm CST

    Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 3

    Manga review of The Prince of Tennis Volume 3: Street Tennis by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

    After putting some bullies in their place on the tennis court, Ryoma prepares for the District Prelims, from which the top two schools will advance to the city tournament, and then to the Nationals. Problem is that not everyone from Seishun can play singles. Some of them will have to play doubles. The prideful and independent Ryoma wants no part of working with a partner, and Tomo doesn't either. So they decide to have a match, with the winner getting to play singles in the tournament. They find a public tennis court but in order to use it for the duel, they have to challenge the doubles team that is already on it. Ryoma and Tomo play together but are unable to mesh their styles or egos and are promptly schooled and beaten. You would think they would swear off playing together after that, but both Ryoma and Tomo are sufficiently intrigued with the challenge of playing doubles. So much so that they volunteer to be partners in the District Prelims!

    What I liked about volume 3 of The Prince of Tennis was finding out that Ryoma doesn't know EVERYTHING about tennis...yet. He was getting a little too high on his little hobby horse for me, and he needed to get knocked down a notch in the doubles match.  Ryoma is a bit too rude so maybe this is the beginning of him becoming a bit more social, but I doubt it. He does stand up for the downtrodden in his own way, such as beating the crap out of some dudes that were bullying his friend's dad. And remember how he stuck up for Sakuno in the opening panels of this series. Ryoma can't stand the strong picking on the weak, but he sticks up for them in such a nonchalant way that he comes off as supercool. There's also an underlying tension in that there is already an anticipation that Ryoma is going to have to beat his teammates to rise to the top.

    My Grade: A

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 1:02pm CST

    Podcast novel review of Usurper of the Sun by Housuke Nojiri. Translated by John Wunderley. Originally published in Japan by Hayakawa. Published in US by Viz Haikasoru, $15.99.

    From the back cover:

    "Aki Shiraishi is a high school student working in the astronomy club and one of the few witnesses to an amazing event-- someone is building a tower on the planet Mercury. Soon, the enigmatic Builders have constructed a ring around the sun, and the ecology of Earth is threatened by its immense shadow. Aki is inspired to pursue a career in science, and the truth. She must determine the purpose of the ring and the plans of its creators, as the survival of both species--humanity and the alien Builders---hangs in the balance."

    My Grade: B+

    You can read an excerpt of the book at www.haikasoru.com 

    Direct download: Episode_219--Usurper_of_the_Sun.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:31pm CST

    Podcast anime blu-ray review of Afro Samurai Season 1 Director's Cut. Directed by Fuminori Kizaki. Written by Derek Draper and Chris Yoo. Published by Funimation, Rated Mature, 5 episodes, 125 minutes.

    From the back cover:

    "Afro Samurai (voiced by Academy Award nominated Samuel L. Jackson) is a epic tale of a black samurai's hunt for Justice (voiced by Ron Perlman: Hellboy) who murdered his father. With music score by The RZA (Kill Bill, Wu Tang Clan) Afro Samurai blends traditional Japanese culture, funky technology and hip hop to create a brutally fresh entertainment experience."

    My Grade: A-

    Just hit the > on the player below to hear the podcast:

    You can watch all 5 episodes of the series for free via Funimation:

    Direct download: Episode_218--Afro_Samurai_Season_1.mp3
    Category:Blu-ray Reviews -- posted at: 6:25pm CST

    Podcast manga review of Blame! volume 1 by Tsutomu Nihei (Biomega). Translated by Stephen Paul. Adapted by Brandon Montclare. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated OT 16+.

    From the back cover:

    "In a future world rife with decay and destruction, Killy is a man of few words who packs one very powerful gun. He wanders an endless labyrinth of cyberdungeons filled with concrete and steel, fighting off cyborgs and other bizarre silicate creatures. Everyone is searching for the Net Terminal Genes, but no one is quite certain what kind of power they contain. The answer may lie hidden among the scattered human settlements of this vast and desolate future world."

    My Grade: B-

    And here's the first episode of the anime version of Blame, which was a series of 5 minute vignettes based on the manga. No talking here, but it gives you the feel and look of the manga:

    Direct download: Episode_217--_Blame_Vol_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:52pm CST

    Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist volume 9 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:

    "Ed, Al and Winry return to Central Command, but only bad news greets the Fullmetal Alchemist and his friends. Lieutenant Colonel Maes Hughes has been murdered - and Second Lieutenant Maria Ross is the prime suspect! While Maria awaits an uncertain fate in jail, the living suit of armor bearing the soul of serial killer "Barry the Chopper" breaks free of the military and goes on a rampage. Now, the mysterious Homunculi must come out of the shadows to deal with the mess before their monstrous conspiracy is exposed. But for Colonel Mustang, Maes Hughes's former best friend, it's not about the truth - it's about revenge..."

    My Grade: A+

     

    Direct download: Episode_216--Fullmetal_Alchemist_vol_9.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:33pm CST

    Manga Review: Culdcept Volume 2

    Manga review of Culdcept Volume 2 by Shinya Kaneko. Editorial supervision by Omiya Soft. Translated by Takae Brewer. Adapted by Jay Antani. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in the US by Tokypop, $9.99, Rated 13+.

    We heard a few enigmatic phrases about "The War of the Gods" which caused the Culdcept to be scattered and lost across the world but in volume 2 we actually get to see it. This is thanks to a Dragon Eye that belongs to Master Horowitz. If you look into it you can see the past through the memories of a fire dragon that fought in the War of the Gods. It seems that Culdra had to fight against a rebel god, Baltheus, much like God had to face off against Lucifer in the Christian religion. Baltheus was not alone in his rebellion. His allies were fearsome monsters, one among them being Beelzebub, Lord of Flies, that Najaran encountered in the first volume. To gain more information on the whereabouts of the Black Cepters, Horowitz sends Najaran to the dark and mysterious Bisteam Forest to consult with an oracle named Grubel. She's not the only one headed there. Zeneth the Dragon Eyed is also making his way to Bisteam, lured by tales of treasure and Culdcept cards.

    As in volume 1, the art by Shinya Kaneko is gorgeous. Seeing as how a lot of the work on Culdcept creature designs were already done, Kaneko could spend his time mostly on the world and his main characters, which really pays off. The introduction of two new party members, Alta, a searcher, and Joaquin, an alchemist, are also welcome additions to the story. I'm a little bit worried about the direction of the series because of what happens towards the end of this volume. Najaran and company are forced by Kigi, a nymph guardian of Bisteam, to face 4 challenges. They must pass through 4 gates to get to Bisteam City, each one with a challenge. So all of the sudden, is Culdcept going to become an RPG/ tournament/battle manga? Are these challenges going to take up all of volume 3, with our heroes facing stronger and stronger opponents? Hopefully not, but we'll have to see.

    My Grade: B+

     

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 10:38am CST

    Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 8 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Jake Forbes. Published by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

    From the back cover:

    "The raid on the Devil's Nest becomes a slaughter, as government troops - led by the Fuhrer President himself, King Bradley - exterminate the half-human forces of the Homunculus Greed. But will Ed and Al survive the battle unchanged?

    As Greed is sent to meet his maker, foreign alchemists arrive in Amestris, having crossed the great desert from the eastern country of Xing. They are Mei and Ling, and they've come for the Philosopher's Stone... and a secret even the Elric brothers never imagined..."

    My Grade: A+

    Direct download: Episode_215--Fullmetal_Alchemist_8.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:27pm CST

    Manga Review: Sorcerer Hunters Volume 10 ​Manga review of Sorcerer Hunters Volume 10. Story by Satoru Akahori. Art by Ray Omishi. Translated by Anita Sengupta. Adapted by Mike Wellman. Orignal Publisher: Media Works. US Publisher: Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated OT 16+.

    The opening of Volume 10 is an exercise in meta-fiction as the cast of the series tries to decide what genre of manga fans this installment will cater to. Will it be shojo, shonen, magical girl, etc? After these few brief arguments the rest of the book tells a story about Carrot and Marron's parents, Onion and Apricot. From what I can tell, its set about 20 years before the current storyline. In fact, Onion and Apricot aren't even married. They're just fellow Sorcerer Hunters. Even Lord Sacher, the Hunter's main nemesis for much of this series, is still a good guy, though he's already showing some Anakin-like moments.
    Apricot is having second thoughts about being a Hunter, even if the sorcerers she's hunting deserve to die. For instance, the one she kills at the beginning of this tale was hunting parsoners for sport and murdering them in cold blood. Apricot feels there has to a better way to handle the problem and voices her concerns to Mother. In response, Onion and Apricot, along with Haz Knight Mille Feuille are sent to the valley of Galna-Galm, with no idea of what their mission is, but it might have to do with the mysterious origin of the Sorcerer Hunters.

    The best description of Ray Omishi's art is economical. He doesn't waste a lot of time drawing things that are unneccesary to the story he's illustrating. Don't get me wrong, Omishi is a good artist, but for instance, while his characters have a lot of detail, his mostly absent backgrounds seem to fit more in the shojo style. He can flip from chibi-style comedy to drama to action at the drop of a hat. This makes him well suited to illustrate Akahori's manic and sometimes bi-polar writing. Again, don't get me wrong. Akahori has no problem transtitioning among all the different moods of the work. When the characters interact in a comedic way you laugh, but your heart also goes out to Apricot as she struggles to reconcile killing sorcerers with her notions of what is right and wrong.

    Tokyopop orignally published this series in those old huge $17 manga editions flipped. It wasn't until later that they started re-releasing Hunters in the smaller unflipped editions. Unfortunately, out of 13 volumes, they stopped printing the new editions with this volume, which was printed 2 years ago. So I doubt Tokyopop will ever finish putting the other 4 books out. So you're left to your own devices finding the original versions.

    My Grade: A
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 10:51am CST

    Pocast Episode 214: Biomega Volume 2 Podcast manga review of Biomega Volume 2 by Tsutomu Nihei. Translated by John Werry. Adapted by Stan! Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in the US by Viz Signature, $12.99, Rated M for Mature.

    From the back cover:

    "In Tsutomu Nihei's nightmare vision of the future, the N5S virus has swept across the Earth, turning most of the population into zombie-like drones. Zoichi Kanoe, an agent of Toa Heavy Industry, is humanity's last hope, and he's not even human! With the help of Fuyu, a digitized intelligence built into the computer system of his heavy dual coil motorcycle, Zoichi's search for the key to salvation will take him on a journey across surreal landscapes and hurl him into battle against mind-bending evil. Prepare yourself for the ultimate trip-- Prepare yourself for the world of Biomega.

    After capturing Eon Green, DRF forces are amassing around Toa Heavy Industry headquarters and have taken Dr. Kurokawa and his daughter into custody. Zoichi must attempt a rescue--Dr. Kurokawa's laboratory may yield critical information on Eon Green. Elsewhere, Toa Heavy Industry agent Nishu Mizunoe searches for Kozlov Grebnev and the secrets he knows about  the DRF's research, origins and their apocalyptic plan for the entire human race!"


    My Grade: A


    Direct download: Episode_214--_Biomega_2.mp3
    Category:general -- posted at: 4:19pm CST

    Podcast Episode 213: Zoo Podcast review of Zoo by Otsuichi. Translated by Otsuichi. Translated by Terry Gallagher. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Haikasoru, $13.99.

    From the back cover:

    "A man receives a photo of his girlfriend every day in the mail...so that he can keep track of her body's decomposition. A deathtrap that takes a week to kill its victims. Haunted parks and airplanes held in the sky by the power of belief. These are just a few of the stories  by Otsuichi, Japan's master of dark fantasy."

    My Grade: B+

    If you look below you can see that I have added a new audio player where you can listen to the episode automatically. Just hit that > button and it will start playing. In addition you can make it full screen. If you look over to the left on the player where it says "menu", you can click on that and you can share the episode with other people via email, embedding, or twitter. Through the subscribe option you can get the RSS or subscribe via Itunes. The really cool thing is if you click on "Episodes", you can scroll up and down by dragging on the gray bar on the right edge of the player. This will allow you to see all my reviews. Just click on one and it will start playing. The player is a bit of a work in progress. I'm still trying to get it exactly how I want it. But try it out. My episodes will also post to Itunes as usual.



    Direct download: Episode_213--Zoo.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:08pm CST

    Manga Review: Happy Mania Volume 4 Manga review of  Happy Mania Volume 4 by Moyoco Anno. Translated by Shirley Kubo. Adapted by Leah Ginsberg. Originally published in Japan by Shodensha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+.

    Kayoko Shigeta has been dumped by her latest screw buddy, but is anybody really surprised? Goro, the ceramic artist she liked, has taken off for China, leaving Shigeta in a depression. Well, she always has Takahashi to fall back on...but wait, she catches him in her apartment about to have sex with a former university classmate. And then he has the nerve to ask Shigeta to marry him? It's a pretty crazy situation, but that's usually how it is around this girl. Adding to the chaos is the fact that Kayoko is 4 months behind on her rent, her phone and electricity has been cut off, and she's also lost her job! There's only one thing that can solve all of these problems. That's right, it's time for her to fall in love again. Or at least find a hot-looking guy to have sex with!

    I would call Happy Mania a tragic-comedy on the level of a Shakespearean play. In order for a hero to truly have a tragic flaw, that hero/heroine must NOT be aware of their flaw. Because if they were, they could change, they could evolve. It seemed for a time that Kayoko was going to have some sort of epiphany and figure out what she's doing wrong. And I think given time in a nunnery, she probably could come to terms with herself. But as long as she is anywhere in the vicinity of handsome unattainable men, she is doomed to repeat herself over and over. She still thinks that having sex is a method of making a guy fall in love with her, instead of seeing that a truly decent dude would like and love her before she pulled out that card. And poor Takahashi, he is probably a good match for her. He's a nice guy. Too bad, subliminally, Shigeta believes that happiness and marriage are not meant to coexist. Is this girl ever gonna straighten up?

    My Grade: B+
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 5:05pm CST

    About 3 years ago, I got a membership with Rentanime.com because my local anime/manga store, Anime Avalon, closed its doors. It's weird to think at that time there was hardly any anime online (ok, legal anime). If you were lucky, you might get to watch the first one or two episodes of a series. IF you were lucky. So I had no other way to watch anime besides buying or renting. I'm sure I wasted hundreds, if not thousands of dollars because you had to buy anime dvds without ever seeing the show. How the times have changed, huh? Was Crunchyroll around then? If it was, it was a bootleg site, and now its one of the major players.

    I still get sad when I think about Anime Avalon. But you know, even if somehow it had survived, it would surely have closed by now. Just because it could never compete with the big stores like Best Buy. It could only sell anime at list price. They did have a vast rental collection, but even mainstream rental places like Hollywood Video and Blockbuster are closing more and more stores. I think all the Hollywoods in my city are now closed. And there's ONE Blockbuster left.

    I wonder if a store specializing just in manga could make a profit?

    I still have quite a few dvds I bought at Anime Avalon during its last few weeks of being open. They were selling all their dvds for $5 apiece. I probably spent around $500 that last month it was open. So I always think about it when I play or see those dvds, almost like remembering a dead relative.

    But let's say it had stayed open somehow. It would have closed for the same reason I'm cancelling my Rentanime membership. Why are you going to rent when you can watch everything and MORE online for free. The only reason I've hesitated is because Rentanime has older dvds but now even those are looking less and less tempting. Especially due to the fact that they have a lot of holes in their inventory because a lot of people buy those out of print titles instead of returning them.

    Another positive outcome of cancelling is the fact that with that $20 I save each month I can BUY some anime dvds.

    So anyways, it's goodbye to you Rentanime.

    Direct download: rentanime.gif
    Category:general -- posted at: 10:46pm CST

    Podcast Episode 212: Biomega Volume 1

    Podcast manga review of Biomega Volume 1 by Tsutomu Nihei. Translated by John Werry. Adapted by Stan! Originally published by Shueisha in Japan. Published in US by Viz Signature, $12.99, Rated Mature.

    From the back cover:

    The N5S virus has swept across the earth, turning most of the population into zombie-like drones. Zoichi Kanoe, an agent of Toa Heavy Industry, is humanity's last hope, and he's not even human! With the help of Fuyu, an artificial intelligence built into the computer system of his Heavy Duty Coil motorcycle, Zoichi's search for the key to salvation will take him on a journey across surreal landscapes and hurl him into battle against mind-bending evil.

    Zoichi Kanoe plunges into the depths of 9JO - an island city in the middle of the Pacific Ocean - in search of Eon Green, a girl with the power to transmute the N5S virus. He's not the only one looking for her, though... Agents of the Public Health Service's Compulsory Execution Unit are also in hot pursuit. Zoichi and his transhuman allies have no time to waste; the countdown to the zombie apocalypse has begun!

    My Grade: A

    Check out www.Vampybit.me 

    Direct download: episode_212--Biomega_volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:02pm CST

    Podcast Episode 211: Culdcept Volume 1

    Podcast manga review of Culdcept Volume 1 by Shinya Kaneko. Editorial Supervision by Omiya Soft. Translated by Takae Brewer. Adapted by Jay Antani. Originally published by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Teen 13+.

    From the back cover:

    In the magical land of Bablashca, card-shaped relics have been scattered far and wide. They are part of the ancient Culdcept, a book that created the universe. Whoever collects all the cards will have the power of gods, but only special people, called Cepters, can control the cards, and thus, control the universe....

    The mysterious Black Cepters begin destroying city after city in search of the precious cards. The fate of Bablashca rests in Najaran, an apprentice Cepter who sets out on an improbable journey to conquer the Black Cepters before they discover the hidden relics!

    My Grade: A-

    This manga is based on a videogame series from Japan. Two games have been released in the US to date: Culdcept for PS2 and Culdcept Saga for Xbox 360. The best site for info about the games is www.culdceptcentral.com Here's the trailer for Culdcept Saga:

     

    Direct download: episode_211--Culdcept_vol_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:17pm CST

    Manga Review: Negima! Volume 6

    Manga review of Negima! volume 6 by Ken Akamatsu. Translated by Toshifumi Yoshida. Adapted by Trish Ledoux. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated OT Ages 16+.

    Volume 6 of Negima is full of surprises as Negi, accompanied by Setsuna, Asuna, and Konoka, finally gets to deliver the letter from the headmaster of Mahora Academy. His mission was to hand deliver it to the leader of the Kansai Magic Association, called "The Elder of the East". The Elder also happens to be the son-in-law of the headmaster, which in turn makes him Konoka's dad. Of course, Negi had an ulterior motive in coming to Kyoto, which was to see if he could find any info about his missing father. But there are some that do not want to see the Kanto and Kansai Magic Associations getting along. Just when Negi thinks he's reached a safe haven Chigusa Amagasaki and her minions attack the Kansai temple and kidnap Konoka.

    Well, somehow, Akamatsu found a way for Negi's students to fight on equal footing with Negi against high-level magicians and even brutish demons. In the context of Negima, this actually doesn't strain the limits of believability. I didn't even blink when some of his students started breaking out sniper rifles or using Naruto-like martial arts attacks. It just made sense in this world Akamatsu has created. The art is great as usual and the fan service is plentiful. Some might say TOO plentiful. For instance, in battle, Asuna blocks a petrification spell that does not harm her but turns her clothes to stone and then they shatter, leaving her naked. She is then tickled by multiple tentacled arms made of water which seem to be groping in all the wrong places. Later, when she gets another set of clothes, she forgets to put on her panties, and so every battle she fights her butt is blowing in the wind. Literally. And what would a volume of Negima be without some sort of bath scene? Still, I find the characters interesting and the humor works most of the time, even though the series tries to be an softcore ero-manga at times.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: negima6.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 2:32pm CST

    Podcast Episode 210: All You Need Is Kill

    Podcast novel review of All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Translated by Alexander O. Smith. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Haikasoru, $13.99.

    From the back cover:

    When the alien mimics invade, Keiji Kiriya is just one of many recruits shoved into a suit of battle armor called a Jacket and sent out to kill. Keiji dies on the battlefield, only to be reborn each morning to fight and die again and again. On his 158th iteration, he gets a message from a mysterious ally-- the female soldier known as the Full Metal Bitch. Is she the key to Keiji's escape or his final death?

     

    My Grade: B

     

    Read an excerpt from the book and get more info at:

    http://www.haikasoru.com/all-you-need-is-kill/

     

     

    Direct download: Episode_210--All_You_Need_Is_Kill.mp3
    Category:Novel Reviews -- posted at: 2:19pm CST

    Podcast Episode 209: Scans of the Devil

    In this episode I talk about the news that OneManga is one of the top 1000 sites being visited on the internet and what this means to the manga publishing world. Also, comments about manga bloggers that blame scan sites for everything and see them as evil minions of Satan. Ok, I don't quite go that far.

    Direct download: Episode_209--Scans_of_the_Devil.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:02pm CST

    Living In Neverland

    Goodbye CMX. It was nice knowing you. But I come here not to mourn the passing of this slightly oddball shojo publisher. I come here to honor it. Yeah, just when I was getting into their Flex titles (which i vastly preferred to their shojo), the company ups and croaks. But we all know that CMX should and would have survived had it not been for the devilish plots of their parent company, DC.

    Oh, DC, I spit at thee from the mouth of Hell! So what if the CMX imprint wasn't making any money and losing your company hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars a year. It was your god-given duty to crank out volumes of manga, whether they were any good or not! I don't want to hear the lame excuse that nobody was buying them! The fans that wanted them printed that didn't buy them are your customers, and its a well-known and truthful cliche that the customer is NEVER right.

    In my often ignored except when people bitch at me twitter account I stated that I didn't know if I really felt sorry for the CMX employees that lost or are losing their jobs. I stand by the statement. I was raised in a blue collar family and when people lost their jobs they didn't want family and friends, much less complete strangers, to pity them. They just looked for another job. Who wants to be PITIED?

    What I really meant was that anyone working at a manga publisher in this day and age should NEVER feel that their job is safe. They and their employers have been riding on the crest of a fad that has slowly, in some cases, quickly, evolved into a job threatening blood-letting. Who in their right mind would think they could be a manga translator for the rest of their life? Or work in the manga business as a career? I doubt if Viz or Tokyopop or Yen or Del Rey's manga imprint will be around 10 years from now. Or if they are,  it will be more like Viz was in the 90s with very few and more expensive titles and not many positions.

    Why are so many of the "manga media" and fans so SURPRISED by the death of CMX? That's what really ticked and continues to tick me off. Where are these manga bloggers, "critics", "experts" and "fans" living? Neverland? Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory? I just cannot explain why they didn't see this coming. I've seen it for some time.

    I don't mean CMX in particular but more the End of Days for manga publishers. Manga space getting smaller in the bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Noble was one sign. (oh, can I insert here that Borders sucks?). The big sign of things to come for me was seeing all the local comicbook stores getting rid of their manga in the past year. (oh yeah, when they ripped the covers off their returns, where did all the unsaleable manga go? Into the garbage most likely)They only carry the most popular titles like Shonen Jump titles and some Dark Horse. Manga in comic stores is relegated to the pariah space of just maybe two shelves with Archie and kid titles now. Not to mention the closing of my ONLY local anime/manga store back in 2007.

    Was the fading into oblivion of multiple manga publishers in the past 2 years not a sign? Wasn't the number of discontinued titles by companies like Dark Horse a sign (Dark Horse, where is Reiko, Octopus Girl, Eden? Get off your asses please. Reiko, don't go into the light! I have rightly surmised that I will be in a senior citizen home, or dead, by the time Eden is completed).

    When Viz slashed 40% of its staff, I knew it was pretty much over. They have the strongest selling titles of any publisher with their Oprah Book Club-like Shonen Jump imprint (stick that label on anything and its gonna do ok for a time). When they cut back, you knew the industry was in deep doo-doo. And by the way, where the hell is Kodansha? What the F was with their cheap-ass parlor tricking reprints of Ghost in the Shell and Akira? Get out of the market. Stay out of the way. You're just making things worse. I am the Amityville Horror House---GET OUT!

    What is the cause of all this calamity, all these people losing their jobs, of fans bitching, of bloggers running from a falling sky?

    PEOPLE ARE NOT BUYING MANGA. ACCEPT IT. ITS NOT POPULAR. IT NEVER WILL BE EXCEPT IN A FAKE FAD KIND OF WAY. ACCEPT IT.

    The true fans buy it and love it. But there's not enough of us. It doesn't make me angry. It's just a fact. Do I wish everybody could get into it like I do? Yeah. Is that going to happen? No. I don't understand why some "fans" almost wet themselves when a volume of manga gets into the USA Today top 200 books. They seem to think that "This is just the beginning. Manga is popular now. We will take over the world. We're making progress. Next time, we'll make it to #198 for a week! Viva Le Manga Revolucion!" Get real. We're not making progress. We're in decline. No, we're not gonna die, but we have to live in reality.

    Is the decline due to fans or publishers? Or the booksellers even? On the publishing side, I think all of them are complete failures. Have I ever opened a mainstream magazine and saw a manga ad. Never. The marketing strategies of these companies suck. There is so much potential for manga to become popular, but I think the problem is that publishers are run by nitwits or controlled by the Japanese who don't know how to appeal to American markets. There are manga franchises that could make just as much money in movie form as Iron Man, Spider-Man, or Batman, if handled right. But instead we get 60 year old Keanu Reeves in Cowboy Bebop. Come on, Cameron and Speilberg, please succeed with Battle Angel Alita and Ghost in the Shell. DiCaprio, make Akira.

    Can you imagine the change in the manga market if Battle Angel Alita made as much money and got as much press as Avatar? A sea change.

    And what is up with the publisher's slow on the take reaction to the potential of online manga?Ok, Viz is in the forefront of it right now, and Tokyopop is doing it in their typically mediocre manner, but where were they when manga was at its highest popularity? They should have struck while the manga was hot. Netcomics had the right idea but had no hit titles. It took the majors almost a decade before they started getting serious about putting books online. Didn't they see what happened when the record industry failed to capitalize on the download debacle earlier in the decade. It's being repeated all over again.

    Are the publishers picking the right titles to print? No. Or they would be making more money and they wouldn't be in the state they are in.

    I have to love Viz though. I just do. They are putting out not just popular titles but more mature and experimental ones that don't always fit into what Americans consider "manga". I also love the balls they have to publish Japanese sci-fi. I've bought every Haika Soru title that has come out. I see the way they are handling their brand and titles as the key to the future. They seem to be merging the facets of their anime/manga/novel business pretty well, and with some forward looking vision.

    I think Tokyopop will be the next to fall if their Priest film is as crappy as I imagine its going to be. Im thinking B-movie all the way.

    Yen seems to be pretty healthy as long as it can suck on the neck of Twilight and somehow make money off lame series like Maximum Ride and Night School, which are pretty horrible. And just when OEL had finally been flushed down Tokyopop's toilet.

    Another one of the many causes of the manga decline? Generation Cake. A generation that wants its cake, wants to eat it too, and then regurgitate it for their friends to eat for free. Manga companies target most of their titles at kids. And guess what? They're not buying.  They're spending their money on other things. Phones. Videogames. Ipods. Music. Clothes. Girls. Guys. Movies. A lot of kids hate to read now. They think its boring. Or maybe their families don't have enough money to buy them manga. Again, this doesn't anger me or anything. They just don't like manga. They'd rather spend their money on things they get more enjoyment out of.

    I think the problem that manga faces is the opposite of the US comic market. American comic readers skew older, but they fail to bring in new readers because of so much backstory. They also fail most horribly with girls and women. Manga has no problem getting new readers, including of the female variety, but fails to keep them. If you start reading Marvel and DC when you're a kid, you keep reading them even when you get older. Manga readers tend to start young but the majority cast the hobby off as they age as more of a fad than a lifelong love.

    Another problem is that booksellers now encourage you NOT to buy books. You can go into Borders or Barnes and Noble and just read every book for free if you want. You can't go five feet without stubbing your toe on a couch or comfy chair and table. Bookstores have become so faux European. Like throwbacks to bookstores back in the 18th and 19th centuries where the intelligentsia met to discuss philosophy, literary works etc. Now, you just get lonely bums that don't want to buy anything. It's pretty disgusting. Throw all the furniture out of the bookstores!

    In the end I think the decline of the manga industry is from a combination of factors, but I think the economy is the most insignificant. It was in its death throes (or at least death wiggles) before any of this mortgage crisis was even a blip on the radar. In the end, it's simply supply and demand.

    The market for CMX titles was too small. There is no way DC would have shut them down if they were profitable. They were obviously losing money. The market for manga is too small. Not enough people like it. Face it. Me and you, we are the chosen few. Yeah, it could get better, but it will be a sham better. The core remains. Me and you.

    PS. And were people really CRYING over CMX closing up shop? Actually PHYSICALLY CRYING? Man up! Or in some cases, Woman up!

    PSS. If you notice I never brought up scanlations as a problem. I believe that people that read scans would never buy a volume of manga anyway, so they are a non-factor. But it DOES bring up another point. I hear all the time about hype and buzz for scan titles. "Hotly anticipated" is a cliche I see the most often. But who is doing the hype? Who is getting hyped? Manga media types who get their manga for free? Who cares. Scan readers who don't buy manga? Who cares. You need to get people that actually spend money on manga to get excited to buy a title or see it printed.  I remember seeing on a manga blogger's site that they were upset that a "hotly anticipated" CMX title, well at least hot on the scan sites, wouldn't be published. I was thinking, yeah, you wanted them to print another title that nobody would buy.

    PSSS. Whoa, CMX doesn't even have a website anymore? All that comes up is DC Comics. No mention of CMX. At least let them have a send-off DC! You know there were about 5 (or was it 5000?) people that wanted to post "You suck DC!".  You killed my Misery!

    Direct download: diamond.jpg
    Category:general -- posted at: 8:43pm CST

    Podcast Episode 208: The Lords of the Sands of Time

    Podcast Novel review of The Lord of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa. Translated by Jim Hubbert. Originally published in Japan by Hayakawa. Published in US by Viz Haika Soru, $13.99.

    From the back cover:

    Sixty-two years after human life on Earth was annihilated by rampaging alien invaders, the enigmatic Messenger O is sent back in time with a mission to unite humanity of past eras--during the Second World War, in ancient Japan, and at the dawn of humanity--to defeat the invasion before it begins. However, in a future shredded by love and genocide, love waits for O. Will O save humanity only to doom himself?

    My Grade: B-

    You can read an excerpt from the novel at: www.haikasoru.com

     

    Direct download: Episode_208--Lord_of_the_sands_of_time.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 5:02pm CST

    Podcast Episode 207: One Piece Volume 1

    Podcast manga review of One Piece Volume 1: Romance Dawn by Eiichiro Oda. Translated by Andy Nakatani. Adapted by Lance Caselman. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in the US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated Teen.

    From the back cover:

    As a child, Monkey D. Luffy was inspired to become a pirate by listening to the tales of the buccaneer "Red-Haired" Shanks. But Luffy's life changed when he accidentally ate the fruit of the Gum-Gum Tree, and gained the power to stretch like rubber...at the cost of never being able to swim again! Years later, still vowing to become the king of the pirates, Luffy sets out on his adventure...one guy alone in a rowboat, in search of the legendary "One Piece," said to be the greatest treasure in the world...

    My Grade: A-

    Direct download: Episode_207--_One_Piece_volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:21pm CST

    Podcast Episode 206: Naruto Volume 47

    Podcast manga review of Naruto volume 47: The Seal Destroyed by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $9.99, Rated Teen.

    From the back cover:

    Naruto inches ever closer to discovering the true identity of his nemesis, Pain. But is it worth it as the frustrated ninja begins to morph at last into the dreaded Nine Tails? Plus, an unexpected confession reveals incredible secrets about his past as Naruto prepares for the ultimate battle with Pain. Can the chakra-challenged Naruto win when one misstep could spell disaster?

    My Grade: A+

    Direct download: Episode_206--_Naruto_47.mp3
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 4:33pm CST

    Podcast Episode 205: Ghost Hound, episodes 1-5

    Anime podcast review of Ghost Hound Collection 1, Episodes 1-5. Series created by Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell, Appleseed). Directed by Ryutaro Nakamura (Kino's Journey). Series Composition by Chiaki J. Konaka (Lain, Texhnolyze). Released by Sentai Filmworks, Rated 14+.

    From the back cover:

    In an isolated region of Kyushu lies the town of Suiten.  Though seeming small and modest, Suiten is not a picturesque place for a vacation, unless it is from the “Unseen World”.  Taro, Makoto and Masayuki, three boys with traumatic pasts, learn to let their souls cross between the two parallel worlds.  However, the Unseen World is no mere copy of the real Apparent World.  The Unseen World is the home of ghosts, but changes are now allowing the souls of the dead to pass over into the Apparent World, with unpredictable effects.  Follow the journey of Taro, Makoto and Masayuki, as they cross between the two worlds, trying to unravel a great mystery.

    My Grade: B+

    You can watch the first episode for free via the Anime Network:

    http://www.theanimenetwork.com/Anime/Ghost-Hound/Lucid-Dream/Watch

    Direct download: Episode_205--_Ghost_Hound_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:12pm CST

    Podcast Episode 204: Cactus's Secret Volume 1

    Podcast manga review of Cactus's Secret by Nana Haruta. Translated and adapted by Su Mon Han. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

    From the back cover:

    Falling in love with a clueless boy would turn any girl into a cactus!

    Miku Yamada has a longtime crush on classmate Kyohei Fujioka. But no matter how many times she tries to show him how she feels, clueless Kyohei just doesn't get it. Frustrated, Miku gives up on him, only to have him start calling her "Cactus" for being prickly when he's around. Will Kyohei ever figure out Cactus's secret?

    Miku decides to try telling Kyohei her feelings by giving him chocolates for Valentine's Day. But Kyohei, unaware that he's the object of her affection, offers himself up as a practice partner for her love confession. Can Miku get through to him that he's the one she loves?

    My Grade: B+

    Here's a video of Princess Tenko, the Japanese magician that Kyohei compares Miku to in the opening scene of Cactus's Secret:

    Direct download: Episode_204--_Cactuss_Secret_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:01am CST

    I always liked this song. Oh, those were the days when I first started watching anime:

    Category:Video -- posted at: 5:53pm CST

    Podcast Episode 203: Astro Boy

    Anime dvd podcast review of Astro Boy. Directed by David Bowers. Published by Summit Entertainment. Animation by Imagi Studios. Rated PG, List price: $26.99.

    From the back cover:

    Set in futuristic Metro City, Astro Boy is about a young robot with incredible powers created by a brilliant scientist in the image of the son he has lost. Unable to fulfill the grieving man's expectations, our hero embarks on a journey in search of acceptance, experiencing betrayal and a netherworld of robot gladiators, before he returns to save Metro City and reconcile with the father who had rejected him.

    My Grade: A-

    Check out the trailer:

    Direct download: Episode_203--_Astro_Boy.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:59pm CST

    Manga Review: Happy Mania Volume 3

    Manga review of Happy Mania Volume 3 by Moyoco Anno. Translated by Shirley Kubo. Adapted by Leah Ginsberg. Originally published in Japan by Shodensha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+.

    Shigeta finally found a nice guy in the form of her ex co-worker, Takahashi, and even discovered that he was attending the prestigious Tokyo University. They even had sex last volume, but almost immediately afterward Takahashi announced that he was going to the US to study. Just when Shigeta had thought the man of her dreams had arrived on a slightly nerdy white horse! Without Takahashi in her immediate vicinity, Shigeta's too numerous to count psychoses begin to surface. She begins to doubt his faithfulness and worries that he will forget her because Takahashi is going to be away for 6 months. She soon begins to fall for a young ceramic artist named Goro who has some work on display in an exhibition at the department store where Shigeta works. As we have seen so often, Shigeta lets herself get absorbed by her obsession for a guy, at the expense of her survival and a previously existing relationship. She even convinces herself to quit her job and become a ceramic apprentice just to get closer to Goro.

    Just when I had begun to believe that Shigeta had matured a bit and gotten a clue last volume, she destroys any progress she had made in her love life. She has a very fragile psyche. As soon as she doesn't have a guy fawning over her or constantly calling her, she gets insecure. It's almost like she uses sex to remind herself that she is desirable. Without the continuous stream of bedded guys, she has to look at the hollow void within herself. I don't know if Moyoco Anno is simply chronicling the comical misadventures of a young single Japanese woman or critiquing the never ending quest to seek self-fulfillment in a manner that will never attain it. Shigeta keeps on looking for the antidote to her loneliness in guys. She never seems to understand that she needs to improve herself and her own life situation before she goes barging into other people's. She's on the ultimate ego trip, which in turn makes this series funny and sad at the same time.

    My Grade: B-

    Direct download: happy3.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 10:38am CST

    Podcast Episode 202: Hero Tales Volume 1

    Podcast manga review of Hero Tales Volume 1 by Hiromu Arakawa. Story by Huang Jin Zhou. Scenario by Ryou Yashiro. Art Configuration by Kusanagi. Translated by Amy Forsyth. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Yen Press, $10.99, Rated Older Teen.

    From the back cover:

     

    Legend speaks of seven heroes, each one bearing the power of one of the stars of the Big Dipper. Two of these stars are constantly in conflict, destined to battle and throw the world into chaos...

    Taitou has never paid much attention to old stories. Headstrong and defiant, he is the last in his village to complete his coming-of-age ceremony - a fact his sister Laila incessantly teases him about. When he is finally deemed worthy, he is presented with the Kenkaranbu, an ancient sword that can only be drawn by a true hero. As the frustrated Taitou struggles to unsheathe the sword, a mysterious thief appears, making off with the blade and citing the legend of the Big Dipper. The stars have been set in motion, as Taitou sets off after the Kenkaranbu and the truth of his own destiny... Hiromu Arakawa, creator of Fullmetal Alchemist, brings the legend to life!

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: Episode_202--_Hero_Tales_volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:20pm CST

    Podcast Episode 201: Alice in the Country of Hearts Volume 1

    Podcast manga review of Alice in the Country of Hearts Volume 1. Art by Soumei Hoshino. Story by Quinrose. Translated by Beni Conrad. Adapted by Lianne Sentar. Originally published in Japan by Mag Garden. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated 16+.

    From the back cover:

    A sudden kidnapping and a dark, mysterious hole...Handsome men with guns and bunny ears...A suspicious game of survival...Wonderland is officially at war! And Alice is trapped in the middle of it all. Will she ever make it out alive? A little arrogant, stubborn and determined to get back home, Alice isn't fazed by these challenges...until she wanders the strange country only to find that every man is weirdly in love with her and all the inhabitants are gun crazy and ready to kill without remorse. What is going on in Wonderland?!...A hilarious, dangerous tale of Alice the likes of which you've never seen before!

    My Grade: C-

    Direct download: Volume_201--Alice_in_the_Country_of_Hearts_Vol_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:32pm CST

    Podcast Episode 200: Spice and Wolf (Novel) Volume 1

    Podcast novel review of Spice and Wolf Volume 1 by Isuna Hasekura. Translated by Paul Starr. Originally printed in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Yen Press, $10.99, Rated 15+.

    From the back cover:

    The life of a traveling merchant is a lonely one, a fact with which Kraft Lawrence is well acquainted. Wandering from town to town with just his horse, cart, and whatever wares have come his way, the peddler has pretty well settled into his routine—that is, until the night Lawrence finds a wolf goddess asleep in his cart. Taking the form of a fetching girl with wolf ears and a tail, Holo has wearied of tending to harvests in the countryside and strikes up a bargain with the merchant to lend him the cunning of “Holo the Wisewolf” to increase his profits in exchange for taking her along on his travels. What kind of businessman could turn down such an offer? Lawrence soon learns, though, that having an ancient goddess as a traveling companion can be a bit of a mixed blessing. Will this wolf girl turn out to be too wild to tame

    My Grade: B-

    Direct download: Episode_200--Spice_and_Wolf_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:40pm CST

    Manga Review: Sorcerer Hunters Volume 9

    Manga review of Sorcerer Hunters volume 9. Art by Ray Omishi. Story by Satoru Akahori. Translated by Anita Sengupta. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

    Surely, you remember Potato Chips, the rich little kid (or is he a midget?) that was always looking to hook up in love with one of the female Sorcerer Hunters. Let's face it, Potato would hook up with ANY girl! His slightly disturbing butler Jeeves has decided to cheer his young master up by holding a beauty contest. His thinking is that Potato will be able to meet chicks. Of course, the female cast of the series gets dragged into entering as well.

    The main drama of volume 9 occurs when Big Mama sends the Hunters to look into a rash of disappearing young girls in the Old West town of Tamales (Akahori really goes overboard on the names in this manga). They even know who is behind it: Marchioness Carlsburg. She's not really a threat to the Hunters though. The real danger is her ally and nephew, Lendoll, a gunfighter/sorcerer who can fire magic bullets against which there is no defense. a

    Sorcerer Hunters is written very well for the type of manga that it is. Yeah, you have some fan service moments during the beauty contest along with a lot of speech impediment humor. But you also have a lot of action in the Lendoll story arc with violence and gore as we find out the gruesome secret of why the Marchioness is kidnapping girls. Even the last story in the book has a very different tone to it as Marron tries to help a lingering spirit disappointed in love. That last chapter has the nostalgia and wistfulness of Aria. The art is serviceable but tends to break down in the action sequences and generally lacks backgrounds. But really, Hunters straddles the border between cheap thrills and more serious themes pretty adriotly.

    My Grade: B+

     

    Direct download: sorcerer_hunters.bmp
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 3:37pm CST

    Podcast Episode 199: Blassreiter The Complete Series Part I, Episodes 1-6

    Podcast anime dvd review of Blassreiter The Complete Series Part I, Episodes 1-6. Directed by Ichiro Itano (Macross, Gantz, Megazone 23). Animation by Gonzo. Published by Funimation, List Price: $59.98, Rated 17+.

    From the back cover:

    A blood-born plague races across Germany, giving life to mechanized monsters who are hell-bent on making a bloody mess out of anyone in their path. Known as Demoniacs, these creatures have the perverse ability to meld with technology and wield it as an extension of their uncontrollable cyber rage. Standing in their way is civilization's last hope for a savior.

    Joseph Jobson - the mysterious blue rider - fuses with the unreal technology of his battle-tested motorcycle to defend man against machine. But the same tainted blood that carries his strength threatens to devour his soul, leaving him nothing more than a murderous demon. The future of death is now, and it refuses to be stopped.

    My Grade: B

    Here is the opening of the anime:

    You can also view the entire series for free dubbed and subbed at: http://www4.funimation.com/video/?page=show&b=269

    Direct download: Episode_199--_Blassreiter_Part_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:06pm CST

    Manga Review: Happy Mania Volume 2

    Manga review of Happy Mania Volume 2 by Moyoco Anno. Translated by Shirley Kubo. Adapted by Leah Ginsberg. Originally published in Japan by Shodensha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+.

    Shigeta has made a New Year's resolution. She's decided to give up on guys and love and focus all of her attention on her work. Uh, the thing is, she doesn't have a JOB! She got fired from her job at the bookstore last volume for missing too many days. Just when she's filled with the utmost optimism she discovers that her wallet, which had all her money, has been stolen. And then her roommate, Fuku, tells Shigeta that she's getting married and that she's moving out at the end of the month. So Shigeta's life is pretty screwed up at the moment. The only thing for it is to ask her mom if she can borrow some money. We find out that Shigeta is seen as a loser by her family since she hasn't got an education, doesn't have a decent job, and has yet to get married. But her mom does have a guy in mind for Shigeta. Meanwhile, Takahashi, the one guy that actually cares about Shigeta, decides he's just getting in her way, and that he has to leave the picture if she's ever to find her true love.

    Ok, I still believe Shigeta is a complete idiot. By the age of 24 I think someone would figure out that love is not just sex and vice versa. But I guess that's still pretty young, but come on, get your head together, Shigeta! She does seem to be making some progress as she at least TRIES to convince herself that life is not just about getting a boyfriend. It's also about being able to be independent and taking care of yourself. Too bad she doesn't really have a reason to be disciplined. She's always falling back on people, like her mother or Fuku. I think Fuku really does  care for her, but what can she do? You can't coddle someone forever. Shigeta is gonna have to learn to be a responsible adult. She does begin to at least entertain the idea of having Takahashi as a boyfriend in this volume as she finds out there is more to him than just the total nerd image.

    My grade: B

    Direct download: happy_mania_2.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 4:17pm CST