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Old 05-16-11, 06:53 PM   #1
Dragon Fly
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Anime Talk Manga Reviews

Okay, so the Anime Talk column is limited for space and each month there's usually some type of issue with getting manga posts in there. I figured I'd start a thread going with reviews as they are completed.

-Todd
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Old 05-16-11, 07:03 PM   #2
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Haruhi-Chan - Volume 2

Haruhi-Chan
Volume 2

I’ve never really hid my love affair with Haruhi Suzumiya. From anime to manga, I just absolutely love the franchise, the concept, and its characters. Despite that, I had never heard of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi-Chan before. This chibi style manga presents a yonkoma style of storytelling with the cast of the franchise goofing around at their best.

The second volume of this series has shown up on my doorstep and I just got around to checking it out. The back of this installment reads as follows:

“It’s another crazy-exciting day for Haruhi-chan and the SOS Brigade!
Haruhi-chan never runs out of ideas for fun new activities with the SOS Brigade (attendance mandatory). It’s a busy time for everyone: going to the beach, taking scenic hikes…moongazing in sexy bunny-girl outfits?! What will Haruhi think of next?! You’ll find plenty of gags and guffaws as Haruhi dives into the world of four-panel and short comics!!”

One thing I’ll say for Haruhi-Chan; it’s bloody random. The book starts out with Haruhi lamenting the rainy weather, moves on to some failed attempts at drawing, and ends up with Mikuru dressed up as a butterfly and fighting Godzilla. And that’s within the first 20 pages. As the book moves forward there’s a series about balloons and balloon animals, some more four panel silliness, and the group goes hiking and camping overnight to do some stargazing. Towards the end of the book there’s some bikini time at the beach to sate the appetites of the fan-service fans in the audience.

All in all Haruhi-Chan was entertaining, but damn it was random. Every page had something different, though I suppose that speaks volumes to Haruhi’s character in general. You never know what you’re going to get and the material here is so scattershot and all over the map that. Do keep in mind that this series is illustrated by Puyo, and not Noizi Ito. Therefore the characters don’t look exactly the same, but it’s still written by Nagaru Tanigawa, so the tone of the series is definitely Haruhi.

Ultimately this book is something that only Haruhi fans will enjoy. It’s not universally appealing and it’s a little too random as an introduction to the franchise. Still, I’d say the book is Recommended.
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Old 05-16-11, 07:07 PM   #3
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Re: Anime Talk Manga Reviews

Spice & Wolf
Volume 4

I haven’t exactly kept it a secret that I LOVE Spice & Wolf. From the anime to the manga, everything about this franchise just calls to me. I realize that it’s not for everyone, and it’s far too slow paced for the mainstream, but it’s such an endearing series that I just find myself glued to it. Naturally I was happy when the fourth volume of the manga showed up at my doorstep.

The back of this fourth installment reads as follows:

“Proud of his skillful transaction in Poroson (with more than a little help from Holo), Lawrence turns his cart toward Ruvinheigen in hopes of swelling his profits. Along the way, Lawrence and Holo meet the shepherdess Norah, whom they engage to “protect” them along the way. As it turns out, though, it isn’t wolves from which Lawrence needs protection, but his own ambition. The threat of a merchant’s worst nightmare awaits him in Ruvinheigen — bankruptcy!!”

The volume opens up with Holo and Lawrence in the midst of a negotiation with a rather shrewd business man, but Holo soon realizes that something is up. She spills her wine and that reveals that they weren’t exactly on an even playing field. Their adversary stacked the cards against them by utilizing a tilted table and that threw off a scale that was being used to measure something of importance. Naturally Lawrence seizes the opportunity and makes a move to recoup their losses and attempt to sneak in a profit in the meantime. It’s a move that would come at a price later and he gets a rather unpleasant surprise at the end of the book, but I’ll leave those details for those who read the installment.

The rest of this volume features more traveling time for the two as they head from one destination to the next, all the while getting Holo back to her home in the north. There are some fun, flirtatious conversations between the two and Lawrence attempts to stress the magnitude of Holo’s debt to him; something she doesn’t really seem to care about. What she does care about, however, is Norah, the shepherd girl whom they cross paths with.

Norah is a pleasant enough character who brings an air of innocence to counterbalance Holo’s wily ways. When she meets the two she asks for transport to Ruvinheigen, and of course that’s something that doesn’t sit well with Holo. A wolf and a shepherd traveling together? Yeah, that’s like oil and water. Lawrence finds himself in the middle, but it’s a rather pleasant place to be in his eyes.

Spice & Wolf volume four is another entertaining installment from the first page to the last. There’s a great deal of tension here, some solid character development, and plenty of laughs along the way. It’s a titillating release that is sure to keep fans of the franchise happy, so if you’ve been following the series to this point, definitely pick it up. If you’re new, however, you should consider the whole thing worthwhile. It’s a manga of quality and totally worth your time. Highly Recommended
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Old 05-19-11, 08:19 PM   #4
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Re: Anime Talk Manga Reviews

K-On!
Volume 2

When it comes to otaku love, there are a few franchises that really stand out at the forefront. K-On! just so happens to be one of them. Full of moe girls, cute moments, and hilarious antics, the franchise is essentially the anime equivalent of Seinfeld; there’s really nothing going on. You know what though? I’m okay with that!

The back of this volume reads as follows:

“It’s been almost a year since the girls of the pop-music club started jamming together, but the start of the new year is no time to look back on their journey — it’s time to recruit new members! Despite their inexperience, the girls’ passionate performance at the entrance ceremony impresses first-year Azusa, a budding guitar player who can’t wait to join. But she didn’t expect there to be so much tea drinking in the pop-music club. Or cosplaying…When do they get around to making music?!”

This volume begins a year after the first with the girls still trying to promote their pop music club. It starts out with some color pages with the girls shooting a promotional video, and shortly thereafter there are some strips regarding the promotion of the band around the school. The ill-planned animal costumes don’t really do anything, I assure you.

After a couple pages we are introduced to Azusa, who just so happens to be a new student roped into the club. It’s rather a hilarious introduction since when she first meets the teacher, Sawako, there’s a thought bubble with the sensei considering how Azusa would look with cat ears. A few pages later and we see Azusa with a feline headband. She’s officially induced into the group and given the nickname Azu-meow.

As the volume continues more random stuff occurs that includes the girls dressing up in swimsuits and hitting the beach, Yui gets a cold, and it gets to be winter with school break right around the corner. There’s also a fair bit of time spent discussing upkeep of instruments, such as putting new strings on a guitar, and there’s also some practicing as well. Really there is nothing of consequence in this installment, but it’s cute, and fun, and funny, so that counts for everything with this franchise.

K-On! isn’t for everyone, but if you don’t mind seeing moe girls play around with each other and goof off, then you’ll be as happy as a clam. Strongly Recommended
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Old 05-19-11, 08:22 PM   #5
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Re: Anime Talk Manga Reviews

Nabari no Ou
Volume 6

More apathetic ninja antics are in store in the sixth volume of Nabari No Ou. The story is moving along at a nice clip, and the series really gives you the impression that it’s going somewhere. With that in mind, what’s going on in this latest release?

The back of this latest installment reads as follows:

” Having made the decision to secretly join Iga’s Grey Wolves, Miharu begins life as a member of the enemy ranks! Under the pretext of accepting an invitation from the long-hidden Kouga village to participate in an intellectual exchange among residents of the Nabari world, the apathetic vessel of the Shinra Banshou sets out with his new allies to steal Kouga’s forbidden art scroll. But Iga is not the only shinobi village to whom the clever Kouga have opened their doors! Banten and Fuuma have also sent shinobi to the conference, and all those present—especially the Kouga—have their own interests to serve!”

The sixth book picks up right where the last one left off with Miharu joining up with the enemy faction, the Grey Wolves. Together they have decided to head to Kouga Village under pretenses in order to find their Forbidden Art. At the beginning of the storyline Miharu is led around the library by Katou, who is someone he met earlier and just so happens to be the school’s librarian. He’s given a scroll far too easily, and it would appear that there was a hidden agenda behind the gift. Shortly thereafter Miharu is taken back to the Grey Wolves complex in order to meet the leader.

Nabari no Ou Volume 6 is available at Amazon.com

There’s a bit of tension in the air, especially when the talk about the Shinra Banshou comes up, but with Yoite there Miharu seems to remain composed well enough. Heck, he even cooks okonomiyaki for them. After dinner Yoite has something of a breakdown and it’s up to Miharu to help him and find out what’s wrong. There’s a good bit of development between them as “friends”, but there’s really only so far friendship with a hardened killer can go.

As the book continues Miharu’s companions come to the school along with the Grey Wolves. The scroll he was given earlier was a fake and the real Forbidden Art was hidden away somewhere. Finding it isn’t going to be easy, especially when both sides are literally at each other’s throats, and the school’s defenses start to engage them in combat. They are literally in the center of the den of the beast and they can’t leave until they find the Art. Tensions run pretty high here as the action revs up.

Overall this is a very solid volume for Nabari No Ou. Character development is strong and the story progresses quite nicely. I liked some of the dramatic flare towards the end, and in all honesty you can’t tell what Miharu is going to do next. It’s a big ninja guessing game and it’s a fun read because of it. Recommended
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Old 05-19-11, 08:26 PM   #6
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Re: Anime Talk Manga Reviews

Pandora Hearts
Volume 5


I recently finished watching the Pandora Hearts anime, and was very impressed. The series really took a turn for the epic and it surprised my how much quality the story brought to the table. On the manga front I’ve only read the fourth volume, but I just closed the final page on the fifth installment and I figured I’d write about it.

The back of the fifth volume reads as follows:

“Guilded by Jack Vessalius, the man from Alice’s memories, Oz wanders back into the world of lost remembrances in search of Alice. There he stumbles upon the devastating tragedy of Sablier, the century-old disaster that sent the old capital into the Abyss, an incident of which no one has any recollection…except Alice—who was there?! When Oz discovers the truth of the memories Alice so desparately wants to forget, the powers of the B-Rabbit spiral out of control and threaten the lives of all who are trapped within the dreamlike dimension, including Alice herself…”

The book picks up where the last one left off. Oz is trapped in a dreamlike world, which is actually more like a nightmare. He’s surrounded by death and destruction as he picks through Alice’s memories. Meanwhile Gil has a confrontation with Jack, who sets him straight and sends him on his way to rescue Oz from himself. While that’s going on Jack steps up and goes toe to toe with Cheshire, in one bizarre little confrontation.

As Oz travels further into the nightmare he comes across a very dead Alice. Is it real? Well, probably not, since it’s not very long until she comes back to life thanks to his efforts. This is a twisted dimension they happen to be in, after all. As the two are eventually rescued and find their way back to the real world, they appear at an inopportune time and place with Alice in her B.Rabbit form. There’s some more talk about Jack and events that took place several years ago that may lead to Oz’s “sin”.

Pandora Hearts is one weird, beautiful series. The story heads down some interesting paths and it’s a very psychedelic affair with loads of “Alice in Wonderland” references. If you’ve been following the franchise you’ll want to pick this up, and if you’re new to it all you’ll want to head back to volume one and start from the beginning. A recommended series
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Old 06-08-11, 08:40 AM   #7
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Re: Anime Talk Manga Reviews

Soul Eater
Volume 6

I LOVE Soul Eater. The series is such a blast and there's so much personality to the characters and story that I simply can't put it down. I actually just picked up the Blu-ray release of the series and it's really damn good, I might add. However, this review isn't for the Blu-ray; it's for the sixth installment of the manga.

The back of this volume reads as follows:

"Death the Kid and Black*Star race after Free and Eruka, ready to do whatever it takes to stop the Black Blood before it is used to revive the slumbering First Kishin. Meanwhile, Maka has allowed herself to slip into madness in an effort to reach Crona’s troubled soul. In addition to being horribly embarrassing, her actions carry a great risk. If Maka can’t find Crona fast, she too will be consumed by madness!"

This volume picks up after Medusa, Free, and Eruka crashed Death's party. The shinigami has been sealed up for the better part of an hour and it's up to the students and Stein to take care of the witches before they can revive the original Kishin, Asura. At the start of this installment we first get to see Death the Kid make his way past a series of Eruka's bombs as he charges forward to confront Free. Black Star and Tsubaki are hot on Death the Kid's trail, however, and they catch up to him soon enough. In the meantime though, Maka and Crona duke it out with Black Blood raging through both of their bodies.

Maka begins to lose herself to the madness as she battles Crona. It's freaky to say the least, but it's a necessary evil since it allows her to get closer to his soul. After a few dramatic turns of events Maka is able to break through and help Crona regain control of his body, while she does the same for herself and Soul. Madness, however, soon takes a hold of the rest of the manga.

Free and Asura succeed in injecting Asura with the Black Blood and releasing the demon. I'll spare you the details of what happens in the interim, or after the fact, but let's just say that Death gets involved and there's a great little battle that takes place. Honestly I think the anime was more successful in pushing the dynamics of the confrontation through, but the manga did just fine on its own. The book really leaves the reader hanging as far as what they can expect for the next installment, but it's really damn good.

If you haven't read Soul Eater before, you should totally consider the series highly recommended. The book is a blast and the story, characters, and action really stand out. This is yet another fine installment for the series and if you've been following it to this point there's absolutely no reason not to pick it up. Highly Recommended
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Old 07-19-11, 10:57 AM   #8
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Dragon Girl: Volume 2 (Final Volume)



Dragon Girl: Volume 2 (Final Volume) by Toru Fujieda

This second volume set from Yen Press contains the remainder of the Dragon Girl manga series (and consists of what was originally published in Japan as three separate volumes). It is around the same length as the first release was and the page count clocks in at around 450 pages – which helps make it an excellent value for the money that is invested In following this engaging and entertaining storyline.

The plot again focuses on the journey taken by Rinna Aizen, one of the first women to attend the Shoryu Senior High School, which has only recently become a co-ed environment. Rinna is still determined to eventually be the captain of the cheering squad at the school. Of course, in the last volume things were complicated with an elite member of the school chooses to disband the group for reasons unknown. Despite the obstacles that come to face Rinna in pursing her dream she continues the fight the good fight or the sake of herself and her classmates. Of course – what would school life be like without a little romance? This volume dramatically up’s the ante in this area and brings a subplot involving the growing affection of two men for Rinna to the forefront of this concluding set. I wondered at the end of the first volume if we would find out who winds up with whom: that goes for Rinna as well as some of her close friends. What is the answer to that burning question? You absolutely will find out who Rinna winds up with, and you may be surprised by who it is she ends up choosing. As for Rinna’s dream being fulfilled, well, let’s just say you have to read this to find out. But you won’t be disappointed by the conclusion if your interests align with mine. I won’t say more on the subject! Finding out on your own is what reading the book is for (in part).

The first volume had a somewhat inconsistent pacing (especially in the first half). I am extremely happy to report that any instances of doubt I had in manga artist Toru Fujieda during the first release has more or less been entirely cleared up in favor of a significantly tighter story with a stronger focus on the core characters and the storylines relevant to them. Naturally, Rinna also remains the main character, and as such anything relevant to her story arc gets nicely tied up and resolved in a way that should hopefully serve to please most fans. One thing that really bothered me during the first volume set was how many characters were popping up out of what felt like ‘nowhere’ and just joining in the plot. This time around some side-characters from before get shortchanged a bit (as certain characters from the first release are infrequently featured) but by the end of the story I was mostly glad that this was the decision made by Fujieda as it made the ending more consistent than the beginning ever was in creating a reliable mood and in emphasizing whatever story beats were most important for the author to tell.

Everyone who read Dragon Girl: Volume 1 should keep in mind that the comedy element (while still a huge factor) has been toned down for the romantic qualities I have described for this release. At times certain elements of the plot started to feel as though they were coming straight out of a soap opera (and funnily enough Fujieda basically acknowledged this with some of the character dialogue in one panel). The positive thing is that the thing remained consistent to its own story and setup and it was constantly remaining entertaining. Basically, if you like romantic elements with some surprising twists and turns like a soap would have you will stand a better chance of getting a kick out of this manga.

The artwork has remained one of the strengths of this series. I enjoy the character designs immensely and appreciate the many quirks that are included for each character. Fujieda’s long term dedication to one male characters mustache always proved to be hilarious for me to observe (saying as much probably sounds like an inside joke though – until you read this manga). I frequently find that the depth that is brought to the story is largely the result of the artwork and not necessarily the writing. While the storyline shows improvement as it continues the actual character interactions can still seem a bit under-developed at times in comparison to the most successful manga series out there. Fujieda is growing as an artist throughout the entirety of Dragon Girl but primarily demonstrates her strongest skills visually.

I was never blown away by Dragon Girl if we are to analyze a bottom line to my recommendation of the entire manga. However, I was engrossed for most of the ride I was taken on, and that is sometimes one of the best things a reader can ever hope for. Dragon Girl: Volume 2 is a bit of an improvement over the first collection (even if the end result is largely the same in my ultimate rating). So what is the verdict?

Dragon Girl is worthwhile (perhaps even border-line ‘highly recommended’) for romance and comedy fans willing to put up with some mild inconsistencies and a slower start. I don’t regret the time I spent reading Dragon Girl and I doubt many others will feel differently.

Recommended. Grade: B+
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Old 07-19-11, 11:01 AM   #9
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Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy!


Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! (Standalone Volume)
by Fumi Yoshinaga

This is an interesting experiment in manga unlike anything else I have ever read. The entire focus of the story is centered upon food: the good and bad; as well as on the interactions of the people who eat it together while hopping between several Japanese restaurants. Y-naga is the lead character as a manga artist who is always craving food between working on projects. The name of the character strikes me as curious as the manga author/artist for this release is Fumi Yoshinaga (look carefully at the last name). Supposedly the restaurants are real but the story is entirely fictional. Why then am I even somewhat suspicious of that? Regardless of whether this manga is the result of real-world encounters the author has had with friends over the years or not – this book delivers at focusing on Japanese restaurants in a way that should be of interest to food lovers everywhere. The biggest downside is that the original publication date was in 2005 and it was just recently translated for an American audience. Since so many restaurants struggle to maintain themselves over time it’s hard to say if these places are still around 6 years later or if the food tastes similar to how it did when the book was made. I must also wonder about this aspect because of the recent events in Japan. It wouldn’t necessarily work as a guidebook for travelers hoping to check out some actual restaurants someday in the future.

As an actual story the concept works beyond simply highlighting a variety of eateries. Thankfully, readers will get to learn more about Y-naga over the course of this stand-alone release. The many side-characters that are introduced during conversations taking place throughout meals also allows for a different sensibility than what I was expecting as well. The title for this collection seems pretty accurate and is notably honest. It’s not a book about love or romance (though it brushes along the backside of these questions periodically by analyzing the various character relationships). Any romantic aspect is entirely second-fiddle to the food and conversations. Reading this reminded me of what it can actually be like sometimes to go to a restaurant with friends and simply chatter away about the good food and also the on-goings of each other.

As far as the artwork goes -- it’s more often realistic than what manga typically delivers. However, it also seems right at home in offering exaggerated physical expressions whenever it decides to go that route. It could probably be best described as being somewhere in the middle of realism and pure exaggeration. The art featured throughout the book was good but never seemed to be willing to zoom past my modest expectations. This is not a book that will be remembered for having particularly memorable illustrations, but instead for branching out into territory that is infrequently taken.

Consider this a light Recommendation worthy of being read by any and all dedicated food connoisseurs. Grade: C+
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Old 07-19-11, 11:03 AM   #10
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Pavane for a Dead Girl: Volume 1



Pavane for a Dead Girl: Volume 1
by Koge-Donbo

First of all – you might want to know what the word ‘pavane’ means. I didn’t honestly know myself when I picked up the book to read it. The word symbolizes a type of music that is played for a specific dance of the same name. What does that have to do with this story? Scratch that. What IS this story even about? It’s got a guy playing expert music in it. That’s one element. Yet it seems curious that he is such an excellent musician at such a young age. At the beginning of the story we meet a young girl who has searched for him so that she can experience his excellence in music once more. She seems to be almost falling in love with his musical grace and expertise. However, that is not what the story is about. In fact, this story is soon to take some rather dark and foreboding turns which will make readers pause and re-evaluate what kind of manga it is that they signed up for reading – this series has an eerie style to it while also having some of those cutesy chibi-like manga qualities. Surprisingly, I think these qualities really mesh well together to create something fairly unique. Though the story eventually goes into a plot device that might feel reminiscent of a smaller element behind early Sailor Moon (at least in my current interpretation of where the story is heading) the artist Koge-Donbo does a good job of never feeling like the story is copying the work of others while still showing some influences. If you like a darker side to manga with a bit more bite without the necessarily unbearable darkness usually required this makes an excellent way to spend a few hours passing the time. This first volume might not feel entirely perfect from start to finish (the beginning moved things forward slowly and with some rather dull writing for the character interactions) but by the end of the volume I was sold on the concept and I am now eagerly looking forward to seeing where things might go next. This book certainly has some nice surprises for readers.

Recommended. Grade: B+
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Old 07-19-11, 11:09 AM   #11
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Clean-Freak Fully-Equipped: Volume 1



Clean-Freak Fully-Equipped: Volume 1
by Touya Tobina

I was completely unsure of what to expect from this manga series. For one, it seemed to be a story of a neat-freak (the title kind of gives that away, doesn’t it?) but it also looked like the type of storyline that would be a romance based release and I was curious to see how the manga creator Touya Tobina would be able to balance these elements into something effective. How often do you think of a romantic series involving someone with a high OCD level or that required cleanliness from everything? I don’t know if there has ever been something like that before now as I haven’t encountered another similar concept. That’s beside the point. The most important thing is that the manga should do a good job of introducing all of the characters and getting readers accustomed to what is going on in the series and where it may veer next. This volume manages to do that but only to some small extent. Unfortunately, by the end of the volume I felt like I didn’t really have a firm grasp on where any of the plot lines were going. I don’t mean that as a complimentary statement! It was somewhat confusing and random at times and it felt like the writing was simply the result of throwing elements together on the fly with little planning. Who knows: maybe if I continue to read this series I will be surprised to see it grow and develop in new and surprising ways to the benefit of the artist. This series doesn’t feel like something destined to ever be considered a classic or a particularly noteworthy read though. It is a moderately entertaining (if almost entirely scattershot) work from someone who seems unsure of what story they really want to tell.

Honestly, it’s impossible to deny that I was entertained throughout reading this volume but by the end I was left with a rather uninterested impression. I could take it or leave it going forward. Consider that a mildly impressed if ultimately underwhelmed reaction.

This is a cautious Recommendation. Grade: C-
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Old 07-19-11, 11:11 AM   #12
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Butterfly: Volume 1



Butterfly: Volume 1
by Yu Aikawa

I was so pleasantly surprised. I know the saying goes ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover”, and to the best of my ability I try to never succumb to that unfortunate quality of believing a book won’t ultimately deliver based on the cover art. Yet the artwork for this front cover really did little to convince me that this was going to be anything that special. With a name like ‘Butterfly’ too, I wasn’t all that impressed at first.

I found my assumptions to be entirely wrong. This is a highly entertaining read from start to finish and the main focus surrounds the paranormal. When we first meet Ishikawa (the main character) he seemed completely uninterested in anything that appeared occult-like or that involved ghosts or similarly creepy elements of the unknown. Over the course of his journey he comes to meet a young character (who happens to look feminine but is never directly revealed as either a male or female) and this oddball person seems to have a strange power that allows him/her to call out images from the imagination. Ishikawa is needed in order to help destroy these creations – the power does not exist in the young stranger alone. These made up elements of the imagination seen to always represent ghosts. In other words: this is one of those ghost hunting series, but it is told with a unique spin that suggests ghosts are imaginary creations we dream up ourselves. I would almost like to delve into explaining this further but the story itself does a good job of trying to present these unique ideas over the course the book.

One of the strengths of this volume is the exquisite pacing. Sometimes when I’m reading manga I feel like some creators can lose focus on how to pace their work. Even some of the greatest in the industry (Akira Toriyama is a good example) would focus too much on a given aspect that I would occasionally loose a little bit of my initial interest. I certainly hope that never happens with this series as it stands right now an impressive start to a promising storyline that seems to be moving in directions I cannot necessarily predict in a way that is exciting and invigorating. And, perhaps best of all, the ending of the first volume ends on a high note with the words ‘To Be Continued’ soon thereafter displayed. The only downside might be waiting for the next release when what you will likely want to do upon finishing this volume is pick up the next one immediately to start reading more. This addictively entertaining manga shows a lot of promise.

Highly Recommended.
Grade: A-
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Old 07-19-11, 11:13 AM   #13
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The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko: Volume 1



The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko: Volume 1 by Ririko Tsuhita

Lady Kanoko is an observer. The main character is also unlike any character I would normally relate to in a story. She really seems at first glance to be quite pessimistic and negative about her outlook on others and on life in general. This is a character that essentially hops from one school to another (almost every chapter in the volumes takes places at another school as she continues to transfer around) in order to observe others as “the completely objective observer”. This is a loner of a character and she claims throughout the book at various points that she doesn’t need friends or relationships. All she does is jot down notes in a journal (her ‘black book’ essentially) about what other students are like with specific details (height, weight, age, etc.) and also what she perceives their personalities to be like (and this is of course opinionated – need I say more?). There’s obviously a certain ‘stalker’ quality to her too in this regard and that kind of took me off guard at the beginning and almost removed me from enjoying the story early on. Kanoko eventually finds herself becoming involved in a number of curious scenarios that result in her (gasp) helping others. Or so it seems. At the very least that is how it appears to be at a glance, yet Kanoko always claims that her involvement is only the result of the good entertainment value that can be had.

I have mixed emotions about this series based upon my initial reading. The storyline often felt hit and miss. I did enjoy the artwork with its impressive character designs and inventive layouts which creatively demonstrated an offbeat way of jumping around from one panel to another with a certain unique charm resulting from the creator Tsujita. Unfortunately, the storyline also seemed rather unfocused at times. Perhaps that is an intentional element added to reflect the mindset of Kanoko. Every time she transfers from one school to another it was a bit jarring to not have much of a transition besides simply starting a new chapter in a new environment. Most of the characters that become introduced are only included for one chapter of the story (at least so far) as the fact Kanoko keeps moving between schools seems to make it difficult to include many recurring characters for more than a brief period of time. There is only one other character (besides Kanoko) who shows up throughout the volume several times and briefly at that -- a guy named Haru, who I suspect may very well have an interest in Kanoko that goes beyond simple friendship. That is speculation, of course, but it would make a good observation that Kanoko herself might write in her book under a description of herself is she wasn’t so oblivious to what their friendship could potentially represent. Haru appears throughout each chapter in fleeting moments.

By the end of this first volume I felt I had read a thoroughly entertaining introduction to a potentially expansive series that may turn into something even greater than what it currently presented thus far. I’m looking forward to seeing where Ririko Tsujita takes the series next and am curious as to if any of the guesswork I have turns out to be correct. On some level, I think that fact that I’m even speculating about the motives or actions of the characters means I was enjoying the story in a way that took me off guard. In this instance, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Recommended. Grade: B+
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Old 07-19-11, 01:16 PM   #14
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Tale of the Waning Moon: Volume 2



Tale of the Waning Moon: Volume 2 by Hyouta Fujiyama

In one word: mediocre. That’s being a bit unfair though. This is a story that attempts to grasp at some element of larger scope and it does so by throwing in a lot of characters who have various motives and desires within the story. The author truly aims for huge events to unfold with enthusiasm from the audience. Things just don’t play out that way, necessarily… The main quest is something that never interested me in the first place. It’s not because I’m outside of the typical reader-base for yaoi (even if it’s true that this is a manga not really made for a straight-male audience). It’s because the characters are ultimately not that well developed and it makes it hard to really care about a quest to return to a lost lover – and as this is central to the plot, well, it certainly didn’t make me any more enthused. The artwork itself is pretty well drawn (even if the character designs are a tad generic). The level of detail is still notable. Comedic elements try to bring some humorous moments to varying degrees of success. This may not seem to be a total winner of a volume but some yaoi fans may find that it at least offers a couple of decent moments. Nonetheless – most readers (including those who regularly read yaoi) will consider Tales of the Waning Moon: Volume 2 an average offering.

Skip It. Grade: D+
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Last edited by GenPion; 07-19-11 at 01:32 PM.
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Old 07-19-11, 01:52 PM   #15
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Higurashi: When They Cry – Demon Exposing Arc



Higurashi: When They Cry – Demon Exposing Arc
Story by: Ryukishio7
Art by: En Kito

This side story (which can be enjoyed by newcomers and up-to-date fans) brings a decidedly disturbing and sad story to the pages of this aptly-titled “Demon Exposing Arc”. Things begin with the introduction to Natsumi, a teenage girl who has moved (along with her family) outside of the town called Onigafuchi. There is much to be said by Natsumi’s grandmother and fellow students about the old town, and what it means to live there and also to leave it behind. Many have spoken of a supposed curse which makes an entire family become ensnared in rage, violence, and ultimately decayed morals. This information seems shocking and disturbing to Natsumi but she tries to ignore it. She has developed a huge crush on a guy in her new hometown, and she also is on friendly terms with some of the other girls from her school. She wants to ignore the talk of any supposed curse and continue on with her life. Until things become deeply disturbing in an ongoing sequence of events that can truly overwhelm readers of Higurashi: When They Cry’s Demon Exposing Arc.

The artwork by En Kito is stellar throughout this entire publication, but it seems fair to warn readers that this is a seriously messed up manga. The cover suggests it should be appropriate for older teens (it isn’t labeled as ‘Mature’ like so many other manga series are) but this is definitely a story that becomes even more difficult to digest because of the shocking nature of the art. It’s definitely more of a outright horror manga so readers should be prepared for that going in.

As for the storytelling, there were a number of elements that genuinely surprised me and had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see how this somewhat complicated story would wind up resolving itself. The volume ultimately concludes well storytelling wise even if it leaves readers feeling a bit shaken up from the entire reading experience. This is a well crafted manga and it is worth seeking out if readers have the right expectations and can buckle up enough to handle it.

Recommended. Grade: B+
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Old 07-19-11, 02:12 PM   #16
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InuYasha: VIZBIG Edition (3 in 1) - Volume 6



InuYasha: VIZBIG Edition (3 in 1) - Volume 6
Story and Art by Rumiko Takahashi

A general disclaimer for this particular review: I haven’t read all of the previous volumes just yet. I have seen many episodes of the television series and have also read some of Ranma ½ (another popular work by Rumiko Takahasi).

Having said that, this VIZBIG edition containing three volumes as one is an excellent value and one well worth purchasing for devoted fans. Reading this edition has also sparked an interest to go back and pick up the previous releases to experience the entire story in sequence as it was meant to be. The quality of the paper is also extremely high (far above the typical standards employed for manga). This allows for a richer and more rewarding experience. The majestic and essential artwork by Rumiko Takahashi is such an essential element to her impeccable craft that it deserves the kind of deluxe treatment it receives with these editions. Most manga releases seem well-equipped for fun light reading before being placed on a reader’s shelf without much showmanship. This InuYasha manga edition can easily be proudly displayed as a gem in the entire collection.

This volume has an overwhelming amount of intense action moments spread throughout but the heart of the story focuses on the actions taken by InuYasha to protect those he loves surrounding him. Even if he isn’t exactly the most “vocal” individual it seems clear that his motives lie primarily in offering up that protection. Yet in order to do so he draws power from his demon side and that brings forth an inner darkness and a weight upon the character’s shoulders. There is also an old “acquaintance”, I shall say, that has brought something to InuYasha’s thoughts that he hadn’t previously regarded as much as he does now. Kagome is obviously affected by these changes and actions being enacted by InuYasha and she offers up the romantic and truly well-spirited equation of the story. Readers can easily connect to her character and the difficulties she is facing during these trials and tribulations. She remains key to the central themes of the story and the reason why it becomes such a compelling work of literature (above and beyond the standards set by most manga). InuYasha: VIZBIG Edition – Volume 6 demonstrates the unwavering power of Takahashi at the top of her artistic game.

Highly Recommended. Grade: A
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Old 07-19-11, 02:39 PM   #17
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Re: Anime Talk Manga Reviews



Maximum Ride: Volume 4
Story: James Patterson
Adaptation and Illustration: NaRae Lee

Maximum Ride is not just the name of this manga series. It’s the name of the central character. Max is the oldest of the group (or flock) who can fly in addition to having other unique abilities. The group of young kids and teens were experimented on in a mysterious lab and they were taken away from any real semblance of a normal reality with parents, school friends, and everything else. They are on the run from those who experimented on them. It’s one dangerous situation after another for this group!

This fourth volumes offers up some strong character development and almost seems to act as a break point to allow readers to breathe a little and be put outside of the intensity of some of the action and suspense elements. Most of the volume seems focused on getting readers a bit more familiar with the characters (though Max obviously remains the central element from start to finish). The middle of the volume and (naturally, of course) the conclusion of this release contains a number of intense elements though to keep people glued to the story in a typical page-turner fashion. There are some revelations to be had in this segment of the story but it also has a feeling of just getting warmed up for even more dynamic moments in future installments.

It’s a genuinely fun read and it should be accessible to followers of the manga and also those who are just getting started. Yen Press has wisely included story-information and character bio’s to help that segment of the readership. Volume 4’s biggest issue (for all readers) is that while certain characters are well developed there are others who seem more vaguely discussed and explored. This element truly prevents the story from reaching its full potential. Nonetheless, this is a manga series which can be entertaining and it is worth seeking out.

Recommended. Grade: B
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