Friday, August 31, 2007

ME2 Manga Volume 1

Overall Rating: A-
Synopsis: ME2 is a shojo/josei manga series by creator Sho Murase. The story follows Aki, a shy high schooler whose older brother, Ken, recently died. Aki sports a nasty scar on her cheek, and is bullied at school, so when the most popular boy in school starts talking to her, she isn't sure what to do. To add to her problems, Aki has been suffering from blackouts, and she wakes up in unexpected places and finds strange clothes in her closet. Aki struggles with her school life, and trying to figure out what's causing her blackouts.

First of all, the art in ME2 is fantastic. It's striking and unique from other shojo/josei series. Unfortunately, the storytelling falters a little. The plot ges overly confusing at some points, and a little too vague in others, but that may be resolved in later volumes.

Overall, I like the concepts in ME2, but I'm a philosophy nerd, so questions about what's real, and whether someone's insane or there's something deeper going on, fascinate me. I like the Aki character and there are some great teasers about what happened to her brother Ken.

ME2 is definitely worth checking out if you are looking to broaden your shojo/josei collection, or think girls that kick ass are cool (and who doesn't?)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Push Man and other stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Rating: A

Synopsis: Originally published in 1969, this manga is a surprising departure into a gritty realistic world. This is a collection of short stories that give us a glimpse into the more private and horrible details of the character's every day lives. Though there are not recurring characters in every story, there is a theme of isolation, lustfulness, and violence that runs throughout each one.

I picked up The Push Man and other stories in the library and I was completely amazed by the great drawing style, and by the fact that this gritty noir-style manga was published over 35 years ago. The collection was picked up and re-published in English by Drawn & Quarterly (the link in the title of this entry will show you a preview). As I mentioned, there are no recurring characters, but several have similar character designs, and there's usually one average joe and one bar hostess in each vignette.

Piranha (a story sample):
A man intentionally smashes his hand in the machinery at work so he can get an insurance payout, to buy his girlfriend her own bar to hostess. When she ends up spending more hours at her new bar, he purchases some piranha as pets to keep him company. When his girlfriend begins to insult him for loafing around all the time and threatens to leave him, he sticks her arm in the piranha tank, and a struggle ensues. The piranha get tipped out and die, and his girlfriend demands he leave. He wanders the city all night, and in the morning, finds a factory that will employ the disabled.

I highly recommend this, but as I said, be prepared for a dark and gripping look at people's dirty secrets - the art style really lends itself to this. You don't look at the first page and think to yourself "There's going to be a fairy princess in here" and there certainly isn't.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Loveless Manga Volume 1

Overall Rating: B-
Synopsis: Loveless is a shōnen-ai fantasy manga by Yun Kouga. In the world of Loveless, people are born with cat ears and a tail (this is called Kemonomimi). They lose these features after they become an "adult", and the implication is that it is when they have sex. The series begins with Ritsuka starting at a new school after an incident at his last one. There he meets Yukio, who refers to herself in the third person and tries to be Ritsuka's friend. The same day, he meets Soubi, a mysterious 19-year-old who says he is a friend of Ritsuka's dead brother Seimei. As soon as he learns this, Ritsuka wants to hang out with Soubi, and "make memories" with him (this refers to taking photos in the park, but there is crazy innuendo and homosexual undertones, as well as overtones, in the series.

In the park, the pair is attacked by two kids, who call themselves Breathless. It's revealed that Soubi can fight by casting spells with his words, and that Ritsuka's real name is Loveless. Ritsuka's older brother Seimei's real name was Beloved, and was paired with Soubi, but after his death, told Soubi to pair with Ritsuka/Loveless (see crazy innuendo). The full meaning of all of this begins to unravel in the first volume, but there is still a lot we don't know.

I'm still not sure how to feel about this one. I'll be honest, kemonomimi usually isn't something I like in my manga or anime, but Loveless at least has an interesting plot reason for it. The plot as a whole is growing on me, and I'm interested in where all of it is going.

If you can get past the cat ears and into the story, the first volume is interesting, and has a lot of layers to it. For example, there is a subplot involving Ritsuka/Loveless' mom, who doesn't believe Ritsuka is himself, but is someone else in his body. There's also the fact of Seimei's death, which we learn a little about in the first volume (he died in a fire and his body was put in Ritsuka's chair in elementary school, and was killed by Septimal Moon), but we don't know who or what Septimal Moon is.

There are also some parts that annoy me, like the fact that Ritska/Loveless is a little too angsty, and he's always saying that he hates stupid people, or people who don't make their own decisions, or who don't like cheese (ok, I made that one up). This is ok in small doses, but it's a recurring theme for him, and it gets old fast.

That being said, I would recommend giving Loveless a shot, especially if you like shōnen-ai and/or kemonomimi. I will be picking up volume 2 to see how the series progresses.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hollow Fields Manga Volume 1

Overall Rating: B+
Synopsis: The series, by Madeleine Rosca, follows Lucy Snow, a 9 year-old (sorry, 9 and a half year old) girl. Volume 1 starts as she heads out to her boarding school. However, she's running late, and, of course, decides to take the shortcut through the foreboding woods. There she finds a strange castle, and meets Miss Notch, a guard/maid who is...we'll say strange. It turns out that the castle is actually Miss Weaver's Academy for the Scientifically Gifted and Ethically Unfettered--also known as Hollow Fields.

Lucy unwittingly joins the school before learning it's curriculum, or the fact that the student with the lowest grades every week is sent to detention. Even then, it doesn't sound so bad when she gets her own room (at the school she was supposed to go to, she would have had to share with 12 other girls), and everything is free. Then Lucy learns that no one has ever come back from detention, and the only person who has been nice to her so far just got sent there. Her new classes include Live Taxidermy, Cross-Species Body-Part Transplantation and Killer Robot Construction. Lucy has to master her new classes, and find a way to escape before she is sent to detention!

I picked up Hollow Fields after talking to a nice woman at the Seven Seas booth when I picked up Venus Versus Virus (and Kashimashi for Leah's husband Will). She recommended Hollow Fields, but it hadn't come out yet. So, when I was finally able to pick up a copy, I was excited. Unfortunately, I was also at Gen Con, so I wasn't able to read it right away. I'm finally done with the first volume, and was not disappointed.

Hollow Fields is the kind of book where the concept (girl goes to strange and interesting boarding school where danger and excitement await at every turn) isn't that original, but the characters, little extras (clockwork robots! graverobbing class!), and art make it worth the read. Plus, I am dying to know what happens when you get detention. I definitely recommend checking this one out if you're in the mood for something light and fun with a touch of macabre.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

CLAMP School Detectives by CLAMP (Vol 1 & 2)

Rating: C+

Synopsis: The three student body chairmen of 4th through 6th grades (Suoh, Nokoru, and Akira) attempt to plan several events for the CLAMP school commune grades that they represent. Unfortunately, they keep finding damsels in distress, and thy can't help but solve their problems.

The characters are cute, and the plots are pretty silly in places. Though the volumes are enjoyable, they seem to lack any real hook or reason a reader would keep coming back. There's no over-arching plot, and each mystery is pretty easy and they sort of become repetitive - this could be a symptom of it's "young adult" designation.

Some things, like Nokoru's amazing ability to detect a female in distress over 2km away, or Akira's insane ability at cooking, make the characters themselves remarkable, overall, the CLAMP School Detectives isn't.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Train Man

Overall Rating: A+
Synopsis: Based on a true story, Train Man, or Densha Otoko, is the story of an Otaku who intervened when a drunk man was harassing women on a train. Train Man has a huge crush on one of the women being harassed, which likely resulted in him trying to stop the drunk man. After the incident, Train Man begins awkwardly dating the woman he has a crush on with advice from his online friends. Through the course of the movie, he goes from geek to...well not exactly chic, but definitely less of a geek.

I can sum up Train Man in two words, awkwardly adorable. Watching the main character struggle with his otaku personality, and trying to figure out how to impress the girl he is in love with reminded me of when I first started liking girls. Fortunately for me, I didn't have quite so far to go, and I didn't have to resort to help from my equally inept online friends, but I had my moments.

At any rate, the real fun of the movie begins when Train Man starts posting his story to a board he frequents and starts getting advice from his online friends. They consist of a student-age shut-in, three other otaku who hang out in internet/manga cafes, a married couple who don't realize they are both on the same board because they have grown so distant, and a nurse. These 7 "friends" give Train Man advice on hair cuts, places to eat, and more to try to help him win the girl. There are moments of geeky excellence, where TM is able to overcome his otakuness and do some very sweet things, and some moments where it becomes a train wreck, where you keep watching even though everything is going wrong. It all comes together as a movie that feels like it really happened (probably because it did ;-) and had me going "Aw!" a lot and clasping my hand over my mouth. Definitely worth seeing if you like geeks and romance.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Hobotaku Dictionary - Terminology in Manga/Anime

Sometimes, as State-side Hobotaku, we all have some trouble figuring out the different ratings and designations for manga and anime - that's where this handy Hobotaku Dictionary can help. Now you'll know what it means when a manga said to be Shonen Yuri or a character typically Moe.

Kodomo (Target Audience: All kids)
Distinguishing Features: Child-friendly plots that may be moralistic, and marked lack of fan service.
Examples: Hamtaro, Doraemon

Shōnen (Target Audience: Males under 18)
Distinguishing Features: High action and humor
Examples: Bleach, Naruto

Shōjo (Target Audience: Females 13 - 18)
Distinguishing Features: Character development through realistic human relationships
(Note: Viz Media is re-defining Shōjo for their line of manga to mean having a male and female teenagers target audience)
Examples: Lala, Hana no Yume

Seinen (Target Audience: Males 18 - 30)
Distinguishing Features: Encompasses a variety of styles - can be strange, avant-garde and/or pornographic
Examples: Ai Yori Aoshi, Maison Ikkoku, Akira)

Josei (Target Audience: Females 18 - 30)
Distinguishing Features: Realistic characters who grow through realistic romance, sometimes with older characters and adult situations
Examples: Paradise Kiss, Nana, Gokusen

Shonen ai
Distinguishing Features: Never sexually explicit, focuses on homosexual relationships between male characters
Examples: Eerie Queerie, Little Butterfly, I Shall Never Return

Distinguishing Features: Sexually explicit, focuses on homosexual relationships between male characters
Examples: Bonds of Love, Lies & Kisses

Shoujo ai
Distinguishing Features: Not sexually explicit, focuses on homosexual relationships between female characters
Examples: .hack, Kashimashi

Yuri (technically, at this point, Shoujo ai and Yuri are interchangeable)
Distinguishing Features: Can be sexually explicit, focuses on homosexual relationships between female characters
Examples: Strawberry Panic, Burst Angel

Hentai (Target Audience: Over 18)
Distinguishing Features: Extreme sexual activity, including bondage, creatures with tentacles, or other fetishes
Examples: Cream Lemon, Bastard!!

Other Terms

Moe (pronounced "mo-eh")
A character with personality or appearance designed to elicit a protective or loving response from the audience.
Example: Tohru in Fruits Basket, Suiseiseki in Rozen Maiden

Bishonen (Sometimes called "Bishi")
Literally "beautiful youth" - a young male whose youth and sexual appear transcend the boundaries of gender
Example: Yuki Sohma in Fruits Basket, D'Eon in Chevalier D'Eon

Self-published comics, largely they are of licensed works and feature sexually explicit material.

Japanese term for "Lolita complex" - term for sexual attraction of either gender to girls below the age of consent - childlike female characters are over-sexualized.

Japanese term for sexual complex where in an adult of either sex is attracted to an underage boy (to some extent FLCL and Negima have shotacon elements where older women press themselves on younger boys)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Air Gear Manga Volume 1

Overall Rating: B
Synopsis: Air Gear is a shonen manga by Oh! great. The story follows Ikki, who is the toughest kid in his school and the leader of a gang. One night, Ikki bites off more than he can chew when he runs into the Skull Sabers Storm Riders. We're also introduced at this point to the concept of Air Treks, special skates that let the wearer "fly" (it's really more the sensation of flight). Ikki gets his ass kicked, and learns that his "sisters" (three women that Ikki lives with) are the legendary Storm Riders, the Sleeping Forest. They give Ikki his first pair of Air Treks and help him get revenge on the Skull Sabers.

I picked up the manga because it looked interesting. I kept reading because it reminded me of the game Jet Set Radio on the Dreamcast. If you've never played the game, check it out. It may get it's own review someday. Regardless, Air Gear is a pretty fun manga with an interesting concept. If you are in to fan service, there's plenty of that too, but it's pretty gratuitous (fair warning).

All in all, I enjoyed checking out the first volume, and will probably read the second one as well to see how the series holds up. It reads like it could go either way, building on the setting and becoming even better, or falling short and becoming a vehicle for more fan service. Let's hope it's the former. There's nothing wrong with a few panty shots or nude scenes, but I usually like a little plot in my manga.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Black Sun: Silver Moon (Manga Review - volume 1) by Tomo Maeda

Rating: A

Synopsis: Taki Juhas is the oldest of ten children and his parents apparently owe a debt to the local Catholic church. In lieu of paying off the debt, the priest Shikimi Farkash comes and takes Taki as his indentured servant. As Taki spends his time cleaning the giant cathedral and serving his sensei tea, he wonders why on Earth they need to keep such a secluded church so clean. That night, Shikimi introduces Taki to the other part of his job - zombie killing.

Though there seems to be a bit of a misunderstanding about how the Catholic church works in this comic (owing debts to the church that are repaid with indentured servitude, and as a priest's servant, Taki is given a priest's outfit to wear) it doesn't really seem to affect the overall story.

Taki and Shikimi are both very attractive, and just seeing the cover one might think that there is going to be some shonen-ai going on, but that is definitely not the case. Their relationship is mostly humorous, with Shikimi being unreadably cheerful, and Taki being a teenage grump, always about to pull one over on his new master (like giving him mop water in his tea).

Supernatural elements of the story are introduced to us through Taki's introduction to them, and then Shikimi explains them. Shikimi hands Taki a sword and takes him to the graveyard to "see how he reacts" on his first night. Once a zombie pops up, and Taki kills it, Shikimi explains "Oh, that was the dead fisherman's wife we buried three days ago." It lets the story unfold and get explained to the reader very quickly, but it doesn't leave much to be answered in the next book. But now I really enjoy the characters, so I'm still going to read the next book (perhaps that was the point all along).

As Taki learns more about killing zombies that rise from the church's graveyard, Shikimi begins to reveal the reasons behind his silver hair (which seems to demonic to the townspeople) and why Taki is just so dang good at killing zombies. Though usually, he's not good enough for Shikimi, who critiques him constantly - "You used way too much energy getting the head off of that one."

Overall, it's like a supernatural slice-of-life friendship between unlikely people manga, and I think you'd like it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

King of Thorn Manga Volume 1

Overall Rating: B+
Synopsis: The series is a science fiction and mystery manga by Yuji Iwahara. The story follows Kasumi after she awakens from being cryogenically frozen. She, and 159 others were frozen after contracting the Medusa virus, which causes your cells to solidify into a clay-like substance. The result is similar to being turned to stone, hence the name. Kasumi and her twin sister contracted the virus, but only Kasumi is frozen. The 160 survivors awaken from their suspended animation in an undetermined future where blood-thirsty monsters and strange plants seem to have taken over the laboratory, and they must fight to survive.

I was first drawn in by King of Thorn's art. I usually find new manga by reading blurbs about what's coming out, flipping through a few pages in the store, and/or hearing good things about the series. It's very rarely the art that draws me in, even though art is so clearly an integral part of any manga. King of Thorn was different. There is something about the style of the art that made me want to like the book. Fortunately, after reading it, I can say the story (at least in the first volume) doesn't disappoint.

I'm big on science fiction and mystery, so this is a win-win for me. I want to know how long the survivors have been asleep, and where the creatures come from. What happened to Kasumi's sister, did she die of the Medusa virus? What is up with Marco Owen, the mysterious tattooed man? I would have given volume 1 a higher rating, but I don't know how the rest of the series is going to turn out. The first volume is high on suspense, builds lots of questions, and gives very few answers. Here's to hoping the series will play out well, I am definitely drawn in.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Midori Days - Manga Review (Volumes 1 & 2)

Rating: B-

Synopsis: Seiji Sawamura is known as a scary fighter throughout his high school with his "Devil's Right Hand" - his male friends utilize his reputation and fighting skills to help them get out of predicaments with gangs, and instead of bullying, he's usually protecting weaker students. Unfortunately, all Seiji wants is a girlfriend, and his badassery scares all the ladies away. One day, as he unsuccessfully tries to woo one girl, he goes home and wishes for a girlfriend. The next morning, his Devil's Right Hand has turned into a miniature girl's torso that's alive! In fact, it's the body of Midori Kasugano, a local high school girl who has a crush on him and has been admiring him from afar. Her life-sized body has gone into a coma-like sleep.

Suddenly Seiji's life has become a LOT weirder. With a tiny girl torso as his hand, he can't punch his way out of situations, and Midori is completely ga-ga for him and has a hard time shutting up while he goes to school. Everything is covered with humorous overtones, including going to the men's room, and how they bathe separately.

Initially, I thought this manga would have the one hook - his hand is a girl! And yes, they have that, but they really do address a lot of the strangeness that could go on, such as, she is a tiny doll-sized girl, so how is she going to get clothes? Well, I guess Seiji will have to go buy doll's clothes if he cares. It takes him two or three tries to manage to buy her doll's clothes, and once ended in a brawl. But mainly, over time, we see Seiji begin to care for Midori (like when she gets a cold, or needs clothes) while she occupies his right hand.

Typically, for a manga boy, Seiji is completely oblivious of any girl who likes him (which there are several, including Midori (his now right hand), who constantly fawns over him) and bemoans his lone wolf status on a number of occasions.

Despite the shōnen tendencies to show boobs for no reason, they at least try to work it into the plot. I really liked the art style, the plot is funny, and the characters definitely grow on you. I would suggest this to anyone who isn't going to be weirded out by a guy with a girl for his hand. (Midori Days is by Kazurou Inoue)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Black Metal Volume 1

Overall Rating: 666 (the equivalent of an A+)
Synopsis: Black Metal, by Rick Spears and Chuck BB, follows twin brothers, Shawn and Sam, who are a little...different from the other kids. To start with, these brothers are totally brutal, and are seriously metal. Their favorite band is Frost Axe, and their parentage is mysterious to say the least - though their foster mother is hilariously normal. Soon we learn that they may be the reincarnation of the demon Roth, and they have to fulfill the dark and totally grim prophecy of the Hell Baron.

Ok, so Black Metal may not be manga in the strictest sense, but that all depends on your definition of manga. That's a discussion for another day, but I will say that Black Metal is definitely manga sized if nothing else. So, I'm reviewing it, and there's not much you can do about it. Except go out and buy the book, because it's bad ass.

I picked up the first volume of the series at Comic Con this year, and I knew it was going to be good, because I got a free guitar pick of someone throwing the horns. I read it all that night, and then ran into Rick and Chuck at the con the next day. The book kicked ass and the guys were awesome. I bought a totally grim poster from them, and they gave me a cd by Satyricon.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when the boys' foster mother takes them shopping for school clothes. Looking around the store, they comment that "this store is ripe for the apocalypse". If you've ever been the weird kid, and especially if you're into metal, goth, punk, etc., you will love this book. The second half of the book follows the boys as they learn of their brutal heritage, and the prophecy they must fulfill. Part mythology, part high adventure, and all hilarious, Black Metal is totally necro!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Dokebi Bride - Manga Review (Volumes 1 & 2)

Rating: B

Sunbi is a girl who can see ghosts and spirits. This isn't unusual, since her grandmother and mother had the same powers. Her grandmother has used her understanding of the spirit world to be the shaman of a small town. Unfortunately, Sunbi's mother never found a good way of dealing with these strange abilities, it drove her mad and she committed suicide.

The story follows teenage Sunbi as she leaves her small town home with her grandmother to move in with her estranged father in the city. The spirit world doesn't seem content to leave her alone, and Sunbi is torn between dealing with her new school and dealing with the strange spirit-related happenings that only she can see. Fortunately, the city holds a monk and a nerdy classmate who have an understanding of spirits, and may keep Sunbi from going mad.

From the book
Dokebi: mythical Korean creature, frightening in appearance (typically having giant head horns) - humorous, mischevious, but known to reward good people

Dokebi Bride is a manwha ("comic") from Korea. The story is based in Korea and steeped in Korean culture. The first two volumes have a lot of flashbacks and glimpses into the life of Sunbi's grandmother and Sunbi's younger years in order to establish the characters. Sunbi is really strong, but it's obvious she can't deal with the spirit world on her own and we are left wondering at the end of book two what allies she will develop in her new home.

The storyline and character design are both really well done. The art is very clean and angular (a typical manwha style). The use of white space gives the entire comic a strangely soothing overtone, even though there's a lot of strange things going on. Some particularly cool and well illustrated scenes - a giant dragon (spirit of the ocean) shows up, or when Sunbi and her grandmother feed the Dokebi to help their village's fishing. I absolutely love the cover designs for them (see left).

The second volume has a lot of exposition, because the story is relating a lot of difficult ideas (like detecting spirit energy by scientific means). In this case the exposition works, but I'm hoping the third volume gets back to more character-related dialogue and action.

This book definitely has a dark feel to it, and is not as lighthearted as a lot of other manga out there, but the story is compelling and I look forward to reading more.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Overall Rating: A
Synopsis: Nana Komatsu is a 20 year old with a penchant for falling in love at first sight. After a year at art school, her best friend and her boyfriend move to Tokyo, so Nana decides to save up her money and follow them after a year.

Nana Osaki is a punk singer in the band Blast with her boyfriend Ren. When Ren gets an offer to join an up-and-coming band in Tokyo, he leaves Blast and Nina behind. A year later, Nina heads to Tokyo as well.

The two women meet by chance on the train to Tokyo, and despite being nothing alike, they hit it off.

I admit it, I am a sucker for a good Shōjo, and Nana is just that. The series is by Ai Yazawa, who also did Paradise Kiss. The characters are fun (particularly Osaki), and I like the concept. I just finished the first volume, which acts as a sort of prologue to the series. It's off to a good start, and I'm looking forward to the next chapter.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Princess Resurrection Manga Volume 1

Overall Rating: B+
Synopsis: Werewolves, demons, monsters, vampires. All these ferocious creatures are afraid of the same thing: Princess Hime, a gothic lolita warrior who fights off the forces off evil with a chainsaw, a wicked smile, and cutting remarks. Did I mention she also looks great in a tiara, and has magical powers that allow her to raise the dead? The story so far actually revolves around her undead servant, Hiro, who she resurrects after he is killed in a car crash. However, it's obvious the real star is Hime, and with Hiro and a supercute robot, named Flan, she kills the supernatural creatures her siblings send after her.

I didn't know what to expect from Princess Resurrection when I first picked it up, but I'm a sucker for gothic lolitas that kick ass (see Venus Versus Virus for another example). I'm interested in seeing how volume 2 plays out, but volume 1 was a lot of fun. Full of action and interesting characters, the plot unwinds a little slowly, but it feels like it's building out the world Hime lives in to give us a larger background. I already love Flan, Hime's robot sidekick, and Liza Wildman, the half-werewolf who attacks Hime because she mistakenly believes that Hime murdered her brother.

The series is shaping up to be a lot of fun, and I recommend it for when you're looking for something good that isn't too heavy of a read. Volume 2 comes out August 28th.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Naruto Manga Volumes 1-4

Overall Rating: B
Synopsis: I suspect that if you're reading this blog, you have some idea of who the fuck Naruto is, but in case you don't, here's a brief synopsis. Naruto is a 12 year old boy, who is the reincarnation of the nine-tailed fox that nearly destroyed the Leaf village, where Naruto lives. All of the adults fear him, and so they scorn him, and their children, not knowing the truth, scorn him and make fun of him. He has therefore become the equivalent of a ninja class clown. In short, he is annoying. He manages to pass his ninja training though, and along with his rival Sasuke and his dream girl Sakura, joins a ninja team. Both hate him. Hijinks and adventure ensue.

I didn't think I would be rating Naruto as highly as I did. I watched a couple of episodes of the anime on Cartoon Network (which I understand is censored), and didn't like it. Mostly because Naruto has a horrible tendency to say "Believe it!" in a really annoying voice all the fucking time. Seriously. Every couple of minutes he says "Believe it!" I'm getting pissed just thinking about it.

However, in the manga, Naruto, while still being somewhat annoying, is also more sympathetic. They spend a little more time focusing on how shunned he's been and how that led to his behavior. He still bugs me, but at least the manga doesn't throw the annoying catch phrase in every chance they get (he hasn't said it yet!) Instead, I find myself draw in by the secondary characters. Sasuke and Sakura are actually interesting and the world itself is pretty cool. Sasuke has a mysterious past ( wonder the fangirls love him) and Sakura provides some of the only actually funny moments in the book. The world revolves around the ninja villages (Leaf, Rain, Sand, Grass, Waterfall, and Sound) and their differences (each village teaches different techniques. All-in-all, the series is shaping up to be more interesting than I thought it would.