Friday, September 28, 2007


Overall Rating: B
Synopsis: CLUBBING is an original graphic novel written by Andi Watson (Geisha, Paris, Skeleton Key) and illustrated by Josh Howard (Dead @ 17) and done in the manga format (size, style, etc.). The story follows Charlotte "Lottie" Brook, a rich kid who lives in London, is into goth music, and platform shoes who lives a life of luxury. Then she gets caught with a fake i.d. and is "exiled" to her grandparents country club in the middle of the English countryside, which is to say, the middle of nowhere as far as Lottie is concerned. However, everything is not as it seems, as murder is afoot at the country club. Will Lottie save the day? Will she fall in love with the groundskeeper?

Murder mysteries involving golf courses would normally not interest me, but the cover of the book drew me in. I'm a sucker for goth girls, and I love Andi Watson's writing. CLUBBING is also the third book from DC's female-friendly Minx> line of comics, and I was interested in seeing what it was like. So, I flipped through the book a little, and decided to pick it up.

The book is a fun read, and worth the cover price if you enjoy all things gothic. The humor value of a club kid out in the English countryside is hilarious enough, but throw in the satanist goths she meets out there, her hapless grandparents, an evil cult, and you've got a pretty good book. Unfortunately, the story is a little too predictable, but if you're not looking for something too deep, check it out.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

East Coast Rising Volume 1

Overall Rating: A
Synopsis: Becky Cloonan writes and draws East Coast Rising, a story about punk rock pirates in a world where New Jersey is submerged in water.

East Coast Rising is one of those books I have been meaning to pick up for awhile, but for one reason or another, I haven't gotten around to it. Fortunately, I finally picked up the first volume, and am glad I did. Becky Cloonan has created an alternate universe full of punk rock pirates (my favorite kind).

The series follows Archer, a young pirate whose ship is destroyed at the beginning of the first volume. He's rescued by Cannonball Joe, the Captain of La Revancha, and Archer soon joins the ship as a cabin boy. Along with Joe, the La Revancha is home to Deathsnake, a man who loves trouble, Deathsnake's adorable niece El, and Abby (she's crazy good at fishing).

The crew is in search of a legendary treasure, but they have a number of obstacles to overcome. Not least of which is Lee, the reckless and vicious captain of the Hoboken, whose crew runs most of New Jersey. Punk rock may be dead, but it's a pirate's life for me.

The first volume is charming and fun, and the second volume is scheduled to come out in October.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Lolita Shopping Online

A lot of us in the States are now into the lolita style that has been spreading like a cute and dastardly climbing rose. In my case, I have a hard time finding any of the clothes locally, and must rely entirely on online shops to feed the cuteness. I haven't found a good list of lolita shopping bookmarks online, so I compiled my own. And now I'm going to share.

Lolita Shops Online
(All shops located in the U.S. unless otherwise indicated)

Pegasus Maiden - $70 - $90 for a dress, All loli-styles, original designs (also accepts custom orders)
Stocking Shock (U.K.) - All loli-styles, original designs (also accepts custom orders), will send price quotes on request
Rakuen Fashion - $120 - $150 for a dress (usually includes petticoat and headress), all loli-styles, tons of dresses to select from, original designs (also takes custom orders)
Candy Violet - $140 - $170 for a dress, all loli-styles, small selection, original designs
Blasphemina's Closet - $125 - $180 for a dress, mostly sweet loli style, small selection of handmade items (including accessories)
Starry Petals - $210 - $280 for a dress, mostly Elegant Goth loli style, a small selection of very good dresses, also carries cosplay uniforms
Fan Plus Friend (Asia?) - $50 - $130 for a dress, all loli-styles, wide selection and price ranges, also carries cosplay items
Momo's Handicrafts (Canada) - $35 - $85 for a dress, all loli-styles, eBay shop, wide selection and price ranges, handmade/custom items, carries tons of accessories
Retroscope Fashions - $50 - $150 for a dress, mostly Elegant Goth loli style, a small amount of really nice dresses, lots of accessories, some really nice menswear also
In the Starlight - $80 - $100 for a dress, all loli-styles, lots of selection separates, new and original designs (will take custom orders)
The White Peacock - $40 - $90 for a dress, all loli-styles, small selection of some basic dresses, lots of accessories
Shattered Glass Designs (Canada) - $80 - $150 for a dress , small selection of constantly changing dresses
Capsule Tokyo (Europe) - $200 for a dress, all loli-styles, some different designs, mostly ordered from Japan
Nique Tour (Japan) - $40 - $50 for a dress, all loli-styles, custom made dresses, eBay store, also carries cosplay items & loli accessories
Neko Works (Singapore) - $130 - $150 for a dress, Pre-order goth loli clothing items

Here's a few places not in English, so if you're multi-lingual, this may work for you:
Lucky Pinky - All loli-styles, in Japanese though
Pinky - Mostly gothic lolita, all in Dutch?
Metamorphose (Japan) - All loli-styles, tons of selection, $200 for a dress

Mostly Accessories:
Victorian Trading Company - a fun place to look for accessories like fans and other Victorian style items
Gloomth - A few goth loli clothing items, mostly goth accessories, regular shop and eBay shop
Black Alice (Singapore) - Only goth loli accessories, some Baby the Stars Shine So Bright branded things, also carries cosplay items

I even made a guide on Amazon, for anyone who's not interested in venturing very far into new online stores: Goth Lolita guide

Note: Measure yourself! One of the things you're going to have to do if you're going to order any lolita dresses is get accurate measurements for the various requirements that they request. Have a measuring tape handy, and happy shopping!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Poison Candy Volume 1

Overall Rating: B+
Synopsis: Written by David Hine and with art by Hans Steinbach, Poison Candy is a science fiction manga. The South Korean Adolescent Virus is the newest plague humanity has to face. Sam Chance, a wanna be rockstar becomes infected with the virus, and wakes up a century later to find out that his girlfriend killed herself, and everything has changed.

I heard a little about this manga at Comic Con, and it sounded interesting, so I thought I would check it out. After reading the first volume, I like the plot (even if the full name of the virus sounds a bit ridiculous), and the characters are interesting. I especially like Yusuf, Sam's friend, who is a 1950s-obsessed, video game playing, Indian. David Hine is traditionally a comic book writer, who is trying his hand at manga. His attempts to write in a manga-style stumble at times, but overall it works. This is a good one for anyone trying to make the transition from comics to manga.

What happens next is completely up in the air, and I'm interested in finding out more.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Battle Royale Volume 1

Overall Rating: A
Synopsis: Battle Royale began life as a novel by Koushun Takami, which was then turned into a movie and most recently, a manga. The series has become infamous in Japan and throughout the world. In it, Japan is a police state, and every two years fifty 3rd year junior high (grade 9) classes are chosen to forcibly fight against one another until only one student remains alive. The results of the battles are then aired on television. The series follows Shuuya Nanahara and six other characters as the try to stay alive and find a way out of the "Program".

I first saw the movie version of Battle Royale a few years ago, and was blown away by it. It has a unique plot, is brutally violent, funny, and shows just how far humans will go to survive. I picked up the first volume of the manga recently, and it was just as good as the movie. The manga version is a little more explicit than the movie, so be forewarned, but it's an interesting read.

If you can take some graffic scenes of sex and violence, I highly recommend both the movie and manga versions of Battle Royale. It's definitely fucked up, but in a good way.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Shakugan No Shana Volume 1

Overall Rating: C-
Synopsis: A manga series by Ayato Sasakura based on the light novels by Yashichiro Takahashi. The series follows the stereotypical protagonist, a seemingly normal high school boy named Yuji Sakai as he learns about the existence of demons (called Denizons of the Crimson Realm), Demon Hunters (Flame Hazes), and Torches (this one's hard to explain, but basically spirits that temporarily replace humans that have been killed). When Yuji meets Shana, a Flame Haze who wields a sword and dresses in black, he has his first encounter with this strange world, and learns that he is a special kind of Torch called a Mystes. He contains within him a "treasure", a device that gives the bearer special abilities, but they do not get in to what that is in the first volume. Shana then decides she must protect him from the Denizens.

When I originally heard about this series, I thought it sounded promising. Then I read it. It still sounds promising, if a little stereotypical, but the first volume really didn't get me excited about the series. I hope the second volume turns out to be more interesting, but I probably won't pick it up without at least flipping through it first.

The biggest problem I had with the series is it seems like I've already read it. It follows so many of the standard plots and character types you see in manga these days that it doesn't seem to have much life on its own. I am interested in checking out the light novels to see if they're any better.

Monday, September 17, 2007

People in Manga to Know About: Osamu Tezuka

Osamu Tezuka
(also called "The Father of Anime")
1928 - 1989
Manga Career Started 1946

Famous works include:
Astro Boy
Black Jack

Quick Bio:
(Look at that, he had a stamp! More than one!)
Writer/artist Tezuka literally invented the "large eyed" character style typical in Japanese animation. In his lifetime, he drew over 150,000 pages of manga (80,000 of those being for published work), started the animation studio Mushi Pro (which pioneered TV animation in Japan) and had his medical degree (which lent him expertise in his series Black jack).

Osamu Tezuka's style is very similar to what we would refer to as "traditional Disney". He loved to do stylized Japanese adaptations of western literature, but his stories covered nearly every type of genre. Some of his work that includes Africans and Vietnamese has been criticized as racist, with exaggerated manners and underdeveloped homes.

Effect on Hobotaku:
It's interesting, but Hobotaku (and other Western otaku) are having an influence on publishers so that they are finally translating Tezuka's works into English and distributing them in America. Which means we'll finally be able to get a much fuller understanding of one of the most innovative and influential people in anime history.

In Conclusion:
Osamu Tezuka is called the Father of Anime because he essentially built this city of manga and anime that we love so much. The next time you're stretched out reading some manga under a table or watching a new AMV, spare a moment to think of the kindly looking dude in the beret up there, because a little bit of him is in there.

Check out Tezuka lectures and exhibitions at the Marvel of Manga Blog

Friday, September 14, 2007

My Dead Girlfriend Volume 1

Overall Rating: B+
Synopsis: A series by Eric Wight, which follows Phineas "Finney" Bleak, whose family has an interesting legacy. They all die in extremely odd ways. At the beginning of the story, Finny is recovering from a recent breakup and weighing the pros and cons of breathing. His parents are ghosts, and his pet is a gargoyle named Mookie. He attends Mephisto Prep, a school for monsters. His life may not be normal, but his problems are definitely typical of a middle schooler. During the first volume, Finney meets Jenny Wraith, whom he falls in love with. Unfortunately, Death gets jealous and kills her, and she becomes a ghost. Okay, maybe not all of his problems are typical for middle schoolers.

I'll be honest, I picked this one up because Joss Whedon reviewed it and said he liked it. Flipping through it in the store, it didn't draw me in, but I figured it couldn't be that bad if Joss liked it. I was right, it wasn't bad, in fact, it was pretty good. It has a fun spin on teen angst, and has some interesting characters. I'm interested to see where the series goes after the first volume, so I will probably pick up volume 2 when it comes out, but there's no indication when that will be (an unfortunate trend in English language manga).

My Dead Girlfriend is definitely worth picking up if you enjoy cute stories involving the supernatural.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

King City Manga Volume 1

Overall Rating: A
Synopsis: King City, by Brandon Graham, follows Joe, a man with little going for him aside from his cat. Fortunately for Joe, his cat is a super cat. With an injection of cat juice, he can be anything from a weapon, to a tool, to a snuggly companion. Joe carries the cat everywhere in a bucket. He's a sweetie like that.

I kept picking King City up in Chapel Hill Comics, but wasn't sure whether to buy it or not. It had an interesting concept, the art looked awesome, and it seemed like a fun read, but I would end up putting it down for the next volume of one of the series I read regularly. Then, I saw Brandon Graham at Comic Con and heard him talk about the book. I immediately went out and bought a copy.

What originally seemed like a joke that would get old fast (A cat that can do anything with an injection of cat juice? Really?) was actually just one aspect of the story, and I quickly fell in love with King City. There is an insidous drug called Chalk, that turns users into the drug, so they have a steady supply until they're dead. There's zombies, gangs, and spies. It kicks ass.

Side note: I wanted to take a second to give a shout out to Chapel Hill Comics, my not so local comic book store. The store is about a 30 minute drive, and there are closer comic shops to me, but Chapel Hill Comics is easily the best comic store in the area. They are woman-friendly, have a great selection of indy and mainstream comics and manga, and are genuinely cool people. If you're in the area, be sure to stop by.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean (GameCube) - Videogame review

Rating: A-

Synopsis: Baten Kaitos is an RPG for the Nintendo GameCube distributed by Namco. It's the first in the Baten Kaitos series. the world of Baten Kaitos is a series of islands in the sky, and there is a myth about the "Lost Ocean" that existed once upon a time. The main character is Kalas, a young, brash man who is missing half of his wings (everyone from all but one island have "wings of the heart", a physical wing manifestation of their emotions).

Kalas is initially on a revenge quest for his brother and grandfather, but as more people join his group, and more information comes to light about the world he lives in, it becomes obvious he will be instrumental in saving the world (of course, this is an RPG).

Baten Kaitos is one of the few GameCube games to take up two discs. The game itself took a little less than 70 hours for me to complete, but that included almost every single side quest. I really loved the amount of detail that went into this game, with the character design, world design, and the music written specifically for each place. I even ended up downloading some of the music.

Baten Kaitos game comparisions: Chrono Trigger, Tales of Symphonia,

  • Translation and voice acting: These were rough in a few places: sometimes the voices were so weird (either overly emotional, or not at all) I would skip the sounds
  • Map Confusion: Sometimes, it wasn't clear how to get to things you're supposed to be able to get to on the map - and it was unclear whether this was intentional in order to get you to defeat some sort of trial, whether it was an accident or a translation errorr
  • Innovations Confusing at First: At first, I was a little bewildered by the card-based fighting and all of the new information, but to handle this, the game has a very gentle learning curve and lots of explanation

  • Good long game: It took us around 70 hours to complete (but we did almost every sidequest too)
  • Interesting Innovations: The card-based fighting was easy to learn, and really cool to build interesting attacks with once I got the hang of it, you make money by taking pictures of the monsters you're fighting and selling the pictures, and there are strange and interesting items you can build by putting together cards in your attacks
  • Character & World Detail: The overall character development was incredibly done, with lots of twists and turns in the plot, revellations about the character's histories, and the world was lavishly designed, with such great detail that I enjoyed immersing myself in it
  • Easy to find for Cheap: We got this in a clearance bin for $13, and it's such a good game

Overall, awesome game, especially for the money.
I would suggest using a walkthrough to ease any confusion you may have (and to let you know all the cool/weird combos you can pull).

Friday, September 7, 2007

Shutterbox Manga Volume 1

Overall Rating: F
Synopsis: Shutterbox follows Megan Amano, as she begins to have strange and troubling dreams the night she watches a handsome stranger drown himself. She begins dreaming of the man she watched die. As her dreams progress, she begins to attend the afterlife's most famous school, M.U.S.E. as a living exchange student. In theory, hijinks and plot then ensue.

I got maybe 20 pages into this manga before I put it down. I got it for free at Comic Con after buying a bunch of other manga, and it sounded interesting, so I hoped I had found a fun, new series. NOPE! The art and plot are horribly cliched, and even worse are extremely boring. Maybe the series gets better further on (or even later in the first volume), but I couldn't bring myself to care. Maybe it's just me, but in my never humble opinion, unless you like stories involving inane girls arguing over their prom dresses (and I like a good dress argument) or plot that feels tacked on, I don't recommend this one.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Hayate: the Combat Butler (by Kenjiro Hata) volume one - Manga Review

Rating: B-

Synopsis: Hayate Ayasaki has spent his entire life in part-time jobs because his unemployed parents spend all their money on drinking and gambling. The story opens with Hayate experiencing the worst Christmas ever - he loses his job, his parents have picked up his last paycheck (and gambled it away) AND his parents owe the Yakuza so much money they've sold him off to them for blackmarket organ parts.

Hayate is ridiculously fast and tough (from constantly having to do work) so he escapes the Yakuza and decides he's "going to be bad" - and decides to kidnap the next person he sees. He picks a girl, but unfortunately some other guys try to hit on her, and he ends up rescuing her and giving her his coat. THEN she actually does get kidnapped by some other guys, and he risks his life to save her again. The girl ends up being the daughter of a ridiculously wealthy family, who offers him a job as her bodyguard/butler in exchange for saving her life. So Hayate's crazy days in the wealthy mansion begin.

There are a lot of romantic misunderstandings that drive Hayate: the Combat Butler - the rich girl originally mistaked Hayate's crappily attempted kidnapping and saving as declarations of love. Hayate thinks the maid he works with is the most beautiful girl in the world, but remains indebted to the rich girl because she took him off the street. It's all dealt with in humorous and cute ways.

A lot of the book and plot break the 4th wall, with characters saying things like "I know this is a Shonen manga, but you don't have to stare at me in my nightgown" or "I haven't interrupted you for three pages!" - this sillyness has a lot of appeal for me, and acknowledging the occasional fan service without being creepy. The three main characters, rich girl Nagi, maid girl Maria, and combat butler Hayate, are all teenagers, so sometimes they act their age with hilarious results (for example, when Nagi wants to apologize to Hayate, and instead creates a superhero alter-ego to apologize for her).

I look forward to more volumes, and I hope that the characters grow some more over time. At the moment, they could easily get trapped in a "Hayate fights X to keep his job" repetition, and I hope they don't.

Overall, the series is very cute and funny, and has a lot of potential.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Battle Angel Alita Manga Volumes 1-9

Overall Rating: A
Synopsis: Battle Angel Alita tells the story of an amnesiac female cyborg named Alita. Alita's head and upper torso are found in a state of suspended animation by cybermedic/bounty hunter Daisuke Ido while he is searching for useful scrap. After giving her a new body, Alita begins to learn how to live in the Scrapyard, the home of the poor and out-of-luck, who live in the shadow of the floating city of Tiphares, where the rich live. Although she has no memory, Alita soon realizes she knows the legendary Martian martial art, Panzer Kunst. The series follows Alita as she recovers her past and uncovers the secrets of Tiphares.

My only complaint about Battle Angel Alita is that the story can get a little slow over the 9 volumes. Aside from that, there is a lot to love. For a series that was written in 1991, Battle Angel Alita holds up surprisingly well as a science fiction story.

Set in a futuristic dystopian society, Alita shares the stage with some excellent supporting characters as well. Along with her father figure, Ido, there is Desty Nova, an insane nanotechnologist, and Kaos, Nova's son, a frail and troubled radio DJ with psychometric powers. These characters make Alita more interesting as a character as she struggles to retrieve her memory.

I definitely recommend checking the series out if you're into Science Fiction. It may not be as much fun if you aren't a sci-fi nerd like me, but give a shot and see what you think. Battle Angel Alita is a classic manga that's worth trying.