Monday, December 17, 2007

Mail Volume 1

Overall Rating: B
Synopsis: Created by the artist from Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Housui Yamazaki, the series follows private detective Reiji Akiba, who specializes in the paranormal. Volume 1 opens with a nude model shoot, which immediately tells you why the books are wrapped in plastic. The shoot is in a river, and according to the location scout, it was beautiful. Apparently, it flooded, and everything from trash to a skeleton got washed into the area.

The photos reveal even more creepiness. Aside from the nude woman, there is also a headless girl in the photo. This is when we're introduced to the eccentric (a nice way of saying very weird) Akiba. He believes that the dead try to communicate with us every day, and that if we read their "mail", then we can help put them to rest. Sometimes, the dead aren't cooperative, so he also has special bullets with prayers on them that help put the more unruly spirits to rest as well.

I like Mail, but I hope it picks up steam. There are a lot of parallels to Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, which I love, but it doesn't quite capture the dark humor. It's more like Trigun meets horror, which could be fantastic if the series builds up steam.

Check out more manga and anime reviews at Hobotaku!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

High School Debut Volume 1

Overall Rating: C
Synopsis: A shōjo manga created by Kazune Kawahara, the series follows Haruna Nagashima, who has just entered high school. In Middle School, Haruna was dedicated to softball, and didn't get involved in much else. Now, in High School, she has decided to apply the same dedication to finding a boyfriend. There's only one problem, she doesn't have a clue how to get started.

At the beginning of the manga, we see Haruna in ridiculous outfits (well, not that ridiculous, but pretty bad), and awkwardly standing around at dating spots. Fortunately, she accidentally runs into Yoh, who gives her some advice. She decides she wants him to coach her, and help her find a boyfriend. It doesn't hurt that he is a hottie.

At first, Yoh refuses, but eventually he relents, on one condition. Haruna is not allowed to fall in love with him!

So far, High School Debut seems thoroughly average. The plot is your standard high school makeover, with the hot guy coaching the plain girl on how to be more attractive. Will they end up falling in love with each other? I hope not, since that would be boringly typical for a plot like this. I'm hoping for something more along the lines of The Wallflower, an excellent makeover manga about a goth girl and four bishōnen. Unfortunately, this manga isn't doing much for me. I don't love it, but I don't hate it either. Hopefully, the plot will pick up some, and the characters will become more interesting.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hell Girl Volume 1

Overall Rating: B+
Synopsis: Hell Girl is a series of short stories that detail the suffering of different people. Typically, there is an antagonist who causes them to suffer, making the individual's life miserable. Fortunately, there is hope for these unfortunate souls (OOoooo dramatic!). Heard about through whispers and rumors, there is a website that can only be accessed at midnight. Known as Jigoku Tsūshin (Hell Correspondence), should someone submit the name of their persecutor (or really just anyone you hate), the Jigoku Shōjo (Hell Girl) will visit them. She has a creepy voice and red eyes, and will offer you a straw doll with a red string wound about its neck. If the string is pulled, she will send your persecutor to Hell by way of trippy hallucinations. However, if you condemn your persecutor to Hell, your soul will also be sent to Hell when you die.

I really like Hell Girl so far. The only reason I didn't rate it higher is there is a lot of repetition of the way the Hell Correspondence works, and the fact that each episode is an unrelated short story. However, they seem to be setting up the series to follow Ai (Hell Girl) and give her more of a background. That holds a lot of promise, so hopefully as the series progresses, it will get even better.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Overall Rating: B
Synopsis: Originally titled Tekkon Kinkreet in the Japanese release, the title is a play on "Tekkin Concrete" the Japanese term for reinforced concrete. The movie was directed by Michael Arias, animated by Studio 4°C, and adapted from "Black and White", a one-volume seinen manga series by Taiyō Matsumoto. Set in the fictional Treasure Town, the movie centers around a pair of orphan kids who live on the city's streets, Black and White. Black is older and tougher (some say he's the toughest kid in the city), and protects the child-like (and perpetually snot-nosed) White). Together they make up the gang known as Neko (or Cats).

Black & White seem to have some special abilities, such as the ability to fly (or at least jump and glide further than a normal person could), and being pretty fucking bad-ass for a couple of kids. The first part of the movie focuses on the duo as they confront rival orphan gangs and even the local yakuza.

Things are going well for Black & White until a mysterious snake-faced entrepreneur with blue-skinned giant assassins show up. He begins working with the some of the local yakuza to tear down Treasure Town and replace it with an amusement park. Since Black and White are against the idea, he sends his assassins to kill them.

The most interesting (and confusing) part of the movie comes when White is seriously hurt and then separated from Black. Without White's influence, Black goes insane and even more violent than he already was. Can Treasure Town, and Black, be saved?

When I rented Tekkonkinkreet I was expecting a fun movie about orphan kid gangs with cute animal names "fighting" each other over territory. What I got was a very strange, pretty messed up, and pretty awesome movie. It's not what I expected, and it felt really slow in parts, but I definitely recommend it. Especially if, like me, you're into philosophy.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Yume Kira Dream Shoppe

Overall Rating: D
Synopsis: This fantasy shōjo, created by Aqua Mizuto, we meet Rin. A mysterious shopkeeper, Rin makes dreams come true, but only for a steep price. The shop in question, Yume Kira Dream Shoppe, is magical and (as is driven home at the beginning and end of almost every chapter) flies through the sky at dusk.

If you happen across the shop, or Rin hears your wish, he may grant it in exchange for something valuable in return. For example, in one story a tree wishes to become human. In exchange for granting the wish, Rin asks for the trees leaves. He travels with a stuffed animal named Alpha, who has been animated by Rin's magic.

I picked this book up on a whim, and regret it. From the description, I was hoping for something along the lines of xxxHolic, which has similar (but darker and more interesting) themes. Unfortunately, Yume Kira Dream Shoppe insists on ending every story with a sugary sweet happy ending and a reminder about how awesome the shop is. That was fine the first chapter or two, but it got old quickly.

On top of that, each chapter is a short story, and the only connection between stories is the shop. As a result, it was hard to care about any of the characters or situations presented. I recommend you steer clear of this one.