Thursday, February 28, 2008

Harukaze Bitter Bop

Overall Rating: C+
Synopsis: Created by Court Betten, the series follows Chiyoharu, a high school boy who used to be a troublemaker. After he and his friends set fire to the school, he became an outcast, and his friends were expelled. Now, he beats himself up over the incident and abandoning his friends. He hasn't seen them since the fire, and is worried they hate him, but he thinks that by continuing in school despite being an outkast, he can make things right. (I'm not sure how that logic works, but whatever).

One morning on his way to school, Chiyoharu witnesses a man jump in front of a speeding train, but instead of going splat, he gets up and walks it off. It turns out that the man is Souza of the North Wind, but he has amnesia and can remember nothing else. He had hoped to knock some memories loose by getting hit by a train, but it appears to have no effect. For whatever fucking reason, he thinks Chiyoharu looks familiar, and wants to hang out with him.

The same day, Chiyoharu meets Kaede, a female high school detective (apparently there is a whole organization of high school detectives), who falls instantly in love with Souza and believes every woman ever wants his hot body. Together they are trying to find out Souza's past, and Chiyoharu's connection to him, and not die (since apparently a bunch of bad ass dudes are trying to kill Souza).

I am torn on this one. On the one hand, the concepts are fun, and the plot is wacky. What's not to love? On the other hand, the manga is a little too wacky at times, foregoing plot in favor of zaniness. Also, Chiyoharu comes off as unsympathetic and more like a whiny kid. I did however like the references to M.U.S.C.L.E. (or Kinnikuman in Japan), which made me nostalgic for the little pink figures from my childhood. In short, I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Glass Fleet Anime

Overall Rating: D-
Synopsis: A science fiction/adventure anime series, Glass Fleet opens with a space fight between two warring factions. We aren't given much background information, but the effeminate and effete Vetti Lunard Sforza de Roselait seems to be winning. After destroying his enemy after they surrender to him, Vetti promises a new age of justice, but according to Michel (who is narrating/philosophizing) he will just be another tyrant. We then fast-forward a bit (not sure how long) to when Vetti is acting like a tyrant and Michel has begun leading the People's Army in revolution.

For some reason yet to be determined, Vetti does not want to hurt Michel, but does want him captured (there are insinuations that Vetti is in love with Michel). Just when it seems Michel has finally been captured, a strange ship shows up and destroys his captors (while Michel waits unprotected in space, which bothers me. Shouldn't he have been in a suit or something so he could breathe?)

The ship bears the crest of the old Royal Family, and it's Captain, Creo Aiolos Corbeille de Veil, claims to be their descendant. So, you know, awesome.

Despite all the talk of revolution and power to the people, all the women in the series so far are either maids or annoying brats. On top of that, I didn't find any of the characters remotely interesting. They all seemed superficial and I didn't care about either side of the fight. I only got through two episodes before giving up, so it may get better, but I can't recommend it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Deathnote Manga Volumes 1-12

Overall Rating: A++
Synopsis: A psychological/supernatural thriller created by writer Tsugumi Ohba and illustrator Takeshi Obata, Death Note follows a high school student, Light Yagami, who discovers the notebook of a shinigami that allows him to kill anyone by writing the victim's name while picturing his or her face. Light's goal is to create and lead a world cleansed of evil using the book, but where is the line between an honorable goal, and mass murder?

The note book has a series of instructions written by the shinigami, Ryuk, who owned the book, and holding the book allows Light to see Ryuk. After confirming that the book works, Light begins a killing spree, wiping out all of the major criminals whose identities are televised. Soon, this attracts the attention of the International Police Organization, and a mysterious detective known only as "L".

Through a stunt that kills a man sentenced to death in prison, L learns that "Kira" (the name the public gives to the mysterious killer of criminals), is located in Japan. L then quickly begins working to determine who Kira is. Light realizes that he must kill L, and it's a race to determine who will survive.

As you can tell from the rating I gave Death Note, I loved this series. Originally, Leah and I debated about how to review it, because we both wanted to, and eventually decided we would come up with interview questions we would both answer. However, since then, Leah has been working on her excellent webcomic Willrad, and her art and jewelry, which you can see some of in her Etsy shop, and hasn't had time to participate in Hobotaku (though I hope she'll be able to come back at some point. So, I have gone ahead with my answers to her questions about the series. I will try not to spoil anything in case you haven't read it, but if that's the case, you should go out now and pick up the first volume. It's one of the best manga I've read.

What sets Death Note apart from other manga?
One of the reasons I think Death Note is one of the best series of Manga is that I wasn't sure which side to be on. How far would you go in the same situation? The characters are all really well-developed, which made me feel attached to both sides of the conflict. It's pretty unusual for everyone in a story to be interesting and well-developed, so that made the plot a lot more interesting for me.

Who was your favorite character in Death Note?
I have to say Light. I loved seeing his development, and he seemed to be the most morally conflicted character. Of course, by conflicted, I mean he was the most willing to compromise his morals, but you also saw a lot of depth to his decisions (and even some different sides to him).

What genre is Death Note? And what other manga do you think it resembles?
I would say it's a supernatural/psychological thriller. You could probably apply a couple of other genres as well. It's hard to compare manga in general, because they cover so many different genres, but I think something like Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad might be closest. Obviously not for the plot, but I feel like the character development and amount of detail in the plot is very close in terms of quality.

If you were offered a Death Note what would you do with it?
Honestly, I would probably go down a similar path to Light if I ended up using it. I would hope to have the willpower not to use it, but I think the temptation would be huge.

Were you satisfied with the ending?
This is a hard one to answer without giving any spoilers, but the short answer is yes. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from the end, but then again, I wasn't sure the series could keep being as exciting as it was. Yet, every volume I picked up I would wonder if it would keep up the intensity, and every volume they delivered. The ending wasn't completely unexpected, but how it unraveled surprised me, and just made me want more. How they would pull that off, I have no idea, but I know there is at least one light (not the character, but the style of book) novel that the creators are putting out that revolves around L and another character from the series, Naomi Misora, set before the manga begins.

Monday, February 11, 2008

My Favorite Ongoing Manga Series

I got into a car accident last week, so I've been a little behind in my reviewing. So, I thought I would tell you all which ongoing (still being released) manga series I am currently reading. These are some of my favorite series, but it doesn't include Genshiken or Death Note for example, because both of those series are finished.

BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad - In Volume 10 band is trying to take off, and Koyuki is trying to figure out his relationship with Maho (or if there's even a chance to have one with her). Volume 11 is due out on March 4th.

Bleach - The Bleach gang has returned from the Soul Society, now they have to deal with a new enemy, the arrancar, but are they the real enemy? Volume 23 is due out June 3rd.

Fruits Basket - More of the mystery of the Sohma family unravels. Will Tohru end up with either Yuki or Kyo? Fruits Basket 19 is due out on March 18th

Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service - The team is still helping the bodies of the dead find their rightful resting place. Lots of creepiness and dark humor. Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service 6 is already out, but I'm a bit behind. Volume 7 is out on July 25th.

Nana - Nana is trying to become a star with Blast while Hachi (other Nana) tries to decide between Nobu and Takumi. Nana 9 is due out on March 4th.

Ouran High School Host Club - Haruhi is settling in to life at the Host Club well, and the fun continues. I am behind on this series, only having finished 5 volumes, but there are 10 volumes out. I am hoping for some more consistent plot soon, but I still love the hilarity. I have to say though that the anime is even better, and if you can track it down, check it out.

Venus Versus Virus - Gothic lolita + supernatural = win! Volume 3 is due out March 18th

The Wallflower - The boys are still trying to turn Sunako into a lady and keep the fact that she's still lurking in shadows from her Aunt. In volume 4, Kyohei has to pretend to date Sunako to avoid her havign to go on a blind date. This is another series I am behind on. I have finished the first four volumes and love them more and more. Volume 15 comes out on April 15th.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Good As Lily

Overall Rating: A
Synopsis: Written by Derek Kirk Kim with art by Jesse Hamm, Good As Lily follows Grace Kwon, a young woman who is Korean-American, and a senior in high school. At the beginning of the book, Grace is is about to graduate, and go to Stanford, and it's her 18th birthday. The evening of her birthday, she is visited by herself at ages 6,29, and 70. The older versions of herself have no memory of this happening when they turned 18 (or of the pináta that hit Grace on the head earlier that day).

Grace has to balance the arrival of her other selves, the school play she's in falling apart, her crush on the drama teacher, her 29-year-old self's crush on the same teacher, and her parents expectations. A bit more than the average 18-year-old.

I have enjoyed all of the Minx Comics that I have picked up. Minx is an imprint of DC, and they publishes comics focused on young women. I've reviewed "Clubbing" and "Re-Gifters" in the past, and have enjoyed all three. I particularly like both "Re-Gifters" and "Good As Lily", and I highly recommend both. They aren't technically manga (though I suppose that depends on your definition of manga), but they are excellent reads with realistic female protagonists. Give them a chance, I doubt you'll be disappointed.