Ongoing Investigations: Case #066

I received a copy of the first book of The Lizard Prince from CMX last week. It seems to follow in the footsteps of many of their shojo fare of late, not bad but not great and a bit forgettable.

In this short (just two books) story, we follow the misadventures of Sienna a Prince who was turned into a lizard only to have the spell (semi)broken by true love. And we and his new love Canary find out quickly he can still transform into reptilian mode though getting back to human is a bit dodgy. This is a running gag and makes up for a good portion of the incidents in the book. Woven into these frantic moments are some cute trials and growing affection between these two young members of royalty.Though they keep trying to make Canary into this tomboy princess it rarely comes through. Sienna’s kind of a weenie but very trying and sweet though he a lot more amusing in lizard form.

The humor, like the love story, is kind of just middling without really making you laugh out loud nor moving you to cheer.

There is also a one shot about a girl who is always burning hot and a boy with nice, cool hands. This story I liked a bit better than the main but that might owed to it being just a one off.

As a whole The Lizard Prince is cute but nothing that seems all that special.

With the gentle urging of a fellow Hitohira fan I finally decided to go and watch the anime. I prefer the manga but the anime is a wonderful adaptation.

Hitohira is the story of a painfully shy girl who after being roped into joining one of the two competing drama clubs learns to be more confident and peruse her dreams.

The anime captures all the powerful moments of the manga with the added force of voice acting for any of the scenes where they play is taking place. I enjoyed the manga a little more because I feel it was a tighter story. Everything happens pretty much the same they just take more time to do it in the anime.

Also Mugi Asai seems less hopeless when we spend less time with her running away from her problems. I was glad to see a bit of resolution to things that were only coming to a peak in volume three of the manga, which is the last volume of the manga that has been released in English.

The anime has a good stopping point but I know that the manga continues the story. I wish that we could finish the manga in the U.S. but I am not holding my breath until that happens.

Continue reading

Manga of the Month: August

Maid Sama by Hiro Fujiwara

Don’t let the title deter you, just about anyone can find something to love about Maid Sama. Ayuzawa is the president of her mostly male, and out of control, class which she rules with an iron fist, but after school she makes extra cash working at a maid cafe. Usui the leader of the boys discovers her secret causing mayhem, blackmail, and a bevy of other insane things to occur. What makes this great to read is that the Fujiwara doesn’t take it seriously, it is over the top all the time and pokes fun at itself. Usui is just too awesome for the human race, practically being a mary sue with all of his abilities. He is a super bad-ass fighter, he is a world class chess player, he can cook up a storm, he is incredibly good-looking, he leaps off the school roof and has nary a scratch, and he has the inexplicable ability to show up at just the right moments. By the way you will discover all that and more about him in just two volumes! A major thing that keeps this manga fun is that Ayuzawa is strong, stubborn, and able to take take of business. While Usui definitely catches her off guard in the love department, in the rest of the world she is a force to be reckoned with so there is this constant battle of who has the upper hand. Maid Sama is a delight to read and will have you throwing your hands up at its ridiculous antics. Sometimes you need a shojo manga that is cranked up to 11. This is that manga.

Hitohira by Izumi Kirihara

My favorite joke from the TV show Just Shoot Me was, “I would do my self-confidence exercises but I know they would never work.” That is part of the reason I really like Hitohira so much. It is a very good look at what a person with low self-esteem is like. It is also a positive story of how someone with low self-esteem can get out of the downward spiral of depression and grow into someone stronger.

Mugi Asai is immediately scouted by Nono Ichinose, the president of the Drama Research Club, after she is accepted to Kumataka Art Academy. She and Kai Nishida are essentially shanghaied into joining the club. Nono’s goal is to take the enormous amount of raw potential she sees in Mugi and shape her into the talent that Nono knows she can be. The major obstacle is that Mugi must realize she has the potential to grow before anything can change. Mugi also soon learns that there is a proper drama club also at the school and whose goal seems to be to shut down the Drama Research Club.

Aurora Publishing does not seem to be doing so great so I wanted to bring a little attention to one of their best titles. Hitohira is an excellent blend of intense drama, subtle romance, and light-hearted comedy. The characters are all delightful and easy to empathize with. I really felt a strong connection to Mugi and constantly cheer her on throughout the series. I have said and done so many of the things she has done so her story seems so very real. The story is very good at pushing all my emotional buttons without being manipulative or saccharine. The soft tones of the art add to this overall mood of the manga. This is a wonderfully warm series that I feel everyone should check out. 

Ongoing Investigations: Case #032

Got the books 18-20 of Blade of the Immortal in a recent Dark Horse sale, which makes them mildly affordable. We are at the end of the prison arc and I couldn’t be happier. I found it to be mostly boring, but it did do one very important thing. Rin has come into her own more, she is brave and decently strong. She also is thinking on her feet. Rin has just plain matured and it is very nice. Though at moments she is still a bit deer-in-the-headlights. If we didn’t know how Rin felt about Manji before (which you would be stupid not to), we certainly do now with her daring rescue attempt. Also Manji fights dudes while being chained to a wall. You have no idea how happy I am to see that man back in action. There was not enough bad-assery with him in jail. Though Doa is proving herself to be one crazy, deadly woman. Looking forward to the conclusion of this arc in 21 and then we are on the alleged home stretch.

I immediately read Hitohira book three as soon as I got my hands on it. We see the results of Mugi’s first stage performance. It uses the old manga trope of the play that is a metaphor for the main plot. It is a well done trope and quite enjoyable. We then see the the result of a bet made in book two and the fall out for all the characters. Bittersweet triumph and heartbreaking disappointment are the watchwords for this volume but that is not all there is. All in all I like this series more and more because I really see myself in Mugi. Her low self-esteem might easily turn away some readers but it is a very realistic portrayal of it. I am eagerly awaiting the next story. I am curious to see what happens now that a good deal of the relationships between the characters have changed. The art remains average but cute without veering into saccharine. I should really sit down and see if the anime adaption is any good. You can read a preview for volume three, too.

Got the second Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro at Yen Press’s booth at NYCC 2009. Thanks! This book continues the melancholy, traveling adventures. But as an added bonus we learn a lot about Kuro’s past and her travels when she was much younger. We also learn a little more about Sen (the bat), who I am very curious about. One traveler Kuro meets looks like he has stepped out of Sherlock Hound. As I was pondering if this was a reference or a coincidence, I see the manga-ka’s little comment in the back. He makes another Sherlock Hound reference so I knew it was on purpose. This is so rare so he gets extra bonus points for doing so. As with the first book, there are many beautiful color pages to enjoy throughout. Looking forward to the next one!

Tengu-Jin by Sumomo Yumeka is the story of a Japan that has been divided into two separate antagonistic nations due to a cataclysm. It centers around two brothers named, Mozuku and Shinonome. Shinonome has become a bit of an oddity at his school because anyone who pray to him has their wish granted. It turns out that Shinonome is a very important tengu that represents Eastern Japan. When a marriage between the tengu of the East and West seems to be the only way to stop a war between their respective countries how will this effect the brothers’ relationship? The first half is mostly comedy with a bit of drama. The last half is a flash back to a previous life that switches the formula with mostly drama with a bit of comedy. The art is nice with plenty of pretty boys being the majority of the cast. Once again like the Manzai Comics I get very light BL. There is nothing more than a little cheek kissing and a few longing glances. I can’t say that I really had any strong feelings on the story. Nothing in it was particularly objectionable nor did anything compel me to continue reading. I definitely enjoyed the comedy aspects more than the drama which I think is why it came off as so fulfilling. You can read a preview here.

Read the first book of Pluto which is coming out in VIZ’s newly revamped Signature line. The printing quality is a bit better, there are some color pages, and the book even has French folds (flaps). The story seems to pull influences from everywhere but maintains it’s ability to tell its own story. The mystery has already got me hooked! Are the deaths of these robots and humans related? No human traces at the crime scene, but robots aren’t supposed to be able to kill humans! It is a detective story so of course it gets extra bonus points from me. The only thing I found strange and maybe it is explained more later on, but the name Pluto is what they are calling the killer. In the story two characters are talking the deaths. They start going through all the names for the God of death in different cultures when they reach Pluto, they for some reason think that one is better than all the others! Uh. . . okay. I also really like the international setting of the series. Can’t wait for the next one!

Garden of Sinners: Paradox Spiral kicks up the length of the Garden of Sinners movies by being twice as long. It was interesting that we hardly see Mikiya but in his place for most of the movie is the proto-Shiro otherwise known as Tomoe Enjo. Shiki saves Tomoe from a pack of thugs and learns that he thinks he killed his family but it appears that his family is still alive. Tomoe is clearly troubled but what truly happened in Tomoe’s bizarre apartment complex? Has it been tied into everything else that has been happening to Shiki? Once again ufotable studio creates another beautiful movie. They continue to put a good amount of artistic flair to everything from the fight scenes to the conversations. The fight scene in the apartment complex balcony is worth the price of admission alone. You have to sit down and clear your mind before starting this movie more than the other four because they tell the story in a non-linear fashion. The parallels between Soren Araya and Kirei Kotomine are obviously lampshaded by the creators by them having the same seiyuu. Writing this review has totally reminded me that I forgot to ask for a release date for the first book from Del Rey when I was at New York Comic Con.

In honor of my Blade of the Immortal mini-marathon, this is the pic of the week: