Manga of the Month: July

Key to the Kingdom by Kyoko Shitou

Anything that even remotely looks like it could be high fantasy gets picked up by me this happens with varying results. However, with Key to the Kingdom it couldn’t have been a more worthy venture. This story starts perfectly and continues on with great vigor. Asta is the youngest prince, who has no desire to rule nor to hold a sword. So when the country’s rule lies in the hands of whoever can find the “key to the kingdom” it seems he will be able to leave his troubles in the hands of others. However, fate has other things in store as Badd, a retainer, drags him into looking for clues to the key’s whereabouts. Just as they start on their journey, arguing all the way, a Dragon Man appears on their path. It soon becomes clear that everything is not as it seems. A diverse cast emerges along the road as Asta resists but gets caught up in the complexity of the country’s history. The art is fluid even if it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. It is a wonderfully put together shojo fantasy filled with action, politics, dragons, mystery, and friendship. And at just six books it is a great read!

Touch by Mitsuru Adachi

I always had an interest in reading the works of Mitsuru Adachi. He is one of the great artists of the manga community that everyone talks about but rarely see any mainstream love for in America. I was waiting for some spark to give me the motivation to take the plunge into one of his manga series. That spark was the Cross Game anime. After seeing a few episodes I was sold on Mitsuru Adachi’s abilities as a storyteller. I decided if I was watching Cross Game I would go into Adachi’s back catalog and read through Touch to compare and contrast the two.

Kazuya and Tatsuya are twin brothers who seem as different as can be. Kazuya is the younger, upstanding, responsible, and focused young man who excels at everything he does including baseball. Tatsuya on the other hand is a perverted, irresponsible, slacker who does not really excel at anything. Kazuya is extremely popular with the girls while Tatsuya is much like Ataru, he hits on any pretty thing that moves but always strikes out. They are both in love with their next door neighbor Minami Asakura but everyone feels that Minami only has eyes for Kazuya. After Kazuya makes a promise to take Minami to Koshien and seems a lock in to deliver it seems that Tatsuya does not have a chance. But there are hints that Minami cares for Tasuya and possible more than his brother. But it often seems Tatsuya is his own worse enemy in developing their relationship.

Adachi is a master of melding the highs and lows of sports manga with the highs and lows of a well-crafted shonen romance. He is extremely skilled at making likable and instantly engaging characters. Tatsuya comes off as someone to root for right out of the gate. As the series goes on he we see he is a much more complex character but keeps the same energy from when we first met him. Shohei Harada is without a doubt the best character in the series. I will bring up the fact that Adachi’s simpler and somewhat traditional character designs might turn some people off. That is a shame, Adachi is able to draw out powerful emotions with his designs whether it be joy, sadness, anger, or passion. Easily worth checking out by anyone who wants a solid shonen romance. Hopefully one day someone in the U.S. will pick up Adachi’s manga and let people see how good he can be.

Ongoing Investigations: Case #043

I finished the Contraband arc of Liar Game. It ended pretty strongly with a equal mixture of  success and failure for our main characters. I really liked that it was neither a total victory nor a total loss. Nao and Shinichi are definitely in a tight spot going into the next round but they did much of what they needed to do. Liar Game stays a smart series that challengers the reader but does not pull its plot twists out of thin air. How the game works and how the characters pull off their schemes are set up before the reveals are given. A clever person could probably figure out the answers in advance. Norihiko Yokoya has obviously been set up as a reoccurring villain which is the first in the series. Nao is still oscillating between being girl-who-needs-to-be-saved and Shinichi’s partner but at least her character is growing. I am hoping by the end she will have her own unique perception and tactics. I am a little surprised that Fukunaga is staying on as an important side character.

Picked up Key to the Kingdom a while back but just started reading it. So far books one and two have impressed me, it is a wonderfully put together shojo fantasy. We start with Asta, the youngest prince, who has no desire to rule nor to hold a sword. So when the country’s rule lies in the hands of whoever can find the “key to the kingdom” it seems he will be free of such troubles. However, fate has other things in store as Badd, a retainer, drags him into looking for clues to its whereabouts. When a Dragon Man appears on their path it becomes clear that everything is not as it seems. A diverse cast emerges along the road as Asta resists but gets caught up in the complexity of the country’s history. There are many things going in this story including action, politics, mystery, and love. I was surprised that the series is only six years old because the art certainly has a late-80’s or mid-90’s feel to it. A great start to the series, highly recommended!

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