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.