Modern Shojo: Narutaki’s Most Wanted Part 2

Last time, I discussed manga-ka and their libraries of work which I want more of in the U.S., but this time I sticking with individual titles. I’m tackling modern shojo titles that were released in the U.S. but did not get a complete release. It is so sad! I don’t hold out a lot of hope for these to see further release, but they are certainly ones I’d like to own all of in English if it were up to me.

Two Flowers for the Dragon

Now I know I said I’d focus on individual titles, but Nari Kusakawa is one of my favorite manga-ka. Three of her titles were licensed by CMX (oh lord, how I miss them!) and two made it to completion. Recipe for Gertrude and The Palette of 12 Secret Colors are absolutely worth picking up if you can find them.

Anyway, my favorite is Two Flowers for the Dragon and as luck would have it it was not finished. Perhaps more torturous is that it was so close! One book away from the end CMX closed up shop.

Two Flowers is a fantasy about an oasis kingdom ruled by people descendant from dragons. The current heir is bright and mischievous Shakuya who possesses magical abilities and also transforms into a dragon when under emotional strain. We join her in the story when a few things are occurring 1) her presumed-dead-for-five-years betrothed reappears, 2) a conspiracy against her kingdom arises, 3) and secrets about her family begin to emerge. This all leads to a great journey to uncover the truth.

Romance also plays a big role in the series. Shakuya already has a new fiance since her first was presumed dead. Each of her hands sports a flower tattoo symbolizing her betrothals. Because of her dragon blood they bloom based on her feelings and she has one year to figure out which one of her suitors is to be the one.

I desperately wish another publisher would jump on the Kusakawa bandwagon.

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Spring Roll: Spring 2010 Anime Guide

And so the clouds parted and the moe besieged anime fans wept when the darkness cleared and they saw written on the sky: Not that much moe anime this season. The spring season as always has a whole slew of new shows but this year also has a wide variety. Moe is still around but it is equal partners with other types of shows. We easily picked out 13 shows to give a chance this season and did not break a sweat in choosing what we did. We only reviewed 11 shows in time for the preview but we will look at the remaining 2 shows in the Ongoing Investigations. I am not sure how many of the shows will live up to their first episodes but I was impressed how many started off very strong. Maybe just maybe anime will not die or stagnate into nothing but K-ON season 24: The Reunion Tour and The Retirement Plans of Haruhi Suzumiya.

To me each season means a new chance for anime to surprise me, though it does that all the time anyway, and a chance to grab things while they are hot. It also means that a few of the shows I had been watching wrapped up making some perfectly timed space for new goodies. It can’t be denied that it’s just plain fun to check out all the new stuff and in a way have to pare down what I’ll have time to watch on a weekly basis. I am happy to say that anime is back ladies and gentleman, and the spring is looking impressive indeed. As a reminder, we don’t review ongoing series or anything that we are more than likely not going to like.

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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.