Manga

Manga Review: Nightmares For Sale by Karou Ohashi

Nightmares For Sale, or Akuma no Omise: Shadow & Maria, is about a pawn shop that specializes in buying items that are evil. I thought I would like this manga for just that reason, but the devil-like pawn shop owner and his sassy doll assistant trick people into scams that they can’t possibly win, often costing them friendship or life. I found this to be a depressing book with sad stories. One story is about a beautiful woman who wants to be a model, but doesn’t photograph well. She is told that for a price she can photograph well, but that it is draining. She is soon in every magazine around the world, getting jobs left and right, but every camera that takes her picture drains life from her.  Only weeks later she is an old haggard lady and some paparazzi try to take her photo, which causes her death.

There are tales of friendship rings causing friends to be hateful to one another and an aborted son torturing his mother from the grave. Nightmares for sale is right! But don’t dare go near that pawn shop. You may come out wanting to off yourself without even buying anything!

The cover is deceivingly innocent. The art in this book is modern and the printing quality is clean and easy to read. For such a tame manga, it has a surprising use of bad language.

If you’re into tales where people taunt people to death or cause their lives to become utterly miserable just for the hell of it, this book is for you.

Manga Review: Angel's Coffin by You Higuri

Angel's Coffin is a one volume tale about Seto, a deity trapped in a book by the demon Baphomet. When Marie, an 1889 socialite, releases him, he thinks killing her to break the demon’s curse should be a snap. But he falls in love with her and can’t do what he must. Marie’s mother is only interested in marrying her off well to increase their social status. It helps that Marie is in love with Prince Rudolf of Austria. Because Seto promises to help Marie find her heart’s desire, he has to watch as Marie meets Rudolf and they fall in love. Unfortunately, Prince Rudolf has dealings that may mean the end to them both. Seto might be able to stop their demise, if only he can get away from Baphomet’s Curse.

Marie’s sickeningly sweet dreams of love might drive you away, but the pretty boys in this one might bring you back. The art is fantastic and the clothes in this volume are gorgeous and detailed. However, I found the chibi portions silly and “Cathy” cartoon-like. The representation of the demon Baphomet as an eyeball with bat wings is rather awesome.

Extras in the back of this book are:

  • A side story about the Prince’s manservant and how he loves the Prince.
  • A letter from the author.

Still interested? Check out Angel’s Coffin at Amazon.com.

Manga Review: Dolls by Yumiko Kawahara

What if Lestat was a shop owner?In Dolls, you can pretend our much beloved vamp owns a doll shop. Only instead of terrifying you by sucking your blood, he does it by selling you evil dolls.

This is a manga full of short tales about a doll shop owner and his beautiful “plant dolls”. The artist creates a haunting atmosphere  accompanied by the intricate lacing and curls of the dolls. At times, the doll renderings are so lifelike, you might feel like one of the clients, tricked or lured into buying a doll you cannot afford.

In the first installment, Milk at Mealtimes, you might think you’re reading a fan comic of Lestat, Louis, and Claudia. However, although the characters look like our favorite trio, they act quite different. A man is lured into the shop by the dolls beauty. He is conned into purchasing her by the shop owner and finds his doll has been spoiled by a previous owner. She will only sleep on luxury sheets, drink from the finest china, and eat premium sweets.

Doll’s care instructions: Milk three times a day Sugar cookies once a week Change into fresh clothes daily. No direct sunlight. Nothing more that milk & sugar cookies. Lots of love from owner.

As the weeks wear on and the owner realizes he can not make the doll content with what he has, he begins feeding her brandy. A few months later, we see the owner poor, destitute and the doll fat and spoiled.

These cautionary tales must come from some desire to teach businessmen a lesson, for in each one there is a horrible outcome when the doll enters their homes. One man buys a plant doll for his daughter and they become so close, he cannot tell them apart. He ends up giving his daughter away instead of the doll. Another story tells of a greedy jeweler who wishes for a special gem that is only created from the tears of a certain doll. Unfortunately, he ends up going mad because he is unable to make her cry. There is another tale of an artist who will not paint people because everyone he paints, dies. I’ll let you find out what trickery the dolls have in store for him!

This manga reminds me of the old Twilight Zone episode, "The After Hours", where all the mannequins come alive in the store after dark. While reading, you will feel as if you are in a store with wall-to wall dolls… and as you turn to go, you could swear one of them reached to strangle you!

Beware of the Dolls.

Manga Review: Muhyo and Roji’s BSI by Yoshiyuki Nishi

Muhyo & Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation

The BSI is an agency consisting of two boys named Muhyo and Roji who at first I found childish and annoying, but they grew on me. Made for the pre-teen shonen-jump market, this manga has it’s scary moments. The boys battle all sorts of creatures from the underworld. There are monsters that look like langoliers, a scary chair that eats your shirt - and then you, and some ghosts that look like giant sorting hats from Harry Potter.

Muhyo and Roji help a host of ghost or demon afflicted clients. If you can get past Muhyo’s pint-sized Napoleon complex, you will enjoy it. Armed with his official magic book of law, Muhyo casts beings into the underworld by yelling out a law such as:

“The laws of magic, article 741- For the crime of unlawful object parasitization, I sentence you to the Night Train.”

After which a whole bunch of chugga, chugga zap happens and the ghosty with the mosty gets sucked into the Night Train to hell.

I was more impressed with volume two where they travel to the school of magic to try to see if Muhyo’s assistant can pass the magic law test. Once there, they find the school is taken over by evil and some of the people are infected. The infection makes mouths break out all over their bodies. The artwork of the mouths all over their bodies is done really well. The fact that it starts infecting everyone there, including the main characters makes it an exciting read.

Something annoying to me was the unusual break in words. I know sometimes when the words are translated, the boxes are not sufficient and for this reason they may have to break words unnaturally, but in this case there seemed to be enough room. Words like should-ers, na-gano, prefec-ture were confusing and made me pause in the story to figure them out.

Overall, this is an interesting series and might perhaps be a little scarier for the pre-teens than I found it. Good news is, if you enjoy this series, there are 17 volumes to gobble up with one more to come in August 2010.

Get your copy here from amazon: Muhyo & Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation

Manga Review: Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova

Just in time for CON season, this manga series will have you wondering if the author was sitting next to you at last years CON. Dramacon Ultimate Edition is a decidedly American style, but in this case, it works! Comic creator, Christie attends a comic convention with her boyfriend. Nervous and unsure what to expect, Christie finds she is more like the attendees than she thought. The only problem is that her jerk of a boyfriend is flirting with all the skimpy-costumed chicks. Trapped behind a table in artist’s alley, she stews as he goes off to a panel by her favorite author without her. Running away from her boyfriend after a fight, she knocks into a cute, understanding guy who teaches her to stand up for herself.

This book is riddled with con details non-con peeps just might not get, such as: Getting lost in the maze of a hotel, trying to reign yourself in from buying too much at the dealer room, and being awed (and perhaps a bit jealous) of those brave enough to dress in cosplay gear.

There’s always a bit of drama and intrigue when going to a con and I think this author got it right. Who will you meet? Will there be a weekend romance? Will your favorite author be nice or a jerk? Svetlana also leaves us with an idea that I think we can all relate to. A feeling that comes from not meeting anyone interesting, not falling in love, or not seeing your favorite author.

“My first anime convention did not go smoothly, but all things considered… I can’t wait to go back!”

I think any con-goer will enjoy this little comedy/romance. I enjoyed the first one more than the second, but they were both enjoyable. The third book in the series has received mixed reviews. The series may continue, but right now Svetlana is working on other series such as Nightschool.

Extras include ten pages of author/artist thanks and fun manga shorts, fan art, and a feature on how manga goes from thumbnails to inks.

For more:

Manga Review: Alice in the Country of Hearts by Quinrose

Alert: Herbivores beware, rabbit discrimination! Warn your kits!

“These aren’t rabbit ears! They’re just long! I swear I am not a rabbit. I eat carrot cookies, cake, and tea. I like stuff made from carrots but I could never eat a carrot straight, so I’m obviously NOT a rabbit.”

How dare Alice, group people together based on the size of their ears! This is just one of the amusing quips in an awesome new manga series Alice in the Country of Hearts by Quinrose.

The first thing that drew me to these beautiful books was the art. Illustrated by Soumei Hoshino, the detailed display of clocks, sweets, architecture, and fashion is phenomenal.

I think any Alice lover will enjoy the new twists on our most beloved story. First, Alice is not the Alice we know. Instead of being curious and following the white rabbit, he tricks her into falling down the hole and then traps her in wonderland by force-feeding her a potion through a kiss. She finds herself in a land where everyone has a clock for a heart and they are fighting a war based on reincarnation. The characters are so detailed and interesting, I’m not even sure I can pick my favorite one.

Our favorite Mad Hatter in this book is Blood Dupre, a Mafia Don who leads The Hatters in war against the other factions. He is a gothic dandy, more interested in seducing Alice than the battle at hand. In his posse are two young boys dressed in fashionable military outfits and a non-rabbit enforcer named Elliot March. Something this author picked up on from the Lewis Carroll book, that I never thought of was the possibility of the White Rabbit and the March Hare fighting. I found this storyline beyond amusing.

Another sect of Wonderland is the Amusement Park District where Alice can enjoy all the normal sort of rides while being shuffled around the place by overly peppy park attendants. The owner of the park is Mary Gowland, an older hippie man who takes to drastic mood swings and plays the violin very badly. Gowland and Dupre are in a war because Dupre makes fun of his name, which when said in such a way, sounds like Merry Go Round. The fights between Gowland and Dupre are fun to read. Gowland can turn his violin into a gun and Dupre doesn’t even flinch when his hat gets shot off.

Boris Airay plays the part of the Cheshire cat.  A cosplay kitty boy who loves to get in scrapes. He is often found by Alice, in the woods, sometimes nude, with horrible injuries that heal when he licks them.

The Queen of Hearts is pretty much the same as in the original Alice story so far, not much is known about her yet. The caterpillar is Nightmare, a handsome, eye-patched man dressed in elegant blacks. He mainly just gives more info to Alice, explaining terms the wonderland folk use and adding a sense of foreboding as he hints at dangers unseen.

Two new characters to the Alice tale are perhaps the most interesting. Julius Monrey is in charge of the Clock Tower Plaza, a neutral zone in wonderland and the place where all clock hearts are repaired. Ace is a knight from Heart Castle that helps Julius recover the hearts when someone is killed. He seems a double agent, but can’t navigate to save his life. Not too smart, you might think he would fall prey to the Hatters, but he is a pro at sword fighting so that keeps him safe.

Even though this is a manga about the cheery, happy world of wonderland, the author keeps that sinister air about it so that you are just as curious and frightened as Alice. The most chilling part of this retelling is the connection between the shadow people and the servants with no face. I’ll let you unravel that one on your own.

I’m excited to tell you that the third book in the series is coming out on June 1st, just in time for my birthday! Volume four should release in August.

Check out these awesome books at Amazon.com.

Manga, A Few Disappointments

I don’t usually like to write bad reviews because I feel like they are a waste of my time. Why would I want to waste my time writing a review on a book that I didn’t enjoy reading in the first place?  To warn you about them.  I have three mangas to warn you about with one that I was so eager to read, but fell short of my expectations.

Pantheon High by Paul Benjamin & Steven Cummings

This is a book for someone more into super heroes and mythology than I am.

They introduce too many characters in a short period of time. You don’t get enough time or information to care about any of them. Without in-depth knowledge of all the pantheons (Greek, Roman, Egyptian, etc…) you won’t get the inside jokes they make about the gods and their offspring.  There are way too many boob and butt grabs and premature boy fantasy panty shots. The slang is overly ghetto speech as if an adult is trying to mimic how “those kids today” talk. There is an annoying girl trying to speak Buffy speech with comments like, "Rude much?", "You aren't blogworthy.", and "dorks.com" but it's not working.

The art isn’t that bad and there is a cool part where they show the students report cards with grades, parents names (usually gods), achievements, and evaluations. How ever cool those snaps are, it doesn’t outweigh the annoying childish jokes and raunchy humor.

Descendants of Darkness by Yami no Matsuei

Way too much chibi in this book.

It’s supposed to be about shimigami, which we know from Death Note are scary as hell and we know from Dead Like Me, can be funny. But these shimigami are neither funny or scary.

It portrays life after death being run like a corporation, which could be kinda cool if they did it the way Beetlejuice does, but they don’t. Who wants to think life after death is in a boring office building? Snooze! To top it all off there are these strange birds who work in the office that appear to be owls in kimonos. Very strange.

The only thing that saves this tale is 3-5 pages at the end where an evil Doctor is introduced, but even this part makes no sense. I’m told the series gets better in volume two, but I’m not willing to spend time finding out.

IDOL by Dany & Dany

I am so sad that I have to write this about Dany & Dany. They are awesome Yaoi authors and I absolutely adore their manga book Anima, but for some reason I just couldn't get into Idol.

The printing is bad, which could mean it was done earlier in their career.

This is a basic man loves hooker story where the hooker kills a bad guy with the audacity to run over his favorite customer, an artist who he falls in love with.

The sneak peek in the back features a tale about an actor falling in love. I wasn’t thrilled with the art, the story or the characters… but the ad in the back for Dany & Dany’s The Lily and the Rose, has me hoping that one will restore my faith in them.

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Manga Review: Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket or Furuba by Natsuki Takaya is one of the most popular mangas of all time. Beginning in 1999, there are 23 volumes of girly, teal pastely silliness to wile away the time if you are a pretty, pink Lolita who loves puppies and cupcakes. Or, at least that’s what I thought. I never really paid attention to this manga series because of the impression the covers gave me and had my best friend not pushed it into my hand to borrow, I would still be under the misapprehension that Fruits Basket was mindless drivel.

I was mistaken. First, the plot is interesting and the characters likeable. Second, Fruits Basket is a story that any of us can relate to. It’s the story of being forgotten or left out.

I never connected the name Fruits Basket with the game we played as children where everyone is a fruit name and when the teacher yells “Apples and Oranges” everyone jumps up and tries to switch seats like crazy people. Apparently, when the main character, Tohru, was named in this game, she was given the title “Rice Ball” which we all know is not a fruit, and therefore would never be called. This is just one way in which Tohru is treated like an outsider.

An orphan after her mother dies, she is thrown out of her grandfather’s house because he is remodeling. Having nowhere else to go, she opts to stay in a tent in the woods where she will be out of everyone’s way. Luckily, she meets her neighbors who are a group of misfits like her and they offer her to stay with them instead of living in the tent. Soon she finds out that the misfits she’s living with are actually representations of Chinese Zodiac signs and when she hugs them, they turn into the Zodiac animal they embody. Not very ideal for the guy she’s in love with to turn into a rat in the middle of a hug, but this is just another obstacle in Tohru's quest for happiness. For me, the book was a series of Murphy ’s Law illustrations. They are the kind of issues we run into in everyday life. Just when you get promoted, the company closes. Just when you feel on top of the world, something happens that plunges you into depression.  For Tohru, just when she finds a family to love her, they turn into animals.

But Tohru, despite her troubles, has an excellent outlook on life. She is a shining star in the house and seems to make them all reevaluate what problems they have to face on a daily basis.

The beginning few pages of Fruits Basket #1, does have that bad printing that I sometimes talk about. There are extra side notes from the author that we enjoy such as giving insider information, tips, background on character names, etc… The extras in the back include two pages on the Chinese Zodiac, instructions on how to play Dai Hin Min a game mentioned in the story, and a two page interview with the girl who did the voice work for Tohru in Fruits Basket - the animated series.

This manga talks about something that a lot of us fandom enthusiasts already know:

Your friends can be a family.

Even if your parents are dead, your other family members are mean to you or don’t accept you, you can find people who care about you and who truly enjoy spending time with you. Sometimes, these people can be more valuable than anyone who shares your blood. Most of us in fandom understand this and we will always have more enriching experiences because we know there is someone out there that we can relate to.

Quite a bit to discover in just the first book of a series I shied away from for many years. I’d like to say thank you to my best friend Ari for bullying me into reading it. What’s that saying about judging a book by it’s cover? I’m wrong!

Checkout Fruits Basket at Amazon.com while there you can also find Fruits Basket - the animated series.

Manga Review: Black Butler by Yana Toboso

I am so stoked to be able to bring you this review. I’ve been waiting for Black Butler to be translated into English for over a year.

A short distance from London, just beyond the fog-cloaked forest, there stands a well-kept manor house.

Kuroshitsuji, or Black Butler, is an awesome gothic tale about a butler who can do absolutely anything. The art in the manga is the best gothic craftsmanship I have ever seen. In fact, before the English translation came out, I had to talk myself out of buying the Japanese version several times because I loved the art so much. I just wanted to hold such beauty in my hands and study the details even, if I couldn’t read the darned thing!

I just finished the English translation version and I am not disappointed in the least. The story and characters live up to the awesome artwork. So, what’s it about?

The Black Butler, Sebastian, is the kind of man anyone could use around the house. He can clean, garden, make the most delicious sweets, and even rescue you from kidnappers. Most would say that his type of know-how is impossible in a mortal and they would be right. Sebastian's master Earl Phantomville, a twelve-year-old boy named Ceil who is obsessed with games. Being the head of the family that owns Funtom, Britain’s leading confection and toy making manufacturer, liking games is a must.

The other servants of the house are comical, but useless. After all, who needs maids, gardeners, and man servants when one has Sebastian the greatest butler of all time? These other servants make it difficult for Sebastian to do his job by constantly messing things up, destroying china sets, poisoning the garden, and eating the Earl’s desserts. The Black Butler always saves the day with his quick wit, speedy service, and ultimate all around wonderfulness.

My favorite scene is when Sebastian is riddled with bullets and then stands, his coattails all in tatters and looks at the bullets in his hand. Then he throws all the bullets back at the baddies, effectively sending them to their graves. After the fight, he picks up his master and calmly walks for the room while apologizing that dinner has not been prepared.

As I have said, this artist is awesome. I haven’t been this excited about a manga artist since Kaori Yuki’s Godchild. From ruffled cravats and tailored suits to ornamented chandeliers and elaborate tea servings, every detail is beautiful. Even the chibi portions of this manga are well done.

A fun detail is that each chapter, Sebastian makes a special dessert for Earl Phantomville. The dessert is shown up close with a banner stating things such as:

Today’s Dessert: Apricot and green tea mille-feuille.

This awesome book includes seven pages of author notes with translation notes outlining everything you’d like to know about what is described in the book, including what mille-feuille is.

The author is definitely into portraying authentic Victorian England settings and clothing, but I’ve never seen a manga artist pay this much attention to customs, history of the time, and even what people might have been talking about during dinner.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the author:

I like black… …It’s a color that can’t be violated by any other colors. It’s a color that simply keeps being itself. A color that sinks more somberly than any other... …It’s a passionate, gallant color. Anything is wonderful if it transcends things, rather than being halfway.

If you haven’t bought a manga yet, this is the one to start with. Few others are in it’s league. You can find out more about Black Butler at Amazon.com.

Manga Review: Red Angel by Makoto Tateno

Red Angel is a masterfully drawn manga with an awesome color cover that gives just a hint at the gothic art inside. Author and manga artist, Makoto Tateno, brings to life the story of Mika & Eru who are brother and sister vampires.

For those of you who might have read her other works Happy Boys or Yellow and didn't like them, I believe that Red Angel deserves a chance.  You see, Mika & Eru are not like other vampire brothers and sisters. They have one unique quality that sets them away from the bunch. They just happen to reside in the same body.

Reminiscent of the novel, The Need by Andrew Neiderman, the brother and sister pair have a problem... whatever one of them does, the other has to live with. In Red Angel, this has to do with them moving constantly to keep their secret. Their crimson wings often leave mortals in a state of awe. Whether they feed or not, they usually cause death somehow and flee the scene.

Artwork in this book is beautiful with a nice dark feel throughout and gothic vignettes portraying a couple enjoying a kiss as massive wings shelter them or a flight of crows bordered by intricate crosses and lace. Tateno has a way of portraying action in the still shot so convincingly that the reader can almost feel the wind whip around them as wings flap, causing feathers to float by.

Each chapter is a different town and the vampire pair is not always the focus. We get to meet a couple of "bat men" who turn into bats but are not vampires, and Anney, who is holy and able to suck energy from vamps. Mika meets another vampire and finds out the hidden truth behind who she is and where she fits into creation.

There is a four-page extra in the back by the author, explaining the characters, ideas, and how the book was first published. Categorized as a Yaoi, I disagree. Perhaps it is just stuck into that category because of the woman and man in the same body. I find that the story is very unlike many Yaoi and the difference between the brother and sister is so definite, the reader really believes they are two different people simply sharing the same mortal-like shell.

You can find out more about Red Angel at Amazon.com.

Manga Review: X/1999 Prelude by Clamp

It’s pretty bad when you look at the cover of a manga a week after reading it and can’t for the life of you remember what it was about. It’s even worse when you flip through it and still can’t remember. That’s how it was with X/1999 Prelude. For those of you mesmerized by words like Voom, Woosh, SKRTCH, and Shaaaa… you will find pages upon pages of them with the confusing swirl of vortex art that denotes quick fighting sequences. Unfortunately, Dragon Ball Z-like action scenes overshadow this plot. Zombies are supposed to be attacking the main character, but you can't really see anything but glimpses.

What is X/1999 about?

I am still not sure. It seems the lead character has been away and returns to Tokyo to get attacked a lot. It is not clear what his goal is or if he even has one.

Highlights?

Well, there are a couple. First, a cool sword forms from a girl's hand. Second, there is an awesomely drawn princess with white eyes and an elaborate costume.

You might ask why I purchased X/1999 Prelude in the first place. Well, this was definitely a case of cover misleading. I saw the moon and the red splotches (which I assumed blood), along with what looked like bridge girders in the background and an ebony-haired hero. This is a good example of me not following my own advice. As I said in a preview post titled, How To Choose A Manga, I missed step #5, which is:

5. Flip through the book and check out the art. Is the detail inside as good as the cover art? Is it appealing to you? Is the printing bad, or is it crisp and clean? Do you stop every so often to let a “wow” or a “ooooohhhh” slip from your lips? If you realize it’s a steampunk fantasy once you get inside and you don’t like that sort of tale, please don’t buy it just because you like the cover. You will be disappointed.

Luckily, I bought this one early in my manga-buying days and hopefully have learned my lesson. I wouldn’t recommend buying this series unless you are a big DBZ fan or enjoy constant action with little plot.

Manga Review: Kamui by Shingo Nanami

KAMUI by Broccoli Books is a manga that I found a bit more interesting than the last one I read, Until The Full Moon. This manga has an edgy, tech infested, post apocalypse feel.

The world has been destroyed by a technology overload and resulting earthquakes. Humans cower in the face of robots, their only saviors being the NOA, an organization of scientifically enhanced twenty-somethings.

Atsuma is an unknown who allows himself to be recruited by the NOA in order to gain knowledge about an ancient being who may be able to help the humans regain earth control.  Atsuma has an orb that talks inside him. As a reader, it's not clear who or what it is, but it seems to be helping his mission.

In a sexy, gamer-style, this manga has a lot to offer video game enthusiasts and those interested in post-apocalyptic life.

The storyline, though intriguing, didn't really get anywhere in this first book. I'm not sure it's inspired me to buy any other volumes. The art was pretty good and the read wasn't bad. Unfortunately, Broccoli Books don't ever seem to wow me, which is probably why they ceased operations in December 2008.

If you'd like to learn more about Kamui, you can check out the volumes on Amazon.com.

Manga Review: Psychic Academy by Katsu Aki

7331448The National Psychic Academy: A place for psychically gifted youth to expand their powers, be hit on by frisky co-eds, and meet talking bunnies. Poor Ai doesn’t even believe that he has psychic gifts. How can he be expected to survive at a school where his brother is a hero and his talking bunny keeps pushing him into embarrassing situations? Psychic Academy rated 13+ reads like a schoolboy locker room chat. With many racy shots, young girl’s bathing, naked little fairies, and several “accidental” boob grabs, this book seems written by a young boy, for young boys.

The bunny, who claims to be Master Boo, speaks like Andrew Dice Clay and seems to want to pick up girls more than help Ai learn his skills.

“Now watch an’ learn as I pluck a copula young, unsuspecting, ripe tomatoes.”

Ai’s brother, Zero or “The Vanquisher of the Dark Overlord”, is over the top with his two page intro where the artist paints him like an old-time comic book hero, metal codpiece, cape blowing in the breeze. It get’s worse later, when Zero fights off a bully, using the clothes vanishing technique and tells the bully.

“That’s terrifying coming from a fool with his wee wee hanging out.”

Ai’s roommate is portrayed as the “stupid foreigner”.  I think he is supposed to be Middle Eastern and the way they treat him I find offensive. He wears robes, sleeps like some sort of Kama Sūtra pretzel, has a symbol on his head and is always doing dumb things.

If you’re not a male pre-teen, you’ll probably hate this one. For me, it was slightly entertaining because of the few magic fights involved, but not worth reading more volumes.

Extras:

None. But you do get to see a preview of the next volume. Featuring another accidental boob grab!

Still interested? Check out Psychic Academy at Amazon.com

Manga Review: Nightmare Inspector by Yumekui Kenbun

nightmareinspecAt the end of the Taisho era in Japan, a small tea house draws patrons to Hiruko. He is a Baku-he or eater of dreams. It is said Hiruko can enter a nightmare and release the victim from suffering. He can put people to sleep with the wave of his cane and accompany them into the nightmare. The stories in Nightmare Inspector are very odd and don’t seem to make much sense. In one case, a boy walks into the tea house and asks for help. It turns out he is a weather vane. I’m confused how a weather vane could walk into a tea shop and do weather vane’s have nightmares?

Another tale features a girl who always writes the same thing in her dream. She asks him to change it, but when they get to the part where he can, she ends up writing the same thing. There is a secondary character in the tea house who sometimes asks Hiruko what happened and his explanations don’t make much sense either.

There are also repetitive chapter beginnings which are common in mangas that were serialized in magazines.  I always think it is better for the editor to cut these out when composing the manga book.

I absolutely love the art in this manga. It’s a very interesting sort of steampunk/cosplay mix with long art deco kinds of lines. The styling of the Baku-he is awesome.

In back, there is a short letter from the author. The best thing in the whole book is a full page illustration/explanation of Hiruko’s cane by the friend of the author. It’s hilarious and informative. It makes me wonder what sort of manga would come from the author and best friend collaborating.

Check out this manga for the art. The story is not worth the read.

You can find this manga at Amazon.com.

Manga Review: Vampire Doll by Erika Kari

vampdoll1You gotta love the storyline for Vampire Doll.  A powerful vampire prince, Guilt-na-Zan, was sealed into a cross necklace by an exorcist. Years later, the exorcist’s descendant, Kyoji, releases him but there’s a catch. You see, instead of letting the vampire free to hunt, feed, and generally be his good old evil self, he awoke in the body of a wax doll. Not only has the exorcist handicapped Guilt-na-Zan by placing him in a cute blonde-haired girl with ruffles, he also expects him to be his maid. Such a concept probably has you wondering if it’s a horrible joke. Nothing like this could ever be good, right? Wrong. Though I was skeptical at first, I found Vampire Doll funny and entertaining. Example? There are many.

First, when Guilt-na-Zan first awoke, he tries to summon tempest and beasts, but with his new found doll body, all that comes is flowers and teddy bears.

Next, when he is given an apron by Kyoji, he asks what it is. Kyoji says,

“A special battle apron. Now your maid skills are at level two and your cuteness level is at five!”

Something about a powerful vampire prince being treated like a dress up doll is just too funny for words.

Other characters include Guilt-na-Zan's faithful bat servant, Vince, who is now in a man’s body. Although he has his own room with a bed, he insists on sleeping hanging from his feet in the closet.  He is cute, but very dumb.

Kyoichi is Kyoji’s brother and they have a bitter rivalry in which they try to kill each other regularly. Kyoji’s sister Tonae seems to be the only sane one. She adores Guilt-na-Zan’s doll form and every time she lets him drink a drop of her blood, he is able to transform into his male vampire form. These rare occurrences conveniently coincide with an event where they need his vampire skills to survive. Though Guilt-na-Zan's male form is like a 1980's hair band reject, he's still rather intimidating as the vampire prince.

In volume two, a master doll maker and his doll arrive to mix things up. The doll has scissor hands and a soul!vampdoll

The Extras

  • Glossy color pictures of the characters
  • Bonus comic strips which put the characters into silly positions or to tell jokes.
  • Author notes.
  • Trivia and Japanese word/concept definitions.
  • A funny manga about how the book is made.
  • A one page manga called “Sweets and Me” where the author explores why strawberries on cakes look so arrogant. “Nothing is done to them. They are naturally born with that shape. Yet, they have the attitude of a main ingredient!”
  • Cross over comics with the characters of Strange Plus.

Entertainment for hours awaits you in the pages of Vampire Doll.  If you’d like to purchase them, they are available at Amazon.com.

Manga Review: Planet Ladder by Yuri Narushima

Planetladder1Planet Ladder by Yuri Narushima isn't exactly something I would normally pick up. There is a teal and purple cover with “planet” in the title and a very doe-eyed heroine on the front. Nevertheless, somehow it appeared in my shopping bag. Perhaps it was the tarot card reference on the back. I was turned off from page one because of the poor printing quality. I suppose this art technique was used to outline a dream sequence, thankfully the art production was better once the character woke up.

Kaguya is a school girl who is kidnapped on the same evening her father is arrested for money laundering. Instead of just taking the girl, this kidnapper removes her entire room from the house. She finds herself in her room, but in some strange land with an android. The doll man filters water by sucking it in and then kissing the girl to give her a drink. Although this is a cool concept, it wasn’t enough to save the book for me.

There are a large amount of mangas that start with a dream sequence that makes the reader unsure of what is going on. Normally that is okay because it’s like a clue that you will slowly find out about later. In this instance, the book is full of these dream sequences and by the end of the book I still did not understand what was going on. It definitely did not make me want to find out what confusion would await me in the following volumes.

One cool aspect of this manga is the extras in the back. The artist gives an awesome two page android sketch with notes.

If this sounds like a manga that would interest you, check it out at Amazon.com.

Manga Review: Rozen Maiden by Peach-Pit

rozen2 Calling all goth-loli girls and Alice enthusiasts! Rozen Maiden is going to make you want to buy every single one of these volumes.

A boy named Jun, who has decided to no longer attend school, becomes addicted to mail ordering. He accidentally orders a doll who takes over his life. The doll then involves him in a game with her other doll sisters where the playfulness can lead to injury, missed bedtimes, and death.

In the first volume, the package arrives and the doll, Shinku, awakes. She starts ordering Jun around and commands that he swear to protect her. When he refuses, Shinku sends a butcher knife wielding, foaming-at-the-mouth teddy bear after him. Jun reluctantly agrees to her demands and she brings all of his action figures to life to kill the teddy bear. This opening scene tells you, you aren't reading any old manga... this one is going to be good!

Just when Jun gets used to having the irritating doll around, others start showing up. Jun’s sister, Nori, is no help as she adores the dolls and makes them all the little sweets and tea they want.

Even though they do tackle deeper issues such as depression and human frailty, there remains an element of little girl silliness to the story line. In volume three, a standoff ensues between the youngest doll and the other dolls. Their threat is cutting her off from the sweets!

“Listen up. We’ve secured the kitchen and fridge. If you ever want sweets again, you will give yourself up!”

This manga is more than a chaotic romp in a doll’s fantasy “Alice” game. It is a comment on teens who sequester themselves away from others in hopes to hide from ridicule from mean classmates. The message in these volumes is that if you go too far, your spirit and all your talents that make you special will be lost. While the authors seem to agree that there are some social situations that make us all want to cower in the attic, they also show us that we can’t let those haters keep our creative spirit down.

For you horror lolita’s, there are several freaky aspects I think you’ll enjoy. The first being Suihuintoh, the spooky doll sister who has black wings and tries to destroy the other dolls by terrorizing them in a mirror world called LaPlace.  In LaPlace resides a freaky rabbit in a tux and top hat. He is what they call the Demon of LaPlace and seems to be there more to confuse them than attack them.

Although Jun thinks the dolls have ruined his life, they really save it by making him face his fears and come out of hibernation. By the end of volume three, the story has changed to a serious nature when Suihuintoh kills one doll and takes a part of Shinku.  Jun risks his life to retrieve the part of Shinku and in the process learns more about his depression.

By the end of volume four, the creator has added another doll for comic relief. She speaks to a kitty cat about how she is going to infiltrate the house and begin killing dolls. It’s a throw back for me to those comics of Snoopy when he pretended to be in combat and snuck through the bushes to the enemy camp.  I think perhaps she was brought in for volume five in which Jun goes into a massive depression and the book is rather dismal if you don’t count the breaks they take to bring in the silly doll on a quest.

Spookiness (and Jun) return in volume six when an new doll is discovered. She has to be the scariest doll yet, wearing all white with a rose and thorny vines growing out of her right eye.

Over all this manga is very entertaining, but perhaps has a more dismal storyline than others I’ve read. The ups and downs in this plot might make you more emotional that you would think. The art is detailed and beautiful. As for extras, there aren't many.  Volume three has a few interesting collaboration comics with the mangas Zombie Loan and DearS. Volume four contains a cute comic on how the manga is made.

If you'd like to check these manga's out, they are available at: Amazon.com

Manga Gift Ideas For The Whole Family!

Why can’t Grandpa or Aunt Suzi enjoy manga? Well, because you haven’t found the right thing for them to read yet. Now manga can be for the whole family. Check out these titles for manga holiday gift ideas. Not only will it open up the old geezers to a fun new way to enjoy stories, but it will bridge the generational gaps and give you something to talk about at those long family gatherings coming up.

emmZFor grandma:

EMMA tells the story of a young Victorian maid and her forbidden love. If grandma likes Austen, Eliot, or Dickens, she’ll love this.

For grandpa:

THE MANGA BIBLE is an adaptation of the Christian holy book. If grandpa says he never reads anything but the bible, this is the perfect gift!

For mom:

THE MANGA COOKBOOK Filled with all those cute little meals you see in your mangas. Even if mom doesn’t read your books, maybe she can take pride in making fun foods and learning about Japanese culture.wolv

For dad:

Try one of the WOLVERINE mangas. These have been getting mixed reviews. Not all comic lovers can switch over, but what a better time to broaden dad’s horizons than the Holidays?

For older brother:

50 MANGA BABES TO DRAW AND PAINT Whether he is an artist or just likes to sit in his room a lot playing his X-box, this book has what most teen boys like. Mix up comics, computer games, and beautiful bodies, you’ll be his best friend at least through the holiday feast.

animaFor vampire-loving sister:

VAMPIRE KNIGHT This tale explores what would happen if vampires and mortals had to attend the same school. Though the vampires go at night and the mortals at day, what is unknown and mysterious draws the students together.

For your Yaoi fans:

ANIMA is the best Yaoi I’ve read to date (review coming soon). Take a male to male love story, sprinkle in some Steampunk and a bit of robotics? This Yaoi is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Warning: This book does have explicit adult content, please don’t buy it for granny.

bsiFor your bratty pre-teen nephew:

BSI: Muhyo & Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation- This is a great starter for any pre-teen who likes ghosts, but the bratty little investigator in this book will especially appeal to your irritating, know-it-all nephew! Not that any of us know anyone like that.

For your cool college-age sister who’s kind of a hippie:

THE TAROT CAFÉ A cute, eclectic coffee shop owner reads Tarot cards for her supernatural guests. Emerian's Tarot Café review.

rozenFor your best friend who’s a Goth-Loli gal:

ROZEN MAIDEN A guy orders a doll online and she comes to life. The doll then involves him in a game with her other doll sisters where the playfulness can lead to injury, missing bedtimes, and death.

For that co-worker who loves Jane Austen men:

GODCHILD An English gentleman, heir to the Hargraves fortune, is the most eligible bachelor in town. What the public does not see is that solves murders and is a poison specialist. Many volumes to this and the best part is if they get hooked, you have another series THE CAIN SAGA to buy next year! Emerian's Godchild review.

For your friend who’s still a rocker at heart:

PRINCESS AI A rock star named Ai is searches for her true origin in this music-infused tale. Emerian’s Princess Ai review.

For anyone that likes smart writing:

DEATH NOTE A magical notebook will cause the death of anyone who is written in it. Light, a student aggravated with the justice system, uses the notebook to attempt to bring criminal activity to an end. The storyline in this manga is the best thought-out, most intricate plot you will read in manga format. Emerian’s Death Note Review.

Perhaps you are looking for a gift your horror manga-lover hasn’t seen yet? Try:

Bloody Kiss 2 ( Nov 2009) Pet Shop Of Horrors: Tokyo 6 (Nov. 2009) Chibi Vampire 14 (Oct 2009) Vampire Kisses (Sept 2009)

If your manga-lover is past the lover stage and into the… “Hey, I think I could make my own manga!” stage, check out these new manga-drawing instruction books: Drawing Manga Animals, Chibis, and Other Adorable Creatures (Nov. 2009) Shojo Fashion Manga Art School: How to Draw Cool Looks and Characters (Nov. 2009)

Manga Review: Missing by Gakuto Coda & Rei Mutsuki

missingMissingis a story about a literary club where one of the members disappears. These students claim to be the smartest in school and attempt to show it off by having lengthy discussions about society, religion, love, etc… I have never, in all my manga-reading years, seen a story with more words in it. The bubbles are practically bursting with conversation. At one point the font is so small (to get all the words in the bubble) that it becomes hard to read. This is a good thing for those of you looking to get more intellectual stimulation from a comic. For me, it was kinda exciting at first, then got tiresome, and just before it annoyed me, they got into the meat of the spooky tale. The reason for the overly wordy manga is because it's an adaptation from the novel Missing by Gakuto Coda.

The character all us Gloom Cookies will like is named Kyoichi. He is tall, dark, handsome, and wears a long black cloak like a priest. He’s the type that sits in the corner reading while the others are going on about whatever nonsense they deem important. Sort of a modern-day Mr. Darcy, he scares people by merely pointing at them. A couple of the classmates worship him and call him “Your Majesty” or “Prince of Darkness”.

One day, a raven-haired beauty shows up outside and he is drawn to her. Soon he goes missing and the club members meet to speculate on where he has gone. My first thought was, if I was part of this club and they had to discuss every facet of my disappearance, I would be dead before they figured it out! They discuss Kyoichi’s fascination with death, the occult, ghosts, and the Kamikakushi which are “Stealers of Souls”.

A poem starts this manga, which I am not a fan of, and there is not much action. However, it does have a spooky element because of the kids investigating what could be the cause of Kyoichi’s disappearance.  They pull out reference books and start referring to especially spooky passages.

To read this review, you may think I didn’t like it, but In a strange sort of way, I did. This manga is like watching Dead Poet’s Society. It’s deep, makes you think, and might even cause you to shiver, but when you’re craving something fun, leave it on the shelf!

Extras: 4 pages from the author and an excerpt from the novel.

Interested in checking this out? Buy it now on Amazon.com.

Manga Review: Deus Vitae by Takuya Fujima

dvitae Deus Vitae first called to me because of the awesome cyber art on the covers.

In 2068 A. D., one of the last humans on earth, Ash, destroys a great city full of androids and saves an android named Lemiu from destruction because she shows human emotions.  This is not a manga for your young niece or nephew.   Rated 16+ and for good reason. There are many erotic scenes, body shots, and adult themes.

The story starts with a sort of android bible excerpt talking about the ultimate weapon, Leave, being created by the Argus Computer, programmed to protect humanity. Leave is now the mother of all androids.

"...and Argus said to Leave, go forth, and manufacture.  Leave begat four parent bodies- our blessed mothers, free from defect.  Free from impurity. And thus followed the era of a superior mankind, a being of higher intelligence and greater strength."

Deus Vitae is a sexy, erotic, trek through a post apocalyptic landscape.  The art is so detailed it's almost as if the work of H. R. Giger came alive and got colorful. This manga features extremely intricate battle drawings that you could spend hours studying.  The fashion is very high-octane, video game-inspired, space station fun.

Extras: Volume 1 has a four pages in full color on glossy paper.

If you'd like to check out Deus Vitae, volumes 1, 2, & 3 they are now available at Amazon.com.