Princess Ai

How To Choose A Manga

There are so many manga out, you may be asking, “How can I choose the manga that is right for me?” First you need to know what part of the manga you enjoy most. Do you love goth-loli art? A good story? Something with horror in it? It’s rare to find all these things in one manga series. Believe me, I’ve tried!

Some of you may rely on reviews such as this one to lead your way, but for those of you who are trying to create your own manga hunting style, here are some tips.

Know what you like

I look for good art first, story second.

Seems kind of weird for someone to say that about a book, but  unlike fiction books, mangas need to capture your eyes as well as your mind.

Good manga authors are a skilled, rare breed that can somehow create a tale and put it down in art in such a delicate fashion, you hardly realize you are reading what is basically a cartoon.  What good is a tale in a manga book without interesting art? They might as well have written a novel, let the publisher worry about the cover art, and stick to word writin’!

Know what you don't like

I am emphatically against talking animals in manga. I hate them. Bats and spiders are sometimes ok, but bunnies and doggies and 300-year-old kitties reincarnated from a once great vampire god? Don’t get me started! However, my best friend adores animals talking and absolutely loves the manga (that shall remain nameless) with the vampire kitty. My point?

Know your tastes and just because your best friend urges you to buy her favorite manga because it has vampires in it, don’t automatically assume you will in enjoy it.  There may be a wisecrackin' bunny hidden in the pages, and we all know what that leads to!

Hone your skills

Here are some tips on how to narrow the competition down.

  1. Go to a store with a large manga selection.  This shouldn’t be too hard as it seems manga is the only hot selling item in bookstores these days.
  2. Stand back from the manga shelves and scan.  If any cover draws your notice from a few yards back, it’s worth a look.
  3. Check out the front cover in full. Are you a chibi lover, or do you enjoy killer cyborgs with little chibi interference? Make sure the cover speaks to your taste. If you see one character you don’t like, put it in the maybe pile. There is a good chance that character is going to be throughout the book and will irritate you every time you turn the page and see them.
  4. Once you have narrowed down a few of the great covers, glance over the description on the back. Don’t put too much stock in the description because they don’t usually relate very closely to the tale. I’ve found that often manga covers seem to be written about the whole series and not about the one volume you are purchasing. As long as there are no talking vampire kitties, you are safe to go on.
  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.
  6. Finally, the tale. Read at least the first four pages to make sure you like the story. Does the character cuss like a twelve-year-old boy trying to show off to his mates? Does the dialog not flow? Is there some sort of back story you just don’t like? Don’t buy it. It will not get better. Unfortunately, in some stores (especially in Japantown) they seal the books. In this case, you either take your chances, or get smart and browse them online first. Sites like Amazon and Toykopop allow you to read the first couple of pages before you buy.

I tell you all these things because, like you, I once was a manga investigator trainee. I still get caught buying a stinker once in awhile. It’s all about:

  • Knowing what you want
  • Believing in your first instinct and
  • Sticking to it, no matter how much the commerce bug has got you itching!

For those of you who still can’t decide, I’ve made a list of my top five series. Check out the reviews, see if you might like them, and then put on your manga p.i. hat and get shopping!

  1. God Child by Kaori Yuki
  2. The Tarot Café by Sang Sung Park
  3. Princess Ai by Courtney Love and DJ Milky
  4. Death Note by Tsugumi Oba
  5. Millennium Snow by Bisco Hatori

Vampire Kisses Manga

The Vampire Kisses series by Ellen Schreiber has been a staple of the YA horror community for quite some time and now, you can read it in manga form.  Though I have not read the books in this series, the manga can stand on it's own as a work of art. vkVampire Kisses #1: Blood Relatives is a cute, teenage romance about an adorable goth girl named Raven and her gorgeous vampire boyfriend.  Raven reminds me of a young Death from Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics.  They added just a dash of chibi to make you forget you are reading an American produced manga.  The art, by REM, is gothic and modern with a beauty all it's own that will have any gloom cookie loving it from cover to the last scene.

This is the first successful book adaptation turned manga I have seen.  The art is well done, the story is edited well, and it accomplishes what it is meant to, which is encourage you to read the book series.  I can say confidently that this team "gets it" and I give them credit because not many trying to break into the manga market do.

We manga fans have come to expect extras in the back and we are not to be disappointed here.  They have included some cool behind the scenes sketches of all the characters.  I adore the goth-loli-punk sketches of Kat.

My only complaint with this little book is that it is too short.  It is a measly 98 pages while most mangas run 150-200.  Considering the novel this manga represents is on the slim size, I suppose they didn't want to stray from the series format and make it larger.  I am, however, hopeful for an all-encompassing omnibus of these mangas like TokyoPop did with the Princess Ai series.

I have high hopes for this series to continue in like style.  If you're looking to move from traditional manga into book-inspired manga, this is a great way to start.

To purchase Vampire Kisses #1: Blood Relatives on Amazon, click here:

Review: Princess Ai

14854742 Princess Ai is a girl with a slammin’ body who finds herself lost on the streets of Tokyo. Her clothes are in shambles and all she has as a clue to who she is and where she came from is a heart shaped box. The scantily-clad bombshell meets a young innocent student named Kent who attempts from that day forward to help and protect her. Ai soon becomes a star singer, has tons of adoring fans, and sprouts wings! If any of you know anything about Courtney Love or her late husband Kurt Cobain, you can surely see the connection between them and the story. Ai means “love” in Japanese and it is said that Ai is loosely based on Love’s life story. Her heart-shaped box, which is prominent in the story, was a hit song by Nirvana and referred to a present Courtney gave Kurt.mm1591826705

The secret of Ai's origin is one that unfolds so well in the books, that I wouldn’t dare spill it. It is interesting to see the evolution of fashion in these musically inspired books. The first volume starts with simple shredded outfits and ends with an almost Playboy Halloween costume Lolita dress. Volume two adds some cosplay elements and ends with an even more elaborate Bo Peep-ish Lolita dress. There is also a vampire-like adversary who is dressed like a succubus vixen, reminiscent of Morrigan Aensland from Darkstalkers. Volume three brings in a lot of Victorian elements as well as Kingdom and Edwardian styles. The art in all of the books is the kind that you can stare at for hours, whether you are inspecting Ai’s costumes for inspiration, or her body for pleasure.27788942

Special features in the books include:

Volume 2: An article about the making of the Princess Ai dolls.

  • Volume 3: Ai paperdolls, an afterward by DJ Milky, and a cosplay Ai look a-like-contest review with pictures of the fans.

For those hard core Ai fans, you might want to invest in the Princess Ai Roses & Tattoos art/poetry book. This book does not have any more story in it, but it does have plastic sleeves with 16 full color pin-up pictures of Ai. Each pin-up has poetry on the back. There are also 12 pages of Ai stickers that you will never want to use because they are just so cool.

Though I am a Princess Ai fan, there are several items I do not own yet.

33683624 Brand new Princess Ai books are coming. The first one was released in Dec 2008 and is titled: Princess Ai-The Prism of Midnight Dawn- Volume 1 by Christine Boylan & D.J. Milky. This is the first of the trilogy and my copy came with a music CD of Ai songs, though I am not sure all copies do. It’s hard to tell if this will be as good without Courtney’s input, but we shall see. I look forward to cracking it open and letting the dashPunk community know.

Princess Ai successfully combines a love of art, music, and fashion into a series that will have you occupied for hours. You can find these items at Amazon.com

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