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The Seven Deadly Sins, Vols. 1 + 2

July 16, 2014 1 comment

Another Wednesday means another review! This week I’ll be taking a look at The Seven Deadly Sins, Vols. 1 + 2 from Kodansha. Before we get into that, here are a few news items that have caught my attention over the past few weeks.

A lot of those stories were slated to be linked to in last week’s column, but due to the flood of manga news they got bumped back until now. Better late than never! With that done, it’s onto this week’s featured review of The Seven Deadly Sins, Vols. 1 + 2.

The Seven Deadly Sins, Vol. 1The Seven Deadly Sins, Vols. 1 + 2
By Nakaba Suzuki
Kodansha Comics
Rating: Teen (13 +)

The land of Brittania is in turmoil! A group known as the Holy Knights have overthrown the King, forcing Princess Liones to seek help from the legendary group of knights known as The Seven Deadly Sins. Unfortunately for her, the group has been declared outlaws for nearly a decade following an attempted coup of their own. Struggling to save her kingdom Liones must track down these outlaws and uncover the conspiracy surrounding the Holy Knights actions, in Nakaba Suzuki’s The Seven Deadly Sins, Vols. 1 + 2.
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Knights of Sidonia, Vols. 5 + 6

July 9, 2014 1 comment

It’s Wednesday, which means it must be time for another review! With the recent release of Knights of Sidonia on Netflix, I figured now would be a good time to revisit the series with a look at Knights of Sidonia, Vols. 5 + 6. Before we get to the review though, there’s a ton of manga news out of Anime Expo from this past weekend. Below are a few manga highlights from the con.

That’s just a taste of the news that came out of the convention, if you want more I highly recommend swinging by Anime News Network and checking out their full coverage. Before you go running off to do that though, stay and take a look at this week’s featured review of Knights of Sidonia, Vols. 5 + 6!

Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 6Knights of Sidonia, Vols. 5 + 6
By Tsutomu Nihei
Vertical
Rating: T + (Older Teens)

Set in the distant future when mankind has been forced to the stars in massive ships like the Sidonia as they battle for their very existence against the biological nightmare knows as the Gauna, Knights of Sidonia is a sci-fi/horror series from the brilliant Tsutomu Nihei, creator of Blame! and Biomega. As a meteor controlled by the alien Gauna threatens the Sidonia, Tanikaze and the other young pilots of the mecha’s known as Garde’s find themselves facing off against a veritable army of Gauna’s, and even if they can survive the initial wave of Gauna guarding the meteor, can any of them stand against the enigmatic and unique Gauna dubbed the Hawk Moth? All this and looming threat from within awaits in Knights of Sidonia, Vols. 5 + 6.
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Say I Love You, Vol. 2

July 2, 2014 3 comments

Welcome to the latest review at Sequential Ink! This week I’ll be taking a look at Say I Love You, Vol. 2, but first, please enjoy some news-y tidbits!

With the news roundup out of the way, it’s onto this weeks featured review of Say I Love You, Vol. 2!

Say I Love You, Vol. 2Say I Love You, Vol. 2
by Kanae Hazuki
Kodansha Comics, 160 pg
Rating: Older Teen (16+)

With volume 2 of Say I Love You, Kanae Hazuki continues to use Yamatao and Mei’s growing relationship and their circle of friends to explore the rocky shores of teenage relationships. With the introduction of several new characters, she takes the opportunity to look at body issues, teen sex, and more in this fascinating shojo series.
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Battle Royale: Angel’s Border

June 25, 2014 Leave a comment

Welcome to the latest review at Sequential Ink! This week I’ll be taking a look at Battle Royale: Angel’s Border, but first some news items and things that caught my eye during the week.

And now onto the featured review of Battle Royale: Angel’s Border!

Battle Royale: Angel's BorderBattle Royale: Angel’s Border
Written by Koushun Takami (with N-Cake), Art by Mioko Ohnishi and Youhei Oguma
Viz, 280 pgs
Rating: T + (Older Teens)

Created in 1999, Battle Royale was the debut novel of Koushun Takami. It’s a brutal tale set in an alternate authoritarian version of Japan which holds a yearly contest known only as “The Program.” Once a year a 9th grade class is picked to take part in “The Program” which forces the students to fight to death until only one remains. Now, for the first time in nearly a decade, Koushun Takami returns to his international sensation with Battle Royale: Angel’s Border. This single volume manga’s a collection of two short stories set around the events of the original Battle Royale novel. In Episode I, Toushun explores the friendship between Yukie and Haruka, the two girls who helped organize the all girl group that hid inside the lighthouse in the original novel. Episode II likewise takes a character from the all girl group, Chisato, and expands upon her relationship with the athletic computer genius, Shinji Mimura.
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Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Vol. 1

June 18, 2014 Leave a comment

Welcome back to Sequential Ink, or just welcome for those visiting for the first time. For those wondering, I’ve spent the last year or so writing Manga in Minutes column for Comics Should Be Good, part of Comic Book Resources. My association with them is now at an end, but my review writing isn’t! With that in mind I’ll be dusting off this blog and posting weekly manga reviews every Wednesday night between 6 and 7 PM EST. As time goes on I may expand a bit and return to mixing in American comic reviews and novel reviews as well, but first things first.

Now that that’s taken care of, let’s take a look at a few news items that caught my eye this past week.

Speaking of Attack on Titan, with the news out of the way it’s time to take a look at Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Vol. 1!

Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Vol. 1Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Vol. 1
Art by Hikaru Sugura, Story by Gun Snark (Nitroplus)
Kodansha Comics, 192 pg
Rating: Older Teen (16+)

Adapted from a visual novel included with the Japanese Blu-Ray release of Attack on Titan, Jikaru Sugura’s Attack on Titan: No Regrets, Vol. 1 delves into the history of Levi, one of the more popular characters in the series, and promises to show how he met Commander Erwin, joined the Survey Corps and became the character fans know and love.
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Godzilla

November 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Godzilla
By Kazuhisa Iwata
Dark Horse, 200 pp
Rating: 10 +

Originally created in 1954 by a legendary duo of Eiji Tsuburaya and Ishiro Honda, Godzilla stomped a path of destruction across Japan and on the silver screen that would span five decades and leave an indelible impression upon the minds of audiences both young and old. Arguably one of the most well known film franchises in the world, Godzilla has carved a swath of destruction through film, television, animation and, yes, comics and manga. Originally released in 1988, Godzilla was Kazuhisa Iwata’s adaption of Godzilla 1985 (aka. The Return of Godzilla) and was one of the first, if not the first, manga series released by Dark Horse Comics. With all that in mind one might expect Godzilla to be a lost epic, one of the cream of the manga crop. If only that were true.

The manga closely adheres to original Japanese movie, depicting the events that lead to the legendary monster’s return and the attempts of the Japanese government to halt the monster’s advance. The drama heavily unfolds through the eyes of a young reporter named Goro Maki and others as they desperately try to cook up a scheme to defeat the monster. The story is solid and fans who have only seen the US edition of the movie, Godzilla 1985 will be pleased to see the original plot line unfold pretty much as intended with a little extra focus on the human characters and their relationships to one another.

While the story remains as solid today as it was in the 80s, the artwork has not aged as well. The character designs are hideous and the heads seemingly emerge from the torso sans any necks. Mouths are placed at bizarre, impossible angles and everyone emotes dramatically no matter what conversation is being had. There’s a distinct lack of background throughout most of the book which in turns hurts attempts at conveying atmosphere or location, particularly for the human portions of the book. Thankfully Godzilla fairs a little better and comes off looking appropriately monstrous in several portions, and there are also some lovely full page spreads showing the amount of devastation that his rampage wrought upon Tokyo. The few actions that occur are unfortunately short and lack any real ebb and flow, often times feeling static and.. dare I say it, almost boring at times.

Godzilla is an interesting historic relic, but sadly that’s about it. The manga leaves a lot to be desired in the visual department, which is kind of key for any Godzilla comic or manga. The story itself holds up alright, it’s just not a fantastic adaption. If anything, I guess this goes to show that it’s not just American comics which has run into problems with translating the exploits of King of Monsters into the sequential art medium.

Godzilla is available now from Dark Horse Comics.

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Skullman

October 21, 2012 1 comment

SkullmanSkullman
By Shotaro Ishinomori
Comixology 94 pp
Rating: 15 +

Shotaro Ishinomori’s manga classic, Skullman, is available for the first time in the US thanks to the fine folks at Comixology! This singe volume story tells the tell of a dark, masked avenger carrying out a war against a massive, secret organization that seemingly controls the world. Unlike his spiritual brothers in the Kamen Rider franchise, Skullman presents a rather grim take on the concept.

This is something I’ve been wanting to read for a while now and there’s something of an urban legend feel to it’s creation. The story goes that Ishinomori was asked to create a new hero for a kids show Toei was putting together. He presented them with this, Skullman, a dark, grim and possibly insane man waging a war against a secret organization. Reportedly the executives rejected it as being too violent and scary, so Ishinomori went home and after a few days he tweaked the concept and thus was born Kamen Rider. Indeed it’s hard to look at Skullman and not see quite a bit of Kamen Rider present in it. But make no mistake, the executives were right on this account; Skullman is surprisingly dark and he’s definitely not a knight in shining armor, he’s not even a knight in slightly tarnished armor, he’s a driven man who seems to take sadistic glee in the lives he takes and at one point even claims that genocide is an acceptable means to his ultimate end.

Shotaro Ishinomori’s artwork is lovely and effective. His action scenes are easy to follow but exciting and he does a fantastic job at conveying motion, speed and energy throughout the book. At times the cartoony style does seem to clash with the grim nature of the story and there are a few moments which lose a little impact because of it. In addition there’s another small issue with Skullman when it comes to visuals, namely… Skullman himself. His costume is fine, the all black clothing and the jacket that is vaguely evocative of some kind of military dress suit and the cape all work wonderfully together. It’s the helmet that really threw me a loop though. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the recent Skullman anime series, but Skullman’s helmet in this just doesn’t scream scary or skull to me. It’s a large, white helmet which covers most of his face, leaving his mouth and jaw exposed, with two giant red eyes. It’s not terribly skull-like and actually made me think of Riderman rather than.. a scary, skull like monstrosity. Still, despite this and the odd cartoony style I did love the book and it has some absolutely gorgeous moments. The opening with the giant bat in particular is visually impressive and memorable.

I’m incredibly glad that this is finally available in the US and I’m very thankful for both Ishinomori Productions and Comixology for getting it out to us, along with several other series of his that I’ve been interested in. While I did have some minor issues with the visuals as I mentioned above, and the ending feels a bit sudden and anti-climatic, I did enjoy reading this and I can see myself going back to it again and again in the future as well. Fans of classic manga, tokusatsu shows like Kamen Rider or the Power Rangers, and superhero fans in general should definitely give this a look.

Skullman is available now from Comixology.

Mega Man Megamix, Vols. 2 + 3

September 28, 2012 1 comment

Mega Man Megamix, Vols. 2 + 3
By Hitoshi Ariga
Udon Entertainment
Rating: Not Rated

Hitoshi Ariga’s retelling of Mega Man’s exploits and battles against the evil robots of Dr. Wiley continues in the final two volumes of Mega Man Megamix! These two volumes cover events from the various games and come complete with two collections of of Mega Man comedy strips.

Despite these being the final two volumes there’s no real closure on the adventures of Mega Man. We get some thematic climaxes with regards to why Mega Man does what he does and what makes him special amongst the various robot characters, but people looking for a more complete finale may find themselves disappointed. Game wise these two volumes seem to cover up to Mega Man 6 or so, though it doesn’t really adapt them so much as retell and brush over. Many of the events in the climatic volumes don’t really line up perfectly to in game events but the tale’s are so engaging I can’t imagine it’d matter to any but the most hardcore of Mega Man fans.

Ariga’s artwork seems to improve with each volume as does the intensity of his action scenes throughout these two books. His style seems to fit the world of Mega Man perfectly and his character designs look faithful to the original and are slick and eye catching. It’s a bit of shame that the later robots were so ornate and over done that they really seem to clash with the earlier, streamlined designs. Despite this Ariga manages to make even the more ornate designs fit in with the rest of the robots regardless.

It’s not life changing but Mega Man Megamix has been a fun, upbeat and enjoyable series. It also deals with some rather interesting material such as what it means to be a robot, free will and more without being too angsty or depressing. It’s been a good, solid read and I’m hoping to track down volumes of Ariga’s follow up, Mega Man Gigamix in the near future.

Mega Man Megamix, Vols. 2 + 3 are available now from Udon Entertainment.

Rurouni Kenshin, Vol. 6 (Viz Big Edition)

September 5, 2012 1 comment

Rurouni Kenshin, Vol. 6 (Viz Big Edition)
By Nobuhiro Watsuki
Viz, 584 pp
Rating: T +(Older Teens)

Rouroni Kenshin’s epic Kyoto arc comes to a head! For the past several volumes Kenshin and his allies, the brawler Sanosuke Sagara, former Shinsengumi member turned cop Saito Hajime and the rest have clashed with the forces of Shishio from Tokyo to Kyoto and now the battle comes to its conclusion with the final showdown between Kenshin and Shishio! But as one threat fades another rises as more figures from Kenshin’s past emerge from the shadows.

It’s been a while since I’ve read Rurouni Kenshin but one of the things that impressed me is how easy it was to get into the story even after a break of a year or more from it. As mentioned above this volume finishes off the Kyoto arc which is probably the best known and most well regarded arc from the series. I saw it years ago in anime form on Toonami and it’s lovely to see it in it’s manga incarnation. Everything that comes after it though, that’s all new material and uncharted territory for me. I’m rather interested in it all since finding out more about Kenhin’s history is always welcome. That said I’m a little worried that Watsuki’s repeating himself here. Shishio’s arc was pretty heavy with Kenshin being forced to face and deal with his violent past and judging from the second half of this volume it looks like we’re heading there again. At least it looks to be a little more personal this time around though.

Visually Watsuki’s art is pretty fantastic. While we get the odd hit or miss character design in this volume when he gets it right he gets it right in a big way. Shishio is an incredibly memorable figure as are most the cast involved in the final showdown with him. The new group doesn’t look quite as good at this point but we haven’t seen much of them yet but at least one character is noticeably anachronistic and another is the fourth or fifth X-Men we’ve seen so far. Watsuki’s action scenes are intense and full of splash pages that feel like they’re ready to explode off the page. While they’re lovely to look at I found myself wanting some more back and forth in the fight. Some smaller moments between the big moves and supposed one hit kills would have been nice and I think the final battle with Shishio which dominates the action in the volume really would have warranted them. It’s also worth mentioning that thanks to the paper quality of the Viz Big line Watsuki’s art looks absolutely fantastic and beautifully sharp and detailed. Whether it’s the line work indicating speed and force or just the quiet Kenshin gives Shishio it all looks crisp and amazing and as good as anything coming out today.

I’m still digging the hell out of the series even if the final battle with Shishio wasn’t quite what I was hoping for. It carried a nice emotional punch though and the following arc certainly seems to be something I’ll be interested in reading. Hopefully this time I won’t wait a year or so in between tracking down the Viz Big volumes.

Ruouni Kenshin, Vol. 6 (Viz Big Edition) is available now from Viz.

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The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Vol. 12

August 27, 2012 2 comments

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Vol. 12
Written by Eiji Otsuka, Art by Housui Yamazaki
Dark Horse, 224 pp
Rating: 18 +

After far too long of a wait Eiji Otsuka’s and Housui Yamazaki’s wonderful, black comedy, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service continues with it’s twelfth volume! We’re treated to three tales this time dealing with a Second Life-esque virtual world, stand up comedians and some rather disturbing dolls.

For those not familiar with this series here’s a brief rundown of the central idea behind it. A group of students at a Buddhist university are having trouble putting their unique skills and talents to use in the real world (embalming, dowsing, etc) so they come together via a college club and end up dealing with the dead. They communicate with them, solve mysteries, transport corpses and more all for a fee which often comes from the corpses belongings. It’s absolutely hilarious, well drawn and genuinely scary and disturbing in many areas. This particular volume continues the trend of shorter more stand alone tales though there are a few continuing subplots. This usually kind of annoys me since there are some mysteries and counting story arcs at the center of the series and for the past several volumes they’ve just kind of meandered showing the KCDS crew taking on various jobs here and there. Thankfully Dark Horse has been slow to release volumes of the series so by the time one does come out you’re so starved for it that you don’t really mind the fact that the volume consists of three one offs. It also doesn’t hurt that the one offs in this volume are pretty fun. The first is a twist on the idea of prisoners being forced to play online games as part of their punishments and while it’s not inherently funny there’s a certain visual that runs through it that’s both hilarious and kind of creepy. The second tale, probably my favorite for this volume, focuses on an ill fated romance between two would be stand up comedians. While the comedy is far more prominent it doesn’t really shy away from the disturbing imagery. It does a fantastic job at nailing the mix of humor and horror that makes the series such a treat to read. The final tale involving a certain dictatorship on the Korean peninsula is clever and focuses on the supporting cast as the two unofficial leads of the series are away for some unknown reason. It not only tells a rather disturbing tale that mixes historical fact into it’s tapestry but it also expands upon one of the characters histories and gives some possible hints regarding his particular mystery and “origin”.

Visually the book continues to be absolutely solid thanks to skills of Housui Yamazaki, It’s clean, easy to follow and he’s got a great sense of pacing for the more disturbing and horrific moments. In addition he knows when to ramp up the detail and when not to. Most of the book looks simple and clean but when gore is called for the detail ramps up, the pacing alters to heighten the mood and tension and it becomes a glorious bloody mess with corpses, faces being removed and much more. He’s really a fantastic and underrated artist who seems to deliver on a consistent basis.

The series takes forever to come out but once it lands I devour it. This volume was no different. It’s incredibly entertaining but the short story nature of this volume and most of preceding can make it feel like the series is just spinning it’s wheels. That said The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service in wheel spinning mode is still an incredibly fun and entertaining read that fans of black comedy and horror shouldn’t miss out on.

The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, Vol. 12 is available now from Dark Horse Comics.

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