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Brave 10, Vol. 4

November 26, 2014 Leave a comment

Welcome to this pre-U.S. Thanksgiving edition of my midweek manga reviews! This week I’ll be looking at Brave 10, Vol. 4 by Kairi Shimotsuki and published by DMP. But first, some news!

With the news out of the way, it’s time for this week’s review of Brave 10, Vol. 4!

Brave 10, Vol. 4Brave 10, Vol. 4
by Kairi Shimotsuki
DMP/Emanga.com, 208 pp
Rating: Young Adults (16 +)

The fourth volume of Kairi Shimotsuki’s historical fantasy, Brave 10, furthers the continuing adventures of Saizo, Isanami, Sarutobi Sasuke and the rest of the warriors who comprise Yukimura Sanada’s Ten Braves, as they attempt to fend off attempts by rival warlords and their minions to capture Isanami and the mysterious power of the Kushitama. This volume features crazy monks, mysterious ninjas, internal rivalries and Saizo excerise a surprising amount of self awareness as the plot thickens and one of the Braves takes his leave.
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Kimagure Orange Road, Vols. 2 + 3

November 12, 2014 1 comment

After last weeks small delay, I’m back on track with my midweek manga reviews! This time around I’ll be taking a look at Kimagure Orange Road, Vols. 2 + 3, but first some news…

And now, onto this weeks review of Kimagure Orange Road, Vols. 2 + 3..

Kimagure Orange Road, Vol. 3Kimagure Orange Road, Vols. 2 + 3
by Izumi Matsumoto
DMP/Emanga
Rating: Teen (13 +)

Izumi Matsumoto’s classic 80s teen romance manga series continues with Kimagure Orange Road, Vols. 2 + 3! These volumes are full of the romantic comedy hijinks you’d expect, as missed signals, misunderstandings and more plague Kyosuke as he wrestles with his feeling for Ayukawa despite his ongoing relationship with her best friend, Hikaru. While the first volume felt a bit flat and bland, the humor and development in these two volumes helps with that problem tremendously, as does Matsumoto’s decision to grow out the supporting cast with in the form of Ayukawa’s boss at a restaurant, and by the introduction of Yuu, a childhood friend of Hikaru and Ayukawa’s who’s got designs on winning Hikaru’s heart.
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Kimagure Orange Road, Vol. 1

October 15, 2014 2 comments

Welcome to another midweek manga review! This week I’ll be looking at 1980s romantic comedy, Kimagure Orange Road, Vol. 1, but first, there’s quite a bit of news out of New York ComiCon from this past weekend…

And now, the midweek manga review of Kimagure Orange Road, Vol. 1!

Kimagure Orange Road, Vol. 1Kimagure Orange Road, Vol. 1
by Izumi Matsumoto
DMP/Emanga, 176 pp
Rating: Teen (13 +)

Originally created in the mid 80s, Izumi Matsumoto’s Kimagure Orange Road blends psychic powers, high school life, and teenage romance into a series that, as Jason Thompson put it in his House of 1000 Manga column, “was THE archetypal shonen rom-com”. Now, thanks to DMP and Emanga, this classic series is available for the first time in the US, and we’re finally able to take a look at the romantic misadventures of the love triangle made up of the secret psychic Kyosuke, the energetic tom-boyish Hikaru, and her best friend, the cool and aloof Ayukawa!
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Brave 10, Vols. 2 + 3

October 1, 2014 1 comment

Welcome to another midweek manga review! This week I’ll be taking a look at Brave 10, Vols. 2 + 3. It’s been a bit of a slow news week, but there were still a few items that caught my eye.

And now, onto this week’s review of Brave 10, Vols. 2 +3!

Brave 10, Vol. 2Brave 10, Vols. 2 + 3
by Kairi Shimotsuki
DMP/Emanga.com, 192 pp
Rating: Young Adults (16 +)

Historical fiction is a genre that manga and anime seems to excel at. Of course, they tend to be pretty liberal with the fiction aspect, and Kairi Shimotsuki’s Brave 10 is no exception to this. Loosely based upon historical events and a group that may or may not have existed, the series follows the ninja Saizo Kirigakure, as he gets caught up with Isanami, a temple maiden who’s the sole survivor of a Tokugawa ninja attack upon her temple. Together the two find themselves caught up in the tumultuous events of the era. After the events of the volume one, the two find themselves aligned with the warlord, Yukimura Sanada, as he attempts to uncover the reasons behind the attack on Isanami’s temple and the secret behind the strange power she seems to wield.
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Hush A Bye Baby

September 12, 2012 1 comment

Hush A Bye Baby
By Yuriko Matsukawa
DMG, 198 pp
Rating: 13 +

Hush A Bye Baby is a collection of three short stories from Yuriko Matsukawa, each focuses on a young woman and the man she loves. The title story is about a young woman working at an all night store who ends up handcuffed to a former member of a biker gang who’s out to clear his name. The two stories that follow it, “No Saint of Soupe” and “Professional Passion” take place at a French restaurant called Poete and focus on romances involving it’s two French chefs.

The three stories are rather run of the mill romances and follow the same formula, a young woman finds herself flustered by a pretty boy only to eventually realize that she has feelings for him. In “Hush A Bye Baby” this budding romance is set against the young man’s fight to clear his name for murder, while in “No Saint of Soupe” it’s set against the young man’s attempt to prove himself as a chef to his older brother and in “Professional Passion” it’s set against a young woman’s struggle to prove herself as a reporter. They’re not terribly memorable and all three male leads and female leads felt awfully alike.

Yuriko Matsukawa’s artwork is rather forgettable and unmemorable. There’s no stand out scenes and it all feels like the stereotypical shojo manga style, pretty boys, borderless panels, sparkles and toning scattered about. There’s little panel to panel flow and at times I had trouble following the flow of dialogue as the word bubbles were often accompanied by bubbleless internal dialogue scattered about, narration boxes and more. In addition to this none of the characters look particularly amazing, memorable or impressive and often look eerily similar to each other at times. Most of the book is composed of talking heads and upper body shots floating against white, grey or minimal backgrounds, giving the whole thing an oddly ungrounded feel.

Hush A Bye Baby ultimately did nothing for me whatsoever. None of the stories were particularly interesting and the book didn’t do much to make me want to seek out further works by Yuriko Matsukawa. I get that I’m not the target audience for shojo, but surely there are better and more memorable romance stories than this out there. Itazura Na Kiss, springs immediately to mind. At any rate the bland artwork and bland stories resulted in a wholly forgettable read.

Hush A Bye Baby is available now from Emanga.com. Digital review copy provided by the publisher.

Categories: emanga Reviews, Reviews Tags: , ,

Dolls Don’t Cry

August 21, 2012 1 comment

Dolls Don't CryDolls Don’t Cry
By Kaoru Ohashi
DMP/DMG/Emanga, 223 pp
Rating: 18 +

From Kaoru Ohashi comes Dolls Don’t Cry, the tale of a girl named Sena who, after protecting a friend who would later betray her, finds herself attacked by a boy named Shin. The two fight on a foot bridge near their school and end up falling from it into a strange, fantasy, sci-fi world. Unlike the real world though, there are no women here, only strange engineered female sex toys called Dolls.

The story starts off like a fairly straight forward shojo or shonen series before it takes a hard left and begins to explore what it means to be a woman and ideas regarding the treatment and objectification of women in society. Sena’s starts off as a fairly strong and capable character but once she finds herself in the weird alternate reality she’s quickly thrust into danger as any man who discovers her secret, that she’s not a Doll but an actual woman, something that’s incredibly rare and unheard of in this world, pretty much attempts to rape her on sight. The story is fairly graphic in its use of sex as it puts Sena through the ringer, showing her as strong and capable one moment and helpless and scared the next. Along the way she begins to develop feelings for Shin. The feelings contrast with the sexual desire and urges that nearly every other male in the world has towards women and Dolls and the result is a complex look inside Sena’s mind. How on one had she desires Shin, fears him and how her feelings and how sex might change things between them and more. It’s a surprisingly complex tale that deals with the ideas of male/female relationships and the various ways in which they’re confused, tense and complicated by emotions and desires and to a degree societal pressures. Sena’s not the only one with mixed feelings towards a man. One of the Dolls, Thea, slowly develops feelings and a level of self awareness and comes to love her master despite his abusive attitude towards her.

While the story was a bit of a pleasant surprise the art wasn’t. It’s rather generic and bland looking with several characters looking alike. In addition to this Kaoru Ohashi uses a technique where there’s no toning or shading in some panels for emotional affect, but sadly this often leads to some of the characters who were only identifiable by their hair color looking exactly alike and things becoming confused. There’s a few short action scenes but they’re muddy and difficult to follow.

Dolls Don’t Cry is a bit of an odd duck. While there are certainly some interesting ideas regarding gender relations, the treatment of women in society and more, none of the ideas feel fully formed to me. The Doll and sex toy analogy is the most fleshed out on but even there it just didn’t quite click for me. It’s certainly an interesting manga and it does raise some interesting ideas and questions but in the end it just doesn’t hold together very well as a story.

Dolls Don’t Cry is available now from Emanga.com. Digital review copy provided by the publisher.

Barbara

July 16, 2012 1 comment

Barbara
By Osamu Tezuka
DMP, 435 pp
Rating: Not Rated

From the mind of Osamu Tezuka comes Barbara, the dark and bizarre tale of writer Yosuke Mikura and the winding paths his life takes after a chance encounter with a homeless, drunk by the name of Barbara.

Barbara is over 400 pages of sexual deviancy, occult happenings, mystic babble and ponderings upon the source of creativity and more. The story focuses on the relationship between up and coming writer Yosuke Mikura and the young, homeless drunk he takes in, Barbara. What follows is a car wreck of a relationship full of abuse, hijinks and more. It’s difficult to really like Yosuke Mikura, which is a bit of problem for the book since he’s the main character and the narrator throughout it all. When we’re introduced to him he’s already psychologically disturbed and for a while it seems like Barbara might be his savior in that regard. Sadly it’s not really the case and he goes from being a perverted, unlikeable jack ass to an abusive, unlikeable jack ass. Even in the later parts of the story when he’s shown to be struggling, trapped in a dead end life and desperately looking for a way out I just couldn’t find it within myself to root for him or hope he’d get out of things. Barbara isn’t a whole lot better. She’s got that whole “Magical Pixie Girl” thing going on, a beautiful woman who helps lift a broken man out of his doldrums and inspires him, but her constant state of inebriation and her willingness to take the non-stop abuse just makes it difficult to do anything other than hope she gets her life together and moves on. Now a tale of abusive relationships between creative types might have had some traction. There’s been plenty of them in real life that have made for compelling tales (ie. Sid and Nancy, but then Tezuka throws in tons of stuff involving magic, the occult and the fact that Barbara isn’t just your typical drunk. No, she’s literally a muse from Greek mythology. At that point the story went from a troubled relationship and veered into weird supernatural funkiness. It just gets weirder as it goes as the story takes stranger and stranger turns as it attempts to say something about the nature of creativity and insanity. And ultimately it does. It just takes a little while getting there and at times feels like it loses itself along the way.

Visually it’s as solid as you’d expect an Osamu Tezuka work to be. He does a fantastic job at depicting emotions, managing the pacing and allowing the visual flow of the story to just grab you and pull you along with it’s deceptively simple artwork. It’s also full of other little Tezuka-isms, warping walls or backgrounds to help enhance the surrealistic or hallucinatory feel of a scene or sequence and things like that. The humor is toned a bit though it’s certainly still present, absent are the visual gags that are present in many of his all ages works.

This was one odd book. Despite the rather unlikeable characters it was still a fairly compelling read and I found the pages going by at a surprisingly fast pace. It was enjoyable but I don’t think it’s one of Tezuka’s better works. It will undoubtedly find a welcoming audience here and while it was kind of enjoyable, fun and interesting at times I don’t think it’s something I’d find myself re-reading again and again.

Barbara will available on August 29th from DMP. Digital review copy provided by the publisher.

Categories: Manga Reviews, Reviews Tags:
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