Seven of Seven Vol. 2
Art by Azusa Kunihiro, Story by Yasuhiro Imagawa
When a mysterious jewel splits the introverted Nana into seven slightly different versions of herself, a whole new kind of harem manga begins to take shape! The manga version of this tale, based on the anime series of the same name (Shichinin no Nana in Japanese), takes a few more liberties with Nana by rewarding the fans with a little more sexiness than what could be shown on television.
Fan service is frequent, but never gets out of hand, and the character designs are so cute, it's hard to be offended by this amusing series. It's a little bit of a romance and a whole lot of comedy, but ADV still needs to work on smoothing out their English adaptations. Like many of their other releases, it reads a bit flatter than it should. Still, not a bad start for the fledgling (at least in the realm of manga) company.
This volume is a bit smaller than the industry standard size and lacks the color pages that ADV's larger books featured. I wish they'd just print all their books the size of Azumanga Daioh and keep the price within twelve dollars. Even tiny, this book is a nice lighthearted comedy for the manga enthusiast.
Full Metal Panic Vol. 2
Art by Retsu Tateo, Story by Shouji Gatou
Kaname Chidori leads a relatively normal life as an average student attending Jindai High School, with only one annoyance. Sosuke Sagara. A recent transfer student, the attractive but apparently insane boy is convinced that Kaname's life is in constant danger from an unseen foe. In this volume, Kaname begins to realize that perhaps Sosuke isn't so insane after all. Unfortunately, by the time of her realization, she's already been kidnapped by Sosuke's imaginary enemy.
Coming not too far after the fun anime series, Full Metal Panic offers a slightly different version of the story that was first serialized in NEWTYPE USA. The artwork is cartoonish, with solid tones used to shade most of the panels, but the character designs are solid, as are the mech designs.
Intrigue and humor always go together well, so this is an understandably popular series. Again, ADV needs to work on the writing a bit, but the other technical aspects of this release - size, price, color pictures, original sound effect text - are pretty good. I'm not sure I like the translation of sound effects right next to the Japanese writing, however. I'd rather have it off the artwork altogether, but no one's perfect, I suppose.
Seraphic Feather Vol. 4: Dark Angel
By Hiroyuki Utatane and Toshiya Takeda
Another installment of one of the most beautiful manga series out there. I'm glad to finally have the fourth volume of this excellent sci-fi series in my hands. As I've said before, I wish these would come here faster, but as I was informed by one of the staff members working on the localization, this is an ongoing series in Japan, so it's not their fault.
This story is about a teenager with paranormal powers named Sunao Oumi who gets entrenched in a Earth and Moon spanning conflict for control of an amazing alien technology. He's been unexpectedly reunited with Kei, a young girl whom he believed had died in an accident quite some time ago.
The artwork is exceedingly lush, and the action scenes are as thrilling as the attractive character designs. Almost any given page would make a nice poster, or pin-up picture, depending on what you are looking for. Male characters range from average looking to bishonen, but most of the females in this series are textbook knockouts.
Studio Proteus always produces the best writing for any manga adaptation into English. I was relieved to discover that the book is the same size as the preceeding three volumes, though I was somewhat hoping to find that they had decided to leave it unflipped. The person who informed me of the reason for the time between volumes also seemed to suggest that flipping art so as to not confuse us Westerners was the better thing to do, but I for one don't mind getting a "cheapo" version of a manga series. Not when "cheapo" means not screwed with, at least. And, for the record, apparently the hordes of people eating up Dark Horse's unflipped books like Hellsing, Trigun, and Berserk don't mind either.
Shadow Star Vol. 4: Nothing but the Truth
By Mohiro Kitoh
This manga shares the same technical qualities as Seraphic Feather, reviewed above. To recap, it has an excellent translation and adaptation, it's put out at an ideal size, and the cost is less, but it has a smaller page count than Seraphic Feather. It is also an ongoing series, and thus it also is burdened with a very long wait between installments. Actually, it's a science fiction story, too, but from there on, it's different. Save for the fact that it's a wonderful story, and the next volume is eagerly anticipated.
The characters stand out more than anything else in this great series by Mohiro Kitoh. The main protagonists, Shiina and Akira are young teenagers who befriend one another after sharing a fantastic secret. Somehow, the two girls have both bonded with a strange, star-shaped creature with the ability to fly. It's harder than any material they've ever heard of when defending them, but comfortable enough to ride on through the air. The creatures seem sentient, but never speak. Here, in the fourth book, we're still not too close to finding out exactly where these creatures came from or what they eventually become, but Shadow Star remains enthralling, anyway.
Kitoh's artwork shines in this fantastic tale, with unusual character designs and an impressive attention to technical details. The creature designs are very imaginative, as well. Sometimes very funny and other times slightly disturbing, Shadow Star is a bit of an emotional trip, balanced with the skill of a master storyteller.
Club 9 Vol. 2
By Makoto Kobayashi
While I'm no fan of dialects, Club 9's lovable characters and unusual visual style has really grown on me. This isn't a sci-fi epic, nor is it filled to the brim with fan service, but it is wonderfully entertaining nonetheless.
Club 9 is where Haruo Hattori, a sincere yet clumsy country girl with a great knack for managing people, found a part time job to help her pay her rent while attending school in Tokyo. She grew up taking care of farm animals, but in Ginza, there's a whole new kind of pig to deal with, and as a club hostess, she's going to need to learn how to handle them - and fast. She may be inexperienced, by Haruo is no dummy, though she does have her own unique way of solving problems...
This series has one of the most unique looks out there, falling somewhere between the cartoonish look of classic Osamu Tezuka works and the more modern style of Jiro Taniguchi. The scenery looks real, but the characters are more caricatures than accurate portrayals of people. This combination works out amazingly well under the skilled hands of Makoto Kobayashi, who even wrote in a parody of himself as a character.
This is one of the funniest books out there today, and while you may spend a lot of time worrying about Haruo as she gets into sticky situations, you won't notice your concern for all the laughing Club 9 will provoke. This is good stuff, and a welcome change from practically everything else out there.