Manga Shorts

by Patrick King and Adam Arnold

Alien Nine: Emulators

by Hitoshi Tomizawa
CPM Manga
Rating: 87%

Just when you thought you were safe from alien symbiotes desiring to strip away your humanity, the creatures from Alien Nine are back, though it's becoming hard to tell exactly who the enemy is at this point.

This volume upholds the visual and storytelling standards established in the first three books. The character designs are appealing, and the alien designs are creepy. This can be, at times, a gory series, though it's more adventurous than horrific.

The book is unflipped and the sound effects are untouched, though there are additonal sound effect translations on the pages that need them. There's an impressive amount of bonus material, including translation notes and a small omake comic. Fun stuff, and something you haven't seen before, Alien Nine is a treat.

Figure 17 Vol. 1

story by Genco-Olm, art by Guy Nakahira
ADV Manga
Rating: 80%

A neat story that hasn't quite taken off yet, Figure 17 is about a lonely young girl named Tsubasa who has grown up without a mother, but suddenly finds herself with a sister.

Hikaru, the newly aquired sibling, looks similiar and appears to be the same age as Tsubasa. In truth, she was created from alien technology as a byproduct of a defense mechanism her "real" sister, Tsubasa utilized to help a downed alien in the woods surrounding the young girl's house.

While this series has moments of action as dangerous aliens attack various people, it's more about Tsubasa learning to overcome her introversion with Hikaru's help.

The artwork is sharp, and the character designs are fresh. Gradient shading smooths out the overall look of the manga, but there are some complicated screen tones in here as well, adding more complexity to the visuals.

While there's some obvious potential here, the story hasn't grabbed me yet. I'm sure things will improve as we get to know Tsubasa and Hikaru better, and ADV is likely to have the next volume out shortly.

Just a Girl Vol. 1

by Tomoko Taniguchi
CPM Manga
Rating: 89%

Imbued with a sincerity not often found in manga, Tomoko Taniguchi's works are always a treat to read. Just a Girl is similar to many of her other releases in that it's a simple love story with some awfully charming characters. However, each of her projects manages to shine in its own unique way, and Just a Girl is no exception.

Erica is a young girl heading off to high school all by herself. She's used to not having many friends and relies upon her collection of stuffed animals to keep her company. Yet when she arrives at her new school, she quickly feels an affinity for Rena, an older girl in her class. Will her more mature new friend be a good influence on Erica, or will she always be just a girl? Thus the mystery of the book's title is revealed.

Taniguchi's artwork isn't the most dynamic out there, but it's very energetic and undeniably cute. The book is unflipped and retains the original sound effects, though translations are superimposed next to sound effect kana. There's a ton of extra material in this book, including an original short story in the back. There are a lot of notes from the artist throughout, as well, which may be familiar to fans of Yuu Watase, of Fushigi Yugi and Ceres fame. If you're looking for a simple love story with a strong heart, check this series out, and fall in love with Tomoko Taniguchi.

Trigun Vol. 2

by Yasuhiro Nightow
Dark Horse Comics
Rating: 90%

The second volume of the long-awaited manga incarnation of everyone's favorite man-shaped walking disaster, Vash the Stampede, is finally available thanks to Dark Horse Comics. Book two intoduces Wolfwood, the priest, and delves a little deeper into Vash's rough history.

Nightow's artwork can be confusing at times, but it's at its best when things get fast and frantic, which they frequently do, thanks to Vash. He's great at depicting expressions for his characters, from humorous to enraged.

As usual, Dark Horse has put out a nice edition of a great series. The book isn't nearly as large as the Dark Horse publications of yore, but they've finally gotten on the unflipped bandwagon (with some of their series, at least), and it makes up for the size reduction. The adaptation reads well, with minimal dialect-related annoyances. Overall, it's a nice package for a great series, and one well worth purchasing.

Neon Genesis Evangelion Vol. 8

by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
VIZ, LLC.
Rating: 91%

Finally, the agonizing wait for Neon Genesis Evangelion's highly anticipated eighth volume is over! Finally we get to witness the month-long inner struggle Shinji faces from within Unit-01, the expanded origin of NERV and the final fate of Kaji -- where fans finally get thrown a bone in regards to who might and might not have killed Kaji.

All the pieces are starting to fall together and it's about time. There aren't many series out there that can outlive their source material and honestly keep things entertaining, but Evangelion always seems to have something new up its sleeve. Undoubtedly the only reason to pick up this manga is if you have all ready seen the anime, but the experience presented here is so much more rewarding.

Also included in this volume is an informative look at eight of the harder to find books published to flesh out the Evangelion mythos. By far the biggest surprise here is the nice shipper moment between Rei and Shinji. Here's hoping she doesn't meet the same fate as her anime counterpart.

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