Manga Shorts

by Patrick King

Sweet & Sensitive Vol. 1

by Park Eun-Ah
ADV Manga / USD$9.99
Rating: 68%

As ADV begins to fill out their manwha selection, we're treated to Sweet & Sensitive a charming if unoriginal comedy/romance story. All of the necessary elements are in place here. We have Ee-Ji Bae, the quiet protagonist who is secretly in love with Han-Kyul, her childhood crush. And then we have another guy - Sae-Ryun, the best friend of the object of our heroine's attraction - who is drawn to Ee-Ji Bae, even though she can't stand him at first.

Slowly, Ee-Ji is able to get Han-Kyul to notice her, and equally slowly, she begins to realize she has feelings for Sae-Ryun after all.

Oh, the drama!

What separates books like this apart from one another for me is the characters. Do they have enough of a personality to differentiate this manwha from say, Boys Over Flowers? There's no magic here, as there is in Fruits Basket, nor is there an especially interesting conflict-laden plot, as there was with Mars.

I enjoyed reading this, but it didn't really expose me to anything new. The book is exactly what it seems to be - a solid, entertaining romance with some comedy. Park Eun-Ah's artwork is rather cute, and while the character designs aren't exactly elegant, they seem more authentic as far as depicting younger characters believably. The cover is particularly striking, but when the most appealing part of a book is the cover, perhaps the title isn't as interesting as it should be. Romance fans will be pleased with this one, but in the end, it feels like an average story.

Doll Vol. 1

by Mitsukazu Mihara
TOKYOPOP / USD$9.99
Rating: 82%

Just in time for the release of I, Robot comes the paperback edition of Doll. Released in hardback a few months ago, this manga is a thought-provoking collection of short stories featuring lifelike automatons known as Dolls.

The Dolls are used as everything from domestic servants to replacement mates, and they exhibit a very human demeanor despite their mechanical skeletons. What makes this book intriguing is the way that the author treats the presence of the Dolls. Rather than dwell upon the technical aspects of such a device, Mihara explores the various effects Dolls would have in a number of different social situations.

To be honest, I didn't find the artwork nearly as interesting as the stories themselves. It is well illustrated, but not especially memorable, though this is certainly a series that should place more emphasis on the plot than the visuals.

Altogether, Doll is at times disturbing and continually challenging when it comes to our conception of the relationship between man and machine. Or woman and machine, for that matter.

Video Girl Ai Vol. 8: Flashback

by Masakazu Katsura
VIZ, LLC. / USD$9.99
Rating 92%

With this volume, the latest installment of one of the most endearing romantic comedies out there today, the format of the book is finally changed to match the average size of every new Viz title. I have to say I miss the larger format, especially since the last two books were released at a reduced MSRP without a reduction in size.

Such is progress.

Video Girl Ai's charm stems from Katsura's inimitable style and the unique, touching story he is able to provide for characters any reader can empathize with. His linework is delicate, his shading complex, and his character designs overflow with personality.

In this volume, the indecisive Yota Moteuchi finally decides to start over from the beginning and finally tell Moemi exactly what he feels about her. In the beginning, Ai Amano, the titular video girl, emerged from a videocassette charged with the task of getting Yota to snare Moemi. However, something went wrong, and Ai began to fall for Yota. Now, Ai is faced with the same problem Yota had to confront when he discovered Moemi was in love with his best friend. Can she knowingly wreck Yota's love life for her own selfish reasons?

I hold this series, Battle Angel Alita, and Oh My Goddess equally responsible for getting me addicted to manga, and despite the excruciatingly slow release schedule for Video Girl Ai, this remains one of my all-time favorites.

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