Manga Shorts

by Adam Arnold and Maria Lin

Golden Cain

by You Asagiri
Be Beautiful / USD$15.99
Rating: 92%

Being one of the four core launch titles of Be Beautiful's original yaoi line of manga, Golden Cain is title marketed directly at the ever-growing demographic of women over the age of eighteen that want stories about the relationships men have with other men. While disclaimers about the "explicit content" of this line of books and the shrink wrapping is well warranted, the story that Golden Cain carries is actually enthralling enough for open-minded men to enjoy.

At first, reading Golden Cain seemed almost like, pardon the expression, "forbidden fruit", where the frail, over-achiever Shun is rescued from a band of toughs gearing up for a Sabbath by the tall, blonde and hunky model Cain. The pair talk, and Shun lets opens up about the uncertainty in his life and how we wants something to stop him from being himself. Cain instantly seizes the moment with a passionate kiss and things progress from there. One night of passion...the ultimate fantasy right there in the alleyway. But then Cain shows up at Shun's school and things become much, much more.

While similar in some instances and polar opposites in others, I cannot help but compare Golden Cain to TOKOPOP's Mars because the characterization and plot is extremely strong for a single volume story. Shun is constantly struggling to crawl out from under the shadow of his dead brother and ends up right in the arms of his brother's lover. The artwork is stunning and each page follows one after the other. The sexual situations are never shown in explicit detail, but they most certainly do happen, and quite often. There is nothing in this title that cannot be seen on the premium television networks, but with a strong story and an exemplary translation, Golden Cain is sure to find its niche...even at $15.99. --AA

The One I Love: Watashi No Sukinahito

Rating: 95%

There is no doubting that anything with the name CLAMP on it sells, but The One I Love is not just another simple CLAMP manga. No, it is a marvelously illustrated and put together collection of prose that just so happens to use manga as a way to illustrate the twelve short stories contained within. The seven page stories range from one about a girl using a kimono to signify a change in her life to a young lady fed up with her manga-ka boyfriend. After each story, there are three pages of text that detail where the short story originated and the effect it had on the particular CLAMP team member's life that experienced the event.

Though the grammatically themed stories contained within may not meet with all reader's tastes, there is no questioning that the production values used on this book are anything but the highest. The cover is not glossy, so smudges will not be left behind, and the interior paper is a mix of parchment quality paper, vibrant white pages and beautifully painted color pages. The black lines of the artwork do not show the normal signs of being scanned--which means TOKYOPOP may have used the original source files--and the lettering is bright and easy to read. My only wish was that the book was hardcover, because it sure deserves to be. --AA

Saiyuki Vol. 3

by Kazuya Minekura
Rating: 90%

Nothing seems to go right for Sanzo and the gang. Every time one deadly enemy is defeated, another springs up in its place. After multiple close calls with the renegade monk Rikudo that leaves Sanzo near death and Goku insane, some divine intervention becomes necessary. It takes the form of the god/goddess Kanzeon Bosatsu, a hermaphrodite with a vested interest in seeing our heroes to their destination.

With all that craziness over, the group comes across a murderous fortuneteller bent on playing with Hakkai, and they have another run in with Prince Kou's group.

The third volume continues the pace of the first two books, mixing violence with character backstory. The pasts of all four characters are revealed just a little bit more, and the line between friend and foe is fading fast. Production-wise, that annoying sound effect glossary is still there, taking up space for something more useful, such as an explanation on some of the mythical references in the manga. --ML

Samurai Executioner Vol. 1

By Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima
Dark Horse Manga / USD$9.95
Rating: 75%

A precursor to the epic Lone Wolf and Cub, Samurai Executioner tells the story of Kubikiri Asa, a man who cut off his father's head in assisted suicide and who executed his first love. In each chapter Asa is given a task as the shogun's executioner and performs it with stoic perfection.

Even though this manga is fairly recent, it's printed from left to right. Old Japanese terminology is preserved in the dialogue. A small glossary in the back is necessary, but the decision to keep most of the dialogue authentic is appreciated, and at times interesting.

Most of the content in Samurai Executioner parallels that of Lone Wolf and Cub. For those not familiar with either series, be warned, as they are both violently and sexually graphic. Rape and murder are portrayed without a blink. It was surprising that there were no warnings of any kind on this book when other titles are saran-wrapped for less. Adult readers with strong stomachs should find this book excellent for its plot and characterization. Children should be kept away from it at all costs. --ML

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