Comic Party Vol. 3
Somebody set us up the bomb!
This volume opens with a bomb threat at the Comic Party, threatening to close down the convention. It takes Kazuki and all his friends to find and stop Jacky and his evil plan! Afterwards, the gang decides to hit the beach for some needed R&R and bikini artwork. The closing story introduces Mizuki to the world of cosplay, where she dresses up as a magic girl suspiciously like Card Captor Sakura to promote Brother 2 comics, and she discovers that cosplay isn't really all that weird...
The story still has a nice comedic plot that is light on the brain, yet educational on how life essentially is for the doujinshi comic artist (a lot of hard work for little reward) and for cosplayers. The artwork uses a lot of tones and strong lines, nearly identical to the anime, and is very easy on the eye while maintaining a certain degree of detail. Thus far, Comic Party is a fun series to read while on the go or during your lunch break. --JC
Red River Vol. 1
Like Fushigi Yugi, Red River tells the story of Yuri, a girl ripped from her comfortable life in modern Japan and sent to a strange world where her life is threatened. However, instead of arriving in a book-based historical fantasy, Yuri finds herself in the ancient Middle East. Summoned by a sorceress intent on spilling her virgin blood, she is saved by a young, attractive prince. Though, with his lusty behavior and striking good looks, she may have more to worry about than the plans of a bloodthirsty sorceress.
True to shojo form, Red River is filled to the brim with pretty characters. There is very little in the way of shading, with most of the realism coming from characters' expressions rather than detailed backgrounds. While the panels lean toward simplicity, Shinohara is skilled at depicting action, something this series has a surprising amount of.
It's hard to judge where this is going, but I found book one to be very intelligently written, with pleasing artwork and an interesting storyline. I can easily find other series to compare it to, but it looks like it's going to quickly distinguish itself from other girl-gets-sucked-into-other-world-and-becomes-a-heroine adventures. Let's hope so! --PK
Selfish Love Vol.1
Another yaoi title from Be Beautiful, who seems to be making a name for excellent manga at a slightly higher than usual price. Orito Kuroha is the newly elected president of the University Honors Society. Snobbish and pretty, he has his eye on Ryuya Fujio as his vice president, whether the older, yet cute boy wishes it or not. Slowly Ryuya finds himself falling for the charismatic Orito, but will he ever admit to it? Can Ryuya ever move beyond his hatred for the rich people at his school?
The artwork style reminds me of Fruits Basket, with lots of small panels, sound effects and use of tones. The plot is moving at a nice pace too. I'm definitely sold on seeing what the second volume looks like. Included in this volume are four short stories that run along in a similar vein of one-sided love. The story reminds me of Gravitation with the whole persistent lover theme, so if you like that show, check this out.
Be warned; the explicit content label on the cover is well merited. Selfish Love itself is only at the kissing stage, but the four extra stories in the back are very mature. This is not a manga for the kids or for people who get weirded out by boys who love other boys, a lot. --JC
To Heart Vol. 1
Cuteness, defined. That's pretty much how one can interpret the first volume of To Heart. This story starts out innocently enough, with the quiet Akari trying to muster up the courage to tell her childhood friend, Hiroyuki, how her feelings run deeper than friendship. Hiroyuki acts tough most of the time, but is in fact a very kind guy. His kindness bubbles to the surface when he becomes one of the only people in his school to befriend Multi, a maid android. Soon enough, Multi is brought into his tight-knit group of friends, and Akari finds herself competing with a robot for Hiroyuki's affection.
To Heart's visuals focus mainly on characters, which is fine for a character-driven comedic romance like this. Emotion is the primary driver for the plot, and the book's artist has a knack for rendering it.
While there are some well-defined characters in the book, it really hasn't grabbed my attention just yet. It seems like the story moves along just as it should, and I'd like to see some surprises down the road. To Heart doesn't fail to be funny or cute, but I'd like to see it get more complex than it already is. I suppose harem comedies of the past have set a high standard when it comes to love stories and multiple rivals. --PK
Video Girl Ai Vol. 9: Cut Scenes
My, how the characters in this series have grown. Yota Moteuchi is no longer the insecure, self-centered dork he was before video girl Ai Amano entered his life. She taught him how to care for women and how to come out and say what he feels. He taught her that video girls could fall in love with their clients. But then things changed, as they often do in life.
Ai was taken away briefly by her creator, for video girls were not made to care for humans. Yota overcame the loss of her, exhibiting behavior Ai would be proud of, and eventually moved on to his first love, the formerly unapproachable Moemi. Now Ai has returned, but how can she expect Yota to dump his dream girl for her? This wouldn't be too much of a problem, but Ai's creator has issued an ultimatum. If she cannot get a human to truly fall in love with her before a set amount of time passes, she will be recalled and erased - permanently.
With his twisty storyline, supremely expressive illustrations, and characters that continue to evolve for better and for worse, Katsura has given us yet another excellent volume in the continuing saga of Yota and Ai. I'm not sure how it's going to end up, but the suspense is rather hard to bear. If you've missed out on this series so far, pick this up in its smaller, cheaper format and treat yourself to one of the most endearing romantic comedies in manga available today. --PK