Manga Briefs image. Berserk Vol. 5

by Kenturo Miura
Dark Horse Comics / USD$13.95
Rating: 95%

Guts or Gats is a warrior who cares for no one. All he cares about is swinging his sword. He meets Griffith, who so far is the only man who can contain this monster of a man. Griffith is also the leader of the Band of Hawks group, and Guts is forced to join. What he does not know is that this encounter is fated from the beginning. Guts, Griffith, and the Band of Hawks travel and takes any mercenary jobs for the right pay.

In the fifth installment, Guts is being chased by guards after a successful surprise attack. To his surprise, he gets help from Griffith and their bond of friendship grows stronger. Guts, being one of the strongest and more admired leaders of the Band of Hawks, faces his toughest opponent to date, Nosferatu Zodd. Zodd is thought by many as an invincible monster, known to have killed hundreds of men. Guts, having his men killed, ventures in to confront the mighty Zodd. After no response from Guts, Griffith enters in to save his comrade, ignorant of the power that the charm on his neck holds.

The story gets more interesting and those who have already seen the anime will not miss a step. This can only get better and I await the sixth volume with anticipation. --AC

Manga Briefs image. Cheeky Angel Vol. 3

by Hiroyuki Nishimori
VIZ / USD$9.95
Rating: 90%

This is a great story about a boy who was cursed by a genie to become a beautiful woman. Flash forward nine years. Now Meg is in high school and learning to deal with her curse of beauty. Plagued by admirers, in particular the bully Soga, Meg just wants to have her manhood restored... or does she?

There is never a dull page in this manga, and this volume continues this wonderful series which explores gender issues in a humorous, yet realistic way. Meg finally tells her entourage of admirers about her little secret, sending them off to find the magical book, thus changing her back into a boy. The boys, of course, don't believe her at all, but when they summon the genie from the book, they decide that maybe they should make a wish too: that Meg stays a woman!

The ice between Soga and Meg melts a little, as Meg finds herself thinking of Soga as cute, and she goes on a fishing trip/first date with him. There is also a new boy added to the mix: the classy Kobayashi with a mysterious past and Soga's main rival for Meg's affections. I eagerly await the progression of this very natural, unnatural manga. --JC

Manga Briefs image. Comic Party Vol. 4

by Sekihiko Inui
Rating: 75%

Kazuki's education into the world of doujinshi continues as he inspires a voice actress idol to find her own voice and words, and his new partner, Aya Hasebe to continue drawing comics. Aya enters a pit of despair that most artists find themselves in one time or another -who is she drawing for? What's the point of making doujinshi if no one sees and buys your work? Kazuki cheers her up by reminding her that he is a fan. As long as Aya enjoys drawing her original stories and Kazuki enjoys reading them, then she is a successful artist. It just made me want to pick up a pencil and start drawing myself, even though I know how much I suck.

This volume is a lot more serious than the previous two (Volume One being more of an introductory volume), as it examines the audience aspect of the artistic creation process. It reminds me a lot of the anime series, to tell you the truth. Artwork is nice and clear, and you really feel for Kazuki, Aya, and Asahi Sakurai, the voice actress idol. Comic Party is educational on doujinshi and on being a semi-professional artist, as well as being just entertaining. A nice series to pick up if you're in the mood for learning with a little comedy tossed in. --JC

Manga Briefs image. Dolls Vol. 1

by Yumiko Kawahara
VIZ / USD$9.99
Rating: 60%

Imagine "plant dolls" - dolls that live, breathe and eat. They choose their owner, and you really have no choice but to buy them, because they won't ever choose anyone else. They are rather pricey, it seems, and then there are all sorts of things that you need buy in order to take care of them. The man who sells them is very good at squeezing money out of people too.

This manga is a collection of short stories, each about a person fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to be chosen by a doll. Each story is rather disturbing, because something always goes very wrong. Maybe itís just impossible to raise a plant doll correctly. One man gives his doll alcohol, even after the man who sells the dolls tells him that all the dolls can have is milk and sugar cookies. The doll turns into an adult, who is very greedy, not at all the pleasant doll that she once was.

Men fall hopelessly in love with the dolls, and girls seem to have a special bond with them. One story has to do with a little girl who is very lonely, and a doll that looks just like her finds the girl. The dad ends up freaking out at the doll because he thinks she smells bad (heís a little loopy), and insists on taking the doll back. He ends up accidentally keeping the doll... and sending his daughter away. Creepy.

The stories are too short to have any sustainable plot, and they just weren't interesting enough to keep my attention. The panels are sometimes hard to follow, or even to understand at times. Altogether, this isn't a series that I'll keep reading. --MS

Manga Briefs image. Kizuna: Bonds of Love Vol. 3

by Kazuma Kodaka
Be Beautiful / USD$15.99
Rating: 70%

Of the three premiere Be Beautiful titles (Selfish Love, Golden Kain, and Kizuna), Kizuna has been the one receiving the most critical reviews. Coming into this title at Volume Three, I found the pick-up to be quite easy, as Kizuna reads like a soap opera. In fact, my first impression was of this series as a gay Strangers in Paradise.

Ranmaru and Kei love each other, but they have issues in hiding their relationship from others and just plain ol' trust issues. Ran fears that Kei will one day find a woman, get married and settle down like a proper son of a Yakuza boss. Kei feels guilty because he knows that Ran isn't comfortable with his homosexuality and because an accident intended for him injured Ran, ending his promising career as a kendo martial artist. Hugs, kisses and sexual acts abound. On the sidelines is Kai, Kei's half-brother who sorta wants Ran, but he's really in love with his bodyguard, Masa.

Whew. The artwork is solid, but somewhat standard for what I expect from Be Beautiful. The stories are fairly standard as well: jealousy over other people in your lover's life. Kizuna is okay, but I don't think I'll follow this series too closely. I'm not a fan of the cycle of love, lust and distrust, though I'm sure that many other people will find this engaging. Pick this up if you like Strangers in Paradise or other soap opera-paced comics. --JC

Manga Briefs image. Peace Maker Kurogane Vol.1

by Nanae Chrono
ADV Manga / USD$9.99
Rating: 40%

This is a sequel that does not advertise itself as a sequel. You really need to read Shisnengumi Imon Peacemaker before reading this manga, as Chrono makes no attempt to introduce characters or bring you up to speed on the events that occur in Shisnengumi Imon Peacemaker, which is apparently the manga that the anime Peace Maker Kurogane is based on. So, if you've seen the anime, then you'll be ready for this series. If not, well, you'll feel confused and frustrated like me.

I couldn't make much sense of what was going on, as Chrono shifts from character to apparently unrelated character frequently. The artwork is nice, though it's too commercialized Yu-Gi Oh!-ish for my own tastes. I might give Peace Maker Kurogane a try again if I see the anime series, but I doubt it. It felt too much like a darker Kenshin, and I'm not a Kenshin fan. --JC

Manga Briefs image. Pita-Ten Vol. 2

by Koge-Donbo
Rating: 75%

I like to start a series from the beginning, but the store only had Volume Two. Oh well.

Kotarou Higuchi is a sixth grader who mainly lives on his own (father is a workaholic; mother dead in car accident). His best friend is Takashi Ayanokoji, a smart boy and ladies' man. Koboshi Uematsu has a crush on Kotarou, but they're just friends (for now, I suspect). Misha is Kotarou's next-door neighbour. She claims to be an angel, sent to keep Kotarou safe. Of course, no one really takes Misha's claim too seriously, as she is very wierd and ditzy. Living with Misha is Shia and her black cat. We're not really sure which team that Shia's playing for, but she's definitely the darkness to Misha's light. Introduced in this issue is rich brat Hiroshi Mitara and his sister Kaoru, who has a huge crush on Takashi.

This volume is packed with the adventures and misadventures of Kotarou and company. I liked Koge-Donbo's artstyle, which ranges from dramatic half-page character poses to insanely busy frames. It was a little hard for me to get into the plot, as I'm missing the information from the first volume. However, Pita-Ten feels like a fun manga to read and collect, reminding me of Tiny Snow Fairy Sugar in its episodic set-up, cute supernatural characters and the tragically orphaned lead character. I'll have to see how the next volume proceeds before adding it to my 'must-buy' list though. (note from Adam: You better wetter, Janet wanet. Su!) --JC

Manga Briefs image. .Remote. Vol. 3

by Seimaru Amagi
Rating: 80%

.Remote. is a mystery anime about Kurumi Ayaki, a recently retired traffic cop that has to get her job back because her and her fiancťe are in debt and canít afford their wedding. The only opening is in Special Unit A (Unsolved Crimes), where the last agent only lasted a month before they quit. Itís headed by Kouzaburou Himuro, a young man who can not leave his basement because of his troubled past.

Volume Three picks up right where the second volume left off. Ayaki is going undercover at an elite private high school to find out who the mad bomber behind the explosion at the restaurant is and who has now planted bombs throughout the school. This manga actually does comprise some good stand alone mysteries in each volume, as well as the deeper plot of Ayaki trying to figure out her new bosses' past while keeping her love life in order. This volume isnít an exception and it manages to be very entertaining, even if the ending isnít a huge plot twist. The biggest problem I that find so far is the jumps to conclusions that Himuro is able to make, some of them pushing believablity, but it doesnít take away from the story.

If you like a good mystery with some fan-TASTIC service that can get a little graphic, then .Remote. Volume Three is a good pick up for you. --JL

Manga Briefs image. Selfish Love Vol. 2

by Naduki Koujima
Be Beautiful / USD$15.99
Rating: 80%

This tale of yaoi takes a turn for romance in this volume, as Ryuya slowly comes to grips with the fact that he is in love with Orita, the rich President of the Honors Society. Orita, meanwhile, begins to distance himself from Ryayu, as he accepts the fact that his aggressive sexual advances are just hurting and confusing Ryuya more and more. Everything comes to a boil when the Honor Society performs Romeo and Juliet at the school festival, and Ryuya must step in and play Juliet to Orita's Romeo.

I'm still enjoying this series, which has excellent graphics and solid dialogue in a genre that focuses more on action. Selfish Love is a mature title, but this volume has very little graphic content beyond kissing, and that is left very undrawn. There are no bonuses in this volume, but the amount of story pages more than makes up for that. I think Volume Three will determine whether Selfish Love will rise among the dregs of yaoi manga, but so far, this is a good series with well-drawn pretty boys. --JC

Manga Briefs image. Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE Vol. 1

Del Rey / USD $10.95
Rating: 90%

From the creators of Chobits comes this beautiful, enthralling tale of Sakura and Syaoran. Sakura is a princess, Syaoran a lowly archealogist, and they deeply care for one another. And unbeknownst to them, they are destined to be together. One fateful day, Sakura brings Syaoran lunch at the ruins he is excavating. She touches a symbol on the floor that she dreamt about the night before, and accidentally unleashes a spell that causes her heart to take flight and all her memories are erased. Syaoran must travel through time and space to save her heart and her memory before itís too late.

The art in this book is so gorgeous, and very detailed. Some scenes are so detailed or busy that it is hard to see what's going on, but it doesn't affect the beauty of the story. I absolutely love this story already, and it might become one of the few series I continue to read. --MS

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