Manga Shorts

by Janet Crocker, Shannon Fay and Chris Istel

Manga Shorts image. Blue Spring Vol. 1

By Taiyo Matsumoto
Viz / USD$9.99
Rating: 3/5

Blue Spring is the latest manga to be translated into English from Taiyo Matsumoto, who is additionally the creator of Black and White, No.5 and the yet-to-be licensed Ping Pong. Blue Spring is a collection of short stories filled with high school delinquents. The teens vandalize, take drugs, kill each other and play with their own lives for no reason other then boredom. The shrink warp and warning sticker are not just there for looks; this manga has some disturbing scenes, even if the violence is only mildly graphic. Although there are some good stories in this manga, liking them will depend on how well you can stomach the subject matter.

Taiyo Matsumoto's art is another thing dependent on the reader's preferences. His background and characters are detailed but distorted, like you're looking at them through a flawed looking glass. One integral part of the manga-ka's art style is the massive amount of graffiti everywhere. As re-drawing it would not only ruin the artwork, but it would be impossible due to the sheer amount, Viz translates the graffiti and sound effects along the bottom of each page. This works out well, leaving the original art intact while keeping the reader informed.

If you like yakuza or want to see a different style of artwork, you may want to pick up Blue Spring. Most people however, will find the short stories in this book a little too strange and violent to enjoy. --SF

Manga Shorts image. FLCL Vol. 1

by Hajime Ueda and Gainax
Rating: 3/5

I couldn't resist; would FLCL the manga be less confusing than the anime? Could the manga shed more light on just what is FLCL about?

Surprisingly, it does a little. The artwork reminds me of alternative comics, especially the work of Jhonen Vasquez (Johnny the Homicidal Manic, Invader Zim), with sketchy lines and manic action, especially in panels featuring our favorite Vespa Girl, Haruko. I'm not sure if the story is easier to understand because I have seen the anime or not, but you do have the benefit of being able to re-read instantly sudden bursts of plot insight. This is essentially the anime turned into manga, so there's nothing new story-wise for FLCL fans, but it is nice to have the frenzied pace of the anime slowed down to a reading pace.

If you like unconventional comics and manga, or enjoyed FLCL the anime, then try this manga! Don't make Haruko bring out the guitar! --JC

Manga Shorts image. High School Girls Vol. 1

by Towa Oshima
ComicsONE / USD$9.95
Rating: 3/5

As the title would suggest, High School Girls is about, well, high school girls. Set in an all-girls school, each chapter follows the various events that ensue as a result of the protected world of the all girls' school, most of which end up as being competitions between the girls to see who can be more like an average girl.

High School Girls Vol. 1 is a manga that requires devotion to be truly enjoyable. Why is this? To be honest, about the first half of this volume is completely boring. The character introductions were rather poorly done, and the first four or five chapters from there on out are fairly repetitive. After this, however, the story starts to get pretty entertaining. The artwork is nothing exceptional, but it's not horrible either.

On the production side of things, ComicsONE has done a decent job. The translation is solid, but there are occasional grammar errors, something I don't like in manga. The cover art is okay, but they really could have done a better job. Overall, this is not a bad release.

By the way, where the hell is Volume 2, ComicsONE? Volume 1 is already hard enough to find. --CI

Manga Shorts image. Kare Kano Vol. 13

By Masami Tsuda
Rating: 4/5

Though I enjoy all of Kare Kano's sub-plots, it's about time that the manga got back to the two people who matter most in this series: Yukino Miyazawa and Soiichiro Arima. They are now entering Grade 12, along with their friends. Everyone's thinking about the future, especially Soiichiro. It's not just university that he's mulling over, however, but also how he should take revenge on the family that's spurned and hurt him his whole life. Even if it means losing Yukino, Soiichiro's willing to risk that to get vengeance.

And so starts the 'Arima Arc' of Kare Kano. Soiichiro has never been one of my favorite characters in this series, but maybe that will change as the manga starts to focus on him and explore his past more. After a bunch of light-hearted stories, the angst in this volume was refreshing. Even the laid-back scenes with Yukino and her friends are bittersweet, since they all know that they'll be seeing less of each other after graduation.

Masami Tsuda's art has gotten better since the series began. It's still cute, though the characters go into super-deformed mode less often. They all look older and more mature compared to when they first started high school (even Pero-Pero has changed from a cute little puppy to a full-grown dog).

All in all, this is a nice start to a new story line. --SF

Manga Shorts image. Othello Vol. 2

by Satomi Ikezawa
Del Rey / USD$10.95
Rating: 4.5/5

Othello just keeps getting better and better. Each chapter in this volume is consistently enjoyable and entertaining, making it almost impossible to put down. More on said consistency later.

The story continues where it left off last time, with Yaya trying to piece together the missing chunks of her memory. She has stopped going to school as to avoid being made fun of by her so-called "friends", and more and more she is beginning to realize that there might be a part of her that she does not know about. The relationship between Yaya and Moriyama continues to grow, but her alternate personality seems to be interfering, to the point where she switches personalities in the company of others!

As I said, Othello is consistently entertaining. The artwork, excellent and stylish at all times, fits with the tempo and feel of the manga. I've never been so unable to put a manga down since my first reading of Love Hina. In addition to the awesome story line and artwork, Del Rey has continued their tradition of adding great extras at the end of the book, such as explanations of the Japanese cultural references and a preview of the next volume. However, I had to dock half a point from its score because of the rather lame cover art. The cover for the first volume was far better.

If you enjoy good manga and you've read the first volume, then I definitely recommend this. --CI

Manga Shorts image. Pita-Ten Vol. 4

By Koge-Donbo
Rating: 4/5

I'm really getting into this series now, as heartstrings are being pulled. In this volume, Misha returns from her angelic exams, then learns that she has failed. Kotarou cheers her up, and she reveals her wings to him, then to everyone else. The rest of the gang deals with a life-changing decision: which junior high school to apply to. Misha wants everyone to attend the same nearby school and remain friends; however, Takashi's family may not have the money for a private school. Shia still has an unknown agenda of her own on the human realm. A new character is also introduced: Shino, Takashi's young cousin who has come to live with his family. So far, she plays the role of wandering little cute girl very well. The volume ends with Sasha, Misha's older and fully licensed angelic sister re-entering the picture, giving the impression that much human and almost-an-angel butt will be kicked into action.

I really like the artwork and the dialogue. Misha's "Suuu!" is growing on me. Pita-Ten is a nice light and cute series, brain-numbingly refreshing after reading heavier literature. --JC

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