Manga Shorts

by Janet Crocker, Shannon Fay and Maria Lin

Manga Shorts image. Alichino Vol.1

By Kouyu Shurei
Rating: 4/5

Alichino are deadly creatures that can give anyone anything they wish for. They can take on a variety of shapes, and are extremely beautiful in any form. Since everyone in this manga is extremely beautiful, I donít know how itís possible to tell the difference between a normal person and an Alichino, but somehow the characters manage. The story revolves around three individuals who live together, humans Tsugiri and Enju, and an Alichino, Myobi. Tsugiri doesnít remember how he came to be living with them or much of his childhood at all, for that matter. When Alichino start to take an interest in Tsugiri and stalk him, Myobi and Enju must reveal to Tsugiri his real identity. Heís one of the few humans who have the power to kill Alichino, a power that ironically attracts Alichino to Tsugiri and endangers those that are close to him.

Itís impossible to talk about this series without mentioning the art. This manga is a very gothic looking shoujo, though the style of the clothing and settings look more Asian in origin then western. The characters are not very expressive, though theyíre drawn with a stunning amount of detail otherwise. Even if the series didnít have a good plot (which it does), itíd still be worth getting just for the art. --SF

Manga Shorts image. Bleach Vol.5

By Tite Kubo
Viz / USD$7.95
Rating: 3.5/5

Like most of the series in Vizís Shonen Jump line, Bleach is an action manga. Its main character, Ichigo Kurosaki, is a teenage boy who has recently gained the powers of a soul reaper. This means he has to guide the good souls to the afterlife and fight Hollows, evil sprits whoíd rather stick around and eat people. This volume in particular has a lot of fighting, as hordes of Hollows descend onto Ichigoís town. The Hollows are there because of Uryu Ishida, a boy in Ichigoís class who also has super-natural powers. Ishida challenges Ichigo to see which of the two can kill the most Hollows, and then he spreads bait that draws the evil sprits into the city. The Hollows are especially attracted to people with psychic power, such as Ichigoís little sister Karin. As Ichigo tries to find her, Ichigoís classmates Chad and Orihime are also fighting off Hollows who have picked up on the teensí supernatural abilities.

Chad and Orihime get the most face time in this volume, and even develop some powers that are going to be useful in a town that gets constantly attacked by monsters. Though I like both of them (especially Orihime), I missed the other characters. Ichigo doesnít do much except race across town, and we barely get to meet Ishida before the focus shifts to Chad. Iím a little worried that the ever-expanding cast of characters may become too much, no matter how cool or likeable each one of them is. Still, the action scenes are good and the characters are interesting, making this volume a fun read. --SF

Manga Shorts image. Dead End Vol. 1

By Shohei Manabe
Tokyopop / USD$9.95
Rating 2/5

Shirou is walking down an ally one day, when a girl falls straight out of the sky and lands on the ground with a thump. She calls herself Lucy, and Shirou takes her home. After two days he's fallen in love with her, but then she dissapears, or leaves, or is forgotten when Shirou's memory is erased.

I couldn't figure out excatly what was going on in this manga. A lot of the information I had to get from the back of the book, since it was impossible to figure things out by the story itself. Shirou, in some unknown way, looses his memory, and Manabe seems to push that feeling of disorientation by splitting scenes and mixing them together. Couple that with a very sketchy style that seems to focus way too much on headshots, and it's enough to give me a headache.

There is also an allusion to the supernatural, and maybe even magic, but the strangest thing going on right now is the plot. The entire first chapter is a dream sequence, and whether or not Shirou remembers that dream is never mentioned. He simply wakes up and goes about his business. I spent most of my time reading this manga thinking, what's going on, and why do I care? Maybe those who disconnected narration and a thuggish style will like Dead End more than I did, but I suggest they go through it in the bookstore before deciding to spend their money. --ML

Manga Shorts image. Legal Drug Vol. 2

Tokyopop / USD$9.99
Rating 4/5

Rikuo and Kazahaya are back again, doing strange things for their strange boss. This time they need a cat, a vase, and a school girl's uniform. Kazahaya really doesn't enjoy the stuff he has to go though, but money is money, and if he needs to crossdress to get paid, so be it.

CLAMP lets the innuendo fly with Legal Drug, as our two protagonists bicker like an old married couple and constantly find themselves in comprimising situations. And it's not only the characters that get frustrated. With comments like "somehow... my mouth feels so lonely", it's hard not to think the worst (or best) and then feel played when it turns out they were refering to chocolate.

Although there's an improvement in narration from the first volume, I still have trouble following some of the action and movement, which wasn't a problem for me CLAMP's other works. The dialogue makes up for this though, because the banter from the four main characters keeps getting more and more entertaining. Also in this volume, the overlying mystery of Rikuo and Kazahaya becomes a little clearer, but CLAMP seems to be taking their time with a real plot to revel in the flirting. --ML

Manga Shorts image. Pita-Ten Vol.7

By Koge-Donbo
Rating: 4/5

With only one volume remaining in this uber cute story of love, friendship and exams, plot secrets are being revealed left, right and center. In Volume 6, we finally learned about Shia's history and why she is so fixated on Katorou. This volume wraps up her story, and Shia exits with a subtle heart-breaking twist, leaving Katorou wracked with guilt. After he finally works through his feelings, confessing to Misha that Shia is gone and that it's his fault, Katorou walks in on an argument between Misha and Sasha, regarding Misha's angel examinations. Sasha angrily tells Katorou that it's his fault that Misha can't pass. Only naturally, Katorou has no idea how he's to blame, but he wants to help Misha to pass. Sasha whips out her angel wand and decides to show him in a dream the connection between himself and Misha in a past life... and where Misha's "suuu" sentence ending comes from.

I think that the artwork has improved from the earlier volumes; panels are less crowded and lines are cleaner. The story is very good, especially now that plotlines are being tied up. It doesn't feel too rushed either, which is nice. I would definitely recommend this series for anyone who enjoys a little supernatural/school romance, and I know that I'll be picking up the last volume to see how it all ends! --JC

Manga Shorts image. Samurai Executioner Vol. 2: Two Bodies, Two Minds

By Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima
Dark Horse Manga / USD$9.99
Rating: 4/5

It's been a long time since the first volume came out in July. Apparently, this volume was delayed for two months, coming out in December. I have no idea of what caused the schedule change, but I do know that this volume now sports shrink wrap, a parental advisory sticker on the cover (why they couldn't put it on the plastic wrap, thus preserving the cover from sticker damage, I have no idea), and another warning label on the back, advising that this book is for mature readers only. I can only guess that Dark Horse received some complaints about Volume 1.

I've read a lot of people condemning this series as excessively violent and with needless gore. As a fan of Lone Wolf and Cub, I really didn't find it over the top; however, this is definitely not a manga series for the underaged and you should probably pick up some volumes of Lone Wolf and Cub before trying on this series. Koike and Kojima have always taken the realistic road, showing life in late Shogunate Japan as it was, which was not all flowers and haiku. This volume has rape, torture of prisoners, lesbian sex, and bodily fluids, which is more than your average Lone Wolf and Cub volume. Then again, our central character is Kubikiri Asa, the Shogun's executioner (hence the title). Asa's immediate world is a lot dirtier than Itto's adventures as a wandering assassin.

If you can look beyond the violence and gore, Samurai Executioner is a great story, and fans of Lone Wolf and Cub will be familiar with Koike's episodic story-telling style. It lacks the architecture of Lone Wolf and Cub's metaplot, but it's still a good manga to pick up, filled with Buddhist and bushi philosophy in action. --JC

Manga Shorts image. W Juliet Vo.2

By Emura
Viz / USD$9.95
Rating: 3/5

Ito is a tomboy and best friend of Mokoto, fellow drama-club member and the most beautiful girl in school. Ito is the only one who knows Mokoto's secret, that the lovely girl is actually a boy in disguise. Mokoto has his reasons for cross-dressing, involving a bet with his father so that Mokoto can leave the family dojo and become an actor, but who really cares? It's a cute guy in a girlís school uniform, how much more of a reason is needed besides that?

This manga works best when it's focusing on the drama club that Ito and Mokoto are part of. As the new school year starts off, clubs all over the school go on the rampage to recruit new students or be shut down. This subplot is more fun then the main story, where Mokoto's childhood fiancťe Takayo and her devious brother make trouble for Ito. Takayo just isnít fleshed out enough to be a believable villain or even a sympathetic antagonist to Ito. Though the supporting characters are weak, both Ito and Mokoto are likeable and they make a cute couple. If you like theater, cross-dressing or romantic comedies, W Juliet would be a smart purchase. --SF

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