Cheeky Angel Vol. 6
A lot of progress has been made over the last two volumes. Megumi, the boy who was turned into a beautiful girl nine years ago, finally found the "wizard" who gave her the cursed book, and she is now *gasp* starting to date! The fifth volume ends with Genzo and Megumi going out on a date to catch crayfish, with Ichiro lending a hand to make the date go perfect. We seem to be rapidly approaching a happy ending... time to add in a new character!
Reiko, a rich, pretty and rather mean girl from Megumi and Miki's middle school, tracks down Megumi and starts to attend her school, setting Megumi up as her rival. Now Megumi must learn another aspect of being a girl: fighting through manipulation and catty remarks. Comedy results from Reiko attempting to ruin Megumi's admirers. I really admire how Nishimori makes Reiko into a realistic and unsecure teenage popular girl, and not a stereotype. The volume then shifts to focusing for a chapter each on the lives of resident pervert Yasuda, average Ichiro, and Genzo. The final chapters then switch back to Megumi, as she tries to understand what she feels for Miki and the boys. Is it love between a girl and a boy, or is it friendship between guys? Who knew that feelings could be so hard to understand!
Around now is where longer manga series tend to jump the shark, and I am happy to report that Cheeky Angel is still a compelling story where the relationships don't feel dragged out. Try a volume if you enjoy shoujo mixed with action. --JC
Hana Kimi Vol. 5
After disappearing for a few months from my bookstore shelves, Hana Kimi has finally popped up again. Volumes 4 and 5 put our hero Mizuki Ashiya in a difficult position, as she has to pretend to be a boy pretending to be a girl and still make sure no one suspects her true gender. If she slips up, her life at the all boys school is over, and so is her chance to be with Sano, the guy that made her go through all this crazy stuff.
These two volumes revolve around a dorm competition and Nanba's struggle as dorm chief to gather his men together and win. Volume 5 is the first without a side story, but instead we learn a little about Mizuki's life before she rushes out to Japan to be near her idol. Like everything else in Hana Kimi, the flashback is gently romantic with splashes of tragedy and comedy to keep things sentimental.
Nakajo-san has managed to steadily increase the cast of this manga and still keep it coherent. I'm still itching to find out what will happen when or if Mizuki's secret comes out, but I'm also enjoying the deepening character relationships and little moments of daily life that makes this story so interesting. --ML
.Remote. Vol. 5
As .Remote. continues along there are plenty more cases to solve and short skirts to be worn.
Volume 5 continues along in the typical .Remote. fashion wrapping up the case from the previous volume and in a rare occurrence, so far, having a full case to finish up the volume. It starts up with a nice finish to the previous case about the stalker after Kurumi’s fiancée’s old girlfriend. In the next story the president of the Republic of Siberia is coming to Japan, but not with out some risk involved. There is an assassin out to get him, because of his less then ethical ways to gain power. Bob gets a glimpse of the spotlight as some of his background is revealed to the reader and he gets a chance to take center stage, but as what seems to be the villain in this case. Though it hasn’t been moving at a fast pace this volume adds the most to the connection between Ayaki and Kurumi, though there still seems to be a lot more to uncover here.
On top of some really interesting and cool stories you get some comedy that causes you to just laugh out loud. .Remote. can have an almost goofy feel at times that works well with the manga. Even with some scenes that can be a little on the graphic side, though not as much in this volume, .Remote. manages to not take itself too seriously, especially with any scene involving Kurumi’s fiancée. Nice drawings, that seemed to be picked up this volume, and slick looking covers top a great release. --JL
Taimashin Vol. 1
This title turned up in a discussion about whether there are any Cthulhu Mythos manga out there, considering how popular horror and tentacles are in Japan. Being an RPG geek, I *had* to pick up Taimashin when I saw it. Borrowing heavily from H.P. Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror", Taimashin has the Great One Yog-Sothoth, or rather, his son, being taken down by acupuncturists. Yes, I'm serious.
Dr. Taima, along with three others from Japan, has the ability to banish demons with needles. They find the monster's key pressure point and stab away. One day, the good doctor, along with his fanservice and gun-wielding nurse assistant, find a demon without a vital pressure point. So Taima goes to Dunwich, Massachusetts, where Yog-Sothoth's son attempts to break through into our dimension. Along with another acupuncturist from Japan, who just happens to be in the area, Taima closes the gateway to all of the continents around the world, but not the one linking to Japan. Cue the next volume.
If you enjoy campy horror and sanity loss, you'll enjoy this manga. Unfortunately, like many ADV manga series, the translation isn't great, the story is confusing if you know nothing about Lovecraft's Cthulhu horror stories, and considering the quality of manga available at this price or less... Taimashin is subpar. However, if you want to see a Mythos manga, well, here it is. This manga isn't marked as mature, but it really should be, as they are scenes of bestality, ugly zombies, and well, Great One tentacle imagery, so be aware. --JC
Traveler of the Moon Vol. 1
Ida is a vampire, a rare, endangered species that humans rarely come across. Yuh-ur is the human that comes across him. Traveler of the Moon is the sweetest story about shape shifting bloodsuckers that I've yet to come across. As Ida gains Yuh-ur's trust, the two become very close friends, but Ida must eventually return to his village, where the vampire population is dwindling and the elders expect him to start fathering some children. Of course, in the world of manwha, filial duty is not match for true love, and Ida and his friend decide to leave their vampire village and live among humans.
Traveler of the Moon is full of childish antics and sentimentality. Even the town elders look like fifteen year olds with mustaches. The plot is almost completely straight forward, and the artwork is cute, but it's also as simple as everything else in the manga. The back of the book declares "There's nothing more important than friendship!" and it's that sort of mentality that makes the manwha endearing.
Aside from being almost too straightforward for my tastes, the production of this manwha is a small issue. The lamination on the cover overlaps the cover itself, and just by holding the book you can tell that it's not the best grade. There's nothing particularly unique about schoolgirls and the occult, but the childlike innocence of Traveler of the Moon makes it a fun read none the less. --ML
Angel Sanctuary Artbook II: Lost Angel
This is the second Japanese artbook for the famed manga series Angel Sanctuary by Yuki Kaori. The beautifully-drawn artwork amplifies the dark themes of the series: torn wings, severed heads, and "gutted" computers, people in blood-stained clothings, and cities in ruins. Basically, lots of angst. But the artwork is absolutely stunning.
The drawings are taken from the covers, color inserts, or the freebies ("furoku") of the shoujou bi-monthly Hana to Yume ("Flowers and Dreams"). Yuki Kaori has paid special attention to details, as the henna/mendhi done on selected characters' faces and bodies give them a particular attitude. The artists also pays minute attention to backgrounds, which vary from graffitied walls, gothic stone patterns, a sea of petals, to rusted walls.
If you love Angel Sanctuary or any of Yuki Kaori's works, you will love this artbook. After all, only an artbook that is 12" by 9" in size can show her art in great detail! Full-page colour art from p.1 to 52, Character and Story from p.53 to 75, Glossary from p.76 to 78, Title Page Collection (the b/w artwork on the first page of each manga arc) p. 79 to 88, while the rest of the artbook (p.89 to 97) features interviews with the author, along with character skeches for the anime and manga and all the AS-related books published by Hakusensha that one can buy. In other words, this is one cool artbook!! --SH
Full Metal Panic! The Anime Mission
Well... Since the publisher never claimed this print as an artbook, it is not your typical artbook. It is sort of like a combination of an artbook (character close-ups and background sketches), character guidebook that also includes episode summaries, on top of a plethora of comedic reliefs (such as the Mission Reports written in Sousuke's point of view).
What's so cool about the Complete Story Guide for all the missions is that not only does it include summaries for the 24 episodes, it also provide several pictures for each episode, along with explanations for each picture. Therefore, in a way, the pictures captured from the series are similar to pictures in a storybook, where readers can understand the gist of the story without actually reading it. But, of course, nothing beats the actual anime. Also included in the Guide is Gatou's View, where the author (Gatou) sometimes advises the reader to take special notice of certain scenes or people, and sometimes tells the readers of his experience with the seiyuus or his co-workers--all related to the anime, of course!
Along with a mock copy of AS Fan, the most popular meccha megazine in the anime, the later part of the "artbook" also includes Staff Interview and FMP Goods Collection so North American readers can get a glimpse of some FMP-related items on sale in Japan. These products range from telephone cards, gasshopon figures, to cosplay uniforms of Chidori and Sousuke.
So after all the good things I said about this Collectors' Series book, why is the rating a mere 4 out of 5, you ask? While the book is certainly packed with interesting information, it only has 32 pages in colour that is related to the content of the publication, while the rest is in black and white. If we do not count the number of pages for ads, there are only 96 pages, printed on average-quality paper. To charge over $20 US (after tax) for a book that has less than 100 pages, collector's edition or not, is a bit much. --SH