Manga Shorts

by Janet Crocker, Mandy Bevers and Shannon Fay

Manga Shorts image.D.N. Angel Vol. 8

By Yukiru Sugisaki
TOKYOPOP / USD$9.99
Rating: 4/5

As I began reading this volume of DN Angel, I remember skimming my mind to remember what all that had happened in the previous volume. It had been a while, but after the first few pages of this one, a vivid recall came to me. It had left off with Daisuke being sucked into the painting that he gave to Riku. Dark and Riku had tried to find him, but failed. At just over 200 pages, volume eight continues right off where volume seven left us. Daisuke is still stuck in the world of his painting, and Dark and Riku are trying to reach him. This storyline spans the entire work, but it stays interesting throughout the volume. The story reveals secrets about the Toki no Byoushin, and the play that Daisukeís class is putting on. With all these new revelations, thereís always something to be amazed about.

These chapters see Riku employing her sister, Risa for help in finding the painting. The true story of Ice and Snow is revealed to be a much darker tale of love and murder, and the girl in Daisukeís painting is a part of the story! Daisuke doesnít have much time to stay in the painting before something dreadful will happen, and itís up to Dark to figure out the clues, beat Krad, and save Daisuke before itís too late. Surprisingly, with all of this action, the story actually takes its time unfolding. The Second Hand of Time story arc will finally be coming to an end in the next volume.

Where the story will lead next is anyoneís guess. Whether it is the story or the adorable artwork, Yukiru Sugisaki continues to astonish me. Itís no wonder I have loved this series from the beginning. --MB


Manga Shorts image.MeruPuri Vol. 1

By Matsuri Hino
VIZ Media / USD$8.99
Rating: 3/5

High schooler Airi Hoshina is determined to get a boyfriend; not because sheís a hopeless romantic, but because she believes that a good boyfriend will lead to a good marriage, and therefore, a good life. Her grand plan gets thrown for a loop when a mysterious little boy emerges from her pocket mirror, an old family heirloom. She lets the kid, Aram stay overnight while he waits for his Ďcompanioní. Airi, who pretty much lives by herself, likes having another person in the house, and the two stay up late watching TV. In the morning, Airi wakes up to find that little Aram has grown into a handsome teenager!

As Aramís servant, Lei explains, Aram is a magical price who is under a spell by his wicked older brother. The spell makes it so that whenever Aram is left in the dark for any period of time, he ages. Only Airiís kiss can return him to his normal, little boy self.

MeruPuri is a cute romantic comedy. Itís not going to revolutionize the way you look at manga, but itís a light and fun read. The art goes a long way to make this an attractive title. The characters take up most of the panels, leaving little room for the manga-ka to depict any backgrounds, but since the characters look so good, itís not a problem at all.

This is the first graphic novel that Iíve read from VIZ Mediaís Shojo Beat line, and the presentation is on par with the Shonen Jump books. Sound effects are translated into English and re-drawn, but for the most part, theyíre unobtrusive. The price is pretty sweet at USD$8.99. Still not as cheap as a volume of Ruroni Kenshin, but with the cost being as low as it is, you wonít risk much if you take a chance on MeruPuri. --SF


Manga Shorts image.Planetes Vol. 3

By Makoto Yukimura
TOKYOPOP / USD$9.99
Rating: 4.5/5

Planetes Vol. 3 has been out for awhile now, but I only recently got my copy. After looking for it at local stores and having no luck, I asked one of the stores to order it in for me. It arrived this month, and Iím happy to say that it was worth the wait.

Planetes is a sci-fi manga that follows a Japanese astronaut, Hachimaki in the year 2074. Up until this volume, he has been a debris collector, a thankless job that is basically the space equivalent of a garbage man. As he and his co-workers retrieve space junk, Hachimaki dreams of having his own space ship and the freedom that comes with it.

At the end of volume two, Hachimaki had been given the chance to leave his mundane job and go on a seven year mission to Jupiter. With the voyage looming, he realizes that there are some loose ends on Earth that he needs to tie up before heading to Jupiter, such as confronting his love/hate/fear of space, and his conflicting feelings for Tanabe, a fellow debris collector.

Planetes has it all: strong themes, interesting characters and great art. Although a seinen (a series aimed at adult men), it can appeal to just about anyone. There is some nudity and a short gag involving some porn magazines, but itís an important part of the story (really!) and it shouldnít keep people from reading it.

Iím glad to see TOKYOPOP is taking this title seriously and not editing it. The editor even includes a translation of a Japanese poem which was originally printed in volume 2 untranslated. Itís nice to see a publisher make things up to the readers. Even if you have to go a little bit out of your way to get it, Planetes is well worth it. --SF


Manga Shorts image.Samurai Executioner Vol. 4: Portrait of Death

By Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima
Dark Horse Manga / USD$9.95
Rating: 4/5

I truly hope that Dark Horse can start to produce the volumes of Samurai Executioner at a much faster pace, as the third volume came out back in March. I would really love to have this series coming out at the monthly rate of Lone Wolf and Cub; however, I doubt that this mature title has that much support from fans -- yet. So far, Samurai Executioner seems to be flying under the radar of many fans of Koike and Kojima's works.

This volume has four chapters, but with over 300 pages, this book is by no means short on content. The first story, "An Offering of Cut Mochi," involves our main character, Kubikiri Asa meeting and befriending a group of low-ranking (poor) samurai, whom he shares a love of honor. However, this code of honor leads Asa's friends to their deaths. The second and principle story of this volume, "Portrait of Death," has Asa meeting a painter who specializes in the many faces of death. They discover that they have much in common -- perhaps too much. "The Season of Straw" is a short chapter that illustrates Asa's humanity and respect for the criminals that he executes. The final tale, "The Set-up," involves a prison riot that stems from the overcrowding of jails because beheadings are too expensive.

This volume has as much gore as your average samurai slashing flick, but it is not excessive. There is a lot of female nudity in this volume, as well as violent executions in sexual explicit manners. People will be disturbed at these scenes, which is probably the effect that Koike and Kojima desired. --JC

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