888 Vol. 1
I really enjoy the detective genre of manga, not just because I love a good mystery but because of all of the different ways that it can be approached. There are the complex cases of The Kindaichi Case Files, the cartoony but dangerous exploits of Detective Conan, and more light-hearted fare like 888.
888 tells the story of a small detective agency, consisting of laid back manager Hisago, administrator Tsukumo, investigator Shimeki, and Kobayashi-Kun, Shimekiís beloved dog. Occasionally, they get a job, but itís usually small potatoes, like finding a lost pet.
No one gets murdered or even robbed in this book, yet somehow the trio manages to keep busy. The stories are funny, staying just grounded enough in reality to be relatable to real life, while still being very strange.
The art for this book is slightly boring. Looking at it, itís hard to tell if itís shonen or shoujo, whether itís a recent artist or something from twenty years ago. There are just not any distinguishing characteristics to make the art memorable. Itís easy enough to read and understand, but itís not much else.
This book was released by DrMaster, the manga company formerly known as ComicsOne. Itís still the same quality, with cheap paper and periods of light printing that make the manga look washed out. In the past, Iíve found their translations to be a little too literal, but at least everything read well in 888. The personality of every character shines through, but the dialogue never seems Americanized.
If you are looking for a detective manga, and you want a break from decapitations and other bloody crimes, 888 would be right up your alley. --SF
Kill Me Kiss Me Vol. 5
Kill Me Kiss Me has been a smorgasbord of gender bending, fist throwing and cursing craziness since the very beginning. In the last book of the series, Que Min, a crazy violent fighting girl has fallen into dating Ghoon Hahm, leader of an even more violent gang, and the only guy who can beat her up, all in order to protect Jung Woo, a boy everyone mistakes for a girl who happens to have a few moves under his sleeve as well.
Throughout its five volumes, Kill Me Kiss Me gets very close to creating really lovable and memorable characters, but there are two things going against it. The first is that the characters seem to come and go all over the place. Besides Jung Woo, no character appears in all five volumes, and once they've had some time in the spotlight, they seem to fall off of the face of the earth. Second, there are a lot of loose strings lying around, mainly because of the scramble of characters. After all the fighting and bickering, and sexual frustration, there's not enough closure.
The ending is still satisfying in its ambiguous way, and although they are a little shallow, the characters are still fun to read about. It's just a shame that this series is over already. --ML
Love Roma Vol. 1
Does it drive you crazy when the main characters in a manga canít express their feelings for each other? Then Love Roma is for you. In the very first panel, high school student Hoshino tells a girl named Negishi that he likes her and he asks if sheíll go on a date with him. From there on, the two get to know each other (Negishi had never even met Hoshino before he asked her out) and they quickly become a couple.
Del Rey has picked a very sweet and very funny manga to translate. Hoshinoís bluntness causes some embarrassment for Negishi, as he discusses their relationship with her in school while the rest of the class listens. It also leads to the sweet moments when the two talk candidly about their feelings for each other. Although Love Roma is mostly a comedy, the romance is very well done.
The artwork puts an emphasis on the comical aspects of the manga. The character designs are blocky, and everything has a geometric look to it. Sound effects are left in Japanese, with English translations added next to them. Whenever a Japanese cultural reference came up, I had to flip to the back of the book to read the notes on it. There arenít many occurrences of this, but Iím glad things like the amida game were explained.
If you are looking for a unique looking romantic-comedy, or a different look at Japanese culture, then look for Love Roma. --SF
Record of Lodoss War: The Grey Witch Vol. 3
Record of Lodoss War is one of those classic anime/manga series that every fan is supposed to see in order to keep their union cards, but somehow, I've never seen/read it until now.
The plot is very simple and stereotypical fantasy: Parn, a fighter and the son of a famous knight, joins with the elf Deedlit; the dwarf Ghim; his best friend and cleric, Etoh; Slayn the sorcerer; and Woodchuck the thief to battle The Grey Witch, Karla and restore balance to Lodoss Island. In this last volume of the original trilogy that begins the Record of Lodoss War saga, the heroes have reached the Kingdom of Valis, and they have saved the princess in a battle with The Grey Witch herself. Now they must discover Karla's origins and a way to stop her nefarious plans. Only the Great Sage Wart can give them these answers, so off the party goes on this final side-quest before the battle.
I'll apologize for the corny epic language above; this book is so D&D, it's not funny. More than once, I had an ongoing commentary in my head on how the characters were rolling their dice.
Although the story is as creative as a SNES RPG, the artwork is quite solid, albeit dated for 2005. Ochi definitely has a preference of lines over tones, and his style is very animated. The cover art, however, looks like some colored pencil fanart, which will not entice readers. I guess the best way to summarize this volume is that it's average -- you won't find anything new or any real plot twists here. Record of Lodoss War: The Grey Witch is a good solid manga to take out of the fantasy section of the library and read on a rainy day. It didn't entice me to want to watch the anime, but maybe it will for you. --JC