Manga Shorts

by Janet Crocker, Mandy Bevers and Shannon Fay

Manga Shorts image.DN Angel Vol. 9

By Yukiru Sugisaki
Rating: 4.5/5

Daisuke is back in the real world, but things are still strange. His shoulder may be in pain, but it pales in comparison to the emptiness left by Freedert and the world of the painting. He can't help but feel that he could have done something more for them. On top of that, he has to play Freedert in the school play, opposite Satoshi as Dark! Nothing seems to be going right, but Daisuke puts his heart into it, and he tries to fix the problems that keep coming up, all by himself, all for the sake of Freedert. Afterwards, Riku and Daisuke nearly kiss, but Dark interrupts them. Then Risa plants a kiss on Dark! Something happens in that kiss, and Daisuke slowly floats farther away from Dark.

The strangeness continues when Satoshi falls ill and Daisuke takes him home with him. It causes some problems, but one thing is settled. Satoshi tells Daisuke what is to come one day: he will destroy him. To finish it off, Riku begins to question Dark and Daisuke's relationship. When Risa gets a date with Dark, Riku sets one up with Daisuke for the same time and at the same amusement park. Riku meets up with Daisuke at one gate, and Risa meets up with Dark, who is really Wiz in disguise, at another. What will happen next is left for the next volume.

This volume refreshed my love for all things DN Angel. It returns to a cute and comedic scene, yet it maintains a dramatic undertone, a hit mixture that makes this volume one of the best yet. The artwork is still amazing. There are moments where it is bafflingly adorable, and others when it is beautiful. As for the opening chapter, Daisuke and Satoshi couldn't possibly be any cuter! The characters are changing a little bit at a time, which is apparent in this volume. Satoshi vanishes by the end of this volume, which is a nice plot twist. I doubt that he will appear again, but then again... At 190 pages, the price isn't bad at all. It's rated T for Teen/13+, although there isn't anything in this volume that isn’t too bad. Yukiru Sugisaki has done it once again. --MB

Manga Shorts image.I Luv Halloween Vol. 1

By Benjamin Roman and Keith Giffen
Rating: 5/5

Fans of Jhonen Vasquez, rejoice! This American-cooked manga is for you! If you enjoy Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, and don't bat an eye at reading I Feel Sick or Squee at bedtime, you'll feel right at home with I Luv Halloween. Griffen writes a story as twisted as anything from the mind of Vasquez, Roman Dirge (Lenore) or Voltaire (Oh My Goth!), and Roman's artwork just adds to the dark humor.

Finch, his little sister Moochie, Pig Pig, Mr. Kitty, little brother Spike, and Devil Lad live for their yearly game of Treat or Trick. This year, however, their candy-looting is cursed by being given an apple by the first house. The gang goes to great lengths to ward off this plague of bad candy, causing a lot of death, blood and a missing brassiere along the way.

As with the titles above, giving away the plot takes away so much of the joy of the book, of watching a train wreck happen right before your eyes. You'll feel a little guilty at laughing at so much death and mutilation, but the twisted humor is quite addictive. As you can guess, I Luv Halloween is meant for the jaded older high school or college age reader as a delicious chocolate treat just in time for Halloween. --JC

Manga Shorts image.The Tarot Café Vol. 3

By Sang-Sun Park and Jung-Su Kim
Rating: 5/5

This volume contains three chapters, all of which relate back to Pamela, our tarot card reading main character. The second volume ended with Pamela unconscious after the fight at the church, and this volume opens at that point, with her recovering at The Tarot Café. Finally some light is shed on Pamela and Ash's history, on why Pamela is collecting the beads of Berial's necklace, and a hint is made at the connection between herself and Belus, who saved her life at the church.

The Tarot Café is a manwha series with strong shounen-ai tendencies, thus two of the chapters involve male couples. The first tale is that of a sultan and his lover/slave, whom he drives away. The second love story is that of a hard-working student and a lake spirit, which oddly enough, turns out happily ever after by the end of the chapter. The last chapter is the longest, and it involves Alecto, an angry dragon and friend of Ash. Alecto searches for Pamela, as he believes that she was the one who killed Ash, whom he had something of a crush on. However, when "Ash" appears, everything is turned upside-down, and the volume ends on a cliffhanger. The Tarot Café is a great series for people who enjoy intricate gothic artwork and supernatural romance, and this volume continues to deliver the goods perfectly. --JC

Manga Shorts image.Tori Koro Vol. 1

By Hai Rain
DrMaster Publications / USD$9.95
Rating: 3/5

It’s hard to describe Tori Koro without thinking of Azumanga Daioh. The series is a collection of four panel shorts that capture the life of four high school girls. One thing that sets it apart from Azumanga Daioh is that three out of the four live together. The girls’ antics at home, such as having a shogi tournament to see whose name gets highest ranking on the mailbox, are hilarious but still down to Earth.

The manga works best if you read it slowly and not all in one sitting, although it’s hard not to, because of the easily digestible four-panel format. Reading it over an extended period of time allows you to get to know the characters better, and it enhances the slice of life, ‘real time’ feel to the series. If you like funny everyday dramas, then you’d probably like Tori Koro. If you don’t like manga where nothing actually happens, then it would be for the best for you to avoid this title.

The artwork is cute, but rather plain. A lot of the characters look similar, especially in close-ups. The tiny panels don’t allow for much detail, but enough is conveyed in order to follow the story and to get the visual gags.

DrMaster did a good job on translating and printing this title. Like a lot of manga focused on everyday events, there are some cultural references thrown in that the translators explain. One or two references did slip through the net, and more comprehensive translation notes would have been helpful. --SF

Manga Shorts image.Unearthly Vol. 1

By Ted Naifeh and Elmer Damaso
Seven Seas Entertainment / USD$10.99
Rating: 5/5

Unearthly is the classic tale of girl-meets-guy, guy-goes-out-with-other-girl, girl-meets-alien. Alright, so maybe it isn’t quite the classic shoujo romance, but that’s what makes it so good.

Unearthly starts off by establishing a love triangle between the quiet bookworm Ann, the most popular girl in school Rae, and the kindhearted Jem. Most of the book is a straight-up teen drama, with a lot of time spent on the characters and their relationships. At about a third of the way in, the sci-fi element gets introduced when an alien lands on Earth and assumes the identity of one of the main characters. From there on, it becomes impossible to guess what will happen next.

The artwork is out of this world (no more space puns, I promise). Elmer Damaso can not only draw interesting characters, but great backgrounds as well. It’s really neat to see the evolution of the character designs from the extras included in the book.

This is a really great series and one of my favorite OEL manga being produced right now. Unearthly is definitely worth checking out, whether you love shoujo or sci-fi, or both. --SF

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