Greetings! Eight members of the PCS crew turned out this week to bring you nine reviews from seven different publishers! Ken starts things off with volume 22 of Blade of the Immortal (Dark Horse); Michelle reviews the second volume of Karakuri Odette (TOKYOPOP) and the two-volume BL series Steal Moon (DMP); Grant checks out volume six of Legend (Yen Press); Connie revisits Maid Sama! (TOKYOPOP) with a look at its third volume; Phil finds much to praise in volume two of Ninja Girls (Del Rey); Melinda weighs in on the final two volumes of 100% Perfect Girl (NETCOMICS); Sam continues to enjoy One Piece and contributes a review of volumes 27 and 28; and Jennifer takes a look at Only One Wish (Del Rey)!

Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 22

By Hiroaki Samura
Dark Horse, 232 pp.
Rating: 18 +

As Manji and Rin rest and recover from the events of the previous volumes, the forces surrounding the two are hard at work. With only a month to live, Kagimura throws himself into a last-ditch effort to crush the Itto-Ryu and forms a new squad of death row convicts to this end. Meanwhile, the remaining members of the Itto-Ryu gather and make their own plans for the future. It’s a critical juncture for Blade of the Immortal as Hiroaki Samura may just be gearing up for the end game! But then again he’s been talking about ending it for nearly a decade, so hey.

While it’s not as action packed as the “Demons Lair” two parter there’s quite a bit going on in this volume, mostly in the form of setup. Samura wastes little time in introducing us to a bevy of new characters, moving the plots of the various factions forward and still managing to expound upon the changing relationship between Rin and Manji. The latter is one of the highlights of the volume as it’s something that’s been building for quite a long time. It’s a wonderfully done scene complete with the hilarious awkwardness that often accompanies first love. As usual, Samura’s artwork is fantastic throughout. His designs for Kagimura’s new squad, the Rokki, are quite detailed, complete with ornate bits of armor and a vague punk-ish vibe that permeated the series in its early days.

While I’m still not entirely convinced that we’re actually entering the final phase of the series, the ticking clock aspect of the plot definitely helps give it the vibe of something heading towards a climax. Whether the time limit signals the end of anything other than Kagimura’s life remains to be seen, but it promises be to a hell of a ride regardless!

Volume 22 of Blade of the Immortal is available now.

–Reviewed by Ken Haley

Karakuri Odette, Vol. 2

By Julietta Suzuki
TOKYOPOP, 208 pp.
Rating: Teen

In this gentle and episodic comedy, teenage android Odette has just entered her second year of high school and is joined by fellow android Chris, a former attack bot now reprogrammed by Odette’s creator, Hiroaki. Although Odette has learned much from being among humans, some concepts still elude her, like why a girl’s heart would beat faster near a particular boy or why some combinations of food taste better than others. Chris also receives some development, as he’s forced to consider personal preferences for the first time.

While each individual chapter is amusing, the real charm of Karakuri Odette is Odette’s continuing quest to understand humanity and her calm sorrow when she fails to do so. When she emulates something she saw on TV by putting an egg on Hiroaki’s ramen, for example, she experiences happiness that something she made pleased him. Further culinary experiments don’t fare so well, though, leaving Odette unable to recapture that feeling until she seeks out special tutelage from a friend. The concept of romantic love is also baffling, causing Odette to feel left out when so many of her friends have someone they like.

I continue to appreciate the approach this series takes with its subject matter; it’s definitely funny, but not in a frenzied way, and is frequently touching.

Volume two of Karakuri Odette will be available on February 2, 2010.

–Reviewed by Michelle Smith

Legend, Vol. 6

By Woo SooJung and Kara
Yen Press, 192 pp.
Rating: Older Teen

I have yet to be fully impressed with any manhwa I’ve come across. I can, however, say that Legend has the best artwork I’ve seen in one. Kara offers several gorgeous, ethereal drawings throughout this volume. My one reservation is that she often frames the panels with flowers and petals, which is overdone.

In terms of plot, Eun-Gyo is overtaken by Joo-Ji’s spirit, so her reunion with No-Ah becomes a little complicated. No-Ah reveals that he is far more interested in keeping Eun-Gyo than taking back his lover from a past life. The strangest aspect of this part of the story is how fast Joo-Ji gives Eun-Gyo’s body back. There’s no real struggle or tension in the moment. In a way, it is a very mature decision, as Joo-Ji realizes that No-Ah has moved on from loving her. At the same time, No-Ah goes right back to treating Eun-Gyo with apathy, making me wonder why he would bother asking for Eun-Gyo back in the first place. If he loves her enough to make Joo-Ji disappear from her consciousness, I’d think he’d be a little more open with his emotions. All this does is press a reset button on the “romance” between the two.

Legend earns a solid C. It’s perfectly average.

Volume six of Legend is available now.

–Reviewed by Grant Goodman

Maid Sama!, Vol. 3

By Hiro Fujiwara
Tokyopop, 195 pp.
Rating: T (13+)

In this volume, the comedic and episodic stories continue as Misaki finishes up field day, deals with act-like-a-little-sister day at Maid Latte, meets the cafe owner’s young niece, contends with some strange sabotage efforts at school, and learns just a little bit more about both Usui and Student Council Vice President Yukimura.

I continue to be very torn when I read this. On one hand, it’s still very funny, and still has the perfect mix of comedy and romance. The situations are genuinely absurd and fun to read, and it’s still entertaining to read the chapters about the prickly and strong-willed Misaki being humiliated and leaping triumphantly over her many hurdles, all while being teased and baited by Usui. On the other hand, since it is still a shojo romance manga, it makes me sad that the plot is not moving forward and Usui seems to be making no progress towards winning her hand. Of course, I’m always surprised when similar series stay fresh from volume to volume without getting repetitive or boring (like My Heavenly Hockey Club or Otomen), so I will continue to be delighted by each new volume as long as the material stays as novel as it is. Given how much I love both the hilariously angry Misaki, who is a genuinely strong-willed heroine, and the sly and supportive Usui, who is still a rarity as “hot guy ardently pursuing the heroine’s hand,” and how funny chapters like the ones with the owner’s niece and the chapter about Usui are, I think Maid Sama! may have at least a little while to go before it gets old.

It doesn’t hurt that it also somehow manages to have awesome cliffhangers, too. The sabotage efforts end the volume on a very mysterious note, and I’m dying to read the next.

Volume three of Maid Sama! is available now.

–Reviewed by Connie C.

Ninja Girls, Vol. 2

By Hosana Tanaka
Del Rey, 208 pp.
Rating: 16+

Picking up where volume one left off, the titular female warriors are still trying to help Raizo, the lone survivor of the Katana clan, restore his family’s prominence by marrying into wealth. They stage a fake attack/rescue of a princess as part of an elaborate plan to woo her; unfortunately, she becomes the target of actual assassins. Meanwhile, another villain wants Raizo out of the way, the better to unlock the secrets of Shintaigo, one of the Ninja Girls’ special fighting techniques.

This volume tells a complete adventure in one go, and does a better-than-average job balancing multiple storylines. On the one hand, there’s untangling the plot to kill Princess Hine; on another, there’s Raizo and the princess’ courtship, which gradually becomes more intimate. Neither would be so involving without strong characterizations, which is what I enjoyed most about this title. Unlike other manga I’ve read where the lone dude among a harem is either an annoyance or hindrance, Raizo is a relatively normal guy with a noble heart, and his guilt over faking his way into Hine’s life supplies much of the drama; we root for him to triumph despite the underhanded means. As for the ninjas themselves, each has a distinct skill set which writer/artist Tanaka utilizes in unique ways, leading to action sequences that rarely feel tedious.

Overall, this is a satisfying mix of narrow escapes, clobberings and slapstick, but Tanaka also throws in the unexpected, such as the princess turning out to be a total badass on par with Kagari, who might be the most dangerous of Raizo’s companions. It seems inexplicable at first, and it’s uncertain if this revelation will come into play in future volumes. But I can’t fault the author; the moment arrives without warning and keeps the reader on his/her toes, and what’s wrong with that?

Volume two of Ninja Girls is available now.

–Reviewed by Phil Guie

100% Perfect Girl, Vols. 10-11

By Wann
Published by NETCOMICS
Rating: 13+

Now firmly back in Jarte’s clutches, Jay falls ill from stress and fatigue, finally opening Jarte’s eyes to the monster he’s become. As he nurses her back to health, the two slowly reconcile, though not without emptying their frustrations out on each other along the way. With their long-awaited wedding day finally on the horizon, it seems as though Jay and Jarte might actually find an awkward kind of peace together. Unfortunately, Jarte’s enemies still have one last trick in store.

After everything this story’s heroine has been through, putting a positive spin on her relationship with her primary abuser is no easy piece of work, which is not to suggest that Wann doesn’t put in one hell of an effort. Given a second chance to prove he trusts Jay, Jarte comes through like a hero of the dreamiest kind, even sacrificing himself to save his beloved. Unfortunately, even readers with selective amnesia will have trouble buying Jarte’s redemption this late in the game.

Plausibility aside, however, it must be noted that Wann’s ability to express her characters’ emotional weakness and mental anguish is no less than striking. There are even times when it seems she understands how sick the romance she’s written truly is. At one point, for instance, an ally of Jay’s suggests that she’s fallen victim to Stockholm Syndrome—one of the most believable explanations offered over the course of the entire series. Jay protests valiantly, of course, but it doesn’t stop the accusation from ringing true.

Though this series is beautifully drawn, genuinely compelling, and emotionally fraught, it ultimately falls far short of satisfying romance.

–Reviewed by Melinda Beasi

One Piece, Vols. 27-28

By Eiichiro Oda
Published by VIZ
Rating: Teen (13+)

Last week I dug into volumes 25 and 26 of the smash hit One Piece and really enjoyed them because they fleshed out the oceanic world to the nth degree. Now I am moving forward to volumes 27 and 28 and have to say that this series has not missed a beat. While these two volumes provide a huge amount of information about Skypiea, its peoples, its wars and its new “Kami,” Eiichiro Oda does a nice job balancing out the facts with a lot of action. The Straw Hat Crew is spilt up at many different intervals (sometimes in groups, other times individually) and this individual attention is great for the characters, providing an outlet for personal growth as well as growth in teamwork. We really get to see more of the Straw Hat Crew working together and forming their small “outsiders” community.

In essence, I really personally like this series and this arc in particular is growing on me. The Skypiea arc deep down really deals with some outstanding social issues (race relations, class distinction, dictatorship vs. democracy). While I’m unsure whether Oda intentionally planned these story elements, it really does give One Piece a more mature feeling. While incredibly goofy at most times (the art really emphasizes this), which is not always a bad thing, the series has elicited more than one emotional response from me. I’ve been happy, sad, and just about everything in between for the characters. You should definitely check out this series if you already haven’t.

Volumes 27 and 28 of One Piece are available now.

–Reviewed by Sam Kusek

Only One Wish

By Mia Ikumi
Del Rey, 208 pp.
Rating: Teen

There’s this rumor. If you send a text message to an address found in a mirror on a nonexistent stair landing at school at midnight, an angel will call you and grant you any wish. Anything, though perhaps you should be careful. You never know how your wishes might end up.

At least, that’s the message of Only One Wish, a collection of loosely related short stories by the artist of Tokyo Mew Mew. The wishes made and the stories surrounding them range from horrible to bittersweet to warm, though the emotional depth strikes me as shallow and half-formed. The angel, a young woman dressed more like a witch than anything heavenly, will grant you one wish. She doesn’t discriminate, doesn’t turn people down, but she also doesn’t promise a happily ever after with the wishes she grants.

Of these stories, I like the sweetest one the best. A girl who has died in an accident makes a wish—she doesn’t want to die until she goes out with a popular boy at school. She’s given 24 hours to find this boy, and if he kisses her by the end of that time period, the angel will bring her back to life for good. She runs into a male classmate and explains her situation, which he believes. He then tries to help her in her quest, which has a slight twist at the end. It’s heartwarming, especially sandwiched as it is between stories of how selfish teenage girls can be.

Only One Wish is available now.

–Reviewed by Jennifer Dunbar

Steal Moon, Vols. 1-2

By Makoto Tateno
Published by Digital Manga Publishing
Rating: Mature

As in the related series Blue Sheep Reverie, Makoto Tateno has gone beyond the call of BL duty to craft a science fiction plot of some complexity. One hundred years in the past, a computer on the moon called “Isis” was created to protect the president then in office. Now it’s rumored to be spying on the populace and seasoned street fighter Nozomi is recruited to help put it out of commission.

This all sounds fairly tame, but the way in which Nozomi gets involved is pretty bizarre. Boasting about his fighting skills after his latest victory, he declares that if anyone could beat him, he’d “willingly become his servant.” This is the cue for a mysterious guy called Coyote to show up, beat Nozomi, and promptly sell him to an internet peep room site. Because this is BL, Nozomi falls in love with Coyote, even though the latter says things like, “I wish I could’ve kept you imprisoned forever.” How romantic.

The peep show gig doesn’t last long, and Nozomi is eventually drafted into helping take down “Isis.” By the end of the second volume, he has learned more about Coyote so their relationship makes a bit more sense, at least, and some of the power dynamic issues are rectified. Nothing in the world can excuse the creepiness of the two twelve-year-olds in the peep show place with Nozomi, though. They’re fond of crawling all over him and striking sexy poses to drive up their hit counts, but the apex of ick occurs when one kid declares, “I’m gonna grow up real fast so I can service you!”

Um, ew?

Plotwise, Steal Moon is ambitious and occasionally even intriguing, but other elements of the story might incite a strong desire for brain bleach.

Volumes one and two of Steal Moon are available now.

–Reviewed by Michelle Smith

12 Responses to "Manga Minis, 1/25/10"

1 | Monday Morning Link-Blogging | Manga Bookshelf

January 25th, 2010 at 11:32 am


[...] First of all, I have a short review of the final two volumes of the melodramatic Korean romance 100% Perfect Girl in today’s Manga Minis column at PopCultureShock. Thinking about this manhwa, I first [...]

2 | Michelle Smith

January 25th, 2010 at 4:25 pm


Melinda, I’ve now read your review a second time and, even though that series sounds profoundly skewed, I find I really want to read it!

3 | Danielle Leigh

January 25th, 2010 at 4:28 pm


Ohhhhh…that cover and your review of vol 2 Karakuri Odette makes me want to pick it up this instant, Michelle. It just looks sooooo soothing, ya know?!

(Also Steal Moon ended up not being my thing, even though I really had a deep and strange love for her series Hero Heel).

4 | Michelle Smith

January 25th, 2010 at 8:12 pm


It might be worth mentioning that I liked *some* parts of Steal Moon enough that I plan to keep it. I also just recently finally acquired the second and third volumes of Hero Heel (I already had volume one), so I’ll be reading that at some point in the future.

And thanks for the compliment! :)

5 | Connie C.

January 26th, 2010 at 12:14 am


Actually, I think Melinda’s review made me decide against 100% Perfect Girl. But I didn’t like Can’t Lose You, so I had already mostly made up my mind.

And I keep thinking I ought to read more Makoto Tateno, but not many of her series aside from Yellow sound like must-reads.

6 | Maid-sama 3 « Slightly Biased Manga

January 26th, 2010 at 2:44 am


[...] reviewed this for the weekly Manga Minis column at Manga Recon, so you can check it out over there.  Lots of other good stuff to read about in mini form this week, [...]

7 | Michelle Smith

January 26th, 2010 at 8:08 am


I’ve only read these 2 Tateno series so far, but at the very least they have non-romance plots and some unconventional relationships to recommend them.

8 | Melinda Beasi

January 26th, 2010 at 9:24 am


@Michelle @Connie: 100% Perfect Girl is definitely a tough call. I really disliked it, yet was never bored.

9 | Michelle Smith

January 26th, 2010 at 9:33 am


I guess I really should devote myself to reading better things from NETCOMICS first, like Let Dai and Do Whatever You Want. :)

10 | Isaac Hale

January 31st, 2010 at 4:02 am


From someone who didn’t like Yellow, I can safely say I’ll be avoiding Steal Moon like the plague. Gross.

11 | Manhwa Monday: Welcome, February! | Manga Bookshelf

January 31st, 2010 at 11:45 pm


[...] at the School Library Journal, and I round things out with a review of the final two volumes of 100% Perfect Girl (NETCOMICS) at [...]

12 | 100% Perfect Girl, Vols. 10-11 « Manhwa Bookshelf

November 25th, 2010 at 12:48 pm


[...] access provided by the publisher. Review originally published at PopCultureShock. [...]