08 Dec, 2008

Manga Minis, 12/8/08

By: Chloe Ferguson, Katherine Dacey, Ken Haley, Phil Guie, Michelle Smith and Melinda Beasi

Cross-dressing shinigamis! Saucy tots! Powerful female warriors! Clueless shojo heroines! Cat burglars! Yes, it’s time for this week’s Manga Minis, in which we review a little bit of everything, from supernatural hanky panky (Alice on Deadlines) to comedy (Crayon Shinchan), romance (Shinobi Life, Sounds of Love, You’re So Cool), and mystery (Bogle). As you read the reviews, you may notice a new name among the regulars: Melinda Beasi, who blogs at There It Is, Plain As Daylight. Please help us welcome Melinda to the Manga Recon team by checking out her review of volume thirteen of Claymore (Viz).

Alice on Deadlines, Vols. 2-4

By Shiro Ihara
Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen

After a certain point, Alice on Deadlines abandons wacky, sexually-charged hi-jinks for more intense action sequences, which allow a lot of pretty faces to get dirtied up. I can’t say the tonal change is an improvement; it almost seems as if writer/artist Shiro Ihara ran out of scenarios for his main characters and decided to just end it all with lots of flashy, occasionally incomprehensible violence.

Taking up where volume one left off, sweet-natured Alice and gutter-minded Lapan – a young girl and male shinigami, respectively, who somehow end up switching bodies – continue living their lives about as normally as two beings can when one of them is now an animated skeleton. Other shinigami pop in and out wearing bodies of the opposite gender as well, but those expecting some insight on gender roles should look elsewhere. Just who is really what gets lost amidst a sea of underwear flashes and breast-squeezing, all of it involving pre-pubescent-looking girls like Alice who are rendered with doll faces and huge eyes.

Overall, Alice on Deadlines should appeal to those who like cute girls engaging in bloody violence against disturbing monsters, but will probably disappoint those who prefer their action-oriented, supernatural-themed series to actually have a story. Indeed, despite the constant parade of shibito and shinigami, there’s nowhere near enough plot to sustain all the characters, which might explain why each volume is padded with sexy images. Ihara tries for something high-minded at the very end, capping things with an earnest speech about how gods of death need to take their work seriously. It’s an odd thing to hear when a good portion of Alice on Deadlines doesn’t seem serious about anything except titillating its audience.

All four volumes of Alice on Deadlines are available now.

–Reviewed by Phil Guie

Bogle, Vols. 1-2

By Shino Taira and Yuko Ichiju
Published by Go! Comi
Rating: Teen

When Asuka’s brother lands his dream job as a detective, he and his sister relocate from Okinawa to Yokohama. Asuka begins attending a private high school where the principal secretly finances “the chivalrous burglars rocking the world, Bogle.” Bogle consists of a pair of good-looking boys (and their faculty advisor) who specialize in retrieving precious items for their clients. The school administrators know all about Asuka’s scandalous past as a cat burglar, and draft her to join the clandestine group.

For the next two volumes, the members of Bogle accept and fulfill commissions, often interacting with their clients in civilian guise as well so that we can all see how happy the person was to get back their prized music box. The cases, like the characters, are all exceedingly boring. Supposedly, Bogle confounds police with their “brilliant strategies,” but those seem to consist of breaking into a building equipped with silly code names, matching outfits, and an arsenal of awkward poses. Seriously, in one panel Asuka seems poised to topple over and one of her male compatriots looks like he has to pee.

One glance is enough to know that the artist, Yuko Ichiju, is influenced by CLAMP. All of the female characters have an approximation of the “CLAMP eye” prevalent in earlier works like Cardcaptor Sakura, the boys have the disproportionately broad shoulders, and Asuka’s new friend has Hokuto Sumeragi’s hair. Ichiju also seems inordinately fond of knitted brows; someone’s sporting them on practically every page.

I do have to wonder how this one got licensed. It’s hard to imagining anyone clamoring for Bogle.

Volumes one and two of Bogle are available now.

–Reviewed by Michelle Smith

Claymore, Vol. 13

By Norihiro Yagi
Viz, 189 pp.
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)

Volume twelve brought us into a new era in the Claymore universe by moving ahead seven years, solving the mystery of the warriors who vanished in the Battle of the North, and introducing us to a new generation of Claymores. As volume thirteen opens, rebel warriors Clare, Miria, Helen, and Deneve rescue a young team of Claymores just as they are about to be destroyed by powerful Awakened One, Riful of the West. Before escaping, Clare persuades Riful to share some of what they’ve missed in the world during their years in hiding, including some new revelations regarding the long sought-after Priscilla. We also catch up with new number 47, Clarice, who is being sent on a mission to eliminate former number 3 Galatea with her new partner, the terrifying and very young Miata, whose disturbing psychological issues and deadly abilities make Ophelia seem like a walk in the park.

The battles feel like background in this volume, which instead focuses heavily on plot and characterization, making it a particularly compelling read and moving the story along substantially. There is a fantastic chapter for those of us who are fans of Teresa, and some additional background on Miria as well. I’m always impressed by how easily Norihiro Yago is able to create such distinct characters when most all of them are women with uniform physical features (not to mention actual uniforms), and my admiration only increases as the web of characters becomes more complex. Plenty of mystery remains, especially in light of the recent jump forward in time, including the fate of Raki, who does not even make an appearance. Even so, the pacing feels just right, and the story never drags as it sometimes did earlier on. This is an exceptionally strong volume in a series that has grown consistently more interesting over the course of its run.

Volume thirteen of Claymore is available now.

–Reviewed by Melinda Beasi

Crayon Shinchan, Vol. 6

By Yoshito Usui
CMX, 128 pp.
Rating: Mature

In volume six, Crayon Shinchan goes the epic route as Shinchan and his family find themselves trapped in an alternate reality where the events of the Action Mask series are fact rather than fiction. I have to admit that an alternate reality storyline was not something I expected to see in Crayon Shinchan, though Yoshito Ushi makes it work really well. The humor remained the same, but this time Shinchan and his family were battling for their… lives? sanity? clothing? I guess a way home is probably what they were seeking as they find themselves fending off an attack from bikini-wearing aliens. After a narrow escape, it’s time for an overseas vacation, giving Shinchan more opportunities to cause trouble.

The humor still comes as hard and fast as it did in the first volume, and there’s even some strangely sweet and touching moments as Mitzi misdiagnoses herself as being pregnant. The art’s still as cute and amusing as in previous volumes. If there’s one thing this series is besides funny, it’s consistent. You’re not going to read Crayon Shinchan if you’re looking for depth or mindless violence, despite Mitzi repeatedly delivering nasty noogies to Shin’s skull. You’re here for the humor, and after six volumes Shinchan remains entertaining, light, unpretentious and, most importantly, fun.

Volume six of Crayon Shincan will be available on December 24th.

–Reviewed by Ken Haley

Shinobi Life, Vol. 1

By Shoko Conami
Tokyopop, 192 pp.
Rating: Teen

Well, it’s happened again. I receive a review copy for a title with a premise that makes me expect the worst, only to end up liking it a great deal. Not only that, I’m willing to spend my own money to obtain subsequent volumes! It’s all an evil plot.

Beni Fujiwara is the daughter of a rich and powerful man, and has grown accustomed to being kidnapped. She even gives pointers to her captors and would like nothing more than for her father to be publicly blamed for her death. One afternoon, as she is being held at knifepoint atop a tall building, a ninja from the past falls from the sky, knocks her off the building, and manages to stop their fall before they hit the ground. He believes she is Beni-Hime, the princess he is charged with protecting, and takes up duties as her bodyguard.

That doesn’t sound very promising, but it’s actually surprisingly good. Beni is strong-willed and capable, looking and acting more mature than the typical shojo heroine. Kagetora, the ninja, is old-fashioned and very concerned with honor, propriety, and class differences. I like how their relationship develops and also appreciate that Beni’s motivations for not admitting her true identity are thoroughly addressed.

Another thing I particularly like about Shinobi Life is the dialogue. Characters say what should be said at critical moments, but they also say it in a way that feels utterly natural, thanks to the excellent English adaptation by Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane.

I do get a bit of a LuvLuv vibe from this title, owing to Beni’s character design as well as some semi-naughty humor, so it’s possible it’ll turn smutty at some point. Can’t say as I’ll mind terribly.

Volume one Shinobi Life is available now.

–Reviewed by Michelle Smith

Sounds of Love, Vol. 1

By Rin Tanaka
Aurora/LuvLuv, 220 pp.
Rating: Mature

Kyoichiro is the Phillipe Candeloro of classical music, a long-haired bad boy who electrifies crowds and horrifies elitists with his flashy playing, good looks, and anti-establishment attitude. Though he’s been approached by numerous talent agencies, Kyoichiro continues to employ his long-term girlfriend Kazune as his manager. Further complicating their relationship is Kazune’s own musical ambition: she, too, is an accomplished pianist who aspires to a career of her own, though her playing is the antithesis of her boyfriend’s.

Each chapter of this “erotic romance” (Aurora’s term, not mine) follows the same basic formula: first, Kyoichiro comes in contact with a beautiful musician or concert promoter who promises to advance his career; second, Kazune feels pangs of insecurity and questions the relationship; and third, the two reaffirm the strength of their love with several pages of explicit sex. The book’s rinse-and-repeat quality saps the plot of any tension, reducing the backstage intrigue and career angst to filler. The bedroom scenes are pretty tame, notable for the proliferation of sound effects—“thrust,” “pant,” and “shiver” chief among them—and the PG-13 attempts at dirty conversation. The art, too, leaves something to be desired, as the characters are stiffly drawn whether they’re making love or making music. (For a book about two pianists, the artist pays very little attention to how she draws hands. Kyoichiro’s mitts look like they could span a thirteenth!)

The bottom line: Sounds of Love won’t appeal to folks with fetishes, but should appeal to readers who are looking for something sweet and ever-so-slightly risqué.

Volume one of Sounds of Love is available now.

–Reviewed by Katherine Dacey

You’re So Cool, Vol. 2

By YoungHee Lee
Yen Press, 192 pp.
Rating: 13+

Same old dish, different spices: the second installment of You’re So Cool is once again a mixed bag unexpected successes and disappointments. The series’ strength remains its characters, with Nan-Woo taking the slightly-thick-but-kooky shojo lead to new heights while Seung-Ha, the tormented male lead, remains ice-cold but tolerable. Author YoungHee offers some pleasant surprises in volume two, deftly weaving a romantic subplot involving Nan-Woo’s brother into the story. His subplot comes of as a refreshing bit of emotional self discovery, lending some weight to the farcical fluff.

It’s disappointing to see Lee’s originality groan under the weight of too many tropes, particularly when signs of a unique shojo sensibility abound. If the second installment is any indication, the next few volumes look poised to slide into trite, angsty territories that have already been thoroughly explored elsewhere. Lee’s art seems to fall in line with the vanilla dynamic, remaining consistently serviceable with occasional bursts of well placed paneling or detailing. The overall effect is one that, while it does nothing new for the genre, will be quick to please shojo fans and probably good enough to merit picking up the next installment—and in a market awash in high school stories, that’s almost a compliment.

Volume two of You’re So Cool is available now.

–Reviewed by Chloe Ferguson

3 Responses to "Manga Minis, 12/8/08"

1 | there it is, plain as daylight. » Claymore 14, All Hail Crunchyroll

April 6th, 2009 at 6:57 am


[...] shonen series I have reviewed at MR. If you missed my review of volume thirteen back in December, here it is! It was actually my very first review for Manga Recon. Oh, the [...]

2 | swanjun // soliloquy in blue » Blog Archive » Shinobi Life 1 by Shoko Conami: B+

May 8th, 2009 at 1:12 pm


[...] Life turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable. Visit Manga Recon to learn the details! Five volumes have been published in Japan so far and TOKYOPOP seems to be [...]

3 | swanjun // soliloquy in blue » Blog Archive » Bogle 1-2 by Shino Taira and Yuko Ichiju: C

May 8th, 2009 at 1:13 pm


[...] bland tale of a group of “chivalrous thieves” for Manga Recon. You can check it out here! Bogle is published by Go! Comi and the third and final volume is due in February [...]