14 Jun, 2010

Manga Minis, 6/14/10

By: Michelle Smith, Melinda Beasi, Sam Kusek and Connie C.

It’s the ides of June, and the PCS crew is back with another set of minis! Michelle starts things off with a look at Fairy Navigator Runa, a new magical girl series from Del Rey. Next, Connie checks out the two-volume story of Lord Calthorpe’s Promise (Harlequin/SOFTBANK Creative), Melinda is disappointed by 9th Sleep (DMP), and Sam wraps things up with his reviews of volume four of Sumomomo, Momomo (Yen Press) and volume nine of 20th Century Boys (VIZ).

Fairy Navigator Runa, Vol. 1

Story by Miyoko Ikeda, Art by Michiyo Kikuta
Del Rey, 192 pp.
Rating: Teen (13+)

When the female protagonist of a series is “a completely uncoordinated fourth grader,” you just know you’re dealing with a magical girl story. Fairy Navigator Runa is an unoriginal example of the genre, starring a clumsy but kind-hearted girl who learns that she is not only the princess of the fairy world but also possessed of a great power. Yawn.

Runa is resistant to this news at first, but when one friend—whose sole character trait is “the one who clutches a teddy bear”—is nearly struck by a car and another is captured by an evil ferret creature, Runa’s desire to protect her friends awakens her awesome ability to… send fairies back home. Yes, that is her amazing talent, and the inspiration for the manga’s title.

This manga is simply boring. It’s also full of cheesy dialogue like, “I am the one who holds the key to your destiny.” The only original elements are the creepy third eye on the back of Runa’s neck—such an uncute element is rare in this kind of tale—and Sae, the tomboyish best friend who looks at Runa in a very special way upon being rescued. Slashy!

There’s no shortage of magical girl manga out there, so if that’s what you’re after, it shouldn’t be hard to find one better than this.

Volume one of Fairy Navigator Runa is available now.

–Reviewed by Michelle Smith

Lord Calthorpe’s Promise, Vols. 1-2

Story By Sylvia Andrew, Art By Rin Ogata
Published by Harlequin K.K./SOFTBANK Creative Corp.
Rating: 16+

England, early 1800s: Katherine, after the death of her brother, is forced to live with her uncle and his abusive family. She is soon rescued by the handsome Adam Calthorpe, a colleague of her brother’s who promised to look after her. However, the stubborn Katherine has no interest in Adam’s charity or his proposal to send her through the debutante season in order to satisfy the requirements to collect her family’s wealth. As her feelings for Adam slowly begin to change, she will need to deal with Adam’s greedy ex-lover and a scheming cousin who is after her fortune.

The two volumes in this set are two halves of a whole story. The plot summary is more or less everything you need to know, and I enjoyed it quite a bit for its period setting and the unique debutante angle. Katherine was also a great heroine, since after the abuse she took from her family early on, she wasn’t willing to submit to anyone or anything. She was forceful and had no interest in in the values of the society class, and it was fun to see her transformation from a “country bumpkin” to a very successful debutante that could pay lip service to the things she hated.

What you see is what you get, and while there’s very little depth to speak of, if it sounds interesting to you, you’ll probably enjoy it since it delivers exactly what it promises. Be advised of the sloppy text editing in the Harlequin titles, though.

Volumes one and two of Lord Calthorpe’s Promise are available now at emanga.com.

–Reviewed by Connie C.

9th Sleep

By Makoto Tateno
Digital Manga Publishing, 200 pp.
Rating: 16+

Luke is the child of a “Maria possession,” meaning that his mother was still a virgin when he was born. What he soon finds out is that he is also a god-prince fallen to Earth, as well as the reincarnation of the “King’s Soul,” which he received upon the death of his father. Unwilling to wed the bride chosen for him, Luke carried that soul with him when he committed suicide sixteen years previous and placed it in the womb of the earth-woman he loved. Now that sixteen years have passed, he must fight his “brother” Malchus for possession of their father’s soul and kingdom.

If that summary seems convoluted, that’s no mistake. The premise of this manga is extraordinarily opaque, despite the fact that the mangaka attempts to explain it repeatedly, mainly by playing out the original scenario two more times over the course of the volume. In each incarnation, Luke avoids his final standoff with Malchus by killing himself, thus impregnating another unsuspecting young woman on the earth below.

While boys’ love plotlines are rarely required to be coherent (or even to exist at all) in order to attract a major portion of their fanbase, in this case there is also no boys’ love to speak of, leaving very little for fans of the genre to latch on to. Though the mangaka does offer up very pretty drawings of her two warring brothers, even standard fan service is in short supply.

Despite some attractive artwork, a confusing, vapid plot and lack of boys’ love action leave this one-shot manga without a clear audience.

9th Sleep is available now.

–Reviewed by Melinda Beasi

Sumomomo, Momomo, Vol. 4

By Shinobu Ohtaka
Yen Press, 208 pp.
Rating: Older Teen

Sumomomo, Momomo’s fourth volume is where the action that I predicted really kicks in and it does a surprisingly good job. Koushi and his ragtag group of loveable and insanely powerful misfits are challenged when the Koganei or Tiger clan finally strikes. This attack really shakes things up for the group, leaving Koushi feeling inadequate about his lack of super-powered martial arts knowledge, Momoko upset over the fact that she can’t comfort him and Tenka torn between friends and family. This large disturbance of the light comedy that we’ve seen so far creates some brilliant and frankly much-needed characterization.

As for the rest of the book, it sets the story up well, with enough tension to make me really care. My only concern is that the art isn’t going to keep evolving at all. This book’s artwork seemed a bit stale, with more obvious, awkward flaws. I’d like to see Shinobu Ohtaka really tighten up his style but for now, the awkwardness works.

Volume four of Sumomomo, Momomo! is available now.

–Reviewed by Sam Kusek

20th Century Boys, Vol. 9

By Naoki Urasawa
Viz, 216 pp.
Rating: Older Teen

On a whole, I really love the 20th Century Boys series. The story is very emotional and the characters are so relatable that it is frightening how real they are sometimes. Volume nine, however, just didn’t sit as well with me as I was hoping it would. This volume focuses intently on Kanna and her journey as she begins to gather the pieces she needs to take down the Friend corporation.

It is a really exciting volume, as she almost gambles her life away amongst other things, but I felt like it was way too much. There were just so many exciting moments, one right after another, that I felt like I had no time to pause and soak it all in, ultimately causing the events to make a much smaller impact than they intended to.

Fortunately, the art was able to carry these feelings along, providing some really intense, lasting scenes. This is one of those volumes that is a not-so-great piece in a puzzle that is a wonderful, whole picture. You’ll find yourself wanting to get ten immediately after reading nine.

Volume nine of 20th Century Boys will be available on June 15, 2010.

–Reviewed by Sam Kusek

Review copies provided by the publishers.

2 Responses to "Manga Minis, 6/14/10"

1 | Lord Calthorpe’s Promise 2 « Slightly Biased Manga

June 17th, 2010 at 12:56 am


[...] I wrote both volumes of this up for the weekly Manga Minis column at Manga Recon, so check out the series overview over there. [...]

2 | 9th Sleep | Manga Bookshelf

June 23rd, 2010 at 10:18 pm


[...] copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at PopCultureShock. Bookmark/Share BL Bookrack yaoi/boys' love Two by Inoue: Slam Dunk & [...]