07 Jun, 2010

Manga Minis, 6/7/10

By: Michelle Smith, Melinda Beasi and Ken Haley

Not a lot of winners in this week’s batch of minis, I’m afraid. Ken starts things off with a look at the second volume of Deadman Wonderland (TOKYOPOP), which has at least begun to grow on him. Next, Melinda is disappointed by the squandered promise in volumes one and two of Maria Holic (TOKYOPOP). Lastly, Michelle finds aspects of Yokan: Premonition’s (DMP) first volume to be intriguing while others are troubling. Enjoy!


Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 2

Written by Jinsei Kataoka, Art by Kazuma Kondou
TOKYOPOP, 208 pp.
Rating: OT (16 +)

The plot thickens as yet another layer to the Deadman Wonderland park and prison is revealed! The second volume in the series keeps the action coming and provides some tantalizing hints to the true purpose behind the park and Ganta’s imprisonment. Not to mention that it expands the cast and raises even more questions, namely just who’s running Deadman Wonderland anyway?

One of the things that I really liked about this volume is how Jisnei Kataoka is beginning to move Ganta from a traumatized passive wreck into a plucky shonen protagonist. The change isn’t sudden, as he’s still fairly scared and prone to freakouts and bouts of naivety, but it’s clear that Ganta’s heading in that direction. Meanwhile, Kazuma Koundu’s artwork continues to be stylish and highly energetic with several dynamic fight scenes scattered throughout the volume, along with a rather trippy sequence where Ganta nearly passes out. The designs for the new characters are rather eye-catching as well.

The series is starting to grow on me. I’m still not exactly blown away by it, but Kondou’s artwork, the way Ganta’s slowly growing as a character, and the myriad of mysteries floating about are engaging and interesting enough to make me want to read more.

Volume two of Deadman Wonderland is available now.

–Reviewed by Ken Haley


Maria Holic, Vols. 1-2

By Minari Endou
Published by TOKYOPOP
Rating: OT (16+)

Kanako is a high school student seeking true love. Since she despises men, she decides to look for it at the same all-girls’ school where her parents met (her father was a teacher). Unfortunately, the first “girl” she falls for, Mariya Shidou, turns out to be a cross-dressing boy! Worse still, in order to keep her from revealing his secret, Mariya installs himself as Kanako’s new roommate, so that he can watch her every move.

What could have been a thoughtful-yet-funny manga about a teen girl dealing with her sexuality, love, and Catholicism at an all-girl’s school in Japan (as unlikely as that manga might have been) is unfortunately not much more than a non-stop barrage of fanservice and male-centered fantasy. In the most obvious of these fantasies, of course, though Kanako lusts after nearly every girl she meets at her new school, it seems clear that she’s being set up to ultimately fall for a man.

The saddest thing about this is that in the midst of the series’ endless boob jokes, nosebleeds, and cries of, “pervert!” Kanako is actually a fairly rich character who, in another manga, might be both funny and touching. She’s smart and idiosyncratic, and is genuinely conflicted about her feelings for her classmates as well as her lack of connection with the Catholic church (in which she struggles to find meaning). Even her schoolmates, whose primary function is to facilitate fanservice, are a quirky, well-defined bunch. The series’ second volume, in particular, has maddeningly untapped potential, which is somehow much more upsetting than if it was just complete trash. The same could be said for Minari Endou’s artwork, which is actually quite expressive, even if what it’s expressing is most likely to offend.

Alternating between tragically wrongheaded and just plain crass, Maria Holic sadly fails to live up to the potential of its premise.

Volumes one and two of Maria Holic are available now.

–Reviewed by Melinda Beasi


Yokan: Premonition, Vol. 1

By Makoto Tateno
Co-published by Oakla Publishing and Digital Manga, Inc., 200 pp.
Rating: Mature (18+)

Akira is the lead singer of a visual kei band and has somewhat of an attitude. He doesn’t care about the fans’ enjoyment, only his own, and refuses to sing anything he didn’t write himself. That is, until he overhears mainstream entertainer Hiroya Sunaga singing one of his own compositions. For the first time, Akira’s obsessed by someone else’s music and makes it his mission to get Hiroya to abandon his “adequate” career and really sing seriously.

Once again, Makoto Tateno has crafted a BL story with a fair amount of plot and a minimum of romance. Yes, Akira and Hiroya eventually become lovers, but there’s always an atmosphere of challenge to their encounters. In dragging Hiroya back into a world he left behind, Akira is creating a rival for himself, setting up a standard to be surpassed.

While this concept is promising, Yokan: Premonition is far from perfect. When Akira first expresses interest in singing his song, Hiroya demands payment. Readers expect this to be sex, but in fact, he only claims a kiss. This led me to hope the story would be free from a nonconsensual scene, but this is unfortunately not the case. The bonus story, “Sinsemilla,” is also pretty horrible, featuring one character dosing another with an aphrodisiac and said victim later suggesting that the drug made him gay. “I was completely hetero before!”

I liked Yokan: Premonition well enough to continue to the second volume, but it probably won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

Volume one of Yokan: Premonition is available now.

–Reviewed by Michelle Smith

Review copies provided by the publishers.

1 Response to "Manga Minis, 6/7/10"

1 | Oliver

June 8th, 2010 at 9:33 pm

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Strongly disagree with Maria Holic’s review, here’s why: treating it literarily will obviously garner bad reviews because too much is being read into it rather than just enjoying it as pure entertainment.

Also, this manga has almost ZERO fanservice (nosebleeds aren’t fanservice). That’s one of the reasons why I liked it because it did NOT rely on fanservice. One panty-shot in Volume 3 does not constitute a “non-stop barrage of fanservice”.

The core of this manga, if you could see it amongst all the “fanservice”, lies in the discussion among the girls. One can easily get insight into the lives of high school girls by learning how they discuss issues. Each girl also has a longing for friendship which comes off naturally.

Furthermore, the issues of sexuality, love, and Catholicism are discussed with enough insight to make the reader think about it after they finish reading. Volume 2 discusses that you don’t have to be a devout Catholic to pray that your friends are healthy and the world is a better place.

Everything about Maria Holic seems to be in total contradiction to this review that I could almost think we’re talking about two different stories. Kanako actually struck me as somewhat bland in the first volume, and the other characters richer.

This is why people shouldn’t base their purchases on only positive reviews because it was a particularly scathing review that made me want to pick this series up, and I was not let down.

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