27 Jul, 2009

Manga Minis, 7/27/09

By: Michelle Smith, Ken Haley, Grant Goodman and Connie C.

We’ve got another eclectic assortment on tap this week! Grant starts things off with a return to a series he particularly enjoys with volume two of Cirque du Freak (Yen Press) and also checks out volume thirteen of Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs (VIZ) ; Connie is up next with another second volume, this one from Gakuen Prince (Del Rey); Ken follows with a look at Mushishi (Del Rey), still going strong in its seventh volume; and Michelle tackles volume two of the manhwa fairy tale, Pig Bride (Yen Press).


Cirque du Freak, Vol. 2

cirque2By Darren Shan and Takahiro Arai
Yen Press, 192 pp.
Rating: Teen

Well, so much for a grand adventure with a master and his apprentice taking on the wild. When Mr. Crepsley reazlizes that Darren is lonely, he makes an offer to return to the Cirque du Freak. The freak show does have a few younger members and Darren becomes fast friends with Evra Von, the snake-boy.

The main plot point of this volume revolves around Darren’s refusal to drink human blood. He grows weaker and weaker with every chapter, trying to convince himself that he would rather die. It’s a particularly dark thought for such a young character to exhibit, but it really drives the story and makes it accessible to an older audience. Additional psychological drama pours forth from Darren’s simultaneous hatred and respect for Crepsley. He struggles to figure out how to treat the vampire. Without his teachings, Darren knows he will not survive. He also desires revenge, and when Crepsley takes the stage to perform with his deadly spider, Darren realizes he may have a chance to kill him.

The pacing is great, never settling into a lull. Just as Darren’s life starts to revert back to a bright-eyed tale of strong friendship among kids, the more sinister side of the story creeps back in. Most of the time, the serenity is broken up by some wonderfully bloody violence.

Despite a heavy focus on Darren’s blood-drinking, volume two introduces Mr. Desmond Tiny, one of the only members of the freak show who positively drips with evil. He and Darren get into a little spat and then he promptly disappears from the story. I hope he returns, as Arai’s drawings of Mr. Tiny were the best pieces of art in this volume.

Volume two of Cirque du Freak will be available on August 4, 2009.

–Reviewed by Grant Goodman


Gakuen Prince, Vol. 2

gakuenprince2By Jun Yuzuki
Del Rey, 182 pp.
Rating: 16+

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t pick up on the positive note it left off on last volume, and Rise continues to endure bullying simply by being associated with Mizutani. The two aren’t really a couple yet, and there are temptations on both sides as girls try to woo Mizutani away from Rise and a popular boy named Akamaru takes an interest in Rise. The other girls at school get angry about the extra attention from the aloof and unsocial Akamaru, and the bullying gets twice as bad. Hijinks both wacky and scary ensue.

This series crosses lines most other shojo series only dream of, and that’s why it’s good, but that’s also why it’s trashy and scary, because it does this without acknowledging a line was crossed. Within the first few pages, a girl hands one of the most popular boys in school a condom with a lunchtime invitation on it, he accepts, and all the girls in the area swoon. Meanwhile, Rise is being pelted with eggs for going out with a boy and keeping his body all to herself, when in reality they aren’t having sex at all. That’s just how this series goes, and it’s a good bit of guilty fun for anyone who’s up for it. Just know what you’re getting into.

Incredibly, there’s a point of contention between Rise and Mizutani over a ceremony where they have to kiss, which seems like it should be the least of their problems. The only other quibble I have with the story here (insane premise aside) is that it can be pared down to the “two hot guys like the plain girl” plot device. It’s a bit more interesting than that, since Rise is the only person that seems to think the school is full of madness and is a stronger-than-average heroine, and Mizutani doesn’t actually like her. Akamaru may not either, for that matter, but the structure is in place for a love triangle. This series is worth reading precisely because it steps outside the norm, so hopefully it will fend off the usual formulas a little while longer.

Volume two of Gakuen Prince is available now.

–Reviewed by Connie C.


Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs, Vol. 13

inubaka13By Yukiya Sakuragi
Viz Media, 216 pp.
Rating: Older Teen

This volume features a heavy focus on an owner dealing with the death of her pet. It goes a little overboard with the drama at times (Kanako thinks about strangling herself with her dog’s leash for a few panels) and then steps back into “tamer” territory when she starts drinking and visiting host clubs instead. Suguri notices this destructive behavior and decides that she is going to do everything she can to help Kanako turn her life back around. Sakuragi did some research for this arc, citing the help of the chief of the Japan Pet Loss Association at the end of chapter 137. I really love how dedicated she is to providing accurate information when it comes to the symptoms and stages of grieving.

Sometimes the information on dogs was a little much for me. Suguri goes on a rant about how the dog clothing size chart works, how to measure a dog for the proper fit, and then displays a full-size chart. These sections, however, may be incredibly helpful for anyone who is thinking about owning a dog. If that is your case, then this manga is a wonderful tutorial.

As expected, the character designs for the dogs continue to astound me, as they consistently outshine any other detail found in a panel.

Volume thirteen of Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs is available now.

–Reviewed by Grant Goodman


Mushishi, Vol. 7

mushishi7By Yuki Urushibara
DelRey, 240 pp
Rating: Older Teens (16 +)

Seven volumes in and Ginko is still going strong. This time around the volume is made up of four stories, with the final being a two parter that takes up much of the second half of the book. If that wasn’t enough, there are also ties to an earlier tale and possibly even a hint at an ongoing subplot, too!

Like previous volumes the stories consist of Ginko, the Mushi Master, wandering and doing what he can to help people whose lives have become entwined with the Mushi. Of course, the problems he encounters and solves are as much emotional as they are mushi-based, making Ginko something of a wandering psychologist in addition to his stated profession. Admittedly, he’s far better at handling the mushi then he is at fixing people’s relationships, but he still makes an effort however small it may be. Most of the stories focus on relationships and Urushibara utilizes the mushi to externalize the characters’ internal conflicts. It’s a nifty device that gives the character drama some nice twists and visual flair. Urushiba’s gorgeous and lush art gives the book a wonderfully textured feel, and she does a magnificent job at handling the quiet moments that fill the book, making the mere lowering of eyes wonderfully engaging.

Though the slow pacing and low-on-action nature might turn some folks off, I found Mushishi to an enjoyable and intriguing read, not to mention a nice example that not all seinen has to be action-packed, violent fare.

Volume seven of Mushishi is available now.

–Reviewed by Ken Haley


Pig Bride, Vol. 2

pigbride_2By KookHwa Huh and SuJin Kim
Yen Press, 192 pp.
Rating: Teen

Si-Joon Lee is still not used to the idea that the girl in the pig mask that he agreed to marry as a child is really his fiancée. The girl, Mu-Yeon, calmly yet tenaciously ignores his demands to leave him alone, and it gradually occurs to Si-Joon that she is actually protecting him from an unknown and dangerous third party with a grudge against his family. Meanwhile, Doe-Doe, the girl Si-Joon likes and mistakenly believes is sweet, schemes to make him hers, which means finding out Mu-Yeon’s secrets.

The greatest appeal of Pig Bride is its fairy tale feel, which grows even stronger with this volume, as Si-Joon begins to experience dreams of a past life with a woman who reminds him of Mu-Yeon. Images from the dream recur in his waking hours and begin to impact how he feels about his fiancée. Although he does get angry at her and attempt to push her away, it’s apparent that it’s mostly his own confusion that is the problem. The developing relationship between these two is handled well and is easily the most compelling thing about the story.

Less successful is the treatment of the threat against Si-Joon’s life, which still makes very little sense two volumes in. Doe-Doe’s plotting, too, offers little of interest, though at least her antagonistic presence seems poised to bring about revelations about either Mu-Yeon’s appearance or the nature of the mask she wears. Possibly both.

Even with its vagueness on the villain front, Pig Bride is still a very entertaining tale. It’s definitely worth a read.

Volume two of Pig Bride will be available on August 4, 2009.

–Reviewed by Michelle Smith

2 Responses to "Manga Minis, 7/27/09"

1 | Pig Bride 2 by KookHwa Huh and SuJin Kim: B+ | Soliloquy in Blue

July 27th, 2009 at 8:57 am

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[...] can find that review here. Michelle 27 July 2009 Manhwa, Supernatural Yen Press A Strange and Mystifying Story 1 by [...]

2 | Gakuen Prince 2 « Slightly Biased Manga

November 5th, 2009 at 6:13 am

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[...] I reviewed this title for this week’s Manga Minis column at Manga Recon, so check out the review over there. [...]

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