RIGHT TURN ONLY!!
Minty Hippo Approved

by Liann Cooper, Oct 26th 2004

Buy It Now!


Sensual Phrase Volume 4
Story & Art by Mayu Shinjo
Released by Viz
September 2004

$9.95 US

Not since Hot Gimmick has a shoujo series reeled me in as quickly as Sensual Phrase. With battling boy bands, a steamy relationship, and beautifully volumized hair, Sensual Phrase has everything necessary to make a girl's heart go all aflutter. After a run-in with Lucifer's frontman Sakuya, high schooler Aine finds herself as lead lyricist for the popular band. Her lascivious lyrics not only skyrocket Lucifer to the top of the charts, but also entrance the heart of the puffy-haired band leader. The relationship is put to the test after a tabloid fiasco explodes while the band battles to keep their top spot against hot new band Jesus. Superficial storylines and cheesy band names - you're practically waiting for a third rival group, touting the name Moses, to join the musical myriad - but, despite the surface fluff, Sensual Phrase takes a decidedly more mature path than most. Still containing the angsty torrents of emotion found in every girly series, it lacks the goofy hijinks that you often run across in typical shoujo manga. Having impassioned words of love-making and intense emotions flying all over the place may be a little overwhelming for younger, more casual readers of the genre. If you're looking for a story that isn't complicated and full of instant “I love you... let's have sex” moments, go ahead and delve into steamy pages full of sensual phrases to satisfy those carnal cravings. This is one guilty pleasure you'll indulge in again and again.


Skyscrapers of Oz
Story by Yoshino Somei & Art by Row Takakura
Released by Media Blasters
August 2004

$9.99 US

Nowadays it seems like everyone's testing the waters of the manga industry, and the latest addition to the pool is Media Blasters. With the release of Skyscrapers of Oz, Media Blasters successfully kills two birds with one stone by tackling both the manga and yaoi markets. Mari and Yoichi are “handymen,” as they like to be called; private investigators who flush out their target. After the pair is sent in to nab a subway groper, Mari's emotions are triggered when he locks eyes with the beautiful victim, Yu. Not to be too distracted, Mari turns his attention to the duo's next case - hired by a spiteful wife, they must expose the male lover of her CEO husband. Shockingly, the lover turns out to be none other than Yu. No longer able to deny his feelings, Mari takes Yu under his wing and vows to get to the bottom of the investigation. All I could think about while reading Skyscrapers of Oz were Ryo and Dee from the series FAKE. Mari and Yoichi, while not lovers like Ryo and Dee, contain the same haphazard chemistry as the two passionate cops. Throw in a highly effeminate brother named Miyuki and you have a trio of hilarity. Sex scenes aren't lewd or disgusting and actually serve as comic relief to offset Mari's brooding. Pleasing artwork and a quick, but not hasty, story make the package complete. Looking for a quickie read? Skyscrapers of Oz is a short and sweet escape from reality.


Bleach Volume 3
Story & Art by Tite Kubo
Released by Viz
September 2004

$7.95 US

There's just something about this series that makes me crazily turn the pages and highly anticipate the next volumes. It's a simple story – Ichigo can see ghosts. He sucked up Soul Reaper Rukia's powers. Now he fights in her place against wayward spirits called Hollows. Bleach's strength may not lie in some in-depth plot, but rather its ability to create substantial characters with substantial issues. In this volume, we turn our attention away from random spirit fights and do some personal soul searching. We're given some history on our strawberry-boy, Ichigo, as the painful story behind his mother Masaki's death is divulged. During the family anniversary visit to her grave, things get personal when a hollow known as the Grand Fisher shows up. This may be dark story about demons and spirits, but the scariest addition to the cast of characters could arguably be the talking teddy bear named Kon. A temporary “house” for Ichigo's stand-in body, Kon is, I believe, an attempt at humor and cuteness in some weird, twisted way. By having a solid plot, Bleach carries the reader from conflict to conflict all while keeping the story moving forward. Interesting characters, action-packed fights, and a boy with heart, there's enough here to keep the reader focused no matter their age.


Borrow It


Ray Volume 1
Story & Art by Akihito Yoshitomi
Released by ADV Manga
November 2004

$9.99 US

For Black Jack fans frustrated with the irregular release schedule of the underrated series, Ray may be just what the doctor ordered. Originally born and bred for use on a body farm, Ray's memory houses dark secrets that no young persons' mind should have. Having her eyes harvested at an early age hasn't hindered Ray's determination to save those whose cases are deemed too complicated to attempt. Rescued from a grisly fate and armed with eyes that can penetrate through anything, Ray now makes her living as an underground doctor performing medical miracles. Ray is basically Black Jack with a twist – even the surgeon who gave Ray her X-ray eyes is nicknamed “BJ,” and the small cameos we see of him show his face with the characteristic Black Jack facial stitching. Thankfully devoid, thus far, of episodic incidents, Ray contains a solid and interesting plot. The artwork is probably the weakest part of the book; though scenes are fairly detailed, the characters with their generic rounded faces and lifeless eyes look rather comical in an otherwise intricately illustrated world. Creepy, disturbing, and intriguing, Ray may draw similarities between Tezuka's Black Jack, but it's definitely in a class of its own.


Vampire Game Volume 8
Story & Art by JUDAL
Released by Tokyopop
September 2004

$9.99 US

A vampire lord is reincarnated as a cute, fluffy kitty, goes on the prowl for his arch-enemy, and is adored by a frustratingly annoying princess... yeah, show me something else, right? Wrong. As stupid as the plot sounds, Vampire Game manages to poke fun at itself all while weaving an intricate storyline, which actually borders on being downright confusing. Vampire King Duzell is seeking revenge against his rival, King Phelios, who slew him one hundred years ago. The only catch is that Duzell has been brought back as a cat and he has no idea who Phelios is. With the help of Phelios' granddaughter Ishtar, Duzell hopes that, by tasting the blood of Phelios line, he will eventually find the host of Phelios' spirit. There's a lot going on in this eigth volume, far too much to condense into a capsule review. All I can say is that there's conspiracy, romance, and unreciprocated feelings going on between everyone. It may be hard to keep names and faces straight if you jump into the series now, but for those who have followed Vampire Game up until this point, you'll enjoy the soap opera complexities to your squealable delight. A tale of vampires, lords, and gender-switching cats, this game plays by its own rules and only JUDAL knows when it will end.


Pet Shop of Horrors Volume 8
Story & Art by Matsuri Akino
Released by Tokyopop
September 2004

$9.99 US

I swear Count D looks more and more like a woman with every volume of Petshop of Horrors. More animalistic adventures between creepy petshop owner Count D and Detective Leon are presented with three more tales of mind-bending morals. From a misunderstood mermaid to a murdered sibling, Petshop of Horrors remains one of the weirdest and most interesting series out there. The only thing holding this series back, for me at least, is that it's been eight volumes and there hasn't been much of a plot progression since we first started. Count D still frustrates Detective Leon, though Leon seems more tolerant of the Count. The so called “pets” are as elaborate as the imagination can conjure, and the series as a whole is simply a collection of wacky vignettes all having the same main characters. We're getting close to the end, though, and I keep faith that there will be some shocking revelation which will throw my mind into mayhem. Acid-inspired Aesop's fables – I'm just waiting for a story about a fox and some grapes.


Kizuna - Bonds of Love Volume 2
Story & Art by Kazuma Kodaka
Released by Be Beautiful/CPM Manga
September 2004

$15.99 US

Book two of Kizuna - Bonds of Love holds more depth than I expected. After the haphazard first volume, I could only imagine what the second was like. Split into two stories, the first couple of chapters focus on the formation of Ranmaru and KEI's relationship, while the last chapters involve KEI's brother, Kai, and his bodyguard Masa. Unfortunately, the stories don't mesh well. We're given a sweet, touching story between Ranmaru and KEI and then immediately we have to try and swallow a relationship between a barely 18-year old and his obviously older bodyguard. I don't know if it was age or the disturbing situation, but it just didn't jive with me. Still, Kizuna - Bonds of Love is far from being classified as a bad series and I found this second volume more enjoyable than the first. Looking for pretty boy love-love? Read Skyscrapers of Oz. But, for those with a more acquired taste, poke your head into the pages of Kizuna.


Slayers - Super Explosive Demon Story Volume 6
Story by Hajime Kanzaka & Art by Shoko Yoshinaka
Released by CPM Manga
September 2004

$9.99 US

Slayers is one of those series with which you're supposed to be familiar. The goofy adventures of genius sorceress Lina Inverse and her companions - dumb as a brick Gourry, justice-obsessed Amelia, and rock hard Zelgadis - set the standard for what a fantasy series should be. On the search to find the mystical Orihalcon before the evil Rezo, the group manages to find some time in their journey to stop at a hot spring. No matter how perilous the mission, it seems that every series finds time to have characters take a relaxing dip in vats of hot water. Anyway, lo and behold, while the guys and gals are bathing, trouble in the form of an overzealous bear finds them bent on spreading peace and justice. Afterwards, the quartet gets a visit from the ever charming wizard Xellos. And wherever Xellos is, Rezo the Red Priest is never far behind. I find the Slayers manga to be more enjoyable than the anime simply due to the fact that I don't have to listen to Amelia and her father's gratingly irritating voices. Decent, but nothing to write home about, Slayers is a fun read if you need to pass some time.


GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 20
Story & Art by Tohru Fujisawa
Released by Tokyopop
September 2004

$9.99 US

Good grief, it's volume twenty and this series still isn't done? GTO has definitely been an up and down ride for me and has finally settled into a plateau of mediocrity. Onizuka has been dealt a number of obstacles in his quest to become the greatest teacher EVAR; living in a storage closet, getting zero respect, and basically being cut off at every corner he turns. But, he has persevered and finally seems poised to move into the actual “teaching” realm—except for the new principle. Due to a newly implemented points system, compliments of the new boss, Onizuka is riding in the red and the only way he can save his teaching career is to try and coerce a dropout student to return to school. I've never been a fan of GTO's artwork, and because of that, have always been so distracted from the story that I've never gotten into the series. Piggish faces, flared nostrils, and bulging lips combined with exaggerated amounts of sweatdrops and veiny expressions just, for me, are disturbingly expressive. But the storyline is funny and the situations are so off the wall that you can't help but snicker. In that respect Tohru Fujisawa's storytelling is especially appealing. So, ugly illustrations plus humorous storyline still equal out to be a moderately entertaining read that will catch your attention and hopefully keep it for the series' lengthy run.


Gamerz Heaven Volume 1
Story & Art by Maki Murakami
Released by ADV Manga
November 2004

$9.99 US

Kaito Suzuki is obsessed with video games...like really obsessed. Aside Kiwashima, his friends are less than interested and wish that he'd just give up gaming and focus on his schoolwork. But, Kaito's obsession is about to jump to a whole new level after a mysterious package arrives in the mail containing a game called Gamerz Heaven. The lines between reality and the virtual world blur once Kaitou loads up the game. Everything Kaito does in the game has a direct effect on the real world he lives in! Just like a real-life RPG, Kaito must form a party, build up points, and ultimately save the world by defeating the top boss. Convincing his friends to join him in this virtual quest was the easy part. Saving up enough lives while leveling up is the hard part. Did I mention that when it's “Game Over” it's really over for our hero and his friends? It's .hack all over! We have our cutesy hero, cutesy heroine, brooding warrior, and annoying loudmouth. Throw in some mysterious character guide–-good or evil... you don't really know—and the cast is complete. Artistically, Maki Murakami's series is solid with character designs that I find way more appealing than her popular series Gravitation. But, while Gamerz Heaven may be more innovative than her boy band books, compared to everything else out there, the series falls short. Not especially poor, not especially good...just kind of there. If it came down to choosing between .hack and Gamerz Heaven, I'd vote for The World.


Confidential Confessions Volume 5
Story & Art by Reiko Momochi
Released by Tokyopop
September 2004

$9.99 US

What is there to say about Confidential Confessions? It's a series that tackles the real life issues of teenage girls; issue such as sexual harassment, bullies, and discrimination. If you read it, you'll see just how spectacular your life is, or become so depressed that you'll want to hole yourself up with nothing but a journal and your darkened soul. In volume five, we're presented with two extreme stories- the first story titled, “Secret,” deals with gang rape while the second deals with a girl diagnosed with AIDS. Both deal with the theme of ignoring reality; bent on showing that sh*t happens and there's nothing you can do about it. Confidential Confessions is a great idea, but they carried the idea a little too far. The stories are lengthy, the drama too angsty, and honestly—I find myself skipping to the end only to find out that NOTHING REALLY HAPPENS. Come on! I understand that these are real issues that happen to real people, but I can get the same message by reading a snippet in a Cosmo magazine. Drama... angst... I'm a chick and it's way too rich for my blood—and oh how black and tortured that blood is.


Jing, King of Bandits - Twilight Tales Volume 1
Story & Art by Yuichi Kumakura
Released by Tokyopop
September 2004

$9.99 US

Jing: King of Bandits was an edgy, artsy series full of imaginative worlds for the young master thief to play in. Twilight Tales takes us one step further to a much darker place where an older Jing and his bird pal Kir have come to lay down their claim as the ultimate thieves. Riddled with weird poems and confusing, hard to read text, Twilight Tales can most adequately be described as disappointing. Where the first series was playful, fun, and innovative, Twilight Tales is dark, dismal, and just plain odd. We begin in the city of Czarine where it is rumored that a large crystal valuable enough to buy the entire city resides. Jing has his sights completely focused on obtaining the giant sparkly rock and neither strange antennae people nor giant antennae people can prevent him from getting it. Throw in some jibberish about God, the meaning of life, and speaking to the dead via radio waves and you've got yourself one crazy story. Twilight Tales is so weird that it's distracting. Character designs are great; they're unique and creative. The storyline is underdeveloped, yet intriguing. Put them together and your mind is tossed into this errant world of strange characters and an ambiguous plot. One or the other and I think the story would've been a lot more enjoyable, but as it were I had a hard time figuring out what to focus on. This first volume is a good attempt at a sequel for Jing: King of Bandits. I'm willing to give it another shot, but I really was expecting something much different and a lot more satisfying.


Bastard!! Volume 5
Story & Art by Kazushi Hagiwara
Released by Viz
September 2004

$9.95 US

...Unitard thong...
...A horny wizard lusting for his elvish daughter......DOTS........
...What the HECK is going on...!?

Kingdom Metallicana is under attack by the dark armies of the Four Divine Kings. Legend has it that the kiss of a virgin can awaken the legendary wizard Dark Schneider, who is sealed within a young boy named Lucien. Turns out that the virgin's name is Tia and she is actually the stepsister of Lucien. Oookaaayyyy. Let's add more confusion to the fire, shall we? Upon the revival of D.S., Metallicana learns that the dark army is actually made up of past comrades of D.S. However, loyal to the one who unsealed him (you know...the kiss), D.S. pledges his allegiance to Tia and fights against the hordes of evil. Wait, there's more. D.S. has a daughter named Arshes Nei; actually, more of a lover; who has had a curse placed upon her–-kill D.S. or turn into a toad. And while all of this is going on, an out-of-control Cyclops is wreaking havoc upon the city!!!It's obvious Bastard!! doesn't take itself seriously at all. It's like Excel Saga - nothing but over-the-top comedy and ridiculousness. But the dated artwork and ludicrous storyline really pull this book down. I mean, no matter what year it is... mullets and unitards are just not sexy. Bastard!! may contain humor, action, and plenty of boobs'n'ass, but unfortunately it's just not enough. There's plenty of other stuff out there if you're looking for a laugh. Save this one for later, kids.


Recycle It


Gadjet Volume 1
Story & Art by Hiroyuki Eto
Released by ADV Manga
November 2004

$9.99 US

Shuichi Toriga is known in his class for being a wiz when it comes to fixing machines. Be it a CD player or a stereo, Shuichi can fix it. But, recently his mind has been wandering and mixing everyday thoughts in with his machines. He's starting to see people as machines, especially his crush Tarai. When she falls and breaks her arm, he thinks of that day as when Tarai “broke.” He compares her voice to that of a cute-sounding machine. Shuichi is obsessed with machines! Things get really strange when Shuichi notices that machines go crazy whenever Tarai is around and even more so after she attracts an alien machine known as Vivilian. Uh huh. I've read Gadjet twice, and honestly I can't make heads or tails of the thing. Is Tarai an alien? Is she really a machine? Is Shuichi on crack? Don't be fooled by the characters' doughy, cherub faces and stubby legs. These kids are in junior high and could easily obtain some high quality drugs. I mean, seriously... you have to be high to think that because your crush is an alien-attracting machine she's totally hot. Crikey. Read Ghost in the Shell if you're looking for trippy man/machine interfacing. At least with that you'll get gorgeous artwork.

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