Jason checks out Hideki Ohwada's politically-charged mahjong manga, The Legend of Koizumi.
RIGHT TURN ONLY!! Sugar Rush
by Liann Cooper, Nov 20th 2004
Buy It Now!
The Wallflower Volume 1
Story & Art by Tomoko Hayakawa
Released by Del Rey
Most girls would consider it a blessing to have four totally gorgeous guys as their housemates. It'd be even better if the sole purpose of those guys was to shower you with endless affection and turn you into a beautiful fashionista. Unfortunately, horror movie-addict and ragamuffin Sunako Nakahara doesn't see it this way. She sees the four “creatures of the light” as, quite possibly, one of the worst things to ever have happen to her. Worse is that her aunt cut the boys a deal – make Sunako beautiful and they can live in her mansion for free! Like it or not, Sunako's life is about to be tossed from reclusive to exclusive and readers will find themselves strangely addicted to the nosebleed hijinks that occur between the characters. In fact, if it weren't for the characters (mainly Sunako and lead guy Kyohei), The Wallflower would be just that—a wallflower; because you know plot is hardly ever the driving force behind an “ugly duckling” series. For being the first volume, this moves quickly having Sunako transform from she-monster to babe-a-licious, allowing readers to direct their attention towards the developing relationship between Sunako and Kyohei. Artistically, I've seen prettier, but the way in which each situation is approached is so amusingly priceless that you won't mind the mediocre art. This is especially helpful in distracting you from the fact that the guys are supposed to be fifteen-year-olds. Yes... they're only fifteen. Regardless, whether it's Sunako's heavenly boy descriptions or the characters' over- exaggerated emotional responses, The Wallflower will undoubtedly sprinkle its goofy charm over even the toughest critic.
From Far Away Volume 1
Story & Art by Kyouko Hikawa
Released by Viz
Let me just say that for a series that's over ten years old, From Far Away looks pretty darn good. Sure, the character designs are typical for its day and age, and at times scenes are sparsely illustrated, but find me a series that doesn't have a problem from time to time! Cookie cutter only in design, From Far Away drops all generics within the first couple of pages by having the heroine, Noriko, teleport to a strange land via an exploding paper bag. As with any good fantasy shoujo series, our leading lady wakes up to find herself on the menu of giant, drooling, carnivorous worms. Not to worry, because she's soon rescued by a long-haired bishounen with killer looks and even deadlier warrior skills named Izark. Throw in some weird villains that ride flying dinosaurs and incessant babblings about Noriko being “the Awakening,” and you have yourself the makings of a highly entertaining book. Granted, From Far Away could dribble off into the fluffy LaLa land of pointless girly series, but with perplexing hints that Noriko is some sort of future-altering prophet, it currently has me hooked. This book also contains something I've never encountered before in a series – the integration of two sets of languages. I'll explain. Noriko speaks Japanese. Izark and the people of the fantasy land do not. Endearingly, Noriko tries to learn the native tongue which is depicted by use of a double-outlined speech bubble. When she speaks in Japanese, it's shown with just a normal speech bubble. Sounds confusing, but readers will quickly adjust and incorporate the added feature. Because of the speech barrier, watching Noriko and Izark interact with one another is amusing. Armed with the lurking knowledge that Noriko will be Izark's undoing, intrigue is only added to the ever-growing bond. Reading much like another Viz series, Red River, From Far Away has captured my attention and I eagerly await the second volume.
Enmusu Volume 1
Story & Art by Takahiro Seguchi
Released by ADV Manga
I don't know about anyone else, but ADV wins my award for most eclectic assortment of manga titles... ever. With such a mass of titles, they've had a number of surprise series surface (again, at least to me), most recently with Enmusu. When I read the cover description of Enmusu and saw the words “guy,” “maid,” and “fourteen charms,” I let out gigantic *sigh*. However, much to my delight, Enmusu turned out to be a really sweet and enjoyable book, mainly due to its simple story smattered with lovable characters like lead guy Gisuke Arikawa. Gisuke is a forgettable wuss of a boy; despised by his crush, errand-boy to the high school, and basically your typical all-around loser. But, his luck quickly changes after a cute maid named Sofia presents him with one of fifteen talismans - Gisuke's being the relationship talisman by bearing the word “Enmusu.” Hooray for title significance! Whoever collects all fifteen charms first will become the new head of Dragoon. Gisuke's determination to keep his charm and prove that he is just as deserving as the other fourteen candidates is what'll keep the reader's eyes affixed to the pages. Of course, it doesn't hurt that each charm holder is appointed their own, for the most part, adorable maid. The end of the first volume leaves us in the heat of Gisuke's second charm battle, igniting reservations concerning potential battle-of-the-week syndrome. However, being a short series, I have faith that Enmusu won't fall into this trap. A charming book with the basic elements of perseverance and friendship - this one's worth checking into.
Passion Volume 1
Story Shinobu Gotoh & Art by Shoko Takaku
Released by Digital Manga Publishing
I know you were all wondering when this week's yaoi title was going to appear... and here it be! The latest boy/boy romance released by Digital Manga Publishing, Passion is interesting in that it's about a relationship between a student named Hikaru and his teacher, Mr. Shima. While that in itself is fairly unique, Passion goes one step further and messes with your head by making the dominant player in the relationship the student. As if the student/teacher pair up weren't enough, readers get a visual trip as they open up to Hikaru having a rather forceful interlude with Shima. Disturbingly, Hikaru loves calling Shima “Sir” in any and every situation (including aforementioned interlude). No sooner do you finish choking down Shima's fragile femininity when you're bombarded by the speech bubbles containing sweet nothings like, “I love you Sir!” and “I imagine it was painful, Sir.” The real meat of the book, however, lies in the twisted arrangement that Hikaru and Shima actually have with one another. Mr. Shima has made a deal with Hikaru to “role-play” as lovers for the remaining three years of Hikauru's high school life. His intentions are as baffling as Passion's plot, and it's precisely because of the disturbingly perplexing drama between the two that you can't help but want to read more. Containing more than enough impassioned predicaments and one really whacked out love triangle, Passion has enough to satisfy the hidden fangirl within us all.
Hyper Rune Volume 1
Story & Art by Tamayo Akiyama
Released by Tokyopop
If you stared at this book and wondered why the heck Subaru and Miyuki are fighting aliens, be confused no longer. Hyper Rune is by ex-CLAMPer Tamayo Akiyama, clearly explaining why every character looks like they're straight out of any CLAMP series ever made. She's created a rather interesting tale about a teen named Rune and her adventures as a galactic superhero. Rune is the powerful Space Queen and it's up to her, two cute sidekicks (who conveniently happen to be twin brothers), and one Kirby-like, mahou shoujo mascot to keep evil aliens from taking over Earth. Adding to the zany fun is Rune's overzealous grandfather who obviously took a page from Tomoyo Daidouji. With his incessant attempts to clothe Rune in his cute, yet impractical “battle” costumes, one can clearly see parallels to the Cardcaptor Sakura seamstress. Ranking high on the cheese-o-meter, Hyper Rune makes it obvious that it's trying to poke fun at itself, and at times the book seems to parody certain popular magical girl series such as Angelic Layer, in the battle suit designs, and Sailor Moon, with the eventual appearance of three androgynous guardians. As funny and entertaining as Hyper Rune was, I will admit that my saturation point for ditzy and kooky had been reached once I finished reading. Since the next volume isn't due out until January 2005, I think I'll have plenty of time to recover before my next round with the space heroes.
Dream Gold Volume 1
Story & Art by Tatsuro Nakanishi
Released by ADV Manga
Anything that requires multiple readings but still doesn't make itself any less confusing afterwards automatically loses brownie points with me. Fortunately, Dream Gold has enough pros that outweigh its “Wha... ?” factor to keep it from falling completely into the red. At first glance, the book's “Wha... ?” factor is readily apparent due to the funky character designs and futuristic setting. We're first introduced to genius-boy Kurorot Jio Clocks, who looks rather like an emaciated version of Ban from GetBackers. He and his equally stick-figured chick-friend, Katana Shirabano, seek the fabled treasure which supposedly lies beneath Dark City. But there are others who wish to acquire the fabled goodies as well. So what better way to weed out the worthy from the wimps than by having them go through some trials a.k.a. episodic battles? And with that, Dream Gold loses all sense of coherency and launches into full “Wha... ?” battle mode. You'd think that character fights are about as cut and dry as it gets, but this book throws that way of thinking to the wind. Characters have points, they battle for... things... and they're ultimately looking for treasure. I think. Well, I know that Kurorot and Katana are looking for treasure. As for the rest of the cyberslum prospectors, they seem to exist so that Kurorot and Katana can have someone to beat up. Adding to the confusion is the appearance of a “narrator” who usually shows up at the beginning and endings of chapters, though if you're lucky she'll sporadically start talking in the middle of one. Treasure hunting has been a mainstay for many a storyline and Dream Gold gives the theme a nice contemporary kick in the rear. With its innovative approach, there is no doubt that Dream Gold will grab your attention. However, whether or not it will keep your attention is the real question.
Princess Tutu Volume 1
Story & Art by Mizuo Shinonome
Released by ADV Manga
The title, “Princess Tutu” practically screams pink sugary goodness out to readers. Are you all ready to hear a secret? *whispers* Princess Tutu really is “pink, sugary goodness!” (Though, I have to admit that it's more “pink sugar” than “goodness.”) The saccharin drip begins with the klutzy introduction of wannabe ballerina Ahiru Arima. She wants nothing more than to be a graceful dancer, and dreams of someday dancing in the spotlight with her “prince.” Unfortunately, since Ahiru doesn't possess a drop of grace, the idea of becoming a professional dancer is destined to remain a dream. Naturally, some sort of miracle has to befall our heroine because she can't trip through the entire series as a clumsy fool. Following the mahou shoujo checklist to the tee, Princess Tutu fulfills the requisite “acquire magical item via miracle encounter” by page 13. After receiving an egg-shaped pendant, Ahiru attains the ability to transform into the graceful Princess Tutu. The saccharin drip completes its course by revealing that Ahiru's mission as Princess Tutu is to collect all the pieces of her “Prince's” memories through use of powerful spins and leaps. Someone's going to have to collect my memories because my brain did a defensive memory dump after this sugar rush to the head. Butt-kicking ballerinas and clueless princes – I just don't think the world is ready for this. Rumor has it that Princess Tutu shapes up to be an unconventionally good series, but right now it's just your typical magical girl drivel. Don't take this one straight up. Use it as a chaser to your favorite series instead.
Infinite Ryvius Volume 1
Story & Art by Shinsuke Kurihashi
Released by ComicsOne
Time and time again, it's been proven that manga adaptations never turn out as well as the anime on which they're based. It's even more difficult to create a successful adaptation from a series that's only mediocre to begin with. Enter the latest manga adaptation victim, Infinite Ryvius. Taking place in the year 2225 A.D., Infinite Ryvius is about a group of kids who, due to the sudden death of ALL of the adults on board, have just been placed in the position of piloting a highly advanced spaceship called the Ryvius. Floating aimlessly through space, the eldest members (teenagers, of course) take charge and organize a rescue plan. Actually, the “rescue” is never really addressed in the manga. In fact, nothing concerning the plot is ever explained. Readers are forced to operate solely under assumption, probably due much to the fact that half of the series is crammed into this one volume. Characters, while nicely drawn, randomly appear and you're just expected to know who they are and what they do. This makes it virtually impossible for the reader to connect with the characters or sympathize with their plight... because you don't even know what the plight is! Plowing forward at breakneck speed, unless you've already seen Infinite Ryvius, you're going to have a difficult time understanding the manga. If you decide to pick this one up, prepare yourself for one heck of a hasty and jumbled ride.
Di Gi Charat Theater: Dejiko's Adventure Volume 1
Story & Art by Yuki Kiriga
Released by Broccoli Books
Heads up, because the most notorious of catgirls is on the prowl yet again! After destroying the shop Gamerz (which is her place of employment) with her laser eye beams, Dejiko is ordered by her manager to find the “secret treasure of prosperity.” Accompanied by her rival, bunny gal Rabi~en~Rose, sidekick Gema, and the very cute Puchiko, she sets off on an urban adventure to find the requested “riches.” After a series of failed attempts and numerous distractions, Dejiko and Co. ultimately come up empty handed. It would've been nice had the group found something in order to justify reading hundreds of repetitions of “Nya!” and “Nyo!”, but I've come to the conclusion that Di Gi Charat's only purpose is to provide severe amounts of adorable. From the consumption of Rabi~en~Rose's rabbit ears to the included “Dejiko Dress-up Paper Doll” in the back of the book, Di Gi Charat oozes nothing but syrupy charm. Actually, it oozes TOO much, thus creating its ultimate downfall. Di Gi Charat fanatics will probably love this book, but for those of us who don't have a predilection towards the green-haired catgirl, I advise you to read something else. Too much of anything is deadly, especially cuteness, nya!
Indian Summer Volume 1
Story & Art by Takehito Mizuki
Released by ComicsOne
Cosplay... maids... .wacky hijinks. NEED I SAY MORE?! These are the things that make up one of two things:
1. An otaku's messed-up, fetish-filled dream.
2. A sane person's worst nightmare.
For my purposes, we're going to go with choice #2. The nightmare begins in Chobits-like fashion by having a young man named Takaya Murase purchase a robot companion. He desires a “companion” so that he can have a life-size, walking, talking, dress-up doll parade around in cute costumes for his brainless enjoyment. For some reason he ends up purchasing a maid robot, designed for servitude rather than for entertainment and companionship. Much to Murase's disappointment, all maid robot Yui wants to do is “serve” him and much to his chagrin, she doesn't feel that includes modeling stupid outfits. So, what's the plot you ask? Here's what's neat about Indian Summer... .there is no plot! All 170 pages consist of Murase trying to get Yui to cosplay and then Yui vehemently protesting. Wait, I did forget to mention something. Towards the end of the book, two new maids join the Murase's household adding in the super exciting twist of... wait for it... jealousy! Not even the artwork can save Indian Summer. Except for the cover, a majority of the book's illustrations look like sloppy sketches. Someone please hand me a spoon because I need to scoop my brain back into my head. Ouch.
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