RIGHT TURN ONLY!!
Triple Dog Dare

by Liann Cooper, Dec 5th 2004
Somewhat of a concern has been sitting on my mind for a while now and I would like to take this opportunity to address it. I want to make it perfectly clear that while RTO does have three distinct categories, the titles listed within those categories are not in any particular order. This means that if a book ends up bringing up the rear in the "Borrow Section," it doesn't neccessarily imply that you shouldn't check it out.

Anything that isn't OMG KNOCK MY SOCKS OFF AWESOME gets tossed in the "Borrow" area. These are still buyworthy titles, but, in my opinion, you can go about obtaining them at a more... leisurely pace than you would for the "Buy It Now!" books. Occasionally there's a significant gap between the good and the bad books (sometimes even within the individual categories), in which case I hope the differences are blatantly obvious. So, keep an open mind and try and look at RTO's categories in chunks rather than a best--->worst list.

Thanks for reading guys and I hope y'all are getting some good suggestions of things to check out!



Buy It Now!


Mystical Prince Yoshida-kun! Volume 1
Story & Art by Natsuki Yoshimura
Released by ADV Manga
November 2004

$9.99 US

Reading the cover description for Mystical Prince Yoshida-kun!, it came across as having the potential to be mind numbingly annoying. Demon King retires and names a human teen as his successor-–just like every other teeny bopper supernatural adventure, right? Surprisingly, it's far from annoying and tops my list as one of the funniest things I've read all year. As previously mentioned, the premise of Mystical Prince revolves around the fact that a clueless human teenager named Kaoru Yoshida has just been named successor of the demonic realm. Genius, yet lacking any shred of an attention span, Kaoru seems an unlikely candidate to ascend the throne. It appears two klutzy demons also feel he's unfit for the job and head up to the human world to kill Kaoru. Time and time again, their assassination attempts are thwarted, and demons Sonia and Eclatant eventually end up becoming housemates of Kaoru. Being a parody series, you'll find no shortage of funny scenes. Mystical Prince had me rolling with its cleverly-timed appearances from familiar series such as Power Rangers and Naruto. These references will be sure to tickle not only an otaku's, but also the more casual reader's funny bone. Rounding out the humor is the fact that all of the characters are portrayed as incredibly cute chibi characters, each with their own lovable, though cliché, quirks. Fast-paced and witty, but not insanely off-the-wall, Mystical Prince Yoshida-kun! is a prime example of what parody series should be like.


Boys Be... Volume 1
Story by Itabashi Masahiro & Art by Tamakoshi Kiroyuki
Released by Tokyopop
November 2004

$9.99 US

Looking for slice of life? Look no further than Boys Be... because it's about as slice-of-life as they come. Resembling a guys' version of Cosmo, Boys Be...Boys Be… is an anthology of stories focusing on guys and their relationships. Volume one dishes out a nice plate of shounen angst with six varied stories; each containing a different guy and a different girl, but all having their share of complications. One of the nice things about Boys Be... is the reality that comes with its stories. You won't find girls with gigantic breasts or any stupidly-placed panty shots, and there are virtually no cliché characters equipped with matching generic personalities. Everyone looks as if they could be your next door neighbor and they all have the same problems that you or I would have. This normalcy makes Boys Be... incredibly accessible to both guys and gals-–always nice to run across those cross-over titles! At 20 volumes long, this series is a definite long-term investment, but everyone knows the facts of life are priceless. Do yourself a favor and order yourself up a big slice of life and pick up Boys Be... today!


Alice 19th Volume 7
Story & Art by Yu Watase
Released by Viz
October 2004

$9.99 US

Through six volumes we've followed Alice, Kyo, and the rest of the lotus masters as they made their way towards Mayura's inner heart to rescue her from Darva's dark clutches. They've faced many hardships along the way, like Kyo whining about his past, Alice whining about Kyo, oh yeah... all of Darva's evil minions sent to keep them from Mayura. But the gang has finally made it to the end of their journey and is ready to put their magical vocabulary to the final test. I remember reading the first couple volumes of Alice 19th and thinking to myself, “Twenty-five words... they have to learn twenty-five... that's gonna be a lot of books.” Assuming Alice 19th was going to follow the same lengthy trend as fellow Watase books, Fushigi Yugi and Ceres, I settled myself in for the long haul. But rather than being bummed that the series has quickly come to an end, Alice 19th's seventh and final volume filled me with a feeling of satisfying closure. As always, Alice 19th is full of Watase's time-tested character designs, but the detail used to draw Darva and his sticky web of darkness is a nice reminder that Yu Watase still possesses the talent to draw other things besides Tamahome look-alikes. Perfectly paced and beautifully executed, Alice 19th is sure to be a favorite on many a manga fan's shelves.


Berserk Volume 5
Story & Art by Kentaro Miura
Released by Dark Horse
October 2004

$13.95 US

For some reason I always clump Berserk and Hellsing together. Maybe it's because both posses incredible artwork or because both are dark stories dripping with blood and, in Berserk's case, literally Guts... or maybe it's just because both are licensed by Dark Horse. Whatever it is, I clump the two together. However, the similarities end there because while Hellsing is somewhat easy to jump into, Berserk is downright intimidating. With its detailed artwork and a weighty storyline staring you in the face, it took me a couple times to wholeheartedly commit to the series. Thankfully, after reading a couple volumes of bloody hack 'n'slash by a vengeful Guts, we're given a chance to slow down and see what all is going on in this blood-thirsty lad's head. Beginning with volume four, Berserk sets off on a flashback arc of Guts' life and volume five continues on the flashback track by showing us when Griffith and Guts' were comrades in a group of mercenaries called the Band of the Hawk. The camaraderie between Guts and Griffith offers an intimate glimpse into their past relationship and shows the closeness the two had with one another. If you weren't already sympathizing with Guts' plight, after reading through this arc I guarantee you'll be painfully involved in his struggles as he exacts revenge on those who wronged him. Visually rich and emotionally charged, Berserk is too story-dependent to begin anywhere except from the very beginning. For those who have dabbled in the early volumes already and still have reservations, chug forward and read up. Things have definitely started to get interesting.


Imadoki! Volume 3
Story & Art by Yu Watase
Released by Viz
October 2004

$9.95 US

Two Watase series in the Buy It section?! What has the world come to? Definitely not an end, that's for sure. A complete 180 from Alice 19th (or any of her other books for that matter), Imadoki! is a delightfully ordinary romantic tale. No crazy time-traveling, no evil demons, and not even a harem of guys! But who needs a harem of men when you have... wait for it... a Tamahome look-alike! This being volume three, everyone knows that Koki and Tanpopo are more than “just friends.” But, as of volume two, an obstacle has popped up in the couple's blissful road of romance; an obstacle by the name of Koki's fiancée. What's great about this volume is that rather than dillydallying around in the shoujo soup of love rivalry, the characters get to take a brief detour in a trip to the countryside which gives their personalities an opportunity to mature. Imadoki! looks to be another short series, so you won't be expending much time or money on collecting this one. Everyone needs some time in Saccharin Land and Imadoki! is more than happy to oblige.


Borrow It


Othello Volume 1
Story & Art by Satomi Ikezawa
Released by Del Rey
October 2004

$10.95 US

There comes a point in life when a person just can't deal with being picked on anymore. This is what's happened with Yaya. She's a sweet, wuss of a girl who finally got sick of being teased about her outfits; sick of being called names like “Yaya the Cry-ya.” So, what does she do? That's where NANA comes in to the picture. NANA is Yaya's “take no crap” personality—obviously created as a defense to stand up where NANA couldn't. A definite kickass type of girl, NANA has no qualms about picking fights and talkin' trash with the popular girls. Here's the catch: when you have multiple personalities... you don't know what your other “you” does. So, unbeknownst to Yaya, she has earned the top spot on just about every popular girl's hit list because of what NANA has done to them. Yaya... NANA... the whole split personality idea is pretty confusing. This sense of confusion is what's keeping Othello from sliding into my “buy” recommendation pile. The artwork is pretty and the story is intriguing, but Othello's execution is weak. Yaya's character is clearly defined, but when NANA is introduced... it's hard to discern her from one incident to another. Granted you can tell when it's NANA and when it's Yaya, but it would be nice to have something such as a different hair color to better represent the personality switch. Plus with Yaya's random habit of EGL cosplay, you almost have three characters to keep track of. Othello hits on something I haven't seen in shoujo before and I'm really interested to see what volume two brings. But, for the moment things are a bit jumbled, so I recommend flipping through this one first.


Wild Com. Volume 1
Story & Art by Yumi Tamura
Released by Viz
October 2004

$9.995 US

Wild Com. is one of the more interesting shoujo titles I've read. A one-shot manga, Wild Com. is a collection of three stories that showcase somewhat ambiguous interpretations of love. Though the stories are short, they pack quite a punch; hitting on friendship, the Romeo/Juliet relationship, and a maternal love between a mother and daughter. Probably the most amazing aspect of this collection is that in a mere 70-ish pages, each story is able to convey the emotional gravity that most series would need several volumes to accomplish. On one hand this ability is an asset, but in my mind it's somewhat of a drawback. Because the stories are able to capture your attention so completely, a couple of them feel a bit hasty towards their endings and could've benefited from an additional chapter or two. Also, while the ethereal wispiness of the artwork enhances the mood of each supernatural story, I personally didn't find the illustrations aesthetically pleasing (spooky, empty eyes... ), and to a point, distracting. Certainly not a book to overlook, Wild Com. is definitely something everyone should check out, but rushing out to the store to purchase it isn't a requirement.


Imadoki! Volume 2
Story & Art by Yu Watase
Released by Viz
August 2004

$9.95 US

Slipping a bit from the fresh vibes of volume one, volume two of Imadoki! has me worried that Watase is going to drive Imadoki! into the well-trodden ground of shoujo dribble. I mean, things take a turn for the ridiculous after the school computer nerd takes Koki and Tanpopo hostage in an elevator. Of course, being trapped together inside the elevator allows declarations of true love to be proclaimed. This volume still contains the fresh, lighthearted charm that the first volume had, but there are far too many “chance” situations that pop up. From the “comfort me in my time of fear” moment to the classic “I got caught in the rain and now have a fever... you must unclothe my unconscious body” scene, Imadoki! shows signs of getting lost in the mindless shoujo fluff that so many good series fall victim to. Watase fanatics will buy this one no matter what. But if you're running short on cash, you're not going to miss out on much by borrowing this volume from a friend.


Selfish Love Volume 2
Story & Art by Naduki Koujima
Released by CPM Manga/Be Beautiful
November 2004

$15.99 US

With this final second volume, Selfish Love finishes off on a strong, yet hasty note. The series probably could've benefited from a third volume which would've allowed ample time for Ryuya and Orito to explore their feelings for each other. As it stands, volume two almost tries to pack in a little too much action-–namely a less-than-consensual love attack on Orito by Ryuya-–to fully... culminate the relationship. However, we do get a nice flashback into lover boys' past and the relationship between Ryuya and Azusa is finally explained. Throw in the fact that Selfish Love has appealing characters with matching pretty artwork, and the series ends up being one of the better yaoi titles I've had the opportunity to read. Fanservice or plot-–ehh... so the plot takes a hit. There are far worse things that could've happened. Selfish Love had one goal in mind - give you some sweet guy lovin', and in that respect, it succeeded with flying colors.


Maniac Road Volume 2
Story & Art by Shinsuke Kurihashi
Released by ComicsOne
October 2004

$9.95 US

Reading like a de-doujinshified version of Comic Party, Maniac Road has quickly become somewhat of a favorite of mine. The zany antics of Takezou as he strives to make the Maniac Road store the best otaku shop in town are, to say the least, hilarious. Probably the only thing holding this series back is the sheer number of high-energy hijinks that occur. Unlike the short, fast-paced parodies of Mystical Prince Yoshida-kun!, Maniac Road's situations are too drawn out. With character introductions out of the way, volume two was allowed to kick its parodying into high gear. Unfortunately, I ended up feeling inundated by the all too predictable stereotypical otakuisms and goofy circumstances. By the time the LARP chapter rolled around, I was just thinking “Yeah, I get it already... otaku are geeks.” Granted, reading halfway through and coming back later was an option, but what good is a book when you have to read it in bits and pieces in order to fully enjoy it? Maniac Road is funny and I do look forward to reading it, but I'm concerned that with each passing volume it's losing more and more of that fresh/fun feeling and ending up like stagnant standup.


Land of the Blindfolded Volume 1
Story & Art by Tsukuba Sakura
Released by CMX Manga
November 2004

$9.95 US

CMX is the newest member to join the manga scene and it looks like it's off to a decent start with its release of Land of the Blindfolded. An intriguing tale, Land of the Blindfolded is about a girl named Kanade and her boyfriend, Arou. Kanade has the ability to see the future of things she touches; books, walls, and people; just a brush of a hand will flood Kanade with images of the future. Arou is her perfect match as he is able to see the past whenever he touches something. Contrary to what you may think, while a big chunk of the story does deal with the couples' abilities, the main crux of the book is about the relationship between Arou and Kanade. In this respect, Land of the Blindfolded reminded me a lot of Kare Kano. Like Arima and Yukino, both Arou and Kanade find comfort in each other's similarities and facades. Kanade seems to be able to cope with her abilities better than Arou and various hints of a darker side lurking beneath Arou's surface are foreshadowed throughout the novel. I'm anticipating a point in the story where he completely breaks down, causing lots of friction between him and Kanade. Original, but very disjointed, I found the concept of having literal opposites attract one another fascinating. However, because of the book's inconsistent pacing and hitchy chapters, I ended up becoming very confused as to the direction the book. This one has great potential, but Land of the Blindfolded needs to set down a game plan and work out some kinks before I'll be convinced I should commit


DearS Volume 1
Story & Art by Peach-Pit
Released by Tokyopop
January 2005

$9.99 US

I know I shouldn't like something like DearS, but it's so incredibly cute I can't help but shamelessly enjoy it. DearS is what would happen if you took Chobits, turned the persocoms into aliens called DearS, and made Chii an especially cute one named Ren. Ren has managed to become the new roommate of slobbish teen named Takeya who is flabbergasted by her hotness and flustered at trying to keep their living conditions under wraps. This all happens within the first fifty or so pages of the book. The rest of the volume is devoted to following Ren as she cluelessly tries to do simple things like clean Takeya's apartment, go shopping, and, oh yes... buy undergarments! From the narcissistic teacher who strips during class to Ren's nude apartment cleaning, DearS is filled to the brim with blatant fanservice. No deep, soul-searching going on here, volume one stuffs your hungry little eyes with voluptuous breasts and cleverly placed ass shots. Not the most investable of titles, DearS may give you plenty of eye candy, but you'll still feel empty inside.


W-Juliet Volume 1
Story & Art by Emura
Released by Viz
October 2004

$9.99 US

Maybe I was shoujo-ed out when I read this, but the whole gender bender “twist” is getting really old. W-Juliet shows us reason #139578 of why someone decides to portray themselves as the opposite sex–-you're a guy who wants to become an actor, but the only way your dad will pay is if you attend school as a girl. Well, in this case, the guy's name is Makoto and he has made his way through high school as a shockingly convincing girl. But, after tomboy Ito Miura walks in on Makoto, she uncovers Mokoto as the guy he really is! What happens after that is so stupidly predictable that it'll make you roll your eyes. Yup, you guessed it; they become “super close friends.” Awww. I say “super close” because "officially dating” would expose Mokoto's secret identity. There are plenty of gender-benders out there right now that have nicer artwork and more solid of plotlines. Granted there are plenty of volumes yet to come and W-Juliet will probably end up throwing in some crazy twist to lure me back in. But as of right now, I'm feeling lukewarm and am approaching the series with quite a few reservations.


Swan Volume 1
Story & Art byAriyoshi Kyoko
Released by CMX Manga
November 2004

$9.95 US

After reading Princess Tutu, the last thing I wanted to do was read another ballet story. One crime-fighting ballerina story is enough for me. Swan is a story of dance, but rather than taking a trip down mahou shoujo lane, it reads more like a technical version of Forbidden Dance. Masumi is a 16-year-old ballet student who is given an amazing opportunity – to train at one of the most elite ballet schools in the country. However, perfection is life in the world of dance and Masumi may have some fundamental flaws that could keep her from fulfilling her dream. Keeping up with Masumi and her aspirations is actually riveting and, in most cases, suspenseful. However, Masami's dance drama is usually quickly killed due to the amount of dance vernacular you have to wade through during each scene. While many people may have enjoyed the intricate details into the world of dance, I personally found the plethora of terms tedious and distracting. Another notable thing is that Swan was originally published in 1976 which gives the series a slightly dated look. Though beautiful to look at, Swan does take a little more effort than most mainstream titles to get through. Perhaps I've become accustomed to less detailed works, but I really felt that the lexicon was a hindrance to Swan's story. Go ahead and give this one a go, but be prepared for lots of dance details.


Recycle It


Baron Gong Battle Volume 1
Story & Art by Masayuki Taguchi
Released by Media Blasters
January 2005

$9.99 US

I can't for the life of me decide if Baron Gong Battle is purposely trying to be awful or if it's just... bad. I mean, look at the cover... look at corny pose. It's as if Baron Gong is saying, “Grrr! Look at my super scary arm with glowing ball thingy inside. I am touching a naked woman! Fear me!” Baron Gong used to be normal. He ran a casino and a beautiful girlfriend... that is until some psycho Neo Hume killed her and destroyed his building. What are Neo Humes, you ask? Neo Humes are basically the result of the Nazis messing around with Mother Nature. Turns out that in 1944, while playing with a land mine, they uncovered a super advanced creature, whom they lovingly named “Eve.” Original! Unable to control their evil desires, the Nazi's decided to have Eve mate with a human, thus creating an entire brood (oh...fifty or so) of super, mutated creatures called Neo Humes. Baron, being the only human to have ever survived an attack by a Neo Hume, is now the only person who can save the world from destruction. Is it because Baron is the ultimate human savior? Or is it because... he is, in fact, a Neo Hume himself?! Whether it's trying to make fun of itself or not, Baron Gong Battle wasn't a whole lot of fun to read. Sure the artwork is decent and it has lots of gore which ups the "neat-o" value, but I wouldn't look into this unless you're really desperate for some lame entertainment. Media Blasters has a couple of other really cool manga out right now, so do yourself a favor and grab one of those instead.

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