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Uwa-koi (manga) Decent Brought to you by the same author who penned the older sister complex series Aki Sora. Disturbing psychological fluff surrounded by very ecchi stuff with plenty of sex and nudity, Japanese style. Reads like Fatal Attraction crossed with a Greek tragedy. If you're looking for raw nudity and sex, you're better off finding a proper porn. For the psychological stuff, there is also better. The real question then... Is there a good enough balance of the two to justify getting into this admittedly short title? Given its length I'd say go for it, as the sex and nudity is as racy as it gets without calling itself porn. The story itself has a few twists and turns you may not really see coming, even if the scenario itself is completely preposterous. So yea, not terrible, but don't expect high art.
Puella Magi Oriko Magica (manga) Good There is a point in all of these spinoffs where things start getting a bit too twisted in upon itself that much of its original shape and feel get lost. Oriko just manages to skirt around that, but it feels like its efforts to be original hurt its cause a bit and much of it just feels like inventive ways to find loopholes in the story. It does however feature the well known Madoka series characters quite a bit in its narrative although the integration feels somewhat forced and ultimately, somewhat meaningless. Not to mention one of the magical girls doesn't even really properly fit into why girls are made into magical girls in the first place. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Yet it's good? I think primarily it's due to how earnest the characters are, and how they are always struggling to attain their goals. That interplay of conflicted motivations is what keeps things just interesting enough all the way to the end.
Puella Magi Kazumi Magica - The Innocent Malice (manga) Good An interesting addition to the world of Madoka. There are plot twists a-plenty in this, as would be expected of such a work. Unfortunately some of the twists start getting a bit on the bizarre side, making some parts of the story more confusing than they needed to be. Or perhaps that's what was intended? Also some of the art made it hard to figure out exactly what was going on, but generally it wasn't too difficult to go along with the story. There are still some lingering questions that never get fully answered but the story is finished, and those questions will have to remain open. Overall though a fairly satisfying short read into the twisted world of magical girls.
Nozoki Ana (manga) Good Put aside all of the creepy elements and shallow, predicable plot points. But as a whole, the story still ended in a satisfactory manner, which is a lot more than can be said for a lot of other titles. The ending was actually kind of nice. More sweet than bittersweet.
No Bra (manga) Decent A random title picked for casual reading. A boy having the hots for another boy because the boy LOOKS like a really cute girl still means it's hot man-on-man action. But not really since this isn't a porn and really REALLY not my thing, although some recent issues have actually featured bare breasts and has gotten more risque. The end was fairly predictable in some ways, but not in others. Frankly it was all pretty meaningless and I'm somewhat surprised at its relative popularity level. I would have been happier with some shocking reveal or turn of events, but in the end the "twist" was pretty mild at best and the ending was... Well it ended.
Initial D (manga) Good As fine as the series is, static pictures of dynamic vehicle action doesn't hold up very well. All of the extra race panels also take up a lot of the manga, meaning there's little to push the plot forward. The anime had better pacing. And in typical fashion, it ended in an unsatisfactory manner. Still enjoyed it yes, but why does suffering alone have to be such a common theme among characters?
Girls' Last Tour (manga) Excellent As a treatise on the joys of life and living, I found the series at its charming best. The story did not drag on longer than it needed to and told its story short and sweet. It was never a fast pace show to begin with, having a very deliberate pace as we quietly explored the world around them. Speaking of that world, we never get a full reveal beyond knowing that things went horribly wrong on more than one occasion. I will miss not having any more stories about Chito and Yuuri.
Elfen Lied (manga) Very good Buried somewhere in the violence, misogyny, gore, cruelty, and nudity is actually a good story. The story is not a particularly happy one as there is more than enough tragedy, abuse, misunderstanding, and unrequited love to go around, but it is a pretty well written story nonetheless. To be sure on a number of occasions I did not want to continue reading as I didn't want to bear witness to the end of a character I may have grown fond of. But the story was compelling enough to make me grit my teeth and continue to the end.
Cross Game (manga) Masterpiece Adachi is a master of his craft. A very finely crafted story that ends exactly as it intended to but still made the journey very much worth the trip. It doesn't rely heavily on cheap modern tricks like ecchi, moe, or harem angles. The artwork itself is really nothing to write home about. But regardless this simple tale of love, tragedy, triumph, and baseball is well worth the Time spent on it. Even if you, like me, don't care for baseball.
Claymore (manga) Very good A great series that progresses well beyond the anime. While the anime had its eventual season ending, the divergence of the two mediums can annoy some people. I think the anime stands just fine on its own merits, but the manga does have a much deeper story to tell. Pacing has finally picked up and the action has been pretty much been heavy with every issue. And in the end I'm still left with some degree of dissatisfaction. A lot of questions remain unanswered and there's still soooo much story to be told. So as much as I enjoyed this over all, I'm still left rather frustrated.
Angel Densetsu (manga) Very good I had not intended to read the entire series in a single sitting but that's exactly what happened. I found myself laughing out loud on numerous occasions even though I hardly ever do that with anime or manga. I felt that the series peaked somewhere along the halfway point, but the story was still worthwhile to the end. While I found that too many encounters with the main character were particularly unrealistic (especially his oblivious understanding of his situation) this did not detract as much as I thought it would. Probably because the character himself is pretty much an exaggeration. Early artwork was somewhat inconsistent but improved as the series progressed as the author's experience improved. It's a definite precursor to the style and characters you see in the second series Claymore. Notable characters found later in Claymore (some cases just art, other cases the entire character) include Dauf, Riful, Clare, and many other influences.