Shorter, but Sweeter!

by Liann Cooper,

Buy It Now!

STONe Volume 1
Story & Art by Sin-Ichi Hiromoto
Released by Tokyopop


I looked at STONe, saw there was a chick with what looks like a cement bra attached to her head standing in front of two smug guys, and crinkled my nose. Well, first impressions aren't the best things to go on and had it not been for friend's suggestion, I probably wouldn't have given STONe a second glance. Good thing I'm game for advice, or I would've missed out on a great read. In the future (always the future), Earth has been consumed by a creature called “STONe.” With nothing left behind except for a barren sea of sand filled with magnificently mutated sea-creatures, an island tribe's fate lies in the hands of a pink-haired girl named Zizi. Possessing a mystical ability, and a crazy design on her hand, Zizi is able to see within the Sand Sea. This gift allows her to locate food for her people, warn of approaching threats, and ultimately –we assume- seek out her destiny. Too bad Zizi's time on the island is cut short by some creepy woman referred to as “grandmother.” STONe's strong story is only aided by its artwork. Contrary to their sketchy appearance, scenes contain an incredible amount of detail while awkward character designs only help to emphasize STONe's abstract, sci-fi setting. I love how STONe doesn't scream out “big eyes, small mouth... and even smaller plot” like a majority of manga do. In fact, had STONe not been presented in right-to-left format, it could easily have passed as an American comic... and a darn good one at that. This diamond may be rough, but it isn't flawed - don't pass on this one!

Red River Volume 2
Story & Art by Chie Shinohara
Released by Viz

$9.95 US

“Sucker for Shoujo.” Someone should plaster that to my forehead. I am so weak against the powers of angst and wispy hair. After being sucked through a puddle portal, Yuri finds herself in a Middle-Eastern fantasy world. In Yuri's rush to escape the clutches of the resident evil Queen Nakia, who wants her for a sacrifice, her friend Tito falls prey to Nakia's clutches. Overwhelmed by the loss, Yuri passes up her only chance to return home with the vow to avenge Tito's death. Oh yeah, there's also that handsome Prince Kail who may or may not have influenced Yuri's decision. Curse her fickle teenage heart! I'm just perplexed by this series. It's so generic in story and design yet I find myself turning the pages like a manga-deprived fan. Red River stepped off on a fairly mediocre foot with volume one, but with volume two, the action/romance factor has been kicked up enough for me to warrant bumping its ranking up a notch. We'll see if generics get the best of the series in volume three.

Borrow It

Instant Teen - Just Add Nuts! Volume 1
Story & Art by Haruka Fukushima
Released by Tokyopop

$9.99 US

You know how you go to the carnival and just crave cotton candy? Well, if cotton candy were manga, the vendor would hand you a copy of Instant Teen - Just Add Nuts! 100% pure sugary fun, Instant Teen is the story of fifth-grader Natsumi Kawashima who wants nothing more than to be a hot babe with luscious curves. Sick of being treated like a little girl, Natsumi finally cracks when she is denied free samples of nuts. That's right, nuts. After stealing the samples, it turns out that her bounty contains a package of experimental pink nuts which can change her into an adult for eight hours. Together with good friend Asuma, Natsumi soon realizes that being a babelicious vixen isn't all it's cracked up to be. Relying on hijinks, humor, and cavity-causing characters, Instant Teen is an entertaining read and pretty to boot. However, like cotton candy it is quickly devoured and you're left with only a lingering candy taste.

CLAMP School Paranormal Investigators Volume 1
Story by Tomiyuki Matsumoto & Illustrated by CLAMP
Released by Tokyopop

$7.99 US

Seemingly appearing out of nowhere, Tokyopop has launched their Novels line with a series of books based off of characters from everyone's favorite group – CLAMP. Paranormal Investigators is a collection of short stories showcasing the supernatural affairs of the five members of the Supernatural Phenomena Research Academy. Originally based off characters in the magazine Shosetsu Asuka, the actual concept for the three guy/two girl quintet came from a game based off members of the CLAMP studio. It takes a little shifting of gears to switch from reading backwards comic books to reading a normal novel. Once you accept the fact that –gasp!- there are no pictures, you'll find that the novel is a fresh change of pace. I did catch myself getting a little bored with the episodic nature of each story and recommend reading only a section or two at a time. Even though the story isn't written by CLAMP, it maintains the characteristic CLAMP aura as the group contributed numerous illustrations to the novel. While this volume focused mainly on interaction between the five group members, we're informed [in the back pages] that the second volume will showcase each individual's personal skills and contributions. Quick, easy, and enjoyable enough reading, Paranormal Investigators is a welcome beginning to the Tokyopop Novels collection.

Mink Volume 3
Story & Art by Megumi Tachikawa
Released by Tokyopop

$9.99 US

So, if Instant Teen is cotton candy, Mink would have to be bubblegum. Mink has that overkill sweetness that we all crave, but after blowing a few sparkly bubbles it gets old very quickly. You'll search desperately for substance in order to balance out the saccharine overload, but all you'll find is a core of pink lipstick and tear-filled eyes. Taking full advantage of the WANNA-BE software Mink and her friends discovered, Cyber Idol Mink is still riding a wave of musical success. The only thing standing in her way of complete happiness is new idol sensation Yuka. With Motoharu's attention completely focused on promoting the young idol, Mink begins to worry if her time in the spotlight is waning. Alright, so this is a mahout shoujo/idol story – I can jive with that. But, I still have a hard time accepting that no one has made the connection that “Mink” is the same person as “Cyber Idol Mink.” Ok, kiddies... one is named “Mink” and the other is named “Mink,” put two and two together and... voila! Junior High School meets soap opera madness - with a plot as thin as one of Britney Spears' outfits, Mink is far from the top. Nevertheless, as far as Tachikawa works go, Mink is one of her stronger series and would serve to sweeten anyone's collection.

Eerie Queerie! Volume 4
Story & Art by Shuri Shiozu
Released by Tokyopop

$9.99 US

After four boy-toy volumes, Eerie Queerie! finally comes to a close. Mitsuo's given a swift kick in the buttocks to accept the fact that he does love Hasanuma when his parents announce that they're moving. Driven by desperation, Mitsuo clamors to find a job in order to earn enough money to stay in town. Unfortunately, he can only find a job as a French maid and his boss instantly falls in love with him... which wouldn't be a bad thing except he thinks Mitsuo is a girl. You'd think that after three volumes of build-up that Mitsuo and Hasanuma's mutual proclamation of love would be more fulfilling. This last volume seemed to rely on just pretty looks, silly situations, and numerous “I lo...ve...yo-...” scenes. Oh wait, almost the whole series is like that. Eerie Queerie! is a funny series that has obvious appeal; filled with likable characters and beautiful men, you probably won't mind the lack of plot. Volume four seemed to rely on those charming characteristics a little too much, though. (What ever happened to building off the fact that Mitsuo can channel spirits of women?) So, does the series have a conclusion? Yes. Is it satisfying? No. Too bad that what began as a fun, quirky read ended up being just another generic shounen-ai series.

Candidate for Goddess Volume 3
Story & Art by Yukiru Sugisaki
Released by Tokyopop

$9.99 US

The candidates at the G.O.A. (Goddess Operator Academy) put their fighting skills to the test as battle training commences. Piloting large mecha called “Goddessess,” the young men of the academy fight it out for a coveted spot as a Goddess pilot. Together, Zero and his repairer, Erts, dazzle the instructors and have placed themselves in prime position to move into the big leagues. Not much has changed from the first volume to the third volume in this generic giant robot series. Teenage boys pilot mecha in space – they can convolute the story all they want with flashbacks and mysterious visions, but it won't make it any more interesting. Even though we're given some history on the preexisting pilots, the way in which it was presented makes it confusing; the reader has a hard time differentiating between past and present. Artwork is sloppy, action scenes are messy, and the characters are about as cookie-cutter as I've seen. Every series needs a “hook” of some sort to reel a reader in and I have yet to find that “hook” with Candidate for Goddess. Looking for engrossing mechanical space action? I nominate any of the Gundam manga. As far as this round is concerned, I vote this candidate out.

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