RIGHT TURN ONLY!! Silence Of The Schnauzers
by Liann Cooper,
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Hot Gimmick Volume 6
Story & Art by Miki Aihara
Released by Viz
By all logical means, Hot Gimmick's angsty aura should be so overwhelming that no person's mind would escape immediate liquefaction. But the series breaks that preconception with an Emmy-worthy cast of characters that are just too bizarre to resist. Drama has piled upon drama and the day of truth has arrived – Azusa is finally going to confront Hatsumi's dad about the death of his mother. As if that weren't exciting enough, Hatsumi inadvertently gets dragged to the infamous meeting. How could things get any spicier? With midterms of course! Exams are just around the corner, and with the recent move-out of Shingou (who was her only tutor for midterms) and her current status as “Ryoki's girlfriend-in-training,” poor Hatsumi is on the verge of an emotional meltdown. Desperate to score high on the tests, Hatsumi turns to “boyfriend” Ryoki to help her study. Never running low on his stockpile of blackmail, Ryoki agrees to help her study if she spends New Year's with him. Alright, so Ryoki and Hatsumi's relationship is still the same subservient hoopla, Hatsumi is playing tug-of-war with her feelings, and who knows what's up with Azusa and Shinogu. Character chemistry is key in a series like this and Miki Aihara has done a remarkable job in taking these seemingly generic individuals, fleshing them out, and making them have enough depth so that the reader actually cares what the ultimate outcome of their stories will be. Without this character dynamic, the series would become tiresome, tedious, and way too long. Whacked-out characters and screwy love triangles; Hot Gimmick is “soap opera in a book” that makes a hot addition to anyone's collection.
Alice 19th Volume 6
Story & Art by Yu Watase
Released by Viz
It's crunch time and the Lotis Masters are getting closer and closer to Mayura. Needless to say, the closer they get to Mayura's location, the tougher the opponents become. The latest combatants to impede our young Lotis Padawans' progress are a choir boy with a grudge and a chick in need of botox. Kyo and Alice, being the gifted lexicon duo that they are, step up to the challenge and manage to master a couple more sacred Lotis Words all while strengthening their teamwork. But, when Kyo falls victim to his own dark emotions, Frey gets sucked into his past, and Alice gets captured by some wickedly evil leaves, will the magical lingo be enough to save them? We're down to the wire with volume six as there's only one more volume for the team to save Mayura from Darva's darkness. This being the case, it was interesting that while we're incredulously impressed with Kyo and Alice's progress, most of this volume focuses on Frey. His relationship with his mentor may be a key point in Darva's overall plan, but it still seems odd to devote almost the entire volume to Frey at this point in the series. Sure the plot is cheesy, Alice is getting a tad whiny, and there are too many wispy haired boys, but those are the characteristics that make a Watase series great. What started out as shoujo fluff has matured into a dramatic supernatural word war. Low on carbs and high in flavor, this one's worth sticking with until the end.
Girl Got Game Volume 5
Story & Art by Shizuru Seino
Released by Tokyopop
Basketball prodigy Kyo has done everything she can to keep the fact that she's really a girl a secret, but it appears that the newest member of the basketball team has figured it out! With Kensuke “obviously” making the moves on Kyo, and with Kyo showing very little resistance, Chiharu makes the decision to move to a new dorm room. Oh, the drama! In complete contrast from Alice 19th, Girl Got Game is high in carbs and low in flavor. We've hit a bit of a brick wall in the storyline and I'm not quite sure where it's trying to go. Chiharu knows Kyo's a girl, new characters are coming into play, but the storyline and main characters have remained pretty stagnant. However, in defense of the fluffy gender bender, Girl Got Game has given me renewed hope in the genre of sports manga. The previous volumes have all had something in them to keep your interests piqued, but don't expect any shocking exposures or exciting plot twists from this one. This volume is about as middle of the road as they come – hopefully the series is just taking a time-out.
High School Girls Volume 1
Story & Art by Towa Oshima
Released by ComicsOne
Have you ever wondered what life in an all girls' school is like? Having attended public school, the thought has honestly never crossed my mind. But, after reading Towa Oshima's take on the private life of school girls, I guarantee that you will never think of private school as a prissy, clean-cut institution ever again. Based on the author's real life experiences, High School Girls delves into the lives of girls who attend Yamasaki Girls Private Academy. Within this institution, there are two main cliques – the insiders, those who were automatically admitted to the high school from junior high, and the outsiders who are public school students who tested into the private academy. Basically, we're shown the obvious friction between a group of “outsiders” and the rest of the “insiders;” how they're bullied with lies of lesbian attraction and horror stories involving feminine hygene. While I absolutely love the characters, I have a hard time focusing on them because I just can't get my mind off the borderline crudeness of the girls. From menstrual bleeding in the swimming pool to disturbing displays of tampon readjustment, some things could be left to the imagination, preferably not mine. Like an Akamatsu series on crack, High School Girls is full of funny moments and plenty of panty shots. This is about as bold and in your face as you can get and it's worth checking out. Just beware of the tweezers...
Vaizard Volume 1
Story & Art by Michihiro Yoshida
Released by ADV Manga
Long ago two factions fought for control and power of the world of Varklide. Using powerful magical weapons against each other, the factions fought until the world lay in ruin. In the hopes of preventing another catastrophe, an alliance comprised of “Vaizards,” was formed to protect the sites and maintain the seals where the magical artifacts lie. Soma is a brash young Vaizard who has a weakness for pretty girls and low tolerance for idiots. Lucky for him, he's just been assigned to protect a cute archaeologist named Asuka who has managed to dig herself into some trouble with evil idiots. Since this is the first volume, one has to make allowances for setting up story foundation and character introduction. However, this volume seemed to try and cram too much into one book, and as a result came across as somewhat sporadic. We're barely introduced to Soma before Asuka gets captured and in turn has to be rescued. Repeat this three times, add in some weird flashbacks and foreshadowing (of what, I don't know... but, foreshadowing is there), and you have a mishmash of events. I think the series has potential, but I'm having a hard time figuring out whether it's going to progress into something worth sticking with or turn into a “bad guy of the day” series. One thing's for sure, though...after reading Vaizard, you'll never look at archaeology the same way.
The World of Narue Volume 2
Story & Art by Tomohiro Marukawa
Released by CPM Manga
Cute aliens, one nerdy guy, and lots of cute hijinks – sound enticing? Then The World of Narue is for you. It's been a bit of an adjustment for Kazuto after he learns that his girlfriend is really an alien, then having her sister move in, and on top of that always being supervised by a spaceship named Bathyscaphe. But now that everyone's gotten settled, everyday living seems to have taken a turn for the super bizarre. From Kazuto being turned into a cat to a silly cosplay incident, one begins to question whether there is any point to this series except to be ridiculously ridiculous. With no semblance of plot and no real character development, the answer would be a resounding, “No.” So far, while it does provide entertaining vignettes of fluff, I can't see this series going anywhere until an actual storyline begins to develop.
Happy Mania Volume 9
Story & Art by Moyoco Anno
Released by Tokyopop
You know how chicks totally over analyze things and then get completely melodramatic over nothing? Happy Mania is more than happy to provide you with glimpses into the over exaggerated quirks of a jaded, love-jilted female. Shigeta completely epitomizes the definition of what you don't want to find in a girlfriend. Yet, for some reason, Takahashi thinks Shigeta is the greatest woman alive only he doesn't remember this because he has amnesia from a bee sting. With Takahashi's memory temporarily erased, Takako seizes the opportunity to claim him once and for all by announcing that she and Takahashi are getting married. Why should Shigeta care? She's already denounced Takahashi as a loser nerd-boy whom she wants nothing to do with. However, no amount of dating, complaining, and not even sex can get her mind off the marriage. After reading Happy Mania, I have made a vow to never ever end up like Shigeta. She's probably the most annoying character I've ever encountered and she gets more irritating with every volume. Aggravating personalities combined with Moyoco Anno's *unique* art style - disproportionate bodies and faces sporting humongous eyes and mammoth lips – make trudging through the storyline tedious. Insight into an older gal's life, numerous spaz attacks, and relationship chaos that would make Dr. Phil cry, this one's worth a read, but not a buy.
Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Astray Volume 2
Story by Tomohiro Chiba & Art by Kouichi Tokita
Released by Tokyopop
Lowe and his Junk Tech crew have had nothing but trouble ever since they salvaged Red Frame from a demolished Heliopolois. This time trouble comes in the form of a spunky junk tech named Marlin who manages to sneak aboard the ship and steal Red Frame. Events transpire and Lowe, Red Frame, and the ship and crew later find themselves on Earth's surface where a face-off between Red Frame and the mysterious Gold Frame takes place. Gundam manga has a pretty dismal history of being lackluster in action, appeal, and overall entertainment value compared to its anime counterpart. While Astray does offer a different point of view to the Gundam Seed universe, the series itself is really quite dull. We have different colored gundams fighting... fighting for supremacy, but supremacy over what? Kira and Athrun do make an appearance in this volume, which will undoubtedly send Seed fanatics into a tizzy, but also reminds the reader that they are indeed in the Seed universe. Forgettable characters existing in a vapid world, Astray is in desperate need of a pickmeup to prevent me from putting it down.
Kizuna: Bonds of Love Volume 1
Story & Art by Kazuma Kodaka
Released by Be Beautiful
Whip out those yaoi paddles because it's time for some good ol' fashioned man love. Kei and Ranmaru are complete opposites; Kei being a passionate protector and Ranmaru being an insecure, ex-Kendo star. However, their blissful life is about to be turned upside down by jealousy and revenge with the sudden arrival of Kei's stepbrother. Since this is yaoi, I was taking a stereotypical attitude and wasn't expecting much plot wise. Keeping that in mind, the fleeting glimpse of family drama involving the Yakuza was welcome, but it was brief; merely there so you wouldn't jump from love scene to love scene. Contrary to my virginal yaoi thoughts, Kizuna has a shocking lack of gorgeous men. If I'm going to have to drown myself in a puddle of guy on guy action, I simply ask that there be hot men. Sadly, niether Kei, Ranmaru, nor Kai have smashingly to-die-for looks. Perhaps this is because of the dated artwork (1992) or maybe it's just the style of the manga-ka. Whatever it is, I just know the hot and heavy scenes weren't working for me. Maybe the next volume will turn up the heat, but this round's waters are only lukewarm.
Story & Art by Yu Asagiri
Released by Be Beautiful
Man, oh man, did I have a hard time getting through Golden Cain. I couldn't keep from laughing at how utterly moronic it was. Pretty boy Shun has always lived in the shadow of his equally pretty brother Keiichi. Keiichi has some strange admiration for hot model Cain. But, when an accident takes Keiichi from his family, Shun is forced to step up and take the place of his idyllically perfect brother. So, the premise sounds no different than the shoujo fluff that we read every day. Add in the wispy-haired male character designs that we all know and love and you'd think Golden Cain has nothing to lose. Prepare to be disappointed, my friends. When your opening scene takes place in a gay bar where your main character proceeds to be taken advantage of, you can't help but look for the rear exit to purge your mind of the impending events. Even better is when Cain comes swooshing down to save our effeminate Shun and then proceeds to console him in an alley. Golden Cain tries to mask its lack of plot with the overlay of, “Shun's trying to be a rebel against his parents so now he has a boyfriend,” but pffffft... it's just an excuse to shower you with pages of man essence. From the girlish poses of Shun to the swashbuckling heroics of Cain this story is just too funny to be taken seriously. Sorry, but I need a little more substance to get my blood pumping.
Deus Vitae Volume 2
Story & Art by Takuya Fujima
Released by Tokyopop
Man vs. Machine. It's the age old conflict that intrigues and excites us with the idea of technology becoming so advanced that it will someday take over its creators. Deus Vitae delves right into the heart of that idea by bringing us a story about a man/Selanoid (machine) named Ash and his hot Selanoid girlfriend Lemiu... at least I think she's supposed to be hot. After fleeing Mother Seishia, Ash and Lemiu have stepped out of the frying pan and into the fire. On their journey for peace, they've managed to stumble into a battle between the Revolutionary Organization (Re-O) and Mother Sereth's army. A Selanoid/Human war is on the horizon and our hero Ash may be the only one who can stop it. Deus Vitae has the makings to be a very good sci-fi series were it not for its horrible continuity and freakish character designs. Artwork is detailed, yet contains a grotesque quality that pushes the reader away rather than drawing them into the story. But, were your eye to be drawn into the book, the story itself would jettison your mind back to the fact that it's devoid of any substantial plot. The characters are so bizarre and the story jumps around so much that it would be chaotic madness to even try and makes sense of it all. Following in the footsteps of the first one, volume two of Deus Vitae also contains the same ludicrous situations and dialogue. For instance, after a naked Lemiu is resuced by Ash, she thanks him by saying, “Are you looking at me with impure intentions?” If that's not enough to make you roll, feel free to choose from any of the other instances where Lemiu manages to get captured or naked. Again, I tried to like Deus Vitae and tried to get caught up into its “oh so dramatic world,” but when I'm given nothing but Selanoid rubbish to latch on to, my mind goes into protective mode and orders my hands to shut the book.
MegaMan NT Warrior Volume 3
Story & Art by Ryo Takamisaki
Released by Viz
MegaMan NT was a pretty pointless show and now, we're given the chance to READ about Megaman and his UnderNet adventures. Yeah, I can see you jumping at that prospect. Reading about evil characters such as PharoahMan and Bass, Megaman NT is a great way to waste away about 20 minutes of your time. These characters give Megaman a heck of a challenge and if he weren't aided by his pals GutsMan and LAN, Megaman would surely become a permanent resident of the underworld! See, even exclamation points are unable to vivify this series. Lacking humor, excitement, plot, or good artwork, MegaMan NT makes Beyblade look like a godsend.