RIGHT TURN ONLY!!
Column Of Wonders
by Liann Cooper,
Buy It Now!
Hellsing Volume 4
Story & Art by Kohta Hirano
Released by Dark Horse Manga
There are good manga and there are great manga, but every once in a while you hit a series that is just downright excellent. From the artwork to the story, Hellsing is an all-around excellent manga. This sinister, gothic series follows an organization called the Protestant Hellsing Organization, conjured to fight against vampires wreaking havoc upon the world. Headed by feisty heiress Sir Integra Wingates Hellsing, Hellsing consists of three main members: newly turned vampire Seras, Integra's butler Walter, and the all-powerful vampire Alucard. Powerful indeed and like any well-respected group, Hellsing Organization has a rival faction – the Catholic Iscariot agency – who is also intent of riding the world of vampiric chaos. But, when a Nazi group wielding an army of specially engineered vampires waves the flag of war, the two groups must put their differences aside and team up against a pudgy Hitler wannabe. One of Hellsing's greatest strengths is the impeccable storytelling capability of manga-ka Kohta Hirano. The story is dark and gory, but it's also incredibly amusing. To be able to jump from such situations like one of Alucard's bloody fights to poking fun at Seras' inability to accept the fact that she is no longer human, causes the reader to latch onto each character and encourages them to devour every page. Combined with highly detailed artwork and near flawless character designs, every action-packed, blood-spewing battle to each eerie character expression completes one of the most well-rounded manga series I've had the pleasure of reading. This is one horrifically enticing vampire series that you can't afford to miss.
Taimashin Volume 1
Story by Hideyuki Kikuchi & Art by Misaki Saitoh
Released by ADV Manga
I absolutely love it when a series pops out of nowhere and is just so grotesquely enjoyable that I can't put it down. Taimashin wins the award for “Manga That Is Just Too Weirdly Good to Avoid.” If you thought acupuncture was a creepy practice, wait until you meet Dr. Taima. He's a long-haired, pretty boy equipped with the special ability to wield gigantic needles called taimashin. Together with his attractive assistant, Maki Tagetsu, they go around throwing these long-ass projectiles at things to purge them of foul and lecherous demons. In a search to find the origins of the demonic powers, Dr. Taima travels from Japan to America where he discovers not only the junction of the demons' power, but also another taimashin master. The story itself isn't all that captivating – let's fight bad demons with big needles – but the artwork, character development, and attention to detail really set this one in a league of its own. Containing the makings of what could be the basis for a really horrible hentai, Taimashin thankfully doesn't take the path of salacious temptation, but it is jam-packed with the most disgusting demonic mutations I've ever seen. From a possessed dog touting a slimy tongue (who knows how to use it), to an indescribable blob covered in eyeballs and dripping grotesqueness; there seems to be no limit to these ghoulish creations. It's really refreshing to not have cliché characters, such as your typical “save-me princesses" or the “arrogant knights in shining armor”; none of the characters are annoying and all seem able-bodied and full of initiative. Domestic horror manga just got one series stronger with ADV's acquisition of Taimashin.
The One I Love
Story & Art by CLAMP
Released by Tokyopop
CLAMP is the master when it comes to stories about love and relationships. The One I Love is interesting in the fact that it is a collection of 12 essays written by Nanase Ohkawa complimented by the light illustrations of Mick Nekoi. All stories are based off of real life situations and stories from the members of the four-woman manga team. Only about two to three pages in length for each tale, the anthology is probably best read in small doses. They're so incredibly sweet and touching that it's like an overdose of Chicken Soup for the Lover's Soul if read all at once. But, read a couple of them at a time and they deliver the perfect amount of “awwww” factor. A cherry on top to this short, but heartwarming book are the ten or so color pages in the beginning which are printed on textured paper. Lovely from all perspectives, The One I Love isn't for die-hard action fanatics or mecha crazies, but for CLAMP aficionados and shoujo connoisseurs this is a must have.
Whistle! Volume 1
Story & Art by Daisuke Higuchi
Released by Viz
Shounen Jump titles have this mysterious addictive quality to them. They may be repetitive and cliché, but man are the characters fun! So far in Viz's SJ library we have covered tennis, swordfights, card battles, and board games...and now we have soccer. Deemed too short for his school's soccer team, Sho Kazamatsuri is banned from joining the team. Determined to play soccer no matter what, Sho takes matters into his own hands and transfers to a new school with high hopes of joining their team. Unfortunately at the new school, Sho is mistaken for a superstar soccer stud. When the truth of his sad skills is revealed, Sho drops out of school to practice harder than he ever has before; completely committed to prove that he has the ability to make the soccer team. His persistence pays off, and he catches the eye of the school's best soccer player, Tatsuya. Challenged by the current team captain, Tatsuya and Sho put together their own team of overlooked players to prove that reserves can play just as well as starters. Seemingly paralleling Sho's battle to prove he has what it takes, sports manga has also had to battle to prove that it can stand in the same ranks of the more popular titles. While Whistle! is a story about soccer, with its characters alone it could probably stand firmly amidst some of the best series out there. Even though Sho is the main and most fleshed-out character, minor characters are also given deserved attention and make an adequate impression on the reader. A long series, Whistle! is already showing signs of the “soccer challenge of the week” equation. Still, the book is entertaining, full of likeable characters, and for $7.99 you really can't go wrong. No red cards here, Whistle! is definitely a series worth checking out.
Selfish Love Volume 1
Story & Art by Naduki Koujima
Released by Be Beautiful
Ahh...Selfish Love, the latest yaoi release from the Be Beautiful line. A torrid story of give and take affections, Selfish Love has everything that a yaoi fan likes. Two beautiful men, one passionate and the other reluctant - *dreamy sigh* - yes, this is how boys' love is supposed to be. Alright, let's snap out of the dream-like trance and get down to brass tacks, shall we? Ryuya Fujio is a loner who has just been nominated for vice-president of the University Student Council by newly appointed President Orito Kuroha... and that's the story. Basically Orito spends his time trying to convince Ryuya, in his own “special way,” to accept the vice-president position and serve as his right hand man. Confused by his newly welling desires, Ryuya tries to make sense of his feelings towards Orito. Furthering my faith in the genre, Selfish love is graciously devoid of any hardcore sexual advancements and activities – which for a casual reader like myself, is much appreciated. To satisfy more avid yaoi readers, there are four bonus stories at the end filled with hugs, kisses, and so much more, all carrying the passionate intensity that so many desire. So far, Selfish Love is the strongest showing yet from this sexually charged line of manga. Don't let the price discourage you. Mainly catering to those who love everything boy on boy, while it may not be for everyone, this one's worth shelling out the extra pocket change.
Tokyo Tribes Volume 1
Story & Art by Santa Inoue
Released by Tokyopop
Tokyo Tribes has been generating a bit of buzz. From its distinct art style to the “Censored For YOUR Protection” stamp on the front page, Tokyo Tribes will surely catch your eye. However, the actual meat of the story seems to get lost in the hubbub of grumbles and annoyance. Contrary to what you may have heard, Tokyo Tribes is really quite good. A hard-edged, street drama, Tokyo Tribes focuses on the turmoil between the four main street gangs of Tokyo – the Saru, the Hands, the Musashino Saru, and the Wu-Ronz. It's was a tad bit confusing trying to keep the gangs, members, and their leaders straight, so I was grateful for the couple of pages in the front of the book dedicated to identifying the gangs. Being the first volume, we're introduced to who we assume are to be the main “playas” of the series. Dealing mainly with gangs the Wu-Ronz and the Musashino Saru, we find out that the leader of the Wu-Ronz, Mera, and a respected member of the Musashino Saru, Kai, used to be friends. Due to a tragic accident the two are now bitter rivals. Seeing as they are in rival gangs, unrest and drama between not only the two of them, but also between the gangs themselves are plentiful. Granted, it took me about 20 pages to get accustomed to the hip-hop street jargon – “You gonna roll with us, playa?” – but, I did find myself really getting involved with the drama of the street gangs. I'm not a huge fan of the artwork. Heck, I'll go ahead and say the art is downright ugly, but it does fit in with the style of the book. And those censor tags? Santa Inoue chose the placement and tags himself, so just save your complaints. Tokyo Tribes is a gritty, dirty look into the mechanics of street gangs and if that's what you're lookin' for, it more than delivers.
Cheeky Angel Volume 2
Story & Art by Hiroyuki Nishimori
Released by Viz
Gotta love gender-bender manga. Nothing creates more enjoyable chaotic confusion for not only the reader, but for the characters in the manga as well. As far as the concept of sex swappage goes, Cheeky Angel definitely falls outside the norm. After a freak encounter with a daft book genie, Megumi is transformed from a fight-happy boy to the most beautiful woman ever. For Megumi, possessing this angelic beauty causes more than a headache and she constantly has to fight off advancements from a love struck fool named Genzo. Pile on that she has her very own fanclub consisting of adoring nerds and it may push Megumi so far over the edge that she would cut her hair off, act like a brute, and tell her magical swap story to all! With a varied cast of characters and amusing situations, Cheeky Angel fits the bill for being an enjoyable series, but personally I find myself having difficulty completely immersing myself in the comedic drama. Artistically it pushes me away. Maybe it's the diamond-shaped eyes, the two-toned spikey hair of Genzo, or the sheer fact that Megumi doesn't come close to looking like someone who is supposed to be the most beautiful girl that ever existed and as a result, I'm unable to fully enjoy the series for what it's supposed to be – a quirky love story. Regardless, Cheeky Angel is a solid read whose story successfully crosses over to appeal to both sides of the spectrum. Be sure to flip through this one if you have the time.
Beet The Vandel Buster Volume 1
Story by Riku Sanjo & Art by Koji Inada
Released by Viz
No battles between rogue thieves and red turnip-like vegetables will be found here. Instead, we're given an ambitious young boy named Beet who wants nothing more than to join the ranks of the elite monster fighters who are known as Vandel Busters. Vandel Busters commit themselves to the task of fighting demons and monsters by being marked with a brand, which also serve to show the Vandel's current level. Inspired by the powerful Zenon Warriors, Beet dedicates his life to training to become just like the five powerful warriors. But, when a tragedy causes those whom Beet so strongly admires to disappear, can he find the strength to live up to their legacy? Earlier I mentioned that Shounen Jump novels have this strange addictive quality to them, and Beet also contains this allure. However, unlike Whistle!, Beet is much more cookie cutter and generic and harder to associate with. Perhaps because it deals with comical-looking monsters and a kid who falls asleep every three days no matter the location or situation, Beet just doesn't carry the same resilience of other SJ titles. Don't get me wrong, because this is a fun read and contains everything it's supposed to – courageous protagonist, female companion, fight, fight, win repetitiveness - but, for a first volume my mind wandered just a little too much for me to be able to commit to Beet. I mean, how seriously can I take a character named after an edible root? Not exactly a page turner, but far from being a toss-out; go ahead and summon up the initiative to sample Beet.
Geobreeders Volume 2
Story & Art by Akihiro Ito
Released by CPM Manga
Were you all waiting for the fanservice manga of the column to rear its head? Well, here it is in all of its breast-bearing, booty shot glory. CPM has re-released Geobreeders, a tale of five terribly clichéd vixens and one clueless dude who make up Kagura Security. The organization fights against evil cats, oh wait...evil PHANTOM Cats. Yes, horrible cats under the rule of the Black Cat, are determined to wreak havoc upon large corporations in a show of feline supremacy. Consisting of episodic chapters, Geobreeders showcases the five member group, in flamboyant bikini-sporting glory (except for the guy, of course), fending off the various attacks by the Phantom Cats. For being about ten years old, Geobreeders' artwork is surprisingly good; hardly showing the often displeasing, dated look that many older works contain. While I found the story a bit ridiculous and boring, the fast paced action will appeal to many. If you're looking for strong plot and character development, you won't find it here, but you will find big explosions and cute kitties.
Daemon Hunters: Hymn Of The Dead Volume 1
Story & Art by Seiuchiroh Todono
Released by ADV Manga
Even with the chapter being titled “Episode 0,” I didn't catch on that it was the prologue of the book until midway through the second chapter. Call me slow, but I attribute the confusion to Daemon Hunter's disjointed storyline. Switch on your religious gears because we're delving into some biblical fare. Lucifer is intent on purging the world of its dependence on God, by relying on the future births of four angels – Michael, Uriel, Gabriel, and I assume Raphael (since the fourth's name isn't revealed in this volume). It is prophesized that the magical powers of the angels will eventually draw the four together, causing them to battle for supremacy. By unleashing such a violent wave of negativity the world will be consumed by the Flame of Doom, thus signifying Lucifer's victory. Fast forward 20 years or so and the world is a land ravaged by evil beings called Daemons, perhaps sent by God himself to punish a society lacking in belief. Fortunately a tribe known as the Daemon Hunters, headed by Michael, is intent of resolving this age old battle. By traveling to Naberius, the site of a 200 year old battle between the good of God and the evil of Lucifer, they hope to end the hellish reign of terror. Well, after you get the “what the heck is going on” element out of the way, Daemon Hunters is really just a jumble of nicely illustrated action scenes with attractive characters and detailed monsters. I'm disappointed simply because it looks so damn cool, but lacks a cohesive enough plot to keep the reader focused. Hopefully later volumes will shed light on what exactly is going on, but until then I give a very reserved recommendation.
Story & Art by Sakura Mizuki
Released by Dark Horse Manga
The third book of a five-part release,
Kimera Volume 1
Story & Art by Kazuma Kodaka
Released by ADV Manga
ROCK ON! Flesh-eating, hermaphroditic, vampire aliens! Sorry, it's not quite that exciting. If you look up “chimera” you get the definition that means more or less “a she-monster consisting of two or more tissues, organisms, or parts.” Kimera is just that, [s]he-creature that has both male and female reproductive organs; created to usher in a new species of ultimate beings. First encountered by a pair of young men, Osamu and Jay, Kimera immediately captures the affections of Jay. When Kimera escapes the laboratory, Jay - who believes everything but is convinced of nothing - is inexplicably driven to find him...her...it. Kimera gets kind of crazy at this point, involving secret government projects, amphibious creatures, and a princess from another world and her jilted lover. Also included are an artificially inseminated woman who later gives birth to the most horrific creature ever, Kimera getting gang-raped, and a battle between a fluid-sucking vampire and his brother. Trust me, after reading Kimera, it will make little more sense than this review. Taimashin was an example of “good weird,” but Kimera is just too “bizarre-weird” to contain any shred of direction whatsoever. Maybe we'll get a little more structure when the second volume comes around, but right now Kimera has secured a firm spot in the “borrow from your friend who was tricked into buying it” category.
Beyblade Volume 1
Story & Art by Takao Aoki
Released by Viz
I've seen the anime for this and I don't know what prompted me to believe that the manga would be any better - no doubt because anything would be better than the anime. Arguably one of the more painful reads I've encountered, Beyblade contains one of the most pitiful storylines I've ever seen. Tyson is a gifted Beyblader, that is, a very skilled top spinner. No, I'm not kidding...these kids spin tops really, really fast. After receiving a super spiffy beyblade, dubbed the Blue Dragon, from a mysterious stranger (whose identity is SO EASY TO FIGURE OUT), rival gang The Blade Sharks want to challenge Tyson! Will this supremely constructed piece of equipment be enough to defeat the accelerated discs of the Sharks? Ok, so Beyblade wasn't written to be of the utmost complexity, it was written to be entertaining. The thing is...it's not even entertaining. Even without the goofy premise of spinning tops, Beyblade really doesn't have a point. Take away the tops and you have Tyson and his friends who win at...stuff...because they are the good guys. For me, Beyblade took the cake after Tyson used his beyblade to save a drowning dog. The only thing keeping Beyblade from spiraling completely out of the manga ring is the existance of MegaMan NT Warrior, and even then it's a close race.
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