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Tankobon Tower
Tokyo Terror - The Blast From Texas

by Allen Divers,
The Terror of Tokyo; Sure, it sounds ominous, and well, it is, if you're a manga distributor. To date, no one has managed to match the shear volume of manga titles distributed each month by a little company named TOKYOPOP. Don't believe me? When's the last time you went into a Barnes & Noble, Borders or even the neighborhood Waldenbooks and seen what's hanging out on the shelves. Add into that the number of books Viz is throwing out there and you can understand why some of the smaller manga makers are worried about their dwindling shelf space; one of the most valuable resources when trying to grab more of the market share.

Well, move over TOKYOPOP, there's a new contender looking for a bit of that precious shelf space. Just to spice things up, it's not a new company looking for a piece of the market; it's an old dog looking to learn some new tricks.

Looking to make a huge splash, ADV Films hits the ground running with its new ADV Manga division. And making sure the first salvo hits big, ADV opens up with two of the most awaited titles in the business; Full Metal Panic! and Azumanga Daioh. These titles, along with a slew of others announced at Anime Expo will build the foundation for ADV's new division. Making things more fun, ADV went on to announce a few more titles over the next few conventions, with Matt Greenfield making a remark that ADV Manga had a lot more titles on the back burners waiting to be announced. (The exact quote goes something along the lines of them having 20 times the titles already announced on the backburner.)

With that, let's open up this week's releases with a bit of a panic.

Buy it!

Full Metal Panic! Vol 1
Released by ADV Manga
Author: Shouji Gatou
Illustrator: Retsu Tateo

$9.99 U.S.

With the attention that their new line of manga is getting, its no surprise that their first major title makes its way to the top of the buy it list. Before you get your panties in a bunch about this being a cheap marketing ploy, you should understand that Full Metal Panic! is a funny series. It's got action, comedy, a bit of romance and is just solid fun. It also goes a long way in showing fans just how ADV plans to handle their manga. Sticking close to the original Japanese print size, the book is about the size of the old Viz Graphic Novels. While there is no dust cover like the original Japanese, the full color pages from that edition are present in the North American version. Considering that Viz often charged $14 - $15, you're getting quite a deal for just under $10. Did I mention the story? It's your typical, fish out of water type story, as Sousuke, born and raised a military man, is assigned to protect Kaname, a young high schooler with some extroadinary abilities. Of course, she has no idea why he's come into her life, so cue the laugh track. The story of the manga takes a lot more twists and turns not seen in the anime, so fans of the anime can expect a very different taste to one of their favorite shows.

Kare Kano Vol 5
Released by TOKYOPOP
Story & Art by Masami Tsuda
$9.99 U.S.

Kare Kano continues on its rampant pace as love is tested to its limits. Soichiro heads out for summer vacation so Yukina is left spending some time with her new friends. It's a little change of pace from the love story seen before, as relationships are explored with many of the side characters in this series. Kare Kano remains a fan favorite, in part, due to these changes in pace that bring in a new level of comedy and drama to this great series. For the true fans of Shoujo, this is a must have!

Erica Sakurazawa: Angel Nest
Released by TOKYOPOP
Story & Art by Erica Sakurazawa
$9.99 U.S.

There are quite a few expected genres when it comes to manga, so its nice to come across a title that shakes things up a bit by tackling a few stronger issues with a bit of standard human emotions. While many of the stories focus around heavenly beings, Angel Nest leaves the rest of the characters as true to human nature as possible. Complimenting the well crafted story is a stark art style that allows the reader to focus on the tale as it unfolds. Angle Nest is a nice change of pace for those tired of the standard genres seen in manga.

The Vision of Escaflowne Vol 2
Released by TOKYOPOP
Story & Art by: Katsu Aki
$9.99 U.S.

But if it's hack and slash with a strong hint of romance, then look no further than The Vision of Escaflowne. With strong artwork and dramatic action, the manga of Escaflowne wraps the reader in a nice set of action and adventure. It's a simple tale of good versus evil, with a few twists and turns to help keep even the most jaded adventure fan in tune with the series. Escaflowne manages to mix the right elements to create a story sure to find a home in every manga lover's home.

Saber Marionette J Vol 2
Released by TOKYOPOP
Story by Satoru Akahori
art by Yumisuke Kotoyoshi

$9.99 U.S.

Back this month are the girls from Saber Marionette J. All the players are present, and the subplot begins its steady march as the girls and Otaru must face off against the forces of Gartland to save their homeland. Much like the anime, the manga is slowly moving through its subplots to get to the heart of the matter. While facing a dark and menacing foe, the story continues to ramble from heartfelt drama, high stakes action and then right into pie-in-the-face comedy. While seeming a bit chaotic, the story moves quickly and is a joy to read. Saber Marionette J remains on the must buy list.

.hack//legend of the Twilight Bracelet Vol 1
Released by TOKYOPOP
Story by Tatsuya Hamazaki
Art by Rei Izumi

$9.99 U.S.

Well, it was bound to happen. With the game and first series all over the place, .hack in its manga form was bound to make it to the shores of North America. Fans of the game and the series will be intrigued by this sequel as it picks up after the story portrayed in the video game series. The anime of Legend of the Twilight Bracelet hasn't made its way to North America yet, so fans can get a sneak peek of the adventures of chibi Kite and Black Rose. Taking on a very different visual style to the previous shows, the characters come across as cute and cuddly this time around. Even many of the monsters are more comical in nature this time around. And fans of the entire .hack series won't have to fear as the mysteries surrounding The World still exist. This title actually sits on the border of buy it and borrow it as new comers to the .hack world won't understand a lot of the setting being presented. Still, fans of the entire .hack world will love this latest addition to that world.

Alien Nine GN 3
Released by Central Park Media
Story & Art by Hitoshi Tomizawa
$15.95 U.S.

The last of the must buys and a heavy one at that. As always happens, the plot thickens, the threats grow and just to keep you on your toes, there are a few surprise twists as this series draws to a close. This series stands out as exploring new ground and working the reader into a cold sweat as they empathize with the main characters. For those looking for lighter faire, this is not the manga for you. In fact, you may want to allocate a bit more time than usual to read this one, as you'll probably end up going back a few times to make sure you didn't miss something.

Borrow it!

Lupin III Volume 7
Released by TOKYOPOP
Story & Art by Monkey Punch
$9.99 U.S.

Ah, another month and another Lupin book in the borrow section. Wait, I've said that already. Yes, for the third time in a row, Lupin is still in the borrow section. Again, it comes down to Lupin being a bit of an acquired taste. The artwork still looks like its something out of a 1960s playboy magazine and the stories are still rather random and unconnected in nature. But for the true fans of the series, its more Lupin goodness as Lupin does what Lupin does best; get into trouble, flirt with Fujiko and when he's done there, flirt a bit with danger. Even after nearly 30 years, Lupin remains one of the best and original mangas out there. So if the art is a bit of a turn-off, at least give it a shot when your best friend buys it. You won't regret giving it a try.

FAKE vol 3
Released by TOKYOPOP
Story & Art by Sanami Matoh
$9.99 U.S.

Ah, the world of shonen-ai. Oh, wait, there's a story here too? Well, good thing. In case you missed it, this tale follows the adventures of Ryo and Dee, two detectives out there protecting the city and its citizens. Of course, along the way there's a bit of sexual tension between the two of them, but I'm doing my best to glaze over that fact. So, looking at this with my Starsky and Hutch glasses, this is a buddy cop flick with lots of action. To be honest, the stories are well done, the art is good and it's not nearly as icky in the boy love as you would think. But, due to the shonen-ai label; many will want to borrow this before going and buying it.... and I'm sure others will rush out to buy it without hesitation.

Wild Act Vol 2
Released by TOKYOPOP
Story & Art by Rie Takada

Love is always a complicated matter, especially when it happens because you're on a stealing spree thanks to your sickly mother. Ok, this one is a bit more complicated than that, but you get the idea. Going with the whole misinterpreted identity thing leading to love, Yuniko finds herself at a loss when her mother suffers from amnesia. Just when it couldn't get any worse, school begins and Yuniko finds herself at odds with her feelings for Ryu. To get her mind off of things she throws herself back into her Original Quest. This one falls right into the complicated love story angle, so much of it feels like familiar ground. Again, with so many shoujo titles out there, this comes up as a bit of try before you buy title.

Zodiac P.I. Vol 2
Released by TOKYOPOP
Story & Art by Natsumi Ando

Life is changing for the Zodiac P.I. as Lili finds herself flooded with cases. All this attention and a spot on TV lead her up to one of her biggest cases yet, the mystery of a poisoned astrologist. Kind of a female version Detective Conan with an astrological twist, Zodiac P.I. comes across as a solid mystery shoujo story. But again, with so many titles out there, the fans are becoming confused with what's good and what's bad. The stories are solid, albeit the endings a bit predictable, so no need to rush out for this one. If mysteries and astrology prove to be your thing, though, then maybe this is a strong consideration. Otherwise, stick to borrowing this one until the story really catches you.

Confidential Confessions vol 2
Released by TOKYOPOP
Story & Art by Momochi Reiko

While many manga fans are looking for a bit more meat to their stories, sometimes reality simply isn't eatable. Based more around true stories of real teenagers, Confidential Confessions comes across more as an after school special than a true hard hitting dose of reality. The tale this time around is a very serious issue, especially in the context of traditional Japan, but may not be what many manga fans are looking for. While Confidential Confessions gets many kudos for tackling the hard to swallow reality of life, it falls a bit short for choosing a medium that may not be ready for this type of material. Of course, much like Angel Nest, if you are looking for something different in your manga, then give this one a try.

Record of the Lodoss War: Chronicles of the Heroic Knight Book 06 (GN)
Released by Central Park Media
Story by Ryo Mizuno
art by Masato Natsumoto


Again with the Record of the Lodoss War and again with the long title. Unfortunately for the fantasy genre, it has become a bit played out in the market of North America. While plenty of fans are waiting for the continuation of this series, many may be put off by its near generic look and feel. Record of the Lodoss War has long been the Japanese interpretation of Dungeons and Dragons, so it remains a staple in any fantasy loving fans collection. If you're just coming into the series, best to try and play catch up, rather than jumping in with this one. The world of ROLW is vast and it's a bit difficult to come running into it in the middle.

Cyborg 009 Vol 1
Released by TOKYOPOP
Story by Ishinomori Shoutarou

It's nice to see many of the older, classic manga making their way to North America. Cyborg 009 is the epitome of classic manga tackling the tensions created by people living in the Cold War era. Paranoia, loss of individuality, technology outgrowing humanity, its all explored here. So, why is it in the borrow section. Much like Lupin, the artwork holds Cyborg 009 back a bit. Sure it was revolutionary for its time, but in the current era it comes across as childish and archaic. The other thing that may hinder the growth of this title is the fact that the re-made TV series has been airing on Cartoon Network for some time. Fans buying the book for the more modern looking animation may be turned off by the older look of the manga. It'll be a hard sell, but the stories explored by the original manga are definitely worth checking out. So, much like Lupin, Cyborg 009 is a definite must-try before you buy.

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