Tankobon Tower
The new guy always has something to say

by Allen Divers,
It's about time I managed to round out an entire month of manga releases with four columns in a row. This week, it's all about that little upstart company, ADV Manga, hitting your wallet hard with a set of solid releases to end out the month. Viz managed to sneak one title in there, but it's hard to rise to the top with an action title when you're surrounded by cute and funny.

Buy it!

Full Metal Panic Vol 3
Released by ADV Manga
Story by Shouji Gatou
Art by Retsu Tateo
$9.99 U.S.

Full Metal Panic is a title that seems to be garnering more and more attention. With the recent completion of the first season's DVD run in North America, fans will have to satisfy their thirst for more FMP with the manga release. With both the anime and manga having been inspired from a series of novels, they both move in slightly different directions. While the anime focused more on the mecha combat that made FMP a top action series, the manga seems more rooted in the comedic aspects of a young boy trained as a soldier and forced to live the life of a regular high school kid. FMP has a bit of something for everyone, and manages to balance everything to become a solid and entertaining read. With consistent artwork and great character designs, FMP will be a must have for a while to come.

Azumanga Daioh Vol 3
Released by ADV Manga
Story & Art by Kiyohiko Azuma
$9.99 U.S.

While drama mixed with action and comedy always make for a fun read, sometimes you just need to take a break and bury yourself in the strange world of high school girls. Ok, no matter how I write that last line, it'll still sound weird, but you have to take Azumanga Daioh at face value. You'll get the hard core fans and the skeptics that praise or condemn this series, but when you break it down, it's a simple 4-panel strip series that just meanders through the lives of its main cast. The artwork is simple, at times making some of the secondary cast members difficult to tell apart. That's not really a problem, as the writing is solid and often witty, making Azumanga Daioh an easy tale to pick up and put down without getting lost. It's a slice of life book, with very little in the way of heavy plot lines and remains a solid must have.

Battle Angel Alita Last Order Vol 3
Released by VIZ
Story & Art by Yukito Kishiro
$7.95 U.S.

This week it seems like its pretty easy to get away from the cute and funny books to one a bit more gritty. Set in a future apocalyptic world, Battle Angel Alita is a cyborg set on a course of kicking butt. This time around, she's been forced to team up with some nasty replicas of herself as well as the evil scientist Desty Nova. While the previous books focused on humor with FMP focusing on action, Battle Angel Alita is all about action. The artwork for this particular book does a good job of reflecting the world Alita lives in. The action in this series is well drawn, with a focus on making the images come to life. While the plot is a bit derivative and for any fan of science fiction, a bit cliché, the world of Alita is still well worth a visit.

Figure 17 Vol 1
Released by ADV Manga
Story & Art by Akira Nakahira
$9.99 U.S.

With the greater influx of manga and anime hitting the shelves, you begin to see some series that seem familiar. Take Figure 17; it's the story of a young girl named Tsubasa, whose mother died when she was born. Her father, trying to live the dream of his dead wife has moved to their home town to work in a bakery. Poor Tsubasa blames herself for her mother's death and of course has no friends at school. It's where the story goes from here that marks its entry into its own unique world. One night Tsubasa sees something fall to Earth behind her house. As characters always tend to do (otherwise we wouldn't have much of a story) she goes to investigate and finds a spaceship and an alien. While that also sounds a bit cliché, the story does pick up from that point and things begin to get weird for our young heroine. To be honest, the artwork isn't anything spectacular and the pacing is a bit slow in the beginning. The strong points prove to be the strong writing of the story as well as the development of the main character. In the first two chapters, you learn everything you need to know about what motivates young Tsubasa. From there, it's pretty clear what she will do next while still leaving plenty of room for growth. While some will say this one is simply another magical girl story, things prove to be a little more complicated, and well worth exploring.

Borrow it!

Those Who Hunt Elves Vol 2
Released by ADV Manga
Story & Art by Yu Yagami
$9.99 U.S.

Ok, here's the gist of this story; a judo expert, a famous actress and a young school girl get sucked into a magical world with elves. When trying to get back to their original world, they screw up the spell and end up scattering it around the new world they find themselves in. The problem is the spell fragments have attached themselves to the young female elves of this new world. From there, things really get weird as the heroes now have to strip the elves to find the spells. Yep, this one pretty much sells itself off on the fan service inherit in the slightly convoluted driving plot line. Kind of a one trick pony, each chapter moves along with no real sense of purpose and just throws our heroes into one wacky situation after another. While the main story is kind of weak, there is still quite a bit of humor to keep you rolling in the aisles. This is an easy title to enjoy as a change of pace from the heavier titles you may encounter each week, but you may want to borrow it first to see if it falls into your own sense of humor. While trying hard to please, this one falls squarely in the try before you buy category.

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