Saturday, April 22, 2017

Review: MARIA HOLIC

Until today, I wondered to myself "why hasn't anyone made a yuri harem series?  It could be fun, or at least a different take on a very tired genre."

Then I read today's offering, and it not only manage to spoil that scenario, but managed to piss me off in the process.

MARIA HOLIC (Maria Horikku), by Minari Endou.  First published in 2006 and first published in North America in 2009.



PLOT:

Kanako couldn't be happier to be attending an all-girls' high school.  Kanako is not only a lesbian, but she fears men to the point where she gets hives if a man touches her.  Thus, she's all too ready to take in all the beauties around her, even if means constant nosebleeds.  Then she stumbles upon a terrible secret.  It seems that Mariya, the school beauty, is secretly a boy, and he will resort to all sorts of dirty tactics to keep his secret.  Things only get more complicated when Kanako's attempts at making friends end up turning into an impromptu harem of girls, all of whom want to protect her, date her, or befriend her.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Review: STRAWBERRY PANIC

They say that April showers bring May flowers, but in the case of this month it's bringing forth nothing but lilies.  That's right, it's finally time for an entire month of yuri manga!  To kick things off, let's take a look at one of the best-known yuri manga out there.

STRAWBERRY PANIC (Sutoroberi Panikku!), adapted from the light novels by Sakurako Kimino with art by Takuminamuchi.  First published in 2005, and first published in North America in 2007.



PLOT:

For Aoi Nagisa, the illustrious halls of St. Miator Girls' Academy is a chance for her to define herself as a somebody.  In short order, she catches the eye of the school's idol, Hanazono Shizuma.  Shizuma is determined to have Nagisa for herself, no matter how oblivious Nagisa may be to her overtures.  In doing so, the two become the front runners in the annual intermural contest for best couple, but not if some of the other girls from other school have anything to say about it.


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Review: PHOENIX WRIGHT: ACE ATTORNEY

Admittedly, one of the hard parts of picking out titles for this month was finding works that I was familiar enough with the game to judge fairly.  Thankfully, that's not a problem with today's review.  It's part of one of my favorite video game franchises, but can it stand proudly with the games that spawned it or is it guilty of adaptation failure?

PHOENIX WRIGHT: ACE ATTORNEY (Gyakuten Saiban), written by Kenji Kuroda & art by Kazuo Maekawa.  First published in 2007 and first published in North America in 2011.



PLOT:

Phoenix Wright is an up-and-coming defense attorney.  With his assistant Maya Fey at his side, he's determined to bring justice to his clients, be it his perpetually unlucky in love pal Larry Butz or a wealthy family with a lot of secrets, a lot of spiders, and a potential murder.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Review: WORLD WAR BLUE

Even by the standards of most video-game themed manga, today's review is an odd one.  It's written by a American woman, drawn by a hentai artist, and is all about anthropomorphizing a console war that largely only existed in the West, yet got published as a web manga and brought back over here.

It's just a shame that it really, REALLY wasn't worth all the effort.

WORLD WAR BLUE (Aoi Sekai no Chushin de), written by Anastasia Shestakova with art by Crimson.  First published in 2007 and first published in North America in 2012.



PLOT:

In the land of Consume, the Niltendo Empire has conquered all the kingdoms save one: the Segua Kingdom.  There lives a young orphan named Gear, a young man possessing oddly blue hair and super speed.  When Niltendo forces kill his best friend, he and his other childhood friend Nel set forth to join the Segua Army.  Together with skilled archer Opal and the pervy yet brilliant strategist Tejirov, they represent Segua's greatest hope towards rescuing their commander Alex and taking down Niltendo once and for all.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Review: SENRAN KAGURA - SKIRTING SHADOWS

Now we shift from a classic, kid-friendly franchise to a far more recent, far more violent, far more saucy and (surprisingly) far more boring one.

SENRAN KAGURA: SKIRTING SHADOWS (Senran Kagura: Shoujo-tachi no Shinei), adapted from the video game by Kenichiro Takagi & art by Amami Takatsume.  First published in 2012 and first published in North America in 2013.



PLOT:

For generations, Hanzo National Academy has served to prepare young ladies to become deadly ninjas.  Nowadays these future warriors may wear short skirts instead of identity-concealing uniforms and fight for the government instead of feudal lords, but they are still committed to defending the nation in the name of justice and striking down the forces of their dastardly rivals at Hebijo Clandestine Girls' Academy.  That doesn't mean that there isn't time along the way for friendship, trips to the beach, family issues, and lots and lots of bouncing boobs.

STORY:

I wasn't expecting much out of this one.  After all, it's based on a franchise that was literally created only because the developer wanted to bring Dead or Alive-style boob physics to the 3DS in the form of an ecchi-filled ninja girl brawler.  This is not a franchise with a deep and complex lore.  Hell, most of the girls here could be summed up with a single quirk.  Some of them are the kind of quirks you expect from these kinds of stories: the moe baby, the prim and proper rich girl, and the blandly nice protagonist.  Then there are some that are pervier, such as the girl obsessed with boobs (not girls, mind you, just boobs) and a sadist girl.  Then there are just the weird ones, like the girl obsessed with bean sprouts or the gothloli who springs giant guns out from under her skirts.  They all have names, of course, but they're just as forgettable as the girls attached to them.

As for the story proper...well, there isn't one.  At least, there isn't any sort of major, continuous plot thread.  Surely the game this is based on has one!  Instead, it's just a bunch of scattershot, slice-of-life vignettes, each more unoriginal and inoffensive than the last.  That's right - the series that's marketed entirely around bouncing boobs and punching your opponents' clothes off has a manga that's surprising chaste.  Yeah, there are boob gropes and panty shots, but they are so infrequent that it barely registers.  As a result, the whole boobs just kind of drifts by without making much of an impression on the reader.  It's not outrageous, it's not funny, it's not sexy, it's just there. 

ART:

Naturally, most people don't read these sorts of manga for the story, but instead for the cute girls and fanservice.  If so, then the joke's on them here because the artwork here is positively lazy.  Takatsume turns these mostly ridiculous, bouncy character designs and renders them in the plainest, stiffest (and occasionally off-model) manner possible.  He can't draw a fight to save his life, relying mostly on head shots and speed lines to hide his limitations.  He doesn't add much in the way of fanservice, but what is present has all the charm and sexiness of a tuna-fish sandwich.  Even his paneling is sloppy and confusing.  The artist's note at the end notes that they were a newcomer to professional manga when they made this, and every page makes it evident that they were simply not ready for primetime.

RATING:

There are countless other manga out there about sexy girls fighting one another, so save yourself some time and don't bother with this lazy cash-in of a series.

This series is published by Seven Seas.  This series is ongoing in Japan with 3 volumes available.  All 3 have been published and are currently in print.