Saturday, June 17, 2017

Review: POPO CAN

With E3 having come and gone, it feels appropriate to look at a manga about games.  Alas, like a bad E3 trailer this one promises one thing and offers something else (and something worse) entirely.

POPO CAN, by Masakazu Iwasaki.  First published in 2003 and first published in North America in 2003.



PLOT:

Yasuharu Koizumi was only looking for a weird new video game to play.  What he got was the game's heroine, Popomi, popping out of his TV on a vague quest.  In the mean time, she's content to hang around Yasuharu's house, eat his food, get fawned over by his grandfather, mess with Yasuharu's childhood friend Miko, and generally sow chaos wherever she goes.  That's not even counting the robot housekeeper and the ineffectual villainess that follows after Popomi!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Review: FUJOSHI RUMI

With con season in full swing, it's time to once again take a look at manga that are all about fandom, otaku-dom, and all things nerdy.  Of course, these days the focus is less on the traditional male otaku and more on their pervy sisters in slashiness, the fujoshi.

FUJOSHI RUMI (Mousou shoujo otaku kei), by Natsumi Konjoh.  First published in 2006 and first published in North America in 2008.



PLOT:

Rumi was simply content to spend her days squeeing over her favorite shows, her favorite man-on-man ships, and especially her own vivid fantasies about class hunk Chiba and his best friend Takahito hooking up.  Then Takahito accepted an invitation to model for her in art club and instead found himself falling head over heels for Rumi.  He might not understand what she's talking about half the time, but he's determined to make his feelings for her known even if he must compete with both his best friend and Rumi's newest fujoshi friend for her time and attention.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: ANDROMEDA STORIES

Well, at long last we reach the end of the month.  After all of these books, I want to end things on a high note.  As such, I decided to go back to the early days of shoujo itself for something special.

ANDROMEDA STORIES (Andoromeda Sutorizu), written by Ryu Mitsuse and art by Keiko Takemiya.  First published in 1980 and first published in North America in 2007.



PLOT:

Deep within the Andromeda Galaxy on the planet of Astralis, the people are celebrating the marriage of Princess Lilia of Ayodoyo and Prince Ithaca of Cosmoralia.  All seems joyous on their world until a bright star appears in an unfavorable position that soon falls upon Astralis and brings doom upon the royal house.  In the midst of this disaster, another ill omen occurs: the queen gives birth to twin boys.  The queen's nurse spirits one of the children away to be cared for by a gruff gladiator, unaware that this child may just be in fact the savior of prophecy who will save Astralis.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: SHINOBI LIFE

How do you combine family drama, ninjas, time travel and romance in a way that isn't completely ridiculous? Well, I don't know if today's selection is the perfect way to do so, but it's certainly a good start.

SHINOBI LIFE (Shinobi Raifu), by Shoko Conami.  First published in 2006 and first published in North America in 2008.



PLOT:

Hundreds of years ago, Kagetora was a loyal ninja serving Princess Beni.  During an attack on her home, the two are separated by an explosion and Kagetora finds himself flung through time and right onto another, modern day Beni.  She's a rich girl with a seething hatred of her greedy stepfather and she sees Kagetora as a new way to spite him.  Soon enough, she comes to care for him, but helping Kagetora won't be as simple as just taking him back to his time.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: ABSOLUTE BOYFRIEND

I'm beginning to think that the taste of Yuu Watase fans is not to be trusted.  They still believe Fushigi Yuugi is a classic and today's selection is one of her worst.  I've made my thoughts plain on Fushigi Yuugi, while this series thus is...OK, I guess?

ABSOLUTE BOYFRIEND (Zettai Kareshi), by Yuu Watase.  First published in 2003 and first published in North America in 2006.



PLOT:

Riiko Izawa wants a boyfriend more than anything.  So far, every boy she's asked out has turned her down.  The only consistent guy in her life is her next-door neighbor/childhood friend Soshi, and he spends his time taking care of her in lieu of her parents or fighting with her.  While lamenting her latest strike-out, Riiko meets a strange man with an even stranger offer: a website where she can order the man of her dreams.  Riiko expects to be nothing but a scam, but soon enough there's a package on her doorstep containing a life-sized, attractive, and extremely nude android boy ready to fulfill her every need.  Of course, there's always a catch.  If she doesn't return her new boytoy after the trial period, she'll be stuck with a seven-figure bill.  It turns out that the perfect man may sound like a great deal on paper, but maintaining one is a lot more work than Riiko expected.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: TENSHI JA NAI!!

Last month I ranted about how awful Maria Holic is.  What I didn't know at the time is that there was another variation on the same idea that was done more in a shoujo vein, and that it was just as unlikable as that previous series.

TENSHI JA NAI!! (I'm No Angel), by Takako Shigematsu.  First published in 2003 and first published in North America in 2005.



PLOT:

Hikaru just wants to be left alone.  She modeled briefly as a child and all she got out of it was a lot of attention from bullies.  Ever since, Hikaru has done her best to coast through her school years without attracting any sort of attention.  Her plans go to hell when her new all-girls' school decides to have her room with Izumi Kido, a popular actress and idol singer.  Hikaru soon learns Izumi's secret: he's a man who only poses as a woman.  Both Izumi and his manager Yasukuni are determined to keep this secret at any cost, and they are not above blackmailing Hikaru to achieve this. It seems that between this, jealous classmates, and some family secrets of her own, Hikaru is going to need to make some all-new plans if she's going to survive.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: KIMI NI TODOKE

After all the drama I've had to read this month, it's nice to come back to a simple shoujo story.  The sort of story that's just about a girl and a boy and a chronic lack of communication.

KIMI NI TODOKE ("Reaching You"), by Karuho Shiina.  First published in 2006 and first published in North America in 2009.



PLOT:

Sawako Kuronuma is a sweet and painfully shy young woman, but to her classmates she comes off as creepy.  It's bad enough that her awkwardness and long black hair have earned her the nickname "Sadako," after the character from The Ring.  The only person who is willing to give Sawako a chance is Kazehiya, a class representative and all-around nice guy.  Sawako is utterly smitten with him, even if she's completely oblivious to the nature of her feelings.  With his encouragement, she starts reaching out to her classmates and making some friends, even as their own burgeoning friendship is slowly but surely turning into a burgeoning romance.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: THE EMPTY EMPIRE

Once again, we're looking at another oddball shoujo title from CMX.  This one is a bit more divisive for me.  In some ways, it's much better than Two Flowers For the Dragon, but it's worse in some ways.

THE EMPTY EMPIRE (Kara no Teikoku), by Naoe Kita.  First published in 1993 and first published in North America in 2006.



PLOT:

The Emperor Idea once ruled the world through a combination of incredible powers and indominatable charisma.  Then the emperor suddenly died and the world was thrown into chaos.  In the midst of this chaos, a stray duke and a whip-wielding girl from the streets find a boy that looks just like the late emperor.  He's a rejected clone that was left without any memories and bearing a rose-shaped scar on his forehead.  They bring him to the palace to teach the boy what he needs to know to survive, but there are many people who both adored and despised Idea and are determined to dispose of this doppelganger by any means.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: PEACH HEAVEN

Kodansha has been a licensing spree lately, adding all sorts of digital-only shoujo titles to their collection.  I figured that since I had enjoyed the josei titles they had picked up so much, surely I would have just as much luck with their new shoujo titles!

Oh how wrong I was.

PEACH HEAVEN (Momoiro Heaven!), by Mari Yoshino.  First published in 2007 and first published in North America in 2017.



PLOT:

Ever since her father died, Momoko Shino has had to help support her family by taking up her father's penname and writing erotic romance novels in his stead.  None of her classmates have any idea that "George Aihara" is just unassuming (if somewhat exhausted) girl...that is, until she stumbles upon class idol Ranmaru Inui having sex with their English teacher.  She uses the encounter for her next book and Ranmaru finds out her secret.  He eventually agrees to keep it on one condition: that Momoka become his slave.  After all, how can a teenage girl who has never so much as kissed a boy write good erotica unless someone teaches her the ways of romance?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Merry Month of Manga: SHUGO CHARA!

I can't let this month pass without covering at least one magical girl series.  After all, shoujo as a whole in the US got its start thanks to the likes of Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura.  That being said, the genre has never really been able to reclaim those heights ever since and I can't help but wonder if mediocre works like today's offering are part of the reason for that.

SHUGO CHARA! (Shugo Kyara!), by Peach Pit.  First published in 2006 and first published in North America in 2007.



PLOT:

Amu has a reputation for being a cool, badass sort of girl, but Amu has no idea where it came from.  She doesn't see herself as cool and aloof, but instead as painfully shy.  She wants to be more assertive with people, particularly where the handsome class president Hotori Tadase is concerned.  Her salvation comes in the form of three magical eggs, with each containing a doll-like creature known as a Guardian Character.  Under their influence, Amu finds she can do anything and discovers that she is not the only one to possess Guardian Characters.  She also soon learns that there are others who covet the Characters and their powers for themselves and that she must fight to protect them from these mysterious (and sometimes cat-eared) figures.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: YUKARISM

Most isekai-style shoujo stories are about girls getting sucked into alternate fantasy worlds.  Far less common are ones about time-travel, and rarer still are ones about guys.  This might be the only one I've seen that combines the two.

YUKARISM, by Chiaki Shiomi.  First published in 2010 and first published in North America in 2014.



PLOT:

Yukari Kobayashi is a bestselling author of historical fiction at the tender age of 17.  When his classmate and super-fan Makoto comes to his home to deliver some assignments, she discovers the secret to Yukari's success.  Yukari's books are so lifelike because he's drawing from his own past memories as a Edo-era oiran.  The more Yukari draws on his past, the more the boundaries between the present and past blur.  Stranger still, Yukari starts recognizing other figures from his current life in the past, and they all seem to be connected to a mysterious fire that killed his past self hundreds of years ago.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: GRAND GUIGNOL ORCHESTRA

Can you believe that it's been five years and I still haven't covered a single Kaori Yuki manga?  That's kind of remarkable considering she's got just as many works in print here as someone like Arina Tanemura.  She's certainly worthy of discussion...it's just a shame I have to start with this one.

GRAND GUIGNOL ORCHESTRA (Guignol Kyutei Gakudan), by Kaori Yuki.  First published in 2008 and first published in North America in 2010.



PLOT:

Across the realm of Queen Gemsilica, a dread plague runs rampant.  It turns people into Guignols, foul beings that are like a cross between zombies and porcelain dolls.  The only thing that can defeat the Guignols are the royal orchestras, as their music stops the Guignols in their tracks and even work some miracles.  There are two orchestras in the land, one official and one unofficial.  Our story concerns the unofficial one and its leader Lucille.  Through the eyes of their newest member, Enes, we learn some of the secrets behind the orchestras and the Guignols.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: LOVE AT FOURTEEN

I've been focusing so much on Viz and a handful of old publishers that I've been neglecting some of the other, modern publishers who are putting out shoujo, starting with the behemoth that is Yen Press.

LOVE AT FOURTEEN (14-sai no Koi), by Fuka Mizutani.  First published in 2010 and first published in North America in 2014.



PLOT:


Kanata Tanaka and Kazuki Yoshikawa are both seen by their classmates as cool and mature.  None of them would suspect that the two are old friends who revert to giddier, more childish versions of themselves when alone.  Lately, though, the two can’t help but notice how attractive the other has gotten.  As the two start to fall in love, they find themselves straining even harder to keep up their cool facades while finding opportunities to enjoy some quiet, tender moments together.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: BOUND BEAUTY

Go!Comi had a particular fondness for Mick Takeuchi.  Who is she?  No one but people who pick up out-of-print shoujo release like me remembers, but the folks at Go!Comi were so fond of her that they licensed not one, not two, but three of her manga.  Luckily, we're looking at what is the most recent and (arguably) the best of the lot today.

BOUND BEAUTY (Shibariya Komachi), by Mick Takeuchi.  First published in 2006 and first published in North America in 2006.



PLOT:

Chiyako has a talent.  She calls it 'fortunetelling,' but in truth it's more like she can see the red strings of fate that tie people together.  She's used it to great effect and modest profit, funds she hopes to use to get away from her loutish father.  Then one day she follows her school's calligraphy master to a strange mansion and stumbles upon a great secret.  It seems her teacher is teaming up with the scholarly Aya and the hot-headed Hirotsuna to master the various strings of fate.  An accident leaves Chiyako in a child's body but grants her the ability the manipulate fate herself and thus join the team.  Now she must learn to adapt to her new teammates of Tyers and control her powers if she is ever going to be able to return to normal.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: STROBE EDGE

I've made it obvious some of the things I don't like in shoujo.  I don't like abusive relationships, I don't like romances with little kids, and I don't like crappy art.  Something else that's less obvious is my dislike of indecisive heroines, much like the one in today's review.

STROBE EDGE (Sutorobo Ejji), by Io Sakisaka.  First published in 2007 and first published in North America in 2012.



PLOT:
 
Ninako has never been the kind of girl who knows her own thoughts.  She's more the sort of person to go with the flow and agree with whatever ideas her friends might suggest.  So when her girlfriends say that she MUST be in love with her old friend Daiki, well then surely she must be!  She believes this until she starts to get to know Ren, the class idol.  Bit by bit they start to open up to one another and Ninako starts to truly understand what being in love actually is like.  Just as she comes to this realization, Daiki blindsides her with a couple of confessions of his own and Ninako finds herself more confused than ever.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: KODOCHA

It's time to take some of my older readers down nostalgia lane with one of the many 90s shoujo series Tokyopop picked up in their glory days.

KODOCHA: SANA'S STAGE (Kodomo no Omocha, "Child's Toy"), by Miho Obana.  First published in 1994 and first published in North America in 2002.



PLOT:

Sana is a popular child actress with a larger-than-life personality and a pressing need to help the people around her.  Her first project is to stop a gang of rowdy boys from tormenting her homeroom teacher and disrupting class.  Sana eventually confronts their leader, Akito, and wins.  In the process, though, she learns that he's dealing with much heavier matters at home and Sana may be the only one able to help him.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: HARUKA: BEYOND THE STREAM OF TIME

What happens when you take a derivative otome game from the PS1 and try to turn it into a manga?  You get a really incoherent mess, if this thing is any indication.

HARUKA: BEYOND THE STREAM OF TIME (Hanukanaru Toki no Naka De ~Hachiyou Shou), based on the video game by Ruby Part & illustrated by Tohko Mizuno.  First published in 1999 and first published in North America in 2008.



PLOT:

Akane was just a normal girl enjoying the walk to school with her friends Tenma and Shimon. As the cherry blossom petals swirl around her, Akane finds herself and her friends transported to Heian-era Japan.  It seems that Akane is an incarnation of the Priestess of the Dragon God.  This power grants her eight stones which embed themselves in her selected guardians, stones which grant them great spiritual power.  That power will be needed as the kingdom is under threat from the alluring yet dangerous Akram, who wishes to destroy everything.  Will Akane be able to gather her guardians and save her past, or will she fall for Akram's honeyed words?


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: MY LITTLE MONSTER

Since Robico is getting another work licensed here (albeit digitally), it's a good time to look back at her previous shoujo series.

MY LITTLE MONSTER (Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun), by Robico.  First published in 2008 and first published in North America in 2014.



PLOT:

Shizuku Mizutani is a girl with a mission.  She is determined to study her way towards a high-paying career and regards anything outside of that goal as a distraction.  Her homeroom teacher bribes her with the promise of study guides if she will take some back assignments to Haru Yoshida, whom everyone believes is a terrible, violent monster of a boy who doesn't come to school.  Haru falls for Shizuku almost immediately.  Meanwhile, she's just annoyed that she has to deal with this weirdo and all the other weirdos he seems to attract.  She just wants to study - she doesn't have time for things like "friendship" or "love"!


Friday, May 12, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: KISS OF THE ROSE PRINCESS

So you know how I mentioned a couple of days ago how Ouran ruined me for reverse harem manga forever?  Well, that's only partially true.  It's true that most of them can't compare to the humor and character writing there, but it's also true that a lot of them are simply mediocre like today's selection.

KISS OF THE ROSE PRINCESS (Barajo no Kiss), by Aya Shouto.  First published in 2008 and first published in North America in 2014.



PLOT:

Ever since she was little, Anise Yamamoto had to obey one rule above all: she must never remove her rose choker or else she will face a terrible punishment.  Then one day a strange bat falls from the sky and snatches it right off her throat, leaving behind four mysterious cards. Anise discovers that with a kiss, she can use these cards to summon four magical knights to serve her.  It's a neat trick, but what is Anise meant to do with this power?  More importantly, how is Anise going to get her choker back before her father comes back home?


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: LIFE

I feel like making this part of a Merry Month of Manga is a little weird because today's review deals with some very serious and sad material.  Those triggered by talk of self-harm should take heed before reading this.

LIFE (Raifu), by Keiko Suenobu.  First published in 2002 and first published in North America in 2006.



PLOT:  

Ayumu is struggling with her junior high school exams like a lot of girls her age.  She enlists the help of her best friend Shinosuke, and it works beautifully – Ayumu passes and gets into Minami High School!  Unfortunately Shinosuke does not, and this results in a big fight and the end of their friendship.  Ayumu feels so guilty over the whole thing that she begins to cut herself as a way of coping with her pain.  At Minami, things don’t really get better.  Sure, she makes a new friend named Manami, but Manami is snobby and shallow and makes Ayumu feel worse.  Now Ayumu is torn between her dependence on cutting to deal with her emotions , fear of others discovering evidence of her cutting, and the self-loathing  and the insecurities that drive her to cut.

Merry Month of Manga Review: BEHIND THE SCENES!!

I've always been fond of Ouran High School Host Club.  The anime was the first one I ever watched (...at least, the first I watched knowing it was anime) and the manga remains my favorite of all reverse harem manga.  It seems, though, that not only has Ouran ruined me for other reverse harems, but it might have ruined me for other Bisco Hatori works as well.

BEHIND THE SCENES!! (Urakata!!), by Bisco Hatori.  First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2016.



PLOT:

Ranmaru has spent his whole life presuming that he's a disaster.  He's no good at fishing like the rest of his family, he's torn apart every club he's ever joined, and he's convinced that college will be no better.  Then he stumbles across The Art Squad, a rag-tag team of art students who supply everything from model to costumes to SFX for the school movie clubs.  They see great potential in Ranmaru's eye for detail, but can they get past Ranmaru's persistent pessimism to convince him?


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: THE DEVIL WITHIN

I can't believe that I found ANOTHER shoujo manga with a shota complex.  How the hell does this keep happening?

THE DEVIL WITHIN (Tenshi no Naka ni Akuma Ari), by Ryo Takagi.  First published in 2003 and first published in North America in 2007.



PLOT:

Rion knows two things for certain: grown men are nothing but devils, while young boys are nothing but pure, beautiful angels.  A childhood trauma led her to this conclusion, and ever since she can only find herself attracted to pre-pubescent boys. This throws a wrench in her father's business plans, as he's determined to marry her to one of three teenaged heirs for his benefit.  Neither the boys nor Rion's father care about getting her consent on the matter - they're just determined to profit from the connections.  All the while, Rion pines for the angelic-looking boy in the apartment below hers even as he abuses her verbally at every turn.  Soon Rion discovers that there's more than just a business deal at stake with her choice of husband and that her choices may have divine implications.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: DAWN OF THE ARCANA

You know, there are plenty of manga about princesses out there, but there aren't many out there like today's selection, where the role of a princess is less fanciful and romantic and more political and serious.

DAWN OF THE ARCANA (Reimei no Arukana), by Rei Tomi.  First published in 2003 and first published in North America in 2011.



PLOT:

Senan and Belquat are two halves of the same island that have been at war with one another for ages.  The two sides hope to forge a peace accord (no matter how temporary) by uniting the handsome Prince Caesar of Belquat with the spirited, red-headed Princess Nakaba of Senan.  From the moment the two are wed, Caesar makes it clear that Nakaba is his property to command and berate at his will.  Nakaba does her best to hold her own against him, but when her loyal servant Loki turns upon the king of Belquat she finds herself having to make a deal with her unpleasant new husband.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: THE EARL AND THE FAIRY

If my love of The Ancient Magus' Bride didn't give it away, I have a particular fondness for shoujo series that get particularly whimsical with their fantasy settings.  That's what drew me to today's selection.  It's just a shame that it doesn't quite live up to that premise.

THE EARL AND THE FAIRY (Hakushaku to Yosei), adapted from the light novels by Mizue Tani & art by Ayuko.  First published in 2008 and first published in North America in 2012.



PLOT:

Lynda Carlton knows one thing to be true: that fairies do exist in this world.  Only her and her late mother could see them, and thus most people presume that Lynda is a bit mad.  Nonetheless, she is determined to carry on her mother's work as a fairy doctor to bring aid to human and fairy alike.  A trip to visit her researcher father leads to Lynda getting kidnapped, but it also leads her to cross paths with a man claiming to be Edgar Ashenbert, also known as Lord Ibrazel and a descendent of the mythical Blue Knight Earl.  Edgar needs Lynda's help to find his ancestor's mythical sword, and thus Lynda finds herself swiftly swept up in an adventure she could have never imagined.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: CANTARELLA

It's rare to find historical shoujo that isn't about a romance, but leave it to Go!Comi to deliver one of the better ones I've ever found.

CANTARELLA (Kantarera), by You Higuri.  First published in 2001 and first published in North America in 2005.



PLOT:

The Borgias are one of history's most notorious families, accused of every crime and sin imaginable.  This is especially true for the scion of the famile, Cesare Borgia.  In this version, Cesare is cursed from birth, as his father literally sells Cesare's soul to the devil so he can become Pope.  As the young boy grows up, he finds few allies save for his innocent younger sister Lucrezia and his first mother Vannozza.  As he grows into a young man, he hardens his heart against the world so that he may strike out at those who oppose him.  What is unknown is if he is already an irredeemable monster or if even he has a chance at salvation.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: KAMISAMA KISS

These days, shoujo heroines falling in love with gods/yokai/etc. are all the rage.  I think it's time to look back at the series that most recently popularized the idea.

KAMISAMA KISS (Kamisama Hajimemashita), by Juliette Suzuki.  First published in 2008 and first published in North America in 2010.



PLOT:

Nanami Momozono is an extraordinarily unlucky girl.  She's barely getting along as things are, but after her father runs off to escape gambling debts she finds herself alone, homeless, and penniless.  A kindly old man takes pity on her, offering her a place to stay and a kiss on the forehead.  Nanami couldn't have known that the old man was a stray Shinto god and that his offer was in fact a transfer of his powers and temple to her.  Now Nanami is responsible for fulfilling the prayers of strangers along with a fox familiar who is as handsome as he is grumpy and who resents the new management.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: STEPPING ON ROSES

Normally I don't bring too much of the real world into this blog but anyone who followed the news today knows that today was a bad day...a terrible, no-good, infuriating sort of day.  So I'm going to take this opportunity to vent some frustration by getting around to a series I've been meaning to rant about for a while.

STEPPING ON ROSES (Hadashi de Bara o Fume), by Rinko Ueda.  First published in 2007 and first published in North America in 2010.



PLOT:

Sumi Kitamura is a poor yet noble young girl growing up in the midst of the Meiji era.  Her parents are dead, her brother is a hopeless gambler who keeps leaving foster kids with her, but despite her crushing poverty and large number of dependents she remains hopeful.  She eventually gets so desperate that she decides to prostitute herself.  Sumi is eventually 'bought' by Soichiro Ashida, who wants to marry her in the hopes of appeasing his dying grandfather to inherit a fortune.  Now Sumi is bound to this cruel, demanding, arrogant young man all while she struggles to find a place in a social world far above her own.  Will Sumi ever adapt to her surroundings?  Will Soichiro ever come to love her?  And will she ever find the mystery man who helped her in her time of need?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: JULINE

Tokyopop famously made their fortunes on the back of shoujo manga back when they were still Mixx (...or sometimes Chix Comix.  It took them a while to settle on Tokyopop).  Of course, for every Sailor Moon they picked up, there were more obscure works like today's selection.

JULINE (Kakuto Komusume Juline), by Narumi Kakinouchi.  First published in 1997 and first published in North America in 2001.



PLOT:

Juline is the heiress to the Kenga clan of ninjas, but she's more concerned with winner her handsome guardian's heart than any outside threat.  Then a mysterious new clan called the Black Pearl starts stealing their members, a clan connected to both a mysterious, androgynous leader and the princely new girl at school.  To discover the truth, Juline must team up with the other clans in town to investigate...presuming that they survive.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: TWO FLOWERS FOR THE DRAGON

Now we're going from one of the classics of shoujo to one of my favorite sub-sub-sub categories: weird shoujo series from CMX!  They picked up all sorts of weird little gems during their brief time that are remembered mostly by manga bloggers like myself, including (but not limited to) today's selection.

TWO FLOWERS FOR THE DRAGON (Ryu no Hanawazurai), by Nari Kusakawa.  First published in 2005 and first published in North America in 2008.



PLOT:

Shayuka is the heiress to the dragon clan.  This grants her the ability to control water, to transform into a dragon and to someday rule over the desert oasis kingdom she calls home.  As a child, she was engaged to her friend Lucien, but he disappeared in the desert.  These days, she's set to marry Kuwan, the captain of the guard, but those plans go awry after Lucien reappears.  Shayuka can only marry one, so the matter will be settled through Shayuka's enchanted engagement tattoos.  One hand bears the rose of Lucien; the other has the bellflower of Kuwan.  As her love for one or the other grows, their respective flowers will grow and bud, and whomever has the most in a year's time wins her hand.  Shayuka is confident that her love for Kuwan will win out, but will Lucien's newfound strength and flirtatiousness even the odds?


Monday, May 1, 2017

Merry Month of Manga Review: NANA

Five years.

Can you believe it?  It's been five years since I first put together this humble little BlogSpot to start putting up reviews.  It was meant to just be a hobby, a way to pass the time on my own in my quiet little rental room during a period of extended unemployment. 

Five years later I'm now a married woman with shelves full of manga, and what started as a hobby is growing into something more.  Writing here has given me the confidence to try writing on other topics at other places.  Not only do I now have some regular features on Infinite Rainy Day, but also recently made my debut as a contributing writer for Anime Feminist.  I've dabbled in podcasting, and I hope to someday return to it. I've even started to make a little income off of this humble little hobby of mine.  It's been a hell of a ride, even if I admit that I'm not always the most consistent about it.

As we do every May, I plan on reviewing an entire month's worth of manga.  This year, I'm shaking things up yet again with a new theme: shoujo manga.  I'll be doing 31 days' worth of shoujo manga reviews, as I try to cover books old and new, good and bad, and all points in between.  Of course, we have to kick off such a momentous anniversary with a review of an equally momentous series.

NANA, by Ai Yazawa.  First published in 2000 and first published in North America in 2005.




PLOT:  

This is the story of two young women, both named Nana.

Nana Komatsu is a frantic young woman who is always unlucky in love (mostly because she tends to choose bad, douchey partners).  Her latest relationship with a married, older businessman is no exception to this.  She decides to follow her best friend Jun to art college in hopes of turning her life around…and she pretty much fails at that.  Instead, she ends up latching onto and falling for a mutual friend, Shoji, and decides to follow him to Tokyo.

Nana Osaki is cool and confident, a troubled kid who grew up to be the lead singer for her boyfriend’s punk band, Blast.  Unfortunately, he’s decided to move on to a new up-and-coming band and now she has to decide whether to try and make things work with Ren or to head to Tokyo with her remaining bandmates to try and break out.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Review: KISS & WHITE LILY FOR MY DEAREST GIRL

I'll likely be talking about this again in December, but we're getting a bounty of yuri titles this year unlike anything manga readers have seen previously.  It's not just that Seven Seas is picking up more titles, it's that other publishers are getting in on the act too, as seen with today's review.

KISS & WHITE LILY FOR MY DEAREST GIRL (Ano Ko ni Kiss to Shirayuri o), by Canno. First published in 2013 and first published in North America in 2017.



PLOT:

Ayaka Shiramine is used to being number one.  Her grades have always put her at the top of her class and she's worked hard to cultivate a cool, calm and collected demeanor.  Then she meets Yurine Kurosawa, who manages to be both a better student and better athlete than Ayaka despite refusing to join any teams and sleeping through class.  Yurine isn't interested in that stuff, but Ayaka soon discovers that Yurine is very interested in her personally.  Meanwhile, Ayaka's best friend Mizuki has problems of her own.  She's love with her friend and fellow track team member Moe, but Mizuki is afraid that she's going to get overshadowed by Moe's efforts to bring Yurine onto their team.


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.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Review: THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK TO THE PAST

In honor of the release of the Nintendo Switch, I'm making this a month of video game manga!  Video games and manga are not a radical nor recent combination.  Indeed, today's review covers a beloved adaptation of an equally beloved Nintendo franchise from an equally beloved Nintendo magazine.

THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: A LINK TO THE PAST (Zelda no Densetsu), by Shotaru Ishinomori.  First published in North America in 1992.



PLOT:

On a dark and stormy night, Link is roused from a sound sleep by a strange voice calling him to the king's castle.  There he finds the Princess Zelda under attack from the evil sorcerer Agahnim.  He wants to use Zelda's life force to summon Ganon and thus take over the world.  In order to save Zelda, Link must find a legendary sword and traverse all the dangers of both his own world and the Dark World where Zelda is being held. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Review: MIDNIGHT SECRETARY

Well, let's wrap things up with a bit of smutty josei.  Today's title was one of the first josei titles to sneak its way over here in some time and moderately successful.  Too bad that it's also just another variation on the same old romance novel crap, right down to the vampires.

MIDNIGHT SECRETARY (Middonaito Sekuretari), by Tomu Ohmi.  First published in 2006 and first published in 2013.



PLOT:

Kaya Satozuka is a brilliant secretary, and she's determined to prove just that to her new boss, the department store director Kyohei Tohma.  Sure, he's rude, dismissive, keeps odd hours, and keeps bringing women into the office late at night for sex, but Kaya works hard to overcome her distaste for her boss and perform at her best.  Then she discovers that Kyohei's late night trysts are in fact late night feedings.  Her boss is a vampire, and only Kaya and Kyohei's brother know the truth.  Now Kaya must not only keep her office running smoothly but also keep her boss's secret.  What will happen though when warmer feelings start to interfere with her duties?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Review: MAN'S BEST FRIEND

Of course, I can't let this month pass without covering some strange example of BL manga, and this year I found a doozy.  Tokyopop's BL imprint was actually fairly sedate compared to some of its competitors, but they still managed to slip some real oddballs out there like this little anthology.

MAN'S BEST FRIEND: INU MO ARUKEBA, by Kazusa Takashima.  First published in 2004 and first published in North America in 2006.



PLOT:

Ukyo happens to find a stray dog on his way home from school one day.  He just presumes that the dog, whom he names Kuro, is just a friendly canine.  He could have never suspected that Kuro was in love with him, nor that when he gets excited that Kuro can turn into a man and start humping more than just his leg.  There's also the story of two childhood friends who reunite as young men who must come to terms with their shared past, as well as the story of a man who wins a goldfish at a festival only to find that it too can turn into a beautiful young man.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Review: CITRUS

As before, Bad Romance Month is not limited to straight romances alone.  That being said, normally yuri was a genre where one could be safe from such things.  As much as I might complain about it being nothing but shy schoolgirls in love, that at least is less stressful and uncomfortable than the excesses of BL and old-school shoujo.

Sadly, it seems that those same excesses are starting to bleed in, and on this side of the Pacific this was the work leading the charge.

CITRUS (Shitorasu), by Saburouta.  First published in 2012 and first published in North America in 2014.



PLOT:

Yuzu Aihara is dealing with a lot of change lately.  Her mother recently remarried, forcing them to move and Yuzu to be transferred to a stuffy all-girls' high school.  Her outspokenness and gyaru style put her at odds with her new classmates, especially the cold and severe student council president Mei.  Then Yuzu discovers that Mei is her new stepsister and that Mei's life is far more tragic than Yuzu realized.  Yuzu wants to help Mei and make her smile, but is she doing so out of sisterly compassion or because she's in love with Mei?

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Review: SAIKANO

With the return of February comes the return of Bad Romance Month, where we explore just a few of the many, many, MANY messed-up romances found within the pages of manga.  Today's review is a bit of an exception.  It's not so much of an example of a troubled, abusive romance as it an example of a troubled and tragic one.

SAIKANO: THE LAST LOVE SONG ON THIS LITTLE PLANET (Saishu Heiki Kanojo), by Shin Takahashi.  First published in 2000, and first published in North America in 2004.



PLOT:

In a no-name town on Hokkaido, Shuji and Chise are trying to start a relationship.  It doesn't go very well at first, as Shuji is taciturn and cross while Chise is apologetic and shy.  Then Shuji discovers Chise's secret: she was chosen by the SDF to become The Ultimate Weapon.  Progressively, more and more of her body is transformed into a terrible alien machine, used to fight against an unknown enemy.  As this is happening, Shuji and Chise struggle to find a way to preserve their fledging love against forces far greater than their own.

The Manga Test Drive Patreon is live!



BIG NEWS FOLKS!  I've been debating this for a while now, but after a lot of thought and considering, I finally decided to go forward and create a Patreon to support my work here at The Manga Test Drive along with my other writings.


In case you are unaware, Patreon is a site where you can directly support the creators you love through regular monthly payments.  For as little as $1 a month, you can get convenient access to all of my writings along the potential for even more content if I can meet some of my goals!  I'm really excited about this, so if you've ever enjoyed my reviews and articles please consider donating today.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Review: X/1999

With the start of a disastrous, fatalistic new presidency, I think it's finally time to take a look at the CLAMP work that best sums up the feelings this new era embodies.

At least this version of the apocalypse has a lot more bishies and far fewer fascists than our own.

X/1999 (Ekkusu), by CLAMP.  First published in 1992 and first published in North America in 2003.



PLOT:

The year is 1999, and the apocalypse is nigh.  The fate of Tokyo and the world rests on the shoulders of a mysterious young man named Kamui.  As other, strange folks find themselves drawn to the city, Kamui finds himself among his childhood friends Fuuma and Kotori.  They don't know it yet, but all of their lives are about to change.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Review: CLAMP SCHOOL DEFENDERS DUKLYON

Speaking of CLAMP's weirder little short stories, let's return to the world of CLAMP School for yet another exercise in frivolousness.  This time it's tokusatsu flavored!

CLAMP SCHOOL DEFENDERS DUKLYON (Gakuen Tokkei Dyukarion), by CLAMP.  First published in 1992 and first published in North America in 2003.



PLOT:

When classmates Kentaro Higashikunimaru and Takeshi Shukaido aren't arguing amongst themselves and engaging in all the frivolities of CLAMP School, they suit up to become the CLAMP School Defenders Duklyon!  Together with their easily aggravated team leader Eri, they fight back against the dastardly Imonoyama Shopping District Association and their legion of bizarre monsters!

STORY:

Even by the low standards of the CLAMP School works, this might be one of the goofiest and slightest of the bunch.  Much of that is on purpose, but what few jokes it has to offer get old FAST.

The whole thing is one big riff on tokusatsu shows.  Even if you never watched anything beyond Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, this much is obvious.  That's a perfectly fine conceit, even if the jokes never dig particularly deep.  The problem is that there are maybe half a dozen jokes in the entire and every single one of them is hammered firmly into the ground.  There are only so many times you can be expected to laugh at how obvious everyone's secret identities are, the manzai-like routine between the boys, or even the villain's big dumb crush on Eri before you just start getting annoyed with each new instance.

There's also another problem: of all the CLAMP School manga, this one crosses over with all of them.  Duklyon is commanded by a very poorly disguised Nokuro, leader of the CLAMP School Detectives.  The last chapter here is a 2-on-1 battle between the Duklyon boys and Man of Many Faces, which is the phantom thief alter ego of another member of the CLAMP School Detectives.  These aren't even cameos!  They're basically supporting roles, and without having read those other works their appearances might as well be pointless.  When that pointlessness is combined with the annoying humor and half-ass parody, the end result is simply inane.

ART:

Being a CLAMP School-era work, the character designs here are a little rougher than later works.  The boys are perfectly cute in CLAMP's typical fashion, but their faces tend to be as stiff as their armor-like Duklyon suits.  At least they get off easier than their classmate/villain Kotobuki.  He damn near threatens to drown in hair that looks more like a Kabuki wig than hair, even when he's in his ridiculously oversized costume.  There's not much in the way of backgrounds, as CLAMP mostly leans on some rather plain screentones.  There's also not much in the way of action.  All the fights are basically over within a page, maybe two at a stretch.  All in all, there's not much here for anyone unless they really enjoy CLAMP's older character designs.

RATING:

CLAMP School Defenders Duklyon is meant to be goofy, but it's simply too lame and too immersed in the CLAMP School universe to be anything other than an annoying curiosity.

This series is digitally published by Viz, and previously by Tokyopop.  This series is complete in Japan with 2 volumes available.  Both volumes were published and are currently out of print.  This series is available digitally through Viz.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review: WISH

Let's turn from one of CLAMP's newest works to one of the many weird little short stories.  This is one was kind of overshadowed by their biggest works from the 90s, but it remains one of their most charming works.

WISH (Wisshu), by CLAMP.  First published in 1995, and first published in North America in 2002.



PLOT:

Shuichiro was walking home from a long surgical shift when he found what looked like a doll with wings getting attacked by crows.  He frees this being, who turns out to be an angel named Kohaku. Kohaku wants to reward Shuichiro's good dead with a wish, but he can't think of anything that needs a wish to fix.  Regardless, Kohaku is determined to stay by Shuichiro's side until he can decide on that wish.  Unfortunately, the forces of both heaven and hell are determined to break up their cozy relationship before it can truly start.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Review: TSUBASA WORLD CHRONICLE

It's January once more, which means it's time for yet another month of CLAMP works.  Let's start things off with one of their most recent works.  Like most of those new works, it's a rehash of a previous work.  In this case, it's a rehash of their most...troubled work.  Has enough time passed that CLAMP can make some sense of it once more, or is it just more of the same?

TSUBASA WoRLD CHRoNiCLE:NIRAIKANAI, by CLAMP.  First published in 2014 and first published in 2015.



PLOT:

Syaoran and company continue their quest across the multiverse.  This time, he, Fai, Kurogane, and Mokona end up in the pleasant paradise of Niraikanai.  It's a tropical island overseen by a young girl who serves as a divine vessel (as well as a vessel for noodles).  To help them in their quest, she urges them to the entrance to the underworld.  There the gang will meet up not only with another guardian, but also a lot more danger and mystery than they could have anticipated...

STORY:

Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle's ending was no more well-received than xxxHolic's was back in the day.  While its story fit the sort of "and the adventure continues!" ending it got, it went through a lot of convoluted nonsense to get there and most CLAMP fans wanted some actual closure after nearly 30 volumes.  So when they announced a sequel, there was a tiny bit of hope that maybe this time they might wrap things up in a way that didn't require a flowchart to make the tiniest bit of sense.  The joke was on us, though.  World Chronicle is just more of the same, with all the same charms and many of the same flaws.

To their credit, reading this you'd never guess that CLAMP stopped writing Tsubasa for the better part of a decade.  They pick up right where they left off and our team of adventurers are just the same as we left them.  Syaoran is still his blandly heroic self, Kurogane is still a grump, and Fai and Mokona still team up on the regular to tease the hell out of Kurogane.  The interepersonal dynamic between the group was always the most charming (if predictable) part of Tsubasa, so for me that's not a bad thing.  Alas, the plot demands that Sakura be left home during all of this, so all she can do is pray from the sidelines and be just as bland as Syaoran.  I guess that's better than being an often literal load like she was for most of Tsubasa, but it's little consolation.

When I say that it picks up right where it left off, that means all the little plot-related details too.  That means that if you dropped this series at some point, you might not understand why Syaoran is so concerned about Kurogane's arm or why Syaoran and Watanuki are having a nice long chat at the very beginning.  This intro actually pissed me off, albeit for reasons not related to this manga. The worlds of Tsubasa and xxxHolic are still as intertwined as ever, you see, and the same is true for their sequels.  So Watanuki has to go right ahead and explain what he's been up to in the meantime.  In doing so, he spoils the big twist about xxxHolic Rei.  Good job spoiling your own manga before you finish it, CLAMP!  Maybe I wanted to watch that unfold as it was released instead of you ham-handedly explaining it all here! 

After that, the gang mostly dithers around this new universe for a while taking in the sights and enjoying the food.  Quickly enough, though, the CLAMP multiverse cameos begin, and this time it's Gate 7's turn.  Sadly, I lost interest in Gate 7 once it entered hiatus and Hana and her associates got less compelling over time so this inclusion didn't exactly thrill me.  Also, it's probably not a good idea for them to so blatantly compare Fai and Kurogane to the expies of Sakura and Tachibane.  It kind of makes it obvious how much the latter rip off the former in both looks and concept.  Still, they're the ones that start pushing the plot forward, so I can deal with it.

It doesn't go very far, though, and it's not entirely clear what's going on.  CLAMP has gotten into a bad habit lately of keeping their plots so mysterious and cryptic that it becomes nonsense.  Tsubasa always suffered the worst from this and it seems that this has not changed where the sequel is concerned.  That doesn't give me much confidence that CLAMP is going to make this manga any more focused or comprehensible than its predecessor.  It's still got some of its old, pre-Acid Tokyo charms, but it's also got the same dawdling pace and the same refusal to explain the necessary details versus all the ancillary stuff.

ART:

CLAMP's art here hasn't changed either, and that mostly is a good thing.  We've got the same clean confident linework, the same noodle-like character designs, and the same sorts of action scenes full of beautifully chaotic swirls and tendrils of magic.  While this series is still technically shonen, there's a lot more shoujo-esque visual excess here, almost an artifact of their art style of old.  They do a lot of layering of panels and staggering long, narrow panels and there's a lot more flowers and sparkles than we've seen in a lot of their modern works.  It gets kind of confusing at times, even outside of the action, and it drowns out what beauty is there.  I didn't really expect them to shake things up too radically at this point, but I did hope that the new start would let them simplify things a little.

PRESENTATION:

As per usual, we've got a translation notes section.  Apparently in addition to the Gate 7 & RG Veda cameos, there's a lot of references to Okinawan culture here, so that's kind of novel.

RATING:

Tsubasa World Chronicle is everything you would expect from a Tsubasa sequel.  It's got all the charms and beauty it held before, but it also comes with all the nonsensical plot threads and excess that came before.  Unless you were really invested in Tsubasa, this can be easily missed.

This series is published by Kodansha Comics.  This series is ongoing with 4 volumes available.  3 volumes have been published and are currently in print.