Friday, November 17, 2017

Review: MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM: THE LOST WAR CHRONICLES

The majority of Gundam manga out there are spinoffs, be they spinoffs of shows, other Gundam manga, or (in this case) video games.  The vast majority of these go unlicensed, but today's review is one of the rare exceptions.  So what, if anything, makes this one so special?

MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM: THE LOST WAR CHRONICLES (Kido Senshi Gundam Senki), with art by Masato Natsumo, based on the game by Tomohiro Chiba and Bandai Games, the franchise by Hajime Yatate and Yoshiyuki Tomino, and character designs by Koji Aisaka and Toshihiro Kawamoto.  First published in 2002 and first published in North America in 2006.




PLOT:

During the height of the One Year War, Zeon forces control much of Western Europe from their base in Odessa, Lithuania.  It is here at this fateful spot that an elite, experimental squad of Federation pilot plan on striking back, led by the dashing Lt. Matt Healy and Corporal Noel Anderson.  Even as failures and infighting amongst the Zeon troops force them to change their strategy, Matt's forces are confident that they can win.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Review: MOBILE FIGHTER G GUNDAM

From UC side stories we move on to one of the more popular (or at least nostalgic) AU properties.  Is it worth our lover, or simply all our hate and our sorrow?

MOBILE FIGHTER G GUNDAM (Kido Butoden Ji Gandamu), by Kouichi Tokita, based on the franchise by Hajime Yadate & Yoshiyuki Tomino.  First published in 1994 and first published in North America in 2003.




PLOT:

In the Future Century, Earth has been ravaged by years of war.  To prevent further disaster, the world governments have agreed to decide which nation rules the world through the Gundam Tournaments, where each nation's champion pilots a powerful mobile suit and fights their way to victory.  As the 13th Gundam Tournament begins, Neo-Japan's champion Domon Kasshu hopes to use his powerful Shining Gundam to clear his father's name and stop his wicked brother from taking over the world with the help of his former mentor.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Review: MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM THUNDERBOLT

For the second year in a row, we'll be looking at the wild world of Gundam manga!  To start things off, let's look at one of the most recent additions to the franchise.

MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM THUNDERBOLT (Kido Senshi Gundamu Sandaboruto), written by Yasuo Ohtagaki & based on the series by Hajime Yatate and Yoshiyuki Tomino .  First published in 2012 and first published in North America in 2016.



PLOT:

As the One Year War reaches it peak, two sides face off against one another in the wreckage of the Side 4 colony, now know as the Thunderbolt sector.  One side is the Moore Brotherhood, a faction of the Earth Federation staffed by former residents of the colony and led by the daring pilot Io Fleming.  The other side is the forces of Zeon, who are using amputee pilots to test experimental suits and defend their supply routes at the same time, led by their star sniper Daryl Lorenz.  The two inevitably clash in the wreckage, but only one can survive.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Review: STRAY LITTLE DEVIL

Let's close things off with an devilishly charming little series that's been mostly lost to the ages.

STRAY LITTLE DEVIL (Sutorei Ritoru Debiru), by Kotaru Mori.  First published in 2004 and first published in North America in 2006.



PLOT:

Pam Akumachi was always told by her grandmothers that nice devils were real.  They even taught her a spell to summon them.  When Pam finally tries to use it, though, she ends up getting sucked into another world full of devils and angels.  She discovers that she has been transformed into a devil and gets attacked by an angel that looks just like her best friend.  Now the only way for Pam to get back to her world is to become a full-fledged devil and that means starting from the beginning.  She has to learn to read their language, work her way through the demonic ranks, and find a familiar, even if she has to shake up a few rules to do so.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Review: THE DEVIL'S SECRET

Just as there are many BL books about angels, there are just as many about devils, including this one from one of the genre's best loved creators.

THE DEVIL'S SECRET (Akuma no Himitsu), by Hinako Takanaga.  First published in 2007 and first published in North America in 2008.



PLOT:

Father Mauro is a priest in a small, rural village.  One day while out on a walk he finds a strange, badly beaten young man in the bushes named Raoul.  Raoul can't remember a thing, much less why he was injured in the first place or why he has horns on his head.  He swears he can't be a devil, yet the more he molests Mauro the better he feels.  When the truth is revealed, Mauro has to decide how much he values Raoul over his faith.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Review: THE DEMON ORORON

Alas, a lot of devil-themed dramas are no better than the ones about angels, at least if this series is any indication.

THE DEMON ORORON (Akuma no Ororon), by Hakase Mizuki.  First published in 1998 and first published in North America in 2004.




PLOT:

Chiaki has led a lonely life.  Her parents disappeared long ago and most people ostracize her for her ability to see spirits, so she's mostly lived on her own.  One day she stumbles across a strange blond man on the street and takes him in.  She couldn't have possibly guessed that she is part angel, or that her powers have made her a target to the forces of heaven and hell.  Luckily for her, the stranger she found is Ororon, the king of demons, and he swears to protect her from all those that would threaten her.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Review: LUCIFER AND THE BISCUIT HAMMER

Last month was on the side of the angels; this month it's all about the devils, demons, and other nefarious forces.  Today's review is far from nefarious, though, despite what its title may suggest.

LUCIFER AND THE BISCUIT HAMMER (Hoshi no Samidare), by Satoshi Mizukami.  First published in 2005 and first published in North America in 2014.



PLOT:

Yuuki is an ordinary guy with an ordinary life and because of that he can't seem to muster up any sort of strong emotion about anything.  He spends his days drifting through life alone...at least, until he meets the talking lizard Noi.  He tells Yuuki that he is a magic knight who must save Earth from destruction by a giant magical hammer.  Yuuki takes this about as seriously as you might expect, but he finds himself convinced when he meets Samidare.  She's a friendly girl with super strength and a desire to win so that she can destroy the world herself.  It's a bizarre motivation to say the least, but it's just the thing to convince Yuuki to join her cause.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Review: GUARDIAN ANGEL GETTEN

To wrap things up, let's look at a forgotten magical girlfriend series from an equally forgotten publisher (...and a later one that I wish we could forget).

GUARDIAN ANGEL GETTEN (Mamotte Shugogetten), by Sakurano Minene.  First published in 1997 and first published in North America in 2003.


 


PLOT:

Tasuke Shichiri is just another lonely, dorky high school boy with an absent family, few friends, and no girl to call his own.  This all changes when he gets a strange Chinese artifact from his father, from which emerges the moon spirit Shao Lin.  She declares that she will protect him from all harm, but can Tasuke protect her from the modern world and himself from his own growing feelings for her?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Review: FALLEN MOON

Finding BL manga about angels is not a particularly hard feat to accomplish.  Now finding a GOOD BL manga about angels?  That's the tricky thing.

FALLEN MOON (Daten no Tsuki), by Toui Hasumi.  First published in 2004 and first published in North America in 2008.




PLOT:

In this collection of stories, a man cast out of his personal Eden finds himself trapped in the lavish household of a fallen angel, where he is held captive just as much by his captor's will as he is by the walls.  In another world, an artist and his patron turn out to have a far longer and far more divine history than at first glance.  Finally, a bounty hunter and his partner face off against demons, only to undergo transformations and revelations of their own.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: CHEEKY ANGEL

This one may not be as literally angelic as the last one, but it's certainly a lot more interesting to talk about.

CHEEKY ANGEL (Tenshi na Konamaiki), by Hiroyuki Nishimori.  First published in 1999 and first published in North America in 2004.



PLOT:

Megumi is a brash young boy who simply wants to do martial arts and to grow up into the manliest man ever.  A chance encounter with a wizard leads to Megumi getting a magic book, which in turn misinterprets his wish and turns him into a girl.  By the time he reaches high school, Megumi has become renowned just as much for his beauty as for his fighting prowess, and class thug Soga becomes her number one fan.  Megumi is conflicted; he still sees himself as a heterosexual man at heart, so the last thing she would want to do is fall for a man...right?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review: ANGEL SANCTUARY

This fall, we're going to kick off a two-part theme.  This month will be all about angelic titles, and I can't think of a better place to start than with the most notorious shoujo series about angels around.

ANGEL SANCTUARY (Tenshi Kinryoku), by Kaoru Yuki.  First published in 1994 and first published in North America in 2004.




PLOT:

It would be an understatement to say that Setsuna is a messed-up kid.  Not only is he constantly fighting with his classmates, he harbors a deep and shameful love for his younger sister, and now he's caught up in a literal holy war between heaven and hell.  Setsuna is the reincarnation of a powerful angel and both sides want his power for themselves and both are willing to hurt others in Setsuna's life to get their way.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Review: TOWER OF THE FUTURE

Of course, I can't let an Old School Month pass without some old shoujo, and there's no better source for mostly forgotten 90s shoujo than good ol' CMX.  Alas, they can't all be gems like Swan and Eroica; most of them are middling dramas like today's offering.

TOWER OF THE FUTURE (Mirai no Utena), by Saki Hiwatari.  First published in 1994 and first published in North America in 2005.




PLOT:

Takeru's life was for a while not all that different from that of any other 14 year old boy.  He's struggling with his choice of high school and a newfound crush and his desire to be a fantasy novelist often leaves him lost in his own imagination.  That all changes the day Takeru's mother dies and reveals that Takeru has an illegitimate half-sister in England.  This revelation shocks Takeru to his core and his reactions threaten to tear apart what is left of his family.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: 3 X 3 EYES

Of course, Hunter x Hunter is still quite well-known for an old-school shonen series.  Today's review covers something that's quite a bit more obscure these days.

3 X 3 EYES (Sazan Aizu), by Yuzo Takada.  First published in 1987 and first published in North America in 1995.



PLOT:

Yakumo was on his way to work one day when he came across a young woman getting beat up by thugs. He fends them off, only to discover the woman, Pai, was looking for him in the first place.  She delivers a skull and letter from Yakumo's father, explaining that Pai is the last of a supernatural race of people and it is up to Yakumo to keep his promise to make her human.  Yakumo is skeptical at first, but after a harpy attack the two are off to Hong Kong to begin their quest.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Review: HUNTER X HUNTER

It's August, which means it's time for yet another Old-School Month!  This time we're going to kick things off with an old-school Shonen Jump favorite that somehow is still running, even today!

HUNTER X HUNTER (Hanta Hanta), by Yoshihiro Togashi.  First published in 1998 and first published in North America in 2005.



PLOT:

Gon wants nothing more in the world than to become a Hunter.  To be a Hunter means to seek the wildest, most exotic, most profitable, and most magical things in the entire world, and the Hunters who discover them can gain fame and wealth beyond their dreams.  Gon, meanwhile, simply wants the chance to follow in his father's footsteps.

Simply getting to the first Hunter examination site is an adventure onto itself, but Gon manages that with ease thanks to the help of his new friends Kurapika and Leorio.  The next step for them is to survive the Hunter tests, and sometimes the applicants are more dangerous than the tests themselves.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Review: ATTACK ON TITAN: NO REGRETS

It's not shocking that there would be a flood of spinoffs in the wake of Attack on Titan's massive success.  It's not shocking that one of those spinoffs would be about Levi, the fangirl favorite of the cast. What is shocking is how little I care about it.

ATTACK ON TITAN: NO REGRETS (Shingeki no Kyojin Kui Naki Sentaku), based on the manga series by Hayate Isayama.  Written by Gun Snark & art by Hikaru Suruga.  First published in 2013 and first published in North America in 2014.



PLOT:

Years before Eren Jager and his friends would join the Survey Corps, Levi Ackerman was simply doing his best to survive in the dark, run-down ruins below the Royal Sector alongside his friends Isabel and Furlan.  Survey Corp commander Erwin Smith sees great potential in them and brings them into his squad, depsite the misgivings of both his fellow soldiers and his new recruits.  They are all put to the test when Erwin tries out a new troop technique beyond the walls, only to end up luring out an abnormal titan.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF NAGATO YUKI-CHAN

A decade ago, the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise was the biggest thing around.  Not surprisingly, its popularity led to a number of spinoffs getting licensed with today's selection being the most recent.  Does it manage to capture some of the original's off-beat charm or is it just a pale copy?

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF NAGATO YUKI-CHAN (Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoshitsu), by Puyo, based on the light novel series by Nagaru Tanigawa and character designs by Noizi Ito.  First published in 2009 and first published in North America in 2012.



PLOT:

Yuki Nagato is a painfully shy, insecure high school who spends her days getting boss around by her friend Asakura, hanging out in the literature club room, and pining from afar for her classmate Kyon.  She gets her chance to finally confess her feelings when they decide to throw a Christmas party.  Will Yuki summon up her courage in time or just die of embarassment yet again?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Review: GUNDAM WING: EPISODE ZERO

Normally I would be saving this for a future Gundam-themed month, but I'm currently just shy of the midway point of Gundam Wing thanks to a groupwatch with some of the Wave Motion Cannon boys and I'm ready for a good rant so this prequel will have to do.

GUNDAM WING: EPISODE ZERO (Shin Kido Senki Gundam W EPISODE ZERO), written by Katsuyuki Sumisawa & art by Akira Kanbe, based on the Mobile Suit Gundam series created by Yoshiyuki Tomino & Hajime Yatate.  First published in 1997 and first published in North America in 2002.




PLOT:

Before AC 195 and the events of Operation Meteor, there are still stories to tell.  There are the stories of five young boys each suffering through their own personal tragedies, as well as that of a lost princess.  Their pasts not only shaped their appearances and minds, but led to chance encounters with other notable figures from their future and eventually to the Gundams they would someday pilot.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Review: GENSHIKEN SECOND SEASON

Well well well...look who flaked out last month?

Yeah, thanks to a lot of real-world projects and general household stuff, I was not able to finish up last month's theme month.  That just means I have to double down and make sure I get this month's content going.  With the return of another summer comes another month of manga sequels, prequels, & spin-offs.  To kick things off and to make up for lack of content last month, let's start with the return to everyone's favorite otaku college club.

GENSHIKEN SECOND SEASON (Genshiken Nidaime), by Shimoku Kio.  First published in 2011 and first published in North America in 2012.



PLOT:

While the original club members have mostly graduated, Genshiken lives on (even if the members are largely female and their focus is largely on fujoshi matters).  The club is thrown for a loop when a lovely young lady named Hato walks through their door, only to Hato to be revealed as a boy in drag.  While some members have a harder time than others grasping Hato's situation, they all soon bond over their mutual love of manga and man-love.  Meanwhile, former Genshiken president Madarame is having a hard time coping with transiting to the working world.  He finds himself drawn back into club affairs when his place turns out to be the most convenient place for Hato to change, but will it be enough for him to get over the one who got away?

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.