Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Holiday Review: POP TEAM EPIC

Let's wrap things up with the most gentle, good-hearted manga to come out in 2018, a story of love, stardom, and magic...

Monday, December 24, 2018

Holiday Review: THE BRIDE WAS A BOY

Seven Seas brought us multiple webmanga this year, but aside from the sequel for My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, this may have been the most anticipated of the lot.  As important as Claudine was for trans representation in the 70s, it's important now that we're getting trans stories from actual transfolk like this.

THE BRIDE WAS A BOY (Hanayome wa Motodanshi), by Chii.  First published in 2016 and first published in North America in 2018.


Chii was a transwoman happily in love with her boyfriend.  She was so much in love that she began to make plans to undergo sex reassignment surgery so that she will be able to legally transition and finally marry her boyfriend.  What follows is a whirlwind story of love, transition, and weddings taken from the mangaka's own life!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Holiday Review: WAKAKOZAKE

As we get closer to Christmas, why not read a manga that's all about enjoying good food and drink?  Luckily, this year we got one from Media-Do that I had been craving for years.

WAKAKOZAKE, by Chie Shinkyu.  First published in 2011 and first published in North America in 2018.


Wakako Murasake is a 26-year-old office lady who enjoys nothing more than a good meal.  To her, nothing is more relaxing and enjoyable than a good izakaya dish paired with the perfect drink.  It's the best way to celebrate the small joys of life, get away from the world's frustrations, or just fill yourself until all you can say is "~pshuuuu."

Holiday Review: SATOKO AND NADA

Webcomics continue to be the new frontier in manga, and Seven Seas has been on the forefront of bringing more personal and unique stories like this to the West.

SATOKO AND NADA (Satoko to Nada), by Yupechika.  First published in 2017 and first published in North America in 2018.


Satoko is a Japanese girl studying abroad in America, and by chance she ends up rooming with the vibrant Saudi girl Nada.  Satoko has a lot to learn about living life as a Muslim woman from Nada and her friends, and together the two face some of the everyday challenges of foreigners living in the USA.

Saturday, December 22, 2018


Still, no josei title this year made a bigger splash than this one, the latest title from Princess Jellyfish creator Akiko Higashimura.  This is another cheat (as this was another previously digital-only title), but there was no way I was NOT going to talk about this one.

TOKYO TARAREBA GIRLS (Tokyo Tarareba Musume), by Akiko Higashimura.  First published in 2014, and first published in North America in 2018.


Rinko is an up-and-coming TV writer, but the combination of getting dumped by her long-time boyfriend and the prospect of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has her and her best friends fearful that they'll be single forever and stuck in dead-end jobs.  Rinko's anxieties are starting to get the best of her, and they're not helped along by a hot young actor who keeps bringing Rinko down.  What if she should take a chance on him?  What if she should try to mend things with her ex?  What if? What if?

Thursday, December 20, 2018


Everything old is new again, and this was even true for manga publishers this year.  Ed Chavez, the long-time head of marketing at Vertical, has returned from years of exile to start his own company: Denpa Books.  Sadly, I missed out on their debut at this year's Otabrew by a matter of minutes, but I wanted to mke sure I didn't miss out on one of their debut titles before the end of the year.

AN INVITATION FROM A CRAB (Kani wo Sasowarete), by panpanya.  First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2018.


Sometimes wandering will lead you to wondrous things.  Maybe it'll be a crab that leads to you its fishmonger.  Maybe it's a question of where pineapples come from.  Maybe it's wondering just how cracking coconuts produces energy, or what happens when your soul gets off at the wrong station.  This book is a collection of those wanderings, and the stories that result from them.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


There's actually a fair bit of josei manga to talk about this year, and one of my favorites was this little sleeper of a title from Vertical.

THE DELINQUENT HOUSEWIFE (Futsusuka na Yome desu ga!), by Nemu Yoko.  First published in 2015 and first published in North America in 2018.


As far as Dai Komukai is concerned, his brother's fiancee Komugi seems fine enough.  His sister may be suspicious and his grandfather may be kind of pervy about her, but she seems sweet enough.  Then he discovers her big secret: Komugi is a former biker gang member with no job and no talent for being a housewife.  Her fiancee is gone on an extended business trip, and Komugi is desperate to fit in with the family and keep her secret.  Dai agrees to help, but how long can the both of them keep up appearances?

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Holiday Review: GO FOR IT, NAKAMURA!

This year also saw Seven Seas enter the world of BL, and they entered it with a bang thanks to this sweet stand-alone title.

GO FOR IT, NAKAMURA! (Ganbare! Nakamura-kun!!), by Syundei.  First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2018.


Nakamura fell for his classmate Hirose at first sight, but he can't even muster up the courage to say hello, much less make his feelings known.  Life throws all sorts of complications between Nakamura and his crush, but the biggest one of all might be his own feelings and clumsiness.  Will Nakamura ever find a way to make friends with the boy of his dreams?

Monday, December 17, 2018

Holiday Review: TRAP IN A SKIRT

It was a good year for BL manga, though.  Mostly it was the fact that more publishers began licensing it, including Kodansha.  Sadly, their print releases don't start until next year, so I have to settle for an intriguing digital-only series.

TRAP IN A SKIRT (Skirt ni Wana), by Puruchome.  First published in 2016 and first published in North America in 2018.


Aoi just wants to feel sexual pleasure the same way a woman does.  That's why he's taken to secretly dressing in a girl's uniform while masturbating, but it's not quite enough to get him there.  Then he's confronted by his classmate Takane, who harasses him about being gay only to then start making out with him.  It seems Takane's wanting to experiment with his sexuality, and Aoi sees in him the perfect toy for his needs.

Sunday, December 16, 2018


2018 was a good year for LGBTQ manga in general.  It wasn't just the usual BL and yuri titles, but we saw a lot more slice-of-life style manga about gay kids growing up.

THAT BLUE SKY FEELING (Sorairo Flutter), written by Okura & art by Coma Hashii.  First published in 2017 and first published in North America in 2018.


Dai is a happy-go-lucky kid who is hoping that this time around, he'll stay at this school long enough to make some friends.  Right away he latches onto Sanada, a solitary boy whom his classmates avoid because of rumors of him being gay.  Dai is determined to not let that get to him, but the more he tries to get Sanada to open up and smile, the more Sanada pushes back and confuses him.  As time goes on, Dai starts to wonder how to get Sanada to befriend him, but why it's so important to him.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Holiday Review: CLAUDINE

Sadly, another year has all but gone and we still have yet to see a release of Riyoko Ikeda's immortal shojo classic, The Rose of Versailles.  Thankfully, Seven Seas beat them to the punch with another Ikeda manga, one that was much shorter but also more relevant to modern issues.

CLAUDINE (Kurodinu...!), by Riyoko Ikeda.  First published in 1978 and first published in North America in 2018.


A century ago in rural France, Claudine was born to a wealthy family.  Claudine had every advantage money could buy, but it could not change this fact: Claudine was born a woman, but knows himself to be a man.  As Claudine grows into adulthood, we follow his life as each new love finds new ways to break his heart.  Will Claudine ever find someone who accepts and loves them as they truly are?

Friday, December 14, 2018


The monster boyfriend trend that was spurred by The Ancient Magus' Bride continued into this year, although now they're getting a little more explicit with the Beauty & the Beast homages than normal, but not with the same level of quality.

SACRIFICAL PRINCESS AND THE KING OF BEASTS (Niehime to Kemono no Ou), by Yu Tomofuji.  First published in 2015 and first published in North America in 2018.


From the beginning, Sairiphi was destined to be a sacrifice.  Thus, when she is brought before the king of the beastmen, she is both resigned and fearless.  The king decides to not immediate eat her, but to keep her by his side.  As the two grow to know one another, affection begins to grow between them.  Can their blossoming love survive in a world where humans and beasts alike oppose their union?

Thursday, December 13, 2018


It's finally time to move on to some of this year's shojo manga.  We don't get a lot of reverse harem manga these days, and when we do more often than not they're based on otome games.

After reading this, I think I understand precisely why those two statements are connected.

KENKA BANCHO OTOME: LOVE'S BATTLE ROYALE, based on the game created by Spike Chunsoft, with story & art by Chie Shimada.  First published in 2015 and first published in North America in 2018.


Hinako Nakayama was hoping that going to an all-girls' high school would let her put years of bullying at the orphanage behind her and make some friends in the process.  On her way to her first day, she's sidelined by her long-lost twin brother Hikaru.  He convinces her to pose as him and attend Shishiku Academy in his place.  Once she gets there, Hinako learns the truth behind the ruse: Shishiku is an all-boys' school full of deliquents, where student rankings are settled with fists instead of tests.  Hinako manages to win over some of the baddest boys with a potent combination of delicate looks and a powerful right hook, but can she keep her gender a secret forever?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


TEASING MASTER TAKAGI-SAN (Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san), by Soichiro Yamamoto.  First published in 2012 and first published in North America in 2018.


Every day, Nishitaka tries to think of ways to get a reaction out of Takagi, the girl who sits next to him in class.  Every day, Takagi finds a way to get Nishitaka to freak out and make weird faces, giggling all the while.  Will Nishitaka ever find a way to outwit her?  And will he ever figure out what her REAL motive for teasing him is?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


This year saw the debut of a lot of new digital-only manga publishers.  The most prolific of the lot was Media-Do, whose library could be generously described as a grab-bag.  Even then, there were some gems in that grab-bag, such as this unconventional little seinen series about ballet.

LA MAGNIFIQUE GRANDE SCENE (Kenrantaru Grande Scene), by Cuvie.  First published in 2013 and first published in North America in 2018.


Inspired by the performance by her neighbor Risa, young Kanade decides to take up ballet dancing.  It turns out that learning ballet is harder than it looks, and Kanade's ready to give up even before she gets the pointe shoes she so desires.  Maybe what she needs to find her way is a new approach and to learn from the girl she so idolized.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Holiday Reviews: HINAMATSURI

Comedy manga is a hard thing to pull off, and deadpan comedy even more so.  So leave it to a seinen story of a yakuza thug and his unwittingly adopted psychic daughter to get it right.

HINAMATSURI, by Masao Ohtake.  First published in 2010 and first published in North America in 2018.


Yoshifumi Nitta is an up-and-coming Yazkua whose decadent life is turned upside down by a strange metal egg that appears in his apartment, which in turn contains a strange young girl named Hina.  Hina has incredible telekinetic powers, but she also has expensive taste in food and her powers creates as many problems for Nitta as it does solve them.  Together the two will have to find a way to forge something like a family despite neither of them quite knowing how that works.

Sunday, December 9, 2018


This year did not want for comedy manga, thanks to the adventures of Japanese Garfield Umaru-chan!

HIMOUTO! UMARU-CHAN, by Sankakuhead.  First published in 2013, and first published in North America in 2018.


To the wider world, Umaru Doma is the perfect high school girl.  Pretty, poised, brilliant, and talented at every task she sets herself to, she is the envy of every kid in her class.  Once she gets home, though, she becomes Umaru-chan: a selfish, lazy otaku who pigs out on junk food, torments her brother, and manipulates him to get her way.  The only thing that Umaru works harder at than being a pest is keeping others from discovering her true self, but a strange silent classmate might ruin all of her work in a moment.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Holiday Review: DR. STONE

Meanwhile, Weekly Shonen Jump is enjoying something of a boom, and Viz is reaping all the benefits.  Sadly, most of the big-name titles debuted in English last year (if not before)...save for one.

DR. STONE, written by Riichiro Inagaki & art by Boichi.  First published in 2017 and first published in North America in 2018.


Taiju isn't anywhere near as bright as his chemistry-obsessed friend Senku, but he's loyal and determined and today he's determined to finally confess to his crush Yuzuhura.  At that moment, though, a bright flash envelops the world transforming human flesh to stone.  Thousands of years pass before Taiji is able to break free of his stony prison, only to find that Senku beat him by six months.  Together the two find a way to rescue others, but Senku and Taiju soon find themselves in competition with another fellow classmate who sees this as a chance to rebuild the world without adults.  The only way to stop him is to recreate gunpowder, but can these two do so while trying to rebuild civilization in this savage world?

Friday, December 7, 2018


Meanwhile, Kodansha was mostly busy publishing Fairy Tale spinoffs.  The sad thing is that those are likely preferable to this series.

GRAND BLUE DREAMING (Guranburu), written by Kenji Inoue & art by Kimitake Yoshioka.  First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2018.


Iori hoped that with the move to college and his uncle's seaside dive shop, he would be able to finally meet some girls and start enjoying his youth.  Instead, he finds himself shanghai'd by the college diving club.  They spend most of their time drinking and stripping, and more often than not Iori ends up getting dragged into it.  Will ever learn to actually dive and maybe even impress his pretty cousins in the process?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Holiday Review: MOB PSYCHO 100

Meanwhile, in the world of shonen that doesn't involve apocalypse and/or fantasy, Dark Horse was out there releasing one of the better examples out there to virtually no fanfare.

MOB PSYCHO 100 (Mobu Saiko Hyaku), by ONE.  First published in 2012 and first published in North America in 2018.


Just looking at him, Shigeo would seem like just another anonymous teen boy.  He doesn't much in the way of looks, ambition or hobbies.  Even his nickname, Mob, refers to the fact that he's just another face in the crowd.  What they don't know is that Mob has great pyschic power, although he keeps it mostly repressed.  The only person who does know is Reigen, a wanna-be spirit medium who exploits Mob's powers to hide his own lack of them.  Even then, Mob can only put up with so much frustration before his emotions and powers explode, and when they do the results are unpredictable.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Thankfully, there are isekai stories out there that aren't naked power fantasies, edgelord or otherwise.  Some of them are just about having nice bar food.

OTHERWORLDY IZAKAYA NOBU (Isekai Izakaya "Nobu"), based on the story by Natsuya Semikawa and character designs by Kururi; art by Virginia Nitouhei.  First published in 2015 and first published in North America in 2018.


With the medieval walled city of Eiteriach, there is a strange pub that serves as a portal to another world.  Within its walls, the head chef and his friendly waitress Shinobu offer up classic izakaya fare to the grateful populace.  Whether it's soldiers from the city watch, snooty tax collectors, or fussy aristocrats, all find themselves overwhelmed by the exotic new food and cold mugs of 'whatsontapp.'

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Holiday Review: DEVILMAN

No, if you want something that is both edgy and substantial, you'll have to look to the past and to one of the manga world's most noted creators.  This year saw a lot of older titles get their first proper releases in English, but thanks to Masaki Yuasa's incredible adaptation few were as anticipated as this.

DEVILMAN (Debiruman), by Go Nagai.  First published in 1972, and first published in North America in 2018.


Akira Fudo is a gentle boy who abhors violence.  Yet when his best friend Ryo returns with stories of demons taking over the earth, Akira is ready and willing to help him fight.  To do so, Akira must fuse with the demon Amon without losing his pure human heart.  So long as he can keep control, he can use his devil powers to fight the demons that not only threaten his family and friends, but history and humanity itself.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Holiday Review: GOBLIN SLAYER

Nothing could compete for controversy this year quite like today's selection.  Although Yen Press has been quietly releasing this digitally in chapters for some time, it only blew up in popularity after its animated adaptation began airing.

Oh, if only had it stayed obscure forever.

GOBLIN SLAYER (Goburin Sureiya), based on the original story by Kumo Kagyu and character designs by Noboru Kannatuki with art by Kousuke Kurose.  First published in 2016, and first published in North America in 2018.


For the Priestess, this was meant to be just another adventure for her newly formed group of adventurers.  Little could she have known that what was meant to be a mission to kill some simple goblins would end with most of her party killed, tortured, and cruelly violated.  At the last minute, she is saved by a hulking figure in a suit of armor, known only as Goblin Slayer.  His only purpose in life is to kill every goblin he can find.  The common folk adore him; other high-ranking adventurers scorn him; to Priestess, he is a savior.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Holiday Review: GOLOSSEUM

While some series approach world-wide disaster with irony and ennui, others approach it by going full edgelord and adding in some wrestling moves to boot.

GOLOSSEUM, by Yasushi Baba.  First published in 2015 and first published in North America in 2018.  


At the beginning of the 20th century, 3 strange records fell to earth.  To most they sounded like just noise, but for a select few they held the secrets to incredible power.  Decades later, the technology the records contained are used to create special bracelets that can enhance a person's strength and repel virtually every weapon save for physical attacks from other enhanced fighters.  The leaders of the world hope to use their own arsenal of super-soldiers to gain power, but all of them are on the hunt for the most powerful soldier of them all: Sasha, a Russian woman known as the White Witch.

Saturday, December 1, 2018


Considering what a strange, disastrous year this has been for the US, it feels weirdly fitting to kick this year's holiday reviews off with a manga that's also about trying to life one's life in the middle of an ongoing disaster of unprecedented scale.

DEAD DEAD DEMON'S DEDEDEDE DESTRUCTION (Deddo Deddo Demonzu  Dededededesutorakushun), by Inio Asano.  First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2018.  


Three years ago, a giant flying saucer appeared over Tokyo, destroying buildings and killing hundreds.  The conflict has come to a standstill, and as the government debates how to handle the menace others simply try to live out their lives.  That's certainly true for Kadode and her best friend Oran.  As they deal with friendships, exams, and awkward crushes on teachers, they wonder if there's any point to it all.

Christmas Time! Time for Reviews! (and Giveaways!)

It's time once more for the Manga Test Drive's annual Holiday Reviews!  Every day from now until Christmas, we will cover 25 of the year's most notable releases!

It also means that it's time for our annual Holiday Review Giveaway!  As always, the prize is a $25 Rightstuf Gift Certificate so that you can go out and buy some of the best books we covered as part of those post-Christmas sales.

As always, entry is simple:  just leave a comment below about what YOUR favorite manga of 2018 was.  Old or new, it doesn't matter - so long as it was new to you, it works!  This year, we'll also be accepting entries on Twitter, so if Blogger gives you a hassle just leave a comment HERE!

The giveaway ends at the end of Christmas Day, so get typing and enjoy the reviews!

Monday, November 26, 2018


Let's wrap up this month of mecha with an adaptation of one of my favorite mecha series (as well as one of the first ones I ever watched).

GURREN LAGANN (Tengan Toppan Gurren Lagann), based on the series by GAINAX and Kazuki Nakashima, with art by Kotaro Mori.  First published in 2007 and first published in North America in 2009.


Simon is a lowly digger in the underground city of Ghia.  His only friend is his 'big bro' Kamina, a teenage rebel who wants nothing more than to see the surface.  Their adventure begins when a giant robot falls through the ceiling, followed shortly by a beautiful, rifle-wielding girl named Yoko.  They all escape together in a small, head-shaped robot that Simon found while digging, but the surface world is full of new people, robots, and danger.

Monday, November 19, 2018


BROKEN BLADE (Bureiku Bureido), by Yunosuke Yoshinaga.  First published in 2007 and first published in North America in 2009.


Rygart Arrow is a one-in-a-million sort of guy.  He lives in a world where people can manipulate quartz to obtain magic energy and fight an endless war, but Rygart is completely unable to do so.  His father even went so far as to send Rygart to military school to try and develop some sort of ability, but all Rygart got out of it was a lot of debt and some friends in high places.

Years later, Rygart is summoned by one of those old school friends, who now happens to be king.  It seems that the military discovered an ancient mech suit in a quartz mine, but no one has been able to start it.  When Rygart climbs in, the suit comes to life, but now Rygart finds himself in a battle against a massive army as well as another old friend.

Sunday, November 11, 2018


Sadly, for every quality mecha manga like last week's example, there are plenty more like today's selection: one where it is merely an accessory to a lot of nonsense and bad ideas.

KANNAZUKI NO MIKO: DESTINY OF THE SHRINE MAIDEN, by Kaishaku.  First published in 2004 and first published in North America in 2008.


Himeko is a passive, insecure young girl who is not only friends with the class idol Chikane, but is secretly admired from afar by the handsome and mysterious Souma.  Her quaint life and happy friendship is broken when a strange eclipse lets loose demonic forces and powerful robot suits in order to try and kill her.  Himeko is saved by a combination of Chikane's kiss and Souma switching sides and fighting back the demons.  Now their fates are tied together by an ancient prophecy where the girls must seal the evil away...if it doesn't tear them apart first.

Friday, November 2, 2018


Well, in the past I've dedicated this month to both Evangelion manga and Gundam manga.  I might as well keep up this trend and explore some of the other mecha manga out there, starting with a beloved franchise from the olden days.

PATLABOR (Kido Keisatsu Patlabor), by Masami Yuki, based on the series created by HEADGEAR.  First published in 1988 and first published in North America in 1998.


In the near future, Tokyo is full of powered robotic suits called "labors."  Most of them are used for construction and other forms of industry, but there are those who would use them for crime.  To combat this, the Tokyo Police creates a labor force of their own under the guidance of the laid-back Captain Goto.  Goto assembles a ragtag crew of cadets to pilot these labors, ranging from the loud, thuggish Isao Ota to abrasive Asuma Shinohara to tiny, eager Noa Izumi.  Together they must prove their value to their superiors and the city at large...at least, as soon as they learn to work together.

Friday, October 12, 2018


We return from hiatus with a monstrously good selection of manga to review this month. Our first review may be the most unnerving thing we'll see all month: a harem manga that's actually good!

MY MONSTER SECRET: ACTUALLY I AM... (Jitsu wa Watashi wa...), by Eiji Masuda.  First published in 2013 and first published in North America in 2016.


Asahi can't keep a secret to save his life.  Even when he tries, his complete and utter lack of poker face gives everything away in no time.  That's why it's no surprise that his friends quickly figure out that he's crushing on Youko, the cool-tempered beauty of the class.  When Asahi finally musters up the courage to confess his feelings, he discovers Youko's secret: she is a vampire.

Asahi swears to protect her secret at all costs so she can keep going to their school, but how long will he last when he has to struggle not only against his own feelings, but the efforts of his snooping classmate Mikan?

Friday, August 31, 2018


Just because it's an old-school manga doesn't mean that it can't be derivative and muddled, as today's review demonstrates.

HYPER DOLLS (Rakusho! Hyperdoll), by Shinpei Itoh.  First published in 1995 and first published in North America in 2002.


Everything starting going wrong after Hideo Akai wished on a shooting star.  He didn't get a wish, but instead had his town invaded by bizarre alien monsters.  He's saved by a pair of pretty lady warriors calling themselves the Hyper Dolls, but they swear him to secrecy or else they will rip his head off.  Now the girls, Miyu and Miaka, are trying to lay low at Akai's high school, but dark forces from both Earth and space are conspiring against them...

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Today's review is not only a blast from manga's past, but also one that strives to recapture the style of older comics and pulpy sci-fi in one place.

STEAM DETECTIVES (Kaiketsu Joki Tanteiden), by Kia Asamiya.  First published in 1994, and first published in 1999.


Somewhere between the past and present is Steam City, a fantastical city powered entirely by steam.  The downside is that the constant clouds of steam allow all sorts of nefarious folks to roam the streets and evade the law.  The only person who can stop their plans is Boy Detective Narutaki.  With the help of Ling Ling the nurse, the sentient automaton Goriki, and his ever-present butler, Narutaki vows to clean up the streets of Steam City and find the answers to his own mysterious past.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Review: RANMA 1/2

August means that it's time for another Old-School Month, and today's review is both apt and nostalgic.  It's a work from a newly minted Eisner Hall of Famer, beloved by many an older manga fan, and (no joke) was the first review I ever wrote.

RANMA 1/2 (Ranma Nibun no Ichi), by Rumiko Takahashi.  First published in 1987 and first published in North America in 1993.


One day, Soun Tendo gathers his three daughters together: motherly Kasumi, boy/cash-crazy Nabiki, and hot-headed tomboy Akane.  Soun's old friend Gendo Saotome is returning to Japan after many years with his son Ranma, and one of the girls must become Ranma's fiancee to ensure the survival of the Tendo School of Indiscriminate Grappling.  Akane is the unlucky winner, but she thinks her luck has turned around when their family is greeted with not a man and his son, but instead a man-sized panda and a girl named Ranma.

After an accident in the bath, Akane learns the truth: Genma and Ranma have been transformed after falling into some specifically cursed springs while training in China.  When Ranma and Akane aren't fighting with one another, they have to face off with the pompous kendo champion Kuno and Ranma's hopelessly directionless rival Ryoga.

Friday, July 27, 2018


The only thing harder than adapting a TV to manga form is adapting a TV show based on a light novel which is a prequel to another TV series, which itself is an adaptation of a visual novel to a manga.

FATE/ZERO (Feito/Zero), based on the novel by Gen Urobuchi and Type-Moon, adapted by Shinjiro.  First published in 2010 and first published in North America in 2016.


Once every generation or so, a group of magically gifted organizations gather to wage war.  They summon magical warriors torn from the pages of legend and history to fight against one another.  The last one standing will win the Holy Grail and with it, the chance to have any single wish granted.  As the fourth Grail War begins, a few new contenters appear.  This includes a teenaged magic-user looking to prove himself, a murderous priest, and an assassin who hedges his bets with technology and guns.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Like last week's review, this is another adaptation of a beloved anime series from the 2000s (although it took a lot longer for this one to earn its acclaim).  Unlike that review, this one isn't a simple rehash of the source material...it's just a major downgrade.

PRINCESS TUTU (Purinsesu Chuchu), based on the story by Ikuko Itoh & Jun-ichi Satoh & art by Mizuo Shinonome.  First published in 2003 and first published in North America in 2004.


Ahiru is a clumsy girl who wants nothing more than to impress Mytho, a boy who is as handsome and gifted at ballet as he is sad and distant.  Edel, a local shop owner, gives Ahiru a pendant that allows her to transform into the magical Princess Tutu.  As Tutu, Ahiru can not only dance beautifully, but also salvage shards of Mytho's heart from monstrous creatures.  As Mytho's feelings return, Ahiru/Tutu finds herself in conflict with both Mytho's stern protector Fakir as well as the mysterious Princess Kraehe.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


As network TV dives deep into reruns and reality shows, it's time for us to look at some TV-to-manga adaptations.  That's right, everything you'll see here is:

So let's start with one that started as a manga, became a TV show, and then became a manga again.

GHOST IN THE SHELL: STAND ALONE COMPLEX (Kokaku Kidotai Sutando Aron Conpurekkusu), adapted from the series by Yu Kinutani.  First published in 2009 and first published in North America in 2011.


In the futuristic world of New Port City, both bodies and minds can be digitized and mechanized at will.  This is something that not only civilians take advantage of, but criminals as well.  When such offenses are beyond the scope of the police, the shadowy government group known as Section 9 takes over.  Under the leadership of Major Matoko Kusanagi, the Section 9 team must work together to save the prime minister and his staff from a hostage situation while finding the mastermind behind it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Let's wrap things up with the sequel to one of my favorite horror manga.  Will this return to Count D's mysterious shop be just as wonderful as before, or contain horrors beyond imagination?

PET SHOP OF HORRORS: TOKYO (Shin Pettoshoppu obu Horazu), by Matsuri Akino.  First published in 2005 and first published in North America in 2008.


After fleeing from Los Angeles (and the attentions of a particularly stubborn detective), Count D has established himself in Tokyo.  He's ready to offer his exotic, shapeshifting pets to anyone who needs them, be they a yakuza henchman in love, a single mother running from her abusive ex, or a frustrated wanna-be novelist.  Meanwhile, the landlord's son is deeply suspicious that Count D's business is not all that it seems...

Sunday, June 24, 2018


During Bandai's short time as a manga publisher, they put out a ridiculous number of Code Geass manga, including many anthologies and AU spinoffs.  This one might be the most radical premise of the lot, but that only makes its mistakes all the more disappointing.

CODE GEASS: NIGHTMARE OF NUNNALLY, based on the original story by Ichirou Ohkouchi & Goro Takiguchi, with art by Tomomasa Takuma.  First published in 2007 and first published in North America in 2009.


Despite the loss of her mother, her family's prestige, her sight, and her ability to walk, Nunnally vi Brittania takes faith and comfort in her life from her older brother Lelouch.  When her brother disappears during an incident with Brittanian soldiers, Nunnally encounters a strange doll called Nemo that grants her wish for power to help herself, giving her the ability to temporarily move and see while encased in a bizarre mechanical suit.  As the conflict between the armies of the Brittanian Empire and rebel forces within Japan escalate, Nunnally finds herself wondering if her new power is a gift or a curse...

Saturday, June 16, 2018


You would think that the only thing I would dread more than a manga adaptation of a light novel is a manga adaptation of a light novel spinoff.  Yet this one actually turned to be kind of OK for once.

I guess there has to be an exception out there once in a while.

A CERTAIN SCIENTIFIC RAILGUN (Toaru Kagaku no Rerugan), based on the light novel by Kazumi Kamachi & art by Moto Fuyuawa.  First published in 2007 and first published in North America in 2011.


In Academy City, young children with extraordinary powers are gathered together so they can control and hone their skills.  One of the most talented of the lot is Mikoto Misaka, a tomboy with such incredible electric powers that she’s been nicknamed ‘the Railgun.’  She finds herself caught up in the investigation of a rash of bombings around town, but the only mystery more compelling than the identity of the bomber is the identity of the weird guy who can block Misaka’s every attack.


A Certain Scientific Railgun has a lot of the usual elements one would associate with light novels: a magic high school, a guy who is seemingly weak but actually has a super-special power, a bunch of cute girls doing cute girl things, even a bit of yuri fanservice.  This all would have been intolerable if not for one thing: that the protagonist Mikoto is cool enough to rise above it all.

I was kind of surprised to discover how much I enjoyed Mikoto as a character.  It certainly helps that her powers are just plain cool and that she gets plenty of opportunity to show them off.  It also helps that her casual style and aloof attitude help to distinguish her from her more traditionally feminine (and more traditionally moe) friends.   She doesn’t have a hero complex, in spite of her powers.  She’s willing to help others when asked, but she’s not picking for a fight either.  If anything, she’s rather unwittingly swept up into the larger plot thanks to her teleporting friend Kuroko.  It’s nice that such a normal and down-to-earth kid can be found in this otherwise outrageous setting.  She’s an audience stand-in done right, for once.

It’s good that Mikoto is so cool because everyone else around her is various degrees of annoying.  First and foremost of that group is Kuroko.  She’s the biggest source of said yuri fanservice in this series, as when she’s not fighting delinquents she’s doing her best to molest Mikoto and steal a kiss.  Her obsessive crush on Mikoto is a gag that falls flat straight from the start and never gets any better in spite of its many, MANY repetitions.  At least Kuroko is relevant to the plot, though, which is more than one can say for their other friend Uiharu.  As far as I can tell, she’s there solely to be as moe as hell with her ever-present flower garland and her ability to…um….be mildly feverish at all times?   By the end I started to wonder if that wasn’t in fact her superpower.  Oh, and she also has a friend that serves no purpose beyond adding more yuri fanservice, just in case you missed it somehow. 

Then there’s Kajima.  His ability is the ability to negate any superpower, a fact that absolutely grinds Mikoto’s gears.  Strictly speaking, he’s a crossover character from this manga’s sister series, A Certain Magical Index, and his role here is fairly minor.  That’s a good thing as Kajima is pretty much the platonic ideal of a light novel hero.  He’s a hapless schmuck with a hero complex, a secret super-special power, and the story plays up his rivalry with Mikoto as a potential romance.  Considering that his presence starts to turn Mikoto into your standard tsundere, he’s pretty much the worst.

So what abot the plot itself?  It tend to vacililate between slice-of-life fluff and superhero-style crime fighting.  It’s only halfway through the volume that the bombing plot comes into play.  I will concede that the bomber’s plot and Kajima’s introduction actually dovetail into one another nicely.  Still, it’s prone to the occasional light-novel-style info drop, especially at the beginning.  I swear these kids can’t get anywhere near a classroom without it turning into one long screed of exposition, right down to the “As you all know.”  Weirdly enough, it never stops to explain the weirdness of this universe itself, such as why they need an entire city dedicated to this high school.  I can’t tell whether this is laziness on the writer’s part or just something that requires reading the other manga/light novels in the franchise to understand.

For all of my complaints, I would consider A Certain Scientific Railgun one of the better light novel to manga adaptations I've come across.  The superhero-style premise is one that’s a natural fit for a comic and Mikoto makes for a great, reliable heroine.  It’s nowhere near as extraordinary as the powers on display, but it’s decent enough to be entertaining.


I’m not entirely sure if I like Fuyukawa’s artstyle or not, but it’s certainly lively enough to get a pass.  The girls do tend to look the same around the face and everyone tends to be a bit bobble-headed, but they’re all wildly expressive and lively, and the same is true for the fight scenes.  He does overuse the Dutch angles, but otherwise everything is easy to follow, even in mid-battle.  If anything, he could stand to give the story some scale and breathing room by expanding the panels and giving Academy City some greater visual identity.  As it is, it tends to be the same old shops, schoolrooms and interiors.  It’s not bad by any means, but it never quite distinguishes itself enough to become truly good.


Like a number of older Seven Seas titles, there’s a preview for another manga.  Sometimes the previews make sense, and sometimes they’re like this instance, where the preview is for Toradora.  Call me crazy, but you’d think that Seven Seas would use this spot to promote their own release of the Index manga.

A Certain Scientific Railgun has a neat concept , a great heroine, and some occasionally lively art which do go a long way towards making the more stereotypically light novel elements more tolerable.  It manages to stand on its own for the most part and it’s fun enough to be a diverting read. 

This series is published by Seven Seas.  This series is ongoing in Japan with 13 volumes available.  All 13 have been released and are currently in print.

Friday, June 8, 2018


With another summer full of blockbusters upon us, it's time to do what they do best and look at some manga sequels, prequels, and sequels.  We'll start with a series that was sold as a prequel to a popular series, but in reality it's more like the popular series is a sequel to it.

GTO: THE EARLY YEARS - SHONAN JUNAI GUMI, by Tohru Fujisawa.  First published in 1990 and first published in North America in 2006.


Eikichi and Ryuji are two of the baddest high-school hooligans in Hanagawa prefecture.  Together they are Oni-Baki, a yankii duo infamous for their ability to beat down any and all comers.  They're also a pair of doofy high-schoolers looking to lose their virginities and are willing to do ANYTHING to make it happen.  Their latest efforts to pop their cherries at a summer resort nearly work...until they discover that their dates are also their homeroom teachers.  Meanwhile, things get more complicated when a couple of girls set their eyes on the boys first out of revenge, then out of admiration.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Merry Month of Manga Review: DAYS OF COOL IDOLS!

Idols!  Lots of weebs love 'em!  I...don't really like them.

At all.

God knows that this manga isn't making much of an argument to convince me otherwise.

DAYS OF COOL IDOLS! (Seikou Gakuen Idol-gumi!), by Mizuki Watanabe.  First published in 2006 and first published in North America in 2009.


Tsubasa Nagumo hoped that switching to the prestigious Seikou school would help him get away from his dark past.  Before he has a moment to settle in, he's shanghaied into the school's Elite V class.  These students live in luxury in trade for working hard as idols, and Tsubasa is being brought in to serve as a stand-in for the agency's top performer Yui Hoshino.  Tsubasa has plenty of challenges before him: stalkers, jealous rivals, and his own crippling insecurities.  Thankfully, he's got an band of boy idols ready and willing to support him at every turn.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Merry Month of Manga Review: TABLEAU NUMERO 20

Now it's time to take a look at a brilliant stand-alone work from SuBLime as well as one of my favorite BL mangaka ever.

TABLEAU NUMERO 20 (Sakuhin Number 20), by est em.  First published in 2009 and first published in North America in 2013.


An art conversator finds a lost masterpiece, a work previously only known to exist in the form of a sketch.  For years, the man obsessed over that sketch and the haunting eyes of the man in it.  Imagine his shock, then, when he brings the painting home to work on it and finds the subject standing naked on his balcony.  The man in question, Yves, turns out to be the key to the mystery of the artist’s works, and alongside the conservator Yves learns to let go of his lost love.  Alongside them are other stories, ones about frustrated flamenco dancers, of a couple separated by time and the loss of memory with age, and a man struggling with his unspoken love for an old friend.

Merry Month of Manga Review: DOMINION

Once upon a time, Masamune Shirow could be relied on to churn out all sorts of interesting one-shot sci-fi stories.  Most of them have been overshadowed by the massive success of Ghost in the Shell, and that's unfortunate.  They weren't always masterpieces of transhumanism, but they were interesting in their own right.

DOMINION, by Masamune Shirow.  First published in 1986 and first published in North America in 2000.


In the future, the skies are brimming with dangerous bacteria.  Humanity has done everything to protect itself from the air, be it the strange pod-like beings they live in or the filter masks they wear outside.  It's not enough to protect the people from everyday criminals like the thief Buaku and his catgirl henchwomen Annapuma and Unipuma.  The only force capable of stopping them is the Tank Police, a hardscrabble group of cops dedicated to stopping crime (if not so much toward stopping collateral damage or pleasing their superiors).

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Merry Month of Manga Review: THAT WAS GOOD

Oh CJ Michalski.  Your manga is always okay at best and you've got a disturbing fondness for shotacon, but I can never fully your work.  WHY CAN'T I QUIT YOU?!

THAT WAS GOOD (Gochisosama), by CJ Michalski.  First published in 2008 and first published in North America in 2011.


Hiroto was just another nobody working in a convienence store.  Then he managed to impress a curious (and hungry) little toddler with his homemade bento, and now he's the live-in housekeeper for the tall, handsome pilot Suguru.  All seems to be going well until Suguru's younger brother throws him out.  Will Suguru come back in time to save Hiroto from homelessness?  Meanwhile, the promiscuous high-school student Youhei falls for the tiny, delicate otaku Takumi.  To win him over, Youhei immerses himself into otaku culture and Takumi's favorite series in the hopes of winning him over.  Finally, Riku decides to help his twin sister marry the man she loves by becoming the hostage of her fiance's controlling older brother, only for the two to fall in love in turn.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Merry Month of Manga Review: OVER THE RAINBOW

Remember when Central Park Media released manga?

Yeah, I don't either.  While they were the first English publisher to put out BL manga, most of their manga output was no-name nonsense like this.

OVER THE RAINBOW (Ame ni Nurete mo), by Keiko Honda.  First published in 1997 and first published in North America in 2005.


A day at the amusement parks leads a pair of two young lawyers, Arou and Keita, to an amnesiac woman nicknamed Key.  They are charmed by her looks and sunny outlook, and to help her find her identity they start their own law firm.  Together they work on everything from divorce to plagiarism cases while searching for Key's true identity, hoping to bring happiness to each and every client.

Merry Month of Manga Review: WILD COM.

It's time to take a look at some old-school supernatural shoujo short stories from the creator of Basara.

WILD COM. (Chounouryoko Roudoutai Wild Com), by Yumi Tamura.  First published in 1999 and first published in North America in 2004.


In "Wild Com," a young woman discovers a secret gang of elemental espers who use their powers to save others and comes to terms with her own fire-based powers.  In "The Beasts of June," an assassin and a kept woman come together, only to be torn apart by the man who connects their short, sad lives.  In "The Eye of the Needle," an up-and-coming actor has his life destroyed by his callousness towards others.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Merry Month of Manga: SECRET OF THE PRINCESS

I've covered a bit of BL, so why not go for a change of pace by covering a yuri one-shot?  After all, I'm always up for reading more Milk Morinaga manga.

SECRET OF THE PRINCESS (Ohime-sama no Himitsu), by Milk Morinaga.  First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2017.


Ever since she was a little girl, Miu's mother has drilled into her the importance of being cute and femme so that she can land the prince of her dreams someday.  When Miu blackmails the school volleyball star Fujiwara into a relationship, she thinks of it as simply a way to practice romance until she meets an actual boy.  As the two get closer, Miu's feelings start to change and the guilt of their secret relationship starts to get to her.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Merry Month of Manga Review: PRESENT FOR ME

This review is not unlike my recent one for Time Killers.  It's a collection of early short works from a noted creator, although in this case the creator is noted only by manga reviews willing to plumb the depths of Bookwalker.

PRESENT FOR ME (Present For Me - Ishiguro Masakazu Tenpenshu), by Masakazu Ishiguro.  First published in 2000-2004 and first published in North America in 2015.


In this collection, we see a group of psychic kids try to survive on a desert island, a robot tries to guide a girl to his home in the distant future, an unemployed man finds new purpose as a lasso-wielding superhero, a group of film students hash out ideas for a film about the end of the world, a young man gets an unpleasantly magical new roommate, a biker tries to get a new helmet from a tinkerer, and a teen hero tries to find purpose in his life after his villain retires from evildoing.