Saturday, June 16, 2018

Review: A CERTAIN SCIENTIFIC RAILGUN


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.



PLOT:  

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.

STORY:  

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.

ART:  

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.

PRESENTATION:  

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.

RATING:  
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

Review: GTO: THE EARLY YEARS

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.



PLOT:

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.




PLOT:

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.



PLOT:  

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.



PLOT:

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.



PLOT:

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.



PLOT:

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.



PLOT:

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.




PLOT:

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.



PLOT:

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.

Merry Month of Manga Review: LOVE FOR DESSERT

In 2008, Aurora Publishing hoped to reach that ever-elusive josei audience with a few anthologies of their own.

If this was the best they had to offer, it's little wonder that they failed.

LOVE FOR DESSERT (Nosatsu Cream), by Hana Aoi.  First published in 2007 and first published in North America in 2008.



PLOT:

This racy collection of short stories share the stories of a business woman who discovers her surly coworker loves her covered in whipped cream, another who finds her aimless boyfriend more alluring after he gets a suit, a high school girl who is disappointed to learn that her childhood sweetheart is far less princely than she remembered, a hostess whose virginal art school classmate offers to serve as her bodyguard, an unemployed woman whose fortune leads her to a tutoring gig and her new love, and a college girl who discovers that her spacey boyfriend may be more caring that she realized.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Merry Month of Manga Review: ALL NIPPON AIR LINE


Comedic BL stories are always in short supply, and that shortage is not helped by books like this one.

ALL NIPPON AIR LINE (Rakuen Sanman Feet - All Nippon Air Line), by Kei Azumaya.  First published in 2002 and first published in North America in 2008.



PLOT: 
There is no airline quite like All Nippon Air Line.  It’s renowned for both its service and staff.  Each crew member is more handsome than the last, and each one is irresistible to crew and customer alike.  Their first class lounge is spacious and comfortable.  Their pilots are some of the best in the industry.  But mostly it’s renowned for the epic amounts of gay sex had by everyone in the company, from the director all the way down to the lowliest steward.  They sleep with each other, with other pilots, with the customers.  It seems no one can resist the alluring men of A.N.A.L.

Merry Month of Manga Review: GIGANTO MAXIA

When Kentaro Miura takes a break from working on Berserk, he can usually be found making other, shorter manga (well...when he's not playing Idolmaster). 

GIGANTO MAXIA (Gigantomahkia), by Kentaro Miura.  First published in 2014 and first published in North America in 2016.



PLOT:

In a far future world, the former gladiator Delos wanders the waste with a young, ethereal spirit named Prome.  The two end up in the middle of the desert, where Delos is captured by a group of half-beetle people who force him to fight for his life.  Delos wins both the fight and their favor, but soon they all find themselves under threat by a far-off empire with a towering, all-consuming colossus.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Merry Month of Manga Review: ALL MY DARLING DAUGHTERS


As much as I appreciate all the great shonen and shoujo Viz has brought us over the years, what I truly appreciate are the times they take a chance on thoughtful stories for older audiences like today's selection.

ALL MY DARLING DAUGHTERS (Ai Subeki Musume-tachi), by Fumi Yoshinaga.  First published in 2003 and first published in North America in 2010.



PLOT:  

This anthology weaves together five stories from five different women and their various relationships: with their mothers, their sisters, their friends, their lovers, even their coworkers.  This anthology covers all the joys, the difficulties, the hang-ups and the heartbreak that they endure.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Merry Month of Manga Review: KING OF THE LAMP

I know that if I had a wish, then I would have wished that I would have never stumbled upon today's offering, an obscure little title from the Go!Comi library.

KING OF THE LAMP (Lamp no Ou-sama), by Takako Shigematsu.  First published in 2004 and first published in North America in 2007.



PLOT:

Long ago, a raunchy king stole 1000 women to fill out his harem.  As punishment for his crimes, he was turned into a genie who must fulfill the wishes of 1000 women before he can be freed.  Thus, we watch him work his magic with a shy girl who wants her sempai to notice her, an older sister crushing on her baby brother's kindergarten teacher, and an awkward girl in love with her older sister's blind boyfriend.  Also included are stories about a young woman with a pair of mysterious guardians and a medium and their guardian spirit trying to shake off an otaku with an eye for the supernatural.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Merry Month of Manga Review: RA*I

It's been too long since we've looked at a manga by Sanami Matoh.  Let's fix that, shall we?

RA*I, by Sanami Matoh.  First published in 1995 and first published in North America in 2006.



PLOT:

Al Foster was just another no-name private detective until the day Rai Spencer came through his door.  Rai is a 13-year-old genius from a wealthy family with ESP, and he and his older sister Rei are concerned that their elder brother is trying to kill them.  Al helps them solve their case, but what will happen when they decide to stick around and start solving crimes with him?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Merry Month of Manga Review: DARKSIDE BLUES

Some people only have one good idea inside them, no matter how many times they try to create something new.  If history has taught us anything, then this is most certainly true for Vampire Hunter D creator Hideyuki Kikuchi.

DARKSIDE BLUES (Dakusaido Burusu), written by Hideyuki Kikuchi with art by Yuho Ashibe.  First published in 1988 and first published in 2004.



PLOT:

In the not too distant future, the Persona Corporation owns most of the world's land and controls every faction of life with an iron fist.  Their rule is reinforced not only by the director's sadistic children, but also by their small army of biologically modified assassins.  The only opposition to them is a group of anti-Persona guerillas led by a woman called Messiah.  Into this struggle comes a strange man calling himself Darkside, bringing with him his own supernatural brand of justice...

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Merry Month of Manga: TIME KILLERS

Today's review is a rare short-story collection from a noted Weekly Shonen Jump creator.  What can we learn from this glimpse into their early career?

TIME KILLERS (Time Killers - Kato Kazue Tanpenshu), by Kazue Kato.  First published in 2011 and first published in North America in 2014.



PLOT:

This short-story collection from Blue Exorcist creator Kazue Kato covers everything from assassins to demon killers, along with Native Americans, rabbit people, street kids, aliens and astronerds.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Merry Month of Manga Review: ONCE UPON A GLASHMA

Sadly, they can't all be winners.  Today's review is a perfect example of that: one that takes a premise rich with potential and mostly whiffs it until the end.

ONCE UPON A GLASHMA (Hajimari no Glashma), by Kumiko Suekane.  First published in 2006 and first published in North America in 2007.



PLOT:

One day, the women of the world disappeared and a few select men began to develop magical powers.  It's the duty of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication to take a census of the known wizards of the world.  Thus, it's up to investigators like Nippori and his eyepatch-wearing, bat-wielding Sempai to go out and confront unregistered wizards and keep their powers under control.  During the course of their work, Nippori discovers that Sempai knows more than he lets on about what caused all the women to disappear, and it's a secret that threatens to destroy what's left of the world...

Friday, May 4, 2018

Merry Month of Manga Review: MR. MINI MART

It was inevitable that I would cover some BL manga this month, so if I must then I want to talk about ones worth talking about like today's example.

MR. MINI MART (Konbini-kun), by Junko.  First published in 2011 and first published in North America in 2014.



PLOT:

Thanks to years of bullying, Nakaba has spent most of his teen years as a recluse.  As a way to try to bring him out of his shell, his family gets him a job as a clerk at a local convienence store.  The only problem is Yanai, another clerk with a rough face and an even rougher tongue who rubs Nakaba the wrong way.  When the two start to bond over a stray cat, they learn that their feelings may run deeper than mere friendship...

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Merry Month of Manga Review: ANGEL'S COFFIN

Once again, we return to the works of You Higuri, a mangaka with a love of history and an even greater love of turning real historical events into shoujo-tinged nonsense.

ANGEL'S COFFIN (Tenshi no Hutsugi - Ave Maria), by You Higuri.  First published in 2000 and first published in North America in 2008.



PLOT:

Marie is a minor noblewoman in the dying days of the Austro-Hungarian empire.  She has a massive crush on the crown prince Rudolf, but she doesn't dare get close enough to him to make her feelings known.  Then she accidentally summons a demon named Seto who promises he can make Marie's wish come true.  As Marie grows closer to Rudolf, Seto finds himself falling for her in spite of her cursed destiny.  Will he come to terms with his feelings or are he, Marie, and the world doomed to burn together?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Merry Month of Manga Review: HIMEYUKI & ROZIONE'S STORY

Yen Press is not a company known for putting out short-story anthologies.  Part of me wonders if the reason they do so is because of the lackluster performance of books like this.

HIMEYUKA & ROZIONE'S STORY (Natsukashi Machi no Rozione), by Sumomo Yumeka.  First published in 2005 and first published in North America in 2010.




PLOT:

Himeyuka was looking forward to living on her own until a weird little boy named Rozione shows up and makes her life a pain...at least, until she learns of his connection to her own past. Ayano is the heir to a Yakuza clan who hopes to distract herself from her arranged marriage by flirting with the cute boy at the local ramen stand.  Shalala is a hapless half-witch hoping to increase her magic with the tears of a human boy, but things become complicated when she starts to fall for him.  Finally, in a world where humanity only exists as the clones of a select few, two robot protectors come to terms with their own sense of humanity.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Merry Month of Manga Review: TROPIC OF THE SEA

The Manga Test Drive has reached its sixth birthday!  As usual, that means a full month of manga reviews.  This year, I'm making it a month of one-volume wonders, single-volume stories that are divine, diabolical, and all points in between.  We begin with a stand-alone story from a man who was not hugely successful as a mangaka but would later become one of the anime world's greatest directors.

TROPIC OF THE SEA (Kaikasen), by Satoshi Kon.  First published in 1990 and first published in 2013.



PLOT:

Yosuke's family has been running the shrine in their sleepy little fishing town for centuries.  It is said that the shrine contains a mermaid's egg which must be returned to the sea every sixty years to ensure calm seas and bountiful fishing.  The harmony of the town is disturbed when a developer wants to turn it into a bustling modern seaside resort.  It'll take all the help Yosuke can get from his friends, family, and other locals if he's going to be able to save the egg and his hometown from exploitation and destruction.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Review: FLOWERS & BEES

Today's title might sound like another story of transformation and romance, but it's got a cynical edge that could only come from the pen of noted josei mangaka and Test Drive favorite Moyoco Anno.

FLOWERS & BEES (Hana to Mitsubachi), by Moyoco Anno.  First published in 2000 and first published in North America in 2003.



PLOT:

Mosau Komatsu is a sloppy loser of a high-school student, and all he wants is a girlfriend.  In desperation, he tries a makeover at a salon called The World of Beautiful Men.  It seems to work, so Mosau keeps coming back for more.  From that point on, he becomes the pet project for sisters and co-owners Kiyoko and Harumi.  Through their patented system of fashion, style, and verbal abuse, they are determined to turn Mosau into a (reasonably) confident and attractive man of the world.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review: HOUSE OF FLOWERS

Flowers can serve as metaphors for all sorts of things in manga: romance, joy, sadness, transformation, etc.  So why not review a manga that seems to contain all that and more?

HOUSE OF FLOWERS (Hana no Ie), by Mako Takami.  First published in 2003 and first published in North America in 2017.



PLOT:

Acclaimed kabuki actor Kaoru Fujita is finally taking a wife...but on the day of the wedding his bride runs away.  His little sister Hiyori convinces a friend from art school named Nakai to pose as her publicly, and the ruse succeeds beyond anyone's expectations.  Nakai agrees to stay on for half a year until they can fake a divorce, but in the process he discovers some family secrets, his love for Hiyori, and a desire to become a kabuki actor himself.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Review: KABUKI: FLOWER

There are loads of BL manga with flowers in their title, just in case that you might miss that these are manga targeted towards women.  This particular one brings in a reincarnation angle, but is it truly timeless or not?

KABUKI: FLOWER (Kabuki - Hana no Shou), by Yukari Hashida.  First published in 2004 and first published in North America in 2008.



PLOT:

Over 500 years ago, the young lord Kounosuke and his page Kagaya took their lives in ritual suicide instead of surrender.  Before they died, they vowed to find one another in another life, no matter how long it took.  Kounosuke awakens afterwards in the modern day, the scion of a wealthy family who was recently orphaned in a fire.  He sees signs of his beloved Kagaya in three generations of his servants, but which one is the reincarnation of his true Kagaya?  Can he find him before forces beyond his control kill him a second time?

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Review: BUTTERFLIES, FLOWERS

April showers are bringing forth a month of manga with flowery titles, starting with one of Viz's first forays into the world of josei.

BUTTERFLIES, FLOWERS (Cho yo Hana yo), by Yuki Yoshihara.  First published in 2006 and first published in North America in 2009.



PLOT:

Choko Kuze is the daughter of an old-money family that's fallen on hard times.  They've lost their fortune, their mansion, and even their servants, and Choko is the only one willing to support them by taking on an office job at a notable real-estate agency.  She could have never expected that boss who harasses her with awkward questions and tyrannical demands was also her family's former butler.  Domoto has never forgotten her family's kindness nor the little girl he used to protect, and when he's off the clock he reverts to the fond, deferential young man he once was.  Can Choko learn to look past Domoto's harshness to the sweet man within or will she always be stymied by his hot-and-cold treatment?

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Review: GIANT KILLING

Kodansha's recent push into digital-exclusive manga has been a boon to many genres of manga, including sports manga.  There was plenty of titles I could have chosen from, focus on sports ranging from baseball to MMA fighting.  In the end, I chose the most unique title of them all; one that wasn't focused on playing a game, but instead on coaching.

GIANT KILLING (Jaianto Kiringu), written by Masaya Tsunamoto & art by Tsujitomo.  First published in 2007 and first published in North America in 2017.



PLOT:

Tatsumi Takeshi was once the star player for the East Tokyo United team, but he wanted a challenge and decided to leave and coach an amateur team in England.  Years later, ETU is in danger of losing their place in both the local league and the hearts of the locals.  The staff eventually convince Tatsumi to come back, but it's going to take a lot more than a change of coaches to win over both the fans and the remaining team members.  Tatsumi's not worried, though.  His attitude may be eccentric, but there's no one better around at turning underdog players into a giant-killing team.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Review: HIKARU NO GO

Of course, sports manga doesn't have to be limited to literal athletics.  There's plenty of it focused on other forms of games, including board games like today's review.

HIKARU NO GO, written by Yumi Hatta with art by Takeshi Obata and supervision by Yukari Umezawa [5 Dan].  First published in 1998 and first published in North America in 2004.



PLOT:

Hikaru Shindo stumbles upon an old Go board while cleaning out his grandfather's attic one day.  Within it is the ghost of Fujiwara-no-Sai, a Heian-era Go master who refuses to rest until he can finally play the Divine Move.  Sai takes up residence within Hikaru's mind, and it seems the only way Hikaru can get rid of him is to become a Go master.  The first test is simply teaching Hikaru how to play, but the next test is impressing a local Go prodigy named Akira Fudo.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Review: GIRL GOT GAME

There's a surprising number of shoujo sports series that came out in the early half of the 00s, and most of them came from Tokyopop.  Today's review is a perfect example of these titles...if only it were any good.

GIRL GOT GAME (Power!!), by Shizuru Seino.  First published in 2000 and first published in North America in 2004.




PLOT:

Kyo's father had dreams of playing for the NBA as a young man until an injury put a stop to them.  He's determined to make his daughter fulfill them at any cost, even if it means making her pose as a boy so she can attend Seisyu Academy and play on their award-winning basketball team.  The only thing more aggravating for Kyo than having to pose as a boy is dealing with her moody roommate and rival Chiharu.  His skills on the court are equal to hers, but his poor attitude and problems from his past threaten to sideline him before the season can even start.  Can Kyo help him find his motivation?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Review: DIAMOND GIRL

The Olympics may be over, but I'm still in the mood for more sports action, so let's take a look at some sports manga this month!  Today's review a series that we desperate need more of: sports stories about girls.

DIAMOND GIRL (Shiramata Shojo), by Takanori Yamazaki.  First published in 2007 and first published in North America in 2010.



PLOT:

Tsubura just wanted a fresh start in a new town.  What she didn't want was her past catching up with her, which it does when a stray baseball flies through her classroom window and she throws it back like a pro.  The school's hard-luck baseball club wants her to become their star pitcher, but Tsubura just wants an ordinary life without baseball.  Why is Tsubura so talented, and why does she hate baseball so much?

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Review: SUZUKA

To end the month, I wanted to look at something just as notorious as our first selection.  Luckily, the answer was at hand.  Few names strike as much fear into the hearts of shonen readers as Kouji Seo, and if I wanted to understand why I would need to start at the very beginning.

SUZUKA, by Kouji Seo.  First published in 2004 and first published in North America in 2006.



PLOT:

Yamato hopes that by moving from the Hiroshima countryside to Tokyo for high school, he might just be able to change his life for the better.  That's why he was willing to agree to live with his aunt and work in her apartment complex/bathhouse to earn his keep.  It's there that he meets Suzuka, a star high-jumper who quickly takes a hot-and-cold approach to Yamato.  Yamato's smitten with Suzuka's innate coolness, but will the other residents leave him alone long enough to let him say how he feels?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: BOND OF DREAMS, BOND OF LOVE

Today's review is a two-for.  Not only does this boys' love story center around a couple with an awkward (and strictly illegal) age gap, but also features a lot of stalking and a guy who won't say no!

*sigh*  Just another day in the world of BL.

BOND OF DREAMS, BOND OF LOVE (Yume Musubi Koi Musubi), by Yaya Sakuragi.  First published in 2008 and first published in North America in 2012.




PLOT:

Ever since he was a little boy, Ao has been utterly smitten with Ryomei, a local Shinto priest.  Many years and one well-time wet dream later, he's finally gathered up enough courage to make his intentions towards Ryomei known. Ryomei is freaked out by Ao's declaration and turns him down, but Ao is not one to let rejection discourage him.  One way or another, he's going to find a way to make Ryomei love him...that is, if Ao's boyish good looks don't change Ryomei's mind before that.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Review: I DON'T LIKE YOU AT ALL, BIG BROTHER!

It's hard to top incest when it comes to bad romance concepts in manga.  I've covered a few examples so far, and they've all been awkward and disappointing.  Today's selection is a bit different.  It's one of the most literal riffs on the idea, and yet it's also one of most satirical and inspired takes.

I DON'T LIKE YOU AT ALL, BIG BROTHER! (Oniichan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki Janain Dakara ne-!!), by Kouchi Kusano.  First published in 2008 and first published in North America in 2012.



PLOT:

Nao is a 12-year-old girl who loves her big brother Shuusuke.  She loves him so much that she's determined to make him her lover by any means necessary.  She'll stage "accidential" flashings, throw out any porn of his that isn't imouto-themed, and tries her hardest to turn her bland brother into a sister-loving pervert.  The only thing that threatens to get in her way is Shuusuke's old childhood friend Iroha.  She took a childhood promise made during a game of Doctor far too seriously and now has her own equally aggressive plans for him.  Now the two are locked in passive-aggressive battle for Shuusuke's affections, and only one can win.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Review: HOT GIMMICK

It's February, which means it's time for another round of Bad Romance Month!  I'll be looking at a small selection of the worst, most messed-up romances manga has to offer, and I've got a doozy of a title to review today.  It's time at long last for me to review one of the most notorious shoujo titles ever.

HOT GIMMICK (Hotto Gimikku), by Miki Aihara.  First published in 2000 and first published in North America in 2003.




PLOT:

Hatsumi's family lives in a giant company apartment complex lorded over by the CEO's wife.  Under her watchful eye, the slightest social infraction could be cause for transfers or firings.  That's why Hatsumi panics when the CEO's son Ryoki catches her buying a pregnancy test for her younger sister.  He threatens to snitch unless Hatsumi becomes his slave, but the more Hatsumi learns about him, the more she's not sure what to think!  Things only get more complicated when her dreamy childhood friend Azusa returns with an agenda of his own...



Thursday, February 1, 2018

Review: LEGAL DRUG

Now we go from a weird early CLAMP work to a later work which might be the slashiest thing that CLAMP has ever written, which really says something considering their body of work.

LEGAL DRUG (Gohou Drug), by CLAMP.  First published in 2000 and first published in North America in 2004.




PLOT:

Kazahaya wanted to run away from his past.  Rikuo wanted to find a missing woman from his.  Their quests ended up leading the two to the Green Drugstore.  When the two aren't stocking shelves and fighting with one another, their mysterious benefactor Kakei sends them off on strange supernatural quests that force the two to confront the mysteries of their  pasts.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Review: MAN OF MANY FACES

It's (a particularly late-starting) CLAMP Month again!

It's a celebration of my favorite mangaka group (and the lateness is a result of getting two nasty cases of the flu? cold? generic respiratory nastiness in a row), starting with what may be one of the weirdest works they ever made.

MAN OF MANY FACES (Niju Mesno ni Onegai!), by CLAMP.  First published in 1990 and first published in North America in 2003.



PLOT:

When Akira Ijyuin isn't busy with the CLAMP School Detectives, he spends his days refining his fine cooking skills and taking care of his two mothers.  By night, though, he is the infamous phantom thief 20 Faces, stealing only the finest, most whimsical things at his mothers' request.  Like his father before him, Akira can steal just about anything and get away, but what will he do when the kindergarten-aged heiress Utako ends up stealing his heart instead?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

2017 in the Rear View Mirror & Holiday Giveaway Winner!

First of all, my apologies for the lateness of this post.  A lot of stuff came my way at the end of the year: family get-togethers, a wicked 1-2 punch of a head cold and tonsilitis, and the addition of two small, furry, squirrelly members to our household who are currently dividing their time between zooming around my house and sleeping sweetly on the couch.

First things first, it's time to announce this year's Holiday Giveaway Winner!  We had plenty of good comments, but according to the random number generator our winner is...Usamimi!

That's so hard!! I'd say the Rakugo Shinju manga just because I love the series so much & I'm so glad we're getting it in English.
Goodness knows I won't argue with that assessment.  Congratulations to our winner, and I'll be getting in touch with her soon to deliver her prize.

That said, this year was...interesting for The Manga Test Drive.  It's certainly the busiest I've been outside of the site.  I wrote a couple of articles for Anime Feminist, presented a couple of panels at last year's AnimeFest in Dallas, started a new feature on Infinite Rainy Day,and  got pull-quoted by Dark Horse for both the latest volume of Berserk and the upcoming guide book.  I was also chosen to be one of the judges for Manga of the Year for Crunchyroll's annual Anime Awards, something which continues to blow my mind considering that many of the other judges are writers and reviewers whose works I followed for years and (in some cases) inspired me to create this very site.

I also entered the world of crowdfunding when I started a Patreon campaign back in March.  To my surprise and delight, it managed to make more than a handful of change right from the start! Some even increased their donations during Patreon's brief, misguided fit of greed in December.  I can't overstate how much that support means to me and the site and I hope that many more regular readers join them.

That being said, the kerfuffle over Patreon last month helped me realize that I needed to diversify my crowdfunding options to help stave off concerns about corporate freakouts like that and to give my readers more ways to help support the site.  That's why I'm proud to announce that The Manga Test Drive now has a Ko-Fi account!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Now in addition to supporting the site on a regular, monthly basis through Patreon, you can support us anytime for any reason through Ko-Fi.  This will not be the last addition, though.  In the coming months, I plan on opening up a Paypal tip jar (along with the possibility of commission for future non-Test Drive reviews and features).  I will also be looking into other crowdfunding sites such as Drip as they go public.  Of course, I will keep you all informed as any changes come and The Manga Test Drive enters its sixth year.