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.