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.

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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.