Saturday, May 4, 2024

Merry Month of Manga: SMUGGLER

 And now we switch gears hard, going from a sensitive and accomplished coming-of-age drama to a messy seinen crime story.

SMUGGLER, by Shohei Manabe.  First published in 2000 and first published in North America in 2006.



Kinuta didn't meant to end up in the Yakuza.  He wanted to be an actor.  Then he got into some financial trouble, which led to him meeting the worst sorts of people and getting himself deeper in trouble.  Now he's stuck dumping bodies, bereft of any purpose in his life.  Things only get worse when a couple of Chinese assassins take out his boss.  His gang manage to capture one of the assassins, but Kinuta accidentally lets him escape.  Kinuta must take the assassin's place to hide his failure, but the longer the deception goes on the more he loses himself in the role.

Friday, May 3, 2024

Merry Month of Manga: SHINO CAN'T SAY HER NAME

 I finally found it - a Shuzo Oshimi manga that doesn't have weird hangups about women!  It's a miracle!

SHINO CAN'T SAY HER NAME (Shino-chan wa Jibun no Namae ga Ienai), by Shuzo Oshimi.  First published in 2011 and first published in North America in 2021.


Shino has long suffered from a stutter, one that tends to stop up her speech entirely in moments of stress (which only serve to make them more stressful).  It strikes during her class introduction, which only leads to mockery and alienation.  Then Shino meets Kayo, a rough-around-the-edges classmate who loves music but can't sing to save her life.  They form a tentative friendship, but can it survive a school festival music performance, a classmate with a crush, and Shino's own anxieties?

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Merry Month of Manga: TOMCATS

One of the advantages of a month of one-shots is that it gives me a chance to do some deep diving in my piles of BL books, since most of those are stand-alone volumes.

One of the disadvantages is that means I end up encountering oddities like this.

TOMCATS (Tenshi no Jikan), by Mashiro Minamino.  First published in 2005 and first published in North America in 2008.


Mao was just another disaffected young man slaving his days away in a pizza parlor.  Then he meets Tora, a strong, silent man who becomes just as fond of Mao as he is of his cats (who just so happen to be little people with cat ears and tails who are capable of speech, understanding, and cooking).  Tora's yakuza past eventually catches up to him, forcing Tora to flee with Mao and their cats to the desert.  While Mao and Tora adjust to their new life, their pets discover magic birds, never-ending food supplies, and a cat god.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024


 As this blog enters its 13th year, I'm celebrating it in the usual fashion: a month's worth of reviews.  This time around, it's all One-Volume Wonders, starting with this collection from notable shojo mangaka Arina Tanemura.

SHORT-TEMPERED MELACHOLIC AND OTHER STORIES (Kanshakudama no Yuutsu), by Arina Tanemura.  First published in 1998 and first published in North America in 2008.


Kajika is the heir to an old ninja family and is proud to show off the skills her grandfather taught least, until her crush Fujisaki tells her to be more ladylike.  Her attempts fail, but after her childhood best friend gets into a fight with Fujisaki for her honor she learns that it's better to be true to herself than to meet some boy's unrealistic expectations.  This is followed by other simple tales of teenaged love, including a girl who uses her ditzy best friend as a stand-in during a date with a pen-pal, a girl trying to convince a stubborn boy to not give up on love, and a girl who gets over her crush on her best friend's boyfriend thanks to a particularly persistent admirer.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024


Spring is finally springing forth at last, and with it comes a month of magical girl manga here at the Manga Test Drive.  Our first title isn't one of the best known titles, but it's got some really interesting things going for it.

PRETEAR (Shin Shirayuki-hime Densetsu Puritia), written by Junichi Sato and art by Kaori Naruse.  First published in 2000 and first published in North America in 2004.


Himeno went from near poverty to riches beyond their dreams when her father married a cosmetics magnate.  The only problem is that her stepmother and stepsisters antagonize her at every turn, to the point that Himeno feels like a stranger in her own household.  Her sad reveries are interrupted by seven strange men who declare her to be the Pretear and that they are her knights.  By magically fusing with these young men, she can gain elemental powers which she can use to fight the strange monsters that are stealing the life force from the world.  Himeno now has to juggle her family issues with her duties as a magical girl, even with the Princess of Disaster lingering on the sidelines.