Archive for manga reviews

Apology, and Phantom Dream Review

Keeping up with a blog is sort of like working out. Everything’s going great, you have your routine, etc. But then something comes up – like final exams. You figure, “Alright, I’ll focus on studying for  week or two, and pick back up when I have time.” From there, things just start going downhill.

So here I am, a month after final exams finished, coming back from hiatus. I didn’t mean to neglect my beloved blog for so long, but stuff happens. I’m sorry.

And now, to Phantom Dream! (The review I wrote a month ago!)

Author: Takaya Natsuki
Release Date: December 2008
Genre: Shojo, Fantasy
Publisher: Tokyopop

Back in 2001, the western world was introduced to Takaya Natsuki through Fruits Basket. Lovingly dubbed ‘Furuba’ by it’s huge fanbase, it quickly became a classic in both the worlds of anime and manga. It was a rare, monumentous occasion for us English-speaking fans that both of the western renditions turned out wonderfully. The manga translations are amazingly close to the originals, and I think I speak for a large part of the anime community when I say that better English dubbing is hard to find.

To celebrate the coming of the end for the Furuba manga in the US, Tokyopop gave us a nice little treat – one of the first works of Takaya, Phantom Dream. When it was announced, Furuba fans in the west squealed in anticipation, and some of us may have peed our pants a little. Or was that just me? Needless to say, as soon as volume one hit shelves, I snagged it.

Phantom Dream centers around Tamaki Otoya, descendant of a line of summoners destined to exorcise demons called jaki. Jaki feed on negative emotions until they possess their host. His childhood friend Asahi never fails to provide him with the inner strength he needs.

First off, let me make clear that the storyline for this manga really appeals to me. Modern demon fighting? Awesome. However, when I cracked it open, I found it surprisingly hard to get into.

I really try to only review manga I like, because on the internet, you get flamed for your dislikes more than for your likes. That being so, this won’t be much of a review.

The story was great all the way through, and the romance between Tamaki and Asahi was intriguing. However, it moved at an odd pace. Again, I just couldn’t get into it. By the end of the volume, I was forcing my way through for the purpose of this review. I wanted to know what was going to happen, but not badly enough to be motivated by that.

The art had a 90s feel to it, but was in general pretty good, if plain. There is little decoration except for when Tamaki is doing his thing. When you see the great effects there, you get kind of jaded about the rest of the art. I honestly didn’t feel like Takaya-sensei was putting a whole lot of effort into the work.

I think a Phantom Dream anime would turn out alright, but the manga wasn’t for me. I don’t want to discourage you from picking it up, but I won’t be grabbing later volumes.


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Vampire Knight, Vol. 6 Review

This week, we have a guest review by KanjiGirl. Check out her awesome blog! We’ll hopefully be seeing more from her in the future. If you’re interested in doing guest reviews for ItsumoManga, let me know, and we’ll get you set up. ^.^

Author: Matsuri Hino
Release Date: March 2009
Genre: Shojo, Vampires, Romance
Publisher: Viz Media

To start off, I’d like to say that Vampire Knight is unlike any Shojo Manga I’ve ever read. In fact, the first time I saw it on my local bookstore shelves, I wasn’t really interested and didn’t even think about buying a copy. However, after reading a feature article all about it in Shojo Beat I thought twice about skipping Vampire Knight. With a renewed interest, I decided once and for all to head to the bookstore and snap up the first few volumes of the title. Fast forward a few months and now I’m hooked to the series! It’s got a lot of things I love about a shojo manga series, great characters, romance, and page-turning suspense.

There are three main characters in Vampire Knight. Yuki Cross is a strong, yet sometimes naive girl who somehow always gets herself wounded and bleeding, which unfortunatly tends to agitate the vampires around her. Kaname Kuran is a pure-blood vampire, who saved Yuki from a vampire attack 10 years before the start of the story. Zero Kiryu, my favorite character in the series, is a guy with deep hatred towards vampires… with good reason.

It’s not all lovey-dovey vampire-human romance like I used to think it was. There are many layers in this series. Each character has an equally interesting and compelling history which really pulls you into the story. With each chapter, a little bit of the mystery is chipped off. However, the story never becomes predictable.

In volume 6, the focus is shifted from Zero to Yuki. Kaname gets paired up with another pure-blood vampire which makes Yuki jealous. Yet, she understands that because of her status, she could never be with Kaname even if she gets turned into a vampire herself. When she sees the two of them together she gets into trouble and I’ll let you find out just what happens afterwards. It’s a bit juicy, if you get my drift.

Moving on, it was revealed in Volume 1 that Yuki doesn’t remember anything prior to the day she was attacked by a vampire when she was just a little kid. In volume 6, she and Zero start a search for her missing childhood. Although the truth about Yuki’s parents’ death are not fully revealed, a little light is shed on Headmaster Cross, her foster father who took her in after that fateful vampire attack 10 years ago.

On another note, the Night Class go on their school break and head to Hanabusa’s home. There’s a part about the history of Kaname and Hanabusa’s friendship, which is really refreshing and sheds new light on Hanabusa’s personality. Unlike most friendships, they didn’t hit it off right away, and We learn more about his loyalty towards Kaname.

My final verdict for this series and this volume specifically is a resounding “awesome”! If you like vampire and occult stories then you’re sure to enjoy Vampire Knight. Even if you don’t, I still suggest you get the first volume and see… who knows, you might get hooked just like me!

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Yen+, March Issue Review

March’s Yen+ features the return of Maximum Ride, complete with several colored pages and a wonderful interview with Narae Lee, the illustrator.

The interview was definitely interesting. It provided a good insight into how manga- and manhwa-ka are born. Though Narae Lee’s story is far from typical, it’s inspiring none-the-less. She’s a very talented artist, especially for being so young, and I don’t think I’m alone in expecting some really great work from her in the future. I think it was interesting for many to realize that though the story is American, the artist lives in Korea. Speaking of the story, it would have been nice to see an interview with James Patterson, to see how the story was formed, and not just art and character design.

Many of us Yen+ readers were frustrated that rather than picking up with Maximum Ride where January’s issue left off, a chapter was actually skipped. To be honest, it doesn’t sound like Narae Lee took a month off to me, but rather that Yen Press wanted to force us to pick up volume one of Maximum Ride to read that last chapter. I don’t know this for a fact, but several other readers share this opinion with me. However, Yen Press did give a little present with a few full color pages to open up the chapter. I wonder if these will also appear in the second volume of the manga? We won’t find out for a while.

Another full color surprise was the fanart section. There’s a really great picture of Jack Frost that I think fans of the comic will really enjoy. I’m a little disappointed in some of the selections the Yen Press crew makes, as I’m certain they must get some really great pieces that get left out. In the future, I really hope that keep up with the colored fanart section.

This issue also featured a new little blurb called “Otaku Pimp,” which is apparently written by a friend of the editor’s. Hmm… At any rate, I was far from impressed. It was really a waste of paper in my eyes. It was merely the ramblings of some guy who likes Japan, wants to be a pimp, and think’s he’s pretty awesome. You could find that guy in just about any comic book store. Maybe the section will get better, but if it continues to be exactly what it was in this issue, I’ll simply be skipping over it in the future.

The preview of Goong is getting a little old. It appears for its third installment in this issue, which seems a bit ridiculous. I love that Yen Press decided to implement previews, and I plan on buying Legend due to its preview a few issues back, but it’d be nice to see more variety. Perhaps much of my ill-will towards it lies in my not liking Goong (the art irks me and the story doesn’t do much to make up for it to me), but even if this were something I liked, I would be getting tired of it. I wish that if YP were going to practically serialize volume one of something, they could at least stick in another preview in the third issue. On top of this, instead of previewing something new next month, it looks like we won’t be getting a preview at all.

Chapter Spotlights
Pig Bride
was interesting. We got to see a side of Doe-Doe that we haven’t seen much of. I’ve been looking forward to see more of that harshness, more of who she really is.

Time and Again is seeming pretty interesting so far. Like a lot of the stuff that’s come over from Korea so far,  it has a nice historic, traditional basis. The characters seem to have quite the backgrounds from this month’s chapter. Can’t wait to see more of that!

In Nabari no Ou, we’re being shown more about how the secret world works, which I definitely love. I like the way in which they’re presenting that, rather than having explained it all from the beginning. It gives us a chance to really feel like we’re in Miharu’s shoes. I imagine we have quite a lot to expect from this one, since it’s been in serialization for about four and a half years in Japan now.

I think my favorite chapter from this month was Soul Eater. A lot of plot development is going on (something I didn’t really expect to see here), but the flavor of comedy is still totally there. I’m anxious to see where this goes.

All in all this was a pretty good issue with some great chapters. However, there was room for improvement (like not skipping a chapter of something!).

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Canon, Series Review

I’m so sorry it’s been so long since I’ve posted. I’ve been sick and had a lot going on with school. I have another post about half-written, so I should definitely have something for Tuesday. But if anyone would like to volunteer to write something, that’d be great!

Author: Chika Shiomi
Release Dates: ’07-’08
Genre: Suspense, Vampires
Publisher: CMX Manga

Seven months ago, a classroom of high school kids was found dead. 39 lifeless bodies were found with no visible wounds, and autopsy reports found no cause of death. One student escaped this mysterious fate, Canon Himuro. The man that had killed her classmates had decided to leave her alive, as a vampire. Now Canon lives a life of returning newly created ‘servant’ vampires back into humans, always searching for the man with the silver hair and blue eyes that had slaughtered her friends. She then meets Sakaki, a half-human, half-vampire that appears to share her hatred of the man with silver hair and blue eyes. But the world of vampires is a world of deception. Everyone is telling her that Sakaki is at fault for her fate, but she remembers seeing the silver haired, blue eyed vampire kill her classmates. Who should Canon trust?

A while back, I picked up the first volume of a manga about vampires. I never read it, but after seeing it on my shelf, a friend bought me the rest of the series – a whopping three more volumes – for Christmas. When I began writing a story about vampires a couple months ago, I thought it might be a good idea to give that vampire manga a shot, if only for research. What I didn’t expect was to be drawn into the amazing world of Canon.

Canon is no newbie. Though the series only came out in the US during 2007 and 2008, it was first serialized in Japan from 1994 to 1996. At first, the 90s style of speech and clothes stuck out to me, the way it does when I watch something like Saved by the Bell. By the end of the first volume, though, I was completely sucked in. The older look of the art reminded me of the anime I watched as a kid, and it’s a style you don’t often see anymore. It’s comparable to the Sailor Moon manga, especially in the cover art.

The story isn’t particularly unique. A girl is saved from her terminal illness by a vampire with a weakness for humans, and then another vampire turns her into a vampire to fight for him. Despite how cliche it may sound, the twists and deceptions are what really make Canon a fantastic story. I’m usually pretty good at pacing myself with manga, but it was very, very hard here. I just had to know what was going to happen next. Shiomi-san spaced the story out just about perfectly. It’s on the shorter side at only four volumes, but after finishing the series, I don’t think I’d have wanted it to drag much longer. Honestly, I would have liked if it had moved a little more slowly, because there were times when I couldn’t keep up with all that had happened.

In the end: If you like vampires, check out this manga. Don’t expect it to be filled with romance like Twilight, and it doesn’t have nearly as much plot as does Vampire Knight. This is a short, casual read. If you use a manga rental service, it’s definitely a rental, though I think it is well worth the money to buy. If you’re not into the vampire trend, this won’t hold much for you, as very, very little takes place that doesn’t involve vampires.

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Arina Tanemura

(Sorry this is going up a little later than intended! I had a few medical issues to attend to, but all is well now! Enjoy!)

It would be a shock to find a shojo manga collection that didn’t contain a single work by the illustrious Arina Tanemura. Full Moon is no doubt one of the most popular shojo manga to hit shelves since Sailor Moon. Her stories are heart-warming, and looking through her works is evidence that there is true art to be found in manga. Since the recent US release of Time Stranger Kyoko by Viz Media, all six of her first works have been received in the US with open arms. With any luck, it won’t be long before we see Absolute Awakening Angel: Mistress Fortune hit our shores. Though I’d be willing to bet that it may be a while (yay for scanlations!). At any rate, her resounding success in the US should speak well for her talent.

One of my favorite things about reading Tanemura-san’s works is her notes. There are a ton of side-panel notes, comments on each chapter, etc. in all of her tankoban. I almost always enjoy reading what she has to say, even when her comments have nothing to do with the book! She really gives the reader a lot of insight into how the characters and their stories came to be.

What draws many into Tanemura-san’s manga was the art. One glance at pretty much any given cover will simply suck you into her beautiful world. When I read anything of hers, I can’t help but think wonder just how she sees the world around her. In some of her earlier stuff, there was a bit too much of an emphasis on decoration, but it never took away from the story (though I’ve caught myself more than once pausing in my reading to observe all of the details).

An issue I find between many of her works is similar character design. You might not notice if you read one series of hers, wait a month, and read another, but many of her leading female characters look a lot alike. Take Mitsuki and Kyoko, for example:

In addition to physical design, many of these lead female characters share personalities. Headstrong, wanting to help others, a little clumsy, in love with someone unreachable, etc. These characteristics do make for a loveable character  who is easy to connect with, but if you’re reading two series by Tanemura-san at once, it’s easy to get a little confused.

All in all, the works of Arina Tanemura are breathtaking in both art and story. Many are destined to become classics, and I look forward to reading more and more of her manga. Look for volume nine of The Gentlemen’s Alliance† hitting stores next month from Viz Media!

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Higurashi: When They Cry Vol. 1&2 Review

Authors: Ryukishi07, Karin Suzuragi
Release Dates: November 2008, February 2009
Genre: Suspense, Horror
Publisher: Yen Press

Having lived in the city for all of his life up until now, Keiichi Maebara has recently moved to Hinamizawa, a small, rural village in the Japanese countryside. For the first time in his life, Keiichi feels truly happy; he is surrounded by fresh air, he has made some great friends, and his classmates have officially welcomed him into their club. Every day is wonderful now, until…
After a freelance photographer is found dead, seemingly having clawed out his own throat, Keiichi is pulled into the world of Oyashiro-sama’s curse, which seems to affect not only outsiders of the village, but those that haven’t been fully loyal to Hinamizawa. All sense of who he can trust disappears as paranoia engulfs him.

I’m not going to bore you with every detail of how this manga came to be, but I think it should be mentioned that Higurashi began as a visual novel*. You might expect that a lot of the suspense that made the Higurashi series so popular would be lost in the transformation from visual novel to manga. I promise that this isn’t so. Especially with the right mood (late at night, only enough light to read by, and possibly a cat making the occasional racket), reading Higurashi the manga can get pretty spooky. When reading it, I jumped more than once. On occasion, I even had to take a little break to calm myself down.
The story is amazing and is one of those that will probably last for years. Although the art isn’t the focus of this manga, it’s still amazing. There are a few spots where there’s some really amazing images. And, bonus! Each volume has a couple of full color, glossy pages. I don’t know if this is something that will be in every volume, or if it will even be there in later copies of volumes one and two. However, they’re definitely worth a looksee. Absolutely beautiful!
One more thing worth mention. The fonts used in this manga are great. To enhance the experience, the font is changed for certain parts. I can’t really explain when this happens without giving a good part of the plot away, but just know that it really makes the story that much better.

Higurashi: When They Cry is a must buy. I think that it’s going to become one of those timeless classics in the world of manga.

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Time Stranger Kyoko Series Review

Author: Arina Tanemura
End Date: January 2009
Genre: Shojo, comedy, fantasy, romance
Publisher: Viz Media

This three volume series is set in the future (though the setting is really more of a mix of modern and ancient times). It is about Kyoko, a reluctant princess whose twin sister is stuck in a suspended state. Though her sister, Ui, ages, she has only slept since she was born. To awaken her sister and relinquish her duties as princess, Kyoko must become the Time Stranger – a person with the ability to control time. She then must go on a mission to find the other eleven Strangers. When they are all brought together, it is believe that Ui will awaken, and Kyoko may go on to live the normal life of which she has always dreamed.

First, I want to point out that this was actually serialized in Ribon in Japan back in 2001, but was only recently picked up by Viz Media. I’d heard it mentioned when people discussed Tanemura-san’s series that are more famous in the US (such as Full Moon, and I.O.N.), but had never really heard anything else about it. Scanlations have been available for years now, but since I hadn’t ever heard much praise for it, I never checked it out. However, back in June ’08, I read a preview of this manga in Shojo Beat. I decided right then that I had to have it. As soon as it was available, I ran out and grabbed volume one. Though I did my best to spread out my reading, I finished it in three days. When volume two hit shelves, the same thing happened! By then, I knew that only one more volume would be released (besides Tanemura-san’s notes in the manga itself, I had looked it up and seen that there were only three volumes), and I was pretty sad.

When I picked up volume three last month, I was a little disappointed that so much of the story had been skipped, but it was nice to not have to sit through volume after volume of monster-of-the-day stuff. On top of that, the story got absolutely amazing! I don’t want to give much away, but so much happened in volume three, and yet not a single page felt rushed. I teared up a little, I giggled some, and at the end, I didn’t even get that ‘I can’t believe it’s over’ feeling. I felt like the storoy had been wrapped up nicely, and that everything worked out perfectly.

Even if you’re not a big shojo buff, I definitely suggest picking up all three volumes of this. The story is just fantastic, and the art is nothing short of breath taking (but then, that is to be expected of Tanemura-san!).

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