As I’ve noted previously, I bought a lot of “books” (read: manga) overseas, and have, finally, had the chance to read through a pretty good stack of them. Since you guys are interested in things like manga, I’d figured that I talk about what I’ve read, to help expand horizons. This is about half of the stuff I brought back, so expect another summary later of other things. I might go into further detail on some of the books that caught my interest, but, for this post, I’m just going to do a simple formula review of the books. Below is an example of something you should be familar with:
Title: Genshiken (name of the thing, sometimes translated, sometimes not. Depends on what sounds better)
Author: Kio Shimoku (if there’s a separate artist, that person will be mentioned as well)
Runs in: Afternoon (what magazine the serial runs in)
Rating : 18.5 (including a .5 bonus for being a meta-commentary) (out of twenty, with 11 being average. 15+ is a must-read. I list bennies and demerits that are personal and should be mentioned to avoid skewing ratings)
How much I’ve read: 9/9 volumes (finished) (how much I’ve read, how much there is, and if it’s still running)
Story: It’s about nothing. Well, not really. It’s about a college anime club, and what they do. There’s no magical powers, no improbable romances, just life. However, it’s free from the traditional problems of slice of life, namely, a loss of focus and development of an endless static pattern, as time moves steadily on, and the people are carried along. Probably my only complaint is the focus (in later volumes) on the trials and tribulations of geek love. I think Kio does a very good job on subject (seeing three different relationships and their differences makes it feel like there are real people involved, rather than unrealistic, magical, everyone-gets-a-girl, style wish fulfillment), but it does take up a lot of narrative time that I feel could have been better used to look at the graduates. (a brief overview of the plot and whatever else I feel like. Names are generally not mentioned, and I will try to avoid spoilers)
Art: Character designs are kind of a tossup, with some very good (Madarame, Ohno, Tanaka) and others… less good (Kugayama in particular, with some trouble involving Keiko). Backgrounds are done well, but are not outstanding. In general, the art isn’t the draw for the series, instead, it tries to be realistic enough to help make the story more believable, but iconic enough that we can project ourselves onto the characters, in part. (I’m not a big art person, so this section is generally short. I do try to comment on the relationship between the characters, the background, and the style, though)
Ease of Reading: Non-trivial. While Genshiken doesn’t have furigana, most of the conversations stick with very normal, understandable vocabulary. Some chapters/ panels, however, will require you to whip out the dictionary and, even then, have a lot of searching for kanji-compounds (see Madarame’s rants). (How hard I found it to read. Very important for those of you who want to pick these things up. The scale is a follows:
Trivial, Easy, Fairly Easy, Not Super Hard, Non-trivial, A Pain, Annoying, Hard, Super Hard, and Screw this, I don’t get paid enough)
Other comments: It’s out in English, and you should definitely read it! No Excuses! (anything else I feel like adding)
Alright, now that you’re used to the system, here’s some real reviews:
Title: Cloth Road
Author: Hideyuki Kurata
Art: Okama (Yes, the H-doujin artist made good!)
Runs in:Ultra Jump
Rating: 13 ( this includes a 1 point deduction for involving models who are not Zoolander and a 1 point deduction for super-powered battle tournaments)
How much I’ve read: 1/4 volumes (unfinished)
Story: In the future, fashion rules the world. I’m not kidding. Computers become minaturized and flexable, causing them to be used in clothes. Thus, the jobs of programmer/ hardware designer and fashion designer become linked (for less well explained reasons, the jobs of fashion model and gladiator become linked, but I won’t get into that). A pair a twins (a boy and a girl) are abandoned and given to two different people, one goes to live in the country with an old man and his housekeeper while the other is given to a successful (if drunken) tailor.
Naturally, once the old dude dies, the pair are reunited, though they are very different. The boy is serious, pessimistic, and feels much older, seeing as he’s apprenticed to a drunk, works for a fat, drug addicted model (who gets his dingus chopped off!), and is in love with a drugged out ex-model/current whore. The girl is brave, optimistic, and very agile. Naturally, when it’s discovered that the boy’s master is dying and he needs expensive surgery, the girl offers to fight in the coliseum called “war king” in a no-holds barred fashion showdown. Stuff happens (read the goddamn book), and the pair end up wandering down the road to the next town.
Art: Okama comes through with his half weird/ half… sexual isn’t the right word, but I’m gonna use it, feel. For me, the art is the big draw for this book. It doesn’t titillate, but there’s something very organic about the world. Lots of detail (especially on clothes), can make some panels a bit too busy, but the overall effect is very strong. Not a lot of good “painting-like” panels, but a lot of powerful dynamism.
Ease of Reading: Annoying. Either I need to learn more techno-clothing gibberish, or dudes need to put in some furigana. Some of it isn’t awful, but, on the whole, it’s not a quick read, unless you’re some kind of crazy clothing person.
Other comments: I’m probably going to pick up another volume or two of this, but I get the awful feeling that the art might not be able to pick up the slack from a long, repetitive, designing/fighting cycle.
Runs in: Blade
Rating (out of twenty): 14 (This includes a half-point loss due to obnoxious little cosplayer girl and a half-point bonus because it ends in two volumes)
How much I’ve read:2/2 (finished)
Story: There’s a guy who is a normal highschooler. There’s a rumor about a magic wish-granting box. No surprise, he finds the box randomly in his backpack. This is where things get interesting. The box grants the holder’s deepest wishes (7 in number), one at a time, and then kills the holder. There’s a girl who doesn’t say much, but is somehow connected to the box. She hunts it down and tries to destroy it with her sword before the holder can make those 7 wishes. After it is destroyed or kills someone, the box magically appears before another target. It’s a standard sort of monkey’s paw trope, but it’s pulled off very well.
There’s a sort of buddhist/ Jeungian allegory in the work that doesn’t take a whole lot of analysis to uncover. The main thing about the story that suprised me is how the author managed to pack so much story into so little space. There’s a strong element of repetition with progression that I like, but there are some weaknesses to the twist ending (quelle surprise!)
Art: Modern Shojo style, with heavy clamp influences. I wasn’t blown away, but it’s not bad. The panel art is minimalist, except for the characters, who are given a lot of flowing big and detail, which makes them the focus of your attention, as they should be in a work like this.
Ease of Reading: Fairly Easy. Furigana + standard vocab for the win. I only had to use the dictionary once!
Other comments: I can’t find a lot of records about the author, but I think that she has a lot of potential. Keep an eye out.
Title: A Quartet of Cherry Blossoms in the Night.
Runs in: SKC
Rating: 8 (includes a 1 point deduction for a super-team magical school kids, consisting of mostly cute girls, one of whom has cat ears, a 1 point deduction for useless self-insert main character, and a .5 deduction for suckering me into buying it because it had a picture of a girl with a guitar on the cover)
How much I’ve read: 1/ I don’t care volumes (I don’t care if it’s still going, but in a just world, it would stop)
Story: A team of magicaly awesome school kids (except for the main character, who has no powers other than that he has a penis, and, therefore, is on the team as well) protect a city from evil. There’s a tsundere, the meganeko, and the mysterious one with cat ears. They fight evil, argue with each other, and try to help the community. There’s also the mysterious one’s older brother, who wanders around turning animals into super-animals who fight the team. Yawn.
Art: Art is standard. No real innovations, other than that the characters have a vaguely rocker feel to them. That’s about it.
Ease of Reading: Not super hard, furigana let you breeze through most of it, but there’s some mystical bullshit that requires the dictionary. Joy..
Other comments: If you can’t guess, I didn’t like this one much. Sorry to disappoint the BigN, but I’m not gonna keep buying it just to give it another shot.
Title: Otaku no Musume-san
Author: Higansou, 202, Kouta and Kanau
Runs in:Dragon Age
Rating (out of twenty): 13 (plus .5 for metacommentary, minus .5 for the landlord in highschool, minus .5 for the lame character who always hides, minus .5 because the main character IGNORES the DESPERATE CALLS AT 2:00 from his house mates THAT HIS DAUGHTER IS SICK in order to buy FATE/STAYNIGHT. That’s class. )
How much I’ve read: 2/2 volumes (ongoing)
Story: There was a guy who is a college dropout. He currently lives in a crappy little apartment with his creepy friends while indulging in all kinds of otaku-y things. One day, a young girl of, I think, 9 shows up at his door. Turns how that it’s his kid, which resulted from his having unprotected sex with a girl back in high school, before he became lame and disgusting to non-2-d women. The girl’s mother is in debt, and so, in order to protect her daughter, she sent her to live with the main character, the girl’s father.
The girl very quickly discovers that the dude is a loser, rather than the perfect image of her dad that she had built up. But, over time, the two begin to become an actual family, forcing the man-child to grow up while his daughter is allowed to be a kid again. Of course, there is an abundance of wacky hijinks.
Art: Iconic characters in realistic backgrounds work for some series, but not this one. It’s a focus on characters and their interactions, not on the environment, and the art detracts from that. Faces can get a bit… distorted… from time to time, and it’s not that bad, it just weakens the flow.
Ease of Reading: Easy. Furigana, easy vocab, and nothing really out of the ordinary. It’s not Yotsuba, but it’s not far from that.
Other comments: I had a much better impression of the series until the end of volume 2, where the main character does something that I would not have expected from him, in a bad way. This probably cost the series a half point, because I feel like the author(s) are just jerking the characters around for maximum drama. This may change later.
Title: Kamen no Maid-guy
Author: Akai Maruborou
Runs in: Dragon Age
Rating: 11 (Minus 1 point for too much LOL Tits, Minus 1 point for unrealistic, stereotyped female characters (the: every girl worries about her bust, her weight, if she has a boyfriend, etc. constantly syndrome, Minus 1 point for panty theft as a major storyline)
How Much I’ve Read: 4/5 Volumes (on going)
Story: (to the tune of the fresh prince of bel-air theme song, very loosely)
Now, this is a story all about how
Two siblings lives got flipped-turned upside down
And I liked to take a minute
Just sit right there
I’ll tell you how They acquired a pair of maids, one of whom is male, wears a mask, and is insane
In Tokyo, Japan born and raised
Kendo Club was where I spent most of my days
Chillin’ out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool
And all Hitting each other with swords outside of the school
When our parents
Who were up to no good
Got lost on a foreign Trip
My grandfather visited the house which we hadn’t cleaned in years
he said ‘you’ll either accept these maids or come live with me‘
I’ve pretty much touched on everything but the constant low-level sketchy-ness of the whole series.
Art: Very Moe, except for Kogarashi, the masked maid guy. Lots of time has been spent on the art, even though the characters (again, except Kogarashi) have very plain faces. Lines are thick and expressive, like the characters. Kogarashi has exactly the right feel (a character from a different comic dropped into this one). Now if only I could read a comic about Kogarashi being awesome instead of Kogarashi vs. the Panty Thieves.
Ease of Reading: Not super hard. There’s furigana, and the language is mostly normal, but it took me a while to understand some parts, and I had to pull out the dictionary a couple of times.
Alright, that’s all for now. Next time, an in depth review of Highschool of the dead.