Feb 28, 2014

New Series: "Sabaku no Harem" ("Harem in the Desert") by Mitsuru Yumeki

This is a new series that debuted in the latest issue of Lala DX magazine.  Like "Kanojo ni Naru Hi -- Another" this series will be released bi-monthly, so expect the next chapter in late April/early May. This is literally a harem manga.  Nothing about the story is unique, but I felt it was well executed. I like the intelligent, but bratty Prince character Kallum, and Mishe, the main female character is delightfully spunky. I'm eager to see how the two character grow.

Please give us some feedback on this new series.

And now on to the release!

Feb 27, 2014

What I Recently Read -- Mini Manga Reviews

Title: Alice in the Country of Hearts: The Clockmaker's Story
ISBN: 9781937867645
Purchase: Amazon US / Barnes and Noble

Review -- B-: For an Alice in the Country of XYZ follow on story, this is pretty good, but compared to other shoujo in general it's quite middle of road.  This story supposes that Alice falls in love with the Clockmaker Julius.  I've always like Julius, so I thought this was really cute.  Where it fell apart for me was when Julius acted aggressively. It seem very out of character. As with all the Alice in the Country of XYZ books, there is some implied sex, but nothing is shown explicitly. The narration during the scene in this book is pretty bad.  The writing is quite ham-fisted. But... I have to remember that this was written for tweens and teens. If you like the Alice in the County of XYZ books, then this is a must buy.  It could also be a good buy for a teen who wants a little bit of eroticism without explicit scenes. Otherwise, this book can be skipped without missing much.

Title: No. 6 Volume 5
ISBN: 9781612623597
Purchase: Amazon US / Barnes and Noble

Review -- A: Shion confronts his humanity as he and Rat carry out their plan to infiltrate the No. 6 Correctional Facility to rescue Safu. This is a grim volume filled with death and suffering. It made me feel very emotional.  There is a lot to mentally chew on in this chapter, and it is a page turner. Overall, it's another great volume in this wonderful shoujo sci-fi series.

Title: Voice Over! Seiyu Academy Volume 3
ISBN: 9781421559728
Purchase: Amazon US / Barnes and Noble

Review -- B: This series continues to grow on me. I'm not really into Hime.  I think she's quite bland,  but I do like her manager, Yamada P, and Mizuki. This volume focuses on Mizuki's past. I'd say the moral of Mizuki's story maybe be a little weird to American readers. We are used to people overcoming and winning, rather than understanding their own limitations and settling for what they can do. And then there's the blame shifting and the idea of how futile it is to encourage a seemingly talentless person. American optimism dictates that hardwork and determination always pay off and can override innate ability. Anyhow... I found myself knitting my eyebrows at times during the volume (My expectation was, of course, that the talentless character would work hard, become a success, and then kick Mizuki to the curb -- but nope.). At the same time, I understand this way of thinking, because sometimes it's better to redirect a person, rather than watch them keep hitting a wall. Anyhow, this continues to be pleasant cotton candy series. It's nice to read when I need mental vacation.

Feb 26, 2014

What I Recently Read -- "Futari no Renai Shoka" Volume 1 by YamazakiKore

Title: Futari no Renai Shoka (ふたりの恋愛書架) ("Their Love Bookshelf")
Mangaka: Yamazaki Kore (ヤマザキコレ)
Publisher/ Publication: Houbunsha / Manga Time Kirara Forward
ISBN: 9784832242616
Purchase: Amazon JP / YesAsia

Synopsis:

Kanako is a free spirited lonely women who lives in and runs a used bookstore, and Akio is a lonely young man who loves books. The two meet at a swap meet and have an instant rapport. They meet again at Kanoko's bookstore, where Kanako impulsively proposes to Akio, only to find out, despite looking like an adult, he's at the end of his third year in junior high.  The story continues when Akio enters high school and mainly focuses on the couple's getting their friends to accept their relationship and their eventual decision to live together. Yes, this is an age gap romance, but it is very sweet and there is no sexual content.

This volume includes chapters 1 - 5 and two bonus stories. The series is two volumes in length.

Artwork B+: It's simple and functional with nice use of screentones giving it a slightly shoujo feel. However, the artwork is nothing special. It doesn't really stand out, but I suppose that's good because flashy artwork would overwhelm this delicate story.


Presentation C-: This book is small, which means the text is small. I have bad eyesight, so the size of the text was a burden on me. There were many times when I had to take a picture with my tablet to magnify the page so I could read it. I bought a magnifying glass to ease reading the second volume.  The text size problem is even worse with the mangaka's handwritten chicken scratch. Some of it I simply could not read despite magnification because there was not enough print resolution. Other wise the dust cover is nice and there is a color page at the beginning.

Story A-:  This is a small story about a couple. I like the way the focus is on Kanako and Akio, and so far, there is no love triangle to weigh the series down. There are only a handful of side characters, and they serve mostly as sounding boards for Akio as he muddles through his feelings for Kanako and weighs whether he should move in with her. Kanako, despite being free spirited, is not annoying. There are times when her pain and loneliness come through. Akio is a "herbivore" but we are not led to dislike or pity him a negative way. I sympathized with both characters and I felt that they are a good match. The magic of this story is that the age difference drops away until the reader is gently reminded of it.

I like the way the story lets Akio and Kanako's romance proceed without sex. Rather, they have small intimate moments that build companionship. It's a very cozy romance, and I love being wrapped up in it.

I did not like Nanao, Kanako's former Professor who shows up in the fifth chapter. This character is a gag androgynous character who, of course, is way too familiar and touchy-feely. It's a tired stereotype.

More details about the story are in my Twitter feed.

Readability -- difficult: This manga series does not have furigana. There were a lot of new words for me to learn and there were slang phrases I wasn't familiar with. I used my kanji dictionary app a lot during the fifth chapter when Kanako's ex-Professor shows up. I also wasn't familar with many of the books referenced in the conversations. I don't know how much meaning was lost, but I'm satisfied with what I did understand.  The size of the text is an issue especially if you are not fluent. I imagine fluent readers can infer the kanji, but for non-fluent readers, making out the radicals is an exercise in patience. If you are comfortable reading without furigana, this is an excellent book to read. I felt it was well worth the time I spent looking up new words.

Overall B+: This is a wonderful slice-of-life age-gap romance. The small text is a big detractor for me, but sweetness of the story more than makes up for it.



Feb 25, 2014

What I've Read Recently -- Mobile Suit Gundam The Origin: Activation

Title: Mobile Suit Gundam The Origin: Activation
Artists/Authors: Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Yoshiyuki Tomino, Hajime Yatate, Kunio Okawara
ISBN: 9781935654872
Purchase: Amazon US / Barnes and Noble

First Impression:  This book has been sitting on my shelf for a while. I've been avoiding this because I feared the old style artwork would turn me off and I know I have trouble following action in seinen manga. Meh... it's a typical gundam story -- there's a faction fighting for freedom from another faction and a single super mech piloted by teenager that can change the tide of the war. And yes, I can't follow the action sequences.

Breakdown --

Artwork A: The mech design is detailed and lovingly drawn. The character design is as expected. However, the characters can be told apart and they are expressive. The color pages are gorgeous and serve to make this a special release.  I count not being able to follow the action as a weaken on my part, so I don't feel it's fair for me to judge.

Presentation A-: This book is heavy.  I couldn't read it for more than 15-minutes in situations where I had to hold the book. My poor wrists couldn't take it. I ended up reading this at the gym on the treadmill or the exercise bike and at home on my desk. Although I like the hardcover presentation and the thick paper stock, I wonder is there a way to get the same look while being lightweight.

As you can see, the cover art is very nice.  There are similar glossy color pages between the chapters in the book.  Also there are some nice bonus essays toward the back the book. This book looks great on my shelves, and honestly I'd buy it just because it looks nice regardless of whether I'd actually read it.

Story C: This is a typical gundam story. None of the characters stood out to me. The main character, Amuro, is blah and the main villain Char is vanilla.  Char is supposed to be an ace pilot, yet he can't beat a noob. Yeah, I understand the main character can't die immediately, but that doesn't mean they have to confront each other immediately. But I digress.  There's some whiny woman who got on my nerves.  I can't remember her actual name, but in my head she's "random waifu".   Anyhow, I couldn't tell you the names of two factions that are fighting and for what specific reason other than "freedom"... but I'm not even sure that's it.  I guess nothing really sunk in from this first volume.  All I really understood was Char's primary mission.  So basically, the story and the characters didn't leave any kind of impression on me good or bad.

Overall B:  I like gundam anime A LOT, but this didn't do anything for me.  However,  I did appreciated the technical drawing and the presentation of this book.  It's a handsome book that looks great on my shelf and I like looking at the artwork.  In this sense I recommend it. If you are looking for a story, though, there are far more interesting mecha/gundam series out there.  "Knights of Sidonia" left a far stronger impression on me than MSGundam The Origin.

Feb 17, 2014

Surprise Josei Oneshot: "Hajimari wa Suna no Ichiya" ("It Started with an Evening on the Sand") by Kaoru Ichinose

It's been a while since we've translated anything by Kaoru Ichinose.  This is a short josei oneshot that appeared in Harlequin Romance magazine. It's too bad this short oneshot wasn't a prologue for something larger, but I'll take it! Hopefully we'll see more from Ichinose-sensei soon.

And now onto the release!

Feb 16, 2014

Valentine's Day Oneshot #4: "Tobenai Washi Ouji" ("The Eagle Prince who Can't Fly") by Shiori Koharu

It looks like yesterday's oneshot threw everyone for a loop. I've got plenty more train wrecks stockpiled, so be prepared for a wily 2014.  Today though, we're back to traditional fantasy shoujo with a fairytale.  It's got a little spunk to it, but I promise this oneshot is full of what you expect.

This oneshot is dedicated to Silver Lunar. She is the first person who joined Omari's Sister way back many years ago.  She loves birds, and this smart-ass bird prince seemed perfect for her. So thanks to Silver Lunar for years of dedication and for making sure that we translate bird and animal manga :).

And now onto the release!

Feb 15, 2014

Valentine's Oneshot #3: "Risou no Kareshitachi" ("Perfect Boyfriends") by Honomi Honda

This oneshot... Haha! It's been fun watching the proofreaders' reaction to it. I guess I shouldn't say anything to bias readers.  I'll just say that the honorifics were intentionally left in the translation.

Feb 14, 2014

Valentine's Day One-Shot #2: "Risou no Ouji no Tsukurikata" ("The Way to Make a Perfect Prince") by Yuni Yukimura

Happy Valentine's Day! Whether you have a Valentine or not, have a great day and treat yourself to something nice. Also remember, at the stroke of midnight, Godiva's Valentine's chocolates are deeply discounted. Hubby and I will be hitting the reload button repeatedly to get our boxes of discounted truffles and biscuits. Hee!

For Valentine's Day, I decided to go with my favorite shoujo trope: Social-gap romance! This oneshot is pure delightful shoujo cotton candy. I liked this because behind every Perfect Prince, there's an exasperated woman picking his outfits and keeping him on the straight and narrow path!

And now onto the release!

Feb 13, 2014

Valentine's Day Oneshot #1: "Ringo no Asobikata" ("Playing with Apples") by Kumiko Kandachi

Thank you all for your patience.  We will now get our Valentine's long-weekend one-shot party under way! We have four one-shots for this party ranging from a sweet fairytale to a dark cautionary tale. We'll start the festivities with a slightly psychological story. This one was a lot of fun to translate.

Feb 5, 2014

What I Recently Read -- "Mikado Boy" Volume 1 by Riko Miyagi

I've decided to start writing reviews of the Japanese language manga I've been reading. I used to write synopsis years ago, but I received some complaints because readers could not read the content in English themselves either because the title was not licensed or scanlated. However, now I feel there are a significant number of readers who are learning Japanese or who can read Japanese at some level.  With these reviews I hope give an opinion on manga that are not Crimson Flower projects, and give readers some idea of ease of readability.

Title: Mikado Boy (ミカド・ボーイ) Chapter 1
Mangaka: Riko Miyagi (宮城理子)
Publisher/Magazine: Shueisha / Margaret
ISBN: 978-4088450704
Language: Japanese

Synopsis: Hideto Shibata (Hide), along with his younger sister, lives with his brother and his brother's wife, and attends an elite military school.  On his way to his first day at school, he rescues a cute girl and receives a kiss as thanks.  Later he discovers that his school handbook is missing! After school, he meets the girl again and she has his handbook! After giving chase, Hide finds himself in a mysterious office being questioned by a weird man and his busty assistant. When the weird questioning is done, Hideto is informed he's passed the test and is now a "Mikado Boy"!

"Mikado Boys" are basically child spies. In this first volume, after the introduction and Mikado Boy explainer, the story moves onto the first case for our newest child spy.  This first case involves protecting the son of a Lower House Congress Member from being murdered! Within this story, the difference between the haves and have nots is explored, as Hide is teased and then later comes to be respected by Hamada, the boy he's supposed to protect. We also learn a little about Gin, Hide's mysterious partner and master of the "Honey Trap".

This story is set in the 1930's around the beginning of Japan's involvement in World War II.

This volume covers chapters 1 - 4.

Artwork -- B+: It's nice, but typical. Nothing particularly stands out about it, and that's good because it doesn't overwhelm the story. The characters are all cute, handsome, or gorgeous, except for bad guys who are either faceless or unattractive.  The mangaka does a good job of drawing expressions and distinct faces. The characters also look their age, which is always refreshing! The action is well drawn and easy to follow.

January 2014 Statistics and Announcements

January went pretty well. We finished "Magnolia" and "Wild Wing".  I wanted to get some of "Rex Fabula" completed, but I didn't have time to do the translations. However, image editing continued in the background, so progress is being made. Anyhow, here are some statistics from last month:

Top 5 Releases:
  1. Magnolia Chapter 38
  2. Kanojo ni Naru Hi Another Chapter 2
  3. Wild Wing Chapter 4
  4. Magnolia Chapter 37
  5. Oneshot: Kuma-san to Issho
Top 10 Visiting Countries
  1. USA (CA, NY, MA, WA, FL)
  2. Canada
  3. France
  4. Indonesia
  5. Germany
  6. Malaysia
  7. Australia
  8. Italy
  9. Singapore
  10. Russia (Greetings, Russian!)
And now for an announcement:
  • I have the "Kanojo ni Naru Hi" Extra chapter from Lala magazine. Unfortunately it was printed in the WORST part of the magazine, so the raw is unusable. We have decided to wait for the "Kanojo ni Naru Hi -- Another" tankoubon in the hope that the extra chapter will be reprinted there.