Oct 28, 2007

Manga Commentary: Kiss, Vol 1 - 5

Apparently, there are a bunch of manga out there about 16 and 17 year old girls falling in love in with a teacher and having a relationship with that teacher. "Kiss" by Matsumoto Tomo is one such manga. There are 8 volumes to this series, but I could only find 5 online and I have volume 6 and 8 on order from beNippon (I requested volume 7 too. I guess we'll see what happens). So far this manga seems to be dealing with the situation pretty fairly and seriously. Both the girl and the teacher are anxious about the age difference and the relationship is anything but easy to maintain. Again there is the same internal struggle with the teacher, Goshima, in which he is uncomfortably split between being teacher, father, and lover to the girl, Kae. Kae is clearly struggling with being a child in a grown-up's world. For me this relationship doesn't work because Kae and Goshima's minds are too far apart. Goshima seems to be distance, cold, and emotionally stoppered and Kae is a very needy child who needs to play with kids her own age. They don't really talk, rather Goshima attempts to teach Kae piano and tells her to be aware of other men and Kae gets mad because she feels the teacher is treating her like a child and then she kisses him and all is band-aided. The cycle repeats over and over. Anyway, I would like to see how the story ends -- will they get together or will Kae find someone her own age or will they part for some time so Kae can grow-up a little and then get back together, or not. I guess I really want to see Kae grow-up and the piano teacher soften (and stop smoking like chimney -- ugh, it's absolutely disgusting how much this character smokes).

Fortunately, the story is told with the simple yet deep and on target narration and dialogue that is expected of Matsumoto Tomo, so even though the cycle of Kae and Goshima's relationship repeats in action, we see that both the Kae and Goshima are slowly evolving in thought. At the point where I left off, Kae and Goshima are not able to see each other. Both are forced to take a look at themselves and to re-evaluate the relationship. Kae is trying not to let herself be hurt and Goshima is wondering whether Kae is hurt. We also sense that Goshima is taking some time away from Kae to grow up himself. It's understood as he is now, he can't sustain any kind of meaningful relationship nor provide for Kae if he were to get serious about her.

So far this is a very good manga series, but it's not something that can be easily understood by teenagers. Actually, I'm a little disturbed that there are so many manga on this subject. I wonder is it good to give girls under 18 the thoughts that this sort of relationship is one they should try to pursue. Obviously, this sort of thing is against the law in the US. Although it's not against the law in Japan, I would imagine, it's still not something that is not accepted. I don't necessarily feel that this manga is advocating or warning against this type of relationship. It's merely telling the story of two people in a relationship in a rather objective manner. This brings me to that matter of "Faster than a Kiss" which I don't have a problem with because they are married. Although, it was a snap decision, the teacher in that manga series is fully taking responsibility for his 16-year wife and her little brother. The same is true for "Onegai Sensei." They are married, so as far as I'm concerned it's okay.

I will reserve final judgment for "Kiss" when I've completely read the series.

Oct 26, 2007

Manga Review: You are My Girlfriend

"Your are my Girlfriend" is a short 4 chapter series about a girl, Hatsune, who is unable to make female friends because of her foul mouth and uppity attitude. After all of the clubs in the school reject her, she meets Kirie, the president of the "Maiden's Club." Kirie comes from a family with all girl siblings, so he's into girly things and has a make-over fetish. Kirie is able to see past Hatsune's foul mouth and attitude and becomes her first friend. Hatsume, of course, assumes Kirie is gay and so the fun begins. This is very nice and compact story and I'm glad it was limited to 4 chapters because there wasn't anymore story beyond that. I give this 4/5 for being very good, but it wasn't provocative or funny enough for me to feel that I would read the series again.

Oct 24, 2007

Manga Review: Eensy Weensy Monster

I read "Eensy Weensy Monster" in Japaneses from "Lala" magazine. This is a very cute 12 chapter story that I actually wish went on a little longer because I enjoyed the characters so much. The story is about how Nanoha and Hazuki fall in love and become a couple. Hazuki is a prince type character who every girl drools after and Nanoha is a very plain and small girl. Due to some past conflict between them, Nanoha harbors some resentment towards Hazuki and has formed a little angry mental monster that occasionally makes Nanoha say some nasty things to Hazuki. Hazuki finds Nanoha and her little temper tantrums irresistible and sets out to make her his, despite the other girls practically throwing themselves at him. (I really resonated with Nanoha and her description of the little monster that lives inside her, because I have a similar little demon within my own personality. It was really fun seeing the little demon personified and I understood, completely, how difficult it can be to confine and pacify the little devil within.)

I hope this short manga series gets translated into English (it would be no more than two volumes -- very nice!) so lots of people in the US can enjoy it. This series was written by the same mangaka, Tsuda Masami, who wrote "His and Her Circumstances" and like that series, "Eensy Weensy Monster" is told from both Nanoha's and Hazuki's perspective. I give this 5/5 for an excellent little story of high school love and the little monsters that some guys come to love. :).

Manga Review: I Hate you More than Anyone, Vols 1 and 2

Volume 1 of this manga starts promising with the tall and boyish female lead, Kazuha, having a crush on her little brother's pre-school teacher, Mizushima. Enter Mizushima's hairdresser friend, Sugimoto, who falls in love with the much younger Kazuha (7 years difference, Kazuha is 17 and Sugimoto is 24). To complicate matters, Kazuha's best friend is in-love with Sugimoto. The problem is that Sugimoto teases Kazuha, so Kazuha feels that she hates Sugimoto the most, but, of course, she's in love with him too, but she doesn't realize it. This would have been a good story it the mangaka had decided to wrap it up in 2 volumes like the story seemed it was going, but no, it continues on, despite not having any story left. I've decided not invest anymore money and time on a 3rd or more volumes because the main story and the side stories are flat and uninteresting. It's too bad because I wanted to see a good romantic ending for Kazuha and Sugimoto. 2/5 for a promising start and a lackluster continuation.

Oct 19, 2007

Manga Review: Tenshi Ja Nai

"Tenshi Ja Nai" is a very soap opera-like manga. It follows the story of a girl, Hikaru, who comes to an all girl's boarding school instead of going abroad with her mother. Her roomate, Izumi, is a popular idol, who Hikaru soon finds out is really a boy. Of course, Izumi falls in love with Hikaru, but Hikaru is having a relationship with one of the teachers -- it's a big awful mess, but nonetheless compelling. Fortunately, this manga only runs 8 volumes, so it ends before the gimmicks get too stale. I give this 4/5 because, although being good, I think it did the school teacher wrong. It would have been more interesting and realistic if the teacher had not accepted Hikaru's advances and I could have done without the drama with the teacher's sick cousin.

My Heaven Hockey Club, Vol 1

"My Heavenly Hockey Club" is basically a clone of "Ouran Host Club." Of course "Ouran" is better, but this has its own charm. In this version, dimwitted Hana Suzaki gets run over by equally dimwitted and outrageously rich Izumi Oda, denting Izumi's car. Izumi blames Hana for the damage to his car and tells her to pay him back she must join the Ground Hockey team. The Ground Hocket team is, of course, composed of 5 bishonens, including a pair of twins (but no twincest), who have never actually played ground hockey. Rather, they use the club as an excuse to go to Onsens and eat local food. Hana being very much into eating, sleeping, and onsens goes with it. And on goes the story, culminating in a hilariously 4th chapter about a mountain retreat and a bear. I was in tears laughing at this chapter. So, so far so good and I'm wait for volume 2 to be released.

Manga Review: Metamo Kiss

"Metamo Kiss" is a cute 3 volume long manga about a boy, Konahamaru (no, not the kid from "Naruto"), who comes from a family that can exhange bodies with their destined mate, either human or animal, by touching in a certain place on the body. For Konahamaru, his certain place is his lips and his destined mate is a girl, Nanao, a very popular classmate who happens to have a crush on Kohamaru's twin brother. The story is pretty innocuous with accidental little kisses here and there and gender switching that leads to nothing provacative. I enjoyed it for what it was. It ended abruptly, though, as if funding was pulled rather rapidly. 3/5

Manga Review: Fall in Love Like a Comic, Vol 1

This is worst manga I've ever encountered. I hope it's just a poor translation, but I'm not going to waste my money on the Japanese version to find out. I could not get passed page 2 because it was way too juvenile and shallow for me to even feel the need to move forward. I can't even recommend this for the intended younger set because it's so bad. There are much better manga out there about elementary school puppy love ("Kodacha" and "Crescent Moon" are examples) -- 0/5 for a sad, sad manga that never should have even seen the light of day.

Oct 15, 2007

Manga Review: Omukae vol 1

This is a manga about a high school turned college freshman, Madoka Tsutsumi, who one night, after studying too much, starts to see ghosts and a shinigami (grim reaper) dressed in a pink bunny suit. The first chapter is pretty cute but this is not a manga for me so I quit after the first chapter. I'd have to say overall this is mediocre manga. There's no conflict to drive the story along and the characters aren't interesting enough to care about. Actually, I'm rather surprised that someone took the time to translate this series when there are much better series out there from Meca Tanaka and other mangaka. 2.5/5 because there must be someone out there who likes this series.

Oct 7, 2007

Anime Review: History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi

This 50-episode series could have run astray like all those animes that start off good and then don't know when to end like "Naruto", "Inuyasha," and "Bleach." Fortunately, this anime has a definite story arc and it does conclude in a satisfying matter. "History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi" is the story of a wimpy teenage boy, Kenichi, who aspires to be an ally of justice who stands up for the wimpy like himself. One day he accidently walks up behind a girl Miyu, who uses some over-the-top martial arts move to bring him to the ground painfully. It's love at first-sight for Kenich and to further his desire to become a hero and to get close ot Miyu, he moves into Miyu's home to become a disciple of the the "Ryozanpaku" (forive me if I have gotten the name completely wrong), a group of insanely over-muscled martial artists with "god-like" skills. Most of the story is spent on Kenichi learning various styles of martial arts from his masters which is quite entertaining because the masters have nutty eccentric personalities and they put Kenichi through training that would kill real people (Muy Thai master Appachai is the runaway favorite for me and my husband). Along the way, Kenichi gets unwillingly wrapped up in the machinations of Najiima, a former bully, who decides that Kenichi is the way to fulfill his ambitions of -- well, I'm not really sure what Najima is up to other than pot stirring. Either way Najiima looks like an evil Vulcan and it often refered to as the "alien" or the "Dark Lord." Anyhow, as Kenichi gets stronger, stronger and stronger opponents seek him out, of course through the urgings of Najiima. And so the story goes as Kenichi fights his way through thug after thug, converting a few on his way to the side of good, until he gets to the head of local fight club.

My husband enjoyed this anime more than I did. It was stupid, but I have to admit that I got a lot of laughs out of the show. I give it 4/5 for great fun.

Anime Review: Claymore

"Claymore" is an anime series that runs 26-episodes. It is the story of a Clare, a Claymore as she quests to avenge the death of her mother figure/mentor, the top ranked Claymore Teresa of the Faint Smile. Claymores are warriors who are crossed with demons, or Yoma, to create super warriors who can draw on their Yoma powers to defeat the maneating Yoma that roam the world. Clare rescues an extremely emotional teenage boy named Raki who she makes her cook and for some reason falls in love with. And that's pretty much it without giving away too many details about Clare and the story. This show is quite bloody, but it's all in good fun (depending on your POV, of course). Clare is interesting, Raki is annoying, and the rest of the Claymore cast is fun too. My husband and I both enjoyed this one. The backstory about Clare and Teresa's relationship is particularly moving and gives the viewer a good understanding of Clare's admiration for Teresa and why Clare's lust for vengence is justified. I give it 4.5/5, with a .5 deduction for the inclusion of the painfully whiny Raki who really doesn't get it when the final boss tells him, "Impotence is a sin."