Feb 26, 2008

DNAngel is Back!!!

DNAngel is back in production with a 123-page chapter in March's Asuka magazine. Included with the magazine is a DNAngel picture book -- very nice. I imagine scans from the picture book will show up sooner or later for computer desktop enjoyment. Yippee!!!

Lots of New Manga -- Quick Reviews of Volume 1

"Love Master A" -- Girl of 1000 broken hearts is made class president by a male harem that what looking for a mistress. It feels like a shabby wannabe "Ouran Host Club" I couldn't get through the entire first volume -- 1/5

"Shiki Tsukai" -- A boy is born with unknown powers that are influenced by the seasons. A beautiful maiden of spring, who happens to be the daughter of some big corporation owner, comes to protect the boy. It's not very interesting. 2/5 but I did read the entire first volume.

"Suppli" -- Whiny working women in her late 20's breaks up with her boyfriend of 7-years, now worries about growing old alone. "Kimi wa Petto" (Tramps Like Us) and "Hataraki Man" are much, much better. I got through the first chapter only before I became bored with the main character's self indulgent whining -- 1/5

"My Dearest Devil Princess" -- short and unathletic Keita buys a box from his friend who promises the box will grant him wishes. Keita opens the box and a sexy devil appears who promises him three wishes in exchange for his soul. This manga is basically a bunch of fan service -- low on story development, character development, and originality. The only saving grace of this story is the gay track captain who's in love with Keita and the vice class president who is crushing on the track captain. She thinks the track captain is after the devil. 1.5/5

"Puri Puri" -- Masato, who dreams of being a priest, enters an all girl's divinity school. Apparently at this school all the girls wear dangerously short skirts and don't know the first thing about Catholicism. This is fan service at its worse. 1/5 because I did get through the entire volume. It was funny, but there's no reason to set this story in a "divinity school."

"Short Sunzen" -- A violent girl, violent boy love story. The drawings are really bad and the stories are forgettable. "Cheeky Angel" is better. 2.5/5

"Enchanter" -- A demon finds a boy, Haruhiko, with the same smell of her former master, Fulcanelli. The demon looks like the teacher Haruhiko is crushing on. Together with Fulcanelli's, Haruhiko and the demon, Eukanaria, fight off demons who are attacking the teacher. There is some humor, but overall the story lacks originality. 3/5 for an average manga.

"Love Attack" -- A violent girl, violent boy love story done right. This first volume had lots of sincerity and humor. 5/5

"Monkey High" -- The jaded uppity daughter of a disgraced politician transfers to a public school. There she meets a boy who reminds her of a baby monkey. His innocence charm melts her heart. This manga so far is very sweet. 5/5

"To Terra" (Terra e) -- The manga the anime is based upon. Like the anime, it is excellent! I highly recommend reading it. 5/5

"Pretty Face" -- A karate macho gets into a accident and awakens a year later with the face of the girl he's love with. Mistaken for dead, his parents move away in sorrow and he is mistaken on the street to be the twin sister of the girl he's in love with. To make her happy, he decides to live as her big sister until her real sister is found. The manga series starts off sweet and sincere with sprinklings of raunchy boy fantasy. 4/5 -- because I feel the main conceit is going to get old quickly.

"Shinshoku Kiss" --16-year old Kotoko admires the reknown doll maker Fool. While out scouting for beautiful people, Kotoko is kidnapped by Fool and told that she has to be his assistant or die. And so begins Kotoko's bizarre relationship with Fool. I like the drawing style of this manga a lot and I also like how I'm not really sure what Fool's intentions are. 5/5 for a creepy manga.

"Walking Butterfly" -- This is the story of Michiko, a 6-foot tall girl who hates her body. Consumed by anger and self loathing she lives on the fringes of society doing odd jobs and petty crime. While delivering pizzas, she is mistaken for a model and dressed to go out on the runway. The clothing designer, Mihara, recognizes right away that she's no model and tells Michiko that she couldn't handle one second out on the runway. He's right and Michiko runs out, but at the same time has a breakthrough, realizing that modeling is something she can do and feeling all fired up by Mihara's challenge. 4/5 -- for a good start with a deduction for some self indulgent whining on Michiko's part.

"Heaven!!" -- This light confection of a manga is about Rinnie, who can send ghosts to heaven with her harisen; Uzaki, a yankee punk with bad taste; and a lecherous God in search of a body. Uzaki gets run over by a bus while trying to save Rinnie and end up in a coma. The God takes over Uzaki's body and condemns Uzaki's soul to a stuffed pink monkey. It turns out that the God has a much better personality and fashion sense than Uzaki, so once he gets Uzaki's body cleaned up, the new and improved Uzaki is a handsome lady killer. Oh, what's a poor pink monkey plushie to do? 4/5 -- for a promising premise, but there doesn't seem like there's anywhere to go with the story.

"VB Rose" -- I didn't expect to like this manga about a high school girl who assists a pair of guys who run a wedding dress boutique. Surprisingly, it's a sweet story about a Ageha who idolized sister has just revealed to her family that she's pregnant and is marrying the father of her child, a man Ageha considers less than worthy. Ageha designs handbags and has a local following, that includes Yukari and Mitsuya of VB Rose. While working through her emotions about her sister, Ageha volunteers to help make her sister's dress ... and so begins VB Rose. 5/5 for great character development and an examination of a sibling relationship that is universally common.

Feb 23, 2008

Wild Ones Volume 2 Released in the US

"Wild Ones" volume 2 is out in the US. Some "impact" is lost in the Viz translation -- less emotion, both romantic and humorous. Sigh ... well, this is why I'm studying Japanese ... buy it, but you may want to look at a fan version, too, for a more faithful translation.

Feb 21, 2008

Kitchen Princess Volume 5

Najika is in a cooking contest and she's upset because Daichi kissed her. Daichi decides to be an ass and says it was meaningless. Meanwhile it turns out the boys' father is using Najika to promote his new cooking school and Sora was in on it. Najika is upset by this and Sora redeems himself and then *BIG SPOILER don't look! Gets hit by a truck. * End of volume.

This series is so cute and with the turn of events, I wonder what will happen next.

Feb 18, 2008

Manga Review: Tramps Like Us (Kimi wa Petto)

"Tramps Like Us" finally wrapped up. The last volume covers Sumire's introduction to Takeshi's family, an event Takeshi dreads. The rest of the volume wraps up the Hasumi side story, wraps up the Rumi sidestory, does a flashback of the friendship between Sumire and Yuri, and finally covers the last few hours before Sumire's and Takeshi wedding. It's all very sweet. Sumire finally experiences "love" as she and Takeshi become a family.

This manga series is most definitely for adults. I really don't recommend it to anyone under 16, not because of the nudity and sex scenes, but because it takes some life experience to truly appreciate this manga. At the beginning of this series, Sumire is truly in a bad state and in a word, "crazy." Takeshi isn't all together himself, either. It really takes some "special" thinking to take a man in, literally, as a pet. But you have to understand, that Sumire is so broken, that this is the level of emotional attachment she can handle. This is also reflected in her strained relationship with Hatsumi. She seems to admire him, but she never opens up to him to show her real self and she is never able to gain intimacy as a result of having sex with him. Also Hatsumi has some problems too. He created an idealistic vision of Sumire rather than make the effort to get to know her.

Overall, this is an excellent drama with some very comedic moments. I highly recommend it. There is also a 10-episode live action version of this manga out there in the ether called "Kimi wa Petto." Check them both out! 5/5

Feb 16, 2008

Summary: Arakure (Wild Ones), Vol 2, Chp 9

This chapter is pretty short.

The cultural festival is now on and Sachie's class has made the Hades Cafe -- a realm of the dead themed eatery. Sachie is the receptionist and she's really into it so she's doing an excellent job of being scary. So far the cafe is a big success and Sachie and her friend are celebrating. As promised, Igarashi comes to help, but he is dressed as normal waiter. He is devastatingly handsome, so much so, that Sachie can't look at his face. The girls all spot him, and come after him ... so much for helping out because now, poor Igarashi has to hide.

A little later, Azuma finds Sachie and Igarashi to tell them that the Film Studies Club filmed their run in with the photo thief and is showing the film during the cultural festival. The president is telling everyone in the audience that she has captured the true character of Sachie Wakamura while showing pictures of Sachie kicking a guy and the thuggish guys that surround her. The president asks Sachie to explain herself. Igarashi steps in and says it's nothing special, just everyday life. The crowd is not pleased with Igarashi's explanation and starts talking trash. Igarashi, Sachie, and Azuma leave the room and when outside Sachie apologizes to them. Igarashi and Azuma each take one of her hands and swear to protect her. They return to the area near the Film Studies Club exhibit and overhear people talking about how Sachie isn't a princess, princess, but rather a yakuza princess. Igarashi tells Sachie to endure it, which she is able to until some of the students start bad mouthing Igarashi. They say that he's the worst for being yakuza. This sets Sachie of and she says something to effect of:

Good, bad. Thoughtless people who make judgements should shut-up unless they want to pass through this yakuza because if it's fight you want to buy, I'm selling.

Everybody is shocked because she sounds very yakuza-like. Sachie is extremely pissed and thinks about her precious grandfather, yakuza family, and Igarashi. Igarashi steps in to try to console her while Sachie is still going off. "I will not forgive you for your foul mouths!" she shouts. "I will never forgive you for hurting my loved ones" she continues yelling. Igarashi finally manages to get his hands on her, and, in true Igarashi style uses one arm to secure her by the waist and the other to cover her eyes with his hand. He whispers in her ear, "Why do you fight alone?" "We're here" he says with a cheese-mo smile and there, Sachie's yakuza family has arrived. They are wearing jackets that read "Asagi-group Theatrical Troup" making it seem as though the film Studies Club has only captured a performance and not actual yakuza. The Film Studies Club president is then caught by Igarshi in the bushes filming. She realizes she's in trouble. Igarashi takes away her cameracorder and crushes it with his bare hands. He looks quite wicked. The students are convinced by the theatrical troupe thing and discredit the Film Studies Club. They all reconcile that Igarashi couldn't possibly be yakuza and Igarashi reinforces that notion with a sweet smile, saying, " Could this me appear to be yakuza."

Back a home, Sachie is relieved the day is over and complains that she's tired from working in the shop. And she talks about how the day went amok and Igarshi apologizes for getting involved against her will. Sachie stops him, saying it was her carelessness that caused the trouble and that he had nothing to do with it. "Nothing ..." Igarashi says as he has moved closer to Sachie. They are face to face and very close up. Both of them look surprised that they are now eye to eye and within kissing distance. Igarashi's eyes soften and he reaches out to stroke Sachie's hair. He then kisses her forehead, both of them with their eyes closed. Sachie's head is lowered and she is blushing. He says this was for her wound -- there are flash backs to her defending her family and Igarashi. He continues saying, "Your words, then, made me happy.
("I will never forgive you for hurting my loved ones!")

And so, volume 2 comes to an end.

(it's tough to come up with a balanced meaning for "sukina hito" -- I don't want to say "love", it's more a sense of a person she likes very much -- almost "beloved", be not that strong. Sigh ... okay, it's back to "love.")

Summary: Arakure (Wild Ones), Vol 2, Chp 8

This chapter opens as the school is preparing for the cultural festival. Everybody is asking Sachie where Igarashi is. She asks why everyone keeps asking her about Igarashi. They tell her that he seems to be at her beckon call -- like a princess ringing a bell. Sachie remarks that he's not a pet and that she's not a princess. Rather she's a yakuza princess and she'd like to clear up that matter. The Film Study's Club shows up and reflexively Sachie yells, "I don't know," and continues on her way wondering why so many people are looking for Igarashi and where in the world he went. As usual, Igarashi comes out of nowhere from behind Sachie, covers her mouth and grabs her. He is dressed in his kendo clothes. He slides down to the ground, his arm around her waist with his other hand still covering her mouth until they are sitting. Sachie is in his lap. Sachie starts to ask what's going on, but Igarashi shushes her. The Film Studies Club girls are looking for him. They reason that he is still at school because his shoes are still in the shoe locker. They continue looking and the president refuses to give up. Finally Sachie is able to speak. She shouts to Igarashi about how everybody is looking for him and asks him what he's doing. Slyly he says he's sneaking a nap. He then starts to drop off to sleep and asks if he can sleep on her shoulder.

Sachie remarks that he fell asleep like flipping an electrical switch. He must be very tired she thinks and then wonders when he will wake up. Sachie then remembers that her mother would cling like this to her when she was tired. "I see. This is what body heat from the skin is like," she thinks. This is the situation she, surely, yearned for. She tells herself to calm down and then dozes off herself. When she awakens, she finds herself in Igarashi's arms and it's now night time. Apparently, they were asleep for quite a while. He remarks that he hasn't been able to sleep this way in a while and that Sachie was very helpful. And then from around the corner comes one of the girls that is looking for Igarashi. She announces that she's found him and then goes to capture him so he can't get away. Igarashi quickly turns around confining Sachie to the wall and leaning in close so it looks like they are kissing. The girl who has found then, excuses herself and Sachie asks what just happened. Igarashi explains that it's the season for mosquitoes and that he suddenly felt like exterminating some.

Onto the Film Studies Club president who is fired up again about Igarashi. "Of course! Nobody has seen the mystery of Igarashi's private life!! We want to see, we want to know. If I can film it, I am guaranteed customers!" she gushes to herself. She decides that she is going to make a movie about his true life. Igarashi sneaks up on the president and tells her that dodging her is inexcusable and that he will grant her an interview. Meanwhile, Sachie is waiting for Igarashi at the shoe lockers. He told her he was going to change. She's wondering what is taking so long. Meanwhile somebody is sorting through a box of video tapes labelled "Igarashi". The Film Studies Club has been filming him, and Igarashi is less than pleased. He tells them that they are being annoying and pulls the tape out of the cassettes, destroying the entire box and making an enemy of the Film Studies Club. The girls agree that Igarashi is a frightful person.

Back at the shoe lockers, Igarashi meets back up with Sachie. He asks if she saw him destroying the tapes and Sachie says has has. "Even though it turned out well, shouldn't you have considered something else?" she asks. He replies, "If I let things be, sooner or later the consequences would affect you. " He continues, "If it's to protect an important person, there is no other way." Igarashi smiles coolly and tells Sachie that it's time to go home. On their way home, they meet up with some of their yakuza "family." Igarashi has a weird look on his face, like he'd rather not to be seen with them or perhaps he wishes they hadn't encountered them. Sachie remembers that she wanted to buy rice since it's cheap (90-kg) and then leaves the yakuza holding the heavy bags of rice and taking Igarashi with her, claiming that there's something else she forgot that she wanted to buy. Meanwhile, the Film Studies Club president is lurking around. She starts filming. Suddenly some guy claims another guy "stole" a picture of them and that the camera in hiding in his suit. The accused guy says he has nothing to do with it and asks what evidence his accuser has. Sachie asks the accuser to further explain the situation and the proof. Meanwhile the yakuza, swoop in and take the camera phone and toss it to Igarashi who confirms that the guy is a known criminal. The guy tries to run and Sachie kicks him to the ground. She takes a picture of the guy with her camera phone and a bunch of bystanders do the same. Finally, the cops come. Igarashi hugs Sachie and says they are leaving. The Film Studies Club president is amazed by Sachie's power.

Back at home, Azuma feels left out as the yakuza relay the exciting story to him. Sachie offers Igarashi some tea. Meanwhile at her own house, the Film Studies Club president is muling over what she witnessed, thinking that perhaps Igarashi is more interesting than she had initially thought. Back to Sachie and Igarashi ... she has given him some home brewed medicine to help alleviate tiredness. Igarashi is grateful and thanks her with a with a warm smile. He is blushing furiously. The final narration reads, "Finally, the cultural festival is going to happen."

Feb 15, 2008

Summary: Arakure (Wild Ones), Vol 2, Chp 7

This chapter begins with Sachie in bed. She is having a dream of her mother. Her mother tells Sachie that she has to go. Sachie begs her not to go. "Don't go, don't go, mother ..." Sachie pleads and then wakes up in the middle of her dream, obviously talking in her sleep. She gets out of bed and heads to the kitchen, thinking about how she hasn't dreamt of her mother in a while. On her way to the kitchen, she sees blood drops splattered on the floor and upon entering the kitchen a huge bald maniacal looking yakuza turns his head and grins while holding a bloody knife in his hand. "You saw," he says and Sachie freaks outs. He continues, "When I came into possession of this fine tuna, I thought I would surprise you because we usually have mackerel." Sachie is in too much shock ... "tuna, tuna," she repeats to herself. The other yakuza wonder what has happened. Shortly after, Sachie regains her composure and thanks the bald yakuza, saying that she looks forward to eating the tuna the next day. She reflects on how she still isn't used to living in a yakuza household.

Out of nowhere, Igarashi scoops Sachie into his arms, telling her that if she sits there she will cat cha cold. He's smiling at her sweetly, and Sachie feels belittled and defends herself by explaining that she's okay because unlike normal people she's not that weak. In fact she's forged like steel. Igarashi agrees that her head is indeed forged of steel (in other words, she's hard-headed). Sachie narrates about how her caretaker, Igarashi, is sweet, but peculiar. She wonders why he's up this late and asks him. Igarashi explains that Azuma's loud snoring woke him up. Azuma joins in to defend himself because he fears Sachie will get strange notions about him. Finally, Sachie's grandfather comes to see what the noise is all about and gives Sachie some warm milk to settle her so she can go back to sleep. Sachie reflects on how different her life is now and that she is happy to be surrounded by lots of people. She says, "Mother in heaven, I'm not alone."

Later in the morning at school ... Sachie's class is having a meeting to decide what they will do for the cultural festival. Sachie gets excited and tells everyone her mikoshi fantasy. She is very much into this, talking about how the heat of souls come together, sweaty, and become one. Her classmates are appalled. Then there's a flashback to Sachie's childhood (hard to translate because there's too much slang and dialect involved) in which she asks an elder to be carried in the mikoshi once around the block. The elder explains that only males can be carried in the mikoshi and that she would be crying behind a curtain because she would only be dressed in her underwear (apparently from the picture, the guy in the mikoshi goes shirtless). The class rep. seems to be going along with the idea and says that if there are no other ideas ... and then is bombarded by requests to do a haunted house or a maid cafe. Sachie is bummed, but the class rep reassures her that she helped make the meeting lively. (It seems that maybe he's little sweet on Sachie ??? perhaps).

Moving on, Sachie and her friend see Igarashi outside as they are passing through the hall. Igarashi is surrounded by girls. The film studies club president is talking to him. Sachie's friend think she's inviting him somewhere, but Igarashi seems to be refusing her. He sees Sachie in the hall and leaps onto the window sill and asks if she wants to go do something later. He's trying to get away from the film studies club president. The film studies club president comes running after Igarashi asking if he would talk to her and Igarashi is being an ass. Finally he asks what she wants. Does she want to see him in glasses or wet in the rain -- something like a shower scene. The film studies club president is very excited and animated and says the film Studies club exists for it's customers -- "Viva megane moe and viva wet moe!" On she prattles about how sibling romantic forbidden love is hot this year, or perhaps Korean flavored platonic love. Igarashi continues to be an ass, asking Sachie whether she knew and Sachie is passed caring. Finally, Igarashi explains that he can't help out the film studies club this year because he is the class president, is active in a club (kendo), and helps out in class.

The girls of Sachie's class explain that they are doinga haunted house maid cafe for the cultural festival. Igarashi is intriqued (I imagine he's thinking about Sachie dressed in a maid's costume) and asks if he can join in. The girls go nutz and surround him. They decide they want to go to a haunted house to get ideas and to find excuses to get close to him. At the haunted house entrance, the Film Studies Club President is waiting for Igarashi along with the crazy girls. Igarashi tries to get away to be with Sachie, but is carried off by the sea of girls. Sachie gives up. Cut away to a couple of wimpy guys who can't handle the haunted house. They meet up with Sachie, who seems to be fine walking through the haunted house. They finally get too scared and run out of the haunted house but Sachie decides to continue through, collecting ideas. She then starts thinking about her dead mother and whether she is in a world like this alone. As she sinks further into sadness, she falls to her knees and then Igarashi shows up. He's close up to her and asks if she's okay. Sachie tentatively reaches out and then pulls back. Igarashi grabs her hand and then hugs her tightly. He apologizes and says he should have stayed with her and not left her on her own. Sachie remembers back to the wee hours of the morning when she couldn't sleep and Igarashi was awakened too. She asks him whether he was awakened by her crying out in her sleep. He covers her mouth and says that it has been a year and she still hasn't cried for her mother. He says that she doesn't have bear it and that when in need, call him and he will come to her side. They stand up and Sachie asks if he thinks her mother is in a world like this. Igarashi says he doesn't know, but he thinks probably is not. He says it would be nice if heaven is a warm world with blooming flowers and then he reaches out for Sachie's hand and asks if they should leave now.

The next page ... Igarshi is looking at some drawings of monsters for the haunted house. He complements Sachie on her drawings even though they are not good -- Sachie knows this. Sachie's classmates are impressed by the number of drawings they have now to use as reference for the haunted house maid cafe. Cut to later (oh, here comes the fan service), Sachie is walking to the bathroom to take a bath. She's very happy thinking about the upcoming cultural festival. She opens the bathroom door and there Igarashi is in the bathroom, wet from his shower and towel drying his hair. Sachie thinks "I did it" -- again, apparently. She excuses herself and runs off. Igarashi, for the most part now dressed, finds her waiting near the bathroom. He leans in close to her, his arm coralling her against the wall. He's now very close and then asks, "Did you see it? The shower scene." Sachie is very embarrassed and hits him on the head and then runs away. Now we see Sachie in the bathtub. She is thinking about what happened in the haunted house. Meanwhile, Igarashi encounters Sachie's grandfather. The old man asks Igarashi how it's going being Sachie's caretaker and says he bets her tomboyish ways are causing him lots of trouble. Igarashi agrees that's she quite a handful. The old man blanches -- I imagine he was fishing for a complement. Igarashi continues though, saying that Sachie is straightforward and truthful and so he will be the person that shares her pain. "Your precious granddaughter is my very special person, so no matter what happens, going forward I will protect Sachie-sama," he explains to her grandfather. (This sounds a lot to me like Igarashi is asking for Sachie's hand.) We aren't shown Sachie's grandfather's face, so we can't know his reaction. (I suspect, though, that he has raised the boy intentionally to be Sachie's husband). Back to Sachie who is almost submerged in the tub and blowing bubbles. She is still thinking about the haunted house, lamenting how she couldn't get any words out.

On the last page, we are back to the Film Studies Club president. She is vowing to stick to Igarashi 24/7. The ending narration reads "It seems like the quiet before the storm" (Not exactly this, but I think this is the closest English idiom.)

New Manga (to me): Otomen

After reading a brief synopsis on Manga-Updates, I finally decided to check out "Otomen." This has got to be one of the cutest manga I've read in a while. It's the story of Asuka, a young man who likes girly things and had girly hobbies (Otome + man), who hides his true self to please his mother. He was doing pretty well until he started crushing on Ryou. In comes Tachibana, an irritant, who decides that he's going to propel Asuka's relationship with Ryou on for his own selfish reasons. The cutest thing about this is Asuka, who is strong and cool and oh, so pure hearted and somehow this combination of protector and nuturer seems much more manily than physical strength alone. I also believe that there are more men out there like Asuka, who like things that are stereotypically considered girly, and hide their tendencies for fear of being called "gay" and ridiculed. I think this is a tragedy. Guys who can cook and have soft hearts are HOT!!! Anyhow, I liked this series so much, I bought all the available volumes of this manga from Yes Asia. The series is also currently running in "Bessatsu Hanato Yume", which I also get. The first 6 chapters are out there in the ether, so check this series out! As I read through the bunko, I'll give updates :).

Feb 10, 2008

Clannad Update: Episodes 13 - 17

Well, I've finished with the Kotomi cycle in the story and was, again, left in tears. This show can sometimes be so sweet. They didn't resolve, though, whether Kotomi was going to study abroad. I guess she's not since she's still there. After Kotomi the story goes back into the Nagisa and once again Tomoya and his harem are trying to start a theatre club. But, oh no, there's only one teacher left who can be their advisor and the choir club has already claimed her. What's the group to do? I know, settle it with basketball. Sigh ... anyhow, they play basketball against the basketball team instead of the choir club and then Nagisa faints. Meanwhile various members of the harem start actively pursuing Tomoya after he says that he and Nagisa are not dating. Apparently he's decided not to date any girl because he's embarrassed by his drunk Dad. Bitch, bitch moan, moan ... dude get it together and get Tomoyo, Ryou, or Kotomi. Quit bothering with frail and air-headed Nagisa! Geez ...