Bleach, Lupin, and Manga
April 2010 Edition by Todd
Douglass, John Sinnott, Bobby Cooper, and Wen-Tsai
by Todd Douglass, John Sinnott, Bobby Cooper, and Wen-Tsai
Okay, so our last column was jam-packed with reviews and snippets. In fact that was so much that we had to overflow our manga coverage in order to squeeze everything in! For our May installment things have quieted down a little on the anime front, but there's an anime figure reviewed and plenty of manga to check out. As usual WTK also provides some awesome bargains yet again!
FUNimation has fully embraced the Blu-ray format and continues to release a steady stream of HD anime. The latest in the line in Trinity Blood: The Complete Series, a fun show that has its flaws. The main problem is that it's reminiscent of a few series that have come before. In any case this world filled with vampires and lost technology is worth visiting, especially if you haven't picked up the DVDs yet.
We wrap up the fourth season, along with another story arc, in Bleach Season 4 Part 2 from Viz. While John wasn't enamored with the first half of season four, he found that the series did pick up for the most part in the second half and definitely went up a notch in story quality. The Bount story arc still isn't as exciting or creative as the preceding ones but it has developed in unexpected ways that makes it worth watching.
The young goofy kid who has dreams of becoming the best ninja in his village returns in Naruto Season Two Volume One from Viz. This time around Naruto and his buddy Sasuke have to battle fierce opponents in the final round of the Chunin Exam in order to advance to the next ninja rank. They've both had special training, but even that can't prepare them for the surprises that are in store for them when their village's enemies strike. The story keeps getting more and more interesting in this fun and exciting set.
FUNimation gives fans another 12 laugh-out-loud funny episodes of everyone's favorite alien invader in Sgt. Frog Season Two Part Two. Clever, witty, and hilarious, this has show consistently delivered irreverent fast-paced comedy over 50 + episodes so far. It's pretty impressive if you think about it. If you enjoyed the earlier releases, rest assured that the program hasn't jumped the shark. If you haven't seen the earlier sets yet, stop reading this and run out and buy them.
Ever wonder how Lupin and his gang got their start? Lupin the 3rd Episode 0: First Contact answers just that question. In this episode, Lupin aims to steal off with the Clam of Hermes--an impenetrable container that can only be opened with a special key. The Clam of Hermes contains a scroll with instructions on how to manufacture the actual metal that makes up the container. Lupin's heist crosses paths with many future allies and foes in this highly recommended made for television special. If you have never seen Lupin before, you are really missing out on a great anime franchise and this is the perfect jumping in point.
Living for the Day After Tomorrow is a touching age-swapping drama. Karada, a little girl who lives with her big brother, wants nothing more than to become older so she is not such a burden to him. Shoko an adult friend of Karada's brother happens to be with little Karada at the wishing stones when she makes her wish to become older. The wish is actually granted. Karada becomes an adult while Shoko becomes a little girl again. While the story certainly breaks no new ground, it is still a very watchable, slower-paced anime that deals with the characters trying to deal with the ramifications of Karada's wish.
For more anime bargains, please check out the monthly Official- ANIME Bargains! - Thread, updated by yours truly!
Please Note: Product Availability & Prices are Subjected to Change! Updated on 04/26/2010!
by Todd Douglass
Chances are good that many anime and manga fans in the United States will be unfamiliar with Houkago Play. To be quite honest it's a recently released Japanese 4-koma (four-panel manga) and it hasn't been slated for an English release yet (though it's available on mangafox if you're interested). It'll be interesting to see what happens when the book is licensed though, because in Japan it was wildly popular and sold like hotcakes. In fact stores had a difficult time keeping the manga in stock upon its release.
The character's simplistic uniform is sparse with a few creases, two gold buttons, some flourish on her skirt, and a tie being the only standout details. I suppose one could make the argument that this makes her face and big yellow eyes pop more, but compared to the hair and legs, the design feels almost a little too simple. There's still a beauty in it, however, and it does represent the character well (in the manga she's basically dressed in black from top to bottom).
The figure comes displayed in a window box and every little piece of her is enrobed in plastic wrap, which made unboxing all that hair kind of a pain. The packaging is attractive though and fits the manga's artwork and character designs well. Kanojo is also made of PVC plastic and bears an SRP of $79.99, though really you can shop around and find a better price.
by Todd Douglass
The mystery manga series, Spiral: The Bonds of Reasoning, has been out for quite some time now. Originally the book by Kyo Shirodaira and Eita Mizuno ran for 15 volumes between 2000 and 2005 in Japan. In the States the manga's history is a little confounding considering Tokyopop had the license, but let it slide and Yen Press picked it up a couple years later. Along those lines Yen Press is releasing the eleventh volume of the book later this month.
In case you're unfamiliar with Spiral, you're not alone. In all honesty I've only seen the 25 episode anime that was released a few years ago, and I never went back to re-watch it. One thing to consider with that information is that the anime followed only through the sixth volume of the manga.
So with that in mind my history with the series is a little fuzzy, though I'm familiar with the basic premise so it made what transpired in this installment relatively easy enough to figure out. Just keep that in mind, though truly if you've never read the manga before you're not about to jump in with the eleventh volume.
Spiral is a mystery book about a group of people known as the Blade Children. Basically the series follows Ayumu Narumi as he searches for his brother with "Blade Children" being his only clue. These people are apparently cursed, cat-eyed, and missing one rib. Bizarre to the say the least, but these people are considered dangerous in some circles, though looked upon as worth saving in others. There are Hunters who exist to track down and kill them, but in the case of Ayumu he winds up backing them and he's looked upon as the only one who can save them.
In this volume of the book things start out with Ayumu recovering in a hospital after a presumed attack or accident of some kind (as stated I didn't read the previous volumes, so I have no clue what happened). Basically all that happens in this volume is a month worth of Ayumu in the hospital talking to people and trying to figure some things out. He comes to a few conclusions and determines whose pulling the strings and why, but frankly nothing else really happened. I hate to say, but without knowing the plot up to the point just before this much of the dialogue and conversations were lost on me. You'll get much more out of this volume if you've been following the series, as some interesting revelations come through during these talks.
This installment of Spiral features some fantastic character artwork by Eita Mizuno. Faces offered lively expressions, clothing is detailed, and all around the look of the book is very attractive. There's hardly ever a background image though, so many panels look rather bare.
While this particular volume will hold more worth for readers of the manga, Spiral certainly is an interesting series. The anime was quite good and I appreciated the mystery surrounding the Blade Children. The situation Ayumu has been placed in certainly layers on the intrigue, and this volume sees some revelations to that end. It's a slow burn, however, and if you're not in the know then you're going to be totally lost from the get-go.
Clocking in at only two volumes Tokyopop's Mikansei No. 1 won't demand much from your shelf space. The first installment was released here in the latter part of 2009 and today we're looking at the second volume, which hit stores a little over a week ago. In case you're unfamiliar with this particular series, all you really need to know is that it's a shoujo romantic comedy. The book follows most of the genre stereotypes with regards to characters and plotlines, but the setting is more on the unique side.
<I>Mikansei No. 1</I> follows the exploits of a girl named Neo Takigawa who happens to be from the 23rd century. In her time she's considered an outcast due to her love of loud music and flashy clothing. The norm in that particular time period is to conform and not stand out, so naturally that doesn't sit well with her. Through a series of circumstances she finds herself back in the 21st century and winds up joining a band in an effort to live out her dream. To hell with disrupting the timeline!
Neo makes a splash almost immediately and she befriends another musician named Saya Kudou, who also wants to make the big time, so they make a band called Clap=* (that's supposed to be a star by the way). Together they do what they can to get on stage, but that isn't as easy as either of them thought it would be. In the second volume of the manga their time is at hand and they've been hitting the streets trying to get people to come to their concert. Unfortunately things fall through and their venue isn't quite what they thought it would be. As one might expect, however, Neo finds the positive to the situation and looks on the bright side though when Saya announces he's going to leave the country and go back home she reacts in a way she never thought she would. From here a relationship grows between them and the two become closer as they strive to become a hit band.
One of the more interesting things that comes about in this installment is the involvement of people from the 23rd century who are tracking Neo down and trying to bring her back. There are some fun moments with regards to this as we see glimpses of the future as they are looking at the past. Both plotlines come together in a dramatic moment towards the end of this volume and it brings about a fitting, if not somewhat abrupt, conclusion to the series.
<I>Mikansei's</I> second volume by Majiko is attractive and packs a lot of personality onto each page. The book maintains a sketched look and isn't as polished as other efforts, but really I think that makes the artwork stand out more. The characters are cute, the backgrounds are detailed, and all around Majiko's style really speaks for itself. The translation of this installment is solid as well with smooth dialogue and no noticeable errors.
If you saw the first volume of <I>Mikansei No. 1</I>, then you'll definitely want to pick up this second piece to round out the collection. If you're new to the franchise though, you should consider this two-volume affair entertaining, but not exactly the freshest thing out there. The premise is appealing and packs a punch, though the character personalities and development don't break stereotypes. Overall it's entertaining, but not an incredibly memorable manga.
I've been into comic books ever since I was a kid and to this day I have a rather large collection squirreled away in my attic. While I don't read American comics as much as I used to (since I'm more into manga now), I still have a place in my heart for superheroes and caped-crusaders. It's with this in mind that I picked up Tokyopop's latest release, Ratman, and hoooly crap it's awesome!
In so many ways Ratman is a Japanese take on superheroes and it's told in a rather unique way. The manga by Inui Sekihiko (Murder Princess) takes place in a world overrun with superheroes and villains. Heroes tend to keep the crime down, but are also a part of a hero corporation in it for profit. There are hero licenses, they have thief faces plastered on advertisements, and crime has seriously declined. Generally speaking they are looked up to by many, and in the case of high school student Shuto Katsuragi, they are worshiped.
For the longest time Shuto has been obsessed with heroes and his one dream in life is to become on. Prevailing justice, stopping evil-doers, and winning the adoration of the public eye are all things he desires in life. Unfortunately Shuto is a bit of a pipsqueak and suffers from a Napoleon complex. How the heck is he ever going to become a hero if he's so short? Making matters worse is the fact that he's made fun of by his peers, considered to be a geek, and even has to have his butt saved by a girl when some bullies come around.
In the midst of all this Shuto has been pretty oblivious to the world around him that didn't involve superheroes. For instance he's pretty much the only kid in the entire school who the beautiful ice queen named Mizushima talks to or bothers with. It's that friendship, and his love of heroes, that lands Shuto in an interesting situation. You see Mizushima is the younger sister of a scientist who runs a secret Evil Organization known as Jackal. A plot surfaces to kidnap Shuto and transform him into the super-powered Ratman. Due to his short stature, and the fact that the transformation process negates his height, he's the perfect candidate for a secret identity.
Naturally since he loves heroes, Shuto doesn't want anything to do with Jackal, but he winds up being blackmailed into going on a particular mission: to sneak into the Hero Association's headquarters and download all their data. He succeeds in this endeavor, but only with the help of his evil lackeys, the Jackies. Still, Ratman hits the stage with a bang and instantaneously makes enemies with every hero in the city.
After seeing how shallow one of his idols was in the process of this mission, Shuto begins to think that maybe the city's heroes aren't all what they appear to be. He becomes an anti-hero of sorts and tries to do his best to live a double life as a high school student and instrument of Jackal.
In so many ways this first volume of Ratman is a hit. The manga is packed with action, fantastic artwork by Sekihiko, and the book is loaded with personality. Sure Shuto may be a little generic in some respects (short, loud, untidy school uniform), but his first steps into the world of heroes is entertaining in every way. The antics of the Jackies, the superhero action, and a hint of a dark atmosphere come together in some truly inspiring ways. I can't wait for the second installment!
Ever heard of Fruits Basket before? If not, then welcome to the world outside that rock you've been living under for 11 years!
Created by Natsuki Takaya, Fruits Basket was a wildly popular manga that ran for 23 volumes between 1999 and 2006. There was a successful anime that came out in 2001 as well, which obviously only covered a fraction of what the manga did. To say there are fans across the globe for this series would be an understatement, and Fruits Basket Banquet is a way for Takaya to pay homage to them. If for some reason you happen to have been in a coma and truly don't know what Fruits Basket is all about, I'll fill in the blanks.
Basically the whole show follows a high-school student named Tohru Honda, who was recently orphaned and winds up living in a tent somewhere in a forest. She tries to be self-sufficient, but comes into the graces of the Sohmas, who take her in. From here she becomes close friends with Yuki Sohma and other family members Kyo and Shigure. Things get a little weird when Tohru inadvertently embraces one of the boys. It's not just an awkward embrace, but he turns into an animal! It would appear that the Sohma family has been cursed into changing into an animal of the zodiac when held by a member of the opposite sex. Unique, huh? Rather than go into a diatribe of what happens in the series from that point, I'll leave the blanks to be filled in by interested parties. And chances are good if you're reading this review then you're already a part of said membership.
Fruits Basket: Banquet is to the Fruits Basket manga, what supplemental features are to DVD releases. It's extra content done in a way to serve as a companion piece to the original material. It by no means stands on its own feet, and really is something only diehards need to bother picking up. If you're a diehard, take note; You absolutely WILL want to buy this ASAP.
Sure there's nothing epic about this book, but that's really the charm. Banquet Is broken up into sections.
First up is a series of color images presented on glossy pages. They look really sharp and fans will totally dig them. Beyond the artwork there's a snippet of some collectables and a gallery of covers, artwork, etc. The remainder of the book is broken into chapters: A "Best Chapter Contest", a section on writing which features an interview and some creative snippets, a "Best Couples Contest", a "Character Popularity Ranking", and additional interviews, fan art, and some other galleries. To be fair the content is too random to cover completely, and quite honestly I've only seen the anime (not the manga - I know, WTF, right?).
The bottom line is this is a book that Fruits Basket manga fans will adore (haven't I said that already?). If you read every chapter of the manga and want more from Takaya then check it out. If you haven't read the book, then don't bother with this release. It won't mean much to you and the content will spoil material for you, should you happen to decide to go back and read all 23 volumes.
One of the hardest things a manga or anime reviewer can do is join a series that's already well underway and try to make heads or tails of it. Actually, that's pretty hard for anyone to do, but I digress. How the heck am I supposed to write about something when I have absolutely no idea what's going on!? Ladies and gentlemen welcome to One Thousand and One Nights, Volume 10 (That's right. 10.).
This Korean manga (or manhwa if you will) by Han SeungHee and Jeon JinSeok has been out for a few years and it's a series that's obviously well underway. What's the book about? Honestly, it beats the hell out of me. Near as I can tell it's a retelling of Romance of the Three Kingdoms set in the Middle East during the Arabian Nights period. There's some yaoi elements, guys who pretend to be girls, and a lot of political "who are you loyal to" kind of drama. Needless to say, if you haven't read the book up to this point you're going to be about as lost as you've ever been.
Basically there's some guy named Woo Kwan going after Jo Jo (not a Bizarre Adventure reference) and he has a friend named Ryo that is trying to stop him. Some fighting and bloodshed happens, and there's a bit of plot that doesn't make any sense, but in the end Woo rides off into the sunset. Then the story jumps ahead in time and we're introduced to Jafar and his brother Shazaman, who is tied to a rock and left for dead for some crime he committed which is anybody's guess. He's rescued by gypsies, watches a cat in a turban dance, and meets some guy named MacCleod, King of the Franks.
If you can't tell I really don't know what's going on in this book. Without having followed the series from the start, all the nuances in the storyline, relationship details, and character development is lost on me. I read through this manga twice and still couldn't really figure it out. If you've been following the series to this point then I'm sure you'll appreciate the material far, far more than I did, but I can only grade this book based on my experiences and opinion, which stands for this one volume only.
As far as the artwork is concerned I must say that it's quite attractive. The characters are nicely designed (though they all basically look the same) and the world is full of detail. Generally speaking every panel is filled to the brim with background and atmosphere, which is a bit of a rarity. The translation is mostly solid as well, though some of the dialogue felt rather stiff and ill-spoken. It wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it just didn't flow as it could have in some parts.
Overall One Thousand and One Nights is an intriguing story, but it's confusing as all heck for someone who hasn't read any of it. This is a deep plotline with several pieces that string together and characters that all seem to be connected somehow. If you're new to the series you may want to check out the first book to see if it grabs you, and if you've been collecting to this point I'm sure you're not going to stop now. Personally, I just couldn't get into this installment enough to make me interested.
Running between 2005 and 2007 in Japan, Julietta Suzuki's Karakuri Odette hit six volumes before coming to a close. Tokyopop licensed the series a little while ago and today we're looking at the third volume of the manga. Don't know what it's about? Let's fill you in.
Karakuri Odette is a charmer of a series about an android named Odette Yoshizawa. Odette was designed by Professor Yoshizawa and eventually she became self-aware to the point she wanted to know what it was like to be like normal girls. The professor allowed her to go to school to learn what it meant to be human. Along the way another android, Chris Number Seven, showed up and helped to compliment Odette's character. The third volume of Karakuri Odette is set to release next week, though I just so happen to have it sitting right here.
In this installment Odette gets distracted in the first chapter by a missing cat sign. She spends the rest of the chapter looking for the kitty and talks with the cat's owner to get more information. Eventually she comes across the cat, but things don't necessarily work out the way she thought they would. In the end she learns a lot about life, maturity, and how her involvement in things affects others.
The second chapter of this book sees Odette learning about what it means to like and be liked by someone. She sees one of her classmates performing a ritual where they put the name of the person they like on an eraser, and she attempts to do the same. Along the way a kid named Yukimura steps forward and tries to get closer to her. He likes her and he's trying to get noticed by her, though naturally she doesn't quite get the emotion or feeling he's experiencing. The storyline continues on as she struggles with her android body and its need to charge continuously. She's frustrated about a portable charging unit and winds up inadvertently getting closer to Yukimura in the process. As the book continues Odette buys a cute hat, goes on a double date with Asao, and continues to learn what it means to be a teenage girl.
Like the other volumes in the series, this installment features some very attractive artwork by Suzuki. The style feels familiar somehow, but from the first page to the last there's a lot of detail on each page. Backgrounds are a rarity, however, so not every panel is as impressive as they could have been. The script is fine and dialogue is smooth, with Odette's robotic manner of speaking coming through nicely at times.
If you haven't seen Karakuri Odette before then you're missing out on a very cute, charming series. The manga packs in a lot of personality and the atmosphere feels relatively unique, despite the somewhat familiar premise. This volume offers up some very nice slice-of-life chapters involving Odette's quest to become human. There are some nice dramatic notes as well as bits of humor mixed in, so all around the installment feels well-balanced. The series is recommended, and this volume is a no-brainer if you've picked up the others.
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