Skull Man, Soul Eater, and More Manga Reviews
March 2010 Edition by Todd
Douglass, John Sinnott, and Wen-Tsai
by Todd Douglass, John Sinnott, and Wen-Tsai
Hello and welcome once again to Anime Talk's little corner here at DVDTalk! Exciting things are happening here! Of course we continue to provide reviews of the latest and greatest anime and manga released here in the States, but there's going to be a little shake-up with our staff in the near future. John and I have been all alone tackling the anime world for some time now and let me tell you it's a daunting task to say the least! We have some new reviewers coming aboard to help with the onslaught of anime every month and we're looking forward to introducing them in our next column!
In the meantime let's take a look at what we've got this time around, shall we?
Ever hear of Skull Man before? This old school series actually came about way back in the 70s from none other than Shotaro Ishinomori. He has since passed away, but his concept lives on in a more modern form. This latest incarnation of Skull Man follows the life of a reporter out looking for the mysterious anti-hero. He's convinced it will land him on top of the news world and along the way he gets involved in some things that are over his head. Add to that a cute as a button assistant photographer, ties to his past in his hometown, and complicated murders and you have the makings of a very unique show that sticks with you.
The second To Love-Ru collection has come out from Sentai Filmworks as well. If you missed the first installment then you let one of the best fanservice laden shows in a long time pass you by. This second continues the misadventures of Rito and Lala as they get ever closer to marching down the aisle! What happens in this installment? I'll leave that up for the review to say for itself, but let's just say that the battle between Rito and Lala's father for the title ruler of the universe takes place here. Awesome.
A collection for Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens has recently been released, but we received discs for volumes one and two in the mail. This rather entertaining series from Bandai follows the life of your average school kid who happens to chip out a wood carving of a young girl. As it just so happens the wood is sacred and the carving comes to life in the form of a spirit. They work together to capture other spirits and a romance develops along the way.
Hidamari Sketch is a rather interesting show. Not a lot happens in this animated take on a popular four-panel strip, and yet at the same point stuff does find a way of getting done. Hidamari Sketch is about a group of girls who attend a high school for art. They all live at the same apartment building and become friends, and from then on the show just shows their daily adventures. It's nothing we haven't seen before and fans of slice-of-life anime will appreciate this more than others, but ultimately it's recommended for its charm.
Another recommended show from Sentai Filmworks is the rather unique Glass Mask. This shoujo series centers on the adventures of a young girl struggling to get by in her neighborhood's Chinese restaurant as a delivery girl. She aspires for bigger things though and has her heads in the cloud regarding acting and theater. She eventually gets drawn into the theatrical world and finds that she's living a dream she never thought possible.
Soul Eater Part 1 has finally arrived! This heralded show has been one we've been looking forward to for quite some time and it's great to see FUNimation taking the lead on it! Soul Eater takes place in the modern world, but sees Death running an academy for Weapon Meisters. These students have to run around and collect souls in order to graduate to the next level, but in all fairness the show is much more than that. It's badass from the start and the characters really stand out. The first set is highly recommended and leaves you dying for the next installment as soon as you can get your hands on it!
FUNimation's support of Blu-ray is awesome. Anime just looks better in 1080p and though it's not 100% perfect, Heroic Age is a damn fine piece of entertainment. This operatic science fiction piece features humanity on the brink of destruction at the hands of hostile alien species. All that stands between them and the bottom of the drain they've been circling is a young guy named Age, who happens to bear an incredible power. Packed with action and loads of exposition, Heroic Age is a very entertaining series that stands out in many ways.
The Z-Fighters are on the planet Namek facing their greatest challege yet, the Ginyu Force, in FUNimation's Dragon Box Two. While I usually don't like double dips (how many times has DBZ been released??) this new collection is definitely worth it. This is the definitive release of a series that turned many people on to anime and manga, including many current manga artists. A frame-by-frame restoration was performed on the image (which is presented with its original aspect ratio) and the episodes being uncut, this is the version that many DBZ fans have been waiting for. If you're a fan of the show, sell your old copies and pick this up.
The lives of both Nana Komatsu and Nana Osaki get turned upside down in Nana Set Three from Viz. Just as things start looking up for both of the young women everything comes crumbling down. This is the most emotional and heartbreaking segment of this magnificent story, and it'll leave viewers yearning for the next collection's release date to arrive.
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 02/21/2010!
by Todd Douglass
Alice in the Country of Hearts was written by QuinRose and illustrated by Soumei Hoshino. The back of the book offers up the following description:
"Wonderland is officially at war! And Alice is trapped in the middle of it all. Will she make it out alive? A little arrogant, stubborn, and determined to get back home, Alice isn't fazed by these challenges...until she discovers that every man is gun crazy and weirdly in love with her. What's going on in Wonderland?!"
Quite honestly the description does a decent enough job of loosely filling you in on what's going on here. As one might expect there's much more to the story than meets the eye and exploring the book through Alice's perspective is much more engaging than one would think.
It all begins with Alice taking a nap in the yard only to be interrupted by her sister. There's talk about games, cards, and a book that's both a fairy tale and novel. Soon enough Alice falls back asleep only to be scooped up by a tall gentleman with rabbit ears named Peter White. Peter carries Alice to a giant chasm nearby and jumps in, essentially kidnapping her. Upon landing he forces Alice to take some "medicine" which is basically something that keeps her in this Wonderland until her game is complete. What's her game you may ask? Well, basically she has to refill the bottle by making friends with people all around the land and she can't leave until the vial is full once again. Weird, I know, but just go with it.
Shortly after arriving in Wonderland she stumbles upon the Hatter's mansion and is greeted by his guards, Dee and Dum. Narrowly escaping the encounter Alice roams the land in search of anyone who could help her and comes across a Clocktower run by a guy named Julius. He explains that Wonderland is in the midst of a three-part war. The Hatter's realm, the Queen of Heart's kingdom, and an amusement park land run by some guy named Mary Gowland are all at odds with each other. Heading into these territories is dangerous for anyone, let alone an outsider like Alice. Despite this, as the story moves forward Alice finds herself meeting people from all three lands and eventually coming to know their dignitaries.
Alice in the Country of Hearts has so much more to offer than just watching Alice wander around and meet people. The line of reality begins to blur as Alice comes to the realization that she must be dreaming, and yet somehow she can fall asleep inside her own dream. Adding to that is the fact that as part of her game, and her desire, everyone in Wonderland must fall in love with her. Faces begin to look familiar to her and the whole thing feels like an exploration of her subconscious. It's delightfully twisted in many ways and is really quite engaging in this first volume.
One thing to take away from reading this introductory installment of Alice in the Country of Hearts is just how gorgeous the book is. Hoshino's art style is certainly dynamic in every way. From the backgrounds to characters the designs are gorgeous and everything stands out. Alice, Hatter, Peter, the Queen of Hearts, and even Dee and Dum are all sharp looking and somehow different than you'd expect. The translation is decent though there were some typos in the book that stood out, as well as other pieces of conversation that didn't seem quite right.
If you're looking for a new manga to sink your teeth into and you like the story of Alice in Wonderland, then Alice in the Country of Hearts will be your new favorite book. It's intriguing, entertaining, and mysterious all at the same time. It reinvents a classic with new energy, and that's something that's tough to do. Bring on the second volume!
Originally released in 2007 in Japan and ongoing with six installments already, Deadman Wonderland is the brainchild of Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou (Eureka Seven). The manga has been doing well and in all honesty it's probably only a matter of time until there's an animation produced. Until that happens, however, the franchise has found its way into Tokyopop's hands and recently the first installment has been released.
Deadman Wonderland takes place a short distance into the future where a massive earthquake has hit Tokyo and submerged more than 70% of it. In the aftermath there was a whole lot of destruction and lives lost. Despite this dark time there were some survivors as well, and this book follows the life of a teenager named Ganta, whose life is once again about to be turned upside down.
At the beginning of the book Ganta seems to be a normal high school student. He's sitting in class talking with his friends about an upcoming field trip, but that's when things take a turn for the worst. He spots a floating red being outside the window and soon the man attacks the classroom, slaughtering everyone except for Ganta. In his case the red man impales Ganta with a red crystal. Naturally Ganta is taken aback by these events, but making matters worse is the fact that the courts have deemed him responsible. They label him a cold-blooded mass-murderer and sentence him to life inside a privately run prison facility named Deadman Wonderland.
Now, for reference, Deadman Wonderland is basically a Disneyland where inmates are the cast members. They entertain the people who come to watch them through various events. It's kind of strange and a hard concept to grasp, but as long as you just go with it in the context of the story it works well enough.
Once Ganta winds up in Deadman Wonderland he quickly learns the rules. If you don't eat a special piece of candy every three days then a collar around your neck will kill you. You need a form of currency known as CP in order to live, eat, and buy things. You also don't want to piss off the guards unless you want to end your stay the quick way. In between all of this he meets other fascinating characters such as the mysterious Shino, who appears to be a girl from his past, a fellow inmate named Azami, and a person who seems to be up to no good named Yo.
As fascinating as all of this is, the biggest draw for Deadman Wonderland is the red man known as the Original Sin. He's greatly powerful and connected to Ganta in some way. In fact it would seem that some of his powers have been bestowed upon Ganta. What purpose this will play out in the future isn't really revealed in this installment, but I'm sure it's something that will be explored in the coming installments.
With all of that set up in place Deadman Wonderland's first volume certainly takes a lot of out of you. It's an exhausting read in some respects and by the end all you'll have is a head full of questions, rather than answers of any kind. It's not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, though I can't help but feel lost in the shuffle somehow. Hopefully that feeling will change in the coming volumes.
As far as how this book is presented, all I can say is the artwork by Kondou is as stunning as one would expect. Every character looks great and is attractively designed. Deadman Wonderland's unique looks truly stand out and all around there's a great sense of action and emotion in each panel. The translation of this book is handled pretty well and all around the quality stands up to scrutiny. At the back of this book there are also a couple pages of four-panel comedic pieces from the Deadman Wonderland universe as well as a preview for Hanako and the Terror of Allegory.
From the first page to the last Deadman Wonderland is a book with a lot of promise. It's an entertaining read, packed with action, and there's enough mystery to keep you strung along. I'm not 100% sold on the franchise from this first book, but it's certainly done well enough to keep me tuned in to see how things shape up in the future. If you're looking for a dark series with a bunch of action then this release may be right up your alley!
I've read through a lot of manga in my time, but Sakae Esuno's Hanako and the Terror of Allegory is undoubtedly one of the most bizarrely named manga titles I've ever seen. Despite that, this first volume from Tokyopop is actually quite entertaining and engaging. Anyone interested in horror manga should definitely consider this title when looking for a new book.
Hanako and the Terror of Allegory takes place in modern day Japan and focuses on a detective named Daisuke Aso, who was a police officer back in the day. Aso doesn't investigate normal crimes though. I mean, he would like to, but more often than not he's drawn into cases involving his specialty, Allegories. In the context of this manga an Allegory is the physical manifestation of a person's compulsive belief in an urban legend. Basically the book is saying that if someone fears something strongly enough, it can come true. Just think about that next time you're afraid the boogeyman is hiding in your closet.
At the start of the book a young woman named Kanae Hiranuma hears about Aso's unique field and goes to see him about something that's been bugging her. She heard a story about a man with an axe hiding beneath a woman's bed, and lo and behold suddenly she has a guy under her bed. He's rumored to only come out when you fall asleep and Kanae has been forcing herself to stay awake due to that fact. Aso reluctantly takes the case, but he does so only at the prodding of his partner, Hanako. To make the first chapter short I'll just tell you that Kanae was indeed suffering from an Allegory and Aso and Hanako arrive in just the nick of time to rescue her. In the aftermath of this event Kanae is compelled to join them in their efforts to help others like her.
The other two storylines in this book follow other Japanese urban myths as well. For instance there is a tale about a slit-mouthed woman and one about fish with human faces. Both stories are told from a rather unique perspective and how Aso, Hanako, and Kanae react to each situation is quite engaging. As fascinating as each of these respective stories is, though, I have to say the biggest draw for me was the mystique involving the characters themselves.
Let it be said that Kanae is the only "normal" person in this trio. It's through her point of view that we see, and learn, many things about Aso and Hanako. For instance one of the first things Kanae notices about Aso is his peculiar fetish for having pornographic reading material lying around the office. We soon discover that it's mostly for Hanako, but Aso enjoys it as well. Some amusing bits come from this, but it still isn't the most interesting piece.
Hanako and Aso are both Allegories themselves. In the case of Hanako she embodies the urban legend of a girl who can travel from bathroom to bathroom, which explains why she keeps herself locked in the laboratory all the time. She's almost always securely fastened to a toilet seat, but she's able to roam about just fine otherwise. Aso, however, is something entirely different. Any time he's near an Allegory he begins to hiccup. He suffers from the urban legend that if you hiccup 100 times in a row you'll die, so naturally he has to limit his exposure. He also contains powers of another nature entirely. These are touched upon briefly here and there, but nothing is really fully explained. What he is exactly remains a mystery and that's enough of a hook to keep me tuned in for the next installment.
Hanako and the Terror of Allegory is drawn beautifully by Esuno. The characters are simplistic looking, but there's enough detail in their expression and the world around them to draw readers in. Add to that a solid translation job by Satsuki Yamashita and you have an attractive and enjoyable English version of a peculiar manga. It's a unique combination that will endear itself to many.
While it never quite reaches levels to qualify as horror of a fearful nature, Hanako and the Terror of Allegory is downright creepy at times. Esuno adeptly draws viewers in and crafts each story in such a manner to keep you guessing what's going to happen from panel to panel. This first volume is a quality piece of work and was a great read. The second installment can't come soon enough and if you're in the market for a new manga series you should consider this one highly recommended!
Originally released in Japan in 2004, Haru Hana was a three volume manga written and drawn by Yuana Kazumi. Tokyopop snagged the rights to the book and released all three volumes as a complete collection here in the States. Resting firmly within the shoujo genre Haru Hana is a charming book with a lively cast and entertaining premise. If you have an appreciation for shoujo then chances are very good you'll dig this series.
Haru Hana opens up and introduces us to Hana Yamada from Osaka. She's a new transfer student at a school in Tokyo and she arrives hoping to overcome her rather bizarre condition. Back home any time she touched a boy she broke out in hives. The only remedy for this was an immediate dose of green tea. Apparently Hana thought there would be no boys in Tokyo, or at least none that would cause her to break out in hives. Boy was she wrong!
The first day of school doesn't go exactly as planned and she meets some interesting and shady characters. No characters in the manga are quite so shady as her sister though. Early on she announces that she found Hana a job, but little does our leading lady know that she's basically been sold into slavery. It would appear that in order to pay off her debts, her sister promised a particular business that she'd find somebody to work it off for her. Soon enough Hana finds herself in the non-paying employ of a relaxation room. What's a relaxation room you might ask? Well, it's basically a place where (mostly) female patrons go to have their bodies and souls massaged by a touching and tragic youth named Haru.
From the get-go Haru rubs Hana the wrong way. He continuously torments her and seems to get a kick of making her break out into hives. His boss (who is flamboyantly gay one might add) tries to help Hana out, but since he's smitten with Haru that doesn't work very much. Eventually Hana learns more about Haru and they form a friendship and working relationship. Soon the combination of Haru's skills at massage and empathy, and Hana's soothing violin talent, take over the business. The shopkeeper renames it Haru-Hana and from there the book really takes off.
A host of other characters are introduced from a violin teacher for Hana and prospective love interest for Haru. Throughout it all the book largely focuses on the relationship of its two main characters though. Haru struggles to recall a past he's forgotten and Hana tries to overcome her hive breakouts, which eventually dissipate aside from her contact with Haru. It soon comes to light that Hana's condition is indicative of her feelings towards Haru, though that is rather predictable I might add. From here on the book is all about their relationship and the feelings they develop for each other. It's rather standard, and a bit predictable, but there's plenty of charm here.
Haru Hana is a solid looking book with some great artwork. Kazumi's art style is both dynamic and attractive with lots of detail in both the characters and background. The translation of this book is solid as well, though there were a few lines of conversation that just didn't seem to flow as well as they should have. Overall this manga is wonderfully produced and presented. If you love shoujo manga then Haru Hana from Tokyopop is certainly one that's worth checking out. It's entertaining from start to finish and leaves you satisfied in the end. The characters stand out more than the story, but that's often the case with books based on relationships. Consider the book recommended if you like the genre, but it's not something that's widely entertaining.
What do you think about the column? Like what you see? Don't
like it? Have a comment or suggestion? Drop us an e-mail
and let us know!
Crunchy Roll, Lupin, and Bunny Drop
Anime Talk Returns!
One Piece and DBZ on Blu