Tag Archives: manga

Captive Hearts (manga)

Mangaka: Matsuri Hino/Translator: Andria Cheng

Status: Complete (5 volumes)

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Megumi Kuroishi has been living the unconcerned life of a rich boy in the mansion bequeathed to his father when the masters of the house, the Kogami family, disappeared somewhere in China when Megumi was just a little boy. But his life is turned upside down when it is discovered that the young heiress Suzuki, the Kogamis’ daughter, survived and has been found–and is returning to the house in Japan. Because there’s something Megumi’s father has neglected to mention to him . . . the entire Kuroishi family has been cursed ages ago by the Dragon God to always serve the Kogami family. Let’s just say that he finds out most awkwardly, finding himself strangely drawn to Suzuka and going into weird, protective “manservant fits” if he looks into her eyes too long. Awkward for everyone concerned, especially since Suzuka is not the “young mistress” sort, having lived as a commoner in China for most of her life. As the two spend more time together, however, they are drawn to ask–is there something more than an ancient curse going on between the two of them? Because it sure seems like they’re falling in love.

Here in Captive Hearts we have the very first serialized manga by the author of the esteemed Vampire Knight. And yeah, it’s pretty obvious that this is a first manga. It’s relatively unplanned feeling, and the art goes through some pretty massive changes (improvements) over the course of the series. Having said that, it’s also pretty obviously the work of Hino-sensei, and if you like her work, there really is a lot to appreciate here. The art, while still developing, is still her distinctive style, and by the end of the series, it’s actually quite pretty. She does a great job of playing with themes in the chapter covers and manages to craft a style for the panels themselves that fits the shoujo yet goofy style of the story. And that’s where this story is so unique and likely to produce either a love or a hate reaction in its readers. Because it’s distinctly a shoujo romance story–fate, forbidden love, master/servant relationship, unlikely heroine, the whole gamut. But at the same time, even the mangaka acknowledges that it’s a silly story. It was really intended as a one-shot to begin with, so the whole premise is pretty absurd. And while you do get some solid character and plot development (including some nice flashbacks to the whole Dragon God story), the unlikeliness and silliness do continue firmly throughout the story. But it’s a comedic romance, so it kind of works. I enjoy the story, in any case. I would mostly recommend Captive Hearts to those who enjoy comedy/romance shoujo stories or Hino-sensei’s works in particular. (Although again, in some ways this is pretty different from Vampire Knight. More similar to Meru Puri, although even that has a lot more maturity to the writing.)

Note: It’s notable that the Shojo Beat physical copies of this manga also include several interesting one-shots of Hino’s, mostly, again, cute romance stories.

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The Betrayal Knows My Name (manga)

Mangaka: Hotaru Odagiri/Translator: Melissa Tanaka

Status: Ongoing (7 volumes, although the first 5 are 2-volume omnibus editions, so really more like 12 volumes)

My rating: 5 of 5

Growing up in an orphanage, believing his parents didn’t want him, Yuki struggles to find meaning in his existence. Yet even in the midst of his pain, he brings kindness and healing to those around him, perhaps even more so as he begins to develop the ability to see a person’s emotions and past when he comes into physical contact with them . . . although not everyone takes his kind intentions well. But as Yuki’s strange ability grows stronger and other odd things being to happen around him, he encounters a beautiful, silver-eyed man calling himself Zess who seems oddly familiar. Then another beautiful man comes to the orphanage claiming to be Yuki’s long-lost older brother. Not only that, but Yuki actually has a large extended family, all of whom are delighted to meet him, and Zess is somehow connected to them all as well. But all is not well for this family as they find themselves trapped in a centuries long war against dark and evil forces, being endlessly reincarnated to fight over and over again. And Yuki himself is a pivotal figure in this was, the reincarnation of their princess, bringing healing and hope to them all . . . if only he could figure out why he doesn’t remember anything about his previous lives. All he wants to do is bring an end to this war and to the hurt felt by these people he has quickly come to love.

Love this manga soooo much! If you can imagine a mashup of Fruits Basket and Black Butler, you probably have a pretty good idea of what The Betrayal Knows My Name is like. You’ve got the gorgeous art (and people), demon contracts, and mystery/fight aspects that you find in Kuroshitsuji. Then you’ve got the super air-headed and kind MC, the oversized cast, the reincarnation aspect, and the dark family history themes that you find in Furuba. Not necessarily an expected combination, but it works. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking and mysterious–but there’s a nice mix of cutesy slice-of-life segments filled with sweetness and humor as well. The cast is huuuuge, so it is admittedly hard to keep track of everyone at first, but as you get to know the characters, they become not only unmistakable but beloved. It’s rare for me to find a story in which I love so many of the characters so very much, which is one of the primary reasons that I give this a full five-star rating. As for the plot, there’s currently a lot of mystery and unknowns that could go in a lot of directions, so I’m curious to see whether it ends up some huge shounen-style fight or a hug-it-out shoujo conclusion or something else altogether. (I’m hankering for a very sappily sweet shoujo ending myself, but I’ll be thrilled just to see this story finished, whatever the conclusion. It’s been on hiatus for 4 years, and I had given up hope that it would every be continued. Soooo . . . happy dance that the mangaka has picked this series up again!) Fair warning that the mangaka is fairly well known for writing yaoi stories, but also firm clarification that this particular manga is not yaoi at all–it sits on the verge between shoujo and josei with aspects of shounen and a mild shounen ai flavor, but it never goes beyond that. So honestly, The Betrayal Knows My Name is generally appropriate–and highly recommended–for any T+ audience. Love it and looking forward to reading the rest!

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Double Deal Alert: Fairy Tail Humble Bundle & Steam Summer Sale

So I know I’ve been posting waaaay too many deal notices and not nearly enough actual content, but . . . these were too good to pass up. I promise, I’m working on an actual post, just as soon as my heart stops bleeding enough to actually form coherent sentences. (I just finished re-watching BBC’s Merlin, and wow, but ouch!)

Anyhow, Humble Bundle has an amazing manga bundle available right now–tons and tons of Fairy Tail stuff. If you haven’t checked out Hiro Mashima’s incredible manga series yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a fun shounen series full of lots of feels. The bundle includes the manga through volume 45 as well as several side stories like Blue Mistral and Ice Trail . . . and some swimsuit edition sort of stuff if you’re into that kind of thing. Yeah. Anyhoo, well worth it just for the main manga alone. You can find this bundle at https://www.humblebundle.com/books/fairy-tail-manga-books-bundle, and it’s good for around 10 days as of when I’m writing this.

On another note, Steam is having their big summer sale, which means lots and lots of games for bargain prices. This sale lasts until July 5th. You can find out more at http://store.steampowered.com/.

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Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (manga)

Mangaka: Naoko Takeuchisailor-moon

Translator: William Flanagan

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Usagi Tsukino is an average middle-school girl–cute, cheerful, and prone to oversleeping. She’s also the reincarnation of an ancient Moon Princess–a Sailor Guardian wielding the power of the Legendary Silver Crystal to protect the world she loves. As she awakens to her powers, Usagi discovers other Sailor Guardians, friends from her past life who join her in the battles she faces. And they will definitely face numerous enemies in battle as those drawn to the power of the Legendary Silver Crystal for their own greedy reasons seek to take it from her.

First off, I must recognize that Sailor Moon has a certain appeal that uniquely comes from growing up with it; I have any number of friends who absolutely adore the story–all of whom first watched it on TV back in middle school. So I have to preface my review by saying that I only just read this manga recently, so I’m coming at the story from a different perspective, acknowledging that there are aspects of it that I’m just not going to appreciate in the same way. Please don’t be offended if you are one of those people who love this manga dearly. I can certainly acknowledge that is a classic–one that anyone who enjoys manga should read at least once–and that it has been highly influential not only on readers but on other mangaka over the years. I found Sailor Moon to be quite a unique story. The genre blend is something I’ve never seen before, at least not in this particular mix. While being essentially a shoujo story (with a strong mahou shojou flair, complete with the instantaneous costume changes and frou frou styles), there is a strong shounen vibe to the story as well. I found this particularly notable in the battles, both with the named attacks in the midst of the battles and with the sequence of each defeated enemy being followed by a stronger enemy. Personally, I found the enemies and their motives to be a bit bland and unoriginal. Although the character designs and the specifics changed, they were all essentially interchangeable otherwise, at least for the most part. On the other hand, the characters of the Sailor Guardians were charming, distinct, and interesting. I think the reason I enjoyed the series as much as I did was that I enjoyed the characters. As for the plot . . . the overarching plot of reincarnation, destined love, everlasting friendship, and all that goes into that was actually quite good. I enjoyed the time-travel plot elements that were thrown in as well. But the repeated fights just weren’t that enjoyable for me. Still, I think Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon is a solid classic manga that is well worth reading at least once, both for the characters and story themselves and to understand the innumerable references to it that pop up elsewhere.

 

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A Girl on the Shore

Mangaka: Inio Asanoa girl on the shore

My rating: 2.5 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience/18+

Koume, a middle-school girl aching from being used and abandoned by the popular Misaki. Keisuke, a middle-school boy whose parents are never home and whose brother committed suicide a while back. The two come together again and again, using each other, seeking something more, something satisfying, something bigger. And while it’s uncertain whether they’ll find what they’re looking for in each other, it’s true that their relationship will change both of them in ways they never expected, although whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen.

I’ve really enjoyed Inio Asano’s manga in the past, particularly the well-loved Solanin. From the back cover and the reviews I’ve seen, I guess I was expecting A Girl on the Shore to be something similar, although of course I expected it to have some more mature content, being rated 18+. I was quite disappointed to find the majority of the book is exactly that: mature content. There are all the elements of a great story present, and in other circumstances with the proper development I could have easily rated those elements a solid 4.5 of 5. Koume and Keisuke are both interesting, complex characters that tell us something about ourselves. Keisuke has all sorts of stuff going on with his parents and his deceased brother that could have been developed more. Koume not only has permissive parents and an unsatisfactory relationship with Misaki, she also has an interesting female friend in her class and an old childhood crush/friend which were all present but needed more development. The whole idea of feeling incomplete and looking for something bigger in life is something I think we all can relate to, something that could have really been developed. And may I just mention, Asano-san’s art is gorgeous and life-life in an amazing way. So why a 2.5 instead of a 4.5? The reason is that all of these amazing aspects of this manga are only sparsely developed, giving way throughout to huge sections of very explicit sexual content between these two kids. Now I realize that they’re having sex and trying to find something important in that relationship is an important part of the story development, but there are reasonable limits, even for an 18+ manga. And for me, A Girl on the Shore crossed those limits, not only because it had too much explicit sexual content but perhaps even more so because it left important story elements relatively undeveloped to make room for that content. Disappointing in the extreme, although you may find it otherwise. I’m sorry to say that I can’t really recommend this manga although I generally love this mangaka’s work.

 

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Cardcaptor Sakura

cardcaptor sakuraMangaka: CLAMP

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Ten-year-old Sakura is basically your average girl–cheerful, fun-loving, bad at math, a little overly prone to sleep too late–but she also has a secret. You see, she has magical powers, and she’s been chosen to retrieve and master all the Clow cards, a set of magical cards that manifest as beings or phenomena in the physical world when released as they were at the death of their former master, Clow. Sakura is aided and guided in her quest to capture all the Clow cards by Kero, one of the guardians of the cards, and all her exploits are costumed and videoed by her best friend Tomoyo. But don’t think for a moment that Sakura spends her whole life devoted to capturing the cards–actually you could probably say she doesn’t devote herself enough. She actually has a busy life full of school, family, friends, and the hope of love. Sakura’s a pretty incredible girl.

I’m probably one of the few people who can say they didn’t grow up watching Cardcaptor Sakura at one point. I actually only discovered the manga after I fell in love with CLAMP’s writing and read several of their other manga; I’ve never watched the anime. I have to say that I really love this manga though. It’s so cheerful, even when it gets dark–and yes, at points it does get dark, especially in the second half. But Sakura’s such an optimistic character that she keeps the story bright throughout. And I love that even though this is technically a mahou-shojou/cardcaptor series, it’s fleshed out to be much more than that. There are numerous enjoyable facets to Sakura’s life that are presented here, as well as a number of really sweet love stories besides her own. This is one area in which I have complaint against the series, however; one of the fourth-grade students has a romantic relationship with one of the teachers, which is a totally CLAMP thing to do and is presented in a sweet and innocent way, but still NOT okay. And that, in addition to some of the complexities of the other relationships, is the primary reason that I can’t see this as a middle-school girl’s manga, even though it’s usually presented that way. It’s cute and sweet and funny, and yes, middle-schoolers would probably love it . . . but still. I do think there is a lot here for older teens and adults to love, though. Like I said, sweet story, great characters, and by the way, incredible art throughout. Absolutely beautiful. So in all, in spite of a few things I’m uncomfortable with in the story, I think Cardcaptor Sakura is an adorable, delightful manga that I would definitely recommend.

Note: I’d recommend getting the Dark Horse omnibus editions if you’re buying this. It’s only 4 volumes that way, and the binding is really nicely done. Plus, there are some incredible color pages included.

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Rust Blaster

Mangaka: Yana TobosoRust Blaster

My rating: 4 of 5

In a world where humans and vampires have forged a working alliance, Millennium Academy is an elite school designed to train vampires (and the odd human–I mean it, he’s odd) to protect the peace. It would seem that Aldred, the headmaster’s son, would be a misfit in a school filled with such skilled vampires who are able to easily control the mystical weapons that are their vampiric heritage. You see, he’s the only vampire in the school who can’t create such a weapon. But Aldred makes up for his lacks with a combination of bluster, determination, leadership, and true friendship that somehow draws others to follow him. And when he encounters Kei, a seemingly emotionless boy who was raised solely to house a legendary mystical weapon, Aldred will find even his extreme optimism challenged as he discovers he is able to wield Kei’s weapon–at the cost of drinking Kei’s blood, which Aldred hates. Not that he has much choice. The world as they know it is ending, and it will take all they can give to stem the tide . . . even if it means changing who they are to protect that which is precious to them.

I’ve been waiting for years, just hoping that Rust Blaster would finally get an English translation–and it’s finally here! As you may recognize, this is the debut manga by Yana Toboso, the creator of the delicious Black Butler. While not as mature as Black Butler (has become), being Toboso’s first manga, Rust Blaster does show a lot of the same trademark qualities that make Toboso’s work extremely popular. The art is gorgeous–lots of bishounen and just generally a very attractive style. You really don’t see the extreme learning curve in the art that you do with a lot of mangaka, which is really nice. And while there are a lot of shounen mores (it would be easy to compare Aldred to, say, Luffy or Naruto it his attitudes at points), the story is actually well-written and interesting. The characters are a bit more stereotypical that I’m used to seeing from Toboso’s writing, but not painfully so–there’s definitely an enjoyable individuality about them that goes beyond the base types that are at their roots. And while this is a vampire fantasy, complete with violence and blood splatters, it’s also a cute/funny school story that has a lot of humor, and the parts with Aldred and Kei almost nudge into a shounen-ai feel at points. Toboso packs a lot of variety into a single 6-chapter manga, but it all works pretty well and is an enjoyable mix. I think I’d recommend Rust Blaster to basically anyone who enjoys manga and doesn’t mind a bit of blood and fantasy violence–but I’d particularly recommend it to fans of Black Butler, since it’s really neat to see the mangaka’s beginnings.

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