Tag Archives: shoujo

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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Whether it Rains or Shines Tomorrow

Author: Madoka Harumi/Tranwhether it rains or shines tomorrowslators: Chelsea Inaba & Yoshino Kazuki

Illustrator: Nacht

My rating: 4 of 5

With her weak body and her inability to stand much sunlight, Itsuko has always stood a bit apart, sitting out of PE and carrying a parasol around to block the sunshine. Certainly, it’s a surprise when one of the most popular boys in her middle school begins showing an interest in her, going so far as to ask her out to the summer festival. Odder still, that it would be Miyano, a boy notorious for only showing up for school when the sun is shining. Talk about opposites! But when Miyano finds a cute little teddy-bear charm by the notice board, Itsuko somehow finds herself dragged along on his mad hunt to find its owner in spite of herself.

Whether it Rains or Shines Tomorrow is such a cute, ordinary sort of story that it’s actually quite delightful in a way. It’s a story about normal, modern-day Japanese kids in a suburban sort of environment just living their daily life, sorting out problems with friends, handling problems, falling in love, and dealing with all those crazy emotions that are just part of life at that age. Itsuko, Miyano, and Itsuko’s friend Mana are all fairly ordinary kids although their personalities are anything but dull. They’re easy to relate to, which is a good thing. The plot is nothing crazy, just a shoujo slice-of-life romance/drama, but it’s cute. It’s nice to see a light novella in a shoujo style; there’s such a preponderance of seinen light novels on the market it seems (which isn’t a bad thing, but variety’s nice). My one complaint is that the whole “sun allergy” thing was a bit weird . . . but it mostly worked pretty well. Whether it Rains or Shines Tomorrow is a cute, short light novella that would be a fun read for readers in middle school and up.

Note: As far as I know, this light novella is currently only available digitally (I’m pretty sure it’s available on iTunes and Google Play). For more great information, see the review at englishlightnovels.com.

 

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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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Tsubasa: Those With Wings

Mangaka: Natsuki TakayaTsubasa those with wings

My rating: 3.5 of 5

As one of the outcast “Nameless” (her society’s term for orphans), Kotobuki has had to make her own way in the world–which she’s done by becoming a fairly skillful thief. The one person who always seems to be able to catch her in the act is an elite member of the military by the name of Raimon. Only Raimon seems completely uninterested in arresting her; he’d rather gaze at her adoringly and maybe offer her a candy bar. Eventually, Kotobuki decides to take the high road and become an upstanding citizen who works for a living . . . if only it were that easy to get a job! Lucky her (?) Raimon decides to quit the military and become her traveling companion, providing when she can’t find work. It’s got to be love (or at least obsession).

As a huge fan of Fruits Basket, I’ve been trying to find more of Takaya-sensei’s manga to try. Tsubasa is one of her earlier works, and it shows in somewhat more cliche plotlines and characters, as well as in a slightly less mature art style. But there are a lot of things about this manga that simply scream Takaya-sensei as well: the deep, dark pasts; the sweet, innocent girl who changes everything; the unexpected romances; the insane obsessions. Really, this is quite an enjoyable shoujo sci-fi manga–best for a bit older audiences, though. Partly because of the nudity and ecchiness at parts; moreso because of characters like Raimon who have really unhealthy motives that would be really bad for younger kids to read about and imitate. I do find it interesting that, although it’s called Tsubasa, the tsubasa don’t actually become a serious focus of the story until about halfway through; until then it’s much more slice-of-life focused on Kotobuki’s job search and her growing relationship with Raimon. But I do have to say that, when they do come in, the tsubasa are one of my favorite parts of the story, especially Rikuro. And, typical of Takaya-sensei, there’s a huge cast of unexpected and interesting characters–including an unlikely gang of thieves who strangely remind me of Team Rocket! All told, I think Tsubasa: Those With Wings is a good manga for people who already like Natsuki Takaya’s writing to try–and bonus, it’s only three volumes long, so it’s a pretty quick read.

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Girl on a Platter

Mangaka: Meca TanakaGirl on a Platter

Alternative Title: Sara no Ue no Kanojo

My rating: 3.5 of 5

On a mountain overlooking a remote village, a dragon god lives in human form, eking out an existence on the small birds his toad-spirit servants can bring to him. Every fifty years, the village sends a human sacrifice up the mountain for him to eat, allowing him the energy to take true dragon form and theoretically bringing prosperity to the village. But this time, the village’s offering is entirely unacceptable–not a plump, properly terrified citizen. No, they send a scrawny, blank-faced orphan girl who’s spent her entire nameless life knowing she would end her life as dragon food. Completely dissatisfied with this turn of events, the dragon refuses to eat her and even allows her to stay with him, naming her Tsubame (“swallow,” hmm?) and choosing to continue living off of the mountain birds. But the foolish villagers are, of course, unwilling to leave matters as they stand. . . .

Meca Tanaka’s manga are usually super cute and sweet shoujo stories. Girl on a Platter is a very interesting–and very short–one shot manga, and yes, in a way it is cute and sweet. But it’s also immensely more dark and disturbing than her usual. And, while many of her stories involve a fantasy element, this is the first that I’ve seen that’s completely removed from normal life, choosing rather to delve into more traditional Asian mythology. It’s interesting, for sure. I actually like the characters–they’re somewhat enigmatic and complex, but they don’t have outstandingly annoying traits and the mystery adds to the intrigue. They’re really pretty too; well, Tanaka-sensei’s art is always gorgeous. I think the biggest negative for this story is just that it’s so short. The ending is extremely open, to the point that it can be confusing, and in general there’s just not enough time to really develop the story. But for all of that, I think it was enjoyable. If you’re interested in a slightly darker shoujo fantasy, and especially if you’re also short on time to read, I think Girl on a Platter would be a good choice to try.

Note: As is sadly the case with many (most) one-shots, this manga does not have an official English translation. However, there are some quite decent fan translations available if you look.

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Millennium Snow

Mangaka: Bisco HatoriMillennium Snow

My rating: 4 of 5

Chiyuki dreams of seeing a thousand years of snowfalls, all the while knowing that she’ll probably never live to even see her eighteenth because of a congenital heart condition. When she meets eighteen-year-old Toya, a handsome vampire whose bite would give her a thousand years of life by his side, it might seem that Chiyuki has found the ideal solution. The only problem is that Toya is too nice to doom anyone to living that long–and that he hides that niceness under a bristly, snappy exterior. Add to the mix happy-go-lucky, flirtatious werewolf Satsuki and impudent bat-servant Yamimaru, and mayhem, conflict, and all-around fun are bound to follow.

For being Hatori’s first serialized work, Millennium Snow is quite nice. I know some of the plot elements sound like a Twilight rip-off, but the two stories are actually quite different. The outstanding feature of Millennium Snow is the characters: Toya’s almost-tsundere-ness is charming, and the Chiyuki-Yamimaru pair’s impudently picking on him is hilarious. Personally, I’m a big fan of Satsuki, probably because he reminds me a lot of Tamaki from Hostbu. I think this manga is significant in that it experienced a 10-year hiatus between the first two volumes and the final two. The art style of the first two volumes is very similar to the earlier sections of Hostbu–a little immature, but pretty, expressive, and very Hatori-san. As for the final two volumes, I think the manga has benefited from the time and experienced gained from Hatori’s work on Hostbu, although there’s a definite style-gap between the new volumes and the first two. It’s cool though to see these great characters in Hatori’s pretty, updated style. I think the story and characters are consistent across the volumes enough to carry it even if the art is definitely changed. Definitely recommended, although I might recommend reading some of Hatori-san’s other works first.

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Petshop of Horrors

Petshop of HorrorsMangaka: Matsuri Akino

My rating: 4 of 5

Deep in the heart of Los Angeles’ Chinatown is a petshop, run by an enigmatic individual calling himself simply “Count D”. But this is no ordinary petshop. It is rumored that you can get any creature imaginable there: normal pets, illegal imports, even creatures believed by most to have never existed. Stranger still, for some buyers, their pets appear to have human form–but only sometimes or to certain people. Regardless, the pet and the buyer are always perfect for each other, specifically chosen to suit each others’ needs, or D won’t sell. Furthermore, each sale comes with a specific contract . . . one that must be followed carefully, or horrific results may ensue. Following the trail of some of these horrific results back to Count D’s petshop, detective Leon Orcot is determined to put D behind bars–if he doesn’t end up becoming fast friends with him first. Bother that mysterious count and his innocent-seeming charm!

I think Petshop of Horrors is a manga that delivers a lot more than it promises. At first glance it seems like, well, a horror manga. And it can be that at times; there are certainly episodes that involve super-creepy circumstances and lots of blood and gore. But as the story progresses, it becomes more and more about character and story development, even though the chapters are still episodic, each chapter featuring a different buyer and a different creature. The plot is interesting but mysterious–it seems like you’re going to find out more than you actually do in the end, and I really like that about this manga. I hate it when stories try to explain too much and end up with some super-lame explanation; it’s much better to leave a lingering sense of mystery, and Petshop of Horrors does that exquisitely. I honestly feel that the biggest draw of this manga isn’t the horror or the weird creatures at all; rather, it’s the development of the characters. Seriously, D has got to be one of the most enigmatic individuals ever–he reminds me a lot of xxxHOLiC‘s Yuuko Ichihara–and also one of the most complex people. I think one side of his character that’s particularly fascinating is the fact that he doesn’t see from quite a normal human perspective–if in doubt, he sides with the animals, for sure. Mixing D’s unusual character in with that of detective Orcot is sheer brilliance, Orcot being the upright, bright, American sort of guy he is. One facet I found unusual and interesting is that this manga is set in the U.S. . . . convincingly! I’ve read other manga with small sections set in the States, but they always feel extremely artificial and unresearched–at least to an American reader.  This one doesn’t stray too far in weird directions, but is convincing (other than the fact that there’s a lot of weird fantasy thrown in with the petshop itself). On the whole, for older teen and up readers (because seriously, language and horror are definitely present here), I would definitely recommend Petshop of Horrors as a fascinating, unique, and beautiful manga.

 

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