Tag Archives: single-volume

The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch (Graphic Novel)

Story by Neil Gaiman/Art by Michael Zulli/Lettering & Adaptation by Todd Klein

My rating: 4.5 of 5

WARNING: Mature Audience/Partial Nudity

Our narrator invites to listen to his tale of a most unusual evening, one he might not have believed himself had he not experienced it himself. A couple of his friends convinced him to come along and help them entertain an out-of-town guest who shall, for purposes of his story, be called Miss Finch–a strange woman to be sure, a biogeologist with an awkward personality and a great desire to see extinct creatures like Smilodon alive in their natural habitat. As fate would have it, the party winds up in a bizarre underground circus of questionable taste, but fate takes a strange turn when they arrive at an exhibit in which one individual is to have their greatest wish granted . . . and Miss Finch is the one chosen individual.

I first read “The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch” in Gaiman’s Fragile Things as a short story, which I found quite outstanding and memorable. This graphic novel adaptation is also quite intriguing, staying close to the spirit of the original short story. It’s this strange blend of magical realism and an almost macabre oddness that gets under the skin somehow. Typical Gaiman, that, I suppose–his stories have a way of being unsettling but brilliant in ways I didn’t even know stories could be. Zulli’s art is just perfect for the story, bringing together that darkness and unsettledness and all the totally out there aspects of the circus in a way that fits and ties everything together. I love the departure from a typical comic-book style; it’s more neutral tones and semi-realistic styles that work really well for this story (and are much more what I prefer in general). I would definitely read more of this artist’s works (and am pleased to see that he appears to have illustrated a few other Gaiman graphic novels!). I think for those who enjoy Gaiman’s work or who are looking for a different but quality graphic novel, The Facts in the Case of the Disappearance of Miss Finch would be a great choice.

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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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Colorful Line

カラフルライン [Colorful Line]Mangaka:  Kei Ichikawa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tomoki and Shousuke have been friends ever since they met in school. Tomoki–constantly bubbling over with energy and emotion–falls for every girl who shows an interest in him . . . and comes crying to Shou-chan when the relationship inevitably falls apart. Honestly, the one relationship he’s consistent in is his friendship with Shou-chan. To complicate matters, Shousuke likes Tomoki as more than a friend, which makes seeing him cycle through an endless stream of girls even harder. But still, determined to at least maintain their friendship, Shousuke stubbornly refuses to acknowledge his own feelings until one night when they’ve drank a little too much (to soothe Tomoki after being dumped again, naturally), things are said and done that will change their relationship forever. The question is, is Shousuke brave enough to deal with the consequences?

For a single-volume manga, I though Colorful Line was really cute. It’s shounen ai (you’ve been warned), but it’s more about the beginnings of their relationship, the awkward transition between friendship and love. The art is really nice, a style bridging somewhere between shoujo and josei but emphasizing the attractiveness (and individuality) of the guys. The facial expressions, in particular, are great! That’s largely due to the fact that the two main characters are really interesting. Tomoki’s emotions are seriously all over the place, but he’s remarkably straightforward and true to himself in the midst of all of it–even when he’s being totally blonde. Though the really blonde one is Shou-chan who, despite seeming like the serious, logical one, is astonishingly naive at times. They’re both cute in different ways, and it’s fun to see how their relationship develops over the course of the story. I think the one consistent complaint that I share with other readers is that, because it’s so short, the story can seem a bit rushed, maybe under-developed. It reminds me a bit of Touko Kawai’s manga in that regard–but like Kawai-san’s writing, Colorful Line works well in spite of its brevity. For lovers of cute shounen ai, this is definitely recommended.

Note: Sadly, to my knowledge, there is no official translation of this manga available; however, there are some good fan translations available until some publisher gets around to publishing this in English.

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Shirahime-Syo

Mangaka: CLAMP

It is said that the falling snowflakes are the tears of the snow maidens. But ask a snow maiden, and you might get a different story altogether. In fact, she might tell you stories similar to the ones a young traveler heard when he spoke to a pale, beautiful woman out in the snowy wilderness . . . you might even hear stories to make you weep yourself.

I love the way in which Shirahime-Syo is both very unique for CLAMP and is yet quintessentially theirs. This is a single volume of manga containing three short stories that almost resemble folk tales. This feeling is enhanced by the art style which is, again, both extremely CLAMP and yet different from their norm, evoking a more traditional Japanese painting style. It’s very beautiful, haunting almost. The style fits the stories perfectly. All three tales are of old Japan (or somewhere that looks similar), out in the wilds during the deep snows, and in each story, there is an initial impression  of a man-versus-nature sort of story. Yet somehow in the midst of that, the stories get turned back upon man, showing that we are our own worst problem. The stories are poignant and beautiful, tragically lovely. I’m sure not everyone would enjoy them, but I truly think all readers would benefit from reading Shirahime-Syo at least once; it’s a moving experience.

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Koishite Daddy

Mangaka: Kyo Kitazawa

Warning: Mature Audience/Yaoi

Recently-divorced Jirou Itou and his five-year-old son Rintarou are just moving in to their new apartment when they encounter an unpleasant scene–their new neighbor, gay university student Natsuki Takahashi, in the middle of a rather violent breakup with his boyfriend. Itou is ready to politely ignore that he’s seen anything, but Rin-chan isn’t bound by any such social walls; noticing that Natsuki is injured, Rin insists that they help him. Somehow, in spite of (or perhaps because of) the awkwardness of their first meeting, the three of them hit it off, and Natsuki quickly becomes just like a part of Itou’s family . . . although he never allows himself to expect anything from friendship from Itou. Somehow though, Itou comes to fall for his cute, kind, lonely neighbor who is so good with kids, and the two become lovers. And in spite of the teasing he receives for his unusual family, Rin-chan is in full support of their relationship–he’s happy to see his dad fall in love and adores his new “mom.”

First of all, if you’re under 21 or don’t like yaoi, don’t read this, okay? Koishite Daddy has got to be the most graphically yaoi manga I’ve ever read; it was actually really embarrassing and awkward in those parts. But . . . there are only a few actual scenes of that, and the rest is more adorable shounen-ai. With the added benefit of an even more adorable little kid–Rin is a great character both as just a cute kid and as a developed individual. In a lot of ways, Koishite Daddy is a cute family story about spending time together, working through problems, balancing relationships, and having fun. It also deals with the issues of blending together a family after a divorce, as well as the challenges kids face when their parents/family situation isn’t like that of most of the other children. Besides the awkwardness (which never happens around the kid, by the way), this is a really good story. The art is very nice as well–cute and pretty both, in a pleasant almost-josei kind of way. I think I would recommend Koishite Daddy to any adult who enjoys a cute family/romance story (and who’s also okay with yaoi).

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Solanin

Mangaka: Inio Asano

Discontent with the office job she got just out of college, Meiko Inoue decided to quit her job and live off her savings while she tries to figure out where she fits in the world and what she wants to do with her life. Her boyfriend, Naruo Taneda, is currently living with her and dealing with similar issues. Or rather, he knows exactly what he wants to do–play in a band with his friends–but it’s not that easy to make a living in the music industry. Taneda has been doing part-time graphic design work and generally avoiding the subject of a full-time commitment when an evening out drinking with their old group of friends re-lights the spark for their band. In spite of the uncertainties, they decide to record a demo CD and at least try to debut their band. Not technically part of the band, Meiko still stands firmly alongside them in support of their efforts . . . all the while still trying to decide what to do herself.

Solanin is the first Inio Asano manga that I’ve read, and with it, the mangaka is definitely going on my list of favorites. This manga deals with the challenges–and precious victories–of life at the difficult transitional period between the end of college and being established in a career. Asano-sensei  truly captures the feelings, the confusion, the apathy and lack of direction that bombard people. The story is brought about richly through a small group of brilliantly realized characters. Meiko and her friends are the sort of people you might meet on the street, in the office, at the bar . . . just ordinary young adults. I think that’s what makes them seem so real. And for all they’re ordinariness, they are interesting people. The emotions, relationships, and choices they go through don’t point like a guiding light to show the path we should go . . . but they do touch the heart in a precious way. Asano-sensei’s art adds to the sense of poignant realism with pictures that are sensitive, expressive, realistic, and beautiful. Solanin is a highly recommended manga for audiences in their late teens and older (just do be aware that it’s 16+ for language, sex, etc.).

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Rumic Theater

Mangaka: Rumiko Takahashi

We’re probably all familiar with issues like misjudging someone, hiding a pet in a no-pets-allowed apartment, or hearing an elderly acquaintance speak of past loves and mistakes–either through our own experiences of those of people near us. But I can almost guarantee that you’ve never experienced them on the scale that Takahashi-sensei writes in this wonderful collection of short manga. Whether it’s hiding an important client’s pet penguin, having their front gate mistaken as the garbage dump–by their boss who just moved into the neighborhood–or getting into arguments with her mother-in-law because of household gremlins, Rumic Theater is full of delightful domestic drama that is sure to amuse.

I am a long-standing fan of Takahashi-sensei’s writing, whether it’s a more domestic tale like Maison Ikkoku or a more action-filled tale such as Urusei Yatsura or Inuyasha. Regardless of the style, her manga are filled with sweet romance, poignant angst, and absurd humor, blended to perfection. Pair that with a very characteristic visual style–one that fits her writing wonderfully–and you’ve got an incredible manga. Rumic Theater is unique in that it is a collection of six short stories (many of her tales are epically–and possibly exhaustingly–long); however, it is classic Takahashi and definitely recommended, especially to those who prefer her more domestically-focused writing (as opposed to, say, feudal fantasies or crazy alien stories).

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