Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Kabuki vol. 1 - Flower by Yukari Hashida review

Kabuki vol. 1 - Flower

Author/Artist: Yukari Hashida

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – for ages 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Comedy, Romance

Grade: A-

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

Death will never separate these lovers.

Kounosuke is the young master of Kiyonari Castle during the Tenshou Era (between 1573-1592 AD – thanks to the manga for publishing those dates). He has a young page named Kageya. During a siege the castle had been breached and the enemy was making its way to where Kounosuke and Kageya had retreated. Knowing that there was no option but death the two lovers swore to one another that they would search for each other in the next life. The next thing you know Kounosuke is lying in a modern hospital bed. He is utterly confused. Where on earth is Kounosuke?

There was a fire at young master Kounosuke's mansion. It seems that Kageya has gotten fatter and balder and Kounosuke is in the body of a 17-year-old. Kounosuke is suffering from amnesia. Yet the man at his side says he's Kageya. He isn't Kounosuke's Kageya. Since the mansion is going to have to be cleaned up and repairs made Kageya takes him to his home. While there he meets another Kageya, Gorou Kageya. This Kageya is younger and looks a little more like Kounosuke's Kageya, yet he's still quite a bit older than the current Kounosuke. Kounosuke feels that Gorou Kageya is his. But a third Kageya comes into the picture, Shirou Kageya. Oy! That's a lot of Kageyas. Which one is Kounosuke's Kageya?

Once the Kageya mess is straightened out (we were all hoping it was Shirou) it's time for Kounosuke to get back to his normal routine, with one exception. Kounosuke doesn't remember anything about his life before his accident. He just remembers the time during the Tenshou Era. It's all very frustrating to Kounosuke. Not only can he not remember anything but he's in high school and Shirou is an adult.

I'm sorry if I confused you with the above synopsis of Kabuki vol. 1. This is a pretty complicated story to describe. You switch between past and present for the first two parts of the first chapter. But it does that to establish the eternal feel of the story. Besides anytime you have backstory it takes some time to lay it all down. When I first started reading Kabuki I had to read the first chapter twice just to get basics of the story down. Once I got a grasp on the whole thing it finally all made sense.

I know I've said in previous reviews that I would judge a book based on the cover (and not be impressed by said cover) and then be pleasantly surprised when I made the plunge (ie: Yugi Yamada, Makoto Tateno, Shiuko Kano, Hyouta Fujiyama, and Momoko Tenzen are just a few). Yukari Hashida-sensei belongs on this list. Seeing the covers I wasn't terribly impressed by the art. I had no desire to read this book and was thinking in the back of my mind that if I didn't get a review copy of Kabuki I wouldn't be missing anything. I was also judging this book by my opinion on the cover of Waru, another Hashida-sensei title published by Juné. Man, was I wrong in my opinions! I may not be a fan of the cover, but the book was amazing. You'd think that this book would be some deep philosophical read but it's actually got a great amount of humor between those two covers. Hashida-sensei's art has a real ethereal quality to it. Her chibi renderings are just what they are supposed to be. Also the characters are drawn so expressively. You can tell what they are thinking just by looking at them. My only complaint is all her semes look alike and seem to share the same hairstyle and all her ukes look similar and have the same hairdo as well.

Because of Kabuki vol. 1 I made the venture to Waru and I now want more Yukari Hashida available here in the states. For those diamonds in the rough, Juné sure knows how to polish them up and present them in all their stunning glory. I love to read amazing titles in the larger size. I love to show off amazing titles in the larger size. The dust jacket makes it that much more beautiful. Hashida-sensei's work falls into this category.

I look forward to the rest of the series. I know that there are currently four volumes, and volume two comes out in December. Don’t let the cover scare you off like it did initially for me. I was so pleasantly surprised that I'm really kicking myself now. Why did it take me so long to cross over to Yukari Hashida-sensei's side! If you do anything after reading this review, it better be picking up a copy of Kabuki vol. 1!

Passionate Theory by Ayumi Kano review

Passionate Theory

Author/Artist: Ayumi Kano

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA – ages 16 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, School Life

Grade: C

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

Midori Komasawa wants to study overseas. He is passionate about math. Midori failed to tell his best friend Arie Kanoh about going overseas. It seems that Kanoh has deeper feelings for Midori than just friendship. But there seems to be a rival on the scene for Midori's feelings. Gin Hanabusa is Midori's cousin, a math teacher at Midori and Kanoh's school, and Kanoh's former math tutor. Kanoh knows first hand how Hanabusa feels about Midori (at least he thinks he knows). Here begins our bizarre love triangle of math.

Midori's parents were killed in an accident when he was younger and was raised by his aunt and uncle, Hanabusa's parents. Kanoh learned about Midori through Hanabusa. Hanabusa would tell stories about Midori to Kanoh. Kanoh could tell how much Hanabusa cared for his cousin. Soon Kanoh and Midori, thanks to Hanabusa, became good friends. But the friendship is now strained. Kanoh has fallen for Midori and he has seen how much Midori cares for Hanabusa. Kanoh decided to start pulling away from Midori, starting with pulling out of the math electives. Both Midori and Hanabusa are hurt. Who loves whom?

Passionate Theory is about as exciting as proving Geometry theorems. Initially I thought the idea of using math as part of your story was unique, but this follows the yaoi manga formula a little too closely. We have the typical love triangle, one of the main character's parents getting killed and being raised by aunts and uncles, falling in love with your best friend, and the possible attraction between cousins. Ugh! I really wanted to like Passionate Theory, but I found it to be more than somewhat confusing. While reading the inner thoughts of the characters, you have no idea whose mind you are reading.

The only redeeming quality to this manga is the art. Yes, Midori's eyes are unnaturally large, but I guess that's just to show his innocence. Ayumi Kano-sensei's art is simple but still beautiful. The characters each have distinctive looks and it is easy to tell each of them apart. Juné also made it a beautiful product. The larger size, full color dust jacket that actually hugs the book nicely, and higher quality paper make it a nice book. It's also very flexible with out being too flimsy.

It's a toss up. Would I rather do Calculus or Differential Equations instead of reading Passionate Theory? Since I'm not a huge fan of math, I'd rather read Passionate Theory. But only for the art.

Lover's Pledge by Kae Maruya review

Lover's Pledge

Author/Artist: Kae Maruya

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, Anthology

Grade: B-

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

Lover's Pledge is another one-shot collection released by Juné. This time around it only contains three different stories.
In Lover's Pledge and Happily Ever After we meet Kazuto. He is known to be quite the party animal, when he gets drunk that is. Not remembering what happened the night before, he woke up in a strange bed next to a strange man, and neither one of them was wearing anything. It turns out that this handsome young man bought Kazuto's time for one month for the amount one million yen. Kazuto is somewhat nervous about this arrangement seeing how he was naked in this guy's bed. When Kazuto finds the one million yen in his bag he intends to return it to Takasugi. After Kazuto and Takasugi meet up, they end up having a good time at the batting cages. But more surprises await Kazuto.

Prescription for a Kiss and Aftereffect of a Kiss is the story of two neighbors Mutsuki and Gaku. While growing up Gaku was kind of a crybaby. So to cheer him up Mutsuki gave him a kiss and said it was a charm to help him cheer up. Now that they’re in high school Gaku has become quite the ladies man, but they are still good friends. After Mutsuki receives a confession from a member of the student council, both Mutsuki and Gaku are confused by their feelings they have for one another.

The final story Too Close for Love is a typical yaoi rendering of the cousins who fall for each other. Fumiya came to live with his cousin Eiji after his parents were killed in a car accident. While they were younger the two got along well and Eiji wanted to protect his cousin and help him toughen up. But it seems that there is more emotion flowing between these two cousins.

Lover's Pledge is one of the better one-shot collections that I've read in this last cycle of manga to review. The last two stories Prescription for a Kiss and Too Close for Love fall under the category of typical yaoi story line. Lover's Pledge on the other had I thoroughly enjoyed. It was a fresh story. But what sets this manga apart is Kae Maruya-sensei's artwork. It is truly breathtaking. The detail is amazing. It is a stunning work of art. I think that is what makes it a better one-shot collection. If it weren't for the beautiful art I don't think I would have enjoyed this manga. I think I'm just a little burned out on one-shot collections (I've only got one more to review, at least this time around).

For the phenomenal manga artists out there Juné is the ideal publisher. They have the larger trim size to show off the amazing art. They are also very flexible to hold and flipping through the pages is a breeze. When dealing with amazing artists you also want to have a book that is beautiful to sit on a shelf. Juné books have beautiful dust jackets and they look great sitting on the bookshelf.

I recommend this volume strictly for the art, and for the first story Lover's Pledge. I hope that we might be able to enjoy more of Maruya-sensei's work in the future.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pathos vol. 2 by Mika Sadahiro review

Pathos vol. 2

Author/Artist: Mika Sadahiro

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Supernatural, Horror, Romance

Grade: A

If you thought that the first volume of Pathos was hot, you ain't seen nothing yet! In the second volume of Pathos there is more blood, sex, and passion. Whew!

Ace is now eighteen and graduated from high school. He has made the decision to become a vampire to become closer to J. King is not too fond of the idea, but J wants to become one with his lover. Once Ace becomes a vampire, he goes overboard. Soon a rivalry breaks out between King and Ace for J's affection. The way the score is settled is King steps into the sunlight, and quickly burns to ashes. J and Ace are taken aback and soon J retreats into a comatose type state, leaving Ace to fend for himself. Will Ace be able to bring J back to the land of the living (metaphorically speaking of course)?

This series is a surprise for me. I love Juné with a passion. One thing I've noticed, they have the tendency to play things safe. After having read both volumes of Pathos, this is a huge step they've taken. Pathos is a dark, bloody, and lustful series. No playing it safe with this title, and I must say "Bravo!" I have never really been into vampires. For someone who loves classic literature I've never read Dracula by Bram Stoker. Nosferatu was one of the most hilarious pieces of film I've ever seen. I couldn't get into Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I've never read the Twilight series. Vampires just don't interest me. Yet Pathos drew me into the world of Ace, J, and King. I found it interesting that once you become a vampire your fangs now take the place for fulfilling your sexual desires. Whether that is vampire lore, or something from Sadahiro-sensei's imagination, it's pretty wild.

Not only was the story riveting but Mika Sadahiro-sensei's art is absolutely stunning. You are able to differentiate between all of the characters. Everything is so lushly drawn and you can tell that sensei has taken great care to illustrate this amazing story. My only complaint is still King's hair. It seriously looks like his hair is channeling Brian May (Queen)/Roger Daltry (the Who)/Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin). It really is quite frightening. Other than that, I have no other complaints.

Not only did Juné make an inspired choice on publishing Pathos, but this book is GORGEOUS! I just about passed out when I saw the cover. J and Ace look so exceptionally hot that I need a to take a cold shower just looking at it. Like the first volume, the second volume is wrapped in a matte dust jacket. It seems to give it a classier, more adult look. Good job Juné!

I wholeheartedly recommend this series, but be aware that this is pretty hardcore stuff. It defintely earns its M rating. Juné made a wise decision with this title. Just remember, remember, remember that this is a very risqué manga. You may not get the sex you have come to expect from yaoi manga but nonetheless it is very sexually charged.

Oh, I almost forgot. I also have a review for Pathos vol. 1 so feel free to check it out if you have the time.

Anime Banzai 2008 Cosplay links

For anyone who is interested in links to cosplay links for Anime Banzai 2008, I found one:


You can check out things there. I would have done a little more digging, but I have a zillion and one books and manga to read and review. Plus, I'm looking for a new job. I just finished proofreading a project through Wapshott Press (I moonlight as a proofer over there from time to time, it's great fun, I love to catch spelling mistakes that I myself didn't make!) I'm just feeling a little overwhelmed right now!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Passion vol. 4 by Shinobu Gotoh and Shoko Takaku review

Passion vol. 4

Author/Artist: Shinobu Gotoh/Shoko Takaku

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M - 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: A

We have reached the final volume of Passion.

After spending the day on the town trying to shop for matching rings, Hikaru invites Shima over to his apartment. Shima is jealous of this Nagisa dude, but we all know that Hikaru only has eyes for Shima.

The day of the culture festival has arrived. Since Shima was in charge this year Hikaru wants to make sure that he is there. Hikaru gets a call from his boss to have him work since no one else seems to be available. Luckily it's just for the morning. At the school, Onoda is anxiously awaiting for Hikaru's arrival. She has plans to confess to him at the festival. While heading down to the school gate she runs into Nagisa. They start to argue and Shima ends up breaking up the fight. Nagisa is quite taken with Shima's beauty and starts hitting on him (he's been hitting on Onoda this whole time). Onoda freaks out and gets Amamiya and Ms. Morikawa involved. Not long after all of this has happened Hikaru makes his grand entrance. You'll have to read this final volume to find out what happens next.

This romantic series has finally come to an end. It truly is an amazing piece of work by Shinobu Gotoh-sensei and Shoko Takaku-sensei. You fall for all of the characters, even someone like Nagisa the villain! I love longer series because you can develop the characters over the length of the series and create them with many traits and shortcomings. You get that with Passion. I know that I've said this in the past but this is a great series to get started with if you haven't ventured into the realm M rated yaoi manga. I repeat, this is a great series to start off with!

With this series you get to see the great storytelling of Gotoh-sensei. I am really impressed by sensei's work and haven't been disappointed yet. Takaku-sensei's art is simple yet complex all at the same time. I know that doesn't make much sense but if you are familiar with sensei's work, you'll know what I mean. I loved this story. It was such a romantic tale. I'm not one who likes syrupy, sugarcoated romance, but I really like Passion. It has enough romance and conflict to make it interesting. Because it's romance you know that they'll live happily ever after, but the characters are flawed. Flaws are what make us more interesting, am I right?

I know I say this all the time, but Juné have made an inspired choice with the release of Passion. It is also done very well. I caught a spelling mistake here and there, but it's not enough to take you out of the story. With the larger trim size and high quality paper that they used for printing, it truly is a marvel to behold.

Good work Juné, this is a title that I'm willing to recommend to anyone. Check it out, if you know what's good for you. Sorry, I don't know why I just channeled my inner yakuza!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Romantic Illusions by Reiichi Hiiro review

Romantic Illusions

Author/Artist: Reiichi Hiiro

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Drama, Romance

Grade: A

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

It can be tough writing a comedic manga when you decide to use a mental illness like multiple personalities as the basis of the story. Does Romantic Illusions succeed? Read on to find out.

Yu Igarashi had to deal with emotional abuse when he was younger. Not only did his mother tell him that no one could ever love him, but she abandoned him leaving him with her sister. In order to deal with the fear of never being loved he created two additional personalities to love him. Kaname is a tough defense lawyer and Ryo is a tough playboy. But they both love Yu. Yu works part-time as a florist. It's here that he meets Sugo. Yu finds himself falling for Sugo, but feeling jealous, Kaname and Ryo try to get in the way. They also don't trust Sugo.

Not only is there the situation with Yu and Sugo, but depending on the time of day one of the personalities is in charge. In the afternoon it's Kaname's turn. He's a high powered lawyer. It's because of this job that keeps Yu/Kaname/Ryo living in comfort. Not only does he have the stress of a big time job but he also tries to keep Yu under control.

Nighttime is Ryo's time. He is a playboy and a tough guy. He comes out when ever Yu is in trouble. He cruises the nightlife picking up on any guy he can. Often times the guys that Ryo brings home, Yu wakes up to the next morning. Ryo also is responsible for the tattoos that decorate Yu's body.

Will romance be able to bloom between Sugo and Yu? And how will this relationship handle the ups and downs of multiple personalities?

Who knew that a manga about a character with multiple personality disorder could be so charming? The story was funny, but the mental illness aspect was treated with respect. Even Reiichi Hiiro-sensei made the comment that it was a touchy subject. But it came out to be an amazing, unique story! The romances in regards to the characters were so sweet. I found myself being charmed by each character, even the tough Ryo. The artwork was a little on the simple side, but it was beautiful none the less. I would love to see more from Hiiro-sensei. I must say that seeing a manga with this story line is a first for me. But it was well written and well illustrated.

This is a Juné release. It is beautiful both inside and out. This was a wise licensing choice and I hope we can look forward to more releases like this one.

I totally recommend this title. It puts the "fun" back into dysfunctional!

Sunflower vol. 2 by Hyouta Fujiyama review

Sunflower vol. 2

Author/Artist: Hyouta Fujiyama

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – for ages 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, School Life

Grade: A+

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

Kinsei High School is an all boys school where it is rumored that 90% of the student body is either gay or bi. Not all the students who enter are gay, it's just that sometimes they get swept up with their sexual urges and relent. In the first volume of Sunflower we meet Ryuhei Ohno, super popular student who came to Kinsei High through the escalator system. We also meet Kunihisa Imaizumi, a transfer student who didn't know the rumors about Kinsei when he transferred in. If you are interested knowing more about the first volume, feel free to check out my review of Sunflower vol. 1.

Ryuhei is somewhat confused on what he is feeling. He can't stand the vice president of the student council, Noze-sempai, because of the amount of time that Imaizumi spends with him. How come? The next day both Ryuhei and Imaizumi are a little confused by Ryuhei's little outburst. They both want to apologize but never really get the chance. After school Ryuhei runs into the tutor that he had fallen in love with. After speaking with Aikawa he realizes that it seems he's fallen for Imaizumi.

Once Ryuhei confesses his feelings to Imaizumi he begins to pursue him unrelentingly. Imaizumi, on the other hand, cares for Ryuhei as a friend but sees it ending there. Not only that, Ryuhei's style of wooing is a little different. Imaizumi doesn't believe that Ryuhei is serious. He wants to continue their friendship but he can't return Ryuhei's feelings.

In Sunflower vol. 2 not only do we get the conclusion of Ryuhei and Imaizumi's story, but we also get a one shot starring the student council president and his assistant. It is very sweet and totally crazy. But you'll love it!

I can't believe it has taken me so long to review any of Hyouta Fujiyama-sama's work. If I had to rank my favorite mangaka, she would be in the top three (along with Makoto Tateno-sama and Shiuko Kano-sama). Her art is so beautiful. She is really able to capture the emotion of the story in the eyes of her characters. Not only are they handsome, they also have a normal guy quality to them. They aren't so gorgeous that you know that guys that good looking don't exist, but yet they are so stunning to behold. OK, so I'm rambling. But I love Fujiyama-sama to no end!

Not only do I love her to no end, but I love this series. When I first read Sunflower vol. 1 I couldn't wait for the sequel to come out. I ordered the original Japanese version. Even though I knew what happened (for the most part) it is nice to know what they are saying, seeing how I don't know Japanese (yet!). Not only is the Sunflower series great, but these manga are best enjoyed when you read the whole Kinsei High School series. The series includes Ordinary Crush vol. 1 and 2 and Freefall Romance. It's best to read them in this order: Ordinary Crush vol. 1, Ordinary Crush vol. 2 (kind of obvious on that one), Freefall Romance, Sunflower vol. 1, and then Sunflower vol. 2. But if you stray from this order, you can still enjoy them regardless of the order.

One thing that I've noticed about Juné, they must really like Fujiyama-sama. They are the only publisher that produces her work. With Juné's larger trim size and full color dust jacket, it really showcases Fujiyama-sama's work. I really look forward to the titles of hers that will be coming out next year, and I hope they continue to license more of her work (there are a few out there that they haven't picked up yet, but I hope they will [hint! hint!]).

This title/series is one that you don't want to miss. It is a beautiful slice of life in a boys school with the perfect amount of humor and drama. It is an engaging series with amazing art! If you choose to avoid this series, you are so missing out!

Passion vol. 3 by Shinobu Gotoh and Shoko Takaku review

Passion vol. 3

Author/Artist: Shinobu Gotoh/Shoko Takaku

Publisher: June

Rating: M - 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: A

Now that Hikaru and Shima have gotten together for real this time, Hikaru is bound and determined to make their relationship work. He is currently working a part-time job to earn some extra cash so he can buy a car. But it seems as though there are others vying for Hikaru's attentions. First there is one of Hikaru's juniors at his high school, Onoda. The other is Nagisa, one of Hikaru's co-workers. There is also a rumor going around that Hikaru has his eyes on a "Madonna" at his old high school and it is assumed that it is Ms. Morikawa. Because Hikaru is oblivious to a lot of things, he's unaware of Onoda and Nagisa's advances and doesn't know about the rumor.

Shima is responsible for the culture festival this year and is extremely busy. Not only is he busy with work, but he wants to spend more and more time with Hikaru. One evening on a whim he goes to Hikaru's apartment and witnesses Nagisa coming out. Shima's confused, but seeing Hikaru's surprised face is more than enough to confirm his devotion to Shima.

When Shima, Amamiya, and Ms. Morikawa show up one day to the café that Hikaru works at all of his co-workers freak out. When they talk about Ms. Morikawa and Amamiya looking like the perfect couple, Hikaru misunderstands and thinks they are talking about Amamiya and Shima. Not only that, but Nagisa calls while Hikaru and Shima are on their date and tries to convince Hikaru to give up on his teacher (referring to Ms. Morikawa).

Man, things get pretty complicated this volume. Yet, you know that the feelings that Shima and Hikaru have for each other are deeper than they seem on the surface. Hikaru is ready to tell the world that Shima is his lover, but Shima isn't ready to take that step. The one thing that really bugs me about Shima is his jealousy. The dude really needs to learn how to trust Hikaru. Oh well! This is another enjoyable volume of the Passion series. There is only one more book left (boo!) I really like this series. This is a great series to start with if you want to read the M rated yaoi manga. It's not very graphic, but there is sex. The art is gorgeous and the romance in the story is amazing. Not only that, since it's a Juné release it is a beautiful book physically.

You know, if you haven't read Passion yet, you really need to pick up this series. You won't be disappointed!

Passion vol. 2 by Shinobu Gotoh and Shoko Takaku review

Passion vol. 2

Author/Artist: Shinobu Gotoh/Shoko Takaku

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M - 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance School Life

Grade: A

Hikaru Umino and Mr. Shima are still "playing lovers." It seems to be blissful right now, but there are some waves headed this way. Mr. Amamiya and Mr. Shima were lovers in high school and Mr. Amamiya wants to get back together. Mr. Shima doesn't. Also the deal of the "play lovers" game was to last only until graduation. Once the New Year's holidays are over Hikaru has to study for college entrance exams and so there is no contact between Hikaru and Shima. Shima offered to give Hikaru a graduation gift. All Hikaru wants is to continue being Shima's lover, but he knows it is impossible. So he settles for Shima's well-worn watch. On Graduation Day they part ways, breaking Hikaru's heart.

Once in college Hikaru gets himself a girlfriend, but he does not love her. A whole bunch of Hikaru's friends want to attend the cultural festival at Hikaru's former high school. Hikaru reluctantly agrees to go. Meanwhile, Amamiya seems to be moving on from obsessing over Shima. Shima doesn't seem to be himself lately. It all seems to have started around when graduation came. Amamiya seems to know that Shima was involved with a student but doesn't know more than that.

I don't know if there was an initial plan to make Passion a four-volume series. The way the second volume ends you think it would end there, but luckily there are still two more volumes to go. I really do like this series. Gotoh-sensei's story and Takaku-sensei's really do complement each other. We also find out that Shima really goaded Hikaru on so the rape wasn't really rape (I didn't describe that very well, sorry). Mr. Amamiya really grew up and you can't help but respect Ms. Morikawa. She isn't your typical female character in yaoi. She's strong, intelligent, tolerant, and plays a pretty important role. This is a really beautiful and romantic story.

Juné made a wise choice in licensing this series. It is a gorgeous release. It is printed on nice thick paper and the dust jacket on this volume fits snugly with the book.

I really recommend this series to those who like Gotoh-sensei, Takaku-sensei, or a wonderful romance that looks beyond gender to true love.

Anime Banzai 2008 - Day Two report

Anime Banzai 2008 Report - Day Two

By Kris

This report is available at J LHLS and Manic About Manga. Feel free to check them out!
I feel really lame saying this but with today's stretch of Anime Banzai I was unable to attend. I woke up really sick this morning so I had to stay home in bed. I was looking forward to attending many of the panels today, but my health is always more important.

Seeing how I missed today, I'll focus this report on the artists that I had the opportunity to meet yesterday. There were so many talented people that I chatted with in the Artist's Alley. Not only were the artists selling beautiful fan art, but they also had a lot of insight into anime conventions as well.

The first artist I spoke with Samantha Wagner and friend. They were selling plush sushi, Kingdom Hearts heartless plush, onigiri, cat ears and tails, and other plush items. They gave me the lowdown on the deal with cat ears and tails in Japan, the other conventions they've participated in, and gave me a great website to check out anime. They were really helpful and really fun to talk to. Next up was Howard Tayler. He created a webcomic called Schlock Mercenary. He talked about how many of his fans tend to be former military servicemen. He also talked about how he gave up a six figure a year income to become a cartoonist and that he hasn't had any formal training but got hours and hours of practice to get better. He was very interesting to talk to and he even parted with a Schlock Mercenary book for review (I'm reading it right now and will provide an official review later.) I stopped and checked out Naruru's work. I didn't get much of a chance to visit with her but her fan art drawing of Axel from Kingdom Hearts II was gorgeous, it stopped me in my tracks.

The next artist had some great craft items like Christmas decorations, candles and the like. She and I had a great conversation about Gravitation, which was my first foray into manga and my introduction to boys love. Jessica Douglas and Jenny Lundin were up next. Jessica told me that Jenny is an artist who resides in Sweden and so she sells both Jenny and her own work. Jessica has beautiful fantasy style prints that are so full of rich color. Jenny's work features a lot of very hot men. I was very impressed. The two became friends online and try to meet once a year. She also told me that she travels to around five conventions a month as well as working on books and commissions. Wow! She is one busy lady! I chatted with the representative from the Japanese Consulate in Denver about the JET program. For those who don't know, it’s a knowledge exchange established by the Japanese Government. It is something that sounds very interesting to me and I want to something like it as soon as I earn my Bachelor's Degree.

I visited with David Hall. He has created comics that are featured on his website. Not only that, but his comics are being turned into a video game. Next up was the Ybarra's they are an artistic family that show work at anime conventions. I was very impressed. Susan's husband not only does fan art and commissions, but he creates new works and wants to create his own manga. Susan claimed that she wasn't artistic like her husband or kids but she crochets scarves and the like. They even had one that looked like Domo-kun. The next artist I was very excited to talk to. She only shows her works at Anime Banzai and she created handbags out of old Shojo Beat magazines. How clever is that! She also talked about out of the entire genre's of manga and anime out there her favorite by far is Shojo.

I spoke with Chris Hayes. He is a phenomenal artist that draws his inspiration from both manga and American comics. Not only did he have beautiful work but he was a blast to talk to. He was a veritable fountain of information. He talked about buying Gundam kits at conventions, to learning to sew so he could create his own costumes to wear at conventions. His desire is to create his own comic series and video games. I wish him the best of luck; he definitely has the talent! Sterling Eventide was the only Gothic Lolita artist. He creates one of a kind Victorian hats to go with all your Gothic Lolita wear that you get from Japan. These hats were stunning. They were so detailed and gorgeous. He also is creating comics and beautiful art. The art reminded me of the Italian artist duo Dany & Dany.

By this time in Artist's Alley it was very warm and the crowds were getting larger. So I only talked to a couple more artists. Mad Mouse Media (I failed to get her name) not only created fan art, originals, and commissions, but she also hand knits beautiful scarves. Two of the most beautiful scarves I've ever seen, she created. One had a cherry blossom and the other had bamboo. Gorgeous! She was one of two artists who weren't locals. The final artist I visited with was Jez Sellers. She also creates new works as well as fan art and commissions, but what really drew me in were her original comic strips. They were very funny.

At this point I was exhausted and hot, so I headed up and bought a couple of small bags (one of which has the saying "I love yaoi" embroidered on it, how appropriate) and headed home. I found that Anime Banzai was a great convention to attend for a newbie like me. It was located close to my home, there were a lot of friendly people, and they all gave me such great advice on how to get into anime, manga, and cosplaying, and how to handle conventions. Seeing how the large comic book and anime conventions are held on either coast, having one here in Salt Lake is great for those who don't want to travel hours and hours and hours to get to a huge convention. The hard work of the convention organizers definitely shows and you can tell that they really care for the attendees as well as the medium that they are celebrating. So if you want to attend an anime convention that isn't one of the large coastal cons, check out Anime Banzai in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Anime Banzai 2008 - Day One report

Anime Banzai 2008 - Day One

By Kris

This report is available at J LHLS and Manic About Manga. Feel free to check them out!

The weekend of October 24 and 25 there was an anime convention held in Salt Lake City, Utah. I'm divulging huge information here, because this anime convention was held near my hometown. The End of the World Anime Club at Salt Lake Community College organized this convention. I had the chance to visit for a moment with one of the club members who also helped to organize this con. She told me that this is the 4th year that they've held the convention. It was held at the convention center in the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City. She informed me that this was the second year at this location. It has grown every year that they hold the convention and that they are aiming to create enough buzz and turn it into a three day con.

I am a newbie to the whole anime/manga world. Even though I do a lot of manga reviews in a couple of places, I only started to watch anime at the end of 2007 and I started to read manga at the beginning of 2008. Which means I've never been to a convention. Since SLC is a much smaller city compared to the likes of New York City and Los Angeles, I knew that it wouldn't be as flashy as conventions held in those cities. I have to admit that it was pretty impressive. They had some big name guests lined up: Vic Mignogna, Sonny Strait, and Tiffany Grant. Remember, I'm a newb so the only names I knew were Sonny Strait (the voice of Seiji Mido in Tsukuyomi MoonPhase), and Tiffany Grant (Kuriko in Maburaho). There were some fun exhibitors in the Exhibitor Room. Here is my report of the first day at Anime Banzai.

I know in other con reports you all get pictures of the fabulous cosplayers. Since this was my first con I didn't bring a camera with me. D'OH! There were so many beautiful costumes. The first cosplayers I visited with were two adorable girls in schoolgirl uniforms. I took the opportunity to ask a few questions to these girls on why they chose to cosplay, the types of anime and manga they enjoy, and any advice that they would give a newcomer. They told me that dressing up is fun because you get a lot of attention. One girl enjoys shojo and yaoi titles (a girl after my own heart) while the other schoolgirl liked shonen titles. That was one thing I noticed there are a lot girls who love shonen titles. I stopped and visited with "Ash" and "Pikachu" cosplayers (from Pokemon) and another gal from an anime that I now can't remember (if you're reading this, sorry!) I wanted to know why they cosplay and general questions about their costumes. They really were amazing to look at. They told me that they made the costumes themselves. They were so well crafted. "Ash" said that the awesome thing about making your own costumes is the joy one feels when you step into a thrift store to get your basic blue shirt and then turn it into an "Ash" jacket. Another reason for cosplaying is the attention from others that you get. I had the chance to visit with a couple that was cosplaying from a SquareEnix video game from the late nineties or early 2000's. They had profound thoughts on cosplaying. One reason she gave me was that low self-esteem made it possible because when you cosplay you are portraying someone else. You can get lost in the character. It's also an ego booster. When you show up in a costume people are constantly telling you how great you look and how awesome your costumes are (and this couple had amazing handmade costumes) and people are constantly wanting to take your picture.

One thing I noticed is how many hugs that were going around. Since I'm kind of a huggy person, I found myself hugging Axel from Kingdom Hearts II, a girl in a Chinese dress, and several other different characters that I had no idea who they were.

I chose not to cosplay for my first time around. Yet I got some good advice. It was suggested that a great way to get introduced into cosplay is to start with the cat ears and move on from there. I did, however, wear one of my goofy T-shirts that I am famous for. It also got some attention. Thanks to my T-shirt a very interesting and helpful guy snagged me. He was cosplaying as a very obscure anime character. I asked about the reason for cosplaying and what might be some good titles and genres to check out. He was a fountain of information. It was so fun to see him describe different series with such fervor. There was even a moment when he and another fan discussed the dramatic/comedic styling of a particular anime series. It was great!

One of my favorite places I found was the Artist Alley. There were so many amazing artists that were local. I want to spend a little of my time focusing on some of the artists that I had the chance to visit with. Not only was the work amazing, they were interesting people with a lot of helpful tips. I want to dedicate a little more time to these artists in an upcoming posting.

I'll be heading back tomorrow to attend the panel featuring Vic Mignogna, Sonny Strait, and Tiffany Grant. Also I want to check out a few of the panels that they will be holding. Because this was my first con (I know I'm constantly bringing up my newbie status, but it's true) I didn't stay the whole time due to some physical limitations and an anxiety attack. But I look forward to what tomorrow brings and I hope to stay longer!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Play Boy Blues by Shiuko Kano review

Play Boy Blues vol. 1

Author/Artist: Shiuko Kano

Publisher: Be Beautiful

Rating: M – 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama

Grade: B+

Ahh… Shiuko Kano-sama. I love this mangaka. She is truly gifted when it comes to both art and story.

Play Boy Blues features two stories. First up is PBB (Play Boy Blues, get it!) Shinobu Hishiya was the number one host at Club Dandy, but six months ago he decided to leave the glamorous world of hosting to become a construction worker. For two years he'd been living with Junsuke Aki, the first host he recruited and Club Dandy's current number one host. Initially they were just roommates, but their relationship turned into a hot and heavy sexual one. Junsuke gets extremely jealous any time Shinobu meets with anyone else. Is it lust or is it more?

The second story is about two construction workers. Yuusaku is possibly going inherit the family's construction company. He doesn't want to because he feels like it's an old fashioned idea. He gets shipped off to Osaka for two weeks to do hard labor at the site. He doesn't want to go and leave Taizou, his lover (and possible brother, I'm not quite sure). Yet while in Osaka he meets Gorou. The man takes him under his wing. But there is something mysterious about Gorou.

Play Boy Blues is a series by Shiuko Kano-sama. The series was licensed by Be Beautiful, but because of some weirdness going on Be Beautiful may or may not be in existence anymore. If they are no longer around it looks like this is the first and the last that we see of Play Boy Blues. In my opinion it is terribly sad because I was hooked by the series. The art is amazing, as always. I like the story and the extras that were shown. I was looking forward to more, but it looks like I'll probably have to get the original Japanese versions to continue the story.

I recommend this for any fan of Kano-sama. Be aware that it is pretty graphic sexually, which much of her work is. The only problem is the title is now out of print. It was luck that I was able to find it. I'm sure if you dig around; you may find a used copy. If Be Beautiful has gone out of business, I hope that another publishing company will pick up this series so we can enjoy the series as a whole!

Passion vol. 1 by Shinobu Gotoh and Shoko Takaku review

Passion vol. 1

Author/Artist: Shinobu Gotoh/Shoko Takaku

Publisher: June

Rating: M - 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, School Life

Grade: A

Hikaru Umino has fallen in love with his teacher, Mr. Shima. After hearing a rumor about Shima and an upcoming wedding, Hikaru contacts Shima claiming to be another teacher in the school (Mr. Amamiya, he plays a large role in this story). He corners Shima in an empty classroom and rapes him. Once he realizes what he's done, he feels extreme remorse, which if you've just raped somebody remorse is an emotion you should feel. Shima tells Hikaru that he needs to do some thinking and make a decision on how he's going to atone for his mistake.

Hikaru is having a difficult time in facing Shima. Even though he raped him he says that he loves him deeply. One of Hikaru's favorite things to do is to ride by Shima's apartment and just look at his room (stalker, anyone?!) One day while hanging on the corner near Shima's apartment, he notices that Mr. Amamiya, the teacher he pretended to be, is headed to Shima's. Unable to figure out what is going on between these two teachers, Hikaru finds himself standing in front of Shima's door. While standing there, food gets delivered and Hikaru is invited in. Hikaru plans on leaving with Mr. Amamiya but Shima makes him stay behind. It seems that Shima is trying to seduce Hikaru. After a hot and sweaty session of sex Shima makes a proposition, they'll "play lovers." Here is where our four-volume series begins.

I really like Passion. It is written by Shinobu Gotoh of Only the Ring Finger Knows fame, and Shoko Takaku artist known for Kissing and Shy Intentions. The premise is very interesting. I have always struggled with rape stories, however. Yet this one is a little bit different. The story unfolds further in the next three volumes. I don't want to ruin it too much. If you are at all familiar with the story, I know I failed to bring in Ms. Morikawa and more of Mr. Amamiya, but I really wanted to focus the synopsis on our two leading men. I read Passion before I read Only the Ring Finger Knows and Kissing. Yet thanks to this series, I have been able to fall in love with both Gotoh-sensei and Takaku-sensei's work. Gotoh-sensei is a great storyteller and is able to weave together a romantic and interesting story. Takaku-sensei has a very unique art style that is recognizable immediately, which is something that I really like. Sensei has a very simple and delicate style. The men are gorgeous, the women are gorgeous, and they are all very stylish.

I recommend this series, especially as an introduction into M-rated yaoi. It was one of the first ones I checked out and knew immediately that I had been hooked by the yaoi genre. You won't be disappointed!

Alley of First Love by Ellie Mamahara review

Alley of First Love

Author/Artist: Ellie Mamahara

Publisher: BLU

Rating: OT – ages 16 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life

Grade: A-

Shusuke works in his family's Liquor Store. After high school he was to be a big shot soccer star, but got injured. His best friend Atsushi decided to go overseas to study environmental science. Ever since middle school Shusuke has been in love with Atsushi. When Atsushi told Shusuke that he was going to England, it nearly broke Shusuke.

Six years later, Atsushi is back in Japan. Rumors are flying as to why he's back (like he embezzled money, a sex scandal, etc.) Shusuke's curious as to why he's back, so he decides to do some investigating. After getting caught by one of Atsushi's adorable nieces the two sit down to have a long necessary chat. After getting past the awkwardness that exists between them, things are beginning to look up.

Even though their friendship seems to be back on track Shusuke is worried that Atsushi will up and leave without any warning. What lies in store for these two friends?

When you look at the cover and read the blurb on the back you'd think it would be a very serious story. It does have its dramatic moments, but it also has comedic ones too. Especially when Atsushi's twin nieces, Mimi and Momo, are involved. They think that they are marrying Shusuke when they grow up. It is a really sweet romantic story, even though it follows the yaoi recipe to a tee. You know two childhood friends fall in love with one another, yada, yada, yada. One thing that sets this story apart is Ellie Mamahara-sensei's artwork. It is beautiful. I love reading works where you can recognize the artist immediately. Mamahara-sensei is one of those artists. She only has one work that has been released here in the States, but I look forward to seeing more of sensei's works.

BLU has made a very wise licensing choice in Alley of First Love. Not only is the choice a good one, it is also a beautiful book. The book is wrapped in a matte cover and has a full color front page. It really is beautiful. I noticed that since they've raised the price from $9.99 to $12.99 the quality has greatly improved.

I recommend this title to all that enjoy a sweet slice of life story with subtle comedy and beautiful art.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Love for Dessert by Hana Aoi review

Love for Dessert

Author/Artist: Hana Aoi

Publisher: Luv Luv Press

Rating: M – 18 and above

Genre: Josei, Drama, Romance, Anthology

Grade: B

Love for Dessert was Luv Luv Press' third release. It is a one-shot collection of romantic stories that all center on sweet like dessert stories.

Love for Dessert – Rei works in an ad agency. Her co-worker Kuze is a real pain in the butt. One evening while working late Rei picks up dinner for both her her and Kuze. She loves sweets so she makes herself some whipped cream for dinner. Kuze hates sweets, but will he like it if it's Rei for dessert?

Icing on the Cake – Yu has everything: money, looks, and style. Her boyfriend Junichiro only has looks. Right when she was about to dump him he shows up in a suit. Does she love Junichiro only for his suits?

Bubblegum Princess - Shina's mom loves to dress her in Gothic-Lolita fashions. She was always bullied when she was a kid. Mayuki always came to her rescue, her knight in shining armor. Ten years later he's coming to live with Shina's family. Is he still the dashing prince that Shina remembers?

Red Bean - Chihiro mistrusts men. Working as a hostess at a bar this point is constantly proven. One day while handing out fliers to bring in new customers, she runs into a classmate from her school. Bean (his nickname) is an adorable and pure kind of guy. Will Chihiro set aside her pride and allow herself to love again?

Sweet Future - Natsumi is so indecisive. She goes so far as to visit a fortuneteller. After losing her job and visiting her fortuneteller her boyfriend convinces her to take a job as a tutor to his boss' son. It seems that Ryo, the son, goes to an all boys' school and has become smitten with Natsumi. What is Natsumi to do?

Puppy Chow - Mana is currently dating Hibiki. Mana likes it when the guy takes charge so she doesn't have to make any decisions. Hibiki on the other hand always asks what Mana wants. When she runs into an ex-boyfriend she remembers their times fondly. He always took the lead. Will Mana leave Hibiki or will she realize that Hibiki only has her best interest in mind?

Luv Luv Press' first release Voices of Love was the first one-shot collection. If I were to compare the two and choose my favorite, Love for Dessert would be the one I choose. Each story was very cute and sweet. Delicious just like dessert. The characters were well fleshed out and interesting even though the stories were shorter. My personal favorite was Red Bean. It is just the type of story I love. I have the tendency to distrust men as well. I'm still looking for my Bean. The artwork is beautiful in this volume. The characters all look different from one story to the next. That's pretty difficult to do seeing how many stories are in the book. The stories are somewhat formulaic but are unique enough to find them interesting. Love for Dessert is a much needed and fresh take on romance and sexy josei type manga.

I have read several Luv Luv titles that have been released and they have really improving the qualities of the titles that they license. Not only do they have great titles their quality is top notch. They may not have fancy dust jackets but the books are scored near the spine to make it easier to open. They also use higher quality paper to print on and the ink stays on the page, not rubbing off onto your hands. Since Luv Luv Press is part of Aurora Publishing, Inc. (publishing books with three different line Luv Luv Press, Deux Press, and Aurora) I have come to expect great things. I haven't been disappointed yet!

Total Surrender by Hiroko Ishimaru review

Total Surrender

Author/Artist: Hiroko Ishimaru

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Comedy, Romance, Anthology

Grade: C+

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

Total Surrender is a collection of one-shots that feature stories where the characters have surrendered completely to their emotions. Hence the name Total Surrender. But y’all are smart, I’m pretty sure you picked up on that already.

There is a story of stepbrothers who can’t live without each other. Another tale is of co-workers who are lovers but are unable to find any time to be together. The third story is of a doctor and his secretary who has pined for one another, but haven’t done anything due to nervousness. Our next story is about a young rich heir falling in love with his butler. In the fifth story, we meet two former classmates whose sex life has gotten a little boring. The final story is the longest of the one-shots. It’s about a part-time employee who has fallen in love with one of the designers in the office and he will do almost anything to get his attention. This last tale is the one that is featured on the back of the book.

Overall, Total Surrender wasn’t bad. I think I might be a little worn out on one-shot collections. The final story Love Conquers All?! was by far the best of all of the stories. It had the perfect amount of humor and drama. Besides, they have pets which always adds in a comedic aspect. The art is nicely detailed. It kind of reminded me a bit of Toko Kawaii. The only drawback in the art is that the all characters look the same. All the blondes look alike and so do all the brunettes. Yeah, there might a pair of glasses thrown in here or there, but they still all look alike.

I did like it, and I do recommend it, but know that it is a collection of one-shots. If you aren’t burned out like I am definitely feel free to check it out. But if you are a little tired of one-shots, I’d hold off until you want to pick up a one-shot collection.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunflower vol. 1 by Hyouta Fujiyama

Sunflower vol. 1

Author/Artist: Hyouta Fujiyama

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – for ages 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, School Life

Grade: A+

I have been posting reviews on this site since March of 2008 and for some reason I haven't posted any reviews from one of my all time mangaka. That mangaka is Hyouta Fujiyama. To kick off my reviews of her work I'll start with Sunflower vol. 1.

Ryuhei Ohno spent many years pining after his older tutor, Aikawa. Aikawa, however, had a different idea. He's seeing someone else. After getting his heart broken, Ryuhei decides that he's going to give up on love. He worked so hard to get into a good high school. The high school of his choice is Kinsei High. For those who don't know Kinsei High is a boys school that is rumored 90% gay or bi.

Kinsei High is a school with the escalator system, so many of the students came from the same middle school. Just so you know the escalator system is where the middle school, high school, and university are connected. Once you get in, you pretty much have it made. OK, back to the story. Ryuhei is a very popular student and has many friends and admirers. There is one student that caught Ryuhei's eye. His name is Kunihisa Imaizumi. Imaizumi grew up out in the country so when he was accepted into Kinsei, he had no idea about the 90% rumor. Ryuhei who is a calming influence on him immediately befriends him. When he finds out about the gay rumor he freaks out. Imaizumi is straight.

Our two handsome students really stand out and are singled out by the student council vice president. He approaches the two of them to convince them to join the student council. Will they join? What craziness awaits Ryuhei and Kunihisa?

When I first saw Hyouta Fujiyama-sama's work I didn't think I was going to like it. Boy was I wrong. Her style is so natural looking. Her men look like men. She also has the ability to tell a great story. Now that I've read all of her works (I have all of her English releases) I can't get enough. I wish there was more!

Sunflower is part of a larger "series." I put quotes around series because the stories all involve Kinsei High. We meet Ryuhei in Ordinary Crush (I don't remember which volume, I think it's volume 2). This is a fun series because in Sunflower vol. 1 we see several characters that appeared in Ordinary Crush. The story isn't hard to follow. It meanders in and out of the past and future and is an enjoyable read. It's not intense, but the ending leaves you hanging. When I first read volume 1 I couldn't wait for volume 2 so I ordered the original Japanese tankobon.

I recommend this book to all Hyouta Fujiyama-sama's fans. Also anyone who likes schoolboy stories this is a great book to pick up. The sequel is also out now and it is well worth your time, too.

Red Angel vol. 2 by Makoto Tateno review

Red Angel

Author/Artist: Makoto Tateno

Publisher: Juné

Rating: OT – 16 and up

Genre: Shojo, Drama, Supernatural, Fantasy

Grade: A+

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

Ah, the month of October. It's that time of year when we carve jack-o-lanterns. We deck the house out with ghost decorations and dress up like various monsters. What better time of year to curl up on the sofa with a season appropriate manga. Red Angel is a two volume vampire series by Makoto Tateno-sama. I have also reviewed Red Angel vol. 1, so don't hesitate to check it out as well.

Mika and Eru is/are a fallen angel. The male Eru and the female Mika are one in the same, two personalities and genders in one body. We also learn that Mika and Eru are the archangel Michael (Mikeru is the Japanese pronunciation of the name Michael). Fallen angels on earth are what we now know as vampires. The one who lords over them is Kinsei, also known as Lucifer.

In Red Angel vol. 2 more time of the story is spent on the fallen aspect of Mika and Eru. Eru knows that they are Michael, but Mika is still unaware. Eru also remembers that Kinsei is Lucifer, whereas Mika doesn't. Because Mika is unaware of who Kinsei is, they haven't completely fallen. Once Mika does remember they will fall completely and become true vampires. Eru doesn't want to forget their humanity, so he is bound and determined to not let Mika remember. Kinsei doesn't understand why Mika and Eru care for humans so much. He feels that they are only there to serve the vampires and are lower beings. Kinsei wants Mika and Eru to complete the fall so he tries everything in his power to help Mika remember. Will he succeed?

I found this volume to be interesting on so many different levels. The art is magnificent, but I wouldn't expect anything less from Tateno-sama. The story is gripping. But I found it weird that one of the characters was referred to as Beelzebub and it wasn't in reference to Kinsei/Lucifer. But since Japan isn't a Christian country, I'm able to overlook it. The main reason I found this to be an intriguing manga is the highly religious nature of it. Being a follower of Christ I found many interesting references that are taught in scripture. Now let it be known that there are no references made in regards to Jesus Christ and if you aren't a religious person you can still enjoy this series. But if you are religious, you might catch the subtle inferences.

This is a Digital Manga Publishing release. It is a larger trim size and comes wrapped in a dust jacket. It truly is a beautiful book. The colors and the art really set this volume apart from other titles with the same subject matter. It really is a stunning work of art sitting on the shelf.

I recommend this shojo comic to those who like vampire stories, those who don't like vampire stories (I fall into this category), or those who like stories in general. Which means I recommend this manga to one and all!

Hitohira vol. 1 by Idumi Kirihara review

Hitohira vol. 1

Author/Artist: Idumi Kirihara

Publisher: Aurora Publishing

Rating: T – for 13 on up

Genre: Shojo, Comedy, School Life

Grade: A

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

Ah, the theatre. It is infectious once you get it in your veins. I was a shy kid growing up. I loved to perform for various imaginary friends. I never liked performing in front of real people though. It wasn’t until I was twelve-years-old and saw "Pirates of Penzance" performed at my sister’s high school. The lights, the costumes, and the music enchanted me. I knew that I wanted to perform. I soon found myself going to local theatre performances. In the ninth grade I enrolled in my schools theatre class and found myself freed from the things that held me back. I was portraying someone else. I was no longer that shy, self-conscious girl. I was whomever I wanted to be.

You’re probably wondering why I took this walk down memory lane. Hitohira is the tale of Mugi Asai. She is a small and very timid freshman. She decided that she wanted to attend the same high school as her friend. Her friend applied to an arts high school, and so did Mugi. Mugi is so timid that she barely speaks above a whisper when speaking to others. When she found out that she passed the exam, she couldn’t help but shout her excitement. Surprising not only herself, she caught the attention of the Theatre Research Club director, Nono Ichinose.

Not only is Mugi shy, but she’s kind of clumsy and embarrasses easily. Those qualities, however, are what makes her endearing to all those who meet her. She ends up getting roped into the Theatre Research Club along with her classmate Kai Nishida (who was strong-armed into the club by his older sister who is a member). What surprises and disaster await Mugi? You’ll have to read Hitohira vol. 1 to find out.

Aurora Publishing has three arms (did that sentence sound weird to you?). I’ve read books from their josei line (Luv Luv Press) and their boys love line (Deux Press), but this was my first time reading anything released from their shojo line (the Aurora line). I must say that in regards to the quality I already knew what to expect, but I didn’t know what I was in for title wise. I have to say that I am very pleased. I found myself being drawn into the story immediately. I could see myself in Mugi’s shoes. Idumi Kirihara-sensei’s art is richly detailed and pulls you into the story as well. The characters are each unique in their own way. It is very cute and I caught myself giggling out loud.

I’m not a stranger to shojo titles, but I will admit that I don’t read as much as I would like. If you hadn’t noticed I read way more yaoi titles, but with this release of Hitohira through Aurora I am going to make a concerted effort to read more shojo in the future. I recommend this title to girls young and old. Pick up this title and give it a chance. It’s worth it!

EDIT: 11/05/08 - This link is to access Aurora Publishing's key release page for Hitohira. It's pretty cool, check it out! http://www.aurora-publishing.com/images/hitohira.html

Roureville vol. 2 by E. Hae review

Roureville vol. 2

Author/Artist: E. Hae

Publisher: NETCOMICS

Rating: OT - 16 and up

Genre: Shonen-Ai, Drama, Supernatural, Mystery, Romance

Grade: B

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

Roureville. A town so small it doesn't even show up on the map. A town somewhere between California and Yellowstone National Park. Evan Pryce. A hot-shot reporter from The New York Times. He's on vacation from his crazy, hectic life in the city. Jayce. The mysterious townsperson who is allowing Evan to stay with him in his house. Rumor has it that Jayce is a ghost. What is going on in this little town?

Evan decides to stay in town to figure out what mysteries that the townspeople might be hiding. Like the priest, for instance. Why is he trying so hard to chase Evan out of town? Jayce, on the other hand, is another mystery all together. Why is he always lurking around? What is his fascination with Evan? Is he really a ghost? Why am I asking all these questions?

The second volume of Roureville answered some questions that had lingered in my brain from the first book. But once the questions were answered, more questions took their place. Does Evan have the ability to read minds? What is the significance of his nightmares? Evan's behavior in this book has become a little more erratic and treats his host like a piece of crap. I don't know about you, but if someone invites you into their home you are to treat them with respect, and be thankful for their hospitality. Evan is the worst houseguest ever! If I behaved like that my grandparents (who raised my parents) would be turning over in their graves. Jayce on the other hand is selfless and somewhat transparent, literally transparent. E. Hae's artwork is still very stylized. I'm starting to get used to it, but I wouldn't put it into my favorite art category. The story, however, is masterfully written. In summaries that you can read online the shonen-ai aspect of the story is brought up. In the first book there isn't much in the way of man love, but in the second volume more sexual tension bubbles up to the surface. Since this is a NETCOMICS release you can either purchase the chapters online (which I did for Roureville vol. 3) or you can buy the books (which vol.'s 1 and 2 are the printed books). The books are very well done and you can't ask for more than the ability to read the newer material before it's printed. NETCOMICS is a fantastic fusion between online comics and printed comics. I can't complain. If you like a little mystery, and don't mind highly stylized art, I recommend you read Roureville. But be sure to read volume one before volume two. But you guys are smart, you can figure that out without my help! Oh, be sure to check out my previous review of Roureville vol. 1.

Roureville vol. 1 by E. Hae review

Roureville vol. 1

Author/Artist: E. Hae

Publisher: NETCOMICS

Rating: OT - 16 and above

Genre: Shonen-Ai, Drama, Supernatural, Mystery, Romance
Grade: B

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

Evan Pryce is a reporter for The New York Times. He seems to be at the top of his game. He even broke a story involving South American terrorists. Since he has a bounty on his head he's been living in his cubicle at the office. A call comes in about a ghost in a small town and Evan's boss feels it is the perfect opportunity to get Evan out of the office and in an unidentifiable location until the death threats subside. Evan reluctantly agrees as you can hear a collective sigh of relief from the rest of the office.

The town is Roureville. It's so small it's not even on a map. The only information he had to go on is that Roureville is located somewhere between California and Yellowstone National Park. That's quite the large area to search. Ten days pass and asking just about everyone he could find, Evan had no success and no gas. Standing next to his car, with nothing and no one around, he catches the sight of a priest. Seizing the opportunity he approaches the priest and asks if he knows where Roureville is. Instead of the answer he expected, the priest flipped out and told him to get lost. Once the priest is gone, Evan finds a neglected sign pointing the way to Roureville. It's also the road that the priest walked down.

This is where our tale truly begins. Evan arrives in a sleepy little town with only one convenience small market, a few homes, and a whole lotta nothin'. Once in the market all the locals have to check him out since their town doesn't see too many visitors. Evan, being the journalist that he is, jumps right into the questions about the ghost. Everyone around thinks that the idea is absurd and they try to quickly get rid of the nosy visitor. Evan not wanting to leave quite yet asks if there is anywhere he might stay. One of the locals step forward and offers up his home. His name is Jayce, which strangely the name of the ghost is the same. What is going on in this little town and why is everyone so up in arms with having a visitor hanging around?

E. Hae's work is very stylized and it takes a while to get used to. I still am not fond of the art but there is enough of a story there to make it possible to overlook the it. The story is a bit complicated and confusing and I had to read the second volume to help clarify a few things. Also I had to read it several times to try and grasp what was going on. It's a great book to dwell on to try and figure out what's going on. I have the tendency to be able to figure out what is going to happen fairly quickly, but this one kept me guessing and in regards to other things I'm still scratching my head. I'm hopeful that in subsequent volumes those questions will be answered.

NETCOMICS has done a beautiful job with the book. NETCOMICS is an online manhwa/manga publisher. They also print some of their volumes. My copy of Roureville is in book form, which I prefer anyway. I like to soak in the tub and read, which, if the only way you could get your comics was on your computer you risk electrocution if you read them in the tub. I own several different NETCOMICS titles. I've noticed that if it's manhwa (Korean) the books read left to right, but if it's manga (Japanese) it reads right to left. The books are a nice size and fit in your hands well. They are also very flexible. The pages are printed on a higher quality paper than some other publishers. I do recommend this book because it's a mystery/boys love story. You can't go wrong with that combination!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Shy Intentions by Syouko Takaku review

Shy Intentions

Author/Artist: Syouko Takaku

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – ages 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: B-

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

Yoshiyuki Shirotsubaki is a handsome middle school art teacher. Kaoru Niiya is a furniture designer. These two met in a place people don’t usually cruise looking for a date, the hospital. Yoshiyuki’s mother is suffering from liver cancer, whereas Kaoru makes daily visits to his grandmother. Yoshiyuki comes across as being cold and aloof. He hardly ever takes his eyes off the ground and seems to be very closed off to others around him. Kaoru on the other hand is very personable and people just seem to gravitate towards him. Even though the hospital seems to be kind of a strange place to pick up men, it seems to have worked for Kaoru.

At the beginning of their relationship, Kaoru seems to think that Yoshiyuki is shy and tries not to do anything to jeopardize the situation. Yoshiyuki has a few surprises up his sleeve. He likes pushing things to the limit. The relationship between Yoshiyuki and Kaoru is a good thing for both of them. Yoshiyuki comes out of his shell a little and Kaoru becomes much more sincere and open. Will these men continue to grow, and grow together?

When I first picked up Shy Intentions I had one major question in mind. Was it a question about the plot? No. Was it about the art style? No. What question was it that you had, then? Juné has published several works by Shouko Takaku, but why for this volume did they choose to spell Takaku-sensei’s name "Syouko" this time around? I’ll probably never find out (kind of like who shot JFK). Name spellings aside, this was a nice manga to read. I can’t say that it was magnificent and that it changed my life, but I did enjoy it. Takaku-sensei’s art style is not as clean as some other artists out there and that’s what makes it stand out. If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’ll know that I like artists who have a unique look to them. Takaku-sensei falls into that category. Sensei’s style is immediately recognizable. That’s why I like it. There aren’t many artists that can get away with a raw look to the drawings, but Takaku-sensei is able to pull it off.

The story was gentle and sweet. Yet I felt that there was something lacking, but I can’t seem to put my finger on it. Maybe I’m in need of a yaoi-reading break and that is what is affecting my judgement. Don’t get me wrong all you rabid Takaku-sensei fans, I did enjoy the manga. It was interesting enough for me to continue reading it. It’s a good read if you are looking for something that isn’t too heavy and has a slice of life aspect to it. Plus, this is not a compilation of one-shots. It focuses on one story from beginning to end. Nice!

Juné never lets me down when it comes to their quality. The pages are very flexible which made holding onto the book that much nicer. The dust jackets that come on the books are a nice touch and there is a surprise under the dust jacket this time around. I’ve noticed that since there are some mangaka that print things hidden under the dust jackets I catch myself peeking under them to see if there is anything fun underneath them.

I will recommend Shy Intentions because I do like Takaku-sensei’s art style. It’s a good read for a lazy afternoon where you can chill in your pajamas and have a hot cup of cocoa or coffee if you like (I think that coffee is the most vile drink on the planet).

One Night Lesson by Ryo Takagi review

One Night Lesson

Author/Artist: Ryo Takagi

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Comedy, Romance, Anthology

Grade: A+

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

One Night Lesson is a collection of one-shots. Actually, it contains only three one-shots and a brief mixed manga starring all of our boys at the very end.

One Shot may sound like it’s aptly named (it being a one-shot) but actually it’s about photography (tee-hee, fooled you!) Kairi is a talented photographer. His model of choice is Takara. Kairi is trying to get shots of the real Takara, but is really having a difficult time. As it turns out, Takara has fallen in love with Kairi but is worried about his photographer (yes, I mean Kairi) uncovering those emotions. Because Kairi is trying to coax out the real Takara, the two spend virtually all of their time together. They work together; they live together, etc. But what will Kairi do to get the shot he’s looking for?

The next one-shot contains two parts, Half Position and Half Position 2. Ryu Saezaki and Sakura Nogami are rivals in school. Nogami is always number one when it comes to test scores. Saezaki always seems to come in second no matter how hard he studies. It ticks Saezaki off to no end. Of course Nogami doesn’t make it any better, always egging him on. It turns out that Nogami’s father is a high political officer and Sakura is being groomed to be his father’s successor. While headed home after school, Nogami seems to be out of sorts and uses Saezaki to give his father’s security the slip. This new Nogami confuses Saezaki. Nogami says to call him Sakura and tells Saezaki that tomorrow he’ll be waiting in the bathroom for some nookie. What on earth is Nogami’s problem, and how will he deal with this new situation?

Our final one-shot is Fake Lesson. Chihiro Asou has been accepted to a prestigious music school. It just happens to be an all-boys school. Thanks to Chihiro’s friends he enters thinking that everyone is gay (Chihiro is straight). Of course, everyone we see happens to be gay and they all hold a flame to Chihiro’s roommate, Ren Sakurazawa. Not only does Chihiro start school by ticking all of his schoolmates off by rooming with the hottest property on campus but Ren attaches himself to Chihiro like a suction cup (ticking everyone off even more). It turns out that Ren is also straight, but will things stay that way?

Extra Mixed Manga stars all of our beautiful boys in the most hilarious way possible!

For someone who gets tired of one-shots regularly (like me), I have to say I LOVED THIS MANGA! I hope that cleared it up for you. I especially loved Fake Lesson. It’s fairly short, but very hilarious. Of course, all of the stories were great. It was the perfect combination of humor, sex, and story. If you are looking for something with some major depth, you won’t get that with One Night Lesson. But for a great diversion definitely check it out. The art is truly gorgeous and the chibi figures crack me up. Even the Afterword was classic! Ryo Takagi-sensei has made a fan out of me and I hope to see more of her works released here in the States. Juné is a great medium for artists of Takagi-sensei’s caliber. You have a beautiful dust jacket and with the larger trim size you can really enjoy the magnificence of the art. The stories are solid even though they aren’t long which made it an enjoyable collection of one-shots. Very rarely will you find me shouting from the mountaintops about a one-shot collection, but in the case of One Night Lesson the peaks around my house will be echoing with the praise I am heaping upon it!

Clear Skies vol. 1 by Akira Sugano and Etsumi Ninomiya review

Clear Skies vol. 1

Author/Artist: Akira Sugano/Etsumi Ninomiya

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA – Ages 16 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Drama, Romance

Grade: B

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

Clear Skies was a yaoi novel before it was made into a two book manga series. Feel free to check out my previous review for the novel . The first volume of the series covers about the first half of the book.

Taiga Obinata is the man of the house. He is the oldest male in his family of rowdy younger brothers. There is an older sister they look up to, but she does her own thing most of the time. We have the opportunity to see that when Shuu Asuou and a yakuza punk named Yuuta show up on the Obinata’s doorstep. According to Shuu, he and Shima (the sister) were recently married. No one believed him until a phone call from Shima sets them all straight. No one seems cool with the arrangement, especially Taiga. Taiga is an editor for a sci-fi magazine and Shuu is an author for the same magazine. Not only are they coworkers but they are former classmates as well. It seems we are in for a wild ride.

I have had the opportunity to read both the novel and the manga. I have to say I much preferred the manga. There seemed to be more humor involved. Often times when Jou and Yuuta (one of the Obinata brothers and the yakuza punk) would start to fight there would be a bell in the drawn in background with sound effects sounding the beginning of a round. Also when Shima would call it reminded me of the old Charlie Brown cartoons. You know, the adults didn’t speak understandable language but you still knew what they were saying based on the responses the kids gave back. It’s the same way with Shima. The art was quite enjoyable and the premise was fun. It is pure sugar all the way through. With it being a two book series it ends on a cliffhanger. Juné did a great job with the presentation, as always. If I were to recommend these titles, I suggest picking up this manga. I definitely giggled more at the manga than I did the novel.

A Gentleman's Kiss vol. 1 by Shinri Fuwa review

A Gentleman’s Kiss vol. 1

Author/Artist: Shinri Fuwa

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – ages 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, Organized Crime

Grade: A

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

I seem to be on a yakuza reading binge. First it was A Gentleman’s Kiss. I followed it up with Yakuza in Love vol. 3. Then it was the yaoi novel Sleeping with Money. I rounded it out with Totally Captivated vol. 4. OK, Totally Captivated is a Korean manhwa but it still deals with organized crime. All these other reviews will come later, but this one is dedicated to Shinri Fuwa-sensei’s A Gentleman’s Kiss vol. 1.

Homura Yasobe is a young, handsome businessman. He’s also being groomed on being his father’s successor. His father happens to be a yakuza boss. Homura is carrying a huge secret with him as well. He has a male lover, Touji Karasuma, who happens to be the successor of his father’s business. That business is as a yakuza boss, and rival faction to Homura’s. The two met in high school, but started seeing one another many years later.

It’s hard enough having a lover of the same sex that is in a rival yakuza faction, but things get more difficult for Homura. While trying to manage several different businesses, one of his hosts (in one of the clubs he runs) seems to have taken a liking to him. Kyoya Kuramoto is Homura’s number one host and Kyoya has a huge crush on him. Of course, the only man for Homura is Touji, but if that secret were to get out, here comes disaster! Since this is a two volume series surely intense moments will continue to come.

Fuwa-sensei is also known (at least to me) for Yebisu Celebrities. Since I was somewhat familiar with sensei’s work, I knew that this would be a good read. The art is phenomenal. The color drawings on both the front and back of the dust jacket are beautiful but the artwork really shines in black and white. It really is stunning. The story is gripping, interesting, and has some humorous moments as well. Juné made a great licensing choice with A Gentleman’s Kiss. Homura is gruff yet sexy (besides I have a thing for dudes in glasses). Touji is fun loving yet has a somewhat dangerous air. I guess you have to be gruff and dangerous to be a successful yakuza. This release is one of the reason’s why I love Juné. They may have a few misses, like any publisher would. But in my opinion they hit a home run with this manga. It has a full color dust jacket and a larger trim size. With this volume the larger size makes it that much greater a read. You can truly appreciate the artwork. In my humble opinion, this is a work that must not be missed. If you do, you are an idiot! OK, that last line is a bit harsh, but it is a yakuza tale, so buck up punk!

Millennium Darling 2006 by Maki Naruto review

Millennium Darling 2006

Author/Artist: Maki Naruto

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA – 16 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Romance

Grade: C+

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

I am the type of person who doesn’t like to start reading books in the middle of a series. I tried it once and I was so confused that I vowed I would never do it again. Unfortunately, with Millennium Darling 2006 I didn’t have that luxury. The previous seven volumes of Millennium Darling (known as Seikimatsu Darling in Japan) haven’t been licensed here in the States. For me to be able to grasp the plot and get a handle on the characters I had to read it at least twice.

Sakamoto is a spoiled guy. His lover, Sentarou, dotes on him 24/7. One afternoon Sakamoto gets a call from Takasugi, a friend of his and Sentarou’s. Takasugi warns Sakamoto that if he continues to behave the way he does, Sentarou will get fed up and leave. Sakamoto will have none of that! Not only does Sakamoto have to find out what’s up with Sentarou, Sakamoto’s father has found him a bride. It’s none other than Takasugi’s sister, Reiko. WAHHH! What will Sakamoto do?

In this book not only do we follow Sakamoto and Sentarou, but we meet Takasugi and Ogata, Shikibu and Tsutsumi, Todoroki and Takeru, and finally Kitasenju and Juujou. Not only are there a bunch of characters, but they all cross paths, they all know each other, and they all have kids.

I honestly thought that Tatsumi Kaiya’s Party was the most confusing book of all time. I mean, any time you need a flow chart to figure out characters and their relationships to other characters is not a good sign. But, Millennium Darling 2006 surpasses Party with the confusion prize. Here is a story with already developed characters and relationships. I, personally, like to read and develop along with those characters. I also like to have the back-stories, which you don’t get in Millennium Darling 2006. I want to know how these characters met, fell in love, etc.

I liked the art. It reminded me a bit of Chifumi Ochi (author and artist of Honey Senior, Darling Junior). It’s cute, but not spectacular. Maki Naruto-sensei did make great use, however, of chibi characters. Her drawings of our couples’ kids are extremely adorable, but how could kids not be adorable in manga form. Juné does a great job, as always, with presentation. With the larger trim size and dust jacket, it makes a great bookshelf item. I do have one question though. What’s up with the military-style font? This book has nothing to do with the military, so why do we have an Army-type font? Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

I liked the book fine, but be ready to read it a few times (and mark the page with the flowchart to keep track of things) to really enjoy it. I just really hope that we can get the previous seven volumes licensed and published so we can develop a relationship with these characters, just like out Japanese counterparts have!

Golden Prince and Argent King by Kouko Agawa review

Golden Prince and Argent King

Author/Artist: Kouko Agawa

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M - for ages 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: B

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.com/buzz/. Check it out! ***

I didn't know much about Golden Prince and Argent King except what I read on Juné's website. All I know is that it sounded interesting and I wanted to check it out.

Golden Prince and Argent King is the tale of Yuuki Kujou. Yuuki's mother was the mistress of a rich businessman. She had insisted on raising an upstanding son and Yuuki didn't know anything about his father. Not long after his mother's passing he was informed that he was the son of a rich businessman, but that he also had two older brothers.

Yuuki's brothers were like night and day. The oldest, Gai Watase took over their father's company and was known as being quite serious. Masumi Watase was closer to Yuuki in age and had a sunny and pleasant disposition. Yuuki moved into the family home and was transferred to the same high school as Masumi. Because Masumi has such a pleasant dispositon everyone in the school loves him. Of course many of the students weren't too pleased to see the relationship that Yuuki had with Masumi and soon Yuuki found it hard to make friends. He was showered with attention by his two new brothers but he found himself falling in love with one of them, and I mean in the way you aren't supposed to love your brother. Who has Yuuki fallen for? What will become of him at school? All of the questions will be answered in Golden Prince and Argent King.

This was an enjoyable manga by Kouko Agawa-sensei. It was a little predictable in story and I pretty much had it figured out by the time I finished it. I must say, though, that even though I had it solved, it was still moving and I had to stop myself from almost crying several times. Why I felt like crying along with the story, I'm not quite sure. But I did like it. The art is pleasing to the eye. The lines are clean and you are able to tell the characters apart. The story did have a couple spots where I could have used more information and that would have made the story that much more interesting. A character was introduced but was dropped almost as quickly. I hate it when that happens! Do I recommend this title to others? You betcha, check it out!