Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kyo Kara MAOH! vol. 3 by Tomo Takabayashi and Temari Matsumoto review

Kyo Kara MAOH! vol. 3

Author/Artist: Tomo Takabayashi/Temari Matsumoto

Publisher: TOKYOPOP

Rating: T – ages 13 and up

Genre: Shojo, Shonen Ai, Comedy, Drama, Action, Fantasy

Grade: A+

Yuri, Conrad, and Wolfram are continuing with their journey to Van de Veer Island to fetch the demon sword Morgif. But because of a pirate raid (in girls' sailor suits to boot) plans change. The pirates ticked Yuri off to the point of awakening Maoh Yuri, which in turn got Yuri, Conrad, and Wolfram arrested. By this point a new face has joined our three demons, Josak Gurrier. Josak is half human/half demon like Conrad and Josak and Conrad have been friends since childhood. Josak doesn't seem to be as taken with Yuri like the rest of the kingdom has and doesn't hide his hostility.

Yuri doesn't know how to deal with Josak. Plus once Morgif is located we discover that this sword is a living object an actually bites Yuri in the process. Can Yuri win Josak over and recover Morgif all at the same time?

This volume mostly deals with the journey to recover Morgif and it's a pretty skinny volume. Beyond that it's still as enjoyable as ever. The issues that I pointed out that plagued the second volume have been worked out and things read easier this time around (if intereste here is also a link to my review for the first volume). I don't recall catching any grammar and spelling boofs. TOKYOPOP had raised the price on their manga not too long ago so you will be paying a dollar more for titles. As long as the quality continues to be ok then I won't complain.

Usually I go on about the book qualities toward the end of the review and my opinions of the story and characters before, but hey we all need a little change now and then. Josak makes for a fun, new character. He enjoys cross-dressing and uses the excuse of work to dress like a woman. What makes it unique is Josak is a big, burly, buff dude so it's amazing that he can pass himself off as a woman. Wolfram continues to show his spoiled side yet he truly cares for Yuri and flies into jealous rages on a regular basis because he thinks that Yuri is a player. Yuri continues on the path of reluctant ruler with Conrad faithfully at his side. Conrad is still much of a mystery and Yuri is catching bits and pieces of his past that makes him more curious about this handsome man who is always by his side.

Everything is great about this series. There's humor, drama, action, and even a little fan service for us BL fans. The story is engaging and exciting and there is never a dull moment to be had. Not only is it a great story but Temari Matsumoto-sensei's art is truly gorgeous and works well with the story Takabayashi-sensei wrote. In the Afterword she even pays homage to the anime by drawing a longhaired Yuri (in the anime when Yuri switches to Maoh mode his hair gets longer). This is a title that I highly recommend! Trust me you won't want to miss it!

***Review Copy purchased through Amazon.com***

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Magical JxR vol. 4 by Lee Sun-Young

Magical JxR vol. 4

Author/Artist: Lee Sun-Young

Publisher: UDON Entertainment

Rating: Teen – 13 and up

Genre: Shojo, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

Grade: A

I really love this series! This most recent volume was originally supposed to come out in February, but for some reason it was delayed. Luckily we now have it!

Jay, Aru, and Cho-Ah are kicking butt and taking names on the magic school contract. They've already captured three gems and only have three more to go. The next card shows up in the form of a romance between one of Cho-Ah's friends and their homeroom teacher. You would imagine that things would work out how you would expect but two tan guys and white hair with moons on their cheek show up to thwart this assignment. It turns out that the principal of Jay and Aru's magical school has a sister who runs a rival school that teaches the dark arts, hence the moons. They also have a graduation test: disrupt the other school's students' test and capture the jewels. It seems that there is more on the line for Jay and Aru though because of the opposing power sources they use. There seems to be a disruption in the Magic World and it's going to come to a head.

They were able to pass one test but the next one doesn't seem like it's going to be as easy, especially with the winds of change blowing. What's in store for Jay and Aru?

I have thoroughly been hooked by this manhwa. It's funny, clever, and touching all in one. The characters seem real. I have to say that the one who is the most real is Cho-Ah. She so wants to be someone else even though she is awesome how she is, but Jay and Aru truly respect her for her and like her the way she is - a tough chick with a killer high kick, but thoughtful, kind, and caring. Aru cracks me up. He may seem a little dumb but he has a huge heart and doesn't like to see his friends in pain. Plus he has a soft spot for candy, especially lollipops, which has gotten him into way more trouble than he needs. Jay may be cold on the outside but he truly cares for Cho-Ah and Aru. He just doesn't want anyone to see that side of him. In this volume we don't see much of Mr. S, or should I say Sa-You. He does appear but not as prominently as he does in the other volumes. You secretly root for Cho-Ah and Sa-You to get together, but since there's only one more volume who knows where the story will go.

UDON has done a great a great job with this title. The book is a little larger trim size and there is a fold out, full color cover sheet, it's really beautiful. There were a few spelling and grammar mistakes but it wasn't enough to ruin the story. You can tell by the beautiful art that Lee Sun-Young cares for these characters and this story. It shows in the painstaking execution of the work at hand which makes the art literally jump off the page and into your heart.

Since the economic downturn Magical JxR is one of the series that has been placed on hold. It breaks my heart because we end with a cliffhanger and who knows if we'll ever be able to see the end. In December Ed Chavez over at MangaCast had a list of titles placed on the hold list and UDON had Magical JxR there. It's so sad especially seeing how the fifth book is the last of the series! I support this series and I hope that you will too. The more you support a title that will send a message to the publisher. If the publisher sees that people are purchasing the title it might convince them to bring us the final volume! This is definitely a title worth picking up. I love it and I'm sure you will too!

If you're interested here are the links to my reviews for volumes one, two, and three.

***Review Copy purchased through Amazon.com***

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Higurashi When They Cry vol. 2 by RYUKISH07 and Karin Suzuragi review

Higurashi When They Cry vol. 2

Author/Artist: RYUKISH07/Karin Suzuragi

Publisher: Yen Press

Rating: OT – 16 and up

Genre: Shonen, Horror, Mystery, Supernatural

Grade: C

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

The mysteries of Hinamizawa continue in Higurashi When They Cry vol. 2. The strange and mysterious deaths from the past several years are now bearing down on Keiichi Maebara's frayed psyche. He's been approached by a detective from the next town over and has asked for his help. Ooishi, the detective, seems to be the culprit behind sewing the seeds of doubt in Keiichi's mind. Ooishi has also asked Keiichi to spy on his friends and report back to him any bizarre behavior. Because of this Keiichi is now trying to act normal all while trying to suppress his fear and anxiety. Things go from bad to worse when he finds a needle in the ohagi that Mion and Rena drop off at Keiichi's house. Because he's already overly paranoid by this point he sees this as a sign that he's next on the list to be offed. When he turns to Ooishi again Rena's mysterious past comes to light and freaks him out even more. What will become of our paranoid friend Keiichi?

When I volunteered to review Higurashi When They Cry vol. 2 I had to pick up the first volume. I always struggle with starting in the middle of a series so because of my obsessive-compulsive personality I knew that I couldn't read this one without reading the first one. Feel free to check out my micro-review here. Now that I've read both in the series I have to say I probably won't continue it and after reading this series I've decided that the horror genre is not for me. It was a gripping story and Yen Press has done a great job in the actual properties of the book. The paper is a higher stock, the translation was smooth, and it's a high quality product all around. The art and story go well together and you can see how the artist lovingly created the characters to fit into the story, but it just isn't enough to cause me to fall in love and be hooked. You see I've always enjoyed suspense type stories, but when it comes to horror I've never really enjoyed it. Blood, possession, etc. have never been my cup of tea and Higurashi When They Cry definitely falls into this category.

Even though I may not have enjoyed this simply on the reason that I'm not a fan of the genre doesn't mean this isn't a title to check out if you like tales such as this one. Yen Press has loving brought this title to our shores and has done an excellent job delivering it to fans. The story is suspenseful and I will admit that I was gripped and had to read the two books in one sitting. For that reason alone I will recommend it. Just because I'm not into horror doesn't mean you shouldn’t check it out if you enjoy horror and suspense in your manga. I'm leaving the decision up to you!

***Review Copy provided by Yen Press***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Higurashi When They Cry vol. 1 by RYUKISHI07 and Karin Suzuragi review

Higurashi When They Cry vol. 1

Author/Artist: RYUKISHI07/Karin Suzuragi

Publisher: Yen Press

Rating: OT – 16 and up

Genre: Shonen, Horror, Mystery, Supernatural

Grade: C

Keiichi Maebara has recently moved to the little sleepy village of Hinamizawa. You would think that life would be boring but Keiichi loves every minute of it. Whether he's dodging traps set by underclassmen to just spending time with Rena and Mion his two best friends that he's made in the village, he couldn't be any more content than he is right now. That is until he meets Tomitake, a freelance photographer. Tomitake relates a story of how Hinamizawa might look like a quiet, country village but it actually has a grisly past. There was a horrible murder and dismemberment of the body several years ago and they still hadn't located all of the body parts. Of course Keiichi has a hard time believing this. He even goes out of his way to ask Rena if she knew anything about it. She dodges the question. The seeds of doubt have been planted in Keiichi's mind. What is really going on in Hinamizawa?

Higurashi When They Cry is based on a doujin novel game. You know it kind of falls into the category like Gakuen Heaven (a BL game that exploded in popularity so it spawned manga, anime, and more games). I've been impressed by Yen Press' titles so far but in regards to Higurashi When They Cry I'm not too sure. The quality is fantastic. You get a few colored pages peppered throughout, and the quality of the materials is really good. Plus their titles are reasonably priced. So I guess my hesitance isn't with Yen Press itself. I guess it has to do with the story. I enjoy suspense but horror isn't quite my cup of tea. Sure, the art is gorgeous, but hmmm… I still am on the fence with this title. I guess that I'll have to read the second volume to decide whether I like this title or not.

I found myself confused but wanting to know more so I'll continue to read the series to decide whether I'll keep reading or not. Why are the natives keeping so many secrets? I'll have to read more to find that out.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Laugh Under the Sun by Yugi Yamada review

Laugh Under the Sun

Author/Artist: Yugi Yamada

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Comedy, Romance, Sports

Grade: B+

Sohei Shirai wanted to be a boxer, or at least he made up his mind after reading the manga Ashita no Joe. But these days he just moves from girlfriend to girlfriend. You see Sohei is definitely a good-looking guy. Now you're probably wondering why he's now a kept man as opposed to being a world famous boxer like he wanted. There was an unfortunate accident early on in his career that scared him and now he can't bear the idea of being a boxer. The sad thing is, is that everyone around him are successful. His two closest friends Naoki Suzuki (recognize that name?) and Osamu Chikazawa have even moved on up. But Naoki and Chika are there for Sohei regardless of the past.

Chika has been crushing on Sohei for years but because Sohei is straight Chika just does what he can to remain friends. Of course Sohei knows that his two best friends are gay and it doesn't bother him (too much). Eventually Chika convinces Sohei to go back to boxing. Now Sohei has to get back into boxing shape. He's 25 and hasn't trained for years and all of the young punks at the gym treat him like a geezer. Plus Chika's advances seem to be increasing, putting even more pressure on Sohei.

I always include this title in the list of Naoki Suzuki stories. Even though this story revolves around Chika and Sohei, Naoki does play an important part in this story. Of course he's always a bright spot in any story and if Yamada-sensei were to write more with him in the plot you'll always have my attention. But since this is about Sohei and Chika I guess I'll have to stick with them. I really liked this story. Since I've been converted to Yugi Yamada-sensei I can't seem to get enough of her works. This is of course typical Yamada-sensei. Men who actually act like men (with the exception of Naoki but that's to be expected), men who actually look like men, and she captures the essence of maleness in general. The story moved along nicely and was very well paced. My only major complaint is the stiffness of the actual book. Other than that I have no qualms. You don't need to be familiar with Naoki's story to be able to enjoy this manga but there's no harm in reading them, you'll just find out how wonderful Naoki really is!

I am now a dyed in the wool Yamada-sensei fan and I look forward to every release that comes out from her. She has a great sense of humor and her sketchy art style. The perfect 1-2 punch (OK, I think I need to avoid lame puns like that one!) I recommend this title because you get Yamada-sensei's humor and Naoki Suzuki.

***Review Copy purchased at Borders***