Tuesday, May 12, 2009

breath vol. 2 by Chifumi Ochi

breath vol. 2

Author/Artist: Chifumi Ochi

Publisher: Yaoi Generation

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: B

Kohshi Yanagi and Arata Kirishima are still holding to the master/slave contract that Yanagi came up with in last volume (if interested click here to read my review). Things seem to be going OK, well at least OK enough when forcing someone into a sexual relationship. Yanagi started bringing Arata to his home instead of a hotel because of convenience, which this fact really does come in handy. Arata has the tendency to not eat, especially when he's busy. Soon Yanagi starts cooking meals for Arata. As far as I know when you're blackmailing someone you usually don't show much compassion. Yanagi is a bit confused by this new feeling. But Yanagi isn't the only one who is confused. Arata is also feeling something but he doesn't know what it is.

Complications soon arise. Life is busy for Arata at work and he is initially unable to meet up with Yanagi. Yanagi gets worried (another emotion you'd think you wouldn't feel when it comes to blackmail) and waits for Arata in front of the door to his apartment. Things look like they are progressing to falling in love with each other. But soon Ten (Arata's twin brother and one of Yanagi's sex friends) becomes suspicious because Arata seems to be eating. Soon a clue falls into his hands in the form of a cell phone. It seems that Arata and Yanagi accidentally switched phones and Ten does some snooping. The final complication comes in the form of the first man Yanagi slept with.

I have found myself thoroughly and utterly drawn into this story. The forcing someone into a sex contract, blackmail, and rape are common yaoi plot devices. Also you see a lot of falling for your attacker, which is the case with breath. Even though Arata agreed to sleep with Yanagi the first time, he's now just trying to save face because he doesn't want his precious brother to find out what he's been doing. But Arata is starting to fall for Yanagi, and vice versa. I find the character of Ten to be rather intriguing. Initially he seems to be a happy-go-lucky guy but it seems like he conceals darker sides that I'm pretty sure we'll have the opportunity to see it further develop in subsequent volumes. With the introduction of Yanagi's first love also throws a wrench into the plot. I guess there were a few pages that had to be cut due to the law here in the states so at the end they just included the text without images, which now makes curious to see what those pages contained image-wise. I guess I'll either have to be in the dark forever, or pick up the Japanese version.

The art is spectacular. There really are no words to describe it. Chifumi Ochi-sensei has good eye for detail but doesn't overdo it. She has a great sense of humor in some of her outside comments. She uses great placement for her chibis but doesn't go overboard with them. This may sound really bizarre but the thing I love most about her characters are their noses. I know that sounds really weird but often times with manga (and anime) is that the characters often have small turned up noses but here prominent noses abound (and I love it!)

Yaoi Generation has been doing a great job with this title. It looks like they are going to focus on getting this title finished up before they move on to their next series. The physical books are gorgeous. The books are a little smaller than your typical manga volume but with a story that packs a big punch, like breath, it doesn't have to be a larger trim. It has a beautiful glossy cover that is scored near the binding to make it easier to open the book and keeps the cover from getting an ugly crease. There is a full color cover sheet featuring Yanagi and Arata on the verge of kissing. The paper is a brilliant white, which makes Ochi-sensei's beautiful artwork jump right off the page. With this paper the volume is a little bit stiffer than what your mainstream manga publishers use, but it's still flexible enough that it's not uncomfortable to open. The translation is done smoothly and is an all around great read.

I recommend this title first, for the beautiful art, second, for the fact that the characters have gorgeous noses, third, for the quality of the physical book, and fourth, it's a fascinating story. I guess I should have listed the fourth reason first. The characters possess a certain depth that grabs your attention and keeps you hooked and leaves you wanting more.

***Review Copy provided by Yaoi Generation***

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sayonara, Zetsubo-Sensei vol. 1 by Koji Kumeta review

Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei vol. 1

Author/Artist: Koji Kumeta

Publisher: Del Rey

Rating: OT – ages 16+

Genre: Shonen, Comedy, School Life

Grade: A

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

I'm the type of reader that whenever I hear (or in this case read) a lot of hype surrounding a particular title, I tend to shy away. Actually, I'm like that with more than just books but that's beyond the point. Really the only reason why I decided to volunteer to review this manga was because I was trying to round out my shipment of review materials from the editor here at J LHLS. I have to say I can see why the buzz surrounding this title is so positive. It's a really wacky title. Many say that this title is mostly geared to the otaku (major manga and/or anime freak) but I think that the layman, like me, can enjoy it.

Nozomu Itoshiki is a high-school teacher. He's also one very depressed man. He basically feels that he's no good so his goal in life is to find the perfect place to die. But he is the beloved teacher to a class of misfits. In this first volume we meet these unique female students. You have Kafuka Fura the most optimistic person on earth and every cloud has a silver lining to this young girl. She seems to cancel out all of Itoshiki-sensei negativity with her positive attitude. Next up is Kiri Komori. She's the class shut in. Matoi Tsunetsuki is the third in line. She's always falling madly in love with her crushes that she soon becomes an obsessive stalker. Abiru Kobushi always shows up to school with weird scrapes and bruises, is she being abused? Kaere Kimura is a Japanese student who spent time abroad and seems to have a split personality. One being like an aggressive American and the other personality being like the meek ideal Japanese woman and she cycles between these two extremes regularly. Meru Otonashi doesn't speak, well at least not like others in the class. She chooses to use text messaging to get her points across and they are poisonous in their tone. Chiri Kitsu probably suffers from a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder; everything has to be precise. If things aren't like the way she wants them she freaks out. Taro Maria Sekiuchi has moved to Japan with her entire family by hiding out in a shipping container. Finally we have Nami Hitou. She wants to be pitied and feel special so she behaves in such a manner that she can get sympathy but in this class of misfits Nami is only an ordinary girl.

What kind of influence can Itoshiki-sensei have on his students?

I found this to be a very fun manga. Not only does it have obvious humor but there are some inside jokes as well. It seems that when it comes to shonen manga there are particular things that need to show up (like the regular panty shots). Not only do these things show up but it is done in a tongue-in-cheek manner that makes it that much funnier.
Each of these characters are so unique and crazy you can't help but love these girls. I especially found myself relating to Chiri Kitsu, the obsessive-compulsive girl. Plus anyone who knows me will see me in her as well. Even though the girls are charming in their own wacky way you can't help but love Itoshiki-sensei. Even though he's negative he cares for his students and goes out of his way to help them, even if it's not needed.

The art is very low-key and rather simplistic but for this story it works very well. Plus Itoshiki-sensei wears more traditional clothing like kimono and hakama. Everyone seems to look similar yet they are so unique in the way that they are portrayed story wise they are easy to tell apart. The art and story aren't the only thing that make this a stand out title. Del Rey definitely did a great job not only with the physical aspects of the book but also the extras that they provide. The volumes are slightly larger than normal sized manga titles and this particular book has a matte cover that has a velvety fell (what can I say I'm really into tactile sensations). In every volume they always provide a section for Translation Notes. Because this is a rather deep and layered with irony title the Translation Notes do come in handy for someone who is not seeped in Japanese culture, like myself. It points out the puns and have explanations on what the normal everyday reader might not pick up on. I have read some other Del Rey titles and have been very impressed with their high quality.

Whether you are an otaku or not I can't see why you would want to miss this title. I know I'm kicking myself for avoiding Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei for as long as I have. Since this is a series, I have high hopes for the upcoming volumes and I can tell you now that I won't miss them.

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