Monday, October 26, 2009

Utahime - The Songstress by Aki review

Utahime – The Songstress

Author/Artist: Aki

Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing

Rating: YA – 16 and above

Genre: Shojo, Drama, Fantasy

Grade: A+

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at Check it out! ***

There is an uncertain future for a far off land. You see for centuries the land has been protected by the nightly singing of the songstresses. The songstress sings a song of protection toward the capital where the ruler resides. The ruler has always been male while songstresses are always born female. But there is a wind of change. In one of the villages that sprung up around the songstress' tower the unthinkable has happened. A male songstress has been born. Not only that but when the ruler of the land's wife gives birth to a daughter, are they doomed?

In Utahime – The Songtress we are introduced to a heartbreaking yet hopeful tale that honestly moved me to tears. I realize the above paragraph is lacking in information but I'll try to take the complicated story and explain it a little more here. In the land the ruler is only able to produce a male heir so when a daughter is born things get a little hairy. In the case of the Utahime (the songstresses) they are able to give birth to both male and female children but the songstresses abilities are only passed on to one daughter. So it is important for the songstress to give birth to make sure the gift is passed on to the next generation. By having a songstress in the village it gives those who live there a boost in their economy, but protection from enemies as well.

Utahime – The Songtress focuses on a small songstress village and the main cast involves the village chief's son, Thomas, and the son and daughter of the songstress, Kain and Maria. Kain and Maria have been raised up in the mountains because they are the children of the songstress. It is assumed that Maria is the songstress and Kain is put in charge of protecting Maria from the greedy villagers. Thomas, the son of the chief, feels in necessary to meet the songstress and her children. He then becomes quite close to Maria and somewhat close to Kain and sees the difference in treatment the villagers show towards the twins. They shower Maria with gifts and attention and ignore Kain. As he sees the relationship between Thomas and Maria grow, he feels like he's no longer needed and decides to run away, not knowing that he's the songstress. Thomas truly shows concern as he searches for years to try and locate Kain. Maria finds out the true nature of the villagers as her mothers health is on the decline and wonders if Thomas' gestures are just to get with her, Kain is out having the time of his life, Maria discovers she's not a true songstress and Kain finds out that he is.

DMP has made a genius choice in publishing Utahime – The Songstress as the title to kick off their new look. Not only is the cover design a much-needed improvement (I wasn't a huge fan of the purple band across the bottom) but the amazing job that Aki-sensei has done with this title has moved me beyond words. I often come across titles that are really very good and are emotionally moving but I think that Utahime – The Songstress blows them all out of the water. Not only is the art truly stunning, but the story is told using the whole spectrum of emotions. One minute I was laughing and the next I was on the verge of tears. There were so many aspects of this story that I could relate to on a personal level that made this a truly amazing read. I hope that we'll be able to get more from Aki-sensei because I am truly impressed.

Another reason why this was a great title for DMP to publish is because with their larger trim size you are able to truly appreciate everything. Plus with their new look and no dust jacket does make it look very snappy. Keep up the good work!

***Review Copy provided by Digital Manga Publishing***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chocolate Suprise by Lily Hoshino review

Chocolate Surprise

Author/Artist: Lily Hoshino

Publisher: Deux Press

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, Anthology

Grade: A

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at Check it out! ***

Kakiuchi is the hottest guy in class and has devised a game where there is a bag of chocolates (some spiked with an aphrodisiac), a group of girls, and the possibility of sleeping with Kakiuchi. The rules are whichever girl picks the spiked chocolate gets to sleep with Kakiuchi. One day Ogasawara, a guy, is invited to join in on the fun but they amend the rule that if Ogasawara chooses the spiked chocolate he can choose whichever girl he wants to (at least that’s playing the Mix Chocolate game.) When it turns out that Ogasawara picks the chocolate, he allows Kakiuchi to help him out. Is this the beginning of love?

Chocolate Surprise is a collection of sexy stories created by Lily Hoshino. Whatever you enjoy chances are Hoshino-sensei has covered here in Chocolate Surprise. I enjoyed most of the stories. There was one that I wasn't too fond of, A Condition for Love, but the rest were rather enjoyable. The reason why I didn't like A Condition for Love is because one guy confessed, the other guy said he'd only go out with someone experienced and offered to help the poor guy out with no intention of really continuing the relationship. Of course it gets the happily ever after moment, but it's not really a story line I enjoy. The rest of the stories are much more enjoyable, at least in my opinion.

One thing I found somewhat exciting is in My Only King, published by Juné, continues the story between Ogasawara and Kakiuchi. It seems that Kakiuchi may have had a thing for Ogasawara long before either of them knew it.

Hoshino-sensei is a mangaka that has the tendency to grow on you. When I first started reading yaoi I wanted my men to look like men (I still feel that way but I've expanded my horizons a bit). In the case of sensei's few titles on the market had very girly ukes on the front. I immediately judged her work without reading it and ended up eating my words (mmm…they're tasty too). Yes, I will admit that her ukes can be a little bit on the feminine side but she is a very talented artist. When I finally read through my first title of hers (Love Quest published by Yen Press) I immediately fell in love with her apple-cheeked, dewy-lipped boys.
If you haven't checked out any of Hoshino-sensei's titles I think that Chocolate Surprise is a great starter book. It is on the graphic side of things so if you have issue with detailed art in intimate moments, be aware. The stories are short but are fulfilling, unlike so many one-shot collections out there. And not all of them are smutty either. A couple of the adorable stories that I love aren't graphic at all. They're just sweet!

Deux Press has knocked another one out of the park with this release. Not only is it a great collection of stories but they've done a great job. The translation seems smooth and I didn't catch any editorial errors. They also did a bang up job on the cleanup. This is definitely one of their greatest achievements!

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

The Government at Work

Ah, the FTC! I didn't find it surprising when the new rules of disclosure came out, and in some cases I feel that truth in advertising is a very important thing. Because I've always felt that honesty is important and that those who choose to read my reviews should know whether I received the title from the publisher or I purchased the manga myself. So you see the new FTC ruling doesn't have much impact on things over here at Manic About Manga. The only change you'll see is I will no longer provide the links to the websites where I purchased the manga, I'll only inform you where I got it (i.e. purchased through Amazon, Akadot, etc.).