Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ciao Ciao Bambino by Momoko Tenzen review

Ciao Ciao Bambino

Author/Artist: Momoko Tenzen

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 Check it out! ***

On Kaname Imai's first day at work is somewhat jazzed up when he saves young Yuuta Fujimoto from some aggressive men. Initially Kaname thinks Yuuta is an adorable young girl but Yuuta is all male. Kaname is a cram school teacher and a year after he saved Yuuta; Yuuta attends his cram school. It seems that Yuuta has developed a crush on Kaname, but there are some objects in the way. Kaname is a college student and kind of clueless and Yuuta is a middle school student and likes to look out for Kaname's best interest. A relationship at this juncture is not in the cards but Yuuta is determined that one day he'll seduce Kaname.

A related story called Honey Citron features Yuuta's two friends Kei and Makoto. It seems that Makoto may have developed a crush on Kei but doesn't know how to deal with the possibility of the change that may appear in their relationship. The volume is rounded out by Brand New Wednesday, which is the tale of a high school student falling for his tutor.

This is a title that I really wrestle with. Any time there is a student/teacher pairing I always proceed with caution. When we deal with a high school student I'm usually able to look on but in this case we are dealing with a middle school student here and it just doesn't sit quite as well. I guess the only thing that makes it a bit more palatable (only a bit, not very much) is that Yuuta is the aggressor in the relationship. Kaname also seems to be a bit reluctant to enter into a more physical relationship. But still there is a seven-year age difference and we're not really sure how old Yuuta is when they finally consummate their love. He's still in school but I don't know if it's middle or high school.

The other two stories are great though. Honey Citron shows us the turmoil that Makoto finds his feelings in. Kei is rather clueless and Yuuta worries that he was the one who planted the idea that Makoto likes Kei as more than friends. In this case we see first love develop and we are dealing with characters that are of the same age. Brand New Wednesday was also a good read. The age spread wasn't as large and Kana (the student) is in high school. It is a little older story and features some of Tenzen-sensei's older art. I have to say that I much prefer her newer art style because some of the features are softened somewhat.

Art wise this is a beautiful volume. It features typical Tenzen-sensei art, which are thin lines, perfectly windswept hair, thick lips, and long lanky limbs. She is rather detailed with her character sketches but backgrounds are sparse yet when there is a background involved it is done with painstaking care and are very detailed as well. I think that Juné is a great publisher for Tenzen-sensei. She's not terribly explicit but is a great mangaka in her own right. With Juné's larger trim size makes it that much more amazing to look at. Juné's new branding is an improvement over the pink branding bar by leaps and bounds.

I'm going to struggle with recommending this title because of the issues of dealing with a relationship between a middle school student and his college aged cram school teacher. It's a must have for Tenzen-sensei fans which I am one but I'm leaving this up to you to decide.

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

Friday, April 2, 2010

Seven by Momoko Tenzen review


Author/Artist: Momoko Tenzen

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA – ages 16 and above

Genre: Shonen Ai, Romance, Drama

Grade: B

It was originally supposed to be Momoko Tenzen week but it looks like March turned out to be Momoko Tenzen Month. I better get cracking on the rest of her titles if I want to get this wrapped up by the end of the month! Pfft! Yeah right, like that'll happen!

Nana has no memory. Mitsuha has no home. These two with mysteries abound come together due to interesting circumstances. Nana was picked up off the street by a man who gave him his name (nana can mean no-name in Japanese, it also means seven hence the title!) It seems that the man was rather cruel. But to someone who doesn't remember anything about his past this help was accepted. Now in the present the man has passed away and the man who now owns the business has allowed Nana to stay on. Here is where Mitsuha enters.

Mitsuha grew up in an orphanage and now has become an author. He travels around the country and writes about his adventures. As it turns out the new owner of the business that Nana works for and lives above happens to be from the same orphanage. Not only is Mitsuha looking to have adventures but he's also trying to locate his little brother Nanao. Sadly Nana isn't Nanao but Mitsuha seems to be intrigued by Nana and convinces his pal to let him crash at the apartment above the shop, where Nana currently lives. Will Nana be able to allow someone else into his life? And is Mitsuha really interested in getting to know Nana or is he just a replacement for his brother?

The second story in Seven, called Within Plain Sight, features another story with a Nana and the struggles between a brother being attracted to his brother. If you have issues of lovin' in the family, blood related or not, this may not be a story you'll enjoy.

OK, I first need to apologize for the really poor synopsis of the plot. There are a lot of characters and back-story, which makes it difficult to try and describe it in just a few short paragraphs. So reading the back blurb might be your best bet.

It took me a while to actually pick this title up. Every time I saw the cover I thought the character on the left (who happens to be Mitsuha) looked way too much like Steven Tyler from Aerosmith and that thought just creeped me out. But that's what you get when you are looking at an image off the net, they have the tendency to not be that clear. Another reason why it took me so long was I didn't know if I was going to like Momoko Tenzen-sensei's work. But I finally broke down when I found a copy at my local Borders (and by that point I had read The Paradise on the Hill and fell in love with Tenzen-sensei). I discovered that Mitsuha doesn't look at all like Steven Tyler and that the physical book is really quite beautiful. Because this is an older release it features the older look with the pink branding bar at the bottom and a dust jacket. But they chose to use a beautiful matte finish on the jacket as opposed to the glossy finish. With that choice it makes this release classier.

The story takes a while to get going and when it does it ends and we switch stories. Luckily we get another glimpse of Mitsuha and Nana at the end of the book which helps wrap the story up nicely. I liked the story but it isn't one of her stronger ones. Probably I gave it a higher score because I love Tenzen-sensei so much. With her thin lines, thick lipped, and perfectly coifed characters the art is very classy indeed. I've read this book several times and I still have questions that I feel need to be answered. Because of those issues I felt the book could have much to improve on.

So do I recommend this title? Well this would be a great title to be an introduction to the genre if it is something that you're not familiar with. It's also a must have for hardcore Tenzen-sensei fans. But other than that I'll leave it up to you to decide whether you want to read it or not!

***Review Copy purchased at Borders***