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By otakuman5000 On 30 Mar, 2012 At 10:11 PM | Categorized As Comics/Manga, Featured, Reviews | With 1 Comment
K-ON! by Kakifly

No GravatarThe senior members of the Pop Music Club inch forward through their final high school year. The girls study for exams and goof off — but will they actually play any music?!

K-ON! by KakiflyAs usual there is next to no time for music, although now that’s more because they’re supposed to be studying for college than because their sitting around drinking tea (though there is, of course, plenty of that). Kakifly recycles a lot of the same old jokes for this volume: studying for tests proves that Ritsu is lazy and that Yui can’t focus, and casting Mio as Romeo in the class play opens the gate for more “Mio is so shy!” jokes. Mugi is still the most awkward character; it makes sense since one of her traits is an inability to fit in, but her constant desire to get punched like Ritsu can get grating. And there are the usual jokes that just can’t translate from Japanese, like Yui and Ritsu’s song titles and the lyrics to “Rice is the Dish” (you can figure it out from reading the liner notes, but once you explain it, it’s not funny). The manga has its moments, like the lengths Ritsu goes to make Mio tutor her (she climbs through a second story window), or Mio’s panicky behavior when she thinks Ritsu has a boyfriend. But as usual, while K-ON! may make you crack a smile, you’ll be hard pressed to really even chuckle at anything.

Azusa continues to be one of the more likable characters in the manga as she very realistically deals with the stress and sadness of her friends moving on. She worries that they’ve forgotten about the club in favor of doing the school play, and that now that they’re seniors that they’ll quit altogether. Azusa gives a long list of complaints about Yui and the others (particularly Yui), but in the end she has the most emotional reaction: “I promise, I won’t get mad anymore, just…just please don’t graduate…” But then her friends play a farewell song, and she becomes determined: “I’m gonna make the new Pop Music Club so much better than this one–!”

Even with the slight emotional upswing in at the end, K-ON! is still a shallow, goofy story that struggles to hold your attention for more than the length of one chapter. But, that’s not much more than what you can expect from a manga that’s more about hanging out than playing music. Still, for what it is, K-ON! is a fun time – a sweet manga to pick at that won’t make you feel too guilty for whiling your time away with it.

ISBN: 9780316188357 • MSRP: $11.99 • Yen Press • Released December 13, 2011

Review copy provided by the publisher.

By otakuman5000 On 15 Nov, 2011 At 05:47 PM | Categorized As Comics/Manga, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarToday, I take a look at three continuing manga series from Yen Press: My Girlfriend’s a Geek, Yotsuba&!, and Black Butler. While some of these new volumes prove that a series can improve as it goes, other manga stay basically the same – and there is no problem with that.

My Girlfriend's a Geek volume 4 by Pentabu and Rize Shinba

My Girlfriend’s a Geek Volume 4 by Rize Shinba and Pentabu

The first chapter in this volume is like an endurance test for Taiga’s patience. He tries to help the poor sick Yuiko, who won’t stop talking about the doujinshi she wants to read, or her crazy yaoi fantasies about her “Sebas.” Taiga’s frustration with his fujoshi girlfriend finally reaches its breaking point when Yuiko keeps bothering him with her “otaku crap” while he’s trying to study. Yuiko fires back too, thinking that he might be cheating – turns out, he just doesn’t want this BL fanatic to know he tutors an adorable 8th grade boy. But Taiga and Yuiko get through the argument and come to a resolution that suggests their relationship is actually pretty healthy – especially when compared to Yuiko’s friend Masa, who has a volatile breakup with her boyfriend when he finds out her “sick” hobby.

It’s pretty fascinating how one manga can straddle the line between annoying and delightful, but My Girlfriend’s a Geek pulls that off pretty regularly. I think I was more frustrated by Yuiko’s antics while she was sick than Taiga was, being reminded once again that Yuiko is the exact kind of fan girl that drives me insane. But I hoped for a fight, and when it came halfway through the book I couldn’t have been more pleased. Turns out, Taiga actually does have a spine, and Yuiko knows how to act like an adult. And Masa’s problem helps her realize how understanding her boyfriend really is. With the end coming up, it’s nice to see some character growth, and I have hope for a satisfyingly tied up romance.

ISBN: 9780316178228 • MSRP: $11.99 • Yen Press • Released September 20, 2011

Yotsuba&! Volume 10 by Kiyohiko Azuma

Yotsuba&! Volume 10 by Kiyohiko Azuma

Yotsuba straddles the same line as many a little kid between cute and annoying as she drags her father into made-as-you-go games, and becomes utterly determined to make the perfect pancake – a trying process that leaves too many mess ups to eat. Later, Yotsuba shows that she might not have learned her lesson about lying, so her father decides he needs to scare the “lying bug” right out of her.

Artist Kiyohiko Azuma continues to have a great pacing with his comedy, like when Jumbo has Yotsuba eat her own poorly made pancake: first she moans, then her eyes go wide as she shivers, and finally she exclaims, “Ahhhh… That was yummy!” Yotsuba’s almost a caricature of the crazy kid from down the street, but Azuma has enough sense of the wonder of childhood that you’ll Yotsuba adorable (as long as you already like kids). With the amazingly slow pace (I believe this volume only covers two days) and the absence of an overall problem, there is literally no end in sight for this manga – but if keeps on being this funny, I don’t really care.
ISBN: 9780316190336 • MSRP: $11.99 • Yen Press • Released October 25, 2011

Black Butler volume 7 by Yana Toboso

Black Butler Volume 7 by Yana Toboso

Ciel and Sebastian finally find all the information about the missing children they need at the circus, but before they can go on with their investigation the pair is delayed by Ciel’s sudden illness. Later, having discovered the identity of the kidnapper they close in, only to discover some horrible secrets. And while this is going on, the circus has discovered the identity of their infiltrators and head to the Phantomhive mansion to destroy the witnesses, and anyone else that may stand in their way.

Toboso really ups the supernatural creepiness in this volume, as Sebatian seduces  a circus member for information, and the kidnapper is finally found carelessly killing the apparently brainwashed abductees. There are some interesting character moments as well. An old illness flares up for Ciel, and him memory briefly jolts back to a time when people who are now gone cared for him; and Sebastian is scolded by Soma for not being kind enough to his master. But these moments come at an awkward time, when the reader is more anxious to see how the current plot will turn. Still, new, disturbing revelations of what had happened to Ciel come to light. And an attack on his mansion only makes Ciel chuckle, and we get a surprising last minute twist from his supposedly useless servants. It took 7 volumes, but Black Butler is finally turning into the creepy manga I wanted it to be.

ISBN: 9780316189637 • MSRP: $11.99 • Yen Press • Released October 25, 2011

By otakuman5000 On 26 Oct, 2011 At 04:36 AM | Categorized As Comics/Manga, News, Previews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarIn this column I’ll be taking a look at the manga volumes coming out during the week, and try to figure out which ones are worth picking up. Feel free to chime in with your own opinions when you inevitably disagree with mine.

A Bride's Story by Kaoru Mori

Yen Press and Kodansha Comics both have decently sized releases with 5 volumes each. Continuing volumes of Yen Press volumes come out this week, including Black Butler by Yana Taboso, and Hiromu Arakawa’s less impressive manga series, Hero Tales. Kodansha is pushing forward with some of it’s own series, while also releasing omnibuses of manga previously released by Tokyopop – Love Hina and Tokyo Mew Mew. Vertical’s one showing is still impressive – the first volume of No Longer Human, the manga adaptation of the Osamu Desai autobiographical novel that foretold the author’s suicide.

Out of everything coming out this week, my number one pick is an easy choice – Kaoru Mori’s A Bride Story. The first volume of this slice-of-life historical novel did nothing but impress me, from the art to the characters to the day-to-day life of people on the Silk Road. Plus Yen Press understood it’s audience with this manga, and made the fine choice to release the series in sturdy hardcover.

All of the manga being released this week is listed below, according to information found on Comixology and Amazon.com. What will you be buying this week?

Kodansha Comics

  • Air Gear volume 20 by Oh!Great
  • Bloody Monday volume 2 by Ryou Ryumon
  • Cage of Eden volume 2 by Yoshinobu Yamada
  • Love Hina omnibus 1 by Ken Akamatsu
  • Tokyo Mew Mew Omnibus 1 by Reiko Yoshida

Vertical, Inc

  • No Longer Human by Usamaru Furuya and Osamu Desai

Yen Press

  • Black Butler volume 7 by Yana Toboso
  • Black God volume 14 by Dall-Young Lim and Sung-Woo Park
  • Bride’s Story volume 2 by Kaoru Mori
  • Hero Tales volume 5 by Hiromu Arakawa
  • High School of the Dead volume 4 by Daisuke Sato and Shouji Sato
By otakuman5000 On 23 May, 2011 At 08:44 PM | Categorized As Comics/Manga, Featured, Reviews | With 2 Comments

No GravatarIn this series of reviews I’m looking at the most recent volumes of three continuing series from manga publisher Yen Press. K-ON! features a group of high school girls who form a band but never get around to playing; a merchant guides a homesick wolf goddess home in Spice & Wolf;  and a patient boyfriend puts up with his excessively nerdy girlfriend in My Girlfriend’s a Geek.

Four-paneled manga K-ON!

K-ON! Volume 2 by Kakifly

The new school year started and it’s time for the Pop Music club to find more members. They somehow manage to impress first year Azusa, a determined guitarist. Azusa can’t wait to practice, but first she’ll have to get through the tea drinking and beach parties.

I reviewed Kakifly’s 4-koma story back in November, and stated there that “K-ON! is full of blatant fan-pandering, and sometimes the manga forgets it’s about a bunch of girls playing music. Despite that, I found myself with fewer headaches and more smiles at Kakifly’s cute, goofy story” but that it’s a manga “you’ll surely forget almost as soon as you put it aside.”

Not much has changed in K-ON! volume 2: one-dimensional characters, a plot that’s dumb as dirt, and Kakifly still refuses to show the Pop Music Club play music. But volume 2 gives a new character, Azusa, who shows a bit more determination than her upperclassmen (though they’re slowly dragging her down with them) and the story’s amusing, even if it’s not the most humorous manga you could pick up. But even if I’m enjoying it more, that doesn’t mean K-ON! is getting any better. This manga’s fine to read in the pages of Yen Plus, but certainly isn’t worth it’s own purchase.

ISBN: 9780316119405 • MSRP: $11.99 • Yen Press • Released March 29, 2011

Spice & Wolf based off the light novel by Isuna Hasekura

Spice & Wolf Volume 4, Story by Isuna Hasekura, Art by Keito Koume, Character Design by Jyuu Ayakura

The merchant Lawrence and his companion, the wolf goddess Holo, travel to the city Ruvinheigen to sell their wares on the way north to Holo’s homeland. On the way they encounter a nymph-like shepherdess named Norah, who acts as a guide and provides easy conversation for Lawrence. But that easiness may go away when they arrive in the city, and Lawrence finds out how much his merchandise is really worth…

The frequent economic discussions in Spice & Wolf fly over my head, and while they can create drama for the manga it can also cause the story to screech to a halt. In general the story description doesn’t go quite deep enough, seeming to just skim the surface and leaving readers without a full understanding of what’s going on (for example, exactly what is the problem with the shepherdess Norah?) Spice & Wolf is originally a series of light novels, so the problem could lie in narration that simply didn’t get transferred to the manga.

But it’s not the plot that keeps roping me into this manga; it’s the relationship between Lawrence and Holo. It’s amusing to see the way Holo will flirt with and tease Lawrence, even as it becomes apparent that the merchant is falling for the Wise Wolf. And the art continues to please on all accounts, from the detailed city streets and rolling country hills to the soft character designs that make even the roughest character appealing. It might not be an exciting read or a satisfying plot, but the characters and art do their job to draw you in.

ISBN: 9780316178266 • MSRP $12.99 • Yen Press • Released May 31, 2011

Taiga deals with his geeky girlfriend.

My Girlfriend’s a Geek Volume 3, Art by Rize Shinba Story by Pentabu

Taiga is excited for his first Christmas with his older, geeky girlfriend, but will it fantastic or super awkward? And it’s a small world after all when Yuiko says she has a new “girlfriend” – a cosplayer named Kaoru, who happens to be the younger sister of Taiga’s friend Kouji!

My big problem with previous volumes of My Girlfriend’s a Geek is that I do not like Yuiko as a person. She’s selfish and immature, and continues to be oblivious to how worked up she makes Taiga – he won’t even tell her he’s tutoring a middle school boy because of the yaoi comments she’ll make. Yet, she’s hilarious to watch, exalting over her new “girlfriend” and inwardly twitching as her smug boss shows off and hits on her.

Taiga is learning how to deal with Yuiko’s nature, but he begins to lie about things just because he knows how her twisted mind works. A part of me hopes that when this comes out in future volumes this will come to a dramatic fight that will help Yuiko really understand what she does. Or she’ll be oblivious again, which would be both frustrating and funny, a pretty standard feeling for this manga.

ISBN: 9780316178211 • MSRP: $11.99 • Yen Press • Released May 31 2011

Review copies provided by the publisher.

By otakuman5000 On 12 Mar, 2011 At 12:39 AM | Categorized As Animation, Comics/Manga, News, News | With 1 Comment

No GravatarBunny Drop manga ends its run in Japan.Yumi Unita will be publishing the final chapter of her josei (for adult women) manga, Bunny Drop (called Usagi Drop in Japan), on April 8. The manga appears in the manga magazine Feel Young which is released by Shodensha. The manga has been running in the magazine since 2006.

In Bunny Drop we meet Daikichi, a 30-year-old bachelor who is on his way to his grandfather’s funeral. When he arrives, he’s surprised to find a 6-year-old girl – his grandfather’s illegitimate child. The rest of his family keeps making excuses to pass the girl off, and in a fit of annoyance Daikichi declares that he’ll take the girl, Rin, and raise her himself.

The first two volumes of the manga have been released by Yen Press, with the third one coming out later this month. Though not wildly popular like other manga along the lines of Naruto or Bleach, Bunny Drop has received high praise from the manga blogging community. Bunny Drop appears to have a soap-opera-like premise with illegitimate children and secret lovers, but the story never reaches a point of over-the-top drama. And as many reiewers have pointed out, it’s not a sitcom where we laugh and groin at Daikichi’s foibles as he struggles to be a new dad. Instead this is a manga which, at its core, is about learning how to love someone unconditionally – like a family.

In July an anime produced by Production I.G. (Batman: Gotham Knight) will premiere on Japan’s Noitamina block, which has been known for showing anime dramas like House of Five Leaves and Paradise Kiss. Also on August 20 a live action film is slated to open, a medium to which this heartfelt manga is well suited.

[Via ANN]