superhero soup
what's all this

This star means that the title or site is recommended especially for younger teens

new sensation news & gossip superhero soup be bold resistance is futile riddle me this the real deal way back when the usual suspects a day in the life cry havoc all I want is you the witching hour index core lists staff bios contact us press and praise presentations
Google Custom Search
give me more email webmaster

Want to be alerted when the next update goes live? Join the no flying no tights blog email notification list! Click to go to the blog

Support This Site

 

Updated July 2007 | Check the blog for updates and sign up for an RSS feed

Jump to a section:
No Flying, No Tights


 

In No Flying, No Tights

Jump to a title:
Afterlife (Volume 1)
After School Nightmare (Volume 1-2)
Aishiteruze Baby (Volume 1)
Apothecarius Argentum (Volumes 1)
Angel Sanctuary (Volume 1)
Beauty is the Beast (Volume 1)
Beyond the Beyond (Volume 1)
Black Cat (Volume 1)
Blank (Volume 1)
Blood Alone (Volumes 1-2)
Cain Saga (Volume 1)
Can't Lose You (Volume 1)
Descendants of Darkness (Volume 8)
The Embalmer (Volume 1)
The Flower of Life (Volume 1)
F-Stop
G. I. Joe Reloaded
Her Majesty's Dog (Volumes 2-4)
Kamui (Volume 1)
Kare First Love (Volumes 1-4)
Kaze Hikaru (Volumes 1)
King of Thorn (Volumes 1)
Let Dai (Volumes 1-2)
Lie to Me
Line
Mangaka America
Mary Jane: Homecoming (Volume 2)
Milennium Snow (Volumes 1)
Mugen Spiral (Volume 1)
My Heavenly Hockey Club (Volume 1)
Nightcrawler The Winding Way
One Thousand and One Nights (Volumes 1-3)
Ouran High School Host Club (Volume 2)
Oyayuihime Infinity (Volume 1)
Pastel (Volume 1)
Peppermint (Volumes 1)
Le Portrait de Petite Cossette (Volumes 1)
Pride of Baghdad
Princess Princess (Volume 1)
Project Telstar
Project X: Nissin Cup Noodle
Project X: Seven-Eleven
Queens (Volume 1)
Return to Labyrinth (Volume 1)
R.I.P.: Requiem in Phonybrain (Volume 1)
Rising Stars of Manga (Volume 6)
Rose Hip Zero (Volume 1)
School Rumble (Volumes 1-3)
Snow (Volume 1)
Star Trek: The Manga
Strawberry Marshmellow (Volumes 1)
Time Guardian (Volume 1)
Train + Train (Volume 1)
Trinity: Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman
Tsukiyomi Moon Phase (Volumes 1)
Ultra Maniac (Volumes 1-5)
Ursula
The Wallflower (Volumes 1-9)

return to top

AfterlifeAfterlife (Volume 1)
By Stormcrow Hayes, Art by Rob Steen
ISBN: 1-59816-692-1
Tokyopop, 2006

Forget everything you've ever heard about what happens after death. There is no heaven; there is no hell; there isn't even oblivion. There is only the Afterlife, a horrible wasteland of nothingness filled with every human being who ever lived. Thaddeus and Mercutio are two of the guardians of the Afterlife, a mixed bag of souls fighting desperately to keep demons from destroying everything. But Mercutio is distracted by the search for his lost love and Thaddeus is consumed by the desire to discover the secrets of life and death. A mysterious girl will change everything when she begins asking questions about a rumored gate which might lead to a way out of the Afterlife. Hayes and Steen's first volume is not an uplifting title, but it skillfully drags the reader along with the story right up to the loose ending, which offers a promise of more to come. Their world is bleak and harsh. The dead look the way they looked when they died: some with heads severed from bodies or limbs missing, others pristine and perfect. Thaddeus, with a hole through his skull, and Mercutio, who died in a fire, are particularly gruesome, but they are also very sympathetic characters. The religion, or rather the lack of religion, is a strong element and the creators don't pander to any common belief system. The story is well-thought out, never rushed, and expects the reader to think, a nice touch in any work. To further that end, there are cameos by famous and infamous people, most of whom are explained in the back of the book. This book is a good choice for more mature readers, though it isn't as graphic as it could be considering the subject matter, and it leaves the reader eager for the next volume.

review by snow

return to top

AfterlifeAfter School Nightmare (Volume 1-2)
By Setona Mizushiro
Go Comi, 2006

Ichijo Mashiro has clung to the illusion that he's a normal freshman, going to a normal school. But he's got a secret, and being found out would be his worst nightmare...or so he thinks. Nightmares take on a new meaning when Mashiro is taken to a secret classroom under the school to battle his inner demons and his classmates in a dream world where people's true forms are revealed. read more...

Volumes in Series Currently Reviewed:

After School Nightmare Volume 1
After School Nightmare Volume 2

review by jen

return to top

AfterlifeAishiteruze Baby (Volume 1)
By Yoko Maki
ISBN: 978-1-4215-0711-8
VIZ, 2006

Being a parent is hard, especially when you're seventeen! Kippei is a playa and is happy that way, but one small girl might be his undoing. When his cousin Yuzuyu is left with his family after her mother's disappearance, Kippei's older sister decides that he is the perfect person to look after Yuzuyu. Now, instead of going on dates, Kippei is learning to make bento boxes. The girls in his class are jealous that he is no longer paying attention to them and one girl decides to do something drastic.

I'd been resisting reading this book because I was already a fan of Crossroad and I read Baby & Me in Shojo Beat. I figured it would be like those two teens-creating-their-own-family stories and it is a little, but Maki's characters are lively enough to support their own story. Kippei is typical good-looking boy who thinks of girls and little else, but his interactions with Yuzuyu show him to also be a guy who truly likes women. He tries to do the best for Yuzuyu and when he makes a mistake, he's willing to work to fix it. Yuzuyu is portrayed as very cute, but she generally acts like a five-year-old, instead of being too wise for her years. This first volume is slightly disappointing only because the troublemaker is drawn as overweight and not very good looking, but Kippei's treatment of her is even-handed and readers can see the growth he's undergone. Maki's art is shojo-cute, with lots of flowers and sweetness, but nothing out of the ordinary. Overall, I found this first volume to be a nice beginning to a fairly short (seven book) series. Recommended for fans of realistic, family stories who also enjoy a cute boy and a little romance.

review by snow

return to top

Ultra ManiacAngel Sanctuary, vol 1
by Kaori Yuki
ISBN: 978-1-59116-245-2
VIZ, 2004

There has always been something odd about Setsuna Mudo. When he fights, the sight of blood makes him want to kill his opponent. His wounds always heal instantly. His mother hates him enough to divorce his father and move away, taking Setsuna's sister with her. And his sister, Sara? Well, he has some unhealthy feelings for his sister, if you know what I mean. All this leaves poor Setsuna confused as to his place in the world. While Setsuna agonizes, all Hell is breaking loose, as the soul of one of the angels who fought in the original battle between God and Lucifer is brought back to life. Angel Rosiel has possessed the body of Sara's best friend and he is preparing to fight again. But, first, he needs to find the soul of his enemy, Angel Alexiel; a soul most likely housed in the body of Setsuna.

Volume one serves to set up the story for this twenty volume series and a myriad of angels, demons, cross-dressers, and doppelgangers all converge to make this one confusing introduction. So many characters appear that it was only after a second read that I was I pretty sure I'd caught the relationships between them all. But, once I understood the set-up, I was intrigued. With so many modern characters standing as the reincarnations of otherworldly beings, the possible plot twists are endless. Add in the riffs on Christian mythology, hints of taboo love, and the graphic violence of war, and you have a story destined to raise eyebrows. The artwork is busy and it is often difficult to tell the difference between the male and female characters, but with the amount of sexual ambiguity in the story, this may be intentional.

Angel Sanctuary, both the story and the art, is overly crowded, somewhat confusing, mildly disturbing, and potentially addicting. Because of the subject matter it is best reserved for older teens or adults.

review by eva

return to top

Apothercarius ArgentumApothecarius Argentum (Volume 1)
By Tomomi Yamashita
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1181-3
CMX, 2007

"I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder..."
Pardon, movie flashback.

While the new court apothecary is about as dreamy as the Man in Black, and this series involves a princess and a fair dose of court politics, Apothecarius Argentum is far less tongue-in-cheek than The Princess Bride.

Argent is a young man out of legend. Raised to be the ultimate weapon, an elite group called Basilisks, he developed an immunity to all manner of toxins, all the while becoming poisonous himself. His mere touch, or a drop of his blood, can be fatal. Sold as a slave as a young boy, he was prized as a potential weapon and ultimately was bought by the King of Beazol to act as a taster for the young princess Primula. As Argent could identify but also withstand almost any poison, he was well-suited to his job.

No one realized that the princess was not the type to allow this practice to continue. Growing more and more fond of Argent, in a burst of rebelliousness, she frees Argent and commands him to flee and live his own life. Fast forward a few years, and the princess discovers that Argent has set up shop in her own kingdom as an apothecary, determined to use his knowledge and powers for life rather than death.

This series is off to a promising start; with two charming leads caught in a believable web of court intrigue, the potential for an exciting plot and a future romance are tantalizing. The art is suitably evocative, portraying the kingdom and its customs as well as lending the right level of beauty and energy to the characters. Argent is reclusive but tender, and given his background it's remarkable he's not more obviously damaged. The princess --- impulsive, strong-willed and more of a jock than a wilting flower --- brings humor to the overall story and needles Argent into breaking out of his cautious nature.

This first volume, however, hints that Argent has good reason to be cautious --- Princess Primula's father is not a man to be trifled with, and while he may love his daughter, he has no qualms about using Argent for his own political ends. As the series continues, it will be interesting to see just how Argent, Primula and some potentially nasty plots and politics will all combine.

review by robin

return to top

Beauty is the BeastBeauty is the Beast (Volume 1-5)
By Tomo Matsumoto
VIZ, 2005-2006
Volume 1: ISBN: 978-1-4215-0289-2
Volume 2: ISBN: 978-1-4215-0352-3
Volume 3: ISBN: 978-1-4215-0353-0
Volume 4: ISBN: 978-1-4215-0354-7
Volume 5: ISBN: 978-1-4215-0355-4

Eimi Yamashita's parents relocate for work, so she decides to move into the girl's dorm at her school. But living in the dorm is very different and she has to learn to deal with having a roommate, managing her money, enduring weird initiations, and handling vacations. It's her feelings for the reclusive Wanibuchi, that are hardest to handle, though, especially when he's dating an older woman, and when shy, but handsome Shimonuki decides he's going to win her heart.

This is an odd little series (only five volumes), but it will capture the right reader. At first Matsumoto seems to be writing a simple school/dorm story with little hints of romance thrown in, but she soon moves to focusing solely on the Wanibuchi/Eimi/Shimonuki love triangle. This is one of the downsides to the series, as it means several very interesting side characters, who had been focused on in the first two volumes, are pushed aside and not revisited. Matsumoto's art can also be hard to follow--her word bubbles don't always clearly indicate who is talking. Also, for a romance, the ending is sweet, but rather unsatisfying.

However, Eimi is an appealingly honest person, Wanibuchi is appropriately dark and brooding, and Shimonuki is a nice guy, so you do find yourself rooting for the characters and caught up in their lives. This series is a nice choice for a patient reader who doesn't mind a story that wanders around some. That reader will find out some interesting things about dorm life in Japan while enjoying a delicate romance which takes its time, but not too much, unfolding. The (unrelated) bonus story at the end of volume five is also nicely done and faintly reminiscent of Mitsukazu Mihara's storylines.

review by snow

return to top

Beyond the BeyondBeyond the Beyond (Volume 1)
By Yoshitomo Watanabe
ISBN: 1-59816-371-X
Tokyopop, 2006

Futaba is a sixth grade boy without a care in the world, despite being the baby of his family (and therefore the recipient of much nagging from his older siblings) and proclaiming himself abnormally short and clumsy for his age. However, Futaba's life takes a most unexpected turn when Kiara, a beautiful Amaranthine girl, shows up and mistakenly believes Futaba to be her master. By the time she realizes her mistake, her fate has already become inextricably intertwined with Futaba's, and the two of them are whisked off to Kiara's home world, which is unlike anything Futaba has ever seen. He must help Kiara to find her true master and thereby prevent Kiara's powers from falling into the wrong hands. Strange phenomena abound, including twin princes who are both named Virid but who are faced with the quandary that only one can become king. What actions will such a desperate predicament drive each Virid to commit in the name of the throne, and how will these actions affect Futaba and Kiara? And is their cute yet mysterious guide Lady Belbel have Futaba and Kiara's best interests at heart, or is she merely using them for her own personal gain? The story ends with a cliffhanger, and one is left with the feeling that this first volume merely skims the surface of the story while hinting that there is much more to come. All of the main characters are introduced here but none of them are explored in true detail. Their personalities are only hinted at, and further reading is necessary to become truly immersed in their world. As such, the first volume may seem somewhat rushed and confusing, but what it does excel at is inspiring curiosity as to where all of this is leading. In addition, Beyond The Beyond is sprinkled throughout with comedic moments to keep things lighthearted, and the detailed and beautifully drawn artwork does well at enhancing the overall atmosphere. All in all, it is an enjoyable read but since this first volume is so short, it ends up serving as little more than a brief introduction. It is difficult to fully enjoy without venturing further into the story and may be somewhat confusing if read solely on its own.

review by jack

return to top

Black Cat Black Cat
by Kentaro Yabuki
Volume 1: ISBN: 978-1-4215-0605-0/1-4215-0605-X
Volume 2: ISBN: 978-1-4215-0606-7/1-4215-0606-8
VIZ Media, 2006

A former assassin has turned his back on killing for hire and now travels trying to bring justice to the people he meets. No, it's not Rurouni Kenshin; it's Black Cat! Though the back stories of both series are similar at first glance (and will probably appeal to the same fans), Yabuki's work is strong enough to stand on its own and should please readers who prefer their action series with a good heart. Train Heartnet is a cocky, handsome young guy who travels in the company of his mysterious friend Sven. Together they are sweepers, or bounty hunters. When the beautiful thief Rinslet Walker asks them to help her go after the secrets of mob boss Torneo Rudman, the buddies are caught up in a conspiracy to create supersoldiers. Now Train and Sven must rescue a young girl, fend off the mysterious organization Chronos, and try to survive a confrontation with Train's arch enemy, Creed. This series caught me in the same way Kenshin did--it is well-drawn, nicely plotted, and has strong characters, both male and female. Yabuki has a nice drawing style. It is clean and easy to follow, but detailed and interesting. His handsome male characters spend a good amount of time peering seriously through shaggy bangs, but it works for the characters. A hint of science fiction in the form of nanotechnology and the possibility of supersoldiers gives way to discussion of the manipulation of tao and chi, but the scifi/magical elements only make the story more interesting and offer the promise of a mysterious backstory for Train/Black Cat. Yabuki's characters are enjoyable to get to know and his female characters, though often pretty, are strong and competent. The series is rated older teen, probably for the level of violence, but it is a recommended purchase for libraries.

review by snow

return to top

Embalmer1Blank (Volume 1)
By Pop Mhan
ISBN: 1-59816-779-0
Tokyopop, 2006

It's a walking mailbox! It's a talking stone wall! No! It's Blank, nameless, international man of mystery and superspy extraordinaire. Or maybe not quite. Our man Blank suffers from amnesia, exacerbated by a severe case of cluelessness and social awkwardness. Luckily he's got fantastic martial arts skills and a cute smile or high school athlete Aki Clark would never have given him a second chance after she catches him spying on her from inside the trashcan in the girls' bathroom. ... Did I mention that Blank's not the smoothest customer? Just as Aki is getting totally fed up with these creepy antics Blank's unexpected abilities come in handy when Aki unwittingly becomes the target of a gang of international terrorists. In situations like this, even an amnesiac teenage spy is better than no friends at all.

Like its hero, Blank can't quite decide whether it's a goofy slapstick comedy or a spooky international thriller. Watching Blank try to negotiate the hurdles of life in a fancy private school while simultaneously "protecting" and stalking Aki is hilarious - it's easy to see why she can't take him seriously until danger strikes. As usual, I could wish that Mhan would tone down the fanservice shots of scantily-clad highschoolers in favor of a little more plot, but it's clear from the cliffhanger at the end of Volume 1 that the series has a lot more thrills in store. Girls, look again at the awkward, giggling doofus in the back of the classroom - he just might be a 16-year-old James Bond.

review by alison

return to top

Blood AloneBlood Alone (Volume 1-2)
by Masayuki Takano
Volume 1 ISBN:
Volume 2 ISBN:
Infinity Studio, 2006

The vampires in Blood Alone have something called farumek-the ability to hypnotize humans by looking into their eyes. That is how I felt when I first picked up this subtle but addicting tale. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the art and the simplicity of the story, as Takano slowly, very slowly builds a three-dimensional world that begs to be read again and again. This is not your typical vampire angst tale and Misaki is far from the average vampire girl. She looks to be around 10 years old, but then so does Higure, an obviously very powerful and very old vampire boss. Misaki lives with Kuroe, a young man who is a writer and a private detective with a mysterious past and "eyes that see the truth." Their relationship is one of many unanswered questions. At times they seem to have a father/daughter relationship, but they share the same bed at night. That is one of the interesting features of Takano's writing. Whereas another manga-ka might delve into the Lolita-type relationship, Takano deftly avoids the creepy aspects of an older man and a young girl being partners(? friends? something more?) in favor of showing two people who have been hurt in the past clinging together for support, companionship, and love. The art in this series is another terrific element. Characters aren't portrayed as supernaturally beautiful, though the child vampires are eerily angelic. Takano sometimes uses a conventional panel placement, but other chapters will do away with panels completely to heighten the emotional impact. Backgrounds are detailed, but don't distract from the characters and almost never use shojo conventions like flowers or swirly lines to convey feelings. Like Fumi Yoshinaga, Takano is talented at using a character's eyes to show what they are thinking. Despite the title and subject, these books are actually less bloody than almost all other vampire tales, though there are fights and people do get hurt and killed. There is some fairly mild language and little nudity, but the relationship between the main characters might give some readers pause. It seems strange to call a vampire series "gentle," but that's the best word to describe these beautiful, well-written books. Older teens and adults will be begging for the next volumes.

review by snow

return to top

Cain SagaCain Saga (Volume 1)
By Kaori Yuki
ISBN: 978-1-59116-975-8
VIZ , 2006

Earl Cain Hargreaves is one strange duck. A member of the British aristocracy, this teen lives with his manservant, Riff, collects strange and rare poisons, and spends his off hours solving gruesome crimes, often perpetrated by people he knows or is related to. Set in a fantastically gothic Edwardian Britain, the crimes solved by Cain include a jilted bride who comes back from the dead, a hypnotized heiress, and a suicide -- or is it?

The Cain Saga is a five-volume prequel to the Godchild series launched in the first issue of Viz Media's Shojo Beat magazine. Introducing Earl Cain Hargreaves, this collection of gothic murder mystery stories stumbles as it tries to decide in which direction to go. The mysteries are plodding and obvious and the characters are shallow. Only three of the five stories in the book have anything to do with Cain and the best of the lot is a ten page short added in, almost as an afterthought, at the back of the book. The series originally debuted in Japan back in 1990 and it is clear that this is some of the mangaka's early work. Unless you have a love of all things gothic, start reading about Earl Cain in the Godchild series and come back to The Cain Saga only if you have a burning need to read the characters' back stories. Although there is nothing to warrant such a high rating in this volume, the series is rated M, for mature readers.

review by eva

return to top

Can't Lose YouCan't Lose You (Volume 1-2)
By Wann
Volume 1 ISBN: 1-60009-039-7
Volume 2 ISBN: 1-60009-040-0
Net Comics, 2006

Yooi Kang's mother is dead and her father's on the run because of his shady business practices, so she works hard just to support herself. Lida Yoo, a spoiled rich girl who has always gotten everything she wanted, finds that money won't help when an assassin is out to get her. Gaon Gil is the son of a prominent politician--and the mastermind behind his campaign--but he feels trapped in his world of privilege. When Yooi and Lida have a run-in at school, they discover that they share the same face. Lida offers Yooi the chance to earn the cash she needs, just by pretending to be Lida at various functions. Yooi's happy to be paid, but when the assassin's plot forces her into the arms of Lida's fiancée, Gaon, her feelings for him aren't easily pushed aside.

This manhwa is a fast-paced shojo with a good deal of drama and romance on the surface, but it doesn't have a very deep core. Yooi is a stereotypically nice girl, mustering her courage in the face of adversity. Gaon and Lida are also clichés of their character types. Wann's illustrations aptly capture the beautiful features of the three leads and believably portray Lida and Gaon's world of privilege, even though characters sometimes look rather similar. Readers looking for a speedy read, however, will not be disappointed as they whiz through Wann's books. At six volumes, the series is nicely manageable and these volumes do not suffer from the translation problems which sometimes plague NetComics works. Recommended for rabid shojo readers who've read everything else and need a quick drama fix.

review by snow

return to top

descendants of darknessDescendants of Darkness
[Yami No Matsuei]
Yoko Matsushita
Viz, 2004

Ever wonder if there is a way to escape government regulation and red tape? Don't waste your time – even after you're dead the Ministry of Hades will see to it that your soul is sorted, catalogued, and properly assigned in the afterworld ...read more

Volumes in Series Currently Reviewed:

Descendants of Darkness Volume 1
Descendants of Darkness Volume 2
Descendants of Darkness Volume 3
Descendants of Darkness Volume 4
Descendants of Darkness Volume 5
Descendants of Darkness Volume 6
Descendants of Darkness Volume 7
Descendants of Darkness Volume 8 -- NEW!

return to top

Embalmer1The Embalmer (Volume 1)
By Mitzukazu Mihara
ISBN: 1-59816-646-8, ISBN-13: 978-1-59816-646-0
Tokyopop, 2006

Mihara is best known for her Goth-loli fashion and exploring the uneasy and increasingly intimate relationships between people and technology. With The Embalmer, she takes on a different kind of relationship: the dead and the living they leave behind. Shinjyurou Mamiya, a magnetic and brilliant medical student, has returned to Japan to practice the art of embalming, a practice generally considered unclean and barbaric. Mamiya, however, feels that embalming, if done artfully, gives mourners one last goodbye with the deceased, starting the living on the road to recovery rather than clinging to grief. With Azuki, his cute landlady and conscience, Mamiya manages to discover who needs his services most. The connections between life and death are potent, especially as Mamiya, ahem, releases tension with rotating lady friends after each embalming, satisfying the lust brought on by each close brush with death. The art is everything Mihara is known for: elegant, gothic, and a little bit unsettling. This first volume forces U.S. readers to take another look at our own mourning practices and consider how people can best come through loss and loneliness. The sensual shenanigans are offset by the tender compassion Mamiya shows both toward his clients and toward the people they've left behind, though thus far there is not enough sense of where the story is going to be sure how the meditations on death will become part of a greater story arc. The few scenes of seduction, given Mamiya's urges, lend the title an definite older edge. Neither truly shojo or shonen, The Embalmer occupies middle ground in terms of appeal, though the emotional focus and dashing lead pull the title toward shojo.

review by robin

return to top

Flower of LifeThe Flower of Life (Volume 1)
By Fumi Yoshinaga
ISBN: 978-1-56970-874-3
Digital Manga, 2007

This series has many of the same elements as Yoshinaga's other works--quirky plot twists, deep emotion, offbeat humor, and beautiful artwork. But this series is not one of her boy's love titles, so don't expect romance from the relationship between Haru and his new pal Shota. Haru has had to enroll in school a month late because he was getting a bone transplant for his leukemia. He's fine now and enjoying making new friends, especially Shota, a sweet, but very chubby, boy. It's refreshing to see characters with varying body types in this manga and makes the school setting more realistic. Haru is a bit of an airhead, but he is endearing and the friendship between him and Shota is believable and warm. There are plenty of humorous side characters, including Kai, a grumpy otaku who is friends with Shota, two teachers involving in an extramarital affair, and Haru's loving, but odd family. While the plot seems like it jumps around a good deal, readers of Yoshinaga's former works, especially Antique Bakery, will know to hang on through the next two volumes while she weaves the many plot threads together.

review by snow

return to top

I Never Liked YouF-Stop
by Antony Johnston
ISBN: 1932664092
Oni Press, 2005

Nick Stoppard is a really, really bad photographer. Unfortunately, taking pictures is what he wants to do--and he's just spent all his money to open a studio he doesn't know how to run! Then Nick meets Chantel, a model. When her photographer's sick the next day and no one can find a replacement, she has her boss call in Nick to take the pictures! Everything goes horribly, as usual, and the photos are the worst Nick's ever seen, but to his shock, the fashion industry seems to like them a lot--and they're determined to make him a star. Can Nick keep his job when he has no idea what he's doing? And can he stay true to himself in the process? The art in F-Stop is bold and distinctive: Matthew Loux has a very thick line, which he uses well thoughout the book, conveying expressions and landscape with a very minimalist style. Antony Johnson's writing creates a thoughtful light comedy that makes fun reading--teens new to the graphic novel and graphic novel veterans will both enjoy this book.

review by gina

return to top

G. I. Joe ReloadedG.I. Joe Reloaded Volume 1: In the Name of Patriotism
By John Ney Rieber
Art by Eddy Barrows, Javier Saltares, Ron Lim, Jason Millet, Andrew Pepoy
ISBN: 1-932796-23-1
Image, 2005

A clean slate modernization of G.I. Joe with new storylines, character designs, and real world problems.

Nowadays the popular thing is to take old titles and clean them up, revise them, get rid of anything from the past, and introduce them as brand new. G.I. Joe Reloaded falls into that category but not in a bad way.

Cobra, shedding its terrorist roots to become a para military organization, is trying to usher in a new world order in America. Naturally, this is a job for G.I. Joe who is so secret that they even face conflict from their own military.

All the favorite characters are here, some with new designs and genders, and each works nicely together to move the story forward. I especially enjoyed the plot involving Snake Eyes along with the witty, and characteristic, dialogue between Beach Head and everyone else.
The artwork is incredible without overshadowing the rest of the work. It brought me back to sitting on my living room floor as a seven year old watching this ‘80s cartoon staple.
This isn’t one of the giants on the field but it is an enjoyable piece of fandom that will appeal to children of the ‘80s and today’s teens. Unfortunately, the series ends with issue 14 because it didn’t get enough of a following. Don’t let that deter you from adding it into young adult collections.

review by jonathan

return to top

Her Majesty's DogHer Majesty's Dog (Volume 2-4)
By Mick Yakeuchi
Go Comi, 2006

Everyone knows the story of Beauty and the Beast --- the selfless beauty who loves the Beast despite his frightening looks. There's something comforting in the idea that appearances can be both deceptive and surpassed in finding love and loyalty. But what happens when the beast is truly a beast and will never regain an acceptable, princely form?...read more

Volumes in Series Currently Reviewed:

Her Majesty's Dog Volume 1
Her Majesty's Dog Volume 2
Her Majesty's Dog Volume 3
Her Majesty's Dog Volume 4

review by robin

return to top

KamuiKamui (Volume 1)
By Singo Nanami
ISBN: 1-59741-048-9
Broccoli Books, 2005

When Okikurumi, the sacred spirit, is stolen from Atsuma s village, Atsuma travels to Eden in hope of returning it to its rightful home. Eden, the part of Tokyo that is left after two giant earthquakes cause much of Japan to sink into the ocean, also serves as the headquarters of NOA, an organization whose members use special powers to fight the giant monsters that appeared after the second earthquake. After helping her to defeat one of these monsters, Atsuma is invited by Sumire, one of the three leaders of NOA, to join the organization. Sensing the presence of Okikurumi somewhere within the facility, Atsuma agrees. While Atsuma uses the technology now at his disposal to try to track down the sacred spirit, the other two leaders, Shiki and Hyde, try to discover just who Atsuma is and how he might be of use to them.

The action in Kamui begins immediately with the arrival of a giant monster in what is clearly a ruined city. Major characters are introduced quickly as the danger to the city progresses. Fortunately, there is a character list at the beginning of the chapter, making each character easy to identify, despite the flowing capes and wispy hair each seems to possess. Shiki's unemotional dominance over the other NOA members, Hyde's overt brutality, and Sumire's seemingly endless case of ennui make the NOA leaders unsympathetic and difficult to identify with. And while Atsuma's quest seems worthwhile, so little is revealed about his village, his powers, or the strange voice that seems to talk to him through what appears to be a tattoo on his neck, the reader has little chance to care about him or his search before the volume is over. The artwork also takes some getting use to, as the giant heads, elongated necks and emaciated bodies distract from the story. These extremes become less noticeable with each chapter and by the end of the volume the parts of the body are almost in proportion to each other.

Even though Atsuma hints at the eminent destruction of the world, without characters worth caring about, this hook is not enough to pull the reader into volume two. While die hard fans of shonen action adventures will undoubtedly find something to enjoy in Kamui and girls who like their boys skinny and androgynous with a hint of BL will enjoy looking at the pictures, ultimately Kamui is disappointing. Although rated 13+, there is some sexual innuendo that will not go unnoticed by younger teens.

review by eva

return to top

Kare First LoveKare First Love (Volume 1)
By Kaho Miyasaka
ISBN: 978-1-59116-394-7
VIZ, 2004

“Guys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses”, right? But all you have to do is take of her glasses and then she's one hot chick. Ugh. As a glasses wearer, I hate those kinds of stories. I think my glasses are quite fetching, thank-you-very-much. So I was thrilled when cute boy Kiriya tells mousy Karin “You're cute--even without your glasses.”

While this sweet first volume of a ten book series doesn't break a lot of shojo boundaries, the characters are interesting and the romance is believable, to the reader that is. Karin cannot believe that a cute guy like Kiriya would be interested in her. Her timidity and low self-esteem is frustrating at times, but makes sense for someone who doesn't have parents who care. Kiriya probably has unresolved issues (this is shojo, after all), but none of them surface in this volume and you can see that he truly does like Karin. Yuka, the bully who has “befriended” Karin, is nasty in all the right ways. I can't wait to read more to see how Karin makes new friends, handles the bully, and gets her man. A nice choice for shojo readers wanting something sweet with just enough angst.

review by snow

return to top

Kaze HikaruKaze Hikaru
By Taeko Watanabe
Tokyopop, 2005-

Set in 1863, Kaze Hikaru is both a girl's coming-of-age story and a history of the Shinsengumi, one of the most famous (and tragically heroic) bands of warriors in Japanese history. When 15-year-old Tominaga Sei's father and brother are killed by Choshu supporters, she disguises herself as a boy and joins the Mibu-Roshi to aid them in their support of the Shogunate against the Choshu clan and to better her chances of avenging her family...read more

Volumes in Series Currently Reviewed:

Kaze Hikaru Volume 1
Kaze Hikaru Volume 2
Kaze Hikaru Volume 3
Kaze Hikaru Volume 4

review by eva

return to top

King of ThornKing of Thorn (Volume 1)
By Yuji Iwahara
ISBN: 978-1-59816-235-6
Tokyopop, 2007

Kasumi opens her eyes, but no matter how surreal and impossible the waking world seems, it's not a nightmare she can escape from.

The Medusa virus, an illness that quickly and painfully killed the infected by turning them into stone, was sweeping across the globe, and a few infected chosen were placed in suspended animation to be awakened only when a cure was found. Heartbroken at leaving her beloved twin behind, Kasumi was one of the selected -- but when she wakes up, there is no cure and no help. A jungle has enveloped the facility and creatures resembling dinosaurs are the only living creatures roaming the halls. Haywire electronics have caused her and her fellow sleepers to be revived, but with monsters set on their destruction and a world so altered, the survivors need to think quickly to survive, let alone speculate on what has happened or where they can go from here.

What has happened to humanity? Is hope an option, or is it dangerous? With the Medusa virus reactivated inside their bodies, they have precious little time to solve the riddle they've discovered. While the remaining few have to work together, circumstances reveal the best and worst of humanity --- from people who bribed their way into the project to those who will do anything, include sacrificing everyone else, to survive. Iwahara's character design may seem at first glance almost too cute for such a serious dilemma, but her ability to create engaging action sequences and terrifying monsters and still illuminate each character's emotions, from greed to horror to determination, proves that she is more then capable of knocking your socks off artistically.

This is one heck of an opening for a series, and while a few answers are within sight, with every new answer comes a pile of new questions. If you like mysteries like “Lost,” this suspenseful survival tale is for you.

review by robin

return to top

let daiLet Dai
by Sooyeon Won
Netcomics , 2006

The old adage, no good deed goes unpunished, holds true for Jaehee when he rescues a girl from being attacked by the Furies, a brutal street gang. Although the two get away safely, Jaehee is targeted by Dai, the leader of the gang. read more...

Let Dai: Volume 1
Let Dai: Volume 2
Let Dai: Volume 3
Let Dai: Volume 4

review by eva

return to top

Lie to MeLie to Me
By Youngran Lee
ISBN: 1-600091-60-1
Netcomics, 2006

While I applaud what Netcomics is trying to do with their Manhwa Novella Collection (showcase manhwa stories from prominent Korean comic authors/illustrators), I was disappointed by the first volume. Lee's work is stilted and awkward, even though this book didn't have the painful translation problems like some other Netcomics titles. None of the stories are developed or plotted well. The first story recounts a girl who plays a cruel trick on a boy with amnesia, the second story shows a girl dared to kiss a naive boy she sees in a cafe, and the third follows a girl who fights with a stranger and then finds out he's her new math teacher. The romance is thrown in at the end, so it is completely unbelievable and the plots often drift away in the finales, as if Lee wasn't sure how to wrap things up. While the character portraits spread throughout the book can be interesting and do show some personality, the characters drawn within these three stories are flatter than the paper they're printed on. They barely change expression, except for opening their mouths wide in shock, and their eyes never show any thoughts or feelings. In a field where other artists can convey whole sentences just by drawing the expression in one eye, Lee's characters' paper doll qualities are even more glaring. A (mostly off screen) rape scene, some alcohol use, and a smattering of language make this title for older teens, but don't waste your money or time. There's better shojo out there.

review by snow

return to top

LineLine
By Yua Kotegawa
ISBN: 1-4139-0249-9
ADV Manga, 2006

What's the value of a human life? Are you responsible for the life of the stranger sitting next to you on the train, or the kid who sits next to you in class? These are the questions that propel Yua Kotegawa's Line, a one-volume drama that's part after-school special and part modern-day fable. High schoolers Chiko and Bando are on opposite sides of the social divide: statuesque Chiko is a contented member of the in-crowd, while Bando is an A-student and athlete who hangs with the "freaks." The two are thrown together when Chiko picks up a lost cell phone and hears a mysterious caller telling her the time and location of a death. True to thriller conventions, the girls find the body of a classmate at the local train station. It seems Chiko has been chosen to play the savior in a suicide pact, and soon the girls are racing across Tokyo trying to stop the deaths. The breathless pace of Line doesn't give Kotegawa much time to develop her deeper themes of technology, social networks, and suicide in contemporary Japan (where suicide rates are on the rise), but her story and dialogue have a natural rhythm that captures an ordinary girl's reaction to an extraordinary situation. Line's true insights lie in the little, human moments between the teens as they try to do the right thing. Kotegawa's art is clean and sharp, and it puts readers in the action taking place on Tokyo's streets, subways, and rooftops. Though the main character design is so pretty the characters almost seem cold, side characters show a greater diversity (there's actually a fat character, the victim of the in-crowd's teasing). A few elements are clearly there to please a certain audience--Chiko manages to lose some clothing (but for a good reason!) and there's a hint that Bando's interest in Chiko is more than friendly. While the ending feels a bit like a "very special episode" of a sitcom, the relationships between the characters remain convincingly unresolved. Will any of the bonds formed during the desperate chase last beyond the moment? As in real life, no one has all the answers.

review by jen

return to top

mary jane homecomingMary Jane: Homecoming
by Sean McKeever
ISBN: 0785117792
Marvel Comics, 2005

Mary Jane Watson has become famous in the popular imagination as Spider-Man's girlfriend. But this book is set before Mary Jane started dating Spider-Man, when she was still in high school and Spider-Man was still that unknown superhero she sort of had a crush on, in that rockstar kind of way. In this book, Mary Jane's dating Harry Osborn, but Harry's dad says that he can't take Mary Jane to the homecoming dance unless he passes his physics test! What should Harry do? Even tutoring from that geeky Peter Parker doesn't make him understand physics, so Harry decides that he should get Mary Jane to help him cheat. But Mary Jane's not really comfortable with that...and she doesn't have anyone to talk about her problems with because her best friend Liz is uncharacteristically avoiding her. Will Mary Jane be able to do the right thing? Can she figure out what's up with Liz? And who will be the homecoming queen? This book is a cute story about a girl in high school who has the typical problems that most high-school age girls have: friends, school, and dating. It's a fun book with manga-like art that will resonate with teenage girls.

review by gina

return to top

Millennium SnowMillennium Snow (Volume 1)
By Bisco Hatori
ISBN: 1-4215-1202-5
VIZ, 2007

Chiyuki, a seventeen-year old heart patient, has been hospitalized for what will probably be the last time, when she meets Toya, an eighteen-year old vampire who has sworn off drinking blood. It is during their eighteenth year that vampires generally form a bond with the partner they will feed off of; in return, the partner lives as long as the vampire, a thousand years. When Chiyuki hears this, she becomes determined to stay with Toya, regardless of the fact that Toya is not interested in forming relationships at all, afraid of losing the people he has become attached to as he outlives them all. Naturally, the two become close, Toya (an emotionally distant hottie) resisting at every turn. When Chiyuki recovers from her illness and returns to school, new characters are introduced who also have commitment fears having to do with love and loss.

Millennium Snow is a highly predictable story, but fun, nonetheless, as Chiyuki gradually wears down Toya's defences. One of the author's early works, the long-limbed characters, dynamic facial expressions, and flashes of laugh-out-loud humor are similar to those that make Ouran High School Host Club so successful. The extra story included at the end of the volume is a sweet and slightly twisted story about a girl who falls in love with her best friend's hidden personality. If you are in the mood for a formula romance with a little humor and not much angst, Millennium Snow may be just what you're looking for.

review by eva

return to top

Mugen SpiralMugen Spiral (Volume 1)
By Mizuho Kusanagi
ISBN-10: 1-59816-829-0
ISBN-13: 978-1-59816-829-7
Tokyopop, 2007

The whole schoolgirl contending with a renegade demon has been done many times in manga, and while Mugen Spiral doesn�t really do anything too new with the premise, snide dialogue spices up the shojo frothiness enough to make it a fun trip.

Yayoi may be your typical schoolgirl, but she�s also a talented mystic over able to control a multitude of spirits. While on the one hand this makes her able to stand up to all manner of challenges, it also makes her a target for demons who know that if they can kill her, all of that power will transfer to them. Ura, one of the leading contenders jockeying for the position of King of the Underworld, arrives to claim her power for himself. Too bad she promptly turns him into a tiny, adorable, catnip loving black kitty cat. He may rage and rant, but it�s hard to take him seriously when he�s a ball of fluff.

Of course, this is just the prologue of what may well develop into a winning fantasy. The characters are already developing complexities, always a good sign. Yayoi is strong, certainly, but she has her vulnerabilities and can be a bit na�ve � which will no doubt lead to growth. While Ura may come off as an arrogant, selfish brat used to getting his own way, he turns out to have tenderness and loyalty lurking under the snotty fa�ade. As other demons start arriving on the scene, the battle for Yayoi�s power gets more vicious while the relationship between the two leads becomes more than just predator and prey. Comic relief is provided by Ura�s cat antics (the creators obviously know cat attitude) and a cousin of Ura�s who�s determined to marry him, never mind that they�re both guys � think of the power of being the spouse of the King of Hell!

So, if you like dashing demons, witty reparte, a touch of romantic tension, and wacky slapstick involving cats, then this is the book for you.

review by robin

return to top

My Heavenly Hockey ClubMy Heavenly Hockey Club (Volume 1)
By Ai Morinaga
ISBN: 978-0-345-49904-2
Del Rey, 2007

Hana Suzuki is a manga heroine I can relate to: she chose her high school purely because it was close enough that she could sleep later in the mornings. She thinks nothing of consuming a fridge full of cheesecakes in one sitting. So much does she love her creature comforts that she actually hesitates when the totally hot (and rich!) Izumi Oda invites her to join the school's hocky club-a club made up entirely of cute boys. Luckily for Hana, the club doesn't have enough members to actually play any other team (plus, their grasp of hockey is sketchy at best). Since Oda is the school chairman's grandson, the school turns a blind eye while the hockey club pretends to travel to games and lounges around at hotels (and Oda's swanky country estate). Soon Hana has all treats she can eat, plus the adoration of her own personal posse. Will she fall for Oda, who's hiding a serious crush behind his prickly behavior? Will the school ever make the hockey club...play hockey?

My Heavenly Hockey Club is a set-up so ridiculous that it shouldn't work, but it does. I laughed hysterically at demented chibi-Hana, Oda's wildlife-infested house (a bear ends up following them home and playing goalie), and the aftermath of the above-mentioned cheesecake consumption. A lot of the credit goes to Del Rey's expert translation, which showcases Morinaga's wacky humor. You'll actually learn something about Japanese food, thanks to Hana's insatiable hunger, so you can say with a straight face that My Heavenly Hockey Club is totally educational. I swear!

review by snow

return to top

I Never Liked YouNightcrawler: The Winding Way (Volume 2)
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
ISBN: 0785118167
Marvel Comics, 2005

Clinging to life after a vicious and bizarre attack by Vermin, Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler, sees his life flashing before his eyes. Only it's not the life he remembers. It was his brother who killed those children, wasn't it? Or did Kurt do that? But how could he do something like that and not remember? Once he awakens from the coma, he begins a journey to the lands of his past, accompanied by Wolverine and the intriguing nurse Christine, to rediscover the sins of his childhood and the evils lurking therein. The second volume by the powerhouse team of Aguirre-Sacasa and Robertson, this title requires much more back story than their first offering, Nightcrawler: The Devil Inside, but that doesn't make it any less compelling. Kurt's struggle to reconstruct the elements of his fractured past in time to prevent an unknown assailant from killing everyone connected with him turns into a religious struggle for good and evil, appropriate for the X-Men's resident believer. In fact, I only had two complaints with this title. One, Robertson's art is not as powerful as I've seen before and two, this is the final volume of their collaboration. Considering the cliff-hanger ending, I'm not sure why Marvel wouldn't want to continue their work. I hope that the storyline is picked up by an appropriately talented writer and artist, but they should know that the'll have big shoes to fill. With the first volume this is a highly recommended purchase for libraries, Expect patrons to beg for the rest of the story.

review by snow

return to top

1001nightsOne Thousand and One Nights (Volume 1-3)
By Jin Seok-Jeon
Ice Kunion, 2005-

The Arabian Nights - most of us know the stories of Ali Baba and Aladdin, but the much longer original collection of tales were lush cautionary tales set in cultures all over the world. In this beautifully rendered series retelling the One Thousand and One Nights, we revisit familiar stories and are entranced with less well-known visions. The frame of the original is the same: the mad, betrayed sultan Shahryar, beheading a bride a night, and clever Scheherazade spinning out stories to delay the morning and save her life. However in this Korean manhwa the players are recast and given a more complex back story. Read more...

One Thousand and One Nights Volume 1 -- NEW!
One Thousand and One Nights Volume 2 -- NEW!
One Thousand and One Nights Volume 3 -- NEW!

review by robin

return to top

Ouran High School Host Club 2Ouran High School Host Club
by Bisco Hatori
ISBN: 1591169901
Viz , 2005

Ouran High School is the school where Japan's wealthy elite send their children. When Haruhi Fujioka, a poor scholarship student, wanders into Music Room 3, looking for a quiet place to study, she instead finds the headquarters of the school s Host Club. ...read more

Ouran High School Host Club: Volume 1 -- NEW!
Ouran High School Host Club: Volume 2 -- NEW!

all reviews by eva

return to top

Oyayubihime Infinity Oyayubihime Infinity
by Toru Fujieda
Volume 1: ISBN: 1-4012-1075-9
Volume 2: ISBN: 1-4012-1076-7
CMX, 2006

Kanoko and her beautiful sister Mayu have two things in common--the butterfly birthmark on their thumbs and the career of up-and-coming young actress, Maya, who is really Mayu, managed by Kanoko. When her school's most popular boy, Tsubame, notices Kanoko's birthmark, he tells her that they were lovers in a past life and are destined to be together, Kanoko flatly rejects the idea. But as more information about the past emerges and as more people with butterfly marks are found, the sisters will be pulled apart and love and loyalty will be called into question. Fujieda's series is rather hard to place in a specific genre. CMX lists it as a comedy and there are a number of humorous moments. There's also a good amount of drama and romance and hints of fantasy. But whatever the genre, it is an interesting and compelling read which leaves plenty of clues to make readers eager for the rest of the series. Both storyline and art are strong in these two volumes and they complement each other nicely. Characters are drawn distinctly and they slowly reveal more and more of themselves as the books move on. The plot is complex, but never too hard to follow and the romance and comedy elements play off each other nicely. It's hard to tell this early in the series where certain elements are headed, especially in the various romances, but the ambiguity keeps things interesting. A recommended read for manga fans who like pretty boys, slightly silly romance, and dramatic plots with multiple twists.

review by snow

return to top

PastelPastel (Volume 1)
by Toshihiko Kobayashi
ISBN: 0345486277
Del Rey, 2005

On the surface Pastel seems little more than close-up panty and breast shots to amuse hormone-driven teenagers. The cover shows a scantily clad girl wearing either a swimsuit or undergarments. But, as the old adage �don�t judge a book by its cover� teaches us we have to dig beneath the surface to find the gold that is Pastel Vol. 1 by Toshihiko Kobayashi.

The central character is everyman teenager Mugi Tadano who is recovering from a severe heartbreak when his girlfriend moves away. To get over the loss he gets a summer job at a tropical snack bar and gets set up with cutie Yuu Tsukisaki. The hilarity begins when he accidentally walks in on Yuu in the bath. When he moves back home for school a surprise awaits him and history repeats itself. The conflict of teenage boy meets teenage girl combined with an almost parental or brotherly compassion makes this a worthy read. Koyabashi does an excellent job of capturing teenage emotions in this whirlwind using Mugi as the poster child. Through slapstick comedy Pastel portrays the innocent youthfulness of characters who struggle with growing up and finding the opposite sex attractive.

The artwork beautifully portrays places that most of us will never visit. The beachside summer locale for Mugi�s job makes the reader hear the seagulls and feel the sun beat down on their faces. The urban setting of Mugi�s home and school brings the hustle and bustle to life. We can picture this happening here in the U.S. with some slight adjustments. Even the internal artwork of buildings and Mugi�s home is incredible for the insight into Japanese family life.

I won�t deny that most people will pick up this manga because of the sensual fan service portrayed in the volume. It is geared towards a male audience and sex sells. But, there�s so much more to Pastel than that. The fan service is limited to accidents for comedic effect such as �oops, I just walked in on Yuu getting dressed� and they are not the focus of the title. Kobayashi does a superb balancing act in this regard. At the end of the day Pastel is a heartwarming story of a confused adolescent combating lust and compassion. The universality of that ensures a solid foundation of common ground between reader and the characters.

review by jonathan

return to top

PeppermintPeppermint (Volume 1)
By Eun-Jin Seo
ISBN: 1-59816-681-6
Tokyopop, 2006

Hey is an average teenage girl who has an above average crush on the hot teen singer EZ. Luckily for her, he goes to her school and he's very friendly to her, always asking her to help him practice lines for the shows and movies he acts in. Unluckily for her, EZ's friendliness catches the attention of a gang of crazed fan-girls and their leader, Naomi. Naomi is determined to have EZ to herself and she s more than happy to bully Hey mercilessly every time EZ pays extra attention to her. During one of these bullying sessions, Hey is rescued by EO, a skateboarder in junior high who wants Hey to pretend to be his girlfriend for reasons of his own. Now every time Hey tries to get up the nerve to let EZ know her true feelings, EO is in the way. Will she ever get the boy she wants, assuming she can figure out which boy that is?

I wanted to like Peppermint and if I hadn t read, and fallen in love with, Ji-Sang Shin & Geo's Chocolat first, I probably would have. The two manhwa are very similar both deal with the world of Korean fandom, both have a girl in full crush-mode on an idol, both have an annoying (yet cute) boy who isn't afraid to speak his mind, both deal with girls bullying other girls, etc. but Chocolat is far better written, drawn, and presented. Seo's work is interesting, but she doesn't develop her characters enough for the reader to truly care about them. She also relies too much on typical shojo elements without branching out and finding her own path. Her drawing style makes it hard to tell the characters ages, important in a work dealing with both junior high and high school age students, and her characters movements seem stiff and forced. In addition to those problems, Tokyopop seems to have thrown this volume together haphazardly and ended up with an extra page stuck in, making it hard to keep the action straight and some of the dialogue is lost in the fold of the page. I tried to pick up volume two to see if the story got better, but unfortunately it seems to have gone even further into the problems mention above. An optional purchase for libraries with shojo fans who have read everything else, but I'd make sure you have all the volumes of Chocolat first.

review by snow

return to top

Portrait de Petite CossetteLe Portrait de Petite Cossette (Volume 1)
By Cossette House/Aniplex
Art by Asuka Katsura
ISBN: 1-59816-530-5
Tokyopop, 2006

Eiri is an art student working in an antique store where he becomes fascinated by a painting of a young girl, Cossette. The painting is infamous because all of its former owners have died in odd ways. When Cossette's spirit comes to Eiri asking for his help, he begins a journey through darkness and danger trying desperately to collect Cossette's lost possessions--which have become cursed--and, in the process, save Cossette's soul.

Based on a popular anime, this manga is a decent choice for teens who are eager for more Gothic romance-type books. It has an appropriately eerie feel, though never enough to fully suck the reader into the story. The art has lots of blood, darkness, long looks and Goth Loli clothes and the story is full of voiceover talking about fear, despair, death and fate. Somehow the two elements fail to come together to create anything especially memorable. This is not a bad title, but it fails to stand out from the crowd. At two volumes total, the series is a good choice for libraries with rabid Gothic fans, but it's an optional purchase overall.

review by snow

return to top

Pride of BaghdadPride of Baghdad
By Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Niko Henrichon
ISBN: 1-4012-0314-0
Vertigo/DC, 2006

Amidst the horror of war a group of lions escape the zoo, in this "inspired by true events" story, and reflect the deeper meaning of the War on Terror in Iraq while trying to get to safety.

At the start three lions are set free when a bomb from an American plane lands in the zoo. With their freedom at hand the lions are unsure what to do. Noor, the youngest and head lioness, is concerned and makes a poignant statement, “Freedom can’t be given, only earned.” This and other truisms pop up as the lions head away from the zoo on their journey.

Along the way they battle a bear, visit a palace, and come to learn the price of their freedom. In many ways the tale of Noor, Zil, Saffa, and Ali serves as an allegory to mirror that of their human counterparts in Iraq.

Artist Niko Henrichon is unafraid to paint the reality of war with his color artwork. He shows us life, death, struggle, survival, gain, and loss with realistic drawings. Although the violence of the struggle is shown, there is no reveling in it. There are no gory scenes just to show some blood and guts. Each panel is carefully planned and plotted to maximize its impact.
Brian Vaughan’s writing serves as the perfect counterpart to the incredible artwork. He is able to convey truth, emotion, and question in an understandable format.

This title serves as an excellent addition to curriculum for older teens. It will help them understand the best way possible...by asking questions. Pride is a must-have graphic novel for every collection and makes an excellent non-fiction addition.

review by jonathan

return to top

Princess PrincessPrincess Princess (Volume 1-3)
By Mikiyo Tsuda
Volume 1 ISBN: 978-1-56970-856-9
Volume 2 ISBN: 978-1-56970-855-2
Volume 3 ISBN: 978-1-56970-852-1
Digital Manga, 2006-2007

Cross-dressing bishonens! Tsuda's series is tailor-made for fangirls. Due to family problems, Tohru Kouno transfers to an all-boy school midway into his first year of high school. He's not excited about the lack of girls, but soon discovers that things are even worse than he'd imagined. It seems that his school chooses pretty boys in the first year to act as “princesses.” They dress up as girls and cheer for sporting events and club practices---and Tohru's good looks mean he's perfectly suited for the role. With femininely beautiful Yuujirou Shihoudani and the very reluctant Yutaka Mikoto, Tohru will find that dressing in drag may be the least of his problems.

Tsuda, who also writes boy's love under the name Taishi Zaou, has crafted a very funny ode to friendship, with ties to her series The Day of Revolution (also published by DMP) and Family Complex (not yet released in the states). The plot occasionally meanders, but always has its eye focused on the relationships between the three princesses and another freshman boy. Their interactions are amusing and believable and it's a pleasure to watch them together. Tsuda's art shows her boy's love roots--the boys are almost supernaturally pretty, which leads to many humorous situations, such as the older boys in town who constantly mistake Tohru and Yuujirou for girls and try to pick them up. Some of the humor is for older readers, like when Yuujiroo describes what type of breasts he prefers or when Tsuda plays with shojo drama conventions like abuse and family problems. Overall the tone is light and characters often break the fourth wall, discussing the background or panel placement. For fans who've come over from the boy's love genre, Tsuda makes things clear that this series is shojo, but there is enough fan service to make readers happy, including a cross-over in book three with Tsuda's friend, and fellow boy's love creator, Eiki Eiki. A highly recommended series for readers who love bishonens, cross-dressing school stories, and humor.

review by snow

return to top

I Never Liked YouProject Telstar
by Various Authors
ISBN: 0972179429
AdHouse Books, 2003

Project Telstar is an anthology: it's a collection of short comics about space and robots. Twenty-six creators contributed to this anthology, including luminaries like Scott Morse, Jeffrey Brown, Paul Hornschemeier, and Tom Gauld. Though the stories are very varied in tone, they all work well together and the anthology feels like a complete work, rather than a lot of pieces of disjointed fiction. Project Telstar is very well put together. As well as having die-cut corners, it is printed in two colors on white paper: black, and a shiny blue that works very well with the anthology's theme of space and robotics.

review by gina

return to top

Project X: Cup Noodle Project X: Nissin Cup Noodle
by Tadashi Katoh
ISBN: 1-56970-959-9
Digital Manga Publishing 2006

This is the story of "a new type of food for a new era." It is the story of Momofuku Andou, a man of simple tastes and a driving ambition: to create Japan's next fast-food sensation and change the way we think about food forever. It is the story of Kazuo Ohnojin, good with his hands and a quick thinker who is willing to try over 800 kinds of shrimp in the quest for the perfect soup garnish (did you know that worldwide there are about 2500 varieties of edible shrimp, but only one variety remains red when freeze-dried?). It is the story of young newlywed Masahiro Sasaki who is so dedicated to his job that he has nightmares about being crushed by giant noodle soup containers. It is a story of engineers and assembly line workers, of publicists, researchers, and suppliers. Most of all it is a story about ingenuity and teamwork in an era when the relationship between food and technology was still new and strange. Freeze drying! Styrofoam containers!

As told by Tadashi Katoh, the story of Cup Noodle is an heroic one. True, no one is saving the world or foiling an evil plot - this story instead finds and celebrates the sublime moments of creativity and triumph possible even in life's least glamorous moments. To know that Nissin's Cup Noodles represent not only one man's life dreams for fast food in Japan but also the ingenuity of a factory of highly trained designers, engineers, and businessmen elevates the salty delicacy to an art form. Next time you peel back the paper lid, pour hot water over freeze-died noodles, and lick a drop of broth off the styrofoam cup's edge, you're tasting history.

review by alison

return to top

Project X: Seven ElevenProject X: Seven Eleven
By Tadashi Ikuta
Art by Naomi Kimura
ISBN: 1-56970-958-0
Digital Manga, 2006

The 1950’s are ending, and a revolution is brewing in Japan. Supermarkets and department stores are expanding, sending one mom and pop corner store after another into bankruptcy even as the big cities are running out of space. Who can stop these department-store behemoths before they swallow another family business? Who can save the Japanese retail industry from itself as giant supermarkets obliterate neighborhoods and threaten to collapse under their own weight of merchandise? Enter Shimizu and Suzuki, two unlikely capitalist heroes in pinstriped armor trapped in a tiny office and desperate to invent something new. Their lucky break comes during a grueling cross-country trip in America (look out for a cameo appearance by Cup Noodle) where the exhausted junior bureaucrats stumble upon their first 7-11 store, glowing unearthly fluorescent beside a flat and lonely middle-American highway. The convenience store! We take them for granted now, yawning at 2:00am with an armload of twinkies, sodas, and toilet paper, but for our heroes this modern and distinctly American innovation promises to shake up the Japanese retail industry as nothing else can. The story takes off from here, chronicling the team’s battles with the greed of corporate America, the conservatism of their older supervisors, and the technical problems inherent in starting a store that stocks over 3,000 different items in 850 square of space. Read Project X: Seven Eleven for those stories and more, but look closer and you’ll see a fascinating record of Japan’s view of Americans’ approach to making money (and American businessmen!). Half propaganda, half cultural commentary Seven Eleven will show you how much history and cultural exchange live on in the businesses we take most for granted.

review by alison

return to top

QueensQueens (Volume 1)
By Sung-Hyen Ha
ISBN: 978-1-59816-658-3
Tokyopop, 2006

Manga and manhwa for girls are filled with pretty boys and cute boys and boys who look great dressed as girls. But is that really what girls want? Pil-Hyun Jung is one of those pretty boys--his eyes are large, his skin is soft, his body is thin. He's very popular, but even though the girls say he's cute, that's not enough to keep his classmate (and crush) Song-Ah from falling for the manly Gyung-Ju. Desperate to shed his pretty boy image, Pil-Hyun turns to a manhwa artist, Bok-Nam Park, creator of the series “How to Escape from Being a Pretty Boy.” As Park's apprentice, Pil-Hyun will finally be a manly man. However, Park and friends are not quite as they appear!

This series is about as silly and fluffy as they come, but it's a fun and appealing read. Pil-Hyun is completely oblivious in many ways, but you can't help feeling sorry for him. He wants to be liked for who he is, but he also wants to be something else, something that his father, his brothers, and the girls at school will appreciate. This very real teenage emotion is kept from angst by a host of wacky events. Particularly funny is how all the girls in school think Pil-Hyun would be a perfect companion for manly guy Gyung-Ju, even though neither boy is inclined that way. Some language and discussions of sex give this its older teen rating, but libraries looking for silly follow ups to shojo titles like Ouran High School Host Club or The Wallflower might want to give this series a shot.

review by snow

return to top

Return to LabyrinthJim Henson’s Return to Labyrinth(Volume 1)
By Jake T. Forbes
Art by Chris Lie, Kouyu Shurei
ISBN: 1-59816-725-1
Tokyopop, 2006

Have you seen the movie? Jim Henson’s brilliant and creepy Labyrinth left me pining after David Bowie (he’ll never look the same to you after you see him play Jareth the Goblin King) and longing for a parallel universe of my own to slip away into should the need arise. From where I’m sitting Return to Labyrinth is a pretty skillful homage to one of Henson’s best projects (and maybe to some of his most fanatical fans), but for those of you who are new to the world of Labyrinth I’m guessing it’ll also be a good read. The curtain rises (literally!) on Tobey our teenage protagonist, catching him in the midst of accidentally ruining the school play and damaging his already tarnished reputation for good. One disaster piles atop another, building from a fight with his overbearing mother to a failed pop quiz to a puzzling encounter with the schools new “guidance counselor.” This suspiciously pointy-eared and good-looking character is seen on campus just long enough to ruin Tobey’s academic record forever before leaping out a third storey window and disappearing. Things just get weirder from here. Tobey’s family ignores him, his ability to finish homework is severely compromised, and a furry imp steals his history paper and runs off with it down a mysterious tunnel in the back of his closet. At the other end of this closet/rabbit hole (references to the Narnia series and Alice in Wonderland duly noted) Tobey stumbles into the world of the Labyrinth where super-hot goblin Jareth (sorry, I can’t help it!) is King and nothing is what it seems … including Tobey himself.

review by snow

return to top

R.I.P.: Requiem in PhonybrainR.I.P.: Requiem in Phonybrain
By Mitsukazu Mihara
ISBN: 1-59816-505-4
Tokyopop, 2006

Transylvanian Rose, an angel who descends to Earth to cleanse souls so that they can enter heaven, is bored. Every day is the same and has been for all eternity. When she sees a cute guy kill himself she decides to keep him for a pet by giving him one of her wings, even though "those who take their own lives forsake heaven." The Undertaker, as she nicknames him, doesn't much want to be a pet and constantly tries to get away from Rose by trying to kill himself, impossible for an angel, until the two of them discover that he can purify the souls of suicides, something no other angel has ever been able to do. Will his newfound power lead to the mystery of why he killed himself and to a way for him to set his soul free at last? Mihara's books are known for both her Goth Lolita style and for her storylines which deal with weighty issues in an unusual fashion. Here she tackles both suicide and religion with humor, sensitivity, and love. Though some readers might balk at God being portrayed as a handsome, longhaired young man acting as father to a bickering group of hip young angels, you can't help but be swayed by the Undertaker's deep sadness. It is that sadness which forms the core of his powers, that and an understanding of why people kill themselves. Those reasons may seem trivial to outsiders, but Mihara uses her gentle angel to remind us that people who are depressed often see no other way out and to remind us that God loves us anyway. An excellent choice for fans of Mihara or Ai Yazawa or for manga/goth fans who want their religion thoughtful and though provoking.

review by snow

return to top

Rising Stars of Manga Volme 6Rising Stars of Manga (Volume 6)
by Various Authors
ISBN: 1595328165
ISBN: 9781595328168
Tokyopop, 2006

Mangaka America
by Various Authors
ISBN: 0061137693
Harper Collins, 2006

So, you wanna be a manga artist? Well, so do many, many artists just starting out � so check out these titles to see what your competition may be, and to gather advice on how to make it (or at least create the best work you can) in the world of manga-style comics.

However you define manga, there�s no question Japanese comics have had a huge influence on comic art today, and will continue to do so as all the dedicated manga fans put pen to paper and write and draw manga-style comics of their own.

Tokyopop�s annual Rising Stars of Manga competition is one of the best ways to get your feet wet if you�re serious about giving manga a try. The judges give honest criticism, which each volume gives in a prologue to each story, and even if creators don�t make the final cut, they encourage aspiring artists to submit again once they�ve honed their skills. The nicest thing about these manga collections is that they are a window into what�s to come while at the same time giving a window into how the judges (the editors and staff at Tokyopop) consider each title, commenting on the strengths and weaknesses of each entry.

For the latest volume 6, there�s everything from a surprise lesson in searching the trash to a villain�s check list for successful crimes to a violin that cries. These artists take to heart the example and lessons that manga teaches, but they use those tools to create work entirely their own.

Mangaka AmericaMangaka America is a lush book, full of many pages of everything from sketches to final art from the leading manga-style creators already working professionally. The title highlights some of, in my humble opinion, the best artists working in manga-style comics today, from Svetlana Chmakova (Dramacon) to Christy Lijewski (Re:Play) to M. Alice LeGrow (Bizenghast). There are profiles and chatty interviews of each artists, showing off how each creator works from imagining a story to the nitty gritty of what tools they use.

Now, there are fans who quibble about what manga is, and I see a lot of those points as valid (Japanese manga is unique in its perspective, and I don�t quite buy that manga made elsewhere is automatically the same.) However, in the end, comics are comics, and good stories are good stories. These artists are those who are not just imitating manga�s rules and visuals but are also making fresh stories and inventing new looks that meld styles together � and it�s just plain fun to guess where it�s all going. I just look forward to the stories that are coming � from these examples, there�s already a lot in the works, and there�s always room for more.

review by robin

return to top

Rose Hip Zero Rose Hip Zero (Volume 1)
By Tohru Fujisawa
ISBN: 1-4278-0025-1
Tokyopop, 2006

You know how every hardboiled cop you've ever seen on television �doesn't need no partner,� and �works alone�? Well, imagine how Officer Kyoji Kido feels when he finds out that not only does he have to take on a new partner, but that new partner happens to be a junior high student. But Kasumi Asakura isn't your ordinary teen; she's a former member of ALICE, a neo-terrorist group of super assassins known by the distinctive rose tattoo each member has somewhere on his or her body. Kasumi's link to ALICE leaves Kyoji wondering just how far he can trust her. His desire to stop ALICE supersedes his worry over Kasumi, though. You see, ALICE killed Kyoji's little sister and he'll stop at nothing to bring the group to justice.

If you love shoot-'em-up action movies, police dramas, or even the flying-fists of Jackie Chan, Rose Hip Zero is for you. Tohru Fujisawa, creator of GTO, starts this new series off with a bang: thugs, bikers, cops, car crashes, bombs, even a bit of fan service, and that's just in the first chapter. There is something for everyone in this book and the whole thing is fun. The characters are developed quickly and the action unfolds just as fast, as the dynamic art moves the reader from one scene to the next. There is some strong language used and the level of violence and number of panty shots make this a better choice for older teens. Definitely recommended.

review by eva

return to top

School RumbleSchool Rumble (Volume 1-3)
by Jin Kobayashi
Del Rey, 2006

Harima Kenji, loner, biker, and all-around juvenile delinquent, has a big crush on Tsukamoto Tenma. High school junior Tenma, cute, friendly, and dim, has an even bigger crush on Karasuma Oji. Oji is -- well, he's just odd. Plus, he's transferring to another school at the end of the year, so Tenma has just 365 days to work up the courage to tell him she loves him.

In this high school it seems that all love is unrequited and the antics of the characters, in their endless quest to gain the attentions of the objects of their respective desires, swing from the heartfelt to the ridiculous. Each short chapter serves as a snapshot of a particular event taking place during the school day as seen from the point of view of a different character. The plot, or what there is of one, develops slowly and most of volume one serves to introduce the characters and all the embarrassing things they are willing to do for love. While a plot does eventually reveal itself as the series progresses, it is the humor that pulls the reader along. The mangaka takes every opportunity to play each situation for laughs and sometimes uses fan service or innuendo to make the joke, but the humor never becomes crude.

This is a fun, silly, and addicting series that anyone who has ever felt the stirrings of a doomed love is sure to enjoy. In volume one, Tenma leaves a love letter in Oji's locker, but forgets to sign her name, resulting in Tenma trying to find other ways to get Oji to notice her. In the meantime, Kenji is trying to figure out how to tell Tenma he's in love with her, but Tenma's natural cluelessness makes this impossible. By the second volume, Tenma brings lunch for Oji, only to discover that he will only eat curry. Just curry. Kenji finally figures out who his rival is for Tenma's affections and he turns to writing manga as a form of release. When he goes to turn his book in for publication, Kenji discovers he has a rival there, too. In volume three, Tenma and her friends plan a summer trip to the beach, inviting Kenji to come along. Little did he know that a new rival would appear, one that Tenma seems already fond of.

review by eva

return to top

SnowSnow (Volume 1)
By Morgan Luthi
ISBN: 1-59816-743-X
Tokyopop, 2006

The dreaded Warmongers are burning their way across the galaxy and nothing is going to stand in their way. Their latest creation, the Ghost of Destruction, is a weapon of such terrifying power that whole planets crumble when it is unleashed. One lone world called Hub has managed to survive, mainly because it is located out on the remote backwater end of the galaxy, far from any other planets. The inhabitants are a mismatched jumble of pirates, loners, gangsters, and thieves the perfect place for a scarred refugee named Snow. He's come to Hub to hide, but when he finds himself mixed up with Katarina, a Robin Hood-style thief, and her gang, the Crows, Snow must decide if he is going to fight to save the group which has taken him in and the world on which they live.

I had high hopes for Luthi's first book. The cover is terrific and there is far too little really good comic science fiction. Unfortunately after I finished reading Snow, I realized that there is still far too little good comic science fiction. It's not that Snow is bad, but it just isn't enough and it is too much all at the same time. Luthi falls into the trap which seems common to a lot of original English-language manga: he tells too much too soon. So much is revealed in book one that I have no reason to hanker for book two. If Luthi had teased us with elements of what he reveals, if he had allowed us to see parts of his characters, but never the whole, then we would be eager to know more and ready to read the next book. But because too much is revealed too soon, little time is taken for character development. By the end of the book I didn t feel I knew Snow or Katarina any better than I did when I started reading, even though I knew more about them.

On top of that, Luthi's cartoonish style of art is jarring in connection with his more serious story. I could never decide if the tale was meant to be funny, ironic, or adventurous. In the end, I'm not sure if the problem lies with a new, inexperienced manga-ka or if the problem lies with Tokyopop's widely spaced release schedule for OEL manga. With a year or more between volumes, maybe Luthi was just worried that a second volume might never come, so he felt he needed to tell all the important elements of his story in volume one. An optional purchase for libraries where OEL manga circulates well.

review by snow

return to top

Star Trek The MangaStar Trek: The Manga (Volume 1)
By Chris Dows, Joshua Ortega, Jim Alexander, Mike W. Barr, Rob Tokar
By Makoto Nakatsuka, Gregory Giovanni Johnson, Michael Shelfer, Jeong Mo Yang, EJ Su
ISBN: 1-59816-744-8
Tokyopop, 2006

A collection of stories set in the original series complete with Captain Kirk, Bones, Spock, Scotty and the rest of the gang.

Fans of the original series will especially enjoy this title with its great emulation of the wooden acting, stilted dialogue, and less than exciting artwork. The myriad of stories, each written and drawn by different individuals, are sadly sub par with plots we’ve seen hundreds of times before in the franchise. One story describes the Enterprise transporting an extinct creature to another planet as a peace offering. Another tale highlights an ancient gender war moving onto the vessel. Batting .400 there are two noteworthy stories. The first provides a back story to a famous alien race and the second details Kirk’s message of non-violence to a ragtag group of mercenaries.

Artist EJ Su brought gigantic robot looking ships to life in the same vein as Macross in “Orphans.” It’s a shame that not all the other artists were as evocative.

This title will find its niche with trekkies and sci-fi enthusiasts. If it is an attempt to emulate classic Trek it succeeded admirably. Unfortunately, I think that wasn’t the intent. All things considered it is merely adequate.

review by jonathan

return to top

Strawberry MarshmallowStrawberry Marshmellow (Volume 1)
By Barasui
ISBN: 1-59816-494-5
Tokyopop, 2006

With their big, round heads and eyes, the characters in Strawberry Marshmallow look like sweet little cherubs. In fact, they're the girls you grew up with in your neighborhood- siblings, friends, people you hung out with, borrowed money from, and supported or teased depending on the day. Strawberry Marshmallow chronicles the sweet/tart adventures of a loose-knit group of neighborhood girls. 16-year-old big sister Nobue, illicit cigarettes in hand, leads the pack, which consists of 12-year-old Chika, Chika's best friend Miu, and 11-year-old Matsuri. Like Azumanga Daioh, the manga is a funny, meandering look at ordinary life; the girls go to the beach, they play their own peculiar version of baseball, Nobue attempts to quit smoking, and Miu does a school project observing her friends movements 24-7 (a text message from Matsuri: HELP - night endless - miu hs tken over merciless hope 4 slp abandoned ). It's hard to describe what makes Strawberry Marshmallow's random humor so hilarious (like when Nobue forces the girls to cut school and they end up spending the day at the squirrel park), but manga fans will get it. So what s not to love? The grown-up in me takes issue with the smoking (and in one story, drinking), especially because Nobue does look like an 8-year-old, but it's not necessarily unbelievable. As a manga fan, I can also get over the occasional panty-related prank. Some other reviews of Strawberry Marshmallow (which is also an anime series) have dismissed it as cloyingly cute shojo or held it up as a great all-ages title. In fact, this manga was created by a man for male readers. Should that bother teen guys or girls who appreciate its humor and style? I'm not sure. If you ignore the implications of its intended Japanese audience, Strawberry Marshmallow offers a zany girl s-eye view of the world. If you don't, the parade of cute little girls seems less innocent. American fans will have to decide for themselves.

review by jen

return to top

Time GuardianTime Guardian (Volume 1)
By Daimuro Kishi, Tamao Ichinose
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1161-5
CMX, 2007

What would you do if you could buy some time? With twelve more hours you could visit friends while still getting your homework done. An extra two hours and you could watch your favorite movie and still pick your mom up at the airport. Twenty more minutes and you could finish that really, really hard math test that ended just a little too soon. When Miu accidentally finds herself in front of the Kusaka Time Shop she learns that shoppers can do just that --- buy time. A supposed urban legend, the Time Shop will trade you some extra time in exchange for one of your precious memories. But if you don't return in time to buy your memory back, they just might sell it to someone else.

Miu seems to have an affinity for the shop and she is hired to be the Go-Between, the person who acts as time's conscience, guiding the buyer in a direction that is both honest and fair. As each new customer leaves the store, Miu follows behind, watching what happens and helping the customer “experience a lovely stream of time.” Miu is a spunky heroine who dives into each new adventure with enthusiasm. Her cheerful character contrasts well with shop owner Kusaka's businesslike demeanor and froggy sidekick Ginzo's comic quips. The three provide a solid base for each customer's story to revolve around and Kusaka's ruthless business dealings lend just a hint of malice, keeping Time Guardians from being too sweet.

The art is simple and clearly drawn and the characters are easy to recognize. With only the tiniest bit of bad language, this story is perfect for middle schoolers as well as teens. Time Guardians is like the best After School Special: a fun story, cute characters, and a bit of adventure, all wrapped up with a tidy little moral. Chicken Soup for the Manga Lovers Soul, perhaps?

review by eva

return to top

Train + TrainTrain + Train (Volume 1)
by Hideyuki Kurata
ISBN: 978-1-933617-18-3
Go Comu, 2007

The one thing I always want in comics, wherever they come from, and seldom get, is a kick-butt action heroine who manages to be smart, formidable in a fight, and still be a bit girly from time to time. And, I prefer her not to be wearing the equivalent of strategically placed bits of duct tape for an outfit, nor should she be ridiculously buxom. In the world of many shojo, or girls, manga, there are quite a few heroines who are neither busty nor scantily clad, but...their strength is usually purity and kind-heartedness, not practicality, cunning, or a great right hook.

Enter Arena. With a never-say-die commitment to making and living with her own decisions, a snarky attitude to beat any wiseguy, and the ability to take out guys three times her size, Arena is my kind of action heroine. And she looks like a normal girl � no bustiers or frills to be seen.

On the planet Deloca, students don�t just study in your standard school � instead they speed around the planet on a school train, traveling and learning new skills at every stop (and along the way.) Students apply for specific trains that feature the kind of education they want or at least want to aim for, but the one train that everyone avoids is the Special Train. Reputed to be full of misfits, violent thugs, and weirdoes of every description, the Special Train gives you an education you�ll never forget.

Reiichi always thought he�d end up just where he�d planned � getting a solid education on the General Studies train and eventually settling down into an ordinary life with a wife and kids. When he meets Arena, though, his world is turned on its head. She�s determined enroll in the Special Train, and if Reiichi gets in the way, she won�t show any mercy, even if it means dragging him along with her. The thing is, once he catches his breath, Reiichi doesn�t really mind...much. Except for the handcuffs.

With suspenseful pacing, engaging characters, kinetic action, and stylized and refreshingly uncluttered art, Train + Train pulls you into its world and doesn�t let you catch a breath until the last page. Then you just want the next volume, immediately if not sooner. This title also straddles in terms of appeal � both girls and guys will enjoy it, and the humor and action are balanced out with enough mystery and hints about the characters to make this a smashing start to what promises to be a great series.

review by robin

return to top

I Never Liked YouTrinity: Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman
by Matt Wagner
ISBN: 1401201873
DC Comics, 2004

When you've known someone for what seems like forever, do you ever think back on your first impression of them? Did they take your breath away or just get on your nerves with little quirks you've now learned to appreciate? How much more intense must that first meeting have been for three of the world's greatest superheroes?

Batman and Superman already know each other well enough to meet out of costume, so Wonder Woman is the new kid on the block as they team up to try to bring down Batman's old nemesis, Ra's Al Ghul. The biggest weakness of this work is its amorphous grasp of date and time. Wonder Woman's costume is old-fashioned looking, as is Bruce Wayne s limo, Dick Grayson is a young boy, and there is talk of the Soviets, making it seem like the mid-1950's. But the other cars on the road, the computer technology, and the passersby on the street all seem to be set modern day. However that becomes an almost minor complaint when confronted with Wagner's beautiful art and his knack for characterization. Superman is the earnest Boy Scout, eager to help and worried about the darkness he senses in Bruce. Wonder Woman is unused to accepting help from men and they are unsure of what to make of her majestic presence. Batman is so consumed by his mission that his thoughts are expressed in third person, as if there was no humanity left in him, only duty. Despite its flaws, this is a title worth reading and a decent choice, if not a first choice, for library purchase.

review by snow

return to top

Tsukiyomi Moon PhaseTsukioyomi Moon Phase (Volume 1)
By Keitaro Arima
ISBN: 1-59532-948-X
Tokyopop, 2005

Kouhei Midou wants to be a mainstream photojournalist, but no matter how much he tries, he can't help taking pictures of ghosts. When he's hired to take pictures of a haunted castle in Germany, part of an effort to eradicate the ghosts so the castle can be turned into a hotel, he meets a mysterious young girl who says she wants to kiss him. The only problem is that her version of kissing means biting him on the neck! What does this strange vampire girl want with Kouhei and why is he resistant to her attempts to make him her servant?

I'm a sucker (pun intended) for a good vampire story, so I had high hopes for the first volume of this series. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed. While the artwork has an interesting comic strip quality which I enjoyed a lot, the story itself was choppy and awkward. The flow across the panels wasn't consistent and was often overwhelmed by untranslated sound effects, forcing me to keep going back over sections in an attempt to figure out what was going on. Hazuki the vampire girl is not only annoying with no redeeming qualities, but she's portrayed as extremely young, around 10 years old, so the inevitable romance between her and teenage/young adult Kouhei, which begins to be set up in this volume, takes on a shota-like creepiness, especially when she's shown bathing. The humor has a forced slapstick quality which never quite develops fully. Overall I found this volume a poor start to a series. Libraries should note that the reviewed volume was marked “T” for teen (13+), but Tokyopop's website lists the series as “OT” for older teen (16+).

review by snow

return to top

Ultra ManiacUltra Maniac (Volume 1-5)
by Wataru Yoshizumi
ISBN:
VIZ, 2005-2006

Reserved, but popular Ayu Tateishi wants to catch the eye of Tetsushi, the boy she secretly likes. But when she comes to the aid of awkward Nina Sakura, the new girl in school, her peaceful life is quickly thrown into upheaval. While Nina may look like a normal middle school girl, she's actually an exchange student from the Magic Kingdom. She wants to be a great witch, but her magical spells quickly get out of control. In addition to weathering the romantic trials of middle school, Nina and Ayu must try to keep Nina's magic a secret, which is hard to do when more and more visitors from the Magic Kingdom keep showing up.

This sweet all ages manga series is a fairly satisfying read and nicely complete at only five volumes. The romantic entanglements (does he like me, do I like him, what if he actually likes her) and portrayal of young romance (first dates, first kisses) ring true for the ages of the characters, though the ending has a typical "together forever" feel which is rather unbelievable, even though that kind of ending is par for the course for romantic stories. Other common middle school stressors are also touched on, including popularity, identity, and jealously. The magical elements offer most of the comedy, though there were times when traditional stereotypes peaked through (why couldn't Ayu beat the boys at tennis without being transformed into a boy?).

On the whole, this is a delightfully fluffy little series which should appeal to older elementary school and younger middle school girls who are eager for a little romance (complete with chaste kisses and cute boys). There is one scene where Nina and Ayu are transformed into 20-year-olds and go to a club. Nina drinks a little alcohol and their outfits are college-student skimpy, but that's as mature as the series gets. Yoshizumi's art is pretty, though nothing terribly out of the ordinary. She does have a nice way of making all her characters distinct and her incidental drawings will appeal to budding fashionistas. Summary: Reserved, but popular Ayu Tateishi wants to catch the eye of Tetsushi, the boy she secretly likes. But when she comes to the aid of awkward Nina Sakura, the new girl in school, her peaceful life is quickly thrown into upheaval.

review by snow

return to top

I Never Liked YouUrsula
by Fabio Moon
ISBN: 1932051228
AIT/Planet Lar, 2004

Once upon a time there was a story. A love story. Those are the opening lines of Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba's Ursula, the story of two kids--Miro and Ursula--who spend their childhood together. But when they start to grow up, they're separated--Ursula is sent off to school. When it becomes time for him to get married, Miro finds Ursula again, but he soon learns that she's a fairy, and when fairies fall in love, they explode. Is there a way for them to be together? Ursula is drawn with a simple, flowing line. It's a charming story about two kids in love who grow up to be two adults in love: a fairy tale with a number of South American influences (from the creators, who are both South American).

review by gina

return to top

wallflowerThe Wallflower: Yamatonadeshiko Shichihenge
by Tomoko Hayakawa
Del Rey, 2005-

Four gorgeous guys (Ranmaru Morii, the ladies man; Takenaga Oda, the gentle, caring type; Yukinojo Toyama, the cheerful, cute one; and Kyohei Takano, the fighter and leader) are offered free rent at a boarding house as long as they can turn the landlady's niece into a true lady. Sounds easy enough, at least until they meet the niece!

I wasn't sure about this series when I first saw it. The idea behind it seemed kind of offensive. What's so wrong with the landlady's niece to begin with? So Sunako loves horror movies, collects anatomical models, and can't be anywhere near those beautiful people she terms "creatures of the light"? It just means she knows who she is, right? Well after reading volume one, I soon realized that in my first impression was wrong. Yes, the boys are charged with turning Sunako into a lady, but it soon becomes apparent they what they're really going to do is to repair her fractured self-esteem. She is the only one who can't see the loyal, fierce, interesting, creative, interesting, and beautiful person that she really is. Hayakawa's series is unabashedly fluffy. Her boys are almost unbelievably pretty. The gang gets into scraps so ludicrous and ghost-filled that I kept expecting Scooby-Doo to appear. There's cross-dressing, Iron Maidens, blood-spurting from noses, gangsters, bondage, and plenty of opportunities for Ranmaru to seduce every female around. But the characters care for each other and it shows when they're together. The art is not the best ever, but there are moments of true beauty and the panel placement and pacing are terrific. Sunako spends a little too much time as a chibi for me, but that's appropriate for how she thinks of herself. The series is appropriately rated older teen. There's language, suggested sexual situations, and some violence, but the humor and romance with keep you reading and you'll care for the characters just as they care for each other.

review by snow

return to top


 
 

Email Robin

take me home!

copyright Robin Brenner 2002-2004