03 May, 2010

Manga Minis, 5/3/10

By: Michelle Smith, Connie C. and Ken Haley

For this week’s Manga Minis, we’ve got two classics and two BL works on the agenda. First, Ken starts us off with a look at volumes nine and ten of Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack (Vertical, Inc.), which he likens to the manga equivalent of Pringles. Next, Michelle checks out Cute Devil (BLU Manga) as well as the second volume of Itazura Na Kiss from DMP. Connie wraps things up with her take on Yellow 2, Episode 1 (DMP), ensuring fans of the original series that the sequel is more of the same (and that this is a good thing).


Black Jack, Vols. 9-10

By Osamu Tezuka
Published by Vertical
Rating: 16+

Vertical gives us two more volumes of this rather fantastic and fun Tezuka classic. The real surprise of the two is volume ten, as several of its tales shed more light upon the troubled past of our esteemed doctor. If that’s not reason enough to give it a look, the volume also features an appearance by another of Tezuka’s creations in a rather prominent role for a single story.

As usual, Tezuka’s artwork is fantastic throughout the two volumes. What really surprised me were two panels that seemed fairly different from his usual style. I’m no art expert, but he seems to have played around with the line thickness, giving the artwork within the two panels some heavy, jagged edges. I haven’t seen him do anything like this before in the series, but there are a few holes in my collection. It gives the two panels a lot of extra oomph and they really jump off the page at the reader.

I’m discovering that Black Jack is my manga Pringles. I open a volume planing to read one or two stories, and the next thing I know it’s several hours later and I’m staring at the inside of the back cover wishing I had another volume.

Volumes nine and ten of Black Jack are available now.

–Reviewed by Ken Haley


Cute Devil

By Hiro Madarame
BLU Manga, 178 pp.
Rating: Mature

Girly-looking Fuuta Naruse has many male devotees at school, but the only guy he has eyes for is Tohru Akiyoshi, the aloof class president who has not joined his throng of admirers. Fuuta exerts all his wiles in a confession to Akiyoshi, but when that doesn’t work, he sheds the cute persona and declares, “I’ll just have to take you by force.”

And so it goes. Akiyoshi is frequently violated and humiliated by Fuuta, but can’t confide in anyone about it, because nobody would believe him. Occasionally, he attempts to grow a spine and at one point tells Fuuta, “What you’re doing is a downright crime…” but, of course, he goes all doki doki at the next opportunity, and eventually begins fantasizing about their encounters. In the end, after Fuuta experiences an unprecedented growth spurt over summer break, he does one nice thing for Akiyoshi and now we’re supposed to believe he’s an okay guy.

Ordinarily, I’d give a book like this a lower grade, but Madarame’s art is seriously cute sometimes and provides a much-needed element of levity. I’d love to see what she could achieve with a better concept featuring more likable characters. In fact, I’d love to see Hisashi, Fuuta’s hulking and adorably dim-witted bodyguard, star in a vehicle of his own. He was easily the best thing about this one.

Cute Devil is available now.

–Reviewed by Michelle Smith


Itazura Na Kiss, Vol. 2

By Kaoru Tada
Digital Manga Publishing, 328 pp.
Rating: 13+

One could easily expend five hundred words or more relaying all the ups and downs contained in this double-sized volume of Itazura Na Kiss, but the most important facts are these: Kotoko and Naoki graduate from high school and move on to attend the same college, where Kotoko’s attempts to fit into Naoki’s world generally meet with embarrassing results. They also share a single, somewhat spiteful, kiss, and various events lead Kotoko to proclaim her intention to give up on Naoki, just in time for a renewal of close proximity that makes this impossible to achieve.

This series is a fine example of a romantic comedy that puts equal emphasis on both factors. Not that Kotoko’s relationship with Naoki is romantic yet—he is still too mean to her for that to be true—but there are quite a few comedic scenes in which the two leads do not appear at all that serve to further flesh out the setting and supporting characters. The least amusing of these tend to feature Kin-san, a persistent classmate who carries a torch for Kotoko, while the best revolve around Naoki’s mother, who is an avid supporter of a relationship developing between Kotoko and her son.

Though it can be a little painful to observe the desperate floundering of people in love, the end result is a story that’s consistently entertaining. Even after consuming 300+ pages in one sitting, I still wanted more.

Volume two of Itazura Na Kiss is available now.

–Reviewed by Michelle Smith


Yellow 2, Episode 1

By Makoto Tateno
Digital Manga Publishing, 66 pp.
Rating: 18+

Taki and Goh are retired “snatchers,” professional thieves that frequently bust criminals by stealing illegal drugs and other paraphernalia. In this sequel series, the pair have gotten together as a couple and are laying low and staying away from their former dangerous lifestyle. But when one of their old police contacts gets in touch with them and asks for a favor, both men find that they are eager to take on a new case.

If you liked the first Yellow series, this is more of the same, which was a very good thing indeed for me. The case follows almost exactly the same format as the original series, with a little bit of a puzzle and a lot of action involved in snatching drugs from a hidden location. The story moves smoothly and balances the romance and action very well, which was what made the original so addictive.

The other thing that made it such a fun read, the romantic tension between Taki and Goh, has been changed to a full-blown relationship, complete with lengthy sex scene at the end of the story. While this was precisely the goal in the original, having it is almost too much of a good thing, and I think the romantic tension worked a bit better than some of the cutesy doting here, but I can’t complain since Taki and Goh are still the same fun characters.

I love that Juné decided to go for the quick installment plan for this series, publishing episodes in 60-page segments rather than waiting for an entire graphic novel’s worth of material. It’s been four years since Yellow’s fourth and final volume came out, and as addictive as the original is, it’s great that the sequel is coming out as fast as possible. It really is more of the same, and I think most fans won’t be disappointed.

Yellow 2, Episode One is available now.

–Reviewed by Connie C.

Review copies provided by the publishers.

3 Responses to "Manga Minis, 5/3/10"

2 | Yellow 2 1 « Slightly Biased Manga

May 6th, 2010 at 12:37 am

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[...] I reviewed this for the weekly Manga Minis column at the Manga Recon, so you can check it out over there. [...]

3 | The Shipping News, 5/19/10 « The Manga Critic

September 9th, 2010 at 8:50 pm

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[...] as rude as Naoki. Early reviews of volume two have been glowing: both Anna (a.k.a. Tangognat) and Michelle Smith praised Tada’s strong supporting cast and ability to sustain our interest in Naoki and [...]

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