15 Jun, 2009
Manga Minis, 6/15/09
By: Michelle Smith
We’ve got four minis on tap for this week. Sam starts us off with a review of volume four of Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack (Vertical); Michelle looks at the new VIZ Kids release, Choco Mimi as well as volume twelve of Kurohime (Viz); and Connie checks out Living for Tomorrow (DMP), a boys’ love one-shot by the creator of Princess Princess and Day of Revolution.
By Osamu Tezuka
Vertical, 304 pp.
Rating: All Ages
For the past three volumes, Black Jack, from the God of Manga Osamu Tezuka, has consistently been a thrill ride. Incorporating Tezuka’s expertise in the medical field with his dynamic art and story telling, we are taken through the world of the illegal surgeon Black Jack in the form of short stories, bright and subtly moving. So did volume four live up to the precedent the first three volumes set?
While the art remained as showy and sparkling as ever, I felt that the writing was a tad lacking. A good half of the short stories this time around felt very forced. I really wanted to know more about the terrorist who planned to blow up a building, only to have it backfire and his face eaten by rats or the gigantic carp breeder whose heart can’t handle the stress of physical activity. Tezuka really knows how to set a stage but I felt let down by some of these tales.
The other half of the shorts were brilliantly done, eliciting a wide variety of emotions. One tale, “Thieving Dog,” was about a dog that is notorious for stealing and ends up injured as a result of her most recent heist. At Pinoko’s wish, Black Jack rehabilitates the dog, only to find it stealing again and again until the last time, when Black Jack’s house collapses with the dog still inside. Heart-wrenching to say the least. Other notables were “Drifter in a Ghost Town,” a tale about a criminal waiting in the wild, wild west for his freedom and “The Sea Smells of Romance,” about a young boy who regrets his tattoos in light of his new love. If you’re a big fan of the series and/or a completist, it is certainly worth owning, but I would say that it is one of the weaker volumes so far and hope that this doesn’t continue.
Volume four of Black Jack is available now.
–Reviewed by Sam Kusek
By Konami Sonoda
Viz, 184 pp.
Rating: All Ages
Choco and Mimi are in the eighth grade and they are best friends, despite the fact that Choco is serious, mature, and tolerable and Mimi is spoiled, ridiculous, and irksome. The cast also includes their stern teacher, Mr. Take; Ando and Mumu, a couple of boys in their class; and several pets, who are easily the best thing about ChocoMimi.
There’s not much story to this manga, which is told in a mix of regular paneling and four-panel styles. It’s primarily just jokes and gags, most of which are unfunny (though I did have to smile at a few, mainly the ones starring Mimi’s dog, Chiffon, who wants to be a manly samurai but instead gets dressed up by his master in ruffles and frills). Quite a lot of page space is given to building fabulous outfits for any occasion, including comments like “I added pom-poms” (to yellow pumps) and “I pin earrings on my socks.” Strangely, the girls’ definition of cute also seems to include being afflicted with a tragic case of pigeon toe.
I’m aware I’m not the target audience for this manga, but I doubt I would’ve liked it much as a kid, either. A story entirely devoted to Chiffon and the other critters would’ve been much more up my alley.
Volume one of Choco Mimi will be available on July 7, 2009.
–Reviewed by Michelle Smith
By Masanori • Ookamigumi • Katakura
Viz, 200 pp.
Rating: Older Teen
Kurohime is a witch-gunslinger, which essentially means that she can shoot magic out of a gun to heal injuries, beef up her own physical defenses, or conjure “witch-beasts” to fight opponents. As the volume begins, she is fighting the Kurohime Punishment Squad, a band of scantily-clad women with a grudge against her. A common enemy forces the women to work together and the previously-stoic Kurohime exhibits compassion for her reluctant allies and even helps to rescue the lover of one of them.
Kurohime definitely has some ridiculous attributes—nearly all of the warrior women are wearing next to nothing, Kurohime’s more grown-up guise looks like she has some pretty severe anatomical deformities, and one of her foes is (I am not making this up) a vampire werewolf death angel—but it somehow manages to be pretty entertaining. The story is surprisingly easy to follow for someone just popping in at volume twelve and the frequency with which some of the characters seem to undergo transformations into other sorts of creatures is kind of cool.
While I found myself distracted by all of the improbable bosoms in this manga, there are times when the art is nice to look at. Facial closeups are usually lovely and the character design for Zero, the former male lead who has now become a sort of… quasi-invisible death angel, is nothing short of awesome.
Story-wise, Kurohime is a bit crazy, and art-wise it’s bursting with fanservice, but it’s still pretty intriguing for all that.
Volume twelve of Kurohime will be available on July 7, 2009.
–Reviewed by Michelle Smith
By Taishi Zaou (aka Mikiyo Tsuda)
Digital Manga Publishing, 189 pp.
In typical BL fashion, Tasuku has a crush on his childhood friend and karate teammate, Ryouta. In order to hide his feelings, Tasuku constantly beats Ryouta up in practice and is just generally cruel to him. But in a strange twist of the BL formula, Tasuku finds out his late mother was a legendary ageman that brought luck to any number of now-successful people before she passed away. After this comes out, Tasuku is hounded by crowds hoping that his mother’s luck was passed on to him. Tasuku takes the news somewhat differently and decides to use his luck to admit his feelings to Ryouta,
Now, I’ve read a number of shojo series by Mikiyo Tsuda, and none of them really appealed to me. I assumed her yaoi books fell into some of the same traps as her shojo, which suffers mostly from extremely stereotypical plots with fairly shallow characters. To some extent, that was true of this book, but somehow her sense of humor works much better for yaoi, so it compensates for the weaknesses elsewhere and makes for a really entertaining read. I had to laugh at the scene where Tasuku confesses his feelings, since rather than playing out in the typical passionate way, Ryouta’s thoughts are shown to the reader, and they are an amusing mix of confusion, nonchalance, and “What the hell did I do to turn him on?!” There are still plenty of typical plot devices in use, and sometimes they get in the way, but almost everything is handled better than your average BL one-shot, including the evolution of the romance, the plot progression, and the handful of strange obstacles that appear in these types of stories.
Not bad for a book where the love interest sports a mullet/rat tail combo.
Living For Tomorrow is available now.
–Reviewed by Connie C.