Monday, January 30, 2012

Manga Review: Papillon, Volumes 5 & 6, by Miwa Ueda

Rating (Out of 5): 3.5
Publisher: Del Rey
Volumes: 8

Goodreads Synopsis:

Ageha is finally living her dreams. After a fabulous makeover—and a little help from her handsome guidance counselor–turned–boyfriend Kyû-chan—Ageha is happier than she’s ever been in her life. But she still has one problem: Hana, her twin sister, has her eye on Kyû-chan. Hana is willing to do anything to snare him—even if it means disguising herself as Ageha! Will she succeed? Find out in this special omnibus edition, collecting volumes 5 and 6 of Papillon!
Ahhh, this series. It just... I don't really know what else to say about it. This volume wasn't too much different than the others. But on the bright side, I did generally enjoy this(these) volume(s). I'm not really sure why, but I did. Don't get me wrong, it's still terrible like always, but it's kind of terribly fantastic, in a way that makes me want to keep reading even if I'm hating on it. That's just how this series is, and other ones like it, are.
So Ageha is still working with Hana's ex-boyfriend, Shinobu. And we are reminded that he confessed to Ageha when they were younger, but get more insight to it. Because apparently she heard him and his friends talking about her, and so she thought he was joking, but in the present, he tells her that he was serious. Oh, also, Hana confesses her feelings to Hayato (and he turns her down, don't worry).
So then Ageha decides to talk to Hayato about Shinobu's confession, which would be a good idea, if she didn't treat him like a counselor who has no feelings for her, someone who wouldn't mind that someone confessed to his girlfriend, and then asks him what she should do about it. And then she's surprised when he gets upset. Then Hayato's sister mistakes Hana for Ageha, who doesn't correct her.
There's a little subplot thing of Shinobu helping out one of their co-workers, which makes Ageha admire him and all that. And then Hana and their grandmother come to work, and Hana is upset that Ageha is working with her ex and didn't tell her. And Hana makes this speech to Ageha about her being insensitive to everyone around her, which, I wouldn't say is completely untrue, but isn't totally true, and is also hypocritical of her, since Hana is pretty insensitive to everyone.
I was all 'what?' when Hana went on about it, because it's absurd for her to say that. But it makes Ageha think, and she totally buys it, and re-thinks the situation with Hayato and how she was insensitive there. And so she hurries to Hayato's, only to overhear him and his sister talking about her, and she gets upset and runs off, and he sees her and runs after her, and they make up before her friends see her, and she runs after them. I guess I do understand her reaction to what Hayato said, but I got how his sister took it, and I thought it was sweet and cute in general. She over-reacted, but that was to be expected. And her two of her friends forgive her, but one of them is still upset over it. Yea, she should have told them, so I see why they were upset. But whatever.
And then Shinobu takes her to a cemetery, and they talk about something he went through and how she helped him. I thought it was actually pretty entertaining.
The next several chapters focus on Hana pretending to be Ageha, and Ageha finding out and interrupting them after they've kissed once and Hayato finds out on his own. This is just dumb of Hana to do, again. And Ageha over-reacts, again. I did like Hayato in this part. He thought it was Ageha, until she starts crying, and I love his explanation for it. I even feel a little bad for Hana, actually. Ageha gets totally pissed, and fights her a little bit. It's a bit dumb. But I think I might just not like Ageha.
In the 6th volume, which this plot continues into, there's actually a really cute scene between Ageha and Hayato. I really enjoyed it, which I expected to, but I was glad to see a scene like it, since there aren't too many.
And then in the next chapter, Hana gets hurt, Ageha gets worried only to find out that it's a minor injury. But then Hayato sees someone he knew from before, and things get a little awkward as there is obviously something between them, but he won't explain it to them, saying that he isn't ready yet. Oh, there's also a little subplot between Hayato and Ageha. Ageha feels that her necklace is 'dirty' after Hana wore it, and so he does a thing to make her feel better about it. It was nice, sweet of him, and all that.
Hana decides to go behind his back and to the woman, Rena, and she finds out some of what happened. And so Hayato explains some of it to her. And then they go behind his back and to his sister, who does explain it to them. Apparently his girlfriend, and Rena's sister, died, and the girls sister doesn't remember it, has blanked it from her memory, and blames him for it. That's not how it happened, though, and neither of them blame him. And we find out that he became a counselor for Rena, to try to help her. But whatever. I was a little excited, and intrigued, when I found out that there was some secret he was keeping, only to be a bit disappointed when it was one of those cliché situations. So whatever.
One part I did like about this is that Ageha and Hana seem to be getting closer. They're working together to find out what happened with Hayato, and they both know that the other likes him. I kind of doubt that they're going to become best friends, but at least they're not fighting or anything right now. That means things between them are looking up, right?
And the last chapter. Rena stays the night with Hayato, because she can't sleep (but again, don't worry, nothing happens. Hayato is practically the only trust-worthy one in this series, if you think about it). And then him and Ageha, after she finds out about Rena staying the night and objecting to it (since she knows that he liked Rena before he liked her sister, and is worried), start planning their trip, and she makes a plan for her parents to think she's going on a trip with friends. I hope that we get to see them go on a trip, as that could be actual fun, but Hana finds out and gets upset about it, and decides to sabotage it. She goes to the hospital and talks to Rena, where she's mean and tries to force her to remember the actual occurrences of the accident by telling her how it happened. And then Rena trips and falls down some stairs.
This is obviously a terrible ending. I want to know what happens next. Right now. Why isn't it out yet?
So, yea. One thing that bothered me was the way the book was put together was that it seemed like they just binded the two books together, without any editing. They still had the to-be-continued at the end of the first volume, as well as the notes at the end and the characters and things at the beginning. I feel that they should have just glided into the next volume better than that. Oh, I also noticed that Ryusei isn't in the characters at the front of the book. What's up with that? Is all the drama with him over, so he doesn't matter anymore? I'm actually a little upset about that... And is more stuff going to come up with Shinobu? He seemed to be ignored in the second half of the omnibus.
Also, Ueda always makes me wonder. Because the general storyline, and several of the characters, and just the drama, is terrible in this series. And yet she will foreshadow to things pretty well, and Hayato actually has good counselor characteristics, among other small things that are well done. It kind of amazes me how she can contrast these good and bad traits so well in this series.
So, Kodansha. When are you, if you are at all, going to publish the next one? I mean, there's only two volumes left, you can make an omnibus out of them like Del Rey did with this one. I want to know how it all ends. Please?

Manga Review: My Girlfriend's a Geek, Volume 5, by Pentabu and Rize Shinba

Rating (Out of 5): ~4/4.5
Publisher: Yen Press
Volumes: 5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Dating a "rotten" girl geek is no easy feat, as Taiga knows well. But after overcoming some of the strangest hurdles and learning to accept Yuiko's fangirl tendencies, he's over the moon now that their comical but loving relationship is stronger than ever! But when the fanfic he's been diligently writing for Yuiko brings Taiga some sudden and unwelcome Internet notoriety, will he be able to withstand the onslaught of a zillion Yuikos, or will he run away screaming from his happy ending?!

When I got this volume, I didn't know that it was the last one. And now that I've finished it, I'm super bummed that there aren't any more to come. I will probably have to go read the novels now, since I already have the first one.
I really like this series, it's so cute, and that didn't change any in this volume. I love reading about geeks, and anime ones are even better. And, I find all of the anime-lingo and pranks and things so funny. Part of it is probably also that I could see myself doing some of the things that Yuiko does to Taiga (well, if I was more of an extrovert, but I'm not, so...), with maybe a bit of exaggeration. But it's still fun.
Anyway, in the first chapter, Taiga is at Kouji's house. (And I don't think I've expressed my love for Kouji yet. But, that might be because it mostly became apparent in this volume. But, just so you know, I think I love him. He's kind of monotone, doesn't show much emotion, and just goes along with whatever is going on. He's fantastic.) Along with his little sister, Akari, and their friend Hotta. Hotta has an obvious crush on Akari, and she wants to dress them all up, but Kouji will only let her do it to Hotta, who goes along with it just fine. We were told in earlier volumes that Akari's family doesn't know about her cosplaying, but we find out that she actually meant they didn't know why she was doing these things, not that they aren't aware of her doing them. Kouji, for example, just thinks that she likes making weird clothes.
Anyway, it was funny seeing Akari mess around with Hotta, and Kouji ignoring it (even with headphones, which he is prepared with), and Taiga freaking out about all of it. And then Akari puts flowers around Kouji and Taiga after they fall asleep, and send it to Yuiko, who is having lunch with Masa-nee, at a host-type of cafe. We met Masa-nee in the previous volume, I think. She's the girl who's having problems with her boyfriend after he found out she's a fan of yaoi. So we get to hear about her problems with her boyfriend, see her newest fight with him, and how that's working out. They're ridiculous, but they seem to be working it out.
And then Yuiko forces Taiga to put the fanfic she's making him write onto Masa-nee's website. Which introduces two new characters.
The second chapter focuses on them. They are two college students, two years apart, Youhei and Koharu (yea, two males). Youhei is the one that finds the fanfic, and he's a huge fan of yaoi, and he even writes some of it. Koharu is not a fan, but is forced into it because he is staying with Youhei, who keeps forcing him to help. I want to know if there's something going on between them, because there are several scenes that make it seem like there are (the voice acting one in particular), but nothing ever really happens. But anyway, they are so cute. I love them, and it's a little disappointing that we don't get to see more of them.
Next, we see Yuiko and Akari shopping, and getting some more books. They run into Taiga and Kouji, quite literally, and we are reminded that Yuiko is still in-the-closet with her otaku-ness. This is hard to believe, since she's so open with Taiga about it, but it was enjoyable seeing her embarrassed and worried that Kouji knew about her obsession now. They all go to lunch, where Kouji and Akari discuss things, and Kouji is very straight-forward about what he saw, and just goes along with things and asks questions (this is the chapter that my love for him really shined through, just to let you know), and the girls have fun with it all. Taiga gets embarrassed about it all so easily. At first, I was thinking that his over-exaggerated reactions were for fun, and some of it probably is, but I'm thinking now that it's just his character.
And we find out that Yuiko's birthday is coming up, and Taiga completely forgot about it. Akari thinks it's hilarious how he denies that, but he has no idea what to get her. And so he tells her that he will make whatever wish she has come true. Akari thinks this is even more hilarious, and we should all know that something unfortunate is going to come out of it, because of the things that Yuiko likes.
This goes into the next chapter, and Yuiko decides that she wants him to wear his high school uniform for her, so has his mom send it to him. And she wears a sailor uniform for him (of which she has several). He thinks it's weird, but then actually kind of enjoys it, and it's mostly just fun. And it's becoming apparent that Yuiko is having a hard time with growing older, which is funny, because she doesn't seem so old. But I guess it's kind of hard to tell with only the art?
Also, we see Milan still has feelings for Yuiko, and isn't quite giving up, even when she avoids him as much as she can. I think this is interesting, and it's nice seeing Taiga's reaction, but I usually find these kind of situations interesting. Unless it's used too much, but it seems to be used not enough in this series.
I kind of loved this series, and am upset to see that it's over. I like Taiga ad Yuiko, as well as all of the other characters. They're all great. And the ending was pretty good, not that I wouldn't have liked more. I would have liked some more love-y scenes, as there weren't many and they were always interrupted by Yuiko's fan-dom, but that's alright. It was good enough and definitely enjoyable without it. And I am definitely going to have to read the novels now, so that I can have more of them.

Manga Review: Arisa, Volume 4, by Natsumi Ando

Rating (Out of 5): 3
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Volumes: 9+

Amazon Synopsis:
Twin sisters, Arisa and Tsubasa, are separated by their parent's divorce. The twins secretly exchange letters with each other during their separation. They are finally united after three years and Arisa asks Tsubasa to pretend to be her and spend a day in her school just for fun. At school everyone seems very nice to Tsubasa (who is pretending to be Arisa) and everything seemed normal... until she finds a strange note in her sister's shoe locker. When Tsubasa hands over the letter to Arisa, Arisa tries to kill herself by jumping out of a window. Arisa survives but remains in a coma. The letter read, "Arisa is a traitor." After her sister's suicide attempt, Tsubasa is determined to unravel the mystery behind the letter and her sister's suicide attempt so Tsubasa continues to go to school as Arisa... will she find out who sent the note and why it had such an effect on Arisa?
I've been wanting to read the next one in this series for a while, and I finally found it. I'm mostly enjoying the series, but I'm still wondering where it's going. As more complications are just about the only thing happening.
At the beginning of this one, Osawa steals the phone from Tsubasa, putting her in a fire in the midst, only for Kudo, the guy that set her up, to 'save' her. Osawa uses the phone to make a wish, because he wants this girl, but then she makes fun of him (because she thinks that he's stalking her, which is possibly true), and so he decides to change his wish to that he wishes she wouldn't judge people by their looks. And so she goes blind. And Osawa doesn't even seem sorry about it! He's a little psychotic, I think.
Only she doesn't really go blind, since Tsubasa blocked her from the glass that hit her eyes. And I'm wondering what happened to Osawa, since Kudo does something to him and we don't see him anymore in this volume.
And then Midori breaks up with Arisa/Tsubasa, because he doesn't think she really loves him. Which makes sense, since she's been hanging out with Manabe a lot. Anyway, Manabe and Tsubasa, and Takeru, are trying to find out who has the two other phones (you know, the phones with the numbers that were chosen by the king). But Manabe is acting weird, and we see that he has one of the phones that Tsubasa is looking for (which I was really confused by, in a way that made me think it could have been done better, but I get it now). And then he's mean to Tsubasa, and we find out that he has a friend who used to go to their school, and who has the phone they are looking for. Tsubasa meets her, is nice to her, but she hates Arisa for some reason. She's been hurt, and is in a wheelchair, but is going on some field trip with their class. And she has all three of the phones, and is obviously planning to do something to Arisa/Tsubasa.
We keep finding out that Arisa has done these terrible things, but have a completely different impression of her from Tsubasa. I'm wondering when (if) she's going to wake up so that we can find out who she actually is. And, I'm thinking that Kudo is the King? (Unless they introduce someone else...) He's up to something big that we aren't aware of. I'm waiting for all of that to hit, for whatever this is all leading up to. I'm hoping that it's good, and that there aren't too many things that are going to come up to prolong it from occurring.
So, I'm enjoying the series, for the most part. And I have the next couple, so I'll probably be reviewing them soon.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Manga Review: Black Butler, Volume 7, by Yana Toboso

Rating (Out of 5): ~4/4.5
Publisher: Yen Press
Volumes: 13+

Amazon Synopsis:
Having successfully infiltrated the Noah's Ark Circus as the stage personas Smile and Black, Earl Ciel Phantomhive and his consummate butler, Sebastian, set about gathering clues backstage as to the whereabouts fo the missing children Queen Victoria wishes them to recover. But between the duties required of them as the newest members of the troupe and their death-defying performances, even this most efficient master and servant find themselves short on time! And with the availability of both information and opportunity equally wanting, Sebastian resorts to using his devilish wiles on one of the troupe, while Ciel is forced to do some snooping of his own. As the paths of their investigations converge, they find themselves standing on the doorstep of the tragedy visited upon Ciel all those years ago...
So I am really enjoying this series. This one was just as good as the last one, if not better.
It continued the circus story line, which is probably my favorite one so far. I am really enjoying Toboso's art, and I don't know if that's for this volume in particular or not. I know I liked it from the beginning, as it's really pretty, and the time period definitely helps, but it might just be the eccentric circus clothing that caught my attention.
So, it starts where the last one ended, with Ciel being caught by Doll, one of the people in the circus. Who covers for Ciel, and then who we find out is actually Freckle Face (the person sharing a room with Ciel, who I believe is also named Freckles). Ciel makes a scene, pretending to be upset, and he totally buys it. It's a little uncool of Ciel to do that, when Freckle Face is so nice to him, but it's also rather cool, but only because Ciel is awesome. That's one thing I liked in this volume (among several others), seeing the more mature sides of Ciel. It's obvious that they're there, but we don't see him being devious too often, or violent. It was actually a little nice.
And then Ciel meets up with Sebastian, upset that he released the snakes while knowing that they could get to Ciel. This bothers me, as it makes me think that Sebastian doesn't really care for Ciel's well being, and makes me wonder if he's going to betray him or anything, but there's a scene later on that, I think, makes up for it. But I'll explain that when I get to it.
There are parts throughout the rest of the volume that shows there is something going on with the circus that they're aren't showing quite yet, but I will also get to that later.
At the end of the first chapter/beginning of the second chapter, there are some scenes with Sebastian that I was a little surprised by. They're of Sebastian and one of the girls in the circus (I believe her name is Beast?)(who is obviously having a hard time with something, but too afraid to do something about it), and it's obvious that they are having sex. It doesn't show anything, mostly just their faces, arms, legs, and hands, and they are making some noises. I was not expecting this, not in this volume, series, or with Sebastian, although I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, since it is to get information. It's makes total sense for it to happen, especially with Sebastian, I just hadn't thought about it. And the title of the chapter is called The Butler, Scandalous, which made me wonder, but now I believe is completely accurate.
Also, within the first couple chapters, Ciel gets sick. Sebastian is worried and makes him rest a bit, and he does before they run off from the circus and stay with Prince Soma and Agni, planning to leave the next day and go to Baron Kelvin, the 'father' of the circus people. Prince Soma and Agni are both worried about Ciel, wanting him to get better, and they even talk with Sebastian about him not caring for his Master enough. This is one of my favorite parts of this volume, as Sebastian is surprised, and even 'dotes' on Ciel for a moment, which freaks him out. It's rather adorable.
Throughout this, we are still given hints that something is going on with the circus people, and that William is planning on doing something, but we don't know what. And then Ciel gets better, and they hurry out of the place and to Baron Kelvin's. Joker has been with him, and helps him set things up.
This is a really creepy part of the volume. Kelvin is creepy. He has a obvious (-ly creepy) fascination with Ciel, is intensely excited for him to come over, and is clearly the one that has been kidnapping the children. We find out that he's been having his 'kids', the people in the circus, do it for him, as he's gone under surgery and is in a wheelchair. He makes a big feast for Ciel, makes Joker do a shows that hurts the kids, and then takes him down to the basement where he has set up a room, recreating the events of three years ago. The part that makes most of it so weird is that Kelvin likes Ciel and wants to impress him, is happy about everything he's showing him. He's a bit psychotic, really.
There are some flashbacks, showing how Kelvin first met the Phantomhives, including Vincent, Ciel's father, and Ciel when he's a little kid and still has both of his eyes. He is an adorable, happy kid, and it's weird seeing him like that. I hadn't really realized how gloomy he is, but seeing how he used to be is really weird. It's a little sad, makes total sense, but I'm a little unsure how I feel about it. I like how he is now, but still... Anyway, it shows how Kelvin got to here. How he went under surgery to make himself 'beautiful', wanting to fit in with the Phantomhives and their evil-doing group. It's all weird.
And then it goes back to the present, with the four of them in the basement, and they already have their weapons out. Ciel has a gun to Kelvin's head, to which he doesn't seem worried, and Sebastian has a knife to Joker's throat. Apparently crazy Kelvin wanted to be a part of the scene that went on three years ago, where Ciel killed multiple people, which I know has to do with how Ciel got his eye and Sebastian, and it shows some images of it, but I'm unclear on how it all went down. I think it showed some at the beginning of the series, but it doesn't show all of it, does it? If it does, and I just don't remember, then I need to go back and re-read it, because I am really curious. If not, then I hope that we get to see it all soon.
Kelvin was even jealous of them. It's obvious Ciel is intent on killing him, and even shoots him and starts beating him up a little. Joker gets a bit hurt as well. And they reveal that the circus, who we know is running away or doing something, is heading to the Phantomhive manor, since they always 'get rid' of everyone that knows anything about what they are doing. And we know that Elizabeth is also at the manor. This worries me, as we see them showing up, and Finn is outside, greets them, and says they aren't allowed inside. And then it goes back to the four, and Ciel states something that gives the impression they aren't normal servants.
This, given who their servants are, makes you wonder. But then we see Finn bloody and telling the guy that beat him up, that they aren't to go inside again. And then the volume ends.
I guess this one wasn't as funny as the last, although it still was at several points, but there was more action going on that kept me interested, intrigued. And I am so excited to read the next one, you have no idea. And I have it, which makes me want to pick it up right now even more. Because that last scene almost gave me chills, it was so fantastic. It just... God, it was just great. I am so excited to see what the servants can do, and how all of this is going to turn out with the circus and Ciel and William and everyone else... I don't know how else to express my excitement, anticipation, besides to state that I am excited, which I have done. So there.

Manga Review: Arata: The Legend, Volume 2, by Yuu Watase

Rating (Out of 5): 3
Publisher: VIZ Media (Shonen Sunday)
Volumes: 13+

Goodreads Synopsis:
Framed for the assassination of Princess Kikuri, Hinohara is sent to prison island Gatoya, where the fearsome warden Tsutsuga awaits him. Will Hinohara be able to awaken his Hayagami in time to escape?

This, also, is just alright. It's not any worse than the last one, but it's not particularly better.
Hinohara and Kotoha are just arriving in Gatoya, and most of the volume is set and focuses on it. They're all criminals, of some kind, and they have a dynamic and are afraid of Tsutsuga, the person who runs the place and twice every day captures a person, and they've never seen him or see the person taken again. Apparently he also has a Hayagami, so Hinohara decides that he has to find him.
Hinohara and Kotoha get separated near the beginning, and Kotoha ends up with these two boys that Hinohara clashed with, Ginchi and Kanate who are pretty cool, while Hinohara looks for her and meets some other neat people along the way.
Hinohara finally finds them, and then they get taken by Tsutsuga. Hinohara decides to go after them, and follows the tube things that sucks them in, all the way to the fight scene. Where we find out that Tsutsuga makes the two people he captures fight to the death, claiming that he's going to set the living one free, only to kill that one as well. Ginchi and Kanate are set against each other, which is completely terrible since they're like brothers, and have grown closer since they're the only people they really have now. It's a sad scene, and I don't really agree with what they decide. And then Hinohara makes a big scene and is kind to Tsutsuga, who has the same kind of thoughts towards people that Hinohara is currently in the making of (with the not trusting them, and everyone is completely terrible and all that, only with years worth of building), so this is a big step for him. He's reconsidering his feelings, and it's a big dramatic scene, which I guess is kind of nice. And then he gets Tsutsuga's Hayagami, or it merges with Hinohara's, or something? I'm a little confused with how that worked. But it was nice, I guess. Also, the island of Gatoya goes back to how it originally looked before all of this corruption, I guess, and it's looks rather nice.
And Kannagi is just arriving at Gatoya for Hinohara, finding what is going on absurd, while Hinohara is running away in Ginchi and Kanate's newly released ship, heading to the Princess.
So this is mostly just alright. I'm not really feeling it, but I'm not particularly minding it, either. I like Ginchi and Kanate, though. And Kotoha, and am interested in her and Arata and Hinohara's relationship, as she serves him and I'm wondering how that's going to develop. Hinohara is getting better, I guess.
But the volume ended with Arata being woken up with the alarm, having to go to school. I hope that means that he's going to be the main focus of the next book, since I already have it and hope that I like him more. And I really hope that some things happen between him and the people that were bullying Hinohara. I wouldn't mind a big scene between them, as some justice would be nice. If not, then there better be a good reason.
Oh, also. I enjoyed the bits at the end like in the last volume, with Arata and technology. Those are just really funny to me.

Manga Review: Tail of the Moon, Volume 2, by Rinko Ueda

Rating (Out of 5): 3
Publisher: VIZ Media (Shojo Beat)
Volumes: 15
Goodreads Synopsis:

Sometimes it seems like Usagi is hopeless. Sure, she's good with healing herbs, but she's the granddaughter of the leader of a prestigious ninja village and she's such a klutz that she's never made it out of the kiddie class. Finally frustrated with Usagi's lack of progress, her grandfather sends her to marry a local lord and have lots of ninja babies. But the lord has no interest in her or her child bearing potential! After years of goofing around, Usagi is finally determined to reach her goals--she's going to become a ninja and capture her true love's heart!

This is still mostly alright. I'm liking the characters a little more, but I'm not really loving any of them.
It starts by showing that Goemon and Usagi as little kids, with Goemon being tested as a ninja by having to carry Usagi on his back until she can talk, so he gets used to carrying her for two years. And also that they're supposed to be getting married. Which we find out later that Goemon has refused to do, until he finds that someone else wants her.
She enters in this race, and Hanzo shows up and helps her. And then Goemon makes a big scene by kissing her and stating that they're engaged, and he continues with this throughout the rest of the book, while she denies it.
And then Hanzo leaves, Usagi runs after him, and then does something dumb and they end up falling down a cliff and staying on their own for the night, naked, in only a blanket. Nothing really happens, aside from some lines being exchanged that gives Usagi hope and makes her fall in love with him even more.
Usagi ends up going back with Hanzo, taking Mamezo and Goemon with her. Goemon is against her going, and Hanzo states that he will agree to marry her if she can become a ninja, and the same for Yuri, because apparently her sister was the one that was qualified as a ninja at an early age. Yuri is upset about this. Anyway, Goemon decides to train Usagi, and makes her go through several things, not wanting her to make the deadline of by the the end of the year. Also, Goemon tries to kill Sara, because he takes her for an enemy. Hanzo saves her, making it obvious he still has feelings for her, and Usagi is upset about it.
And then Goemon convinces Usagi and Yuri to go find Hanzou (the one that is with Sara). They're wary, but they go. They meet a fellow herbalist (like Usagi) along the way, and then they have to sneak into the palace when they aren't permitted entrance, and they find out that Hanzou has been locked away by his father because he doesn't approve of his relationship with Sara, but Hanzou won't give in. Also, Hanzo is worried about them (read: Usagi) the whole time they're gone, and Yuri forms a pretty big crush on Goemon on the trip. And then Sara and Hanzo barge in and Sara and Hanzou make a big scene, and Hanzou's father finally accepts their relationship. I do like Sara and Hanzou, and am glad that they're back together.
And then it turns out that the man they met works for Hanzou and wants Usagi to work under him as a herbalist. I think that this is a perfect idea, as that is really the only thing she's good at (because she is really not good at being a ninja, and she doesn't have any of the qualities for it, which it's possible for it to happen, but it would take a lot of time and determination, which she doesn't have). But when they tell her that she's not suited to be a ninja, she's crushed, and even more so when Hanzo agrees.
But she decides to stay and learn to be a herbalist, along with Yukimaru, who wears fancy clothes. Yukimaru also tries to hurt Usagi (out of obvious jealousy), only for Usagi to do it on her own. And then they're in the bath together, where we find out that Yukimaru is a guy. And then, I guess he falls or trips or something and gets hurt, and Usagi freaks out a little bit.
So, um, yea. It's alright. A bit better than the first one, I guess, but still not amazing or anything. And I know this is a long series, so I'm starting to wonder how much is going to happen in the series, what things are going to come up to cause drama, as I'm guessing things are going to. And if I'm going to enjoy it or not.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Manga Review: Arata: The Legend, Volume 1, by Yuu Watase

Rating (Out of 5): 3
Publisher: VIZ Media (Shonen Sunday)
Volumes: 13+

Goodreads Synopsis:

An action-packed shonen fantasy from the acclaimed author of Fushigi Yûgi! In a mythical world where humans and gods co-exist, Arata has the unfortunate honor of being the successor to the matriarchal Hime Clan. This means he has to pretend to be a girl or face death if his true gender is discovered! On the day of his inauguration, an assassination plot forces him to flee—and he somehow winds up in modern-day Japan! Meanwhile, a boy named Arata Hinohara gets sucked into the first Arata’s world and finds himself dealing with people after his life!
I've read several of Watase's other works, and I didn't know that she had another one currently being published over here. That's probably because it's under Shonen Sunday, and I tend to read Shojo Beat more, so it slipped my notice. But I was excited when I heard that there was one being released, a little wary because of the Shonen Sunday, but then I got lucky and found a whole bunch on sale (it was a closing sale at Borders, and volumes 2 – 6, so I had to find volume 1, and then get around to reading it...), but I finally read it the other day, and found it was actually a bit interesting.
It's about two different Arata's, one in the present time, and one in an older time with weapons from Gods.
It starts with the older times Arata, who has to pretend to be a girl and go do this things to be the new princess, only then the twelve shinsho, the people who have the special weapons, kill her. And then they blame Arata, so he's running away so as not to get killed, when he gets stuck in this forest, where he comes out and switches places with Arata Hinohara from the present time.
Before they switch, we see what's going on with Hinohara. He's a really fast runner, and so a boy from his old school was jealous and started rumors about him and started bullying him, and everyone else followed. So he got depressed and switched schools. Where he makes some friends, before the same guy transfers and starts bullying him again, and makes everyone else bully him as well. He gets all depressed again, and wants to die, and then goes into an ally and ends up in Arata's time.
I'm not really liking Hinohara, and am a little upset since I think he's going to have the main focus, while I think I like Arata much more. And would rather see him dealing with the present time.
Anyway, Kotoha, a friend of Arata's, finds Hinohara and they go to Arata's Granny's place, where she explains some things, (and they mistake him for Arata, which I don't understand, since they look very different), and then the twelve Shinsho find them, mostly Kannagi, who did the killing and is just about the only one we've been introduced to as of yet. And then Hinohara picks up a sword that we saw earlier, which is a family heirloom or something, and is also one of the Gods weapons, a Hayagami, only to find out that he's the person the sword has chosen to be its sheath.
And we see that Nao has found Arata, and mistaken him for Hinohara (which still bothers me, because they look nothing alike, and it isn't explained any). And Kotoha gives Hinohara a necklace, the one that goes to the one she to Arata, and that lets them speak to each other, and explain some things. And Hinohara does some moping and not knowing what to do about his situation. And then he's captured, put on trial, where no one believes him, and they decide to exile him, before he talks to the princess and decides he's going to bring the Hayagami to her.
And then there's some fun things in the back, some about the author and her editor, and a little bit about Arata in the present world not knowing what a car is. I'm really hoping that that's not all we're going to get of him. I want full chapters about Arata, not just Hinohara. Because I like Arata more, but hopefully Hinohara gets better, since I'm finding him a little annoying. 'cause he goes off in this not trusting people and depression thing really quickly, to where I don't think it's done as well as it could be. Hopefully it will get better.
So, this was mostly alright. Parts I liked and parts bothered me. Either way, the review for the next couple will probably be up soon, since I have several waiting to be read.

Manga Review: Oresama Teacher, Volume 4, by Izumi Tsubaki

Rating (Out of 5): 3.5
Publisher: VIZ Media
Volumes: 12+

Goodreads Synopsis:
Troublemaking student council chairman Hanabusa thinks the best way to solve the problem of two similar clubs at school is to have them fight to the death! Actually, the losers just have to disband their club. But a silly club rivalry quickly gets out of hand when Mafuyu is kidnapped by the enemy!

I really enjoyed this volume. Probably more than the last one. It took me a while to actually pick it up and start reading it, and I don't know why, because I should have known that I would enjoy it. And I like Tsubaki's humor, so I don't know if I think it's better because it's been a while since I read the last one, but I found this volume really funny.
So, the first four chapter of the book, focus on the public morals club and the yojimbo club, who both do pretty much the same thing, fighting, or getting ready to fight, to see which club gets to stay. We see at the beginning that they're going to be fighting, but a lot of it shows Mafuyu 'training' Hayasaka, who is rather bad at fighting. He doesn't think about it, and he doesn't dodge, and Mafuyu has a rather hard time showing him things. There's a bit of this where she tells him how to do things, shows him, and tells him why he should do it. Like she'll explain techniques to him. I found this interesting, but I already knew some of it from when I took karate several years ago, so I'm curious as to whether other people liked it or if it bothered them. Oh, also, for a lot of this part, Mafuyu is dressed up as Natsuo, a boy who fights (a 'secret bancho'), because Mafuyu isn't supposed to know how to fight or be very good at it. Natsuo was created in the second volume, and Saeki makes her be him. I thought this would bother me, but it made it quite funny.
But I really like Hayasaka, find him really entertaining. And there's a part of the book when Saeki and Natsuo are close to each other, in which Saeki is being mean to Natsuo, but Hayasaka walks in and thinks that they're gay and have a secret love affair. Mafuyu is quick to say no, but Saeki says yes because it will keep Hayasaka farther from Natsuo so he won't discover that they're the same person. So for quite a bit, Natsuo is trying to clear this up.
Also, there's some obvious feelings between Mafuyu and Hayasaka, but neither of them realize it. They're just too innocent and stupid. It's still rather fun, though, and I'm looking forward to seeing things evolve between all of them.
Oh, and then Natsuo and Hayasaka do some fighting, and there are some sweet words said between them. It's nice.
Anyway, in the fifth chapter, Maizono, the masochistic delinquent from Mafuyu's old school, comes to town to bring her something. I was hoping that somethings were going to be revealed about Mafuyu, but no. He gets lost and ends up running into Hayasaka, who he asks to bring him to the school's bancho. When he finds out that it isn't Mafuyu, he describes her to them. They decide that it can't be the Mafuyu they know, and so they keep thinking of some big guy, no matter how many times he calls her a 'she'. So the three of them walk around town, 'looking for him', but they go to an arcade, a place that Hayasaka hasn't really been to before, and they eat and fight. And then Maizono goes home, where Mafuyu glimpses him on the train after hearing about some violent Mafuyu in town that Maizono has been boasting about. It's funny, but I was still hoping that there's be some more plot development. I still enjoyed it, though, and I'm glad that I got to see some more of Mafuyu's friends from her old school, since I like them.
In the last chapter, Saeki drags Mafuyu to the beach, because he needs some time off, and is all frustrated from not being able to fight. And we find out that Mafuyu can't swim, and Saeki unsuccessfully tries to teach her. And then Mafuyu almost drowns, but Saeki saves her, and we find out that he had to use CPR on her, to which Mafuyu doesn't know what to think.
I'm really enjoying this series, and am hoping to get the next one soon. I like all of the characters, and just the comedy bits are fun to read, but I would like to see some more of the plot development. But I might just be looking forward to seeing Mafuyu's fighting ways being revealed.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Manga Review: Kodocha: Sana's Stage, Volume 1, by Miho Obana

Rating (Out of 5): 3.5
Publisher: TokyoPop
Volumes: 10

Goodreads Synopsis:
Sana gets a part in a TV movie, costarring with a hot new actress, but she'll never get to the studio if she can't survive the bullies at school. Akito the Demon Hayama continues his reign of terror so Sana comes up with a crazy plot to put him in his place. Sana takes advantage of Akito's fear of heights and challenges him to a bungee jumping contest! Maybe the world's biggest bully will finally back down.
I've watched a bit of the anime of Kodocha (and mostly because I'd watched AMV's of it, which made it look interesting, and still makes me intrigued), but I never finished it. And I knew that TokyoPop had published it, but I never really thought about reading it. But then I saw it at Powell's (because they have a bunch of them), and decided to get the first one, at kind of a spur of the moment because it sounded good. And I thought that there was probably more of a chance of me actually finishing it. And most of this volume was about the same as the first, or first couple (I can't remember), episodes of the anime.
So anyway, the main character, Sana, is a TV star, who also goes to school. She also doesn't seem to go by her script in interviews. But at school, where most of it takes place (since she's in middle school, I think?), her class never seems to learn anything, because the boys always cause a ruckus and make the classroom a mad house and bully the girls, while the girls are afraid to do anything, and the teacher is too timid to do anything about it. And apparently their teacher and the gym teacher, who apparently never has a class to teach because he's always dropping in, are having some kind of affair that Akito is blackmailing them about. (I don't really see what's so bad about them being together. I'm guessing that the school has a rule against it, or something? Also, it really bothers me that the teacher lets them do whatever and just cries about it, because that's very unrealistic. And that no one has done anything about the boys until Sana, who apparently didn't want to get involved, gets involved and fights back.) And Akito is Sana's personal enemy, as he opposes her until she blackmails him with a kind of ridiculous picture (but I guess they are middle schoolers...).
Most of it focuses on Sana fighting Akito, and then helping Akito with his terrible home life (which is terrible). Also, Akito's best friend Tsuyoshi, who's also timid, is very sweet and likes Sana. And I feel bad for Akito, and also don't really like him 'cause he's a jerk, but I'm expecting to warm up to him, since he's got that expressionless, leave-me-alone, wounded character to him.
Oh, and Sana's mom is pretty awesome. She's a crazy author, who's a bit sadistic to her editor, who also has a squirrel that lives in her hair. And Rei, Sana's manager and “gigolo”, I like. I most remember him from the anime, and it's hinting that something it going to happen with him that Sana isn't going to like, but I think I already know what it is...
It's mostly stuff that I'd already seen in the anime, but since I haven't seen the anime in a while, it's mostly a refresher. I don't mind it, though. And while a bit of it is ridiculous to the point that it bothers me, I am enjoying it, and will be picking up the next one when I can.
The art is fine, but one thing that's bothering me is the little author's notes within the manga. Not the side panels, but that Obana with put in little comments during the manga. But that stuff usually bothers me, since it's unprofessional and takes me out of the story.
Oh, also, there were some extras at the end of the volume. The first one was about a dream that Sana had, that she's telling to Akito and Tsuyoshi. It's about Akito being a bee that infects people and turns them into bees, and Sana goes to fight him and turns into a bee and continues trying to defeat him after he deceives her. And so she's mad at Akito about it. I found it quite funny, especially seeing Akito as a big bee and attacking people while keeping expressionless. And the last extra are four little panel comics about Mariko (Sana's mom) and Maro (Mariko's squirrel), which are also very funny. I really liked these, and am looking forward to reading more in the volumes to come.

Manga Review: The Stellar Six of Gingacho, Volume 2, by Yuuki Fujimoto

Rating (Out of 5): 3.5/4
Publisher: TokyoPop
Volumes: 10

Goodreads Synopsis:

Five friends who grew up together while living in a shopping arcade experience love, humor, and adventure!

This was about as good as the last one, if not more.
Unlike the first volume, they are all older in this one; about 15 now and in high school.
So, in the first chapter, the group takes on the problem of a newly engaged couple at the street market, who are having problems with some vandalism. When they take on 'cases' like this, as they do another one later in the volume, they aren't totally exciting to me, but they aren't bad. I'd probably enjoy some more of the characters and relationship development. It's mostly fun just seeing all of the characters interacting with each other, like they did while thinking up what to do and while staking out outside the shop.
Oh, also, there's a bit where the friends decide that they aren't going to grow apart, and they'll still be friends in twenty years. This is pointed out to them, since several people have commented that it's nice they're all still hanging out with each other, and it bothers them. This is cute, and, while realistically they probably wouldn't have been so close still, it isn't unbelievable that they still will be in twenty years. (Although, I would have liked to be able to read it...)
The second chapter focuses on Mike and Kuro's relationship. Although there was also some focus on them in the last volume, and I'd hopes to see some more of the other characters, I still enjoyed it. They're both going to the same high school (and the others are going to different ones, I believe), and several sports teams want them to join. They aren't interested in any of them, but they get pushed into doing a race with one of them, which it's then pointed out that only one of them can join the team if they lose, as it was agreed between the sports teams that one can't have both. This is obviously upsetting to them, and most of the chapter is focused on them not wanting to be separated. It's sweet and cute. (Also, Mike finds out that Kuro likes someone, and doesn't know who, and their friends won't tell her who [because, you know, duh,] and she doesn't know what to do about it. It's a little ridiculous for her not to know yet, but very believable for her character.)
The third chapter is about another family in the street market that is just opening it's shop. And the wife has hurt herself, so only the husband can work. So Mike's father (I think?) volunteers the kids to help. So Mike and Kuro are set to help out, but their friends are busy, but they end up coming to help anyway. Also, the family has a little daughter that's upset about them moving away from her friends, and who isn't making any new ones. Mike is sweet and gets her to cheer up and help out at the shop. (Also, the little girl proclaims that she's going to marry Kuro, which freaks him out, and makes Mike mad, even if she doesn't know why.)
And then there's a short story called “Stand By You”, an earlier work of Fujimoto's. It's about these two girls who are best friends, and one of them finds out that her family is from the future, and they've finally fixed their time machine, so they have to go back to the future. It wasn't amazing, but it was cute, and the two friends were sweet.
I don't believe I talked much about the art in the first volume. Well, I mostly like it. I was a bit unsure of it at first, since it's a bit messy, and looks a little like sketches, but it's easy to get into.
I'm really enjoying this series. I really like the characters, and would like to see more of them. I believe that the third volume was (just barely) released, so I'm going to try to find it, and if I can, then I'll review it. I'm also still hoping that someone picks this up, since it's really good, and only a few volumes were released before Tokyopop closed.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Review: Graceling (The Seven Kingdoms, #1) by Kristin Cashore

Rating (Out of 5): ~3.5
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Spoilers?: Some, with warning.

Goodreads Synopsis:
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.     When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away . . . a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.      With elegant, evocative prose and a cast of unforgettable characters, debut author Kristin Cashore creates a mesmerizing world, a death-defying adventure, and a heart-racing romance that will consume you, hold you captive, and leave you wanting more. 
I read this a while ago, and I enjoyed it. And I even liked the ending (since I know that lots of people didn't).
It's about Katsa, who has a Grace (which is a special gift that only some people have). And it's set in an older time, with kings and kingdoms and riding on horses and all that. And Katsa's gift is killing (only not really, but I won't spoil that), and she meets Po, who also has a Grace. And then something bad goes down with her uncle, and she has to do some stuff, a lot of which involves Po and Katsa getting closer, and then also with a little girl, who's pretty awesome.
I liked Katsa. She was definitely not a weak heroine, not only because she knows how to fight and live on her own, but also because she knows how take care of herself emotionally. (And, [spoiler,] with not too much trouble, she lets Po in.) And, despite what most people think, (and, as I said above), I actually liked the ending. [SPOILER of the ending!] Most people seemed to take her going off on her own as her being heartless and that she wasn't going to stay with him and all that, and they didn't like it. I don't think that's what she meant. It's just that she doesn't want to marry, and I don't see why that's a big deal (but that might just be me, because of my personal thoughts on marriage). And just because they weren't going to get married doesn't mean that they aren't going to stay together. I believe she says that they are going their own ways for a bit, since they have some things to take care of (which is understandable, and not a bad thing for them to do on their own), but that they were going to be meeting up with each other later. And not only did that seem fitting, but I also liked it. [End Spoiler!]
And I liked Po. He's sweet, and I like him with Katsa. And I loved Raffin, and wish we got to see more of him. Bitterblue, also, was sweet and very smart for a little girl.
The adventure and the writing in the book I also liked, and it kept me interested. Even with this book's length, it wasn't hard to get through. (Although I do see why some people would find it hard to get through, because of how long it is. I, however, didn't have this problem.) And the romance, and relationship building, between Katsa and Po is very nice (and there's also some sex, once, but it's not explicit or anything).
So, this was pretty good. And I haven't read the next one yet (Fire), but I will, at some point.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: Queen of the Dead (The Ghost and the Goth, #2) by Stacey Kade

Rating (Out of 5): 4
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
Goodreads Synopsis:

After being sent back from the light, Alona Dare - former homecoming queen, current Queen of the Dead - finds herself doing something she never expected: working. Instead of spending days perfecting her tan by the pool (her typical summer routine when she was, you know, alive), Alona must now cater to the needs of other lost spirits. By her side for all of this - ugh - “helping of others” is Will Killian: social outcast, seer of the dead, and someone Alona cares about more than she’d like.

Before Alona can make a final ruling on Will’s “friend” or “more” status, though, she discovers trouble at home. Her mom is tossing out Alona’s most valuable possessions, and her dad is expecting a new daughter with his wicked wife. Is it possible her family is already moving on? Hello! She’s only been dead for two months! Thankfully, Alona knows just the guy who can put a stop to this mess.

Unfortunately for Alona, Will has other stuff on his mind, and Mina, a young (and beautiful) seer, is at the top of the list. She’s the first ghost-talker Will’s ever met—aside from his father—and she may hold answers to Will’s troubled past. But can she be trusted? Alona immediately puts a check mark in the “clearly not” column. But Will is - ahem - willing to find out, even if it means leaving a hurt and angry Alona to her own devices, which is never a good idea.

Packed with romance, lovable characters, and a killer cliffhanger, Queen of the Dead is the out-of-this-world sequel to The Ghost and the Goth.

I am really enjoying this series so far, and am pretty excited for the next one.
I like Alona, the ghost. She's thinks very highly of herself, is pretty narcissistic (is that the word I'm looking for?), but she has her moments. I really enjoy reading her chapter. Although she did something in this book, that she really shouldn't have done. And I'm a little unsure how to feel about it. Because it sucks on her part, even if she didn't really mean to go that far, and I feel bad for the girls mother (but I won't expand on who's, since I don't want to give too much away), and it can cause some mixed feelings that I don't want between her and Will. But it also can be very good for her... I'm unsure what to think about it, but am intrigued to see where it all goes next.
I also really like Will, the goth who's not really a goth. He's sweet, and I find his whole leg thing cute and very fun. And I like him and Alona, but also feel unsure because I don't know where things are going to go, with her being a ghost and all. And the big thing that happens with Alona in this one, which I mentioned above, doesn't really help things. It can very easily make them worse.
Not much of the book focused on Will. Or, something bigger happened to Alona, so that's what sticks out most in my mind. And some things happened with Will and the ghosts, some of which was kind of nice.
I like Kade's writing, it's easy, and her characters are all pretty well done. They're different from each other, (and it's a bit impressive, since this is only her second book and first series).
I'm excited to see what happens in the next one, which I believe is the last? It is a trilogy, right? I can't remember. Either way, I'm lookin' forward to it.