Manga Review: Platinum Garden (vol. 1-6) / by Maki Fujita

platinum garden 1Platinum Garden, volumes 1-6  / by Maki Fujita

Translated from the Japanese by Egan Loo. English Adaptation by Sarah Dyer.

Published in English by Tokyopop, 2006

First published in Japanese by Akita Publishing Co., 2001

1598163612 (volume 1)

Rated: 2.5/5 Stars


From GoodReads:

When Kazura is sent to live in Mizuki’s house, she learns that she’s really there to become his wife! Furious, Kazura tries to leave, but discovers that she was given as payment for her deceased grandfather’s debts. But things aren’t what they seem to be in this household–Mizuki can call back people’s souls, and Kazura wants him to bring back her grandfather! Maki Fujita’s shojo comedy is filled with delicious family secrets, dreamy high school romance, and plenty of spirited fun!


I picked up Platinum Garden to read because it’s on the next shelf that I’ve picked for my monthly bookshelf tours (video will go up beginning of April). My sister owns this series, and neither of us have finished reading it. Which I guess is okay, considering how it was dropped at the half-way point. There are still 7 volumes which never got an English release. She owns the first 6 volumes, which is what I’ll be discussing:

I remember picking up the first volume years ago… probably when she started buying it (in 2006) and being too bored to continue. I thought it would be a good time to try this again.

It was. I was pleasantly surprised by how good this title was. Was it great? No. It’s pretty average. But it’s better than I remember… and everything from story, art and translation improves as you progress into the later volumes.

Continue reading

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Manga Review : Ajin Demi-Human (vol. 1-8) / story by Tsuina Miura, art by Gamon Sakurai

ajinAjin Demi-Human, volume 1-8 (ongoing) / story by Tsuina Miura, art by Gamon Sakurai.

Translated from the Japanese by Ko Ransom.

Published by Vertical, 2014

Originally published as Ajin, in good! Afternoon magazine (Kodansha, Ltd.), 2012-

9781939130846 (volume 1)


From GoodReads:

High school student Kei Nagai is struck dead in a grisly traffic accident, but immediately revives to learn that he may not be like every other human. Instead, he may be a mysterious, almost immortal being, granted not only the powers of rejuvenation, but the abilities to see supernatural beings. Scared, he runs away, and is aided in his escape from society by his friend. Unfortunately for Kei, the manhunt is on and he will soon be caught within a conflict between mankind and others like him as they prepare to fight a new war based on terror.  Continue reading

Manga Review : Alice 19th / by Yuu Watase

alice 19Alice 19th, Volumes 1-7 (complete) / by Yuu Watase

Translated from the Japanese by Lance Caselman

Viz, 2003-2004.

Originally published as “Alice 19th”
by Shogakukan, Inc., 2001

9781591162155 (volume 1)


Verso (volume 1):

Alice Seno is a seemingly shy and meek girl who always seems to be outshined by her older sister Mayura. One day, Alice has an encounter with a mysterious and magical rabbit girl, and her life is turned upside down. Alice discovers that certain words have power, and that she has the potential to be master of a set of sublimely powerful words called the Lotis Words. But power always comes with a price, and the price may turn out to be Alice’s sister Mayura.

*also, I copied this image off of GoodReads. My copy has the correct spelling of “story” (not “sroty”) on the cover. If you’ve got a first edition of this manga, I’d love to know if it was sent out with this spelling error… because that’d be hilarious! Continue reading

Light Novel Review : Genshiken : Return of the Otaku / by Iida Kazutoshi & Kio Shimoku

genshikenGenshiken : Return of the Otaku / by Iida Kazutoshi & Kio Shimoku

Based on the manga by Kio Shimoku

Translated from the Japanese by Katy Bridges, 2010.

Del Rey Manga/Kodansha Trade Paperback Edition, 2010

Originally published in Japan as Genshiken : Hairu Ranto no Yabo~Return of the Otaku, 2008

223 pages

978-0345516275

Stars: ★ / 5


From GoodReads:

The deafening whack-whack-whack of a helicopter above campus is the first indication that the balmy tranquility of the Genshiken Club is about to be disturbed. The chopper brings handsome Ranto Hairu: transfer student, scion of a powerful Japanese conglomerate, and newly named chairman of the on-campus club organization committee.

Hairu has strong ideas about the kind of clubs that deserve to survive (earnest, industrious) and the kind that don’t (arty, frivolous), and he’s a big fan of brute force. For Madarame, Kousaka, Ohno, and the others, the idea of losing their cherished club is the ultimate nightmare—but it’s only the first of many.
 
Fortunately, the Genshiken boys and girls have a few tricks of their own, including a certain swordfighter summoned from ancient times who could prove very handy Continue reading

Novel Review: Strange Weather in Tokyo / by Hiromi Kawakami

strange weatherStrange Weather in Tokyo / by Hiromi Kawakami

Translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell, ©2012

Published by Portobello Books, ©2014

Originally Published in Japan in 2001 under the title センセイの鞄 (Sensei no kaban) by Bungei Shunju, Tokyo

978-1-84627-510-4

Stars: ★★★★ / 5

 


From GoodReads:

Tsukiko is in her late 30s and living alone when one night she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, ‘Sensei’, in a bar. He is at least thirty years her senior, retired and, she presumes, a widower. After this initial encounter, the pair continue to meet occasionally to share food and drink sake, and as the seasons pass – from spring cherry blossom to autumnal mushrooms – Tsukiko and Sensei come to develop a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly and poignantly into love. Continue reading

Manga Review: Flying Witch, Volume 1 by Chihiro Ishizuka

31172294Flying Witch, volume 1 by Chihiro Ishizuka

Translated by Melissa Tanaka

Published by Vertical Comics, ©2017

Originally Published in Bessatsu Shonen Magazine, Kodansha Ltd., ©2013-

978-1-945054-09-9 

Stars: ★★ / 5

 

Flying Witch is a slice-of-life shounen manga about a 15-year-old witch, Makoto Kowata, who has left her home (with her black cat familiar); as is the “right-of-passage” custom to become a fully-fledged witch (think Kiki’s Delivery Service). I loved the characters in this series – they are so fun, quirky and just like-able. I particularly love the way the characters react to Kowata upon learning she is a witch and even more so, Kowata’s naivety in adjusting to her new surroundings. I think a lot of people will really love this cute, calm, and cheerful slice-of-life manga.

BUT… there are some major issues with it for me.

Continue reading

Graphic Novel Review: Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

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31145178A wonderful graphic autobiography for middle-grade readers by one of my favourite contemporary authors. Shannon Hale focuses on her early experiences making friends… from the ease of friendship as a pre-schooler, to the complicated social pecking order of grade school.

Shannon’s mother is convinced that everything will be all right if she just has 1 special friend. This friend is Adrienne. But as they grow older, Adrienne becomes friends with the popular “the group” and as they move from grade-to-grade Shannon must now traverse the treacherous landmines of what being associated with “the group” means.

This story deals with mental health (particularly anxiety), bullying, friendship, and even religion. But mostly, it is a common tale of growing up and making friends. I basically found myself nodding my head to just about every scenario… especially the sibling relationships.

The situations feel real to someone who had a relatively boring/happy childhood; they are so reminiscent to my own childhood it’s not even funny. It doesn’t feel preachy or didactic in any way. At least it didn’t feel that way to me. And, I loved the slightly ambiguous ending, a proper depiction of how someone “would” act in a situation, rather than how they “should” act.

LeUyen Pham’s art is bright, and youthful – and serves the story well. The storytelling is grounded in reality, but also fluid enough that you could easily forget this is a biography (if you wanted to).

I highly recommend this story to any child — and better yet, reading this with your child!

Graphic Novel Review: A Castle in England / by Jamie Rhodes

A Castle in EnglandA Castle in England by Jamie Rhodes
Illustrated by: Isaac Lenkiewicz, Briony May Smith, Will Exley, and Isabel Greenberg.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There is so much potential in this title, from the concept showcasing the history of the residences of a single castle (I love histories); the artist contributions (showcasing 5 different creators/whose styles matched beautifully the historical context they each represented); to the unusual peach and tan colour palette (which I actually thought was quite splendid). I was pretty excited about it — but it fell so very flat. Where could this have faltered?

The biggest detriment to this comic was the commission status of it: paid for by the National Trust and Arts Council England. A commissioned work where money issued furthers the idea of arts and history. This isn’t a bad thing, but in the context of comic books and graphic novels greatly affects the creation process and henceforth, the reading experience. It was not written for the public, but FOR its commissioners.

As a Canadian I often pick up comic books commissioned by the Canadian Arts Council. And this same sentiment holds true. But at least in these instances, they are telling the story of my country, and they are expressing it with a Canadian sensibility. These works are more innately understood when it is your own country paying for it. But this isn’t. It’s foreign to me. And any potential subtle “cultural-isms” are lost on me.

The reading experience of this is like a friend returning from vacation and I’m now stuck watching a slide show of the experience. Looking at a photo of people standing around. Having to listen to an explanation of what is happening not in the picture, but behind the camera. This is not a good time.

Each of the five stories that make up this book require extensive explanation to be understood. The illustration isn’t doing it’s job. One of the first questions I ask myself when I’m evaluating sequential art works is “If I take away the text, can I understand this?” The answer is a fervent “no”. And this work has FIVE sets of text: The family tree to start, a quote at the beginning of each story to set the mood, the text represented in the comic to give the characters speech, the brief history of the events to give context to the story, and the brief history of the family history currently residing at the castle to explain the action.

All but the family tree and quote at the beginning are essential to understanding this work. Remove any of the others, and this work crumbles into nonsensical gibberish.

If you think about it in the reverse… “If I take away the art, can I understand this?” The answer is definitely “yes”. But who would want to read the scant historical summary that remains?

There are so many good things about this comic, but the fact that the art requires instruction at this intense of a level is a problem.

And then… to rub salt in that wound…

The formatting of this text! Each story has the text handwritten in the style of the art/artist (wonderful). The histories unfortunately do not follow in the same style. Instead they are presented using a small textbook-like font on blank white pages (from a graphic novel stand point is incredibly boring to look at), each paragraph numbered (for no apparent reason but to perplex me greatly) with one small illustration from the preceding comic (for no apparent reason but to remind me that the summary has some relationship to the previous story). It just didn’t make sense, and didn’t match in the slightest the graphic portion of the work.

If you want to read a work that gets it right, I’d recommend going for 750 Years in Paris by Vincent Mahé instead.

Non-Fiction Review: Writing About Art by Henry M. Sayre

Writing About ArtWriting About Art

by Henry M. Sayre

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As this was intended for beginner students of art history, I can’t say this was exactly for me. I’ve been wanting a refresher on how to approach art, think about, and examine art. Though this did give some hints in that area, it was more focussed on the essay writing process… and I would say not so much for the serious student of art history, but more for the student of art appreciation. I would never have gotten away with the ephemeral approach of writing an essay purely on observation and feelings. If you’re a new student take this guide with a grain of salt. Every professor you have will expect a different approach to art writing, down to the fine points of how to make references. It’s almost always better to start by asking your professors what their expectations are.

Comic Book Review: A.D.: After Death / by Scott Snyder

A.D.: After DeathA.D.: After Death by Scott Snyder

Illustrated by Jeff Lemire

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This started strong, with a unique graphic structure and poetic prose. I was immediately intrigued. For the most part, I thought this mixed format and art style worked. But, there were big gaps in the story which should have been resolved; the ending was weak (and obvious); and the art failed to interact with the text about 25% of the time. Often times the prose structure moved into the territory of “picture book” rather than “graphic novel” — when I have to remind myself to look up from the text to see the pictures there’s a problem. I liked the concept and the ambitious undertaking, but overall it felt under-done. This book could use about two more volumes to resolve the issues I have with it.

[And an aside, there were at least half a dozen obvious spelling and grammatical errors in this work. Would definitely have benefited from additional editing. Almost all of these were in the prose sections — I wonder if this wasn’t due to an editor not used to working outside of comics…]