GoGo Monster / by Taiyo Matsumoto

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This is seriously one of the most beautiful manga publications in my collection. It has a full color cardboard sleeve, a full color wrap-around image, and the page edges are painted red with further designs. It’s gorgeous. And, for that alone, I think it’s worth collecting.

But, then you have the story… and “my god!” my brain feels like it’s melting. (that’s a good thing) Like most of Matsumoto’s works the protagonists are children working out their reality/trying to figure out their place in the world. It primarily surrounds two boys.

The first has been going to this school for a long time. He’s a loner. And has been ostracized by the entire class because of his strange behaviour and talk of the supernatural. His only friend is the school caretaker who listens quietly and intently in his stories, but rarely comments or encourages the behaviour. Throughout the story the boy begins to get agitated as the voices he’s been relying on have started to go quiet.

The second boy is new to the school. And as much as he’s been warned to stay away from the first boy, he finds his behaviour intriguing, if not bewildering, and makes friends with him. He also asks questions and listens to the stories, but is of course doubtful as to their validity.

DGRmue-UQAELy4yThe whole thing feels like a metaphor for growing up. There is constant concern over the other side, of adulthood, of breaking the rules, of death… all of these discussions between the characters seem to be markers of that pivotal moment in a child’s life when they’re no longer a child. They take a step into a limbo where they’re still children, but not children at the same time.

It’s a brilliant reading experience – delving deep into the psyche of children. But, I think is best understood intrinsically. I think if you’re trying to figure out what is going on during every panel, you’ll only wind yourself into knots.

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Descending Stories, volume 1 / by Haruko Kumota

DGeQ-dKUIAAEvuuI’ve been pretty hyped to read this after hearing so many great things about the anime; many people touting this story as a “masterpiece”.

I’m less enthused after reading it than I was expecting. It has one major flaw in my eyes and that is it is written by a yaoi author. i.e. she brings with it a lack of character development. Because most yaoi series tend to be on the shorter side (at least what has been released here) authors have to develop their characters quickly. And they can do this because they are working with stock characters. The uke and seme are the most common character types complete with defining relationship roles, personality (both private and public), and even artistic design. If you’re a regular reader of the genre, you will instantly pick out which character belongs to which static character type and can enjoy the quick-ride which is the story.

But this is not yaoi (it might have some gay characters, but that doesn’t define the genre). So, it’s quick character development isn’t enough to engender an emotional response from readers. It falls flat. And this is my primary issue with this story.

It could make a recovery though. The way the story is structured could indicate that the two male character’s will get more focus throughout the story as Kumota unveils their intentions and feelings. But other characters, like the lead female character doesn’t have much left to give. Her character has been laid bare, and her intentions/motivations clear.

But the story! The story! The story could save this for me. It is one of the most unique subjects I’ve read about. It’s about a young man recently released from prison. While he was in prison he heard the comedic storytelling (rakugo) of the legendary master Yakumo Yurakutei and decided to become his apprentice. He persuades Yakumo to take him on, and is eager to get started to learn the art of rakugo.

This is the first time I’ve read anything about rakugo. I’ve had a little exposure to it through watching Japanese television. But, this purely Japanese art-form is fascinating to me to read about.

Now all Kumota needs is to develop her characters a bit more and this will be a great manga…I’ll wait!

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Tetris: The Games People Play / by Box Brown

Tetris: The Games People PlayTetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was okay. My opinion of it might be suffering for the fact that I just read a corporate history graphic novel that I enjoyed exponentially more about a month ago. It was too easy to compare the two.

I enjoyed the story well enough. But there wasn’t very much story to be had. If you had taken the first 50 pages, the last 10 and thrown in a few in the middle for good measure, you would have had your story.

But, then there were all of the other pages. Filled with rights negotiations… It’s not that this wasn’t important or interesting. But, it was just written in a way that made more sense in a report. This wasn’t supposed to just be facts with pictures. This was supposed to say something. Make me feel something. Like a good story should.

It was like facts were acquired. They were calculated to amount to a certain value. And then spewed out in sequence without vetting or embellishment. There was story to be had. I don’t even think that the content that existed was bad. It’s just that it was the skeletal information that a good story could have been built upon.

Obviously. I felt like the story was missing.

The art satisfied the report-style writing. It was okay. Cute enough. There were a few times when I got confused which character I was reading about and had to flip back to the pages they were introduced to figure it out.

I really liked the yellow/black pallette. Usually a harsh combination, but I found rather fun.

Overall, this was a quick read. I finished it in about an hour. I thought this was interesting and informative, if lacking in finesse and feeling. If you’re interested in the history of Tetris, or maybe the history of business partnerships between foreign-countries and Russia you might enjoy picking this up.

I didn’t mind Box Brown’s style — and am very curious in trying out his history of ‘Andre The Giant’ some time.

We Were There, vol 1-16 / Yuuki Obata

We Were There, Vol. 1We Were There, Vol. 1 by Yuuki Obata

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this series because I’d been recommended it so often, and also because I own the series, and I owe it to my money to read the manga I buy.

Unfortunately it’s not the series I had hoped it could be. Every time you were left with a hanging question about where the story would go, I predicted the outcome. It was NEVER the outcome I’d hoped for. The outcome was always convenient. Always expected. And never profound.

The characters are weak. I think this is the overall problem I have with the series. Not weak in character, but just weak characters. They weren’t developed enough — and their relationship wasn’t believable enough for me to buy into it. Actually I was thinking their relationship was more toxic than romantic, there were moments where I thought the author was aware of it too — but if she was, she certainly didn’t do anything about it!

The story itself is fine, if a little slow and predictable. The art in it is suitable (if occasionally inconsistent).

There was a surprise thrown into this series that made the beginning worth reading. It comes at the middle of the series, around volume 11. High school is over. Yano is gone. And, Nanami hasn’t seen him in 5 years.

It’s from this point onward that the series gets interesting. And it’s at this point onward that you get SOME of the much desired character development. I’m not going to say it’s a lot — and I’m not going to say it isn’t completely predictable, but I will say that you do start to have some feelings for Yano and Nanami as characters.

Unfortunately these feelings didn’t come soon enough. I’m a person who is normally easily moved. I felt stone cold-hearted reading to the end.

But, do I recommend this series?!

Maybe. I would say try the series. If you don’t buy into the characters relationship right at the beginning it’s probably not worth reading until the end. But, if you completely get behind Yano and Nanami’s relationship (if their love moves you), this will probably be one of the best shoujo dramas you’ll ever read!

It all boils down to the characters…

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Platinum End / by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata

Platinum End, Vol. 1Platinum End, Vol. 1 by Tsugumi Ohba

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A depressed youth is saved by a morally ambiguous angel who gives him supernatural gifts that he must use as a candidate to become the next “god”.

Platinum End has a pretty epic start but I’m not entirely confident in it’s future. At this point it may decide to go straight into battle fantasy manga, rather than really focus on the story, and that would be a shame. But, we won’t know for at least 2 volumes.

There was quite a bit of explanation on how this fantasy system works and what the rules of the competition are, so it doesn’t have as much impact or flow as smoothly as you’d hope from a first volume.

It feels a little bit like a re-imagining of death note. [A comparison that they can’t escape.] What if Light didn’t go on a killing spree? What kind of world would he create then? I think it’s an intelligent re-working of a fan favourite. And will create a different enough story from Death Note.

The concept bases itself in an idea that there are several candidates to become the next “god” and they must battle each other to find out who will be chosen. It is a pretty usual one that you’d see in shonen (fantasy battle) series like Shaman King, Hoshin Engi, Gestalt, and many others. So, if you liked any of these series, this might be for you.

However, as far as mood it might be a little darker than death note in terms of imagery, and it does deal with abuse, depression and suicide so if those are things that bother you, you might want to avoid this title.

Overall I enjoyed it! And, I’m crossing my fingers for the rest of the series.

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Blood Sucker: the Legend of Zipangu / by Saki Okuse and Aki Shimizu

Blood Sucker: Legend of Zipangu, Volume 2Blood Sucker: Legend of Zipangu, Volume 2 by Saki Okuse

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

At this point in the series the only thing saving it is the action sequences and art drawn by Aki Shimizu. Shimizu is a great artist, it’s such a shame that only 1 of his series actually got a complete release in English.

As for the story, it is quite confusing. I don’t think that’s entirely the author’s fault though. There were quite a few times where I was questioning the translation decision. I don’t have the original Japanese so I can’t compare, but there was something off about quite a number of phrases. They just didn’t feel authentic.

This volume is basically an introduction of characters. There are short vignettes, some as short as a page, to introduce characters and situations. It has a feeling that all will be revealed and relative at one point in time. But, it is difficult to wait for any sort of clarity.

Then on top of the confusion, my particular volume has a printing error. A block of missing pages, and some duplicate pages. But, the fact that you don’t notice that there is something missing right away is a pretty good illustration of how jumpy the actual story is.

I’m going to keep reading since I have the rest of the volumes. And, at the very least, I believe I should read all of the manga I buy. But, I’m also not really able to recommend this title to anyone either (at least, not yet). And, I haven’t even gotten to the biggest blot on the series that happens at volume 7 when the series finished releasing incomplete.

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Color of Rage by Kazuo Koike and Seisaku Kano

Color of RageColor of Rage by Kazuo Koike

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this one expecting it to be a thriller. It wasn’t. But, it was a brilliant read and I can’t wait to get a chance to pick this up again.

This is about George, a Japanese man and King, an African man who’ve escaped from a slave ship and are now in a “historical” 18th century Japan trying to find a place to live in peace. Don’t expect an accurate depiction of history, this is more of a backdrop to a discussion on the ideas of slavery.

Through the story by Kazuo Koike attempts to illustrate the confinement of Japanese society through comparison of slavery in America. In it George is often explaining to King how they should act to get along in society. This basically requires them to humble themselves, prostrate themselves, and degrade themselves in a subservient manner to people who may be less than worthy. And, King making pointed observations about the problems with this.

There were a few moments which were pretty cringey, but there were also moments that were so beautiful and poignant…let’s just say, it gave me some significant “feels”.

This is the first time I’ve read a manga illustrated by Kano, who is a brilliant artist. There were so many gorgeous scenes, human figures, background scenes that I kept stopping just to absorb the art.

Highly recommended. (mature readers)

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Meteor Prince by Meca Tanaka

Meteor Prince, Vol. 1Meteor Prince, Vol. 1 by Meca Tanaka

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I always enjoy reading Tanaka. She’s such a unique voice in modern shoujo manga.

This follows a girl who is the black hole for luck — bad things just happen to her. And one day, the worst thing yet… a handsome alien lands on earth claiming she’s his destined mate!

It’s definitely cute, quirky, innocent and pretty much everything you’d hope from Tanaka. Plus, it’s only two volumes long which makes it a great series to pick up when you don’t have a lot of time.

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St. Lunatic High School / by Majiko!

St. Lunatic High School, Vol. 1St. Lunatic High School, Vol. 1 by Majiko!

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Niko and her brother are so impoverished they jump at the chance of a teaching job, free room and board…and free classes at the prestigious St. Lunatic high school. Only things aren’t as they seem, the house is dilapidated and on school grounds and the night school is a school for monsters…

I read this about 7 years ago, and since it was completely forgettable I decided to pick it up again and refresh my memory. I am so glad I did. This is such a silly and cute manga. The monsters are charming, the art is bold, and it’s all over just pure fun. I smiled reading the entire time.

This is a shoujo manga, so there is a little bit of romance. And, there are monsters, but they don’t come off as scary. You will probably enjoy this more if you’re middle-grade/pre-teen age.

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