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

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

Manga Review: 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…

Manga Review: 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.

Manga Review: 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.

Manga Review: The Secret Sakura Shares / by Akira Hagio

The Secret Sakura SharesThe Secret Sakura Shares

by Akira Hagio

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The title begins quickly, and ends quickly. It’s textbook shoujo scenarios and tropes, arranged neatly between two covers. The only thing missing was “the indirect kiss”/sharing a drink. Which oddly, made me a little sad. I like that scenario!

Unfortunately, there is no character development. There is no story development. And, there is definitely little if no tension or conflict.

Did I hate this title? No. Definitely not. Despite it’s faults it is still charming, and readable. It is a light, innocent and sweet romance with the quirky premise of a female student pretending to be the cat of a male student so that she will be taken care of after her family becomes destitute. Perfectly suited for tween-aged readers.

The biggest thing this title has going for it is that it is self-contained, which means it’s an inexpensive option if you like sickly-sweet teen romances.

If you’re a little older than a tween, but still want to read similar themes/scenarios I would recommend instead:
“Stepping on Roses / by Rinko Ueda” >> About a girl who marries a wealthy young business man to save her family. (for teen readers)
“Tramps Like Us / by Yayoi Ogawa” >> About a young woman who finds a stray boy and takes him in as her pet. (for adult readers)

Manga Review: Demon Love Spell / by Mayu Shinjo

Demon Love Spell, Vol. 1Demon Love Spell, Vol. 1

by Mayu Shinjo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Demon Love Spell is a short 6 volume series by Mayu Shinjo.

The story follows Miko (a miko) and daughter to a famous Shinto priest who has abundant powers but no abilities to sense or see spirits… and Kagura (an incubus) the strongest demon from the demon world who gains his powers from the directed love and passion of women. Miko is surprised when she accidentally seals his powers, and they are both surprised when they begin falling in love with each other.

This story is so a-typical of Mayu Shinjo. And, if you were familiar with her work, you would know exactly what I mean. From the love/hate relationship of the main couple, the continual passionate declarations of love followed by complete denial and forgetfulness, and of course the classic art style with bizarrely over-proportioned features (particularly hands and torsos) – it is her work from start to finish.

Compared to some of her other works, this story tends to be lighter and fluffier. And, is nearly void of the rape, torture, and drug abuse that you would expect from her. Probably the most dynamic of Miko and Kagura fights lead to no more than a bit of pouting on Miko’s side. So unusual, but personally, also nice and refreshing.

I often have a hard time deciding whether the situations Shinjo writes belong in a shoujo or josei subgenre – this one I believe fits neatly as shoujo. Apart from the constant sexual references from a being whose entire life is supported by sex, this is no more than a silly high school fantasy of a romance. A handsome virile man who is suppressing his immoral nature because he is desperately in love with the plain, boring, moral, and slightly disconnected school girl… what girl can win against that combination??

The end for me was a failure. It ends, yes, and the solution is what you’ve been waiting for the entire time. But, with a story so focused on the “getting together” of the main characters (from page 1), you’d think there’d be a bit more romance at the end. Instead it just fizzles out, because well, it had to happen. Oh well.

Despite the ending, I actually enjoy this series. And, of Shinjo’s works it is probably my favourite. The best scene for me falls in the beginning of volume 4. Miko finds a baby/demon in a peach while bathing in a hotsprings (think Momotaro), and she and Kagura raise it as their own child. But, of course, as you read and as the source of the baby is determined, you realize that Mayu Shinjo has thrown together some of Japan’s most famous fairy tales and weaved them into one very strange outcome to the point that even the characters are left scratching their heads. It was a nice fun diversion.

For the most part it was a fun romantic series. And, I’ll probably read it over many times.

Manga Review: Shuriken and Pleats / by Matsuri Hino

Shuriken and Pleats, Vol. 1Shuriken and Pleats, Vol. 1

by Matsuri Hino

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hino is Hino. If you like her other work, you’ll like this. And, if you don’t, you won’t. She’s a solid 3 star read for me. Her characters never seem too deep, and the main love interest is usually at odds with itself. I’m never sure if I care if the characters get together, or feel like there is any chemistry between them. Usually the scenario is different enough from other series, and short enough that I’m relatively entertained and interested for the duration. Hino’s main draw for me is her art. Overall, her work just seems to be getting more and more sophisticated.

This title is odd in that it features a relatively depressed and emotionless main character. I wouldn’t call her tsundere — just kind of void of personality. I expect that the intention of the story is that she’ll change into a more “human” portrayal of a teenager. If you’re looking for a series with “cool” and “tough” ninja… I don’t think you’ll be super impressed.

I liked this well enough, and will probably pick up the next volume.

Manga Review: Oyayubihime Infinity / by Toru Fujieda

Oyayubihime Infinity: Volume 1Oyayubihime Infinity: Volume 1

by Toru Fujieda

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay. So, this series is obviously out of print considering that the publisher no longer exists. But, if you have the finances and inclination I would urge you to buy a copy of this series.

Oyayubihime Infinity is one of those romantic shoujo dramas about reincarnation, with memories of the past life, and a hint of fantasy. It’s a bit less dramatic or science fiction-y (yes, that’s a technical term) than titles like, “Please Save My Earth” but nevertheless, the premise is essentially the same. However similar, I find that the the story feels fresh, and isn’t as overwhelmingly heavy as other attempts.

Back Cover – Meet Kanoko, a high school student, and manager of the up-and-coming young actress Maya. Humble, modest Kanoko’s only dream is to see Maya hit the big-time. But the butterfly-shaped birthmark on her thumb might change her entire life.

Essentially the birthmark is one shared by a number of young people in the story. They are indicative of a past life where as lovers – tattooed themselves with a butterfly before committing suicide.

Why butterfly tattoos? This is due to the will of each couple to follow in the footsteps of the famous Agemaki and Sukeroku’s tragic past. Agemaki taking her name from the Japanese word for butterfly. The tragic story of Agemaki and Sukeroku is represented in one of Japan’s most famous kabuki plays “Sukeroku” – I’m sure you can find a synopsis online if you care to read about it!

Kanoko learns about the connection with her birthmark to the past life when one of the most popular boys in school starts pestering her about her being his past love. He too has one on his thumb, and is looking for his missing soul-mate.

There is plenty of drama and angst, and love triangles. Actually, it looks more like a love hexagon. But, what is great about this manga is that the characters grow up, mature, and give up some of their past insecurities. The meek become strong, the lonely find happiness, and the angry find peace. The past is given a proper burial, and everyone has a chance to move on.

Manga Review: Honey So Sweet / by Amu Meguro

Honey So Sweet, Vol. 1Honey So Sweet, Vol. 1

by Amu Meguro

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Unfortunately, the only redeeming quality is the pretty art. Megumi certainly has a nice sense of human proportions; and these are probably some of the best uses for screen tones I’ve seen in a while.

But, the story itself is completely forgettable. Megumi relies too heavily on the common trappings of shoujo manga, and forgets to fill the spaces between these common scenarios to make a complete or robust story. For example, half of the volume focuses on prepping for a school trip and the inevitable walk-thru-the-woods-test-of-courage but essentially doesn’t show anything else about the school trip experience. Seemed like a wasted opportunity to me. I won’t be buying more…