New on Manga Bookshelf: Comic Conversion: The Infernal Devices

Infernal DevicesLast week the new installment of my Manga Bookshelf column, Comic Conversion, went up. This time I compared The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare with the graphic novel adaptation by HyeKyung Baek. I’ve enjoyed Clare’s novels in the past, so I was excited to finally take a look at this series, which is a prequel to The Mortal Instruments. I had problems with both iterations of the story, but check out the article to see which one I liked the best.

I have a few more ideas for future columns (The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle and Uglies by Scott Westerfeld) but if you have any other suggestions, please feel free to leave them on this post or on the article itself.

Manga: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Volumes 1 & 2

I’ve heard vague recommendations for Puella Magi Madoka Magica, that really it’s good, that it’s something different, but at first I had a hard time believing it. Looking at the cover, these magical girls have the generic cute appearance, and the plot doesn’t sound too out of the ordinary. Madoka Kaname is a normal girl, nothing special about her, blah blah blah, until one day a mysterious girl named Homura shows up in her class, warning her to never wish to be different. Then a cat-like creature named Kyubey shows up, telling Madoka and her friend Sayaka that he can grant them one wish, anything they desire, in exchange for become magical girls and fighting witches.

For the first two thirds of volume 1 I felt like I was reading a cheap, if interesting, version of Cardcaptor Sakura or Sailor Moon. Then the story turns gruesome as Madoka and Sayaka witness a brutal death at the hands of a witch. The story takes even more twists as the price for the wish turns out to be steeper than Kyubey implied, and the wish itself is a monkey’s paw, sometimes bringing even more grief on the magical girl than she meant to even heal.

Throughout both volumes Madoka struggles to come up with her wish, but as time goes on Homura’s warning seems more and more like the wiser choice. Of course, you know that she’ll become a magical girl — Kyubey seems determined to get a wish from Madoka, and it would be disappointing if, in the end, she didn’t become the heroine of the story. At the end of volume 2 it’s still unclear what the deceptively cute critter’s ultimate goal is, but I’ve tossed out all my misgivings. The candy-cute covers hide a dark story, and I’m anxiously awaiting the last volume.

ISBN: 978-0-316-21387-5

ISBN: 978-0-316-21715-6

Review copies were provided by Yen Press.

Manga: Yotsuba&! Volume 11, Witch & Wizard Volume 2

My manga reading hasn’t been picking up too much speed, but this week I was able to take a look at two more volumes fro Yen Press: one thing that I love, and one that I’m just indifferent to.

First was Yotsuba&!volume 11. When the new volume of Yotsuba&! shows up on my doorstep, I am filled with delight. There is no exciting action or important worldly or emotional problems being dealt with in this series, but I know when I see the cover with the little green-haired girl on it I’m going to read a story of pure fun. Without surprise, Yotsuba is up to the same childish goofiness in this volume. She watches a man make udon, tries pizza for the first time, and worries when a friend (her teddy bear Juralumin) has to undergo surgery after being chewed on by a dog. By far, my favorite episode is when Yotsuba’s nemesis, her father’s friend Yanda, comes to visit and proceeds to taunt Yotsuba as he brings out progressively cooler bubble toys that he says she’s too little to play with.  I don’t know how he’s managed it, but Azuma has taken a single concept — a hyperactive, dopey child having fun discovering simple things — and still manages to keep it strong and interesting through 11 volumes.

ISBN: 978031622597 • MSRP $11.99 • Released September 25, 2012

James Patterson and Svetlana Chmakova’s Witch & Wizard  invokes less delight. I took a look at volume 1 of this adaptation of a YA dystopian novel in my first installment of Comic Conversion on Manga Bookshelf, where I noted the quick, constant action that pulls you pretty easily through the story. But the story is so shallow, with the speed of the story also working against the comic. Important things happen one after the other, with little to no time to dwell on them. Betrayals take a couple of pages, allies are introduced then swept away, and months of capture fly by. What could have been an involved love story between Wisty and another teenager begins and ends so fast I actually forgot about it (as Wisty apparently did) until it was brought up again near the end of the book. The variety of magic is interesting, but it also feels like the creators just make something up whenever they need the characters to escape. And I still don’t understand the villain, “The One Who is the One”, with his motivations and desires changing with the wind. Again, one of the saving graces of this comic is Chmakova’s art, imbuing Whit, Wisty, and all the other characters with more depth and emotion than I think Patterson is capable of.

ISBN: 9780316119917 • MSRP $12.99 • Released June 26, 2012

Review copies were provided by Yen Press.

Manga: Bunny Drop Volume 6

Unfortunately thanks to the a bunch of different circumstances I wasn’t able to work my way through as many manga volumes as I wanted. But of course, nothing could stop me from setting on the newest volume of Yumi Unita’s Bunny Drop the second it showed up at my door.

Bunny Drop Volume 6 by Yumi UnitaAdmittedly most of my excitement for this series is leftover from the first four volumes. There we watched new “dad” Daikichi take on the responsibility for Rin, his recently deceased grandfather’s love child. Volume 5 took a sudden leap forward to Rin’s high school years, which added a bit more drama to the manga while unfortunately also cutting away part of what I felt made Bunny Drop so special: love, and how a non-traditional family can still work just fine.

There are some cute moments as Daikichi laments “If I’d figured stuff like that out (love), I’d be way married by now.” And we see how much Rin has grown to be like her caretaker as her and Daikichi chastise her childhood friend Kouki the same way. Despite those instances, Bunny Drop has turned into a completely different manga; namely, a high school drama that focuses on Rin’s relationships outside the family rather than within. As with the last volume this isn’t all bad. This story arc we’re given here is still interesting as Unita examines Rin and Kouki’s relationship and gives an apparent last look at Daikichi’s chances for a relationship with Kouki’s mother.

The outcome is both uncomfortable and intriguing as we see two sets of couples that obviously want to be together that are beset with uncontrollable circumstances that keep the relationships from ever truly working. If this had been in any other comic I probably would have been fascinated, but knowing what the manga used to be, I can’t help but feel disappointed, and a little ambivalent, that this is what it is. Bunny Drop has taken an unexpected turn with the last couple of volumes, and while it’s nice when a story surprises you, this path just isn’t as engrossing. Bunny Drop still has two volumes left to go, but the chances of it coming back to be one of my favorite fines seem pretty slim right now.

A review copy was provided by Yen Press. Bunny Drop volume 6 will be released August 21, 2012.

Review Recap: Chimichanga Graphic Novel

Only one review made it only this week: Chimichanga by Eric Powell. This is a cute graphic novel from Dark Horse, about a bearded girl and her monster that hatches from an egg.

I also wrote a new article for Real Otaku Gamer, going over the new manga portal website, JManga.com. There are some interesting manga up there, but the price isn’t the best. You can read that article here.

I just finished a review for the Fandom Post, so that should be up later this week. I also got a nice new stack from Yen Press, so expect  some reviews of those manga to pop up soon.

Review Recap: Moon and Blood, Book Girl

I found sudden motivation at the end of last week, too, and wrote up two more reviews.

The first was for a short manga volume from Digital Manga Publishing, Moon and Blood by Nao Yazawa. It’s general shojo manga fare, but it’s still fun and charming enough that that hardly matters.

The second review was of Book Girl and the Suicidal Mime, the first in a series of Japanese light novels from Yen Press. While it had a bunch of technical issues that I couldn’t overlook (all of these writing classes are ruining books for me) it’s still pretty absorbing. Both reviews are on Suite 101.

I’m continuing to struggle with my review of Velveteen & Mandala, but hopefully–HOPEFULLY–I’ll have one up within a week. I also have a couple graphic novels on Net Galley I want to look at, plus the rest of the Book Girl series.

Review Recap: Black Butler, Gossip Girl, Avatar

I’ve gotten three new reviews up in the last week. The first is a look at the last two volumes of Black Butler by Yana Toboso. It took me a while to read through these two because, quite frankly, they’re a lot more boring than other volumes. But the manga starts to pick up again by volume 6.

On the Fandom Post, I reviewed the second volume of the Gossip Girl manga from Yen Press. This manga is what you’d think it is – rich girls with rich girl problems – but it’s entertaining.

Today I posted my review for Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Lost Adventures, which has a bunch of short comics, most of which appeared in Nickelodeon Magazine. It’s a wicked fun read, but it didn’t answer some of the things I was hoping for.

Coming up will be a review of Velveteen & Mandala, the first review copy I’ve received from Vetical, Inc. It’s really, really weird, and I’m not sure what I’ll say. I also have some Yen Press volumes piled up, and some books from Digital Manga I want to look at.

New Books: Manga, School Reading, Neil Gaiman

Tuesday saw a sudden sharp increase in my book supply. Volume 7 of Twin Spica, the best manga about astronaut school there ever was, came in from Right Stuf yesterday. Which means I immediately sat down and did nothing else until I finished it.

I also bought two books from the used bookstore, Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman and The Grass Dancer by Susan Powers. I’ve only read two other Neil Gaiman books before, American Gods and The Graveyard Book, but I loved both of them, so I was excited to find this book. Grass Dancer was a suggested reading for one of the seminars I’m taking next week, so I figured I’d get a few pages read before I showed up.

And then, while I was reading Twin Spica UPS arrived at my door with a package from Yen Press! I received my review copies for A Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori, the author of Emma, and the latest volume of Black Butler. Reviews for those should be up within the next month.

Recent Reviews: Kurozakuro, Blue Exorcist, Yen Press Manga

I’ve been slow to update on this, but here are a few recent reviews I’ve done around the ‘net.

First was Kurozakuro volume 3, up on The Fandom Post. In this volume we’re starting to get more answers about what is going on, but the story telling is also really weird and clunky at times. And it’s still disappointing that none of the old female characters have returned. Read the rest of what I thought here.

On Real Otaku Gamer reviewed the first volume of Blue Exorcist. This manga had a slow start, but the Shonen Jump story is action packed, and has nice background art and awesome character designs. But it’s a supernatural high school story, and I got sick of that idea fast, so I’m not sure if it’s something I’d carry through with. The whole review is here.

Also on Real Otaku Gamer, I wrote three quick reviews of ongoing Yen Press series: K-ON!, Spice and Wolf and My Girlfriend’s a Geek. Each of them have their flaws, but they’re fun in their own way. And I’m finding myself increasingly biased towards Spice & Wolf. Check out each of my thoughts here.

I’ve also gotten some other blog posts done. On Real Otaku Gamer I posted a news clip on Digital Manga Publishing’s eManga website, and yesterday I had my say on the character of Wakaba for this month’s Cross Game Manga Movable Feast.

Recent Manga Reviews: Kurozakuro and Blue Exorcist

I haven’t made this kind of post in a while, probably because I’ve been busy and my review writing has slowed down. But here are a couple that I’ve gotten up recently.

Kurozakuro by Yoshinori NatsumeFirst is my review of Kurozakuro volume 2 over at the Fandom Post. (Chris Beveridge no longer works with Mania, instead writing on this website, and all of his reviewers followed him.) I haven’t read the first volume of this series, but this one was interesting. Monster designs are boring, though, and where the heck did all the female characters go?

The next review I wrote was for Real Otaku Gamer: Blue Exorcist volume 1. This supernatural manga has a fun but predictable story, but the real high point of it is Kazue Kato’s character designs and background art. I have some images up on the review if you want to check it out.

I’m just about finished with my review for Kurozakuro volume 3, and after that I’ll have a series of short reviews of mostly Yen Press material. After that, I’ll likely be reading the Arina Tanemura manga that’s been staring at me. (I mean, literally, the girl on the cover has huge eyes, they’re boring into me.)