Nosatsu Junkie #1 by Ryoko Fukuyama Manga Review

 

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Title:  Nosatsu Junkie #1

Author:  Ryoko Fukuyama

Publisher:  TOKYOPOP

ISBN:  1598166549

May Contain Spoilers

Naka, rejected by an upper-classman because of her scary smile, curses her family’s genetic failings.  Everyone in her family looks like an ax-murderer when showing their pearly whites.  When the object of her affections confesses that he likes super popular model, Umi, because she smiles like a flower, Naka vows to become a model herself!  If she can learn the secret of Umi’s smile, her picture will be plastered in magazines, and her crush will soon come crawling back to her! 

After failing 19 auditions, she earns the nickname, Longshot.  Even after studying Umi’s every move, Naka still looks like a criminal on the lam when she smiles.  Then fortune smiles at her!  Umi drops her id card, and Naka learns her career threatening secret.  In order to shut her up, Umi gets her a job.  Will Naka ever learn to tame her scary smile?

Though it certainly doesn’t cover any new ground, Nosatsu Junkie was a pleasant read.  Naka’s affliction was amusing; she was constantly confused for a convenience store robber due to her evil smile.  I’m confused why she had to smile, as a quick glance through an Abercrombie catalog reveals page upon page of glowering models posed in a variety of unnatural positions.  Anyhoo…

When Umi drops her id card for Mino Proctology (she’s experiencing some vague problem with her bottom), Naka learns the shocking truth about her.  Umi is really, get ready for this, a guy!  Yes, I think this is the 3rd book about models where someone has to cross dress for whatever screwy reason.  When Umi went to watch his neighbor at her first modeling job, she lost her nerve and ran screaming from the set.  Umi was quickly recruited to take her place, and was an overnight sensation.  Enjoying all of the attention and adoration, he continued with the charade.

As Umi and Naka are thrown together, both on jobs and at auditions, they slowly begin fostering confusing feelings for each other.  Even as Umi bullies her, Naka wants to protect his secret.  When a snide photographer has Umi’s confidence in tatters, Naka wants to protect him from the overly-critical Tsutsumi.  Umi rages with jealousy whenever Naka mentions Tsutsumi’s name.  They seem to bring out the best abilities of the other, despite not being sure if they even like each other.  I am looking forward to watching their tangled relationship sort itself out, and I think they make a really cute couple.

The art is simple, without a lot of background noise.  I like the character designs, and their facial expressions never leave any question as to how they feel. Ryoko Fukuyama’s strength is revealing her characters’ emotions, with just a slight curve of their lips, or the crease of their brows speaking volumes to the reader.

This was a fun first volume, and I’m looking forward to the next. 

Grade: B

Recommended for Teen 13+

Red River #13 by Chie Shinohara Manga Review

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Title:  Red River #13

Author:  Chie Shinohara

Publisher:  Viz

ISBN:  142150555x

May Contain Spoilers

Yuri and Kail, separated by war, fight to defend the Hittite empire from the armies that seek to conquer it.  As Yuri strives to repel the invaders from Arzawa with as little bloodshed as possible, she learns the awful truth behind the two-pronged attack.  The scheming Queen Nakia, plotting to see her son seated on the Hittite throne, has cleverly devised a plan to keep Yuri in her clutches.  If she destroys the spring that she used to magically transport Yuri to the past, the girl will never be able to return to her own time.  As Yuri races back to Hattusa to prevent the destruction of her only way home, the morning star appears in the sky.  Will she be able to put a stop to the evil queen’s ambitions?

When this volume arrived at my doorstep, I was intrigued by the little “Explicit Content” label on the cover.  My hopes leapt.  Would Yuri and Kail finally get together?  I mean, we’re going on 13 volumes of poor Kail ending his encounters with his beloved less than fulfilled.  I don’t mean to dash anyone’s expectations, but the two aren’t even in the same country for the entire length of the book!  Rats!  Why is the stupid warning label on the book?  Your guess is as good as mine.

I am really enjoying this series.  As long as I check my disbelief at the door, I don’t even have a problem with Yuri leading one of the armies to defend the empire against Arzawa.  Her plan to bloodlessly capture one of the occupied cities seemed a little far-fetched, but I liked the art so much during the dancing scene that I accepted it after only the briefest hesitation.  Yuri has such pretty jewelry – why doesn’t anyone every cos-play her?  If her skirt wasn’t so ridiculously short, I would consider it myself.

Chie Shinohara cleverly thought of a way to keep her character from returning home.  By destroying the spring, Yuri is stuck in the past.  Since Nakia still wants to sacrifice the girl so her son, Juda, will become king, the villainous queen needs to ensure Yuri doesn’t escape her clutches.  How better to achieve her goal than to cover the spring with a new temple, built as tribute to the new king, Kail?

When Kail hears of the queen’s scheme, he immediately splits his forces and sends part of his army to stop Nakia.  He’s promised Yuri that she’ll return to her home, and he’ll put himself in danger to keep his word.  Too bad for our courageous hero that the conniving Ramses is near-by, and he’ll do anything to possess Yuri…

Cliffhanger warning!  Make sure you volume 14 near at hand, or you are going to be sorry!  

Grade: B

Rated for Older Teen

Legend #1 by Kara & Woo Soo Jung Manhwa Review

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Title: Legend #1

Author: Kara & Woo Soo Jung

Publisher: Ice Kunion

ISBN:  9788952746122

May Contain Spoilers

Eun-Gyo  Sung is no stranger to trouble.  She gets terrible grades, falls asleep in class, and gets into fights.  When she’s suspended for fighting, she runs away from home to escape her mother’s wrath.  She falls onto the subway tracks and is saved by a mysterious boy  She’s instantly smitten with him.  She learns that his sister has been taken captive, and agrees to help him save her.  Soon she finds herself propelled back to the past, a prisoner of the high priest Ho-Dong.  It seems that the spirit of the lake has demanded a sacrifice, and Eun-Gyo and her new companion, No-Ah have been volunteered for the job!

Legend gets off to a promising start.  When No-Ah impetuously challenges his sister’s kidnapper, he learns of the seven blade sword that was used to destroy the monster Bulkirin, and was then broken into pieces.  In order to save his sister, he must locate the seven scattered fragments.  Eun-Gyo seems to be the key to finding the pieces.

I liked Eun-Gyo.  When she discovers that she’s been flung back in time, is she upset?  No!!  She’s positively ecstatic that she doesn’t have to go to school anymore.  She’s disturbed after she’s taken captive by Ho-Dong and told that he intends to kill her, but No-Ah promises to protect her.  This results in another wave of giddy affection for the handsome warrior.  She might be considered a little simple minded when she doesn’t question why No-Ah chose her for his time traveling companion, but I’m hoping this will be covered in the next volume.

The art is dark and a little cluttered, but the pretty boys with their long flowing locks makes up for the occasionally jumbled panels.  The page layouts had a lot of variety and really kept my attention glued to the pages.

Grade: B

Rated for Teen 13+

Moon Child #5 by Reiko Shimizu Manga Review

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Title:  Moon Child #5

Author:  Reiko Shimizu

Publisher:  CMX

ISBN:  1401208290

May Contain Spoilers

Gil Owens is tormented by visions of the moon.  He dreams that he’s Teruto, and bit by bit, he feels himself slipping away, changing into someone else.  As Teruto gains more control over Gil, he plots the destruction of the world.  He yearns for revenge against Benjamin, for becoming female and stubbornly choosing Art, a human, for her mate.

When Seth collapses, Shonach rescues him and takes him back to Seth’s apartment.  Seth finds himself drawn to Shonach and he’s shocked to learn that he’s Jimmy’s intended mate.  Shonach is surprised to learn that Seth is Jimmy’s twin.  As Seth muses why Benjamin is still in a childlike form, he wonders if Art really will fall in love with him, and fulfill the promise from long ago.  For if Art truly falls in love with Jimmy, Jimmy will gain a soul and become human.

There was so much happening in this book, and my pathetic summary is a poor reflection of the intricacies of the plot.  Gil Owens, wealthy and powerful, is the perfect vessel for Teruto to manipulate the destruction of the planet.  With Gil’s good looks, he has even earned the devotion of Rita, an awkward, giant of a woman.  With her weak psychic abilities, Teruto wonders how best to exploit her gifts for his own purposes.

Jimmy’s confusion is  really fleshed out in this volume.  After Seth explains the story of the ugly duckling, he’s perplexed; aren’t the ugly duckling and the beautiful swan one and the same?  Why was it that only after it changed did people come to love it?  Can people only love him if he changes into the beautiful Benjamin?  Why can’t they love him as he is, for what he is?  Until he finds an answer for that question, I believe that he will continue to fight off his transformation, because what he’s really yearning for is someone to love him the way he is.  Art is so shallow, though, that I wonder if he can look beyond appearances and choose Jimmy over the beautiful Holly (as the reader, I am ignoring the ick factor of Jimmy being a little kid!).

The next volume doesn’t hit book shelves until March 31! Oh, the agony! 

Grade: B+

Rated for Teen

VS Versus #1 by Keiko Yamada Manga Review

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Title:  VS Versus #1

Author:  Keiko Yamada

Publisher:  CMX

ISBN:  1401210686

May Contain Spoilers

Reiji is a gifted violinist who’s trying to escape an abusive past.  He only plays the violin to make his little sister smile, and to save her from the clutches of their cruel father.  He’s been chosen to represent his school at the national music contest for the 3rd time, and to prevent the embarrassment of his previous efforts, a new teacher has been hired for him.  Hane Mistuko was a prodigy until an accident robbed her of her music career.  Now she’s determined to help Reiji win in spite of himself.

Despite having a thoroughly unlikable main character, I’m intrigued by the premise of this story.  The scenes of Miruka’s abuse were disturbing, especially as her mother ignores her youngest child’s pleas for help.  As Reiji seeks the courage and the means to protect Miruka, he sees his violin as a weapon, a sword that will save his sister.  However, with his own dysfunctional upbringing, he lacks the emotions to pour into his music and truly move his audience, rendering his violin ineffective.

Mistuko is determined to teach Reiji how to make music that is filled with feeling.  As he changes the arrangement of the assigned song, she castigates him, accusing him of lacking the talent to play the music the way the composer envisioned it.  It’s a flaw in his personality, and if he hopes to win, he must find a way to make the audience feel the heart of the piece.  As he struggles to understand the music, he rejects Mistuko’s offer of assistance.  He refuses to fulfill her dream even as he is swept away by her playing.

The art isn’t bad, though at times the backgrounds are cluttered, and it’s hard to determine what is going on.  Reiji often looks as though someone is holding a small turd under his nose, but that might just be because I don’t really like his character.

I ordered the next two volumes, but only because I was able to find them at a 40% discount.  While I am interested enough in the series to read further, I would have had second thoughts at ten bucks each volume.  I’m hoping that Reiji will begin to change, and become a more likable person.

Grade:  B

Rated for Teen

The Day of Revolution #2 by Mikiyo Tsuda Manga Review

Title:  The Day of Revolution #2

Author:  Mikiyo Tsuda

Publisher:  Digital Manga

ISBN:  1569708894

May Contain Spoilers

Since learning that he’s really a she, Kei has decided to live life as a girl.  Re-emerging as Megumi, she’s now the most popular girl in school!  With a flock of suitors on her tail, can she fight off their unwelcome attentions and find the guy that’s right for her?

This was such a cute book!  Megumi, terrified of boys after the incident with Nakagawa in the previous volume, latches onto Makoto’s little brother, Mikoto.  A junior high student, he’s short and feminine, and reminds Megumi of herself.  She feels safe with him, unlike the threatened way she feels around her four former friends, who have all declared their love for her.  When the four confront Mikoto, Megumi denies that she has romantic feelings for him; or does she?

In the first volume of the series, Kei/Megumi made the difficult decision to live life as a girl.  However, she was uneasy with the choice, and still acted more masculine than feminine.  In this volume, Megumi finally begins to start thinking and acting like a girl.  As the story progressed, she became more girly, both in looks and in her actions.  She now feels flustered around boys, and even feels intimidated by her former best friends.

This was a funny, light-hearted read, with nice, clean art and likeable characters.  As Mikiyo Tsuda began to feel more comfortable with her characters, the storytelling became more animated and engaging.  There’s no world saving heroics or international conspiracies; this is just the story of a girl, who used to be a boy, and how she learns to accept herself.  And sometimes, that’s all you need.

Grade: A

Rated for 16+

My Real Fake Boyfriend by Browning and Kobayashi Manga Review

Title:  Harlequin Pink: My Real Fake Boyfriend

Author:  Amanda Browning & Hiromi Kobayashi

Publisher:  Harlequin

ISBN:  0373180063

May Contain Spoilers

When Rachel’s grandmother has some incriminating letters stolen, it’s up to Rachel and Nathan to get them back.  Rachel’s been head over heels for Nathan for the past two years, but he thinks she’s nothing but a flirt.  She has to pretend to be his girlfriend so they can infiltrate the crook’s home.  Posing as a high stakes gambler and his ditzy girlfriend, they’re soon on the path to danger.  And maybe love, too?

In the vein of a Harlequin romance, the hero unfairly judges the heroine, and holds a misunderstanding against her for almost the entire span of the book.  This is one thing about category romances that I can’t stand.  As the characters get to know one another, they should be mature enough to realize that maybe they were mistaken in their opinion, and forgive the other person before the last chapter.  Judging from my own relationship, there are certainly enough other things to add tension and conflict to a blossoming romance!

Rachel, on the other hand, is optimistic and forgiving.  She’s determined to prove to Nathan that he’s wrong about her.  She is also willing to put herself in danger to protect her grandmother’s reputation.     

Despite the odd shape of the characters’ noses, I really liked the art.  Rachel went from being a frumpy secretary to a drop dead gorgeous blonde, with a wardrobe to die for.  Why does this only happen in books?  Somebody, please draw beautiful designer clothes that I can stuff in my closet!  Nathan’s hair  would have benefited from a trim, but otherwise both characters were attractively rendered.

I’m not entirely convinced that Harlequin is really behind their manga line.  They haven’t updated the Ginger Blossom website with the new releases, and there’s no mention of the next round that’s coming up in January.  While the releases haven’t been earth shaking, it would be sad if the line failed due to a lack of publisher support. 

 Grade: B-

Rated for 12+

Three Wishes by Scalera & Akino Manga Review

Title: Harlequin Pink #5 Three Wishes

Author:  Darlene Scalera & Matsuri Akino

Publisher: Harlequin

ISBN:  0373180047

 

May Contain Spoilers

When Megan buys a slow cooker at a garage sale, she’s unprepared for the surprise it contains.  After turning on her new appliance, she learns that it’s home to a genie!  Gregor is the son of the king of genies and a human woman. He’s been rejected by his father because of his mortal blood, and cursed by the goddess Ishtar.  To remove the curse, he must grant the wishes of 2000 humans.  If he can accomplish that, Ishtar will remove the stain of his human blood and make him a pure blood genie. Megan is his 2000th master and if the foolish woman would only make her three wishes, he’ll finally be free of the wretched crockpot!

This was a fun concept, but the story didn’t live up to it’s potential.  Megan is engaged to a wormy accountant that she doesn’t love, but she’s willing to marry him for a secure future.  After her mother was killed in a car accident when she was 13, she was bounced from foster home to foster home.  Working her way through school, she wants nothing more than a hard working husband who will be an attentive father to their children.  She scoffs at the genie and his promises of making her wishes come true.  Maybe her real problem is a lack of imagination?

To add some suspense to the story, there’s a sub-plot about industrial waste and misdirected company funds.  As Megan and her genie are trying to discover the truth behind the illegally dumped chemicals, the story takes a turn for the even more absurd.  After an attempt is made on Megan’s life, she ends up in the hospital, on her deathbed.  Five minutes later she’s skipping out of the hospital.  The ending  is trite and unfulfilling. 

The art was the best part of the book.  Matsuri Akino’s illustrations were highly detailed.  The backgrounds were used to set the scene, and then she focused on the characters and their interactions.  Gregor made for a handsome genie, with his curly locks and pointy ears.  How Megan’s acquaintances could doubt that he was genie is beyond me.  People, the dude has pointy ears!  He’s either a genie or a Vulcan!  Duh!

Overall, I was disappointed with this title.  I never felt emotionally connected to the characters, and their romance lacked spark. 

Grade: C-

Rated for 12 +