Soul Rescue #1 by Aya Kanno Manga Review

Title:  Soul Rescue #1

Author:  Aya Kanno

Publisher:  TOKYOPOP

ISBN:  1598166727

May Contain Spoilers

Renji is an angel with aggression issues.  He’s the most powerful angel in the heavens, but when he goes a little overboard in a battle with the devils, God decides it’s time to teach him a lesson.  Banishing him to earth, he gives Renji a daunting task - he must save 10,000 souls before he’ll be allowed back through the pearly gates.  Armed with the Soul Rescue, Renji can heal any emotional hurt or physical injury, but there’s a little catch; God won’t tell him  where it’s located or how to use it!

I found the plot of Soul Rescue rather bland.  It’s saving grace is the art and the pleasant character designs.  The page layouts were much more interesting than the generic “save the soul of the week” chapters.  The sheer variety of panel placement kept my eyes engaged, even if my (admittedly easily distracted) mind wasn’t quite so entertained.

Renji and his supervisor, Kaito, travel from town to town, searching, with the help of Renji’s divine glasses, for souls to save.  Seeking out individuals shrouded by a black shadow, Renji then must learn what ails the person, and then, using compassion (which he lacks) and love (ditto), he must free their soul of whatever is troubling them.  God, it seems, sees Renji’s potential, and believes that if he experiences genuine kindness, he will be able to carry on his will.  No one else shares his optimistic belief.

Just so things aren’t too easy for Renji, the devils make an appearance, and attempt to muck up his soul saving efforts.  Having battled each other in the past, they try to cox him into joining their ranks.  He’s far too violent to be an angel, after all, and he’d have a lot more fun on their side.  If they were snappier dressers, I would have rooted for a shift to the dark side – it would have made the book a little more interesting.

Grade: C

Rated for 13+

Cantarella #2 by You Higuri Manga Review

 

Title: Cantarella #2

Author:  You Higuri

Publisher:  Go! Comi

ISBN:  0976895749

May Contain Spoilers

Broken hearted by the revelation that his father traded his soul for his ambitions, Cesare Borgia leaps from a building in a futile effort to kill himself.  Fate intervenes, and he’s saved by Chiaro, who is also Michelotto, an assassin that has been ordered to kill  Cesare.  Unable to complete is his mission, Chiaro instead watches as the evil forces surrounding Cesare heal his wounds, strengthening their hold over their helpless pawn.  Chiaro is determined to protect his new friend, at least until he turns into the monster he’s destined to become.  If that happens, he’s sworn to kill him.

Filled with interesting characters and non-stop political wrangling, Cantarella deftly tells the story of Cesare Borgia, a tortured soul longing for one thing – the love of his father.  Confronted with the awful truth that his father, Cardinal Rodrigo, made a pact with the minions of Hell with his soul as the prize, Cesare makes a vain suicide attempt.  By intervening, Chiaro paves the way for Cesare’s destructive path.  Feeling sorry for the boy, Chiaro is determined to help Cesare overcome his inner demons, or kill him if he succumbs to them.

Turning the tables on his father, Cesare blackmails Rodrigo after the death of the Pope.  Though the death seemed natural, Cesare knows the truth – his father  poisoned the old man. And Cesare, older and much more sinister than Rodrigo recalls, will guide his father to the position he’s schemed to possess, as long as he obeys him.  And so the Devil, in the form of Cesare, will have his due.

Cesare has become so creepy!  Now that he’s an instrument for the evil forces to wreak havoc, he has stepped neatly into his new role.  Blackmailing his father, binding his sister in a loveless but advantageous marriage,  he thinks little of destroying people to attain his own goals.  Fanning the political flames, he’s biding his time, waiting for the moment when Italy, bickering amongst its own territories, is at her most defenseless.

Chiaro, having overheard Cesare’s conversation with his brother, Juan, feels sorry for the boy and can no longer carry out his mission to assassinate him. Chiaro is now Cesare’s fast companion, despite knowing the truth about the evil spirits within him.  Convinced that his fate can be changed, Chiaro will stand by, ready to kill him if he becomes too dangerous to continue to live.

This is an overlooked series with wonderful art and a deep, involved storyline.  Plus, look at that cover!  How many guys look that sexy holding a moldy old skull over their heads?

 Grade: B+

Rated for Older Teens 16+

Tail of the Moon #2 by Rinko Ueda Manga Review

Title:  Tail of the Moon #2

Author:  Rinko Ueda

Publisher:  Viz

ISBN:  142150815x

May Contain Spoilers

 Inept Usagi is back for another installment of  the ninja romance, Tail of the Moon.  Back in her home village, she learns that the annual Ninja Games are about the begin, and the grand prize is a love potion!  Determined to win the prize for Hanzo, so he can give it to the Princess and live happily ever after, she teams up with Goemon, her ex-fiance.  Things get a little out of hand when Hanzo shows up unannounced.

Waaa!!  Hanzo and Usagi cuddle, naked, under a blanket!  Silly Usagi!  Sometimes your utter inability to think your actions through has its rewards!  After almost drowning, Usagi is saved by Hanzo, setting the stage for an emotional confession from our heroine.  Yea! Now, if only Hanzo could have worked up the courage to actually kiss her, this would have been the perfect rescue.  But, alas, we’ll probably have to wait about 5 more volumes before they do more than blush at each other. 

Goemon is hot, too, and it doesn’t seem fair that such a ditzy girl has so many handsome men chasing after her.  The flashback to when Usagi was a baby, and the Iga ninja training techniques, had me laughing at the ridiculous situation little Goemon found himself subjected to.  

Hanzo, Usagi, and Yuri share a bath, plotting ways to re-unite Kami no Hanzou and the Princess.  Naked! With two different men in the span of a few chapters!  Usagi, you brazen hussy!  The plan, of course, once carried out, goes awry, and Usagi is faced with the bitter truth – she’s just not cut out to be a ninja!

Tail of the Moon is a fun shoujo romance, with some action and an impetuous, occasionally idiotic, heroine.  The characters are flamboyant and likable, and the plot is light-hearted and enjoyable.  Usagi repeatedly finds herself in ludicrous situations, and watching her get out of them, while exerting as little effort as possible, is half of the fun.

Grade: B+

Rated for Older Teen

Baby & Me #1 by Marimo Ragawa Manga Review

Title: Baby & Me #1

Author: Marimo Ragawa

Publisher: Viz

ISBN:  1421502348

May Contain Spoilers

Since the death of his mother, Takuya has been in charge of his baby brother, Minoru, while his father’s at work trying to earn a living.  Resentful that Minoru’s needs are always placed above his own, Takuya longs to be able to play with his friends and act like a normal kid, without the burden of caring for his brother.  As he vents his frustrations on Minoru, he begins to realize that maybe his little brother misses their mother just as much as he does.

Similar to Aishiteruze Baby, Baby & Me centers on a boy who is suddenly in charge of a much younger relative.  Takuya’s life has been turned upside down by the death of his mother.  Suddenly in charge of the household chores and taking care of his little brother, he begins to feel more like a housewife than a 10 year old boy.  Instead of playing with his friends after school, he has to rush to pick up Minoru from daycare. 

Takuya’s constant whining in the beginning of the book, though understandable, was rather grating.  There wasn’t much smooth sailing for him, but as the story progressed, he began to see his brother as less of a  burden, and that’s when things really start to shine.  As Takuya’s feelings for his brother begin to change from jealousy to affection, things begin to take off.  Though sappy, I enjoyed the little dramas presented in each chapter, and found the episode with Hiro especially amusing.

Marimo Ragawa’s art is simple, yet very expressive. The characters’  feelings were skillfully portrayed, and the reader is swept along with the gamut of emotions.  The art may be a little dated by today’s standards, but it’s enjoyable none the less.

If you’re in the mood for a dose of sugary baby sweetness, Baby & Me will satisfy your craving.  If you have an allergy to chubby-cheeked toddlers, run far, far away!

Grade: B

Rated Teen

Kamui #3 by Shingo Nanami Manga Review

Title: Kamui #3

Author: Shingo Nanami

Publisher: Broccoli Books

ISBN:  1597410500

Contains Lot of Spoilers

OMG!  I read this two times, and I still don’t think I understand what the heck is going on.  Here’s my best effort to share some of the confusion:

Atsuma is devastated by the aftermath of his rampage on Anzu’s home.  After losing control to Kojomaru, the spirit of the sword that has been fused with Atsuma, he is determined to free himself of the vengeful being.  With Shui and Sumire in tow, he seeks out Shiki, hoping to learn some of the secrets of the NOA research facility.  As Atsuma’s quest to reclaim the stolen Okikurumi progresses, he comes face to face with a ghost from his past.  Just who is Utsuho, and what is his connection to Okikurumi?

Despite the confusing presentation, I really enjoyed this volume.  There were lots of revelations about the main characters’ backgrounds, and every time a nugget of information was revealed, another question took its place.  What is Utsuho’s true purpose?  Why did he call Yanagi the only normal human?  Why did the confused Aika call out to  Kojomaru?  What happens once Okikurumi’s awakens?

The atanan, it seems, are gods formed by many kamui gathered together.  The true purpose of the research facility behind NOA’s creation is the total annihilation of the gods. Angering the kamui when their research infringed upon their world, the kamui brought about the Grand Sinker and the destruction of the world.  Using the Okikurumi, the evil Utsuho fused bits of it into youths, and those that survived possessed the power of the Tohsu, which were then used to fight the kamui.  And then there’s all of this talk about food for Okikurumi?  Sound confusing?  You bet it is!

I was totally shocked by Sumire’s betrayal.  Why do women always fall for the wrong guy, and do really stupid things?  Anybody could see that Utsuho is all wrong for her; he conducted experimental research on her, for goodness sake!  Shiki may be a little creepy, with his desire to keep her “caged”, but at least he didn’t torture the girl! 

Kojomaru is my favorite character. Now that he’s been separated from Atsuma, I wonder what will happen – to both of them.  What will Utsuho do with the sword spirit, and will Atsuma be able to stop him from doing it?

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by Broccoli Books

Rated for ages 13+

Beauty Pop #2 by Kiyoko Arai Manga Review

Title: Beauty Pop #2

Author: Kiyoko Arai

Publisher: Viz

ISBN:  1421505762

May Contain Spoilers

It’s back to the Koshiba Beauty Salon for some more haircutting magic.  Who will win the beauty showdown at the cultural festival?  I bet you can guess!  Then, Kiri has to perform another transformation miracle to save the wedding of Kanazawa Sensei and nurse Matsuda. Can she turn the dowdy teacher into a hot babe?

This is a fun series as long as you accept it for what it is; amusing fluff.  We have the introduction of some new characters, including Kiri’s mom, Emi, a Hollywood make-up artist who’s been living in California for the past two years.  Kiri is not especially thrilled when her mom returns to Japan to save her from Narumi’s "bullying".  Iori is a face from Kiri’s past – too bad she can’t remember him!  He’s a drama queen with a nickname for everyone and a creepy fixation for Kiri’s mom.  Narumi gets to kick and throw things around, and indifferent  Kiri just wants to nap in peace. Why aren’t things easy for manga characters?

Also included in this volume is the bonus story, Dreams Come True, which recounts the meeting of Scissors Project members. 

Grade:  B

Rated for Teen

The Day of Revolution #1 by Mikiyo Tsuda Manga Review

Title: The Day of Revolution #1

Author: Mikiyo Tsuda

Publisher: Digital Manga

ISBN:  1569708908

May Contain Spoilers

Kei has a little problem.  When he passes out at school and is rushed to the doctor, he has a shocking discovery in store.  He is really a she! A hermaphrodite, Kei decides he has no choice but to live the rest of his life as a girl.  The juvenile delinquent  has a frosty relationship with his father, and his mother suggests that they take this opportunity to start all over again as a caring family.  

Dressed in a girls’ uniform and using the name Megumi, he heads back to school, determined to keep his condition a secret.   With the helpful advice of Makoto Yukata, Megumi tries to settle quietly back into a schedule of classes and schoolwork.  Megumi’s secret doesn’t last very long; Kei’s click of friends discover the truth almost at once.  Agreeing that Megumi makes a cute girl, they begin to vie for his affections!

Argh! I don’t know whether to refer to Kei/Megumi as “he” or “she”! 

This was a nice diversion while I waited in the doctor’s office.  The plot is easy to follow, there’s humor, and there’s a gaggle of good looking guys trying to win Kei/Megumi’s affections.  I didn’t care for Kei’s personality when he was a boy; he was a little too self-absorbed, and the conflict with his father didn’t quite ring true.  Once he was a girl, however, the story really got rolling, and Megumi’s personality really started to shine through.  Adjusting to life as a girl, and all the unwanted attention from her former friends, Megumi also has to deal with getting kidnapped by the dim-witted Nakagawa, who wants to be the king of the roof! 

The art was nice, though the backgrounds were a little cluttered.  The character designs were nice, and the page layouts kept the story moving along at a brisk clip.  I can hardly wait for the next volume.

Grade: B+

Recommended for 16+

Real/Fake Princess #1 by I-Huan Manga Review

Title: Real/Fake Princess #1

Author: I-Huan

Publisher: Dr Master

ISBN:  1597960799

May Contain Spoilers

During the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279 AD), Zhong Lu Wu, an army lieutenant, is given the job of Seeker.  His task is to locate the Emperor’s missing family, which has been scattered during the war.  Unhappy with his new position, Zhong Lu soon becomes disillusioned with the imposters who continually present themselves to him as lost royalty. 

Zhi Li is the daughter of Concubine Liu, and half sister to the current Emperor.  Placed under the care of Tang Hui when she was four,  they escaped from the capital, and began a new life in the countryside, pretending to be siblings.  When Zhi Li turns 15, Tang Hui decides it’s time to fulfil his promise to her mother, and restore her title.  Zhi Li, in love with Tang Hui and content with her life the way it is, rebels, but has no choice but to meet with the Seeker.

Sparks fly immediately, as Zhong Lu accuses Tang Hui and Zhi Li of being imposters.  He threatens to punish them after his investigation proves that they are fakes.  Left at the Governor’s manor while  the attractive Zhong Lu continues his investigation into their claims, Zhi Li is separated from her beloved Tang Hui.  Can she prove that she’s the real princess, and save Tang Hui and herself from death? 

Like a Harlequin set in ancient China, the two protagonists bicker constantly throughout the book.  Zhi Li is a willful girl, and her highest desire is for the duty-driven Tang Hui to return her love.  Tang Hui, a poor country doctor, thinks that their social positions are barriers between them and denies his feelings for her.  Zhong Lu, a soldier chafing under his burdensome duties, finds himself unwillingly drawn to Zhi Li’s wild ways. 

I felt that the scene where Zhi Li refuses to have her hair cut was a clumsy setup to show that she has a fear of scissors.  Too conveniently,  a few pages later, she suffers from a nightmare – she’s being attacked and stabbed by a faceless woman by  scissors!    I don’t feel that the scene worked well because Zhong Lu was either too stupid or too uncaring to realize that the girl had an unhealthy fear of cutting implements.

The art, though nicely detailed, didn’t really grab me.  The characters seemed a little stiff.  Their attire was very elaborately drawn, and this made up for them looking like they only had 4 points of articulation.  The page layouts kept the action moving along with the various panel arrangements.

This is the first Dr Master book that I have read.  Overall, it’s a nice package with an attractive, glossy cover.  There were a few typos to mar the reading experience.  Some bonus pages were included at the end of the book, which explained about the time period covered in the series, and  followed by some character introductions.

Grade: B-

Recommended for all ages