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 +

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