Review: Deadman Wonderland Vol 3 by Takaoka and Kondou

 

Title: Deadman Wonderland V 3

Author: Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou

Publisher:  Tokyopop

ISBN: 978-1427817433

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Ganta’s desperate struggle for survival continues as the second round of the Carnival of Corpses kicks off, but when he is matched against Minatsuki, Ganta learns that his new friends are not what they seem…and it may cost him his life! Yo, having infiltrated Ward G, trespasses into the ring and reveals that Minatsuki is his sister. Although memories of Ganta’s childhood friend, Shiro, return to him when he needs it the most, his savior may prove to be a devil in disguise. This downward spiral into the insanity of "Deadman Wonderland" holds startling revelations!

Review:

Deadman Wonderland is the perfect example of one of the reasons I feel like  I have lost my manga mojo.  I was thoroughly enjoying this action-packed sci-fi series when its US publisher, Tokyopop, abruptly shut their doors for business.  Stu Levy, per his own infamous Tweet, was bored with the publishing industry.  Books were too old-school for him, so he turned his back on all of his fans and totally rained on their parade.  Bye-bye almost ten years’ worth of collecting the old fashioned, boring books his publishing company had been blitzing the market with.  Bye-bye series that I had come to love and anticipate, and in part prompted me to start this blog in the first place.  Ouch!  Talk about a slap in the face…

Deadman Wonderland is the type of series I didn’t have much interest in when I first heard about it.  I’m not a big fan of horror yarns or stories with graphic violence, though after taking a look at some of the titles I am following, I am going to have to admit that I do like some of these kinds of books.  While this title doesn’t have a lot of over the top violence, it does offer its fair share of blood sprays, explosions, and destructive combat scenes.  After reading the first volume, I was hooked.  How is Ganta going to survive and get out of Deadman Wonderland?  Will he survive the Carnival of Corpses?  At first glance, it doesn’t seem that he will survive very long, with his skinny frame and gullible nature.  Better for US fans if he had only lived the span of four graphic novels – we wouldn’t have been left hanging when yet another manga publisher shuttered their offices.

This volume has Ganta facing off against Yo’s sister in the second round of the Carnival of Corpses.  Minatsuki is a psychopath, and she gets off on lying and killing.  Her hair is her deadly weapon, and she can whip her opponents to bloody ribbons with about as much effort as it takes a normal person to yawn.  Their battle gets off to a fierce and furious start, and it looks like Ganta’s going to go down fast.  Then Yo arrives to complicate matters even more for the hapless Ganta.

I like this series, and I don’t know why.  The action is mind-numbing, the plot is erratic, and most of the characters are one-dimensional.   Still, there are enough twists and suspense to keep me turning the pages.  I like Ganta quite a bit, and I want him to survive, to find out why he’s in DW, and to somehow find freedom for himself.  I also like Shiro.  I want to know everything about her.  A few little crumbs of information were scattered throughout this volume, but not nearly enough to satisfy my curiosity.

Since I only have the first four volumes of the series, I will have to tune into the anime series to find the answers that I’m looking for.  If you find the manga for a decent price, I would suggest snapping them up and giving them a try, especially if you enjoy action-adventure titles. 

Grade:  B

Review copy purchased from Amazon

Review: Skyblue Shore Vol 1 by Nanpei Yamada

 

Title: Skyblue Shore Vol 1

Author: Nanpei Yamada

Publisher: Tokyopop

ISBN: 978-1427820051

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Tomo is a high school girl who lives in a town by a beach. One day she gets harassed on a bus, but is rescued by one of her classmates. Afterwards, he drops his keys, and the key ring has the same stone as one given to Tomo by a boy during her childhood. Is he the same person? Tomo believes the sea can bestow treasures on people, and she may about to be proven right in ways she couldn’t imagine.

Review:

Skyblue Shore is a slice of life series, and as events slowly unfold, more of protagonist Tomo’s personality is revealed.  Tomo’s parents are divorced, and she lives with her mother.  Tomo is the more reliable member of her little family, and she is the one who takes care of her mom.  Her mother’s parents are wealthy, and while her mom is more than happy to sponge off of them, Tomo has a bit more pride and wants to be self-reliant.  She is good natured, dependable, and hard-working and everybody loves her because she is so nice.  Though I often find too good to be true characters boring, I liked Tomo and her sunny personality.

When she was a young child, she met a boy on the beach. They both spent the day beachcombing together, and he gave Tomo an agate, which she has kept and treasured since.  The boy mysteriously disappears, and Tomo is left wondering what happened to him.  When Riku saves her from a groper on the bus, he drops a key chain with the same stone. Could he be the boy from her past?  She’s determined to find him, return his key to him, and find out if he’s the same person.

The tone of this story is soft and gentle, like the steady ebb of waves.  It builds on little events that interconnect Tomo’s life with Riku’s, as well as his younger brother, Tento. While Riku is confident and outgoing, Tento is withdrawn and walls himself off from most of his classmates.  He is helplessly drawn to Tomo, and soon there is an interesting triangle in the works.  Tomo is attracted to Riku, while Tento likes Tomo.  I am so curious to see how their relationships play out!  While I like Riku, too, I think that Tento and Tomo make a great couple. They like the same things, and where he hesitates and is content to observe, Tomo is quick to jump into the middle of everything.  Her brashness and his caution compliment each other very well.

I thought the art style worked well with the laid-back tone of the story.  There’s a lot of focus on facial expressions and posture to communicate the characters’ feelings to the reader.  You’re never left wondering what Tomo is thinking or feeling.  I liked the use of white space, too.  There are many scenes where background details aren’t important, and Nanpei Yamada puts all of her efforts into keeping the center of attention firmly placed on her characters.

I enjoyed the leisurely pacing of this first installment of Skyblue Shore, and am eager to see what happens next!

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Clean-Freak Fully Equipped Vol 1 by Touya Tobina

 

Title: Clean-Freak Fully Equipped Vol 1

Author: Touya Tobina

Publisher: Tokyopop

ISBN: 978-1427830173

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

This eccentric clean freak takes OCD and romance to the next level – manga style! Sata Senda has become a compulsive cleanliness freak because of a frightening experience three years ago. He always carries anti-bacterial spray and germ masks as standard equipment and doesn’t allow any form of personal contact, leaving him without friends. That is, until he meets Sata, who has been half-forced to participate in a school trip and arrives completely wrapped in a protective suit…

Review:

I wasn’t expecting much from this comedy, so I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy it as much as I did.  It is brainless fun at its best, and though I felt bad for poor Sata and his compulsive need to clean, I found myself laughing all the way through the book.  Sata makes Mr Clean look like a germy slob, and this middle school student takes cleaning to a whole new, neurotic level.

After a disturbing and disgusting childhood incident, Sata Senda is scarred for life.  He sees the world as one, large, predatory germ.  He is afraid to touch anything unless is has been thoroughly sanitized, and he goes to great (and ridiculous) lengths to keep himself separate from the rest of the germ-carrying population.  He has a plastic enclosure that he seals himself in at school, and he greets the outside world dressed in a hazmat suit.  Sata is a disturbed young man!

While Sata’s bizarre behavior is amusing in its own right, it is his interactions with his classmates that charmed me.  He isn’t the emotionally distant person he thinks he is, and underneath all of his wet wipes and hand sanitizer, he is really very lonely.  He’s just so afraid of germs that he doesn’t want to get close to anybody.  When several pushy kids in his class won’t leave him alone,  he slowly begins to see that having friends isn’t such a bad thing.  He’ll just need to carry more disinfectants.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: AiON Vol 1 by Yuna Kagesaki

 

Title: AiON Vol 1

Author: Yuna Kagesaki

Publisher: Tokyopop

ISBN: 978-1427831873

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Tatsuya Tsugawa loses his wealthy parents in the middle of high school. Trying to fulfill his father’s dying wish of becoming an upstanding man, Tatsuya attempts to save a girl from obsessive bullies only to be consumed with intrigue and slight obsession himself. But what will Tatsuya do when his good will and earnest efforts lead him into a twisted fantasy world infested with mermaids and mind-controlling parasites?

Review:

I wasn’t wowed by this introductory volume of Yuna Kagesaki’s new series.  It has a monster of the week feel, but the adversaries in the opening chapters weren’t very compelling.  Protagonist Tatsuya is bland as well, and I found my attention wandering during the first half of the book.

Tatsuya Tsugawa is one of those mild-mannered, too good to be true characters who is an easy mark for school bullies.  He doesn’t fight back when they rough him up for his lunch money, and it’s his friend Yoshiyuki who comes to his rescue.  He’s a wimp.  Tatsuya’s parents have both recently died in an unfortunate accident, and he is now a millionaire.  On his deathbed, his father beseeches him to be a great man in everything he does.  Taking his father’s last words to heart, Tatsuya tries to overcome his conflict avoidance tendencies by trying to help new girl Seine when she is bullied by a girl at school. 

Tatsuya’s life takes an unexpected, and dangerous turn when he keeps trying to help Seine.  She doesn’t need any help, he soon discovers, because she is immortal.  She is locked in a war with mermaids and their mind-controlling parasites, and she scornfully rejects Tatsuya’s assistance, but the more she tries to brush him off, the more he wants to help and make his father proud.

I like the premise quite a bit, but found the execution dull.  Tatsuya has the personality of a dishrag, but I am hoping that will change as he gets more involved in Seine’s war with the parasites.  I also want to know more about Seine and the mermaids.  I loved Chibi-Vampire, so I have high hopes for AiON.  Hopefully all of the promising elements will come together  for me in the next volume.

Grade: C+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Eensy Weensy Monster Vol 1 by Masami Tsuda

 

Title: Eensy Weensy Monster Vol 1

Author: Masami Tsuda

Publisher:  Tokyopop

ISBN: 978-1427816511

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Nanoha Satsuki is your average, ordinary high school student. Okay grades, kinda cute, kinda short, Nanoha’s most notable quality is that her best friends are both total overachieving babes. But when Nanoha runs into Hazuki Tokiwa, the gorgeous prince of the school, her gentle disposition disappears and she turns into a total monster! And Hazuki is more than happy to be a jerk right back at her. Thus begins our hilarious love battle.

Review:

At the start of Eensy Weensy Monster, I wasn’t exactly captivated by the storyline.  By the end of the book, though, I was enjoying the read, but it is very understated and a little slow moving.  Completely character-driven, I wasn’t charmed by either Nanoha or Hazuki when I first met them, but after 200 pages, they both grew on me.  Especially Hazuki, the spoiled, shining prince of their high school.  He is forced to take a long, deep look at himself, and what he sees disappoints him.  I liked the evolution of his character.  Nanoha, on the other hand, doesn’t have much of a personality, and that disappointed me.

Nanoha is plain and diminutive,  and she kind of fades into the background at school.  Her best friends dazzle, and nobody even takes much notice of Nanoha.  She is mild-mannered, studies hard, follows the rules, and tries to not make a bold impression.  When she has an unpleasant encounter with gorgeous Hazuki, her inner demon comes out, tearing him up one side and down the other.  Nanoha is appalled by her behavior, but she can’t help herself – Hazuki just brings out the worst in her.

When Hazuki has a moment of unpleasant retrospection, he comes up wanting.  He is a shallow guy.  Things do come too easily for him, and he takes the adoration of his female classmates for granted.  It’s his due that they fawn over him.  He is smart, good-looking, and athletic.  What’s not to adore about him?  After Nanoha lets him know what she thinks of him, Hazuki, starts to wonder if maybe she’s on to something.

I like Hazuki.  He actually shows some maturity and grows as a character.  I loved the “he said – she said” narrative style, where the same events are replayed through two different sets of eyes.  Their misunderstandings and miscommunications were humorous and kept me reading the book.  After achieving an uneasy truce, Nanoha and Hazuki’s relationship is evolving into something more. For one of them, anyway!  

While I thought that the pacing was uneven for this volume, I am interested in reading more about Nanoha, Hazuki, and their uneasy allegiance.  Plus, the cover is so darn cute I couldn’t resist buying the book!

Grade: B

Review copy purchased from Amazon

Review: Summoner Girl Vol 1 by Hiroshi Kubota

 

Title: Summoner Girl Vol 1

Author: Hiroshi Kubota

Publisher: Tokyopop

ISBN: 978-1427815682

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

A young summoner, Hibiki, wants to become the world’s most powerful summoner. In order to do so, she must travel to Earth and collect a set of powerful jewels. But along the way, she meets a strange young man, Sanjo, and discovers that she has a rival in her pursuit…

Review:

I was pleasantly surprised with this fantasy romp, featuring a very capable young Exorcist and the five elemental spirits she uses to battle dangerous spirits.  Hibiki has been given a formidable task by her stern grandmother to collect the six Rikutou, powerful magical jewels that will determine the next leader of the Exorcist Underground.  When gathered together, they will also cause a terrible calamity to occur if they are ever united.  This doesn’t sound like a very good way to pick your next leader, but I guess they do things differently in the Exorcist  Underground.

Hibiki is a cheerful young girl with immense supernatural powers.  She journeys from chapter to chapter with her new friend Kenta, a boy with some magical abilities, and her elemental spirits.  Everything is fairly episodic, and each chapter has a monster of the week feel to it.  It’s the humor and diverse personalities that kept me turning the pages, because there really isn’t anything new presented in this series.  It takes a tried and true formula, adds fun characters to it, and mixes in a few laughs.  It’s a light, breezy read.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

Tokyopop Neko Ramen Video Contest! Enter Now!

Tokyopop is holding a Neko Ramen video contest.  You can win all kinds of really cool prizes, just by uploading a video of your kitty on YouTube! For a list of prizes and all of the rules, click here.  But you have to hurry, because the contest ends July 11th.  Now get out there with your video camera and start filming! You can become a viral video legend, and make off with a ton a swag, too!  Good luck!