The Yagyu Ninja Scrolls: Revenge of the Hori Clan Vol 7 Manga Review

 

Title: The Yagyu Ninja Scrolls: Revenge of the Hori Clan Vol 7

Story by: Futaro Yamada

Manga by: Masaki Segawa

Publisher: Del Rey

ISBN: 9780345504234

May Contain Spoilers

I can’t believe it! This volume introduces a character who is every bit as vile and despicable as Akinari!  His lover, Oyura, is his soul mate, because this cruel woman delights in sexual perversities and relishes torturing helpless young women.  She even implores her lord to “suck the life” out of her before willingly sticking her tongue down his throat.  Yuck! The thought of someone actually wanting to kiss that hideous mug makes me queasy.

This volume finds Akinari and the Seven Spears firmly back in Aizu territory, where they mercilessly control the lives of their powerless peasants.  Ruling through brutality and terror, they prey upon the villagers in their domain, stealing away the beautiful young daughters of the men who work the land.  Once the girls enter Aizu Castle, they never come back out again.  Not in one piece, at any rate.

We learn a little more about Takuan, the high priest of Tokai Temple.  He actually has a lot of political clout, enough to make even Akinari hesitate to harm him even after he tries to enter his lands.  The priest of the Shogun, he isn’t one to be lightly trifled with.  So begins a game of cat and mouse between Takuan and the rulers of Aizu; they know that Takuan is assisting the Hori women, but they don’t know what to do about it without getting into hot water with the Shogun.  It’s not worth risking their wealth and lands to antagonize the priest, at least not openly.  Instead, they plot and scheme, seeking to draw the truth from the wily old priest.

The relationship between the impossibly beaked Dohaku and the priest to Ieyasu, Tenkai, is explained, as well as the secret to their incredibly long lives.  As long as one lives, the other can not die.  Thinking they have an ally within the Shogun authorities, Akinari and Dohaku ponder how to rid themselves of the Hori women, Takuan, and the Hanya Mask.  These two certainly know how to make themselves a few enemies! 

Now I would like someone to explain how Dohaku keeps that nose of his warm on those bitterly cold winter nights.  I am grateful that I don’t have to expend the brain cells trying to figure out who the bad guys are, because just one glance at a character makes it very obvious who is going to cause trouble for the Hori women.  I mention the character designs every time I write about a Masaki Segawa title, but I can’t help it.  They are so bizarre and so unique that I marvel at the exaggerated facial features whenever I read one of his manga.  I would be very hesitant to ask him to draw a caricature of me for fear of what it would end up looking like!

Grade: B

Review copy provided by Del Rey

Parasyte Vol 8 [Finale] by Hitoshi Iwaaki Manga Review

 

Title: Parasyte Vol 8

Author: Hitoshi Iwaaki

Publisher:  Del Rey

ISBN: 9780345500366

May Contain Spoilers

This final volume of the sci-fi horror series, Parasyte, packed an emotional punch in addition to providing another non-stop action thrill ride.  Shinichi and Migi are in the fight of their lives against the more powerful Goto, a cold-bloodied alien lacking any shred of compassion.  Goto has promised to destroy Shinichi, and Shinichi has likewise vowed to kill his deadly foe to protect mankind from the killing machine.  But when the final moments come, Shinichi is shocked by the conflicting emotions that make it impossible for him to kill his adversary.  Will Shinichi’s inability to act be the end for both him and Migi?

The entire series has provided page after page of entertainment, rarely missing a step as Shinichi grows from a confused school boy into a confidant, self-assured adult.  He has learned the value of all forms of life and the value of friendship during his incredible adventures after having his arm possessed by an alien.  Instead of allowing the horrifying events turn him into an unfeeling monster or rob him of his sanity, they reaffirm his humanity and  his ability to care for others.  His character development was convincing and uplifting, because at one point, there was not much to set him apart from the man-eating aliens he was fighting against.

The showdown with Goto was tense and exciting.  Migi and Shinichi are clearly no match for the freakishly powerful Goto, but they’re going to make a final stand, no holds barred.  When things end in disaster, Shinichi’s world is turned upside down again.  Bereft and alone, he learns to cherish all life, now that his is just a step away from being snuffed out.  It also gives him the strength to sacrifice himself for the good of others.  With Goto feasting on the residents of a tiny village, Shinichi knows he has to own up to his mistakes and rid the world of the terror he helped to create.  Shinichi’s soul searching tugged at my emotions; once he accepts his responsibility, he doesn’t allow his fears of his own death stop him from doing what he’s set out to do.  It’s only when he holds another’s life in the balance that he hesitates, because he has learned that all life has value.

Shinichi learns another difficult lesson, and it was a little more difficult for him to comprehend.  Monsters come in all shapes and sizes, and they aren’t always alien.  Some monsters hide in plain sight, human in every way but for the darkness in their souls.  Shinichi’s final battle isn’t against a parasite – it’s against a human whose heart is rotten beyond redemption, and who values nothing.  Not life, not love, not even himself. 

I avoided Parasyte back when Tokyopop was publishing the series because I didn’t understand what it was about.  It has horror elements, which was a turnoff, and I wasn’t so fond of the art.  What a difference a few years make!  I wasn’t ready for a series like this back then, and I’m happy that Del Rey re-released it so that I could discover this gem.  While it may look like a book about alien man-eating monsters, it’s so much deeper than that.  At its core it’s about the struggle to survive no matter the cost and the importance of life. 

Grade:  A

Alive Vol 8 by Kawashima & Adachitoka Manga Review

 

Title: Alive: The Final Evolution Vol 8

Story by: Tadashi Kawashima

Art by: Adachitoka

Publisher: Del Rey

ISBN: 9780345500830

May Contain Spoilers

The showdown at the lake is raging on, as the comrades are intent on beating the snot out of each other.  Katsumata is cleverly orchestrating the battle, giving a few key players a nudge to keep them focused on fighting.  As the chaos burns out of control, Hirose has been left out of the fray.  Will Katsumata be able to unite his “vessel” with Acro’s Heart, unleashing the final evolution?

Yeehaw, this was an exciting, breathtaking read.  The action is so intense that it is impossible to put the book down.  There are several key confrontations occurring, and the high velocity pacing maximizes the tension and suspense of each fight.  Nami is determined to have her revenge against Kanon, but Yura has decided to stick his nose into their business, Taisuke can’t let go of Megumi or Okuda’s grim reaper will kill her, and Yuta is getting cut to ribbons by Morio’s wind attacks.  How are any of them going to survive to put a stop to Katsumata’s plans?

The action sequences are exhilarating, as each combatant strives to become stronger so that they can kill their opponent.  All of their negative energy is feeding off of each other, fueling Acro’s Heart and driving everyone to the brink of insanity.  Everyone becomes so caught up in themselves, in getting their revenge, in getting stronger, that they lose their minds, and as they teeter more and more out of control, they play right into Katsumata’s hands.

We get a glimpse here of what Taisuke could become if he’s pushed hard enough.  There is a darkness lurking within him that makes Hiro seem inconsequential.  The vessel that could have contained all of Katsumata’s aspirations and more isn’t Hiro.  It’s Taisuke, who has learned to put on a better face than his friend, who has learned to live a lie and hide the decay that lurks deep, deep inside him.  He is scary, he is ruthless, and he could easily cause the evolution that Katsumata so desperately craves. 

Alive has surprised me, easily becoming one of my favorite action series.  The art is explosive, but the true champ here is the high octane suspense.  Like the best summer action flicks, the plot twists just keep coming, driving the cast forward in a frenzy of motion that they can’t stop.  They are being dragged closer to their destiny, whatever it may be, and there is nothing that they can do to avoid it. 

Grade: A

Review copy provided by Del Rey

Parasyte Vol 7 by Hitoshi Iwaaki Manga Review

 

Title: Parasyte Vol 7

Author: Hitoshi Iwaaki

Publisher:  Del Rey

ISBN: 9780345500359

May Contain Spoilers

This volume demonstrated that there really isn’t much difference between the alien monsters and the humans that they are feeding on.  When overzealous Lieutenant Commander Yamagishi concocts a plan to destroy the alien parasites once and for all, he unleashes a bloodbath that slaughters humans and intended prey alike.  When the smoke clears, all he’s done is created a more powerful enemy, and left a trail of corpses in his wake.  Will Shinichi be able to stay alive long enough to graduate from high school, now that Goto is out to get him?

Wow, there are a lot flying body parts and blood splatters packed in here.  The police and the military are working together to ferret out the parasytes, though there is friction within their ranks.  Inspector Hirama and Yamagishi don’t exactly hit it off, and Yamagishi practically mocks  the policeman for wanting to get some advice from Shinichi.  Yamagishi even manages to come up with a killer plan to detect the aliens, but since they are telepathic, it really only works once.  Oops! That was a major miscalculation on his part, and it’s one that’s going to cost him big time.  Maybe he shouldn’t have scoffed at Shinichi’s suggestion…

Parasyte is gearing up for the concluding volume, and there are some intense battle scenes that highlight the chaos and uncertainty of combat.  While the humans seemed to have done their homework, they just can’t comprehend that the aliens have just as strong of a desire to survive as they do.  Having had to blend into society and keep themselves hidden, they have also learned how to be cunning and ruthless, which is going to give Yamagishi a rude awakening.  The stereotypical military man, he doesn’t give his enemy enough credit, and with his superior numbers and fire power, he thinks that the battle is won before it even begins.  I wanted to feel sorry for he, but he is such a pompous prick that I couldn’t.  He isn’t above sacrificing innocent civilians to win his little war against the enemy, and it had me questioning who the real monsters were.

Shinichi just opened a nasty can of worms for himself, and both he and Migi have accepted the fact that they probably aren’t going to be alive for much longer.  Goto has set his sights on them, and he isn’t going to stop until they are both dead.  That Goto is one scary guy, or would it be more correct to say he is five scary guys? Or parts of five scary guys?  Blaming Shinichi for working with the government, he wants revenge for the deaths of his companions.  Good thing he’s too tired to kill Shinichi right then and there, and instead lets the kid stew about his impending death.  Bet it will be both painful and unpleasant.  Ugh.  Will Shinichi and Migi be able to think of a way to stay alive?

Even clocking in at over 250 pages, this installment flies by, the non-stop action and drama captivating for its entire duration.  This is one series that never feels like it drags or gets bogged down.  Each volume cranks up the tension, leading Shinichi into ever greater danger.  It is probably a good thing that part of his heart has fused with an alien, because I think he would have died of a heart attack if he only had his old, too human heart to rely on. 

Grade: B+

Night Head Genesis Vol 1 by Iida & Higuri Manga Review

 

Title: Night Head Genesis Vol 1

Story by: George Iida

Manga by: You Higuri

Publisher: Del Rey

ISBN: 9780345516251

May Contain Spoilers

Naoto and Naoya are brothers with such powerful psychic powers that everyone, including their parents, are terrified of them.  Confined to a scientific research center from a young age, they never gave up their desire to be free.  After years of imprisonment, they finally escape from their prison, only to discover a frightening world where strangers want to see them dead.  When Naoya has a terrifying vision of a deadly plague that will wipe out mankind, Naoto and Naoya race against time to alter the horrifying future Naoya has foreseen.  Will they be able to save humanity, as well as themselves?

Night Head Genesis delivers an engrossing, satisfying read with plenty of suspense and a convincing atmosphere of mystery and danger.  Naoto and Naoya have escaped from a research lab after being held prisoner since childhood, and all they want is the freedom to live a normal life.  If there is one quibble I have with the story, it is the lack of background given during their confinement and subsequent dash to freedom. I am a little confused regarding this aspect of the plot, because there are no attempts to recapture them, and later on they do have contact with the head of the lab, which makes me believe that they were allowed to escape.  Hopefully this will be cleared up as the series progresses.

Naoya can read minds and has the ability to foresee the future, and Naoto can manipulate objects with his mind.  In addition to being the older of the two, he is also the most volatile, and since he can destroy things with just a thought, it isn’t surprising that people are afraid of him.  Tougher and stronger than his younger brother, Naoto has taken the role of Naoya’s protector, and that’s a good thing, because they are immediately targeted for death by the followers of a psychic who keeps having visions of the brothers being the catalyst for the destruction of mankind.  Matching wits with Kamiya and a beautiful research scientist, the brothers have their hands full trying to stay alive and save humanity at the same time.

The story moves along in rapid succession, never delving too deeply into the events shaping the plot.  The situations remain tense and compelling, and I couldn’t put the book down.  The action is driven forward by You Higuri’s attractive art.  Her page layouts are fluid, yet the panels are presented with an almost frantic urgency as Naoto and Naoya race to save the planet from a deadly virus. 

Night Head Genesis provides an entertaining and suspenseful story that builds up to a satisfying climax.  Though it appears that the brothers have saved mankind from the virus,  other threats are introduced near the end of the book to make me wonder what will happen next.  Add in You Higuri’s wonderful art, and I’m hooked on the series. 

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by Del Rey

The Yagyu Ninja Scrolls: Revenge of the Hori Clan Vol 6 Manga Review

 

Title: The Yagyu Ninja Scrolls: Revenge of the Hori Clan Vol 6

Based on the Story by: Futaro Yamada

Manga by: Masaki Segawa

Publisher: Del Rey

ISBN: 9780345504227

May Contain Spoilers

Ugh. This series continues to have some of the most degrading and heartless depictions of violence against woman.  I think one of the reasons that I keep reading along is so that I can cheer on each and every gruesome death as the Hori women exact their revenge against the odious Aizu Seven Spears.  I am just on the edge of my seat waiting for the death and dismemberment of Lord Akinari – if ever there was a man deserving to be drawn and quartered it is he.  He preys upon helpless individuals with the glee of a cat playing with a cornered mouse, and you can only hope that one day his victims will magically develop a major set of teeth and turn on him, ripping him to shreds. 

Jyubei has managed to put the fear for god into Akinari, and he is cleverly playing mind games with his enemy.  He has the Seven Spears seeing threats everywhere as they beat a hasty retreat to Aizu, Akinari’s stronghold.  The Hori woman are split into two groups and are dogging Akinari’s footsteps, disguised as harmless monks.  Will they be able to avoid detection and earn their revenge?

There is a rift developing between the remaining members of the Hori clan as they vie for Jyubei’s attention.  I found this plot twist a little demeaning, because it makes the Hori women seem even more frivolous than normal.  They have never been depicted as strong or determined, and instead they all come across as fairly simpleminded and childlike.  Personal development has never been a strong point in any of the Ninja Scrolls manga, so I am just trying to roll with the insulting way the women are portrayed.  The books are better known  for the action than for the character growth, and I am not the target market for the series, anyway.  But come on, guys, why do the girls have to be so dumb and passive.  They are trying to kill the seven most evil warriors in Japan, so you’d think they would be a little more forceful and certainly they should be a lot more aggressive.

Anyhoo, Masaki Segawa continues to render the strangest looking humans that I have ever seen, and I wonder who he uses for his models.  The character designs are so bizarre and unattractive, but you can tell right away who the bad guys are by how deformed and distorted their features are.  The art is very unique, and the odd looking characters provide some  interesting visuals, especially during the fighting sequences.

For an action fix that doesn’t require much brain power, The Yagyu Ninja Scrolls provides an exciting journey down the path to vengeance.  Despite some flaws, it pairs memorable character designs with high energy battles, yielding a roller coaster ride of excitement.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by Del Rey

Parasyte Vol 6 by Hitoshi Iwaaki Manga Review

 

Title: Parasyte Vol 6

Author: Hitoshi Iwaaki

Publisher: Del Rey

ISBN: 9780345500342

May Contain Spoilers

The parasytes are making their move against Shinichi and Kuramori, deciding that they are both far to dangerous to continue to live.  Both assassination attempts go awry, leaving Reiko fuming at Kusano’s ineptness.  All they have managed to do is earn themselves an enemy who is now very determined to avenge the murder of his family.  As parasyte turns against parasyte, and Kuramori plots his revenge, can Shinichi keep his father safe, and keep himself out of harm’s way?

This series just keeps getting better!  After Kuramori’s family is butchered by parasytes, he suddenly has a very compelling reason to divulge everything he knows to the police.  He has also decided that he is going to get his pound of flesh, to pay back the monsters for what they did to his wife and daughter.  He snaps, and who can blame the guy?  His family was turned into mincemeat and there wasn’t anything he could do to protect them.

Shinichi has a hard time convincing his dad to go into hiding.  When he learns about the murder of Kuramori’s family, he realizes how much danger both he and his father are in.  His father won’t listen to him at first, but Shinichi’s frantic pleas finally get through to him.  This was great stuff.  Shinichi was worked up into an absolute panic over the thought of losing his father to the same monsters that murdered his mother, but he doesn’t want to tell his father everything he knows.  Both his terror and his desire to fill his father in on everything that is happening are clearly revealed through tense, emotional close-ups as Shinichi argues with his father on the phone.  His panic is obvious, and you can’t help getting caught up in his emotions – will his father listen, or is he going to be another casualty of the aliens?

Reiko really surprised me in this volume.  The parasyte, who was previously as bloodthirsty and murderous as the rest of the aliens, is starting to have a change of heart.  Questioning the reason for her existence, you can’t help but wonder what other thoughts are going through her alien mind.  The more she attempts to understand human behavior, the more confused she becomes.  Caring for the baby has also caused a huge change to come over her, and when Kuramori abducts the infant, Reiko’s mothering instinct, if you can call it that, rages to the surface.  She wants the baby back, unharmed, and she’ll do anything to ensure the baby’s safety.

With a thrilling climax at a park, this volume of Parasyte offers a ride filled with suspense and non-stop excitement.  The changes in the aliens are subtle and fascinating.  Their exposure to humans is causing them to change, though the transformation is more obvious in some than others.  This story ties you up in knots, knocking the wind out of you with every new plot twist.  There is the fear that anyone can become monster fodder, at any time, and that, along with the breathless anticipation that something terrible is going to happen, keeps the pages flipping in rapid succession. 

Chock full of things that go bump in the night, Parasyte delivers an unparalleled journey through the nightmare of an alien invasion.  Humans are food, the aliens can be anyone, and when they strike, only one thing is certain – death is going to be painful, and very, very messy.

Grade: A

Review copy provided by Del Rey

Papillon Vol 4 by Miwa Ueda Manga Review

 

Title: Papillon Vol 4

Author: Miwa Ueda

Publisher:  Del Rey

ISBN: 9780345512345

May Contain Spoilers

Ageha’s days of living in the shadow of her beautiful twin have come to an end.  After a makeover that transforms her not only on the outside, but also on the inside, she’s gained the confidence in herself that she lacked.  Now that she’s dating the handsome Ichijiku, things finally seem to be going right for a change.  When Hana starts seeing Kyu for advice with her boy troubles, Ageha starts to get uneasy.  Is Hana only trying to steal him away from her?

Argh! What is wrong with me?  This is essentially a retread of Peach Girl with twins and an older love interest, but I can’t stop reading it!  Much of the melodrama is created by Ageha’s inability to communicate with Ichijiku, though Hana does poke her nose into their relationship to stir up trouble.  I don’t understand why in Honey Hunt a girl with a meek personality irritates, yet in Papillon it entertains.  Or is the difference that when Ageha is pushed beyond her limits, she finally finds a backbone and stands up for herself?

This volume has Hana up to her old tricks.  She impersonates Ageha, throwing herself at Ryusei to see if he will cheat on her.  This scenario just proves how stupid Ryusei really is – he should know Ageha better than to believe that she would suddenly turn into a sex kitten and try to steal him from her sister.  The very fact that he falls for Hana’s  tricks shows that he was not the right guy for Ageha, and he so deserves to be stuck with Hana.  Also as proof of Hana’s insecurities, this is a pretty self-destructive pursuit.  What teenaged guy is going to reject a beautiful girl when she’s crawling all over him?  Hana needs to think of a new strategy, or she is going to keep driving the people she claims to like away from her.

Ageha is having problems in that area as well.  When a friend of hers claims she can smell that smell, an odor that is given off by people who have recently had sex, she begins to doubt that Ichijiku is being faithful to her.  Her friend says that both he and Hana reek, so it’s only natural for Ageha to be suspicious.  Wasn’t Hana out late the night before?  And hasn’t Ageha seen them together a discomforting number of times?

Whether or not anyone has an issue with body odors, the fact that Hana is acting sneaky, Ichijiku is suddenly always busy, and Ageha keeps finding them together would make anybody a little uneasy.  When you are already a bit insecure, of course you are going to jump to the wrong conclusion.  Miwa Ueda is setting Ageha up for a very unpleasant misunderstanding with Ichijiku, and Hana is going to be right there to take advantage of it.  Maybe that’s what I enjoy about the story – I can see that Ageha is in for an unpleasant fall, I sympathize with her, but I can’t help but follow along on her collision course to heartbreak.  More than anything, I want to see how much she has grown and matured, and see what she does to fix the mess.  Will she be able break out of her cocoon, and find the strength to fight for what she wants?

Grade: B

Review copy provided by Del Rey