9 July 2009, LOS ANGELES

Innovative manga publisher Go! Comi and cutting-edge game designer Zeitgeist Games today announced the release of the iPhone version of Aimee Major Steinberger’s smash-hit manga journal “Japan Ai – A Tall Girl’s Adventure in Japan” – named one of  the Young Adults Librarian Association’s Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens of 2009!  It is now available, formatted for the iPhone or iPod Touch, for the introductory price of .99 CENTS!

Join Aimee Major Steinberger on the ultimate otaku vacation!  Steinberger uses sketches and hand-written descriptions to capture it all in this manga journal that is both adorable and breathtaking.  And now you can have her travel journal right at your fingertips no matter where you are, with this handy app that features the COMPLETE 190-page book, formatted for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

The application also contains several special features that are EXCLUSIVE to the iPhone version of the book:

– Using Smart Panels(TM) technology, you can move from panel to panel with a single tap
– With two different viewing modes, reading is a snap
– Browse thumbnail images of each page in the chapter
– Learn Japanese words with the help of the voice phrase dictionary
– Photo gallery allows you to see actual photos from the trip

That’s right – readers will get the complete book in iPhone form, plus exclusive iPhone/iPod Touch features, for only 99 cents!  The “Japan Ai” iPhone App is available now at the iTunes store.

Go! Comi is known for its exciting manga series and top-notch production values. Among its publications are the Bookscan best-sellers “07-GHOST,” “The Devil Within” and “Her Majesty’s Dog,” and the Eisner Award-nominated “After School Nightmare,” which was named one of the Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens of 2008 by the Young Adult Library Services Association. Two other Go! Series, “Train + Train” and “Cantarella,” have also been cited by the YALSA Great Graphic Novels list.


Zeitgeist Games, Inc. was founded in 2002 by Dustin Clingman and Dave Arneson as a "pen and paper" role playing game company.  The immediate success of the company led Zeitgeist Games to expanded its product line into other forms of gaming.  Today, Zeitgeist Games has developed games and applications on such platforms as the PC, Nintendo DS, and iPhone.

Bogle Vol 1 by Taira & Ichiju Manga Review

Title: Bogle Vol 1

Author: Shino Taira

Art: Yuko Ichiju

Publisher: go!comi

ISBN: 9781933617961

May Contain Spoilers

Asuka is living a double life – the high school student is also a cat-burglar! After moving from Okinawa, she promised to give up her dangerous moonlighting, but she’s caught up in a secret organization where her prowling skills are put to good use.  Now she’s a member of Bogle, and she’s stealing from evil people to return precious objects to the downtrodden.  Can she keep her new job hidden from her older brother, a police detective?

I am just having a hard time buying to teenage thieves, especially when they break into art museums.  The suspension of believe doesn’t extend that far for me.  Otherwise, Bogle is an episodic adventure about a cheery girl, Asuka, who has just moved to a new city and is attending a new school.  It starts out with her getting lost on her way to school, and she becomes extremely flustered after meeting two gorgeous guys; an older student, Ryoma  and her classmate, Masato.  Little does she know that the three of them are going to end up protecting unfortunate souls who have had something precious stolen from them.  Since Asuka couldn’t even navigate her way across campus, it was a stretch to think that she could sneak into other people’s houses and not get caught. 

Anyhoo, Ryoma and Masato are both drop dead gorgeous, and needless to say, they are extremely popular with the female student body.  So much so that Asuka soon wins a few enemies just because she’s seen talking to them.  Only in manga.  Asuka has the kind of personality that usually charms everyone, and even little setbacks of tacks in her locker and flowerpots dropped from windows are cheerfully put behind her.  I guess my biggest complaint about the heroine is that she’s just so darned nice.  That made her a little boring, because she rarely was willing to rock the boat and cause a confrontation, and when she did, it was too quickly smoothed over. 

While I found the situations the trio maneuvered through rather bland, I did like the striking artwork.  It reminded me of Chika Shiomi, minus the delicious tension between characters.   The action scenes were occasionally wooden, but overall, everything moved competently as the story progressed.

Grade: C+

After School Nightmare Vol 10 by Setona Mizushiro Manga Review

Title: After School Nightmare Vol 10

Author: Setona Mizushiro

Publisher: go! comi

ISBN: 9781933617718

May Contain Spoilers

Once again, I am scratching my head at the end of After School Nightmare, wondering if I really get it.  I don’t think I do.  I’m going to try to write this without giving away too many spoilers, but that is going to be very hard.  We’ve come all this way, only to learn that the ending is really just the beginning, and that Mashiro, having struggled with himself, grappling to accept what he really is, must leave everything behind and start all over again.

After Ichijo has finally gained a sense of acceptance, Sou and Kureha are determined to see him graduate.  Kureha is especially focused on this task.  Kureha has found her courage, and now that she’s set her heart on seeing Mashiro find the key and unlock the door, and nothing will stop her from achieving that goal.  She’s come a long way from the terrified shadow that she once was, to the young woman in shining armor.  She has discovered her freedom, and now she wants to help Mashiro find his.

Sou has also come a long way.  Working through the issues dealing with his sister, he, too, has found freedom from the chains that bound him.   With his new strength of will, he wants to help Mashiro find his true happiness, even if that means that Mashiro will graduate without him.  Sou finally found his anchor, and he was going to make sure that Mashiro could finally accept himself.

This was a great series, full of twists and turns, and a very unusual cast of characters.  Everyone had enormous personal issues to deal with, whether they wanted to admit they had a problem or not.  After a very rocky start, the three main characters meshed together, becoming stronger and more accepting of themselves because of their friendship.  Weird and wonderful, this was an intriguing series from start to finish.

Grade: B+

Rated for Older Teen

Review copy provided by go! comi

Her Majesty’s Dog Vol 2 Mick Takeuchi Manga Review

Title:  Her Majesty’s Dog Vol 2

Author: Mick Takeuchi

Publisher: go! comi

ISBN: 9780976895773

May Contain Spoilers

I remember not being overly impressed with the first volume of this series.  It just didn’t click for me.  This volume, however, flowed better, and was much more to my liking.  Maybe it was the lack of attention given to Amane and the feeding habits she’s developed with her guardian demon, Hyoue.  It was a not so subtle plot device last time around, and I remember that it got tiring after awhile.  It is relegated to the background here, which was just fine with me.

When Amane and Hyoue find a badly wounded Zakuro, they save him and nurse him back to health.  Hyoue doesn’t know the grief he’s about the cause himself – he and Zakuro go way back, sharing a master 500 years ago.  When he died, Zakuro continued to faithfully serve his descendants, while Hyoue refused to serve anyone until meeting Amane.  Zakuro quickly ingratiates himself in Amane’s good graces, trying to show up the younger Hyoue.  When he declares that he’ll become her guardian spirit, and that Hyoue isn’t necessary anymore, things get very, very tense between Hyoue and Amane.

This was a believable rivalry as Hyoue and Zakuro jockeyed to prove who could best protect Amane.  After Zakuro threatens to divulge some embarrassing secrets, Hyoue’s temper takes a turn for the worst.  He gets pissy with everyone, especially Amane.  He is jealous more than anything else, but he flaps his lips and says some very, very idiotic things to her.  Amane reacts with a burst of ice-cold distain.  Hyoue is acting like a spoiled brat and Amane puts him firmly in his place.  Her cold shoulder treatment would turn the Heat Miser into a block of ice.  Hyoue doesn’t have a chance.

With Hyoue neatly out of the picture, Zakuro unleashes his true intentions.  He  does not have warm and fuzzy feelings for either Hyoue or Amane, and he’s devised a diabolical plan to get revenge against them.  That’s just not very nice!  Hyoue may not have been thrilled to see him again, but Amane saved his life and took him in when he was down and out.  She had even started to care about him before he did a complete turn around and revealed his true intentions.

It would have been easy to hate Zakuro, but his background story was sufficiently tragic that I felt bad for him and sympathized with him.  He had always tried to serve his masters to the best of his ability, becoming everything that he thought they wanted.  When Amane accepts him just the way he is, he is suspicious, and then antagonistic.  He has lost trust in everyone, and he blames Hyoue for stealing their master’s love.  Zakuro’s lack of self-esteem and his unhappiness made it easy to forgive him for his ill-conceived plot against Amane and Hyoue.  It’s hard to hate a demon if you feel sorry for him.

In addition to getting caught up in the plot, I thought the art was arresting.  Attractive characters, bold action, and lots of convincing emotions play across the panels.  Now I am eager to read more of the series.

Grade: B

Crown Vol 1 by Wada & Higuri Manga Review

Title: Crown Vol 1

Author: Shinji Wada

Art: You Higuri

Publisher: go! comi

ISBN: 9781605100050

May Contain Spoilers

On a certain brainless level, Crown delivers an action packed, fast paced story.  It’s not coherent and certainly doesn’t make any sense.  The heroine, after finding herself fleeing from gunmen and explosions, doesn’t even bother to ask what’s going on – I guess I’ll just go with the flow and attribute that to her being totally clueless and not exactly the brightest kid on the block.

Mahiro is currently down on her luck, having lost her parents in an accident and then being swindled by her relatives out of the family’s home.  She’s working part time jobs to scrape together the money to go back to school, and is trying to make the best of things.  When she’s practically kidnapped by a pair of handsome strangers, she’s in for a whole lot of danger!

Bear with me as I try to sort out what is going on here.  Mahiro’s strangers are her older brother, Ren, who she hasn’t seen in years and had pretty much forgotten about, and his buddy, Jake.  They’re a couple of bad-ass mercenaries who have just turned down a king’s ransom to extend their current contract.  Why?  Because Ren has to race off and protect his kid sister.  He and Mahiro are the heirs of a tiny kingdom, but their wicked step-mother ran them out of the country when they were children.  Well, actually, she thought that she had killed them, and man, is she pissed now that she’s learned that they’re still alive.  It’s probably a good thing that she did make a muck of that, because in order to legally become the queen, she needs Mahiro’s necklace, the Crown. 

I’m a little confused about where Mahiro’s birth father has been through all of this.  When she was little, after the servants saved them, she was given to a new family to live her life in happy ignorance about her past.  Uh, if she’s a princess, no matter how small the country, wouldn’t people wonder what happened to them?  Wouldn’t dad, the king, be turning over rocks to find their bodies?  There’s a lack of coherent background details to anchor this story into any realm of believability.

My biggest complaint in terms of anything making any sense would fall squarely onto Ren and Jake’s broad shoulders.  These luscious guys are cold-blooded killers, and they leave an impressive pile of bodies behind them.  Nobody seems to mind, though, and when they blow up Roppongi Hills, it’s played off as a rather ho-hum event.  They detonate bombs left and right, and nobody really seems to care.  Well, except for the guys trying to kill them.  Mahiro just skips along as her brother and his friend blast them out of danger, singing silly songs while enjoying herself in the sewer.  A little fear or tension on her part might have lent the story a little more credibility, but since she wasn’t concerned about what was going on, it all came across as boring, not exciting.

There are a few ick moments between Ren and Mahiro, but I’m trying not to give much thought to that and I’m putting it down as the pair just being close siblings.  Forget that they haven’t seen each other in years and years. All of that blushing and inappropriate cuddling – er, ick.  And why are all of the bad guys overweight?  Mahiro’s house stealing relatives need to stop playing video games and get outside a little more, and the evil queen is far from enchanting. Or thin.  WTF?

I did enjoy the art and I hope that the next volume will make a little more sense. 

Grade:  C+

Rated for Older Teen

Review copy provided by go! comi

Black Sun Silver Moon Vol 1 by Tomo Maeda Manga Review

Title:  Black Sun Silver Moon Vol 1

Author: Tomo Maeda

Publisher: go! comi

ISBN: 9781933617206

May Contain Spoilers

I had tried to read this title two times previously, but just couldn’t get into it.  Third time must be the charm (or only taking a few titles along for the ride on the airplane), because by about page 20, I couldn’t but it down.  The art grabbed me first, and while the characters took a little longer to work their charms, it wasn’t long before they won me over.  It was actually the introduction of the round, marshmallow of a puppy that convinced me that I need to give this series a second look.

Taki has been hired by Shikimi to help out at his church, and to pay off his late father’s debts.  Looking forward to some quiet time away from his large, noisy family, what he finds instead is far from solitude and peace.  Instead, he’s roped into slaying zombies by night, and cleaning non stop by day.  Worse, he can’t figure out what’s worse – the rotting undead or the slovenly priest he now works for!

There were a couple of elements of the story that I found extremely enjoyable.  First is Tomo Maeda’s art style, which can elicit chuckles on one page and ghoulish shivers on the next.  I love the art.  From Shikimi’s deceptively benign grins to Taki’s nearly uncontainable irritation with his employer’s messy habits, each page is a new delight.  The characters are so expressive, it’s hard to not get drawn with their emotions.  The character designs are also sleek and easy on the eye.

Second, I love the interaction between Taki and Shikimi.  Taki is a pretty easy going guy, but he’s not so happy to be Shikimi’s personal attendant.  And who can blame him?  Shikimi is a bigger slob than I am, tossing his books hither and yon, and then expecting Taki to instantly set everything right again.  Twenty-four hours a day!  I started to feel a little sorry for the over-worked Taki, and had to revise my opinion that I work for the biggest slave-driver on the planet.  Nope – Shikimi wins hands down.

Let’s not forget to mention that in addition to be being recruited to clean everything from the kitchen to whatever suffices for a toilet, Shikimi had a hidden agenda for his hapless little servant.  Get ready, Taki, cause now you’re a zombie slayer! Argh!  I’d have run off screaming, IOU or no IOU.  Instead, Taki takes this new development in stride, too.  He’s not the best undead killer yet, but he’s got a lot of potential.  Plus, he’s not afraid of the rotting corpses that are trying to rend him limb from limb.  No, he saves his fear for a rotund, butterball of a puppy.

Third, I love Agi.  This little blob makes for a surprisingly cute dog.  She’s just as expressive as Taki and Shikimi, and she lends more humor to the cast.  At least she’s not destructive like Shikimi.  She does torment Taki with an outpouring of affection, which almost causes him to hyperventilate with discomfort.  It’s not so much that he’s afraid of dogs, as he fears what they represent.  Every time he sees the dog, he thinks of a childhood failure, he is having a hard time reconciling that.  Poor guy.  The zombie killing is cake compared to dealing with the dog.

Not everything is fun and games in Black Sun Silver Moon.  Shikimi is feared by the villagers he protects, and they don’t hesitate to let him know how unwelcome he is whenever he ventures into town.  Taki watches, bewildered, and listens to the people bad mouth Shikimi.  He’s confused by their image of Shikimi, because Taki is beginning to like and even admire his employer.  Well, in his less messy moments.  I liked this conflict, as Taki tries to decide which is the real Shikimi – the vile monster the villagers describe, or the not so bad guy he’s getting used to cleaning up after.

Black Sun Silver Moon delivered a surprising amount of entertainment, offering humor, suspense, and zombies. There’s also that other side of Shikimi, the hints that he has a more sinister past.  Who can possibly resist a guy with a dark, tragic history?  Not me.

Also included is the less than memorable short story “Magic Words,” which I only finished because of the art.

Grade: B+

Rated for Older Teen

Angel’s Coffin by You Higuri Manga Review

Title:  Angel’s Coffin

Author: You Higuri

Publisher: go! comi

ISBN: 9781933617688

May Contain Spoilers

Seto’s had a run of bad luck. Once a god, he’s been imprisoned in an ancient book.  When a demon from the depths of hell promises to free him if he lays waste to the first human he sees, Seto thinks it’s a pretty good deal.  Until the beautiful Marie releases him, and he falls in love with her at first sight.  Can a former god change the fate of a young girl who is destined to die before she turns 18?

Ah, that silly, childish Marie.  A young girl with big dreams of romance.  How can you not want her to find the love she’s longing for?  Too bad she’s fallen for the crown prince, and it’s going to take a lot more than a few wishes and a little bit of luck to reel in her catch.  What’s that?  Mr Seto, you’re promising to help me catch the man of my dreams?  I’ll over look the fact that you claim to be a demon…

Argh!  Right from the beginning, you know that things aren’t going to end happily for Marie.  I really wanted them too, and I most especially wanted her to give up on her unwise affections for Rudolf.  Falling for the demon would have been a marked improvement over that unhappily married prince.  Why couldn’t Marie see that Rudolf was only looking for an amusing diversion?

Seto is forced not only to watch, but to assist Marie in her race to ruin.  He’s a powerless character, the plaything of Baphomet, a bigger, badder demon than Seto.  Baphomet is energized by the misery of humans, finding delight as their riot of emotions leads to their doom.   He quickly and painfully reminds Seto of his vow to destroy the first human he sees, and now Seto’s regretting his impulsive deal with Baphomet.  Maybe being a prisoner of the book wasn’t so bad after all.

Angel’s Coffin is complete in one volume, and the story is nicely fleshed out.  There’s romance, political intrigue, and even a little action as Marie spirals to meet her fate.  You Higuri’s art is a high point – I like her character designs and find her page layouts fresh and visually engaging.

Grade: B

Rated for Older Teen

Review copy provided by go! comi

After School Nightmare Vol 9 by Setona Mizushiro Manga Review

Title: After School Nightmare Vol 9

Author: Setona Mizushiro

Publisher: go! comi

ISBN: 9781933617701

May Contain Spoilers

OMG!  Why does Setona Mizushiro keep messing with my mind?  Even after nine volumes of After School Nightmare, she still manages to turn everything in her story upside down and leave me wondering what the hell is going on?!

The question as to the knight’s identity was finally revealed, and afterwards, I wondered why I never figured that one out.  It was right there all along, like the bruise in that apple that you didn’t notice when you bought it.  Mashiro must face reality and see that people he once idolized and held to high esteem were really no different from himself, and that they, too, kept pieces of themselves hidden from everyone else.  It was a painful lesson to learn, but since he jumped to conclusions and believed the worst in Sou, it was partially his own fault.

Speaking of facing reality, Sou desperately needs to do just that.  Instead, he’s been enchanted by his own dreams of love and happiness, and he can’t break free of them.  And it’s really creepy.  Sou is the most pathetic, needy character in the whole series.  Mashiro is a normal guy next to Sou.  All this time I thought that Sou would be the one to save Mashiro – now I see that it’s Sou who really needs to be rescued, but will Mashiro’s resolve to do so remain strong? 

I love the chapter illustration of Kureha and Mashiro for chapter 33.  They both look so cute and happy.  Will they ever look that joyous in the story?

Grade: B+

Rated for Older Teen

Review copy provided by go! comi