Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 5 by Nozomu Tamaki Manga Review

 

Title:  Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 5

Author: Nozomu Tamaki

Publisher: Seven Seas

ISBN: 9781934876657

May Contain Spoilers

Akira is on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of the deadly assassins that the vampire lords have unleashed to track him down and kill him.  He’s playing a twisted game with simple rules: whoever kills him can claim Mina as his bride.  What weird courtship rights vampires practice! Akira has only one goal in mind, and that’s staying alive, killing his pursuers, and protecting Mina at all costs!

This was the best volume so far.  The action elements kicked into high gear, and the rapid fire pacing keep the pages turning.  Akira spends most of the volume trying to keep from getting killed, and he’s not getting very many breaks.  Outnumbered and injured, things are definitely not looking good for him when the cavalry rides to the rescue.  His new accomplices are a group of fangless vampire kids who possess an intense loyalty for Mina, and who remember a kindness bestowed on them from Akira. 

I liked the addition of the kids more than I though I would.  They are wise beyond their years, but they look at Akira’s trial as a game.  They know the Bund, with all of its mysteries and secret hiding places, better than anyone, and as they lead Akira from one place to the next, their confidence and sense of adventure drive them forward.  Their presence lightened up the suffocating tension that permeated Akira’s frenzied attempts to stay alive and made the entire episode much more enjoyable for me.  I hope we see more of them in future volumes.

The art was also spot on for this volume.  The lines in the action sequences flowed with a convincing flow of motion.  Muscles tense and bunch during chaotic battles, and there is always a frantic urgency to the fight scenes.  I am not quite so fond of the cover, though, and think that Mina looks a bit anorexic.

I am finding Dance in the Vampire Bund much more enjoyable than I would have ever believed possible.  In addition to the kick ass action, the story is starting to blossom.  The vampire politics are fascinating, and the personal relationships are giving the plot more depth.  I just ordered volume 6, and I can hardly wait to get it.

Grade: B+

[PR] Seven Seas’ Manga Titles come to the Amazon Kindle

Seven Seas’ Manga Titles Come to the Amazon Kindle

(LOS ANGELES, September 9, 2009) – Seven Seas is pleased to announce the release of three of its top-selling original manga series on the Amazon Kindle and through the iPhone/iTouch’s “Kindle for iPhone” application. Amazing Agent Luna Vol. 1-5, Aoi House Vol. 1-2, and Aoi House In Love! Vol. 1-2, along with Christopher Rowley’s Arkham Woods, are now available on the Kindle at the extra low price of $3.50 per volume (200 pages each), making Seven Seas’ Kindle editions the lowest priced manga from any publisher.

“The pricing of our eBooks was a really important point for us as we wanted to make our digital titles affordable. Print editions represent a higher value to today’s consumer, so we decided to price digital editions realistically, and set them several dollars lower than their hard copy counterparts. Digital content should be more of a low cost impulse buy, where you pick something up and can enjoy the heck out of it for a few hours,” says Adam Arnold, Senior Editor with Seven Seas Entertainment. “If Kindle eBooks are successful, then we’ll look into releasing more titles in this format, including some of our best-selling Japanese series.”

Amazing Agent Luna, with more than 75,000 copies in print, is one of Seven Seas’ premiere original manga series. The series features 15-year-old Luna Collins as the perfect secret agent, grown in a lab from the finest genetic material and trained since birth to be the U.S. government’s ultimate espionage weapon. But now, she has been given an assignment that will test her abilities to the max—high school!

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Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 4 by Nozomu Tamaki Manga Review

Title: Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 4

Author: Nozomu Tamaki

Publisher: Seven Seas

ISBN: 9781934876534

May Contain Spoilers

I am always a little conflicted about this title.  One the one hand, it’s a solid action title with delightfully creepy horror elements.  On the other, it’s got a little too much “ick” factor for my delicate reading sensibilities.    Having a heroine who looks like she is about 10 running around naked most of the time is just disturbing.  In this volume, she is even forced to endure the humiliation of a “chastity” test.  I could do without scenes such as that, or the one where Akira is once again confronting an opponent who is completely naked.  Why do the vampires and their ilk feel the need to strip down during the middle of a fight and battle to the death with their bits bouncing about?  If I was in the same position, I would adamantly insist that I retain my clothing, and perhaps a couple of protective layers of chainmail. 

This time around, Mina is on the hot seat.  The only other remaining true blooded vampires all drop in for a visit, and they aren’t the nicest guys around.  We learn that though they are bitter enemies, they have a pact established amongst them.  One of the three will eventually wed Mina, and she will bear a true blood vampire.  Only the desire to preserve the vampire blood lines keeps them all from slaughtering each other, but I would certainly forgive Mina for not keeping her oath on this one.  These guys are creepy!  The fact that they are waiting impatiently for her to mature makes them even worse.  Good thing she’s keeping the little secret of her true form under wraps.

They quickly go from being a minor annoyance to Mina to becoming one of her worst nightmares.  They have decided to place a bet between the three of them, and the winner gets possession of Mina.  Akira is going to determine who wins, or rather, whichever one of their assassins kills him, designates the winner.  Mina is obviously alarmed, because not only will she lose her beloved Akira, but she’s going to be stuck with one of these repulsive creatures until she has a baby.  Ugh.

The subplot is ridiculous, but it sets up some wonderful action scenes for the hapless Akira.  There’s a lot of tension as he is chased, not only by three deadly assassins, but also by vampires looking to gain some power of their own.  Everyone is against him, and he has no idea why!  Talk about getting up on the wrong side of the bed.  Too bad he can’t push the “do over” button and start the day all over again. 

Dance in the Vampire Bund covers ground that I’d prefer not to tread, but I keep reading despite my reservations.  The tense atmosphere and thrilling action keeps me coming back for more.  While several characters are awkwardly proportioned, the art is detailed and attractive, and it keeps the action flowing with a convincing sense of motion and energy.  This series really walks a fine line for me, and I wonder if it will cross it soon, rendering it unreadable for me?

Grade: B

Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 3 by Nozomu Tamaki Manga Review

Title:  Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 3

Author: Nozomu Tamaki

Publisher: Seven Seas

ISBN: 9781934876152

May Contain Spoilers

Writing my thoughts about this title is always kind of tough.  I enjoy it on a certain level, but the art drives me nuts.  All of the female characters have these distractingly large boobs, and all I can think of is how much life would suck for these poor, disfigured gals.  Back aches, perpetual stares, and custom made bras would be in the cards for all of them.  Try jogging when you’re built like that – or playing DDR.  It’s just not going to happen.  No woman should have to go through her manga life with breasts that look like overfilled water balloons.

Enough about the art.  The story is pretty fun, as the vampire factions try to slaughter each other, and disrupt life in Tokyo while they’re at it.  Mina reveals the existence of a third vampire clan, and these guys don’t feel one ounce of loyalty to her.  Not one.  In fact, they want her dead.  Quickly.  And they’re willing to sacrifice some of their own number, and countless scores of humans, to take her out. 

Akira and Yuki have to confront former classmates who were turned into vampires, and it’s not easy for them.  It’s especially difficult for Akira, when he’s ordered to kill one of them to protect the princess.  He may be a big, bad werewolf, but he still has the emotional turmoil of a teenage boy.  He wants to protect Mina, but he also wants to save his friends.  This isn’t always possible, and it’s difficult for him to accept.

There were some shota elements in this volume, but that didn’t bother me nearly as much as the oddly proportioned characters.  I thought the werewolves are beyond cool, and I hope the Elite Eight get a little more page count next time around.

Grade: B

Rated for Older Teens

Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 2 by Nozomu Tamaki Manga Review

Title: Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 2

Author:  Nozomu Tamaki

Publisher: Seven Seas

ISBN: 9781933164816

May Contain Spoilers

This is a tough one to call.  I really want to like it, because the conflicts between humans and vampires have so many possibilities.  I know that I would be a little apprehensive if an entire country of blood-suckers popped up just across the bay, suddenly exposing their pointy white teeth for all to see.  Even Mina’s conflicting emotions and her desire to recapture Akira’s innocently made promise showed a lot of potential.  This volume charged out of the gate, but it stumbled, disappointingly,  about halfway through.  

After establishing her country of vampires, Mina decides that it’s now time to go to school.  Where does the ruler of all vampires find the time to attend high school?  She secretly founded Akira’s high school in the hopes of fostering better vampire/human relations, thinking that if the youth of each race learned about each other, they would learn to live in harmony.  Her plans quickly fall to ruin, as the student council vehemently protests Mina’s transfer there, and even factions of vampires don’t wish to live peacefully with their prey.  In addition, the Japanese government is suddenly experiencing a case of cold feet, what with all of those monsters so close. 

As Mina is forced to play political hardball, Akira sees a side of her that he doesn’t like.  The two argue bitterly, setting the scene for a climatic battle at the end of the book.  This fight is where everything fell apart for me.  Mina and Akira face off, Akira in his werewolf form, and Mina in her true form, which is apparently that of an extremely large breasted, naked woman.  If I was about to engage in a fight to the death, I would want to be clothed.  I would like to have on plate mail, but I am probably too wimpy to move much with it on.  Not Mina.  She poses, leaps, attacks, and even takes time out to give an emotional speech, all while wearing her birthday suit.  She’s the Queen of the vampires!  Can’t she afford some snazzy duds??  I found the entire fight sequence utterly ridiculous, but I understand that I am not the intended target market for this series.

Grade: C

Rated for Older Teen

Afro Samurai Vol 1 by Takashi Okazaki Manga Review

Title:  Afro Samurai Vol 1

Author:  Takashi Okazaki

Publisher: Seven Seas/Tor

ISBN:  9780765321238

May Contain Spoilers

Though I have managed to somehow avoid watching the Afro Samurai anime, I was intrigued when I received this ARC.  I had no real prior knowledge of the plot, and about the only thing I knew about this series was that I hated the lead character’s massive mountain of hair.  It just seems impractical for a kick-ass fighter to have that mound of hair – it’s got to lead to neck strain, and what if it flops in front of his eyes in the middle of a heated sword battle?  Guess I am the only who worries about silly things like that.

After watching his father slaughtered when he was a young boy, Afro, now known as No. 2, seeks nothing but revenge against his father’s murderer.  Wearing the headband that designates him as the second strongest man in the world, he’s a cold-blooded killer with his sights set on Justice, No. 1, the strongest man in the world.  Every step of the way is filled with danger and assassination attempts as Afro follows his path to vengeance.  Will he survive?

Afro Samurai is chock full of action, as page after page of combat flies by.  This would be great – if only I could actually see all of that frantic activity.  The panels are so dark and murky it’s difficult to decipher what’s going on, except for when someone’s head goes flying off into the distance.  Then I knew that No. 2 had defeated his opponent, though I didn’t know exactly how.

The plot is very simple, as Afro heads with impressive determination to destroy his hated enemy.  We don’t know much about him, other than his father, the former No. 1, was defeated by Justice so he could take his headband and become the strongest man in the world.  Possessing the headband also gives one impressive powers, so the Empty Brothers are after it, too.  They want Afro’s headband, as well, so they will be the possessors of its “Divine Powers.”  They keep picking fights with him, slowing him from reaching his ultimate goal of challenging No. 1.  And that’s it – it’s revenge, nothing but revenge.

There is zero character development, and No 2 barely utters a word.  He’s a man of action, not speech.  The world of Afro Samurai is also a bit of a mystery, but it’s a combination of feudal and futuristic elements.  The bad guys communicate with cell phones, festivals feature dance-tastic DJs, and firearms are wielded with alarming nonchalance.  Only small details were revealed, leaving the setting disappointingly barren.

For rapid-fire action, Afro Samurai is hard to beat.  If you like Shaman Warrior, you will love this series.  If you’re hoping for a little more depth to your dismemberments and decapitations, this will leave you cold.  Remember – it’s all about revenge, nothing but revenge.

Grade: B-

Advance reading copy provided by Seven Seas/Tor Publishing

Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 1 by Nozomu Tamaki Manga Review

Title:  Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 1

Author:  Nozomu Tamaki

Publisher:  Seven Seas

ISBN:  9781933164809

May Contain Spoilers

When the Princess of vampires makes a deal with the Japanese government, she sets in motion a wave of conspiracies.  After paying off the national debt, she’s allowed to create a special district off the coastline that will become home to vampires from all over the world.  Not everyone is thrilled about the idea, and Mina becomes the target of assassination.  Will she live long enough to see her dream of a vampire haven realized?

I never would have read this book if the publisher hadn’t been kind enough to send a copy to me.  One glance at the back cover, or a quick flip through the pages, would have had me convinced that this book is not for me.  There’s something unsettling about the prepubescent Mina running around in her panties or clutching a rose to her naked chest.  Making Akira, the teenaged hero of the story, slather light blocking gel on her barely clad body was a bit much, but I bravely ventured forth, hoping that these somewhat disturbing scenes would recede to the background, and the story would become the main focus.  For the most part it did, but there was a lot more fan service than I like. 

Looking beyond what to me are ick worthy scenes, the setting is very intriguing.  Akira, a member of the Earth Clan, is a werewolf, and his family has been serving the vampire rulers for generations.  From the moment Akira was born, his only purpose was to serve Mina.  He’s not exactly thrilled with his lot in life, but with his demanding, honorable father to answer to, he doesn’t really have much choice in the matter.  On his seventeenth birthday, he’s unceremoniously collected from school and taken to the Princess, to begin waiting on her hand and foot.  Yeah, that’s a career path I’m sure he would have rather avoided.

As Mina prepares to hold a press conference announcing to the world her plans for her new piece of property, Tokyo Landfill #0, not everyone is as excited about the prospect of a vampire kingdom sprouting up so close to home.  I’m not so sure how I’d feel about having a pack of blood-sucking immortals with a hearty appetite for partying moving quite that close to me – the noise would probably interrupt my sleep.  Apparently, I am not the only one with misgivings, as several attempts are made to snuff the life out of the deceptively fragile-looking princess. 

The rousing action grabbed my attention, as Akira is thrust in one dangerous situation after another.  Though he grumbles about his new responsibilities, he does his best to keep Mina and her dreams of a vampire kingdom safe.  He’s brave, impulsive, and speaks his mind, even though it lands him in hot water.  The Earth Clan aren’t exactly high on the pecking order in the vampire hierarchy, and some of the more blue-blooded vampires aren’t shy about reminding him of his place.  It’s never easy to be a domestic.

I’m not so sure how I feel about the relationship between Mina and Akira.  Though Mina looks like a child, she almost certainly is much older than him, being immortal and all.  She hasn’t wasted any time wrapping him around her little finger, either.  Akira is overwhelmed by her charisma and his childhood memories of her.  They share embarrassed glances and blushes readily enough, and the danger lurking around every corner only serves to push them closer together.  Still, they make a creepy couple, and I’m having a hard time reconciling Mina’s appearance with who she is – a powerful leader who’s capable of killing without blinking an eye.

Despite my reservations, I liked this volume of Dance in the Vampire Bund, and am looking forward to more of the story.

Grade: B

Rated for Older Teen

Review copy provided by Seven Seas

I, Otaku: Struggle in Akihabara Vol 1 by Jiro Suzuki Manga Review

Title:  I, Otaku: Struggle in Akihabara Vol 1

Author: Jiro Suzuki

Publisher: Seven Seas

ISBN: 9781933164762

May Contain Spoilers

On the exterior, Sota is just your average high school guy.  He’s popular and has a pretty girlfriend, but it’s soon obvious that he hides a terrible secret.  Sota is a closet otaku!  Ever on the hunt for the latest Papico character goods, he’s soon forced to confront this darkness that lurks within him.  After entering Otakudo, the lair of Mano Takuro, he must declare his true self, or be forever denied the Ultra Limited Edition Wonder Digital Dokidoki Doggy Papico figure.  How can he live without it?

Eek!  Dare I admit that I saw reflections of myself nestled within these pages?  I have never gone so far as to outright deny my fandom, but there are definitely times when I’m not as open about it as I could be.  But instead of having the privilege of scouring Akihabara for those exclusive collectibles that I crave, I have traveled far and wide on the world wide web.  Why go out and mingle with real people when you don’t have to?

Keeping his obsession a secret from his girl friend, Eri, and his friends, Sota was traumatized as a youngster and mocked for his love of dolls.  Not wanting to be ostracized and lose his new popularity, Sota obtains his character goods in a covert manner.  One fateful day, when sneaking off to Akihabara, his carefully shielded compulsion is brought out into the light; in order to purchase his Dokidoki Doggy Papico figure, he must admit aloud that he’s an otaku.  When he turns around, there’s Eri!  Darn you, Mano Takuro!  Owner of Otakudo and President of the Closet Otaku Extermination Committee, he’s determined to force closet otaku into the spotlight, so they can live a liberated otaku life.

I, Otaku takes delight in poking fun at fandom, pulling many stereotypes from the darkness and thrusting them under a magnifying glass.  Mano and Eri are at constant odds, as the shop keeper disapproves of 3-dimensionals.  With so many 2-D girls to choose from , why deal with the hassle that a real girl presents?  Sota gets caught up in a lot of mayhem, as he’s torn between Eri and his Papico obsession.  Light- hearted and fun, this book will get maximum mileage with hardcore fans.

Also includes the short story Sweet Fairies Milk and Ichigo Berry.

Grade: B

Rated for Teen

Review copy provided by Seven Seas