7 Billion Needles Vol 1 by Nobuaki Tadano Manga Review

 

Title: 7 Billion Needles Vol 1

Author: Nokuaki Tadano

Publisher: Vertical

ISBN: 978-1934287873

 

May Contain Spoilers

I have been wondering why everyone seems to want to read this manga series.  I had no idea what it was about, and when I received a copy,  the cover certainly piqued my interest.  There’s a terrified girl on the cover, with a disintegrating skeleton right next to her.  What is up with that?  And the name – what is up with the name?  I had to know, so the book was moved right to the top of my TBR stack.

This is another wow! title.  I had no expectations for it, and once I started reading it, the rest of the world faded into background, not unlike when protagonist Hikaru cranks up her music to isolate herself from her surroundings.  She is at first hard to like, and she has mastered the art of appearing indifferent and uncaring.  About anything.  That’s easy to understand, when you learn that her parents have just died, and she’s now living with her relatives.  They are trying to make her feel welcome and at home in her new environment, but she just isn’t having any of that.  She does everything possible to stay distant from everyone, and  you can’t help but feel a twinge of pity for her.

To totally complicate her life,  Hikaru has been possessed by an alien who calls himself Horizon.  Horizon has been tracking a killer named Maelstrom for time beyond count.   Maelstrom is a merciless murderer who has left planets lifeless in his wake.  Horizon is frantic to find his enemy’s host before life on Earth is wiped out.  Hikaru doesn’t want to get involved and remains unmoved by the plight of her unwelcome companion, until a most unlikely thing happens; Hikaru makes a friend, and Maelstrom threatens to eat her.  Watch out when Hikaru lets loose, because she kicks ass!

This is a suspenseful, intense book.  I love the complex and detailed art, and how clearly the action is rendered.  There are lots of scary things happening, as Horizon urges Hikaru to help find Maelstrom before everyone is dead and it’s too late to stop the monster.  What I enjoyed best, though, is how skillfully Nobuaki Tadano develops Hikaru’s character.  At first unable to interact with her peers, she is very protective of herself.  Nothing is ever going to hurt her again, especially if she never allows herself to care about anything.  After she is drawn into the hunt for Maelstrom, she finds that she can’t remain emotionally isolated.  It’s impossible to not care about anything, and by the end of this introductory volume, it’s impossible to not care for Hikaru.  Oh, volume two, it will be a long wait until November!

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher

[PR] Vertical and Morning Go to ComicCon

Vertical and Morning Go to ComicCon

When Felipe Smith left the U.S. he was already an accomplished comic artist. Having won numerous awards for his work before landing in Tokyo the man had nothing prove. But after taking on the extremely competitive and demanding Japanese comic industry, Mr. Smith has proven that he is just beginning to grow as an artist and storyteller.

His Japanese debut Peepo Choo made an instant splash when it launched back in 2008, rocking the manga scene with his original designs and his bigger than life characters. While his tale of culture clash challenged even veteran comic critics, there was no doubt in their minds that Felipe had mastered the art of manga presentation. Now Peepo Choo stands along side works from such luminaries as Moyoco Anno, Takehiko Inoue, and Naoki Urasawa published in Japan’s premiere seinen (men’s) comic anthology Morning.

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Chi’s Sweet Home Vol 1 & 2 by Konami Kanata Manga Review

Title: Chi’s Sweet Home Vols 1 & 2

Author: Konami Kanata

Publisher: Vertical

May Contain Spoilers

Kyaa! What a cute series!  Chi is a playful little kitten who gets lost one day when she’s out and about with her mother and her siblings.  She’s fortunate to be found by Yohei Yamada and his mother, who feel sorry for her and take her home with them.  Only problem; their apartment doesn’t allow pets, and the super is a super busybody.  The Yamadas agree to keep Chi long enough to find her a good home, even though it means breaking one of the rules of their lease.  Silly people! Did they really think they would be able to part with Chi once she moved in and claimed their territory for her own?

This is a simple title that is told through short, episodic chapters.  The magic isn’t necessarily in the story, which is uber-cute, but in the art.  Konami Kanata’s illustrations are more cartoon-like, but the characters are so expressive and charming.  There is never a doubt about what Chi is thinking, even when a panel has just her head.  There is a depth of emotion conveyed from just her eyes or the shape of her mouth.  You instantly know that she’s scared of dogs, hates the vet, and loves tuna.  There’s not much dialog, but there doesn’t need to be – the story follows Chi as she explores her surroundings and discovers the world around her.

Short on dialog but big on emotion, Chi’s Sweet Home will appeal to the animal lover in everyone.  Even if you don’t like cats, you won’t be able to resist Chi.  I dare you to not smile when she is distracted by a bright, shiny object, or playing with a plastic bag!

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Twin Spica Vol 1 by Kou Yaginuma Manga Review

 

Title: Twin Spica Vol 1

Author: Kou Yaginuma

Publisher: Vertical

ISBN: 9781934287866

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Vertical’s website:

In a Tokyo of the not-too-distant future a young girl looks up to the stars with melancholy in her heart and hope in her eyes. Thirteen-year-old Asumi Kamogawa’s life has been tied to those stars; her future may very well be among them. And she is not alone… Asumi is one of many young people with ambitions to some day head off to space for Japan’s first manned mission.

Before liftoff, like any true astronaut she must show the right stuff and overcome odds to pass numerous physical and mental trials if she even wants to be considered in the running for a rare spot in the elite Tokyo Space School.

Wow!  This book kind of snuck up on me, and I wasn’t really expecting much from it.  I’m not all that wild about space travel, and though the cover is cute in an unassuming way, it didn’t shout out to me to read it.  Once I glanced at the first interior illustration, however, my entire opinion changed.  The drawing of Asumi reading a book about stars with a contented smile on her face made me want to know more about her.  After spending the length of this volume with her, I am hooked.  Totally and completely hooked.  The strength of the story comes from the solid, likable characters, and the charming, engaging illustrations.

Asumi is captivated by the stars, and she always has been.  She longs to journey amongst them, learning their secrets and treasuring their beauty.  Her desire to travel into space drives her to always try her hardest with her studies, and while her determination fills her with hope and fuels her dreams, it also causes her a great deal of sadness and trepidation.  She is afraid of how her widowed father will react when he learns that she wants to go to Tokyo to attend school.  Dreams of space exploration have already robbed him of his wife; how will he feel now that the heavens have cast their siren spell on his daughter?

Twin Spica tells a tale of wonder and the magic of discovery.  It is the story of chasing dreams, and the heartbreak and joy that take you to the end of your goals. Asumi is facing the greatest challenge of her life, but she is embracing the hardships along with the triumphs.  Her eagerness is infectious and her emotions resonate throughout the book.  With a winning combination that mixes winning personalities and engaging art, Twin Spica delivers a solid, entertaining read.

Grade: A

Review copy provided by Vertical

[PR] Countdown to Twin Spica’s Launch Begins

Twin Spica, the thoughtful manga by renowned comic artist Kou Yaginuma, is getting ready for liftoff later this spring, and Vertical, Inc. wants readers to join in on the countdown to launch as we unveil one of the stories that helped start it all nearly a decade ago. Starting today manga readers can preview Yaginuma’s 30-page-long short story Asumi at Vertical’s official Twin Spica webpage (http://www.vertical-inc.com/twinspica/index.html).

Published originally in 2000, the Asumi short reveals many secrets of the world of Twin Spica.  Shedding light on the bitter sweet past of Twin Spica’s main character Asumi Kamogawa, with a focus on a younger version of the titular character, Asumi takes readers back to when our heroine first met her guardian astronaut. 

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The Cat in the Coffin by Mariko Koike Novel Review

Title:  The Cat in the Coffin

Author: Mariko Koike

Publisher: Vertical

ISBN: 9781932234121

May Contain Spoilers

When Masayo is offered the opportunity of a lifetime, the aspiring artist just can’t turn it down.  Though it sounds too good to be true, she packs up her bags and heads off to Tokyo, where she will be a live-in housekeeper for artist Goro Kawakubo.  In addition, she will also tutor his young daughter, Momoko, a quiet, withdrawn little girl whose only friend is a pure white cat named Lala.  When the beautiful Chinatsu captures Goro’s attention, will the peaceful tranquility of the Kawakubo household be destroyed forever?

The Cat in the Coffin is an intriguing coming of age story about a twenty year old woman from the rustic town of Hakodate.  Masayo leaves everything that is familiar behind when, in 1955, she boards a train to Tokyo to work for Goro Kawakubo.  Though she will be working as a live-in housekeeper and a tutor for his young daughter, she has really taken the job because he has promised to give her a weekly art lesson.  From a humble background, the prospect of chasing her dream of becoming an artist is too tantalizing to ignore.  Masayo longs for more out of life than the path that had currently been available to her; she wants to do more than help her mother run her modest flower shop.

Once in Tokyo, Masayo meets the charismatic Goro, a cultured man in his thirties.  A widower, Goro doesn’t have the time to devote to domestic chores, but he wants a feminine presence in his house for his daughter.  He is also the life of the party, and throws soirées at his home every weekend.  He is a complicated individual, highly sought after for his wealth and quick-wit.  It’s not long before Masayo has fallen entirely under his charming spell.   The naive girl never stood a chance against him, and she is way out of her league with her employer, but that doesn’t stop her from foolishly daydreaming about him, or wishing that they could live together in happiness with his daughter Momoko.

Momoko , like her father, is charming and attractive.  Masayo can’t resist Momoko’s charms, either, and she spends her first months in the Kawakubo household trying to earn her affections.  Momoko is a somber child, a girl who has withdrawn into a protective cocoon since the death of her mother.  Her only companion is the white cat, Lala, and Momoko eschews human contact.  She is a challenge Masayo can’t resist, and the young woman expends a lot of energy crafting ways to break through the barriers Momoko has erected around herself.

As one day turns into the next, Masayo falls into a comfortable rhythm in the Kawakubo household.  She lives for both Goro and Momoko, cooking up elaborate dreams where the three of them live together forever.  When the unthinkable happens, and the scheming Chinatsu tries to worm her way into Goro’s heart, both Momoko and Masayo struggle against the inevitable.  Chinatsu is elegant and beautiful, possessing the forceful personality of a tsunami.  Once she arrives on the scene, nothing is as it was, and nothing can ever go back to the way it was.  She has changed the pattern of the Kawakubo house as violently as an earthquake.

Through all of this, the white cat, Lala, stalks the halls and fields surrounding the family estate.  Lala is as demanding a presence as the humans in The Cat in the Coffin, and she is the catalyst for disaster and heartbreak.  After the death of her mother, Momoko has embraced the cat as her surrogate mother, and the two of them are never far apart.  They share a deep and intense understanding of each other, and even Masayo finds herself becoming attached to the feline.  Before long, the young girl, woman, and cat are constant companions, roaming the barley fields and sharing dreams and adventures on the way.  When Chinatsu blows into their lives, their serenity is destroyed forever.

Once I picked up The Cat in the Coffin, I found it very difficult to put down.  The tale is a little slow paced, as the author builds tension for an explosive conflict that shatters the lives of all of the characters.  No one is left immune, tranquility is destroyed, and nothing that Masayo does makes any difference in the end.  She is given a shot at a dream, it’s within her grasp, but she can never hold it or control it, not even for a moment.  She is almost as childish as Momoko in her outlook, where fantasy and reality clash uncomfortably, forcing her to reassess herself and everyone around her.  Jealousy is a destructive force that can’t be dodged, and it rips through the fabric of Masayo’s existence.

This is a study into how destructive love can be.  Selfish love corrupts and taints, leading to unhappiness and self-destruction.  Through it all, Masayo gently narrates the biggest regret of her life.  The events that take place in the Kawakubo house leave their mark on her, one that years of self-recrimination can ever heal.  Masayo’s descent from idealistic young woman to jaded recluse is a train wreck of emotions, one that is compelling and hard to ignore.  Even given the knowledge at the beginning of the journey that tragedy lurks around the corner, you can’t turn away from the disaster. 

Grade: B

Review copy provided by Vertical Inc

[PR] Vertical Vednesday – A Sporting Chance

Wow, the press releases are flying into the mailbox fast and furiously this evening. If you’re lucky enough to live near NY, you can chat it up with Ed and talk about manga till your heart is content.  People will even listen to you while you ramble on about your favorite series.  You don’t even get that kind of attention at home!   

For Immediate Release

Vertical Vednesday – A Sporting Chance

In the pantheons of manga there is one genre that sets itself apart from the rest—sports. One of the oldest genres and arguably the most beloved, sports manga is often referred to as the champion of genres by editors and artists alike. Yet, despite its many accolades and international respect, sports titles have not yet hit a homerun with North American readers.

Sports titles like Tomorrow`s Joe and Aim for the Ace helped lay down a foundation for Japanese pop culture back in the 60`s and 70`s. More than a decade later, Captain Tsubasa introduced manga to Europe and Latin America. And yet to this very day, many a sports manga contender has attempted to reach the Major Leagues of Comic-dom only to be relegated to playing a specialist role on bookshelves across America.

This Vednesday night Vertical’s own ballers will take to the field to pitch innings of unbeatable manga wisdom. Tackling everything from national pastimes to the new emergence of competitive eating comics, we will make a case as to why sports manga should be the undisputed world heavyweight comics champion!

Location: Books Kinokuniya New York (Café Zaiya, 2nd floor), 1073 Avenue of the Americas
Date: July 8, 2009 (Wednesday), 6:25pm-8:00pm

Drinks and snacks will be provided.
Please RSVP by emailing ed@vertical-inc.com

[PR] Vertical Vednesday Chapter 3 – Yanki doodle Dandy

Vertical, please take your book club on tour so I can attend, too.

Vertical Vednesday Chapter 3 – Yanki doodle Dandy

What do Yanki and Yankees have in common?  Clearly there is a collective sense of passion for community and brotherhood that cannot be measured by numerical means.  Many Japanese Yanki and 18th Century American patriots also have been known for their hair as much as their willingness to take to arms…But that is where the similarities end.

Modern day Yanki are a mix of old-skool rebel charm and toughness wrapped in hip-hop threads and punk rock bling.  Being a Yanki is as much about the attitude as it is the outfit, and after being sent to reform school by PTAs and mass media for more than a decade these fictional thugs for life are once again taking the J-Pop scene by storm.

In the latest edition of Vertical Vednesday our Japanese pop-culture themed book club will carefully take on the world of Yanki in manga, prose and film.  From the bad boys of Be-Bop High School to Hiroshi Takahashi`s modern day rebels without a clue, Yanki have repeatedly shown why nice guys always finish last.

Location:

Books Kinokuniya New York, 1073 Avenue of the Americas

Date: June 24, 2009 (Wednesday), 6:30-8:00~

Drinks and snacks will be provided.

Please RSVP by emailing ed@vertical-inc.com