Queen of Ragtonia Vol 1 by Chika Shiomi Manga Review

 

Title: Queen of Ragtonia Vol 1

Author: Chika Shiomi

Publisher: Aurora

ISBN: 9781934496572

May Contain Spoilers

This book comes across as a total tease.  It weighs in at only about 150 pages, so the story is just starting to get rolling when you get to the end.  Worse, there is that disheartening little question mark about whether any additional volumes will be released.  In addition, it looks like Chika Shiomi is taking her sweet time releasing new installments of this series.  That’s a bit of a letdown, because it was fun seeing her tackle a fantasy story.  There are still demons, which she seems to have a fondness for, but the setting is strictly in the fantasy realm, complete with displaced princesses, conquered castles, and great big magical swords.

Princess Falna watched helplessly as an evil necromancer and his demon minions killed her family and overran her kingdom.  Left unable to walk after her legs are stolen, she joins forces with Cardus, a giant of a man who also has a bone to pick with the Necromancer.  Wielding the magic sword the Igliese, the two set off in search of their enemy.  In addition to creating havoc and leaving a path of destruction, the Necromancer also steals people’s body parts, turning them into Ragtonia.  Both Falna and Cardus have had bits of themselves stolen away, and they want back what is theirs.  Working together, they just might find the strength to end the terror of the Necromancer.

Right of the bat, Queen of Ragtonia feels different from her other series, because the romance angle is largely missing.  Falna makes a pact with a ghostly warrior and after allowing him to possess her, she finds the strength to face the Necromancer and his demons.  Acting more like a man than a woman, Falna is still haunted by her inability to save her family.  She is plagued with nightmares, because she stood by and did nothing while they were being slaughtered and her kingdom was subdued.  Now everyone is suffering, and she feels responsible for the downfall of her homeland.

Enter Cardus, a carefree villager in search of his stolen eye.  A demon tricked him and made off with it, and now the Necromancer is feeding off of his life force.  The Necromancer gains strength with each body part that is stolen, and he feeds on the life force of all of the helpless victims who have also had their body parts stolen.  When Cardus first meets Falna, he is dismissive of her ability to fight the Necromancer, but it turns out that he needs her with him, or the magical sword Iglieses is useless.  It is only effective if someone from her bloodline is in possession of it, so the two quickly join forces and go necromancer hunting together.

Chika Shiomi’s trademark art carries most of this volume.  I love her refined and detailed her illustrations.  You never have to guess about what’s going on, as all of the action is rendered with clear, clean lines that are as attractive as they are descriptive.  The story doesn’t really pick up stride until the end, and as mentioned before, that is too bad, because I don’t know if I’ll ever get to read more of Queen of Ragtonia.  There is a lot of set up to the story, and the groundwork is just getting laid out before reaching the end of this short volume.  The pace is fairly even, but the crafting of a convincing framework for this type of story takes a while to get the reader ramped up for the upcoming adventure. 

I enjoyed Queen of Ragtonia, but I feel that there are few problems, independent of the book, that need to be solved.  The most glaring of which is whether the US publisher is going to be around to release further installments of the series.  As a stand alone volume, this does not deliver a compelling enough reason to pick it up.  If, however, future volumes were forthcoming, I would be much stronger with my recommendation to give Queen of Ragtonia a try.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by Aurora

Hitohira Vol 2 & 3 by Idumi Kirihara Manga Review

Title: Hitohira Vol 2 & 3

Author: Idumi Kirihara

Publisher: Aurora

ISBN: 9781934496473 & 9781934496534

May Contain Spoilers

Super shy Mugi has to fight her stage fright and help her theater group put on a school play.  She’s been cast as the lead, and the realization that she will soon have to act in front of an auditorium full of people has her freaked out.  How can she possibly be expected to do this?  With her lack of confidence and her timid ways, will the play go on as planned?

Though Hitohira is populated with some fun characters, the plot continues to be rather bland.  I still enjoyed the relationship between Mugi and the extremely demanding Nono.  Once quiet like Mugi, Nono has found confidence and purpose in the theater group.  She wants Mugi to transform into a butterfly, and she keeps pushing her to open up and step forward, to take risks and stop being so passive.  Mugi is full of negativity, and she feels that she just can’t compare to Nono, which leads to tension between all of the members of the theater group. 

Hitohira is mainly about relationships, and how they shape the characters’ perceptions of each other.  There is an interweaving of friendships and rivalries, and as the story progresses, feelings shift and change.  Normally, this would be fascinating stuff, but the personalities involved don’t engage the reader.  Nono is so reserved that it’s hard to sympathize with her, and Mugi is so passive that you just want to shake her.  While the story is about resolving emotions, two of the most prominent figures don’t display enough feelings to really create a sense of connection with them.  While I was reading, I never became fully immersed in the characters, and that’s too bad, because there is so much promise  here for a powerful and moving read.  I like the theme of rising above yourself and living up to your potential, but the restrained presentation was very disappointing.

Grade: C+

Review copies provided by Aurora

Fan Appreciation Sale at Aurora!

Aurora is still holding their fan appreciation sale, and here are links to all of the details.  You can get some awesome books for cheap, cheap, cheap!  I highly recommend Future Lovers and Kiss all the Boys.  You can also preorder May titles!

http://www.deux-press.com/images/booksale/DeuxBooksSale.html

http://www.aurora-publishing.com/images/booksale/aurorasale.html

http://www.luvluv-press.com/images/booksale/luvluvsale.html

Sale over at Aurora Books

I just received an email from Aurora Books, and they are having a sale on their Deux, LuvLuv, and Aurora titles.  February and March titles are $8, and titles published in January and earlier are only 4 bucks!  Send an email to e-tung@aurora-publishing.com for the special pricing.

Don’t know what to get?  I highly recommend Future Lovers, Make Love & Peace, and Yakuza in Love.

Check out their books at Aurora Publishing, LuvLuv Press, & Deux Press!

[PR] Aurora Publishing Announces Borders Exclusive for Chika Shiomi’s Latest Series, Queen of Ragtonia!

Torrance, CA, March 16, 2009 ‹ AURORA PUBLISHING, INC., the innovative manga
publishing company that debuted its first releases in 2007, announced a
BORDERS EXCLUSIVE  for the release of CHIKA SHIOMI’S QUEEN OF RAGTONIA, a
chilling and provocative shojo horror/fantasy series currently running in
Japan.  Filled with suspense, adventure, drama and the emotional
rollercoaster a young princess must undergo when faced with a tragic past
and an uncertain destiny, QUEEN OF RAGTONIA makes its highly anticipated
debut in the United States.  After a string of top-selling hit titles both
in Japan and in the U.S. such as CANON, NIGHT OF THE BEASTS, and YURARA,
CHIKA SHIOMI’S QUEEN OF RAGTONIA Volume 1, rated ³T²(Teen) for ages 13 and
above, will be in BORDERS Bookstores in March 16, 2009 and will retail for
$10.95.

CHIKA SHIOMI’S QUEEN OF RAGTONIA is the noted mangaka’s remake of a
doujinshi (fan comic work) that she created prior to her professional debut as a manga
artist in Japan.  First appearing in the pages of Shodensha’s Mugen
Anthology Gensou Collection under the Japanese title Ragtonia, the fantasy
thriller depicts the riveting story of Princess Falna.  She was the only
member of her kingdom¹’ royal family to escape the ruthless Necromancer’s
bloody attack that took the lives of her family and every one who tried to
protect her.  This turned her into a member of the Ragtonia, a person who
has had a part of their body stolen by the Necromancer. On the brink of
death, Falna is saved when she makes a pact with the spirit of a dead
soldier from her kingdom.  Joining forces with a sword-wielding giant and
possessing the magical demon-busting sword, the Igliese, she begins her
quest to kill the Necromancer, release the Ragtonia and free her country
from horror and destruction.  All the elements of drama, romance, and
adventure that made CHIKA SHIOMI an international success are masterfully
woven together in this compelling new shojo fantasy series.
Read more

[PR]Deux Press picks up Cigarette Kisses

Here’s some great news for BL fans -

Deux Press picks up Cigarette Kisses

Deux Press, the yaoi imprint of Aurora Publishing, has picked up the title Cigarette Kisses by Nase Yamato. Originally, Boysenberry Books, the yaoi imprint of Broccoli Books, was to release this title. However, with Broccoli Books shutting down, the title will be dropped from their list. Lucky for all of the Nase Yamato fans, Deux Press (who is already releasing her Take Me to Heaven in January 2009) was able to acquire the rights to the title, and fans can expect the manga to be released sometime in the second half of 2009.

For more information, visit http://www.deux-press.com

Hitohira Vol 1 by Idumi Kirihara Manga Review

Title:  Hitohira Vol 1

Author:  Idumi Kirihara

Publisher: Aurora

ISBN:  9781934496428

May Contain Spoilers

Mugi is another character that I can really relate to.  She’s very self-conscious, so much so that she can hardly speak in public.  She stutters and stammers in the most painful of ways, making you cringe in sympathy.  What then, is this shy girl doing in the drama club?

Mugi is a high school freshman, and she allows herself to be bullied into joining the drama club.  The club is small, with only a few members, and it’s not even an official school club.  But Nono, the driving force behind the group, is charismatic and passionate about theater, and so is everyone who listens to her plans for the future.  Despite her reservations, Mugi gets swept up in Nono’s enthusiasm for acting, and she begins to find strength in herself with Nono’s support. 

The aspect of this story that I liked the best is how the characters interact with each other.  Mugi is quiet and shy, and when she’s forced to speak before others, it’s like she’s a scratched record – she just can’t get the words out of her mouth in a coherent way.  There are times, however, when the words just fly out of her; when she discovered that she was accepted to Kumataka Art Academy, her exclamation of delight captures Nono’s attention.  Here’s a girl with a powerful voice, that will project and captivate audiences.  If only Nono knew how much work it was going to take to get Mugi to loosen up enough to deliver her lines in public!

I like how Nono’s love of theater ensnares Mugi, and makes her try to do something outside of her comfort zone.  As Mugi struggles to make worthwhile contributions to the club, Nono encourages her, believing that she can get over her fear of public speaking.  Nono is the type of person who believes that anything is possible – she makes up her mind that she’s going to do something, and then she gets it done.  Even with formidable obstacles that she is forced to overcome, she keeps her positive outlook and strives to achieve her goals.

The little drama club gets sucked into a little drama of its own.  The official drama club, from which Nono had defected, constantly badgers these drama wannabes, stirring up conflict that Mugi observes, but is never really caught up in.  Nono and Mirei, leader of the other drama club, were once friends, but are now bitter rivals.  Mirei doesn’t share Nono’s positive outlook on life, and she’s nurturing some resentment because Nono won’t stop acting.  A showdown is brewing between the two clubs, and which ever gets the most votes after their performances during the school festival will be the only theater group to remain – the other will be eliminated!

Hitohira’s slow-pacing won’t be for everyone, but I enjoyed Mugi’s attempts to free herself from her shell and make a few friends in the process.

Grade: B

Rated for Teen

Review copy provided by Aurora

Nephilim Vol 2 by Anna Hanamaki Manga Review

Title:  Nephilim Vol 2

Author:  Anna Hanamaki

Publisher:  Aurora

ISBN:  9781934496275

May Contain Spoilers

This volume kind of lost me.  Sadly.  I was looking forward to another silly romp with the gender changing Abel and the shameless womanizer, Guy.  Instead, there was a mishmash of elements introduced to the series, and none of them were very convincing.

Abel has been searching tirelessly for Guy, who sacrificed himself to save her.  For a year she has looked high and low for him, refusing to believe that he could be dead.  His body was never found, and despite how unlikely it seems, she’s willing to spend the rest of her days looking for him.  She loves him, and wants to marry him.  It’s almost enough to make even the most jaded manga reader cry.

During her travels, she comes across another Nephilim, Luca.  Luca’s in a bad way, a prisoner at a brothel, where she’s abused and treated like an animal.  Abel can’t turn her back on one of her own kind, and she attempts to rescue Luca.  What Abel doesn’t know is that a secret organization, LoGuE, was already working on a plan to spring Luca, and Abel’s interference almost foils their rescue mission.

Now, this is where the tale went awry for me.  Guy is a member of this secret organization, and instead of a happy reunion, Abel stumbles into a maze of confusion.  The beautiful Loraine, one of the LoGuE leaders, gets along a little too well with Guy, and Guy isn’t exactly up-front about their relationship.  While this new twist could have been interesting, it took a backseat to the Nephilim rescues, which gave Guy a chance to flex his muscles while saving the suddenly helpless Abel.  Though Guy did look gorgeous on several occasions, that didn’t make up for the flimsy plot or the lack of attention given to the love triangle that is interfering with Abel’s dreams of a happily ever after. 

Despite some occasionally awkward proportions, it’s the art that kept me the most interested.  Guy is hot, especially when his lanky frame is draped with that awesome jacket of his.  Loraine wasn’t chopped liver either, and once again, it was her wardrobe that made the woman.  Next to her, Abel faded into obscurity.  In the trendy world of Nephilim, Abel’s attire just didn’t make the cut.

Though I was disappointed with this volume, I admit that I’m curious  to learn the fate of Abel and Guy’s romance.  Hopefully the next installment will spend a little more time on that, and less on rushing about trying to create a sense of suspense.

Grade: C

Rated for Older Teen

Review copy provided by Aurora