Yurara Vol 2 by Chika Shiomi Manga Review


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Title:  Yurara Vol 2

Author:  Chika Shiomi

Publisher:  Viz

ISBN:  9781421513515

May Contain Spoilers

Yurara is back, and she’s just as confused as ever over her feelings for class clown Mei.  While trying to sort out her emotions, she’s targeted by a ghostly stalker with pervy thoughts on his mind.  After she’s scolded by Mei for being so careless, Yako confides that Mei’s first love was pulled off of a roof to her death by a wicked spirit.  Now Yurara can’t help but wonder what Mei’s first love was like.  Is she jealous?  Has the unbelievable happened? Has she fallen in love with Mei??

This is a fun read.  The characters are engaging and their constant bickering is amusing. Mei seemed a little more mature in this volume, but maybe I’m just starting to like him better.  Though he still walks around with a smile on his face, a more somber Mei slowly emerged during the book.  He makes no secret of his attraction for Yurara, but she doubts his sincerity, even as she begins to develop feelings for him.  I was a little disappointed now that it seems as though Yurara and Mei might be hooking up so quickly; I was hoping that there might be a love triangle to untangle between the three leads.  Though Yako seems to be drawn to Yurara, she only has eyes for Mei. 

The chapters are mostly episodic, except for the short story arc dealing with Mei’s old flame, Miss Miki.  While I usually enjoy longer, more complicated storylines, the approach to this series makes a nice break from the sprawling titles that I’ve been reading.  The plot is instantly accessible, and the pacing of this volume was better than the first.  The introduction of Mei’s family, as well as Yurara’s parents, helped to round out their backgrounds and explain a little about their personalities.  Mei comes from a family of flirtatious men, so how could be help but be anything else? Yurara’s mother has come to, if not understand her daughter’s strange behavior, as least accept it, even while her timid father is totally creeped out by it.  Yeah for moms!

Chika Shiomi proves again that she’s a capable artist, drawing incredibly handsome men and a cute heroine.  Her action scenes are exciting, her illustrations exhibiting a sense of motion and suspense.  She uses large drawings to their full advantage, grabbing the readers attention and keeping it focused on the panels as the action explodes across the pages.

Grade: B+

Rated for Older Teen

[PR] Newtype USA Goes Gaga for The Story of Saiunkoku!


Exclusive cover and feature on the sizzling new anime series

HOUSTON, August 30, 2007-Newtype USA, the top anime magazine in North
America, leads off the fall anime season with a blast of beautiful
characters, romantic entanglements and political drama with its
exclusive cover and feature on The Story of Saiunkoku. Already a hit
with both male and female viewers, Saiunkoku takes its royal setting and
infuses it with enough modern drama and action to satisfy all kinds of
fans-and Newtype USA has the scoop on what makes it so special!

But that’s not all! The September 2007 issue has another incredible
exclusive-a behind-the-scenes tour of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya,
including in-depth interviews with the cast and crew! Plus, Newtype USA
delivers the goods on other hot shows you’re watching right now, along
with a sneak preview of the latest shows out only in Japan. Whether you
want the skinny on stateside releases or a sneak-peek at what’s hot in
Japan, Newtype USA has got you covered!

September also comes stuffed with stupendous extras, including a DVD
with three full anime episodes: Xenosaga, Red Garden and Ramen Fighter
Miki. The pullout poster stars the gorgeous Misaki Nakahara from Welcome
to the NHK, and manga maniacs will adore the latest installment of
CLAMP’s KOBATO, inserted right into the middle of September’s issue!

Also inside the September issue:
*        Features on Mushi-Shi, Shin chan and Welcome to the NHK
*        Sneak preview of 9 new shows playing only in Japan!
*        The latest on the Evangelion movies
*        Naruto: Rise of a Ninja – best anime game ever?
*        More features! .hack//Roots and My-Otome
*        Con coverage blowout: Is your cosplay pic in this issue?
*        Review crazy! Every new anime DVD and manga reviewed!
*        The official art of Gunbuster 2

Newtype USA Vol. 6, Issue 9 is available September 1, 2007

About Newtype USA:
Newtype USA is the official English-language version of Newtype, Japan’s
#1 source for information about anime and manga.  Newtype USA includes
all the best Japanese content translated, plus loads of original U.S.
material: anime, manga, music, game, and toy reviews, feature articles,
director interviews, artist profiles, and regular columns by industry
experts, tastemakers and deep-cover insiders. Newtype USA also includes
awesome bonus gear, such as a centerfold poster, a manga (comic) insert
and an exclusive bonus DVD. For more information, visit

Beauty Pop Vol 5 by Kiyoko Arai Manga Review

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Title:  Beauty Pop Vol 5

Author:  Kiyoko Arai

Publisher:  Viz

ISBN:  9781421510118

May Contain Spoilers

When Ochiai reveals that Narumi’s father was never able to defeat Seiji Koshiba in hairstyling competitions, Narumi is determined that he won’t suffer from the same fate in his contests against Kiri.  Kiri’s more interested in scarfing down the expensive desserts that Ochiai brings to her as a bribe to join the Scissors Project.  Kanako soon begins to suspect that Ochiai’s interest in Kiri goes beyond her haircutting skills, and she feels betrayed by her friend.  Will Kanako be able to put aside her jealousy and maintain her friendship with Kiri?

I had to mark this volume down a little because I just couldn’t buy into the whole kidnapping storyline.  This series works best when it’s silly and the characters’ personalities are clashing to comedic effect.  While the overall tone of the confrontation was more light-hearted than life-threatening, I just couldn’t buy into it.  Kiri showed that she’ll do anything for her friends, and Chisami’s case of mistaken identity caused a chuckle, but overall, the entire foray into felonies felt rather flat.  It was only an excuse for Kanako and Kiri to mend their slowly fraying relationship. 

Things picked up again when we finally learn about Kiri’s fatal flaw.  She, the hairstylist supreme, can’t draw worth a lick.  Her sketches are so bad, people think that a small, uncoordinated child produced her awful works of art.  Narumi latches onto her weakness, taking a great deal of amusement from his rival’s bitter failure.  After Kiri’s art assignment goes missing, she frantically tries to hunt the overdue project down.  In the process, she learns forgotten moments from her past, and Narumi is left with a bitter pill to swallow.  Will he ever be able to defeat Kiri?

While I find it difficult to understand how Kiri could forget so many fragments of her past, I did enjoy her search for the drawing, and Iori’s misunderstanding of the situation.  I loved his response at the conclusion of the Kiri’s scavenger hunt – “Me don’t know what is going on anymore! Emily!”  While he and Narumi are over-reacting to the situation, as usual, Kei just wants snacks.

This journey through the world of Beauty Pop wasn’t as smooth as previous volumes, though the book was still entertaining.  It just didn’t have the same sparkle of past installments.  At least give us another hairstyling battle!

Beauty Pop Vol 6 hits stores in December

Grade: B-

Rated for Teen

An Early Look at Yakitate!! Japan Vol 7 by Takashi Hashiguchi Manga Review

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Title:  Yakitate!! Japan Vol 7

Author:  Takashi Hashiguchi

Publisher:  Viz

ISBN:  9781421509242

May Contain Spoilers

Kawachi and Suwabara are still elbow deep in flour, battling it out for third place in the Pantasia Rookie Tournament!  With his new ‘do and his extraordinary singing bread, Kawachi thinks he’s got the contest in the bag.  But wait!  Suwabara is cooking up something extra special, too.  He’s hard at work whipping up French bread so good that it dances! 

The final stages of the Rookie Tournament are wrapped up with Hashiguichi’s trademark wackiness.  Suwabara’s dancing bread resembled a pile of dog doo, or a snake, if it’s more to your liking, with it’s coiled rolls of quivering crust.  Kawachi, in his quest for victory, perfected the art of tuneful baking, though the judges and contest observers thought it chirped rather than sang.  Kuroyanagi has a nonsensical flashback to his school years in America and his buddy, Brad Pitt, er, Kidd.  How this had anything to do with judging a bread baking contest is beyond me, but it moved Kuroyan to tears.  Even Zatch Bell makes a special guest appearance, and again, it has nothing to do with bread.  Nothing!

Intrigue is set into motion, as Yukino and Kanmuri, both with their own agendas, begin plotting the fate of the Pantasia chain.  Yukino is manipulating stocks and her mushy-minded grandfather, while Kanmuri is betting the farm on the next bake-off, the Monaco Cup.  Still reeling from the loss of his research lab, Kanmuri wants to stop the vile Yukino in her tracks, and prevent her from selling Pantasia out to rival St Pierre’s. I like the addition of Kanmuri to the South Tokyo branch; he’s hard-working, smart, and analytical, and doesn’t waste any time taking charge and trying to steer the rest of the lackadaisical crew in a more profitable direction. 

Kazuma, Suwabara, Kawachi, and Kuroyan soon jet off to France for a month of training in preparation for the looming Monaco Cup.  The author takes the opportunity to toss some more off the wall characters into the plot.  The Kayser group, a bunch of weirdly bird-beaked bakers, are the next obstacles to victory.  Scoffing at the Japanese bakers inferior “Hand of the Sun,” they arrogantly display their “Hands of the Goddess.”  I thought this was one of the funniest panels in the book, as our heroes stand off against the intimidatingly shrouded Kaysers, fingers whipping wildly.  What unconventional baking methods will our craftsmen cook up in the next nail-biting contest?

Yakitate!! Japan Vol 7 should arrive in bookstores September 11

Grade:  B-

Rated for Older Teen

Review copy provided by Viz

A Peek Inside the September 2007 Issue of Shojo Beat

I’m going to focus on the newer series in this issue, and touch on some of the features.  Yuu Watase contributed an original cover illustration featuring Night from Absolute Boyfriend for this issue.  I hope that other artists can be convinced to produce more original cover artwork; it makes it seem like we aren’t just getting the leftovers from the Japanese market.

There was a disturbing article about defacing a book to make a book purse, but I couldn’t bring myself to read it.  Cut up a book?  To make a fashion accessory??  Sacrilege! 

In addition to the usual articles on fashion and cultural trends, I enjoyed the glimpse into a Japanese arcade, and would like to see expanded coverage in a future issue.  I love video games, so it’s always fun catch a peek at popular games that will never show up on our shores. 

Fall in Love Like a Comic by Chitose Yagami – I was looking forward to this preview chapter.  The story is ridiculous, but it didn’t take itself too seriously.  Rena is a high school student, and she’s also a professional mangaka.  Nobody except her best friend knows about her secret occupation, and because her comics are a little risque, she wants to keep it that way.  When she runs into gorgeous Tomoya Okita, she gets so flustered that she drops the rough draft for her latest manga chapter.  Will he keep her secret, too?

Rena has never had a boyfriend, and when even her editor suggests that falling in love will add depth to her work, Rena decides to get a boyfriend.  It’s all for the sake of her art, after all!  When she retrieves her art from Tomoya, she finds herself asking him to go out with her.  It’s all extremely silly and focuses on Rena’s humorous over-exaggerations.  With Chitose Yagami’s high-energy illustrations and super-deformed heroine, this would make a great book to take to the beach or read while on vacation.  It’s all eye-candy, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

Grade: B

Honey and Clover by Chica Umino – Yuta Takemoto is an art student, and he lives in a ramshackle student housing unit.  Other residents include Takumi Mayama, who seems the most normal, and Shinobu Morita, who disappears for weeks at a time and returns with food and a pocketful of money.  When Yuta meets Hagumi Hanamoto, a gifted freshman, is it love at first sight?

Though I don’t care for the scratchy art style, these two chapters were really funny.  When Morita glimpses Hagu, he’s convinced she’s a koropokkur (like a gnome), and begins shooting pictures of her.  While Yuta’s affection for Hagu is manifested by doe-eyed stares, Morita secretly enshrines her on a koropokkur website, complete with revenue generating links.  The first two chapters are completely off the wall. Hopefully the rest of the series keeps up the frantic trend.

Grade: B+

Sand Chronicles by Hinako Ashihara – I missed the beginning chapters, but had no problem following along with this story or connecting with the characters.  In fact, of the newer series,  it was my favorite.  Maybe being a little older myself, I could really relate to Ann’s mother, and her inability to accept that her dreams had turned to dust.  Having made her one most heartfelt wish, and watching it unravel around her, she lacked the strength to gather herself back together and focus on another way to make her dreams come true.  It was sad, and having such a vulnerable mother must have been difficult for Ann.  I’m looking forward to seeing where Hinako Ashihara takes this story. 

Grade: A

Shojo Beat is rated for Older Teen

Review copy provided by Viz

An Early Look at Moon Child Vol 8 by Reiko Shimizu Manga Review

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Title:  Moon Child Vol 8

Author:  Reiko Shimizu

Publisher:  CMX

ISBN:  978140128325

May Contain Spoilers

Jimmy’s vision doesn’t turn out quite the way she thinks; Gil Owen pushes Art out of harm’s way and gets hit by the bus in his place.  Art is beset by guilt, and he agrees to go to Russia, thinking that taking the job Gil’s offered to him will repay for his selfless act.  In the hospital with a broken leg, Teruto, in Gil’s body, gloats now that his plans are coming together.  With Jimmy and Art in Russia, he can rid Seth of all competition, so Seth can mature and become a woman!

Teruto is so creepy!  When Art takes Jimmy to visit the ailing Gil Owen, Jimmy is terrified of the injured man.  He tried to strangle her, and she still doesn’t understand why.  Teruto knows Jimmy’s weakness for sweets, and he gives her a piece of cake so that he can have a little fun with the helpless girl.  He uses his powers to cause her to see wriggling worms crawling on her cake in a ploy to get Art to leave the two of them alone.  Reeling from Teruto’s assault, Jimmy begins to remember their past life on the moon.

Teruto is one seriously messed up guy.  Through a flashback to the moon, we learn that on her deathbed, Sara beseeched Teruto to help raise Seth and Jimmy.  Because he was infertile, like Miralda and Sara, it was his duty to care for them so that one of them could mature.  He’s then placed in the position of having to protect and provide for the weaker Jimmy and Seth.  All three of them were sheltered and every need was attended to by their guardians, and now those tasks were thrust onto Teruto’s reluctant shoulders.  I think the keening of the dying fish made him loose what little of his mind that he had left.  I’d like to feel sorry for him, but he made Reiko Shimizu draw a cake full of disgusting worms, which I happened to look at while I was eating. Yuck!  No sympathy for you!

After informing Shonach that he’s going to accompany Art to Russia, Jimmy is confused by her conflicting emotions.  Her whole heart belongs to Art, and she chooses him over Shonach, yet she has feelings for Shonach, too.  Jimmy realizes that she’s been taking him for granted, and that she can no longer go to him for comfort.  It’s not fair to Shonach, and the loss stings bitterly.  There are still quite a few volumes to go, so there’s plenty of time for Jimmy to come to her senses and hook up with Shonach instead of the disagreeable Art.  Well, I can always keep hoping…

Moon Child Vol 8 should hit stores September 19

Grade: A-

Rated for Teen

Review copy provided by CMX