Graphic Novel Review: Vinland Saga V 1 by Makoto Yukimura

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I have been interested in Vinland Saga since the license was announced for US publication.  When it came out, however, I balked at the sticker price.  $19.99 per volume!  Instead, I requested the first two books from the library, and once I received them, I understood the price point.  These are hardcovers, and they are 2 in 1 omnibus releases, clocking in at over 450 pages.  After sitting down with the first volume, I find the price completely reasonable; the end product is beautiful, the pages are nice, thick paper, and the binding is rock solid.  The translation rocks, too!  All in all, Vinland Saga Book One is worth every penny!

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PR: Viz Media Releases Omnibus Editions of High School Debut!

{ED. Note: This is one of my all-time favorite manga series, and now you can read it in new 3-in-1 editions!}

VIZ MEDIA RELEASES NEW 3-IN-1 OMNIBUS EDITIONS OF HIT SHOJO MANGA SERIES

HIGH SCHOOL DEBUT

New Editions Of A Girl’s Endearing And Hilarious Quest For Love Will Include Side Stories Never Before Published In English

San Francisco, CA, February 3, 2014 – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), the largest distributor and licensor of manga and anime in North America, has announced the release of a new 3-in-1 omnibus edition for the manga (graphic novel) series HIGH SCHOOL DEBUT on February 4th.

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Guest Post: The Cover Design Process by MK Reed

Today I’m thrilled to be part of The Cute Girl Network blog tour.  Check out what MK Reed has to say about the cover creation process for this graphic novel by Greg Means, MK Reed, and Joe Flood.  I think the cover is so cute!

The Cover Design Process by MK Reed

Greg, Joe & I are pretty lucky to have an awesome friend in Colleen Venable, who is also our awesome cover designer. Granted, the process can be lengthy, but Colleen’s got a system that pushes way past "This is the first thing I thought of" to "Oh my god Colleen, if this isn’t it I’m going to punch a kitten in front of a baby and we’re all going to cry together." (It has not yet come to that.) And the end results usually end up working out pretty cool, but I didn’t really appreciate our cover until I started looking at some other romance covers.

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Review: Bleach Vol 2 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol. 2

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Immediately after checking into the Kurosaki Clinic with a mysterious scar on his back, the muscle-bound Chad goes AWOL. Accompanying Chad is a talking parakeet imbued with the soul of a young boy named Y?ichi. It doesn’t take newbie Soul Reaper Ichigo Kurosaki long to surmise that a Hollow must be involved. By far the strongest spirit he’s faced to date, Ichigo is about to discover that not every soul is bound for the Soul Society, especially if it’s tainted with innocent blood

Review:

I loved this volume of Bleach!  Picking up right where the first volume left off, Chad  is in oodles of trouble because of a possessed parakeet.  Housing the soul of the a young boy, Chad has promised to keep him safe, unaware that a Hallow is hot on their heels.  It’s a good thing that Chad is a strong, sturdy fellow, because the evil spirit does its level best to thoroughly annihilate him.  Rukia tries to race to the rescue, but without her Soul Reaper powers, she’s even more helpless than Chad and the parakeet!  Ichigo is temporarily out of the picture.  His sister Karin is very ill, and he’s been tasked with seeing her home safely.  Will he get to Rukia and Chad in time to save the day?

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Review: Midnight Secretary Vol 1 by Tomu Ohmi

 

Title: Midnight Secretary Vol 1

Author:  Tomu Ohmi

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Mad Men meets Vampire Diaries

Kaya Satozuka prides herself on being an excellent secretary and a consummate professional, so she doesn’t even bat an eye when she’s reassigned to the office of her company’s difficult director, Kyohei Touma. He’s as prickly—and hot—as rumors paint him, but Kaya is unfazed…until she discovers that he’s a vampire!!Kaya quickly accustoms herself to scheduling his “dinner dates” and working odd hours, but can she handle it when Kyohei’s smoldering gaze starts turning her way?!


Review:

Midnight Secretary is a very fun, fluffy read.  I wasn’t expecting much from it, and I wasn’t really in the mood for it, so I kept shuffling it from the top of my reading pile, and now I’m sorry I did.  Once I got it in my hands, the cover kind of turned me off.  I don’t find it appealing at all, so here is another instance where I misjudged the book by it’s cover.

Kaya takes pride in her job, and she wants to be the best executive secretary possible so she can get a great job, and so her mom won’t have to work so hard.  After her father died, her mother got a job at Tohma Corporation, and she worked hard to put Kaya through school.  She even helped get her a job at Tohma, and now that Kaya is getting her big break, she’s going to make her mother proud.  The big break turns out to be a mixed blessing.  She’s assigned to be Kyohei Tohma’s secretary.  Kyohei is the younger son of the senior director, and he’s a jerk.  He is a demanding boss, who works long hours, and his exacting expectations have caused countless secretaries to quit.  Kaya is determined to succeed, though, but his dismissive attitude is hard to deal with.

Kyohei has a reputation for being a ladies man, and Kaya quickly discovers that this is true.  He juggles the ladies with consummate skill, arranging meetings with them in his office after dark.  He is quick to disparage Kaya’s looks, and he grumpily complains that she’s not good looking enough to work for him.  Kaya ignores every complaint and quickly proves that she is efficient and dedicated to her job.  When she suspects that Kyohei and his girlfriends are using drugs in the office, she doesn’t hesitate to get to the bottom of her suspicions.  She’s afraid that if there is illegal drug use going on that he’ll get caught, the company will suffer, and she’ll lose her job.  What she discovers is that he’s a vampire, and that the hanky panky in his office  is Kyohei drinking the blood of his beautiful lady friends.  The illegal drug use would probably have been more welcome than working for a blood-sucking playboy!

I enjoyed Midnight Secretary because Kaya is so unflappable.  She takes the discovery that her boss is a vampire in stride, and quickly decides that she’s going to defend his secret and make sure that he is taken care of so that he can continue to perform his job duties.  Well, that and he’s threatened to have her mother fired if  Kaya quits, so she doesn’t really have much choice.  Meeting every challenge that he throws at her head-on, Kaya quickly proves that she is indispensible.  Despite Kyohei’s gruffness, she can’t help but find him attractive, especially after his secret weakness is revealed and he is forced to drink her blood.

The art is very attractive and reminded me of Mayu Shinjo.  The delicate lines are expressive, and the characters are attractive, even Kaya, who hides her baby face behind ugly glasses and a severe hair style.Midnight Secretary is fun and flirty, and I can’t wait to read the next volume. 

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Bleach Vol 1 by Tite Kubo

 

Title: Bleach Vol 1

Author:  Tite Kubo

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Hot-tempered 15-year-old Ichigo Kurosaki, the hero of the popular fantasy-adventure Bleach, has the unsettling ability to see spirits who are unable to rest in peace. His sixth sense leads him to Rukia, a Soul Reaper who destroys Hollows (soul-devouring monsters) and ensures the deceased find repose with the Soul Society. When she’s injured in battle, Rukia transfers her sword and much of her power to Ichigo, whose spiritual energy makes him a formidable substitute Soul Reaper. But the orange-haired teenager isn’t sure he wants the job: too many risks and moral dilemmas.


Review:

Bleach is one of my favorite series, and I realized with a great deal of dismay that I am far, far behind in my reading of this title.  I don’t think I’ve reviewed many of the volumes, so I opted to take advantage of a comp copy through Vizmanga.com to reacquaint myself with Ichigo, Rukia, and the rest of the gang.  This is a very fun series that features a ton of action, surprisingly touching emotions, and fan favorite protagonists in both Ichigo and Ruikia.  If you enjoyed The Ghost and the Goth or The Curse Workers by Holly Black, I think you should give Bleach a try.  Admittedly, the length of the series is daunting, and it’s still being published, but there are enough volumes released in English that you can read it in manageable chunks by utilizing online sales and trips to the library. 

Ichigo Kurosaki is 15 years old and he can see ghosts.  His sisters can too, though all they can see are faint outlines.  Ichigo can see, touch, talk to, and channel these pesky spirits that he thinks are a pain in the butt.  He just wants to be left alone to mind his own business but NOPE!  That’s not happening.  Ichigo also has a high moral obligation to help anyone in trouble, even those troublesome ghosts.  When an evil spirit threatens to hurt his family, he’s forced to borrow Soul Reaper powers from Rukia, a Soul Reaper who was badly injured saving his bacon.  Too hurt to fight, she offers to lend Ichigo half of her dark powers so he can save his family.  She’s dismayed to discover that he’s so spiritually powerful that he steals all of them, and now she can’t get them back!

I love the relationship between Ichigo and Rukia.  Their back and forth banter is humorous and full of snark.  While Ichigo isn’t exactly disrespectful, he doesn’t understand the need to put himself in danger, fighting the Hollows, regardless of the obligation he acquired when he snatched away all of Rukia’s power.  When the chips are down, though, her forceful prodding  makes him realize how important a Soul Reaper’s duties are.  If he doesn’t take care of the restless spirits, they will eventually turn into Hollows, and once they become these evil monsters, they lose their last shred of humanity.  There is no going back, and the Hollows have an insatiable need to feed on souls.   Rukia put her life at risk to save Ichigo and his family, so he acknowledges that he has a duty to help Rukia until she can figure out a way to get her powers back.

Ichigo is one of my favorite characters because he can’t stand to see an injustice and not want to correct it.  He and One Piece’s Luffy have a lot in common. Both of them will give their heart and soul, not to mention their life, to defend those needing help.  They are white knights in attitude.  Ichigo can’t turn his back on bullying, or just stand by when someone is about to get hurt.  He’s not perfect, and there are many times when he should learn to keep his mouth shut, but he can’t do it.  He is fiercely devoted to his friends and family, and he won’t let anyone hurt them.  Now that he’s a Soul Reaper by default, he can’t ignore when a soul is in danger, either.

The first volume of Bleach is fast-paced, brimming with frantic action, yet it doesn’t let the characters and their interactions take a back seat to all of the fighting.  That is what I enjoy most about Bleach.  The character come to life for me, and I so badly want Ichigo to master his new powers so he doesn’t come to harm.  It’s hard watching such a likeable guy getting the crap beat out of him, even though I have few doubts that he’ll always persevere.  That assurance is the main appeal of manga for me.  I know that even as the protagonists are facing certain doom, they will eventually find a solution to all of their problems.  Reading along as they figure that out is what makes reading them so rewarding.

Grade:  A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Yuhi: Ceres Celestial Legend Vol 2 by Yu Watase

 

 

Title: Yuhi: Ceres Vol 2

Author: Yu Watase

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Aya and her twin brother Aki thought they were going to a celebration of their sixteenth birthday at their grandfather’s home, but the funeral-like atmosphere tips them off that something’s not right. Their "birthday present" turns out to be a mummified hand–the power of which forces an awakening within Aya, and painful wounds all over Aki’s body! Grandfather Mikage announces that Aki will be heir to the Mikage fortune, and Aya must die! But Aya has allies in the athletic cook and martial artist Yûhi, and the attractive, mysterious Tôya. But can even two handsome and resourceful guys save Aya when it’s her own power that’s out of control?


Review:

I have mixed feelings about the second volume of Ceres.  On one hand, I love the legend of the Celestial Maiden.  Ceres is tormented with rage and longs for revenge against the man who stole her feathered robes, prohibiting her from returning to heaven.  Worse, he violated her, and she bore his children, trapped in an ugly place she couldn’t escape from.  Now, fate has caused both Ceres and Mikage to both be reincarnated as the twins Aya and Aki.  This has never happened before, and she’s obsessed with winning her vengeance.  Every time she sees Aki, Ceres wrestles control away from Aya and attacks him, even though he has no memories of his previous life.  I find this storyline so compelling.  For centuries, Ceres’s thirst for revenge has kept her trapped, reborn over and over into the Mikage family, only to be discovered and killed during the ritual as her host body turned sixteen.  When I think about how angry I would be after being thwarted time and time again, I am surprised that she hasn’t done more damage to the Mikages and their property as yet.  I would have gone absolutely ballistic, leaving the surviving Mikages to deal with harried property insurance adjustors.

Aya, though, is grating on my nerves.  Is it really wise to chase after Toya in not much more than her underwear, leaving her defenseless when her evil cousin Kagami gets his paws on her?  Ugh, ugh, ugh!  I would not feel like I was in a position of power in enemy territory while dressed in my panties and a bra.  Ugh!  That’s like the nightmare where you forgot to put your clothes on before rushing off to school.  And to so ardently declare her love for Toya, a guy she just met, and a guy who works for the people who are trying to kill her?  Aya, while Yuhi isn’t as interesting, he is a lot safer, so maybe you should go for him instead?  He is more than capable of protecting you, and he can cook!  Take him instead!

I was a little bored with this volume.  Whenever Ceres made an appearance or Kagami had page time, I was all interested again.  Ceres is fascinating because she reveals little tidbits of her history every time she manifests, and Kagami – ah, Kagami.  He is just so evil and conniving that you can’t help but like, even admire him, just a little bit.  He sees an opportunity for the Mikage family to gain immense power, and he’s going to seize it.  With both Aki and Aya in his control, there is nothing he can’t do, once he figures out how to tame Ceres and her incredible power. 

The second volume of Ceres was both irritating and compelling.  Aya drives me nuts, but legend of the Celestial Maidens kept me turning the pages.

Grade:  C+

Review copy purchased from Amazon

Review: Aya: Ceres Vol 1 by Yuu Watase

 

Title:  Aya: Ceres Vol 1

Author: Yuu Watase

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

Aya and her twin brother Aki thought they were going to a celebration of their sixteenth birthday at their grandfather’s home, but the funeral-like atmosphere tips them off that something’s not right. Their "birthday present" turns out to be a mummified hand–the power of which forces an awakening within Aya, and painful wounds all over Aki’s body! Grandfather Mikage announces that Aki will be heir to the Mikage fortune, and Aya must die! But Aya has allies in the athletic cook and martial artist Yûhi, and the attractive, mysterious Tôya. But can even two handsome and resourceful guys save Aya when it’s her own power that’s out of control?


Review:

Okay, I have a confession to make.  Yuu Watase is like crack for me.  She has a gift when it comes to writing angsty, action-packed series, and I just gobble her stuff up.  It’s a mix of cotton candy, corn dogs, and French fries.  That’s a lot of junk food, but it is so tasty and filling that it’s hard to resist.  And yes, I just compared Yuu Watase’s writing to carnival junk food.  That’s okay, though, because I love carnival junk food!

Aya and her twin brother Aki are turning 16.  Instead of hanging out with their friends as they had planned, their parents demand that they accompany them to their grandfather’s house.  Once there, they discover all of their relatives, somberly awaiting their arrival.  To cap off the really, really weird day, Aya and Aki are given a box to open.  inside the box is a mummified hand, and once they see it, their lives will never be the same again.

Aki collapses in a pool of blood, shredded by some magical force unleashed by the mummified hand. A power awakens within Aya, and she discovers that she’s the descendant of a celestial maiden, and now her family wants her dead!  With her entire family out to kill her, who can she trust?  The Mikage family bodyguard, Toya?  Or the martial artist chef Yuhi?  Who is going to save Aya from her family, and who is going to save her from the destructive power she can’t control?

I love this story!  I have seen the anime, but I haven’t read the graphic novels yet.  I thought it would be fun to read them all, and blog about them as I do.  Hopefully you will be inspired to read them yourself, or watch the anime, which is still one of my favorites.  When it came out, it received some flak, mainly because Aya can be irritating, especially when she gets herself in to trouble, and then has to have one of the guys come and save her.  While I prefer a more self-reliant heroine, I love how Watase brought the legend of the celestial maidens to life in Ceres.  Add in her detailed artwork with her delicate linework, and mixing in a dash of humor to the horror and action elements, and you have an engaging, fast-paced story full of mystery and weird supernatural powers.f

This first volume introduces the major characters, and sets the tone for the rest of the series.  Ceres is the story of a powerful family, and the dark secret they have been hiding for centuries. It is also the story of Aya’s coming of age.  She is a spoiled and overindulged teenager, who thinks life is one big party at the local karaoke place.  She hasn’t had many responsibilities, and she’s never had to really do things for herself.   Now that she’s lost the shelter of her family, she’s forced to deal with her mother’s betrayal, and somehow keep herself alive.  Suzumi and her brother-in-law Yuhi come to her rescue, and now Aya must navigate  treacherous waters as she tries to decide who she can trust.  If she’s wrong, she’s going to end up dead, and nothing’s she learned in high school has prepared her for this nightmare. The cliffhanger at the end made me happy that I have the next volume, and ensured that I would be reaching for it quickly.  This is a fast-paced story with many unanswered questions that beg to be answered.  Only 13 more volumes before we get them!

Grade:  B+

Review copy purchased from Amazon