Review: The Flowers of Evil Vol 1 by Shuzo Oshimi

 

 

Title: The Flowers of Evil Vol 1

Author:  Shuzo Oshimi

Publisher:  Vertical

May Contain Spoilers

 

Review:

ZOMG!  I feel a bit guilty for enjoying this tale of blackmail as much as I did.  In a moment of complete stupidity, shy, timid Takao steals the gym clothes of the girl he is crushing on.  Little does he know that this one lapse in judgment will bring about his downfall.  Witnessed by Nakamura, the weirdest girl in his class, she threatens to rat him out to their classmates if he doesn’t do everything she demands.  As he spirals deeper in to misery, Takao is at his wit’s end.  How does he get Nakamura to leave him alone, without being outted as a perv in the process?

I haven’t laughed this much in a long time.  I couldn’t help myself.  Poor Takao is such a wimp.  And an idiot to boot.  I hope those clandestine sniffs of Saeki’s t-shirt and shorts were worth the pain and embarrassment that this  hapless middle-schooler is destined to suffer.   Nakamura is one tough cookie, too!  She is relentless, and she won’t let Takao get away with anything now that he’s under her power.  I felt so bad for him!  He’s like a little puppy that keeps getting whacked with a newspaper.  And darn me, but I kept laughing at all of his discomfort. 

Even as his relationship with Saeki, she of the enticing gym clothes,  blooms, his dealings with Nakamura keep bringing him nothing but trouble.  His friends are rapidly ditching him because he’s too busy dancing to Nakamura’s tune to hang out with them, and his mother is fit to be tied because of his strange behavior.  I fear that Takao will need serious therapy sessions if this continues much longer.  I am eager to read more of this series, because I’m curious to see where it goes.  

Grade:  B+, leaning towards an A-

Review copy provided by publisher

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[PR] VIZ Media Debuts New Shojo Manga Series JIU JIU

{ED. Wolf shapeshifters? Count me in!}

PRESS RELEASEFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LEAP INTO THE FANTASY AND ROMANTIC INTRIGUE OF A TEENAGE GIRL’S DEEPENING BOND WITH TWO WOLF SHAPESHIFTERS, IN JIU JIU

High School Gets Complicated For A Girl From A Family of Demon Hunters In A New Shojo Series From VIZ Media

San Francisco, CA, June 19, 2012 – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), the largest publisher, distributor and licensor of manga and anime in North America, unleashes the demon-hunting romantic fantasy of Touya Tobina’s shojo manga series, JIU JIU, on July 3rd. The new series will be published under the company’s Shojo Beat imprint, is rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens and will carry an MSRP of $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN.

Born into a family of “Hunters,” Takamichi’s destiny is to pursue and slay demons. When her twin brother is killed, she is saved from despair by a pair of Jiu Jiu – shape-shifting familiars – in the form of two wolf pups named Snow and Night. Now Takamichi is in high school and an active Hunter. Snow and Night can’t wait to attend school in their human form to "protect" her. But are they ready to go off leash…?

“JIU JIU is an intriguing new series that offers a strong combination of romantic drama, supernatural action, and humor centering on the deepening bonds between a girl and two wolf shapeshifters,” says Annette Roman, Editor. “Growing up in a family of demon hunters isn’t easy. Things become more complicated when the pair of cute wolf pups grow up into her bodyguards, learn to shift into (hot!) human form, and decide to follow their mistress to school. Don’t miss this new rhapsody of swords, fangs and romance from Shojo Beat this summer!”

Manga creator Touya Tobina is originally from Tokyo. In 2005, her series, Clean Freak Fully Equipped, won the Grand Prize in the 30th Hakusensha Athena Newcomers Awards. Her series Jiu Jiu originally debuted in Japan as a one-shot manga in the shojo magazine, Hana to Yume.

For more information on JIU JIU, or other shojo manga titles from VIZ Media, please visit ShojoBeat.com.

About VIZ Media, LLC

Headquartered in San Francisco, California, VIZ Media distributes, markets and licenses the best anime and manga titles direct from Japan.  Owned by three of Japan’s largest manga and animation companies, Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc., and Shogakukan-Shueisha Productions, Co., Ltd., VIZ Media has the most extensive library of anime and manga for English speaking audiences in North America, the United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa. With its popular monthly manga anthology SHONEN JUMP magazine and blockbuster properties like NARUTO, BLEACH and INUYASHA, VIZ Media offers cutting-edge action, romance and family friendly properties for anime, manga, science fiction and fantasy fans of all ages.  VIZ Media properties are available as graphic novels, DVDs, animated television series, feature films, downloadable and streaming video and a variety of consumer products.  Learn more about VIZ Media, anime and manga at www.VIZ.com.

[PR] VIZ MEDIA LAUNCHES 6 NEW MANGA SERIES ON VIZMANGA.COM AND THE VIZ MANGA APP

 

VIZ MEDIA LAUNCHES 6 NEW MANGA SERIES ON VIZMANGA.COM AND THE VIZ MANGA APP FOR iPAD, iPHONE AND iPOD TOUCH

BUSO RENKIN, THE EARL AND THE FAIRY, HIKARU NO GO, PSYREN, TEGAMI BACHI and YU-GI-OH! GX Join The

Extensive VIZ Manga Digital Library This Month!

VIZ Media delivers more digital manga (graphic novel) excitement to fans this month with the announcement of the launch of 7 new series are now available on VIZManga.com and for digital download on the VIZ MANGA App for the Apple iPad®, iPhone® and iPod® touch. The new series include BUSO RENKIN, THE EARL AND THE FAIRY, HIKARU NO GO, PSYREN, TEGAMI BACHI, and YU GI OH! GX.

The VIZ MANGA APP is available for free through the iTunes Store and all manga volumes are generally available for purchase and download in the U.S. and Canada within the application for $4.99 (U.S. / CAN) per volume. More than 45 series and 500+ volumes are currently available for download.

BUSO RENKIN Vol. 1 · by Nobuhiro Watsuki · Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens

BUSO RENKIN is the story of teenager Kazuki Muto, who dies trying to save a girl who was being attacked by an eerie monster. The next morning, however, Kazuki is left wondering whether it was all a dream. Lo and behold, the girl, the monster, and his death are all real! The girl, Tokiko Tsumura, was actually trying to slay the homunculus (a beast that can take the form of humans, and whose main source of food is people), but Kazuki got in her way. To revive Kazuki, Tokiko replaces his heart with a "kakugane," an alchemic device that allows him to summon a lance with which to fight the monsters. It turns out that Tokiko is a member of the Alchemist Warriors, an organization sworn to protect the world from the diabolical creatures. Soon, Kazuki joins Tokiko in her quest to terminate the sinister being that creates and controls the homunculus.

THE EARL AND THE FAIRY Vol. 1 · original concept by Tani Mizue, story & art by Ayuko · Rated ‘T+’ for Older Teens

Lydia Carlton is a fairy doctor, one of the few people with the ability to see the magical creatures who share our world. During one of her rare trips to London to visit her father, Lydia’s quiet life is suddenly transformed when she is rescued from kidnappers by a mysterious young man! Edgar Ashenbert claims to be descended from the human ruler of the fairy kingdom, and he urgently needs Lydia’s help to find and claim his birthright, the legendary sword of the Blue Knight Earl. Things will never be the same for Lydia as she is pulled into a dangerous quest against dark forces!

Read more

Interview with Ryan Inzana, Author of Ichiro

Ryan Inzana is an artist and author.  His latest release, the graphic novel Ichiro, hits stores next week.  Ryan stopped by the virtual offices to talk about his new book, so read on to see what he has to say about Ichiro.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Ryan Inzana] I am an illustrator, writer and comic artist.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about Ichiro?

[Ryan Inzana] It is a graphic novel about a boy’s adventure through a mythological world. Along the way, the protagonist, whose name is Ichiro, deals with issues of cultural identity, war, history and loss. And monsters, there is an abundance of monsters.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the book?

[Ryan Inzana] The first seeds of the book were planted on a trip I took to the Peace Park museum in Hiroshima, Japan. I was there with my wife and her family, who are originally from the area.  It is at once both disturbing and enlightening to visit the museum. Not only do you find out about the atom bomb and its effect, but you learn the history of World War II as told from the perspective of the Japanese.

When most Americans think of Japan and World War II, they immediately think of Pearl Harbor. The history most school children learn in the United States labels Japan as the aggressor and America as the victim that begrudgingly enters the fray only after being attacked. But in front of me in Hiroshima history told a very different story, the roles of aggressor and victim seemed to be vastly less defined. Most importantly, the museum gives you the stories of the average people that were killed in the blast, not some faceless enemy, but ordinary people. History in general and war in particular are a lot less black and white than some make it out to be.

I wondered, how would I explain this all to my son, that long ago the country where his father was born fought a war against the country where his mother was born. That scores of people died and that both sides had good intentions and bad intentions but most of them wished the war would simply just end. That now America and Japan are friends and the world is ok? There are still scars. I left the museum and looked up at all these modern buildings that stand in today’s Hiroshima City. For the first time, I gave some thought as to why Japan’s cities look so new and futuristic, it’s because the old buildings were bombed into rubble during World War II so they had to rebuild.

The experience made me feel conflicted, but it also made me curious. I started talking to people, reading books, doing research. This all led me to think more broadly about war and humanity. One aspect that really interested me in my research was the role that Shintoism and Japanese mythology played in World War II. There is a notion, not just in World War II Japan but probably in every country that has ever engaged in large scale combat, that God (or Gods, as the case maybe) not only supports war, but has a stake in it and has bet on the fill-in-the-blank country to win it all. I thought to myself, if the Gods are so pro-war, maybe they are fighting amongst themselves. And so I imagined an epic mythological battle going on in the heavens that mirrored the real world conflict that is going on today.

The character of Ichiro really came out of the "how would I tell my son about this" thought that I had. The mythological characters in the book are in part based on their descriptions in the Kojiki, which is Shinto scripture. Also ukiyo-e prints, Japanese handscrolls and screen paintings, stories of the yokai (monsters from Japanese folktales) helped inform my design sense and gave me some sort of base of the character’s personalities that I could embellish on.

Some of weirdest characters in the book came from random doodles in my sketch book.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of creating the story?

[Ryan Inzana] I’m dealing with a lot of themes and issues in this book. I didn’t want it to come off heavy-handed or have it seem forced. That and drawing, inking, painting and coloring 280 pages of comics.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things would Ichiro never have in his pockets?

[Ryan Inzana] I don’t know, Ichi is a little survivalist so you can never tell what he’s going to have in his pockets in case of an emergency. Can’t rule out anything.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Ryan Inzana] I like that quote from Faulkner where he says, "Read, read, read. Read everything–trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window."  That’s exactly how I feel about it and the same goes for art. My book shelves are buckling under the weight of a little bit of everything.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

The 3 s’s: Silence, Solitude and more Silence.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t working?

[Ryan Inzana] I fish. I live on a river, so when the conditions are right, I’m out the door like a kid when the school bell rings.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!!


You can learn more about Ryan by visiting his website.

You can pre-order Ichiro from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the widget below:

 

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Review: Gantz Vol 15 by Hiroya Oku

 

Title: Gantz Vol 15

Author: Hiroya Oku

Publisher: Dark Horse

ISBN: 978-1595826626

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Gantz is getting absolutely intense! Our protagonist, the eternally awkward otaku boy named Kei, has hunted a bevy of odd and dangerous aliens living in Japan. The Onion Alien was strange enough, but then there were the dinosaur aliens and eventually some vampires who might not be aliens at all. Gantz moves along at a furious pace, drowning readers in blood and violence, but then holds back for a few tender (and sometimes excessively sexy) moments here and there. It’s a crazy ride so far, a guilty pleasure for many readers. See who Kei is told to hunt next! It will certainly be a surprise.

Review:

I haven’t picked up a volume of Gantz in a while, and since I had a free weekend with the New Year’s break from work, I eagerly dove into a few manga series that I have allowed myself to get behind on. I couldn’t think of a better time to catch up, so Gantz was one of the first ones I picked up.

I find this series enjoyable when the hapless characters are trapped in the room, about to be sent off on another mission.  It’s exciting, tense, and explosive once the hunt begins.  The rest of it, I can do without.  The story slips into the realm of ridiculousness whenever Kei is doing something other than blasting aliens to tiny, bloody bits.  I just don’t find him an interesting character, and I can’t relate to his teenage boy issues.  I don’t care if he gets his rocks off or not, and I find his preoccupation with ginormous breasts tedious.  So I remind myself, yet again, that the series isn’t really intended for me, and I flip pages as quickly as I can to get back to the stuff that I like – all of the mindless violence and gore.  Yeah, go figure.

In this volume, Kei is blundering through his personal relationships yet again.  He has gone off to see Reika behind Tae’s back, not thinking that a popular idol like Reika would be stalked by paparazzi.  When their picture appears in the paper, he is soon the talk of his school, and quiet, timid Tae discovers his indiscretion.  At least he had the decency to feel guilty for hurting her feelings.  When she is caught up in his next mission, Kei worries that she will get killed if she keeps hanging out with him, so he is even more determined to break up with her.  Too bad that stupid black ball isn’t going to let that happen.

I suffered through the first half of this volume, but the ending had me all caught up in the action again.  Argh!  It’s insidious!  I don’t want to like Gantz, but all of that over the top destruction keeps me coming back for more.  I have only one more volume in reserve, so hopefully Rightstuf will have a Dark Horse studio sale soon…

Grade: B- for the first half of the book

  B+ for the rest of the book

Review copy provided by publisher

Manga Review: La Quinta Camera–The Fifth Room by Natsume Ono

 

Title: La Quinat Camera – The Fifth Room

Author: Natsume Ono

Publisher: Viz

ISBN: 978-1421532196

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

An apartment in Italy. In four of the rooms live four single men with singular personalities. Into this peculiar ménage steps an exchange student, the new tenant of the fifth room. Brought together by chance, friends by choice, they pursue their dreams together as the days drift gently by.

Review:

Now, this is a treasure!  I don’t know why I let this book linger so long in the TBR pile, because it deserved to be read the second I received it.  Told through vignettes, La Quinta Camera follow the daily challenges and adventures of the tenants of an Italian apartment house.  Massimo, the owner, rents rooms to his best friends, and also hosts foreign exchange students for the local language school.  The story starts with Charlotte, who is having a Really Bad Day.  She has lost her bag, which had her money and the directions to the room she’ll be staying during her time in Italy.  Her first day in Italy isn’t going well!  As she meets friendly people willing to give her a hand, she begins to have a Really Good Day.  I loved this introduction to the characters, and I felt that I was getting to know them along with Charlotte.  By the end of the book, I was sad that our visit to Italy had drawn to a close.

The subsequent chapters build on the friendships and personality quirks of Massimo and his tenants.  This is an understated book.  There are no battles to the death, no political machinations, hardly any action of any kind.  And that is what sets La Quinta Camera apart.  This is a completely character-driven book, and it’s those characters that make it compelling.  As they go about their daily lives, facing the same challenges we all face, they become living, breathing beings.  Will Charlotte be able to make a life for herself in the country she has grown to love?  Will Luca get over his crush?  Will Cele make it to his own birthday party?  Will Massimo be able to find an inner peace as his life, and the lives of his tenants, continues to change and evolve? 

I had a hard time putting this book down, and when I reached to last page, what I really wanted were more!  Ono’s quirky, whimsical art was perfect for this book.  La Quinta Camera is an underrated gem, one that I am grateful I was finally able to enjoy.

Grade:  A

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Vampire Knight Vol 13 by Matsuri Hino

 

Title: Vampire Knight Vol 13

Author: Matsuri Hino

Publisher: Viz

ISBN: 978-1421540818

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Cross Academy is attended by two groups of students: the Day Class and the Night Class. At twilight, when the students of the Day Class return to their dorm, they cross paths with the Night Class on their way to school. Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu are the Guardians of the school, protecting the Day Class from the Academy’s dark secret: the Night Class is full of vampires!

Yuki is attacked by another pureblood outside a graveyard for meddling in the ways of the vampire society. Injured, she returns home to Kaname, who shares with her his past memories and the truth behind the Kuran family.

Review:

Gah!  Sometimes I get so confused when I read Vampire Knight.  I think that the key to understanding it is right in front of me, but when I sit back and try to analyze the story in more depth, my head starts to spin.  Seriously.  If it wasn’t for the pretty, pretty pictures, I would be so frustrated with this series!

I don’t want to divulge any spoilers, so I’ll keep my discussion of this volume very general, and focus more on how it made me feel, instead getting into the nitty-gritty details of the plot.  Yuki and Aido are attacked by another pureblood, and they are saved by Zero.  Now, I know in the past I have bashed Zero, but in this outing, I actually liked him again.  I think my affection for Zero rises and declines with my feelings for Kaname.  When I am soft on Kaname, I am tough on Zero,  Well, in this volume, I don’t feel as though I know Kaname anymore, and in this confusion, I have gravitated back to Zero.  Zero’s motivations aren’t as difficult to understand, and I don’t feel that he’s selfishly working toward some unknown goals to benefit himself.  I do feel that way about Kaname now, and I don’t like it!  Kaname, I just don’t trust you anymore!  You have become a stranger to me!

So, after having everything that I believed to be true about Kaname blown to itty-bitty bits, I wandered along with Yuki as she treads cautiously through Kaname’s memories.  His past is a lot different from what I thought it would be, and if I were him, I would be running around, tearing out the throats of whatever humans I ran across.  Kaname is made of sterner stuff, so it’s a good thing I don’t have the ability to turn anyone into a hapless vampire slave.  I’d make them clean my bathrooms just for fun, and then make them clean all of the dirty dishes in the sink, too.  Watching his memories with Yuki, it’s no wonder he rarely cracks a smile; those are some grim thoughts to carry around with you for all of that time.

Poor Aido, one of my favorite characters, has found himself a “guest” of the Hunters.  Both Yuki and Kaname ditched him, leaving him at Zero’s not so tender mercies.  At least their exchange made perfect sense, and shed some light on the creation of the Hunter Society. 

Now, I think that if I sat down and reread Vampire Knight, back to back, it would make more sense.  Part of the problem with reading a serial is that it’s easy to forget key elements of the story during the three or four months between volumes.  I read volume 12 back in May, so I’m sure that I have forgotten important plot points.  Despite the fact that I occasionally find the story hard to follow, or just down right unintelligible, I can’t keep myself from reading new volumes when they come out.  I feel the same way about Bride of the Water God.  There are times when it just goes right over my head, but the beautiful art in both of these series is worth the confusing plot lines. 

Grade: B

Review copy purchased from Rightstuf.com

Review: Binky Under Pressure by Ashley Spires

 

Title: Binky Under Pressure

Author: Ashley Spires

Publisher: Kids Can Press

ISBN: 978-1554535040

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In Binky’s third adventure, our intrepid, sometimes accident-prone hero is shaken out of his routine when he’s forced to contend with Gracie, a dainty striped foster kitty who comes to live at Binky’s space station (aka his home at 42 Sentinel Parkway). Binky instantly resents the new arrival, whose cute face and perfect manners are downright annoying. Indeed, Gracie seems too perfect. So Binky decides to do some undercover investigating and discovers a shocking truth about the family guest. Soon Binky is thrust full-throttle into a situation that puts all his Space Cat skills to the ultimate test!

Review:

Binky’s back for another humorous adventure, and this time around he has a companion.  A decidedly unwanted companion, in the form of foster kitty Gracie.  When Binky’s beloved humans introduce him to his new room mate, he’s apprehensive at first, and then plain annoyed.  She’s eating his food, using his litter box, and playing with his best friend!  How could they do this to him?  Taking matters into his own furry paws, Binky explains to Gracie that there just isn’t room in the space station for both of them.  Then Gracie pulls out her triumph card – she’s a member of F.U.R.S.T., and she outranks him!

I loved this outing for Binky.  Gracie is there to evaluate him, and report back about his worthiness to keep his space cat card.  Binky being Binky, it’s kind of touch and go as he blunders his way through one test after another.  It’s only after an actual alien invasion that he’s finally able to strut his space cat stuff and save the day, with some team work with his CO.

The art showcases Ashley Spires’ distinctive comedic look.  Binky’s plump torso and triangle shaped head mask a skilled warrior who deals death to alien invaders with little hesitation.  Gracie is drawn with more cunning lines, and at first, I doubted her ability to commander a well-run space station like Binky’s.  A little adversity and a stealth invasion pushed those thoughts right out of my mind.

If you are looking for a chuckle worthy escape from the stress of your day, grab one of the Binky books and be prepared to laugh.  A lot.  If you want to laugh even more, read them aloud.  To anything.  Make sure you vocalize the sound effects.  You’ll be rolling around on the floor, even the dog isn’t quite as amused as you are.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher