Tag Archives: del rey

My Heavenly Hockey Club Volumes 5-7

Ai Morinaga is one of the few shoujo creators that I think is genuinely transgressive. Even when she’s writing a fairly conventional series she adds in a few moments that make me think she’s viewing her work with an element of knowing cynicism. Strawberry Chan is genuinely insane. Your and My Secret is one of the most wacked out gender bending shoujo stories that I’ve read. My Heavenly Hockey Club is probably her most accessible and conventional work published in English, but it still contains flashes of the insane humor found in Morinaga’s other series. I think I skipped a a couple volumes before reading volumes 5-7 of this series, but this is a manga that is easy to pick up midstream since there are no major ongoing story arcs.

Basically all you need to know about the series before reading it if you haven’t read the first volume is that the heroine Hana is only interested in food and sleep. She’s forced to join the field hockey club at her school. The hockey club is filled with handsome and rich boys who spend all their time going on vacations to eat local delicacies instead of training.

My Heavenly Hockey Club Volume 5

Hana is resolutely unaware that Izumi, the richest and most handsome boy in the hockey club may be interested in her. It almost seems like his feelings will be brought out in the open when the hockey club travels to visit the country inn belonging to an old (male) friend of Hana’s. Hana persists in viewing Daisuke as the innocent boy she knew in her youth but Izumi knows better. The Hockey Club is further rocked when Hana’s overdeveloped elementary school-aged cousin arrives and announces her desire to marry a rich man. She sets her sights on the bespectacled and usually stoic Itoigawa. Natsuki draws the hockey club into a match match with his father, a real life pirate. The final story satirizes the tired storyline of cute farming widow vs evil landlord.

My Heavenly Hockey Club Volume 6

The hockey club has always operated with a great deal of autonomy so it is a calamity when the Frenchman Yukio Francois de Saint-Martin announces that he’s their faculty adviser, bringing with him an overinflated ego and a passionate belief in psychic superstition. While the boys try their best to get rid of Saint-Martin, they find themselves suffering actual sports training and a trip to a ninja temple. The relationship between Hana and Izumi gets pushed forward a little bit when Hana starts acting like a typical girl. This is where I see Morinaga playing with shoujo stereotypes, because it is hilarious to see Hana with limpid eyes and flirtations mannerisms when I’m so used to her either stuffing her face or sleeping. A made-over otaku girl gives Morinaga a chance to comment a bit about manga creation and fan behavior.

My Heavenly Hockey Club Volume 7

There are a few Strawberry Chan-like moments in the first half of this volume as the rivalry between a pet chicken and a panda escalates to unforeseen levels of war. There’s something about the way Morinaga draws a chicken holding an egg in supplication that I just find hilarious. The rest of the volume shows the hockey club in crisis mode when Hana decides to get a part-time job working at a bakery. Izumi is suspicious of the handsome man who makes the cakes that Hana craves and abruptly decides to turn the hockey club into the pastry making club in order to keep an eye on Hana.

Even though it had been a long time since I’d read any volumes of this manga, it was easy to dip back in to Hana’s misadventures. I was glad I’d saved up three volumes to read all at once. While My Heavenly Hockey Club doesn’t feature Morinaga at her most satiric, there are still plenty of moments that shows she doesn’t take shoujo manga too seriously. I do not think I will ever be able to think of the explosive nosebleeds that manga characters get when they see someone cute in the same way ever again. I think Morinaga’s sensibility is all too rare in the manga that gets brought over to the US, and I was reminded again how much I enjoy her work.

Moyasimon Tales of Agriculture Volume 1

Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture Volume 1 by Ishikawa Masayuki

Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture has one of those bizarre high concept set-ups that I was intrigued with when I had only read the description of the manga. Tadayasu goes off to agricultural college in college, bringing with him a unique ability. He can see bacteria with his naked eye. His childhood friend Kei joins him at school and the freshman duo quickly find themselves thrown into unusual situations when they meet the eccentric professor Itsuki, and his bondage gear wearing grad student Haruka. Tadayasu’s ability may be worth millions of dollars to the person who can harness it but his adventures mainly center around the opening day activities at school and coping with the grossness of dorm rooms. Professor Itsuki engages in fermentation experiments as he is determined to create the most nutrient rich and unpalatable food possible. Some upperclassmen run into Tadayasu when a sake experiment runs awry, and they soon have plans to use his unique abilities themselves.

The art in this manga is serviceable, with a slightly static feel. Haruka always seems to have the same expression on her face. Where Masayuki’s art excels is in the design and depiction of all the microscopic creatures that Tadayasu sees. They are quite perky little things who are always yelling about what they’re doing, screaming “Whee!”, or indulging in traditional playground games. I was reminded a bit of Larry Marder’s Beanworld and all the microbes provide a much needed element of whimsy when Itsuki starts droning about his latest experiments which always seem to involve burying animals for weeks, digging them up, and eating them.

Moyasimon is firmly in the same entertaining but didactic genre as Oishinbo, but while I was happy to read the first volume I’m not quite sure if my interest in the series will extend to collecting the rest of it. This is the type of manga that I’d be thrilled to check out of the library, but I don’t think I’d need to keep it around the house to reread because there are only so many times I want to read about particular varieties of microbes. While the paragraphs of exposition about yeast might be a bit much, Masayuki also adds in some genuinely gross scenes and there is plenty of humor in the interactions between the college students, especially with the introduction of a germophobic co-ed whose attitude towards bacteria contrasts dramatically with Tadayasu’s. Overall, this would be a great manga to hand to the science geek in your life.

Thanks to Kate for sending this volume my way in one of her giveaways.

Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei Volumes 1 and 2

Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei Volume 1 by Koji Kumeta

I pre-ordered this when it first came out, but it took forever for me to get around to reading it. I think I was intimidated by the thought of reading a comedy manga with extensive cultural references in the back of the book. I decided I was finally in the right mood to start this series about a suicidal teacher and his misfit class of students.

You know what you’re getting into when you read the first two pages of Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. A young schoolgirl walks among falling cherry blossoms when she comes across a man in traditional dress who has just hung himself. She yells “No, you musn’t!” and grabs his legs, violently shaking him until the rope breaks. They have an odd conversation about her habit of naming trees and his failed suicide attempt. She is the most optimistic girl in the world and concludes that he wasn’t trying to kill himself, he was just trying to be taller.

The suicidal man is Nozumu Itoshiki, and he’s the optimistic girl’s new teacher. She discovers that when she writes his name horizontally instead of vertically, the kanji reads as “Zetsubou” or despair. She names him “Mr. Despair” and he leaves the class for the rest of the day. Optimistic Girl isn’t the only student that plagues Itoshiki. He also has to deal with Stalking Girl, Strange Injury Girl, Precise Girl, and Ordinary Girl. The most everyday happenings of life will inspire Itoshiki to indulge in a despair-filled rant. It could be the emblem on a baseball player’s hat that will prompt a moment of existential angst. Or perhaps school exercises like students filling out their goals after graduation will inspire a tirade about the futility of hope. Kumeta isn’t afraid to take things to the most ridiculous extreme, as shown when Itoshiki gets caught up in a stalking incident and a chain of lunatics starts to follow him around the neighborhood.

Usually I’m a little annoyed when most of the character types in a manga essentially have the same face and are differentiated mostly by hair style. In Kumeta’s case this seems more like an elegantly simple aesthetic choice as opposed to artistic limitation. He draws with a smooth line, and while the girls in the classroom look alike, they all act very differently due to the extreme nature of their individual personality quirks. The characters are really more symbolic representations of traits as opposed to individuals, but this works in the context of this darkly humorous manga.

Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei Volume 2 by Koji Kumeta

While the first volume set-up Itoshiki and his gaggle of teen misfits, the second volume explores events like seasonal festivals, the Perry expedition opening Japan, vacations, and arranged marriage. We meet Itoshiki’s brother who has a similarly unfortunate name, and learn about the mating rituals of Itoshiki’s family. It turns out on a special day if Itoshiki meets anyone’s eyes they will immediately be married, so he spends most of his time avoiding looking at anything. This is really not a manga for people who don’t enjoy cynical and dark humor. If you are not fond of the movie Dr. Strangelove, this is not the manga for you. Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei is packaged attractively, with matte covers and traditional designs that echo Itoshiki’s mode of dress. The usually great translation notes from Del Rey get kicked into overdrive in order to explain the background and cultural history Kumeta crams into his manga.

Reading Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei caused me to ponder a bit about translation and adaptation. While there’s plenty of humor in the books that doesn’t require flipping to the back for the extensive cultural footnotes, I wondered if I’d appreciate reading the manga more if I already had knowledge of the obscure Japanese pop idols or scandal-ridden politicians that Kumeta mentions. On the other hand, I wonder if even a Japanese person would catch all of the references, which are sometimes presented as a wall of background text while Itoshiki rants. This would be a good manga to read if you are a fan of comedy and an excessive use of footnotes. I enjoyed Kumeta’s darkly humorous sensibility, but the episodic nature of the humor makes this a series I’d probably be happiest checking out from the library. I didn’t think I’d want to reread these volumes again and again even though I enjoyed reading them once.

Four-Eyed Prince Volume 1

Four-Eyed Prince Volume 1 by Wataru Mizukami

The plot device of “sudden siblings” can be entertaining when it is executed well. I love the manga Marmalade Boy, about a girl and a boy who are thrown together when their parents announce a bizarre spousal swap. The frisson of potential incest also kept the relationship between the protagonists of Wild Act extra spicy. Unfortunately Four-Eyed Prince uses the familiar plot device without bringing anything new to make it interesting.

Sachiko decides to confess her love to Akihito, her “Four-Eyed Prince.” While most of the other students at her school think he is cold and aloof, Sachiko things that he’s extra-hot due to the way he’s constantly adjusting his glasses. He tells her “I have no interest in you whatsoever.” As if she wasn’t having a bad enough day, Sachiko also has to go live with her mother, who she hasn’t seen in years. She bids goodbye to her ailing grandmother and goes to her mother’s house, only to be greeted by Akihito? He’s the son of Sachiko’s ex-husband and her new step-sibling. One day Sachiko decides to tail her her new brother and runs into a kindly, non-glasses wearing waiter named Akira. She is unfortunately too dense to realize that Akira and Akihito are the same person, but he hopefully spells it out for her. Now Sachiko is stuck with a hot stepbrother who appears to have a bad case of split-personality syndrome. The siblings gradually grow close through a school contenst and visit to a hot springs.

Mizukami’s character designs reminded me a lot of Arina Tanemura, but Misukami’s execution lacks the extra sparkles and ribbons found in a Tanemura book. While Four-Eyed Prince is competently done, it is lacking the spark of something extra that would make me care what happens to the characters. If I want to read the “sudden siblings” story over again, I think I’ll just stick to Marmalade Boy which is infinitely more charming than Four-Eyed Prince.

Pumpkin Scissors Volumes 2 and 3

I read the first volume of Pumpkin Scissors some time ago, and I finally got my hands on the next two volumes. I’m still enjoying this cerebral action series, despite the sometimes clunky art.

Pumpkin Scissors #2 by Ryotaro Iwanaga

The second volume of Pumpkin Scissors explores the past of the giant soldier Randel Oland. After disabling a tank at point blank range, one of his squad mates named Machs is suspicious of his background. Machs launches an investigation and learns that Randel was a member of a group that doesn’t exist, “The Invisible Nine.” Randel is injured in battle yet again and recuperates in the hospital, only to find an unexpected connection with his roommate. Pumpkin Scissors’ mission to help with war reconstruction sends them down to the sewers to relocate refugees. The team uncovers a drug trade, military conspiracies, and Randel has a close encounter with an old acquaintance from his past.

I like the layered complexity of the plots in Pumpkin Scissors. As Machs begins to uncover Randel’s secrets he begins to question himself for prying into Randel’s past without his knowledge. Is Machs going to accept Randel as a fellow soldier, despite his fearsome fighting abilities? The relationship between Randel and his commanding officer Alice is explored as well, as she shows up in a furious state to visit him at the hospital. There’s obviously something between them, but it isn’t acted on and it remains below the surface. With Alice coming from the nobility and Randel’s past as a military lab experiment and human weapon I’m not sure if a romantic relationship would even be possible. Despite Randel’s disruptive presence as a new member of the team, they still carry out their mission. The hint of competing goals between different military sections is going to cause problems later on.

Pumpkin Scissors #3 by Ryotaro Iwanaga

The third volume opens with plenty of action as Pumpkin Scissors deals with the aftermath of the drug trade and are almost executed by a competing military unit. Alice takes on a squad all by herself, and the reader learns more about the experimentation that created flawed human weapons. Randel is forced to confront his past, and Alice makes a detour into the world of the nobility where she joins her family and her fiance?! The comedic element is provided by Major Stecchin who notices that Randel seems depressed and decides that a rousing group song and dance will improve morale.

Iwanaga’s art continues to be the weakest aspect of the book. The best I can say for it is that it is serviceable. The poses and character expressions are frequently stiff. I did notice that he seemed to be experimenting a bit by showing facial close-ups against a blank background whenever people were discussing a matter of high tension, and I thought these panels were effective. I enjoy the interaction between the ensemble cast and the social issues associated with military reconstruction there’s a wistful element summed up by the Pumpkin Scissors’ captain as he sits in his office and wonders why he is still hearing gunshots three years after a ceasefire.

While there is a lot I enjoy about Pumpkin Scissors, since there are so many plots and themes being juggled, it seems to progress at a slow pace. This manga falls into the middle tier for me – if I happen to get my hands on it I’m happy to read it but I’m not likely to make a special effort to seek it out. I am going to eventually try to read the next few volumes of the series to see if I end up liking it more.

Papillon Volume 4

I read the first three books of this series, and with the fourth book came a plot development so absurd I have decided to throw up my hands and just surrender to the crazy. Ageha is feeling insecure about her budding relationship with her guidance counselor and when she finds out that her twin sister Hana has come to Ichijiku for advice, her jealousy and insecurity goes into overdrive.

It turns out that Hana has her own issues to work on too. She feels inferior to Ageha, and always tests her boyfriends by dressing up as her sister and hitting on them. If the boyfriend resists Hana as Ageha, they’ll have passed. Unfortunately all of her boyfriends, including Ruysei are unable to resist when Hana dons her disguise. One of Ageha’s classmates announces that she has a mutant nose and can now tell when students have just had sex. When the sex detector girl announces that Hana and Ichijiku have the same smell, Ageha suspects the worst.

I’m not sure why I’m finding this series so appealing. The fact that Ageha is so hesitant about standing up for herself and that she’s basically dating a teacher aren’t plot elements that I generally find appealing. Hana is just twisted, and Ichijiku’s relentless flirting with anything in skirts doesn’t make him an admirable character either. But there’s something about Papillon that is compulsively readable. It is like Ueda has made a stew of vaguely unsavory ingredients and then sprinkled some hot steaming crack on top. I don’t think this manga is particularly good for me to read, but I’m hooked now and I can’t look away because I really want to know what happens next.


Papillon Volumes 1-3 by Miwa Ueda

Miwa Ueda is the author of fan favorite Peach Girl, so how does Papillon compare? I have to admit I only read a few volumes of Peach Girl, and I checked them out from the library years ago, so my memories of the previous series are hazy. But Papillon seems to explore the same sort of dynamic of a downtrodden heroine that Peach Girl had, slightly updated with a gloss of pop psychology.

Papillon Volume 1

The downtrodden heroine in Papillon is Ageha, a teenage girl who was raised in the country by her grandmother and then forced to join her parents and twin sister in the city when her grandmother got sick. Ageha’s twin Hana is a vivacious and popular girl who curls her hair and wears short skirts. Many of the students at the twins’ high school view Hana as a bit of a slut, due to her boyfriend hopping habits. Ageha wears glasses, has blotchy skin, and possesses little sense of style. Ageha has a crush on Ryusei, who used to be her childhood playmate when his family came to the country. He doesn’t know that the teen Ageha is the girl he used to play with because Ageha doesn’t feel like she can approach him.

Ageha is abandoned to man a cafe at a school fair all by herself when suddenly a man wearing a giant horse mask runs into the room and asks her to hide him. He ducks under a table. A gaggle of school girls runs by asking where Kyo chan is and runs off again when they can’t spot him. The horse man demands coffee. Ageha tells him the cafe is closed. He demands coffee again, and Ageha gives in and starts preparing it. He takes off his horse mask to reveal that he’s a handsome older man.

As he’s drinking his coffee, the man with the mask starts rummaging through Ageha’s datebook, finding some pictures she’s saved of her and Ryusei. He asks if she likes the boy in the photo, and draws a dialog balloon over Ageha in the photo saying “We’re seeing each other!” and adds the caption “Madly in love!” Ageha doesn’t react well to her precious photo being vandilized, and the man tells her that her problem is her attitude. She’s given up on a relationship with Ryusei before even trying, and she needs to think positive and say her goals aloud in order to achieve her dream. Ageha decides to give it a try. She wonders if the man is a strange motivational speaker as Ryusei comes back to the cafe.

As Ryusei comes in the room the horse man hands him a photo of Ruysei and Ageha as children and makes a reference to Ryusei being Ageha’s old childhood friend. Ryusei is shocked that Ageha is the “Age-Chan” he remembers from childhood. Ageha and Ryusei make plans to visit her grandmother in the hospital…and here is where the subplot of evil twin sister is introduced. Hana invites herself along on the visit. She offers to style Ageha for the outing, and then shows up in a similar but much better looking outfit. The trio then conveniently happen to run into a boyfriend of Hana’s on their way to the hospital, and he is abusive to Hana in a way that seems like it might be a set-up to inspire Ryusei’s sympathy. Soon Hana and Ryusei are going out, Ageha’s secret picture is discovered and waved around the classroom, Ryusei formally rejects her, and she’s up on the roof trying to climb over a chain link fence when a man comments that she has nice panties.

It is Mr. Horse, and he reveals that he is Hayato Ichijiku, the school guidance counselor. He drags Ageha down to his office and tells her to work on adjusting her attitude again. He tells her to be open and admit her feelings for Ryusei. Even though some of her classmates may bully her, she’ll also likely find supporters. Ageha goes back to her classroom and stands up for herself, beginning a transformation into a more self-confident woman.

Ueda’s art is accomplished and extremely girly, even for the shoujo genre. Ageha is always fighting back repressed tears, and all the characters have bee-stung lips.

Papillon Volume 2

At the end of Volume 1, yet another opportunity to spend time with Ryusei is foiled, when Hana calls him just as he is about to meet Ageha to vist her grandmother again. Ichijiku meets up with Ageha just in time for them to see Hana and Ryusei embrace. Ryusei calls Ageha’s cell phone and cancels. Ichijiku offers to meet Ageha later in the day once he’s done with college. At dinner Ichijiku continues to tell Ageha to be strong and go after Ryusei. They talk about her feelings of inadequacy and fear of abandonment. Ageha wears glasses to be invisible because she wants to escape the notice of her mother. When Ageha was reunited with her family her mother would always downplay Ageha’s accomplishments if it appeared that she might surpass Hana.

Ichijiku ends up using some unusual psychological methods in order to med the rift between Ageha and her mother. For a guidance counselor in training, he’s certainly free with his comments about Ageha’s bra size and jokes about her paying him back for his help with her body. After all the drama, Ageha almost forgets her feelings for Ryusei. When she runs into him again and he apologises for canceling her date, she isn’t upset at all. What upsets her instead is the sight of Ichijiku walking around with an attractive woman. She takes refuge in snacks when she gets a call from him summoning her to his apartment. Is it a romantic tryst? No, he wants her to babysit the twin toddlers he has clinging to him. After saying “Understanding and acknowledging motherhood will heal your pain.” he promptly falls asleep on the sofa.

Ageha and Ichijiku then go on a mock date. He tells her to practice her Ryusei moves. As they wind up on top of a ferris wheel, Ageha reveals that she’s been affected by all of the positive change and encouragement Ichijiku has given her, and she’s been falling in love with him. She asks him if she can be his girlfriend.

Papillon Volume 3

The third volume opens with an misunderstanding of mistaken identity that shows Ichijiku to be a little stupid, especially for someone studying human behavior. Hana arrives at school with straight hair after getting wet, and he mistakes her for Ageha. Hana plays up the mistake as much as possible, going on a date with the guidance counselor as Ageha and acting like a spoiled brat in order to derail her sister’s relationship. One of the things I like about Papillon is the hints that Hana may be somewhat more complex than her role as evil twin suggests. The expressions on her face are sometimes at odds with her actions, and early on in the series when a classmate of Ageha’s attempts to get Hana to persecute her sister, Hana shoots her down. I’d like to think that Hana realizes how mean and superficial she’s being and how shallow and manipulative her relationship with Ryusei is, but I guess I’ll have to wait for future volumes to see if more of her character is revealed.

Ageha and Ichijiku continue their relationship despite all the misunderstandings that continue to plague them. Ageha also encounters her boyfriend’s mentor, who also wears a horse mask. This character quality is never explained. I guess they just hand out horse masks at psychology classes in all of Japan’s finest universities? I found the masks delightfully surreal. I swapped some other manga for this series, and I think if I had actually paid for Papillon, I would probably have been a little disappointed. Although Ageha’s attempts to change are admirable, her essential doormat-like personality isn’t quite changing fast enough. And while Ichijiku is plenty cute, it is a little creepy that he’s willing to date a high school student. But even though I’m not overcome with sympathy for the characters, there is still a train wreck quality to Papillon that makes for compelling reading. It isn’t as additively trashy as Miki Aihara’s works, but it has the same type of soapy appeal. At this point I’ve invested enough time in this series that I’m curious to see what happens next.

Gakuen Prince

Gakuen Prince Volume 1 by Jun Yuzuki

I usually find harem manga amusing when it doesn’t take itself seriously, but even though Gakuen Prince parodies the genre it does so in such a mean-spirited way that produced a very unsatisfying reading experience. Joshi High has only recently become a co-ed school. As a result, the few boys that attend are assigned to a special class. The girls in the school roam around like packs of dogs in heat, harassing any male target they can find.

Okitsu is a glasses-wearing non-entity at school that just wants to preserve her anonymity. She fails to speak up when she’s bullied, composing clever retorts in her mind. She just wants to be left in peace. Of course, when the new male student Mizutani starts school things become more complicated. He’s informed by one of his few male colleagues that his only options are to service as many girls as possible, appear totally unobtainable, or pledge his unending fidelity to only one girl.

As Mizutani runs away from the ravening female horde, he bursts into a room where Okitsu is hiding. He promptly decides to pretend that she’s his girlfriend, ripping off his shirt and messing up her clothes to make the scenario believable when he confronts the mob. Now Okitsu is the target of relentless bullying, and Mizutani doesn’t try to protect her until the other boys tell him to.

The situations in this manga are so over the top, it functions as a parody of the reverse harem genre. Yuzuki frequently draws characters with their faces distorted by their violent emotions, and ugly is a general theme in Gakuen Prince. There isn’t much about the manga that is funny or light-hearted, especially since there’s so much attempted sexual assault going on. The girls are all crazed bitches in heat who appear to be armed with a disturbingly large collection of sex toys, and the guys make hopeless attempts to protect their virtue.

The heavy-handedness is extended to the character development. I might have enjoyed this manga more if the main characters were more interesting, but Okitsu isn’t much beyond the stock “plain but secretly beautiful girl who seems quiet but actually has a horrible temper” that I’ve encountered many times before. Mizutani is frustratingly slow on the uptake about dealing with the effect his actions have on Okitsu, and most of his attempts to make things better only provoke worse retaliation. Overall, this manga was just depressing, although I suppose if someone found sexual harassment amusing the parody aspects of the book might be funny.

Pumpkin Scissors

Pumpkin Scissors Volume 1 by Ryotaro Iwanaga

I swapped for this book several months ago, and it languished in my “to read” pile. I’m glad I finally picked it up. Ridiculous title aside Pumpkin Scissors is an interesting character-based study of the aftermath of war. A war between the Empire and the Republic of Frost has come to an end, but the reconstruction after the war is a new battle. Imperial Army State Section III, nicknamed Pumpkin Scissors, is charged with helping the civilian population and chasing down former soldiers that have turned into bandits. Their commanding field officer is Second Lieutenant Alice Malvin. Alice comes from the nobility and has a habit of brandishing a knife and making pronouncements like “We’re Imperial Army State Section III, aka Pumpkin Scissors! We’ll remove you from this town for perpetuating war crimes and interfering with the reconstruction of our nation!”

Alice and her team investigate a small town where a rogue army squad has barracaded themselves in a dam, venturing out only to terrorize the townspeople. She encounters a gargantuan veteran named Randel who helps in the ensuing battle. He has a lantern that shines blue light like a will o’ the wisp, and when he switches the lantern on he becomes an unstoppable destructive force. Alice decides to ask Randel to join her unit. He seems invigorated by the idea of being part of a force designed for reconstruction, even though it seems to be a joke among the rest of the imperial army.

Pumpkin Scissors goes to investigate a despotic aristocrat and Alice ends up leading an army of maids to rebel against their master. Alice starts to confront her own feelings about being noble by going to an extreme – limiting her transportation and food options in order to try to live as a commoner. Randel always seems to be around when she needs a little bit of advice. He seems like a lovable lunkhead most of the time but it is clear that he’s haunted by his past war experiences. There’s no official record of the unit Randel formerly served with, perhaps because the soldiers in it were the product of human experimentation.

I liked Pumpkin Scissors mainly because of Alice’s character. Usually in manga the brash young soldier type is a man, so it was interesting to see the gender of that character type swapped in this manga. I’m curious to learn more about Randel’s back story too. The other members of Pumpkin Scissors are mostly used for comic relief, especially the messenger dog that always seems to cause accidents. Pumpkin Scissors reminded me a little bit of Fullmetal Alchemist because both series deal with the human aspects of war. I wish the art in Pumpkin Scissors was a little more attractive. While it is easy to follow the action scenes, I often wished that the characters’ facial expressions were a little more mobile. Still, I’m definitely intrigued by this manga, and I’ll probably check out some of the additional volumes or maybe rent the anime version of the story.

The Wallflower 1 and 2

The Wallflower Volumes 1 and 2 by Tomoko Hayakawa (amazon)

Recently I’ve started going back and rereading some series that I thought I should give another try. I was able to swap for the first couple volumes of The Wallflower (thank you Mangatude) and I was glad to revisit this reverse harem comedy manga. I’d read a few volumes of The Wallflower a couple years ago, but I didn’t end up collecting the series.

A quartet of beautiful boys live in the same rooming house. Their frivolous absentee landlady has promised them free rent if they manage to turn her niece Sunako into a proper young lady. Their leader is Kyohei. He’s accompanied by Ranmaru (the ladies’ man), the Yukinojo (the cute one), and Takenaga (the studious one). They agree to take the task on, but when Sunako arrives they see that they will have to work much harder for their free rent than they expected. Sunako was called ugly by a boy she had a crush on many years ago and as a result she has turned herself into a hermit whose main forms of entertainment are watching Italian horror movies and talking to an anatomical model named Hiroshi. She hides her face behind a curtain of bangs, and is frightened of interacting with anything good-looking. Sunako calls her new roommates “Creatures of the Light” and thinks she’s going to melt if she comes into close contact with them.

As the first volume progresses Kyohei becomes a little more protective of Sunako, although he might be motivated by her excellent cooking. Kyohei is so sick of all the attention focused on his looks, it is easy to see why he might like hanging out with a girl like Sunako who seems to find him repulsive. The plot elements in both volumes aren’t very surprising – there’s a school festival to prepare for, a visit to a hot springs, and Sunako is possessed by a vengeful spirit. The Wallflower still manages to provide an interesting twist on the reverse harem genre for those who like plenty of macabre humor. I’ll be interested to find out if Sunako is actually turned into a proper lady by the end of the series, or if she manages to retain her dark and somewhat psychologically damaged personality.

The art is attractive although the character designs for the boys are a little interchangeable. I enjoyed seeing all the details in Sunako’s gothic lair of a room. Sunako is frequently drawn in super deformed mode and her interactions with Kyohei leave her with gushing nosebleeds. At 19 volumes this is a fairly long series. I’m not going to run out and purchase every volume, but I’ll definitely be trying to check it out from the library.