Tag Archives: tokyopop

Aria Volume 5

Aria Volume 5 by Kozue Amano

Reading Aria is the manga equivalent of going on a lazy exotic vacation. I previously enjoyed the first volume, but I wasn’t bowled over by the lack of plot even though the manga contains beautiful background art. I think my opinion has softened a bit, because I enjoyed reading the 5th volume very much. I haven’t picked up the intervening volumes, but Aria is so episodic that I think you could pick up a volume at random and still enjoy the stories about female gondoliers on a future version of Mars that looks like old Venice. It is fall on Neo-Venezia and Akari has been promoted to journeyman status. She’s still exploring new aspects of her adopted home.

In her first adventure she helps an elderly postman deliver the mail. Even the post office is beautifully detailed, with exquisite vaulted ceilings setting off the more prosaic sorting stations. Amano’s world building is impressive, and it was interesting seeing how the mail is delivered by boat by hoisting it up on long polls to the mail slots, requiring exact timing on the part of the mailman. Akari learns how relying on the slower, more human method of sending letters instead of e-mail expresses the character of Neo-Venezia.

Further adventures for Akari include visiting a friend from another gondola company, exploring the rooftops of the city in order to watch the falling stars, having a strict lesson from the head undine at her company, and learning the best way to relax at an outdoor cafe. The art is the best feature of Aria because it leaves the reader with a feeling of having visited another fully realized world at the end of the manga. This book is best enjoyed on its own terms as a way for the reader to relax and go with the flow just as the undines do when they pilot their gondolas through the canals of Mars.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Manga Gift Guide

Many manga bloggers are putting together gift guides to help people with their manga shopping this holiday season. Here’s my contribution, and I hope it helps you with some suggestions for different types of manga fans that might be on your shopping list!

1. For the younger set

It can be tricky to find good manga for younger readers. For younger girls I think the fantasy series from CMX Lapis Lazuli Crown is worth checking out. If they don’t like fantasy, they might enjoy the figure-skating antics in Sugar Princess: Skating to Win. For boys and girls, Hikaru No Go is a fun choice that just might pique their interest in a classic game of strategy.

2. For the comic fan who you want to convert to the manga fold

20th Century Boys is one of the best manga that I’ve read, and the gripping mystery plot combined with political and science fiction elements will pique the interest of many readers. If you have a fan of comics on your shopping list that strenuously avoids manga I think a title like 20th Century Boys will go a long way to convert them.

3. For the realistic comic/manga fan

The post-college malaise that settles on the group of friends in Solanin is something that everyone has gone through when growing up. The realistic setting combined with occasional panels with surreal images creates an interesting atmosphere and most people can relate to the quirky characters.

Ohikkoshi by Hiroaki Samura (author of Blade of the Immortal) follows similar territory in exploring the lives of a group of art students.

4. For the vampire fan

Someone in the grips of vampire mania may enjoy these two series that are complete in two volumes; Bloody Kiss is a lighthearted romance, and Millennium Snow is a cute series from the author of Ouran High School Host Club. Vampire Game might not be at the forefront of everyone’s mind since it came out a few years ago, but this series combines fantasy, a medieval setting, a headstrong princess, and a vampiric cat to create an entertaining and humorous series.

5) For the science fiction fan

Planetes is one of the best science fiction manga that I’ve read. This story about garbage men who have to clear up space debris focuses on the lives of the characters which is refreshing in a science fiction series. It looks like this is now out of print, but it is worth hunting e-bay for an auction to see if you can pick up the complete series.

For a series that is easier to track down, you might want to try Flat Earth Exchange. I enjoyed the first two volumes and have the next two on my shopping list.

Karakuri Odette is a charming new series from Tokyopop about the school adventures of a female android who wants to become more human.

6. For the fantasy fan

Whoever selects manga for CMX always does a great job finding under the radar fantasy series. Apothecarius Argentum is a well-executed fantasy series about an unconventional princess and her relationship with her poison taster, a former assassin named Argent. The series also incorporates some interesting political maneuvering between kingdoms and the combination of politics and medieval medicine makes the series a little different than what you might expect. The six volume Oyayubihime Infinity whips up reincarnation, butterfly tattoos, secret identities, and show business into a frothy shoujo confection.

7. For lovers of romance

My favorite romance series are Boys Over Flowers and Hana Kimi. I haven’t gotten my hands on Itazura Na Kiss yet, but I’m guessing that this classic series is sure to appeal to any serious shoujo fan.

Venus in Love is a series that has plenty of subtle charm, and the college setting sets it apart from the many high school romance manga being published today. The Name of the Flower is one of my favorite recently published romance manga and it has a melancholy tone produced by the unlikely romance between two psychologically damaged people. I also can’t overlook Shinobi Life, a romance manga about a rich girl and a time traveling ninja that just seems to get better with every volume.

8. For the manga fan who has everything

Why not get them some of the earliest manga put out by Viz? While Moto Haigo works are lamentably out of print, you can easily purchase Love Song: 4 Tales By Shojo Manga Artist Keiko Nishi on amazon. Or how about the post-apocalyptic tale Grey, Vol. 1: Perfect Collection, which has some very unique character designs.

For the shoujo fan, you might want to find some of the out of print works by Tomoko Taniguchi like Just a Girl or Call Me Princess. If your manga fan who has everything hasn’t experienced the wonderful strangeness that is Moon Child, that might be a good choice for someone who has become a bit jaded with the medium.

9. Epic series

Maybe you know someone who delights in long-running stories? You can’t go wrong with shoujo classics like Red River, Legend of Basara, or Swan, my favorite ballet saga.

10. The new trend: omnibus editions

I’m happy about the trend towards larger collected editions. I’m glad I procrastinated buying the single volumes of Vagabond because now I can collect the VizBig editions.

Even someone who might already have the single volumes of series like Fushigi Yugi, Dragonball, Ruroni Kenshin, or Hot Gimmick might like the larger collected editions for the extras included.

If you know someone who enjoys beautiful men suffering, historical fiction, and Wagner perhaps they would enjoy the two oversize volumes of Ludwig II by You Higuri.

Some people might find Clover annoying for too much bad poetry. I think it does feature some of the most beautiful layouts that I’ve seen in manga and Dark Horse’s new omnibus edition might be a nice holiday treat for someone who doesn’t have the older Tokyopop volumes.

I hope you’ve been able to get a few ideas for the manga fan on your holiday shopping list!

As to what’s on my wishlist, I’m enjoying Swan so much I am thinking of going back and collecting From Eroica With Love. I’ve only read stray volumes here and there of Red River, so that’s another series I’d like to fill in. Kekkaishi is another series that I wish I’d been collecting from the beginning. I also am sporadic about buying Black Jack, which is always delightful in its own gristly way.

Twelve Kingdoms Volume 3: The Vast Spread of the Seas

Twelve Kingdoms Volume 3: The Vast Spread of the Seas by Fuyumi Ono

The Twelve Kingdoms books are the only series of light novels that I follow with great enthusiasm. I like the Twelve Kingdoms anime quite a bit, but since the story didn’t conclude in the anime so I look to the novels to fill in the gaps. I’ve read the first and second novels in this series, and from what I remember they closely parallel the anime. The Vast Spread of the Seas focuses on one of the more dynamic characters shown in the anime adaptation, the King of En.

The fantastic world of the Twelve Kingdoms lies across a vast sea from Japan, and frequently people from the Twelve Kingdoms end up accidentally being born in Japan. So there is a steady stream of immigrants from Japan coming over to fill important roles in the Chinese-inspired fantasy world which filled with scheming government officials, talking animals, and demons. The King of En was found by his kirin Rokuta who is a mythical beast who performs the will of heaven by choosing a ruler, just when he was losing his small seafaring colony in Japan. Faced with the inevitable destruction of his people and the opportunity to rebuild a kingdom in another world Naotaka agrees to journey far away from Japan and takes the new name Shoryu.

Rokuta was abandoned as a young child so he feels horrible about the state of the Kingdom of En which was brought near the edge of destruction by the previous king. So he is less than happy when Shoryu appears to spend his days lazing around, gambling, and chasing after loose women. Rokuta previously met another abandoned child who was raised by a demon. Rokuta gives the barely literate child the name Koya and promises that one day the Kingdom of En will be save for him and his demon to live together without being persecuted. Several years later the Kingdom of En has just begun to recover but the new King still seems hesitant to clean house of the corrupt government officials that gained power during the reign of the old King.

Rokuta ends up being kidnapped by a governor of a province who appears to care greatly about his people and he has some sympathy for his captor as it appears that he might be a more effective ruler than Shoryu. He meets Koya again who is now in the service of his kidnapper. Little does Rokuta know that while Shoryu was carefully cultivating the reputation of an idiot king he was actually sneaking around his own kingdom as a royal super-spy. A crisis occurs and Shoryu proves to Rokuta that he does have the capacity to become a capable ruler. Shoryu’s charismatic nature and innate sneakiness made finding out how he prevented civil war and preserved his kingdom very entertaining. I think this is my favorite of the Twelve Kingdom books so far, and I’m very much looking forward to the fourth volume in the hopes that I’ll encounter some new characters or storylines that weren’t present in anime version of the story.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Mikansei No. 1 and Momogumi Senkei

Mikansei No. 1 Volume 1 by Majiko!

This is a comedy about a girl from the repressed 23rd century who accidentally travels back in time to the 21st century and delights in the possibilities in a society where women are free to wear short skirts and sing in public. Upon arriving in the past Neo is partnered with the male singer Saya. They have to prove themselves in order to be signed to the talent agency of the copiously Afroed music producer Ebisu. Saya is reluctant to deal with the exuberant Neo, but eventually they start practicing together and share the joy of music. This book had a manic energy, with characters frequently lapsing into chibi mode or displaying incredibly exaggerated facial expressions. There are little touches of humor throughout, like the sound effect used to describe an unfortunate cheesecake or the labeling on the box that Neo uses as her home when she arrives in the past. This volume was an entertaining distraction, but I don’t see myself rereading it. If you enjoy frantic cuteness, this would be a good series to check out.

Momogumi Senki Volume 1 by Eri Sakondo

Yuuki is cursed with “disaster attraction disorder,” a horrible condition that causes him to be late for his first day of school. When a window explodes as he is discussing his plight with his uncle, a teacher at the school, two boys and a girl come to Yukki’s rescue and inform that they are his new protectors. Yuuki is the reincarnation of the legendary Momotaro from the famous folk tale. I had fairly low expectations when I picked up the book and saw the cover with a typical perky manga boy with a band-aid on his cheek and a female companion with limpid eyes.

I ended up enjoying the book more than I expected to. Yuuki’s school is filled with reincarnations of historic figures and people from folk tales. In order to break his curse and live past the age of eighteen, Yuki must fight the demons at his school with the aid of his three new minions/friends. He ends up playing out the Momotaro story in some unexpected and funny ways, and each new character is introduced with a compressed snippet from their folk tale. The art seemed a bit on the generic side, with a heavy reliance on tone. I did find the connections to history and folk tales interesting, it definitely put a better spin on what otherwise would be a fairly typical action comedy manga.

Tsubasa: Those With Wings Volume 3

Tsubasa: Those With Wings Volume 3 by Natsuki Takaya

The concluding volume of Natsuki Takaya’s post-apocalyptic saga has plenty of action and some genuinely unnerving imagery. Kotobuki leaves behind her lover Raimon in her quest to find the angelic being called the Tsubasa, who is rumored to grant any wish. She finds out that the Tsubasa is entirely earthbound. When she meets the professor who worked on the Tsubasa project, she learns that the Tsubasa are actually a pair of male and female artificial life forms created by humans in an attempt to harness the human brain’s full potential. The two beings need each other to become the Tsubasa. Kotobuki had previously encountered the boy Rikuro. The girl Kayo has been missing for years. The professor is impressed that Rikuro revealed himself to Kotobuki and agrees to help her save Raimon from the bomb in his head. Kotobuki joyfully prepares to return to Raimon’s side, but he’s been captured by the army. The Colonel plans to use Raimon’s magnificent brain to form Kayo’s other half and resurrect the Tsubasa project for his own purposes.

What follows is a whirlwind of a sci-fi story. Rikuro is able to make Kotobuki appreciate the depth of Raimon’s feelings for her, and she finally learns about his mysterious past. When the Tsubasa appear, their behavior is anything but angelic. I could finally see major hints of Fruits Basket in this work, as the characters grapple with the nature of love and their own selfishness. While this isn’t a perfect work by any means, the art gets better with each volume and some of the images exploring the intersection of man and machine were incredibly creepy. There were some awkward moments when too much exposition was crammed into too few panels. I was happy to see that the other characters’ somewhat annoying habit of talking about how awesome Kotobuki had faded away by the third volume. I think Takaya’s storytelling skills grew more refined as the series progressed.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Tokyopop Quick Takes: Bloody Kiss, Game X Rush, Shinobi Life

Bloody Kiss Volume 2 by Kazuko Furumiya

As morning dawns in the spooky mansion where Kiyo and her vampire roommates live, they are engaged in the darkly Gothic task of following along with a morning radio exercise program. The second volume of this fluffy vampire series shows Kiyo’s feelings for Kuroboshi growing even as he causes her anxiety by enrolling in her school. The sudden appearance of her long-lost childhood friend who just happens to be a vampire slayer doesn’t help matters either. I liked this volume a little less than the first one, because there were fewer appearances from Kuroboshi’s comedic vampire sidekick Alshu. Sometimes a short two volume manga series doesn’t end up having a satisfying conclusion, and while Bloody Kisses did have an ending, it seemed a little arbitrary. If there had been more of an ongoing storyline I think I would have felt better about the ending. Still, this is a good brain candy type series for people who like vampire stories with less angst and more humor.

Game X Rush Volume 2 by Mizuho Kusanagi

I previously reviewed the first volume. I didn’t realize that this was also a two volume series. In the second and final volume the mind games between bodyguard Memori and is-he-or-isn’t-he-assassin Yuuki continue, aided by plenty of slapstick violence. After being hospitalized with injuries, Yuuki keeps trying to escape from his perscription for bedrest by climbing out the window of his room. Memori resorts to dressing up in hospital gear to monitor his new friend. Who is the woman Yuuki is so desperate to talk to, and does she have a connection with Memori’s forgotten past?
I wonder if I need to adjust my expectations for two volume manga series. I’m guessing that usually the author gets word of impending cancellation after they’ve already planned out a longer story arc, and then everything just gets jammed into the last few chapters. That’s the way the second volume of Game X Rush felt, as revelation followed revelation at a fast clip. The humor in the first half of the book and the angst in the second half of the book didn’t create a coherent volume, and there was a big contrast between the crowded art in the first few chapters and the more expansive layouts in the final few pages. I really wish I could have seen what the author would have accomplished with more space to tell the story. Overall, I’m glad I read this series, but I’m not likely to revisit it.

Shinobi Life Volume 3 by Shoko Conami

Shinobi Life was a much more satisfying read. This series just gets better with each volume. I was a little lukewarm about the first volume, thought the second volume was amusing, and now after reading the third volume I think I’m hooked. There’s something about the combination of ninjas, time travel, and romance that I find entertaining. Reading this after Bloody Kiss and Game X Rush made me appreciate the clarity of Conami’s illustrations. She really excels at showing the subtle shading of emotions as her characters react to each other. The character designs are also unfailingly attractive.
The romance between rich girl Beni and time traveling Ninja bodyguard is derailed even more by the presence of Beni’s fiance Rihito, who has his own ninja, Hitaki. When Hitaki captures Kagetora, Rihito uses it as leverage to further his relationship with Beni. She agrees to be with Rihito as long as he promises that Kagetora will not be harmed. Kagetora and Beni go back to their daily life, but Kagetora can sense that something is wrong. Beni is always smiling bravely and it doesn’t look like her natural expressions. Beni and Rihito get to know each other better, and there are some things they have in common – they both have incredibly manipulative and abusive parents. Hitaki still wants to kill Kagetora, and Rihito promises him he will get his chance eventually. Even though there are plenty of things keeping them apart, Beni and Kagetora can’t fight their feelings for each other. I think the plot in Shinobi Life is growing even more entertaining as more characters with their own motivations are introduced. Rihito initially seems like a straightforward villain, but he has reasons for acting the way he does. I’m looking forward to seeing how everything develops in this series, although a new plot point centered around Beni has me a bit concerned.

Review copies provided by the publisher.

Wild Act 1-5

Wild Act Volumes 1-5 by Rie Takada

It is tricky sometimes when you discover older manga series. The manga publishing business has been going along long enough that many early series are out of print. While it would have been hard for me to imagine not being able to track down a series on Amazon several years ago except for some of the earliest volumes put out by Viz, I can easily see myself running into issues finding full run for series like Wild Act. I enjoyed the first 5 volumes, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to easily track down the rest. This is a little disappointing because I don’t really picture myself getting into the habit of paying rare book prices for out of print manga (Volume 10 of Wild act is listed at $21.00 on Amazon by resellers), so I’ll just add the missing volumes to my wish list at Paperbackswap.com and hope for the best.

Wild Act combines two manga genres that I generally find interesting – thievery and show business.

Yuniko is obsessed with the dead actor Akira Nanae. She’s dedicated her life to tracking down the artifacts he left after his death. She’s been raised by the UAT theater company in the absence of her parents and her faithful companion is a flying squirrel named Kamui. Yuniko is watched over by UAT member Sanae. Ryu is an up and coming young actor, who is being called “the New Nanae.” Ryu resents the comparison with the dead actor so he is less than thrilled when he is about to receive one of Nanae’s old acting awards.

Yuniko targets Ryu’s award for her next job, making sure to prepare by leaping off tall buildings and assembling tricky disguises and grappling hooks. Unfortunately things do not go as well as she planned and Ryu identifies her as a thief. He retains possession of the statute but invites her to steal from him again. Yuniko and Ryu’s relationship starts out on an antagonistic note, but of course they end up falling for each other. In the world of show business love can quickly become complicated. His resentment of the actor Nanae and her obsession with collecting Nanae artifacts causes tension between them.

Sometimes I’m at a loss to explain why I find one series packed full of cliches charming, while another series with the same amount of cliches is deadly boring. I think in the case of Wild Act, it is greatly helped along by Takada’s workmanlike art. She really excels at portraying strong, plucky female characters. I was amused to see that Yuniko has developed her own brand of martial arts which she doesn’t hesitate to use to defend herself. She gets her gadgets from a perverted nerd and is often assisted on her jobs by her flying squirrel. The mischievous expressions on her face suit the character of a thief with an acting background. I also enjoyed the frequency with which Yuniko and Ryu don disguises.

As Yuniko and Ryu’s relationship develops they both start attending a high school affiliated with UAT. Maki Tatsumi is the child of a paparazzi photographer and he is their new classmate. He starts delving into their background and threatens to expose some shocking secrets. Yuniko hasn’t seen her mother in years, and when she discovers where her mother may be working she and Ryu take a trip to visit her. Unfortunately Yuniko’s mother has a horrible case of amnesia. She doesn’t remember her days as a model, actress, and sometime Nanae co-star.

I wonder how many times incest is used as a subplot to derail romantic relationships in manga. So far I’ve encountered it as a plot device in Wild Act, Marmalade Boy, and I understand that the works of Kaori Yuki are often plenty incesty. Just as Yuniko and Ryu become comfortable with each other, they discover the possibility that she may be Nanae’s daughter and he may be Nanae’s son. This might explain her Nanae obsession and his Nanae hatred. The specter of the dead actor looms over their relationship and they may have to steal even more artifacts in order to get documentation of the truth. Yuniko and Ryu are determined to cure the amnesia her mother is experiencing.

It is cute the way Yuniko and Ryu stand up for each other. He attempts to stage a distraction for the tabloid press that have staked out her apartment in order to shield her from attention but she decides to join him outside so they can deal with the paparazzi frenzy together. While they attempt to untangle the information about their parentage, Maki decides to retire from being a tabloid photographer and confesses his love for Yuniko. While Wild Act isn’t very profound, I did find it entertaining. I certainly hope that Yuniko and Ryo aren’t related and love will conquer all, but I guess I’ll have to wait until I can track down the rest of the series to find out.

Karakuri Odette

Karakuri Odette Volume 1 by Julietta Suzuki

The cover of this manga immediately captured my attention. Who was this this girl plugged into a machine with a deadpan expression on her face? When I realized that Karikuri Odette was about an android attending high school, I was a little concerned because I tend to associate mechanical high school girls with excessive amounts of fan service. Fortunately Karakuri Odette ended up being a nice slice-of-life school story about a machine who just wants to become more human.

Odette and her creator Professor Yoshizawa meet with the school principal. Odette wants to know what the difference is between her and humans, so she expressed the desire to attend school two weeks after she was constructed. The Professor assures the principal that Odette is state-of-the art, with programming in place to ensure that she will never do anything to harm a human. A mosquito lands on the coffee table and Odette slaps it, splintering the table with her incredible strength. Despite her destructive tendencies towards furniture, Odette is allowed to attend school as a new transfer student. She sees her classmates eat lunch and wonders at the meaning of the word “tasty” so she asks the professor to give her the ability to eat. She also asks for her strength to be diminished to that of a normal human girl. Odette wonders at the meaning of tears when she sees her classmate Yoko crying over a boy. When Odette is trapped with Yoko and unable to save the situation she tells Yoko to look away and selflessly sacrifices herself by ripping out her circuits to trigger an alarm signal to the Professor. Odette wakes up with the Professor reassembling her. When he tells her she has friends waiting to see her, she says “What’s going on? I feel like my body should be jumping up and down.” The Professor replies “It means you’ve gotten ten steps closer to being human.”

The rest of the volume has some standalone episodes that show Odette gradually progressing with her understanding of humans and androids. An android assassin named Chris visits the house when the professor is out, and Odette thinks he is the answer to her Christmas wish of “someone to play with.” A delinquent named Kurose finds out Odette’s secret after she defends him from bullying and finds himself treating the android girl like a friend despite his knowledge that she isn’t human. Odette has an encounter with another android girl who seems a little too good to be true, and the collection concluded with an unexpectedly touching story about Odette encountering a ghostly little boy.

One of the things I liked most about Karakuri Odette was the lack of emphasis on romance. Odette will comment on her human friends’ pulse rate and body temperature as they gaze at their objects of affection, but a typical shoujo romance doesn’t seem to be in the cards for this series just yet. The art is clean and expressive, as Odette’s expressions gradually grow warmer and more human-like throughout the volume. There’s a bit of physical humor as Odette reacts to the human world and some of the poses she strikes are hilarious, like when she holds up tensed fingers to say that she’s capable of playing the piano.

At six volumes, this series seems like it would be a good length. Not too long to make someone panic about running out of space on their bookshelves, but long enough to explore several story arcs and hopefully wrap everything up with a nice conclusion. This is exactly the type of shoujo series that I hope to see more of from Tokyopop, and I’m looking forward to reading the further adventures of Odette.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Animal Academy 2 and Takeru 2

Animal Academy Volume 2 by Moyamu Fujino

I’m liking this series about a human girl attending a high school for shape shifters more with the second volume. I previously reviewed volume one. The second volume shows Neko continuing to settle in at her strange new high school, with just enough mysterious happenings to keep the reader wondering what will happen during volume three. She finds out that one of the boys in her class is another undercover human. There’s a mysterious portal to the outside world that randomly appears in the forest surrounding the school. The student handbook seems to predict the future, especially Neko’s club selection – just what is the “Ninja Club” for anyway and how can she find it?

There’s slightly less interspecies friction as Neko’s cat-roommate Miiko settles down a little bit and is less antagonistic towards the other students. Neko still can’t figure out the human identity of the mysterious snake she previously encountered. The only student who is a snake, Sasuke, claims it wasn’t him. Sasuke also appears to have a similar looking brother named Yasuke who also appears around Neko often. The only thing that I find to be a little off about the book is the way the high school students are all drawn to look as if they are in fifth grade. Still, Animal Academy is a light, undemanding read with plenty of cute drawings of animals, and the day to day life of the students attending the mystical high school was entertaining. It is very tough to find manga suitable for the 10+ age range, so I’m glad Tokyopop is publishing this series.

Takeru: Opera Susanoh Sword of the Devil Volume 2 by Nakashima Kazuki and Karakara Kemuri

I previously reviewed the first volume of this fantasy saga about three men named Takeru who come together in a quest to find a legendary sword. The second volume is much more frenetically paced than the first, with plenty of battles, plot twists, and revelations. After being hailed as three legendary heroes by the Jagara, the amazonian society that protects the legendary sword of Susanoh, the Takerus find themselves in a frantic battle that involves hang gliding and an airborne blood coagulant that hampers the Jagara’s legendary blood based fighting powers.

The revelations keep coming as the reader learns that the Jagara have a graveyard for their missing breasts, and Takeru Oguna is actually the long lost prince of the enemy Amamikado. While the action scenes could be a little more coherent, there was something about the non-stop nutty revelations and the energy of this manga that appealed to me. This is the type of series that I’d be perfectly happy reading from the library, but I might not go out and spend my own money on it.

Review copies provided by the publisher

Tokyopop quick takes – Maria Holic and Mad Love Chase

Maria Holic Volume 1 by Minari Endou

I have difficulties seeing people be humiliated. Even when I’m watching something really innocuous like a sitcom, I’ll sometimes switch channels if I sense that a character is about to be horrifically embarrassed. So while I can defiantly see how someone might find Maria Holic funny, it just doesn’t jibe well with my sense of humor.

Kanoko enrolls in an all-girls school with the hope of finding her soulmate. Her parents met at the school years ago when her mother was a student and her father a teacher. Kanoko has a pathological fear of men that has a physical symptom – if a boy touches her she breaks out in horrible hives. After arriving at the school Kanoko makes the unfortunate discovery that one of her fellow students is a cross-dresser. Mariya is a sadistic boy who attends school as a girl. In order to make sure that Kanoko won’t reveal his secret he insinuates himself into her life. He decides he’ll displace her roommate.

Kanoko’s life is filled with hazing incidents and threats from Mariya and other students. While some of the pranks are funny (strange animal in a school bag, oozing gelatin in her desk, sudden protector patrolling the hallway kendo gear, random incidents with sea animals) she just spends most of her time wearing a grimace of anguish. The characters were portrayed too broadly for me to really sympathize with anyone. Kanoko just seems too pathetic, and Mariya’s teasing about Kanoko’s supposed lesbianism is just mean.

Mad Love Chase by Kazusa Takashima

This book is by the yaoi author Kazusa Takashima, and thus Mad Love Chase is filled with attractive men. The demon prince Kaito escapes to earth accomanied by his pet cat Rebun. On earth he is a wispy high school student named Yamato and Rebun has transformed into human form in order to become the sexy school nurse named Haga at Yamato’s high school. Scores of people from the demon kingdom arrive on earth to track down the lost prince, so Yamato is often the victim of plots to steal his clothes so the demons in disguise can take a look at the tattoo on his back to confirm his identity.

It is strange that most of the people Yamato comes in contact with are demons. There’s the creepy groundskeeper, his buff fellow student Taiki, and the sadistic new guidance counselor is actually his demonic fiancee. The transitions between scenes were often a little confusing. I thought that there would be more switching back and fourth between the demon world and Earth, but Mad Love Chase settles into high school comedy mode fairly quickly. I liked it more than Maria Holic, but the manga left me with a general impression of haphazardness. Reading the author’s note about going through multiple editors during the development process of the manga explained the manga’s lack of focus.

Review copies provided by the publisher.