Here you will find honest, intelligent manga reviews for shojo fans of all ages.

Dec 31, 2009

Shojo New Year Scene

What is the most memorable new year's scene in a shojo manga? A few come to my mind, but I wondered what every one else out there could think of. Post it in the comments and let's see if we can come up with a pretty good list. Domo arigato!

Dec 22, 2009

Memorable Manga Moments - M³: Shinobi Life

Anyone need a laugh today? Recently I was going back through Shinobi Life as I reviewed the third volume. I remembered that the first volume had some humorous moments and this was one of the best.

To put things in context, the ninja Kagetora has just time traveled through a few centuries to the present time. He thinks that the girl here, Beni, is actually his beloved princess from history. Beni thinks that Kagetora was hired by her father as a body guard.

Shinobi Life Vol. 1 Ch. 2

When Beni wakes up the first morning after Kagetora arrives in the present, she finds him hanging above her bed guarding her. She freaks out when she discovers that Kagetora is always guarding her secretly, even when she's changing. (Duh - He is a ninja!) When Kagetora notices Beni's weird attire, he tries to remove her loin cloth. Pfft! Leave it to a ninja to get off a girl's thong without removing her clothes!

Dec 19, 2009

New York Times Best Seller Ending 12/12

What do you know! D N Angel 13 moves up the list, and Vampire Knight 8 continues to maintain the #2 spot.

Vampire Knight 8
D N Angel 13

Dec 12, 2009

Pig Bride Vol. 3 - KookHwa Huh / SuJin Kim

Synopsis: Starting right where the story last ended, volume three opens with Doe-Doe getting hold of Mu-Yeon's pig mask. Greedy Doe-Doe now in possession of the mask, decides to try it on herself and suffers the consequences. Meanwhile, Si-Joon and friends are out searching for Mu-Yeon and Doe-Doe. Once Doe-Doe is found, Si-Joon must decide whether or not to give the mask back to Mu-Yeon. The next morning Si-Joon's friend Ji-Oh brings it to his attention that he may have some tender feelings towards Mu-Yeon. In complete denial, Si-Joon continues to fuss about Doe-Doe. A flash back shows Si-Joon and Mu-Yeon from their previous lives. When Mu-Yeon's main nemesis, Ki Ryong, shows up dressed as Mu-Yeon, she tries to seduce Si-Joon into her arms. Si-Joon is then left to decide what his true feelings for Mu-Yeon really are. The volume ends once again with a cliffhanger. Ji-Oh has been kidnapped!

Review: Ah! Finally we get to know why Mu-Yeon wears her mask! At the beginning of the book we see the consequences if someone sees Mu-Yeon's face. Then later on in flashbacks, we learn about the curse of the mask and what Mu-Yeon's goal is now at this point in time. The flash backs are integral to the plot of the story, and my favorite one of this volume was one we have seen before. The very first volume of this series begins with the flashback of when Si-Joon met Mu-Yeon for the first time. At eight years old he gets lost, little Mu-Yeon finds him, and he is tricked into marrying her. Now in volume three, we see that flashback again, yet from Mu-Yeon's point of view. Even at eight years old she recognizes Si-Joon from her past life, and already loves him. It's very sweet.

Si-Joon himself has started to come around to his feelings for Mu-Yeon in this volume. Even though he could demand that Mu Yeon show him her face when she loses her mask, he sympathizes with her, and offers it back. We also see him ask her for protection when the place they are staying at loses electricity. Although he denies any affection for her, he becomes jealous when Mu-Yeon praises Ji-Oh and asks for help in studying. He tells Ji-Oh to go to the hospital to see Doe-Doe, because he doesn't want to leave Ji-Oh and Mu-Yeon alone together. Another time he wakes from a dream of Mu-Yeon being attacked in his past life, and the first thing he does is find Mu-Yeon and embrace her. Until he comes fully awake, and then he shoves her away. His ever conflicting emotions make him weak to whatever attacks the antagonist has planned.

Speaking of the evil one, previously we've had hints and glimpses of Mu-Yeon's nemesis, but now in volume three we see her in action. Aiming to keep Mu-Yeon and Si-Joon apart, she has come to fulfill her historical role of assassinating Si-Joon. Attempts on his life have been occurring since volume one. The shockingly beautiful temptress now takes it upon herself to intervene, trying to also keep Mu-Yeon from breaking her curse.

The humor in this volume really steps it up a notch. In my opinion the raccoon steals the show. He's just randomly there, but keeps on playing a role that either saves the day, or gives you fits of laughter. Then there's poor Doe-Doe. If you weren't sure about Doe-Doe before, it becomes apparent now that her character really is there for comic relief. When she tries on Mu-Yeon's mask, she is struck by lightning. They then show in a news broadcast her strawberry panties that have a hole through the butt, and her drooling face with fried hair. Later on we discover that because of the lightning strike, Doe-Doe has become magnetized and anything metal is attracted to her. Which becomes quite comical at one point. Eventually she becomes so embarrassed that she starts wearing a paper bag over her head. If you ever wanted to watch the spoiled brat get her just deserts, then this series does a fine job of it.

As I've said in previous reviews, the color art is not that fantastic, but it's the layout and paneling as well as the clean line art and toning that carry this imaginative plot. Pig Bride is enjoyable to read and keeps me giggling through out each volume. If a series can do that, then I'll keep coming back for more. If you're looking for something sweet, light-hearted, and humorous then I highly recommend you give this series a try.

Romance Rating: Steamy - Not that there are any passionate scenes happening in this story, but Si-Joon does walk in on Mu-Yeon while changing clothes or bathing more than once, so there's some implied nudity. Then there's the insistence every volume that the couple consummate the marriage by Mu-Yeon.

Media Status: Pig Bride volume 3 is available in English from Yen Press. You can find the most recent chapters in the Yen Plus publication. Volume four will be available April 2010.

Dec 11, 2009

New York Times Best Seller Ending 12/5

Vampire Knight 8 hangs on the the #2 spot while D N Angel 13 pops in to the bottom ranks.

Vampire Knight 8
D N Angel 13

Dec 7, 2009

Shinobi Life Vol. 3 - Shoko Conami

Synopsis: Beginning with Kagetora's kidnapping by fellow time-traveling ninja Hitaki for Beni's arranged fiance Iwatsuru, volume three jumps right into the story. By bargaining to become Iwatsuru's girl, Beni is able to save Kagetora from torture. Feigning happiness to protect Kagetora, Beni suffers in silence. Her self-doubts about Kagetora's feelings for her, and a blunder by Kagetora himself, push Beni to believe that Kagetora really still loves his first princess, Beni-Hime.

Meanwhile Iwatsuru seeks Beni's attention in order to discover for his father how Beni's mother had the ability to predict the future. When Iwatsuru tries to force his affection on Beni, he despises himself and realizes that he has truly fallen for Beni, despite what his father desires.

Ashamed that he can't protect her, and burning with jealousy at Iwatsuru's affections towards Beni, Kagetora lashes at out Beni in anger when he discovers she has been protecting him all this time. Depressed and disheartened, Beni escapes her father's confinement only to fall down a well on her own property. When Kagetora finds her, sparks ignite as the two act on what really lies in their hearts.

Review: Shoko Conami continues the journey of her star-crossed lovers in this third installment of the series. Filled with pages of high strung emotions, this volume focuses on Beni's depth of feelings for Kagetora, and the complications from her newly announced engagement. The passionate sentiments displayed by Beni, Kagetora, and Iwatsuru reveal how their perceptions of each other have evolved. Beni wears her heart upon her sleeve, and even when confronted by Iwatsuru to love him, she points out that she can't make her heart love him (especially when she already loves someone else!). Iwatsuru really wants Beni to be happy, and struggles with his own inability to provide that for her. Kagetora finally acts upon his rage and jealousy, showing Beni how he truly feels towards her. While some may be turned off by the soap-operatic feel of this series, others will be engrossed by the romance and angst at the heart of the story.

Though there are usually more action sequences in Shinobi Life, volume three focuses on character development using dialogue scenes. That may sound boring, but Conami pulls it off with her talent of expression.
Key plot elements are revealed through these conversations, and the character dynamics play a large role in story development. Through her feathery drawings and fervent dialogue, emotions flow off the page so effortlessly that you can't help but empathize with the main characters.

With such emotional c
ontent, the toning greatly impacts the mood of the scene. A strength of this particular series is that along with well chosen panels, contrasts in toning help focus in on the character actions and expressions. Add to that the attractive character designs, and the pages really are easy on the eyes.

A word of caution, though. Without previous knowledge from the first 2 volumes, readers will be lost trying to fathom the story starting at volume 3. The plot would be confusing not knowing the back story of Beni-Hime and Kagetora. Plus, the time traveling aspect would need to be better explained. Begin at volume one if this story piques your interest.

Romance Rating: Steamy - Heart-breaking sacrifice and intense kissing scenes spice up this volume. This time-traveling drama will captivate audiences that enjoy adventure along with an epic romance.

Media Status: Serialized in Princess magazine since 2006, Shinobi Life is being released by Tokyopop here in the states. Volume 3 was released November 10, 2009.

Dec 4, 2009

New York Times Best Seller Ending 11/28

Vampire Knight 8 falls to number two. Other shojo titles are slowly receding as newer manga volumes debut.

Vampire Knight 8
Ouran High School Host Club 13
Black Bird 2

Dec 1, 2009

Vampire Knight 8 - Interrupted

So after waiting a couple weeks to dive into my copy of Vampire Knight 8, I got a rather disappointing surprise. My copy happens to be a misprint. I know these things can happen, but I wondered if it was just my particular copy or if it happened to a whole batch. There are about four pages that look like the one below:

I know Viz would happily replace the book, but what is the best way to go about it? Do I return it to the book store, or try to somehow contact Viz for a new copy? Anyone had this experience before?

Nov 14, 2009

New York Times Best Seller Ending 11/7

Saw this one coming. Vampire Knight 8 at the top of the list after one week. Ouran High School Host Club 13 debuting towards the top as well with Black Bird 2 following closely behind.

Vampire Knight 8
Ouran High School Host Club 13
Black Bird 2

Nov 10, 2009

Yack Your Stack - November 2009

It's been awhile since I last reported what was in my TBR pile. I'll also include some of those that I just finished, say within the past week. Seems like the size of the pile doesn't change much, no matter how much I read!

Some series I just read through include Kieli 1&2 -manga version, Apothecarius Argentum 1-3, Yurara 1-5, Rasetsu 1-2, Kimi ni Todoke 2, Skip Beat! 19, Nightschool 1 &2, and Ghost Hunt 10.

I really got into Apothecarius Argentum and am waiting on the rest of the books to be shipped at this point. (Told you I'd get hooked, Lorena!) I also recently became a Chika Shiomi fan. (Thanks to your reviews a few months ago, Kate.) I still love Skip Beat! and Kimi ni Todoke. I first saw Nightschool in Yen Plus, then I discovered Dramacon. Needless to say, I became a Chmakova fan. Nightschool has a very promising beginning. Ghost Hunt got on my radar from the anime, and now I want to know the rest of the story. Finally, Kieli is a series I researched for paranormal, but there's not much romance in the manga.

What's left in my pile? I still haven't picked up the rest of Suzuka 3-12. I'm kind of stuck with that series since I watched the anime. I read somewhere that there is more to the story than what was animated, so I just need to get past that point. I'm waiting on the rest of Apothecarius Argentum 4-8, and those will be the moved to the top of the pile. The rest of the pile consists of volume one of Name of the Flower, Black Bird 2, Vampire Knight 8, We Were There 1, Red River 24-27, Shakugan no Shana light novels 1 & 2, and Black Jack vols. 7-8.

I could add more, but we'll save that for another time. Note that I don't always write reviews for everything I read, but you can see what I'm reading currently on the shelfari widget. I try to keep that up to date daily. In the meantime, I think I'll go tackle some of that pile. :)

Oct 28, 2009

Creepy + Chemistry = Supernatural Shojo

As the crisp cool evenings settle in, it's time to curl up with some spine-tingling, bone-chilling tales of the supernatural to set the mood for the coming season. For a shojo fan, those haunted horrors are even better when they involve memorable characters with romantic chemistry. If you're in the mood for something spooky and spicy, consider delving into some of the series below.

If terror like Ringu is what you enjoy, then try out The Reading Club by Cho Ju-Hee and Suh Yun-Young. A manhwa that combines gory horror and romance, The Reading Club revolves around a cursed book that leads its readers into gruesome circumstances. The couples include a high school student that decides she's going to keep her crush from being destroyed by the book, and local coroner and cop that have a flirtatious relationship. Chilling artwork adds to the eerie quality of this recent series. ♥♥♥

Not into all the gore? You might prefer a tamer series like Ghost Hunt written by Fuyumi Ono and drawn by Shiho Inada. This paranormal series combines elements of mystery, suspense, and supernatural events that build a relationship between a spunky, not so average high school girl and a handsome, narcissistic seventeen year old genius. With a quirky cast consisting of high school students, psychics, a monk, a shinto shrine maiden, a Catholic priest, and a medium, Ghost Hunt provides plenty of characters to involve in romantic entanglements. Creepy cases and the hope of further developments between the lead characters keep readers coming back for more. ♥♥♥

Like the paranormal without all the darkness? A series like Yurara or Rasetsu by Chika Shiomi may be just what you'd enjoy. Yurara precedes Rasetsu in storyline, but both can be read independently with no problem. Stories with more chemistry than horror, these series follow attractive heroines with strong spiritual powers supported by a couple of hunky guys with their own rightful abilities. Their desire to help lost spirits leads them to finding love in the process. With all the beauties to look at, you'll never get tired of viewing these paranormal romances. ♥♥♥♥

Speaking of beauties, let's not forget the vampires! If you like it dark and dramatic then be sure to dig into Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino. Set at a boarding school for humans and vampires, main character Yuki seeks her forgotten memories. In her search she encounters Zero and Kaname, both set on protecting Yuki from whatever dangers she must face. ♥♥♥♥♥
If you prefer comedy over drama, then you need to check out Chibi Vampire (aka. Karin) by Yuna Kagesaki. A shojo that makes fun of its own genre at times, this series approaches vampire lore from a unique angle. Karin just can't fit in as a human or a vampire. Unlike most vampires, Karin doesn't suck. She instead overproduces the amount of blood in her body and must inject it into someone at least once a month. That is, until she meets Kenta, and her system goes off kilter. Just being in Kenta's presence causes Karin the urge to inject others with blood - and she can't get away from seeing him, as they're in the same class and work at the same establishment. Kagesaki's sense of irony lends itself to some great comedic moments. ♥♥♥

So, as costumed critters scamper about these coming eves, consider meeting some colorful characters yourself. Whether you're in the mood to laugh or scream, supernatural shojo manga's got you covered.

Oct 23, 2009

New York Times Best Seller Ending 10/17/09

New York Times Manga Best Seller List for the week ending October 17th includes three shojo titles. Here are the week's shojo rankings:

Chibi Vampire 14
Vampire Kisses:
Blood Relatives 3#7
Skip Beat 19

Oct 17, 2009

New York Times Best Seller Ending 10/10/09

New York Times Manga Best Seller List for the week ending October 10th includes five shojo titles. Here are the week's shojo rankings.

Chibi Vampire 14
Vampire Kisses, Blood Relatives 3#6
Skip Beat 19

Shugo Chara! 7

Wild Ones 8

Oct 14, 2009

Shōjo Sensei - The Kotatsu

In the culture of Japan you'll find an interesting piece of furniture that many a manga have built warm or humorous scenes around. The kotatsu is a table that is about the height of an English coffee table, and is meant to be sat around on the floor. The table has a blanket draped around all four sides and underneath it is an electric heating element. Since Japanese houses tend to be less insulated, often the kotatsu is used as a main heat source during cold winter months.

I first saw a kotatsu in an anime, but throughout my reading journeys, I've come across many manga that also have memorable events around a kotatsu. For example, in Nodame Cantabile, there's an entire chapter where the students do not want to leave the warmth of the kotatsu to throw away trash or even get food. The kotatsu is brought into Chiaki's western style apartment by Nodame. After spending several days enthralled by the warmth of the kotatsu, Chiaki realizes his normally neat apartment has become completely trashed. That's when he takes the kotatsu out to the curb, in hopes of getting rid of it and Nodame from his apartment. Humorously, Nodame finds the kotatsu on the way home from class and brings it back up to the apartment claiming that now Chiaki can have his own kotatsu too!

How about building a kotatsu by hand? Heroine Sunako Nakahara from The Wallflower takes it upon herself to build a kotatsu for the mansion when Kyouhei comments that it would be nice to eat naba around a kotatsu with family. Her skills lead to a giant kotatsu that she tries to carry home herself. Ironically, Kyouhei finds the giant kotatsu on his way home from the market and underneath is Sunako, crushed in the snow. He carries the kotatsu to the mansion. Shortly after that the rest of the guys at the mansion find them collapsed out on the front lawn. After warming up they all eat naba around the kotatsu together.

Would you like some fan service with your kotatsu? In Love Hina, Keitaro has to suddenly hide when he's studying with Naru in her girls-only dorm room. He ducks under the kotatsu only to end up in an akward situation. Dizzy from the heat and unable to see without his glasses, Naru gets an embarrassing surprise from Keitaro!

Even with all the anime and manga inspired sentiments, kotatsu are rare outside of Japan. When you find one online, there's the added cost of international shipping. However, thanks to the simple design, they are not that difficult to build. If you want to experience the warmth of a Japanese kotatsu this coming winter season, you just need the right materials and a little bit of elbow grease.

Have any fond memories of a kotatsu moment? Tell us in the comments!

Oct 12, 2009

Boys Over Flowers - Yoko Kamio

Yoko Kamio’s shojo series Hana Yori Dango, translated as Boys Over Flowers, ran in Japanese publication Margaret from October 1992 to September 2003. In 1996 it won the Shogakukan Manga Award in the shojo category. It’s still the all time best selling shojo series in Japan.

Synopsis: The series begins with high school student Makino Tsukushi trying to blend in at the elite Eitoku Academy. Since the academy is the choice school of wealthy and high society families, Tsukushi does not relate well with many of the students being from a family that is very poor. It is her strong sense of justice that catches the attention of the F4, or Flower Four, the four wealthiest and most beautiful boys on campus. Headed up by Tsukasa Domyoji, the heir to the large and successful Domyoji Corporation, the group also includes Rui Hanazawa, Akira Mimasaka, and Sojiro Nishikado. When Tsukushi becomes the target of the F4’s harassment, she clashes wills with Tsukasa Domyoji. Tsukasa becomes infatuated with Tsukushi because she is one of the first girls who doesn’t fawn over him for his money. During the course of the series, Tsukushi develops feeling for Rui Hanazawa, Tsukasa’s best friend. However, she learns that Rui is trying to overcome his feelings for another girl and does not reciprocate Tsukushi's feelings at the opportune time. Meanwhile Tsukasa continues to pursue Tsukushi, and as Tsukushi notices the changes in Tsukasa’s personality for her own benefit, she begins to develop feelings for him too. These two angsty teenagers from opposite backgrounds must overcome numerous obstacles to unite their ever-diverging lives.

Review: My expectations for Boys Over Flowers were not set up to disappoint. I honestly approached it like I would any other series I start reading. I didn’t know it was the best selling shojo title in Japan until I started doing my research. I can only fathom that it earned this title because the target audience devoured it, and it ran for sooo long. Admittedly, I, too, was engrossed by the clashing characters - at first. It was not until I was asked to do a review of the epilogue volume, though, that I seriously sat down to analyze the plot. That’s because the ending of this series was such a puny finale for a decade’s worth of emotionally invested readers.

Main character Tsukushi Makino is a strong and determined girl that like her name “weed” continues to thrive despite a pitiful environment. Her character alone holds this series together as it struggles to an anti-climactic ending. Although Tsukasa does eventually become a decent guy, the amount of torture he puts Tsukushi through in this series left me dumbfounded as to how she could continue to love him. I found Rui Hanazawa to be a better match for Tsukushi, since he understands her better and supported her more throughout the story. If only Kamio had paired them together there at the beginning of the story, it would have saved me from this excruciating drama that is Boys Over Flowers.

Despite the uncertain emotions, the evolution of Tsukasa and Tsukushi’s relationship is slow enough that it is possible to believe her feelings could change towards him. Yet just when you think the two will finally be together, Kamio writes another crux that pulls the two apart. Lather, rinse, repeat. It makes me wonder if Kamio’s editors were telling her to find ways to drag out the story. Every shojo plot twist you could think up, Kamio probably tried to implement it. I’d finally had it when Tsukushi decided to be with Tsukasa after denying her feelings for so long, and Kamio writes Tsukasa to have amnesia and forget who she is. What the heck?! From there the story goes downhill.

As for a happily ever after to Tsukushi and Tsukasa’s relationship, that’s up for debate. There is a wedding in the final volume, Jewelry Box, but it’s not for the main couple. Although there is promise of a future relationship, Kamio leaves no lasting assurance that Tuskushi and Tsukasa do have a good life together, and for such a long-running and emotional series, it’s just unacceptable. I feel sorry for all the people who spent a decade reading this series. I can only imagine the amount of hate mail that Yoko Kamio received from irate fans.

The only redeeming quality of this series is the artwork. Kamio has a good grasp of paneling and toning. It’s interesting to see the evolution of styles throughout the decade on her characters. I found Tsukasa Domyoji’s character design to be the most interesting because of his hair. He reminds me a famous boy band member from the late 1980s. Kamio does backgrounds and settings well, too. From seashores to cityscapes, she has a good sense of perspective.

As for this series as a whole, unless you absolutely want to torture yourself and wind up disappointed at the end, stay away from Boys Over Flowers. It’s not worth the time or emotional investment.

Romance Rating: Steamy - There are two bedroom scenes in this series. One is between supporting cast members, and though there is little nudity it is evident what's happening. The second scene happens between our main couple. There's implied nudity, and just when you think the two love birds are going to get intimate, Kamio writes it out of the plot. More irate fans!

Media Status: Boys Over Flowers is available from Viz Media in 36 volumes. The epilogue volume is translated as Boys Over Flowers: Jewelry Box. A Hana Yori Dango anime series of 51 episodes was produced by Toei Animation in 1996. The manga series also spawned five television show productions occurring in the countries of Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea. In 2008 Hana Yori Dango Final was released in theaters in Japan. It was the best selling DVD for 2008 in Japan.

Oct 11, 2009

Shojo Vampires Unite!

New York Times Manga Best Seller List for the week ending October 3rd includes three shojo vampire titles. Here are the week's shojo rankings.

Chibi Vampire 14
Vampire Kisses, Blood Relatives 3#7
Shugo Chara! 7

Vampire Knight 7

Oct 4, 2009

Guest Review at The Manga Critic

Katherine Dacey over at The Manga Critic graciously offered me a guest review of Viz's latest release of Boys Over Flowers: Jewelry Box, available October 13, 2009. You can read the review and check out all of the rest of her great features at The Manga Critic. Thanks again, Katherine!

As mentioned in my review, I ended up reading the entire series of Boys Over Flowers. Look forward to that review coming up soon here at Heart of Manga!

Sep 26, 2009

Vampire Knight - Matsuri Hino

Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino began in 2005 and currently runs in LaLa magazine in Japan. This is Hino's third work to be translated into English.

Synopsis: Yuki Cross is a guardian at Cross Academy, a boarding school that is operating to prove that the human and vampire races can peacefully coexist. Yuki is part of the Day Class, the group of students that attend classes during daylight hours. But once the sun sets, the Night Class arrives, and Yuki is responsible for patrolling the grounds to keep the day class students in their dorms. Yuki has lived at Cross Academy for the past ten years. She has forgotten what her life was before that time. Her very first memories are of being attacked by a vampire out in the snow, and being rescued by another vampire. That kind and gentle vampire who came to her rescue is head of the Night Class, Kaname Kuran. Kaname leads the Night Class because of his social status as a pureblood vampire. He has always watched out for Yuki since rescuing her as a child, and she cares for him fondly for that reason. Yet there is another boy that holds a place in Yuki’s heart, someone whom she has tried to support since he came to the academy four years ago. The son of vampire hunters, Zero Kiryuu is believed to be the lone survivor of his family that was attacked and killed by a pureblood vampire. He was brought to Cross Academy and given into the care of the headmaster. Now a guardian of Cross Academy alongside Yuki, Zero fights against his eventual fate of becoming the very thing he was born to hunt. As events unfold, Yuki stands beside Zero in his struggles, while seeking the mystery of her own past. Behind the scenes, Kaname Kuran uses his power to manipulate people and events to meet his own agenda. When matters at Cross Academy become dire, Yuki must choose what path to walk as she retakes her memories and moves forward toward the future.

Review: What I thought would be a high school teen love triangle with gothic flare, turns out to be much, much more than I could have imagined at the beginning. This story has the stereotypical shojo plot devices, like a love triangle, the hunky mysterious savior, and the beautiful boys so dazzling to behold. However, Hino has put so much development into the plot and characters that the story of Vampire Knight has gone beyond the confines of a typical shojo romance. What may seem like insignificant details at the beginning of the story, end up becoming major plot elements that Hino incorporates to add more depth and complexity to the story. I can’t even imagine what her character notes must look like.

As for the characters, Yuki Cross starts out as a mediocre heroine. She has admirable qualities of strength and determination, yet her indecisive emotions make her annoying at times. What Yuki lacks, Hino more than makes up for by surrounding her with strong and intricate characters like Zero Kiryuu and Kaname Kuran. Most fans of the manga are split into two camps, each supporting the pairing of one of these two boys with Yuki. Zero quickly wins the admiration of some readers with his determination to overcome his difficult situation and his willingness to sacrifice himself to protect Yuki. Kaname’s obsessive protection of Yuki as well as his expression of love for her equally wins over the other set of readers. Which one is the vampire knight? That has yet to be answered, and girls are still debating it in forums everywhere.

So how does Vampire Knight break the shojo mold? The underlying plot elements of political intrigue, revenge, and racism provide material for a much deeper storyline than your typical shojo love story. The social-political world of the vampires, which we only see a micro-example of at Cross Academy in the beginning, takes hold of these characters and throws the little love story into a quagmire of issues that end up solely focused on the vampire world. It seems like the story might have taken Hino-sensei by surprise in its development, since she intended to write a high school vampire love story, and now the story has gone beyond the high school setting. If the story isn’t exciting enough, then the art will captivate you even more. The gothic designs are darkly attractive, and the panels keep just the right pacing, be it an action sequence or a love scene. Striking characters adorn every page, with great expression and anatomy. The toning and backgrounds add to the moody quality of this gothic setting.

Is Vampire Knight a story for you? If you like goth, vampires, or romance that’s a no brainer. Go pick it up now. However, don’t disregard it if that’s not on your list of favorites. With the storytelling talent of Matsuri Hino, this one may yet be the next tragic love story of the modern century.

Romance Rating: Steamy - Hino makes blood sucking look more erotic than making love. There are enough heart aching and tender moments to satisfy any romance fan.

Media Status: Vampire Knight is available in 7 volumes from Viz Media here in the states. Volume 8 is due out November 3, 2009. So far there have been 11 volumes released in Japan, but the series is still ongoing. There have been 2 drama CDs released in Japan, as well as a 26 episode anime produced by Studio Deen. There are 2 Japanese published light novels jointly written by Hino that are side stories within the Vampire Knight universe. Vampire Knight even got a dating simulation DS game released in Japan, January 2009.

Sep 23, 2009

Memorable Manga Moments - M³: Lovely Complex "Love Sick"

Due to the weather and allergies, I've spent the past week trying to get well. I know that it's that time of year when colds and flu start raging. This got me thinking about shojo manga and how there always seems to be at least one cliché sick scene in almost every slice of life series I've read. Of all the ones I could remember, this one stood out the most because it was just so funny.

Volume 6 Chapter 21
In this scene, Risa has come to visit Otani since he has been home sick from school. Ever since Risa confessed that she loved him, Otani has been unwilling to accept her feelings. Right before this scene, he admits that he doesn't even want to make a move on her, even though they're alone in his bedroom. Sad and disheartened, Risa attempts to seduce him anyway, and leans in to kiss him. Delirious with fever, Otani at that point passes out. Pftt! Nakahara chose such a humorous way to commemorate the akward couple's first kiss. Otani doesn't even remember it! Poor Risa!

Sep 11, 2009

New York Times Best Seller August 30- September 5

Shojo is still selling well with popular titles. Fruits Basket 23 has been on the chart now for 10 weeks and continues to sell!





Sep 10, 2009

Memorable Manga Moments - M³: Dramacon

I have to preface this by saying that it took me for-ever! to pick just one memorable moment from this series. There were many great little moments that stuck in my mind weeks after reading it. I ended up with this one because it was the turning point of the first volume and wasn't a really big spoiler.

This week's is from Chmakova's Dramacon series.
Volume 1 Chapter 5
To set this up a little, main character and comic writer Christie is at her first con with her loser artist boyfriend and a couple of chaperons. Within the first few hours at the con, Christie runs into Matt and the chemistry sparks. Back at the hotel that evening said boyfriend gets jealous and becomes a mean drunk. When Christie flees the room, she ends up at Matt's door having no where else to go. Matt just holds her while she cries. You can't finish this volume without really liking Matt as a character. He's a sensitive guy with a smart mouth and a sharp wit. This particular scene shows his sensitive, protective side. I loved the ending chapter art as well. Chmakova's series is full of little memorable moments like this one.

Sep 6, 2009

Back to School Shojo Manga

It's that time of year again here in the states. With summer time escapades come and gone, students are back to classes and learning new subjects at schools all over the country. In recognition of this annual ritual, I'd like to highlight some of our reader's favorite school mangas.

Last month I ran a poll asking for everyone's favorite shojo/josei manga in a school setting. Excited with the amount of response, I'd like to thank everyone who voted. Unquestionably, the most favored title is Bisco Hatori's Ouran High School Host Club. Not surprising considering the amount of bishies covering the pages of this elaborate private high school story. I personally haven't read the entire series, just a few volumes, but it's in my to be read pile to be reviewed at a later date. With that confessed, I can still say that it's understandable why fans are so drawn to this series. Hatori's characters are memorable at the very least, and fans readily have their favorites. The school itself is such a posh environment that it doesn't even compare to an average high school experience. Then you have the heroine, who is so unconcerned with her appearance that she doesn't care if others mistake her as a boy. That goes against the stereotype of all the affluent girls that do attend the school. Which leads us to the host club which, really, what high school in Japan would even allow that as an extra-curricular club? The fantasy of Ouran High School is such a buy in for fans that girls just eat it up. Who wouldn't want to be Haruhi, surrounded by cute or hot guys all the time that secretly adore you? The humor in the series is often gut busting, and then there's the more serious ongoing storyline of Haruhi and her relationships with and among the boys. If you haven't given this series a read yet, then you may want to give it a try. Underneath all the laughter and frills is a simple story that warms the heart.

Another read you might want to pick up if you haven't already is After School Nightmare. This also was a fan favorite for a school manga. I have done a formal review of this title and highly recommend it. An interesting cast of characters along with a mind boggling premise, After School Nightmare keeps readers guessing down to the last few pages. The high school that Ichijo attends along with his classmates has an interesting after school class. There the students sleep, and in their dreams they must compete to find a key that will open the door and allow them to graduate. Only the dreams are more like nightmares, since everyone's true personae are revealed and many of their forms are terrifyingly distorted. Add the fact that you must destroy your classmate in order to find the key inside them, and you have a very disturbed group of teenagers vengefully trying to graduate this class. Then what happens once you graduate? Well, that's the whole secret of the story my friends, and I'm not one for spoilers. So go grab the first volume and get started. You'll be so absorbed by the art and the story, you'll have to read this series twice!

If comedy and horror are not your thing, then you might enjoy a more typical, slice of life shojo like Kimi ni Todoke. With it's recent popular release, it has captured the hearts of many devout shojo fans, including myself. Although we only have the first volume here in the states, the second one will be released next month in October 2009. Most fans are eagerly waiting to see just what happens next between Sawako and Kazehaya. In the same class their first year of high school, Sawako respects Kazehaya for always being friendly and pleasant to her. That's despite the rest of her classmate's fears that Sawako has the power to curse them or see ghosts. Stigmatized with the name "Sadako" from Ringu, quiet, shy Sawako has a hard time making friends. That is, until sweet, popular Kazehaya takes notice and extends her his friendship. With Kazehaya's encouragement, Sawako endeavors to make more friends and eventually succeeds. Truly thankful and honored by Kazehaya's help, Sawako expresses her deepest respect. Though Kazehaya is touched, he obviously yearns for more than Sawako's respect. To see this endearing relationship blossom, you'll have to pick up the latest copies from Viz.

Other titles that were voted highly include CLAMP's Cardcaptor Sakura, Umino's Honey and Clover (coming out in anime this month!), Minami's Special A, Kanno's Otomen, and Kawahara's High School Debut. So now that it's time to be hitting the books again, be sure that you've picked up some enjoyable reads as well. There's no setting like school that can bring so many memorable or lovable characters together in one place.
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