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

Jul 31, 2009

New York Times Best Seller July 19-26

Fruits Basket stays at #1 and Kitchen Princess remains strong!


Jul 30, 2009

Memorable Manga Moments - M³: High School Debut

This week's is from Kazune Kawahara's High School Debut. Forgive the amount of images, but it was difficult to condense without losing the imapct. ;)

Volume 1 Chapter 4
When coaching Haruna on how to interact with boys, Yoh tells her on several occasions not to cry because he finds it annoying. In this scene she's crying because she was frightened, and relieved when Yoh comes to her rescue. She was being kidnapped by a jerk and his friends with intent to harm her, and Yoh is annoyed because he tried to warn her and she ignored his advice and acted on her own anyway.

Volume 2 Chapter 6

Things change however, when Haruna's feelings have truly been hurt by a boy she cares for. She tries to act brave for Yoh, and put on a smile since she knows the crying annoys him. However, sensitive Yoh does understand how she feels, and tells her that this time it's okay to cry. I love the contrast of these scenes because it shows how Yoh's feelings for Haruna have developed, and the feelings that Haruna has for Yoh that she doesn't even realize yet. That's what makes this such a memorable moment.

Jul 28, 2009

Shōjo Sensei: Secondary School Class Structures

Undoubtedly, those who have read manga or watched anime for quite some time will have determined that Japanese school systems are organized somewhat different than in native English speaking countries. The most marked difference is the fact that upper secondary education (high school) is not mandatory in Japan. Public education can be completed at 15 years of age. Despite that, most students do choose to attend upper secondary, and it is a rigorous process to study and take entrance exams for schools in high demand. Their families must save the money to pay for the education as well, since it is not publicly funded like in America.

If you are familiar with Nakamura's Skip Beat!, main heroine Kyoko decides not to go to high school in order to work and support her best guy, Sho. She later resents him for depriving her of a "fun high school life", and treasures getting to wear a high school uniform for a commercial shoot.
Japanese upper secondary schools consist of three grade levels, equivalent to American grades 10-12. I've noticed in different translations terms such as freshman and senior are used, but more commonly the class translations have been changed to first, second or third years.

In the published translation of Hatori's Ouran High School Host Club, the character introductions include the students' year of school.

In comparison, most American and native English secondary schools are structured so that there are 4 to 5 years of upper secondary instruction, mandatory until students are 17 to 18 years of age.

Jul 27, 2009

Classic Manga: To Terra Vol. 1 - Keiko Takemiya

To Terra was originally serialized in Gekkan Manga Shonen from 1977-1980. It won the very first Seiun award in 1978, and in 1980 won the Shogakukan Manga Award for shōjo/shōnen series.

Synopsis: In the future of mankind, Superior Domination has been established, where the population has become digitally run by computers. The human race has colonized the stars and all children are genetically created in test tubes and raised in an educational space colony by approved foster parents. They are carefully monitored by a supercomputer and must endure strict psychological testing until they are of 14 years of age when they are declared mature. At this time they are then sent to isolated space stations to be groomed into the perfect social beings for the planet of Terra. The story begins with main character Jomy Marcus Shin quickly approaching his 14th birthday in the Education City of Ataraxia. His boisterous and inquisitive personality lead the adults who care for him to be suspicious, and he endures frequent checks for ESP. During one such painful session he encounters another essence that remarks on his dormant telepathic powers. On the day of his birthday he is sent to his "awakening", where his memories of his parents are suppose to be erased so that he is a blank slate when he is sent to be programmed to become a Terran. In Jomy's case, he hangs on to his memories, and using telepathic powers is ejected from the reconditioning and collected by another group of people known as the Mu. The Mu were once the same as the humans on Terra, but over time developed telepathic powers, and became shunned as mutants. Forced out of Terra they have banded together and are currently led by Soldier Blue, the essence that contacts Jomy. Jomy has been chosen as Soldier Blue's successor to lead the Mu, because he is not only telepathic but is physically healthy and strong, unlike a lot of the Mu. The first arc ends with Jomy learning to become one of the Mu. The second arc starts at one of the education stations in space where the character of Keith Anyan is introduced. Keith is close to graduating and becoming a member of the Terran Elite. His grades and conduct are near perfect, and he is looked upon by others at the station as a role model. Unlike the other students at the station, Keith realizes he has no memories of his former time at an educational city. This and other events lead him to question the current supercomputer system of socialization. When Jomy attacks the station with his telepathy trying to trigger the students to remember their pasts everyone is affected but Keith. This drives Keith to discover what makes him so different from everyone else. The final arc of this volume is back with the Mu on Naska, a new colony that's been established for the sanctity of the Mu. Here we see Jomy come in contact with aspects of his past, and the Mu defy the Superior Domination of society by biologically conceiving and birthing a child.

Review: Takemiya's grand vision of the future is thought provoking and sensitive. With skillful hands she has related a tale of human resilience and self-discovery. As this is the first volume, much of the development was exposition of the key characters, Jomy and Keith. Takemiya assumes correctly that readers will empathize with Jomy's escape from the Superior Domination's super computer, seeing as it is human nature to preserve one's humanity. No one would want to lose their childhood memories unwillingly. As for the Mus, their position as outcasts is unfortunate. As the result of having telepathy, they are shunned from society. Yet, once again, it is another characteristic of human nature to classify, separate from others, and fear what you do not understand. Even the Mu colony has the same fears when Jomy arrives. His upbringing to become a Terran is most obvious until his telepathy is no longer dormant, and others belittle him for his thoughts and appearance. I found it astute of Takemiya to next show the audience what might have happened to Jomy, when she introduces Keith at the space station where the mature students arrive for training. It provides another viewpoint of how the system works, and gives readers an opportunity to decide for themselves how they feel about the Superior Domination social system. Keith's own journey of self-discovery and interaction with the system are a contrast to Jomy's painful one. Yet even Keith begins to question how effective such a system is. What impressed me most about this work was the ease of reading, despite the dated style. This is the oldest work of manga I've read to date. I expected some of the style to be a turn off, since I am used to the modern paneling style of manga. These panels have older transition styles and bubbling, a more boxy look than current trends in manga. Despite that, Takemiya's talent still shines. The space scenes are epic in proportion. Machinery and settings still look futuristic in this day and age. What an imagination! The dating is more evident in character design, because the manga/anime style of drawing has evolved since then, but that doesn't affect Takemiya's ability to express human emotions. If you are a science fiction buff, or just want to see some quality classic manga, this is a title you can't miss. I personally can't wait to see how Takemiya resolves this story line.

No romance rating for this title as that is not the main focus of the story.

Media Status: To Terra is complete and available in North America from Vertical publishing in three volumes. In 1980, To Terra was adapted into an anime movie named Toward the Terra, produced by Toei Animation and directed by Hideo Onchi. Right Stuf International has released the North American version of the Toward the Terra film within the past year.

Review copy provided by Vertical publishing.

Jul 24, 2009

New York Times Best Seller July 12-18

Fruits Basket hits #1 and some other titles hang in there!


Jul 23, 2009

I Still Like Comics...at 30...and I'm Female

After reading several blogs about the SDCC Twilight events and gender debates, I was forced to consider my own experiences with gender bias and comics. My two copies of Shonen Jump I've received in place of my Shojo Beat subscription are still sitting untouched on my dresser. Maybe I'll eventually read them if I find time and interest. It frustrates me that the newly highlighted enterprises in the graphic novel industry have been for shonen and seinen manga. I know from a business perspective, that it's a wiser investment. But I still feel like I'm being punished. It's like when you take a piece of candy from one child, and then you give it and another handful to another child just because he's a boy. I realize it's not as simple as that, that's just how I FEEL about it. No matter how much I could advocate for the shojo/josei/romance genre of comics, it all comes down to the numbers. As for the critics of the genre, everyone's allowed their opinion, and I get to decide whose I find valid. So criticize it all you want, there are others who appreciate it for what it is.

Being a long time fan of romance literature, I guess I have become conditioned to gender bias in the sense that I have been looked down upon for my reading material for most of my life. Sadly as a teen, I still put book covers on all my romance novels I took to school so no one would know what I was reading. I was embarrassed. But now I am used to it, try not to let it get to me, and tell myself that everyone is allowed their own opinions. I know what is enjoyable for ME to read, and if I get something out of it, that's all that matters. I don't have as big of a problem when I am personally confronted with gender bias, such as when I'm in a book store. I've had a tween boy stare at me open mouthed and ask, "You read that?!" when I've picked up a copy of Naruto. Or when a college guy snickers as I pick up the most recent Fruits Basket. I either respond with, "Is that a problem?" or I ignore it. But it's not so much a gender issue for me as it is an AGE issue. I know the stereotypical image of a comics reader is a tween to young adult male. And slowly that is evolving to include females of that same age group too.

In my comics experience, I've had more issues with age bias than anything. (It doesn't help that I'm female too.) For example, I get perturbed with my local library when I go to check out manga. The manga, with the exception of adult or hentai titles, are all kept in a glass encased room declared "Teens". On the doors and throughout the room there are large posters (maybe 6-8 posters) that say: "12-18 only...no trespassing". I get that it's suppose to be a haven for teenagers at the library, and also a warning to parents that the books within are for a specific age appropriate audience. I think it's great that they're giving teens their own space. What bothers me is that the propaganda is discouraging me from getting to the material that I, in my 30s, would like to read. I just ignore the posters and walk in the doors to the manga shelves. But I'll be darned if a librarian doesn't ask me if she can help me find something. That doesn't happen in the children's section of the library, which I frequent to find books for my son. Now, I'm not bashing librarians for doing their job, I'm just making an observation that because of my appearance, I look like I need assistance in that section of the library.

The other day I went into a local bookstore chain and headed towards the comics section, which is in the back close to the children's lit section. On my way an employee stopped me and said, "Ma'am, I can direct you to some recent fiction releases that you may enjoy." - which happened to be in the opposite direction. I told her thanks, maybe later, and maybe she was just trying to sell me merchandise, but geez! - I just wanted to see the most recent manga releases. And it never fails that I get some odd looks from other adults who drop in that area with their tweens and teens. Almost as if they're taken aback that I'm standing there reading a manga.

*sigh* I guess like with my romance preferences when I was younger, I'll eventually get used to being looked at strangely when I pick up the most recent comics. I just wish people would be more open minded, and quit stereotyping me. Although, that's a long shot, seeing as it's human nature to classify and stereotype. Maybe by some miracle shojo and josei comics will explode in popularity. But until then, I'll just remain a small minority of proud female comic readers over 30.

M³ - Memorable Manga Moments: Mars

Mars, Volume 1, Chapter 1

This moment always makes me bust out laughing. Shy, quiet Kira makes Rei, who tries to be so cool and confident, fall on his ass. Ha! Rei tries to be so flippant about loaning Kira his body as payment for a painting, trying to shock her. She then turns it around on him, asking if she can borrow his body, which shocks him because Kira is not that kind of girl. However, she just wants him to model for her as an artist. It's nice to see a guy like Rei knocked flat on his butt every once in a while. Thanks for the visual pleasure, Soryo!

Jul 20, 2009

The Gentlemen's Alliance Cross - Arina Tanemura

The Gentlemen's Alliance Cross, aka. Shinshi Doumei Cross, ran in Ribon magazine from 2004-2008. This is Arina Tanemura's sixth work to be translated into English.

Synopsis: Haine Otomiya is a first year high school student at the elite Imperial Academy. Having been sold for 50 million yen to her foster father as a child, she believes her real father no longer loves her, and her mother no longer communicates with her. Lonely and unhappy, she becomes part of a gang. She decides to reform when she reunites with Shizumasa Togu, a childhood love, who reminds her that she has the power to make herself happy. She then is accepted at Imperial Academy where she seeks to find Shizumasa and try to win his love. She is tricked by a member of the student council into becoming the body guard of the emperor, or the student council president, an office held by none other than Shizumasa. Unexpectedly, when Haine meets him again he is cold to her. Through her interactions with him, Haine discovers why he has become this way, and must use her wits and her heart to save the love of her life.

Review: There's way more to the story than I could summarize, and that's because the rest of the synopsis would include spoilers. I was quite torn over writing this review. The girly side of me so loved this story. Yet, the academic side was looking for every little thing wrong with it. At first I found Haine to be sappy and dim-witted. I wasn't impressed with her goal of trying to win Shizumasa's love. As the story developed, Haine endures much, and I realized that not only was she strong but also very caring and sensitive. I found myself irritated with Shizumasa-sama, until his situation is revealed, and then I couldn't help but sympathize with them both. Tanemura takes the story from being very shallow to very deep, using character development and complex plot threads. Every time I would try to step away and become objective about the story, Tanemura would pull me back in with the next engrossing plot arc. She cleverly constructs the plot so that each arc builds upon the main story, skillfully intertwining all the characters and their relationships. I think part of my issue with this manga is that Tanemura's drawing style seems too fluffy for the dramatic elements. Admittedly, I think her ability as an artist is gifted. Her figure drawing is fantastic, as well as clothing and backgrounds. The panels and compositions are also well done. My complaint is that her character designs from her works all look too similar. In Gentlemen's Alliance Cross, I had a hard time telling Haine and Ushio-chan (another student council member) apart, until Tanemura "cut" Haine's hair. Then there are all the sparkles, flowers, and ribbons which I consider the "fluffy" aspects of the drawing. It looks nice when it's kept simple, but sometimes Tanemura doesn't know when to stop and it gets distracting.

Romance Rating: Cuddly - sweet kisses is all you get. I was hoping it would get steamy :D...but so far Tanemura keeps it age appropriate.

Media Status: Currently there are 9 volumes of Gentlemen's Alliance Cross available from Viz Media. Volume 10 will be released in October 2009. The series will be complete at 11 volumes. Also being released in November 2009 will be the art book for this series known in Japan as Shinshi Dōmei Kurosu Tanemura Arina Irasuto Shuu.

Jul 19, 2009

Yack Your Stack - July 2009

Alright all you readers out there, time to fess up. I want to know what your TBR pile looks like. Since I started reviewing manga, my To Be Read pile just keeps getting taller and taller. Even when I put a dent in it, more books get added. Not all of them are manga either, I do have other genres I like to read. As of now, here's what's in it:

City of Glass* (Currently reading)
Gentleman's Alliance Cross 8-9*
To Terra 1
Princess Ai 1-3
The Devil Does Exist 1-2
Venus Capriccio 1
Black God 1
The Lies of Locke Lamora
Suzuka 1-11
Cardcaptor Sakura: Master of the Clow 2-6
Pretty Face 1
(I could add more, but I'll stop here for now.)

So I've shared what my pile looks like, but I'd really like to know what you shojo fans are reading too. It helps to find new titles, and see what seems to be popular among readers. It doesn't matter if it's manga or not. So hit the comment button and type it up! Time to yack your stack!

Jul 18, 2009

After School Nightmare - Setona Mizushiro

Originally serialized in Princess magazine from 2005-2008, After School Nightmare was chosen by the Young Adult Library Service Association as one of the 10 best graphic novels for teens in 2008. This story is a psychological thriller that will leave you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

Synopsis: Mashiro Ichijo is a favorite among the girls at school. His good looks and sweet personality are charming, but we soon discover his secret dilemma - he's neither fully male nor fully female. He has the upper body and build of a boy, while his emotions and internal organs are that of a girl. One day a mysterious nurse introduces him to a class in which he is to participate, located in the previously non-existent basement of the school. There the students sleep, and in their dreams, they must compete to uncover the location of a hidden key that opens a door and allows them to graduate from the class. In these dreams, the students' true personae are revealed, and many of them are distorted to unrecognizable forms. Ichijo finds that he is himself, only dressed in a girl's school uniform. Conflicted about his gender identity, he seeks to prove himself a heroic male, only to be confronted with his feminine emotions. Outside of class, he befriends Kureha, a girl who struggles with her own fear and hatred of men, yet she feels comfortable with Ichijo. Also vying for his attention is Sou, a quiet boy who desires Ichijo no matter the consequences. Confused by his own emotions, Ichijo must decide once and for all what gender he most desires in order to escape the horrible nightmares of the after school class.

Review: Ever gone to a dive expecting to get a meal that was edible and somewhat tasty, and instead found yourself eating a gourmet tasting dish that cost next to nothing? That's been my experience with After School Nightmare. Not knowing anything about it when I picked it up off the shelf, I flipped through the first few colored pages, blushed, and immediately went to the counter and purchased it. Expecting a thrilling and naughty high school manga, I was instead blown away by the literary quality of the story. I don't want to provide any spoilers, so I won't go into the plot, but the author's ability to string the audience along, dropping hints here and there without giving away the ending....it is a brilliant construction by Mizushiro. The characters are developed as you watch, with the internal struggles played out through action sequences in the students' dreams, as well as through their social interactions at school. The mangaka keeps you guessing during the entire story which students in the school match the distorted personae in the nightmares. Throw in some sizzling love scenes and unexpected plot twists, and you have a gourmet recipe for After School Nightmare. The artwork as well is pleasant to look at. Good paneling, figure drawing, toning, and backgrounds all combine to accent the rich plot. Mizushiro has cleverly left imagery and dialogue that are presented in such a manner that, unless you know what to look for, you'll miss it. That's why this unique series requires more than one read through. I highly recommend you find a copy if you haven't already read it.

Romance Rating: Steamy - There's a little for everyone here. Not knowing what gender Ichijo is, scenes could be shonen-ai, shojo-ai, or just plain romantic. Some good sizzle moments for all the fans.

Media Status: After School Nightmare is available in English in 10 volumes from Go!Comi.

Jul 17, 2009

New York Times Best Seller July 5-11

What do you know! A good showing of shojo titles in the top ten!


Jul 16, 2009

M³ - Memorable Manga Moments: Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne

This week's is a submission from our first brave volunteer - Mina Murray =D>

She wrote in about her favorite scenes in Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne. They were some great scenes, and without giving away too much of the story, I chose one climatic moment that expresses the essence of the story's meaning. In this scene Maron is having to fight against a past version of herself in order to win an important battle. She has come to realize through loving another person, that being emotional does not make you a weak person, but it makes you stronger. Now knowing this, she is able to overcome her past self by admitting her weakness.

Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne, Volume 7, Chapter 30

Mina said it is memorable to her because, "the (character) development shown in the last chapters is presented with an incredible heart warmth that will make the reader like Maron - determined and honest, sappy and glad. Accepting and knowing yourself is the key to being happy, isn't it?.... All in all, it just says look positive at life, the solution will arrive as long as you keep on searching for it."

I have to agree! That's a great overall message that I've seen Tanemura incorporate in several of her stories. (I'll have to add this story to my TBR pile after I finish Shinshi Doumei Cross!) Thanks for writing in, Mina, and I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else out there wants to submit, too. The next one could be yours!

Jul 15, 2009

The Recipe for Gertrude Vol. 1&2- Nari Kusakawa

The Recipe for Gertrude by Nari Kusakawa is a short fantasy series that ran in LaLa magazine starting in 2004.

Synopsis: Gertrude is a 100 year old demon who looks sixteen, and is made up of various body parts of other powerful demons. He was constructed by a man named Claude, and brought to life by a recipe from an ancient spell book. While fleeing from some demons who are demanding their stolen body parts, Gertrude stumbles upon Sahara, a teenage girl who seems fearless of him. After he rescues her from the demons, the two form a friendship. Sahara then joins Gertrude on his quest to find the "recipe" and destroy it.

Review: After reading the first volume of this series, I almost didn't pick up the second. The paneling was confusing and at times I had to reread sections to figure out what was happening. Most of the story in the first volume was episodic and felt very choppy, making it difficult to follow the events. It is a good premise for a story, but the execution just starts out so poorly. I did like what little I could fathom of the characters, which is why I begrudgingly picked up the second volume. In the second volume, slowly, things began to improve. The storyline gets much better, the characters develop more, and the paneling is not as confusing. For her first series, it's as if Kusakawa was trying to learn to ride a bike and finally succeeded in not falling over, for lack of a better metaphor. After reading the first couple chapters of volume three, I can see that she's gotten the hang of it, and the story is coasting smoothly.

What I like about this series so far is the story. Kusakawa doesn't go for dark and dramatic when it comes to demons - it's more lighthearted and comical. The relationship between Sahara and Gertrude is built on friendship with the affection developing over time. I liked Sahara's matter of fact attitude and her sarcastic banter with Gertrude. The plot gets deeper in the second volume after the audience has discovered what actually happened to Gertrude's recipe. We find out how Gertrude and Sahara are connected, and who is behind the events occurring. Since there are three volumes of story left, I might as well see how it ends.

What I don't like about this series is the artwork. The character designs are too similar. Sometimes I could only tell Sahara and Gertrude apart by the hair color. The head shape, big eyes, wide mouths, and tiny noses often left the impression I was looking at frogs. (Seriously, in some images I was just waiting for a long tongue to flash out of Gertrude's mouth and swat a fly.) So, big fail on anatomy. At first the paneling is everywhere. It makes it difficult to follow the action sequences and dialogue. That slowly improves in volume 2 and by 3, the layout is much steadier and easier to follow, but nothing exceptional, just adequate enough to tell the story. Some scenes don't even have backgrounds, just toning, and not necessarily effective toning.

Romance Rating: Cuddly - best friends that eventually kiss? - yes, some sentimental scenes.

Media Status: The Recipe for Gertrude has been released completely in 5 volumes from CMX. Kusakawa has 2 other English manga, The Palette of Twelve Secret Colors and Two Flowers for the Dragon.

Jul 13, 2009

Shōjo Sensei - Ocean Day

The third Monday in July is designated as Ocean Day in Japan. Declared a national holiday in 1996, Ocean Day is really a good excuse to not go to work and enjoy a day on the beach. Now I didn't learn this from a manga, it happens to be on my calendar and I looked it up out of curiosity. We all know, however, that many mangakas enjoy incorporating those swimsuit scenes into their stories. So there are plenty of examples of characters enjoying themselves on the beach or near the water, whether it's Ocean Day or not. I thought it would be fun to find some of those maritime scenes and share them, since many of us are basking in the sun this time of year.

Kyo, Tohru, and Yuki in In Fishing from Fruits Basket mangaka Nutsaki Takaya

Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori

Risa and Otani from Lovely Complex by Aya Nakahara

Ann and Fuji from Sand Chronicles by Hinako Ashihara

Nakatsu and Sano from Hana-Kimi by Hisaya Nakajo

Sailor Mercury from Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi

Sorry I can't include everyone's favorite characters, but it took me a long time to find the images I did above. If you have a specific title you would like me to add, just comment and I'll see if I can find pics from that artist. Until next time!

Jul 12, 2009

You're So Cool Vol. 1 - YoungHee Lee

You're So Cool is a Korean manhwa from publisher Yen Press.

Synopsis: Nan-Woo's crush on the most popular boy in school turns her life upside down. Cute and clumsy Nan-Woo Jung fantasizes about her romantic life with Seung-Ha Ryu, knowing that the seemingly perfect prince of the school would never like her back. However, with all the ruckus she causes, Seung Ha does notice her and decides to make Nan-Woo's fantasy come true. Nan-Woo is overcome by his attention, and being her sweet and honest self, she confesses that if given the chance she would love him completely and without regrets. Seung-Ha then declares that he and Nan-Woo are dating to the freshman class and asks Nan-Woo out on their first date. There she meets the real Seung-Ha and discovers that her fantasy prince is more like a demon from hell. Blackmailed into the facade of his loving girlfriend, how will Nan-Woo get away from Seung-Ha?

Review: As I read the first couple of chapters, I immediately began to question, "Are these characters for real?" With a goofy, klutzy heroine like Nan-Woo and a regally manicured prince-type like Seung-Ha, I was waiting to be disappointed by another high school manwha cliché. What happened instead was that I was pleasantly surprised by the character development and intrigued against my better judgment to know what might happen next. Not that the "good-looking guy is really a bad boy" story line hasn't already been done, but the author makes it mysterious enough that it compels the reader to want to know more. It could also be that despite Nan-Woo's naivete, I admire her determination. I look forward to seeing her knock Seung-Ha down off his high pedestal further on. For whatever reason he chose to use Nan-Woo right now, eventually he will come to care for her, if typical sunjeong (shojo) paths are trodden. It also looks like the story will include a side romance between Nan-Woo's brother Jay, and another guy, Hyun-Ho Ha, which may interest some boy-love fans. As for the artwork, the panels look great. Lee reaches for a more realistic style and succeeds in some respects. The close ups of faces and clothing are closer to realistic proportions. Seung-Ha is one fine looking guy. However, when full body shots are drawn, the figures look distorted to my eyes - long lanky bodies with heads too small. Maybe it's just a style issue. I wasn't all that impressed by the colored pieces either. The backgrounds on the front and back cover are beautiful renditions of flowers. But, even on the cover art, Seung-Ha's body looks out of proportion. Then again, there's an insert that's a close up of Nan-Woo and Sueng-Ha under some cherry blossoms that looks really nice compared to the others. So I think that it's the artist's ability of drawing whole-body vs. close-up that shows where the strengths and weaknesses lie.

Romance Rating: Cuddly - not much action in this series yet. The relationship is unstable so far. It will be interesting to watch how that changes.

Media Status: You're So Cool is available in 4 Volumes from Yen Press, the most recent being released this July. Volume 5 will be released in November.

Jul 11, 2009

Blogger Friendships Are Heartwarming

I have to say I love the book blogging community. There are so many sweet people out there! This award comes from Keri Bo Beary @ Books With Swords.

Hearthfelt Award
Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when your relaxing, seeking comfort, sharing a plate of cookies with family & friends? You know that feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea ~or a hot toddy? That is what the Hearthfelt Award is all about, feeling warm inside.

1) Put the logo on your blog/post

2) Nominate up to 9 blogs which make you feel comfy or warm inside.

3) Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.

4) Let them know that they have been nominated by commenting on their blog.

5) Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

Keri, you absolutely spoil me! I hope that the following nominees enjoy the sincerity of this award. I could curl up with some hot cocoa and spend a day perusing your blogs:

i ♥ manga
Shojo Flash
Manga Critic
Manga Xanadu
There it is, Plain as Daylight
kelakagandy's ramblings
Mho Shoujo Manga

(Although with the heat right now, I'm probably drinking lemonade. :D) Cheers!

Jul 10, 2009

New York Times Best Seller June 28-July 4

Your shojo rankings straight from the New York Times Arts section:

As expected the last volume of Fruits Basket is a big seller.

Bisco Hatori's Ouran High School Host Club drops four rankings.

M³ - Memorable Manga Moments: Kare Kano

Kare Kano Volume 6, Act 26
This particular scene is one of the most memorable in Kare Kano because of Tsuda's use of this visual metaphor. When the two teens first decide to make love, we see them kissing and on the bed. Then, instead of an explicit sex scene between the two protagonists, we get this imagery of them as children, young and innocent. The wind blows off Yukino's hat, the symbol for her virginity or innocence, and it is Soichiro that catches it. Both of them are shown smiling in happiness. Then it cuts back to the two of them lying in bed asleep, under the covers. I think it is a sensitive way to portray the intimacy between these two young teenagers, and clever of Tsuda to keep her book tame. This same imagery was even used in the anime. It is one of the few visual metaphors that I've seen in a manga for the act of making love that actually makes sense. I'd love to know if you've seen something else even more clever. Post in the comments!

Jul 9, 2009

New York Times Best Seller June 21-27

Still the shojo loner, Hatori's series climbed up one rank from the previous listing.


Mangas of the Month (Yes, a tie vote!) - July 2009

I asked and you responded. Our mangas for the month of July are...

From Eroica With Love


Skip Beat!

Both series have extremely devout fan bases, and are produced by very talented mangakas. If you haven't already, find a copy of either of these titles and find out what you've been missing!

From CMX:
"FROM EROICA WITH LOVE is the masterwork manga of Yasuko Aoike serialized in Akita Shoten's Princess magazine since 1976! Set in Continental Europe, it depicts the adventures of British aristocrat Dorian Red Gloria and his alter ego Eroica, Europe's most wanted international art thief. His nemesis — Major Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach, a German NATO intelligence officer — has tried for years to catch the man who claims each crime scene with a card signed "From Eroica with Love." Things are just getting started when a trio of telepathically linked teenagers becomes aware of Dorian's identity and plans to capture him. But their plot goes awry as the master thief branches out — no longer content with stealing great art, he's moving on. Now the trio must foil his attempts to kidnap their leader, Caesar, as they try to save the great art treasures of Europe!"

CMX will be releasing the newest chapters of From Eroica with Love in volume 14, on July 15, 2009.

From Viz Media:
"Kyoko Mogami followed her true love Sho to Tokyo to support him while he made it big as an idol. But he's casting her out now that he's famous! Kyoko won't suffer in silence--she's going to get her sweet revenge by beating Sho in show biz!"

Volume 18, the most recent release of Skip Beat! was available in May 2009. The next volume, 19, will be released by Viz media on October 6, 2009.

Jul 8, 2009

New Feature - Share your shojo love!

After much hair pulling and cursing of javascript, as well as several deleted posts (sorry to all my followers)...

Here it is as requested...
Now YOU can nominate a Memorable Manga Moment!

Click on the button in the side bar (or below) and fill out the form.
Submissions will be considered as received, given they have enough information to create a post. So have fun, be witty, and tell us what you find memorable in your favorite shojo mangas!

Jul 6, 2009

Pig Bride Vol. 1 - KookHwa Huh / SuJin Kim

Serialized currently in the magazine Yen Plus, Pig Bride is a Korean manhwa.

Synopsis: The first volume released in April 2009, begins with the main character Si-Joon Lee, lost in the mountains on his summer trip at eight years old. He wanders to a stream and there he finds a young girl wearing a pig mask. Hungry and tired, he follows her further into the woods hoping to find a way home. Soon they arrive at a house where Si-Joon is told that he must marry the girl in the mask to release her from an ancient curse. Willing to do anything to get to eat the huge feast in the next room, he hurriedly agrees and then realizes what he's done once the food has settled. The young girl gives him an item and ...he wakes up from what seems like a dream. Having had these dreams of the pig mask girl all his life, Si-Joon, now sixteen, shrugs it off and heads to school. Only today happens to be THE day that strange things start happening on campus, and guess who shows up...the pig mask girl. Eight years later the forgotten bride has now come to claim her groom. Si-Joon's parents agree to house the girl, Mu-Yeon, at their residence so as not to cause a scandal for his father, who has a sensitive political career. Yet there is another girl on Si-Joon's radar. Powerful Doe-Doe Eun wants Si-Joon all to herself and is willing to do just about anything to make that happen.

Review: An intriguing premise, Pig Bride offers a sprinkling of fantasy, mystery, humor and romance. Though Si-Joon can be irritating with his impulsiveness and obliviousness to others, Mu-Yeon, his opposite, seems intelligent and quirky. With the mask, she is actually easier to judge by her dialogue, and though surrounded by her traditional appearance and mannerisms, it is apparent that she's much more than a strange girl in a pig mask. Her insistence to try and consummate the marriage whenever she and Si-Joon are alone together, provides some comic relief and evidence that she is a normal hormonal sixteen year old girl. Although, I believe her purpose for making the marriage official is driven by more logical reasoning than just hormones. Of the male characters, I actually found myself liking the supporting cast member Ji-Oh, Si-Joon's best guy friend, better than Si-Joon. He is more resourceful, and a better judge of character than Si-Joon. While Ji-Oh is accurately assessing the personalities of Mu-Yeon and Doe-Doe, Si-Joon is emotionally reacting to circumstances, and misses some obvious leads as to the true character of Doe-Doe, and the purpose of Mu-Yeon and her female ninja companion, Mu-Hwa. It just makes you want to hit him upside the head and yell, "Get a clue, already!" This annoying character trait is not resolved by the end of this volume, however, I know from reading later chapters that Si-Joon will eventually come to his senses. The writers aggressively make you hate Doe Doe, and have no qualms revealing her true personality to the audience. As Mu-Yeon's rival for Si-Joon's attention, there's no doubt that Doe Doe's personality will eventually tarnish her cute appearance.

The art work is detailed and very well balanced. Although I find the faces somewhat distorted, with the eyes, nose, and mouth placed low close to the pointed chins, the expressions still easily convey mood and emotion. You would think that since Mu-Yeon wears a mask, the artists would make her body language more expressive, but I view it as somewhat stiff, forcing readers to rely mostly on dialogue. I'm not too keen on Si-Joon's pink eyes and hair, but that's just personal preference. The colored pieces that are included in the volume are nice but not exceptional. It's the panels that really speak for themselves and show why we're getting to read this fun and mysterious story.

Assuredly, this is a series I'll continue to read, as I'm too curious now not to find out the conclusion. I really want to know what Mu Yeon looks like, and I'm sure that most readers will feel the same. If you're looking for a new fantasy series, definitely give this one a try.

Romance Rating: Cuddly - Though married, Si Joon and Mu Yeon's relationship is just starting, so not much romantic action yet. Though, with Mu Yeon's insistence on consummating the marriage, I believe that the rating will eventually change.

Media Status: Pig Bride is available in one volume from Yen Press, with volume two being released in August 2009. You can read the most current chapters in Yen Plus magazine.

Jul 5, 2009

Mars - Fuyumi Soryo

Initially serialized in Bessatsu Friend from 1996-2000, Mars is a dramatic shojo manga about the unlikely relationship between teens Kira Aso and Rei Kashino.

Synopsis: Kira Aso is an introverted artist. One day while sketching at a local park, a guy from school Kira doesn't care for, asks her for directions to the local hospital. Instead of telling him, she draws him a map on the back of one of her sketches and leaves. When school starts soon after, Kira discovers that the guy, Rei Kashino, is actually in her class. Rei, training to become a professional motorcycle racer, is only attending school because he promised his father, whom he does not get along with. He's known socially as a playboy, so Kira is surprised when Rei one day interferes while their teacher is attempting to sexually harass her. When Kira offers to let Rei keep the oil painting of the sketch on the back of the map, Rei declares that he will protect her as payment. He flippantly offers her his body too, and is caught off guard when Kira asks him to model for her. Spending more and more time together, Rei and Kira begin to realize their true feelings for one another. As more of their pasts are revealed, readers discover what really draws these two teens together. In search of their dreams, Kira and Rei must deal with these issues in order to move forward towards the future.

Review: As a story this series has more depth to it than a stereotypical high school romance manga. The drama can be reminiscent of a soap opera at times, but it is overshadowed by the characters themselves. Soryo really delves into the characters, creating complex personalities that appear more human than your average manga protagonists. The exposition of Kira and Rei stretches over several volumes, allowing readers to slowly realize the psychology behind the characters. I could complain that Soryo really gives her characters some messed up stuff to deal with, but as dramatic as it may be, it only adds to the mystique of how Kira and Rei will make their relationship last. As far as the drawing goes, the mangaka does a fair job of layouts and composition. She has a good sense of perspective, and knows how to use toning to emphasize mood and emotions quite well. The style dating is evident throughout the series, but not to the point of distraction.

Romance Rating: Lustful - Rei and Kira's relationship provides enough heart warming and intimate moments to satisfy any shojo fan.

Media status: Mars is available in English in 15 volumes from Tokyopop. A live action drama was filmed and aired on the Chinese television system.
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