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

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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