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

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!
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