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Sean William Scott

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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Manga Madness 

Dark Water by Meimu and Koji Suzuki:
I'm one of those people who tend to think that "horror" just doesn't work well in comics form. And while the stories in this collection are certainly creepy, they aren't really scary. There's a touch of the Lovecraftian to them. All of the menace in the stories comes from the suggestion of what might be going on, rather than an explicit shock or graphic scare. The limited scope of the stories, all involving water in some way, makes it hold together thematically, but the stories themselves are often too brief to really get a feel for the characters or what's happening to them. The exception being the titular lead story, which still feels oddly distanced from the characters. The art, by Meimu, is gorgeous however. The figures are very elegant and elongated and are very lovely to look at.

Descendants of Darkness Vol. 1 by Yoko Matsushita:
I picked this up on a whim, one week when nothing very appealing manga-wise had shipped. The premise is that the main characters are agents of the underworld, collecting souls that have lingered on Earth too long. The figure work is very pretty, with lots of cute boys, if that's what you like in your shojo comics. Storywise, I found it to be pretty pleasantly engaging. There's a vague aura of supernatural menace to the situations the agents of Death get into, and some nice character driven humor (including a cute, self-deprecating gag about how this "isn't a yaoi comic" despite the many, many pretty boys running around in it).

Fruits Basket Vol. 5 by Natsuki Takaya:
I'll be the first to admit that sometimes my taste in manga can be a bit...pedestrian. This is a very girly book, with lots of teen angst and melodrama, but the artwork is so infectiously...cute I can't help but like it. And again, the humor is heavily character based, with a strong undercurrent of sinister secrets waiting to be revealed, with little pieces of information slowly being fed out, that each volume makes me want to read the next one. So, yeah, this may not be ground-breaking or important work, by any means, but I like it, so there.

Imadoki Vol. 2 by Yu Watase:
If the first volume of this charming series was prologue, than this is where the plot begins in earnest. Tampopo and her gardening club, while navigating through the baroque hiearchy of their exclusive school, end up helping their classmates (though getting forced into helping their classmates might be a better description) whether they like it or not. Again, it's not ground-breaking material, but Watase makes Tampopo such an enthusiastic, kind-hearted, and engaging character you want to read more just to see how her good nature wins out over the cynicism of her spoiled-brat rich-kid peers. And in typical Watase fashion, some plot complications are thrown into the obligatory romance, giving Tampopo the angst necessary to keep her apart from the one she loves until the final volume.

Kindaichi Case Files Vol. 9: The Headless Samurai by Yozaburo Kanari and Fumiya Sato:
I've been enjoying this series since the first volume, and I'm glad to see that other bloggers are giving it a push on their sites as well. Sato's art is wonderfully expressive and detailed, while retaining a cartoony flavor, and the mysteries are compelling and full of human drama. In fact, this is probably the only true mystery series being published right now that's not sharing a universe with super-heroes or the supernatural or a tie-in to a TV show.

Legal Drug Vol. 1 by CLAMP:
More weirdness from Clamp, but I don't mind. It's their weird, idiosyncratic stuff I like the best. This time around the story involves psychics who run odd errands for a mysterious pharmacist. The character designs are the usual elegant figures I've come to expect from Clamp, though the story is less compelling than most of their work. And in a surprising departure the usual ambiguity about the sexuality of the characters is pretty explicit here. The characters, all pretty boys of course, just scream out "gay-gay-gay" on every page. I've seen fewer longing glances and scenes of men touching men in gay porn. And if you still doubt me, the gag strip in the back of the book should leave you with no doubts. So, it's Clamp, so I'm predisposed to like it, but I think I need one more volume to judge what direction this is going in and how it compares to some of their other works.

Legend of Chun Hyang by CLAMP:
And this is more typical of what I think American readers think of when they think of Clamp. It's a very light-spirited fantasy/adventure comic based on Korean mythology. Chun Hyang is a high-spirited teenage girl struggling against the oppressive rulers of her country, accompanied by Ryong Mong, a man she hates so much it's obvious they're destined to be together as lovers. It's cute, and the art is pretty, with some drop-dead gorgeous character designs, but it's only three short stories, all of which read as fairly generic to me. And despite the "teen" rating and some understated nudity and violence, I'd say that this is a pretty good "kid-friendly" manga title for kids who are curious about manga but are growing bored with the usual "Shonen Jump" stuff, all of which strikes me as both generic and dull.

The One I Love by CLAMP:
For Clamp completeists only. At half the size of your usual manga trade, but the full price, it's a bit of a stretch to justify purchasing it, especially since half of it is not terribly interesting text pieces. The art is pretty, unsurprisingly, and the first story is in color, which is a nice change of pace, but twelve very short stories about girl's feeling insecure about romance doesn't make for a satisfying read.

Tsubasa Vol. 2 by, once again, CLAMP:
I've got a soft spot for Cardcaptor Sakura, so I'm inclined to like this series more than I should. Yes, I think the art is nice. If you can't tell by now, I like the art in Clamp books. The story has lots of appeal to Clamp fans, featuring characters recycled from lots of other Clamp books, but if you're not a Clamp fan, I can see how this could be read as just another action/adventure book with a thin romantic sub-plot etched onto it. It's not bad, as a story, but it's not remarkable either.


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