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Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Manga Reviews (Mostly Very Late Ones)
See what happens when you don't talk about comics for a week and don't read any for three?
IWGP: Ikebukuro West Gate Park Vols. 2 & 3, by Ira Ishida and Sena Aritou: I hadn't been terribly impressed with the first volume of this series. The art was engaging and I could see the quality of the storytelling, but it just wasn't clicking for me. Tom at Digital Manga sent me the next two volumes to read anyway, and I did take a look at them. The familiarity of the characters made it a little easier to get into the story the second time around, and the lead, Makoto, grew on me a little, as he evolves into a kind of low-rent detective/troubleshooter for people who don't have anyplace else to go for help. The resolution of the first volume's murder mystery goes into a very dark place very rapidly and ends on a largely unresolved note. No one comes out of it any the better. The central story of the second volume had me frequently rolling my eyes at the over-the-top sexuality of the characters, as Makoto tries to help a prostitute save her boyfriend from drug-dealing gangsters, and though it ends on a mixed note it feels much more positive. I did find myself drawn into the third volume's main story, as Makoto meets up with a childhood friend, the tomboy who used to beat him up, only to discover that she is now a man and he needs Makoto to help him chase a stalker away from his cam-girl girl-friend. But at the end of the two books I'm left with the same reaction, largely, as I had to the first volume. It's good work, and I can tell it's good work, but it just isn't working for me. The closest analogy I can think of is: do you ever watch Cinemax or Showtime after midnight? The adult dramas and mysteries they show at that time can be quite good sometimes, but you sort of have to want to watch them, and I never really did.
Worst Vol. 3, by Hiroshi Takahashi: There's a bit of Byzantine plotting going on in this volume, as the leaders of Suzuran High and the leaders of Hohsen High prepare to deal with the big battle between schools that everyone sees on the horizon. Of course, good-natured, naive Hana is the focus of everyone's concern. Hana is such an appealing character to me, the book is tremendous fun just waiting to see how he'll react to whatever new situation pops up. As a book in which people do nothing but fight, I know it's a hard sell for lots of people, but the situation is so gloriously over-the-top it has a strong cartoony feel. You're not meant to take it at all seriously, and when you approach it with that in mind the book is great fun.
Fruits Basket Vol. 8, by Natsuki Takaya: For a busy volume, this felt very low-key. Something is up with the prone to violence Haru, the enigmatic Rin is at the center of a good deal of behind the scenes material, and the hyper-sensitive Ritsu Sohma, who has been cursed by the monkey, finally makes an appearance. The meta-plot advances incrementally in this volume, as more ominous hints are dropped about Akito and Shigure and how Tohru fits into their plans, but for the most part this volume is carried along by the gentle humor and the appealing innocence of Tohru.
The Wallflower Vol. 2, by Tomoko Hayakawa: This volume picks up quite a bit from the first one. The story expands, focusing less on the efforts of the four impossibly handsome male leads to transform withdrawn goth girl Sunako into a proper young lady, and introducing a good deal of weirdness to the story, starting with a ghost haunting the basement of the mansion that possess Sunako, and ending on a trip to a hot springs resort that ends in murder. Along the way the personalities of the boys are fleshed out and actual differences between them become apparent. I'm also really enjoying Hayakawa's art-work. It has a very elegant quality mixed with a dark/gothic sensibility, and it isn't afraid to get silly and cartoony when the situation warrants it.
Tsubasa Vols. 3 & 4, by CLAMP; XXXholic Vols. 3 & 4, by Clamp: I feel tremendously guilty for waiting so long to get around to writing about these, and now that I have time, it's been so long since I read them I'm at a loss as to what to say. I enjoyed the fourth volume of Tsubasa a little more than the third, as the larger storyline moves along a little more, and the vaguely European setting of the central story has more appeal to me than the trip to the alternate version of CLAMP's Chun Yan. Both volumes of XXXholic, of course, were filled with beautiful artwork and EC-style horror story twists.
Also I waited too long to review: Descendants of Darkness Vol. 2 by Yoko Matsushita--more pretty boys investigating supernatural mysteries, and Imadoki Vol. 3 by Yuu Watase--I don't know what else to say other than that it's really, really good.