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Friday, June 24, 2005
Mini Manga Reviews
Tsubasa Vol. 5 by CLAMP: At this point, if you're still reading the series, you probably like it enough to stick with it for the long haul. The essential plot remains the same: Syaoran, Fai and Kurogane travel to strange worlds in search of the feathers of Sakura's memories. There are occasional hints of a larger meta-plot, with an unknown figure watching their progress, but as usual for series of this kind, the glacial plotting of that meta-story keeps it confined to brief reminders.
Ranma 1/2 vol. 30 by Rumiko Takahashi: I'm uncertain now whether this or Oh My Goddess is the longest-running manga in English title. And so, at 30 volumes, it's doubtful that this series is new to anyone. But it still remains it's charms. The absurdist humor, coupled with the satire of boy's action titles, still manages to amuse me with each volume.
Baron: The Cat Returns by Aoi Hiiragi: This is a charming and well-illustrated all-ages story about a girl who saves a strange cat and as a "reward" for her kindness is carried away to the cat kingdom to be married off to the Cat Prince. This is a wonderful book, with gentle humor and genuine heart that is well worth checking out.
Tenryu: The Dragon Cycle Vol. 1 by Matoh Sanami: It's starting to look as if Sanami's Fake is the only work of interest to me. I'd passed on By the Sword and Until the Full Moon because they didn't look interesting, but I'm now scratching my head wondering what on Earth possessed me to give this title a shot. The character designs are attractive, but that's about all the book has going for it. The story is frankly dull, being yet another "quest for items of power" fantasy series, with nothing original in the set-up to differentiate for the countless other examples of the genre. Even the tonal shifts between drama and comedy were handled much better in series like Fushigi Yuugi, so it doesn't even have the benefit of an original or unique voice.
Tuxedo Gin Vol. 11 by Tokihiko Matsuura: A serious shift in the direction of the series occurs this volume as Gin finally gets his wish and becomes human again. It's only temporary, and the volume ends on a cliff-hanger (and yes, I know 12 is out by now, but I haven't had a chance to read it yet), but it's a compelling new twist on the comedy of errors that is Ginji's life as a penguin.
Kindaichi Case Files: Kindaichi the Killer Vols. 10 & 11 by Yozaburo Kanari and Fumiya Sato: In this two volume set, the tables are turned on Kindaichi and he finds himself the prime suspect in an impossible murder. There are some moments of genuine suspense in this story, as it seems quite likely that the killer may actually succeed in out-witting the boy-genius detective, but the rather formulaic conclusion is a slight flaw, as it is in most of the Kindaichi stories.
Musashi #9 Vol. 3 by Takahashi Miyuki: With this volume the series starts to fall into a more regular cast and setting, with Musashi continuing to impersonate a boy to protect a student who keeps becoming involved, even indirectly, in underworld activities. The resolution of the stories require a fair amount of suspension of disbelief, but there remains something exciting and engaging about these super-spy stories where Musashi can seemingly do anything she puts her mind to.
Fruits Basket Vol. 9 by Natsuki Takaya: (Yes, I know Vol. 10 was just released. I'm a little behind.) More slowly doled out revelations fill this volume. The back-story on creepy goth girl Hana is filled out, including how she came to be friends with Arisa and Tohru, enigmatic Rin continues to plot against Akito with Shigure, and most tellingly for the larger plot of the series, Arisa meets another Sohma, the beautiful and sensitive Kureno. At this point, you probably don't really need me to tell you that this is a great and emotive series that deserves the success it has achieved.
RG Veda Vol. 1 by CLAMP: This is a very rough, early work from CLAMP. Some of the themes and topics they would revisit in later works are on display here, but this first volume lacks the skill and refinement of their later series. In other words, whatever flaws this book has can be safely ascribed to the fact that this is the first professional work CLAMP did. It has rough edges, but you can see the promises of bigger and better things shine through.
Yotsuba&! Vol. 1 by Kiyohiko Azuma: I've already mentioned a couple of times that this is good, but it's worth mentioning it again. This is elegantly drawn and simple stories about an enthusiastic girl discovering the world around her. The humor is gentle and surprisingly heartfelt. This is a series that well deserves some attention from manga fans.