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Thursday, July 13, 2006
It's been a while since I talked about manga in any way. To be honest, I've mostly gotten out of the "regular reviews" habit (three moves in two years can do that to you...so much stuff gets boxed up, taken out, and reboxed, that you easily lose track of what you may or may not have written up), and besides, muchbettersites provide dedicated manga coverage. But, I still feel the occasional need to spill my guts over which titles I'm still paying attention to.
Absolute Boyfriend by Yuu Watase: I'm an avid follower of Watase's work, and this story, about a girl with a gorgeous male robot who is hopelessly devoted to her is a nice tweak of one of the more obnoxious cliches of manga.
Anne Freaks by Yua Kotegawa: This is an action mystery about disturbed teens fighting a cult. Or being manipulated by a psychopathic girl into doing her bidding. But there's a good mystery/conspiracy element with a varied cast of ambiguous characters.
Angel Sanctuary by Kaori Yuki: Angels, demons, extreme violence and tragic incestuous romances! Everything you could ever want in a shojo comic.
Antique Bakery by Fumi Yoshinaga: A charming series that nicely balances comedy with a little drama, about four handsome men working in a pastry shop. It's one of those idiosyncratic titles that you just don't seem to find too often in American comics.
Boogiepop Doesn't Laugh by Kouji Ogata and Kouhei Kadono: I probably would have gotten more out of this if I was familiar with the multi-media phenomena that is Boogiepop Phantom. This is good, and the idea of a horror series told from multiple perspectives, in which the bulk of the terror is off screen has merit, but it probably reads better if you already know the story or can read the complete series in one go.
Cafe Kichijouji De by Kyoko Negishi and Yuki Miyamoto: Short comedy vignettes about five mis-matched men who work in a cafe. Mayhem tends to ensue. There's a certain assumption that you're already familiar with the characters from the audio dramas the series is based on, which hurts the book slightly, but the sheer strangeness of the stories manages to communicate the humor all the same.
Chikyu Misaki by Iwahara Yuji: This ended a little while ago, but I just wanted to mention again how much I enjoyed it.
Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata: Ah, moral ambiguity and a sociopathic lead...I love this series.
Descendants of Darkness by Yoko Matsushita: Grotesque horror and pretty boys. It's a time-tested and winning combination.
Fruits Basket by Natsuki Takaya: Eh, I can't explain the appeal of this series. It's funny and heartfelt.
Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden by Yuu Watase: This is a prequel to the soon to end Fushigi Yugi series. It's more mature in tone than that earlier series, but it still has the same mix of romance and fantasy adventure that made it so compelling.
Her Majesty's Dog by Mick Takeuchi: Another horror-tinged comedy/romance, about a girl with mystical abilities and her pet demon-dog, who must occasionally kiss her to stay alive. Naturally, this leads everyone at school to mistakenly believe they're a couple, though it's really more of a pet/owner type relationship. It's not exactly ground-breaking material, but it has an appealing cast and a good natured element to it that makes it enjoyable.
Man's Best Friend by Kazusa Takashima: A yaoi anthology, with the bulk of the stories focused on pets turning into humans to have sex with their owners (animal transformations seem to be a recurring theme in my manga purchases). The art is nice, and the traditional seme/uke roles are (mostly) more fluid than what you usually see in yaoi.
Monster by Naoki Urasawa: The critically lauded mystery series, and with good reason. The setup (Doctor saves child, child grows up to be serial killer, doctor has victim's blood on his hands as a result) is extraordinarily strong, and the series is thoroughly readable and compelling.
Musashi #9 by Miyuki Takahashi: It's a bit repetitive at times, but I do find myself enjoying this action series about a teenage girl who happens to be the world's deadliest secret agent.
Ranma 1/2 by Rumiko Takahashi: I can offer no excuses or justifications for my purchase of this series. It's utterly stupid, goofy, silly, fun comics.
School Zone by Kanako Inuki: Old school J-Horror about little kids trying to survive in a haunted school. If you can get past the extremely dated art-work, there's a creepy core to this title that works remarkably well. (Additional: I should probably clarify, since several people have brought it up, that I don't have any objections to older manga. But this particular style, even if the book is only about ten years old, looks much older. It looks like the horror manga I've seen from the sixties and seventies, with it's weird mix of cute and scary, and I do tend to find the "cuteness" of it, and many of the other horror titles Dark Horse has released in a similar style, a bit off-putting. In other words, it's not the manga, it's me.)
Tsubasa by CLAMP: And people complain about all-encompassing super-hero cross-overs. This title ties the vast majority of all of CLAMP's varied series together into a dimension-hopping quest story.
Wallflower by Tomoko Hayakawa: There's something subversive about this series I quite like. The goth girl who steadily resists all the attempts by the pretty boys to turn her into a traditional shojo heroine just makes a nice antidote to the doormats and love-struck girls you see in so many shojo titles.
xxxHolic by CLAMP: Beautifully drawn and creepy horror stories of ironic punishment and Japanese myth in the best Twilight Zone tradition. The book just oozes an aura of art-deco decadence that makes it hard to resist.
I also recently picked up Redrum 327 and Cantarella, but haven't had a chance to read them yet. The only upcoming titles that I know I'm looking forward to are Junji Ito's Museum of Terror and Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. And I'm wondering whatever happened to Legal Drug and Yotsuba.