Thursday, August 1, 2013

Priceless Honey by Shiuko Kano review

Priceless Honey

Author/Artist: Shiuko Kano

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – for ages 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Romance, Drama, Anthology

Priceless Honey is a collection of shorts that Shiuko Kano published in the yaoi manga magazine HertZ. Without further ado here is a brief description of the stories!

Priceless Honey – Janitor by day, call-boy by night Nagisa Suguri gets a client he never expected, Kentaro Urehara. Urehara is the Modern Japanese teacher at the high school where he works. It turns out that Urehara is gay and frequently uses the company that Nagisa sells himself through. After the encounter Urehara openly tries to woo an uninterested Nagisa but will his persistence succeed or will he be left high and dry?

Priceless Honey - St. Valentine’s Day Special Edition – Valentine’s Day arrives for our favorite janitor and teacher. Urehara wants nothing more than to feel the love from his beloved Nagisa but Nagisa’s past holidays have not been good. Can these two men overcome their trials in time to celebrate with one another?

Fine Play – Crushes are hard, just ask Kaji. Kaji fell for Nanafuji after he accidentally left his phone in the café where Kaji works. The two quickly become friends and when Kaji tells Nanafuji that he’s got a stalker, Nanafuji offers to be his “boyfriend” to keep the stalker at bay. But things aren’t always what they seem. 

Possessive Master – Ninoi always wanted a little brother and Kakeru had a very unhealthy attachment to his older brother. Luckily for Ninoi, Kakeru’s older brother decided to go overseas for school and left Nino (his nickname) in charge. Nino wanted to be an ideal brother but discovered he didn’t have brotherly type feelings for Kakeru.

Replay – Fumiya spent his adolescence in love with his brother’s friend/next door neighbor Mitsugu. Mitsugu was in love with Takaya, Fumiya’s older brother. Takaya and Mitsugu start sleeping with one another, much to Fumiya’s chagrin. But when Takaya dumps Mitsugu Fumiya makes his move even though he knew how Mitsugu felt about Takaya. Things were going well until Fumiya’s pure feelings scared Mitsugu who then ran away. When the two meet later will Fumiya get a second chance at love or will he be rejected?

Fall in xxx - Isobe and Tadashi knew each other before winding up at the same cram school. Isobe just happens to be friends with Tadashi’s older brother (I believe we have a pattern here). Isobe really wanted to get into the same university as his girlfriend but didn’t pass the exam. With his lady in mind he attends cram school, the same one as Tadashi. The two study together and it’s more than just hitting the books.

For anyone who knows the name Shiuko Kano knows you’ll get a funny, dramatic, and beautifully drawn stories. Of course I’m always a bit partial to her works. She is one of my all time favorite mangaka! Priceless Honey doesn’t disappoint, unless you have some aversion to anthologies or the mangaka herself.

When reading an anthology it’s generally hard to get into the stories because once you become emotionally involved the story is over. But in the case of Priceless Honey and Kano’s fantastic ability to write compelling stories this collection is definitely top notch. However, there are a few weak points. Possessive Master has a darker tone and would have been better served with more pages. I found myself confused by Kakeru’s actions and Nino’s belief that Kakeru had been tainted by those around him. My other problems had to do with the localization. I found some of the lettering choices unappealing (the person who handled the typesetting has done some work on other Juné titles and I have the same complaints.) I also wish that the additional images at the beginning of the book had been printed in color. Sadly with the images in grayscale you lose a lot of detail. It turns out better in the digital version than the print version.

With those issues aside I loved this book. The further you get in the book the better the stories get, and it starts out pretty darn strong. Nagisa and Uehara, in Priceless Honey, make a great couple and the story features Kano’s signature comedy style (which is very similar to my own.) Kaji and Nanafuji’s sweet love story in Fine Play makes you want to go “aww” at the end, which is why it’s one of my favorites in the collection. Replay pulls at your heartstrings and you find yourself cheering for the couple, and happens to be another of my favorites. Finally with Fall in xxx it features her comedy and provides a healthy amount of erotic moments.

You can never go wrong with a title by Shiuko Kano. Her artwork is beautiful and strong. She doesn’t shy away from being explicit in her depictions of sex and this book definitely earns it’s mature rating. If it wasn’t for the lettering missteps and frontispiece problems it would have been perfect.

For a syrupy, sweet, wonderful romance anthology by one of Japan’s best yaoi mangaka (yes, that would by my opinion) pick up Priceless Honey!

***Digital and Print Copy purchased by Reviewer***

Monday, July 29, 2013

What's that in the ashes?

Like a phoenix I rise again!

I know that it seems like I’ve gone on a permanent vacation but I assure you I haven’t. I have been taking a much needed break from the reviewing game. But thanks to my friends over at Cherry Blossom Reviews I’m coming back. On August 1 I will be participating in a Yaoi-day (8/01, get it?)  review round-table with those fabulous gals (I’m also affiliated with their site so it’s only natural.)

After Yaoi-day you’ll be able to expect at least one review a week and hopefully (cross your fingers) a special treat (Digital Snapshots, Mangaka Musings, Yaoi for Beginners, and Licensing Requests.) I hope that my absence hasn’t driven anyone away and I look forward to a new beginning!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Licence Announcements

This weekend two separate conventions were being held. One on the East coast, NYCC, and Yaoi-con here out West. I usually pay more attention to the convention coverage of Yaoi-con and other conventions on the West coast than I do to East coast cons. But there were a couple of announcements that excited me. So without further ado here are some of the titles that have been licensed.

I'll start off with NYCC (New York Comic Con). There was a lot announced and if you want that information feel free to head over to Anime News Network for all their coverage. What interested me though was the JManga panel. Many titles were announced but the exciting ones for me were a couple of the Del Rey/Kodansha rescues. They are School Rumble by Jin Kobayashi and Gakuen Prince by Jun Yuzuki. I'm most excited about Gakuen Prince.

Now we're headed to the land of yaoi and the exciting announcements made there. First up is Juné/801 Media/Digital Manga Publishing:

As Many as There are Stars - Miecohouse Matsumoto
A New Season of Young Leaves - Venio Tachibana/Akeno Kitahata
The Mushroom Pup - Kimama Aoboshi
Brave10 vol. 1 - Kairi Shimotsuki
Does the Flower Bloom? vols. 1-3 - Shoko Hidaka
Hey, Class President! vol. 5 - Kaori Monchi (this is the final volume)
Depression of the Anti-Romanticist vol. 2 - Yasuna Saginuma/Riyu Yamakami (mangaupdates.com state that there is only one volume but having read vol. 1 of this series it is good news that there is a second volume.)
Ze vols. 8-11 - Yuki Shimizu (vol. 11 is the final volume)
Itazura Na Kiss vol. 12 - Kaoru Tada (this too is a final volume.)

Finally we have SuBLime’s manga license acquisitions:

Confirmed Titles
Love Pistols vol. 6 – Takarako Kotobuki
Punch Up vols. 3-4 – Shiuko Kano
Awkward Silence vols. 3-4 – Hinako Takanaga
His Favorite vols. 3-5 – Suzuki Tanaka
Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love vols. 3-4 – Yaya Sakuragi
Print Only Titles
Blue Morning vol. 1 – Shoko Hidaka
Sleeping Moon vol. 1 – Kano Miyamoto
Hide and Seek – Yaya Sakuragi (this is a spin-off from Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love)
Spiritual Police vol. 1 – Youka Nitta
Digital Only Releases
The Ravishing of the Crown Prince – Wang Yi/Feng Nong
Boys, Be Ambitious! – Saburo Nagai
Egoistic Blue – Mio Tennohji
The Match Seller – Sakae Kusama
Sword and Mist – Hayate Kuku
Print and Digital Releases
False Memories vol. 1 – Isaku Natsume
Embracing Love (2-in-1 omnibus volumes) – Youka Nitta

The biggest news by far from this year's Yaoi-con is the fact that Youka Nitta's Embracing Love will be gracing our shores once again!

(I must send out my thanks to aoi_aka and her live tweeting the SuBLime panel and Anime News Network for all additional info)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Digital Snapshots Preview

I'm going to be starting my Digital Snapshots feature soon but there are a few Digital Manga Guild titles that I was given access to but I didn't get my thoughts together before I ran out of time.  I didn't want to ignore them completely because I did read them. But they are titles I'm not too crazy about and I won't be using any eManga points to keep them. I may not be a fan but they could be right up your alley. So without further ado here they are!

For those who have a thing for some S & M, bondage, etc., may enjoy Reset by Asahi Shima, Neck-Tie by Asahi Shima, Sadistic Boy by TORIMAIA, and Touching the Night Stars by TORIMAIA. If you like cool, aloof, and seemingly unattainable semes then you might like Long Version vol. 1 by Ohumi (I didn't receive reviewer access for vol. 2 so I can't say anything about it) or The World is Full of Cheating Boyfriends by Ikue Ishida. Finally for those who like May to December style romances feel free to check out Renji Jumonji's Hardship by Juji Fusa and Sunday's Child by Kita Konno (also included in Sunday's Child is a short yuri story which is something I've never really read before.)

All of these titles are available at eManga and for your Nook. Some of them may not be available for Kindle reading because of Amazon's weird selection process. You can get book descriptions for these titles in any of those locations. If these titles sound interesting to you then by all means go out and enjoy them. Just because they aren't my cup of tea doesn't mean they aren't any good. For the most part the editing and typesetting was solid they just weren't stories that caught my fancy.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Beef Corner... and other stuff

I again apologize for my absence from my reviews. Lately I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m struggling to do something that I was so passionate about when I started. That’s when I realized that I’ve been suffering from some disillusionment. It first started when other manga bloggers started posting their opinions on how manga reviews “should be” written. I have the tendency to take everything out of context and just assumed that I was one of the reviewers that was writing the “wrong way” which troubled me more than I expected. Another thing that has been bothering me is the Digital Manga Guild. Wait… that didn’t come out right. I have no qualms with the actual Digital Manga Guild (DMG) my problems lie with some involved. If you haven’t noticed already I read a lot of yaoi and enjoy reading yaoi reviews. As of right now there are really only two yaoi publishers, Digital Manga and SuBLime. Because of Digital Manga’s crowdsourcing some manga reviewers joined in different capacities but continued to review titles from Digital Manga and even titles released by DMG. I don’t know if it’s just me but I find it unethical. Regardless of being considered a freelancer you are being paid for your work through the company and to me it looks like a conflict of interest.

Now that is off my chest I’m going to try something different to see if I can jump-start my passion for reviewing again. Since manga going digital is really taking off I’m thinking of doing a weekly segment where I feature a few digital titles. I plan on calling it “Digital Snapshots” and it will consist of a brief summary and some of my thoughts. Hopefully this will rekindle my reviewing fire and that I’ll be able to shrug off any feelings of negativity. I'm not sure when I'll be starting it but it will be soon!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Yakuza Café by Shinano Oumi review

Yakuza Café

Author/Artist: Shinano Oumi

Publisher: Juné

 Rating: M – 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Romance, Organized Crime

Shinri Irie was raised by his mother and grandmother and never knew his father. But after his grandmother dies he receives a letter from a man, Daigo Irie, claiming to be his father and extending the invitation to live with him. When Shinri arrives at his father’s house he’s surprised to find a café with an interesting theme. It turns out that Daigo Irie was the head of the Fujisaki Clan but decided to disband to give Shinri a place to come home to. They decided to jump on the themed café bandwagon and transformed into Café Fujisaki Clan, a yakuza café. But there is one problem. No one comes even though there are handsome men and tasty food. It turns out that the tea is horrible. Shinri’s grandmother loved tea and handed that down to him. With Shinri’s good looks and mastery of tea it looks like the café might have a chance.

With Shinri surrounded by all these men one stands out. Something about Mikado seems familiar but Shinri is unable to figure it out and Mikado seems awfully overprotective. Will Shinri figure out why Mikado is so familiar?

When it comes to lovely art and silly story lines Shinano Oumi-sensei is an artist that fills that void. I love stuff like that. In the case of Yakuza Café it was a wacky read but could have used a little more character development. The main characters fall into the typical seme/uke roles and we have the forced sex. At least in this case Mikado shows remorse and tries to cut off a finger yakuza style. It seems Mikado goes crazy when someone touches his yakuza tattoo. It turns out that Mikado has been in love with Shinri for quite some time and had spent some time with Shinri when he was younger. Shinri doesn’t really know how to deal with his emotions but it seems that he’s attracted to Mikado as well.

There is also a brief chapter dedicated to Zaoji and how he came to the gang. This chapter is more serious and sad but adds greatly to the book. You’re probably wondering who is this Zaoji guy. He’s the brains behind the café and runs things. He and Mikado butt heads on a lot of things.

This manga is full of cheesy goodness that only Shinano Oumi-sensei can deliver. I stumbled upon some of her titles in scanlation form and was captivated by her art. I’m really excited that we finally have one of her titles in English. I found it to be a fun read and just as long as you don’t take it too seriously you might enjoy it as well.

***Copy Provided by Publisher***

Apologies!

I know I’ve been doing this a lot this past year but I apologize for the spotty reviewing. I really want to get back on track but it has been taking me a whole lot longer than usual to do that so please bear with me. I wanted to let you all know that I’m going to make a change on how I review. I’m getting rid of the letter grading system. I really struggle on trying to find the right grade so I’m going to just give a synopsis and a few of my thoughts. Ultimately the decision is yours and I hope that the information I provide will be of use to you! Thanks for all of your support!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Maiden Rose vol. 1 by Fusanosuke Inariya review

Maiden Rose vol. 1

Author/Artist: Fusanosuke Inariya

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Action, Historical

Grade: B-/C+

Today marks the first day of Yaoi-con and since Fusanosuke Inariya-sensei is the Guest of Honor this year I thought that it since I can’t be there I’ll review her manga instead. Though, I’d rather be in Burlingame, California for the con.

I’m having a hard time summarizing this one so here is what Juné has to say:

Taki Reizen is an honorable young aristocrat caught between his call to duty and a forbidden love. Claus von Wolfstadt is the proud Saxon who becomes Taki’s knight in a war against his own people… and his secret lover! Will these two passionate men lay down their weapons once they’re off the battlefield, or will they push the very limits of their sacred alliance?
 

Maiden Rose is armed to the hilt with fiery men, fierce fighting and plenty of hand-to-hand combat! With the fate of nations hanging in the balance, it’s up to the noble Taki and his devoted knight Claus to strategize the perfect attack… and they’ll only take the right kind of prisoners! Who will be the victor in this all-out war?

This is a difficult title to review. Why, you ask? Let’s start out with the complexity of the plot. It takes place in an alternate world that very much resembles our own in the early 20th century. You have several different sides and I’m still trying to figure out where all of our characters fit. Also it seems that the story starts out in the middle of all of the action instead of the beginning, which confuses me even more. Another reason why I struggle with this title is the fact that it is full of non-con. I’m not one who is into the rape scenario. The weird thing is Taki is so forceful on the battlefield and could easily take Claus down so why he permits the treatment he receives from Claus is beyond me. We know that Claus is super devoted to Taki (giving up social standing and his country of origin) but if it is someone you truly care for, romantically or otherwise, must you rape them? I just don’t know.

There are some positives, though. The art is beautiful and lushly detailed. Claus has a very manly look to him, which plays well with Taki’s softer features. But they both look like men. There is also a brief short at the end that is drawn in chibi/furry form that is simply adorable. I’ve always been a sucker for chibis and it is so cute that the furry aspect makes it that much cuter. Taki, when in military mode, is very powerful and holds his own against those around him that are larger than him. That may have to do with his position within the Royal Family. Claus is also very loyal and would do anything to protect Taki. So, again, I just have a really hard time with the non-con.

I have high hopes for this title (that’s why it has the grade that I’ve given it). I hope that we’ll be able to get further into their past and find out whether their relationship actually is a non-con situation or if there’s more to the story. Juné has done a good job and I look forward to the next installment.

***Copy Provided by Publisher***

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tired of Waiting for Love by Saki Aida and Yugi Yamada review

Tired of Waiting for Love

Author/Artist: Saki Aida/Yugi Yamada

Publisher: Digital Manga Guild

Rating: M – Ages 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, Organized Crime

Grade: C+

Kyosuke Sawaragi was determined to start afresh once released from prison. So when Shuuya Kasuga tried to strike up a friendship as a way to escape his situation (being the baddest dude in their cell’s sexual toy) Sawaragi was not going to have it. But as hard as Sawaragi was working to keep Shuuya from breaching his defenses Shuuya was still able to wheedle his way in. Once on the outside Sawaragi put his yakuza lifestyle behind him and became a bartender. Life is never that easy though. One evening Shuuya, roughed up, shows up outside Sawaragi’s bar and quickly passes out. Not able to leave an injured man alone Sawaragi takes him to his apartment. The flame has been lit.

To offer his thanks Shuuya is more than willing to repay Sawaragi with his body but Sawaragi doesn’t want just Shuuya’s body and feels that Shuuya deserves to be happy. But things don’t run as smoothly as we would like and Sawaragi’s yakuza past pays a visit. Not only that but another prison acquaintance shows up to play. Will Shuuya realize what he really wants in time and will Sawaragi be able to give it to him?

For those who don’t already know this is Digital Manga Guild’s first release. Digital Manga Guild (DMG) is a project where titles are localized by groups of fans with the backing of Digital Manga, Inc. (DMI)  and the original Japanese publishers. Instead of paying all the fees upfront all parties enter into this agreement and split up the proceeds from sales. It’s DMI’s solution to bring more manga (mainly yaoi up to this point) to the masses legally instead of manga fans accessing illegal scanlations. The titles are originally released on DMI’s eManga site with the possibility releasing them in other digital formats like the Kindle, Nook, etc. It’s been stated that if the titles sell well digitally there may be an opportunity to publish them in print. I know that some manga reviewers and critics have been skeptical (myself included) about how successful this venture will be both fiscally and in terms of quality.

Now that the background of the project has been touched upon I’ll be able to make my comments about this release. I’m probably placing myself in the firing line here but I’m no stranger to scanlations. I don’t read too many now but I do check them out from time to time. Because of this I’m quite familiar with this title and one of my complaints is that Tired of Waiting for Love is actually a spin-off. Takaga Koi Daro is the original piece and deals with Sawaragi’s brother-in-law Izumi, nephew Makoto, and the arresting officer Takatsudo and features Sawaragi’s days as a yakuza and drug dealer. Izumi, Makoto, and Takatsudo make appearances in this spin-off but it focuses on Sawaragi. You don’t have to read Takaga Koi Daro but it makes for a more enjoyable reading experience if you know the original story. I hope that Digital Manga will think about picking up this license.

Although this isn’t an original story by Yugi Yamada-sensei, Saki Aida-sensei is awesome in her own right so it is definitely a title that I would find interesting. If this were a title by any other artist (with the exception of some of my other favorites) it would have received a much lower grade due to the issues I have with the localization (and were it not for the localization issues it would have gotten a higher grade.) I really think that DMI/DMG dropped the ball by releasing this without publishing Takaga Koi Daro first. Secondly, I personally think that the scanlated version was better. The language flowed nicely and the clean up and typesetting looked much more professional. With DMG the localization groups generally consist of three people: a translator, a typesetter, and an editor. However, the group handling this title one person, Ms. Kimiko Kotani, completed all tasks. I have no problem with how the groups break down but in this case I feel that doing your own editing is not in the best interest of the title. Because she did her own editing the language was stilted and awkward within the manga itself. Due to her translation and the font choices reading the author and artists notes at the end were really a chore (especially for Yamada-sensei’s remarks.) I don’t know how much experience Ms. Kotani has with typesetting but you could often tell where the Japanese was removed because there was a smudgy look behind the translated text. Also I wasn’t too fond of some of the fonts that she used for her sound effects. My final complaint is regarding Ms. Kotani’s ethics. In an article at Publishers Weekly (click here for the article) Brigid Alverson states that Ms. Kotani has experience in freelance writing, editing, and reviews. Since I like to keep up on reviews written by others I am familiar with Ms. Kotani. Now that Ms. Kotani is a contracted employee with DMI in most circles it would be expected that she no longer review titles released by Digital Manga’s imprints. However, she continues to publish reviews. In one review she does place a disclaimer (this is for a Juné title) that all opinions are her own regardless of her doing freelance work for the company but in her following reviews for DMG titles there is no such disclaimer. Disclaimer or no I feel that any and all reviews for DMI (and especially for DMG) hold no weight and she should cease and desist due to a conflict of interest. I have no problem with her reviewing material for other manga and book companies but she lost all respect from this reviewer by claiming that she can remain objective. I will not be purchasing my own English copy, digital or print. Instead, I’ll buy it in Japanese.

***Digital Review Copy Provided by Publisher***

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Manic About Manga’s 2010 Favorites

I generally don’t like to follow the trend and post “Best of” lists because these lists can be so subjective. One title that I may like some other manga blogger may have that title on their “Worst Titles” list and titles that I might feel a bit squeamish over may show up on a “Best of” list (which actually happened this year-twice.) So I’ve decided that I’m going to post a list of titles that I read this past year that I found myself loving. Be aware that some of these titles are ongoing series (both here and in Japan – with the exception of one it’s done in Japan but still ongoing here) and one series that was actually released a few years ago but I only read this year. Another caveat before I jump in - the titles fall into two publishers DMP/Juné/DokiDoki/801 Media and TokyoPop/BLU and are mainly Yaoi/Shonen-Ai titles. Money was tight last year and I really had to budget (which was tough, do I put gas in my car and pay some bills or buy more manga? I really wanted to buy the manga but sadly reality won out.) I’m hoping that this year there will be more cash for me to be able to splurge on more titles. Without further ado here is my favorites list for 2010! Links for reviews will be provided.

Alice the 101 by Chigusa Kawai (DokiDoki, 2 volumes released, series ongoing) Aristide “Alice” Lang has entered Mondonveille Music Academy to fulfill his grandfather’s dying wish. Only 100 students get accepted into this prestigious school but it seems that Alice is a special case and gets accepted as the 101 student. He has no formal training and can’t read music but he has an amazing ear and perfect pitch. With the help of his roommate Theo and upperclassman Vick will Alice be able to deal with life at school?
Normally manga that centers around music always catches my attention but for some reason I couldn’t get excited about this title. I finally broke down when time was running out with the copy the publisher provided for me (it was an eManga copy) and the second volume was getting ready to hit shelves so I had access to it early. Once I jumped in I found the story to be charming and the art superb. But it was the second volume and the character Georges Saphir (a supporting character) that I found myself hooked. Being a mediocre musician myself (I sing and play the piano) I found many of the scenarios so true to life that I couldn’t help the fact that I was being drawn in. Chigusa Kawai-sensei must have done some serious research because this manga is jam packed with musical information and some great pieces of music that the students play. This manga has everything and can be enjoyed by all. Plus there are shonen-ai vibes all over the place which I simply love.

The Object of My Affection by Nanao Okuda (Juné, 1 volume one-shot) Once small in stature Hiroki Wakamiya saw Wataru Anzai play on the basketball court he knew that one day he was going to surpass Anzai’s skill but also play on the same team, he even challenged Anzai directly. Five years and a growth spurt later Wakamiya was scouted to play basketball at the same university as Anzai but Anzai is nowhere to be found. When the two reunite Wakamiya realizes that his feelings of admiration are actually a feeling of love. Can these two overcome the difficulties facing them and come together?
When I first read through this manga I honestly thought that I was reading a basketball centric version of Dash by Natsume Itsuki. But I liked Dash and found that I really enjoyed The Object of My Affection. Not only do we get the story between Wakamiya and Anzai but it also features other romances between other members of the basketball team. The story is a gentle romance with great art and the humor is very natural and plays well. There are a few sex scenes but even though they aren’t explicit they are tastefully done and very satisfying (I don’t have to have explicit sex for me to enjoy a title.) The characters are very real and accessible. Plus there’s a sequel/spin-off of sorts that I also enjoyed (the sequel is called Honey/Chocolate and features a different couple from the basketball team.) It’s definitely worthy of your time.

La Esperanca by Chigusa Kawai (Juné, 7 volumes released, series complete) Georges Saphir is the unofficial idol at Saint Grollo, a prestigious boys school. To keep from hurting the feelings of his fellow classmates he treats everyone the same. He’s friendly and rather popular with those around him but always keeps them at arms length. That’s the case until mysterious student Robert Jade transfers into his class. Robert is older than the other students and has a bit of a temper, definitely the bad boy type. For some reason Georges is drawn to Robert and vice versa, except in Robert’s case Georges resembles someone from his past that causes him extreme pain. What does the future hold for these two boys?
This series actually came out a few years ago and the final volume was actually published in 2007. I overlooked this title because I didn’t think I’d like it. It wasn’t until I read the second volume of Alice the 101 that I decided to give it a shot. I didn’t know that he had his own series until I read the character profiles. I had fallen for Georges and once I found out that he was the star of La Esperanca I knew I was going to have to read it. I wasn’t disappointed. The art was fantastic. I love how Kawai-sensei draws chibis. Also I was so drawn into the story that I read all seven volumes in one sitting, which meant that I ended up staying up way past my bedtime and was exhausted at work. Oh well, it was definitely worth it. It is so emotionally heart wrenching I couldn’t put it down and found myself crying through the final volume. This is a great series to check out if you are new to the BL genre but seasoned veterans will enjoy it too.

Kyo Kara MAOH! vols. 5-7 by Tomo Takabayashi and Temari Matsumoto (TokyoPop, 7 volumes released, series ongoing) In these volumes of Kyo Kara MAOH! Yuri and the gang go to Svelera to search for a person who seems to be mistaken as Yuri because they are in possession of the Mateki, or Demon Flute, which is also a Demon treasure. Gwendal’s cousin was banished from the kingdom to locate this missing treasure as punishment for past crimes. Yuri and company meet up with Gwendal but on their way to the capital Gwendal and Yuri get separated from the rest of the crew, get mistaken for elopers, actually find and team up with the Yuri look alike, get captured again, etc. Once the Mateki is found and they return to Shinmakoku Yuri assumes he can get back home to Japan because he finished his quest. Sadly he’s stuck in Shinmakoku and is unable to go back. But a new adventure awaits Yuri in the form of a little girl who claims to be his love child but actually turns out to be an assassin. What’s in store for Yuri this time around?
Being a BL-centric reader Temari Matsumoto is a name I know well but all I knew about Kyo Kara MAOH! was the mention of it on the back covers of a couple of her other titles. I then picked up the anime series (my copies are the Geneon releases which are no longer available but Funimation grabbed the license when it became available and is now available once again) when I stumbled upon it. Falling for the anime and then discovering that TokyoPop had licensed and was starting to release the manga series made my day. At this point I can’t get enough of it. The story is great but what really makes this truly a favorite is Matsumoto-sensei’s art. It really brings the world created to life. Now if we could only get the light novels that inspired both the manga and anime I would be a happy camper. Another thing I’m a bit worried about is that there hasn’t been any news regarding future volumes. I know that Kyo Kara MAOH! is up to volume 10 and still ongoing in Japan. I sure hope that TokyoPop will continue this series because you can’t beat a fun story with great characters and amazing art! (Click Here for the review for volume 5)

Calling by Mio Otsuki (BLU, 1 volume one-shot) Kazuaki Hinamura leads a rather boring life. He works in the General Affairs office of his company, lives alone, has no girlfriend, and doesn’t have much ambition. His world is tossed upside down when he meets Kira Aratani. Kira is a rising star in the porn industry and fell in love with Kazuaki at first sight. Kazuaki is not at all thrilled with this news but is willing to be friends with Kira. Will Kira’s devotion to Kazuaki finally win his heart?
Even though I haven't been able keep up on other publishers titles (but I wish I could) I have the tendency to make sure to always stay on top of BLU's releases. I had no experience whatsoever with this artist and didn’t know much about her or this manga. Once I saw Otsuki-sensei’s chibis I knew immediately that I was most likely going to enjoy this title. I was correct in my assumption. It was a refreshing change from the usual yaoi fare available. It features adults living adult lives and behaving like adults, the relationship begins naturally and there is no force involved. I’ve become rather desensitized to the rape=love scenario but when you happen upon a story where that isn’t a factor it’s definitely time to celebrate. Both the story and the art make this a truly enjoyable manga. It’s very sweet and definitely worth your time.

Silver Diamond vols. 5-7 by Shiho Sugiura (TokyoPop, 8 volumes released, series ongoing) Rakan is a being called a Sanome who has the ability to cause plants to grow and flourish. With volume 5 Rakan has decided to go to the alternate world with Chigusa, Narushige and Koh, and Tohji. Once they arrive they are soon in a camp with numbered children who have been abandoned by both family and country. Once Rakan sees the hopeless state that the world is in he decides that he’s going to bring the green back. The adventure starts now.
I picked up Silver Diamond on a whim, I stopped by my local Barnes and Noble to pick up a totally different manga title but wound up with this one instead. I must say that it’s a good thing that I did because I immediately fell in love. Rakan is so clueless but adorable, Chigusa is amazing at how bold he is in his pursuit of Rakan and how Rakan is so clueless regarding it, Narushige is so overprotective it’s crazy, and Tohji is always the one who is always forced to keep Chigusa at bay. But the one who makes it a totally awesome title is the wise cracking, talking snake Koh. The gorgeous art and incredible storytelling make this a compelling read. I was worried for a while because there was quite a large span of time between the beginning of the series and the continuation. I thought that maybe due to low sales it was going to be canceled. Thankfully things have picked up. I know that volume 8 was released here at the end of the year but it will be 2011 by the time I get it read so that is why it’s not on the list. I hope that TokyoPop will still continue to stand behind this title because even though there are 21 volumes (and it’s still ongoing) you’ll have a faithful reader of this title in me.

Blood Honey by Sakyou Yozakura (BLU, 1 volume one-shot) Yuki Akabane is descended from vampires. He doesn’t have much in the way of traditional vampiric traits but one, the love of drinking blood. To help him out with this endeavor Akabane works as a nurse in a blood donation clinic. Osamu Mayuzumi is a blood donor nut. He has a very hot blooded personality and the only way to keep his temper in check is by donating blood. But Mayzumi has a fear of needles and the only nurse who has been able to draw his blood without any pain is Akabane. Because of that Mayuzumi is constantly in Akabane’s clinic. One evening Mayuzumi showed up with a friend’s ID so he could have his blood drawn. Akabane reluctantly draws the minimal amount but doesn’t feel like he should include Mayuzumi’s blood with the rest of the vials so he decides to have a snack. It turns out that his donor nut has the most delicious tasting blood. When Mayuzumi shows up again Akabane has a proposition, since Mayuzumi wants his blood drawn often and it can only be drawn by Akabane, how about they meet at Akabane’s place? It’s a match made in blood heaven.
I love this title. I read it in scanlation form and was ecstatic when I heard it was licensed. As soon as it was available for preorder at Amazon it was in my shopping cart faster than the speed of light. The art is adorable, the story is charming and it is definitely a great read. The characters are fantastic and are rather funny. There isn’t much in the way of sex for our main pairing but the secondary characters definitely get hot and heavy. Those characters are just as enjoyable as our main couple. It’s definitely worth spending some time with.

Isle of Forbidden Love by Duo Brand (BLU, 1 volume one-shot) Aki had a traumatic experience as a child. But it seems that the man who saved him made a huge impression on him. Because of that experience, and that man, Aki has made it his mission in life to serve the people of Edo as a Jittemochi, a common citizen with the power to make arrests on behalf of the police. Lately there has been a rash of kidnappings and strange murders. But the strangest thing seems to be that the man that saved him twelve years ago has reappeared and hasn’t seemed to age at all. Aki apprehended him (sort of) just to find out that he only looked like the man. Kuga and Aki hit it off immediately and while Aki is very up front and honest and while Kuga is helpful he’s also very mysterious. Aki is determined to get to the bottom of the crime, but could Kuga, the man who resembles his Conch Buddha, be the actual criminal?
Isle of Forbidden Love is a mysterious tale that spans time and space. It is lushly illustrated and if you have a thing for traditional Japanese dress you will be in heaven (I know I was!) I’ve never been disappointed by a Duo Brand title but I’ve never really been impressed either so when this came out I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to get it. After reading through a few reviews and being informed that it was a yaoi mystery I decided that I should pick it up. I was not disappointed. I actually love it so much I read it regularly and it has made it on my all time favorites list. The characters are interesting, the art beautiful, and the story compelling it is definitely a must read! Oh, and if you are wondering what the deal is with the Conch Buddha you’ll just have to read it to find out.

Gakuen Heaven: Calling You by You Higuri (BLU, 1 volume one-shot but part of an ongoing series) Keita Ito has settled in happily at Bell Liberty thanks to the friendship of Kazuki Endo, now his lover. Because of this friendship the two were able to win the MVP contest that the mysterious Chairman set up to make it possible for Keita to stay. It turns out that the mysterious Chairman and Kazuki are one in the same. A long time ago Keita and Kazuki made a promise that they would one day attend the same school. Now that the time has come it seems that the Suzubishi Group, parent company to BL Academy, want Kazuki to relinquish his title of chairman and come back to corporate and head up a new venture. Obviously Kazuki has no desire to do that so his father, and president of the company, sends in a new vice chairman to create some chaos within the student body. Keita on the other hand has been roped into helping the student council with the yearly Silver Bell Festival. These two hardly see each other as it is. Now that they’re together again will they be pulled apart forever?
The reason that Calling You is on this list is purely sentimental. It’s a pretty run of the mill BL story featuring a schoolboy romance but I have a soft spot in my heart for Gakuen Heaven and this is my favorite and most natural of the pairings. Because this series is based on the BL game of the same name each volume features Keita with a different partner (he’s not the school bicycle, I promise.) In this volume it follows the main pairing from the original novel as well as the anime. And like I mentioned before is my favorite pairing. The reason why I’m so sentimental about this volume is because this particular manga was the first volume I ever ordered in Japanese after I read the first Gakuen Heaven manga volume in English. I was very new to the BL genre and was having a difficult time finding titles to keep me interested. Thanks to the first volume it kept me in the fandom and I soon found myself searching out anything Gakuen Heaven related. You Higuri-sensei’s work is amazing. Her characters are so impossibly beautiful that you can’t help but be drawn in. The detail is amazing and the backgrounds are just as detailed as the foreground. Honestly I’m in awe every time I read any title by her, but this one holds a special place in my heart and I can’t thank BLU enough for bringing this title to us in English.

ZE vols. 5-6 by Yuki Shimizu (801 Media, 6 volumes released, series ongoing) Ryuusei Kitamura has nothing to do with the Mitou clan even though he has the power of kotodama. Moriya is a masterless kami-sama destined to return to hakushi (blank paper). Moriya doesn’t want to return to hakushi so Waki sends Moriya to Ryuusei with the time limit of one month to convince Ryuusei to accept him as his kami. Ryuusei on the other hand knows almost nothing about kami because he refuses to use kotodama. Will Moriya be able to save himself by convincing Ryuusei to become his master?
I feel I need to mention that the fourth volume came out this year as well but I found myself drawn more to Moriya and Ryuusei than Genma and Himi (which that pairing is featured in volume four). We do get a quick glimpse of Ryuusei and Moriya in the first volume, are introduced to them at the end of vol. 4, and finally get their story in five and six. This series has consistently blown me away because it was featured on my list last year. Shimizu-sensei’s art is gorgeous, lush, and detailed, the characters are fascinating, deep, and real. They’re all flawed in their own ways. I enjoyed this particular pairing because Moriya, the kami, is the seme. It seems in most of the other pairings (with the exception of Konoe and Kotoha) the kotodama-sama is the seme. After reading volume six, which concludes Moriya and Ryuusei’s story, I have to say that this is my second favorite pairing within the ZE universe. My first favorite coupling is still Raizou and Kon (their story is chronicled in the first two volumes and they get a chapter in volume 6) but the series is still ongoing so I may change my mind when we get the story between Shoui (the current head of the Mitou family) and his kami Asari (my heart skipped a beat when we met Asari in the first volume, a true moe moment.) This is definitely a worthwhile series and I LOVE it. Now I must apologize for the extreme fujoshi rant that just went on. Did it even make any sense?

Itazura na Kiss vols. 1- 4 by Kaoru Tada (Digital Manga Publishing, 4 omnibus volumes released, series complete in Japan but ongoing in English) Kotoko Aihara isn’t the sharpest tack in the box and she’s developed a crush on the smartest boy in her grade, Naoki Irie. She writes him a letter detailing her feelings for him but he rejects her outright stating that he doesn’t like “stupid girls.” Kotoko, dealing with her broken heart, is then faced with quite the challenge. The house that they recently finished building collapsed in a small earthquake and the only place they can go is to the house of a friend of her father’s. Unfortunately for Kotoko the friend happens to be the father of her crush Naoki. The two move in and Kotoko’s adventures begin. She gets along well with Naoki’s parents, especially his mom, but his little brother is not too fond of her. Initially Kotoko was going to try to give up on Naoki but being faced with this new challenge she decides to keep pursuing him. What lies in store for Kotoko now?
I rather enjoy this title but I have mixed feelings about it in the future. I know this sounds strange but it’s strictly because I have this weird OCD. Once I start reading a series regardless of whether I like the story or not I have to read it to its conclusion. Unfortunately Tada-sensei passed away before the series was ever finished. So I wonder how it will be handled. Another thing that kept me away, initially, was the fact that this series was started in the 90’s. The art is definitely dated and features typical shojo flowery-ness but once I started reading all of my hesitations flew out the window. It’s simply charming. Kotoko’s determination is simply amazing, and even though I found Naoki rather annoying at the beginning he’s starting to change and I’m starting to like him. Yuuki, Naoki’s brother, is great for comic relief and Naoki’s mom is out of this world. She will stop at nothing to see Kotoko and Naoki together. This title is not only a fun read but it also served as the inspiration for future shojo series. I swear that while reading this I caught glimpses of Marmalade Boy. Even though it isn’t complete it’s definitely a title you won’t want to miss.

Yugi Yamada’s No One Loves Me (Juné, 1 volume one-shot) should have made this list but I haven’t had a chance to get a copy and I’ve only read the scanlation. I really loved the story and was ecstatic that Juné acquired the license and published this title recently. So it gets an honorable mention along with two of her other titles Close the Last Door vol. 2 (I’ve read it online through eManga but I need to get my physical copy and I have it in Japanese) and Open the Door to Your Heart (I have a temporary eManga copy for review purposes – which I haven’t read yet – but I want a physical copy, and again I have this title in Japanese.)

So tell me, do you agree, disagree, or what are some of your favorites from 2010?