Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mr. Flower Bride by Lily Hoshino review

Mr. Flower Bride

Author/Artist: Lily Hoshino

Publisher: Yen Press

Rating: M – ages 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: B+

The Souda family has kind of a weird tradition. If the oldest son gives birth to a son all younger sons must marry a man. This rule was put into place to keep the succession from being a huge hassle. So as soon as it is discovered that Shinji's brother and sister-in law are having a boy things move forward for Shinji's marriage to another guy. If marrying another guy is bad enough his new "bride" happens to be Aoi Uno. Aoi is in the same class as Shinji and the two do get along. But Aoi doesn't seem to be phased. It seems that Aoi has been crushing on Shinji for ages and now is his chance to get with Shinji.

The two marry in secret because marrying someone of the same sex is against the law, and they move into an outbuilding on the Souda property. Even though they go to the same school they can't let on that there is anything out of the ordinary going on between them. Now they just have to make it through everyday life.

In Mr. Flower Bride we also get a short called Mr. Flower Groom. This introduces the story between Ritsu and Kouichirou. They are in the same situation as Shinji and Aoi. This story line and characters appear in Mr. Flower Groom that will be released in July.

On a whole I enjoyed Mr. Flower Bride. Some parts didn't really make sense and I found the fact that one minute Shinji was adamantly against marrying Aoi and then the next minute he was all for it a little strange. Aoi seemed to be the only one with the steady character. The situation where the two men must be married is definitely a new plot point I've not read in yaoi before and does set things up for an interesting run. I am looking forward to reading more in the Mr. Flower Groom story line.

I have to hand it to Hoshino-sensei; she draws dewy young boys very well. My only complaint is that sometimes her male characters look like flat chested girls. In Mr. Flower Bride the final one- shot If I Can See You Anytime… features one of these ukes. It's also the one with the most detailed when it comes to fully fleshed out male appendages.

If you are looking for a cutesy yaoi tale I think that Mr. Flower Bride fits the bill. With Hoshino-sensei's dewy, adorable boys, and original story makes it one to pick up. I know that I initially complained about her girly ukes, but I must admit that she is definitely a talented artist.

***Review Copy purchased through Amazon.com***

Monday, March 30, 2009

CUT by Toko Kawai review


Author/Artist: Toko Kawai

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: A+

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.org. Check it out! ***

Life is tough. If there is anyone out there that says any differently they are lying through their teeth. CUT by Toko Kawai shines a light on some serious but real problems that face not only teenagers but adults as well in today's world. I am going to inform you now that CUT deals with some very intense and heavy subject matter and it is a manga not for the faint hearted. Because of that if the synopsis seems a bit spoilery it's actually like that so you are aware of how deep this story really is.

Chiaki Sakaguchi is a popular guy at his high school. That's not really surprising he's good looking, has a great sense of humor and is an all around good guy. But underneath this exterior Chiaki is hiding a huge secret. Chiaki is being sexually abused by his stepfather. At a nearby park while being "attacked" by his father the whole scene was witnessed by innocent bystander Eiji Yukimura. It turns out that Eiji also attends Chiaki's high school. As soon as Chiaki discovers that, he wants to make sure that Eiji keeps his secret about his stepfather. Due to this confrontation Chiaki discovers that Eiji hides a very deep and long scar on his arm and he can be a bit violent. Because of the secrets these two hide they start an unlikely friendship.

We learn that not only does Chiaki have to deal with a sexually abusive stepfather but his father died in an auto accident when Chiaki was just a child. Chiaki blames himself (as well as his mother) so to try to escape from that emotional pain he cuts. Eiji on the other hand wants to grow up as fast as he possibly can so he'll no longer be a burden on his legal guardians. Eiji's mother was a young teenager when she conceived Eiji and because she wasn't ready to be an adult yet she took it out on him. The scar on his arm is a gift from his mother. Even though these two have found each other and find it easier to deal with their misery together things aren't going to progress as easily as one would wish.

CUT is a heart wrenching manga. It'll take hold of your of your emotions, rub them raw, and return them to you in a big jumbled mess. I'm not saying this is a bad thing because CUT really causes you to think. I must say that it isn't for the faint hearted but worth the time. It deals with some very difficult subject matter like sexual abuse, cutting, teen pregnancy, and abuse in general. If you suffer from any type of mental illness be sure to take you medicine before you read this. If you are lucky and are on an even emotional keel you'll want to make sure to be prepared for this heartbreaking tale.

In Ginger Mayerson's previous review she focuses on the fact that these two are royally screwed up thanks to their parents but I saw things differently. Yes, the parents passed on their traits to their children and screwed them up, but Chiaki and Eiji were willing to rely on each other and deal with their pasts together. The things they need they find within each other. Chiaki has a mothering type personality and Eiji is gentle and caring. CUT is character driven and emotionally charged.

Toko Kawai-sensei's art is beautiful as always. The only issue I have with it is that she only has a few body types, faces, and hairstyles that she uses so all of her characters regardless of the story they all look alike. But she is a pretty good storyteller and CUT is by far her best work. Ginger brings up the fact that it was a huge undertaking for Juné to be able to bring CUT home for English readers and I must give them my thanks for going through all that work. CUT truly is an amazing piece.

I highly recommend CUT but be aware that it deals with very heavy themes and it earns its mature rating. Yes they have lots of sex to warrant the M rating but it also deserves it for those intense and heavy plot points. Once you pick up CUT you won't be able to put it down and you definitely won't forget what you've just read. It will definitely make you think.

***Review Copy provided by Juné***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spell by Hyouta Fujiyama review


Author/Artist: Hyouta Fujiyama

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – for ages 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: A+

Takamasa Natori grew up in a small town near the mountains. His life didn't really start until he started college in Tokyo. He's constantly being invited to mixers but soon finds himself bored. Not only that, he gets chewed out by childhood acquaintance Yasuha. But this time around he's unable to get out of it. While at this mixer he meets Junpei Kisugi, one of Takeda's friends from high school (Takeda is the dude organizing the mixer). Kisugi and Natori hit it off immediately and start spending a lot of time together. Natori thinks that Kisugi is one groovy dude (did I just type that?) but when Natori finds out that Kisugi is bi you'd think that this small town boy would freak. Surprisingly he doesn't and the two are still as inseparable as always.

The more time the two spend together the more Natori finds himself attracted to Kisugi. He knows that Kisugi is currently in a relationship but comes onto him anyway. Not only is this a crazy situation but Yasuha also has the hots for Natori. So when she witnesses a passionate kiss between these two she's more confused than ever. Can things possibly work out for all involved?

Fujiyama-sama is one of my absolute favorite mangaka. I haven't read anything of hers that I haven't enjoyed. Spell is at the top of my favorite titles list. Even though we have a typical yaoi story, it's still original and fresh and the characters are more realistic. With Kisugi he doesn't shy away from the fact that he's bi but he doesn't go around and announce it to the world. Japan is just like many other countries where opinions of homosexuality are mixed. So in Kisugi's case he doesn't mind when Takeda shares the information with Natori. Natori also deals with this information that he receives. At first he's a bit weirded out and really doesn't know how to feel about this information but because he enjoys spending time with Kisugi he quickly gets over it. Yasuha starts out as the typical yaoi female, you know whiny, obnoxious, annoying, but by the time you reach the climax of the story Yasuha plays a very important part to the story.

Not only do we have a great story but you can't lose with Fujiyama-sama's art style. It's got a kind of sketchy feel to it and her men have an everyday guy quality. Because of that it makes it irresistible. It seems that Juné has a corner on the Fujiyama-sama market which in my opinion they are the best to showcase her work. With the larger trim size it really showcases her amazing talent. I'm just waiting for them to bring the rest of her works out (with the exception of Crescent Moon Story, which has been picked up by Yen Press and from what I've seen of them as a publisher they'll also do a great job.)

This is a total aside but Digital Manga, Inc. has many ventures. They of course publish manga but they also have other business ventures. One of them are the Pop Japan tours that they conduct. Every year they have the Fujoshi Paradise tour for those who are yaoi connoisseurs. They arrange the meeting with a mangaka. The mangaka they meet with regularly is Makoto Tateno. For this reason I've been tempted to take this trip, but if they were to arrange a meeting with both Makoto Tateno and Hyouta Fujiyama I'd be on that plane so fast they wouldn't know what hit them.

OK, with that out of my system I recommend Spell for any and all yaoi readers. I feel that any of Fujiyama-sama's titles are great for beginners because even though you do get some steamy sex it is very tastefully done and is a great way to ease into more graphic yaoi manga.

***Review Copy purchased at Borders***

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dash! by Isaku Natsume review


Author/Artist: Isaku Natsume

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA – 16 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, Sports

Grade: A

Akimoto decided to attend Miya High for one reason and one reason only, Saitou. Akimoto has been practicing Judo since childhood. He was about ready to quit when he witnessed a match between Saitou and a much larger opponent and Saito gracefully took him down. This was a revelation to Akimoto; he must go to Miya High and compete against Saitou at least once. Now that Akimoto is a freshman at Miya High he's in for the shock of his life. Saitou is not at all like Akimoto imagined. He's rude, demanding, and cocky, not to mention he's no longer practicing and competing. Now that his imagined Saitou image is shattered what will Akimoto do?

Cheeky is the other story contained in Dash!. Ohyama is a college student and on the basketball team. One day out of the blue his cousin Yoshirou calls and wants to crash at his place. Instead of his cute little cousin appearing in front him it's a snarky, sassy, gorgeous high schooler. It seems that Yoshirou is having trouble at home and wants to hide out at Taka's place (Taka is Ohyama). Yoshirou has definitely changed. He goes on paid dates, has girlfriends, boyfriends, etc., and uses Taka's apartment as a love hotel. Now Yoshirou is turning his attention and affection to Taka and he just doen't know what to do.

Dash! doesn't seem to be your typical yaoi tale, which is great. You have to have a change once in a while to stave off boredom. Instead of dealing with schoolboys, salarymen, and all the typical story lines that you come across, this time we deal with jocks. This is an interesting take on yaoi, hot athletic boys surrounded by other hot athletic boys. But instead of them being all over each other there is an actual story there. Akimoto actually struggles with his feelings of attraction to Saitou. In many yaoi tales they decide they are in love with someone of the same sex and just think "OK, I love you so who cares it you are another guy." When Saitou finds out how Akimoto feels he doesn't get freaked out and continues to treat Akimoto the same as always. The characters develop well-rounded personalities and are very interesting. I preferred Dash to Cheeky but I did enjoy them both. I think my hesitancy for Cheeky stems from my being slightly uncomfortable with cousins falling for one another. It doesn't bother me as much as it used to, probably because I've gotten so used to this plot point in yaoi.

One reason why I found Dash! to be endearing it the art style. It has a very shonen feel to it even though it’s a yaoi title. The lines are solid and there isn't a huge reliance on screen tone. The background isn't as detailed but that helps the focus stay on the action at hand. The action panels are done very well and you feel like you are included in the action. The panels are also laid out well and you are able to follow the story very well, there's no getting lost with this tale. I only have two minor complaints, and they are kind of lame. First of all the dust jacket isn't as tight fitting as others and where the folds are placed the writing that should be over the spine are a little off center. My other complaint is the stiffness of the book. The paper used is very high quality and bright white which does have a positive by causing the art to pop of the page beautifully but makes it terribly stiff and hard to keep open. At least my complaints had to deal with the physical book and not the story!

With an Older Teen rating Dash! is a great title to pick up if you are a yaoi beginner. You are introduced to some interesting stories and great art. It is definitely a fun title to read. There's humor but enough drama dashed throughout to keep you interested. You are introduced to yaoi plot points but it isn't so in-your-face to make you uncomfortable. It definitely belongs on any gotta read yaoi list!

***Review Copy purchased through Yaoi Club***

Sunday, March 15, 2009

St. Dragon Girl by Natsumi Matsumoto review

St. Dragon Girl vol. 1

Author/Artist: Natsumi Matsumoto

Publisher: VIZ Media

Rating: T – 13 and up

Genre: Shojo, Comedy, Drama, Romance, Action

Grade: A-

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.org. Check it out! ***

Kenpo. Many know of this martial art but don't know much about it. Kenpo, literally translates to "Fist Law". Here in the United States we use the term Kung Fu to designate any form of Chinese martial art (just like Karate is often used to designate any form of Japanese martial art). In Japan the term Kenpo is used to describe Chinese systems. You're probably wondering why on earth I'm defining martial arts terms. I found that knowing the difference with terms helped in making St. Dragon Girl a much more enjoyable manga to read.

Momoka Sendou is the daughter of a martial artist and her family owns a Kenpo dojo. Because of that fact Momoka has been learning Kenpo from an early age and has earned that nickname "Dragon Girl." One of Momoka's closest and dearest friends is Ryuuga Kou. He's Chinese and is a descended from a long line of magic masters. The Kou family deity is a dragon (are you starting to see a pattern?) One afternoon Momoka finds out through Ryuuga that there is a demon that is after one of her best friends and Ryuuga's cousin Shunran. Shunran is a powerful psychic and because of that she's always being pestered and possessed by various spirits. Since the time they were children Momoka and Ryuuga have protected Shunran. But this time the Serpent King is too powerful for them and almost kidnaps Shunran. Feeling powerless Ryuuga decides to call upon the Kou family deity (yes, a dragon) to possess him but because of a strange twist of fate the dragon possess Momoka instead.

St. Dragon Girl is an eight volume series that is beautifully illustrated. It is a typical shojo manga in every sense of the word. Momoka has a crush on her childhood friend but can't admit those feelings aloud. Of course those around her all know that she's crushing on Ryuuga, and Ryuuga is pretty sure that she has feelings for him too. Even though he's not as obvious as Momoka, I'm pretty sure Ryuuga feels the same way.

I found myself really enjoying St. Dragon Girl. I'm pretty sure one of the reasons I liked it so much is because I've dabbled in Chinese martial arts myself and found the action beautifully drawn. Momoka is a very skilled martial artist and has earned her nickname. In the martial art style I studied (Shaolin Ch'uan Fa Kung Fu) the Dragon is the final animal that you tackle because you incorporate everything you learned and have internalized all of the other animal techniques to the point where you are able to act instinctually. That is definitely Momoka.

Another reason why I liked this manga is because of the costuming. Instead of using a gi Matsumoto-sensei uses a traditional Chinese yifu. Also there is use of Chinese dress that, in my opinion, rivals the kimono for beauty and grace. Even though the story takes place in Japan it definitely mixes these two ancient and fascinating cultures. Matsumoto-sensei richly illustrates an interesting story with extraordinary detail.

***Review Copy provided by VIZ Media***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

Wanted by Matsuri Hino review


Author/Artist: Matsuri Hino

Publisher: VIZ Media

Rating: T+ - ages 16 and up

Genre: Shojo, Drama, Comedy, Romance, Action

Grade: B

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.org. Check it out! ***

Pirates are hot, especially ones created by famed mangaka Matsuri Hino (mangaka behind Vampire Knight and Captive Hearts). Thanks to Johnny Depp and popularity of the Pirates of the Caribbean pirates are hip once again. Wanted was published in Japan in 2005 after original movie was released. Was that the inducement for creating a pirate manga? I don't really know, but pirates are definitely cool.

Armeria lost her family while she was young and was adopted into a traveling musical troupe. Armeria possesses a beautiful singing voice. During her travels she meets Luce, the nephew of a rich landowner, and falls in love with him. One evening while performing at their estate the infamous pirate crew led by Skulls kidnaps Luce for ransom. On that night Armeria vows that she will find and rescue Luce. She knew who she had to find due to the unique tattoo that Skulls had.

Several years pass and Armeria has located Skulls' crew. Concealing her identity Armeria joins the crew as the young cabin boy Arto. Not long after she joins the crew her cover is shot (no pun intended, she actually gets shot) and a female on board a bunch of sex-crazed is dangerous. Once her identity is discovered she asks about Luce's whereabouts and is told by Skulls that Luce is dead. Armeria isn't so easily fooled and is determined to find out what happened to him.

There is also a brief one-shot called Spring Cherry Blossoms. It takes place during the Meiji Era. Sho wants to become a doctor but because of customs her marrying a young man of an influential family comes first. She meets a young man at the bookstore. This young man is dressed in traditional Japanese dress but has on one piece of clothing that makes him stick out, a ten-gallon hat.

For a quick read with beautiful artwork Wanted is a great choice. If you want something thought provoking Spring Cherry Blossoms is definitely an interesting look into Meiji era Japan and introducing us to a story that is both similar and foreign all at once. As a whole I enjoyed Wanted as a great diversion. It's not terribly deep and it moves quickly so if you want something with teeth you might not be too impressed with it. I think that the story would have benefited more by being a series. I wish that there was more character development so we could delve more into the psyches of the characters. The revelation of what happened to Luce and the current situation comes too quickly and then things just become a tad ridiculous. The story of Wanted also doesn't really wrap up as nicely as Spring Cherry Blossoms. In the brief Afterword Hino-sensei mentions that she doesn't know if she'll continue the story of Wanted. I think that it could benefit everything greatly if sometime in the future she decided to add to it. I think that back story would be a good addition to the story.

I must say that one thing this manga has going for it is Hino-sensei's art. She is really quite gifted. From lush costuming to detailed backgrounds she definitely has some major talent. I've had the opportunity to check out some of her other works and it is just as visually amazing. VIZ is a great company to bring us her work because they bring manga titles to the masses and always present them for a reasonable price. It's no wonder that many of their titles sell a lot of copies. They are always publishing titles that they know will sell which in this economy is always important. Matsuri Hino-sensei is a mangaka that definitely appeals to a wide audience.

If you are looking for a title to distract you from reality for an hour or two set sail with Wanted! Also feel free to check out Linda Yau's earlier review for Wanted as well.

***Review Copy provided by VIZ Media***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

Monday, March 9, 2009

Make More Love and Peace by Takane Yonetani review

Make More Love and Peace

Author/Artist: Takane Yonetani

Publisher: Luv Luv Press

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Josei, Comedy, Drama, Romance

Grade: B+

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.org. Check it out! ***

The adventures in and out of the bedroom for Ayame and Koichi continue in Make More Love and Peace. This time around things are a bit more rocky from Ayame's point of view. After catching a girl shoplifting at a grocery store Ayame invites the girl over for dinner (the girl claimed she hadn't eaten for two days.) But a surprise is in store for Ayame. The girl, Nono, is just a common trouble making delinquent who had been taken in to the police while Koichi was working. Nono is just looking for attention and plays Ayame for a fool. Because Ayame is such a sweetheart she can't refuse when Nono begs to tag along on Ayame and Koichi's date. Nono plants seeds of doubt within Ayame that her kindness is just a front and that Ayame is just a fake.

Of course Ayame struggles with all of these emotions and Koichi tries to be the good boyfriend and reassure her that she's wonderful. Once everything is back to normal another woman is thrown into the mix. This time around it's Koichi's ex-girlfriend from high school, Tamaki. Tamaki is impressed with how Koichi has turned out and makes the comment to Ayame that she wants to steal him away from her. Ayame knows that Koichi is in love with her but she can't help but worry. Man, being in love is hard.

There are also two brief one-shots included as well. Just Like a Romance Novel is about a librarian who compares her new romance to the romance novels that she loves to read. The Way You Look at Me is the tale of a make-up artist who hides a secret beneath her makeup and frets when she decides to show her new boyfriend what's behind her makeup.

As a sequel to Make Love and Peace, Make More Love and Peace is more of the same. I really enjoyed the first one but this volume just adds more smut to the mix. Don't get me wrong I liked it but it wasn’t groundbreaking or earth shattering. It's a fluffy, sugary manga that is a great to read when you want something quick and light to read. I must say though that I really liked the one-shot Just Like a Romance Novel. It was a really sweet story where the girl loves books and compares life to books. It's a fun mix of sweetness and creativity. I was a bit disappointed with The Way You Look at Me. The character is much more shallow than she tries to let on and the way I see it she wanted to put the blame on her boyfriend. Oh well, you win some you lose some!

The art in Make More Love and Peace is definitely beautiful. It has the look of a high quality shojo title but the sex thrown in to make it an adult title. If you have an aversion to sex scenes in your josei titles then you'll probably want to skip this title because there is a whole lotta sex going on with our couples. As a whole I did like the manga but I still prefer the first one. But I'm still going to recommend it to those who like fluffy adult manga. Keep up the good work Luv Luv Press!

If you are interested here are some other review links from this series:

Make Love and Peace – review written by Kris
Make Love and Peace – review written by Linda Yau
Make More Love and Peace – review written by Linda Yau.

***Review Copy provided by Luv Luv Press***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Voices of Love by Kanae Hazuki review

Voices of Love

Author/Artist: Kanae Hazuki

Publisher: Luv Luv Press

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Josei, Drama, Romance, Anthology

Grade: C+

Voices of Love is filled to the brim with sexy romance stories that adds spice to anyone's bookshelf. It is of course an anthology of shorts to fit anyone's tastes. On with the synopses:

Voices of Love – Mika Tsukahara is loved by all her students. They all see her as the totally awesome teacher, but there is one student who can change all that. And that would be her neighbor Naokazu Kuga. He plays loud music, loudly makes love, etc. Mika has had to get after him for disturbing the peace. This student has thrown her off her game.

One Summer's Day – Shigeru and Sana have been friends since high school and had a sexual relationship at one time. Sana has had a thing for Shigeru but doesn't know how to approach that confession. It turns out that Shigeru wants to have sex but he and his current girlfriend haven't slept together yet. So he wants to sleep with Sana to take care of those urges.

Rainbow Smile – Nina has a creep for a boyfriend. The two live together but he openly cheats on her and beats her. She confides in friend Taiichi. He cares for Nina and doesn't understand why she's still with that loser.

Pictures of Us – Mizumoto is 36 and a shy guy living in Tokyo. In order to meet new people of the opposite sex he places an ad on the net. There he meets Fuyu a 28-year-old woman. But when he meets her she actually looks younger than 28. She's more like 18. She's also lonely.

Teach Me Love – Atsushi attends an art college. After a friend broke a video game he offers up his girl as payment (the friend is a creep). Hayako Yamano is a lot looser than other girls and will give it up to anyone. She's under the impression that by sleeping with all these guys make them her friends. Atsushi will do what he can to help Hayako.

One can only take so many anthologies in one sitting. But I'm not complaining too much. Voices of Love was Luv Luv Press' maiden manga. As their first release I thought, "Hey, this isn't too bad" but as time has moved on I've found that I some of their later releases are light years above this title. But it's not bad and I'm not wishing I had the hour or more I spent reading this manga back.

I have to say that I appreciated that two of the stories, Pictures of Us and Teach Me Love, were told from the male perspective which is a rather fresh change. Although some of the stories were much of the same when it comes to josei there were two stories that I found rather compelling. Those were Rainbow Smile and Teach Me Love. These stories are of women overcoming the odds when the men around them take advantage of them. They're heartbreaking and wonderful all at the same time. Because of these two stories they make what could have been just a mediocre volume so much better.

The art in this volume is good but not spectacular. It has a sketchy feel to it but in the eyes they are very expressive. But in a few panels faces look a little out of proportion or things just come across as a little off but it's hard to figure out what it is. But with the art and storytelling they do suit each other.

For Luv Luv's first release this isn't too bad of a volume to kick off an imprint. They've only gotten better from here! I'll leave it up to you to decide whether you want to pick up this manga volume, but just know that you will miss two fantastic stories, Rainbow Smile and Teach Me Love. They really make this anthology. So...maybe borrow this manga from a friend or purchase used.

***Review Copy purchased at Borders***

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tomcats vol. 1 by Mashiro Minamino review

Tomcats vol. 1

Author/Artist: Mashiro Minamino

Publisher: Deux Press

Rating: OT – 16 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Fantasy

Grade: C

According to the back:

Mao is just your typical disillusioned young man working in a pizza joint. He soon finds himself in the middle of a surreal adventure after he meets his old friend Sora, a pint-sized human cat. Shady "men in black" show up at his workplace, prompting Mao to flee the city for a forest in the middle of the desert. Mao's back-to-nature escape wouldn't be complete without his silent lover Tora, Koyuki the magic human kitten, who can make all sorts of things appear, and more pint-sized human cats. Out of a door in a tree emerges a confused cat god, but even stranger still is what's inside the tree! Yaoi in Wonderland?!

This is one of the weirdest mangas I've ever read. If you are confused by the info that the publisher provided on the back just know you aren't the only one. Mao is tired of living where he is. He befriended a human cat and then met Tora. It turns out that Mao is the only one who understands what Tora is saying. Tora is the son of a yakuza boss and is expected to take over the job but he has no desire, that's why they are on the run. While in the desert the human kitten Koyuki is able to catch desert fish by patting on the ground. Not only can she catch fish but she can catch a living room set and other things. In Mao's garden he grows talking flowers and has an abundance of daikon radish.

Now the reason why I gave it the grade I did is because I'm still trying to figure it out. It is seriously a bizarre manga. Of course it has its funny moments but right now it doesn't seem to be much of a yaoi tale. I'm having a hard time reviewing this title because I am so confused by this tale. The art is fun, the idea is fun, and I really want to understand this title but alas, I'm an idiot. I might be able to make a more informed decision when the next volume comes out but right now just realize that I'm dumb and you'll have to read it for yourself and if it makes more sense to you, could you enlighten me?

***Review Copy purchased at Borders***

Maid in Heaven by Hisami Shimada review

Maid in Heaven

Author/Artist: Hisami Shimada

Publisher: Deux Press

Rating: M – ages 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Romance

Grade: B

Midori Ichii lives alone with his grandmother. When his grandma throws out her back he decides to take her place as a maid in the Kosaka household. He hears that the master of the house can be a bit difficult to deal with but Midori is determined to help his grandma out. When he arrives he meets Asagi Kusaka, the master of the house, and Asagi is a jerk right off the bat. It turns out that after his parents died he had to take over the family business and raise his little brother, Moegi. He's also the same age as Midori.

Midori is determined to get the handsome young Asagi to respect him. But Midori is a bit of a klutz. Yet one thing he has going for him is his tea-making prowess. Since Asagi will only drink Akane's tea (Akane is Midori's grandma) Midori is the only one who can take over that task. Midori spends time playing with Moegi and doing various chores around the house but his main job is making tea. Even though Asagi seems to be a jerk he cares for Akane and Midori and wants to do what he can. When Moegi hears Midori talking with one of the other maids he gets the wrong idea and thinks that Midori is going to quit. As soon as Moegi tells Asagi this news Asagi is beside himself. It turns out that he's fallen for the adorable Midori. Midori also likes Asagi and the soon begin their relationship as lovers. But as they say the road of love is never smooth. Will these two be able to face the troubles just ahead?

I found myself enraptured by Maid in Heaven. It is truly cotton candy fluff and fuzz but sometimes you have to read squishy, happy manga. Asagi may seem to be a massive jerk but hiding under that tough exterior is a young man who has been thrown into reality sooner than intended. But the true hero of the book is Midori. He stands up for what he believes in and isn't afraid to tell it like it is regardless of his station in society. He's willing to own up to his mistakes but also will protect those in need. No wonder everyone loves him at the Kosaka household! The situations that the two leads find themselves in crack me up and whenever they are ready to consummate their relationship they always get interrupted.

The art is enchanting. Hisami Shimada-sensei has a great eye for detail and the characters are drawn with such life that you can't help but be drawn into the story. With many volumes of yaoi body parts are often obscured but in the case of Maid in Heaven you see everything in all its glory. So if you are squeamish at the sight of an erect penis this isn't the title for you. Yes, it's very detailed and beautiful and the erotic scenes are very steamy. It's just too bad that there is only one volume.

I recommend Maid in Heaven due to the humor and sweetness around every corner, but I don't recommend it to those who might not be able to deal with the bedroom scenes. But if you don't have a problem with this, then check out Maid in Heaven.

***Review Copy purchased through Amazon.com***

Seduce Me After the Show by est em review

Seduce Me After the Show

Author/Artist: est em

Publisher: Deux Press

Rating: M – ages 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, Anthology

Grade: C

Theo Gallardo has only known the stage. Being the son of a famous Russian ballerina, he's loved and lived for dance. The day he was debuting a new work his mother was killed in a plane crash. After giving the performance of a lifetime he steps away from the stage vowing never to go back. A few years later he resurfaces as an actor starring opposite of known playboy Darren Fergus. Can the spark between these two men be what Theo needs to light the fire within him to begin dancing again?

Seduce Me After the Show also contains brief stories about artists, punk rockers, quiet boys that are actually cats (this story still leaves me confused), and a man comes back to his hometown after being away for many years.

As a storyteller est em is at the top of her game but when it comes to her art I'm still at a loss. But I guess that the style of her art, the layout of the panels, and the starkness of the black and white that she relies on all go together. Out of all of the stories I found myself interested in the title story. The rest of the stories I found were either just OK or really confusing. With the use of loss and rebirth I found a very captivating premise.

Instead of using the usual settings that you find in yaoi (schoolboys, salary men, cousin love, etc.) she bases her characters in more artistic mediums. You have dancers, actors, artists, and musicians. I have to say that I appreciate this change of pace. Yet I still struggle with truly liking it. I enjoyed this manga but I don't know. Deux Press did a great job though. The cover is black and white with a splash of deep red for the red carpet. The title on the spine is also printed in the deep red as opposed to the usual hot pink ink they usually use. If I were to recommend an est em work it I'd recommend Red Blinds the Foolish over Seduce Me After the Show. But I'm going to leave the choice up to you.

If you're interested, there is a fascinating interview with est em's former teacher Matt Thorn (he's quoted on the back of both Red Blinds the Foolish and Seduce Me After the Show) that was conducted by Brigid Alverson over at Publisher's Weekly. Check it out as well!

***Review Copy purchased at Borders***

Restart by Shouko Hidaka review


Author/Artist: Shouko Hidaka

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: B

Tadashi was once the hottest model in Japan, but nowadays there is a new model burning up the industry. His name is Aki. He's tall, young, and handsome. Tadashi is not quite so sought after anymore and he just doesn't seem to give a crap. After a night of drinking Aki and Tadashi end up spending the night together in the throes of hot, sweaty passion. Aki remembers everything but because Tadashi was majorly smashed and doesn't really remember what all happened that night. To those on the outside it looks like Aki and Tadashi hate each other, and Tadashi does seem to be a little jealous of Aki and all of his successes. But appearances can be deceiving. It turns out that Aki and Tadashi are attracted to each other. It takes drastic action on Aki's part to get Tadashi's attention, but it works. But with their hectic schedules will they be able to make it work?

There are also a few brief one-shots found in Restart that complete this volume. One of which is sort of related to the title story.

I want to know what is the proper way spell Hidaka-sensei's name. On her other Juné Not Enough Time her name is spelled Shoko Hidaka and on Restart is spelled Shouko Hidaka. A little continuity would be nice, but oh well we can dream can’t we. I enjoyed Restart. I found the story to be interesting enough to finish in all in one sitting, but not so intense that I was frustrated. Often times when I read manga I like to use it as an escape from the mundane. You can do that with Restart. Both Tadashi and Aki are absolutely gorgeous. Hidaka-sensei's art style is great. When she draws her characters they have a very natural face shape. She doesn't shy away of drawing numerous characters with unique looks by using different hairstyles, facial hair, etc. The art and story mesh well together and I hope to see more from Hidaka-sensei. She is very talented!

***Review Copy purchased at Borders***

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Take Me to Heaven by Nase Yamato review

Take Me to Heaven

Author/Artist: Nase Yamato

Publisher: Deux Press

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Romance, Supernatural, School Life

Grade: A+

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.org. Check it out! ***

Fumiya has a special gift; he sees dead people and one of his ghosts that he can see must have been a math teacher because he can't seem to get his homework done without the ghost interfering. This is how Take Me to Heaven starts. When Fumiya was a kid they moved into a house next to a Buddhist temple and his bedroom happens to be right next to the graveyard. Thanks to that he's now become sensitive to ghosts. Shogo is the only son of the priest and ever since Fumiya was little, offered his services – for a price. The two have always had this very weird friendship. Fumiya always turns to Shogo when he's being bothered by a ghost and Shogo in turn teases and bullies Fumiya, but still seems to calm Fumiya anyway. Now in high school, the students in the Occult Research Club scout out Fumiya and Shogo to join. Fumiya is not really keen on the idea but Shogo joins and convinces Fumiya to do the same.

Fumiya is frustrated with the fact that Shogo is uber popular with the girls and that it wasn't too long ago that Fumiya was the popular one and Shogo was the goofy one. But alas Shogo is ultra good looking and super cool and Fumiya is unable to get away from Shogo long enough to make a name for himself. While in the Occult Research Club Shogo and Fumiya have many adventures with the supernatural and thanks to Fumiya it seems that things are going well. Will Shogo get serious and will Fumiya realize why he feels comfortable turning to Shogo?

I knew almost immediately that I would like Take Me to Heaven. I am a huge fan of Nase Yamato-sensei. This has shot to the top of my yaoi manga one must read list. It is hilarious. I was immediately hooked by the fact that the ghost of a math teacher that was interred at the temple was tutoring Fumiya. You can't help but laugh out loud at that premise. Yamato-sensei has a sense of humor that I really relate to. She's sarcastic and snarky and it really makes the manga that much more interesting. Not only does the humor create a great manga, but Yamato-sensei's art is spectacular. From her use of screen tone and shading, to her clean lines and extreme detail, the story leaps off the page. Not only are the normal drawings phenomenal but her use of chibis and how adorable they are you can't help but love them.

There are a few things that people might complain about (but as for me I don't take issue). If you are looking for hot and sweaty sex you won't find it here. The sex is at the end (like it is in many yaoi titles) and it is very brief. For someone who might not want a lot of sex or aren't familiar with yaoi this is a great title to pick up. The story is another thing that people might complain against. It isn't a very deep plot and you can pretty much figure out how things will work out. But pick it up if you are looking for a light distraction from life. It's definitely worth it! Bravo Deux Press!

***Review Copy provided by Deux Press***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***