Thursday, October 21, 2010

La Satanica by Momoko Tenzen review

La Satanica

Author/Artist: Momoko Tenzen

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – for ages 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, School Life

Grade: A

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

Motoki Matsushima is one of the most popular guys in class. Girls are always confessing their love for him but there’s only one Matsushima has his eye on, Shoji Mashita. Mashita comes across as quiet and brainy but in all actuality he has a cruel streak. Mashita knows how Matsushima feels about him and Mashita enjoys teasing him mercilessly. The two are really close friends and the chances are pretty high that Mashita feels the same way. Unfortunately the secret comes out when Mashita gets jealous of a mutual friend (the friend, Natsuki, has known Mashita for a long time) because Matsushima was getting the dirt on Mashita. Mashita may be able to keep his cool in everyday situations but when passions are high its Matsushima who’s in control. Will these two be able to get together or will Mashita’s inexperience with the physical aspects of their relationship hinder these two from moving forward?

Sorry for the poor synopsis but action packed this manga is not. It feels like it moves slowly but it’s over before you know it. This definitely falls into a unique category. When I first read it it took me a while to get the right name with the right face because the names are just too similar (at least in my mind). But once I got past that aspect of story I was able to sink in and truly enjoy it. Matsushima is like a giant puppy and an ongoing joke is that he grew out his hair because the person he liked said it reminded him of his dog’s hair. Of course Mashita has a dog and the two do share similarities. Mashita does have a mean streak but it’s pretty obvious to everyone (except Matsushima) how he feels. Of course true love does not run smooth so there are a few bumps that these two will need to overcome.

As always I rather enjoyed this title. It is, of course, a Momoko Tenzen title and will get my attention simply for that fact. She is a rather interesting story teller. Not only does she approach things in a little bit different way but she doesn’t always follow the yaoi conventions. Like in this story it’s the uke who seems to be the cruel one in everyday life. Now following the typical conventions it’s almost always the seme that has the cruel streak. I noticed, too, that at the beginning of the manga we jump right in to the middle of their story and then backtrack a little bit (I noticed the same pattern in her title Suggestive Eyes.) But the thing I love most about this title is the art. Tenzen-sensei’s men are impossibly beautiful (with thick lips and windswept hair) yet still have an everyday man quality to them. She isn’t shy to include beauty marks on her characters (that is a statement over all, none of the characters in La Satanica have any that I’m aware of but in some of her other titles you’ll catch them) which makes them more realistic to me (no one has flawless skin). Because much of her stuff falls into the realm of drama there isn’t much need for chibis but when she inserts some humor her chibis are darling.

When it comes to Tenzen-sensei I’m running out of things to say because I’ve said it all once before in previous reviews. She continues to be a favorite mangaka of mine and unless she ends up writing some really weird, distasteful manga she will continue to be a favorite of mine. I really enjoyed La Satanica for the storytelling, the art and the pacing. Some may not feel the same way. But if you enjoy pure romance you’ll like La Satanica.

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Live for Love by Itsuki Sato and Jun Mayama review

Live for Love

Author/Artist: Itsuki Sato/Jun Mayama

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: D+

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

In Shinjuku’s Nichome neighborhood (for those not in the know this is the neighborhood well known to cater to Tokyo’s gay community) is a small Detective agency run by Yasuie Kiryuuin and his assistant Yoshiyuki Nomura. There’s one problem they have no business and Yasu is terrible with money. Yoshiyuki seems to handle all of the business aspects of the detective agency and Yasu tries to drum up business by taking care of the cats of many of the ladies who work in Kabukicho (Tokyo’s red light district) and sexually harasses Yoshiyuki. They face a bleak future but they seem to get through it together until Yoshiyuki’s father falls ill. You see Yoshiyuki is adopted and when his adoptive parents have a child of their own he feels out of place. Eventually Yoshiyuki hits rock bottom and that’s when Yasu finds him and offers him a place to belong. That lasted for a while but his parents would like him to come back home, work in his father’s company, and start with marriage interviews. It seems like it’s going to be a tough decision for Yoshiyuki. Does he stay poor and follow Yasuie, the man who gave him a place to belong, or go home with a family and live a secure life?

Live for Love is a title that I’m going to have a hard time recommending. Why, you ask? Well many of the yaoi stereotypes are alive and thriving in this manga. I will warn you now that there is a non-con (non-consensual or rape) scene because Yasu is just so overcome by emotion when he finds out that Yoshiyuki is tossing around the idea of going back home. At least in this case Yasu realizes what a boneheaded move that was and would understand if Yoshiyuki would want nothing to do with him. Yoshiyuki is the typical tsundere type character; he seems to say one thing but means something completely different. Yasu has redeeming qualities, he’s a total goofball and that is something that I love in my semes, but he does push the line way too often.

While the story falls into typical yaoi territory the art is not really my style. Mayama sensei’s chibis are kind of weird looking and even the normal art in many places looks off. I liked the art on the cover and on the back but once I cracked it open I wasn’t as impressed. Juné did a good job on it though. I didn’t catch any spelling or grammar mistakes and they did a nice job on the production.

I will admit that there were a few spots where I enjoyed the humor. If you don’t mind setting your values aside involving non-con who knows, you may enjoy this title. But I’m leaving the decision up to you. For another view on this title be sure to catch April Kimm’s review.

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kyo Kara MAOH! vol. 5 by Tomo Takabayashi and Temari Matsumoto review

Kyo Kara MAOH! vol. 5

Author/Artist: Tomo Takabayashi/Temari Matsumoto

Publisher: TOKYOPOP

Rating: T – 13 and up

Genre: Shojo, Shonen Ai, Comedy, Drama, Action, Fantasy

Grade: A

Something strange is going down in Shinmakoku. It seems that someone in one of the neighboring countries is claiming to be Yuri and if caught this person will face execution. Worried that somehow Yuri was summoned without the knowledge of those left in charge while Yuri is away (the three handsome Mazoku brothers and Gunter) Gwendal sets out for Svelera. It seems that the imposter also has a demon treasure in their possession, the Mateki or the demon flute. This treasure has been missing for a very long time and the reason Gwendal was the one who was sent was because it was a relative of his that was banished from Shinmakoku to locate this long lost treasure. Because of Yuri’s benevolent nature he insists on heading to Svelera as well.

Gwendal is not too terribly excited to see Yuri show up to assist in the search. Once they head out to the main city a Sandbear (a sand colored panda that lives in the sand) traps most of the Shinmakoku troops and leaves Yuri and Gwendal together. Gwendal is still grumpy, fussy, and kind of scary to Yuri so having just the two of them together is something that Yuri is a bit nervous about. While in town Yuri and Gwendal get mistaken for elopers and are handcuffed together as they await their punishment. They escape and head towards the capital city to have the handcuffs removed (they are handcuffs that use human sorcery so they can’t be removed by demon magic.) It’s on this trek that we meet the Gwendal that loves all things cute and that he doesn’t dislike Yuri. While in the capital they hit up a church but instead of getting the handcuffs removed they pick up a bride who also happens to be the imposter. Will Gwendal and Yuri get the handcuffs removed, locate the Mateki, and figure out the story behind Yuri’s imposter?

The biggest surprise with this volume of Kyo Kara MAOH! didn’t come between the covers but was actually on the back cover. I had no idea that my recommendation was going to be used. I purchased a copy at my local Borders and didn’t bother reading the back because I knew that I was going to be purchasing it (with titles I’m not sure about I’ll read the back blurb to help me decide.) It wasn’t until the next morning when I was going through my purchases and getting ready to curl up in bed (the joys of working the graveyard shift) that I discovered my comment on the back. I’m not trying to toot my own horn but it was rather exciting. I know I’m easy to please.

OK, back to the actual content of the book. This continues to be a favorite of mine. Combining Takabayashi-sensei’s storytelling and Matsumoto-sensei’s art makes for a fun read. Who better to portray Takabayashi-sensei’s story all about guys than an amazing BL artist like Matsumoto-sensei? It’s gorgeous to look at. This is a series that stays consistently by my bed and I’ll just pick it up at random just to stare at the amazing art. Currently there are 10 volumes of manga and it’s a pretty lengthy novel series. With my crazy OCD once I start a series I’ll stick with it to the end. In many cases I’m cursing myself because I want to stop reading a series because I’ve had enough with it (case in point Nana by Ai Yazawa, don’t stone me I just don’t think it’s as wonderful a series as many critics and manga reviewers say it is) but can’t because once I start I have to finish it. With Kyo Kara MAOH!, however, has enough going for it to keep me hooked, at least at this point in time. In this volume we really get to see Gwendal as the big softie that he really is. He knits, loves cute things like kittens, and is the “Foster Father of all the small animals of Shinmakoku.” We’re also introduced to some new characters in this volume. First character up is Anissina von Karbelnikoff and her crazy inventions (Anissina shows up much earlier in the anime.) She is one of the three great female demons and a childhood friend of Gwendal’s. Next is Nicola, she is the bride and the Yuri imposter. The third major character we meet is Griesela Geigenhuber. We don’t actually meet him personally but he plays a major role in the story as he was sent on the fruitless task of locating the Mateki and has been dwelling in the human lands for the last twenty years. We don’t have all the details as to why he was sent on the task at this point in the story but do get a few glimpses towards the end of the volume. If you’ve seen the anime then you actually get more details but that’s neither here nor there at this point (there are extra stories in the anime than the manga.)

I know for a series that I love so much I would generally give it an A+ (and actually the first volume did get that grade) but I have a few issues. I’m not fond of the printing. I feel that when I’m done reading it there is more ink on my hands than there is left in the book. I also wish there were a few more translation notes made. They were kind enough to inform us that Giant is a character in Doraemon but who is Paaman Nigou and what on earth is amigurumi. I love when they leave cultural references and Japanese terms and words but if you don’t clarify things for those who may not know the meaning behind the references then I find it rather pointless. One thing I will point out that I did appreciate is that if you compare the paper in this volume to the paper in the last volume it is definitely a higher quality, it’s not quite so newsprinty (I know that’s not a word.) I love the matte covers and the color schemes that they’ve chosen. Other than my few nitpicky issues it’s still a very fun read.

I can honestly say that I still highly recommend Kyo Kara MAOH! Fish out of water stories are always fun and Kyo Kara MAOH! is one of the best. You have swashbuckling bishies and gakuran clad heroes (OK Yuri is the only one in a gakuran – the high neck black school uniform that is prevalent in manga, especially BL – but still) to make any fangirl’s heart flutter. Pick it up. Also if you’re interested feel free to read my reviews of vols. one, two, three, and four.

***Review Copy purchased at Borders***

Monday, October 18, 2010

Brilliant Blue vol. 2 by Saemi Yorita review

Brilliant Blue vol. 2

Author/Artist: Saemi Yorita

Publisher: DokiDoki

Rating: YA – ages 16 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: B

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

Nanami and Shouzo are back in the second volume of Brilliant Blue. It seems that Shouzo has flipped Nanami’s switch. It’s obvious that the two of them are attracted to each other but being in a small town does have its drawbacks. Things haven’t progressed but when a college friend from Tokyo, who also happens to be female, comes for a visit Nanami becomes jealous and finally admits to Shouzo that he’s in love with him. Shouzo feels the same way and the two enter into a relationship. But things don’t move as smoothly as one would like. The first problem they encounter is Shouzo getting Nanami into bed. He’s ready to move to the next level but Nanami can’t seem to read the mood. Next problem happens to be the two families. Because of the Douwaki mess in the first volume Nanami’s protective older brothers are even more overprotective. In Shouzo’s case he won’t be able to have a family to inherit the family business. Soon after their date Nanami’s brother finds out about the relationship between the two. Will these two be able to show their loved ones that they do truly love each other? Also included is an extra story that takes place six months after the end of the main story.

I have to say that I do really like this series. There were times when I really struggled with a few things but overall I found this to be an enjoyable manga to read. Your characters aren’t typical for the genre. Really the only thing I struggled with was trying to figure out what was up with Nanami. He’s not stupid seeing how his math skills are top notch and has quite the memory. But he seems like he’s emotionally stunted and that what stands in the way. Does he have a disability like autism or is it something else. In reading the series quite a few times I’m trying to figure out what the author intended. The way I’ve decided to look at it is that he’s been babied by his older brothers to the point where he really can’t do too much on his own. And his brothers failed him because instead of challenging and helping him they’ve mollycoddled him and if anything was too hard they just let him quit. At least that is my take on Nanami.

The extra story at the end is just like a cherry on top of a sundae. It has the feel of a day in the life of these two lovers as they deal with working together and their interactions with their coworkers around them.

This is another quality release of a DokiDoki title. I kind of like the smaller size, it makes it easier to throw the manga in my purse and take with me to read later. They also did a great job editorially, thumbs up to DokiDoki.

I recommend this title for those who want to read something a little different within the genre. School boys and salarymen are great but sometimes you need to read something with a different angle. There is a little sex but it is very brief and very tame so if you want something more explicit you won’t find it here. For another viewpoint be sure to read Linda Yau’s review as well. You can also read my review of the first volume and Linda Yau's review of the first volume, too.

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

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Brilliant Blue vol. 1 by Saemi Yorita review

Brilliant Blue vol. 1

Author/Artist: Saemi Yorita

Publisher: DokiDoki

Rating: YA – Ages 16 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: B

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

Shozo Mita never planned on coming back home. Even though he followed in his father’s footsteps and entered into the construction management field he had no intention of working in the family business. That was until his father sustained a back injury and is laid up. Living in a small town things haven’t changed much, you know everybody knows everyone and their business. But one thing has definitely changed, Nanami Ushijima. Nanami once was a heavyset kid that everyone teased but now he looks like he just stepped out from the pages of a shojo manga. Even though Nanami may have changed physically he’s still the somewhat childlike person he was in high school. You see Nanami isn’t the brightest when it comes to some things but he’s extremely good at his job as an electrician and has a knack with numbers and complicated diagrams.

Now that Shozo’s back in town Nanami seems to have taken a shine to him and it’s entirely possible that Shozo might have developed some feelings for Nanami as well. But there’s a bit of a problem. Because of Nanami’s childlike innocence he finds himself in some pretty strange situations. It seems that he’s in a strange relationship with one of Mita Construction’s clients and it doesn’t look Nanami is enjoying it. Will Shozo be able to help Nanami and win him over?

I found myself enjoying Brilliant Blue. It is a great tale of two socially awkward people (Nanami does seem to have some learning issues and in other reviews people have said that it looks like he’s somewhat autistic, and Shozo has no tact or inner monologue) coming together and making it work. It’s not your typical yaoi which made it that much more enjoyable. There isn’t much yaoi content within the pages. There is a sweet little kiss on the forehead towards the end but that’s about it. The story does move a bit slowly but who says that that’s a bad thing. There were a few scenes that were a bit hard to digest. Those were the scenes between Nanami and Douwaki (Mita Construction’s client.) Other than that the book was rather enjoyable. If interested be sure to check out Linda Yau’s review as well.

I like the look of the DokiDoki line. The books are smaller, about the size of an 801 Media title (and Juné’s new size) and instead of having a tacky branding bar (I was never a fan of Juné’s pink bar on the bottom of the books) the imprint’s name is in the corner with a scrolly (I know that’s not a word) design in a color that blends with the colors used in the illustration. Visually they did a good job. I didn’t notice any major spelling goofs or grammatical issues. Good job guys!

I found Brilliant Blue to be a great addition to my manga library due to the fact that it isn’t a typical run of the mill yaoi tale. With pretty art, cute chibis and an interesting story I feel comfortable recommending this title and I definitely can’t wait to read the next volume. But if you are looking for something a bit more explicit you may want to sit this one out.

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

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Finder vol. 2: Cage in the Finder by Ayano Yamane review

Finder vol. 2: Cage in the Viewfinder

Author/Artist: Ayano Yamane

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – ages 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Action, Organized Crime

Grade: B

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

Akihito Takaba can’t seem to stay away from Ryuichi Asami for very long. Always searching for the next big story Takaba is approached by another cop (you’ll have to read the first volume for the details on that whole scenario) and he has special access to the exclusive Club Sion, run by Asami himself. Once inside will Takaba get the story he’s looking for or will Asami show up and foil Takaba’s plans?

The majority of the volume is dedicated to Fei Long Liu’s backstory, how he and Asami met, and why there is some massive animosity between these two crime bosses. Fei Long was adopted into the Liu family and was raised like the head of the family’s own son but Fei Long didn’t feel as though he truly measured up to his older brother. Yan Tsui was ruthless in his treatment of both Fei Long and his enemies. Because he was the older of the two it’s expected that Yan Tsui will be taking over the family business but it seems that Fei Long is more capable and more liked. But all is not well in Hong Kong’s criminal underworld and Asami seems to have a hand in it.

The final part of the book is a new chapter starring the two students from Plants in Love. This time around it’s DNA in Love and Mizuno has it tough. His mom is out of town and his dad is in charge. It soon comes to the attention of Hiyama’s dad that his lover’s son happens to attend the same school as his own son and uses Mizuno’s illness as an excuse to head over to the Mizuno household. Not only do the dads seem to get some action but Hiyama and Mizuno enjoy some alone time as well.

This is a rather advanced review but I was given the opportunity so I figured that I’d take it. Luckily I still had my friend’s copy of the second BeBeautiful release and was able to handle it the way I did with the first volume. In comparing the two volumes the art hasn’t been changed. In the comments section of my own website one person commented that BeBeautiful did edit some of the artwork in the second volume if you compared it to the original Japanese version. I don’t have my original Japanese copies yet (I’ll probably be getting them later on in the year or the beginning of next, like y’all needed to know that.) At least compared with BeBeautiful’s version everything is the same, with the exception of the original interview conducted by BeBeautiful’s staff and that the book licensed by Juné is the one released by Libre in 2007 so the author’s afterword is different as well. Even though the artwork hasn’t changed Juné’s version is far superior. The translation is of a higher quality and they’ve included a full color cover sheet that is simply beautiful.

I love Yamane-sensei’s art, it is truly gorgeous. I’m still hanging in there in hopes that the story will truly hook me. I would like to see more of the Takaba x Akihito relationship. I have enjoyed it but I’m not as rabid about this series as others are in the fandom. So far I think I prefer her other English released titles (The Crimson Spell and A Foreign Love Affair) but I haven’t given up hope yet. There are still 3 more volumes to be translated and it is still an ongoing series. If it continues on its current trajectory chances are I’ll be converted.

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

Monday, August 9, 2010

Finder vol. 1: Target in the Viewfinder by Ayano Yamane review

Finder vol. 1: Target in the Viewfinder
Author/Artist: Ayano Yamane

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Action, Organized Crime

Grade: B

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

Akihito Takaba is a freelance photographer who got a hot tip and a huge scoop involving politicians and the criminal underworld but unfortunately the story was quashed. The crime boss Ryuichi Asami won’t have Takaba butting into his business so to intimidate Takaba he kidnaps and rapes him. But that won’t keep Takaba down. He’s determined to get the story one way or another. But he’ll need to watch out now that he’s entangled in Asami’s world. Not only is Asami after Takaba (he’s attracted to him) but it seems that Takaba’s caught the eye of the Chinese Mafia and their boss Fei Long. Man, poor kid! How will he handle these rough (but gorgeous) men? Also included are a few one shots: Love Lesson involves high school students, Plants in Love feature two classmates who find out their dads seem to be having an affair, and Risky Society is about a secret crime fighting group where the members have superpowers. Sorry for the poor synopsis but I really don’t want to give away the story.

This has to be one of the biggest, and most anticipated, releases of the year. Since the demise of BeBeautiful fans have been clamoring for any yaoi publisher to license this series. Earlier this year Digital Manga, Inc. announced that they had acquired this license just on the heels of the announcement that Ayano Yamane was going to be this year’s guest of honor at YaoiCon. Digital Manga announced that the title would be released through their Juné line. Initially there was excitement to be had but then worries about the fact that Juné was releasing it and not 801 Media (Digital Manga’s more explicit boys love line). Since Juné is Digital Manga’s mainstream BL line it’s a known fact that in the past they’ve been known to make some content edits to make it possible to sell their titles in more places i.e. brick and mortar stores like Borders. To try and quell the fear Deb Aoki at about.com spoke with the folks over at DMP regarding this title (click here for that article.) Now just to let all of you know I don’t own the original Japanese tankobon (I will eventually) or the BeBeautiful series that was released several years ago (by the time I started reading yaoi it was out of print). But thanks to a friend of mine she did have a copy of the first two volumes and lent them to me so I could compare the two against each other.

Now I can inform all you rabid fangirls out there that you have nothing to worry about. This is a beautiful release and you will be pleased. In my opinion it is a far more superior than the BeBeautiful version. They’ve included a full color cover page. The translation read smoothly and they’ve kept the honoriffics (-san, -sama, etc.). For someone who is new to the series and only read the BeBeautiful version right before the Juné volume the Juné translation was clear and made it easier for me to understand what was going on. In the volume Finder is only the first third of the book and the rest are brief one shots. In the BeBeautiful version the one shots Love Lesson and Plants in Love have aged up their characters and either state that they are university students or imply they are college age. But looking at the artwork they look like they are high school students (uniforms and the like). In the Juné edition it is vague. There is no statement of their ages but you know they’re high school students. With the new translation I was able to enjoy Risky Society a lot more and it made much more sense. And finally no artwork has been altered in any way, at least comparing it to BeBeautiful's version. All in all I have to say that the Juné’s is miles ahead in quality over the BeBeautiful volume. I’m sure that there are people who will prefer the other volume but for me Juné wins.

Ayano Yamane-sensei is a fan favorite and I can see why. Her art is simply stunning and her men ooze sexiness from every pore. The sex is hot, explicit and leaves very little to the imagination. Yamane-sensei is also known to be very protective of her work. She insists on the highest quality and won’t settle for less. Because of this fact I was one of the few fans (of sensei’s, not of Finder seeing how I haven’t read it until now) that knew that Finder would get the best treatment and there wouldn’t be anything to be worried about.

All of the characters are impossibly beautiful, extremely ruthless, and everything you would expect in the criminal underworld. You can’t help but feel sorry for Takaba getting roped into all of this. The Finder story starts out with non-con and some pretty kinky stuff so if that isn’t your thing you may want to stay away but this series is a piece of yaoi history created by one of the genre’s most gifted artists. Do you want to be left behind?

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

Friday, July 30, 2010

Calling by Miu Otsuki review

Calling

Author/Artist: Mio Otsuki

Publisher: BLU

Rating: M – for ages 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Comedy, Drama, Romance

Grade: B+

Kazuaki Hinamura leads a rather boring life. He works in the General Affairs division of his company, he lives alone, has no love life, and no ambition. Every day is lived in a rut. That is until his life is turned around by his encounter with Kira Aratani. One day while Kazuaki was headed home he decided to cut through the park. He accidentally came across a couple getting it on in the bushes. In an attempt to try to make a hasty retreat he accidentally trips on a can and spills his groceries all over the ground. While gathering up his scattered goods a rough looking young man with a beauty on his arm emerges from the foliage. Truly embarrassed Kazuaki apologizes and heads for the hills fearing for his life.
Thinking that he made it out safely Kazuaki tries to go on with life but he has no idea what’s in store for him. Waiting for him at the train station is the man from the park. It turns out that Kira is a porn star and they had just wrapped up filming when he ran into Kazuaki and it seems that Kira has fallen in love with Kazuaki. Kazuaki tries to ditch Kira but all Kira wants to do is hang out as friends with the hope that more will develop later on. Kazuaki has no idea what to do but he eventually agrees to it. Will Kazuaki fall for Kira like Kira wants?

I really didn’t know much about this story and I don’t know much about the artist but because I read a lot of yaoi I decided to order it. I am so glad that I did. I immediately fell in love with it after the first chapter. The story spans the entire book but it is written well enough that it leaves you feeling satisfied. One thing I appreciated about this title is that both characters are adults and behave as such. Another thing that’s great about this manga is that it even though its yaoi it doesn’t seem to follow the usual stereotypical plot devices. Kira waits patiently for Kazuaki to come around and doesn’t force anything on him (with the exception of his declaration of love - which is the typical love at first sight scenario, and a very passionate kiss). There is one female character that has a recurring role. Natsumi is a porn actress who often works with Kira and happened to witness the very first encounter between these two (she was the beauty on Kira’s arm.) Often in yaoi when women are portrayed they are generally used as set dressing or play the villainous roles. In the case of Natsumi she’s the opposite. She supports the relationship from the moment that Kira steps on Kazuaki’s tofu (hence Kazuaki gaining the moniker "Mr. Tofu, just read it, it makes more sense in the book.) The characters are charming and immediately latch onto your heart. I loved this manga!

The art is simply adorable. Because this is a comedy Otsuki-sensei utilizes chibis regularly and they are so cute, but I’ve always been a sucker for cute chibis. Something that I’ve noticed in yaoi is the artists will draw the seme with smaller, narrower eyes while the ukes are drawn with big, bright shojo heroine type eyes. In the case of the leads in Calling there are no distinctions between the seme’s eyes and uke’s. It’s a really fresh change and I liked it. Also you are able to distinguish between all of the characters. They are unique in their looks so there is never any confusion. I have been so impressed by this single volume that I hope we’ll get a chance to see more from Miu Otsuki-sensei.

Now I know it seems strange that I’m giving a title that I loved so much a B+. Honestly I normally would have given this an A but my issues stem with production quality of this title. I have a love/hate relationship with Blu. For the price one pays for one of their titles (the cover price is $14.99) you would expect a higher quality product than what you actually get. Yes, they include a full color cover page but the quality of paper that the rest of the manga is printed on leaves much to be desired as well as ink on your fingertips. Also there could be some improvements on the placement of text inside the bubbles. Finally the way that the sound effects are dealt with could be done better. Instead of translating the sound effects they generally leave them alone and not translate them or completely remove traces of the Japanese and replace it with the translation. I really wish they would make up their mind, translate them or not but don’t do it half way.

Even though I have issues with the actual physical product I love the story contained within. For someone looking for a fun, sweet yaoi featuring something other than schoolboys Calling is definitely for you.

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

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Il Gatto Sul G vol. 3 by Tooko Miyagi review

Il Gatto Sul G vol. 3

Author/Artist: Tooko Miyagi

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA – 16 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! ***

Riya’s life is spinning out of control. When we last left off Atsushi and Black Riya had attended Saki’s concert (for all info you need feel free to check out my reviews of volumes one and two) so Saki could witness for himself the dual personality. While at the concert Riya runs into Kousaka. Every time Riya has been around Kousaka he’s been in White mode but today he’s Black. He tries to pretend to be the White personality with disastrous results. Riya blows his own cover and then Kousaka gets angry and strikes Riya when Atsushi shows up. Atsushi and Riya head back home. Riya comes on to Atsushi to help dull the pain and initially Atsushi goes along with it until he truly discovers he loves Riya in a romantic way not familial way he initially started off with. Atsushi confesses his feelings and tells Riya that he doesn’t want to hurt him. Due to this shock Riya again reverts to White.

Atsushi has made the decision that he’s going to continue as a housekeeper but no longer wants to live with Riya. Riya on the other hand remembers nothing for the past 10 days and it really freaks him out to find out everything that’s happened. He escapes to school where he now has to face Kousaka. Kousaka offers himself up as a refuge because he feels that Riya has no one to support him and also spills it about the other personality. Riya’s emotions reel out of control and he skips school. While Riya is supposedly at school Saki arrives to spend some time with Riya before he heads back to New York. Sadly the only person there to greet him is Atsushi. Saki wants to know why Atsushi wants to move out and Atsushi tells Saki that he’s fallen in love with Riya. Saki accepts this news but insists that Atsushi know more about Riya’s past. Riya has definitely had it tough and I’ll leave it to you read about it. But Riya’s not out of the woods yet. Can he get things together or will he spiral out of control to complete destruction and who will he choose, Atsushi or Kousaka?

The final volume definitely dials up the drama to 11 (sorry for the lame Spinal Tap reference). We find out all about Riya’s childhood and how he developed his multiple personalities. It’s really rather sad and tough to read through but it definitely is an important part of the story. I’m still trying to figure things out with that section of the book and I’ve read through it many, many times and still pick up new information. Child abuse and mental illness are subjects that you don’t see much in manga (or at least the manga that I’ve come across) but it is handled well and I will inform you that it does have a happy ending and in the authors notes she states that her publishers have given her the go ahead to continue on with the story. According to mangaupdates.net (the link is to Tooko Miyagi’s page not the two titles) they have a couple titles listed as sequels to Il Gatto Sul G. I would love to read them but they don’t look like they’ve been gathered into tankobon form and one of them is brand spanking new. If the opportunity arises to have them eventually be available for license here in the States that would be absolutely fantastic.

As a series this is definitely a worthwhile and emotional read. It does follow some of the stereotypes that are prevalent in yaoi but it’s nice to see that Atsushi doesn’t follow them, it’s mainly Kousaka. It’s that attitude that I like to bully you and that’s how I show you my love. It can be true in real life (you know when you like to tease the one you like) but it’s taken to extremes which again are in typical yaoi. This would be a good introductory yaoi title because it’s not really graphic but definitely packs a heavy emotional punch.

Juné published this title after they made the move to remove the dust jacket, which makes me sad with this particular title. Also the paper isn’t as high quality as it used to be but compared to other publishers it’s definitely better. The cover has a shiny finish which doesn’t quite go with the matte finish of the first two, but I’d rather get the final volume in its current state instead of never getting the title.

Pick it up, it’s definitely worth your while!

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

Monday, July 26, 2010

Il Gatto Sul G vol. 2 by Tooko Miyagi review

Il Gatto Sul G vol. 2
Author/Artist: Tooko Miyagi

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA – ages 16 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: A

Life is getting more complicated for Atsushi Ikeda, Riya Narukawa, and Haruto Kousaka (Riya’s sempai.) When we last left off Kirimine High was preparing for their big concert featuring some of their most talented musicians. Riya was one of the featured violinists but some of his upperclassmen were not OK with him being chosen. After competing against Kousaka Riya is officially chosen as the representative but because of his mental instability Kousaka has taken on the role of understudy. Riya both admires and despises Kousaka. It seems that Kousaka is rather talented yet unmotivated but after witnessing one of Riya’s masterful performances it seems he’s found his muse. Kousaka enjoys teasing and bullying Riya (which is why Riya despises him). Things progress with Kousaka faster than one would like. Riya loses Atsushi’s apartment key and it turns out that Kousaka is the one who finds it. Using the key to lure Riya over to his apartment Kousaka then forces himself on Riya.

In the meantime Atsushi waits around for his cat (Riya with his Black personality) to show up. When Riya does appear he’s beyond ticked off at Atsushi. He admits that he is aware at what’s going on while the White personality is in charge but White, on the other hand, is completely unaware that Black exists. Plus Black Riya hates that everyone seems to prefer White Riya, including Atsushi. Atsushi tries to calm him down by stating that he makes no weird distinctions between the two personalities. Unfortunately that doesn’t appease Riya at all and he returns the key while confessing that White Riya slept with an upperclassman.

Atsushi hates that things left off the way they did so he blows off school to attend the Kirimine concert. Luckily Riya has reverted back to the White personality but things aren’t smooth sailing yet, nor are they likely to get better with the introduction of Riya’s cousin Saki Narukawa, famed pianist. After the concert Atsushi and Saki are introduced and to Saki’s surprise Riya seems to be rather attached to Atsushi. Another reason Saki is surprised with Atsushi is because of the fact that Atsushi knows the Black personality. Saki arranges for Atsushi to move in with Riya to work as a housekeeper and to keep Saki up to date on what is going on with Riya’s mental health. Will things work out for the better, or will Riya’s fragility cause him to break?

I still really like the story. It’s definitely a love triangle tale that I’ve never encountered before. Writing compelling stories that are riveting and interesting is definitely a talent that I don’t have and sometimes can be a difficult for anyone. Plus trying to portray characters with flaws realistically can be tough as well but so far I think that Tooko Miyagi-sensei has done a bang up job. I don’t know much about Multiple Personality Disorder but I know that it can be brought on by abuse. Was Riya abused as a child? Does Saki really know what’s going on? I’m pretty sure that all of that will be answered in the third and final volume.

The only real struggle I have with the story is Kousaka. He’s jealous of Atsushi, which can be expected when you have a crush on someone, but for some reason he feels the need to be violent at times. He claims to have feelings for Riya but doesn’t show them well. You often see this characteristic in semes in yaoi and I’ve never understood it. I can understand the whole "I want to tease them" behavior but I don’t get the "I want to mess them up" attitude. But it’s something that I have to deal with because this is an often a plot device that is used often in yaoi.
Juné has again done a beautiful job with this release. It has a matte dust jacket (it was released before Juné dropped the dust jackets) and brilliant white paper. I also love that on the inner flap of the dust jacket has a picture featuring a chibi Black Riya and Atsushi. What can I say, I’m a sucker for chibi’s. The book is a bit stiff but you don’t have to wrestle with it to stay open.

I’m looking forward to how this is going to turn out. It seems that Atsushi’s feelings for Riya go deeper than he originally thought and he has to deal with the fact that White Riya seems to be somewhat attracted to Kousaka. And Kousaka is struggling with the discovery that Riya does indeed have multiple personalities. The third volume is definitely a title that I’m excited to read!
If you’re interested feel free to check out my review of the first volume of Il Gatto Sul G.

***Review Copy purchased through Akadot Retail***

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

breath vol. 5 by Chifumi Ochi review

breath vol. 5

Author/Artist: Chifumi Ochi

Publisher: Yaoi Generation

Rating: M – 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: A-

It's so hard to write a synopsis for the final book in a series. You don't want to give anything away yet you want to be informative as well. I'll try my best without spoiling too much.

Arata and Yanagi have finally expressed their feelings and are ready to move forward. But there is a huge obstacle in their way. That would be Ten, Arata's younger twin. Ten will stop at nothing to keep his brother out of the clutches of anyone, not just Yanagi (read vol. 4 for more details). Now that Ten knows that Yanagi and Arata are back together he's turned into a raving lunatic. After locking Arata in his room he's roped Kashiwagi (more like threatened him) into his plan by taking him to Yanagi's home. Yanagi was worried when he sent Arata home seeing how Ten would blow a gasket if he found out that they spent the night together (too late). Luckily Ten failed to confiscate Arata's phone but when Yanagi calls to make sure everything was OK Arata was unable to warn him on what horrors await him. What will happen to our lovers and the psycho brother?

The final volume of breath contains the ending of the main story, a side story featuring Yanagi and Arata, and two chapters starring Ten and the man he meets after leaving his brother. I feel that the ending was a bit rushed but I'm pleased with how things turned out. I don't mind angst as long as there is a happy ending. The only thing missing is the steaminess between Arata and Yanagi. We don't get any sex whatsoever. Another thing that was missing was a true ending regarding the situation with Ten. I really wish that there was more closure but I'm satisfied nonetheless.

Now the book isn't devoid of sex, trust me. It just shows up in the side story featuring Ten and the sexy doctor that he shacks up with. In these chapters we are able to see Ten in a different light and it redeems him in my eyes. He definitely has some major issues going on upstairs and I would have liked more development but beggars can't be choosers.

This is a great series and I'm glad that Yaoi Generation brought it to us. To me breath started out as a story of sketchy, but super hot, consensual sex with a bully of a seme and a spineless uke. I quickly changed my tune as we got to know these characters and saw them in a new light. As the story progressed it truly hooked me and made it so I couldn't wait for the next volume to come out. The characters that started out as kind of stereotypical, stayed somewhat stereotypical, but morphed into characters with more depth and made it a more interesting story.

For a first off series Yaoi Generation did a great job. I must say that I appreciate the fact that they started the series and finished it instead of getting over their heads and publishing several titles all at once. In today's economic times and the closing or missing manga publishers starting series and then going under before they finish them I really like the fact that Yaoi Gen started the series then finished it before moving on to the next. If they keep up the great work and continue to license interesting titles and release them with their fantastic production qualities they'll continue to get my support!

If interested here are my reviews for vol. 1, vol. 2, vol. 3, and vol. 4.

***Review Copy provided by Yaoi Generation***

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ciao Ciao Bambino by Momoko Tenzen review

Ciao Ciao Bambino

Author/Artist: Momoko Tenzen

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA – ages 16 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, School Life

Grade: C-

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

On Kaname Imai's first day at work is somewhat jazzed up when he saves young Yuuta Fujimoto from some aggressive men. Initially Kaname thinks Yuuta is an adorable young girl but Yuuta is all male. Kaname is a cram school teacher and a year after he saved Yuuta; Yuuta attends his cram school. It seems that Yuuta has developed a crush on Kaname, but there are some objects in the way. Kaname is a college student and kind of clueless and Yuuta is a middle school student and likes to look out for Kaname's best interest. A relationship at this juncture is not in the cards but Yuuta is determined that one day he'll seduce Kaname.

A related story called Honey Citron features Yuuta's two friends Kei and Makoto. It seems that Makoto may have developed a crush on Kei but doesn't know how to deal with the possibility of the change that may appear in their relationship. The volume is rounded out by Brand New Wednesday, which is the tale of a high school student falling for his tutor.

This is a title that I really wrestle with. Any time there is a student/teacher pairing I always proceed with caution. When we deal with a high school student I'm usually able to look on but in this case we are dealing with a middle school student here and it just doesn't sit quite as well. I guess the only thing that makes it a bit more palatable (only a bit, not very much) is that Yuuta is the aggressor in the relationship. Kaname also seems to be a bit reluctant to enter into a more physical relationship. But still there is a seven-year age difference and we're not really sure how old Yuuta is when they finally consummate their love. He's still in school but I don't know if it's middle or high school.

The other two stories are great though. Honey Citron shows us the turmoil that Makoto finds his feelings in. Kei is rather clueless and Yuuta worries that he was the one who planted the idea that Makoto likes Kei as more than friends. In this case we see first love develop and we are dealing with characters that are of the same age. Brand New Wednesday was also a good read. The age spread wasn't as large and Kana (the student) is in high school. It is a little older story and features some of Tenzen-sensei's older art. I have to say that I much prefer her newer art style because some of the features are softened somewhat.

Art wise this is a beautiful volume. It features typical Tenzen-sensei art, which are thin lines, perfectly windswept hair, thick lips, and long lanky limbs. She is rather detailed with her character sketches but backgrounds are sparse yet when there is a background involved it is done with painstaking care and are very detailed as well. I think that Juné is a great publisher for Tenzen-sensei. She's not terribly explicit but is a great mangaka in her own right. With Juné's larger trim size makes it that much more amazing to look at. Juné's new branding is an improvement over the pink branding bar by leaps and bounds.

I'm going to struggle with recommending this title because of the issues of dealing with a relationship between a middle school student and his college aged cram school teacher. It's a must have for Tenzen-sensei fans which I am one but I'm leaving this up to you to decide.

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

Friday, April 2, 2010

Seven by Momoko Tenzen review

Seven

Author/Artist: Momoko Tenzen

Publisher: Juné

Rating: YA – ages 16 and above

Genre: Shonen Ai, Romance, Drama

Grade: B

It was originally supposed to be Momoko Tenzen week but it looks like March turned out to be Momoko Tenzen Month. I better get cracking on the rest of her titles if I want to get this wrapped up by the end of the month! Pfft! Yeah right, like that'll happen!

Nana has no memory. Mitsuha has no home. These two with mysteries abound come together due to interesting circumstances. Nana was picked up off the street by a man who gave him his name (nana can mean no-name in Japanese, it also means seven hence the title!) It seems that the man was rather cruel. But to someone who doesn't remember anything about his past this help was accepted. Now in the present the man has passed away and the man who now owns the business has allowed Nana to stay on. Here is where Mitsuha enters.

Mitsuha grew up in an orphanage and now has become an author. He travels around the country and writes about his adventures. As it turns out the new owner of the business that Nana works for and lives above happens to be from the same orphanage. Not only is Mitsuha looking to have adventures but he's also trying to locate his little brother Nanao. Sadly Nana isn't Nanao but Mitsuha seems to be intrigued by Nana and convinces his pal to let him crash at the apartment above the shop, where Nana currently lives. Will Nana be able to allow someone else into his life? And is Mitsuha really interested in getting to know Nana or is he just a replacement for his brother?

The second story in Seven, called Within Plain Sight, features another story with a Nana and the struggles between a brother being attracted to his brother. If you have issues of lovin' in the family, blood related or not, this may not be a story you'll enjoy.

OK, I first need to apologize for the really poor synopsis of the plot. There are a lot of characters and back-story, which makes it difficult to try and describe it in just a few short paragraphs. So reading the back blurb might be your best bet.

It took me a while to actually pick this title up. Every time I saw the cover I thought the character on the left (who happens to be Mitsuha) looked way too much like Steven Tyler from Aerosmith and that thought just creeped me out. But that's what you get when you are looking at an image off the net, they have the tendency to not be that clear. Another reason why it took me so long was I didn't know if I was going to like Momoko Tenzen-sensei's work. But I finally broke down when I found a copy at my local Borders (and by that point I had read The Paradise on the Hill and fell in love with Tenzen-sensei). I discovered that Mitsuha doesn't look at all like Steven Tyler and that the physical book is really quite beautiful. Because this is an older release it features the older look with the pink branding bar at the bottom and a dust jacket. But they chose to use a beautiful matte finish on the jacket as opposed to the glossy finish. With that choice it makes this release classier.

The story takes a while to get going and when it does it ends and we switch stories. Luckily we get another glimpse of Mitsuha and Nana at the end of the book which helps wrap the story up nicely. I liked the story but it isn't one of her stronger ones. Probably I gave it a higher score because I love Tenzen-sensei so much. With her thin lines, thick lipped, and perfectly coifed characters the art is very classy indeed. I've read this book several times and I still have questions that I feel need to be answered. Because of those issues I felt the book could have much to improve on.

So do I recommend this title? Well this would be a great title to be an introduction to the genre if it is something that you're not familiar with. It's also a must have for hardcore Tenzen-sensei fans. But other than that I'll leave it up to you to decide whether you want to read it or not!

***Review Copy purchased at Borders***

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Unsophisticated and Rude by Momoko Tenzen review

Unsophisticated and Rude

Author/Artist: Momoko Tenzen

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – 18 and up

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance, School Life, Anthology

Grade: B-

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

Momoko Tenzen-sensei seems to have a thing for schoolboys. Unsophisticated and Rude is an anthology chock full of high school and college guys.

The book gets its title from the first story in the collection, Unsophisticated and Rude. Satoshi has a crush on Nao-sempai, a member of the same basketball team. What he doesn't know is that his best friend Hiroto also has a thing for Nao-sempai. Who will Nao-sempai choose? Pretender is about Katase and Manaka. These two attended the same junior high and have a lot in common now that they are in high school. Katase fell in love with Manaka but kept it hidden even after Manaka confessed to him. Will these two ever get together? The third story is by far the best in the collection, Midori Vivid in My Eyes. Takamiya "rescues" the campus eccentric from a caterpillar attack. Sonoda is so grateful to (and taken by) Takamiya that he begins to shower him with expensive gifts. Takamiya doesn't know what to do because he's finding himself somewhat attracted to Sonoda as well. Will Takamiya be able to look beyond himself and accept Sonoda's attention? Second Love focuses on Haruno and Uenaga. At an elementary school class reunion (they have those?) Haruno recognizes everyone but Uenaga. It seems that despite Haruno's amazing memory he just can't place Uenaga. The two again strike up a friendship but not remembering Uenaga annoys Haruno and Uenaga doesn't want to bring up the past either. Will Haruno remember the past and if he does will the new friendship end because of it? The final story is I Want to Be Your Number One. Not only is this story the oldest of the collection but it's also the most formulaic. Tomo and Yukihiro have friends for a long time. Now that they're older Tomo seems to be making the moves on Yukihiro. The thing is Yukihiro doesn't know if Tomo is joking or is serious. When push comes to shove will Yukihiro be able to recognize Tomo's true feelings as well as his own?

This is the first anthology collection that I've read from Tenzen-sensei. The only other one that might come close is Manhattan Love Story but those stories are all interconnected so it really doesn't fit in does it. That is one of the things that I like about Tenzen-sensei, she has the tendency to focus on one story for a volume of manga. But even in anthology mode I still enjoy her work. The stories have the usual BL feel to them and are somewhat predictable but because she creates beautiful characters, lush backgrounds, and a feel of pure romance I feel that she does a great job. She utilizes fine lines, thick lips, and windswept hair to make all of her characters absolutely stunning. Be they women or men they all inhabit a very attractive world. The art has a somewhat sparse style but that is what makes it so great. It has a very sophisticated look to it.

This book features Juné's new look. What I mean by that is there is no dust jacket (even though they look great and it's kind of nice that I don't have to wrestle with the dust jacket but every once in a while I miss them.) They've also moved the branding bar to the side with the binding and have designed it to fit in with the look of the cover. No more noxious pink branding bar at the bottom of the book. Good work!

If you like your stories sweet and romantic or are a fan of Momoko Tenzen-sensei you'll definitely enjoy this title. But it is an anthology and if you are a bit tired of them then you might want to stay away. Another thing is Tenzen-sensei isn't terribly explicit, there is sex in this volume and it's steamy but if you like your sex plentiful and graphic then you're probably not going to enjoy it. I really liked it but I'm going to leave it up to you to decide!

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

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Suggestive Eyes by Momoko Tenzen review

Suggestive Eyes

Author/Artist: Momoko Tenzen

Publisher: Juné

Rating: M – ages 18 and above

Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Romance

Grade: B

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

We all know that breakups are hard. Megumu Okazaki is a popular grad student who is trying to put his life back together after a heart-wrenching breakup. Hisashi Kina is a handsome 3rd year college student who seems to have fallen for Megumu. The two end up in bed together after Megumu runs into his ex. The problems arise when both Kina and Megumu have no idea what direction their relationship is headed. Do they love each other or is Megumu only using Kina as a rebound fling to heal his broken heart?

Another couple, professors at Megumu and Kina's university, also makes an appearance in their own story. Kikugawa and Shibata attended the same college and now teach at said college together. Kikugawa is quiet and comes across as somewhat aloof. Shibata, on the other hand, is social, personable, and gets along with everyone. This is truly a sweet romance where opposites attract and that if you are truly compatible you can have long, fulfilling relationship.

Suggestive Eyes is definitely the style you've come to expect from Tenzen-sensei. The stories are dramatic, romantic and beautifully drawn. But the way sensei presented the story is somewhat interesting. Instead of starting the story by introducing us to the beginning of their story, we jump into the middle of their romance. Kina is unsure of Megumu's feelings and Megumu wants to end their relationship because he's doesn't know what his own feelings are. When we pick up the second chapter its there that we find out how Kina and Megumu met. Megumu is a grad student working with Shibata-sensei and Kina is a 3rd year student. After witnessing Megumu crying over a pack of cigarettes (which Kina actually left in the classroom). Megumu seems to be drawn to Kina but when Kina finds himself being somewhat attracted to Megumu he finds out that Megumu was only interested in the cigarettes. It comes out at a drinking party that Megumu dated a guy that smoked the same brand and the relationship ended badly. Once we finish this story then we continue on with what normally would have followed what happened after the first chapter. It is really kind of confusing if you ask me, but upon the third and fourth readings I found the lineup intriguing.

The couple who really makes this manga worth picking up is the story of Kikugawa and Shibata. They may be professors at the same school but these two have a rather long history together. They started out as classmates. Kikugawa can be rather intimidating but it's just because he's quiet. Shibata is bubbly, friendly, and has the tendency to be the center of attention. The two struck up an unlikely friendship and soon found themselves attracted to one another.

With this story I liked how even though this book featured two different couples the two stories are intertwined and the four of them have to interact with the others. I liked the Megumu/Kina story but I would have to say that the better of the two is the one that features Kikugawa/Shibata. It is very romantic, which you come to expect when you read a Tenzen-sensei manga. Her soft, thin lines and excruciating detail make what could be a typical yaoi story something beautiful and entertaining. Tenzen-sensei could illustrate boring instructional manuals and I would automatically pick it up and enjoy it.

The book is up to Juné's usual standards and is beautiful. The translation seems smooth and I don't remember seeing any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors, but it's entirely possible that I over looked them because I have to turn off my proofreading mode sometimes. I have to give my thanks to Juné for licensing and publishing works by Momoko Tenzen. She is a gifted mangaka that I recommend!

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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mangaka Musings - Momoko Tenzen

Looking at my gigantic pile of manga that needs to be reviewed I’ve noticed that there is one artist that has prominent showing. That mangaka happens to be Momoko Tenzen. To kick off what I’m calling Momoko Tenzen Week I'm going to share my thoughts about this very cool mangaka. Momoko Tenzen is one of my favorite artists of all time. I have kind of a weird way that I rank my favorite mangaka. Because there are many artists that I really like I struggle with ranking them in order of favorites. When I rank them it turns out that they seem to fall into groups of three. Let me give you an example. If I had to choose my number one favorite artist I have three that I can’t choose to put on top, so my number one mangaka features three artists. It continues that way down the list. Momoko Tenzen falls into the spot of favorite mangaka number two (along with Yugi Yamada and You Higuri).

Initially I didn’t have much desire to pick up anything by Tenzen-sensei (I’ve noticed that there is a trend, I don’t have much of a wish to read something but due to boredom I pick it up anyway and end up loving it). I had picked up almost all of the explicit titles that Juné had released and I was looking for more BL. All that was really left were the two Momoko Tenzen-sensei titles (at least at the time). I decided to grab The Paradise on the Hill. Initially I thought that the two characters on the cover were not all that attractive due to the pointy-ness of their chins. I know that’s a bizarre way to decide whether you should read a title but at the time I didn’t really know how to go about choosing my manga. Yet once I opened the book I discovered how much I really loved this title. It was sweet, romantic, and simply beautiful. The art and the story worked so well together that I was immediately enraptured that I couldn’t put it down and knew that I was going to have to read more by this artist.

Tenzen-sensei is extremely talented. Her artwork is gentle and sparse but very detailed. That detail is present in every aspect from character design, costuming, and even backdrops. Her lines are delicate and thin and has a very classy feel to it. Her use of screentone is appropriate and lends itself to give it a very clean look. The faces may seem to be somewhat angular but that just makes them that much sexier. She gives her characters full lips, long limbs, and gorgeous heads of hair. Because her work tends to be on the more dramatic side of the spectrum she doesn’t use chibis very often (hyper-mutation to characters used often in comedic moments) but when she does they are rather adorable.

Her stories are sweet and romantic. I’ve heard some refer to them as boring but I find them to be touching and subtle. She seems to like the school setting and features tales that reflect that atmosphere. Her men seem sophisticated yet have an everyman air about them. Her stories tend to be more dramatic but she isn’t afraid to have a moment or two of comedy. Her characters vary in personality. But they all are caring and considerate in their own way.

Her tales often fit into the stereotypical yaoi mold and like I mentioned earlier some people find her to be boring or a regular run of the mill mangaka but to me she takes a regular story and applies her beautiful artwork and weaves a magical spell that entrances. Feel free to share any opinions about the talented Tenzen-sensei in the comments section. Also, if you’re interested you can check out my reviews for A Paradise on the Hill, Manhattan Love Story, and Suggestive Eyes.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Manic About Manga's Wishes for 2010!

Hey! Sorry it's been a while since I've posted. Man, working for a living is for the dogs! My main goal for the new(ish) year is to post at least once a week but preferably more. Having goals in life make it worth living, right?

Actually the point of this post is to make some wishes on what I would like to see in the world of manga and anime. I'm pretty sure none of this will come to pass but a girl can dream. So here is my list of things I would like to see:

  • More titles in English from Shiuko Kano
  • I want to see the third season of Kyo Kara MAOH! (the anime)
  • I want the Kyo Kara MAOH! light novels released in English (according to mangaupdates.com it states that TOKYOPOP has acquired the license for the novels, what does that mean? I have no clue!)
  • See such awesome manga publishers like Aurora/Deux/LuvLuv and Go! Comi get back on their feet
  • Get the final volume of Magical JxR published and continue on with the releases of Star Project Chiro (you listening UDON?)
  • Find a company that would release the whole Duck Prince by Ai Morinaga series (CPM started it but then dropped the license halfway through and has now gone out of business)
  • Get the fifth book of breath published by Yaoi Generation
  • I would love to see more from the Italian team Dany&Dany
  • Have NETCOMICS release the third volume of Roureville and the final four volumes of Do Whatever You Want (vols. 1-3 are available out of the seven volumes) in print and not just online
  • Find a publisher to bring us the awesome new content in the world of Hajin Yoo's Totally Captivated
  • Have Libre (in Japan) release the rights for Haru Wo Daiteita, plus we would need a US publisher to want to publish it because BeBeautiful is now defunct and won't be bringing us anymore Embracing Love
  • I want more Hyouta Fujiyama
  • Where's my Gakuen Prince Del Rey?
  • And finally more hours in the day and a faster internet connection (we're still in the stone age with our dial up connection around my house)!
That's all I could think of at this particular moment but I'm sure there will be more! What are some of the wishes that you guys would like in the world of anime and manga? And it doesn't have to be yaoi either, it's just that's what I love. Feel free to leave any comments, wishes, etc. in the comments segment. Inquiring minds (at least my mind) want to know!
EDIT: 2/24/2010 - I knew I forgot a few things:
  • Have a company (preferably BLU seeing how they hold the license for the first two) pick up the next two Gakuen Heaven books. The one published after the Nakajima story is my particular favorite out of the four. And I love You Higuri's art.
  • I want more Ellie Mamahara. DokiDoki has picked up one of her titles and Amazon shows that Baseball Heaven will be coming out later this year. But three books aren't going to satisfy me.
OK, I think that's it but I know I'll remember something later and kick myself for forgetting all about it (that's what happened with the Gakuen Heaven thought!)

Kyo Kara MAOH! vol. 4 by Tomo Takabayashi and Temari Matsumoto review

Kyo Kara MAOH! vol. 4

Author/Artist: Tomo Takabayashi/Temari Matsumoto

Publisher: TOKYOPOP

Rating: T – ages 13 and above

Genre: Shojo, Shonen Ai, Comedy, Drama, Action, Fantasy

Grade: A

Having recovered Morgif things seem to be looking up for our group of Mazoku heroes. But it turns out that to activate Morgif’s demonic powers a human life needs to be absorbed. Their plan of witnessing a death at the nearest hospital fails all thanks to Wolfram’s beauty. The next plan of attack comes thanks to a flier that Wolfram gets his hands on. It advertises that they need an attractive young man with his own sword to witness a death. Because they need the life and are somewhat desperate Yuri applies for the position. Once he secures the post he learns that the job isn’t quite as innocent as the ad made it sound. It seems that this is a gladiatorial type event and Yuri is the one who will take the young man’s life. Will Yuri be able to set aside his personal beliefs for the greater good of his country?

When it comes to fish out of water stories this one is definitely one of the best. I’m still enamored with it. Matsumoto-sensei has really brought Takabayashi-sensei’s story to life and filled it to the brim with beautiful bishies, gorgeous costumes, and stunning backdrops. The characters are coming into their own and we get to witness these different sides to each character. It is apparent that Wolfram in settling into the role of fiancée well. Seeing how I love the world of BL I’m trying to figure out which character will be the top and which one will be the bottom, because the way I see it both Yuri and Wolfram are both bottoms. But that’s the fangirl in me speaking. One of the most surprising characters is Gwendal. He comes across as a grumpy, fussy, ball of intensity but regardless of how serious he is he knits cute stuffed animals and loves all things cute. Underneath his crusty exterior is a kind, caring and thoughtful man. The other surprising character is Gunter. It seems that before Yuri became king Gunter was serious, studious, and capable of everything. Since Yuri’s arrival Gunter is known to be prone to constant nose bleeds, moments of pure insanity, and bouts of paranoia. Of course he’s still able to fulfil all his duties capably and quickly.

I would have given this volume an A+ but there are few issues that I have with the production. Since the story spans many volumes I’ve noticed that there seems to be some spelling continuity issues. The first one is the spelling of the name of the island that Morgif resides. The first time the island’s official name shows up as Vandervia Island (Kyo Kara MAOH! vol. 2). In subsequent volumes it is spelled Van Der Veer Island. The next spelling issue is with the name of the former monarch and Gwendal, Conrad, and Wolfram’s mother. In the first volume she says to call her Celi but the spelling is always changing. In the last few volumes they’ve been using is Tseri which would be the way you could see it being used for the Japanese translation but by using both spellings it makes it kind of annoying (at least to me). The final thing is more of a comparison between the anime and the manga. In the anime the only people who refer to Conrart (the official pronounciation) as Conrad are those that are from Earth. In the manga they all call him Conrad be they those in Shinmakoku or those from Earth. That’s just me being weird and my proofreading coming out to play.

Volume 4 is a pretty skinny volume but it pretty much wraps up the quest for Morgif and introduces us to the next adventure that Yuri finds himself experiencing. Regardless of my petty issues (that is just my obsessive/compulsive disorder coming out to play) I still highly recommend this series. You can’t beat bishies, nosebleeds, and string bikini underwear! Oh, and the story is fun too!

If you're interested feel free to check out the reviews for any of the previous volumes:
vol.1, vol. 2, vol. 3!

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