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***