Category Archives: Manga

Outside of Japan, the word “Manga” refers to comics originating out of Japan. Over the years the Japanese have developed a fairly unique art style, approach to storytelling and visual layouts that makes reading them a vastly different experience from your mainstream American or even British-produced comic books. Due to the high volume produced, almost all manga seeing the light of day gets pushed out in black and white inks only and cover almost every aspect of life, from sports, heroes, demons, romance, drama and even work. In other words? There truly is something for everyone here.

Review: Slam Dunk (Volume 5) (1991) Manga | My Reviews 15 JAN 2013

Winning isn’t everything in the game of basketball, but who wants to come in second? It takes dedication and discipline to be the best, and the Shohoku High hoops team wants to be just that. They have one last year to make their captain’s dream of reaching the finals come true – will they do it?

Hanamichi finally gets some game time as a substitute for the slightly injured captain Akagi and quickly goes about showing everyone that he isn’t all talk. Not only does he manage to strip the ball from Ryonan’s veteran center, but he also succeeds in making several key passes that result in some much-needed baskets. With Shohoku closing in on their opponents’ lead, is Hanamichi on the verge of proving that he has what it takes to become the next captain?

I was quite fond of Takehiko Inoue’s smash hit basketball manga back in my twenties, and I must admit, it is somewhat of a guilty pleasure to get back into it again, now in my thirties, though admittedly I do seem to have outgrown it just a tad it would seem.

Anyway, volume 5 of Slam Dunk still has us caught slap bang in the epic basketball battle between Ryonan and Shohoku, though unbelievably the entire volume 5 is used to tell just a few minute’s worth of game time – to actually finish this (and remember, this is only a practice game – the season hasn’t even started yet!), you’ll need to head out and ensure that volume 6 is also within your grasp.

That said, with Sakuragi now firmly in the playing field, this book is loads of fun, it literally whizzes past as you’re treated to some engaging and exhilarating hoops action, complete with Inoue’s trademark drama, slapstick comedy (the rivalry between Sakuragi, Rukawa and now Sendoh is an absolute riot at times) and of course, plot twists!

Matching the non-stop pace of the basketball action story being told is Inoue’s energetic, well drawn and detailed panels, matching every aspect of tone, from silly to serious, perfectly.

It really is a pity that the game doesn’t come to an end in this volume because it means that Inoue has now stretched a single game over the course of three volumes, but that said, this really is an enjoyable book that is sure to appeal to any lover of shonen sports manga titles.

Loads of fun and well worth the read.

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Review: Slam Dunk (Volume 4) (1991) Manga | My Reviews 27 DEC 2012

Winning isn’t everything in the game of basketball, but who wants to come in second? It takes dedication and discipline to be the best, and the Shohoku High hoops team wants to be just that. They have one last year to make their captain’s dream of reaching the finals come true – will they do it?

Shohoku’s (somewhat) friendly game against Ryonan gets underway. Old rivalries reignite with captain Akagi going toe-to-toe with Ryonan’s center, Uozumi. Hanamichi has flat-out declared that he will personally shut down Ryonan’s ace, Sendoh, but will Kaede Rukawa take care of things before Hanamichi even gets a chance to hit the floor? Either way, this is bound to be a game to remember!

I’m particularly fond of Takehiko Inoue’s classic school basketball comedy drama saga, and Slam Dunk volume 4 certainly does not let one down in any way whatsoever. Loads of basketball action, plenty of flip-flopping drama as both teams duke it out, and of course the side-splitting laughs that come courtesy of that loveable tough guy idiot Hanamichi Sakuragi!

Volume 4 kicks off the big Ryonan practice game, which of course the book makes out to be far more important than just any old practice game. Of course, this is Inoue meaning that a single basketball game will stretch out over a number of volumes, which unfortunately means that you’ll have to sit down with more than just volume 4 if you want to see how things pan out. Of course, that said, it is a testament to Inoue’s ability to leave you wanting more, even tricking you into forgetting your frustration that time in his basketball games can be rather elastic!

The artwork is a fantastic mix of detailed backgrounds, dynamic character action poses, and of course Inoue’s signature silliness and deformed art tricks to heighten the slapstick comedy, all of which works together perfectly with the tale being told.

It may be a little long in the tooth by now, but if you haven’t read Slam Dunk before and you do enjoy a good laugh combined with sports action, then you would do well to pick up Slam Dunk volume 4 (as well as the rest of them if you can!).

Loads of fun and well worth the read.

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Review: Fullmetal Alchemist (Volume 18) (2009) Manga | My Reviews 25 DEC 2012

In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and his leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Equipped with mechanical “auto-mail” limbs, Edward becomes a state alchemist, seeking the one thing that can restore his and his brother’s bodies… the legendary Philosopher’s Stone.

Auto-mail engineer Winry is captured and held hostage to force Edward to do her captor’s bidding. Hawkeye discovers the disturbing truth about President Bradley’s son. Our heroes have fortuitous and not-so-fortuitous reunions with old friends and enemies. And multiple intrigues and double-crosses ensue as some people plot to save the world while others scheme to destroy it.

Volume 18 has Ed and Al still up in the North, though now they are being manipulated by Kimblee, who has Winry in his treacherous grasp and seeks the aid of the Elric brothers in creating another Philosopher’s Stone. However, Scar and his companions are also in the area, a big target for both the military and the Elric brothers, though Kimblee would do well to watch out just where the loyalties of the Northern forces really lie. In the same breath, back in Central, Lieutenant Hawkeye makes a rather startling – and disturbing discovery, something revolving around yet another homunculus which makes he’s rather unexpected appearance.

There is plenty of darkness in volume 18 as we’ve come to expect whenever a homunculus is involved, though this is balanced out by plenty of action sequences, and of course by yet more intrigue as writer Hiromu Arakawa carefully lifts the lids off of some secrets, only to tantalize with a few new ones in return! Some nice little twists are thrown in and overall, Volume 18 grabs you and sucks you in well before you even realize it.

As we’ve become accustomed to it by now, Arakawa’s flat cartoony style still doesn’t quite match up with the dark tones at times, but for the most part the clean lines and good backgrounds do make for pleasant visuals, with her style capturing her trademark slapstick humor and silliness that she likes throwing in every now and then perfectly!

It’s a decent read that certainly won’t disappoint fans of the series that have already come this far into it.

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Review: Deus Vitae (Volume 3) (2004) Manga | My Reviews 18 DEC 2012

After overcoming a perilous ambush, Ash and company meet up with the head office of Re-O. There, Lemiu is confronted with a terrible secret from Ash’s past… and a climactic attack of selenoids could mean the end of mankind as we know it!

Volume 3 marks the end of writer/artist Takuya Fujima’s science fiction Deus Vitae saga, chronicling the battle of Ash Ramy, the human with selenoid abilities, against the power of the selenoid Mothers and Lady Leave herself, as well as the revelations surrounding the young female selenoid known as Lemiu Winslet.

Finally, many of the missing bits of information get filled in, and this volume carries a good balance of action, drama and character development, finishing up the story with a somewhat soppy and overwrought, but satisfyingly epic, final battle.

Of course, what makes Deus Vitae is not its writing (which to be honest continues to be slightly confusing to work through and isn’t always all that convincing, but which is certainly better than the first two volumes), but rather the strength of Takuya’s gorgeous art, his wonderfully detailed work and of course gorgeous character designs, particularly that of the girls. That said, his artwork does sometimes make it difficult to follow what exactly is meant to be happening in some of the more action heavy panels, but again, the top quality of the line work more than makes up for these minor flaws.

One thing that one does however need to criticize Mr. Fujima on is his insatiable obsession with drawing in female boobs and their associated nipples, which sometimes are just a little too in your face or forced in, making for detracting visuals instead of enhancing the sexiness or whatever Takuya is aiming for.

So in summary, just as it has been throughout the series, Deus Vitae is a fairly average science fiction read, but its gorgeous artwork raises it above the quality of its writing and thus makes it worth checking out.

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Review: Naruto (Volume 46) (2009) Manga | My Reviews 15 NOV 2012

Naruto is a young shinobi with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He’s got a wild sense of humour, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world’s greatest ninja!

Naruto Returns – Naruto’s friends are tested as an attempt to overthrow Tsunade begins and they must all fight – or fall. New secrets about Pain are revealed, but they only add to the mystery of his identity. As Pain commences with the final destruction of Konoha, Naruto and the Toads prepare to take on in battle. Can Naruto save his beloved village?

If you are particularly attached to the vibrant ninja village that is Konoha, then perhaps you might give Naruto volume 46 a bit of a skip, seeing as author artist Masashi Kishimoto pretty much destroys the whole place over the course of this book!

As per usual it is pretty much all out action from start to finish, with very little place for comedic moments but loads of space for drama, mysteries and big reveals! Essentially we get to see just about every Konoha ninja that we’ve come to know and love face off against one of the attacking Pains, and for the most part, things don’t go that well for the ninja of the Hidden Leaf.

This volume does however mark the return of Naruto, who up until now has been missing out on the action thanks to his training with the toads – and needless to say our young, more serious protagonist has more than powered up just a little!

This is an action-packed, exciting volume that will no doubt appeal to all Naruto fans, or to anyone who enjoys some good Shonen fighting action.

Combined with Kishimoto’s detailed and expressive pencils that keep your eyes glued to the page for longest of times, Naruto volume 46 is well worth the read if you are an action manga fan!

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Review: Bleach (Volume 28) Manga | My Reviews 01 NOV 2012

Baron’s Lecture Full-Course – Ichigo “Strawberry” Kurosaki never asked for the ability to see ghosts – he was born with the gift. When his family is attacked by a Hollow – a malevolent lost soul – Ichigo becomes a Soul Reaper, dedicating his life to protecting the innocent and helping the tortured spirits themselves find peace.

Ichigo, Chad and Uryu are determined to rescue Orihime from Aizen’s vile machinations. But though the Arrancars’ fortress is in sight, the would-be heroes must first pass Tres Cifras – the land of the disgraced Arrancars, who see destroying Ichigo and his friends as a way to redeem their honour!

Volume 28 of Tite Kubo’s hit manga, Bleach, continues the non-stop action by finishing off the fight that kind of reached its conclusion last volume, with new power levels available to both Uryu and Chad. Next it is on to the desolate white spirit desert environment that needs to be traversed in order to reach the gigantic Arrancar fortress, Huego Mundo. Of course this is a pretty hostile land as Ichigo and his travelling companions quickly find out, though at the same time they do encounter some rather reluctant allies in the process (and some not so reluctant ones too!).

Thanks to the last battle, the Arrancars are lying in wait for Ichigo and company, and at the same time their grip over the seized Orihime appears to strengthen. However, even before Ichigo gets to tackle with Aizen’s loyal Espadas, he and his party will first have to overcome the equally powerful disgraced Arrancars, the Privaron Espadas!

It’s the usual mix of over the top drama, action, extreme abilities and surprise reveals, all masterfully blended in with Kube’s signature silly humour to produce a thoroughly entertaining, easy reading and satisfying Shonen tale to lose one’s self in. In other words, all the basics that makes Bleach as big a hit as what it currently is.

In the same vein, Kube’s art is as action packed and stylized as always, portraying an excellent sense of emotion, speed and power to his visuals, with tight pencils and some really good frame layouts. The characters all look spectacular, even if a little angular and as always the action sequences come across really well.

All in all, Bleach volume 28 is as entertaining a read as the rest of the volumes before it, satisfying anyone looking for a nice action-packed, hero-centric story to sit down a lose a hour or two to!

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Review: Fullmetal Alchemist (Volume 16) (2008) Manga | My Reviews 06 SEP 2012

In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and his leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armour. Equipped with mechanical “auto-mail” limbs, Edward becomes a state alchemist, seeking the one thing that can restore his and his brother’s bodies… the legendary Philosopher’s Stone.

The brothers pursue fugitive May Chang to solve the mystery of why their alchemical powers were rendered inert while she and Scar continued to be able to wield them. Meanwhile, Scar enlists some unlikely help to delve into the secrets of his brother’s alchemical knowledge. And the newest, most horrifying homunculus makes an appearance…!

With Volume 15 being very much a history lesson and filling in some of the gaps surrounding the Ishbalan Civil War, it is nice to get back to the story proper with Volume 16, though be warned that for the most part this volume is pretty devoid of any real action. Rather the first half is carved up between three story threads, namely Eric and Al trying to track down some answers, Scar forcefully enlisting some help in his quest, and Colonel Mustang continuing to peel away the secrets of the military.

The second half changes location as the Elric brothers are sent North, where they encounter a few hostilities before getting quite the surprise with what will be their new home base for the next while. And entwined in amongst all of this is a rather epic battle between Scar and someone rather quite unexpected!

The last volume was pretty dark and heavy, and so it is nice to see Hiromu Arakawa lighten it up a little this time around with some of her enjoyable slapstick humour. At the same time though, this volume does read a little on the slow side, but as per usual she feeds us quite a lot of story points to digest, gives us a fair share of new mysteries and intrigues to mull over, never mind the rather big surprise reveal right at the end! Her artwork is the usual mix of slightly cartoony looking, simple line characters mixed in with excellently detailed backgrounds, and overall the visuals work quite well for the story being told.

In summary, volume 16 of Fullmetal Alchemist is definitely a slower than normal read and perhaps not quite as dark as some of the previous volumes, but it is most definitely packed with story and drives the tale of Ed and Al Elric along nicely, a definite step up from the previous volume.

In other words, fans of the series will thus certainly not have much to complain about with this one then!

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Review: Naruto (Volume 3) (2004) Manga | My Reviews 20 AUG 2012

Naruto is a ninja-in-training with an incorrigible knack for mischief. His wild antics amuse his teammates, but Naruto is completely serious about one thing: becoming the world’s greatest ninja!

Dreams – Naruto’s sensei Kakashi believes that the diabolical Zabuza survived their last battle. Now, in anticipation of their enemy’s return, Kakashi puts Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke through rigorous training programs to increase their focus and control. This time, their job of protecting the old bridge builder Tazuna and his family will be a hundred times more difficult!

After a very much action-packed Volume 2, Naruto Volume 3 slows down the pace considerable for the first two thirds or so, focussing on special chakra training for the trio of young ninja, giving us a little more insight into their characters. At the same time we are given a little more background surrounding the people, location, and situation that Kakashi and his group find themselves in, all of which helps to build up to a very explosive last third of the book, where all out, over the top fighting between the ninja takes centre stage once more! (Ending as expected on quite the cliffhanger!)

Author/Artist Masashi Kishimoto once again effortlessly combines his slapstick humor, drama and action to produce a wonderful page-turner of a manga volume, and when combined with his masterful artwork which is so full detail, emotion and action, never mind his superb bringing to life of all the slapstick humor he throws around, makes for an addictive and fun read that any action comedy Shonen fan will be sure to love.

Definitely a recommended way to spend a lazy afternoon!

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Review: Samurai Deeper Kyo (Volume 16) (2002) Manga | My Reviews 02 AUG 2012

Kyo and Hotaru begin a fight to the death at the first of the Five Shining Gates. The two collide in a sizzling-hot flame that burns up both their bodies – and makes the ground tremble! Then Kyo’s ultimate technique, Suzaku, rises up into the sky…

Written and illustrated by Akimine Kamijyo, Samurai Deeper Kyo is a manga series set during the Edo period of Japan’s history, following Demon Eyes Kyo, a feared samurai seeking to regain his body after his soul is sealed inside the body of his rival, Mibu Kyoshiro.

Volume 16 now has us well and truly deep into the story, with Yuya now only having a matter of hours left to live as one by one the star markings on her chest slowly fade away. That said, this particular issue is pretty much completely devoted to the epic and fierce fight between Kyo and Hotaru, as the latter’s hatred towards Kyo is seemingly enough to raise his abilities to an even higher level than what they already are! (Intermixed in the big fight are a lot of flashbacks as well, attempting to explain the relationship between Hotaru and Kyo, as well as the reasons behind why Hotaru acts the way that he does.)

If you are already engrossed by the Samurai Deeper Kyo world then you will undoubtedly enjoy the backstory provided, but as per usual, the fight itself is so overwrought and over the top that it is difficult for it to try and maintain your interest for as long as it does, meaning that you’re probably going to find getting through this volume a lot more tedious than what Akimine would have hoped for.

The drama is depressingly heavy and there aren’t many laughs to be had here, but at the same time the over the top nature of the battle and what is being said leads to a lot of it feeling quite silly at times.

The artwork is okay I guess, standard pretty boy manga fare, with plenty of lines, action and a decent amount of detail. It won’t necessarily blow you away, but it certainly isn’t bad at all.

Overall, I didn’t really enjoy this one very much, on top of which I am now a little concerned as to what ludicrous depths Akimine will have to sink to with the next battle at the second gate in the next volume.

(Oh, never mind. He kind of gives us a good idea in the closing pages of this one: Panty-flashing, syringe throwing nurses. Right then…)

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Review: Cowboy Bebop (Volume 2) (1999) Manga | My Reviews 12 APR 2012

Cowboy Bebop Volume 2 features all new chronicles on the famous exploits of the hapless Bebop crew Spike Spiegel, Jet Black, Faye Valentine, Edward Wong Ha (well… just Ed) and Ein. Bound by convenience, driven by woolongs, and usually starving, this quirky quintet may, or may not, get their bounty, but they’ll pursue it with vigor and tenacity… or at least that’s what an MBC TV producer wants to see when she does a story on them.

Annoyingly, the only two manga titles that were released for Sunrise’s hit show Cowboy Bebop weighed in at a measly two volumes and then three volumes respectively, and worse still, they were primarily targeted to shoujo, i.e. females aged 10 to 18 and fans of science fiction.

In other words, Cowboy Bebop Volume 2 by author Hajime Yatate and artist Yutaka Nanten failed to capture my attention, the end result being me not enjoying the books and thus not willing to give it a great score.

Of course, you could always say that I’m being unfair considering this isn’t being targeted to me, but unfortunately for you, these additional two facts help strengthen my view: a) The decision to write in a short story format (volume 2 is made up of 5 separate stories!) means no continuity, rushed conclusions and setup, and just no chance to actually build on characters which we came to love via the television anime run, and b) Yutaka Nanten’s artwork, though competent for the most part, does often come across rushed and sometimes to stylistically forced – heck, there are times she’ll simply not draw in character faces for no reason other than it made sense to herself at the time to do so! So not pleasing on the art front either then.

In case you’re interested, here is a breakdown what is contained in Volume 2:

She’s a Rainbow: Rachel M. Kazuki, a reporter for MBC TV wants to do a feature on bounty hunters, or as she calls them “Outlaw heroes. Rebels on the edge of society.” Faye negotiates a deal with Rachel, allowing her to interview the crew of the Bebop for a price, but when a bounty comes up Rachel wants to be first on the scene.

Great Deceiver: When Jet’s old ISSP friend, Bob, gives the crew a lead on a new bounty it becomes a personal job for Faye. The perp is Linda Wise, the woman who taught Faye how to become a hustler and con artist. She used to say that the first rule of hustling was to “win your keep and move on.”

Bebop Special Short: Jet has a cold and no one knows how to cure him. Spike and Faye go searching for scallions on Earth to help Jet but instead they get chased through a swamp and catch colds on their own.

Thinking Bird, Happy Song: Jet takes Edward shopping for food but she gets hungry and tries to eat an old man’s pet bird in a marketplace. An assassin has been commissioned to kill the same old man but Edward foils his plans without realizing it.

Like a Rolling Stone: Spike goes to a wild west town and meets an enchanting guitar player named Allison who offers to help him find his next bounty: her deadbeat father.

Yup, that’s too many stories in one little book.

So the end result is that just like the first volume in this series, the short story format is just too weak, making the book less engaging and thus less interesting. If you want a Cowboy Bebop fix, rather go and re-watch the exceptional television series or excellent movie that started it all in the first place!

Not worth picking up, even if you are a die hard fan.

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Review: Last Fantasy (Volume 5) Manga | My Reviews 14 MAR 2012

The feverish fight to rescue the town from complete annihilation makes reluctant allies of everyone – Tian and Drei, Anna and her special task force, the religious chick, and, worst of all, Nagi, the thief. And, surrounded by Zombies and with little hope of making it out of the city alive, the lot of them sallies forth into the hordes of walking dead to face death… or worse.

From writer Creative Hon with art from Yong-Wan Kwon, volume 5 of the Last Fantasy Korean manhwa brings to a close the short fantasy/comedy adventures of the low-level magic user who can pretty much only throw fireballs Tian, and the strong as an ox, but dumb as one too warrior Drei von Richenstein, the two unlikely heroes (who are almost always broke) with a knack of turning allies into foes.

Plunging our main characters directly into battle against the hungry horde of zombies right from page one, the action is relentless until the final and satisfying closing scenes, which bring about the end of the main storyline around two thirds into the book – leaving the rest of the volume to be padded out with some extra stories set in the world Creative Hon has created from the inspiration that is Final Fantasy, generating enough story threads towards the end so that should they ever be called upon to one day craft some more Last Fantasy books, they’ll at least have something to carry on from!

Although the book maintains it’s slapstick comedic value from the previous issues, it definitely is a lot less silly in tone thanks to the loads of action and anguish that drives the lion’s share of the story along. There is a lot of drama to be had, and as a whole, this is a really gripping finale to an enjoyable fantasy romp, one that doesn’t seem to have a problem mixing up as many genres as possible and to be frank, getting away with it.

On the artistic side of things, I have to say I really enjoyed Yong-Wan Kwon’s illustrations, with him coming up with some beautifully detailed and full panels, dripping with loads of line work, and with a knack of correctly capturing the mood of the panel based on what is happening in the text. His facial expressions all work, and he manages to capture all the dark and gritty action sequences just perfectly.

In other words, other than his sometimes tiny waists that he puts on his characters, very little to complain about!

In summary, volume 5 brings with it a great end to an enjoyable little comedy fantasy romp, featuring great art and not so bad writing. It’s a pity that the main action is over two thirds into the book, but I guess it could have been worse – they could have just left it unpadded and thus leave you with a much lower page count in your hands!

So worth a read if you are looking for a break from Japanese manga and American superhero comic books, and are in particular a fan of sword and sorcery based fantasy, mixed with a splash of comedy of course.

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Review: Switch (Volume 5) Manga | My Reviews 21 FEB 2012

Kai Eto may look like a squeaky-clean kid, but the Greater Kanto Narcotics Control Division’s new investigator hides a violent alter ego and a dangerous past. Together with his stoic partner Hal Kurabayashi, Kai is assigned to track down and stop the distribution of a dangerous new drug – Dragon Speed.

A night on the town with fellow NCD employee Mari turns into a nightmare for Kai when they get mixed up with the Ryugen drug ring in a deadly case of mistaken identity.

Volume 5 of Naked Ape’s (Saki Otoh & Nakamura Tomomi) Switch manga continues the story of the child-like Kai and serious Hal as they continue their drug investigation. Although not much in terms of character development really occurs in this volume, the story is deepened with the introduction of some key and enigmatic players, amping up the level of danger just a notch.

At the same time, amongst all the expected angst and drama, Naked Ape do inject their usual brand of silly humour into the story (particularly in the first half of the volume), but to be honest, it does drag back the tone a bit, and in the end, volume 5 doesn’t exactly hold your attention, particularly because it can’t make up its mind as to which mood it is trying to convey. Add to that the jumping around in the story and the often confusing artwork, this certainly isn’t a volume to pick up if you a) aren’t already invested in the story or b) aren’t existing hardcore fans of the Naked Ape group.

In terms of the art, I originally thought that this was aimed squarely at the girls, what with all the pretty boy designs and hairstyles, and to be honest, it does often feel like I’m reading more of a shojo story than a shonen story (which it is being punted as).

The action sequences are particularly poorly done in that they are often quite confusing and it is not always clear what is happening. That said, the line work is very clean and quite often the facial expressions of the characters are well done, but unfortunately this is let down by inconsistencies in the level of panel detail presented (sometimes great, sometimes not), as well as some pretty poor proportions and background renderings at times.

Overall, I find it difficult to recommend Switch to anyone other than girls who like pretty boys in black and white, meaning that for me, this book was a loss. The story didn’t capture me and the artwork turned me off, meaning I can’t be too bothered into looking at the rest of the series still to come.

Meh, leave it at the bottom of the pile where you found it then.

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Review: Fullmetal Alchemist (Volume 15) Manga | My Reviews 08 FEB 2012

The horrors of the Ishbalan campaign occurred years before Ed became a state alchemist, and had serious repercussions, which set the tone for the complicated dealings of present-day state politics. Lieutenant Hawkeye reluctantly tells Ed all the dread details of the role Colonel Mustang and the other state alchemists played in this tragic event.

As you might be able to tell from the volume blurb above, volume 15 of Hiromu Arakawa’s popular Fullmetal Alchemist is devoted entirely to telling a backstory around the Ishbalan Civil War, focusing in particular on Colonel Mustang as he is drawn into the senseless conflict through his military orders, as well as the pretty bloody and dirty stuff the state alchemists were called upon to carry out, as the Amestrians under King Bradley systematically killed every man, woman and child living in Ishbal. Other stories touched on is the tragic birth of Scar, the death of Winfrey’s parents, the betrayal of Solf J. Kimblee, as well as the expanded actions of Colonel Gran.

Hiromu steps out to make this a very bloody and cold-hearted book, as she leads you through what can only be called murder by all the characters you have come to love and admire in the military up until this story arc. This doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the Amestrian military but it certainly does paint a lot of the backstory and reveals a lot of the motivations for what is happening in the main story timeline.

Of course, this does mean a book with much less (if any) humor and reads quite differently from what has come before. It is dark and dirty, and certainly won’t leave you feeling warm and fuzzy as you turn the final page.

Artistically Hiromu continues her interesting look made up of very simple and flat lines mixed in with great backgrounds (and quite often pretty bloody spotches), but as per usual her somewhat “cartoony” style (well to me at least) just doest match the tone of the book, though that said, this is a complaint I’ve had from volume 1 right up to this point, so it wouldn’t be fair to lump that criticism on this volume’s shoulders alone.

It’s important to note that this isn’t a good volume to jump on the bandwagon in terms of Fullmetal Alchemist as a whole, thanks in particular to the lack of appearances from the main protagonists, i.e. Ed and Al, but if you have been following the story up until now, then this one is actually pretty crucial thanks to all the backstory and character motivations it reveals.

A decent and entertaining read most certainly, but certainly not a must read, and certainly not one to take off the shelf if you are more interested in the laughs Ms. Arakawa provides than her horror segments.

In other words, even if you are a big fan of Fullmetal Alchemist, if you don’t care too much of the history, then you can quite safely give volume 15 a skip!

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Review: GetBackers (Volume 4) Manga | My Reviews 12 JAN 2012

They’ve found the Stradivarius. Now to the hard part – getting it back! Of course, that is their job… and do it they must, even if it means once again going up against the mighty Protector, Ryudo Hishiki. The Protector is a big, burly, bone-crushing bodyguard with a serious beef to with our fearless heroes.

But when Ginji takes out the lights, the brave turns to the blind Madoka to get them out of the bind!

Volume 4 continues the adventures of the GetBackers retrieval service duo of Evil Eye-bearing Ban Mido and electrically charged Ginji Amano, with them this time around tasked with trying to retrieve a young, blind musician’s prize Stradivarius violin from a seedy underworld family.

To make matters even more difficult, the man who has stolen the priceless violin has hired a number of freelancers to protect it, including Shido the Beastmaster and Ryudo Hishiki, the unstoppable protector. What happens from here on out is one long struggle and fight as the boys and their charge face off against their adversaries in an attempt to reach the violin, before tackling the even more difficult task of getting back out again! And to make matters worse, there are a couple of hidden assassins also waiting in the wings to strike when the opportunity presents itself!

Writer Yuya Aoki, under the pen name of Tadashi Agi, is behind the adventure once more, delivering a volume that is full of action and suspense, brining in no less than six or seven big fights before the last page. As per usual there is a lot of clever use around the Evil Eye ability, and of course Ginji’s more mundane electricity generating abilities, and so to sum it up this volume is very much about the action.

However, apart from the very cool use of the Evil Eye ability, it is really difficult to get into and enjoy Aoki’s style of writing, which often feels very forced, over dramatic and sometimes over the top. It just doesn’t flow all that well and I found myself laboring to get through the book, despite the fact that is contains so many fight sequences which normally should fly by!

The art of Rando Ayamine is quite frankly inconsistent, bordering on terrible at times, with his biggest problem appearing to be putting heads on bodies. The way his heads often connect to their respective bodies are often quite ridiculous, and too many times do his hardcore characters of Ban and Ginji just appear to… well “girly”. Still, it is not all bad and he does capture a lot of the action sequences quite well, as well as present some fantastic horror sequences when it comes to the Evil Eye bits. Oh and his comedy switch up style is pre

Overall, I really didn’t enjoy this outing, and it’s a pity because I remember kind of enjoying the anime series (based on this) a couple of years back. I found it a chore to work through, and that is quite frankly never a good thing, meaning that I can’t really recommend anyone bother with this.


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Review: Air Gear (Volume 5) Manga | My Reviews 03 NOV 2011

So Ikki and his rather makeshift little group finally manages to get a proper Air Trek team going after a fair bit of scrounging around, and even partake in their first official battle as a team (though after a proper preliminary round of fisticuffs of course!)

Although Agito ignores them and Buccha and Onigiri fail them, Kazu is given a moment to shine and they are rescued through the arrival of a mysterious female skater as well as the skills of Ikki who continues to ascend his Air Trek skating path.

But there is an unexpected turn of events that awaits for them back home, one which will see Ikki possibly losing his skates for good, as we are let in on more of the mystery surrounding the legendary Sleeping Forest clan…

Mangaka Oh! Great continues his madcap action comedy shonen romp with Air Gear volume 5, giving us again plenty of action, fight and skate sequences, plenty of juvenile humor to have a giggle at, and of course sprinkled with serious scenes so over the top that they do end up feeling a little silly to have there in the first place.

It is definitely a shonen story through and through, and so if you are fans of this kind of silliness and over the top action with power escalations, then you’ll probably get a real kick out of this one, which doesn’t really let up on anything promised inside. (And as a bonus if you are actually enjoying the storyline, Oh! Great tantalizes us with even more titbits from the past, once again deepening the mystery of the family backstory as you reach those last few pages).

Artistically Oh! Great never fails to entertain, particularly with his penchant for drawing beautiful girls and delivering the quota panty shots, butt admiration views, and veiled nudity on a regular basis (remember, this is the artist who has had no qualms about producing adult works like Silky Whip before). His drawing style jumps the full range as he stretches from his cartoony, super distorted pieces to emphasize all of the slapstick humor, to his fantastically rendered and detailed action sequences which do well to capture the pace and energy of the events.

For me though, I must note that at times his faces or rather the head-to-body joins do let him down just a little bit, but for the most part this is the perfect art for this type of madcap shonen adventure.

In other words, Air Gear Volume 5 is an enjoyable continuation of this anime-inducing romp and certainly if you are a fan of the over the top action with loads of juvenile and slapstick humour genre, then this one will certainly entertain you.

Of course, if you are aren’t, then it probably won’t! :)

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