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)

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.

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slam_Dunk_(manga)

Review: Slam Dunk (Volume 4) (1991)

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.

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slam_Dunk_(manga)

Review: Fullmetal Alchemist (Volume 18) (2009)

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.

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fullmetal_Alchemist

Review: Deus Vitae (Volume 3) (2004)

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.

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deus_Vitae

Review: Naruto (Volume 46) (2009)

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!

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naruto_manga

Review: Bleach (Volume 28)

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!

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleach_%28manga%29

Review: Fullmetal Alchemist (Volume 16) (2008)

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!

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fullmetal_Alchemist

Review: Naruto (Volume 3) (2004)

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!