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: Bleach (Volume 2) Manga | My Reviews 12 OCT 2011

Goodbye Parakeet, Good Night my Sista – Immediately after checking into the Kurosaki Clinic with a mysterious scar on his back, the muscle-bound Chad goes AWOL. Accompanying Chad is a talking parakeet imbued with the soul of a young boy named Yuichi. It doesn’t take newbie Soul Reaper Ichigo Kurosaki long to surmise that a Hollow must be involved – by far the strongest spirit he’s faced to date. Ichigo is about to discover that not every soul is bound for the Soul Society, especially if it’s tainted with innocent blood!

Mangaka Tite Kubo is back with his huge hit Bleach in volume 2, continuing the almost non-stop action that saw off volume 1, with Chad being chased by an unseen foe, Ichigo and Rukia desperately trying to intervene and an underpowered Rukia going up against what is a very powerful Hollow, stalling him until Ichigo can first deal with his problems on the home front!

However, there are a lot of pages in here, and following the first half we get thrown straight into the next arc, featuring a shady shop owner, modified souls, more back story on the Soul Society and yet another headache for Ichigo, one that is literally jumping out of his reach!

Again Tite Kubo comes up with an enjoyable story, mixing all out intense action and “what happens next” moments with his trademark silly humour, to produce a thoroughly enjoyable story to take in. There is a fair bit of character development, more than a couple of reveals in terms of the Soul Reaper situation and of course some great fight scenes with his usual over the top monster creations.

Similarly, his artwork continues to entertain, often over the top, but always capturing the necessary speed, motion, action, and almost as important, comedy, perfectly, even if every now and then he forgets about things like proportion and maybe an eye or two. It is certainly dynamic art which fits the pace and type of the story perfectly.

In summary, Bleach volume 2 is again an entertaining, action-packed read that is well suited to those who enjoy a decent mix of over the top action, monster encounters and of course silly, cheap laughs. Well worth picking up, even if it isn’t going to make you a better person for reading it! :)

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Review: Basilisk (Volume 1) Manga | My Reviews 01 SEP 2011

The Iga clan and the Kouga clan have been sworn enemies for more than four hundred years. Only the Hanzo Hattori truce has kept the two families from all-out war. Now, under the order of Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa, the truce has finally been dissolved. Ten ninja from each clan must fight to the death in order to determine who will be the next Tokugawa Shogun. The surviving clan will rule for the next thousand years.

But not all the clan members are in agreement. Oboro of the Iga clan and Gennosuke of the Kouga clan have fallen deeply in love. Now these star-crossed lovers have been pitted against each other. Can their romance conquer a centuries-old rivalry? Or is their love destined to end in death?

Volume 1 throws us right into the middle of our first ninja battle, as Yashamaru of the Iga clan squares off against Shougen from the Kouga clan, pretty much letting us know what we are in for the rest of this battle-a-minute adaptation of Futaro Yamada’s 1958 novel. Writer/artist Masaki Segawa skillfully guides us through the story as he sets up all the elements necessary to spark the upcoming violence and then hits the accelerator as he unleashes all manner of fierce and grotesque ninja, each possessing some or other very strange and unexpected secret technique as the two clans battle it out for the main prize.

The writing on Basilisk is very steady and very detailed, and Masaki ensures that you are onboard at all times. This is not an action comedy, but when some comedic elements need to be thrown in courtesy of some of the more larger than life characters, Masaki proves he is as adept at making us snigger as what he is at cleverly setting up scenarios and keeping us guessing as to what might happen next! There is a lot of clever scripting that intertwines with his often clever and sometimes purposefully vague visuals to create a very compelling and exciting ninja-fuelled read.

In terms of the artwork Masaki proves to be very skilled when it comes to designing and depicting a huge assortment of people, with him often taking certain characteristics of the various ninjas and drawing them out, thereby creating some very interesting and often quite twisted character designs. His sense of motion, action and fighting is also well captured in his visuals, making for some great looking sequences indeed.

However, the one thing I didn’t really appreciate was his complete and utter seeming refusal to draw any background imagery whatsoever – instead relying on PhotoShopping in photographs and messing with their opacities and focus in order to blend in and provide the backgrounds for the characters.

Sure, sometimes the effect did work, but for the most part the beautiful lines of his drawn characters simple don’t mesh all that very well with the often obvious photo work, and on top of this, because the photos are often dark in nature, he is often forced to give all his characters very noticeable white halos for contrast purposes – which then completely detracts from the pictures because the backgrounds and characters no longer blend in correctly!

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Review: Fullmetal Alchemist (Volume 13) Manga | My Reviews 18 JUL 2011

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.

In the midst of a heated battle, Ed and Prince Lin of Xing are swallowed whole by the homunculus Gluttony. Will they survive the depths of Gluttony’s gullet like Jonah in the whale, or has Al lost his brother for good? And the political power structure of the military may be irreparably shattered when Colonel Mustang confronts Fuhrer President King Bradley with his horrifying suspicion that Bradley is a homunculus!

Volume 13 pitches us straight into an all out battle between Edward, Alphonse and Prince Lin, against Envy and Gluttony. However, things are cut short when Gluttony accidentally eats Ed, Lin and Envy, sending them straight through the portal door that lurks in his stomach. This leaves the three of them to either battle it out in the pitch black nightmare they now find themselves in, or team up and try to find a way out of this impossible situation. As for Alphonse, he is now lost without Ed and has no choice other than to persuade Gluttony to take them to the Homunculi father figure in the hopes of learning more.

And in case you think the side story of Colonel Mustang’s quest to learn the truth about the military has stalled, think again as some horrifying secrets get revealed – and he and his squad get placed in rather immediate danger.

Hiromu Arakawa continues her enjoyable mixture of action, political intrigue, drama, humour and fantasy, setting up an enjoyable volume that ends up answering a lot more mysteries than creating new ones. There are some big reveals here and if you have been following up to this point, you’re certainly going to enjoy them. As per usual the tale is dark, but nicely balanced with some comedic moments and timing arising from her varied casts’ interactions.

As for her art, she continues with the fairly simple lined characters and minimal backgrounds, but she does this to great affect and although the final outcome is sometimes a little too cartoony to carry perhaps the more sinister tone of the writing, it does look good and her clean lines make for an easy follow as you work your way through the book. Overall this is a good looking book with some fantastic action sequences and some well portrayed comedic moments.

In summary, Fullmetal Alchemist continues with the great work laid out in the previous volumes and is strong enough to pull new readers back to the series if they’ve just hopped on for the first time at this point.

Well worth the effort of picking up then, even if you have already seen the anime adaptation, which if you weren’t aware, doesn’t actually mirror the manga at all!

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Review: Eyeshield 21 (Volume 8) Manga | My Reviews 23 JUN 2011

We continue the story of one wimpy Sena Kobayakawa who has assumed the on-field identity of one “Eyeshield 21” as he comes of age by trying his hand at American Football, thanks to his gift of super fast legs, honed by all the years of running away from bullies and being a gopher in order to avoid getting beaten up.

Volume 8 is devoted in its entirety to the big game with rather big consequences that was being built up to in the previous volumes, that of the Deimon Devil Bats versus the visiting American school, the NASA Aliens. Instantly the boys are up against the wall thanks to the Alien’s quarterback, Homer’s immensely strong “shuttle” passes, and instead of an even race, it quickly becomes an immense uphill battle to contain the fiercely strong and muscular Americans who completely overpower and dominate the Devil Bats in each and every way.

And then of course there is the added threat of the Aliens’ best player by far, the under-utilized Panther with his zero gravity running ability, who has the potential to single-handedly run the entire Devil Bats team ragged! (Thankfully though, the rascist of a coach Apollo doesn’t like the idea of sending in a black kid to play).

Hiruma will have to dig deep within his tactical prowess in order to come up with something that can bring the Bats back into the game. And he had better do it fast because the scoreboard is already racing away from them!

Admittedly by volume 8 of the series I’m beginning to tire a little of the story, which is beginning to feel very much of the same. That said, there is not denying that this is an action-packed volume from start to finish, and properly captures the exciting and tense game between the Devil Bats and the Aliens. As per usual writer Riichiro Inagaki delights in finding a good balance between the serious, the funny and the absurd, and makes for a very entertaining read that should pull more than a few laughs out of even the staunchest of readers.

Similarly, the wonderfully detailed and hilariously exaggerated caricatures and elongated poses flow naturally from artist Yusuke Murata’s pen as he puts forward both delightfully pule-pounding action sequences mixed in with some very laugh out loud imagery indeed.

In summary, a very humorous and action-packed coming of age sports title that will entertain and delight those young at heart – just as the series has done right from the get go – and is definitely another winning entry into what has been up to now quite an enjoyable, if a little silly, title.

(That said, if you have been following from volume 1, don’t be surprised if you are starting to feel like you’ve seen it all before. I’m not all that sure what more they can do in the current format other than keep increasing the roster with over the top characters and taking on teams stronger than themselves and coming out on top. Might be time to let this one go for a bit methinks…)

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Eyeshield 21 (Volume 6) Manga | My Reviews 09 DEC 2010

Devil Bats Take Flight: Wimpy Sena Kobayakawa has been running away from bullies all his life. But when the football gear comes on, things change – Sena’s speed and uncanny ability to elude big bullies just might give him what it takes to become a great high school football hero!

The Devil Bats are going to feel like dancing for joy if they can beat Banba and his hulking team, the Taiyo Sphinx. Sena and crew have held their own in the first half, but they’re going to have to come up with something really special to defeat this bunch of bruisers. And don’t forget, the winner of this game gets to play against a championship team from the United States!

Writer Riichiro Inagaki and artist Yusuke Murata are back with their smash hit coming of age sports comedy action title, and as per usual Eyeshield 21 volume 6 simply doesn’t disappoint!

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Eyeshield 21 (Volume 5) Manga | My Reviews 20 NOV 2010

Powerful: Wimpy Sena Kobayakawa has been running away from bullies all his life. But when the football gear comes on things change – Sena’s speed and uncanny ability to elude big bullies just might give him what it takes to become a great high school football hero!

The Devil Bats finagle their way into a game against the behemoth-like Taiyo Sphinx. The winners will get a chance to scrimmage against a high school championship team in the United States. Will Sena and crew be able to break down the Sphinx’s invincible “pyramid” front line and send them crying home to their mummies?

Eyeshield 21 is back! As the Ojo White Knights versus Seibu Wild Gunmen championship final wraps up, the Deimon team is back in training thanks to some unwelcome Hiruma plotting that sees them challenge out the might Taiyo Sphinx team, an Egyptian-mad school that is renowned for its power and huge front line players, as well as its impenetrable Pyramid formation!

But first things first, and Deimon need to lend a hand building their reward locker room, never mind the fact that Sena still needs to apologize to Sakuraba who currently languishes in hospital following Eyeshield’s accidental tackle.

Finally, the Hah brothers, who are part of the team for no other reason than those compromising photos Hiruma holds over them, need some extra motivation to continue being a part of the team – something that for a change doesn’t necessarily have to come from Hiruma and all his guns and dirty tactics!

Needless to say, Eyeshield 21 continues with the same format which has made it so enjoyable thus far, an excellent blend of comedy, and sports, combined with that all important hint of drama to add some weight to this fun story. The team is starting to take shape quite nicely and as per usual the exciting football action is loads of fun to take in.

In other words Riichiro Inagaki continues to churn out an enjoyable story that doesn’t seem to drag at any point during the read through.

As for Yusuke Murata, he continues his experiments with some pretty strange body proportions, but in the context these all work and his highly detailed backgrounds and characters are fun to take in. As per usual he slides effortlessly in marrying the super deformed and silly into one, and present a fun visual that you can’t take seriously but at the same time manages to capture the essence, power and speed of football perfectly.

In summary, Eyeshield 21 volume 5 continues the good work laid done by the previous books and this remains an absolute joy to read, both for the laughs and great football action on offer!

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Slam Dunk (Volume 3) Manga | My Reviews 09 NOV 2010

The Challenge of the Common Shot – For a self-proclaimed genius such as Sakuragi, executing a dazzling slam dunk is no problem at all, but what about some other basketball moves that require a bit more finesse? With the help of Haruko (and some goading from captain Akagi), Sakuragi attempts to put his pride in check and learn how to pull off a basic layup. In theory it should be easy… but sometimes the simplest shots are the toughest to master.

Now that Sakuragi has proved beyond a shadow of the doubt that he wants to play basketball for Shohoku, the fiery tempered red head is at last allowed into the team proper, training with the guys and slowly but surely upping his skills. Of course, the intense rivalry between him and Rukawa continues unabated (with pretty violent outcomes), while his never-ending quest to impress Haruko flames as strong as ever.

However, Sakuragi is still very much a beginner and in order to improve, he is going to have to learn some new shots, starting right from the beginning with the basic layup. Needless to say, something this simple but which requires a delicate touch, is still very far out of Sakuragi’s reach. However, if there is one thing this hothead has, it is determination, and with some unexpected bonus help from Haruko and Akagi himself, Hanamichi might just learn it in time.

Because the first practice match for the season has already been pencilled in. It’s Shohoku versus Ryonan – and that means facing their superstar, Sendoh!

(Not that this means Sakuragi is going to be picked for the match mind you…)

As per usual, Takehiko Inoue’s school boy basketball comedy is as enjoyable to read as ever. Hanamich Sakuragi is at his simple minded, determined best and his logic and approach to things will keep you in stitches through the book. There is plenty of character growth in terms of basketball skills in offer here, but perhaps not so much in terms of actual character deepening. Still, there is plenty of laughs and action on offering in this volume, even if we still haven’t reached an actual game of basketball by the end of the third volume yet!

Complementing this fun story is of course Inoue’s beautifully detailed pencils where his incredibly precise backgrounds meet his often super deformed characters to great effect. He captures the various basketball poses and action shots well and he just seems to make his characters work, even if they don’t always look so perfect in places.

Nevertheless, one thing you have to give this creative genius is his ability to capture the comedy moments absolutely perfectly, always ensuring that there is a smile on your face with each and every page turn!

In summary, if you are looking for a sports-related read which is guaranteed to keep you laughing while building up a decent story with some fun characters to boot, you can’t go wrong with Slam Dunk!

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Naruto (Volume 2) Manga | My Reviews 02 NOV 2010

The Worst Client – Tired of menial tasks, Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura ask for a tougher assignment. But you should always be careful what you wish for! Along with their sensei, Kakashi, the trio must now guard a cranky old man from the Land of Waves. But Tazuna the bridge builder is in more danger than anyone could have imagined. And now the young ninja are too!

Volume 2 of Masashi Kishimoto’s smash hit Naruto continues where the first left off, with the result of the gruelling test young Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura just endured through finally announced. These new genin ninja are now officially a team and so need to undertake missions given to them by the village, in order for it to stay alive.

However, as you can imagine, the missions granted to low level ninja are pretty mundane and pretty soon Naruto can’t take this complete lack of serious action – which of course always means trouble for whoever is meant to be reigning him in.

His actions do however result in a new mission being assigned to the team, a slightly higher level task but still one that should fall well within the young team’s capabilities. A simple escort mission back to the Land of Waves.

Unfortunately, the problem with people is that they lie, and one such person just happens to be the cranky old man they and Kakashi have been hired to escort – with rather dire consequences.

Because quite frankly, the man who wants to stop the old man wants him dead. And will use whatever force he can lay his hands on to achieve this!

As you can tell from the synopsis, Volume 2 is for much of its page count a complete and utter knuckle sandwich of a fight, pitting our young and very inexperienced ninjas against some truly fearsome foes. Of course at this early point in their careers, Kakashi has to deal with most of the violence while the youngsters need to find it in themselves as to whether or not they are capable of taking part in real, life on the line combat.

Of course, blended in with all of this is Kishimoto’s trademark humour and as such the story never gets overwhelmingly dark, yet it handles some fantastic character development as it progresses, making for an absolutely thrilling and meaningful journey from start to finish.

As per usual Kishimoto’s pencils are absolutely fantastic as he easily plows through varying degrees of action, comedy and drama, bringing in loads of tone to the story being told. His characters and backgrounds are all beautifully detailed and he manages to masterfully mix the super deformed silly moments with the gut wrenching action that seems to keep one glued to the pages.

In summary, this is the perfect volume to follow up what was a great first volume in the series, and well, well worth picking up if you enjoy your action, comedy and all things over the top ninja!

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ZombiePowder (Volume 4) Manga | My Reviews 10 AUG 2010

The battle aboard the magic train between the severely underpowered Wolfina and Shackaboon continues as Wolfina tries to stop the vicious tempered lady with the gargantuan eating problem from stomping the encased Emilio to a bloody pulp.

However, even as this battle rages on, the Ring of Dead now living in a host body is not lying quite as dormant as some would maybe expect!

Meanwhile Gamma Akutabi continues his chase of the train in order to stop it and save the plucky reporter and her brother, though as events will turn out, he may not have to chase it after all – though he certainly will need to think up of something fast if he wants to save the hapless town of Alcantara!

As the main storyline begins to wrap itself up and the final battle plays itself out, gears shift as Tite moves to end off this last volume in the series as neatly as possible, introducing a host of new characters as well as a potential solution to Emilio’s condition, never mind opening up a few more mysteries and glimpses into the past in order to tantalise our tastebuds should he ever decide to return to his creation at some point on later in his already illustrious career.

As we all know by now, ZombiePowder first kicked off in 1999, but after only four volumes’ worth of material, Tite Kubo changed direction and instead kicked off the serialization of Bleach back in 2001, which obviously then shot to fame in a blink of the eye and alongside Naruto, became one of the most popular and eagerly followed Shonen manga pieces out there today.

ZombiePowder saw the end of the light of day with this final volume (which gets padded like all the previous volumes with a bonus Tite Kubo piece of work, entitled Bad Shield United,) but looking back over the four volumes you find that this really was an entertaining piece of work – short yes, but very indicative of what was still to come in terms of Tite’s work.

The story telling style remains the same, with some insane action sequences, larger than life characters with varied and unusual abilities, that same mixture of completely unexpected black humour or just plain slapstick silliness that he is famous for, and of course that bold, sketchy art style of his that emphasizes poses and characters to tell the action-packed story while only including the smallest amount of background detail that he can possible get away with.

Of course, Volume 4’s story does gear down quite a bit and is probably the least exciting of the four volumes as a whole, but Tite does go to great pains to wrap everything up quite neatly for us as the readers and in so doing, crafts an ending that leaves it open enough so that he can continue with the story sometime in the future should he so wish, or simply leave it as is without disappointing anyone really.

In terms of art, his sketchy angular work remains as enthralling as ever and he captures the character interactions perfectly as always. He does for some or other reason continue with that stupid idea of his of always only filling in one eye of a character wearing spectacles and of course remains as light as ever on anything background related, but as per usual his artwork works for this type of book perfectly.

So in summary, volume 4 of this short-lived tail contains everything that one enjoyed about the first three volumes and serves as the perfect (if a little hurried) wrap up of what in the end was a decent tail and more importantly, a great glimpse of what the now legendary mangaka Tite Kubo was able to do before he moved onto his record shattering Bleach!

In other words, only four volumes long and you still haven’t picked this one up for your collection? O.o

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Gin Tama (Volume 1) Manga | My Reviews 27 APR 2010

Nobody with Naturally Wavy Hair Can Be That Bad – The samurai didn’t stand a chance. First, the aliens invaded Japan. Next, they too all the jobs. And then they confiscated everyone’s swords. So what does a hotheaded former samurai like Sakata “Gin” Gintoki do to make ends meet? Take any odd job that comes his way, even if it means losing his dignity…

Sleazy alien moneylenders, monsters on the rampage, and a ticking time bomb may all be in a day’s work fo Gin, but a drop in blood sugar level means trouble for everyone!

Gin Tama is an interesting animal, that it is. Created by mangaka Hideaki Sorachi and launched back in 2003 already, Gin Tama has gone on to garner great success, constantly finding itself in Japan’s Top Ten Bestseller lists and has since spawned numerous TV, film and light novel extensions.

Set in the historic late Edo period, Gin Tama blends the historic with the current and then takes it one step further and mixes in aliens and sci-fi, making for quite the varied pot from which to pull an almost unending string of visual gags and puns from. Focusing on Gin, a laid back former samurai who has a penchant for violence and hitting things with his wooden sword (which is a lot when his blood sugar is running low), Gin Tama chronicles the various tales of Gin’s little Odd Jobs Gin company that takes on literally any job a customer might bring his way – which of course opens the door quite nicely for almost any sort of adventure, or misadventure that you can think of. Throwing in a young, ineffectual samurai student with glasses and an immoral, born to battle, super strong alien as Gin’s partners, volume 1 introduces us to the main set of characters and then goes on to lead us through three or four quickfire adventures which set the tone of the series, introduce characters and their backgrounds and provides plenty of laughs and action all in one go.

(And as an added bonus, one of Sorachi’s first unpublished manga pieces gets tacked on the end, just as a sample to the other storyline he might have ended up following had he chosen to or been given the go ahead on)

It’s difficult to pinpoint Sorachi’s aim with Gin Tama other than to make you laugh with the variety of visual, self-referencing and situational gags he keeps throwing at you but at the end of the day it is safe to say that Gin Tama is meant entirely as a laugh a minute, forget about your worries type of manga aimed at young men, and in that space it really works pretty well. It is genuinely funny (even if it does exploit some classic gags) and is filled to the brim with some great and energetic action sequences – not forgetting the myriad of misunderstandings that take place of course!

In terms of Sorachi’s pencils (he is responsible both for the writing and main drawing duties), he throws a wonderful amount of detail you way and his characters are all pretty much clean cut and nicely realized with some great old versus new designs – not to mention some particularly wacky hairstyles that Sorachi seems so intent on planting on the top of his villains’ heads.

Action sequences are greatly rendered and there is some nice power on display through his illustrations, as well as some remarkably funny character expressions that literally litter each page. Page compositions are generally quite tightly packed with a lot of panels per page, but the the amount of detail that is crammed into each panel is enough to slow one’s eye down enough that you tend not to miss anything as you read over it. Finally, it must be said that Sorachi certainly seems to have done his period homework and the mixture between drawing old and new in each panel is handled quite fantastically, so much so that it kind of leaves the reader in a rather bewildered state as to exactly which time period they’re currently sitting in – which is precisely what Sorachi imagined in the first place I’m sure.

(His aliens could do with a little more originality though I suppose!)

In summary then, Gin Tama is a really fun read for lovers of action and gags and with not too much drama or heavy handedness dragging it down the whole time, it really does make for some excellent escapist reading material. A fantastic setting that mixes everything together and spits out what is a really action-packed, unexpected experience that will definitely hook you if you fall within Sorachi’s target demographic.

Well worth picking up then in other words, though only if Mills and Boon isn’t particularly your thing! :P

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Eyeshield 21 (Volume 4) Manga | My Reviews 15 APR 2010

Intimidation: Wimpy Sena Kobayakawa has been running away from bullies all his life. But when the football gear comes on things change – Sena’s speed and uncanny ability to elude big bullies just might give him what it takes to become a great high school football hero!

The Devil Bats face off against the Chameleons – a team of ruthless delinquents. But when fragile Sena goes up against the Chameleon’s sinister ace linebacker, who will be intimidating whom?

Eyeshield 21 makes its welcome return with volume 4 which sees an equal split across two main storylines, the first being Sena’s Devil Bats taking on the Chameleon team, followed by the Devil Bat’s new recruitment drive to try and draw new players to the rather understrength team.

Of course the team of Kurita, Hiruma and Sena now have the welcome addition of Raimon Taro with his ability to catch (but definitely not pass), and with their usual method of strongarm conscription, have managed to field enough players, including the Hah Brothers gang of bullies, in order to see off the challenge of the insipid delinquents from Zokugaku Chameleons led by the long-armed Habashira Rui. Of course, with the huge amount of money that has someone managed to be bet on this game, this will be a fight to the finish… literally. After all, the Chameleons do have that reputation of being kicked out of the league to uphold you know!

Outside of that, with the new found interest in the Devil Bats football club thanks to the exploits of the mysterious Eyeshield 21 (aggressively publicized by Hiruma of course), the time for a recruitment drive is probably the best. However, joining the Devil Bats is not particularly easy and only the most determined will make it – or at least only those can last Hiruma frankly insane application test!

As per usual Riichiro Inagaki delivers the absolute best in terms of laughs and sport drama, effortlessly tying up a lot of silly gags and humour with a proper heartfelt story of courage and comradeship when it comes to Sena’s slow but sure transformation into a football player. The comedic timing on most of his gags are smooth and manages to pull a ton of laughs, while his well written and paced sporting action is enough to have you flipping from page to page.

In terms of new characters, Riichiro seems to be intent on delivering as many fresh faces as possible, all with a specific talent or flaw and all as over the top as absolutely possible. However, at the same time we continue to get glimpses of the real Hiruma and Kurita, while the great character development of wimpy old Sena continues unabated.

On the art front Yusuke Murata is as talented as ever. He puts a lot of details into his pencils and pays good attention to backgrounds, and then goes and fills these panels up with some of the most over the top character designs you can imagine. Flipping deftly between super-deformed, caricatures and detailed character shots, Murata forces the pages of Eyeshield 21 comes alive with detail and action sequences galore. Tight pencils with a lot of exaggerated facial features and combined with some great gridiron action makes for a really good looking book.

In summary, if you like sports manga, appreciate some good laughs and are willing to enjoy some seriously over the top humour and gags, then Eyeshield 21 definitely does not disappoint. It’s the usual story about a loser working hard to become the best in a sport, but it is delivered in such an enjoyable way that you almost completely forget that’s the main, formulaic storyline that you’ve probably come across a million times before.

It’s fun, it is about American Football and it really does satisfy, meaning there really isn’t a reason for you not to be picking up this book in the first place! ;)

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ZombiePowder (Volume 2) Manga | My Reviews 01 APR 2010

Can’t Kiss the Ring (of the Dead): A knife-thrower. A sharp-shooter. A martial artist with a metal hand. And now… a journalist?! Meet the newest member of Gamma Akutabi’s gang, the amazing Wolfina, as deadly with a camera as her friends are with a gun. Their goal is to find the Rings of the Dead… but only Wolfina knows the Rings’ true twisted nature firsthand, having seen them turn her brother into a mindless husk. Does the secret of eternal life now dwell in her brother’s body? And what kind of human vultures would pry the secrets from his remains?

Tite Kubo’s ZombiePower, the same mangaka that went on to create the hugely successful and popular title Bleach, continues its story about the seemingly invulnerable rogue and s-class villain with the metal hand, Gamma Akutabi and his quest to find the legendary Rings of the Dead with this volume 2 release. The story follows on directly from the first volume and sees the trio of unlikely partners in the process of stealing their first Ring of the Dead from a heavily guarded building, though taking the ring may actually prove to be more deadly than getting to it was in the first place!

Also, we get introduced to a new major cast member in the form of the spunky, vivacious young reporter Wolfina, who turns out to be harboring some pretty deep secrets, the least of which seems to be the actual location of another Ring of the Dead!

As with the last volume, the story is heavily action-orientated and Tite sets up some great action-packed encounters that features a lot of explosions and a fantastic mix of his ever over the top characters, both as villains and as protagonists. Gamma Akutabi’s character gets nicely expanded upon and in the process has a whole lot of new abilities briefly shown to us, tantalizing us just that little bit extra. As always, the heavy melodrama and motivations for character actions are present and similarly, the quirky and sometimes quite unexpected humorous moments litter the pages left, right and center, making for a smooth and quite enjoyable Shonen read.

Artistically Tite continues to throw his lanky posed characters at us and as we’ve come to expect from the master, his depiction of action sequences and ultimately “coolness”, are absolutely spot on. Of course, this does mean he still harbors that intense dislike for drawing backgrounds and so once again don’t expect too much in terms of background details. However, when it comes to characters his sharp and often untidy pencils capture emotion and tone perfectly and his clever use of sometimes dropping certain facial features or forcing in exaggerated elements works like an absolute charm.

As we’ve come to expect, character design remains a plus and we’re treated to some great larger than life characters, including the maniacal magician Balmunk who seems the perfect foil for Tite to cut loose against! It’s not polished, its not very detailed and there isn’t a great deal of background information to soak in, but it flows surprisingly smoothly and you’ll find yourself turning the one page after another as the book sucks you in and forces you to advance at its breakneck pace.

(And in case you still aren’t satisfied with the main storyline, the guys have seen fit to toss in a short from Tite, the very first one he drew in fact, entitled Ultra Unholy Hearted Machine, which goes a long way in showing just how Tite has since improved upon his craft).

ZombiePower is a fast-paced, action-packed read with some good laughs to be had, a fair bit of graphic violence to glance through and more importantly delivers a great little story that certainly seems to be building up a good head of steam. Of course, we all know that he never finished this particular series (after all, why would you want to go back if your next title made it as big as what it has), but it is still well worth picking up and paging through, even if it is just to get more of this manga master’s work!

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Initial D (Volume 5) Manga | My Reviews 28 NOV 2009

Initial D Volume 5 Manga CoverThe White Comet: The spirit of the White Comet is as strong as ever, but can even the re-invigorated Ry Takahashi take down the Phantom Eight Six that, to this point, has remained unbeatable? The answer will change the face of Gunma racing forever. And if Tak does end up besting the best of Gunma, he’ll have to face the question posed by his best friend Iggy… “What’s next?” Any way you look at it, things are looking up for the Speed Stars, especially for their leader, Cole, who may yet fulfill his dream of meeting a woman with whom he can share his racing ambitions… even if she is a member of a rival team.

Initial D volume 5 continues the battle arc on Mount Akina, with Takumi taking on his strongest rival yet, the legendary Ryosuke of the fearsome RedSuns team. This time the Toyota Corolla AE86 squares off against the Mazda Savanna RX-7, once more making it the overwhelming underdog in this battle. And as per usual the spectators, race analysis and commentary is going to be all over the place. In addition to this, volume 5 also takes us on a bit of a side story trip involving Cole and a girl, all of which will eventually set us up for Takumi’s next upcoming battle (which I’m sure volume 6 will make as exciting as possible).

Now as a huge fan of the anime series (well at least up until the fourth season because from that point it kind of got predictably boring to an extent), I’m quite excited to touch on Shuichi Shigeno’s immensely popular manga that kicked it all off in the first place, despite the fact that I’m picking up Tokyopop’s heavily butchered English translated version, meaning many of the now well and truly instilled names like Takumi and Itsuki get bastardised to forms like Tak and Iggy, not to mention the various censhorship scenes that were enforced upon the translated release. However, enough of the original is obviously still there to keep it as enjoyable as it was when first released in its native tongue, and that said, Initial D the manga is pretty enjoyable indeed.

For those of you who don’t know anything regarding Initial D, essentially it is a car-racing manga (that became a bit of a phenomenon that spawned countless anime series, games and even a live-action movie) that focuses on Japan’s illegal street racing culture, particularly on the mountain pass downhill racing. Emphasis is placed on drifting (power-slides and the like) and the story revolves around Takumi Fujiwara, an introverted young man that doesn’t think much about driving and instead is content to just delivery his father’s tofu from their shop every morning in and out, something that eventually leads to him building great skill as a downhill racer. Against his will he is drawn into the world of street racing, using the shop’s old, beaten up Toyota Corolla AE86 to take on other racers driving far more powerful and exhilarating cars. The story chronicles Takumi’s growth as both a person and a racer, and slowly reveals how Takumi gets more and more taken by this racing bug. It’s the story of a nice guy driving a crappy car who gets thrust into an uncomfortable situation but who battles to come up on top against overwhelming odd – in other words, a winning story formula.

For this volume of the manga we get treated to a full length race and once again Shuichi demonstrates his car, driving and racing knowledge to perfection, leaving as much spec detail in as possible but at the same time balancing this perfectly out with the human story being told, making for an exciting battle which is the pinnacle to what the first four manga volumes have been leading up to. The race is gritty and exciting and leaves you in awe as the hidden conclusion is masterfully revealed at the end. On top of that Shuichi then manages to insert some great humour by switching hats to that of a romantic comedy genre and ties this in nicely with a bit of racing drama, building up to a rather unexpected final panel and leaving the reader panting for the next volume.

Of course, reading through this volume does fly by rather quickly, thanks to all the driving panels, but there is more than enough dialogue to satisfy a reader and as such it does make for a pretty entertaining read. Graphically, Shuichi once again proves that he certainly is no master of the human form or face, but his comical attempts at humans aren’t that bad once you get used to it, and thankfully his style does translate particularly well for the more comedic parts of the read, leading to quite a few guffaws based on exaggerated facial expressions alone! But on the car front he is once again unchallenged as an artist. Extreme attention to form and detail makes for very good looking racing scenes and it is quite a marvel to witness how he imparts a sense of speed into each and every one of his racing panels, from drifting to straight-line runs.

In summary, Initial D is an extremely entertaining read (if you can overlook Shuichi’s shortcomings when it comes to drawing human beings), even if you aren’t quite as into racing cars as the intended target audience might be. The story contains an excellent balance of action, adrenaline, drama, romance and even comedy and the attention of detail to the cars in both writing and drawing is something quite special to witness. If you’ve already seen the anime, then you probably don’t need to pick this up as naturally a story involving car racing will always be better when animated, but as it stands, Initial D the manga is cetainly well worth exploring further, particularly if you have any interest in our four-wheeled friends whatsoever! :P

DearS (Volume 1) Manga | My Reviews 30 JUN 2009

DearS Volume 1A Close Encounter of the Oh-So-Fine Kind.

The DearS have crash-landed on Earth and are now working with humans to become part of society – by going to high school! Lucky for the loveless, lonely Takeya, he stumbles upon an alien honey who is in desperate need of an education. Lucky for her, Takeya’s neighbour is there to keep the young man’s libido in check!

DearS tells the story of the DearS, an alien race that crash-landed their ship here on Earth about a here ago. Gifted linguists and apparent lovers of peace, the DearS were quick to befriend the human nations and as such were allowed to co-exist with the Japanese race over in Japan. Eager to blend in with society, the DearS have launched a number of programs to facilitate integration, one of these being the ‘home-stay’ project for surrounding high schools.

Takeya Ikuhara is a 17-year-old, live-alone student who is rigid in his ways and harbours a distinct dislike for these alien newcomers. However a chance encounter with one such alien, which happens to be completely unlike the rest that present themselves to our world, means that he now gets saddled with a troublesome, naive girl that he can only call Ren because quite frankly her full name is literally impossible to pronounce! Thus begins the arduous task of educating this girl and getting her to blend in with society more quietly, a task that Takeya is not particularly keen on picking up on – especially if she’s going to keep calling him ‘Master’!

Peach-Pit is a female manga artist duo in Japan, made up of Banri Sendo and Shibuko Ebara, with the pair taking the name directly from the hit 90’s show, Beverly Hills 90210 (it was the name of the hangout diner in case you’re wondering). DearS was their first recognised work as a manga duo, but they have since followed it up with the popular Rozen Maiden, Zombie-Loan and Shugo Chara! works.

Admittedly, the story for DearS is about as generic as they come. Wannabe bad-ass boy with no manners runs into naive, silly little girl who thanks to a misunderstanding ends up living with him and who he then needs to educate about the world but at the same time avoid his raging hormones and endure all the silly little messes that this unwelcome, and unexplained newcomer creates. Unfortunately, even with the whole alien slant, DearS doesn’t quite manage to rise up above this rather bland level of story that we’ve all heard before and this turns out to be quite a pity because the potential for a nice, fun, romantic story is buried down there – it just struggles to shine amongst so much other generic material that we’ve literally all seen before in some form or another!

The writing on DearS isn’t all that bad and yes, there are a few moments where you will definitely chuckle and some definite questions and mysteries are raised to pique your interest in perhaps purchasing the second volume just a tad, but it certainly isn’t strong or compelling enough to excite you as you read from start to finish.

On the other front, the art for DearS is very much all over the place, with lots of flitting between standard and super-deformed caricatures (which certainly does aid the silliness and humour in places), but unfortunately it is the standard imagery that proves to be a bit weak as quite often the character poses and perspectives don’t quite work out as one suspect the artists may have hoped for. Of course there is the penchant for drawing good-looking girls with lots of leg showing to take into account, but this is diminished when quite often the panel as a whole just doesn’t look right to the eye thanks to some or other slightly misshapen or undeveloped limb. It certainly isn’t horrendous artwork but it most definitely isn’t particularly pleasing artwork either!

In summary, DearS certainly will appeal to some segments of the market but I’m not entirely sure which ones those might actually be. It is a romantic comedy in nature, it does contain a little mystery and it is certainly fun in places (thanks to the very deprived homeroom teacher). If you can stomach reading a storyline that you’ve most certainly seen and witnessed before, then sure, go for it, but otherwise you certainly won’t be missing out on much if you choose to give it a good old skip.

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FLCL (Volume 1) Manga | My Reviews 26 JUN 2009

FLCL Volume 1 CoverNaota is a lonely boy in a lonely town living a lonely life amidst utter chaos. His father’s a perv, his grandfather a nut, his brother ran off to seek riches in America, and his brother’s dumb ex-girlfriend won’t leave him alone. Now from beyond the stars drops an impish defender sent forth to stop alien robots from destroying the Earth. Where do the alien robots come from? Well, from Naota’s forehead for starters.

From the twisted mind that brought us End of Evangelion comes this bizarre tale of adolescence in a world gone mad.

To this day 2000’s Gainax OVA release FLCL (Furi Kuri) remains a firm fan favourite all over the world, mostly in part to its completely insane mishmash of genres, style and just completely off the wall story telling and sense of humour. Needless to say, it is therefore no surprise that a manga adaptation of the hit anime soon followed the success story, with art provided by Hajime Ueda (the same man who brought us the quirky Q.Ko-chan: The Earth Invader Girl manga series).

The story for FLCL volume 1 sticks pretty close to the first two episodes’ storyline, though there is a definite darker slant to the manga retelling, a theme that quickly rises to the fore as one progresses through the first couple of chapters. The pacing of the story is surprisingly quick, but there are more than a few stages where one can’t help but feel a little lost, though this shouldn’t be considered a negative when you consider the source on which this manga is based upon.

Weird and strange alien presence sums it up pretty nicely in other words.

Artistically Ueda hits us with a particularly stylistic, quirky look, opting for extremely rough, sketchy outlines that are haphazardly shaded in and for the most part, make for quite an interesting visual take that forces one to quite often strain that little extra to figure out just what the heck is going on in some of the more interesting panels. Layouts and panels and framing cover just about all the know styles used in manga and the result is a very distinctive looking book where the visuals perfectly match up with the zany story being told.

However, despite this extremely rough, sketchy, seemingly hurried and unfinished look that Ueda forces upon us, it actually works damn well and causes the otherwise insane, almost illegible story to ooze personality and charm, in the end making the book more than worth the effort of actually picking it up and working your way through it.

So in summaty it certainly isn’t award-winning stuff, nor it is particularly emotionally-pleasing or even funny for that matter, but zany and quirky it most definitely is, and that alone certainly makes it a worthy addition to any otaku’s bookshelf.

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