Archive for the Miscellaneous Category


Benten Botan Manga, Volume 1 (弁天ぼたん)

February 20th, 2017

Q: How do you know a manga is considered really good around here? A: When I wake up and send a ridiculous tweet the the manga artist in bad gang patois saying that it’s awesome!

Benten Botan,  Volume 1 (弁天ぼたん) by Saida Nika is awesome.

It’s been a while since I had a chance to read something by Saida-sensei, creator of Cirque Arachne (which fixed the biggest problem of Kaleido Star). When I saw that Saida-sensei had a new manga about a gang-girl, I knew I needed to read it.  ^_^

Bentenshima Botan has all her life been told about the awesomeness of the gang girls of Japan, by her late mother. When her father decides to leave their home in the Himalayas and return to Japan, Botan could not be more excited. She arrives at her her new all-girls school and announces that she’s willing to take on all comers. Instead of a challenge, all the girls go gaga over the tall, attractive newcomer. When she turns out to be good at sports and smart, too, she has an instant fanclub. 

She asks one of the girls where the local banchou is, but cute classmate Sumire informs Botan that that’s ancient history. Bummed, Botan heads off home. On the way she spots an obvious sukeban-type and she and Midori butt heads – literally – for the first time.

The school principal confronts Botan and challenges the young girl to bring it on, but Botan is nowhere near as strong as the principal, who is clearly one of the old-school sukeban her mother admired and, it becomes plain, who admired her.

Sumire confides to Botan that while she has a boy’s body, it was always her dream to go to a girls’ school. Botan promises to protect Sumire and her secret and almost immediately has a chance to insist that Sumire-chan be treasured as is. Midori recognizes that Botan and she share more than just love for the sukeban life and she softens a bit

Sumire, Midori and Botan become friends, which amazes and confuses Midori as, up until now, as the only girl in her household and engineering school, she’s never really has had girl friends, except Sumire. But she learns to like it pretty quickly and Botan’s disarming naivete’ even makes her laugh out loud.

At her grandmother’s bathhouse, Botan encounters a former boy gang member who takes her out for a ride on his bike, and kisses her. She loves the bike, find the kiss interesting and thinks he might be a good guy, until one of Midori’s brothers let her know that he really isn’t. And, as the book comes to a close, we can see Take-chan has some not-good designs on our heroine. What they are we don’t yet know.

In a final chapter we see that along with her fan club at school, Botan has the complete attention of her teacher who has developed a crush on her. But Botan breaks her heart when speaking to her classmates she says she likes Mizuki-sensei – she reminds Botan of her mother. Mizuki works on making that okay in her head while the principal sulks that Mizuki’s nothing like Botan’s mother.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 8 
Characters – 9 There’s no one unlikable
Yuri – 1, LGBTQ – 4
Service – 2 A little, but more artful than gross

Overall – 8

This manga was just a ton of fun in every direction! It runs in Hibana magazine along with After Hours and My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness both of which have been licensed by Viz and Seven Seas, respectively and Shimanami Tasogare, so clearly I am going to have to get this magazine now. You can read a sample chapter of Benten Botan on the Hibana website. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did.

Send to Kindle




Torikaebaya Manga, Volume 10 (とりかえ・ばや)

February 9th, 2017

AUUUUGGGHH.

Sorry, but I got almost all the way through Volume 10 of Saitou Chiho-sensei’s Torikaebaya (とりかえ・ばや) without screaming and then I hit the final bit and AUUUUGGGHH!

Okay, so. The Mikado is being pressured to replace Toguu-sama as heir and Ginkaku, an evil priest with really evil eyebrows and Shikibu-no-miya (who you always knew had to be evil because of his eyebrows) pick a really cute kid called Yuzuru. Sarasojuu (as Suiren) is helping out with him and ends up playing the flute and almost, almost the Mikado clues in, but nope he misses it. AUUUUGGGHH I really wanted him to figure it out.

Suiren, as Sarasojuu, is away from the capital and, for the first time we see him as a man. He’s willowly and pretty, as one might expect, but is taking to his new role. 

To suss Ginkaku out, Sara as Suiren has her lady in waiting share a rumor that she’s pregnant. The Mikado is furious at her, but she explains why and, eventually receives a gift of poison from the evil-eyebrowed one. On her way to inform the Emperor, she’s pushed off a walkway and suffers a concussion. The Mikado tends to her himself and she finally has a chance to explain the whole deal.

Ginakaku visits her…and here’s the moment when I screamed. I want the Emperor to figure it all out! Really. I want him to “get” what the deal with Sara and Suiren is, but the person who figures it all out is none other than the evil-eyebrowed priest Ginkaku. AUUUUGGGHH. Sara, as Suiren, puts him off but knows this is not good. Not good at all.

MEANWHILE Suiren, as Sarasojuu, is off to Ginkaku’s temple to find evidence of his perfidy. They find an elaborate curse against the Emperor in place. It becomes instantly apparent what the plan is. Now that Toguu-sama has been neutralized, if they kill the Mikado, they will becomes Prince Yuzuru’s regents. As Suiren turns to leave, they are attacked. AUUUUGGGHH

Oh my god this story is killing me.

It’s pretty obvious that, if any of the romances are going to have a positive resolution, both Suiren and Sarasojuu will have to pass through life as their birth gender, which annoys me to no end. In my imaginary ending now, Suiren is able to live with Toguu-sama away from court as herself and Sarasojuu is able to live as a young man whom the Mikado takes to bed sometimes. ^_^ Wishful thinking, I know.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Service – 1

Overall – 9

I’m really disappointed in the Emperor. He was *so* close there for a second. I thought he was good-looking and smart, but nope. Ah well.

Volume 11 doesn’t land until March, so I have a few weeks to recover.

 

Send to Kindle




Code Name ha Sailor V Perfect Edition Manga, Volume 2 (コードネームはセーラーV 新装版)

February 6th, 2017

It’s well known that Sailor Venus was the first of the Senshi to appear, as I mention in my review of Volume 1. But it becomes extremely plain as one reads the second volume of Code Name ha Sailor V Perfect Edition, (コードネームはセーラーv-新装版) that, as Takeuchi Naoko finally had time to end the series, she intentionally sewed it neatly into the larger narrative of the Moon Kingdom and the rebirth of the Princess and her guardians.

But first Minako’s secret identity is discovered by the police chief who likes Minako, but secretly fangirls on Sailor V, as both Venus and the police continue to fight against the Dark Energy group.

One of the most intriguing chapters contains what I think of as the “mangaka meltdown”, in which the artist draws about how soul-crushing working as a manga artist is. In this chapter, not only does she have Minako grind as a manga artist’s assistant, she gets to reimagine the Senshi as sisters who run a wedding boutique in “Wedding Aurora,” a manga title which I hope was a nod to Wedding Peach. The image of Aurora and her 8 sisters look mightly familiar. ^_^

Also familiar are the cameo appearances of the Inner Senshi, casually passed by, on street or train. Even as Minako’s memories awaken, she’s not yet able to see past the glamour of magic around them, leaving that part of the story for another series entirely. These moments are absolutely the best part of this volume. I’m such a softie for the Senshi. ^_^

Ratings: 

Art – 7
Story – 5
Characters – 7
Yuri – 0
Service – 1 on principle

Overall – 7

So, while I would not call this a compelling series, if you’re a Sailor Moon completist, it’s worth taking a look at the shiny new Perfect Edition of Code Name ha Sailor V.

Send to Kindle




Marine Corps Yumi Manga, Volume 4 (まりんこゆみ)

January 23rd, 2017

It’s been a long time since I last reviewed a volume of Marine Corps Yumi and I appear to have skipped Volume 3. This is entirely because I simply could not yet bring myself to deal with it. And, I’m going to be honest, reading this volume was hard. Ana and I had a lot of conversations about this in 2014-5.

Author Anastasia Moreno died in July 2015 of a very aggressive form of cancer and pretty much I think of her nearly every day. She was a great person and we had a lot of fun together. I catch myself saying “Dammit, Ana” about 4 times a week when she comes up in conversation. But I know that Marine Corps Yumi was her magnum opus and she’d be pissed that I wasn’t reviewing it. So today, I’m taking a much-delayed look at Volume 4 of Marine Corps Yumi (まりんこゆみ) by Anastasia Moreno and Nogami Takeshi. Nogami-sensei is still drawing the comic, which is still available in Japanese online for free.

Volume 4 is notable to me for several reasons. One, it contains the chapter for which Ana and Nogami-sensei, Tachibana Remi-san and Bruce and I went to a Takarazuka show together. All that punching just to give Japanese Self-Defense Force translator Sawa-san a personality. ^_^ Turns out she joined the JSDF when she didn’t make it into Takarazuka. I applaud that level of uniform fetishtry.

Sawa-san’s greatest moment, though, is when she encourages Donna King to try her hand at translating and Donna turns out to be pretty good at it…although her strategic exercises manuals come off sounding way more like BL novels than anything else. The look on Sawa’s face is brilliant as she reads Donna’s translation of coming in from behind and outflanking the enemy. Ana laughed for about an hour while telling me about that chapter. ^_^

We learn about the different kinds of promotions, as Yumi and her teammates all make Lance Corporal one way or another. Lind’s route is the hardest as she has to go through the exam process, but we all knew she’d get there. We learn about the different assignments the ladies get (except Rita, who was snapped up by intelligence and everything she does is classified.) And of course we get insight on Yumi’s long, exhausting days as an interpreter.

The bulk of the book is about the military’s interactions, both positive and negative, with Okinawans. Rita Fernandez , although she comes from a marine family, was born on Okinawa and considers it home. Her love for the place, and her desire to educate her friends and us about the real and allegorical ghosts of the war is deeply touching. I shed real tears as an old soldier and an exorcist help a wandering soul find his final “at ease.”

And, at last, we meet Yumi’s new roommate, the foul-mouthed, perpetually angry blue-eyed blonde haired predatory lesbian and Yuri fan, Erica Bush. Named after me and a former US President, Erica is a terrible human. ^_^

When Ana first floated the idea of a lesbian character with me, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was still enforced. We talked about how to indicate she was gay without her being so obvious that she’d be booted. But by the time she arrived in the narrative, everything had changed and she could just be openly gay. So, yeah. Marine Corps Yumi finally has a lesbian and she’s an absolute asshole. I think she’s hilarious and awful.

Erica macks hamhandedly on Linda, she and Donna can see they are in sympatico yet, on opposite sides of the doujinshi aisles, and she terrifies Yumi. I adore her, as you can imagine. She’s my very first character in homage and I will treasure her forever. 

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 9 Man, it’s always a bad allergy day when I read Yumi, my eyes get all teary
Characters – 8
Yuri – 6 Yuri, thy name is Erica!
Service – 5 Equal opportunity for those who like boys and girls this time! 

Overall – 9

Thanks, Ana. Thinking of you again today.

Send to Kindle




Steel Fist Riku Manga, Volumes 1-2-3 (English)

January 6th, 2017

Today’s review was brought to you by the kindness of Okazu Superhero Louis P, and I have to really commend him for his patience and perseverance, finding all three volumes of this obscure little series. Many thanks Louis!

And when I say “obscure” I mean that it was published by CMX, the manga imprint run by DC Comics. They were primed for success – really talented editors and some strong titles out of the gate, but. With a number of early controversies and DC’s strategic shift away from all their innovative ways to branch out into new comics and manga into making movies about the old characters, CMX was just one of a number of heads on DC’s chopping block in 2010.

The basic premise of Steel Fist Riku is something any older manga fan might instantly recognize – it’s a classic “perpetually hungry martial artist action-comedy.” In this iteration, we meet Riku, who lives with her adoptive father running a celebrity photo store, while training with him in his family style of martial arts.

In the course of the story, Riku is given a male rival who could be a love interest if they wanted, but thankfully they don’t. And she has, in the course of three volumes, more than one female friend, which goes a really long way to making this manga readable. Riku is herself a likable enough character. She’s very strong, always hungry and prone to getting involved in situations that just happen to need her fighting skills to resolve. As one does.

The only truly negative thing about the series is the main, often repeated, joke. Riku’s martial style is triggered by breathing and to do that, she has to pull off the binders from her chest. Aha.ha.ha. Ha.

Despite this not-terribly-funny joke, the manga is generally quite enjoyable. Riku’s nickname comes from her mysterious ability to turn her left arm to steel, a technique that would naturally come in handy in a fight.

This skill is so mysterious, Riku herself has no idea where it comes from . In fact, she knows little about her own history, as she was a foundling. When she encounters another person with the same skill, she’s excited to meet someone who can tell her about herself! Unfortunately, he’s a criminal and not willing to divulge any information. Nonetheless, Rika finds something even more important – her mother. So the series comes to a happy conclusion, despite the somewhat abrupt end.

I quite liked the village, in which animal-people lived side by side with humans with no apparent tension. 

But why, you must be asking by now, did Louis send you this pleasant, but obscure martial arts comedy? Thanks for asking! In one scene Riku picks up some side work as security at rich man’s mansion. In between resolving some family drama and fighting off thieves, Riku is quite dashing in her suit…regulation wear, according to the boss.

And when Riku and her childhood friend Oguri meet again and get past their issues, one could easily see them being very slashable if one was inclined.

Steel Fist Riku had a lot of things to like about it, especially if you were a Ranma 1/2 fan, as it steals quite heavily from Takahashi Rumiko’s formula.

Ratings:

Art – 7 Adequate, if not quite up to the fighting
Story – 8, Cute with moments of very decent
Characters – 8 Better than one might expect, given the premise.
Service – 4 Not quite as bad as one might expect, given the premise.

Overall – A solid 7. This might be something to ask Global Bookwalker to pick up for us. It’s not going to be reprinted, and probably not worth all the effort Louis put into getting it for me, but still was a fun read. ^_^

 

Send to Kindle