Midweek Manga Reviews: From Headache Remedies to Addictive Online Games!

Aspirin vol. 1
Story & Art: Eun-Jeong Kim
Translation: Soo-Kyung Kim
Adaptation: Che Gilson
Publisher: Tokyopop

I’m not sure how many reviews you are going to read that include a joke about having a headache and getting some Aspirin…so I will spare you the lame intro and just move on to the book. Hell, even in the back of the book they make a joke about temporary relief of pains and side effects. I guess I really didn’t do that good of a job at sparing you a lame intro, sorry. Lord When Ondar accidently breaks the crystal orb he accidentally releases three powerful demons loose and King Dan-Goon orders the fool Ondar to bring them back. Unable to fulfill this task on his own, Ondar is accompanied by the legendary foul mouthed warrior who trapped the demons in the first place; Haemosoo. But what journey wouldn’t be complete without a wizard and the wizard in this story is none other than David Cupperfield. Along the way, they come across quite an interesting array of characters: a gang of crazy armed nuns who make them scream out their lord and master’s name, the mysterious Samson with singing powers, the acrobatic twins Pai and Pei, and more! I have to say that between this and Crayon Shinchan I couldn’t stop laughing. The humor is so over the top and the pictures reminded me of Slayers and Hunter X Hunter. But, the book also has its share of action and plenty of moments that left me gasping. If you are looking for a break from all the serious and typical shonen titles this is the book for you. A

Bastard!!!! Vol. 17
Story & Art: Kazushi Hagiwara
Translations: Kaori Kawakubo Inoue
Adaptation: Sean McCoy
Publisher: Viz

I think that Bastard suffers the same curse as Blade of the Immortal; they are both wonderful books, but they take forever to come out. The problem with Bastard is that the manga started coming out in 1988 and in Japan they are on volume 25….so you do the math considering this is a review of volume 17. I think Viz is doing the right thing with this book and not playing catch-up. Putting months in between releases gives this reader a sense of anxiety and depravation. All hell is breaking lose in the world of Dark Schneider. After dying and not coming back to life he went and got himself trapped in hell and is now having a face-to-face talk with Satan! Meanwhile his friends have come up with a crazy plan to get him out of hell. All they have to do is keep the Angels from destroying the ark and ruining D.S.’s chances of ever returning. If you think the shit has been hitting the fan, wait until you meet the most powerful Angel; Michael. Who shows up and prepares to deliver the final blow to mankind! Fortunately, Lucien appears and buys the world a little more time, but just how much? While in the pits of hell Satan tells DS that he is a major part of the end times prophecy, and will lead demons and mankind to war against God and his army. It seems that more and more Hagiwara is changing his art style. It is simply getting amazing and you can tell why he takes so long between volumes, there is more detail in one panel then most single issues of comics today. He really knows how to deliver a well-drawn story that is so full of testosterone and make the reader care about each character. A-

Blood + vol.2
Story Adaptation & Art: Asuka Katsura
Translation: Camellia Nieh
Publisher: Dark Horse

I remember loving Blood the Last Vampire anime so much, that I probably watched it a total of ten times. When Viz released the manga I probably read it a total of five times. After watching the Blood + anime I really couldn’t wait to read the manga, but Melanie had first dibs. Now I finally got to read both volumes 1 and 2 back to back and things are quite different for a manga based on the anime. Saya is now a high school student stricken with amnesia and she has been enjoying her peaceful life with her adopted family, but her destiny as a monster-slashing warrior catches up with her sooner than she expects. In this volume she is closer to finding out who she really is and what her powers are capable of doing while trying to find the kidnapped Riku. The story is a wonderful mix of mystery, humor, horror, high-school romance and government intervention. I guess I am at a bit of a crossroads with this book. Had I not seen any of the Blood + series it would have been more enjoyable, but it’s hard to judge it as a separate medium because it is based on the original TV series. There is definitely a different appeal to some of the characters and a nice welcome addition of some new characters. I must note that as the anime series itself is violent, so don’t let the innocent looking artwork in this book fool you, there is plenty of blood and gore. Along with that gore you there is also a bit of vulgar language, which really you just can’t have the one without the other. But it’s not all gore, the book has plenty of light-hearted moments that keeps the story from being too heavy and serious. The book is very fluid with such expressive storytelling that it doesn’t require watching the anime to get the plot. The art is quite nice as well, with crisp lines and lots of beautiful contrast. The characters themselves don’t look all that original, but they’re all drawn well. Katsura’s fantastic action scenes capture the spirit of the story and makes every chapter fun. If you are expecting a continuation of Blood: the Last Vampire this book will certainly leave you confuse, but give it a chance and it will grow on you. New readers, I recommend this book to introduce you to the wonderful world of Blood. B+

Crayon Shinchan vol.1
Story & Art: Yoshito Usui
Translation: Sheldon Drzka
Lettering: Wilson Ramos
Publisher: CMX

I never bothered picking up Crayon Shinchan when ComicsOne were releasing them. I skipped the anime, thinking how I couldn’t stand to watch something so poorly animated. At the time, I really thought the book was made in the 60s, even though some people were comparing him to Bart Simpson. I was an idiot to skip that anime series and not read this book before. This book was simply hilarious and I had no idea how insane it could be. It follows the life of 5 year old kindergartener Shinchan Nohara as he causes all sorts of trouble for his parents (specially his mother). He is rude, loud, makes the most inappropriate comments at the worst time, and isn’t afraid of exposing his nude body and private parts for all to see. Yes, he is very obsessed with his penis and his naked body…but what little boy isn’t at that age? Shinchan is a free spirit in every sense of the word. For a 5 year old Shinchan is smart at times but dumbfound at others. He already knows pickup lines, uses children books to hide porn at the bookstore and outsmarts his mother. Other times he goes home to ask his mother their phone number so that he can tell the grocery lady so she can call his mother and ask how much ground beef she needs. Sure it’s not drawn very well, but I wouldn’t say it was terrible because the humor makes up for it. I highly recommend this book to all who have had to deal with small children, remember being that young, and would like to read something funny, cute, and semi-obnoxious. A

Me and the Devil Blues: The Unreal Life of Robert Johnson vol.1
Story & Art: Akira Hiramoto
Supervising Editor: Takashi “Hotoke” Nagai
Firearms Consultant: Heihachiro Matsumoto
Translation: David Ury
Publisher: Del Rey

That is one long title for this book, but when you consider that the book is over 500 pages, it justly deserves it. It is a great pleasure of mine to keep finding the most unique manga and by fart this takes the title of most unique manga I have read this year. Keep in mind this is coming from someone that has been reading manga for almost 20 years and has read almost every kind of manga you can find out there. It’s unique for a manga creator to write and draw a story about the 20’s and 30’s in the Mississippi area and featuring an almost all African American cast focusing on the blues.

It is loosely based on the story of bluesman legend Robert Johnson, who lived a very mysterious life, died at a young age, and managed to only record 24 songs that still influences musicians to this day. In 1929 we find RJ, who works on a plantation and dreams of becoming a bluesman (even though he really stinks at playing the guitar and sinking). He has a young wife Virginia that is with child, yet he still manages to sneak off to the local bar every night to drink, hear the blues, and just forget about life. Legend has it if you want to sell your soul to the devil he can make all your dreams come true. But you have to go to a crossroad and play a single song. Enter the devil! For some reason when RJ goes back to play for the people at the pub six months had passed. In those six months his wife and child had died. To him that was the price he had to pay to learn the blues. Now he travels along with the devil and even runs into classic historical characters like Bonnie and Clyde.

I had to read this book in two sittings, mainly because I stayed up till three in the morning on a workday because it was nearly impossible to put down. I was taken by surprise at how well this book captures the poverty, music, dialogue, and even the blistering hot days of the time. Hiramoto draws African Americans better than any manga artist I have ever seen. They look like real people and with the exception of one or two panels there are no over the top manga cutesy panels here. I found it interesting that he was even able to capture the relation between whites and blacks in that era. Even though RJ is running with the devil he still fears the white man more. The panels really come to life whenever you see someone playing the blues, it’s amazing how much heart went into making this book. The only bad thing I can say about the book is that the artwork during action sequences can get a bit confusing and make take a second glance. This book wasn’t just a story, it was an experience and that by far this year’s biggest comic surprise. It is a book that not only fans of the manga or comic genre can pick up, because it caters easily to new readers. I can’t go on enough about how much heart this book had so I will just give it my highest possible recommendation. A+

One Piece vol. 18
Story & Art: Eiichiro Oda
Translation: JN Production
Adaptation: Lance Caselman
Publisher: Viz

Joined by the ship’s new crew member Tony Tony Chopper (the ship’s doctor) the gang has finally made it to Alabasta. Home to Princess Vivi and desert kingdom, but of course it’s not that easy getting there. Because we finally are introduced to Mr. 2 Bon Clay a flamboyant ballerina man who ate a gum gum fruit. This gave him the power to mimic anyone’s face, voice, and body. But more importantly, we are introduced to Portagaz D. Ace, Luffy’s older brother who is being chased by Captain Smoker. After an invitation to join Whitebeard’s crew, Ace takes off, but not before leaving Luffy a piece of paper that was something important according to him. It seems that Vivi knows the leader of the rebellion against her kingdom and it used to be a childhood friend of hers. We are also given an inside look at the dealings of the Baroque Works officers. There is never a dull moment in this series. As ridiculous and stupid as some of the characters act, you really get that sense of brotherly bonding that is mainly found in military outfits. The book always keeps me on my feet and I even get emotional when reading the flashback stories (still recovering from Chopper’s story). Oda lists amongst his influences Akira Toriyama and this is really starting to show more and more. This influence is seen most prominently in Mr. Oda’s style of writing which contains huge epic battles punctuated by lots of humor. His artwork does create a unique vision to his storytelling. A

Warcraft: Legends vol.1
Story: Richard A. Knaak, Troy Lewter, Mike Wellman, and Dan Jolley
Art: Jae-Hwan Kim, Carlos Olivares, Nam Kim, and Mi-Young No
Cover: Udon with Saejin Oh
Publisher: Tokyopop

It’s been a great week of manga reading, I don’t think we read a bad book this week. So I was really excited to read this book, considering I know nothing of the Warcraft world (other than it’s an addictive videogame) and I missed out on the Sunwell Trilogy. The book is split up into four separate stories that don’t really require prior reading, with the exception of the first. The first story seems to be a follow-up to the first series and features Trag Highmountain, a tauren (minotaurs) who has been reborn as an undead. Now seeking the help of a shaman he is betrayed and left on his own. The Journey is about a farmer named Halsand and his family and having to put up with some adventurers looking for treasure. Halsand gets involved in a battle that kills all the adventurers and he is forced to drink the infected water which leaves his family with a sad outcome. Sly Lazlo is the main character of the third story, he also happens to be a gnome who is overlooked and an outcast because of his fascination with useless inventions. But when a troll invades his town, he turns into a hero. The final story is a campfire story that features Nori Blackfinger, who is a master blacksmith. He accidently sells one of his fine weapons to an elf who serves Havoc, the heartless. But, when Nori’s son Eli was killed by the same blade his father made, it is up to Nori to avenge his death. Every story was a fun read, sure the first one continues into volume two, but the rest wrapped up. I was blown away by the gorgeous art, especially Jae-Hwan Kim’s take on a decaying tauren. If you are a fan of the series, you are probably already picking this up, but I suggest fans of fantasy and magic to give this a shot. A

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