Manga Reviews: From Crystals to Stinky Sea Creatures

Jim Henson’s Legends of The Dark Crystal: The Garthim Wars Volume 1
Barbara Randall Kesel, Heidi Arnhold, and Max Kim

The artists did a wonderful job of creating a Jim Henson/Brian Froud world in this prequel to the awesome movie, The Dark Crystal. Fans of this cult classic will definitely appreciate the attention to detail – from the way the Gelfling’s three fingered hands are kind of blocky to the way their upper lips and noses protrude from their faces. But as far as story goes…, it’s pretty slow at the beginning. Lahr’s village is destroyed by the Garthim, creatures that kidnap the Gelfling race for the Skeksis, who in turn drain them of their essence in order to live longer. Pretty gruesome. Lahr meets up with Neffi, whose village has been destroyed as well. They end up helping a neighboring village plan and fight off a horde of Garthim so they will survive, but have they just won the battle and not the war? The story is pretty formulatic (yes, that is a word), so if you enjoy graphic novels such as Fables or Sandman, you probably won’t be interested in this. If you are a fan of the movie, I can also see you not enjoying this. The only character from the movie that makes an appearance is SkekSil, the Skeksis that always goes, “Hmmmmmm,” and I don’t care about Lahr and Neffi. But it’s pretty cool how the author is slowly building up the relationship between the two. Maybe less mature readers will really enjoying this. It just doesn’t move me. C+

Gyo: The Death-Stench Creeps Volume 1
Junji Ito
Viz Media

“Explicit Content” = Whoot! I’ve never read a creepy manga before, and this one definitely sets the bar. I didn’t think it would be at first, but the more I read, the better it got. It’s not a scary manga because it makes me fear for my life or anything, but it’s psychologically creepy, which is how most Japanese horror stories work. Imagine a dead fish chasing after you on mechanical, insect-like legs that keep it going no matter what. The idea of something dead and therefore almost non-existent chasing me is really disturbing, but it’s coupled with a force that has no face or way of communicating – a pair of legs. The art will aide you in this endeavor if this is hard to imagine. Finally, the characters are always complaining about the smell that precedes these creatures. How unique to have a smell be eerie! It’s not a sense that is used very often in comics, or writing period. Definitely looking forward to the second volume. A

Hands Off: Don’t Call Us Angels Volume 1
Kasane Katsumoto

I’m disappointed that this installment isn’t as interesting as its predecessor, Hands Off. The premise is the same, but now there are different characters. Kiba has the ability to see into a person’s future when he touches him or her, and when he brushes by Udou in basketball, he sees blood. Udou is a criminal with no respect for other humans, and has some kind of hypnotizing power with his eyes. My biggest complaint is that it’s serious all the time. Hands Off had lots of humor in it even though it had a grim story, but the two main characters in Hands Off: Don’t Call Us Angels are both douche-bags! And their heads are too small for their bodies. The only joke in the book is Haruhi’s infatuation with another girl named Yari. She just met this girl and she is dying to help her meet Udou, and every time she talks about her, she goes into full worship-mode. But it becomes almost annoying since it’s so repetitive and the only joke in the book. C

Kitchen Princess Volumes 2 – 4
Manga by Natsumi Ando
Story by Miyuki Kobayashi
Publisher Del Rey

I finally realized why I love girly, cheesy manga titles! Most of the time the main character is someone who I look up to! Najika is gentle, loving, forgiving, and courageous. She wants to make others feel good with her cooking, and she pursues her dream of finding her prince with vigor (the boy who saved her from drowning when she was young). Akane is jealous of her and the relationship she has with Daichi, but even after she treats Najika poorly, Najika is always willing to forgive and help out Akane. For example, when Akane is starving herself to become thinner for modeling shoots, Najika works hard to come up with something nutritious that will keep Akane healthy. And she had just tired to ruin Najika’s dreams! As a side note, each chapter revolves around a different food, but it’s never forced, and it’s actually exciting to see what Najika can come up with next.

In short, I want to be like Najika – giving of myself and being happy when others are happy. That is my true goal in life, and reading Kitchen Princess is helping me to accomplish it. I had complained about how they’re not enough role models in comics…, but I’ve found them in manga. A

Parasyte Vol. 2
Hitoshi Iwaaki
Del Rey

In this volume, which is twice as big as the ones released in Japan, Hitoshi Iwaaki doesn’t focus on the relationship between Izumi and the parasite Migi that lives in his right hand, much to my dismay. It’s what drew me to the book initially. But instead, the author focuses on developing the character of Izumi and the changes he goes through due to his mom getting taken over by a parasite alien, having his heart replaced by Migi, and meeting someone else whose parasite failed to take over his brain (unfortunately for him, it took over his chest and part of his face). Also in this volume, Izumi has to deal with the fear that he is becoming less human, and everyone around him is noticing the changes as well. Most of the time the other characters (such as the three girls that have a crush on him) are very flat and only exist to blatantly tip off the reader by telling him, “Izumi-kun, you’ve changed!” That gets old after a while, but I love the idea of this character questioning and exploring what it means to be human. Iwaaki can take this story to some pretty cool places with that idea; I just hope the story gets to moving faster in the third volume. C+

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