Monday Manga Reviews: From chicks with guns to talking frogs!

Aventura Volume 1
Art & Story: Shin Midorikawa
Translation & Adaptation: Elina Ishikawa
Publisher: Del Rey

When I looked at the title I really thought that Del Rey was starting to publish their manga in Spanish. Just from looking at the cover it looks like something I used to watch when I was a child in Peru. So yeah, I have a soft spot for kids that team up with carnivorous animals. To my surprise it turned out to be more than just a bond between human and mammal. It was more of a cross between Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Prydain Chronicles. Randit is an orphan who isn’t the most popular kid and has zero magic ability. He questions why he was ever accepted to the Gaius School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Of course like any other adolescent he eventually makes friends with Chris (an elf) and Soela and starts to see that his small magic could be something much more. The story while simple, works on many levels. You don’t have to be a magician to understand the problems of not being able to fit in or not having any friends. It really is a fantastic mix of fantasy adventure and magic, hell it’s an RPG that you won’t have to spend 70 hours leveling up your characters. The art is absolutely gorgeous; with lavish details and gorgeous character designs, Midorikawa’s art style stands above the rest. A

Kikaider 02 Volume 1
Story: Shotaro Ishinomori
Art: Meimu
Publisher: CMX

I always find it difficult to recommend manga titles to my friends that are into “American” comics. There are very few that are anything like X-men, JLA, Batman, or Spider-man. However, I believe there is a manga out there for everyone. Whether you are reading about talking cats, teenage love triangles, Demon hunters, or a boy that turns into a girl when splashed with cold water; something is out there waiting for you. To me Kikaider Code: Zero Two is one of those rare manga that really doesn’t feel like you are reading something from Japan. It really does feel like you are reading an American made comic. Jiro is a normal teenage boy who goes through normal teenage life with a secret. His secret is that he is really Kikaider, a super-powered android who has a device in his brain to help simulate human attributes. This book has every element of those classic superhero stories: evil scientist, teenage angst, and robots. You won’t find any cute little sidekicks or gigantic sweat drops in the artwork. The only negative thing I can say about the book is the lack of character development. Yes, it’s an introduction to all these characters, but by the end of the book I’m expecting to be attached to at least the protagonist of the story. B-

Kurohime Volume 1
Story & Art: Masanori Ookamigumi Katakura
Adaptation: Lance Caselman
Translation: Joe Yamazaki
Publisher: Viz

How can you not love that cover? A voluptuous woman holding two gigantic guns!!! What else do you need to get you to buy a book? Kurohime is a master of Witch Bullets who gets turned into a little girl named Himeko, this came as a curse for challenging the gods. The only way to reverse the curse and get her original body back is to experience love. However we learn as she crosses paths with Zero, a master gunman who is searching the land for Kurohime, the legendary gunslinger witch that saved him as a young boy. The art is phenomenal at times; it reminds me of the great Masami Obari. But sadly these are nothing more but T&A drawings of Kurohime that stand out, because everything else is just bland, with the exception of those super-deformed scenes (which I’m a sucker for). It’s a great start to what will be an episodic adventure that blends the Wild West with fantasy. I’m really curious to see where the next volume will take us. B-

Sgt. Frog Volumes 1-3 Omnibus Edition
Story & Art: Mine Yoshizaki
Adaptation: Carol Fox
Publisher: Tokyopop

About three years ago I was introduced to this great title. Pretty much the story is about young Fujuki and his sister Natsumi who are dealing with an uninvited alien living in their house. This alien is Sgt. Korero, who is one of many invaders from another planet stranded on earth. He also happens to look like a little green frog with a silly hat. It’s overloaded with Japanese pop culture and ridiculous hi-jinks that reminds me of the underappreciated Invader Zim series. This volume collects all three of the original volumes in one oversized compilation. It comes with all the color covers and the first 24 pages are in a beautiful glossy paper that makes the art stand out. I can’t say enough about this spectacular series, I just can’t seem to get enough of it. While you think the creator might run out of ideas, a new “frog” is introduced to show you the endless possibilities of the over abundance of aliens that are passing off as frogs in our planet. But seriously it’s not just that one dimensional of a story because many of the installments have sensitive undercurrents: unrequited love, the clash between friendship and duty, jealousy, emotional insecurity, family dynamics, and other moving lessons. For $13 bucks I highly recommend everyone to give this wonderful series a shot. A+

Testarotho Volume 1
Story & Art: Sanbei Kei
Translation: Akira Tsubasa
Publisher: CMX

I finally figured out what it is about Kei’s women that make them irresistible and that is their full lips he puts on all of them. It’s rare to see that in a manga art form, a woman with a full set of lips, but anyway there I go rambling. Testarotho is a story about Rotho Capria, who has just graduated from her cloistered life in the Nunnery and is about to join the Elysia Unification Council. Behind the gates that protected her lies a divided land, one with differing cultures and religions who are all vying for a position of power. The common people are suffering, oppressed on all sides, especially by Arsenal’s Inquisitors, who they refer to as Testarotho. Capria teams up with Father Garrincha, Leonedus, and Socrates. By the end of the book they are all questioning if what they are doing is right. It seems like the book is a cautionary tale about the misuse of organize religion and the effects it has on the people. Instead of working out the differences we just kill each other to work things out. This is definitely a mature subject, but one that was highly enjoyable. It was a fun read and the art, like I previously stated is right down dazzling. A

Zombie Powder Volume 2
Story & Art: Tite Kubo
Translation: Akira Watanabe
Publisher: Viz

I see now why this manga reminds me so much of Trigun. It’s not just because it has that Wild West feel to it, but Gamm Akutabi has the same facial expressions that Vash the Stampede wears. Granted, their attitudes are almost complete opposites. By the end of the first volume Gamma is joined is quest for the rings of the dead by his partner, the gun-toting Mr. Smith, and the young boy Elwood. After defeating a group of bandits, Gamma has acquired the one of the twelve rings. In this volume we are introduced to the very well-endowed Wolfina. She ends up joining the trio in search of the remaining rings. Unfortunately just as I was ready for more action, they cut the story to make room for Kubo’s first 40 page comic strip. While it was nice to see the early stages of his art take place, I would have rather them include the story at the end of the last volume. It kind of put a damper on the pace of the story. It seems like this story has a definite ending at some point and I can’t wait to see how everything turns out for our characters. B

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