Monday Manga Reviews: from people with insanely long necks to invisible girls

Asian Beat
Story & Art: Hakase Mizuki
Translation: Yoohae Yang
Adaptation: Nathaniel Bowdwen
Publisher: Tokyopop

When I read the title I immediately thought of some J-pop group that got their own manga. I have to be in the mood for J-pop and I really have little very interest in reading anything based on J-pop. Thank God that I was wrong. This book has nothing to do with music at all. It is a compilation of four stand alone stories: The Town Where Snow Falls, Asian Beat, The Grey Town, and Scars. Although the book is described as fantasy I really don’t consider AB to be in the same league of same stories as Mizuki’s previous collection of short stories; Baku. The stories are a variation of an affair, a neglected mother, drugs, a broken family, and domestic abuse. By far my favorite story is the 100+ pages The Town Where Snow Falls. You feel really connected to the characters, because they are easy to relate to. A high school girl has a weakening relationship with her mother, while the man she is in love with is sleeping with a married woman. The art in the first story is also a bit different than the rest. Mizuki seems to put more detail to facial expressions and backgrounds in the first story. The rest of the stories the characters have the usual unnatural long limbs with very small heads. That art style really suits Mizuki’s fantasy works, but for these stories you really needed a more realistic look like in the first story. B-

Hanami: International Love Story Volume 2
Story: Plus
Art: Sung-Jae Park
Translation: Taesoon Kang & Derek Kirk Kim
Publisher: Dark Horse

Yes, I am aware that Hanami is a manhwa (Korean Manga), but we have decided not to exclude manhwa from our reviews. To be perfectly honest, I had no clue that this was going to be a manhwa. By looking at the cover I could have sworn that this was going to be a poorly drawn OEL (Original English Language) manga. Joonho Suk is a seventeen year old high school student who in the last volume got the courage to ask out his big crush Sae-un. However against his will his family packed up and left Suwon for Seoul. This is where he meets the remaining cast of characters. He shares his first kiss with poorly Korean speaking Hanami, a Japanese girl who has enormous strength. In the second volume he finally gets to kiss Sae-un and promises to get a cell phone in order to keep in touch with her. That means he’s going to have to get a job and in the process stand between a coworker and her psychotic ex-boyfriend. It’s a damn good thing Joonwho can fight that’s all I have to say. The story is your basic teenage driven drama with a sweet love story behind it. The art style is very clean and crisp and the fighting scenes are handled well. I’m a bit disappointed by the character designs, but this is volume a story that is plot driven so it’s not that big of a gripe. B

Psychic Power Nanaki Volume 1
Story & Art: Ryo Saenagi
Translation: Elina Ishikawa
English Adaptation: Alex de Campi
Publisher: Tokyopop

If you take X-men, Psychic Force, and Yuyu Hakasho and you pretty much get the idea of what PP Nanaki is. In the opening pages we meet high school student Nanaki, but it’s not a long introduction because he gets hit by a car. All he can remember is a nursery rhyme his mother used to sing to him when he was a little boy. Without his knowledge the accident triggered his psychic powers to kick in. He is then confronted by another psychic, who I thought was a girl, by the name of Ao Kudo. Ao is a member of LOCK, the police’s paranormal task force. He is not the only member either and eventually Nanaki is recruited. During his first mission he confronts the guy that hit him with his car and he comes to a decision of whether to kill this guy or turn him over to the authorities. I can see this being a reoccurring theme by the end of the first volume. Ao is concerned that Nanaki will eventually turn into some kind of freak, much like his previous partner. I think that having the main protagonist run into the guy that caused all his problems in the first mission is a mistake; I mean where else can you take the audience from here? Sure we also have a conflict of Ao’s ex-partner, but the title of the book is Nanaki. The art is very action packed, but that doesn’t get in the way of Saenagi’s sequential art work. It’s a fun book, but I wonder how long the mystery and the fresh take will last. B-

Suppli Volume 1
Story & Art: Mari Okasaki
Translation: Angela Liu
English Adaptation: Liz Forbes
Publisher: Tokyopop

When I picked up the book and saw that it was for mature audiences and it was a romance manga, I remember thinking that I wasn’t in the mood for girly manga. It was a Sunday afternoon, when I usually do most of my reading and I was ready for to be introduced to some fantasy world with a cover like that. Damn, I’m so glad it wasn’t what I thought. The book was mesmerizing in every way. Minami is an ambitious 27 year old that works at an ad agency. She keeps talking herself out of dumping her boyfriend of 7 years, but when he is the one that breaks the ties, she finds herself alone in a world she left long ago. She compares herself to a newly reborn chick. Since her whole world revolved around her job and her boyfriend she is slowly finding herself and of course there is a love triangle. The inner monologue makes this book so believable. If you’ve ever been in a relationship that has come to an end you can understand what Minami is going through. Between finding new friends, keeping herself busy with work, and looking for a new love this book touches every aspect of human emotions. Okazaki’s art is phenomenal, she herself could be a professional advertising artist with the ideas that Minami has for commercials. The characters are so surreal, but remain like believable people. I have not read Mari Okazaki’s Sweat & Honey, but if it’s anything like this wonderful gem, count me in! I can’t wait to read the next volume of this magnificent story A+ .

Translucent Volume 2
Story & Art: Kazuhiro Okamoto
Translation: Heidi Plechl
Lettering: Jim Keplinger
Publisher: Dark Horse

If you’ve read the review of Translucent volume 1, you could tell that I wasn’t very impressed with the story. Granted I thought the concept was a fresh take on the drama of school that is so often portrayed in manga. However, I just couldn’t get into the story. The characters were bland and I really did not care for them or felt for Shizuka’s tragic disease. With volume 2, I figured I would give it another try and see what happens from here. This volume for some reason was more touching than its predecessor. I really felt bad for Shizuka and how she comes to term with becoming completely invisible at times. Props to Mamoru for being man enough (even though the kid is in the eighth grade) to keep a relationship growing with his disappearing girlfriend. He has a heart to heart talk with Koichi to see how he handles his relationship with Keiko, who is going through the same drama. While the art remains the same with its simplistic character designs and rather dull panels, the story seems to have picked up. I think, I now get the idea behind this series. It just reflects how hard and complicated growing up can be, but you don’t have to be invisible to know that. A step ahead of the previous volume and I really hope it keeps picking up steam as it progresses. C+

Zig Zag Volume 1
Story & Art: Yuki Nakaji
Translation: Jonathan Lee
English Adaptation: Gina Lee Ferenzi

I really should have known what I was getting into when I glanced over the cover of a pretty girl holding a flower petal in her mouth. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought Takaaki Asakura (Taiyou) was a girl. When the rest of the boys of Kazami Dormitory at Seifu Private School started hitting on Taiyou, I was sure it was a girl. WRONG! Taiyou is a boy that happens to be really pretty, gentle, and has a fascination with flowers. He happens to room with Sonoh Kirihara, who is a floral arrangement master. The story is pretty much about Taiyou and his outgoing and cheerful personality trying to figure out who the real Sonoh is. I understand with the bishonen fascination in Japan, but I really think that there is a huge difference between a pretty boy and a pretty girl. I was so confused when I was reading the book, I literally couldn’t tell what gender some of these characters were. While that might be charming for one character, it gets obnoxious with a hand full of them. I will still put money that Jin Kanbara is a chick, I don’t care what anyone says. The story was dull and the characters were annoying stereotypes of the bishonen genre. When the main protagonist looks hotter than the leading lady of the story, something is lacking from the final product. D+

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