Monday Manga Reviews: We gots maids, magical girls, and even little dinosaurs!

Emma Vol. 1
Story & Art: Kaoru Mori
Translation & Adaptation: Sheldon Drzka
Publisher: CMX

I know that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but every time I walked by the manga section of my local book store and saw the cover to Emma it would remind me of OEL (original English Language) manga art. Like the guys that do Megatokyo or Fred Perry’s Goldigger. So I was really surprised when I realized that this book was authentic. Even looking at the art inside of the book reminds me of some fan art I have seen. Emma tells the story of a young Victorian/Edwardian maid and her forbidden romance with a gentleman from a large merchant house whose family has aims for him that are much higher than just some maid. Volume serves as an introduction to the characters and places. Emma is shy, kind, and intelligent. The exotic Hakim, prim Mrs.Stowner, the somewhat daft and dashing Young Master Jones and other supporting characters that make this book an entertaining read. The story has a very slow pace to it, but it really suits this story just right. I really think this book needs to be in classrooms as a perfect example of what happens when great literature meets art. Sure the art is not the high peek of the series, but that story really carries the book. A-

Gakuen Alice Vol. 1
Story & Art: Tachibana Higuchi
Translation: Haruko Furukawa
Adaptation: Jennifer Keating
Publisher: Tokyopop

In the tradition of Card Captor Sakura, Saint Tail, and Magical Girl Pretty Sammy (my personal favorite) comes a girl by the name of Mikan. Before I even opened the book, I knew there was a huge following of this series already. Lucky for me I don’t buy into the hype and try to make my own judgment of books. Mikan is a girl that moves with her friend Hotaru to Tokyo, when Hotaru is accepted to Alice Academy. Come to find out that she too was accepted to attend the school for people with special abilities. While the story moved slowly towards the beginning, I found myself really into the book by the end of the story. I really like the supporting cast as well like Hotaru, Luca, and Yuu. Yes it does seem like your typical “magical girl” story, but throwing in crazy things like the killer teddy bear, mutated chick, and the over the top goofy hijinks makes this manga stand out. Higuchi has a nice and clean artwork that works perfect for stories like this. The only downside is that it’s very simplistic and some characters seem to look like each other. B+

Story & Art: Masashi Tanaka
Publisher: CMX

You may be wondering why I didn’t give credit to a translator and an adaptator, I’m not even sure if that’s the proper title for that job. Well, this book has no dialogue or narration, just pictures and wonderful pictures at that. About 10 years ago DC released the Gon books under their Paradox Press label and I was hooked from the very first book. Now under the CMX label the books are being rereleased in a smaller and more affordable format with the original color and b&w art. Gon is a little dinosaur (I believe Tyrannosaurus) that roams the wilderness minding his own business and defending the weak animals of the forests. As an artist telling a story without words is probably the greatest challenge. A story with no humans and just cartoonish animals and a small dinosaur is a great accomplishment. Tanaka is a master at storytelling. Not only is every panel filled with gorgeous and detailed art, but the entire book is done in this perfect sequential art form. I can’t praise the book enough. Sure it reads fast, but you’ll be looking at the amount of detail for days. A+

Story: Eiji Otsuka
Art: Sho-U Tajima
Translation & Adaptation: Michael Niyama
Publisher: CMX

I was a little confused with the way the book was printed, because this book feels and looks like a manga, but for some reason it reads left to right like a manhwa. Well anyway, on to the review. Madara is your stereotypical boy destined to be the great savior of his village and possibly the world. While an invasion of his village causes him to release the true power of his mechanical limbs along with Kirin he sets on a journey to face the demons that threaten his world. Of course the reason he is doing this is because the village blacksmith’s dying words are a revelation that Madara’s real body parts were divided amongst King Miroku’s eight generals. In order to restore his real body he must destroy these eight generals. The story really feels like an RPG; searching for pieces of something and taking on eight castles with eight generals are all elements of RPGs. While I have a special place in my heart for games of that genre it still doesn’t fix what was wrong with the story. It’s just really predictable and confusing at times with names of towns and people that are just an over abundance of information. The main characters are one dimensional and can be annoying at times. The art is very 90s manga art style and while I consider it great, some people might think it looks out dated. However, it can be confusing at times and the over the top gore doesn’t add anything to the story. C-

Missing: Spirited Away
Story: Gakuto Coda
Translation: Andrew Cunnigham
Cover & interior design: Jose Macasocol Jr.
Publisher: Tokyopop

I’m just going to tell you right now that this book has nothing to do with the Studio Ghibli movie Spirited Away. Since I’m a huge fan of Miyazaki I saw the title of this book and got really excited thinking it was a novelization of that great movie. Was I let down that it had nothing to do with the movie? Sure. Did the book itself let me down? Absolutely not. Missing is a modern fantasy/horror novel that involves high school students that deal with supernatural events. Kyochi Utsume disappeared when he was a small boy. Vanished from our world and has recently returned to the human world. It turns out that he and his brother were captured by a kami-kakushi as kids. This encounter left Kyoichi with the ability to smell the other world. Since his brother didn’t make it back with him, he wears nothing but black in his honor and he seems to frighten people with this look. Ayame was once a creature of the other world, but now lives in ours and when the two meet nothing will ever be the same. Damn, I couldn’t put this book down. The adaptation was amazing, the language was perfect and a bit romanticized, and the story sometimes left me with a little creepy feeling inside. I highly recommend this book and I just found out there was a manga adaptation I need to check out. A

Story & Art: Tsutomu Nihei
Translation: Stephen Paul
Adaptation: Nathan Johnson
Publisher: Tokyopop

This story is set in the world of BLAME. While I have never read Blame, I am familiar with Nihei’s work on Wolverine: Snikt and the Halo graphic novel. After reading this book, I really don’t think it’s necessary to read BLAME to understand what is going on here, but I really want to now. Detective Musubi Susono and her partner Kloser are investigating child kidnappings. Right after they find the missing children murdered, Kloser is viciously murdered and Susono is caught in a cat and mouse game with the killer. With her identity wiped out from the citizen registry she has to survive on her own without the use of assistance from society. I really dug the artwork, it’s sketchy, dark, and use of heavy inks makes it hard to follow sometimes, but you get used to it. I can’t imagine another type of art style working for a book with an incoherent story such as this one. Yeah, unfortunately that is the flaw of the book, while the story could have been great, it just didn’t make much sense. I’m not sure if the parasites were successful infecting the city or what. I just wish there was more to this story. B-

Comments Off on Monday Manga Reviews: We gots maids, magical girls, and even little dinosaurs!