Tag Archives: manga review

May Bonus Review: Ohimesama no Himitsu

Let’s go back to talking about manga. To be specific, let’s talk about a fairly recent manga from Morinaga Milk. I’ve actually talked about her before when I did a manga review for Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo. This time around I’ll be looking at Ohimesama no Himitsu, which had chapters published from late 2012 to early 2015. Is it as good as the last one I looked at? Let’s see. And yes, this would have normally gone up yesterday. Sorry, it slipped my mind.

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Story:

Fujiwara Nagisa is seemingly distant and difficult to talk to. She’s a part of the volleyball team and highly admired at her school. One day, Nishie Miu, a student at the same school, finds her in the hallway where she’s accidentally broken the principal’s prized vase. Fujiwara asks her not to tell anyone, since she was skipping practice under false pretences and doesn’t want her team mates to find out. When Fujiwara says she’ll do anything, Miu asks her to go out with her under the pretence that it’ll be good date practice, but she quickly realises it’s a selfish request and apologises. Surprisingly, Fujiwara is okay with it and agrees. Yuri ensues.

The only thing that I can really criticise about the writing in this manga is that it could have used a bit more time to better develop the attraction between our leads.

That being said, there’s a lot I really adored about the story-telling. I like that the main obstacle to their romance is the pretence of dating for practice. I liked the overall romance arc. The way Miu’s mother reacts to the situation is superb. I won’t spoil it but it’s brilliant. There are also a lot of clever subversions to the manga. It briefly sets up the idea of a love triangle but resolves it without a bunch of mewling melodrama. The main source of dramatic tension is less over whether they’ll get together and more over how Miu’s propensity towards falsehoods will impact their relationship and affect her personally. Which I appreciate. I also do love how the “blackmail” aspect is handled. Miu thinks of herself as getting Fujiwara to date her through blackmail but Fujiwara sees it as an opportunity to have someone she can spend time with since her class mates are intimidated by her and never really thinks of it as blackmail.

Characters:

Character writing is probably Morinaga’s greatest strength. She is stellar at writing characters who are complex, have verisimilitude and share really strong dynamics. And that strength is very well on display here. In spite of the short length, the characters act and speak in very natural ways. Even those side characters who show up very briefly feel real. With Miu & Fujiwara, she uses some inner monologues in text boxes to give us a lot of insight into their thoughts and feelings, which really serves to make us empathise with them. The way their dynamic develops is excellent.

Art:

I do rather like Morinaga’s art style. She draws faces really expressively and puts in a lot of nice little background details, for those panels that have backgrounds instead of various effects meant to illustrate the mood. In this manga, I actually like all the princess imagery that she employs to fit with the aesthetic.

Final Thoughts:

Ohimesama no Himitsu is a damn good love story. While there are some aspects that could have been extrapolated on a bit better, the narrative was still excellent. The characters were outstanding and the artwork is superb. My final rating is going to stand at an enthusiastic 9.5/10. If you’re a fan of romance works, they don’t get much better than this. As for next month’s bonus review, I’ll try and get it out towards the middle of the month. Try and guess what kind of super hero thing it’ll be. (I’m joking because so many of these have been about super hero media.) 

Fu-Fu: Her Beloved Wife

Fu-fu is a manga serialised in Comic Yuri Hime S. It was written by Minamoto Hisanari, a man who also contributed to Kantai Collection & Di Gi Charat anthologies. I happened to stumble upon it and decided I’d review it for all of you.

Story:

Two young ladies, Sumi and Kinana, move in together in order to live as wives. The manga covers their daily lives as they enjoy their relationship and encounter other quirky lesbians, including Kina’s sister and the couple next door. This one s really light on the story. There’s a definite order to the events, but the chapters are mostly fluffy, cutesy romance with some comedic elements. Overall, both elements are pretty solid. The romance is largely really adorable and most of the humour does work well. There are some strong lines of dialogue as well. Just don’t expect anything beyond those two elements. I do appreciate that they subvert the abusive relationship comedic trope by having a girl who play hits her partner while making it clear that she doesn’t actually hurt her but I also think it gets over-used to the point where it loses its impact.

Characters:

The series has pretty basic characters. They aren’t basic to the point of being archetypical but they aren’t incredibly complex either. In spite of that, the cast works well for what the series is doing and there are some strong interactions among the characters. Not just the romantic banter, either. There’s some good stuff between the siblings and with several other characters who aren’t romantically linked.

Art:

The art is mostly decent. I will say that Minamoto is really good at drawing animals. I will also give him credit for keeping things classy and not delving into fan-service. However, he is also pretty lazy at drawing backgrounds. A lot of the panels don’t bother having them or they’ll have something very basic. The manga also suffers a bit from characters who look really similar to each other, and not just the twins.

Ho-yay:

There’s a heavy emphasis on flirtation and the girls getting cuddly with one another. You know that they’re doing more than that beyond closed doors, but the most you ever actually see are some kisses.

Final Thoughts:

This manga is pretty good. It’s a quick, entertaining read with lots of cute moments and some really funny ones. If you’re looking for something light and fluffy, this may very well be the romance for you. I give it a 7/10.

Angel Sanctuary Volume 3

The second volume of Angel Sanctuary gave us the prophesy of Tokyo’s destruction and we saw Setsuna temporarily transform into the spirit of Alexiel in order to eradicate a creature of Rosiel’s. A creature who used to be human. Rosiel replaced Katan with Kirie, a younger and more naive angel. We also learned that Sara was going to be taken out of the country buy her mother in order to get married to some guy she didn’t know to keep her away from her brother. Which is a worthy cause.

Story: 

Volume three opens with some backstory on how Sakuya and Setsuna first met. this volume actually has a lot about Sakuya, his back story and history with Alexiel. I will give Yuki credit, it is really good stuff and it doesn’t come across as stilted or overly exposition-oriented. We quickly learn that Setsuna is being investigated for the death of Rosiel’s minion.

Kurai approaches Sara in an attempt to get her to be honest with her feelings and Sara gives her the cheap ring that she’s treasured all this time because her brother got it for her. Kurai returns it to Setsuna and tells him that she doesn’t want such a cheap thing. This prompts Setsuna to run after Sara, declaring his love for her just as investigators close in. Sakuya blocks their way so that Setsuna and Sara can escape and be deranged together, confessing to the murder in the process. While that screwed up romance stuff is happening, we learn Katan’s back story and aspects of heaven’s hierarchy. We also find out that he’s given up his plans to kill Setsuna, nice to see that that subplot ultimately went nowhere. Kirie has her own plans to get into Rosiel’s good graces and Setsuna could very well suffer for it. We’re also briefly introduced to two high-ranking angels, the childish Metatron and his minister, Sevothtarte.

The same problem that we saw in the other two volumes is still evident. The story’s getting somewhere, but it’s taking its sweet time at it. There are some parts that get kind of repetitive and some others that we really don’t need. The biggest example is seeing Kirie practice for her plan shortly before she goes out to do it. We really don’t need to see the precise details of her plan. We can figure out what she’s trying to do when she actually goes into action.

On the positive side, the manga is still good at keeping your attention and adding interesting plot lines. I am curious to see how Metatron and Sevothtarte ultimately contribute to the narrative. This manga is also really good at ending its chapters on suspenseful notes to keep the audience invested in what’s going to happen in the next one.

Characters:

Setsuna and Sara are still pretty stagnant as characters. They spend most of this volume getting creepily affectionate. On the positive side, both Katan and Sakuya get developed and fleshed out pretty well. We also learn a bit about Kirie. Katan and Kirie’s back stories also help flesh out Rosiel a bit, making him more compelling as a character. So, we are getting some interesting supporting and antagonistic characters going.

Art: 

This volume cuts down a bit on the otherworldly imagery. there’s still a bit and the artwork remains a strong element with interesting character designs and well done action sequences.

Ho-yay: 

There isn’t much in this volume. At most, you can say that the way Sakuya and Setsuna’s relationship is developing is a bit suspect. Just snog the boy, Setsuna. It’ll be healthier than going after your sister.

Final Thoughts: 

In spite of the slow pacing, this is the strongest volume thus far. I’d have to give it a 7/10, bringing the overall score for the manga up to a 6.3/ 10. I’ll look at volume 4 at a later date and we’ll see if the manga continues to improve.

Angel Sanctuary Volume 2:

The first volume of Angel Sanctuary introduced us to Mudou Setsuna, the human reincarnation of the great angel Alexiel. A couple of demons came to try and awaken him. Meanwhile, Alexiel’s brother, Rosiel was revived by an angel named Katan. Setsuna’s powers awakened for a brief period when his sister Sara, whom he’s in love with, was captured by Rosiel and threatened. We left off with Katan planning on killing Setsuna before his powers fully awaken

Story: 

The second volume opens with a young man taking some drugs, little suspecting that Rosiel is the one giving them out for a sinister purpose which does get revealed mid-way through the volume. We cut to Sara dreaming about her brother. Her mom wakes her for an important announcement, they’re going to move to England where she and Setsuna can’t do incestuous things. Sara decides to go to Setsuna and let him know, interrupting Rosiel’s plan to seduce him while disguised as her. Our currently most compelling character, Kurai, goes to hell to consult with dragon spirits about Alexiel and she’s told that Setsuna will fully awaken, Tokyo will be destroyed and she’ll have a small window to get to Alexiel when that happens

I will say, on the positive side, the story remains fairly interesting with some really compelling ideas. It’s got a lot of fucked up elements, not the least of which is the budding romance between Setsuna and Sara, but they’re pretty deliberate and they kind of work in context. They also do a pretty good job of wrapping up the Ruri sub-plot from the first volume.

On the downside, the pacing is still painfully slow at times. Once again, we get a lot of build up for things that are coming later and it seems like some of it is going to be kind of pointless. The Ruri sub-plot may very well never be mentioned again and ultimately it’s contributed very little even if it was well done in its own right. The cliff hanger of Katan wanting to kill Setsuna hasn’t advanced at all nor was it really mentioned here. I will say, to the manga’s credit, it will almost certainly get a conclusion later on but it’s pretty annoying to have them leave off on it and proceed to ignore it for six chapters.

Characters: 

Setsuna still hasn’t developed much personality. He’s into his sister, doesn’t want her to know and is experiencing angst over it which is being aggravated at this point due to their mother’s plan of leaving for England with her. There’s still not much reason to care about him. At this juncture, you’re more concerned over the grim prophesied fate of Tokyo. This volume does develop Sakuya quite a bit, including answering part of the mystery surrounding him and he is all the more compelling of a character for it. We also get several new characters introduced, Kirie, Raziel and Zaphikel. It’s hard to judge them as characters at this point since they’ve barely had any scenes thus far.

Art: 

The art is much like it was in the first volume. With the same kinds of well sequenced action scenes, good imagery and disturbing gore. I will add that the summoned dragon spirits looked really interesting.

Ho-yay: 

Katan seems to have feelings for Rosiel. Kurai’s fixation on Alexiel seems to be giving way to feelings for Setsuna in his own right. The end of the Ruri sub-plot is a bit homo-erotic as well.

Final Thoughts: 

The second volume of Angel Sanctuary is pretty decent. It does a good job of setting up some intrigue and keeping things interesting enough that you want to find out where it’s going. Unfortunately, it’s still largely build up and the characters remain largely under-developed. I’d have to give it a 6/10 so far. Of course, there are a lot more volumes to go. So it could still improve or go completely off the rails. We’ll examine the third volume at a later date.

Angel Sanctuary Volume 1: A slow beginning

A while back I looked at the Angel Sanctuary OVA. Initially, it was my plan to start looking at the Manga with the point that the OVA left off. However, when going through the manga again I realised just how much it leaves out. It basically goes through more than three volumes of material in three episodes. As such, I’m going to start the look at the manga at the beginning. With the first volume.

Story:

We open with Kurai and Arachne who have just fought their way through angels to get to Earth in order to seek out the reincarnation of Alexiel. We quickly skip to where the OVA started, Setsuna in a fight against a group of thugs. He’s doing well until he catches a glimpse of blood, and starts feeling faint. He’s eventually rescued by Sakuya and his sister arrives to berate him for fighting. She’s with her shy friend, Ruri. Meanwhile, a strange game named after the title is causing players’ heads to explode. Ruri is given a copy by a strange fellow before Setsuna can intervene, driving the guy away. The chapters cover the purpose of the disc and Setsuna’s initial encounter with Kurai and Arachne, including the revelation that he’s the reincarnation of the organic angel Alexiel. It also covers his disturbing feelings towards his sister.

On the negative side, it is really slow going. Which is the opposite problem from the absurdly fast-paced OVA. Honestly, most of what happens in the first volume is build up for things that are coming later. Which is fine, but it really could use for build up that’s more interesting in its own right. On the positive side, the premise is interesting and the setup, though it could be better, is good enough that it makes you interested in finding out what the payoff is going to be.

Characters:

This is one of those series where the secondary characters are more interesting than the protagonists. Setsuna doesn’t develop much of a personality in the first volume. He has feelings for his sister but doesn’t want her to know and experiences angst over it. His character may develop more later, but at this juncture there’s not much reason to give a damn about him. In fact, the only character you really get a good sense of is Kurai since you see her back story, how it ties into what she’s doing and get an idea of how it’s impacted the character she is at this point. Katan also has some interesting elements to him and you get some sense of mystery for Rosiel, Arachne and Sakuya but it’s all buildup at this point.

Art:

The art is pretty strong. The action sequences are well sequenced and there’s some really good imagery. The violent scenes are pretty damn brutal too. You’d almost think that Yuki Kaori has a thing for dismemberment.

Ho-yay:

There’s a bit. It’s shown that Kurai was in love with Alexiel and that she’s disappointed over her reincarnating as a man.

Final Thoughts:

Angel Sanctuary volume 1 is pretty decent. It gives the readers some intrigue to start things out and some compelling mysteries to encourage further reading. But it suffers from being slow and a lot of the characters are under-developed at this point. For this volume, I’ll give a 6/10. I’ll look at the second volume at a later point, maybe next week it depends on the response to this one, and we’ll see if it improves.

Manga Review: Metroid

I have a special fondness for the Metroid franchise and basically every game in it, except for that one atrocity committed by Team Ninja in 2010. Why Nintendo thought that the group known for their jiggle physics would write a female character respectfully is beyond me. Getting back on topic, in the early 2000s, before that thing stained the franchise, there was a sixteen chapter manga written by Tazawa Kouji and drawn by Ishikawa Kenji. Was it a preview of the horrible thing that was to come to the franchise or is it a worthy part of the lore?

Story:

We open with chibi Samus on a mining colony with her parents. The Chozo come seeking the rare material they’re gathering but they get turned down because all they have has already been scheduled to be delivered. The Chozo leave peaceably, but the space pirates promptly show up, led by Ridley. The Chozo return seeing that everything has been razed and everyone is dead save one small child, Samus. They decide to take her to their world, Zebes, and infuse her with Chozo DNA for science. Actually, it’s because her frail human body won’t be able to survive on Zebes for long. As she gets older they help her hone her superhuman abilities and train her to protect the peace in their stead. They also gift her with her iconic power suit. Eventually, she separates from them at their urging and works with the federation, at least for a time.

There are some plot details in this that Team Ninja re-purposed for their pile of excrement. The difference is that in here they’re interesting and handled pretty well, whereas in that it was the exact opposite. Honestly, the biggest problem in this manga is the pacing. They skip over and rush through quite a bit. There are times where they really do have to for the story and towards the end they skim over a lot just because they’re covering material from Super Metroid but there are other times where it feels like a lazy way to change Samus’ character without actually having to show her develop. To be fair, there aren’t many moments like that and they do show the impetuses behind her changes even if they don’t show the changes themselves, but there are a couple. On the positive side, the narrative is really compelling and there are a lot of good moments. The world building is superb. The story also manages to keep its dramatic tension well in spite of the fact that you know basically how things are going to go down if you’re familiar with the games.

Characters:

One thing this manga does spectacularly is fleshing out Samus’ character. They also show her development out of naivete and into a true warrior and all around badass. There are some cool side characters too. Particularly Samus’ former partners from when she was in the federation, Kreatz & Mauk. You also get some insight into Mother Brain and Ridley.

Art:

Ishikawa’s artwork is mostly really good. There are some points where the action doesn’t flow all that smoothly (not many but some) and there are moments where the federation ships look like boots for some reason but it’s mostly well done with good action sequences, expressive faces and really interesting character designs. The artwork on the various Metroid creatures is really good and you can tell that he either knows the games well or at least did his research so that he could make them mesh with their game portrayals.

Ho-yay:

There’s a young girl who acts a bit like she has a one-sided crush on Samus but there’s really not any romance in this manga. Which is good since Metroid doesn’t need any of that.

Final Thoughts:

This manga is actually really good. Whether you’re a fan of the games it’s based off of or not, it’s a compelling sci-fi story with interesting characters, and strong action sequences. It is better if you’re a fan of the games, but it’s not required. For myself, I give this one a solid 8/10.

Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo: Fluffy Goodness

Okay, before I begin the actual review let me congratulate all of my readers from the United States. I heard about the Supreme Court decision. Congratulations on being the 21st country to take that step. It seems only fitting that we celebrate with a look at a yuri manga.

So, let’s talk about manga. This will be my first time reviewing a manga rather than an anime. Now, if I do more of these let me establish a few criteria I’ll be using. Like anime, I won’t be reviewing porn. Nor will I be reviewing fan works. and, finally, I won’t be reviewing any manga that have anime adaptations unless the anime adaptation is significantly different or incomplete.

Let’s talk about Milk Morinaga, possibly one of the most iconic yuri manga writers out there. She’s had a lot of published manga and no anime adaptations as far as I know. Although Girl Friends did get an audio drama. Girl Friends is her best known work, but I’m going to be looking at Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo, which was my introduction to her writing and what got me into it.

Story: 

There are multiple stories within the manga. Slightly over half of it, chapters 1 & 5-12 all focus on Nana and Hitomi, two girls who were really close friends until they went to separate High schools. After a while, they meet up again and Nana quickly realises that Hitomi has been harbouring feelings for her for a long time. Hitomi confesses, kissing Nana and Nana tells her they don’t have to be just friends and kisses her back. So, the two of them become a couple pretty much right away in the very first chapter. The other eight chapters of their story focus on the ups and downs of their relationship. Culminating in a crisis when Hitomi’s father tells her that they’re going to be moving overseas.

I don’t really have anything negative to say about Nana and Hitomi’s story. Their relationship develops really well and has a lot of good moments. I also like that the story doesn’t focus on how they get together but what’s in store for them after it happens. Because, frankly, a romance trying to get drama out of whether or not the couple will get together usually doesn’t work all that well since the audience knows how it’s going to end. It’s just a matter of how it’s going to happen. Rather, it focuses on the drama of their relationship and the everyday things that happen to them. It is handled effectively and I do love the ending.

The other six chapters are all one-shot stories set in the same schools that Nana and Hitomi attend and focusing on relationships between girls. Some of which are one-sided, some of which are ambiguous and some of which are reciprocated.

Honestly, the only side story I really don’t like is the second chapter. Basically, it involves a ghost possessing a student so that she can spend time with the girl she liked who is now the nurse at the school. The first problem with it is that it’s the only story to involve any supernatural elements, which makes it not fit with the rest very well. There’s also the teacher and student thing.

The rest of the stories are well written and manage to illustrate some interesting dynamics between the main girls. Some of them are almost problematic but Morinaga is good at treading that line without going too far.

Characters: 

I do like the characters in the collection. Aside from the ghost girl. One of the strengths of having several one-shot stories is that Morinaga can illustrate different relationship dynamics among these girls. They’re all fleshed out characters as well who feel like they could be real people, with the obvious exception.

Art: 

The artwork is really well done. There’s a bit of nudity, but it’s very much handled tastefully rather than used for tawdry fan-service. Although the girls from chapter four look strangely like Honoka and Nagisa from Futari Wa Precure. I don’t know if it was deliberate or not but the resemblance is pretty uncanny.

Ho-yay: 

Naturally, this yuri manga is as yuririffic as any you’ll find. So, it has that going for it.

Final Thoughts: 

Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo is a superb collection. There’s one weak chapter out of fourteen. If you’re looking for a cute, well-written yuri romance, this has several. As well as some more bittersweet, but still well written stories. I do recommend checking it out if you like romance stuff. My final rating is a 9/10.