The Case Study of Vanitas Vol 1 Review

vanitas‘The Case Study of Vanitas’ is the newest manga by Jun Mochizuki, the mangaka behind the hit series ‘Pandora Hearts’. Being a fan of that series I was interested in seeing what this new story was all about. The cover of this manga tempted me with promises of more lovely steam punk fantasy adventures and the description of the book seemed to hint at an exciting tale involving two male leads, who would develop a close relationship over the course of the story that would tease it’s readers with hopes that it might develop into something romantic, but then never actually deliver on that. Of course, I was intrigued.

The story begins with our hero, Noé, traveling to Paris on an airship, when he encounters a young lady who seems to be ill. This girl turns out to actually be a vampire who has been infected with some kind of magical malady that is rumored to be caused by a special book that was created by an outcast Vampire by the name of Vanitas. At this point a mysterious character breaks into the ship, seemingly in pursuit of the vampire maiden. Noé tries to intervene and protect the girl, revealing himself to also be a vampire in the process. But the mystery man turns out to actually be trying to cure the girl, using the book of Vanitas from the legend! Noé wants to learn the truth about the book and ends up joining forces with the weird man who calls himself a vampire doctor and claims to have inherited both the book and the name of Vanitas from the original vampire from the legend.

Jun Mochizuki is great at drawing fun characters that play off of each other in amusing ways. I immediately liked Noé and I love his interactions with the other characters. Noé comes off as being serious most of the time but he is a touch naïve and occasionally lets his emotions get the better of him, and these outbursts are often hilarious. Also, he has a cute cat named Murr!

Vanitas, on the other hand,  is a more dramatic, out-there and, frankly, unbalanced character. Vanitas seems to say whatever is on his mind and easily gets carried away when he gets an idea into his head. At times this is funny, but he can also come off as a real creep. At one point in the story he suddenly decides that he is in love with a female character that had been fighting our leads moments earlier. Upon this revelation, Vanitas decides to forcibly kiss her in a scene that is pretty uncomfortable, especially considering our ‘heroes’ were holding one of her comrades hostage at the time. I’m not sure if this was intended to be funny or if the mangaka was trying to show us that Vanitas is a huge jerk. If it was the later, I guess mission accomplished. I wouldn’t say that this scene ruined my enjoyment of the book, but it definitely soured my opinion of Vanitas’ character. Perhaps this was intentional on the authors part, as there is a lot of mystery surrounding Vanitas and how he came to acquire the book and his name, and I’m not sure if we are meant to trust that this unstable individual is an entirely good person. I guess I will need to wait and see where this goes in future volumes.

The art in this series is beautiful! The steampunk inspired period costumes all look great and designs of the airship and backgrounds are lovely. I think that the characters are where Jun Mochizuki’s art really shines (some of their expressions are just adorable), but she is good at drawing entertaining action scenes as well. I laughed out loud at a couple of parts during the fights and I found it easy to follow what was going on.

Overall this was a fun read with plenty of laughs, action and intrigue. I can’t say I was sold on every aspect of the manga, as I mentioned I’m not sure how much I’m going to like Vanitas, but I did really like our main character Noé, and there is plenty of mystery surrounding both our main leads backstories that has me interested in reading more. I imagine I’ll be picking up volume two, when it comes out.

Final Grade: B+

For more information on this series, visit Yen Press’ website: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/none/The-Case-Study-of-Vanitas-Vol-1/9780316552813/?yen

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Tsubasa World Chronicle: Niraikanai Vol 1-3

tsubasa‘Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle’ is probably my favorite series by CLAMP (or maybe xxxHolic, it depends on the day), so when I heard that it was getting a continuation I was psyched! Even if it meant that another of my favorite CLAMP series needed to be put on hiatus while they worked on this… Again… *Sigh*

‘Tsubasa World Chronicle’ begins not too long after the end of Reservoir Chronicle. Syaoran, Kurogane, Fai and Mokona are continuing on their journey and have landed in a new country called Nirai Kanai. This world seems peaceful and idyllic, but before long the gang discovers that there is darkness lurking at the edges of this kingdom and they are quickly roped into helping out. But things get complicated when Syaoran starts seeing things the others can’t. What’s more, he’s having mysterious dreams about the other Syaoran! Is there a chance that the two can be reunited?

So did this new story hold up to the high expectations that I had, going in as a fan of the original? As a continuation, this series delivered on almost all of what I wanted from it! It’s great to see Syaoran, Kurogane, Fai and, of course, Mokona, hanging out and going on more adventures together. The relationships that were built over the course of Reservoir Chronicles really shine through here. I found it really heart warming to see Mokona’s playful teasing of Kurogane and to see Kurogane and Fai acting like Syaoran’s worried parents! I really love these characters and I’m glad to get the chance to see their journey continue. What’s more World Chronicle continues the tradition of crossing over with xxxHolic, so we get to see Watanuki from xxxHolic Rei too! As with Reservoir Chronicle, there are also alternate versions of characters from other CLAMP series that make an appearance. This includes Kujaku from RG Veda and several of the main characters from Gate 7. Which is pretty fun to see, since Gate 7 has also gone on hiatus… *Sigh*

The art, as usual, is fantastic. The character designs look great, with the gang getting new costumes for the new kingdom. The action scenes are easy to follow and the dramatic moments pack a powerful emotional punch, thanks to the wonderful expressions on the characters faces.

The only complaint that I have with World Chronicle is that I wish this series hadn’t been so short! But the ending left me with some hope that there could be more Tsubasa in the future. In fact, hopefulness is how I would sum up the feelings I got from this series. Not only was I left with a feeling that there could be more Tsubasa in the future, but I was left with hope that one of the big tragedies from the original series might be made right, should the manga continue.

If you’re a fan of the original series then this is a must read! If you haven’t read ‘Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle’ then I definitely suggest that you start there. I also recommend that you read xxxHolic and xxxHolic Rei in order to better understand the crossover components. They’re great series too!

Final Grade: A

For more information on Tsubasa World Chronicle check out Kodansha Comic’s website: http://kodanshacomics.com/series/tsubasa-world-chronicle/

 

December Manga

It’s December! A time for giving, spending time with family and spreading good will towards mankind. And, of course, a time for shopping!

This month, I am most looking forward to the debut volumes of ‘Seven Princes of the Thousand Year Labyrinth’ and ‘The Case Study of Vanitas’. ‘Seven Princes’ is a rare Josei title about a group of young men trying to survive in a labyrinth, and ‘Case Study of Vanitas’ is the newest series from the mangaka of ‘Pandora Hearts’. These both look like interesting fantasy titles with great art and I’m excited to give them a try.

Another book I’m eager to pick up is the second volume of ‘Cells at Work’. The first volume was a lot of fun, as well as educational, and I’m looking forward to seeing more. Be sure to check out my review of volume one here.

Here’s the complete list of what I’ll be buying this month:

  • Seven Princes of the Thousand Year Labyrinth Vol 1
  • Danganronpa: The Animation Vol 3
  • Goodnight Punpun Vol 4
  • Yona of the Dawn Vol 3
  • Afterschool Charisma Vol 12
  • Of the Red, the Light and the Ayakashi Vol 5
  • Cells at Work Vol 2
  • The Case Study of Vanitas Vol 1
  • Love Stage Vol 6
  • Lumberjanes Vol 5 (not manga, but OMG! So good!)

Shuriken and Pleats Series Review

shuriken‘Shuriken and Pleats’ is a two volume shojo series by Matsuri Hino, the same mangaka behind the hit franchise ‘Vampire Knight’. ‘Vampire Knight’, while a huge success, was a bit too morose for my tastes, not too mention, I found that it got kind of weird in the later volumes. If you’re like me and didn’t enjoy ‘Vampire Knight’, don’t let that deter you from checking out ‘Shuriken and Pleats’! This series was a lot of fun and worth picking up, regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of this artist’s other works.

Mikage Kirio is a ninja living in the modern age and working in the service of a kind, older man whom she has fallen in love with. Despite Mikage’s vigilant efforts to protect her master, disaster strikes and he is tragically killed. His last wish was for Mikage to leave the ninja life and live as a normal girl, and he leaves behind the means for her to travel to Japan and begin anew. Almost as soon as she arrives in Japan, however, Mikage stumbles upon an assassination attempt on a young man by the name of Mahito Wakashimatsu. After she saves his life, Mahito hires her to protect him and Mikage discovers that he was actually a colleague of her deceased master! Will Mikage be able to discover the truth of what happened to her master? And will she ever be able to live as a normal school-girl?!

This series may be short, but it’s packed with action and twists and turns that are sure to keep you guessing as to what’s going to happen next. Mikage is an interesting main character and a refreshingly competent fighter. All to often, female characters, who are supposed to be tough, spend a great deal of time needing to be saved or encouraged by male love interests. Mikage on the other hand is the one doing all of the rescuing in this series and I loved seeing her kick butt! She’s stoic, courageous and loyal and a great lead for this story. Her love for her master may border on obsessive, but the series is fairly self aware about this aspect of her character and pokes fun of it on a couple of occasions, which I found to be hilarious.

One minor complaint that I have with the plot is that the romance aspect of the story doesn’t end up going in the direction that I expected and leaves off in an unusual place. Overall, however, I was satisfied with how things ended, and I felt like the conclusion made sense.

The art in this manga is emotive and heavy on dark screen tones, that fit the dramatic tone of the series. Fans of Matsuri Hino’s other works can be assured that this series showcases the same lovely art that they’ve come to expect from her.

If you’re looking for a fun action manga that features a strong female protagonist and great art, this is worth checking out.

Final Grade: B+

For more information on this series check out Viz Media’s website: http://www.viz.com/shuriken-and-pleats

Cells at Work vol 1 Review

cells-at-work“Cells at Work” by Akane Shimizu had such a unique sounding concept that I just had to give it a read. This manga takes place inside the human body and opens on a hardworking red-blood cell in the middle of carrying out her delivery duties. Suddenly, she is attacked by an invading force of bacteria! Just when all seems lost, a white-blood cell appears to defend her. But will he and his colleagues be able to defeat all of the disease causing bacteria and save the day?

This set up might sound a lot like Osmosis Jones, with anthropomorphized cells carrying out their lives inside a city like vision of the human body, but Akane Shimizu puts her own personal spin on the idea. “Cells at Work” is actually very educational, with lots of factual data presented in text boxes to explain what the rolls of different types of cells are and to give background info on things like the bacteria. I actually feel like this manga could be used in biology classes as a way to make learning about the immune system more interesting. I learned a few new things myself and I liked having all these details sprinkled throughout the panels. But that’s not to say that this isn’t also an entertaining manga! There are plenty of gags that had me chuckling and the action scenes were pretty exciting and surprising bloody. There isn’t much in the way of an overarching story, instead, each chapter the cells are forced to tackle a different scenario, such as: seasonal allergens, diseases and scrapes. It was fun to see how the cells overcame these various challenges and I am looking forward to more.

The art in this book looks great. The character designs suit the narrative, with the different types of cells wearing different types of uniforms that fit their roles, and all of the bacteria having cool, alien-like designs that reflect both their nature as invaders and their real life appearances.

If there is one weakness to the story it would be that the earnest red-blood cell and the stoic white-blood cell are more archetypes then they are characters. We really aren’t given much information on them or given much insight into their personalities. Of course, the focus of the manga is more on the episodic scenarios and how the human body reacts to them then on a character driven narrative, so I didn’t feel that this detracted from my enjoyment of the story.

This is both an informative and fun look at the immune system and human body, with action, humor and education all rolled into one. I’ll defiantly be picking up volume 2!

Final Grade B+

For more information on this manga please visit Kodansha’s website: http://kodanshacomics.com/volume/cells-work-1/

 

 

November Manga

November is shaping up to be a pretty exciting month! I’m psyched for the new Pokémon game coming out on the 18th and, on the manga side of things, there is a particular book that I’ve been waiting a long time for that is finally being released.

Years ago, I heard that the creator of Fruits Basket, one of my all time favorite manga series, was working on a new title. I was certain that it wouldn’t take long for the license to be snapped up and that I would soon have this series on my shelf, beside my other Natsuki Takaya titles, where is belongs. Then the manga bubble burst. Publishers closed and licenses were lost. Years went by and this precious series went unlicensed. That is, until Yen Press finally announced in December of 2015 that they had acquired the license for Twinkle Stars! And this month, this highly anticipated series is finally going to come home with me! It’s been a long wait and I’m sure it will have been worth it.

I’m also looking forward to the final volume of Shuriken and Pleats, a shojo action-romance that I’ve enjoyed much more than I anticipated, and the final volume of Until Death do us Part, a weird action manga that’s sort of a guilty pleasure of mine.

Here’s the full list of what I’ll be buying this month:

  • Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun vol 5
  • Livingstone vol 4
  • Tokyo ESP vol 7
  • Nichijou vol 5
  • Shuriken and Pleats vol 2
  • Ten Count vol 2
  • Oresama Teacher vol 21
  • Karneval vol 6
  • Until Death do us Part vol 13
  • Black Butler vol 23
  • Twinkle Stars vol 1

Phoenix Wright: Spirit of Justice Review

pheonix

Phoenix Wright: Spirit for Justice is the latest game to be released in the Ace Attorney franchise and it’s a thrilling and hilarious addition to the series! With plenty of twists and turns and the triumphant return of several beloved characters from the previous games, Spirit of Justice was a ton of fun to play.

The story starts with Phoenix Wright traveling to the made-up Kingdom of Khura’in in order to be reunited with his old assistant Maya, who is completing her spirit medium training there. Of course, almost immediately after arriving, Phoenix finds himself embroiled in a murder trial. Khura’in trials are a bit different from what we’ve seen before. In this country a special séance is performed by the high priestess, which allows you to view the victims last memories before they were killed. But that’s not all! They also have a rule that if the defendant is found guilty, then their attorney is found guilty of aiding a criminal and must share in their sentence! Meaning the stakes have never been higher for Phoenix and crew, because if their client gets the death penalty, they do too!

This game has everything you’d expect from an Ace Attorney game. The trials offer increasingly complex mysteries to solve and Khura’in is an intriguing country with a complex history to unravel as you navigate your way through the story.  Each case involves a host of hilarious characters, both new and old, and, of course, the long-awaited return of Maya was extremely exciting for a long time fan like myself. It’s great to see her and Phoenix back together again! But this isn’t the only reunion that occurs in this game.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but suffice it to say, there are several big revelations regarding a major character’s past.

The game play remains the same as seen in previous Ace Attorney titles, except for the addition of the séances. Getting a glimpse of the dead’s final moments is a cool idea and it’s incorporated into the trials well. I hope that we’ll be able to see this element return in future games. You also get to switch around and play as several different characters throughout the story, so Phoenix, Apollo and Athena all get their chances to shine. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Athena, but that’s just a nitpick.

If you haven’t played an Ace Attorney game before, you should still be able to follow along with the story, but I recommend that you start from the beginning and play the other games before picking up this one. I feel the story is more impactful if you’re familiar with the characters and there are also several jokes and references to events from previous games that will likely go over your head. If you are a fan of the series, then this is a must buy. Spirit of Justice is a great game and a satisfying continuation to the series that really advances the stories of our heroes. Lots of fun, mystery and excitement await you, so be sure to check it out!

Final Grade: A

For more information check out Nintendo’s website: http://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/phoenix-wright-ace-attorney-spirit-of-justice-3ds 

Seven Seas Manga License Announcements

abigailIn celebration of their 12 year anniversary, Seven Seas Entertainment has been announcing new manga licenses every day over the course of the week!

Of the titles that have been announced so far, I’m most looking forward to “My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness” by Kabi Nagata. This is an autobiographical yuri comic that recounts the authors personal experiences with mental illness, loneliness and sexual exploration.

I’m also interested in “Beasts of Abigaile” by Aoki Spica, a fun looking shojo romance that was loosely inspired by Little Red Riding Hood. Speaking of Little Red Riding Hood, this was apparently a theme with these license, as they also announced: “Red Riding Hood and the Big Sad Wolf” by Hachijou Shin. This is a Josei manga that flips the script on the classic fairy tale and has Red Riding Hood picking on the cry baby wolf. You don’t see that many Josei titles published in North America, so I think I’ll check this one out too.

Here’s the full list of titles that have been announced so far:

  • Otome Mania!!
  • Concrete Revolutio: The Complete Saga
  • Beasts of Abigaile
  • Generation Witch
  • Monster Girl Encyclopedia Volume II
  • Don’t Meddle With My Daughter
  • Red Riding Hood and the Big Sad Wolf
  • Akashic Records of the Bastard Magical Instructor
  • Tales of Zestiria
  • My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness

For more information on these upcoming titles check out Seven Seas Entertainment’s website: http://www.gomanga.com/articles/extraextra/?startnum=1

 

Tomodachi x Monster Vol 1-3 Review

tomodachiDo you love Pokémon, but wish that it had more graphic violence and gruesome death scenes? Then ‘Tomodachi x Monster’ by Yoshihiko Inui just might be the manga for you!

Narimiya Wataru is an elementary school student whose family is constantly moving and, as a result, he doesn’t have any friends. That is, until he meets Peke, a weird little monster whom he finds in the woods and instantly bonds with. No one else seems to be able to see Peke, except for a handful of other children who have their own monster ‘friends’. Unfortunately, these other kids want to battle Narimiya with their ‘friends’ and things quickly turn deadly.

I like the idea behind this manga, taking the basic concept of an innocent children’s franchise, like Pokémon, and putting a dark spin on it. For the first two volumes this idea is executed fairly competently. The monster designs are imaginative, and a combination of creepy and cute that fits the tone of the series well. The action scenes are exciting and easy to follow, with each of the ‘friends’ having unique powers. Narimiya is a pretty likeable main character and I found myself interested in discovering more about what exactly the monsters are and where they came from. There is a lot of gore in this series, so I don’t recommend that you read it if you are squeamish about graphic violence, but, if you can get past that, there is a lot to like about this series.

That is, until the third and final volume. I’m not sure if this series was initially intended to be longer, but it feels like the ending was rushed. A number of seemingly important characters that had been introduced in the first two volumes basically disappear during the final act, including the policemen who were investigating the mysterious deaths and some kids who had teamed up with Narimiya. The true nature of the ‘friends’, while a pretty good twist, is revealed in a clumsy information dump that leaves several questions unanswered. To top it all off, the conclusion is left open ended! Granted, this is a common trope in the horror genre, but I really despise this kind of ending.

Overall, ‘Tomodachi x Monster’ just feels unfinished. There’s some good action and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll get a few laughs from the clear references to Pokémon (Like when one of the villains starts shouting “Got to Kill them all.”), but the disappointing ending makes it hard to recommend this series.

Final Grade: C+

For more information on this series, visit Seven Seas Entertainment’s website: http://www.gomanga.com/books/tomodachi-x-monster/674

 

Yona of the Dawn vol 1-2 Review

yona“Yona of the Dawn” by Mizuho Kusanagi was recently adapted into an anime by the same name. I watched the first episode on Crunchyroll, and enjoyed it enough that I was eager to pick up the manga. I haven’t watched enough of the anime to compare the two, but from what I did see, I think it’s safe to say that, if you are a fan of the anime, then you will also enjoy this manga.

Yona is the princess of the Kingdom of Kohka and her father, the King’s, only heir. She is living an idyllic life; doted on by her father and protected by her childhood friend/bodyguard, General Hak. Her only real concerns are her unusual looking red hair and the fact that the man she is in love with, Su-won, doesn’t seem to be aware of her feelings. All of this changes on her 16th birthday, when a tragedy occurs that throws her life and the fate of her kingdom into chaos.

Yona is a main character who I think some readers might find frustrating initially. She’s naïve and immature and, during the first volume, she does need to get rescued a lot. Personally though, I find her antics to be pretty amusing and I feel that her behavior is realistic of how a slightly spoiled teenager would act in these situations. By volume 2, Yona has already started to grow as a result of the tragedy she’s had to live through and is becoming a much more active heroine who isn’t content to just be protected. It’s looking like this is going to be a story about this young woman coming into her own and I am really excited about the direction that her character seems to be going in.

“Yona of the Dawn” is a manga that I feel has something for everyone. There’s action, adventure, intrigue and romance. The main characters are likeable and interesting. Hak, Yona’s bodyguard, is funny, and I enjoy the dynamic he has with Yona. The villain of the series is complex and there is some mystery surrounding his backstory that has me eager to find out more. The art is detailed, with lots of attention paid to the costumes and the characters expressions. All of these elements combine into a manga that’s just a lot of fun to read. I highly recommend this series to any shojo fans who enjoy having some action and political drama mixed in with their romance stories.

Final Grade: A

For more information on this series, visit Viz Media’s website: http://www.viz.com/read/manga/yona-of-the-dawn-vol-1/12357

Side Note: Long time manga fans might remember Mizuho Kusanagi as the artist behind the old Tokyo Pop series: Mugen Spiral, NG Life and Game x Rush. If you are a fan of any of those series, I definitely recommend checking out Yona of the Dawn!