Saturday, December 19, 2009

Scanlation Get: Akuma na Eros

There is a genre of manga that hasn't seen a whole lot of light in the U.S., with all the manga that is out there what could it be? It's smut aimed at girls (which has a few Japaneses terms but I never find solid information on just what is commonly used). This genre isn't just a few titles either, there are oodles of manga anthology magazines devoted to it. Cheese!, and Sho-comi are just a couple of these magazines. These titles often border the line between shoujo romance and pornography. The romance is often hot and heavy, far more adult then the everyday shoujo comic. Sex is often the main topic of the story, and it happens often. If you are squeamish these are probably not for you as they often contain "consensual rape". Yes, I know what I just wrote...we will just leave it there... I don't even what to say such a concept tells us about Japanese culture. (Though, I have heard from my romance novel reading friends that the concept may not be all that foreign). They in fact have a lot in common with romance novels. Just think of hot bishonen instead of Fabio. They also share a lot of the "darker" (a.k.a. creepy) themes often seen in yaoi.

I've read gobs of these titles. Many contain the same basic plot and structure. What I find interesting is some of the best art I have seen in shoujo manga are from these titles. Royal Seventeen and other titles by Kayono comes to mind. Today's title though is by Mayu Shinjou who is one of the most prolific writers in this genre. Her art much like Kaori Yuki has really evolved over the years. In her older titles the art is just adequate but her more modern titles it is top notch.

Today's title is Akuma na Eros by Mayu Shinjou. This was one of the first smut titles I read and it's still one of my favorites because in some ways it's just so well...insane. Our heroine Miu just happens to have a book of incantations. (Really? Why hell not. This also gets explained in the final volume but the answer is just as bat shit ludicrous). Miu wants "adult body" so she can get the guy she likes at school to notice her (now this sounds like an 80's movie). Of course things don't go as planed but what she gets instead is hot bishie Satan! Yes, I am not kidding Satan is a central character in this story! He grants her the wish of having the heart of the boy she likes because...well, she is a virgin! Satan then promptly anime tropes us as a returning student in Miu's school after a long absence due to sickness. He is also pretty much dicks around with Miu and mentally abuses her a bit, which makes her hot for him. (You know this is how it works in a manga, don't lie to yourself.) At some point Miu and Satan become a couple, but as a story goes on, plot has to get in the way. Which leads to a black sabbath being held and our couple traveling to hell its self. Where we discover the Lords of Hell are also hottie bishonen, and Satan has sex buddies!

The story is kind of rambling and predictable, in other ways it's kind bizarrely surprising. The most interesting part of it is the really Satan angle, it is not something I've seen all that often (or ever). Miu starts out as the normal weak willed girl that plagues so many titles, but she does become a bit stronger of a character by the end. Satan is holds pretty true to the male lead in these types titles, a bad guy with a heart of gold (at least for the girl). Since he is Satan though and not random street punk, like in a lot of the smut titles, it gives him a bit of an edge. Really this is a title that works only as a whole and is really more entertaining then it should be.

The art in it is fair, it's from 2001 and it shows. Art still has a very 90's anime look to it, and a lot of tone effects that was very common for the time period. Shinjou's art since then has really gone up by leaps and bounds, but by no means does is the art in Akuma na Eros bad. The lines are strong and there is a lot of detail it just never escapes beyond the 90's.

This strange title is worth a look at, it was a lot of fun to read. The story is predictable and absurd but that is part the title's charm. If you have ever been interested in the world of girl sumt manga or just like stories with angels and demons in it (who all happen to be hot), it is worth checking out.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Scanlation Get: Gokinjo Monogatari

So Paradise Kiss is one of my favorite manga of all time. I love the characters, the drama, and most of all the collaborative sense of creating something. What I didn’t know my first time reading it though, was the fact that Paradise Kiss is a spin-off of another manga called Gokinjo Monogatari (a.k.a. Neighborhood Story). Gokinjo Monogatari was one of Ai Yazawa’s earlier works, which features a much different art style then she uses today, but still has a lot of that same sense of fun, teen drama, and creation that permeate many of her other works.

The story is about Mikako (Miwako’s older sister in Paradise Kiss) a girl in high school who hopes to become a fashion designer one day. She and her neighbor Tsutomu have been friends since they were small children, until one day she realizes she might like him a bit more then she originaly thought. The problem being is he is already going out very popular girl at school, Mariko. It puts a strain on their friendship for a while until things get worked about between Mikako and Tsutomu and that where the story starts to pick up. We meet their group of friends, and see some of the normal shoujo devices, love triangles, family problems, drama, and high school. We also see a group of friends having a lot of good times along with the drama, and see a group of friends driven to be creative and work for what they want in life.

The art is very different then in Paradise Kiss but in no way is it of less quality. It has that distinct 90’s anime style to it, but it also has Yazawa’s stamp all over it. There are a lot of strong thick lines used giving it a more cartoonish style, but it is very well drawn. The outfits while not as perennial as the ones seen in Paradise Kiss are cute and adorable. While I may say the clothes are all not as timeless, much of it I could imagine teens today wearing. Which I think helps keep this manga fresh, as a lot of the time clothes can very much date a title.

This has a great cast of character and a great story, with a much more grounded look at the world then a lot of other shoujo manga has. It’s almost slice of life, but still has strong plot elements; it seems to be drifting along but with a goal in mind. If you have read Paradise Kiss or just like teen drama shoujo manga I highly recommend it. If you have read Paradise Kiss I highly suggest reading it again after Gokinjo Monogatari, as I noticed tons of new things that hint back to this story that were very amusing and cute.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Scanlation Get: Ludwig Revolution

Today's Scanlation Get! Is Ludwig Revolution by Kaori Yuki. You know the chick that did those other titles like Angel Sanctuary, Fairy Cube, and Godchild? She is back with Ludwig Revolution and in high style. This time perhaps with a less convoluted plot and more camp, but damn does everyone in Ludwig look good. In this title she ramps up fairy tales and fables element that she used in Godchild and puts it to some really good use. This time coming up with a mix of anime sensibilities art and story wise, classic tales, and gothic styling. Ludwig Revolution is also a black comedy at it's core, using some of the dark parts of Grimm's Fairy Tales that today we are not so familiar with and more modern issues with we deal with today.

The story is about a prince but not just any old prince, this prince is incredibly narcissistic, caustic, and vain. What Ludwig wants, he gets, and he wants to look hot. He has the habit of forcing his servant Wilhelm into all sorts of terrible situations, some times even at gun point. His hobbies include such wonderful things as collecting corpses of beautiful women. Ludwig's father the King has had enough of his attitude and hobbies and forces Ludwig out to go find a bride. Ludwig agrees only so he doesn't have to deal with his father anymore. From here Ludwig and Wilhelm go on an adventure where they run into many famous fairy tale characters. Kaori Yuki takes an interesting take on all of the characters giving them more personality then in the original tales. Some she strays a bit far, Hansel and Gretel are assassins for example, and Snow White is deviously dark but the end to her story much closer to the original tale then one might think.

The art in short is just beautiful. Chock full of detail on every page, stronger panel placement then the average shoujo titles, the flow of the story is very clear. The character design is very modern while featuring a classic look in clothes and setting. Her men are, if you know her works, unsurprisingly gorgeous. Even the women her works are very attractive and sexy. Which is something I find missing from a lot of shoujo where a lot of girls and women are very average, especially in stories where men are the main attraction.

If you like dark fairy tales and sometimes even darker comedy, or if you just love stories with wonderful art, I really recommend this title.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Review: Yokai's Hunger

Today's title is Yokai's Hunger (a.k.a. Yami ni Tooboe, Mune ni Toge) by Naono Bohra.

So, the other week I had gotten into a conversation with my friends and I mentioned I had a favorite Yaoi author. My male friends said that was pretty much akin to having a favorite porn star. My man friends told me you have to watch too much porn to have a favorite porn star. Now, I thought all guys had a favorite porn star. I thought that was part of the guy code like having a pirate and porn name ready just in case it ever comes up in life. Of course there is also the zombie contingency plan, which I’m almost all the male friends I know have one. So I don’t think it’s all that strange, to have a favorite porn star or yaoi author. In truth though, I probably have read too much yaoi manga.

I’ve read so much yaoi in fact that I don’t like a vast quantity of it anymore because the basic yaoi story is just done to death. Take one guy who is masculine by manga shoujo standards and one guy who could be a 14 year old girl with short hair and put them together and angst ensues (ah, if only it could be wacky hijinks). As I’ve gotten older I’ve found this less and less appealing. I like manga that both characters look like adult men (OMG I can’t believe it either!), and have some semblance of a plot. I’m not expecting an epic here but just something more to the story then boy-a meets boy-b angst and butt sex ensues.

Now you know more about me then you probably wanted to know, but I just wanted to give some perspective when it comes to reading my reviews on this subject. Isn’t it tasty? So, who is this fabled favorite yaoi author? It’s Naono Bohra.

Part of what I find about Naono Bohra’s manga is that she does a lot of stories with a plot; she seems to have a bit of a fetish for older men (which in turn has cased me to have a bit of a fetish for older men), and/or having someone with some sort of a disability in her stories.

Now that you heard me blather on about yaoi manga for way to long, here is actual review. Yokai’s Hunger is about a young man name Norito just finishing high school living alone and working as a part-time waiter to survive. Norito has lived a pretty solitary life, why you ask? It seems whenever someone gets close to him, bad things happen to them. Well, as we know since this is a yaoi manga that can’t last long, and one day he runs into a middle aged man called Koma, who turns out to be some sort of demon. Norito is then informed that he and Koma where lovers in a past life and are tied together by a "Sigil Oath". This oath has caused a blood mark on Norito’s chest which causing demons to look for the source of power coming from it. Koma then informs him he no longer has to worry though since he is there to take care of him from now on. Wacky hijinks then ensue! No really! They do! There is a bit of angst here and here but never does the story dwell on it like a lot of yaoi manga does.

Later we get meet some of Koma’s brothers who come to stay with Norito and Koma. There seems to be some in fighting in the family, causing some tension. We start getting into some back ground on the family and how they once fought God. This is where the story gets a bit to muddled for its own good. None of this is explained all that well and ends up being a bit confusing. This ends up being the weakest part of this manga. The strong points I think are a lot of the cute “family” parts at Noritos home where they have some cute hijinks, and get to see the sweet relationship between Norito and Koma.

The art in this book is terrific, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is very well drawn from a technical stand point. While the manga still has some “yaoi proportions” (being incredibly lanky and extra long limbs and fingers), but not nearly as over the top as a lot of other titles in this genre. Also of note all the men in this look like men by anime standards, as in no one familiar with anime would think anyone who wasn’t a girl is a girl. What will freak a lot of people out is her biseinen. She draws a lot of very good looking older men, who look like they are in their late 40’s or 50’s. For those who have a hard time with this thought, just think of bishonen all grown up. I also like her style because it has a lot of strong distinct lines and not wispy like a lot of yaoi and shoujo art tends to be. Her paneling is nice; I’d say better then average but isn’t at the point where it wows me.

Over all this is a great little one volume manga that exceeds in art, and having delightful characters, but gets a little to murky with the story losing some of the momentum it had. Over all I do recommend it to anyone who like yaoi manga and are not freaked out by biseinen. I do hope that some of other works like Three Wolves Mountain, come out in the U.S. I would love to own a copy I could read.

Final Verdict: Be Beautiful

Monday, June 1, 2009

Scanlation Get: Honey & Honey

Scanlation Get! is going to be topic I will try and update every week. Where I will suggest a scanlation only (at least at the time I suggest it) manga you may have not heard of.

This week is Honey & Honey which could be best described as a realistic look at lesbian life in Japan with some of the most unrealistic and cute art you could see. It is made up of short slice of life stories about a lesbian couple Sachiko and Masako. You see things like how they meet at an all female mixer after being dumped, and hanging out with mixed friends gay, straight, and transsexual. It's an interesting peak at lesbian life in general but also an inside look of what being gay in Japan is really like versus what we see in manga and anime all the time. This is no girls crying out Onee-sama in an all-girls school in this story.

The art in this can be off putting to some. Though I found the art very cute myself. All of it is done in a style that looks like maybe a good at drawing ten to twelve year old did and colored in crayon. I think it adds a nice touch of sweetness to the stories.

Highly recommended for anyone who likes true to life slice of life stories.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thoughts: What a twist!

So I’ve been meaning to write in this blog forever now, here are some insane ramblings of mine.

In the many years I have been reading manga, I have had issues with CLAMP. I think the ending of Magic Knight Rayearth scared me for life. After that I just had the hate out for CLAMP and could never understand the really devoted CLAMP fans. In fact today I still can’t really understand. I personally think their art has also gone down in quality since the days of Magic Knight Rayearth, which I think would be the only big draw.

It’s been many years since, I first read Rayearth to completion. A couple of years ago Tokyopop came out with an omnibus edition of the first series which I bought. Hey, 10 bucks for 3 volumes worth of stuff, why not? Right? I did end up enjoying it a lot more then I thought I would, though I still found the ending a frustrating.

I did like a lot of things about it, it had really nice art with good screen tones. The fantasy setting was unique enough to be cool. In the structure of a Magical Girls show they did some interesting things (magic mechs lols) to give it a different feel from stuff like Sailor Moon or even Cardcaptor Sakura.

What I was not too crazy about was the total lack of any depth to any of the characters, and no character development. That isn’t really a surprise though, at three volumes, Magic Knight Rayearth is more about an action story then anything else and it does that well. So after reading Magic Knight, I felt less hate for CLAMP, though I still wasn’t really one over.

Now reading Magic Knight Rayearth II was a bit more of a painful experience. The art was still nice, but they story just seemed lost in a swamp of fantasy garbage. How a lot of things worked in this fantasy realm didn’t make sense, just how did that road thing work? Though I have found this kind of fantasy story leads to muddy and confusing elements that end up dragging the story down, such as in the title Planet Ladder. Then the twist end with our pal Mokona made me want to scream and throw the book at the wall. Which I might have, I can’t remember now. Once I calmed down though, I do have to think that this is a title written for kids and so I can kind of understand the silliness that last twist. Though, when I remember CLAMP being really big a lot of people where in their late teens and early 20’s and I have to think what were you people thinking. (Though the truth could be said for me when I recently watch some movies I had seen as a teen and went what was I thinking?).

So I thought that would be my last dealings with CLAMP ever and didn’t think much about it after that until this weekend when I was at Anime Boston. Sunday I had some time before my flight back and I didn’t have much to do so I was in the manga library and picked up Cardcaptor Sakura, since they had a good chunk of it to read.

So let me start of by saying I’m not any more of a CLAMP fan now then before I started. Now it wasn’t bad, and I don’t think it suffers from some of the same problems the second half of Magic Knight Rayearth did, but in some ways it bothers me more, especially in its second half.

Really the first half of the story is a cute magical girl story; I like how they just jump right into it without the whole origin first. I like the secondary and minor characters they are cute and for a kids story well rounded enough but not earth shattering. I think the art isn’t as nice as Magic Knight Rayearth but it’s still very nice. Though I am still blown away buy the minor sub element of the 4th grade girl engaged to her Teacher, WTF?! That is a total Gah! funny face moment. The twist at the end of the first half of the story is cute and not head pounding painful. Over all if it ended there I would rate the series better.

The second half of Cardcaptor Sakura end up being rather superfluous, they could skip over most of it and gotten to the end love part at the end of the first half and it would have been just as fine. Really the second half is the “bad” guy forcing Sakura to use her power to make the cards change and become her own. Then there is a pseudo last battle at the end which is basically another test for Sakura. Why though? It seems like it should lead into a third story arc where Sakura fight some great evil, power, ninja turtles etc. just something anything. Why test someone in a story if there is no real point to the test? I’ve tested you for testness sake! It almost seems like CLAMP got bored of working on this title and just wrapped it up so they could move on to other things.

So in the end of this long rambling entry about CLAMP, I think this is my issue with them comes down to, they have lots of great ideas but the execution always falls flat for me. Then I just get annoyed. Maybe someday I’ll have better luck but for now I’ve had my dose of CLAMP for a long while, because too much has been know to cause brain hemorrhage, and psychosis.