Manga Review: Eternal Alice Rondo by Kaishaku
What first caught my eye with Key Princess Story: Eternal Alice Rondo was the black and white diamond pattern on the back cover. The golden filigree border and picture of an Alice-like anime girl with rabbit ears on the front furthered my interest. However, I have to say, as an avid key collector, that the title Key Princess Story sealed the deal. Story / Plot: Young Aruto Kirihara is a student who is writing an Alice story sequel. He is so in love with Alice, it’s practically all he can think about. One night as he's sitting at his desk, he sees a bunny girl fall from the sky. He follows her to a library where he learns there are a band of girls searching for the “Never-ending Alice” story. These doll-like beauties fight with giant sword keys. When the key is thrust into the middle of these girls, their story flies out in pages to be collected in a book. Eventually, the pages (they think) will lead them to the “Never-ending Alice”. Not only are they fighting against themselves, but they have a common enemy who fights with a giant match sword and attempts to burn girl pages as well as any books in sight.
Warning: Those of you buying for your young family members, this book has a 15+ warning. There are several breast shots and for such an innocent story of girls trying to find an everlasting Alice in Wonderland story, this manga has some sexual themes that are not entirely comfortable. Aruto is seduced by the rabbit girl, his teacher, and his younger sister who reminds him that they used to bathe together. In the back, there is a page on Lewis Carroll, the original author of Alice in Wonderland. It explains how the manga does not mention him because of his alleged pedophile tendencies, yet this manga tale has pedophile and incestuous themes itself. Is this a contradiction the author did not realize, or is it on purpose?
Whatever the case, I still enjoyed this tale and would read more. The art tends to be bubbly and Sailor Moonish, but the backgrounds and buildings are very detailed. The artistic feeling of the book is old English with dusty libraries, three story estates, and rooftops that would make the chimney sweeps in Mary Poppins jealous. Chibi content is average.
Extras you will find in this volume:
- Full glossy pic in front.
- Lewis Carroll info page.
- Preview of the next volume.
- Manga reader/honorific guide.
To read more about Eternal Alice Rondo and the Key Princess Stories:
How To Choose A Manga
There are so many manga out, you may be asking, “How can I choose the manga that is right for me?” First you need to know what part of the manga you enjoy most. Do you love goth-loli art? A good story? Something with horror in it? It’s rare to find all these things in one manga series. Believe me, I’ve tried!
Some of you may rely on reviews such as this one to lead your way, but for those of you who are trying to create your own manga hunting style, here are some tips.
Know what you like
I look for good art first, story second.
Seems kind of weird for someone to say that about a book, but unlike fiction books, mangas need to capture your eyes as well as your mind.
Good manga authors are a skilled, rare breed that can somehow create a tale and put it down in art in such a delicate fashion, you hardly realize you are reading what is basically a cartoon. What good is a tale in a manga book without interesting art? They might as well have written a novel, let the publisher worry about the cover art, and stick to word writin’!
Know what you don't like
I am emphatically against talking animals in manga. I hate them. Bats and spiders are sometimes ok, but bunnies and doggies and 300-year-old kitties reincarnated from a once great vampire god? Don’t get me started! However, my best friend adores animals talking and absolutely loves the manga (that shall remain nameless) with the vampire kitty. My point?
Know your tastes and just because your best friend urges you to buy her favorite manga because it has vampires in it, don’t automatically assume you will in enjoy it. There may be a wisecrackin' bunny hidden in the pages, and we all know what that leads to!
Hone your skills
Here are some tips on how to narrow the competition down.
- Go to a store with a large manga selection. This shouldn’t be too hard as it seems manga is the only hot selling item in bookstores these days.
- Stand back from the manga shelves and scan. If any cover draws your notice from a few yards back, it’s worth a look.
- Check out the front cover in full. Are you a chibi lover, or do you enjoy killer cyborgs with little chibi interference? Make sure the cover speaks to your taste. If you see one character you don’t like, put it in the maybe pile. There is a good chance that character is going to be throughout the book and will irritate you every time you turn the page and see them.
- Once you have narrowed down a few of the great covers, glance over the description on the back. Don’t put too much stock in the description because they don’t usually relate very closely to the tale. I’ve found that often manga covers seem to be written about the whole series and not about the one volume you are purchasing. As long as there are no talking vampire kitties, you are safe to go on.
- Flip through the book and check out the art. Is the detail inside as good as the cover art? Is it appealing to you? Is the printing bad, or is it crisp and clean? Do you stop every so often to let a “wow” or a “ooooohhhh” slip from your lips? If you realize it’s a steampunk fantasy once you get inside and you don’t like that sort of tale, please don’t buy it just because you like the cover. You will be disappointed.
- Finally, the tale. Read at least the first four pages to make sure you like the story. Does the character cuss like a twelve-year-old boy trying to show off to his mates? Does the dialog not flow? Is there some sort of back story you just don’t like? Don’t buy it. It will not get better. Unfortunately, in some stores (especially in Japantown) they seal the books. In this case, you either take your chances, or get smart and browse them online first. Sites like Amazon and Toykopop allow you to read the first couple of pages before you buy.
I tell you all these things because, like you, I once was a manga investigator trainee. I still get caught buying a stinker once in awhile. It’s all about:
- Knowing what you want
- Believing in your first instinct and
- Sticking to it, no matter how much the commerce bug has got you itching!
For those of you who still can’t decide, I’ve made a list of my top five series. Check out the reviews, see if you might like them, and then put on your manga p.i. hat and get shopping!
Review: Princess Ai
Princess Ai is a girl with a slammin’ body who finds herself lost on the streets of Tokyo. Her clothes are in shambles and all she has as a clue to who she is and where she came from is a heart shaped box. The scantily-clad bombshell meets a young innocent student named Kent who attempts from that day forward to help and protect her. Ai soon becomes a star singer, has tons of adoring fans, and sprouts wings! If any of you know anything about Courtney Love or her late husband Kurt Cobain, you can surely see the connection between them and the story. Ai means “love” in Japanese and it is said that Ai is loosely based on Love’s life story. Her heart-shaped box, which is prominent in the story, was a hit song by Nirvana and referred to a present Courtney gave Kurt.
The secret of Ai's origin is one that unfolds so well in the books, that I wouldn’t dare spill it. It is interesting to see the evolution of fashion in these musically inspired books. The first volume starts with simple shredded outfits and ends with an almost Playboy Halloween costume Lolita dress. Volume two adds some cosplay elements and ends with an even more elaborate Bo Peep-ish Lolita dress. There is also a vampire-like adversary who is dressed like a succubus vixen, reminiscent of Morrigan Aensland from Darkstalkers. Volume three brings in a lot of Victorian elements as well as Kingdom and Edwardian styles. The art in all of the books is the kind that you can stare at for hours, whether you are inspecting Ai’s costumes for inspiration, or her body for pleasure.
Special features in the books include:
Volume 2: An article about the making of the Princess Ai dolls.
- Volume 3: Ai paperdolls, an afterward by DJ Milky, and a cosplay Ai look a-like-contest review with pictures of the fans.
For those hard core Ai fans, you might want to invest in the Princess Ai Roses & Tattoos art/poetry book. This book does not have any more story in it, but it does have plastic sleeves with 16 full color pin-up pictures of Ai. Each pin-up has poetry on the back. There are also 12 pages of Ai stickers that you will never want to use because they are just so cool.
Though I am a Princess Ai fan, there are several items I do not own yet.
- Princess Ai: Rumors From The Other Side. The art is said to be fan art and the stories are from American authors.
- Princess Ai Color Me Manga Coloring book
- Princess Ai “Ultimate Edition”, which includes all three Ai books in one volume.
- Princess Ai of Ai-land: The comic strip collection by DJ Milky
- Princess Ai: Encounters which has Ai mingling with other Tokyo Pop stars such as Ein from Midnight Opera, Pam from Tarot Café, and the cast of Rhysmyth.
Brand new Princess Ai books are coming. The first one was released in Dec 2008 and is titled: Princess Ai-The Prism of Midnight Dawn- Volume 1 by Christine Boylan & D.J. Milky. This is the first of the trilogy and my copy came with a music CD of Ai songs, though I am not sure all copies do. It’s hard to tell if this will be as good without Courtney’s input, but we shall see. I look forward to cracking it open and letting the dashPunk community know.
Princess Ai successfully combines a love of art, music, and fashion into a series that will have you occupied for hours. You can find these items at Amazon.com
Mangas NOT To Waste Your Money On
Some of you might think I like all manga. The reason that I don’t usually review mangas I dislike is because I’d rather not give them the attention. I feel like they don’t deserve my time if they have not done their job and entertained me. In this post, I’m going to warn you about several books I did not enjoy.
- Bizenghast, Volume #1 by M. Alice LeGrow I was first attracted to this manga by the spooky gothic artwork on the front of a girl whose body is a violin. The cover stopped me in my tracks as I perused the manga aisle. The artwork inside is just as breathtaking, but with such beautiful artwork, you would assume the story would be just as chilling. Sure there was a graveyard, lost souls, riddles, and keys, but somehow it wasn’t as scary as I had hoped. I may, in time decide to return to this series and give it another chance, but at this time it will stay on my shelf.
- Dark Hunger by Christine Feehan, Illustrations by Zid & Imaginary Friends Studio I have not read any of Christine’s novels and am sure they are good by the reviews I’ve heard from some of her fans. This book seems like a mistake made by the publishing company. It was overly illustrated, not like a manga at all. I felt like I was reading some 1980’s comic out of the back of my mother’s Redbook. This was definitely a stab by the publisher to try and get in on the manga market, but it was done very badly. The underlying plot was interesting, so I don’t fault the writer. I think it was probably just made by people who have never read a manga before in their lives. Perhaps it will interest Christine’s fans to own a copy of the manga just to say they have the whole collection. I doubt it though as the fans I’ve talked to have said things like, “I don’t read those weird manga things.” So, if the publishers were trying to corner the manga market, they missed it by a long shot. I’m glad I only paid a dollar for it from the sale aisle.
- I Luv Halloween, Volume #1 by Keith Griffen & Benjamin Roman I really wanted this to be a great book. Halloween is my favorite holiday. The art promises greatness when you see kids dressed in costumes and spooky jack-o-lanterns around. How can you get that wrong? Well, they did. I think perhaps you would love this book if you were a ten-year-old boy who likes boob jokes and farts with the intention of grossing out your friends. Reading this manga is like being trapped in a station wagon with pre-teen boys all the way across the Great Salt Lake. No one wants to do it and once you reach Nevada, all you can think of is leaving them at the pitstop so you don’t have to listen to their nonsensical chitter chatter any longer. I pitched this book out of my house the first chance I got.
- Ghost Talker’s Daydream, Volume #1 by Saki Okuse & Sankichi Meguro I almost bought this book, but thankfully for a long line at the register, I was saved. This cover was so beautiful, I was about to be fooled again! If there is one thing these manga companies are getting right, it is the glossy cover art. If you get a chance, check out the cover at a store because the photo online does not do the cover art justice. When I saw the cover, it reminded me of spooky Japanese movies I’ve seen where there is some sort of ghost presence in the closet waiting to kill you. Something I awe at when reading manga is that the artists are able to redraw the characters in so many different moods and poses, but they still look like the same character. This manga’s art was very inconsistent and the characters even sometimes ugly. The lead girl pictures were so different, I had trouble knowing it was her. There was a parental guidance label on the cover, which was warranted because of the strange “up the skirt” shots the artist chose to depict. At times these shots were awkward and not in pleasant proportions. The reason I finally put it down was that although they had the parental advisory, talked about the lead having a job at an S&M club, and showed various vulgar shots of her womanhood, they didn’t allow her to say the name of her body parts. Perhaps in some ways, it is more x-rated to say the word than to see it displayed on the page in art? I have no idea, but didn’t want to find out.
If you’ve read these mangas and have another view, I’d love to hear it. I’d like to know if there is something I missed. Feel free to comment here and let me know.
A Second Life Location: Magic Of Oz
For awhile now, Second Life has amazed me with its very realistic settings and endless options. There are writers, poets, artists, and voice actors there that astonish me with their level of talent. Recently, my friend Dream teleported me to a place I thought could never be recreated. The Magic of Oz SIM is a themed build based on the books and movie "The Wizard of Oz". I was fortunate enough to be able to chat with one of the creators Candy Cerveau.
Emz: Candy, thank you for taking time out of your busy launch weekend to speak with me. This place is awesome. How many people did it take to build this place?
Candy: A great deal of the SIM’s incredible look is due to the builder, Jenne Dibou. She took our ideas and thoughts and turned them into something more magical than we ever dreamed possible. Yet she never sacrificed utility for beauty or performance for flash. The buildings are all fantastical, but they are not mere decoration. Each area was carefully planned to be a useful space. She is really incredibly talented.
Emz: Very talented indeed. What inspired you to build this SIM?
Candy: Malkavyn Eldritch and I were looking to create a SIM for our main store locations and we wanted a theme build. I have always loved the Oz books and the movie as well, so it seemed a perfect match. We found Jenne and we worked with her to get the concept of what we wanted. Our goal with the SIM was to interpret the world of Oz differently than had been done before, while still keeping to the spirit of the books. We also wanted to put our own unique spin on the parts of the build that would be the main stores for the two of us. The Witch's Castle was given a Steampunk/Tim Burtonesque feel, while the Emerald City drew more upon natural and elven themes. Our overriding dream for Magic of Oz was to create a place where people could go and be taken out of the realm of the ordinary in Second Life. A place to explore and to experience, to shop and to relax, to dream and to love. A place that is magic. We think we achieved that and hope visitors think so as well.
Emz: Well I for one, definitely admire your vision. For those who don't know what your Second Life stores are about, can you tell me the name and what you specialize in?
Candy: Eye Candy and Treasured Visions. Malkavyn does hand drawn eyes and textures. He is graphic artist, so he works only from scratch. No photosourcing. I make jewelry and accessories. I tend to specialize more in the "elegantly casual" style of jewelry, but I do have some more whimsical type of work as well.
Emz: Your stuff is really crafted well. I just found a free box with “Halloween Eyes” that I can’t wait to try on. Magic Of Oz is amazing. How long did it take you guys from concept to finish date to do this?
Candy: Jenne is a super fast builder and we did it in 3 phases. Basically we got the SIM the first of August 2008 and began plans. So the entire thing only took two months start to finish.
Emz: That is fast for a build of this magnitude.
Candy: Yes indeed. Jenne is in Europe and so each morning we would wake up and a huge portion would magically appear!
Emz: Sounds very exciting.
Candy: It really was so much fun. The story of Oz is such a rich one and there are so many wonderful parts to it that it was hard to choose what to feature.
Emz: I like all the dark features you have here with the flying monkeys and the large skull on the hill. Is there any little secret or feature that you find particularly interesting?
Candy: The secret lab in the Witch's Castle is fantastic! Very "mad scientist". It’s hidden in the right side of the Witch's Castle
Emz: Congratulations on completing this. It's really awesome. Thank you so much for your time.
Candy: My pleasure, Emz. Thank you.
I was able to explore the area for some time and found many hidden gems here. If the pictures don’t amaze you, the features will. Right now there are tons of little shoes around the SIM that when clicked, give you free things. There are also a number of boxes, pumpkins etc… Keep an eye open and click things.
The Witch’s Castle Features: Steampunk architecture, hammock to lie in, perches to see the whole valley, skeleton fountain, elevator, flying monkeys ride.
Scary Tree / Graveyard Features: laying dead pose and sinking in lava pose.
Munchkin Land Features: Shops, park benches, a nice promenade.
Emerald City Features: Emerald throne, many little meeting or discussion areas, Oz’s curtain, 3 levels of fun activity, beautiful emerald gems.
Center of town Features: Watch The Wizard Of Oz by clicking the sign on the giant tree, follow the yellow brick road to Munchkin land, tree attack, stairs to Witches Castle.
Cool things to buy: Jewelry, specialty eyes, clothes, bodies, hair, and these gear tattoos inspired by the designs of Da Vinci.
Magic of Oz launched on October 3rd, 2008. If you would like to visit Magic Of Oz, click here: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Magic%20of%20Oz/130/152/0