If Jack from 24 had a cyborg decoy assistant, Gunslinger Girl would be it.
Looking for some high-action fun? You will love this manga. Although there is no horror or fantasy in this book, it is enjoyable. What’s cuter than a little girl in a school uniform sporting an uzi and shooting up terrorists? Maybe that same little girl collecting teddy bears and attempting to play the violin.
This manga raises an ethical question. The premise is that the social welfare agency has rounded up all the physically challenged girls and modified them into cyborg assassins. On the one side, these once disabled kids now have full happy lives where they can walk, go to school, and play with teddy bears. However, the government sees them as cybernetic toys -mechanical- and completely disposable. The kicker is that they also use some sort of drug to “condition” the girls to obey their handlers and risk their lives for them.
What would you do? If you could make a disabled girl walk again, but the trade up was to have them lose part of themselves mentally, would you do it? What if that girl could help track down terrorists and aid homeland security? How high of a price are you willing to put on our safety? If the quality of life is increased, must the life-expectancy be decreased?
All these questions and more will go through your head as you read this. You will also find out what happens when one of the girls starts falling for her handler.
The art in this manga is well done and has a sort of police show feel. There is one glossy color page in the front and no extras in the back.
Get your copy here from amazon: Gunslinger Girl
If Jack from 24 had a cyborg decoy assistant, Gunslinger Girl would be it.
Manga Review: Nightmare Inspector by Yumekui Kenbun
At the end of the Taisho era in Japan, a small tea house draws patrons to Hiruko. He is a Baku-he or eater of dreams. It is said Hiruko can enter a nightmare and release the victim from suffering. He can put people to sleep with the wave of his cane and accompany them into the nightmare. The stories in Nightmare Inspector are very odd and don’t seem to make much sense. In one case, a boy walks into the tea house and asks for help. It turns out he is a weather vane. I’m confused how a weather vane could walk into a tea shop and do weather vane’s have nightmares?
Another tale features a girl who always writes the same thing in her dream. She asks him to change it, but when they get to the part where he can, she ends up writing the same thing. There is a secondary character in the tea house who sometimes asks Hiruko what happened and his explanations don’t make much sense either.
There are also repetitive chapter beginnings which are common in mangas that were serialized in magazines. I always think it is better for the editor to cut these out when composing the manga book.
I absolutely love the art in this manga. It’s a very interesting sort of steampunk/cosplay mix with long art deco kinds of lines. The styling of the Baku-he is awesome.
In back, there is a short letter from the author. The best thing in the whole book is a full page illustration/explanation of Hiruko’s cane by the friend of the author. It’s hilarious and informative. It makes me wonder what sort of manga would come from the author and best friend collaborating.
Check out this manga for the art. The story is not worth the read.
You can find this manga at Amazon.com.
Manga Review: Rozen Maiden by Peach-Pit
Calling all goth-loli girls and Alice enthusiasts! Rozen Maiden is going to make you want to buy every single one of these volumes.
A boy named Jun, who has decided to no longer attend school, becomes addicted to mail ordering. He accidentally orders a doll who takes over his life. The doll then involves him in a game with her other doll sisters where the playfulness can lead to injury, missed bedtimes, and death.
In the first volume, the package arrives and the doll, Shinku, awakes. She starts ordering Jun around and commands that he swear to protect her. When he refuses, Shinku sends a butcher knife wielding, foaming-at-the-mouth teddy bear after him. Jun reluctantly agrees to her demands and she brings all of his action figures to life to kill the teddy bear. This opening scene tells you, you aren't reading any old manga... this one is going to be good!
Just when Jun gets used to having the irritating doll around, others start showing up. Jun’s sister, Nori, is no help as she adores the dolls and makes them all the little sweets and tea they want.
Even though they do tackle deeper issues such as depression and human frailty, there remains an element of little girl silliness to the story line. In volume three, a standoff ensues between the youngest doll and the other dolls. Their threat is cutting her off from the sweets!
“Listen up. We’ve secured the kitchen and fridge. If you ever want sweets again, you will give yourself up!”
This manga is more than a chaotic romp in a doll’s fantasy “Alice” game. It is a comment on teens who sequester themselves away from others in hopes to hide from ridicule from mean classmates. The message in these volumes is that if you go too far, your spirit and all your talents that make you special will be lost. While the authors seem to agree that there are some social situations that make us all want to cower in the attic, they also show us that we can’t let those haters keep our creative spirit down.
For you horror lolita’s, there are several freaky aspects I think you’ll enjoy. The first being Suihuintoh, the spooky doll sister who has black wings and tries to destroy the other dolls by terrorizing them in a mirror world called LaPlace. In LaPlace resides a freaky rabbit in a tux and top hat. He is what they call the Demon of LaPlace and seems to be there more to confuse them than attack them.
Although Jun thinks the dolls have ruined his life, they really save it by making him face his fears and come out of hibernation. By the end of volume three, the story has changed to a serious nature when Suihuintoh kills one doll and takes a part of Shinku. Jun risks his life to retrieve the part of Shinku and in the process learns more about his depression.
By the end of volume four, the creator has added another doll for comic relief. She speaks to a kitty cat about how she is going to infiltrate the house and begin killing dolls. It’s a throw back for me to those comics of Snoopy when he pretended to be in combat and snuck through the bushes to the enemy camp. I think perhaps she was brought in for volume five in which Jun goes into a massive depression and the book is rather dismal if you don’t count the breaks they take to bring in the silly doll on a quest.
Spookiness (and Jun) return in volume six when an new doll is discovered. She has to be the scariest doll yet, wearing all white with a rose and thorny vines growing out of her right eye.
Over all this manga is very entertaining, but perhaps has a more dismal storyline than others I’ve read. The ups and downs in this plot might make you more emotional that you would think. The art is detailed and beautiful. As for extras, there aren't many. Volume three has a few interesting collaboration comics with the mangas Zombie Loan and DearS. Volume four contains a cute comic on how the manga is made.
If you'd like to check these manga's out, they are available at: Amazon.com
Book Review: Ballad of a Shinigami by K-She Hasegawa
Come with me into a tale about Momo, the girl god of death. She is a shinigami who wears all white and has a demon servant cat named Daniel. Daniel has bat wings and wears a bell on his collar that rings every time they approach one of their unfortunates. There are several mini stories in this book about people who are dying or will die. The subject matter is deep, but handled from a teenage or child point of view which I think is pretty unique. It might even be a good gift for a preteen who has recently experienced the death of a close friend. It may help them deal with the incident. For the horror seekers out there, this doesn’t have much to offer you. The scariest part happens in the last thirty pages of the book, centering around Momo facing off against another shinigami in true grim reaper form. Ballad of a Shinigami is the first manga turned novel I have ever read. It was an experience I might try again, but not one I would suggest for the everyday novel reader. The stories in the book were meaningful and ended well. The size and weight makes it ideal for carrying with you on a trip or lugging around town as it can easily fit in a pocket. It is rated older teen 16+, though I’m not sure why unless it’s simply the subject of death.
The main problem novel readers will have is that this book reads very choppy. I couldn’t tell if it was because it is translated directly from Japanese or if it is because they tried to stick to the manga style?
[reus name="Ballad of a Shinigami iFrame"]An example of this is from page 24.
“She could only stare at it. She could do nothing. She hardly even breathed. She felt pain in her chest. Her heart hurt.”
It’s almost as if they are using one sentence to describe each from of the manga.
Other breaks from the story are passages like,
“…..” Clank. Boom. “……?!”
In a world of other more eloquently crafted novels, I don’t think the general American novel reading public would give this book a chance. However, if you are a manga lover and trying to get into novels, or a manga reader that can overlook the choppiness, you should give it a try.
I was mildly irritated by the cat talking, but at least he kind of had some interesting things to say and I have to admit I laughed at the revelation that he does all the paperwork for Momo. I can just see a little disgruntled kitty typing on the computer and filling out forms. Makes me laugh and then shake my head.
For those of you who like talking animals, here’s another one for your list.
If you're interested in checking it out get your copy here from Amazon.
Orange Crows By James Perry II & Ryo Kawakami
In Orange Crows, a young witch performs a forbidden magic, blows up a research center, injures her best friend, and is exiled to a barren wasteland with witch devouring fairies all in the first two pages! Five years later, a group of witches come to take her to trial and see if she is able to return to society. Her old best friend, Natty, just happens to be the head of the ragtag group called the Special Witch and Warlock Squadron (S.W.S) that comes to collect her. All the witches in this tale have mini wings that come out of their hips and wear talking hats. Each of these hats has a different attitude and style. One of the hats, named Grim, is a plumper version of the sorting hat from Harry Potter and always wants to sleep. The fashion styling of this manga is really unique. Think Halloween Town meets club kid, meets Delirium from the Sandman comics. The post apocalyptic-like clothes are funky and always interesting.
My favorite character is Bianka, a member for the S.W.S. and in charge of teaching us readers what everything is about in their world. Each chapter has a full page lesson called “Queen Bianka’s Crash Course” where she tells us the details of certain witch practices such as sweeping, which is riding a broom like a hover board. Bianka is like a pint sized Tank Girl and has the same irreverent manner. She has plans to build teapot tank which she calls “1,000 pounds of porcelain death on wheels” and a talking cat that says, “Off with her head! Meow.”
The S.W.S. take on perhaps the scariest monsters I have seen in a while. I think the picture below will cause you to agree. I’d hate to meet these guys in a deserted alley.
Review: Millennium Snow by Bisco Hatori
The Millennium Snow series is on my list of most enjoyable manga series. Chiyuki is a seventeen-year-old girl who's dying from a heart problem she was born with. Toya, a vampire who hates the taste of blood, saves her by biting her, which allows them both to live. Against his will, Toya slowly falls for her happy nature and constant positive attitude.
Toya has a cute little bat companion named Yami-maru who helps the girl pull his master out of the comfortable isolation he has come accustomed to. Somehow Yami-maru adds that chibi element that manga's love to have without making things too silly. Yami-maru couldn't be any cuter if you put him on a Sanrio stationery set.
The fun really begins when a werewolf boy named Satsuki falls in love with Chiyuki. He professes his undying love to her and thus begins the love triangle. Toya grumbles and calls Satsuki "Dog", but it seems as though he knows Chiyuki needs the werewolf around. The ultimate in teen girl fantasy, these two guys fight over Chiyuki at every turn.
Volume 2 delves deeper into the relationship between all three characters and how the vamp and werewolf put up with each other's presence for Chiyuki's sake. The cover of this manga has a great shot of Toya with his arm around Chiyuki. Trusted bat companion, Yami-Maru, is perched on his hand and Satsuki stands behind them.
As always, I look for the extras in manga's as a plus. In volume one, there is a female to female love story called A Romance Of One Moment though short, it's rather good and shows potential for a manga of it's own.
This was one of the first manga's I ever read and therefore they are a set of books that have held a standard for other manga's to follow. My only complaint is that there doesn't seem to be any plans for more volumes despite the last one coming out in 2007.
If you'd like to purchase these items, they are available at Amazon.com