chomiji: Doa from Blade of the Immortal can read! Who knew? (Doa - books)

I actually thought I had blogged Yumi Unita's manga Bunny Drop, but it looks like I haven't (I can't find a review here, anyway). Basically, for the first four volumes it's a surprisingly deep "slice of life" manga about a bachelor, Daikichi, who adopts a four-year-old girl who is, in strict family tree terms, his aunt. Little Rin is serious, intent, and surprisingly independent, and the relationship between the two grows in a way that's heart-warming without being cutesy. [personal profile] rachelmanija wrote it up here.

The current volume marks the point at which this series, for me, basically jumps the shark. ==> Spoilers spoilers MAJOR spoilers: It time skips ahead to where Rin is 16 years old, and most of this volume was just the sort of high school teen manga that I avoid like the plague. In the last third, it went on track again for a bit with the heart-warming slice of life, but I understand - my husband's fault, he read ahead online - that in fact, Rin and Daikuchi are going to become an item in the future, and ewwwww! Anyway, if I continue further with this series, it will be merely from "OK, how do they get there?" curiosity and not from the affection that I felt for the first four volumes.

I was really happy to see Eiji Ōtsuka and Housui Yamazaki's Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service back in business. The volumes always come shrink wrapped and with Parental Advisory stickers, but usually all that is because of one or two grotesque scenes of nude corpses. This time, the protective measures are made to earn their keep thoroughly in the first story - and I realize that any more details would blow a reveal, so I'll stop right there. I like the second story, which is about a couple (male and female) of aspiring comedians, best: it managed to be spooky, grotesque, and sweet, a feat that Kurosagi pulls off every once in a while. The Asian-inspired doll collecting fad shows up in the final story. And in the notes at the end, volume 13 is mentioned, so yay! I was afraid that the hiatus had meant that the series was ending.

Naoki Urasawa's 20th Century Boys has been getting more and more grim. This volume is a bit of a break, but I imagine it's just a false dawn before the ultimate crisis. Still, I'll take it: I enjoyed this one quite a bit. The mysterious guitar-playing wanderer "Yabuki Joe" (yes, I knew who he really is, as do most readers long before this point, I'm sure) and naif police office Chono try to cross a deadly checkpoint on their way into Tokyo. Yabuki Joe has a confrontation with a slimeball character that we haven't seen for many volumes, and it turns into a Moment of Awesome. All in all, a welcome breather from the ongoing disasters of the series.

chomiji: Crazed Oda Nobunaga from SDK, with the caption Manga saved my sanity! (manga sanity)

When Endo Kenji was a kid, he and his friends had a clubhouse in the middle of a grassy field, where they played an elaborate let's-pretend scenario in which they were heroes who prevented a worldwide holocaust involving germ warfare, laser guns, and giant robots. Later on, he dreamed of becoming a rock star. Now that Kenji is grown, his life revolves around his dreary job managing a chain convenience store - which used to be his family's liquor store - and his beloved infant niece Kanna, who was abandoned to Kenji and his mother by his older sister Kuriko. But when Kenji hears of the mysterious death of his childhood friend "Donkey" - who had been leading a happy life with a wife, child, and enjoyable job as a science teacher - he discovers that the club's childhood daydreams are becoming real-life nightmares.

Who is the mysterious cult figure known only as "Friend," and how is it that he is using the gang's special symbol as the badge of his movement? Why are leaders of other cults dying mysteriously? What happened to Otcho, another club member, who went abroad to work and disappeared in Thailand? How can world events be following their childhood game so closely? As Kenji gets deeper into the mystery, he discovers that even someone leading a life as uninspiring as his still has a lot to lose.

The mystery itself is engrossing, and the series seems to be developing the team/family themes that I need in fiction. There is a certain amount of physically repulsive stuff depicted as a result of the germ warfare incidents, but the gross-out level is nowhere near the level of, say Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. The lead cast is mainly male at this point, but Kenji's old friend Yukiiji, who as a girl used to beat up bullies much larger than herself and who now works as a customs official (with a massively goofy sniffer dog), is a strong character (although I wonder when we're going to see her again), and Kuriko has several poignant scenes in flashback.

The artwork is very good - much less stylized than that of many manga, yet not as realistic as that of Vagabond or Blade of the Immortal.

Read more ... with spoilers! )

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