chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

In some ways this is not a good set of three volumes to review together, because they contain bits of several story arcs - vol. 11 continues the story of the summer vacation by the sea, whereas the other two are about the fall term at school. But vol. 10 really did end on a rather momentous note, so it seemed OK to break off blogging there. And really, there are unifying themes among these three volumes: Kyo and Tohru are becoming aware of their feelings for each other, while Yuki is exploring his new-found strength.

As the vacation draws to a close, Akito decides to confront first Kyo and then Tohru. The deeply sad and dark scenes that follow reveal the heart of the ties that bind the dysfunctional family together, and it seems as though nothing will ever be normal - or what passes for normal with the Sohmas - again. But when Shigure's household arrives back home - to find Ayame waiting for them, as flamboyant as ever - things quickly slip into schooltime routine. Nevertheless, Tohru, inspired to action by her experiences over the summer, can't leave the subject of the Sohma curse alone, and her investigations put her into some uncomfortable situations. Meanwhile, teacher-parent conferences are in store for her, Kyo, and Yuki: as the equivalent of rising high school seniors in the U.S., they need to consider whether they're going to university or not. Their teacher, Mayu, has her hands full as an assorted succession of Sohma adults show up in turn to talk to her about the kids. Volume 13 culminates with the senior class trip.

Read more ... cut for spoilers and extensive rambling and wibbling )
chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

Takaya-sensei continues to hold me in thrall, no matter how cynical I try to be. Here I should confess that I'm not terribly good at "cynical" actually.... just one big bleeding heart, that's me. But I am allergic to emotional manipulation, and she does resort to it sometimes. But mostly, she earns her heart-warming scenes and lines honestly, as genuine payback from the characters' worries and traumas.

The playful little intro to every volume, with Tohru cheerfully telling about the Sohma curse in a way that implies it's all fun and games, is beginning to grate as the story gets darker and darker. We learn more about what it's like to be a teenaged Sohma in love - and it ain't pretty. The situation of the adult Zodiac members is just as bad, even though they can control themselves better, and we witness some more of that as well, including more details about Hatori's tragic romance of several years ago. More revelations about horrible Sohma parents are balanced with increasing tenderness of all sorts among the characters as the Sohmas and Tohru and her friends get ready for and start their summer vacation. Volume 9 also includes Hanajima's backstory and a funny little extra about the teens waiting out a rainstorm and whiling away the time by telling spooky stories.

Read more ... with spoilers! )
chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

Kimihiro Watanuki is a orphaned teenaged boy who can see spirits, so his life is already complicated even before he starts working for shopkeeper and "space-time" witch Yuuko Ichihara. The elegant Yuuko, a devotee of strong drink, gourmet food, and flimsy, revealing outfits, always has plenty of arcane tasks for her young employee, along with the more mundane drudgery of keeping her shop clean and her plate and glass full.

This series starts out as a string of mostly unrelated anecdotes involving the odd situations Watanuki encounters as he works for Yuuko, but about halfway through these 8 volumes (all that are available thus far), a single, stronger plot emerges, joining Watanuki's fate to that of his classmate Domeki, a handsome strong-and-silent guy who's the descendent of powerful priests. As Watanuki and Domeki are forced to work together, both of them learn a number of truths about what it is that people (of all kinds) owe each other.

Although I enjoyed this series from the start, it didn't touch my heart until the arc about the boys' shared existence got going. However, all the way through, I appreciated the elegant, Art Deco-style artwork (although I do think its nature only increased the emotional distance I felt from the story) and the many notes that the publisher, Del Rey, has included about Japanese culture and folklore.

Read more ... may include a few spoilers ... )

I do have one big question though: how do people say the name of this series? I've been saying "ex-ex-ex-holic," but that's pretty awkward!

chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

This series came highly recommended. It's visually appealing, and every once in a while it hits a note of emotional intensity that strikes a chord in me - but mostly, I think this is not my sort of thing.

Two 20-year-old women, space cadet Nana Komatsu and aspiring rock musician Nana Osaki, end up sharing an apartment in Tokyo - and soap opera ensues. It's fairly tasty soap opera, but I don't identify with either character. It's me, Nana - not you. (There's bit more to it than that - if you're interested, I go into it in more detail below the cut.)

I'm slightly tempted to give it a try for another volume or so. Many manga series seem to have less-than-inspiring or even downright rocky starts: Samurai Deeper Kyo, Saiyuki, and Fruits Basket all underwhelmed me at first. And in fact, rachelmanija warned me that I'd probably have this kind of problem with this series. So have I given it a fair try with three volumes - or not?

There's more ... but mostly about me & book preferences etc., rather than about Nana per se ... )

ETA: Eeek, I got the Nanas' names mixed up! (And no one told me ...   :-(    ) I have fixed them now in the review, but I can't do much about the comments (which already have comments attached to them in turn). So please note that they're still mixed up in my answers (below) ... .

chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

Help, I've been mugged by a volume of shoujo manga!

Yes, it's true. I picked up vol. 4 of Fruits Basket for cheap at Balticon over the 3-day weekend ... and that was the beginning of the end. I've been conquered by "America's most popular shoujo manga."

I have actually gobbled down volumes 4-10, but I'm forcing myself to break it up and think about it a little more. I bought 5-7 on Sunday night, and then picked up 8-10 on Wednesday afternoon. And I want more, more, more. (And so does the Young Lady.)

Read more ... with spoilers! )
chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

This is a pretty good fantasy, seemingly aimed at the 13-16-year-old audience ... except that in the U.S., something aimed at that age group usually wouldn't feature a warrior who changes sex frequently (although there was Dr. Occult/Rose Spiritus in the original Books of Magic, come to think of it ...) and female frontal nudity from the waist up. Takiko Okuda, an older teen (there's considerable confusion about her age, but she seems to be about 17) in early 20th-century Japan, is having an unhappy life. Her mother is gravely ill, her scholarly father neglects his family for his work, and a recent move from Tokyo to the country has landed Takiko in a new school populated by hicks who resent her. A strange series of events lands her in the middle of the story described in her father's latest book, with Takiko now in the role of the heroine: the priestess of Genbu who must gather the seven Celestial Warriors to save a nation that Takiko never knew existed.

I'm enjoying the story and am interested in how it will all turn out, but I don't feel terribly passionate about it.

Read more ... with spoilers! )

Note: Edited to correct the name of the Books of Magic character mentioned in the first paragraph.

chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

Take the teenaged cast and episodic nature of the old "Archie" comics, strain them through some "Comedy of Manners" novels (I'm thinking of Kushner's Swordspoint and Privilege of the Sword, and Wrede and Stevermer's Sorcery and Cecelia, but their common ancestors, the works of Jane Austen, would probably be even better), add a dash of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and a generous helping of the showiest, wooziest aspects of modern Japanese life. Beat until very, very light and fluffy ... and maybe you'd come up with Ouran High School Host Club.

I actually enjoyed this quite a lot, which is extremely strange, because it has very little in common with the other manga I really love.

Read more ... with spoilers! )
chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

OK, this was very cute, and most of the time it wasn't too cute. Mostly it was sweet - "like a good apple" rather than "like cotton candy." I will say that I was happier when the edgier characters were "on screen" and when there were hints about things being darker than they might seem at first. But that's because I'm a worldly person who likes the Lymond Chronicles (Dorothy Dunnett) and Cyteen (C.J. Cherryh) and stuff like that ... (not to mention older teen shounen manga).

Sweet young teen Honda Tohru, a recent orphan, is living in a tent in the woods by herself so as not to inconvenience her grandparents (they think she's staying with friends). The land she's on turns out to belong to the powerful, mysterious Sohma family, many of whose members are afflicted with a strange curse. One eventful night, Tohru falls ill and her tent is buried in a landslide. She's taken in by a little sub-household of Sohmas: successful young novelist Shigure and his two teenaged cousins, Yuki and Kyo, who attend Tohru's school. I'm tempted to say "hijinks ensue," but I'd feel cruel - and it actually doesn't really begin to cover the range of events.

Read more ... with spoilers! )
chomiji: A chibi cartoon of Hotaru from the manga Samurai Deeper Kyo, with a book. Caption: Manga Joy (Manga joy!)

I have been reading manga since about last October. I realize that's less than a year, but I can read a lot of stuff in that time. And I have been working on four series faithfully (SDK, Saiyuki, Vagabond, and Death Note) and am starting another (Blade of the Immortal). (I will not count Basilisk because IMO, it sucks.)

And I thought to myself, y'know, Cho, these are all shounen manga.

The trouble is, I'm not real girly, so I need some help here ...

Please read on ... )

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

October 2017

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