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review 2017-09-11 16:59
Just Couldn't Enjoy This Format
Hatsune Miku: Mikubon - Ontama,Ontama

The illustrations are wonderful on this manga. I picked it up for those alone, not knowing the artist or story. The format really threw me off. It was in 4koma (formatted as a series of four vertically-stacked panels) I expected a regular Manga. They reminded me of the Sunday Comics. They were fun, some a little dirty, and quick to read, great for reading while waiting for your coffee, tea, bus... Quick little escape reads. I prefer full manga for more story and character development, but enjoyed looking at this new to me format.

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review 2017-09-11 13:29
The Drops of God (manga, vol. 2) story by Tadashi Agi, art by Shu Okimoto, translation by Kate Robinson
The Drops of God 2 - Shu Okimoto,Tadashi Agi

Most of the volume is devoted to Shizuku selecting French wines for the “Italy vs. France” competition sponsored by his company’s new Wine Division, although it isn’t immediately apparent that the first part of the volume has anything at all to do with the competition.

In the first part of the volume, Shizuku helps a struggling French restaurant. Their business was nearly killed off by a bad review from Issei Tomine, and now he’s scheduled to come reevaluate the restaurant. The restaurant’s owner is confident about his food but has no idea what to do about the wine menu - his wife used to handle that, but she died some time ago. In order to figure out where the restaurant owner went wrong, Shizuku must discover how to properly pair wine and food.

Shizuku’s efforts help him select one of the wines for the “Italy vs. France” competition, but he still needs two others. He finds the second one after visiting a bizarre wine shop staffed by twin brothers with very different opinions about wine and the third one after being approached by Maki Saionji, a wine importer and Issei Tomine’s occasional lover. The volume wraps up with both the competition and Shizuku and Issei finally reading the first part of Shizuku’s father’s will, which gives them the clues necessary to find the first of Shizuku’s father’s “Twelve Apostles.”

Hm. Still an enjoyable series overall. The first part of the volume was nice, but a little too removed from the main storyline and a little too serious to be fun despite that. There were some good educational aspects, though - the volume touched on the difference between how Japanese people view drinking tea with a meal (for example, tea can be used to cancel out the flavor of heavy and rich food) and the way wines are traditionally paired with French cuisine (the wine and food should enhance each other rather than cancel each other out). I also liked the father-daughter relationship aspect. The daughter was more responsible and dedicated than she initially appeared to be.

The next part of the volume, the weird wine shop, brought the story back to the restrained wackiness I enjoyed in the first volume. The brothers were amusing, complete opposites. One preferred to focus on wines from wineries with good reputations and would consider nothing else - he didn’t even bother to try all his wines to figure out if they were good, he just assumed they were because of their reputations. The other brother focused entirely on cheap wines and refused to stock anything else. His part of the shop looked like a cheesy dollar store, or maybe a giant “going out of business” sale.

The one thing I absolutely didn’t like about that part of the volume was the brothers’ father. I think readers were supposed to view him as being at least as amusing as his sons, but I just thought he was a horrible human being. In order to get his sons to cooperate and improve the family business, he

lied to them and told them he had cancer.

(spoiler show)

I mean, what kind of person does that? Thankfully, there was no sign that Shizuku and Miyabi would be returning there anytime soon.

For me, the weakest part of the volume was the wine competition. It went very quickly, and I felt like I had a much better grasp on the appeals of the French wines than I did on the Italian ones, since so much of the volume had been devoted to those. The final verdict was interesting, though. I was left with the impression that, if you’re unfamiliar with wine and looking to select a decent cheap one, it’s probably best to go with an Italian wine, but if you’re a bit more experienced and looking for more variety, French might be the way to go.

One ongoing bit of mystery: the identity of the woman who declared the competition’s final verdict and who gave Shizuku advice that helped him with his wine selections. She looked like a random cranky old woman when she was first introduced, but it soon became clear that she was quite wealthy and had probably known Shizuku’s father very well.

This volume left me feeling a little less excited overall than the first one, but the educational aspects were still pretty good and I’m still looking forward to seeing what else the series has in store for readers. It looks like Shizuku will be spending at least part of the next volume working with an amnesiac artist in an effort to find out what she knows about the First Apostle.

A couple things that struck me: even with help from all of his wine-possessing friends, Shizuku is going to end up spending a small fortune trying to get up to speed on wines; and, if they weren’t rivals, Shizuku and Issei would probably make for decent wine-tasting friends since they keep selecting/appreciating the same things.

Additional Comments:

My feelings about the artwork are still largely the same: it’s lovely, although noticeably focused on characters over backgrounds. However, there were a couple parts in this volume where I felt Okimoto slipped up a bit: a three-page section showing Shizuku back at the Wine Division, helping the chief with a wine cellar and receiving a dessert wine from him, and a panel in which Sara cutely encouraged people to taste the “Italy vs. France” wines. The bit with the chief looked unfinished, as though some of the screentone had been forgotten, and some of the linework was unusually thick. The panel with Sara was mostly fine, but her lips were odd, like she’d only put makeup on the right half of them.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-09-01 20:30
Lady Mechanika Volume 2: Tablet of Destinies
Lady Mechanika Volume 2: The Tablet of Destinies - Mike Garcia,Ben M. Chen

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

A slightly different take than in the first arc (which I read last month): this time, the story follows Mechanika from London to mysterious ruins on the African continent, following the trail of an old researcher who’s being forced to decrypt strange tablets under the threat of seeing his granddaughter killed. It’s not exactly the same kind of theme, and although some aspects were a bit cliché (of course the bad guys had to be German), I still appreciate it because... hey, let’s be honest, I do like myself a good old Victorian/early 20th century adventure with archaeologist-like people, secret societies, and, yes, in small quantities, even German bad guys. ;)

On the other hand, this volume didn’t bring anything to the bigger story hinted at in the first instalments (Mechanika’s origins, the history she shares with Commander Winter, the Engineer...), and I admit I would’ve liked to get a few more hints. It also keeps playing on the evil bad guy/female enforcer tropes, which, well, why not, but I hope this kind of dynamics will change later.

The drawing style remains detailed, with vivid colours that get more muted as they adapt to the various atmospheres of day and night. There’s still a lot of eye-candy, however this time I felt it took slightly less precedence depending on the scenes and panels (seriously, huge boobs and perceived sexy poses aren’t necessarily as exciting as they sound when it comes to depicting heroo-types characters... or, well, any character at all). And perhaps there were a few less walls of text, too? I read it in public transportation so I didn’t pay as much attention to that aspect I had noted in the first volume, to be honest.

Conclusion: The storyline remained entertaining, though definitely on the cliché side, and I can only hope this won’t last; nevertheless, large boobs over corsets notwithstanding, I liked the artwork.

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review 2017-08-29 09:59
Manga Classics: The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book: Manga Classics - Kipling,Crystal S. Chan

I've read most of the other Manga classics, and they were always nice, so even though I had only seen the Disney movie with the same name, I wanted to read this version of the Jungle book.

I had some problems at first to get into the short story collection, probably since I was unaware that the original stories were quite different from the movie, and did not seem to follow in a chronological order. One of the stories even takes place in icy seas so I didn't associate that with jungle either. But once I settled for this I was glad for it. The way some of the original prose was kept in the manga was great.

Also, most importantly, it made me curious towards The Jungle Book, even though I previously read some of Rudyard Kipling's work in a Little Black Classic and was slightly disappointed with it.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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review 2017-08-28 09:38
Rivers Of London: Black Mould
Rivers of London Volume 3: Black Mould - Ben Aaronovitch,Andrew Cartmel,Lee Sullivan

I was looking forward to this so much I pre-ordered it three months in advance (something I'm not wont to do). When it finally arrived I was looking for a particular good moment to sit down with it and  read it in one go.

The comics of Rivers of London are a nice addition to the main series, although it doesn't seem they are essential to the overall plot of the series. Nevertheless I've been enjoying them a lot and would certainly recommend them to fans of the series. Black Mould, as the name suggests deals with an infestation of sentient mould and was another good read. The only complaint I had was that the solution felt a bit rushed, but this was not a major problem.

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