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review 2017-02-24 21:42
Manga Review: Kimi ni Todoke From Me to You, Vol 1 by Karuho Shiina
Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You, Vol. 1 - Karuho Shiina

I have never read a manga book before this. It seems surprising, since I watch anime and I’ve always been interested in the stories, but I guess I’ve always thought reading novels would be more satisfying. However, I’m glad I decided to read this one.

 

It’s such a cute story. I finished this book in about three days, even during finals week. I like how the author takes time to really develop the characters and the story. It’s not a fast-paced romance, where both of the main characters instantly fall for each other and can’t live without each other; rather, it’s more real. It’s obvious that they like each other, but they don’t immediately fall in love. Instead, they talk and hang out and get to know each other.

 

Despite the fact that this is paced slower than most stories, I still really enjoyed it. It’s very funny — some parts even had me laugh out loud. I am definitely going to read the rest of the series.

 

All in all, a very good introduction to the manga world.

Source: www.purplereaders.com/?p=2303
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review 2017-01-09 19:07
Naruto, Vol. 72: Uzumaki Naruto!! - Masashi Kishimoto

I started watching the Naruto anime years and years ago, but it went on for so long that I was never able to finish, let alone get into Shippuden. Then, Andrew started getting into more anime and manga stuff and agreed to watch the series with me. We just barely made it to the Shippuden anime series before the wonderful Chicago Public Library released the entire manga series on Overdrive. My local branch of the library doesn’t have a lot of manga, so I requested a volume or two once in a while, but didn’t get very far into the manga series, so this release was HUGE. I could read it on my computer and not have to deal with waiting a week for it to ship to my branch. At the same time, Andrew and I cancelled our CrunchyRoll subscription, so we didn’t have access to Shippuden anymore. So, he started reading the manga as well.

 

Without giving spoilers, I’m going to sum up my feelings of the series as a whole — all 72 volumes. It starts off as a bit of a fun story, with Naruto trying to become a ninja and being loudmouthed about how he’s going to be Hokage someday, but quickly takes a bit of a darker turn. They are, after all, ninja and are very often in real danger when they take on their missions. Kishimoto doesn’t hold back when he crafts the story — the battles and dangers are high-stakes and even at 11 years old, the characters fight for their lives. I enjoyed this, because being a ninja would be dangerous, so I appreciated that this series had that level of honesty and genuineness.

 

My favorite parts, however, are the characters. You can tell that Kishimoto loves what he does, because there’s a wonderful playfulness to the characters that drew me in and made me fall in love with them. Each character has their own flaws and personalities, but you see that they are generally good people who care about their friends and their families. They work hard to protect them and when there’s danger, they all come together to fight against it. The series shines when the characters are given a chance to go above and beyond for their comrades, and this series is, in the end, a series about what it means to be friends.

 

Though it’s a long series, I would say it’s worth it. It’s almost bittersweet that we’ve finished it. We spent the better part of the year reading the manga together, talking about new developments and following the characters in their journey. Unlike the anime, which dragged on with filler episodes, the manga is perfect. Some things drag on, but the pacing is overall great for the story. It’s made me laugh out loud and cry, sometimes both at once. And while everything isn’t over-explained in the final volume, all my questions were answered satisfactorily. I loved reading about Naruto’s story and his journey to becoming an adult. There’s a reason why this is such a popular series — it’s really, really good. If anything about it at all interests you even in the slightest, I’d highly recommend getting started on it.

Source: www.purplereaders.com/?p=2995
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review 2016-04-18 07:38
Flower in a Storm (manga, vol. 1) by Shigeyoshi Takagi, translated by HC Language Solutions, Inc.
Flower in a Storm Vol. 1 - Shigeyoshi Takagi

I finally made myself finish reading this. Yay! Except I still have to get through volume 2...

Riko Kunimi wants nothing more than to be an ordinary high school girl. Unfortunately, her amazing physical abilities (super strength, ability to survive a three-story fall without injury, etc.) bring her to the attention of Ran Tachibana, the 17-year-old heir of one of the world's richest families. Ran is determined to marry her. He tells her he'll give up if she can evade him for the next 25 hours, but the deck is stacked against her. As Riko spends more time in Ran's world (because she has no choice), she learns that he's constantly in danger. And now that Riko is his fiancee, so is she.

I requested this one via interlibrary loan for two reasons. One, I liked the artwork on the cover. And two, I learned that the series was only two volumes long. Which I knew probably meant it was going to feel rushed, but short series are so much less daunting and time-consuming that I couldn't resist.

This first volume was a mess. It was too over-the-top and ridiculous for me to truly be enraged by it, but boy am I glad that I got this through the library and didn't buy it.

Ran's reason for falling in love with Riko was pretty silly, but I liked that his reaction to her physical abilities was usually a great big grin and some version of “Isn't she amazing?” He didn't seem to care that she could probably wipe the floor with him.

That said, as a romantic hero Ran sucked. He first met Riko when his driver almost ran her over. As the accident was happening, his first thought was “How am I going to hush this up?” Later, he arranged it so that he and Riko were locked up together and then got mad when she accidentally hit him while trying to get him to leave her alone. His exact words: “I'm being nice and you give me this attitude? What don't you like about me? My looks, family financial situation and prospects are great. If you ignore my personality, I'm perfect!” (29) That last line showed that Takagi was at least a little aware of how awful Ran was, and it might have worked out okay if he'd realized the error of his ways and backed off a bit (okay, more than a bit), but no. He basically badgered Riko into spending time with him, and then she let him convince her that she was falling in love with him.

Riko and Ran's various adventures, which included an assassin and a jealous rich kid, were pretty forgettable and weren't fun enough to make up for their terrible budding romance.

The volume included an extra unrelated story, “The Need for Artificial Respiration,” which was a bigger mess than the main story. The premise: Kiyoharu becomes curious about Toko, a girl in his school who once kissed him out of the blue. She doesn't seem to be dating anyone, but she spends a lot of time around one particular guy and is known for kissing a lot of guys.

Takagi tried to tell a serious story about a girl who

ended up having an abortion

(spoiler show)

, but the end result was muddled and confusing, and the characters were under-developed. Also, the sudden romance between Kiyoharu and Toko made me uncomfortable. Kiyoharu had no reason to fall for Toko, other than that one kiss she forced on him, and I got the impression that Toko had emotional problems she was trying to fix with boys.

Extras:

  • A three-page Flower in a Storm bonus, in which Ran worries that he may be gaining weight.
  • A one-page author's afterword.
  • A brief note about the poem Ran quotes earlier in the volume.

 

Rating Note:

 

I initially considered giving this 2 stars, because I usually think of 1- and 1.5-star books as being memorable in their awfulness, and Flower in a Storm is fairly forgettable. However, writing about Ran reminded me of how much I disliked him. Enough to drop my rating a whole star! So there you go, 1 star.

 

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

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review 2015-04-10 03:21
Rurouni Kenshin: Voyage to the Moon World (book) original concept by Nobuhiro Watsuki, written by Kaoru Shizuka, translated by Cindy Yamauchi & Mark Giambruno
Rurouni Kenshin: Voyage to the Moon World - Nobuhiro Watsuki,Kaoru Shizuka,Mark Giambruno,Cindy H. Yamauchi

This was one of my used bookstore finds. Although you wouldn't guess it from the description on the back of the book, this is actually a collection of two stories. The first is “Voyage to the Moon World,” the one that gave the book its title. The second is “Sanosuke and Nishiki-e.”

“Voyage to the Moon World”

Sekihara Tae, one of the daughters of the owner of Akabeko, a beef-pot restaurant, visits the Kamiya Kasshin-ryu dojo with a request: help one of the restaurant's regular customers find a book that was stolen from him.

Okuma Daigoro had arrived at the restaurant with a copy of Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon. After his meal, he decided to help out at the restaurant for a bit, and that's when the book was stolen. Daigoro doesn't know why someone took it – maybe they planned to translate it into Japanese and sell it, or maybe someone thought its ideas about traveling to the moon had merit – but he does know that his sensei will kick him out if he doesn't get it back. Kenshin and the others agree to help him.

Despite Daigoro's obvious passion for From the Earth to the Moon and the science that might one day allow human beings to travel to the moon, Verne's book turned out to not be all that important. Kenshin sometimes acts like a fool, but he definitely isn't, and Kaoru Shizuka stayed true to his personality. While everyone else looked for the book, Kenshin dug a bit deeper and learned that Daigoro's sensei had some dangerous secrets.

Part of my problem with this story was that the historical context didn't entirely make sense to me, which made it hard for me to truly understand what the stakes were. Daigoro's portion of the story was much easier to follow, but his portion didn't matter much. It also didn't help that he wasn't all that interesting of a character.

Those who'd happily gobble up Rurouni Kenshin fanfic might like this, although, even when looked at through a fanfic lens, it's not all that great. All the characters were exactly as you'd expect them to be. Kaoru and Kenshin had slight romantic tension. Kenshin was humble, intelligent, and capable, and Shizuka briefly hinted at some of the baggage his past gave him. Yahiko was blunt and bad-mannered, but also good-hearted. Unfortunately, the characters didn't really do many interesting things. The best scene was probably the one where Kaoru fought a character trained in Western fencing techniques – I liked that Kenshin stood back and let Kaoru show what she could do, but also gave her the benefit of his experience by shouting advice at crucial moments.

Mostly, though, this story was bland, and the battles made me wish I were reading it in manga form or watching it in the anime. Shizuka's attempts to explain Kenshin's tactics and thought processes were nice, but nowhere near as good as seeing all the action happen.

“Sanosuke and Nishiki-e”

Tae and Tsubame ask Sanosuke to buy nishiki-e prints for them, specifically Swordsman Iba Hachiro by Tsukioka Tsunan. He grudgingly agrees and is shocked when he sees one particular print of Tsunan's and realizes that they used to be in the Sekiho Army together. He visits Tsunan in order to reconnect with him, and finds himself drawn into Tsunan's crazy plan to overthrow the Meiji government.

“Voyage to the Moon World” rang no bells for me, but I knew that I'd heard this particular story before. According to the Rurouni Kenshin wiki, it started in Act 45 in the manga and episode 23 in the anime. I have no idea which came first, the manga version or Shizuka's story version, but it was definitely better than “Voyage to the Moon World" and had more of an emotional impact. I was able to understand the historical context a little better this time around, too.

Unlike the first story, this one was more focused on character histories and inner struggles. Sanosuke was forced to think about his past loyalties, current friendships, and how far he was willing to go in order to support a former friend and comrade. The things Tsunan intended to do weren't great, but his anger at the government was justified.

The book as a whole

Kenshin is one of my manga/anime character crushes. I have a thing for characters that are both humble and incredibly capable, and reading his dialogue in this book gave me a nice feeling of nostalgia.

Although I can't say that this book was great, and I'd probably never recommend it to someone who wasn't already a Rurouni Kenshin fan, it could have been worse. The pacing was sometimes strange – the first story spent a full page detailing the history of beef-pots (not terribly important to the story as a whole), and the second story devoted more than a page to the history of Iba Hachiro (again, not terribly important). However, the characters acted the way they should, the stories were mildly interesting, and it was nice to get a brief peek into Kenshin and Sanosuke's heads.

Extras:

  • A folded color illustration of Kenshin, Shinomori Aoshi, and Saito Hajime. Which is weird, because neither Saito nor Aoshi appear in this book at all.
  • A brief postscript written by Watsuki, in which he apologizes for not being able to draw as many illustrations as he would have liked.
  • Character guides for both stories, plus a more general illustrated character guide for some of the series regulars.
  • Fourteen black and white illustrations.
  • An 8-page glossary. It includes lots of relevant historical and cultural information.

 

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

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review 2014-04-12 19:58
Midnight Secretary (vol. 2) story & art by Tomu Ohmi
Midnight Secretary 2 - Tomu Ohmi

I loved the first volume of this series so much that I purchased the next three without hesitation. I was expecting more fluffy fun. Unfortunately, this volume went in a direction that made me very unhappy. I really hope this series rights itself over the course of the next couple volumes, or I'm not sure I'll be able to continue with it.

The first half of the volume wasn't so bad. I enjoyed the brief appearance of Kyohei's mother, who shed a little more light on how vampirism works in this series and revealed some of the reasons behind Kyohei's cold behavior towards his family and most humans. Kaya's realization that she was in love with Kyohei didn't come as a surprise, and I already knew that realization would lead to hurt feelings and inner turmoil on her part.

It was painful to watch Kaya become so absorbed with and upset by her feelings for Kyohei, but I could understand it. I think my problems with this volume didn't really begin until after Kyohei found out that his brother had offered Kaya the option of being reassigned. He acted like a complete and utter jerk, seeking Kaya out at her home and verbally striking out at her when she refused to let herself be swayed by him.

The thing is, this volume could have been saved. There were indications that being separated from Kaya upset Kyohei, even if he wasn't willing to admit it, and Kaya was still enough herself to be able to be someone else's efficient, perfect secretary. She didn't necessarily need Kyohei in order to continue on, and the stage was set for Kyohei to realize he was being an ass and try to redeem himself.

For this to have all worked out, Kyohei needed to do some groveling before Kaya could go back to him. There would still have been issues they needed to deal with – they were still boss and employee, and at least one other person in the company knew their relationship had become closer than was appropriate – but at least Kyohei would have acknowledged that Kaya was someone worthy of his respect and consideration.

Unfortunately, that's not how things happened.

Kyohei saved Kaya from getting hit by a car, exposing himself to sunlight and weakening himself in the process. Kyohei's loyal driver later went to Kaya and begged her to see Kyohei, revealing to her that he hadn't been feeding as much as he should since she'd left. Kaya went to Kyohei and then slashed her wrist, forcing him to either drink her blood or let her die. After he'd drunk his fill and they'd had sex, Kyohei asked if she'd be his secretary again. Kaya was still enough of a professional to say that she'd continue with her job at Erde, as she'd promised Kyohei's brother, but she told Kyohei that she'd come work for him in secret in the evenings.

First off, I don't care that Kyohei revealed his feelings somewhat via his actions, by weakening himself in order to save Kaya – in my opinion, he still should have been forced to say at least some of what he felt for her before she ran back to him. I was hugely uncomfortable with the scene in which she slashed her wrist, because she seemed to be saying that loving and serving Kyohei was more important to her than even her life. And agreeing to publicly work for Erde, while working for Kyohei in secret?

(spoiler show)

Where did the professional, career-minded Kaya that I loved in the first volume go? The woman who was so ethical she investigated her own boss for drug use/pushing and would have turned him in if that had been what he'd been doing?

This volume's ending angered me. Kyohei was a jerk who should have groveled but didn't, Kaya was a disappointment, and the sex happened at least a volume or two too early.

Extras:

Occasional author's notes relating to the series, plus an afterword from the author.

 

(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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