Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Shojo Beat: Shocking! Vampiric! Revelations!

Elsewhere: I reviewed Kick-Ass #6 at Comics Bulletin.  Oh, Mark Millar, you'll never change, will you?  And I also contributed to Robot 6's weekly What Are You Reading? column.

Link: You can read the entire first half (51 pages) of the third volume of Ed Piskor's Wizzywig at his site.  That's a series I want to check out at some point.

And: I haven't read the whole thing yet, but this translation of a blog post/lecture notes by Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga co-creator Kentaro Takekuma looks pretty interesting; it's about why he feels the manga version of Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa is "hard to read".  I've only read a little of Nausicaa, but I never managed to finish it, and maybe this will help me figure out why.

This page from MAD by Drew Friedman is hilarious.

The latest installment of Next-Door Neighbor is by Dean Haspiel, and it's very neat.

As of tomorrow (April 22), you should be able to read the first chapter of Rumiko Takahashi's new series, Rin-Ne, at TheRumicWorld.com, in a simultaneous release with the Japanese version.  That's pretty awesome.

I should also mention that Matthew Loux is doing a Salt Water Taffy webcomic, a series of gag strips.  It's pretty fun so far, and should be a good way to tide fans over (see what I did there?) until the next volume comes out.

Okay, get to the review already!

Shojo Beat
May 2009



As you see on the cover, it's the anime issue, which means a small spotlight on a few upcoming series (Honey and Clover, Nana, Gakuen Alice, Romeo x Juliet, and Aria), along with a couple classic series (Marmalade Boy, Sailor Moon, and Ouran High School Host Club; the latter seems a bit recent to be called "classic", but whatever).  There's also page about Tokyo locations featured in Nana, a blurb about an interesting-looking movie called Happily Ever After, and a mention of The Color of Earth.  And, a neat double-sided poster featuring either Nana or Honey and Clover; that one's going right up on my wall (I'll go with H&C, since I already have a Nana poster).

But enough of that; on to the manga:

Rasetsu
By Chika Shiomi

I never read Chika Shiomi's previous series, Yurara, beyond the preview chapter that ran right here in this magazine, but this seems to be something of a follow-up, if not exactly a sequel.  There is one character that continues from the earlier series, but it appears to focus on the title character, a confident, no-nonsense exorcist (who also happens to be pretty stacked).  We see how she works with her fellow employees at a ghost-hunting agency, and it's nice to see her get her job done comptently and strongly.  Most interestingly, we learn her backstory and where she got her powers: they came from a demon that attacked her when she was fifteen, branding her with a rose symbol on her chest and promising to return for her when she turns 20.  The interesting thing about this is the rape imagery that accompanies the flashback to the attack:



But while it's horrific, we see that while it was a traumatic experience, she's not somebody who is defined by it.  She's used it to become stronger, and now she's a take-charge badass ghostbuster.  See, this is what girls' comics are about: female empowerment!  That's what I like to see.  This one looks like a manga to keep an eye on.

Honey Hunt
By Miki Aihara

It's kind of business as usual in this chapter of the series, as Yura continues to whine about her agent revealing her star-begotten nature to the public and gets encouragement from her two love interests.  That sort of thing could get old if it goes on for too long, but while we know that she'll eventually go back to acting, it's kind of fun to see her try to suppress her excitement when she sees the director's plans for the scenes to be shot for their series.  But other than the near-ridiculous niceness and competence of would-be boyfriend Q-ta, there's not much else going on in this chapter.  This series is pretty fun, but hopefully it will get back to some big drama soon.

Crimson Hero
By Mitsuba Takanashi

This chapter should have run closer to Valentine's Day, because it's just about the most lovey-dovey installment of the series that I can remember.  Nobara loves Yushin, and Yushin loves Nobara, and their mutual affection is spreading out to influence the rest of the cast.  Awww:



But that's about all that's really going on this month, although Yushin's rival, a bad boy named Kaz, finally makes his move, first telling Nobara that he has a crush on her and then entrapping her in an unfortunate situation for the chapter's cliffhanger.  We'll see how it plays out next month, but it doesn't really have me on the edge of my chair.  The series appears to be in one of its lulls between moments of exciting athletics; let's get to the next game already!

Sand Chronicles
By Hinako Ashihara

The problem with a flash-forward is that it can defuse dramatic moments when we know the outcome.  That's kind of what happens here; the first chapter of this series saw an adult Ann contemplating her precious hourglass, so when she throws it away this chapter, having sworn to forget Daigo, we know it's not gone for good.  There were only a few possible outcomes: she could obtain another one, either from Fuji or elsewhere (which would be a bit dumb, since the one she tossed was already a replacement for the one her mom bought her), or she could find it again.  Guess which one happened?  But while it ended up being kind of a contrived plot, Ashihara uses it in service for some heartbreaking events.  Not for Ann though; she might be upset about her life, but she's doing pretty good.  No, the real object of pity here is Fuji, who is devoting himself to Ann wonderfully, and she's only using him to feel good while she pines for Daigo.  Damn, that's harsh.  Actually, It's a bit more complex than that, but being of the male persuasion, I can't help but feel sorry for poor Fuji.  He's losing his virginity to the girl he's always loved, and she can't stop thinking about her ex.

Really, it's more of the rich characterization that has defined this series, which is the reason chapters like this can provoke such a strong reaction.  I'm continually impressed with how well Ashihara crafts this series, and I imagine I'll continue to be as it progresses.  Don't let me down, sensei!

Honey and Clover
By Chica Umino

In everybody's favorite series about goofy art school students, not too much happens this month.  Most of the action continues to center on Takemoto's journey of self-discovery, in which he finally finds his true calling: to be a housekeeper!  Or something like that.  He ends up working with a group of construction workers who renovate temples, cooking meals and doing laundry, and it's the most fulfilling thing he's done in a long time.  Was art school all for naught?  Or will he be able to take this experience and find focus as he figures out what he wants to do after graduation?  Only time will tell.  We get some interesting, enjoyable moments in the meantime though, a testament to Umino's skill at quickly crafting memorable characters even when they only make brief appearances.

Back at school, Hagu gets to teach a children's art class, which should provide her with some of her own ideas about what to do after graduation.  And Ayu actually meets Rika, her rival for Mayama's affections.  It gives her some insight into the woman and what Mayama sees in her, and prompts her own reverie into what she will do with her life.  Will she continue as she is, making pottery and working in her family's liquor store, ending up an old maid?  Can she handle that, if that's what it comes to?  Professor Hanamoto confesses that he has pretty much accepted a similar lot in life, and he doesn't seem to be doing too bad.  It's a good, introspective subplot, and one that I look forward to seeing resolved.  My hope: that Mayama will eventually give up his dreams of getting together with Rika, and finally go for the girl that has been sitting under his nose.  But I'm sure that's what Umino wants all her readers to happen, so she'll probably do some interesting things to mess with our expectations.  As always, I can't wait to see.

Vampire Knight
By Matsuri Hino

It'll be hard to talk about this chapter without revealing any spoilers, but I'll attempt to do so, so as to keep from ruining the experience of any fangirls who are waiting for the next volume.  And wow, will they be blown away by the events of this chapter, which do exactly what I thought Matsuri Hino would never do, completely changing up the status quo of the series, and doing so in a way that was quite unexpected.  Last chapter ended with Kaname biting Yuki, presumably turning her into a vampire in order to bring back her memories and prevent her from going insane.  And, well, that's not exactly what happened, but what did occur adds another creepy, crazy layer to the plot, along with a bit of good old incest (that's one sort of indirect spoiler, but I whited it out, so only read it if you're good and ready).  It's rare that something actually happens in this series, and even more so something that gets me excited, but I'll admit that I'm actually pretty interested to see what Hino has coming up.  I can't normally call myself a fan of this series, but if Hino would pace the action a bit better and dole out revelations like this a bit more frequently, I might well end up a convert.  If you're anticipating this reveal, then you're in for a treat.
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Well, this took me long enough to finish, but here it is.  Now I'm all excited for next month, for several reasons.  I don't think I'll ever stop reading this magazine, which is a bit sad.  But hey, target demographics aren't everything, right?