Noteworthy Manga Series
May's Commentary: I apologize for my absence these past several weeks but I have been reading some terrific manga series that are worth tracking down and reading. Here is my brief list:
Monster by Naoki Urasawa: Dr. Kenzō Tenma is a young Japanese doctor working in Düsseldorf during the 1980s when he ignores the order of his hospital director and saves the life of Johan Liebert, a young gunshot victim. About to be fired, Tenma's career is saved when all of his supervisors mysteriously die. Fast forward nine years and Tenma is still a successful surgeon until he encounters a criminal who is being controlled by Johan. Realizing the enormity of his error for the saving the life of an evil "monster", Tenma embarks on an one-made crusade to right this wrong and investigate Johan's past by uncovering dark secrets from East Germany's past. Suspenseful, dramatic and full of neat twists and turns, this manga series is bound to delight those who love reading mystery thrillers.
Oishinbo by Tetsu Kariya: A playful combination of the Japanese word for "delicious" and "one who loves to eat", this food and cooking series will appeal to anyone who loves watching the Food Network, and especially the original Iron Chef TV series. The series features culinary journalist Shirō Yamaoka and his partner Yūko Kurita who must come up with the "ultimate" menu. Complicating matters is Shirō's father who has been employed by a rival newspaper to come up with the "supreme" menu. Comprehensive knowledge about the production and processing of food as well as varying cooking techniques makes this series a must read for all foodies.
Dororo, Volume 1 by Osamu Tezuka
Dororo, Volume 2 by Osamu Tezuka
Dororo, Volume 3 by Osamu Tezuka
May's Review: Sigh. I love Osamu Tezuka. He is simply one of my favorite writers. I am seldom disappointed by his stories and I have to say that Dororo ranks as one of my favorite mangas of all time.
The story centers on Hyakkimaru who must battle demons to regain his 48 body parts that were taken from him at birth. Each time he defeats a demon, he retrieves one of his missing parts. The hero is accompanied by a young thief named Dororo, and together they travel the countryside in search of monsters.
As a whole, all three volumes offered plenty of action, terrific artwork and very likeable characters, especially Dororo. Volume 2 was one of my personal favorites because it featured a poignant story about a village caught up in an ongoing military conflict and whose citizens were kept divided by a dilapidated wall. What stood out for me was how Tezuka skillfully weaves Hyakkimaru's past into the conflict by having our hero confront the enemy--his own father who had sold his son's body parts at birth in order to gain military dominance. Talk about tension!
Thankfully, Dororo is not left out of the story and plays several key roles especially in Volume 3 where his past as a thief finally catches up with him. I am not going to spoil this volume for you but there is a twist that I have to admit, I was not really expecting but should have guessed much earlier on about Dororo's true identity.
This is not only a must read for Tezuka fans, but also a must for any manga fan.
Review: Alice in the County of the Hearts
Alice in the Country of Hearts by QuinRose
Description: A sudden kidnapping and a dark, mysterious hole...Handsome men with guns and bunny ears...A suspicious game of survival...Wonderland is officially at war! And Alice is trapped in the middle of it all. Will she ever make it out alive? A little arrogant, stubborn and determined to get back home, Alice isn't fazed by these challenges...until she wanders the strange country only to find that every man is weirdly in love with her and all the inhabitants are gun crazy and ready to kill without remorse. What is going on in Wonderland?!
May's Review: Generally I'm a huge fan of modern twists of classic fairy tales and I was looking forward to reading this manga series. Yet as soon as I got the book in my hand, I found myself struggling to finish it. The artwork was topnotch but the story just seemed to be lacking. I didn't take to any of the characters, especially with Alice which could help to explain why reading this manga took so much effort. I'm totally sitting on the fence with this manga. However, I noticed the library has now received volume 2 so hopefully this series will improve for me.
In the meantime, if any of you have read this manga and love/hate it, leave a comment. I love to get your feedback because like I said, I'm really on the fence about this series.
The following are new in the library:
Rosario+Vampire Season II by Akihisa Ikeda
Book Description: Average human teenage boy Tsukune accidentally enrolls at a boarding school for monsters - no, not jocks and popular kids, but bona fide werewolves, witches and unnamables out of his wildest nightmares! And now he's a sophomore!
Black Butler by Yana Toboso
Book Description: Just a stone's throw from London lies the manor house of the illustrious Phantomhive earldom and its master, one Ciel Phantomhive. Earl Phantomhive is a giant in the world of commerce, Queen Victoria's faithful servant... and a slip of a twelve-year-old boy. Fortunately, his loyal butler, Sebastian, is ever at his side, ready to carry out the young master's wishes. And whether Sebastian is called to save a dinner party gone awry or probe the dark secrets of London's underbelly, there apparently is nothing Sebastian cannot do. In fact, one might even say Sebastian is too good to be true... or at least, too good to be human...
Review: Dark Hunter Manga Series
The Dark Hunters, Vol. 1 and The Dark Hunters, Vol. 2 by Sherrilyn Kenyon
May's Review: The 2 volume manga series was adapted from Kenyon's hugely popular paranormal romantic Dark-Hunter series, specifically Night Pleasures. Both the book and the manga tells the story of Kyrian, former prince of Thrace turned Dark-Hunter vampire, who must protect Amanda, a human who knows little about the psychic power she possesses or the dangers she is about to attract. In the introduction of volume 1, Kenyon writes that she is a huge fan of manga so it's not surprising that her Dark Hunter story is well suited for this format. Good illustrations with strong emphasis on action and romance makes this manga series not only an enjoyable read but almost a guilty pleasure! A total must-read for Kenyon fans.
If you enjoy the manga, you might also want to check out Kenyon's graphic novel, Lords of Avalon: Sword of Darkness, that was also based on one of her novels. Here is a link to my 2008 review of her graphic novel.
For more about Kenyon and her work, check out her website.
We Were There, Volume 8
I'm a pretty big fan of the series We Were There by Yuki Obata. The story is about an average girl who falls for the most popular boy at school, and is full of angst and drama. Unfortunately, around Volume 6, I was starting to get tired of it all, and I picked up Volume 8 with a bit of trepidation.
Well, was I ever in for a surprise! Volume 8 is a game-changer, and the cliff-hanger at the end will leave you desperate for more. So, if you haven't read the series, I suggest you start with Volume 1, but if you are a long-time fan who is starting to get a bit tired, stick with it, because Volume 8 is going to shock you.
Review: Black Jack Manga Series
Black Jack. Volume 1 by Osamu Tezuka
Black Jack. Volume 2 by Osamu Tezuka
Series Summary: Black Jack is a mysterious and charismatic young genius surgeon who travels the world performing amazing and impossible medical feats. Though a trained physician, he refuses to accept a medical license due to his hatred and mistrust of the medical community's hypocrisy and corruption. This leads Black Jack to occasional run-ins with the authorities, as well as from gangsters and criminals who approach him for illegal operations.
May's Review : I'm a huge fan of Osamu Tezuka and have been reading his various manga series on and off for a number of years. While some reviewers wax poetic about the artwork, I am more intrigued by good storytelling. As far as I'm concerned, Tezuka is a masterful storyteller and he does a fairly good job of portraying a highly intelligent but tortured and at times, morally ambiguous character who uses his medical skills to save lives.
The first volume painted Black Jack as anti-hero, someone to be greatly admired for his talent and compassion even though he charges exorbitant medical fees to save his patients' lives. Mind you, most of his patients in the first volume could well afford the fees especially the tycoon in the first story who was about to lose his son. By the second book, however, I felt like Osamu either took a break from writing the storyline or somehow the Japanese translation got muddled because Black Jack was more often than not, portrayed as a money-grabbing surgeon willing to perform any illegal surgery if the amount was high enough. This was particularly evident in the "Granny" story where Black Jack charges an astronomical fee for a middle-income man who wants to save his mother. The man would undoubtedly spend the rest of life paying off the debt but not before possibly bankrupting himself and his family in the process. I am not sure what Osamu's point was in telling this story but his characterization of Black Jack's greed simply did not sit well with me. However, I am willing to continue reading this series and would recommend it to any Tezuka or manga fan.
Ôoku: The Inner Chamber series by Fumi Yoshinaga
Summary: In Edo period Japan, a strange new disease called the Red Pox has begun to prey on the country's men. Within eighty years of the first outbreak, the male population has fallen by seventy-five percent. Women have taken on all the roles traditionally granted to men, even that of the Shogun. The men, precious providers of life, are carefully protected. And the most beautiful of the men are sent to serve in the Shogun's Inner Chamber...
May's Comment: Wow, I'm so excited that RPL has ordered this manga! According to one online review, this is a terrific manga series with a great storyline. I think this story will appeal to fans of Brian K. Vaughan's Y: the Last Man graphic novel series.
Alice in Wonderland
It's official. I am going on a manga kick. Check out Alice in the Country of Hearts - it sounds like it is going to be fabulous!
Description: A sudden kidnapping and a dark, mysterious hole...Handsome men with guns and bunny ears...A suspicious game of survival...Wonderland is officially at war! And Alice is trapped in the middle of it all. Will she ever make it out alive? A little arrogant, stubborn and determined to get back home, Alice isn't fazed by these challenges...until she wanders the strange country only to find that every man is weirdly in love with her and all the inhabitants are gun crazy and ready to kill without remorse. What is going on in Wonderland?!...A hilarious, dangerous tale of Alice the likes of which you've never seen before!
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