Short manga reviews, Part 1
I’m not sure why, but I’ve been reading a lot of manga lately. A lot of manga. So much, in fact, that I had to split what was going to be one post into three parts because otherwise it would have been ridiculously long.
Hoshin Engi vol. 1 by Ryu Fujisaki
The Yin Kingdom was ruled by a great king, until he fell under the spell of a sennin (a supernatural being; called a demon on the back cover, but I don’t recall the story itself actually using that word) named Dakki. Dakki and her sennin pals rule greedily and ruthlessly. Taikobo, whose family was killed on the orders of another sennin who seduced a succession of emperors, is sent on a mission to rid the world of Dakki and those sennin who are ruining the kingdom.
Hoshin Engi takes a while to develop. The backstory and terminology are just kind of dumped on you in the first couple of chapters, which I had to slog through. There’s a glossary at the end, which didn’t really help me. And I never really got a feel for any of the characters beyond their role as hero, enemy, ally, etc. I was also troubled by the depiction of the two most powerful women in the story so far as evil. The manga is based on a classic Chinese story, The Creation of the Gods, but it still bothered me.
Love*Com vol. 1 by Aya Nakahara
Risa Koizumi is the tallest girl in her class. Atsushi Otani is the shortest guy in class. They can’t stand each other, their arguments resemble comedy routines, and all their classmates, and even their teacher, think they would be the perfect couple.
Love*Com supposedly stands for Lovely*Complex, since both Koizumi and Otani have a complex about their height, but Lovely*Comedy would be just as fitting. The story is simple, and Nakahara’s art is likewise uncomplicated and on the more realistic end of the spectrum. If you’re looking for a straightforward (no cross-dressing! no blackmail! or supernatural beings!) but effective romantic comedy that is actually funny, give this one a try.
Oh My Goddess! vol. 1 by Kosuke Fujishima
Keiichi Morisato meant to call his roommate, but dialed the Goddess Technical Help Line instead. When the goddess Belldandy tells Keiichi that she will grant him one wish, Keiichi rashly asks for a goddess like her to always be with him. Before he can change his mind, his wish is granted. Belldandy will be living with Keiichi…if they can find a place to live. Keiichi was living in an all-male dorm in college, but he’s kicked out when Belldandy is found in his room. Then there’s the effect of Belldandy on others. She’s beautiful, she’s smart, and she can do magic.
For such a classic manga, I have to admit to being a bit underwhelmed. It’s the manga version of “It’s not you, it’s me.” Because I can see how it would appeal to others. But it’s not as immediate as other manga series I’ve been reading. I suppose this is partly because I’m not a hardcore manga reader (the amount of manga I’ve read this month is an anamoly), and this is more subtle in terms of art, humor, and story than the manga I enjoy. That said, the comprehensive cultural and translation notes alone make this volume worth reading.
Pearl Pink vol. 1 by Meca Tanaka
Ten years ago, Tamako asked Kanji if he would marry her. Kanji agreed, as long as Tamako became brave and strong. Now they’re teenagers and Tamako has done her best to be strong, but Kanji has absolutely no memory of Tamako, nevermind his promise to her. Tamako’s mother is now a famous actress, but her image is built on innocence and purity, so it wouldn’t do for the public to learn that she was a teen mother. Kanji’s father is her manager, so it appears that best solution is for Tamako to live with Kanji and his father.
There are some interesting gender dynamics going on. Tamako is a tomboy and Kanji is a better housewife than Tamako would ever be, even going all Beauty Pop on her when Tamako gets dressed up. His father likes to try on Momono’s (Tamako’s mother) costumes along with her. But as short as this series is (I think it’s four volumes), I won’t be finishing it. I just didn’t care about any of the characters or the plot, which would be okay if it had something else going for it, like humor. I know, humor is subjective, but while I found it occasionally funny, it was just not enough to keep me reading. Not to mention those kinda icky moments like every time Kanji goes on about how soft Tamako is.
Punch! by Rie Takada
Supposedly, this series is 3 volumes long. Actually, it’s only 2 and 1/3 volumes, since the story abruptly concludes around page 70 of volume 3. The rest of the book is comprised of two totally unrelated short stories (which is mentioned nowhere at all, except for the table of contents, and which makes it look more like chapter titles than short story titles) that I didn’t bother to finish.
So the first 2 1/3 volumes of Punch! are about Elle Nagahara and the two guys fighting for her. Elle lives with her grandfather, the first Japanese Muay Thai world champion, who betrothed her to Ruo, the grandson of his greatest competitor. Elle does not want to marry Ruo, whom she thinks of as a brother. But she’s not having any success finding a guy of her own, since every time she finds a guy she likes, the guys who belong to her grandfather’s gym scare them off. After a chance meeting with Kazuki, she pretends that he is her boyfriend because she’s sure that he won’t be scared off by the other guys. But what will happen when Elle starts to fall for Kazuki for real?
Kazuki, the street fighter with a heart of gold, is the main reason to read the series. Because it sure wasn’t Elle or Ruo. I never understood why Ruo was so bent on marrying Elle, or what her appeal to Kazuki was. But it’s easy to see why Elle falls for Kazuki. Punch! is not as funny as Love*Com, but enjoyable enough. Except for the two COMPLETELY UNRELATED SHORT STORIES IN VOLUME 3, which you should *cough*cough* borrow from the library.