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Short manga reviews, Part 3

October 11, 2007

Catching up on Yakitate!! Japan by Takeshi Hashiguchi
Kazuma Azuma loves bread. His grandfather doesn’t understand why, because what’s wrong with good old rice? But Kazuma wants to create a national bread. Just as the French have French bread, Kazuma dreams of Ja-pan, a national bread for Japan. (Pan is the Japanese word for bread. And that pun is totally indicative of the humor in Yakitate!! Japan.) So Kazuma heads off for Tokyo where he finds a job working at the South Tokyo branch of Pantasia, Japan’s premier bakery chain, and enters the Pantasia rookie tournament along with coworker Kawachi.

I read the first three volumes of Yakitate!! Japan earlier this year, but didn’t continue the series until recently. The storyline at that point was just getting repetitive, but then I picked up vol. 4 and was hooked once again. Hashiguchi draws the best exaggerated expressions around, and anyone who can parody themselves and their work as well as he does (Takitate!! Gohan by “Dave” Hashiguchi) gets points in my book, plus the Pantasia competition gets even crazier as Kazuma faces off against a guy in a koala mask. Then came an absolutely hysterical vol. 5, so as I told Gayle, this is now my second favorite manga series. (“What do you mean?!” Sorry, couldn’t resist.) And with the rookie competition finally coming to an end in vol. 7, our bakers face a new challenge with unexpected allies.

catching up on Black Cat by Kentaro Yabuki
In case anyone was wondering, this is my favorite manga series. So, quick recap: Train Heartnet, aka the Black Cat, once worked for Chronos, a secret organization that controls one-third of the world’s economy. He was a number, an assassin, that Chronos sent to clean up problems. Now he’s a sweeper, a bounty hunter, living as carefree as a bounty hunter can, along with the more business-minded Sven and Eve, the “experimental living weapon” they rescued from a nanotech lab on a heist with the thief Rinslet Walker.

Creed Diskenth, another former Chronos Number, leads the Apostles of the Stars. His goal is to wipe out Chronos, and he wants Train to join him. Chronos wants Train to return to fight Creed, but Train is determined to remain independent. The bulk of vols. 9 and 10 are action-oriented, with lots of fighting and suspense. And Train doesn’t do much of the fighting! Shock! Members of Chronos and the Apostles of the Stars get most of the spotlight in these two volumes. Having supporting characters take center stage wouldn’t work in most other series, but Yabuki pulls it off.

catching up on Penguin Revolution by Sakura Tsukuba
I was disappointed by vol. 2, in which the only thing of note that happened was the revelation of a jaw-dropping secret. Vol. 3 was better, as Yuka’s job as Ryo’s manager is threatened, and Tsukuba ratchets up the romantic tension between them (and just wait until vol. 4). There are some annoying typos, such as an actress whose last name is Oka in several scenes, but Oda at the end of vol. 4. I also wish there was a summary of the previous books, one of those “The Story So Far…” things, and more cultural and translation notes.

Overall, this is a relatively quiet series. So if you’re looking for a series with a lot of action (go read Black Cat) or insane humor (read Yakitate!! Japan), Penguin Revolution probably isn’t the best choice. The main reason to read it is the characters and their relationship. Yuka and Ryo are so adorable, I swear I say “Oh, they are so cute!” at least once a chapter.

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