lessonsinescapology: (Yay)
The Ancient Magus' Bride by Kore Yamazaki, vol.1-2: A manga that opens its story with the main female character being sold at an auction is a bold one and worthy of a look.

Chise is a young girl sold at an auction because of her special abilities. Her buyer is a half-man, half-fae(?) being called Elias Ainsworth. Elias is a mage who wishes Chise to be his apprentice... and his bride. I know, I know. Some raised eyebrows here and hints of an unbalanced, dark relationship. But here's where the mangaka is to be praised: she portrays Elias as a powerful mage who is ignorant of basic human interactions so at times he is both frightening and childishly naive. Chise herself is a tragic yet strong character, still in search of a home and a destiny. The two characters alternate being each others guide and support in the story so it balances their precarious dynamic to a point.

The art also helps as I've rarely seen a manga that has so many facial expressions for its characters. Yamazaki's art is detailed with a strong use of black as a colour and negative space panels, its very detailed in the everyday objects and the house that the characters live in. The large page spreads are beautiful too and create a sense of wonder and dread that accompanies the action on the page.

Each episode features a story from old European/English folklore such as the Fae Court, Black Dog, cats with nine lives, dragons, etc. This is Old Magic which is a force of nature, neither good nor evil in itself but dependent on its user's ability and his/her action with the high price that comes with such spells. I enjoyed each story and returned to read them again just to savour the enchantment and horror of each setting.

This is the first manga I've tried that was published by Seven Seas Entertainment and the company does a good job with the translation, printing, and colour page insert. The covers are beautiful too.

I will definitely be following this series. In short, highly recommended to fantasy fans.
lessonsinescapology: (Stormy)
Accidentally found myself following two new series both published by Viz Media.

Requiem of the Rose King by Aya Kanno, Vol.1-2: I have only read Blank Slate by Kanno and that was a brutal but dramatic manga to read so I wasn't sure what to expect here but what an interesting interpretation of Richard the Third's life. The mangaka says she drew inspiration from Shakespeare's plays. Somehow I don't remember Richard being a hermaphrodite^^ but the mix of drama, historical characters, the supernatural, and Gothic horror and violence seems to work. Of particular note is Joan of Arc as an evil witch and spirit haunting Richard and taunting him since his childhood; it's the English view of her that Kanno is using here. If I had a complaint, it would be the densely packed scenes and panels which make it hard to understand what's going on. The story seems rushed in the first two volumes as presumably the mangaka wants to finish setting up the world and introducing its characters.

Hopefully Vol.3 will have a more leisurely pace. I'm following this series as it's different enough that it's intriguing. History tells us it doesn't end well for anyone involved in the Wars of the Roses.
P.S.: Benedict Cumberbatch is Richard the Third next year on the BBC's Shakespeare mini-series.

The Demon Prince of Momochi House by Aya Shouoto, Vol.1: New mangaka to me. This has many clich├ęs and elements from supernatural/shoujo manga and I feel the title is misleading after reading it. The art is very pretty with big panels, clean lines, and screentone. God, how I miss the use of screentones in manga!

The first volume teases with a mystery about a cursed house, likely a cursed lineage too, as the main female character, Himari, inherits a house on her 16th birthday only to discover the house is in ruins and three gorgeous men occupy it. I liked both Himari and Aoi. Their interactions are funny and awkward due to them being teenagers and living alone for such a long time (she grew up in an orphanage and he's been living alone for years) that it would be interesting to see how the romance progresses. The ending of the first volume is perfect with negative space dominating the panel and a dramatic revelation by Aoi. It makes the reader want to immediately pick up the next volume!

Manga

Dec. 16th, 2005 05:35 pm
lessonsinescapology: (Story)
Earthian by Yun Kouga: vol.1 and released by Tokyopop's Blu label. This is one of those classics/old-school titles you hear about often along like Eroica and Ai no Kusabi. In this universe, an alien race that happens to be called "Angels" have been observing Earth and the Earthians (humans) for a long time now and they're debating whether they should destroy humanity for its many sins. Enter Chihaya the only angel born with black hair and eyes who is a plus-checker and his partner Kagetsuya who is a negative/minus-checker who get sent to Earth to determine the value of humans. Along with that plot is a cancer that's killing angels and some secret regarding Chihaya's birth/identity and Chihaya's feelings towards Kagetsuya.

The art is pretty and strongly reminds me of Tachibana Kaimu. The story is typical shounen-ai fair with mistaken identities, rivals for love, misunderstandings, etc. Apart from the pretty boys with wings, what made me enjoy this story is Kouga's weird (dare I say 'perverted'?) sense of humor. She sets up the two's first meeting on the first day of school with sakura blossoming all around (classic scene of True Love in shoujo manga) while having every character in the manga tell us sodomy is punished by execution on Eden. Then we get the archangel Michael who adopts Chihaya but seems a bit of a pedophile himself but in a comic way. You get a doctor who acts gay but denies it, a sister who is in love with her brother and he gets killed because of it, a mad scientist who makes you want to cringe when you read his lines. All very strange situations that aren't meant to be taken seriously. The only annoying thing about the manga is that Chihaya is for all intents and purposes a typical shoujo heroine only Kouga gave her a male pronoun because he even looks like a girl.

Marine Fantasy by Takahashi Miyuki, vol.3: These stories are about "L", the son of the Sea God who is attached to humans because his mother was human. Most of the stories are about humanity's follies and the tragedies that occur when love or hate enter the equation, sort of a very light version of Clamp's TB. The first story is about a Jewish boy who is rescued by L and taken to live on a faraway island away from Nazi Germany in 1938, the second story is L's childhood and his rescue of a small boy from death thereby altering the boy's destiny and the tragedy that ensues when one of the gods interferes in the path of destiny and it takes place in 1676 amid the clash between English settlers and native Indian Americans, and the third story is about a pair of lovers separated by social status and L helps reunite them which takes place in 1909 Chelsey, England.

The stories in each volume are self-contained, the art is beautiful and simple yet detailed when it needs to be, and it's fun reading about different time periods and countries/cultures. It helps that Takahashi doesn't preach when she recounts the stories of each character. Plus L is a 16-18 years old bishounen with looong silver hair and blue eyes and mostly depicted with swathes of fabric as his preferred choice of clothing. What more can you ask for in a manga?^_~
lessonsinescapology: (Default)
I picked up the first 2 volumes and was pleasantly surprized by their content. Facade is the name of a tall blond man with blue eyes who is the vessel or 'facade' for 5 other beings. So far there's a white swan with 4 wings called Twin, a big wolf/werewolf who calls himself Wolf Face, a Chinese/Japanese style dragon named Naku, and someone called The Professor who gives commentary on events. Facade travels through time to distant periods and presumably worlds for unknown reasons, but he ends up touching the lives of various individuals and being touched by them in return. The first volume has a story about him visiting a war torn world wrecked by a giant tsunami wave which caused a war for survival in Japan. He helps a small boy called Tokio and his siblings find shelter and a place to live in the wasteland. The cover of these two embracing would make you think it's homoerotic, but I get the feeling that it's more sympathy on Facade's part. Even the story about a viking who mistakes Facade for a woman and takes 'her' to his house isn't really shounen-ai. I just don't feel Shinohara's sincere about the implied homoeroticism, it's more like she's using it for an added twist on the story.

From these 2 volumes it seems the stories will be stand-alones with Facade visiting different time periods and lands for some reason or another, ranging from Vikings to ancient Japan to Egypt during Ramses II's rule. Both the art style and story content is very 80's with characters having detailed long hair and detailed clothing, and plots about hermaphrodites/shape shifters/time travel/sci-fi. Not a bad title and the stories do offer variety, but nothing very special about it either.
lessonsinescapology: (Default)
Skyhigh by Tsutomu Takahashi (2 volumes): This is one intense manga. Think Clamp's TB but about 10 times more serious and a lot heavier on the drama and pathos. Explicit nudity, sex, and violence in almost every part. But Takahashi knows how to tell a tale and how to use his art, which looks a lot like Japanese brush strokes, to the best dramatic/shocking effect. Ishuko is a young woman who guards The Gates. Every human soul with a tragic death arrives at the place she haunts, Ishuko can't and won't encourage or lead these people's souls to choose what they want to do with their afterlife. She only offers them 3 choices: accept their deaths and go to Heaven, refuse their deaths and become a wandering spirit on earth, or haunt and torment humans on earth who have caused their death. This manga isn't exactly about the dark side of human nature, rather it's about how complex human nature really is. There is no right and wrong, or an overabundance of sentimental decisions. You reap what you've sown during your life and now you're left to deal with it upon your death. The stories all have a sharp poignant feel to them whether they end happily or not, even the supposedly happy endings are questionable in this manga. Definitely recommended, but not for the weak of heart.

Shade by Tamayo Akiyama (one volume): I'm more and more convinced that Akiyama just likes to draw female characters in elaborate costumes and no plot to speak of. This is a collection of short stories based around a simple theme of Star/Moon/Mirror/etc. In other words, buy this manga only if you want to see vintage Clamp art because the only thing this mangaka has going for her is her former status as a Clamp member. She's an illustrator, she can't write.

Pink Prisoner by Ohya Kazumi (one volume): I'm a fan of Ohya's art and that's why I bought this manga. It's a collection of very short love stories, and not worth buying for any reason except collecting Ohya's works.
lessonsinescapology: (Default)
Here's some of the manga I found on my recent trip.

L: Marine Fantasy by Miyuki Takahashi (vol.1 and 2): This is Takahashi's first manga before she did "Musashi no.9". It's a compilation of short stories all connected by a central character of a beautiful youth with pale blue eyes and long silver hair who is the son of the sea god. Basically it reads like a lighter version of Clamp's TB. The Sea God's son L is very pretty to look at too, made me think about a certain someone on my Flist who likes long-haired bishounen^^ Worth buying if you can get it.

Amakusa 1637 by Michiyo Akaishi (vol.7 and 8): I love this manga. It has an actual plot, with strong character development, every kind of relationship from het to yaoi to yuri, and good historical research. The story is about a group of students who are shipwrecked during a trip. Trouble is they ended up in ancient Japan, before the Shimabara Christian revolt. The students don't arrive all at the same time, some have spent years alone in this time period before the others arrive and went through all kinds of hardship. The story begins when the last of them finally arrives and is mistaken for Amakusa Shirou, the future leader of the revolt who has already been secretly killed. Now Natsuki finds herself assuming his role and trying to prevent the deaths of a thousand people or more. Recommended manga!

The Ice Cold Demon's Tale by Shiho Sugiura (vol.24 final volume): So the plot floundered for a few volumes and seemed to lose its direction, but this volume has a nice twist that I hadn't seen coming. All the threads are nicely resolved and tied, and no character has been forgotten. Always a plus in my book. I loved the epilogue that occurs a few years later, happy endings for most of the characters even the main bad guy. All in all, a good long fantasy series with a main m/m couple. Not exactly stunning, but a good fun read.

Alice 19th by Watase Yu (final volume.7): Bleh and bleh. What started out so promising ended in a typical shoujo manga fashion. Main character gets help from everyone while being almost useless on her own, her interesting older sister ends up as a damsel in distress to be saved, and all the interesting supporting cast gets brushed aside by sending them back home where they belong. And the elusive Lost Word isn't found by Alice like we've been led to think but is told to her. I'm washing my hands off Watase. She can't write an interesting story and her art isn't enough to entice me to buy her manga.
lessonsinescapology: (Bound (luna_riviera))
It occured to me while browsing the bookshops in Thailand that my recent manga reads have become very specific. They all have pretty lead male characters (naturally^^), they are all part fantasy/supernatural powers involved, and they all deal with the Japanese culture on some level.

Examples?

Yakumo Tatsu deals with the early history of Japan and the origins of the gods/Kami spirits. Plenty of occult information and shounen-ai implications here. Strong and intricate plot.

Harukanaru Toki no Nakade is set in a world which strongly resembles Heian Japan. Japanese myths run wild here, and lots of pretty boys to look at. A surprisingly good adaptation of a dating sim game where the mangaka gives each of the boys a history, a well-defined character, and a goal they aspire to. Not bad for a shoujo manga which came from a shallow dating sim.

Amakusa 1637 deals with the events surrounding the Christian revolt on the island of Amakusa some time in the early Meiji era. Historical figures and history lessons abound, along with yaoi/yuri/and het relationships. Recommended reading.

Kashou no Tsuki is a shounen-ai manga detailing the supposed life of an onmyouji master who greatly resembles Abe no Seimi and his shape shifting catboy. Again there is more occult and it's set in the Heian era too.

Peace Maker Kurogane is about the Shinsengumi and their work in the Meiji era. Nanae Chrono's art is sharp and haunting, her plot movement is slow and just builds the suspense. Also includes elements not for the light of heart. This manga makes me want to go and watch the tv series to see what exactly happened to the characters since this manga deals with what is apparently 3 months after the events at a certain inn all RK fans know.
lessonsinescapology: (Default)
I have only 2 volumes of this manga. Basic storyline? We have cute and very naive Mitsuo who can see ghosts, his older dangerous looking sempai Hasunuma who has an inkling of Mitsuo's situation and loves to 'help' him in any way possible, and Ichi who's in denial over his attraction to Mitsuo. And a few minor characters in the form of an attractive boy who committed suicide to be with his lover forever and is now a ghost due to some complications over said suicide, and a perverted shrine priest who likes to molest any pretty thing on legs. Provided that it's male of course.

Plot: cliche to the extreme. Characters: all of them are stereotypes. Art: sketchy and not detailed.

My opinion? Take your basic shoujo manga, replace all the female characters with male ones, add all the cliched shoujo plot twists, and you've got Eerie Queerie. It's title is more amusing than its content. It's not a BAD manga exactly, but if you've been in the yaoi manga business for a while you've seen titles a LOT better than this.

If you live outside of the US, don't bother importing it. If you live in the US, buy Demon Diary or Under The Glass Moon. Both have much better art if not story.

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