Remember my Captain Nemo review? Remember how I mentioned that technically it’s not a manga because it was created by Americans? Well, put that review to rest. Sunn isn’t even on that level. Somehow, it manages to be less of a manga than Captain Nemo. Most likely because it’s so obviously a Western comic book. Nothing about this atrocity says “I am a manga. You will enjoy reading me.” Really, at least Captain Nemo tricked me into thinking it was a manga. Kids will know that this isn’t a manga. But if you claim that you’re really a manga, sure! I’ll review you as such!

Actually, my dad was the one who was supposed to review this. I found a nice little note in the book asking him to review this. My dad never got around to reviewing it (or reading it, as far as I can tell), so I figured “I have a blog. I’ll review it!”

This was drawn by Kevin Lau (who, as far as I can tell is Asian, so that may make this more authentic. Except, you know, that means nothing); Alex Nino (who seems to be kind of a legend in comics. I don’t really know any details); and Nathan Massengill (who’s also somewhat famous, but he’s not even on the cover). Steven A. Roman wrote this tale, and I’m left wondering why anyone needs three artists and one writer. I don’t know which one drew this, but look at the cover at the top of this page. This red lumpy man does not say “hey kids, I’m an authentic manga!” No, it says “this is how my artist(s) thought manga characters look! You can tell I’m a manga character because I’m holding a glowing orb with a Japanese letter in it!”

Plot: In a world of superheroes (or just two since that’s how many we ever see), Carson Walker aspires to be a mangaka, but his father wishes for him to follow in his footsteps and become a superhero. But when his father is nearly killed by a generic manga villain (I say generic because it’s just a samurai), Carson must rise up to defeat Bakemono and the evil forces that be! …Yeah, that’s it. Nothing special, really. It wouldn’t be so bad if this plot wasn’t done so many times before!

The plot isn’t the worst part. No, the part I despise is the dialogue boxes. You know, the helpful little boxes that tell you the location, time, or explain a word/translation. Yeah, they don’t use them for these minor details. No, they use them to explain inner conflicts! Because I really needed to know what was going through his mind when he was arguing with his mother. Also, some dialogue makes no sense. In one scene, a roof starts caving in. One woman remarks, “We’re gonna be crushed!”, while another corrects her by saying, “You’re wrong… we’re going to die…” …You’re BOTH right. Why was this line necessary?

As I’ve mentioned, the art is all wrong. Sunn himself looks way too much like a Western superhero, and the only characters who look remotely mangaish are female, but even then that’s a stretch. Despite that, some of the art is just ugly. One scene has a guy with a completely distorted face for no reason other than bad art.

Now yes, “manga” does mean “comics”. However, when you look for manga in the library, do you ask “where is the comic section” or “where is the manga section”? Neither. Most libraries don’t carry either. What I’m trying to say is “if you claim your company is ‘ibooks manga’, make a story about a kid who aspires to draw manga, use manga terms (or Japanese words that I’ve never seen in manga), and label the title as ‘Graphic Novel/Manga’… maybe put a little effort into making this look like a manga!” Seriously, Captain Nemo was far more enjoyable! In fact, ignore that review’s Overall Opinion! Read it, just as long as you don’t read Sunn!

Overall Opinion: Just another comic book. It can never deserve the title of manga.

Rating: Two thumbs down, One And A Half Stars, and a D-.


Captain Nemo

Come explore the high seas with the son of Captain Nemo, a plucky young princess, and Jack the Ripper’s daughter (what?) on board the Nautilus II! Witness Princess Camille fret over never seeing her overbearing father again! Gaze upon the steampunk anachronisms! Behold my frustration when I discover that they canceled future installments of this title!

I’m not very good when I discover that the series I was in the middle of reading suddenly gets dropped. One case is Zatch Bell. They were already up to 25 volumes and had only seven more to go. By that point I had lost interest, and I assume that’s why Viz Media dropped it. Because I wasn’t interested. But when a company cancels a series before it can even make volume two? That’s not fair, especially when they clearly set it up for another volume.

Captain Nemo is NOT a true manga. It’s actually an American comic designed exactly like a regular manga. Why am I reviewing it? Because it’s a manga by almost every other standard. It was published by Seven Seas Entertainment. Well that’s all good and fine. So who created this work? It was written by Jason DeAngelis and drawn by Aldin Viray. …Wait, Jason DeAngelis? …HE’S THE FOUNDER OF SEVEN SEAS ENTERTAINMENT? Then why in the world did he stop doing it? According to some research, he had little free time on his hands so he had to put it on “indefinite hiatus” (a euphemism for “canceled”). Despite that, they both did a decent job. Mr. Viray’s work is pretty good, and it even made me believe that it was a true manga. The story is also pretty good (for the founder of a company, that is), if not a little too close to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Plot: Princess Camille is your standard heroine who has royalty and money, but all she wants is adventure. She gets it when the ship she sneaked onto is captured by Captain Nemo (or rather, Captain Nemo II) and takes her aboard the Nautilus II. She meets the motley crew of the vessel and they explore an underwater city. Sometime later they land in Japan, and… that’s how it ends. Great.

It’s a pretty generic plot. Princess who wants more. Protagonist whose father died. Adventure on the high seas. We’ve all seen it before, and done better at that. It’s not bad, but it’s not worth picking up just to be left on a cliffhanger. Will Camille ever see her father again? How will Nemo get even against Napoleon? Why is it necessary to mention that some woman is Jack the Ripper’s daughter? We’ll never know, and I’m sure most of us don’t care.

I’m pretty sure this series was inspired by League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I’m actually a little disappointed that we won’t get to see more relatives of literary characters, but such is the life of a stand-alone title. Really, nothing particularly stands out in Captain Nemo, but it’s pretty good for the founder of Seven Seas Entertainment. Most founders couldn’t put together something like this, but Mr. DeAngelis is surprisingly talented.

Overall Opinion: Entertainingly generic, but I don’t recommend buying it. It’s not worth the cliffhanger.

Rating: One Thumb Down, Three And A Half Stars, and a C-.

Happy Hustle High

Summer 2005

Y-San (my older brother): “Hey Mr. Benjy! I just bought this manga previews book! Take a look at some of these new releases! Full Metal Alchemist, Zatch Bell…”

Mr. Benjy: “Mar looks interesting…”

Y-San: “We’re not buying Mar,” (He bought all 15 volumes.) “but check out this Midori Days!”

Mr. Benjy: “Pervert. You only like it ’cause it has boobs.” (He bought all 8 volumes. It’s in my Top 5 favorite manga list.)

Y-San: “No I don’t! Hey, what’s this? ‘Happy Hustle High’? …WOW. That looks dumb!”

Mr. Benjy: “Finally we agree! It’s way too over-the-top, not to mention really girly!”

Both: “HA-HA-HA-HA!”

Summer 2010, Edward McKay Winston Salem Used Book Store

Mr. Benjy: “Hey, this is Happy Hustle High! And for only $4.00!”

Y-San: “Don’t tell me you’re actually gonna buy that!”

Mr. Benjy: “Eh. It should be good to criticize in my new blog.”

Y-San: “That’s for sure!”

Both: “HA-HA-HA-HA!”

We liked it.

Which brings me to my motto, “Who are you to judge if you don’t even bother?” I really wanted to hate this title, even as a kid. But I just couldn’t. It’s pretty good. Not great, but I’d pick it before a lot of the other manga I bought at that used book store (one, by the way, was Someday’s Dreamers). The art is halfway decent and the plot, while off-putting to those of us who read previews, is tolerable.

Here we have Viz’s Happy Hustle High, both written and drawn by Rie Takada. Her feminine art style and story scared me off from reading it for five years, but here we are. This is a shojo manga, and while my brother isn’t into shojo, after I told him it was bearable he asked to read it. This annoyed me to some extent. Don’t read the series I actually suggested. Don’t read XXXholic or something better than “tolerable”. Read the thing that annoyed us for years. But I digress.

Plot: Hanabi Ozora is a free-spirited teenage girl who just can’t keep her hair straight! (This is the first thing that initially annoyed us.) However, our rambunctious protagonist and her classmates are in for a surprise when the all-girls school they attend merges with an all-boys school! (This is the second thing that initially annoyed us.) Hanabi eventually bonds a friendship with a hot (according to a woman) guy who has a terrible time around girls! And boy, are they into some wild relationship antics! …Yeah, the plot doesn’t sound tolerable, but Ms. Takada handles it surprisingly well.

This series is cute. Not stunning, but it’s good for passing the time. I have a problem with the art, though. All the men are sexy (according to a woman) and tall, while all the women look like children. I don’t see the point of this, but I guess it’s her prerogative: entertain the female readers. Actually, I think this series is intended for women. It IS a shojo, but that’s no excuse. I’ve enjoyed other shojo titles that men can bear to read. You know, there’s quite a lot of manga where female characters look like children but aren’t. Is it a Japanese thing? But that’s not the point.

I’m surprised my brother liked it. When I asked him why he replied, “I don’t know. I just do.” I can’t figure it out either. It’s charming, but not so that I’d be upset if I couldn’t buy more. Some of the dialogue is humorous, but I’ve read better. So why did we like this series? I think it’s because we expected it to be the worst manga ever for so long that we were delightfully surprised to learn otherwise. Whatever the case may be, it’s worth reading. Not worth too much, but enough.

Favorite Character: I’d say Hanabi. She’s free-spirited and fun to read about. She’s also the defender for her classmates, protecting them from perverts and convincing the male students to permit dating. But really, I could do without her hair antics.

Overall Opinion: Annoyingly fun. Pick it up if you can find it anywhere.

Rating: One Thumb Up, Three Out Of Five Stars, and a C+.

Neko Ramen

“Who are you to judge if you don’t even bother?” This has become my philosophy since a former classmate insulted my Forrest Gump impersonation and didn’t attempt to do any better. Recently, I’ve used it to get my dad and brother to read the manga I suggest. It’s hard to convince them, seeing how I read anything from all-male train conductors to underage bounty hunters. But for once I won them over with Neko Ramen.

A little history about my dad and brother. We each fall under a level of manga readers. My dad is a high-class reader, reading the early works of Rumiko Takahashi and anything by Osamu Tezuka. (I did, however, mangage to get him to read Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei.) My brother reads whatever interests him or has boobs in it, making him a middle-class reader. Most manga readers fall into this category. I, on the other hand, read anything that exists. I’m low-class, but I like it.

So finding a manga to interest all three of us is no easy task for me. We all read Ranma 1/2 and Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei, but somehow I convinced them to read Neko Ramen. Before that, I showed them the online anime since I annoyed them all day Saturday to watch it. My brother loved it and my dad admitted to chuckling a few times. This is considered a breakthrough.

Plot: A cat named Taisho runs a ramen restaurant. His only recurring customer is a businessman named Tanaka, who puts up with Taisho’s tomfoolery. Taisho often gets a wacky scheme to raise business which ends up being rip-roaring hilarious. Not much of a plot outside of this, but fitting a joke in four panels is tough enough to do.

Another Tokyopop title, this time by Kenji Sonishi. This man is brilliant! You might think this plot is difficult to do, perhaps more suited for a live-action movie (which, by the way, exists). But not for Mr. Sonishi! No, he finds new and exciting ways to entertain his readers! My dad complained that the art is pretty bad, but I believe that’s to show the series isn’t intended to be serious. It’s a manga about a cat that runs a ramen shop! That’s even the lyrics in the anime theme song!

I’ll be honest. As much as I love this series, I don’t know why it’s as popular in Japan as it is. I can understand the manga and the 13-episode anime series. But a live-action movie? Sure, plenty of manga and anime series have become live-action movies and TV shows. (Sailor Moon, Death Note, Dragonball, and Kimi Ni Todoke to name a few.) But admittedly, I think it’s silly to make a movie about this. It does have an Iron Chef reference in it, so I guess that works. Actually, when I showed my dad the trailer, he said that it’s “not as bad as a Marmaduke movie”. That’s a major compliment.

Favorite Character: Taisho is the funniest character by far. Granted, Tanaka plays a pretty funny straightman, but Taisho steals the show. Also, there’s a few stories about Taisho’s past, which can actually be pretty touching. How can a story about the life of a cat who runs a ramen shop be touching? You’d just have to see for yourself.

Overall Opinion: When my dad says the live-action movie is a better idea than Marmaduke, you know you have a winner on your hands.

Rating: Two Thumbs Up, Four And A Half Stars, and an A.