Omukae Desu

I wasn’t expecting this to be good at all. I don’t think anyone who bought this title bought it because they liked the plot. They bought it because of how stupendously horrendous it sounds. The same probably goes for CMX. They probably picked it up because of how terrible the plot is. But teasers on the back of covers don’t make for bad manga nor good manga. This is dull at best, but at worst it’s poorly written. This is “Omukae Desu”.

Instead of a “plot” section, I’m replacing it with a back cover stupidity section for this review.

Back Cover Stupidity: “Hop on the soul express! What if you could see dead people and a guy in a giant bunny suit trying to get them to the other side? Madoka is a high school student who is recruited by Nabeshima (the guy in the bunny suit) to work for a transportation service that takes wandering souls to heaven by motorcycle. But even if Madoka agrees to help, he may not play by the rules and there could be trouble in the afterlife!”

Translated manga back covers are lying cowards. They hide in the back of the book, hoping no one notices they have nothing interesting to offer. In case they get caught, they have a back story to go along with their back cover-nature. They take any elements the inside of the manga told them they found interesting, and the back cover just makes up its own story to hide its ignorance. Like with the back cover of Arata. It mentions that Interesting Arata (more on that some other time) spends his time crossdressing. But that’s not true. He only crossdresses at the beginning to uphold the throne. The way they phrase it makes it sound like Interesting Arata enjoys women clothes, but it was for an honorable reason. Back covers, stop all the lies.

Anyway, Omukae Desu isn’t as interesting as its back cover leads one to believe. Madoka, who I’m just calling “Irrelevant Steve” is the most bland protagonist of all time. Well, as far as manga I’ve read so far goes. Even the creator said at the end of the volume, “I’ve always thought Irrelevant Steve looks extremely lifeless”. When your own creator says that about you, you’re not meant to be protagonist material. Irrelevant Steve never changes his face, except for one panel where he grins. I was even counting off how long it would take for him to changes facial expressions. It took until the very end of chapter two, and never again! And this is our hero! Urrsh.

The bunny suit guy. The bunny is the obvious hook of the title, but he’s not worth it. He’s not zany, he’s not out of character for a guy who dresses like a bunny, he’s not even that memorable. No one is. I thought they would prevent us from seeing him out of costume, or at least the other characters. It could have lead to a sweet scene or a funny scene (sweet scene: confesses to a girl his feelings while taking off the suit; funny scene: they see his face and it’s too horrifying to show us). But no, he wasted it by taking it off after the first mission. But we didn’t really see his face until the second story, and we didn’t know it was him until the third story. All this buildup is entirely pointless.

Then there’s the female character, who looks like a boy. Not that she’s supposed to, though. She’s just poorly drawn, like most of the female cast in this. The short hair certainly doesn’t help. There’s other women in this, but there’s no real substance to anyone’s design.

This is overall your basic ghost manga, along with the typical “let’s bring them to heaven by granting their last desire” and that one guy who can see ghosts who doesn’t make a big deal out of it since they could always see ghosts. Except, wait, no, this is Irrelevant Steve’s first ghost sighting. That’s not believable, given that he’s already an adult. I don’t know, it just seems a bit odd.

There’s two bonus stories, one with a fat girl who falls in love with a geek who helps her diet, while the other is about a girl who can’t choose between a guy she works with or an actual career. The first is kind of sweet, and it has nice storytelling elements. The second seems more appropriate for a diary, not a bonus story. Also, the fact that they put two bonus stories in one makes it seem that there wasn’t enough material for a full volume. I don’t know, I don’t expect much from this anymore.

Overall Opinion: Bunny suits does not equal interesting manga. Skip it.

Rating: One Thumb Down, One Star out of Five, and a “B”.

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Hayate The Combat Butler

This is a mean-spirited little piece of work. I’m baffled by its very existence, and why this is will be brought up later in a long and drawn-out paragraph. I read Maid-Sama, an excellent manga in its own right, so I decided, “Well, this is about a butler. Butlers are usually a good frame of reference to work with, as they display a level of sarcasm not displayed in real life!” But that and this are two different things. That is awesome. This is “Hayate The Combat Butler”.

Plot: Hayate is such a… well, loser is too kind a term here. His parents are both unemployed, and neither of them are willing to actually get a job, so they rely on him to earn money. But that’s them being relatable. No, they start getting really unlikable when they not only waste their son’s money on pachinko, but sell him to the yakuza for organs. Luckily we never see them in this volume, so that’s mediocrely good. Hayate tries to be evil instead and hold a rich girl hostage, but he ends up saving her, so she decides he will become… HAYATE… THE COMBAT BUTLER!

Why am I baffled by this manga? Well, this manga is funny. Very funny. I’m usually a comedy kind of guy, so usually I tip the scales of a review for the successful humor aspects of a title. If a funny manga has poor art, that can be chalked up to making it look more cartoony to match the humor. And don’t get me wrong, the jokes manage to fire on all cylinders here. But I still don’t like it! Why? Well, I don’t think the plot is all that great. Also, while a lot of the jokes are fourth-wall breaking and occasionally ridiculous (like rich hostage girl’s talking tiger), but most of the time the humor hinges on misunderstandings. Hayate asked rich hostage girl to be his hostage, but she mistook it for a love confession. This leads to a bunch of misunderstanding jokes throughout the first volume. It’s grating, but the other jokes almost make up for it. Almost.

I also have a general problem with the characters. Rich hostage girl is childish, the maid seems normal but goes into strange acts that seem out of character, and Hayate is oblivious to his surroundings and changes his character nigh constantly. He’s strong, but seems unable to hold his own against the yakuza while doing fine against a tiger. It seems inconsistent. Probably because it is.

And what manga would be complete without dressing the cute male protagonist in a girl’s outfit? Probably a just dandy manga. Seriously, why? This most likely tipped the scales for me, since this manga was between “trying to be taken seriously as a comedy” and “just trying to get people to read it”. Guess which side it’s on? I know any manga creator wants people to read it, but I think it’s much better to get readers without resorting to cheap tricks like this. And there’s so many titles with cross-dressing! It’s getting old.

Look, don’t get me wrong, this title is hilarious. It’s well written in the comedy aspects, but as far as everything else, it’s just lacking in depth. And I like a little substance with my comedy.

Overall Opinion: If you want a funny manga to read, I recommend this one. If you want one with a little meat on its bones, then skip it.

Rating: One Thumb Sideways But More Downwards Than Upwards, Two Stars out of Five, and a “B–“. Yes, it got a double minus.

COMPLETED! Ugly Duckling’s Love Revolution

A new segment has been added to The Manga Connoisseur lineup! Usually I review something based on how many volumes I’ve read up until the time of the review (bad titles are typically a one-volume basis), but I don’t get to do a “what happened after that?” review often. So in honor of spending hard-earned dollars on a fairly mediocre title, I’m now adding the “COMPLETED!” segment whenever I finish a title I’ve reviewed. This is volumes 2-4 of “Ugly Duckling’s Love Revolution”… COMPLETED!

Since I already reviewed volume one of this title, I’m removing and altering certain elements usually in this blog. There will be no “Plot” section, unless the plot is completely different from the first volume. A different rating system also applies here, as it won’t be the same impression as the first volume. So don’t expect the “Thumb/Star/Grade” rating at the end. For my review of the first volume, read it here. Now, let’s move on.

So in these last three volumes (out of four, that is), there’s far more focus on Hitomi (the girl dancing with Richard Simmons above) and her dieting. However, it’s not a great focus. This whole series hinges on friendship, but on a somewhat dull level. The first volume includes great scenes like Hitomi and friends working on a private room for sickly bookworm, a reading of Hitomi’s brother’s embarrassing journals about his adorable sister, and an amusing series of sharp words from obnoxious hot guy at the pool. Volume two kind of stops that stuff for more drama, such as bland jock questioning Hitomi’s kindness, Hitomi staying in the sauna for too long, and a new nemesis for Hitomi. More on her later.

The problem is none of these plots go anywhere. The bland jock’s question is never resolved properly. The sauna, while ending on a cliffhanger until the next volume, never goes that route. Hitomi stayed longer in the sauna to show up the aforementioned nemesis, but the next volume she walks out of the sauna just fine. In Magical Pokemon Journey, Hazel and Bulbasaur stay in the sauna too long and Hazel tells her Pokepal that it’s unhealthy. Then Bulbasaur goes crazy and slaps Hazel. And a fire breaks out. Well, that’s harsh. But here, there’s no repercussion. In fact, they give her a chick hat. For a manga about dieting (and friendship), this sure isn’t helpful with actual dieting.

Volume three is delightfully boring, as nothing particularly memorable or interesting happens. So I suppose this is a good place as any to discuss Hitomi’s nemesis. I mentioned in my first volume review that I enjoyed it since there’s no actual enemies within the group. Then Yurika shows up. She makes fun of Hitomi (comparing her to a pig) and generally acts spiteful and unrewardingly unpleasant. She’s added to the character bio pages, so you think she’d actually do something in a story. Well, I read volume two, and nothing significant happened with her. I read volume three, and nothing significant happened with her. I read volume four… and she didn’t even show up! WHAT?! Then why did you even introduce her in the first place? She served no purpose other than to annoy Hitomi! I imagine in the original game she’s supposed to irritate her (rising her stress levels), but this isn’t that! This is just a story of a girl, her diet, and friendship! I didn’t want Yurika to appear in the first place, but if you introduce someone like this, at least do something with them!

Finally volume four rolls around, so I’m excited to see how it turns out. The last official story ends with Hitomi a little thinner than before. Well, that’s just fine. I wasn’t expecting Hitomi to turn into a stick figure–WHOA! What’s this? Hitomi looks nothing like herself! So… yeah, in the last volume in the bonus story, Hitomi looks very thin and not at all like her doodle-faced self. She says she’s under 110 lbs, but that kind of concerns me. Her friends all make minor compliments on her weight, but it’s kind of wrong. One says something that sounds like to me “keep up your diet”, but that’s beyond wrong. She kind of looks malnourished to me, especially when she falls on awesome teacher with headphones, an earlier gag in the first volume. Fat Hitomi looks like she was cushioned, but thin Hitomi looks like falling on the ground would break her body. It just seems kind of wrong.

It also seems some things weren’t done right at the end. Hitomi has a friend who started to diet with her, but he never looks any different from his first appearance. Why? I know it wasn’t his story, but it would’ve been nice to see how his efforts turned out. Hitomi also has two female friends who are more active from the second volume on. But in the bonus story, when all of Hitomi’s friends appear for a curtain call, the two girls don’t. Why? I know they weren’t the female reader’s eye-candy, but maybe an acknowledgement would’ve been nice. I’m just saying, they were supportive too, so why doesn’t Hitomi take their picture at the end? But what can I expect from a title that creates characters and just throws them out?

Final Impression:
Yeah, so this is in lieu of my Overall Opinion. Anyway, this title did better than I first thought it would, but to continue it wasn’t worth it. The first volume is the best out of the bunch, the last volume gives Hitomi a decent sendoff, and the filling in between is worthwhile to skip. You won’t miss much, honest. This title is decent at best. At worst, it’s dull and forgettable.

Completion Rating: 3 Rhinoceros Waiters out of a Possible 7. Yes, it’s a strange rating system, but don’t knock it.

Onegai Teacher

Time for another series that I heard of as a kid, but had no actual knowledge on the subject! This is a manga from a time before manga was the medium it is now, a time when I couldn’t find a title because manga wasn’t as accessible as it is today. And oh, how disappointed I was. I wasn’t expecting Shakespeare fighting a cyborg dragon, but at least not this. This is “Onegai Teacher”.

Plot: Kei sees an alien at the lake, and this freaks him out. The next day, the alien turns out to be his new hot teacher! When he gets locked up with the alien teacher in a closet, the principal lets them out and threatens to deal with this. However, they make up a lie that they’re married, and they actually get married to back up their story. What follows is what feels like very forced romance that I couldn’t care less about.

I mean, seriously, if there was ever a manga with a more forced couple, I fear for my life. Right when they get married, they start falling in love. I have no reason to believe these two are actually in love. Here’s how it plays out: The two meet. The two get locked in a closet. The principal finds out. Rather than just explain that they’ve honestly done nothing wrong, they decide to come up with “we’re married”. They get married. They fall in love two seconds later. But they don’t even know each other! How can I believe in this couple? It’s truly awful romance.

The romance isn’t the only thing that feels forced. It feels like they’re trying to make the worst catchphrase ever. Ready?

Favorite Quote: Alien Teacher: “This is a matter of the highest priority!”

She says this all the time to her magic alien thing! When you say it all the time, it kind of loses its feel as “the highest priority”. It’s grating to read in this already terrible title, but it gets worse. Other commonly used words used in Onegai Teacher include “accelerating” and “stagnating”. Who says “stagnating” anymore? Did anyone ever say it? It feels like it’s overused so much that if they stop using it, it might make people actually pay attention to the manga. How awful.

This doesn’t seem to be suited for an international audience. You know how Japanese can be written vertically? Well, there’s quite a lot of text boxes that could only suit vertical text. As such, it’s confusing to read the text when it’s more than two lines’ worth. Not that the dialogue makes it worth it anyhow, with such stellar lines like “The warm sunrays remind us that summer has arrived. It’s as if time has stopped… the quiet streets… an ordinary day.” Great work there, buddy.

Then there’s the typical “will they/won’t they” kiss scene. You know how in romantic comedy manga they have two characters almost kiss but get interrupted right before they can do it? Well, it’s a little odd here. After the alien and Kei get married, Kei’s uncle and aunt put on a mini-wedding for them. “Now kiss, you two!” “What, us? Kiss?” “Oops, interruption!” “Whew, that was close!” Yeah, good thing you two didn’t have to kiss! The only thing you had to do was get married! Oh, but the mediocrest part of it is how they kiss at the end of the volume anyway! Well, that was slapdash.

There’s other characters in here, but I don’t care about them at all, specifically Kei’s classmates. It seems this manga could be nearly the same if they got rid of plot points they don’t need. The alien teacher? How about just a teacher? They get stuck in the closet by teleportation, but that’s not necessary for them to have gotten in that situation. Many characters in other manga have gotten trapped in closets without aliens or teleportation, so why was it used over here? This could simply be a manga about a boy and his teacher actually falling in love, and it could’ve been a nice drama manga. But no, aliens are totally necessary for this to work.

I know this is adapted from an anime, but that makes me wonder why the teacher was an alien in the show. It just seems to be a hook to keep you reading, but it doesn’t work. Meanwhile, late into this review, I’d like to mention Kei’s disability. Kei is actually 18-years-old, but he was in a coma for three years, so now he looks 15 and decided to stay back a few years. Okay, fair enough. But Kei also reacts to things more dramatically because of his condition, which is where the accelerating and stagnating comes from. I guess this is to portray how he feels when he’s happy or depressed, but why not just have him be happy or depressed? It’s not really that different, but it feels like they’re trying to be subtle but failing terribly.

I was under the impression that they made up the 18 year old age law for the sake of American audiences, but that’s actually true. Still, I’m left wanting by this convenience. Again, if it was just a manga about a regular 15-year-old who fell in love with his normal teacher, that would’ve been just fine. But by adding the unnecessary elements to keep people reading, it actually makes me lose interest. Sorry, Onegai Teacher, but this is dreck.

Overall Opinion: Please, Onegai Teacher, stay away from me. This is a matter of the highest priority!

Rating: One Thumb Down, One and a Half Stars out of Five, and a “D+”.

The Stellar Six Of Gingacho

There’s always that one manga that you build up in your mind to be “Awesome”The Daily Sandwich, “Right On!”New York Butler, or “Real Neato […] It’s like reading a good book, because it is”Unnecessary Press. Thankfully, this isn’t one of those manga. This is “The Stellar Six Of Gingacho”.

Plot: Mike (pronounced “Mickey”, not “Mike”) and Kuro battle every day at the Gingacho Street Market to see who has top quality goods! …But that’s not an important plot. Besides, they’re close friends battling for the sake of raising sales in both stores, so there’s no conflict there. Mike and Kuro have four other friends at the street market, but it seems they all started to grow apart once they moved into other classes. When their bartender friend needs money fast, the Stellar Six decide to team up once again to save the day!

This manga is a nice change of pace from overly hectic series I’ve read. Instead, this one is slightly hectic. The stories all end on a sweet note, which is always a plus in my book. I was especially impressed with the story of Granny Fuji, who is considered a force not to be reckoned with. She often displays stingy qualities and a grouchy attitude, but she loves the street market more than anyone else. When Granny Fuji becomes sick and has to move away, the whole market gives her a wonderful sendoff. It’s the greatest moment in the first volume and one of my favorite sentimental scenes in any manga I’ve read.

This seems to be a coming-of-age story, as the characters start going through changes and all that fun stuff. The friendship in this manga is a prevalent element in this title, but I only really see it with Mike and Kuro. Sure, the other characters have strong bonds of friendship, but this manga really focuses on the two main protagonists, while the others are clearly along for the ride. I’d say that seems to be the weakest part of Stellar Six.

Unfortunately, this manga was published in America by Tokyopop, so it’s unlikely it’ll be picked up by someone else anytime soon. I say if you can find this manga, it’s worth checking out. It’s a fun read about friendship, coming-of-age, and a street market in Gingacho.

Overall Opinion: A cute manga with togetherness and the like. If you get the chance, give it a try.

Rating: One Thumb Up, Three and a Half Stars out of Five, and an “A-“.

Butterfly

For every popular manga, there’s that one title that seems to plagiarize it. Full Metal Alchemist has D.Gray-Man, One Piece has Fairy Tail, and so on (keep in mind, I actually prefer D.Gray-Man and Fairy Tail, but whatever). When my brother handed me this title, we both had the same thought in mind: “This is xxxHolic’s knockoff”.

We were wrong.

See, to be xxxHolic’s knockoff, it would have to be halfway decent. But it was far from it. Don’t get me wrong, the back cover makes it seem to fit xxxHolic to an X. What, a guy who sees spirits but doesn’t want to gets conned into working for a mysterious long-haired woman in the one career he didn’t want to get involved in (dealing with spirits) doesn’t sound familiar to you? But alas, this manga didn’t have the sense to rip off xxxHolic. This is “Butterfly”.

Just the title alone annoys me. Sure, there’s been titles that don’t have matching… well, titles, but at least it’s either amusing or sounds cool. But “Butterfly” sounds both generic and lazy. There’s no butterflies, nothing looks like a butterfly, there’s not even an analogy of a butterfly. Maybe you could compare it to that “butterfly’s dream” story commonly used in manga, but that’s quite a stretch. Sorry, I’ll get on with the plot.

Plot: Oh, so much wrong already. I had to use a pack of cards as bookmarks to label everything wrong in this manga. Here goes… Ginji is such an unsympathetic character! He doesn’t even have girlfriend because he keeps dumping them for believing in the occult! Oh wait, he can see ghosts. When he gets set up on a date to a haunted house, he punches a guy out for doing his job! You know, working as a creepy guy in a haunted house. Now Ginji has to pay a lot of yen to rectify this error! Along comes Ageha, a girl who asks Ginji to work with her in ghost hunting. Oh, but there’s no such thing as ghosts. See, Ageha creates ghosts with her mind and scams innocent people! So… Ginji’s a jerkwad, and Ageha’s a con artist! I’m so glad these two are the protagonists! But wait! It gets worse!

You know how in most ghost manga, the way to get rid of ghosts is to fulfill their last desire? Well, Ginji doesn’t like that. Instead, he beats them to death! Er… the afterlife. Now, when I read that, I was mortified. By this point I didn’t know that the ghosts were a sham (more on that later), so when Ginji decided to beat up the crying ghost, I felt that’s where he lost any sense of likability. But this is one good this about Butterfly. Bleach, Rin-ne, Omukae Desu, and many others always go for “make their dreams come true to dispose of them”. But this manga says, “nah, that’s too commonplace. LET’S KILL THEM!” It looks horrible, but at least they tried to be different.

But that doesn’t excuse killing Squeakears, a cute character I could’ve sworn was a knockoff of Mokona of xxxHolic fame, but I was wrong. It was a Pikachu parody. Well, that’s MUCH better. Ageha tells Ginji to kill Squeakears because she’s “tired of it”, and it leads to a pretty funny scene with Ginji’s friend using Squeakears as a Pokemon against our cruel protagonist. But Ginji, being void of all enjoyment, kills the star-based rodent. Well, that’s just great.

Ginji is simply every character trait I hate. His own dead brother visits him every night, but Ginji tells him to buzz off. DUDE! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? He’s not even trying to help him pass on, he’s just avoiding him! Maybe he’s not real, but we haven’t established that yet! Another problem is that Ginji is so quick to disbelieve anything unknown to him, but he’s willing to believe not only that everyone can create physical objects with their minds, but also he’ll listen to anything you tell him. And he hears it from people he has no right to believe! Ageha tells him that a certain friend was around Ginji’s brother when he died, but Ageha is too young too have known that! A girl who seems fairly sarcastic comments on a certain trait of Ageha’s, and Ginji justs asks Ageha, despicably tactless. Seriously, I hope this character rots.

Have you ever heard of a show called Sliders? In it, a group of friends travel between an infinite number of possible realities, even ridiculous ones like “everyone’s a cowboy” world or “magic is possible” world. Sometimes they go to worlds that have strange timelines, like a world where time runs backwards or another where events are decades after our own. And what do they say whenever someone asks if they traveled in time? “Time travel is impossible.” REALLY! You don’t say! But a world where dinosaurs still exist and are a protected species is perfectly plausible! That’s where Butterfly loses me. Ghosts, while not entirely plausible, at least give us something to work with. Where do people go after they die? That’s where ghosts come in. But then Butterfly says, “nah, that doesn’t seem realistic. You know what makes sense? People creating things with their mind. That’ll explain everything!” It just falls to pieces.

I actually got so enraged at this manga that I instinctively threw it across the room. It actually did an impressive tumble, and I realized that it never wanted to be Butterfly. It wanted to be a manga performer! Oh, how jolly it is to see a flying trapeze manga high in the sky, joyously not being a terrible manga! Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, and Butterfly exists as an awful manga. Maybe if it thinks hard enough, it can create a better plot for itself.

Ageha is a boy.

Overall Opinion: It’s not worth it to give it a proper sendoff. Just beat it up and it’ll go away.

Rating: Three Thumbs Down, One Negative Star out of Five, and a “C+”. Hey, when a person can be more creative than Rumiko Takahashi, they deserve some credit.