Crimson Cross

Let me be honest: I don’t hate this manga. I don’t care about it enough to hate it. And there’s so many other titles I DO hate that I’ve been meaning to review. Fafner was so bad, I couldn’t even finish the full thing. Kids Joker was a dull read from start to awkward cancellation. And Grenadier? Ho ho ho… But we’ll get to those. But my brother really hated this one, so for making me a bearded female pony, I thought I’d review this for him. This is… uh… “Crimson Blood”?

Actually, this is called “Crimson Cross”. But in my head, I keep picturing “Blood” instead of “Cross”. This is because the title is so generic, I had trouble keeping up with what it’s really called. There’s so many vampire titles, it’s getting hard to keep up with which is what. And the title matches the plot: GENERIC. Let’s go forth into exciting generic vampiredom!

Plot: A Van Helsing member is a vampire. He wants to kill a certain vampire for turning his friend into one. He doesn’t kill the evil vampire, and the whole story was a waste of time. Great job, gang!

Okay, why? This is a one-shot manga. It’s not connected to any other author or artist (like “Cowa!” is connected to Akira Toriyama), and the only fathomable thing it has kind of going for it is that’s about vampires, and they’re ALL the rage now. But that’s no excuse. I can’t really see this doing too well in sales. A one-shot manga that no one ever heard of? Yeah, that should set them apart from the other translators.

On its own, Crimson Fangs isn’t terribly appealing. The only character I liked a bit gets killed in the first story, as does every other female character following her. Why? Does it serve a purpose? Maybe there was a part about how people die around Van Helsing, but I wasn’t really paying attention. I didn’t miss much.

As it turns out, THE EVIL VAMPIRE IS BOOOOOORED! So THAT’S why he was using Van Helsing! Because vampires get bored being semi-immortal! Wait, hold on… he was bored, so his best choice was to make a vampire hunter into a vampire so he could be thrilled with the fear of death? That’s… dumb. I can think of a number of more exciting things to do in my infinite spare time. And given this is more medieval, I’ll list things he can do:

Read every book, travel the globe, learn Spanish, raise a hamster, invent the internet, design an outfit, create a dance, write a story, kill everyone, dig to the center of the Earth, play the organ, eat your weight in gold, don’t have someone try to kill you.

See? So why was that his first option? I’ve got no clue, but it probably has to do with vampires becoming stupider over the years. Despicable.

Now, this manga does have nice artwork and black pages to set the mood, but I don’t care. It’s a weak little title, but I don’t hate it enough to complain about much more. Crimson Sparkle isn’t the worst title, but by no means is it good.

Overall Opinion: Crimson BLEH is dull, but generic enough that you won’t remember what’s wrong with it. Don’t invite it in.

Rating: One Thumb Sideways, Three Stars out of Five, and a “C–“.

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Reborn!

Reborn is without a doubt one of the most cliched manga I’ve ever read, at least on a first-volume basis. Pathetic loser who isn’t good at anything? Check! Unlikely circumstance that makes the loser semi-awesome? Check! Unrequited love interest that keeps getting their signals crossed? Check! I’m so fed up with this formula! Why can’t it ever be that a good-looking intelligent athletic guy is chosen for these positions? Maybe it’s realistic, but at least it would be different! Whatever, here’s Reborn!.

Plot: You know the drill, so let’s play along! 1: X is such a loser! 2: He doesn’t even have girlfriend! 3: Something unlikely happens, so now he has a chance to prove his worth. In this case, it’s becoming head of the mafia. Yes, I said mafia and not yakuza, and no, it’s not as interesting as one would think. 4: X gains some respect from peers, and may just get girlfriend. 5: You will never know, because you won’t be able to read further volumes.

There is a hook, though. Reborn, the toddler mafioso on the cover (do you really want to know?), owns a gun that kills you for five minutes so you can fulfill what you didn’t accomplish while alive. This is the only original element, so naturally this is drilled into the ground. It doesn’t even make any sense! The gun KILLS you for five minutes! How does this work? Well, I know how it was quickly swept under the rug: “It was under secret development!” BALONEY! In fact, salami, turkey, pastrami, corned beef, and a little bit of mustard layered on top for that extra kick. That sound like a magic gun, not something that can just be developed. BOO.

I’d like to take this opportunity to gripe in detail about the loser character. Not just here, in every manga. I don’t recall a single manga where the protagonist is a self-respecting guy. The only place this really would happen is in a shojo. But in a harem or guy’s manga, he’s always a loser. WHY? This has got to be a cultural thing. American heroes have muscle, intellect, looks, the works. But the Japanese are always using a goof for their titles. Why not have a guy who can excel in something not creepy? I say “not creepy” because of A.I. Love You, where the loser is good at computers, but uses them to make girlfriends.

I just want to see a loser character win, at least. The loser here isn’t even respected by his mother! And that’s not even an original joke. I’ve seen parents with low expectations for their kids in plenty other titles. Not to mention no matter what the loser does, everyone thinks he’s a loser by the next story. I want to root for a guy who can get his way, a guy who someone thinks highly of. I don’t want to read about people like me. I know me, and I don’t want to see myself in my own shoes.

To be fair, this is only the first volume I’m basing this review on. Truth is, “Reborn!” is insanely popular, with 35+ volumes currently out. I also heard the tone shifts later on, which may or may not be a good thing based on who you’re asking. But I’m not going to look into it, since I don’t have the funds to buy 34+ volumes of a manga I don’t care for. If you want to see how Reborn! turns out, give it a looksie, but I don’t recommend going out of your way to read it.

Overall Opinion: Nothing you haven’t seen before, but with a mafia toddler. But if the plot is reborn into a better one, maybe it’s worth a try.

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

Aoi House

So… Vampire Cheerleaders! Crazy, wasn’t it? Well, here’s a title by the same folks, and alongside Vampire Cheerleaders, it’s a wonder. Okay, let me set things straight: I kind of like Vampire Cheerleaders. The art is polished, it’s at least semi-creative, and I happen to like it more with each repeated reading. But it’s shallow, vapid, and other terms that mean I don’t like it. And what’s more shallow than a manga about two guys that move into a dorm filled with girls? Well, still Vampire Cheerleaders. But Aoi House is close too.

Plot: Two guys are such losers! One of them more so than the other, but you don’t really feel bad for either one throughout the title. Plus, they seem pretty happy with how they are, so that seems to be a plus. Oh right, “they don’t even have girlfriend”. When they and their panty-stealing hamster (more on that later) get kicked out of the dorms, they move into Aoi House, a dorm with five girls and a secret. Spoilers will be at the end. But they’re not “Aoi House”, they’re “Yaoi House”! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Wait, that’s disturbing.

Yeah, so despite the mano-a-mano idealogy behind the series, there’s never really a point where the girls make them do stuff with each other. No, they just make them do stuff with Carlo, the transsexual. Oh, I already fear this manga. But don’t worry, they only go on a date with Carlo. Still, the character is highly disturbing and I wish to never speak of it again.

My brother is under the impression that this manga is supposed to be more like “real life”. You know, a title where panty-stealing hamsters, seduction hair, Cthulhu, a killer cow waitress, a crossbreed pig-hamster, Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, and a complete lack of morals don’t exist. I don’t even think I have to properly finish this paragraph.

Adam Arnold is up to his old tricks again, with plenty of real-world references being shoved every which way. It’s fine if you do that occasionally, but when you have to use Ai Yori Aoshi as a point of reference? COME ON. Wait, I want to go on a tangent.

Why does Ai Yori Aoshi have so much attention? Did anyone actually read this? It’s not really for standard guys. Look, I love shojo more than most men typically do, but I don’t think most guys would read something this mushy. Not to say men don’t, but come on. Even with the bare breasts (which look off anyway) and the harem elements (which are practically not there, since, let’s face it, did you ever doubt he’d end up with landlady?), it still doesn’t work. And that terrible ending. WHY DO YOU NEED TO SHOW THEM DOING IT? AWFUL! Okay, back to the review.

So… hamster. Yeah, he’s not realistic. I don’t know why my brother thought this had anything to do with realism. Especially the ending. Oh, the ending. But I’m not even halfway done yet. A chunk of the characters are particularly forgettable, excluding Morgan, the obligatory hyper childish girl, Sandy, the charming-in-his-own-way fat nerd, and Echiboo, the hamster. There’s the mean girl, the flirty girl, the shy girl with glasses, the girl who always wakes up topless, and Alex, the long-haired guy with little to none personality. They never really do anything interesting, and if it seems they might, they don’t.

So there’s no yaoi, no realism, no in-depth characters. Okay. So what are we looking at here? It seems we’re looking at a title with a little more soul than Vampire Cheerleaders, but not as much as Paranormal Mystery Squad. Ooh, I can’t wait to get to the ending. But I digress. Aside from the lack of character, there’s nothing to really engage the reader. It’s quite funny, don’t get me wrong. But at times it seems like Adam Arnold didn’t say everything he wanted to in the chapter. And nowhere is this illustrated than the ending. Let’s jump to it!

Not Spoiler-Free Ending At All: Ooh… this was unbearable. Okay, so it seems Morgan was interested in Alex, as was mean girl. But mean girl’s heart was broken, so she left early from a convention to vent. However, the Aoi House members go missing. They find Cthulhu and a killer cow waitress thing, but mean girl stops it. And what was Aoi House this whole time? A TV show. NO. YOU ACTUALLY PULLED THAT ONE. Nevermind that, the girls were totally fine that they were being spied on, even though they knew. In fact, mean girl’s brother was the one who produced the show! That’s nasty! And she still did it after she knew! Oh, but I’m not even close to done. New paragraph!

After this, they all stay in Aoi House. Okay. Instead of a proper ending, we get a video of the best moments in Aoi House, most of which we never saw. Suddenly, even though Morgan and Alex never had proper character interaction, they were suddenly the most lovey-dovey couple ever! It feels completely off and rushed, as does the rest of the chapter. Scenes rush by, like Sandy and Alex’s mother and father (they became step-brothers in the middle of the series) having a baby sister. Or how about that great scene of the second winter they had? Ooh, a snowman! Oh, next scene. OH! And that shark-jumping joke! In one panel, Alex jumps over a shark, clearly being a reference to the series “jumping the shark”! Too bad, though. It already jumped when you did the Cthulhu thing. So, is this the worst part of the series? No, shoving a new character who did nothing into the very end is. But wait, isn’t she… STEPHANIE? FROM PARANORMAL MYSTERY SQUAD? Yeah, so this is her first appearance. She even references the flirty girl at one point! Talk about wasted talent! But I’m only two-thirds done. New paragraph!

What, it’s not over just yet? NO! We have to do an epilogue! And guess who’s there, Katie! Yeah, the period-obsessed sister of Stephanie! She does nothing, but she’s there! Hair antennae and all! Anyhow, Alex and Morgan have kids, as do Sandy and Maria, the aforementioned nerdy glasses girl. Speaking of which, they had far more interaction! But that’s besides the point. Mean girl, like Taco from Midori Days, gets the raw end of the deal by not getting a boyfriend, even though you actually feel bad for them. WHY? There were quite a handful of guys, so just pair her up woth one! And then we get minor character sendoffs, and I do mean MINOR. There was a swimming coach who did next to nothing, and she STILL got a sendoff! It seems a bit odd, but I guess Mr. Arnold wanted to do more with her. And that’s how this whole ending feels: like he wanted to write more, but just couldn’t for whatever reason. It feels rushed and unnatural, but it’s still better than Ai Yori Aoshi.

In the end, there is a nicer feeling emulating from this title, but it’s not as good as I would like. It still has slanted gender values, so it’s a bit hard to read. But if you want get the taste of Vampire Cheerleaders from your mouth, give this one a whirl.

Overall Opinion: Actually, pretty good, albeit the ending is quite horrible. But it’s worth giving a look.

Rating: Two Thumbs Up, Two Stars out of Five, and a “B”.

Only One Wish

When I write, usually I come up with ideas as I go along. This is all well and good for someone who isn’t trying to sell a product. But for someone who is, it just seems poorly planned out. Here’s a manga that feels like the creator had no idea what their motives were, “Only One Wish”.

Plot: Send a text on a magically-appearing cell phone and your wish will come true! But be careful what you… okay, I can’t finish that old cliche. Only one story really follows the “what you want isn’t the same as what you get” motif, while the rest end on a happy note. This manga would be a quarter-way decent if they stuck with the misery of the first story, but no, they decide to make it sweet for the rest of them. And not the good kind of sweet. The kind of sweet that you waited for a brand of soda that wasn’t sold in the country you were living in for a year, and when you finally had it back home, you realized that maybe Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi just isn’t as good as you thought it was. No, I’m not bitter or anything. I just realized, this plot summary has very little to do with the plot.

Well, this is quite like Ballad Of A Shinigami, in the sense that an otherwise menacing female character with a cat partner helps people realize what they truly need in life, while the stories are broken down into sub-stories with the female as the running theme and they barely do anything ever. So basically, it’s exactly like Ballad Of A Shinigami, but awful. I guess the only way to review this is by breaking it down by stories, since each one feels separated from the others. And no, that’s by no means a good thing.

The first one is about jealousy and betrayal. It’s not very good. Three girls who pretend to like each other but will turn on the others if there’s a cute boy or cute shoes (or, in teenage girl terms, “BEST FRIENDS 4EVR!”) find the cell phone of wishes and use it to make a boy fall in love with a certain girl in the group. It works, but he admits to another that he’s in love with her. The two girls fight over him, which leads to another wish that makes a giant monster appear (in a better manga, it would be the embodiment of jealousy) to devour the third girl, but they undo the wish, making them back to three girls who pretend to like each other again. But no, to make this “darker”, the third girl wishes for an evil wish for no reason other than she has nothing else to do in this story. Terrible.

The second is semi-bearable, but not by much. A dead girl wishes to come back to life, but to do so she has to kiss the boy she likes. She complains that this seems hard, but the witch replies that resurrection wishes are difficult, so this is a fair exchange. “Fair”? All she has to do is kiss a boy! That doesn’t sound hard compared to bringing back the dead! What kind of magic is this witch using? Long and boring story short, she kisses a boy who likes her and they both come back to life. Don’t ask, it’s not worth it. Dull, but harmless.

Story three is about a girl who wishes her crush were shrunken so she could take care of him. I gotta say, there’s not a lot of shrinking stories in manga I’ve read. She quickly learns that she was being selfish, so the wish is somehow undone and she learns not to be super creepy. Bittersweet, but I think it’s the most interesting.

The last tale is completely out of place. A boy and a girl switch phones, so they try to track each other down and learn that they have a lot in common. Yay. This story has the witch in it, even though there’s absolutely no need for her whatsoever. It’s the most adorable one in here, mostly because it doesn’t have any giant monsters, dead girls, or creepy girls in here. Still, why does it even have the witch? She serves no purpose other than to be vague.

While I don’t think it’s impossible for cute artwork to compliment or enhance a dark story, it doesn’t fly here. Especially since only one story in here is actually using the witch or the “wishes suck” theme. Meanwhile, the whole manga just jumps around in what it wants. As repeated various times in this review, the first story is dark. I repeat this various times because it’s the only story that actually considers the very idea of this manga, that wishes aren’t great. But the next story tells us that, yes, wishes are great. But the next story goes back to tell us, “well, maybe wishes aren’t all that great”, only for it to completely ignore wishes in the next story! It’s disappointing to see such a renowned author like… er, the creator of Tokyo Mew Mew, write this stuff! You should know better, I guess!

Overall Opinion: Confusing, irritating, and boring all in one! The perfect trio of bad!

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