Omamori Himari

Well, last time I reviewed a manga entitled “Bad Kitty”. Now here’s a bad manga about a cat woman. This is “Omamori Himari”.

Plot: Loser is such a loser! He has cat allergies! …Wait, seriously? THAT’S the hook? Terrible! Anyway, he gets a new protector in the form of a luscious lady, who’s actually a cat spirit. Needless to say, his allergies go catatonic! …Sorry.

First, the art. I can go on saying that it’s nice, but I don’t really think it is. Sure, it’s shiny. But Loser looks utterly generic, even for his kin. In fact, all the guys do. They look like something out of an American “How To Draw Manga” book. Naturally, the girls look a lot more defined and refined (“naturally”, because this IS a harem). Other manga had more memorable looking loser-type protagonists, like Keita from “Inukami!”. Moving on.

The characters range from forgettable to annoying. One character, the cat lady, didn’t fit either too much. I actually kind of liked her in one chapter. She was, dare I say, cute and interesting. She wanted Loser to pick out an outfit for her, and she was SOOOOO happy when he did. It really had quite the heart. But then there’s the other characters. Loser himself is a dullard, his childhood friend is annoying and obviously not going to wind up with Loser, the water spirit that tries to kill him… we’ll get to her soon.

But there’s one character that irked me, just with his name alone. Kaitou. “Well, how is that annoying?” Because that’s not his name! The first time we meet him he’s called Kaitou, but every subsequent encounter, he’s called “Taizou”. Yeah, that’s just bad translation, but you JUST introduced him! How can I trust translators ever again? After that, I mentally called him “Kaitou” forever more. Which is find, because he’s barely more than a character as a sundress is.

Now, the aforementioned water spirit. I didn’t mention, for reasons I’ll explain soon, that Loser is being hunted by monsters because of his family line, monster hunters. A water spirit is one of those who wants to kill him (but somehow ends up moving in with him/falling in love). She’s not great, but any mediocreness is washed away with her tagline, “You know.” I don’t even get it. What does it mean? Is is some kind of Japanese pun about water? If so, why not explain it in translation? In fact, why even have her say it? It doesn’t add to the story. STOP BEING SO FAITHFUL TO THE ORIGINAL!

Why didn’t I mention the monster hunting? Because it’s an afterthought. They fight one monster in the beginning, a few in passing, and the water spirit, which is a little interesting. If the cat lady is supposed to protect him against monsters, why not actually show scenes of such things other than mindless pandering to a male audience? Is this a harem, an action, what? Infuriating!

The humor isn’t. I liked one line about how a killer whale isn’t a fish, and that was just a chuckle. Allergies aren’t a good source of humor. They don’t lead to many comedic outcomes. She turns into a cat, he sneezes, the end. Riveting?

I tire of these typical harem stereotypes. In Ranma 1/2, Ranma isn’t interested in women, nor is he averse to them. He gets his way sometimes, and he has considerable strength. The women like him because he’s engaged to them, he defeated them in battle, or whatever Kodachi’s reason is. Why do all harem manga nowadays (and most in earlier days) have to be about losers with no outstanding qualities or charm, and women who just fall in love with nothing to back it up? Loser isn’t appealing. He’s got NOTHING to offer! He’s about as charming as Keita. Just do something mildly nice for a lady and she’s putty in your hands. BOO!

Overall Opinion: Nothing new, but with cat allergies. Isn’t harem manga wonderful?

Rating: Two Thumbs Down, One Star out of Five, and a “D–“.

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Bad Kitty: Catnipped

I love it when a manga supplies negative connotations in its title. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a bad manga. This is “Bad Kitty: Catnipped”.

Plot: Jasmine is a teen detective… with typical teenage problems! Like boys, hair, and mysteries! Jasmine and her friends solve mysteries together, but it’s only one in this volume. Also, this is the only volume. What’s a girl to do?

Okay, this was based on the adventures of a Harper Collins book, Bad Kitty. I never read it, so you can imagine I’m fairly in the dark. You’d be fairly right, but this doesn’t leave you there so much. Some elements don’t make sense out of context, but overall it’s easy to follow.

First, I’d like to discuss the characters. I thought a fair amount of them were done well. While Jasmine herself is too teenagery for me, I enjoyed most of her companions and parents. Yes, I mean “most of her parents” too. I’ll get to that. Jasmine’s cousin and henchtwin (they look similar) I really like. They also seem to enjoy mysteries to an extent, but they’re not very good. They’re useful, but they somewhat get in the way. Despite that, I like how the henchtwin is obsessed with the For Dummies books. I don’t know, it’s an odd character trait. The cousin, meanwhile, is less obnoxious than most of her type, so I like her in comparison.

I also enjoy one of Jasmine’s friend, Roxy. I like her because she’s adorable, which is usually horrible, but here it adds to her personality. It’s not big, but I like how she was handled. Then there’s Jasmine’s dad, who she hates, but I found quite intriguing. He’s not a huge jerk, but Jasmine sees it that way because he’s her father. Her step-mom is also enjoyable. She’s endeared by Jasmine, as opposed to being viewed as a spawn of evil. A pleasant change.

What I don’t like is most everyone else. Jasmine herself isn’t interesting. She’s just there, not really pulling me into the action. Her best friend? I don’t remember a thing about her, aside from being useful, but I have no use for her myself. Roxy’s twin? DULL AS A ROCK. I remember even less about him. Jasmine’s boyfriend? Just as dull. He leaves next to no impact on me. He flusters her by existing, but that’s the extent of his existence. Jasmine’s mom? NO. NO NO. NO NO NO. And so on.

The problem I have with her is that she’s dead. Yeah, that serves as a problem, right? No, because when Jasmine is in need of her aid, she appears to her in a dream. I don’t care for that card, when it’s pulled. It’s supposed to be used for sweet moments, like in Kodocha in that one chapter. It should be used really only once, not if the character can’t solve a mystery. That’s just cheap. But how’s the mother herself? Well, she talks like Yoda to supply Jasmine a clue. Yeah, that tells me nothing about her.

The plot itself is both complicated and simple. Complicated because of everything going on, but simple because of the mystery. The mystery is like a recurring theme, but it never stands out. We never get enough suspects to give the air of suspense. Meanwhile, too much else goes on. Jasmine’s boyfriend said he loves her, and she responded with awkwardness, which she gripes over the rest of the volume. Roxy likes one of the suspects. There’s an invention contest or something. It’s not a lot, but somehow it feels muddled.

There’s an annoying transition scene constantly used throughout the manga. The characters share some dialogue, which is displayed in a large panel each, with each one having a little piece, going back and forth. I disliked it because it takes you out of the action and it’s almost never worth it. Especially when they’re trying to hide from the culprit. They have a back and forth even though they’re so likely to get caught? They do it, like, five times until they get caught by the cousin setting off sprinklers. It’s irritating.

Okay, so maybe this manga isn’t great, but it’s not necessarily BAD. It’s okay. I personally enjoyed it, despite its flaws. The characters who I like I really like, while the tension does do a fairly good job when it’s not shooting itself in the foot. As far as an adaptation goes, it’s not bad. Not terrific, but it has its moments.

Overall Opinion: Bad Kitty? More like “Decent Kitty”! See, it doesn’t work.

Rating: One Thumb Down, Four Stars out of Five, and a “C”.

Twin Spica

I’ve heard the company “Vertical” before, but I’ve never read anything by them. When I picked up “Twin Spica”, I was glad that I finally had a Vertical title to call my own. However, that’s when I noticed something peculiar. This volume sticks out on a shelf. It’s wider than most other manga. So yeah, Vertical is horizontal. With that out of the way, enjoy the review.

Plot: Asumi wants to be an astronaut! But her father holds back her dreams by… well, being overly dependent on her. However, she manages to get accepted and now must partake in a test of astronautical proportions. Can she brave the challenges that lie ahead?

I enjoyed this title very much, but boy, do I have some griping to do. First, the father character. I find him to be a pleasing character, but at the same time, he’s a huge bunghole. He’s dependent on Asumi ever since his wife died, but he’s also, as Asumi herself describes, “lazy and kind of insensitive”. When he finds out she went behind his back to apply for space testing, he gives her a tremendous slap in the face. Following that, everyone including Asumi seems to blame her for this. WHAT? Asumi didn’t want to worry her father, but he slapped her when he found out, and SHE’S the bad guy? HOW?

He kind of redeems himself when he funds her for space stuff. Honestly, I like this guy. It shouldn’t be given he slapped her that hard, but I think he’s kind of an adorable over-protective dad. Who just happens to slap his daughter hard. See, it just doesn’t add up, does it? Why make the dad such an adorable loving father, but then have him go mad when he finds out she’s been going behind his back? He supports her dreams, sure. He’s only mad because “the little girl who used to share her dreams is gone”, fine. But to fly off the handle like that? I don’t know, I just felt it was poorly placed. But I’ll try to move on.

Asumi gets to go to the second round of testing. She meets two girls she bunks with, one who’s nice and the other who’s self-something. I don’t know, germaphobic, neat freak, OCD, snooty, the works. They’re okay, but I don’t really care much for either. They must build rows of dominoes within seven days, which is only made harder given that a shake makes all of the dominoes fall with only two days left. They overcome the obstacles and, I’m not gonna lie, I applauded when they did. It was pretty nice.

…And that’s when the first volume ended. Well, I was baffled. “Wait, there’s still pages left. Like, fifty. Oh, bonus stories? Okay, let’s take a look.” They explained questions I had, like “why is there a guy in a lion costume hanging with Asumi?” and… well, that’s the only question that ever needs to be asked. He’s a ghost, spoilers, no big surprise.

I have qualms with the two bonus stories. They’re too emotional. “WHAT?! Emotional? Of course they are! Did you even read this title?” Yeah, but they’re the kind of emotional that should be spaced better. They both involve Asumi’s deceased mother, which for me kind of dampens the environment when you have the same emotional drive for two different bonus stories. Granted, the first is more about the lion, which is sweet and all, but the mother aspects dominates it, at least for me. The second is odd, and it doesn’t really help me with anything. Asumi meets her mother’s ghost… hold on, I’m starting to see a pattern. Asumi can see ghosts, can’t she? Well… will this ever be explained? I mean, how many ghost stories involve space? Sure, this isn’t a ghost story, but why can she see ghosts anyway? Okay, I’m off track.

The second story involves Asumi and her mother, who doesn’t realize that her daughter is helping her pass on. I don’t know, I always assumed ghosts knew better. They’re always being pictured as the ones who reveal “I’m your mother” or something. Why have Asumi do that? It’s different, to be sure. But I think emotionally it could’ve been stronger, if not cliched. Although there’s no substitute for Asumi running along the river (let’s just say it was Styx) with a sign that says “mother”, and the two trying to say goodbye. Well done!

There’s not much else going on here. The plot of the first volume just kind of… stops. I imagine it gets the ball rolling in volume two, but even with all the events in this volume, it felt uneventful. There’s some boy with glasses and another with no eyebrows, but they don’t serve much purpose yet. Despite that, I enjoyed Twin Spica and I highly recommend it.

Overall Opinion: Twin Spica takes you on a journey in a great space coaster with emotional twists and turns. Recommended!

Rating: One Thumb Up, Five Stars out of Five, and a “B”.

Secret Chaser

Well, it’s 2012! Here’s hoping this year will bring us some great new releases. In the meantime, why not start off this year with some dreck? And nothing says “dreck” like “red penguin”. This is “Secret Chaser”.

Plot: No it’s not. This is as much of a plot as an analogy of something improbable. There’s some kind of mystery-solving crew with a priest, hallucinations, and some girl with a red penguin. It’s never clear what’s going on. The dialogue just rambles on and on, not to mention it acts like we know what’s happening. But you want to hear about the red penguin, right? Prepare to be disappointed.

The red penguin looks nothing like a penguin. It’s some kind of plush implemented in thought or something to test something, I don’t know. Yeah, “something” and “I don’t know” are two phrases commonly said while reading this.

This was labeled as a horror-action. Well, it’s not even a little scary. There’s no monsters, aside from criminals. And that’s only in the metaphorical sense. There’s nothing that would frighten small children. It really seems more like occult. Meanwhile, the action… it’s nonexistent. No one holds a gun, a knife, any sort of weapon. There’s no explosions, car chases, even the simplest of fight scenes. There’s barely even any running. So where’s this so-called “action”? They should’ve made this “occult-mystery”, not “horror-action”! Talk about mislabeling!

I’m just as confused in this one volume as I am in two volumes of FLCL. At least that had tinges of coherency. This is just a sloppy mess. Excuse me, beautiful mess. I never understand what’s going on. But it’s very lovely while it tries to tell a story, limping and struggling all the way. It’s only made worse by a three-part story where there’s a murder and three girls… swap identities? Is this woman the real victim? Is she the villain? I never understood what happened in the end, and I’m sure you wouldn’t either.

The pages are clumped with speech bubbles. It’s really a disaster. There’s too much exposition, none of which ever really says anything. They talk about things that don’t make sense, such as implementing ideas into people and some kind of contract among friends that would make them immortal. But none of it ever answers what the reader wants to know. It’s just poorly laid out.

The characters are just… there. They exist. But the priest detective never seems to do anything. His assistants are even less helpful. The only character to really do anything of consequence is this cop guy, but he’s barely interesting. They have a self-appointed boss, but she never really explains why she took an interest in their group. The girl on the cover isn’t a main character. She was just the victim in the three-parter. Which begs the question, “WHAT?!” Yeah, make a character who has no impact on the series the cover girl. That makes perfect sense.

I don’t really have much else to say about this one. It’s awful. Really, just unbearable. The art is lovely, but everything else is a disaster. However, unlike other titles, I’m not offended by this one, just bored. Nothing ever happens. They never say dumb things, although if they do, you certainly can’t tell with all the pointless rambling. I say leave this one alone, but don’t gather pitchforks and torches. It’s just dumb, not offensively bad like some others.

Overall Opinion: Seriously, how could they ruin such a wonderfully terrible idea like a red penguin? Don’t bother with this one.

Rating: One Thumb Down, Zero Stars out of Five, and a “C-“.