Guardian Hearts

Stop me if you’ve heard this one!

Plot: An alien girl moves in with a human guy, and she and other aliens fall in love with him!

That’s the plot of many other manga. This time, it’s “Guardian Hearts”!

Guardian Hearts has nothing going for it. Ugly as sin artwork and plots that repeat over and over, a psychotic female protagonist and a cardboard cutout for a male protagonist, and a mom that gives Jar Jar Binks a run for his money.

What works about this manga? Well… it is visible. Unlike imaginary manga, I can physically see it. Also, there are words in the manga that forms sentences. Even Gon doesn’t have that.

What doesn’t work about this manga? I wish it was imaginary. This is the kind of manga that Hell conjured up, you know. Also, the words and sentences aren’t formed into anything good. At least Gon is fantastic.

Our first scene is of Hina, an alien girl, asking Kazuya and his mother to adopt her. Why? Because she was sent to Earth to fight crime, and her identity may not be revealed. She reveals it in under a second. So Kazuya, clearly not a typical boy, doesn’t want an attractive girl to move in with him! Luckily, that doesn’t happen, since Hina moves in with him. Her face is… ugh. Ugh-ly. It’s supposed to be cute, but half the time she’s melting, while the other half she’s possessed by the devil.

Get this. On Hina’s first day of school, a nameless classmate tells Hina that “I see the way you look at him! You got it baaaad, gurrrl!” So Hina believes her and becomes really creepy for the rest of the volume. Maybe the series, I dunno.

Hina is supposed to be a crime-fighter, but we never see her in action. Everyone says, “That girl has done so much for us!” Yeah, like… uh… crash through a roof and move the debris? That. That was in a montage of her “working hard”. The rest of it is her snoozing. I HATE THIS GIRL.

Kazuya notices that Hina is overworking, so, being a nice guy (I guess?), he tells her to stop trying so hard and relax. If we actually saw her do anything, this could be compelling, but the manga just wants to show us panty-flashes. Wunderbar.

And I’m not kidding. The flashes are on every other page. I wouldn’t mind if the butts didn’t look like they belonged to a toddler. In fact, the girls all have waists as thick as pinkies. I feel like they’ll topple over if they bend too far!

So Hina is in love with Kazuya, and he never notices. Okay. Chapter Two: Another alien girl. This one steals gym uniforms. We find that out almost immediately, too, in no subtle ways. Hina overreacts to her uniform being stolen, saying that the thief should die. The thief alien girl is crushed by her comments, and I gotta say, it’s hard not to feel bad. Especially how the rest of the chapter has Hina psychotically trying to kill the thief. Kazuya discovers that the girl is an alien, he gives her some bland advice and then she moves in with them, although Hina and the thief don’t know their real identities.

Next story is about a SPACE NINJA. Kazuya finds out her identity, Hina tries to destroy her, blah blah blah. I thought the ninja (named Ooba) had a scar on her face, but it was just a poorly-drawn strand of hair. Huh. Also, she moves in, with only Kazuya knowing her real identity.

Another chapter, another alien girl, another occasion Hina has to freak out, another scene with Kazuya… make it stop.

It doesn’t. This time, it’s a missing space girl. She has an insatiable hunger, but it’s so underplayed that there’s no laughs warranted.

I notice that this manga doesn’t do well on focus. Or anything. Focus, however, is very weak. Hina and Kazuya are both constants, but each time a girl appears, in the next story, she’s not mentioned, nor does she appear. The last two stories in the first volume actually have the others, but they’re shoved aside for a cat-girl that’s cat-sized. Fortunately, she has no panty-flashes.

So Hina is insane (plus, her annoying “shock” noise is “HINYAAAA!”). Kazuya is an excuse for the reader to put himself (in some cases, herself) in his place. And the mom? Well, she’s fine with her son living with a ton of girls. As long as she gets to add “sa” at the end of her sentences!

This is something I’ve never been able to understand. Yes, changing dialogue drastically can ruin a manga. But if you’re going to translate for Americans, then have it make sense! Having the mom go “sa” all the time, it just seems pointless. It’s probably a dialect thing, but they never explain it in the manga! Apparently, it’s to put more expression on words, but that means nothing in the states! It makes the mom a ridiculous character.

Now, the manga panty-flashes all the human-like girls. However, as a foolish move, the artist drew them all with the same body features. I hate Eiken, but I will admit that he at least gave the girls varying breast sizes. In fact, none of the girls in the manga have the lift in the front. It comes of as the girls being childlike, and thus, really creepy.

Lemme explain what makes a harem manga work. First, there has to be a reason for the girls to like him, outside of “good advice” or “he saw my panties”. Dokkoida’s protagonist is a very nice guy. Very pleasant. His kindness really comes through and it feels genuine. But Kazuya feels like he just says things he read in a life-building book. Generic advice sprouts from his mouth, and girls fall for it.

Second, the guy has to like or notice at least one girl. This isn’t always true, but it does prevent him from becoming dull and tired. In AI Yori Aoshi, although I loathe it, at least the male likes his kitchen-wife. And that’s what she is. She’s downtrodden. I preferred Tina, but whatever. Kazuya never notices women at all. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think women should exist as sex objects. But if you’re going to insert butt shots and changing scenes, why stop there? Why not have him acknowledge the fact that he has five “attractive” girls living in his house?

Third, and this is important, MAKE HIM LIVE MOSTLY ALONE. Midori Days did this, Is This A Zombie? did this, and if you need an older female character peeking in, make it a sister or an aunt, not a mom. It’s every guy’s dream! Five girls and his mom? What more could someone want? I’m not in favor of making the parents “overseas” or something, but a manga like this could use it sometimes.

Finally, draw each woman differently. Since all the women in this manga have the same qualities physically, there’s no choice. He gets what he gets and he can’t get upset. Again, even Eiken did this. Not just bust sizes, but heights and weights. Kirika was tall and a bit meaty (not just in the chest), while others were short and flat. Variation is the key.

Guardian Hearts is neither sexy nor funny. I don’t understand why people like this manga. It’s run-of-the-mill, and when it’s not, it’s offensive. But at least there’s dialogue-sa. Yep. At least there’s that. Sa.

Overall Opinion: Urusei Yatsura. Get that. Not this.

Rating: One alien out of six. The cat girl could be kinda funny at times. Or once.

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Aquarium

See, I told you that you’d be hearing more from Tomoko Taniguchi! This time around, we take a look at three unconnected stories instead of five disjointed stories! How does it fair? Well, let’s take a look at the age of “Aquarium”.

Plot: There are three stories with different emotional standings. “Aquarium” is an emotional tale, “The Flying Stewardess” is an observational look at airplane crew, and “The Heart Is Your Kindgom” is a spiritual story for a girl in love. Basically, we get the best of three worlds.

A look at each one individually is due, so let’s see where “Aquarium” stands.

Aquarium is about a girl that hangs out in the titular area, and feels very depressed that everything is going wrong. She couldn’t get into the high school of her choice, she feels like her intellect makes her bullied, and a creepy guy (read: Cute guy she ends up going out with at the end) is stalking her around her hangout.

Now, I thought, “Oh, this girl is just gonna mope around, feeling sorry for herself without taking any action.” Well… I was wrong. She does take action.

The girl is so depressed, that she… slits her wrist. Yes. You heard it here first. I actually had to sit motionless before turning the page, since I was so shocked by this outcome. It’s nice that she takes a different turn from modern-day depressed characters, but there’s a problem with it. She survives it.

Now, that’s not the problem. The problem is that after surviving, she realizes that it’s not so bad. Everything works a little more than it used to. It turns out that she wasn’t being bullied. The girl “bullying” her just isn’t smooth with words. They actually become close friends.

The problem lies in the moral. While it’s nice that everything has a way of working out, it seems to say, “If you try to kill yourself and survive, things will seem better for you!” Obviously it’s not saying that, but it can be easily interpreted as such. Really what it says is, “Don’t try to kill yourself, since it’s not all bad.” But still, it can be confused.

All in all, the first story is great. I got emotional reading this, and you might too.

Unfortunately, the other two stories aren’t as powerful. Oh, they’re good, but they don’t carry the same weight as Aquarium does.

The Flying Stewardess is more comedic than Aquarium, and it does have funny moments, but it feels anti-climactic right after reading the previous story. A woman has trouble with her job as a stewardess, and she learns to like her job more little by little. At the end, she’s enthusiastic.

I forgot this story really existed, to be honest. Same thing about the following story, The Heart is Your Kingdom. That one is about a girl who believes in a soulmate, and it’s sweet, but the most forgettable.

Honestly, if not for the order, I’d say this is the best collection of stories I’ve ever read in a manga. It has all the right emotional beats, but in the wrong order. I think it should have been mixed up more, say the spiritual one first and Aquarium last. Even better, end it on the comedic one to end it off with a laugh. Still, I enjoyed it, and I’ll probably read it again soon.

Overall Opinion: Heartwarming, Comedic and Tragic, all rolled into one manga. Go get this.

Rating: Seventy-Three fish in a tank out of Eighty-Six.

Dark Angel

Dark Angel is another manga I’ve chosen from the 10 Worst Manga list. Is it worthy of slot 9? Meh. But is it awful? Undoubtedly.

The problem with calling out Dark Angel is pinpointing the specifics. Mostly dialogue choices mixed with plot decisions ruins an otherwise pretty manga. But beauty don’t win contests alone no more, so let’s look at the ever-terrible “Dark Angel”.

Plot: Dark is a swordsman of a dumb tribe or something, I dunno. He kills his mentor (who set himself up to die, mind you) and goes to somewhere to announce his new title as The Red Phoenix Phantom Saint. Most of the manga consists of a petty fight over Dark trespassing on someone’s lawn. Well, not exactly, but pretty dang close.

Dark’s mentor is introduced in the characters page, but he dies, like, ten pages later. Never does much after that. There’s also Dark’s fairy, Kyo, but she’s only good for dying as well.

Dark is… awful. Simply terrible. He’s one of those characters that looks like a girl, even though he’s supposed to be just boyish. He gets lost, acts pompous without just reason, and blames Kyo for something that was his own fault, not to mention, she warned him not to do it.

As I’ve said, it’s not anything on the whole that I can identify, but the little things that add up. For example, the first scene we’re treated to is of Dark and his master having a battle. Here’s how the scenes go across the span of two pages:

SHROAR FWASH SLICE KTCHINK “WHAT?!” SHRAAAAA FWOOOOOOSSHH “HEH!” “YAAAHH!” WOOOSH SPLASH! KKRRSSHH “HUH?!” CLANG WHISH!

The manga is only a little more exciting than that. The pages are clutter with sound effects, mixed in with monosyllabic grunts. Later on you’ll miss this, because the dialogue is even worse.

For example. Again. A guy brags about his sword’s strength thusly: “MY SWORD WILL CUT YOU LIKE A FISH SLICING THROUGH WATER!”

No, nope. That was good, but maybe you can be a little less intimidating. Like how about, “MY SWORD WILL CUT YOU LIKE A PIGEON THROUGH CLOUDS!” or, “MY SWORD WILL CUT YOU LIKE ILLITERACY CUTS THROUGH THE FABRIC OF SOCIETY!”

Also, plot elements don’t work. Example? Why, certainly! Dark and Leen, another Phantom Saint, are stopped from having a fight with these words:

“No Phantom Saints have ever survived a battle between themselves. Both of you would die!!”

There’s a real problem with that plot choice. Let’s take a manga like Yu-Gi-Oh. If Yugi just battled Joey or lesser… WAIT! DRAGON BALL! I prefer this Dragon Ball analogy. In Dragon Ball, Goku fought humans. He was just a kid; he was strong, but not deadly. However, Dragon Ball Z has Goku fighting aliens, genies, mutant clones, but never humans. This is because Goku grew over time. It wasn’t fair to have him fight humans, since they would always lose.

So by taking away the possibility to have Dark and Leen fight, it reduces him to fighting lesser enemies, and therefore, he can never truly grow. Also, Dark Angel sucks.

Leen is a different story. You know how they hide characters in the dark to make them more mysterious? They do that to Leen.

Lemme tell you, if you don’t have an awesome or shocking design for the shadowed character, you need to examine why you even shadowed them to begin with. So what IS Leen’s design? Pigtails. Underwear pants. And I could swear her butt is wearing a cape. This character had no reason to be in the shadows. Boooooo.

Is Dark Angel the worst? Yes. I mean, no. It’s bad, but there are worse. Do I recommend it? Of course not. Unless you want to do a college presentation on it or something. That could be fun.

Overall Opinion: You know what, never mind. I’m gonna do a presentation on it. So skip this manga.

Rating: Earth Wind, Water, Fire, and… Gold? You can have Wind.

Let’s Stay Together Forever

Well, that’s the second creepiest title for a manga I’ve ever heard, right after, “I’m Hiding In Your Skin, Manga Connoisseur”. I give that one four stars.

That aside, the manga is not quite as creepy. It’s by Tomoko Taniguchi, and this bears mentioning because you’ll be seeing that name a lot more. She draws or drew manga in an old style, since it was the nineties or something, and heavy metal guys were in at the time. At least, according to Ms. Taniguchi. So let’s “Stay Together Forever”. Wait, I put the quotation in the wrong place. Whatever.

Plot: Ayami is so shy and withdrawn! Why, if only she could work up the courage to make some friends! Well, that doesn’t happen, since the only friend she makes is Leo, a heavy metal guy who finds her attractive for no reason. Love? No. No reason. Will these two kids get together? Will they stay together forever? Yes, I don’t know, and did you know that the age rating is 3+?

Yeah. It’s 3 and up. There’s nothing wholly inappropriate in this manga, but nothing really for three year-olds, or even seven year-olds. At the age of three, did you ever want to read a manga? You know, a comic with no color? And what toddler could resist the header? “Tales of Love, Loss and Hairspray!” Most three year-olds don’t know what hairspray even is. Well, most don’t, with the obvious exception of Toddlers & Tiaras.

Also, even though I could read at three, I’m guessing most of you couldn’t. Certainly not this.

But I digress. After Ayami and Leo hook up, there’s a different story, also about characters named Ayami and Leo. It took some time to realize that this story took place before the first one, rather than a retelling. Pardon my confusion, but I’ve seen a few manga do such a thing. Indian Summer did it horribly, while Venus Versus Virus did it decently. I think if you’re going to show the original concept for a story, you should do it in the last volume, not the first, like Death Note. Also, the original Death Note was awful. Magical Eraser? Please, stop.

So the story shows us how Leo and Ayami first met. Okay. How is it? Meh. But the next story is a spin-off of the first story. It focuses on Leo’s sister and Leo’s friend, the latter whom appeared in the first story. The sister falls for Leo’s friend, and, naturally, romance ensues. It’s sweet, but nothing outstanding.

Then, we get a spin-off of the spin-off. Leo’s band-mate appears in this story, as does Leo for a while. A girl falls in love with the band-mate, even though she doesn’t really fit in his world. This is a bit bittersweet, and it’s a fairly good read.

Then we break the rhythm with the last story. None of the characters are related to Leo or anyone who appeared prior, and it has nothing to do with heavy metal. A girl wants a male friend to help her get a guy, and… you guessed it, they go for each other instead. It’s nothing special, really, it isn’t.

So here’s the breakdown:

-Main Story
-Prequel
-Spin-off
-Spin-off of Spin-off
-Irrelevant Story

As for the manga, it’s okay. The old style is a nice change from the usual artwork that’s so common nowadays, and the stories are dull, but follow a pleasant shojo pattern.

Overall Opinion: Decent, but nothing amazing. Read it online or something equally morally wrong.

Rating: Three out of Five members of KISS. I don’t know how many members are in KISS.