Yokaiden

Happy Third Anniversary! Yessir, three years of manga goodness! We’ve looked at a lot of manga here. Good manga! Bad manga! Mediocre manga! Now we’ll look at a mediocre manga!

Last year I reviewed the worst manga I’ve ever read. The year before that, I reviewed two manga. For the 100th review, I went for Azumanga Daioh. So what’s this review? It’s an interbred series.

See, the author is Nina Matsumoto. She’s half-Japanese, half-Canadian. Her manga has Japanese themes, but a Western style. It’s generally confused about what it is, but it’s by no means bad.

Plot: Hamachi lives in feudal Japan with his bitter grandmother. Hamachi loves yokai, but the villagers hate them. When Hamachi comes across a kappa, it changes his life forever… by killing his grandmother. So it’s up to Hamachi to rescue his grandmother’s soul from the clutches of a kappa by travelling to the world of yokai.

The manga starts out with him trying to summon a yokai, since he’s never met one before. When he meets the kappa (which he calls Madkap), he’s strangely calm about it, albeit one scene where his eyes sparkle. Then he starts meeting yokai left and right, and he’s even more calm. You know, for someone who’s never met a yokai, he sure has no reaction when meeting them.

I feel uncomfortable with the art style. Nina Matsumoto is extremely talented. Here’s her deviantART gallery: http://spacecoyote.deviantart.com/gallery/ And it is VERY good. She even drew a Treehouse of Horror story (for the comic). So why does this art feel so wrong?

If anyone is deserving of an Western manga, Ms. Matsumoto is definitely the one. I just don’t think this should have been the one to go on. Here’s why:

1) The humor, while funny, is very American (or Canadian, in this case). And there’s nothing wrong with that, except the very subject matter. Yokai are a part of Japanese culture, so it’s confusing to see the bean-washer in one scene, and a reference to Kelsey Grammer in the next. This kind of makes it shallow, but not unreadable.

2) Yokai aren’t portrayed as sympathetic, nor are most of the humans. Rather than embrace Japanese monsters and Japanese people, it feels like the author is saying “Japanese people are nosy, yokai are jerks.” I’m sure that’s not what she was going for, since, you know, she’s Japanese. But the yokai are usually too goofy or just twisted, which makes them unrelatable. Meanwhile, the grandmother has no redeeming qualities, being obnoxious to Hamachi for no reason. So it’s not sad when she dies. Even the boys who get their feet-skin sliced off aren’t sympathetic, since they’re just flat bullies.

3) Hamachi never really seems to suffer. Okay, he gets scared, sad, or angry. But even when that happens, he perks up almost immediately. He isn’t anymore relatable than Madkap or Lumi the talking lantern. In fact, they’re more relatable because they have to put up with Hamachi’s undying ignorance.

Finally, 4) The manga is too meta. I did say that this is funny, but mostly because of the characters pointing out things that are cliches. When an umbrella tries to join Hamachi, he says “I can’t let everyone I meet join me. That would be silly!” You know, as opposed to series like Dragonball, where everyone who hates Goku becomes an ally. But even with these jokes, it never feels like the series has a voice of its own. In this way, this manga is very unfortunate.

Again, this is not a bad manga. I know, you’d probably prefer me to review something to top Qwasar of Stigmata, but I feel this manga was a good choice. It’s got its flaws, but if you look deep, you can find something that you didn’t see before.

Frankly, I say to check it out just for the meta-humor. While I did say that it was a flaw, it still works in a lot of areas. It’s funny, and it does take a look at some cliches common in adventure manga. Give it a look-see.

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Cactus’s Secret

This is a good contrast for Love Roma. Whereas there the guy likes the girl, here the girl likes the guy. Not only that, but they share personalities. The girls and the guys, I mean. Hoshino and Fujioka are totally honest and don’t realize that their words accidentally hurt people, while Negishi and Miku get mad often, but really do care about their respective love interests.

Cactus’s Secret is nowhere near as good as Love Roma.

Plot: Miku is in love with Fujioka, but he can’t take a hint. Why? Because Miku is such a clam shell, so she tightens whenever she gets close to confessing. Well, that’s how I see it. She thinks it’s because Fujioka always acts like a jerk right before she admits her feelings.

Some view Miku as a strong shojo heroine. Me, not so much. She’s standoffish, and frankly, a little insane. Why is she on a motorcycle on the cover? She doesn’t even discuss them in-manga. I wouldn’t trust her with a motorcycle, though. She’d definitely have road rage.

Fujioka, like Hoshino, is always honest. Miku hates this because she doesn’t actually explore her feelings. It’s always his fault when she can’t confess. “He hated my eyeliner!” “He doesn’t know that he’s the one I’m giving chocolates to!” “He has an ex-girlfriend! Clearly he is Satan!”

At times, it can get a chuckle out of me. But for the most part, I just want her to confess already.

Confess already.

Confess.

CONF–

Oh, she does.

Yeah, I guess the author got sick of the misunderstanding plot and had her blurt it out. It especially feels satisfying when he tells Miku no. But he encourages her to keep trying, which, I have to admit, is way too nice.

My main problem with Miku is that it’s always about her. Like when Fujioka was going to be held back. “We won’t be in the same class anymore!” Or how about when she finds out about Fujioka’s ex? “Why didn’t he tell me about her?” Um… maybe because you don’t say anything. SPEAK UP!

I mostly find it annoying because I’ve been in this position, where the girl doesn’t know I’m alive, but I still worry about every angle of our relationship (or lack thereof). Yeah, they made a manga about it.

Fujioka makes this manga, though. Like Hoshino, his honesty is refreshing and often funny. I say to check this manga out based on him alone. If characters like Miku bother you, just read Love Roma.

Tomorrow is the anniversary. It’s a surprise. Let’s just say that it’s an American manga with Japanese roots.

Love Roma

Young love is awkward.

Scratch that. All love is awkward.

But nothing tops awkward love like that between two teenagers. Everyone involved feels uncomfortable about something, whether it’s relationship protocol or posting statuses with too much PDA. Those Personal Digital Assistants are smothering, man.

Love Roma explores these relationship follies from the viewpoint of Sheldon Cooper, if he believed in love over reason. Hoshino is completely honest with his feelings, which makes Negishi feel very uncomfortable with being in love.

Plot: Hoshino declares in front of Negishi’s class that he loves her. After some time, Negishi begins to reciprocate his feelings. Love is explored with its ups and downs, ins and outs. And is it funny? Is Minoru Toyoda funny? Well, I suppose that’s a yes.

Hoshino is very endearing. While you might hate him in real life for being so honest, he still comes off as very caring and open. Nothing is hidden with him, so you never have to worry about him cheating.

In contrast, Negishi is… well, she’s also honest, but in a different way. Negishi is naturally afraid of being open with someone who announces on the PA System how he feels. For all she knows, Hoshino could divulge those feelings with others. Does he? Sometimes. But hurt her intentionally? Never.

There are side characters, and for the most part, they’re also entertaining. Hoshino’s and Negishi’s respective best friends are a lot of fun. They both enjoy stalking the two, and generally make things more awkward by having the class cheer along when something occurs between the couple.

Here’s a fun little exchange.

Imma call him Rainbow Dash.
We’re treated to the many joys of being in love. The first couple fight! Meeting the parents! Making lunches! But since Hoshino is so honest, it’s never dull. They’re all entertaining stories, and along the way I have learned a little.
The art style is unique. Those eyes tell a story. I think the cartoony nature of the art helps it feel relaxed, rather than stiff and more uncomfortable than the scenarios.
If you’re looking for a manga that makes you laugh, I say check this one out. I guess it’s true what they say: Honesty is the best policy.

Sand Chronicles

This is one of those manga that I’ve had for a long time, but ignored because I thought it was too mediocre. And… well, it’s not. It’s actually kind of endearing. I think I was hoping for a heartwarming story. At times, it does alright. But it’s mostly drama, albeit drama that isn’t completely generic.

For example: Will Ann ever get a period again?

So… if you like that, this is your manga.

Plot: Ann and her mother move to a quiet provincial town after a divorce. They move in with Ann’s grandmother, who doesn’t think much of Ann’s mother. Ann wants to go back to Tokyo! But after some time, Ann warms up to her nosy new town and eventually deal with ensuing drama.

No clue why it’s called “Sand Chronicles”. There’s not much in the way of chronicles. When I think of “chronicles” I think of BIG SPANS OF ADVENTURE!, not AVOID KILLING AND EATING RABBITS IN SMALL TOWN, JAPAN! Oh, but the sand part comes from the recurring usage of hourglasses to represent the fleeting of time. I do like the idea of each part of the hourglass signifying a different state of time (past, present, and future), but it also represents a happier time with her mother, and what I’m guessing is 14 years ago, which is when the story takes place.

The first two chapters are about Ann at ages 12 and 14, both dramatic times in her life. At 12 her mother commits suicide, and at 14 she starts being a teenager. Wouldn’t wish either one on my enemy.

The thing about the mother’s death is… I’m going to say this from the viewpoint of someone who has lost a loved one and knows the after effects. The death of Ann’s mother might have been better in the long run. For her, at least. The thing is, no one likes to lose someone that they love, but everyone has to face it at some point. Hopefully not young, and if you’re a grandparent, hopefully not before an offspring. But Ann’s mother is implied to have been sucking the life out of her daughter. The mother had wild mood swings, and she got so obsessive with working hard that Ann did the work for her.

I don’t know what would have happened had Ann’s mother been alive. At 14, Ann is relatively normal. She’s interested in boys, concerned about her body, all the various joys of being a teenager. Let’s say the mother had been alive. Ann would most likely have continued to have worked herself into the ground, having little to no social life of her own. In this way, the mother would be viewed as a burden, an obstacle in Anns development. She would have skipped an awkward stage in her life to take care of her mother.

Kind of like the mother in Sky Blue Shore. The daughter sees her mother as “cute” when she acts childish. Clearly, the daughter goes on to make stupid mistakes in her life, like risking her life for a gift that a janitor gave her. In contrast, Ann is smart. Ann risks her life for a gift from Daigo, her crush.

See, the hourglass. When the mother passed on, Ann threw the hourglass at her picture, crying that her mother is a liar and a coward. Later, Daigo gives her an hourglass that looks like the original one, which I guess means she views it as the hourglass her mother gave her. In this way, risking her life for something a guy gave her isn’t stupid. It represents her lost mother, and it’s better than “Hey, this janitor is hot! I better climb down these cliffs to save this thing!”

Then they find Ann bleeding, but guess what? She’s had her period again! Yes, it seems her mother’s death caused her to stop having periods, but somehow her stress was alleviated when she almost dies off a cliff. So… yay?

I just wish they had focused more on the effects of the mother’s death on Ann and the grandmother. Sure, Ann dried up and the grandmother clams up, but I just feel that the drama is swept under the rug for an awkward budding romance between Ann and Daigo. There’s something there, but we’ve seen it, and Daigo’s kind of rough. He injures Ann accidentally twice, and on purpose once to Ann’s rival in love. In contrast, I’m more in favor of the snobby rich boy who shares a fear with Ann, not to mention takes her to firefly-infested area. He’s got a heart of gold, that one.

But as far as the manga goes, it’s a more mature story that tells the story of a girl without a period. Also, different periods in her life. I’d recommend it for the drama mama lovers.

So… I’m going to can the Overall Opinion and Rating sections. I think they’ve become redundant.

Bomber Girl

I’ve been building this one up for a long time. Is it as bad as I’ve made it out to be? Well, remember that “Top 10 Worst Manga List” I keep referring to? This was #10. My own personal feeling? I find that it’s worse than Dark Angel, Enmusu, Tori Koro, and Eiken. Yes, I hate it more than Eiken. And I’ve been trying to rectify my original rating for a while now.

See, say what you want about Eiken. Because Eiken is awful. But Bomber Girl is awful too, so much so that it was cancelled after 11 chapters. Let’s get this straight: Eiken = Eighteen Volumes. Bomber Girl = One Volume. Uh-huh. And it’s not like Eiken is good. It’s breasts for the sake of breasts. I can’t find it in myself to recommend it at all. But if you look past the breasts, there is some likability with some of the characters, like the girl genius or Kirika.

Bomber Girl doesn’t have that. Everyone is dull and boring, boring and dull. What’s worse, the main character of Emi Rashomon has far too many sides. But I’m getting ahead of myself. What kind of jimble-jamble plot did they mesh up this time?

Plot: Emi is a bounty huntress in the future. She extorts hostages into giving her money for their rescue. She fights Megalith, a terrorist organization that wants to rule the world. She befriends Guy, a guy that wants to avenge his brother’s death, Minako, a teenage girl that used to work for Megalith, and Creamy, who sucks. Can Emi defeat Megalith and its leader, Zayin? Funny thing about that… it gets canned right before we find out.

Okay, so Zayin. He’s a weird looking, long-haired brunette with a blond assistant named Lisa. Hmm. I wonder if that sounds like something I’ve heard of…

YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!
Imma call him Tommy. But really, Cromartie High has Freddie Mercury, this has Tommy Wiseau. Indicator of quality.
I don’t like how his name is Zayin. It’s one of my favorite Hebrew letters, and they pass it off as “It means seven, sword, and ultimate in Old Hebrew”. Not inaccurate, but come on, guys. It’s a part of my culture. Then Emi makes bad puns. “Are you Inzayin? What are you Zayin? Zayin on the dotted line!” The first two aren’t how it’s even pronounced, Emi.
And that brings us to the (big) titular character, Emi Rashomon. What makes and breaks this manga is her.
Let’s talk about feminism and what it means to be a strong, independent female character. Women are shown to be strong characters when they don’t need to follow regulations that society puts upon them. For example, if a woman doesn’t end up with a man by a book’s end (of her own free will), she’s a positive depiction of a woman. However, I don’t feel this is really that good of a role model choice. Sure, women shouldn’t have to rely on men to decide their lives. But not that many strong female characters are shown choosing to be with a man, but still having that free will.
To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf has Lily, who’s used to portray a woman that lives her life without the dependence of men. She ends the novel on her own, but she’s not miserable for it. In contrast, Sophia by Charlotte Lennox has Sophia, who wants to be dependent, but ends the novel married to her stalker. This was, at the time, the right choice to have made.
Interestingly enough, women who end up alone are shown to be awesome, lovable characters, but men who end up alone are sad, pathetic losers. I don’t appreciate the double standard, to be honest, and I feel using this theme undermines the basic value of gender roles: Being together or alone should be a choice, not a determining factor of who you are.
Emi is a flat-out skank.
Emi Rashomon values the attention of men, but at the same time, never gets interested in them. They’re more along the line of toys to stare at her while she prances around. And this is what I’ve been going with in this review: Double Standards go both ways. Emi’s future world is supposed to be a kind of “utopia”, but men are more backwards than ever, and Emi is more backwards than them. Sure, she never lets a guy use her body to get what she wants, but she’s not above toying with them. She dresses in skimpy clothes not to empower herself, but to make everyone look at her.
And everyone does look at her. Good guys, bad guys, women, the narrator… Yes, the narrator himself ogles the heroine. And this just offends me. Sure, it’s BS for men to say that women only look good to attract the attention of men, but at the same time, she’s obviously doing so to play with their hearts, never reciprocating any human emotions. It’s hypocritical for her to spell out her name using her butt, and afterwards getting huffy when she finds out Guy had a dream about her.
She spouts off stuff like “Grrrl Power!” but only ever interacts with one girl in the manga and hangs out with men. Nothing she does is empowering; if anything, it’s belittling the minds of women. Oh, did I forget to mention? She’s a real doofus. In comparison to the enemy, she’s often smarter, but then she gets fooled by “Hey, spell your name with your butt!” or “Hey, free tickets to a non-sinister ride!” Her competence is inconsistent, and it really shows throughout the manga.
What’s worse is the male characters. They’re unable to one-up Emi in anything, and how could you blame them? They remark, “She’s inhuman!” when she does something impossible. Because it is impossible, making her hard to enjoy. Again we see the Mary Sue type. Sure, she has flaws, but the flaws are cute, not deep-cutting issues.
Oh, and I guess Creamy just sucks. He feels like someone added him in the series as a favor to a friend. His gag is that he asks for small amounts of money, does a stupid dance, and owns a giant bird. Lame.
Emi represents a confused depiction of what a strong female character is. The author flat-out states that he wanted to do a series about a big-breasted woman, not that much unlike the creator of Qwasar of Stigmata. That one is still worse than this. But the lack of knowledge about women shows in the work. Emi goes around and acts high and mighty, but she doesn’t do much aside from kill people, extort rich people, and make men feel worthless.
The manga itself is like the first few issues of Bobobo: Crass and humorless. There’s enemies with guns and brushes for penises, and Emi defeats one guy (designed after Dragon Quest’s Slime) by grabbing his crotch. Class act. The art isn’t appealing, or the characters, or the plot, which is virtually not there.
This isn’t even the anniversary special. Expect that in two days.
Overall Opinion: In conclusion, women ARE TEARING ME APART, BOMBER GIRL!
Rating: The Guide To Manga gave it Zero Stars. That’s a bad grade. I give it Negative Five Stars. Give me stars, Bomber Girl.

Hanaukyo Maid Team

Believe it or not, the above cover is only slightly more Japanese in text than the English cover. I guess this manga was so bad that it wasn’t worth it to make an English title.

Ironcat Studio published some stinkers before, like… Bomber Girl… we’ll get to that sometime soon. But nothing quite like “Hanaukyo Maid Team”. Not satisfied with just making a maid manga? Why not make a terrible maid manga?

Plot: Generic Protagonist #13376 goes to live in his grandfather’s mansion after his mother dies. However, there’s a bevvy of maids waiting to fulfill his every need! I mean every, every, most needs. See, Grandpa was a pervert, so the army of clone maids expect the grandson to be the same way. He’s not, and when he asks them nicely to cut out the sluttiness, they don’t. Mariel is a made who looks slightly different, and she’s not a slut. So obviously, they’re meant for each other.

I dislike the protagonist almost immediately. Where do all these saintly shy boys come from? “Don’t call me master! Call me by my name!” UGH.

Also, Grandpa’s past time was… making exploding tapes? So when Generic Protagonist #13376 tries to make sense of everything, he’s like, “Forget the maids, forget Grandpa… what’s wrong with this mansion?” Yeah, focus on the mansion! Because… I have no idea. The mansion itself seems pretty normal. So what’s wrong with a giant house? YOU’VE GOT A PLACE FILLED WITH CLONES. FOCUS ON THAT.

Although they disappear once more diverse maids appear. When I say “diverse” I mean “Generic Female Characters”. Mariel’s the maid-next-door, there’s a child maid that doubles as a split-personality maid, and also there are a glasses maid and a samurai maid. Never seen anything like that!

Oh, and GP13376 isn’t good at anything. When I say that, I mean “math, sports, and girls”. Because those are all that matter in life. Yup yup.

There’s also a rival to the Hanaukyo family that has an annoying Veruca Salt as its leader. Normally I enjoy Veruca Salt, but only on Veruca Toast. When GP13376 hits her with a girder, he… licks the blood from her nose. He claims that’ll heal the wound.

UM.

UM UM.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!

Are you seriously telling me that he’s just using saliva to heal a wound? Why not explain to her, or ask? “Hey! Saliva can heal that wound! Mind if I spit on you?” YOU DON’T JUST LICK SOMEONE’S FACE! THIS IS COMPLETELY OUT OF NOWHERE!

All in all, it’s a lousy experience. The art is dull, the characters have been seen before time and again, and there’s no real plot. GP13376 is just a nice guy, which makes him boring to read about.

Overall Opinion: It’s Maidtrocious! Skip it.

Rating: One Maid out of Five.

My Heavenly Hockey Club

I don’t review enough sports manga, do I? Well, that’s because I own very little sports manga. I have Slam Dunk and Girl Got Game, but both are basketball, and I want to start off with a less conventional sport: Hockey! However, much to my surprise, I discovered that “My Heavenly Hockey Club” is everything BUT about hockey.

Plots: Hana is a lazy girl! In fact, she decided to go to a prestigious school three minutes away just so she could sleep in more! One morning, she gets hit by a car while sleepwalking to school. She’s unharmed, but the car is smashed up. So Izumi forces her to join his hockey club in order to make up for the damage! Wildness, AWAYYYYYYYYY!

In the hockey club, we get plenty of stereotypical manga HOT GUYS! Like the Weasley twins, a guy that looks like a girl, and an ambiguously gay character. I dunno, he seems to really be into Izumi. Like, overprotective. So much so that he’s spiteful towards Hana, who is the new object of Izumi’s eye. Maybe it’s not so ambiguous.

“So Manga Connoisseur,” you ask, “how is this series not about hockey?” Well, they never actually manage to play a game. Somehow, they always prevent themselves from playing in the funniest of way.

And trust me, this is a VERY funny manga. My favorite is when they travel to Karuizawa (most of the time spent is going to other schools in Japan) and Izumi befriends a monkey, while Hana befriends a bear. It leads to a great ending and I just don’t want to give it away.

Hana hates Izumi since he makes her wake up early for practice. This obviously means that they’ll end up together by the series’ end. Come on, they clearly have a chemistry like no one else in the series.

And this is one flaw with the manga. Hana and Izumi are so interesting that the rest of the club has nothing to do. This also means that they’re not given much personality to work with or backstory. Heck, the twins are never even referred to by first names. The girl-looking guy is just nice, the might-be-gay guy obsesses over Izumi, and the twins… heck, they’re just a single entity. Nothing more, nothing less.

The art is nice. Ai Morinaga has a certain flair for wide-eyed characters, and it’s lots of fun.

I’m disappointed by the lack of a complete run in the states, stopping at eight volumes of fourteen. But still, it’s worth to check this one out.

Overall Opinion: I think this manga is a sure GOAL! You do better.

Rating: Two out of Two Twins.