Afterschool Charisma Vol. 1

Author: Kumiko Suekane

SigIKKI; ISBN: 978-1-4215-3397-1

Afterschool Charisma Vol. 1

I was intrigued with the premises of this manga. Afterschool Charisma, is about a special school that only enrolls certain kind of students: clones (except for Shiro Kamiya, an actual human).

The series starts off with Marie Curie, who instead of wanting to further her studies in radioactivity (like her original), wants to study music, like Mozart. Shiro encourages her to pursue her dreams of music, he even offers to talk to his dad, who works at the academy. Suspiciously, his dad agrees to help Marie Curie out, by offering her a transfer to a new school the next day. We later find out that Marie Curie was “trashed,” in order to create a new version that is more true to her original.

This chapter leads to a whole new issue that the manga tries to address. What will happens to a clone that chooses his or her own destiny? Judging by Marie’s Curie’s tragic demise, I guess it can’t be that good.

Another issue the series addresses is that will the clones die like their originals? An example is how clone President Kennedy, gets assassinated just like his original.

I have to comment that, as I progress further into the volume, it simply gets darker. Cults, suicides and terrorist groups are some of the things that occurred in this volume.

One of the things I like about this volume is the relationship between Shiro and Hitler. You’ll be surprise at clone Hitler’s personality. As opposed to the ruthless dictator that his original was, Hitler seems to be a bit shy. He told Shiro that they are both really similar; they are both the odd man out. Hitler, who can’t seem to makes friends with other clones because of his original’s sins, and Shiro who is the only human in a clone high school.

The only problem that I had with this volume is being introduced to too many characters at once. The author should have slowly introduce the key characters one at a time, instead of throwing them all in one chapter. Also, Mozart kind of pissed me off. Even though he’s a “prodigy” why is it that he judge Marie’s dream of music? Even though it wasn’t mention in the manga, I presume it was because of all the pressure his teacher was giving him to live up to his original, whereas, Marie has no pressure at all. Well like they say, “Karma is a b****,” because by the end of the volume, he takes his own life.

I really enjoy this series, but i have a feeling that this story is just going to get ever more darker. It won’t take long for me to find out because I have volume 2 in my TBR pile.

Grade: B

No Touching At All (Yaoi)

Author: Kou Yoneda

June; ISBN: 978-1-56970-1850

No Touching At All

No Touching at All is a story about a shy man named Shima who just started a new job. He meets his boss, Togawa,  in an elevator, and wasn’t impressed with him all all since he reeked of alcohol and cigarettes. But soon, his unruly boss invaded his every thought. Shima is torn because of past failures in love and doesn’t know how to treat Togawa as a new potential love.

The reason why Shima gets a new job is because he had relationship with a “straight” co-worker at his old job. When their relationship became known, Shima’s Ex quickly made it seem like Shima was the one who seduced him into a relationship. I generally felt bad for Shima in this situation because the person he thought he loved, quickly denied the existence of their love. Shima then has no choice but to give his love, and his job, so that his ex could move on with his life.

This whole situation caused Shima to act towards Togawa indifferently, since, he didn’t want to have another relationship with a co-worker. A lot of missed signals occurs, and at first Shima’s and Togawa’s after work relationship seem to go down the path of doom, but eventually they both realize that they truly love each other.

Shima, honestly, annoyed me at first. He just really didn’t know what he wanted with Togawa. He thought that Togawa was just playing around with him, and would leave him when he was bored. That was why he was normally indifferent to Togawa’s advances towards him. When he finally realize that he needed Togawa beside him, was when Togawa got a promotion and moved away from him.

Togawa on the other hand, in reality, if he was real, he probably be the kind of man I tend to avoid. Nobody wants to be near someone who reeks of alcohol and cigarette smoke all the time. So I could definitely see Shima’s first impression of disgust towards him. I would like him as a boss though, he seems laid back. lol

On a side note, I felt sorry Onoda, who had a crush on Shima. We all knew his crush will never be realized.

No Touching at all, was really different from all the other Yaoi I’ve read in the past. To me, it was simply more grown up. The reason I think so is because it involves an older cast of characters, and also instead of involving sex to advance their relationship, It seems like this story moves more on the character’s developments and emotions.

Grade: B

The Name of the Flower Vol. 2

Author: Ken Saito

CMX; ISBN 978-1-4012-1597-2

The Name of the Flower Vol. 2

This volume of The Name of Flower is something special. I honestly couldn’t put it down. Out of all the shoujo manga that I’ve read in the past, this is possibly, one of the most realistic take on romance I’ve ever read.

In this volume, Chouko finally realizes her feelings towards her guardian, Kei. This realization of love causes for Chouko to feel awkward around Kei because she simply doesn’t know how to act in front of someone she loves. Kei, of course, becomes aware of her feelings of him and slowly tries to move away from Chouko’s presence.

In order to get away from Chouko, Kei reluctantly accepts to take a trip with his editor, Akiyama. Unbeknown to Kei, Chouko has joined a club that idolizes Kei as an author. The club decides to stalk Kei on the trip in order to get a picture of him to post up on their wall. During this trip, I believe that Kei finally realizes that he has feelings for Chouko. Throughout the whole trip, his mind wanders off to think about Chouko. I honestly don’t know how an author’s imagination work, but, Kei thought about Chouko so much that he imagine that he kiss Chouko. Funny thing about this situation, was that in reality, he did kiss Chouko.

Because of this incident, the relationship between Kei and Chouko begins to strain. Not knowing what to do with Chouko’s feeling for him. Kei starts to find another place for Chouko to live. He reminds Akiyama that Chouko was only suppose to live with him until she finishes high school, and that the agreement had only been extended a little bit. Adding to all this confusion, we meet a mysterious person name Iori, who apparently caused Kei to go into a deep depression at the start of his career as an author.

What I like most about this volume is Chouko’s interaction with her club members. We meet a book loving nerd name Yousuke, who obviously has a crush on Chouko because every time he’s around her he gets tongue tied. Could this be a love triangle I’m sensing? To further prove my thesis, Kei made sure that Yousuke knew that Chouko was in love with him, when they were both soaking in a hot spring. Kei wouldn’t make this statement, unless he felt threaten by the presence of Yousuke in Chouko’s life. I kind of like that Kei has some kind of competition in terms of Chouko’s love. Maybe, it will allow Kei to realize how important Chouko really is to him. I mean, he wrote a book about her, right?

The one thing that bothers me about this series is that Kei is such a blah person. He never smiles and he has no facial expression, except for his “blah” face. With the appearance of Iori, I have no idea how his relationship with Chouko is going to end up. According to the next volume’s preview, it looks like Chouko is taking it hard.

Regardless of such a boring hero, I still find this series to be charmingly bittersweet. Not only that, this is probably one of the only shoujo manga I know that is kind of realistic (I know the whole loving your guardian in a romantic way thing, is so not normal, but still…). I could only hope for Kei to Chouko to have a happy ending, but by the looks of it, it’s not going to come easy for the pair to find peace.

Grade: B+

Gestalt Vol. 1

GESTALT01

What’s on the back: After experiencing a crisis of faith, Father Olivier of the Valaria Order decides to go to G and find out the truth behind the legends. Olivier’s journey is unsanctioned, and the head of the order engages the dark elf Suzu to stop him. As he begins his quest, Oliver encounters Ouri, a young girl from he south who cannot speak. But Ouri reveals another side of herself when Suzu catches up to them!

Review: Gestalt oddly reminds me of all the RPG games I’ve played as a kid. It’s actually kind of fun. There are stats of various skills on certain pages. It even tells us how much MP is used for each skill. Way cool.

The first thing I noticed about volume one are the coloured pages. We get to see a very pretty coloured layout featuring Ouri as its main subject. The colouring and art is a bit weird though, kind of reminds me of 80s art. This series was written in the early 90s, so I’m not surprised.

In Gestalt, we follow Olivier on his journey to find the truth behind Gestalt, who is a demon God that has betrayed the heavens. Even mentioning his name is forbidden. Messiah, the leader of he Valaria Order, sends Suzu, a dark elf, to track down Olivier. But much to their surprise, Olivier refuses to come back until he learns the truth behind the legends.

Along the way, Olivier meets up with Ouri, a mute slave. He doesn’t believe in human trafficking, but after realizing that Ouri could be sold to an evil master, he reluctantly accepts her. After dispelling Ouri’s mute curse, we learned that OUri is actually a sorceress who hails from “the newly freed island.”

As the journey continues, new characters start to join the party such as Suzu and Shazan (fortune teller) who followed them from a village. We know Suzu is trying to make Olivier go back to the Valaria Order, but in Shazan’s situation, we have no ideas about his motives/reasons on joining this journey to Gestalt.

As of right now, the story’s main points aren’t very clear. We do know that Ouri has six younger siblings, which Ouri is the strongest. To be honest, I prefer stories/manga to be clear on what direction it’s going in by the end of the 1st volume.

At the end of the volume, I was confused by Ouri’s gender. Is Ouri a man or woman? During the beginning of the volume, and even on the back cover, Ouri is referred o as a girl. It was also stated that she has D-cup sized breasts. But ath the end of the volume, one of Ouri’s siblings calls her “brother”. I don’t know what exactly is going on but, I hope that the next volume would be more clea on Ouri’s gender.

Final Thoughts: Even though this volume has many flaws including lack of clearness regarding plot and gender, I find this volume very refreshing. here are times when shoujos are too repetitive, so reading an adventure based manga is definielly up my lane. This manga is written by the famed mangaka Yun Kouga. So even if you’re not into shounen, it’s definitely worth a read.

Overall Grade: B –

Black Bird Vol. 1

BLACKBIRD01What’s on the back: There is a world of myth and magic that intersects ours, and only a special few can see it. Misao Harada is one such person, and she wants nothing to do with the magical realms. She just wants to have a normal high school life and maybe get a boyfriend.

All that changes one day when Misao is attacked by a demon. Her childhood friend Kyo suddenly returns to save her and tend to her cuts – with his tongue! It turns out Misao is the bride of prophecy, whose blood gives power to the demon clan who claims her.

But most demons want to keep her power for themselves – by eating her! Now Misao is just trying to stay alive…and decide if she likes it when kyo licks her wound.

Review: This was an interesting read. Definitely, not a book you can read on the bus…which I found out too late. It’s probably one of the first series in the Shojo Beat line to have some softcore smut in it. Not that it takes away from the story or anything. This was definitely an unusual but somewhat fun read.

Misao has a curse where she is able to see monsters and various creatures from the magical realms. Many people often see her as a crazy person, simply because she sometimes trip on air, and stare into space. What they don’t know is that she is harrassed on a daily basis by demons of all sorts. Misao only has one dream though: she simply wants to live a normal life, and maybe have a boyfriend.

We get to see various flashbacks of Misao memories of her childhood friend Kyo. We later learn that he was her first love. Ten years ago, he moved away, but promised Misao that one day he would come back to marry her. And just like you guess it, he did. Except now,he is a dashing young man, with a secret. He’s a tengu!

Apparently, when Misao turn 16 years old, the whole magical realm will try to capture her. Her flesh would provide eternal youth, her blood immortality, and by marrying her, the demon’s clan would prosper. After learning that Kyo is actually a demon, she refuses to accept his proposal. She wants nothing to do with demons of any sorts.

But of course, Kyo is not the only one that wants her. She is consistantly attacked by demons who are out to get her. With Kyo’s presence, most demons stay away from Misao. But the moment he disappear, there’s no stopping the demons from trying to eat/possess her.

Kyo is not the only one who wants to marry her, Kuzunoha, an heir for the Kitsune (fox demon) clan, also would like to marry Misao. But in my opinion, his intentions are not as clear, as Kyo. As of now, we do not know if Kyo is genuine or not. But it seems like, he might actually like Misao!

So the basis plot of Blackbird turns out to be a bit unique. It was fun read, there were no draggy bits. What I don’t get is, why does Misao spill her blood every chapter? I mean, come on she been living with demons who has harrassed and bothered her, her whole life. So shouldn’t she be able to come up with a system to battle these monsters? Don’t say that it became more aggressive because of her birthday. To me, it’s just an excuse to look weak.

An interesting bit of the story is that a demon’s lick (or maybe saliva) can heal any wounds. But I can’t help but feel sorry for Misao, even though her wounds are getting healed. The places Kyo licks, aren’t exactly places where you want people to see. lol. Poor girl, either way it doesn’t matter if she is shedding blood, or getting healed, the girl is getting abused from every direction she takes.

I didn’t realize that Sakurakoji-sensei also wrote backstage prince. The art isn’t similar at all! The plots are totally opposite! I don’t remember backstage prince as naughty as black bird is. Still, it’s a great read! I expect a lot out of Black bird, since it won an award. I hope it doesn’t let me down, but just in case, I’m going to lower my expectations. Maybe by next volume, we will see some more developments in terms of the plot.

Final Thoughts: Not a lot of people are into smut. I don’t mind it actually. If you’re mature, why not? The smut isn’t even heavy in this manga. Many people also complain about the abusiveness. You got to keep in mind, that this is a manga, not a real life story. If this happened in reality, of course I would feel sorry for Misao. But this is a manga, which should be read with an open mind. Would I reccommend this for others? Yes, because it seems like an interesting story. Plus, a lot of people are into vampires nowadays, so why not tengus? lol.

Overall Grade: B+

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Vol. 3

HARUHISUZU3What’s on the back: The SOS Brigade gets browbeaten into entering a baseball tournament to help their fearless leader stave off boredom. But Haruhi has no intention of losing…and she’s ready to pitch a fit if her team doesn’t step up to the plate!

Review: I have a love/hate relationship with Haruhi. For example, I hate the anime, but I kind of love the manga…sometimes. I got to say, volume three was probably the best the series has to offer so far. This is just such a quirky manga series. I was just constantly confused through out the whole anime, so I’m glad that the manga clears up some of the story for me.

Haruhi is extremely bored, and somehow coerce her club members (which consists of an alien, time traveler, and an esper) to join a baseball competition. Their team lack members, so Kyon’s sister and friends were recruited. Their team was probably the worse team in the competition, but that didn’t stop Haruhi from wanting to win. In fact, Koizumi warns Kyon, that if their team loses, Haruhi’s emotions would caused a close space to appear, and all hell would run loose. The team ends up winning, after some unusual powers were used. After winning one game, the team quits because Haruhi’s boredom was quench for the day.

We gets to see a little bit of slice of life this volume. Mikuru entering her first “Cute and girly clothing shop”. Haruhi being jealous that Kyon and Mikuru went shopping, so decided to go shopping herself.

The most interesting thing about this volume, is the little flash back, where Mikuru takes Kyon back to the past. He meets middle school Haruhi, and helps her make a crop circle in order to make a wish for Tanabata. At this point, Kyon’s existence is not yet known, since the present haruhi has yet to meet him. It’s kind of interesting that Kyon’s meeting with Haruhi in the past, may have caused Haruhi to be the way she is now. I like the little bit where Kyon and Mikuru slept three years in Yuki’s house in order to reach the present again.

Character development, was actually great this volume. We get to learn more about Haruhi’s past. This volume does hint that Haruhi may have a soft side. In a sense, her two wishes of the earth revolving around her, and for the earth to rotate the opposite direction has already kind of come true. Haruhi is basically like God. All these aliens, time travelers, espers are here to monitor her actions and movements because she holds the threat of destory the whole world. So in a way, the earth does revolve around her. Her other wish, is a bit more abstract. I believe that Haruhi wished that something exciting, or fun would happen. It doesn’t matter if it causes harvoc, in Haruhi’s eyes, that would be something she would enjoy. She lives for something different to happen in her life. In a sense, it’s the same thing as the earth rotating the opposite direction. Because if that happened, the climate, the whole world would be pushed into chaos. But at least something different would happen.

Art-wised, I’ve got nothing to complain. The art is kept very close to the anime and novel. The manga itself is very easy to read, but it does have a lot of moments where you go “Wtf, how did that happen,” throughout the whole series.

Final Thoughts: So the final verdict is that fans of the anime or the novels, should probably pick this manga up. But for those of you who are interested in watching the anime, I would even suggest reading this manga first, before going into the anime. The anime is probably one of the most confusing thing I’ve ever watched. The manga does an excellent job of clearing up all the questions that are created throughout the whole series. So even if you new to this Haruhi fandome business, be sure to pick up this manga for it’s quirkyness and lack of normacy.

Overall Grade: B

Mr. Flower Bride (YAOI)

MRFLOBRIDE1What’s on the back: The powerful Souda family is big on tradition…and to Shinji Souda’s dismay, the tradition they’re keenest on involves him marrying a boy! And not just any boy, but his classmate Aoi Uno, who doesn’t seem to be at all fazed by the news of their engagement. With their attitudes at odds, are Shinji and Aoi headed for a lifetime of unhappily ever after?

Review: Wow, got to say this was a weird one. Not in a bad way, more of a “How the hell is this possible?” kind of way. This volume of Mr. Flower Bride, is actually quite a good read, besides from the fact that the bride looks more like a girl, than he does a guy.

Shinji just learned that his sister-in-law is about to give birth to a boy. This is bad news for Shinji because he has to marry a man! Why you may ask? To keep a family tradition of protecting their future heir. Shinji’s dad promised to find him the most beautiful man-bride in the clan. But this doesn’t make Shinji feel any better. So when his friend Aoi surprised him as his bride, Shinji was shocked. He didn’t want to marry Aoi because at times he thought that Aoi was beautiful. Aoi was not fazed about the news of the engagement, because he was already in love with Shinji, and was trying his hardest to be picked as Shinji’s bride.

Shinji and Aoi ends up getting married. They were moved to the Hanare, where traditionally newlyweds go to give birth to babies. But in this case, it’s highly impossible for those two to conceive. lol. As time goes by, Shinji finds himself falling in love with Aoi. A lot of obstacles such as his little sister and Aoi’s childhood friend gets in their way.

Mr. Flower Bride, also has a few short stories after the main one. My favourite one is called “Even if it Costs Me My Life,” which is about a bodyguard who is trying to protect his master from people who are after his father’s company.

In “If I Can See You Anytime,” I was a bit confused on whether this was a Yaoi story, or was it straight. The author never mentions whether Natsuiro was a guy or a girl. I’m just going to assume he’s a guy since this is a Yaoi anthology. lol.

Lily Hoshino, is famous for her art. I’ve got to admit that it’s very pleasing to the eyes. Another thing that she is famous for is also for her really girly ukes. If it wasn’t mention in the story that Aoi was a man, I swear I would have confused him for a chestless girl. He’s just that girly… The only thing I’ve got to complain about is the fact that sometimes the art confuses me on what’s happening. Like how I mention before about not realizing if the person is a girl or a guy. Anyhow, besides that, the lines were drawn clearly, and the character designs were nice to look at.

Final Thoughts: Despite the weirdness of the plot, I’ve enjoyed reading this story a lot! I’ve Mr. Flower Groom in my TBR pile, so I’m hoping for some more development in the plot. It’s one of those reads that are nice to read when you are in a mood for a Yaoi. It has plot, the main characters are pleasing to the eyes, and the sex scenes are kept to a minimal. I’m definitely more interested in the rest of Lily Hoshino’s manga that are currently liscensed. On a side note, I like it how Yen Press is really expanding it’s genres by publishing some Yaoi!

Overall Grade: B

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