Skip Beat! Vol. 19

SKIPBEAT19What’s on the back: Koo and Lory can’t stop meddling in Kyoko’s and Ren’s lives. Because while Koo is impressed with Kyoko’s talent he knows that she will never be a great actress unless she can overcome her fatal weakness. And Lory knows that Ren’s acting is likewise affected by his refusal to face his past. Can the two old-timers give their young proteges a much needed kick in the pants , or will their plans blow up in their faces?!

Review: Three months is too long of a wait for Skip Beat. Especially since it reigns as one of my all time favourites in terms of shoujo manga. We don’t get to see much of a development between Ren and Kyoko, but, we do get to see a lot of Ren’s past and an improvement in Kyoko’s acting career.

First off, I was shocked that Ren is not Japanese. Maybe it’s because I have forgotten or I missed it in the past volumes. But it was quite interesting why Ren chose Japan as a place to develop his acting and career. At first I thought that Ren’s father was probably a bad guy, since, it was hinted in earlier volumes that Ren disliked his father. But in reality, Ren doesn’t dislike his father. He only wanted to reach his goals without the help of his father’s career in showbiz. I applaud Ren’s determination, since it takes a lot of willpower and effort to leave your parents for the past five years and not speak to them once. With his video letter that he has sent to his mother, Ren let go of his past, and is able to preform to his full potential.

I got to admit, I liked the relationship that Kyoko had with her sensei, Koo. Koo saw that Kyoko has a problem, that would probably hinder her rise to stardom. She is way too picky with what kind of roles she wants to protray. A successful actress would take on all roles, and make it her own. Koo was trying to let her know her potential and that if she become less fickle with her choices of roles, she would definitely shine. I felt something special between Koo and Kyoko’s relationship. Koo saw his long lost son in Kyoko, and Kyoko saw a father figure she never had. It was quite touching at the end when Kyoko called Koo her father in the airport.

The only thing I have to complain about this volume is where the heck is Sho? lol, I thought he was suppose to be a contender in the game to win Kyoko’s heart. I guess it doesn’t really matter since, this volume was not set on Kyoko’s relationships. I also love Kyoko’s reacting to Ren when she knows she disobeys him. Ren is a nice guy, but Kyoko thinks that Ren is evil behind that smile of his.

Final Thoughts: What I’m expecting next volume is more Ren x Kyoko x Sho conflicts. I would also like to see Ren and Kyoko utilizing the advices that were given to them. This volume met my demands, and delivered quite an entertaining read.

Overall Grade: A

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Shinobi Life Vol. 1

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What’s on the back: Beni is a privileged girl, who could get anything she wants, except…she wants to die, to spite her father. But one day a mysterious man named Kagetora fell down from the sky. He turns out to be a ninja who has sworn his loyalty to Beni, as her bodyguard. Kagetora comes from the past, and spent his life protecting Beni-Hime who he would risk his life for. But Kagetora mistakens Beni as the princess from the past. Can true love and honor survive after centuries-long time warp – in a crazy modern world?

Review: Beni lives a life full of hatred for her estranged father due to the death of her mother when she was younger. She jumps at any chances that would endanger her life. For example, getting kidnapped, or living recklessly. Kagetora, a man who strangely dresses as a ninja, dropped down from the sky, and turns Beni’s life plans upside down (not that it’s a bad thing). Kagetora is in fact a ninja who has traveled to the future and believes that Beni is the Hime-Sama who he was sworn to protect. As time passes on, Beni falls for Kagetora, but she doesn’t have the heart to tell him that she’s not his princess.

I heard a lot of great things about this manga. But honestly, it’s only mediocre. It seems to fit into you’re perfect senario of a shoujo. Eg. Strong-will/depressed heroine rescued by a hero, who then changes her prospects on life. I’m not complaining about it though. I love myself some good shoujo. I only wanted something new and fresh. Nevertheless, Shinobi Life was still a very decent read.

What I like best about the story, was probably the problems the main characters have to deal with, such as social standings. Kagetora (even if he’s from the past) strongly believes that social standings is a rule that should be followed closely. Which leads to Beni’s problems. Beni, even though she’s not a real princess, is still a young wealthy heiress. She finds herself falling in love with Kagetora, but it’s impossible for Kagetora to fall in love with her because it goes against his upbringing.

The second half of the manga was probably the better half for me, since it deals with time traveling. Here we meet a plethora of new characters including the real princess, and also Kagetora’s arch enemy. We also see Kagetora and Beni kind of getting together. But the presence of Beni’s father probably means that the couple is probably going to go through more hardships before they are together officially.

I didn’t mention this before, but the way Kagetora sees and treats Beni is somewhat hilarious. We have to remember that Kagetora comes from the past, where modesty is very important. Beni is raised in the 21st century where bare shoulders, and bikini tops are normal. It’s cute when Kagetora begs Beni to wear more appropriate clothing.

I got to admit, even though the story is mediocre, the art is what caught my attention. I’m a sucker for pretty artwork, and Shinobi Life seems to have been drawn in a very visual pleasing way. I love the way Kagetora looks. Also, Beni’s character design wasn’t so bad as well. My only complaint is the publisher. Tokyopop, I love you but your paper quality sucks. I always get disappointed when a good manga gets crappy paper. It takes away from my enjoyment factor.

Final Thoughts: Even though this is just a typical shoujo, I found it to be a very fun read. I would love to see how Beni’s and Kagetora’s relationship develops and what kind of obstacle is Beni’s father trying to throw at them. I’m guessing that Beni has a fiance she doesn’t know about lol, the curse of a typical shoujo, you’ll always know what will happen next. I want to see more of the new characters, especially Kagetora’s arch enemy, Hitaki. Another time traveling chapter wouldn’t be so bad as well! =D

Overall Grade: C+

Nana Vol. 8

nana8What’s on the back: Hachi’s happiness with Nobu is slipping through her fingers as an unexpected complication with Takumi treatens to up-end her whole life. And unlike her past romantic woes, the choice she makes now will change the lives of everyone around her.

Review: I know I haven’t posted any reviews of Nana lately, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the series. In fact, Nana is probably one of my favourites. I haven’t read a volume in a while, but now I remember exactly why I like it so much. It’s the realism that the manga represents. Hachiko is going through tough times and I can’t really blame her for making the choices that she has made. I see her logic in all her decisions.

I saw this arc coming, which isn’t to everyone’s surprise, I dreaded reading. The scene that grabbed my heart the most, happened in this arc. I almost wished it didn’t happen. From day one, I was rooting for Nobu and Hachi. I was literally jumping for joy when they got together. But now that’s all over. Hachi gets pregnant and most likely it’s Takumi’s child. It also doesn’t help that Takumi was also the one that broke the news to Nobu. Ouch. This teaches everyone to use contraceptions when having sex, or else you end up in an ireversible situation that Hachi puts herself in. Now she has to let go of love, for stability.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Takumi. I’m a fan of Nobu, but Takumi isn’t so bad either. It was nice of him to accept responsibility for the baby. Hachi, herself, was surprised when he offered to get married with ehr. The only question lies now is whether, Takumi truly loves Hachi, or is this mariage simply a ploy to shut up the papparazi?

For the other herione in the story, Nana, I felt kind of bad for her in this volume. In her eyes she views Hachi as a precious possession. As the news of Hachi’s pregnancy is dawned on her, her grip on Hachi is slowly becoming looser and looser. She blames this all on Takumi, who stole everyone that was important to her. She also realize, after a confrontation with Nobu, that she was using him to keep Hachi near her.

We get to see a glimpse of Nana’s childhood. With that, I kind of understand her reason of not wanting to have a baby. After being abandoned as a child, Nana feels like she doesn’t have the qualifications to have a child of her own. This is probably why, Hachi’s pregnancy is kind of a shock for her.

 Final Thoughts : There were a lot of tough situations in this volume. For a shoujo manga, this seriers is probaby the most realistic thing I’ve read in a long while. I see a lot of issues coming up in the near issues of this manga. With the way Nana is going, could it result in her downfall?

Overall Grade: A+

Gestalt Vol. 1

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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 –

Kimi ni Todoke Vol. 1

KIMINITODO01What’s on the back: Sawako kuronums is the perfect herione…for a horror movie. With striking similarities to a haunting movie character – jet black hair, sinister smile and silent demeanor – she’s mistakenly called Sadako by those around her. But behind her scary facade is a very misunderstood teenager. Too shy to fit in, all she wants to do is make some friends. But when the most popular boy in class befriends her, she’s sure to make more than just that – she’s about to make some enemies too!

Review: Kimi ni Todoke has recieved many recommendations from the many netizens. Plus, a lot of people were obsessively reading the scanlations. I decided to hold off on scanlations when I heard that Kimi ni Todoke was being licensed by Viz in North America. I got to admit, the wait was definitely worth it.

Sawako, I felt sorry for her. She just your average teenager who wants to hang out with friends. But she has a problem. Her shy demeanor, sinister smile, and haircut makes people think that she’s the heroine from a horror movie. They even compared her to Sadako from The Ring, which I admit, she does resemble. Her attempts at meeting friends were feeble at first. But after meeting Kazehaya, a popular, and positive boy in school she earned the courage to meet new friends. I like Sawako’s character. Even though her appearance is rather scary, she is a kind and thoughtful girl.

There was a chapter in the volume where Sawako saves an abandon puppy from the rain. The funny thing about that puppy, was that he looks exactly like my puppy, louis. lol Anyways, back on topic, it’s too bad that people don’t see the kind of person Sawako is. She volunteers to do class chores. She even pretend to be the ghost, when the whole class was participating in a bravery challenge. It’s great that by the end of the volume, some of her classmates are trying to get closer to her.

Kazehaya, he reminds me of other Shoujo Heros, such as Yano from We Were There (when he’s happy, and not moody), and Yoh in High School Debut ( in terms of looks and popularity). I feel kind of sorry for him because of Sawako. Poor girl doesn’t realized that Kazehaya likes her. It doesn’t help that Sawako looks up to Kazehaya in admiration, instead of love.

At the end of the volume, Sawako falls victim to another person’s wicked scheme. She may lose her friends because of this, but I believe she can go through this situation smoothly. Sawako, fighting!

This manga series is slowly become a really cute story. The story right now is a little choppy, but I heard that the story will eventually become really good. I just like to note that I like the way viz is presenting their manga now. Kimi ni todoke’s cover resembles its original cover very much. Good Job, Viz!

Final Thoughts: I will continue to root for Sawako to make friends, and become somewhat normal. Also, for Kazehaya to press on in winning Sawako’s heart!

Overall Grade: A

Captive Hearts Vol. 3

CAPTIVEHAERTS03What’s on the back: Megumi sets out for China to find a cure for his curse, but it appears that even his health worsens if he is away from his master. Meanwhile, a maid in the Kogami household swears to make Megumi hers!

Review: The story seems to be improving with each volume, but the silliness continues to become more apparent.

Megumi sets off to China to find clues that would rid him of his curse. Suzuka has to stay at home because she still has school. Now here’s what silly: the moment Megumi sets his foot in China, he becomes severly sick, and had to return home quickly. It turns out that after a certain distance away from Suzuka, Megumi could die. Now I know this is a manga. But isn’t this a bit ridiculous? Dying because he’s away from his master? Megumi’s dad is okay with traveling far, so why is he such a weakling? I can see why Keito despise this curse. It makes her son unable to have the freedom to do whatever he wants, even if it benefits his master, Suzuka.

We get to see Suzuka being a bit more outspoken with her feelings for Megumi, after a rival maid comes and declares that she loves Megumi. I do feel sorry for Rui, who in Megumi’s eyes use to be the replacement for Suzuka, when she went missing. Rui accepts that she use to be a substitute for Suzuka, but deeply inside she still loves Megumi very much. From the very beginning, we can already tell that Rui is a doomed character. It’s already established that Megumi and Suzuka is a couple. So I don’t even see why she’s even trying under these circumstances. But I do applaud Suzuka for telling Rui her true feelings, and that she would never give up Megumi.

The big winner for this volume though is the story of Megumi’s and Suzuka’s ancestors. It’s probably the best part of the whole series. Remember in volume two, when the psychic told Megumi and Suzuka that the curse was made from love? It turns out that it was true. The basis of the story is that, a theif (Megumi’s ancestor) attempted to steal the dragon scroll, which could grant wishes. But instead, he ended up grabbing the scroll and it’s princess (Suzuka’s ancestor) who wished dearly that a man could come and save her from her destiny of marrying a man she doesn’t love. In the end though, she chose to protect her family. The thief let her go, but he kept the dragon scroll for himself. Already smitten by the thief,  the princess tells him, he must not open the scroll or he will die. The thief listens to the princess and doesn’t open the scroll. He gave the scroll to one of his comrades, and the poor man opens the scroll and dies instantly. Realizing that the princess saved his life, he decided to come back and claim the princess for his own. But unfortunately, he came at the wrong time. The Princess betrothed aim the arrow at the thief, but the princess leaped in front of the arrow and died in the thief’s arms. At this moment the Dragon God appeared and told the thief that he would resurrect the princess, on one condition: his ancestors will have too serve the Kogami family for 100 generations. Because of the gap in social standing, the thief and the princess never actually got together. But, they loved each other for the rest of their lives.

At the end of the volume, there was a short story about Christmas. I found it odd because I’m reading it in  boiling hot weather. It was a cute story, nothing special about it though. But I could tell that it was probably one of Matsuri-sensei’s older works because the art seems dated.

I was glad that there were some character developments this volume, but as of right now, this manga is just decent. Nothing is really popping out. The only thing I liked about the volume, was actually the story about the ancestors. It was a nice addition, It would have been nice as a series of it’s own! For me right now, Megumi and Suzuka’s relationship is just blah. I say forget about this curse and just try to live with it. Instead of focusing on trying to get rid of the curse, just focus more on loving each other.

Final Thoughts: This volume was better than the last, but the only reason was because of the side stories. As of now, I could say that the story is decent, nothing special. But who knows, by the end of this series, I might be wowed.

Overall Grade: C+

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+

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