published by Tokyopop
Tokyopop sent along some of their upcoming March releases for review.
NG Life Book 1
by Mizuho Kusanagi, $10.99 US
High school student Keidai remembers his previous life in Pompeii. His love then, Serena, has been reincarnated as the new neighbor, Yuuma, a middle-school boy. His best friend then is now a female classmate, Mii, who at least listens to his memories that no one else shares.
This should make for enjoyable light comedy, but the impression I got instead was one of by-the-numbers plot generation, especially once Yuuma develops a crush on Mii. The generic art, all sharp-chinned closeups, doesn’t help. When Keidai agonizes over whether his feelings for Yuuma make him gay, there’s no sense of emotional confusion, just authorial teasing — “here’s some yaoi hints”. These two-dimensional characters are predictable and uninteresting.
I also don’t care for the idea that everything’s determined by what came before. If Keidai believed less in fate, he might be less boring, as he took more responsibility for his own choices and paid more active attention to what’s going on in this life. Instead, the author and characters all allow him to wallow in what they should see as delusion, to the extent of staging the class play based on his past life stories. (A convenient charade for the author to continue repeating the same plot points.)
On another note, I haven’t checked out a Tokyopop volume in the past few months, and I was very surprised to note that the price of this volume has gone up (books this size used to be $9.99) while the quality has gone down. The newsprint-like paper feels cheap and unsubstantial, and it looks muddy. The resulting product seems unsubstantial and is unpleasant to read.
Tsubasa: Those With Wings
by Natsuki Takaya, $14.99 US
Three-volume series, double-sized
Ah, now this is more the production quality I was expecting. A double-sized volume that feels substantial at a reasonable price, with thicker, whiter paper.
The selling point here is “from the creator of Fruits Basket“, Tokyopop’s biggest current success and a series that is close to ending. Instead of that shojo real-life approach with fantasy trappings, though, this series is adventure-based.
It’s a desolate post-war future Earth, and the ex-thief Kotobuki and the military commander Raimon flirt, spar, and team up to find the legendary Tsubasa, a wish-granting MacGuffin. Other groups want their help, granted freely or not.
As expected, there are chases, double-crosses, and suspect partnerships. This is early work from Takaya, and the art, while readable, shows it. I didn’t get very far into it before deciding that I had other books I wanted to spend the time with more. But on a rainy Sunday afternoon, this could be the equivalent of one of those movies you stumble across on TV, an enjoyable although forgettable way to waste a few hours.
(In case you’re wondering about the title, which this volume partially shares with a better-known Del Rey manga series, tsubasa means wing in Japanese.)
Star Trek: The Manga Ultimate Edition
Anthology, $19.99 US
This single volume contains a selection of stories picked from the previous three Star Trek manga volumes. So it’s a recycling effort: take existing material, repackage it in a slightly larger size with glossy cover, and see if you can get the fish to bite again.
To jazz up the package, they’ve added a pull-out small color poster version of the cover art, drawn by Michael Kelleher, and printed the “Side Effects” story prologue in color. There’s also a 28-page preview of April’s Star Trek: The Next Generation manga.
The art varies widely among the stories, of course, as do the likenesses. Some stories are handicapped by having artists who aren’t able to draw the characters well at all, but the art isn’t the point with projects like this — it’s to give the fans more stories with figures they’re comfortable with.
No one’s buying this book for the art. Or even the stories, really — it’s the experience. Which means you already know, as soon as you hear the title, whether you want it. Fans who have the previous volumes won’t find enough new here to justify rebuying the material. For Tokyopop, it gets another product on the shelves with minimal work on their part. I think the real audience for this is well-meaning grandmothers: “Oh, I know Timmy likes the science fiction and the comics, I’ll get him this for his birthday.”