published by Del Rey Manga
Reviews by Ed Sizemore
All books were provided by the publisher, Del Rey, for review.
Le Chevalier d’Eon Book 6
story by Tou Ubukata; manga by Kiriko Yumeji; adapted by Ikoi Hiroe; $10.95 US
This volume focuses on Comte de Saint-Germain, an enigmatic figure whose actions seem random. He grants the King’s mistress a wish and increases one poet’s power. In the majority of the volume, he’s trying to avoid being murdered by the poet Candide.
I’ve previously reviewed the first volume, and my dissatisfaction with the series only increases. This book is deadly dull. In truth, I had a hard time staying awake while reading it. This story should be exciting, since half the book is Comte and his jailer fighting for their lives. But there was no life, no energy in the storytelling or the art.
As I pointed out previously, this series is all plot and no characterization. I didn’t connect with any of the characters in this volume, either. They all feel one-dimensional and offer no reason for me to want to get to know them better. Their emotions and responses come across as wooden.
The art has actually gotten worst since the first volume, and the costumes are simply ridiculous. If you think the female on the cover is showing a lot of skin, wait until you see her new costume. It looks like Gothic Lolita fetish wear. The anatomy in several places is just wrong. It was painful to look at the poses some of the characters struck. Plus, Yumeji draws the ugliest female hands I’ve every seen. They’re bony with large joints, the kind of hands you see on evil witches in Disney films.
Honestly, I can’t help but think this series is just an excuse for Yumeji to show off his skills as a Gothic Lolita fashion designer. More attention is paid to the clothes than plot or characters. I can find nothing to recommend about this series.
Shiki Tsukai Book 4
story by To-Ru Zekuu; art by Yuna Takanagi; adapted by Mayumi Kobayashi; $10.99 US
Akira has the potential to become the Shinra Banshou, the person able to wield all seasonal magic and reunite the warring months. However, his powers threaten to awaken before he is ready to take control of them. The winter and spring seasons are attempting to aid Akira to awaken his powers naturally. The summer and fall seasons seek the Shinra Banshou power to destroy mankind.
I haven’t read the previous three volumes, and that put me at a disadvantage. You can tell that relationships have already begun to form and deepen. Also, all the introductory material about seasonal magic is over, so readers are expected to know how spells works. Even with those handicaps, I was still able to get a fair idea of what was going on and what the important relationships were.
The series shows some potential. I liked the characters and the action sequences were well-done. It’s interesting how everything in the US is done by covert government agencies, while in Japan, everything is done by covert divisions of corporations. I did find the harem aspect a bit disappointing. The series didn’t completely grab me, but I’d be willing to check out at least another volume before making my final decision.
The artwork is solid. Nothing impressive, but nothing distracting either. Del Rey really worked overtime on the extras in this volume. There is a 366-day calendar of birthstones and their meanings; a list of each month and its magical speciality; a list of incantations for each month; and an explanation of the spells used in this volume. This actually helped me understand the magical system and the battle scenes.
Given the detailed system that Zekuu has developed, I imagine this manga will appeal most to role-playing game enthusiasts. I’d be shocked if there isn’t a card game based on this manga already out in Japan. Overall, Shiki Tusaki was a decent read, but I won’t be putting it on my must read list.
Toto! The Wonderful Adventure Book 3
by Yuko Osada; adapted by Elina Ishikawa; $10.99 US
Kakashi and company start out in Dego City. The military are still seeking to recover the bracelet that Kakashi is wearing. Once they leave Dego City, they meet up with Paisley, a member of W.I.T.C.H. who gives them information about Kakashi’s bracelet and his dad.
I love the maniac energy of this series. Kashashi holds nothing back. He does everything with passion and sincerity. He and Dorothy continue to be immensely endearing characters. I enjoy getting to spend time with them in each volume.
Osada has a great sense of humor and comedic timing and always manages to catch me off guard with some bizarre gag. There are times when the jokes just stop me dead, and I need a moment to compose myself.
The art is wonderful. The character designs are original and eye-popping. Osada is a master of bringing out the character’s emotion. The art is filled with life. It totally sucks the reader into the story.
Toto is a pure pleasure read for me. It’s a series where the energy spills off the page and leaves me exhilarated when I’m done. The only heartbreak is that there are only two more books left in the series. You can read my reviews of volume 1 and volume 2.
Samurai 7 Book 1
original story by Akira Kurosawa; manga by Mizutaka Suhou; adapted by Yoko Kubo; $10.99 US
This is a futuristic adaptation of the famous Kurosawa film. The earth has suffered during a great galactic war between all the planets inhabited by humans. There is now chaos in the aftermath. A small farming village knows that it will be invaded by robbers after the harvest, and all their rice will be taken. Two village members go to the city to find warriors to protect them and their crops.
Suhou has down a great job with this adaptation. Katsushiro is the central character. He is a young merchant’s son who has found a Taisenshatou, a special samurai sword. He wants to be a samurai himself, although he has no weapons training of any kind. He’s young, naive, and idealistic. He is also the emotional center of the story. His sincerity and good-heartedness make him instantly likable.
The other main characters are also appealing. Once the group of samurai are formed, the reader has already bonded to the characters and wants them to succeed. Suhou is smart to stick closely to Kurosawa’s original story. It’s a powerful tale that translates well from silver screen to book.
The artwork is acceptable. Suhou has a habit of not toning faces often and doesn’t use a lot of tone on figures. This gives the art an unfinished feel. The faces and figures are well drawn; they just need the appropriate shading added.
Honestly, I was very skeptical about book when I picked it up. So many adaptations fail to capture the majesty of the original. Suhou has done a brilliant job. This book will easily appeal to fans of Kurosawa and good stories in general.
Mushishi Book 6
by Yuki Urushibara; adapted by William Flanagan; $12.99 US
I previously reviewed volume 4 of this series. This volume contains five complete short stories of the interactions between mushi and humans.
Mushishi may be the most underappreciated manga in print. The stories are quiet, gentle, and unpretentious. There is no grand narrative to the series other than Ginko traveling from town to town learning more about the nature of mushi and humans. These aren’t action stories that pump you full of adrenaline or romance stories that break your heart. These are meditative stories that make you sit and think. They move you deep in your soul, because they speak about the human condition on its most profound level. They make you appreciate your friends and family anew.
It’s because these stories connect so personally and uniquely with each reader that Mushishi is a series people don’t talk about a lot. It’s hard to explain to someone else the appeal of these stories without feeling like you’re revealing your own hidden self in the process. Writing a review for strangers seems daunting. We all know what happens when intimate details are shared on the internet. This silence is unfair to such a marvelous series.
The artwork is as warm and humble as the stories. I think I would be disappointed if it wasn’t. Urushibara is a skilled draftsman. She is able to convey all the complex emotions found in each story. I continue to highly recommend this series to comic readers of all types. It’s a series that should be on every top ten list of manga for 2008 and 2009.
Other have more eloquently expressed the quality of this series and agree that it’s the one of the most overlooked series currently running. You can read David Walsh’s wonderful review here and Melinda Beasi’s equally marvelous review here.