Del Rey Chibis: Negima!? Neo 3, Orange Planet 1 & 2, Princess Resurrection 6 & 7, Pumpkin Scissors 3-5Posted in Manga Reviews on March 3, 2010 by Ed Sizemore
published by Del Rey Manga; $10.99 - $11.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
Negima!? Neo Book 3
story by Ken Akamatsu; art by Takuya Fujima; adapted by Alethea Nibley and Athena Nibley
Magical monsters are attacking Mahora Academy. It’s up to Negi and his students to defeat the monsters and determine who is behind the attacks. During the course of this investigation, Negi decides that he must become stronger to better protect his students and enlists the help of the vampire witch, Evangeline.
I previously reviewed volume one of this series, and boy, did things change. With volume 3, the fan service has returned with a vengeance. Which is unfortunate, since the lack of such was the main selling point of this version of the Magister Negi Magi franchise.
The stories are briskly paced and plot-driven, which turns out to be a double-edged sword. While the book is a quick read, the character development in this volume feels forced. We see Asuna undergo a massive personality change in the course of one chapter. Negi’s training moves at breakneck speed, and even though it’s magically assisted, it’s still hard to believe how much he improves over the course of one volume.
Fujima’s art continues to be beautiful. He has an excellent sense of anatomy, and his action scenes are dynamic. It’s a shame to see such talent wasted on puerile fan service. I had hoped this would be the family-friendly Magister Negi Magi manga, but those hopes have been dashed on the rocks of otaku pandering.
Honestly, I guess this series is simply another way for Akamatsu to wring money from his fans. I can’t see recommending this series over the original manga. Fans of the franchise might enjoy this alternative take on the series, but those new to the Magister Negi Magi universe will do best to read the original manga. Everyone else should find something better to read.
Orange Planet Books 1 & 2
by Haruka Fukushima; adapted by Kaya Laterman
Rui Nagasaki is a high school student living on her own. She suddenly finds herself roommates with the teaching intern assigned to her class, Eisuke Tachibana. If the school finds out she and Eisuke are living together, they will both be expelled. On top of that, she is in the middle of the classic shojo love triangle; her childhood friend, Taro, is in love with her, while Rui is in love with Kaoru, a classmate.
These two volumes of Orange Planet were an odd read. I’m used to authors beginning a series uncertain about the characters or the setup or the web of relationships and playing with these aspects of the series until all the pieces fall into place. With Orange Planet, the first volume of the manga has a strong sense of the characters, the story, and the setting. For whatever reason, Fukushima was dissatisfied with the story and in volume two began tinkering with the series.
The best and most obvious example is the character of Kaoru. Volume one ends on a cliffhanger with Kaoru announcing that he is in love with “her”. Volume two opens with Kaoru announcing he is in love with “him”. Suddenly, one of the main characters has changed sexual orientation, which ends up negating a large portion of the love triangle in volume one. It’s only the first of many abrupt changes as each chapter of volume two has Fukushima tinkering with the cast and the setup.
This makes for a disconcerting read. It’s obvious by the end of volume two that Fukushima is just randomly throwing ideas at the series, hoping something will click for her. The only aspect of the series Fukushima leaves intact is the general genre of the work. We know that when she figures out what she wants to do, it’s going to be a romantic comedy of some sort. However, the reader is so spun around by the changes that by the end of volume two, all you’re left with is a nauseating feeling of vertigo.
The only comfort readers can take in this manga is the quality of the artwork, which is well done. I’m particularly impressed with the page layouts. Many of the pages looked like they belonged in a scrapbook rather than a comic book. The panels functioned like pictures with word balloons and screentones added to give vibrancy and emotional emphasis to the moment represented. The page layouts are very effective ways of intuitively adding these dimensions to the art.
Perhaps in later volumes, this series will finally settle down and have stable characters and setup. Even if that happens, there is no reason for someone to buy these first two volumes, since they won’t be connected to the new storyline. Readers will do well to skip this series entirely and wait to see if Fukushima’s next series is as carefully planned out as her page layouts.
Princess Resurrection Books 6 & 7
by Yasunori Mitsunaga; adapted by Joshua Hale Fialkov
The war among the vampire royalty from the previous volumes continues in these two volumes also. However, there are other players who are using the unrest among the nobles to build their own power bases. Princess Lilianne and her entourage are constantly defending themselves from attacks by various opponents.
There appears to be an odd continuity break at the beginning of volume six. The first chapter has Princess Lilianne in jail awaiting judgment from a tribunal. The next chapter, Princess Lilianne is back home and has unexplained injuries. The imprisonment and judgment are never mentioned again. There is no explanation from the author or the publisher about the abrupt change in plot. I found it disturbing. By the end of volume six, I decided to just go with the new flow.
These two volumes contain mostly stand-alone stories. There is some mention of the grander narrative about the vampire royalty, but they are passing references that don’t affect the stories themselves. Instead, we are treated to a variety of horror-themed mysteries. All the classic cliches are here: undiscovered monsters, doppelgangers, haunted schools, and being trapped in the past. The stories are fun, entertaining reads.
The artwork is competent. You can see the influences of horror greats like Umezu and Hino. However, Mitsunaga isn’t really adding anything new to the horror genre artistically. Mitsunaga does a good job of evoking mood, which is essential for horror stories.
My one complaint with the series is the lack of a chart of characters with their real names, nicknames, species, and relationship to other cast members. Also a synopsis of the main plot would be nice. I’ll simply restate my recommendation from the previous volumes. This is a good escapist fiction for horror fans looking for lighter fare.
Pumpkin Scissors Books 3-5
by Ryotaro Iwanaga; adapted by Ikoi Hiroe (books 3,4) and Joshua Hale Fialkov (book 5)
Pumpkin Scissors is the nickname for the Imperial Army State Section III charged with war relief and reconstruction. They encounter opposition from other army units, civilians cynical from a government of broken promises, uncaring aristocrats, and corrupt politicians. Lieutenant Malvin’s unwavering faith in their mission binds and energizes the unit to keep going, regardless the obstacles.
As I stated in my previous review, I’m very taken with the cast of characters in this manga. I continue to be impressed by the idealism of Lt. Malvin. As the series progresses, she is confronted with many harsh realities, but she refuses to give up her ideas. Instead, each new obstacle only fuels her desire to see justice and true restoration brought to the empire. I find her as inspiring a person as Corporal Orland does.
Cpl. Orland’s struggle to come to grips with the gulf between his military training and his true personally is still moving. You have to wonder at the inhumanity of a military system that could turn such a gentle man into a fearsome death machine when facing down a tank. Lt. Malvin provides him a model of the soldier he longs to be even though he can’t articulate that desire.
We also get to see how corrupt and depraved the empire was during the war and continues to be during the restoration. The empire was desperate to win the war, and the experiments they performed on the men of the secret units are proof of how nothing was considered too extreme. The nobles and the politicians still don’t care about the people; they don’t understand the level of suffering they’ve caused and are still inflicting on civilians. Even when they are given a glimpse of living conditions of the working class, they shrug it off as something the poor deserve. I can’t image that such a society can continue to exist for much longer.
Iwanaga has found his artist stride. The line work is delicate and allows for plenty of detail. It’s perfect for a military manga where readers expect the artist to show the details of equipment and uniforms. I would like to see more shading on the characters so that they feel more substantial. Otherwise, the art is well done.
It seems that military stories are the last place where ideas like justice, honor, and duty still have meaning. I continue to enjoy this series and look forward to forthcoming volumes. Readers would do well to give this manga a try. They won’t be disappointed.
(The publisher provided review copies.)