Genshiken Volume 1

I’d heard good things about this series by Kio Shimoku, but I found it disappointingly predictable. It’s a manga about being a fan of manga and anime, so its first strike is violating my self-referentiality rule. (In general, I find that comics about comics are more likely to disappoint me. They often indicate a lack of creativity and an author having a hard time coming up with fresh ideas, although for all I know, this is a well-respected and -established […]

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Nodame Cantabile Volume 1

Although containing more subtly-drawn characters than many manga series, Nodame Cantabile by Tomoko Ninomiya left no significant impression on me after reading. Shinichi wants to be a conductor, but he’s currently studying piano to improve his overall skills. (He also turns out to be quite the violin virtuoso when the plot demands.) Nodame is the girl next door, an untrained piano genius with a pigsty of an apartment. She’s driven by appetite, stealing other people’s lunches and loyal to whichever […]

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Legal Drug Volume 1

The newest series by fan-favorite art studio CLAMP features pretty boys working at a drugstore. Rikuo saved Kazahaya’s life when he almost died from exposure in the snow. In Legal Drug, the two now share an apartment, work together, and demonstrate the kind of “he’s so frustrating!” relationship that hints at deeper feelings of unrecognized attraction. Their boss, a psychic, sends them off on extra jobs to find mysterious artifacts, aided by Kazahaya’s ability to see visions based on memories. […]

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Hikaru no Go

This competition manga features a student learning to play go and appreciate all the tradition that comes with it. Although firmly within the expectations of its genre, the characters are so likable, the art so well-done, and the competition so compelling that it’s an addictive read. Story is by Yumi Hotta and art by Takeshi Obata. Fujiwara-no-Sai was an instructor of the Emperor a thousand years ago until a rival Go teacher’s cheating drove him to suicide. Sai’s yearnings to […]

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Nancy Drew: The Demon of River Heights

This graphic novel take on the classic detective heroine opens with Nancy, her boyfriend Ned, and her best friends George and Bess making a monster movie. George is technologically savvy, while Bess is boy-crazy. Conveniently, that leads the three into a mystery, as the other students Bess was flirting with have disappeared. The girls set off to find out what happened in Nancy Drew: The Demon of River Heights. While following their trail through the woods, the three come face-to-face […]

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Embroideries

The author of Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi, returns with a light collection of stories involving the sex lives of her female relatives, Embroideries. After a family meal, as the women clean up, they discuss the history of their loves and relationships. There’s a certain amount of prurient interest involved in hearing these respectable foreign women talk about their most intimate secrets. The introduction reveals the grandmother, the instigator of the discussion, to be a thrice-married opium addict, setting the stage. The […]

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The Kindaichi Case Files

I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed a good mystery read until I tried this series. Each book is a stand-alone “fair play” case in which the reader can match wits with the detectives. The series is reminiscent of a grown-up Encyclopedia Brown with an older cast, more serious crimes, greater emotional motivation, and spooky overtones. Hajime Kindaichi is an under-achieving troublemaker with a gift for deduction and a grandfather who’s a famous detective. His best friend, Miyuki Nanase, is […]

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BPRD: Hollow Earth & Other Stories

The Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense is the quasi-governmental investigative group that Hellboy works for, but this book focuses on his supporting cast: Liz Sherman, a firestarter; Abe Sapien, a fish-man; Roger, a homunculus; and Kate Corrigan, the group’s leader. She’s trying to hold the team together in the wake of Hellboy’s departure and a general sense of mistrust. Liz has sought refuge in a remote monastery, seeking greater control of her power. When Abe receives a disturbing vision […]

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