Sesho's Anime And Manga Reviews
My main focus is reviewing manga and anime, but I also review Japanese literature, movies, and videogames. Basically, if it has anything to do with Japan, I'll talk about it, along with a dash of Korea and China.

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  • Well, I've developed a bit of a cold so for the moment my voice sounds like that of Darth Vader crossed with a prepubescent gopher so I probably won't make any podcasts for the next couple of days....but I will post some written reviews.

    I should be posting a review for the 1st volume of the anime FLAG tomorrow, but in the meantime, I would advise not wasting your time watching it. It is pretty awful. More on that later.

    Just to mention two websites, or actually two retailers that I've been using ever since my only anime/manga source in Houston, Anime Avalon (See podcast Episode 10--The Death of Anime Avalon) went out of business about 2 months ago:

     www.rentanime.com

    I've been renting anime from them the past two months are so. They're kinda set up like other mail order rental places like netflix, but they specialize in anime. You pay like 20$ to have 3 dvds out at a time, and after a period of around 90 days you can upgrade to 5 dvds for 30$. It's pretty cool and saves a ton of money. I used to buy anime dvds all the time, but a lot of the time I wouldn't like them and it would be money down the drain. Now I can rent, then buy the titles I really like.

    Another problem I had after Anime Avalon closed was trying to buy manga from one retailer. I still haven't found one store where I can buy ALL my manga but

    www.justmanga.com

    is the closest to fulfilling that role in my life. They discount almost all their manga but the only drawback is that your order has to total $39.99 for you to get free shipping. Actually sometimes, the discounts pay for the shipping even if you order less than that. I was glad to see that Seven Seas had finally released the second volumes of Venus Versus Virus, The Last Uniform, and Tetragrammaton Labyrinth today and ordered them very quickly. I find that the podcasts I do about Yuri titles are the most popular for some reason. The biggest ratings for my podcasts have been for The Last Uniform Volume 1 and Simoun Volume 1....and Hayate the Combat Butler Volume 4 (That's not Yuri, but I'm glad so many people like Hayate...brilliant lovable comedy, like Hare + Guu) The cool thing I like about Justmanga is that they always put a written message like "Thanks for the order" on the receipt in the box and they put a piece of Japanese candy in there too. It just seems a bit more personal than dealing with Amazon or another online retailer.

    Hey Seven Seas! Where the Hell are the rest of the Boogiepop novels??!! Is Amazing Doofus Luna really more important?? And what happened to the rest of the Light Novels you were bringing out?

    Speaking of Anime Avalon, I had kinda put off going by the place after it was closed, but sometimes felt I should go lay a wreath at the doorway or something. I drove past it a couple of weeks back after visiting a nearby bookstore and the windows are tinted so you couldn't even see inside it. It's still kinda sad.

    Maybe the fact that it was freezing cold here in Houston (well, cold for Texans anyway, it was like 39 degrees) and my workplace didn't even turn the heat on, didn't really help my health the past two days.  It was actually colder inside the building that it was outside. Or was it perhaps due to the fact that I was outside of Best Buy on Friday around 4:30am with a light misty rain that was a bigger factor? No, it HAS to be my cold job! Yeah, that's the ticket!

    Category:general -- posted at: 10:02pm CST

    Strawberry 100% Volume 2 by Mizuki Kawashita

    Manga Review for Strawberry 100% Volume 2 by Mizuki Kawashita. Translated and adapted by Yuko Sawada. Originally published by Shueisha in 2002. Published in US by Viz as part of their Shonen Jump Advanced line. Rated T+ for older teen with a "Mature Content" label on the cover, $7.99.

    You would think that Junpei would be quite satisfied with his life these days because his girlfriend, Tsukasa, is the prettiest girl at school and also the owner of the mythical strawberry panties he glimpsed back in Volume 1....or is she?  Even though he really likes Tsukasa and has slightly pervy urges towards her, Junpei is taken aback when she invites him to her house to cook dinner for him and study. Things get even more interesting when he finds out her parents are not going to be home anytime soon! But even in this situation, the poor boy finds himself thinking about Aya Tojo. One of his friends, the studly Okusa, told him that Aya had a thing for Junpei, but he thinks its just because he wants him to break up with Tsukasa so he can hook up with her. While Junpei doesn't know the truth, he does find himself falling for Aya. While all this is going on, he still has to find time to study for high school entrance exams so he can realize his dream of becoming a film director.

    While the second volume of Strawberry 100% was enjoyable on its own terms,  it's starting to slant dangerously close to becoming a harem comedy, especially with the entrance of a new female character in the closing pages of this book. I just don't see how the storyline can sustain itself UNLESS it keeps on adding characters to distract from what is otherwise a very simplistic setup. I really enjoyed the first volume because, for once in this type of book, the main character had no problem getting the pretty girl. Now Junpei realizes that the girl of his dreams is the wrong girl of his dreams. This is what happens when you fall in love based on seeing someone's panties. You have to see the soul and the face to truly judge a person's worth. An aspect of this manga that seems a bit goofy is the fact that Aya can't be recognized by Junpei when she isn't wearing her glasses, a la Clark Kent/Superman. So when he catches a glimpse of Aya without her glasses, he recognizes her as the girl with the strawberry panties, but does not recognize that she and Aya are the same person. It was a bit of a surprise that glasses wearing cute girls are repeatedly categorized as unattractive and plain in Strawberry 100%. I though bespectacled cuties were a common weakness of otaku the whole world over?  I still like the characters and the art is quite good so I hope my fears about it becoming some type of Love Hina castoff are wrong.

    My Grade: B

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 7:17pm CST

    Cromartie High School Volume 12 by Eiji Nonaka

    Manga Review for Cromartie High School Volume 12 by Eiji Nonaka. Translated by Javier Lopez. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha in 2005. Published in the US by ADV Manga, $10.95, Rated 13+.

    When you read Cromartie High School, you can expect some universe shattering questions to pop up periodically on the nature of life and happiness. In Volume 12, one of the questions is the origin of the "Mawashi", the only garment of clothing that sumo wrestlers are allowed to wear in competition. The Gene Simmons lookalike of the Four Great Ones has his own ideas about it when one of his members joins the Cromartie Sumo Club along with Masked Takenouchi and Kamiyama. But are the guys confident enough to show up everyday practically naked except for the Mawashi that covers their privates? As they learn the ins and outs of sumo training, the new members are shocked to learn that they have been entered into a competition against the sumo club of their hated rivals Bass High School! Meanwhile, Maeda learns about the fun of cellphone emailing as Hayashida begins mailing him weird and cryptic pictures of what appear to be random and meaningless objects.

    With my experience after reading 12 volumes of Cromartie High School, I have realized that it is at its funniest the more episodic it is. When Nonaka dwells on one particular schtick most of the volume, much like the whole adventure in the Planet of the Apes world a volume back, the comedy is dragged down. What makes the good volumes good is Nonaka's ability to write short chapters that focus on one joke which is left behind at the end of that chapter. When I first started reading this series, I was laughing my butt off. Now I'm lucky if I get TWO laughs from the whole volume. While it can still be amusing at times, this series is way past its prime. This could be reversed if Nonaka would focus on short and easily forgettable chapters instead of trying to make overarching story arcs. The characters too have suffered as Cromartie has dragged on. At first, they each had very distinct personalities, but over time, they have ended up all talking and thinking the same, and instead of being characters, have simply become gimmicks that Nonaka uses to convey intellectual jokes that amuse mostly just him. There's always hope with each volume that Cromartie can return to its roots but I'm losing interest in this manga.

    My Grade: C+

    Direct download: cromartie_12.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 11:12am CST

    Episode 57: Death Note Volume 1

    Podcast Episode 57: Death Note Volume 1 Anime DVD review. Directed by Tetsuro Araki. Series Composition by Toshiki Inoue. Published by Viz for $24.98, Episodes 1-4, 100 minutes.

    Death Note is the story of two beings who are bored with their lives and society. Ryuk, a shinigami, or death spirit, is tired of the lazy and meaningless existences of his fellows in the Shinigami dimension, and decides to spice his life up by dropping his Death Note in the human world. The Death Note has the ability to kill anyone whose name is written in it. A brillant but melancholic high school student named Light Yagami picks it up and begins to test its powers. His first killings are tentative and ill conceived, but he begins to fashion himself a god that will rid society of evil with himself set up as judge, jury, and executioner. Perhaps the only person capable of stopping him is the world's greatest detective, who goes by the alias L. Both L and Light see themselves as defenders of justice and are willing to take extreme measures to make sure it is served to the other.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: Episode_57--Death_Note_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:28pm CST

    Welcome to the NHK Volume 4 by Tatsuhiko Takimoto and Kendi Oiwa

    Manga Review for Welcome to the NHK Volume 4. Story by Tatsuhiko Takimoto. Art by Kendi Oiwa. Translated by Christine Schilling. Adapted by Zachary Rau. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten in 2005. Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+.

    Unlike most otaku, Satou and Yamazaki both find themselves having girl trouble in Volume 4 of Welcome to the NHK. They're both also having parent problems as well. Yamazaki is beginning to make inroads with a classmate named Nanako that he likes but he is being ordered home to take care of the family business. Satou has wants Misaki out of his life and gets another shock when he finds out his old friend from high school, Kashiwa, is getting married, which drags up some feelings that he didn't even know he had for her. Things get even more complicated when Yamazaki invites Nanako to his apartment, the mecca of otakudom. Meanwhile, Satou and Kashiwa are on the cusp of having an affair, which enflames the jealousy of Misaki. Suffice it to say, a lot of hidden feelings come out in this fourth volume.

    While NHK has always had its share of black comedy tinged with despair, you always felt that the writer was never taking it very seriously, almost as if he were laughing with a trace of a tear on his face. But with this volume we get some very serious relationships right out of slice of life shojo, which just adds another layer to an already virtuoso work. Mostly gone are the uncomfortable underage girl fixations and sexual fantasies of earlier books (that's not to say this one is totally clean), but the two guys are finding it hard to work on their hentai game so a lot of that element is missing. Misaki has gone from guiding light and angel to stalking psycho girl and it seems totally out of the blue, unless that is due to the fact that she didn't know she liked Satou until Kashiwa entered the picture. With its brillant comedy bits of gallows giggling, NHK is one of the best titles out there.

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: welcome4.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 5:42pm CST

    Episode 56: Dragon Eye Volume 2 by Kairi Fujiyama

    Podcast Episode 56: Dragon Eye Volume 2 by Kairi Fujiyama Manga Review. Translated and adapted by Mari Morimoto. Originally published by Kodansha in 2006. Released in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated 13+.

    After an introduction and overview of the series, it's on to a review of Volume 2 of this promising and quickly improving series. After dealing with a giant chicken Dracule, Issa's command of Squad Zero is in even more danger as his bosses begin to question whether the negatives of him being in charge are outweighing the positives. An observer is sent on Squad Zero's next mission to assess his performance. According to what he reports, Issa could be demoted and/or the squad could be dissolved. Some other Vius from other squads are sent in to back up Zero as they hunt for seveal large Dracule that have been spotted on the outskirts of the city.

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: episode_56--Dragon_eye_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:37am CST

    Episode 55: Naruto Volume 1 by Masashi Kishimoto

    Podcast Episode 55: Naruto Volume 1 by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Katy Bridges and adapted by Jo Duffy. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha in 1999. Published by Viz as part of their Shonen Jump line, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

    Naruto Uzumaki holds a terrible secret even he does not know about. Bound up in his navel is a terrible fox demon that almost destroyed the Hidden Leaf Village 12 years ago. All of the adults are sworn to secrecy but they cannot help hating and despising Naruto and their children have picked up on this. Naruto cannot catch a break. He has already failed the ninja final exam three times. The only way he can earn respect is to become the most powerful ninja, but how is he going to do that when he cannot even pass the test to begin his long journey?

    My Grade: A+

    Direct download: Episode_55--Naruto_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:33pm CST

    The Drifting Classroom Volume 7 by Kazuo Umezu  Volume 7 by Kazuo Umezu. Translated by Yuji Oniki. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan in 1974. Published by Viz under their Signature line for $9.99. Rated Mature.

    The kids of the school prayed for rain and they have technically gotten what they wished for. But instead of a gentle rainfall to soothe their parched throats, the water is sent in the form of a Biblical wave of water moving rapidly across the desert right towards the school. Some of Sho's party out in the wasteland get killed as the water turns parts of the desert into quicksand. Sakiko and some of the other students try to form a human wall against the tsunami like wave to protect their newly planted vegetable garden. Even if they stop the water somehow, the kids will have to contend with the warping nature of the world that is mutating and disfiguring the plantlife into weird-looking mushrooms which only the craziest or most desperate of the kids are willing to eat. And the power dynamics of the school soon shift dramatically when Sekiya, the only adult left on campus, and a psycho to boot, regains his faculties. Previously, he had been reduced to the mental capacity of an infant after suffering the shock of dealing with a huge scorpion-like monster. Now that he's got his memories back, he's ready to seize power.

    Ok, here we are on Volume 7 of this series, and there's hardly been any explanation as to what happened to this school and why they are being tortured so. I accept that they are in the future sometime, where at least the surrounding vicinity has been reduced to a desolate wasteland. I also understand that somehow in this world, the student's fears and wants are materialized in sometimes monstrous forms, but the question is WHY and HOW? While the series is creepy and scary, I'm beginning to tire of the endless obstacle course Sho and the others are being put through. Does it have any meaning or end? While Battle Royale was a sadistic exercise in cruelty, there was at least a goal in its plot, a reason to excuse all the blood, gore, and exploitation. We don't have any of that for Drifting Classroom. We just have very bad things happening to normal everyday children for no definable reason like Umezu would just sit at his drawing board and think "What can I do to them THIS week?" Still interesting but is beginning to drag

    My Grade: B

    Direct download: drifting_classroom_7.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 1:37pm CST

    Episode 54: 009-1 Volume 3

    Cyborg 009-1 Volume 3 Anime DVD Podcast review. ADV Films, Episodes 9-12 plus Bonus Episode, 125 minutes, $29.98. Director: Naoyuki Konno. Series Composition by Shinsuke Onishi.

    Based on Shotaro Ishinomori's 1960's manga, Mylene Hoffman is a trained to kill without blinking cyborg spy for the Western Bloc, but lately, she's found that doing her job isn't good enough anymore. She has beauty, brawn, and a to die for body, but she doesn't have a family. She doesn't have a normal life. She will probably never have children or settle down. Even though she realizes she can never walk away from her job, this doesn't keep her from longing for things she cannot have. This is brought home in the first two episodes of this dvd when she hitches a ride with a nice family and hooks up with a suspected double agent. Then she has to save the world from nuclear annihilation at the hands of child mutants.

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: Episode_54--009-1_Volume_3.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:45pm CST

    Episode 53: Alice On Deadlines Volume 1 by Shiro Ihara

    Podcast Episode 53: Alice On Deadlines Volume 1 by Shiro Ihara. Translated by Christine Schilling. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix in 2005. Published in US by Yen Press, $10.99, Rated Older Teen.

    Pervert Shinigami Lapan is sent to Earth to retrieve a Shibito, a human who has died but has yet to let go of their earthly existence. Shibitos are also frequently guilty of eating human flesh, which could account for a string of serial murders of young girls. Lapan is more intent on porno magazines than doing his job and is looking forward to taking control of a beautiful girl's corpse on Earth to complete his mission. His boss has other plans to keep his mind out of the gutter. He plans on putting Lapan's spirit into a skeleton. Things don't work out as planned when Lapan is placed in a living girl named Alice and Alice's soul is in turn placed in the skeleton!

    My Grade: F

    Direct download: Episode_53--Alice_on_Deadlines_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 12:02pm CST