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.


Manga Reviews
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December 2007
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My Review Index By Title

  • My Anime Reviews A-L
  • My Anime Reviews M-Z
  • My Manga Reviews A-L
  • My Manga Reviews M-Z
  • VAMPYBIT.ME - The official Linda Le Weblog

    Free To View Anime

  • Anime News Network
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  • Episode 70: Wild Ones Volume 1 by Kiyo Fujiwara

    Podcast Episode 70: Wild Ones Volume 1 Manga Review. Written and drawn by Kiyo Fujiwara. Translated and adapted by Mai Ihara. Originally published by Hakushensha in Japan in 2005. Published in US by Viz under their Shojo Beat imprint. $8.99, Rated T for Teen.

    In this romantic comedy, 15-year-old Sachie Wakamura is in a bit of a tight spot. Her mother has just died, leaving her with no living relatives. At least that is what her mother had told her. She's about to be kicked out of her home when a black limousine pulls up and an old man named Raizo Asagi steps out, claiming to be her grandfather. He offers her a place to stay but Sachie is shocked to find out that her grandpa is a Yakuza big shot with plenty of criminal thugs living at his home. A young man named Rakuto is assigned to be her personal bodyguard. He even attends her new school, where he is the student body president and is uber popular. Rakuto and Sachie finds themselves falling for each other, but Rakuto feels that he cannot start a romantic relationship with her because his duty to her grandfather outweighs any personal feelings he has.

    My Grade: B-

    Direct download: Episode_70--Wild_Ones_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:12pm CST

    Episode 69: Zegapain Volume 1

    Zegapain Volume 1 Anime DVD Podcast review. Directed by Masami Shimoda. Series Composition by Mayori Sekishima. Released by Bandai Entertainment, Episodes 1-5, 125 minutes, $29.98.

    High schooler Kyo Sogoru has no academic interest except swimming, if that counts as an academic subject. He's still able to ace his classes though. His current problem is finding a way to attract new members to the swim team. As of now, he is the only member. His former teammates don't want anything to do with him because a couple years back, he lost his temper and caused an incident at a swim meet which disqualified his team. Bigger events begin to shape his world as a mysterious girl draws him into another world where he is a mecha co-pilot battling against the Gardsorms. Who knows which world is real, or are they both? All he knows is that if he fights, the mysterious girl will consent to be in a film promotion for the swim team!

    My Grade: C

    Direct download: Episode_69--Zegapain_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:37pm CST

    Episode 68:Naruto Volume 4 by Masashi Kishimoto

    Podcast Episode 68 Manga Review: Naruto Volume 4 by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Jo Duffy. Originally published in 1999 in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz under their Shonen Jump imprint. Price: $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

    After apparently seeing Sasuke get killed by Haku, Naruto flies into a rage, releasing the power of the demon sealed inside of him. Meanwhile Kakashi is locked in his own battle with Zabuza even as Inari tries to marshal the people of his village to rise up against Gato's legions of rogue ninjas and help his new found friends. Even if Cell 7 survives the battle, they will have to face an even tougher test...the Chunin Exam. If they pass, they will progress to the next ninja rank.

    My Grade: A+

    Direct download: Episode_68--Naruto_Volume_4.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:26pm CST

    Solty Rei Volume 2

    Anime DVD review for Solty Rei Volume 2. Directed by Yoshimasa Hiraike. Script by Noboru Kimura. Funimation, $29.98, Episodes 7-10, 100 minutes.

    Things are getting shaken up in the Roy Revant household as the outlaw Rose moves in after her hideout is raided by the authorities. Roy has already had a difficult enough time adjusting to living with Solty so to put it mildly, he's not overjoyed at the prospect of a new guest. In fact he tells Rose that he never agreed to let her stay and wants her out. It turns out that Rose is there for an ulterior motive. She wants Solty to join her criminal gang. Ok, they're really not that bad because like Robin Hood, Rose and her two brothers steal to pay for medicine for the poor. If Rose gets a kick out of as well, who's to say whether she's bad or not? But she does have a bit of a dark past that is revealed when she passes the man that murdered her family on the street. It's not all bad news for Rose though as she hooks up romantically with a handsome RUC agent, complete with a silver plate covering part of his face Phantom of the Opera-style.

    A big complaint I have about this show is that its characters are design challenged. For example, Rose has a big hunk of hair that falls in front of her face that looks like a plastic electric circuit. Her boots are too big and look like they would fly off the first time she ran. Solty's large green substitute cat/goat ears look like someone stuck a steel bar through her head. Roy Revant goes the opposite way and is probably one of the most boring looking anime characters of all time. The second volume of Solty Rei finds the show a bit adrift as Roy's job as a bounty hunter seems to have taken a back seat to the drama that is Rose's life. We hardly even see him battle one Resemble thug and that's not all bad. The writers seemed to want to focus more on the relationships and the personalities of the characters, mainly Rose. Sadly, Solty suffers the most within this focus because she has the mind of a elementary school kid and is playing the "blank slate" stereotype. Still, this second volume was entertaining in its own way if you were getting tired of all the tough guy posing from the first volume.  The animation is decent, but the CG can be jarring at times, and the character's faces lack a lot in the expression department.

    My Grade: B


    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 1:46pm CST

    Episode 67: Naruto Volume 3 by Masashi Kishimoto

    Podcast Episode 67: Manga Review for Naruto Volume 3. Written and drawn by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Jo Duffy. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha in 1999. Published in US by Viz under their Shonen Jump label. $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

    Instead of waiting around doing nothing while they rest up for a second confrontation with Zabauza, Kakashi prepares a new training exercise for Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura. To teach them how to focus their Chakra, he wants them to climb trees...without using their hands! When they express disbelief at their assignment, Kakashi proceeds to walk up the side of the tree, crutches and all, and hang upside down while he talks to them. Sakura gets to see firsthand what Gato's grip has done to the city as she accompanies Tazuna through its depressing streets filled with people who have lost all hope of things getting any better. Naruto's team hopes to change all that.

    My Grade: A+

    Direct download: Episode_67--_Naruto_Volume_3.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:10am CST

    Episode 66: Hell Girl Volume 1

    Episode 66: Hell Girl Volume 1 Anime DVD review. Directed by Takahiro Omori. Volume 1 has Episodes 1-5 and runs 125 minutes. Funimation, $29.98.

    There is an urban legend that tells that if you want revenge against someone you can log on to Hell Link at midnight and ask Hell Girl to accept your request. It is true that she use her powers to take revenge on those that are making your life miserable and can send them straight to Hell. The catch is that you too will go to Hell in the end. Are you filled with such hate and anguish that you would give up your own soul to see your tormentor suffer an eternity of pain and agony?

    My Grade: A-

    Direct download: Episode_66--_Hell_Girl_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:23pm CST

    Episode 65: Ai Yori Aoshi Volume 17 by Kou Fumizuki

    Podcast Episode 65: An overview of the series Ai Yori Aoshi  and a review of Volume 17 by Kou Fumizuki. Translated by Alethea and Athena Nibley. Adapted by Jamie S. Rich. Originally published in Japan by Hakushensha in 2005. Published in the US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+.

    Aoi is still being held by Kaoru's half-brother, an odd sort of doppleganger, who wishes to take Kaoru's place as head of the Hanabishi and become Aoi's husband. He's been holding her captive but Kaoru has arrived on the scene to free her. But even if he does the two lovers still have to get the approval of Aoi's parents if they ever hope to make peace.

    My Grade: B
    Direct download: episode_65--ai_yori_aoshi_volume_17.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:51pm CST

    Episode 64: Naruto Volume 2 by Masashi Kishimoto

    Episode 64: Manga Review for Naruto Volume 2 by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Katy Bridges and Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Jo Duffy. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha in 1999. Published in the US by Viz as part of their Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teens.

    Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura have passed their Genin exam with a bit of hardship and now they are all primed for their new duties as junior ninjas. Unfortunately, they get all the crap assignments like hunting down a pet cat for an important government official. Naruto convinces the Hokage to give the team something a bit more challenging. Amused at Naruto's passion and lack of restraint, he gives them a mission a bit out of their league. Naruto's team must escort a bridgebuilder named Tazuna back to his home in the Land of the Waves. They're supposed to protect him from any dangers on the road like bandits, but they quickly find out that a very influential crook wants Tazuna dead, and he's willing to send out some very skilled ninja to do the deed!

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: Episode_64--Naruto_Volume_2.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:34pm CST

    Episode 63: The Law of Ueki Volume 8 by Tsubasa Fukuchi

    Podcast Episode 63: Manga Review for The Law of Ueki Volume 8 by Tsubasa Fukuchi. Translated and adapted by Yoshiko Tokuhara and Filomila Papakonstantinou. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan in 2003. Published in the US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

    Volume 8 picks up mid-battle in a contest between Rinko and Kabara as they battle in the Cat Field. Basically what this means is that have been shrunk down inside a normal house inhabited by hungry cats. The first one to get eaten by a cat loses the match. In addition, you can turn your opponent into a mouse by touching a cat's nose. Then it's on to one of the main events of volume 8 as Ueki faces off against the seemingly treacherous Sano, who for some inexplicable reason has joined Robert's 10. Can Ueki find out why he switched sides and free him from the clutches of Robert Haydn?

    See Episode 37 for an overview of the series and a review of Volume 7.

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: Episode_63--The_Law_of_Ueki_Volume_8.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:37pm CST

    Manga Sisters by Saori & Misato Takarai

    Book Review for Manga Sisters by Saori & Misato Takarai. Translated by Mieko Kurosawa. Published by Manga University, $9.99.

    First up, Manga Sisters is not a manga in the normal sense of the word. Saori and Misato Takarai are sisters that illustrate and draw manga but this book is really about celebrating sisterhood, both its highs and not so lows. Saori is known in Japan for being one of the rare manga artists that works with color but this is Misato's first published work. They grew up in Gunma Prefecture, which is about 60 miles northwest of Tokyo. This hardback book is about two thirds the size of a regular tankoban and is labeled a "gift book" on the back. What it consists of is about 95 pages, half with little Hallmark sayings about sisters in both English and Japanese, with a color manga illustration of the saying facing it. Some of the words and pictures are heartwarming like " A sister's shoulder is the world's most comfortable pillow" that shows a girl asleep on her obviously loving sister's shoulder. Others can be quite humorous. For example, one caption says "She ain't heavy, she's your sister" accompanying a picture of a sister cringing in pain as she lifts her sibling up to see a tall sunflower. There's also a few pages in the back that list hiragana and katakana Japanese characters that gives you help in recognizing and pronouncing them.

    Manga Sisters is obviously intended to be a book that would make a good gift between two sisters, especially if one of them is an anime or manga fan. I mean it even has "To" and "From" blanks following the title page. Does it have any worth to a manga fan in general? I guess I would have to go with "not much".  I mean the pictures are cute and pretty and in combination with the phrases can be amusing, but this is probably a book I will put on the shelf and never open again. Unless you're an absolute nut about moe, you should definitely spend your 10 bucks on a real manga and just glance through this in the bookstore...unless you have a sister that would appreciate it.


    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 8:58pm CST

    Episode 62: Tokyo Majin Volume 1

    Podcast Episode 62: Tokyo Majin Volume 1 Anime DVD review. Directed by Shinji Ishihara. Series Composition by Toshizo Nemoto. Character Designs by Jun Nakai. ADV Films, $29.98, Episodes 1-5, 125 minutes.

    Transfer student Tatsumi signals a marked change in the life of Magami High School in modern day Tokyo. He soon gets into an confrontation with thug and wooden sword wielding Kyouichi and gets challenged by wrestling club captain Yuuya. Aoi, student council president, and her best friend, archery club Komaki try to stop them from fighting, but the contest is put on hold when all the action stirs up a demon spirit. During the course of their struggle with the demon, they find that they have strange powers that augment their natural abilities. For instance, Kyouichi's sword and Komaki's bow give them the means to kill demons, while Tatsumi's martial arts skills become even more powerful.

    My Grade: A+

    Direct download: Episode62--Tokyo_Majin_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:14pm CST

    Episode 61: Glass Fleet Volume 1

    Episode 61: Podcast review of Glass Fleet Volume 1. Directed by Minoru Ohara. Series Composition by Shoji Yonemura. Funimation, $29.98, Episodes 1-5, 126 minutes.

    Vetti Sforza promised to overthrow the Allied Nobility and put in place a government that would do right by the people, but after securing his victory, he declares himself Emperor and enslaves the masses he once promised freedom. Another nobleman named Michel Volban fancies himself the savior of Vetti's duped victims and starts an insurrection, an insurrection that seems to be on the verge of failing until a member of the royal family named Cleo arrives on the scene with his glass-like ship that instantly outclasses any that Vetti can send against it. A space opera with hints of 18th century Europe mixed in.

    My Grade: C

    Direct download: episode_61--Glass_Fleet_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 6:53pm CST

    The Drifting Classroom Volume 8 by Kazuo Umezu

    Manga Review of The Drifting Classroom Volume 8 by Kazuo Umezu. Translated by Yuji Oniki. Originally published by Shogakukan in 1975. Published in US by Viz under their Signature imprint, $9.99, Rated M for Mature.

    Well, finally we have an adult in charge to keep a sense of order about the school in the form of Sekiya, who has come to his senses after being shocked into the mental capacity of an infant. Now he's back to normal, but unfortunately, that means his usual psychotic, murdering self! Most of the kids are so in need of a father figure they're willing to practically become his slaves. And he also begins to fan the flames that maybe Sho is responsible for the explosion that cast them into this wasteland Hell. Sekiya lowers Sho and his buddies into a dry well and tells them they're not coming back up until they strike water. As they begin to dig, they don't find water, but they do find the entrance to a subway tunnel, and eerily, there is still a train running on it. A train that will lead them not only to some monstrous lifeforms, but will also reveal what has happened to their world.

    If you've been reading my blog you've probably aware of my growing frustration with this series. Kazuo Umezu seems to be taking a bit too much glee in torturing these poor kids. We finally get some explanations about what happened to the world so you think maybe the manga is reaching a turning point. But, think again. Just as soon as the kids find a rich water supply, a pipe breaks off from the ceiling, falls in the pool of water and sets off a volcano! I mean, come on, give me a break! Imagine you're watching a movie where a character is wandering through a desert, dehydrated and dying. He finds an oasis with a glistening pond at its center. As soon as he kneels down and puts his lips to the water, he activates a volcano and it starts spewing liquid magma. This is just about as much sense as The Drifting Classroom makes. Sometimes I get the feeling that Sho is just going to click his heels together and say "There's no place like home" and he'll wake up in bed with all the main characters from the manga around him saying he's been asleep with fever and it was all a dream. The whole Sho talking to his mother telepathically thing is becoming equally stupid, as his mom leaves things for Sho in areas that would no longer exist or be able to withstand such extreme aging conditions. Like she left him some glass vials of antibiotics that survived over what might be centuries without breaking or losing their potency. There are just too many ridiculous events to keep me reading in good faith. I want to find out how it ends, but if the next volume is only as good as Volume 8, I will probably stop reading The Drifting Classroom.

    My Grade: C-

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 8:40pm CST

    Speed Racer Movie Trailer

    Here is the link for the new Speed Racer Movie Trailer due out next summer and directed by the Wachowski Brothers:

    You can download it in standard format or you can see it in hi-definition, 480p, 720p, or 1080p. Watching the trailer made me go out and buy the Speed Racer manga. There's only one volume and it is out of print but my comic store has a lot of out of print titles. A boxed hardcover set of the Speed Racer manga is due out in February of next year from DMP for 40$. It's called Speed Racer Mach Go Go Go Box Set. You can pre-order at

    Speed Racer was the first exposure I had to anime like when I was 6 or 7 even though at that time I had no idea what anime was. Then it was on to Battle of the Planets and the rest is history. So it's cool to see the franchise getting such star treatment. You can really see the anime/manga influence in the trailer, best evidenced by the side shot of Speed racing with motion lines running past his head instead of scenery. It looks a bit too videogame-like to me but I trust the Brothers since they made one of the highest intensity car chase sequences in film history in the Matrix Reloaded. Should be exciting. Looks like it will have a lot of color and more humor than you usually see in their movies.


    Category:general -- posted at: 3:47pm CST

    Episode 60: Uzumaki Volume 1 by Junji Ito

    Episode 60: Uzumaki Volume 1 by Junji Ito Podcast Review. Translated and adapted by Yuji Oniki. Originally published by Shogakukan in 1998. Published in the US by Viz Signature, $9.99, Rated T+ for Older Teens.

    Kirie Goshima is just trying to enjoy her high school years in the small coastal Japanese town of Kurozu-cho, but her boyfriend, Shuichi, is beginning to think there is something terribly wrong. His father has become more and more obsessed with spirals, even going so far as to stop working. He just sits in his room all day staring at his collection of items with spiral shapes. He can even make his eyes move in circles independently of each other. Things really get out of hand when Kirie sees Shuichi's father hideously extend his grotesque tongue and then curl it like a snail's shell. This is just the beginning of a collection of horror tales about the mysterious pattern which seems to be taking more and more possession of Kurozu's inhabitants. Awesome art combined with creepy storytelling.

    My Grade:A+

    Direct download: Episode_60--Uzumaki_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:11pm CST

    Witchblade Volume 2

    Witchblade Volume 2 Anime DVD Review. Directed by Yoshimitsu Ohashi. Series Composition by Yasuko Kobayashi. Funimation, $29.98, Episodes 5-8, 100 minutes.

    The second volume of Witchblade opens with a confrontation between Masane and the "Cloneblades", minions of the NSWF, who wield copies of the original Witchblade. NSWF sees itself as the rightful owner of the Witchblade and is willing to use hook or crook to get it back from Douji Industries. Reina Soho, the daughter of NSWF's founder, was actually the host of the Witchblade until the big earthquake 6 years ago that devastated Tokyo and led to its choosing of Masane as its next wielder. Now Reina is a Cloneblade but she is beginning to suspect that the copies are somehow absorbing their hosts. Her suspicions are confirmed when Shioro Tsuzuki's Cloneblade begins to drive her to kill innocent people in its lust for blood. We also learn about the one time alliance between Douji and NSWF to research the Witchblade and of the relationship between Reina and Douji's head, Reiji Takayama. And then there's Yusuke, the sometimes seedy photographer that is beginning to become convinced that the bumbling and dim-witted Masane is actually the superpowered monster fighting Witchblade wielder as well.

    The thing I like about Witchblade is the fact that it can be convoluted without becoming confusing. There are a lot of subplots going on with this show, like the former relationship between Reina and Reiji, that are given just enough exposition to make them make sense, but without overloading the viewer's brain with pointless info. This goes for most of the other plot points as well. Volume 2 also fleshes out the characters a bit more and gives them more depth. Reina is especially intruiging because she seems to be a prime factor in the giant earthquake that rocked the country. The battle sequences are handled very well, even if the Cloneblades and Witchblade look a little awkward, moving so fast and agilely in what are essentially costumes taken from an old 1970's KISS concert. And did I neglect to tell you that those costumes have a lot of skin on display? Masane's figleaf barely covers her genital area and most of the females are ready to bust out of their bras...if they even wear one. Sexy fun with gory action and some domestic comedy.

    My Grade: A

    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 6:06pm CST

    Episode 59: Gon Volume 2 by Masashi Tanaka

    Podcast Episode 59: Gon Volume 2 Manga Review. Written and drawn by Masashi Tanaka. Originally published by Kodansha in 1992. Published in the US by CMX, $5.99, Rated T.

    Gon, the last dinosaur left on Earth, is up to his usual adventures in this second volume of one of my favorite series. First up, he is swallowed by a Great White Shark that gets more than he bargained for. Then, Gon is laid low by one of the smallest creatures....a tick that crawls up his nose! Then he gets involved in a battle with an entire forest when a squirrel steals some of his fruit. Then Gon gets cast as an extra in the March of the Penguins. Beautifully drawn, Brilliantly executed, and hilarious. One of the best manga being published.

    My Grade: A+

    Direct download: Episode_59--gonvolume2.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:51pm CST

    The Outcast Volume 1 by Vaun Wilmott and Edward Gan

    Manga Review for The Outcast Volume 1. Story by Vaun Wilmott. Art by Edward Gan. Published by Seven Seas, $9.99, Rated Teen.

    Riley Smythe's parents died mysteriously a couple of months back and she's been hiding out in her grandmother's New York apartment ever since. Now her grandma thinks it's time for Riley to get back into the groove of things. Plus, her grandmother, Maggie, is busy in her job as a Theological Archaeologist, excavating the inner sanctum of the Brotherhood of the Balance that lies beneath her apartment. The Brotherhood was a secret society of warrior scholars that were dedicated to exterminating "The Outcast". The Outcast are fallen angels, incarnate evil, that take human forms.  Maggie doesn't really believe the Outcast exist. She's just interested in it for academic reasons. One of their fellow boarders, a weird horndog man-child named Michael, says that the whole of New York is filled with spirits, ghosts, demons, and other weird phenomena. And he should know. He fancies himself a "Hunsupu", or ghost hunter. Riley's new school is pretty weird as well, looking at times like the delapidated innards of a castle or Gothic cathedral. Then she incurs the wrath of one of the most popular girls by casting her eyes at the guy she likes named Carter. Riley does make one friend, a rougish girl named Kit who says there is only one rule at the school: Never be there after dark!

    Most OEL manga I read give me the creeps, because even though it tries to be manga, there's always an x-factor it seems to be missing, mainly the alienness of a foreign culture. Only Hollow Fields, another OEL manga published by Seven Seas has ever bridged that gap for me. It's kinda like watching the Matrix when Keanu is in a big action scene and all of the sudden a digital actor is substituted for the real, or the many CG scenes of Spider-Man. Ok, they look like humans, but there is something vaguely disturbing about the whole thing. The Outcast is another figment of fake manga in my eyes. It looks like manga, it's flipped like manga, but the art and storytelling techniques are not quite up to par. It just doesn't seem like manga imitators have mastered how to tell a slow-moving story without making it boring. Yes, there is art in The Outcast, yes, there is a story, but it never seems to go anywhere. You never get the sense that it is building a world. The inclusion of 1990's slang also drags it down, like "don't bogart my stuff", "young jedi learns fast", and the instantly outdated "He's my boo", all hint that whoever is writing this is in their 30's and trying desperately to write about young people. I could be wrong about that. We even get an endorsement from Samuel L. Jackson on the back of the book, for what reason I cannot fathom. There is zero chance of me picking up the second volume of this series.

    My Grade: C-

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 11:22am CST

    Episode 58: My Dearest Devil Princess Volume 1 by Makoto Matsumoto and Maika Netsu

    Podcast episode 58: Manga Review for My Dearest Devil Princess Volume 1. Story by Makoto Matsumoto. Art by Maika Netsu. Translated by Satsuki Yamashita. Adapted by Elizabeth Hanel. Originally published by Jive in 2004 Japan. Released in US by Broccoli Books, $9.99, Rated 16+.

    When highschooler Keita Kusakabe buys a family heirloom from his friend Natsuki which is purported to grant wishes, he doesn't have much faith that it will work. When he opens the magic box, a cute girl comes out of it, floating in the air and right into his arms, which allows for an accidental boob grab. It turns out that the girl is a devil named Maki who wants to make a contract with Keita. She will give him three wishes....if she can have his soul!

    My Grade: B

    Direct download: Episode_58--DearestDevil_Princess.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:28pm CST

    Angel Cup Volume 5 by Jae-Ho Youn and Dong Wook Kim Manwha review for Angel Cup Volume 5. Written by Dong Wook Kim. Illustrated by Jae-Ho Youn. Originally published in Korea by Daiwon in 2002. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Teen 13+.

    The Armageddon-like battle between Han Shin and Gai Leung comes to its climax as the psychotic Hee-Na Yoo is determined to prove that she is the best player on the field, even better than Shin-Bee. She doesn't need to be in a rush to prove anything since Shin-Bee isn't exactly living up to her star billing. Her team is becoming increasingly frustrated with her lackluster playing and her inability to get past some mental and physical roadblocks that are keeping her from doing her best. Perhaps it's going to take a pep talk from So-Jin to get her out of her funk. But Shin-Bee is going to have to make peace with her own past before So-Jin's words will reach her. And even then, will the Han Shin team be able to overcome the nationally ranked Gai Leung team?

    I started out a big fan of Angel Cup and initially thought it was one of the best Korean comics being published in the US. It was really fun to see the different Han Shin team members being recruited and tested a la The Seven Samurai and seeing them doing their best against the boy's soccer team. The action scenes were crisp and exciting and the characters were intriguing. Where Angel Cup began to go wrong was the beginning of the Gai Leung story arc. From a realistic and grounded soccer comic we went overnight to an almost Dragonball-like work when Hee-Na Yoo began to use mystical attacks! And then when one of the players on the Gai Leung team looked like a reject from Fist of the North Star, the book went totally south. Volume 5 gets back to the more basic approach of portraying the hearts and souls of girls on the soccer field, but it too suffers from an ulterior motive. The writer takes the match and twists it into a flag waving advertisement for Korean women's soccer and ruins any credibility that Angel Cup had as a work of art. It's like you get to the end of Slam Dunk and find out it was all just written to promote Nike or something. The fact that the final showdown between Han Shin and Gai Leung had to be delayed by the months between each publication didn't help the continuity or momentum of the match. Probably would read better if you read entire series over a couple of days.

    My Grade: C

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 7:28pm CST

    Flag Volume 1 Anime DVD review

    Anime DVD review for Flag Volume 1 from Bandai, Episodes 1-4, 100 minutes. List Price: $29.98.

    If you were born in the last 50 or so odd years, then you are part of a multi-generation raised on images, especially those emanating from television, film, and, more recently, buzzing across the internet in a single lightspeed bound. The traditional news media like newspapers and magazines are outdated almost as soon as they are published and are casting an increasingly nervous eye at websites and bloggers. These days images can spark wars or take a hand in ending them. This is the case with Flag, a 13 episode anime series that was originally broadcast as a pay per view web video show.

    The focus of Flag is a on a single photo taken by a war photographer named Saeko Shirasu in the civil war-torn country of Uddiyana which at times seems a cross between Afghanistan and Tibet, if that makes any sense. The United Nations has come in to help stop the fighting. Saeko takes a shot of a UN flag that highlights a silhouette of someone on their knees praying behind it, which comes to symbolize the call for peace between the government and the insurgents. But as is always the case in wars, there are some individuals or groups whose agendas are best served by fighting. On the eve of the peace talks, the famous flag from the picture is stolen by an insurgent group and is spirited away to a heavily protected fortress. A special forces military unit, the SDC, is prepped to steal the flag back before the fragile peace is shattered. The SDC is equipped with HAVWC technology, which in anime terms means "Mecha"!  The UN wants someone to document the mission and the best person to do that is Saeko.

    Flag has a very weird storytelling strategy, or "gimmick". The anime is shot from the perspective of  image making machines, whether it be still shots from a camera, video footage, computer menus, sometimes, even through a character's reflection on a monitor.  While this is somewhat unique, in the end it becomes annoying to see every cutscene done with a clicking mouse icon on a computer monitor or some such. It also makes the anime seem very cheap, like maybe that didn't do the camera perspective to be original, but to cut costs. I would say that about 75% or more of this first volume is still shots, menu screens, or scenes where there is very little motion. I will say the music is well done and atmospheric. But that's pretty sad when I can say that is the only thing done well. I think the MESSAGE of the show is very important and timely and it deserved a lot more tender loving than Flag gets. It also suffers from the whole Blair Witch Syndrome. I mean, do people actually record everything they do and and leave their cameras on even when they're eating? At some point the constant filming becomes a little unrealistic. The characters seem quite interesting and I would like to see them in a more traditionally styled anime instead of a dehumanizing fishbowl view.

    My Grade: D-

    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 2:24pm CST