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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  • Anime DVD Review: Air TV Volume 4

    Air TV Volume 4. Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara. Series Composition by Fumihiko Shimo. ADV Films, $29.98.

    The true finale of Air TV, which took place on Volume 3 as Misuzu fell dead into the arms of her adopted mother was pretty painful to watch. This last volume opens with a recap episode of her short life and ends, again, with her death. The other two episodes on the disc go back to the middle story arc in which the winged girl, Kanna, along with her handmaiden, Uraha, and her warrior guard, Ryuya, are trying to make their way to Kanna's mother while being pursued by soldiers from the temple where Kanna was confined. These two episodes are entirely new and fill out the relationships and adventures the three have, focusing more on the comedic side of things.

    While the first episode was a waste of space, as are all recap episodes unless you haven't watched a series for a while (does anyone remember the one ripoff volume of Wolf's Rain which was entirely FILLED with recap episodes?!), the last two episodes were really enjoyable. Air TV was always a series that took itself too seriously, suffering from the bipolarity of being a moe comedy at one point, then shifting to a magical girl historical drama, then to a pathological torture session of Misuzu intended to make an otaku weep. The two episodes that close Volume 4 injected something much needed by the series as a whole: a little lightheartedness, a little more comedy, to take the edge off of the tragic hardships most of the characters go through. The final arc focusing on Misuzu's slow decay was especially hard to watch and seemed to have no point. In fact, Air TV had one of the worst endings that I've seen in a long time, even though it doesn't reach the depths of the aforementioned Wolf's Rain in terms of "Uh, what just happened so you're telling me this whole show was for nothing and that the characters are just going to have to repeat their struggles till infinity over and over..." but it comes pretty close. The landscapes of the Japanese countryside and the town are beautiful even though the female characters with their plate sized luminescent blue eyes seem a bit creepy at times. Overall, this series is worth watching, but don't expect to get a satisfactory conclusion. I'll probably be watching the movie version sometime soon.

    My Volume 4 Rating: B+

    My Overall Series Rating: C

    Direct download: airtv4.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 10:21am CST

    Manga Review: The Law of Ueki Volume 9 by Tsubasa Fukuchi

    Manga Review: The Law of Ueki Volume 9 by Tsubasa Fukuchi. Translated and adapted by Yoshiko Tokuhara. Originally published by Shogakukan in Japan. Published by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

    The story of why Robert has such a low opinion of humanity opens up Volume 9 of The Law of Ueki. His treatment by the inhabitants of the town where he grew up as a an orphan explains why he wants to destroy the world if he wins the tournament. It explains WHY but it still does not make it right. The relationship between Ueki and Robert is very similar to that of Naruto and Gaara. Naruto felt a lot of sympathy for Gaara simply because to him, the Sand ninja represented a possibility of what Naruto himself could have become if he had been left to his own devices. Ueki understands why Robert feels the way he does, but he is also disgusted that he let an incident in his childhood cloud his whole future and turned to evil. Ueki always looks for the good in others, a way to change situations to the positive, and to redeem those that have fallen into darkness. In fact, he says that his law of justice has to do with conquering the weakness within ourselves. Big items on that list are: never betraying his friends, never giving up, and respecting all life. But Robert is not agreeable to any of these ideas, so Ueki is going to beat his ideals into him! Ironically, Robert's power is to change ideals into reality. Ueki is going to have to level up a bit more if he hopes to win this battle and also save the lives of his friends.

    I am a really big fan of this manga, and of Ueki especially. The dude just never gives up, no matter how big the challenge before him. Even if the battle with Robert takes up most of this ninth volume, the action never gets boring or excessively silly. It's all done with good taste. The reader feels that all the fighting will be worth something in the end, that it has a higher metaphorical meaning than that of kids beating each other with goofy powers. Fukuchi always offers the hope that the bad guys can be turned around, if not through reason, then by the purification of battle. The art by Fukuchi is not anything great, but is attractive and is very easy to follow, especially during the battle scenes. The manga is a great read, especially now that the anime is on hiatus due to the collapse of Geneon.

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: ueki_9.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 1:19pm CST

    Podcast Episode 92: Monkey High Volume 1 by Shouko Akira

    Monkey High Volume 1 by Shouko Akira manga podcast review. Translated and adapted by Mai Ihara. Originally published by Shogakukan in Japan. Published in the US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T for Teen.

    Haruna Aizawa has just transferred from the elite K Academy to Kita High School. Why? Because her politician father was arrested on corruption charges and when her friends at K found out about it, they turned on her and started treating her like a freak. She moved to Kita in the hopes of having a fresh start but because of what happened at her old school, she has distanced herself from her peers. She even compares her fellow students to monkeys jostling and manuevering to be on top of a monkey mountain. She meets a cute boy, named Macharu, that reminds her of a baby monkey. Against her better judgement she begins to fall for him, but Macharu's friend, Atsu, the prince of the school, also has an interest in Haruna.

    My Grade: C-

    Direct download: Episode92--Monkey_High_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:02am CST

    Anime DVD Review: Area 88 Volume 1-- Treacherous Skies

    Area 88 Volume 1: Treacherous Skies. Episodes 1-3. ADV Films. Running Time: 75 minutes. Directed by Isamu Imakake. Screenplay by Hiroshi Ohnogi, $29.98.

    Makoto Shinjo is a war photographer that shows no fear when it comes to capturing the essence of his subject, even if his life is on the line. He's come to the desert of Aslan to document the lives and battles of the mercenary pilots fighting against anti-government forces. It's pretty easy to sign up as a mercenary but very hard to get out after you agree to a 3 year tour of duty. You can break the contract early IF you pay the sum of 1.5 million dollars. Even though the pilots are paid very well for every enemy they shoot down and various missions they fly, they are also required to pay for room and board, food, weapons, and maintenence of their aircraft. So it's very hard for them to save up any amount of money. And that's just how the government forces like it. To have the mercenaries underfoot and in debt. Even if they allow them to break the contract they still get a million dollars to hire another one. Makoto is focused on one pilot in particular, Shin Kazama, the only Japanese pilot on the base, and one of the most enigmatic. He doesn't have much to say but he is possibly the best flyer of the whole group. The only things we know about him is that he is utterly miserable working for Aslan and is desperate to get back to a woman in Japan.

    As is the problem for most first volume anime dvds that only contain 3 episodes, there is a shortage of material to truly judge the merit of the series. If you enjoyed movies like Top Gun or Stealth or the anime Yukikaze, you'll most likely enjoy Area 88. If dogfighting jets are not your cup of tea, then you would do best to avoid Area 88. The jets are all CG and look quite nice, if a little cold and flimsy, but they make you feel at times as if you are watching a promo video for the latest Ace Combat videogame. The main characters are not given enough space in these episodes to breath and show much individuality. That was Volume 1's main weakness. We don't learn enough about the characters to care about their dreams or hopes for the future or the extreme dangers they find themselves in. I will wait till I watch the other volumes before making an overall judgement about the series.

    My Grade: C

    Direct download: area_88_vol.1.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 7:52pm CST

    Anime DVD Review: 009-1 Volume 2

    009-1 Volume 2, ADV Films, $29.98

    In the world of 009-1, the Cold War between the Western and Eastern Blocs has gone on for 140 years.  This is not a war fought between great armies on desolate nuclear battlefields. This is a war fought by covert agents on both sides in a cat and mouse contest for technological advantage. Mylene Hoffman, cyborg agent 009-1, is the best spy the Western Bloc has, but she has one distinct weakness. She still has a heart. Time and again, she has faced situations on her missions where her compassion has compromised her original orders. Her superiors are even beginning to wonder whether it's worth the risk to keep her in the field. Her old mentor, ironically named Ironheart, told her a long time ago that the worse thing an agent could do was to let their emotions get the better of them. Wouldn"t you know that Mylene would be seen to talk her one-time mentor into rejoining the Zero Zero Organization or face execution.  She also opens  a heap of worms when pity gets the better of her when she helps a stranded motorist outside Rome who is being chased by gunmen. Mylene  also uses a kid to get closer to a suspected enemy agent and faces another moral quandary. In the last episode we get a flashback to Mylene's past and how she came to become a 00 agent, which is unusual because in most series of this type, the lead character"s past is left a mysterious blank with nary a hint of how they developed.

    This second volume of 009-1 suffered from a sophomore slump after an intriguing but sometimes flawed first volume. While I respect the complex emotions the writing was going for, the episodes were a bit too predictable. They seemed nothing more than a series of moral debates in search of a storyline, or a sequence of yes or no questions. Will she shoot her old mentor? Will she lie to the young boy? Will she help the stranded motorist?  With questions like this, you have a 50% chance of guessing the outcome of each episode. The animation quality was very high and the 1960's wardrobe and car designs were definitely cool in a chic retro sorta way. But the writing didn't aspire high enough for a series with such a beautiful look.

    My Grade: B

    Direct download: 009-12.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 7:13pm CST

    Novel Review-- Naruto: Innocent Heart, Demonic Blood

    Naruto: Innocent Heart, Demonic Blood by Masatoshi Kusakabe. Original Concept by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Tomo Kimura and Janet Gilbert. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz under their Shonen Jump Fiction imprint. Price: $9.99

    12 years ago a nine-tailed fox demon attacked the Hidden Leaf Village, and many of its ninja were killed in the battle. Unable to outright defeat the monster, the Fourth Hokage instead sealed the demon within the navel of a newborn infant named Naruto. The entire village was sworn to secrecy about the matter. But how could the adults react with anything but hatred to the growing Naruto, who held within him the beast that had taken the lives of so many of their loved ones?  Even though the adults kept the secret, their kids quickly picked up on their attitude towards Naruto and started a whole new cycle of hate. Helped along and mentored by Iruka, one of the few adult ninja who treats him with any respect, Naruto vows to become the next Hokage. He sees it as the only course that will make the Village acknowledge him. But first, he has to become a ninja, and he's having a hell of a time just mastering the most basic of skills.

    Innocent Heart, Demonic Blood is basically a fiction adaptation of the first 4 volumes of the Naruto manga which starts with Naruto's woeful performance at the ninja exams, learning that he has the nine-tailed fox demon within him, the formation of Cell 7 with Kakashi, Sakura, and Sasuke, and their first serious mission, that of escorting the bridge builder Tazuna back to the Land of Waves. A mission that will bring them into a no holds barred confrontation with the deadly ninja Zabuza and his protege, Haku.

    First off, I would have to say doing fiction adaptations of manga must be a pretty easy job. Why? Because there is nothing new added to the manga, at least with this novel. Most of the pages are taken up with dialogue and what little description is used is very dry and dull. In fact, the feeling I got from reading this book was of moderately polished fan fiction. In fact, I have read BETTER fan fiction than this novel. Kusakabe sticks so religiously to the original manga that there is no room to add any depth or further insight into the characters. The language is so basic and written so simply that this would probably make a good textbook for a Beginning Japanese course. In fact, I could have produced a more entertaining text just reading the Naruto manga in English and turning it into a novel rather than translating directly from Japanese. The book is needless except for the most rabid fan of the franchise. I didn't see the point of it and I am a mildly rabid fan. If you have watched the anime as well, it makes the reading of this book even doubly useless. If Kusakabe had been given a little more freedom, perhaps the novel would have been better.

    My Grade: C

    Direct download: naruto_novel.jpg
    Category:Novel Reviews -- posted at: 6:34pm CST

    Podcast Review Episode 91: GTO Volume 2 by Tohru Fujisawa

    GTO volume 2 by Tohru Fujisawa manga review. Translated by Dan Papia. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

    Onizuka's training is over and he is all set to become a full-fledged teacher. He thinks he made such a good impression at Musashino High where he student taught that he will be getting a call anytime telling him that he has been hired. He even skips taking the teacher exam because he thinks the position is his. Imagine his shock when his friend brings his attention to a newscast that states that you have to pass the teacher exam to teach at a city school! Onizuka is relieved to learn that he can still teach at a private school and is able to arrange an interview at Holy Forest Private Academy. On the way there he headbutts a man groping a young woman's ass on the train. An ass that Onizuka himself was thinking about squeezing. By coencidence, it turns out that the young lady, Azusa Fuyutsuki, is also interviewing for a teaching job at Holy Forest. Unfortunately, the Vice Principal that interviews him is the very same bald old dude that he headbutted on the train! Will this be the end of Onizuka's teaching career?

    My Rating: A+

    Direct download: Episode_91--GTO_volume_2.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:34pm CST

     Episode 90: Gunslinger Girl Volume 1 by Yu Aida

    Podcast review of Gunlinger Girl Volume 1 by Yu Aida. Translated by Eiko McGregor. Originally published by Media Works in Japan. Published in US by ADV manga, $9.99, Rated Teen 15+.

    The Social Welfare Agency is seen as a great institution by most peopl because it helps out handicapped youngsters, but in actuality it is a secret government unit that recruits young girls to become cyborg killers. The girls have no choice since they are brainwashed, or conditioned, to follow orders. They are partnered up with older men and sent out on missions ranging anywhere from political assassinations, taking on terrorists, to taking criminal witnesses into custody. Their physical modifications make them deadly, hard to kill, and efficient agents but the psychological scars they bear can never be healed.

    My Grade: A-

    Direct download: Episode_90--Gunslinger_Girl_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 9:30pm CST

    Manga Review: Sorcerer Hunters Volume 3 by Ray Omishi and Satoru Akahori

    Sorcerer Hunters Volume 3. Story by Satoru Akahori. Art by Ray Omishi. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

    Volume 3 opens during the climactic battle with Zombie Master, a powerful sorcerer who has further augmented his skills with the Necronomicon, the spellbook of immortality. Then it's on to a little rest and relaxation in Gamblin City, a city that makes Las Vegas look like a tiny village. Carrot is all pumped up to gamble his money away, but this welcome diversion is interrupted when he is arrested by Lord Vegas (don't you just dig that name!) and thrown in a dungeon to wallow in indentured servitude until he works off his debts. One of the card dealers, a girl named Luriko, enlists the Hunters to help find her lost boyfriend who she believes Vegas killed. They also have a run-in with the mysterious Snow Queen in another chapter. Two of the more comedic episodes involve a Lord who mistakes Carrot for the GIRL he loves while the other brings up the ever over used but entertaining hot springs trip. Of course, what hot springs manga chapter or anime episode would be complete without a horny male trying to climb over the wall that seperates the guys from the girls. And yes, this means Carrot!  But he has an unwelcome hanger-on in the form of Count Potato Chips, the pint-sized Lord that wants to score bigtime with the ladies.

    Sorcerer Hunters has never been a title to make you ponder the deeper meanings of life. Instead it has been a title that offers entertainment and adventure mixed in with a bit of ribaldry. But it's not all fun and games. There is a an underlying current of seriousness that makes it a bit more realistic. The writer, Akahori, is not afraid to kill off characters, or to make some of the situations the Hunters get into tragic or sad for some involved. This is what gives it more of an edge than other titles of this genre where the characters spend most of the panels superdeformed and yelling at the top of their lungs. The art is pretty good, but lacking a lot of backgrounds and firmly rooted in the 1990s. Overall, an entertaining and funny read with a bit of nudity.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: sorcerer_hunters_3.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 10:21am CST

    Episode 89: Dark Metro Volume 1 by Tokyo Calen and Yoshiken

    Podcast Episode 89: Manga Review of Dark Metro Volume 1. Story by Tokyo Calen. Art by Yoshiken. Adapted by Kereth Cowe-Spigai. Published by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

    Unknown to humans, the subway tunnels beneath Tokyo are the boundary between our world and the Underworld inhabited by demons, ghosts, and grudges. So it's not really a good place to get stuck during the dead of the night. Sometimes people miss a train, and sometimes they are even lured down there by vengeful spirits. But there is one guy looking out for the living, a pretty dude named Seiya whose job it is to guide spirits to the Underworld...and to keep out those whose time to die has not yet arrived. A collection of shojoesque horror tales.

    My Grade: D-

    Direct download: Episode_89--Dark_Metro_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 10:24am CST