Sat, 5 July 2008
Sorcerer Hunters Volume 5. Art by Ray Omishi. Story by Satoru Akahori. Translated by Anita Sengupta. Originally published by Media Works in Japan. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.
The Sorcerer Hunters had quite the Darth Vader moment facing off against the Sorcerer Hunter Killers last volume. Tira and Chocolat learned that the leader of the Killers was none other than their adopted father Sacher Torte, who had rebelled against Big Mama 13 years ago. Also among Sacher's cronies is Gateau's sister, who he had thought long dead, and apparently has no memory of her brother. She seems more than willing to kill him without a second thought. Years ago, Sacher even tried to kill Tira and Chocolat in a fit of psychotic rage, so Chocolat in particular wants to take revenge on him. He was wounded by Carrot's father in volume 4 but continues to be a threat as long as he can draw on the power of his Platina stones, which allow him to wield a pure form of magic which was reserved only for gods. The Sorcerer Hunters must find these five stones and destroy them if they hope to defeat Sacher. But their mission is not going to be easy because Sacher has posted powerful guardians to watch over each stone. Each battle is different because each guardian is unique and has their own methods of trying to defeat the Hunters, whether they be physical or more psychological.
Even though the art has a definite 1990's look to it, Omishi's skills are on proud display as she is a master of action, comedy, and even illustrating a heartfelt flashback at how Carrot and Chocolat met when they were kids. To me, this was the best part of Volume 5. Yeah, we know that Chocolat has a thing for Carrot, but here we find out why. It is a welcome event to reveal that Carrot is not quite the mindless horndog and that Chocolat is not quite the mindless dingbat that she puts on. That there is a loving bond between the two, even though the love each feels might be different. Even at that early of an age Chocolat wanted to find and kill Sacher but Carrot put some sense into her head, knowing that she would only wind up dead if she confronted him. Even NOW, she would probably end up dead! But now she has friends that care about her and will help her out. Akahori almost always finds a way to get some comedy into each story even if there is a particularly serious arc, but it never seems forced or out of place. This series probably should have been rated Mature since it does feature a couple of full-on boob shots along the level of Ai Yori Aoshi.
My Grade: A-
Sat, 5 July 2008
Gunslinger Girl Volume 4 by Yu Aida. Translated by Javier Lopez. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by ADV Manga, $9.99, Rated 16+.
Volume 4 of Gunslinger Girl begins with a focus on perhaps the saddest member of the cast of girl assassins: Claes. Her handler had begun to doubt the ethics of what he was doing and had thought about exposing the whole operation. To prevent this, he was liquidated by the SWF. The problem is that once a girl bonds to her handler, there is no going back and it is extremely hard, if not impossible, to give her a new partner. So Claes is pretty much excess baggage and is only kept alive for the sake of study and experimentation. Since her memory was wiped clean, she walks around with a sense of something missing from her life. A sadness she can't quite put her finger on. Triela, too, is having some life issues, as she grapples with her first major defeat by the killer Pinocchio. She would have gotten killed by him, but he had a flashback to something in his past and spared her life. She doesn't have a lot of time to dwell on it though, as she and Hillshire are assigned to protect a mob boss daughter because her father has decided to turn state's evidence against his former friends.
The aspect of this series that Aida handles so well is that there isn't a lot of exploitation of the "cute" factor that drawing and portraying such young girls could easily slip into. Instead the writer shows how the spirit of each girl finds a way to fight its way up through all the brainwashing and conditioning to desperately grasp at something of a normal life. While the story sometimes flirts with the idea that the girls are in love with their partners, again, this is never taken to moe otaku extremes and is explained by saying it is a result of their conditioning. Aida also handles flashbacks well, using them just enough to explain her character motivations and giving them depth, without causing jarring interruptions in the flow of the current storyline. This is a great series. It's too bad that ADV Manga sucks and a new volume hasn't been published in 6 months. At one time, the release schedule averaged one volume per YEAR. For example, Volume 3 was published in June 2005 while this fourth volume did not come out till July 2007! And now it seems like there has been another interruption. They should really just give up the license, along with Cromartie and Yotsuba and get out of the manga business.
My Grade: A