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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  • Is Shojo Beat Cleaning Up Its Covers?

    I bought a couple of manga today at Barnes and Noble, including two Shojo Beat titles, the first volumes of Kimi Ni Todoke and Black Bird. It just struck me that they looked different than the usual Shojo Beat books. Neither of them had those giant ugly volume numbers in the bottom right hand corner nor the boring author font with "Story and Art by" stamp on the left bottom corner and border on the bottom edge. I've never been a fan of the generic design of any of Viz's "line" manga, like Beat and the Shonen Jump titles. To me, they make the books look boring and take away from the beauty of the covers. But I guess they do make them instantly recognizable as belonging to a certain genre. But the Shojo Beat titles in particular suffer. A machine just stamps every cover with no regard as for how it's going to affect the art. If you're lucky Viz tries to change the color of the volume number or the author info to blend in better with the colors in the cover art...if you're lucky.

    But with these two titles, Beat seems to be de-emphasizing the Shojo Beat brand, especially with Kimi Ni Todoke. "Shojo Beat" is nowhere to be found on its front cover. Instead of the humungoid volume number on the right there is a stylized 1 at center bottom. Even the author's name is given a more personalized font that fits the feel and style of the manga. You do have the Shojo Beat website and UPC code on the back bottom just like usual but no huge banner at the top.

    Blackbird has a more traditional Viz design but again does not crowd its cover with Shojo Beat insignia, borders, and unsightly font. Instead it has ethereal, airy blacks and reds with a smaller author credit and warmer volume number that fits in with the cover. On the back you do have the Shojo Beat banner at the top but the web address has been left off, hopefully to not cut across and cover up the art.

    I hope Viz starts treating all their Shojo Beat title cover designs like these two titles. You need to bring attention to the ART, not to the volume numbers and product line. The original artists designed the art on the covers for a reason, to catch the eyes of browsing readers, not to be distorted or even erased. It makes the Beat titles look much more attractive. It's fine to keep generic looking spines, but show the covers more love.  

    Direct download: kimi_ni_todoke.jpg
    Category:News -- posted at: 6:59pm CST

    Manga Review: Hayate Cross Blade Volume 3

    Manga reveiw of Hayate Cross Blade Volume 3 by Shizuru Hayashiya. Translated by Adrienne Beck. Adapted by Ed Chavez. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tor/Seven Seas, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+.

    Well, we finally find out why Mizuchi wants to beat Ayana so bad. Mizuchi asked Ayana to be her sister-in-arms two times, but was rejected on both occasions. It doesn't help that Ayana doesn't even remember Mizuchi when she sees her, adding insult to injury. They finally get to rumble at the beginning of this volume as Ayana and Hayate take on Mizuchi and Sou in a Hoshitori match to move up to Rank B. The real meat of Volume 3 concerns a fighting pair of swordbearers named Jun and Yuho. Jun happens to be Ayana's roommate and might even be a better swordsgirl than her. But she's not at the top of her game right now because she picks battles with weak opponents. Yuho, her sister-in-arms, is very sickly, and Jun doesn't want to push her too far physically by fighting against strong pairs. Yuho's condition has been deteriorating and her mom is coming to check on her, which might even lead to Yuho being withdrawn from the school. Before she gets even sicker, Yuho wants to set up a final duel with her and Jun taking on Ayana and Hayate.

    I did write a review for volume 2 of this series, but right before I saved it, there was a big lightning strike near my house and my electricity went off for a minute. So the review was lost. What I did write about it was pretty negative and I actually considered not even reading volume 3. It mostly had to do with two things, one of which seems to have been solved in this volume. The biggest fault of the series is that the character of Hayate is a complete wash. All of the other characters work as real people, but Hayate comes off as a one joke comedy skit, almost becoming a cancerous growth on Ayana. You can always count on Hayate to never take anything seriously, and Hayashiya never fails to draw her in a deformed, almost "Scream-like" style, overemphasizing her already over the top behavior. Since you can't take her seriously as a person, she tends to ruin every scene she's in. But thankfully, the other characters are more interesting and have actual motivations and emotions beyond wanting to straddle and marry their sister-in-arms.

    The other fault of volume 2 was that Hayashiya took up a serious issue, physical abuse of women, and turned it into a ridiculous insult of abused women. There was a girl that was beating and hitting her sister-in-arms (not in a comedy way like Hayate and Ayana) and the abused sister refused to leave her because she thought they would make a good comedy act! It was just horrible writing on the part of Hayashiya that showed she wasn't clever or sensitive enough to insert a dramatic element into the series at that point. She seems to have turned this around in volume 3.

    I know the "bed-ridden sickly friend" character has been done to death. In fact, all we needed was for Yuho to be blind and amnesiac to meet all the manga cliches. But Hayashiya handles some of the more serious dramatic implications of Yuho's condition quite well. She's not trying to invoke pity, but is a character that is forcing her friend to OVERCOME her pity and take on a foe that will push her to her limits and even higher. While I don't think this title will ever overcome its major fault, Hayate, it does find ways to redeem itself in other ways.

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: hayate_blade_3.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 6:09pm CST

    Japanese Develop Baseball Playing Robots

    Japanese researchers are working on baseball playing robots. Don't let your imagination run wild. The robots are basically just arms. One throws a ball and another swings at pitches with a crude looking rod. But who knows, will we someday have fully articulated running humanoid robots running bases? My question is, who would want to watch something like that? My other question is, why develop baseball playing robots in the first place? It's a typical Japanese otaku quest. To pursue technologies and products that will have no real world interest or market. Beyond that of marketing, actually. I can already see a Japanese bat or glove making company (do they exist?) buying a baseball robot, "Ball-chan", or something, and using it as a mascot. Maybe different baseball clubs could each have a robot and they could battle to the death at the end of the season, gladiator style! Here's the link to the video of the robots:

    http://gmy.news.yahoo.com/vid/14828813/

    Direct download: baseball_robots.jpg
    Category:News -- posted at: 9:57am CST

    First Look At Iron Man and Wolverine Anime Trailers

    Last year, it was reported that Marvel and Madhouse would be teaming up to make 4 different anime series based on Marvel characters. The first two that will air are Wolverine and Iron Man. Two trailers have been created to start up buzz about the shows that will air in Japan spring 2010. Both Wolverine and Iron Man will have twelve 30-minute episodes each. Warren Ellis, a writer at Marvel says that the Wolverine anime will be loosely based on the very first Wolverine mini-series published back in the early 1980s. It was written by Chris Claremont (X-men) and drawn by Frank Miller (Sin City, 300, Daredevil, Batman). The Wolverine teaser was directed by Rintaro (X movie, Metropolis). It is to be stressed that these trailers are test footage just to show viewers the "style" of the two anime series. So what you see might be not necessarily reflect the actual plot or characters that will be involved. But I would think at least the character designs would be pretty close to the end product. Or else, why even show them? Is that an anime version of War Machine?

    I'm pretty excited about these trailers. Why? Because all the Marvel and DC characters are so old and tired at this point. How old is Iron Man? Almost 50? And Wolverine is only a litte bit younger. In his mid 30s? I've pretty much given up on the Marvel and DC comic books, even though I try to get back into them from time to time. They've just been sucked up into these yearly "EVENTS" and it seems like they only consider an idea "original" if it involves killing a character. And then they end up bringing them back (see Captain America) anyway, so who cares? I grew up on Marvel and DC as a kid, but that wide eyed enjoyment I used to get from them has completely migrated to Japanese manga and anime. I'm willing to give any fresh take on Marvel and DC characters a chance. Even if they fail miserably.

    Here are the two trailers:

    Category:News -- posted at: 11:10pm CST

    Halo Legends is an anthology anime series of short films focusing on the world of the videogame Halo much like The Animatrix or last year's Batman: Gotham Knight. Microsoft is tapping some of the best anime companies in business today. The studios involved are:

    1. Bones (Fullmetal Alchemist, Eureka Seven, Cowbody Bebop: The Movie)
    2. Casio (Dai Nipponjin)
    3. Production I.G. (Ghost in the Shell, Blood)
    4. Studio 4c (Tekkokinkreet, Batman: Gotham Knight)
    5. Toei (Dragon Ball, One Piece)

    Some of the directors that will be handling episodes include Mamoru Oshii (Sky Crawlers, Ghost in the Shell 1&2) and Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed 1&2).

    The short films will first appear on Xbox Live this fall. Microsoft is developing a Halo hub on Xbox Live called "Halo Waypoint" that will be the Mecca of Halo fans. It will be a one-stop destination of Halo news, trailers, podcasts, player rankings and other halo info.

    I'm not a big Halo fan. In fact, I only started playing the first Halo game about a year ago and still have not finished it. I never had an Xbox so I missed out on the whole Halo phenomenon when it came out. I was a PS2 man. Of course, I've always been aware of the franchise. How could you not? Both the Animatrix and the Batman anime shorts were uneven and entertaining only in spurts and I suspect it will be the same with Halo Legends. But I think the whole guys running around in mech-like Guyver-esque armor will play more to Japanese strengths than the other two series. Just like the case with the Twilight graphic novel and manga, I think the Halo Legends project is a win-win scenario for anime and the Halo gameworld. The Batman dvd was a huge success when it came out in the US, taking the #1 ranking in sales the week it came out. I'm sure when this comes out on DVD it will have the same sort of sales, if not greater.  

    Category:News -- posted at: 3:37pm CST

    Manga Review: Naruto Volume 36

    Manga review of Naruto Volume 36: Cell Number 10 by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

    While searching for a jinchuriki host in the Land of Fire, Hidan and Kakuzu happened to stumble upon Chiriku, a priest who used to be one of the Guardian Shinobi 12. The two Akatsuki defeated and killed Chiriku and are now looking to collect his 30 million ryo bounty to finance their operations. Asuma, who also used to be in the Shinobi 12, sets out with Shikamaru and two other elite ninja to track down and kill or capture Hidan and Kakuzu. Meanwhile, Naruto continues to train with Kakashi and Yamato, struggling to master the art of making a "super rasengan". Even the ever-optimistic and driven Naruto is at the end of his rope and is thinking about giving up the attempt. He must figure out a way to change the form and nature of his chakra at the same time, something even the 4th Hokage could never master.

    Volume 36 marks the first time we get to see the Akatsuki in action, well, I mean in a fight to the death capacity. I know Itachi showed up at the Leaf Village many volumes ago and had a minor battle with Kakashi, but I saw that as merely a brief skirmish.  Yeah, I know, Naruto and his team also fought and defeated Deidara and Sasori. But all these battles have been cakewalks compared to fighting Hidan and Kakuzu. They're in a completely different league. Hidan has the ability to curse his enemies and cannot be killed. He takes most of the lead in the battle against Cell 10, so confident is he in his abilities. Kakuzu helps Hidan a little bit, but otherwise takes no part in the actual battle. You knew back in earlier volumes that Naruto, Sakura, and Kakashi were not going to die fighting Sasori or Deidara, but when Cell 10 fights, being composed of supporting characters, there is more of a sense of danger. Somebody could get killed.

    It's also cool to see Kakashi's faith in Naruto. He's giving the boy a full plate by asking him to master the super rasengan. He really believes that Naruto is special and could become not only Hokage, but maybe the most powerful ninja ever. Naruto has come a long way from the early volumes of the manga when he was seen as a village pariah. Now, he seems to be a vital part of Konoha's very survival. What a series!

    My Grade: A+

    Direct download: naruto_36.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 1:13pm CST

    Podcast Episode 174: Shonen Sunday Part 2

    Podcast manga review of the first chapters of the remaining www.shonensunday.com titles: Kekkaishi by Yellow Tanabe, Maoh: Juvenile Remix by Kotaro Isaka & Megumi Oruga, Rin-ne by Rumiko Takahashi.

    Kekkaishi:

    By night, junior high student Yoshimori Sumimura is a "kekkaishi"--a demon-hunter who specializes in creating magical barriers around his prey. By day, Yoshimori's got other demons to battle: an addiction to sweets and a seriously crotchety grandfather! Yoshimori's pretty neighbor and childhood friend, Tokine Yukimura, is also a kekkaishi, but their families are feuding over who is the "true practitioner" of the art.

    My Grade: B+

    Maoh Juvenile Remix:

    “As crazy as your ideas might be, as long as you believe in yourself and tackle the issue head-on, you can even change the world.”

    Ando is a high school student who has the power to make others say out loud what he’s thinking. Inukai is the mysterious leader of a vigilante group called Grasshopper, which is at odds with the city’s redevelopment plan. In this chaotic city, these two will come together to weave a story of courage, determination and confrontation.

    My Grade: B+

    Rin-ne:

    Ever since a childhood incident Sakura Mamiya has had the power to see ghosts. Now her life has gotten a lot more complicated with the arrival of her mysterious classmate Rinne, who seems to know a thing or two about detecting ghosts himself!

    My Grade: A-

    Direct download: episode_174--Shonen_Sunday_Part_2.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:07pm CST

    Podcast Episode 173: Viz Manga Blitz and Shonen Sunday Part 1

    Podcast manga review of the first chapters of Arata: The Legend by Yuu Watase and Hyde & Closer by Haro Aso. Both titles are available for free at www.shonensunday.com

    Arata: The Legend by Yuu Watase:

    In a mythical world where humans and gods co-exist, a ceremony marking the new governing princess is about to occur for the first time in 60 years. Only a girl from the Hime Clan may take this position, but the lack of females born to this family means that a boy called Arata must pose for the role. Meanwhile in modern-day Japan, a boy named Arata Hinohara is starting his new life in high school. He wants to put memories of his difficult past behind him, but things aren’t going to be simple when he discovers a mysterious connection to the first Arata...

    My Grade: A

    Hyde and Closer by Haro Aso:

    Shunpei Closer is your average…well, slightly below average kid in junior high who finds himself in the middle of a great battle of dark sorcery. With cursed dolls coming after him one after another, Shunpei Closer’s life is in danger! If that weren’t enough, Hyde, the teddy bear given to him by his grandfather, suddenly comes alive to rescue him. With Hyde’s help, can Shunpei save himself and live to see another day?

    My Grade: B+

    Direct download: Episode_173--Shonen_Sunday_Part_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:39am CST

    Well, www.shonensunday.com has launched and is up for business. By business, I mean supplying rabid manga fans with titles that have not been published in America yet. Well, that is, except for Kekkaishi, which is already being published by Viz. I always hear good things about it. I even bought the first volume when it first came out....about 5 years ago:) I just never have gotten around to reading it. Now that it's stuck up in my grill with this website, I'm gonna make up for lost time. And I know Rin-ne is online as well, but do we have to get technical? Along with news, a blog, and the manga themselves, there is also a link for downloads (wallpapers of the series). I might need an oxygen mask, I'm so giddy about the whole thing. (But would that make it worse?:) Either click on the web address above or the banner beneath the manga title listings below. RUN, do not walk to ShonenSunday.com!:)

    Right now, there are five titles up. Each title only has Chapter one so far, except for Rin-ne, which has chapters 1-13. So here are the titles:

    Rin-ne by Rumiko Takahashi (Inuyasha, Ranma 1/2, Maison Ikkoku)

    Kekkaishi by Yellow Tanabe

    Arata the Legend by Yuu Watase (Ceres, Absolute Boyfriend, Fushigi Yugi)

    Hyde & Closer by Haro Aso

    Maoh: Juvenile Remix by Kotaro Isaka & Megumi Osuga

    Category:News -- posted at: 3:29pm CST

    New Pictures From Twilight: The Graphic Novel by Young Kim Here are three more illustrations and sketches from Entertainment Weekly by Young Kim for the upcoming Twilight: The Graphic Novel, based on Stephanie Meyer's novel, due to be published by Yen Press.
    Direct download: twilight_manga_resize.JPG
    Category:News -- posted at: 2:47pm CST

    Podcast Episode 172: Naruto Volume 35

    Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 35: The New Two by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

    From the back cover:

    Naruto is a ninja-in-training with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja!

    The New Two

    Naruto accelerates his training while the Akatsuki systematically continue their assault on those with the Tailed Beasts inside them. First on the list is Yugito, a ninja from the Land of the Clouds believed to harbor the Two-Tailed Beast. Will yet another ninja fall to the evils of the Akatsuki?

    My Grade: A+

    Direct download: Episode_172--_Naruto_volume_35.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:52pm CST

    Well, Borders lives to be in debt for another year it seems. They borrowed $42.5 million from their biggest shareholder, Pershing Square, which was due on April 15 of this year. They asked for another year to pay it off. So now the loan is due on April 1, 2010. This is the THIRD time Borders has asked for a repayment extension. They're gonna try to get their stores in order but the CEO of Borders says he won't be surprised if sales continue to go down.

    I will be very surprised if Borders is able to pay off this loan in the next 9 months. Maybe they should ask for a government bailout. The bookstore chain has been going down the tubes for a while now.

    Category:News -- posted at: 2:39pm CST

    Twilight Is Good For Yen, Good For Manga

    The manga community has been abuzz the past couple of days over the confirmation that Yen Press is going to be publishing a manhwa adaptation of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight novels. Ok, what should we really classify this book as first? Is it manhwa simply because it is being drawn by Young Kim, a Korean artist? Is it manga? Is it OEL manga? Is it simply a graphic novel series? I'd be curious as to what label Yen is going to stamp it with. I keep on hearing about a Japanese manga adaptation already in existence. Will Yen also get the rights to it? Will they publish it some time in the future as well? As for the Kim version, supposedly Meyer is deeply involved with the project, "reviewing every panel". No word yet on whether Twilight will be directly published in tankoban form or start its run in the Yen Plus anthology magazine. You can find 3 more pictures in the newest issue of Entertainment Weekly.

    There are a lot of manga fans out there that are bitching about the whole IDEA of Twilight being published by Yen. Simply because they hate the series, (they think it's overrated, poorly written, etc.). I think these people are really dumb. Just think about the exposure and publicity Yen is going to get and thereby manhwa and manga! You're going to have people going into the manga section of the bookstores that might never have visited it. And I'm not talking just about teenage girls. I know plenty of ADULTS that are rabid fans of Twilight. Take in this figure: 

    IN THE FIRST QUARTER OF 2009, BOOKS BY STEPHANIE MEYER ACCOUNTED FOR 16% OF ALL BOOK SALES!

    What this means is that for every seven books that were bought during that quarter, on average, ONE was by Meyer. She sold 29.7 million books in 2008!

    I am not a fan of the series at all. I have read none of the books and have not seen the Twilight movie. If anything, I am predisposed to have a negative reaction to the franchise. But I'm always hostile to really popular stuff. I just like to wait for all the hype and popularity to decrease around a series like Twilight before I try them. I didn't start reading or watching the Harry Potter books and movies till last year! But I can see the positive ramifications that the Twilight adaptation will have for Yen Press and all the books they will be able to publish care of Twilight profits. They're really doing well right now with the Maximum Ride series and the coup of landing the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise. I'm practically in love with the company these days. I really respect them for starting up Yen Plus as well. I think Twilight should be published in Yen Plus first, so they can get a solid following for the magazine that will draw in readers that might not know the first thing about their Korean and Japanese titles. As I'm looking at the future, I can only see the Twilight publication as a win-win for everyone involved, both publisher and reader.

    My next question is when is Harry Potter gonna follow suit?

    For more info on Stephanie Meyer and her work check out:

    www.StephenieMeyer.com

     

    Direct download: twilight-manga_l11.jpg
    Category:News -- posted at: 12:43pm CST

    Podcast Episode 171: Solanin

    Podcast manga review of Solanin by Inio Asano. Translated by JN Productions. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz Signature, $17.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen.

    From the back cover:

    Meiko Inoue is a recent college grad working as an office lady in a job she hates. Her boyfriend Naruo is permanently crashing at her apartment because his job as a freelance illustrator doesn't pay enough for rent. And her parents in the country keep sending her boxes of veggies that just rot in her fridge. Straddling the line between her years as a student and the rest of her life, Meiko struggles with the feeling that she's just not cut out to be a part of the real world.

    My Grade: A+

    Direct download: episode_171--Solanin.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:22pm CST

    Podcast Episode 170: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 2

    Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 2 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

    From the back cover:

    In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and his leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Equipped with mechanical "auto-mail" limbs, Edward becomes a state alchemist, seeking the one thing that can restore his brother and himself...the legendary Philosopher's Stone.

    There are many types of alchemy in the world. Edward's commanding officer, "Flame Alchemist" Roy Mustang, can control fire. Shou Tucker, the "Sewing-Life Alchemist", specializes in the most difficult alchemy of all...biological transmutation, the ability to alter the tissue of living things. But no matter what their power, alchemists are still human. And when a mysterious killer begins stalking state alchemists, no one can escape his vengeance...

    My Grade: A+

  • Podcast review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 1
  • Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 1 Free Preview
  • Direct download: episode_170--_fma_2.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:05pm CST

    Manga Review: Honey Hunt Volume 2

    Manga review of Honey Hunt Volume 2 by Miki Aihara. Translated by Ari Yasuda. Adapted by Liz Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen.

    Yura has landed the star role as Natsuki in an ad campaign for noodles that also has a TV show tie-in. Her romantic interest, Q-ta, is doing the theme song, and his brother, Haruka, who seems to be developing an interest in Yura, is acting opposite her. Unfortunately, just as the cast gets together for a photo campaign shoot, Yura's costume is found to have a huge stain on it. How did the stain get there, you might ask? Just ask Minami, another noodle girl, who is extremely jealous of Haruka's attentions towards Yura. Although Yura is able to find a way to save the situation and go on with the shoot, her mettle is constantly tested in this volume. First, she must work with an older actress that has an undying hatred for Yura's mom, and thereby gives Yura a hard time. Even worse, Keiichi begins to market Yura as the daughter of celebrity, playing on her lineage as a selling point to get her noticed. It works, but Keiichi had promised that he would never use her mom and dad to get her breaks or recognition. It only adds to Yura's low self-esteem and refusal to trust anybody. She begins to think about giving up her dream of excelling her mom as an actress.

    The things I liked about the first volume of Honey Hunt were the plot twists and twisted amorality of almost all the main characters except Yura. It seemed like everyone had some vice, whether hidden or out in the open. Everybody also had their own hidden agenda. The emotional lives of the characters were hateful and unloving. I still remember the scene where Yura's mom and Shin were caught having sex and her mom acted like it was no big deal. She even threw it in her face and said that Shin liked her better than Yura! Even in this volume, Q-ta admits that part of the reason why he likes Yura is because he's a big fan of her dad. All of the characters in Volume 1 probably could have lived quite comfortably in one of Dante's circles of Hell. Volume 2 ratchets down the debauchery a bit and settles more into a typical shojo love triangle motif. Yura likes Q-ta a lot even though she still suspects that he only likes her because of her dad while Haruka finds himself falling for Yura. Minami has become the Sai character that wants to ruin Yura's chances at being a star. Yura's shockingly bad relationship with her parents has receded into the background a bit as she struggles to find the strength to become a real actress.

    The weakness in the series is definitely the art. It's so bad and thoroughly dull-looking that I found myself staring at some panels, entranced by their amateur quality. All of the character designs are appallingly ugly and unappealing.  Aihara also has some problems drawing heads in certain positions. There's really nothing cute or pretty in Yura's appearance either, so it's kinda hard to imagine that she's going to become a big star. I like the story but if the art doesn't improve, I don't know how much longer I can take it. I doubt it's gonna get any better though. So sad.

    My Grade: B

    You can listen to my podcast review of Volume 1:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=463972

    Direct download: honeyhunt2.jpg
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 8:51am CST

    Podcast Episode 169: Naruto Volume 34

    Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 34: The Reunion by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

    From the back cover:

    Naruto is a ninja-in-training with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja!

    THE REUNION

    Naruto finally finds Sasuke! But Sasuke won't return to Konoha without a fight. This time it might take all of Team Kakashi to bring him down - and bring him back.

    The smash-hit manga that's sold more than 4.1 millions books in the U.S.A.!!

    My Grade: A+

    Direct download: Episode_169--Naruto_Volume_34.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 7:11pm CST

    I read an interesting article on Kotaku.com this morning, a videogame news and review site. While the article was about videogame bloggers, the story is about a troubling issue that could threaten any blogger that reviews any type of media, whether it is a game, a dvd, or a book.

    It seems the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is making a new "Truth-In-Advertising Guide". The FTC is looking into whether bloggers mostly give positive reviews to products they review simply because they get the bribe of a free review copy. The example given in the article is about a hypothetical videogame reviewer, but in reality, the FTC is talking about ALL bloggers.

    There is also a mention of a New York Times article that states that most bloggers are simply made up identities concocted by a company's marketing department, or even if independent, are beholden to companies for the "gifts" they get and therefore do not give honest reviews.

    So what the FTC is saying is that so-called "professional journalists" have no bias. Do you really think the book reviewers at the New York Times Book Review actually BUY any of the books they review? Come on! Do you think Roger Ebert or Gene Siskel ever paid their own money to see a movie? Or any of the various electronics magazines...Do their reviewers actually buy the equipment they review? I guess if you write for a newspaper or magazine, that makes you above reproach?

    It sounds like a witch hunt to me. I think the newspapers and magazines would love to take down bloggers, because they can't control them. In fact, bloggers and online news sites are destroying physical print news and reviews outlets. Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are quite happy to only have "Official" mags out there so they can strangle any real power that says some of their games suck. One of the problems that gaming magazines find in getting advertising is that sometimes game developers get pissed at them for negative reviews and refuse to work with them.

    I don't really have this bias problem. I very rarely get free review copies. Seven Seas has sent me a couple of books (4?), in most cases after I had already bought them on my own. I have never gotten a free review copy of an anime dvd. But I've never really tried very hard to get review copies either. I know that when I did receive those books, it made me very uncomfortable because I didn't know whether it would influence me, even in a subconscious way.  Luckily, I don't have to worry when I review something, I really mean what I say. When I really hate something, whether it's an anime or manga, I rip it to shreds (figuratively:). Or when I really love something, it's completely honest. Because it's my hard earned money that has gone up in smoke when I read or watch a piece of trash.

    I know some reviewers get BOXES of free material to watch and read. Does it bias them in their reviews? I'm sure that it does influence some of them, but not others. I doubt that will ever happen to me, because I speak out when I see myself getting ripped off or see dumb moves by manga publishers. So I doubt any of them are lining up to send me free stuff. For example, when Tokyopop raises prices but lowers their paper quality, or Viz vomits on shelves with One Piece, or raises their prices for no good reason. It pisses me off. But probably if I had UPS trucks dropping off hundreds of dollars of manga or anime, I would probably mute my criticism or at least make it more "civilized" because I wouldn't be losing anything. I didn't pay for it, right? So who cares. I probably wouldn't say their paper sucks or that they are greedy or that they are choking off shelf space for smaller titles and publishers. And that maybe doing that choking is what they want.

    So, in the end it's left up to the conscience of each reviewer to decide whether they can be truly independent if they receive free review items. I just think it's completely hypocritical of the FTC to say there's no problem if "professional journalists" get them, but with bloggers, there is. That it's ok for one type of reviewer to receive review copies but not the other. I also think it's wrong to say that MOST, if not ALL are dishonest and merely patsies for corporations. To me, this smacks of lobbyists in Washington pressuring the government to curb in and discredit bloggers that give negative reviews to their products. I'll put up the links to the Kotaku article and the New York Times article as well.

    Kotaku: http://kotaku.com/5313176/

    New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/13/technology/internet/13blog.html?_r=1&hpw

    Category:News -- posted at: 8:28pm CST

    Podcast Episode 168: Naruto Volume 33

    Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 33: The Secret Mission by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen.

    From the back cover:

    Naruto is a ninja-in-training with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja!

    THE SECRET MISSION

    Morphing out of control, a stronger-than-ever Naruto turns on his own teammates! Orochimaru triggers a frightening change in Naruto as he reveals a sinister plot that's been the death of far more people than anyone knew.

    My Grade: A+

    Free Preview of Naruto Volume 1:

    http://shonenjump.viz.com/onlinemanga/sjom.php?chap=n-hi-chapter-1

    Direct download: Episode_168--Naruto_Volume_33.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 11:32am CST

    Podcast Episode 167: Hunter x Hunter Box Set 1, Episodes 1-5

    Podcast anime review of the first 5 episodes of the Hunter x Hunter Box Set 1. Published by Viz Shonen Jump. List Price: $49.95. Rated 16+. Directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi (Zipang, Getbackers, You're Under Arrest).

    From the back cover:

    Hunters are a special breed, dedicated to tracking down treasure, magical beasts, and even humans. But such pursuits require a license, and less than one in a hundred thousand can pass the grueling qualification exam.

    Gon might be a country boy, but he has high aspirations. Despite his aunt's protest, Gon decides to follow in his father's footsteps and become a legendary Hunter. The journey begins on the long, arduous road to the Exam Hall, where he meets Leorio and Kurapika, two applicants with the same determination. Gon and his two companions must now prove their worth and earn the right to call themselves Hunters!

    My Grade: B 

    Here's the opening of the anime:

    Direct download: episode_167--Hunter_x_Hunter_Episodes_1-5.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:56pm CST

    Borders Moves Manga to the Kiddy Section

    I went to Borders tonight with a coupon for 25% off my purchase, not expecting to find much. After all, I hadn't found anything the week before when I had a similar coupon. Borders is definitely in decline. Whatever section you go into, they have tons of books facing outward to cover up the fact that they do not have a lot of selection. I've seen them try to conceal this in different ways at different stores. One got shorter bookcases and arranged them in U shapes instead of straight rows to give the illusion of taking up more space. It's just so sad. Until the past year or so, Borders had a better selection of books that Barnes&Noble. I would hardly ever go to Barnes. But lately, the situation has reversed. It's really apparent in the manga section. You might see a couple of rows on each shelf with almost all the books facing outward instead of just showing the spine. To me, if they went out of business, it wouldn't make much difference.

    So when I go to the manga section tonight, there's a cart there filled with manga, and I'm thinking "Cool, they must be new titles", but then I see that almost all of the manga on the shelves are gone, and that there are more carts of manga sitting there as well. I ask this older dude "What's up with the manga?" He tells me they're moving it upstairs. "To the kids section?" I ask. He almost seems ashamed of it, because he's a manga fan and he thinks it's kinda degrading the genre. A younger employee that's helping him move the manga feels the same way (He's cool. He actually gave me a discount before on some manga I was buying just because I had on a Ghost in the Shell shirt!). He too seems to feel bad about putting them in the kids section.

    I thought it was at least cool that the manager of the store got manga fans to be the pallbearers of the banishment. The manga are now gonna be right next to the "Independent Readers". So how is Gantz or MPD Psycho gonna mix with Old Yeller and Harry Potter? I think it could be a problem if some soccer mom picks up one of them. "Yes, dear, you can get this little comic...oh my! He got his head cut off! Oh, and that dog is licking her ****....Manager! Manager!" (soccer mom passes out and collapses in a senseless heap as young boy salivates over alien murder in Gantz).  Or are they even gonna carry mature titles anymore? I don't really know how I feel about it. I think in a way it knocks down the medium in respectibility. The older guy acted like it was just a reality that kids are the ones buying it. It was kinda funny because even after I had walked away I could hear him speaking to other customers...."Don't worry, we're not getting rid of the manga, we're just moving it upstairs....Ha ha, surrounded by manga!"

    In the end, what cosmic shift does this move represent? It means I'll have to walk up the stairs to look at manga. Since they never have anything anyway, I might not even go up there.

    Direct download: borders_better.jpg
    Category:News -- posted at: 10:53pm CST

    Anime DVD Review: Area 88 Volume 3

    Area 88 Volume 3: Tightrope at the Speed of Sound. Episodes 7-9. Published by ADV Films. Running Time: 75 minutes. Directed by Isamu Imakake. Screenplay by Hiroshi Ohnogi, $29.98.

    The supplies are getting pretty low at Area 88 as the enemy has shot down multiple transports that were bringing fuel and ammo for the pilot's aircraft. Of course, the enemy know Area 88's dire straits and send out a raiding party to take out the base. They are not only sending fighters but long range bombers that could destroy the whole area! The base only has enough fuel and ammo to send up three jets. Shin is in charge of the mission and picks the new female flyer, Kitri, and young but talented Kim to go with him. Kitri has a real problem with Kim. She thinks he'st too young and a mediocre pilot that has no right to be flying fighters. Another thorny problem crops up when an enemy sniper takes up position around Area 88 and starts picking off its inhabitants. He's so skilled that if anyone tries to take off in a jet, he either shoots the pilot or takes down the plane before it gets off the ground. Wouldn't you know that Shin is gonna be the one to dare the impossible? The title of this volume refers to the last episode where the Area 88 crew must negotiate a canyon in Death Star-like fashion to avoid radar as they attempt to destroy an enemy base.

    The presentation of this series has always left me a little cold. It just seems like there's so much more to the story and characters that we're not getting to see. I was really glad that we got a little more backstory last volume and found out how Shin got stuck in Area 88, but it really just skimmed the surface. We only get very tiny glimpses of who the other characters, like Kitri, really are. In fact, I know next to zilch about where she learned to fly and why she got into Area 88. But I can say that about almost all of the characters. For example, what is Matoko's real motivation to capture all these pictures he's taking? Does he get a high off of it, like Speedgrapher, or does he want to show the plight of the pilots? You really needed a 24-26 episode show to get all these things into the light, rather than 12-13. Even if I feel Area 88 keeps the viewer in a box, I still like the show, especially for its dogfight sequences.

    It would be nice if Viz would republish the manga (I'm not gonna hold my breath). I think they published a couple of volumes back in the good old days of flipped, unnumbered, $17 volumes before Tokyopop enlightened them on how to publish magna.

    My Grade: B

    Direct download: area_88.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 1:32pm CST

    Amazon Anime Sale & Japanese Peanuts TV Spots

    Just wanted to tell you about another sale. This time Amazon.com is having a markdown sale on anime dvds. Select titles are being discounted up to 50%. It seems to be almost their entire stock except for maybe the very newest releases like Genshiken 2. Just click on the link below:

    Amazon Anime DVD Sale

    Also wanted to include an interesting video. It's a Japanese TV commercial for Hot Pepper, a free coupon magazine in Japan. The interesting part of it is when the Peanuts characters enter the picture to scratch turntables. Snoopy is even using a spoon and his dog bowl to keep time! The singer in the video is Kaela Kimura a popular Japanese pop singer. I'll also include a video for one of her songs, called "You":

    Direct download: anime-sale-50_tcg__V221896733_.png
    Category:News -- posted at: 10:49pm CST

    Viz Store 75% Blowout Sale

    Viz is having a clearance sale of anime/manga related items, mainly from these franchises: Death Note, Naruto, Bleach, Mar, Inuyasha, Pokemon, and Blue Dragon. They say they are going to add new products so some of the tabs come up empty. There are some great bargains to be had, some even below $1. You can get a Naruto backpack for $6.25, even Naruto and Kakashi cosplay costumes for around $6! Death Note keychains for $1.05. Bleach thermal tees and action figures. You'll just have to look for yourself. Please buy something in memorial of my current poverty! It's not exactly thousands of items and even though it says "storewide sale" I didn't see any manga on sale. I would check back though over the next week. Even though the sale banner says "up to 75% off" I did see some even deeper discounts, more like 85%. The sale lasts through 7/14/09.

    Here's the link to the sale:

    http://store.viz.com/

    Direct download: deathnotemisatote.jpg
    Category:News -- posted at: 5:10pm CST

    Podcast Episode 166: Ouran High School Host Club Volume 1

    Manga Podcast review of Ouran High School Host Club Volume 1 by Bisco Hatori. Translated by Kenichiro Yagi. Adapted by Gary Leach. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T for Teen.

    From the back cover:

    In this screwball romantic comedy, a poor girl at a rich kids' school ends up working for the school's swankiest club-- and gets mistaken for a boy!

    One day, Haruhi, a scholarship student at exclusive Ouran High School, breaks an $80,000 vase that belongs to the "Host Club", a mysterious campus group consisting of six super-rich (and gorgeous) guys. To pay back the damages,  she is forced to work for the club, and it's there that she discovers just how wealthy the members are and how different the rich are from everybody else...

    My Grade: A

    Click on the link below for a free preview of the manga at Viz.com:

    http://www.shojobeat.com/onlinemanga/sbom.php?chap=ohshc-hi-preview&o=dn

    Direct download: Episode_166--Ouran_High_School_Host_Club_Volume_1.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:48pm CST

    Podcast Episode 165: Future Diary Volume 2

    Podcast manga review of Future Diary Volume 1 by Sakae Esuno. Translated by Yuya Otake. Adapted by Clint Bickham. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated 16+.

    From the back cover:

    Yukiteru, Yuno and Kurusu band together to prevent the battle of Future Diaries from getting out of hand. But when Yukiteru discovers a dark secret about Yuno that changes everything, will he still be able to trust her? Now wary of his new "friends," Yukiteru joins them on an investigation of a priestess from the temple who seems to have mysterious powers. As new Diary owners show up, each with their own ambitions, who, in this dark and desolate world, is friend and who is foe?

    My Grade: A

    Listen to my podcast review of Volume 1: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=489030

    Here is the first chapter of Volume 2:

    Direct download: episode_165--Future_diary_2.mp3
    Category:podcasts -- posted at: 8:09pm CST

    Anime Review: Trigun Volume 2-- Lost Past

    Podcast anime dvd review of Trigun Volume 2: Lost Past. Directed by Satoshi Nishimura. Published by Geneon/Pioneer. List Price: 19.99 (Amazon has used copies for around $7). Episodes 5-7, Rated 13+.

    Vash just can't seem to catch a break. Here he is again, just minding his own business in an Inperil City bar when another group of thugs with the $60 billion reward on their minds comes barging in to kill him. Vash takes them out no problem, but then finds that the ENTIRE city wants to take him down. Even kids are pulling out guns! At one time Inperil was a prosperous city centered around a Lost Technology power plant, but it broke and the city began to wither and die. They want to claim Vash's head so they can pay for the expensive specialists that can reignite the power plant's energy source. Realizing that even an entire city is no match for Vash, the local sherrif lets the Nebraska Brothers out of prison. In a send up of giant robots, one brother is a mad scientist type who rides on his godzilla sized cyborg brother who can shoot his fist like a chained rocket launcher. Unfortunately for Inperil, the Nebraska Brothers do not care how much property is destroyed or how many Inperilities are killed in the pursuit of Vash.

    I did not like the first volume of this series at all. In fact, if I hadn't checked the first three volumes of this show out from my local library, I would not have watched this second installment. But since it was free, I was like, "what the hell". I was really surprised with Lost Past. I really liked these 3 episodes. I guess sticking with a show past the first volume really does pay off sometimes. What changed my mind about Trigun? Maybe I got used to Vash's personality and humor, and I started finding some of his mannerisms and dialogue funny. Like when he shoots a whole gang of bounty hunters with toy gun darts before they can even draw their guns. I think what really made the show turn around was that the writers made these episodes form a continuity which flowed together whereas Volume 1 seemed disjointed and unconnected. I also was intrigued by Vash's mysterious past, driven home by the fact that he cannot remember the city he supposedly destroyed to earn the price on his head. I know Vash is more than he seems, but his origin is a mystery I really want to solve.

    The fact that this volume contains only 3 episodes is a bit of a rip-off that could not be pulled today. Just ask Bandai (They tried selling dvds with ONE episode!). But this was par for the anime course back in the day. Since the Trigun show is not really a current show, you should be able to find the dvds pretty easily and at low cost.

    My Grade: B+

    Here's the first part of Episode 5:

    Direct download: trigun_2.jpg
    Category:Anime DVD Reviews -- posted at: 12:57pm CST