Sesho's Anime And Manga Reviews (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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  • Manga podcast review of Sailor Moon Volume 1 by Naoko Takeuchi. Translated and adapted by William Flanagan. Published by Kodansha Comics, $10.99, Rated 13+

     

    My Grade: A

    Direct download: Episode_242--_Sailor_Moon_1v2.mp3
    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 10:08pm CDT

    Manga Review: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 18

    Manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist volume 18 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translation by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Jake Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen.

    At Fort Briggs in the far North, ruled over by the ice queen Major General Armstrong, things are heating up. The Homunculi have been using Winry's life as blackmail to keep Ed and Al from telling everyone about their evil plan to use the entire country of Amestris to make a transmutation circle. The Elric brothers have done everything they could to keep her out of danger. So imagine their shock when Winry shows up at the fort last volume! Kimblee, the Homunculi ally, tells the brothers that they must aid in his search for Scar....or else. Ed and Al decide to along with his order, hoping to find some way out of the situation along the way. Of course finding Scar, who is travelling with the dimunitive May Chang, is exactly what Ed and Al want to do anyway. Meanwhile, back at Central, Hawkeye, now serving as a the President's aide, finds out the horrible truth about his son, Selim, even as Mustang tries to marshal support against the Homunculi controlled government.

    I've said it before and will continue to say it until the day I die (which hopefully won't be in 2012), but Fullmetal Alchemist is simply the best manga series out there. I love it. The art is great, the characters are incredible, and the story, except for a few strains on believability, is masterful. It just seems a bit shortsighted for the Homunculi to let Ed and Al and others that know about the truth of situation to go running around doing their own thing. I know they want the major players alive for their "sacrifice", but it would make better sense to imprison them all the right time. Even a child knows that Fullmetal is going to be trying to constantly find a way to defeat their plans. I guess what I'm saying is that the "bad guys" in this series are kinda dumb. Or maybe they're just that confident. Maybe they are so sure their plan is going to work that they think there is no way Ed, Al, Mustang, and the others can stop them. If I was a Homunculus I would have made darn sure to get rid of at least those three. They're too dangerous. One of the best scenes in this volume is Winry finally getting to confront Scar about killing her parents. I'm not going to spoil what happens but she has to come to a decision. Is she going to take her revenge or find some other way of dealing with his crime? Brilliant work. An all-time great series.

    My Grade: A

     

     

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 8:27pm CDT

    Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 12

    Manga review of The Prince of Tennis Volume 12: Invincible Man by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Michelle Pengilinan. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

    Seishun is tied 1-1 with Yamabuki after losing one of their doubles matches. Now it's on to the singles as Momo takes on Kiyosumi "Lucky" Sengoku.  Kiyosumi's signature move is the "Tiger Cannon", a high serve that allows him to put the full force of his body weight behind it. Even as Momo begins to counter, he starts to suffer from movement inhibiting leg cramps. And it hasn't gone unnoticed by Sengoku, whose only interest is in winning. The second singles match features Ryoma going up against the psychotic Jin, the dude that's been bullying some of Ryoma's younger teammates and physically assaulting other tennis team members since last volume. It's pretty cool when Ryoma hits Jin in the face with the ball on their first volley to avenge his team. But the words "back down" aren't in Jin's vocabulary and he steals himself to give Ryoma all he can handle.

    I am currently in awe of the master Takeshi Konomi. Emerson and Thoreau might have been Transcendentalist writers but Konomi is a Transcendentalist manga-ka. I am constantly impressed by his work, mostly because of his constant inventiveness and control of his panel layouts. The Prince of Tennis never gets boring because Konomi surprises you with every page. He does full page layouts, 2 page splash pages, breaks up panels into interesting angles, sprawls characters across entire pages with the action as the backdrop, creating a 3D effect...wow, I'm out of breath. When I read these books, I feel alive, I feel like I'm a part of the action, almost like I'm on Ecstasy or something. When I mentioned Transcendentalism before, what I meant in reference to this book is that it almost seems alive, like you're really there in the stands watching the Seishun team play their matches. It's such an incredible accomplishment. To take static art and imbue it with such energy and kinetic movement. Konomi is a great.

    My Grade: A+

     

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 6:07pm CDT

    Manga Review: Blade of the Immortal Volume 2

    Manga review of Blade of the Immortal Volume 2: Cry of the Worm by Hiroaki Samura. Translated by Dana Lewis and Toren Smith. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $14.95.

    Rin has decided that it's a wasted cause to track down every member of the Itto-Ryu sword school to take her revenge since they will just recruit more swordsmen to replace the ones she and Manji kill. Instead she wants to track down the leader, Anotsu Kagehisa. Even so, Rin and Manji go up against two of Anotsu's disciples in this second volume of Blade of the Immortal. The first, Magatsu Taito, bears the Chinese sword that belonged to Rin's father, a sword that means all the world to her and her family. Secondly, there's Eiku Shizuma, a 200 year old fighter that, just like Manji, also has the holy bloodworms inside his body.

    I enjoyed this second book a lot more than the first. The translation of Lewis and Smith is much more tolerable, or at least more subtle in its jarringness. There are some moments where Manji talks like a ghetto dweller with his constant use of "Shit, man!" but I guess I'm getting more used to it. Or maybe I'm understanding what the translators were TRYING to do, but horribly failing at. To make Manji a streetwise smartass bad mofo. But I think they could have done it in a different way. An awkward moment that really stood out at the end of the book was when Rin tells Manji his blood pressure is too high. Ok, can someone please tell me how the medieval Japanese knew anything about blood pressure?

    The art by Samura rises to an even higher level than in the first installment. He seems to be more adept at blending his contrasting styles of intense line work and using different edges of his pencil. Whereas before his different techniques were a bit haphazard, and at times, disconcerting, the flow is a lot better here. I'm really beginning to like the relationship between Manji and Rin. Except for grabbing her butt one time last volume, there is a lovely big brother/little sister bond forming between them. It feels very genuine. Perhaps that bond will prove more of a redemption for Manji that his task of killing 1000 evil men. That brings me back to an argument I put forth in my podcast for the first volume. Namely, who is truly EVIL in this series? Out of the three Itto-Ryu Manji has faced so far, probably given enough time, 2 of them could have been saved from the murderous lives they led. Most of them have some sort of emotional scar that has led them to their fate. But Manji isn't a psychotherapist. He lets his swords perform the twelve step program of chopping his enemies into pieces.

    My Grade: A

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 7:52pm CDT

    Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 10

    Manga review of The Prince of Tennis volume 10: "Seize the Moment" by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

    Volume 10 opens with Ryoma being conned into taking over his dad's tennis lessons (he's probably too busy looking at porn). Suprisingly, his tutorees end up being Sakuno and her friend. In a strange twist of fate, an errant ball by Sakuno leads to her getting bullied by the Ginka Jr. High tennis team. Ginka happens to be Seishun's next opponent in the upcoming City Tournament Semifinals. And Ryoma decides to take them on by himself. All 30 members! We also meet a new character named Jin, a Yamabuki Junior High tennis player who has a slight psychopathic streak. He starts kicking and punching anybody that tells him what to do. Instead of a chip on his shoulder, he appears to have a mountain! His new target of hostilty seems to be Ryoma Echizen. As the semifinals approach, Captain Tezuka decides to prep everyone by having intrasquad matches. First up is Ryoma vs. Shusuke.

    I have to say that even though he's not a common pompadour sporting street thug, Ryoma is quite the badass when he wants to be. He's not afraid to stand up against 30 guys if it means protecting Sakuno. He also doesn't back down from confrontation with Jin, who appears to strike the fear of god into all those that cross him. It's just really cool seeing Ryoma being brave even if he is a little dude.

    I also wanted to comment on the genius of Takeshi Konomi's character designs. As you can tell from the cover of this volume, Konomi is not afraid to show off his team in a shojoesque, maybe even faintly yaoish way. It says on the splash page that while the Prince of Tennis was originally intended to be a comic for boys, it attracted legions of female fans. And it's easy to see why. The main cast would not look out of place, with some minor modifications, in the pages of Fruits Basket. And that's what makes Konomi so smart. I think you have all the Shonen Jump action and level progression along with the good looks of the guys and their relationships with each other which leans more towards the shojo side of things.

    My Grade: A

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 5:52pm CDT

    Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 6

    Manga review of The Prince of Tennis volume 6: Sign of Strength by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

    Volume 5 ended with Tezuka asking Coach Ryuzaki to let him play Ryoma. We don't really get to see the match in Volume 6. We just see the end and the effect it has on Ryoma. His match against Tezuka fires his competitive spirit and makes him want to learn how to improve his game. He even asks his dad for help, which would have been out of the question before this volume. In fact, everyone on the Seishun team is doing their best to train for the City Tournament. Of course, Sadaharu, the master trainer and statistican, has a sinister plan to help them reach their true potential, even if they get killed in the process. As the City Tournament gets under way, Seishun is the #2 seed behind Hyotei Academy. Seishun is hoping to get some payback since they lost to Hyotei in the Tournament last year. And of course, the pesky but talented Fudomine is looking for their own payback after losing to Seishun last volume.

    I was a bit let down by volume 6 because it only showed the LAST shot of the match between Ryoma and Tezuka. And it was also a bit confusing. It seemed like Tezuka won it, but when another players comments on the match, it made me think that Ryoma had won. I'm still not 100% sure of the outcome. This is due solely to Konomi's failure to easily convey what happened. I feel as though the REAL match between these two players is yet to happen. I'm sure when Tezuka fully recovers from his arm injury, and Ryoma faces some more challenges, we'll arrive at this same spot and a whole volume of this series will be spent on the match. But it just seemed cheap to me. If you're not going to show the match, don't even have them play each other yet. Because Konomi was being too much of a tease, it led to my confusion. Otherwise, as always, this series is a cool read, and I'm getting excited about seeing all the players and schools in the City Tournament.

    My Grade: A

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 12:33pm CDT

    Manga Review: Blame! volume 4

    Manga review of Blame! Volume 4 by Tsutomu Nihei. Translated by Stephen Paul. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated OT, 16+.

    The Safeguard, the rogue security system put in place by the Authority to combat unauthorized access to the Netsphere, continues its assault on Toha Heavy Industries.  With Cibo dead, Killy basically has to take on a Safeguard army and a Godzilla size Gigeresque monster that can shoot graviton beams out of its mouth by himself. But even though Cibo's body is dead, her consciousness still lives inside the Netsphere. Within it, she and the Authority hatch a plan to emplant her mind into Sana's body.

    I have to say that volume 4 of Blame! was a lot more enjoyable and coherent than the last volume, which lost itself in arcane plot developments and dark indecipherable art. Even though some of the art in volume 4 was just as murky, there seemed to be less of those "what's going on?" moments during the action sequences. What made it even better was the fact that Nihei actually wrote some dialogue that answered some questions, especially about Killy,  that I've had about the series since the first book. Only time will tell if this title is showing a resurgance or this is just a blip of reason in an otherwise messy work.

    My Grade: B

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 9:05am CDT

    Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 5

    Manga review of The Prince of Tennis volume 5: New Challenge by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

    Seishun only has to win one more match against the unseeded but talented Fudomine tennis team to win a berth in the City Tournament. Ryoma faces off against a Fudomine player named Shinji in a singles match. Shinji isn't going to be a pushover and he's not one to be awed into submission by Ryoma's talent. One of his weapons is to alternate topspin and backspin returns which causes something called "spot paralysis" which makes an opposing player's arm freeze up. Will Ryoma be able to figure out a counterattack against this strategy? Meanwhile, Inoue and Shiba, editors of the magazine Pro Tennis Monthly try to get an interview with Ryoma's dad, the legendary Nanjiro Echizen. It seems Inoue was one of his biggest fans before Nanjiro retired due to injury. Nanjiro agrees to answer any questions the two might have....IF Inoue can hit a ball past him on the tennis court!

    I wish I had known some of these moves that Ryoma and the others use during my time on my own high school tennis team. I would have been paralyzing everyone, snake serving, and twist popping the whole time. Of course 99% of these "shots" are a bunch of hokey. But it's fun hokey. I enjoy every page of The Prince of Tennis simply because it takes itself way too seriously, detailing each shot with the preciseness of a giant robot attack. Nanjiro, Ryoma's dad, seems to be a real piece of work. He's a porn mag monk? Why is it that most monks in manga and anime are the biggest perverts? Something to do with irony, I suppose? The setup for the next volume is a match between Ryoma and Tezuka. No, not Osamu, but the captain of the Seishun team.

    My Grade: A

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 9:11pm CDT

    Manga Review: Blame! Volume 3

    Manga review of Blame! volume 3 by Tsutomu Nihei. Translated by Stephen Paul. Adapted by Brandon Montclare. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated OT 16+.

    Killy and Cibo have finally come upon a structure left over from a time when humans could still communicate with the Netsphere. It is not part of the city so the Authority holds no sway there, which means their runaway Safeguard mechanisms don't either. Surprisingly, the name of the structure is Toha Heavy Industries. Hmmm...any connection to the Toa Heavy Industries in Biomega? Is this book taking place in the same world as that series, but in the future? It's unknown at this point. Maybe it will become clearer as I continue reading Blame. The humans that live outside of it say they are descended from "The Planters", the people that used to work inside of Toha, but none of them know how to read and they have no idea how to get inside it. Of course there's lot of battles with the Safeguard in this volume as well.

    My patience is starting to wear a little thin with this series. After 3 volumes, Nihei's messy artwork hasn't gotten any better. With so much emphasis on action, the artist finds himself woefully lacking in being able to illustrate it. Over and over again, I have to reexamine panels to figure out what is going on. Sometimes I am successful. Sometimes I just give up and move on. It doesn't help that during the fights, so much of the art is very black and dark which just adds to the visual confusion of already poorly constructed panels. And then there's the "gun thing". Killy's graviton emitter pistol is so powerful that it sends him sprawling through the air every time he fires. Nihei always draws him in the same nondescript poorly posed manner every time it happens, so much so that the whole firing of the weapon has become a unintentional example of comic relief. While there is a bit more scattered peices of plot in this volume, on the whole it's a bit scatter shot, just like the art. The worst thing about this book is that there is a giant monster fight straight out of a Godzilla movie. At that point, my eyes began to roll back into my head, especially since one of the monsters is a straight up rip-off of H.R. Giger's Alien designs. In fact, a lot of the designs seem ripped off from Giger and Akira. I am losing faith in this book. We'll see if find it in volume 4 or the series continues it's slow crawl to complete dumbness. I like the "vibe" of the book but it just seems so derivative and lamebrained at certain points.

    My Grade: C-

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 9:01pm CDT

    Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 4

    Manga review of The Prince of Tennis volume 4: The Black Unit by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.

    If seeds in a tournament were guaranteed wins everybody would win the NCAA basketball March Madness brackets every year. There's always a team that comes out of nowhere to shake up the brackets. The District Prelims in Prince of Tennis are no different. It was supposed to be a sure thing that Seishun would be facing Kakinoki Jr. High next. One of its players had even gotten in the face of Seishun's captain, Tezuka, last volume. But Kakinoki is eliminated by the unseeded team from Fudomine Junior High. Fudomine has a bit of a bad reputation because they had to forfeit the city tournament the year before because their captain, named Kippei, had assaulted his own coach! We find out he did it for a good reason. This year they're back with all-new starters and Kippei serving as their defacto coach. Volume 4 mainly covers the first two matches between Seishun and Fudomine. Shusuke and Takashi team up for doubles, while Kaido and his "Snake Shot" is entered in singles.

    As with a lot of sports manga that I read, or even a title like Hikaru No Go, I get excited about each match like it's really going to happen. That's the magic of manga that American comic books will never be able to capture. The excitement and thrill of a sport, a game, or just an ordinary event in an ordinary life, is something only manga seems capable of doing. Of course, there is always an element of hyper reality to a Shonen Jump title. I played tennis on my high school team, and let me tell you, I've never heard of any of these giant robot-like shots that I see in The Prince of Tennis. But it's there to make it fun. The thrill to me comes in seeing the characters face off against each other. I'm always in suspense wondering what secret shot each player is going to have and how Ryoma or the other Seishun team members will counterattack. It's not for everybody, but I love that kind of thing. The other thing I like about the series is watching Ryoma kick ass against other players that THINK they are kick ass. There's nothing better than seeing an megalomaniac egotist or bully be knocked down. If anything, Ryoma reminds me very much of Michael Jordan, who knew he was good and didn't hide it but let his game do most of the talking.

    My grade: A

    You can listen to my podcast review of Volume 1 of The Prince of Tennis here:

    http://sesho.libsyn.com/podcast_episode_176_the_prince_of_tennis_volume_1

    You can also read the first chapter of volume 1 for free at Viz:

    http://shonenjump.viz.com/onlinemanga/sjom.php?chap=pot-hi-preview

    Category:Manga Reviews -- posted at: 8:04pm CDT