“What’s New, Pussycat?” – Nineteen, Twenty-One (manhwa) – 10/10 Peeps

Mangaka: Hye Jin Kim (Art), Na Che (Art), Han Yu (Story)

Genre: Romance/Slice-of-Life

Review Status: Complete (1 Volume/1 Volume)

Licensed: This is unlicensed in the US.

Art: This is done in a fairly typical manhwa style, but in lovely pastels and with a delicate watercolor look.

Summary: Yun-lee is a girl who is carrying a huge emotional scar in her heart. Due to an accident, she lost 2 precious years of her life, the time period between 19 and 21 years old. Her life is empty. She is miserable, but still attending a preparatory school in an attempt to catch up with all the time she has lost. Suddenly, one day on her way to feed some stray cats, she comes across a young man who seems to have what she has lost… the period between 19 and 21 years old. (Easy Going Scans)

Review: What do cats have to do with love? No, this is not a trick question. Sometimes we have an interest that guides a lot of our interactions with people and how we deal with them. For Yun-lee, this happens to be cats. She loves cats. She’ll feed the strays with any spare cash that she has, and does what she can. It’s especially important for her since she’s missed out on a good chunk of her life and feels disconnected from other people her age – she missed out on her 20th birthday, a huge celebration of adulthood.

Where does this leave her? That’s what she’s trying to find out. The only beings she feels any connection with are the stray cats that she feeds every day…and later, a nineteen-year-old boy that she discovers has also been taking care of them. The dialogue between them is loaded with double-meaning. It can be read either as a simple tale of two people falling in love, or as one about these two finding their place in life. With all that going on, I had to read it twice just to catch everything! The use of the cats and metaphor was very subtle and very appreciated since short stories often don’t manage it with the space they have.

Some of the issues it hits tend towards the cliché (dealing with nosy/rude neighbors, trying to find them a home), but tend to be dealt with rather ingeniously. It also never comes off as being shoehorned in for the sake of the story. The ending was also as good as I could hope for. Things aren’t left completely open-ended, instead opting for solid, almost fairly-tale like ‘and they lived happily ever after’, but with a few caveats. They know that the road ahead isn’t going to be easy but are willing to keep trying anyway. It was wonderfully touching.

Overall, I adored this little romance romp for pet-lovers.

Recommended: 9+. The worst thing in here is how one of the cats dies from being hit by a car, but there’s no gore to speak of. It’s clean, clean, clean besides that! Younger readers probably won’t appreciate the finer points of the story, though.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Honey and Clover (anime or manga)

Someday’s Dreamers (manga or anime)

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“Tree-hugger” – KissWood (manhwa) – 10/10 Sunflowers

“Can’t see the forest for the trees.” ~ Anonymous

Mangaka: Ahn Sung Ho

Genre: Adventure/Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Review Status: Complete (3 volumes/3 Volumes)

Licensed: No, this manga is unlicensed in the US.

Art: Wonderful. The characters are all distinctive, it’s all in color (brilliant colors!), and I simply can’t find any faults here.

Summary: After losing his job as a city gardener, the main character only seems to  care about one thing, his home garden full of rare plants.  But when a mysterious man burns down his garden and home, the protagonist barely manages to escape alive.  When he wakes up in the hospital, he learns he has lost his eyesight.  With nothing left, the man just lies in the hospital bed with seemingly no hope left, until the sudden regaining of his eyesight causes him to realise he has been transported to a strange new world covered in a mystical forest. (MAL.net)

Review: The movie Avatar was an interesting one (take it or leave it as you will). I adored the interesting world that it presented, where there were some fantastical creatures and interesting technology that it had. While my initial comparison to Avatar might turn off those who weren’t that fond of the environmentalist blue cats, KissWood manages a solid take on the environmental fantasy story with an overarching story about needing to connect to others.

Ajussi is a man who’s lost his entire family except his niece, who’s frustrated by the love he gives his plants and how out of place they are in the city they inhabit. She leaves, and he finds himself the sole inhabitant of his garden. So when he finds himself in a world soley consisting of trees, he has to make a decision: will he make his home here, where the trees and plants seem to protect him, or will his conciousness find its way back home? His decision at first seems soley motivated by the fact that this world isn’t the paradise one would expect – it’s ruled by Mua, a girl that seeks to punish those who’ve found there way to this world, and has them killed with no flicker of a concience. At her bidding is the butterfly of the forest, who tries to help Ajussi however she can.

Along the way, Ajussi collects two companions who also have their own reasons for wanting to escape the forest – a boy, who’s reason for leaving is the same as his own, and a man who fears he has no one waiting on the other side. To escape the forest they need to go to the heart of Mua’s kingdom, but with her power over the forest the way is perilous.

His skill and love for plants plays a key role in what happens to the adventurers, and the reasons why he’s there are as surprising as they are touching in his need to get back. Mua in turn becomes a character of depth as she deals with the butterfly’s treachery and the bonds that tie them. Loneliness and love become a unifying theme. I couldn’t help but tear up at a few places because of how emotional and wonderful the story was.

Overall, this is a top-notch fantasy adventure, and no matter if you were frustrated by Avatar or loved it, you should check this out!

Recommended: 13+. Three people are killed off-page, and there are two minor swears in it.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Origin: Spirits of the Past (anime)

King of Thorn (manga)

Earth Maiden Arjuna (anime)

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (anime)

Princess Mononoke (anime)

A Tree of Palme (anime)

“Alone In The World” – White Rain (manga) – 10/10 Belleflowers

With some people solitariness is an escape not from others but from themselves.  For they see in the eyes of others only a reflection of themselves.  ~Eric Hoffer

Mangaka: Yoshitoshi Abe

Genre: Psychological/Drama/Horror

Review Status: Complete (1 Chapter/1 Chapter)

Licensed: No, this manga is not licensed in the US.

Art: This is recognizeably ABe’s art. It’s a rougher style than his other works of Haibane Renmei, Technolyze, and Niea_7, but that’s because this is an early work of his from when he was a student. Even so, this is still very much his style. The color pages look fantastic, with a dark, dirty look to them that reflects the bad circumstances the characters have found themselves in.

Summary: A girl wakes up in an unknown world all alone. In this world she sees another girl who is her exact twin. Their names: 328 and 329. There is only running water; no food anywhere. In their search for food, they find a raft to take them beyond this unknown place, but it becomes evident that only one person will be able to board this raft. The annoying buzzing sounds and voices of a winged insect, the craving for food, and the desire to leave will push them to the brink. One of them will snap…  (mangaupdate)

Review: This short was recommended to me because I enjoy horror and psychological above most every other genre out there. ABe really managed to start this out brilliantly, with two different lines of text/thoughts, mirroring each other (quite literally!) in both color and how one below the other and upside-down. Careful reading shows that these are the simultaneous thoughts of two different people in a similar situation – having woken up with no knowledge of where they are or what they must do to escape.

White Rain layers a story about survival ith one about self-identity. They are confronted with a situation where both have to make a decision about which one is going to survive, but how that comes about and why they need to do it is both horrific and fascinating, shedding light on what the are and what the survivor will experience as she moves into the wider world in search of the others that exist there – however many of them there may be.

There are questions left about what happened to create them and the world, why it’s set up the way it is, and how she will keep herself -herself- in the coming days… months… years, as she comes across more and moves on, but the immediate decision she makes, between herself and the other, in the place they are in at that point in time, is moving and bittersweet. I was utterly depressed to see this end when it did because this left me knowing I was just scratching the surface of this place and what was going on, but it ended at a good place – one that had a sense of finality, even if it was about a character going to places unknown.

Overall, for this to manage to make a statement about individuality in the face of adverity so clearly in the space it has is astounding. That it’s incredibly well-written is the icing on the cake.

Recommended: 16+. There’s off-page murder and cannibalism. This is overall a very dark manga.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

LooP (manga)

BLAME! (manga)

“Wasteland Wonderland” – Shaman Warrior (manhwa) – 7/10 Pencils

War grows out of the desire of the individual to gain advantage at the expense of his fellow man.  ~Napoleon Hill

Manhwaka: Park Joong-ki

Genre: Action/Drama/Fantasy/Historical

Review Status: Complete (9 volumes/9 Volumes)

Licensed: Yes, this is licensed in the US by Dark Horse.

Art: Stunning in how detailed it is! This uses realistic character designs, and doesn’t skimp on any details, from the prints of the cloth, the chothing designs, the details of faces or hair… it’s simply breathtaking to look at in many places!

Summary: Master Wizard Yarong and his faithful servant Batu are sent to remote desert wastelands on a grave mission from their king. These two mysterious warriors hae yet to realize that a whirlwind of policital movements and secret plots will soon engulf them and change their lives forever. When Yarong is mrotally injured, Batu must fulfill his promise and leave Yarong’s side and protect his master’s child. As Batu seeks to find and hide the infant, Yarong reveals another secret to those who have tracked him down to finish him off – the deadly, hidden power of a Shaman Warrior! (back cover of fiorst volume)

Review: This is definitely one of the more intense manhwa I’ve ever read. From the desert wasteland it’s set in to the characters that inhabit it, this really shows that a lot of thought went into making this on heckuva story! And they succeeded, with this being a most brutal story of a girl raised to be as tough as the lands that she was born into. At every turn her life is in danger; there is no mercy to those who hold Shaman blood, and that means she must go to a place where merely being a child is enough to get you killed. Batu and the girl part ways early, since he’s well-known for his past and is hunted for being both a Shaman and a former infamous wretler, whose name is known across the lands. Her life takes a drastic turn as she’s abandoned to she Slaughter, a training ground for assasins. It’s the only way she can survive in this land, and Bato knows it.

Bato meets with several more characters, from Genji, a woman who’s ties to him are revealed through the series, who is a solid mix of tough-as-nails grit and fighting ability, but has a softer side to her though she would deny it. She stays out of the politics, only seeing to it that the girl is raised, implied to be doing terrible things in order to raise the money to buy the girl out of the muderer’s camp when she’s ready. Another character, Horakaan, aided and abetted by Batu for a time, ends up joining forces with Aragorn, who seeks to drive back he corrupt kingdom that’s killing all the Shaman Warriors. Each one plays a part in the story to come, while even more come into it.

Politics and personal vendettas mix, with multiple factions attempting to wipe out the Kugai Empire for various reasons. Some of them end up fighting one another through misundertandings and political maneuverings by the enemy, which makes things even more complicated. The pacing for the first 8 epsiodes also mean that there was no way the 9th one could end well. Not only are things left unresolved on many levels (does Yaki actually live? What’s the purpose in telling us who her mother is? Does the relationships between her and the general work out? What about that technology that made the Shamans- where did that come from and where did it go since it’s OBVIOUSLY not in play in this story!), it’s done abruptly and very disjointedly. Several parts just seem thrown together, the last section the worst of it all. Everything that this had been building up to came out in a jumbled rush! Honestly, this series needed at least three more volumes, probably more, to really do it justice. Yes, it was enough to severely knock down by score of it..

Overall, while this had 8 fantastic volumes, that 9th really drove me up a wall with how terrible it was!

Recommended: 18+ only! This is another title with gratuitous violence. It’s about war. People die. They are killed without mercy. You see heads hanging, and once a child is struck down. When Yaki is brought to the butcher camps, the wrestlers imply that they want to have sex with her (she can’t be more than 8 at this point!), and at one point nearly do rape her when she’s a bit older- about 13, perhaps.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Vagabond (manga0

Shin Angyo Onshi (manhwa)

Lady Snowblood (manga)

“This Time, This Place” – NOW (manwha) – 8/10 Pencils

The most important of life’s battles is the one we fight daily in the silent chambers of the soul. ~David McKay

Mangaka: Park Sung-Woo

Genre: Action/Adventure/Comedy/Fantasy/Historical/Romance

Review Status: Incomplete (6 Volumes/25 Volumes)

Licensed: This manhwa was formerly licensed by ComicsOne, later by Infinity Studios. However, both businesses have gone defunct and it’s out of print.

Art: It looks just fine for a manhwa. The art takes a more sketchy quality when

Summary: Just before the fall of the mighty Korean Kingdom of Goguryeo, a lone man roamed the lands causing destruction beyond imagine using Sa Shin Mu, a form of martial arts never before seen in this world. Now, 20 years after the fall of the Kingdom of Goguryeo, a new rumor is spreading that a secret manual detailing this legendary martial art has resurfaced. Will Sa Shin Mu once again dictate the fate of this new era? (Amazon.com)

Review: This manhwa caught my eye a while ago when I was at my public library, and I had hesitated to pick it up, thinking that it wouldn’t be complete. Well, I was right! That’s really too bad, because this is one of the more charming manhwa I’ve come across in a while. This starts out somewhat misleading, following a band of martial arts diciples as they hunt for the scrolol that contains the secrets of Sa Shin Mu. The younger brother of the leader is rpessed forward as everyone is attacked, making him the one responsible for finding it. The problem is that he’s not the only one looking for it – he comes across two powerful enemies, and is knocked about like a tennis ball as he attempts to defeat the one who holds the secrets of the martial art his brother died to find.

He has to be the protagonist of this story, right? Nope! Unlike most shounen that have a master to be defeated, this goes in an unexpected direction- the keeper the the secrets finds himself in the company of a young girl about his age and on a quest of his own to protect the secrets of the martial art he was entrusted with! The previous master died, but the young new master isn’t quite up to par, with deadly anger and a tendency to go berserk. He also is far from evil, merely obeying his mater’s wishes about the art and seeing the destruction of the book a blessing because of what the skills he was taught have done to him. He teams up with a young girl who got caught in the fray, one who has deadly skills of her own, but isn’t up to the master-level that she needs or wants to be because of an incident in her childhood… something that leads the young man to ask to follow her and meet her parents.

This takes that incident and expands on it, the young brigand who is defeated becoming the antagonist, a warrior with a desire for revenge, but comes across a few obstacles on that course, from maniacle leaders of other schools of martial arts, to leaders of schools that recruit him to their cause. He needs to skillfully maneuver himself into a postition that won’t get him killed while honing his skills against these enemies!

At the same time, the Sa Shin Mu master travels with the young girl, encountering various obstacles and opponents of their own, from an unexpected travelling partner, to a friend’s own past catching up to her. There are numberous plot threads going on at once that tie all of the characters together, and I can tell how involved this is going to be! Revenge. blooming romance, multiple plotlines… It’s a fantastic feeling, but at the same time highly disappointing since I can’t read the rest of it to see how it pans out. For the beginning of a series, though, this really can’t get much better!

Overall, while I might never get to read the rest of it, this really caught my attention and I hope someday someone will pick it up so I can enjoy it!

Recommended: 16+. This has some standard violence, but some of the training described is brutal, and there is the implication of cannibalism by one of the bad guys. There are several on-page deaths.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Claymore (anime or manga)

Berserk (manga)

Shin Angyo Onshi (manwha)

Blade of the Immortal (manga)

Amatsuki (manga)

“Kiss And Tell” – Kill Me, Kiss Me (manwha) – 8/10 Sunbeams

Life is tough. Love is tougher. Heart breaks are the toughest. ~Anonymous

Mangaka: Lee Young You

Genre: Romance/Action/Comedy/Gender-bender/School/Shoujo

Review Status: Complete (5 Volumes/5 volumes)

Licensed: Formerly licensed by Tokyopop, currently unlicensed

Art: For the most part, this has pretty generic character designs, though the mangaka took enough care to make each character easily recognizeable with very different facial features and hair. It has very nice detail on the clothing as well, showing a wide variety of styles. There are a few cases where the art goes sketch-like, looking like it was drawn with a crayon and very little care, and that can be very annoying.

Summary: When Tae Im finds out that her favorite idol star is currently attending the same school as her identical cousin Jung-Woo Im, she convinces her kin to switch places – she will dress as him, attend his all-boys school, and try to get close to her lover boy; he will dress as her, attend her all-girls school and revel in its sea of babes. Flawless? Well, with the bullies, brats and bishounen around, everything can go wrong. (back cover of 1st voume)

Review: The summary is really pretty misleading. The first volume is definitely as stated, with Tae discovering that her idol isn’t all that he appears to be, and finding love in an unexpected place (I heart this author for breaking tropes and traditions with this thing!). Her adventures are pretty typical for a high school romcom, with the boys thinking they might be gay and she wondering if they aren’t gay as well, what with their attraction to her! She ends up falling for a pretty tough gang member, though, with a heart of gold and the desire to protect Korea. It’s all pretty cute. At the same time, the main characters here become completely irrelevant in the next four volumes, so if you thought it would be further adventures of Tae… no.

It instead switches focus to Tae’s cousin, or rather a girl who’s in love with him after protecting him from some girls in a gang. She becomes attatched from a mix of things – worry that he’s going to out her as a fighter when she’s been trying to bury her past with that, but because he’s also got a pretty face and brings out her protective instinct. Too bad she gets caught up with another gang, one who’s leader sets his sight on her! The other four volumes really deal with that relationship, the dynamics between Que-Min and Ghoon-Hahm, with Tae’s cousin as a rather important side character. Que-Min and Ghoon-Hahm have a very interesting chemistry between them, with her attempting to hod the fort on her personality, but him knowing it – and being a gangster himself, that means that she’s worrying over him, having to beat up her own bullies, and dealing with how their lives drag Jung-Woo into danger.

Jung-Woo, unfortunately, makes a very lackluster love interest. He’s pretty emotionless, clueless, and…. boring. I much preferred Ghoon-Hahm, who just comes alive with character. He’s been crushing on Que-Min since kindergarten, when he picked fights with her just to get her attention. And his fighting spirit never let up, getting together a gang of his own (following in the footsteps of his father) which has a really diverse bunch of personalities. Of course, things aren’t just bad with the other gangs trying to move in and take revenge on Ghoon-Hahm, there’s also troubles on the relationship front! I’m really glad that the spoiled girl who wanted to make it a love triangle – and failed massively! – ended up getting pushed off on Jun-Woo. She’s was an unbearably one-dimentinal character, an absolute brat, and getting with the other character that made me pull out my hair ended up being a great blessing.

For all that annoyance, I was still really pleased with how the relationship between Ghoon-Hahm and Que-Min turned out. She made for an engaging heroine, an atypical character thrown into a storyline that also wasn’t quite the normal shoujo. And the relationship deveopment seemed pretty solid, to boot. Except for some instances of some almost-sexist overprotection when he things Que-Min and Jung-Woo are getting too close, this struck a lot of right chords for me to enjoy it.

Overall, it’s a decently done story about tough guys and girls in love.

Recommended: 16+. There are a few fights where you see some blood, and how bad the injuries are happen to be mentioned in passing. What drives my rating up is how often slurs for homosexuals are used (along with some homophobia by some of the side characters) and some slurs for women as well.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Boy of the Female Wolf (magna)

He Dedicated To Roses (manhwa)

Oresama Teacher (manga)

Yankee-kun to Megane-chan (manga)

“Catch You, Catch Me” – Demon Diary (manhwa) – 7/10 Tulips

“Do your duty today and repent tomorrow.” ~Mark Twain

Mangaka: Kara (art), Ji Hyong Lee (story), Yun Hee Lee (story). Soom Lee (story)

Genre: Supernatural/Comedy/Action/Shounen-ai

Review Status: Complete (7 Volumes/7 Volumes)

Licensed: Formerly licensed by Tokyopop

Art: This is pretty typical shoujo art, especially for manhwa. Bowever, it looks nice and the panels flow quite well, so I have no problems! Especially since clothing and facial expressions are quite well-done.

Summary: Gods and demons wage a never-ending battle with the mortal realm as their battlefield. As is the case with most longstanding feuds, the reasons are no longer important- hatred has become a way of life. But it’s said that one will arise to restore harmony between gods and demons. Enter Raenef, heir to demon royalty, though he is hardly courtly material. The demon king assigns the wise and noble demon teacher Eclipse to whip him into proper demon shape. Raenef is the black sheep of the demon court, clueless about magic and royal etiquette. But before long, Raenef and Eclipse find that the bonds of their friendship grow stronger than the student/teacher relationship. (back cover of 1st volume)

Review: I had assumed Demon Diary was a companion to another manhwa, Angel Diary. I was quite wrong- this is completely seperate and an excelent story on it’s own. Better, actually, than the aformentioned Angel Diary. This brings together an eclectic cast of characters in ways that are pretty funny, if sightly contrived- a female bounty hunter that joins as a guard to save her own skin, a young priest who has the power of a god flowing through his veins (but a short temper and overzealous desire to prove himself) that needs calming before he becomes the head of the priesthood, and a young girl that simply wants to meet the new Demon Lord. And, of course, there’s Eclipse, a dark, brooding mentor that’s charmed by his new master’s bright smile, and Raenef, a carefree young demon that has a great skill for magic, but only wishes to be happy.

The main plot is to whip Raenef into shape. He is embarassingly polite and nice at the Demon Lord meetings, there’s no will for destruction in him, and he prefers to make shadow puppets with his powers than deadly aura blasts! It seems like there’s no hope for him, and as his friends gather around him one by one, things are only looking worse, with them having fun and getting into the occasional bit of mischeif. It’s not all lighthearted, though; all of the characters show bits of their dark pasts, why they are the way they are. For the most part, the focus is given on the young boy priest, who is key to some of the later plot.

What really is nice is that none of the characters are really skimped on or given the shaft. Something that really caught my attention is how the bounty hunter is treated- in shounen-ai, girls aren’t that nice, or really more than caricatures. Here, she’s treated well and even given a love interest! And it’s another Demon Lord, to boot, who comes to test Raenef and his skills. At about volume 5, things get more serious. The new Demon Lord tests Raenef, and things from Raenef’s predecessor come back to bite him. Things don’t look good for him at all, with a personality change and someone coming back from the dead to finish unfinished business. Unfortunately, this really doesn’t work as well as it should, with time travel, convoluted plot twists, and deus ex machina. It just doesn’t feel really planned-out, like the mangaka was in a rush to finish because they knew the story was going to be cut.

But for all that, the first few volumes were really a treat! I highly enjoyed all the hijinks and jokes that were going on, and can’t say enough about the characterization. This wasn’t the best, but it’s something that I would definitely read again.

Overall, it’s funny if a bit of a letdown at the end – read for the friendship, leave the rest alone.

Recommended: 12+. There’s the implication fo slaughter, and some slight minor language, but that’s it. Even the romane that’s blooming between Eclipse and his new master really isn’t ever overtly stated, just implied.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Kuroshitsuji (anime or manga)

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