“Lying Eyes” – Lying Mii-kun And Broken Maa-chan: Precious Lies (manga) – 10/10 Peeps

Mangaka: Hitoma Iruma (Story), Satou Atsuki (Art)

Genre: Mystery/Psychological/Romance

Review Status: Complete (1 Volume/1 Volume)

Licensed: No, this manga is unlicensed in the U.S.

Art: This is very much a modern manga, with clean lines, good shading, and solid detail when needed on the characters and background.

Summary: The setting is a rural city in which a kidnapping and a series of murders are happening simultaneously, where there was also a kidnapping 8 years ago. The victims, the compulsive liar “Mii-kun” (the narrator), and “Maa-chan” (Misono Mayu) reunite and start living together, despite of the fact that the kidnapped children were in Mayu’s apartment… (MAL.net)

Review: If you can’t tell by the title, this is all about lies. The lies we tell others, the lies we tell ourselves, all the lies that we can fill our lives with. This is told via an unreliable narrator, so not only do the characters lie (and lie, and lie some more), but each chapter reveals how we assume things about how stories work and shows us how wrong we can be about what’s happening. It’s a brilliantly executed idea, letting the story reveal in bits and pieces what’s really happening and never letting on about it from the beginning.

The characters are as engaging as the method of storytelling. This revolves around two missing children. Who took them? Why? It turns out that there’s a whole lot of trauma and terror behind the events. The names of the characters should also be major hints of what’s happening – Maa-chan is broken by a horrific past. It’s no secret that the police have their eyes on her because of it. Mii-kun ends up her accomplice, lying to protect her and himself. Lies are a powerful force in this story and often drive their motives and actions. The lies they tell also end up revealing a lot about them (doubly surprising since lies are usually meant to hide things) and what is going on between these two.

This is a story I would happily pay someone to translate the light novels for. This manages a compelling story about two characters that are broken, twisted human beings, driven to actions by forces that were beyond their control and in some ways are still unable to stop. Top that off with managing to upset the normal form for storytelling in a clever – nay, ingenious – way that connects with the title, and I’ve found a winner!

Overall, this is a manga that I can’t help but recommend!

Recommended: 16+. This deals with some very, very harsh themes. Child abuse and murder are the order of the day. There’s nothing particularly gruesome shown, but the implication is more than enough. There’s also a good deal of blood shown even if the outright violence is avoided as much as possible.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Liar Game (manga)

Kimi no Knife (manga)

“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)

“Innocence Lost” – Lament of the Lamb (manga) – 9/10 Desks

If you don’t believe in ghosts, you’ve never been to a family reunion.  ~Ashleigh Brilliant

Mangaka: Kei Toume

Genre: Drama/Horror/Psychological/Supernatural/School/Romance

Review Status: Complete (7 Volumes/7 Volumes)

Licensed: No. It was formerly licensed in the US by Tokyopop.

Art: This starts out with a few color pages in the beginning of each volume. These are lovey, looking like oil pastel pictures. The pages themselves have a vaguely charcoal sketch look to them, which works because there’s a strong art theme through the series.

Summary: The members of the Takashiro family share a terrible curse — they have a thirst that only human blood can slake. Sent away after the death of this mother, Kuzuna Takashiro has long been blissfully unaware of his ‘condition.’ When Kazuna’s teenage hormones begin to rage, his uncontrollable bloodlust suddenly rears its head … (Source: Tokyopop)

Review: This manga treads a fine line between Slice-of-Life and Horror, and that is a line that very few manga manage to tread successfully. Actually, this is the first manga I’ve encountered that does it well. This weaves together a story of twisted love, familial ties, and isolation to create a very compelling story of a tragically ‘cursed’ family.

Kazuna, our main protagonist, is also the object of affection for a girl in art club. She’s a bit of a loner, but sweet, and he’s vaguely attracted to her… at least, until he discovers that he’s got as much of a craving for her blood as he does for her. He’s horrified and has no idea why he has this craving and proceeds to reject everyone from his life. That is, until he goes on a search for his past and discovers a long-lost sister who reveals that his condition isn’t unnatural; it’s a disease that’s been hidden in the family and passed down through the generations. Not only did the aunt and uncl who were taising him know about the possibility of him having it (though since it rarely appeared later in life they had reason to believe he’d never come down with it), but there is also no cure.

Thus begins his exploration of what it means to be a monster. He isolated himself and is determined to live out his life as someone who has no reason to do anything or be anyone. He sees it as his only option. From the outside, his family and friends try depserately to tell him that he’s not alone. Even though they don’t know what exactly is wrong with him, they still want to be his friends. His family might also know what’s happening, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t love him nonetheless.

Enter his sister. She’s dark, enigmatic, and knows exactly what her fate will be. She knows how horrific their past is, even within the tragedy that haunts their immediate family. A father, driven mad by the loss of his wife, made his daughter the number one woman in his life. A mother, drvien mad by the curse that haunted the family. The idea that the illness might be merely the warped desires of warped consiences. The inability to love those outside the family. Kuzuma may be the main character, but his sister is truly the driving force of the story. She’s at the crux of his desires to leave, and unable to offer any hope for the future. The only thing opposing her is a man who she’s unable to bring herself to care for as more than a friend and the art student who’s vying for Kazuna’s heart.

There are very few ways for a story like this to end, and the slow march to it becomes clear at the halfway point. That hardly ruined my enjoyment of the story, since this is really more of a character study than anything else. These really are some broken characters that I felt for. At the same time it’s fascinating to see how societal pressure also explains a lot of why Kazuna and his sister feel about their sickness, not just the familial alone, though the traditions of centuries also weigh on how they deal with certain issues. That combined with the character’s psychology – and this really made sure to let you into their minds to see how they thought and felt about issues – really just made this story what it is.

Overall, this is very mild on the horror and is heavy on the tragic. It’s not Dracula, but it’s certainly a good take on the vampire theme!

Recommended: 16+. There’s an implication of incest between their father and Chizuna, and possibly between the two mains. There’s a few panels where you see the dead body of the mother, where she attempts to kill her daughter and where she’s lying under a tree. The most you see is some blood.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Monster (anime and manga)

Koi Kaze (anime and manga)

World Embryo (manga)

“A Shocking Conclusion” – B-Shock (manga) – 1/10 Desks

Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance. ~ Oscar Wilde

Mangaka: Junko Nakano

Genre: Romance/Comedy/School/Seinen

Review Status: Complete (4 Volumes/4 Volumes)

Licensed: This manga is unlicensed in the US.

Art/Animation: Eh. Typical manga art. I really wasn’t that impressed. Both th characters and backgrounds are very undetailed, and could be replaced with Generic Manga Character #2. Nothing really stands out.

Summary: “B-Shock!” is mostly a screwball romantic comedy, a showcase for Nakano’s wry sense of humor that does not often show in her work in “Young You”. However, “B-Shock!” is also a shrewd commentary on the relationship between the upper and working classes. As much as the Japanese pride themselves as being a homogeneous society, there still exists economic “haves” and “have-nots” as in all industrial societies. What would happen if you force together two people from different social strata who would normally not give each other even a passing glance? (Manga-Sketchbook)

Review: I can have a harder time connecting with romantic comedies from a guy’s point of view, simply because I’m not a guy and still don’t understand quite how guy’s minds work. However, there are certain standards of comedy that I think both genders can enjoy. Instead, this goes for a raunchier attempt at romance which manages to fail hard on a number of levels.

The premise is that a normal guy, Arata, is at college and in love with a girl, Hatsune, from afar. One day, a wacky professor decides that for the heck of it, he’s going to connect them via electronic bracelets; should they attempt to move outside of a safe range (for most of the series it’s one meter) then they’ll be blown to bits! This is where the first misstep is – the idea that physical violence (DEATH) can inspire romance between two people. It’s not improbable, otherwise there wouldn’t be Stokholm Syndrome, but these two can live and work in the outside world. To boot, they aren’t allowed to tell anyone about the situation or they’ll be killed remotely.

I’m not against having two people trapped together and developing feelings for each other. My issue is how this is executed. There are the standard issues for when they’re stuck together, like how they navigate going to the bathroom. That was good for a few chuckles, but wasn’t anything new or interesting when I’ve seen tsundere romcoms. A lot of elements were pretty similar. It was the same case for how they navigated living in the same room.

What caught my attention and was different from the norm was how they had to deal with not being able to tell anyone what was going on. This meant Hatsune was forced from her family’s home under the shame of the assumption that she’s not a virgin anymore and therefore spoiled goods. While that was unbelievably insulting – no woman’s value should EVER be determined on her sexual experience alone, and Hatsune was the smartest girl in the school! – it still made for an interesting situation when they had to find work to support themselves. Often, how a student does so is glossed over or assumed to be taken care of by the parents. This plot twist left Hatsune without any money, and because of their inability to be farther than a meter apart, Arata couldn’t keep his original job. Trying to find one that they could do together was honestly the best part of this manga!

That doesn’t make up for the rest of it, however. This goes for blunt ecchi comedy, including discovering Hatsune’s father in the midst of an affair, Arata almost being seduced while Hatsune was in the same room, and the repeated use of rape as comedy. That’s right, rape is supposed to be funny and/or alluring. The first time they go to Arata’s room he makes a move to have his way with her, even though she’s not hot on the idea. Who would have guessed that she wouldn’t want to have sex with a complete stranger?! Around the middle of the series he seriously considered making a move on her while sleeping and she’s depicted as liking it even though she didn’t want it. It is never disputed, and the only reason he decides against it is simply because she doesn’t want him in the same room. Appalling? YES. Ever so much.

It repeatedly goes for objectifying women sexually, not only in how Arata treats Hatsune (and how the rest of the family treats her, to boot), but with the side characters as well. One member of their group is trying to create the perfect sexbot and constantly is asking Arata and Hatsune about their sex life in order to create a better one. Another one has absolutely no moral compass of his own and marries Hatsune’s rival merely because he took her virginity (supposedly. He thinks so, and the rival uses it to get him to marry her). There’s no actual love in their relationship and that is disturbing on so many levels. Hatsune’s father? Has affairs because he can’t get it from his wife. The sexual shennanigans are simply appaling because there’s no romance behind it and no reason to like these characters. They’re all in it simply for their own self-satisfaction and personal goals! Seeing them doesn’t contrast against Arata’s and Hatsune’s relationship and shows how much better it is – it highlights why so much of it is so wrong.

And in their relationship there are lewd daydreams and a horrifically contrived romance. It feels more like she falls for him simply because she doesn’t see any hope of ever being let out of the cuffs than anything else. And the worst part about of all this? The whole reason behind the experiment and why they were chosen is never explained! There’s no rhyme or reason to what happened other than a mysterious island laboratory and an explosion that leads to the disappearance of the scientist that cuffed them… and the only person that knows why he did what he did. It’s the dumbest, most contrived ending that I’ve come across in a long time. Between the completely unfunny jokes, the lack of explanation for anything, and the unbelievably offensive attempted rape, I am appalled that this ever was printed! It was a complete waste of my time to read it.

Overall, don’t even bother.

Recommended: 18+. This has plenty of partial nudity and suggested nudity, plus at one point the mains work at a love hotel… where they catch Hatsune’s father in the middle of sex.

Other titles you might enjoy:

ANYTHING else.

“A Star Above Me” – The Star of Cottonland (Anime) – 9/10 Sunflowers

Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.  ~Albert Einstein

Genre: Slice-of-Life/Fantasy

Review Status: Complete (1 Movie/1 Movie)

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

Art/Animation: This does look it’s age a bit, with character designs that are more 90’s than anything, but the animation is just fine

Dub Vs. Sub: There is no dub.

Summary: A kitten is picked up by a young man, and she lives daily life in wonder and love of her new family.

Review: Chi’s Sweet Home, move over! This takes a different, more fantastical look at a cat trying to find a home and family than Chi’s does, but is no less heartwarming or sweet. We see the world through Chibi-neko’s eyes, and to her cats look like smaller versions of people, which makes her think that when she gets older she’ll turn into a human and gives her slightly romantic feelings to the man who takes her in and brings up some interesting conflict in the family she’s adopted into – the son, who’s looking for something to really live for, and his mother, who’s both allergic to and afraid of cats.

This really knows how to tug at your heartstrings from the very beginning, where Chibi-neko is starving, but no one can take her in or even realizes how hungry she is. She’s saved by a boy that has been through troubles that have taken all the fight and spirit out of him. Chibi-neko gives him that, which makes his mother willing to tolerate the cat – wanting to tolerate the cat, even going so far as to beg her husband to let it stay – but unable to love the cat herself.

Chibi-neko’s life becomes full of everyday adventures, from going to the park, to meeting other cats, to shennanigans in trying to become human. It’s charming, low-key, and sometimes outright laugh-out-loud worthy! But things can’t stay the same forever. She still remembers her old owners, and the attention and affection of her owner is taken by a lovely young lady. To boot, a mysterious Persian cat is being pursued by a local cat collector, and that Persian wants her to go away with him and travel Japan. A mix of conflicted feelings over her owner’s new girlfriend and a desire to know who she is leads her on an adventure to find Persia, and in turn, herself. She finally comes to peace with the fact that she’ll never be human, and becomes content over her life. And in turn, the turmoil in the home comes to a head – and one of the most touching scenes happens between Chibi-neko and the mother.

The dark part to this stoy is that mortality is dealt with in order to show her how misguided her feelings toward her owner. The mysterious Persian shows her the dessicated corpse of another cat to show her what happens to cats when they get old enough. She is brought into a confrontation over her own desires to be with her family – how she can be with her family – and later, the Persian disappears (dies. It’s pretty firmly given that he’s dead though it’s never stated). But even though it’s direct and blunt about this, it isn’t done in a gruesome or obnoxious way. It’s very sensitive to how shocking and terrifying facing mortality can be, and there is comfort found later in the series.

Overall, this is an adorable but rather deep story of a cat finding herself.

Recommended: 10+. There is a minor scene where Chibi-neko is taken to see the dessicated corpse of another cat, but it’s not a graphic, gorey scene though it could make younger viewers anxious. There’s another scene where she’s gotten out of the house and doesn’t know where to go to the bathroom, and she’s directed to a nearby bush. This is not poop-joke fodder, nor do you see her going or anything like that – it’s simply taken as a fact of life. Some parents might also be put off by how an older cat takes an interest in Chibi-neko when she looks like a child, but it does bear in mind that animals age differently than humans, and you see the difference between her (at 2 months) and another cat who’s 5 months old, and he clearly is a teen verging on adulthood. She’d age similarly quickly, and it’s made clear the older cat is interested in her as an adult.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Chi’s Sweet Home (anime and manga)

“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)

“My Eyes” – Eien no With (manga) – 10/10 Belleflowers

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.  ~From a headstone in Ireland

Mangaka: Saya Miyauchi

Genre: Slice-of-Life/Drama

Review Status: Complete (1 Volume/1 Volume)

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

Art: This has a more sketch-like feel than other manga. The dogs are very well-depicted, very realistic, but the people tend to be in a more typical manga style.

Summary: Hitomi has always felt lonely, having had to move from place to place because of her father’s job. One day at school, someone comes in to talk about raising guide dogs, and she volunteers for it. But one day, she has to give him up…

Review: I admit it, I’m a bit jaded about dog stories. I’ve had to read enough of them growing up, from Where The Red Fern Grows, to Old Yeller, to Julie of the Wolves and Sont Fox, that I come into these expecting a certain type of ending (and if you know anything about these books, so do you!). So it takes something special to get to me these days, and Eien no With did it!

Hitomi wants nothing more than friends, but having moved around so much, she has never really been able to make them. She’s shy, doesn’t know how to approach the others, so jumps on the chance to get a dog. The system seems perfect – since she and her family will only be living in the area for two years, and they don’t know where they would be living after that, the one-year program to raise and socialize the dog fits their family. The dog she takes on is the runt of the litter, afraid of the others and not really feeding. She takes on a lot of responsibility to raise Eye, really pushing herself to be the best friend she can be.

It’s rewarding to see that she is rewarded for her persistance in finding that this opens up friendship venues… a mixed blessing, because she has to learn how to balance friends with her pet. Eien is very much everydog, loving her unconditionally, waiting for her when she doesn’t come home, and still wanting to be her best friend. Watching them have to part at the end of the chapter was heartbreaking because their bond felt as real as any I’ve ever seen.

This also makes the next two chapters especially heartbreaking. Eien eventually must retire, and Hitomi has to deal with the knowledge that he was someone else’s beloved companion for a long time. She doesn’t understand how they could bond and how she could be forgotten so easily, and when she loved Eiein so deeply it’s easily to understand. Regardless, they share one thing: a love for Eien. Watching the bond between the new and old owners grow and blossom into something more was incredibly well-done and really felt like it happened naturally, and so seeing them rejoice and take comfort in each other when it becomes clear that Eien is at the end of his life – no matter how hard they fought for him – brought a few tears to my eye.

Eien reaches an end that a good number of dogs do, but he really made a lasting impression in his owners, and seeing that change really was wonderful. Eien’s portrayal was also top-notch and something that made me hope for him as much as the characters did. It is a great story, and a unique one on the way it deals with the issues of blindness and working dogs, so I really respect this manga for doing something different with the dog-story that I normally read.

Overall, I couldn’t be happier with how this was written. It’s top-notch.

Recommended: Any age. There’s nothing objectionable in here, and many families have had to teach their kids about euthanizing a pet.

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Watashitachi no Shiawase na Jikan (manga)

Deep Love – Pao no Monogatari (manga)

“Fighting Chance” – Samurai Girl: Real Bout High School (manga) – 5/10 Pencils

Mangaka: Seiji Saiga, Sora Inoue

Genre: Romance/Action/Comedy/School

Review Status: Complete (6 Volumes/6 Volumes)

Licensed: No. It was formerly licensed by Tokyopop.

Art: Typical shounen art. Reminiscent of Full Metal Panic!, but nothing aprticularly special.

Summary: In a school where martial arts are standard curriculum, Ryoko Mitsuragi, the Samurai Girl, is the top fighter and the most popular student around. This changes when the uncouth Shizuma Kusanagi transfers in from Kansai. He may not have the grace of Ryoko, but with his amazing fighting abilities, he could soon be the most dominant martial artist at Daimon High. Principal Todo encourages the rivalry between the competitors, setting up an exciting K-Fight trournament where even the teachers can join in and settle once and for all whos’ the top dog on campus. (back cover 1st volume)

Review: Samurai Girl manages to take most of my common complaints and turns them upside-down for a change. Instead of standard characters in a non-standard setting, it’s one non-standard character in a semi -standard setting! Ryoko is all about honor and keeping up appearances. She’ll fight to support those who can’t, and occasionally is challenged to fight because punks feel intimidated by her stregnth. Her goal is to uphold the ideals of the samurai, and for the most part she’s successfull… “For the most part” being key! She’s not perfect, which makes her more likeable. Prone to bouts of anger and irritations, especially when a guy shows up that knows just how to press her buttons, she’s not the strongest in the school nor in love with him – her romantic prospect is her cool and kind sempai from Kendo club. Shizuma, her new arch-rival of sorts, is loud, brash, easily tempted into fighting…. He lacks the characterization Ryoko gets, and even some that the side characters get. For a main character, that’s pretty pathetic, but he’s played off as Ryoko’s for-sure future love (someday in the future!) and gets a lot of page-time. It really brings the story down.

Thankfully, some of the side characters get a solid amount of characterization, from Ryoko’s sempai, who shows other interests, his motivations for teaching her, and is in love with someone else. The other big players are Aoi, a girl recruited to the school’s ‘Shinsengumi’ to help regulate fights in the school, and Willard, the antagonist who has a chip on his shoulder and a thirst for blood. He and Aoi have a connection between them because of their past, and Aoi has a need to defeat him because of the monster he’s become. Aoi herself is as strong as – or stronger than – Ryoko, and Ryoko looks up to her for a number of reasons. Unfortuantely, there are so many side characters that even some of the most important in the story get a good glossing-over or even seem fairly pointless, like Ryoko’s best friend Hitomi, who has no martial arts skills but goes to a school with k-fights, or the various other members of the Shinsengumi, who’s pasts are hinted at but never revealed with any depth.

So this series really focuses on only one character: Ryoko. And to get her to fight, there has to be some sort of fighting system in place, right? It’s a shounen series, so the answer to this is ‘yes’. The principal decides that if the fights in it are sponsored, then there will be less chances of illegal fighting, and it can be monitored and used to reign in the student’s violent streaks since everyone would know who won and lost. I’ll run with it, since crazier things have happened. But there really seems to be no purpose to it other than creating the basis for the *real* plot that’s going on behind the scenes – that illegal gambling has been going on. Though this plot is SO secondary to the gang fighting that Ryoko & Co have gotten caught up in that it’s negligible to anything else that’s going on.

To be truthful, there really isn’t big point here. It’s not about the K-fights, it’s not about the gambleling, it’s not about the gang fight against the psycho that that they get caught up in… Considering that it’s the gang fight that becomes the central plot of the main arc, this seems like a horrible oversight in terms of story! But the whole set-up leads to Ryoko and Shizuma fighting, which is both stupid and insensible since they both are on the same side. They both were fighting the same people. Yet for no rason, they are left alone at the end of the series, and they decide to have a serious fight against each other. I was left speechless at how out of nowhere it was and that nothing – absolutely NOTHING – is resolved by it! It was just apparently there to provide some sort of conclusion, no mattter how it happened.

Poor choice. This really ended up a very weak fighting manga, not really wirth the time I spent on it. It had some good moments, but enough bad ones to really balance that out. But I can’t honestly say that this was bad, which drives me up a wall.

Overall, this was a purely indifferent manga, and only worth it if all you need is someone getting punched to get a thrill.

Recommended: 15+. This has fights (obviously), so people get beaten up. There’s some innuendo when a guy says he’ll make two girls his love slaves. There’s some depiction of child torture, including when one boy is made to murder another (the body is off-page, but you see him shoot the gun).

Other Titles You Might Enjoy:

Angel Densetsu (anime or manga)

One Piece (manga)

Mahou Sensei Negima (manga)

Salaryman Kintarou (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)

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