“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)

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“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)

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