Category: Yen Press

My Girlfriend’s A Geek!!

Manga a bit more feminine in nature seems to be the theme for this week, and whether it’s the crazy high school sci-fi hijinks of Haruhi-chan, the butt-kicking martial arts mayhem of Sumomomo Momomo, or the folklore-filled wisdom of Spice and Wolf, there are new volumes to satisfy the part of you that was left hungry after last week’s stream of shonen bad-assery. Though it’s not always the case, one of the nice things about manga is that there are so many with interesting female leads that are actually written by women, which lends itself to more realistic, less stereotypical lady characters. Say what you want, but it’s probably a good reason that there’s a larger ratio of girls who read manga as opposed to mainstream American superhero comics. So, in an effort to prove that I also read things that don’t have giant robots, form-fitting space suits, or alien invasions, I’m going to expound upon some of the stuff that’s perhaps a bit more… uh… frilly.

Like My Girlfriend’s A Geek, the third volume of which hits our shelves this week. Ladies, any of you who have ever felt like you were alone in your insane hobby of reading tons of manga (deciding it’s super gay) and then collecting tons of toys and doujinshi while you fervently churn out a Bible-length fanfic on that thing, fear no more: This manga was written for you! It’s not just fanboys who can pant and mouth-breathe heavily at the mere sight of something they’re hardcore nerdy about, here’s the proof that girls can be just as bad! The hilarity is probably found most in understanding otaku culture (in particular fujoushi culture — that is to say, yaoi fangirl culture), but that’s the target audience, so whatever. Join our confounded hero Taiga, who has finally met Yuiko, the girl of his dreams, only to discover she has a dastardly secret: she’s a raging otaku! Taiga’s sure he can handle it for the love of his life, but little does he know what he’s signed up for. It’s not long before he’s been manipulated into installing dating games onto his computer and writing a yaoi fanfic for his lady, who is the sort that seems more interested in imagining him in some kind of tryst with his best bro than keeping him for herself. This behavior sounds almost terrifying, the stuff of nightmares, except for the part where it’s about as real as your face and the pimples on it. Not that anyone writing this article might be of that ilk. No, that would be absolutely ridiculous….

Ahem.

Not that all manga chicks are rabid, crazy fangirls. Some of them are rabid, crazy martial artists instead! Like in Sumomomo Momomo, an action comedy that revolves around Koushi Inuzuka, once the son of a great martial arts clan, now a peaceful law student instead. Too bad that Momoko, the last daughter of his family’s rival clan, has set her eyes on him: her biological clock has gone off and she needs to bear a strong, male heir to carry on her family’s bloodline ASAP. Sumomomo Momomo (the title is a spoof of a Japanese tongue twister about plums and peaches) is definitely in the shonen genre, so it’s not quite so lacy and frilly, but it’s still, at the end of the day, a pretty entertaining romantic comedy about the trials and tribulations of courtship. It’s always a nice change to see a story where the girl is the one persistently questing for the affections of a guy (instead of mooning over him hopelessly or being an unattainable tsunade sort), and what’s nice about Sumomomo Momomo is that Momoko’s personality is balanced pretty nicely between Chun Li-style ass-kickin’ and shy, blushing bride. (Warning: moe alert!) The manga feels a lot like Ranma 1/2 in that respect, but such a comparison is never a bad thing!

So give it up for the ladies of manga, and find the perfect girlfriend today!

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KANEDAAAAA! TESUOOOOO!

By Shannon H.

Despite all the great titles coming out this week, Black Butler Volume 5 and 20th Century Boys Volume 14 among them, there is only one thing to talk about at the moment, and that’s Katsuhiro Otomo’s infamous Akira. At long last, after almost ten years, all six volumes of the most epic manga ever have finally been reprinted by Kodansha, which is glorious mostly because it means I don’t have to lend out my Dark Horse copies from back in the day anymore.

I remember my first experience with Akira, back when you were lucky to find maybe one or two mangas at any given bookseller. (God, I feel so old.) I’d heard whispers of it on my obsessive, youthful quests to find out any and everything about this thing called ‘anime’, mostly because the movie is so iconic and hard to miss when looking into the history of Japanese animation. So when I stumbled upon the firstAkira graphic novel, I thought that I should look into it, even though I had yet to see the film and didn’t know much else about it than it was supposed to be super violent and awesome. I brought the book home and began to read: by the time the week was out, I had purchased all six books and was forcing myself to pace myself through the epicness so that it wouldn’t ever have to end. (Pro Tip: watch the film of Akira before you read the manga if at all possible; otherwise, the movie is just damn disappointing, and that is not something you should ever have to think about it, because it is a very important one to see.)

Then Akira vanished. Continue reading

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Light and Fluffy Time!

By Shannon H

Fanboys, rejoice! This week is so crazy chock-full of moe, the cute might actually kill you. So just make sure you take the proper precautions before you start reading. You have been warned.

I believe I have already written an in-depth expose about why The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is the best thing to have come out of Japan in a while and that you should be all up on it, but that isn’t going to stop me from flailing over the fact that we’re getting Volume 8 of the manga this week.

In case you aren’t in the know, the Haruhi franchise is one of the biggest things in Japan, which is unsurprising considering how well it blends a truly thought-provoking sci-fi story with tons of pop-culture and slice-of-life. This particular book begins to follow the fourth light novel of the series, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, which is also the plotline for the amazing and epic feature length film that came out last year. In a nutshell, our cynical hero, Kyon, wakes up one morning to discover that no one has ever heard of the SOS Brigade or Haruhi Suzumiya! Yuki and Mikuru act as though Kyon is a stranger, and Koizumi’s entire class has just outright vanished! The resolution will blow your mind, promise. Continue reading

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The Awesome-ness of Haruhi Suzumiya!

Any Joe Schmoe on the street could tell you without question that Harry Potter is a publishing phenomenon, but if you asked him about The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, he’d look at you like you were a crazy person. While Pottermania is perhaps a whole other monster, it’s still no small feat that the Haruhi light novels managed to sell over 4,300,000 copies in Japan alone. Finally (albeit a few years behind the bandwagon), we are getting the full taste of all that is Haruhi here in the States, and it’s about damn time!

So far, there are nine Haruhi novels and soon to be ten, four of which have already been printed in English. The books follow the (mis)adventures of the SOS Brigade, a ragtag after-school club that was created by the beautiful but eccentric Haruhi Suzumiya. The purpose of the club is to unearth paranormal phenomenon such as the existence of aliens, time travelers and espers, which, unbeknownst to Haruhi, are exactly the sorts of individuals that populate the rest of the brigade. The reason for their presence creates a sort of chicken-and-the-egg scenario, since Haruhi is also the unwitting creator of the world that we live in, and they have come to make sure that Haruhi remains content with the way things are so that she doesn’t end up re-imagining things to fit her ridiculous whims. But are they there because they were sent, or has Haruhi’s desire to meet aliens and the like exactly what drew them to her in the first place? Apathetic skeptic, Kyon, the club’s lone normal member and our cynical narrator, isn’t too sure he believes a word of it, but whether he likes it or not, he’s been sucked up into the Haruhi whirlwind, and it is doubtful he’s going to be let off any time soon. Continue reading

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New Manga Releases Jan 2011: Yay Books!

By Mat K.

The long drought is over. And hopefully the beginning of February will prove as fruitful in manga releases as the end of January, but we have quite a few bits of awesome in this week regardless. After the last 3 weeks of single digit releases, this time we’ve got a couple dozen showing up.

The first major “want” this week is the series premier of High School Of The Dead written by Daisuke Sato, and drawn by Shouji Sato. I know people have been catching wind of it online and bugging out over not being able to fulfill their needs via American publishers, mostly I know because the otakus have been raining down on me. In case you’re unfamiliar with the series it has hot girls and zombies in high school. A mysterious illness is spreading rapidly through the halls of Fujimi High School. In a matter of hours the campus is transformed from a place of learning into a hive of nightmares as the infected students collapse and are reborn as flesh-hungry zombies. Only a handful of students escape the initial outbreak, but how long can Takashi and the other students hope to survive when the whole school, and maybe the whole town, is out for their blood?

Next up on the list of awesome, (and believe me I struggled internally about which to write up first), is Black Butler Volume 4. Honestly, the popularity and speed in which the manga are selling are rivaling the initial Death Note obsession, though I think mostly with the female population. In book 4 Ciel, Sebastian, and Lau investigate a case where British citizens returning from India are attacked, stripped, and hung upside down outside Indian pubs in London. They are helped by the Indian Prince Soma and his butler Agni who are searching for Soma’s servant Meena. Although Agni is human, he is on par with Sebastian’s fighting skills. Their quest will take them into the home of Lord West and pit them against the villain in a curry contest. Continue reading

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Manga For A More Mature Reader

By Mat K.

There are quite a few sensual books coming out, from the final volume of Sundome, to the sexy vampires of Dance In The Vampire Bund, to a fair amount of yaoi, which is always sexy to some degree. So let us back up for a second to Sundome by Kazuto Okada, the most underrated popular series in the store. This series is definitely rated R since it starts with a boy and a girl in high school, and the girl basically takes a dominatrix role in the boys life, controlling him and teasing him with out ever any follow through. In the final volume Kurumi’s frequent absences stretch into weeks, Hideo goes to her apartment to check on her, only to find the object of his shameless passion curled up and in tears. Hideo is only too happy to comfort Kurumi however he can, but even his fond caresses cannot heal the illness that is slowly stealing her away.

Don’t get me wrong, not everything this week is sexy, there are a few things on the complete opposite end of that spectrum. For instance, Yotsuba &! Volume 9 finally came out. You can’t get more non-sexual than a super cutesy green haired little girl going on adventures intent on enjoying all the little things in life that we take for granted. So you know you know how Ena has a stuffed bear named Juliet? She’s so pretty, and Ena makes dresses for her and stuff and Yotsuba really wants one too! So daddy took Yotsuba to the bear store! They have big bears and little bears, and all kinds of bears! You have to hug’em to find out which one’s the bestest! But they’re all so cute! Does Yotsuba really have to pick just one? Yeah, cutesy. Continue reading

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Kuroshitsuji: One Hell of a Butler

by Shannon Hochman

Imagine for a second that your entire family was murdered and you were presented with a chance to seek revenge. Would you do it no matter what the cost? Would you pay with your soul? Ciel Phantomhive did, and for the price, he’s gotten top-notch service. Mysteriously reappearing after the fire that took his parents, Ciel takes his place as the new Earl Phantomhive, a butler named Sebastian dressed all in black at his side.

So is the premise of Yana Toboso’s manga Kuroshitsuji, or simply Black Butler for those who are not familiar with the Japanese title. The story chases Ciel and Sebastian as they take Victorian England by storm, tearing through the underworld that soils the Queen’s empire in search of the ones that destroyed Ciel’s childhood. Playing off his demonic talents as the expected duties of a good butler, Sebastian gives Ciel the upper hand in this quest as they combat everything from Jack the Ripper to Ciel’s obnoxious fiancée, Elizabeth.

The appeal in Black Butler obviously lies mainly in the Faustian relationship between Ciel and Sebastian, who both have their own dark motivations that tie them together. But more so than that, the dark, intriguining story is balanced incredibly well, easily transitioning from flesh-ripping action for a well-placed laugh or a sentimental moment, keeping this manga in the nebulous realm that hovers between shonen and shoujo. The artwork is also a treat, and though it is not quite as tight as your typical shonen title, it hits the mark when it needs to. Toboso does not take any shortcuts when it comes to drawing action scenes and doesn’t shy away from backgrounds or detail. If anything, sign on for the incredible Victorian era wardrobe, which is authentic enough to place the period, but modernized with a flair of Loli-Goth that is rather fitting for some of the story’s darker tones and the stuff of cosplay fantasies.

The manga is now being printed by Yen Press and definitely worth checking out, even if you have already seen both seasons of the anime (the first of which is being released in North America in early 2011). The manga’s story goes in a completely different direction than that of the anime, much like Full Metal Alchemist. Though already popular on the convention circuit, it’s clear that Black Butler is on the cusp of exploding onto the mainstream scene, so be sure to jump onto the bandwagon quickly so that you can say you were there before it was cool.

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