Short Reviews #2: Chock Full of Manga (4 titles)

PET SHOP OF HORRORS: TOKYO, vol. 7 by Matsuri Akino
Tokyopop, 2010, 224 pages, 978-1-4278-1858-4, Paperback, $10.99

Genre: Fantasy/Horror/Manga

Naturally, anything to do with Count D is never not fun.

By volume seven, one of the most entertaining elements of this series is how Count D and Taizuu are having tea together and associating with one another like it’s no big deal. This despite the fact that they were at each other’s throats only a few volumes ago. Though, of course, when people comment on their being “friends,” they both get quite indignant about it (a manga trope if ever there was one). If you ask me, Taizuu is using his grumpy harassment of D as an excuse to come over.

My favorite story was probably “Dragon Hunter,” which involved an mmorpg style video game of the same name. Being a World of Warcraft player myself, I found that entertaining, particularly when D came out in his “gear.” Also, there was a cameo from Femto in this story! He was adorable, as always.

The other stories in this volume, “Decimate,” “Dupe,” and “Dhampir” were all interesting, though not particularly engaging for me personally. “Dupe” in particular just felt…long…even though it was the same length as the other stories. And, of course, they all ended on a bittersweet note. Anyone who has bothered to read the series for this long knows that’s a Pet Shop of Horrors trademark.

I think I’d like to see a few more D-centric stories. I’ve noticed that a lot of Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo focuses more on the people and creatures of the stories than on D. Which is perfectly fine, but one can’t help but prefer to see her favorite character in action.

NATSUME’S BOOK OF FRIENDS, vol. 4 by Yuki Midorikawa
Viz Media, 2010, 200 pages, 978-1421532462, Paperback, $9.99

Genre: Manga

The short version of my opinion on this series is “I hate this manga. It always makes me cry,” which is exactly what I said to my friends after I’d read volume four.

Of course I don’t really hate this manga. The fact that it can make me teary-eyed is more a mark in its favor. The themes that the series deals with–loneliness, loyalty, trust–are all well-handled in the context of the characters’ situation. In this volume, the story about the fox child was particularly moving to me. If I were Natsume, I would have taken him home. He was adorable.

I wonder how the mangaka will handle the future of the story–whether there will come to be more communication between Natsume and the family he lives with, or if he will continue to be a loner because he doesn’t want to trouble anyone. Further, his relationship with Shuuichi Natori is often contradictory, and his association with the yokai usually brings about interesting results. I can envision so many good things coming from this series, and I hope to see them fulfilled. I realize that the mangaka attempts to make each story stand alone, but there’s definitely a thread running through them for those who have been reading from the beginning.

OOKU, vol. 4 by Fumi Yoshinaga
Viz Media, 2010, 214 pages, 978-1-4215-3169, Paperback, $12.99

Genre: Alternate History/Historical Fiction/Manga

Ooku continues to be one of the most thoughtful stories that I’ve ever read, not to mention emotionally charged. The struggles forced upon people in the situation that the manga postulates are heartbreaking in many instances, and the results of those struggles are anything but happy. In my review for Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo, I used the word bittersweet. Much of what happens in this manga can be called bittersweet as well, but in a way that’s so, so much more realistic.

In this volume, the story progresses beyond the characters of Arikoto and Iemitsu and on to the next Shoguns, who continue to be female as the male population of the country fails to rebound sufficiently, and Iemitsu had no male heirs. Yoshinaga renders each of them quite differently, each with a different flaw and a different strength to her character. Slowly, we are drawing closer to the “present day” of the first volume.

The end of this volume suggests an interesting beginning for the next, as the current Shogun has unexpectedly appointed a newcomer to the Inner Chambers as Senior Chamberlain. She is well aware, I believe, that this position was always his goal, yet she does it anyway. I look forward to seeing how their relationship develops, and whether or not the Inner Chambers suffer as a result of his appointment.

(Meanwhile, my inner lit major wants so very desperately to write a paper on the gender issues in this series…).

KOBATO, vol. 3 by CLAMP
Yen Press, 2010, 161 Pages, 978-0-316-08541-0, Paperback, $11.99

Genre: Manga/Shoujo

Oh, Kobato. You’re adorable and hilarious and completely naive. It’s laughable at times, but it’s also what makes you so sweet.

But the jury is in. Kobato is more air-headed than Sakura. Though, to be fair, especially after catching up on Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle, Sakura was never so much air-headed as extremely good natured. Kobato is that as well, but one has to wonder exactly how sheltered she’s been all this time….

Volume three of Kobato sheds a little more light on the loan shark situation. His identity is not what I expected. In fact, it’s worse. But it certainly accounts for an interesting twist.

I find myself enjoying the drawing style of Kobato. It’s similar to CLAMP’s other styles, of course, but it feels almost sketchy. If you look closely at some drawings of the characters’ faces, you’ll see that the pupils of their eyes are rendered in circular squiggles (for lack of a better term). It certainly adds to the lightheartedness of the manga, and it’s blatantly shoujo to be sure.

In this volume, there are also further hints about the offense that got Ioryogi stuck in the body of a stuffed animal, as well as a few more moments between him and Ginsei. I’m still immensely curious about all of that. Hopefully there will be further hints in the next volume.

Cameos in this issue? Touya from Cardcaptor Sakura (he’s everywhere!) and Ushagi-san from Wish.



2 responses to “Short Reviews #2: Chock Full of Manga (4 titles)

  1. I definitely need to read Natsume’s Book of Friends! I’ve seen it in the shops a few times but never looked into it, but the fact it can make people teary eyed makes me NEED it. I love books that make me cry (as weird as that sounds :p)

  2. I completely understand! I mean, I don’t like crying as a rule, but if a book can make me cry, then they did something very right. Also, if you end up liking the manga series, you might try the anime, too. You can watch all four seasons on Cruncyroll. Oh, the feelz.

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