Short Reviews #3: Manga, Manga, Manga (4 titles)

Del Rey, 2010, 276 pages, 978-0-345-52164-4, Paperback, $10.99

Genre: Manga/Fantasy

When I first saw volume twenty-eight of Tsubasa, my first thought was “Holy cow, that’s a doorstopper.” I expected to be reading it for days but, in truth, it was one of the quickest volumes of Tsubasa to complete. This was likely due to a lack of complexity. I’m accustomed to pouring over the pages of this manga for several minutes in an attempt to figure out exactly what’s happening, but the events in volume twenty-eight are relatively straightforward.

Amidst scenes of the final battle with Fei Wang, we’re finally given an explanation for the appearance of the older versions of Sakura and Syaoran. I’ll tell you now, it’s quite mind warping, and even veteran CLAMP fans might feel a little befuddled by the insanity of the temporal mechanics. Still, I’m glad for any sort of explanation at all. In addition, we get a vague inference as to Fei Wang’s true identity, and xxxHolic followers will receive a more thorough explanation for Yuuko’s disappearance and Watanuki’s decision to remain at her shop.

Ultimately, there is resolution here, though I personally feel that Syaoran and Watanuki got the short end of the stick. But at least everyone’s feelings were revealed, and there were no excessively tragic deaths (which, for CLAMP, is a step up, really…). The only dangling thread that I had hoped to see explained was the complete history between Subaru and Seishirou. I realize that they weren’t the focal point of Tsubasa, but understanding their background in this universe would have been a bonus.

Of course, the fact that Tomoyo’s curse on Kurogane never played a role, and the fact that Fai is still a vampire were both sort of…ignored altogether. I suppose I’ll just shrug it off, but in truth, I would have liked to have seen those details at least mentioned at the end.

I may potentially do an overview of the Tsubasa series as whole, at which point I’ll go a little deeper into the story, but we’ll see. In the meantime: Nice job, CLAMP. It was a supremely fun ride, if utterly confusing at times.

HONEY HUNT, vol. 6 by Miki Aihara
Shojo Beat, 2010, 192 pages, 978-1-4215-3789, Paperback, $9.99

Genre: Manga/Shoujo

Miki Aihara, the queen of relationship dramas. I never cease to enjoy her work.

In volume six of Honey Hunt, however, I admit to getting a little frustrated with the protagonist. Yura is out making bad decisions, all for the love of Q-ta, and I can’t help wanting to shake her just a little bit. Then again, it wouldn’t be a relationship drama if the main character knew better than to drop everything she was doing for a guy.

In truth, though, this was another excellent volume. The tensions are rising higher, particularly for those who are interested in Yura but unable to express their feelings. In the meantime, Yura is not only dealing with her relationship with Q-ta, but also with the return of her world-renowned father. Things become even more troublesome when he notices Q-ta and decides to do a musical collaboration with him (a cleverly arranged meeting that ultimately starts to backfire). Yura is now uncertain whether or not her recently official boyfriend will stay with her or run off to focus on his work while leaving her behind.

Then there’s Keiichi, who continues to lie to Yuri in his attempt to make her famous. Or is that really his motivation? The situation there is a little complex considering that he’s her manager and not unlike a father figure in his own way. Still, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t want to see Yura throw away all of her hard-earned notoriety over a guy. It would be a lot of ground to lose and potentially career-killing for a new actress.

I’m already eager to read volume seven. While part of me is curious to see what will happen if Yura continues with the decision she makes at the end of volume six, the other part is hoping she will come to her senses.

HIKARU NO GO, vol. 21 by Yumi Hotta & Takeshi Obata
Shonen Jump, 2010, 190 pages, 978-1-4215-2826-7, Paperback, $9.99

Genre: Manga/Shounen

I’ve been waiting for the end of this series since 2004, when I finished the anime and it left off right before this portion of the manga. Finally, finally, I’m able to learn the identities of the characters who, up until now, I’ve only known as Spiky White Hair and Arrogant Looking Guy (I would, of course, be referring to Yashiro and Ko Yong Ha).

Volume twenty-one gets closer to the end–only two more books to go–and reveals the ultimate decisions made regarding the Hokuto Cup finalists. The Japanese team is now complete, and they must ready themselves to face China and Korea in the competition. Meanwhile, Koyo Toya enters an amateur tournament in Korea as he continues to search for the opponent who disappeared along with Sai, and Shindo’s determination to win in the Hokuto Cup is only fueled further when he hears that Ko Yong Ha has been insulting the skill of Hon’inbo Shusaku.

This volume feels like a segue into the Hokuto Cup, and it’s certainly that, but I would say there are other, subtler things happening as well. For one, the storyline with Koyo Toya is a little morose for the reader, considering we know that Sai is gone and the former Meijin is waiting on someone he’ll never find. We also see Shindo give his mother (who supports his Go playing but knows little about the game) just the slightest bit of consideration once he compares his situation with Yashiro’s (whose parents find his Go playing a waste of time). I was glad to see that, minor as it was, since Shindo’s dismissive behavior toward his mother always irked me. I would like to imagine that Shindo is becoming a bit less selfish, but I may be asking for too much.

Volume twenty-two will be out in January, and volume twenty-three in May. The story is almost over, and I’m dying to see the result of the Hokuto Cup tournament. I’d like to think that Shindo can’t lose…but you never know.

Shojo Beat, 2010, 208 pages, 978-1-4215-3636-1, Paperback, $9.99

Genre: Manga/Gothic

Kaori Yuki is up to her old tricks again. Grand Guignol Orchestra is another gothic manga with early European flavor (in this case, French), though there are more than a few anachronisms and inserts that are, unquestionably, not part of the era (maid cafes and electric saws, for instance). But, as the mangaka says herself in one of the sidebars, she prefers an “anything goes approach.”

In this story, a virus is spreading that causes the infected to turn into…well…zombies. Those who are exposed to the pathogen–those who have been infected by the blood or saliva of the zombies and then proceed to transform into one–are called guignols, or “writhing dolls,” due to their appearance. Their joints swell, their skin hardens, their faces freeze, and they have wooden, doll-like movements. They also kill and eat people. Naturally, it’s all quite macabre.

The main characters are men of questionable reputation who form the unofficial royal orchestra. Despite claims to the contrary, their ultimate goal is to combat the guignols by means of their music (one quality of this virus is that it responds to particular sounds). In this volume we learn that not all is well between the members of the orchestra and the royal court. In fact, in the second story we come to better understand the mercilessness of the queen. Hints are given as to the relationship between the queen and the character Lucille (a male character, despite his name and appearance. It would seem that part of his training involved becoming highly androgynous), as well as to the contract situation that binds the other members of the orchestra to Lucille. Add to that the newest member of the group, who inserts a bit more humanity into the ensemble of dangerous men, and we have a manga with some potentially interesting stories and twists. And, of course, zombies.

One notable difference between this manga and, say, Godchild (which, aside from the French vs. English influence, and the whole zombie pathogen element, could be taking place in the same universe) is the insertion of humor. I can’t speak for something like Angel Sanctuary, since I’m not nearly far enough along in that series, but in Grand Guignol Orchestra, I noticed more comedic moments that serve to lighten the mood–and potentially distract from the danger posed by some of the main characters, but I digress.



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