Short Reviews #7: New Manga Monday (4 titles)

GRAND GUIGNOL ORCHESTRA, vol. 3 by Kaori Yuki
Shojo Beat, 2011, 192 pages, 978-1-4215-3797-9, Paperback, $9.99

Genre: Manga/Gothic

The third installment of Grand Guignol Orchestra is, shall we say, frenetic. Every scene is packed with some kind of action or argument, and the pacing is fast at best…ridiculous at worst. In fact, The Manga Critic has written a–well, not scathing, but still strongly opinionated–review of this volume that takes its hyperactive frenzy to task. I have to say, I agree with that reviewer’s opinion. It’s asking a lot to expect the reader to keep up with one long action sequence without any kind of mental break. Even the resolution of the abbey arc didn’t offer much in terms of breathing room before jumping straight into the conflict at Duke Rhodonite’s mansion.

Despite the pacing, however, there were aspects of the manga that I enjoyed. Kaori Yuki takes the opportunity to throw one of her ever-favored betrayals into the mix. I can’t, however, say she didn’t warn us this time. There have been more than a few hints, both direct and indirect, that someone might turn eventually. There is also quite a bit of backstory in this volume–very little of which is Lucille’s, sadly–which often proved more interesting than the main plotline.

Volume three is an essential part of the series in terms of character history, I suppose, and if you can manage to get through the madness, you’ll most likely be able to appreciate that, at least. Or, if you happen to be a fan of Gwindel or Spinel it will be worth your while. My only question right now is–what use was Eles during this volume, exactly?

OURAN HIGH SCHOOL HOST CLUB, vol. 16 by Bisco Hatori
Shojo Beat, 2011, 192 pages, 978-1-4215-3870-9, Paperback, $9.99

Genre: Manga/Shoujo

Of the four new manga that I read this week, this one was probably my favorite. There is plenty of hilarity, as usual, as Hunny and Mori face graduation and each other on the battlefield. What made me laugh most about the story of their duel, however, was their fathers. Akira Morinozuka’s facial expressions, and his stories of Hunny’s tyranny over Mori, were hysterical as were Haninozuka’s assertions that the incidents were completely harmless.

Of course, not everything about this volume is humorous. Tamaki is finally given the opportunity to live at the main Suoh estate, but this privilege comes with costs of its own. Other characters might give into the pressure of the restrictions, but not Tamaki. He remains optimistic until the end. This new plot arc will likely be stressful for readers who have become used to the carefree atmosphere of the series. It’s an excellent leap for the story’s plot, however, and provides a new obstacle beyond everyone’s obsession over Haruhi.

Doubly entertaining in this volume are the two extra stories, the first about how Haruhi’s mother and father got involved, and the second about the twins’ grandmother. Both of them are amusing and expand upon the characters’ background (and now, can we have some Kyouya backstory? I’d love that).

NATSUME’S BOOK OF FRIENDS, vol. 7 by Yuki Midorikawa
Shojo Beat, 2011, 200 pages, 978-1-4215-3274-5, Paperback, $9.99

Genre: Manga

The newest installment of Natsume’s Book of Friends is yet another one-story volume and, as I anticipated, it introduces Seiji Matoba of the Matoba exorcist group.

This character, in my opinion, is extremely unlikable. Not that he’s supposed to be any other way–he’s obviously the cruel, heartless human with no regard for yokai to oppose Natsume’s compassionate and selfless nature–but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch him behave so mercilessly over the course of the story. By introducing him it appears as though the series is taking on new themes, trading in the loneliness and acceptance issues of the first six books for the greed and coldhearted self-centrism of human beings. Natsume doesn’t agree with Matoba’s actions and, for once, we see him and Mr. Natori aligned without any real conflict between. Natori is concerned for Natsume’s well-being. He knows Matoba and what could happen if he gets his hands on Natsume. He seems to be becoming a true friend and, perhaps, his stance on the issue of yokai will change as well. Guess we’ll see….

Of course, Natsume is all too aware of what could happen if someone like Matoba got his hands on the book of friends. That, I suspect, will be an upcoming plot point. The stake’s are getting higher for Natsume now that he has both human and yokai ties in his life.

This was a good volume, and I have high expectations for the story from here on out. In the meantime, don’t miss the hilarious game of yokai shadow tag in this volume’s extra story.

BLUE EXORCIST, vol. 2 by Kazue Kato
Viz Media, 2011, 206 pages, 978-1-4215-4033-7, Paperback, $9.99

Genre: Manga

To be honest, I’m half tempted to complain about Viz’s poor release schedule for their e-manga store instead of reviewing this volume properly. I had decided to purchase this series, in its entirety, through their iPad app, but since they couldn’t be bothered to have volume two available on the release date (and not even almost a week later, come to that), I resorted to purchasing it at the bookstore instead. So much for my attempt to give e-manga a try. If new releases aren’t going to be out when the book versions are out, it isn’t worth my while. I can understand that new issues of series like Otomen and Ouran High School Host Club aren’t out on the release date because, at the moment, Viz is catching up with back issues. But the only other volume of Blue Exorcist was out months ago. It only makes sense to get the electronic version of volume two out on time. Or, if not, tell people when it is going to be available. But that’s just me.

(Edit 2014: Having become an editor, myself, some time after writing this post, I now understand that ebooks–especially illustrated ebooks–are often not on the same schedule as the print book. For various reasons, they often take longer to convert, review, and correct. So, in reality, readers should be thanking Viz for taking the time to get their quality control right so they can give us a beautiful ebook version. Thank you, Viz. I do appreciate your hard work.)

Moving on….

Volume two of Blue Exorcist has its pros and its cons. On the one hand, we’ve got some development of the peripheral characters. We learn more about their personalities and a little about their history. We see Shiemi trying valiantly to make friends despite her shyness, and we get a little hint of Mephisto Pheles’s identity. Additionally, we get more information on the exorcists, including the different fighting options and how things work in the different styles such as arias (exorcists who fight by reciting verses) and tamers (those who fight by summoning and commanding demons).

What I found less entertaining was the squabbling. This is an example of a group of characters who have to learn to work together. And while they do that, the reader has to pretend to care as they spend time arguing and complaining and being general pains to one another. After reading book five of Harry Potter, I guess I got my whiny teenager quotient for the rest of my life, because I can’t really bring myself to put up with characters who are idiotically stubborn.

Luckily, however, the interesting parts of the manga are interspersed throughout the parts that try your patience. And there does seem to be a general push toward some interesting conspiracy-type stuff, so hopefully we’ll see something more along those lines in volume three. And also, perhaps, more Rin because there simply wasn’t enough of him doing anything interesting this time around.

With all that said, I will now admit to being just a little bit in love with this mangaka’s coloring technique. It was the cover of volume one that made me want to read Blue Exorcist in the first place, and something about the cover of volume two just leaves me in a puddle. I can’t decide whether to be jealous or inspired.

~

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3 responses to “Short Reviews #7: New Manga Monday (4 titles)

  1. Yay! Another Manga lover! I’ve been searching long and hard for manga reviewers and I found you. New follower 🙂

    ♥ Trish

  2. @Trish

    Hi Trish! Yes, indeed, I do love some manga! In fact, I think I need to read a few more pretty soon.

    Do you mean the RSS button? If so, it’s on the right side, down in the “meta” area. 🙂

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