Short Reviews #12: Manga Micro Reviews (5 Titles)

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MIRROR, vols. 1 & 2 by Jo Chen

Genre: Manga/Romance

Liked it?: Yes

Thoughts: I originally purchased these manga because they were drawn entirely by Jo Chen. Jo Chen is an artist who has done quite a lot of video game, magazine and comic book covers, such as the Runaways series, and I love her art intensely. So much so that I can recognize it a mile away. But I rarely see her do interior art such as this, and I needed to own this rare example. On that feature of the manga, I was in no way disappointed. Her art is beautiful, as usual, despite her concerns in the author’s notes about finding emotional expression difficult to draw (though I can certainly relate).

Regarding the main story, I enjoyed it. Though a romance–which isn’t my usual cup of tea–this story was subtle and spent most of its time allowing the characters to get to know one another after being thrust together abruptly. Both of the characters are down-on-their luck young people stuck in New York, trying to make money via not-exactly-legal means. Neither of them wants to be there now that their dreams of doing something with their lives have been quashed, and they end up running away from the city together.

I liked both of the characters. Neither of them was over the top, and they were both likable, but I honestly expected one of them to disappear in the middle of the night nerve to return. They both seemed damaged and flaky like that. But I can say, with pleasure, that the end of this story is a happy one if unexpectedly sudden.

The other short stories at the end of these volumes, not so much. There are three additional stories, one of which is a comedy, but which still has sad overtones. The second one, “Peggy,” was my favorite and was the story of a young man who falls in love with a girl over the internet. This girl, unbeknownst to him, is actually a boy in his class whom he doesn’t particularly like. But this boy, because of something that happened when he first arrived at the school, idolizes him and is doing all he can to be close to him. This story, as you can imagine, did not end well. I was a little heartbroken, to be honest, which made the following ghost story even more melancholy (though, let’s be honest, the ghost story was doing melancholy pretty well all on its own).

Overall, a very good set of stories. Not overwhelmingly memorable, perhaps, but enjoyable, and I intend to keep these volumes both for the stories and the art.

OOKU, vol. 9 by Fumi Yoshinaga

Genre: Manga/Josei/Alternate History

Liked it?: Of course! It’s Ooku.

Thoughts: I’ve reviewed more than one volume of Ooku, by this point, and this volume of the series is in line with my general love of the story. In volume nine (actually in volume eight, but he carries over into nine), we’re introduced to a half-Dutch, half-Japanese man who has come to the Shogunate to teach Holland studies (Western medicine) in an attempt to find a cure for the Red-Faced Pox. This character is humble and wonderful, and I enjoyed everything about him. Of course, I’m sure terrible things will happen soon . . . that’s just how the cookie crumbles.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Ooku without some Political Maneuverings among members of the court. There is a very angry young woman who feels that she should be in line to rule, and that one of the Shogun’s councilors, who comes from lowly beginnings, needs to be out of the picture. This girl is a ball of darkness and hate and, frankly, I think she needs some ice cream and a boyfriend. Or a kitten. They’re interchangeable.

My other favorite character in this volume is the woman who almost everyone thinks is a man (a guise that the character intentionally cultivates). This character is hilarious, abrasive, intelligent, and all around fantastic. She clashes constantly with the man who has come to teach medicine in the Shogunate, and they’re quite fun together. She also gets herself involved, rather accidentally, in the Political Maneuverings, and I expect that unfortunate things are going to happen soon as a result.

In general, another great volume of this series. I can’t imagine it ever ending, but I’m very, very curious about how it might come to a close eventually.

BLACK BUTLER, vol. 16 by Yana Toboso

Genre: Manga/Shounen

Liked it? Yes

Thoughts: This volume of Black Butler, much like the one before it, is one of those “in progress” volumes that is working up to a particular end. This one basically sums up the majority (thought not all) of the cricket tournament between the school houses, and Ciel’s attempt to be noticed by the school president (with the intention of being invited to the Midnight Tea Party).

In the midst of all this, we learn some interesting things. One of the most amusing is about Ciel’s father, who was a Very Manipulative Teenager. Ciel comes from good stock in that regard. Another is that Elizabeth’s brother really downplays his talents, but he’s got some really great skills. And of course, the one we all know, is that eating Bardroy’s cooking is taking your life into your own hands. Unless you’re prince Souma, apparently.

A solid volume, overall. I enjoyed the meeting of the houses and the families before the cricket tournament. Very amusing. The ending is pointing us toward our goal of meeting the president and finding out about that missing student. But I have a pretty solid suspicion about who the president is, so this may not be all that surprising to me in the end.

OTOMEN, vol. 17 by Aya Kanno

Genre: Manga/Shoujo/Romance

Liked it?: Le sigh . . . .

Thoughts: My thoughts on this volume are going to be even more concise than usual. Asuka’s mother is a horrible person, and I really can’t stand her. She makes me ill. And since this volume is all about her horrible machinations to make her son as miserable as possible and to separate him from every friend he’s ever known, well . . . I can do without this kind of disgusting emotional abuse, thanks. I’ll wait for volume eighteen and hope beyond hope that it’s a good ending to the series. Without his mother. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I hope Asuka runs away from her, never to return. It would serve her right.

NATSUME’S BOOK OF FRIENDS, vol. 15 by Yuki Midorikawa

Genre: Manga/Shoujo/Fantasy

Liked it? Yes.

Thoughts: This issue of Natsume’s Book of Friends was pretty standard fare. Not my favorite story, but a good one all the same. The most stand-out part of this volume, to me, was Natsume’s slip up regarding the Book of Friends. Now Natori is all curious and such, and that makes me nervous.

Frankly, I’ve never really liked Natori. Like Nyanko-sensei, I always considered him a shady guy. I was doing my best to give him the benefit of the doubt, but after he destroyed that note for Natsume in a previous volume, and now is having Natsume followed at this end of this volume, well . . . . Natori, I’ve got my eye on you.

I’m wondering if the author is going to do a switcheroo, making Natori a bad guy at some point and having Matoba come save Natsume or something. That would make me laugh. And cringe.

The short story about Natsume’s parents at the end of the volume was super cute and a little sad. I really love the Fujiwaras. They’re good people.



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