DRAWN & QUARTERED
Wilma and Jason’s
Every story has to begin somewhere. This seemingly obvious statement takes on added importance for manga fans. With what seems like umpteen gazillion series to choose from, several of which number more than 10 volumes each and rising, separating the good series from the not-so-good can be a gamble. At an average of $10 per volume, the investment can be rather considerable.
We've taken a look at first volumes of several series recently introduced to American readers ... hopefully, our first impressions will help in making decisions on whether to plunge into a series or leave it on the shelf. This time around, it's a Tokyopop roundup; join us again Jan. 28 for more series.
Young Cooro is what is known as a +Anima (that's "plus Anima") -- humans with animal-like powers. Cooro has black crow's wings and can fly. Like other +Anima, his abilities sprout only when he wills them to, so other people don't immediately know what he is.
After living in an orphanage, Cooro is now traveling to find other +Anima. The first one he meets is a surly boy named Husky, a fish +Anima stuck doing a mermaid sideshow at a circus. Despite Husky's sullenness, Cooro rescues the other boy, and the two of them go out into the wide world.
Wilma's take: Cooro's ultra-carefree attitude almost turns the book into slapstick comedy if not for the seriousness of Husky and the background stories of other +Anima. But his obvious concern for others tempers his silliness, while a couple of mysteries regarding the +Anima and Cooro are hinted at. If you can stand Cooro's bubbly eagerness, this is a series to read.
Rating (out of five stars):
"Because I'm the Goddess"
The goddess Pandora is sent to Earth to retrieve "gifts" that are enslaving weak-willed people. As a goddess, she's quite attractive (as well as quite, ahem, richly endowed around the chest), but she's also a bit ditzy when it comes to the ways of day-to-day life.
But there's a twist -- when Pandora uses her powers, she reverts to the form of a flat-chested girl. The only remedy? A kiss from Aoi, a boy who becomes her manservant partly by accident and partly because she wanted it to be so (much to the chagrin of poor Aoi, of course).
Jason's take: The cover, with its image of a scantly clad Pandora, leaves just one impression: "Buy me! Eye candy contained within!" The first few chapters don't do much to change that impression, either. And while the book hits its stride once it gets to the meat of the search for the "gifts," it's a struggle to overcome that first impression. While I'm sure the story gets better, I'm not really eager to take that chance.
"Rose Hip Zero"
Police officer Kyoji Kido was once a member of the elite Gaiji Division Four, but transferred to the juvenile division after his sister was killed in a terror attack in Paris. When the terror group ALICE attacks Japan, he's asked to rejoin his former division. The catch: He's getting a new partner -- Kasumi Asakura, a former ALICE member ... and a high school girl trained to be a killing machine.
Jason's take: Author Tohru Fujisawa was also the creator of another manga series -- "Great Teacher Onizuka," the story of a street thug-turned-teacher who had to deal with a class full of delinquents. In "Rose Hip Zero," Fujisawa has the makings of another thrilling, must-read series.
Eighteen-year-old Shima Yoshitsune is sole proprietor of the Anything Agency, which is advertised as an all-purpose agency. But of course it wouldn't be interesting if Shima took care of things like clogged drains, so this series of short stories focuses on mystery cases.
In the first story, Shima's client is male supermodel Kaori Suruga, 20, who's been receiving letters from a stalker. There is instant rapport between them, and Shima finds himself telling Kaori about his past while the model reveals a different side of his personality. After the case, Kaori insists on joining the agency, and thus "Anything, Inc." is born.
Wilma's take: There's a lot of sentimentality from the very beginning, somewhat unexpectedly, as this is usually the kind of soul-searching that's dealt with much later in a series. The cases themselves are typical fare, exploring the emotional impact on those involved and imparting the usual philosophical advice that comes from dealing with ordinary-people-turned-criminals in a desperate moment of weakness. Still, this book appeals to me as a lover of detective fiction.
And aside from certain, shall we say, relationship possibilities hinted at with the double entendre of the title, it'll be interesting to see these two work through their psychological issues as they support each other while solving cases.
A century ago, European vampire aristocrat Guilt-na-Zan was sealed away by exorcist Kyoeisai Yotobari. Now in Japan, Yotobari's descendent Kyoji resurrects the vampire -- into the body of a female wax doll.
In Guilt-na-Zan's new, cute form, his demonic magic that once summoned thunder and monsters now conjures flowers and teddy bears. But the most humiliating of all? It seems the main reason Kyoji brought him back to life is to be his maid. Now called Guilt-na, the bloodsucker spends his (her?) days donning the "Guilt-na Battle Apron" and scrubbing floors and serving meals.
Wilma's take: Yes, this story is as ridiculous as it seems. Even before the actual story, character descriptions at the beginning of the book politely ask for the reader's attention. For Kyoji: "Please read this book to find out how evil he is."
The sheer idiocy and contrasting elements -- for example, Kyoji's sister Tonae is as sweet as her brother is devious -- that pervade the story are funny enough throughout the first book. And Guilt-na-Zan's sensitivity gives him a strange depth that is perfectly in line with the rest of the series' stupidity.
Please read Volume 1 to find out how surprisingly enjoyable "Vampire Doll" is.