Manga Manga!

Some manga I've read and what I think of them. In alphabetical order, just because.

Chibi Maruko-chan by Sakura Momoko

An autobiographical manga that focuses on the author when she was a little girl. At first glance, the cover doesn't look much and the artwork is too simple and childish. But after a while, the story sucked me in and I found myself even appreciating the simple lines of the art, which suit the childhood scenes very well. Usually the first half of the manga is about the author at a certain age (seven years old, I think... I don't remember ^^;;) while the second half contains stories about her at various ages. There are also some free talk kinda thingies in which she tells us about stuff (such as how her favorite pastime is digging her ears - one of the most sublime feelings in the world, apparently). Some of my favorite stories are from the third compilation, such as this lovely story about Momoko moving to Tokyo to live on her own for the first time. Kaasan goes with her to help her settle in. As they eat dinner together, Kaasan says that she will leave the next afternoon, but Momoko tells her to stay until she gets home from work. Kaasan says, "Momoko, I never thought you'd live in Tokyo... If you're a comic artist, you could work from Shizuoka... From tomorrow, you won't be by my side anymore, what will happen to me?" In the middle of the night, Momoko wakes up to see Kaasan ironing her clothes for her first day at work tomorrow. Tears come to her eyes but she says, "The light is too bright, I can't sleep!"
This manga has been made into an anime series.

Dear Boys by Yagami Hiroki

Basketball manga about the hero Aikawa Kazuhiko who joins Mizuno (in Kanagawa, same setting as Slam Dunk) and becomes their star player. I just read a few issues of this manga before I got bored of it. The story is not compelling enough to sustain my interest and the art, though pretty, is kinda - stiff, I think.

Getbackers by Aoki Yuya and Ayamine Rando

Two teenage boys, Ginji Amano and Mitoban, are gifted with special powers - Ginji has jolts of electricity shooting from his hands (reminds me of Jubilee (X-Men) and Benimaru from King of Fighters ^^), and Mitoban has an evil eye with illusionary powers that last for one minute. They call themselves "Getbackers" and profess to be able to get back anything that has been taken (hey, how about helping me get back my fifty bucks from Jenny... hey Jenny, you readin' this?!). The art reminds me a bit of Togashi Yoshihiro's (my gawd, Hiei has another twin!!!) and there are fan service galore (for those horny fanboys, not us horny fangirls, sorry ^^).

Inuyasha by Takahashi Rumiko

About a girl, Higurashi Kagome, who falls down a well (my, isn't that original! ^^) into the past - Japan during the Sengoku Jidai (period of warring states). She meets up with the title character, half-dog demon Inuyasha, and eventually go on a quest together to collect the scattered fragments of the Shikon jewel. Along the way, they meet up with unlikely allies - a cute little kitsune (fox spirit) named Shippou, lecherous monk Miroku, boomerang-toting Sango, and a walking, talking, bloodsucking flea, among others. There are also a lot of interesting villains in this story, such as Kikyou (finally, a compelling female villain!); the main antagonist, a really evil half-youkai named Naraku; and Inuyasha's half-brother Sesshoumaru, a full youkai who hates humans with a passion. I had never been a fan of Takahashi Rumiko's art, and still am not, but if I ever doubted her ability to draw bishoujo (beautiful girl) and bishounen (beautiful guy), well, I take it back ^^. Kagome is a very cute heroine (especially in issue 2) and Sesshoumaru is one of the most lovely bishounen I've ever laid eyes on ^_^ (of course, it helps that he's a villain). You know, at first I was under the impression that Takahashi's female characters were all the simpering, whimpering type, but I was wrong. She actually writes strong female characters, such as Ranma-chan, Nabiki and now Kikyou. It's her heroines who are the simpering, whimpering type. ^_^;; Okay, so maybe not, but her heroines always need to be protected by the hero. Or almost always, at any rate. Other works by Takahashi are Ranma 1/2 (which has gained a huge following in the States), Maison Ikkoku, Urusei Yatsura and Mermaid's Scar.

King of Fighters Kyo by Natsumoto Masato

Based on the 2D fighting game series King of Fighters, the hero is, of course, Kusanagi Kyo. The story revolves around him and the relationships he forms with the people around him - his father Saishyu, his girlfriend Yuki, teammates Nikkaido Benimaru and Daimon Goro, fellow tournament participants Asamiya Athena and Kensou Sie, and rival Yagami Iori. The art is okay (you can tell that the author's favorite is Kyo from the way s/he draws him ^^). The story also delves into the past of the Kusanagi's and Yagami's, and how the blood feud between the two clans developed. I'm kinda surprised there's no sign of Shingo, seeing as how he's Kyo's student and all. This series is only four issues long and has been made into a role-playing game of the same title.

Rurouni Kenshin by Watsuki Nobuhiro

The art is great, the story gets repetitive after some time, but the characters are wonderful. All of them come alive in day-to-day interactions and little oddities that add to their personality. As with most mangas, I like the supporting characters better than the main ones. Kenshin's a nice guy and all that, but dammit, he just preaches too much. Aoshi, Saitou and Enishi are much cooler ^^. Notice how they're all villainous - or at least villain-type - characters. And Kaoru's sweet and funny, but I like Misao better. Misao's one of the most wonderfully-portrayed female anime characters ever - all the charm of Usagi but none of the ditzy-ness and bumbling idiocy. And she and Aoshi are so sweet together ^^. However, this is one of the rare instances when the anime is better than the manga, at least IMO. The anime is definitely one of the most well-crafted I've ever watched - beautiful colors, smooth animation and great character designs.

Slam Dunk by Inoue Takehiko

This is, obviously, a basketball manga. Normally I stay away from sports manga like the plague. But this is very, very good. The hero is Sakuragi Hanamichi - brash, loud, macho, and something of an idiot ^^. He has the dubious honor of having been rejected by 50 girls in junior high and now falls head over heels for Akagi Haruko, whose older brother is the captain of the basketball team. To impress her, Sakuragi goes and joins the team though he knows zip about basketball. He proceeds to meet the other main characters in rather... violent ways. Rukawa Kaede joins the team the same time Sakuragi does, though unlike Sakuragi, he has prior experience in the sport and is hailed as the "super rookie". Haruko worships the ground he walks on but he's oblivious to her. Miyagi Ryota is a second-year player who has to find ways to compensate for his lack of height on the court. He's in love with Ayako, the team manager, and though she does not seem to overtly return his feelings, it's less hopeless than Haruko's crush on Rukawa ^^. Mitsui Hisashi is a third-year student who was MVP in his first year, but because of a knee injury, has been away from basketball for some time. Akagi Takenori, Haruko's brother, has the unenvied job of keeping this band of misfits together. They're the main characters, comprising the Shohoku b-ball team, but the manga is chockful of other colorful characters, mostly from rival teams. Each character in this legion of characters has their own quirks and individual personality. Sendoh Akira from Ryonan is, arguably, the greatest player in Kanagawa and maintains a healthy rivalry with Rukawa, but unlike Rukawa, basketball to Sendoh seems more a hobby than his all-encompassing oracle. In the Inter-High championships, it is through remembering what Sendoh has said to him that Rukawa manages to beat Sannoh's ace Sawakita Eiji. There's a host of other characters in this manga that is equally fascinating and immensely likable. I think this is one of the most appealing aspects of Slam Dunk. This is just about the only manga I've read that I like all the characters in it. The relationships that are formed are subtle and are cliched in a very nice, novel way ^_^. There's your typical hero-chasing-after-girl routine, but Hana-kun is so obviously adorably in love with Haruko that I found myself rooting for him (rare thing, this). At first I thought Haruko was going to be one of those pretty, dim anime females, but she gradually matures as the series progresses. Her crush on Rukawa, which seemed so shallow in the beginning, evolves into genuine fondness and admiration. Her reaction when she sees Rukawa struggling on the court against Sawakita just tugs at your heartstrings. And she finally seems to be perceptive towards Sakuragi's feelings! And then there's the rivals scenario between Sakuragi and Rukawa, which may seem cliched as hell, but the dynamics of their relationship are the highlight of the manga, I think. The storyline goes through Sakuragi's introduction to the team, the Kanagawa district championships, and finally the Inter-High competition. The basketball action is fast and exciting, but watch out also for the gradual development of the characters and the slowly-forming relationships between them. This is a wonderful manga. The art is really great, I just love how Inoue draws expressions! For the stereotypical guy there's tons of basketball action to look forward to, for the stereotypical girl there's lots of very cute guys in shorts ^_^. The story is simple and again, employs a lot of cliches, but the execution is so flawless that it's forgivable, really. By turns funny, inspirational and sad. This a wonderful manga. Oh, did I say that already? ^_^
(added May '00)

3x3 Eyes by Takada Yujo

I read this a long time ago... lessee if I can remember some of it... A girl from Tibet, who is the last of an extinct race of beings who have a third eye on their forehead and possess the knowledge of eternal youth, comes to Shinjuku in search of Yakumo, the son of one Professor Fujii. In their quest to make Pai (the three-eyed girl) human, they travel to Hong Kong and get embroiled in all sorts of adventures. I have two problems with this manga. One, the portrayal of the Chinese (all of whom who, for some reason, have slanted eyes and pointy ears, among other things) and two, excessive fan service! I know fan service is inevitable in mangas, but... doesn't mean I have to like it.

WildHalf by Asami Yuko

Sweet, heartwarming tale about a boy and his dog, who just happens to be able to turn into a "wild half", a half-dog, half-human being possessed of supernatural powers. And quite bishounen too, I might add ^^. The boy, Iwase Taketo, works in a pet shop called Luna, and he and his "wild half" Salsa gets into various adventures, often involving other "wild half's" like Ginsei (my fav character) and Wolf. I think this is a very, um, wish-fulfilling kind of story. I mean, isn't it every kid's dream that their pet could think and talk and become, in every sense of the word, their best friend? I remember wishing the very same thing when I was a kid. Seventeen issues long.

Yu Yu Hakusho by Togashi Yoshihiro

The hero, juvenile delinquent Urameshi Yuusuke, dies in the first issue of the manga. He is killed in an auto accident when he saves a young boy from the path of an oncoming car. After his death, he is met by Botan, spirit guide for the Reikai (Spirit World) who gives him a chance to come back to life because it's not his time to die yet. To cut a long story short, he comes back to life and begins to work as detective for the Reikai, his job being to investigate and take care of demonic activities in the Ningenkai (human world). He gains the ability to focus his ki and use it in an attack called Rei-Gan. He's joined by his former-rival-turned-friend Kuwabara Kazuma, fire demon Hiei and fox spirit Kurama. If I'm not mistaken, their first assignment as a team is to go against the four animal gods, Suzaku, Byakko, Seiryuu and Genbu. After that the next big storyline's about the rescue of Yukina (Hiei's sister) and the Ankoku Bujuutsukai (Dark Tournament - the Urameshi Team goes up against some demons). This storyline takes up the bulk of the series and is nothing to shout about. Later, in the Sensui story arc, the art gets better and the dialogues more interesting. Sensui Shinobu is one of the more interesting villains in YYH (and the twisted Dr Kamiya's one of my favorites ^^) and the story gets darker and more complex. The last couple of issues revolve around the Makai Tournament, a fighting tournament to decide who gets to rule the Makai (demon world). This introduces some great characters that should have been given more attention, but the manga ends before that could happen. Two of my favorite issues are the first and the last. I cried buckets when I read the first issue - the story about the badger and the old man is especially touching. This manga is nineteen issues long and has been made into an anime series. Other works by Togashi Yoshihiro include Level E and HunterXHunter.

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