orange Vol.1-2 by Ichigo Takano: review

orangeorange Vol.1-2 by Ichigo Takano
Series: orange #1-2
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Shojo
Synopsis: In the Spring she was 16, Takamiya Naho receives a strange, but detailed letter from herself, ten years in the future. At first she thinks the letter is a prank, but then the things written in the letter actually happen, including the new transfer student that sits next to her in class, Naruse Kakeru.
The letter reads just like her diary entries, down to the same characters. It is not till two weeks later, when Kakeru shows back up at school, that Naho finishes the letter.

In the letter, her 27-year-old self tells her 16-year-old self that her biggest regret is that Kakeru is no longer with them in the future, and asks her to watch him closely.

My Thoughts:

The shojo genre is a great big ocean filled with manga. Some of those manga are like Kimi ni Todoke that breathes new life into the typical shojo love story and much of those manga are pretty unoriginal (but can still be fun). Orange is one of the former. It has such of a wonderful story with just the right amount of sweetness and bitterness. Actually, now that I look at the title, I guess it could be said that the story contains the same sweet and bitterness that can be found in an orange 🙂

Orange starts off with a girl named Naho receiving a letter from her future self, telling her that she has many regrets and that the one eating her the most is that Kakeru will not be with them in ten years. As Naho reads on, she finds predictions of events that will happen in the future and also some instructions to follow. Naho has a trouble believing that the letter is not part of some sort of prank, but slowly begins to believe in it after she finds out that the events that the letter said will happen actually do happen, including an event involving a boy named Kakeru transfering into her school.

Naho then starts trying her best to follow the letters instructions, though she is still a bit confused, and watches Kakeru closely. What follows is a memorable bittersweet story about a girl becoming more honest with her feelings, trying to stop a tragedy from happening, and maybe even falling in love a little on the way.

I think that one of the best aspects of this manga is that it so easily shifts from sweet with sad undertones to sweetness mixed with sadness. In the beginning the story has a sweet and delicate feel that made me just fall absolutely in love with it.

And then, only a few chapters in, orange hits you with some pretty sad stuff that made me tear up a little, even though I only knew the characters for only a short time. Really, the regrets that the future Naho holds inside her and the accident (that turns out to not be an accident: he committed suicide) that took Kakeru away is heatbreaking. But the story does still keep much of its sweetness and even adds in a heck of a lot of hope. Which means I was almost shaking because of all the emotions inside me.

The characters are also wonderful. Naho is a fine character that changes in subtle ways throughout the story. Her blunders are a little annoying but are understandable and I genuinely admire her for how kind she is. I can’t wait to see further development in her in the next chapters. Naho’s group of friends are very fun and have such differing personalities. I especially love Suwa. He is a great character and good friend.

Kakeru is, well, he’s a sweet boy. It really tugs on ones emotions when such a sweet kid has to go through such saddening things. I don’t think that I have got a complete picture of his character, though. But I think I can forgive this since only two complete volumes of orange are out. Also, I just really, really love reading about his relationship with Naho. Their friendship and blossoming love is so sweet.

The only complaint I have about the characters is the unnecessary mean girl character.

Run away, Sawako. RUN AWAY!

Ueda doesn’t have any purpose at all in the first two volumes (I say “in the first two volumes” only because she might have more of a role in future volumes) other than to bully Naho and cause drama. She doesn’t cause as much trouble as some of the typical mean girl characters in shojo manga, and she is normally caught before she does permanent damage, but it is still so irritating to see such of a refreshing manga use such of a boring trope.

Ichigo’s art is lovely and delicate. Her characters are drawn lovely and each expression on their faces clearly shows what they are feeling. If you want see some of her work just check out this tumblr site that is dedicated to the manga.

Orange is a manga that I really do love, and I can’t wait to read more of it. There are so many ways that the story could go and so many ways the characters could grow and develop. Unfortunately, the series is on hiatus. Ichigo has said that she will come back to orange and I hope she comes back soon. She has thought up a truly wonderful story that I can’t wait to continue reading again.

Oh, and thank you, Sawako, for guest starring in this review. Now that it is over, please run back to your own manga and do some cute stuff with your boyfriend 😉

Should I have not said that? Oh well.

Oyasumi Punpun Vol.1 by Inio Asano: review

おやすみプンプン 1Oyasumi Punpun Vol.1 by Inio Asano
Series: Oyasumi Punpun #1
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Mature Young Adult/Adult
Genre: Seinen, Humor, Slice-of-Life
Synopsis: Witness the titular Punpun – who is depicted as a tiny, caricatured bird in an otherwise normal human setting – as he copes with his dysfunctional family and friends, his love interest, his oncoming adolescence and his hyperactive mind.

My Thoughts:

Oyasumi Punpun is bizarre. This manga is a slice-of-life but it can get very surreal, strange, and even frightening. But it can also be very sweet, in a weird sort of way. I’m actually quite in love with this manga already. Bizarreness and sweetness are my two favorite things after all!

Before I say anything else about this manga, I must say this: I suggest that only mature readers pick up this manga. Oyasumi Punpun deals with sexuality, abuse, and even deals with religion a bit. Nudity is also scatter around. Also, Punpun’s hyperactive imagination, which is very surreal, can be disturbing. Seriously, there are actually a couple of panels that show dancing vaginas. 

Oyasumi Punpun is about the life of a little bird-looking character named Punpun. Punpun, while looking like a bird and has a family that looks like birds, lives in a human world. He lives with a dyfunctional family, goes to elementary school, prays to a God, and even has a crush, an eccentric girl named Aiko.

This sounds pretty normal, if you exclude the fact that Punpun is drawn as a bird. That’s the beauty of this manga– the fact that it is able to make seemingly normal things weird. It’s filled with surreal imagination, strange characters, and art that depicts emotion in a peculiar way. The story is a normal coming of age tale that is made bizarre just because of those three things. (Well, the story is mostly normal… something happened towards the end of the volume that just made me go ‘waaat?’)

But what makes Oyasumi Punpun so loved by me is the title character Punpun. Even though he is drawn like a bird, Punpun felt like a very real character to me. The way he goes through life, his reactions to things, and just the way he looks at the world as a whole is a pleasant thing to read about. Yes, his character is sort of sad, but it felt very dear.

We don’t get to see much of the supporting characters in this volume. Aiko is the only one we get a real glimpse at. Aiko starts out as a very sweet-looking girl who gives Punpun a quick kiss on the lips when he says he loves her. Although, after several chapters, the reader realizes that she may not be a completely sweet girl. She actually gives off a dysfunctional vibe when the manga allows a deeper look into her personality, in my opinion.

Along with the other aspects of the story, there is a fair amount of humor in this manga. All different types of humor, in fact. There is the fun kind of humor, the dark kind of humor, and the sexual kind of humor. I can’t say that I laughed much, but I did smile a few times.

The art is certainly something to be impressed by. It is beautifully detailed and perfectly fits the mood of the manga. The most remarkable thing about Asano’s art, though, is the peculiar way facial expressions are drawn. They are extremely exaggerated at times, so much so that they really etch themselves into your brain.

These frightening expressions were all because of a rock-paper-scissors game.

These frightening expressions were all because of a rock-paper-scissors game.

So, this first volume has gotten me really fascinated by this series, which seems to be very different from normal slice-of-life manga. And gosh, I am scared to say this, but I really love the facial expressions in this manga.

Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori: series review

Ouran High School Host Club Box SetOuran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori
Series: Ouran High School Host Club #1-18
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Shojo, Romance, Humor
Publisher: VIZ Media
Synopsis: Haruhi sticks out like a sore thumb as a poor, smart girl who got into the hoity-toity Ouran High School on talent alone. When she mistakenly wanders into the meeting room of the host club and breaks a valuable vase, she’s recruited to join the club. Realistic and sarcastic, Haruhi isn’t used to being around crazy people like the princely Tamaki, scheming Kyouya, silent Mori, immature Hunny, and devilish Hikaru and Kaoru, but she’s got no choice if she ever wants to pay earn what she owes. Too bad the club is made for girls to come and be entertained by gorgeous guys — and Haruhi’s been mistaken for a boy!

My Thoughts:

When I finished the last chapter of Ouran High School Host Club (a manga that will now be referred to as ‘Ouran‘), I started giggling like an idiot and crying like a baby. Giggling because the series is just too darn funny and crying BECAUSE IT WAS OVER! Ouran is unlike any shojo I have ever read, and after reading the manga through the wee hours of the night, spending time with the wonderful characters, it’s really hard to watch the story end. But really, I fell in love with this series and can’t thank Bisco Hatori enough for bringing it into the world.

The series opens up with Haruhi, a sharp and cynical “commoner” scholarship student, stumbling upon the Ouran Host Club, coming face to face with a bunch of rich, handsome guys, and breaking an expensive vase. And since the guys of the club had mistook her for a boy, they make her join the club in order for her to pay off her debt. Thus begins a story about a girl joining a club where filthy rich pretty boys with too much time on their hands entertain filthy rich pretty girls with too much time on their hands.

Middle of the bottom row: Haruhi
Top row, second from the left: totally a 17 year-old.

Ouran does sound a bit shallow, I admit, but at its core, it is a hilarious and adorable manga that takes a heck of a lot of joy in poking fun at things. Stereotypes, archetypes, cliches, random and sometimes absurd events, occasional serious moments, are all lovingly placed into one manga series. You really wouldn’t think that a person would make such a combination of things work, but Hatori did, quite beautifully. She adds a refreshing twist to everything, and makes fun of them, of course.

Most of the members of the host club begin as stereotypes, or at the very least, archetypes– you have the silly and stupid Tamaki, the mischievous twins named Hikarou and Karou, Kyouya who is a glasses-wearing guy that is always scheming, the stoic and silent Mori, and the childish, immature  Hunny (whose size fits his personality very well). You can pretty much describe their personalities with two words maximum. Which could have been extremely grating on the nerves, but the characters are all just so fun and cuddly that you absolutely love them anyways.

And then there is the fact that they are all given a massive amount of development throughout the course of the series. You get to see their backstories, learn their motivations, find out how they became who they are at the present, and even see that they are growing as people. They all eventually become a group of characters that are not merely made up of stereotypes and archetypes, all while retaining their original flare and ability to be made fun of.

Haruhi, the female lead, is not a stereotype or an archetype– but she could be called the exact opposite of the typical shojo girl. She’s blunt, cynical, sharp-tongued, and usually has a “what the Hell?” attitude toward whatever the club wants to do next. She’s awesome because of that and couldn’t help but adore her.

Ouran‘s supporting characters are also very fun and only add more life to the story, though the main characters give more than enough of it already. From the otaku Renge to the girls who are customers at the host club to Haruhi’s transvestite dad (who I give the title of Best Manga Dad Ever), the supporting characters are nearly as funny as the leads and can quickly get you caught up in the moment.

These characters and the chemistry between them all are wonderful. And their crazy antics are so very fun and entertaining to read. Whether they are charming girls in the music room, dressing up as girls to win back a girl, playing matchmaker, flying on a helicopter to Karuizawa so they could ‘save’ Haruhi, who was on vacation, creating a movie directed by Renge that only exaggerates their personalities even further or just turns their personalities all the way around, or trying to learn more about the lives of “commoners” so they can understand Haruhi better, they are hilarious to read about and I found myself laughing out loud more than a few times. And then there are the incredibly sweet moments that make you realize that the host club is like a family and that they really care about each other. Their antics and interactions relates reason alone to read Ouran.

The story of the manga is simple, as it is about the host club’s random antics and the character’s lives. The romance doesn’t even kick in until much later into the series and there isn’t much seriousness until the last volumes. But still, I was always craving to read more Ouran. This series is surprisingly addictive and my attempts at putting a volume in the series down rarely amounted to anything. The lively, colorful characters are just to hard to part from 😛 Oh, and I thought that the ending was well thought-out, even though it’s sad that the appearance of an ending means the manga is over. I liked that it ended on a happy and funny note.

Hatori’s art is nothing to write home about in the beginning. To be honest, since I watched the anime first, I was a little underwhelmed by it. But her art soon becomes quite astounding as it evolves. There is more clarity, the characters looks gorgeous (well, not when they are going all chibi on you, but yeah), and it is all-around fun to look at.

So, thank you, Ouran, for being so playful, funny, sweet, and adorable. Thank you for the wild ride that you are. Yes, you can be pretty weird and random, but hey, you’re Ouran and I love you because of that! Now… Please leave me be. I need to cry some more since I am having a really hard time accepting that you ended.

Attack On Titan Vol.2 by Hajime Isayama: review

Attack on Titan 2Attack On Titan Vol.2 by Hajime Isayama
Series: Attack on Titan #2
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Shounen, Fantasy, Dystopia
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: September 11th 2012

The Colossal Titan has breached humanity’s first line of defense, Wall Maria. Mikasa, the 104th Training Corps’ ace and Eren’s best friend, may be the only one capable of defeating them, but beneath her calm exterior lurks a dark past. When all looks lost, a new Titan appears and begins to slaughter its fellow Titans. Could this new monster be a blessing in disguise, or is the truth something much more sinister?

My Thoughts:

Reading this volume has pretty much sealed my extreme love for Attack on Titan. I’ve always heard that a manga can only get better after its first volume, and while I don’t think this is true for all manga series, it is definitely true for Attack on Titan. My love for the characters (especially the totally kick butt Mikasa Ackerman), story, concept, and art, which is improving, has only increased with reading this.

This volume mainly focuses on the character Mikasa–and wow, she is quite the character to read about. She knows how to handle the things happening around her, kicks major Titan butt, and is very much admirable. But what really impressed me was how strong she was throughout the entirety of this volume.

I mean, Eren is practically everything to Mikasa. He is what she wants to protect in the world that she believes to be cruel. I was actually pretty terrified of learning how she was going to react to the news of Eren’s dying in battle. And when I finally got to the panels that showed her reaction, I was astonished. Mikasa kept fighting and moving forward. She was still a mess, of course, who wouldn’t be after hearing about the death of a person who was a brother to them? But she tried to keep going, even when she started questioning why she was. It was a truly great thing to read.

Another highlight in this volume is the revealing of Mikasa’s past. Seeing the event that changed her from a happy little girl to the stoic teenager she is at the present was absolutely painful and shocking and very sad. Though it was also a little sweet since it showed how Mikasa and Eren met and bonded. Sure, they didn’t bond over the loveliest thing to bond over–quite the opposite of lovely: horrible blood and murder–but it was still sweet, not to mention that it added a huge amount of depth to the relationship between the two kids.

Isayama also delivers a great twist to the story that, while it wasn’t exactly unexpected, raises many new questions and possibilities for the story of Attack on Titan. And the way it was introduced is nothing short of excellent, filled with action, surprise, and some jaw-dropping Titan vs. Titan fight scenes. The only bad thing (that isn’t really bad) was that it caused the volume to end on yet another torturous cliffhanger that had me desperately scrambling toward the third volume.

There is a lot of pain, sadness, and dread throughout the volume. Even the smaller, less-important scenes contain those feelings. Which is clearly shown in a certain scene that featured a soldier committing suicide, right in front of his partners, with a chilling smile on his face. But there are also many scenes that show a light at the end of the tunnel. Scenes that are full of hope and excitement for the next good thing to happen. Even with all the talk about how the world is cruel and only the winners survive, the manga manages to show how beautiful the world can be at the same time.

My favorite aspect of the first volume in Attack on Titan was the perfect depiction of emotion, and this love continues in this second volume. Isayama has an obvious talent for translating emotion for the reader to feel with his art, the characters’ dialogue, and their actions. I really can’t stress enough about my lobe for this part of the manga.

The supporting characters are starting to feel more important in this volume, which is what I really wanted to happen. They are starting to become more than random characters to throw into the mouths of the Titans and actually leave themselves, not their deaths, in my memory now. The fact that they are developing only made my wanting to get to the third volume even greater.

Attack on Titan‘s second volume is a fantastic follow-up to the first volume. It gave me what I got out of the first volume and added more to it. My experience with the Attack on Titan series has been great and I have no regrets about picking it up.

Natsume’s Book Of Friends Vol.1 by Yuki Midorikawa: review

Natsume's Book of Friends, Volume 1Natsume’s Book of Friends Vol.1 by Yuki Midorikawa
Series: Natsume’s Book of Friends #1
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Shojo, Paranormal, Fantasy
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
Release Date: January 5th 2010
Synopsis: With friends like these, enemies are overkill. R to L (Japanese Style). Takashi Natsume can see the spirits and demons that hide from the rest of humanity. He has always been set apart from other people because of his gift, drifting from relative to relative, never fitting in. Now he is a troubled high school student who has come to live in the small town where his grandmother grew up. And there he discovers that he has inherited more than just the Sight from the mysterious Reiko.

My Thoughts: 

I’ve only read the first volume and Natsume’s Book of Friends has already warmed my heart. The plot that shown in this one volume volume is simple but still profound and meaningful. I would even say, even with the risk of coming off as too passionate, that this first volume itself could be called a masterpiece.

The story that is presented as of right now tells of the life of Takashi Natsume, a boy that finds himself in the possession of his grandmother Reiko’s Book of Friends. Because of that book, he is constantly being hunted by youkai who have had their names trapped in Reiko’s book and what them back (or, in some cases, visited and politely asked) of youkai that just want the Book of Friends. Natsume decides to take it upon himself to return the names in the Book of Friends to their rightful owners. This decision causes him to meet some fascinating creatures and people and learn their stories.

What I love most about this manga is the fact that each chapter has some form of meaning and sweetness weaved in it. Some stories like the ones about Swallow or Tsuyukami made me feel happy and sad at the same time. Some stories like the one about the youkai trying to escape the exorcist made me laugh. But each story has something to grab hold and reflect on, which is something that I truly loved and admire Yuki Midorikawa for being able to create such stories.

The mood that embodies Natsume’s Book of Friends is the aspect of the manga that soothed and warmed my heart. It’s very subtle but it gives off a very sweet and calm feeling. Sometimes all a story needs is a good mood to it in order to be well off, and while the first volume of Natsume’s Book of Friends can boast more than just having a good mood, the mood is definitely a reason why I loved reading this so much.

Natsume and Nyanko, the main characters, are pleasant to read about. Natsume mostly because I liked how ordinary he was compared to the strange youkai that are around him. The only thing that keeps him from being completely normal is his ability to see the creatures. Otherwise he is a regular boy who just lacks connection to other people, which he will hopefully gain throughout the rest of the manga. Nyanko is a funny character. He’s a youkai that desires the Book of Friends but also happens to have made a deal with Natsume to help him in return for breaking the seal placed on it. This leads to some amusing moments in which Nyanko pretends (or not…) that he is about to eat Natsume because the deal between them states that if Natsume dies, Nyanko will get the book. Nyanko does tend to embellish things, though…

Fear him!

The relationship between the two leads is an odd one, to say the least. I wouldn’t call them friends, calling them partners would be more suitable. But it is fun to read about the reactions between the two. It always makes me laugh whenever Nyanko will pretend to be preparing to eat Natsume (strange, the things I laugh at) or just irritating him a bit. And it always makes me laugh whenever Natsume gives the cat-like youkai a good bonk on the head whenever his fuse runs out. I would love to see the relationship between the two partners develop. Maybe into a friendship?

Reiko is an enigma to the reader, as she only appears in visions or memories. All we know is that she was a person who was distant from regular people and spent her days bullying youkai and taking their names. I am eager to learn more about her lonely character.

It would be a bit hard to talk about each supporting characters that are not Reiko all the way from their personality traits to their place in the story. That is because each chapter has a different supporting character to go with its new story. But it wouldn’t be hard to talk about them as a whole. To the fluttering, sweet Swallow to the kind, wise Tsuyukami, the supporting characters and their stories never felt unnecessary or boring. In fact, I felt a great amount of love for each one of them, despite the small amount of time I had with them.

Midorikawa is a real treat to look at. It’s very simple and pretty, fitting in with the tone and mood of the story. I love looking at the drawings of the youkai with their creative and sometimes beautiful designs.

Comparing the first volume of Natsume’s Book of Friends to the show Mushishi wouldn’t be to far off the mark. Both have a episodic story structure and handle supernatural creatures, this manga with youkai and Mushishi with Mushi. I loved Mushishi and have a very, very good impression with Natsume’s Book of Friends so far. I hope that this manga continue to be as lovely as its first volume!

Inu X Boku SS by Cocoa Fujiwara: series review (kind of…)

Just ignore these stupid covers…

Inu X Boku SS Vol.1-4 by Cocoa Fujiwara
Series: Youko X Boku SS #1-4
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Mature Young Adult
Genre: Shounen, Romance, Humor, Paranormal
Synopsis: The Shirakiin house’s daughter, Shirakiin Ririchiyo, who has a complex about being unable to live independently and unprotected, feels the need to move out and live on her own under the condition of residing in the mansion named “Ayakashi Kan.” In this mansion, only those who have cleared a very strict examination could reside in it, and for each resident, they are accompanied with one agent of the Secret Service (S.S.). Although Riricho has rejected the company of the S.S., while residing in the mansion she finds out that the agent dedicated to protecting her is actually the Fox Spirit whom she previously rescued.

My Thoughts:

I first found out about Inu X Boku SS because of the anime adaption, which aired last year. I was sort of enamored by the whole show so I decided that reading the manga wouldn’t be  a terrible thing to do, despite the suggestive and highly embarrassing covers. I’m glad I did. Inu X Boku SS is now one of those manga that I always revisit whenever I feel down and want to bust out laughing more than a few times.

Inu X Boku SS is far from being a perfect manga–so, so far–as sometimes the storytelling is a little messy and the paranormal aspect that is promised only shows itself a few times. But there is a certain loveliness that the series contains. The manga is funny, well-meaninged, and often times heartwarming, even with its flaws. Also, I consider the first four volumes as one complete series (hence the ‘kind of’ in the post’s title), since the mangaka decided to take a huge U-turn with the story (apparently, the first four volumes were only the prologue) and I didn’t like it very much.

The story opens up with Ririchiyo, a closed of girl with a sharp tongue, arriving at the Ayakashi Kan Mansion, a place for people with demons blood to reside, in hopes of becoming more independent and to escape her family. Unfortunately, it turns out that the mansion is filled with a bunch of weirdos, including an overzealous bodygaurd, that just won’t leave her alone. But strangely, Ririchiyo starts to realize that she might actually like them and even be breaking out of her shell.

I usually find that manga whose purpose is to make readers laugh tend to heavily rely on a simplistic premises and really, really over the top but easy to love characters. Inu X Boku SS is no different. It has a simple “I’m living with wackos and becoming a happier person because of it” story that is very flexible and characters that are extremely, well, weird and can still be loved. You can’t exactly complain about anything, unless you only like realistic characters, which you are SO not going to get here.

The residents of the mansion includes a pervy yet still awesome lady named Nobara, a quiet girl who can always be found munching on something (until she can have food, she wants food) and can turn into a gigantic skeleton named Karuta, a boy who is absolutely determined to be a bad boy, but just can’t do it properly, named Watanuki, a guy with bunny ears who is an endearing, random troll named Zange, a carefree guy who can turn into a freaking carpet named Renshounen, and a sadist who is obsessed with S&M named Kagerou. These supporting characters and their interactions with each other alone are enough to make a person laugh. And this isn’t even including the two main leads.

Ririchiyo and Soushi, her bodygaurd, are the spotlight of the series and are perfect example of the seriousness Inu X Boku SS can have of it wanted to. In the beginning, Ririchiyo seems like an anti-social person with a bad habit of insulting people but want to change and desires to be independent. I can’t exactly describe Soushi without making him sound like a complete creep… He is clingy, obsessive, and worships the ground Ririchiyo walks on. Simply put, he’s kind of a parody of all the clingy boyfriends out there. These two personalities often clash, normally causing hilarity to ensue.

She didn’t even leave him for a day.

In reality, though, the two are similar. Ririchiyo’s insults are part of an automatic defense mechanism (that she tries hard to change) that came to be because of the harsh bullying children put her through and the neglect from her family. Soushi, also bearing a bad childhood, had no self-esteem, zero self-worth, no emotions, and very vague sense of self, due to the terrible way he was raised, until he ‘met’ Ririchiyo. This is not only sad and gives extra depth to the characters, but it is also very unexpected from a romantic comedy manga. They will still make you laugh a lot, but you will always know that there is more purpose to them than just being comedic.

My favorite part of Inu X Boku SS is Ririchiyo’s story of meeting the people living in the mansion, befriending them, and coming out of her shell. They accept her for who she is and she accepts them for the crazy people they are. Her story is heartfelt and I loved it. Plus, the interactions she has with all of the residents are hilarious.

The romance in this manga is an aspect I am conflicted on because of the seven year age difference between Ririchiyo and Soushi, and Soushi’s… clinginess. I can’t hate the romance, though. The two really do help each other change for the better. So awhile I can’t say Soushi is boyfriend material (I think that many will agree with me), I wouldn’t say his relationship with Ririchiyo is unwelcome. There is also a little romance between Karuta and Watanuki, though it is mostly Watanuki blushing whenever Karuta says something sweet to him. It’s adorable and I totally ship them 😛

Fujiwara’s art is beautiful, with pretty characters and backgrounds. The only problem I have with the character designs, which are stunning, is the shortness of the teenage girls, Ririchiyo and Karuta. They aren’t so short that it is laughable, but compared to the most of the guys in the series, they look like preteens, which does make the relationship between Ririchiyo and Soushi, who actually looks his age, a little harder to accept. As a whole, though, the art is gorgeous and expressive.

Inu X Boku SS is one of those manga that I just can’t stop revisiting over and over. The comedy, characters, story, and art make it a lovely manga that will make you laugh, smile, and occasionally “d’awwwww” to no one in particular. It isn’t the greatest manga I have ever read, but I love it all the same. I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, since the comedy can get a bit sexual at times due to a couple of the characters being, well, perverted, and Soushi may rub people the wrong way, though I liked him.

Attack On Titan Vol.1 by Hajime Isayama: review

Attack on Titan 1Attack on Titan by Hajime Isayama
Series: Attack on Titan #1
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Shounen, Fantasy, Dystopia
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: June 19th 2012
Synopsis: What’s left of humanity survives in fear for their lives in this exciting, terrifying new manga that’s a number one bestseller in Japan. Humankind is down to just a few thousand people who live in a city surrounded by three concentric walls. The walls protect them from their enemies, the ravenous giants known as the Titans. The Titans appear to have only one purpose: to consume humanity.

For one hundred years, what’s left of mankind has lived in the city on earth, protected by walls that tower over even the Titans. Untouched by the Titans for a century, humanity has become complacent. But Eren Jaeger has had enough. While his fellow citizens are content to hide, Jaeger has the passion to take action to not only protect the city, but to learn what the Titans actually are. But on his first mission he comes face to face with horrors beyond his imagination… and secrets from his own past that could shift the tides of war.

Jarger and his friends are determined to survive. But everything about their situation is a mystery that only becomes more complicated the more they learn. Attack on Titan is a breathtaking debut from a young talent, and a phenomenon that is sweeping Japan! (Source: Midtown Comics)

My Thoughts:

I have always felt that the giants in fiction today are starting to become bumbling, stupid fools that just happen to be oversized and love destroying things, stripped of the fear they held around them a long time ago. So whenever I see this wildly popular manga series online or in the bookstore, I think nothing of it and pass by it. That is, until the anime adaption started airing this year and I saw the opening. And that opening was just so glorious that I just had to at least try out the first volume of Attack on Titan.

 (If you are going to watch the video shown below, I would really recommend watching it in HD mode and taking the time to read the english subtitles.)

After reading the first volume, I couldn’t help but think of myself as an idiot for ignoring this title. Hajime Isayama has completely went above my expectations with his portrayal of the giants, or titans in this manga. These monsters aren’t intelligent but they actually make that up with their extreme brute force and numbers, causing humans to go down in the food chain and become prey. The humans are constantly losing battles against the titans, losing hope, and losing dignity, later retreating inside a wall that is no more than a cage in humiliation, only to have it be broken down one hundred years later, right when the people inside it are starting to feel safe and peaceful . Hopefully the mangaka keeps writing the titans in this way.

There are always people who don’t like gore and nudity, so I feel the need to talk about how those things come into play in this manga… There isn’t much gore in this manga so far as I’ve seen in other manga, but there is definitely a lot of dead bodies shown and the necessary gushing of blood whenever a titan slaughters and eats a human. Although, manga is in black and white so I don’t think that this should take away someone’s enjoyment of the series. Also, while the giants are naked, they can’t reproduce sexually, meaning they don’t have sex organs (thank God). So for the people like me who don’t like excessive nudity don’t have to worry… Unless Isayama spontaneously decides to change that…

As of this first volume, my favorite aspect is the wonderfully realistic depiction of emotion that Isayama can write and draw. Screaming and crying isn’t just inserted, but is executed in a powerful way that made me want to cry also. Like that scene when the only surviving members of the scouting legion that come back from a mission outside the wall and a mother finds out that only her son’s hand is with them, or that scene when Eren finds his mother stuck under a pile of rumble that was their house before the titans broke through the wall, is carried away from her, and watches as she is killed by a titan. Both those scenes and others were beautifully executed in a way that only made it more terribly emotional.

The characters are great and I am really invested in their story of fighting back and survival. One of two male leads, Eren, does have the common motive of trying to avenge his mother’s death by crushing and killing all of the enemy and also has a desire to escape from the confines he is currently under, but it doesn’t matter if the motive is common in fiction if it is done well, and it is in this manga. Armin, the other male lead, is very weak and hates himself for that, ignoring all his other good qualities. Again, it has been done before but is written well. I’m really looking forward to reading about his growth. And like Eren, he also has a desire to escape from inside the wall. Mikasa isn’t at all like many other females in the shounen genre. She hasn’t had much page-time yet, but she is clearly a person who is tough and won’t be a damsel in distress.

Attack of Titan‘s current side characters are not exactly memorable and really only serve as characters to help out the main three and to get eaten. I’m not exactly a fan of this but it is kind of required as this manga is all about titans and humans battling. But this is the first volume, and If the side characters do get a more important role than their current one, my love for this manga is only going to increase.

Isayama also includes a couple of lovely pages that give information on how the wall was constructed and how the equipment the characters use to fight the titans work. It’s all very thought out and I appreciate that a lot.

The art is hand-drawn and it shows quite a bit. Not that that is a bad thing. The backgrounds are wonderfully detailed, as well as the characters. I do think that the body proportions are a little off sometimes, especially in the beginning, which is when the characters are children. But the flawed drawings of the humans are immediately made up for with how the titans are drawn. They are incredibly unsettling, many of them having mouths that are set into huge grins, never turning into anything else. The colossal titan is the most remarkable as it is literally only muscle, bones, and teeth.

Attack of Titan‘s first volume is an extremely good beginning and introduction to what the mangaka is able to do. If the utter brilliance of this manga continues, well, I dare say that it might be able to tie with Pandora Hearts as my favorite manga and might even beat it. I know that this might be too early to start assuming things, but I am seriously impressed. Also, that cliffhanger is freaking genius.

Book #1 in my Japanese Literature Challenge

Our Happy Hours by Gong Ji-young, Sahara Mizu: review

Watashitachi no Shiawase na JikanOur Happy Hours by Gong Ji-young, Sahara Mizu (art)
Stand Alone
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Adult/Mature Young Adult
Genre: Josei, Seinen, Romance
Release Date: First Pub. 2007
Synopsis: “I have something I don’t want to lose—
So much so that these terrible feelings have grown.”

A pianist who attempted suicide 3 times, Juri, is taken to help her aunt at a prison where murderers who killed indiscriminately are sentenced to death. There, she meets a man named Yuu who took the lives of 3 people. A mother’s antagonism–a brother’s death… Together they embrace the violent rebellion in their hearts caused by the large, deep scars they carry. However, before long, they both embrace an earnest hope in their hearts. “I want to live”…

An adaptation of a novel by South Korea’s most popular female novelist, Gong Ji-Young.

My Thoughts:

Our Happy Hours. I don’t think that there could be any other name more fitting. From the very beginning I knew deep inside how the story was going to end. All I had to hold on to were the fulfilling, happy hours that Juri, a former pianist that has attempted suicide three times, and Yuu, a man on death row who killed three people, spend together. And when it all ended, I was just left remembering the moments they had together.

I do admit that the premise can cause eyebrows to be raised. A story about a depressed woman spending time with a murderer every Thursday is not a story that many people would call sweet, romantic, or, in fact, normal. But in reality, this story is sweet, in its own tender way, and romantic, in its own hopeful way, and, for some odd reason, the story does feel a bit normal when one actually reads it. And to top it all off, there is a very apparent sense of standing in the rain-like sadness and melancholy lingering in the atmosphere of Our Happy Hours that one can not just shake off. It isn’t the in-your-face kind of sadness as you can put up a little umbrella made out of the happy hours…

It’s just that sometimes I don’t like an umbrella being in the way!

Juri and Yuu are both characters that are hard to write and pull off. Juri mainly because of her depression, which is a condition that takes research and understanding to effectively write. Yuu because, well, he had killed people before. And even though he regrets it enough to actually long for death, his actions are still almost impossible to forgive. But even so, Gong Ji-young writes these characters in a masterfully skillful and sensitive way.

Gong Ji-young really shows how fragile and vulnerable these two characters are. I had this extreme wanting to protect Juri and Yuu, though I knew that it was impossible since I am kind of in a different world than them. Their development, growth, and healing are painful and inspiring at the same time. Seriously, the two leads’ characterization is simply breathtaking.

The flow of the story isn’t slow yet it isn’t fast. It takes its time presenting the characters, their emotions, conflicts, and wants before letting everything take off. I actually wish that the pacing was slower so it would have taken less time to get to the ending.

Let me explain. The ending is painfully sad. The kind of sad that might make you cry, your tears streaming down your face and ruining your makeup. I knew all along that it was coming but it still hit me hard and devastating me. I didn’t even have a tissue box available! It was a perfect ending with notes from the piano and love , but still painful.

Christianity does have a role in Our Happy Hours. Juri’s aunt is part of the clergy and Yuu does study to get his Christian name. I don’t think that this caused the manga to be preachy in at all. In fact, the manga shows the flaws of the people in the clergy (without making an offensive portrayal, of course) and there were some underlying messages that a person, Christian or not, could listen to and learn from.

The art, awhile not the most fantastic thing about Our Happy Hours, flawlessly fits into the mood of the story as a whole. The delicate character designs and carefully drawn backgrounds make the art something really pleasant on the eyes to look at.

Our Happy Hours is an absolutely lovely manga that deserves to have its large audience. It is rare to encounter such a beautifully bittersweet story. I will be cherishing Our Happy Hours for years to come.

Note: I have recently learned that Our Happy Hours is an adaption of a novel by Gong Ji-Young, an author who is considered one of the most popular female novelist in South Korea. Admittedly, I haven’t read the book, and am not sure if I ever will be able to, but I believe that the manga is a fantastic manga in its own right.