Monday, 5 December 2011

25 Days of Manga: December 1st - 5th

So, my 25 Days of Manga challenge has now officially begun! So far I can safely say that I'm finding it an interesting experience and I'm surprised at how many series I want to continue reading, despite being the sort of things I'd never normally touch. So, here's a rundown of the first five days of my challenge!

December 1st
Zetman (15 + Vols Ongoing)
Status: Stalled at 3 volumes

Impressions: So I started with what I figured would likely be one of the manga I'd least enjoy in the hopes that I wouldn't I didn't completely ignore it (sub-consciously or otherwise). I'll whole-heartedly admit that I looked at the cover of volume one, thought "oh man..." and was fully prepared to drop it as soon as I had enough synopsis fodder. What I hadn't bargained on was actually enjoying it. I devoured the first three volumes and will definitely be picking the rest back up when I've finished with the 25 Days. What I like most about it so far is that it's more psychological than I had expected. It focuses very much so on the idea of justice and what's truly right and wrong. Does the use of excessive violence against a bad guy really make a hero, or is it just a case of two monsters clashing? It makes you think and the story certainly doesn't hold back. It's not the most spectacular manga I've seen, but I'm intrigued to see what comes next as I feel that I've only scratched the surface.

Rating: 3.5/5

Bonus: Zetman (1994) (Oneshot)
Status: Read
Impressions: While looking for Zetman to read, I happened upon the original oneshot that spawned the series and read that as well. The story for this is somewhat different from the main series and honestly, I'm not so keen. Instead of all the intriguing storytelling with the relationship between Jin and "gramps" and the ex-stripper, he's a game developer working on a project infused with his sense of justice and during a freak event, he kind of... melds with the game and becomes Zetman. While the idea of fusing with your own game is kind of interesting, a one shot is really too short to do it justice. It touches on the themes of hero vs vigilante, but it doesn't go that far. Additionally, it doesn't end. It just sort of... stops, which is slightly annoying. I can safely say that I had read this as a oneshot then found that a full series had been made from it, I don't think I'd have been picking up the main manga.

Rating: 1/5

December 2nd
Teppuu (4+ Vols Ongoing)
Status: Reading at 2 volumes
Impressions: Not being particularly into sports in real life, I used to avoid anime and manga that focus on any kind of sport or athletic competition like the plague. Nowadays, however, my stance has changed and I tend to enjoy all manner of sporting-related manga and upon receiving the request to read mixed martial arts manga, Teppuu, I thought, hey, why not! What I ended up enjoying most about Teppuu is that the protagonist isn't inherently likeable, in fact, she's kind of a bitch. With her aroogance towards her own abilities, seeing her fail when she first tries mixed martial arts and watching her finally gain some enthusiasm for something is engaging. The development is plainly there to see, which for me, is what any kind of sporting manga is all about. Definitely looking forward to continuing on with this.

Rating: 3.5/5

December 3rd
Boukun Tyrano-san (Oneshot)
Status: Read

Impressions: Suggested by the lovely Chii, I knew that there was no way this would be a straightforward oneshot, and boy was that train of thought right. The basis of this story is that the consciousness of a male T-Rex named Ralph has transported through a temporal magnetic field and landed in the body of a honour student teenage girl. If you're thinking "WTF?!" right about now, then we're on the same wavelength. Initially the manga seemed to focus on the humorous situation of the haughty Ralph being in a completely foreign environment and not being best pleased about it. Certainly, the initial part was amusing for a bit - cure gratuitous panty shots, but then it starts taking a more "science-y" route and the entertainment drifts off. It's certainly an... "interesting" take on a dinosaur manga, but I can't say that I was overwhelmed by it, and in all honesty, I was a little bored by the end.

Rating: 1.5/5

Wolf Guy (10+ Vols Ongoing)
Status: Reading at 2 volumes
Impressions: I've never been hugely into werewolves, so picking up manga about werewolves wouldn't generally be top of my list. However, Wolf Guy has very much surprised me. It's not a pretty manga by any stretch of the imagination, it's raw and violent, but damn, I've found it addictive. I can't even quite explain why I enjoy it so much, possibly just because it's something completely different to the sort of series I normally pick up. I mainly just enjoy the idea of a werewolf hating humans and wanting to be left alone, but frequently getting caught up in what he deems as petty fights. I also find the hints that his homeroom teacher is managing to melt his icy exterior engaging to read. Should be interesting to see where this series goes and I'll certainly be keeping up with it.

Rating: 4/5

December 4th
Black Paradox (1 Vol Complete)
Status: Stalled 4 out of 6 Chapters

Impressions: Ahhh Junji Ito. I first discovered his unique brand of WTF?! horror with Uzumaki and then promptly moved onto Gyo. I've fallen in love with his work, so when someone requested this in the thread, I knew this would be in the definitely pile. Black Paradox focuses on a group of four people who met on an online suicide community. They meet one day in order to kill themselves together, but thatnks to some doppelganger-related incidents, their first attempt fails. Then when they try again, one of the foursome starts projectile vomiting weird shining stones. These stones then form the core of the story as two of the group decide to make some money out of it. Little do they know the true nature and danger of this new material. This is definitely pretty high up on the weirdness scale, even for Junji Ito and I can't say that it gripped me as much as either Uzumaki nor Gyo. Unfortunately, only four of the six chapters have currently been translated, so I have no idea how it will end, but so far it certainly seems to be trademark Ito with events spiralling out of control in a generally messed up direction. I definitely want to finish the story as and when the last two chapters become available, but it's not making my "Best ever manga" list.

Rating: 3/5

Faster Than A Kiss (9+ Vols Ongoing)
Status: Reading at 2 Volumes
Impressions: This is one manga that was already on my want to read list before it was requested, so I was more than enthusiastic enough to make a start on it. Shounen whore though I may be, I do enjoy a good bit of shoujo from time to time, and Faster Than A Kiss is certainly a pleasant distraction. Generally student-seacher relationships aren't my bag when it comes to anime and manga, but this for some reason has captivated me. I personally find the contrast between Fumino and Kazuma's odd lovey-dovey moments with their generally platonic home life engaging. It isn't a straightforward love fest. Instead, it's complicated. Sure, there's plenty of that lack of realism I've often noticed in shoujo romances - I mean c'mon... two kids run away from home and the elder girl's English teacher instantly says come live with me, yeah I'll marry you without a moment's hesitation... really? However, the lack of reality makes for some good escapist reading. I can see this being one of the first series I get up to date with once I've finished 25 Days.

Rating: 4/5

December 5th

Kingdom Hearts (4 Vols Complete)
Status: Read
Impressions: My knowledge of the Kingdom Hearts games before this was limited to say the least; all I knew about them was that they were a series of video games starring a plethora of various Disney characters. I've never played a single one of the games, and I think if I had, I would have gotten more enjoyment from the manga. I may well get lynched for this given the popularity fo the franchise, but as a standalone manga, it wasn't great. For a Kingdom Hearts virgin, it felt like there was a lack of explanation at times. Events seemed to happen all to quickly - something I noticed was also a problem in the various Legend of Zelda manga I've read - and with o much chatter about hearts and darkness and keys etc flying about, it wasn't always the easiest story to follow. That being said, when I did get into it more, my Disney fangirl took over and seeing classic characters in manga form ended up being the biggest selling point for me.

Rating: 3/5

Bonus: Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories (2 Vols Complete)
Status: Read
Impressions: Continuing on from where Kingdom Hearts left off, Chain of Memories focuses on Sora, Donald, Goofy and Jiminy making their way through a mysterious place known as Castle Oblivion as they continue to search for King Mickey and Riku. From the minute they step into the castle they begin to lose their memories and the deeper the go, the more they forget. Initially it seemed like this was going to be a rehash of it's predecessor with Sora travelling into different rooms formed from his memories of the places he'd previously been to. After heading to Traverse Town and then Agrabah I began to roll my eyes at the thought that "oh God, they're just going to go to all the same bloody places again". Luckily, they didn't and ended up going along a route that was far more complex involving a mysterious organisation and re-written memories. Again, like Kingdom Hearts the manga speeds through each event and it wasn't always as easy to keep up, and unfortunately from my point of view, the novelty of the Disney characters wasn't so prominent and I ended up semi-confused (and frankly a little bored) by the close.

Rating: 2.5/5

Bonus: Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days (2+ Vols Ongoing)
Status: Stalled at 2 Volumes
Impressions: After finishing Chain of Memories I was finding it a struggle to raise enthusiasm for continuing the franchise, but I was determined to fill in all four entries. This installment introduces Organisation XIII more and focuses on Roxas, his daily missions and his friendship with Axel and Xion. In a change of pace from the rest of the franchise, 358/2 Days almost borders on slice of life. It's not mind-blowingly awesome, but it is fairly enjoyable. In particular, I like the concept of beings with no hearts learning what it means to feel and really, what it means to have a heart. Undoubtedly, I found this much easier to read than Chain of Memories and, while a side story to the former, it's worth reading directly afterwards to make a little more sense of certain parts of Kingdom Hearts II.

Rating: 3/5

Bonus: Kingdom Hearts II (5 Vols Hiatus)
Status: Read 5 Volumes
Impressions: Kingdom Hearts II throws a curveball right off the bat by focusing in on a supposedly regular boy enjoying his summer break. However, the boy is named Roxas (ringing any bells?) and consistently has dreams about Sora. Soon, strange things start to happen around him and mysterious people appear before him and Roxas begins to wonder if this is all related to his dreams. Soon enough he learns that he carries half of Sora's strength with him and in order for him to wake from his deep sleep, Roxas must vanish. With the re-introduction of Organisation XIII and the appearance of a mysterious man named Diz, it seems the manga is set to follow Roxas' decision of what to do. However, a volume and a bit in, Roxas returns to Sora's body and the focus switches back to the main quest. Now Sora et al are back on the hunt for Riku and King Mickey while trying to prevent Organisation XIII from causing too much trouble, oh and to make matters worse, Maleficent's back and trying to use the Heartless to take over the world again. While I'm still not utterly in love with this series, the re-emergence of different Disney characters ahs kept me reading on, and while not top of my list, I'll likely continue reading anything new that comes out. I think my biggest criticism of the franchise is that it's very repetitive - something that I imagine is mainly down to the nature of the games. Kingdome Hearts II in particular is returning to the format of the original, with Sora, Donald and Goofy travelling from world to world searching for their friends, defeating enemies and helping various Disney characters along the way. It may be comfort reading in that sense, but it does get a little on the stale side after a while.

Rating: 3/5

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