Long Awaited Manga Reviews

Remember how I promised  that other half of manga reviews a very long time ago?  Here they are!  My promise of that time and the one made just a few hours ago doubly bound me to write these reviews, and I hope that they shall be to your pleasure.  If not, may you enjoy your displeasure.

Picture of good ol' Revy.

Picture of good ol’ Revy.

The titles which I propose to review are Genshiken, Kurenai, Sengoku Youko, and Hanako to Guuwa no Tera.  The last one is a horror manga which I highly enjoyed.  Horror stands as one of my least favorite genres nowadays.  In the past, I used to get a kick out of watching Hammer Films’ Dracula films and werewolf movies of all sorts.  It was fun commenting on how the movie makers would mess with the lore attached to these creatures.  I loved the Gothic style of the vampire genre, and the fright of a big bad wolf coming at one with your only hope being a well placed silver bullet.  Now, horror movies are overly gory, and I find myself less intrigued by them.

Christopher Lee as Dracula

Christopher Lee as Dracula

Hanako to Guuwa no Tera by Sakae Esuno attracted me from the start because they melded horror with the private eye genre.  Our hero runs  an agency dedicated to ridding the world of harmful “allegories.”  These allegories are based in Japanese folklore or the fads of popular culture.  The interesting thing about the monsters here are that they derive from people’s unbalanced states of mind.  The detective, Daisuke Asou, has collected a couple of allegories in his line of work, some of which give him power.  One, named Hanako, acts as his information gatherer.  Our story begins when Kanae Hiranuma seeks Asou’s help in ridding an allegory which has been haunting her: the axe man under the bed. For this reason, she has not been able to sleep in days and is petrified to stay in her own room.  Doesn’t it sound childish?  This haunting begins a long, happy relationship for the two of them.

Don't worry.  It's available in English.

Don’t worry. It’s available in English.

This story really shines in the way the author delineates relationship between the characters.  This draws one into all the struggles which they endure against allegories, and the wide variety of opponents keeps the reader turning pages.  This manga has ended in 2010, and consists of just nineteen chapters.  The manga also really shines in creating a likable couple.  Too many series have rather annoying couples, which make one wish that the author had not bothered with a love interest.  But, Kanae is quite capable, and there is the right amount of tension between the two to make for an interesting dynamic.  I recommend this better than average manga to you horror fans out there.

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Now to review the most problematic manga for me: Genshiken.  As many of you know, this manga focuses on the otaku lifestyle of the club members of a club known as Genshiken, which means Society for the Study of Modern Visual Porn–I mean, Culture.  My biggest problem with this manga must lie in that I am not otaku enough to relate to any of the characters.  As a matter of fact, Saki is my favorite character, and she only joined Genshiken so that she could hang out with her lover, Kousaka.  I can’t help but feel sorry for her in that Saki must endure the porn and ero-game loving ways of her partner.  Now, this makes for great comedy, but a guy has absolutely no excuse for using pornography if he has a lover.  After all, is not having the thing better than a mere vicarious experience?  Anyway, Saki herself brought up this complaint.  She has the patience of a saint when it comes to dealing with the idiosyncrasies of her boyfriend.  (Not that  I approve of sex before marriage, but such relationships at least offer the chance of leading to marriage, while pornography is engaging in an empty activity.)

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At any rate, a college freshman named Sasahara is brought into the group and enmeshed into their otaku lifestyle of ero-games, anime, conventions, porn, and video games.  The story often succeeds in being hilarious; but there are too many problems of identification for me, and their preoccupation with porn irritates me.  So, I won’t be getting the second omnibus volume.

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Even bald men deserve to be loved.

Kurenai is a real joy for me to read.  The fights are very well done, and the humor driven off of the harem situation is most amusing.  Women can’t seem to help falling for the strong, modest, reliable Shinkuro.  But, the author presents us with some very likable characters, even if some characters are rather stock–heck, all of them might be stock characters to tell you the truth; but, that only speaks to how well the humor and plot are executed.  This show also uses a favorite trope of mine: a young man is in charge of taking care of girl much younger than himself.  (Perhaps the reason for my predilection lies in that I have a sister 10 years younger than myself, so identification is easy.)

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Shinkuro works as a dispute mediator–more like a dispute finisher considering most disputes are ended with his fists–for a capable, mysterious woman named Benika.  At the start of the manga, we already know that he’s been taking care of Murasaki, a young girl from a powerful, incestuous family.  You see, she’s been destined to marry his older half-brother.  She warms up to Shinkuro because of his gentle and strong nature.  However, her family comes after her, and Shinkuro must display all his martial skill to finally free Murasaki from this fate.  Then, the action turns toward a criminal syndicate, which decides to make Shinkuro himself a target.

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Besides the fights, this manga excels in delineating the relationships between the characters, i.e. Shinkuro and his ever expanding harem.  The manga manages to balance the romance and slice of life chapters very well with the action packed ones, which means that the reader is never bored.  Everything works to keep the reader turning pages, and I look forward to each new chapter of this ongoing manga.

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Lastly, I was fortunate to find the manga Sengoku Youko.  This is another ongoing manga, but it’s set in fuedal Japan as a historical fantasy.  This manga is a very character driven work, the fights and the plots are rather simplistic.  The characterization goes a long way to make up for these flaws though.  I must comment that the setting feels much like Inuyasha: youkai and samurai are juxtaposed to each other during the Sengoku Era.  Also, traveling is a major part the action, and the side characters all display prejudices of some kind or another, human-hating youkai or youkai-hating men.

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Our heroes, Jinka, Tama, and Shinsuke, meet while the first two were on a bandit hunt.  Tama unsuccessfully tries to convince the bandits that they are leading an immoral life.  At which point, Jinka, a hanyou, is forced to beat them all down.  Jinka has a strong prejudice toward human beings, while Tama, a fox youkai, believes humans and youkai must be judged on an individual basis.  Their adventures lead to them picking up one more party member and discovering an insidious plot by Tama’s mom and her human lover.  This is a great manga for light reading, especially if you liked Inuyasha.

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I hope that you enjoyed these reviews.  Pressing work will deter me from blogging for at least a week.

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4 comments on “Long Awaited Manga Reviews

  1. An interesting selection of manga, there. 🙂

    I think I’ll have to check out Hanako to Guuwa no Tera, as (aside from the fact it’s by Esuno Sakae of Mirai Nikki fame) I’ve always been interested in series that combine detectives and fantasy/the paranormal, but the few anime I’ve seen that fit that description (Majin Tantei Nougami Neuro, Shinrei Tantei Yakumo and NightWalker) have been disappointing. I quite like short manga series too, much easier to find shelf space for them. 😛

    I’ve been considering buying the Genshiken manga for a while now, as I liked the anime, and it’s been a few years since I watched it so I’m feeling nostalgic… though since it’s getting another anime series next season, that might be enough to satisfy me instead. Seems I had the opposite problem to you when it came to the characters – I identified with the otaku characters perhaps a little too much, and found Saki hugely annoying at first, while she was being abusive to them for engaging in their hobbies.

    Kurenai… again I’ve seen the anime, and enjoyed it to the extent that if the manga was licensed in English then I’d definitely buy it, but since it isn’t, I doubt I’ll read it anytime soon. Same goes for Sengoku Youko. I’ve read scanlated series before, and have nothing against it, but prefer reading actual books whenever possible. If I have to sit at my computer to read manga, I may as well be watching anime, after all. 😛

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    • It’s very true that reading manga in book form is more fun, but very costly at the same time. In my case, I still have tons of Japanese volumes that I’ve gotten lazy about reading. (I need to psych my fervor for the Japanese language up over the summer months.) Sadly, I have my doubts that either Sengoku Youko or Kurenai will get licensed. Despite how fun they are to read, they rather unfortunately lack originality–with the exception of the plot of Kurenai that gets animated anyway.

      I think that you’ll like Hanako to Guuwa no Tera. I completely missed out on the link to Future Diary. Though I often search out novels and other books by the same author, it often never occurs to me to do the same with manga for some reason. I confess that I’ve seen all or part of the other PI supernatural mysteries you’ve mentioned: really liked NightWalker despite its flaws, thought MTNN had a dull beginning and an awesome ending,and could never really get into Shinrei Tantei Yakumo–it got boring soon. Have you seen Ghost Hunt? It comes from the pen of the person responsible for The Twelve Kingdoms and Shiki, as does the supernatural detective genre better than any other anime as far as I know.

      As for Genshiken, I liked it in the beginning, but it started to feel a little repetitive in the last part of the omnibus edition. Saki did seem annoying to me at first as well, but I started to feel sorry for her due to her sad love life. And her smacking around the president of the club is always amusing. 🙂

      I hope that you also enjoy the manga which I shall review in the future. A short list is in my latest post.

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      • Buying manga is definitely costly… a good portion of my wages goes towards feeding my hobby, usually more than goes towards feeding my stomach. 😛

        I got into the habit of checking other works by manga-ka I like very early on, luckily – it’s thanks to that I found series like Negima (after reading and enjoying Love Hina), Yotsuba&! (from Azumanga Daioh), and Zombie-Loan (via DearS).

        I’ll agree that NightWalker was fun despite its flaws. And yes, I’ve watched Ghost Hunt. Definitely better than the other three shows discussed, though even that I found was a bit repetitive after the first couple of arcs. Another show I forgot to mention was Un-Go – all things considered, I think that’s my favourite supernatural detective anime.

        I’ll be sure to check out your future manga reviews, though the lack of English published titles in the lineup means I’m unlikely to pick any of them up myself (I notice CMX got as far as volume 4 with Break Blade before going defunct, but there’s nothing worse than starting a series I can’t finish).

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      • Ah, that’s too bad that CMX won’t finish translating the Break Blade manga. The characters are so interesting and the world so beautifully described!

        I’ll have to give Yotsuba&! a try. I didn’t know that the creator of Azumanga Daioh, one of my favorite comedies, did that. It sounds like Un-Go deserves another shot then. The person I was watching it with rather shaped my viewing of the first episode negatively.

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