Here’s an article to remedy the dearth of manga reviews on this site. As you know, manga happens to include some of my favorite light reading–or, if untranslated, not so light, but nevermind that! And so, I wish to give you my opinion of one incredibly popular and four not so popular manga.
1) Fairy Tail by Hiro Mashima
First, let me get the hit manga out of the way. All of my dear readers must be familiar with this manga on some level. Somehow, I have managed to read 375 chapters of the manga. (Before anyone worries about me being sucked into a Fairy Tail oblivion, I have decided not to watch more of the anime. Almost 400 chapters of manga does not need to be supplemented!) Fairy Tail has taken a dark turn, which might be expected since the villains are honest-to-goodness demons. One torture scene made me particularly uncomfortable. When did Fairy Tail become Akame ga Kiru? Well, that’s an exaggeration but conveys the change of mood rather well.
This manga, even if very fanservicey, still stands as one of the greatest works coming out of Japan. But, what should one expect when the author claims to have been influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien?
2) Break Shot by Takeshi Maekawa
I’m sure that I passed over this manga at one point. Probably without good reason. Anime based on table top games, such as Hikaru no Go and Shion no Ou, count among my favorites and billiards is not too far removed. However, the more I read the more I discovered why this manga never gained much popularity: the situations become more contrived as the manga goes on. We almost expect the hero to win in one shot every time. Unlike in go or shogi (my two favorite games next to chess), there are not too many opportunities for reversals. A go game might have as much as 320 moves, and the tide can turn as much as three or four times in a nail biting game. Not so much professional billiards.
So much for a 1987 billiard manga. The characters are rather likable, and I like how it offers tips on how to play pool; but, the games become atrociously dull.
3) Breath of Fire – Ryuu no Senshi by Yakumo Hiroshi
Speaking of retro manga, here’s a fantasy series based on video games of the same name. This is a delightful fantasy romp over the course of six chapters. Breath of Fire features a standard strong, young hero who is assisted in his quest to defeat an evil goddess by a winged maiden, some therianthropic sidekicks, and a half snake sorceress. The message is a very simple “one cannot overcome evil with hate,” but I find few things as enjoyable as a decent 90’s fantasy anime or manga.
4) Hatenkou Yuugi, a.k.a. Dazzle by Minari Endou
This is a fun picaresque tale of a young lady–fourteen going on fifteen–whose father kicks her out of the house so that she might see the world. She quickly befriends a Model 1911 toting albino named Alzeid, who is looking for his father’s killer. Later, a clownish fighter named Baroqueheat joins the group. His favorite hobby seems to be teasing Rahzel, but she takes it in stride and delivers beat downs as necessary. Some of the stories can be pretty dark, and the characters’ banter is at least as humorous as that of Spice and Wolf.
However, I find that I cannot recommend the manga as much as the anime. The anime eschews the manga’s Plautine tendency to make the reader laugh every other panel. That added seriousness better balances the dark elements found in the ten episode anime. Is a second season of this too much to ask?
5) Shindere Shoujo to Kodoku na Shinigami by Yuki Shinkiba
The title translates loosely to “The Death-Loving Girl and the Lonely Death God.” Sounds like a match made in heaven. Somehow, Shinto and Sherlock Holmes must also be a match made in heaven, because the manga is incredibly fun. Our Sherlock Holmes character, Nishigami, moves to a small island. He tries his best not to make friends because those he loves always seem to die. However, this does not stop a popular girl named Akira from following this baneful course. She does indeed die, but the island’s god resurrects her, saying that she can resurrect as many times as possible as long as she remains on the island but that she cannot leave it. A good thing too: for Akira happens to be manga’s most shindere character.
This one is a great deal of fun. The mysteries are complex and the characters rather charming. Nishigami has a particularly brilliant head for deduction. If only I could find chapter 21 somewhere!