A few manga review links and comments

October 25, 2009 at 2:07 pm (reviews - links)

I only had one adaptation come out this month (the second Character Guide for Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, which was my second project for Del Rey Manga), but there are three volumes coming out right at the beginning of next month: Phantom Dream vol. 4, Shinobi Life vol. 3, and Zone-00 vol. 2.

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Reviewing is still going slowly but steadily, and here are the reviews that have gone up in the last few weeks:

Honey and Clover vol. 7 (A+)
Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You vol. 2 (A-)
St. Dragon Girl vol. 4 (B)
We Were There vol. 6 (A)

As you can see, I think those were some really good books. I’m always a little sad that Hagu is a deal-breaker for some people who read H&C, although given my own initial reaction to her, I can’t say I don’t understand at all. Kimi ni Todoke kind of falls under the category of “more charming than it has any right to be”; the concept is extremely simple and would so, so easy to do badly. Instead, the execution is remarkably endearing.

Today I’m writing a couple of reviews that’ll go up within the next few weeks, and I’ve got to say, I’m suddenly a lot more interested in Vampire Knight than I was before. (I just read vol. 8, and haven’t read any further, so please don’t spoil me.) What was just revealed might not have been much to write home about if it had been part of the premise all along, but as something coming up so far into the series it’s a complete shake-up of what the story has been about, and that interests me.

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Cover art and some review links

September 26, 2009 at 8:40 pm (reviews - links, upcoming releases)

It looks like I never made it as far as mentioning that three of my upcoming adaptations have shiny new cover art–the second Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle Character Guide (due next month), Phantom Dream vol. 4 (due in November), and Zone-00 vol. 2 (also due in November). The lime green spines on Zone-00 keep startling me for some reason.

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My manga reviewing has slowed down quite a bit over the last month, due to a number of factors (starting with moving and ending with massive computer issues), but it’s still been reasonably steady. Recent reviews include:

Haruka -Beyond the Stream of Time- vol. 5 (C+)
Mixed Vegetables vol. 5 (B)
NANA vol. 17-18 (A+)
Sand Chronicles vol. 6 (A+)
Vampire Knight vol. 7 (B+)

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Reviews written between bursts of hectic activity

August 23, 2009 at 8:30 pm (reviews - links)

Life has been crazy lately, but the reviews keep on going up! There’s a new title, Ōoku, in this batch, and I’ve been really looking forward to reading it. It’s by Fumi Yoshinaga, the author of Antique Bakery, Flower of Life, and a number of other things, and it’s an alternate history story in which 3/4 of Japan’s male population dies in a plague and women take on most or all of the vital roles in society. I didn’t write much about the characters in my review, for reasons which I hope I explained well enough, but it’s very interesting.

Since I’m talking a bit about individual series here, I also want to recommend Kaze Hikaru. I hadn’t read it before I started getting review copies (around vol. 10), and have never read the earlier volumes (since the local library system sadly doesn’t have it), but it’s really good. It’s…also a historical story, actually, about a girl who disguises herself as a boy and joins the Shinsengumi. It’s funny and touching and generally awesome.

Anyway, these are the reviews that have gone up on MangaLife recently:

Crimson Hero vol. 11 (B-)
Kaze Hikaru vol. 14 (B+)
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers vol. 1 (A)
S.A (Special A) vol. 11-12 (C-)

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Late July/early August adaptations, and the periodic review link roundup!

August 5, 2009 at 3:56 pm (reviews - links)

Last week may have been a first for me: three of my adaptations were released all at once. DN Angel vol. 12 (one of TOKYOPOP’s two most popular advance August releases at SDCC, according to their Twitter), Phantom Dream vol. 3 (now with a glossary and character list), and Zone-00 vol. 1 (created by the Trinity Blood artist).

Recent reviews over at MangaLife, all from VIZ:

Black Bird vol. 1 (B)
B.O.D.Y. vol. 6 (C+)
Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You vol. 1 (A-)
Ouran High School Host Club vol. 12 (A)
Skip Beat! vol. 18 (B+)
We Were There vol. 5 (A)

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Recent MangaLife reviews

July 17, 2009 at 9:47 am (reviews - links)

I’ve had four manga reviews up at MangaLife recently, and it’s back to being all VIZ, all the time. This selection includes the final volume of Boys Over Flowers (one of THE classic shoujo titles), my first look at Mixed Vegetables, and a new volume of Honey and Clover, which I love more and more as the series continues. (Since I’d seen the anime before picking up the manga, the love was already pretty solid.) And then there’s Honey Hunt, from the author of Hot Gimmick. If they send me enough volumes of Hunt to review, maybe I’ll manage to write a review that doesn’t include references to the trauma of Hot Gimmick. But maybe not.

Boys Over Flowers (Hana Yori Dango) vol. 36 [series finale] (B+)
Honey and Clover vol. 6 (A)
Honey Hunt vol. 2 (B)
Mixed Vegetables vol. 4 (B)

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Review: With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child 1 by Keiko Tobe

July 13, 2009 at 12:45 pm (1)

Keiko Tobe’s With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child has been on my mental to-read list for a while, and I finally tracked down a copy of the first volume from my library.* I was a bit startled by the sheer heft of the book; Yen Press isn’t the only manga publisher to release double volumes, but this volume is much more substantial than any others I’ve come across.

There’s absolutely no false advertising here: With the Light begins with the birth of a baby boy who delights his young mother, Sachiko. Sachiko is thrilled to be a mother, and looking forward to building a family with her husband, Masato, but almost at once reality impinges on her dreams. Masato’s job demands so much of his time and energy that he’s rarely home or emotionally available, which disappoints Sachiko but is well enough within cultural norms that no one around her expects anything different of him. And worse, she soon realizes that their son, Hikaru, isn’t at all what she expected: he screams when she holds him and is unresponsive to stimuli that usually engage a baby or child’s attention.

It doesn’t take long (from the reader’s perspective) before Sachiko seeks help and is informed that Hikaru might be autistic, but for a long time (from her perspective) no real support is forthcoming. Autism is poorly understood, and people ranging from Masato and his mother to their neighbors don’t accept it as an explanation for Hikaru’s increasingly age-inappropriate behavior and slower development.

Happily things do improve, albeit after a health scare that brings Sachiko and Masato closer together, and they begin to figure out how with deal with Hikaru’s unique challenges. As they find new resources and support, they’re better and better able to help him grow and to find a balance that lets them live their own lives while being good parents to him.

Volume 1 of With the Light covers Hikaru’s life from infancy through the first years of elementary school, and it’s an insightful, compassionately written book that does an excellent job of delivering on its subtitle: this is the story of raising a particular autistic child–Tobe takes great pains to emphasize that each case of autism is unique–and it maintains a good balance between being an enjoyable story and being a tool to demystify and destigmatize a condition that’s often misunderstood.

The series includes many footnotes mentioning statistics and resources on autism, as well as noting when Hikaru’s particular symptoms are individual rather than universal. (Yen Press notes that the statistics were current when the book was originally released in Japan, and provides a link to more up-to-date sources of information.) There are also essays from Japanese parents of autistic children, which describe their real-life experiences.

The book is translated by Satsuki Yamashita, who also translated both of the projects I’ve adapted for Del Rey Manga (the Genshiken Official Book and the second Tsubasa Character Guide), so my preexisting familiarity with her translation style** helped to make this a fairly comfortable read for me.

*Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have any subsequent volumes as part of their collection. It may be time to file a few purchase requests–and I’d just like to be publicly grateful that they offer that option. Apparently it’s not as common as it should be.

**It’s not exactly the same, of course; a translation intended for adaptation usually focuses more on conveying the most accurate meaning possible than on making it sound as smooth as possible.

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ANB’s reviews of Phantom Dream, and new MangaLife review links

July 3, 2009 at 2:44 pm (other people's reviews, reviews - links)

A couple of weeks ago, AstroNerdBoy reviewed vol. 1 and vol. 2 of Phantom Dream, which, coincidentally, I just finished adapting a few days ago. (It’s a five-volume series, and the second one I’ve adapted in its entirety; the first was White Night Melody, although only one volume was released.) When he reviewed vol. 1 and wasn’t terribly impressed, I commented and said that vol. 2 is stronger than vol. 1, and happily he agreed.

I think I want to write a real post about Dream sometime soon, but today is not that day.

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Quick roundup of my recent MangaLife reviews:
High School Debut vol. 10 (A-)
The Lapis Lazuli Crown vol. 1 (B) [CMX]
Tail of the Moon Prequel: The Other Hanzo(u) (B+)

I also wrote up a batch of short “what I’m reading” reviews, including vol. 6 of Monkey High!, vol. 13 of Love*Com, vol. 4 of Haruka – Beyond the Stream of Time, vol. 7 of Wild Ones, vol. 2 of The Magic Touch, vol. 13 of Inubaka: Crazy For Dogs, and vol. 3 of St. Dragon Girl.

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DMC: to collect or not?, work update, and some review links

June 21, 2009 at 7:34 pm (reviews - links, upcoming releases)

I don’t often waffle on whether or not to check out a new manga title, but I’m seriously unsure about whether or not to try Detroit Metal City. Since the review copies that get sent my way are almost exclusively shoujo, this one isn’t likely to fall into my hands if I don’t seek it out. I hear really good things, and I certainly read and work on a fairly wide variety of titles/genres, but I can’t decide if DMC sounds like something I’d enjoy. (It doesn’t help that I avoid reviews of things I haven’t read, since most other reviewers tend to talk about more plot details than I usually want to know in advance.)

I already collect a fair number of series, so I’m trying to avoid adding too many new titles to my list for the next little while. But several titles I collect are ending in just a volume or two, which makes it hard to keep from just trying everything that catches my eye. And the DMC waffling continues.

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On the work front, TOKYOPOP now has a preview of ZONE-00 vol. 1 up on their site. That may just be the single most challenging volume I’ve ever worked on, and I say that in full awareness of having done three full-length fanbooks and multiple volumes of Sgt. Frog. ^_^ (Volume 2 was much, much easier than volume 1, for a few reasons.) I’ll be very interested to see what people think of vol. 1 when review copies start going out.

Meanwhile, I’m currently at work on the final volume of Natsuki Takaya’s Phantom Dream, and I’ll be very sorry to see it go. It’s interesting as an early work, as I’ve said to many people, and it also improves noticeably from volume to volume. The artwork in vol. 5 is much, much different from vol. 1 (it looks fairly similar to her style in early volumes of Fruits Basket), and while her plotting isn’t as masterful as it is in Fruits Basket (which I think is structurally brilliant), I really like the characters and the story comes together quite well. I have a long history of really enjoying various series right up until the end and then being disappointed by the way they wrap up, and that didn’t happen here.

And while I’m mentioning Dream: Lillian (Diaz-Przybyl, the current series editor) has given me the go-ahead to tell readers that vol. 3+ will include a glossary and character guide, which should come as a relief to the people who find the plethora of Japanese mystical terms a little, er, overwhelming.

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And as always, a small batch of MangaLife reviews (including some CMX books):
Genghis Khan: To the Ends of the Earth and Sea (B-) [CMX]
Sand Chronicles vol. 5 (A+)
Venus Capriccio vol. 1 (B-) [CMX]

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Attempting some regular blogging, and joining the Twitter crowd

June 4, 2009 at 9:16 pm (reviews - links)

I only have one review in this week’s MangaLife update, but since I’m trying to get in the habit of updating more regularly*, I’ll be revolutionary and post it:
We Were There vol. 4 (A)

Also in this week’s update, Alethea and Athena talk about individual translation styles in their column. The Twins and I talk to each other fairly regularly, and our conversations often have to do with work and our respective working styles. I enjoy those discussions very much, and it makes me happy when they sometimes use elements of those conversations as springboards for part of their column. ^_^

*A bit of a challenge, since I usually don’t feel comfortable discussing work in detail and my reviewing for MangaLife tends to take up most of that corner of brain real estate.

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This week I finally gave in and signed up for Twitter; Melinda kept making it sound like fun, and then at AN Sean Gaffney finished the job of talking me into it. So far, I think of it as sharing the one [1] feature of Facebook I actually enjoy, with none of Facebook’s attendant hideousness, so that’s a plus.

I’m primarily planning on using the account to interact with other manga industry folks/bloggers, so it’s had a fairly tight focus in its short life. Given that, it probably won’t be of much interest to non-manga fans, but there it is.

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As May draws to a close…

May 26, 2009 at 9:39 pm (conventions, reviews - links)

My stack of review copies is starting to get a little precarious, so while I’m in between rewrites I’ll have to put a dent in it. It’ll be nice to sit down and read for a while; I haven’t been reading much of anything lately, having just been on vacation for a week and a half (and being stuck in an interesting-but-slow nonfiction book).

OTOH, I met my monthly quota of geek! time by spending the past weekend at Anime North in Toronto. AN is a large con, with over 15,000 attendees this year, and it’s very fan-driven. This year’s pleasant discovery was that we had some (last minute?) industry presence: Lance Heiskell from FUNimation was in attendance, which was fun. I didn’t get to see all of his panels, but he seemed very accessible and entertained a lot of questions, although he couldn’t address several subjects which were being covered the next day at Anime Boston. Good stuff, though, and AFAIK he was the first major industry rep. to come up since ADV made a one-time appearance a few years ago. I hope we get a repeat performance next year!

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Five MangaLife reviews to wrap up May:

Dogs Prelude (vol. 0) (A-)
High School Debut vol. 9 (A)
Kaze Hikaru vol. 13 (B+)
NANA vol. 15-16 (A+)
Rosario + Vampire vol. 7 (B-)

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