Manga Review – Fruits Basket: 91%

The Essentials

Fruits Basket MangaName: Fruits Basket
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Tankoubon: 23
Serialized In: Hana to Yume
Released: July 1998 – November 2006
Story & Art: Natsuki Takaya
Published By (Japan): Hakusensha
Published By (US): TokyoPop

Scores

Story: 9/10 (x 3 = 27 pts)
Art: 8/10 (x 3 = 24 pts)
Gut Score: 10/10 (x 4 = 40 pts)
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Manga Review – Cardcaptor Sakura: 90%

The Essentials

Name: Cardcaptor Sakura, Cardcaptor Sakura: Master of the Clow (2nd half)
Genre:: Fantasy
Tankoubon: 12
Serialized In: Nakayoshi
Released: May, 1996 – July 3, 2000
Story & Art: CLAMP
Published By (Japan): Kodansha
Published By (US): TokyoPop

Scores

Story: 8/10 (x 3 = 24 pts)
Art: 10/10 (x 3 = 30 pts)
Gut Score: 9/10 (x 4 = 36 pts)

Total: 90/100 (90%)

Review

Cardcaptor Sakura is about a girl, Sakura, who accidentally releases the 19 Clow Cards from the magical Clow book. As a result, she is tapped by the book’s Beast of the Seal, Keroberos (whom Sakura calls Kero for short) to recapture the lost cards.

Along the way, she’s helped by her best friend Tomoyo, and challenged by Syaoran Li, who arrives from Hong Kong so that he may collect the Clow Cards for himself.

In the second half of the series, Sakura has already collected the Clow Cards, but how is forced to change them into new cards using her own magic due to new, mysterious magical happenings occurring in the city.

Perhaps one of the biggest issues some people may have with this series is that it is very shoujo…even more so than the TV series, really. However, if one can get past that, I think one will see a very well done manga series which has a pretty good story and excellent art. The story is also character-driven a good deal, despite the emphasis on the magical elements of the story.

If you’re not afraid of shoujo or magical girl manga, then Cardcaptor Sakura may be a good read for you.

First Read: May 2006 – October 2007
Do I Own: Yes
Do I Recommend: Yes

Manga Review – Ai Yori Aoshi: 86%

The Essentials

Name: Ai Yori Aoshi
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Tankoubon: 17
Serialized In: Young Animal
Released: 1998 – 2005
Story & Art: Kou Fumizuki
Published By (Japan): Hakusensha
Published By (US): TokyoPop

Scores

Story: 9/10 (x 3 = 27 pts)
Art: 9/10 (x 3 = 27 pts)
Gut Score: 8/10 (x 4 = 32 pts)

Total: 86/100 (86%)

Review

Ai Yori Aoshi is about Aoi Sakuraba, the daughter of the head of a rich conglomerate, and her secret fiance-to-be Karou Hanabishi. When the two were little, their marriage had been arranged as Karou was himself the heir to another major conglomerate. However, Karou was only adopted, and after witnessing the treatment of his mother, especially after she died, Karou ran away from the Hanabishi clan to live on his own.

As a result, the marriage was canceled. Aoi remained determined to marry Karou despite this and goes to Tokyo to see him. After not realizing who each other were at first, they each realize that they are in fact the couple who were put together when they were young, and Aoi decides to start living with Karou. However, Aoi’s caretaker, Miyabi, shows up to take Aoi back home. Aoi refuses and Miyabi, reluctantly at first, arranges things so that Karou and Aoi can live together at one of the family’s estates.

Soon, Karou runs into his old college friend Tina, who went away for a year or so to travel the world. Soon another girl, Taeko, joins the photography club that Karou is part of, and both Taeko and Tina end up living along with Aoi and Karou due to certain circumstances.

Ai Yori Aoshi is, centrally, about the growing love that Aoi and Karou have for each other, but is also largely a comedy as the other girls who live with or otherwise know Karou often end up getting in his way or even want Karou for himself. There is also some added drama as well as Aoi’s parents are against her staying with Karou while the Hanibishi clan attempts to come up with a way to still have Aoi marry into their family.

At 17 volumes, Ai Yori Aoshi is a pretty long read, but the story still seems to keep itself relatively fresh through, exploring all of the characters feelings and motivations along the way. I should also note that this manga is quite ecchi, and is rated for Older Teens (except the final volume which is rated 17+).

If you’re looking for a good romance/comedy with some dramatic plot arcs thrown in, then you may enjoy this series.

First Read: December 2005 – October 2007
Do I Own: Yes
Do I Recommend: Yes

Manga Review – Midori Days: 73%

The Essentials

Name: Midori Days
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Tankoubon: 8
Serialized In: Shonen Sunday
Released: January 28, 2003 – July 21, 2004
Story & Art: Kazurou Inoue
Published By (Japan): Shogakukan
Published By (US): Viz

Scores

Story: 7/10 (x 3 = 21 pts)
Art: 8/10 (x 3 = 24 pts)
Gut Score: 7/10 (x 4 = 28 pts)

Total: 73/100 (73%)

Review

Midori Days is about a high school delinquent, Seiji, who is known for his “devil’s right hand” due to his beating up gangs, who suddenly finds that a girl named Midori has taken residence on his arm in place of his right hand. Midori, meanwhile, has had a crush on Seiji for a long time, but only from a distance, as she doesn’t attend the same school. However, she’s more than happy to take up residence on his arm. In the meantime, the “real” Midori has fallen into a coma, and it seems that she’ll only awaken when the Midori on Seiji’s arm wants to return.

Of course, having a girl literally stuck on your arm immediately means hilarity ensues. How does Seiji hide this from everyone, especially since several games are out to give revenge on him? What happens when someone DOES find out about her?

This certainly creates some comedy at the start, but after a while it just seems to drag on, with the same gags largely being replayed over and over and over again by the end. After about the 2nd or 3rd volume, you’ve already seen most of what you’re going to see out of the series, except for perhaps the final volume. Perhaps the saving grace of the series is that it is relatively short at 8 volumes.

If you like the gags that come in this sort of manga, and don’t mind that they repeat quite often, then you may like this book, but I’m not sure it’s worth reading all the way through.

First Read: December 2005 – October 2007
Do I Own: Yes
Do I Recommend: Indifferent

Manga Review – Kashimashi: 83%

The Essentials

Name: Kashimashi
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Tankoubon: 5
Serialized In: Comic Dengeki Daioh
Released: May 21, 2004 – March 21, 2007
Story: Satoru Akahori
Art: Yukimaru Katsura
Published By (Japan): MediaWorks
Published By (US): Seven Seas

Scores

Story: 9/10 (x 3 = 27 pts)
Art: 8/10 (x 3 = 24 pts)
Gut Score: 8/10 (x 4 = 32 pts)

Total: 83/100 (83%)

Review

Kashimashi is about Hazumu, a boy who confessed his feelings to his crush Yasuna, but was turned down, and ends up wandering around a nearby mountain in a depressed stupor. However, while I he is on the mountain, a spaceship sent by an alien race to study the earth malfunctions and crashes…right on top of Hazumu. The aliens are able to revive Hazumu, but accidentally change his sex, turning him into a girl.

At first, Hazumu’s friends, especially now her childhood friend Tomari and best guy friend Asuta, don’t know how to handle Hazumu’s change in gender. However, Hazumu seems to take it in stride, pretty quickly accepting what she now is. This also plays as a good set-up some some yuri relationships, as Yasuna and Tomari both secretly loved Hazumu before when he was a guy.

Kashimashi is an excellent gender-bending manga and largely deals with the confusion that such a gender-switch has on Hazumu’s friends, and how Hazumu tries to deal with her relationship with Yasuna and Tomari, especially since both of them are now same-sex romantic relationships. And, of course, all of this brings along a good deal of comedy as well.

Some might wonder if the manga is trying to make the same-sex relationship “acceptable” by having Hazumu as a guy originally, making it so that it really “doesn’t count,” but that isn’t really what the manga does. In a way, it does the opposite, it’s showing that same-sex relationships can be like any other relationship and uses the means of the sex change to illustrate that fact: that Tomari and Yasuna loving Hazumu when he’s a girl is no different from when they loved him as a boy.

If you’re looking for a good romance comedy with a different twist, then you should consider checking out Kashimashi.

First Read: January 2007 – April 2008
Do I Own: Yes
Do I Recommend: Yes

Manga Reivew – I"s: 80%

The Essentials

I's MangaName: I”s
Genre: Romance, Comedy, Drama
Tankoubon: 15
Serialized In: Shonen Jump
Released: 1997 – 2000
Story & Art: Masakazu Katsura
Published By (Japan): Shueisha
Published By (US): Viz

Scores

Story: 7/10 (x 3 = 21 pts)
Art: 9/10 (x 3 = 27 pts)
Gut Score: 8/10 (x 4 = 32 pts)

Total: 80/100 (80%)

Review

I”s is a story about a boy named Ichitaka and his attempts to date a girl in his class in high school – Iori. However, Ichitaka soon runs into several complications including an old childhood friend of his – Itsuki – returning to Japan, his friend Teratani handing out dubious advice, Iori’s mixed signals, and a very assertive girl who falls for Ichitaka at first site – Izumi.

Ichitaka himself also tends to self-destruct when confronted with women as a result of a rather traumatizing rejection by a girl when he was little, which can result in both making it look like he dislikes girls he likes as well as liking girls he doesn’t have an interest in.

This is just further complicated by the fact that Iori soon finds her dream of becoming an actress close to becoming a reality as she starts getting into show business, often causing her to be too busy for Ichitaka to hang out with, as well as an intentional source of disruption in Ichitaka and Iori’s relationship once they do start dating.

I”s is basically set up with the concept of Ichitaka constantly taking 3 steps back in his relationship with Iori and then taking a large step forward resulting in a slight net-positive change in the progress in the relationship, before taking 3 more steps back and repeating the cycle. This, of course, has the result of Ichitaka spending most of his time sticking his foot in his mouth or otherwise having his relationship with Iori, which is where all the drama and comedy is in this series.

New events and the introduction of new characters along the keep the series fresh enough to not make it boring, by the cyclic nature of Ichitaka and Iori’s relationship may become tiresome after a while for some, given that it goes on for 15 volumes.

The manga also comes with a Parental Advisory – and with good reason with probably at least one (and usually more) breast and/or panty shot in every volume. Viz tried censoring most of the topless scenes in the first half the series before finally seemingly to give up in that endeavor and just slapping a parental advisory label on the book. (I should also note that the majority of these scenes are typically from Ichitaka’s daydreams/hallucinations, which also often get him into trouble).

The art is pretty good, and as usual, Katsura’s character designs shine – especially for the girls. If you don’t mind the nudity or the cyclic nature of the manga, which makes it feel almost like reading a soap opera, then I think you’ll find I”s to be a pretty good romance drama series.

First Read: October 2005 – August 2007
Do I Own: Yes
Do I Recommend: Yes, if you don’t mind soap opera-ish stories

Manga Review: Dears – 77%

The Essentials

DearS MangaName: DearS
Genre: Sci-Fi, Comedy, Romance
Tankoubon: 8
Serialized In: Monthly Comic Dengeki GAO!
Released: March 2002 – December 2005
Story & Art: Peach-Pit
Published By (Japan): Media Works
Published By (US): TokyoPop

Scores

Story: 7/10 (x 3 = 21 pts)
Art: 8/10 (x 3 = 24 pts)
Gut Score: 8/10 (x 4 = 32 pts)

Total: 77/100 (77%)

Review

DearS is about a boy named Takeya who unwittingly becomes the master of a DearS named Ren. The DearS themselves are a group of aliens who crash landed into Tokyo Bay a year prior to the start of the series. The DearS are conditioned to be a slave race for whatever civilization they cross paths with.

From this point, most of the series is about Takeya trying to figure out what to do with Ren, who is what the DearS call a “zero number” – one that is determined to be unfit to be out in society. Ren was able to escape when the pod carrying her opened during a truck crash. Along the way he runs into Miu, a dears obsessed with how DearS should properly act in society and who is upset with Ren, who has had no such training, and Khi, who is more of a soft-spoken and down-to-earth DearS than most. Takeya also has to deal with his childhood friend and neighbor Neneko as well as his little sister Natsuki.

Over the course of the series, the DearS, and Ren in particular, don’t seem to be everything they appear to be. We eventually discover the dark truth behind the DearS and whether Ren ultimately becomes the key that save Takeya and the rest of humanity.

DearS is a series which hinted that Ren might be bigger than she appears in her importance along the way, but really didn’t get into the meat of the matter until the 8th and final volume. In between is a lot of secondary and tertiary plot lines along with some fluff. The story just seems to ultimately drag on more than it needs to.

The art is probably average or so for a series. It’s not bad but it’s not terrific either. I think DearS will be a hit-or-miss series as far as whether one likes it or not.

First Read: February – May 2006
Do I Own: Yes
Do I Recommend: Indifferent

Manga Review: Onegai Twins – Score: 80%

The Essentials

Onegai TwinsName: Onegai Twins, Please Twins
Genre:: Comedy, Romance, Drama
Tankoubon: 1
Serialized In: Dengeki Daioh
Released: 2005
Based on: Please Twins anime
Story: Please!
Art: Akikan
Published By (Japan): Media Works
Published By (US): DrMaster

Scores

Story: 8/10 (x 3 = 24 pts)
Art: 8/10 (x 3 = 24 pts)
Gut Score: 8/10 (x 4 = 32 pts)

Total: 80/100 (80%)

Review

The Onegai Twins manga is, as noted above, an adaptation of the 13-episode anime series. Onegai Twins is about three teenagers: Maiku, Karen, and Miina, who all find their way to a house that they saw on TV during a national news story two in the past – a house that each of them have a picture of, behind two children – a boy and a girl – playing in an inflatable pool. The boy, Maiku, gets to the house first, gets a part time job, and starts renting it. However, soon after that, both girls show up on his doorstep, both claiming to be his twin sister. It’s impossible for them to tell which one is Maiku’s real sister from the photo, and Maiku doesn’t want to just throw out a potential sibling, so the three live together until the mystery can be resolved. However, this creates an awkward situation where relationships start to form, yet no one is quite sure who is the sibling and who isn’t.

The fact that this single-volume manga tries to push material from 13 episodes of the anime into about 200 pages is quite an ambitious feet, and yet, amazingly, it works pretty well considering. This is mostly complished by putting in things from the first 4 or 5 episodes, then skipping most of the filler in between and going straight to the conclusion. While one might miss out on all the sub-stories that make the anime funny, the manga is still able to keep it’s coherency while not feeling too rushed. The art is also pretty good as well, with it basically looking like the anime in manga form.

The manga also changes some things, such as whose point of view a scene is seen from to give the manga some freshness. However, the biggest difference is how the conclusion plays out and, in a way, gives the manga’s ending even more finality than the ending in the anime, as it goes more in depth into the circumstances behind the trio’s abandonment.

I’m not sure if the differences in the manga are big enough to warrant reading it if you’ve already seen the anime, but it is a single volume and quick read, so you won’t cost one much if one does choose to check it out. In any case, the manga may be a good, quick read for someone to get introduced to the series if they haven’t seen the anime yet.

First Read: August 2006
Do I Own: Yes
Do I Recommend: Indifferent

Manga Review: Magic Knight Rayearth – Score: 84%

The Essentials

Magic Knight RayearthName: Magic Knight Rayearth, Magic Knight Rayearth II
Genre:: Fantasy, Adventure
Tankoubon: 6 (3 in each set)
Serialized In: Nakayoshi
Released: November, 1993 – April, 1996
Story & Art: CLAMP
Published By (Japan): Kodansha
Published By (US): TokyoPop

Scores

Story: 8/10 (x 3 = 24 pts)
Art: 9/10 (x 3 = 28 pts)
Gut Score: 8/10 (x 4 = 32 pts)

Total: 84/100 (84%)

Review

Magic Knight Rayearth is one of CLAMP’s first manga series, and probably their first true breakthrough series. Three girls – Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu are all visiting Tokyo Tower on school trips when they are suddenly transported to Cephiro – a completely different world. There, they are told that Princess Emeraude, who is imprisoned by the High Priest Zagato, has called for them – three girls from another world – to fulfil the legend of the Magic Knights.

In the first series, consisting of the first three volumes, the three must fight monsters and fight Zagato’s minions in order to save Princess Emeraude.

The the second half, the three, having been sent home after the first series, are mysteriously called back to Cephiro only to see what the consequences of their first trip have brought. This time they must defend Cephiro against invading forces from three of it’s neighbors, all of which want to become the new pillar of Cephiro.

Magic Knight Rayearth is a pretty quick read, since many of the pages are taken up by fighting, meaning a lot of SFX with little or no dialouge on some pages. The stories themselves are relatively short and sweet and probably would become overly redundent if it lasted much longer than it did without a broader storyline. The art is pretty good – the usual CLAMP quality, and the story is decent – I wasn’t overly excited by it, but it wasn’t boring either.

This manga is targeted more towrds teenage girls, though I think it can be enjoyed by others. TokyoPop has rated it Y (Youth Age 10+).

First Read: April – May 2006
Do I Own: Yes
Do I Recommend: Yes

Manga Review: Chobits – Score: 97%

The Essentials

ChobitsName: Chobits
Genre:: Comedy, Romance, Science Fiction
Tankoubon: 8
Serialized In: Young Magazine
Released: 2001 – 2002
Story & Art: CLAMP
Published By (Japan): Kodansha
Published By (US): TokyoPop

Scores

Story: 9/10 (x 3 = 27 pts)
Art: 10/10 (x 3 = 30 pts)
Gut Score: 10/10 (x 4 = 40 pts)

Total: 97/100 (97%)

Review

Chobits was one of the first manga series that I completed, and I have to say that even to this day it is the best one I have completed. As with most of the manga series I have read, I watched the anime version first and loved it. However, however much I loved the anime, I like the manga even better.

Hideki Motosuwa is a student in a cram school who is living in an apartment in Tokyo after his parents booted him out of his house upon graduating high school. Hideki is trying to get into a college in Tokyo, but was rejected in his first attempt. He amazes over the human-looking computers called Persocoms, but is too poor to buy one himself. However, one day he stumbles over a female one left in the trash and takes it home and names her Chi.

This begins the laughs, drama…and mystery. What is Chi? Who made her? What is her purpose?

It also poses several philosophical questions such as what does it mean to be “alive”? What does it mean to feel emotions? Can a very complex computer program such as those that Chi runs really give her emotions?

The manga doesn’t necessarily tackle these questions head on or in depth, so its not really heavy philosophical reading, but the questions are posed in one way or another.

The manga has complete and satisfying story lines, tying up all it’s lose ends. The art is impressive, even for a CLAMP work, and the story is very thoughtful and thought-provoking. Unlike most other CLAMP works I have read or are reading, this one is geared more for teen or adult males instead of teen or pre-teen females, though Chobits could easily be enjoyed by females as well I think as the social commentary applies to both sexes, even if the protagonist in Chobits is male.

There is some mild female persocom nudity, but nothing that I’d describe as gratuitous, and some harsh language, including the two big words, but again, I wouldn’t describe it as gratuitous. TokyoPop rates Chobits OT (Older Teen Age 18+).

First Read: February – May 2006
Do I Own: Yes
Do I Recommend: Hell Yes