Shuriken and Pleats Review

It’s time to look at a recent manga from the creator of Vampire Knight. One glance at the cover and you’ll likely recognize her style. I definitely was not a fan of Vampire Knight and the sequel also hasn’t been too good so I can’t say that my hopes for this title were too high. Still, I figured it would be better since there were no vampires and I was right. After all, no vampires is always a win in my book and this title was no exception. It’s not great and the main romance is pretty dicey, but for 2 volumes it did a reasonable amount to make the characters decent.

The manga introduces us to Mikage who is a ninja protecting Mr. Rod from the various assasins who wish to have him taken out of the picture. The reason for this is that he has a grain of sorts that will end world hunger or something. The specifics aren’t all that important as Rod would much rather talk to Mikage about how she should be living a normal life. She does not want to do this though as it would be against the ninja code and additionally she would rather be by his side. Well, one day he is murdered and in his final will he had put for Mikage to live a normal life as his last wish. She heads to a school, but gets mixed up in the same case from another angle with a guy named Mahito who wants to continue Rod’s work. Can Mikage now get some closure on this whole thing?

Mikage may not have wanted to leave the ninja biz, but it’s probably good that she did. The organization definitely seemed dangerous in how seriously it took itself. Her father basically said that the ninja are expendable and has a very old time look on things. Mikage’s mother is a lot more reasonable but also very oblivious as she somehow doesn’t notice the whole ninja business. I don’t get how she wouldn’t realize what is going on, but her role is extremely small so I suppose by living in another state/country she is just kept out of the loop the whole time.

Mikage’s a solid heroine who means well and does her best to fulfill her role as a bodyguard. Her skills are quite sharp as she seems to be among the top 3 ninja across the organization. She is always ready for action and while she may be oblivious to day to day activities like being a school girl, she has definitely mastered her craft. I’d say there are some similarities with Yuki from Vampire Knight, but Mikage’s a more pro-active lead. She’s always doing something and is pretty heroic as she does jump in to help others even when she is off the clock.

There isn’t much of a supporting cast to bounce off of her though. Again, it’s only 2 volumes so I guess there isn’t much you can do about that, but the cast still feels really small. First you’ve got Mr. Rod who is shown to be a nice father type figure in Mikage’s life. He wants her to be happy and just seems like a noble spirit. He gets bumped off right away, but they were building him up to be pretty good. He’s decent for a while, but I have to give him a firm thumbs down by the end. It’s because of the romance plot but more about that later on. Then you have Mahito and he has the same issues as Rod. He seems nice enough but the romance part, while less dicey doesn’t really help his case much. I do prefer him to Rod though as he at least tries to fight and support Mikage. He takes a lot of Ls, but better to try and fail than not to try at all right?

Then you’ve got Suzuki who is a kid from school. Had this been a longer series I would have expected him to actually be one of the villains or something, but he turns out to literally just be a classmate who is bullied all the time. He likes Mikage, but surprisingly the manga doesn’t really bother with this romance. Suzuki is literally too bright for Mikage to look at so they don’t hang around much. I think he’s mainly around as a good segway to introducing the school and so Mikage will at least have someone to talk to. Finally we have Ichinosuke who is a skilled ninja who works for the side branch of the main family. He’s pretty skilled in his own right although he definitely can’t beat Mikage in a fight. The guy’s a decent villain, but he’s not the one calling the shots so for the most part he is just being manipulated. You won’t rise up to the top that way.

The manga isn’t really about the action, but we do get some good scenes during its run. The final fight against the main villain is pretty good and the manga did establish this guy as a solid threat. In general the art is pretty good. I think the artist did a better job of making sure that all of the characters don’t look too similar unlike good ole Vampire Knight where a bunch of people seemed to be identical half the time. I don’t think there were any characters here that I would mix up which is definitely solid.

Now for the romance. Well, this was definitely not going to end well from the start. Mikage likes Rod who has got to be at least double her age if not older. There’s no way to turn that into a solid romance. At least making it one sided isn’t the end of the world, but Rod’s answer isn’t as definitive as a no as I would have liked. I wanted a closed and shut “never” response from him. Then you’ve got Mahito and Suzuki who are vying for Mikage’s affections with no results. It’s a Shojo manga so at least the romance is handled more traditionally than a Shonen and nothing actually happens, but it’s definitely a plot that I would have cut out personally.

Overall, Shuriken and Pleats is a manga with one of those titles that I don’t totally get. Maybe Pleats is the kind of uniform that Mikage uses. Yeah, I could have googled the term, but I didn’t so I’ll leave it to guesswork for now. It’s a fun enough title to check out and 2 volumes isn’t going to cost you a whole lot of time anyway. There’s not a whole lot here to offer you beyond a good time though. It’s definitely not a game changing Shojo manga, but I do like the premise and it definitely doesn’t drag on. The ending may have fallen completely flat for me, but up til then it was a solid experience and I’d lightly recommend checking it out. At the end of the day it didn’t make any of the big mistakes like fanservice or animal violence so there’s no reason to give it a thumbs down. I don’t read a whole lot of one shots/mini series so it’s always good to add another one to the roster. Maybe the author can make a sequel to this one someday. There’s a lot of fun themes that could be expanded on here like Mikage just hanging out at school or rival ninja groups coming in for fights.

Overall 6/10

Fairy Tail Blue Mistral Review

It’s time to finally check out one of the only good Fairy Tail spinoffs. Blue Mistral follows Wendy around on some adventures. As this manga is aimed more at her fans and she is just a kid it manages to stay away from most of the negatives that plague the franchise. It’s not amazing or anything as it naturally lacks the fights as well, but I’d say that it is a pretty solid series overall. It’s short and to the point.

The series is a bit episodic. There are 4 volumes and typically each adventure lasts for one volume. I’d say that there are maybe 5 main stories tops. I guess this approach works fairly well for spinoffs and as each story is pretty long it feels more like an ongoing story than an anthology. One thing you’ll notice right away is how nerfed Wendy is though. She is one of the Fairy Tail members so in theory she could end the whole island in an instant, but usually the villains still end up spooking her. I suppose she doesn’t want to hurt them though.

In one story Wendy arrives in a village where a girl believes that she is an angel. The reason for this is that there was a prophecy/spell that said a angel would soon be arriving and since Wendy arrived with wings (Her partner Carla flies her around which to the untrained eye looks like a pair of wings) the connection was made. Wendy decides to humor her since the girl’s had a rough past, but this town could be tougher than it looks. It seems like Wendy may need the help of Natsu and the other members of Fairy Tail to make it out of here alive.

The series does try to not use the other members as a crutch and succeeds at it. Natsu only steps in during one story so that’s pretty impressive. Naturally having them around would be pretty cool and would certainly add to the epic tone of the series, but it would probably defeat the point. It’s time for Wendy to prove that she can handle her own series and the quality of this title proves that she is ready.

In another story Wendy and Carla find themselves in a haunted house. This house has a ghost living in it and now the heroes are unable to live. They find out that this is actually a more tragic case than what it seemed like initially though. For starters, there is a witch in the town who turned this guy into his ghost like state and then all of his friends were turned into trees. Fairy Tail does like going for the emotional spins for moments like these so there are a bunch of twists and turns. The story isn’t quite as emotional as the other one, but I suppose it works well enough.

So you’ve got a general gist of how the stories play out. Typically they involve a friendship problem and then Wendy is able to save the day with her wind abilities. The fights are typically quick and Wendy sometimes needs help, but if you’re worried about there being no action then worry no more. The series does make sure to shake things up. The stories are all pretty interesting and as long as you treat this title as more of a slice of life than an adventure you’ll be fine.

I can’t say that I was too thrilled with the artwork though. It’s considerably weaker than the other Fairy Tail titles. It’s just ever so slightly harder to read when compared with the rest and that can slightly take away from the title. Still, it’s not bad art and isn’t enough to really take away your enjoyment of the title. At 4 volumes it’s also not as if the artist could immediately start drawing a lot better compared to the beginning.

There isn’t really anything negative here which is good. At the most, like I said I think Wendy was a little too nerfed for drama. She should really have been clobbering these guys. Otherwise, the only way you’re liable to be disappointed here is if you expected a big action series. It’s just not that type of title. As far as the Fairy Tail titles go it definitely beats Fairy Tail, The 100 Years sequel, S, and Fairy Girls. I’d probably put it under Ice Trails and Zero though. In terms of story this one’s a little lower though as the plot aspect isn’t quite as interesting as it could have been. Of course then the manga would have had to try and juggle between being very interesting and not suddenly becoming an end of the world plot. Of course that would be hype, but then you’d be worried about the other issues in case Natsu and the gang showed up.

Naturally the characters are always changing, but Wendy and Carla are always around. Carla’s a pretty decent sidekick. She’s a lot better than Happy and always does her best in trying to look out for Wendy. She’s a sidekick that you can count on. Meanwhile Wendy is a good protagonist. She may not be the smartest character out there and tends to not keep her guard up, but at the end of the day she means well. She wants to finally be able to contribute more to the group and so setting off on her own is a good way to get that experience.

Overall, This was actually a pretty fun spinoff. It’s definitely always interesting to see characters you know drawn in a totally different style. It’s a pleasant read and one that would have worked well as a spinoff or as a completely original manga. If you need to read some kind of Fairy Tail manga so you can say you’ve joined the fandom without having to check out the main manga I would certainly say that this is a good one to read. You don’t need prior knowledge of Fairy Tail to immediately get involved with the plot. Plus, Wendy does add some plot details when the series first starts which will bring you up to speed.

Overall 7/10

Cardcaptor Sakura Review

This is another title that I started a very long time ago, but finally got around to finishing it. I used to watch the show when I was a kid and it was certainly a classic along with Sailor Moon. I saw it so many times that some episodes are really stuck in my memory and I remember the animation being pretty good considering how old it was. Unfortunately, the manga is typically not quite as exciting as the anime and overall it was not as enjoyable. The story is good and we do get some solid action from time to time, but subplots hold it down.

Sakura has been chosen to find all of the Clow Cards. They were made by an incredibly powerful sorcerer who died many years ago. Once Sakura has them all, she will have abilities that far outshine those of the other mortals. The problem is that she isn’t the only one collecting the cards as a kid named Li is also hunting them. Sakura must find them fast because most of the cards like to cause terror and destruction. Balancing this out with her school life will be tough, but Sakura is up to the task!

After the main plot is over, the manga has a second arc. A mysterious kid appears who seems to have great magical power and he is causing some trouble. Sakura’s cards have also lost their power so now she must transform all of them into Sakura Cards. What do the villains want and is Sakura prepared to fight the opponents? (She’s a pretty big pacifist so fighting anyone can be difficult for her) Luckily, Li is here to help, but more backup would still be appreciated. Is it time for Cerberus to join in on the action?

The series is a little over 10 volumes although I read it in omnibus format so it was considerably shorter. Each volume was around 500 pages this way and I actually managed to read the final 500 in one sitting because I was ready to see how everything ended. The manga is not without its problems, but the premise still proves to hold up well. I always like the “Gotta Catch Em All” format as it typically works quite well. The manga/anime still has to be careful not to be too repetitive, but that’s usually the only concern with the plot. The first arc doesn’t really have a main villain as a result, but that’s what we have the second arc for.

Sakura is the main character and her life is changed when Cerberus meets her. Sakura is more than happy to catch all of the cards, but she’s not a fighter at heart so she tries to catch them peacefully. It’s why she’s lucky that there were no real villains for quite a while as dealing with cards is less personal. She has a crush on one of the supporting characters for a while, but luckily she manages to get over it by the final volume. That subplot was definitely not great for her. Sakura is fairly generic as far as protagonists go, but not in a good way. I prefer the outgoing, ready to fight, kind of main character. Sakura is more on the timid side. She’s a nice heroine, but a little bland and harder to root for than you would hope from the lead.

Cerberus is Sakura’s animal partner and he’s not bad. Once we find out that he has a true form, things get more fun for his fans. Cerberus can shoot giant energy blasts and he’s a real trooper. From Sakura’s two guardians, Cerberus is easily my favorite member. He’s a very loyal ally to have and it’s safe to say that Sakura wouldn’t have lasted quite as long without him. He’s easily the best hero in the series, which is cool. Yue is Sakura’s other guardian and he’s fairly tough. He has an energy sword at the ready, which he uses to slice away at his foes. He starts off as an antagonist and doesn’t think that Sakura is worthy of the cards, but he eventually comes around. Due to his current predicament of being stuck in someone’s body, Yue’s screen time is considerably less than Cerberus’. His design helps me to believe that he is stronger than Cerberus as he has the speed edge, but Cerberus still wins in terms of personality. Sakura definitely lucked out by having two powerful guardians.

Li is Sakura’s rival who eventually drops down to just being her friend. He’s decently tough, but Sakura is the true chosen warrior so he is left with only a small handful of cards and a sword. He provides her with a good assist during the manga though and he’s not totally helpless. That being said, he spends a great amount of time just arguing with Toya and being insulted by the villains. He’s simply too oblivious at times and the way that he handled his moving situation with Sakura left a lot to be desired. At least he claims that he was going to tell her…but it’s just a claim.

Tomoyo is Sakura’s best friend in the series and she is always making costumes for Sakura to wear. Unfortunately, she’s a pretty bad character. While not nearly as outrageous or insane as Chizuru from Bleach, Tomoyo is basically in love with Sakura and the manga makes sure to mention and hint at this whenever she appears. It’s certainly unnecessary and it’s too bad that they couldn’t just be friends. Tomoyo knows that they will always be just friends because Sakura already has someone that she likes, but it’s still an unnecessary plot development that hurts the series a little since Tomoyo appears a whole lot.

Toya and Yukito’s plot is the other subplot that hurts the series. They were best friends for most of the series. Toya would help his sister, Sakura, out whenever trouble arose and Yukito was just a nice guy who ignored Sakura’s infatuation with him. Then, the manga decides to go the Tomoyo and Sakura route with these two, which was just sad. Toya was the tough character of the series, but that goes away once his magic is taken away and then the plot with him and Yukito stops being veiled. The series definitely had a thing for characters turning out to ultimately be gay, which was regrettable. The series also placed a ton of focus on romance in general, which hurt.

It’s one of the main reasons why I found the anime to be more exciting although they certainly did include many of the plots, it was always very subtle. Of course, I saw the dub and that was a long time ago so perhaps the subs just decide to let loose as well. This is the big reason as to why the franchise could never be as good as Sailor Moon. While Sailor Moon’s fight scenes were often anti-climactic, the series as a whole was just a lot more fun. Less romance and more action is typically a recipe for success.

Eriol is the big villain of the final arc and he’s definitely not a great bad guy. He’s constantly talking a good game and saying vague things, but I can’t take him seriously. He has strong abilities that rival Clow Reed’s and he could have easily defeated Sakura at any time. It simply wasn’t part of the plan though so he holds back a lot. This is definitely the kind of villain who should never be the final boss. He’s just a smug kid when it all boils down to it and the sooner he was off screen the better.

Eriol’s two minions are Ruby Moon and Spinel Sun. They are essentially copies of Cerberus and Yue and were created to be slightly stronger than the originals. Ruby Moon likes to mess around with the guys in the series, but she is still a strong fighter when she gets serious. Her energy sword packs a punch and she was defeating Yue for most of their fight. Spinel Sun is essentially a dark Cerberus and he seems like a nice guy even though he acts tough. They don’t get a whole lot to do in the series, but Eriol definitely needed them since he would have certainly been outnumbered otherwise.

This is Clamp so the art is good as you would expect. It can get very convoluted like with Tsubasa at times, but this is very rare due to the lack of action scenes. Typically, the series just has a lot of large panels, which makes it easy to see what is happening and just blast through the chapters. It’s why you can read the volumes so quickly for this series. Everything is very clear and the style reminds me of Bleach. It’s certainly tough to beat.

As I mentioned, we do get some fight scenes though, which is always cool. The final battle has Sakura’s two guardians fight the fakes while Sakura takes on Eriol. It’s one of the only full fledged fights in the series so it was a good one to watch. In Arc 1, it was more of a test for the final showdown so while there was action, it wasn’t quite as real. More action scenes would have definitely been a lot of fun for this series.

The lack of action may not have been quite a bad thing either if the characters had been more likable. It’s hard to put my thumb on it besides the gay themes in the background, but none of the characters were interesting or likable. It felt like a very old series, but not in a fun and campy way. For example, Kitchen Princess and Pandora Hearts are two series where there isn’t a lot of action all of the time, but the characters are still interesting and relatable. In Cardcaptor Sakura, we don’t really have anyone like that. I don’t think that I really ended up liking a single one of the human characters and for a 12 volume series, that’s not a good thing. The only characters who ended up being good were the guardians for me and they could fight so that was an added bonus.

This series may be a classic, but it’s safe to say that it’s be dethroned by series like Sailor Moon, Angelic Layer, (Not exactly Shojo, but close enough) and Magic Knight Rayearth. Those titles had a lot more action and better main characters to stay up there. While Sakura has better artwork than Sailor Moon and mayyyyyybe Rayearth, (Not Angelic Layer, but not many things can beat that one) it’s not enough to bridge the gap.

A reboot could actually help Cardcaptor Sakura. As I mentioned, one of the problems is that the series feels really dated in a bad way. A modern reboot could help to address this and I’m confident that more action would be included as well. The series is old enough where it would be nostalgic for a lot of people so I can see this working. As for whether it will actually get a reboot, the odds are certainly slim to say the least, but you never know.

Despite its flaws, the series was still pleasant enough to read. The calm art style and slice of life aspects made for an easy read. It’s easy to just pick up and read because of how simple it can be and I’m always happy to have another series around. In the end, the negatives ensured that I couldn’t end up calling it a good title, but it still wasn’t actually boring. It was just hard to relate to any of the characters and sometimes it felt like the series wasn’t really going anywhere.

Overall, Cardcaptor Sakura is a title that many people will likely remember right away. I enjoyed the TV show back when I used to watch it, but the manga couldn’t quite live up to the anime’s memory. The character cast just isn’t good and the gay themes between some of the characters were simply not needed. The art is good and the fight scenes are great when they actually happen, but there really aren’t enough battles to keep the series up. If you’re in the mood for a good Shojo title, I’d recommend reading Sailor Moon instead. The stakes actually do get very high over there towards the end of the series and the Sailor Scouts are more interesting heroines than Sakura. As with Fire Emblem, I have now finished another series that I began several years ago. It always feels good to complete another series and I’m one step closer to finally getting my Naruto manga review up.

Overall 4/10

Sakura Hime The Legend of Princess Sakura Review

Sakura Hime is a Shojo story that you may not have heard of. It’s not a completely obscure title, but it’s still not very well known. It tries to delve into the action genre while also keeping the romance in, which makes for a tricky balance. It’s definitely no Shonen Jump title, but I suppose that it is certainly better than most of the other Shojo series. I can’t give it a passing grade, but the fight scenes were pretty cool.

This story takes place in a land filled with monsters and kings. The setting is a fantasy land that seems pretty primitive by today’s standards. There are certainly no electronics to speak of. A young girl by the name of Sakura is found out to be a Yokai. She is one of the legendary monsters that hails from the moon and she is able to wield the legendary Chizakura blade. Prince Oura is sent to destroy her, but he decides not too since he naturally falls in love with her at first sight. The government still doesn’t trust her so Prince Oura is in a tricky spot.

Not wasting any time, the denizens of the moon decide to attack in full force. Their leader is immensely powerful and he seems to have some history with Sakura. The plot developments and twists will give Sakura some doubts as to what side she should choose. Both of them have shady pasts and many people will feel the effects of her decisions. Luckily, she is Princess Sakura (Did the title just spoil the series?) so she is always ready for action!

Sakura is the main character so it was interesting to see how cool she would be compared to Cardcaptor Sakura and Sakura Haruno. It’s safe to say that she comes in third place from this trio. (At least manga wise) She isn’t a bad character though and she certainly has her moments, but she has a tough time going all out. She always feels bad for the villains and she refuses to fight more than once. She is easily one of the stronger characters in the series since her blade can destroy any yokai with a single hit. This just means that there will be many excuses for her to miss the enemy. Her romance with Prince Oura is definitely one of the low points for her, but another one is that she lets so many guys hit on her without putting up enough resistance. She should just tell them to go away and slice them down with her sword if they do not. She has to put up with a lot of negativity from the villagers. (At least she gets to use intro lines that would even make Sailor Moon proud when she does get to fight)

Another problem is that she’s a little too gullible. She lets the government capture her with ease, which was pretty awful. It’s really a good thing that Enchu was there that time since her mind would have quickly broken under the government’s trap. That situation should have definitely been avoided and she should have known that something was up. It’s just sad to see someone as powerful as her be defeated by the government so easily. In the end, she may not be a bad main character and she beats some of her Shojo counterparts, but she definitely isn’t one of the better ones out there.

Prince Oura is the main guy in this series and he’s definitely an unlikable character. He was terrible when he first appeared, but he definitely got better as the series went on. That being said, he went from terrible to just unlikable as he never became a good character for me. He always seems ungrateful and he decides to keep secrets from Sakura right up til the very end. He certainly doesn’t make things easy for her. He’s a part of the government so he should be trying to make things better, but he usually just goes along with what the higher ups want. When it comes to matters involving Sakura, he quickly stops them, but he doesn’t do much more than that. He just seems like a pawn of the government when he could be an instrumental figure in changing them. Maybe someday…maybe. Either way, he lost his chance at being a likable character a long time ago.

Asagiri is a little snow fairy who helps Sakura out during the series. Things definitely get dicey for her in the climax since she is captured and the heroes are too slow to really do anything about it. By the time they get to her, it’s almost too late. “Almost” being the key word of course and we have Sakura to thank for her rescue. She is definitely a good character and I’d say that she is one of Sakura’s best allies. As with another one of Sakura’s allies, Asagiri has a super form at her disposal.

Byakuya protects Sakura and acts as her mentor. She used to wield the sacred sword and she’s pretty powerful when she fights in her true form. Typically, she fights under the guise of an old woman, but this is just an act to make the opponent lower their guard. She’s pretty good and she has a twist at the very end of the series that is pretty intriguing. It’s definitely impressive for her, but it also does undermine the final villain to an extent. She doesn’t live up to the Byakuya name that we know from Bleach, but she is a talented fighter and a loyal companion.
Kohaku is a ninja who works for Sakura and she places the Princess’ safety before her obligations to the main house. That is a good thing since it means that Sakura can actually trust her. Unfortunately, she starts to develop feelings for two other ninja, which creates another subplot that we didn’t really need. It doesn’t help that both of them are constantly running away and making themselves scarce. Kohaku doesn’t get a whole lot of closure as the series ends, but she does get her own fight during arc 1. That was pretty good, but it was the only action that she really got in the series. She’s a good ninja though and certainly better than her partner.

Hayate is a very confused man who doesn’t really know what he wants. He thinks that he likes Kohaku, but then he starts to like Rurijo before trying to get back together with Kohaku in the final chapters. I definitely wouldn’t accept him if I was her since Hayate can’t make up his mind. Hayate was cursed to be a frog for a very long time so he misses out on most of the series. He can turn into a human when the full moon is out so he does try to get some fight scenes in, but mostly he is just a bystander. I’m glad that he didn’t rat out Rurijo to the corrupt government and the heroes, but he certainly didn’t do it for the right reasons. This is definitely one shinobi that I didn’t like.

Rurijo was made out of tree branches as a clone of Sakura. This way her very existence can remind Enju of the princess and how he needs to save her from the pesky government and Prince Oura. As such, she gets a pretty sad character arc since Enju only sees her as a substitute. She must constantly go to water to replenish her strength and everyone always seems to get upset at her when she tries to destroy Sakura. By the second half of the series, she is still learning to cope with this, but it’s slow goings. Things temporarily grow brighter for her when she gets a new master only for everything to go sour once again. This is one character who never really got to be happy. She can definitely be likable and she was a fun villain during the first half. Alas, she always longs to be with Enju, which hurts her character. She’s oblivious to Hayate, so I’ll give her some credit for that, but she should have stuck to being a great warrior who mows down the heroes.

Enju is the big villain and he lasts for the whole series. He has a pretty traumatic past, which led him to betray the government and become the big villain. Deep down he mainly wants to help Sakura, but he loses sight of this goal from time to time. He’s definitely a villain no matter how sympathetic the series tries to make him. That being said, you could call him a villain of circumstance as the government turned him into what he is today. It’s all pretty tragic for him although his last minute change of heart was more than a little hard to swallow. His personality just did a 180 in the span of 2 chapters. The series was ending so I’m guessing that the author just wanted to wrap that part up. I appreciate his loyalty, but he’s still not really my kind of villain. I do like the fact that he is a great fighter though and he works pretty well as a serious villain.

Shuri is a ninja who really tries to play all of the sides. On the surface he appears to be working for Enju, but this is actually a mission that the government gave to him. He also helps Prince Oura and the others when it is convenient for him so he really can’t be trusted. You could say that he’ll help Kohaku over his obligations to the other places, but I’m not really sure about that. This is one guy that I definitely would not trust. His ending is definitely emotional, but I didn’t care for his character from the start so it definitely wasn’t a big loss for me.

Maimai’s role felt much smaller than most of the other villains. He cares a lot about looks and exteriors, but he’s actually a “tough” villain when things get serious. I really couldn’t take him seriously and Maimai just isn’t a great villain. Maimai doesn’t really have any grand ambition or good reasons to help Enchu. As a result, he comes across as having no real character so he never stood a chance of being a cool villain.

Kaguya is the ultimate villain and the final one to take the stage. It comes as no great shock that she is pretty powerful. She doesn’t have much in the way of character since her screen time is so brief, but she still manages to be a pretty cool antagonist. She’s someone that you can certainly root for and she’s probably the best villain in the series. She also gives us our first fight where Sakura gets a speed feat. It’s not an incredible one, but it’s a speed feat nonetheless. It’s too bad that Kaguya couldn’t last a little longer, but she served her purpose of being a good villain.

The series definitely has quite a few flaws that keep it from being a real contender in the manga ranks. Naturally, the biggest obstacle is the fanservice. Seeing as how this is a Shojo title, it’s surprising that it is so prevalent in this series. Particularly with Rurijo since she is constantly at the hot springs. The plot reason for this is that she has to constantly go somewhere where she can be in the water because she is made of tree branches. Nevertheless, that plot could have been changed so that this wouldn’t be necessary.

Another factor is the romance. For the record, I haven’t actually bashed the romance angle in many of my recent reviews, but this one definitely deserves the harsh treatment. For one, Prince Oura is a really cheap guy, although you already know that from my earlier writings of him. I disapprove of Sakura going to him, especially after his threats and decision to destroy her in the beginning if not for her quick thinking. It goes a little far and this naturally lasts until the very end of the series so it continues to appear no matter how much you want it to go away.

Again, I do have to give the series props for the fight scenes though. For the first half of the series, we get to a point where 3-4 volumes in a row are composed of action scenes. We get to take a break from the typical slice of life moments to actually get a Shonen feel. Everyone splits up and chooses an enemy to face. It’s pretty fun and if the whole series was like that, I think it may have had a chance to creep all the way up to a 6. The characters on both sides were pretty well developed so the throwaway fights felt like real ones as well. The enemies were probably a little too strong compared to the heroes, but such is the fate of the humans in their war against demons.

One thing that’s pretty sad is that the government is pretty awful. They’re totally corrupt and they get away with just about everything. They naturally dislike the Yokai and they force the main villain into a water tank, which repeatedly destroys him until his mind breaks. They are the reason why he is evil and they nearly do the same to Sakura before that same villain arrives to save her. After that, you really don’t want the heroes to help the government, but they do and the higher ups never really get what’s coming to them. Enju takes out quite a few of them, but there are always more. One of the side characters is going to become the next leader of the place so maybe he can help right? The problem is that he’s also pretty corrupt so he won’t be much of an improvement.

With traitors like that as allies, there really aren’t many characters to root for. You can’t root for the villains either since they want destruction as well. It just makes everything hazy and while you can sympathize with Sakura’s desire to help everyone, she tends to make problems even bigger at times with her inability to really make a decision. Imprisoning the government officials and taking the Yokai down seems to be the best bet, but with a prince as one of the main characters…that will be difficult.

The art is definitely pretty good for the series. I won’t call it downright amazing, but it’s certainly better than I had expected it to be. It’s very clear and the fight scenes occur pretty smoothly. It definitely made everything a little more enjoyable than it could have been and I think the author must have read a lot of Shonen manga since the action scenes have the epic zoom ins and classic dialogue that we’ve come to expect. The art perfectly captures these moments and I definitely give the series a big thumbs up there.
Overall, Sakura Hime is a series that is plagued by the fanservice and romantic plots that tend to overwhelm it at times. If the series had stopped after arc 1, it definitely had a decent shot at landing a solid 6. As it is, I think that the second arc basically cut this series in half. You can blame at least 90% of that on Oura, but I suppose that we have to blame the Emperor and some of the other characters as well. How the government is allowed to continue their rule is certainly beyond me. Just about all of the higher ups are fairly corrupt so you really can’t trust anyone on either the human or the yokai side. If you want a romance series with some action, this is definitely the right series for you. As it stands, I can’t really recommend this title and would turn you to another Shojo like Kitchen Princess or Sailor Moon for a better experience.

Overall 3/10

Sailor Moon Review

It’s time to review a pretty legendary manga in the form of Sailor Moon! If DBZ is the most popular Shonen manga of all time (Mildly debatable I suppose since One Piece tops it in sales, but DBZ basically invented the industry and nobody can forget it!) then Sailor Moon is the most popular Shojo title. It revolutionized the manga industry as we know it and they recently came out with the new Sailor Moon Crystal anime to be a more faithful adaption (in theory) of the manga than the original show. They also re released the manga volumes again in a crisp, new form. So, I finally got to read it and it’s a solid Shojo title. It’s safe to say that it beats most of the others, (I still say that Fairy Navigator Runa may be better…) but it definitely has its weak points as well. Let’s see how the series held up through the years!

The plot is pretty large so bear with me. The first arc mainly follows Usagi as she deals with the usual school routines and such until she is given a magical amulet by a cat. She is actually the legendary guardian of the moon…Sailor Moon to be exact! (I like to think that the sailor part is there because the scouts soar through the cosmos with their FTL feats and space has been known to have similarities to water) She must now find the other Sailor Scouts who have been scattered around her school and neighborhoods so that she can find and destroy defeat Queen Beryl of the Negaverse. (Dark Kingdom) It’s a tough job, but the Sailor Scouts were literally born to do this. (In this reincarnation anyway)

Things wind down a little after that as we get introduced to Mini Moon. Her courage is matched only by her cunning and she certainly makes things difficult for Usagi. (I still prefer to say Serena, but I suppose that I can deal with calling her Usagi) She has come to the present because things are getting dangerous in the future. Wiseman has assembled some powerful allies and they now wish to reduce the world/galaxy/universe into ash. That may not be his exact goal, but that’s more or less what happens. The heroes will now have to time travel and meet up with a new sailor scout to take these villains down. Can they really hope to do this or have the heroes met their match?

Next up, we get the Death Busters! (Really cool name right?) This is the anime that made Sailor Moon famous (to me anyway) and it was pretty intense in the anime. These heart snatchers want to power up an immensely destructive being to wipe out the universe once and for all! The true threat may be closer to the heroes than she appears. Will the heroes really be able to face off against someone so close? Meanwhile, Tuxedo Mask struggles to stay relevant, but it’s a losing battle. As the fate of existence hangs in the balance, Sailor Moon will have to make a tough call!

It’s hard to call the next arc an arc, but I suppose that we’ll have too since even Wikipedia recognizes it as such! A circus comes into town and there’s a new queen who happens to be evil. Nehelenia is so evil that not even the heroes can hope to make her change her ways. The scouts have been through this before, but can they hope to beat the Amazonian Quartet? The villains have finally taken the scout’s number advantage in the fights so the battle can truly be even now!

Well, every series must end at some point right? Things get chaotic for the heroes as a bunch of new characters are introduced. None of them are likable of course, but have we ever had a character debut in the final arc of a series and still manage to be epic? Sure, we can name a bunch of villains, but how about a hero? Gets interesting doesn’t it?……verrrryyy interesting. Anyway, Sailor Galaxia is basically the Sailor Moon version of Galactus and she doesn’t suffer from his great size disadvantage. Sailor Moon is completely outgunned and the scouts really seem to be outmatched. They’re going to have to use the power of friendship and something that could be even more useful in a fight if they really want to end things once and for all!

I’d say that the series’ main weakness is that it feels dated. It’s not really in a good way as some series can pull it off a little more efficiently than others. The art is the main problem that I have with it. It’s kind of like Tsubasa in the sense that the art usually looks all right, but it gets dicey for fight scenes. On the other hand, Tsubasa was still a lot newer and it did look more refined than Sailor Moon. I have a feeling that it’s the kind of series that is easier to read the second time around, but I read this one pretty recently so I likely wouldn’t revisit it for a while. Thus, I can’t really say that I care for the art. I would certainly call it under average, but I’m sure that many series back in those days weren’t quite as refined as the ones of today. Some would hold up well and others just wouldn’t. This is simply a case of the latter.

It’s also why my memory of the series is more grainy than it would be for something like Bleach. The events start to blur together after a while and the characters can look very similar as well. I also have the TV show to thank for my distractions since I saw it quite a few times so I tend to think of the TV show version of each arc instead of the manga’s. What can I say…the show was just That good. Still, this could be the manga’s greatest weakness. No series wants to be forgettable and my recollection is just way vaguer than it should be. Even for a series like Muyo and Roji or Kingdom Hearts II where there may be yearlong breaks between chapters, it’s always pretty easy to remember past events and just jump in. It helps that there are only a handful of characters who really stand out in Sailor Moon. (Plus, no “Rage Mode” scenes or big power ups that radically change Sailor Moon’s appearance.
The oldness of the series does help it in one big area. There really isn’t anything in the way of fanservice. It’s possible that there is a scene or two somewhere in the manga, but I can’t recall any and that’s always a good thing. There is a pretty big dose of romance thanks to Tuxedo Last Mask and Sailor Moon though. I can’t say that it’s very good though and the constant insults can make you take a step back. Why couldn’t these two just stay as rivals or enemies? Most of the bickering was in the anime so it’s not quite as common in the manga, but it’s still intense to see. Taking away the romance would have been fun since the new characters in the final arc wouldn’t have jumped into the fray themselves. The romance isn’t terrible like Black Bird so it won’t really affect the score that much, but I definitely would have liked it to have been cut out.

One thing that always needs to be addressed are the power levels for the series since they’re always compared to DBZ. I have to say that I sneeze at the very thought of Sailor Moon being that high. One Piece or Naruto could have a field day with the Sailor Moon universe, never mind Bleach! Sailor Moon would have a more even match in something like Shaman King I suppose, but pre elemental spirits and taking Hao away. Then, that could be an interesting fight. The problem is that the Sailor Moon fighters tend to be very slow and their durability is really underwhelming. They’re basically just meta human in those areas or maybe not even peak human. All you need is a quick slash from Kenshin and they would all go down. It really all comes down to Sailor Saturn and Sailor Galaxia to hold off the big threats since they have some good proven feats. The rest of the characters are mostly hype at this point. The manga does make it easy with all of the narration. We find out towards the end that all of the Sailor Scouts are immortal and their spirits are indestructible. This means that they can never be defeated for good because their souls will just be reincarnated. So, the debaters who put a lot of stock into the “immortal = victory” argument will definitely like this. Of course, destroying them once every 100-1000 years shouldn’t be too difficult for the villains since the reincarnations will likely not be much stronger. This is why immortality really doesn’t help all that much. Well, it’s still good to see that Sailor Moon has a lot of debaters on their side.

Sailor Moon is the main character and she’s pretty unique. It’s safe to say that there aren’t many main characters like her, but I can’t say that it’s really a good thing. She’s just not my kind of main character. She’s mostly comic relief for about 90% of the series and she’s just not very powerful. I guess it’s okay for the main character to not be supremely powerful or born with the powers of the 9 Tailed Fox or something, but it certainly doesn’t help. Let’s also not forget the romance subplots as well. Adding all of these things up results in a main character that just isn’t my style. If she could have at least said something like “Only one of us is walking away from this chump” or “In the name of the Moon, prepare to die!” then that likely would have helped me gain some respect for her. I just want her to strike some fear into the hearts of the villains or to at least stand up to them. Typically, Sailor Moon just isn’t that kind of character.

We’ve also got Tuxedo Mask, but they don’t call him Tuxedo Man for a reason. He constantly gets kidnapped or brain washed so it’s really hard to take him seriously. He doesn’t really have any abilities at his disposal so it makes sense that he would be defeated, but he should at least lose with some dignity. His rose was surprisingly effective in the anime, but it was definitely not quite as lethal here. He also develops a romance with the main character that he tries to deny through insults and such, but he eventually crumbles. The romance plots don’t help either of them as you would expect. Again, Tuxedo Mask just needed to act a little cooler for me to really like him. At least punch out one of the villains or something! Don’t worry, we’re going to talk about a cooler character next for a change of pace.

Sailor Galaxia is the big villain that I had been waiting for! It’s no stretch to say that she rose the series up the universe tiers by herself. There were other strong fighters of course, but Galaxia is a casual planet buster and she actually felt like a DBZ villain. This is someone that I could actually picture fighting opponents like Frieza. (Let’s not push it and request that fight though) She’s easily the best villain in the series and that’s great since it means that the manga got to end with a bang. Her armor is really cool and it helps her design to end up as one of the best. She’s easily one of my favorite characters in the franchise and maybe she is my favorite. It’s something that I’ll have to think about.

Two other villains are Queen Beryl and Queen Nehemiah. Unfortunately, they are essentially the same character. I can’t really say that they have any personality. They just want to destroy the world or something along those lines. They are willing to destroy innocent people to do this and Sailor Moon won’t stand for it! They’re not bad villains, but they are pretty generic. In that case, your only hope is usually for the villain to have a cool design or to have some impressive combat feats. In those regards, Queen Beryl definitely beats Nehemiah. I can’t say that they really added much to the series, but Queen Beryl has become pretty iconic by this point. So, I’d say that it warrants her appearance and she can definitely fight. I’ll also give some props to her since her name is a pretty cool pun. From the manga, Queen Beryl is probably my second favorite villain. It’s a bit of a “by default” thing, but that still does mean that I find her likable. It may be in comparison to others, but she still beats many other villains. If only she could have gotten a nice hand to hand fight or an extended action scene. That certainly would have been cool!
Wiseman is the big villain from the Mini Moon arc and you gotta love the design. He has a pretty intimidating cloak. Unfortunately, his plan is rather sketchy. It revolves around Mini Moon lacking strength of character and buying into what he’s saying. If she had just stayed in the castle or been a little more defiant..things may have been okay. Still, Wiseman’s “cunning” I suppose and he can still fight when it comes to that. He’s not the greatest fighter, but that’s all right considering who he’s fighting. He’s a little generic, but there’s only so much you can do with a serious villain who runs around in a cloak while holding a crystal ball.

The Sailor Starlights come in during the end of the series and they’re pretty underwhelming characters. They’re only here to mess with Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mast Mask. This gets old rather quickly and you would think that their tricks wouldn’t work on the strong bond that the two of them have right? Well, the problem is that Sailor Moon is easily impressed by just about anyone and we’ve established that Tuxedo Mask doesn’t have a lot of will power. The Starlights are eventually written out of the manga, but why they were added in the first place is beyond me. They scream “filler characters” whenever they’re on screen.

We’ve also got the three Outer Sailor Scouts. Neptune, Pluto, and Uranus. These three were pretty intense in the show, but their roles have been drastically reduced in the manga. Sailor Pluto never really gets to fight since she has to guard the time portals. She eventually rejects that job, but she only gets a page or two of action to use her signature attack. It’s a pretty good attack and more fighters should learn how to use the classic energy ball. Uranus had a pretty great attack in the show and I believe that it’s the same in the manga, but it doesn’t look very impressive. Neptune’s water abilities are decent as well, but these two never get to do anything worthwhile. They couldn’t take down Saturn and I think that’s when the audience realized that they weren’t any more useful than the other Scouts. Only Sailor Moon can hope to take the villains down.

Well then, how about the normal scouts? Mercury is one of the originals and she’s not really a fighter. She’s pretty smart and she has aqua abilities, but even her powers aren’t meant for combat. It’s all about bubble illusions or other non threats. She eventually gets some better abilities, but she really doesn’t help all that much in the fights. Sailor Mars has fire powers and she is a little more refined with her abilities. She can talk a good game and her fire arrow is an attack that I can actually trust. She’s a step up from Mercury to be sure. Sailor Jupiter doesn’t have much character and I really didn’t like her in the show. I’m more indifferent as far as the manga is concerned. Thunder abilities are cool, but they never really help her out. Sailor Venus is arguably the strongest member of the main Sailor Scouts with the exception of Sailor Moon. She has a lot of prior experience since she was already a Sailor Scout since before Sailor Moon’s time. Her experience causes her to be pretty confident or to completely underestimate her opponents…usually both. She’s definitely better than most of the others, but Sailor Mars may give her competition. (In the manga anyway)

Mini Moon is sort of a member, but I like to think of her as a part timer. She hasn’t really gotten to develop her abilities yet so she can’t help in a fight. Mostly, she just tries to psych out Sailor Moon and mess with everyone’s memories. She’s pretty skilled in that area, but she tends to make a lot of bad decisions that endanger everyone. Mini Moon gets a pretty cool/powerful super form as a result, but it’s only a positive for her. At the very least, Mini Moon manages to be a lot more likable than Mini Mini Moon. (Or Chibi Chibi Moon) The double Mini Moon can’t really talk since she’s so young and she’s really only useful for one of those twists that you were waiting for at the end.
We’ve also got the mysterious Sailor Saturn. She’s one of the main antagonists for a while and her power is considerable. Aside from Sailor Galaxia, it may not be a stretch to say that she is the strongest character in the series. She actually shows her feats instead of relying on the hype of the other characters to keep her going. Sadly, she doesn’t get to do much once she turns good, but one good action scene is still a lot better than 90% of the cast. Her design is pretty inspired and she’s easily one of the best characters in the series.

There are certainly other characters that I could mention. We had The Heart Snatchers, The crazy Scientist, The evil circus…but they aren’t huge players. Sailor Moon is not the kind of manga that really believes in a lot of character development so they’re all pretty one note. This sort of leads into one of the complaints that I have with it.

Sailor Moon is always the hero. What we’ve learned from epic manga like DBZ and Naruto is that it’s best for supporting characters to also get their moments. Imagine if Goku got to fight Android 17 instead of Piccolo and if he fought 18 instead of Vegeta? Picture Goku always being the guy to claim victory while all of the side characters lost every time. That’s basically what happens in Sailor Moon. Her teammates can’t really do anything right and they have to be saved by Sailor Moon everytime. It can get pretty annoying after a while and especially if you don’t really care for the lead. This is probably one of the reasons why the other characters aren’t memorable. All of the Sailor Scouts are just there to be defeated over and over again. Sailor Moon’s victories also aren’t that impressive because she’ll just fire some kind of energy blast and the opponent is disintegrated. This never fails.

How does Sailor Moon stack up against the anime? Not very well I’m afraid. I think Toei realized a lot of the mistakes that the manga made and rushed to fix them. They didn’t get everything right though. Toei added some extra romance with Mars and they made Jupiter to be a pretty unlikable character. That being said, they made sure that each of the Scouts got their time to shine and there were many more fight scenes to be found. The fillers helped to develop the characters and I can safely say that I remember most of the episodes pretty clearly. I dare say that the anime is in another league and that is very rare since the manga is typically on the same level as the show. Some would say that the manga is typically superior since there is no filler. This is just not the case here. How does it stack up against Crystal? Much better so far, but it’s likely a losing battle. I’ll get back to you on that once I watch it.

This review may have seemed pretty negative, but that’s just because there are a lot of noticeable errors. Some series are just easier to rip apart than others. You still have to consider that this is one of the oldest fighting, shojo manga and it didn’t have a lot of the resources available to us today. It didn’t know that supporting characters should get a bigger role and the art isn’t really its fault. (Still gotta count it though) Sailor Moon was a fun read and that’s what counts. I’m confident that a remake manga would be even better and it still clobbers the average Shojo manga of today.

One of the positives that I can easily elaborate on is the final arc. I guess it would be a stretch to say that it saved the manga from being known as an action series without much action, but it did add a good amount. The stakes were a lot higher and the fights were a lot more engaging. The Sailor Scouts had been needing an opponent like Galaxia to fight because it would make things more interesting. It’s the closest to DBZ that we’ll get here and it was a blast. Galaxia’s minions weren’t that interesting, but her fight was definitely a lot of fun. It also proved that the artist can draw good fight scenes when she wants to. If we had another arc after the final one that had been just as action packed, it may have given it enough steam to earn an extra star on its rating. As it is, it ends up missing the solid seven. If you’re thinking about checking out the series, I’d definitely recommend making it to the final arc. The battles and nonstop action definitely makes it worth it!
Overall, Sailor Moon is a legend and it’s still one of the biggest titles around. I definitely had my share of qualms with it. I didn’t care for the art and most of the characters weren’t really likable. Still, it manages to avoid most of the pitfalls of other manga like fanservice and characters that are beyond dislikable. (Even DBZ had some of those!) Some parts of the series definitely feel dated, like the writing and the art, but it’s still a fun read. This is a series that has a lot of replay value. There are around 12 volumes and slightly more depending on the format. I would definitely recommend this to the average manga fan and especially if you’re curious about the Shojo version of DBZ. Don’t go into it expecting a bunch of fight scenes though as it’ll give you the wrong impression. Just go in blind and I’m sure that you’ll enjoy it as a pretty nice series. Who knows, maybe this will get you to watch the anime based off of it. See, I think it’s a fair assessment to say that Sailor Moon fails as a shonen action series about warriors who defend the world from evil. You should not read it for that. If you read it as just another Shojo series, then you’ll be very impressed since most of them stay away from the action genre. (Don’t compare it to other magical girl items though or you’ll be saddened to see just how much it gets stomped by Pretty Cure) Sailor Moon won’t be joining the elites of manga, but it can easily fight for Top 3 in the Shojo section of manga. (Which is impressive in itself!) I do plan to give it a re read someday since the ambiguous art also makes you want to check again to make sure that you didn’t miss any feats.

Overall 6/10