Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

I Am Here Review


It’s time to look at a pretty short romance series. It’s a fun little read that I could recommend. At the same time, some of the characters can get a little tricky which I’ll get into in a moment. I’d say that the main takeaway here is that you can’t always trust the advice you get, but some of it will be legit. You gotta then act on it or the whole thing will have been a waste. It’s a tough situation for the lead for sure, but at least she has supportive characters at the ready.

So Hikage has never really stood out in school. People don’t notice her which makes her sad since she would like to have some friends. However it isn’t that everyone at school is mean, they just don’t notice her because Hikage is always hiding. It’s a bit of a loop as Hikage is too scared to approach anyone and nobody can approach her because she’s always hiding. Fortunately Hikage has two online friends who are always cheering her on. They encourage her to go and make a friend. Hikage takes a chance and actually manages to catch the attention of the two most popular guys at school. This leads to troubles with their respective fanclubs, but Hikage is determined to finally become a more pro-active person.

The message here is pretty good about escaping your shell and joining the rest of the world. Hikage is also less exaggerated in this regard than you would expect from most other leads. It’s handled pretty realistically and she seems like a nice person. Perhaps a little indecisive but that’s also something she tries to improve on as the series continues. While she’s not going to be a scene stealer nor is she my favorite character in the series I can’t really say that there is anything wrong with her. She’s just not really my kind of character.

Hinata is the main guy and his whole gimmick is that he’s really nice. He’s also the most popular kid in school because of how oblivious he is. The guy just wants to make everyone happy and fortunately for Hikage they seem to have a connection. He’s a little too oblivious though which holds him back a little. He really doesn’t notice what is going on around him and as a result is left in the dust at times. He should really have a clue as to what’s going on considering what he knows of Hikage but I suppose I should cut him some slack.

Then you have Teru who is Hinata’s best friend. Naturally that means he shouldn’t even try to start anything with Hikage because best friends don’t do that…right? It would be pretty sketchy and unfortunately the manga goes down that road which is unfortunate. I would have loved for Teru to have stayed as just a loyal friend to Hikage. It would have been a much nicer dynamic as well as a fresher one since the two main guys always happen to fall for the same person. This inevitably leads to a falling out between them which is unfortunate. I have to put all of the blame for this on Teru though. He gracefully chose not to pursue Hikage so to go back on that is basically a betrayal. I was disappointed in his character for doing something so underhanded.

As for Hikage’s online friends, they’re pretty reasonable. You’ve got Black Rabbit who is the nice one. He’s always encouraging Hikage and tries to keep her spirits up. Black Rabbit even gets a spinoff story at the end of the series where we see his point of view. Then you’ve got Mega Pig who is a little more direct and to the point. He wants to help Hikage as well, but speaks his mind and doesn’t beat around the bush. In general Mega Pig gives better advice even if it isn’t quite as calming. He tells you what you need to hear vs what you actually want to hear.

I Am Here isn’t a very subtle series though so you can probably guess most of what is going to happen right away. From all of the twists I’d say that only one of them really worked. One character’s plot didn’t end exactly like how I expected it to. For the rest this one is really going by the books which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’d say that the writing is pretty good here for the most part. You’ll be engaged enough to keep going and will want to see what happens next.

I also enjoyed the art for the series. It looks pretty clear and the artist doesn’t draw characters too similar in appearance so you don’t have to worry about mixing them up. That’s always the kind of thing that will make me drop the grade of the art. As it stands you won’t really have a problem trying to understand what will happen next.

The weakest part of the manga is definitely the romance though. First we have Hikage’s side of the story. She’s already with Hinata so as soon as Teru tries to get into the picture she should shut him down right away. In this case she was oblivious for most of it, but once she realized what was happening she should have flat out declined him. It may have made him sore for a while, but it was the right move. Then you have Teru who knew what he was doing from the start. He should have simply gave up on Hikage since he made his move way too late. Once the girl is taken that should be it. You can’t try to steal someone away. Even if you succeed you have to live with the fact that if you stole her away so easily then someone else can do the same. The only innocent one here is Hinata even if he’s fairly bland.

The plot of Hinata and Teru getting into it is also a bit iffy. They’ve been friends for ages so I like to think they should have figured out the plot a lot quicker than they did. I guess they were blinded by their emotions and all that but I feel like they still shouldn’t have jumped the gun this quickly. I suppose I should mention that there is a villain here. She tries her best to mess up Hikage’s life after being knocked out of the inner circle. It gets a little cheesy by the end, but I suppose she was a decent villain. Her plan may not have been amazing but it worked pretty well so you gotta give her some credit there.

Another thing I liked about the manga is that the classmates are actually realistic this time around. When they see that people are messing with Hikage later on they step in. They may not have done anything at first, but later on they are at least active participants. That’s a big upgrade from the usual guys who just stand around shaking their heads as things happen. These guys would actually talk even if they were super gullible during other scenes.

Overall, I Am Here is a decent manga. The romance definitely isn’t all that good, but otherwise it’s a decent story. It’s pretty short since there are only 2 volumes, but they’re large ones so a lot of content is still covered. I think the story would have been more interesting if it had gone in different directions but it is what it is. At the end of the day it still had an interesting dynamic with the online friends and there are enough unique aspects here to separate it from other Shojo titles. If it ever gets a sequel series I expect Hikage to take charge and be the confident lead she was meant to be.

Overall 6/10

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Manga Update

Arisa Update


I now own all of the volumes to this series! It’s been around 8-9 year since I started this mystery title so I look forward to restarting it from scratch and blasting through to get that review up. It’ll probably be a little while before I actually get to do this marathon but it is definitely coming up so stay tuned!

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

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

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Monster Tamer Girls Review


It’s time to look at a very obscure manga. I’d definitely not heard of this one before and as it was only 2 volumes it’s definitely not one that you will likely see in stores much. It’s definitely an interesting take on the monster genre. It’s sort of a mix between Yotsuba and Go Go Monster. While I can’t say that this manga was all that interesting there was certainly nothing wrong with it either. It’s a good way to spend some time, but at the end of the day it’s a manga I would recommend reading for free at the library as opposed to buying it.

The manga takes place in a world where Kaiju are now commonplace. They are numerous and run around across the planet. Fortunately they are all basically mindless but the bad side of this is that they cause trouble without meaning to. As a result the world has started opening up schools for kids to train on how to tame these creatures. The Tamers will take the Kaiju to safe spaces where they can relax without disturbing people. That’s the way it’s always been and how it must remain in order to build a stable society. The manga follows the adventures of 2 girls who are tamers in training. They’ll soon learn that this job is easier than it looks.

There’s not really much of a plot once you get beyond the initial synopsis which I dare say is a problem. So many cool things you can do with a Kaiju defense force! Most of the manga is introducing you to the cast and then by that point the series is basically over. There are several main humans, but only one main Kaiju who is around for the whole adventure. His name is Blue and he’s a huge Kaiju who just wants a friend. The Monster tamers are fortunate to have him as he helps give them a boost when needed. He definitely makes travelling a lot more convenient for sure.

There are 4 main characters with 2 supporting ones thrown in there. One of these characters is Koto. She is a professional but doesn’t care much for the monsters. She thinks they’re all mindless and the job seems to bore her, but by the end she learns that the monsters have a little heart at least. Then there is Sora who is the co-main character along with Ion. Sora likes messing around and hitting people with the water horse while Ion is just focused on being the best tamer she can be. Tsukiko is the quiet one who doesn’t like to admit that she likes the Kaiju. She has a reputation to uphold after all and she’s always been proud of it. Still, pride comes before a fall and eventually she learns to play nice with the monsters.

None of the characters are bad, however there isn’t much to any of them. They’re all just going through the motions and enjoying their daily adventures, but nothing really comes of this. They get some basic character development like Tsukiko learning to be more open, but that’s about it. There’s really no time for anything else. Length isn’t an issue as you can have a great series in 2 volumes, but I think this is one title that could have used a bit more time. As it stands it is over before you can properly identify with any of the characters and that’s a bit of a problem.

The art is pretty solid, but the problem that the artist has is how similar all of the characters look. It’s easy to mix up Sora and Ion as well as Koto and another one of the characters. Some characters share the same hairstyles and others share the same personalities. Their ages are all pretty close as well so after a while you’ll just find yourself mixing them up. I had to dig up one of the volumes just to remind myself of their names.

I think one thing that could have added some more interesting elements to the story would have been to have some actual monster action in the series. I don’t think that would be unreasonable as surely some of the monsters would try attacking the planet right? The series hints at this and develops a world that should have many interesting elements, but we are stuck at the school with the nice monsters the whole time. You’ll very quickly find yourself wishing to see the outside world. The closest thing we get to these discussions is one kick from Blue to another Kaiju, a flashback where there’s some kind of battle going on and a Kaiju saves someone from a burning window, and a ghost. Beyond that the series is mainly just the kids learning how to feed animals and have fun.

Overall, Monster Tamer Girls isn’t exactly for me. I dare say that Yotsuba has a little more depth and excitement contained within. You really need some sort of gimmick to take the manga to the next level. A slice of life series can live on for quite some time with a good character cast, but you need them to have real personalities. You don’t really get that vibe from this series and even the monster designs aren’t all that great. This doesn’t leave you with a whole lot of options and as a result I’ve got to give this one a middle grade. I wouldn’t say to stick away from it, but I would hardly recommend it either. It’s a manga where you’ll finish it and not have much of an opinion on it. The series isn’t hurting anyone, but you could always find something else to read.

Overall 5/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Tokyo Mew Mew A La Mode Review


It’s time to look at the quick sequel that came out after the original Tokyo Mew Mew. In omnibus form it’s only one volume so it definitely doesn’t take too long to go through it. It’s a fun sequel but one that does end way too fast. It feels as if the series was cancelled with how abrupt it all is. It doesn’t have the depth of the first series, but it isn’t bad. It’s just uninspired and hits a lot of the beats from the original without the needed length to make the whole thing flow.

After the Mew Mew team destroyed the villains’ ambitions the world probably thought they would enter an era of peace. Unfortunately that was not to be. Monsters continue to spawn in the streets and the heroes are having a much tougher time than normal due to Ichigo moving away. Without their leader the team is lost. We are then introduced to a girl named Berry. She was an ordinary teenager until one day she accidentally receives Mew Mew powers. The cafe owners who run Mew Mew behind the shadows think she has a lot of potential and tell the old heroes that Berry will be their new leader. Ichigo also comes back home temporarily to help the team until all of the monsters are down for the count. The team is pretty stacked now so surely they can win right?

If you think that the whole Berry thing sounds rushed…you’d be right. She basically becomes leader of the team overnight. It’s fortunate that the rest of the team are so understanding of this. Berry is a nice enough protagonist. She’s very similar to Ichigo, but maybe a little bolder and more willing to jump into action. It doesn’t really help the romance angle any more than the first series though. I definitely have no complaints with Berry. I think she is able to hold her own series pretty well. She’s certainly the best of the Mew Mew members at this point. Meanwhile the main guy this time is Tasuku. Tasuku is definitely better than the guy from the first series as he actively does his best to protect Berry and help her get through her personal problems. The guy is pretty selfless and he can even fight a bit. He does fall for mind control pretty easily though and the resolution to that plotline doesn’t help his case either with how quick he snapped out of it. That means the mind control couldn’t have been all that strong. While mind controlled he definitely doesn’t make for a particularly good villain either.

It kind of goes without saying, but naturally I wasn’t a big fan of the romance here. It takes a long time to really go anywhere and the dynamic was better when they were childhood friends. No reason why they couldn’t have just stayed that way. Still, I’ll say that the romance was better than what we got in the first series. That one had way too much back and forth with all of the different guys going after Ichigo. At least this time Berry was only with one guy the whole time.

Now lets talk about the new villains. Or at least most of them. The villain group was fairly big, but some members didn’t get to do anything like Sweet Juliet or Blue Bayou. They’re around to fill out the ranks, but the series ends before they can do anything. Happy Child has an interesting design for sure but he definitely isn’t much of a threat. Really, one of the only tough villains here is Royal Highness. He strikes using mind games and deceptions. That may not sound too impressive but it’s relaly all you would need to take down most of the cast. For the ones that remain all you need are some quick energy bolts. I can’t say that he was an interesting villain though.

Duke is effectively the leader of the group and she even has a hat that looks like something out of the Ku Klux Klan. Right away you can tell that she’ll be one of the big bads here. That being said, she doesn’t seem to have all that strong of a resolve to be honest. She is very quick to re-think her whole plan and that’s part of what hurts the ending to A La Mode. After all of the destruction and nationwide terror her group basically just calls it quite. In a matter of pages they go from trying to destroy the world to just walking away. It’s way too rushed and just hard to believe in general.

The series ending so quickly also didn’t let us properly explore some of the subplots. One example of this is Ichigo who begins to lose her powers for some reason. As a result she can only transform for a few minutes. It’s actually a pretty interesting idea but I’d like an actual reason for it. The rest of the members don’t seem to be affected, but at the same time they are barely characters here. They each get like 2-3 lines of dialogue, but for the most part are just in the background. It’s a shame since having them interact more with Berry could have been fun.

The art is pretty good though. It’s always pretty clear so you can see what is happening during a fight scene. The characters are all drawn differently so you won’t mix them up either. It’s definitely the strongest part of the manga. Not to say that the rest is weak or anything, but the art is just very solid. You won’t have any problems with it as you’re reading through the volume. There’s no problem with the writing either. The dialogue is good and the characters do a good job of saying what they mean. There are never any big misunderstandings because the characters are trying to be vague.

A La Mode’s concept is good and it’s nice seeing the old characters again. I’d definitely be up for more one shot sequels for other titles with a new main character or just bringing back the old cast more like what Fire Red did. Either way it’s fun to see how they’ll make the new villains a threat. In A La Mode’s case I’d argue that they never were much of a threat though. At most they could challenge the heroes when it was one on one, but whenever the teammates would show up it was over. There just wasn’t much that the villains could do at that point.

Overall, A La Mode is a sequel that feels like filler for the most part. It doesn’t really add much to the story, but I’m sure people were probably hyped when it started back in the day since the original Mew Mew ended with a big cliffhanger. I think keeping Berry’s more mysterious personality (Okay, she only had one line but I got that vibe) from the ending would have made her a more interesting character here. It would have also been very unique for sure. I definitely recommend checking this sequel out if you read the original. The series definitely has pacing issues, but overall I would put it above the first series. The plot does start right away so that’s always good.

Overall 6/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Tokyo Mew Mew Review


It’s time for an old school Shojo. This one is fairly similar to Sailor Moon in many respects. It’s a classic story of 5 magical girls who fight evil in the name of justice while also trying to get through their human drama. The art’s a big improvement over the former, but aside from that it actually ends up feeling a bit weaker overall. The manga has its share of issues. It’s a fun read, but it’s hard to call it a good one.

The story starts with a girl named Ichigo. She’s been leading a normal life up til now. Things are actually going fairly well for her as well, she is finally on the verge of being happy with Aoyama. Then she is transformed into a magical girl and the two responsible for this (Shirogane and Keiichiro) let her know what is going on. She is one of the chosen warriors who must defend the Earth from aliens. There are 4 other magical girls, Mint, Lettuce, Pudding, and Zacro. Ichigo must find them and enlighten them as to the responsibility they now have to protect the planet. They have to find the Mew Acquas and stop the demons from destroying the planet. Little does Ichigo know that this will be the easy part. Staying together with Aoyama while keeping all of these secrets will be much more complicated.

It’s definitely a very classic kind of story. There aren’t a lot of twists and turns that you haven’t seen before although I do applaud the series’ attempt to mislead you by throwing in red herrings. Trust me, there are a whole bunch of them in here involving who the Blue Knight is or who a mysterious cat appears to be. Your first instinct in both cases will likely be correct but if the series causes you to question yourself then I suppose you could count that as a win in its book.

Lets get right into why this series didn’t work so well. It’s unfortunately the romance and the fact that every character is in on it. Ichigo is one of those characters who is so charming that everyone wants her. Aoyama, Shirogane, Blue Knight, and Quiche all want to be with her. Keiichiro may also belong in that category. It’s definitely not the best way to get the romance going. Now, it could work if Ichigo just immediately denies all of them except for 1 and straightens things out. At the very least she could be like Kirito and pretend to be oblivious the whole time. Instead she always gets flustered around all of them which is a problem. She has to constantly talk to herself in order to strengthen the resolve needed on not cheating on Aoyama. Keep in mind that these two are together for most of the series so going with anyone else would definitely be cheating.

Quiche is a villain so his attempts to get Ichigo are naturally some of the trickiest. He pulls a Xellos with how quickly he’ll appear and steal a kiss. Ichigo is never able to bounce back from these moments and they seem to keep happening to her. When she is turned into a cat then another cat comes to try and steal her away several times. Ichigo just never shows any real strength or willpower to keep these characters at bay which can be pretty annoying. The scenes certainly do bring the series down without a doubt. So the romance was definitely one of the weakest ones I’ve seen in a while. It just couldn’t hold up.

At least the artwork is quite good though. It’s very clear and the characters don’t look too similar so you won’t have to worry about mixing them up. We even get some nicely drawn fight scenes as the Blue Knight took on Quiche. Most of the magical girl fights are less impressive since they tend to be one hit KO moves, but it just shows how strong their food powers are. As long as Ichigo is around you never feel as though the villains even have the slimmest of chances. They are simply outmatched and they know it.

Beyond the romance, I suppose Ichigo isn’t a bad character but even then I have to say that she is relatively weak next to most other Shojo leads. She simply doesn’t have enough confidence of charisma. Everyone walks all over her. Then when she turns into her super form she quickly turns a 180 and starts talking about peace and food. Sometimes the change is so abrupt that it’s almost alarming. I think the manga maybe dials up the cheerfulness of the characters a little too much in these moments. Especially given the circumstances at times.

As for Aoyama, he definitely wasn’t all that good either. My problem with him is that he always seems upset at Ichigo. You could say that this is because he has a hard time showing his emotions. After all in his side of the story towards the end we find out that he was never upset. Maybe it’s just how the author likes drawing him. Aoyama’s eyes appear to be glazed over and lifeless quite often. He wants to play along with Ichigo’s scheme, but just admitting that he knew would have saved a lot of grief. If he didn’t want to go that route, then just acting more cheerful would have helped. Instead he tends to be very quiet and sulky all the time. Ichigo does ditch him a lot, but if Aoyama has made peace with this then he should be fine.

The Blue Knight is definitely pretty cool though. He’s very powerful and determined to save the day. He always listens to Ichigo’s wishes even if they are quite dangerous at times like sparing one of the villains. It would have been nice to have seen more of him although I suppose his screen time was pretty reasonable. His name is also good since it’s hard to guess who is he in universe compared to Ichigo whose cat name is Mew Ichigo.

As for Shirogane, I have to give him a thumbs down as well. You can probably tell that I don’t consider the cast of characters to be a big strength for the series. He’s the classic mean guy who is constantly taunting Ichigo but it’s only because he cares. He teases her quite a bit and uses his car form to secretly still be her friend. It’s pretty deceptive and no matter how heroic they try to make him appear it is hard to sympathize with the guy. Then you have his partner Keiichiro who really doesn’t do much in the series. Honestly his role could have been erased entirely and I don’t think a whole lot would have changed. That’s how inconsequential he was in the series.

Next up is Mint who is probably the best of the cat members even if she basically stopped appearing by the end. It may be for the best since she started falling off pretty hard once Zacro showed up. Mint is also one of the slightly meaner characters as she has a rich upbringing and isn’t afraid to mention it a lot. It’s good to have a member on the team with a lot of spunk like this though and she was fun enough. At the very least she isn’t constantly distracted by romance like Ichigo is which is always good.

Then there is Lettuce who isn’t really my favorite member of the group. She’s very timid and always has a tough time doing anything without the others. In the grand scheme of things that is true for all 4 of them since they can’t seem to do anything without Ichigo. It just seems even more drastic for Lettuce. I’m thinking that having this member is another staple of the team so it was bound to happen sooner or later, but Lettuce never got much character besides that. I think the reason is that ultimately none of the members got a huge role after they joined since Ichigo began to steal all of the screen time. That’s why it is tough not being the main character.

Pudding is the worst member of the group. She can’t take anything seriously which is always a bad character trait. Comic relief characters can work, but surely you have to get serious when your life is threatened. Pudding takes this to the extreme as she could be held at knife point and talk about cake. She thanks the villains and acts super oblivious to everything. It just gets real annoying and the heroes should have kicked her off the squad for being too young anyway. Then we have Zacro who was pretty solid and if the series had went on much longer she would have probably passed Mint. She seems to be a lot more capable than the rest of the members aside from Ichigo. She already has experience using her abilities and is also a bit older than the other characters. This helps with her agility and physical skills. Zacro never really warms up to the others nearly as much as you’d expect and stays relatively mysterious even by the end.

Then we have the villains. There are a few of them, but lets just talk about the big 3. Deep Blue is the big mastermind and he’s certainly the best villain. He’s a very no nonsense kind of character and is efficient about achieving his goals. He’s crazy powerful and if not for some very specific circumstances I definitely think he would have easily won the fight here. It would have been nice if he could have appeared a little more though. Seeing him take names a few times each volume or so would have really ramped up the intensity. Then we have Quiche who is the villain with the most screen time. Unfortunately he is probably the worst villain. As I mentioned earlier he is always trying for Ichigo to no avail. It just doesn’t make for a particularly captivating motive. He’s also very skilled so if he had taken his task seriously then it would have been all over for the main characters. There just isn’t much that the heroes could really do against him and his speed.

Then we have Tart who is the counterpart to Pudding so you can probably imagine that he isn’t very good. He gets charmed way too easily so you have to wonder just how loyal to the cause he was in the first place. You can’t allow yourself to doubt your mission so easily. That’s just a big ticket to disaster 100% of the way and he knows it. A villain who was pretty solid is the stoic second in command, but his name escapes me at the moment. He’s always talking about percentages and how he’ll have to increase the dose if he wants to win. He never does and basically goes out without a fight but I still liked his personality.

Going back to the art, the fact that it is so good does help the series immensely. If its art was at the same level as Sailor Moon then the series would have likely dipped into the negative score range. As it stands, at least the manga volumes are real page turners. You’ll be blasting through the series at top speed once you start. Even if it’s a title that doesn’t ultimately hold up when you really think about it, at least it’s a fun ride in the meanwhile. I do think it’ll probably make for a fun 4Kids dubbed anime though. They can take the concept and really run with it.

Overall, Tokyo Mew Mew is a fun story with good ideas, but the romance really does bog it down here. It would have helped the series so much if Ichigo was just more independent and able to defend herself from her many suitors. As it stands, she always has to be rescued or simply succumbs to their whims until they end up running off. Playing the series straight as an action comedy would have easily made the series a lot more engaging. The drama is fine and all, but going the other route would have won the day. If you like an old school romance type manga like this one then by all means I recommend checking it out. Otherwise, I think you’ll have a better time checking out a different manga like Angelic Layer or something. That title has a bunch of action without worrying about romance.

Overall 5/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Strobe Edge Review


It’s time to look at a romance manga. Naturally that will cause some alarm bells to ring off and with good reason since it’s rare for romance to be handled well and especially when it’s the main focus of a whole series. However, you could make the case that because romance is the main plot of this series it may be given more attention and the author will do a better job of depicting it. Unfortunately, this isn’t true, but the manga does tackle some fairly interesting themes.

The manga follows a kid named Ninako who begins to like the most popular kid in the school, Ren. The problem is that he is already taken by a famous celebrity and they have been together for a very long time. This celebrity is the sister of Ninako’s childhood friend Daiki who liked Ninako, but she turned him down. Ninako decides that it wouldn’t be right to try and get Ren and Mayuka to break up just so she can get together with him so she tries to hide her feelings. Unfortunately this begins to take a bigger and bigger strain on her so should she forget about the moral side of this and just go for it? She has some tough decisions to make.

That’s the big topic that the manga spends time with. It’s a complicated issue that has a very simple answer. Yes, if the person that you like is taken then you shouldn’t make a move. That person should be considered out of limits and you have to completely lose those feelings before you get into trouble. It’s so incredibly selfish to sabotage a relationship just so that you can insert yourself into the empty spot. Yeah, it’s pretty tragic for Ninako here, but she’s just got to live with it. She gets advice from her friends on both sides. One suggests that if the relationship is so weak that it can be broken then it should be broken. That sounds like pretty bad advice if you ask me. It’s all just trying to justify this action. Ninako does a good job of showing restraint for a while, but unfortunately she does begin to break down by the end. I’ll still give her a thumbs up since it was Mayuka who forced her hand by breaking up with Ren, but that was also iffy.

Basically, Mayuka seemed to only break up with Ren because she figured he’d be happier with Ninako. So, now that she isn’t an option Ren is okay with being with her, but that should still make Ninako feel guilty the whole time. Ren and Mayuka would have likely been happy if not for her meddling. Mayuka also shouldn’t have conceded defeat so quickly. Then we’ve got a lot of other rebounding occurring at the school. After Daiki was rejected by Ninako he was accepted by one of her friends and they got together. Considering the short time span in between these two, it definitely doesn’t feel as genuine as it could be. Same with Ando going after Ninako and after getting rejected he quickly got together with someone else. It’s like the characters instantly move on to their second pick after getting rejected. Don’t the characters mind being the second pick?

There is definitely a lot of unrequited love in this series. It’s definitely an interesting theme for sure, but it didn’t have the right conclusion. What should have happened was Ninako realizing that she and Ren could never be together and deciding to instead just be friends. That way they would still hang out and she could enjoy their time again. The series would have had a bittersweet ending that way, but it would have been much better. Sometimes the friend zone is actually the best place to be since friendship is magic after all.

So yeah, Ninako is a solid Protagonist. She tends to have the right idea about how to handle the situations she’s in. Unfortunately, she is highly susceptible to peer pressure though and her friends often give her poor advice. She is also put into a lot of tough situations that keep on lowering her will power. Ninako’s resolve is good though and at the very least she doesn’t make any real moves on Ren until after the break up. She handles rejection better than the rest of the cast and while the ending is iffy on a lot of levels, the majority of it isn’t really her fault. Ren is the one who is the main culprit.

It’s just impossible to like Ren and even harder to sympathize with him. For starters, his friendship being broken with Ando was his fault. Ren allowed Ando’s girlfriend to get the jump on him and pull some moves before he broke away. Naturally Ando witnessed this and quickly stopped hanging out with Ren. I don’t even blame him because no matter how many times you explain that you were shocked and couldn’t move I wouldn’t believe it. Then Ren was with Mayuka for a long time, but still fell for Ninako. He wasn’t nearly as good as she was at holding in his feelings or not making it obvious in public. Naturally this wasn’t good for Mayuka especially since she was in a stressful period of trying to get her fashion gigs up and running. When Mayuka dumped Ren so he could be with Ninako, he should have kept on persisting that this wouldn’t happen. Perhaps if a few weeks or months had passed and Ren hadn’t gotten together with anyone then Mayuka would see that he was serious. Instead, he basically tried going after Ninako immediately which completely proved her to be correct. Ren is definitely the kind of guy that seems to play the field and while the manga tries to portray him as a really nice guy who always tries to make the right call, I wasn’t buying it. He causes at least 90% of the issues in the series.

Then we’ve got Daiki, the childhood friend. It’s a little sad for him at the start since the whole cast seems to think that he and Ninako are basically together. It’s what everyone expects and Ninako never really says anything to the contrary. As a result, when she rejects him it may seem kind of sudden, but that’s why you should never assume relationships. Of course, Daiki rebounded almost immediately so there went any possible sympathy you may have had for him. He’s also not a trust worthy friend to have as he admits to everyone that Mayuka is a celebrity and about her break up even though he was supposed to keep it under wraps. As a result, the full cast learned about this pretty quickly. Nah, Daiki’s not a quality character.

See, I would say that Ando is a good character since he’s certainly more fun than the others, but he has a lot of Captain Kirk tendencies. He gets around and has been with most of the girls at the school. He even has a reputation for that at school so if anyone wants a quick rebound they just meet up at his apartment. He tries to go away from that to be a more serious person, but completely regresses towards the middle when he’s in a slump. While he eventually gets out of that, you can’t help but wonder if he can stick to his resolve. He also goes for an instant rebound after Ninako dumps him and gets beat up in his only actual fight. Ando is very persistent, but overdoes it as Ninako really wants nothing to do with him.

Mayuka is a celebrity and Daiki’s sister so she plays a pretty big role in the series. However, while she is a solid character for a while, I don’t agree with how the plot ended. It seems to me like she ended up rejecting Ren just so he could end up with Ninako. I don’t really buy into the reasoning that her job got to be more important than him and that’s why she broke it off. She just felt like Ren was forcing himself to hang out with her which was unfortunately true. I guess it’s good to break up if you know that the person you’re with isn’t really into you and I should probably agree since I’m always against the rebound. Still, you should fight to stay with the person you like if that’s an option.

Sayuri is one of Ninako’s friends, but I’m not sure about how her plot line ended. See, it goes back to the rebound thing again as she’s going after the guy who liked Ninako but was rejected. Naturally they’re happy together now, but it’s just one of those things that I can’t get behind. She’s a nice enough person, but the romance probably should have been cut from the series and it would have benefited from it considerably. They could have kept the friend dynamic in place and it would have still worked. The series does try to pair up all of the big characters by the end, but that’s typically not a good thing.

Mao was probably the final main character to be introduced in the series. She does feel a little like a rather late inclusion to the series, but I guess she’s an okay character. Naturally she was shady in the past as she used Ando and basically made him become the isolated guy that he is today. She also managed to damage the bond between him and Ren for many years. There are some twists to this whole thing, but her betrayal does stand. Her redemption arc is decent I guess as she is certainly sincere but if you put yourself in Ando’s shoes it is really hard to just forgive and forget in this case. She’s not really my kind of character.

Most of the characters really weren’t all that good. They all were willing to go for quick rebounds so I have to blame both parties for that. I think that the only characters who didn’t go for a rebound were Ninako and Mayuka. They each picked just one person and stuck to that. I can’t be 100% about Mayuka in case there was a time skip at the end that I’m forgetting, but at the very least Ninako didn’t make that mistake. While she may have entertained the thought at times, she always knew that it would be the wrong decision and explained her correct reasoning on it. Rebounding just isn’t a good option at any time. Now you may wonder what the time frame is for the next relationship to not be a rebound, but it’s really hard to say. I’d say that it has to be at least a year or so, but that’s a very rough approximation.

The art is fairly good in the series. It’s less convoluted than some Shojo series, but isn’t nearly as crystal clear and colorful as others. I do think the author does a good job of not reusing too many panels the way that some slice of life/comedy titles tend to do. The chapters are easy to read and I’d give the art a pass. It’s not amazing, but it certainly isn’t bad either. It works well enough which is what counts. Strobe Edge’s atmosphere of light comedy which transitions to more serious drama works fairly well. At the very least, the manga never tries to get quite too serious and while sad, it doesn’t rub it in your face too much. With better writing or a different plot, this series probably could have went somewhere.

Overall, Strobe Edge is a romance series that tackles some important themes, but gives us the wrong answer to them. It’s like that movie about the two people who wanted to try and just be friends, but at the end lost and turned the whole message of the film upside down. The manga practically justifies all of the rebounds at the end and suggests that if your love is unrequited you either move on to someone else right away or sabotage the person that is in your way. Either way, it’s not exactly the answer I was looking for. It’s a pleasant enough series so it’s not hard to read or anything, but the romance isn’t good and since that’s the whole point of the series, its score was never going to be too high. If you don’t mind the romance or think you like this direction than you can probably add a few more stars to the series and check it out. At least the pacing is solid and it’s certainly better than some other romance titles like Vampire Knight, but you’re better off reading a more fun Shojo title like Sailor Moon.

Overall 3/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Kitchen Princess Review


It’s time for a classic Shojo title. I read most of this series a very long time ago, but never found the last 1-2 volumes. With the recent omnibus release, I was finally able to read the series from start to finish. It’s definitely a fun title and I’m always up for a cooking title. The characters are pretty reasonable and the romance isn’t too over the top. Also, romance in Shojo can be better than in Shonen at times although it’s certainly a case by case basis. The “mean character is actually” nice kind of plot doesn’t work very well, but at least Daichi isn’t constantly mocking Najika unlike some other titles. Well, lets take more of a look at this series.

Najika is the daughter of two famous cooks. Unfortunately, they didn’t last very long so she lives at an orphanage where she helps everyone out. She finally manages to make it into a very rich cooking school and aims to succeed so she can send money back home. Unfortunately, the kids there don’t take too kindly to a girl from the sticks being allowed into their prestigious school. Najika has to try and tune the bullies out, but it’s tough when she just wants to be friends with everyone. Fortunately, the student council president, Sora, is on her side. His brother Daichi is also fine with Najika although he doesn’t like to admit it. Their father is the principal though and he doesn’t like her at all. She must constantly prove herself if she wants to stay at the school, but she is up to the task. With her perfect cooking skills, she will literally change the social caste system of the school and show them all that anyone can be a great cook if they put their heart into it.

I’ve always thought that cooking competitions looked like a lot of fun. Normal cooking is hype as well of course, but once you make it competitive then the stakes really get high. You really have to give the contest your all or defeat is inevitable. The series has a few different cooking contests and they’re always fun. While Najika sometimes gets away with a win through means that don’t seem quite legitimate, (Her food has more heart) she is a great cook as shown throughout the series so it’s not as if she’s totally winning through a fluke. Also, lets keep in mind that some of the contests were rigged against her and she still found a way to put up a good fight. You definitely have to admire her dedication.

Najika is definitely a very nice heroine. Her perfect sense recall is definitely an ability that gives her an edge over the other cooks. I mean, think about it. If you’re facing someone who can perfectly recall any food that they’ve tasted in their life, not to mention foods that they have only heard someone else taste, then they are rarely going to lose. Najika doesn’t let it go to her head though and always tries her hardest for even the smallest of dishes. Her main weakness is that she isn’t very good at dealing with bullies. She gets emotionally hurt very quickly and it happens to her quite a few times during the series. She even goes into shock after one particularly painful experience and loses her sense of taste.

Najika has to overcome some fairly big hurdles throughout the series. Not all of the resolutions are very satisfying such as when she doesn’t do very well in a big contest where everyone was counting on her thanks to her condition. She also suffers physical injuries like when she injures her wrist. Still, Najika stays strong through it all and is a character that’s hard not to like. She’s certainly earnest, even if she is rather naive and slow to notice when someone is betraying her.

We’ve also got her mentor, Fujita. He’s probably the only character that I felt the manga dropped the ball on. We know from the start that there is something more to this guy than meets the eye. We later find out that he was a pretty big chef back in his day. Yet, this plot never actually goes anywhere. I understand that the series went down the “It’s time for the next generation to shine” route, but it’s still just a little odd that he never had a big moment. I thought for sure that he would have a quick cooking battle with Najika or something, but instead he just keeps on lazing around. I suppose he’s not a bad character, but a pointless one all the same. The series wouldn’t have really changed without him.

Akane serves as the first bully and ultimately Najika’s best friend. She is working towards being a model so naturally she has to be careful about what she eats. You’d think that this would make her quick friends with Najika and originally they were getting along, but then she notices that her best friend was quickly turning into Najika’s. Najika naturally didn’t notice though so that’s when Akane realized her true potential as a bully. From there her character flip flopped a bit as Najika would help her out and she’d be friends again..only to turn into a bully again. Eventually she became a permanent hero, but it took quite a while. You can’t help but feel bad for Akane though since she was always doomed to lose. Whenever you have the main character and the friend fighting over a guy, you know who will win. So much for the friend zone eh? Akane was certainly not as nice or as heroic as Najika, but she was a fun character all the same. I dare say that I may have liked her more than Najika to be honest. It’s close though but Akane’s troubles just seemed to be a lot tougher than Najika’s if you ask me.

Next up we have Sora. He’s the original guy to help Najika out. Sora was a really nice guy the whole time as well. While Daichi started out mildly antagonistic and too busy to really be bothered with Najika, Sora would put his many duties on hold to help her out. He was a great character and his plot line did have a decisive end. It’s probably not the one anyone wanted for him though but it was handled pretty well. Sometimes random stuff just happen after all. Some manga titles go overboard with the tragic elements, but as this story is usually quite light hearted, one tragic part won’t tip it over the edge. His romance plot was probably the only one that I’d say was handled really well in the series.

Then we have Daichi. He had a hard time living up to Sora’s reputation and I’m afraid he never could. He’s not quite as good as Sora at balancing his responsibilities and being around for Najika. Not to mention that you still can’t help but feel like he acts as a rebound. A rebound romance is when you start out by liking one person and after that is no longer possible you suddenly end up liking someone else. It feels like that person is simply a second round pick and that’s what I feel happened here. It’s why I definitely couldn’t get behind the romance with him and Najika. It hurts his character quite a bit, but both should be blamed equally for it. Daichi’s not a bad character, but I definitely liked Sora much more. At the very least Sora never upset Najika the way that Daichi did. Daichi was easily manipulated and tricked by the bullies while I don’t think Sora would have bought into the act so easily. Actually, I’m liking Daichi less and less as I think about the whole thing.

One character that had a bit of a personality shift was Daichi’s father. I would say that it was a complete 180 out of nowhere, but due to events that transpired during the series it is reasonable that he would change. If anything, it’s surprising that it didn’t happen sooner. He made for a good antagonist and while he is pretty ruthless, it’s not as if he’s extremely off the deep end. Depending on how you look at it he does indirectly murder someone by causing her to be overworked though. It’s a thin line that he walks, that’s for sure. He does a good job of hiding his dark side from the rest of the world. I can also give him credit for definitely making the series more enjoyable as well since he does a good job as the villain.

Finally, we have Seiya. He’s a transfer student who looks just like Sora which naturally causes a lot of tension among the main characters. It’s uncanny how identical they look, but Seiya’s personality is very different. He’s very aggressive and confident. Seiya believes that he is the best cook and his confidence makes sure that he wants to win fair and square. You can at least respect that part of his character. He definitely has quite a few unlikable characteristics, but he does make for a good rival. His romance plot is certainly the most rushed though. At least he becomes a nicer character in a much smoother transition than Akane. I was also glad that we had at least one main character who could cook on the same level as Najika. It would just be too easy if everyone else was so far beneath her.

The art is very clear so all of the food stands out. The Flan in particular has a pretty big role from all of the foods and it looks like the real thing. I like Flan quite a bit myself so it was nice to see it get a starring role. This manga is mainly about dessert so you don’t see too many real foods, but there are plenty of titles where those are featured so it’s no big loss. You’re certainly not likely to get confused during any of the scenes since this artist does a good job of making sure that none of the characters look too similar. The cast is actually fairly small so that also helps.

As I mentioned earlier, I couldn’t get behind most of the romance here. I’d list romance as one of the main genres, but it’s still not as frequent as it could have been. It just feels like most of the romances here are rebounds which is a little iffy. The series is at its best when it’s just focusing on the food aspect of the series. The competitions and striving to be the best. The series goes through its emotional phases, but mainly stays happy and has a good amount of replay value.


Overall, I’d recommend checking out Kitchen Princess. It’s a fun manga and you’ll get to see a bunch of cooking tips between the chapters. Najika is also a good hero who manages to stop the bullies without becoming one herself. She shows them the error of their ways and gradually becomes someone who gets along with everyone. Even the Principal who tries his best time and time again to get in her way ultimately appreciates her cooking. While it may not have the optimal ending, it’s a series that still hits enough of the right notes to be considered a success.

Overall 6/10

Manga

Strobe Edge


It’s time for a new Shojo series. I have only read the first volume so far, but it’s off to a reasonable start. The main character is handling the romance drama at school remarkably well so far and making all of the right choices. We’ll see how long that can last though. On the flip side, the art is quite bad so hopefully that improves. I’ll have a review up for the series when I have completed it.

Overall 6/10

Manga

Fairy Tail Blue Mistral


It’s always funny when a series is consistently defeated by its spinoffs, but this happens to Fairy Tail once again. Blue Mistral is actually pretty decent and I can already tell that it’s going to leave the main title behind. Wendy isn’t much of a fighter yet, but ideally she will grow into the role of the main character as the series goes on. It’s worth checking out and I’ll have a review for the series when I finish it.

Overall 6/10