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


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


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

8 Star TV Shows, Reviews, TV Show Reviews, TV Shows

Angelic Layer Review

I read the Angelic Layer manga a long time ago. It was really fun with its constant action and was something that I didn’t really expect Clamp to do. The action scenes hold up as some of the best drawn ones out there. The only thing holding it back was some of the annoying characters who had a running gag of trying to embarrass the main character. The anime did a good job of fixing that although it came at the expense of the fight scenes. They’re still around, but the characters have been nerfed. It’s definitely a trade off I can live with and the anime definitely ended up being a great title.

Misaki has always lived a cheerful life with her grandparents as she went through school and made some friends. That being said, she’s always wanted to see her Mom again after being separated across the country. The Mom is busy with her work so she’s never had time to visit or write or phone so Misaki figures that going to Tokyo could solve this. Once she arrives, she sees an Angelic Layer battle being presented on a TV screen. It is essentially a sport where you fight using telepathically controlled mini robots called Angels. A mysterious man named Icchan helps her pick one out and get introduced to the sport. Along the way she makes a few friends like Kotaro, Tamayo, and Hatoko. Can Misaki make it all the way to the world championships and take the crown? If she does, then maybe she can work up the courage to find her mother, but perhaps she won’t have to look very far.

Right away you can tell that the show has aged well. The visuals are nice and crisp with all of the characters and backgrounds looking sharp. This is great for the fight scenes since they are pretty fluid and you can get into the show immediately. The directing and writing are just on point as some shows take a few episodes to get going, but this one catches fire immediately. The soundtrack is also quite good. The opening is fun and iconic and the ending is excellent. It’s a very emotional yet hype theme that plays during the final 30-40 seconds of each episode. It is especially powerful in episode 13 with the DBZ esque cliffhanger but works well in all of them. Sadly they change the ending for the second half of the show. It’s not a bad ending, but it’s a lot happier so it no longer works well with the cliffhangers. The rest of the soundtrack is also pretty good with some nice battle themes in there. One of them even sounds a whole lot like a Toonami promo theme from back in the day. It’s pretty nostalgic. A minor detail that is also fun to notice is how each tournament stage gets grander and grander. The National Tournament stage is easily the most prestigious one of all and the show did a good job of making them all different.

As I mentioned earlier, the fights are a little different than in the manga. Instead of the more intense blows like DBZ where characters are smashing each other into the ground with enormous force, they’re played out more like if they are dolls or angels. They attack but not with enough force to make you think the stadium is going to fall over and that’s because the show acts a little more like a Shojo the whole time. I’d prefer the manga fights, but these are still good as well. You just don’t want to compare them all that much. The actual hand to hand is still really good and we do get one really intense battle with a lot of craters in episode 13. The Champion’s angel also has a very impressive showing during her first round as she moves so fast that she can dodge while appearing to be in the same place. That may have been a little too exaggerated since she was nerfed heavily after that, but it’s how it has to be I suppose.

There is a little more romance in the show than the manga. I suppose that’s to be expected and at one point the show has quite a few people trying to get in on the action. Person A likes B, but B likes C, C likes E, D likes A. We even get a whole episode for this which of course takes place at the beach. One good thing about this being a Shojo is that the beach isn’t used for fanservice which is great. The show completely dodges that speedbump which is awesome. Many titles struggle there, but not this one. As far as romances go, it’s not all that bad either. Tsubasa was still the best in this area, but at least it’s not too drawn out. Take that episode away and the rest of the series barely messes with that. I think there were only 2 episodes total which focused on it.

Another area where the series excels is its pacing. It never drags on and there are fights in virtually every single episode. It’s always nice to see and while I doubt any title has a big fight in all of its episodes (Probably some exception somewhere) this one came close. The birthday celebration episode didn’t have a fight, but it had a cool hammer and plate minigame that was fun because I remember it from another show, but can’t recall where. It seems like a pretty fun game where you definitely need solid reflexes.

Misaki is a great character and someone that most other leads can learn from. She’s a very happy character who is always trying to make the best of things. She enters every battle with a smile and doesn’t hold grudges against any of the bullies. She simply wins them over to her side and keeps on going. Misaki tries not to let other characters worry either and keeps everything to herself. Of course, that ultimately puts more of a strain on her, but she is definitely a noble character through and through. Unfortunately because of her happy nature, she is also highly susceptible to mind games from her opponents and is a little too trusting. I suppose these traits were bound to occur though and it’s still a good thing that she is such an optimistic person. I believe that I liked her a lot in the manga as well, but the anime did an even better job of developing her character. She’s easily one of the most heroic ones I’ve seen.

Her Angel Hikaru makes for a perfect partner. Her design is on point and the fact that she is a speed model with solid attacks is an added bonus. She even reminds me of Megaman.exe because of the chest emblem she has. I’d swear that it’s practically the same. Hikaru is also so strong that the show constantly has to write excuses to have the opponents even stand a chance against her. Misaki only has 2-3 fair fights during the whole series as in just about every bout Misaki is either distracted or the opponent is cheating to the main character doesn’t just steamroll the opponent. It’s definitely a good change of pace and I rather like main characters who are pros as opposed to just barely winning each time. It can be annoying as these gimmicks keep almost stopping Misaki, but she always gets through.

Icchan is one of the main supporting characters. He’s the head scientist involved with creating Angelic Layer, but he makes sure not to tell Misaki this. He discreetly helps her from the shadows as she progresses in the game and knows more than he lets on. The character has been improved from the manga although he still acts a little iffy near the beginning. He’s a decent character I suppose although his mean pranks can go way too far at some points. It’s always hard to know what to think of him, but at the very least he is a charismatic boss.

Hatoko is Misaki’s first rival and one of the stronger characters in the series. She is sort of like the Chaud and Protoman of the series as she defeats her opponents in an instant and is known as one of the best players in the league. Her Angel is another speed type who is also very powerful. Her fight with Misaki was definitely a lot of fun and it’s just a shame that she didn’t really get to do anything for the second half of the series. Her fight against Shirahime was also very anticlimactic and disappointing. I never really like 1 hit KO matches since it’s hard to do anything epic in that time compared to a more prolonged fight. That’s why Shirahime vs Hikaru is probably the best fight of the series although Kaede’s battle with Misaki is very close. The fact that Hatoko is only around 5-8 years old makes her even more fun since she is such a little kid but can still fight it out with these professionals. She shows that age really doesn’t matter in this game as it’s all about the skills.

Kotaru is the main guy in the series, but he doesn’t have an Angel of his own so that makes things a little tricky for him. He’s Hatoko’s big brother though so that helps him stay relevant. I’m not much of a fan of his to be honest as he spends the whole show getting pushed around by just about everyone. He does get his own romance plot twice as he goes after Misaki but ultimately allows himself to fall behind to the rival and goes with the childhood friend. This felt a bit like a rebound as he was clearly losing the battle for Misaki and went from not even acknowledging Tamayo as anything other than a friend to completely getting over Misaki (Aside from a brief relapse during the fight) in the course of a day or 2. That romance was a little rushed to be honest, but we’ll roll with it.

Tamayo is definitely more likable than Kotaru. She’s a good friend who constantly roots for Misaki during the tournament and also isn’t petty. She realizes that her chances of getting Kotaru grew slimmer when Misaki joined up, but never resented her for it. Tamayo even told herself that blaming Misaki wouldn’t be fair and she stayed true to herself with that. So even if I didn’t really buy into the romance, Tamayo handled the situation as best as possible so she deserves some points for that. I’m also glad that she can fight and doesn’t take any nonsense from the bullies.

Ohjiro is one of the hype characters as he was the tournament runner up the year before the series started. His Angel Wizard is incredibly powerful because of his seemingly impervious defense. That being said, while I like Wizard, I don’t like Ohjiro. He comes off as too much of a flirt at times and it’s hard to ever know if he’s actually here to help. His prank to Misaki to build up her courage was just bizarre. The guy just rubbed me the wrong way from the start.

Aunt Shoko is a recurring character, but her role never gets that major. Since she is a reporter she is able to follow Misaki around discreetly as she keeps up with the tournament. She’s a nice character and helps support Misaki when possible. Misaki’s mother Shuko has a pretty different personality which causes the two to differ quite a bit. Shuko’s plot was vastly expanded in the anime compared to the manga and certainly made her a better character. I definitely still don’t agree with Shuko’s decisions, but at least they had a decent rationale to them and Shuko did manage to win in a pretty hype way most of the time.

Shuko basically decided to abandon Misaki because her legs were going bad and she decided not to return until they were fixed. The problem is that nothing could fix them in their current state so she kept pushing off the reunion over and over again. Eventually it got up to the point where she couldn’t work up the nerve to meet her. She suddenly decides to do it right before the finals which may not have been a good move. Honestly she probably could have handled it a lot better, but it was definitely an intense way to start the ball rolling, that’s for sure. I’m glad that the show doesn’t even try to hide the fact that she’s Misaki’s Mom from the start because the plot point just seems very clear. Even when the Angel first appears on the screen as Misaki arrives in Tokyo to find her Mom you can basically guess where this is going. The plot could possibly get a little over dramatic at times, but all in all it was a fun little subplot and while Misaki took it pretty hard I can almost guarantee that most characters would have taken it a lot worse. Misaki still handled the situation with her usual dignity and politeness even being the one to ultimately break the ice.

Sai is another one of the big rivals and became the second major threat to Misaki after she defeated Hatoko. Her ice Angel is pretty good since it is a power type but can still move with great speed. It was one of the best fights in the series because there were no gimmicks or mind games. It was simply a really good fight with both characters doing their best to adapt to the situation. Well…actually I kind of forgot about this, but there was a sand gimmick now that I think about it. Still a great fight, but once again the opponent needed an edge to stand a chance against Hikaru. Sai’s a pretty likable character as well as she stays tough and tries to win the tournament for her late sister. Her motives are definitely a lot better than half of the characters in this tournament and she always keeps up a tough exterior.

There’s also Kaede who is Sai’s friend, but a lot more morally dubious. Kaede believes in winning no matter the cost so she allows her Angel to overheat in the hopes of winning the battle. It can permanently damage her angel, but she doesn’t care as long as she wins. While this does make for a great fight, I have to say that I lost a lot of respect for her after that. Kaede’s a little too brutal and forgets that this is just a game. Misaki probably should have called her out on this a little more, but maybe the loss was enough of a message to send. Kaede’s Angel is definitely cool with its neat fighting skills and good dodging abilities. It reminded me of Rosalina quite a bit.

Ringo is a celebrity who fights Misaki early on and has some pretty good abilities. She can fire off invisible blasts of wind and is good in close quarters as well. She’s a pretty fun character to have even if she starts quite the panic during Misaki’s Birthday. The circumstances were only iffy because Misaki didn’t announce her decision in time though so I can’t blame Ringo for it. Ringo’s a fairly minor character in the series, but she appeared enough to be mentioned. There’s also a random boy named Misaki who decides to fight Misaki to prove that boys are superior, but he definitely doesn’t look too good. That was back before Misaki (the main character) could beat everyone with ease so that was his best chance and he still couldn’t take the win. The guy is comically petty to the point where he was an amusing character. You knew that he was doomed from the start though as Misaki was able to beat him while dancing. On that note, I have to say that the show knew when to pour on the disrespect. The heroes including Misaki can be absolutely brutal to their opponents at times. They don’t mean to show off, but it just ends up happening.

Madoka is another one of Misaki’s opponents who acts like a bully and resorts to cheating. It’s a shame since she seemed like a decent fighter, but this proved that she wasn’t actually all that tough. Her sister was just as bad if not worse. Misaki fought quite a few bullies or at least mean spirited characters like this. Another one complained that being tall was annoying and short people always got to have their victories. Misaki promptly beat her and then converted the bully. It’s great how Misaki turns so many lives around just by beating people in front of a national audience. Misaki has definitely made the country a better place.

Finally we have Ogata. He’s the main comic relief of the series, but I had to give him a mention because you can’t help but feel bad for the guy sometimes. I mean, he does ask for it on a few occasions as he accuses Icchan of iffy stuff and makes some big mistakes, but other times he means well and still gets into trouble. Inviting the main characters to the BBQ seems totally innocent..he didn’t realize that Misaki’s Mom would be there and that things could be tricky. The punishments can also be pretty mean like being attacked by an alien or getting tied up. He didn’t ask for this!

I suppose it should be mentioned that the ending of the show is a little cheesy. For once I wouldn’t call it rushed or anything and I was glad that the final episode was basically just one big fight, but they went overboard with trying to make it seem hopeless. Hikaru lost about 80% of her health in a flash and then got hit by a super blast. That should have finished off Hikaru and she stayed down for several minutes. Somehow her health didn’t hit 0 though…then she got hit again…and still had more health while the final boss lost. I would have been okay with that if Hikaru had activated a barrier or had a health regeneration abilitty, but it made no sense in context. She just doesn’t have that much health. Athena was just hyped to no return and it cost the writers a bit. Even in her first fight when she was moving at insane speeds, Athena lost that ability for all of her future fights. It was there for shock value, but then the writers realized that this would be too overpowered. It’s definitely something to watch out for as shows tend to bite off more than they can chew. Sai’s fight with Shuko was also cheesy, but just because neither one of them decided to fight seriously so Shuko won with ease. Isn’t that a little disrespectful to the contestants who lost to these two fighters earlier? I mean, it happens in Super Smash tournaments so it is slightly realistic, but just annoying to watch.

Overall, Angelic Layer is a great show. It’s a lot of fun right from the start. There is constant action throughout it and the pacing is always on point. The main cast is very strong and I could have easily seen this show going over 50 episodes. I definitely wouldn’t mind a sequel series someday where the characters have to fight new opponents or defend the world from evil Angels. I’d also like a sequel since Misaki is past the point of having any doubts so the villains would have to get stronger to deal with her since they can’t play with her psyche anymore. There’s a lot of potential here and a crossover with Megaman.EXE would also be fun since the two titles have so many similarities. If you haven’t seen the show yet, I’d highly recommend doing so. It’s aged phenomenally well and is probably one of the more underrated titles out there. After all, when was the last time you heard this show mentioned in any capacity?

Overall 8/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Vampire Knight Review

It’s time to take a look at a series that doesn’t sound all that promising from the title. Yes, I had a sneaking suspicion that Vampire Knight wouldn’t be all that good as it’s a vampire story. That’s reason enough for me to fear it. Moreover, it sounded like Rosario Vampire, but minus the action and fanservice. So, that’s a bad thing and a good thing, but it means that the series has absolutely nothing going for it except the blood sucking gimmick. (No worries, there is a little action at the very end of the series!) I was able to complete this series in a little under a year which is cool since I started it last January and I ended a few months ago. I forgot when exactly I completed it, but no matter, let’s jump into the review! No worries, this one doesn’t get a 0 so readers can rest easy that the manga managed to do something right!

Yuki Cross lives at a school where humans attend by day and vampires by night. Both sides are separated for their own safety and she’s one of the enforcers who makes sure that the two groups play by the rules. Her partner in all of this is Zero. With the two of them as the ultimate tag team, nothing’s ever gone wrong at the academy. What helps this situation run so smoothly is that the head of the school vampires is Kaname, a guy who believes in peace and justice. It all goes well for a while, but then things happen!

That’s more vague than usual! Well, it’s hard to say exactly when things went wrong since a lot happened in these 19 volumes. There are many different vampire factions who were vying for power. Towards the end, Kaname realizes that he must destroy all vampire nobles including himself so that only the weak ones will be left and then they can’t bully the humans so easily. Zero is corrupted and turned into a vampire himself so even though he is a vampire hunter, he will be confronted with many tough choices. Yuki also starts to get her memories back and realizes that she is a vampire noble as well, but this comes along with some spiffy new powers so it’s not totally a bad thing.

So, should I start out with the negatives, positives, or the technical aspects like the art? I decided which option to go with by heading to Smashfaqs and based it on the top 5 topics. They were surprisingly positive ones so let’s roll with that. A positive for the manga is the fact that it actually has fight scenes once in a while. Zero and Kaname get into a scuffle at one point and even Yuki gets in on the action thanks to her powerful scythe. Zero gets control over plants and Kaname has super strength, mental abilities, speed, magic, and a lot of other things to keep the other two in check. The fights are cool even if there aren’t a whole lot of them.

The art counts as a technical aspect as well as a positive one for the most part. The art can get cluttered during the action scenes at times. Especially when the plants are around, but it can also be quite clear during other moments and I’d say that the artist does a fairly good job. I’d say that the art looks a lot better than the average Shojo series. It’s clear, intense, and you won’t mix up any of the main characters. Supporting characters are a different story since you can only see so many random guys running around before starting to mix them up a bit. Kaoru and Hikaru are still confusing in Ouran, but at least one of them switched his hair color after a while.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that there are any real characters since they all get tainted at one point or another. If we’re counting super mild characters, then I didn’t mind Zero’s hunter boss. He was fairly reasonable the whole time and you could tell that he was experienced the whole time. He hyped himself up a little too much at times though and he’s only my favorite character by default, I’m certainly not a big fan of his.

A positive for the series is naturally the fact that there’s basically no fanservice to be found. That’s always appreciated even if it is the norm for Shojo, you still don’t want to neglect to give it some props for this. Unfortunately, this is somewhat negated by the blood sucking scenes and such, but that’s a different negative. So, here essentially ends the positives section, but I’ll try to think of some more while writing the review.
Let’s start off with the blood sucking. See, the problem with vampires is that they’re going to drink blood. Inevitably, one of them ends up contaminating a main character. (In this case, everyone was contaminated except for one of Yuki’s close friends who never evolved from being a bit player in the whole thing) After that, the main character will offer his or her friend to drink some blood so that the character won’t have to hurt someone else. That happens here of course, several times and shows that the characters have no will power. Especially the fact that they always go overboard. Another cliche is that Yuki for example may say to only take a little bit since taking too much blood can be quite dangerous. Zero agrees, but then he can’t stop himself once he actually starts and it’s always a very wince worthy moment since he is supposed to be her friend. It’s hard to buy the fact that he simply can’t control himself and this has even started to finally happen in Seraph of The End, which is regrettable. Why do the heroes ultimately lose control so easily!?

That’s a rather big negative and ignoring the whole blood angle, there is naturally a ton of romance here as well. Luckily, there was a twist towards the very end that Kaname wasn’t actually Yuki’s brother, but was an ancestor. This naturally helped since we don’t want the manga to have gone down that route, but romance is romance and it was poorly executed from start to finish here. Both Kaname and Zero use Yuki when circumstances arise and both of them never actually trust her enough to let Yuki know the full scope of what’s happening. Why should she bother to stay with them? Yuki never quite broke off things with either party and the romance just dragged on and on like a bad soap opera. There was even another character who tried not to get involved with such things, but he was forced to become a blood sucker, which essentially made him a prisoner and he could not help out the heroes anymore. There was nothing positive to say about the romance.

Now, it’s time to go more in depth about the characters. Yuki started out as your average main character. She was fairly lively and always saw the bright side of the situation. Romance plots aside, she wasn’t a bad character. Unfortunately, then she turned into a vampire and decided to cross more gray lines and act a little more like a vampire. One scene in particular that was bad was when she decided to erase Zero’s memories. Think of the situation in Justice League when Batman’s mind was wiped or Captain America from the New Avengers comics. Yuki may have wanted to do it for Zero’s own good, but she ended up crossing a line that should not have been crossed. Becoming a vampire also made her lose her happy personality as she became a little too wise and took on a more somber role. She decently handled that role, but definitely fell rather rapidly as a character.

There was definitely no way that I was going to like Kaname. He always acted rather polite and such at the beginning of the series, but it was always an act. He could never make up his mind and wanted to be with Yuki someday and preferred solitude at other times. He decided to destroy all of the Nobles randomly and while it may not have totally been a bad decision, it’s not like all of the nobles were evil or sought to destroy people. Luckily, a plot twist showed that Kaname did spare one of them so I’ll give him credit for that. Portraying himself as the villain was definitely an intriguing move and one that I still don’t see a whole lot of benefit from. In the end, vampires and humans will never be able to perfectly get along because both sides have so many bad apples inside of them. It’s just how the world works and there will always be another new villain to seize the throne. Kaname’s also the one who turned Yuki into a vampire, which doesn’t earn him any brownie points as a character.

Zero’s the other main hero and he’s pretty terrible. I liked him a lot more than Kaname for a while, but then he lost control and succumbed to the blood sucking temptations. That destroyed him as a character. Shojo series like to typically have two main guys, the nice one and the mean one. Zero served as the mean one and a fairly extreme version of the character type at times. He would even point his gun at Yuki once she became a vampire. I don’t see that turning into a healthy romance in the long term so it’s another plot that I couldn’t get behind and I found it hard to sympathize with Zero throughout the series. At least he has a gun/vine powers so he’s a decent fighter, but his fighting abilities can’t save his personality.

As you can see, I wasn’t a big fan of any of the main characters. With a series this long, there are naturally a lot of other characters, but most of them actually aren’t that important to the plot compared with these. We do have other villains, supporting characters, and other heroes, but they are all just around to add more detail to the world. In the end, it really just comes down to the three main characters and the choices that they make since they will drastically affect the characters around them. From the supporting characters, I suppose that I didn’t mind the headmaster or Yuki’s friend all that much. Yuki’s friend was always nice to Yuki and offered words of advice, but she never did all that much aside from that. The headmaster always knows more than he lets on, but he prefers to let the heroes fend for themselves.

Kaname had a posse around him at all times, but by and large you won’t remember them after a while. You have the girl member who also likes Kaname and naturally resents Yuki. That’s her whole character arc for the most part. There are a few guys there who have ties to other families and talk a good game, but they don’t do all that much of consequence. One of them is brainwashed and the others try to help Kaname even after he has earned a negative reputation, but that’s about it for them. One of the main villains was a noble vampiress who went around brainwashing as many of the human students as possible with her blood. Kaname eventually stopped her, but she definitely got a lot of casualties in the meantime. Shizuka was her name and her death is rather intense.

The manga was never quite as happy as the average Shojo series and was always serious business so it was not all that surprising that there could be some violent moments. It’s nothing toooo bad of course, just a heart stab here and there (Vampires are quite durable) and it works as Kaname hype. It doesn’t even feel all that out of place and I wouldn’t say that it goes too far. You’ll know the scenes when they happen. The other big villain is Rido. He’s so powerful that he thinks Kaname won’t make a move against him. Kaname quickly destroys him (Not a total destruction since the bond of master and student wouldn’t let him, but the guy was reduced to ash so it’s more or less the same thing) and that’s the end of that. I can’t say that either villain was all that interesting in the end.

This definitely isn’t your average Shojo series, but it ends up losing to those. This further cements the notion for me that it is almost impossible to do a good vampire story. They end up just not being all that good. Records of a Fallen Vampire is probably still the only good vampire story and it was impressive. Maybe someday a series can follow that example, but I suspect that many other series will try and fail to do so first. Such is simply how these things end up going down.
Overall, Vampire Knight is not for the faint of heart or for those looking for a good story. If you’re a huge vampire buff then this is probably up your ally. As it stands, the characters simply aren’t likable and all of the romance plots fall back. The series takes itself a little too seriously with all of the tearful origin stories lying about. I did enjoy the occasional action scene, but those are few and far between. Based on the pictures I used, the series certainly looks more exciting than I’m giving it credit for, but keep in mind that they’re images that are meant to be misleading. I wouldn’t use the boring pictures now would I? It’s certainly no Black Bird and at least earns 1 star, but you’re better off reading Records of a Fallen Vampire instead of this title.

Overall 1/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Phantom Thief Jeanne Review

Phantom Thief Jeanne was a fairly intriguing manga title. The plot is nothing spectacular on the surface as it’s fairly generic and there isn’t anything really notable about the manga aside from the final arc. I can’t say that it has aged well and Sailor Moon does defeat it, but it’s always fun to compare a new magical girl series to established ones like Madoka Magica and Sailor Moon. It’s a fairly short series so it had to cut to the chase right away!

Maron was an ordinary girl until she was given a task by God. She was to hunt down the various demons that had taken control of paintings around the world and sometimes they would possess humans as well. In order to accomplish this task, Maron was given the ability to transform into a reincarnated Jeanne D’Arc. With her newfound magical powers and an angel to help guide the way, Maron was now ready for anything. Still, can she balance this duty along with keeping up with her social life? After all, there is a lot of romance in this series and she has to stay prepared!

As you may expect, the romance is one of the things that really hurts this series. I can’t even begin to describe just how poorly it is handled the whole time. For starters, the main guy is completely unlikable and one of those mean characters who you can’t sympathize with at all. His name is Chiaki and he is (seemingly) an agent of the Devil. He is here to stop Maron from accomplishing her task at any cost. That being said, he wants to have it both ways. Chiaki isn’t willing to turn good, but he also doesn’t want to stop liking Maron, which makes for a romance plot that just doesn’t work. Maron should just defeat him since he’s in her way. Although, her powers aren’t quite That impressive.

As Jeanne, Maron seems to gain some slight super strength. She has her magical chess pieces that she can throw to help vanquish the evil spirits and a lot of other magical abilities that wouldn’t really help much against an opponent, but still look neat at the very least. Luckily, most of the enemies aren’t that physical so these abilities will work out just fine. As a character, Maron is all right, but I just couldn’t find her to be that likable. Mainly due to the drama with Chiaki, but even beyond that, there’s just not much to her character. She’s a nice person as she’s the protagonist, but she never really developed her personality and she could lose sight of the mission from time to time.

Naturally, she’s an improvement over Chiaki, but there’s not much more to say about the guy that hasn’t been said already. He’s never willing to make the tough calls so I definitely wasn’t going to find him very likable! Maron’s friend, Miyako is all right. Her gimmick is that she really wants to capture Jeanne as she doesn’t know that Jeanne’s true identity is that of Maron. She’s essentially used for comic relief here although she has a half serious romance subplot with someone else, she basically denies it for the whole series, which is certainly good.

As for the Angels, Finn is Maron’s ally. For a while, she was a very good character, but then she decided to make a big move, which involves thinking about which side she wants to really be on and that really hurt her character. She had her reasons and there were a lot of twists, but it doesn’t change the fact that she nearly destroyed Maron and did make things very hard for the heroes. I like to think that she is now a true hero who will stand by the others, but it’s always hard to forget such treachery and it really did make her go from being a likable one to just dropping out of the ranks.

Her opposite was Access. He’s the dark angel who helps Chiaki and he wasn’t likable at all either. Like his master, he spends a lot of the time just flirting and he doesn’t take things very seriously. Perhaps it is because the series takes itself a little too seriously at times, but he really doesn’t help its case. That basically wraps it up for the main characters of the series as the main cast was actually quite small.

The main aspect of the manga that actually warrants some discussion is the end of it as the author decides to make a pretty bold move. A lot of manga titles like to have their all powerful beings who are gods that mess with the humans, but this was different. See, in a plot twist, we find out that Jeanne is actually a reincarnated Eve and the God is actually the real deal. He is God, not just a fake god who was made up for the series. Naturally, that’s a pretty tricky thing to include in the series. It’s great that a series is actually acknowledging the Bible and God, but then the portrayal must be on point and that didn’t happen.

There is a big twist about the Devil. He’s not a fallen angel, but he actually is God. See, God became lonely so he basically split into two entities and that’s how the Devil was created. Riiiiiight…….that was a pretty unnecessary twist. The series tries to make the Devil very sympathetic by the end as he just wanted a friend, but cmon…that’s just too much. God is also portrayed to basically be powerless in this series as Maron is the only person keeping him from being annihilated by the Devil. Why is Evil always so much stronger than Good in these things? So, the ending was certainly very bold, but it just didn’t work out. It’s very surreal to see God portrayed as a character in a manga series so that definitely earned the series a lot of originality points, but that’s about all I can say for it. It would have been easy to fix this. Simply not have God be on the verge of death and forget about the Devil plot twist. That would have quickly changed matters in an instant.

Ah well, at least that gave me something to think about as I was reading the series. Beyond that, it is just very generic and unfortunately it is not that good. I can deal with the characters being a little bland, but the romance plots were handled rather terribly and the action scenes were basically nonexistent. The series was only 7 volumes, but it did manage to contain a lot of events thanks to how big they were so I guess I can give it props for that. It’s still monster of the week for most of the series though. The actual plot didn’t help matters much either though.

The art is decent, but I’d say slightly below average. It’s one of those Shojo styles where it can be very hard to follow what is actually happening because of how chaotic the pages can become. It’s a decent artistic effect if you’re into that sort of thing, but I actually prefer the ultra simple art styles like Bleach or Hunter X Hunter. Those really let you follow the action with ease which is why you can sometimes read a Bleach chapter in about 2-5 minutes.
Overall, Phantom Thief Jeanne is certainly one of the weaker Shojo series that I’ve read. It’s leagues above titles like Vampire Knight and Black Bird, but at the same time, I feel like this one should have been much better. In many ways, it is very similar to Zodiac P.I., but that one was simply better in every area. It was shorter, but had better characters and certainly had higher quality artwork. If you’re looking for a good magical girl title, then you should probably go with the classic Sailor Moon. If you want a fun Shojo title to read, then Zodiac P.I. is the way to go. Either way, Phantom Thief Jeanne just isn’t good enough to recommend. Of course, taking out the romance plot or simply improving it could have really helped, but alas, it was not to be.

Overall 3/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

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

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Manga Dogs Review

It is time to look at a manga trilogy that certainly didn’t last very long. The concept was intriguing, but I’m afraid that the execution left a lot to be desired. It all comes down to the format, which I shall delve into as the review goes on. I hadn’t read a Shojo title that was this down to Earth for a while so that was neat. It may not be the greatest experience or one that will be very memorable, but the series gave us its all!

The series revolves around a Jump author who is named Kanna. She has actually got a manga series in Weekly Shonen Jump, which is impressive. Unfortunately, it is near the bottom of the rankings every week so the series is very close to being cancelled. Balancing out her school life with her manga duties is no easy feat. Things get worse when she stumbles into a manga group where the other 3 members have no idea on how to create a real manga. This is going to be a long year all right!

Again, it’s a superb great good concept, but the format doesn’t work for me. The series is just a lot of really short stories/chapters that are combined into the volumes. While there is continuity, this means that it is practically a 4 koma series. It is different, but not by much and that style is still not my favorite. The heroes can have loads of adventures, but they are all over as soon as they have begun. Normal sized chapters would have really done wonders for the series, but it wouldn’t have saved it.

Another issue with the series is that the jokes are extremely limited. The author reuses the same gags over and over again. It can become very repetitive and I would argue that it wasn’t even funny the first time. Each character has their own quirk, which I’ll get into. Suffice it to say, Kanna may be having troubles with her manga, but the series that she is a part of is in greater trouble of failing. I should still mention some of the gags. A main one is that the three friends will decide that today is the day that they will seriously start to draw manga…and then they’ll give up. Rinse and repeat for just about every chapter. Throw in Kanna insulting them and you’ve got the formula down. Kanna is also constantly shocked by the plans of the three friends even though she should be immune to that by the end.

We’ll start off with Kanna. Her friends embarrass her and whenever she tries to insult them, they take it as a compliment. She also tends to almost fall for them on several occasions and this leads to some stressful situations. The worst trait of hers is probably that she constantly seems to think about romance, but then decides that a “2D guy” who is just right for her will never show up. So, she retreats into anime land, which is an unfortunate stereo type. If Kanna was actually very good at drawing manga things would be a little different, but her series is failing because she listened to her editor too much. Naturally, her author is very effeminate and always gives her advice for what he wants in the manga, even though the readers don’t want this.

The first friend is Fumio. He’s probably called something else by his friends since the name doesn’t strike a bell. I’ll just use his stage name, Prince. Prince wants to be a great manga author or so he claims, but he really just likes to mess around. Actually working on his manga is simply too difficult for the Prince and then he’ll just give up until the next chapter. He’s still better than Fujio though. Fujio has glasses so he is the brainiac of the group, but he’s not actually that smart. He merely acts smart and he’s just as bad at drawing manga as the rest of the characters. He likes to think of elaborate plans, but they’re too elaborate so he can never finish the first page. Even he is better than Shota though. Shota is a small kid who always comes up with devious plans, but they’re all talk. There’s not much too him though and he’s just like the other two friends. Another supporting character joins the crew after the first volume, but he doesn’t contribute all that much to the plot.

As you can see, the characters is one of the big areas that the series could not handle. I didn’t end up liking anyone. The old lady who decided to be the manga group’s mentor was decent as she kept things real. Beyond that, most of the characters are fairly generic or simply unlikable like the main ones. It’s too bad since it should usually be easy to make the main characters likable. That being said, it can be tricky in a comedy like this one, but it is still achievable. I would certainly expect at least one of the big characters to be cool.

The art for the series looks good so that is definitely a positive for the series. This is good as it would have been ironic if the series actually had bad art. Seriously, the series would have never lived this down and I would have been grinning from start to finish! The art is very clear so it is easy to read each page and that makes each volume go by very quickly.

The review likely sounds very negative, but the manga wasn’t terrible. It was under average to be sure and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but the series had its good moments. We even got a sense of danger for a minute or two as Kanna was kidnapped at one point. The problem is that this still can’t be taken seriously as the kidnapper is pretty cheap. Moreover, Manga Dogs should have simply taken a different route with the plot. Introducing a rival to keep Kanna on her toes would have been a nice start and we should have gotten some drawing competitions. The series may be a comedy, but that doesn’t meant that it shouldn’t have a plot. All good comedies still have some kind of plot going and it makes the series more engaging. It makes you wonder whether the author ever thought that the series would last for very long.

Overall, Manga Dogs didn’t do too well. The main reasons why it lost out were the unlikable characters and the limited gags. If you are going to make a successful comedy series, you need to have charismatic characters or a long list of jokes at the ready. You can’t keep using the same ones over and over again if you want readers to stay interested in the series. It was just hard to really get connected to the plot. The art was good, which gave Manga Dogs a chance to do something with itself. As I mentioned earlier, just adding in a rival or some excitement would have been nice. Maybe seeing more of Shonen Jump and what the other authors think of Kanna. Instead, the author focuses on the friends and their quirks, which didn’t work for me. It got repetitive after the first volume so you can imagine how bad it would have gotten if this had been more of a long running series. Instead of checking this title out, I recommend just reading Bakuman. It is like this one, but executed to perfection. Bakuman is still the most engaging non action manga of all time and it is a series that you should pick up ASAP! Manga Dogs will be a distant memory by the end!

Overall 4/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

Black Bird

Volume 10 Cover
It’s almost been a year since I started this series and I can safely say that it never got better. I’m surprised that it actually lasted to 18 volumes and wasn’t cancelled sooner. This is easily the worst manga series of all time and it would be very hard to actually lose to this one. At least, as far as manga series that I read go. It basically falls into all of the holes and there are no positives to be found. That’s right…there’s really not a single good thing to say about this series, which is why it’s just so awful. I can safely say right from the start, I do not recommend checking out this manga.

Misao is the main character and she lives next door to a powerful demon. He is the tengu and his name is Kyou. Demons are uncannily similar to vampires in this series and they are just as awful. Misao quickly falls for him and then the series is about them getting closer as they destroy the other demons that lurk about. A prophecy says that Misao may die, but that won’t stop our cringe worthy heroes. Let’s see if Misao can survive in an area that is filled with demons.

Man, this series was terrible. Misao is one of those super unrealistic characters as bad event after event happens to her and she decides that it’s still in her best interests to hang out with Kyou. Misao gets threatened, loses her memories, is attacked, almost dies numerous times, but none of that deters her. The fact that Kyou has to hypnotize her parents sometimes so that they don’t find out about the demons doesn’t bother her either. Misao is in this for love and that’s all that she cares about. The main villain kidnaps her more than once and she still believes that he’s a good guy deep down since he’s a demon who is related to Kyou. Really, there is no hope for Misao and I definitely didn’t like her.

Kyou is no better as he suffers from many mood swings. He’ll be nice to Misao one moment and trying to force her to use a spell to knock herself out of time the next. It was for her own good and all that, but Kyou was really doing it for his own goals. Kyou is strong sometimes, but he still gets beaten up by the villains during other moments. One of the volumes that I rented from the library had been read by someone who also didn’t like him as his face was messed with in every panel. It’s just impossible to like this guy.

Black Bird is one of those series that is so awful that it isn’t even a lot of fun to write about how awful is. That’s why this review really won’t be that long. I could go on and on about the negatives, but they’re all just huge errors that were irreversible right from the start. One of the huge parts that made this an instant loss for me is that it’s a total romance. I’m talking Twilight levels here and at the very least, it did help me breeze through the volumes. I was able to finish one of them in about 10 minutes because of how many scenes I would skip.

Unfortunately, the series plays out a lot like Twilight. There is nothing explicit, (No nudity, etc) but those kinds of scenes are definitely not something that I want to see in a manga series and I just skip them all. Hence, why reading each volume proved to be a very short experience. It’s a negative that you can’t really get past and the series was doomed to get a 0 right from one of the first volumes. Maybe even the very first one. It is simply terrible.

There isn’t much fanservice since this is a Shojo series unless you count those scenes in and of themselves. In that case, this one definitely has some of that in it. It’s just adding more fuel to the flame at this point and the series couldn’t get much worse. The main villain is pretty terrible and I never liked any of the characters. They’re all unlikable and do whatever they want when they feel like it. You definitely can’t trust any of the characters here and Misao should have gotten away from the Tengu when she had the chance.

The art isn’t bad, but I can’t really say much for it. The characters don’t all look the same like some other series, but most of the fight scenes are quickly skipped over due to the nature of the series. The art would probably still be the highlight for the series, but that isn’t really saying much considering how bad the rest of it was.

One thing that is also pretty bad is that the series uses the classic blood subplot. Misao’s blood can naturally make the villains stronger so everyone is after her. The blood shenanigans is why I don’t like anything related to vampires so that certainly wasn’t going to make me like any of the characters here. The Tengu all lack will power most of the time and it’s something that they need to work on. They won’t of course, since they’re busy betraying the team and making partnerships with the enemies, but they should move on.

I could talk about each of the characters, but they’re all pretty unlikable so there wouldn’t be much of a purpose now would there? Power level wise, the series is pretty low tier. One character does get a laser blast though and some basic super speed, which helps his case a little. As expected, he is quickly destroyed without really being able to put up a fight. He turned his back and Kyou figured that this would be the quickest way to win. Honor has no place here.

Black Bird forgets the most important part of being a manga and that’s that it is supposed to be entertaining. We never get any resemblance to a good series here and it’s really a dreary story. There is always something to darken the mood and it’s never fun. You could really just call it a tragedy story that most of the characters are not even aware of. The covers were probably a good tip off of this though as they are all pretty bad. This is a series that I will definitely put out of my memory as soon as this review is done. Now, onto the final paragraph!

Overall, Black Bird is really terrible and it’s one of those series that I’ll never even look at again. I would never flip through the pages of any volume because there is no reason too. If I want to re read a series, I’ll check out Megaman NT Warrior for some quality entertainment. This manga is best left forgotten and if you want a fun Shojo series, check out Kitchen Princess or Angelic Layer. (Layer is close enough to a Shojo anyway) Those are series that retain their composure and tend to provide us with some good stories. That’s what we expect when we read a manga so that’s why you’ll want to skip Black Bird. On the bright side, the next manga review should be significantly more positive. (In theory, that will be the Naruto review unless I finish another manga before that)

Overall 0/10

Manga, Manga Reviews, Reviews

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