Well, this is going to be a biased first Monthly Media Roundup… All of the novels I read during October were horror, and completely covered in my Halloween post, so I will only be discussing the manga and one American graphic novel. I will also briefly mention the games I’ve tried, as well as the two DVDs I seem to have acquired.
Because of my Halloween reading plan, which is created months in advance each year, I had no time to read any non-terrifying novels. So… If manga’s not your thing, I won’t be offended if you wait to join me ‘till the next one, but do take a peek if you have the time. It could be a media you just haven’t explored yet.
This month, I’ll be covering the first three volumes of Love Roma; the first two volumes of Love Stage!! and His Favorite; volume ten of Nisekoi: False Love; the first volumes of Hide and Seek and Devil Survivor; and 12 Days, which is a stand-alone masterpiece.
The main theme this month was overwhelmingly love stories, or things masquerading as love stories. I wanted something warmer to combat all the atrocities I read for the horrorthon. Gotta stay sane! As you can see, I’m a total sucker for rom-coms, with pretty much all of October’s books falling under this category. Love Roma, Nisekoi, and His Favorite center around high school students. Love Stage!! and 12 Days involve college-aged and post-college-aged people. Hide and Seek is the only one that involves what I’d call full-on adults. Now, I’m not positive where I fall in all of this but, I’d venture to say I’m between post-college and full-on adult.
Back to the stuff I’ve read—Let’s start with Love Roma. This is a series I first bought in junior high, and loved it instantly. I reread it last month to see if it can stand the tests of time and maturity. Spoiler alert: it does!
The cover images for this series always feature the main characters: Hoshino and Negishi. The two are total opposites, and this is what makes the series such a blast! Speaking of covers; one of the great things about the volumes in Love Roma is that the back of each book shows what’s inside. There’s a panel from each chapter that sums up what’s going to happen.The manga follows the two through their high school years together and eventually ends after this time in their lives comes to a close. There are five tankouban in total, published in the US by Del Rey. The first one came out in 2005 and cost $10.95, which was a little high back then, especially for a book with no color pages. The rating is OT (Older Teen 16+), which is presumably because one of the recurring characters has a penchant for making everything about sex. I think in today’s market, it would be knocked down to a T (Teen 13+) rating.
I really have a lot of love for this cute series. While it’s riddled with trope-y characters (here we go again), they are all pretty loveable and make an appreciable ensemble cast. Who do we have? There’s Hoshino, the main man who wishes to live an honest life. It’s later revealed that he loves science and wants to be an astronaut. Negishi is the leading lady, who is a total tsundere*, or what I like to call “cute-but-violent”.
The supporting cast includes Tsukahara, Hoshino’s “childhood best friend”; Yoko, the “sarcastic one”; Wada, the “occultist”; Yoshitsune and Yashiki, the “one(s) who likes talking about sex and women”; Sugimoto, the “love rival”; Keisuke, the “one who secretly loves the rival”; Rei, Hoshino’s sister who fills the “scary but actually shy” role; and Hashiba, the “one who’s job is filling out the friend circle”. Other recurring characters include a “nurse”, “someone from a mul-me** club”, and the two main characters’ families. There’s a mouthful.
The scenes with Hoshino’s family are the most fun. His mother is very wacky and ADHD—the one Hoshino most likely takes after, while his father and sister are much more reserved. Rei is my favorite; she constantly struggles to talk to Negi and others, who misinterpret her shyness for irritability or annoyance. Yoko and Tsukahara also make a good pair. Their antics are also amusing.
There are plenty of obligatory series chapters, besides the stereotypical characters. The first volume alone contains a “love rival” chapter, a “let’s make each other bento” chapter, and a “meet the family” chapter. Volume two has a “rumor chapter”, a “part-time job” chapter, and—of course—a “school play” chapter. The school play indeed chooses one of the two all-time manga favorites: Alice in Wonderland. I would say this is the second-most chosen, with the reigning champ being Romeo and Juliet. Volume three includes “friend relationships” and—brace yourself for another fan favorite—a “group trip”.
Overall, this is a very average manga, but that is its charm. It’s pure slice-of-life style and inclusion of so many stereotypes makes the main characters pop and shine. While Negi is a textbook tsundere, Hoshino is an extremely original, kinetic character. I love his unabashed truthfulness, and watching him grow and mature from his interactions with the people around him is a great way to spend some time.
Nisekoi: False Love is a rom-com and mystery series by Naoshi Komi. It’s going for $9.99, a solid, classic manga price, that Viz media has thankfully been able to keep stable for the bulk of their licenses. This month I both acquired and read the tenth volume, subtitled “Shu’s Crush”. “Shu’s crush!?” you ask, “Wouldn’t that just be Ruri?” The short answer is apparently a “no”, while the long answer is a bit more complicated.
The story, if you haven’t heard of this hit series, is about Raku Ichijo, son of a yakuza*** boss, who has been searching for his childhood love. He has been carrying a pendant around with him all these years since he befriended a couple of girls one summer when he was young. He hopes desperately to find her again, and he secretly wishes for the keybearer to be Kosaki Onodera, the ultimate pretty, “awful cook”, “childhood friend” character. She does have a key, but we don’t know if it fits the lock just yet. Matters are complicated when key-holding Chitoge Kirisaki, the half-Japanese-half-American, “tsundere” daughter of a mafia boss, enters the scene. Another key holder is Marika Tachibana, daughter of the police chief. The cast is rounded our with Chitoge’s bodyguard, Seishiro Tsugumi (a classic bifauxnen who resembles Naoto from Persona 4); Shu Maiko, the “comedic relief” and Raku’s only guy friend; Ruri Miyamoto, Kosaki’s quiet, solitary best friend; Haru Onodera, Kosaki’s spunky and overprotective younger sister; and Paula, Seishiro’s shy, unsociable colleague from the US.
This volume opens with a bathhouse gag chapter, where Raku is put in charge by the owner who needs to run some errands. It continues on with a little group fun by the pool. Haru tries to include Paula in the activities, who’s intent on sulking and whining about how Seishiro has changed. Then we get to the title story of volume ten.
In this installment, we finally learn a bit more about Shu, who has been pretty annoying and sometimes creeptastic so far in the series. Yeah, as you can see from the cover, he’s the type to take sneaky pictures and make innuendo. Apparently he has a crush on someone, and I was very surprised it isn’t Ruri, who he had been getting closer with. It turns out it’s their homeroom teacher, whom reveals to him that she will be quitting her job when she gets married soon. He seems content to move on with his life, but Raku gives him a solid push. I’ve noticed that these things actually are different IRL in Japan, and to the characters it seems plausible for him not to be outright rejected; in the worst case scenario he will at least receive closure. I don’t want to spoil the conclusion to this arc, but it goes pretty much where I expected. Raku proves a pretty great friend, though, and I think that’s what counts.
After that, Chitoge gets pissy when she believes Raku is forgetitng her birthday, which turns into a gag where Raku loses his memory. The others try to recreate their first meetings with our protagonist, which is definitely humorous for us—and painful for Raku!
Overall, this was another fun installment. Komi’s attention to Shu, a previously flat character made volume ten worth buying!
During September, RightStuf had a gigantic yaoi sale, and being a gay man, I wanted to find something that could be mainstream, but involved a story I could better relate to. Five of these books fall under the category of yaoi, these being His Favorite, Love Stage!!, and Hide and Seek. If you don’t know what that is, then let me try to explain this odd genre.
Yaoi constitutes love/lust stories about gay men written by… Straight women. BWUH?! It sounds weird and—quite frankly—it usually is. It’s also called “Boys’ Love” (although is includes stories about adults) and the main demographic is… Also straight women. These stories can often be unrealistic and straightforward, usually tending to impose heterosexual ideology onto the couples in the stories, even though this isn’t how most of us act. Anyways, they’re stories at the end of the day, and loads of manga is wacky as it is, so do fall prey to the hope of finding something that stands out. I purchase them here and there. I tend to prefer yaoi over bara (“Men’s Love”), but I haven’t read any bara this month, so I digress. In the future I’d like to write more about my experiences with yaoi, bara, straight-up shonen-ai, and their depictions of gay men in different demographics.
His Favorite is one of the BL manga I picked up from the sale on RightStuf. It’s a promising series by Suzuki Tanaka about Yoshida, a scrawny, funny-looking boy who gets picked on by the girls in his school because of his friendship with Sato, his year’s hottie. The art looked cute, though the idea for the story felt kind of cliché, after having already powered through a bit of My Love Story. “But,” I reasoned with myself, “This one’s about guys. I have to try it!” So I did.
The cover of volume one features “Awkward Yoshida” (as the blurb on the back describes him) being hugged by Sato, who turns out to be… The “childhood friend”. Now there’s a twist no one saw coming!! Right, guys? …Guys? The cover of the second also shows our leading duo, but this pose is of Yoshida’s face being squeezed by Sato. I’d say they’re standard and mediocre designs, but they really are cute, and I’ve got to give them that.
The story opens with Yoshida being pushed around and chewed out by some of the girls in his class. Apparently Sato usually tells them he has plans with Yoshida, so he can’t hang out with all of them. Boo-hoo. The catch here is that Yoshida has no such plans with Sato—whom he barely even knows. This happens again and again, annoying Yoshida until he finds out that Sato says these things hoping they materialize. He fishes for Yoshida’s affections time again and again, eventually revealing that he has feelings for him. Per usual, it takes a while for Yoshida to admit that idea might be nice, but the wait isn’t smash-your-head-against-the-wall painful, like in Skip Beat. In the meantime, Yamanaka comes on the scene, one of Sato’s junior high friends shows up for a chapter, and the omake at the very end depicts one of Yoshida’s friends on what appears to be a date.
The second book contains a “cheerleading gag”, with the guys in Yoshida’s class being forced into American cheerleading outfits. Then there’s a chapter with “crazy artist” siblings, and Yoshida and Sato are of course their new favorite subjects.
I really loved the beginning of the next arc, where we are introduced to an old friend of Yoshida’s, Torachin. Okay, maybe I do have a favorite type, but I like this guy instantly. He’s the “looks scary but actually friendly” trope. Think Ryuuji in Toradora, or Kanji in Persona. He’s friendly with the idiot Yamanaka, who seems to really like him. We end on a cliffhanger, with these two unable to come clean about their feelings, but I think it’s just a matter of time. They’re clearly being set up as the “secondary couple”. I hope we get more of them, as they play well off of each other. Plus, Torachin mellows Yamanaka to the point where he’s not a creepy ass, which is good for Yamanaka’s growth as a person.
I like Yoshida’s friends, from what I’ve seen. They have some personality and seem loyal to him. I don’t think they’ll mean too much to the main plot, however, because they’re drawn as mere caricatures. One of their faces is literally two Japanese characters. I’m not sure if they have any bearing on him, but I recognize one of them as “mo”, while the other is a mystery. I think there’s supposed to be a joke in there
that doesn’t translate. Back to the story: I like how they seem unfazed by any compromising situations between our main duo. At one point in volume two, the blond one literally walks in on the two during something that looks like it shouldn’t be going on during school and shrugs it off, completely nonchalantly, accepting their flimsy excuse.
The girls in this series are another story, entirely… Aside from the overarching theme that girls are mean, bitchy, and whiny; well, there really is no “aside from”. The female characters don’t do much else in this series, which is a shame. There is one girl who isn’t completely flat, but we only meet her briefly. I hope she has future appearances, and I am willing to bet she does, as we only learn enough about her and Sato’s junior high years to keep us wondering.
Both volumes of this series contained longer omake, which was a bit of a bummer. While I love a good short story, I was looking for more of the main story and bought these regular-sized books thinking they’d be brimming with the plot. It didn’t help that the bonus comics were completely different stories, adding nothing to the series itself. I would rather just buy a separate anthology than have more content in my tankouban, thank you.
Next up, let’s revisit the manga adaptation of the first Devil Survivor. I’m putting this series in here too, because I want to continue the conversation I started during my last post. I want to get more into the nitty-gritty differences of the adaptation, and this is a better place to discuss such things, as the audience for an all-manga post is probably a bit different than something I should keep accessible to the average reader.
As I mentioned in my Halloween post, this volume is priced at $10.99, which is about average for manga these days; if not slightly below. It is written by Satoru Matsuba, and supposedly features original characters by Suzuhito Yasuda, although we don’t get any in the first volume. But this indeed intrigues me! Additions could be fun, and I hope they expand on some of the others’ stories. I’m personally a sucker for Honda, and want to know more about him. He’s an interesting character in more ways than one… But I’ll have to talk more about him as the series goes on, so I don’t give too much away to newcomers. This installment covers the first two days of the game and gives us setting and character information.
A little background: Atlus’s Devil Survivor is a subseries within the Shin Megami Tensei (literally: “Rebirth of the Goddess”) series. The first game created for the franchise is Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei, which was originally based off of a novel, Digital Devil Story, by Aya Nishitani. It’s a sci-fi novel that has yet to be translated into English, unfortunately. Devil Survivor got a sequel while I was in college, but I haven’t been able to finish it… I ended up getting sidetracked with SMT’s Persona series. Atlus has been creating SMT games since the nineteen-eighties, with the themes and characters changing with the times. They are an enduring company that is just as relevant now as they were back then. Unlike some of their close competitors (I’m looking at you, Square Enix), Atlus has truly evolved to look at modern issues and ideas concerning people today.
Devil Survivor follows the protagonist, who has now been named Kazuya Minegishi (you name him yourself in the game), as he is swept up in a demon war occurring in modern-day Tokyo. He and his de facto companions, Atsuro and Yuzu, are trapped within the Yamanote Circle, an area named for the Yamanote train route creates a natural border. In book one, we get expoistion and info on the protagonist, his friends, and his cousin, Naoya, a guy shrouded in mystery and a touch of danger.
While this is a fun adaption, I do have a few beefs I want to mention. The first of these, as written up in my Halloween post, as well, is that the manga is printed (at least in my copy) so that the right-hand page has frames and dialogue right up to the center of the spine. It can be quite annoying. It’s hard to read like this, and has caused me to somewhat damage the integrity of the volume because I had to bend the pages to read everything.
Moving on to inconsistencies between this version and the original… The departures from canon begin with demon summoning. In the book, the characters need to form a contract with each individual by fighting, rather than brutalizing just the first demons who fly out of their comps. Even worse is when you purchase one with macca. Kazyua does with Flaemis, and we find out you must assert your physical will over that demon as well. How he does this with a such a huge level barrier and no demon available in his entourage is beyond me.
Furthermore, in the game, elementals cannot be summoned by auction, which I assume is what Kazuya tries to do with his macca. In-game, Flaemis can only be summoned via the compendium, where he must be registered after you fuse him for the first time. And he is extremely expensive, ringing in at 5638macca in the game! His piddling 336 (best guess from the picture) could never get him any elemental—forget a Flaemis, one of the more expensive ones!
Other differences from canon include Atsuro’s starting demon, which has changed from Kabuso to Waira (The latter of which has a bit of a higher level—no wonder it was beating him up!), and the Laplace Mail being sent a second time in one day. The second message is completely legible, to boot! And this isn’t even explained; I’m afraid it’s going to cause at least one inconsistency later on.
You may not be able to discern it from all my complaints, but I did enjoy reading this version of the story. I plan on purchasing the next one—I believe it comes out in December—and as long as it’s on par with the first, I would like to buy them all.
Honestly—I can’t wait for the Persona manga to launch. If you know me at all, then you must know it’s my favorite series, with Persona 4 at the center of the storm. For next month, I am working on a review of its newest addition, P4: Dancing All Night.
Next up is a series from an author I’ve read before, Yaya Sakuragi. The main reason I bought one volume of Hide and Seek is because I liked one of Sakuragi’s other series, Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love. It had been a cute, quick read that I snagged off eBay in its entirety sometime last year. I wanted to see what else the author could come up with; how diverse her stories could be. I was floored by the very first volume of Hide and Seek. While it has two of the recurring characters from Bond of Dreams, but weaves a more adult-themed story. This series is also published by SuBLime, the BL imprint of Viz. (I like puns, do you like puns?)
For starters—I had forgotten that Shu, the candy-store owner’s full name was Shuji, so when I began reading and realized that him and his daughter starred in this new series I was elated. The coloring of his hair on the cover of volume one made his hair appear to be a different texture that in the regular, black-and-white pages of the actual story. I densely couldn’t put two-and-two together. When I started to read, I grew excited. With Shu, a likeable, single father, as the main character, and a few appearances by Chi, his adorable, pigtailed daughter in the mix, you can’t really go wrong.
I do want to mention that there is more actual ‘adult content’ in this series. It’s more akin to something like Punch Up, than Bond of Dreams. So if this is something that would deter you, you may want to skip this series.
The plot revolves around Shu meeting a stand-in for the town doctor, Saji, and befriending him. They get to know each other a little, and Saji comes out as gay in the most yaoi-fashion possible: by telling Shu he’s attracted to him. Shu, never one to back down, if curious about what being gay is like, so they start up a fling that ends up confusing the two. Neither is really sure what they want, and the volume closes with a cliffhanger.
It looks like there are three volumes in total, which is short. I plan on picking up the others because I like that this series explores adult relationships. I mean, I am an adult now, and the character development interests me. I really like the way the characters are treated in this series; it feels more realistic. They have actual lives, care about other people, and act pretty much as real people do—as opposed to BL stories where every person on the planet is automatically gay or the opposite gender.
On that note, let’s get to Love Stage!!, a yaoi where half the main characters do turn out to be gay! Also translated by SuBLime, this is more of a fun series. Author Eiki Eiki and artist Taishi Zaou draw a very otaku-y character. He is college student Izumi Sena, a guy with an androgynous name, and the younger son in a family of actors and idols who wants none of it! Having appeared in a commercial as a child, he found the whole situation nightmare-inducing and has since refused to partake in the world of celebrity ever again. This is thwarted, of course, when his mother pitches a fit about him appearing in a remake of said commercial with the boy who acted opposite him. If you guessed that that boy would turn out to be a present-day sensation, then you win a cookie.
Ryoma is that other child, a chart-topping celebrity who happens to be one of the season’s top commodities, positioned just below—and who could’ve seen this coming—Izumi’s doting oniichan (literally: “older brother”), Shogo. The cast is filled out with appearances from Rei, the Sena family manager, and also Izumi and Shogo’s parents. The characters are all pretty standard, but in a lovable way that makes me want to read more.
The first book focuses on Izumi’s return to the world of television, while emphasizing his unwillingness to act, as well as the depth of his loyalty to his favorite manga franchise through Shogo’s bribery. He reluctantly appears in the anniversary commercial, which is where Ryoma enters the scene. The rest of this volume follows Ryoma’s attempts to woo Izumi, and later accept his feelings towards a guy. My favorite part of manga with any sort of odd match-up is when the characters realize their feelings. I personally I enjoy these sequences the most because I’ve got a complex of sorts.
The story for volume one ends in a place in their ongoing relationship where I don’t care for Ryoma. He comes off as pushy and selfish, a common, grating yaoi theme. I don’t get why gay relationships are usually depicted with at least one person who’s a classic “taker”. I’m use this term in the way that someone giving a psychology lecture would; about how our world is primarily categorized by “givers” and “takers”. These aren’t people most of us want or should have in our lives, and I wonder if that’s how the bulk of gay relationships look to outsiders. I can’t reconcile any other reason for stereotype.
The second book has an arc involving Izumi finally finishing up enough of his manga to enter a submission contest, that has the grand prize serialization. The contest does not go well, as he is severely lacking in artistic talent. Ryoma helps him out both with the creation of the pages, as well as seeking in direction for his future. Ryoma turns out to be less of a scab and more of a caring individual, which is a cool turn of events. You see a much less self-absorbed side to him in volume two, and I’m glad I picked them both up at the same time; if I hadn’t I probably would not have continued on with the series.
The last book I will be covering from last month is 12 Days an angsty, slice-of-life drama about Jackie, an American from a Korean-American family, who’s ex-girlfriend, Noah, recently died. The plot follows Jackie as she tries to make peace with her ex’s break-up and death, as well as Noah’s brother, Nick, who aides her in her folly. Her preferred method to acquiesce her grief? That would be consuming some of Noah’s ashes over a period of twelve days around Christmastime.
The story itself is pretty absorbing; the art different in a smooth, clean way. It wasn’t quite like anything I had seen before, and for this departure into new territory, I was grateful.
I liked getting to know Jackie, who remained decently enigmatic, even at the close of
the story. I could never quite work out her motivations or feelings. The only part I found clear was that she was indeed suffering the loss of Noah, whom she had been dating for some time. Nick was a pretty chill guy; it was nice of him to play along with Jackie for a while, but I was happy to see him off at the end. His character grew the most, as through leaving Jackie behind, we see him find closure for himself. I do want to mention, however, that I was really bugged by the ambiguity of his feelings for Jackie. In a few scenes, it looks like he has feelings of his own for her. This is a feeling I couldn’t quite shake throughout the story, but it didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. Nor did it have any real impact on the plot, aside from maybe catalyzing him in his mission to steal Noah’s ashes.
I do have to admit I was very confused when I began reading. I had never heard of Noah as a woman’s name, and assumed that she would be a guy. The only pronouns used in the blurb on the back talk about Jackie herself, and so I had to reread the first bit a few times in order to make sense of everything. The plot, in a larger sense, was also confusing. There were several flashbacks with no introduction; us readers are just thrown into the middle of whatever event Jackie seems to be remembering. I read through chapters more than once to attempt to grasp what was happening, and then once more in full after I reached the end of the whole book.
Now, I know it’s in the picture, but I will not be reviewing Oh My Goddess! just yet, because I wasn’t able to finish it until November began. The other things I picked up last month are pictured below. They are a novel, light novels, more manga, and DVDs. The DVDs I got from grab boxes at RightStuf, and I am happy with my yield. I had never participated in such things before, worried I would get something that wouldn’t interest me. But I had a little extra cash and chose to take a gamble. I was pleasantly surprised! I got the first volume of Cromartie High School and “This Boy Can Fight Aliens”.
Shows I have started to watch online include Himouto! Umaru-chan and Osomatsu-san. I want to start up The Perfect Insider next. I have been playing Persona 4: Dancing All Night, SMT: Devil Survivor, and Pokemon Shuffle.
If you have any suggestions for things to read, watch, or play, please let me know! I am up for anything! If you have a book or series you would like me to review, please reach out to me via email or Twitter and I will get back to you as soon as I can!
* Tsundere encompasses more than just what’s mentioned above, but I’ve found
violence one of the type’s more noticeable traits. Incidentally, Wikipedia has a great article with more detail, alternatively TvTropes is also very informative… I just don’t go there too often because it’s one of those sites where you click on one then and then spend the better half of a day absorbed in a read-and-click cycle.
**Mul-me clubs are what multimedia clubs are often referred to in manga and light novels. They are pretty standard video and/or journalism clubs.
***Japanese mob. Like how we have the mafia; the Chinese have the Triads.