This month, I ended up reading all manga again… Heh. I was participating in NaNoWriMo and only had a few minutes at a time to sit down and read. Or eat. I didn’t do too much of the latter. When I get in the zone, I just keep going! I sat down for manga (or manhwa) breaks and ended up getting through all of Cynical Orange, though the rest of my reading was mostly me playing catch-up.
In terms of genre, I read more of the same: one rom-com, one school drama, three yaoi, and a whole stack of drama manhwa. Manhwa: my new love. The stories really catch me and make me need to know more! In the future, I am looking for manhwa suggestions and hope I am able to afford more series. It makes a world of difference when you can read something straight through!
Starting with the rom-com, we have Oh My Goddess!, by Kosuke Fujishima. I found the omnibus edition during an excursion to Connecticut last month, laying atop a bookcase in a comic store. It has been recommended to me by others in the past, and the anime is usually considered a classic. It didn’t hurt that I had a 30% off coupon in my possession. I snapped it up without even looking at the few other volumes the store had to offer. The list price for the omnibus edition is $19.99—definitely a bargain! It includes a bunch of full-color pages scattered throughout the book, as well as a few omake comics about the author and his assistants.
The story itself revolves around college student Keiichi, who accidentally
dials the wrong number—classic—and winds up with a goddess roommate, Belldandy. Now they’re stuck together, and her contract states that they must be together at all times. Comedy ensues with various people trying to break them up, the appearance of Keiichi’s sister, Belldandy’s sister, and the antics of the Motor Club.
I’m not usually too into racing, but found myself enjoying the chapters that included Motor Club’s activities the most. It’s a great way to give the secondary characters more airtime, and when Otaki and Tamiya show up, I know things will take a crazy turn.
I was bothered by subplots that ended abruptly. I felt like they could have done more with “Sugroku Roulette”. It ended abruptly and barely involved Keiichi. Not to mention that the race with the souped-up supercub only took about six pages, after all the hype and lead-in. I was also disappointed that after Otaki started dating Satoko, she practically disappears.
Overall, I’d give Oh My Goddess! a 3/5 rating. It was funny, with intriguing characters, but it just didn’t grab me. I don’t feel compelled to go out and get volume two as soon as I can, or ever really, if it isn’t on sale.
The next manga I read was the first volume of Evergreen. It’s a drama written by Yuyuko Takemiya, the author of Toradora!. I read the preview that came with the newest release in the Toradora manga, and it piqued my interest. The artist for this series is someone different, however—They’re Akira Kasukabe, a name I hadn’t heard before. Their Wikipedia entry is also empty, so I don’t have much to go on. I like their style, though. The character designs are pretty unique—although I have no idea what’s going on with the main female, Niki’s, hair. It’s one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen!
The characters and story—Hotaka Yoshimatsu is a high school kid with a congenital heart problem. He is self-conscious about his surgery scar and has never entered the school pool. He also has a major complex about his father, as well as flimsy self-confidence. Enter Niki Awaya, his crush. She’s the swim team member he watches from his perch in the manga
club’s classroom. He’s happy hanging out with is manga club friends and seeing her from afar, but things change dramatically when the gym teacher forces him into the pool in order to pass. Yoshimatsu ends up humiliated and panicking. It’s Niki who tries to help him save face, but he publicly rejects her and then becomes depressed. When one of Yoshimatsu’s friends realizes that she’s also been watching him, too, things start to get interesting. The first volume ends with so many tantalizing questions; the answers just out of reach.
The drama in this story is very intense. As I said, many ideas are raised, and the facts feel close by. I read this one twice before putting it down, and even went back and forth between chapters as I read to confirm or check things. I was enraptured the entire time, and this book easily earns a 5/5 from me!
Two gripes! The first is that the book retails at $12.99—on the steep side for a single-volume tankouban. Yes, it’s slightly thicker than the average manga, but there is only one color page. It seems overpriced. My second issue is the fact that one page is a duplicate. It confused the hell out of me and I thought it was a memory, time-lapse, or something at first. It’s not a huge deal, though, if you know what to look for and don’t fall into the senseless trap of questioning reality~
Overall, I highly recommend this book. I did indeed say 5/5. I’ve already read it twice and will give it another read whenever I’m able to get ahold of the next book in the series. Takemiya doesn’t disappoint with her lifelike characters and complex slice-of-life scenarios.
I would like to aside for a minute and mention that I tend to fall into this pattern of thinking slice-of-life dramas will be comedies. Aside from Evergeen, which I completely misread, there was also Say I Love You, Cynical Orange, and Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun or My Little Monster. This happens to me time and time again, yet I always dive right in, thinking “this plot sounds funny”. Then, when shit gets serious, I snivel ask the gods “why?!”. I don’t know how to avoid these terrible mistakes and constantly set myself up for disappointment and sadness.
For this month’s yaoi, I first read False Memories, by Isaku Natsume. I picked this book up the month before, and just got around to it now. It looked cute and full of drama. One of my favorite themes is “botched first love”, and this short series (ordered the second/final volume the other day) is fierce! It sells for $12.99—I think this is becoming a new standard, unfortunately. That’s one for Seven Seas and one for Viz at the same price.
The story opens with Nakano and Tsuda meeting for the first time since they parted ways shortly after high school. Nakano is the quiet, collected type who goes to work to do his work and nothing more. Tsuda is a goofball whose company has been contracted by Nakano’s (Randai. It’s literally Randai!), and he’s their point person. Because Tsuda immediately recognizes and insinuates rapport, they are assigned the project on the spot. Nakano is extremely irritated by this, and we get the details of their past a little at a time.
It’s well-written and I love the way the viewpoints swap from time to
time. They both have different takes on what happened, and Nakano often tries to hide behind his work. I love his character, and—being the king of backstory—get so excited when there are partial flashbacks.
I also read Love Stage!! volume three, by Eiki Eiki and Taishi Zaou. I talked about the anime here, so check it out if you want to know about how the two compare! That being said, there weren’t many surprises in this installment.
Loveable Izumi and actor Ryoma do finally get together! Izumi realizes his feelings for Ryoma, shortly after making his debut. He acts very meta, asking Rei if he is “BL” now, which is comical. It’s a lot of fun to watch the two grow closer and grow as people.
A downside to having watched the anime is that I now hear Shougo’s annoying anime voice when I read his dialogue. It’s got to be one of my top five most hated voices. It’s screechy and whining. Also grating. He’s much more likable when I think of him as solid and adoring—as pictured in the manga.
Rei is my favorite character now. He just exudes this aura of cool composure, and is very non-judgmental towards Izumi. He gets him in line when necessary and can be brutally honest. He feels like both a parent and brother. I read online that there is a spin-off about him and Shougo. If it ever comes out, I’d definitely read it.
The last yaoi I read is a stand-alone novel by Yugi Yamada titled Dry Heat. I got it in a manga lot I won on eBay~ The back of the book pictures a mismatched cast: three people who look like they don’t belong together at all. Honestly, it was them who drew me in more than the “meh” duo pasted across the front cover.
The blurb paints it as another story of botched first love, where Itaru, a
recent high school graduate is charged with taking care of the bratty Tatsuhiko. Tatsuhiko proves to be too much of a nuisance after his father remarries and is shipped off to boarding school. Itaru, promising to always be there for him, writes a multitude of letters… But it seems that none have actually reached Tatsuhiko, who is a completely different person, present-day.
When Tatsuhiko ‘runs away’ from school, Itaru is asked to go find him without creating a scandal. He dutifully complies, and sets off wondering why Tatsuhiko broke contact in the first place. He winds up embroiled in an intricate set of lies about the people surrounding Tatsuhiko, and later helps others come to terms with their losses.
I give it a 4/5. The story is pretty solid, but I’m on the fence about how realistic the two main characters are. If you take them to the letter, believing the authors’ justifications for their actions, they’re passable. Some vital, mental aspect feels off, but I can’t place it.
The final series I am covering this month is Cynical Orange, by JiUn Yun. It is a manhwa full of drama, bullying, manipulation, and misplaced feelings. It is one of the more powerful stories I have read recently, and I cried like a little kid at the end. In this post I will talk a little about the story and the first volume only—I want to do a more in-depth (read: with spoilers) post about the series in its entirety.
The series—also like Chocolate—had its first few volumes published by Ice Kunion, with the latter coming to the US through Yen Press, after their takeover. I got the books off of both eBay and Amazon, buying them mostly in lots. I found out about Cynical Orange years ago, after having read a preview in the very same Ice Kunion circular where I found Chocolate. The snippet was from the third chapter—more than halfway through the book. I later tried to read the series online, but became aggravated when it seemed different. I now know that’s because what I had read was a flashback, so the main character, Hye-Min looked different.
The plot arcs around Hye-Min, her Shin-Bi oppa, her hanger-on Ma-Ha, and Shin-Bi’s girlfriend, So-Ryu. The first book paints a wonderful scene: Hye-Min runs into the buffoonish Mah-Ha and they start to get close while hanging out at The Piper, Shin-Bi’s empty café. So-Ryu makes her first appearance as Hye-Min’s tutor.
It’s quickly apparent that Hye-Min is heavily bullied at school for her looks. Many of the boys have crushes on her and have even gone so far as to dump their girlfriends to win her affections. She has no interest in them, however, and wishes they would leave her alone. She has eyes only for Jung-Yun, the class president, whom she overhears badmouthing her with a friend. It is at this point that she snaps and chases down Ma-Ha—presumably to murder him— during their first meeting.
Hye-Min, who is cold and aloof at school, really opens up inside the
boundaries of The Piper, the only place she feels she can be herself. Ma-Ha catches on quickly, and stays close to Hye-Min, trying to get her to open up to other people and places as well. She seems perfectly happy to spend her days cooped up, while a whole world of new experiences await her broken heart.
The first book closes with Hye-Min displaying a softer side, handing Ma-Ha a cold coffee to hold to his bruised face. While Hye-Min looks to be a textbook tsundere, there is much more dwelling under her tough exterior.
I give the first book a 5/5. It surpassed my expectations of mere bullying tropes, as Hye-Min does not see herself as a victim. There are also hints at possible growth for Hye-Min and the others. Ma-Ha is introduced as a stupid playboy, but he clearly has his own story to tell, while So-Ryu, who gets very little page time, is someone to watch out for. My favorite was Shin-Bi, off the bat. You can tell there is way more to him that what you see, and readers will be rewarded with backstory in future volumes!
Going back over the books I read, I changed two of my ratings. I knocked Oh My Goddess! down a star, and bumped Dry Heat up one. This is something I rarely do, and want to explore the topic.
I thought that both were about average in terms of quality, but when I looked back on Dry Heat, I saw some spark in the narration that swayed me to give it a better rating. I loved the parallel stories between Tatsuhiko and Chino, especially the reveal near the end. On the other hand, while Oh My Goddess! is considered a “classic”, I just wasn’t as into it. For that lack of feeling alone, I feel its rating should be lower.
I’d say last month was a good one! I got through very little of Odd Thomas, but I’m still going. I snagged a bunch of books last month. I managed to to the bookstore, as well as shop on Amazon, eBay, and Listia. I’ll probably get a lot of book money for the holidays, but will try not to spend it all at once…