Archive for July, 2011

Twin Spica

July 12, 2011


My rating (so far): 4 out of 5 stars

Another multi-step review here.  I find these quite interesting to write and read back through at a later date, though I hope they’re not too disjointed for people who aren’t me to enjoy.  Anyway, onwards and upwards!

EDIT: this is actually as seinen series, however seeing as it struck me as shojo-y I’ve decided to leave my original notes as they were.

After reading vol. 1:

(Rating: 3 stars)

Shojo sci-fi manga about a schoolgirl who wants to go to Tokyo Space School and learn to fly spacecraft.  I’ve read to the end of volume 1 and so far its engaging enough to make me want to get hold of more.  Its a bit on the sentimental side rather than straight up quirky and fun, but the art style suits the themes involved, and the characters are so far easy to understand and get on with.  I would also recommend this for younger readers.

After reading up to vol. 6:

(Rating: 4 stars)

I’m really enjoying this series now! I would say if you liked volume 1 at all then its well worth giving the next few volumes a chance to pull you in further.  This series is basically about the yearning some people have to travel into space, and astronaught training, mixed with a high school slice-of-life shojo manga, mixed in with some deaths and ghosts.

A big plus of this series is that, alongside the everyday lives and loves of our main characters, its not afraid to tackle some pretty serious questions about whether we should put humans into space. It starts off by detailing a massive shuttle crash and the impact that the subesquent deaths and injuries have on some of the main characters of the story.  Plus, the students at the Space School have to deal with people protesting their training as a waste of money and too much of a risk to life.

Not that the everyday lives and loves of the characters aren’t important though.  Although the overriding theme of space travel is an interesting and compelling one for me, its the drama amongst the characters that keeps me hooked.  Each person in the main group of high school friends is believeably flawed, but you can’t help but root for all of them in their own way.

The fantasical, ghostly, aspects of the series are perhaps the part that I could do most without, however they’re not as overwhelming as volume 1 led me to believe.  Although overall I find that the more fantastical elements don’t mesh as well as everything else in the series, I do quite like the connection that some of the living characters still have to the dead throughout.  The series seems to inextricably link space travel with hardship and death, which only makes the striving of the students for their goal of outer space more compelling: they know full well the hardships involved, and yet they still want to achive their dreams anyway.

This series has 16 volumes in all, so I guess there will be at least one more update to this review once I’ve finished the whole thing – here’s hoping I can bump it all the way up to 5 stars next time :)


Ristorante Paradiso

July 10, 2011


My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I didn’t get on all that well with this one. It wasn’t terrible, but I’m not quite sure how it’s got so much critical acclaim.

The story setup intrigued me: a girl is abandoned by her mother as a child because her mother falls in love with a man that doesn’t want to date women with children.  Once she’s grown into a young woman, the girl decides to go and confront her mother (and the man that she is still with), with the truth.  Throw in the backdrop of an Italian restaurant staffed incongruously with only older bespectacled men, and you’ve at least got a good hook for people like me who are after something a bit off-the-wall in their comics entertainment.

The main problem I had with the comic though was the writing.  Things just seemed to happen because that’s what the author wanted to write, rather than the characters seemingly causing things to happen because of who they were.  One example: at the start, the daughter thinks to herself that she doesn’t understand the appeal of the all-older-bespectacled-male waiting staff at the restaurant, but the very next time she sees one of the staff she immediately starts to think how sexy he is.  The author could have written it as if the daughter’s mind changed over time, or even that there was something specific about the man that suddenly caught her attention, but in fact she just seemed to contradict herself entirely in the space of just a couple of pages at the start of the book.

There also really isn’t much of an emotional impact anywhere in the book around the daughter and the mother’s relationship, which is a missed trick in my opinion, given the plot.

The artwork is probably going to be marmite to a lot of people: you’d love it or hate it. Its drawn with nib pens in quite a scratchy, quick style.  Personally there are moments where I think the artwork is quite beautifully balanced, but most of the time its quite ugly to me.  It’s reminiscent of the kind of pen illustrations you might get in a magazine about wine (which is actually pretty fitting, considering the Italian restaurant backdrop), but I’m not really a fan of that style of illustration unfortunately.

All of the supposedly sexy male staff at the restaurant were drawn looking rather similar, so at points they were very hard to tell apart from each other.  The choice to give everyone elongated, spindly bodies and hands was probably 100% conscious on the part of the creator, but again, I’m just not a fan of that style of art (it screams ‘I’m out of proportion!’ to me).

So I would say flip through a few pages of this book if you can before buying and take a look at the art – if you love the art then you’ll probably forgive the story a bit.  But if you’re a fan of enigmatic tall older men with glasses, you should probably just go straight out and buy this anyway ;)

Bonus side note: although I was initially put off Ono’s work by reading this book, recently I’ve had the chance to watch the anime and read a couple of volumes of another of her series, ‘House of Five Leaves’, which is newer.  I wouldn’t say Five Leaves is my favourite comic ever, but I very much enjoyed the volumes I borrowed and am considering collecting the series for myself too, so if you felt the same as me about Ristorante Paradiso perhaps don’t close yourself off to everything Ono just yet.  If I do end up collecting it, then I’m sure I’ll write more about Five Leaves in the future :)

Ouran High School Host Club

July 8, 2011


My rating (so far) 5 out of 5 stars.

This review is a bit of a saga – it has three updates (at volumes 1, 3 and 9).  And even then it isn’t finished because the series is 18 volumes long, so there will definitely be at least one more update to come! (I’ll try and keep it to just one more)

After reading volume 1:

(Rating: 1 star)

I couldn’t stand the art (having seen the anime first), and ended up selling my only volume off at a con bring and buy without even finishing it! Glad I went back to it though…

After reading up to volume 3:

(Rating: 4 stars)

I can imagine that most manga/anime fans will have probably seen or heard of the anime adaptation of Ouran before picking up the manga. Those wanting more of the same should be pretty happy with the manga, as it follows the anime almost to-the-letter so far, plus there is the certainty of new material that goes beyond where the anime series finished.

Ouran High School Host Club is basically reverse-harem shoujo crack at its finest: a normal teenage girl is mistaken for a boy, knocks over an expensive vase by accident and somehow winds up paying off her debt by masquerading as a boy and becoming part of the school’s Host Club – where filthy rich pretty boys with too much time on their hands entertain filthy rich pretty girls with too much time on their hands.

So the series is about a normal (albiet quite sharp and cynical) girl, who spends her time surrounded by a doting group of various beautiful boys: what’s not for a teenage female reader to like? And yes, it sounds kind of rubbish when you explain it like that, but there are 2 great things that make Ouran deserving of its 4-star score!

1. Character depth and relationships: outwardly the Ouran characters are pretty shallowly designed – there’s your glasses-wearing guy, stoic guy, babyface guy, twins etc. etc. but once you get into reading the series their personalities, backstories and interactions with each other make them much more unique people (albiet still comedically over-the-top people).

2. Sense of humour: the way the author plays with the boundary between normal (‘poor’) people and the filthy rich Ouran students is hilarious, plus some funny moments come simply from the range of character traits of the Host Club members, and subversion of them.

The only thing that lets the manga version Ouran down for me is the artwork – originally I was really turned off by the art style in issue 1 as the characters seemed way uglier than their anime counterparts. However, the giant eyes do get steadily downplayed as the series goes on, and after flicking through a random copy of vol. 10 in the shops one day I could see that the art did eventually converge more with the look of the anime.

After reading up to vol. 9:

(5 stars)

Absolutely loving this manga series! The art has got a lot prettier and more consistent now that I’m on volume 9, making it easier to read and more enjoyable all round.

So far there has only been one chapter with events that I don’t recall from the anime – everything else is very similar, and with the improvements to the artwork I’m enjoying the manga now at least as much as the anime, which is just what I wanted from it.

What I love about reading manga over watching anime though is that you do it at your own pace, so I can read quickly past some of the silly school side stories but savour the moments of character development and chuckle-able funny bits :)