The Devil Within Vol. 1

devil_within_vol_1.jpgrating-4.5The Devil Within, by Ryo Takagi, is the story of Rion, currently a high school student, who believes that all men are devils and that boys are angels, the only ones deserving of her attention. Volume 1 seems to be mostly setup for the rest of the series, and there are so many plot twists this early on that you'd think you would be confused, but they seem so obvious that it really isn't.

This story begins with Rion explaining her boy fetish. As a young girl, she accidentally saw a rather graphic adult video which involved demons coming to Earth and possessing angelic boys so they would grow up to be full-fledged devils that attacked women. This obviously had a huge impact on her, as she cannot stand men, and only likes boys. On her way home from school (after picking up groceries), she's assaulted by a guy (who was only after some food) and then rescued by another (who used some of her food to distract guy #1, and there's a third guy she doesn't see). When she gets to her apartment building, she meets a boy named Tenshi (which means Angel in Japanese... do you see where this is going?) who she immediately falls for, but doesn't get to talk to much before he leaves. When she gets to her apartment (she lives with her father, Satan-sama... like I said, see where this is going?), she is greeted by the three guys mentioned earlier. As it turns out, they are all fiance candidates for Rion.

From there, the plot twists keep coming. First we found out that all three guys are really Angels (white wings and all). Then Rion discovers that Tenshi is not what he seems. Then she finds out she is a devil (with black bat-like wings). Now, I don't necessarily like to put a lot of spoilers in my reviews, as it shouldn't be necessary. In this case, I don't feel that telling you will ruin any of the surprises, as they seem like they are pretty obvious to me.

Despite the obvious plot, I did enjoy the story. Rion's reactions to the various discoveries and to the guys in the manga are really great. It was pretty easy to follow, and the pace was quick, but not hectic.

I must say that I love the art! It looks very clean and crisp, and each character had unique elements that made them easily identifiable. Since this is a shojo manga, it had a lot of your typical shojo conventions. There are tall, skinny guys whose torso were as longer then their legs. You had your occasional flowery/starry/sparkly background. You also had your typical guy poses, trying to make them look really pretty.

I liked the manga, even though I'm not a teenage girl. It was funny, cute, and didn't require a ton of thought.


Ouran High School Host Club Vol. 1

ohshc_vol_01.jpgrating-3.0Well, it's been awhile since I've posted anything, but I thought I would take a different route for awhile. I've mostly been reviewing shonen manga (boys comics, basically), so I figured I would review shojo manga (girls comics) for a little while. I'm going to start with Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori. If the name sounds familiar, it's because I mentioned it in this post, about harem anime, as my only example of a reverse harem anime. I really enjoyed the anime, so I was looking forward to reading the manga.

This is the story of Haruhi, who is a scholarship student at the prestigious Ouran High School, which is mostly filled with kids who are so rich that they have no concept of what most people live like. The story starts with Haruhi, who doesn't wear the school uniform because she can't afford it, looking for a quiet place to study. She stumbles into the Music Room 3, which is supposed to be unused, and discovers the Host Club. Since it's a shojo manga, the Host Club filled with a bunch of hunky guys (each intentionally filling a stereotype). As she is trying to get away, she breaks an extremely expensive vase, and is forced to work for the club to pay it off.

Most of the first chapter is spent by the Host Club Members, one by one, figuring out that Haruhi is a girl, as her disheveled appearance was not remotely feminine. Before everyone figures it out though, they discover that she's cute, and propose that if she can get 100 customers, they will wave the debt. The remainder of the book involves Haruhi becoming a host, keeping her gender a secret from the rest of the students, a lot of humor related to how the members of the Host Club try to understand "common folk", and actually trying to help some people out.

The story, to me, is somewhat disjointed. It's a little hard to follow at times, and the pace seems a little too quick. This is probably because each member of the Host Club is a bit extreme, so their actions are all exaggerated. If I hadn't seen the anime already, I might have been lost. I would like to point out that, unlike most shojo manga, there is no obvious love interest in this story. In fact, she's pretty apathetic in general, which is part of the humor in the manga.

The art is good, but it was sometimes hard to tell who was who, especially when it came to the twins and the president of the Host Club. The other characters are unique enough that you can tell them apart. Also, most panels are crammed with characters and text and some pretty nicely detailed backgrounds, so it looks really busy. I do like the art, but it seems like it could have been toned down some, but the art does match the story, in that sense.

Overall, I do like the manga, and it has some really humorous moments. It's a bit shallow, in that there really isn't a lot of character development, it's mostly a bunch of gags. In later volumes, we do learn that all the members have some depth to them, but like I said, there isn't much of that here.


Monster Vol. 4

monster_vol_04.jpgrating-4.5Monster, by Naoki Urasawa, is the chilling tale of Dr. Kenzo Tenma's search for Johan, a boy whose life he saved, who turns into a cold blooded serial killer. The story starts as Dr. Tenma, who is head of Neurosurgery at Eisler Memorial Hospital in Dusseldorf, Germany, makes a choice to save a dying child instead of a government official. Hospital politics cause him to lose his position and his girlfriend, who happens to be the daughter of the Chief of Surgery. After some suspicious deaths, the hospital chairman promotes him to Chief of Surgery. After 9 years, he becomes the prime suspect in a serial killer case, and eventually flees from the law to pursue Johan, who has revealed himself to Dr. Tenma as the killer.
I'm reviewing Volume 4 of Monster becuase that's where I'm currently at in my reading. It picks up the story with Dr. Tenma still in pursuit of Johan. In this volume, he has met up with Johan's twin sister Anna (or is it Nina? She has a few names...) again, who is also out to find Johan. They both mean to kill him when they see him, so there's no conflict of interest. Most of Johan's past was revealed in Volume 3, so this volume concentrates more on the hunt for Johan. There are many subplots going on here. Dr. Tenma's ex-girlfriend is out to ruin him (even more), and is working with the BKA to try and capture him. There are German extremists trying to exterminate the Turks who have moved into their town by any means possible. There is also another group looking for Johan, but they want him to be their leader. It's amazing the amount of things going on in this series.
The story flows really well, with the different plots twisting and merging into one solid story. There's also the irony of how Dr. Tenma and Anna, in the midst of hunting down a cold blooded killer, are trying to save a segment of the town they're in from extermination. The characters are constantly having to make choices concerning pursuing Johan or saving lives. It's an amazing piece of writing.
The artwork, like Oldboy, is not your typical anime/manga style. It works for the story, since if it looked like Princess Ressurection, you couldn't really take it seriously. Like I've said before, my personal preference is for more of a typical anime/manga look, but this is well done, and fits the story.
This is probably one of the better mangas I read on a regular basis. I would highly recomend it to anyone who wants to read a thriller.


Princess Resurrection Vol. 1

princess_ressurection_v01.jpgrating-4.0Princess Resurrection is the tale of Hime and Hiro. Hime is a princess (in fact, Hime means princess) and Hiro is her Warrior Servant. They happen to end up living together with Hiro's sister Sawawa (who is clueless and very well endowed), Android Maid Flandre (who looks all of 8 years old, if that), and finally they are joined by another woman, named Riza.
While this sounds like a set up for a Harem Comedy, it's not. For starters, Hiro dies in the first 10 pages. He is resurrected by Hime, who is a Princess from the Underworld. You see, Hime's blood has turned him semi-immortal, but he can't go more than a few days without drinking it, or he will die permanently. Now it's his job to protect her from whatever nasties come along, whether he wants to or not. She's not helpless, by any means, as she wields various weapons, including a chainsaw, axe, and a crossbow among other things, to help defend herself. Since she is not immortal, she does need servants to help protect her. In fact, she's constantly complaining she doesn't have enough of them. In this volume alone, she is attacked by two werewolves (the second being the aforementioned Riza), an Invisible Man, a Vampire and his minions, and a village of sea creatures, who happen to look like they came from the Black Lagoon. This all seems to revolve around a power struggle within her family, I'm guessing to determine who will rule the Underworld.
The story flows at a good pace, with Hiro dying at least once every chapter. There is a lot of bloodshed and violence, which is definitely why it's recommended for ages 16 and up. Hiro's sister and Flandre do provide some comic relief to help offset the violence.
The only issues I have with the manga revolves around the artwork. While the art is more like your typical manga/anime art style, with big eyes and cute girls, which I actually prefer, there seems to be some issues with proportions. I could swear that Hime's head seems to grow and shrink as you read along. This happens to other characters a little bit, but mostly with Hime. And since I'm not an artist and I noticed this, I'm assuming that it's bad.
That aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the manga. My favorite parts seem to involve Flandre for some reason, who stands half of Hime's height, and can only say 'Hooba', although Hime seems to understand her just fine. Seeing her wield a tree trunk to fend off wolves and throw Hiro through the window of a burning mansion when told to 'Take Hiro outside' just had me laughing out loud.


Oldboy Vol. 1

old_boy_vol_01.jpgrating-3.5Old Boy is the story of a man who was held prisoner for 10 years in a private cell, not knowing why. He was then released back into the world and now he is trying to find and confront the people who did this to him. I must admit that this premise piqued my interest. And when Dark Horse described it as "an intense, bare-knuckled thriller in the tradition of Pulp Fiction and Payback", I thought this should have a lot of action. Boy, was I wrong. Before I go on though, I will admit that I've never seen Payback, and Pulp Fiction does have a lot of interesting dialogue, but I still think of them as action films. Now Old Boy isn't a bad manga, by any means. In fact, it's pretty good. It's just that my expectations from the premise and the description sent me in a different direction then the actual manga went. This might change in later volumes, but so far, I don't think the description is accurate.
The manga itself is more cerebral, in that it is a cat and mouse game between the man and his antagonist. We learn about his thought process during flashback sequences of his incarceration. We also meet his antagonist, and we get a hint at why he did this to him. If you're wondering why I haven't mentioned his name yet, it's because you're not told, and he only comes up with an alias (Yamashita) right near the end of the volume.

The manga itself flows well, and since there is not much dialogue, it doesn't take very long to read. The art is more of a realistic style (no big-eyed cute girls with crazy hair), and Nobuaki Minegishi has a penchant for dramatic poses, which are well done. It does have a Parental Advisory on it, I'm guessing only for the nudity, as the violence is pretty minimal and not really gory at all. Overall, I would recomend it to people who are interested in a good story (which I think it will be), but it's not necessarily for everyone.