The nifty manga blogger, Kethylia, allows me to post her weely reviews every Monday here on the blog, to share with you good folks. Here is a link to her site, which she describes as "an informal brain-dumping ground for off-the-cuff book and manga reviews, news commentary, leftist political rants, half-baked pretensions of intellectualism, and lots, lots more!"
Here is a description of her rating scale.
Kusanagi, Mizuho. Mugen Spiral. Vol. 1. Trans. Nan Rymer and Christine Schilling. Los Angeles: TOKYOPOP, 2007.
Summary: The Demon King is ailing, and pretenders to the throne the young human mystic Yayoi's power. Foremost of these is Ura, the King's son, whom Yayoi sounded defeated and sealed into the body of a cat. However, he doesn't stay a cat for long. The orphaned Yayoi has learned that Ura wants to save his father, not replace him, and she's determined to help!
Comments: Kusanagi says that she reads lots of manga, and it shows. This series is unmistakably and deeply indebted to Inuyasha (for storyline) and Saiyuuki (for artstyle), to name just two prominent titles, but (like most of TOKYOPOP's licenses these days, alas) it's just solid enough to stand on its own. The book develops as mediocre shoujo manga of this sort usually do: a few standalone, episodic chapters before getting down to the nitty-gritty of the long term plot, a handsome but brash hero who will eventually win the heroine's undying love, a bishounen or two of ambiguous morals and baldly-expressed homosexuality (Western influence on Japan means that these two things often go hand-in-hand in manga). The heroine, in a nice change of pace from the usual insecure whiner, is described by the mangaka herself as "invincible"--she is coolly confident in herself and her quite formidable powers. Anyway, we all know how manga like these end, but it's a not wholly unpleasant journey to that predictable final destination. (By the way, the "demons" are actually Japanese oni.)
Notes: paperback, 1st American edition; first published in Japan by Hakusensha in 2004
Rating: 5/10 - Fans of fantastical shoujo and/or recent Hana to Yume titles may want to check this one out. But you're not really missing anything if you decide not to bother.
Aoi, Futaba and Mitsuba Kurenai. A King's Lesson. New York: Kitty Press, 2007.
Summary: Sui returns to Japan to attend school--at the same institution as the famous prodigy Daira, or the "King." But soon Sui's hero worship of Daira becomes something far more personal, and the two eventually come to love and care about one another.
Comments: Aoi Futaba and Kurenai Mitsuba have one of the most recognizable art styles in the BL business (and you'll either love it or hate it...I loved it as a teenager and am perhaps nostalgic), but this particular manga is actually pretty run-of-the-mill--right down to the raping seme, dishrag uke, and school backdrop. Still, you can tell that this creative duo, which also publishes non-BL manga under the pen names Sano Masaki and Watanabe Kyou, has experience; the story is well-paced, and the characters' personalities are reasonably well fleshed-out. Even looks like Daira's got something like Asperger's Syndrome. Huh. Anyway, the story is more coherent and cohesive than Level-C and significantly less
shotacon offensive (not to mention bizarre) than West End; plus, there's as much in the way of gratuitous bodily fluids as both and a much lower volume commitment than either. Media Blasters could have done much worse than this manga.
Notes: paperback, 1st American edition; first published in Japan by Frontier Works in 2004
Rating: 5/10 - A good purchase for the BL fan who wishes to flesh out her manga collection (especially since we'll never see West End in the US).
Ueda, Miwa. Peach Girl: Sae's Story. Vol. 2. Trans. Ray Yoshimoto and Jodi Bryson. Los Angeles: TOKYOPOP, 2006.
Summary: Originally titled Ura Peach Girl. Kanji proves to be insufferably indecisive, and Sae decides, under much duress, that Ai can have him after all. But Saru's still left waiting in the wings--make that nearly run over by a car--because Sae has found someone new...someone way cooler. Also includes a bonus story about a class trip to Kyoto.
Comments: The finely-tuned narrative control and artistic subtlety required to valorize the epic villain of a previous story is not something just anyone can achieve, but Ueda Miwa does it admirably. Sae's scheming, manipulative impulses, her sadistic sense of humor when it comes to her friends, and her sympathetic, vulnerable characteristics all are perfectly balanced. But what's most interesting about her--and what makes her oh-so-different from your stereotypical shoujo manga heroine--is that all of her cynical behaviors in this story are, at their roots, motivated by romantic idealism. Sae believes she can lie, cheat, and steal her way into her own personal Happily Ever After, and don't we, in our heart of hearts, admire such a notion, however wrong-headed? After all, it sure beats sitting forlornly in the ashes waiting patiently for one's prince to come. Sae takes the bull by the horns, and we can't help but hope and pray that she won't get gored.
Notes: paperback, 1st American edition; first published in Japan by Kodansha in 2005
Rating: 6.5/10 - Even better than Vol. 1. A must-read for US manga fans, even those of the male persuasion.