Manhwa Review: Milkyway Hitchhiking Vol. #2

Most manga and manhwa have lengthy plots with human main characters. However, if you prefer a feline narrator and more of an anthology feel, you may want to check out Yen Press’ Milkyway Hitchhiking. Read on for the review of Volume 2. (If interested in my review of Volume 1, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

There are as many people on Earth as there are stars in the sky. From the unique marriage traditions of a faraway tribe, to the unusual relationship between a fox and a chick, to the tale of a complicated royal succession, Milkyway continues to leave her mark across the bright stars of people’s lives, loves, tears, and laughter.

The Review

Milkyway’s tales continue in their non-linear fashion. As in the first volume, her roles vary from main character to mostly uninvolved bystander, but these stories run longer overall. Volume 2 contains only six “episodes,” and only two are single chapter stories. In one of these shorts, “Find a Bride,” Milkyway plays her biggest part when she disrupts a tribe’s time-honored marriage tradition. The tribe, a mishmash of Pacific Islander and Native American, is very obviously fictional but offers fun comedy as well as a chance for Milkyway to show some sass. In contrast, Milkyway’s more of a prop in “Flower Painting,” which explores the relationship between two brothers in long-ago Korea.

Her role is also minimal in “Tiger’s Present”/”Fox’s Dream.” Unlike most of the Milkyway stories, animals take the main stage in this one. The brightly colored artwork and whimsical style give it the feel of an Asian folktale and would definitely appeal to a younger reader. On the other hand, “Three Stories” is solidly set in the contemporary human world. Three elderly women trade memories that involve a cat (Milkyway), but though their anecdotes happen in different times and places, they all have a positive feel.

That is definitely not the case for the two longest works in the collection, “Crimson” and “The Watcher in the Shadows.” Those who enjoyed Volume 1′s “Knight of the Fallen Leaves” will probably enjoy “Crimson.” Like “Knight,” “Crimson” features a viciously dysfunctional royal family and has a color scheme that involves a lot of red and black. “The Watcher in the Shadows” has more of a Victorian Goth than a Grimm feel, but it also delves into disturbing territory with its predatory siblings. In both these stories, the humans dominate, and Milkyway’s little more than a narrator.

“Milkyway Convenience Store” makes another appearance, and Sirial also introduces “Milkyway Café.” This time around,  characters from the featured stories get thrown into the bonus mini-manhwa for comic effect. Other extras include a bonus illustration at the end of the book and footnotes explaining cultural terms.

In Summary

Milkyway Hitchhiking returns with six more “episodes.” Most these stories are longer than the Volume 1 works, and though there are lighthearted stories in the mix, they tend to have a darker feel. Milkyway continues to be the common thread binding the stories, but as in Volume 1, the stories are more about the lives she encounters so the particulars about her remain largely unknown.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Dengeki Daisy Vol. 16 (Series finale!)

Bad boy/good girl love stories are popular in shojo manga, and for those who enjoy a dash of cyber intrigue in their romances, Kyousuke Motomi’s Dengeki Daisy is worth checking out. The series finale has recently been released, and you can read on for the review. (For those who are interested, click here for reviews of earlier volumes).

The story centers on orphan Teru Kurebayashi, who, after the death of her beloved older brother, finds solace in the messages she exchanges with Daisy, an enigmatic figure who can only be reached through the cell phone her brother left her. One day, she accidentally breaks a window at school, and as  a result winds up becoming a servant for Kurosaki, the delinquent school custodian. Although brusque and rude, he somehow always shows up in her time of need, and Teru finds herself increasingly drawn to him.

The Review

This high school romance/cyber thriller has had crazy things happen over the course of its run (furniture falling from great heights, kidnappings, exploding boats) so it’s only fitting for the series to end with a really big bang. The remainder of the main story only takes up one chapter in the final volume, but it is a long one. It’s fraught with tension as Kurosaki strives to redeem Akira, but Motomi-sensei still manages to insert her particular style of goofy humor in the midst of the turmoil before getting everyone to a happy ending.

Thus concludes Dengeki Daisy, a series that remained consistently engaging through the years (and I didn’t realize exactly how many years until I saw Motomi-sensei’s “Daisy Chronology”). While the ending makes clear Kurosaki and Teru will be together, it might not be lovey-dovey enough for Teru/Kurosaki fans. That’s where the remainder of the volume comes in. Four bonus chapters present character postscripts and flashbacks. Anyone who’s wondered what the lead couple would look like with a baby will enjoy “Daisy Special Episode Part II.” The baby’s not actually theirs, but that warm, fuzzy family vibe definitely comes through, not that Kurosaki’s crossed the line with our underage heroine. He remains a gentleman throughout, despite the yearning Motomi-sensei so exquisitely portrays, and the Kurosaki sutras jokes continue to the very end.

These chapters also offer insight into Soichiro, who has been a vital part of the cast despite being dead, and his relationship with Riko. Riko’s mainly been portrayed as a support for Teru, first as school counselor, then as roommate. But the extras offer a glimpse of her in the context of her relationship with Soichiro, and the angst she suffered at losing her lover.

Extras also include Motomi-sensei’s debut manga, No-Good Cupid; the final installment of “Baldly Ask!!!”; and closing remarks from the mangaka.

In Summary

It’s the final explosive chapter of Dengeki Daisy! The ending is Akira and Kurosaki centric, but never fear, Kurosaki/Teru fans. This volume contains over 100 pages of extras that offer a glimpse into our main characters’ future together as well as some hitherto unseen moments from the past. Motomi-sensei’s created some unbelievable situations through the years, but her characters have such depth and appeal I can’t help but smile to see them all come to a happy ending.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Master Keaton Vol. #2

I became an instant fan of Naoki Urasawa in 2004 when I saw the Monster anime. Psychological thrillers are definitely NOT my cup of tea, but he had me hooked with his combination of realistic artwork and gripping plot. As such, I was thrilled when Viz Media decided to release a translation of an earlier Urasawa action/adventure: Master Keaton. Read on for the review of Volume 2! (For my review of Volume 1, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Taichi Hiraga Keaton has a degree from the University of Oxford’s master’s programme in archaeology, but he abandoned further studies due to tight finances. Because combat didn’t suit his nature, he left the SAS and is now an exceptional insurance investigator. Equipped with a strong body and a keen intellect, Keaton is about to solve the most difficult cases ever seen!

The Review

Master Keaton continues to deliver a series of mostly single chapter stories with settings ranging from Switzerland to Mexico City. Those who enjoy watching the unassuming yet amazingly capable combat soldier take his opponents by surprise should be entertained by a third of this volume’s contents. Keaton raids terrorists with a bunch of bounty hunters in “Little Big Man” and turns the tables on far-right extremists trying to hunt him down in “Black Forest.”

The writers seem to be having trouble continuing to deliver the archaeology aspect into Keaton’s insurance cases however. “Fire and Ice” opens with an ancient Greek drawing, but the case just involves regular sleuthing and some modern history. In “Red Moon” and it’s conclusion “Silver Moon,” mention is made of werewolves, but the story ultimately turns out more of a dark sci-fi. Ultimately, the chapters without a strong action component wind up showing Keaton more like a clever detective than an archaeologically minded investigator.

As if to make up for the lack of archaeology-related insurance cases, the writers create turmoil for Keaton in his academic life. He loses his university position, and struggles to find a way to continue pursuing his passion for things ancient. These segments are more character studies, and while not quite so exciting as his run-ins with underworld criminals, they’re an exploration into Keaton’s eccentric personality and personal life.

As in Volume 1, he talks about his ex-wife, but there’s no sign of her. Daughter Yuriko makes an appearance though, and Dad Taihei gets its own chapter in “Flowers for Everyone,” the only story that takes place in Japan.

Extras include the first pages of Chapter 1 and Chapter 5 in color and a sound effects glossary.

In Summary

While Keaton continues to take adversaries by surprise with his SAS fighting and survival skills, the archaeology components of his cases fades to passing mentions of legends that have little actual bearing on the mystery or dilemma at hand. The writers compensate by focusing on Keaton’s personal struggles in academia. While Keaton’s quirky personality does keep things interesting, he comes across more as a clever detective than an Indiana Jones in Volume 2.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Your Lie In April Vol. #1

Despite being a soundless medium, music-centric stories are not uncommon in manga. Now joining the ranks of Nodame Cantible and La Corda d’Oro is Kodansha’s Your Lie in April, and you can read on for my review of Volume 1.

Back cover blurb

Kosei Arima was a piano prodigy until his cruel taskmaster of a mother died suddenly, changing his life forever. Driven by his pain to abandon piano, Kosei now lives in a monotonous, colorless world. Having resigned himself to a bland life, he is surprised when he meets Kaori Miyazono, a violinist with an unorthodox style. Can she bring Kosei back to music, and back to life?

The Review

Your Lie in April may have a male main character, but it is definitely a shojo manga. The lead is fourteen-year-old Kosei Arima, a former piano prodigy whose ability to hear his music disappeared when his mother died. If this was a shonen title, he would overcome his loss through the power of male friendship or sheer determination. However, because this is a shojo manga, the catalyst is Kaori Miyazono, a girl who not only reawakens Kosei’s connection to music but stirs his heart as well.

In addition to being a romance, Your Lie in April is a music manga, which is a tricky category to pull off well. While the anime version handled the music scenes brilliantly with a combination of soundtrack and motion capture animation (probably thanks to sponsor Steinway and Sons), the manga version is underwhelming. The narrative fails to deliver a real sense of characters’ performances. We get internal and mob comments on the  emotional impact, but little about the featured music’s tone or style. For instance, the scene in which Kaori draws Kosei in with her melodica playing provides no details on what kind of tune she’s playing.

As in many music manga, there’s a large reliance on visuals to convey sound, but the illustrations in Your Lie in April falls short in this respect. Kaori’s preliminary performance in the Towa Music Competition starts off with six pages sans text, but it’s difficult to tell from the pictures alone exactly what kind of performance she’s giving. This is partly due to the mediocre quality of the artwork. It’s not as drastic as the difference between Honey and Clover’s manga and anime, but Arakawa-sensei’s drawings look like rough sketches compared to the TV series.

The music aspect aside, Your Lie in April does have an engaging plot, as long as you don’t mind a lot of emo. Kosei is the very picture of passivity (which can get annoying, actually) so it’s up to Kaori’s exuberant personality to keep things moving. Considering she’s expressed interest in Kosei’s friend Watari, she spends an undue amount of attention on Kosei and his stalled piano career. But when she demands Kosei be her accompanist, you get the sense she’s got an ulterior motive, and it’s that hidden agenda, more so than the music competition that keeps interest levels high.

Other extras include translation notes and blurbs about featured music written by violinist Rieko Ikeda.

In Summary

Manga with an associated anime often get compared, and in the case of Your Lie in April, I’d recommend watching the anime and not bothering with the manga. The plots are virtually identical, and with one main character who has sounds disappear on him and another main character who plays against music scores, the story simply works better with a soundtrack.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Anime Review: Rose Of Versailles Part 1 Litebox DVD

Anime reviews generally feature the latest and greatest from Japan, but occasionally, we get a blast from the past. Nozomi Entertainment’s release of Rose of Versailles definitely falls into that category with a shojo title that was  considered “classic” back when I was growing up.

Back Cover Blurb

General Jarjayes – so desperate for a son to preserve the family name and noble standing – names his newborn daughter “Oscar” and chooses to raise her as a boy. Fourteen years later, Oscar is a masterful duelist, marksman, and the newly appointed Commander of the French Royal Guards. Her first task: to protect Marie Antoinette, who is engaged to the French prince and future king, Louis-Auguste.

But even though the planned marriage should provide both countries with some much needed peace and prosperity, the French court is a dangerous place – and Marie’s youthful naivete makes her an easy target for those who wish to see the monarchy overthrown. Oscar soon finds herself both defending Marie’s reputation from those that seek to discredit her and protecting her life from those that wish to kill her.

The Review

General Jarjayes is a nobleman desperate for a son to carry on the family name. When his wife bears him yet another daughter, he takes matters into his own hands. Naming the newborn “Oscar,” he declares the girl his heir and raises him as a boy.

Thus begins Rose of Versailles, a shojo historical made in the late 1970s. The back cover touts the anime as “THE gold standard of ‘shojo’ anime which all anime fans must see.” While I wouldn’t go so far as to put it in the everyone-must-see-category, it certainly is a classic that forged the way for many gender bending shojo titles to follow.

Classic, of course, means that the animation is pre-digital. Thus, there are a lot of zoom in/zoom out/panning of stills, and special effects are primitive by current standards. Character designs also reflect the 1970s with waves of fluffy hair, prominent noses, long skinny legs, and super sparkly eyes with crazy long lashes. Despite the dated artwork, Rose of Versailles is a Louis XVI historical, so the story can be enjoyed as much today as it was thirty years ago.

Oscar is very much a fictional character, but many in the cast are based on actual people, most notably Marie Antoinette. Oscar and the Austrian Princess are the same age, and Oscar is appointed Commander of the Royal Guards at the same time Antoinette arrives in France to marry the Dauphin. Oscar immediately becomes Dauphine Antoinette’s favorite, and the anime follows the parallel journeys of the two women in the years before the Revolution.

In addition to providing a glimpse into and commentary on the French Court, Oscar also serves as a stark contrast to Antoinette. Both women are physically attractive, but while Antoinette is frivolous, weak, lazy, and irresponsible, Oscar is strong, courageous, and dutiful. Oscar is also fiercely loyal, and because she pledges loyalty to Antoinette, the anime does its best to make the Dauphine a sympathetic character. Unfortunately, Antoinette has history against her, and when Oscar remarks how Antoinette is “too true to her emotions” like it’s a good thing, she sounds like she’s making excuses for the airhead royal.

The anime takes an interesting perspective on this period by focusing on women and their point of view. The first five episodes covers Antoinette’s introduction to the French court and her rivalry with Louis XV’s mistress, DuBarry. Their power struggle, however, rather comes off as an amped up high school popularity contest. As Antoinette strives to establish herself as Versailles’ top female, Oscar alternates between dazzling the men and women of the French court and foiling underhanded schemes against the Dauphin and Dauphine.

The tale of Marie Antoinette wouldn’t be complete without representation from the common folk so in Episodes 6 through 10 the focus turns to the impoverished sisters Rosalie and Jeanne. The girls are opposites; Rosalie has an angelic disposition, and Jeanne is like the devil himself. Through circumstances as contrived and ironic as a Victor Hugo novel, both manage to escape Paris’ slums for the upper echelons of French society.

In Episode 11, Louis XVI ascends to the throne, and with it comes the beginnings of tension between Antoinette and Oscar. A trip to the countryside opens Oscar’s eyes to the wretched circumstances of the peasantry and their dismal opinion of the queen. Meanwhile, Antoinette falls under the sway of the conniving Madam Polignac, who fuels the queen’s reckless spending habits.

The final episodes in the collection focus on Antoinette’s obsession with the Swedish Count Fensen, with whom Oscar has also fallen in love. But while Oscar stoically keeps her feelings to herself, the slave-to-her-passions queen launches into an adulterous affair with the handsome Swede. This puts Oscar in the unenviable position of suffering unrequited love while having to shield the queen’s forbidden romance from gossip mongers.

For this anime, entertainment definitely trumps historical accuracy. As such, it takes liberties with details, but at the very least, viewers will come away familiar with the names of historical figures. Characters tend to have a very one-sided quality though. Villains, like Jeanne, DuBarry, and Duke Orleans, are steeped in evil while the good guys, like Rosalie and Oscar, are absolutely pure and noble. Marie Antoinette is in an odd category: goodhearted but too stupid to see she’s destroying her people. Probably the most well-rounded character is Andre, Oscar’s sidekick, who is neither noble nor beggar and provides much of the series’ comic relief.

Despite Rose’s flat characters and simplistic storylines (it’s amazing how easily the bad guys get away with literal murder), the glories of the French Court, Antoinette’s public and private life, and Oscar’s increasing dismay at the decline of France are still captivating. It’s a train wreck destined to end with Antoinette at the guillotine, but Oscar’s path remains uncertain. Whether the honorable soldier continues to stay loyally beside her queen or sides with the suffering people of France should make for compelling drama indeed.

In Summary

If you’re looking for a classic style anime featuring an androgynous lead, Rose of Versailles, is the way to go. Oscar is a woman who can more than hold her own as a French officer yet so stunning men and women alike fall in love with her. Improbable as this combination is, it makes for an interesting and entertaining perspective on Versailles in the days of King Louis XV and King Louis XVI.

Features:
Japanese mono, English subtitles, clean opening and closing animation, and promos for other Right Stuf! anime.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manhwa Review: Milkyway Hitchhiking Vol. #1

Most manga and manhwa have lengthy plots with human main characters. However, if you prefer a feline narrator and more of an anthology feel, you may want to check out Yen Press’ Milkyway Hitchhiking.

Back Cover Blurb

There are as many people on Earth as there are stars in the sky. Milkyway–a peculiar cat with a pattern of the Milky Way splashed across her back–travels across time and space; sometimes to observe, other times to interact with an unfolding story. From Sirial, the creator of One Fine Day, comes the full-color tale of Milkyway hitchhiking across the bright stars of people’s lives, loves, tears, and laughter.

The Review

From the title, you might guess this manhwa is a sci-fi along the lines of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. It is definitely not. Milkyway refers not to the stars, but a cat whose fur looks like the nighttime sky. As for hitchhiking, that’s what she calls her ability to move from one place and era to the next. Her adventures, however, are not told in a continuous, chronological arc. Rather, the manhwa contains several short standalone stories. Their settings range from a European boarding school to an ancient Korean village to a near future city. Some tales are tragic, some romantic, and some humorous. The only common thread is that Milkyway features in each story; even so, her part varies widely. She plays the lead in the comical “I Am the King of the World,” but is more narrator than actor in the Grimm fairytale-esque “The Knight of the Fallen Leaves” while she plays more of a supporting role in “The Black Cat’s Wish.”

Milkyway doesn’t offer many particulars about herself. She wields magic and can “hitchhike” from one place/era to the next, but if there’s any particular impetus or mission behind her travels, she doesn’t divulge it. For the most part, she epitomizes the proud independence often associated with cats as she interacts with humankind. The personalities she encounters are varied and so is her treatment of them, ranging from super snobby to compassionate to perplexed.

Unlike many manhwa, this one is printed entirely in color. Palettes vary to match the tone of the stories, but all the illustrations, whether of cats, humans, or backgrounds, are gorgeous. Even when Sirial reverts to a super deformed style for the funny bits, the drawings maintain a high level of charm.

By the way, Milkyway Hitchhiking contains an eight-page segment titled “Milkyway Convenience Store” about the patrons of a convenience store. It’s placed in the center of the book but really feels like a bonus mini-manhwa. Other extras include four illustrations at the end of the book and footnotes explaining cultural terms.

In Summary

Milkyway Hitchhiking is a collection of eleven stories that don’t have a terrible lot in common. However, all of the tales have a very high cute cat factor and plenty of observations about humans from the feline perspective. The book’s full-color illustrations have a whimsical charm, and if you’re a cat lover, you may want to pick it up solely for the pictures.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Oresama Teacher Vol. #18

Mafuyu is a high school delinquent who wants to turn over a new leaf. So when she transfers schools, she thinks she’ll finally be able to live the life of a normal girl. There’s just one problem: her teacher  Mr. Saeki is a bigger delinquent than she is!

Oresama Teacher is a shojo manga that offers humor of the silly variety. Volume 18 has been released, and you can read on for the review. (For those who are interested, you can click here for my reviews of earlier volumes).

Back Cover Blurb

It’s summertime, and the students of Midorigaoka Academy are indulging in the time-honored tradition of a test of courage! A walk through a “haunted woods,” it beats the heat by chilling the blood and forms bonds of friendship through shared terror. It’s the perfect activity for Mafuyu! But not everyone joining the fun has pure-hearted revelry in mind—some mysterious villains are using the test of courage as a cover to attack the Public Morals Club!

The Review

Mafuyu’s vacation fun continues with a test of courage and a trip to the beach. These two settings are pretty standard summer settings, but Oresama Teacher’s delinquent versions are hilarious. The most of the humor combines silly visuals with character quirks, such as Mafuyu’s inability to swim or Yui’s fear of scary things. As far as comedy goes, it’s pretty simple but effective enough to make me laugh out loud.

Then school resumes, and we return to the Public Morals Club/Student Council battle. Momochi is the last of the Student Council members to unleash her claws, and she finally does, but in a very unexpected fashion. The more we see of her, the more questions arise, and Tsubaki-sensei does an effective job of continuing to shroud her in mystery and letting some of that mystery flow over to Hayasaka.

As a result of her actions, the Public Morals Club goes on offense. So far, they’ve mostly reacted to Student Council attacks, but now they take the initiative to uncover the inner workings of the Student Council–and wind up kidnapping the president! It’s kind of a surreal scene, but Tsubaki-sensei manages to make it intriguing and funny at the same time. By the end of the volume, the bet over Midorigaoka starts to take on a whole new aspect, and I’m eager to see where this development takes us.

Lots of extras in this volume, including Characters and Story Thus Far, 4-panel comics, character profiles on East High students, and a slightly outdated character relationship. In addition, the cover has an updated layout.

In Summary

Oresama Teacher delivers laughs aplenty with two more summer-themed stories. Then it’s back to school and the last member of the Student Council, Runa Momochi. While Tsubaki-sensei keeps the comedy flowing, intrigue is what dominates these chapters. Between Momochi’s secret ability and Student Council President’s unknown agenda, Tsubaki-sensei’s doing an excellent job of keeping things exciting.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Souvenirs from Asia: Items from Hello Kitty Chinese Cuisine

card (545x640)This might look like a random bunch of Hello Kitty items, but they’re actually from a special place–Hello Kitty Chinese Cuisine in Hong Kong!

My husband learned about the restaurant through a coworker and decided he had to go. So on his last business trip to China, he made a detour specifically to check it out.

restaurant interiorIt did not disappoint. The decor is pretty awesome. Everything from the waiter uniforms to the light fixtures to the chopstick holders are Hello Kitty themed. Even the paper liners for the bamboo steamers are shaped like Hello Kitty. It might seem like Hello Kitty overload, but the overall effect is refined, not cheesy.

As for the food, their specialty is dim sum. We eat dim sum regularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, and according to my husband, who had the custard buns and a rice/chicken dish, the food ranked satisfactorily in the taste department. However, the real draw is that each dish is a Hello Kitty-inspired work of art. In that respect, the cuisine’s a bit more Japanese than Chinese.

statue (480x640)At any rate, the restaurant’s a super cute establishment that does Hello Kitty justice. By the way, the menu is entirely in Chinese, and most of the staff speaks only Chinese. However, the menu includes handy pictures, and the host speaks some English so my non-Chinese speaking husband was able to get by. Plus, the restaurant is pretty close to a subway stop. If you’re a Hello Kitty aficionado and in the Hong Kong area, you should definitely check it out.

bao (640x480)rice (640x480)tea pot (640x480)paper (640x480)

 

 

Manga Review: Manga Dogs Vol. 2

From Bakuman to School Rumble, the manga/anime industry has been a popular subject of manga and anime in recent years. Now joining their ranks is Kodansha’s manga series Manga Dogs, and you can read on for my review of Volume 2! (For my review of Volume 1, click here.)

Back cover blurb

Kanna had just gotten used to balancing her two lives as a high school student and a professional manga artist when three starry-eyed bozos intruded on her well-ordered life! But as she faces down a rival, a kidnapper, and her dismal popularity rankings, her dim-witted disciples have her back. Maybe having pets isn’t so bad after all?

The Review

Volume 1 ended with Kanna and her manga pages kidnapped by a “manga artist hating guy.” Since she’s literally tied up, her three dogs must save her, especially considering there aren’t any other characters to do the job. While they do manage to step up to the challenge, Toyama-sensei takes every opportunity to make the rescue as weird as possible.

Speaking of weird, Toyama-sensei seems to be trying too hard to make her characters unique, and they just wind up weird. In Chapter 18, she goes out of her way to point out that Kanna’s ditzy homeroom teacher is a guy. Volume 1 never specifically stated that Okamoto-sensei wasn’t female, and going by looks, I assumed the teacher was a woman. To have the narrative point out Okamoto’s true gender so specifically this late in the game comes across as very odd and somewhat pointless. We also have the return of Ms. Chiba. I had pegged her as a one-time character, but she is apparently part of the regular cast, serving as a delusional fujoshi dinosaur.

As for our main character Kanna, she remains as unlikeable as ever. Once the kidnapping arc concludes, Manga Dogs reverts to its usual pattern of very short, standalone chapters, and roughly half of them deal with some aspect of Kanna’s manga career. The release of a graphic novel, a signing event, and a rise in series ratings are usually positive developments for a mangaka, but Kanna has such a pessimistic attitude toward them all that I wonder why she bothers drawing manga. Toward the close of the volume, Kanna’s series is threatened with cancellation, and I find myself hoping the editor-in-chief will can the series and put her out of her misery.

Extras include the opening illustration and table of contents printed in color; translation notes; chapter 1 of Teach Me Buddha!; and short bonus manga.

In Summary

After concluding the Kanna-gets-kidnapped arc, Manga Dogs resumes delivering its usual standalone chapters. Some of these brief arcs deal with the boys’ continued cluelessness about manga production, but the rest focus on Kanna’s progress as a mangaka. Unfortunately, she’s no more lovable than she was in Volume 1, and after reading the awfulness that is Teach Me Buddha! (the first chapter is included as an extra), I can’t get myself to cheer for her at all.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manhwa Review: Goong Vol. #17

What if modern Korea was a constitutional monarchy similar to England’s? That’s the backdrop for Goong: the Palace, a manhwa that got turned into a wildly popular drama and musical.

Goong Volume 17 HeaderSet in an alternate world where the Korean monarchy still exists, the story follows Chae-Kyung Shin, a strong-willed commoner who attends the same high school as Shin Lee, the crown prince. After accidentally witnessing Shin proposing to his girlfriend Hyo-rin and being rejected, Chae-Kyung unexpectedly learns that she will marry Shin and become crown princess due to a promise between the former king and her grandfather.

Yen Press has released Volume 17 of the series, and you can read on for the review. (For my review of previous volumes go here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Amid the fallout from the king’s decision to make Prince Yul the crown prince, Chae-Kyung and Shin make plans to get back together. Meanwhile Yul struggles to get to the bottom of his mother’s involvement in the accident that may have cost Chae-Kyung dearly. But when he confronts her, the Daebi reveals a shocking secret from seventeen years ago, which will set into motion events that will change their lives forever!

The Review

At the end of Volume 16, things are shaping up for Shin to go from Crown Prince to ordinary citizen. Creator Park seems to take great pleasure in putting him in a commoner environment. While Shin does complain about being a “Shinderella,” the mood is optimistic and seems to point toward a happy ending despite him losing the throne. However, things never go as planned, and this time they fall apart because of Yul’s mother.

Interestingly, it’s not her scheming that causes the upset; rather, it’s the sum of her misdeeds catching up to her. When Yul catches wind of her part in Chae-Kyung’s accident, he confronts his mother, and what follows is a candid look into the skeletons in the Daebi-Mama’s closet. She’s shown herself to be pretty ruthless throughout so it’s probably not a terrible shock to Goong fans, but I did find her remark, “Even I have a conscience,” to be unexpectedly amusing.

What follows is a major political upheaval that sends Yul out of Korea and drags Shin back to the palace. The perfect storm of Yul’s backroom bargain with the Prime Minister and the king’s downturn in health pushes the plot toward melodrama, but it also results in a healthy amount of comedy. Yul flees to Africa with–of all people–Mi-Roo. She, of course, has an agenda regarding Yul and the charity work she’s supposed to be doing, and it’s pretty funny to see how the spoiled, manipulative rich girl accomplishes her goals in a poverty-stricken village.

As for Shin and Chae-Kyung, they wind up in a situation reminiscent of when they first divorced. They are separated and trying to get on with their lives but can’t seem to forget one another. However, the main difference is this time Chae-Kyung gets a boyfriend, and he’s not a jerk like the guy in Volume 13. With a normal, upstanding fellow now romantically interested in Chae-Kyung and hordes of girls (as usual) swarming Shin at the palace, it will be interesting to see how Creator Park gets them to cross paths again.

Included as extras in this volume are Words from the Creator from the Korean Volumes 25 and 26 and the first page printed in color.

In Summary

The driver implicated in Chae-Kyung’s auto accident finally comes back to haunt Daebi-Mama. While it is satisfying to see her squirm, the ones who truly suffer for it are Shin and Chae-Kyung. The resulting political upheaval sends them on a roller coaster of emotions as they go from the verge of remarriage to torn apart by royal duty. The volume ends in familiar territory: the two separated but still pining for one another. However, Creator Park adds a new twist with Chae-Kyung’s wonderful new boyfriend. I doubt it will erupt into a full on love triangle, but it does add make for an interesting challenge to Shin and Chae-Kyung’s romance.

First published at the Fandom Post.