Tag Archives: shonen jump

Manga Review: ACT-AGE Vol. 1

Show business is generally the purview of shojo manga, but ACT-AGE puts a shonen spin on this subject. Read on for the review of Volume 1.

Back Cover Blurb

Is there a method to Kei Yonagi’s madness when it comes to acting? The young actor has a family of siblings to feed, but she finds herself struggling with her psychological demons when playing a role. Her desperate acting catches the eye of a famous director, Sumiji Kuroyama, who’s looking for raw talent to mold. Can he help Yonagi navigate the cutthroat world of acting without losing her sanity?

The Review

ACT-AGE is a Weekly Shonen Jump title, which came as a bit of a surprise. First, the main character, Kei Yonaga, is a beautiful sixteen-year-old girl. Second, the world of acting and show business forms the backdrop. A girl aspiring to be an actor sounds more like shojo fare, but the tale gets presented as a shonen title by telling it as the journey of an undiscovered genius scrapping her way to the top.

And Kei’s got a long way to get to the top. Her mom’s dead, her dad walked out long ago, and she’s responsible for supporting her two elementary school siblings. In short, she’s got no time or money for acting classes or drama club. Even so, she’s so adept at portraying emotions she immediately catches the attention of director Sumiji Kuroyama. He’s been searching for a talent like her, and she’s going to be his star actor–even if he has to drag her kicking and screaming.

A key premise of this series is that Kei was born with superhuman acting abilities. Even as an untrained amateur, her performance at a new-talent audition is so intimidating it causes one of the audition finalists to give up on acting. However, the plot wouldn’t be interesting if Kei simply waltzed to the top. Rather than snatching up this undiscovered gem, the agency CEO rejects her on the basis that acting will eventually cause Kei to have an emotional breakdown.

So instead of getting properly trained by an agency or theater company, Kei gets approached by a sketchy looking guy who turns out to be an award-winning director. But Kuroyama’s brash and eccentric, and his lessons consist of throwing Kei first onto a commercial set and next onto a period drama set with no preparation.

This is where the disconnect comes for me. Kei supposedly wants to be an actor. As her family’s sole breadwinner, she’s got more motivation than most to succeed. But somehow, she’s incapable of following basic directions or even grasping what an actor’s job is. In the period drama arc, she immediately breaks out of character to kick down the lead actor. Her behavior is just as unbelievable as the drama director’s decision to keep her on set even when she ruins the first AND second takes. Her becoming an actor is less about learning the craft and more Kuroyama showing her how to tap into her latent powers (which puts it very much along Jump storylines).

The volume wraps up with her entering an open audition for a movie. Five hundred actors are competing for twelve roles, and they are divided into groups of four for live auditions. Thus, we have Kei in a battle for one of those spots with her four-person cell, which definitely sounds like the stuff of shonen manga.

Extras include creators’ notes and bonus comics.

In Summary

The main character of ACT-AGE feels a bit all over the place. She’s a natural genius at acting yet at the same time she’s a clueless idiot who doesn’t realize actors must follow a script. Oh, and she’s also gorgeous and responsible for supporting two younger siblings. This is shaping up to be the tale of how an undiscovered talent makes it big, but Kei’s mentor is such a weirdo and Kei herself is so difficult to relate to that I’m not particularly interested in following her journey.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: The Promised Neverland Vol. #13

The Promised Neverland anime was a surprise favorite of mine for 2019. Its blend of mystery, suspense, and heart grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. For English-speaking fans who can’t wait to see what happens to Emma and their friends, they can read ahead in Viz’s translation of the manga. Read on for my review of Volume 13. (For reviews of other volumes, click here.)

Back Cover Blurb

Emma, Ray and their large new family find themselves up against a new enemy, fellow humans. Armed intruders have ambushed the shelter and driven the children back out into the dangerous wilderness. Yugo and Lucas have stepped up to fight, but will it be enough?

The Review

The previous volume had a few events happening over a long period of time. This volume has a ton of stuff happening over just a few days. It begins with the conclusion of the shelter invasion. It’s edge of your seat action as Yugo and Lucas launch their counterattack, and interspersed amid the gunfire are glimpses of their Glory Bell childhood. Then when the battle reaches its explosive conclusion, we get a lengthy flashback and Yugo’s reflections on his life. Especially when Yugo was first introduced, he was a difficult character to figure out, but Chapter 109 lays bare his candid thoughts. Is it heartrending? Yes. Did I cry? Oh yes.

The narrative then shifts to the kids who have gone into hiding. Bereft of the adults’ protection and stripped of their home, their predicament seems overwhelming until Oliver reveals the message that came through the shelter phone right before the attack. Astoundingly it’s from William Minerva – or at least someone claiming to be him. The message gives them new hope and a new destination to journey toward.

Unfortunately, they haven’t even a chance to act on this new information when Andrew, the head of the raid, pounces on them. Considering he got hit by a blast underground, his survival challenges the limits of plausibility. At any rate, the scene serves the purpose of forcing the kids through yet another nightmarish struggle (and Andrew does look ghoulish) before they escape the area for good.

The story then introduces several new characters. As it turns out, the Minerva faction is alive and active. In fact, they’ve been extremely active during the months Emma and company were scouting out the Seven Walls. Whereas before it seemed the escapees were striving for a new promise on their own, now it looks like they’re part of a larger movement. The fact that two of the new characters bear tattoos of the facility Norman got moved to makes me hopeful that he’ll be reunited with Ray and Emma soon.

Extras include side scenes and the creators’ notes.

In Summary

Whereas Volume 12 was slower paced, Volume 13 is never a dull moment. In addition to an emotional roller coaster that goes from heart-stopping to heart-wrenching and back again, the plot thickens with a new message from William Minerva. The kids aren’t the only ones out to change the world, and I look forward to seeing the repercussions of the Minerva faction’s drastic actions.

First published at The Fandom Post.

Manga Review: The Promised Neverland Vol. #12

The Promised Neverland anime was a surprise favorite of mine for 2019. Its blend of mystery, suspense, and heart grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. For English-speaking fans who can’t wait to see what happens to Emma and their friends, they can read ahead in Viz’s translation of the manga. Read on for my review of Volume 12.

Back Cover Blurb

Life at Grace Field House is good for Emma and her fellow orphans. While the daily studying and exams they have to take are tough, their loving caretaker provides them with delicious food and plenty of playtime. But perhaps not everything is as it seems…

With the demons of Goldy Pond finally defeated, Emma and the other children now focus on their next task—finding the Seven Walls. But it won’t be easy, especially with a dangerous new foe trying to hunt them down. Can Emma and Ray decrypt the ancient clues that will lead the children to true freedom?

The Review

The Goldy Pond arc went out with a literal bang, with bullets flying and the whole place blowing up. Now that the kids plus two adults are safely at the B06-32 shelter, the gears switch away from action to sleuthing and intrigue.

The mystery is twofold. First is the situation between the Minerva group and the Ratri Clan members that shut them down. The kids have extremely limited access to information on the human world, so they’re stuck making conjectures on what the actual situation is. Thing is, the Ratri Clan is also conjecturing about the escapees and their whereabouts. The creators do an excellent job keeping readers on the edge of their seats as Peter Ratri and his terrifying minion Andrew strive to sniff them out.

The second mystery is the Seven Walls, which they must locate if they want to attempt a new promise regarding the humans in the demon world. This starts off a lot like the trail of clues at Grace Field House, but then it takes a great leap in scope. The search involves distances that require months to cover. What this does is force a rapid progression of time; the events of Volume 12 span over a year and a half. As a result, the kids are pushed right up against their deadline to return for Phil and the remaining Grace Field kids by the end of the volume.

Another leap is that the Seven Walls investigation takes on a mystical aspect. Whereas before they obtained clues from those they encountered or gleaned them from books and objects, this time Emma gets overtaken by a vision. I wasn’t expecting the series to take a turn for the supernatural. Then again, elevators supposedly connect human and demon worlds, so why not?

After several chapters of furtive investigations, things get charged up again when Peter Ratri’s thugs invade the B06-32 shelter! It’s a compressed, more intense version of the battle at Goldy Pond. Once more, the kids get pushed to the brink, except this time their pursuers are other humans.

Extras include side scenes and the creators’ notes.

In Summary

Fans of the clue-tracking aspect of this series will enjoy the kids’ search for the Seven Walls. It’s a long investigation–over a year and a half! But the creators do a good job presenting events such that the pacing doesn’t get bogged down. Then it’s back to action and thrills when the Ratri Clan invades the shelter!

First published at The Fandom Post.

Souvenirs from Asia: Haikyu!! Off-Season Character Goods

As mentioned in my previous postHaikyu!!  fans are in the midst of a long wait for our next season of anime. In addition to fighting impatience, fans also have to contend with something else: a decline in character goods. There are hundreds of manga and anime in existence, and even as large as as Animate and The (Shonen) Jump Shop are, there’s only so much shelf space. As such, stores tend to stock merchandise of series that are currently airing or about to air, and only mega popular titles like Naruto get year-round dedicated space.

However, even though it’s been a couple years since the last episode of Haikyu!! aired, its fan base is apparently strong enough that my husband found some items on his last trip to Tokyo. It’s nowhere near the quantity and variety he witnessed in 2015, but he still found some interesting items to go with our Haikyu!! musical Blu-ray sets.

First, we have something that can only be described as really really random. Remember Shimada-san, the Karasuno alum who teaches Yamaguchi the jump float serve? If you’ll recall, he works at the family business, a supermarket called the Shimada Mart with a distinct piggy logo. Anyway, for some reason, someone thought it would make a marketable piece of merchandise, and for some reason. my husband thought I’d like it and bought it.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised they made a Shimada pig plushie considering a gal dressed up as the Shimada pig at last May’s Fanime Convention. At any rate, the pig plushie is still in its packaging, and if you want it, message me with your best offer.

This next item, on the other hand, I am totally keeping. It is the kind of accessory that sets you apart from all the other Haikyu!! cosplayers, and the best  ¥5000 my husband spent on this trip—a vinyl Karasuno gym bag! It’s got an adjustable strap and a side compartment in addition to the main one. Plus, it’s perfect for stowing street clothes during a cosplay meetup. I just have keep a close eye to make sure another Haikyu!! enthusiast doesn’t try to take off with it during said meetup.

And lastly we have an edible product: latte art in a package by Takara Tomy Arts! It’s kind of a cute concept, given the popularity of latte art. Apparently, they’ve solidified the milky foam stuff into solid discs. Just drop a disc into a cup of hot coffee, and you have insta-art!

However, it is a little disappointing that the creators didn’t choose a more detailed illustration for this product. My husband also bought the One Piece version to show what Takara Tomy was capable of producing, and as you can see below, the One Piece illustrations are much more intricate.

Next up: Really Random Souvenirs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manga Review: Bakuman Vol. 20

Bakuman is the latest collaboration of Ohba and Obata, the creators of the wildly popular Death Note series. Unlike Death Note, Bakuman is more or less grounded in reality, but it is no less entertaining as it follows the ups and downs of a mangaka duo as they strive to make it big in the publishing world!

This series is a personal favorite of mine, and Viz Media has just released the final volume. (My reviews of earlier Bakuman volumes can be found here.)

The Review

Spoiler Alert!!!

Volume 19 did an excellent job of returning Miho to the spotlight, and Volume 20 takes advantage of the buzz generated from the public declaration of her relationship to Moritaka. She already had a lot riding on the Reversi audition, and the stakes shoot through the roof when it turns into a live Internet competition. Shonen manga is all about battles, and the climax of Volume 20 is a voice actress battle!

Actually, the underlying concept is kind of far-fetched. Despite the hype touting the audition as the contest for the most popular voice actress, Kaya’s bored comment of, “This is long…” is entirely warranted from an objective standpoint. Still, the characters are so emotionally involved, it doesn’t matter. For the most part, the series has been about Ashirogi struggling to come up with a series worthy to be animated. Now it’s Moritaka’s turn to wait for Miho to do her part to make their dream come true.

Following the audition results, Ohba-sensei does a thorough job of wrapping things up, perhaps a little too thorough. After the adrenaline rush of the Reversi competition, Akito’s goal to boost sales of the graphic novel are somewhat ho-hum, even if Ashirogi accomplishes another achievement because of it. The part I found surprisingly brief was the farewell glimpses of Ashirogi’s fellow mangaka. Final volumes generally provide what-are-they-doing-now cameos, and Bakuman allots only five pages to that segment, most of which gets taken up by Eiji. But what that does is leave plenty of space for Miho and Moritaka’s first date. The entire last chapter gets dedicated to it, and considering they’ve been going long distance for ten years, it deserves the space.

By this time, readers may have forgotten Moritaka’s dead Uncle Nobuhiro, a major factor in his career and his decision to pursue Miho. Ohba-sensei neatly reintroduces him at the close of the story with a few “instructions” for Moritaka, and given the numerous ways Moritaka’s life reflected his, it’s a nice touch. It’s funny, sweet, and poignant all at once as the nervous couple step into that long-awaited moment, and the final pages provide a satisfying conclusion, signifying the end of one journey and the beginning of another.

In Summary

Bakuman reaches its conclusion! Unlike Ashirogi’s Reversi, the Bakuman series did feel like it went on a bit too long. Even in this last volume, Akito’s “wedding present” to Moritaka seemed an unnecessary extra hurdle to be overcome. However, the manga does an excellent job of bringing Miho back to the forefront with the Reversi audition, and the final chapter provides a satisfyingly sweet ending to Miho and Moritaka’s ten-year long-distance romance.

First published at the Fandom Post.

Manga Review: Bakuman Vol. 19

Bakuman is the latest collaboration of Ohba and Obata, the creators of the wildly popular Death Note series. Unlike Death Note, Bakuman is more or less grounded in reality, but it is no less entertaining as it follows the ups and downs of a mangaka duo as they strive to make it big in the publishing world!

This series is a personal favorite of mine, and Viz Media has just released Volume 19. (My reviews of earlier Bakuman volumes can be found here.)

The Review

Spoiler Alert!!!

Bakuman continues its renewed Eiji rivalry arc in Volume 19. First it’s the battle for survey results, then it’s a battle for graphic novel sales, and it finally culminates in a battle for a Jump anime slot. These “battles” though are relatively short. The start of the graphic novel sales battle to the conclusion of the anime battle takes only four chapters. The pages though are crammed with dialogue and panels, and it feels a bit like the creators were rushing through to get to the next, and likely final, arc of the series.

The driving force behind Ashirogi’s anime aspirations has been Moritaka’s dream of marrying Miho, so once Reversi’s anime slot is locked in, the story shifts back to Moritaka and Miho’s endangered species-like relationship (as Akito calls it). Of course our pair can’t get to happily ever after so easily, and a new obstacle arises in the form of Internet fandom backlash.

It starts out small enough with an indiscreet blog post stating that Ashirogi-sensei is actually a two-person team, but that quickly snowballs into a tabloid scandal that plunges the Jump office into uproar and threatens Miho’s career. Ishizawa, who’s definitely taken a turn for the disgusting, reappears to ignite the sparks of disaster, and interestingly, Fukuda inadvertently fans the flames. I never pinned the bad-boy motorcycle mangaka as the romantic type, but apparently he is and unfortunately gets carried away by his emotions. As the storm rages, Miho exudes calm as usual, but so does Moritaka, and it’s actually Akito who gets all riled up about the situation. (I know the chances are slim, but I’m hoping for a replay of Akito’s Ishizawa punch!) At any rate, Bakuman looks to be heading toward a strong finish with Miho and Moritaka caught between denying their relationship and achieving their dreams.

In Summary

Bakuman is at its penultimate volume, and as much as I’ve enjoyed the series, it really does feel like time for it to come to a close. Moritaka’s been in pursuit of his dream of marrying Miho for ten years, and at this point, Akito’s already married and most of their rivals have animated series. But the course of true love never runs smooth, and Ohba-sensei does a great job of throwing yet another obstacle into their path as the story shifts from the Eiji/Ashirogi rivalry to Moritaka and Miho’s hopes for marriage.

First published at the Fandom Post.