JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 Phantom Blood Vol 1

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 1 Phantom Blood, Volume 1 by Hirohiko Araki

I read this volume without much background in this series other than knowing that it was a huge and long-running series in Japan, has a bit of a cult following in Japan, and the books that Viz had been releasing under the shonen jump line started midway through the series. This volume goes back to the earliest story arc in the series, kicking things off with the English nobility, bloodthirsty Aztec masks, and people beating the crap out of each other.

The story kicks off in old school shonen fashion, where a scantily clad woman is sacrificed to the wearer of a mysterious stone mask who proclaims that his accessory drinks the blood of the living. Bones from the mask pierce his skull, but he’s still alive and taking on even more blood sacrifices, not worried about staining his stylish leopard skin pelt cape because he has found the secret to eternal life!

The story then skips over to England, where an evil red-haired young man offers his dying father some medicine. Dio’s father tells him a story about how he accidentally saved the life of a nobleman named Joestar when he came across the wreckage of carriage he was intending to scavenge. Brando tells Dio to go to the Joestars when he becomes orphaned, and Dio does, thus starting the torture of poor young Jonathan Joestar. Dio is immediately adopted as a second son by the Joestar family, but since he is basically the spawn of Satan and Jonathan Joestar is like a friendly naive puppy, things do not go well with the new brothers.

Dio is basically a human form of a cancer, undermining the heir to the Joestar family whenever he gets a chance. It has been a long time since I’ve read a shonen manga this manly! There are speed lines and yelling on almost every page. Jonathan and Dio engage in fistfights and boxing matches, where one blow will end up knocking a half dozen teeth into the air. Towards the end of the book the legacy of the blood drinking Aztec mask is further explored, and Jonathan finally begins to get proof of Dio’s nefarious deeds. The art is really dynamic although the proportions are often a bit off. Often one of the muscular bodies of the main characters will look like it is supporting a shrunken head. If Rob Liebefeld and Tetsuo Hara of Fist of the North Star mashed up their styles you might end up with something like JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, except Araki can actually draw feet. I’m sure the art gets much better in subsequent volumes, and even though it wasn’t always to my taste I couldn’t deny the effectiveness of the energy of the many battle scenes in the manga.

As a main character, Jonathan Joestar lets himself be taken advantage of for far too long, but he does manage to battle back as shonen heroes always do. The hardcover edition is really nicely designed, with color pages shifting to further tonal pages where the black and white art is enlivened by shades of orange. This volume ends on a cliffhanger, and I do want to know what happens next, as I assume it will involve more stone mask blood drinking and face punching. I can certainly see why this is such a long-running and popular series in Japan. Recommended for those who want a major dose of testosterone in their manly manga.

Black Rose Alice Vol 3

Black Rose Alice Volume 3 by Setona Mizushiro

I’m glad that Viz is bringing out this series now, because I never collected beyond the first couple volumes of After School Nightmare, which I really regret now. So I’m happy to be able to read another Setona Mizushiro series, and so far my expectations for a manga that is both captivating and weird have easily been met.

In the third volume of the series Alice and her vampire suitors have established a daily life revolving around tasty desserts, with occasional vampire feedings and some light jealous bickering here and there. The stakes for who will procreate with Alice are much higher though, as Leo’s afterlife is about to run out. Leo and Alice always have had a bit more of a natural friendship compared to the other vampires in the house, and now Leo’s courtship of Alice is kicked into high gear by the knowledge of his impending death. Alice likes Leo very much, but she isn’t sure if he’s the one vampire she wants to choose.

In the meantime, Leo strikes up an acquaintance with a novelist who has a terminal disease, and offers her some vampire aid in order to help her finish her last novel. There are obvious parallels between their situations, as the novelist wants to finish one last work, and Leo has to procreate with Alice or he’ll disappear forever. Maximilian and the twins are concerned about Leo, but he forbids them to tell Alice of his impending death, because he doesn’t want to influence her decision.

Maximilian is devastated when Leo calmly faces his own death, but Leo says that he wouldn’t do anything differently and forbids Maximilian from telling Alice the truth. The tonal shifts of this series are really interesting. Each volume seems to be expressing a different main emotion, and the third is a shift away from the kooky slice of life vampire reverse harem scenario that was unfolding in the second volume. There’s sadness and regret in this volume, along with an increasing urgency on the part of the vampires to proceed with their campaign to get Alice to choose them. All along, Mizushiro’s clear and delicate artwork mixes with the elements of body horror that unfold in the manga to create a general feeling of unease and surreality as the story continues. This has got to be one of the oddest shoujo series currently coming out, and it is rapidly becoming my favorite!

Spell of Desire Vol 3

Spell of Desire Volume 3 by Tomu Ohmi

Well, there have been plenty of suggestive scenes in the first couple volumes of Spell of Desire, but finally in the third volume accidental witch Kaoruko and her mother’s favored protector Kaname get it on, due to witchy aphrodisiacs, necessary spell casting, and their growing yet not fully acknowledged feelings for each other! What more would a reader want in a josei paranormal romance?

Kaoruko has been delivered to the coven, and they decide it is necessary for her to fully become a black witch in order for her to gain some control over her powers. Black witches can’t be virgins, so they’ve decided to set Kaoruko up with an incubus in order for her to start down the path towards black magic. Kaoruko is drugged into compliance, but she’s still not cool with the idea of being with anyone but Kaname, and fortunately her knight protector decides to intervene in the ritual deflowering, breaking several rules in the process.

Kaname and Kaoruko end up seeking refuge in a house in the woods owned by an impressive looking white wolf (this is a crossover appearance with a character from a series that hasn’t been translated into English yet), and Kaoruko learns a bit more about Kaname’s background and why he’s so devoted to her mother. As always in this series, Kaname’s commitment to the Witch Queen causes Kaoruko to have doubts about their future. When the couple return to the coven, Kaoruko meets more of her mother’s knights, and Kaname is punished horribly. Kaoruko is determined to learn more about witchcraft so she can protect him.

A bunch of new characters get introduced in this volume, and the plot grows more complex as Kaoruko starts to learn more about the differences between white and black magic. It’ll be interesting to see what she can accomplish once she’s fully in command of her powers. I continue to enjoy Ohmi’s art, and I enjoy the way Kaoruko’s power still manifests as vine-like tendrils that curve around the panels of the manga. This series is only 5 volumes long, and this volume served as an effective middle volume, showing Kaoruko about to start gathering more knowledge and power. I recommend this series for any fans of paranormal romance manga!

Master Keaton Volume 1 Giveaway!

I have an extra copy of Master Keaton, so I’m going to give it away!

Leave a comment with the profession you would use as your back-up job while spending most of your time globetrotting on action-packed insurance investigations!

Professor? Etsy Crafter? Bike messenger? Foghat roadie??

Contest will be open for one week!

US residents only please.

Commenter #5, Angel won the giveaway! Stay tuned for another giveaway soon!

Master Keaton Vol 1

Master Keaton Volume 1 by Naoki Urasawa, Takashi Nagasaki, and Hokusei Katsushika

I don’t have the best track record of finishing Naoki Urasawa series. I own all of 20th Century Boys and mean to read it all the way through again. I’ve checked out a couple volumes of Pluto and the first few volumes of Monster. One of these days I will finish an Urasawa series! This failing on my part didn’t stop me from trying out Master Keaton, and I enjoyed the first volume, even though there were a few aspects of the manga that didn’t quite come together for me.

Taichi Hiraga Keaton is a half Japanese half British archaeologist, apathetic professor, and insurance investigator with a unique set of survival skills due to his background in the SAS. He bounces between giving lectures and handling cases for Lloyd’s of London. Many reviewers have referred to Keaton as a mash-up between Indiana Jones and Macgyver, and that’s a good way to sum up the series. Keaton seems to have a bit more inner turmoil than a action hero though, and that’s what makes this series entertaining. We’re introduced to Keaton when a man named Leon Pappas with a substantial life insurance policy dies in Greece. Keaton is dispatched to investigate the murder, but he only has a certain number of days he can allocate to the task, since he has to get back into the classroom the following week.

Keaton’s sensitivity towards antiquities and his excellence in creating weapons out of random kitchen implements are showcased in this story, as he uncovers more facts about the subject of his investigation when he meets Pappa’s girlfriend and manages to fend off some unscrupulous and armed business associates. The rest of the volume is a bit meandering, as different chapters have Keaton explore new mysteries, deal with his teenage daughter, and confront a significant figure from his own past. Aspects of the story here and there are a bit didactic, as the reader is informed about illegal weapons trade, aspects of art forgery, desert survival tactics, and the opium trade. I enjoyed the way the manga skipped around from topic to topic, but I generally enjoy manga with infodumps more when there is some genuine enthusiasm behind conveying all the information. I would happily read chapters upon chapters of a Fumi Yoshinaga where the characters discuss nuances of vegetable chopping, but in Master Keaton I have to admit I found my attention wandering at times.

Keaton’s personality is so reserved and unaffected for the most part. He tends to create a random gadget that saves the day very casually, which is amusing, but it is difficult to see how his adventures are having any impact on him personally. I was glad when his daughter showed up and drew him into an adventure protecting an archeological site, and Keaton’s odd reflexive anxiety about his ex-wife getting married again hints at some deeper emotions. While Urasawa’s art isn’t as polished as his later works, the character designs are all unique and enjoyable and the action scenes are all capably handled. Early Urasawa art is way above the quality of what most artists could aspire to. The over ized deluxe signature edition is really nice, with color pages and a sound effects glossary in the back. I’m curious to see what the next volume of this series is like. In some ways, I liked the shift in focus from unraveling a mystery to family, back to a thriller type story dealing with the drug trade, but at the same time I’m wondering how well that will pan out if the plot continues to skip around like that too much in subsequent volumes.

I’m giving away a copy of this volume, so you can check it out yourself!