Archives for September 2013

Voice Over! Seiyu Academy, Vol. 1

Voice Over! Seiyu Academy Vol. 1 by Maki Minami

This was a book that I thought I wouldn’t like very much, but as I read through the entire volume I found myself begrudgingly enjoying it more than I expected. I ordinarily enjoy manga set in the world of show business. Here, the setting here of a specialized voice over training high school had the potential to both be a bit interesting due to the possibility of learning more about this specialized acting niche in Japan but it could also be somewhat infuriating if the plot devolved into the arcane hierarchical clique hijinks that tend to plague many a shoujo title. Also, in terms of the plots that I tend to enjoy over and over again, I will happily read multiple manga about office ladies forced to marry their harsh yet irresistibly handsome bosses, but high school clique wars tend to make my eyes glaze over unless I’m distracted by other plot elements like space aliens, juvenile delinquency, or magical powers. As I was reading Voice Over, I did think it would have strong appeal to younger teen readers.

Hime’s idol is a famous voice over actress on the anime Lovely Blazers named Sakura Aoyama. Hime’s accepted into a special voice acting school, but she has to fight against her natural tendencies towards emoting in a deep raspy voice. She’s quickly singled out and placed in the “stragglers” group that makes up the bottom students in her class. To add to Hime’s stress, Senri, the son of her idol is in her class and he is both incredibly gifted and a grouchy snob.

Hime is as plucky and determined as you would expect a shoujo heroine in her situation to be, even though she is promptly nicknamed Gorilla Princess by her classmates due to her deep voice. Hime’s motley crew of stragglers includes the super adorable Tsukino who can’t project her voice, an ex-juvenile delinquent named Sho, and boy with horrible nerves and an unfortunate accent named Mitchel. Hime’s initial overtures to Senri are met with determined rudeness. There is a voice over battle (isn’t there always) between the stragglers and their more high-class competition. Hime ends up using her deep voice to surprising effect when she subs in for Mitchel and ends up doing a superb job as the prince in a Snow White play. Hime and Senri keep running into each other, and she gradually sees his more human side. I found Senri’s habit of adoring kittens contrasted with his horrible manners to be lacking a bit of nuance. But I was very amused by some of the visual techniques Minami uses to portray the voice over acting of the cast. Little old ladies and old men appear in the background of the panels whenever Hime acts, providing an amusing way of showing how mismatched Hime’s voice is with the lines she’s speaking. I also enjoyed the glimpse of the almost too close to each other male idol duo at school with their legion of female fans who want to ward off any girl from getting close to them so they can continue to get their yaoi fix.

As I was nearing the end of the volume, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, simply because all the elements of humor were almost enough to distract me from a plot that I’m not particularly interested in. This manga doesn’t have the manic energy of an Oresama Teacher that makes the plot almost irrelevant though. If future volumes lean more on the high school clique fighting and less on wacky voice over antics, I expect I’ll be less entertained. I do think that readers less jaded than me would enjoy this manga quite a bit.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Otome Games Review: Destiny Ninja and Pirates in Love


So I’ve always been leery of manga adaptations of Otome games, just because I find the plots a bit too formulaic. Even though I do have a strong fondness towards reverse harem scenarios, so far the Alice in the Country of franchise is the only Otome game manga where I’ve felt compelled to read more than a few volumes. I’ve been very busy recently and needing a new distraction, so when I saw that there was a game out called Shall We Date: Destiny Ninja, I decided to give that a try. Falling all the way down the Otome game rabbit hole, I also started playing Pirates in Love as well.

Shall We Date: Destiny Ninja is available for android and iphone.

I decided to start playing this because the name “Destiny Ninja” was hilarious. I was even more amused after sitting through a few minutes of the prologue, where the ninja are identified solely by their personality traits. The choices were Aggressive Pompous Ninja, Wicked Mean Ninja, Mischievous Masked Dark Ninja, Indifferent Merciless Stubborn Ninja, Mean But With an Angel Heart Brother Like Ninja, or Sexy Foreign Ninja. I decided to go with Mischievous Masked Dark Ninja at first.

Dark Ninja is Hyosuke, who seems to spend most of his time alternating between making jokes or indulging in cold and calculating revenge. He’s got a bit of a split personality.


The heroine of the story wakes up with amnesia near a battlefield, with no clues to her identity other than the expensive clothing and necklace that she wears. She’s taken under the wing of a local lord and his shinobi, and one of the ninjas is assigned to protect her. The heroine slowly uncovers the clues to her identity while falling in love with her chosen ninja.


Destiny Ninja
is free to play, but it has some cumbersome game elements that are basically designed to frustrate the player into spending actual money. You can only progress forward through each chapter if your ninja has energy. You can revive your ninja by feeding him rice cakes, which you can attain through purchasing or winning them in ninja lotteries, or getting more energy through leveling up. Each energy unit is only worth getting through about a couple dozen lines of text, so it takes a long time to get through several chapters. The energy units also fill up at a very slow pace without using rice cakes. Players can earn points and virtual money through befriending other players. There are stopping points and checkpoints along the way where you have to have extra items like shuriken and passes. You also have to accessorize your chosen ninja’s companion animal by giving it scarves and masks. While I think it would be entirely possible to progress in the game for free, you would have to have a great deal of patience.


The storyline is fairly standard, and when the characters end up going through a lot of ninja history plot exposition it cam be a tiny bit boring, but generally I was entertained. I’m almost at the end of the storyline with the first ninja I picked, and I started trying to play from the beginning again just to see how the story would differ with a different character. This time I picked the Indifferent Merciless Stubborn Ninja, who indeed seems to be both indifferent and merciless as advertized, although as the story progresses, he begins to seem less and less indifferent.

There’s a complicated love meter for the game where depending on the answers you give, you can get one of four endings with each ninja. This means that if you have an obsessive personality and actually want to experience all the endings, you will have to play through the game four times per character. There’s a “sweet happy ending” which is more emotional or a “lovey dovey” ending which is evidently more risque. In terms of general romantic content though, the entire game is about at the level of a slightly risque harlequin romance novel. The English translation for this game is also not very good, but you can still understand everything that’s happening.

The game interface for this game is a bit crowded, because there are so many little add-ons and extra tasks needed for you to complete the story. I found the visual clutter a bit endearing, although I did get frustrated at the slow rate of progression for the game, even after spending money on rice cakes to power up my ninja. It was so slow I decided to check out another game, Pirates in Love.

Pirates! In! Love!

Pirates in Love is available for android and iphone

This game requires you to pay for stories after a free introductory chapter. The interface for the game is smooth and easy to navigate, there’s some background music for the game that quickly becomes annoying, and the art looks less like clip art. With each decision point the heroine has three options, and there are no extra mini-games or tasks to complete. Pirates In Love functions pretty much like a classic choose your own adventure novel. It is easy to go through the storyline for a character in about an hour and a half or so.

I figured that when playing a game with pirate characters, one has to go for the guy in the eye patch.

Hello there.

Hello there.

As much as I enjoyed the looks of eye patch guy, whose name was Eduardo, I didn’t care very much for the storyline. He seemed to treat the heroine like a dim-witted mascot most of the time, and while certain aspects of Eduardo’s mysterious past were very interesting, there was a bit of a misogynistic vibe that I didn’t care for too much. By the end of the story he is much less of a creep, and he does get style points for the eye patch. I found the game interesting enough that I decided to play again with a different character, Russell the arrogant fencing pirate.


This storyline focuses more on the hero gaining a more mature sense of his place in the world, and it wasn’t as complex as Eduardo’s journey where he deals with his past, eye patch, and various conflicts with other pirates. It was less annoying but also a bit less interesting than the first character I tried. This game does a good job of balancing appearances from all the characters in every story, so it is easy to start wondering about all the different outcomes if you tried to play through the game with yet another character.

For my third time through this game, I picked the womanizing borderline alcoholic pirate captain.


Captain Morgan’s story involved ensuring an island’s water supply, mysterious twins, him being chased through a towm by all the woman in port that he wronged before, a hydra, and pirate captain political maneuvering. It was probably the most entertaining of the stories I’d tried so far in Pirates in Love, and of course the heroine cures him of his alcoholism and womanizing by the time the story is done.

Pirates in Love was much less frustrating to play than Destiny Ninja, because once you’ve bought a storyline you can play it until the end, and you can also go back and switch your answers to try to get a different ending without having to pay any extra. I actually played through three full stories in Pirates in Love for less money than I spend on buying rice cakes and other items in Destiny Ninja. Overall, I think Pirates in Love is a better value for what you get from the game, although I do find all the ninja quite amusing. I found my first foray into Otome gaming much more entertaining than I thought it would be. I’m going to continue with both of these games, as there are a couple characters with stories I’m still interested in from Pirates in Love. I might just adjust to the glacial pace of Destiny Ninja and play it more casually, as the lag time in normal game play makes it a bit frustrating to follow the stories closely.

If you do decide to give Destiny Ninja a try, my invite code is:CqWB9YLrSW (we both get bonus rice cakes!)

Who exactly are these pirates in love with?

Who exactly are these pirates in love with?

Strobe Edge, Vols 5 and 6

One of the reasons why I keep reading manga is that it still has the capacity to surprise me. I found the fifth volume of Strobe Edge exciting to read, because it went in a totally different direction from what I was expecting. I’d always expected that the love triangle between Ren, Mayuka, and Ninako would have to be resolved somehow, but I wasn’t expecting a big change to come from Mayuka this early in the series. Ren is deliberately holding himself back from developing feelings for Ninako due to his sense of duty towards Mayuka. She’s emotional fragile and stressed out with the demands of her modeling career, school, and her parents’ divorce. Ren has a finely honed sense of integrity and wouldn’t do anything to hurt another person, with the expense of actually subverting his own feelings in the process.

I always expect anyone in a shoujo manga with a modeling career to be evil, but Mayuka shows that she’s been slowly picking up on Ren’s distance, coming to terms with her own goals for how she wants to live her life, and she realizes that she’s the one who is going to have to take a big step forward on her own. The change in Ren and Mayuka’s relationship isn’t without pain on both sides, but everything is handled with a degree of emotional maturity and sensitivity that is notable. It is fun to read a shoujo series that explores the shifting relationships between characters with such nuance.

In the meantime Ninako and Ando are in the grips of adorable teenage awkwardness, as she attempts to bury her own feelings for Ren and Ando tries to show her that he’s the better choice for her. Ando’s shifted from the cheerful flirtations personality that he displayed in the first few volumes to showing Ninako just how much he cares about her. There was a fun bonus story in this volume that delved into the past friendship between Ren and Ando, and just where it went wrong. This is the type of bonus story that I really enjoy, as it gives the reader a glimpse of the characters in a slightly different context, and provides more background as the manga moves forward.

There’s emotional turmoil ahead in the sixth volume of Strobe Edge, as Ando’s antagonism towards Ren resurfaces and Ren is dealing with the aftermath of his breakup with Mayuka. The burden of popularity and extreme handsomeness weighs heavily on Ren, as he is girlfriendless for barely a day before the girls at school start circling him. Ninako assumes that Ren is sad, and doesn’t want to do anything to add to his stress. Even with Valentine’s day coming up, she doesn’t want to add to the mountain of chocolate he’s going to be receiving from all the other girls.

There are some fun action scenes as Ren and Ando (mostly Ando) work through some aggression on the basketball court. The antagonistic relationship between them takes a turn towards the hilarious as Ando gets injured and when he wakes up and spots Ren he yells “You’re what I have to wake up to?” If Strobe Edge was only focused on the relationship between Ninako and Ren, it has the potential to get boring fairly fast. But seeing Ren and Ando start to work through their issues feels like an important emotional breakthrough. Ando instructs Ren not to smile, and Ren assumes that it is because his smile is somehow hideous, but really Ando doesn’t like the inadvertent effect a smiling Ren has on all the people in his vicinity. The end of volume six offers the promise of a new beginning at the start of a new school year, with Ren and Ninako being assigned to the same class.

Strobe Edge is a good example of why sometimes it is good to give a manga series a few volumes to develop before giving up on it. I was a bit on the fence about this series after reading only the first volume even though I generally enjoyed it. I wouldn’t have thought from just the first volume that Sakisaka would have built up the interesting relationships between the characters and handled some emotional journeys without relying on some of the standard shoujo plot elements. In some ways Strobe Edge is a less angsty successor to We Were There, as both series explore similar nuanced psychological territory.

Review copy of vol 6 provided by the publisher.

Eat for Your Life vol. 1


Eat for Your Life Volume 1 by Shigeru Tsuchiyama

This book is available on

I do enjoy food manga now and then, and since unfortunately this is a genre that we only get a small sampling of here I’m always interested in a new title. While there are plenty of manga that I’ve read devoted to particular dishes or types of food, eating with friends, or in the case of Toriko eating incredibly weird things, this is the first eating competition manga that I’ve read. I found the combination of sports manga plot structure and endless drawings of bowls of katsudon compelling.

Ohara is a salaryman with a reputation as a gourmet. Perpetually broke due to his habit of going on food tours, he stumbles across an eating competition and decides to try his luck. Ohara fails, but he catches the eye of a professional food competitor named George. I could tell at a glance that George was going to be Ohara’s eccentric mentor because he was wearing a fringed leather jacket, sunglasses, and a ponytail. George appreciates Ohara’s ability to savor what he is eating as well as his rudimentary but sound eating technique.

Ohara begins to be pulled into the world of competative eating, but with some informal coaching from George, he might be ready to take his love of eating to the next level. The situations and characters in Eat For Your Life follow the “try your best” theme of most sports manga, except here one tries to conquer insane serving amounts of food as opposed to facing an opponent on the sports field. Eat For Your Life was amusing. The art was well executed, but not particularly distinctive, and there wwas a decent amount of humor as Ohara reacts with a rookie’s amazement to the world of competitive eating. I recommended this title for foodie manga fans.

Electronic access provided by the publisher.

Midnight Secretary, Vol 1

While I enjoy reading paranormal romances set in high school as much as anyone, I attended high school more years ago than I’m willing to admit. So I’m happy to see a romance title that swaps out a twenty-something office lady for the typical teenage manga protagonist. Kaya is an Executive Secretary who is reassigned to the Managing Director at Tohma Corp. Kaya dresses severely, with her hair pulled back and sports fake glasses in order to combat her naturally youthful appearance. Her new boss Kyohei Tohma is an absolute boor, asking that she be reassigned as soon as he sees her because her appearance offends him. Kyohei spends long hours at the office, but he seems to take frequent breaks during the day as a parade of women keep visiting him at his office only to leave looking disheveled and pale.

Kaya is very dedicated to Tohma Corp. and her job, so she does a bit of sleuthing as she is worried that her new boss is doing drugs. She ends up discovering that he is in fact a vampire. Kyohei decides that Kaya’s discovery is a good thing, because she can be his secretary for real if she knows about his condition. He threatens her mother’s employment with the company to ensure Kaya’s silence and assures her that she won’t become his next victim because he only drinks from the finest of women.

As a heroine, Kaya has a bit of a subversive streak. She decides to subtly test vampire theories through her job duties by giving one of Kyohei’s women a silver cross and trying to see if he has a reflection in a mirror. Kaya figures out that the senior director, Kyohei’s older brother, is aware of Kyohei’s vampirism yet isn’t a vampire himself. Kyohei seems amused by Kaya’s detective attempts, and she resolutely resists his arrogant suggestions for her to improve her appearance. When Kyohei gets weakened and needs blood Kaya decides that her secretarial duties extend to becoming food, announcing that “Even if you’re a spoiled, arrogant philanderer…even if you’re sarcastic…and even if you’re a vampire…I want to protect you!”

Kaya and her boss gradually become a bit closer as he begins to trust her with more details of Tohma’s business dealings. Her protective streak is very strong, resulting in some goofy antics at an office Christmas party. I enjoyed the packaging for this manga, as all the extra purple scroll-work makes Midnight Secretary look appropriately gothic. Ohmi’s art is attractive, with believable shifts in the characters’ appearance and mannerisms when Kaya loses her glasses or when Kyohei is in the grips of vampiric compulsion. We see the couple’s professional facades begin to crack more and more as the volume progresses. I enjoyed this first volume of Midnight Secretary very much, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

Review copy provided by the publisher