Archives for December 2014

Assassination Classroom Vol 1

Assassination Classroom Volume 1 by Yusei Matsui

To be perfectly honest, I would have bought this manga for the title alone. The fact that it is a story about a mysterious tentacled alien teacher looking after a classroom of misfit teenage assassins is just a bonus. The premise of the manga is set up in an effective way, with some elements explained and others just left for the reader to simply accept and move on with the story. The manga opens as the happy face octopus stands in front of the classroom wearing an academic hood and gown. As the day opens the entire class leaps up from their desks with guns and begins to fire away. Their assassination attempts are fruitless, because their teacher can move at super speed and has amazing healing abilities. The assassination classroom is a room full of misfits held in the annex of a normal middle school. One day their teacher showed up, disintegrated a large portion of the moon and said that he would do the same to Earth in one year. Kuro Sensei inexplicably wants to spend a year educating the youth of Earth before he destroys it. The government has offered up a bounty to the member of class 3-E who succeeds in killing their teacher.

Assassination Classroom is filled with humorous elements interspersed with dynamic scenes of assassinations being foiled with ease. For poetry class, Kuro Sensei requires everyone to end their poem with the word “tentacles” and he is always using his supersonic flying power to randomly buy himself treats from around the world. The standout student is Sugino, who spends his days making careful observations of his teacher, slowly gathering intelligence that might eventually lead to a successful assassination. As the volume progresses, more members of the class 3-E are introduced, all of whom have unique abilities. The most amusing aspect of the volume is the fact that for all Kuro Sensei plans on wiping out all of humanity in a year, he is really dedicated to being an excellent teacher. He intervenes in the lives of his troubled students and actually does manage to teach them some useful life lessons. The uplifting aspects of the manga contrast with Earth’s imminent doom in an interesting way. The art is well-executed but somewhat generic. It is amusing to see the variety of expressions on Kuro Sensei’s face, and the unexpected ways his alien powers manifest. I think this series would really appeal to fans of Death Note. So far, Assassination Classroom seems like an ideal pick for people who enjoy manga with a healthy side of dark cynicism on the side.

Yukarism Vol. 1

Yukarism Volume 1 by Chika Shiomi

I’m always excited for the first volume of a new Shojo Beat series comes out, but I was SUPER EXCITED for Yukarism because I’ve enjoyed previous works from Shiomi so much. My absolute favorite of her series so far is Night of the Beasts. I thought that Yukarism had an interesting premise, so I was very curious!

The couple embracing on the cover of the first volume isn’t a couple, it is the same person in a current and previous life. Yukari is a young teenage genius of an author, producing books set in the Edo period with vivid historical detail. His new classmate Mahoro is fascinated by him, coming up with excuses to stop by with homework or treats when he’s absent from school due to a writing binge. Yukari recognizes something in Mahoro, but when she has a conversation with him, her expectations of talking to a author dedicated to his readers are derailed. Yukari seems to approach the world with a significant amount of detachment, perhaps because he’s haunted by memories from a previous life. When Yukari notices a scar on Mahoro’s wrist, he’s catapulted into the past and wakes up as a courtesan in the Edo period named Yumurasaki. Here, Mahoro’s previous life was as a man named Kazuma who serves as Yumurasaki’s protector.

Shiomi’s art is lovely. The character designs for Yukari and Yumurasaki look like male and female aspects of the same person. The shift in detail in the backgrounds from the sparse modern day to the elaborately decorated Edo period is a treat to see. There are little moments of physical comedy scattered throughout the book, because when Yukari travels to the past he can’t be as graceful as Yumuraski and finds himself overbalanced by headgear and teetering off his shoes. Kazuma is terrified when he sees Yumurasaki casually sitting like a teenage boy with his legs spread apart.

Yukari approaches his sudden experience of his past life like an adventure, but he doesn’t yet seem to be emotionally affected by living Yumurasaki’s life. He’s unconcerned by how his odd behavior might affect her relationships, and his attitude seems to be much more that of a writer observing details than someone who is invested in actually experiencing his life. Yukari’s encounters in the past end up giving him insight into the present, as a tormented girl who works in Yumurasaki appears in the present with psychological issues due to the trauma of her forgotten previous life. Yukari is able to use the knowledge he gained as Yumurasaki to help her.

Overall, I found this first volume very intriguing. I’m looking forward to seeing how the past continues to have an impact on Yukari’s present. Shiomi does a great job coming up with characters who have reticent but interesting personalities. Yukari really acts just as one would expect a teenage boy who used to be an elite courtesan of the past to behave. I’m also curious to see how the relationship between the more dynamic Yukari and the watchful Mahoro develops. Yukarism is a great new manga to kick off the new year!

Honey Blood Volumes 1 and 2

Honey Blood Volumes 1 and 2 by Miko Mitsuki

Two volume manga series are a bit tricky sometimes. They tend to be series that are canceled because they were not entirely successful, and sometimes have unfinished or rushed endings as a result. Sometimes there are two volume series that do end up telling a story satisfactorily, but most of the time when I read them, I either end up acknowledging that I just read a manga that was never going to work or I find myself wishing for just one more volume.

Hinata is a normal high school girl going about her daily life, slightly mystified about the vampire novels that are taking her school by storm. At the same time there have been cases of young girls who are the victims of mysterious attacks in her city. When she comes home one day after school, she bumps into a strange young man in traditional Japanese clothing. He’s accompanied by a clinging female editor. It turns out that he’s Junya Tokinaga, the writer of the novels that Hinata thinks of as ludicrous. Hinata has a tendency to burst out with whatever is on her mind and her first encounter with the famous author has her musing how the central plot point of a vampire giving up immortality to die with the person he loves is difficult to understand. Junya ends up acting bizarrely flirtatious around Hinata while she keeps making comments like “I can’t stand guys like you!”

The neighborhood attacks continue, and Junya saves Hinata from a man who almost assaults her when she is walking alone at night. She begins to be more fascinated with her next door neighbor, and he continues to demonstrate his interest in her. Hinata begins to suspect that Junya is a vampire, and it turns out that Junya’s novels describing a situation where a vampire who kisses a mortal is bound only to her until they both die is based on the conditions of his own vampirism. I thought the art in this series was attractive, but the storyline ended up shoving Hinata and Junya together a little too quickly to be believable. By the end of the first volume, they are almost a couple with Hinata pursuing Junya while he attempts to hold back details of his life from her. The continued vampire attacks make the reader a bit uneasy, as it is unclear if Junya is feeding on other women, or if in fact there are other vampires around.

I think the second volume shows the author throwing a bunch of ideas out to see if anything would stick. Hinata and Junya embark on their unconventional romance. The reader gets a bit of back story when it is revealed that Junya’s long lost love was one of Hinata’s ancestors. Hinata and Junya’s overly solicitous editor get into a conflict of personalities. A rival vampire named Setsuna shows up to complicate the situation further. I liked the romance better in the second volume when Hinata and Junya were an established couple. I also enjoyed the blend of vampire angst and little moments of humor, like when Hinata picks out modern clothes for Junya only for him to promptly become a target for aggressive modeling scouts. As the second volume wrapped up, I found myself wishing that the author had a bit more time to develop the series before launching it in the first place. It seemed like it was starting to get a bit more interesting only to be cut short. If a longer series by Mitsuki gets licensed, I would be interested in reading it, because I’d be curious to see what she could do with more space to develop a series. As it is, I’d recommend Honey Blood for vampire manga collections, or for people who don’t mind reading short manga with abrupt endings.

Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign Vol 3

Seraph of the End Volume 3 by Takaya Kagami, Yamato Yamamoto, and Daisuke Furuya

One of the reasons why I like this shonen vampire dystopian series so much is that each volume propels the hero forward to a different stage of development and a different setting. In the third volume, brash yet unexpectedly capable hero Yuichiro has his demon possessed weapon, and now he’s about to become an official vampire hunter when he heads out with his squad to aid other soldiers in Shinjuku. Yuichiro’s new squad consists of the sarcastic and subversive Shinoa, earnest Yoichi, and his cranky new friend Shiho. The balance in the group is upset a bit with the arrival of Mitsuba, an abrasive girl who doesn’t understand why she’s been saddled with a rookie unit.

Yuichiro’s habit of rushing into battle causes tension with the group, since he doesn’t respect the standard tactical formations they are supposed to hold in order to make sure that the entire team is protected. They have a few skirmishes with vampires and survive more due to individual luck than coordinated effort. I have to say, I enjoy Shinoa’s leadership style because she makes pronouncements like “Let us be off on another fun-filled, vampire-slaughtering excursion!” While Yuichiro might be reckless, he’s also just as likely to risk himself to save one of his teammates as he is to charge ahead to fulfill his desire for revenge against vampires.

The reader gets a further glimpse into the life of Yuichiro’s adopted brother turned vampire Mikaela, and it seems like he will be meeting Yuichiro very soon. The combination of good world building, dynamic action scenes, and sarcastic quips makes me confident that Seraph of the End will continue to be very entertaining.

Sweet Rein 1-3 Giveaway


I’m getting rid of some of my manga! I have a bunch listed on ebay right now, but I thought I would also do a giveaway as well. So appropriately for the start of the holiday season, I’m going to give away Sweet Rein Volumes 1-3. Just leave a comment on this post and I’ll select a random winner in a week.