Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Part 1: Phantom Blood, Vol 2

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Part 1, Phantom Blood, Volume 2 by Hirohiko Araki

I enjoyed the first volume of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and I was looking forward to see if the second volume continued with the unrelenting manliness and general crazy action. I wasn’t disappointed.

The second volume continues with the battle between Jonathan Joestar and Dio, who has completely been taken over by the evil stone mask. Dio can suck the life force out of people to heal his wounds, and the corpses become zombies, which can certainly be a problem for anyone trying to take Dio down. Jonathan is determined to destroy the monster who killed his father, and fights back through impossible odds, burning down his own mansion and fighting through the pain as Dio breaks both his arms. I continue to be delighted by the character of Robert Edward O. Speedwagon, mostly because I find it amusing when Jonathan yells “Get out of the way Speedwagon!” during battle. Also, Speedwagon’s tendency to stay on the sidelines while injured allows him to provide running commentary on all the battles.

With the Joestar mansion being burned down, and Dio both impaled on a statue and crushed beneath a pillar, one might think that Jonathan’s battle was done, but this is not the case. He meets his long-lost love Erina again as she tends his wounds, and once he is somewhat healed he meets a strange mentor named Baron Zeppeli, who decides to teach Jonathan the ways of mastering Hamon energy to become even more powerful.

In the meantime, Dio has pulled himself out of the wreckage and continue to grow more and more powerful, aided by some additional evil allies. Jonathan and Zeppeli go to confront Dio, but will his vampirific power overcome their new martial arts discipline?

It is a bit unusual for me to be truly surprised by action scenes in a manga, but JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure really does deliver on this front, with surprising plot twists and innovative ways for everybody to power up. The stakes grow higher and the battles grow more impressive as both Jonathan and Dio gain power. The art is still a bit on the crude side, but undeniably energetic. Some of the fights take place against the backdrop of a low-hanging moon, which just makes everything look even more epic. What random character named after a rock band will appear next? I’m looking forward to the third volume to find out.

The Demon Prince of Momochi House Vol. 1

The Demon Prince of Momochi House Volume 1 by Aya Shouoto

I enjoy Shouoto’s other series, Kiss of the Rose Princess, so I was interested in trying out The Demon Prince of Momochi House. When I read the description and looked at the front cover, I was also curious to see how similar it might be to another Shojo Beat series featuring yokai, Kamisama Kiss.

Himari Momochi is a plucky orphan who inherits a house that has been in her family for years. She decides to journey to Momochi House and claim her inheritance, despite some dire warnings along the way that the house she’s traveling to is haunted. When she arrives at the house, the inside is trashed and shadowy figures keep brushing past her as she explores the interior. One of the shadowy figures ends up being a naked young man named Aoi, who is quickly admonished to put clothes on by a couple of other men. They accuse Himari of being a burglar, and she quickly produces the legal document that proclaims she’s the owner of the house. Himari is determined to stay, and the horrible cleaning jobs that await her and the mysterious implosion of her smartphone, and presence of male squatters do nothing to change her attachment to her new home. Mysterious animal yokai appear, and Himari is introduced to the supernatural elements that occupy her house. Aoi is serving as the guardian spirit, and the other young men are his helper spirits Yukari and Ise.

When Aoi switches from his human to Omamoiri form, he admonishes Himari not to look at him in his beguiling fox spirit guise. Himari thinks the relationship between Aoi and his helpers is very much like a family, which makes her wistful. She’s also pragmatic despite the new element of the supernatural in her life, deciding that she needs to charger her three freeloaders rent and thinking about investigating enrolling in a local school. Aoi and Himari are clearly attracted to each other, and Aoi seems to be operating under an imperative that he protect her at all costs from the haunted elements that still exist in her ancestral home.

Demon Prince of Momochi House is a much less silly series than Kiss of the Rose Princess. I think the art is stronger and a bit more distinctive than Rose Princess too. Sometimes drawing spirits brings out the best in a manga-ka! Some aspects of this series did remind me of Kamisama Kiss, but I also feel as though Kamisama Kiss is such a standout series in terms of quality that other manga are going to suffer in comparison automatically. I wish there had been a bit more character development, because so far the characters seem more like types than fully realized individuals. I found myself liking Kiss of the Rose Princess more as the series progressed, and I’m expecting that to happen with The Demon Prince of Momochi House too. It could be that I’m just a sucker for series featuring handsome spirits, but I enjoyed this first volume much more than the first volume of Kiss of the Rose Princess too. I’m hoping for more character development in the next volume.

Meteor Prince Vol. 2

Meteor Prince Volume 2 by Meca Tanaka

I enjoyed the first volume of Meteor Prince very much, and after reading the second, I’ve found it to be a great, self-contained two volume series. Sometimes shorter series suffer a bit from having an unfinished feeling, with an abrupt final chapter, but Meteor Prince pulls off the trick of telling a short, self-contained story with a satisfying conclusion. After the perpetually enthusiastic alien prince Io and earth girl with bad luck Hako got together in the first volume, it is time for some additional obstacles to be thrown in their path.

Io’s intended alien fiancee abruptly appears on earth to claim her man, and she is not happy that Io has pledged himself to a human. Tania’s flowing hair and imperious attitude, combined with her tendencies to transform into a giant ape-like creature makes her a formidable opponent. Tania’s relentless approach to winning Io back doesn’t fare well when faced with the strength of the couple’s bond, and she ends up reduced to lurking in the background and plotting slightly more quietly.

The next trial for Io and Hako is when he meets her parents and her extremely protective younger brother. There’s plenty of cuteness and comedy when Io makes some over the top attempts to be extremely polite to his future wife’s parents. The family issues don’t stop there, as Io’s younger brother Yuro decides that the best way of getting his older brother back is to come to earth and disintegrate everything.

Tanaka’s facility with art portraying both wacky alien landscapes and blushing high school students in the first stages of romance ensures that Meteor Prince is whimsical without being overly wacky or too sweet. She balances heartwarming moments with humor, making this a great feel-good short series. I would have been happy to read several more volumes of Io and Hako’s adventures, but the last volume wrap up the storyline nicely. Highly recommended for people who enjoy their shoujo with a bit of humor.

So Cute it Hurts! Vol. 1

So Cute it Hurts! Volume 1 by Go Ikeyamada

There has been a gap in cross-dressing shoujo series in the current shoujo beat line up recently, so I was intrigued by this series, which features both cross-dressing twins and juvenile delinquents.

The twins in this series are a pair of fraternal twins named Megumu and Mitsuru. Megumu is devoted to history simulation games featuring historical figures with eye patches, and has found a small group of kindred otaku spirits at her all-girls school. Mitsuru has a much more casual approach to studies, a bit of a womanizing personality, and a penchant for fighting thanks to his attendance at an all-male school crawling with juvenile delinquents. Megumu and Mitsuru are an odd kind of opposite gender fraternal twins that might only exist in manga or k-dramas due to their identical appearance that allows them to swap identities. Mitsuru is struggling with make up work in history and proposes a week long switch to Megumu so she can take his tests for him. Megumu is not thrilled with this idea, but she finds herself going along with it when she wakes up one day to find that Mitsuru has stolen her uniform and left his clothes behind.

This volume focuses a bit more on Mitsuru’s undercover operation at Megumu’s school. He is taken aback when he realizes that the girls he usually relates to in superficial ways actually have personalities, and is particularly surprised when he sees the most beautiful girl in the school bullying a deaf student. He has a blunt way of relating to girlish clique problems, and promptly develops a crush on Shino Takenaka, actually deciding to study sign language on his own so he can communicate with her. The bullying plot is a bit standard for a shoujo manga, but it was nice to see Mitsuru deal with mean girl antics with refreshing directness, and when his enemy attempts to shun him, all the otaku girls band together and are not particularly concerned at any loss of social status.

Megumu’s storyline is a bit less dynamic, and more reliant on shoujo plot cliches where she accidentally stumbles into the embrace of Aoi Sanada, the eyepatch-wearing top delinquent at her brother’s school. Aoi is a bit annoyed and bemused at the sudden appearance of an underclassman who seems to not follow the usual social conventions at their school. Her habit of tripping does actually come in handy when she finds herself in the middle of a schoolyard brawl. So far, Megumu and Aoi aren’t given as much page time or character development as Mitsuru and his new friends, and I hope this gets balanced out a little bit in future volumes.

I found it amusing that towards the end of the chapters, there were over-the-top summations of love standing in stark contrast to the gender-bending comedic hijinks in the rest of the manga. Ikeyamada’s art is attractive, if a bit generic, but she portrays the action scenes and the highs and lows of teenage emotions with ease. I found this volume amusing, and there were some interesting hints of a love quadrangle developing that I’m guessing will be explored more in the next volume. So Cute it Hurts! might not have very much depth so far, but the first volume seems like a nice comedic addition to a summer manga reading list.

Spell of Desire Vol. 4

Spell of Desire Volume 4 by Tomu Ohmi

This volume does feel very much like the next to the last volume in a series, which it is. Kaoruko continues to struggle with lessons and integration into witch society, and while her relationship with Kaname continues to develop, they are still held back by his position as her mother’s knight.

The first story (and the reason why this volume is rated mature and shrink-wrapped) shows Kaoruko investigating the sensual based powers of the black witch, by helping out the black witch Isandra. One of the more hilarious aspects of this book is the fact that one has to wear revealing clothing to channel black witch powers. Kaname decides to foil anyone else’s plans for inappropriate attire for Kaoruko by ensuring that her skin has tiny marks in strategic places. Isandra the Black Witch is (no surprise!) evil, and she attempts to steal away the power of the Witch Queen from Kaoruko. Kaoruko and Kaname manage to fend off the attack, and the coven decides that it is better for Kaoruko to return home and train quietly, since it doesn’t seem to be safe for her to train among the other witches. Kaoruko and Kaname have a few days of almost normalcy back at home, and they grow more closer emotionally. Kaoruko makes Kaname a special charm to keep him safe, knowing that he’s often placed in danger due to all the issues with her powers.

As I was reading this series, I expected Kaoruko’s mother to show up as a complicating factor before the final volume, but I guess that’s being saved for the final volume. I have to say, I enjoyed the first couple volumes a little more than the middle ones, just because I was more amused by the premise of the series. After settling in to the middle volumes Spell of Desire started to remind me a bit too much of Midnight Secretary, in that both series tend to use supernatural societal issues as complicating factors in their heroine’s paranormal romance. Ohmi’s art makes up for any quibbles I have with the plot in a large way though, as her fluid and detailed style continues to deftly portray Kaoruko’s magical problems. I’m looking forward to the conclusion of the series, and it is still a fun josei title.