Weekly Astro Boy Magazine Vol. 1

Weekly Astro Boy Magazine Vol. 1

I was intrigued when Emanga.com announced that they would be releasing an Astro Boy magazine. I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for manga magazines at this point, with the demise of print anthologies. I’ve read some Tezuka, but I’m definitely not familiar with all of his works. The magazine format for Tezuka works very well, because his art and storytelling style varies so much with the titles presented in the magazine, it is interesting to compare and contrast the differences between his different titles in this format.

I haven’t read much Astro Boy before, but the storyline for inclusion in the first issue of this manga magazine is a strong one, as it is “The Greatest Robot on Earth,” where the robot Pluto created to battle all the other great robots that exist, until he is hailed as the supreme robot. This storyline is what Naoki Urasawa used for his manga series Pluto. Astro Boy tangles with Pluto for a little bit, but his creator calls him off. Astro Boy responds to the existence of the new robot by requesting an upgrade of his own power. Astro Boy really displays the virtue of simplicity. The robot designs are so distinct, and the action in Astro Boy is so clear and easy to follow, it makes me think that some of the detail and opaque action in modern manga has really missed the mark.

Phoenix is the next title featured in this magazine, and this is a real treat because I believe some of the print volumes released by Viz are now out of print. The story comes from the fourth volume of Phoenix, called Karma. It is easy to see why Phoenix is often called Tezuka’s masterwork. This chapter featured the story of a boy who was injured just after being born, becoming a monster due to the harsh treatment from his fellow villagers. He encounters a sculptor in the woods and damages one of his arms. The sculptor finds refuge in a temple and begins to reach a different stage of consciousness as he attempts to take up art again. Reading Phoenix itself is a bit of a philosophical experience, as the characters encounter each other in this fable-like story, with stylized depictions of nature inter cut with both action and personal reflection.

The rest of the book is rounded out by shorter chapters for Dororo and Black Jack. It was a bit difficult for me to get a handle on Dororo just due to the small page count. Black Jack, I automatically read with feelings of affection, because the two-fisted surgeon is one of my favorite Tezuka characters. Overall, I really enjoyed the opportunity to read different Tezuka works back to back. It is a bit different than diving into a full volume of manga, but it really gives the reader an appreciation for the variations in art and theme that is expressed in Tezuka’s manga. This is definitely worth checking out if you don’t have an extensive Astro Boy collection and especially if you want an accessible way of reading Phoenix.

Electronic access provided by the publisher

Two from Yuriko Matsukawa: Not for a Student and Hush A Bye Baby

I previously reviewed Matsukawa’s two volume series Late Advent, so I was interested in checking out some of her one-shot works that are now available on emanga.com. Not for a Student and Hush a Bye Baby are both collections of stories, with one long anchor story for each volume followed by a few shorter stories.

Not For A Studentavailable on emanga.com

Miki is a photographer who abruptly decides to become a teacher when losing a competition scuttles her chances of a professional career. Before her student teaching stint she has an odd encounter with a waiter at a nightclub who is so compelling that she has to photograph him. Imagine her surprise when she finds out that he’s Takase Misaki, one of the worst students in the class she’s been assigned to student teach. Takase is constantly skipping school, only showing up when he feels like it, and the rest of the students in the class seem to be in a bit of a conspiracy to help him get away with whatever he wants to do. Miki has the desire to prove what a great teacher she can be by trying to help him, but her efforts are met with a surprising degree of intimidation and blackmail from Takase. As she discovers the secret he’s protecting, she begins to act in a very un-teacher-like manner.

This volume was an enjoyable collection of shojo short stories. In addition to Not for a Teacher, it included a story “Aim for Acclaim My Beautiful Hostess!” about the trials and tribulations of a traditional inn owner in Tokyo and her unexpected romance and another story, “Put Your Right Foot Forward” about a girl pursuing her passion for dance only to get caught up in a rivalry between to potential partners. Matsukawa’s art still has that old-school style that I enjoy, and this collection was a pleasant diversion. Not For A Student‘s more dramatic story was balanced out by the slice-of-life stories in the rest of the volume.

Hush A Bye Babyavailable on emanga.com

I found Hush A Bye Baby: Midnight’s Rebel Army a bit more entertaining than Not For A Student, just because the premise for the main story was more crazy, as convenience store worker Sakaya finds herself accidentally handcuffed to cute, yet tragically haunted biker Reiji (just like the 39 Steps, but not!) who has a mysterious past. Don’t all tragically haunted bikers have mysterious pasts!? Sakaya ends up helping Reiji investigate the truth of an accident he was framed for, and they grow closer in the process even though they have to endure being shackled together for a couple days. My only complaint with the art for this story is that the chain connecting the handcuffs seemed to randomly expand and contract at various points of the story, but on the whole it was still very entertaining. I always enjoy linked short stories and restaurant settings, so the other half of the volume was a treat. “No Saint of Soupe” deals with a French Restaurant in Japan, and a romance between the owner’s daughter and a gifted chef named Rene who only specializes in soups much to his brother’s dismay. “Professional Passion” turns the focus on Rene’s older brother as he deals with an inexperienced reporter who is assigned to cover him for her first big professional story.

If I had to pick between these volumes and only recommend one, I’d go with “Hush A Bye Baby” since the combination of manacled bikers and foodie manga is pretty irresistible. Both volumes were entertaining though and would provide a quick entertaining read for any shojo fans looking for single volumes of manga.

Harlequin Manga: Acting on Impulse and Vengeful Seduction

Acting on Impulse by Natsue Ogoshi and Vicki Lewis Thompson
Available on emanga.com

I always enjoy Harlequin manga when they exhibit a strong sense of humor. Acting on Impulse is plenty funny as it details the adventures of a naive farmgirl who moves to New York City, determined to live a “metropolitan” lifestyle. Unfortunately Trudy’s expectations of New York are entirely drawn from popular entertainment, which results in occasional hilarity. Trudy’s landed a job as a lowly office worker at a PR firm. She’s friends with a couple in the city who decide that her arrival is a perfect opportunity to fix her up with confirmed bachelor Linc. They ask Linc to be Trudy’s tour guide and look out for her as she gets adjusted to life in the big city. When Trudy meets Linc she pronounces him almost as handsome as her favorite actor and asks him to intone the lines “Admit you want me. I’ll give you ecstasy like you’ve never had before.” They promptly enter into a relationship where they are dating but proclaiming that they aren’t dating, because she wants to experience the freedom of the city and he is afraid of commitment. Trudy’s excess of enthusiasm and bizarre expectations of city life give her more personality than I’ve come to expect from a Harlequin heroine. The art is a little rushed at times, but the characters are attractive and the funny dialog goes a long way to make Acting on Impulse fun to read.

Vengeful Seduction by Cathy Williams and Yukako Midori
Available on emanga.com

Vengeful Seduction is the story of a woman forced to betray her true love when an evil man blackmails her into marriage, only to be dramatically confronted by her past when her drunk husband kills himself and her father in a car accident. Shortly after dealing with her father and horrible husband’s deaths, Isobel is confronted with her ex-boyfriend Lorenzo. Now a successful businessman, he appears again in her life to buy and turn around her family’s failing business. He intends to get Isobel back too, but she’s determined not to be treated like a possession again. As Isobel and Lorenzo are forced to spend more time together, details about her evil husband and her father’s potentially shady business dealings emerge. This harlequin manga had a general feeling of doom and sadness, without the touches of humor that I tend to enjoy. If I’m reading something silly I’d rather have something to laugh about, as opposed to a story that while somewhat goofy takes itself too seriously. So, I am not a fan of Vengeful Seduction, but Acting on Impulse was fun enough to make up for it.

Online access provided by the publisher.

Ichigenme: The First Class is Civil Law

Ichigenme: The First Class is Civil Law Volumes 1 and 2 by Fumi Yoshinaga

For the Manga Moveable Feast I wanted to read something I hadn’t read before by Yoshinaga, and since I’ve read most of her other series already, the only thing left was some of her yaoi titles. I decided to go with Ichigenme: The First Class is Civil Law.

Tamiya joins a new zemi (seminar group) for law school. Although he’s a hard-working student, he’s ended up in a peer group full of rich kids who devote their time to goofing off. As part of a hazing ritual for third year students Toudou, a long-haired spoiled son of a politician performs an elaborate striptease for his fellow classmates. He winds up by giving Tamiya a kiss in order to distract everyone from making Tamiya strip too. Tamiya’s classmates make casual plans to go to Hokkaido to ski for the weekend. When they invite him along and offer to pay for him, he says that he’ll go along with them if it is something he can pay for but “I don’t want anyone paying for something I can’t pay them back for.” Tamiya’s seriousness and integrity provide a stark contrast to the attitudes of his classmates, and Toudou decides that Tamiya is “pretty cool.”

The first volume centers on the growing friendship between Tamiya and Toudou. When his father is caught up in a political scandal, Toudou is ostracized by all of his classmates except Tamiya. While Toudou is comfortable with his sexuality, Tamiya isn’t quite willing to admit that he’s gay even though he’s never been attracted to women. This manga is one of Yoshinaga’s earlier works, but her facility for creating compelling slice of life stories is in full effect. The students get drunk, avoid studying, have unfortunate run-ins with faculty, and in some cases slowly grow up. Toudou and Tamiya’s relationship progresses slowly, and while they do get physical Toudou is left wondering if Tamiya only wants him to stay over due to the elaborate breakfasts he prepares the next morning. When Tamiya turns down a classmate’s advances saying that he doesn’t think he could ever be with a woman. She says “I’ll…have to tell people, okay?” Tamiya replies that he doesn’t care, and his expression switches from blank to peaceful. He says to himself “Somehow…I feel much better.”

The second volume shows Tamiya and Toudou in a more established relationship. Toudou is breaking away from his family’s expectations and working at a games development company and Tamiya has become a teacher. They struggle with having enough time to spend with each other. Toudou’s younger brother is also the focus of some of the stories in this volume, as he takes up with a professor. The first volume of Ichigenme had a few sex scenes, but was more focused on character interaction. The second volume flips the formula, with sex scenes punctuated by occasional glimpses of the characters going out to dinner, struggling with pressure from work, or dealing with the aftermath of a new haircut.

As a whole, I liked Ichigenme more than most of the yaoi I’ve tried. It doesn’t have some of the problematic genre elements that tend to annoy me in many yaoi titles, like a reliance on rape scenarios or the insistence that the men in the story aren’t really gay, they’re just “truly in love.” Instead Yoshinaga creates stories about believable people who fall in love with each other.

Harlequin Manga Quick Takes – Married by Mistake!, Caribbean Desire, and Marriage Wanted

All titles available on emanga.com.

Married by Mistake by Takako Hashimoto and Renee Roszel Wilson

I didn’t realize when I started this that it is a further book in a series with a harlequin manga I read earlier, To Marry a Stranger. In this book, the heroine of To Marry a Stranger has been impregnated by her husband with an eye patch. Helen starts having contractions near the infamous “Mansion of Love” so of course she and her sister Lucy are stuck with having to deal with a sudden home birth in the romantically cursed house. Lucy manages to assist her sister with having twins in the space of a panel. Let me tell you, I’ve had twins and it doesn’t happen that quickly! Lucy is exhausted after assisting her sister and thinks back about her fiance Stader, who kept postponing their marriage. This Stadler guy is no prize as in Lucy’s memory he appears with wavy hair and an odd sort of cravat. Do not trust a man wearing a cravat unless you live in the early 19th century, ladies. Lucy is woken by Jack, a man with intense eyebrows and a decent suit who is wearing a tie instead of a cravat. This looks promising.

Lucy mentions the legend that if a woman spends the night of her birthday at the mansion of love, the first man she sees the next day will be her destined love. It is the day after her birthday, and Jack looks both befuddled and horrified. He’s Lucy’s ex-stepbrother and he has loved her for a long time. It turns out that Lucy’s horrible cravat-wearing fiance has decided to get engaged to an actress and travel to Lucy’s hometown in a fit of cravat-inspired cruelty. Lucy’s family promptly decides that Lucy has to pretend to have a fiance for revenge and Jack is just the person for the job. The art in this adaptation is really much better than the typical Harlequin manga title. The backgrounds might be sparse, but the character designs are distinct and attractive. What I found most amusing was the wacky facial expressions of Lucy’s family as they cheer on her fake romance. I was especially amused by the antics of Lucy’s one-eyed brother-in-law Damian who was the tortured hero in To Marry a Stranger, as he keeps popping up in chibi form with a big grin to cheer on his sister-in-law. In conclusion, men with cravats are bad, but men with eye patches or suits are good. This is what I’m taking away from this Harlequin manga.

Caribbean Desire by Cathy Williams and Takane Yonetani

The cover for this looks good, because it appears that there are wind machines blowing the male and female leads’ hair in opposite directions. Unfortunately the inside of this manga doesn’t feature the goofy fun I tend to prefer in my Harlequin manga adaptations. Emma arrives on an island to interview the rich businessman Alastair for his biography. She develops an intense dislike for the Conrad, the man currently running Alastair’s company. Emma has a secret connection with Alastair’s family, but will she reveal her secret before it is too late? And what will she do with her growing attraction to Conrad? The storyline was as predictable as Harlequins usually are, but there wasn’t really any humor to lighten things up. The art and adaptation were pretty typical, with stiffly posed characters and sketchy backgrounds. This wasn’t a good title to read right after Married by Mistake!, because it really suffered in comparison.

Marriage Wanted by Debbie Macomber and Eve Takigawa

Savanna is a wedding coordinator with an injured leg. Dash is a divorce attorney who has given up on love. Together they find love through a marriage of convenience, as one always does in Harlequin romance world. I tend to enjoy Harlequin manga very much when the art has a vaguely 1980s aesthetic. Even though this adaptation was produced in 2005, I still see a bit of a retro feel to the art with Dash’s square jaw and Emma’s bright eyes. Savanna is convinced the she’ll never find love because her limp makes her unattractive to men. Dash comes into Savanna’s store and proceeds to lecture her about the meaninglessness of weddings when he finds out that she’s planning his little sister’s wedding. Dash and Savannah spend more time with each other and decide to enter into a marriage of convenience when he needs a wife to get a promotion and she needs a husband to get her parents to stop being so overprotective. There wasn’t much humor in this title, but the art was better than average and it was fun seeing Dash and Savanna argue with each other over the value of marriage.

Access to electronic copies provided by the publisher.