Judge (Vol. 1) by Tonogai Yoshiki

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Apparently, Judge is a poor substitute for the original, Doubt, which may explain why the library was weeding this particular manga from it’s shelves.  I haven’t read Doubt, so I had nothing to compare it to.

 

Here’s the back cover copy of the volume I have:

Envy, Lust, Sloth, Wrath, Gluttony, Pride, Greed.  A group of sinners who bear the guilt of the deadly sins has been gathered in an old courthouse to face judgement. To leave this place alive, thy must offer up a sacrifice–one of their number. As the trial begins, who will the gavel fall on first?”

Interestingly, Baka-Updates has something completely different:

“A young man, driven by jealousy over love, tells a lie that accidentally results in the death of his older brother. Some time later, Hiro is kidnapped and confined to a room with eight other people, each wearing a grotesque animal mask. Their kidnapper informs them that their time has come to be judged for their “sins”–and that they will have to judge one another. Every twelve hours, the captives must choose who among them will die…and only four will remain alive when all is through…”

Between the two of these, you have a pretty good idea of the plot.

SPOILERS

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I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of this kind of set-up–the sort of Hunger Games, you’re all trapped somewhere and are forced to fight to the death, thing.  Maybe it’s the whole teenagers killing each other thing that bugs me, or, perhaps, I just don’t care for how bleak the situation is.

I’m not a huge horror fan, in general.  I do prefer psychological horror to slashers, which, I guess, from having read a summary of the whole series, this is both.

I do like the clever addition of the relationship to each of the deadly sins (though it drove both Mason and I absolutely spare that there are seven sins, but NINE people on the cover. If you look closely, you’ll see there are seven distinct masks.)  There is some fun trying to guess who is guilty of which sin based on their behavior and their masks, but… I dunno. I guess the best I can say is that this didn’t quite grab me, alas.

Apparently, it was well-received enough in Japan, that there’s a live-action film:

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Here’s some nightmare fuel for ya. (Interestingly, the animals representing the sins have changed.)

 

There’s nothing wrong with it, per se.  Maybe I just wasn’t in the right headspace for it, but I think, if I were you and you wanted to try out this mangaka’s work, I might check out Doubt, instead… which my library did keep.

This one is going out in the little free library. Someone will like it, I’m sure.

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Blood-C 1 by Kotone Ranmaru

Because I’ll read pretty much anything, I always check the used section of our local Barnes & Noble for manga. Occasionally, I even find a first volume.

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The back cover copy of the Dark Horse edition of this reads:

Saya Kisaragi is a kindhearted, clumsy student who trains by day to perform standard religious duties at her father’s shrine–but she transforms into an unstoppable, monster-slaying swordsmen by night! The saga that began in Blood: The Last Vampire and the Blood+ anime and manga series continues here! The world of Blood C was created by the powerhouse manga team CLAMP in collaboration with Production I. G, the legendary anime studio that produced the original Blood+ episode and the new Blood-C animated series and feature-length movie!

Schoolyard foibles, weird creatures, and katana-swinging action abound in this new manga series by Ranmaru Kotone, based on the hit Blood-C anime and infused with CLAMP’s original concept and characters! 

Makes me want to find the stuff this manga is based on, more than it makes me want to read this….

SPOILERS

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…for good reason. There’s nothing WRONG with Blood-C, per se.  It’s just not hugely original.

Our heroine, Saya Kisaragi is a very earnest, easily-distractible young woman living in a small, unremarkable town.  Her classmates have one goal: to get out.  Saya, however, likes her tiny town, probably because she’s been entrusted with a sacred katana that can slay the ancient ones, who get called at one point, “people eaters.”

The first volume mostly sets up the Scooby Gang (there’s the equally earnest boy whose advances Saya is oblivious too, the broody dark-haired boy, the bubbly twins, and the worldly older sister type, as well as a very skeevy, voluptuous teacher lady who also puts the moves on Saya.) We see a little demon slaying, but the big monster mystery/crisis only begins at the very end of chapter 4, the final chapter in the volume.

For me, there just wasn’t enough there there.  To be fair, I have read nothing else in this universe, so maybe this is one of those things that would feel different if I had.

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Would I recommend it?  Probably only to fans of the rest of the franchise.  This one is going into our little free library, alas.

Pandora’s Heart (vols. 1 – 24) by Jun Mochizuki

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I’ve been absent from reviews for a while because I was reading… I read all 24 volumes of Pandora Hearts.  What is Pandora Hearts…?  Well, I described it thusly, when I was only a couple of volumes into it: “Pandora Hearts by Jun Mochizuki is about… huh, how do I describe this thing? There’s a rich/tragic little lordling named Oz, who gets caught up in a supernatural adventure, probably because he’s the key to some mystery involving “the Abyss,” and ends up in a contract with a devil.”

I’d say that’s fair. At least as an introduction…

SPOILERS

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…now, for the rest of it.

I kind of liked the beginning of this series.  The set-up is neat. After being tossed into the Abyss for the crime of “being born,” Oz ends up making an ‘illegal’ contract with Alice, a “chain.” Chains are basically Abyss demons with superpowers. Alice uses the power of B. Rabbit (a giant, scary, scythe welding black rabbit) to spit them back into the Human World… only the Abyss is a little like fairyland. For you, you might think you spent ten minutes in the Abyss, but years might pass in the Human World.  So, Oz is actually reunited with his valet, only to discover that Gil has gone from being a wimpy little kid to  a grown-up, gun-totting hottie.

Gil has also joined a secret demon hunting society called Pandora.  Oz and Alice get roped into helping hunt down various paranormal criminals–mostly other people with illegal contracts.  Why exactly anyone needs to hunt very hard is a little iffy, since they all have this giant tattoo on their chests, counting down the time left on the contract, until they and their Chain are dragged down to the deepest pits of the Abyss.  Problem kind of solves itself, no? Well, I mean, I guess the point of stopping them early is because most Chains seem hellbent on destruction, murder, and mayhem.

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Ostensibly the trio is also searching for Alice’s memories, which got shredded at some point.

But, not one of them remembers anything, really.

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What am I forgetting?  Oh, right…. LITERALLY EVERYTHING!

In fact, they’ve–all three of them–forgotten major sh*t. REALLY, INCREDIBLY MAJOR SH*T.

And the characters who have been around for a couple of hundred years, who later seem to have been damn well aware of a good portion of this major sh*t, conveniently chose not to say anything more than a few coy, existential hints.  “Where are you, Oz?” (Where is he? That’s what you’re gonna ask, Xerxes Break??  HOW ABOUT WHAT THE F*CK EVEN ARE YOU, OZ??)

A lot of the mysteries are cloaked in a veneer of tragedy.  Why does Oz’s father despise him so much, when clearly little Oz just needs a cuddle?  Is Gil’s brother, Vincent, a rape-y sociopath or just in desperate need of a hug? Why does Alice understand loneliness so well (would bite-y kisses help)? What is the mystery of the eternally reincarnating Jack and Glen, could all this immortal animosity just be hugged out???!!?  HOW ABOUT A TEA PARTY? I HEAR TEA PARTIES HELP!

Look, I’m an a$$hole, okay? I just never really warmed to any of the characters, despite my extremely determined efforts. This came highly recommended; it’s extremely well-received on Goodreads. Clearly, I am a heartless anomaly with zero taste in manga.

In fact, I’ve been trying to figure out what is wrong with me. All day, since I finished this, I’ve been wondering why I had such a profound ‘meh’ reaction to so much of Pandora Hearts.

I mean, I was certainly engaged enough to keep reading volume after volume after volume.

So what happened?

I do know that I suffered a bit of attachment disorder. The lives of fated-for-great-things aristocrats does nothing for me. The only poor person in this entire series turns out to be the Big Bad–a really twisted Stalker-y Non-Love Masquerading as Love-Becomes-World-Ending-Obsession kind of Big Bad. Even the devoted servants turn out to be Lost Princes with a Special Destiny–both of them. That’s just a tough sell for me, personally.  Everyone looks lovely dripping in jewels, but, for reasons entirely my own, I’m just not there for them.

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Except this guy. If only he hadn’t been so, so STRAIGHT…. *sigh*

I ended up semi-attached to Gil (gun-toting hottie manservant, which is good because he’s kind of a surrogate main character), but, ultimately, I find servant/master devotion that goes beyond the grave to be… not something I can relate to?

This is where I started to wonder if I was just not enough of a Romantic (yes, I capitalized that intentionally,) for this series, because normally, as a hardcore shounen fan, I’m all about the Precious Friends Forever.

And, these guys have GREAT hair.

Seriously good hair.

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That braid goes past his butt, friends! 

I will say, too, in the plus column, that I feel that Mochizuki-sensei is a good writer, in that, for the most part, all the big reveals were well foreshadowed. I didn’t get the sense that she was scrambling for an ending or dropping outlandish plot twists just for the shock value or to make the sales numbers climb.

The plot was convoluted af (especially the stuff around the Intention of the Abyss), but it all felt earned, if that makes sense.

This did NOT suck. Nowhere near.  I just… didn’t love it.  Which, it maybe ironic, given how important love is to the plot.

I think, ultimately, it just wasn’t my cup of tea despite all the apparently delicious cups of tea contained therein.

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Would I recommend it to you?

Actually? I would.

I suspect my problem with rich characters is some kind of pathology, and that the majority of manga readers / human beings out there do not share it.  I just never had princess fantasies as a girl. Nor did I want to be the prince. The one I wanted to be was the rough-and-tumble rogue: Han Solo, all the way, baby!   This story lacks Han Solos. That’s not the mangaka’s fault, she wanted all the princes.  That’s not a matter of good vs. bad; that’s a matter of taste.  (And there’s no accounting for taste. I like rough-and-tumble so much that I watched that whole Girl vs. Boy anime and secretly enjoyed every minute of it.)

Thing is, I can acknowledge that this did not suit my tastes, but it was still a fine story.

Pandora Hearts has interesting characters and ends well (which is more than I can say for my once-beloved Bleach).