Karin / Chibi Vampire (Volume 1) by Kagesaki Yuna

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My library has a “bookstore” where you can buy the books that have been donated to the library and/or which the library is weeding out of its collection for various reasons.  I sometimes find manga there, but only rarely.  Last time I went, they had an entire book cart FULL of manga for sale. Did I mention the price?  25 cents a piece (5 for a dollar)!!

How could I resist?  Of course, I ended up walking out with an armload. I mean, at those prices even the dudiliest duds are worthwhile.

Thus, I picked up every copy of Bleach they had (for reasons), and any title that had a first volume.  Among those random titles was this one, Karin / Chibi Vampire. 

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Karin, as she says in the panel above, is an abnormal vampire.  Once a month, she gets an excess of blood that she ends up expelling… violently–usually in the form of an explosive nosebleed.  (The Japanese mangaka and their nosebleeds, eh? I swear to all the gods, that if I ever go to Japan and high schoolers aren’t having spontaneous nosebleeds 24/7, I am going to be SORELY DISAPPOINTED.)

The plot of the first volume centers around that other perennial favorite, The Transfer Student (Kenta Usui).  For some reason, whenever Karin is close to Kenta, her body goes into blood production overtime.  This is a problem for a number of reasons, but not the least of which is that she’s trying to keep her identity as a vampire a secret from her classmates.

Except Kenta sees her in the park, after school, where she bites a sad sack salaryman, and he mistakenly thinks she’s prostituting herself. Hilarity ensues.

It’s unclear at this point in the story why it is that Karin, unlike the rest of her family, can go out during the day, but she can and so she’s been not only attending high school, but also keeping a part-time job at the local market… where Kenta also ends up employed.

Karin’s initial solution to the Kenta problem is to avoid him, so she basically quits going to school or work.  This distresses her family for some reason (they are VERY KEEN that she go to school, even though none of the rest of them can.)  Her older brother is deployed to teach her the proper ways of survival.

I kind of like the slutty older brother, Ren. He prefers spending his days in women’s beds, drinking their blood. But we find out something interesting in the outing with onii-chan:  vampires prefer certain types of blood.  Their mother loves the blood of liars.  Ren wants the blood of the stressed-out–and, it turns out, the more of their blood he drinks, the more relaxed they become.

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By extension, this means that if Karin’s mom drinks the blood of liars, they become more honest.

This is kind of a neat idea, IMHO.

If I come across others of these, I may read them, if only because I’m curious to know how much this idea gets explored.

The only caveat I have in recommending this series is the fan service. There isn’t a HUGE amount of it, but we get some panty shots and whatnot.  Ah, shounen.

The art is also… old? It was originally published in 2003.

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Cat Paradise / Gakuen Sousei Nekoten! (Vol. 1) by Iwahara Yuji

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Long time reader and commenter here on MangaKast, AuntyA, has suggested that she thinks my library must be magical.

I have to agree that it is pretty amazing the number and variety of manga I have checked-out from Ramsey County Library.  In fact, just last week, I picked up this–one I’d never see there before:  Gakuen Sōsei Nekoten! / Cat Paradise.  (I was also able to snag a half-dozen random first volumes of manga they were weeding out of the collection in their Friends of the Library sale, so you’re going to see some odd titles come through here in the next several weeks.)

The back cover copy of Cat Paradise reads:

At Matabi Academy, students are allowed to bring their pet cats to the dorms. For Yumi Hayakawa, whose favorite hobby is making clothes for her kitty Kansuke, Matabi seems like a sure bet. After all, nothing can possibly go wrong with her best friend at her side! But on the first day of school, the two find themselves face-to-face with a murderous demonic minion on campus! Will Yumi and Kansuke be able to defend themselves and their school against an ancient cat demon’s thirst for vengeance?

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Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

There were several things I liked about this story, though.  At the beginning of the manga, Yumi talks to her cat, Kansuke, and he talks back, but it becomes clear very quickly that Yumi doesn’t understand him.  It’s cute, because it goes against expectation (even though they are able to understand each other later, thanks to a magical encounter with a pair of guardian spirits.)

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There’s, of course, a whole cadre of special students, who have gained the ability to not only talk to their cats, but to have some kind of companion powers with them.  (Kansuke develops the ability to jump into Yumi’s ugly knitted sweaters and become human temporarily.) All the special students have been chosen by the guardian spirit because, buried deep under campus, is a bound evil cat spirit that they are one day expecting to have to fight.

Surprise, surprise, the time is now.

The evil cat spirit’s minion shows up and causes trouble (later possessing the body of the vice-principal).  I found the design of the minion to be creepy-cool:

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He loves his hair, which is, we discover, the hair of severed human heads he wears.

 

I actually found a couple other volumes of this at the Friends’ sale, so I may continue to read this.  I’m not super sold on this (I mean, it’s got action, but nothing about this set-up stands out to me particularly), but it’s complete at five volumes, which has a certain appeal.  Plus, I’m enough of a straight-up shounen fan that I find an easy sort of pleasure in finding out what the superpower cat & human combos are of the various members of the student council (our secret cabal of guardians.)

And, you know, I like cats.

I mean, my heartstrings were pulled when I found out the reason that Kansuke fights so hard to protect Yumi:

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She saved the kitty from getting run over… *sniff* What? You’re crying, I’m not crying.

Ao no Exorcist / Blue Exorcist (Chapters 94-95) by Katou Kazue

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Some of my longtime readers may remember my complete freak out over Weekly Shounen Jump‘s handling of the ending of Bleach.

To say that I was furious was probably an understatement. White hot burning suns may have been involved. I kind of lost my mind and went to Twitter in July of 2016 and took WSJ to task. I tagged them in tweet after tweet after tweet where I asked them what was the point of my subscription when pirate sites were two weeks AHEAD of their official English-language digital-only production and they wouldn’t even translate all the material, like a runner explaining the Bleach was ending in a matter of weeks.  I blasted them over and over and over and…

You get the point.

My best moment might have been:

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And then I promptly cancelled my subscription.

Well….despite the distinct lack of likes, comments, or re-tweets, WSJ might actually have been listening to me.

On a whim today, I decided to renew my subscription.

Listen, the thing is, I like officially supporting my mangaka, and I’m mostly over my saltiness over how WSJ handled the ending of Bleach (notice that I did NOT say I was over my feelings about the ENDING of Bleach.)  Frankly, they publish good stuff. Some of my current shounen favorites are WSJ products: My Hero Academia, Haikyu!, and, of course, Blue Exorcist.

Thus resolved, I paid my money and downloaded the most recent issue.  In it, I see Blue Exorcist: Chapter 97 “Beyond the Snow: Part 6.”  And, I’m, like, wait. The last chapter I reviewed here was Chapter 93!  I went to my usual sources for scans because, in the past, the other problem with WSJ was that it was always AT LEAST a week behind the pirates, and I thought, “Sh*t, they must have scanned up to 98 by now!”

Except they haven’t.  I can only find up to chapter 95: “Beyond the Snow: Part 4”

There’s an actual value to my subscription again, because I’ve now read up to chapter 97…. which leads me to a new conundrum.

What do I review here?  Obviously, the current WSJ is out. I own it. In my capacity as a reviewer, I can talk about all of it.  In fact, it actualy behooves WSJ for me to post pictures and teasers and tell you all about the upcoming chapters, because it could (and, if I do my job right, it SHOULD) prompt you to run out and buy a subscription for yourself.

HOWEVER.  I kind of feel like the average fan of Blue Exorcist / Ao no Exorcist is doing one of two things: reading chapters as they hit the pirate sites OR buying the official tankōbon as they come off the presses.

Also, depending where you are, Weekly Shounen Jump (English) might not be available for you. So, encouraging people to buy a subscription is fine, but there are a lot of English readers of these manga who don’t actually have a valid way to pay to play, as it were.

More to the point, I don’t imagine that this is the site that people go to for information they can’t get elsewhere. I suspect (and again, HOPE,) that what you’re tuning into is my take on what you’re also reading.  A shared community of fannishness, if you will. That’s why most of my reviews on chapters like this start: “[manga title] chapter [#] is out. Go read it. I’ll wait.”

I’m waiting to share with you.

But now I have potentially valuable information, too.

Thus, the conundrum.

So, what do you, my readers, think I should do?

While I wait for the answer, I’ll at least let you know what I think of the two widely available chapters 94 &95:

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We open the chapter with the arrested Lewin Light, being his usual weirdo self. He’s super happy at being treated like a criminal by Redarm and the rest of the Exorcists.

Light’s excitement over his predicament is hampered by the fact that demons are spawning everywhere and Redarm is leaving him in order to take command of the exorcist troops… Light seems especially distressed to discover that the Paladin has gone to guard the “artificial Gehenna Gate” which is apparently being attacked by a… yeti?

Um? Yeti are yokai now? …. Okay.

ANY-way, back to the story. Light brings up the Mephisto‘s barrier of the Hellmouth Gate is set to expire soon, which seems kind of unrelated, except, Light gets very cryptic about all this and COULD NOT LOOK MORE SUSPICIOUS when he says, “I hope nothing unexpected happens.”

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[In Godfather voice] “Sure would be a shame if something was to happen to ya boy.”

Because, sure enough, something totally unexpected happens to Mephisto.

After talking the prime minister into revealing the existence of demons, Mephisto goes on TV to field questions at a press conference.  Only, Yukio has followed him with the intention of confronting him about what he learned about his past from the files Bon sent him. This does not… go well.

In fact, instead of answering Yukio’s burning question (see what I did there? Do you? ‘Cuz of his eye!  Get it? Get it?), Mephisto has one of the best lines ever: “Sorry! I simply don’t have the time to accompany children on journeys of self-discovery!”

I mean, I get why someone would want to shoot Mephisto in the head after that remark.

But, it wasn’t Yukio that did it, despite the fact that he clearly had his gun trained on him. Boob Lady is right. The angle is all wrong.

ao-no-exorcist-10009915.jpgBut, that doesn’t stop the authorities from grabbing the wrong guy. Yukio is forced to the floor and dragged from the scene.

Rin, meanwhile, has been racing to try to find his younger brother, having overhead from Bon that Yukio has gone off the rails.  He arrives too late, but Boob Lady gives him some important information:

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Can I just say? I love how this is drawn. The silent exchange, the desolation of the Rin outside of the van with the snow falling… the two panels of the extreme close-ups on their eyes: one shocked the other… pitying?

LOVELY.

Meanwhile, just as Light suggested, something unexpected happened. Mephisto’s body has grown too weak to keep himself alive AND hold the gate, so, being a demon and selfish (no shade!), he choses to focus on his own survival and literally lets loose Hell.

Rin, who was told explicitly by Boob Lady to go home and lay low, bursts back into the True Cross Academy and exclaims that he’s going to mount a rescue.

When the curtain falls on these two chapters, that’s exactly what he’s done. He blows up Yukio’s cell with a “I’m here to rescue you!”

The question is, will Yukio appreciate his onii-chan efforts or not?

Of course, I now know the answer, but for now, I won’t say.

What about you? If you’re reading this, what did you think? Also, don’t forget to let me know if you want information from the Jump chapters or not.

Min’na, Arigatō !

Bad Police by Saruwatari Tetsuya

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Apparently, 2018 is the year Lyda reads all the blood-spatter manga. I was hunting around for something new and, I’m sorry, but how was I supposed to resist anything with the title: Bad Police?

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Visually, this manga looks so much like Akira that I wondered if the mangaka was in some way associated with its production.  As far as I can tell (please correct me if you know otherwise), Bad Cop is just a product of its time (1985) and a terrible, if deliberate homage/pastiche.

But, I mean, look at this bōsōzoku b*st*rd:

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This is “Hyena” a former biker gang member turned police officer. He’s not big on the rules, in fact, his favorite pastime seems to be exploding people’s…oh, sorry, criminal’s faces (who totally don’t need the benefit of due process–nope, not even when you’re a kind-hearted, possibly mentally deficient guy who is clearly being manipulated by an evil older brother) with his giant, extremely manly gun.

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You thought I was being sly?  No, sometimes a gun really is a metaphor for the size of one’s penis.

Was this entertaining?  Eh, only as a period piece. I can’t actually recommend it, unless you’re just genuinely curious how “Hyena” ends up naked with a gun between his legs (spoiler: man manliness.)

To be fair, Bad Police has a certain kind of Kenpachi appeal.

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Text reads: VIOLENCE: if it’s not solving all your problems, you simply aren’t using enough of it.

There are actually two other stories in this collection, one about a bomber who gets a cybernetic arm (cleverly titled “Bomber”), and another about a tough-as-nails woman, who also likes to drink hard and blow people’s brains out (“Artemis”).

I mean, it’s short. If you can handle a lot of gore, it’s probably mildly amusing enough to be worth the twenty minutes it will take you to read the whole thing.

Besides, learning that violence is always the answer, there’s this life lesson to be learned from Bad Police: remember, kids, if you get shot over twenty times, it helps to be the hero of an action manga with a lot of “will.”

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My Hero Academia (Vol. 10) by Kohei Horikoshi

I finally got my copy of My Hero Academia / Boku no Hero Academia volume 10, “All For One” / “Ōru Fō Wan” from the library. (I was on the waiting list!)

However, I’ve linked to MangaReader above, which has scanlated up to chapter 162 at the time of this review. Volume 10 takes us to chapter 89, plus a side story about the frog girl.

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Maybe I’m in a bad mood, but this volume didn’t do much for me.

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I’ve been enjoying My Hero Academia / Boku no Hero Academia up to this volume, so I think my frustration has to do with the fact that I’m not sure we’re going to get what I want out of the villains, now that All For One has shown up.

As much as I like All-Might, I’m not terribly interested in the backstory of his superpowers.  I know. I’m a terrible fan.  I like All-Might a lot, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t care overly much how his powers came to exist, and I have a feeling that’s the direction we’re veering.

I am sort of intrigued by Tomura Shigaraki, the guy with the disembodied hands, and I really liked the twist of The League of Villains kidnapping Katsuki Bakugo potently to try to turn him to villainy. But, that’s probably because I’m most interested in what, in the world of My Hero Academia, makes someone a villain as opposed to a hero, you know?  Having read much of Vigilantes, I’m fairly certain that line is pretty darn thin.

So, I dunno. I’m going to chalk up my ‘meh’ reaction to this volume on the weather and the fact that it’s probably mostly lead-up to the bigger story arc to follow.

 

 

 

 

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….

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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.

Yotsuba&! / Yotsuba to! (Volumes 1 &2) by Kiyohiko Azuma

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I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking: “Lyda, where is the porn? We depend on you for all the yaoi porn. Why are you reading this sappy drivel???!!”

I don’t know. My only excuse is that I’ve READ all the yaoi my library has and I had another very sloooooow shift at Maplewood when I picked up Yotsuba&! / Yotsuba to!.

When I hunted around on the shelves, I saw a bunch of other things that I could read–like Hellsing, should I read Hellsing? But, for whatever reason (*cough*Trump*cough*), I have lately gravitated towards simple, sappy, slice-of-life stories about absolutely NOTHING.

Because I’ve read a bunch in a row, I’ve been thinking about slice-of-life for awhile now.

I know why it appeals to me, as a Western reader.  For me, obviously, so much of daily life in Japan is mysterious, foreign.  Just going to the grocery store is kind of an adventure.  I’m not at all familiar with how grocery stores in Japan are laid out, what you can find there, etc., etc.  Because it’s all new to me, all the mundane things have a subtle sort of inherent drama, like the kind of excitement that travel to another country brings.

What do you suppose the appeal is in Japan?

I’ve been wondering how these would read if they were American.  Like, is part of the appeal the ‘wholesomeness’ of these adventures?

Yotsuba is an odd, enthusiastic five year old girl, who is terrible at drawing and invites herself over to her neighbor’s apartment.  The family in Yotsuba&! do the sorts of things you see a lot of in anime and manga, particularly in these kind of slower paced, slice-of-life oriented stories, like a cicada hunt on the wooded grounds of a local shrine. Bug hunting is a thing, apparently.  But, summer bug hunting seems to be somewhat more associated with “life in the country.” So, then, what would that even be in an American story?  What’s the analog? Going fishing at a creek?

When I think about it that way, it all suddenly seems so very… Mayberry.

Which makes me wonder, are there essential Japanese values that are being promoted in these manga?  Especially since there is a tendency in these stories that involve young kids, to have little life lessons about being polite, expected behavior, etc.

….

WTF. Am I reading Japanese propaganda?

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Despite the sinister specter cast by the fact that I might be captivated by what is probably some kind of “conservative/traditional blueprint for the perfect Japanese lifestyle as determined by The Powers That Be/magazine publishers,” I enjoyed Yotsuba&! / Yotsuba to!.

I mean, maybe I’m overthinking this. Maybe the appeal to the Japanese audience is similar to the stories we have here in America about the young professional who goes to live in New York. That’s very much an equivalent, I think. There are life lessons learned along the way… I mean, outside of the fact that maybe part of why this feels a tiny bit more like propaganda is that Yotsuba is shounen.

That’s right, this story about a young five year old girl was marketed to the same boys who read Bleach and Naruto….

Mmmm, back to my propaganda theory then.

ANYWAY. Even though I picked up the first two volumes on a lark, I went ahead and requested volume 3 because there is a tiny bit of a mystery going on about who Yotsuba is.

Normally, in manga, because of the way they’re drawn, you can’t easily tell the “foreigners” from the natives until someone tells you.  There’s at least one scene, early on, in the first tankōbon, in which one of Yotsuba’s new neighbors see her in the playground, seemingly baffled by how swings work.  The neighbor thinks, “Is she just weird or is she foreign?”

A lot is made of Yotsuba’s “weirdness,” even her own father describes Yotsuba as weird when asked for a description of her when she goes missing.

This, by the way, is a very curious moment, since, despite the fact that they are clearly in an urban space, dad is super not worried that she, a five year-old, has wandered off, and keeps insisting to the worried adults around him that “she’ll turn back up. She always does.” This, and the later cicada hunt, made me think that Yotsuba and her family are from the country. Especially since the urban adults were all ??? about her being missing and a lot more worried about it, and no one in the urban group had ever been bug hunting before.

So, I started to think that Yotsuba was just “not from around here” which is a different kind of foreign.

Until.

Until we find out that Yotsuba is an orphan.  Not just a girl being raised by a widower, but an ORPHAN.  Dad adopted Yotsuba… wait for it…. “on his travels.”  Dad is a translator for a living, so apparently this job takes him to the places where this other language (it’s sort of presumed by everyone around him, though it’s not explicitly stated, to be English) is spoken.

In an omake that is entirely from the point of view of the neighbors (a household of all women, which contrasts Yotsuba’s family which seems to be made of her father and his… best friend?… Jumbo, who is JUMBO, as in super tall), we hear them speculate that maybe Yotsuba was adopted in Hawaii, since all she has revealed about where they lived previously was ‘far away, very, very far….’ and ‘left’ (as in the direction).

It’s kind of amazing to imagine a single, young Japanese man just randomly picking up an American orphan and taking her home. I mean, maybe this happens? A quick Google search tells me that this does happen IRL, though most of the adoptees are black.

So, I’m kind of intrigued. I doubt it’s going to be revealed that Yotsuba’s dad is a kidnapper, but I’m curious about how the story of Yotsuba’s adoption is going to be played out. There’s always this assumption that slice-of-life stories attempt to be as realistic as possible (I mean, there are supranational slice-of-life, so…), but there’s often this blindspot when it comes to Western culture/practices.  If she is American, I’m curious if that’s also why Yotsuba, at five, seems to have a lot more trouble pronouncing things and seems to know fewer words than, say, the young girl of approximately the same age in Sweetness & Lightning….

I might just keep reading this for the amusement of reading about how someone of my “ethnicity” is portrayed in a manga.

Porn soon, I promise.