Thursday, February 27, 2020

Citrus+ volume 1 is actually really good (Manga Review)

Two teen girls in love, holding hands
Citrus+ vol. 1 - 7.5/10 (*see full scoring rubric below)

Much to my surprise, I really liked Citrus+ volume 1 (Seven Seas). It's got all the good parts of the original series, Citrus, with none of the exploitative parts. I was more than pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed reading it.

For those who somehow missed the original series, Citrus, Yuzu's mom marries Mei's dad and the two become step sisters. Yuzu is rambunctious and loud-mouthed and full of joy and Mei is serious, reserved, the president of the school council, and hell-bent on taking over for her grandfather as the chairman of the company (and their school). Naturally, these two step-sisters fall in love with each other and (SPOILER) the original series ends with them coming out to their family and getting the grandfather's blessing for their relationship and "engagement" (which is actually sort of an amazing sequence for a manga).

All that is wonderful plot, and the growing affections between them, and the cuteness that follows when they finally get together make Citrus worth reading. However, it's also an extremely salacious series with way too much fan service. There were also some very questionable and manipulative side characters, particularly Matsuri, and lots of overly dramatic plot created by her and other sketchy characters. But I found myself so liking Yuzu and Mei that I tolerated the rest of what was a very problematic series overall. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Kase-san and Yamada volume 1 is sure to please (Manga Review)

Two college girls with their arms around each other on a background of flowers
Kase-san and Yamada vol. 1 - 8.5/10 (* see below for full scoring rubric)

Do you like kind, sweet, yuri? Did you like the Kase-san series? Did you wait with baited breath for the Kase-san OVA? Then you'll be happy to know that Kase-san and Yamada volume 1 (Seven Seas) continues in just the same sweet and rewarding fashion.

I for one really liked the prior series and so I was bound to like this too. What's nice, and what I'm excited about as this series continues, is that it is set in college. It's rare enough to have a manga set in college, rarer still for it to be a quality yuri manga, and even more rare to get a series that follows characters long enough to see them grow and change from adolescents into adults. Kase-san and Yamada is poised to cover all that. Will we even get to see them as post-grad adults some day? (yes, I'm already planning their wedding and raising kids, etc...)

In the first half of the volume, Yamada makes a friend at her horticulture school. She's invited to attend a group date and decides to go in order to strengthen her new friendship. As she's telling Kase-san about it, Kase lets her know that she's going on a sports trip during the week. Yamada also hears Kase-san's new roommate in the background. Getting jealous, Yamada insists on going on the group date over Kase-san's objections.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow volume 2 - is it teasing me? (Manga Review)

Two school girls, surrounded by fish. One smiling, one concerned
A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow vol. 2 - 6/10

A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow vol. 2 (Viz) has the same cute insignificance as its prior volume, but because volume 2 doesn't go anywhere or develop anything, it feels more like I'm being teased than getting any real relationship development out of the characters. I'm not sure I really know what type of yuri series this is yet.

Background: Konatsu has moved to a small rural town and entered school where she meets Koyuki the head of the aquarium club. I think they're middle schoolers, and I'm going to treat it as such, because that's how they look and are presented emotionally. Koyuki is a loner without friends but talks to Konatsu. They become friends and Konatsu even joins the aquarium club. 

Before discussing volume 2 specifically, I feel the need to take a segue and talk about some of the different types of yuri manga and manga about lesbian relationships.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Missed it Monday - The Water Dragon's Bride volume 1 (Manga Review)

a young girl with red hair and a blue dress smiles in front of a handsome god in a field of water
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime that I didn't read/watch when they first came out.

The Water Dragon's Bride vol. 1 - 3.5/10

This will be a short review. I thought The Water Dragon's Bride (Shojo Beat/Viz) might be a cute/romantic story of a god and a young woman falling in love. Maybe it will become that over time, but I will not be reading past volume 1. Between bland art, bland writing, bland characters, gratuitous violence against a child, and the setup being about a young girl (and not a young woman) and the god, I'm just not going to waste more money on this series.

Asahi is written like an elementary school-age child (I did not know she was so young when I bought this volume), but I don't know her age for sure. She is transported to another world where she meets Subaru, a young boy, also probably elementary school age. Subaru lives in a time-period reminiscent of something from a few hundred years ago, maybe middle-ages-ish. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Ao Haru Ride volume 9 - Kou's really botched it now (Manga Review)

Teen boy on the cover with his shirt collar open and tie loose
Ao Haru Ride vol. 9 - 8.5/10

Ah Kou, silly silly Kou. JUST TELL HER YOU LIKE HER YOU IDIOT!!!!!! Should really have been the title of this entire series: Ao Haru Ride.

But in all seriousness, Ao Haru Ride Volume 9 (Shojo Beat/Viz) is the next step in the slow burn will-they/won't-they story of Kou and Futaba, two teens who just can't get their timing right. And with this volume, it looks like Kou may not get the chance again.

At the end of volume 8, Kou hugs Futaba at the shrine where they had met in middle school. He's still not being completely clear with her and she pushes him away. So when volume 9 opens the next day, she's quite visibly, and comedically, angry at him for constantly confusing her.

The art in that one panel alone is hysterical, but I also love that the author allows Futaba to be a blunt person and actually say what she's feeling to Kou, that she's mad. Futaba has never been the delicate flower, and I think the balance of her outgoing, expressiveness mixed with her introspective qualities makes her one of the great manga heroines. She's just written much more like a real, complete person, rather than an object of adoration.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Missed It Monday - Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty volume 4 (Manga Review)

Two male teens and a female team holding hands walking through falling purple roses
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime I didn't read/watch when they first came out.

Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty vol. 4 - 8/10 (*see below for full scoring rubric)

"Wake Up, Sleeping Beauty" volume 4 (Kodansha Comics) is my favorite so far in what has been a surprisingly solid series. This volume gives you everything you might want: great art, an amazing "moment" or two, a solid cliffhanger into the next volume, and some real momentum to the story. If you've liked the series to this point, you won't be disappointed in this volume (particularly after a slightly lame 3rd volume - too much Tetsu and soccer in that one!)

Backstory: Shizu is possessed by ghosts. The current ones are benevolent and they keep other ones out of her when they can. In exchange, more or less, they get to have some time living using Shizu's body. Her father is away on business, but clearly runs the family and has insisted that his wife, Shizu's mother, keep her locked in the house and away from society.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Throwback Thursday - Tokyo Tarareba Girls volume 1 (Manga Review)

Three women in front of imagery of Tokyo
Throwback Thursday is a riff on my column Missed It Monday where I review manga/anime that I didn't read/watch when they first came out. Nothing new came out last week for me to review this week, so I'm starting a series I missed when it was released in English in 2018: Tokyo Tarareba Girls.

Tokyo Tarareba Girls vol. 1 - 7.5/10 (*see scoring rubric at the end)

I'm so excited to finally be reading Tokyo Tarareba Girls (Kodansha Comics). Akiko Higashimura is a wonderful mangaka and I've loved both Princess Jellyfish and Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist's Journey (her auto-biographical manga). I'm pleased to say that volume 1 of Tokyo Tarareba Girls gets off to a very strong start that is reminiscent of all that I've loved about her other series.

In volume 1, we meet Rinko, a young woman in her early thirties. She's a screenwriter for web series and other small productions. She's also single and very aware of that fact. We are also introduced to her two single female friends. The three spend their time drinking, complaining about being single, and supporting each other emotionally.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Missed It Monday - Love at Fourteen volume 5 (Manga Review)

Two middle school students in uniforms look up surrounded by fall leaves
Missed it Monday is the ongoing column where I review manga/anime that I didn't read/watch when they first came out.

Love at Fourteen vol. 5 - 5.5/10 (*see below for full scoring rubric)

I know you are all tired of hearing me rant about child/adult relationships in manga/anime. But sadly, there are a lot of them in many of the series I'm reading (which I didn't know at first). Rest assured I'm starting some other series soon so hopefully we'll have other stuff to talk about.

With that in mind, Love at Fourteen vol. 5 (Yen Press) gives us more great stories with our lead young couple, but also gives us one adult pursuing a child and four children crushing on adults. It's that focus on adult/child relationships that drives the score so low on this volume. Thankfully none are explicit, they are mostly crushes from a distance, otherwise the score would be lower.

Before we talk about the bad stuff, let's talk about what this volume does right.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Hatsu*Haru volume 10 is fine, fun even, so that's all this series is going to be from now on then? (Manga Review)

A high-school girl jumps into a highschool boys arms with flowers in the background
Hatsu*Haru vol. 10 - 7/10* (see full scoring rubric below)

When Hatsu*Haru first hit, the initial couple volumes were really strong. Kai was relatively complex as hot-stuff teen boys go. Takanashi was cute, feisty, ass-kicking, and clueless about love (ie the perfect shoujo heroine). AND they were long-time frenemies so you KNEW they would end up together after a whole bunch of complex hi-jinks and almost kisses - which was exactly what the series did!

But then, it suffered what nearly every rom-com in the history of rom-coms has suffered: what to do once they do get together? And so Hatsu*Haru volume 10 (Yen Press) continues with their relationship (and a strong focus on another pair of friends who might become a couple) in fine, but by-the-books, manner. They're still cute together, it's still fun, at least everyone in the series is exceedingly kind to each other (something I LOVE about this series). But it isn't super special as a series anymore. It's still above average, for sure, and I'll gladly keep reading it. But it's just doing its nice thing now.