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Preview: Hobotaku - Manga Reviews For the Disenfranchised!

Hobotaku - Manga Reviews For the Disenfranchised!



Do you find yourself missing out on a social life, because you spend all your time in Barnes & Noble, crouched in front of a shelf reading manga? We're here to help. We're Hobotaku!



Updated: 2015-09-17T03:04:36.805-05:00

 



Boys Over Flowers

2010-01-14T11:04:02.618-05:00

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Overall Rating: A+
Summary: A drama/romantic comedy shojo series created by Kamio Yoko. The TV series is a Korean adaptation of the Japanese manga. The story revolves around Geum Jan Di, a high school girl who works in her family's dry cleaning shop and a fast-food restaurant. The story begins when Jan Di delivers some dry cleaning to the ridiculously posh and exclusive Shinhwa High School. Only the richest and most talented kids are granted admission to Shinwa, and they don't even have to go to class if they don't feel like it. When Jan Di gets there she discovers that the young man whose clothes she's delivering is about to commit suicide. Apparently, he has been getting bullied because the F4 (or Four Flowers) decided they didn't like him.

Jan Di saves the boy before he can commit suicide, and her actions soon become public knowledge, and expose the bullying. The public demands changes at the school, Jan Di becomes known as "Wonder Woman". In order to appease the public, Jan Di is offered a chance to go to Shinwa on a swimming scholarship. Jan Di declines, but her family agrees for her, so our adventure begins!

On the first day of school, Jan Di meets the infamous Four Flowers. They are the most beautiful, popular, rich and powerful boys in the school - Goo Jun Pyo (the leader), Yoon Ji Hoo (the sweet one who plays violin), So Yi Jung (one of the playboys), and Song Woo Bin (another playboy). All of the other students clearly worship the Four Flowers, and try to give them presents and treats. Jan Di is enraged by the boys' behavior, and fantasizes about confronting Jun Pyo.

She finally gets up the courage to do it after he bullies her friend Oh Min Ji after she accidentally slips and drops some ice cream on her shoe. Jun Pyo demands she licks it off, and when Jan Di confronts him he offers to let her take Min Ji's place. Instead she pushes Jun Pyo over.

Jun Pyo declares war on Jan Di, and gets the school to bully her. Jan Di refuses to give in, despite the bullying and the rest of the Four Flowers begin to think she's "interesting". Ji Hoo is totally sweet and offers her a handkerchief when she's covered in flour, and protects her from some boys trying to hurt her. Is it love?

In the meantime, no one has ever stood up to Jun Pyo before. He interprets her actions as a demonstration of love, and begins to develop feelings for her as well.

Who will Jan Di end up with?


The beginning of "Boys Over Flowers" drags a little bit, but once things get going it's a lot of fun. I love stories where A) the main character is a woman, B) the woman stands up for herself, and C) there are pretty boys. I like all of the characters (even the mean girls), and I think they're do a really good job of developing the relationships (Jun Pyo and Jan Di are particularly hilarious). My only complaint is that I wish there were more female characters and that the women interacted more. Regardless, the series is proving to be a lot of fun, and if you like your high school romance/drama with a healthy side of comedy then I think you'll enjoy this one a lot.



What US Media Can Learn About Dynamic Female Characters From Manga

2010-01-07T15:51:22.828-05:00

Last week I came across this article on Jezebel titled "Memo To The Media: In 2010, Add More Dynamic Female Characters" buy Latoya Peterson, and I wanted to spend some time discussing it. The main concept of the article is that while manga has it's fair share of sexism and follows plenty of stereotypes it also has a lot more content for women and by women than you can easily find in mainstream US media.

I loved the article, and was really pleased to see that many of the manga the Latoya recommends are titles I haven't read yet. The one title I had read, Nana, is one of my absolute favorites. Does it portray women in romantic relationships with men? Yes, definitely. The main difference for me between Nana and US-based media representations of women is that it treats them like real people. They also pass the Bechdel test because the two main characters are women, they talk to each other, and they often talk about things other than men. A+

There are plenty of issues with manga and anime and their portrayal of gender (fan service being a prime example), but there is such an amazing variety of options it's easy to find titles that are women-centric, and deal with issues of gender in mature ways. I agree with Latoya's premise and wish that the US would create more material that is for women and by women that presents women as more than accessories, are from different walks of life, and don't have to be made-over to be beautiful.



Monster

2009-12-04T11:43:07.734-05:00

(image) Overall Rating: A+
Summary: A psychological/horror/detective seinen series created by Naoki Urasawa, which follows Dr. Kenzo Tenma. An incredibly skilled brain surgeon from Japan, Tenma seems to have it all. He is working at the Eisler Memorial Hospital in Düsseldorf, is up for a promotion, and is engaged to the director of the hospital's daughter, Eva. Unfortunately, the Director, Heinemann, consistently gives priority to high-profile patients at the cost of the lives of less important people. Tenma becomes increasingly unhappy with this arrangement, believing that his role should be to help those in the most need.

He gets his chance to stand up to his future father-in-law when twins Johan and Anna come to the hospital. Johan is suffering from a gunshot wound to the head, and Anna is clearly in shock only talking about "killing". Their parents are dead, and Tenma decides to operate on Johan even after the mayor of Düsseldorf is brougt in and he is ordered to work on him instead. Tenma saves the child, but the politician dies despite the efforts of other doctors. As a result, Tenma loses everything. He is no longer favored by Heinemann and Eva leaves him.

He confesses his frustration to the young boy, Johan, and soon thereafter, everyone in his way dies of poisoning. Johan and his sister have vanished, and Tenma is the primary suspect. Thus the 18 volume story of how a humanitarian act can cause a rash of serial murders, and Doctor Tenma's journey to find the killer begins.


I became a fan of Naoki Urasawa when I started reading "20th Century Boys", and have enjoyed his take on Osamu Tezuka's "Astro Boy", "Pluto". Now, I'm addicted to "Monster". I'm only three volumes in, but I can't wait to read more. I highly recommend this one.



Nabari No Ou

2009-12-01T01:27:44.498-05:00

(object) (embed) Overall Rating: B+
Summary: An action/comedy/drama/supernatural shōnen series (or superdramactedy for short), based on the manga written and illustrated by Yuhki Kamatani. The story follows Miharu Rokujou, an introverted kid with a devilish side, but who otherwise seems pretty normal. Out of the blue, his classmate Koichi Aizawa approaches him to join a Nindō club, which Miharu refuses.

However, the situation changes when Miharu is attacked by ninjas and is defended by Koichi. During the fight, Koichi defends Miharu and explains to him that there is a secret ninja world called Nabari, and that he is destined to be king. Miharu has the secret art Shinra Bansho written in his blood, and as a result he cannot return to his normal life.

Miharu learns that Koichi is a part of the Nabari world, as is one of his teachers (and advisor for the Nindō club), Tobari Durandal Kumohira. The other ninja of Nabari will stop at nothing to learn the Shinra Bansho, and so in order to survive Miharu must learn to use the power himself or get it out of him. Unfortunately, Miharu doesn't want to become a ninja and getting the Shinra Bansho out of him could kill him.


The set-up may sound kind of crazy (and it is at times), but this show plays the different elements of superdramactedy (yes, I made that word up, so what?) off each other well. The plot is interesting and the characters work well together. Throw in a dash of comedy to lighten things up a little and some good old fashioned ninja action and magic, and you have a winning combination.



Nana

2009-10-02T09:06:33.770-05:00

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Overall Rating: A+

Summary: A romance/drama/music shōjo series created by Ai Yazawa, and focuses on the lives of young women who are both named Nana. To top it off, they meet on a train when they are both moving to Tokyo and they're the same age (20)! That's where the similarities end. Nana Osaki is a singer in a punk band called Black Stones (or Blast) and is moving to Tokyo to become a star. Nana Komatsu is from a small town and is following her friends and boyfriend to Tokyo, but doesn't know what she wants to do with her life.

As the story progresses, we learn more about each Nana's past, and then their stories merge again when they both want to rent the same apartment and decide to move in together. Nana Osaki gives Nana Komatsu the nickname "Hachi" (after Hachikō), because her behavior is similar to a dog's, and it helps tell them apart (thanks!). Hachi also becomes good friends with the members of Nana's band, Nobuo, Yasu and the very young, and very promiscuous, Shin.

As the series progresses, Blast gains more and more popularity, but the romantic entanglements become more and more complicated. Nana O's ex-boyfriend (who left her to join the band Trapnest in Tokyo) returns, and the two bands become intertwined. Hachi's inclination to fall in love at first site gets her in trouble, and all the other characters have relationships that progress throughout the series.

I absolutely adore Nana. The anime is based on the manga and so far it has been completely faithful to the original series. The addition of the music really adds to the story, since in the manga you have to imagine it. Although it is typically categorized as shōjo, Nana has josei themes. For example, the relationships in Nana are not idealized (a common feature in shōjo), but are instead very realistic, which is one of the reasons I love the series. It's very easy to relate to all of the characters and get drawn in (though that can also be frustrating since they can make dumb decisions!). That said, it retains a lot of the comedy of shōjo-style manga, which helps offset the heavy emphasis on romance and drama. In short, it's one of my all-time favorite series, and I can't recommend the manga and anime enough. Be forewarned, there is minor nudity in the manga series (I haven't seen any in the anime yet), but nothing serious.



Genshiken 2

2009-09-12T17:30:08.100-05:00

Overall Rating: ASummary: Genshiken is a comedy/slice-of-life anime series based on the manga of the same name by Shimoku Kio. The story revolves around the lives of the members of Genshiken, a college club for otaku, and the adventures (and misadventures) associated with being otaku. The first volume of the anime (and the beginning of the manga) begins with the introduction of Kanji Sasahara, an introverted college freshman who is obsessed with anime and manga, but isn't comfortable with that aspect of his identity. On club day he decides to join Genshiken, a club that's only purpose is to enjoy the otaku lifestyle. He also meets Makoto Kousaka, a fellow freshman who is attractive, laid-back, and completely comfortable with his otakuness. The other club members are Harunobu Madarame, a hardcore otaku who spends all of his money on dōjinshi, Souichiro Tanaka, who is an expert cosplay designer and loves plastic models, and Mitsunori Kugayama, who is stuttering, overweight and an excellent artist. Soon after Sasahara's arrival, two female members join, Kanako Ohno, who loves cosplay and Saki Kusakabe who only joins because she's in love with Kousaka. However, over time Saki comes to be a true member of the club, and even tries cosplay. The first volume of the anime follows the group for roughly the first year of Sasahara's college life, and includes two new members joining a year later, Chika Ogiue, who is obsessed with yaoi and is embarressed about her otaku nature, and Manabu Kuchiki, who is loud and annoying and completely unashamed of his otakuness. The series follows the group as they travel to Comifes, hang out in the club room, and even go to the beach. At the beginning of the second season, the club has recently been accepted to participate as one of the dōjinshi vendors at Comifes, and Sasahara has become president of the club. Now they just have to complete the dōjinshi and get everything ready, but it's a lot harder than anyone realized. Genshiken is one of my favorite manga and anime. The anime series is incredibly faithful to the manga, and I'm so excited that they finally made a second season. The first season aired in 2004 and an OVA was made in 2006 and 2007, so it's been a long time in between everything. One of the reasons I love this series so much is that it gives a very realistic take on life as an otaku (or geek), and there just aren't enough of those. All of the characters are well-developed and I recognize a lot of the personalities of my friends in them. I can't wait for volume 2 of Genshiken 2 to come out, but unfortunately I have to wait until October 27th. I may have to reread the manga in the meantime. If you're a geek, and if you're not I have no idea why you're reading this, check out Genshiken (both the anime and the manga) now! You'll thank me.[...]



X-Men: Misfits

2009-09-03T22:46:43.431-05:00

(image) Overall Rating: A+

Summary: A superhero/romance shōjo series written by Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman (both of whom used to be regulars on Girlamatic with their comics Smile and Astronaut Elementary), and Illustrated by Anzu, which follows Kitty Pryde, a young high school girl who has the ability to phase through solid objects. In her public school, she suffers from the ridicule of her classmates, and alienation because she is a mutant. However, at the beginning of the manga, Kitty is invited to attend Professor Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters, a school for people like her, and her whole world changes.

For one thing, she is the only girl at the school. As you can guess in a high school full of boys this means she gets a lot of attention. They're also all mutants like her, so P.E. means practicing in the danger room, and science class discusses the differences in DNA between humans and mutants. As Kitty adjusts to life at Xavier's, she catches the eye of the Hellfire Club. Led by Angel, the club seems to have it all - money, looks, and they can get away with anything they want. Now, the Hellfire Club wants to add the only female student to their group as their mascot. It doesn't hurt that Kitty can't take her eyes off of Pyro, one of the club's hottest members, and he can't seem to take his eyes off of her either. Throw in cold-as-ice (pun intended) Bobby Drake, the intimidating but sweet Kurt Wagner, and the radical Scott Summers and you've got an exciting high school. Who will Kitty end up with? Is the Hellfire Club more dangerous than it appears? Just how adorable is Beast? You'll have to read the series to find out!

X-Men: Misfits is everything that is great about the X-men comics shōjo rolled into one manga series. I have been eagerly awaiting this one since it was announced more than a year ago, and it does not disappoint. I absolutely love the character designs for Beast and Colossus, Cyclops works perfectly as a vegan, and the Hellfire Club is essentially a host club like Ouran! Brilliant! Seriously though, if you enjoy either X-Men or shōjo (or both, like me) then do yourself a favor and pick this one up. I can't wait to pick up volume 2, but unfortunately there is no release date information yet. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an Angel costume to go work on.



Sora No Manimani

2009-08-29T16:39:27.652-05:00

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Overall Rating: B+

Summary: A romantic comedy/slice of life series, Sora No Manimani is alternately titled "At the mercy of the sky". The story focuses on Saku Ōyagi, a quiet teenager who spends most of his time reading books. At the beginning of the series, his family has just moved back to his hometown as Saku begins high school. He has dreams of a girl he knew as a child who was of a much more...wild spirit then he was, and was constantly dragging him around on adventures. The girl, Mihoshi Akeno, loved star-gazing, and Saku was often dragged along with her on starry nights. Before his family left town they went on a final star-gazing trip, but Mihoshi fell out of a tree. Saku caught her, but broke his arm, and when Mihoshi didn't visit him in the hospital he vowed never to see her again.



Of course, on his first day back at school, Saku runs into Mihoshi who is promoting the astronomy club. She is on top of the school throwing gold stars down on the students, and encouraging them to join the club. Saku tries to avoid her, but that only makes things worse. Mihoshi tackles him in hallways and is always trying to find him after class. Eventually, Saku realizes that Mihoshi didn't abandon him, but instead was in the hospital herself and wasn't released until after he was. He also discovers that the Astronomy club doesn't have enough members to stay a club. He joins up to help make amends, despite his desire to join the literature club.



Thus begins a slapstick romantic comedy centered around Saku and the astronomy club. It's not quite a harem anime, but it's close with multiple women having a crush on Saku, and he doesn't know quite what to do.




I have to say, I'm not usually a big fan of harem anime. They simply strike me as completely ridiculous. Take one awkward high school boy, add in cute girls, some slapstick comedy, and you're done! Maybe I'm just jealous since I was an awkward high school boy, and that never happened to me. As I mentioned though, Sora No Manimani isn't quite a harem anime in my opinion, and although it has some of the common tropes it's a lot more interesting and engaging than the standard fare. The characters are interesting, and that's really what drives slice of life anime. Saku is believable as an awkward teenager, and Mihoshi is hilarious. It's worth checking out for a fun, kind of fluffy series.




Uzumaki

2009-08-21T15:00:07.178-05:00

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Warning: Not for the faint of heart. Skip this one if you don't enjoy horror.

Overall Rating: A

Summary: A three volume horror seinen manga by Junji Ito, which is set in the small Japanese town of Kurôzu-cho and follows high school student Kirie Goshima. In the first volume, Kirie finds out that her boyfriend, Shuichi ,is worried about his father, who has begun a strange obsession about spirals. He has begun to collect anything he can find with a spiral pattern, and his obsession goes so far that he stops going to work and instead simply stares at his collection. The situation becomes even more disturbing when Shuichi's father begins making spirals with his own body, and eventually kills himself by contorting his entire body into a spiral.

After his death, Shuichi's father is cremated, and the smoke from his ashes form a spiral in the sky. Understandably, all of this drives Shuichi's mother insane, and she develops a phobia of spirals. She is hospitalized, and Shuichi, scared of what she do if she finds out, has the doctors remove anatomical diagrams of the ear which (of course) contains a spiral. Unfortunately, she realizes that her cochlea is a spiral, and stabs herself with a pair of scissors. This causes her to suffer from vertigo until she dies. Her ashes also form a spiral when she is cremated, and this is only the beginning.

Soon, things intensify: a lighthouse throws out spiral beams at dusk; babies are born, only to sprout spiral-capped mushroom-shaped appendages from their stomachs, and people begin turning into snails. Can this infestation of spirals be stopped, or will it swallow Kirie and Shuichi as well?

My friend Mark recommended this manga to me, and so I borrowed all three volumes from him. Junji Ito does an amazing job of using traditional manga settings and scenarios and making them creepy by adding in spirals and horror elements. For example, in one scene Kirie is at school and things seem normal until a kid who is known for being slow shows up with traits similar to a snail. Over a few days he becomes more and more snail-like until his transformation is complete. At first the other kids bully him as they would normally, but as the transformation continues they bullying becomes more vicious, but the bullies also become scared of the creature. I won't give away what happens next, but it's both creepy and awesome. If you enjoy a really interesting horror plot that builds its creepiness until the very end, then you will probably enjoy "Uzumaki".



Ponyo

2009-08-19T16:37:04.352-05:00

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Summary: The newest movie from Hiyao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, Ponyo centers around a goldfish named Ponyo (who has a face like a human) and a five-year-old boy named Sōsuke. Curious by nature, Ponyo ends up stranded on the shore where Sōsuke rescues her. The two immediately like each other, and Sōsuke names the goldfish Ponyo, and promises to protect her forever. Unfortunately, Ponyo's father is temperamental and magical (though apparently he used to be a human?) He orders wave spirits to return her to him (he refers to her as "Brunhilde"), and tries to convince her to stay with him where it's safe. Sōsuke is super sad that Ponyo has left, and worries about whether she's okay.

In order to be with Sōsuke, Ponyo uses her magic to transform into a human, but this causes an imbalance in the world. Now Ponyo and Sōsuke have to go on an adventure to restore balance, and save the world.

I think we can all agree that Miyazaki films are ridiculously cute. For example, Ponyo is obsessed with ham. Adorable. If you don't like cute stories that are magical, and appropriate for children then you shouldn't see Ponyo. Also, I'm pretty sure you don't have a soul. You might want to have that looked at.

Seriously though, the plot of Ponyo is a bit strange, but the characters are wonderful and immediately lovable. It's like "The Little Mermaid" with 5-year-old kids and a nursing home for of sweet old grandmas. If you like Miyazaki films like "My Neighbor Totoro" or "Kiki's Delivery Service" then run super fast to the movie theater to see "Ponyo". It's not Miyazaki's best film, but it's still fantastic (in multiple senses of the word). After you catch your breath, buy a ticket, and then enjoy!




Eden of the East

2009-08-11T21:32:29.198-05:00

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Overall Rating: A-
Summary: A Psychological/Romance/Mystery series created by Kenji Kamiyama. The story begins three months after "Careless Monday" when 10 missiles hit uninhabited areas of Japan on November 22, 2010. However, the apparent terrorist attack didn't kill anyone and remains a mystery. The series follows Saki Morimi and Akira Takizawa. The two meet in Washington, DC while Saki is in DC as part of a graduation trip. She decides to try to throw a coin into the White House Fountain. Unfortunately for her the throw falls short and attracts the attention of two police officers. That's when Takizawa shows up out of nowhere naked with a gun, and a strange mobile phone. Understandably, this distracts the police officers who chase after Takizawa. Luckily, he is able to lose them and catches back up with Saki who gives him her coat, scarf and hat. What? It's cold out! The two then go their separate ways.

There's something weird about Takizawa. He has lost most of his memories and the mobile phone he has is charged with 8.2 billion yen. In addition, an operator named Juiz answers the phone to reveal that his memories have been removed, and though she can't help him with that, she can help him with pretty much anything else. It costs money (which is deducted from the 8.2 billion total) but she can make it happen. To begin with, she directs him home. When he gets "home" he finds an apartment full of guns and fake passports. As he begins to wonder what kind of person he is the doorbell rings.

Meanwhile, Saki had realized that her passport was in the coat she lent to Takizawa. She managed to catch up with him at his apartment and asks for her passport back. She's headed back to Japan that day, and Takizawa decides to abandon the apartment, grabs a passport for Akira Takizawa, and leaves with Saki. After an embarrassing conversation with a police woman, they head to the airport. Takizawa gets a plane ticket to Japan from the embassy and Saki gets a crush on Takizawa. Unfortunately, the mood changes when they see another terrorist attack in Japan.

This is just the beginning for Saki and Takizawa. Who is Takizawa? What's up with his mobile phone? Is he a terrorist or a hero? Find out!


I loved this series. It's the best serious anime I've seen in awhile and I kept eagerly awaiting the next episode. The plot is well-developed, and the characters are engaging. There was one plot point I had an issue with (don't worry, no spoilers!) but overall the series is fantastic. The anime has been acquired by Funimation to be released in the US. There are also two movies planned to follow the series. I can't wait to see them. If you like your anime to have a solid plot and some mystery to it, then definitely check this one out!



K-On!

2009-08-04T18:51:29.142-05:00

Opening ThemeOverall Rating: A++Summary: K-On! is a slice of life/comedy/music anime that started out as a four-panel manga by Kakifly. For anyone unfamiliar with Japanese culture, almost everyone in school belongs to an after-school activities club. K-On! centers around the light music club at an unnamed high school, and the four Japanese high school girls who join the club to prevent it from being disbanded (I know, it's a horrible pun). Not the best way to form a band, but I'm sure there have been worse. In the beginning, Ritsu (drums) wants to join the light music club with her best friend, Mio (bass). Mio...has other plans, but Ritsu tears up her application for another club, so Mio is in! Unfortunately, they need at least four members to keep the club going, and all the previous members graduated last year. Mugi (keyboard) joins accidentally as well when she's looking for the choir room, but is easily won over by Ritsu's enthusiasm (as you may have guessed, Ritsu is about 90% enthusiasm, 9% sarcasm and jokes, and 1% follow-through). However, they still need a fourth member to keep the club going, so they put up flyers around the school. Meanwhile, they drink tea and eat cakes to keep their energy up (I am assuming that's why they're doing it, but realistically who cares?) That brings us to Yui (guitar). Yui is clumsy, and wants to join the light music club because she thinks it means "easy" music, and she wants to play the castanets. Flashback to Yui as a little girl playing castanets. She has no experience playing the guitar or reading music. Not to mention the fact that she doesn't even have a guitar. Oops, but least she's a fourth member! They convince her to join by plying her with tea and cakes, which would work on most people I think. I know it would work on me.The show actually focuses less on the girls playing music and more of their friendship and the relationship between the characters. When the rest of the club realizes Yui doesn't have a guitar, or the money to buy one, they all get jobs to help her buy her first one. Over the course of the anime, the band (and especially Yui) gets better and better, and the girls become closer friends.I had heard good things about K-On!, so I decided to track down some episodes. Unfortunately, it isn't released yet in the US so it took me awhile to track it down, but it was worth the effort. If, like me, you have ever wished you were a Japanese high school girl who was in a band, then you will love the show, trust me. I can't count the number of times I said some variation on "too cute" while pointing at the screen and squeeing. It's just that kind of show. In that sense it reminded me a lot of Azumanga Daioh, but with a band. Speaking of which, all of the music in the show is performed by the voice actresses, and it's all very catchy. I have downloaded everything they've put out so far, and I love it all.In short, this is one of the best new anime I've seen, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in this kind of show.Finally, I leave you with Mio being so moe it hurts. Their adviser makes costumes for them to wear when they are performing, and so it's almost inevitable that she would dress Mio up in a maid outfit. So kawaii! Or, to steal a line from the show, "Moe, Moe, Kyun!"Ending Theme[...]



Vampire Knight

2009-07-30T12:36:33.890-05:00

(image) Overall Rating: A+
Synopsis: A romance/supernatural shōjo created by Matsuri Hino, which focuses on the love triangle of Yuki Cross, Zero Kiryu, and Kaname Kuran. All three attend Cross Academy - a prestigious private school which is divided into two classes: the Day Class, which is made up of mortals, and the Night Class, which consists of vampires. The purpose of the school is to try to allow humans and vampires to live together peacefully. However, most of the students and staff in the Day Class have no idea this is going on, and apparently think it's normal for a bunch of bishōnen to only come out at night. Clearly they need their beauty rest.

Two people in the Day Class know the secret of the Academy, Yuki and Zero. Yuki is the adopted daughter of the headmaster of the school, Kaien Cross, who is a former hunter. Her earliest memory is of a snowy night when she was covered in blood and attacked by a vampire. Luckily, Kaname saved her from the vampire attack, but she can't remember why Kaname was there or what happened before he showed up.

Zero is a year older than Yuki, and is the child of hunters who were killed by a vampire. He was also taken in by Head Master Cross, and works with Yuki as a prefect for Cross Academy. The Prefects make sure that the Day Class students never learn the secret of the Night Class
.

Meanwhile, Kaname is the president of the Night Class, and a pureblood vampire. Purebloods are the most powerful of vampires in the Vampire Knight world, and can control or easily destroy even other noble vampires. However, Kaname chooses not to exert this control and as a result he is respected by all the other vampire noble students. He believes in Head Master Cross' goal of humans and vampires living together peacefully, and his presence keeps the other vampires in check. Normally stoic and reserved Kaname clearly dotes on Yuki, which confuses the other vampires at the school and infuriates Zero.

As the series progresses, we learn more about the past of the three main characters, the society of vampires in the Vampire Knight world, and of course the relationship between Yuki, Zero and Kaname. Who will Yuki choose?

When I picked up Vampire Knight, by Matsuri Hino, I wasn't expecting much. The premise seemed fun, if a little cheesy, but the outfits were gothalicious (yes, it's a word, I just made it up, so leave me alone). Usually I'm pretty good at gauging how much I'll like a manga early on, but this one surprised.

Sure, the story is a little cliché in parts (like how broody Zero and Kaname are over Yuki), or how obvious Zero's secret is, but overall I love the series. So far, six volumes have been released in the US so far, and volume 7 is scheduled to be released on August 4th, and you can check out a preview online at Shojo Beat. Regardless, if you like supernatural romances, then check out Vampire Knight for a fun and interesting series.



Nightschool

2009-07-28T18:23:42.885-05:00

(image) Overall Rating: B+
Summary: A urban fantasy/supernatural shōjo comedy series by Svetlana Chmakova, which follows two sisters, Alex and Sarah Treveney, who are witches. The manga itself (which is an OEL or Original English Language) centers around the Nightschool, an ordinary high school during the day, but teaches magic-based classes at night. At the beginning of the manga, Sarah has recently become a teacher at the Nightschool, and Alex is being homeschooled by her astral, a mysterious creature that is always with her. Why she is homeschooled has not been revealed yet, but it may be a part of a mysterious prophecy...

In the first volume, Alex sneaks off to practice her magic in a cemetery despite Sarah warning her not to. Unfortunately, this turns out to be a bad idea as she accidentally runs into some vampires and hunters. She manages to escape, but the hunters seem interested in her, which is almost probably not a good thing.

Speaking of the hunters, they are the other group that gets a lot of focus in the first volume. They protect humans from the "Night things", but unlike most hunters in this kind of story they don't wantonly kill the vampires, witches, and werewolves. Instead they focus on dangers to humans, and then make sure they are no longer a threat.


I had read a couple of chapters of this when it showed up in the Yen Plus manga magazine (which is where I originally read Soul Eater as well), and was interested in the plot. I ended up checking out the first volume when it was released and I was glad to see my interest held. I really enjoyed seeing the side of both the hunters and the vampires, witches and werewolves. It added a lot of depth to the supernatural aspects of the manga. On top of that, the character development was really solid, and I'm interested to see where things go from here. All-in-all a solid story and I look forward to reading volume 2.



Soul Eater Anime

2009-07-10T10:07:00.004-05:00

Overall Rating: A++ Summary: An action/comedy/supernatural shōnen series created by Atsushi Okubo, which follows the students of the Shinigami Weapon Meister Vocational School. The school is set in the fictional Death City, Nevada, and is run by Shinigami, the God of Death himself. The school serves as a training facility for demons who have both a human and a weapon form, and their human wielders, the meisters.The role of the meisters and weapons is to hunt down evil humans and kill them before they can become kishin (evil demon gods). Each student and weapon pairing is trying to defeat and absorb the souls of 99 evil humans and 1 witch. Doing so will dramatically increase their power. The series focuses on Maka Albarn and Soul, a meister/weapon pair who have collected 99 souls at the beginning of the series, and only need to defeat and absorb 1 witch before they level up. Maka is clearly the brains of the operation, and Soul is the brawn. He is too obsessed with being "cool" and attacks head on, while Maka tries to exploit her opponents' weaknesses to defeat them. The two are constantly bicker, especially when they are facing the...um...voluptuous "witch", Blair. Let's just say Soul has a hard time concentrating. Okay, for those of you who follow Hobotaku regularly, Soul Eater should be a familiar title since I reviewed the manga back in April. I gave the manga a B+ because I wasn't too impressed with the plot, but I thought it was fun. That was before I saw the anime. I hadn't read too much of the manga (roughly one volume's worth, but I can't be sure since it hasn't been released in a single volume yet), and so I stick by my assessment of the manga at the time. However, I had heard good things about the anime, and so I decided to check it out. Since starting to watch the anime, Alison and I watched it every chance we got, and tore through the 51 episodes we could find. It hasn't been distributed in the US yet, and so we were watching fansubs, but I intend to buy it as soon as it is released here. I will happily say I was 100% wrong about the plot. The plot is fantastic, and nuanced, particularly for a shonen series. That said, it keeps the fun/funny aspect throughout the series, which made it a lot of fun to watch. The character development was phenomenal, and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire run. Now I want more. If you have a chance to check out the anime, do yourself a favor and track it down. As a note, the anime diverges from the manga around chapter 36 of the manga, which is approximately episode 30 of the anime. After finishing the anime, I picked up the manga again via scanlations at the point where the stories diverge, and am loving it. It goes in a completley different direction, but a lot of the same things are dealt with. Minor characters in the anime get different and more meaningful roles. So, it's official, I now think both the anime and the manga are A+, and I want to cosplay Stein as well as 2 or 3 other characters. I have also made a spreadsheet of many of my friends and who they might cosplay. That's how much I love this series. Check it out![...]



Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei

2009-06-26T13:17:16.498-05:00

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Overall Rating: A
Summary: Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei translates to "Goodbye, Mr. Despair" in English. Created by by Kōji Kumeta, the series is a shōnen slice-of-life series which follows Nozomu Itoshiki, a pessimistic high school teacher. At the beginning of the first volume we find Nozomu trying to hang himself on a sakura tree. He claims he is a worthless human being with no reason to live, and so he might as well die. However, before he dies, he is saved by the exceedingly optimistic Kafuka Fuura (almost killing him in the process). She claims it's impossible for him to die on such a beautiful day and in front of all the trees (who she gives strange names to like Pink Gabriel, Pink CEO, and Pink Devil).

Kafuka decides to name Nozomu Pink Supervisor, and offers him fifty yen to call him by the nickname, which only leads him further into despair. Nozomu flees to the school where he teaches, and begins his homeroom class, but discovers that Kafuka is in one of his students (SHOCK!) On top of that, every one of his students has a personality quirk or obsession, and the depressed teacher has to deal with them all.

I had no idea what to expect when I picked up Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei. I liked the cover art, and so I read the back cover. The premise of the book sounded interesting, so I started reading...and loved it. It's weird and quirky in all the right ways and a fun read. I recommend checking it out.



DMC

2009-06-14T10:45:38.576-05:00

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Overall Rating: A
Summary: A comedy/music seinen created by Kiminori Wakasugi, the series follows Soichi Negishi is a shy young man who left his mother and father to tend the farm while he went to Tokyo to go to college and start a Swedish Pop band. Instead he helped found DMC, short for Detroit Metal City, the most over-the-top metal band in the city. On stage he is Krauser II, a livin legend who killed his parents as a child, and is a true demon from Hell.

Negishi despises the band except for when he is performing. While performing he gets into the Krauser personality, which can get him into a lot of trouble. Now he has to try to balance his life as the lead singer and guitarist for the most popular metal band in Japan against his desire to write sappy pop love ballads. Which will he choose?

I had heard a little about this manga before picking it up, but that didn't prepare me for it at all. This one is definitely for a more mature audience, but the situations Negishi gets himself into are hilarious. The only problem I have with it is it talks a little too much and a little too casually about rape. It's obviously part of the persona of Krauser II, but it can feel a little too over-the-top at times. Otherwise I would give this one an A+



Baccano!

2009-06-02T10:59:05.381-05:00

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Overall Rating: A
Summary: Baccano is Italian for "ruckus", and that's the easiest way to describe this anime. It involves dozens of stories which cover different time periods being told simultaneously, and involving eighteen "main" characters. Each of the stories in the series consists of  seemingly unrelated plots which intersect each other as they unfold. The stories involve immortal alchemists, mafia operated speakeasies, and insane thieves who dress in garish costumes, and mesh together surprisingly well into an Adventure/Comedy/Fantasy series.

I wasn't sure what to think of Baccano! when I first read the descriptions of the series, but after watching the first disc, I'm impressed. The more you watch, the more connections are revealed and the story starts to take shape. It's a bit of a challenge to try to keep up, but it's not as difficult as I had thought. Definitely worth checking out.



Antique Bakery

2009-05-04T18:31:44.667-05:00

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Overall Rating: A
Summary: A cooking/comedy/slice-of-life/shōnen-ai series based on the manga by Fumi Yoshinaga. Keiichirō Tachibana comes from a wealthy family, and was kidnapped as a child. His abdustor was never caught, but Tachibana was rescued. After he was returned to his family they became overprotective of him and indulged him. As the series begins, Tachibana announces to his parents that he has decided to stop being a salesman, and to run a cake shop. The odd thing about his decision is that the one thing he remembers about his abductor is that he loved cake and fed Tachibana the cakes he bought every day.

After receiving his parents support, Tachibana opens the Antique Bakery, and looks for a pâtissier to make the cakes in his shop. He finds the perfect one in Yusuke Ono, a renowned chef. Ono has been fired from every job he has had due to being the "Gay of Demonic Charm". Acording to Stuart, my friend and professional japanese translator, what they are actually saying is something like "Gay Witch", but the subtitles for the version I have translates it as "Gay of Demonic Charm", which is weird but hilarious. Regardless of the translation, any man Ono is attracted to becomes attracted to him. It's this power that has gotten him fired from all of his previous jobs.

At first, Ono does not recognize Tachibana, but Tachibana definitely recognizes Ono. They went to high school together, and Ono came out of the closet to Tachibana by confessing his love to him. Tachibana told Ono he was disgusted by him and that he should die. :(

Rounding out the group are Eiji Kanda, a former boxer who suffered from a detached retina injury and had to quit. His love of pastries drew him to the Antique Bakery where he becomes Ono's apprentice. Finally, there's Chikage Kobayakawa, Tachibana's childhood friend, and the son of Tachibana's family's live-in housekeeper.

These four handsome men run the bakery, flirt, banter, and discuss the finer points of pasteries while humorous and dramatic events unfold in the café.

Alison brought home a bunch of episodes of this anime and described the plot to me, and so I immediately wanted to watch it. I have to say, it was everything I hoped for and more. If you like slice-of-life style anime then I recommend this one. It deals with some pretty heavy issues (homosexuality, alienation, and kidnapping for example), but it balances it with plenty of humor and fun!





20th Century Boys

2009-04-21T12:41:31.387-05:00

(image) Overall Rating: A+
Summary: A seinen science fiction/mystery series created by Naoki Urasawa, which follows Kenji Endō, who owns a liquor store and takes care of his infant niece. The story splits its time between the present day (which is 1999 in the story) and when Kenji was growing up with his friends in 1969.

In the present day, Kenji's friend Donkey has apparently committed suicide, but there is also a series of murders. Kenji believes all of it is tied to a strange symbol which he recognizes as being familiar, but cannot place. At the wake for his friend, he reunites with his childhood friends and they reminisce about growing up together and their "secret base". None of them can quite remember the strange symbol or its meaning, but all of them recognize it. What does the symbol mean, and what is its connection to the friends and the strange cult that is growing in popularity? Most importantly, who is "Friend" and what is their connection to Kenji and his friends?


I really can't recommend this one enough. I picked it up this weekend at Chapel Hill Comics' annual Monster Sale, because I had heard good things about it, and wanted to check it out. Now I'm trying to figure out when I can get back to Chapel Hill to buy the second volume (it's supposed to have come out today). The story and characters are well-developed and by the end of the first volume I am completely hooked. I can't wait to see where things go, and I imagine that once I'm done with the second volume I will be annoyed that the third (and final) volume doesn't come out until June.



Soul Eater

2009-04-07T13:19:49.500-05:00

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Overall Rating: B+
Summary: An action/comedy/supernatural shōnen series created by Atsushi Okubo, which follows the students of the Shinigami Weapon Meister Vocational School. The school is set in the fictional Death City, Nevada, and is run by Shinigami, the God of Death himself. The school serves as a training facility for demons who have both a human and a weapon form, and their human wielders, the meisters.

The role of the meisters and weapons is to hunt down evil humans and kill them before they can become kishin (evil demon gods). Each student and weapon pairing is trying to defeat and absorb the souls of 99 evil humans and 1 witch. Doing so will dramatically increase their power.

The series focuses on Maka Albarn and Soul, a meister/weapon pair who have collected 99 souls at the beginning of the series, and only need to defeat and absorb 1 witch before they level up. Maka is clearly the brains of the operation, and Soul is the brawn. He is too obsessed with being "cool" and attacks head on, while Maka tries to exploit her opponents' weaknesses to defeat them. The two are constantly bicker, especially when they are facing the...um...voluptuous "witch", Blair. Let's just say Soul has a hard time concentrating. 


Sould Eater is one of those manga that's just fun. The plot is kind of strung together, but it's the kind of silly, fun manga to read when you're bored and you don't want to start a 20+ volume series. Yen Press has been releasing books similar to Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat with collection of manga the company is planning to release. Soul Eater is one of those manga and the first volume is due out in October.



The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

2009-03-27T08:44:10.128-05:00

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Overall Rating: A+

Summary: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a science fiction romance and drama movie with some touches of slice of life based on Yasutaka Tsutsui's novel of the same name (時をかける少女 (Toki o Kakeru) in Japanese). The story starts out normal enough, and follows Makoto Konno, a high school girl, and her two best friends, Chiaki Mamiya and Kōsuke Tsuda through their everyday lives. However, soon Makoto realizes she has the ability to leap through time when she goes back in time when she avoids an accident that otherwise would have killed her.

Throughout the film Makoto consults with her aunt. When I was watching the movie this didn't quite make sense to me (how did she know about time travel?), but when I was looking up information about the movie I found out that the implication is that her aunt is the protagonist of the book, and that movie is set after the book takes place.

Initially, Makoto uses her newfound power to do whatever she wants, and uses it to ace a test, and play karaoke for 10 hours (one of my favorite scenes). However, she soon realizes that her actions can adversely affect those she cares about, and she must use her powers more carefully.


My friends Leah and Will recommended this one to me. It sounded interesting and fun, so I got it from Netflix, and fell in love with it. It's a great movie, and I wish it had been shown in more theatres in the US. Do yourself a favor and watch this one. 



Vampire Doll

2009-03-19T13:43:13.312-05:00

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Overall Rating: B
Synopsis: A Comedy/Adventure/Supernatural shōjo series created by Erika Kari. The story follows Guilt-na-Zan, a vampire lord who was trapped in a black cross for centuries. He is released by one of the descendants of the exorcist who trapped him. However, when he was "alive", Guilt-na-Zan was an attractive man (well sort of), and when he wakes up he is in the body of an attractive girl (which is apparently made out of wax?!?).

Kyoji, the exorcist who awakens him, has revived Guilt-na-Zan to be his maid (weird), and has modeled the wax doll after his sister, Tonae (weirder). Kyoji threatens to seal Guilt-na-Zan in the black cross again if he doesn't agree, so goth loli Guilt-na-Zan does all the chores.

While in the doll form, Guilt-na-Zan can only use his powers to create cakes and flowers. Only by drinking the blood of Tonae (and Kyoji keeps him on a very strict diet) can he return to his normal form for a few minutes and use the full extent of his powers.


I liked Vampire Doll, but mostly for the comedy. The plot is barely there, but it works because the book is hilarious. For example, there are references to Guilt-Na's "Battle Apron", and even a scene where gang members have their wickedness sucked out by a demon and then start making out with other. If you are looking for something to laugh at with not much plot, then this is a good one.



Otomen

2009-03-10T13:47:34.461-05:00

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Sorry it's been so long since my last update, due to personal reasons I have not been able to keep up with Hobotaku, but I hope to start posting regularly again.

Overall Rating: A+
Summary: A romantic comedy shōjo series created by Aya Kanno, which follows Asuka Masamune, a tall, masculine and cool high school student. Asuka is the captain of the kendo team, and excels in judo and karate, and everyone in the school thinks he's the greatest. However, Asuka has a secret - he loves all things cute, sweet and lovely like cooking, shōjo manga and sewing. He tries to hide his love of cuteness and be masculine, but when he meets a girl named Ryou Miyakozuka he falls in love and all bets are off.

For her part, Ryou isn't like most girls. She cannot sew, coo, bake, make bento or do any of the the normally "girly" things. Instead Ryou is tough, is an excellent fighter, and likes fighting movies. She and Asuka become fast friends along with Juuta Tachibana, a classmate who is always following Asuka around.

Why is Juuta always following Asuka around? Will Asuka and Ryou get together? The answers are hilarious and adorable.

Here's the thing, I have been wondering what an appropriate word in Japanese would be for a man who is feminine, but not gay and doesn't cross-dress. Apparently, the word is Otomen.

When I read the back cover of this manga in the Cary Barnes & Noble, I fell in love with the concept since (aside from sewing) I love all the things Asuka talks about and went through a long period (re: High School) where I tried to hide that and act masculine and cool (I'm pretty sure I failed at that stuff though). After reading Otomen, it's now one of my favorite manga (at least that I've read recently) and can't wait for more of it to come out. Volume 2 comes out in May (I hate it when there's a 2 or 3 month break between volumes being released) and I plan to pick it up as soon as it's out.

If you like romantic comedy shōjo manga, and your male protagonists to be a bit girly, then you will absolutely love Otomen. Even if that doesn't describe you I recommend a least giving this one a try. <3!



Moribito

2009-01-15T22:46:46.144-05:00

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Overall Rating: A
Summary: A fantasy drama shōnen series based on 10-volumes fantasy of novels. The series follows Balsa, a formidible spearwoman and bodyguard, who protects the lives of others to atone for a past sin. In the first episode, she happens to save the second prince, Chagum, of the Imperial family after an accident. After she proves her skill with a spear, Balsa is tasked with hiding and protecting the child by his mother.

However, Chagum's father, the Emperor, is trying to have the child killed, because he believes the child is possessed by a demon. The Emperor is convinced that the demon will bring misfortune and destruction to the country, and so he has been arranging "accidents" to kll Chagum. If Balsa can save Chagum, then it is the last life she needs to save for her atonement.

I had heard some good things about this series, and Anime Insider claimed it was the best drama of 2008, so I decided to check it out, and so far I'm impressed. I haven't read the novels, but the series has a solid plot, and the characters are interesting. If you like fantasy, strong female characters, and an interesting, involved plot, then I definitely recommend this one.