Monday, February 28, 2011

Favorite Manga #10: Hikaru no Go

Hikaru was a normal kid, not really exceptional at anything.  Then, he found an old Go board that was inhabited by the ghost of a Go master who was searching for the 'hand of God' (the ultimate game of Go).  At first Hikaru allows the ghost to use him to play go, but eventually it's Hikaru who is playing and wondering just how far he will be able to go.

Hikaru: This is a rarity in manga because it spans many years, rather than weeks or months, and you can really tell.  (Yes there are manga, like Dragon Ball that span a lifetime, but you constantly jump large spans of time)  Hikaru grows up bothy physically and mentally right before your eyes, there are no time gaps here.  At first he really acts like a little kid, but at the end he's so dedicated.  I adore him.

Sai: A master at Go, and dedicated even after his death, Sai was never really worried about himself being the best.  He's more than willing to teach Hikaru, he just wants to see the best.  His relationship with Hikaru and his dedication to Go can often be amusing to watch.

*** This is a 23 volume series. I read the first 18 in scanlations/translations (I currently own the Japanese, but since I can't read Japanese, I read along with the translations) before the series was bought.  I have also read the first few volumes in Shonen Jump and saw no noticeable difference between them and what I had previously read.***

You would think that a manga where one of the main characters is a ghost would be more supernatural, but this is one of the most realistic stories I've ever read.  I knew nothing about Go before I started (and little more now) but ate the story up.  Hikaru's journey from a normal kid to a professional had me eagerly wanting more, but its not without its heartaches.

     at the start:

     at the end:

 One of the best artists I've seen.  I've read manga where the character looks different at the end, but its usually because the artists has improved or gotten board with the series, but here it's because the character aged.  This is a strong 5 out of 5 on its amazing art.  

Friday, February 25, 2011

Favorite Manga #11: Fruits Basket

After being found living on the Sohma family's land because she couldn't be a burden to her family, Tohru moves in with them and discovers their family secret: certain members of the family turn into a member of the Chinese Zodiac when hugged by a member of the opposite sex.  These same members of the family also owe loyalty to the one who is the reincarnation of god.  One of those members of the zodiac has the promise of a cage for his future.  So, Tohru vows to help them all find a way to break the curse and have the promise of a real future, and she does this the only way she knows how, by being a friend.

Tohru: Tohru is not the brightest girl, but she's kind-hearted and likeable.  Its almost amazing  how she was able to help the Sohma family without doing much more than being a friend.  No matter how bad things seemed, Tohru never let herself be pushed away.

Kyo: An angry soul because of how poorly he's been treated by the Sohma family, but Tohru helps him to relate to others and brings out the best in him.

Yuki: A nice guy who never allowed himself to get close to others due to his family secret, begins to let others in partly due to Tohru and partly do to the members of the student council.

This is a cute story that touches on (but never dwells to long) in the darker aspects of the family's drama.  You become invests in the characters and hope that not only does the curse break, but they they are able to be happy.  A rare store where there is no true villain, just people who are stuck in the role fate put them in and unable to break free.  A satisfying ending that takes you into the future, though I, personally, wish it had included more about other characters.

There is no was that I can complain about Fruits Basket art.  While it is not my favorite art style, it is still a very beautiful shojo manga.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Book Shelf Tour

I have decided to take a break from my normally scheduled posts, to do a book shelf Tour.  I thought about adding it on top of the reviews, but this made more sense to me. This is really picture heavy.

First, the mass market paperbacks. 

Then there's the larger paperbacks and a few smaller hardcovers:

 The books on the top of this bookshelf are the last of the midsize books.  The books on the shelf are the first of my two TBR pile shelves:
 The start of my hardcover books:

The last of my hardcovers (on top shelf) and my 2nd TBR pile:
And, what probably makes the bulk of my books, my manga:

And since my bookshelves normally don't actually hold just books, one shot of what it really looks like:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Favorite Cover of the Week

This week I decided to pick a series, rather than a single book, and that series is The Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewar and Chris Riddell.

Riddell is an amazing artist, and it's his work that makes me love this version of the covers.  There are at least two other versions that I have seen, and I believe these are the British versions, though I'm not sure.  I own some books in the series with these covers, some with the American paperback cover and some with the American hardcovers.

US hardcover:
US paperback:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Childhood Favorite: The Cat Who Went To Heaven

This is the story of a poor painter who's housekeeper brings home a cat instead of food.  While he did not initially like the cat, he eventually grew to like it and even named it "Good Fortune."  In a lucky change of luck, the monks at the local temple choose to commission him to paint a painting for them of they dying Buddha being surrounded by all of the animals coming to pay homage to him.  The painter is saddened that he can not include a cat in the painting, since the common believe is that cat's are cursed because their pride prevented them from bowing before Buddha and they are, therefore, not allowed into Nirvana.  How will the artist deal with this internal turmoil?  

This is a very short story, that was written in the 1930s.  I read it when I was in elementary school some 20 years ago, and yet I still remember he story so clearly.  The story not only stuck with me all these years but it still has the power to make me tear up a bit.  I think that this is a great story for any animal lover, and would happily recommend it to everyone.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Favorite Manga #12: Kamikaze Kaitou Jeanne

Maron is the reincarnation of Jeanne D'Arc and thus is able to turn into a phantom thief in order to collect beautiful works of art that hold demons who are there to steal human hearts and thereby God's power.  Demons and the thief Sinbad (Chiaki) are out to stop her, but is Sinbad on the side of the demons or is he really trying to protect Maron?  And what her feelings for Chiaki?  Can she find love and save the world?


 Maron (Kaitou Jeanne): A smart, popular girl, she often held herself at a distance from other, probably because she felt abandoned by her parents who left he country, leaving her alone. She often gets yelled at by Finn Fish for wanting to be lazy.  She is a likeable hero who really wants to save the world.

Chiaki (Sinbad): Originally, he gets close to Jeanne to stop her from collecting demons, but whether he's doing it to aid the demons or some other reason, is a mystery.  He acts like a playboy and Maron dislikes him for it, but he grows to care deeply for her and wants to protect her from some unsettling truths.

Access Time: He came to earth in order to be close to Finn Fish who is in love with.  His greatest wish is to prevent her from helping Jeanne.  He is an adorable character, lively and cute. 

Finn Fish: She came to Earth and convinced Maron that it was her destiny to help God by collecting the demons.  She is very dedicated to her duty to make sure that Jeanne stays on task, and refuses all of Access's advances because she won't fraternize with the enemy.   At times her focus on getting the job done was frustrating, but her obvious care for Maron makes it hard not to like her.

 ****This is a 7 volume series.  I have read the whole series, but did so in scanlations before it was bought for the American market.  I do not believe that this has any impact on my review, since differences with the official release should be minor.****

This falls into the category of a magical girl series (ie. it's about a girl who transforms to fight evil) and like all good magical girl series, it still manages to be unique and entertaining.  Sinbad's real reason for competing with Jeanne is a welcome twist, and the fact that her best friend is the one trying to capture her, while not fully original is handled well.  Combine this with a detailed back story on Jeanne's relationship with God and the fairies life before they teamed up with Maron and Sinbad, makes this a well written story.  Also, as with many of Arina Tanemura's series, there is a full resolution to the story (something frequently lacking in many Japanese stories).

Arina Tanemura is my absolute favorite manga artist.  Her character design is beautiful and she puts so much detail into things (especially her characters).  Jeanne is only her second manga and she improves a lot with later series, but as pretty as this series is, that is really saying something. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Favorite Manga #13: Kare Kano

Yukino strives had to be the best in her class and wants everyone to see her as perfect, but when her greatest rival finds out her secret, she turns over a new leaf and allows others to see her faults.  Along the way, she makes new friends and her rival becomes her love interest, but does their love stand a chance against he pains of his past and the trials of high school.


Yukino Miyazawa: While she never quite looses her desire to be the best, she stops hiding behind a perfect demeanor, which does make her more likeable. As she falls in love with Arima she even shows a truly selfless side as she tries to be there for him when he needs her.  

Arima Souichirou: A good guy, he was adopted by his aunt and uncle as a child and is is still troubled by the mistakes of his real parents.  The problems that this causes him greatly affect his relationships and his feelings about himself.  At times he can be a bit moody and frustrating, because he just can't see that he's a good guy (because he really is).

It's a great story of a high school life and love, following them through their relationships, not just with each other but their friends as well.  You really get to know and like the whole group and the ending (which takes place ~16 years later) gives you an insight into all of them.  There are 3 or 4 volumes in the middle of the series that focus on one of their friends and her relationship with her new step brother, and while this could have been a huge detractor from the series, they are actually some of my favorite.
 The artwork in this series starts out a bit rough, but it gets better as the series progresses.  It's still not the best art work, but its pretty good.  I'd give it a 4 out of 5, looking at how it progressed.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Personal Favorites: The Ruby Key

With their father presumed dead and their mother sick, siblings Genna and Dan decide to go into the woods at night to collect magical tree sap, something no one in their village does because of a truce with the nightlings.  There, they meet a nightling slave named Yarri, and learn that their village leader has promised the evil nightling lord villagers in exchange for power.  The siblings concoct a plan to defeat both leadesr and head on a journey with the nightling and a talking cat through the moon roads, in search of a man named Doyati who they believe has the power to save everyone.

Genna: The story is told from Genna's perspective.  She's a strong character and doesn't back down.  Even when she gets separated from the others she carries on, unwilling to save herself if it means sacrificing others.
Dan: An annoying younger brother type, he's more rebellious than his sister, but he is just as determined to save their family as she is.
Yarri: Though she puts herself at great risk by doing so, she befriends and helps the siblings as much as she can.
The Cat: A mysterious man who is only talking the form of a cat to hide and will not reveal his true identity for fear that his enemy will find him.  He and Genna often argue, but he helps them to use the moonroads and continue on their quest.

While I was drawn to this book because of its beautiful cover, I found the story very engaging.  The whole concept of the book was a refreshing take on the quest to save what's dear.  How the characters interacted could easily have come across as cliche but it worked.  The concept of the moonroads was intriguing as well.  There were moments that dragged a bit, but overall it was enjoyable, and it was a great setup for book 2, which was even better (I will review book two in a couple of weeks).  Sadly, the only true downfall is that there is no news of a 3rd book, and this series is desperately in need of at least one more book.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Favorite Cover of the Week

This week I chose to go with Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, the hardback cover.

From the first moment that I saw this cover I was drawn to it.  Every time I walked by it I had to stop and ask myself if I should just buy it, which I eventually did.  I've seen other covers with similar styles, but for me they just fall short of the beauty and artistry of this one.

It really saddened me that they changed the cover for the paperback by putting a face on it, and I'm equally disappointed that they did the same thing with the sequel.  These new covers are okay, but I really loved the old one. 

At least I always have the hardcover on my shelf to stare at.  Now I just need to read

The new cover: