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   Ray Bradburys Fahrenheit 451 The Authorized Adaptation TP,8/22/2011 11:58:45 AM
“It was a pleasure to burn.” Guy Montag, an ordinary man, one day reads one of the books he was meant to burn and hears of a time when people weren’t afraid to think. Because of Ray Bradbury, millions of people who barely know the temperature at which water boils know the burning point of paper. Because of Tim Hamilton, Bradbury’s tale of a dystopian future in which walls talk (plasma TV, anyone?) and paper reading material is banned (buy Kindles!) is given a brand new vision. Color palettes of somber gray, brown, black and beige alternate with the lurid curls of fire and talking heads. “Fahrenheit 451” is not a book about action for the most part, which can make it tough to read for the modern audience. But its message makes it perfect for the printed medium and Hamilton’s sober illustrations bring its dark vision home.
   Coraline Graphic Novel HC,8/22/2011 1:12:02 PM
Neil Gaiman’s haunting vision has been illustrated by none other than P. Craig Russell, a veteran of the graphic novel trade. Realistic and truly matched to Gaiman’s prose, Russell brings to life the determined Coraline Jones, her preoccupied parents and the terrifying world that lies beyond the door in the sitting room. Russell has done a bang-up job of illustrating Coraline that makes it perfect for the lover of Gaiman’s books and the graphic novel genre.
   Creatures Of The Night HC,8/22/2011 1:14:57 PM
Although burdened by a banal title, this graphic book features two short stories of Mr. Gaiman, both haunting and gripping in intensity. One is a tale of good versus demonic evil and the other a tale of bittersweet retribution against human wickedness. Both stories are graced by the stunning talents of illustrator Michael Zulli. With lustrous, vibrant color alongside clearly visible pencil and inked lines, he accompanies Mr. Gaiman’s stories with realistically drawn portraits of men, women and animals and makes them vividly powerful.
   Harlequin Valentine HC New Printing,8/22/2011 1:16:50 PM
Valentine is a time for lovers, yet set in the one of the coldest months of the year in many climes. How is happiness and romance supposed to bloom in a time when no one is in the mood to take off their clothes? A certain Harlequin has no concern for that, only his oblivious Columbine, whose feelings of love may not be the same as his… Gaiman gives us a tale of surprises, changes and trickery where nothing is as it seems and love itself can be taken off balance. In muted, colored backgrounds, sharp outlined figures and almost photographic imagery, John Bolton is able to give us a world of magic and sights unseen, cleverly juxtaposed with the real and mundane.
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 1 SC,8/23/2011 9:45:22 AM
This is a post-apocalyptic tale of struggling humans and the vampires who exist alongside them—or prey on them. But there are those who hunt the hunters. One such is Vampire Hunter D, a pale-faced youth apparently only 17 or 18 but so much older than that… In this first adventure, D is introduced with all the solemnity and pomp one would expect in a horror tale about vampires. But there are no blood-stained coffins here, only a spirited girl in need of help. Marred by overly florid prose in places but salvaged by the gorgeous black-and-white illustrations of Yoshitaka Amano, this book still presents powerful images of a future world and the desperate but determined individuals who inhabit it. The main problem this writer has is the weird and frustrating mixture of lurid prose mixed in with the most prosaic of descriptions. Often, there is an overabundance of words when a few spare lines will do. The author also makes the common mistake of telling rather than showing. Whether this is simply a Japanese aesthetic or a quirk of English translation is difficult to ascertain. However, lovers of old Westerns mixed with vampirism will find the writing doesn’t detract much from the sheer visceral excitement of the storyline.
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 2 Raiser Of Gales SC,8/23/2011 9:46:54 AM
The enigmatic D is once again called upon to lend his services when a village fears that the Nobility have somehow gained the ability to walk in the daytime. The story gets increasingly convoluted the further it progresses, spawning one unusual and bewildering creature after another in every chapter. The plot twists are bewildering, too, making it difficult to follow. The story is also sprinkled with the overly extravagant prose that evidently characterizes the English translations of the original Japanese text.
   Anansi Boys HC,8/23/2011 9:43:58 AM
Fat Charlie (cruelly nicknamed by his casual father) is startled to learn that his itinerant perennially broke dad is actually a god—the spider-man Anansi. (Anansi is dead as Charlie’s tale begins but that is beside the point.) Fat Charlie also learns that he has a brother, Spider, one who captures all the irrepressible spirit of his deceased father as well as Anansi’s total lack of responsibility. One night, Fat Charlie foolishly invites Spider into his life—and that’s when the mischief and mayhem start. While Fat Charlie strikes one as being a bit of a bore, it is at first unclear whether he is a foil for Spider or Spider is the sidekick for him. However, Gaiman gradually coaxes Charlie out of his shell until he becomes a force to be reckoned with, amply carrying the story on his own and proving brave and resourceful enough to win the day and the lady.
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 3 Demon Deathchase SC,8/24/2011 11:00:57 AM
D’s adventures take a new turn. He’s not confined to one village, especially since all the members in it have been killed by one of the newly turned. He’s on a hunt to find a girl who’s been abducted by a Noble called Mayerling. He’s got competition, too—the dangerous, treacherous and fearsome Marcus gang. Less convoluted than volume two, but no less overcharged with its near-bombastic adjectives, Demon Deathchase has all the impact of a high-speed chase mixed in with a poignant love story.
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 4 Tale Of The Dead Town SC,8/24/2011 11:02:14 AM
In this book, D encounters a girl ravaged by radiation and a strangely jovial biker with the improbable name of John M. Brasselli Pluto VIII. They are taken aboard a floating city that would appear to be paradise. Touching the ground for only brief moments, the inhabitants are free of the attacks from the Nobility—or are they? The author has pulled yet another rabbit out of his sleeve, giving a new twist on the Frontier wasteland and showing that even Paradise has its cost. Intelligent, suspenseful and riveting, this novel suffers only a little from the overblown phrases that plague the earlier translations. D’s unearthly beauty is reiterated but by now the devoted fan of this series can ignore it to concentrate on the intriguing storyline.
   Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters SC,8/22/2011 1:21:55 PM
This is yet another entry in the current genre of cramming inappropriate features into literary classics called “mash-ups”. “Mush-ups” would be a better term. This trend of deforming the works of classics just to fill the current mania for this sort of tripe has got to stop. It’s become trite, dull, shopworn and ludicrous in the extreme. This novel is one of the most execrable of the lot, forcing its aquatic conceit into every single page and almost every single paragraph. Elinor Dashwood is reduced to a caricature of herself as the writer extols her ability to whittle and saddles her with an out-of-character mysticism. We are treated to such ridiculous scenes as Willoughby’s dashing appearance in a wetsuit, Marianne’s picking her teeth with a fishbone and Brandon’s gurgling voice because he suffers from a piscine deformity, among other twisted abominations. Even poor Margaret isn’t spared as she’s reduced to an ominous figure of doom: staring out her window, screaming about portents to her oblivious family and muttering cryptic phrases under her breath. As Dorothy Parker once put it, “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”
   Tale Of The Waning Moon Vol 2 GN,8/23/2011 9:41:17 AM
Ryuka has gathered a small band of fellow travelers in his quest. But he’s growing ever more confused about whether he wants Ixto or not. His bewilderment is endearing, showing his gradual weakening to Ixto’s influence (even though he denies his feelings at every opportunity). New dangers and thrills await him and his companions. Sometimes the action seems contrived. When Ryuka is looking for a sprig of peach pearls, he agrees to a needless bargain rather than hunt down and buy the hair ornament. Why?! So, although I never get the sense that Ryuka is in any real danger, I found myself amused by his efforts. Sexual content is shown but the emptiness of it is boldly juxtaposed with tenderness exchanged among the main characters. As in any true yaoi romance, there’s a clear difference between mere screwing and lovemaking.
   American Gods HC 10th Anniversary Edition,8/23/2011 9:42:23 AM
What happened to the old gods when their worshippers traveled to the New World? Funny you should ask… Gaiman answers this question in his typical quirky fashion, imagining the ancient gods in new skins, striving to fit into a society that no longer needs or wants them, wanderers cast adrift, trying to hold down jobs, looking out for their bastard demigod children. Gaiman’s prose is both erudite and primal; his storytelling absolutely grounded in the commonplace—until it takes a sharp turn into the bizarre. Old tales, religion turned to superstition, blood and human sacrifices all intertwine in this magical, lyrical, bloodthirsty tale written as only Gaiman could write it, where the horrible and the beautiful mesh like locks and keys.
   Junko Mizunos Cinderalla GN,8/29/2011 4:44:18 PM
This is one bizarre take on the Cinderella fable. “Cinderalla” is filled with nubile, barely dressed pretty big-eyed girls, a talking rat, drunken fairy, singing zombie prince in pajamas, concert for the walking dead and a pair of perverted red-headed twins who make Fred and George Weasley look like model citizens. This brightly colored tale is vicious, cute, creepy, grotesque, sexy, disturbing and flat-out weird. Wild as a psychedelic drug trip and freakier than a carnival sideshow, “Cinderalla” is definitely not for the children.
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 5 The Stuff Of Dreams SC,8/24/2011 11:03:24 AM
D has found a world where humans and the Nobility lived together in harmony. Some folks don’t want him around, stirring up trouble. More than just a straightforward adventure, mysticism is involved as D becomes the subject and object of mysterious dreams. Each adventure of D displays the growing talents of the writer. In previous novels, D was a kind of lone gunman, coming into town and destroying the bad guys. Now he assumes the role of hunter, detective and mystic as he attempts to sort out reality from dreams and struggles with a moral dilemma. In a world where Paradise is a lovely dream come true, does he have the right to destroy it?
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 6 Pilgrimage Of The Sacred & The Profane SC,8/24/2011 11:04:39 AM
In this apocalyptic world, the roles of men and women are varied, with sexism having little sway over what a person ultimately chooses to do in life. Granny Viper is a “people finder”, braving he most dangerous of environments to find lost citizens and return them to their loved ones—for a price, of course. She’s latched on to D to help her and her charge cross a perilous desert. But D himself knows only a little about this desert wasteland, making it dangerous indeed for all who accompany him. The writer shows progression of imagination, making this future world endlessly fascinating and filled with a never-ending variety of flora, faunae, bestiary, climate, technology and humans with super abilities. D also shows signs of burgeoning human warmth underneath his icy demeanor. But must almost every novel in this series end with a description of an enigmatic smile pasted across his face?! Up until now, all but volume 4 ended in the same fashion. It’s tedious and one note.
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 7 Mysterious Journey To The North Sea Part 1 SC,8/24/2011 11:05:45 AM
Returning to the format of the lone gunman, a new landscape greets the icily beautiful dhampir. This time he has decided to protect a girl who has lost both sister and grandfather to ruthless assassins determined to get their hands on a strange bead that has washed ashore. To do so, D must brave phantoms of vanished Nobility and an ocean that is more than it appears. The mystery of the bead (which remains untold in this volume) draws a diverse bunch of characters after it, giving this story the air of "The Maltese Falcon".
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 8 Mysterious Journey To The North Sea Part 2 SC,8/25/2011 11:36:41 AM
D’s mission to protect Su-In, the sister of the tragically murdered Wu-Lin, continues as do the challenges from jealous suitors and conniving opponents who try to kill him. So far, no one has come close since volume one. But anyone can get lucky… Filled with the trademark quirky translations of Kevin Leahy, D is a figure for the ages. His icy exterior never cracks although it does bleed from time to time. This book contains surprise after surprise, including stronger touches of humanity in its titular character than what have been seen in previous novels. The change is welcome, since reading about an icy, inhuman figure can become rather boring.
   Innocent Bird Vol 3 GN,8/29/2011 4:12:20 PM
In volume 3, after having ascended in rank, Karasu travels with Shirasagi and the enigmatic Koumori to Purgatory, the wayplace between Heaven and Hell. There the trio will face the greatest trial of all as forces from both realms wage war on them and each other. In a side story, Beelzebub’s wonder about his enforced distance from God and his determination for a direct confrontation with the Supreme Deity led to his being cast out of Heaven and the demotion of another Angel. His curiosity is portrayed as a natural thing and we can’t help but wonder at the cruelty of a God who would punish one of his own Angels for a seemingly innocent desire. The author has shown herself to be a master of surprise and suspense and this astonishing backstory is a perfect display of her awesome storytelling and in no way detracts from the main plotline. The men are beyond hot and the sex well placed even in the middle of a seemingly difficult dilemma. Brava.
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 9 The Rose Princess SC,8/25/2011 11:56:43 AM
This novel starts out with an unusual scent wafting through another Frontier town. With this haunting beginning, we are launched on another tale of the enigmatic D. He is once again called upon to exert his skills and save the day. But what if the humans don’t want saving? Filled with fantastical duels, claims of honor and a treacherous princess, this novel is filled with surprises, both from humans and Nobility, as the very nature of immortality is explored. Who is serving whom? Is immortality such a great gift? The questions are posed and the answers given with stark beauty and shocking simplicity, all cloaked in the odor of roses.
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 10 Dark Nocturne SC,8/25/2011 11:59:02 AM
This is actual a trio of novellas—yet another surprise from this author. Each story is different and each holds mysteries and challenges for the titular hero. Short stories and novellas are not popular in Japan. There are no magazines that carry the former. The author was stretching his talents to meet the different demands of the novella and mostly succeeded. Each story is different in tone, character and outline. But all feature the enigmatic D and are fully deserving of the supernatural genre.
   Delivery Cupid GN,8/29/2011 4:42:08 PM
All these tales center around heavenly beings who strive to help humans achieve love matches. The title story deals with prostitution, rape and, later, pedophilia, making it highly distasteful for a majority of readers. The other stories in this selection fare better in terms of humor and pathos but still skirt the edge of propriety, considering the apparent youth of some of the young men. However, seeing as we are dealing with amoral beings who have no problems using sneaky tricks to aid humans, it makes sense that fair play is not always involved in attaining true love. All’s fair in love and war, after all…
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 11 Pale Fallen Angel Parts 1 & 2 SC,8/25/2011 12:00:25 PM
D is given an unusual task in this epic novel: he must protect and escort a member of the Nobility. This is against his usual code but he’s saving the Noble from something worse—isn’t he? This tale is a truly convoluted one; sometimes I had to read the fight scenes to understand just what had taken place. The villains chatter on in a way that’s truly inane—why tell your enemy what your strengths are? What idiot gives himself away like that? But without such exposition the reader might be hard-put to understand what goes on during some of the action. While the action remains as powerful as ever, the human drama also piques interest. Both D and his Noble fellow travelers seem to be developing empathy for their human passengers, deepening the emotional involvement.
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 12 Pale Fallen Angel Parts 3 & 4 SC,8/25/2011 12:01:54 PM
The travelers have become separated. Miska, the female Noble, has been taken in by the simplest of ruses. She’s lost her two human charges as well, a pair of helpless girls. Miska was infected with a weapon of terror called the Destroyer and the girl Taki (once a magician’s assistant) remains a cipher with barely any personality. All these and other wacky occurrences reduce this latest entry into the Vampire Hunter mythos to an overwrought soap opera, filled with mysterious appearances, disappearances, plot contrivances (The Destroyer! A bizarre Guide! A mad scientist!), poorly fleshed-out characters and evil twins. Cue the scary music. Only die-hard D fans will be able to stomach this onslaught of exaggerated mayhem, obligatory fight scenes, over-used descriptions and ghastly purple prose.
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 13 Twin-Shadowed Knight Parts 1 & 2 SC,8/26/2011 12:35:36 PM
The travelers have become separated. Miska, the female Noble, has been taken in by the simplest of ruses. She’s lost her two human charges as well, a pair of helpless girls. Miska was infected with a weapon of terror called the Destroyer and the girl Taki (once a magician’s assistant) remains a cipher with barely any personality. All these and other wacky occurrences reduce this latest entry into the Vampire Hunter mythos to an overwrought soap opera, filled with mysterious appearances, disappearances, plot contrivances (The Destroyer! A bizarre Guide! A mad scientist!), poorly fleshed out characters and evil twins. Cue the scary music. Only die-hard D fans will be able to stomach this onslaught of exaggerated mayhem, obligatory fight scenes, over-used descriptions and ghastly purple prose.
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 14 Dark Road Parts 1 & 2 SC,8/26/2011 12:37:32 PM
D has encountered another Frontier town. It was filled with people who’ve been bitten by the Nobility. Only trying to live in peace without attacking their neighbors, they have been killed by traveling vigilantes that see them as a blight and danger waiting to happen. There is only one survivor, a red-headed girl named Rosaria. Traveling with D and the only surviving vigilante, Quinn, the two distrusting, reluctant allies struggle for mutual acceptance and understanding. Bringing the question of socialism, equality and racism into the mix isn’t entirely a new tactic for the author. The very first Vampire Hunter D novel featured a girl who’d been attacked by the Nobility and subsequently shunned and hated by her neighbors. What is different here is the one-on-one nature of the struggle presented in this volume. If this subject had been explored with greater depth, it might have been a stellar novel. But the surviving redhead is soon kidnapped by a Noble and the book degenerates into more fight scenes as D struggles to win her back.
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 15 Dark Road Part 3 SC,8/26/2011 12:39:12 PM
This novel starts off with a thrilling scene: an execution. Having started there, it hits the ground hard and takes off running. D is called on to rescue his employers, deal with the dangerous and jealous Lady Ann and finish off his would-be executioner General D. He definitely has his hands full—especially the left one. Along with all this is the mystery behind his planned assassination. Why have all these people been brought back from the dead? Even General Gaskell doesn’t know and the answer is a haunting one. Brimming with excitement, the embroidered text that characterizes the author’s style isn’t so annoying here.
   Vampire Hunter D Readers Guide SC,8/26/2011 12:44:19 PM
Tagged as “The Essential Companion to the World of Vampire Hunter D”, this book includes a foreword from and pictures of the author, five short stories (one of them unfinished) and a compendium of practically everyone and everything that has appeared in the first 15 Vampire Hunter D novels. This is a must-have for D fans or for anyone who might have trouble keeping all those names, places and special powers straight.
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 16 Tyrants Stars Parts 1 And 2 SC,8/26/2011 12:41:06 PM
The divinely handsome D finds himself up against an exiled Noble, one banned to outer space by the Sacred Ancestor himself. As the dangers mount and assassins gather for the kill, the novel piles on the fight scenes, outrageous castles, bizarre enemies and a convoluted plotline that makes it difficult to tell who’s dead and who’s merely faking it. Exciting, aggravating and mind-bogglingly Byzantine, this is a novel for the truly dedicated D aficionados only.
   Out of Print - Wolves In The Walls HC,9/7/2011 10:45:13 AM
What happens when the wolves get a hankering for human life and crawl out of the walls? Where will the humans go? In this engaging children’s tale, Neil Gaiman once again takes his gaily twisted sense of humor and posits a tale of a little stuffed pig, big bad wolves and a very determined girl who’s not going to let those lupine critters get away with taking her home. Dave McKean (who also was the illustrator for Coraline) is the illustrator, using odd fonts, truly scary looking wolves and smears of jam so vivid they look as if you can lick them off the page. Read this book and watch out for wolves…
   Kingdom Of Selfish Love Vol 1 GN,9/7/2011 10:36:21 AM
The title story is one of bizarre loves—master and slave, incest—all centered in the midst of a power struggle over a kingdom. The drawings are not to my taste, being mainly line drawings with little definition such as shadowing, but the characters are clear enough and the story riveting and engrossing. The little story that follows, of a slave boy given a wish by an enterprising djinn, is a tale like something straight out of the Arabian Nights, possesses a twist that would be a shame to spoil here. It is passionate, wry and kinda funny, too.
   Prisoner Of The Immortal Vol 1 GN,9/6/2011 12:28:08 PM
The titular tale is one of scant words, chaotic images and an almost impossible to follow storyline. It left this reader confused, irritated and frustrated and not in a good way. The figures also have that scrawny, bony look that I find aesthetically displeasing (although it may appeal to others). Subsequent readings do not improve this story and I can’t recommend it. However, the second story “Offered to a Demon” is much more compelling. An immortal being falls gradually under the spell of a proud Demon general, one he has been called to defeat by desperate villagers. But the lines of good and evil aren’t so clearly cut. Once again, the people of Yaoi Press bring their subtle storylines to play as they bring us the mysteries of love, attraction and whether evil beings are capable of love. It is a common plot point in many of their tales and the rough drawings make the sexual component very erotic. The book is worth it for this story alone.
   Wild Rock GN,8/31/2011 4:43:02 PM
Placed in the highly unusual setting of prehistoric times, “Wild Rock” shows the tense situation of two warring clans trying to sort out their differences and live together. Young Yuuen and Emba are supposed to be enemies but their feelings of love for each other can’t be denied. The drawings are spare but lovely, emphasizing the gorgeous men who make up these stories of star-crossed lovers.
   Saihoshi GN,8/31/2011 5:17:12 PM
Set in a time of military tension, a dainty prince must travel without military escort if he wishes to show his good intentions. But that doesn’t mean he’s traveling unaided. A strappingly handsome guardian, one sworn to protect his highness, accompanies him along with the prince’s own servant reluctantly pressed into being his highness’s double. Tensions run high as all the men struggle with enemies without and growing sexual attraction within… Kôsen is another part of the Yaoi Press stable and here, they bring their own sexy style of appealing young men to the table. In closeup, musculature is lightly but definitely outlined. Reedlike figures compete with rugged, strapping men to create stunning contrasts in masculine pulchritude. Humor, sexual hijinks and warfare combine to make a zesty story.
   Winter Demon Vol 3 GN,9/1/2011 4:01:30 PM
In their desperation to get the razor whip fixed, Hakuin and Fuyu travel to see the old priest who created the weapon in the first place. But Priest Shidan has his own agenda. His incubus servant is feeling cravings and there are no human beings or other demons in the area who can appease his sexual desires. It seems that Fuyu is going to have make a hateful bargain if he wants that whip fixed… The character of Figaru, muscular, handsome and loving, goes from being a character in a minor tale to a major player. While it would seem a foregone conclusion that he force Fuyu to submit as he did another demon, the writers have surprises in store. Once again, we are shown that not all demons are evil and not all humans are decent. The writers of this series know how to keep their readers riveted and coming back for more and they’ve done an excellent job of it here. The illustrator is Yamila Abraham, one of my favorites from the Yaoi Press pantheon of artists. Her rounded, fleshed-out masculine figures are far more appealing to me than the scrawnier offerings of certain other artists.
   Shakespeares Julius Caesar The Manga Edition GN,8/29/2011 4:54:24 PM
The illustrator Hyeondo Park has chosen to take the conventional route with this work, clothing Caesar and his people in the dress of ancient Rome. But I can’t complain since they’ve done so quite handily. The robes and costumes of Romans are not all similar but distinct according to rank, status, age and sex. The characters are as varied the costumes and after awhile the reader can easily discern Julius from Brutus, Calpurnia from Portia. Manga Shakespeare brings us Shakespeare’s immortal work of politics, greed, treachery, disloyalty and assassination of the most famous Caesar of all time. As an introduction to this work, it is a more than credible effort.
   Shakespeares MacBeth The Manga Edition GN,8/31/2011 4:31:24 PM
You’ve got it all: the wife, the lovely home, the promotion and lots of wealth. Then you blow it all by killing your boss. Why?!? Okay, that’s a really short encapsulation of the Scottish play but it’s a fitting one. This shows that, even set in traditional Scottish gear as this version is, the theme of ambition spiraling out of control remains a very recognizable one, easily understood by modern audiences. While the faces are well drawn in this manga, the eyes bear a disturbing similarity and the figures can seem a touch out of proportion. The illustrators, Eve Grandt and Candice Chow, also display a tendency towards a too-literal interpretation of the text. When one character speaks of a mind full of scorpions, the arachnids are seen hovering overhead. When bats are mentioned, we see the furry Chiroptera along with snakes, rooks, etc. This is touted as one of the benefits of manga, that it can show interpretations that would be impossible for even the most gifted stage director. But, since a great deal of what happens in “Macbeth” tends to the magical and psychological, a lighter hand in such scenes would have been better.
   Shakespeares Romeo & Juliet The Manga Edition GN,8/30/2011 10:23:05 AM
Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy about star-crossed lovers is here given the realistic treatment with the players drawn in traditional period Italian garb. (I recognize elements of Zeffirelli’s famous 1968 cinematic effort, such as when Romeo climbs a tree to pitch woo to his adolescent paramour.) The lovers are drawn as sweet-faced teens, with smooth faces and large eyes that convey their youth and innocence. The various other characters are each clearly distinguishable from each other, showing a knowing artistry on the parts of the illustrator, Yali Lin. While some may object to the traditional look, I believe this is a good way to introduce readers to one of Shakespeare’s most durable and recognized plays. A foreword by the author Adam Sexton outlines why manga is an excellent medium for conveying the words and action of Shakespearean plays.
   Facts In The Case Of The Departure Of Miss Finch HC,9/7/2011 10:43:47 AM
Enter the fabulous, frenetic, fantastic freak show where people dance on strings, ladies get their throats cut and Frankenstein’s monster lives again! But what should have been a whirlwind night of fun turns into something darker and more sinister. This tale is off kilter, bizarre and genuinely frightening, ending with a final surprise as Miss Finch (not her name) gets her real wish. In this graphic novel, Neil Gaiman’s short story (omitted from the U.S. copy of “Smoke and Mirrors”) is accompanied by the colorful, lush art of Michael Zulli. Realistic, expressive and brilliant illustrations display why he was the man for the job of illustrating it.
   Foreign Love Affair GN,9/2/2011 10:45:16 AM
Love, violence and hot, sexy men…Ayano Yamane brings her special touch to this always volatile mix. This time, when a member of the Yakuza is forced into a marriage of convenience, he finds solace and passion in the arms of a gorgeous Italian stud. Since this is a one-shot manga, the story isn’t as convoluted as in the Finder series and the romance is much sweeter, without the rape and S&M factor. And, of course, there’s always the atmosphere of Bella Italia to please any Latino-loving fangirl. The men form the typical seme/uke pairing with the seme being physically bigger and stronger than the uke. But Ranmaru is hardly a pushover and his yielding isn’t something done out of shame or physical weakness, which makes his increasing affection for the Italian sea captain Albert Valentino all the more compelling.
   Manga Shakespeare Midsummer Nights Dream GN,8/30/2011 10:14:56 AM
As in other manga Shakespeare interpretations, this book comes with color illustrations giving a Who’s Who gallery of the various characters in this play. The illustrator has given the characters an amalgam of modern and ancient garb that manages to bridge the old and the new, a fitting conceit for a tale of young lovers defying the older generation. The faces manage to be cute and yet expressive, the illustrations done in shades of gray that further the impression of a twilight world, one that lies between the harsh edges of day and night. Descriptions of the world, magical creatures, etc. (as during Oberon and Titania’s opening quarrel, e.g.) are vividly illustrated by Kate Brown, something that couldn’t be managed on a theatrical stage. In contrast, the backgrounds are often barely hinted at, with sometimes only a bit of furniture, statuary or heavenly body showing where the action is taking place, a fitting device for a play that is described as a dream by its various characters.
   Devils Secret GN,9/6/2011 11:53:05 AM
Is Raoul a boy with an unfortunate condition or is he a demon? If a demon, what kind is he? Could a demon be in love with a priest? Could a priest love a demon? It’s a hopeless cause, right? With humor, good story-telling and great drawing, Ms. Takanaga shows the gradual progression from fear to love in this unusual love story. More humorous than angst-ridden, the title story has plenty of drama, sex and romance to make any yaoi reader very happy as well as Ms. Takanaga’s unique style of drawing slender, beautiful young boys.
   DO NOT USE (Discontinued) Crimson Spell Vol 2 GN,9/6/2011 12:00:19 PM
Bald and Havi’s problems multiply and deepen in complexity as they travel. Some of the storyline is a bit hard to follow as Yamane layers on the magical names, spells and travelers. But the romance gets complicated as Bald becomes more aware of his actions when he’s a demon…and his growing attraction towards the muscular, passionate magician who has chosen him as his lover. True love is never simple, rarely easy and almost never without obstacles. This installment in the “Crimson Spell” series makes that abundantly clear and gives us a riveting story of sword and sorcery to go with it.
   Winter Demon Vol 4 GN,9/1/2011 4:04:47 PM
Dr. Takuma is in a quandary. The demon Ryuuto is growing pushy in his demands and Takuma is terrified about giving in. However, the doctor is far more willing to find common affectionate ground with Ryuuto than Hakuin was with Fuyu at the beginning of their association. Then again, Takuma was never hurt nor raped by Ryuuto so their relationship is starting off on a more amicable footing. The question of whether unpurified demons can love complicates the situation. Then again, love always complicates the situation. Abraham and Silvan illustrate this as the various members, including a sexually deprived Figaru, join in the mix, lending their advice, viewpoints and commentaries. There are complications, misunderstandings, threats and unexpected sexual entanglements as compromises are made, favors are exchanged and bargains are made. With love AND sex in the mix, matters are never easy. The whole story left me anxious, frustrated, shocked and delighted in turns. These are people who know how to write and how to write well. If there is one note of dissatisfaction, it is with the ending. Dr. Takuma clearly wants to consummate his love but there is a bit of a snag. The story is left hanging there, with no resolution. I contacted the people at Yaoi Press and they claim that another volume in this story is in the works. But there is no sign of it appearing anytime in the known future. So I have experienced a bit of frustration with this volume. Modified rapture.
   Anima GN,8/31/2011 5:09:09 PM
Drawing on the steampunk genre, one replete with Victorian style and mechanical devices, this is a story of an android gifted with human emotions. Danya is an android dancer who yearns for something more than the sterile world of art given to him by his owner. But striving to gain love places him in danger from his human partner: no one knows Danya is an android except his owner and exposure could mean dismantling. Will his human lover betray him if he finds out the truth? Will his obsessed owner willingly let him go? Dany & Dany specialize in love crossed with peril and this story has danger to spare. Filled with gorgeous men, exquisitely drawn backgrounds and clothing, this entry by this Italian team shows that yaoi can truly flourish in foreign climates.
   You Will Drown In Love Vol 1 GN,9/6/2011 11:57:23 AM
When Mochizuki becomes a substitute teacher in school, unwanted feelings arise when he notices the brother of a man he once fell in love with years ago. Should he fight these sudden urges for Tsukasa or give in to them? And why’s he so insecure about archery anyway? This is a tender love story, filled with anxiety and inappropriate behavior between teacher and student. The story of love and the love of archery are wound tightly together as the story progresses, making one nearly contingent on the other; the archery school isn’t merely an unusual backdrop for the romance. Tsukasa is open and warm hearted, the complete opposite of his aloof brother, so when his teacher unwillingly falls for him, it makes a lot of sense. But he’s also a student, so it’s easy to understand Mochizuki’s reluctance to get involved with him. When feelings are settled between them, the reader gets the sense that it’s the right thing for them to do; there’s no sense of anything being rushed.
   Manga Shakespeare As You Like It TP,8/29/2011 4:53:08 PM
Not necessarily one of Shakespeare’s greater works, this one has its comedic sensibilities firmly in place as romance is pursued in and out of the forest of Arden. If the ending is too contrived (with no less than four couples being married off at once), what with the appearance of a god and the handy dispatch of a lugubrious character finding religion, yet there is mild amusement to be had in the japes of the fool and one of the most memorable speeches on the human condition from the melancholy Jacques. The reader is helped by color panels in the front of the book that give the dramatis personae. The illustrator Chie Kutsuwada puts the action in a more or less modern setting with a mix of contemporary and old-fashioned clothing. The artwork isn’t particularly original or vibrant (some of it looks rather clumsily drawn); it retains the sensibilities of traditional manga with wide-open mouths and rounded eyes. But it remains true to the text and spirit of this light-hearted romp.
   Manga Shakespeare Othello TP,8/30/2011 10:19:20 AM
The color panels in the front of this manga clue the reader right off the bat that this “Othello” is going to be something…completely different. Abandoning the traditional depictions in other manga, Ryuta Osada goes overboard by presenting us with a world filled with animalistic creatures in even more fantastical dress. Strangely, the treacherous Iago is the only one presented with human features and body. Are we to believe the entire tale of “Othello” a fevered dream of this man, one of the most baffling and compelling villains ever penned in theatrical canon? If Iago is a being of “motiveless malignity”, his every action open to interpretation, then perhaps it is only right that the characters peopled within the story itself become figures subject to re-invention and interpretation. Often posed against plain shadowy or white backdrops, there are only the characters themselves to distract the reader from this growing horror tale of a spouse who is inexorably brought to suspect his wife of infidelity and the drastic measures he takes when he comes to his fatal decision. Such illustrations may not be to everyone’s taste but no one can deny their inventiveness.
   On Bended Knee GN,9/7/2011 10:38:15 AM
In this yaoi manga are a collection of stories about learning to accept feelings of true love—even when it seems the love object is unattainable. Hot young men locked in passionate embraces ignite these tales of love, lust and oh-so-reluctant surrender. The heads are a little on the small side but the bodies are of the firm if not muscular types. But we’re definitely not dealing with willowy bishounen so check it out if you like your men with more—definition.
   Tale Of The Waning Moon Vol 1 GN,9/7/2011 10:40:33 AM
Ryuka has just been jilted by his girlfriend. Inebriated and miserable, he stumbles to a nearby hill and makes a foolish wish—to find someone who will love him for himself alone. Ixto, the spirit of the waning moon, heeds his call and takes sexual advantage of the drunken fool. Starting off as it does with a rape (a topic all too common in manga), this questionable beginning manages to redeem itself with the tale of Ryuka’s journey to find his true soul mate out of the various (male!) alternatives Ixto has given him. The drawings are good, although some of the men look distressingly alike, and the tale of Ryuka’s journey and mishaps to find true love, aided by an irritating but helpful mooncat, is rather endearing.
   Manga Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing TP,8/30/2011 10:16:51 AM
One of the Bard’s more troubling works is presented here. Is this comedy or tragedy? Is there anything to laugh at in a tale of a woman wrongly slandered, young love narrowly thwarted or a bastard prince’s evil spite? The slashing tongues of Beatrice and Benedict hide wounded hearts; there is little of comedy there. Yet we have a clowning policeman, mixed signals about marriage proposals and one of the oldest tricks in the book to spur a romance (“My friend says he likes you!”). Emma Vieceli does not try to solve these problems (she leaves that for Shakespeare) but presents the play by juxtaposing naturalistic figures with the occasional surreal backdrop, weird clothing with weirder mannerisms. Somehow it all works, managing not to detract from the play itself but giving it a modern overlay. Once more, the reader is aided by colored pictures in the front of the manga showing the various characters, their names and functions in the play.
   Library Wars Love & War Vol 1 GN,9/1/2011 4:06:29 PM
Book censorship is a popular theme these days, what with people burning Harry Potter books (no religion) or Narnia books (too much religion). While this book goes into what it takes to join an elite group known as the Library Forces, it doesn’t get into much of the backstory about the censorship. Two and a half pages are devoted to that subject and that’s it. While it is intriguing to read about the grueling ordeals of training and the interaction of the characters is compelling, the lack of historical detail is a bit frustrating. Why did the government start censoring? Which books were targeted and why? What books are allowed to remain on the shelves, i.e., what is deemed “suitable” for public consumption? In the section where Iku is working in a library, we see her struggling with the Dewey Decimal System and straining to help library patrons. Again, we read almost nothing about the books themselves. This is a fine series, especially for bibliophiles. However, a little more attention to the books as well as those who are protecting them would have been grand.
   You Will Drown In Love Vol 2 GN,9/6/2011 11:58:45 AM
Reiichiro, Tsukasa’s emotionally withdrawn brother, puts in an appearance in this story, the sequel to “You will Fall in Love”. Being so standoffish, love for him is a more difficult proposition, making this tale of love more tense than its prequel. Veering between love and distance, propriety and immorality (getting involved with a business associate? How scandalous!), there is a more serious graphic novel than its predecessor. It has the effect of intensifying the love plot, making it all the sweeter when Reiichiro finally gives in to his emotions.
   Tyrant Falls In Love Vol 1 GN,9/2/2011 10:25:15 AM
Morinaga has been cherishing a useless one-sided passion for the cold, sarcastic and mean-spirited bastard Tatsumi for five years. But then an opportunity strikes for him to have a one-night stand with his boss. This book includes what is basically a rape (which I don’t condone) that turns into grudging acceptance on one side but is never acknowledged as love. It reads like there should be more of a backstory here, as if a prequel existed that would give more insight to Morinaga’s relationship with his parents and Tatsumi’s relationship with his brother. The insertion and disappearance of characters gives a disjointed feel that has the reader focusing on the so-called relationship of the two main characters but frustrated as to their development. However, the illustrations of gorgeous men are a treat, displaying this accomplished artist’s abilities to full advantage.
   Finder Vol 1 Target In The Viewfinder GN,9/2/2011 10:46:27 AM
Ayano Yamane specializes in handsome men caught in compromising positions and this manga is no exception. This is hardcore yaoi, with a naked young man gagged, in leather straps, restraints and subjected to drug-induced rape, whippings and other forms of brutality.. There is the usual lopsided balance of power between the Yakuza (seme) and the photographer (uke). But it is offset by the photographer’s spirit and defiance and the Yakuza’s seeming tenderness, thus fueling the sexual dynamics with palpable tension and uncertainty. There are bonus stories and a similar pattern of dominance and control can be discerned in them. Rape is a commonly occurring theme in yaoi. If it’s not for you, skip this series.
   Tyrant Falls In Love Vol 2 GN,9/2/2011 10:26:20 AM
After consummating his affections with his sempai, Morinaga is frustrated by Tatsumi’s continuing indifference. Bargaining and wild sex ensues when he tries pushing his luck and Tatsumi’s boundaries. But it isn’t easy when Tatsumi himself keeps changing the rules and definition of their relationships. Are they lovers? Fuck buddies? Friends with benefits? While it is amusing to watch as the power shifts from one man to the other, whether the two of them are lovers is a baffling question, both for the characters and the readers.
   Finder Vol 2 Cage In The Viewfinder GN,9/2/2011 10:47:55 AM
Once again the reader comes across the high-spirited Akihito and the cool, collected Asami. Danger, excitement, sexual friction can be felt whenever these two encounter each other. In spite of his assertion that Asami is nothing more than a criminal, Akihito can’t deny the feelings he has for the older man. We also get to see the beginnings of Asami’s relationship with the anxious Fei Long (adopted son for an ailing Yazuka boss) who is desperate to make a name for himself. There are images of violence, bloodshed and rape—to be expected given the nature of the characters involved—and the convoluted machinations of mob dealings may be a distraction for people who are looking for straightforward sex. However, these dealings are the way these men “bond” and thus are essential to the storyline. In the bonus story, there is a continuation of a story “Plants in Love” from the previous volume. Short, sweet and cute, it’s a perfect antidote to the brutality of “Cage in the Viewfinder”.
   Finder Vol 3 One Wing In The Viewfinder GN,9/2/2011 10:49:24 AM
New players enter the field, making the drama ever more complicated. The tension thickens among the trio of men: the vindictive Fei Long, high-strung Akihito and coolly appraising Asami. Now, however, it seems that Akihito’s confusion about his feelings may be lifting, given the story an unexpected turn of events. The author/illustrator has skillfully woven a heart-pounding tale of rape, kidnapping, murder, treachery, deceit, double crossing, revenge and passion. It’s wicked stuff and not for the timid. The bonus story is a backstory about Hiyama and Mizuno’s fathers. Since the fathers have the same names as the son, it can get confusing. But the sweet little tale of school rivalry is a wonderful antidote to mob violence.
   Manga Shakespeare The Merchant Of Venice TP,8/30/2011 10:12:16 AM
“The Merchant” is one of Shakespeare’s most difficult plays to mount and perform and each director must feel his way carefully with interpretation. Is it comedy or drama? Is Shylock a villain or a persecuted victim demanding equal justice? What’s all this nonsense about rings anyway? While the loveliness of Venice is gracefully drawn with fine architecture and lovely foliage, the people are conceived as being otherwordly creatures with pointy ears; one character is depicted with webbed fingers, black eyeballs and white pupils. Dragons are shown as winged steeds and chess pieces move like something out of Harry Potter. By removing these beings out of the realm of humanity, the illustrator would lead us to believe that Shylock’s demand and Antonio’s plight are therefore universal, stuck in no one time or place. Or, this may be meant as an emphasis to the magic of Venice, La Serenissima, a city like no other, one that has existed throughout the centuries, navigated by boats and floating improbably upon the waves. Whatever the reason, Faye Young has crafted a work of beauty, drama, passion and revenge. Color panels in the front of the book show the characters, giving listings helpful to the reader in sorting out who’s who.
   Manga Shakespeare Twelfth Night TP,8/31/2011 4:36:33 PM
One of Shakespeare’s most delightful comedies is here given the manga treatment. With the now usual colored panels in the front, showing most of the dramatis personae, the reader is treated to a gloriously illustrated version by Nana Li. Here we have a Sebastian and Viola who actually do resemble each other and yet manage to appear appropriately male and female, so that the reader can easily tell the difference even when the other play characters are justifiably confused. Thus, we have a storyline in genders are confused, people fall in love with the thoroughly unsuitable and a girl can safely walk away from a shipwreck, pilot an aeroplane and impersonate a man in almost everything (except fight a duel; here Viola discovers the pitfalls of donning trousers.) The action is clear, the dialogue all Shakespeare’s, judiciously cut but never embellished. The period appears to be late Edwardian (though I’m not sure about that) introducing modern elements like aeroplanes and motorcars. So skillfully are these accoutrements drawn that they do not detract from the story at all but meld seamlessly with the text.
   Tyrant Falls In Love Vol 3 GN,9/2/2011 10:29:57 AM
Tatsumi continues to prove difficult and Morinaga continues trying to break down the emotional barriers between them. Does Tatsumi really hate gay sex so much? When a postal mix-up occurs and Morinaga attacks Tatsumi in the street, he sets up his hot-and-cold lover for an unusual type of blackmail. Humorous hijinks and jealousy ensue…and their relationship reaches another level of intimacy, much to Morinaga’s delight and Tatsumi’s confusion. What I liked about this manga is that Tatsumi still doesn’t consider himself gay. He has zero attraction to other men—which means his growing feelings for Morinaga are based on something other than Morinaga’s childish initial unrequited desire or rampant lust (such as what the younger man went through when he lost his first boyfriend). It means that Tatsumi’s feelings run deeper than such frivolous emotions, suggesting romantic commitment even if he’s still in denial about it. It’s a wonderful change and one that the writer/artist surely will continue in the future.
   Persepolis Vol 1 The Story Of A Childhood SC,9/8/2011 12:30:43 PM
Childhood in Iran is difficult for Marji. The country undergoes several upheavals of religion, government, schooling, jailings, bombings and ideas. Through it all is the story of a little girl trying to grow up free in a repressive atmosphere and a country that is never quite certain of its ground. This is a fine graphic novel that shows in sometimes horrifying detail what life is like for another culture. A potent and well-written memoir.
   Embroideries GN,11/20/2011 2:19:37 PM
In this graphic novel, Marjane, now a grown woman sits down and listens avidly as the women around her talk in candid terms about what it is to be a woman in Iran. Lighter in tone than her previous autobiographical novels, she hears how to fake virginity, the benefits of plastic surgery and why being a mistress can be a lot more fun than being a wife. It’s frank, no-holds-barred discussion about sex and other matters and it’s a conversation from which men are defiantly excluded. Funny, witty and surprisingly good-hearted, Ms. Satrapi has created a book that shows the solidarity of women even during oppressive regimes, proving that girl talk is universal and universally embracing.
   Until The Full Moon Manga Vol 2 TP,9/13/2011 1:10:18 PM
The road to happily ever after isn’t the smoothest one in the world. Being the son of a hybrid marriage doesn’t help. The complications abound as Marlo and David’s wedding date draws closer. Matoh’s skill in crafting a story and drawing gorgeous men comes into play as the two lovers battle unintentional magic, other suitors and each other in their occasionally risible attempts for happily ever after.
   Yellow Vol 1 GN,9/20/2011 9:43:04 AM
Taki and Goh are undercover “snatchers”, people who snatch drugs. That means working together. It’s not so bad except Goh is gay and keeps hitting on the straight Taki. However, is Taki as straight as he says he is? The way he fights off Goh would seem to indicate it. Action, sex, treachery, crime and adventure are realistically portrayed and the UST between the two men is heightened just enough to keep the reader guessing. The artist draws her characters with heart-shaped faces, sloe eyes and rounded chins, occasionally surrounded by the usual manga traditional flowered background. Goh and Taki are undeniably attractive. They also appear to be clever as well, using brains as well as strength to solve crimes. There’s definitely more than simmering passion going on, making this a worthwhile beginning to this four-volume series.
   Yellow Vol 2 GN,9/26/2011 9:21:36 AM
Once again Tateno brings us mounting tension liberally laced with humor as Taki and Goh negotiate the drug world’s underbelly, this time starting with a seedy nightclub that’s harboring a missing drug stash. In this story, the action is outweighed by the intelligence of and superlative teamwork between the two main characters. New factors are introduced by way of new characters called Kanji and Kei. Upbeat and spirited, Kanji presents a farcical element since he’s always crashing through doors and interrupting the attempted amorous tête-à-têtes between Taki and Goh. Kei’s involvement is more serious, since he functions as a betrayer, and, therefore, there is friction that heightens the drama. The stress of their profession is never too far away and the author ups the ante by increasing the physical danger. More of Goh’s past is revealed. While Taki remains a bit of cipher, he appears to be warming up to Goh. Future chapters will no doubt show if their affair will ever advance.
   One Thousand And One Nights Vol 1 GN,9/9/2011 12:58:14 PM
Mad Sultan Shahryar has issued a terrible decree: each night a different virgin girl must be made his bride only to be beheaded at dawn. Why does he do it? And why is his latest bride…a boy?!? In a twist on the Arabian Nights tale of Shahrazad, the storyteller is a beautiful boy who has sacrificed himself to save his sister Dunya. Sehara is a quiet scholar, fearless, learned and humble. A study in contradictions, he uses his ability as a teller of tales to subdue the savagery of the sultan. But underneath his altruism is a burning desire to learn why Shahryar has embarked on this vicious course. Once the subterfuge is revealed, Sehara is imprisoned to await beheading at dawn. There follows an intense confrontation with another inmate, Sultan Shahryar’s formerly trusted Emir Jafar. From him, Sehara and the reader learn of the origin of Shahryar’s madness—his adulterous wife Fatima who betrayed him and was exiled from the country. The men and women are gorgeous to look at for the most part and the setting of ancient lands is exquisitely drawn by Han SeungHee, JinSeok’s collaborator. The story within the main story is enthralling and is a sly commentary on the main plotline. This is a most unusual manhwa in so many ways and well worth reading. Along with the story is an interview with the writer and illustrator as well as some rough sketches for the book.
   ROD Read Or Die Vol 1 GN,9/14/2011 9:08:51 AM
Yomiko Readman is a heroine like no other. Working for a top-secret organization, she uses her abilities to manipulate paper to astonishing effect. She also happens to be a be-spectacled bibliophile with a mania for secondhand bookstores. How could a reader like myself resist? Yomiko employs all five of her senses to appraise books. It’s almost embarrassing to watch as she drools over a choice tome, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “book LOVER”. In spite of the fact that she’s a bookworm, this manga is far from dull. The story starts quietly enough with talk about summoning a “paper”. Then it takes off and hits the ground running. Perhaps overcompensating for such a sedentary activity as book reading, the artist Shutaro Yamada has Yomiko bouncing with such manic intensity from one book-related experience to another that it can make the reader a little dizzy to follow her. Supervillains, two-fisted book writers, crazed fans and a steamy girl crush—all in the first few book. Read or die, indeed.
   Yellow Vol 3 GN,9/23/2011 11:27:19 AM
Kei has left, devastated over Goh’s indifference towards him. But he’s not finished with Goh yet as a new player enters the scene… There is something very contrived about this new plot twist. What with melodramatic appearances, disappearances, unexpected connections to other characters and sudden character changes; it’s just like a soap opera! Taki is actually attracted to men but he’s buried it because of a repressed horror from his childhood. Someone from his past re-appears with dramatic news. His parents turn out to be criminals! What’s next? His long-lost twin shows up?!? Taki’s past does add dimension to his character but I felt it could have been done without the overblown surprises.
   ROD Read Or Die Vol 2 GN,9/15/2011 10:20:08 AM
The plot continues, this time with Yomiko heading to a private school for privileged children. Mystery, action, adventure and student hijinks abound as Yomiko tries to find a secret library, deal with arrogant students, distrustful staff members and the reappearance of someone she thought long dead. The adherence to book loving still holds sway, continuing the premise of the preciousness of literature. What I found disappointing in this volume were the constant battles, some of which seem to erupt for little or no reason. We’re given the argument that intelligence will prevail in a battle, yet the fights on campus seem to devolve into brute force and vicious confrontations brought about between “powers” like something out of an X-Men comic. The true love of books comes out only in a little bonus manga at the end. It’s a lovely addition but not enough for a series like this.
   ROD Read Or Die Vol 3 GN,9/16/2011 10:10:13 AM
The story is moving through multiple viewpoints, rendering the storyline increasingly chaotic and confused. Yomiko’s former teacher Donnie appears to have a twisted, secret agenda; the Special Operations Division has dispatched a mercenary to snoop around the school; Yomiko is torn between her duty towards the students and her affections for Donnie and Amahisa Iraka keeps goading the A level students to destroy the B level students. A scarred figure appearing out of nowhere only adds to the turmoil. All of this Byzantine plotting is enough to tire even the most avid reader. It’s a relief when the action pauses to engage in a little reminiscence about Donnie and the terrifying Ridley Wan. This seeming diversion gives some much-needed backstory about these two and their opposing natures as well as dramatic breather to all of the non-stop action. But the reader is soon plunged once again into nothing less than full-blown apocalyptic mayhem. Break over! (When we’re treated to the sight of a huge flying people eater, it’s difficult to know whether to be stunned, impressed or scornfully amused.)
   Yellow Vol 4 GN,9/25/2011 1:14:09 PM
Plot contrivance or no, the emotional stakes get very deep in this story. The two protagonists are apart and it’s obvious the separation is taking a drastic toll on the both of them. The plot shifts convincingly between Taki and Goh as they try to deal with the ruthless assassins Mizuki and Katsuro. Complications arise as other characters get involved and Taki and Goh’s past intertwine. The series comes to a spectacular conclusion with sex, face-offs, gunplay and dramatic reunions just too crazy to be believed. But it all plays out with tenderness and heart and a more-or-less convincing happy ending.
   One Thousand And One Nights Vol 2 GN,9/9/2011 12:59:20 PM
Shahryar’s wanton murders have roused the ire of the populace, especially of the young merchant boy, Ali. His admiration of the conquering sultan turns to hatred when Shahryar has the girl of his dreams murdered. After the sultan is captured by rebels, how will Sehara’s stories help Shahryar through this? The plot thickens with rebellion and the rumblings of dissent and revenge. Shahryar is now the one to suffer when he sees his devoted servant Maseru attacked and wounded by the rebels. The seeds of betrayal are not only between ruler and subjects but between brother and sister as Sehara shows his sympathy towards the captive sultan. JinSeok’s able talents as a writer of intricate plotlines dovetail perfectly with his collaborator’s opulent and sumptuous illustrations. The next story-within-a-story deals with a proud prince and a confused bride to another man; the storyline therefore touches indirectly on the sultan’s own plight. This pattern is much more apropos than the original Shahrazad, who merely told one story after another. These tales are linked to the situation at hand, making the stories that much more riveting.
   ROD Read Or Die Vol 4 GN,9/17/2011 10:18:04 AM
In true epics, the hero(ine) always faces a crisis of faith. Such a crisis has come to Yomiko Readman, providing her with a depth of character that is lacking in people like Ridley Wan. Her faith has faltered but true heroes rise above such crises and become all the stronger for facing their demons. In the final showdown, loose ends are tied, allegiances are revealed and violent battles are fought in all comers, leading to a truly spectacular fight. Although the mystery of Readman’s disappearance and reappearance are never explained (which I find just a tad frustrating), the finale is a fitting conclusion for bibliomaniacs everywhere on the planet.
   Kiss Of Fire SC,10/22/2011 12:55:41 PM
Youka Nitta’s Iwaki-san and Katou-kun are brought into vivid color in this gorgeous oversized picture book. Although there is sexual content, as well as shots of them in various locales, clothing and poses, what is mainly emphasized is the camaraderie, friendship, trust and deep love between these men. By turns, erotic and sweet, molten and placid, what emerges is the contentment of two lovers committed and at peace, with themselves and each other. Not for nothing have many fans wished that these two men were real people instead of fictional characters. This artbook is a must-have for any yaoi fan and Nitta fans in particular.
   One Thousand And One Nights Vol 3 GN,9/9/2011 1:00:31 PM
Sehara has betrayed Ali by spiriting away the sultan and the injured Maseru. Now Dunya is furious with him. she had wished to marry her brother. Thwarted twice by his baffling behavior, she decides on a twisted scheme to separate Sehara from the sultan. She will offer herself as Shahryar’s next bride. Shahryar shows himself to be quite capable on the battlefield but a bit at sea away from it—which explains why he relies so heavily on people like the silent, menacing Maseru and the cynical Jafar to aid him. He re-instates Jafar as an emir and his amanuensis. But Jafar isn’t enough to keep the sultan’s madness at bay when Shahryar’s suspicions are roused by seeing Dunya in his bed. Once more, Sehara’s inventiveness is called for and the writer JinSeok displays his craft through the character’s ability to weave a fascinating spell. This story is a variation on the historical Cleopatra’s struggles to keep her country safe, pacify her brother-husband Ptolemy and deal with the wily Julius Caesar. Once again the story-within-a-story is an oblique commentary on the sultan’s plight, cleverly weaving the two stories together into a coherent whole.
   ROD Read Or Dream Vol 1 TP,10/11/2011 10:17:50 AM
Billed as a followup to the hit series “Read or Die”, the Paper Sisters can also command paper to do their bidding. They are very different types, with Michelle acting as the happy dreamer, perfectly willing to forego food for books. There’s Maggie, the stolid middle sister, a hoyden and a bit of a homebody. And then there’s little Anita. More level headed than either of her older sisters, she doesn’t care for books and is constantly struggling to get her flighty siblings to focus on desperately needed funds rather than the next book. Mildly diverting rather than really funny, this manga succeeds mainly in its character studies. The stories are cute, absorbing, startling or wistful, most of them without the earth-shaking apocalyptic overtones of the original “Read or Die” series, and thus definitely suited for younger readers.
   ROD Read Or Dream Vol 2 TP,10/12/2011 9:55:38 AM
The Paper Sisters remain just as big bibliomaniacs—well, Michelle and Maggie do. There is more tension this time around and the stories run for longer than in the preceding volume, giving a greater sense of continuity. Theft, heat waves, ghost stories, a new enemy and old acquaintances deck its pages. The sisters remain refreshingly perky, especially the exasperated Anita, who still doesn’t care about books much—although she’s starting to realize the importance they hold for others.
   Kitchen Princess Vol 1 GN,10/5/2011 9:27:14 AM
A sweet, winsome orphan goes to school and wins the hearts of her fellow students—except for the mean kid who’d like nothing better than to ensure failure. This isn’t a Harry Potter or Sara Crewe tale but it’s a familiar one, nonetheless. Big-eyed kids with spindly limbs and pointy chins adorn the pages of this book, such as I’ve seen in many similar mangas. Therefore, the illustrations are rather prosaic. The only things out of the ordinary are the chapter headings. Each one features a picture of Najika with a relevant dish that she creates, with the pages entitled with the word “recipe” rather than “chapter”. But it is the storyline that enchants. There’s magic in the air as Najika manages to turn out awesome dishes, often with nothing more than a few ingredients. The love and joy of food abound in this manga, making it a hearty treat for young readers. It even comes with recipes in that back, with helpful illustrations and easy-to-understand instructions.
   ROD Read Or Dream Vol 3 TP,10/13/2011 9:20:33 AM
The constant purchasing of books is draining the detective agency…that and the fact that they’re getting no work. Desperation and hunger lead to some quirky choices. Because of their dire circumstances, the stories in this volume deal more with the bonding between the three sisters than with actual cases. With more fantastical plotting than actual detective work, the reader is once again immersed in the lives of the delightful Paper Sisters. Weirdness is afoot and cuteness abounds, even when they cross paths with a determined kidnapper and her “partner”.
   Innocent Bird Vol 1 GN,9/8/2011 12:37:12 PM
The story starts off prosaically enough in what looks like a government office. Men in black bustle about on various assignments. One of them is given the task of deporting an illegal alien. In a rundown section of town, he finds the alien, a beautiful creature with sloe eyes, a gentle manner and a sincere desire to help others. But while the bespectacled man gently tries to persuade the illegal alien to leave, someone else shows up with a prior claim—a demon, demanding that the refugee come back to Hell. The government agent then reveals his true nature. Enormous white bird wings unfurl from his back as he coldly dismisses his demonic rival. Thus, an unusual relationship begins between an unlikely angel and a demon seeking redemption. The author/illustrator has done a fantastic job of introducing her various characters and making them realistic and fascinating. The mundane and the unearthly come together and the story works, both on a spiritual and an emotional level. The illustrations are bang-up, too. Interiors and exteriors are realistic without being heavy-handed and the male lead characters are handsome without the effeminate look found in other genres of yaoi.
   Manga Shakespeare Romeo And Juliet TP,9/19/2011 9:29:53 AM
This famous play of doomed romance is very much like Jell-O. It’s practically foolproof, nearly impossible to flub and can withstand a variety of treatments. Thus Manga Shakespeare has given it two very different interpretations. One went the traditional route, with settings and costumes of 16th-century Italy. This version is set in modern-day Tokyo, with the two lovers offsprings of warring Yakuza families. A handy color guide to the characters is set in front, so the reader knows who is who. So the illustrator Sonia Leong has re-imagined Romeo as a moody rock star and Juliet a defiant Shibuya girl who wears revealing clothes and drives a Vespa. There are cellphones, Internet, elevators and motorcycles. Her characters are distinct, the lines elegant without being fussy and there are the usual manga attributes at play: chibi characters, animal ears, abstract backgrounds of flowers, etc. Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” is ever new and this version more than does it justice.
   ROD Read Or Dream Vol 4 TP,10/16/2011 1:18:00 PM
The last volume of this series has the intrepid trio traveling to Tokyo to help a child author get over her writing slump. Helping a writer gain important experiences isn’t easy, especially if she’s only 13. Anita proves the lifesaver of the group as she renews her friendship with Hisa while her dreamy sisters once again get dizzy over books. She’s quite caring underneath her sometimes gruff demeanor and that really shines through in this volume. This manga concludes with a startling backstory about how the Paper Sisters Detective Agency got started (one that I won’t reveal here) and a satisfying resolution to Anita’s constant, inexplicable dislike of books. Congratulations to the author and artist for this light-hearted addition to the “Read or Die” series.
   Kitchen Princess Vol 2 GN,10/6/2011 9:33:10 AM
Najika is in trouble with Akane, the mean girl. Will she prevail? Does a bear take a—walk in the woods? Why do girls like Akane get to dictate terms? She has no power except youth and beauty …oh, wait, maybe I just answered my own question. However, even pretty girls have their problems and the story takes a slightly grim turn in this volume as they explore a dangerous aspect of Akane’s career as a teen model. The personalities of the main characters are concrete, even if everyone else takes a backseat. The continuing glimpses into Najika’s past ground the readers firmly in her corner. Najika’s belief that good food can solve any problem is a bit much to take but an endearing part of her nature so it is perhaps forgivable. Once again, interest centers around food and its creation and consumption, with a rather pointed meaning on the latter. There are more recipes in the back featuring dishes from the manga, so there are more attempts for the aspiring cooks in the crowd.
   Kitchen Princess Vol 3 GN,10/14/2011 10:45:31 AM
Najika’s accommodating nature gets a real workout when she has to deal with her sick sensei, a rude food-wasting boy and the still aloof Akane. The reader isn’t always drenched in her sweetness and light, though; there’s Daichi and Sora to add complexity to the mix. Is one of them her Flan Prince? If so, will he reveal himself? The writer clearly knows a thing or two about the male sex. The reader wonders which boy she will choose or which boy will choose her. Is Sora toying with her? Is Daichi denying his own feelings? Boys being boys, it’s hard to tell what they’re feeling! The mean Akane shows herself to have layers as well. One moment she’s rooting for Najika’s downfall; the next, she’s encouraging her not to give up. Perhaps she doesn’t enjoy playing the jerk as much as she pretends. As always, the recipes are a pleasant bonus but the story is one a lot of young girls can enjoy.
   Innocent Bird Vol 2 GN,9/8/2011 12:39:28 PM
In volume 1, Karasu descended to Hell to rescue Shirasagi. In doing so, he fell prey to feelings of hatred, emotions inimical to the purity of angels. He had already been suspended from using his angelic abilities after defying his superiors; as his feelings grow darker, he runs the risk of falling to Hell’s clutches. Shirasagi wants to help, especially since he has a greater understanding of the feelings he and Karasu are experiencing. But he has his own problems… The author/illustrator does a great job at delineating their expressions and thoughts as they try to come to grips with this age-old situation of opposites attracting. It is a wholly human dilemma and that makes it all the more accessible to the readers. If I have any objections, it’s about the appearance of the cherub. Seen as a Sweet Lolita type in an incredibly frilly dress, she lacks any sense of threat or menace to Shirasagi’s situation.
   Kitchen Princess Vol 4 GN,10/18/2011 12:08:39 PM
Akane is still scheming, trying to get Daichi to return her feelings. Najika is mooning over Sora. Lies, deceit, silence and mixed signals get both brothers and the two girls caught in a tangle of miscommunication. Reading the author write her characters into corners and write them out again is almost like watching a soap opera: lots of melodrama, tons of teen angst. We’re also on the hook about whether Najika will wind up with the gruff Daichi or his suave older brother Sora as her love interest. Such little uncertainties are what lend spice to a love story…spice and plenty of sweetness.
   Kitchen Princess Vol 5 GN,10/19/2011 9:27:06 AM
Najika has gotten a kiss from Daichi—right on the lips! What does it mean? Typical boy-girl interaction ensues when Daichi dismisses the kiss and Najika is hurt by his studied indifference. How will he make it up to her? The tension mounts as Najika enters a cooking contest. At this point, the reader has little doubt that she will surmount this obstacle as she has all the dilemmas that have gone before her. But it’s still charming to read as she tackles the day-to-day problems of her life. Sora turns out to have hidden depths. Before, the dissension between him and his brother seemed to be nothing more than a childish grudge born of disagreement over their father’s re-marriage. Now it appears he has a secret agenda, one he may have revealed to no one, not even his brother. The creator is certainly good at keeping the reader coming back for more. As enigmas abound, pressure rises and tragedy strikes, you wonder just how Najika will weather the new storms in her life.
   King Of Debt GN,9/17/2011 10:20:33 AM
I wanted to like this series; I really did. While the men aren’t as muscular or as distinct in features as in other mangas, still the stories were interesting and different. “Bear” had a couple of surprises that jolted me quite a bit but there seemed to be genuine heart in it, despite its bizarre premise. However, the emotions were not well defined in the other tales, leaving a cold indifference at the heart of them. In fact, quite a few of the characters seem to be having sex for nothing but money, attention or competition. Even in the midst of sex, the conversation was off-hand or obnoxious to the point of annoyance.
   Shakespeares Hamlet The Manga Edition GN,12/11/2011 1:47:08 PM
Here is the story of the melancholy Dane, set with ghostly imagery, scenes of murder, bloodshed and suicide, in such a way as couldn’t be presented onstage, thanks to the magic that is manga. This version of “Hamlet cleaves to the traditional settings and costumes, but almost every panel bursts with energy, passion and unexpected shocks. One person loses an eye; another, his arm. In fact, between the carnage and the body count depicted, this edition of the play comes off as gory as “Titus Andronicus”. However, I do have reservations about this adaptation. In its entirety, the play often runs at well over four hours and directors can be forgiven for making judicious cuts here and there in its staging. It is not surprising, therefore, that cuts were made in the manga version as well. The lengthy and familiar speeches are left mainly untouched. But the quality of certain cuts left me dissatisfied. Hamlet’s first meeting with Horatio is cut abruptly short, we miss the ghostly murmurings to Hamlet’s fellow conspirators and Fortinbras’s perusal of the scene is truncated in such a brusque fashion you almost believe he has the bodies thrown into a ditch. All in all, a fair rendition of “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” that could have been better.
   Kitchen Princess Vol 6 GN,11/9/2011 10:01:43 AM
Tragedy strikes and Najika is devastated. Volume six of this series gets very despondent in tone as someone dear to Najika is lost to her forever. Of course, the girl is no stranger to tragedy, having lost her parents when she was very young. But now, when she cherished romantic feelings, the anguish is much greater. For once, competition takes a back seat because there are far weightier issues at hand. Loss can strengthen character as well as deliver devastating wounds and Najika is tougher than she or anyone thinks. It was gripping to read this installment as she combats her grief, her resulting ageusia (loss of taste) and the wretched anger of the Director. Death can have far-reaching consequences and the author shows that too, displaying a deft hand at how the various people around Najika react to this latest shift in their lives. Of course, there are the usual recipes in the back as well as a bonus manga revealing when Sora and Najika met for the very first time.
   One Thousand And One Nights Vol 4 GN,9/9/2011 1:11:09 PM
Sehara has been entrusted with an important mission: to deliver a message to Shahryar’s brother Shazaman in Shamarkand. But Shazaman believes his brother’s demand for an army to defend against the Crusaders is a lie and taunts Sehara with the notion that perhaps his brother is truly mad. Sehara, however, has seen strange things in Shazaman’s palace, including a wandering ghost-like figure who might be the exiled Fatima. He is certain that these occurrences are connected to Shahryar’s madness. In spite of the royal bard’s certainty that he can cure Shahryar, the situation looks bleak. In his absence, the mad sultan attacked and grievously injured another girl and has to be physically restrained. But there is a faint light in the darkness of his mind. For the first time, he requests Sehara tell him a story… The next story-within-the-main-plot is a horror tale of domestic abuse and violence, as an apparently kind fisherman who obtained his wife through unlawful means becomes obsessed with keeping her to himself—no matter what the cost. This touches on the miserable secret of Shahryar’s past—he witnessed his own mother’s execution for an adulterous affair. His father absolved him of any guilt in betraying her attempted escape…but deep down Shahryar never forgave her. SeungHee’s drawings grow more beautiful and compelling with each installment. JinSeok shows a superb sense of mystery, pacing and complexity that has garnered just praise and excitement for this series.
   Weekend Lovers GN,11/25/2011 10:54:07 AM
The short stories contained in this volume are a trifle hardcore, featuring stories of (almost) nonconsensual sex, bondage and crossdressing. The men are good looking, somewhere between lithe, limpid-looking bishounen and overly muscled he-men. The dynamics of the stories yield mild surprises here and there, with the roles of seme and uke not being entirely what is expected. The artist also has a fetish for men with glasses, managing to imbue them with sensuality and attractiveness.
   Like A Love Comedy Novel,9/24/2011 10:53:42 AM
It’s hate at first sight when a new screenwriter collides with an arrogant up-and-coming star actor from Japan. After setting the hostile tone between the two, the author surprises the reading about their upcoming collaboration together. What you think will turn out to be a predictable romance gets derailed, setting up dramatic conflict and tension-building anxiety. The author develops the relationship between the two men slowly, allowing dialogue to limn their characters and display their growing attraction. While the more boyish looking of the pair is the older one, his slight stature set him up to be the uke to the younger man’s muscular seme, typical in stories of this genre. However, the smaller Biwa isn’t a submissive by any means; although he does allow the more confident Yamato to display his superiority over him in certain ways, his temperament causes him to snap back if the younger man gets out of line. It makes for credible drama and engaging conversation. The illustrations focus on the two men almost to the exclusion of other characters, using the equivalent of cinematic close-ups to emphasize mood and expression. In my estimation, the drawings aren’t out of the ordinary but they are lovely, nonetheless, with the main emphasis on human figures rather than backgrounds.
   Girl Genius Vol 7 Agatha And The Voice Of The Castle TP,11/2/2011 9:27:51 AM
After the battle at Sturmhalten, wild and crazy rumors abound about Agatha and her friends. Ardsley Wooster, her British Majesty’s spy, has come to collect Agatha and offer amnesty and sanctuary to Master Payne’s Circus. But Agatha will have none of it and has gone on to Mechanicsburg. Enter Dr. Sun (Baron Wulfenbach’s long-suffering medic), the apparently indestructible Axel Higgs (Airman Third Class), a fake Heterodyne heir in a pink airship (!), former Seneschal Carson Von Mekkan and his lazy grandson Vanamonde and the motley prisoners of the heavily damaged Castle Heterodyne, an edifice with its own defense mechanisms, split personalities and a truly warped brand of humor. The Foglios know what makes a ripping fine story, complete with engaging twists, funny sight gags, strong senses of characters, brilliant one-liners and spot-on illustrations. Sepia tones for flashbacks and brilliant color for current storylines keep the reader from getting (too) perplexed. (The story itself takes care of that.) Enjoy and don’t forget to try the coffee!
   Kitchen Princess Vol 7 GN,11/10/2011 9:33:48 AM
A new face means new worries, new challenges and new contenders for popularity or odium. Seiya Mizuno is a know-it-all and a precise designer in the kitchen but he’s got a lot to learn about what makes for a successful chef. One thing I found really wearying was the thought of yet another cooking competition! It seems that Najika is always having to prove herself with these contests arbitrarily set up by people to humiliate, shame or cow her and I’m fed up with it. She should have just told this boy to stuff this competition; there will be plenty of people to eat his machine-like creations manufactured in his sterile lab of a kitchen and lots of folks who’ll crave Najika’s wholesome preparations served and eaten in a convivial atmosphere. The hostility, backbiting and rivalry permeating through these mangas like a bad smell get really old. I wish that Najika would show a little toughness. But she continues to display confidence in her cooking and an almost total lack of self-esteem elsewhere. Sweetness and light are all very well, but a little steel doesn’t hurt.
   Incubus Vol 3 GN,10/20/2011 9:25:59 AM
In this third volume of the “Incubus” series, Ms. Neko gives us more information about the lovestruck ifrit Kent. Initially portrayed as a villain intent on stealing a mortal soul, the artist shows that, even in demon dimensions, shades of gray permeate. Ms. Neko’s fictional world of incubi, gregori, humans and lilin continues to acquire intriguing layers. The inner thoughts of her characters unfold in a brilliant mosaic of words, moods and images. She doesn’t shy away from complexity, either in her characters, their backgrounds or the storyline. Her skill at drawing clearly improves with each volume as well, given the increased detail that distinguishes her men from each other and enriches the backgrounds in her panels. She is ably adept at portraying her figures at all points in their lives, from small children to old men. And the sex? Heated and wild, a skillful blend of masculine pulchritude, musculature and tussled clothing, there is much for the yaoi lover to drool over in each successive manga and volume three does not disappoint. Yowza.
   One Thousand And One Nights Vol 5 GN,9/9/2011 1:13:20 PM
Shahryar takes Sehara out for a day of fun. But the mood darkens considerably when the incognito sultan learns what his formerly devoted subjects really think of him. His people believe him vicious, tyrannical, mad or perverted. The writer makes a compelling point, the groundwork having been laid in previous installments in this series. In spite of his insistence on listening to his people, the sultan appears to care very little about their feelings, well-being or rights. When Sehara demands he help the eloping Aisha and Alex, the sultan refuses. Then the oblivious Shahryar involves himself in a street brawl when he sees Maseru fighting, inadvertently aiding the very couple he had abandoned. The sultan is merely 24 years old, still immature and better suited for fighting than statesmanship or politics. This explains his cavalier attitudes, extreme mood shifts and selfish disregard for others. He’s spent more time on the battlefield than off and doesn’t know how to comport himself in peacetime. This novel ends on a curious note: Shahryar asks Sehara to tell him a story and the royal bard relates a tale about the love between Socrates and his youthful lover Alcibiades. For once, his story appears to have no bearing on the situation at hand. But the man-on-man love that had been hinted at from volume one is finally given expression, leading to a very passionate encounter between the sultan and his royal bard.
   Kitchen Princess Vol 8 TP,11/12/2011 1:48:16 PM
Bake off! Yes, once again, Najika is challenged to prove her cooking skills. This time the stakes are considerably higher and the opposition even nastier. As I’ve stated, I wish that Najika would be allowed to present her lovely talent without always being forced to defend herself or her cooking ability. However, the storyline for this volume provides considerably more anxiety because it’s not merely Najika’s status or placement in the school that’s at risk. It may be that the contests overshadow what is important: as Najika gets older and more assured about her culinary skills, her trials become suitably more arduous. As usual, she rises to meet those challenges with the help of her staunch friends and supporters. But ultimately she stands alone at center stage and her formidable talents along with her congeniality, sweetness of temper and never-say-die spirit always triumph. This story also ends with a romantic surprise. Romance has occasionally taken a back seat to the main events but when they do present themselves, they always throw the heroine and the readers a curve ball…not a bad thing in this series.
   One Thousand And One Nights Vol 6 GN,9/10/2011 1:30:39 PM
In spite of hearing about Socrates and his lover, Shahryar quickly reverts to his former viciousness when his brother Shazaman sends him a picture of Fatima. The storyline takes a truly ugly turn when Shazaman’s motivations are revealed. Shazaman has the political savvy his older brother lacks, making him an able conspirator. He has used the tactic of “divide and conquer” and Shahryar has fallen for it, leaving Baghdad undefended against the invading Crusaders. The plot thickens as the eerie Fatima re-appears at Shazaman’s side. Romance, intrigue, storytelling, combat, the supernatural and politics mingle in this volume. How it will all end is anybody’s guess. The writer hasn’t made this a simplistic series by any means. The stakes are higher, the story more gripping and the enigma that is Fatima all combine to make this a truly powerful manhwa series.
   Dont Rush Love GN,9/8/2011 12:32:12 PM
A young freshman, Morino, has fallen hopelessly in love with an over-achieving honors student, Kusama. However, Kusama is cherishing a yen for someone else! What’s a heartsick young boy to do? Filled with cute boys and handsome teens, this story is erotic and yet charged with a pleasant sense of frustration. Even when love is returned, all does not run smoothly, lacing the sex with believable drama. The illustration shows the lanky lines of adolescents rather than the more powerful build of men but the illustrator manages to avoid unappealing scrawniness. There are also very graphic and explicit sex scenes (no cones of light, here), so this isn’t for children.
   Fool A Novel HC,11/22/2011 9:42:42 AM
Irreverent, naughty, bawdy, anachronistic and wildly cheeky (in more ways than one), “Fool” does not retell Shakespeare’s “King Lear” so much as upends it and gives it a good sound kicking to get rid of the dust and tiresome ravings of halfwits, nitwits and dullards. If the English colloquialisms and odd bits of slang engender too much confusion, there is always the fun to be had by identifying certain characters, situations and dialogue as belonging to other Shakespearean plays while reveling in the sheer audacity of “Fool”. Like any true, blessed jester, this novel wears its jingly bells and wields its mini scepter with pride as well as a wicked sense of humor.
   One Thousand And One Nights Vol 7 GN,9/10/2011 1:32:03 PM
Sehara’s talents as a royal bard are given a very rigorous workout as he tackles his greatest challenge: the invading King of England, MacLeod. Unlike the hot-headed Shahryar, MacLeod is cool, collected and thoughtful under fire. His greatest mistake is in treating the Muslims as a bunch of pagans, an attitude that Sehara points out is deeply flawed. But allowing Sehara to live will give the royal bard a chance to change his mind… The romance of the previous novels is shoved to the back burner while politics and warfare seize center stage. However, it’s clear that Shahryar’s feelings have undergone drastic changes when he shows his devastation over Sehara’s departure with the foreign king. This masterful saga takes yet another unexpected turn. The writer certainly knows how to keep his readers interested and the illustrator shows a deft hand in contrasting the styles of the Middle East and the English invaders. The truly puzzling aspect is a story of modern-day American and Middle Eastern conflict is introduced. Does Sehara tell this tale? How is he able to tell a story set in the future? Does his powers as a majnoon make him a fortuneteller or is this story introduced as a comment on the main plotline? Whatever the reason, another gripping story-within-a-story is once again related for the delectation and edification of its listener. An excellent effort on the parts of writer and illustrator.
   Pride And Prejudice And Zombies SC,10/17/2011 9:20:01 AM
The one that started it all, the forerunner of the now familiar genre known as “mashups”, this is an hysterical romp through 19th-century England, one replete with old manners, a vicious plague and ass-kicking females who know a thing or two about weaponry. Thus, the spirited Elizabeth doesn’t take it quietly when Mr. Darcy makes his crass marriage proposal and a quiet walk on the grounds holds the ever-present threat of zombie attack. The premise is not as idiotic as it sounds, since the altered mindset of this new world where the walking dead hold sway carries its way into the mundane lives of its characters as well. The familiar Austen individuals are not warped out of their qualities to fit into this world only trained to accommodate Mr. Grahame-Smith’s conceit. Fun for everybody who thought Austen could do with more action sequences. And it comes with pictures!
   Girl Genius Vol 4 Agatha Heterodyne And The Circus Of Dreams TP New Printing,10/25/2011 11:11:53 AM
Having escaped from Baron von Wulfenbach’s airship, Agatha and Krosp, emperor of all cats, find themselves on the run. They stumble across a traveling circus and find themselves mistaken for show people. Agatha lends her mechanical talents to the traveling circus, all the while concerned with keeping her identity as a Heterodyne secret. She’s learned the hard way that folks respond uneasily when a Heterodyne spark is present. There’s subtlety and nuance at work in these storylines. Bad guys aren’t crazed, scarred villains with scary laughs (well, they can be but that’s beside the point). Sometimes the villains are simply determined men and women willing to go to any lengths to keep the peace and, if that occasionally means killing people, that’s what it takes. Look at the history of any “civilized” country and you’re bound to turn up a few bodies. The characters are varied, colorful and actually witty. The action is carefully plotted, filled with battles, explosions, exposition and genuine humor. Torture, mayhem, explosions, the promise of true love, good guys, bad guys, bad guys trying to become good guys (if the good guys are always winning, what’s the point in holding out? If you can’t beat ‘em…) and a traveling circus. What more can you want?
   Girl Genius Vol 8 Agatha Heterodyne And The Chapel Of Bones HC,10/26/2011 11:14:54 AM
Getting herself recognized as a Heterodyne used to be easy…that’s before Agatha came up against a psychotic castle with a mind of its own, several malfunctioning systems and a twisted sense of humor. A fake Heterodyne and two rival, bickering suitors for Agatha’s hand don’t make matters any easier. Various factions descend on Mechanicsburg, trying to take over the town. As usual the chuckles abound as Agatha deals with tetchy helpers (don’t call him a minion), staking her claim as the one true Heterodyne, a mad fortress and, of course, her own genius gone wild. Of course, she’s also got plenty of friends, allies and those nutty Jägers to lend a hand…although whether Jägers are an asset or a hindrance is debatable. With their usual flair for wit and jokes, a firm grasp of drama, action, excitement and story and really great illustrations, the Foglios once again wow their devoted fans with a good, old-fashioned tale of adventure, worthy of anything Sinbad the Sailor ever undertook.
   Girl Genius Vol 5 Agatha Heterodyne And The Clockwork Princess TP New Printing,10/31/2011 9:56:28 AM
Traveling with Master Payne’s Circus of Adventure has certainly been lively. Gil Wulfenbach and his family believe her to be dead so she’s safe from them—for the time being. The action and fun continue as three rescued Jägers join the circus. Jägers are like Klingons only without their common sense (and that’s saying something). They love a good battle and, if they can’t find one, they make one. That increases the action and madcap mayhem considerably. Throw in a grieving machine, love-struck actor, scheming prince, crazed princess in a mechanical body, British Intelligence and the dangerous Baron Wulfenbach and you’ve got giggles and excitement galore. What a great series! What a wonderful story! Bring on the Jägers!
   Girl Genius Vol 6 Agatha Heterodyne And The Golden Trilobite TP New Printing,11/1/2011 9:29:29 AM
Matters have taken a turn for the dire. It seems that Agatha has inherited more from the Heterodynes than her genius, voice and unique scent. She is now a host for The Other, who is actually Lucrezia Mongfish, her own mother! Confusing? Yes. Thrilling? You bet! Politics, mad science, dark sorcery and adventure mount in this thrilling installment of Agatha Heterodyne, Girl Genius. Plots and counterplots pile up as Gil Tarvek and his sister Anevka accuse each other of murder, Agatha tries to fight her possession, the Jägers, Lars, Krosp and others race to save Agatha and the Baron flies to destroy Agatha before the Other manages to start a war. Phew! Although the political machinations make for a lot of confusion for people who like their stories simple, these kinds of complications just makes this series better and better for the discerning reader.
   One Thousand And One Nights Vol 8 GN,9/10/2011 1:32:53 PM
In an effort to save his sultan, Sehara offered to accompany MacLeod. His willing departure leaves everybody in the palace—Shahryar, Jafar, Maseru, Dunya and Ali—shocked. But it is Shahryar who is the most affected. First driven to despair, he decides to take action. But when he attempts to raise an army to re-take Baghdad, he is thwarted by his conniving brother and placed under arrest by the Caliph, who has heard disturbing rumors about Shahryar’s murderous misogyny. The storyline moves on multiple layers as the key players are separated and attempt to sort out matters in their own way. Warfare, shifting loyalties, accusations of madness, revenge, betrayal and supernatural visitations come into play. The mysterious wraith that is Fatima finally has her history revealed, one that explains her almost magical power over three different men. Just as with life, this saga becomes ever more complex. But the writer never overwhelms the reader with too much at once. We are allowed just enough information to keep us riveted and coming back for more.
   One Thousand And One Nights Vol 9 GN,9/10/2011 1:34:01 PM
Jafar tries to find out about Fatima only to come up against a dead end—literally, when he discovers her dead body in Shazaman’s palace in Samarkand. So who was the disappearing figure Sehara saw in the palace? Who is taunting Shahryar in the desert? Why does Fatima continue to exert her power over both brothers? The elements of the eldritch recall to mind the original Arabian Nights tales. Such hints of magic have been teasing the reader subtly, gradually, until we have to wonder if this country truly is touched by the mystical or whether madness is taking its toll over what is left of the royal family. However, this installment gets bogged down by a long-winded and convoluted tale of three Chinese “knights”, a story that Sehara partially translates for MacLeod. The parade of different names and the changing loyalties of the characters made it very difficult for me to follow the storyline. If it is meant to show brotherhood between three disparate nations, then it could have conveyed its message with a shorter tale, perhaps the one about the three brothers who use different magical objects to save a dying princess.
   Library Wars Love & War Vol 2 GN,9/28/2011 10:10:30 AM
Kasahara’s training gets no easier, especially when she receives unwelcome attention from a team member! This manga continues its premise about defensive action taken to protect books. This time, we get to see something of treachery inside the Library Forces as well as aggression from without as they struggle to protect the books under their care. An interesting note of tension and division arises when Commander Inamine refuses to release sensitive information even when it’s requested by the police. Such a decision has a polarizing effect. Is he right or wrong? Such an absorbing question brings an intriguing depth of seriousness to the topic…and the hint of romance from elsewhere provides a different kind of anxiety than that of the action panels. Not bad for a manga based on fighting and gunplay.
   One Thousand And One Nights Vol 10 GN,9/10/2011 1:35:15 PM
MacLeod learns that Sehara has snuck away in order to return to Shahryar’s side. The Caliph has made an important decision involving the future of Baghdad since Shahryar is apparently lost in the desert, just as Fatima was—or is he? Tragedy is brought home as Sehara returns to Baghdad and hears devastating news. Shahryar is undergoing a transformation as well as he finally comes to terms with his changing feelings towards his court bard. While the main action is slowed down by the overblown, nearly incomprehensible “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, the story shows the two main protagonists separated by distance and misunderstanding. A note of hilarity is introduced into the main plotline by the idea of sex having rejuvenating powers, a conclusion shared by two very different people. But will Sehara and Shahryar ever get to experience such joy with each other?
   Girl Genius Vol 9 Agatha Heterodyne And The Heirs Of The Storm TP,11/3/2011 10:42:25 AM
Action! Adventure! Heroism! Science! Pirates! Minions! Step right up, folks, and watch the show! This series just keeps getting better and better. No longer just a clumsy naïve fool, Agatha truly comes into her own as she accepts her mastery of the castle and forces her will on those around her, all the while maintaining her own personal scruples. Trying to temper mercy with justice when you are longing to choke the life out of your enemies can be a difficult struggle. This can be especially tough when one is surrounded by mad professors, rabid criminals and machines run amok, all just itching to beat the tar out of each other or just sit back and cheer while the blood flies. Leavening their “gaslamp fantasy” with plenty of humor and action lightly sprinkled with merry bits of random idiocy, the Foglios once again prove that science can be useful, deadly AND loads of fun.
   One Thousand And One Nights Vol 11 GN,9/11/2011 3:31:12 PM
In the final conclusion to this sweeping epic, Shahryar is united with his beloved Sehara; their meeting precipitated by Sehara once more rescuing the near-unconscious Shahryar. This time it is Shahryar who relates a story to his avidly attentive former court bard. The love story that followers is set in modern times (once again raising the question of how a tale from the future could be told in the past) and contains a rather humorous undertone. The saga of the two men ends as it began, with the idea that people can be united by storytelling. While I’m glad that the two managed to overcome all obstacles, I was disappointed at the complete lack of sexual content. After 11 volumes, after all that struggle, I wanted there to be hot, passionate sex depicted! It needn’t have been explicit but where else was this all leading? People got that after 7 volumes of “Fake” by Sanami Matoh; it would have been gratifying to have more than Shahryar and Sehara exchanging kisses and chaste hugs.
   Night Bookmobile HC,9/8/2011 12:29:38 PM
How far would you go to re-capture a lost dream? A woman wandering the streets one night discovers a mysterious bookmobile. In it, she finds all the material she’s ever read in her life so far—books, her diary, even her personal and business letters. The driver tells Alexandra she can read anything she likes. But her time there is limited and she can never find the bookmobile again when she is looking for it. Her hunger to re-read her books grows into an obsession with tragic consequences…or does it? Niffeneger’s prose is ably matched by her drawings, realistic without being heavy handed, the whole managing to convey the eerie yet welcoming warmth brought about by a life lived between the pages of books and haunted by a vehicle only seen at night. The drawings and black background of the pages make it seem as if we are reading this book by candlelight or firelight; the reader is astonished to pull back and find that light bulbs burn overhead or it is broad daylight outside. This graphic work is very short, prompting me to flip it back to the front and re-read it. Like the protagonist, I wanted to re-visit this book again and again, making me wish for my own night bookmobile.
   Library Wars Love & War Vol 3 GN,9/29/2011 9:35:25 AM
The censorship war isn’t always fought with guns or on the battefield. Sometimes it takes place in the public forum, where attacks can be more sinister because they seem to have the public’s welfare at heart. However, there is a benefit: the unarmed can fight back on equal ground. I found this volume very engaging indeed: fast-paced, lively, probing and highly illustrative of the differences between Asian and Western cultures. When the two boys wanted to apologize, I was suspicious, thinking they were plotting further mischief. But they were genuinely repentant and eager to make amends for their faults—an attitude that would be baffling in American boys. I very much liked their interaction with Kasahara, who is almost childlike herself in her enthusiasms, and their mounting of the public platform was very well done, including that blurted comment at the end from the more prosaically minded boy. Commander Inamine’s past is explored, thus revealing the origins of the Library Freedom Act and the beginnings of the Library Task Forces. The plot takes a dramatic turn, however, when Inamine and Kasahara find themselves in danger from a terrorist group bent on getting their hands on banned books. Ending this volume on a cliffhanger is a neat tactic and admirably well done, setting the stage for further drama and action.
   Girl Comics HC,9/27/2011 10:25:51 AM
Featuring so many wonderful stories about female superheroes of of the Marvelverse—their unique problems, desires and conversations—this is one fine and fantastic collection. You’re bound to have your favorites, as you’re bound to have your favorite superheroines. The book also contains lovely pictures of these ladies that amount almost to pin-up posters. I’ve got no objection to that; like many comic characters, the women are often stunning. Why not flaunt it? However, there’s a really lubricious picture of a gorgeous, buxom She-Hulk that has a teeny weeny (major) flaw. Even though it is clearly her right leg crossed coyly over the left, the exposed right leg is sporting a left foot. Ack! How did the editors miss THIS?!?
   Library Wars Love & War Vol 4 GN,9/30/2011 10:14:48 AM
Kasahara displays her ingenuity and gets herself and Inamine rescued. Atsushi Dojo is forced to come to terms with his growing feelings for her although he can’t bring himself to express them in any positive way. But at least we get a hint of other feelings besides irritation and grudging acceptance from him. A seed of romance is planted in this books-and-bullets manga; it remains to be seen when and if it will bear fruit. We also have the defining moment in Kasahara’s life seen from Atsushi’s viewpoint. His speculation about the incident is entirely internal, as befits his gruff character. His dismay over his own foolish actions and the shock of seeing Kasahara again help to explain his harsh behavior towards her. Is he being cruel to be kind? On a much lighter note, Kasahara’s parents come to visit her at work. But they only know that she’s a librarian; they haven’t been told that she’s actually fighting in the armed forces against the MBC. Everybody jumps through hoops to keep them from finding out what she really does and the results are very amusing. A bonus manga and the little inserts inject more notes of cuteness, if you like that sort of thing.
   Library Wars Love & War Vol 5 GN,10/1/2011 3:25:50 PM
The excruciating visit from Kasahara’s parents is over (finally) but proves to have a surprise—at least for one of them. Now the manga explores the private lives of other characters, along with hidden romantic agendas. But there is a dreadful misunderstanding, leading to a terrible confrontation with the Media Betterment Committee. The threat is plausibly presented leading towards a dramatic conclusion, remarkably without bloodshed. Another character’s past is revealed, giving the readers another reason to become invested in this ongoing series. There aren’t just faceless satellites revolving around Kasahara and Dojo; they’re rounded characters with their own flaws, dreams and nightmares. In a bonus manga, Inspector Dojo reveals a jealous streak as Kasahara unwittingly shows her “feminine” side. She’s utterly clueless, thus giving their dialogue an underlying tension as she tries to sort out his altered behavior. Clumsy girl and gruff boy meet cute. Awwww.
   Ray Bradburys Something Wicked This Way Comes TP,9/22/2011 9:18:02 AM
Mr. Bradbury’s works have always been sources of wonder and fascination. Lyric charm seems to flow from his words until it seems he writes poetry disguised as mere prose. In “Something Wicked This Way Comes” metaphor leaps off the page to weave its magic spell about a traveling freak show that is more than it appears. Enter the crazy, colossal, colorful carnival that is Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show, a show of mystery and misery. Two small boys embark on the adventure of a lifetime when they dare pit their puny strength against Mr. Dark’s malevolence. Drawn in starkly outlined black-and-white graphics that grow progressively darker as the story continues, Mr. Wimberly’s drawings lend their own sinister charms to Mr. Bradbury’s immortal tale of good versus evil, of wishes granted to ghastly effect.
   Deeply Loving A Maniac GN,10/16/2011 1:16:16 PM
Mixed signals occur when an obsessed Morita refuses to reveal the depths of his crush to his bed partner Sakura. What ensues is a study in obsession as one man tries to remake himself into someone another could love. Could any other men be more mixed up than these two? Beyond the verbal miscommunications, the sex is truly arousing and rather kinky, involving costumes, unusual locations and deliberate enticements until you wonder who is seducing whom. The stories are fine, engaging without being heavy handed, erotic without being nasty. The men have squared oval faces, hulky bodies, pouting lips and large hands (all the better to hold you with, my dear), making them look manly and cutely sweet at the same time.
   Library Wars Love & War Vol 6 GN,10/2/2011 1:25:58 PM
The pattern of revealing the backgrounds of individual members in the Library Force continues as Shibizaki’s past comes to light. While she’s always appeared as a cool, fun-loving, wry best friend, it turns out she has depths and secrets. Having been perceived as arrogant when younger, she became determined to change in order to achieve popularity. Does she dare reveal her true self to her roommate Kasahara? One of the trouble-making boys from volume 3 reappears, this time with a bratty sibling in tow. Kasahara knows what it’s like to deal with annoying brothers and once more leaps into action when Taiga’s little brother goes missing. Another bonus manga promotes humor AND action as the team deals with a pair of bumbling, lovestruck bank robbers. While it’s difficult to take such an Abbott and Costello team of robbers foolishly, their apparent ineptitude serves as yet another way for Kasahara to fall into Dojo’s arms—literally.
   Until The Full Moon Vol 1 GN Kodansha Edition,9/12/2011 10:46:06 AM
Marlo is half-werewolf and half-vampire but his fangs still haven’t grown in yet. But that’s the least of his worries. When he becomes a woman by the light of the moon, matters between Marlo and his best friend David get…complicated. But David loves Marlo no matter what form s/he wears. Marlo isn’t so certain of his own feelings and turning into a woman doesn’t lessen his confusion. So what to do now? The idea of gender-switching is one that plays to the fancies of many manga readers. Fluidity of form is the appeal of such notions as vampirism and lycanthropy. The fans of cosplay are delighted with the idea of dressing as opposite genders and there is much in this story to appeal to them. Ms. Matoh has given this tale her unique spin, with lovely men (and women) struggling to forge their way in the world. The fact that Marlo and David’s parents are vampires and werewolves does not mitigate the difficulties they all experience (and in some cases, worsens them). Romantic mix-ups, kidnapping, wedding dress fittings (!), well-meaning friends and the bride’s own inner turmoil make this one unusual and highly charming manga.
   Desert Prince GN,10/22/2011 12:57:47 PM
Hunky, handsome males pursue the men of their dreams—not always with the cooperation of their quarries. In the titular tale, we are treated to a typical manga romance: a passionate, powerful seme who doesn’t take “no” for an answer and his adorably cute uke, who isn’t quite as docile as he appears. When the ukes do submit, there is heat to spare. There is rape and attempted rape in this story and the other stories definitely skirt the line of nonconsensual sex, so if that isn’t your cup of tea, this manga is not for you. The drawings feature dazzlingly attractive men with strong, muscular frames alongside the lithe bishounen who manage to avoid girlish prettiness. One story truly surprises with its unconventional tale of a forgetful older man feverishly trying to resist his enticement to a younger man. The ending truly has a twist that will have readers open-mouthed with shock.
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 17 Tyrants Stars Parts 3 And 4 SC,12/20/2011 9:42:28 AM
The action gets more frenetic and disjointed as vigorous battles are fought, won and lost on many separate fronts. Even D’s chatty left hand has to take off to attend to business while D is busy elsewhere. The fights are more elaborate as the opponents acquire ever more outlandish powers. Even the stakes get higher as the earth itself faces utter annihilation. It’s like the X-Men meeting John Wayne. The main story is then broken into by an appeal for help from another quarter! Doesn’t the protagonist have enough to deal with without answering the call of every damsel in distress? It’s enough to exasperate even the most patient reader. D’s foes are relentless and he seems to fall from one vicious battle into another with only the barest respite. At times the attacks are so cartoonish in their exaggerated violence that you have to re-read a passage to understand just what the hell is happening. You can understand why D has to have such incredible powers; no ordinary being could survive. A little judicious trimming would have served this story better. One gets the sense that the author is once again compensating for the blandness of his eternally beautiful but blank-faced protagonist by piling on the action, gore and mayhem. As always, the gorgeous drawings of Amano help soothe sensibilities worn to a frazzle by all the non-stop action.
   Neil Gaiman & Charles Vess Stardust TP,1/7/2012 11:03:36 AM
In this graphic novel of a fallen star, murderous brothers, enslaved changelings, evil witches, talking trees and animals, Mr. Gaiman has crafted a wondrous, brilliant fairy tale (one without actual fairies but with many distinctly fey creatures roaming about on its pages). Here is an epic tale of a magical search for an insulting, ill-tempered star, in a world in which the human and the fey jostle uneasily by each other but manage to get along nonetheless. The language is plain, but riddled with such elegance and adeptness, I often found myself re-reading a passage, just to feel it running around in my head. You have never held your breath about the outcome of a fight until you read about the lion battling the unicorn or lingered, shuddering, over a death until you learn what Morwanneg does to her enemies. The text is ably assisted by the illustrations of Charles Vess, a man who can draw ghosts, fires, old people, young people, unicorns, badgers and more with equal facility and adeptness. The pictures seem straightforward enough, until you begin to notice little details, the elven creatuers, slyly lurking in the corners. He has made clouds assume mysterious shapes and nymphs sprout from trees. The illustrations are treasures to be prized, quite apart from Gaiman’s text.
   Surrogates Vol 1 TP,4/9/2012 11:16:09 AM
This novel (which is actually a sequel to “Flesh and Bone” which came after it) shows a world that has long accepted surrogates. But a serial destroyer of the machines and the machinations of a cunning convict-turned-prophet have other ideas. The notion that the use of surrogates is demeaning, dehumanizing and dangerous is brought up continuously throughout this novel as well as the ramifications of a world in which no one is actually who they seem to be. The dreads are human but they come off as being self-righteous, violent and angry. Does that make them wrong about the unhumanity of surrogate use? Is a woman who hides behind a falsely young body happy or merely delusional? A story that had me talking to the characters meant that it definitely worked its spell on me. This book is a keeper.
   Girl Genius Omnibus Edition Vol 1 TP,1/12/2012 11:59:45 AM
Containing the first three volumes in the Agatha Heterodyne series, the reader is introduced into the gaslamp fantasy that has captivated so many readers. The Foglios don’t bill this as steampunk but fans of the subgenre celebrate it as they are pulled into the wonderful world of a charming, sweet-natured klutz named Agatha Clay who possesses the scientific genius known as “spark”. The spark can be a wonderful boon except that so many who have it go insane, homicidal and/or suicidal, prompting exile from their cities, attacks from terrified and angry villagers or ruthless exploitation by tyrannical leaders. This series highlights adventure, action, political machinations and just plain goofiness (talking animals, machines with personality, botched lab experiments looking for handouts in the streets) that show a brilliant grasp of dialogue, humor and a flair for fantasy. The only downside to this omnibus is that it is in black and white, lacking the eye-catching color of the volumes. Still, for anyone looking for an introduction into the world of Agatha Heterodyne, this is a good choice.
   Otomen Vol 1 GN,8/3/2012 10:15:37 AM
At first, I found myself wavering between pitying Asuka and being deeply annoyed with him. I wanted to smack him and tell him to stop fussing so much about the fact that he likes stuffed animals. Then I recalled that he is a teenager in a society that demanded men be very tough as well as trying to please an unhappy parent. Suddenly it was easier to understand and sympathize with his plight. During adolescence, teenagers struggle with a lot of self-esteem issues, most of them dealing with changing feelings, hormones, outlooks and societal pressures. Asuka’s worries about his hidden girlish desires aren’t helped by his sudden interest in tomboy Ryo and the too probing attentions of the playboy Juta, who is hiding secrets of his own. While we get to know Juta and Asuka’s inner thoughts, Ryo’s aren’t given. In fact, she’s the real troubling spot in the entire manga; she considers Juta and Asuka as “friends” and frequently refers to them as such. Being stuck in the friend zone with someone you’re romantically interested in is always disheartening. But it leaves the possibility of romance open for the future, which is no doubt the author’s intention. The author/illustrator manages to show convincingly Asuka’s insecurities and his attempts to deal with his feminine habits. Asuka’s efforts are successful, for the most part, but that doesn’t mean his feelings change all at once. That would be too easy and give the reader nothing to watch for in future volumes.
   Otomen Vol 2 GN,8/8/2012 10:02:51 AM
Asuka has found himself an admirer—in the form of an oh-so-cute boy stalker. Eep! But it’s not love, lust, affection or even hero worship, although the latter does play some part in little Yamato’s attentions. The fact that he finds Asuka to be the masculine ideal he’s been searching for is rather funny, as is his determination to model himself on Asuka’s presumed uber-masculinity. This gives another layer to Asuka’s on-going struggles to be known as a real man while hiding his otomen tendencies. With Yamato always hovering, he can’t express his girlish side at all, which causes tons of frustration for him. The romance between Asuka and Ryo is similarly stalled, even while stories involving a haunted school building, a domineering mother and an arranged marriage seem to throw the two together constantly. Juta’s presence is nearly as distracting as Yamato’s although his agenda for Asuka is rather different. In this volume, it is the plotlines that change rather than the people. The characters have had their behaviors firmly established by this time and volume two sees no substantial alteration. Ryo continues to be the stalwart girlfriend in their little triangle; Juta remains a hearty playboy while pushing Asuka to pursue his relationship with Ryo and Asuka is stuck with his conflicting desires as he refuses to show his sweet side to anyone but his two closest friends. Like Juta, I am becoming impatient to see SOME change before the characters reach middle age.
   Spider-Man Family Ties HC,5/29/2012 3:26:59 PM
Within these pages, different artists tackle the human heart at the center of Marvel’s web-slinging hero. Whether dealing with the death of his Uncle Ben or focusing on the lives touched by Spider-Man’s crime fighting, each story slants a probing and sometimes humorous eye on what makes Spider-Man and his boyish alter ego so compelling. What comes across in every story is that there’s more to Spider-Man’s personal odyssey than fighting the well-known bad guys like Doctor Octopus or the Green Goblin. Indeed, there is little or no mention of them. Family and domestic problems are what hold the floor here, from struggling to pay the bills to finding a job to riding public transportation. One story that fell a little short for me was “The Punch”. While I could believe Parker’s fear that he might inadvertently kill someone with his newfound abilities, I didn’t believe in another character’s sudden reformation. It seemed just a little too abrupt to be convincing. The rest of this slim collection, however, undoubtedly shines.
   Surrogates Vol 2 Flesh And Bone TP,4/9/2012 11:10:20 AM
This is a fascinating concept, brilliantly told and illustrated through the tale of a crime and detective story. The possible ramifications are drawn out in ways that make the reader THINK about what it would be like to live in the third person in your own life. What would you do if you could have sex with anyone you wanted, without fear of disease or scandal? Would having sex through a puppet with someone other than your spouse be considered adultery? Could you live your life without ever seeing your spouse in the flesh again once their skin became rather too…fleshy? What would it be like to grow up in such a world where consequences are avoided or moral questions given no weight? Prejudices would not be outgrown but made irrelevant. Illustrated in a noirish style of blacks, grays and sepia tones, “The Surrogates” is thoughtful, thought provoking and at times just a little scary. This is one graphic novel for the thinking reader.
   Otomen Vol 3 GN,8/8/2012 11:07:51 AM
Asuka is thrown into a children’s nursery where once again he gets to show his nurturing nature along with his tough-guy machismo. He also goes to an amusement park, urged on by the ever-present Juta, in order to spur his lagging romance with Ryo. As usual, nothing goes quite as planned. However, this volume shifts attention in the middle from Asuka’s nowhere relationship with Ryo to the supposed fifth wheel in their triumvirate: the sassy, flirtatious Juta. There is an air of mystery about Juta and his girlfriends don’t like it. That’s right, girlfriends, plural. Juta is a playboy and makes no secret about it. But what’s baffling is that his numerous girlfriends all know about it and don’t seem to care. They even know about each other! This must be a foreign concept because I simply don’t get it. Why would any self-respecting girl put up with the boy they’re interested in if he’s seeing other women? It’s like Juta is a pasha and these teenage girls are part of his harem. Honestly, I felt so annoyed with their fawning behavior towards him that it made Asuka’s neutral behavior towards Ryo seem almost attractive. This baffling behavior kicks off the middle part of this volume as Asuka tries to learn more about Juta. Asuka comes to a completely wrongful conclusion about him and doesn’t learn anything like the truth, thus keeping Juta’s secret intact. That secret adds a certain edge to the cuteness factor, which keeps this volume from being too exasperating.
   Discworld Graphic Novels Vol 1 Colour Of Magic & Light Fantastic TP,2/29/2012 12:56:49 PM
The Discworld Graphic Novels: The Colour of Magic & The Light Fantastic For the 25th anniversary, Mr. Pratchett’s whimsical, dangerous, highly off-kilter flat world is displayed in all its colorful, bizarre glory. Twoflower the Tourist with his traveling Luggage, Rincewind the incompetent wizard with an uncanny knack for surviving the most perilous situations, Cohen the Barbarian, toothless but still kicking butt at the advanced age of 87, and many others are all present here, unique characters vividly illustrated with Mr. Pratchett’s hilarious prose wittily attached. For the Pratchett fan, this illustrated treatment of Mr. Pratchett’s two first novels in the Discworld series is a dream come true and a true delight. For those who haven’t read his novels yet (where have YOU been?), this is a grand introduction to Discworld, a concept that isn’t sword-and-sorcery parodied so much as set 90 degrees sideways.
   Pinocchio Vampire Slayer GN,2/16/2012 11:03:10 AM
Let’s face it. The current literary market is so glutted with novels about vampires and the people who kill them that the walking undead have gotten to be a deadly bore. Tween romances, perky blonde cheerleaders with stakes, vampire diaries, geeks pretending to be vamps—enough already! Therefore, when I saw this book I didn’t have high hopes for it and nearly passed by it in favor of more substantial fare. But the idea of a little wooden boy attacking and killing vampires was…intriguing. What better to kill vampires than something that couldn’t be easily killed and whose very body could be a weapon? Taking off from the original story by Collodi, Mr. Jensen has crafted something utterly different, a vampire tale with wit, determination, revenge, grim resolve and puppetry. Heh. This graphic manga manages to treat vampires as if they were utterly new and the illustrations by Dusty Higgins do justice both to its dark subject and the original tale. With sharp angles, looming shadows and stark drawings, “Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer” managed to overcome even my deep skepticism. It ends with a joke and the promise of more wooden mayhem to come and I, for one, am looking forward to it.
   Otomen Vol 4 GN,12/21/2011 4:10:41 PM
What happens when a boy loves “girly” things in a world where such impulses aren’t permitted? Confusion, embarrassment and love hijinks, that’s what. Treating its serious subject with a light touch, we are introduced to a world of hoydens and girly men, both of them more or less at ease with their inner natures while struggling to juggle it with outside perceptions. The boys are cute and occasionally effeminate and the girls suitably attractive. What really wins over this reader is the serious attention given this unusual topic of boys who like knitting, flower arranging, baking, etc. without being gushing, gay or weak. It shows there is room for all sorts of different people in the world and that these differences bring joy and beauty wherever they are allowed to flourish and grow.
   Otomen Vol 5 GN,8/12/2012 1:20:49 PM
New challenges await Asuka and his friends in this fifth volume in the “Otomen” series. Ryo is surprised by a local competition for the ideal woman and a vicious rival who’ll stop at nothing to win it—and Asuka as well. While Ryo does her best to win the competition and freely acknowledges her shortcomings in various areas, she doesn’t seem unduly upset about it. In fact, nothing appears to phase her very much, making her a contrast to the more uncertain, nervous Asuka. Because of her self-assurance, the reader is presented with the unfairness that besets men like Asuka. Girls may be tough, hoydenish or unskilled in the so-called womanly arts and suffer no disparagement or derision because of it. But girlish interests or qualities in men are ripe for censorship and scorn. We are sharply reminded of this when Asuka is once again confronted with HIS rival, the seething Hajime Tonomine. The story gets edgier as Asuka is given the hope that he might expose his secret tendencies while still running the risk of exposure to his manipulative mother. There is strain for frivolous Juta. He’s got his secrets, too, the main one being that he’s a manga artist for a popular shojo comic series. It’s a secret he’s desperate to protect since he fears losing Asuka’s friendship over it. Aya Kanno has done a superb job of maintaining interest from one volume to the next. I found myself captivated by these various story threads and hoping for a happy resolution to them all.
   Otomen Vol 6 GN,8/15/2012 10:00:00 AM
Asuka’s life grows ever more complicated as he and Tonomine (a guy from another school who seems to have a lot of free time to go gallivanting over to Asuka’s) get involved in a magazine that promotes them as the “Beauty Samurai”. Asuka’s so-called manly assertiveness doesn’t always stick with him when he’s away from kendo training. As he and Tonomine get manipulated by the women’s magazine’s conniving editor, they are sucked deeper into a world neither of them is fully equipped to handle. Asuka comes to realize that indulging himself while hiding behind a mask does NOT accomplish his dream of exposing his inner life. While the message is slightly heavy handed in tone, it does represent another stage of growth for our confused protagonist. Would that the same could be stated of others! The foolish youth Yamato continues to pursue exaggerated templates of masculinity, much to his own detriment. Yamato is still a young boy, so his delusional mistakes can be seen as amusing. Not that there isn’t danger in his pretenses—far from it. His idiotic behavior leads him into confrontations with larger bullies and a dating experience he barely survives. But all in all we are meant to see Yamato as a kind of comic foil to Asuka and his antics a funhouse mirror to Asuka’s own more serious journey into manhood. A stimulating series grows more engaging as it progresses and this one deserves its legions of adoring fans.
   Otomen Vol 7 GN,8/15/2012 10:00:46 AM
Because of a chance encounter with the lead singer of House Dust, Asuka finds himself in the lamentable position of posing as a punk rock/goth singer. You have to read it to believe it. As always, the message is clear: posing as something other than who you are invariably leads to trouble. It’s not just Asuka who realizes this but others as well, deepening the point inherent in this series that was established back in volume one. However, this volume contains a hint of the supernatural as Asuka is confronted again with the question that haunts all lovers: how do you know what the other person thinks of you? This volume also deals with the trials and tribulations of the interfering manga artist Juta. The success of his manga depends on the progression of Asuka’s relationship with Ryo and we can understand his frustration about the stalled romance. But this volume contains a surprise that startled this reader and immediately made me eager to learn more. A good writer has that ability to keep the reader on his/her toes and the ending here is one calculated to pull the dedicated fan back for more.
   Girl Genius Vol 3 Agatha Heterodyne And The Monster Engine TP New Printing,1/13/2012 10:08:52 AM
The adventure continues as the mysteries pile up and the plot thickens, simmers and comes to a nice rolling boil. The reader also gets “lessons” in dealing with recalcitrant employees, meddlesome assistants and so-called heroes. The story gains in subtlety as the reader finds that good guys don’t necessarily have other’s best interests at heart and bad guys aren’t necessarily insane plotters. But Agatha learns more startling truths, as well as stumbling into the kind of jaw-dropping exploits normally reserved for intrepid boy wonders. The Foglios prove to be masters of their craft, with nary a fumble in sight. No wonder they have gained in popularity and readership. May the Heterodyne flag keep flying as Agatha soars into her destiny.
   Girl Genius Vol 1 Agatha Heterodyne And The Beetleburg Clank HC Color Edition,1/10/2012 9:32:10 AM
In a world ruled by mad science that is almost akin to magic, anything is possible. Here you will find crazed geniuses, intelligent despots, talking animals, genuine heroes and a big-breasted blond girl who’s innocent, sweet and intelligent. Yes, anything can and does happen and, when it does, you know you’re in a Heterodyne story. The Foglios have crafted a crazy quilt world that runs on its own rules. Like an engine run amok, it always seems just about to careen off the tracks when a carefully shifted gear will bring it neatly back on course. The story is action packed without being too frantic. The action dovetails neatly with the story, a good old-fashioned, rip-roaring adventure loaded with vibrant characters, thrilling dangers and sparkling dialogue. If I have any complaints to make, it is that the dialogue on the page is occasionally hard to follow. I have to sweep my eyes over the panels a couple of times to find out who is saying what and in what sequence. The illustrations are first rate; they set the tone marvelously. Color panels make the story just leap off the page and the illustrations remind me of adventure serials from the 1960s when action comics of this sort were immensely popular. I shall be sure to tune in for more adventures of Agatha Heterodyne, Girl Genius.
   Otomen Vol 8 GN,8/15/2012 10:03:59 AM
Ryo’s abrupt departure is met with dismay from her friends and Asuka. Asuka and the otherstry to make her last few days with them memorable. Each character tries to give Ryo something of himself. Their efforts run from the risible to the beautiful with Juta striving to give Asuka and Ryo some time alone. As always, his efforts don’t quite go as planned. Without Ryo’s presence, the story shifts to the aggressive Tonomine. We see beneath his bluster to a slightly tenderer sider, showing that even supposedly one-note characters are capable of depth of feeling. Of course, this series can’t stay away from its main characters for too long. The focus is once again shifted on to Ryo and Asuka. While I remain unsatisfied by not knowing Ryo’s inner thoughts as I can those of the boys, the frustration is not as great as it was in the beginning. Even without getting inner monologue from her, we learn that she is kind, hard working, determined, decent, honorable, loyal and without artifice. She complements Asuka’s less assertive nature perfectly and they mesh so well strangers mistake them for a married couple. But the course of true love never did run smooth and a new obstacle is thrown in their way. Ryo’s return coincides with that of Asuka’s browbeating mother. A harsh new world rises and the group of otomen will be sorely tested as they face the threat of intolerance and bigotry. Welcome to the real world.
   Otomen Vol 9 GN,8/17/2012 11:45:22 AM
Asuka’s mother, Kiyomi Masamune, has instituted her policies with dismaying results. Students are turning against one another in the hope of benefits or fear of expulsion. The otomen find themselves under attack for their girlish habits. Most of the main characters seem to be operating under some hidden trauma or childhood secret that has warped their views on masculinity and femininity. Even Asuka’s cousin Kasuga, leader of the Anti-Otomen brigade, is laboring under a childhood wound, one that causes a blind hatred towards the baffled Asuka. Only Ryo manages to maintain a level head, perhaps because she never faced childhood censorship as her male counterparts have. There are certain dramatic holes. Why does no one point out what hypocrisy it is for Kiyomi, who heads the school and frequently travels abroad leaving her son alone, to insist on traditional feminine pursuits for girls that will befit them only to become housewives? Why has none of the committee under her leadership looked into the background of the four replacement teachers, so unorthodox that they were rejected by other schools, an ominous warning of their incompetence to deal with students? It’s difficult to believe this level of blindness in scholastic faculty could exist. One bad teacher might leave a school after an embarrassing scandal and resurface elsewhere to commit misdemeanors. But four of them? Let’s hope subsequent volumes can make up for such huge character lapses.
   Girl Genius Vol 2 Agatha Heterodyne And The Airship City TP Color Edition,1/11/2012 9:20:07 AM
After Dr. Beetle is blown up and Agatha loses her place as a student, she awakens to find herself aboard the airship of the tyrant Baron Klaus Wulfenbach. Being a hostage of the Baron makes her no safer than when she was on the ground, apparently, as she runs afoul of a snooty princess, the dreaded construct Von Pinn, possessed beings known as revenants, a hideous extradimensional intelligence from another world, the bombastic self-aggrandizing Othar Tryggvassen and Jägermonsters who find her curiously fragrant. The reader is kept on a roller coaster of a ride with few lulls between the runs as Agatha tries to figure out why everybody suddenly thinks she’s so important, why the Baron brought the slaver wasp hive on board his ship and why she’s been befriended by a talking cat. It’s a fun trip and the friends and enemies Agatha makes along the way are part of what makes these comics such fantastic reads.
   Otomen Vol 10 GN,8/17/2012 4:34:42 PM
Matters have gone from bad to worse. One of the suspect teachers hired by Kasuga is the oh-so-sweet Otowa Moematsu (otherwise known as O-Tan). On the surface, she seems the least troublesome of the Ginyuri substitute teachers. But this kitten has claws…and deep, deep psychological scars that lead her to push her crazed feminizing on her poor students. However, she’s not the only one with sinister plans. This volume can’t quite settle on its tone, veering between cuteness and mild consternation. While it remains consistent with its original message of being true to yourself, the subtext speaks of adults (i.e., society at large) who want to change their children into more acceptable types. While these youngsters are too formal and polite to their elders to stage outright rebellion, individually and as a group, they quietly foil the attempts of these noxious outsiders to change who they are. Since it turns out that these troublesome adults are themselves immature beings longing for acceptance, defying them seems almost too easy. Therefore, the reiterated messages of love and acceptance become rather burdensome, the victories without real weight. Still, the battle isn’t over yet and the result of these attacks has been to bind the otomen and Ryo even closer together. So perhaps what this volume lacked in dramatic weight, it gained in deepening the relationships of its core group.
   Otomen Vol 11 GN,8/18/2012 10:27:44 AM
The substitute teachers that Kasuga hired are proving to be supremely twisted. The next to force his ideas on Ginyuri Academy is Mifune Naito. Ostensibly born in America, he has exaggerated notions of ancient Japanese living that puts the academy into serious danger. But strangest and possibly most disturbing of all is the new nurse, the slinkingly seductive Suzaku Oji. Where O-Tan’s giddy girlishness had a cutesy charm that made her pick all the boys as her favorites (much like Juta), she refrained from actually wooing them. Suzaku has no such scruples; in fact, he seems determined to seduce both the male and female student bodies. While he refrains from assaulting them sexually, his behavior is simply beyond the pale and no decent parent would stand for it. What I liked best in this volume is the continued growing assurance of Asuka and his friends. Placed in actual peril, they rise magnificently to the occasion, putting their individual and unique talents to good use to save their schoolmates. After this, you’d think that the question of what constitutes true manliness and femininity would be settled. No doubt a topic to be settled in future volumes.
   Tyrant Falls In Love Vol 4 GN,3/30/2012 1:25:43 PM
Morinaga inches his way slowly but surely into Tatsumi’s life...and his house! But Tatsumi’s continued denial of any romantic feeling makes it a tense household—at least for Morinaga. The younger man’s optimism in the face of his friend’s steadfast stubbornness is sweet to read. But unexpected pranks from a vicious stalker may prove to be more trouble than either of them can handle. This new plot development gives both men a chance to get closer and makes for a dramatic storyline. It’s an exciting and gripping twist as Morinaga and Tatsumi seek to protect their home and each other. Danger can make a great excuse for characters to get closer and the writer doesn’t disappoint.
   Until The Full Moon Vol 2 GN Kodansha Edition,3/28/2012 2:32:51 PM
New enemies and well-meaning friends make matters even more complicated for David and the gender-switching Marlo. Marlo’s jealousy is cute as is his attempts to keep the amorous David at arm’s length until they are married. Here we deal with more backstory and the internal struggle of Marlo as he strives to hide his feelings. The story comes to a satisfactory conclusion but not without some delightful bumps along the way.
   At Full Moon Vol 1 GN,7/28/2012 11:27:50 AM
David and Marlo have embarked on their honeymoon. But even after marriage nothing runs smoothly for them. Supernatural events couple with real-life problems as the married pair have to deal with a rival vampire, inappropriate love stalkers who don’t back off even when learning the object of their affection is married (!) and having to find a new home because their old one has been sold out from under them. Oy. It’s enough to give a vampire an aneurysm. The action is fun, the characters are very amusing (imagine a tongue-tied werewolf, e.g.) and Marlo gets to explore his female side. The one problem I have with this manga—and it’s a biggie—is that there is no sex. David Vincent is a very sexual vampire and adores women. He had sex with the lovely Marlo at the end of “Until the Full Moon” vol. 2 so I naturally expected that there would be more sex for the honeymoon phase. But there isn’t. Nada, zero, zip, zilch. What the hell?!? There is plenty of kissing and hugging but come on, this is yaoi and sex is expected, especially between a lusty vampire and his nubile husband/wife/consort! To have a mature relationship without sex being depicted is a big let-down after the payoff of the previous series.
   Finder Vol 4 Prisoner In The Viewfinder GN,3/30/2012 12:59:00 PM
While the mob violence continues almost unabated, sweet emotions crop up in the most unexpected places. The story characters are complex and multilayered and the action is almost continual, making this another nerve-wracking entry in the struggle between two warring factions and two powerful men. Strong and heady stuff indeed.
   Otomen Vol 12 GN,8/24/2012 10:10:46 AM
Asuka’s mother becomes suspicious. His aunt somehow wedges herself into his life as a photographer after acting like a creepy stalker. The enigmatic Mr. Amakashi and the quiet-to-the-point-of-muteness Patisserie le Violet owner and chef are hosting cooking lessons for men with the otomens’s enthusiastic participation. With all this going on, you wonder when these students have time for school. The additional characters bring their own problems, especially since they’re starting to bear a disorienting sameness to each other. Only surface accoutrements like a kendo outfit, camera or shades (worn indoors and nobody comments—oy) enabled me to see which character was which in a certain scene. This is a serious lapse on the part of the illustrator and can’t really be ignored. Also, I couldn’t always tell when something was taking place in the present or whether it was a flashback. Yet another stylistic problem. Sometimes it’s hard to make out what the author’s intentions are. On the surface, this would seem to be an amusing manga where humor is emphasized. But the tone shifts from the light heated to the deadly serious and back again, sometimes so rapidly that I felt confused. Somehow it feels as if the writer is trying too hard to make this a manga that appeals to both boys AND girls. All in all, I felt that this volume was too scattered in tone to be quite polished, a big flaw in a series now in its 12th installment.
   Tyrant Falls In Love Vol 5 GN,3/30/2012 1:41:18 PM
It’s always one step forward and three steps backwards as Morinaga tries to negotiate around his boyfriend’s prickly exterior. Deliberately misread signs, spurned advances and enforced retreats—to another country!—put terrible strains on their relationship. But the cracks in Tatsumi’s harsh façade grow wider as he finally acknowledges how much he craves Morinaga’s touch. It’s a truly touching admission and leaves this reader hopeful that there will be more of this warmth in future novels. The addition of a story that centers around rape hits a sour note. It is almost like a return to the very first volume in this series, only there is little or no affection on either part of the men involved. One is just a confused closeted male and the other a man bent on getting revenge. Even the hint that the story might be pursued in future volumes wasn’t enough to endear me to this story.
   At Full Moon Vol 2 GN,7/28/2012 11:29:19 AM
While the absence of sex was (and still is) a disappointment, the lack is made up by the fact that Marlo’s new unrequited love interests have been coming up with some ingenious schemes to snag him/her for themselves. In the previous volume, the naughty mage Mona used a clever spell on behalf of her master, the smitten Clive Donnelly, that it would be a shame to reveal it here. Needless to say, David and Marlo undergo a bit of anxiety trying to handle this new shift in their relationship although nothing near the level of anxiety they knew before their marriage. This volume brings in a new character, the creepy Ingrid who favors twee decorations and Sweet Lolita fashions. She gets her hooks into David for a secret, twisted agenda of her own. This little girl makes Marlo’s lovelorn suitors seem normal by comparison and what she wants isn’t so easily divined from her initial actions. All in all, the author/illustrator manages to keep this reader interested even given the lack of sexual activity. Perhaps the series will continue past the two-volume mark and then we’ll see some erotic action between the main characters.
   Otomen Vol 13 GN,11/2/2012 12:58:14 PM
A new complication arises in Asuka’s life when Ryo is forced to pose as a boy to help a fledgling theme. Once again, Aya Kanno throws in another twist in this ever-engaging series about boys and girls fighting to assert their individual tastes in a world that violently abhors change. This gender-bending tactic never gets old. In the past Asuka and a few of his friends have been forced to don dresses (Yamato Ariake has had to do it no less than three times). Now it’s Ryo’s turn and she is just as good at faking it as the boys. I’m annoyed that a climactic scene between Ryo and Asuka didn’t play out as I’d hoped. Secretly in love with each other, it seemed a pugilistic encounter was inevitable. But the writer/illustrator cops out of this, once more preventing the central romantic characters from a decidedly awkward resolution to the unasked question: who is physically stronger, Asuka or Ryo? Could either one fight the other full force? But this is meant to be romantic comedy and, as in all romantic comedies, you avoid anything that might put too much of a strain on the relationship. The ending, too, shows their relationship heading in a new direction, one that holds delightful promise for Otomen’s devoted readers.
   Finder Vol 5 Truth In The Viewfinder GN,3/30/2012 1:03:30 PM
Even though Asami eventually finds Akihito and frees him from Fei Long, the poor boy has undergone terrible trauma. Rape, brutalization, kidnapping and a near shooting all prey on poor Akihito’s mind. Presumably, only Asami can heal the festering wounds in his psyche. Unfortunately, all his care of Akihito seems to center around sex, making Asami one of the most close-mouthed and sex-obsessed characters I’ve ever read. While his emotional distance and refusal to TELL Akihito how he feels are all part and parcel of the stern mob boss character he’s fashioned for himself, it’s aggravating nonetheless. When Akihito suffers nightmares and nearly drowns because of the horrors he suffered at Fei Long’s hands, all Asami has to offer is more sex to soothe his feelings. It’s boring and makes me wish Akihito would try sex with other people, if only to get the emotional sustenance he so sorely craves.
   Tyrant Falls In Love Vol 6 GN,7/23/2012 1:15:57 PM
Is he or isn’t he? Tatsumi continues to be equivocal in his behavior towards Morinaga. But now he’s got a new complication to deal with when his father comes to visit. The story advances in complexity and emotional depth and unexpected hilarity as Tatsumi struggles to come to grips with his changing feelings towards Morinage. The unexplained incident in Tatsumi’s past that makes him so homophobic causes him to become truly anguished about his altered emotions. The other characters add their own problems to this emotional stew, making this latest installment well worth the wait for Takanaga’s many fans.
   Awkward Silence Vol 1 TP,8/11/2012 11:07:45 AM
Stoic, expressionless protagonists can be intriguing…if they’re surrounded by other people who are more emotionally accessible than they. Such is the case with the frozen-faced Tono, who can’t seem to express his inner feelings. In comes the buoyant and exuberant Tamiya, who not only doesn’t mind his stoicism but seems to find it charming. The author/illustrator alleviates Tono’s blankness by showing his feelings expressed as little chibi heads that express his inner turmoil while he struggles to give visual demonstrations of what he’s feeling. The romance, initial clumsy gropings for understanding and the openness of the charming Tamiya make this a wonderful new series by the versatile Takanaga.
   Vampire Hunter D Novel Vol 18 Fortress Of The Elder God SC,10/15/2012 12:30:34 PM
The mysterious Man in Black returns, this time escorting a bunch of stranded passengers across a dangerous wasteland. The book as usual is filled with unnecessary sentences, bizarre weather patterns and the ever-enigmatic D wielding his flashing sword and sarcastic Lefty. The latter is chattier than ever, voicing his opinions in front of everybody. What’s even more puzzling is that nobody sees fit to mention this voice coming from D’s lower hip or even to respond to it. Is it a willing deafness or is everyone simply too polite to mention it (which doesn’t seem quite possible on the Frontier)? There is another enemy for D to fight, the titular god, a Cthulhu-like creation so fearful even the Sacred Ancestor had trouble dealing with it. It’s unclear whether the Nobles stumbled across this god or whether they created it. Various constructions, vampires and pawns are manifested by this thing in an attempt to stop D. But the outcome really isn’t in question, is it? However, this is not D’s story. It is the story of his fearful charges, each of whom faces his or her own challenge and gets buffeted by the terrible journey undertaken to the city. There is terrible tragedy and inescapable loss of life that presents this as one of the more tragic of the Vampire Hunter novels. We are reminded once again that the Frontier is a dire and unforgiving place, especially to travelers.
   Tale Of The Waning Moon Vol 3 GN,10/15/2012 12:33:29 PM
The trouble with volumes that are separated by more than a few weeks is that you tend to forget details of the story. That can make continuing volumes difficult to read as the reader tries to recall the names and characters of previous volumes. Matters are not helped in this volume by the appearance of another member of the wealthy Timlus family. The stern and studious Mashura, the oldest son in the Timlus family, was presented in volume two. But now there is a second son, Shakura, who shows up determined to help his younger brother Aldin. Matters aren’t helped by the fact that Shakura, Mashura and Aldin all look very much alike, distinguished only by slight differences in hairstyle, clothing and accoutrements like Mashura’s glasses. The story progresses apace, however, as complications pile up about helping Ral, freeing Ryuka from Ixto’s spell and gathering magical items. Quests are never easy and it was a little difficult for me to untangle the threads of this one. But as always there are gorgeous men to look at and tender love scenes to read. It is a little annoying to see Ryuka getting in one scrape after another and having to rely on others to get him out of them. I wish he’d learn how to fight or carry a weapon. Ryuka’s feelings get more ambivalent. He ceases fighting his attraction to Ixto but doesn’t voice whether his emotions run any deeper than lust. But, as Ixto’s feelings never waver, it’s now up to Ryuka to prove what it is he truly feels.
   Tyrant Falls In Love Vol 7 GN,10/16/2012 12:51:11 PM
As this series progresses, we are moved out of Morinaga’s thought processes and more into Tatsumi’s inner turmoil. Whether he likes it or not, he’s falling hard for Morinaga. But he’s still unwilling to admit it either to Morinaga or to himself. But time and tide wait for no man and, while Tatsumi is working himself into a lather, complications new and old enter Morinaga’s life, forcing Tatsumi to confront his feelings and face his fears for his future. While there is no sex in this volume, I hardly noticed, given the rising tension among the main characters. It’s going to take more than the casual sexual hijinks of previous volumes to rectify the situation Tatsumi and Morinaga find themselves in and Takanaga has created a perfect emotional cliffhanger for volume eight. Superbly done.
   Finder Vol 6 Passion Within The Viewfinder GN,8/3/2012 11:07:54 AM
Love without sex, sex without love. Getting love with sex is a tricky business to pull off and apparently Ms. Yamane has decided to forego it in this series. Poor Akihito is struggling to get his feet under him but it’s not helped by Asami’s domineering and high-handed ways. The photographer wants to find his freedom and make his own way but Asami refuses to allow him any kind of autonomy. He wants Akihito but never expresses anything for him like warmth, affection or love. Instead, he coerces, blackmails or just plain forces him to have sex with him using everything from threats to willful theft. In this, he is little better than his erstwhile rival, Fei Long. The only difference is that Akihito’s own feelings have him twisted into knots over Asami as he is over no one else. While this makes the sex between the two very passionate, the lack of emotional warmth on Asami’s part left me rather cold and numb. It would be wonderful if he would allow the younger seme a position other than that of his catamite. But the man is an Alpha male, simply not the sort to allow any relationship unless it’s on his own exacting terms. For a woman like myself, who likes love mixed up with passion, this makes this series less than satisfactory.
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