TokyoPop – Read About Comics http://www.readaboutcomics.com Where to find out what's really good. Mon, 16 Nov 2015 17:36:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.10 Kindaichi Case Files Vol. 16: The Magical Express http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2008/03/19/kindaichi-case-files-vol-16-the-magical-express/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2008/03/19/kindaichi-case-files-vol-16-the-magical-express/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2008 04:00:10 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2008/03/19/kindaichi-case-files-vol-16-the-magical-express/ Written by Yozaburo Kanari Art by Fumiya Sato 304 pages, black and white Published by TokyoPop

A lot of long-running series, over time, grow stale. They start going through the motions of what is expected of them rather than what is new and interesting, and it turns into something approaching monotony. I think that’s one [...]]]> Written by Yozaburo Kanari
Art by Fumiya Sato
304 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

A lot of long-running series, over time, grow stale. They start going through the motions of what is expected of them rather than what is new and interesting, and it turns into something approaching monotony. I think that’s one of the many reasons why Yozaburo Kanari and Fumiya Sato’s series The Kindaichi Case Files sticks out so much in my mind. We’re sixteen volumes into the series now, and with each new mystery adventure I find myself absolutely dying to purchase it and find out what happens next.

Hajime Kindaichi may just be a high school student, but he’s one of the greatest mystery solvers in Japan. When the police ask him to look into a threatening package that arrives, it leads him and his best friend Miyuki Nanase onto a train heading into Hokkaido with an entire magical act troupe on board—and a killer who has planted a bomb in one of the cars. But even if they can survive the trip to Hokkaido, can Kindaichi make it through one final magical performance?

There are always a couple of hallmarks in Kanari’s writing within the series. Kindaichi is always a bit of a horndog, and Miyuki helps act as the moral compass of the series. There’s often a “locked room” aspect to a murder, an impossible entrance or exit into a room. But beyond that, almost everything is different from one volume to the next. Kanari keeps coming up with interesting and original ideas, and it always feels fresh as Kindaichi tries to puzzle the latest case through. That’s certainly true here in The Magical Express; there’s often some slight of hand going on in a Kindaichi Case Files mystery, but here Kanari cleverly pits Kindaichi up against an entire group of people with just that skill set. It’s also nice that like many of the other stories in the series, there are enough pieces of the puzzle available to the reader that you can puzzle things through and try and figure it out on your own. The story moves at a brisk pace, and while I could do without the series’s hallmark of a masked version of the killer chortling in the shadows, I never felt like I was being talked down to by Kanari.

Sato’s art is solid if not terribly groundbreaking. Sato shines best when drawing the cast being terrified; he’s got a perfect handle on drawing a startled, scared expression. It’s one of the two visual “poses” that I think he always nails, with the other being Kindaichi’s look of triumph when he announces that he’s solved the case. There’s just the right combination of cockiness and self-assuredness on his face that it just works for me. Otherwise, though, Sato’s art is distinctly average. There is a lot of missing backgrounds in the book, and while everyone looks good there’s nothing that particularly jumps out. He does a good job of keeping the book moving along with Kanari’s pace, though, and it works for the book.

I fell in love with this series four and a half years ago, and I’m still just as excited to read new volumes. New volumes are clever without feeling stale, and that’s something that is normally the exception rather than the rule. Check out The Kindaichi Case Files and you’ll be pleased with the end result. Smart, fun, intriguing, and clever—that’s The Kindaichi Case Files. Go on, you won’t regret it.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2008/03/19/kindaichi-case-files-vol-16-the-magical-express/feed/ 3
Aqua Vol. 1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2008/03/14/aqua-vol-1/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2008/03/14/aqua-vol-1/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2008 05:00:21 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2008/03/14/aqua-vol-1/ By Kozue Amano 192 pages, black and white Published by TokyoPop

With the wealth of manga being translated into English, it’s understandable if one initially misses out on a few books the first time around. That’s certainly my excuse when it comes to Kozue Amano’s series Aqua and Aria. At a glance, there’s not a [...]]]> By Kozue Amano
192 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

With the wealth of manga being translated into English, it’s understandable if one initially misses out on a few books the first time around. That’s certainly my excuse when it comes to Kozue Amano’s series Aqua and Aria. At a glance, there’s not a whole lot to lure you in—a young woman learning how to become a gondolier. Once I finally sat down and read the first volume, though, I realized that this is more than just the story of someone learning their job. Rather, it’s a travelogue across another planet.

When Earth terraformed Mars to become habitable by humans, no one predicted that the ice caps would melt so much that 90% of the planet would become covered in water. Now Mars is known as Aqua, with its shining star the city of Neo-Venezia, based on the original Italian city of Venice with its canals and gondolas. Akari Mizunashi is the latest arrival in Neo-Venezia, joining the Aria Company as an apprentice undine, or gondolier. More importantly, though, Akari is about to start a whole new life, one away from the crowded and supposedly “perfect” Earth. Here, everything is what she’s been waiting for.

I was surprised at how quickly Aqua managed to grab my attention, for a book that really doesn’t have a lot of traditional plot. Each chapter is another day in the life of Akari, as she makes friends, learns about how to be an undine, and travels through Neo-Venezia. Where Amano really got me, though, was how real she made both the city and the world. From hills full of wind-turbines to the maze-like alleyways of Neo-Venezia, each new location continues to feel less like a story and more like a journey to the actual place. It’s a beautiful, almost dream-like series of stories. It’s lots of the little touches, though, that really make Aqua shine. There’s a story early on where spring flooding submerges the sidewalks and first floors of buildings by a foot or so of water, and the way in which Amano tells the story and how the locals react to it makes you feel like you’re actually there. Through Akari’s eyes, you’re able to get the sense of wonder that she feels, and each new facet of living on Aqua comes across as real and interesting and fantastic. Of course, there does to be at least a minimal amount of plot, which Amano provides. Akari’s a good protagonist, and an early scene in which she explains why she’d rather live in the more rustic Neo-Venezia than on Earth comes across as both heartfelt and non-preachy. The supporting cast seems a little more two-dimensional, but it’s also early enough in the series that I’m willing to give them some time to grow.

The art in Aqua is for the most part quite good. Amano shines when she’s drawing scenes of Neo-Venezia itself, be it the undines guiding their boats along the canals, or gliding across an old, pre-flood settlement from the Mars era. It’s the sort of book where whenever a two-page spread appears, it really is well worth it, letting the reader drink in the beauty and expanse of the city. You can tell that Amano did a lot of research on the real Venice, and it really shows; as someone who has been to Venice, this looks and feels remarkably authentic. My one quibble is that at least in this first volume, Amano is not really that good when it comes to action. Fortunately Aqua is hardly an action-packed story, but there are rare occasions when it shows up and just falls flat. Hopefully it’s something that in the dozen or so volumes to follow will improve, but right now it’s the one flaw in an otherwise gorgeous book.

Aqua ran for two volumes in Japan before switching magazines (and publishers), resulting in a name change to Aria. Regardless of the name, though, I consider myself a fierce convert of the series. This is the sort of book I’d actually love to see more of, ones that really transport the reader to another place entirely. I, for one, cannot wait to pick up the second volume of Aqua and then move onto Aria. Utterly enchanting, I suspect anyone else looking to experience a different time and place will love it just as much.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2008/03/14/aqua-vol-1/feed/ 3
Abandoned Vol. 1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2006/04/24/the-abandoned-vol-1/ Mon, 24 Apr 2006 04:00:27 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2006/04/24/the-abandoned-vol-1/ By Sophie Campbell 240 pages, two-color Published by Tokyopop

Saying that there are a lot of zombies in all forms of media lately is a bit of an understatement. Comics, television, movies, books… you name it, there’s an undead creature begging to eat your brains. With that in mind, I really have to give Sophie [...]]]> By Sophie Campbell
240 pages, two-color
Published by Tokyopop

Saying that there are a lot of zombies in all forms of media lately is a bit of an understatement. Comics, television, movies, books… you name it, there’s an undead creature begging to eat your brains. With that in mind, I really have to give Sophie Campbell’s The Abandoned a lot of credit; it’s the only one I’ve encountered in the last year or so that over a month later is still creeping me out.

In the small town of Buffalora, Georgia, things are going pretty well for Rylie. She works at a nursing home, has her sights set on the beautiful Naomi, and has a good group of friends to hang out with. Then Hurricane Riley blows into town, and when the rain and winds settle, the biggest problem isn’t the amount of physical damage the hurricane has brought. Now everyone over the age of 23 is a flesh-eating zombie, and Rylie and her friends are fighting for their lives. But can they really forestall the never-ending march of a land of zombies?

Campbell’s opening to The Abandoned is a textbook introduction; we meet Rylie, her family, her friends, and her life in general. It’s only once we have a good idea of what their lives are like that everything goes wrong, so that we have a better idea of just what it is that she’s lost. It’s then that The Abandoned really gets going. Rylie and her friends fighting against the zombies is one of the most genuinely unsettling things I’ve read in a while. Maybe it’s because while Campbell’s zombies are pretty standard versions of the creature (slow, forever marching forward monsters) they learn by example. Inevitably, you end up leading the zombies to yourself as they follow your retreat. And once they’ve found you… well, it’s all but over. Campbell takes the idea of a never-ending army of people who feel no pain to its logical conclusion; you can take out a lot, but sooner or later based on sheer numbers you’re going to lose because they just keep coming, piling on top of you. I also have to give credit to Campbell for showing and not telling in her writing. She never comes out and directly states all the information as to what’s going on, but it’s all there for the reader to piece together. She assumes that his audience is smart enough to understand, never talking down to the reader.

This brutal, unstoppable nature that Campbell has written comes to life in her art. The Abandoned is printed in an attractive two-color format, using red ink as well as black to bring the story to life (so to speak). Campbell draws her characters in all sorts of body types, from voluptuous and full-bodied to rail-skinny, and all points in-between. It’s this smooth, realistic look to the characters that makes what inevitably happens to them all the more terrifying. Campbell doesn’t hold back on the events of The Abandoned; her zombies don’t just nip at your skin, they’re ready to tear you apart and devour you. The Abandoned is definitely not for the squeamish because it might be a bit much to take watching characters that you’ve grown to care about getting dragged to their slow, lingering, painful death. By the time you’re done reading The Abandoned there’s no doubt in your mind that these zombies are a truly dangerous force to be reckoned with.

The Abandoned is easily one of the creepiest books I’ve read in a long time. Campbell takes the idea of a zombie invasion and makes it more horrifying than most people are capable of. TokyoPop’s website indicates that this is the first of three volumes, and I hope that’s the case if only because I’m simultaneously attracted and scared of what she’ll do for an encore. This book will be overwhelming to many readers, but that’s how it should be. I can’t remember the last time I’ve enjoyed being scared so much.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

]]>
Tarot Cafe Vol. 1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2005/03/14/tarot-cafe-vol-1/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2005/03/14/tarot-cafe-vol-1/#comments Mon, 14 Mar 2005 04:00:46 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2005/03/14/tarot-cafe-vol-1/ By Sang-Sun Park 192 pages, black and white Published by TokyoPop

Sometimes I buy a book based on little more than a hunch, or a lightning-fast initial impression. That was the case with The Tarot Cafe Vol. 1, which seemed interesting enough. The more I read it, though, the more I began to wonder… had [...]]]> By Sang-Sun Park
192 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

Sometimes I buy a book based on little more than a hunch, or a lightning-fast initial impression. That was the case with The Tarot Cafe Vol. 1, which seemed interesting enough. The more I read it, though, the more I began to wonder… had I seen this somewhere before?

Pamela owns the Tarot Cafe, where you can come in for a bite to eat, something to drink… and your fortunes read. As supernatural creatures of all shapes and sizes come in to talk to Pamela, all receive guidance on both where they’ve been and what is in store for them, but will the additional knowledge really be helpful?

Sang-Sun Park’s The Tarot Cafe is in many ways a very familiar set-up, with different little horror and dark fantasy stories connected by a singular location or person that the participants all visit for advice. In many ways it’s like Pet Shop of Horrors (also published by TokyoPop), but it’s also unfortunately a little inferior. The stories in The Tarot Cafe are a little too “easy”, a little too predictable. The one time I honestly thought a story wasn’t heading in an obvious direction, what could have been a surprising twist ended up just being a fake-out to distract the reader from the fact that the obvious ending was indeed occurring. Park has a nice touch with all of the stories in The Tarot Cafe having an accompanying tarot reading going on throughout the narrative, showing the reader what cards match up to the story, but to be honest it’s a gimmick that gets old quickly, unfortunately. The Tarot Cafe might not be a bad book for someone who’s never read anything like this, but for experienced readers it’ll get old fairly quickly.

Park’s art for The Tarot Cafe is the real attraction here; she’s got an ink line that isn’t quite like anything else being produced in comics at the moment. It’s almost like seeing a bundle of strings sprawled across the page; you can see each individual line in the figure, but they more often than not are all grouped tightly together to form a character’s hair, or perhaps background shading. Just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on Park’s art, though, she’ll draw something with just a single line, with just its delicate outline existing on the page. It’s a strange dichotomy, and it’s what kept me reading The Tarot Cafe more than anything else. It’s an interesting look, and I may have to check out Park’s Les Bijoux to see if her art is the same there as well.

The Tarot Cafe Vol. 1 in the end was slightly disappointing; I wanted to like it a lot more than I did, because in many ways it just felt a little too old hat. Park’s art is nice, but it doesn’t hide the fact that there’s nothing terribly new or original here. Hopefully later volumes will break out of the standard mold that the first volume seemed determined to fit into, but for now it’s just all right.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2005/03/14/tarot-cafe-vol-1/feed/ 2
Paradise Kiss Vol. 1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2005/02/11/paradise-kiss-vol-1/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2005/02/11/paradise-kiss-vol-1/#comments Fri, 11 Feb 2005 04:00:23 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2005/02/11/paradise-kiss-vol-1/ By Ai Yazawa 192 pages, black and white Published by TokyoPop

All right, I’ll admit it. The first time around, I completely missed out on Paradise Kiss. A book about fashion designers just didn’t sound interesting enough to grab my attention in the sea of new series being unleased on the market, and then several [...]]]> By Ai Yazawa
192 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

All right, I’ll admit it. The first time around, I completely missed out on Paradise Kiss. A book about fashion designers just didn’t sound interesting enough to grab my attention in the sea of new series being unleased on the market, and then several of the books in the series briefly went out of print. Now that TokyoPop is bringing new printings of the series to out, I decided to give it another try and it turns out everyone else was right: I should have been reading this ages ago.

Yukari’s a typical Japanese student, studying to pass the entrance exams to a high-class college. Then she runs into four students from the fashion department of Yazawa Arts, and they have an offer for her to become a model for their new clothing line. At first Yukari does everything in her power to say no, but the allure of the “Paradise Kiss” clothes is there… or is it the allure of one of the designers? Perhaps a bit of both?

The first volume of Paradise Kiss has one of the most realistic “transformation” scenes I’ve read in quite a while, there’s no doubt about that. Yukari’s the sort of person in the first chapter who wouldn’t give the members of Paradise Kiss the time of day, but it’s very much to Ai Yazawa’s credit that she was not only able to make Yukari sticking around believable, but that she’s able to take Yukari through such an eye opening set of events so effortlessly. What could have felt forced and trite as Yukari begins to get to know the four designers instead just comes across naturally, with events driven by the characters themselves and unfolding in a simple and naturalistic way. Yazawa writes a lot about love and desire and emotion in Paradise Kiss, and she does so perfectly. By the end of the first volume, Yukari’s in a very different place and I found myself really happy to see it, as well as dying to read the next installment.

Yazawa’s art is a very delicate, graceful creation. It uses very thin, almost microscopic lines to carefully create the characters, using as little ink as possible to piece the features together. It’s a beautiful look, and one that’s different from the majority of books coming across the sea from Japan these days. There are places where you feel almost like you’re catching just brief glimpses of these characters as they pause for a split second, letting the viewer catch them, before drifting away and out of sight. It’s strange because in other hands this sort of approach could have made the characters look stiff and posed, but there’s always a sense of motion and movement in Yazawa’s art. And of course, Paradise Kiss is a book about style, and that’s definitely on display here. From foppish jacket sleeves to elaborate braided hair, everything is designed to look special and unique. I don’t know if Yazawa merely used a lot of fashion reference material to create the look of Paradise Kiss or if it all came out of her head, but either way the characters really do look like they belong in the fashion industry, keeping the credibility of the story alive.

This is a really nice series, and I’m now understanding why there was so much talk about it. It’s not really at all what one would expect, with a book about fashion designers really being about desire and what one wants to do versus what one should do. With the plot advancing so quickly in just one volume, I really am eager to see just what will happen in volumes two through five. Don’t make the same mistake I did and miss out on Paradise Kiss a second time.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2005/02/11/paradise-kiss-vol-1/feed/ 14
Legal Drug Vol. 1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/11/08/legal-drug-vol-1/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/11/08/legal-drug-vol-1/#comments Mon, 08 Nov 2004 04:00:45 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/11/08/legal-drug-vol-1/ By CLAMP 192 pages, black and white Published by TokyoPop

It’s strange to be reading a CLAMP series that’s actually “new”, but in the case of Tsubasa, xxxHOLiC, and Legal Drug, we’re getting translations of current-running series in Japan. Now that I’ve sampled all three of them, I think that the best was being saved [...]]]> By CLAMP
192 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

It’s strange to be reading a CLAMP series that’s actually “new”, but in the case of Tsubasa, xxxHOLiC, and Legal Drug, we’re getting translations of current-running series in Japan. Now that I’ve sampled all three of them, I think that the best was being saved for last, because Legal Drug is easily the one “must buy” series CLAMP’s producing.

Kudo’s an employee at the Green Drug Pharmacy, stocking shelves and helping customers. He gets to live above the store in exchange for his services, along with his hated co-worker and rival Rikuo. Kudo has a gift, though, in the form of psychic abilities which are triggered by touch. Now Kudo is making a little extra money thanks to this power as his boss sends him in search of strange and unusual objects. What Kudo and Rikuo are going to quickly discover, though, is that not one of these missions is exactly what it seems.

At a glance, it’s easy to compare Legal Drug to xxxHOLiC, both series having people running mysterious errands for someone with a greater purpose in mind. What makes Legal Drug stand out in my mind, then, is the strong character interactions in Legal Drug. Kudo and Rikuo’s relationship is a real joy to watch, the ultimate love-hate relationship. Even as both of them rail against the other, there’s a magnetic attraction between the two that keeps them connected. Both of them function better when the other’s around, and as Kudo begins to get glimpses into Rikuo’s past, he’s intrigued despite himself, unable to tear himself away. Some of CLAMP’s series have had homoerotic undertones that run through the book (most notably Cardcaptor Sakura, although by the end I don’t think “undertone” qualifies, since the characters become more and more overt in their feelings for each other), but Legal Drug takes it to the most intriguing level that I’ve seen CLAMP take it; for me, the question isn’t so much “does it exist?” but “do the characters even know it exists?” Kudo, Rikuo, and the rest of the cast of Legal Drug are all so guarded in their emotions and thoughts that it makes their interactions all the more intriguing. That, to me, is how Legal Drug ultimately trumps xxxHOLiC; the characters here are just that much more interesting.

The art in Legal Drug is also the nicest of the three new CLAMP series, by a long shot. Legal Drug‘s characters have a beautiful grace to them, with gentle lines forming their features. Mick Nekoi’s work as a lead artist for this book results in Legal Drug having simple but effective page layouts, not needing to resort to tricky or intricate layouts to get the reader’s attention. Instead the art keeps the viewer’s eyes firmly affixed by being able to show emotion as a blistering heat that radiates off the page. When Saiga enters Kudo’s personal space, you can feel his hulking presence hovering over Kudo, unable to be ignored. I’ve felt that Nekoi is the most talented artist of the CLAMP quartet, and Legal Drug continues to confirm that belief.

Legal Drug has a perfect balance of short-term and long-term story goals that are accomplished in its pages; each of Kudo’s missions on its own is interesting, but as the pieces begin to drop into place on just what Rikuo is doing at the Green Drug Pharmacy, it’s going to keep your attention for as long as the series progresses. CLAMP’s other new series are enjoyable, but Legal Drug is the one of the three for which I absolutely can’t wait to see what happens next. More, please.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/11/08/legal-drug-vol-1/feed/ 10
Suki: A Like Story Vol. 1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/04/29/suki-a-like-story-vol-1/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/04/29/suki-a-like-story-vol-1/#comments Thu, 29 Apr 2004 04:00:41 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/04/29/suki-a-like-story-vol-1/ By CLAMP 192 pages, black and white Published by TokyoPop

One of the problems of being a collective of writers and artist who all use the same name is that as a reader you never really know what you’re going to get. That’s how I feel about CLAMP, a four-woman creative team in Japan. For [...]]]> By CLAMP
192 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

One of the problems of being a collective of writers and artist who all use the same name is that as a reader you never really know what you’re going to get. That’s how I feel about CLAMP, a four-woman creative team in Japan. For every CLAMP book I’ve loved like Cardcaptor Sakura or Wish, there are ones like Clover which just don’t seem to work quite as well. I’m not sure just what made me decide to give CLAMP’s Suki: A Like Story a try, but I’m really happy that I did. This is definitely one of the CLAMP books that fall into the “good” category for me.

Hinata Asahi is a high school student whose emotional growth doesn’t seem to have caught up with her body. She’s like a child, living with just her two teddy bears whom she reads fairy tales to and makes pancakes for. Then the big house next door gets a new tenant, Shiro Asou. There’s something about Shiro that makes Hina’s heart go wild, experiencing feelings she’s never had before. When Shiro turns out to also be her new homeroom teacher, it seems too good to be true. Unfortunately, that might just be the case.

CLAMP’s story for Suki: A Like Story reminds me a bit of Wish in that on the surface it seems to be one sort of story, but there’s much more than really meets the eye waiting for the reader. (Perhaps not coincidentally, both projects were headed up by the same member of CLAMP.) At first, Suki (which means “to like” in Japanese) seems to be just a story about an emotionally stunted girl coming into her own as a person. The more you read, though, the more you discover lurking beneath. There’s definitely a sinister storyline unfolding here as we start to get hints on how Shiro’s presence in Hina’s life is anything but coincidental, and is quite possibly dangerous for Hina. Once you add in the mystery of why Hina’s living apart from her father and her best friend transferring schools to stay with her, and it’s hard to keep from being really intrigued as to what happens next in Suki. All the while, though, CLAMP keeps the initial aspect of Suki present as Hina continues to feel these strange new emotions running through her body.

Suki has the same lead artist (Mick Nekoi) as Wish did, and it really shows. The characters in Suki are drawn in a beautiful minimalist style that makes everyone look slightly fragile—something that’s carried through in the writing as well. For a character as innocent as Hina she needs to look the part, and it’s achieved here in part by having every emotion experienced by her cross her face and body. Fear, excitement, disappointment, delight… there’s no such thing as a poker face for Hina. Conversely, Shiro’s expressions are always inscrutable, the ultimate example of a character giving absolutely nothing away by his body language. It’s a very attractive book, and it’s almost as much fun to just flip through the book at random and enjoy the craft involved as it is to read.

Suki Vol. 1 is a great opening to the story, moving at just the right pace for a three-volume series. There are a lot of different directions it can go from here, and to be honest, there’s enough groundwork laid that I think I’ll be happy no matter what the ending. Special note also has to be brought to the paper stock for the cover and the interiors, which seems to be of a different, higher quality than what TokyoPop uses. It helps with the overall package in looking even more attractive, and I’d love to see this become a standard for TokyoPop. All in all, a real joy from beginning to finish.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2004/04/29/suki-a-like-story-vol-1/feed/ 3
Planetes Vol. 1 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/10/29/planetes-vol-1/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/10/29/planetes-vol-1/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2003 04:00:40 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/10/29/planetes-vol-1/ By Makoto Yukimura 244 pages, black and white Published by TokyoPop

Most comics about outer space focus on the big concepts; gigantic space ships zooming through the void, or alien invasions of Earth. Maybe that’s why Makoto Yukimura’s Planetes is so instantly appealing. It’s science-fiction, yes, and it’s very much about outer space… but Planetes‘s [...]]]> By Makoto Yukimura
244 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

Most comics about outer space focus on the big concepts; gigantic space ships zooming through the void, or alien invasions of Earth. Maybe that’s why Makoto Yukimura’s Planetes is so instantly appealing. It’s science-fiction, yes, and it’s very much about outer space… but Planetes‘s focus on quieter, character-based storylines makes it instantly stand out as something much more interesting.

In the year 2074, space is a mess… literally. Years of disregard has left Earth’s orbit full of space junk, bits and pieces of metal and rock that at the right speed can punch holes in spaceships, making traveling through like traversing a mine field. Hachimaki, Fee, and Yuri are three people who try to clean up the debris left behind by mankind… but each of them has their own motives and dreams related to being in space.

When I read the first chapter in Planetes, I quickly realized that I would not be able to put this book down until I finished it. Yukimura’s story of yearning and loss instantly grabbed me, with the story of the man looking for the last trace of his beloved taking a much more introspective and thoughtful tactic than most science-fiction comics attempt. Each chapter of Planetes is strongly character-based, from yearning for a better job to trying to find closure in part of your life. At the same time, though, Planetes‘s stories use the outer space setting to their maximum potential; these aren’t vignettes that were transplanted into a futuristic setting, but ones that demand to be science-fiction in nature. These are about desperately wanting to journey through a new frontier, the dangers that lurk there, and the path that people follow to get there. Yukimura’s Planetes shows an instant understanding for the allure and mystery of space, and the dreams that so many people share in wanting to go there.

Yukimura’s art is as lushly detailed and meticulously perfect as his writing. For a book where technology is such an important aspect of each overall story, Yukimura excels, drawing every single ridge on an air tube or every wrinkle on a suit. It’s extremely important in Planetes that everything looks realistic and doesn’t throw you out of the story, and Yukimura succeeds marvelously at that. He’s created a world which doesn’t just look like it could be the future, he’s created what in the reader’s mind will be the future. Yukimura’s grasp of technology isn’t the only success in the art, mind you. His characters really come to life on the page as well, from Yuri’s haunted expression as he searches for traces of his wife, to Fee’s look of contentment when she goes through the worst day possible in order to smoke a cigarette. With such a human element taking center stage in Planetes, it’s a very important part of the final product.

Planetes Vol. 1 is the kind of book that got me first interested in science-fiction at a young age. The dreams of the future coupled with the reality of the people living in it… that’s great stuff. With the wealth of material getting translated from Japanese and Korean into English these days, it’s easy to have some of the books slip by you in all of the shuffle. Trust me when I say that Planetes is not one that you want to miss. I absolutely cannot wait for the next volumes of Yukimura’s masterpiece; more, please.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/10/29/planetes-vol-1/feed/ 2
Between the Sheets http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/10/03/between-the-sheets/ Fri, 03 Oct 2003 04:00:49 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/10/03/between-the-sheets/ By Erica Sakurazawa 208 pages, black and white Published by TokyoPop

As more and more manga comes overseas into English-speaking countries, there are phrases you hear thrown around a lot. Shonen (“boy’s manga”) and sh˘jo (“girl’s manga”) are two of them, with people quickly pointing out which story elements make a book meant for which gender. Well, if you read Erica Sakurazawa’s Between the Sheets, the question then becomes: What’s the name for women’s manga?

“If I was a guy, I would definitely be in love with her.” That’s what Minako first thought about her best friend Saki after the two spent another evening in a bar full of pathetic men. But is Minako, in fact, in love with Saki? Minako likes men, after all, but she also likes Saki. Does she really love Saki, though, or does she love Saki’s life? And what happens when all of these lines start blurring together?

What immediately struck me about Between the Sheets was that this is a comic for adults. It sounds strange to say that, with all of the great alternative and independent comics being published these days, but with the boom of material brought over from Asia almost entirely aimed at teenagers as well, this really stood out. While the comparisons I’ve heard to hit show Sex and the City might not be entirely on target, they’re not that far off either. Sakurazawa’s story is full of twists and turns, as betrayals and lies fill the lives of our main characters. You may not particularly like Saki or Minako, but Sakurazawa makes them absolutely entrancing. You really can’t turn away from what’s going to happen next, and this is a book where you really can’t find yourself second-guessing the author on how everything will all turn out. You may not know someone exactly like Saki or Minako, but it’s certainly very easy to imagine knowing someone very much like them.

Sakurazawa’s art in Between the Sheets reminds me a lot of what you might find from American publishers like Top Shelf, Alternative Comics, or Drawn & Quarterly. I love the simple lines that Sakurazawa uses to flesh out her characters, with their expressive faces and actions. Sakurazawa keeps up the snazzy look of her book with a lack of fear of failing to use the whole page. Panels are scattered across a page in a way that looks attractive rather than what can cram the most in there, and I think that helps a lot with the pacing of the story. This is a book that feels very confident with its approach and how it’s going to get to its conclusion.

With its eye-catching cover designs and classy interiors, Between the Sheets is the sort of thing you could see the chic people on the subway engrossed in on their way to work. It’s a book that is adult in my eyes not because of any explicit content (although don’t get me wrong, there definitely is sex in this book) but more because of the storytelling structure and attitude. I think that’s why TokyoPop is branding Sakurazawa’s books with a similar cover style and general look—because like discovering a new author in the prose world, once you read one of Sakurazawa’s books, you’re going to want to read them all.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

]]>
By Erica Sakurazawa
208 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

As more and more manga comes overseas into English-speaking countries, there are phrases you hear thrown around a lot. Shonen (“boy’s manga”) and sh˘jo (“girl’s manga”) are two of them, with people quickly pointing out which story elements make a book meant for which gender. Well, if you read Erica Sakurazawa’s Between the Sheets, the question then becomes: What’s the name for women’s manga?

“If I was a guy, I would definitely be in love with her.” That’s what Minako first thought about her best friend Saki after the two spent another evening in a bar full of pathetic men. But is Minako, in fact, in love with Saki? Minako likes men, after all, but she also likes Saki. Does she really love Saki, though, or does she love Saki’s life? And what happens when all of these lines start blurring together?

What immediately struck me about Between the Sheets was that this is a comic for adults. It sounds strange to say that, with all of the great alternative and independent comics being published these days, but with the boom of material brought over from Asia almost entirely aimed at teenagers as well, this really stood out. While the comparisons I’ve heard to hit show Sex and the City might not be entirely on target, they’re not that far off either. Sakurazawa’s story is full of twists and turns, as betrayals and lies fill the lives of our main characters. You may not particularly like Saki or Minako, but Sakurazawa makes them absolutely entrancing. You really can’t turn away from what’s going to happen next, and this is a book where you really can’t find yourself second-guessing the author on how everything will all turn out. You may not know someone exactly like Saki or Minako, but it’s certainly very easy to imagine knowing someone very much like them.

Sakurazawa’s art in Between the Sheets reminds me a lot of what you might find from American publishers like Top Shelf, Alternative Comics, or Drawn & Quarterly. I love the simple lines that Sakurazawa uses to flesh out her characters, with their expressive faces and actions. Sakurazawa keeps up the snazzy look of her book with a lack of fear of failing to use the whole page. Panels are scattered across a page in a way that looks attractive rather than what can cram the most in there, and I think that helps a lot with the pacing of the story. This is a book that feels very confident with its approach and how it’s going to get to its conclusion.

With its eye-catching cover designs and classy interiors, Between the Sheets is the sort of thing you could see the chic people on the subway engrossed in on their way to work. It’s a book that is adult in my eyes not because of any explicit content (although don’t get me wrong, there definitely is sex in this book) but more because of the storytelling structure and attitude. I think that’s why TokyoPop is branding Sakurazawa’s books with a similar cover style and general look—because like discovering a new author in the prose world, once you read one of Sakurazawa’s books, you’re going to want to read them all.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

]]>
Kindaichi Case Files Vol. 1: The Opera House Murders http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/09/22/kindaichi-case-files-the-opera-house-murders/ http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/09/22/kindaichi-case-files-the-opera-house-murders/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2003 04:00:46 +0000 http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/09/22/kindaichi-case-files-the-opera-house-murders/ Story by Yozaburo Kanari Art by Fumiya Sato 240 pages, black and white Published by TokyoPop

The mystery genre is alive and well in most forms of entertainment. Television, movies, books, just about all of them have a good-sized percentage of mysteries… except, of course, comics. Aside from CrossGen’s Ruse, there aren’t many high profile [...]]]> Story by Yozaburo Kanari
Art by Fumiya Sato
240 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

The mystery genre is alive and well in most forms of entertainment. Television, movies, books, just about all of them have a good-sized percentage of mysteries… except, of course, comics. Aside from CrossGen’s Ruse, there aren’t many high profile comics that tackle mysteries, unless you live in Japan. TokyoPop’s brought one of those series into English in the form of The Kindaichi Case Files, and based on their first volume The Opera House Murders it’s clearly something that should’ve made it over here years ago.

Most people think Hajime Kindaichi is a witless slacker who makes it through school by the skin of his teeth. Only his friend Miyuki really knows that Kindaichi’s intelligence is off the charts… but not only in books, but in solving mysteries. Miyuki brings Kindaichi with her to the Drama Club’s island getaway where they’ll be rehearsing “Phantom of the Opera”, but a series of murders traps the club on the island, as well as laying suspicion on everyone there. Can Kindaichi solve the mystery of the opera house murders before the Phantom strikes again?

The Opera House Murders is a really nice introduction to The Kindaichi Case Files series; we’re introduced to the two main characters (Kindaichi and Miyuki) and quickly learn their relationship and personalities, then plunge into the story itself. So much of a mystery depends on if it is, indeed, mysterious. It was a relief, then, to discover that Yozaburo Kanari’s story is at just the right level of mystery; it’s logically constructed, and possible to solve because you are given all the information along with Kindaichi, but at the same time it’s not so blindingly obvious that it makes all the characters look like morons for not figuring it out. It’s a tough balance, and one that so often fails because going too much in either direction results in a deeply unsatisfying read for your audience.

Fumiya Sato’s art in The Opera House Murders has just the right mixture of cheerfulness and horror, here; this is in many ways a light-hearted book until the murders kick in, and it makes sense to have an art style that straddles the lines between the two moods. In many ways it reminds me of Rumiko Takahashi’s art, with eager and energetic faces on display here. With a large cast of a dozen or so characters, it’s important that you can tell everyone apart, and Sato makes sure to give each character their own individual look without resorting to caricatures. Most importantly, though, Sato’s able to handle the darker aspects of The Opera House Murders. The appearance of the corpses in the book are handled perfectly with just the right amount of horror to amp up the mood that Kanari is writing into his story. Even better, Sato’s able to take little moments and make them scary. I was reading The Opera House Murders late at night while a hurricane swept through the area, and when one of the characters looks out the window and sees the masked Phantom staring back, well… let’s just say that I had to catch my breath and remind myself that it’s just a book!

If there’s any justice, The Kindaichi Case Files books will be best-sellers. The Opera House Murders was a really fun book, and like other series of mysteries novels, Kanari and Sato are sure to make The Opera House Murders stand on its own as a thoroughly enjoyable book while making you want to read more about these characters. With ten more volumes to follow, I think we’ll all be enjoying these clever mysteries for some time to come. The Opera House Murders is on sale now at better comic stores everywhere.

Purchase Links: Amazon.com

]]> http://www.readaboutcomics.com/2003/09/22/kindaichi-case-files-the-opera-house-murders/feed/ 2