Whistle! Vol. 1

WHISTLE!  1998 by DAISUKE HIGUCHI/SHUEISHA Inc.By Daisuke Higuchi
200 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Many of my friends may find it hard to believe that I played soccer for six years. It’s probably because unless the World Cup is on television, I don’t have too much interest in the sport these days. It’s fun to see a game from time to time, but on the whole, it just passes me by. Well, in what is certainly high praise, Whistle! not only made me think back fondly to those days playing soccer, but it briefly made me want to watch some soccer games.

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Saikano Vol. 1

By Shin Takahashi
232 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Relationships, under the best of circumstances, can be a little rocky when they’re first starting out. You’re figuring out your place in the other person’s life, as well as their place in yours. There’s a lot of learning that needs to be done, and pitfalls just waiting to trap you. In the case of Shin Takahashi’s Saikano, though, Takahashi is able to create a relationship hurdle like no other you’ve ever experienced.

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Imadoki! Vol. 1

By Y Watase
200 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Long-time readers of these reviews might have figured out by now that I’m a big fan of Yu Watase. From her most famous series Fushigi Yugi, to more recent books like Ceres, Celestial Legend and Alice 19th, if a new Watase series is released in English, I’m ready to take a look. Her new series Imadoki! (which means “Nowadays”) really surprised me, though, because there’s one thing that sets it apart from the other Watase series released in English. Unlike all of her other books, Imadoki! is set entirely in the real world.

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Bleach Vol. 1

By Tite Kubo
200 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Sometimes it takes the silliest things to get me to pick up a comic. Take Bleach Vol. 1, by Tite Kubo. In this case, it was a combination of the sharp figure drawing on the front surrounded by pure white and… the title. It just sounded cool to me. What can I say? Sometimes a book really can get sold on the cover and the title. Of course, what’s inside, that’s an entirely different story.

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Hikaru no Go Vol. 1

Written by Yumi Hotta
Art by Takeshi Obata
192 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Oh me of little faith. I admit it, when I first heard about Hikaru no Go I laughed, a lot. I’d heard of the game of Go, even played a dumbed-down variant of it as a child called Pente. But a comic about a kid playing Go being exciting and able to kick start a Go renaissance among the younger population of Japan? This just seemed too strange to be true. Well, Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata proved just how wrong I was. Let’s put it this way: I’ve got a new favorite comic appearing in the pages of SHONEN JUMP and this is it.

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Prince of Tennis Vol. 1

By Takeshi Konomi
192 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

As the number of comics brought over from Japan and other parts of Asia increases, it’s fun to see genre staples of those countries begin their infiltration into the English language publishing world. Take sports comics, for example. With books like Slam Dunk, Harlem Beat, and Girl Got Game, we’re slowly getting more options of sports comics to read. One of Viz’s new releases, The Prince of Tennis, is an entry into that genre—but in many ways, it actually reminds me more of a certain comic about cooking…

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Sensual Phrase Vol. 1

By Mayu Shinjo
192 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Maybe it’s just me, but a lot of shjo books imported from Japan seem to be awfully similar. It’s the trappings of romance-influenced stories, I guess, always rising to the surface. A couple meets each other, there’s a strong connection, but there’s always something keeping them apart. What initially impressed me so much about Sensual Phrase, I think, is the fact that creator Mayu Shinjo was not only able to make the typical barriers preventing an immediate happy ending (and very short story) logical, but that this had one of the most realistic depictions of attraction I’d read in comics for a while.

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Sand Land

By Akira Toriyama
224 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

It’s no secret that Akira Toriyama is easily best-known for his 42-volume Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z epic. Wisely swearing off anything of that length ever again, a couple of years ago Toriyama created Sand Land, a one-volume story about demons, deserts, and tanks. And while Dragon Ball might be the more popular story, I think there’s a lot to recommend Sand Land.

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Vagabond Vol. 8

By Takehiko Inoue
Based on the novel Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa
216 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

When Viz first debuted Takehiko Inoue’s new series Vagabond two years ago, it’s safe to say that I loved it. Since then I’ve encountered Inoue’s earlier series Slam Dunk to much enjoyment, and I thought I’d learned what to expect from Inoue. With the new volume of Vagabond, though, Inoue has shown me that I still have much to learn.

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Flowers & Bees Vol. 1

By Moyoco Anno
216 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

One of the trendiest things to do these days is to fix something or someone up. No, not fixing up as in dates, but in trying to make something better. Shows about sprucing up one’s home and garden are so numerous there are entire cable channels devoted to the genre, and the success of shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy proves that people can be just as interested in getting themselves fixed up. The protagonist of Flowers & Bees could certainly benefit from the cast of Queer Eye, though, because the people helping him certainly aren’t as interested in his well-being…

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