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Manga Review: After the Rain Volume 1

Alternate Names: Koi wa Amaagari no You ni, Love is Like after the Rain, After the Rain (MAYUZUKI Jun), Koi wa Ameagari no You ni
Year: 2014 – ongoing
Author/Artist: Jun Mayazuki
Genre: Seinen, Romance, Drama, School Life, Slice of Life

Yes, I have finally decided to read this sucker, after circling this title for several weeks. What tipped the scales was learning that the series was recently adapted into an anime. Anyway, I liked the premise of this series and, shock-horror, the first volume was a delight to read.

Akira Tachibana’s life took a turn when she had an ankle injury. This forced the promising runner out of the sport and led to her working at a family restaurant. The seventeen-year-old has developed feelings for her fourty-five-year-old boss, Masami Kondou, a divorcee with a young son. We learn, over the span of the first volume how much his presence has impacted her life.
Masami Kondou is well aware that he is not a young man anymore. Whilst he doesn’t know that the mature young woman is in love with him, he is clearly attracted to Akira and spends a bit of time worrying and thinking about her. We also see Akira trying to decipher the meaning of his actions towards her, the product of her lack of experience in matters of the heart.
How will their mutual attraction for each other fair in the light of day. How will the two move forward?

The organic manner in which the relationship between Tachibana and Kondou develops over the span of the first volume is such a delight to watch. They are such relatable characters, and it is easy to root for them. The age gap is not a big deal because Akira is an adult, with a maturity well-beyond her seventeen years. She sees something in Kondou that others are too blind to see. Kondou has some mild flaws, but he is such a kind fellow that shoulders the burden of the entire restaurant. In this, he shows his sense of self-worth and responsibility.
In the background is Akira’s schoolmate and long-time admirer Takashi Yoshizawa. As adorable as he is, Takashi spends most of his time trying to mold himself into what he believes Akira likes to be in order to get her attention. The poor thing doesn’t stand a chance but I cannot help but wish for his happiness because he is such a good-hearted character. The introduction of several other female characters provides some hope for this energetic little bunneh. (Why on earth does he remind me of Tamaki Suoh?) 
The minimalistic nature of the storytelling so far works as reality isn’t just going from one disaster or drama to another. Those lulls in the chaos can tell us almost as much about one’s character as when they are dealing with family problems or trouble at high school. This is certainly the case with Tachibana, who spends a lot of time reflecting on her life now that she cannot run anymore. Whilst she is sad to see an end to that part of her life, her strong character dictates that she has to move forward rather than live in the past. It also gives her a chance to make sense of her feelings for Kondou.
Artwork? The linework and character designs are gorgeous. A lot of folks have commented on the design of Akira in particular. Whilst I concur that her design is awesome, we can’t overlook the wonderful contrast with that of Kondou. He is a little dorky, but I keep smiling when I see the two characters in a scene together. (so cute!!) In any case, the artwork does an excellent job of showing rather than telling us about the characters and the world that they inhabit.

I could go on with some other points about the series based on the first volume. However, I think that you guys should just dive right in. The first volume is a lovely read, with no “lewds” and some solid character development. My verdict? I am willing to give this sucker a rating of nine out of ten. I look forward to reading more of the series in the weeks and months that follow.

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Manga Review: Kare wa Diablo Vol. 3

Alternate Names: He is Diablo!, Kare wa Diovolo
Year: 2010-2011
Author/Artist: Kayoko Shimotsuki
Genre: Shoujo, Urban Fantasy, Comedy, Romance, Drama

Reviewers Note: Volume 3 covers consists of chapters 9-12 with a bonus chapter at the end. This review is based on the S2 Scanlations English translation. >insert spoiler warning here. No, seriously…<

In the third and final volume of Kare wa Diablo, Meiko and Lucifer (with the help of a “Shiba Inu”) play doubles tennis with manga-otaku Uriel and Johan; Lucifer engages in some shenanigans at the school play; and Lucifer’s sister Michael pays a visit (Homicidal SisCon, anyone?) ahead of a battle between a transformed Meiko and Michael. Queue a rooftop kissy scene between our two main characters after the destruction wrought by Michael has been fixed by God.

Whilst the final two chapters of this series redeemed it slightly, the whiplash caused by the story going from over-the-top humor to very serious material has been a bit of an issue throughout this series. This all-or-nothing approach takes weakens a series that began with an interesting premise. There is no getting around it.

Herein lies the corpse of Kare wa Diablo. No longer shall I gaze upon your pages. No longer shall I see Meiko occasionally gaining superhuman strength from eating Anpan whilst random stuff happens around her. You promised so much but fell headfirst into a pit trap. You shall not be missed.

With this in mind, I have decided to not do a review of the entire series as originally intended, as I think that I have gone over the strengths and flaws of the series in sufficient detail already. I will, however, say that this series began at an eight and ended at a six out of ten. Well, at least it isn’t the abomination that is Butterflies, Flowers… 


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Manga Review: Okobore Hime to Entaku no Kishi Vol. 2

Alternate names: The Leftover Princess and the Knight of the Round Table, The Leftover Princess and the Round Table Knight
Year: 2013
Author / Artist: Kaori Katsuki and Rinne Ishida
Genre: Shoujo, Fantasy, Romance, Reverse Harem

Reviewer’s Note: Volume one consists of chapters 6 – 10 of this 17-part series. This review reflects the Aqua Scans English fan translation.

In volume 2, Leticia ventures to the nearby kingdom of Illstra to attend her airheaded cousin’s wedding to Third Prince Severio. On the way, her father has arranged to have her servants poisoned in order to “test her nature”. She requests her father’s estranged former knight, Craig, to accompany her and Duke Barchet on the visit. However, when she arrives, she learns that her idiot cousin has run off with a scam artist and that Severio has left in search of her. She sends Duke Barchet to deal with the search whilst she runs interference at the castle. In the process, she moves ever closer to becoming the “heartbreaker queen” that was mentioned in earlier installments.

After the introduction of the major arc in volume one, this series mixes things up a bit with a short story arc set in another country. We see Leticia and her associates bring to bear the various tools at their disposal to deal with the current political situation. It plays out nicely and shows that they are more than capable of solving problems away from home.
There is also less of a supernatural element this time around, focusing more on politics. Whilst we don’t get to see everything that is happening in the background, we do, however, get to see the results in spectacular fashion. We got a taste of this in volume one but it is even more prominent in volume two of the series. It works well, making me like this series even more.

HAREM Observations: I find it curious that this series isn’t categorized as a “reverse harem” for many manga searches even though all of the necessary elements are there. As such, I’ve decided to change the genre section for the series to reflect this. Feel free to offer rebuttals if you disagree with the reasoning I offer below.
On numerous occasions during the first two volumes, Leticia shows her poker-face during various moments with Duke Barchet, the leading man of the series. However, there are numerous other suitors vying for her affections as well, ranging from knights to noblemen. On top of that, Queeny keeps pretending that her round table knights are her lovers to give herself wiggle room to deal with her own investigations. Each of these scenes moves the story forward as well, giving them a point in the overall plot rather than simply being used as fan service. Whilst fan service elements are quite common in harem and reverse harem series, a good writer makes good use of scenes to fit multiple purposes.

Verdict: This is quickly becoming one of my favorite series. I knew that I liked it after the first volume, but it somehow managed to get even better. Alas, there are only two volumes to go before the series is completed. I was predicting that I would grow attached to the series… I am really glad I have a bunch of other titles lined up after I am done because I will need a rebound manga. *sniff-sniff*


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Manga Review: Mission of Love Vol. 2

Alternate Names: Love Mission, Missions of Love, xx Me!
Year: 2009-2015
Author/Artist: Ema Toyomo
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Comedy, Drama, Slice of Life

Reviewer’s Note: Volume Two of this manga covers chapters 5-8 of the series. Beware of possible spoilers.

In volume two, we see Yukina’s expert manipulation of Shigure after he attempts to use her weakness (the removal of her glasses) to get back at her again. As Shigure grapples with his own growing affections for Yukino, her cousin Akira is dealing with his own jealousy at their growing connection.

This week’s four chapters showcase yet again how focused Yukina is with her writing, especially in lieu of her archnemesis Dolce overtaking her in the cellphone novel popularity ladder. We also see a bit of a eureka moment, wherein she learns the value of the unexpected in developing tension in literature. Whilst we saw her ability to turn the tables on Shigure in the first volume, this time around, we see her growing more and more impatient to figure things out. She wants to understand what love is, something that Shigure points out in the fifth chapter that she has to figure out for herself.
We also see Akira featuring more prominently in volume two. Whilst I like Shigure and Yukina, Akira is becoming a more interesting character to me. He offers a pleasant, innocent contrast to the male and female leads. It is easy to empathise with him as well, given how close he is to Yukina. However, I am well aware of how best friend characters are often treated in shoujo series. They are rarely the focus of the story. Instead, that honor usually goes to bad boys and/or ice queens.


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Manga Reread: Hapi Mari [Chapters 21-30]

Other Names: Happy Marriage?!
Year: 2009-2012
Author/Artist: Maki Enjoji
Genre: Josei, Romance, Comedy, Drama

Reviewer’s Note: This review is based on the Aerandia English fan translation project. It contains non-explicit sex scenes and adult themes. Beware spoilers below.

Chapters 21-30, we see numerous revelations. Hokuto’s ex-girlfriend attempts to sow descent between Hokuto and Chiwa. Chiwa does her own investigation into how Hokuto’s mother died ahead of her own ex-boyfriend Asahina explaining what happened in college. And finally, Hokuto and his father talk for the first time in years after it was revealed earlier that his old man has a terminal disease.

Several of the story arcs that were introduced in chapters 11-20 are continued in this week’s reading. Whilst we see some resolution in that regard, there are still the ongoing hangups of Hokuto and Chiwa. The life-changing choice by Hokuto to take over Mamiya Tourism is one that will play out alongside the main arc regarding the death of his mother. Whilst I am well aware of how this plays from my previous reading of this story, the tension and foreshadowing remain.

For those that have been following along with the reading of this manga, what are your predictions for the remaining ten chapters? Feel free to post them in the comments section along with your reasoning. Note that if it involves an alien invasion or oni attacks, I will shake my head in shame. 😀


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TV Review: Barry Season 1

Year: 2018 (ongoing)
Episodes: 8
Genre: Crime, Crime Comedy, Action

Barry Berkman (Bill Hader) is a former military veteran that works as a hitman Monroe Fuches (Stephen Root) as his handler. Whilst the money is good and the work is easy for him, Barry hates his life. When he gets a job to go to Los Angeles to kill a guy sleeping with the wife of Goran Pazar (Glenn Fleshler of the show Billions), a Chechnyan gangster, Barry meets with some of the people in his target’s acting class.
Suddenly, a world of possibilities is opened for him and he begins to seriously think about a life outside of being a killer for hire. However, he must first break off the shackles of his life as an assassin if he can ever pursue his dream to be an actor. It is easier said than done. He must not only contend with Chechnyans and Bolivian gangsters, but also a police investigation and his obsession with Sally Reed (Sarah Goldberg), one of the other students.

First up, this HBO show is co-written, occasionally directed by and stars Bill Hader, a regular on Saturday Night Live around a decade. As a big fan of Hader’s work, this was a big selling point when I first came across trailers for this series. However, you cannot go wrong with Henry Wrinkler as Gene Cousineau and Stephen Root as Monroe Fuches. I wasn’t familiar with many of the other members of the cast, but I ended up taking a liking to Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank and Paula Newsome as Detective Janice Moss. Whoever did the casting for this show did well.
The story is an odd one but appropriately chaotic when you have a bunch of people with their own motivations gunning for you. The use of fantasy to give an insight into Barry’s headspace is a good one, giving a psychological aspect to this series. His desire for a normal life that doesn’t involve hurting people is a big motivator for the main character. Barry is a broken and easily-manipulated main character. It is easy to feel for him even though he does create many of his own problems. He also has to contend with the conflicting motivations of Monroe, who is obviously ripping Barry off.
The action scenes for this series are pretty solid, being closer to what one would expect for a series with a bit more of a focus on the technical aspects of armed conflict. The deaths of characters have a purpose and are typically caused by Barry being put into a corner by those around him or by a sense of obligation. However, it also gives us a chance to see the character and those around him a chance to shine. Pn several occasions, he is even forced to kill people that he cares about. We see the emotional impact it has on him, making him more and more desperate to get out of the life of an assassin.
However, this series is still predominantly a dark comedy and the comedic elements are done well. It accomplishes this with some good dialogue and situations where Barry has to deal with some odd and sometimes dangerous situations. Both the humor and the action elements work well in progressing the story as well without feeling like it is diminishing either.

If I had to choose an MVP for this series it would be Anthony Carrigan as NoHo Hank, hands-down. Whilst I love the entire cast of characters, NoHo Hank provides a counter-balance to the other members of the Chechnyan crime organization he is a part of. Anthony Carrigan delivers some really awesome lines, making his character such a delight to watch.

In conclusion, the first season of Barry was a delight to watch. Some people might raise an eyebrow when I say this but I actually like it a lot more than other crime series such as Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. It might sound a bit like comparing apples to oranges but it is not necessarily a bad comparison when you consider how Barry moved along plot instead of dragging the story out like these other series did. I give this series a rating of 9/10. I dropped a point for a few strange choices in the last episode. These choices weren’t major but they dropped this series from a perfect score.

The second season for Barry begins on the 31st of March.


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Manga Review: Kare wa Diablo Vol. 2

Alternate Names: He is Diablo!, Kare wa Diovolo
Year: 2010-2011
Author/Artist: Kayoko Shimotsuki
Genre: Shoujo, Urban Fantasy, Comedy, Romance, Drama

Reviewers Note: Volume 2 covers consists of chapters 5-8 with a bonus chapter at the end. This review is based on the S2 Scanlations English translation. >insert spoiler warning here<

In volume two of this series, Asuma / Asmodeus, that douchebag fallen that appeared in volume one, makes his grand appearance after acting in the shadows. He now attempts to get back at Rui / Lucifer by trying to destroy the bond between the other fallen’s relationship with Meiko. In the process, it only “makes their bond stronger”. It also results in Asman taking a liking to her ahead of being forced into a witch contract with resident swashbuckling cosplayer Toutsu by Lucifer. After that, an arc about the cultural festival introduces two new characters. Meh…

This week’s installment is a case of diminishing returns, as the story is becoming weirder. In an effort to add in lots of things to the story, such as the cliched Cultural Festival arc, it is all over the place narratively. We do see a moment of brilliance in the form of a flashback to Rui’s past with his former witch Lillith. The form of him being cut in half by Michael whilst protecting her is sobering even if the rest of the chapters undo much of this.
This brings us to the question of how many things a series can include before the mess of ideas overpowers the story. I think that the first volume did okay even if it wasn’t brilliant. In volume two, the story is diluted to the point where the goodwill built up in the first volume is being undone. This is a shame as well because the series had a decent premise.

Verdict: I am downgrading this series from eight to seven Aguris. I cannot justify keeping my rating as high as it was because the second volume was a bit of a letdown. Perhaps the third and final volume will give this series some well-needed TLC. I suppose we will have to wait and see.