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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: 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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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.


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Manga Review: Mission of Love Vol. 1

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 One of this manga covers chapters 1-4 of the series. Beware of possible spoilers.

Years ago, I saw this title on Mangafox but never got around to reading it. At the time, the series was also still being released. Most anime and manga readers dislike waiting around for new installments of their favorite franchises, and I am no exception. This mindset can also be a bit of detriment because a good series may suffer due to that desire for immediate gratification. In any case, I decided to finally give Mission of Love a run and am enjoying it so far.

The premise is simple enough After her readers demand more romance in her stories, of a teenage cellphone writer, Yukina Himuro, is at a loss as she’s never been in a relationship before. Shigure Kitami is the student body president, a rich kid that has decided to make a game out of manipulating the gullible girls at school, all documented in his notebook.When Yukina comes across his notebook, she discovers that she is the last name remaining on his conquests list. She confronts him and decides to blackmail Shigure into helping her with “love missions”. It begins a game of cat and mouse game as the two attempt to outwit each other.

The school setting for this series is pretty standard, a high school with idiotic teenagers doing idiotic things because teenagers are exactly that – idiots. We see all of the girls fawning over Shigure because he tells them what they want to hear. This lack of skepticism makes them easy prey for his womanizing game. Yukina’s disdain for this behavior also means that she doesn’t feel guilty about blackmailing him. The two begin a cat and mouse game, wherein Shigure and Yukina try to outwit each other.
The plot progression is solid so far, with there being just enough information to move the story forward. We also see the same approach with the character development. Both of these aspects give plenty of wiggle room for storytelling in future volumes.
The artwork for this series isn’t anything special but it is easy to differentiate between characters and environments. We also see the appropriate use of mood and gestures to help convey action and emotion.
In the first four chapters, there are some neat moments wherein we see Yukina’s people-watching skills (a common bit of advice for writers) and imagination to deal with Shigure’s ploys to get out of the arrangement. It is a lot of fun and allows the two main characters moments to shine. As such, the first volume comes off as intelligently written whilst still being in the scope of how a high schooler could behave and still fit into the shoujo category.

Verdict: The first volume is an entertaining read that I look forward to reading more of in the future. It promised to be a slow-burn romance with two characters with very different goals and so far it seems to be delivering on that promise.


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Manga Review: Kare wa Diablo Vol. 1

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

Reviewers Note: Each volume consists of four chapters. This review is based on the S2 Scanlations English translation.

Whilst trying to find a few completed manga series to get stuck into, I came across a short-run series called Kare wa Diablo. The first chapter proved to be interesting enough for me to read the first volume. Here is the premise:

High Schooler Meiko has a major crush on a boy at her high school. However, he has a girlfriend. So, she does what any self-respecting school girl with an interest in the occult does – she summons a supernatural being to make the object of her affection fall madly in love her.
Well, it turns out that she made the arrangement with Lucifer, who also decides that teaching her class would be a great way to amuse himself. As Meiko deals with the ramifications of her request, her demonic summon puts forward the option for her to become his witch or let one of her schoolmates get murdered due to the initial request. So begins a silly story about demons, witches and the power of Anpan.

The first chapter of this series has a bit of a darker edge to it. However, it is made clear in the latter parts of this chapter of what to expect from this series: a comedy set in a world where the supernatural lies just below the surface… with enough variation in pace and story arcs to keep it interesting. Whilst these arcs are often predictable, the first volume was still enjoyable. The romance element is there but it takes second place to the comedy, which is not necessarily a bad thing given how focusing on romance often means focusing on drama.

This series involves a cast of human, demon and angelic characters. The human cast comes off as just as interesting as the non-humans so far. Whilst I can understand why people may not like Meiko as a protagonist because of how quickly she adapts to all of the weird stuff happening around her, I think that this makes her more of an interesting character because she isn’t an emotional wreck. Lucifer’s use of telepathy for communication with Meiko is a simple way of avoiding other people knowing who and what he is. As expected, there is also a playful aspect to characters such as Lucifer and Beelzebub.
Now, to the art! Whilst the linework is clean and crisp, the character designs aren’t overly unique. We see your standard stereotype appearances, such as Lucifer having the “black prince” type. However, the monsters are visually interesting and the action sequences do just enough to do their job. The artwork as a whole looks pretty fresh for a series released nearly a decade ago. It ages well not only because of the linework but due to the artist making the smart move of not including references to pop culture or technology. So, no talk of MySpace or use of phones that need to be carried around on a wheelbarrow.

In conclusion, the first volume was a joy to read and reminds me a little of Kamisama Kiss so far, but with more of a focus on the comedy rather than the romance. If you are looking for a short-run shoujo comedy than I highly recommend that you give this series a short. I give the first volume of this series eight out of ten Aguris.