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Manga Review: A Kiss, For Real Vol 1

Alternate Names: Sekirara ni Kiss (Japanese), True Kisses (German)
Year: 2015 (ongoing)
Author/Artist: Fumie Akuta
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, School Life

Reviewer’s Note: Each volume of this series includes four chapters. Most of the conflict in the first four chapters are internal rather than external.

Chitose has been living a lie since she was little. She’s convinced that by trying to please everyone that she will be happy. However, she never really feels at ease with revealing certain interests and talents with several of the people that she calls friends. When she is saved from a pervert on a train by a handsome boy named Itsuka, her savour dares her to live the authentic life. Whilst Chitose initially starts art classes in order to get close to Itsuka, his words force her to rethink her motivation and finally chose to do something for herself rather than somebody else.

The first four chapters of this series are really cute. The character growth of Chitose in a small period of time because somebody dared her to herself is refreshing given how a lot of manga series try to hard-sell specific products such as articles of clothing and cosmetics to their female readers. I could go on with a little philosophical debate about how physical things degrade over time but then I would also have to acknowledge how the mind can also degrade over time, which could create a rather boring diversion from this review. In any case, A Kiss, For Real feels a lot less like a big advertisement than a lot of modern series.
One of the important locales for this series is an art school. It provides a good background for Chitose to make new friends and improve her artistic ability. However, it does take a nudge on the part of Itsuka at the beginning for Chitose to genuinely take a genuine interest in art. The romance element is there but we also see Chitose figuring out a lot of stuff for herself by engaging in art. It quickly becomes both a challenge and an outlet for the teenager. We also see Chitose make meaningful connections with some of her fellow students.
As for Itsuka, he is a bit of an interesting character. Whilst there is an ample amount of male protagonists that give zero f*cks, Itsuka has a level of insight, intelligence, and talent which are demonstrated without laying it on thick. We also see his obvious affection for Chitose even though she has some mental obstacles. His encourages her to be someone to contend with rather than a fangirl. I can dig it.
There were a lot of other characters in this series. These figures give us further insight into how both Chitose and Itsuka think. This provides further opportunities for storytelling.
The artwork for this series has neat linework but the character and background designs aren’t exactly special. There are good enough to make the characters easy to discern, as well as help convey locale, action, and emotion.

In conclusion, I like what I’ve seen of this ongoing series so far. The artwork is clean and I like the focus of the story. It is certainly enjoyable enough so far for me to continue reading this series. I look forward to reading more of this series in the future.

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Manga Review: I’m in Love and It’s the End of the World Vol 1

Alternate Names: Chikyuu no Owari wa Koi no Hajimari
Year: 2015-2017
Author/Artist: Taamo
Genre: Shoujo, Romance

Reviewer’s Note: Volume 1 covers the first four chapters of this manga and an extra feature story. My review also covers the Timeless Scans English translation. It is also a short series, going for five volumes of four chapters each, with supplementary special chapters.

Mahiru Yanase is a strong believer that for anything good that happens, something equally bad will happen. As such, she becomes extremely anxious when Aoi Satomi confesses to her. How will Mahiru deal with this new development?

Whilst it is not unusual to see a pessimist female protagonist, I found Mahiru to be a rather interesting character overall. Her superstition is a bit of a hurdle for her. She wants to be happy but is constantly worried that anything good will be met with something equally bad. As such, she keeps a bunch of charms on her at all times. When she meets Aoi years before, she leaves an impression by defending him against the unjust accusation of shoplifting.
Both of these protagonists are looking for happiness but Aoi has his work cut out for him. I quite like this hangup as it is relatable. I think that most of us have that lingering worry in the back of our minds whenever something good happens. The difference is how we deal with that nagging voice. Do we let it inform our actions positively or negatively? And if we’ve let it affect us negatively in the past, can we change that destructive mental habit?
The artwork in this series is nothing to write home about, pretty much standard character and background designs. However, it is sufficient to convey locale, action, and emotion. In this regard, it works.

In conclusion, whilst this series isn’t overly special, the first four chapters were cute and I liked the characters. So far, this series seems to be a good entry-level shoujo romance series. Yes, I will be continuing this series over the coming weeks.


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Manga Review: Isekai Houtei Rebuttal Barrister Chapters 1-5

Year: 2016-2018
Author and Artist: Homura Kawamoto (story) and Kamon Ohba (art)
Genre: Seinen, Fantasy, Isekai

Reviewers Note: I am reviewing the Waterflame Scanlations English translation version of this series.

A lot of manga creators have been trying their hands at Isekai over the last couple of years. We’ve seen cooking Isekai, farming Isekai, and a host of other twists on the idea of a character taken to another world. Whilst a lot fall flat because the creators don’t quite pull it off, Kawamoto and Ohba’s series about a wannabe lawyer bringing Tokyo law to a fantasy world managed to provide an unexpected level of charm.

Twenty-nine year-old Yuuto Shiba has been trying to become a barrister for years but continues to fail the exam. In lieu of mockery from some of his peers, he gets drunk and manages to get killed. A loli goddess from another world takes advantage of his passing to bring the Japanese legal system to a kingdom full of corruption, racism, and classism. It won’t be easy for Shiba. He soon has to deal with uppity nobles and a conspiracy involving a member of the royal family.

Isekai Houtei: Rebuttal Barrister has your standard setup of a character being brought to another world forcibly. In this case, the excuse is an interesting one and I got the sense that there is more to the Goddess’ choice than simple convenience. Shiba has, after all, been studying for years, showing tenacity and passion for the Japanese legal system. I have at least one theory but I will see how that pans out in further reading of this series.
Anyhoo, our male protagonist’s first job is to defend a female elf after she injures a noble to stop his carriage from riding over a child. This opening “case” gives us a good sense of what the average person in the other world has to deal with. It also sets up several other relevant plotlines.
Whilst the series does a good job of showing worldbuilding elements in a timely fashion, we also see the inclusion of references to Japanese legal jargon. Whilst I am not entirely sure how much of the material covered reflects actual Japanese law, it does appear to be similar to how a lot of state laws are worded. Somewhere in my household, my husband and I have numerous large legal tomes from around a decade ago. I won’t go over why we have them in the first place but I will say that those suckers are damned heavy.
I really like the characters that we’ve been introduced to in the first five chapters. Yuuto is such a good protagonist as well, one that was easy to like. He was kind, hard-working and had a sense of justice. He was also appropriately flawed. We also get a sense of intelligence even though his confidence is a little on the low side. Donatella Bastianelli is such an awesome assistant as well. She’s perceptive, has some magic and has a strong sense of right and wrong that makes her admirable. She comes off as thankful but not an obsessed “fangirl”, which is a refreshing change from a lot of series I’ve read and watched recently.
To art, it is nothing out of the ordinary but it is solid. The characters are easy to differentiate between, the backgrounds are attractive, and scenes do a decent job of conveying action, emotion and get you excited to see what happens next. The art style also doesn’t make me want to gouge my own eyes out from weirdly drawn facial features like a few other series I’ve looked at recently. I will not name names!

In conclusion, this series was a pleasant excursion that merges several interesting ideas to good effect. I really like the balance of a courtroom procedural with several other elements. I like the characters and the world so far and have high hopes for the plot based on the groundwork laid in the first five chapters. I really look forward to reading more of this series.


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Manga Review: Skeleton Soldier Couldn’t Protect the Dungeon Chapters 1-20

Year: 2017 (Ongoing)
Author/Artist: Sosori???
Genre: Seinen, Dark Fantasy, Action, Adventure, Gaming, Webtoons

When I came across Skeleton Soldier Couldn’t Protect the Dungeon, I was fascinated by the premise but was initially skeptical in lieu of how many webtoons I’ve been let down by in the past. I took a chance and started reading. I was happy that I did because the first twenty chapters of this series were a breath of fresh air. This series can be best categorized as dark fantasy.

A loyal skeleton warrior loses his succubus mistress when adventurers enter their dungeon. He awakes years before, to the moment of his creation by a young female necromancer. His intention is to become stronger in order to protect his succubus mistress in the not-so-distant future but things begin to get significantly complicated when his creator is tortured and killed by a secret criminal organisation.

How this series dealt with the gaming element set it apart from a lot of the stuff that I’ve been reading of late. It isn’t another Isekai but about an undead minion that gains that ability to come back to “save” points in the event of a death. He also learns from what he’s experienced before dying, helping him to negotiate it in future attempts. The ability to see available quests also gives him a clue as to how to progress further but he also has the added baggage of loss.
The plot moved along in an appropriately chaotic fashion. The introduction of new characters and other elements felt organic. We are also left with a host of questions which aren’t immediately answered. This is a pretty good move if you want people to continue reading your work as you have material to work with later.
The characters that we are introduced in the first twenty chapters are not what you’d call heroes in the classical sense. However, we get a clear sense of what their motivations are in the moments that see them go about their business. I found myself really rooting for such an unusual protagonist in the form of an intelligent undead minion. He may not be a dashing hero but he has a purpose and you can see definitive changes in how he views the world around him the more he interacts with it. The connections that Skelly makes with the two women that he meets inform a lot of his worldview but we keep seeing how they merge with the image of the Succubus from the beginning.
The artwork for this series is pretty solid even if it isn’t unique. The character and world designs easily conveyed action, emotion, and locale. Having a series that was completely colored was a change as well, which is one of the big differences between the average webtoon and standard manga.

In conclusion, the first twenty chapters of Skeleton Soldier Couldn’t Protect the Dungeon was an enjoyable read. This was a darker story than I usually read but it had a lot of depth due to how well it made good use of the various elements.


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Manga Review: Butterflies, Flowers Chapters 1-10

Alternate Names: Chou yo Hana yo (Japanese name), O Butterfly O Flower
Year: 2005-2009
Author/Artist: Yuki Yoshihara
Genre: Josei, Romance, Slice of Life, Comedy

Reviewers Note: Chapters 1-10 of this manga covers the first two volumes of this series. My review also reflects the Serenus-Dreamers English fan translation version.

Butterflies, Flowers is another random romance series that I decided to start reading recently. Whilst I did read the first chapter of the series a few years ago, I never really took the time to read further. I guess I was distracted with several other series that I was reading at that time.

Years after her clan lost its real estate fortune, Chouka Kuze learns that the task master of a manager at the office that she works at is none other than Masayuki Doumoto, the older servant boy that she befriended as a child.

This is a somewhat innocent josei romance. Whilst I did enjoy it, the lack of conflict made it a little boring. The artwork was a bit dated as well, and there was a tendency for some of the characters to look fairly similar. I’d put this series as above average, but still worthy enough to continue reading because I liked most of the characters in this story.


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Manga Reread: Hapi Mari [Chapters 1-10]

Other Names: Happy Marriage?!
Year: 2009-2012 (for completed series, not just the chapters reviewed in this post)
Author/Artist: Maki Enjoji
Version: Aerandia Scans (English translation)
Genre: Josei, Romance, Comedy, Drama

I remember reading this series many years ago over at Mangafox. As one of my first introductions to josei romance manga, it led to me searching for more series in the same vein over the preceding years. Since then, I have enjoyed a host of other manga, ranging from romance to horror. Yet, this series remains a personal favorite.

Chiwa Takanashi has spent most of her life in a constant state of work. She works multiple jobs in order to cover her father’s debt. It leaves no time for a social life and she doubts that she will ever have enough time to do regular stuff like dating.
When she is fired unjustly from a night position as a hostess, she soon learns that her boss at her day job needs to marry her in order to inherit the company. He is none other than the guy that had her fired, an arrogant man with little regard for those around him. She initially refuses, but when debt collectors come to the home that she occupies with her dad, Hokuto comes to the rescue. So begins the reluctant marriage of Chiwa to Hokuto Mamiya.

To begin with, the setup is a standard cliche for romance over the past few decades. However, I love the two main characters a lot more than several other series that I’ve read in recent years because their mindsets are relatable. We also see a good supporting character in the form of Taeko.

  • Chiwa is rather tolerant but inexperienced when it comes to relationships. She makes assumptions about Hokuto which create a lot of the drama in the first ten chapters. She also desires more control over her life for various reasons. She thinks that Hokuto desires a marriage in name alone in order to secure his inheritance down the track. She also thinks that Hokuto looks down on her.
  • Hokuto is also tight-lipped because of not only his family background but also out of necessity due to work. This unwillingness to reveal certain parts of his life also means that Chiwa often resorts to asking other people about him, such as Taeko. Learning to be more open with Chiwa is a big hurdle for somebody just as independent as she is.
  • Taeko Souma is Hokuto’s childhood friend and secretary. She is also an occasional cross-dresser. She is a standout because of how she helps Chiwa and Hokuto to get to know each other. She also has a bit of playful mischief to her.

To the artwork, whilst it was similar to a lot of josei that came out around the same time, the character designs are solid. Whilst it wasn’t special, the artwork did its job well. I could easily tell characters apart, the backgrounds had sufficient detail to convey locale and mood and it didn’t make me want to gouge my eyes out. This latter point is important if you want a person to continue reading your series.
To the plot, we saw a few things happening in the first ten chapters. However, the drama wasn’t drawn out for too long. This gave the story a feeling of progression rather than stagnation. The most important factor is how these elements allowed Chiwa and Hokuto to start trusting each other. Whilst the pair still have a long way to go in the story, they are beginning to see each other as a partner to lean on.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed returning back to Hapi Mari. Whilst I am some way from finishing this reread, I can see why I took a liking to it in the first place. I really look forward to rereading the rest of the series over the coming weeks.


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Manga Review: Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun Chapters 1-5

Year: 2011 (ongoing) [English translation]
Author/Artist: Izumi Tsubaki
Genre: Shounen, Comedy, Romance, School Life, Slice of Life

When Chiyo Sakura screws up whilst trying to confess to Nozaki, she learns that he is a famous shoujo manga artist. Enlisted to help out with the beta elements of his ongoing stories, Chiyo gets to learn more about Nozaki and the two introduce each other to a host of weirdos and idiots. With all of these distractions, will Chiyo finally muster up the nerve to confess? Nope. It is the first five chapters after all. 😀

In lieu of rewatching the anime adaptation of this series, I decided to give the manga a run. The first five chapters of the manga cover the first two and a half episodes. These chapters also include scenes and characters absent in the anime, whilst the anime fills in some gaps in the manga itself. It is somewhat curious but it does show the benefit of consuming both the manga and the anime of a series. Whilst I admit a certain level of bias going into reading this series, I have to say that it even surpassed my high expectations.
The artwork was pretty close to the anime version as well, avoiding a frequent annoyance with manga and anime adaptations being different from each other in style and vibe. This is certainly not always a bad thing, hence I enjoyed the One Punch Man anime adaptation. However, when it is as atrocious as the depiction of the Dark Young at the end of Overlord season 3, then it is a slap in the face to fans of a franchise.
Back to the subject of the characters, whilst I didn’t get to see much of the extended cast members, those short sequences contributed meaningfully to the story. This is an aspect that drew me to reading the manga in the first place. I was aware from a bit of online research that there was a large cast and was really curious. We get a glimpse of the world outside of the characters that were restricted to the anime.

In conclusion, I really like the manga version of Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun and can easily see myself reading more of it in the not-so-distant future. Umetarou Nozaki is “best boy”. That is all! 😀