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Manga Review: Arslan Senki 001 – 005

Year: 2013 (ongoing)
Author: Yoshiki Tanaka
Artist: Hiroumu Arakawa
Version: MangaStream
Online: Wikipedia, MAL, KissManga
Genre: Shounen, Action, Fantasy, Drama

In lieu of my upcoming writing project, I figured it might be worth reading some manga that more closely reflected the aesthetics that I was looking for. I decided to give the newest manga adaptation of the novel Arslan Senki a run. The first adaptation was in 1986 and the second in 1991. Each had their own unique art style that gave a distinctly different feel. I’d also like to point out that there are also several anime adaptations of the various manga adaptations. So… many… adaptations!

Arslan Senki, otherwise known as The Heroic Legend of Arslan, tells the story of a kind-hearted young prince named Arslan. When one of his father’s most trusted generals betrays the unstoppable Parsian army, the defeats of the Parsians leads the way for the capital to be attacked. As Arslan’s first campaign, he loses so much. However, with so much on the line, fate forces the fourteen-year-old to step up. The first step will be finding some allies to take out hundreds of thousands of soldiers motivated by religious zealotry.

To begin with, this series is drawn by the talented Hiroumu Arakawa. Hiroumu Arakawa is the artist for Fullmetal Alchemist, a series that many of you have at least some familiarity with. The art style may not feature that mechanized contraptions of his Fullmetal Alchemist setting, but it does share similar character designs. In this case, the world setting is based on certain areas of the middle east during the crusades. Given the subject matter, the art shows more gore and the audience is quickly made aware that Arslan and his companions have their work cut out for them.
The plot is a very simple one but it does a good job of showing how much trust many of the characters put into their allies. This doesn’t necessarily work out, a major betrayal causes the deaths of thousands of troops, creating a baptism of fire for young Arslan. He isn’t a particularly good warrior but he has Daryun looking out for him.
This focus on working as a group feels like it will continue on in future chapters. I also anticipate Arslan’s martial training to finally pay off. Given the hint at the inclusion of future allies, how will they affect the dynamic of the party of four? I am also curious if Narsus paints nudes. In any case, the first five chapters have my interest perked. 

Will I be continuing this series? Well, I like the artwork and I like the characters so far. The action sequences are cool and the plot is interesting. Whilst there were some goofy moments in chapter five, it was more of a way to contrast the large amounts of bloodshed seen earlier. So, the answer is a resounding yes.

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Manga Review: 18 Diary

Year: 2003
Author + Artist: Akira Shouko
Online: MAL, Kissmanga, Mangafox (MF version is incomplete)
Genre: Shojo, Slice of Life, Romance

18 Diary consists of three one-shots, each focusing on a separate couple. The stories are cute and surprisingly varied, showing the complexities of school and family life from the perspectives of young men and women in different situations. The time constraints still mean that some ideas aren’t explored but I don’t have an issue with that because it was easy to root for the success of these three couples. There are no issues with consent like a lot of modern shojo series, with the characters having agency in their own decisions.

  • Story 1: A young woman is in love with a long-time friend who has had a long-time crush on a childhood friend. When his crush starts dating a college guy, he decides that he wants to do something to impress her. He enlists that aid of his long-time friend to teach him how to swim, leading to him realising that his affections should have been directed elsewhere.
  • Story 2: An angsty girl hooks up with a guy from school at a party. In lieu of leaving her parents stolen divorce papers for some bizarre reason at the hotel where they bumped uglies, the angsty girl and her beau enact a plan that is soon rendered pointless but manages to help them strengthening their growing affections for each other.
  • Story 3: A young woman that looks after her little brother makes the acquaintance of a son of the manager of her school. In spite of her long-term jealousy of this perceived black sheep of his family, she discovers a rather complex young man that wants to become a professional dancer. The two quickly become friends and then smooch buddies.

The characters are allowed to succeed and fail, but some readers will prefer a bit more conflict. The couplings also made sense, each character complementing the other. I suppose that it wouldn’t necessarily be a romance if the couplings weren’t complementary.
The artwork is pretty standard in style for the time that it was written. Whilst certainly not exceptional, it does what it needs to convey the situation and emotions of the character. It may not be as pretty as some of the new manga series, but I still find myself enjoying it a lot more than some of the newer stuff.

All in all, this was a really enjoyable anthology of shojo romance. The pacing for each story was good, it was easy to care about each character and the artwork was good enough to convey the story. I recommend it to long-time fans of the genre. However, it might spoil newcomers to the genre as it is in my personal opinion of higher quality than a lot of manga in this genre.


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Manga Review: Before Daylight Love

Year: 2010
Author + Artist: Mitori Fujii
Version: Dangerous Pleasure Scanlation Group
After Morning Love Online: MyAnimeListMangaFoxKissManga
Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Slice of Life, Romance

Back in June, I reviewed a short-run series called After Morning Love. Before Daylight Love is a follow-on story to the series, focusing on the characters of Tatsumi (Yakusa guy) and Daiki, the guy that is Rin’s boss at the bar. While we did get to see a bit of Daiki in the first series, it barely touched on Tatsumi’s situation.

After years of providing a safe haven for Tatsumi at his bar, Daiki is injured by thugs looking to kill Tatsumi. It leads to the realization that Tatsumi sees him as much more than a protector.

Whilst this series is cute, it wasn’t anywhere near as enjoyable as the first series. I would have preferred getting to know the two characters rather than be dropped into the middle of the situation. I like that sort of progression and it was done right in After Morning Love. I suspect that this choice was probably due to the chapter limitation. It also makes the assumption that we know a bit about the characters already. This is not a good idea if you hope to draw in new readers.
I like the characters overall, just as I did in the original series. Whilst Daiki is outgoing, Tatsumi is understandably reserved due to the need for secrecy in his criminal organisation. Their relationship feels right as well, with the two complementing each other well. Yes, there are some naughty bits, more than the previous series. Nothing explicit, mind you, and it certainly doesn’t fall into porn levels seen in some other Yaoi series. It focuses more on storytelling and character development.
Unfortunately, this story suffers from a bit of “telling, not showing”. This made it difficult for me to genuinely feel tied to their plight. It seemed like the characters were constantly trying to convince the reader that the situation was life-threatening rather than giving us a glimpse of the carnage going on when Tatsumi was out and about doing his thing. Much in all as this isn’t an action series, more violence would have shown the genuine threat that Tatsumi was facing.
Before Daylight Love also includes a continuation of the Animal Ears bonus story seen towards the end of the previous series. I would rate it as a “meh”. It was fluff then and this new instalment feels flat as well. For me, the bonus story would have been better omitted from both series altogether.

In conclusion, as much as I like this story, it wasn’t as good as its predecessor. I felt removed from Daiki and Tatsumi. It was a bit of a let-down for a series that had so much promise.


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Manga Review: 1/3 no Kareshi

Year: 2007
Author + Artist: Ako Shimaki
Version:  Tenchi-Tachi [English translations]
1/3 no Kareshi Online: MyAnimeList, KissManga, MangaFox
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, School

1/3 no Kareshi, also known as My 1/3 Boyfriend, is one of several Ako Shimaki stories released in an anthology entitled Suki no Naru made Matte.

This very short story follows Rei, a girl in her third and final year of high school that has yet to ever have had a boyfriend. With growing pressure from her peers, she is at a loss because she has no clue as to how to go about it. When a strange situation leads to a cute guy, Yuuya,  blackmailing her over an embarrassing photo, she is placed in an odd situation. This eventually leads to some smoochy moments.

With all Shoujo Romance stories, the focus is on the female lead. Much in all as the female lead was an okay character (if a little dense), I found myself wanting to learn more about the male lead. I’d have recommended making it a two-part story in order to develop their relationship more and to show us more about Yuuya.
To the plot and pacing, I really think that the shortness of the story led to things getting rushed. As cute as this story is, the length really did mean that some opportunities for great storytelling were lost in an effort to meet the page-count requirement. This seems like a bit of a shame and also a bit strange given that a few anthologies published around the same time period often included multi-part stories. These stories were more successful because they took the time to tell us more about both characters and developed their relationship more.
To the artwork, it dated the publication but was high quality. The lines were neat, backgrounds fitting well and characters easily defined without relying heavily on those silly archetypes that we see so often these days. All in all, I would say that it was more than acceptable for conveying the story as it now stands.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a short but cute Shoujo school romance, then you might appreciate this manga. However, keep in mind that the shortness of the story doesn’t give much room for character development. If you read this story, feel free to discuss it in the comments section.

Feel free to post any recommendations for short-run, one-shot or longer run manga. I am always looking for something to perk my interest and appreciate folks sharing what they’ve read and enjoyed.


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Manga Review: Gokko

Year: 2003
Author + Artist: Konoko Sakurokoji
Version: Waatame Shoujo Scanlation (1st story) + Haruhime Scanlations (remaining installments) [English translations]
Gokko Online: MyAnimeListMangaFoxKissManga
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Drama

The following review is based on my own personal tastes. It is opinion only and each person should make up their own mind if they decide to read the series.

Gokko is a collection of four Shoujo Romance one-shot stories. The stories are varied though each is based in modern-day where four very different couples develop and accept mutual attraction. The obstacles that each of these couples face is distinctly different because these individuals lead, as I said before, distinctly different lives. Some of these obstacles are related to social status, misunderstanding and “knowing oneself”.

Though this may not be the best one-shot collection of Shoujo Romance that I have read, it was highly enjoyable. I found myself liking each couple which is the first step in keeping me interested in a story. I saw no issues of questionable consent, one of my  big turn-offs for modern romance manga and anime. To me, focusing on sex rather than developing the relationship between two characters seems like a cheap way to avoid telling a story about two people. Konoko Sakurokoji avoided this very modern problem for the genre.
To my actual issues with these stories, I found that the first and fourth story seemed a bit too short. These two stories could have easily been expanded to two parts each in order to give enough room for us to understand the couple in each. Also, I wish that we could have seen more of the thoughts of the male protagonists in each of the stories as this would have allowed us to get more into their heads. But this latter desire would have also created problems for marketing given that the stories were to be marketed as Shoujo Romance. Shoujo tends to focus on the internal workings of the female character due to the demographic being young adult and teenage females.

In conclusion, this series is a pleasant read for folks looking for Shoujo Romance focusing on people rather than sex. It would also be a great introduction for newcomers to the genre. Be sure to avoid if you are looking for stories focused on sex, but note that there is an abundance of series out there that does meet that particular need.

If you decide to read this series of short stories, feel free to drop me a line to let me know what you thought of it. Also feel free to post any recommendations for short-run, one-shot or longer run manga. I am always looking for something to perk my interest and appreciate folks sharing what they’ve read and enjoyed.


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Manga Review: After Morning Love

Year: 2008
Author + Artist: Mitori Fujii
Version: Dangerous Pleasure Scanlation Group
After Morning Love Online: MyAnimeList, MangaFox, KissManga
Genre: Yaoi, Drama, Slice of Life, Romance

It’s been several months since I last posted a manga review. This time around, I will be reviewing the rather adorable After Morning Love. After Morning Love is a five-part Yaoi miniseries with several one-shots attached. I don’t read a lot of Yaoi series because I usually find myself at frustrated and annoyed at the issues of consent that are rife in this genre. Thankfully, this is not the case with After Morning Love.

Matsuno, a salaryman, wakes up after a night of drinking to find a young man in the bed next to him. Rin is a prostitute that tries to extort money out of Matsuno by implying that they had sex. Matsuno doesn’t remember having sex and it becomes clear that Rin is trying to con him. In spite of this attempted scam, the kind-hearted Matsuno soon finds himself feeling protective of a young man that he learns barely survives from day to day. Although Matsuno is “not gay”, he has to navigate his own growing feelings for Rin. Misunderstanding abounds as the pair try to muddle through their own feelings for each other.

After Morning Love is an odd story. As mentioned before, most of my issue with the genre is the issue of consent, but I would also extend that to a focus on sex rather than building a real relationship and character development. These are also issues that I have with Shoujo though.
Right out of the blocks, I had the sense that this story would be different. The whole con thing gives us a sense of what Rin is willing to do in order to avoid spending a night in the street. Matsuno’s feeling of protectiveness also gives us a sense of how good of a guy that he is. Over time, we also get to meet several other characters and see what Rin is trying to avoid.
As for their relationship. it is easy to see how the pair complements each other. However, they will need to deal with their own personal obstacles first. For Matsuno, it is acknowledging that he is in love with Rin. He will also have to figure out some of the misunderstandings between them because he is unfamiliar with some of the terms used specifically in the gay community. Matsuno is also concerned about the age thing even though Rin is old enough to go to college. Rin will have to deal with his own fear of rejection that plagues much of their courtship. He was kicked out of home by his dad for being gay and feels unloveable.
After Morning Love reminds me of the series Higouhou Junai, otherwise known as Pure Love Outlaw which I last read about five years ago. Pure Love Outlaw is a series that I remember with great fondness for its thoughtful and mature depictions of same-sex relationships. If folks can think of similar Yaoi series, then feel free to post recommendations in the comments section.

In conclusion, After Morning Love is a really adorable, well-paced story with characters that were easy to care about. If you are looking for a mature romance that happens to be between two male characters, then I highly recommend this series.

I am currently looking for a regular manga series to review on a weekly basis. I encourage folks to send in their recommendations from my existing list as well as any other series that they can think of. I look forward to seeing what you guys come up with.


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Manga Review: Love So Life

Year: 2008 – 2015
Author + Artist: Kaede Kochi
Version: XscansX (English scanlation)
Love So Life Online: Wikipedia, MyAnimeList, MangaFox, Kissmanga
Genre: Shōjo, Slice of Life, Romance, Drama

After several months, I have officially completed the Shōjo series Love So Life. As such, I am bringing you this review of the entire series rather than one for the final chapters followed by a later full series review. That seems a little inefficient overall.

When hardworking TV news reporter Seiji Matsunaga has his two-year-old twin niece and nephew dumped at his home by his recently widowed older brother, he takes it upon himself to care for the pair. When juggling his work life and the care of the toddlers becomes too much, he turns to a sixteen-year-old girl at a nearby orphanage for help. Shiharu is the oldest orphan at the institution and had to contend with the early loss of her father followed by her mother a few years later. With those fond memories of her time with her mother to guide her, she attempts to provide good memories for Aoi and Akane whilst also negotiating her growing romantic attachment for Seiji who also grapples with his own attraction to Shiharu in lieu of their age difference and the possible implications if they decided to become romantically inclined.
What will become of them when the twins move to the home of their maternal grandparents? Also, what happened to their dad? And what is with that Takeru guy?

This is a really adorable series. Most of you will have read some of my previous ten-chapter reviews of this series and likely get an inkling of why I really adore it. For those that don’t, I will attempt to elaborate.
First, I really like the characterisation. The characters are normal people with their own problems that are explained meaningfully over time. Even the least likeable character Nao had understandable motivations even if he was highly annoying a lot of the time. As mentioned in previous posts, Takeru is my favourite character in the series for some weird reason.
Second, we see the plot progressing in a steady fashion with numerous “ticking clocks” for our characters to negotiate. The drama makes sense even if it began to drag on slightly toward the end.
Third, the realistic concern over age difference and the possible implications of a relationship. The romantic elements are obviously an important focus of the series. However, we see an adult actually considering the problems of pursuing somebody that is underage. In this case, Seiji also has further concerns related to his job and the possibility of Shiharu getting kicked out of the orphanage for indecent conduct. The series does manage to portray both Seiji and Shiharu as responsible individuals and address their situation in a thoughtful manner.

In spite of all of the things that I liked about this series, there were a few things that annoyed me at times. The first thing is the artwork. As crisp as the artwork was, there were a few characters that didn’t stand out as much as they could have. The second was an issue with the time-shift that occurred in the last few chapters of the series. This felt a little unbalancing from a reader standpoint. I believe that a montage would have worked a bit better ahead of the outing in the final major sequence. Whilst these annoyances did irritate me, they are in no way made me think lesser of the series.

In conclusion, Love So Life is a sweet slice-of-life Shōjo Romance series with some really neat characters that I recommend to anyone looking for a mature relationship rather than a series that relies on sex scenes or convenient and ridiculous drama. To me, it will hold a special place in my heart for a long time to come. So, now I have to decide what my weekly read will be for now on. This could be tricky…

So, now I have to decide what my weekly read will be for now on. This could be tricky… I could go for another romance series but I’ve devoured a bit of romance of late and I would prefer to mix it up a bit. Perhaps I could read a drama or an action series. Maybe I could go for something involving talking cats that can also shoot laser beams from their mouths and do kung-fu. That’s a thing, right? 😀 Anyway, I will keep you guys posted on what I decide.