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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: Domestic Girlfriend Chapters 1-100

Year: 2014 (ongoing)
Author/Artist: Kei Sasuga
Genre: Shounen, Drama, Romance, School Life 

Reviewers Note: Chapters 1-100 include part of the way through the eleventh volume of this ongoing character-driven series. The first episode of the anime adaptation also went live this current anime season.

A few weeks ago, I spent a bit of time checking out some English translations of various manga series over at MangaRock. There was a lot of franchises that I was unfamiliar with across the wide spectrum of genres but I ended up with my usual focus on romance titles. One of the manga that I ended up giving a run was the curious series of Domestic Girlfriend. I won’t bother writing a quick synopsis of this series as MyAnimeList did a pretty good job of explaining the premise of this series. You can find it here.
What I will say is that this series was oddly compelling and managed to quickly turn into a drama rather than my initial expectation that it would simply be another ecchi harem comedy. In many regards, it reminded me of Scum’s Wish but with significantly less bitchiness. Sure, the love triangle of Natsuo and the Tachibana sisters is frustrating, but it quickly becomes an exercise in voyeurism at the bizarre love life of three rather troubled human beings.
The art in this series is decent enough, pretty similar to Kei Sasuga’s GE: Good Ending, which I read years ago. I do, however, have issues with the periodic fanservice panels included in between scenes as they feel out of place. Sure, the story deals with adult themes such as sex, but the sequences that are included in this manga are tasteful. Perhaps it is some attempt at further convincing the reader that the series is Shounen.
To the elephant in the room, what is up with the cafe that most of the characters frequent? Many of the cast confide in the gay former-Yazuka and occasional crossdresser Misaki Kobayashi well within the earshot of other customers. All a character would need to acquire all of the neighborhood drama and gossip is to either leave a listening device in the cafe or simply hang out there. With all of the secrets floating around the place, how on earth do they remain secret? Just sayin…

Anyway, I would best describe Domestic Girlfriend as entertaining trash. The drama is compelling even if a bit drawn-out at times. I also didn’t hate the cast of characters because we can understand the motives of the people that inhabit the world of Domestic Girlfriend. As such, I will be continuing to read this series. I look forward to reviewing more of this series in the coming weeks.


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Anime Review: 3D Konojo Real Girl Season 1

Year: 2018
Episodes: 12 (English-subbed version)
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, School Life, Slice of Life, Drama

In stake contrast to the Isekai and ecchi series I have recently reviewed, I decided to give an unfamiliar series a watch. A quick series showed up a few shows with the romance listing that wasn’t another rom-com. In this case, I went for the first season of 3D Konojo: Real Girl. It turned out to be freaking adorable and appealed to some of my own nerdy interests. Be aware of several spoilers below.

When socially-isolated anime and game nerd Hikari Tsutsui defends the attractive but blunt Iroha Igarashi from a pushy ex-boyfriend, he gains her full attention. Their relationship will affect the lives of not two but eight people.

Based on internet chatter about this series, the franchise seems to elicit strong emotions on either side of the spectrum. Simply put, people either love it or hate it. In my case, I loved it. It is a coming-of-age school romance with a ticking clock. It was one of those series that also manages to place importance on individuality rather than collectivism.
I found the characters to be sufficiently complex. They are flawed but deep down none of the six teenagers that are the main focus of this series feel out of the scope of what is possible. Teenagers are brash, weird, and often don’t think of the consequences of their actions. They are also capable of kindness even if their ability to convey how they feel is sometimes a mess.
In the case of Tsutsui, he is in completely unknown waters and it is easy to feel for him when his girlfriend isn’t open with him. It also goes to the idea that Igarashi is somewhat clueless about relationships herself. Whilst their relationship is the central focus of the series, we also three two (legitimate) love triangles (Ayado to Hikari and Yuuto to Ayado) and the relationship of Tsutsui’s younger brother and the younger sister of Mitsuya Takanashi. I won’t even count Mitsuya’s crush on Iroha as a love triangle as this is more of a way for him to meet the rather troublesome Arisa Ishino.
Arisa’s own love life is a complete mess. Her friendship with Hikari and Iroha helps her gain a bit more perspective of what a more-functional relationship should look like. (Notice that I didn’t say that HikIro’s relationship was perfect because they are still figuring things out.) Then she starts harassing Mitsuya to date her. This results in some amusing dialogue between Arisa and Mitsuya. It worked really well overall.
Over time, we see growing friendships for the various cast members, as well as several love triangles. This plays out tastefully, with the case of Mitsuya Takanashi being especially interesting. Whilst he initially comes off as a bit of a douche, we also see pride being a big obstacle for him becoming friends with Tsutsui.
Of all of the characters, my personal favourite is Hikari’s best friend Yuuto Itou. Yuuto is a sensitive young man that shares Hikari’s love of games and anime. His trademark Neko beany reflects his child-like naivety. He is such a treasure and cute as a button. YuuAya FTW!!!
The art design wasn’t anything out of the ordinary but it was easy to discern each character, with appropriate backgrounds. The use of color and visual effect was done well, helping evoke certain emotions.

In conclusion, the first season of this series was a pure joy to watch. It was freaking adorable. However, it did draw things out a bit too much at times. It wasn’t to Dragonball Z levels, mind you, but it was still noticeable. This seemed to lessen my enjoyability of the series itself. That being said, I still enjoyed this series a lot and look forward to binge-watching the second season when it is complete.


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Anime Rewatch: Mayo Chiki

Year: 2011
Episodes: 13
Genre: Seinen, Comedy, Harem, Ecchi, School Life, Gender Bender

Back in 2016, I first watched and reviewed this series. Given that my tastes have changed a bit since then, I decided to rewatch to see if I enjoyed it as much as I did back then. Surprisingly, it held up quite well.

For those unaware, it is the story of a young man (Kinjirou Sachimachi) with gynophobia who discovers that the “prince” butler of the school (Suburu Konoe) is actually a girl. The contrived reason for disguising herself as a boy is amusing but it also means that only herself and a handful of other people know her situation. Her mistress, ridiculously rich Lady Kanade Suzutsuki, decides to mix things up a little by messing with the duo after discovering Kojiro’s condition.

Just like then, the rom-com tag seems a little bit of a stretch. However, the over-the-top, silly humor still managed to keep me entertained through the rewatch. Part of this is due to how stereotypes were amplified, as well as pointing out obvious cliches in anime and manga. We see the obsessed fan-girls of Suburu, the Rotten Girl enthusiasts shipping Suburu and Kojiro, ultra-violent girls that overreact over the slightest thing, the ultra-violent and over-protective father, host/hostess cafe culture, etcetera…
Another point of interest that I missed during the first watch of this series, was how Kojiro’s male friend effectively gets kicked to the curb as soon as Kanade gets involved in Kojiro’s life. I also overlooked the treatment of Kinjirou at the hands of the females in his life. He is a heavily mistreated figure. Instead of standing up for himself, he is nice to his tormentors due to a deathbed promise he made to his father many years before. This is a pretty standard cliche for male protagonists in harem rom-coms.
Could this series be better? Certainly. However, Mayo Chiki still manages to be highly entertaining in spite of its numerous flaws. A second viewing also didn’t hurt either. But this is, as always, my own opinion on the matter.
I know at least a few of my blogging buddies heavily disliked the series when they watched it. And this is perfectly okay because they could at least communicate why they disliked it. Knowing why you like or dislike something can help with picking new series in the future.

In conclusion, whilst it is certainly not the best series, I still like this series years after I first watched it. Feel free to go over my previous review of this series linked above for more information on the series. Anyway, I highly encourage you guys to watch an old series and let me know how or if your impressions have changed over time.


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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! 😀


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Manga Reread: Desire Climax

Year: 2004-2006 (completed)
Installments: 48 chapters and an after story
Author/Artist: Aya Sakyou
Version: Shoujo Magic (English fansub project)
Genre: Drama, Shoujo, Romance, Soap Opera, Smutt, School Life

Several years ago, I decided to give this series a read. It was the first Aya Sakyou series that I ever read but I found myself perpetually scratching my head as I read the entire series. Not long after that, I read Honey X Honey, a series in the same vein but a bit more rapey.

The Omori family have been serving the rich Jinnai family faithfully for generations. When Mio and Hinata’s father dies, their life is made even more difficult in lieu of their mother’s medical issues. Being a good big sister, Mio is working numerous jobs to give them a roof over their heads. However, it doesn’t give her a social life.
After an argument with a delinquent that is fighting on top of a car, he throws money at her and forcefully kisses her. She later meets him at the hostess club where she works one of her jobs, although she doesn’t realize it is him because… glasses. When he acts like a complete asshole towards her, she promptly pours a drink on him. A day or so, she learns that she is none other than the Jinnai heir Shoei Jinnai that she goes to school with. After being asked to help out as a maid, she arrives at the Jinnai clan residence and is sexually assaulted by Shoei who for some bizarre reason thinks that sexual assault might help her remember a time when they were childhood friends. So begins a tale of love, sexual assault and the power of friendship. And brotherly love? *scratches head*

To begin with, I was highly amused by this trashy manga series. However, the use of sexual assault was a bit of an odd choice given the quality of writing in Aya Sakyou’s series Biyaku Cafe. But, as I said before, I somehow managed to enjoy Desire Climax because it was complete trash. It was over-the-top and bitchy, to the point where one might expect Linda Evans and Joan Collins to pop up at any moment to start slapping each other.
Whilst I generally prefer to read stories where I can relate to the characters, there is a place for bitchy stories and tales of betrayal. These bad stories can be a guilty pleasure because they don’t even attempt to be realistic. These are the stories you read late at night when you have a bad day and simply wish to laugh at something. “Laugh?” you say. Yes. These sorts of stories are purely for the sake of amusement rather than trying to provide insight into human nature or convey some sort of moral.
Another thing of note is that the choices in this manga seem deliberate rather than random. That is not unusual for Sakyou’s writing. She also knows how to elicit emotions in the reader regardless of the genre. Whilst it is not necessarily a method that I would personally find myself using, the more that I read her work, the more that I can appreciate how she forms a story.

In conclusion, I really liked Desire Complex. However, I can’t really recommend it as an entry-level manga or to anyone that has difficulty with scenes of sexual violence, as mild as the situations in Desire Complex may be compared to other series. If these don’t apply, it might be worth you picking up.


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Anime Review: Infinite Stratos Season 1

Year: 2011
Episodes: 12 episodes (English-subbed version)
Genre: Comedy, Ecchi, Harem, Romance, Science Fiction, Mecha, Sports, School Life

Years ago, I heard chatter on the interwebs about a mecha series called Infinite Stratos. It looked like it could be a good fighting anime. My interested was perked but I have only just got around to watching the series. It turned it to quite a bit different than I imagined.

In the future, a machine originally meant for war becomes subject for the world’s most popular sport. These exoskeletons bond to their athlete and can then be summoned through an object worn on the individual. They can also only be used by female pilots. Or at least, that is what everyone thought…
[Off-Screen: After getting lost whilst trying to find a room for a test, Ichika Okimura finds a room with an IS unit in it and his curious enough to touch it. It activates and he is given the ability to take an entrance exam to the prestigious Infinite Stratos training academy.]
When Ichika arrives at the academy, he is surrounded by a bunch of females, including his childhood friend Houki (her sister also invented the machines and makes the cores). He is also taught by his taskmaster older sister, a woman that went from world-class athlete to teaching students how to use the units after he was kidnapped during an international meet. As he is surrounded by more and more female admirers, will he survive the first year at Infinite Stratos?

This series is not terrible, but it isn’t great either. The promotional pictures suggest a mecha action series but this really doesn’t reflect the content. Instead, it is an at-times confusing ecchi comedy masquerading as a mecha sports and romance series. And yet, it was somehow entertaining. Entertaining garbage, certainly, but entertaining nonetheless.
The character designs are good even if the faces were a bit pointy, with each character being notably different from the rest. The exoskeletons were visually interesting as well, even if a bit weird “scientifically”. The story was, however, oddly absent of cats. Why do I mention cats? Well, felines are a staple in anime and manga. They are cute, get up to mischief and are often the tool by which we can see other things that are happening in the background. Come to think of it, I think the only animals that we did see are birds… Perhaps the artist didn’t like the idea of putting animals in harm’s way.
The voice acting was hilariously bad, with deliberately bad stereotypes. It was not meant to be taken seriously in any regard but might be deemed “racist” or “sexist” in today’s political environment. The anime cliches were out in the open for all to see. Back to the voice cast, there is a bunch of familiar faces, such as Monica Rial as Houki, Shannon Emerick as Charlotte, and Josh Grelle as Ichika.
The conflicts in this story are a bit contrived as a whole. It rarely makes sense but it is predominantly used as a delivery tool for fan service. It is a weird series that should in no way be taken seriously. It also feels at times like the author was mocking numerous genres. I might, however, be wrong about that. Whilst I will unlikely be watching the second season, I can say that watching the first season wasn’t a complete waste of time.

If you are looking for a series featuring lots of fan service, then Infinite Stratos might be an option. Just note that the story is not the best and the faces are a bit pointy.