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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: 16 Life

Year: 2009 – 2010 (12-parts)
Author + Artist: Saki Aikawa
Version:  Chibi Manga [English translations]
Online: MyAnimeListKissMangaMangaFox
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Slice of Life

16 Life is a short run, full arc series about Saya Kajiura, a 16-year-old student that is discovered by young music producer Yazuki Takase while singing at a Karaoke restaurant. This chance meeting will have a lasting effect on their life and happiness.

The story is short but manages to pack a lot of story into those twelve instalments. I don’t come across short-run series and it was a real joy to come across one that manages to tie everything together as meaningfully as 16 Life does. Each scene also allowed us to learn something about each character as well. Saki Aikawa cut down on scenes that offered little or nothing of value to the story, allowing readers a story rather than pointless filler.
It is so easy to like the characters as well, even if you feel compelled to slap or scream at their visage. There were a few annoying moments but we often see Naoto Hiiragi helping push the story forward with his regular poking of Saya and Takase as well as pointing out when they do something idiotic or contrary to logic. Simply put, this awesome supporting character is the glue that holds the story together.
The relationship between Saya and Yazuki plays out in a logical yet understandably chaotic fashion. It doesn’t drag on with silly drama either, allowing it to resolve in a satisfying fashion. It was easy to root for them because we understood where each was coming from. We also see that putting away of secrets necessary for the pair to move on as a couple. Add to this the lack of reliance upon sex scenes in order to develop their relationship and I consider it a winner.
The artwork of this manga did a good job of conveying the story. The linework was crisp, with backgrounds depicting a living, breathing world. Saki Aikawa decided to give figures without dialogue a face as well. Whilst this is done well in 16 Life, the same cannot be said for other stories where that focus on art often takes away from good storytelling.

In conclusion, I really liked this series. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a short-run Shoujo to get stuck into. It is also a good introduction to the genre and is suitable for anyone that is looking for story over sex scenes.


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Manga Review: 1/3 Romantica

Year: 2008
Author + Artist: Yuka Shibano
Version:  Tenchi-Tachi [English translations]
1/3 Romantica Online: MyAnimeListKissMangaMangaFox
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Slice of Life

1/3 Romantica is a five-part slice of life romance anthology consisting of three stories. Each story is distinct, with the first being told in a longer arc of three parts. Given that it is a tough act to follow, the second story feels flat comparatively. However, the third picks up with a coming-of-age tale about a teenager finding her place in the world.
Though not as entertaining as some anthologies, 1/3 Romantica still manages to be an enjoying read. It also avoided a focus on physical intimacy without demonising sex. This worked for me as I find that writers and artists often use sex scenes to avoid fixing problems such as plot holes.
The artwork is attractive even if the style is dated. The settings and characters complement the stories giving the reader a sense of a living, breathing world. It also had the feel of the artist using just the right amount of linework to convey the story.

In conclusion, I highly recommend this manga to folks with an appreciation for “clean” shoujo romance. So, if you are looking for some raunchy sex scenes then steer clear of this title. I’d also recommend this title to anyone new to the genre because of the focus on storyline and character development.


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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.


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Manga Review: Love So Life Chapters 81-90

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

Sorry about not getting this review out last week. As some of you already know, I had some health considerations that I needed to address. In any case, this will be the second last week before I conclude reading this series. I hope that you’ve been reading along with me.

A bit happened this time around. The first was a visit to their maternal grandparents by Aoi and Akane with Seiji after some help from Shiharu in getting them used to not having her around. We see them meet some relations that they aren’t already familiar with. We then move to the goings-on of White Day. Rio pesters the amusing Takeru, whilst Nao has to contend with his stalker girl. The biggest event pertains to how Seiji decides to deal with his own White Day celebrations with Shiharu. After many weeks of waiting, we finally have a confession in the latter parts of these ten chapters. And man, was it so freaking adorable. Seiji’s character continues to show his maturity in even how he confesses to Shiharu. We still have some way to go before their relationship is stable but it is in a good place leading up to the final instalments of the series. This will be slightly complicated by Seiji’s brother showing up unexpectedly after two years missing. The last sixteen chapters are sure to be a doozy!

Well, we finally have a confession from Seiji this week after a long time grappling with how he felt about Shiharu. I loved the way that this scene played out a LOT. We won’t have Shiharu’s answer for at least a little while but I do think that the payoff will be worth it. Any drama from here on out will relate more to the side arcs and simply distract Seiji and Shiharu for a little while before the twins leave Seiji’s household.

I have obviously been enjoying my own manga readings. There aren’t a lot of manga that has drawn my attention near as much as this series has. I will go into it in a bit more detail when I complete the series but suffice it to say that I will sad when I turn the final page of the last chapter.
What are you reading at present? I’d love to know about the series that you look forward to with each new instalment. If you have recommendations, feel free to let me know and I will look into each suggestion. Catch you guys next week!