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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: 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 Review: Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun Chapters 11-15

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

Reviewer’s Note: Chapters 11-15 covers the first half of the second volume of this manga, which covers material from the anime as well. Please note that I’ve also decided to provide an overview of each chapter read, leading to spoilers.

  • Chapter 11: Chiyo and Nozaki go to a shopping mall. They visit various stores eventually heading to a toy store where they meet and discuss figurines with Mikorin. After going back to his place Nozaki tries to get Chiyo to wear a sailor uniform as a reference for his manga. Yes, he does find it difficult to talk about stuff other than work – thanks for noticing!
  • Chapter 12: Ahead of a meeting with Ken, Nozaki, Chiyo, and Mikorin discuss Maeno’s editorial practices. Nozaki offers his usual scathing review of his former editor, citing examples. We see a flashback to his first meeting with Ken after being transferred to a new editor. At the current day meeting, Nozaki and Ken have a meeting about new installments of Let’s Fall in Love.
  • Chapter 13: It is a Seo and Waka chapter this time around. Nozaki, Chiyo, and Seo discuss the way that people react to Seo’s “alter ego” Lorelai. Waka shares his trauma at being targeted by Seo with Nozaki. On a visit to Nozaki’s place, he falls asleep to the music of Lorelai, not realising it actually Seo singing. Waka volunteers to become a part of Nozaki’s manga team in exchange for Nozaki’s song by Lorelai.
  • Chapter 14: In continuation of the events of the previous chapter, we see Waka discussing how to get back at Seo for her constant bullying. He makes the mistake of using one of Nozaki’s shoujo books for tips, managing to compliment her and give a gift of mittens instead of duel-declaring gloves without realizing the mistake… BECAUSE HE IS A MORON! But hey, he is an adorable moron. As for Seo, she is her usual oblivious self as well, but what can you expect?
  • Chapter 15: This chapter begins with Ken pointing out the lack of depth in Nozaki’s male and female protagonists Mamiko and Suzuki. We see Ken prompt Nozaki to think about Mamiko’s motivations, leading to Nozaki bringing Bento lunches to school, him getting into shenanigans with Kashima.

This week’s five chapters play out as they did in the anime series, but it isn’t an issue because the various moments are, at least for an avid fan like myself, repeatable. Love it! Love it! Love it! Time to let out a fangirl squeal of approval… *squee*
I’ll soon be coming to the end of the material adapted for the anime series. It feels a little bit weird but I am also oddly excited to meet some of the other characters, such as Chiyo’s younger brother and Nozaki’s younger sister. I want to see what other silliness this series can provide as well. I am really looking forward to it.

As a side note, I am considering changing my ratings for comedy categories to Aguris or Mikorins based on who the lead is now. I believe it is fitting given that these two idiots exemplify a spirit of whimsy and silliness. In any case, enjoy this adorable gif of Mikorin.


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Manga Review: Tomo-chan Is a Girl Chapters 1-100

Alternate names: Tomo-chan wa Onnanoko!, Tomo-chan wa Onna no ko!, Tomo-chan ha Onna no Ko!, Tomo-chan Wa Onna No Ko!
Year: 2015
Author / Artist: Fumita Yanagida
Genre: Shounen, Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life

Tomo-chan Is a Girl is the story of tomboy Tomo Aizawa and her dysfunctional relationship with long-time friend and neighbor Juunichirou Kubota. It begins with her confessing to him and the object of her affections seeing it as a child and it is dismissed as the classic “I love you, bro!” So begins her attempts to make him see her as a woman, with a little help from some friends.

Each chapter of Tomo-chan Is a Girl consists of single 4-cell (aka 4-koma) “moments” tied together chronologically. It makes good use of visual gags and tropes, making for an entertaining first hundred “moments”. The plot was solid throughout, with a few more characters added over time, such as the mischievous Misuzu and the bizarre Carol. These additional characters contributed meaningfully to the story, adding a bit more conflict to this slice of life comedy without feeling contrived.

All in all, the first one chapters of this manga series that was a really fun read. If you are looking for a slice of life comedic romance than I recommend that you give this series a shot.


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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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Anime Review: Gamers!

Year: 2017
Episodes: 11 + 1 epilogue (English Dub version)
Genre: Comedy, Romance, Slice of Life

In the great search for comedic romance anime series, I stumbled across this gem from 2017. How I hadn’t heard of the series before a few weeks ago is baffling but I suppose that other series received a lot more attention at the time. I have a few theories. Anyway, time to discuss the show itself.

When perfectly average gamer Keita Amano strikes up a conversation at a gaming store with the most popular girl at school, secret gamer Karen Tendou, both of their lives will change forever. Over time, their social group expands to Tasuku Uehara, his girlfriend Aguri and eventually Chiaki Hoshinomori. How will the lives of these five school students deal with a crapload of misunderstandings and over-active imaginations? Also, what is up with Chiaki’s younger sister? Seriously, I need to know.

First off, this series uses the hobby of gaming as a setting. Whilst the first episode initially came off as a little forced, I was hooked by the end of the second episode. We see the characters began to show the huge diversity of the gaming community. We see arguments about gaming platforms and genres, as well the more recent debates over DLC, microtransactions and loot boxes. We also see the differences in how people play games, be it casual or hardcore.


Whilst the first episode was a bit weak overall, I was pretty glad that I stuck with it because it was a heck of a lot of fun. Gamers! this is a comedy that relies heavily on characters misunderstanding and overthinking things. We also see some of the humor derived from the gaming lifestyle as well. This promise is delivered in epic fashion without feeling mean-spirited.


The characters in this series were solid overall. They were different from each other without it feeling convenient. The characters also worked well together as a group. The voice casting was pretty damn good as well. For those interested, my favorite character was Aguri, so much so that I think I might just make a new rating system. It is like a normal rating system but I call it Aguris. Not very original, I know, but I must pay tribute to the awesomeness that is Aguri. All hail Aguri!
Plot progression? I think that this series did a good job of showing the relationships of two couples in different stages of their romance. In the case of Tasuka Uehara and Aguri, we see how little Uehara knows about his own girlfriend, who has only had eyes for him since before he became one of the cool guys at school. We also see how even people that don’t necessarily share the same pastimes can often share commonground. Whilst some of the situations faced by the characters are over-the-top, these scenes helped progress storyline and made for an entertaining series.

One of the big draws of this series is how the writers made use of mundane situations in amusing ways. Something as simple as playing a board game is run with. The epilogue story dealing with the subject of DLC kicked this idea up a notch, at the same time showing self-awareness that the episode was an epilogue or after story, which is effectively DLC for anime.

 

BEST OF…
To the best guy and best girl award goes to our male protagonist Keita Amano and pink-haired Aguri. Whilst these two may not have been a couple in the series, they were both adorable idiots that are easy to ship as well because of various conversations. Call this the “Natalie Effect”.

Come to think of it, I wonder how many people have made fanart and/or fanfiction depicting such things, lewd or otherwise… *taps search into google* *eye light up* Well, I’ll be damned… It appears that there is a bunch of fanfiction featuring this ship on sites such as Wattpad.

CONCLUSION
In conclusion, I loved this show. Whilst I had issues with the first episode, I found myself addicted to this silly show in short. I do, however, recommend watching the first few episodes to see if you like the style of comedy and the characters. I give this series 9/10 Aguris. Will watch again!


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Manga Review: Butterflies, Flowers Chapters 11-20

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 11-20 of this manga covers the third and fourth volumes of this series. My review also reflects the Serenus-Dreamers English fan translation version.

Warning: Spoilers and stuff…

In chapters 11-20, a wild prince appears! Masayuki’s also discusses Chouko’s period and their previous attempts to get jiggy with it. We also learn more about why Masayuki dislikes “the prince” so much. Chouko’s brother is his usual bizarro self (seriously, why does he take such an interest in his sister’s underwear?) whilst the resident “prince” from childhood and Masayuki help out at the restaurant. Also, we see an important discussion on the subject of suppositories. We are then introduced to the boss of the company…

Chapters 11-20 shall be henceforth be known as “Dafuq did I just read?” It deviated from the previous ten chapters by upping their use of humor relating to body functions and body parts. It was a little weird coming off of what I had read of the story already.
Whilst I don’t mind humor, it felt like the author changed their focus for the series. Perhaps Yoshihara’s editor suggested the changes or maybe a small dog decided to give its expert advice on the subject of Josei rom-coms. Either way, it felt like promises made earlier in the series for more serious material were cast by the wayside. That being said, I want to see how far the series plummet before I cast it aside completely. Perhaps it is that little part of us that finds train wrecks fascinating. Don’t tell me that you don’t, you liar! 😀

So yes, chapters 11-20 were weird AF but I guess that I will be reading more of this series. I guess that I must be a masochist or something. But hey, at least I have some other manga to cleanse my pallet. Keiko really needs this! *tear*