Manga Monday #6 | Ristorante Paradiso by Natsume Ono

Ristorante Paradiso (Gente, #1)Ristorante Paradiso
By Natsume Ono
Original Title | Ristorante Paradiso (リストランテ・パラディーゾ)
Published in America on March 16th 2010 by VIZ Media LLC
Genre | Josei, Slice-of-Life, Romance, Drama, Comedy

A charming tale of a mother/daughter reunion, a burgeoning romance, and a little restaurant in Rome. In exchange for playing “the daughter of an old friend,” Olga offers Nicoletta a place to live and an apprenticeship at the restaurant. Nicoletta fits in well among the vibrant personalities at Casetta Dell’Orso. She gets along particularly well with the kindly headwaiter, Claudio, a divorced man who, after years, has still never taken off his wedding ring. As Nicoletta’s feelings for Claudio become complicated, she finds a sympathetic ear in Olga, leading the estranged pair to form a friendship neither expected. But as they grow closer, the pressure exerted by the secret they share becomes too much to bear. (Courtesy of Goodreads)

Once upon a time, I watched the anime Ristorante Paradiso and fell in love with the series.  I was surprised at how much this anime has made a good impression on me because, at the time, I primarily watched shōjo and shōnen anime which are made for the younger demographic. I adored the story for being simple, sweet and touching. So when I found that Viz Media had published the Gente series as a lovely Viz Signature I went out and bought the first volume.

Review |★ ★ ★ ★

Imagine a quaint little restaurant located on the charming streets of Rome. Inside the tables are occupied to maximmum capacity and appetizing Italian food are catered by handsomely mature bespectacled gentlemen. This is the kind of restaurant Nicoletta waltz into in Ristorante Paradiso.

When in Rome…This manga is a nice slice-of-life romance about a young woman named Nicoletta who travels to Rome in order to confront the man her mother remarried. As a young child, Nicoletta’s mother her left to be raised by her grandparents with this as her reason: “There’s a man I’m destined to be with. But he’ll never marry a divorced woman”. (This is not really a spoiler because this is explained within the first few pages). Now at age 21, Nicoletta travels to Rome to meet her mother’s husband, which is why she finds herself outside of Casetta dell’Orso and where our story begins.

Like mother, like daughter. Nicoletta’s relationship with her mother is interesting to say the least. After basically being abandoned as a child, it’s easy to understand Nicoletta’s resentment towards their mother. Due to some circumstances, Nicoletta doesn’t outright say she is he mother’s child and instead plays the “daughter of a friend” role. I appreciate that this story isn’t all about hating her estranged mother, but instead mother and daughter trying to rekindle their lost relationship.

image

“Most of our guest are here for the waiters. Our customers share a particular weakness for handsome gentlemen.”

Left to Right: Furio, Teo, Claudio, Luciano , Gigi and Vito

Ladies, eat your heart out! The story is set primarily in the ever popular restaurant, Casetta dell’Orso. This restuarant is popular for two reasons: 1) The food. 2) The staff. Now I think one of the selling points of Ristorante Paradiso is definitely the abundance of charming bespectacled gentlemen. While I wouldn’t call this story a reverse harem (all the guys don’t fall for the female protagonist), the readers could easily pick out a favorite if they wanted to. I would say that Ristorante Paradiso is the Ouran High School Host Club equivalent for older woman. What’s nice about this manga is that we do get some insight on all the characters (some more than others). Everyone has a personality and story behind them fleshing out their character.

City of love. Now, I know that Paris is typically the city of love, but after reading this manga I think it would be nice to fall in love in Rome. Nicoletta falls in love in the insta-love kind of way, but being a short romance prequel manga to the series I didn’t really mind. Like her mother, Nicoletta feels with her heart, but she also doesn’t act rashly on it. She is constantly trying to understand if what she is feeling is simply an attraction or real love. To me, when Nicoletta acted for the sake of “love” she did it in a way that was confident and reflects how sure she is of her feelings. I really admired her personality because of it.

Would I recommend it?

I loved the anime and love being able to carry the manga with me to read whenever. So yes, I recommend it. This is a nice light read if you want to stray from the typical shōjo romance manga out there.

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Kpop Club by Y.R. Choi

Kpop Club (Kpop Club Series, #1)Kpop Club (Kpop Club Series)
By Y.R. Choi
Published March 10th 2013 by Daegom Limited (ebook, free online)
Genre | Young Adult, Contemporary

Ice cold lattes and red hot kpop stars!

Krystal has just finished high school and is determined to achieve her dream of becoming a kpop star. After encountering a number of bumps in the road, she eventually auditions with big-time kpop producer, KYM. KYM signs her as the final member of his new multinational girl group, Kpop Club. With only 3 months to prepare for their debut performance, the Kpop Club girls must give everything if they are going to be ready in time. Will Krystal have what it takes to fulfil her dream, and could she have found someone special along the way?

SPOILERS AHOY!

Review |★ ★ 1/2

Ever since I started really getting into Korean Pop music, I’ve been craving to read a book inspired by K-pop. I wanted to read a touching story about an aspiring K-pop artist making their way into the music industry. An “underdog becoming a top dog” kind of story. Kpop Club is that story, but it wasn’t a good story.

Before reading:

image

After reading:

I want to be a K-pop idol when I grow up! Kpop Club is a pretty linear story about Krystal who just finished high school and is looking to become a K-pop singer. She auditions at one of the top four entertainment companies in Korea, OMG Entertainment (yes, that is seriously the name). Her audition goes well, then things start to go awry and then everything quickly becomes all sunshine and rainbows after that. I didn’t feel for Krystal at all. Other than her bumpy start, I felt like she barely struggled or made any efforts in her goal. Things were just going so well for her. This was mainly the fault of the writing. I was basically told what was happening to Krystal rather than experiencing her journey. This made the story less fun :/

Did you say something, Mr. Kim? I had an issue with the extremely long dialogue used in this story. More than often, a character would tell us information rather than the author showing us in his writing. At times I felt like I was being force fed a lot of K-pop industry trivia. This may have been an attempt to give the readers an insight into the industry, but instead created too many incredibly long monologues. As a K-pop fan, I am interested in what the industry is like, however the delivery of information was boring and dragged on for too long. I don’t mind the trivia, but at least make it interesting or vital to the story. (On a different note, why were there so many “Mr. Kim” characters?. I understand that “Kim” is very common Korean name, but was it really necessary to have them in the story?)

Ten girls, one groupI liked the idea that Krystal, our main protagonist, eventually joins a girls group with international members. However, there were ten girls in total and none of them were memorable. Heck, even Krystal wasn’t that memorable. When the time came to introduce the rest of the Kpop Club members there were mentions of where the girls came from, a little about about their appearance/personality and who their favorite fictional K-pop groups were. Nothing after that. No dimension. No personality. The girls just became background characters.

What did I like? I appreciated the author’s efforts to illustrate what Seoul and Korean culture was like. He mentioned the different stations you could use to travel, Kakao Talk (a popular Korean mobile messenger) was mentioned, honorifics were used and plenty of Korean foods were mentioned (ah, pat bing soo *drools*). This worked and didn’t work at times, but good effort. What interested me most was the mention of plastic surgery and the pressure for K-pop ideals to adjust their body image in accordance to the popular trends.  I honestly didn’t know anything about V-lines or those crazy dieting remedies that are so popular in Korea.

In conclusion,  Kpop Club was just “meh”. This was almost the story I wanted to read, but was just poorly executed. Supposedly, there is going to be a sequel in the future. I seriously hope that there will be some major improvements by then.

Would I recommend it?

Nope. Sad to say, this book didn’t get a “Wow. Fantastic baby.”out of me.

The Theory of Everything by Kari Luna

The Theory of EverythingThe Theory of Everything
By Kari Luna
Published July 11th 2013 by Philomel
Genre | Young Adult, Contemporary, Magical Realism

Sophie Sophia is obsessed with music from the late eighties. She also has an eccentric physicist father who sometimes vanishes for days and sees things other people don’t see. But when he disappears for good and Sophie’s mom moves them from Brooklyn, New York, to Havencrest, Illinois, for a fresh start, things take a turn for the weird. Sophie starts seeing things, like marching band pandas, just like her dad.

Guided by Walt, her shaman panda, and her new (human) friend named Finny, Sophie is determined to find her father and figure out her visions, once and for all. So she travels back to where it began—New York City and NYU’s physics department. As she discovers more about her dad’s research on M-theory and her father himself, Sophie opens her eyes to the world’s infinite possibilities—and her heart to love. (Courtesy of Goodreads)

Review |★ ★ ★ ★

The pandas are coming…

Aww, aren’t they cute?

The Theory of Everything is one part 1980’s, two parts Donni Darko, three parts String Theory and four parts of adorable. A nice cool contemporary cocktail that suited my taste buds.

This is a coming-of-age story about a fourteen year old girl named Sophie Sophia. She’s a young girl stuck in the analog age, wears themed outfits, and loves 80’s music. She goes through things that a handful of teenagers her age go through: getting used to a new school, making friends, dealing with the trauma of a father that walked out on her, and receiving advice from her shaman panda. Wait, what was the last part? Oh, I may have forgotten to mention that Sophie has episodes, meaning she sees things that others don’t see. Now, this could mean that Sophie hallucinates or something else, but her episodes are so much fun to read about. It’s like if you combined the movie Donni Darko and Fantasia together you would get Sophie’s various episodes. Really trippy stuff. 😀

I feel like a lot of the books I enjoy have an amazing cast of characters and this book is no exception. Sophie is an adorable little girl finding her way in life, going through a journey of self-discovery. And then there are her two best friends.

First off, there’s Walt. Sophie’s shaman panda who plays poker, attempted to conduct a panda marching band and gives enigmatic fortune-cookie advice. I honestly wished there was more of him in the book, but he showed up when he needed to. He’s a lovable panda. The kind who is more likely to give a hug, rather than a right-hook like other zoo pandas.

Then there’s Finny….

Finny, Finny, Finny…a.k.a. Fab Physics Boy, a.k.a Sophie’s best friend, a.k.a. the guy who knows how to do friendship the right way! Awhile back, Lottie @ Book Adoration discussed the absence of friends in Young Adult Fiction. Where were the friends in YA? It can’t be all be love triangles and junk. Well, I’m happy to say that the friendship between Sophie and Finny is a true testament to what a  YA friendship should be. This is the guy that sticks with his best friend through thick and thin, through the ups and downs and brings out the comfort coffee when necessary. At first, I thought things were going to go differently. Sophie started out as the weird new girl with no friends when all of a sudden Fab Physics Boy pops out of nowhere. Now, in the YA books I’ve read the guy who sticks out like a sore thumb to the protagonist is usually a potential love interest. NOPE, not this time. And that’s not a bad thing. I adored Finny and wished I had a Finny of my own.

That’s not to say there isn’t romance in this book, because there is. A rainbow-vomit inducing teen romance to be precise. No, there’s no hot passionate make-out session you can read about, but there is a sweet romance present. It’s mainly the awkwardness and adorableness of a first love. But gosh-darn-it, it’s freaking cute! By the end of the book, I was squeeing like crazy because of the cuteness.

I love how the underlying theme is love. Not just romantic love, but also the love between daughter and mother, daughter and father and between friends. I feel like a lot of Young Adult Fiction books try to sell off physical attraction as love, but that wasn’t the case with this book. Love isn’t all happy endings. It’s also the hurt, the struggle and the ability to pick yourself up after being broken. It’s a really nice message once you think about it.

The only issue I had with the book, a really small issue, was the lingo and 80’s references used. I am not an 80’s child, nor do I have any attachment to 80’s music. So sad to say, all the 80’s band references were completely lost on me (sorry!). I had to look up who Morrissey was, what Ray Ban glasses looked like and even looked up some of the bands mentioned on YouTube. I think my lack of 80’s music knowledge really lessen my reading experience. If I did, I’d probably be fangirling even more over this book. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy The Theory of Everything because I thoroughly did. The story itself is very relatable. I honestly really wanted to see where this journey would take these kids and the trippy episodes were always a pleasure to read. 😀

Would I recommend it?

Recommend! If you’re a paranormal lover like me and want to dive into contemporary, this is a good book to start with. But before you start, I also recommend embracing your inner 80’s as well.

Manga Monday #5 | Gurren Lagann Vol.1 & Vol.2 by Kotaro Mori

Gurren Lagann, Volume 1Gurren Lagann Vol.001
Story: GAINAX, Supervisor: Kazuki Nakashima, Art: Kotaro Mori
Original Title |Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (天元突破 グレンラガン)
Published in America on May 5th 2009 by Bandai Entertainment
Genre | Shōnen, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Mecha, Romance

In his skyless cavern of a village Simon toils daily, drilling holes to expand his stifling little world until one day he makes an extraordinary discovery: a small glowing drill-bit and the man-sized mech it activates. Before he can give it a second thought Simon’s dragged into a plot to break through to the surface by the local gang leader Kamina, only to have the ceiling come crashing down on top of them under the weight of a giant monster! It somehow falls onto the boisterous Kamina and cowardly Simon to defend their village, but once they defeat the monster what awaits the duo on the surface world? Get ready for buxom babes, beastmen, and giant mechs as only GAINAX can provide them! (Courtesy of Goodreads).

Review | ★ ★ ★ 1/2

Gurren Lagann has been around for a few years. Created in 2007 as an anime by studio GAINAX (the brains behind both Neon Genesis Evangelion and Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt) which later became adapted into a manga illustrated Kotaro Mori. I have yet to see the anime, so my review is solely on the first two manga volumes of Gurren Lagann.

The story begins with a bang, quite literally. Volume one of Gurren Lagann is consistently action packed, where there is never a dull moment. There seems to be a monster-of-the-week kind of format where enemy robots, called “gunmen”, appear and our heroes go kick butt. All in all, this series contains explosions, fighting robots, and heroism all around. That being said, it did take me a while to even understand what the heck was going on in the story. The pacing of the story goes by extremely fast. Any type of character back-stories or world development are briefly mentioned and do not get addressed further until much later in the volume.

While reading, I had a real need for plot that this volume didn’t provide. The premise of the story contains so much potential. In this futuristic world, humans are forced to survive underground. The surface is dominated by intelligent creatures, called beastmen, that pilot the gunmen to eradicate humans. Our two main characters are virtually clueless to the world above, allowing the reader to discover new information along with the characters.  Unfortunately, plot mainly fell to the wayside in favor for action and humor.  In fact, I felt that volume one valued action and funny one-liners over any real world building.

Team Gurren

Top: Gurren Lagann

Bottom (Left to Right): Kamina, Boota, Simon and Yoko

Kamina is the crazy, boisterous character that comes up with the team name, Gurren. Unsatisfied with living underground, he’s always coming up with schemes that manage to tick off the village chief. His main goal in life is to break through the “impenertrable ceiling” and reach the surface just like his father. He comes off as the “cool older brother type” that often incites to do the impossible with his crazy antics. Kamina is my absolute favorite character because he’s hilarious and comes with the best lines 😀

“Kick logic out and do the impossible!! That’s the way Team Gurren rolls, remember?!”

Also, my favorite line:

“Listen to me, Simon. Don’t believe in yourself. Believe in me! Believe in me, who believes in you!!”

Simon is the youngest member of Team Gurren and “soul brother” to Kamina. He’s a timid young man whose sole job is to expand his underground village by digging. It’s not a glorious job by far, but Simon finds pleasure in the little changes he makes to his village; sometimes resulting into unexpected treasures. Unlike Kamina, Simon isn’t heroic at all. Rather he has cautious and often fearful nature that stems from the trauma of his parents death.

There are more characters are introduced in this volume, such as Yoko, Leeron and the Black Siblings. But I feel that only Kamina and Simon were the primary focus in volume one.

Gurren Lagann, Volume 1Gurren Lagann Vol.002
Story: GAINAX, Supervisor: Kazuki Nakashima, Art: Kotaro Mori
Original Title |Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (天元突破 グレンラガン)
Published in America on August 25th 2009 by Bandai Entertainment
Genre | Shōnen, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Mecha, Romance

Review | ★ ★ ★ ★

Volume two picks up exactly where volume one left off, with an epic combining of the Gurren and Lagann.
GurrenLagannI actually enjoyed reading volume two much more than the previous volume. Past plot complaints aside, I just went along with the flow of the manga and found myself appreciating this volume more. The slapstick comedy of the earlier volume multiplied ten fold in volume two, creating many memorable laugh out loud moments. If the covers of the first two volumes didn’t tip you off, you’ll realize that the characters have a severe case of lack of clothing. The clothing choice is not because of the hot climate of the Gurren Lagann world, but a purposeful character design by the creators. You never actually see anyone’s naughty bits, but this series is chock full of cartoon-like violence, skin exposure, bouncy boobs, and sexual innuendos (the obligatory hot springs episode, which is a common anime trope, is featured in volume two). This type of comedy may not suit everyone’s taste, but is definitely something to consider, especially since the humor is so ingrained in Gurren Lagann.

The problems I had with volume one were completely rectified this time around. Here we are able to explore another underground village, different from village Kamina and Simon came from. It was interesting to see the social constructs of this new village, and get a sense of what being forced underground has done to humanity. I also liked that we were being shown snippets of what it’s like on the villain’s side. Overall, this volume had some character development, the budding of a potential romance and a constant influx of new characters being introduced.

Would I recommend it?

Gurren Lagann may not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for something crazy and action-packed give this a shot.

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Eyes Like Stars (Théâtre Illuminata, #1)Eyes Like Stars (Théâtre Illuminata #1)
By Lisa Mantchev 
Published July 7th 2009 by Feiwel & Friends
Genre | Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal

All her world’s a stage. Bertie Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater. She’s not an orphan, but she has no parents. She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own. That is, until now.

Enter Stage Right
NATE. Dashing pirate. Will do anything to protect Bertie.

COBWEB, MOTH, MUSTARD SEED, and PEASEBLOSSOM. Four tiny and incredibly annoying fairies. BERTIE’S sidekicks.

ARIEL. Seductive air spirit and Bertie’s weakness. The symbol of impending doom.

BERTIE. Our heroine.

Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the actors of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book—an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family—and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known. (Courtesy of Goodreads).

Review | ★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2

Before I say anything about this book, I’d like to mention how much I adore the cover for Eyes Like Stars. All the covers made for the Théâtre Illuminata trilogy were done by the amazingly talented Jason Chan. He has a website where he sporadically post his artwork. It’s awesome, so go check it out!

Now onward to the book! I decided to reread Eyes Like Stars for the Summer Lovin’ Read-a-Thon and, while I didn’t accomplish my goal of completing the trilogy,  my love for this book has been rekindled. Lisa Mantchev weaves an enchantingly whimsical tale set in the surreal Théâtre Illuminata, where the players and crew are not short of colorful personalities and melodramatics.

Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata. The theater is a magical place home to many players,  not your ordinary actors and actresses mind you, but the real characters from actual plays. It wouldn’t be uncommon to find Hamlet and MacBeth clamoring at each other out or to witness little faeries devouring a buffet table. The book takes place entirely in the theater, but that’s okay. The theater is vast with lots of sensational locations to explore, ever-changing stage settings, and danger lurking at every corner (coughArielcough).

All her world’s a stage. Bertie is a charmingly headstrong heroine to say the least and while the theater is her home, though it’s clear that she’s not like the others in the theater. She’s exuberant, rash, rebellious and I really liked her character. There is a love-triangle involved in the story between the steadfast pirate Nate from the Little Mermaid and seductive Ariel from the Tempest. So far it’s presented as a typical YA love-triangle, so you won’t find anything new here. However, that didn’t deter my interest in the book and I really enjoyed the romantic scenes. My favorite characters would have to be Bertie’s sidekicks, the faeries form A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They are Bertie’s trusted friends and are such hilarious, fun-loving adorable little sprites. They never failed to make me smile or laugh. If anything, I want a faerie side-kick myself.

I can feel it in my bones. Mantchev’s writing style is quirky and entertaining. Whether it is the characters or the magic of the story, the writing gave me the impression of something Disney-esque. Instead of the characters breaking out into song, they perform in plays in various intervals of the story. Mantchev does something unique that I have never seen in a book before: write in script format. Portions of the story are written as scripted plays, serving as flashbacks or character made scenarios. The sudden change in writing format may be staggering to other readers, but I really enjoyed reading the scripts and found it refreshing. The pace of the book is fairly neutral. Not too fast, but not too slow either. In my opinion, all of the charm of the story comes from the vibrant characters than the actual plot.

Would I recommend it?

Absolutely! I’m not a theater junkie by all means, but I still loved this book. Those who like plays may get a kick out of all the theater references.

What Really Happened in Peru by Cassandra Clare & Sarah Rees Brennan

What Really Happened in Peru (The Bane Chronicles, #1)

What Really Happened in Peru (The Bane Chronicles #1)

By Cassandra Clare & Sarah Rees Brennan

Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on April 16, 2013 (ebook only)

Genre | YA, Paranormal

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

There are good reasons Peru is off-limits to Magnus Bane. Follow Magnus’s Peruvian escapades as he drags his fellow warlocks Ragnor Fell and Catarina Loss into trouble, learns several instruments (which he plays shockingly), dances (which he does shockingly), and disgraces his host nation by doing something unspeakable to the Nazca Lines. (Courtesy of Goodreads)

Review | ★ ★ ★

A.K.A. The Misadventures of Magnus Bane & Co. Peru Edition!

I was so excited when it was announced that Cassandra Clare will be co-writing a series starring one of my favorite characters of all-time, Magnus Bane! So of course, I wouldn’t miss out on reading What Really Happened in Peru!

Going into this stand-alone I wasn’t really sure what to expect. However,  I was hoping for a more insightful background on Magnus Bane that gives him a little  more depth than what The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices offered. And I did get that…but only in little snippets. Among the comedic narrative of the story, little glimpses of Magnus’ past would be scattered about. It was interesting to read more about Magnus’ life as an immortal and his relationship with mortals, but this is something that can be fan speculated and what was revealed in this stand-alone wasn’t too exciting or shocking.

To me, this stand-alone read more like 5 disconnected mini stories all set in Peru in different time periods. Some of the stories were just plain silly, while others had a more serious tone to it.

The writing of Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Bennan really brought out the humor in this story and the craziness of Magnus Bane and was really fun to read about. All of Magnus’ absurd antics and extravagant clothing (which this story is entirely filled with) had me smiling throughout the whole story. His interactions with his fellow warlock friends, Ragnor and Catarina, were hilarious and I really enjoyed their chemistry together.

Would I recommend it?

For $2.99 on Amazon, I wouldn’t recommend it. The pacing was too fast and the story was too short for my taste. It was fun to read, but wasn’t really that spectacular to me.

Manga Monday #4 |Magic Kaito Vol. 1 by Gosho Aoyama

Magic Kaito Vol. 1 by Gōshō Aoyama

Original Title | Majikku Kaito (まじっく 快斗)

First published in Shogakukan’s Weekly Shōnen Sunday in 1987

Genre | Shōnen, Comedy, Drama, Crime

Yesasia

After an 8 year long disappearance. the mysterious Phantom Thief Kid makes a sudden return with a new heist–his target, the magnificent Century Gem.  Meanwhile Kaito Kuroba, a normal teenage boy, discovers the truth about his late father’s death as well as a shocking family secret.

Review | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I’ve been really failing this month’s Tadoku Contest, but I did manage to finish reading the first volume of Magic Kaito! If you have ever read Gosho Aoyama’s more well-known manga, Detective Conan/Case Closed , the charming Phantom Thief Kid makes numerous appearances in a lot of Conan’s cases.  Magic Kaito was made before Detective Conan and is kind of like the origin story for the infamous phantom thief.

This manga was so much fun to read! Every page was filled with so much action and comedy, that I really enjoyed reading it. However, there wasn’t really much plot progression in this volume and I felt like I was reading mostly about the misadventures of Phantom Thief Kid.

The main character, Kaito Kuroba, is absolutely adorable and I adore him to pieces. He’s charming, goofy, a bit of a pervert, but you can tell he’s a good kid. Kaito is a magician just like his father, and uses his magic for pranks–pranks his childhood friend, Aoko Nakamura doesn’t put up with ;). He and Aoko have a bickering relationship, the kind where they can trade insults and where it’s perfectly acceptable for one of them to try to hit the other with a mop during class.

By the end of the first chapter, Kaito inherits his family’s secret and adapts to it pretty well. He really shows his  resourcefulness and cleverness at moments when he really needs to. I just wish there was more information or motive given about Kaito’s family secret since it’s such a crucial part of the plot. Hopefully this would be explained further in the series.

All in all, Magic Kaito is a very fun light-hearted read. I will most definitely be reading the next volume.

Would I recommend this?

For now I only recommend this manga for those who can read Japanese because sadly this series is not licensed in English. (;_;) But, if you like crime stories and light humor this is the manga for you!

Manga Monday #3| Umineko WHEN THEY CRY Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch vol. 1 by Ryukishi07

Umineko WHEN THEY CRY Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch

Story by Ryukishi07, Art by Kei Nastumi

Original Title | Umineko no Naku Koro ni (うみねこのなく頃に)

Published in America on November 2012 by Yen Press

Genre | Seinen, Mystery, Horror, Thriller

WARNING EXTREME GORE 

Goodreads | Amazon | Yen Press

Each year, the Ushiromiya family gathers at the secluded mansion of its patriarch, the elderly Kinzo. It has been six years since Battler joined his cousins at the annual event, but their happy reunion is overshadowed by worsening weather and an eerie premonition from his youngest cousin—not to mention their parents’ feud over the inheritance. Battler doesn’t hold much stock in dark omens, nor does he believe the tales of the witch rumored to have given his grandfather a fortune in gold…and who walks the halls of the mansion to this day… But when the eighteen family members and servants are trapped on the island by the raging typhoon, the grisly events that follow leave Battler shaken to his core. Is one of his relatives desperate enough to kill for the family fortune? Or is this the work of the Golden Witch? (Courtesy of Yen Press)

Review | ★ ★ ★ ★

Packaging 

I was absolutely ecstatic when Yen Press decided to license Umineko WHEN THEY CRY series into English! I’ve seen both the Japanese anime and read a few scenes from the original sound novel game and really loved the story and its characters. So when I went to place my order for this manga, much to my surprise I was greeted with a MONSTER of a book. This manga is probably twice the size of the average American published manga and three times the width. But there is a reason for this…Umineko WHEN THEY CRY Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch is actually an omnibus bind up of two manga volumes. So really, you’re getting two for the price of one bind up.

While publishing this manga as an omnibus is probably a better business move for Yen Press and more economical for the consumer, in my opinion it’s a pain to lug around in my bag if I want to take it with me to read. I would have preferred to have this series published in the smaller standard size, even though it would cost me more to complete the series. However, it is nice to have most of the story in one convenient bind up.

Besides, as a die-hard Umineko WHEN THEY CRY fan I would still buy this series no matter what.

Plot

On October 4th, 1986  the esteemed Ushiromiya family gathers to the island of Rokkenjima for their yearly family conference. What starts off as a happy family gathering quickly escalates to a battle over the family inheritance and the legendary Ushiromiya gold. And if a feud within the family isn’t bad enough, a raging typhoon is expected to come bringing misfortune along with it…

If you have ever read Agatha Christie’s famous mystery classic And Then There Were None,  the plot to Umineko WHEN THEY CRY Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch is very similar. You have a family stranded on an island cut off from the rest of the world due to a terrible typhoon…but there’s a twist. A witch is supposedly living on the island as well, and she’s there to wreck havoc.

This manga does an excellent job in mixing mystery with fantasy and horror. What makes the story so unusual is that is makes you question whether it is a mystery or a fantasy. By the end you’ll wonder if the culprit human or if the witch real?

Artwork

I like that Kei Natsumi’s style can really capture a character’s emotions really well. If a character is feeling extreme frustration or sorrow, that emotion is clearly displayed and adds to the storytelling. Also, his depiction of horror and gore are definitely not for the squeamish. My only issue with his art style is the odd figure proportions he draws for his characters.

Would I recommend it?

I recommend this series for those who like mysteries and thrillers, as long as you don’t mind the blood and over-exaggerated breasts.

Manga Monday #2| Skip Beat! vol. 1 by Yoshiki Nakamura

Skip Beat! vol. 1 by Yoshiki Nakamura

First published on February 2002 in Hana to Yume 

Published in America on July 2006 by Viz Media

Genre | Shōjo, Romantic Comedy

Goodreads | Amazon | Rightstuf | Viz Media

Kyoko knows she’s not plain and uninteresting, no matter what Sho says. With the help of a little makeover, Kyoko’s ready to exact her revenge. But first she needs to land an audition, and she sets her sights on the agency where Sho’s lead rival works. Her persistence pays off, but her broken heart turns out to be a disadvantage. Kyoko has lost the will to love anybody, let alone fans she’s never met. Can the agency see past this problem to Kyoko’s true star potential? (Courtesy of Viz Media)

Review| ★ ★ ★ ★

Plot

The plot is simple and straight forward. Kyoko Mogami is a young girl out of junior high school who has devoted herself to her “prince” and childhood best friend, Sho, only to be left and abandoned. This serves as Kyoko’s driving motivation to enter into a world she really had no prior interest in–show business.

The steps Kyoko takes to trying to get into show business is very interesting to read about, especially when things get a little absurd. I can’t help but root for her throughout the entire manga.

Characters

Ah Kyoko…I would have probably turn a blind eye to this series if it wasn’t for her. She starts off as the typical shōjo heroine–innocent, good natured, earnest for the sake of love–but once Sho’s true nature is revealed the shock unlocks Kyoko’s Pandora Box releasing her darkside. Kyoko is a very determined girl from the start–running away from home, working two jobs to pay rent–and once her focus shifts from being subservient to getting to her revenge, we get to see how far she is willing to go for her goal. Despite how fierce Kyoko can be, her heartbreak and vulnerability brings out a quality that readers may relate with. In short, she’s a very unique character yet very relatable. I just love reading about her.

Sho Fuwa, Kyoko’s childhood friends. He’s a jerk and I hope he burns in fire.

Ren Tsuruga is the currently most popular actor in show business and Sho’s make believe rival. He’s a pretty smooth operator, but not really on Kyoko’s list of favorite people. He’ s not that predominant in this volume, but I get the feeling that he will be an important character later on.

Mr. Sawara and Lori Takarada both work at LME, the company that Kyoko is trying to work for. Mr. Sawara is basically Kyoko’s first obstacle into getting into show business. I found it hilarious how he puts up with Kyoko’s crazy antics (She was basically stalking him. I would just call the cops at that point). Lori Takarada, on the other hand, is the eccentric LME president. I love him because everything he does is so outlandish (his introduction came with exotic dancers. How cool is that?).

Kanae “Moko” Kotonami introduction in the manga just screams out “Kyoko’s rival”. She’s a talented actress looking to work for the LME just like Kyoko. She comes off as a bit snobbish, but then again most rivals in shōjo manga are. It’s interesting how Kyoko’s nickname for her, “Moko”, stems from how she says “mō” after everything she says. “Mō” was used as an interjection in the original Japanese and the “ko” (子) at the end is what is commonly used to make names feminine.

Artwork

Yoshiki Nakamura’s art style in Skip Beat! is basically her take on the shōjo genre. What makes her style unique from the rest are the dewy eyes she makes for her characters. She also mixes up her drawing style by switching from very expressive faces to chibi style.

Would I recommend it?

I would recommend this to shōjo manga fans looking for a funny Rom-Com with a strong female protagonist.

Manga Monday #1| A Bride’s Story vol. 1 by Kaoru Mori

A Bride’s Story vol. 1 by Kaoru Mori

Original Title | Otoyomegatari (乙嫁語り)

First Published by Enterbrain in fellows!

Published in America on May 2011 by Yen Press 

Genre | Seinen, Historical, Romance, Slice of Life

WARNING MILD NUDITY

Goodreads | Amazon | Yen Press

Acclaimed creator Kaoru Mori (Emma, Shirley) brings the nineteenth-century Silk Road to lavish life, chronicling the story of Amir Halgal, a young woman from a nomadic tribe betrothed to a twelve-year-old boy eight years her junior. Coping with cultural differences, blossoming feelings for her new husband, and expectations from both her adoptive and birth families, Amir strives to find her role as she settles into a new life and a new home in a society quick to define that role for her.

Crafted in painstaking detail, Ms. Mori’s pen breathes life into the scenery and architecture of the period in this heartwarming slice-of-life tale that is at once both wholly exotic, yet familiar and accessible through the everyday lives of the rich characters she has created. (Courtesy of Yen Press)

Review | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Packaging 

Before I go on talking about the actual story of A Bride’s Story I want to mention the amazing packaging Yen Press did for this manga series. Yen Press went all out and actually published this series in hardback, including a dustcover with Kaoru Mori’s amazing artwork. I’ve never seen a hardback manga before and this gorgeous, sturdy edition is a wonderful collection to my shelves.

Plot  

In terms of plot there is at least one overarching story line, but that is not the main focus, rather each chapter can be read as a mini story of its own. In the first chapter of A Bride’s Story the new bride, Amir Hagal age 20, is first introduced to her new young husband, Karluk Eihon age 12, and his family. The story centralizes on a melding of culture as we are lead into the lives of Amir, Karluk and their families. Each chapter has its own endearing story. By just exploring the daily lives of the many different characters, I am constantly learning more and more of the kind of society that exists in 19th century Central Asia as well as the characters themselves.

Characters

To me every single character in A Bride’s Story is fascinating and enjoyable to read about. Amir is such an adorable character. Despite being the much-too-old bride in her culture, she is depicted as a very youthful, vibrant and maybe slightly naive young woman. Amir is very much a humble, caring, quiet spoken woman, but her cool side shows in her skills with hunting with a bow and arrow. In my opinion Amir as the very cool older sister type, but still childish at the same time.

Moving on to the young husband, Karluk is very mature for his age. It is very clear that he has settled into his role as a fully realized man, yet his boyish nature still comes out every now and then. His chemistry with Amir is very cute and they definitely give off the vibe of shy newly weds. They are such an adorable couple! I would love to see how their relationship progresses in further volumes.

In this volume we are also introduced to both Karluk’s family and Amir’s familiy. Both of different cultures and both with very distinct characteristics. Towards the end there is some drama between these two families, but what’s a historical manga without some good drama?

Artwork

Kaoru Mori’s art style is absolutely stunning. She pays an enormous amount of attention to detail creating diverse characters, intricate clothing designs, patterns and breathtaking landscape. The moments in A Bride’s Story that standout for me are the pages without any text because they are are drawn in a way that is so expressive. These are the pages that to come to life without any use of words or sounds. In these instances, I can just look at the page and envision movement, imagine the sounds thumping of hooves on rough gravel or smell the incense right off the page. Kaoru Mori’s talent is just that great.

Since this manga is set in 19th century Central Asia, a lot of attention was given to the cultural influences. Embroidery and craftsmanship are a big part of Amir and Karluk’s heritage and culture and this is very evident in Kaoru’s drawings. The way she draws landscape, animals, architecture, textiles and facial expressions are breathtaking. Really my review of Kaoru Mori’s art style doesn’t do her any justice. You just have to see what I’m talking about by reading her manga. 😉

Would I recommend it?

Most definitely! Fans of Kaoru Mori’s previous work, Emma, might also enjoy this series. I recommend this to people who like reading about new cultures, history, and romance.