Thank you all for the warm reception to my introductory post! It was great to read the comments and discussions. Ed and Grace, I’ll definitely have to post my thoughts about Ranma ½ when I read more volumes. And Jun is definitely tempting me toward Boys Over Flowers. My library does not have Basara or One Thousand and One Nights so I’ll have to be on the lookout for used volumes.
I also have a question for everyone. I’m considering going to Sakuracon here in Seattle this April. It will be my first anime-con so I am interested to hear if you have any advice or opinions about this particular convention or anime-conventions in general.
As promised, I’ve returned to talk about Life Volumes 1-8, Canon, and Seimaden Volumes 1-10. Of the series I have started this year, there have been some standouts, like Life and Only the Ring Finger Knows (which I’m going to save for my next post). And then there are the series I just have to shrug my shoulders over and even find myself giggling about inappropriately, like Canon and Seimaden. Spoilers after the jump if you have not read these series
Canon Volumes 1-4 (complete) by Chika Shiomi published in English by CMX
Canon Himuro is the only survivor-turned-vampire of an attack that resulted in the deaths of her 39 classmates. Six months later, accompanied by a talking vampire-crow named Fui, seeking answers and vengeance, she meets a vampire named Sakaki. Sakaki gives Canon the name of her attacker – Rod – and offers to become her ally. But Sakaki’s true intentions with regard to Canon are much more sinister. In fact it was Sakaki who murdered Canon’s classmates, turned her into a vampire, and altered her memories. He plans to use Canon, whom Rod has shown a weakness for, as a weapon in his own quest for revenge against Rod, who murdered Sakaki’s parents. Will these two wacky kids overcome their differences and find true love?
Canon is a likeable – if sometimes frustratingly wishy-washy – heroine and Shiomi has some interesting takes on the vampire mythology – which are used to drive most of the plot forward. My main issue with the series is the character/relationship development between Canon and Sakaki. Shortly after discovering the truth about her past and Sakaki’s intentions, Canon confesses to herself that she loves him. Why? What has he done to inspire any feelings approaching love? Did I skip a chapter? If I don’t believe what characters are professing, I’m not going to buy into what occurs as a result of those feelings. Maybe Canon’s arrival at love would have been less rushed and more convincing if Shiomi had more volumes to spread the story out. But the way it was thrown at me along with slap-dash plotting left me unimpressed and unsatisfied. Ah well.
Seimaden Volumes 1-10 (complete) by You Higuri published in English by CMX
Seimaden. Oh, where to begin. This fantasy romance, about what one man will endure to be with the woman he loves is incredibly problematic. Laures, through a convoluted series of events, became the Lord of Demons in order to save the soul of his beloved Elis. He has finally found her again, reborn as beautiful dancer, Hilda. But the course of true love never did run smooth; otherwise there would be no story to tell, right? Roddrick, a rival for Hilda’s love, Tetius, a jealous, loyal servant, Zadei, the usurped Lord of Demons, Karon, the Lord of Hades, the soul of a calculating priestess named Marka, and a whole host of others conspire to take out Laures, Hilda, and perhaps the world. Not that Laures is undeserving of such enmity. In his all-consuming love for Hilda/Elis, he has slaughtered countless numbers without remorse. Nothing matters to him except Hilda/Elis. Laures is a difficult character to like, something Hilda struggles with as well.
In terms of plot, Higuri seems to have bitten off more than she can chew. There is a lot of story crammed into these 10 volumes, and that story does not always come through clearly. Scene changes are often abrupt and unclear, characters (entire dimensions in fact) are hastily introduced, the characters’ memories of events and past betrayals are worse than mine, and the passage of time is fuzzy. Plus, there were some rather annoying editing issues [for example: a minor character’s name kept changing volume to volume from Kuckle to Kunkle, to Knuckel].
And yet I kept reading. I have to admit that I had very little interest in the Hilda-Laures love story. In the end, I was far more intrigued by the machinations and motivations of Laures’ unfailingly loyal servant, Tetius, who I think wins the contest for suffering the most torment and indignities of any Seimaden character. He was the character I kept rooting for through everything else. Not one for my keeper shelves though.
Life Volumes 1-8 by Keiko Suenobu
Life is difficult to recommend. In fact this was the most difficult series for me to write about. Not because it isn’t good. It just invokes such a strong emotional response in me that is difficult to put into words. It is painful and gut-wrenchingly compelling and I cannot wait to get my hands on the next volume. But after reading it, you will probably need some serious cheering up and possibly a shower.
At its heart it is the story of Ayumu Shiba and her struggles to survive the emotional and physical perils of life. But overall, it is a story about the cruelties people can inflict upon one another and the cycle that feeds. So many horrible things happen to Ayumu that at times it almost defies belief and I find myself wondering if it might be considered exploitative. However, the artwork and story telling are superb and weighty issues of depression, self-punishment, abuse, and bullying are presented honestly albeit to incredible extremes. Keiko Suenobu has created a horrifyingly believable story of the hellish reality that life can become when the monsters we fear the most have human faces.
After a devastating falling-out with her middle-school best friend, Ayumu begins to cope with her pain by cutting herself. The first friend she makes in high school, Manami, has a boyfriend, Katsumi, who discovers Ayumu’s secret and uses that to subjugate her and abuse her. The rest of her classmates accuse Ayumu of trying to steal Katsumi from Manami and proceed to make her life even more of a living hell. The tension and drama are almost constant in Life and the world looks very grim. Thank goodness for Ayumu (and the reader), some light, some hope arrives in the form of fellow outcast classmate Miki Hatori, whose kindness and confidence inspire Ayumu to begin to stand up for herself. Still, with so many people out to make Ayumu (and now Hatori) “pay” for imagined wrongs, there is an ever-present danger of this hope being snuffed out.
The first two volumes include a succinct but well-written postscript by a clinical psychologist who addresses issues that arise in the manga. These postscripts are noticeably absent from later volumes. There are genuinely disturbing and upsetting events that occur in these volumes. The first five are labeled OT Older Teen Age 16+ and volumes 6-8 are labeled M Mature Age 18+. I’m curious why Tokyopop stopped including the postscripts.