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Bookshelf Briefs, 10/31/11

With several important limbs of the battle robot immobilized by snow, David and Michelle bravely forge on with a look at recent releases with a Halloween or costume party sort of vibe!

Animal Land, Vol. 1 | By Makoto Raiku | Kodansha Comics – The most striking thing about Animal Land is that it actually manages to convey the physical sensation of shrillness without actually creating any sounds. I swear my ears were ringing by the time I was done with this comic, and if it had been an animated cartoon, I would have clicked away from its high-pitched shrieking within seconds. It’s too bad, because Raiku has created a clever plot featuring a human baby winding up in a functioning society of tanuki. The baby, who can understand and communicate with all species, shakes up the inter-animal dynamic by helping them understand what everyone else is saying. That’s a really interesting starting point, but the hyperactive characters always seem to have their volume set at shônen 10, which is about 4 levels higher than I can tolerate. Some of Raiku’s anthropomorphic character designs for the tanuki end up being unintentionally creepy rather than cute, too. – David Welsh

Blue Exorcist, Vol. 4 | By Kazue Kato | Viz – There’s a pretty big reveal in this volume and, as is sometimes the case in stories by relatively inexperienced creators from weeklies, it seems a bit rushed. Kato does a great job in a lot of departments. Her art is attractive and stylized, but it keeps the action clear. The character types are certainly familiar, but they’re likeable and distinct in spite of the recognizable functions they fulfill. (I find myself surprisingly fond of hard-ass mentor Shura in spite of her fan-service-friendly wardrobe.) And Kato thinks about the small things in terms of the ways her characters interact and react to events, which is always welcome. As far as the long-term storytelling goes, though, Blue Exorcist seems a little lumpy. While Kato gets good follow-up mileage out of big events, the overall structure doesn’t seem as tight as it could or should be. There’s tons to like here, but it lacks the seamlessness of something like Fullmetal Alchemist. – David Welsh

Gate 7, Vol. 1 | By CLAMP | Dark Horse – Gate 7 is so extraordinarily pretty. From the handsomely detailed settings to the finely carved faces and gorgeous costumes, it’s a feast for the eyes. The glamour of it all almost – almost – excuses the fact that it has very little else working in its favor at this point. The plot reads like a CLAMP Mad Lib. A dorky but good-natured guy falls in with a pack of weird but incredibly attractive people with magical powers and lots of secrets, and he learns that he has some semblance of supernatural ability. In spite of the reams of exposition CLAMP has provided, I still feel like I know very little about most of the cast or what their function is in the grand scheme of things. But I really, really like looking at them, and I think I will be content to do so for at least a few more volumes. – David Welsh

Raiders, Vol. 7 | By JinJun Park | Yen Press – Raiders is such an odd series. It’s somewhat incoherent—the super-swift cuts between scenes don’t help one make sense of what is going on—but there’s enough intriguing about it that I keep reading. And now that I’ve read seven of the nine volumes, might as well keep going to the end! This volume features a pair of guys breaking into Area 51 in order to obtain data on the military’s research into weaponizing the undead. I’ve no idea how they learned about this, or who one of these guys even is, but with Raiders I’ve learned to set aside such concerns and just focus on the action, which is usually pretty cool. Also, the fanservice is not gratuitous—okay, yes, there’s one inexplicably nude moment for Lamia (the sexy zombie!) and copious bra flashes in a fight between two blade-wielding women, but these moments never subtract from the characters’ overall badassery, which I appreciate. – Michelle Smith

Vampire Knight, Vol. 13 | By Matsuri Hino | VIZ Media –So much of Vampire Knight is comprised of angst-ridden scenes and moody grey screentones that important revelations kind of sneak up on the reader. You’re reading along, lulled by the pretty art as you watch Zero mope about his plight as a vampire again (“Inside me… is there anything human left?”) and Kaname wrestle with conflicting impulses concerning Yuki, and then suddenly Kaname’s revealing the truth about his origins to Yuki, which explains how he could be both the progenitor of the Kuran clan and her sibling and also tangentially covers the formation of the vampire hunter society. I wouldn’t say it’s riveting stuff—it’s all a bit too languid to qualify—but it ought to have some interesting consequences. One thing I will say for Vampire Knight—it’s compulsively readable, and even though I’m not a fervent fan, I see myself sticking around for the long haul to see how things turn out. – Michelle Smith

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  3. […] age. That seems just wrong, but there’s no denying that it’s so. I’m utterly taken with Gate 7 (also Dark Horse), and now I find myself seconding Melinda’s choice of the X 3-in-1 from Viz. As […]

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