Today’s Saturday morning cartoon is Story of Saiunkoku! So many pretty men! So much wind blowing flower petals!
Bunny Drop Volume 2 by Yumi Unita
I’ve had the second volume of Bunny Drop for several weeks, and when I finally picked it up I was reminded of how charming this low-key josei series is. Daikichi and Rin have settled in to their new lives together, but trouble looms ahead as Daikichi starts to try to track down Rin’s real mother. He also has to deal with school enrollment for his new charge, and the societal implications of his choice to voluntarily downsize his job.
One of the things that I like about this series is that despite the premise of a batchelor suddenly having to take care of his five year old aunt, it isn’t overly sentimental. Daikichi isn’t drawn to look particularly handsome, and most of the time he his expressions look just like what you’d expect from an overburdened new father. Fortunately for Rin, Daikichi’s family has started to warm towards her, and she’s able to enjoy visiting with them. Daikichi’s mom starts going into full on crafting mode, making school supply bags and digging out old handknit sweaters for Rin. It was fun seeing the subtle ways Daikichi and RIn have bonded as a family. When she has something to say to him that she’s afraid of saying out loud, she just stares at him until he leans down so she can whisper in his ear.
I was surprised at how quickly the mystery of Rin’s mother was solved. Daikichi figures out who she is and goes to meet her. As befitting the subtle ways Bunny Drop handles character and plot development, she isn’t a monster who abandoned her child. She’s a very confused young woman who seems to have brainwashed herself to discard any maternal instinct whatsoever. Daikichi decides not to feel guilty about stepping into the role of Rin’s parent, because he’s clearly the only person in her life who actually is trying to take care of her interests.
Bunny Drop isn’t a series with extreme highs and lows. It has a measured approach to storytelling that feels very naturalistic, and the way Unita portrays Rin’s milestones like getting a new school backpack or being able to help in the kitchen seems like an accurate portrayal of a young girl slowly beginning to grow up.
Library Wars Volume 2
The plot in Library Wars might not be the most serious, and the art might not be the best out of all the shoujo series that I’m currently reading but this manga about a militarized task force of librarians seems tailor made for me. In the second volume Iku struggles with her relationship with new recruit Tezuka, whose excellence at academics and marksmanship cause him to look down at his bumbling female classmate. Iku’s roommate Shibasaki figures out that there might be a mole in the library corps. Iku’s team comes together in an attempt to foil the evil temporary head librarian. Dojo continues to act hot and cold, throwing himself over Iku to prevent some shelving from falling on her, then flicking her in the face after he tends to her wounds. When the Media Betterment Committee executes a raid on library corps headquarters, Iku’s quick tactical thinking and physical courage cause her to finally win Tezuka’s respect and he asks her out. She isn’t sure what to do.
One of the things I find amusing about Library Wars is the more intelligent members of the supporting cast are all aware that Iku and Dojo are in love with each other, even if the hapless future couple are determined not to confront their feelings. Shibasaki runs to Dojo with the news that Tezuka has asked out Iku and mockingly proposes herself as his replacement girlfriend. Dojo tells her “I don’t think I can take the competition. There are going to be a lot of jealous men.” Dojo doesn’t try to prevent the recruits from going out, but he warns Tezuka that if he goes out with Iku, he better take it seriously. Iku and Dojo continue to grow closer, and when Iku finally answers Tezuka it is clear that the two trainees are much better off as friends.
Library Wars Volume 3
This volume puts romance aside to focus on censorship, specifically the very common “Think of the children!” type of censorship that often results in book challenges at school libraries. Not surprisingly, children aren’t happy about having their access to their favorite series limited, and a pair of boys touches off an incident when they try to set off fireworks at a pro-censorship rally. Dojo sends Kasahara to grab the perps, and her super speed results in their capture, much to Tezuka’s dismay. Kasahara ends up bonding with her two juvenile delinquents when they reveal that their favorite series is going to be censored. She yells “It’s a great series! Why would they do that?” Dojo quickly warns “Don’t conspire with suspects!” After being lectured by the frightening Major Genda, the boys decide that they’ll fight censorship with research, designing a survey and compiling the responses from the other kids. The kids’ book censorship problem ends up getting solved in an unsubtle way, but I still enjoyed the way the library corps members worked together in an attempt to solve the problem
Dojo confronts Iku over her habit of romanticizing her mysterious library corps prince who helped her when she was a child and her favorite book was about to be censored. Dojo says “If he hadn’t mislead you by overstepping his authority, perhaps you would have better respect for the rules.” Still not realizing Dojo is talking about himself, Iku fires back “If it had been you in that bookstore, I wouldn’t be where I am today!” Iku’s life is complicated further when a reporter wants to profile her, and her parents announce that they are going to come for a visit.
Since everyone but Iku and Dojo know that the couple is going to end up together, there isn’t a whole lot of suspense in Library Wars: Love and War. In some ways, the lack of suspense translates into a cozy and stress-free read. It is easy to see where the plot is going, but I enjoy the characters and the militarized library setting so much the shortcomings of this series don’t bother me at all. I tend to read Library Wars for the scattered moments when Iku and Dojo seem like they’re getting close to an emotional breakthrough, and the fighting scenes as librarians battle censorship are a bonus.
I do hope that Iku comes into her own soon though. It seems to me that she lacks the life experience to leverage her gifts to her advantage. Dojo says to Iku at the end of the second volume “Your honesty and sense of justice, they’ll become your strength in the future.” I think that Iku’s quick reflexes and tendency to leap into action have been hindering her so far, but for someone who appears to be not very intelligent about alphabetizing books, she has some soldier’s instincts that can’t be taught. So far Dojo and Iku have been locked into a mentor/mentee relationship, so I hope they’re able to function more as equal partners by the end of the series.
Review copy of volume 3 provided by the publisher.
The Stellar Six of Gingacho Volume 1 by Yuuki Fujimoto
The Stellar Six of Gingacho is set on a busy market street district, where the “Stellar Six” of the title are all middle school students who have grown up together while working at their family businesses. The main couple in the book are Mike, who is the daughter of a greengrocer and Kuro, a boy whose family runs a fish shop. At the opening of the market Mike and Kuro stage an acrobatic mock battle where they fight over what is better – fresh fish or daikon. The display reels the customers in to the market street. Mike and Kuro used to run together in a pack of children. There’s Sato, an otaku girl whose parents run a Yakitory stand. Iba’s parents run a rice stand, and she can heft an impressive amount of rice bags. Ikkyu uses his good looks and womanizing ways in his role of delivery boy for his family’s soba restaurant, and the group is rounded out by the oddly withdrawn Mamoru whose parents run the local liquor store. The group hangs out at the local bar before it opens officially, running up a tab for sodas and tea.
Mike is feeling wistful, but she’s not certain why. When the group of friends entered middle school they began to grow apart after being assigned separate classrooms. When everyone accidentally gets together in the bar, Mike realizes it has been a long time since the group has been in the same place at the same time. She embarks on a campaign for a group bonding activity – entering the traditional Japanese dance contest at the upcoming street festival, with her eye on the second place prize of free food. When the neighborhood bar gets vandalized, the group pulls together with the idea of winning the cash prize to help pay for repairs and their tab.
Mike isn’t yet facing up to the reality of adolescence and the possibility of her childhood friendship with Kuro changing into something else. The neighborhood setting of The Stellar Six gives it a different feeling than the many school-related shoujo series. While the antics of the kids are funny, the manga is also filled with a feeling of nostalgia about leaving childhood behind. All the adults on the street look after the children, and the children in turn keep tabs on residents that might need extra help or encouragement. This gives Stellar Six more depth and narrative interest than similar workplace shoujo manga like Happy Cafe. One of the greatest complements I can pay this series is that it feels a lot like a CMX title, with the same type of sweetness and deceptive simplicity that I found in their best shoujo titles. This isn’t a surprise since The Stellar Six was published by Hakusensha, source of many CMX and Tokyopop manga. The Stellar Six has a ton of heart, and while it might not be flashy, it is a perfect feel-good read.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Dragon Girl Omnibus Volume 1 by Toru Fujieda
Some manga creators have the ability to make cliched stories so much better than they have a right to be. Toru Fujieda managed to make Oyayubihime Infinity, a convoluted shoujo series dealing with pop idols, reincarnation, and butterfly birthmarks, both involving and interesting. Dragon Girl is a fairly standard reverse harem manga mashed up with sports storylines and the always present evil student council, but the characters and situations she creates are genuinely endearing and funny.
The heroine of Dragon Girl is Rinna Aizen. She’s determined to join the Shoryu High Cheerleading Squad where her father was once a legendary captain. When little Rinna confesses her intention to a boy named Subaru, he tells her that she’s an idiot because Shoryu is an all-boys school. Years later Shoryu has been forced to go co-ed and Rinna is enrolling. She quickly finds out that the Cheerleading Squad of her dreams has fallen on rough times. The only member of the squad left is the eccentric captain Hasekura, who stalks around the school wearing his cheering uniform, along with a weedy mustache that he’s grown in an attempt to live up to his idea of manliness. The class president says that the Cheering Squad will be disbanded do to lack of members, and Rinna promptly volunteers. Hasekura is dubious about the prospect of female squad members, but Rinna is like an exceptionally cute, energetic steamroller and soon there’s a ragtag squad of students learning traditional cheers and fighting to get their club status returned. The evil student council tries to stamp out the Cheering Squad and attempts to make Rinna into a pawn by giving her “Platinum Student” status.
Fujieda has a knack for creating sympathetic but slightly quirky characters. In some ways Rinna is a typical energetic shoujo heroine, but what sets her apart is her admirable quality of total commitment to cheering, and her fearless approach to throwing herself into situations that others might find embarrassing. She approaches chicken fights, waving improvised flags, friend trivia contests, and trying to win over fellow Platinum student with the same amount of cheerful determination. Even though there’s a large supporting cast, they all had distinct personalities. Hasekura acts like a ridiculous manly stereotype, but his feelings towards Rinna evolve from grudging respect into something more. Rinna’s fellow cheer squad members include the cool Chizuri and Temari who has a pathological fear of men. Rinna’s first love Sakura makes a couple enigmatic appearances as a model-like boy who goes everywhere with his pet cat. Rinna’s antagonists include the evil student council president, a crossdressing boy who forms a rival cheerleading squad, and a Platinum student named Yaotome who deliberately holds himself apart from other people and claims to hate women.
Dragon Girl is a total reverse harem series with a large cast of cute, goofy and mysterious guys. Fujieda’s distinct and attractive character designs make the art a pleasure to look at. The details about traditional cheering were interesting, and like most Yen Press editions there were translation notes included at the end of each volume. After reading three volumes of this series I wasn’t sure who I wanted Rinna to end up with, and I could see different possibilities for a potential boyfriend for her, which I think is a sign of a good reverse harem series. It might not be groundbreaking shoujo, but for what it is Dragon Girl does extremely well. It was fun being able to dive into the story and read three volumes all at once. I will be definitely be buying the second omnibus which wraps up the series. Highly recommended if you are looking for some new fluffy shoujo to read.
Today’s Saturday morning cartoon is the ending credits for the Paradise Kiss anime, because more anime shows need to show their characters shaking their heinys:
I do love these whimsical credits and the shift in character design for the closing. Using a Franz Ferdinand song isn’t so bad either.
Viz has released a press release announcing Story of Saiunkoku, a title I’ve already reviewed here. There’s been a lack of new historical fantasy shoujo series coming out recently, and this manga was one of my most anticipated new series. I’m looking forward to reading the second volume. Read on for details:
IMPERIAL INTRIGUE AWAITS READERS IN THE STORY OF SAIUNKOKU, NEW FROM VIZ MEDIA
Beautifully Illustrated Shojo Beat Series Depicts A Young Girl’s Rise In the Imperial Court To Become A Royal Confidant And Advisor
San Francisco, CA, November 4, 2010 – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), one of the entertainment industry’s most innovative and comprehensive publishing, animation and licensing companies, delivers shojo-styled drama with the release of THE STORY OF SAIUNKOKU, written by Sai Yukino with artwork by Kairi Yura, available now in stores. The new manga (graphic novel) series will be published under the company’s Shojo Beat imprint, is rated ‘T’ for Teens, and will carry an MSRP of $9.99 U.S. / $12.99 CAN.
Shurei Hong, destitute but of noble birth, has always dreamed of working as a civil servant in the imperial court of Saiunkoku, but women are barred from holding office. The emperor Ryuki, however, refuses to take command, leaving everything to his advisors. Shurei is asked to become a consort to the emperor to persuade the ne’er-do-well ruler to govern.
“THE STORY OF SAIUNKOKU will draw readers in with its beautiful artwork and smart, courageous heroine who dedicates herself to serving her country, rising in the ranks to become the emperor’s trusted advisor,” says Nancy Thistlethwaite, Editor. “This historical fantasy also inspired the popular anime series produced by Madhouse Studios. THE STORY OF SAIUNKOKU is an exciting new addition to the Shojo Beat imprint, especially for those readers who love romance and political intrigue!”
Kairi Yura is the illustrator of both the manga and the light novels for THE STORY OF SAIUNKOKU. She is also the creator of the Angelique series. Sai Yukino is author of the popular series of young adult novels, THE STORY OF SAIUNKOKU, and its manga counterpart. She also received an honorable mention and the Readers’ Award for Kadokawa’s Beans Novel Taisho Awards.
For more information on THE STORY OF SAIUNKOKU manga and to read free previews online please visit www.ShojoBeat.com.
I enjoy it when other people feature the new manga they’ve gotten on their sites, so I thought I’d do that here too.
This is what I’ve bought or swapped for recently. I tend to preorder my manga from DCBS and I only do monthly shipping so sometimes I’m waiting a little bit for newer volumes.
Cross Game Omnibus 1
Cardcaptor Sakura Omnibus 1
Dragon Girl Omnibus 1
20th Century Boys #11
VB Rose #10
Astral Project #1 (Decided to throw this in randomly during my last DCBS order)
I swapped for:
Duck Prince #1
Crown of Love #2
While I’m excited to read all of this, I’m probably most looking forward to the Dragon Girl Omnibus. I enjoyed Toru Fujieda’s Oyayubihime Infinity series a bunch, so I was excited to see that an additional series from her was licensed. What new manga are you looking forward to reading?
Jyu-Oh-Sei Volumes 2 and 3 by Natsumi Itsuki
I enjoyed the first couple volumes of Itsuki’s Demon Sacred so much, it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to read the rest of Jyu-Oh-Sei, her pulpy science fiction series that Tokyopop released in omnibus format. I read the first volume some time ago, but it was easy for me to pick up the threads of the story again when revisiting the jungle planet of Kimaera.
Jyu-Oh-Sei Volume 2
Young Thor has unexpectedly survived being marooned on the inhospitable planet, and he becomes more and more important within the tribal structure of the planet’s inhabitants with every fight he wins. The third in command of the Ochre ring (conveniently named Third) is convinced that Thor should rise in the ranks to become the ruler of the planet, the Beast King. Third sets up a manipulated challenge that leaves Thor injured but he survives and is now the Ochre Ring’s Top. The story fast forwards a few years, and Thor and his girl second Tiz are all grown up and super-hot. Thor’s held on to his position of authority but everyone is shaken up when the leader of the Blanc Ring goes on a fighting rampage. It turns out that the Blanc Ring Top is an old acquaintance of Thor’s – Zagi who guided Thor when he was first dropped off on the planet.
Thor is caught between Zagi and Third. Zagi’s brutality in battle is extreme, but he tells Thor that becoming Beast King is for suckers. All the previous Beast Kings are frozen in a space station, ruling over nothing. Third urges Thor to take control by becoming Beast King in order to make the planet better. Romantic complications are introduced when Thor falls in love with Zagi’s second, a striking woman named Karim. This does not go over well with Tiz, who is still determined to bear Thor’s children even though he tends to view her as a sister. The second volumes sets up both emotional angst and the growing suspicion that the society on Kimaera might be engineered and controlled in a way that the natives don’t suspect. Many people are invested in Thor’s ability to lead, but why is he being singled out so much?
Jyu-Oh-Sei Volume 3
The first volume of Jyu-Oh-Sei felt like it was laying the foundation for Itsuki’s unique world. The planet itself was its own character, with the unique vegetation threatening human existence wherever Thor went. The second volume built more on the societal and emotional aspects of Kimaera, with Thor finally being portrayed as a grown-up instead of a lost boy. The concluding volume shifted into action movie territory, with surprising revelations about Thor’s own nature and a race against time to save the planet of the Beast King. I won’t go into the details too much to avoid spoiling the story, but after finishing this volume I had a renewed appreciation for Itsuki’s world building. Thor finds out the truth behind his adopted planet and confronts the people who had his parents murdered long ago. He then has to lead a small group of people in an attempt to save the planet from a desperate act. The structure of the final act of the story is circular, as the strange vegetation on the planet yet again plays a prominent role in the story.
I can see how this manga might not appeal to readers who don’t appreciate a healthy amount of exposition in their science fiction books. I liked seeing how Itsuki layered her story elements and carefully plotted out the details of her unique world. While I thoroughly enjoyed Jyu-Oh-Sei, it does lack the wackiness that causes me to look forward to the next volumes of Demon Sacred with so much affection. Jyu-Oh-Sei goes on a very short list of thoughtful science fiction manga that I wouldn’t hesitate to anyone looking for manga that features stories about the future of humanity. It has much more depth than the typical sci-fi manga, and I’d rank it up with Planetes as a favorite of the genre.
So I assume that the big news that Viz Media was hinting about on twitter is the release of the Viz iPad App. The app lets you download some of Viz’s popular Shonen Jump titles like Bleach, Dragonball, One Piece, and Naruto. The first volume of Death Note is free for a limited time, and free sample chapters are also available.
It looks a lot like a skinned Comixology app to me, so similar that I was surprised Comixology wasn’t mentioned in the Publisher’s Weekly article. But maybe Viz just created a very similar app. I quickly downloaded Death Note. The reading experience is exactly what you’d expect if you’ve already been reading comics on the iPad. You can turn pages by swiping your finger in the direction you want to go, and it is easy to zoom in on the art.
What I’m curious about is the selection of titles that will ultimately be available. I’m probably not the main type of consumer Viz is going for, but I’d love to see some of the series in Viz’s back catalog be made available electronically. I’d totally buy some of Viz’s older shoujo series like Please Save My Earth or Kare First Love if they were made available electronically. I have so much manga in the house, having electronic copies would be one way to catch up on some of the series that I’ve missed reading before and I wouldn’t have to worry about my continually overburdened bookshelves. Also, I would likely sample some of the shonen series that I’ve dropped if some of the more recent volumes were available. $4.99 per volume seems like a decent price point. I’ll be checking out this app to see what happens when more titles are available.
Bakuman Volumes 1 and 2 by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
This is another series I’d steered clear of initially, because even though I enjoyed Death Note despite the narrative shortcomings towards the end of the series, I wasn’t sure how interesting I’d find manga about manga to be. I also read some reviews that charged the series with sexism, so I was avoid the series for that reason as well. I found the first two volumes of Bakuman entertaining, and the sexism in the series seems like an accurate reflection of the attitudes of its protagonists – aspiring manga creators and schoolboys Moritaka Mashiro and Akito Takagi.
Bakuman Volume 1
Mashiro is crushing on the coolest girl in his class, Azuki. He practices his drawing skills by sketching her portrait in his school notebook. When he leaves his notebook at school he rushes back to make sure no one will find out the secret of his drawing habit and his crush. He’s confronted by Akito Takagi, a boy who sits in the back of the classroom and prides himself on his observational powers. Takagi proposes a partnership: he’ll write stories and Mashiro will provide the drawings. They will become mangaka together. Mashiro loves drawing, but is reluctant to become a mangaka because his uncle used to be a professional who failed to build on the success of his initially popular gag series. He died broke and alone.
Takagi ends up forcing Masahiro to draw manga by dragging him to Azuki’s house and confessing their ambitions. Masahiro is so embarrassed, he randomly breaks out with a proposal of marriage, and she accepts on the condition that they marry after they’ve fulfilled their dreams. This ends up being somewhat convenient in a narrative sense, because Azuki ends up being a character that Masahiro can just use as a muse. She isn’t given much of a personality compared to her male counterparts.
I can see why people are criticizing Bakuman for being sexist, but the elements that someone would use to make that critique didn’t really bother me because they seemed to fit with the point of view of young Japanese teenage boys. Takagi makes a long speech about how clever Azuki is because she dedicates herself to being the perfect girl. Her grades aren’t too good. She has a socially acceptable goal of becoming a voice actress. She doesn’t act too stuck up, and she’s mediocre enough not to stand out so she doesn’t inspire jealousy in the other girls. Takagi attributes her behavior to careful calculation. This type of speech seems just like the type of thing a 14 year old boy with ambitions of becoming a writer would say.
Bakuman Volume 2
Seeing how Mashiro and Takagi evolve their ambitions and refine their approach to making manga was fascinating. I always knew manga polls in magazines were significant, but seeing the way the boys discuss the type of story they need to produce in order to get the poll numbers they need made me realize how much the creation of a successful series can be a numbers game. Mashiro and Takagi have a more cerebral, offbeat approach to the stories they create, while their prodigious rival Nizuma seems to be creating the straight-up action series that fans of Naurto would adore.
There were plot elements in Bakuman that seemed to make things just a little too easy. Takagi’s family has held on to his uncle’s studio and gives him access when he announces that he’s going to follow his dream. It turns out that Azuki’s mother was actually the long-lost love of Takagi’s uncle too. Azuki and Takagi agree to wait for each other while pursuing their respective dreams, freeing her up to be an objectified object of affection with the eventual couple only cheering each other on mostly through text messages. The genius fifteen year old manga creator Nizuma and the way he inspires the heros of the story to work harder seems more than a little reminiscent of the relationships between L, Mello, and Near in Death Note.
While all the details about manga creation were interesting, there was a slightly didactic or textbook-like quality to all the exposition. While I enjoyed reading Bakuman, I don’t think it would be the type of series I’d read over and over again. I put these volumes down with a renewed appreciation for Obata’s art. He makes playing Go look dynamic and filled with action, and similarly he makes the process of creating manga look gripping. I put these volumes down with an appreciation for the creative process and the business behind manga. It was interesting to see how Mashiro and Takagi started to revise their work after being taken under the wing of an editor. Seeing how difficult it is to even get a story published in the first place makes me appreciate manga creators even more. Bakuman isn’t a perfect work by any means, but I did feel like I got a lot out of reading it. I’d recommend this title for anyone who is curious about the process of manga creation.
Review copy of volume 2 provided by the publisher.
I thought I’d celebrate moving into my new digs over here at Manga Report and do a manga giveaway. I’m going to give away to one reader:
A Tale of an Unknown Country #1
Butterflies, Flowers #4
To enter, just leave a comment on this post with the name of your favorite manga heroine. I’ll select a winner at random on Nov 11. You must be 18 to enter.
Today’s Saturday morning cartoon is the opening sequence of Princess Jellyfish, a new anime that Funimation just started streaming. The characters are shown reenacting scenes from classic movies like Star Wars, Mary Poppins, James Bond, and The Graduate.
Ordinarily I don’t automatically tend to go for stories about female otaku, but Princess Jellyfish is very cute. Tsukumi from the first moment her mother took her to visit an aquarium. She moves to Tokyo to become an illustrator and moves into a shared apartment house owned by a shut-in manga creator who only communicates through papers shoved through her door. “The Sisterhood” that lives in the house are all made up of female otaku. One loves trains, one loves Kimono, there’s a woman obsessed with martial arts and the Chinese classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms. When a beautiful woman helps Tsukumi take home a jellyfish that is being mistreated by an ignorant aquarium owner, Tsukumi discovers that her unwanted new friend is actually a cross dresser.
Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales Volume 1 by Melissa Marr and Xian Nu Studio
There have been quite a few manga style adaptions of young adult books. I find the idea of reading original side stories set in an author’s universe more interesting than reading a manga adaptation of what I’ve already read. I’ve read the first three books in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series and mostly enjoyed them, although the third book teetered on the edge of being a little too emo for my taste. I wrote about Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange over on the Bureau Chiefs site. Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales features characters from the main books, but the focus is on a new character named Rika.
The Wicked Lovely series is an urban paranormal fantasy series. Keenan, the Summer King of the fairies has been on the hunt for his Summer Queen for centuries. He chooses his queen candidates from mortal girls. There’s a test they have to pass – if they grasp the staff of the Winter Queen and survive the ice, they’re his destined mate. If not, they’re iced over and turn into the Winter Queen, the Summer King’s most hated enemy. Rika is a mortal girl turned fairie by her experience being forced to serve as Winter Queen. She’s taken refuge in the desert, far away from Keenan. Her main distraction is watching a mortal boy – an artist and rock climber named Jayce.
Rika is careful to observe the usual fairy rules about contact with mortals and keeps herself carefully invisible. But the wild desert fey threaten Jayce and she intervenes in order to keep him from being injured. Jayce is mystified at the sudden appearance of a beautiful girl, and they have an awkward first date which consists of them wandering around a nearby town while Rika tries to fight off invisible assailants. Her one local ally is a faerie named Sionnach who seems to be pushing Rika towards the mortal for reasons of his own.
Melissa Marr excels at writing about romance in the initial attraction stage. Jayce and Rika meet, she bandages him up, and as they start talking to each other they share their interests in art and the desert landscape. The character designs fit with the slightly punked out sensibility of the Wicked Lovely books. Rika has pale eyelashes and a choppy bob, providing a contrast to Jayce’s dark skin and dreadlocks. The mischievous desert fey that harass the budding couple are drawn with lines of sand scattered across their skin. I found the story a little more interesting than the art, and there were a couple places in the book where I wished for better transitions between panels or across pages.
I think that fans of the Wicked Lovely series will enjoy this book. I’m not entirely sure how accessible it would be to someone who isn’t already familiar with Melissa Marr’s world. I found reading this manga to be a bit of a relief after Ink Exchange. The love triangle in the main series with Seth, Aislinn, and Keenan has just gotten a little bleak and depressing so I enjoyed being able to visit the Wicked Lovely world with some fresh characters who aren’t bogged down with the continuity in the main series. There are two additional volumes in the Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales manga series, the concluding volume comes out in February.
Japanese publishers tend to shy away of digital distribution, so I’m finding the case of Shuto Sato‘s Say Hello to Black Jack really interesting. I was interested to see the notice at Anime News Network that he’s seeking English translators for his online comics site. Sato disclosed financial numbers for what he was making as a mangaka before switching to online distribution. I’ll be curious to read an authorized English translation of Say Hello to Black Jack when it becomes available.
Here’s some links for more information about Sato and Say Hello to Black Jack: