Monday, November 16, 2009

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 11/14

First comes the general disclaimer: these are the books that arrived in the mail last week. I intend to read many of them, but I haven't read any of them yet. (And, this week, I've barely even glanced at any of them.) So this is not a "review" in any real sense of the word: it's a collection of first thoughts and unformed prejudices about some books that I don't know much about. Please do not read too much into it.

Second is the specific disclaimer: I'm currently in San Francisco, twenty-five hundred miles away from this pile of books on my desk. I did scribble down the titles and authors before I ran off on this trip, but that's it. So this week's post, like last week's, will be a work in progress -- right now, there will be only that most minimal information, then (at some point) Amazon links and cover images will appear, and at some other point (perhaps earlier, perhaps later), comments on the items will also blossom.

Yes, it's a pretty useless post at this point. But what do you expect from a blogger, anyway?

(I will note that nearly all of these are manga this time around, with big packages from Yen Press and Tokyopop, and then two non-manga graphic novels at the end. It was not a good week, at least in my mailbox, for plain prose.)

Update: Well, it's now Saturday night, so if I don't update this post now, it'll be abandoned forever. So here's a quick once-over.

Yokaiden 2 by Nina Matsumoto -- I reviewed the first volume of this manga-style-and-format series by an American last year for ComicMix, and this is the inevitable follow-up. (It's from Del Rey Manga, and published this month.)

The next bunch are all from Tokyopop, and all are publishing in December:

Madness, Vol. 1 by Kairi Shimotsuki -- a SFnal yaoi series in which the violence and the overwrought emotions seem to be of equal importance. It looks a lot more boyish in its style and violence than the yaoi I've seen, making me wonder if it's more for tough girls or gay men.

.hack//Alcor by Amou Kanami and Izumibara Rena -- I gather that this is a side story from .hack (which I've never read), but the back-cover copy is deeply opaque, and I suspect this is not terribly new-reader friendly.

World of Warcraft: Death Knight, story by by Dan Jolley and art by Rocio Zucchi -- it's a tie-in to the popular online game, telling the backstory of the renegade death knight Thassarian -- and only you can tell if you know (or care) who Thassarian is, and only those who already know will care.

D.N.Angel, Vol. 13 by Yukiru Sugisaki -- Here in volume 13, "the time has come for Satoshi to reveal to Daisuke the history behind the Hikari/Niwa curse," sayeth the back cover. It's never too soon to explain a family curse (is what I always say), so I'm mildly unhappy that it took S. this long. But I have no idea who these people are, or what the curse entails, so I'll just purse my lips distractedly and move on.

This Ugly Yet Beautiful World, Vol. 1
D.N.Angel, Vol. 13
by Ashita Morimi -- Oddly, this is rated M (for mature) even though it seems to primarily be an adventure story for tween boys (and about tween boys). Well, I could be underestimating their ages -- this is manga, after all, where everyone either looks 12 or 137 -- but they're clearly school-aged boys. But there's nudity in here along with the young-eyes-friend art style -- and the back cover promises "explicit sexuality and fanservice," as well -- so this may be another example of How Japan Is Different. Since it's a beginning, I'm putting it on the pile to be read, so I hope to report on that Difference eventually.

Maria Holic, Vol. 2 by Minari Enou -- This one looks pretty weird -- maybe weird enough for me to read it. It seems to be a comedy about two roommates at a strict religious school for girls -- one lesbian and one cross-dressing boy. (And there's a good joke about the Virtual Boy on the first page.) The title doesn't make sense to me, but perhaps it becomes clear in context.

.hack//Legend of the Twilight: The Complete Collection omnibus by Rei Idumo and Tatsuya Hamazaki -- Again, I have to admit that I don't know anything about .hack. But this is an omnibus of a complete story, so I'll try to find time to look at it. It also says that it's suitable for teens, so I may get my older son's take on it (since he reads a lot of manga, and the getting-to-be-a-powerful-character-in-a-video-game-world plot will greatly appeal to him).

And this next batch -- most of the rest of this week's list, actually -- is all from Yen Press, also in December:

Yotsuba&!, Vol. 7 by Kiyohiko Azuma -- I reviewed the first volume here, and pondered a couple of later volumes in various places as well. The little girl at the center of the plot still seems too aggressively unknowledgable about everything, but I've come to believe that she's just meant to be an energetic, inquisitive kid, and I'll chalk the exaggeration to cultural differences. There's a decent-sized Yotsuba cult, who were depressed when ADV Manga punted on the series after the first five volumes.

Raiders, Vol. 1 by JinJun Park -- A Korean manwha that looks to take the usual somebody-else's-culture liberties with its subject matter in the aim of telling an exciting adventure story. But that many offend some (easily offended and overly stuffed) Westerners, since the maguffin here is the one and only Holy Grail (so is the title a sly Indiana Jones reference?), which eventually makes our young hero immortal and which also seems to have created a group of zombie-like "undead cannibals."

Pandora Hearts, Vol. 1 by Jun Mochizuki -- Well, there's a boy named Oz (perhaps the scion of a wealthy house) and a girl named Alice (who befriends him when he's thrown in the interdimensional prison the Abyss and who "is not what she seems," though we're not told what she or or what she seems), and the possibility of "crushing despair." Using my old rough-and-ready two-value theory of manga -- books about fighting things are for boys; ones about emotions are for girls -- I tentatively name thee shojo.

Ichiroh!, Vol. 2 by Mikage -- I reviewed the first volume of this cram-school comedy, so I'll direct you there for further details.

Pig Bride, Vol. 3 by KookHwa Huh and SuJim Kim -- Again, this is one where I reviewed the first book, so look there for more details of this fabulist Korean romance/adventure story.

Cynical Orange, Vol. 9 by Yun JiUn -- The final volume of a series I've never read but whose title has been a source of amusement to me for the past few years. It's more romance comics, presumably with a final happy ending this time.

Comic, Vol. 8 by Ha SiHyun -- A relationship Korean comic, set -- as I recall -- in the world of manwha artists. I haven't read any of them, I'm afraid.

Spice and Wolf, Vol. 1 by Isuna Hasekura -- This is a light novel, and is the first prose publication under the Yen imprint (unless I missed something.) It's illustrated by Jyuu Ayakura, and is a medieval story of an itinerant peddler -- the kind that only exists in fiction -- and the wolf goddess who befriends him. It does have a big "Volume 1" on the spine, so expect more of the same.

One Thousand and One Nights, Vol. 9 by Han SeungHee and Jeon JinSeok -- Another late book in a series I haven't read. This one seems to be Arabian Nights-inspired (though possibly futuristic) and romance-driven (with possibly a hint of yaoi).

Moon Boy, Vol. 7 by Lee YoungYou -- Yes, once again it's a late book in a series unknown to me, with a sea of unfamiliar names on the back cover. It's Korean, and -- as I recall from looking at previous volumes -- it's about the supernatural battle between "Foxes" and "Rabbits" over the Earth, and possibly other places.

Time and Again, Vol. 1 by JiUn Yun -- Two wandering exorcists travel Japan -- probably in some particular past era, but the back cover doesn't specify -- to ply their trade.

Azumanga Daioh Omnibus by Kiyohiko Azuma -- a massive volume collecting the entire 4-panel comedy series about a group of highschool friends. This was the first series -- well, the first one I heard of, and I believe the first to be translated into English -- of Azuma, the creator of Yotsuba&!. It's also pretty popular, from what I've seen.

And now we finally come out of the forests of manga and into the plains of Western comics...

The Year of Loving Dangerously by Ted Rall and Pablo G. Callejo -- In 1984, Ted Rall was evicted from his Columbia apartment, and found himself homeless, jobless, and at loose ends. This is the story of what happened next, drawn by Bluesman artist Callejo. (The focus, as you might guess from the title, is on the women Rall slept with, in large part to have a bed for the night. Ah, the '80s!) Loving Dangerously will be published in December by NBM.

Graphic Classics: Louisa May Alcott -- and last for this week is the latest in the Graphic Classics series, edited as always by Tom Pomplun. Alcott seems an odd choice for the series -- which has mostly focused on boy- and comic-shop-friendly writers like Twain, Poe, and Lovecraft -- but I'll take it as a sign that these books are being picked up by teachers and other markets outside the usual insular Wednesday-comics world. Some of the people with work in this one are Trina Robbins, Molly Crabapple, Mary Fleener, and Shary Flenniken (whom I haven't seen anything by in a decade -- and her Trots and Bonnie strip was amazingly wonderful). This one should be hitting retailers within the next couple of weeks.

For those of you who are obsessive, check back often for updates to this post. For the other 99.995% of the human race, next week should see me back on a normal schedule.
Listening to: My First Earthquake - Meat Pies
via FoxyTunes

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