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Author Archive for Andre Paploo

Review: Raiders (Vol. 08)

Raiders (Vol. 08)

Manhwa-ga: JinJun Park
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: October 2012

Synopsis: “Chris succeeds in getting the information he needs about Crossline from Area 51, but he is trapped in an underground bunker when an EMP shuts down its electrical systems. While he struggles to escape before the oxygen runs out, Irel and Lamia dive deeper into their search of the Blood of Christ… but the answer they have been looking for might not bring the results they’d hoped.”

JinJun Park’s Raiders has reached its penultimate chapter, giving to readers a parcel that continues its mix of glossy action, impeccable line work and wacky religious plot lines. Combining Christian mythology with all manner of undead creatures and conspiracy-theory madness, Park’s Raiders is still a fairly light and fun action series that occasionally cuts a bit deeper than its polished surface. It’s been awhile since I last visited Irel and Lamia, but their mission to solve their undead reality continues to be a fascinating journey. Moving her pawns into their assorted places, Parker delivers an action packed volume that reveals more of what has caused this story’s world to be full of crazed would-be messiahs.

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Review: Heroman (Vol. 01)

Heroman (Vol. 01)

Author: Stan Lee / BONES
Manga-ka: Tamon Ohta
Publisher: Vertical Inc
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: October 2012

Synopsis: “Orphaned American teen Joseph Carter Jones, aka Joey, lives with his grandmother in Central City, Los Angeles. When he’s not in class you can generally find him working diligently at a diner to help make ends meet at home. Upon hearing of a new toy robot called the Heybo, Joey becomes set on the idea that acquiring one will change his for the better. Unfortunately, he cannot afford to buy the machine on his meager salary. His luck changes when he picks up a broken-down Heybo abandoned by a school bully. In Joey’s eyes this used bot could be a source of strength. It could turn him into a hero for (cheerleader) Lina and his school… if he can make it work.”

Stan Lee is a cherished comics creator, and even in his old age is still a great showman and astute business man. While lending his name and conceptual ideas to numerous properties this past decade, his efforts have recently extended to Japan. It’s resulted in a few major media properties that have made their way back to the USA. Vertical’s licensing efforts have in turn resulted in bringing one of these, Heroman, to domestic readers. With an amicable style, and an inviting presentation, Heroman presents itself as an excellent series that will serve well as both a great introduction to manga for new readers brought in by Lee’s name and a great series for long time fans bored with the tropes of other shonen series. Tamon Ohta elevates Lee’s concepts to match the promise of such a collaboration. Heroman is a solid read that’s easily recommendable.

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Review: Blood Blockade Battlefront (Vol. 03)

Blood Blockade Battlefront (Vol. 03)

Manga-ka: Yasushiro Nightow
Publisher: Dark Horse
Rating: Older Teen (13+)
Release Date: November 2012

Synopsis: “Traffic in New York has never been a picnic, but with the Big Apple destroyed and rebuilt as the dimensional-gate madhouse known as Jerusalem’s Lot, gridlock is a little more complicated. When the city’s forty million jailed paranormal criminals are about to be set loose by a monster truck – literally, a monster truck – the superagents of Libra may have to contend with a rush hour of apocalyptic proportions!”

Continuing his visually exciting visit to Jerusalem’s Lot, Yashuhiro Nightow brings us another actionpacked volume of Blood Blockade Battlefront. Filled with memorable characters and a cheerful attitude, one finds themselves having a fantastic time as Lovecraftian monsters cascade about them, populating the bars, tourist traps and houses of illrepute that make up the remains of New York City. The previous two volumes were quick, fun reads, and this third one delivers more of the same as Leonard Watch goes about his everyday life as a member of a super awesome secretive organization that uses blood-based fighting styles as a weapon against rogue demons. If that last sentence made any sense to you, or if you don’t care if it did because it sounds awesome, this may be the manga for you!

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Review: The Limit (Vol. 01)

The Limit (Vol. 01)

Manga-ka: Keiko Suenobu
Publisher: Vertical Inc
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: October 2012

Synopsis: “Mizuki Konno is your typical high school junior at Yanno Prefectural High School. Like many teens her age, she is studying hard for college and when she has some downtime she likes to fuss over fashion and make-up. While she may not be one of the class elites, Mizuki is fortunate to be on the right side of her class’s idols. But that might not settle well with those who are in a similar academic status but not so lucky with their social lives.

Mizuki has determined in her diary who is a “have” and who is a “have not.” The diary is discovered before a class fieldtrip and tensions are now at new heights. Fights may soon break out – and ironically they will come from those “meek and helpless” figures who supposedly have no friends or future. But all this is supplanted when tragedy strikes in the form of a traffic accident and the class is split into two new groups: the living and the dead!”

The Limit is an unsettling and disturbing shoujo manga that looks past the sparkling wonderland of fashionable gals and pretty boys. It takes a cruel, hard look at high school life without the gloss normally painted over it in most manga. The story is told from the perspective of a seemingly cute, peppy girl named Konno, but even before the tragic incident that fuels the plot, one is given a feeling of the fierce hierarchy these girls live in. After a horrific bus accident, the survivors are left stranded in the wilderness, with nary a magical fairy or giant robot in sight.

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Review: Dorohedoro (Vol. 04)

Dorohedoro (Vol. 04)

Manga-ka: Q Hayashida
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: August 2011

Synopsis: “Caiman and Nikaido return to the Hole, where Doc and Kasukabe manage to cure Nikaido of her deadly fungal affliction, but a prowler outside Central Hospital is watching and waiting for an opportunity to steal her away. Fujita returns to the Hole to finally kill Caiman himself. He gets close when he’s recruited for a baseball match between Central Hospital and Hole Peace Hospital, but his plans change when he spots an old friend. Meanwhile, in the Sorcerer’s dimension, a little accident transforms Noi into a hideous monster. It’s up to Shin to stop her before she kills everyone.”

Dorohedoro remains a wonderful mixture of delightful humour and ultra violence. It’s one of the best series of the past year and more fans need to be checking out. The franchise continues to counter your expectations as the entire cast indulges in a game of baseball, gives use insight into Shin and Noi’s pasts, and divulges more revelations as we learn about Caiman and Nikaido‘s respective ties to the Sorceror‘s realm. Meanwhile, horrible things continue to occur to Ebisu… or rather because of Ebisu in this volume.

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Review: Bamboo Blade (Vol. 11)

Bamboo Blade (Vol. 11)

Author: Masashiro Totsuka
Manga-ka: Aguri Igarashi
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: December 2011

Synopsis: “Up-and-coming TV personality Ryouko Toda is an ambitious young woman who’s willing to use any means necessary to claw her way to the top. For Ryouko, image is key, but it’s tough for this cutthroat celebrity to maintain her cool on-screen persona when she’s forced to appear alongside ditzy costar Erina Sawamiya on Burnish Academy, where silly, simple Erina manges to best Ryouko in every single sport! To defeat Erina in sports and in the ratings game, Ryouko must call upon her skills not as an actress, but as a master of the kendo ring!”

It’s been awhile since I checked into the cast of Bamboo Blade. This later volume in the series continues its fun mix of slapstick comedy, realistic sports and deadpan characters. As the primary cast and Kojiro do their best to continue improving at Kendo, the story shifts onto some new characters, with much of the volume satirizing the idol system that Japanese pop-culture centers on.

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Review: Taro and the Magic Pencil

Reviewer: Andre Paploo
Taro and the Magic Pencil

Manga-ka: Yukiya Sakuragi
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: All Ages
Release Date: November 2010

Synopsis: “Before the day his comic book drawings came to life, Taro was an ordinary boy. Now his characters are in danger and it’s up to him to save them! With the flick of a magic pencil, Taro transforms into Terry (a terrier) and enters his comic book world. The adventures ahead are more amazing than anything he ever imagined.”

Children’s manga has only recently started to trickle into the domestic market, with VIZ and Udon each offering a clutch of Japanese titles tailored to this growing segment in the graphic novel market. While there has been lots of manga targeting younger fans like the Shonen Jump line, what struck me as interesting about this range of titles is that they are aimed at early readers. Taro and the Magic Pencil takes this a step further than other all-ages manga in serving as a bridge between children’s story books and comics, similar in the approach of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underwear books, if for a slightly younger audience.

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Review: Raiders (Vol. 04)

Reviewer: Andre Paploo
Raiders (Vol. 04)

Manhwa-ga: JinJun Park
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: November 2010

Synopsis: “Irel and Lamia are back on the hunt for the chrism bottles – that is, until Lamia decides that it’s time to part ways. Memories of a solitary past have given her cause to keep her distance from humans, but is she really prepared to go it alone? Meanwhile, Detective Chris’s conspiracy theories lead him to the heart of a secret society called “Crossline.” Can their leader, Ian, truly be who he claims?”

Rolling in with another volume of insane, fast-paced action, mildly incoherent conspiracy theories and zombies created by the blood of religious icons, JinJun Park’s Raiders offers more of the same thrills. Slightly held back by poor reproduction choices, it never the less offers a decent mix of art, though might not be suitable to mass market tastes.

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Review: Inubaka – Crazy for Dogs (Vol. 16)

Reviewer: Andre
Inubaka (Vol. 16)

Manga-ka: Yukiya Sakuragi
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: July 2010

Synopsis: “Woofles regular Chizuru advises her friend Serina, who is contemplating motherhood, to try looking after a dog first. Can Chizuru’s dog Melon and a new puppy convince Serina that their affection and cuteness are worth the aggravation?”

Pet manga is a popular genre of manga in Japan that has become a noticeable presence in the domestic fandom with the bestselling Chi‘s Sweet Home, and this long-running series from VIZ. It follows in the path of series like Ginga Legend Weed, Hamtaro, Bow Wow Wata and What‘s Michael. The longest running of these titles, Inubaka is an adorable entry in the brand, originating out of a seinen magazine as Chi’s Sweet Home did, reassuring us manga readers that we are never too old to gush over doggies. And if there’s one thing Inubaka delivers on, it’s a never ending assortment of dogs!

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Review: Natsume’s Book of Friends (Vol. 04)

Reviewer: Andre
Natsume's Book of Friends (Vol. 04)

Manga-ka: Yuki Midorikawa
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: October 2010

Synopsis: “Takashi’s quiet afternoon in the forest is disrupted when an angry spirit tries to possess him. He manages to dodge the spiritual attack, but he can’t as easily avoid the yokai’s pleas for help. Now he’s tracking down an escaped evil spirit that threatens the life of the forest. But he’s still learning that yokai never tell the whole truth, and the secrets spirits keep spell trouble for him!”

Yuki Midorikawa returns with yet another volume of Natsume’s Book of Friends, taking us back to the enchanting bittersweet realm of a boy haunted by Yokai due to his grandmother’s strange childhood hobby. Takashi’s grandmother Reiko Natsume made many enemies by enslaving yokai with her magical book of the work’s title, and this volume continues his encounters with the supernatural, and search for the comforts of a happy family life and friendships. With excellent art and characterization, Midorikawa creates a wonderful manga supported by VIZ’s strong production values.

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