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Posts Tagged Shoujo

Year In Review: Lissa’s Favourites of 2011

Lissa’s Favourites of 2011

There are no shortage of ‘Best Of’ lists this time of year. While I like popping around to different peoples’ sites and seeing what they thought, it’s a bit of a frustration that I can’t seem to write one myself. How people choose a solid list containing five or ten favourites, from across different genres and subject matters, is just something I can’t seem to muster the brain power for. Not enough conviction I suppose? There’s just so much to love!

But I can’t overlook the perfect chance to look back at all the great titles a year had to offer and 2011 had some really fantastic ones. So then where is this going, oh rambling one, you ask? My semi-traditional equivalent to the yearly best of – the random Lissa’s favourites and best-ofs list! Which really just means you get a lot more titles broken into a lot more categories so I can remain a lot more loving to a lot more series. And in some cases not so loving… From the Best Release Quality to the Favourite Fan Service and even to the most Gag Worthy – here are a bunch of my favourite titles from 2011!

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Year in Review: Victoria’s Top 5 Best Manga of 2011

Victoria's Top 5 Manga of 2011

So it’s that time of year again. Yes, the “everyone makes lists about the best/worst things of the year.” And you know what? I love it. Yes, love it. And so, I decided to put together my own list of my top five best manga of 2011.

To be eligible for this list, all a series had to do was have one book this year that I have read. Some (most actually) began in earlier years but they were the titles I looked forward to reading the most in these last twelve months. And so, without further ado, here are my top picks of the year.

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Review: Dawn of the Arcana (Vol. 01)

Dawn of the Arcana (Vol. 01)

Manga-ka: Rei Toma
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: December 2011

Synopsis: “Princess Nakaba of Senan is forced to marry Prince Caesar of the enemy country Belquat, tantamount to becoming a hostage. While Caesar is pleasing to the eye, he is also selfish and possessive, telling Nakaba outright: “You are my property.” With only her attendant Loki at her side, Nakaba must find a way to cope with her hostile surroundings, her fake marriage… and a mysterious power!”

When a ‘red-hair’ Princess is forced to marry the Prince from a neighbouring country in a bout of political play, Nakaba finds herself in unwelcoming territory of her country’s opposing nation. With her dependable friend and servant, Loki, at her side, Nakaba must maintain her native-country pride and survive. Determined as she may be, however, her efforts to stand firm are marred by a story that pits her against genre-trope odds to disappointing result.

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Review: Arisa (Vol. 05)

Arisa (Vol. 05)

Manga-ka: Natsumi Ando
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: November 2011

Synopsis: “Twin sisters, Arisa and Tsubasa, are separated by their parent’s divorce. But, after her sister’s suicide attempt, Tsubasa is determined to go undercover and unravel the conspiracy behind the elusive King. But, right now, the King’s wish granting abilities may have fallen into the wrong hands…. and the results may prove to be deadly to Tsubasa and Class 2B!”

I’d never found DelRey’s cover synopsis writing useful for determining what to expect in a particular volume. It’s one of the more frustrating attributes carried over to Kodansha Comics. Take this volume’s description, for example, which could be stuck on the back of almost any of the series’ books. Sure it keeps things vague for those who may not have read volumes one to four, but I think each subsequent book should really be for the readers reading them – don’t you? Class trips, stolen phones, a paralysed student, and Manabe’s past all await us in volume five of Arisa.

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Review: Otomen (Vol. 11)

Otomen (Vol. 11)

Manga-ka: Aya Kanno
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: August 2011

Synopsis: “Asuka engages in a battle with Suzuki Oji to see who will get the most Valentine’s Day chocolates! As Oji seduces girls left and right into giving him chocolates, Asuka wonders one thing – who will Ryo give her chocolates to?”

The opening chapter in this volume of Otomen finishes off the plot started in the previous, allowing us a fun second look at the cast dressed up as geisha and samurai. Seeing Asuka given a chance to really show off his decorative and cooking skills in front of his peers is refreshing, though it does feel a little sudden despite the fact he’s been revealing this side of himself more and more for eleven volumes. Changes are happening though and there’s only one more volume left to wrap it all up.

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Review: Butterflies, Flowers (Vol. 07)

Butterflies, Flowers (Vol. 07)

Manga-ka: Yuki Yoshihara
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: June 2011

Synopsis: “Choko Kuze is in a relationship with Masayuki Domoto her current boss and former servant. Now that Masayuki’s ex-girlfriend Kaori has returned, Choko worries that the villianess has too many “hit points” and “magic points” for her to defeat. Choko follows Masayuki and Kaori to a hotel room and barges in unannounced, yet finds herself unprepared for the shocking scene in front of her.”

Butterflies, Flowers volumes have consistently been one of my most-anticipated since the series began. Despite some iffy aspects of an initially one-sided relationship, I fell in love with the adult humour. Anime-related puns, sexual gags and an over-the-top male lead who never failed to react in a way that had you reeling. Now we’re seven volumes in and… I’m not really laughing anymore.

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Review: Black Bird (Vol. 08)

Black Bird (Vol. 08)
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Manga-ka: Kanoko Sakurakoji
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: May 2011

Synopsis: “Raiko, the demon hunter who has been staying at Misao’s house, is determined to save her–even if that’s the last thing she wants! Kyo won’t allow a threat to Misao to go unchecked and plans to take care of the problem in his own special way. Misao, however, hopes that she can broker a peace between Raiko and Kyo before things get out of hand. But when Raiko’s attempts to “free” Misao fail, he hatches a devious new plan that will use Misao’s bond with Kyo to destroy him!”

Raiko has become one of the biggest obstacles in Black Bird as the demons remain rightfully wary of him. Meanwhile Misao struggles to live calmly under the same roof as someone who wants to kill her boyfriend. At this point in the story we’re just waiting for the obvious and this volume feels like one of the most cliched and predictable of the batch. It still manages to wring out some drama but you need to suspend a lot of belief and try to enjoy the show despite easily guessing much of what’s going to happen next.

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Review: Sakura Hime (Vol. 01)

Sakura Hime (Vol. 01)
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Manga-ka: Arina Tanemura
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: April 2011

Synopsis: “Sakura is the granddaughter of a mysterious moon princess who slew demons with her Blood Cherry Blossom sword. All her life Sakura has been forbidden to look at the full moon without knowing why. Then one night, unhappy over her impending marriage, Sakura gazes up at the moon, only to see a demon attacking her…”

Sakura Hime is one of the most confused books I’ve ever read. Not confusing – it’s linearity is fairly simple to follow – but confused in how it hops around between genres and moods so suddenly. While the story opens with a feudal-Japan love story, things take some surprisingly bleak twists that take things into the territory of dark magical girl stories complete with a Moon Princess, demons and ninjas.

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Swag Bag Special: L’édition Française

Swag Bag - BL en Francais!

It’s a special edition of Swag Bag today that may very well be the first of many. Just after I got back from TCAF, I received my first shipment of French-translated manga which I ordered through Amazon.ca. While my French is a little rusty, I was blown away by the selection the French manga market offered and had to try ordering some, especially when they have a number of the series that Tokyopop’s demise left hanging. Now with the books in hand, I’m equally impressed by the quality of the books themselves.

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Review: Oresama Teacher (Vol. 01)

Oresama Teacher (Vol. 01)

Manga-ka: Izumi Tsubaki
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: March 2011

Synopsis: “Mafuyu is the no-nonsense, take-charge and hard-hitting leader of her high school gang. But when she gets expelled for being a delinquent, her mother, fed up with her daughter’s wayward ways, sends Mafuyu to an isolated school far off in the country. Determined to make the best of the situation and make her mother proud, Mafuyu decides to turn over a new, feminine, well-behaved leaf. But her fighting spirit can’t be kept down, and the night before school starts she finds herself defending some guy who’s getting beaten up. One slip wouldn’t have been a problem, except the guy is…her teacher?! How can Mafuyu learn to be a good girl if her teacher won’t let her forget her wicked past?”

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that manga is rarely the result of one person’s talent and hard work, that there is in fact a fleet of people (assistants, editors, publishers) who work with the manga-ka to create the final product. This is clear in Oresama Teacher volume one, a manga that has an editor’s fingerprints all over it. While there are lots of funny moments in this volume, overall the work feels like it’s being pulled too hard in different directions as the manga-ka and her editors try out different approaches and ideas. It comes off as a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.

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