MANGA MONDAY: Classmates「complete series review」

This week a week of love, so let’s talk real romance!

For today’s Manga Monday I read the complete three-volume series, Classmates, by Nakamura Asumiko and really enjoyed them. The series follows Hikaru and Rihito’s relationship as it goes from friends to more. Hikaru first notices Rihito when his class is told they need to sing in a musical recital and takes it upon himself to tutor the shy boy. As the two start to grow closer – along with the graduation – things get more complicated and the two need to learn to think of each other as much as they think of themselves.

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Like come on, this art is perfection.

I loved the honesty in this series, the rawness and impulsivity of teenage boys. Hikaru and Rihito get mad over things that don’t make much sense and make up just as quickly as couples do when they’re sixteen. Even the art style, which is rough around the edges and raw in parts, really captures the exact tone of the story at every moment. It’s so hyper-stylized and it’s just stunning from cover to cover. Even the goofy little doodles between chapters that are mostly just Hikaru bothering Rihito are so cute, I fell in love with the two of them right away.

The only take away that I didn’t like was their teacher Hara-sen. He came off a bit overly pervy in my opinion, but the translated jokes where Hikaru called him “Hara-ssment” were so funny I died.

At only three volumes, Nakahara’s series is a good one to pick up and is really full of sweetness and light. Another good starting point for those looking for a good boy-love series.

REVIEW: Seven Days [Monday→Sunday]

To continue on my romance manga binge for the month of February, the series review of the week is Seven Days by Tachibana Venio and Takarai Rihito.

The edition published in English is a complete collection of the original two-volume series that follows upperclassman, Shino Yuzuru, and first-year, Seryo Toji, over their weeklong romance after Yuzuru asks Toji out on an impulsive whim. Toji is the school heartthrob who never has a girlfriend longer than a week, and Yuzuru is…well he’s an idiot in princely dress that the girls break up with once they get a look at his impulsive personality. Despite their flaws, the two boys seem perfect for each other but will they both come to the same conclusion once Sunday comes?

I really enjoyed this manga. It was a fast read and the art is absolutely stunning. Yuzuru made me laugh because of how dense he can be and Toji is a total babe. The story was paced wonderfully and I’m a sucker for a happy ending.

Reading this reminded me of how much I really enjoy fluffy boy-love manga and how comforting the nonchalance of the background characters is. So Yuzuru might be dating the most popular underclassman in the school? Cool beans. It’s just so nice to read these stories without a hint of homophobia or judgement and just bask in the cute, happy vibes.

Having read this while sick, it was a real pick-me-up and I would recommend to anyone looking for a softer yaoi manga to get into.

MANGA MONDAY: Full Moon「complete series review」

This February, I’m planning on exclusively romance manga for my #MangaMonday posts and I thought, what better way to start off this theme than to post about the series that started my obsession.

Full Moon by Tanemura Arina was the first every manga I read start to finish. I was 12 when I first borrowed it from a friend at summer camp and the weeb days began. The series follows Mitsuki, a young girl with a tumour in her throat that keeps her from her dreams of being a pop star. When two shinigami (gods of death) named Meroko and Takuto come to her and let her know she only has one year left, she convinces them to let her live her dream and transform her into a healthy 17-year-old singer so she has the chance.

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Takuto and Mitsuki are legit the cutest ever.

Full Moon is a beautiful story about love and passion and the things we are willing to do to make the world a happier place. Mitsuki is a sweet, innocent, caring little girl who only wants love and happiness but is willing to really work for it. And let’s be real, Takuto was the cutest manga boy I’d ever seen in my life at the time when I was reading and re-reading this series over and over again.

The elements of loss are also vital to this series and Tanemura captures the pain and the grief so beautifully as Mitsuki struggles with her own looming death on the horizon of her success as a pop star. Throw some of the most gorgeous, original artwork I’ve ever seen in my life, and there is nothing more to say about Full Moon.

The series originally ran from 2005 to 2006 and got a really lame anime adaptation (I, personally, love it, but I’m being honest when I say it is not good) so technically it’s an old classic at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was out of print these days but if you’re able to and want a sappy love story that will have you sobbing for the entirety of the last volume, I implore you to find it and read it and then email me immediately to yell about it.

MANGA MONDAY: Naruto 1-4

For today’s #MangaMonday, I wanted to do a highlight of an old classic. Of the Big Three manga titles, Naruto is my favourite and I figured it deserved to be talked about.

Volumes 1-4 of Naruto cover the first arc of the series in which we meet Naruto, his teammates, and follow them on their first serious mission as ninja.

For those not familiar with the series, it follows titular character, Uzumaki Naruto, on his dreams to become the best ninja in his village despite how much despise there is for him from the other villagers. Unbeknownst to Naruto (until the information is betrayed by a rogue ninja out for himself), he is actually the vessel for the world-killing demon, the nine-tailed fox.

Naruto doesn’t let this information drag him down as he proves himself enough to become a genin (a junior-ranking ninja) and becomes a member of Team 7, made up of himself, Uchiha Sasuke, and Haruno Sakura, and lead by Hatake Kakashi. Together, the four of them train together and are eventually given a mission escorting a builder back to his home country in the waves. But it would seem that the mission may be more than they bargained for when it comes out that their client lies about the seriousness of his request for protection.

The first arc is so much fun as we learn little bits about each of the members of Team 7. Naruto wants to be the best. Sasuke wants revenge on the person who slaughtered his family. Sakura…well she wants to date Sasuke but I promise she gets better. The bad guys of the arc, Zabuto and Haku, are incredible and I still wish we had gotten more of their stories or even a one-shot filler chapter with more of them. Cruel, deadly, and skilled, the both of them push Team 7 to their limits to show them the real uses of ninja skills and the meaning of survival.

I’ve read Naruto so many times is not even funny, but it never fails to steal my heart. I grew up with Naruto the same way I grew up with Harry Potter, being able to watch both characters grow in age and abilities as I did. The heart that is in this manga is something that I honestly don’t see much any more in any manga. There’s a reason that even at over 20-years-old, Kishimoto Masashi’s Naruto is still well renowned as one of the best manga series of all times. I will always love this series and look forward to re-reading the second arc (and gross crying over it as always).

MANGA MONDAY: Saint Young Men

For today’s #MangaMonday I chose a re-released old classic that is so full of joy, you can’t help but smile while reading it.

Saint Young Men by Nakamura Hikaru is the story of Jesus and Buddha as roommates in Tokyo while they take a vacation from their godly duties to explore Earth. Each chapter is a snippet of the adventures they go on together and the hilarious mishaps two gods find themselves getting into while trying to function as regular humans.

I remember loving this series in high school because I thought the concept alone was hilarious. I saw snippets of the anime and laughed when I heard about the trailer for a live action film just a year or two ago. For anyone concerned about the religious content, I am not a religious person in the least but I can respect those who are and I feel Nakamura was sure to be respectful when putting out this series. The jokes are hilarious but never distasteful, even when addressing the Crucifixion or Buddha’s death.

This manga is definitely a feel-good, slice-of-life comedy that makes the perfect read for this time of year when keeping upbeat can be difficult. If you’re looking for a bit of fun with wonderful artwork and a loveable character duo, I highly recommend picking up the newest edition of Saint Young Men.

(LATE) MANGA MONDAY: No Longer Human

On Monday, I mentioned I was swapping things around and doing a regular book review so that I could share my review of the manga adaptation today.

The book in question is Dazai Osamu’s novel, No Longer Human, but adapted to the manga format by Japanese body horror king, Junji Ito.

Before I continue, this review contains trigger warnings for suicide, infanticide, violent imagery, and sexual assault.

So similarly to the novel (the review of which you can read here), this was a difficult one to get through. While I am very familiar with the content and the story of No Longer Human, Ito took this one to a whole other dimension. The story, itself, is heavily inspired by Dazai’s own life and there were certainly more elements of truth in the manga as well as far more fantastical horrors.

Unlike Ito’s other major works, his adaptation of No Longer Human was less focused on body horror and far more tuned into the psychological trauma that comes with the tortures Yozo faces. What was merely implied in the source material, was presented without apologies in the manga, and I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good thing or not. The sexual assault in the beginning and even throughout the story was intense and felt like it was too much given the format of the storytelling, however the ways Yozo is consistently taken advantage of is still so important to his story arc and the way his relationships (or lack thereof) are formed.

On top of that, there was far more death, far more suicide, and a lot heavier darkness. Dazai was not a happy man, and it can be seen throughout his short life by reading his novels and his stories. But the way that Ito really needles out the underlying sadness and turns it into something so solid and real it’s impossible to ignore as he beats you to death with it. Again, I’m conflicted by the emotions this manga drew from me because on the one hand it was a lot to process and manage, but on the other hand, it felt so real when it comes to how dangerous unchecked mental illness can be. It shows how important it is to really care for those who are suffering.

I loved the inclusions of Dazai himself as a character. I loved Ito’s artwork as I always do. But this was a rough one. Junji Ito is one of those mangakas who I rarely recommend because of how tricky it can be to navigate horror tolerance thresholds, but if you’re already familiar (and unbothered) with his work this is one to check out for sure.

 

MANGA MONDAY: Jujutsu Kaisen

A new series I want to do here is Manga Monday, a day dedicated to manga reviews to introduce new readers to some good series as well as keep up to date on titles for current readers. I’m hoping to talk about old and new series and look forward to spreading the love for manga of all kinds!

For this first Manga Monday, I decided to read a brand new title that was just released in English in December 2019. The series opening volume of Jujutsu Kaisen follows Itadori Yuji after the death of his grandfather as he and a mysterious student from Jujutsu High School seak out a cursed talisman before it can cause mass destruction. While trying to save his friends, Yuji takes an incredibly dangerous risk and becomes a vessel for the hyper-powerful being known as Sukuna, and ends up tangled in a bigger mess than he originally signed up for.

I really loved the key idea of this series focusing on fear and loss and how those negative and worrying emotions are typically the route causes of supernatural activity around Japan. The way the curses (depicted as slimy or hairy monsters) manifest was really neat as the different levels – both in terms of danger ranking and general intelligence – are determined by how the curse was originally formed. Volume 1 is definitely an introductory volume, but what I will say about it is that while I really appreciated that it wasn’t full of info-dumping, I would have loved a little more background about the Jujutsu Sorcerers and how the academy scouts their students or how the students even get their abilities in the first place.

That being said, for a debut manga, mangaka Akutami Gege’s style is wonderful. The character designs are reminiscent of early Kubo Tite (best known for Bleach) in a way that is both wonderfully nostalgic and yet still very new. I really am excited to see this series grow in both content and style and would recommend it to fans of BleachParasyte and maybe even Tokyo Ghoul.

I give this volume a solid 4.5 out of 5, with points only docked for my want of more background information on the characters and the rules of their powers, but I’m sure all will be revealed in the next volume or two.

MANGA REVIEW: Monster (Perfect Edition) Volume 1

I’ve once again fallen victim to a reading slump, but a number of people said that I should try reading a volume of manga or a graphic novel to break it. While I think the slump is still in effect, it does feel lighter.

The manga I chose to read was Naoki Urasawa’s hit Monster, an intense drama that crosses several genres. It’s a series I’ve wanted to read for a long time and I’m so happy I finally have!

Dr. Kenma Tenzo is a prodigy of a neurosurgeon from Japan that is on the up-and-up at a hospital in Germany. With a beautiful fiance and the potential of reaching Cheif Surgeon, Kenma is living the dream life. But when his job as a doctor is being corrupted by the politics of the hospital, he loses it all. Feeling better at the bottom, Kenma has realized his job is about the patients’ success, not his own and has been going about his business. When there’s a triple murder at the hospital, Kenma’s life is flipped around as he is dragged into the crimes as he is the one who has the most to gain from it. But the rabbit hole goes deeper than that, and Kenma has very real choices to make if he has any hopes of keeping anyone alive.

When I was in high school, I was under the impression that this series was a paranormal-hospital drama and oh boy was I wrong. Monster is a hospital drama that morphs into a political drama (given that the setting is in Germany in the 1980s when the Berlin Wall was still up) and then changes again into a serial killer story. The twists are intense and the way the story unfolds is wild, with a ten-year time skip after the first few chapters. I think Kenma is a sweetheart thrust into a horrible situation and I wonder if – with the title of the series – we will get to see him unravel into someone similar to the very monster he is hunting.

The edition of the manga that I read was the Perfect Edition, which I think is a combination edition of the first two volumes and I’m looking forward to reading the rest. The editions feature the proper colour pages and are just gorgeous. Urasawa’s art is so classic and wonderful and his story-telling abilities are on point.

I would recommend this series to fans of Deathnote, Hannibal, or Doubt and Judge. It’s definitely worth checking out.