Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Manga Review: Onani Master Kurosawa - Volume 1

It has been a long time since I've wanted to review a manga straight after reading it. I just finished volume 1 of Onani Master Kurosawa – a brilliant manga that is considered doujinshi because it is a parody of Death Note. It also helps that the scanlators dubbed this Fap Note, especially since “Onani” means “masturbation”. Now, if all you innocent young readers out there are getting a little shocked, I'll have to remind you that I've reviewed worse things on here, and I probably will review ones even worse than those! But at this point, don't underestimate this manga just because of the title. There is a substance to this that I so deeply adore.

Onani Master Kurosawa is a manga that isn't simply about a guy who likes to masturbate. That is only the general setting for the story. This manga is about a guy with a habit. And then one day he uses that habit to deal out justice. Then he kinda gets caught and is forced to use that habit a little more. And that habit is – yes, you've guessed it. Onani. His “daily duty”, he calls it. See, our leading man, Kurosawa, goes to the girls' bathroom in the old school building every day after school, and masturbates to fantasies of him screwing with the girls in his class. At first you're thinking “Ugh, honestly, where's the substance in this? He's just a horny kid who jacks off in a bathroom stall to images of his female classmates choking on his dong.” Well, honestly, it's more than that. The plot does thicken!

Aaaaand, random art fangirling off-topic starts now! Oh. My. LORD. I love this artwork. This is one of the situations when the artist of the manga is different to the author, and I'm not familiar with this artist. Did my research and figured out that since this is a doujinshi of sorts, this is the only work he has that has been published, but there is more in store for this blooming mangaka. I know I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye on him! This is sketchy and raw with gorgeous pencil lines and a meticulously careless way of shading things. To some extent, it's funny, but I love the way he draws hands. I notice lots of expressions through hands, and more so in this manga. Partially because the artwork is so attractive to me, and partially because this guy is a freaking talented genius. What I mean to say is, I noticed a subtle use of hand gestures here. The way a character might refer to something, an indicator of someone's stance or even force and movement. Aaah, good artwork satisfies me in a way nothing else could at 1AM. Also, might I say this man has a TALENT for drawing expressions. I love it. I must say I laughed when I saw the cover page for this manga. When this artwork is cleaned up and has colour added to it, I'm sorry to say it loses its charm. I can't imagine it being anything other than roughly done in that sketchy, unfinished style. I also hope he can improve on his line finishes when he inks, because the cover looked like it was done by an amateur, which was pretty disappointing after reading an entire volume then going back and looking at the front. Sad, I tell you! But I adore it anyway :)

Right, let's get down to talking about what this manga is actually about! Kurosawa, a boy with distaste for everything. Well, mostly for the people around him, like the annoying, clingy Nagastuka Keiji or the otakus or his teacher even. It's a little bit funny sometimes, because it reminds me of my high school days where I'd stare at everyone around me and go “Why am I surrounded by a bunch of shallow idiots?” - but that's not what this is about. It's about the good, the bad and the ugly of human nature. Now, I know you're sitting there shaking your head at the screen going “How can masturbating tell you about human nature?” Well, shut up and keep reading! That's why you made it this far, right?

There are various social settings that our protagonist partakes in, which are all essentially part of the same collective ruling – the brutalities, inhumanities and stupidities of school life. What perturbs me at times is the fact that these kids are only 14, but you get over it quickly once you become absorbed in the story – which I'm not sure is a good or bad thing. Apart from the fact that Kurosawa masturbates every single day after school, he's quite observant to the different cliques that the students hang out in and the social hierarchy that they've split themselves to – and he chooses to stay out of it. That, I think, is pretty smart, but at the same time it doesn't mean he's ignorant. He notices who has been bullied, who has the unspoken authority, who is downright annoying – all that. The beginning half of the volume is pretty much an introduction to this. You get to know more about Kurosawa's daily habits and you understand the social setting through his eyes. Mostly, this view is disdainful and judgemental, but you start to understand that this isn't just the harrowing monologues of a dark seething pre-teen. I think there's a truth behind it that you don't immediately realize, but it sneaks up on you quite well.

So the story so far seems like two disconnected things: a disgustingly realistic portrayal of school life – and a chronic masturbator. How these things come together (hahahaha, come. I'm so childish!) is from the help of a little mousy (she's described as “squirrel-like” in the manga) girl called Kitahara. She's the main victim of the bullying and after a gut-wrenching scene that will certainly make you want to gag and cry at the same time, Kitahara is filled with frustration and rage. Given the right opportunity, that combination can be quite dangerous. Now hold that thought while I go on to talk about some masturbating, then I can connect these two things together.

Kurosawa is also raging. His rage is due to the fact that everyone knows where the injustice is, but no one will do a thing to correct it. So what does he do? He takes matters (and his man-meat) into his own hands, and masturbates. All over the bullying girls' clothes. Not while they're wearing them, of course, that would be awkward. But through careful deliberation, Kurosawa deals some revenge – and justice – through jerking off. Since this is an entire volume review, I'm not going into detail, so I encourage you to read it and find out exactly what happened and how it all went down. Like some dick-tugging vigilante, Kurosawa anonymously becomes a saviour!

Or so he thinks.

Let's go back to raging, frustrated Kitahara. She's pretty smart and puts things together pretty quickly, so she seeks Kurosawa out and asks him for a favor in return for her silence about his “daily duties”. He got back at two girls, but there's still one that she thinks deserves some pain too. And how does she intend on doing this? By being “the catcher in the toilet” – appointing Kurosawa to do her dirty work for her. (I swear I'm not making all these bad puns on purpose!) The volume ends with Kurosawa accepting this arrangement – because he has no choice, and Kitahara about to state her proposition.

Then it's over. Honestly, you're just salivating for more at this point. And you have to admit, once you get this far, you know the next volume is really going to be worth it. It's right now that you realize that the story has only just begun, and there's so much that could be done with this story. So far, I'm impressed. My only hope is that it doesn't escalate into heights of stupidity, or lose the plot along the way.

Random notes on this volume are Kurosawa's hilarious punchlines at the end of each of his sessions (such as his references to his “man juice”. Is he serious? Haha!) – an obvious play on the style that this was written. This is a story that has its dangerous side while being subtly laced with satirical overtones, and it's then that the parody of Death Note comes out. The comedy in this is in its overplayed seriousness. Kurosawa's serious or malevolent expressions sometimes seem comical because you can connect it to Death Note so well that it makes you laugh. Especially when you realize that he's talking about jerking off. It's classy, smart and funny, in an odd masturbatey way. However, on a more serious note, the connections to Death Note are also in Kurosawa's observations of people, his distaste for them and his inner monologue that basically picks out every human flaw these people carry. It's sad, but true, because sometimes you can't help but agree with him, despite his magnified aversion to social situations. But somehow, you can't help but tie it back to his own habit. It's almost like a paradox, but who's judging who at this point?

Now, I've pretty much devoured my way through this manga, and I think you should too. So stay sharp kidlets, and keep your hands to yourselves! Or don't. Depending on how much you like this manga. I won't judge *wink wink*


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chapter Review - Cheese in the Trap Ch44

This chapter's gonna be good!

Now that Sul and Jung are back in the game (and by back in the game, I mean talking to each other), the attention is one them once more. Sometimes I wonder why it is they receive so much attention. Is it the fact that Jung is popular or the fact that Sul is not so popular herself? Either way, Jung's cluelessness when it comes to Sul is adorable, and Sul's mini freak-outs are just as cute. So let me just say, it seems they're back to normal. He's unconsciously charming and naïve, and she's gullible and cautious. Interesting couple? I think so! The chapter starts out with them having a similar kind of interaction in class where you realize nothing's changed between these two. They're both just very stupid.

Now, at this point, I think it's cute that they're clueless to one another, but the way people talk about them is starting to get pretty obvious, and they both need to man up and do something about it. So far there's been no defining things to Sul and Jung's “relationship”. Are they friends? Are they more? It's pretty clear on some level that Jung is naively interested in Sul, and Sul is friends with Jung but cautious about it. The only cause of frustration (and awesome!) is the fact that Sul REALLY doesn't think that Jung isn't interested in her. Which makes me giggle. The reason I go on this little rant is because right now, instead of whispering behind their backs, people are starting to actually be forward about it. Classmates are asking Sul what's going on between them and classmates are asking Jung if he and Sul have “that kind of relationship”. Sul is frazzled, as usual, which is adorable. Jung kinda smiles and goes “what do you mean?” The only thing that saves Jung from answering the question properly is Jae Woo getting annoyed with everyone and going “cut the useless bullshit.” And Jung is just sitting there smiling.

Honestly, either he's playing dumb all the time or this kid is really stupid.

I mean, with how cunning and underhanded he can be (as we've seen in the past), has anyone found it strange that Jung is SO naïve when it comes to Sul? This is what I think makes a lot of readers distrust him. But we'll see how the plot thickens!

Now, there's a little explosion between Sang Chul (the little prick) and Jae Woo. I think there must be something personal Jae Woo has against Jung, and it seems to me because he thinks he has undeserved popularity – or that he's overrated. If he had talked more honestly and openly to Sul a year before I have a feeling they would have gotten along quite well. But at this point, it's pretty obvious that bringing up Jung around Jae Woo hits some pretty serious nerves. It wasn't even about Jung directly, but the mere mention of him seems to set Jae Woo off. I can't help thinking it's personal! Or maybe it's just plain old jealousy. Even at this point, Jung is a pretty mysterious character.

Now, The end of the chapter is Bo Ra, Eun Taek and Sul deciding to get something to eat when our lovely man In Ho turns up – just because he can. Oh! And just before I get distracted by the awesomeness that is In Ho and Sul, let me just take a few words to say that I think Min Soo is a creepy obsessive stalker. I'm not going to elaborate on that, but I can bet you this will come up later in the series! Mark my words, you'll remember that sentence. I'll take bets if I have to.

Anyway, back to this dynamic duo of what-the-hell-do-you-want-from-each-other. Honestly, it's obvious In Ho has some hidden agenda, but I don't know if it's Sul's naïve or gullible nature that makes her play along with him. If it were me I'd have either stopped talking to him a long time ago or just drooled over how goodlooking he is and never pay attention to a word he says. But let's see how Sul deals with him! Again, I don't think I can give too much away about their conversations, but it seemed unusually comfortable, for both of them. They still bickered a bit, but it's like they don't mind each other so much. I think it's better for both of them to get better acquainted but still keep their hilariously awesome dynamic. Also the fact that In Ho mentions his hand, he's given something away of himself, as well as revealing this hidden plot about Jung! Sul, being dense, doesn't really take the potentially dangerous side of it and thinks it must be an innocent mistake. At this point, we don't even know. I'm really anxious to find out the full story of In Ho's hand because we still don't fully understand the nature of Jung's character – and I think In Ho is the key to finding out.

The chapter ends with a bit of comic relief with Bo Ra and Eun Taek betting on who Sul will end up with - which is just the way I like them to react. Damn, I actually have no idea at this point! I think that's one of the things that gives me faith in this strip!

Until the next chapter, kidlets! Stay Sharp!


All images (c) Soon Ki. None of these images belong to me.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chapter Review - Cheese in the Trap Ch43

Now, the new chapter for Cheese in the Trap has come out WAY before I could even write a whole story review! I'm putting this up here for whoever's up to date with it (if any!) but that story review will be up soon, I promise. It's just that this is one of the few strips that I get worked up about – and on top of that, it's released weekly. This means that I only suffer through my entire week 's worth of university work to be able to read these sweet sweet chapters. By the time I get them, I'm salivating. I'm warning you beforehand that I will get extremely excited in these reviews, so I make no apologies for my language or behaviour while writing them, as usual. Oh, and before I forget! These chapter reviews will most definitely contain spoilers, so I do apologize if you read these and go “OH SNAP, I DIDN'T REACH THAT PART YET!”, but don't blame me! You have been warned. Past this point, I'll be talking about all events up to present. I will, however, give you some leeway on the spoilers and as per my usual conduct, I won't give away the ending, or some of the crucial awesome “OH SNAP” moments – because you all know how much I love those.

Just as a quick recap of (very) recent events, the last chapter was Jung running into Joo Yong, which commenced into an awesome but slightly creepy flashback, then Jung making a comment that Joo Yung should sort himself out instead of worrying about superficial things like 'love'. I mean, he practically goes “Are you in a fucking soap? Shouldn't you get your shit together instead?”. This left the chapter at a slightly shocking note because... Well... What the hell is he doing with SUL then? Goddamn hypocrite. Anyway, that's as much detail as I'll go into Chapter 42. If you're curious about it (and I can assure you, the flashback was BRILLIANT), you should check it out!

So, Joo Yong goes on a bit of a rant about how after he left his family's house, we wasn't sure if his lover would still want him (He's quite evasive about the gender here, so I don't think Jung realizes Joo Yong's “lover” is a man. Aaah lovely!), but love prevails all and his lover comes for him! It's quite a sad, pathetic flashback, to be honest. Just 5 panels of Joo Yong bawling his eyes out. Have I mentioned that I hate his character? This slightly fruity, slightly bitchy, weepy gay man with the most annoying ponytail and facial hair EVER. Ugh. I hated that he was in the storyline at all. All he does is whine.

Now, at this point, Joo Yong is gushing about his lover, and keeps insisting that Jung should find someone special too. Jung asks him what this girl is like that he's met. NOW. Here's where it all clicks. If you realize, Jung has some tension with that tutor/assistant tutor guy, who just so happens to be Joo Yong's big hunk of man love. I think this slimy little idiot realized that enough to 1. hide the fact that his lover is someone Jung potentially threatened, and 2. neglect to mention that it's a MAN. Lovely. At this point, I don't know if this is a smart move or not. Joo Yong tries to evade this situation by once again insisting that he should find someone special, bla bla bla. What interests me at this point is Jung's wonderful negligence in taking Sul into consideration AT ALL. Which is kind of confusing because for the longest time (before I saw last chapter's flashback) I had some faith that Jung was actually a decent person who was slightly misunderstood. I still think he is, but maybe he hasn't brought Sul up – or even shown any inkling of considering her – because he's a private person who'd rather keep it to himself. He certainly seemed that way when it came to dealing with In Ho. Oh well! Also, as a slight giggle factor, it seems like Joo Yong is still intimidated by Jung, which I see as a win - mostly because I don't like Joo Yong and he's icky. Yes. I said it.

And speaking of In Ho! Oh man, I love this guy. He's like, the comic relief of the comic relief. I used to think Sul was the comic relief because she's a little bit gullible and a little bit clueless, but someone with good intentions all around. But in social situations, man she's funny. However! In Ho is comical in his manic approach to things, his determination to screw Jung up, and his strange quasi-interest in Sul. I don't know if he's fascinated by her, but it sure seems like it sometimes. Now, put those two together, and you've got some BRILLIANT dialogue. Best interaction ever! I might actually leave this bit out in the review for you to read and enjoy, because In Ho's reactions are beautiful. This gist of it is that he's surprised that Jung gave Sul an edge in to apologize, when he was wishing with his sweet little demented heart that she would screw it up. He also still seems to think they're dating, because he's all “lol lol lol Jung's girl is such a difficult bitch” and you're all “you have NO clue what's going on, do you?”. Also, the way Sul just happily chucks the batteries out of her phone and goes to sleep made me laugh so hard. I don't know why she couldn't just put it on silent, but this way works better for the strip. I know there's a reason she's the protagonist!

Now, it goes back to Joo Yong and Jung, and I'm going to skim this very quickly in the review because there are other things to talk about and I'm reaching my limit on how much I can gush about one chapter. Also, I don't like Joo Yong and I think he's icky. Yes. I said it again. Read the chapter if you want to pay more attention to it!

Joo Yong freaks out when his lover calls him because Jung wants to answer the phone for him. He's all “Uhhh no! My “girlfriend” and I are fighting, I'm ignoring her on purpose. You go on home, I'll eat this food. Oh, and yeah. Give me some money, bitch.” So Jung goes “What a freaking weirdo”, gives his phone back, pays for the meal and leaves some extra money for Joo Yong as well – which Joo Yong uses to get smashed. At this point, his lover comes in and goes “Why the hell are you smashed? (to which Joo Yong doesn't reply because he's off his face and out cold) Lady! (to the woman that works at the restaurant), why did you let him get smashed? How did he get smashed? How much do I owe you for him getting smashed?” The patron then informs him that he doesn't owe anything because he came in with a younger, more goodlooking man who paid for everything, and they seemed quite close. Lover Boy then proceeds to freak the hell out.

Now, the last bit of the chapter is a little segment between Ah Young and Sang Chul. Sang Chul is another character I don't like because of his raging immaturity and how he always seems to be hyper. He runs into Ah Young and is still fangirling over her. He tries to get her attention by gossiping with her about Jung and Sul, claiming that they had a fight and there are huge rumours that they're going out (which is exactly what's happening. They did fight, and there are rumours that they're dating – even if they're not). Honestly, he clearly doesn't care at all about what's going on with them. He just wants Ah Young to go out with him so he's using this as an excuse. She doesn't fall for it and drops some serious Girl-Power-One-Love-Power-To-The-People shit on him (not that dramatic, but, you know. Basically, she doesn't fall for it, which I think is brilliant. I found Ah Young to be a little bit of an irrelevant character at one point, but now I've got to admire her spirit and her no bullshit policy.

At any rate, this was an interesting chapter. It ended with Sang Chul bringing out his maturity and having a fit in class, then Sul walking into class. I don't know if it's the same class, but I've been waiting for the chapters to go back to our lovely leading lady! There wasn't much for me to actually criticize or analyze in this chapter, no cliffhangers or gut-wrenching flashbacks like the last one, but it was good to go through this anyway. Since the artist and author, Soon Ki, has already had copyright issues with the strip, I'm a bit apprehensive about posting up pictures, but so long as you all know where it came from, I think we'll be fine!

Stay sharp kidlets! Until next week!


All images (c) Soon Ki. None of these images belong to me.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

One-Shot of the Week: Kon no Ki Konoha

This week's One-Shot of the Week was a toss-up between two brilliant manga by the same mangaka that I had a bit of conflict over. One of them was taken from a volume of manga that consisted of a series of one-shots, and the other is the tragically romantic piece I present to you today. Although the other one is also tragically romantic, I thought I'd save it for another week where I felt it more. I'd already started writing the review for it, but then I just happened to come across Kon no Ki Konoha, and it captured me completely and I knew no one could resist having a change of heart – it practically stole mine. But don't worry! You'll be seeing that one-shot in the coming few weeks, I promise you that.

Although at first the title seemed like a tongue-twister to me, it presents itself to mean Konoha of the Deep Blue Tree. Reading the summary for this one-shot made me doubt it for a bit. I thought, it's not my style, I don't generally go for the romance-slash-tragedy-slash-slightly supernatural, but why not give it a go? Believe me, I'm glad I did. “Beautiful” is the only word that fits this manga perfectly, and I'll probably be using it lots in this review!

As a young girl, Akino's father takes her up into the mountain where she finds a tree that is dappled in deep blue. Roots, trunk, branches, leaves – all of it. She can't believe it's real and, well, she smacks the tree to make sure it is (which I found adorable, by the way). From within the branches of this tree a boy with deep blue hair appears, telling her that it hurts when she does that. He's a spirit that lives in the tree, and his name is Konoha. He protects her from another aged tree spirit and they soon become friends. Apparently, his spirit can only come out when it's autumn, when the leaves start to fall. So every year, every autumn, Akino goes into the mountain and spends some time with Konoha.

I like Konoha as a male lead, mostly because he's got a personality without having to boast that he's got one. It's like if you were truly feeling happy: you don't boast about it or blurt it out or announce it, you're just sitting quietly one day and you feel it – you truly experience it (didn't I warn you guys that Mho-Shoujo has a penchant for weird or random metaphors that rarely make sense?). I think throughout the manga, while you're sitting there reading it, Konoha's gentle, protective and silently passionate nature just serenely breezes in. And suddenly, you don't know why, but you feel very calm and very content. I don't know if it would get across to you as much as it did to me, but you'd know what he's like without the leading lady's inner monologue having to explain every little thing to you, like “Oh, he just protected me. He did all this for me? He must love me so much.” At the same time, Konoha's not a man of many words, but when he does speak it expresses unimaginable quantities than if he were making big speeches or rambling on and on about true love. I think he it's great that he expresses lots in such few words.

Here's where our problem is. Our lovely man here lives in a tree. And I don't mean in a cute tree-house kind of way. He lives inside the tree. Him being a spirit or somewhat of a ghost means that Akino can't touch Konoha, her hands slip right through him. But if she touches the deep blue tree, it's transmitted through so that he feels it. This brought on a lovely side of the manga where Akino smacks the tree to wake him up or even tickles the tree to tease him. I think it's good that Yumeka has put in scenes from Akino's childhood other than explaining how she met Konoha. It adds that childish innocence and a pure adoration to their mutual interest in each other, showing that it isn't just a magical transformation into a purely romantic relationship. This is something that developed and grew. It's not “Oh hey! I haven't seen you in years! My how you've grown, I think I've fallen in love with you now!”. No, no, no. It's “We've grown together and spent time together. I know you and you know me, and I adore you deeply and yearn for our time together.” That kind of pure relationship is something I love to see, rather than the glorified idea of love at first sight that sometimes manga tends to have.

I also love how the yearning for physical contact is portrayed in this one-shot. Akino hugs the tree so Konoha can feel her at one point. The desire to express through physical closeness is not one of erotic or lustful nature, but a sincere passion coupled with a tender longing for a deeper sort of intimacy. The kind of intimacy where you want to hold the person and never let go, not the kind where you want to rip each other's clothes off and do things that are ecchi rated. Don't get me wrong, there's a time and manga for that, but this – this is pure and simple and sweet. To top it off, Yumeka doesn't seem to want to let go of your heartstrings. The physical contact isn't just illustrated through Akino's contact with Konoha, but through her contact with other people as well. Attention being paid to her by other people doesn't seem to satisfy her, and the colours and sounds and smells of other seasons don't seem to be enough for her either. It almost seems like she's quietly adapted to autumn and what it means to her, and who autumn is to her.

Up to this point, and beyond, the manga is absolutely irresistible. The artwork is pristine. The lines are sometimes wispy, giving it a soft, flowing feel, and I love that the mangake doesn't draw traditionally larger-than-life manga eyes. The way the leaves are drawn, as well as hair, movement and expressions gives this manga an almost liquid feel. I love it. Love it! I can't get over how beautiful it is. And positively heartbreaking, in the most gorgeous way possible.

The ending... wow, I don't even want to talk about it, other than saying that it is probably on my top 3 endings to a manga – ever. It's beautiful, painful, glorious and passionate. I don't know how to describe it, and I don't want to ruin it for you kidlets, but I've never seen emotion drawn so beautifully. I recommend this one-shot over anything else, as it quickly became one of my favourites – if not my favourite one-shots so far. Get your hands on this gem, you won't regret it!

Stay sharp!


Monday, January 17, 2011

Manga Review: Ringo Nikki - Volume 1

This might sound odd, but at the ripe old age of 19, I almost feel like I've started to outgrow shoujo. I'll feel like as I mature, my tastes mature with me, and as I progress out of high school and into university, I almost feel like I can't relate to those school crushes and young teen romances anymore. Then what happens is I'll pick up a story like Ringo Nikki, and discover I'm still a 16 year old on the inside. Now, don't get me wrong, I speak like this ironically mostly. I know of women in their 30s who still enjoy these sweet fuzzy shoujo manga, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think eventually I'll become on of them as well! I just see this as a personal reflection that as I moved out of one phase of my life and into the next, my manga would grow with me. Still, I'm pretty glad that nothing is changed. I don't really feel the fuzz as much, and I almost laugh at the over-the-top attitudes these young manga girls have towards what they call “love”, but I can still giggle like a little schoolgirl and enjoy it just the same!

Ringo Nikki, my feathered friends, is a manga after my own schoolgirl heart. It's got the classic element of “I really, REALLY can't stand you right now, but I'm probably going to fall for you later”. And you know what? I love it! Now, our hero isn't the kind of guy who's arrogant, he's the kind that is just cocky and mischievous enough to make him charming – endearing even, just about downright adorable! Trust me, I like me a guy that I can bicker with, because you know what? It just makes it all the more interesting! And that's the perfect example of what's happening here.

Ringo (I love her name!) is a 16 year old wonder. Takes care of her hopelessly hopeless father and is a picture of responsibility. It stems from your average mother-died-so-she-had-to-take-over complex. But what I love about this manga is Ringo's father. The manga has a quality to it that every character has their own personality. Rather than slapping on a generic mom and dad (which in manga are usually minor characters who are very passive and don't have opinions) and generic side characters, the mangaka has given everyone their own qualities. Ringo's father is cheerful with lame puns, but it's a cheerfulness that makes you go “awww”, because this fabulous family of two is poor. Their unfortunate situation is made worse when Papa Ringo (can I call him that? I want to call him that!) is laid off his job. They are forced to move away and Ringo must leave her life – and love – behind. And so our story begins!

What I absolutely hate in manga is clichés. And what I absolutely adore about this manga is its tendency to break away from a few clichés. Ringo already has someone she likes, but because she's moving away she thinks it's a hopeless case to pursue. The fact that she already has someone on her mind is perfect! It creates more tension for the bickering, arguing and all other mischievous behaviour that goes on between Ringo and Micchan, the hero of this manga. Micchan works at the bath house that she goes to and lives at the boarding house his family owns after her house burns down. And although at first Ringo finds him completely irritating, she starts to warm up to him, as she naturally would.

Now, I'm not going to go into too many specifics, I've had the habit in the past of ranting on for too long and possibly giving away too many things – but the dynamic between Ringo and Micchan revolves around Micchan bothering her, her unconsciously warming up to him, tantalisingly delicious moments of tension and Micchan egging her on to make things work with Sakura.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Sakura, Ringo's “first love”, does play an active role in creating a bit of a love triangle here. And another break from cliché is the fact that Ringo is not madly in love with both of them and can't decide between the two. In fact, she thinks one of them is annoying as hell, while the other is sweet, but somehow she can't bring herself to completely commit to him just yet. I found it refreshing that although Sakura thinks Micchan is irritating (does no one like this poor guy? How sad!) and sees him as a threat, Micchan does have his moments where he encourages Ringo to try harder with Sakura.

This story is only made more interesting when Ringo can never really read Micchan. Sometimes he hits on other girls, sometimes he hits on only Ringo, sometimes he tells Ringo she should be with Sakura, and sometimes it almost looks like he goes out of his way to come in between them by being as adorably annoying as possible. I think it helps with Ringo simultaneously wanting to fall for him and kill him. In that sense, I think Ringo doesn't know what to do with his casual affection or whether or not to ever take him seriously. As for Sakura, he has that rare determination and intensity that you could only get from 16 year old shoujo boys, straight out of manga. It's actually kinda sad, he's so serious that it seems he has no sense of humour at all!

The end to the volume, I have to say, is the perfect cliffhanger. It's like the mangaka spent the entire volume taking you to the very pinnacle of the peak of the height of the climax of the love triangle, then decided that you have to wait for the next volume, because she feels like dangling you there for a bit. And trust me, it's well worth the wait for the second volume – and you better believe that I'll be covering that as well! So, all you little shoujo lovers, if you've rediscovered that 16-year-old fangirl in you, whether you are a guy or a girl, you're going to love Ringo Nikki! Watch this space for a review of the second and final volume and we'll find out the fate of our beloved Ringo.

Stay sharp kidlets!


All images (c) NAKAHARA Aya. I do not own any of these images.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

One-Shot of the Week: Kanjou Spectrum

Brought to you by the same beautifully yaoi mind that gave us Don't Stay Gold (a previous One-Shot review), Kanjou Spectrum is another delicious one-shot. First off, I'll have to say, I wish all men look the way Yoneda draws them. Honestly, lean bodies, strong arms, cool faces – come on, shouldn't they all look like that? Their attitudes help as well. The whole “chill on the outside but passionate on the inside” kind of guy. The clean lines, relaxed poses and beautiful, lazy expressions make this art perfect. This has to be my favourite of all yaoi drawing styles, and perhaps my favourite of drawing styles for men. And have you seen the way kisses and physical contact are depicted in all Yoneda's manga? It's perfect! Aaah, there's nothing like yaoi perfection to go along with your afternoon tea. In the spirit of that, I just might make myself a cup.

Now that I'm settled, let's look at the story of this manga. Well, actually, before that I'd like to point out how everyone in Yoneda's manga is completely open to being gay, or bisexual at the very least. No one seems surprised by it and it's not unusual for a guy who's previously dated girls to suddenly decide that some random guy is his soul mate. Don't get it twisted, it's a yaoi universe and there's nothing wrong with that at all. Everyone is almost required to be bisexual, and there's no homophobia. Ever. I've read most of Yoneda's manga, and I don't know why it was this one to make me realize the yaoi universe that's been created. Hey! I'm not complaining.

Alright, I'll really talk about the story now. Kugou and Nakaya are best friends in high school. Kugou is our narrator for this manga, He's the observant, cool type – the kind of guy who's always got it together and doesn't overreact or loose his nerve. Nakaya is typically naïve, hopeless and, well... dumb – but adorably so. The kind of idiot that, as Kugou says, is “refreshing”. Basically, he's popular with both guys and girls because he's that fun-loving idiot that just so happens to be hot as a bonus. So fun-loving and idiotic and hot that he catches the attention of Usui. Or so it seems.

Kugou, being the sharp little cookie that he is, has picked up on Usui's staring. Now, I don't know whether it's a stab at Yoneda's beautiful yaoi universe or that he notices the admiration, but in the beginning of the manga, Kugou drops the line “Types like him are unexpectedly close, their eyes usually give them away”. Despite that, I love that line. It gives the start to this story an awesome bite that just paves the way to what you know is going to be a sweet, sweet one-shot. It almost makes you wonder who's observing who. Usui might be the admirer here, but with the way Kugou scrutinizes him and constantly wonders about him gives you a strong sense of unconscious attraction that seems to cling to him throughout the manga.

Anyway, Kugou approaches Usui and offers his help to hook the two up. At first, Usui refuses. Then he changes his mind. Then he starts to ask a lot about Nakaya. Then he decides that maybe it was a bad idea to agree to Kugou's help. Then he thinks he's being a burden. Then he starts spending time with Nakaya. Basically, he's all over the place. During all this, Kugou takes a lot of notice of the quiet, bashful (cute, even) way that Usui conducts himself. Come on, you must have seen that coming at some point. It's almost predictable. But at the same time, I feel stupid that I didn't predict the other half to this story. I might have already given it away inadvertently (or blatantly), or it might be obvious when you start reading this manga, but it's a turn that I loved the story had taken.

The other thing I loved was Kugou's jealousy. It's not the type where he advises Usui against going to Nakaya. But he suddenly gains the wonderful following thought process: “What's so special about him? He's idiotic after all. His gullible idiocy and clueless charm really just pisses me off now”. It's an unconscious kind of jealousy that I find absolutely adorable, and the kind of oblivious attraction I had mentioned earlier on. The kiss in this (and there is not one, but two!) is wonderful. An intense, hot, grip-the-back-of-your-shirt, let-me-interrupt-your-conversation kind of a kiss. Aaah! Yoneda steals my heart with things like these and manages to draw the kind of physical intimacy that could only work with two men. If I picture one of them to be a girl instead of a guy, it doesn't work! It wouldn't be as effective. And I think that's what makes Yoneda the yaoi winner. Oh yes. I dropped the w word :D

And before I finish this off, let me take a quick moment to admire the last page of this manga. An almost full-page spread of cuteness broken by a small panel at the bottom for comic relief. The last lines are both bashful and passionate, and are backed by the imagery that fits it perfectly. One hidden face confessing a hidden attraction, and one blushing one that I can guess is only too happy to be in those arms. I approve, Yoneda, I approve. (Hey, doesn't it seem like this is more a love note to Yoneda than a manga review?)

In the end, this one-shot has elements of the classic 'high school crush' scenario, but because of the charming Yoneda Yaoi Universe (don't you love the way that just rolls off your tongue?), it doesn't have to be about being gay. The nervousness, the insecurities and the intensity doesn't come from the thought of, “I'm so scared he'll reject me because I'm gay and I'll freak the whole world out” – it stems from that blushing, exciting feeling of your teenage years. And you know what? It's completely normal. And like it said in the opening, “teenage love has no reason”. So kidlets, pick this up and I guarantee you'll understand!


All images (c) YONEDA Kou. None of these images belong to me.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

One-Shot Review: Escape

This isn’t your most conventional style OR genre of yaoi manga. Some of you may criticize me for this, just as this manga has been criticized, but there’s a strangeness to this manga that I find attractive. Moreover, I think its awkward and slightly disturbing elements make it high on the list for me.

Backtrack a little bit, though. I’m not saying I agree with the violent nature of this manga, but it’s a passion that I can’t ignore. Therefore, you can’t ignore it either. Because I said so. And why should you agree with me? Well, you’re reading this, aren’t you?

Because of the somewhat controversial nature of this manga, I’m not going to vote it as One-Shot of the Week (It’s a bit early for that too, although I always like to write in advance). Even as an afterword, the mangaka apologized for spewing out domestic violence straight off the bat.

Alright, I’ve been building on it for long enough. Once I get into the review you’ll realize all that hype is for nothing. Well… almost nothing. There is violence in this manga, but not to the extreme limits you’d think. It’s still violence as a product of aggressive anger, and that’s what puts the shock in it.

Shouta is your average college student, working part-time at a video store and as gay as can be (did I mention this was yaoi?) for one of the costumers. He spends the first couple of pages fawning over this older guy who comes into the store in his business suit and his glasses and his cute smile – oh it’s wonderful.

By the way, this is my random paragraph to go off-track and mention little tidbits about the artwork. Starting… NOW! Okay, I have to say, I really like the way this guy dresses. I’m not very girly and I’d dress like that. Casual and comfortable with random accessories (headband/scarf/bracelet) to add a nice touch. It looks like you have good taste but because it’s so relaxed and easygoing, it looks effortless. However, I can’t understand why he’d be required to wear an apron at a video store. It’s not like he’s going to be serving DVDs with some tartar sauce on the side. *sigh* This isn’t a fashion blog. I’ll move on to REALLY talking about the artwork now.

This is a really attractive style to me. I’ve noticed – especially with yaoi – that this is the new face of manga. It’s not the traditional ones where the eyes are really larger than life, the hair is elaborate and the expressions are drastic and dramatic. Maybe it’s because it’s targeted towards males. Manga evolves and you can already pick up on different styles, and this is a look that you can notice as being less whimsical and more focused. The lines are hard, sharp and clean. No screwing around. It makes it seem less flimsy and more… well, let’s admit it. More manly. I’d have to say, I like the yaoi style like this much more than shoujo. However, girls don’t really look that good drawn like this most of the time, which is why this is a style that is usually set aside for the good ol’ man-to-man.

Back to the story! :D Although Shouta’s totally hot for this guy, Shiraishi, there’s little to gained from his side. Ah, unrequited love. Hurts like a bitch. But Shouta’s not lacking in the sex department. Oh noooo. Enter Kuraki, Shouta’s… friend with benefits – if we’re going to put this delicately.

Oh wait, this is Mho-Shoujo. When have I ever been delicate? Screw that, they’re fuck-buddies. That’s what FB really stands for. Not Friends with Benefits. Not facebook. Shouta goes over to Kuraki’s and they do the nasty. As soon as you see Kuraki, you already know who’s on top. Besides, Shouta looked terrified as he was about to go in. The room. Go in the room, okay? GOD, you’re all a bunch of perverts.

Anyway, they get busy, Kuraki has a smoke, Shouta falls asleep. Silly little boy, he mumbles Shiraishi’s name in his sleep. Kuraki hears it. The thing about Kuraki is that he’s one of those squinty characters. He’s constantly got his eyes narrowed – giving everyone the most evil look his muster. Like “I hate you all” So at this moment, he turns to Shouta’s sweet sleeping face, gives him that look, and looks away.

At this point, you’re thinking ‘Uh-oh’ because you can tell nothing good’s going to come of it. And you’re probably right. The next time Shouta goes over to Kuraki’s to get some (Just SOME. You know?), Kuraki’s waiting to confront him. Actually, you wouldn’t call it confronting; Kuraki doesn’t even want to hear what Shouta has to say. So after taunting him, cornering him, threatening him with cigarette burns and a bit of yelling, Kuraki knocks Shouta to the ground.

Whoops, we have a bleeder.

By this time, the scene is getting a bit grim. Major non-con starts happening, Shouta’s freaking terrified and sporting a pretty bad nosebleed. If the bleeding didn’t get to you, the thrusting will. The blood on the floor, the sweat, the sound effects are pretty disturbing. This is borderline rape, and you’re reading this not sure of whether you’re supposed to be enjoying it or be shocked. I said ‘borderline’ because at that point, Shouta has a sort of epiphany – if you want to call it that. In the heat of the moment, he can’t remember Shiraishi’s face. He then turns around and sees Kuraki with almost a tender look on his face.

Now, all the while Kuraki had been shouting at Shouta. Yelling that Shouta likes it rough, will never be satisfied with anyone else – and you can understand why a few minutes later, he has that expression on his face. If Kuraki was the heartless bastard we would normally make him out to be, he wouldn’t have been provoked (and even threatened) by Shouta’s mentioning of someone else – even if it was in his sleep. This is the passion I was talking about in the intro. You can tell Kuraki genuinely cares, and I think the anger and the acting out stemmed from fear. I think Kuraki actually freaks out at the thought that Shouta would want someone other than him. It’s a crime of passion! Literally! See? You’d have to learn to appreciate the more odd ways of showing someone you care about them. Like I said in my disclaimer – here on Mho-Shoujo, we don’t discriminate :3

How Shouta reciprocates Kuraki’s actions is sweet. The ending, to me, was perfect by one-shot standards. A lot of people say that in situations like this they feel dissatisfied with what they call ‘open endings’. It’s true that it’s open, but in the sense that it says “What happens, happens! This is the story, there is a future, and we’ll leave it up to you to interpret what you think will happen!” A lot of people don’t understand that concept of ending one-shots. It’s a standalone chapter for God’s sake. It’s supposed to leave it at a point you can call the end, but not say “Yay! Happy ending!” but more like “Yay! Wish them luck for the future!” I mean, you don’t say “Happy birthday!” to someone and that’s it, they die. Noooo, it’s “Happy birthday and many years to come!”

See? I love putting things into perspective.

So, kidlets, if you’re not easily shocked, don’t feel bad about a bit of blood (it wasn’t THAT much), into a bit of rough sex, then pick up this one-shot and find out about it’s ending ;)


(Image © Kyuugou. None of these images belong to me)