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Manga Wrap-Up #2

November 6, 2008

So I got a metric butt-ton of manga to check out for myself and my kid, and I realized that when I added yet another one to my book list, I had about eleven books to review so far, and I still have at least two other series I haven’t started yet.  I believe that’s enough for a wrap-up, don’t you?

Actually, the first book I’m going to talk about is less manga and more graphic novel, but the audience is probably the same: Japan Ai: A Tall Girl’s Adventures in Japan, by Aimee Major Steinberger.  Ai means love, as we will have pounded into our heads later by Courtney Love’s manga, but I’m jumping ahead.  Aimee is what’s called an otaku, an obsessed fan.  When used in Japan, I guess it’s generally like ANYONE who’s obsessed with anything (like fan?), but in America, we tend to use it as our nice word for people obsessed with Japan.  (The meaner word is “weeaboo,” or, if you’re a Francophile, “ouiaboo.”  Thank you, I’ll be here all week.  Okay, I didn’t make that up, but it’s awesome and should be spread.)  Aimee is obsessed with these Japanese dolls, which gets her active on the internet about them, which gets her invited to Japan to check out the dolls, omg!  So she and her friends go over there for a vacation, during which she talks about culture, culture gaps, scary bathrooms, and how tall she is compared to everyone else.

It’s actually fun and a bit informative.  Great for kids who are into Japan and you DON’T want to discourage them.  However, it’s not for younger kids, unless you’re willing to explain what prostitutes and sex shops are.  But if you don’t mind (like, say, you have a tween, and as they are NOT EXPLICIT OR GRAPHIC IN ANY WAY, you don’t mind saying “A prostitute is…Ms. Steinberger is trying to show why being a geisha is NOT prostitution like many uninformed Americans think” and “Don’t ask” about the sex shop thing, as I did), have at it.

Next, I read three more volumes of Beauty Pop.  Unfortunately, everything starts to drag, but that’s acknowledged by the author in her sidebar comments, and it picks up by volume seven. I get it.  You have these characters you love, and you just want to have fun with them sometimes.  But there’s a track and one should stay on it, always progressing the characters and the plot forward.  Anyway, I’m sticking with it.  A little digression isn’t going to bother me, when I like it so much overall.  Plus, I have a feeling that Kiri is going to get a personality soon!  OMG!

Aaaaand now it’s time for Princess Ai!  I have been putting off reading this one forever.  And don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Courtney Love and I like her music and I don’t think she killed Kurt and yes, I’ve read interviews with her, and I think she was (dunno about now) a bit pretentious but intelligent and well-meaning, if a bit too interested in what people thought about her, and I absolutely miss that far-too-brief period of time where she looked beautiful and elegant.  ALL THAT SAID, Princess Ai made me want to beat something: Courtney Love, DJ Milky, some of the other people involved, the book, my head against a wall–you know, SOMETHING.  I took some notes in case my anger ebbed and I tried to use that selective amnesia thing to convince myself it wasn’t really that bad.  Would you like to read some of them? (WARNING: SPOILERS)

Princess Ai: More like Princess Painful

Ai is the least likable character I’ve read since Bella Swan.

Hikaru has teh ghey

jen is boring and hero-worships ai, then dies

kent only exists as it pertains to ai, and then kablam, he dies except he doesn’t

Yes, it’s all very true.  Ai is the biggest pain in the ass of all time, with her very own selective amnesia, which kicks in to progress the plot much in the way that doing embarrassing things is like plot to chick lit writers.  Ai doesn’t remember much, but she knows gay when she sees it!  She also knows how to be a total jerk to every person who doesn’t hero-worship the hell out of her, like her “best friend” Jen and her Kurt Cobain-knock-off boyfriend, Kent.  See, Ai’s dropped onto Earth from…somewhere else, where there are like, winged creatures and stuff, and Ai has a heart-shaped box.  She mentions her heart-shaped box a lot.  It makes me giggle.  “Don’t touch my heart-shaped box!”  I need to say this to someone at the end of a date.  They probably wouldn’t get it though.

Ai starts singing at a strip club, but she won’t strip, because she has ~*~*standards*~*~.  But she is so, so special that everyone’s like “Okay!  And also, here’s a record contract!”  I love how it seems like you can just sing on a street corner in Japan in a manga and someone will hand you “your single” the very next day.  (See also: Full Moon O Shagashite.)  But some winged creatures are after Ai for reasons she can’t remember!  Oh noes!  Her record company is out to get her, I mean PROTECT HER, but she doesn’t care because it’s like being stuck in a cage, guys!  FIGHT THE MAN/THE POWER, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY’RE BEING NICE TO YOU!!!!


Also, she happens to meet Kent, who happens to work at a library that will lead her to a book that leads her to plot which leads to more magical mystical things happening.  She stays at Kent’s and takes his gay roommate’s Lolita outfits.  I’m not sure what they’re trying to say here.  Is it crossdressing?  Is it cosplay?  Can we make a really big distinction here?  Or shall we bash the book for giving the impression that gay guys like to wear girls’ clothes?  Also, there’s that annoying sense of non-relationship entitlement where Kent’s roommate Hiraku is in looooove with Kent and is so protective of him and whatnot!  So jealous of Ai!  First off, if Kent’s such a great guy, why doesn’t he lay the law down on Hiraku so that the poor guy doesn’t spend his whole life in love with a straight dude?  At first I thought there was something there between them–that Kent was bi–but I don’t think you can BE bi in this world.  Whatever.  It was annoying.

She meets Jen, who works at the strip club, and they become BFFs, in that Ai pays attention to her when she’s not around Kent, who she leaves “to protect him.”  Honey, last I checked, he was his own person, able to make his own decisions, and no one has given you a gun or any sort of mystical powers (yet), so SHUT UP.  Also, Ai seems to have no problems putting Jen in harm’s way.  Jen, you see, has no life outside of Ai, or personality other than to gush about Ai and cheer her up when she’s down and tell us how we’re supposed to feel about Princess Mary Sue: we’re supposed to cheer her UNIQUENESS (read: Lolita clothes and bitchiness) and how she ALWAYS STANDS UP FOR WHAT SHE BELIEVES IN (read: complains when people aren’t letting her do what she wants).  Then we are supposed to feel sad when she (SPOILER ALREADY GIVEN) dies, and we do, because Jen was the only likable character in the whole thing, except when she talked.

Kent’s not really allowed to be much of a character either.  I think Hikaru gets more lines.  Mostly he’s there to be pretty and also be half-Japanese and half-American, which Ai can relate to when she (SPOILER) finds out she’s half-winged thing and half-human.

Oh, and the book mentions the death of Kurt Cobain, which was a bit too meta for me.

More of my notes, and then I really, really have to move on.  I mean, really.  Cuz I could talk more about how annoying and repetitive it gets, but you deserve more.

Covers: 2 & 3 are just embarrassing in the boob region: the second one has a top that’s cropped so short that, had it had any sort of scale, would come to just about the top of her breasts, not the bottom.  The third continues the weird boob trend, as her cleavage only has one side.  I think.  It’s hard to tell which way her body is facing.  Can you only shift your boobs while keeping the rest of you, even your shoulders, straight ahead?

Le sigh.

HOWEVER, better things ahead, because I then picked up the first two volumes of Happy Hustle High.  I have NO CLUE what Happy Hustle High means, I just know that I love it.  Hanabi is a nice if assertive girl who goes to an all-girls’ school, and protects her classmates from jerky guys.  But then her school is merged with a boys’ school when it can no longer afford to exist on its own, and Hanabi, her friends, and the guys all have to change to adapt.

Hanabi immediately falls for the cutest, shyest guy around: surfer and student council member Yasuaki.  But by standing out among the crowd of giggling, submissive girls, she’s caught the eye of Yasuaki’s rival, and also his best friend.  Sure, it’s annoying when there’s one girl and a group of guys who like her, but Hanabi is such a great character that you don’t mind.  Her self-confidence wavers with her first serious crush, and she makes mistakes, and they’re silly but not stupid.  The best part of this is that it isn’t just Hanabi stumbling around trying to figure out where she stands, it’s also Yasuaki, a boys’ school student with only a dad and brothers, no mother, who’s never been interested in girls before Hanabi.  The two of them are figuring it out together, and it’s adorable to read.  I’m QUITE BITTER that my library seems to have lost BOTH COPIES of their 4th volume.  HMPH.  But anyway, big thumbs up for the first two volumes of Happy Hustle High.  I’m psyched for the next one.

I read the first volume of Full Moon O Shagashite because my daughter wanted to read it, but it’s rated Teen or something.  GUH.  I was really tired last night but I don’t think it was that reason that kept me from feeling like I had to slog through this work.  It’s like it’s written by one of those 40-year-old women who has decorated her entire house in Hello Kitty stuff.  Mitsuki wants to sing.  She’s dying, but she won’t have an operation to save her life because it means she’d lose her voice.  Except…her voice is pretty weak right now anyway.  And also, she wants to sing because she told some boy she would follow her dream.  But she hasn’t heard from him in two years.  You know, when people move, they should really leave a forwarding address.  But she thinks if she can just become a singing star, he can find her again.

Enter the shinigami (so unlike the ones I know from Death Note), death angels, basically.  One is obsessed with the other, who is willing to help Mitsuki to attain her dreams by early-aging her into the strong, healthy, singy body of a 16-year-old.  This pisses off the female one because she’s jealous.  It’s like, her own trait.  But then she finds out that Mitsuki loves that disappeared dude, so it’s okay.  Except that her dreams are bringing the guy death angel closer to remembering his human life, which is a no-no.

Anyone else not caring, or is it just me because I read the thing?  I was put off by page one, where the bitter grandmother (why is there always a bitter grandmother?) says she HATES music.  She hates music.  Really?  All of it?  Love songs?  Weird Al?  Instrumentals?  Classical music?  Rap?  How can ANYONE hate music?  And then her doctor’s all “She’s so mature, turning down a life-saving procedure!”  Uh…by the first couple pages, I was sure the work had been written by a 12-year-old.

So I passed it on to my kid and ignored it.  The only thing that I could see being an issue is that the jealous death angel thing calls the girl “itty titties” (what, they couldn’t have translated to “Flatty” or “Wally” or “Washboard” or something?), but so far that’s the only thing that made it seem teen-rated to me.

Finally, I read the first volume of Never Give Up, which was pretty good except that it annoys me on that same level of “I do this for mah mannnnn, even though he doesn’t know/doesn’t care/doesn’t respond!”  Kiri looks like a dude, her crush looks kinda girly.  She wants to be “a princess” for him, yet instead of, IDK, wearing make-up and a tiara and stuff, she becomes a male model to “protect” him from hot chicks and gay guys.  Nevermind.  Even when I type it, it sounds annoying.  I’m still going to give it one more volume, because I think there could be a lot of good in there about gender stereotypes and such, so long as it doesn’t fall into the stereotypes themselves.  I EXPECT MORE CHARACTERIZATION AND LESS KIRI THE DOORMAT.  Or else.  *narrows eyes*

So there you go, wrap-up.  i still have something called Scary Book, Dramacon, and…is that it?  I don’t know.  I more-than-maxed-out my library card again.  (How does that happen?  It’s supposed to stop at thirty, yes?)  But now…it’s time to go to the library!  I’m not even kidding.  Hee.

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