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Manga Wrap-Up #5

December 21, 2008

*starts getting a Mambo #5 earworm*

*hates the word “earworm”*

I was wondering today how many books my Manga Wrap-Ups have covered altogether.  Because I haven’t been tagging them under their own category (or, apparently, correctly–sorry about that!  I’ll fix it in a second*), I’m going to have to take a guess here and say over twenty different titles have been reviewed, from one-shot works like Japan Ai to twenty-three volume series like Hana-Kimi.

Speaking of Hana-Kimi, I finished the series.  Yes, I read volumes eleven through twenty-three in an extraordinary short period of time.  Why?  Because I enjoyed it.  Yes, it had its flaws: it went on too long and it dropped its examination of the subplot of a boy crushing on what he thinks is another boy but is actually a girl in favor of quickly wrapping up the subplot at the very end of the series.  However, it never felt that it went on too long because it was trying to be gimmicky, but rather because the author obviously loved these characters and maybe once or twice found that what was supposed to be a short storyline, once committed to, ended up being much longer than expected if one followed the characters faithfully.  Yes, these storylines didn’t progress the characters enough, but the characters are so enjoyable that it’s a forgivable mistake.

Like the big baby I am, I teared up at the end and, like the cynical reader I can be, was pleased by the last few pages.  Once again, though, I was annoyed by the word choice on the back on the book: when a series is ending, there are basically two words that can be used that “give away” everything.  No one ever decides to write “Wait until how you see how sadly this ends!” in a blurb, but you generally get a question about a happy ending (which means yes, there will be one) or else the word “bittersweet,” which means “not the ending you wanted,” or “slightly sad ending.”  Shall I ruin it for you and tell you whether the couple’s happiness is questioned or whether the series ends “bittersweetly”?  No, I will not.  But the back of the book does.

I also finished Marmalade Boy.  I mentioned before that I read somewhere (let’s say…Wikipedia, because that’s where I generally get my book information) that Marmalade Boy was ten volumes.  The library only had eight.  The series seems to be resolved with eight, so I’m a little confused–wait, okay, I found it.  It was turned into a series of novels, which spanned ten volumes.  Whew!  That had been bothering me for quite a while, since I finished the books up!  I was just looking in the wrong place.  I admit my error, and humbly apologize.

Marmalade Boy takes an odd turn in its last two volumes, so odd that I refuse to talk about it specifically so as not to ruin it for those who have not read the series.  It’s a little bit off-putting in that I spent the majority of the last book yelling “OH MY GOD, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS ASK *ONE QUESTION* AND THIS WHOLE THING WILL BE RESOLVED, YOU IDIOT” but it was definitely fascinating to see how it played out, otherwise.  Perhaps I should not have been so surprised, as the book was based on the premise of wife-swapping.  So my declaration of “Possible best romantic series ever!” has been taken off the table, but it was still a great series, hitting so many good points without falling into cliches or overly drawn-out tensions–well, except for that last one.  But just a little.

Then I continued with Her Majesty’s Dog.  Good series, very consistent.  I don’t actually have much to say about it.  I read up to volume nine, and it seems like it’s wrapping up.  The publishing company’s website (and Wikipedia) says there are eleven volumes.  That sounds about right to me.  I’ll be happy to finish this up, not only because I love to finish entire series when I can, and prefer it to waiting for the next volume to come out, but because it is good.  Solid, really.  The only comment I feel I should make is that I BELIEVE–hope I’m not wrong again!–that this series is rated “Older Teen.”  I have no idea why.  Perhaps this is something Go! Comi considers comparable to 13+?  I would be more inclined to read “Older Teen” as “16+,” but there’s nothing about this series that makes me want to keep it from my 11-year-old daughter.  In fact, she is keeping up with me.  It’s no more violent than a comic book, it’s no more sexual than kissing that I can remember.  Perhaps the last two volumes will take an unexpected turn, but if not, I would say this is fine for accelerated younger readers, and young teen readers as well as anyone older.

Then I moved on to La Esperanca, which I will not bother to type correctly, as that would mean I’d have to find the special characters on a Mac.  Gasp!  Horrors!  Also, this book is yaoi, which in this case translates to “girls can objectify boys, too, you know!”  Not really a form of empowerment I can get behind.  When your friend sends you yaoi porn as a joke because he knows you roll your eyes and comment that you feel like you’re the only woman left on the internet who doesn’t want to read or watch men with men, and yet you enjoy those books that you read just for laughs more than you enjoy reading a “romantic” “love” story… Well, that just says something about the series, doesn’t it?  Doesn’t it?  I admit that here it could just be me.

La Esperanca is the story of some “girlish-looking boy” who acts like a martyr and has a father who did something bad (I got a molester vibe, but again: could just be me) so the boy’s afraid to show preference to any one of his all-male classmates.  However, some “bad boy” comes along and rocks his world…view.  I don’t know.  It was slow and boring and some of the chins were awkward-looking (which I remember from the porn, come to think of it) and I just could not bring myself to care.  I gave it two volumes and there’s no way I’m picking up a third.  Yes, I have heard of the whole “uke/seme” thing (Japanese for “top” and “bottom” or “pitcher” and “catcher” or “one type to fangirl over” and “another type to fangirl over)”.  I find it as limiting and irritating as “butch” and “femme.”  Yeahhh, of course there are couples where one is more X and the other is more Y, no pun intended, but generally?  Most of the couples I know, gay or bi or straight or asexual, are fairly similar in type.  Why?  Because “opposites attract” rarely works out well in real life.  Compatibility is definitely a factor.

And the whole series really has that feel of “this is here for your pleasure, girls!” sense to it.  Even Hana-Kimi, which was at its core a relationship about a young man and a young woman, paints a more realistic picture of romantic love between male characters than La Esperanca does.  And don’t get me started on the names: Robert Jade, Henri Quartz, Georges Saphir.  Ugh.

So yeah.

However, I will not be the kind of reluctant reader who turns away an entire genre just because of one lame series.  (Two, if you count Shout Out Loud, which was sent to me with the porn.)  If anyone has a suggestion for me about a yaoi series they enjoy (preferably PG-13), please comment and if I can track it down, I will read and review it.

Finally, I read Chocolat, a manhwa that deals with a girl who will do anything for her pop idols, including join the fan club of *another* band just to gain access to them.  The beginning of this series was chaotic and off-putting to me (you basically need the synopsis to follow what’s going on), but it quickly settles in to something really good.  As an American in an American-centered culture, manhwa is fascinating to me.  Whereas Japanese culture has bled into American subculture quite a bit, especially in the last decade, Korean culture has yet to do this.  My mind automatically searches out information, and probably jumps to conclusions.  For example, the manhwa I’ve read has had a decidedly more materialistic feel to it–that is, fashion and pop music seem to prevail far more in these books than in the Japanese books I’ve read (Paradise Kiss aside, of course).  The young female characters come off as more silly and shallow, but in my mind?  That’s not a culture thing, that’s a kid thing.  I thank my lucky stars that my daughter missed the Hannah Montana bandwagon, and became as disgusted with Britney Spears as I did.  So, as not to digress too far, I have an ever-growing, sometimes changing idea of Korean culture from the manhwa, most of which is probably inaccurate.  But I do like how the kids and teens just seem to be kids and teens, not adults in kids’ bodies.

Kum-Ji loves the pop band DDL, and joins Yo-I’s fan club to gain her the access she’s been denied by a full DDL fan roster.  However, this brings her the attention of Yo-I, specifically E-Soh, who first messes with her for fun, then crushes on her.

Things I like about this series: Spoilery stuff about the way Kum-Ji responds to E-Soh.  Kum-Ji’s enthusiasm for her favorite band and how she doesn’t even really know her “friends” outside of the scene because they’re all so focused on their mutual hobby.  (I remember those days…)  The petty rivalries, jealousies, and the very true ways the fans act and respond to given situations.  Yes, fans are crazy.  Yes, the basis of this craziness is a belief in the ownership of a human being or a set of human beings.  Yes, people should stop being so serious about Twilight.  What?  You know it’s true!  Oh, the pacing’s pretty good too.

Things I’m not crazy about: The beginning, but I said that.  Kum-Ji’s in with Yo-I.  The title (it has nothing to do with anything that I can figure).  Eh, that’s about it so far.

There you have it, your fifth manga wrap-up.  When next we meet…I’m not really sure.  I picked up some Azumanga Daioh, which I wasn’t going to read because my friend sent me the series, but I figure I’d read a bit first just for the sake of the blog.  I still have to read that Ark Angels thing.  My daughter has something she wants me to read that I think might be manga but I can’t remember anymore.  Oh, and I believe she returned Me & My Brothers Volume 2 before I could read it.  Grr!

See you then, manga fans!

*By the time this is posted, the other Wrap-Ups will now be in their own category, yay!

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