Category Archives: Manga Reviews

A N00b Reads Bleach: Volume 1

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Recently, with the help of a Borders gift card, I acquired volumes 1-21 of the Bleach manga in a big box set! I’m not a total stranger to the franchise–I watched the first season of the anime a few years ago–but I am new to the manga, and I’ve decided to embark on a blogging journey and write a few things about each volume I read. Much of the story will be familiar at first, as I cover the ground from the anime’s first season, but I’m looking forward to the parts of the story that are new to me.

So without further ado, here’s my thoughts on Bleach, volume 1.

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Mortality in anime and manga

Two things have me thinking about death: Ray’s commentary on  the unappealing nature of sentient, disposable objects, and Kabitzin’s review of Kishimoto’s latest round of killings. (SPOILER ALERT for both that article and this one.)

Ray’s already put Akikan in a coffin, but bear with me while I drive the nails in.  You know, I can’t help but think of an old Garfield strip whenever I look at this show.

Jon: What if our appliances could talk?  That would be great!

Garfield: No it wouldn’t.  Every time a lightbulb burned out it would be like a death in the family.

This is largely what is wrong with the idea of sentient disposable objects – to wit, if they really are sentient, your characters have exactly two options: either love them and care for them and be heartbroken all the time, or be callous bastards.  (Or, you know, psychotic satsujin angels. I was assuming they weren’t doing the killing themselves, but the world of anime is large.)

Dokuro-chan: more terrifying than a yandere.

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Welcome to the NHK! Vol. 4 – The Infinite Layer Cake of Misaki

Because that is what she is so far–like Heath Ledger’s Joker, who knows what kind of background or upbringing she really has? Who knows how much is truth and is a lie? It turns out this is a fairly suitable theme for the entire volume, too.

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Welcome to the NHK, Vol. 2-3: Divergence

Note: this is not a typical review of a manga. I am mainly writing my thoughts as to how this compares to the anime, which is one of my top 10 of all time–a key reason why I even started anime blogging.

With these volumes, the differences from the anime begin appearing–most of which put Misaki in a worse light than ever before. I ended volume 3 with the sense that she was, quite frankly, evil.

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Welcome to the NHK! Volume 1

I’ve decided to try something different and new for me–I’m going to try to review a manga series. I might as well begin with a story that I’m very familiar with, seeing as I loved the anime and reviewed the light novel some time ago. Having already judged the story to be one of my favorites, this review will mainly be a contrast and comparison with the other media.

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Comic Con: Tite Kubo (Bleach) Panel Liveblog

No video or photos were allowed. I guess this is the way Japanese guests are usually handled–it’s like AX. Starting in about 5 minutes.

1:15 PM – Kubo has entered the stage in sunglasses. Looks like a pop star or something.

1:16 PM – Kubo presented with an award from Comic Con Int’l. From the cheers I can tell the audience just got much younger than from the preceding Transformers panel.

1:19 PM – 10 kids from Japan are here, Shounen Jump essay winners. Also, we will be getting limited edition posters as we leave.

1:20 PM – “I am very glad to see you all, thank you very much” –Kubo

1:22 PM – Kubo thinks this is “immensely huge” compared to Japanese events. First impressions of being in America: he had to get his passport for this. Strong sunlight makes everything colorful here.

1:25 PM – Has Kubo done any drawing in his time here? (He has to produce 19 pages a week, after all.) He actually worked ahead of time so he could home here. Not a procrastinator (unlike me).

1:26 PM – Footage of his workspace. World exclusive. There are desks for his assistants as well, a big screen TV. Pictures of his chairs and metal suitcase he bought to come ovr here. A miniature TV just as decoration. A rare Bleach watch. Oddly enough, Bobobobo in some background art; he had asked a sketch/autograph exchange. The man has a vast CD collection, too (1200-1300 on a shelf; others stacked up). Picture of a kitchen, which is clean because they never cook!

1:32 PM – Upstairs: Kubo’s actual work area. Footage of him working with a ton of markers next to him. He’s coloring. HIs work chair was chosen based on design and he drew Aizen’s chair like it. Handing manuscripts and fan letters to his editor.

1:35 PM – Video portion over. Now questions from audience.

1:35 PMWhat inspired him to become a manga artist? Decided when he was in elementary school. He became interested in architecture and design after he had already become a manga artist.

1:37 PM Inspriation for Bleach: inspired by the image of Soul Reapers in kimonos. Wanted to draw something no one had seen before.

1:38 PM – Kubo puts character, not plot, first.

1:39 PM – What inspired him to put Spanish/Mexican culture in Bleach? Nothing intentional with the character Chad. However, he just sensed he had a Mexican heritage. Someone in audience shouts “Viva La Raza!”

1:40 PMWhere does he come up with the opening drawings? He puts characters in clothes he can’t get.

1:40 PMAdvice for aspiring manga artists: Seems stumped…”believe in your talent.” Do something you yourself must enjoy; otherwise it’s dishonest to charge someone for your story.

1:42 PMHow did Quincy and its name come about (JEREMY’S QUESTION!): “I created Uryu to be Ichigo’s rival character, so, for that, I put him in white clothing.” He uses arrows because it’s long range, and it will be difficult for Ichigo to fight him. The Quincys’ name is from his five point star; in Japan this is a symbol. If you call every archer a “Quincy Archer” it sounds like a person’s name, so he liked it.

1:45 PMHow do you draw action scenes? Plays rock music in his head as he draws it. He pauses the action and try to swing around in 3D mentally to find the best angle.

1:46 PMWhen did he realize he had such a big fanbase in the US? Yesterday!

1:47 PM – Pancha Diaz, Viz editor asks: What part of the process does he enjoy the most? When thinking of the story, if it’s something he’s been waiting to do for a while, he enjoys it very much. Usually has a scene rundown of things to draw in his head. Connecting scenes are a bit harder. Inking is also enjoyable for him.

1:49 PM – Pancha Diaz again: How long between drawing and publication? Between 2-3 weeks. Diaz, by contrast notes, has to do 6 months in advance.

1:50 PMWill there be an Isshin backstory? Yes! He knew from the start he was a Soul Reaper.

1:51 PM – Three minutes left. Is the Kon doll inspired by something from his childhood? Wanted to create something fake looking, where you put random things together–like a sewing line in the middle of the face. Backstory: a father bought a cheap stuffed animal for his child, and the child threw it away because it was ugly–that’s why he is on the street.

1:54 PMIdea for Hell Butterflies: Looked up in a dictionary for word that goes well with “Soul Reaper.” It is a kind of butterfly that is another name for a real butterfly species. Prefers to fly in the dark, and it fits well with the Soul Reapers. End of panel.

Battle Royale Manga Ultimate Edition – Ultimate Review

battle royale ultimate edition

I have been a fan of Battle Royale since the English translation of the novel hit stateside back in 2003. Much later than most, I saw the film after having read the novel. While I could certainly see what people liked about the film, it was still hard for me to reconcile the various shifts from the original story. When I first saw the manga in the store, I was slightly turned off by the character design and slight deviations from the original story so I put it on the back burner to-read list. However, with Tokyo Pop’s recent Ultimate Edition versions coming out here I was intrigued. The mention of more of the original material being added to make it closer to the Japanese release as well as bonus content was impetus enough for me to check it out.

First off, the the new cover on Volume 1 of the hard bound Ultimate Edition was much more stimulating then the first volume of the U.S. release. The first volume manga cover always reminded me of a weird comic version of Mt. Rushmore where the faces of key players in Battle Royale replaced past presidents. Once inside, I found that art style was still, as I remembered, much too odd in parts (the worst example being the sadistic “Program” instructor Sakamochi looking somewhat like a jolly yet deformed version of Sylvester Stallone). However, I was nonetheless buckled down and ready to read through this solidly bulky graphic novel of blood, guts and grit. Surprisingly, the story was much closer to the original novel than the movie. Although neither really addresses the “Program”, in which a class of junior high students are pitted to fight to the death against each other, adequately. In the movie the reasoning behind it is referred as the Battle Royale Act and in the manga it is presented as a twisted game show for the public’s entertainment. In the novel it is primarily a governmental tool of control used to cultivate fear in the masses as well as quell organized rebellion. However, some creative license is often to be expected despite the disappointment of many fans of the novel.

Taking into consideration minor story changes, the biggest difference from the novel is that the Ultimate Edition now includes previously removed graphic and sexually explicit content making this even less of a read for anyone under the age of 18. The gore is embellished beyond the original novel and even the movie, although this may be expected for such a graphic novel. The bonus back story for the character of the viciously cold seductress Mitsuko Souma, seemed an overt attempt to glean the hormone charged teen or porn obsessed adult audience. Gratuitous at best, the Ultimate Edition added character back story lends no real help to the narrative and actually in my opinion detracts from the imagination factor.

Overall the packaging is attractive, the a few parts of the bonus material are interesting enough and despite a English adaption that is somewhat steeped in controversy the story still holds up as rather solid and runs decently close to the original novel. Unfortunately, for myself and potentially other readers the gratuitous hentai additions to the story are graphic to the point that they can easily become a deal breaker to anyone not interested in over the top anime porn. Give me a good old blood and guts story any day but I just don’t get my jollies from hand-sketched girls having sex acts in black and white. But if this is not a problem for the average potential reader then I leave up to them to decide for themselves.

Review: Welcome to the NHK (novel)

The only illustration you people are gonna get

I wasn’t totally idle in my hospital stay! I managed to finish reading the Welcome to the NHK novel by Tatsuhiko Takimoto, published in the United States by Tokyopop. The anime version of this story was one of my favorites of 2006 and is in part responsible for the very existence of this website, and I was curious as how this novel, which predates both the manga and the anime, would fare in comparison. The contrasts and similarities are instructive.

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