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Sesho's Anime And Manga Reviews

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Reviewing Anime and Manga new and old
Recent Episodes for Sesho's Anime And Manga Rev...
DATE: Sat, 11 Sep 2010
SIZE: 5.49 MB
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Podcast Episode 227: Andromeda Stories Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Andromeda Stories Volume 1 by Keiko Takemiya. Story by Ryu Mitsuse. Translated by Magnolia Steele. Published by Vertical, $11.95, Rated 13+. From the back cover: Cosmoralia's Prince Ithaca is about to wed Princess Lilia of Ayodoya and be crowned Astralta III. The apparently favorable celestial bearings mean he will be no mere monarch but holy king of a new "papacy". Alas, the peaceful inhabitants of Planet Astria have no clue that they're next in line for invasion by a ruthless machine force--a threat that seems to metaphorize the inherent perils of politics and desire in this multilayered saga. The tension slowly mounts to an unbearable pitch in this ominous first volume of three. Following the conclusion of her award-winning and epochal To Terra..., Keiko Takemiya paired up with science fiction legend Ryu Mitsuse to create yet another milestone that was shortly made into an animated TV feature. Andromeda Stories is comics pioneer Takemiya's second work to appear in English. My Rating: A+ You can read a free preview of Volume 1 at: http://www.vertical-inc.com/previews/andromeda/index.ht ml

DATE: Sun, 29 Aug 2010
SIZE: 2.92 MB
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Podcast Episode 226: One Piece Volume 3

Podcast manga review of One Piece Volume 3: Don't Get Fooled Again by Eiichiro Oda. Translated by Andy Nakatani. Adapted by Lance Caselman. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen. Show correction: I said "Jolly Roger" when I meant to say "Gold Roger". Please forgive me! From the back cover: "Sure, lots of people say they want to be the King of the Pirates, but how many have the guts to do what it takes? When Monkey D. Luffy first set out to sea in a leaky rowboat, he had no idea what might lie over the horizon. Now he's got a crew--sort of--in the form of swordsman Roronoa Zolo and treasure-hunting thief Nami. If he wants to prove himself on the high seas, Luffy will have to defeat the weird pirate lord Buggy the Clown. He'll have to find a map to the Grand Line, the sea route where the toughest pirates sail. And he'll have to face the Dread Captain Usopp, who claims to be a notorious pirate captain...but, frankly, Usopp says a lot of things..." My Grade: B

DATE: Sat, 21 Aug 2010
SIZE: 5.09 MB
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Podcast Episode 225: Afterschool Charisma Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Afterschool Charisma Volume 1  by Kumiko Suekane. Translated by Camellia Nieh. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz SigIkki, $12.99, Rated T+ (Older Teen) for boobs. From the back cover: "St. Kleio Academy is a very exclusive school. To enroll, a student must be a clone of a famous historical figure. Wolfgang Mozart, Queen Elizabeth, Sigmund Freud, Marie Curie, Adolf Hitler-- With such a combustible student body, it's only a matter of time before the campus explode! Shiro Kamiya is the only non-clone at St. Kleio, a school where his father is a teacher. Why is a regular kid taking classes at the school? Nobody seems to know for sure." My Grade: D- You can read Chapters 1 and 7-12 for free at: http://www.sigikki.com/series/afterschoolcharisma/index .shtml

DATE: Thu, 12 Aug 2010
SIZE: 3.40 MB
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Podcast Episode 224: One Piece Volume 2

Podcast manga review of One Piece Volume 2: Buggy the Clown by Eiichiro Oda. Translated by Andy Nakatani. Adapted by Lance Caselman. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in the US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: "As a kid, Monkey D. Luffy vowed to become King of the Pirates and find the legendary treasure called the "One Piece". The enchanted Gum-Gum Fruit has given Luffy the power to stretch like rubber-- and his new crewmate, the infamous Roronoa Zolo, strikes fear into the hearts of other buccaneers! But what chance does one rubber guy stand against Nami, a thief so tough she specializes in robbing pirates...or Captain Buggy, a fiendish pirate lord whose weird, clownish appearance conceals even weirder powers? It's pirate vs. pirate in the second swashbuckling volume of One Piece!" My Grade: B+ Just hit the play button below: You can also listen to my podcast review of One Piece Volume 1 at this link: http://www.sesho.libsyn.com/podcast_episode_207_ one_piece_volume_1

DATE: Wed, 11 Aug 2010
SIZE: 6.71 MB
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Podcast Episode 223: Blade of the Immortal Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Blade of the Immortal Volume 1: Blood of a Thousand by Hiroaki Samura. Translated by Dana Lewis and Toren Smith. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $14.95. From the back cover: "Manji, a ronin warrior of feudal Japan, has been cursed with immortality. To rid himself of this curse, regain his mortality, and end his life of misery, Manji must slay one thousand evil men! His quest begins when a young girl seeks his help in taking revenge on her parent's killers. His quest ends ends only after he has spilled the blood of a thousand!" My Grade: B

DATE: Tue, 03 Aug 2010
SIZE: 4.45 MB
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Podcast Episode 222: Polyphonica Cardinal Crimson Volume 1

Podcast  manga review of Polyphonica: Cardinal Crimson volume 1. Original story by Ichiro Sakaki and ocelot. Illustrated by Tomo Hirokawa. Translated and adapted by Sheldon Drzka. Originally published in Japan by Flex Comix. Published in US by CMX, $9.99, Rated Teen+. From the back cover: "There's a magical place known as Polyphonica, where humans and spirits live side by side. In face, spirits are sustained by a very special music known as "Commandia", which humans play. As a young boy, Phoron's singing accidentally summoned a female spirit named Corticarte. She made a pact to always protect him in exchange for the beautiful sounds he created. But Phoron thought her to be a figment of his imagination and forgot about her. Now a bumbling student at Tolubath Commandia Academy, the teenage Phoron accidentally summons Corticarte while practicing his music. Though she's not pleased to have been forgotten, she remembers her oath to Phoron. The struggling musician could use all the help he can get, but this feisty spirit may be more than he can handle. " My Grade: C Here is the opening for the original PC visual novel Polyphonica:

DATE: Fri, 30 Jul 2010
SIZE: 4.76 MB
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Podcast Episode 221: 11Eyes

Podcast anime review of 11Eyes, Episodes 1-12. Directed by Masami Shimoda (Ai Yori Aoshi, Boys Be, Saber Marionette J). Series composition by Kenichi Kanemaki (Hell Girl, El Cazador de la Bruja, Negima). Animation by Dogakobo. Series currently streaming at: http://www.crunchyroll.com/11eyes Satsuki Kakeru and Minase Yuka have been best friends ever since they were in an orphanage together. They've endured some hard times but nothing can prepare them for the "Red Night". As they are walking home from high school one day, they experience a rending pain, and then find themselves in what looks like their city. But it is overcast with a red sky and a black moon. And there's no living inhabitants except some weird looking monsters. Just when they're surrounded and about to be killed, the Red Night ends and they find themselves back in our world again. But they find themselves getting dragged back to that hell over and over again. But they are not alone. They begin to discover that some other students from their school are also being drawn into the Red Night. The difference is each one of them has a power or skill that allows them to fight against the monsters and their masters, the Black Knights. Do Kakeru and Yuka also have powers they don't know about? They better hope they do because the Black Knights are obsessed with killing them all. The anime was based on an adult visual novel released in Japan that was subsequently released in a more sanitized form on the Xbox 360 and PSP. My Grade: C Here is the opening from the original PC game. Pretty cool song:

DATE: Thu, 29 Jul 2010
SIZE: 4.38 MB
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Podcast Episode 220: I'll Give It My All...Tomorrow Volume 1

Podcast manga review of I'll Give It My All...Tommorow volume 1 by Shunju Aono. Adapted by Akemi Wegmuller. Originally published by Shogakukan in Japan. Published in US by Viz Signature Ikki Comix, $12.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen. From the back cover: "Shizuo Oguro is living his dreams...sort of. A complete waste of a human life until now, 40-year-old Shizuo breaks free from the corporate rat race and charts himself a fairly random and new career course: to become  a published manga artist. Sure he lacks the talent, discipline, or any other skill necessary to become a success in the manga industry, but that's not enough to stop Shizuo!" My Grade: A You can read Chapters 1, and the unpublished Chapters 5-9 for free at http://www.sigikki.com/series/illgiveit/index.shtml  

DATE: Tue, 20 Jul 2010
SIZE: 6.19 MB
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Podcast Episode 219: Usurper of the Sun

Podcast novel review of Usurper of the Sun by Housuke Nojiri. Translated by John Wunderley. Originally published in Japan by Hayakawa. Published in US by Viz Haikasoru, $15.99. From the back cover: "Aki Shiraishi is a high school student working in the astronomy club and one of the few witnesses to an amazing event-- someone is building a tower on the planet Mercury. Soon, the enigmatic Builders have constructed a ring around the sun, and the ecology of Earth is threatened by its immense shadow. Aki is inspired to pursue a career in science, and the truth. She must determine the purpose of the ring and the plans of its creators, as the survival of both species--humanity and the alien Builders---hangs in the balance." My Grade: B+ You can read an excerpt of the book at www.haikasoru.com 

DATE: Sun, 18 Jul 2010
SIZE: 4.11 MB
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Podcast Episode 218: Afro Samurai Season 1 Director's Cut Blu-ray

Podcast anime blu-ray review of Afro Samurai Season 1 Director's Cut. Directed by Fuminori Kizaki. Written by Derek Draper and Chris Yoo. Published by Funimation, Rated Mature, 5 episodes, 125 minutes. From the back cover: "Afro Samurai (voiced by Academy Award nominated Samuel L. Jackson) is a epic tale of a black samurai's hunt for Justice (voiced by Ron Perlman: Hellboy) who murdered his father. With music score by The RZA (Kill Bill, Wu Tang Clan) Afro Samurai blends traditional Japanese culture, funky technology and hip hop to create a brutally fresh entertainment experience." My Grade: A- Just hit the > on the player below to hear the podcast: You can watch all 5 episodes of the series for free via Funimation:

DATE: Sat, 17 Jul 2010
SIZE: 4.02 MB
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Podcast Episode 217: Blame! Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Blame! volume 1 by Tsutomu Nihei (Biomega). Translated by Stephen Paul. Adapted by Brandon Montclare. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated OT 16+. From the back cover: "In a future world rife with decay and destruction, Killy is a man of few words who packs one very powerful gun. He wanders an endless labyrinth of cyberdungeons filled with concrete and steel, fighting off cyborgs and other bizarre silicate creatures. Everyone is searching for the Net Terminal Genes, but no one is quite certain what kind of power they contain. The answer may lie hidden among the scattered human settlements of this vast and desolate future world." My Grade: B- And here's the first episode of the anime version of Blame, which was a series of 5 minute vignettes based on the manga. No talking here, but it gives you the feel and look of the manga:

DATE: Fri, 16 Jul 2010
SIZE: 3.82 MB
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Podcast Episode 216: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 9

Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist volume 9 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Jake Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: "Ed, Al and Winry return to Central Command, but only bad news greets the Fullmetal Alchemist and his friends. Lieutenant Colonel Maes Hughes has been murdered - and Second Lieutenant Maria Ross is the prime suspect! While Maria awaits an uncertain fate in jail, the living suit of armor bearing the soul of serial killer "Barry the Chopper" breaks free of the military and goes on a rampage. Now, the mysterious Homunculi must come out of the shadows to deal with the mess before their monstrous conspiracy is exposed. But for Colonel Mustang, Maes Hughes's former best friend, it's not about the truth - it's about revenge..." My Grade: A+  

DATE: Sun, 11 Jul 2010
SIZE: 4.82 MB
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Podcast Episode 215: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 8

Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 8 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Jake Forbes. Published by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: "The raid on the Devil's Nest becomes a slaughter, as government troops - led by the Fuhrer President himself, King Bradley - exterminate the half-human forces of the Homunculus Greed. But will Ed and Al survive the battle unchanged? As Greed is sent to meet his maker, foreign alchemists arrive in Amestris, having crossed the great desert from the eastern country of Xing. They are Mei and Ling, and they've come for the Philosopher's Stone... and a secret even the Elric brothers never imagined..." My Grade: A+

DATE: Sat, 26 Jun 2010
SIZE: 3.86 MB
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Pocast Episode 214: Biomega Volume 2

Podcast manga review of Biomega Volume 2 by Tsutomu Nihei. Translated by John Werry. Adapted by Stan! Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in the US by Viz Signature, $12.99, Rated M for Mature. From the back cover:"In Tsutomu Nihei's nightmare vision of the future, the N5S virus has swept across the Earth, turning most of the population into zombie-like drones. Zoichi Kanoe, an agent of Toa Heavy Industry, is humanity's last hope, and he's not even human! With the help of Fuyu, a digitized intelligence built into the computer system of his heavy dual coil motorcycle, Zoichi's search for the key to salvation will take him on a journey across surreal landscapes and hurl him into battle against mind-bending evil. Prepare yourself for the ultimate trip-- Prepare yourself for the world of Biomega. After capturing Eon Green, DRF forces are amassing around Toa Heavy Industry headquarters and have taken Dr. Kurokawa and his daughter into custody. Zoichi must attempt a rescue--Dr. Kurokawa's laboratory may yield critical information on Eon Green. Elsewhere, Toa Heavy Industry agent Nishu Mizunoe searches for Kozlov Grebnev and the secrets he knows about  the DRF's research, origins and their apocalyptic plan for the entire human race!"My Grade: A

DATE: Fri, 25 Jun 2010
SIZE: 4.41 MB
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Podcast Episode 213: Zoo

Podcast review of Zoo by Otsuichi. Translated by Otsuichi. Translated by Terry Gallagher. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Haikasoru, $13.99. From the back cover: "A man receives a photo of his girlfriend every day in the mail...so that he can keep track of her body's decomposition. A deathtrap that takes a week to kill its victims. Haunted parks and airplanes held in the sky by the power of belief. These are just a few of the stories  by Otsuichi, Japan's master of dark fantasy."My Grade: B+ If you look below you can see that I have added a new audio player where you can listen to the episode automatically. Just hit that > button and it will start playing. In addition you can make it full screen. If you look over to the left on the player where it says "menu", you can click on that and you can share the episode with other people via email, embedding, or twitter. Through the subscribe option you can get the RSS or subscribe via Itunes. The really cool thing is if you click on "Episodes", you can scroll up and down by dragging on the gray bar on the right edge of the player. This will allow you to see all my reviews. Just click on one and it will start playing. The player is a bit of a work in progress. I'm still trying to get it exactly how I want it. But try it out. My episodes will also post to Itunes as usual.

DATE: Thu, 17 Jun 2010
SIZE: 0.00 MB
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Goodbye Rentanime

About 3 years ago, I got a membership with Rentanime.com because my local anime/manga store, Anime Avalon, closed its doors. It's weird to think at that time there was hardly any anime online (ok, legal anime). If you were lucky, you might get to watch the first one or two episodes of a series. IF you were lucky. So I had no other way to watch anime besides buying or renting. I'm sure I wasted hundreds, if not thousands of dollars because you had to buy anime dvds without ever seeing the show. How the times have changed, huh? Was Crunchyroll around then? If it was, it was a bootleg site, and now its one of the major players. I still get sad when I think about Anime Avalon. But you know, even if somehow it had survived, it would surely have closed by now. Just because it could never compete with the big stores like Best Buy. It could only sell anime at list price. They did have a vast rental collection, but even mainstream rental places like Hollywood Video and Blockbuster are closing more and more stores. I think all the Hollywoods in my city are now closed. And there's ONE Blockbuster left. I wonder if a store specializing just in manga could make a profit? I still have quite a few dvds I bought at Anime Avalon during its last few weeks of being open. They were selling all their dvds for $5 apiece. I probably spent around $500 that last month it was open. So I always think about it when I play or see those dvds, almost like remembering a dead relative. But let's say it had stayed open somehow. It would have closed for the same reason I'm cancelling my Rentanime membership. Why are you going to rent when you can watch everything and MORE online for free. The only reason I've hesitated is because Rentanime has older dvds but now even those are looking less and less tempting. Especially due to the fact that they have a lot of holes in their inventory because a lot of people buy those out of print titles instead of returning them. Another positive outcome of cancelling is the fact that with that $20 I save each month I can BUY some anime dvds. So anyways, it's goodbye to you Rentanime.

DATE: Wed, 16 Jun 2010
SIZE: 4.34 MB
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Podcast Episode 212: Biomega Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Biomega Volume 1 by Tsutomu Nihei. Translated by John Werry. Adapted by Stan! Originally published by Shueisha in Japan. Published in US by Viz Signature, $12.99, Rated Mature. From the back cover: The N5S virus has swept across the earth, turning most of the population into zombie-like drones. Zoichi Kanoe, an agent of Toa Heavy Industry, is humanity's last hope, and he's not even human! With the help of Fuyu, an artificial intelligence built into the computer system of his Heavy Duty Coil motorcycle, Zoichi's search for the key to salvation will take him on a journey across surreal landscapes and hurl him into battle against mind-bending evil. Zoichi Kanoe plunges into the depths of 9JO - an island city in the middle of the Pacific Ocean - in search of Eon Green, a girl with the power to transmute the N5S virus. He's not the only one looking for her, though... Agents of the Public Health Service's Compulsory Execution Unit are also in hot pursuit. Zoichi and his transhuman allies have no time to waste; the countdown to the zombie apocalypse has begun! My Grade: A Check out www.Vampybit.me 

DATE: Tue, 15 Jun 2010
SIZE: 4.45 MB
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Podcast Episode 211: Culdcept Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Culdcept Volume 1 by Shinya Kaneko. Editorial Supervision by Omiya Soft. Translated by Takae Brewer. Adapted by Jay Antani. Originally published by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Teen 13+. From the back cover: In the magical land of Bablashca, card-shaped relics have been scattered far and wide. They are part of the ancient Culdcept, a book that created the universe. Whoever collects all the cards will have the power of gods, but only special people, called Cepters, can control the cards, and thus, control the universe.... The mysterious Black Cepters begin destroying city after city in search of the precious cards. The fate of Bablashca rests in Najaran, an apprentice Cepter who sets out on an improbable journey to conquer the Black Cepters before they discover the hidden relics! My Grade: A- This manga is based on a videogame series from Japan. Two games have been released in the US to date: Culdcept for PS2 and Culdcept Saga for Xbox 360. The best site for info about the games is www.culdceptcentral.com Here's the trailer for Culdcept Saga:  

DATE: Sun, 13 Jun 2010
SIZE: 0.04 MB
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Manga Review: Negima! Volume 6

Manga review of Negima! volume 6 by Ken Akamatsu. Translated by Toshifumi Yoshida. Adapted by Trish Ledoux. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated OT Ages 16+. Volume 6 of Negima is full of surprises as Negi, accompanied by Setsuna, Asuna, and Konoka, finally gets to deliver the letter from the headmaster of Mahora Academy. His mission was to hand deliver it to the leader of the Kansai Magic Association, called "The Elder of the East". The Elder also happens to be the son-in-law of the headmaster, which in turn makes him Konoka's dad. Of course, Negi had an ulterior motive in coming to Kyoto, which was to see if he could find any info about his missing father. But there are some that do not want to see the Kanto and Kansai Magic Associations getting along. Just when Negi thinks he's reached a safe haven Chigusa Amagasaki and her minions attack the Kansai temple and kidnap Konoka. Well, somehow, Akamatsu found a way for Negi's students to fight on equal footing with Negi against high-level magicians and even brutish demons. In the context of Negima, this actually doesn't strain the limits of believability. I didn't even blink when some of his students started breaking out sniper rifles or using Naruto-like martial arts attacks. It just made sense in this world Akamatsu has created. The art is great as usual and the fan service is plentiful. Some might say TOO plentiful. For instance, in battle, Asuna blocks a petrification spell that does not harm her but turns her clothes to stone and then they shatter, leaving her naked. She is then tickled by multiple tentacled arms made of water which seem to be groping in all the wrong places. Later, when she gets another set of clothes, she forgets to put on her panties, and so every battle she fights her butt is blowing in the wind. Literally. And what would a volume of Negima be without some sort of bath scene? Still, I find the characters interesting and the humor works most of the time, even though the series tries to be an softcore ero-manga at times. My Grade: B+

DATE: Mon, 07 Jun 2010
SIZE: 5.35 MB
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Podcast Episode 210: All You Need Is Kill

Podcast novel review of All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Translated by Alexander O. Smith. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Haikasoru, $13.99. From the back cover: When the alien mimics invade, Keiji Kiriya is just one of many recruits shoved into a suit of battle armor called a Jacket and sent out to kill. Keiji dies on the battlefield, only to be reborn each morning to fight and die again and again. On his 158th iteration, he gets a message from a mysterious ally-- the female soldier known as the Full Metal Bitch. Is she the key to Keiji's escape or his final death?   My Grade: B   Read an excerpt from the book and get more info at: http://www.haikasoru.com/all-you-need-is-kill/    

DATE: Sun, 06 Jun 2010
SIZE: 3.89 MB
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Podcast Episode 209: Scans of the Devil

In this episode I talk about the news that OneManga is one of the top 1000 sites being visited on the internet and what this means to the manga publishing world. Also, comments about manga bloggers that blame scan sites for everything and see them as evil minions of Satan. Ok, I don't quite go that far.

DATE: Tue, 25 May 2010
SIZE: 0.05 MB
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Living In Neverland

Goodbye CMX. It was nice knowing you. But I come here not to mourn the passing of this slightly oddball shojo publisher. I come here to honor it. Yeah, just when I was getting into their Flex titles (which i vastly preferred to their shojo), the company ups and croaks. But we all know that CMX should and would have survived had it not been for the devilish plots of their parent company, DC. Oh, DC, I spit at thee from the mouth of Hell! So what if the CMX imprint wasn't making any money and losing your company hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars a year. It was your god-given duty to crank out volumes of manga, whether they were any good or not! I don't want to hear the lame excuse that nobody was buying them! The fans that wanted them printed that didn't buy them are your customers, and its a well-known and truthful cliche that the customer is NEVER right. In my often ignored except when people bitch at me twitter account I stated that I didn't know if I really felt sorry for the CMX employees that lost or are losing their jobs. I stand by the statement. I was raised in a blue collar family and when people lost their jobs they didn't want family and friends, much less complete strangers, to pity them. They just looked for another job. Who wants to be PITIED? What I really meant was that anyone working at a manga publisher in this day and age should NEVER feel that their job is safe. They and their employers have been riding on the crest of a fad that has slowly, in some cases, quickly, evolved into a job threatening blood-letting. Who in their right mind would think they could be a manga translator for the rest of their life? Or work in the manga business as a career? I doubt if Viz or Tokyopop or Yen or Del Rey's manga imprint will be around 10 years from now. Or if they are,  it will be more like Viz was in the 90s with very few and more expensive titles and not many positions. Why are so many of the "manga media" and fans so SURPRISED by the death of CMX? That's what really ticked and continues to tick me off. Where are these manga bloggers, "critics", "experts" and "fans" living? Neverland? Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory? I just cannot explain why they didn't see this coming. I've seen it for some time. I don't mean CMX in particular but more the End of Days for manga publishers. Manga space getting smaller in the bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Noble was one sign. (oh, can I insert here that Borders sucks?). The big sign of things to come for me was seeing all the local comicbook stores getting rid of their manga in the past year. (oh yeah, when they ripped the covers off their returns, where did all the unsaleable manga go? Into the garbage most likely)They only carry the most popular titles like Shonen Jump titles and some Dark Horse. Manga in comic stores is relegated to the pariah space of just maybe two shelves with Archie and kid titles now. Not to mention the closing of my ONLY local anime/manga store back in 2007. Was the fading into oblivion of multiple manga publishers in the past 2 years not a sign? Wasn't the number of discontinued titles by companies like Dark Horse a sign (Dark Horse, where is Reiko, Octopus Girl, Eden? Get off your asses please. Reiko, don't go into the light! I have rightly surmised that I will be in a senior citizen home, or dead, by the time Eden is completed). When Viz slashed 40% of its staff, I knew it was pretty much over. They have the strongest selling titles of any publisher with their Oprah Book Club-like Shonen Jump imprint (stick that label on anything and its gonna do ok for a time). When they cut back, you knew the industry was in deep doo-doo. And by the way, where the hell is Kodansha? What the F was with their cheap-ass parlor tricking reprints of Ghost in the Shell and Akira? Get out of the market. Stay out of the way. You're just making things worse. I am the Amityville Horror House---GET OUT! What is the cause of all this calamity, all these people losing their jobs, of fans bitching, of bloggers running from a falling sky? PEOPLE ARE NOT BUYING MANGA. ACCEPT IT. ITS NOT POPULAR. IT NEVER WILL BE EXCEPT IN A FAKE FAD KIND OF WAY. ACCEPT IT. The true fans buy it and love it. But there's not enough of us. It doesn't make me angry. It's just a fact. Do I wish everybody could get into it like I do? Yeah. Is that going to happen? No. I don't understand why some "fans" almost wet themselves when a volume of manga gets into the USA Today top 200 books. They seem to think that "This is just the beginning. Manga is popular now. We will take over the world. We're making progress. Next time, we'll make it to #198 for a week! Viva Le Manga Revolucion!" Get real. We're not making progress. We're in decline. No, we're not gonna die, but we have to live in reality. Is the decline due to fans or publishers? Or the booksellers even? On the publishing side, I think all of them are complete failures. Have I ever opened a mainstream magazine and saw a manga ad. Never. The marketing strategies of these companies suck. There is so much potential for manga to become popular, but I think the problem is that publishers are run by nitwits or controlled by the Japanese who don't know how to appeal to American markets. There are manga franchises that could make just as much money in movie form as Iron Man, Spider-Man, or Batman, if handled right. But instead we get 60 year old Keanu Reeves in Cowboy Bebop. Come on, Cameron and Speilberg, please succeed with Battle Angel Alita and Ghost in the Shell. DiCaprio, make Akira. Can you imagine the change in the manga market if Battle Angel Alita made as much money and got as much press as Avatar? A sea change. And what is up with the publisher's slow on the take reaction to the potential of online manga?Ok, Viz is in the forefront of it right now, and Tokyopop is doing it in their typically mediocre manner, but where were they when manga was at its highest popularity? They should have struck while the manga was hot. Netcomics had the right idea but had no hit titles. It took the majors almost a decade before they started getting serious about putting books online. Didn't they see what happened when the record industry failed to capitalize on the download debacle earlier in the decade. It's being repeated all over again. Are the publishers picking the right titles to print? No. Or they would be making more money and they wouldn't be in the state they are in. I have to love Viz though. I just do. They are putting out not just popular titles but more mature and experimental ones that don't always fit into what Americans consider "manga". I also love the balls they have to publish Japanese sci-fi. I've bought every Haika Soru title that has come out. I see the way they are handling their brand and titles as the key to the future. They seem to be merging the facets of their anime/manga/novel business pretty well, and with some forward looking vision. I think Tokyopop will be the next to fall if their Priest film is as crappy as I imagine its going to be. Im thinking B-movie all the way. Yen seems to be pretty healthy as long as it can suck on the neck of Twilight and somehow make money off lame series like Maximum Ride and Night School, which are pretty horrible. And just when OEL had finally been flushed down Tokyopop's toilet. Another one of the many causes of the manga decline? Generation Cake. A generation that wants its cake, wants to eat it too, and then regurgitate it for their friends to eat for free. Manga companies target most of their titles at kids. And guess what? They're not buying.  They're spending their money on other things. Phones. Videogames. Ipods. Music. Clothes. Girls. Guys. Movies. A lot of kids hate to read now. They think its boring. Or maybe their families don't have enough money to buy them manga. Again, this doesn't anger me or anything. They just don't like manga. They'd rather spend their money on things they get more enjoyment out of. I think the problem that manga faces is the opposite of the US comic market. American comic readers skew older, but they fail to bring in new readers because of so much backstory. They also fail most horribly with girls and women. Manga has no problem getting new readers, including of the female variety, but fails to keep them. If you start reading Marvel and DC when you're a kid, you keep reading them even when you get older. Manga readers tend to start young but the majority cast the hobby off as they age as more of a fad than a lifelong love. Another problem is that booksellers now encourage you NOT to buy books. You can go into Borders or Barnes and Noble and just read every book for free if you want. You can't go five feet without stubbing your toe on a couch or comfy chair and table. Bookstores have become so faux European. Like throwbacks to bookstores back in the 18th and 19th centuries where the intelligentsia met to discuss philosophy, literary works etc. Now, you just get lonely bums that don't want to buy anything. It's pretty disgusting. Throw all the furniture out of the bookstores! In the end I think the decline of the manga industry is from a combination of factors, but I think the economy is the most insignificant. It was in its death throes (or at least death wiggles) before any of this mortgage crisis was even a blip on the radar. In the end, it's simply supply and demand. The market for CMX titles was too small. There is no way DC would have shut them down if they were profitable. They were obviously losing money. The market for manga is too small. Not enough people like it. Face it. Me and you, we are the chosen few. Yeah, it could get better, but it will be a sham better. The core remains. Me and you. PS. And were people really CRYING over CMX closing up shop? Actually PHYSICALLY CRYING? Man up! Or in some cases, Woman up! PSS. If you notice I never brought up scanlations as a problem. I believe that people that read scans would never buy a volume of manga anyway, so they are a non-factor. But it DOES bring up another point. I hear all the time about hype and buzz for scan titles. "Hotly anticipated" is a cliche I see the most often. But who is doing the hype? Who is getting hyped? Manga media types who get their manga for free? Who cares. Scan readers who don't buy manga? Who cares. You need to get people that actually spend money on manga to get excited to buy a title or see it printed.  I remember seeing on a manga blogger's site that they were upset that a "hotly anticipated" CMX title, well at least hot on the scan sites, wouldn't be published. I was thinking, yeah, you wanted them to print another title that nobody would buy. PSSS. Whoa, CMX doesn't even have a website anymore? All that comes up is DC Comics. No mention of CMX. At least let them have a send-off DC! You know there were about 5 (or was it 5000?) people that wanted to post "You suck DC!".  You killed my Misery!

DATE: Sun, 25 Apr 2010
SIZE: 6.00 MB
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Podcast Episode 208: The Lords of the Sands of Time

Podcast Novel review of The Lord of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa. Translated by Jim Hubbert. Originally published in Japan by Hayakawa. Published in US by Viz Haika Soru, $13.99. From the back cover: Sixty-two years after human life on Earth was annihilated by rampaging alien invaders, the enigmatic Messenger O is sent back in time with a mission to unite humanity of past eras--during the Second World War, in ancient Japan, and at the dawn of humanity--to defeat the invasion before it begins. However, in a future shredded by love and genocide, love waits for O. Will O save humanity only to doom himself? My Grade: B- You can read an excerpt from the novel at: www.haikasoru.com  

DATE: Mon, 19 Apr 2010
SIZE: 6.78 MB
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Podcast Episode 207: One Piece Volume 1

Podcast manga review of One Piece Volume 1: Romance Dawn by Eiichiro Oda. Translated by Andy Nakatani. Adapted by Lance Caselman. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in the US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated Teen. From the back cover: As a child, Monkey D. Luffy was inspired to become a pirate by listening to the tales of the buccaneer "Red-Haired" Shanks. But Luffy's life changed when he accidentally ate the fruit of the Gum-Gum Tree, and gained the power to stretch like rubber...at the cost of never being able to swim again! Years later, still vowing to become the king of the pirates, Luffy sets out on his adventure...one guy alone in a rowboat, in search of the legendary "One Piece," said to be the greatest treasure in the world... My Grade: A-

DATE: Sun, 18 Apr 2010
SIZE: 5.52 MB
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Podcast Episode 206: Naruto Volume 47

Podcast manga review of Naruto volume 47: The Seal Destroyed by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $9.99, Rated Teen. From the back cover: Naruto inches ever closer to discovering the true identity of his nemesis, Pain. But is it worth it as the frustrated ninja begins to morph at last into the dreaded Nine Tails? Plus, an unexpected confession reveals incredible secrets about his past as Naruto prepares for the ultimate battle with Pain. Can the chakra-challenged Naruto win when one misstep could spell disaster? My Grade: A+

DATE: Sun, 18 Apr 2010
SIZE: 5.84 MB
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Podcast Episode 205: Ghost Hound, episodes 1-5

Anime podcast review of Ghost Hound Collection 1, Episodes 1-5. Series created by Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell, Appleseed). Directed by Ryutaro Nakamura (Kino's Journey). Series Composition by Chiaki J. Konaka (Lain, Texhnolyze). Released by Sentai Filmworks, Rated 14+. From the back cover: In an isolated region of Kyushu lies the town of Suiten.  Though seeming small and modest, Suiten is not a picturesque place for a vacation, unless it is from the “Unseen World”.  Taro, Makoto and Masayuki, three boys with traumatic pasts, learn to let their souls cross between the two parallel worlds.  However, the Unseen World is no mere copy of the real Apparent World.  The Unseen World is the home of ghosts, but changes are now allowing the souls of the dead to pass over into the Apparent World, with unpredictable effects.  Follow the journey of Taro, Makoto and Masayuki, as they cross between the two worlds, trying to unravel a great mystery. My Grade: B+ You can watch the first episode for free via the Anime Network: http://www.theanimenetwork.com/Anime/Ghost-Hound/Lucid- Dream/Watch

DATE: Sat, 03 Apr 2010
SIZE: 3.85 MB
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Podcast Episode 204: Cactus's Secret Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Cactus's Secret by Nana Haruta. Translated and adapted by Su Mon Han. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $9.99, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: Falling in love with a clueless boy would turn any girl into a cactus! Miku Yamada has a longtime crush on classmate Kyohei Fujioka. But no matter how many times she tries to show him how she feels, clueless Kyohei just doesn't get it. Frustrated, Miku gives up on him, only to have him start calling her "Cactus" for being prickly when he's around. Will Kyohei ever figure out Cactus's secret? Miku decides to try telling Kyohei her feelings by giving him chocolates for Valentine's Day. But Kyohei, unaware that he's the object of her affection, offers himself up as a practice partner for her love confession. Can Miku get through to him that he's the one she loves? My Grade: B+ Here's a video of Princess Tenko, the Japanese magician that Kyohei compares Miku to in the opening scene of Cactus's Secret:

DATE: Tue, 30 Mar 2010
SIZE: 6.24 MB
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Podcast Episode 203: Astro Boy

Anime dvd podcast review of Astro Boy. Directed by David Bowers. Published by Summit Entertainment. Animation by Imagi Studios. Rated PG, List price: $26.99. From the back cover: Set in futuristic Metro City, Astro Boy is about a young robot with incredible powers created by a brilliant scientist in the image of the son he has lost. Unable to fulfill the grieving man's expectations, our hero embarks on a journey in search of acceptance, experiencing betrayal and a netherworld of robot gladiators, before he returns to save Metro City and reconcile with the father who had rejected him. My Grade: A- Check out the trailer:

DATE: Sun, 28 Feb 2010
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Happy Mania Volume 3

Manga review of Happy Mania Volume 3 by Moyoco Anno. Translated by Shirley Kubo. Adapted by Leah Ginsberg. Originally published in Japan by Shodensha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+. Shigeta finally found a nice guy in the form of her ex co-worker, Takahashi, and even discovered that he was attending the prestigious Tokyo University. They even had sex last volume, but almost immediately afterward Takahashi announced that he was going to the US to study. Just when Shigeta had thought the man of her dreams had arrived on a slightly nerdy white horse! Without Takahashi in her immediate vicinity, Shigeta's too numerous to count psychoses begin to surface. She begins to doubt his faithfulness and worries that he will forget her because Takahashi is going to be away for 6 months. She soon begins to fall for a young ceramic artist named Goro who has some work on display in an exhibition at the department store where Shigeta works. As we have seen so often, Shigeta lets herself get absorbed by her obsession for a guy, at the expense of her survival and a previously existing relationship. She even convinces herself to quit her job and become a ceramic apprentice just to get closer to Goro. Just when I had begun to believe that Shigeta had matured a bit and gotten a clue last volume, she destroys any progress she had made in her love life. She has a very fragile psyche. As soon as she doesn't have a guy fawning over her or constantly calling her, she gets insecure. It's almost like she uses sex to remind herself that she is desirable. Without the continuous stream of bedded guys, she has to look at the hollow void within herself. I don't know if Moyoco Anno is simply chronicling the comical misadventures of a young single Japanese woman or critiquing the never ending quest to seek self-fulfillment in a manner that will never attain it. Shigeta keeps on looking for the antidote to her loneliness in guys. She never seems to understand that she needs to improve herself and her own life situation before she goes barging into other people's. She's on the ultimate ego trip, which in turn makes this series funny and sad at the same time. My Grade: B-

DATE: Mon, 22 Feb 2010
SIZE: 4.80 MB
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Podcast Episode 202: Hero Tales Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Hero Tales Volume 1 by Hiromu Arakawa. Story by Huang Jin Zhou. Scenario by Ryou Yashiro. Art Configuration by Kusanagi. Translated by Amy Forsyth. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Yen Press, $10.99, Rated Older Teen. From the back cover:   Legend speaks of seven heroes, each one bearing the power of one of the stars of the Big Dipper. Two of these stars are constantly in conflict, destined to battle and throw the world into chaos... Taitou has never paid much attention to old stories. Headstrong and defiant, he is the last in his village to complete his coming-of-age ceremony - a fact his sister Laila incessantly teases him about. When he is finally deemed worthy, he is presented with the Kenkaranbu, an ancient sword that can only be drawn by a true hero. As the frustrated Taitou struggles to unsheathe the sword, a mysterious thief appears, making off with the blade and citing the legend of the Big Dipper. The stars have been set in motion, as Taitou sets off after the Kenkaranbu and the truth of his own destiny... Hiromu Arakawa, creator of Fullmetal Alchemist, brings the legend to life! My Grade: B+

DATE: Sat, 06 Feb 2010
SIZE: 5.56 MB
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Podcast Episode 201: Alice in the Country of Hearts Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Alice in the Country of Hearts Volume 1. Art by Soumei Hoshino. Story by Quinrose. Translated by Beni Conrad. Adapted by Lianne Sentar. Originally published in Japan by Mag Garden. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated 16+. From the back cover: A sudden kidnapping and a dark, mysterious hole...Handsome men with guns and bunny ears...A suspicious game of survival...Wonderland is officially at war! And Alice is trapped in the middle of it all. Will she ever make it out alive? A little arrogant, stubborn and determined to get back home, Alice isn't fazed by these challenges...until she wanders the strange country only to find that every man is weirdly in love with her and all the inhabitants are gun crazy and ready to kill without remorse. What is going on in Wonderland?!...A hilarious, dangerous tale of Alice the likes of which you've never seen before! My Grade: C-

DATE: Tue, 26 Jan 2010
SIZE: 7.33 MB
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Podcast Episode 200: Spice and Wolf (Novel) Volume 1

Podcast novel review of Spice and Wolf Volume 1 by Isuna Hasekura. Translated by Paul Starr. Originally printed in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Yen Press, $10.99, Rated 15+. From the back cover: The life of a traveling merchant is a lonely one, a fact with which Kraft Lawrence is well acquainted. Wandering from town to town with just his horse, cart, and whatever wares have come his way, the peddler has pretty well settled into his routine—that is, until the night Lawrence finds a wolf goddess asleep in his cart. Taking the form of a fetching girl with wolf ears and a tail, Holo has wearied of tending to harvests in the countryside and strikes up a bargain with the merchant to lend him the cunning of “Holo the Wisewolf” to increase his profits in exchange for taking her along on his travels. What kind of businessman could turn down such an offer? Lawrence soon learns, though, that having an ancient goddess as a traveling companion can be a bit of a mixed blessing. Will this wolf girl turn out to be too wild to tame My Grade: B-

DATE: Mon, 18 Jan 2010
SIZE: 0.26 MB
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Manga Review: Sorcerer Hunters Volume 9

Manga review of Sorcerer Hunters volume 9. Art by Ray Omishi. Story by Satoru Akahori. Translated by Anita Sengupta. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. Surely, you remember Potato Chips, the rich little kid (or is he a midget?) that was always looking to hook up in love with one of the female Sorcerer Hunters. Let's face it, Potato would hook up with ANY girl! His slightly disturbing butler Jeeves has decided to cheer his young master up by holding a beauty contest. His thinking is that Potato will be able to meet chicks. Of course, the female cast of the series gets dragged into entering as well. The main drama of volume 9 occurs when Big Mama sends the Hunters to look into a rash of disappearing young girls in the Old West town of Tamales (Akahori really goes overboard on the names in this manga). They even know who is behind it: Marchioness Carlsburg. She's not really a threat to the Hunters though. The real danger is her ally and nephew, Lendoll, a gunfighter/sorcerer who can fire magic bullets against which there is no defense. a Sorcerer Hunters is written very well for the type of manga that it is. Yeah, you have some fan service moments during the beauty contest along with a lot of speech impediment humor. But you also have a lot of action in the Lendoll story arc with violence and gore as we find out the gruesome secret of why the Marchioness is kidnapping girls. Even the last story in the book has a very different tone to it as Marron tries to help a lingering spirit disappointed in love. That last chapter has the nostalgia and wistfulness of Aria. The art is serviceable but tends to break down in the action sequences and generally lacks backgrounds. But really, Hunters straddles the border between cheap thrills and more serious themes pretty adriotly. My Grade: B+  

DATE: Sat, 09 Jan 2010
SIZE: 5.96 MB
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Podcast Episode 199: Blassreiter The Complete Series Part I, Episodes 1-6

Podcast anime dvd review of Blassreiter The Complete Series Part I, Episodes 1-6. Directed by Ichiro Itano (Macross, Gantz, Megazone 23). Animation by Gonzo. Published by Funimation, List Price: $59.98, Rated 17+. From the back cover: A blood-born plague races across Germany, giving life to mechanized monsters who are hell-bent on making a bloody mess out of anyone in their path. Known as Demoniacs, these creatures have the perverse ability to meld with technology and wield it as an extension of their uncontrollable cyber rage. Standing in their way is civilization's last hope for a savior. Joseph Jobson - the mysterious blue rider - fuses with the unreal technology of his battle-tested motorcycle to defend man against machine. But the same tainted blood that carries his strength threatens to devour his soul, leaving him nothing more than a murderous demon. The future of death is now, and it refuses to be stopped. My Grade: B Here is the opening of the anime: You can also view the entire series for free dubbed and subbed at: http://www4.funimation.com/video/?page=show&b=269

DATE: Sun, 03 Jan 2010
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Happy Mania Volume 2

Manga review of Happy Mania Volume 2 by Moyoco Anno. Translated by Shirley Kubo. Adapted by Leah Ginsberg. Originally published in Japan by Shodensha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+. Shigeta has made a New Year's resolution. She's decided to give up on guys and love and focus all of her attention on her work. Uh, the thing is, she doesn't have a JOB! She got fired from her job at the bookstore last volume for missing too many days. Just when she's filled with the utmost optimism she discovers that her wallet, which had all her money, has been stolen. And then her roommate, Fuku, tells Shigeta that she's getting married and that she's moving out at the end of the month. So Shigeta's life is pretty screwed up at the moment. The only thing for it is to ask her mom if she can borrow some money. We find out that Shigeta is seen as a loser by her family since she hasn't got an education, doesn't have a decent job, and has yet to get married. But her mom does have a guy in mind for Shigeta. Meanwhile, Takahashi, the one guy that actually cares about Shigeta, decides he's just getting in her way, and that he has to leave the picture if she's ever to find her true love. Ok, I still believe Shigeta is a complete idiot. By the age of 24 I think someone would figure out that love is not just sex and vice versa. But I guess that's still pretty young, but come on, get your head together, Shigeta! She does seem to be making some progress as she at least TRIES to convince herself that life is not just about getting a boyfriend. It's also about being able to be independent and taking care of yourself. Too bad she doesn't really have a reason to be disciplined. She's always falling back on people, like her mother or Fuku. I think Fuku really does  care for her, but what can she do? You can't coddle someone forever. Shigeta is gonna have to learn to be a responsible adult. She does begin to at least entertain the idea of having Takahashi as a boyfriend in this volume as she finds out there is more to him than just the total nerd image. My grade: B

DATE: Wed, 30 Dec 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Anime DVD Review: Heroic Age, Episodes 8-13

Anime dvd review of Heroic Age: The Complete Series Part 1, Episodes 8-13. Directed by Takashi Noto. Series Composition by Tow Ubukata. Music by Naoki Sato. Published by Funimation. List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+. The Argonaut continues to flee to the new human homeworld as the Azz-Azoth fleet under Nilval tries to hold off the Silver and Gold Tribe armadas. Things could get messy as Nodos Mehitak shows up to take down the Azz-Azoth. Meanwhile, Bellcross and Karkinos are still locked in battle. Their fight is not measured in minutes or days, but weeks! Like a rumble between two gods. Dhianeila's two scheming and arrogant brothers try to commandeer leadership of the human forces through bribery and extortion. They begin to move along their plan for all-out war against the Gold and Silver Tribes, with the ultimate end goal of recapturing Earth. Problem is that Meleagros, the scion of the family,  is a tad bit power hungry and isn't shy about sacrificing his own forces or even entire planets if it furthers the glory and power of him and his family. I really love the epic space opera feel of Heroic Age. When we have fleets battling each other here, it isn't just a couple of ships on each side. It's thousands, if not TENS of thousands involved. And when you're talking about the insect-like swarms of the Gold Tribes, it could be MILLIONS! It's war the likes of which we reality-bound humans can hardly imagine. And then you have the jockeying forces of the politics within each tribe (except the Gold) as the humans try to decide the best course of action. There are even factions in the Vulcan-like Silver that believe the universe is big enough for Silver and Iron while others think the humans should be destroyed. The problems I have with this show are two: one major and one minor. The first is that the battles between the Nodos lack any impact or drama. All the Nodos are completely rendered in CG and are not animated very well, moving very stiffly and awkwardly. They are supposed to be living creatures but they move like robots. The director should have looked at some of the old Evangelion fight scenes or Eureka 7 to learn how to handle this properly. Sadly, I almost wish to jettison the whole giant monster facet of the show.   One minor complaint is in the character designs and costumes. The characters look too much like they fell out of a Gundam series, or even Fafner. The costumes of the humans are dull and boring with too much whiteness splashed with some second-thought colors.  It doesn't look like too much effort was spent on their uniforms. My Grade: B+ Listen to my podcast review of the first seven episodes: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=515827

DATE: Mon, 28 Dec 2009
SIZE: 5.59 MB
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Podcast Episode 198: Butterflies, Flowers Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Butterflies, Flowers volume 1 by Yuki Yoshihara. Translated by Tetsuichiro Miyaki. Adapted by Nancy Thistlewaite. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $9.99, Rated M for Mature. From the back cover: Choko Kuze is the sensible daughter of a venerable family who went bankrupt. She joins a real estate company as an entry-level office worker, but her eccentric boss is harder on her than anyone else in the company! After hearing him inadvertently call her "milady," she realizes he was the young servant boy she knew as a child. At work he's a tyrant, but after hours he insists on treating her like a lady of the nobility. Is romance even possible for a couple locked in such a crazy role reversal? My Grade: A+  

DATE: Thu, 24 Dec 2009
SIZE: 4.99 MB
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Podcast Episode 197: Dragonaut The Resonance, Episodes 1-7

Podcast anime dvd review of Episodes 1-7 of Dragonaut: The Resonance Complete Series Part I. Directed by Manabu Ono. Character Designs by Makoto Uno (Gravion, Witchblade, Love Hina). Released by Funimation. From the back cover: With a deadly asteroid hurtling towards Earth, sexy human Dragonauts in tight uniforms and their curvaceous dragon companions come together to create a formidable fighting force with all the right moves. Caught in the middle of this race against time are Jin - a heartbroken young flyboy, and Toa - a voluptuous mystery woman with an amazing set of intergalactic battle skills. Jin's down about the fate of his doomed planet, but Toa is quick to grab him by the seat of his pants and lift his sagging spirits. If these star-crossed space cadets can unlock the secrets of their mysterious connection and convince the Dragonauts to join the action, there may yet be hope for planet Earth! My Grade: B Watch the entire series for free at: http://www4.funimation.com/video/?page=video&v=2850 View the trailer for the first box set here:

DATE: Sun, 20 Dec 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Manga Review: Inukami! Volume 2

Manga review of Inukami! volume 2. Story by Mamizu Arisawa and art by Mari Matsuzawa. Translated by Anastasia Moreno. Adapted by Lorelei Laird. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tor/Seven Seas, $9.99, rated Older Teen 16+. Volume 2 ended with the arrival of Nadeshiko, a pacifist Inukami who serves Keita's cousin, Kawahira. She has been sent to stay for a week to teach Yoko how to be an obedient and polite young lady (actually, dog spirit). For reasons we don't know, Yoko was neverly properly instructed on how to be a proper Inukami. We also find out in this volume that Kawahira family members can have more than one Inukami, according to their spiritual powers. Kaoru is one such multiple master and his other Inukami want Nadeshiko to stay with Yoko and Keita because she refuses to fight the Jarei. Of course, you know Yoko isn't going to settle for sharing Keita so she becomes their enemy. Kaoru's team decides to fight back with their cutest member, the cute and diminutive Tomohane, who brings Yoko super-strength laxative laced cupcakes, which Keita proceeds to eat! Things get even more complicated as a "Mujina", a badger spirit, shows up carrying a lethal infectious disease called "Mujina Hiccups". The Hiccups can kill an Inukami. The thing that sticks out the most in my mind when I think if Inukami is the fact that the series is so hilarious. Some of the funniest scenes in this volume have to do with the cupcakes and the mujina. In order to get a vaccine for the Hiccups, a blood sample must be obtained from the mujina. But the little badger has the power to fuse things together to aid in its escape. Some of the characters get fused to Keita just as he feels he has to let a nuclear #2 rip. One of the most horrifying and funny scenes in the book is seeing a screaming Tomohane holding on to the doorframe of the bathroom as she desperately tries to keep Keita from dragging her in to the toilet (her leg is fused to his). The art is cute, comedic, airy, and always elegant, but never stuffy. Mari Matsuzawa has a real knack for interesting panel layout that never gets cluttered or confusing. The characters are great as well. It's so easy to settle into cardboard with a series like this but all of the characters have a warmth and authenticity about them that makes the reader feel like they are real people. My Grade: A+ You can listen to my podcast of the first volume at this link: http://www.sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=406613 Here's the link to read the first chapter of Volume 1 for free:  http://www.gomanga.com/mv/index.php?series=inukam i&page=1

DATE: Sun, 20 Dec 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Manga Review: Honey Hunt Volume 3

Manga review of Honey Hunt Volume 3 by Miki Aihara. Translated by Ari Yasuda. Adapted by Liz Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $9.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen. Yura is still a bundle of nerves as she gets ready for the second script reading of the next "Noodle Girl" episode. Things get worse as she loses a contact lens, or so she thinks, but the loss might be the key to her regaining her confidence. Her lovelife gets more complicated as Q-Ta leaves for England for a month long recording session. Even if he had remained in Japan, Keiichi, Yura's manager, has forbidden him to have contact with Yura. This does allow an opening for the increasingly smitten Haruka to try to squirm into Yura's heart. He believes that if Yura sees him performing with his band, Knights, she will fall in love with him. But this is Haruka we're talking about, a dude that doesn't want to show that he's falling for her. Knowing that Yura wants to know more about Q-Ta, he dangles the carrot of telling her everything there is to know about his twin brother...IF she can get tickets to the Knights 3-evening engagement at the Tokyodome. Problem is, all three shows are sold out. A couple of reviews back I asked myself whether I would be able to continue reading this series. The reason I asked myself this was because I had a lot of hostility to Aihara's art. It just isn't that good. Yura is especially unappealing, looking like a giant lost fishhead  most of the time. But in a little afterword at the end of this volume, Aihara insinuates that she purposefully designed Yura as "plain". Now things are making a bit more sense. Aihara is going to goad Yura to succeed even if she isn't a "classic" model level beauty. She's gonna have to get by with her spirit, determination, and inner spark. She not only has to win over the characters in the book, but also the reader! I for one really admire her as she has developed more and more of a backbone, starting with telling her parents to go to Hell on TV back in the first volume. She not only refuses to stand in the shadow of her famous parents (especially her mom), she wants to exceed them! That would be like Julian Lennon saying he's going to write better songs and sell more records than John Lennon. It takes a lot of courage to say something like that, much less do it. I really like this story. I'm still trying to figure out if Q-Ta likes Yura or is more in love with her dad. And is Haruka really falling for her or is he just trying to take something away from his bro? Excellent shojo. My Grade: A

DATE: Sun, 29 Nov 2009
SIZE: 3.00 MB
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Podcast Episode 196: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 5

Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 5 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Jake Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and his leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Equipped with mechanical "auto-mail" limbs, Edward becomes a state alchemist, seeking the one thing that can restore his brother and himself...the legendary Philosopher's Stone. Ed, Alphonse, and the mechanic Winry go south in search of Izumi Curtis, the master alchemist who taught the brothers how to use alchemy. But in the boomtown of Rush Valley, an encounter with a pickpocket turns them down a different path in search of an auto-mail blacksmith whose handiwork is the best that Winry has ever seen. Then the action flashes back to show how Ed and Alphonse first learned alchemy... My Grade: A+

DATE: Sat, 28 Nov 2009
SIZE: 0.04 MB
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Manga Review: Negima! Volume 5

Manga review of Negima! Volume 5 by Ken Akamatsu. Translated and adapted by Douglas Varenas. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated OT 16+. Now that Kazumi, the leader of the Journalism Club, has decided to keep Negi's secret, she's in kahoots with resident weasel pervert Chamo in an effort to increase Negi's probationary contracts. She instigates "Operation Kiss Negi-kun Passionately on This School Field Trip". She splits the girls into pairs and tells them that whoever kisses Negi without getting caught by the other faculy members gets them on the limited edition trading cards that are a prize among his class. Of course, MOST of them don't know that they will also be entering into a magic contract at the same time to help Negi in battle. Unfortunately for them, there is now more than one Negi. Negi made some paper doll copies of himself so he could go out on patrol without being missed. But some of the copies are defective and want to get it on with his students! Meanwhile, elements of the Kansai Magic Association that do not want peace begin to make their moves to stop Negi from fulfilling his mission to deliver a letter of conciliation from his magic school. Negima is nothing if not entertaining. Again, the art is great, with Akamatsu making sure that things never get too serious. Even when Negi battles with a powerful fox spirit and gets the snot beat out of him, it never gets to the Naruto stabbing and cutting off heads realm. Akamatsu is about showing pretty girls and panties and he never misses an opportunity to showcase them. He really is a master of character design even if his plots steal from other better known Japanese and Western franchises. I enjoy each volume of Negima, but see little reason to ever pick up the new Negima Neo series. One time around with this story and characters is quite enough for me. My Grade: B+

DATE: Fri, 27 Nov 2009
SIZE: 0.00 MB
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My Apology to Tezuka and His Fans

Just because someone is important doesn't mean they can't suck. I recognize Tezuka's importance and influence, but yeah, what I've read by him sucks. Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn is seen as the Great American Novel and he is seen as the Great American Writer, but you know what? I think that book was boring and I find his humor unfunny and that it is a tragedy that he represents the US. Do you have to like Elvis to enjoy current pop and rock? Or can you just laugh and point at him because he is so ridiculous? In other words, he sucks. My point in writing my blog entry was that it's ok to think Tezuka's work is worthless. In fact, hate it because it IS deemed important by so-called authorities. I'm trying to read Dororo right now and am encountering the same stumbling blocks I encountered with his other works: 1) Boring character designs. Everyone pretty much looks the same. Cartoony and lazy. Tezuka's art never seemed to evolve beyond a daily cartoon feel as though he didn't have much time to spare. Or that he was more interested in telling a story with words and action than with making his characters have any visual appeal. And anytime an animal comes in, bring in the Walt Disney copyright for anthropomorphic animals! 2) Spacing and pace reign triumphant. I will say this. Tezuka is an expert at pacing his panels and also how he spaces the action and characters within each one. But again, the actual ART inside them is really unimaginative. He never evolved. You could say the same thing about Rumiko Takahashi but she tells much better stories. 3) Vertical continues the questionable translation of Dark Horse. What do I mean by this? The inclusion of current slang and catchphrases (and outdated ones as well). Do Japanese people actually use words like "Yowza" and "Yoiks"? "Doofus"? "Bro"? This is exactly why I couldn't get into Buddha. The Buddha walked around talking like he was at a New York Mets game. Ok, the vocabulary is already out of context because the book is set in Japan hundreds of years ago. But then putting in odd Americanisms, some from the 1920s, is even more jarring. 4) Tezuka is a clumsy storyteller. To me, Tezuka never seemed to solve the problem of juggling comedic and dramatic elements. I think part of this lies in the translation, but most of it has to do with Tezuka himself. He can't get out of the way of the story. His ego was too important. Early on in Dororo, he even includes himself in all his goofy beret glory getting hit by a hail of rocks as he tells about Hyakkimaru's childhood. It totally ruins the flow. It's like having Oprah putting her ugly mug on everything she does or M. Night Shymalan inserting himself forcefully in every movie he makes. It smacks of ego trip. Or Osihii's bassett hounds. Look at a master like Hiromu Arakawa. She is able to balance humor, great character designs, drama, and real to the bone human interactions. Or Hiroki Endo, who takes it to even a higher level. Tezuka is a baby compared to them. 5) His pulp sci-fi explanations. Back in the old days sci-fi writers didn't have to explain things. But people are smarter now. Even if it's magic fantasy, audiences demand at least a cursory explanation of how an imaginary world works.  Because Tezuka is so old school, he hardly ever throws the reader a bone. Hyakkimaru has no eyes, but he can "see" intuitively? How does that work exactly? So hopefully, this entry clears up things as to why I think what I do about Tezuka's work...up to this point (I'm still attempting to appreciate him). Just because Japanese manga artists are AWARE of Tezuka doesn't mean they are influenced by him. The anime/manga establishment makes it seem that EVERY SINGLE person in Japan loves Tezuka and that any American fan has to recognize his deification. I say you don't. It's all a myth. In my opinion there are much more important and talented manga artists at work today in the here and now. Even a title like Death Note, with all its improbabilites and flaws, is far better than anything I've read by Tezuka so far. Whatever issues he took on back in the day, there is someone doing it better.

DATE: Thu, 26 Nov 2009
SIZE: 0.07 MB
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Why I Don't Give a Crap About Tezuka

Today when I was in the Barnes and Noble manga section I noticed a book about Osamu Tezuka that kinda pissed me off when I saw the title. The book was titled The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga . It was written by Helen McCarthy. The part that stuck in my craw was the whole “God” thing. I admit I am not much of a Tezuka fan. I TRIED to read the first volume of the Dark Horse Astro Boy, but found it so incredibly dumb I couldn’t finish reading it. I also tried reading Metropolis with similar results after I enjoyed the anime. Unfortunately, the manga had almost nothing to do with the anime. Tried reading Buddha, but was put off by the odd New York Bronx accents being spoken by Asians thousands of years ago.  The only work by Tezuka that I have actually liked is his Phoenix saga. I think the guy is overrated. From what little I have read, he seems to have produced a lot of crap titles and and a few really good ones.   Maybe I’m just overreacting to McCarthy’s implication that there can never be anyone as good as Tezuka. Thinking like that disgusts me because if you buy into it, there can never be any progress in the manga field. It rankles me as much as Tom “The Sanctifier” Brokaw saying that the soldiers that fought in WWII were “The Greatest Generation” as though no other soldier ever fought for higher stakes or ever will again. I guess I hate it anytime someone says an artist is “definitive”. Because it is an attempt to put up a wall to block the course of the future. McCarthy’s book is a polar opposite apologia for Chip Kidd’s Bat-Manga, in which the manga artist wasn’t even given credit for his work on the front cover as though he were a leper. Now we have a second rate manga dude being compared to a divine being. Come on. He isn’t Christ.   You can judge Tezuka’s impact on American culture by the whopping box office take of the Astro Boy movie. Nobody was interested. Tezuka no longer matters. If he ever did. He’s just been pumped up by the older generation of manga and anime elitists over the past 20 years. I say screw Tezuka and his pseudo French intellectual beret. Give me Kishimoto, Endo, Arakawa, Tanaka, Tatsumi. Give me the future. And when the hell is someone going to start printing Leiji Matsumoto’s manga works? He is much more important to anime and manga than Tezuka.

DATE: Wed, 18 Nov 2009
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Play Magazine Big Anime Giveaway

Play Magazine, my favorite literary game mag, is having an anime giveaway contest in which 5 entrants will win the following 4 anime dvds and sets: Claymore: The Complete Series Evangelion 1.0 (You Are Not Alone) Blassreiter Dragonaut Plus a copy of Girls of Gaming 7 Entries must be received by December 10, 2009. You can submit an entry at: http://playmagazine.com/index.php?fuseaction=SiteMain.C ontest&conid=39

DATE: Tue, 17 Nov 2009
SIZE: 4.17 MB
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Podcast Episode 195: Happy Mania Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Happy Mania Volume 1 by Moyoco Anno. Translated by Shirley Kubo. Adapted by Leah Ginsberg. Originally published in Japan by Shodensha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+. From the back cover: Watch out, Bridget Jones-- here comes Shigeta, a 24 year old woman-about-town who is obsessed with the right man. The only problem is that the guys she meets are all duds, not studs. Case in point: Takahashi, a geeky co-worker who is head over heels for our heroine. But she'd rather eat nails than be with that loser! After Shigeta reads her love horoscope in a magazine, she's convinced that the right guy is just around the corner. But the next guy she meets just wants to bonk instead of bond. When Shigeta's doomed romance comes to its inevitable conclusion, she runs to her best friend for solace and a much-needed reality check. But it's not long before another Mr. Wrong enters the picture, and Shigeta is hooked all over again! They say love happens when you least expect it-- but if you expect it 24/7, then what? Join Shigeta and her gal pals in their hilarious hunt for love, romance, and together-forever commitment. My Grade: B- (I am giving away a free copy of Happy Mania Volume 1, still sealed in the original shrinkwrap. Write me at seshos@hotmail.com by 11/24/09 if you want it.)

DATE: Thu, 05 Nov 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Anime DVD Review: Magical Lyrical Nanoha Box Set, Episodes 10-13

Anime review of Episodes 10-13 of the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Box Set. Published by Geneon. List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+. Box Set contains Episodes 1-13. Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo (Moonphase, Negima, Maria Holic). Written by Masaki Tsuzuki. Fate has once again failed to capture Nanoha's Jewel Seeds, so yes, it's time for  a sadistic whipping from her mom, Precia Testarossa (why are the Japanese obsessed with naming their female characters Testarossa?). But this time, Aruf gets pissed and attacks Precia. For her trouble, she is almost destroyed and has to flee to Earth, where she again encounters Nanoha and her pals and decides to switch sides in order to rescue Fate from her mother. Meanwhile, the TSAB are closing in on Precia's space travelling rock for a final confrontation. Nanoha, Yuno, and Chrono have to go in after Precia wipes out an assault team. Magical Nanoha comes to a satisfying if uneventful end. Ok, a big battle happens at the end, but what I mean is that while Nanoha has been entertaining and fun, it never really succeeds at seperating itself from the mob. All of the characters were just a tad bit too shallow and one dimensional. The animation, especially on this last dvd, is first rate and rarely reverts to shortcuts, even during the battle sequences. But Nanoha could never cast off its indebtedness to Cardcaptor Sakura, even though it succeeded in its own kinda clone way. Definitely worth watching if you're a magical girl fan but isn't going to ever break into the greatness realm. My Grade for the Series: B Watch the first part of episode 10 below:  

DATE: Wed, 04 Nov 2009
SIZE: 5.82 MB
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Podcast Episode 194: Ghost in the Shell 2.0

Podcast Blu-ray review of Ghost in the Shell 2.0, directed by Mamoru Oshii. Screenplay by Kazunori Ito. Based on the manga by Shirow Masamune. Published by Manga, List Price: 29.97, Not Rated (Features nudity and graphic violence). From the back cover: A film that has spawned a thousand imitations but never bettered-- Mamoru Oshii's legendary anime film GHOST IN THE SHELL returns in a stunning new edition remastered by Oshii himself. For this definitive edition, all the original animations are re-produced with latest digital film and animation technologies, including 3D-CGI. Set in a reimagined Hong Kong at a time when cyberspace is expanding into human reality, the story follows top cyberwarrior Major Motoko Kusanagi as she hovers on the border of total immersion in the digital world. The definitive 2.0 also features new voice recordings from the original cast, a brand new score from Kenji Kawai, and 6.1 channedl sound created with the help of Skywalker Sound. My Grade: A+ Watch the trailer for the movie below:

DATE: Mon, 02 Nov 2009
SIZE: 0.10 MB
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Making Bento Into Art

A couple of years ago, Japanese mother Makiko Ogawa's son found kindergarten a traumatic experience. He hated school and every time she took him there he would cry himself silly. In order to comfort him, Makiko started making special "charaben" lunches for him. "Bento" is a Japanese term for a boxed lunch, which can be homemade or bought in a store. "Charaben" means character bento. In other words, Ogawa shapes and decorates the food to look like anime characters or cute little animals, etc. Ogawa is so good at making charaben that she has fans all over the world. She has even been approached by corporations that want to commission her work. While she is flattered by the attention she still sees her charaben primarily as a show of love for her children. She has a blog in Japanese: http://cuteobento.blog43.fc2.com/ If you just want to see pictures of her bento she also has a Flickr site that has English captions: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cuteobento/ I will be adding her Flickr page to my website under "Japanese Sights & Sounds". She says she updates it about every two weeks. She encourages you to leave comments in English.  

DATE: Mon, 02 Nov 2009
SIZE: 4.08 MB
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Podcast Episode 193: Yotsuba Volume 6

Podcast manga review of Yotsuba volume 6 by Kiyohiko Azuma. Translated by Amy Forsyth. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in the US by Yen Press, $10.99, Rated All Ages. From the back cover: Yotsuba's getting a biiike!! Didja know the wheels of a bike go round and round and round and round...oh, Yotsuba's getting dizzy...whoooa... My Grade: A+

DATE: Sun, 01 Nov 2009
SIZE: 0.11 MB
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Reunion of WWII Texas Soldiers and Japanese American Combat Team

Tomorrow at a Houston hotel, members of the 1st Battalion, 141st Regiment, 36th Infantry Division (based out of Texas) will reunite with the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The 442nd was composed almost entirely of 1st generation Japanese American soldiers. The 141st was surrounded by German forces in France in October 1944 and would have either been killed or taken prisoner but the Japanese American 442nd managed to break the lines and rescue them, suffering an almost 50% casualty rate. The 442nd became one of the highest honored units in the war, earning 21 Medals of Honor and 9,486 Purple Hearts. They were even called "The Purple Heart Batallion". Around 50 vets are expected to attend the banquet at the Hyatt Regency Houston. The public can buy tickets to attend at: www.njamf.com Ok, I consider myself educated and well versed in history and World War II, but I have to admit I didn't even know the 442nd existed. I don't think I've ever seen an American of Asian descent fighting in a World War II movie. I'm so used to seeing the big white guy shaking his tommy gun like John Wayne. Mainly because the movies back then were made by white guys. This story really intrigued me. I also found out that no Japanese Americans were rounded up in Hawaii like they were in the mainland US, mainly because there were just too many of them. Almost half of the Hawaiians were of Japanese descent. I still can't believe we rounded up people like that. It was a big blot of blatant racism. The poignant thing of it all is that this might be one of the last times these guys get together, as WWII vets get older and older. I really honor what the 442nd did, fighting for a country that was violating the very rights they were sacrificing their lives for.  

DATE: Sun, 01 Nov 2009
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Best Buy Massive Anime Blu-Ray Sale

I was at Best Buy to buy Scribblenauts for $19.99 and had it in my hand when I started browsing through the Blu-ray section. I saw Ghost in the Shell 2.0 and was surprised to find that it too was only $19.99. After I thought about it for a little bit, I decided to put Scribblenauts back. At checkout, I was pleasantly delighted to find out that GITS was on sale for $13.99. Upon further investigation online, I discovered that Best Buy is having a "Massive Blu-ray Sale". As far as anime, there are 44 Blu-ray titles in the sale (I say 44 but I think that is every anime title currently ou on Blu-ray).  Here is a small sample of the sale: For $13.99 each: Afro Samurai Season 1, Blood The Last Vampire (movie), Kitaro (live action) Final Fantasy VII Advent Children: $20.99 One Piece Movie #8: $12.59 Akira: $24.49 Dragonball Z (6 different titles): $17.49 each Samurai 7 (Complete Series), Tsubasa Season 1: $34.99 Tekkonkinkreet: $19.59 Click on the link below to go to the anime title sale page: Best Buy Massive Blu-ray Sale

DATE: Sat, 31 Oct 2009
SIZE: 3.42 MB
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Podcast Episode 192: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 4

Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 4 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Jake Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and his leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Equipped with mechanical "auto-mail" limbs, Edward becomes a state alchemist, seeking the one thing that can restore his brother and himself...the legendary Philosopher's Stone. Trapped and injured in a secret alchemical laboratory, Edward Elric is at the mercy of his enemies, Lust and Envy. But they don't want him dead...they have other plans for him. As the laboratory goes up in flames, the brothers find themselves back at square one, with only an inkling of the massive scale of the Philsopher's Stone conspiracy. But then, Lieutenant Maes Hughes uncovers a shocking secret... My Grade: A+

DATE: Thu, 22 Oct 2009
SIZE: 0.11 MB
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Magazine Review: Yen Plus, December 2008 Part 2

Magazine review of the second part (The Korean and OEL titles) of the Yen Plus December 2008 issue. First up in this issue is an interview with Ryukishi07, the creator and author of Higurashi, and Karin Suzuragi, the artist of the Higurashi manga.   Now on to the reviews: Sarasah by Ruy Ryang, Chapter 5: Ari, (or should I say Ji-Hae) has finally found the ancestor of Seung-Hyu, and boy is he naked! No, don't worry, it's just because he's bathing in a pond. She looks away in embarrassment, and when she turns around, he's disappeared. She and Mita frantically begin to search for him in the nearby town without knowing his name or anything. Does she find him? Well, let's just say by the end of the chapter, Ari ends up in bed with him. I'm still really liking this series and all the mysteries that come with it, even though Ari dressed as a boy brings up all the cross dressing cliches you can think of. My Grade: B Pig Bride by Kookhwa Huh & Sujin Kim, Chapter 5:  Si-Joon's life becomes more complicated when his parents not only approve of his "marriage" to Mu-Yeon, but actively work to have them consummate it! The thing is that a priest has told them that if the couple doesn't get married Si-Joon could die within a year. His parents, not wishing him to come to any harm, have decided to move things along by allowing Mu-Yeon to move in... and even sleep in Si-Joon's room. We also get to see another side of Doe-Doe, Si-Joon's love interest, and you just be shocked to learn what she is really like. The art is beautiful and wispy and the laughs are good in this 5th chapter. Si-Joon reminds me a lot of Koushi from Sumomomo, Momomo because he appears to be fighting a losing fight against his destiny. Both characters are trying to escape the environment they are in, but you sense that their fates are inevitable. But the fight is what makes them funny. The clever twist of making Doe-Doe have an evil side also makes the title more interesting. My Grade: B+ Legend by Kara and Woo SooJung, Chapter 1: "The Thousand Year Old Legend": The Bulkirin is a creature that was summoned by a selfish king to fulfill a wish. Pretty soon, more and more people asked for wishes. In fact, so many asked that the Bulkirin went crazy and turned evil, destroying 50% of humanity. It took a hero brandishing the "seven blade sword" to bring the monster under control. The tale opens long ago with a young boy named No-Ah Joo confronting the man that kidnapped his sister, only to be asked about the seven blade sword which has been broken into pieces. Flash forward to modern times where a young 15-year-old girl named Eon-Gyo Sung has visions of the sword while she is daydreaming in class... Well, this preview chapter did its job. Color me intrigued. Reading this intro to the series got me interested and is definitely going to motivate me to buy the first volume. I do get the sneaking suspicion that it's gonna turn out to be in the Inuyasha mode though. I bet Eon is going to meet the reincarnation of the No-ah character and they're gonna travel around the country looking for the pieces of the sword, all the while being hounded by the guy that kidnapped No-ah's sister. The excellent art will probably make up for that though. My Grade: B One Fine Day by Sirial, Chapter 7: "Typhoon in a Tiny Teacup" No-Ah gets a letter in the mail stating that an old friend (enemy?) is coming by for a visit. Apparently it's a childhood friend whose magic has unpredictable and sometimes dangerous results. We find out that Mr. and Mrs Raspberry, the walking talking birds, were actually human at one time before the friend cursed them! No-Ah decides to take off before he gets there, leaving his "pets" behind to fend for themselves. Why is this title even being printed? It is so horrible and meaningless. Did Yen have to make some sort of backroom deal where they had to agree to print it. It is truly the worst Korean or Japanese title I have ever read. It did get a nano-bit better with the arrival of someone who might actually be bad to contrast with all the creampuff characters in the title. My Grade: D Night School by Svetlana Chmakova, Chapter 5: Sarah is acclimating herself a little better to her position as she negotiates a deal with Ronee, the unofficial school boss to get a Night School yearbook printed. Things aren't all good though, as Sarah is led down a magical staircase that might just wipe her from existence. This is the first chapter of Night School that has actually looked finished. There aren't too many open panels with character dissolves like earlier installments. Too many times Chmakova's work suffers from poor panel layout and laziness. She seems to be trying to experiment but the pages come out jumbled and messy. It seems like she is getting better though. As for the story, it's almost as cluttered and confusing as Jack Frost. You have all these characters and factions running around, but none of the mythology of the world has been set out. The effect of this that the "who", "what", "why" questions are currently unanswered. And then you have dumb froo froo, like vampire parents getting upset about the yearbook because their kids don't show up in photographs. Hopefully, the disappearance of Sarah makes this title better. My Grade: C+ Maximum Ride by James Patterson & Narae Lee, Chapter 5: Max is taken in by Ella and her mom. Ella is the kid she saved from gang members a couple of issues back, which got her shot. Fang and Nudge are still waiting for Max to catch up, not knowing that she is wounded and staying with Ella. They decide to go find her but are detoured when Nudge finds out her own mother may be nearby. Ok, this seems to be the most lackadaisical and incompetent rescue ever. Poor Angel. Who knows what horrible tortures she is going through back at the School? Well, actually, we do know, but her "family" doesn't seem to be in any hurry to get her back. Max gets shot helping a stranger. Fang and Nudge take a detour to look for Nudge's mom. It just doesn't seem like anyone is in any hurry. Angel will probably be dead or mutated even further by the time they reach her. It's pretty bad when you have to admit that a blind guy and a fart challenged kid have taken the most action in the series. My Grade: C+ Jack Frost by Jinho Ko, Chapter 5: "Genie and Hansen" While Jack Frost battles Blood Pirate Avid in a duel to the death, Noh-A (decapitated as usual) and Hansen have to take on Avid's "meals". His meals are the zombies that are produced by his bite. They only have two driving urges: to obey Avid's will and to eat human flesh! Hansen is going to have to take on a whole army of the undead, all the while juggling Noh-A's head. First up, the story sucks on this title. No idea what is going on STILL. But I can understand one thing. A dude battling for his life against hungry zombies! I get it-- dude with gun shooting undead. So since the story was brought down to dog level I could deal with it. Hopefully, some day Ko will throw us a bone. My Grade: B+  

DATE: Thu, 22 Oct 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Sorcerer Hunters Volume 8

Manga review of Sorcerer Hunters Volume 8. Story by Satoru Akahori. Art by Ray Omishi. Translated by Anita Sengupta. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. You would think that after defeating their archnemesis, Lord Sacher, last volume, the Sorcerer Hunters would take a well deserved break. But they're going through all kinds of different emotions, from great sadness to happiness and elation. Tira and Chocolat are mourning the death of their adopted father (even if he was an evil psycho), while Gateau and Eclair celebrate their reunion with a brother/sister muscle-flexing exhibition, much to Carrot's disgust. It seems like every Hunter is finding someone to share their feelings with except Carrot. He's trying to deal with the fact that, Naruto-like, he has the God of Destruction sealed within him and that it might be his destiny to destroy the world. Can't anybody spare a little pity for Carrot? Their first post-Sacher mission is to take down a sorcerer named Count Poisson, who has enslaved hundreds of Parsoners to build a magic labyrinth that will make him more powerful. This funny series keeps on chugging along even though Tokyopop placed the 2nd edition printings on hiatus. Even though Volume 8 contains the Hunter trademark slapstick humor it takes a turn for the more sentimental and bittersweet as Carrot encounters the young daughter of Jingo Row, the designer of Poisson's labyrinth. It's not clear at first whether she's real or just a spirit, but she develops a crush on Carrot. The art is so inconsistent that it almost reminded me of an OEL manga like Night School at times. What I mean is that some panels were drawn very beautifully with lots of detail and backgrounds while others looked almost like amateurish rushed sketches that needed to be touched up. Overall though, I have enjoyed Sorcerer Hunters and will continue reading it. My Grade: B

DATE: Thu, 22 Oct 2009
SIZE: 4.08 MB
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Podcast Episode 191: Naruto Volume 46

Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 46: Naruto Returns by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $9.99, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: Naruto is a young shinobi with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja! NARUTO RETURNS Naruto's friends are tested as an attempt to overthrow Tsunade begins and they must all fight - or fall. New secrets about Pain are revealed, but they only add to the mystery of his identity. As Pain commences with the final destruction of Konoha, Naruto and the Toads prepare to take him on in battle. Can Naruto save his beloved village? My Grade: A+

DATE: Sun, 18 Oct 2009
SIZE: 5.83 MB
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Podcast 190: Eden Volume 12

Podcast manga review of Eden Volume 12 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Lettering by Steve Dutro. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature 18+. From the back cover: Eden returns with a thrilling, 224-page volume packed with brutal and realistic battles, character revelations, strange sci-fi surprises, political intrigue, and an "intelligent virus" that's taking over the world! Still investigating the Australian Wilhelm Corporation and its connection to the murders of several police officers, Miriam and Wendy track down some key figures in the conspiracy-- who begin to die mysterious deaths of their own. Elijah and his new bodyguard, Letheia Aletheia, are tracked down by the Propater Federation's seemingly unstoppable cyborg assassin, and this beast proves to be quite a match for both of them! Elijah's kidnapped sister unveils some startling family secrets, as her relationship with the elusive and powerful being known as "Maya" continues to grow. Also-- the secrets behind the mysterious data discs that Elijah found in Eden Volume 1 are finally revealed! Hiroki Endo's titanic Eden series pays tribute to multiple genres, while exploring man's role in the planet's natural order and humanity's possible demise. My Grade: A+ Listen to podcast of Volume 1: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=362912

DATE: Mon, 12 Oct 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Anime DVD Review: Love Hina, The Complete Series, Episodes 8-13

Podcast anime review of Love Hina: The Complete Series, Episodes 8-13. Directed by Yoshiaki Iwasaki (Hayate, Familiar of Zero). Series Composition by Kurou Hazuki. Published by Funimation, Rated 16+, List Price: $49.99. In this second batch of episodes, Keitaro's efforts to get into Tokyo U take a backseat to stories focusing on the female leads. Motoko, the samurai girl, finally has to confront her turtlephobia when Su lets a giant mecha-turtle loose. Then she has to enter Keitaro's dream, which is based on an old Japanese RPG, which pisses her off, even though she's in an unconscious state. Kitsune plays the role of Sherlock Holmes (she actually cosplays as him) to find out what has become of the missing monthly Hinata rent payments. Naru might just be leaving her friends and Tokyo U behind as she attempts to break into the cutthroat world of Japanese pop idols, managed by none other than the male diva, Kentaro. We also get a little more background info on the always mysterious Su, as the residents try to find out more about her older brother and sister. Whoops, I almost forgot Shinobu and her desire to experience her first kiss! I actually enjoyed this second disk more than the first because, let's face it, Keitaro is a bit of a wanker. The girls are much more interesting, seeing as how they don't have a single goal in life that obsesses them to extremes. Actually, maybe they all do. Motoko with her sword training, Su with her absent family members and gadgets, Kitsune with her drinking, and Naru, whose quest mirrors Keitaro's. I guess I meant that the girls seem to have more texture, and the writers of the show are making them even more individual in these episodes. Even though Love Hina was one of the first harem anime, it still works better than most because there are only five girls, unlike Negima where you have over 30. So it's much easier to get to know them and add layers to their personalities. The animation is top of the line, supplied by Production IG, which wisely modified their super realistic style to suit the design of the original manga. The voice acting is done very well also. My Grade: A Listen to podcast of Episodes 1-7: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=522459  

DATE: Sun, 11 Oct 2009
SIZE: 0.06 MB
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Magazine Review: Yen Plus December 2008, Part 1

Yep, I'm still catching up on Yen Plus. Basically, I will be breaking the review for each issue down into two parts: The Japanese first, and then the OEL and Korean section. Higurashi When They Cry,  Chapter 5: "Isolation" Keiichi is becoming more and more paranoid. You would too if your sweet friends seem possessed at times by a demon and strange murders had occurred and someone put needles in your food! Keiichi's conflict lies in the fact that most of the time his best friends seem like the cute girls he has known for the past few months, but every once in a while, when he asks about the town secrets, their eyes change and they start talking with weird voices. He even starts carrying around a baseball bat for protection. I would say that Higurashi stands heads above all the titles in this magazine with its mix of moe and its never-ending sense of dread and suspense. I watched the first dvd of the anime version a while back so I know how this ends, but the weirdness and horror of the story still packs a powerful punch. I look forward to the undiscovered country beyond this first arc. My Grade: A Nabari No Ou, Chapter 5: "Attack" Raimei has led Miharu and company to her home village of Fuuma to consult with the ninja master Kotaru Fuuma, only to find it under attack. The Iga Grey Wolves are conducting a raid to steal Fuuma's "Forbidden Art Scroll", which they believe will aid them in capturing the Shinra Banshou. It seems to be their lucky day as that very person falls into their hands! On their side is a particularly dangerous individual named Yoite who appears to be able to cut his enemies in two just by pointing at them! I must admit that the earlier chapters of Nabari No Ou were a little too girlish for my taste, especially with Miharu being such an emo brooder with no apparent interest in his special status. But for chapter 5, my hat is off to Yuhki Kamatani, who lets loose a can of whoop ass in the action sequences of this chapter. The art was just incredible and her choice of angles right out of film just blew me away. It's not just that the artist didn't shy away from blood. It's her mastery of pace that captures your eye, pushing you through pages with insistence. Great work. My Grade: A+ Soul Eater, Chapter 2: "Remedial Lesson (part 2)" The two teams of Maka/Soul Eater and Black Star/Tsubaki have a dubious distinction in common. They were supposed to have claimed the souls of 99 humans and one witch. Their current soul count combined: ZERO! So they've been given a remedial mission which they must complete or face expulsion from the DWMA. They must take the soul of Dr. Franken Stein. Yes, that's right, get it? "DR. FRANKENSTEIN". Problem is he's very powerful, being the former partner of Shinigami-Sama's Death Scythe. Both sets of partners will have to attain a higher level of cooperation and skill if they hope to defeat the evil scientist. The early installments of this series left me at a complete loss. Atsushi Ohkubo kept on jumping from character to character each chapter and never really got a story going. I had no idea or context in which to place them so it was starting over with the plot over and over again. Starting last issue, he started bringing the cast together and laying down at least a semblance of a story arc. But the lack of a sensible plot is what makes this the weakest title in the Japanese half of Yen Plus. It does seem like the title is getting better. Good enough to buy the tankoban version, the first volume of which should be out as I write this? Not sure on that point. I'm probably gonna skip it for now. I will say this. Ohkubo's art is very unique and cool, with its absurd expressionistic surrealism, but not enough to sell me on Soul Eater as a whole. My Grade: B Sumomomo Momomo Chapter 4: "Dinner, A Bath, Or Me" This chapter serves mainly as exposition, as Koushi's dad explains what the "Heavenly General's War" is all about and why Koushi and Momoko's marriage is so important to the future of Japan. Apparently, there are two large martial arts bloodlines, East and West factions, in Japan that have been fighting for centuries, like the Capulets and Montagues. Koushi and Momoko represent the two sides. It is believed that their union could finally bring about peace. But to do this means that Koushi will have to get involved in a world that he wants no part of. Don't really have a lot to say about this chapter since it was mainly informational, but there is an extremely funny exchange between Momoko and Tenka at its beginning that made me laugh. I enjoy this title. My Grade: B Bamboo Blade Chapter 9: "Kojiro and the Day He Gave Up the Shinai of His Heart" & Chapter 10: "Kojiro and Bento" With the acquisition of Tamaki Kawazoe, Kojiro still needs one more girl for his Kendo team (even though one of them, Saya, has rarely shown up for practice). When Tamaki kicks Kojiro's ass in less than a second during a practice match, it sends him into a funk, wondering how he has come to be so out of form. He also finally gets around to buying his new team some decent equipment for the big match against his rival, now a month away. What can I say, I am a sucker for a manga or anime that features characters dwelling in poverty or at least struggling to make ends meet. That's what really got me hooked on Cowboy Bebop back in the day. They always seemed to have enough money for rice or noodles but never enough for meat. And featuring a poor teacher as the main protagonist in Bamboo Blade is even more laser sighted up my alley. Kojiro is not putting this Seven Samurai-like team together to fight for the honor of Kendo. He's doing it so he'll be able to eat! It's just so inherently funny. I really like all the characters and the humor as well. The weakness comes in the art, mainly in the kendo fights. They tend to be hard to understand and I had difficulty differing between the fighters and exactly what blows they were landing. It's rather unfortunate but the matches, at least in terms of presentation, seem to be getting better. My Grade: B+   

DATE: Sun, 11 Oct 2009
SIZE: 3.76 MB
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Podcast 189: It Takes A Wizard

Podcast manga review of It Takes A Wizard: The Complete Saga. Written by Thomas R. Hart from an original concept by Jason DeAngelis. Art by Sean Lam. Published by Seven Seas. Rated Teen, $12.99. From the back cover: To Catch a Wizard! No outsider has set foot on the island of Manhattan for the past three years, and with good reason. It's become a place of wild, dark magic, where technology and the laws of science do not work. The Manhattan Kingdom is ruled by a sorceror known as Everett Winterthorn, the Midnight King, who commands a army of trolls, goblins, ghouls, and harpies. On the other side of the river, the US military holds the dark forces at bay. But just barely. Isaac Silverberg is Winterthorn's former apprentice, plucked from Death Row and given a final chance to redeem himself. He must enter the Manhattan Kingdom and rescue a damsel in distress in exchange for his life. But is he truly the mage for the job? My grade: C- Read a preview at the following link: http://www.gomanga.com/webmanga/index.php?series=ittake sawizard&page=1

DATE: Sat, 10 Oct 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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New York Times Manga Bestsellers: October 9, 2009

Here are the bestselling manga volumes for last week: 1) Chibi Vampire 14 2) Vampire Kisses 3 3) Naruto 46 4) Fullmetal Alchemist 20 5) Naruto 45 6) Bleach 28 7) Shugo Chara 7 8) Yotsuba 6 9) Negima Neo Magister 3 10) Vampire Knight 7 It's nice to see Tokyopop grabbing the two top spots instead of the ever-present Viz. Sadly, for Tokyopop, it's the last volume of Chibi Vampire. I remember buying the first volume of that title a couple of years back, before all the current vampire fad had started. I bet Tokyopop never had a clue that it would become one of their top sellers. I read the first couple of volumes but drifted away from it for whatever reason. I guess now that it's ended, it would be a good time to pick it back up. I also need to check out the Vampire Kisses series. While I'm on the topic of blood suckers, Vampire Knight is another series I need to begin again. There's just so many books out there and so little time. I would surmise that because only the sixth volume of Yotsuba has charted, I would then think Yen might have gambled and lost by relying on Yotsuba fans to pick up their re-released editions of volumes 1-5. I know I didn't get any of them, only buying the new volume 6. I have all the old ADV versions and do not have an extra $60 laying around to buy something I already have. I'm still waiting for a callback or email from the New York Times. I thought that joining in during the "disrespect for manga" controversy that I could insinuate that I could do a better job writing the little manga blurbs for the books than their current writer. I even told them that I was willing to work for Nike shoe factory wages, but still no response. I know other bloggers have written secret emails lobbying for the job, but I'm straight up about it, so stay out of the way! (The subliminal point of the above parody was to state my opinion that some in the manga world wanted to work for the New York Times and that they overreacted simply through a repressed desire to work for the very monster they were getting angry at.) "LEAVE YOTSUBA ALOOOONNEEE!" (Oh yeah, by the way, I DO want to work for ADV manga too. PLEASE ring me back!)

DATE: Tue, 06 Oct 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Manga Review: Future Diary Volume 3

Manga review of Future Diary volume 3 by Sakae Esuno. Translated by Yuya Otake. Adapted by Clint Bickham. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated 16+ (for mild sexuality, aggression, moderate language). As Kurusu and Minene look on from a rooftop, Yuki and Yuno are cornered by the traitorous Tsubaki and her cult. Yuno's solution to this problem? She cuts off Tsuabaki's hand with an axe! (sigh) Kids today. This does buy time for Yuki to get away but also gets Yuno caught. Now it's up to Yuki to decide if he's gonna risk his life saving his psycho fiancee/girlfriend/stalker. We also get to see Yuki's mom as she comes home after a month being away for work as a game programmer. She also brings along the kid of a recently deceased friend. Reisuke Houjou is a cute little tyke with rosy cheeks, fond of hand puppets and drawing. He also happens to be a diary holder, and his plan is to kill Yuko and Yunio. This series grows on me more and more. It's so over the top and schizophrenic that you can't help but love it. It reminds me a lot of Higurashi: When They Cry, with that title's mixture of horror and moe. Future Diary, too has an intriguing mix, but more along the lines of sex and violence. And a bit of horror too. It's hard to believe that Yuki could fall for Yunio (seeing as how she's crazy and maybe killed her parents), but I think he is. It's hard to reconcile her as a cold-blooded murderer, even when she chops people into little pieces, since she is so cute and so devoted to Yuki. In a cool move, Esuno makes her realize in this volume that if the game is to end, either Yuki or Yuno will have to die. It will be interesting to see how far her love will carry her before her own survival takes precedence. Esuno's art can switch between cute and grotesque at the drop of a hat and even exceeds When They Cry in this aspect. I'm beginning to suspect that the cop, Kurusu, has his own agenda. For most if not all of this volume, he lets Yuki and Yuno fight alone without lending any help. Cool series. My Grade: A-

DATE: Sun, 04 Oct 2009
SIZE: 0.08 MB
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Magazine Review: Yen Plus, November 2008

I was fully behind Yen's efforts at starting a new manga anthology a little over a year ago and I still do respect them immensely for continuing the magazine. But I have to admit I did not make it past the first issue initially, even though I have continued to buy every edition every month. So I finally decided I needed to get caught up. I started over again with the August issue and will continue reading until I get current. This review will only be for the American and Korean titles. I will be sure to include the Japanese side of things next time. Jack Frost Chapter 4 by Jinho Ko: Four chapters in and I still don't know what the hell is going on in this title. This chapter, Jack and Blood Pirate Avid continue their duel to the...uh, death? Or are they already dead? And of course, Noh-A gets her head cut off again. I have no idea what the plot is or what Jack is or what the Amityville school represents. The only saving grace in the earlier chapters was the constant frames of Noh-A's butt in the air. My Grade: D- Nightschool Chapter 4 by Svetlana Chmakova: Alex snuck out of the house and took down some Hunters but has no memory of how she did it. Maybe it has something to do with the Darth Maul cowled figure she envisions. Meanwhile, back at school, Sarah has to deal with a vampire Casanova and a teacher who threatens to destroy the campus during his classes. I don't like this series very much. The whole day/night school human/non-human thing has been done to death. The art is really good in some panels, but lazy or rushed in others. Chmakova has the bad habit of dissolving the the bottom of her panels instead of drawing them. Or using giant splash pages with very little detailed art on them. Most of her characters look the same, as if she copied them from the members of Coldplay. It is better than Jack Frost, and is fairly entertaining, but I would never buy it as an individual manga volume. My Grade: C- Maximum Ride Chapter 4 by James Patterson and Narae Lee: Ok, to start off, I think James Patterson is a talentless hack. Is that too strong? Should I edit myself? Angel is being subjected to experiments that are really torture sessions as her "family" is on the way to rescue her. That's Fang and Nudge. Max got taken down by a bullet last issue. The spotlight, unfortunately, falls on two of the dumbest characters in the series: Iggy and Gasman. Iggy is blind but likes to work with explosives. Let me repeat that, Iggy is blind but fancies himself an expert with explosives. And then you have Gasman, or Gazzy, who farts all the time, or maybe he's really pooping in his pants. Regardless, he's one of the most scatalogically disgusting little toads I've ever encountered in a manga. I was hoping Iggy would cut the wrong wire and blow them both up! Lee's art is pretty good. It's unfortunate that the source material is so bad. Like Night School, this series has gotten better, but I doubt it will ever rise above mediocrity. Lee's art is having to carry the title. My Grade: C- One Fine Day by Sirial, Day 6: Mr and Mrs Raspberry, a married couple that happen to be walking talking dwarf birds, come to visit No-ah. His pets take the opportunity to get into trouble. This series is a big waste of space and trees. We could save so much oxygen if One Fine Day could be extracted from Yen Plus. Awful. Just awful. Boring nothingness. My Grade: F- Pig Bride by Kookhwa Huh & Sujin Kim Chapter 4 Si-Joon is having a hard time trying to figure out why every girl at school wants him. Uh, would it happen to be that your family is rich and politically well-connected? Lady Park comes for a formal visit and Si-Joon's parents seem to be in on the plan to consummate their "marriage". I really like Pig Bride. The art is suitably wispy and shojo-like with a Korean spin. The characters are attractively designed and unique. I am very curious to see if Lady Park is actually ugly underneath her mask. I suspect that she isn't. But it's cool while it remains a mystery. While Pig Bride seems to be romantic comedy, it also gives you a sense of suspense with wanting to know how things are going to work out. This is one of only two titles that I like enough to buy the tankoban volumes. My Grade: B+ Sarasah Chapter 4 by Ruy Ryang: Ji-Hae, or should I say "Ari" is on her own in a time she doesn't belong to. Her mom is so worried about her sanity that she has confined her to the house, forbidding her to leave. Ji-Hae escapes, but doesn't have a clue as to how to find the ancestor of Seung-Hyu. And the little jerk dog creature, Mita, is kicking back, refusing to help her in her quest. When this title started, I really hated it. Ji-Hae seemed more like a psychotic stalker than a love struck teenager and I found her a bit creepy. Then we had to get past the whole trip to the afterlife scene. But now that she's been thrown back in time, I think I am finally getting behind the story and beginning to like it. I'm very curious to see this supposed horrible event that has driven a wedge of hate between Ji-Hae and the object of her affection in our present time. The art is standard shojo style, if a little better than the average Japanese titles that fall under that category. This is the other title I will buy the tankoban version of. My Grade: B+

DATE: Sun, 04 Oct 2009
SIZE: 3.45 MB
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Podcast 188: Silent Mobius Complete Edition Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Silent Mobius Complete Edition Volume 1 by Kia Asamiya (Junk, Nadesico, Dark Angel). Translated by M. Kirie Hayashi. Originally published in Japan by Tokuma Shoten. Published in US by Udon, $14.99, rated 16+. From the back cover: The ultimate sci-fi manga returns! In the future, powerful beings known as "Lucifer Hawks" have begun invading Earth from another dimension. Only one thing stands in their way- the Attacked Mystification Police force; an all-female security team with some amazing paranormal powers! Silent Mobius: Complete Edition features an all-new translation, and new high-quality scans taken directly from the original artwork. Each volume also features a full-color gallery of rare artwork, plus bonus material like data files, character designs, and interviews. My Grade: B+  

DATE: Fri, 02 Oct 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Wicked City Novel Published

I was at Border's tonight and picked up Zoo by Otsuichi. Now the only Haikasoru title I haven't bought is Usurper of the Sun. I haven't read any of the titles yet, but when I do, I'll be doing podcast reviews for sure. I knew about the Haikasoru books, but the real surprise tonight was finding a copy of Wicked City: Black Guard, a novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi, in the manga section. Kikuchi, of course is the author of the best-selling Vampire Hunter D series. It's being published by Seven Seas and goes for the nice price of $9.99. I didn't even know it was coming out. I'm walking into the franchise naked, having never seen the anime or the live action movie. But I like that. I'd rather read the novel first instead of seeing the usual crappy Japanese special effects in the live action version, or old school anime style.  I'd much rather use my imagination to see Kikuchi's world.

DATE: Mon, 28 Sep 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: GTO Volume 13

Manga review of GTO Volume 13 by Tohru Fujisawa. Translated and adapted by Dan Papia. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated OT-- Age 16+. So the Holy Forest class trip to Okinawa is happening. Onizuka is having fun with the trip, bunking his class co-ed in the hotel, even sometimes shacking up arch enemies together. But something else got his attention last volume. One of his students, Kikuchi, told him about a legend concerning a Christian missionary that had buried 2 billion yen worth of treasure on Iriomote Jima, a sparsely populated island which is one of the wildest and most unexplored areas of Japan, consisting mostly of subtropical jungle. Deceiving most of his students, Onizuka tells them that they will be conducting research on how sea turtle eggs taste. Yep, that's the excuse he gives to make them start digging for the treasure! As they trek through the jungle, Noboru gets kidnapped by Anko and her cronies and they drag him deep into the wild. They tie him up, thinking that Onizuka will get blamed for his disapperance. Instead, the girls realize they have become lost. When Anko falls into a sea cave, it's Noboru to the rescue, which sets off a chain reaction leading to one of the most unlikely romances I've come across in the series so far.   The cool thing about GTO is that Fujisawa always uses the characters as the focus. Yeah, he puts Onizuka in there with all his rudeness and crudeness, but in the end all the kids and teachers are human beings. Yes, even Uchiyamada, who sets out to bring Onizuka down once again, only to find himself being lapped danced and boob slapped at a strip club and then ending up dredged in a fish net! The spotlight of volume 13 is on the evolving relationship between Noboru and Anko, which goes back to the earliest volumes of GTO. If you remember, Noboru was being bullied by Anko and her crew so much, he attempted to kill himself. My, how far we've come, thanks to Onizuka. Now, thanks to their test of survival, it might be that Anko and Noboru might end up loving each other! In some other manga series, characters are introduced and seem major before they move back into a supporting role forever. You have the sense in GTO that any character can step up into a starring role at any time if it serves the story. It can get repetitive at times because in the end GTO's main purpose is to find a way to reach every kid in his class, no matter how much they may hate him. But finding out how he reaches them is what is fun. My Grade: A You can listen to my podcast review of Volume 1: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=319225 (I will say this. GTO is one of the titles Tokyopop has lost the license to publish, so I wouldn't dally if you want to try this series out. The entire series is now out of print)

DATE: Sun, 27 Sep 2009
SIZE: 4.08 MB
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Podcast 187: Aoi Hana, Episodes 1-4

Podcast anime review of Aoi Hana: Sweet Blue Flowers, Episodes 1-4. Now showing on www.crunchyroll.com. Directed by Kenichi Kasai (Kimi Kiss, Honey and Clover). Series Composition by Fumihiko Takayama. Music by Takefumi Haketa (Vampire Knight). Childhood friends Fumi and Akira haven't seen each other in ten years, but by coencidence, they meet each other on the train commute to their new high schools on opening day. It's only later that they recognize each other. Both girls find new friends on their first day. Fumi meets Sugimoto, a basketball player, while Akira meets Kyoko, a beautiful and elegant young lady. As Fumi and Akira renew their bond, Sugimoto wants a different kind of bond with Fumi, yeah, that's right, this IS yuri after all. And then we find out that Kyoko is in love with Sugimoto, even though it's unrequited. Let the drama begin! My Grade: A You can watch all 11 episodes for free at: http://www.crunchyroll.com/library/Aoihana View the trailer below:

DATE: Sun, 27 Sep 2009
SIZE: 0.19 MB
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New Inuyasha Anime to be Simulcast in US

Inuyasha: The Final Act, the new anime series which will be adapting the final volumes of Rumiko Takahashi's Inuyasha manga will be simulcast on Hulu.com and ShonenSunday.com/anime beginning October 3, 2009. I watched the entire Inuyasha anime on DVD except for the last volume and am still currently reading the manga (I think I'm on like volume 27). I guess now would be a good time to watch the final volume. I hope this really brings back Inuyasha as a franchise in a big way. At times he seems a forgotten entity even though it was Inuyasha, along with Cowboy Bebop that really busted the US market open in the late 90s and early 2000s. If you've never watched the show please give it a try. It has great characters, adventure, action, comedy, and romance. You can watch the entire run of the original series at www.hulu.com. Watch the first episode below:

DATE: Sun, 27 Sep 2009
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Anime DVD Review: Area 88 Volume 4

Area 88 Volume 3: Wings of the Wind,  Episodes 10-12. Published by ADV Films. Running Time: 75 minutes. Directed by Isamu Imakake (Captain Tsubasa). Screenplay by Hiroshi Ohnogi (Kekkaishi, FMA: Brotherhood). List Price: $29.98. Also available in a box set. There are only 3 ways out of Area 88. The first is in a bodybag. The second is to serve out your 3 year tour of duty. The last is to raise $1.5 million to buy your way out. You get a bounty for every enemy plane you down, but the pilot's ammunition and maintenence of their jet takes up a lot of money so the odds are stacked against that option. In this last volume, Shin Kazuma has scaled that mountain and only needs to shoot down one more fighter craft. Then he can go home to his beloved Ryoko and live happily ever after, remembering Area 88 only in bad dreams. Shin is usually on the ball when he's up in the air, but knowing he only has to take down one more plane puts a lot of added pressure on him. He also has visions of Ryoko dancing through his mind (not literally). This distraction almost costs Kitri her life during a dogfight and Shin's jet takes some damage. Shin is resigned at first to the delay in his liberation, that is, until he finds out Ryoko is getting married to his former best friend who also happens to be the dude that got him shipped out to Area 88! Back in the day Viz partially published the original manga upon which this anime is based. It was before the Tokyopop innovation of cheap and original size manga so the Area 88 volumes were those huge trade paperbacks Viz put out for $16 or so. The reason I bring this up is because as I watched the anime I couldn't help but feel that it was only scratching the surface of a much larger story. I didn't think we got much time to get to know the characters or to find out more about the war they were fighting. That's right, even after the series ended, I still didn't know much about the political situation or what brought the conflict about. I don't think I ever even saw the face of an enemy soldier. I guess maybe that was the show's intention, but I doubt that it was the case in the manga. From what the cast and director said about the manga, the original creator was very much influenced by shojo character designs. I would really like to read them, but Viz isn't exactly famous for putting out old series. Maybe under their "Signature" line? I guess I'll see if I can track some of them down on Ebay. I wish the show had been longer. Even with its brevity, I still really enjoyed it. The mysterious nature brought about by the shortness made the characters even more appealing, if that makes any sense. There is also an OVA collection from ADV that is readily available. I guess I'll be hunting that down next. Volume 4 Grade: A- Overall Series Grade: A- View the trailer below:

DATE: Sat, 26 Sep 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Otomen Volume 2

Manga Review of Otomen Volume 2 by Aya Kanno (Soul Rescue, Blank Slate). Translated and adapted by Lindsey Akashi. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T for Teen. The irony continues to pile on as Asuka Masamune continues his reign as macho man on campus even as he secretly longs for all things cute and girly. He's even picked up a disciple, Yamato Ariake, a young boy who is constantly misaken for a girl, and has been teased about it ever since he was a kid. Ariake sees Asuka as the masculine ideal and sets out to be just like him. Of course, the reader knows that Asuka is anything but the embodiment of manly men. Ariake also wants to man up so he can confess to a girl that has stolen his heart. The relationship between Asuka and Ryo appears to be taking a romantic turn as Christmas approaches, but Asuka's mom, ever watchful for even the slightest bent towards transsexualism, arrives on the scene and tells Asuka that he has a meeting with his FIANCEE! And just wait till you see the wacko his mom has set him up with in an effort to save him from his father's fate and also to cement a business alliance. I will say this about Otomen. The series is hilarious. Most of the humor in this volume, and a lot of weirdness, concerns Asuka's fiancee, Iruka Sakiyama. She is like the Messiah of Cuteness and Asuka finds himself hard pressed to reject her interest. She actually lives in a life sized magic castle dollhouse in her vast room inside her family's mansion. And she sees Asuka as her Prince Charming. Kanno uses Otomen to parody shojo manga, actually gently poke fun at its conventions would be a more accurate description. Until you got to the Iruka section, Otomen has been pretty realistic without using many over the top elements. Kanno's main device of comedy has been the irony of Asuka's character and she has done very well with it. She is still using it, but she's coming up with more interesting situations to exploit it. I really like Otomen. It has been the biggest Shojo Beat surprise I've gotten this year. My Grade: A

DATE: Tue, 22 Sep 2009
SIZE: 2.91 MB
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Podcast Episode 186: Astro Boy The Movie #1

Podcast comic book review of Astro Boy The Movie #1. Adapted by Scott and David Tipton. Art by E.J. Su. Published by IDW, $3.99. Metro City floats above the Earth's surface, its daily operations taken care of by thousands of robots. They do any job that humans find to be beneath them. Dr. Tenma, head of the Ministry of Science, is in charge of their functions and their designs. Unfortunately, most of his funding comes from the military and the politically motivated President Stone. When Tenma's son, Toby, is killed during a demonstration of a new soldier/police force robot, Tenma creates a new robot in Toby's image. It comes equipped with Toby's memories as well. My Grade: B

DATE: Tue, 22 Sep 2009
SIZE: 4.34 MB
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Podcast Episode 185: Shigurui: Death Frenzy, Episodes 1-6

Podcast anime review of Shigurui: Death Frenzy The Complete Series, Episodes 1-6. Directed by Hirotsugu Hamazaki (Texhnolyze). Series Composition by Seishi Minakami (Paprika, Boogiepop Phantom). Based on the manga by Takayuki Yamaguchi. Published by Funimation, List Price: $59.98, Rated 17+. From the back cover: Two damaged warriors wear the scars of a twisted and violent past. Bitter rivals for the secrets of their master's sword and the right to his daughter, these samurai inflict wounds on each other that would destroy lesser men. The final chapter of their saga unfolds within a brutal samurai tournament, a gruesome contest arranged to satisfy the bloodlust of a cruel tyrant overlord. The disfigured legends of the blade must summon the strength for one last battle - a final lesson in the artistry of violence where nothing is more beautiful than the kill. My Grade: A- You can watch all 12 episodes for free at Funimation.com. Here is the link to the first episode: http://www4.funimation.com/video/?page=video&v=330 And here's the trailer for the box set:

DATE: Sun, 20 Sep 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Hikaru No Go Volume 15

Manga review of Hikaru No Go volume 15: Sayonara. Story by Yumi Hotta. Art by Takeshi Obata (Death Note, Ral Grad). Supervised by Yukari Umezawa (5 Dan). Translated and adapted by Naoko Amemiya. English script consulting by Janice Kim (3 Dan). Originaly published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, rated A for All Ages. Sai's time as a ghost Go instructor to Hikaru seems to be up in this fifteenth volume of Hikaru No Go, but he's having a hard time convincing Hikaru of this fact. Apparently the "Gods of Go" were keeping Sai hanging around all these centuries to let Hikaru see his match with Toya Meijin. He realized this last volume when Hikaru gave him a skilled analysis of the game between Sai and Toya. At this point Sai knows that Hikaru is on the path to playing the "Divine Move". Hikaru doesn't take Sai's warnings about his limited time seriously until he really does disappear. He spends most of the rest of the book trying to find him, all while taking time to play the top ranked Japanese amateur player. I have to admit that once Sai disappeared from volume 15 it made me a little nervous because he is such an essential part of the story. But I was also a little glad as well because it seemed like he was beginning to suffer. For the first time in the series, Sai is reminded of the fact that he is dead. Ok, this might seem obvious to us, but I think Sai thinks of himself as a real red blooded human with needs and wants. He's saddened a bit when he remembers that Hikaru is capable of "The Divine Move" but no matter what he does, Sai will never actually get to make it or receive any recognition or fame even if he does. We've seen a bit of it in earlier volumes, but I was beginning to wonder when these two symbiotes, Hikaru and Sai, would begin to fracture and fray. To me, it would be a nightmare to be in someone else's mind for 2 years 24/7. It's admirable that Hikaru has been able to tolerate it this long. But he has no patience when Sai gets all wishy washy, so that's why he blows off Sai when he warns that he might disappear. When he's gone, Hikaru has to decide if he wants to go on playing Go for himself or whether his desire was driven by Sai's. My Grade: B+

DATE: Sun, 13 Sep 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Anime Review: xxxHolic Volume 4

Anime DVD review of xxxHolic Volume 4. Directed by Tsutomu Mizushima (Genshiken, Hare+Guu). Series Composition by Ageha Ohkawa of CLAMP and Michiko Yokote (Bleach, Naruto, Genshiken). 100 minutes, Episodes 13-16. Published by Funimation, $29.98 (Rightstuf.com has it for $7.00 and Funimation has recently released a box set of the entire series), Rated 13+. Watanuki and Domeki's partnership is growing stronger as the 4th volume of xxxHolic opens, even if Watanuki wants Domeki out of the way when it comes to his would-be romance with Himawari. He always seems to pop up as the third wheel just when he's about to get Himawari by herself. But first things first. Watanuki notices a girl at school with a strange feature on her back. She has a pair of small wings! At first he thinks they might be cosplay or something but they are real. Does it have something to do with the girl hanging out on the school roof, gazing at flying birds? Then it's on to a two parter involving two very weird twins. Well, maybe it's all in Watanuki's imagination. When he's around the the two girls, he feels a strange sort of wave effect that does not portend anything good usually. In some way the twins are impacting each other through a psychic link or by the things they say to each other. A comedy element of xxxHolic these days is the nine tailed fox spirit that mostly appears in a cute sort of small furry eel form that is always clinging to or wrapped around Watanuki's body. Don't get this spirit confused with Naruto's evil entity. This fox spirit is more like an affection starved dog. He starts causing trouble for Watanuki when he is changed into his full size on this volume. xxxHolic is an anime that always falls just a tiny bit short of being a really good show. It succeeds admirably at creating a comedic but always otherworldly atmosphere that at times can creep you out. But its Twilight Zone-like endings never seem to shock or surprise. Because the writing is a bit subpar, you can always figure out what is going to happen long before it does. So the "punchlines" at the end very rarely have the impact the writers intended. This seems to be a problem that CLAMP has a lot. They are very good at designing characters and of concocting interesting plot setups, but do not do a good job with the execution of their stories. Tsubasa is a good example of this. They had awesome characters jumping across time and space but all the worlds they visited seemed so cliched and boring! I think they would be a greater force if they just set up scenarios and supplied the art and let someone else do the actual writing. I really like the characters in xxxHolic and the comedy bits are quite good. The supernatural elements are where inconsistencies popped up. It probably didn't help that I had already read some of the stories in manga form before watching the dvd. Even though it doesn't live up to its potential and the beautiful art from the manga is simplified a bit, xxxHolic is well worth watching. My Grade: B+ All 24 episodes of the series can be watched at www.hulu.com You can view Episode 13 below:      

DATE: Wed, 09 Sep 2009
SIZE: 2.99 MB
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Podcast Episode 184: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 3

Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 3 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Jake Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and his leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Equipped with mechanical "auto-mail" limbs, Edward becomes a state alchemist, seeking the one thing that can restore his brother and himself...the legendary Philosopher's Stone. Accompanied by their bodyguard, Alex Louis Armstrong, our heroes seek out their closest childhood friend, Winry Rockbell, to fix their battered "auto-mail" bodyparts. Soon their quest for the Philosopher's Stone takes them to the great central library, where the Stone's formula may be hidden...if the mysterious figure named Lust doesn't get there first! But the secret of the Philsopher's Stone may be even more frightening than the beings who guard it... My Grade: A+  

DATE: Mon, 07 Sep 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Anime Review: Otoboku Volume 3

Anime dvd review of Otoboku (Maidens Are Falling For Me) Volume 3: Androgynous Antics. Published by Media Blasters. List Price: $19.99, Rated 16+. Episodes 10-13. Running Time: 100 minutes. Directed by Munenori Nawa (Galaxy Angel A&Z). Series Composition by Katsumi Hasegawa. (Japanese with English subtitles) It's time to say goodbye to Seio Academy as the last dvd wraps up the series and some of its cast gets prepared to graduate. Luckily for Mizuho, for the most part, he has been able to keep the secret that he's actually a dude from most of the all female student body. This last volume focuses almost exclusively on the love triangle between Mizuho, his childhood friend, Mariya, and the Student Council President, Takako. It's unclear at this point if that love is reciprocated for either girl on Mizuho's side. I think he sees Mariya as his best friend and doesn't really see her in a romantic way. The event that brings things to a head is the staging of Romeo and Juliet at the school festival, with Mizuho and Takako playing the starcrossed lovers. It's left to them whether they will actually kiss during the love scenes. Locking lips has an odd effect on Takako as she goes from overconfident snobbish prude to love struck puppy dog after one kiss from Mizuho. Mariya is going to have to share Mizuho even more as he takes the traditional role of dancing with all the single girls at the annual Christmas dance party. The last episode on the dvd is an OVA sendup of the fairy tale of Cinderella, featuring super deformed versions of the Otoboku cast. This series really brought something new to the crossdressing genre, (or maybe this is a harem anime?) whether it be a boy or a girl in the uncomfortable role of masquerading as something they are not. The aspect that made Otoboku unique was that after the first couple of episodes, Mizuho became a girl. What I mean is that he wasn't really a horndog like other anime characters put in the same situation. Mizuho is so nice that you forget he's a guy. There is more fan service in Maria Watches Over Us than this show. He just sorta goes with the flow and you almost feel like you're watching an all girl cast. It was really refreshing that he never tried to take advantage of the situation to seduce or cop feels or spy. But let's face it, he was already so effeminate before he came to Seio, he made Clay Aiken look tough in comparison. I almost wish the show was longer so I could see what happened with the different character's plot lines. Extras: Clean Ending, Live Event in Kawasaki featuring the voice actresses singing songs, and a promotional music video. Media Blasters will be releasing a box set of the entire series on Oct. 6. My Grade: B+ Listen to my podcast review of Volume 1 here: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=398985 & nbsp; View the opening sequence of the anime below:  

DATE: Mon, 07 Sep 2009
SIZE: 0.13 MB
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The Secret World Trailers

You have to take a look at the Secret World trailers. For more info visit www.darkdaysarecoming.com

DATE: Mon, 07 Sep 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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New Dance in the Vampire Bund Anime Trailer

Media Factory has released a promotional trailer for the upcoming Dance in the Vampire Bund anime, based on the manga by Nozomu Tamaki. 4 volumes of the manga have been released in the US by Seven Seas. Animation is being done by SHAFT (can you dig it?), which has had a hand in almost every major anime series to be released here to one degree or another. Akiyuki Shinbo (Devil Hunter Yohko, Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, Negima) will be directing. While Shinbo can do comedy very well, he should be able to handle the creepy mood and explicitness of this title. The manga is almost a joining together of two of Shinbo's earlier shows, Moonphase and Le Portrait de Petit Cossette in flavor and theme so I think he'll be allright with the subject matter.

DATE: Sun, 06 Sep 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Anime Review: Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Box Set, Episodes 6-9

Anime review of Episodes 6-9 of the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Box Set. Published by Geneon. List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+. Box Set contains Episodes 1-13. Directed by Akiyuki Shinbo (Moonphase, Negima, Maria Holic). Written by Masaki Tsuzuki. Nanoha's friends, Suzuka and Arisa, are getting very worried about her behavior. Just like her family, they can sense that something is up but Nanoha hasn't told them about her new magical girl role yet. Arisa is getting pissed and hurt because she feels Nanoha doesn't trust her. Without her in the triad of friendship, the bond between the three girls just doesn't seem the same. Nanoha, on the other hand, is intent on making a new friend, the mysterious and merciless Fate, the black-clad mage that she tangled with on the previous dvd. Fate, and her shape shifting wolf familiar, Aruf, are intent on seizing Jewel Seeds for Fate's mother. Unfortunately for Earth, and the universe at large, the clash between Nanoha and Fate over the Seeds could destroy the entire space time continuum! A Time-Space Adminstration Bureau Enforcer, a sort of interdimensional cop, arrives on the scene to make sure this doesn't happen. While on the surface, Lyrical Nanoha might seem like a Cardcaptor Sakura rip-off, its imagery and plot skews a lot higher to older otaku. Why do I say this? Perhaps because there is some insinuated fan service, total nudity when Nanoha changes to her magical girl costume, and the fact that Fate's mom tortures her with a magical whip...over and over. So maybe I should say Cardcaptor Sakura with a dose of De Sade to poison the otherwise Hello Kitty sweetness? Also, Lyrical Nanoha at its heart is a sci-fi anime. What its users call magic is mathematical equations which mages activate with mental energy. The show gets even more sci-fi with the arrival of the Time-Space Bureau, a police force that patrols multiple dimensions in a starship, looking for people jacking with the universe. The character designs in the show are pretty cool but for the fact that every character in this series has serious "bedhead". No matter if it's a girl or a boy, everyone has these big clumps of uncombed hair poofing off the side of their head. What a tragedy that a show can actually be dragged down by bad grooming! This is not a great show but it can be entertaining if magical girls are your bag. My Grade: B You can watch the first part of Episode 1 below:

DATE: Sun, 06 Sep 2009
SIZE: 3.07 MB
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Podcast Episode 183: Momogumi Plus Senki Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Momogumi Plus Senki Volume 1 by Eri Sakondo. Translated by Aimi Tokutake. Adapted by Rachel Brown. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated 13+. From the back cover: The deadline is his eighteenth birthday... After transferring to a new school, Yuuki, a disaster-attracting young student, is told that he is actually the reincarnation of Momotaro from Japanese folklore. What's worse, he was cursed by demons to die on the day he turns eighteen. Luckily for Yuuki he won't have to battle these demons alone- his three mystical minions, Yukishiro, Masahiko, and Sawa will be there to instruct and protect him every step of the way! My Grade: D Read the first chapter below for free:

DATE: Fri, 04 Sep 2009
SIZE: 0.07 MB
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New Naruto Shippuden Game for the PSP

A new Naruto game, entitled Naruto Shippuden Legends: Akatsuki Rising, is coming out for the PSP on 10/6/09. The game appears to follow the retrieval of Gaara storyline in which Naruto and pals set out to rescue Gaara from the clutches of the Akatsuki. I'm sure the storyline will deviate, offering battles we never saw in the anime or manga as you get to choose from over 15 characters. If you don't want to follow the storyline, you can sign up for mission mode. The final game is supposed to include a co-op AI that will assist you in battle, most crucially in attack combos. Akatsuki Rising will also feature 2 player wireless co-op. If you're feeling a little evil, you can even play as one of the Akatsuki and battle against the good guys/girls. What can I say? I'm buying this game! View the trailer below: More Naruto Shippuden: Legends: Akatsuki Rising Info 

DATE: Fri, 04 Sep 2009
SIZE: 3.84 MB
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Podcast Episode 182: Love Hina The Complete Series, Episodes 1-7

Podcast anime review of Love Hina: The Complete Series, Episodes 1-7. Directed by Yoshiaki Iwasaki (Hayate, Familiar of Zero). Series Composition by Kurou Hazuki. Published by Funimation, Rated 16+, List Price: $49.99. From the back cover: Attempting to fulfill a promise to his childhood sweetheart, Keitaro Urashima is determined to enter Tokyo University. After being rejected twice, he decides to leave home and stay at his grandmother's apartment complex to study. But when he arrives, his grandmother is gone and he finds himself under attack by the all-female residents. Will the girls accept him as their new apartment manager? Will his bones ever mend? More importantly, can he concentrate on his studies when he discovers that one of his tenants might be his long-lost sweetheart? My Grade: A- View the trailer below:

DATE: Wed, 02 Sep 2009
SIZE: 4.20 MB
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Podcast Episode 181: Tokyopop Kodansha Divorce Final & ADV Cremated

Podcast episode 181: After an intro from the famous psychic Criswell, it's on to the news of the day. Kodansha and Tokyopop end all ties and ADV proclaims its own death. I throw my opinions and views at the wall to see which will stick. Hint: I am disgusted by all the cloak and dagger deception that has been going on for years in both the anime and manga industries. Question: Is Otaku USA even gonna give these two stories a footnote, or are they gonna pretend neither ever happened?

DATE: Sat, 29 Aug 2009
SIZE: 0.05 MB
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Manga Reviews: Arata the Legend/ Honey & Closer Chapter 2

Manga reveiw of chapter 2 of Arata The Legend by Yuu Watase. Last we saw of Arata, he was being swallowed up by a forest and Kannagi was stating that he would have to come back as an entirely different person. Chapter 2 opens in modern Japan with another Arata getting ready for his first day at high school. On the way to school he helps catch a butt grabbing pervert on the train and instantly becomes a celeb to his classmates. He ends up making friends pretty easily until a month later a guy named Masato Kadowaki shows up. Apparently, he bullied Arata during middle school and made his life a living hell until he was treated like a leper. Surely, Arata thinks, this school is different. He has true friends here that won’t betray him. I am still amazed by Yuu Watase’s complete shift in art styles to meld better with the shonen genre. If I knew nothing about her and had scenes from Arata and Ceres next to each other, there is probably no way I would guess they were by the same artist. I was also impressed with the writing of chapter 2. Watase really won you over to the protagonist’s side very fast. Towards the end of the chapter, we see how this new Arata is going to interact with the plot of the earlier storyline. Shows a lot of promise. My Grade: A Manga Review of Hyde & Closer Chapter 2 by Haro Aso: Shunpei Closer is able to convince himself that the events of chapter 1 were all a bad dream until he walks in on his mom cooking breakfast for Hyde, an enchanted stuffed teddy bear. His mom doesn't seem to have any problem accepting all the unusual happenings. In fact, she thinks it's kinda cool and wants to tell all the neighbors! Meanwhile, another "Death Curse" is sent out to steal Shun's heart and this time he's gonna have to learn how to fight some of his own battles...or Shun is going to find himself a lifeless corpse. I'm still having a hard time seeing this title as anything but mindless entertainment, but the bizarre surreal humor is starting to grow on me. It reminds me of another goofy title, The Law of Ueki. The battles between ridiculous toys lends the whole thing an over the top quality that makes you giggle. It's still too early for the Death Curse of the week to wear on your nerves. Relax and have a bit of fun with this series. My Grade: B+ View chapters 1&2 of both series for free at: www.shonensunday.com

DATE: Sat, 29 Aug 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Fate Stay Night Game for PSP Releases 9/2

A new Japanese fighter game based on the Fate Stay Night franchise is coming to the Playstation Network on 9/2 from Capcom under the moniker Fate/Unlimited Codes (What a boring title). Originally starting out as a Type Moon PC game, the franchise soon moved on to forays in anime, manga, arcade, and the PS2. As Sony is moving to a non-UMD format for its PSP game system, this is a downloadable-only port of the Japanese PS2 and arcade titles, with some modifications. From what I've seen it's more of Soul Calibur/BlazBlue type game rather than Street Fighter, using the Fate Stay Night characters. It seems to be flying under the radar. I wouldn't even have known about it except for seeing a review of it in the October issue of Game Pro that I got in the mail today (They didn't even mention the anime or manga facets of it).  No word on how much it's gonna cost. I guess I really should get back to the anime. I watched through volume 4 but never finished the series. Now I have the box set so there's no excuse anymore. You can view the trailer of the Japanese PS2 version below:

DATE: Sat, 29 Aug 2009
SIZE: 0.16 MB
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Strokes Lead Singer to Premiere Solo Album in Shibuya on 8/31

Julian Casablancas, lead singer of The Strokes, is putting out a solo album, entitled "Phrazes for the Young" on 9/29/09. If you're in Tokyo on Monday you're in for a special treat as Julian will be performing his new songs at the Shibuya Duo Music Exchange on 8/31/09. He will be backed by a 6 piece band (it would be funny if it ended up being The Strokes). Not to worry, The Strokes have not broken up. They are currently working on songs for a new album. Oh yeah, the concert in Shibuya is sold out. You can get more info at: www.juliancasablancas.com Here's a preview video of the Phrazes album. Unfortunately, it doesn't feature any vocals, just instrumental music, but it sounds pretty cool and the visuals match the retro futuristic vibe:

DATE: Sat, 22 Aug 2009
SIZE: 0.06 MB
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Notable Anime DVD Releases for 8/25/09

Notable Anime DVD releases this Tuesday: Genshiken 2 Volume 1 Naruto Uncut Box 15 Mushi-Shi: The Movie (Live Action) One Piece Season 2, Second Voyage Pumpkin Scissors Box Welcome to the NHK Box When They Cry Box

DATE: Sat, 22 Aug 2009
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Upcoming Anime Blu-Ray Releases & Devil May Cry Deal

Amazon currently has the Devil May Cry: Complete Series anime Blu-Ray edition on sale for $33.99. Weirdly enough, this is $6 cheaper than the regular dvd release, which is going for $39.99! I also saw some other upcoming Blu-Ray anime releases as I was browsing the site so I thought I'd share: Oct. 20 -- Escaflowne: The Movie Nov. 3-- Witchblade: The Complete Series Dec. 1-- Gunslinger Girl: The Complete Series Dec. 15-- Basilisk: The Complete Series

DATE: Sat, 22 Aug 2009
SIZE: 0.00 MB
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Viz Commits Ultimate Goof With Naruto Shippuden DVD Releases

Usually Viz has its head screwed on bright and tight but they are on the verge of doing something dumb that flies in the face of recent anime dvd history. I was looking on Amazon and saw that the Naruto Shippuden anime series is going to be released in individual volumes instead of box sets. It looks like they will be releasing a dvd containing 4 episodes each month costing $25. So it will take them about a year to put out the first season on approximately 12 volumes. That's a bilking of about $300 for the first season! Are they insane? No, just greedy.  But it's nothing new in the context of Viz's recent behavior. Witness their encroaching higher manga prices that were never justified except by stating that everybody else was charging more, so Viz was just joining the club.    It appears that Viz is blatantly trying to take money from its customers by milking these dvd releases with 4 episodes apiece. I know, this is Naruto, and Viz's behavior will be reinforced with strong sales. But you know what, Viz? I'm not playing this game. I refuse to buy these volumes. If you were going to release box sets, I would have pre-ordered it today. Please don't try to rip me off. You'll be lucky if I even buy the inevitable box sets now. I can do fine with just the manga. My ideal would be for Shippuden to be released like the uncut Naruto sets with 13 episodes on each. Down the individual volume path lies madness.

DATE: Sun, 16 Aug 2009
SIZE: 4.54 MB
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Podcast Episode 180: Heroic Age Episodes 1-7

Podcast anime dvd review of Heroic Age: The Complete Series Part 1, Episodes 1-7. Directed by Takashi Noto. Series Composition by Tow Ubukata. Music by Naoki Sato. Published by Funimation. List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+. From the back cover: Long ago, the advanced Tribe of Gold vanished from the vast universe. In the void left by their departure, the tyrannical Tribe of Silver ascended to rule, forcing mankind - the Iron Tribe - to the brink of extinction. Now humanity wanders the cosmos in search of a savior. Prophesy has foretold of one who will labor for their freedoms, and on a planet of ruin, a champion is found. A feral boy named Age holds the destiny of their species in his hands and the untold power of the Tribe of Hero within. My Grade: A You can watch the first twelve episodes online for free at the Funimation website: http://www4.funimation.com/video/?page=show&b=179 You can watch the trailer for the series below:    

DATE: Tue, 11 Aug 2009
SIZE: 4.89 MB
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Podcast Episode 179: Real World by Natsuo Kirino

Podcast novel review of Real World by Natsuo Kirino. Translated by Philip Gabriel. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha in 2003. Published in US by Vintage, July 2009, $14.00. From the back cover: In a crowded Tokyo suburb, four teenage girls indifferently wade their way through a hot, smoggy summer. When one of them, Toshi, discovers that her nextdoor neighbor has been brutally murdered, the girls suspect the killer is the neighbor's son. But when he flees, taking Toshi's bike and cell phone with him, the four girls get caught up in a tempest of dangers that rise from within them as well as from the world around them. Psychologically intricate and astute, Real World is a searing, eye-opening portrait of teenage life in Japan unlike any we have seen before. My Grade: A On Amazon.com, you can read the first 8 pages of the novel: Click here to read pages 1-8

DATE: Fri, 07 Aug 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: The Prince of Tennis Volume 2

Manga review of The Prince of Tennis Volume 2: Adder's Fangs by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages. Ryoma is facing his first real challenge in the Seishun tennis team ranking tournament in which the top 8 players will rise to the top and become starters. These 8 players will represent the school at all tournaments for the season. Ryoma's challenge comes in the form of Kaido, one of the current starters whose nickname is "Viper". Why Viper? Because not only are his physical mannerisms and menacing personality like that of a dangerous serpent, he has a special shot called "the snake".  He is able to hit the ball with such intense spin that when it touches the opposite court it bounces away from his opponent. His plan is to make Ryoma run back and forth trying to hit balls until he is exhausted. You don't think Ryoma is just going to let Kaido's strategy unfold without a challenge, do you? And waiting in the wings for the winner is Inui, also a starter, whose keen analytical mind makes him a tennis playing version of Shikamaru from Naruto. Two reporters from the magazine Pro Tennis Monthly, Mamoru and Saori, show up to see the Ranking tournament. Their hope is to discover a new talent that will ignite the tennis world. We also get first wind of a school that has almost as high a standing in the tennis world as Seishun: Rikai Junior High. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before these two titans collide. Ryoma Echizen is quite a unique protagonist than the usual Shonen Jump hero. Usually, the main character starts off relatively weak or clueless or has to go through constant battles, get defeated, train intensely, kick butt for a while, get defeated, retrain etc. Repeat ad infinitum. But Ryoma appears in this series to be a total finished product. He is already highly skilled, has already trained for years, has already experienced all kinds of adversity. Ryoma perfects new moves just by briefly reading about them. He appears to be at the top of his game and is able to beat all comers. So who is gonna stop this kid? Somebody is, I'm sure. If Ryoma just kicks everyone's butt, how can there be any progression in the story? So far, I haven't seen him get too worried about anyone he's played. He's always calm and cool. But I think his hubris is going to catch up to him somewhere in the next couple of volumes. So maybe we're just delaying the training cycle? Another one of Ryoma's weaknesses is his lack of people skills. He only cares about tennis. He tends to blow off people, especially absent minded Sakuno. It will be interesting to see if this aspect of his personality changes and he softens up a bit. My Grade: A Hear my podcast review of Volume and view Chapter 1 of the manga for free at: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=511162

DATE: Fri, 07 Aug 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Naruto Volume 39

Manga review of Naruto Volume 39: On the Move by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen. Orochimaru is dead! Long live Sasuke! After deciding that he was stronger than Orochimaru, and thereby had a greater chance to kill Itachi, Sasuke used Orochimaru's own transference technique to absorb the evil shinobi's power. He now sets about putting his own team together to help him take down Itachi. Last volume he was joined by Suigetsu, a descendant of Zabuza, who was the first real test for Cell 7 way back in the first 4 volumes of Naruto. Then Karin, a warden of one of Orochimaru's prisons, who has extremely useful tracking skills (she also has a crush on Sasuke!) was enlisted. As volume 39 opens, Sasuke's band has arrived at another prison to pick up their last member, Jugo, a ninja whose bloodlust transforms him into a crazed monster a little bit like the Hulk. Jugo also happens to be the source of Orochimaru's curse mark. The ironic thing is that Jugo wants to stay in prison. He's actually a nice guy but gets possessed by sudden urges to kill. He sought out Orochimaru to see if he could be cured! Meanwhile, two teams of Leaf ninja are sent out to find Itachi. The reasoning being that if they find him, they will either find Sasuke, or if they can capture Itachi, be able use him as bait to draw out his younger brother. One team is comprised of Yamato, Sai, Sakura, and Naruto. The other, Kakashi, Hinata, Kiba, and Shino. One of the strongest aspects of this series is Kishimoto's ability to make every character, no matter how supporting or minor a role, into living breathing people. Every character has something they want, a motivation for what they are doing. There's nobody in this manga that is just there for window dressing. Now, that's not to say that all of their motivations are for GOOD. Kabuto comes off as a very tragic figure. We find out in this volume that he has grafted part of Orochimaru's body onto his own. The problem is that, like a living thing, Orochimaru's essence is trying to take over Kabuto's body. Kishimoto's genius is to show us that contrary to all our perceptions of the evil that Orochimaru has done to this world, Kabuto saw him as his father! That's right, Kabuto saw Orochimaru as his only family! Kabuto had no memory and was used as a spy for most of his young life before being taken in by Orochimaru. Weirdly enough, he grafted the body part on in a twisted imitation of Naruto. Now, he too, seeks out Sasuke, but for revenge. It's just so cool that Kishimoto has now made Kabuto into a abominated Naruto. Naruto is still working on taming his inner demon. Will Kabuto be able to conquer his? As usual, great writing, great art. This volume also has 2 Sasuke tear out bookmarks. My Grade: A+

DATE: Wed, 05 Aug 2009
SIZE: 0.05 MB
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Tokidoki Avatar Store Opens On Xbox Live Marketplace

Somebody told me there was some new cool stuff for your Xbox Avatars today and when I looked on the Marketplace I discovered that Tokidoki had opened a storefront on the Xbox Marketplace. Tokidoki is a Japanese inspired brand created by Italian artist Simone Legno that produces a variety of products such as clothes, watches, handbags, toys, and even stylized memory sticks. The art depicted on them ranges from ultra cute to stylish and sexy. Tokidoki even has original characters that get depicted on their merchandise. I am part of the new Xbox Live preview so users not participating in it will not be able to access the Marketplace for Avatars until August 11. The Tokidoki store features shirts, caps, watches, and even two cool looking skateboards that your avatar interacts with. The clothes run around 80 microsoft points while the skateboards are 240. There is also a "Steampunk" store whose prices run about the same. I've been meaning to put up some links on my blog for Japanese and Japanese influenced merchandise retailers. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow. Check out the Tokidoki website (The human one). It's pretty cool: http://www.tokidoki.it/

DATE: Wed, 05 Aug 2009
SIZE: 3.21 MB
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Podcast Episode 178: Kimi Kiss Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Kimi Kiss Volume 1. Story by Enterbrain Inc. Art by Taro Shinonome. Translated by Alexis Kirsch. Adapted by Kathering Schilling. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. From the back cover: Kouichi may have started high school not having kissed a girl, but he sure as hell won't graduate that way! Kouichi and Mao, best friends since childhood, head off to high school only to discover that they aren't the kids they used to be, Mao is a total babe with no problems attracting the opposite sex, while Kouichi...well...he could use a little help. Based on the popular dating sim game fro the PS2, Kimi Kiss will make you sweat as Kouichi tries to earn his first kiss! My Grade: C Here is the opening of the anime version: Japanese commercials for the PS2 dating sim:

DATE: Tue, 04 Aug 2009
SIZE: 3.95 MB
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Podcast Episode 177: Naruto Volume 38

Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 38: Practice Makes Perfect by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Naomi Kokubo and Eric-Jon Waugh. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: Naruto is a ninja-in-training with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja! PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT Naruto finds that his new jutsu is harder to handle than he thought. Meanwhile, Sasuke seems to be falling even more under Orochimaru's spell. Despite all Naruto's efforts, he may have finally lost his best friend forever. But he'll use all his skills as a ninja to keep that from happening! My Grade: A+

DATE: Mon, 03 Aug 2009
SIZE: 3.36 MB
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Podcast Episode 176: The Prince of Tennis Volume 1

Podcast manga review of The Prince of Tennis Volume 1 by Takeshi Konomi. Translated by Joe Yamazaki. Adapted by Gerard Jones. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages. From the back cover: There is a rumor going around that a twelve-year-old boy is going to enter the sixteen-year-old and under tennis group. How can someone so young ever hope to compete with kids much older and more experienced than him? This is no ordinary kid: he is none other than Ryoma Echizen, the Prince of Tennis! Ryoma's father was destined for greatness until he injured himself during a match, ending his career forever. His talent was passed on to his son, who is determined to be the best tennis player in the world. Can the Prince gain the respect of his fellow teammates despite his small size and young age? Find out in this intense sports manga! My Grade: A- You can read Chapter 1 for free here: http://shonenjump.viz.com/onlinemanga/sjom.php?chap=pot -hi-preview

DATE: Mon, 03 Aug 2009
SIZE: 0.11 MB
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Yotsuba Volumes 1-6 To Be Released Next Month!

What's up ADV Manga? I used to buy your books back in the day. Oh, the good old days when you were gonna release 1000 manga volumes. You released Volume 1 of Yotsuba by Kiyohiko Azuma, creator of Azumanga Daioh, in June 2005, Volume 2 in August and Volume 3 in October of that same year. Then things started to hit a snag. Yotsuba, along with other titles like Gunslinger Girl, Aria, and Cromartie High School, disappeared from shelves. Yes, the great disaster of ADV manga had begun. Volume 4 of Yotsuba didn't come out till July 2007! By that time I was very leery of buying ADV titles because you never knew when the next volume would come out. At first I boycotted Gunslinger Girl because it had been so long since the last volume that I had to go back to the first volume and reread the series. But I couldn't resist picking up the then new Yotsuba volumes. It ends up that I was hesitant for good reason. After printing Volume 5 in October 2007, ADV manga apparently died and Yotsuba was locked up in their basement, along with the other titles I mentioned up above. So far, only Yotsuba and a few others like Aria and Peacemaker have been able to find a way to escape from their dungeon of manga death.  You would think Gunslinger and Cromartie would have been picked up by now. I think Cromartie would be a good fit for Dark Horse. Gunslinger? I think Seven Seas. But anyways, back to my main point. Yen is putting out a new edition of Yotsuba with new translations.  And get this, they are releasing the first 6 volumes next month! Volume 7 is set for December 2009 with Volume 8 set for April 2010. Yen currently has the covers for volumes 1-6 up at: http://yenpress.us/?page_id=636 I don't really like the fact that they are clumping 6 volumes in one month. They should have spaced it out. If they had, like one volume per month, I would have bought each book as it came out. Since so many are coming out together, what I plan to do is just buy the first and sixth volumes. I already own 1-5 of the ADV editions, so I just want to compare the translations and printing quality of the first books to see how they differ and if it's worth buying the other four that I already have. If you are a One Piece AND Yotsuba fan, prepare to die of starvation, or hopefully, your parents are rich. Or you have a really good job. Or if you aren't living with your parents, maybe move in until this plague of riches passes over! Oh yeah, if you can answer this, you win a Sesho No-Prize!: "Who is Javier Lopez?" Think and discuss amongst yourselves.

DATE: Sun, 02 Aug 2009
SIZE: 3.13 MB
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Podcast Episode 175: Naruto Volume 37

Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 37: Shikamaru's Battle by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: Naruto is a ninja-in-training with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja! Shikamaru's team is out for revenge against their mentor's murderers. Tsunade tries to stop them, but Kakashi wants to help! As the divide among the ninja grows, the mysterious Akatsuki organization continues their brutal attack on the tailed spirits, the Biju, and the young ninja who host them, including Naruto! He's older and stronger, but has Naruto trained enough?! My Grade: A+

DATE: Sat, 01 Aug 2009
SIZE: 0.10 MB
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Why I'm Thinking About Dumping Otaku USA

You know, I was sitting here reading the August issue of Otaku USA, and as I was reading it, I found myself skipping lots of pages, including the anime and manga reviews. Ironically, this was the section I used to read with the greatest interest. And I began to wonder if Otaku USA is even worth buying anymore. For a while now, I have become less and less enthused with the magazine, even though I have bought every issue since it began. Maybe I'm just bored with it? But why? One of the problems with the magazine is that there seems to be very little reporting going on. It's just reviews and opinions with very little data about the anime or manga they're doing an article on. I like the Protoculture Addicts style more, where they give a summary of the show and then all kinds of breakdowns and graphics on the main chracters and episode guides. For example, say you're doing a feature on Fullmetal Alchemist, show pictures of all the main players with captions about them. Even Anime Insider did stuff like this. It's sad but I'm even beginning to miss the visual overload of Newtype. So, I mean, keep the opinions, but also have just as much emphasis on actual information about the show as well. Another thing that bothers me about Otaku USA is the fact that it seems like a "dubbed" magazine, in that most of the writers are writing their features from a second-hand point of view. There are very few interviews with the original manga creators or anime staff so again you're writing in circles and just having the viewer or reader's side represented in the magazine. It's kinda like when I used to watch an ADV anime dvd and they would have a commentary track with the dub actors. What could the English voice actors possibly know about the original intentions of the Japanese actors, directors, and staff? So it ends up being an interpretation within an interpretation and I'm not interested in that. If you look at the cover of the August issue of Otaku USA you will find that none of the shows it lists are unreleased. Newtype would have had this cover on their magazine probably in January of this year instead of August. It's completely out of date. I used to read the anime magazines to look AHEAD, instead of reading articles about what is already out. I remember looking at pictures and reading about shows in Newtype that were sometimes years away from being released here. Now, as more and more anime and manga companies are going straight to the internet, sometimes days after their release in Japan, Otaku USA is going to have to figure out a way to get ahead of the curve with looks at shows that haven't already been released for months by the time the next issue comes out. And where is the reporting? I have yet to see the definitive breakdown of what the hell happened at ADV and Geneon. It probably has to do with the fact that there are no "professional" anime or manga reporters. We're all just amateurs really. But you know if I had connections in the anime world, I'd want to find out the truth of what happened to the anime market, like a Bob Woodward. How did the anime company that truly originated the US market completely collapse? And you know what, I'd make it the cover story of an issue of Otaku USA. And can you believe there is no mention at all of the media blitz put on by Viz last month with Shonen Sunday, Ikki, and their Haikasoru sci-fi line? Not one line. Silence on what could be one of the most important developments of the past couple of years. I would also like to hear the story of how Funimation singlehandedly saved the US market for anime fans. They truly did. And no opinions or mention of the coming One Piece locust manga infestation. Anime News Network seems to be the true source of what is going on in the anime and manga world. I find out more about what's going on there in one day than in all of the issues of Otaku USA put together. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the mag is falling behind the curve and I'm thinking about not picking up the next issue. Trust me, I'm probably not the only one. I'm all for opinion, but I don't expect people to pay for mine.  If this magazine doesn't change, I don't see it surviving. And PLEASE take the word CHEAP off your cover. It's got all sorts of unseemly connotations.  

DATE: Fri, 31 Jul 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Is Shojo Beat Cleaning Up Its Covers?

I bought a couple of manga today at Barnes and Noble, including two Shojo Beat titles, the first volumes of Kimi Ni Todoke and Black Bird. It just struck me that they looked different than the usual Shojo Beat books. Neither of them had those giant ugly volume numbers in the bottom right hand corner nor the boring author font with "Story and Art by" stamp on the left bottom corner and border on the bottom edge. I've never been a fan of the generic design of any of Viz's "line" manga, like Beat and the Shonen Jump titles. To me, they make the books look boring and take away from the beauty of the covers. But I guess they do make them instantly recognizable as belonging to a certain genre. But the Shojo Beat titles in particular suffer. A machine just stamps every cover with no regard as for how it's going to affect the art. If you're lucky Viz tries to change the color of the volume number or the author info to blend in better with the colors in the cover art...if you're lucky. But with these two titles, Beat seems to be de-emphasizing the Shojo Beat brand, especially with Kimi Ni Todoke. "Shojo Beat" is nowhere to be found on its front cover. Instead of the humungoid volume number on the right there is a stylized 1 at center bottom. Even the author's name is given a more personalized font that fits the feel and style of the manga. You do have the Shojo Beat website and UPC code on the back bottom just like usual but no huge banner at the top. Blackbird has a more traditional Viz design but again does not crowd its cover with Shojo Beat insignia, borders, and unsightly font. Instead it has ethereal, airy blacks and reds with a smaller author credit and warmer volume number that fits in with the cover. On the back you do have the Shojo Beat banner at the top but the web address has been left off, hopefully to not cut across and cover up the art. I hope Viz starts treating all their Shojo Beat title cover designs like these two titles. You need to bring attention to the ART, not to the volume numbers and product line. The original artists designed the art on the covers for a reason, to catch the eyes of browsing readers, not to be distorted or even erased. It makes the Beat titles look much more attractive. It's fine to keep generic looking spines, but show the covers more love.  

DATE: Fri, 31 Jul 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Hayate Cross Blade Volume 3

Manga reveiw of Hayate Cross Blade Volume 3 by Shizuru Hayashiya. Translated by Adrienne Beck. Adapted by Ed Chavez. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tor/Seven Seas, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. Well, we finally find out why Mizuchi wants to beat Ayana so bad. Mizuchi asked Ayana to be her sister-in-arms two times, but was rejected on both occasions. It doesn't help that Ayana doesn't even remember Mizuchi when she sees her, adding insult to injury. They finally get to rumble at the beginning of this volume as Ayana and Hayate take on Mizuchi and Sou in a Hoshitori match to move up to Rank B. The real meat of Volume 3 concerns a fighting pair of swordbearers named Jun and Yuho. Jun happens to be Ayana's roommate and might even be a better swordsgirl than her. But she's not at the top of her game right now because she picks battles with weak opponents. Yuho, her sister-in-arms, is very sickly, and Jun doesn't want to push her too far physically by fighting against strong pairs. Yuho's condition has been deteriorating and her mom is coming to check on her, which might even lead to Yuho being withdrawn from the school. Before she gets even sicker, Yuho wants to set up a final duel with her and Jun taking on Ayana and Hayate. I did write a review for volume 2 of this series, but right before I saved it, there was a big lightning strike near my house and my electricity went off for a minute. So the review was lost. What I did write about it was pretty negative and I actually considered not even reading volume 3. It mostly had to do with two things, one of which seems to have been solved in this volume. The biggest fault of the series is that the character of Hayate is a complete wash. All of the other characters work as real people, but Hayate comes off as a one joke comedy skit, almost becoming a cancerous growth on Ayana. You can always count on Hayate to never take anything seriously, and Hayashiya never fails to draw her in a deformed, almost "Scream-like" style, overemphasizing her already over the top behavior. Since you can't take her seriously as a person, she tends to ruin every scene she's in. But thankfully, the other characters are more interesting and have actual motivations and emotions beyond wanting to straddle and marry their sister-in-arms. The other fault of volume 2 was that Hayashiya took up a serious issue, physical abuse of women, and turned it into a ridiculous insult of abused women. There was a girl that was beating and hitting her sister-in-arms (not in a comedy way like Hayate and Ayana) and the abused sister refused to leave her because she thought they would make a good comedy act! It was just horrible writing on the part of Hayashiya that showed she wasn't clever or sensitive enough to insert a dramatic element into the series at that point. She seems to have turned this around in volume 3. I know the "bed-ridden sickly friend" character has been done to death. In fact, all we needed was for Yuho to be blind and amnesiac to meet all the manga cliches. But Hayashiya handles some of the more serious dramatic implications of Yuho's condition quite well. She's not trying to invoke pity, but is a character that is forcing her friend to OVERCOME her pity and take on a foe that will push her to her limits and even higher. While I don't think this title will ever overcome its major fault, Hayate, it does find ways to redeem itself in other ways. My Grade: B+

DATE: Fri, 31 Jul 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Japanese Develop Baseball Playing Robots

Japanese researchers are working on baseball playing robots. Don't let your imagination run wild. The robots are basically just arms. One throws a ball and another swings at pitches with a crude looking rod. But who knows, will we someday have fully articulated running humanoid robots running bases? My question is, who would want to watch something like that? My other question is, why develop baseball playing robots in the first place? It's a typical Japanese otaku quest. To pursue technologies and products that will have no real world interest or market. Beyond that of marketing, actually. I can already see a Japanese bat or glove making company (do they exist?) buying a baseball robot, "Ball-chan", or something, and using it as a mascot. Maybe different baseball clubs could each have a robot and they could battle to the death at the end of the season, gladiator style! Here's the link to the video of the robots: http://gmy.news.yahoo.com/vid/14828813/

DATE: Sun, 26 Jul 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Naruto Volume 36

Manga review of Naruto Volume 36: Cell Number 10 by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen. While searching for a jinchuriki host in the Land of Fire, Hidan and Kakuzu happened to stumble upon Chiriku, a priest who used to be one of the Guardian Shinobi 12. The two Akatsuki defeated and killed Chiriku and are now looking to collect his 30 million ryo bounty to finance their operations. Asuma, who also used to be in the Shinobi 12, sets out with Shikamaru and two other elite ninja to track down and kill or capture Hidan and Kakuzu. Meanwhile, Naruto continues to train with Kakashi and Yamato, struggling to master the art of making a "super rasengan". Even the ever-optimistic and driven Naruto is at the end of his rope and is thinking about giving up the attempt. He must figure out a way to change the form and nature of his chakra at the same time, something even the 4th Hokage could never master. Volume 36 marks the first time we get to see the Akatsuki in action, well, I mean in a fight to the death capacity. I know Itachi showed up at the Leaf Village many volumes ago and had a minor battle with Kakashi, but I saw that as merely a brief skirmish.  Yeah, I know, Naruto and his team also fought and defeated Deidara and Sasori. But all these battles have been cakewalks compared to fighting Hidan and Kakuzu. They're in a completely different league. Hidan has the ability to curse his enemies and cannot be killed. He takes most of the lead in the battle against Cell 10, so confident is he in his abilities. Kakuzu helps Hidan a little bit, but otherwise takes no part in the actual battle. You knew back in earlier volumes that Naruto, Sakura, and Kakashi were not going to die fighting Sasori or Deidara, but when Cell 10 fights, being composed of supporting characters, there is more of a sense of danger. Somebody could get killed. It's also cool to see Kakashi's faith in Naruto. He's giving the boy a full plate by asking him to master the super rasengan. He really believes that Naruto is special and could become not only Hokage, but maybe the most powerful ninja ever. Naruto has come a long way from the early volumes of the manga when he was seen as a village pariah. Now, he seems to be a vital part of Konoha's very survival. What a series! My Grade: A+

DATE: Fri, 24 Jul 2009
SIZE: 5.57 MB
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Podcast Episode 174: Shonen Sunday Part 2

Podcast manga review of the first chapters of the remaining www.shonensunday.com titles: Kekkaishi by Yellow Tanabe, Maoh: Juvenile Remix by Kotaro Isaka & Megumi Oruga, Rin-ne by Rumiko Takahashi. Kekkaishi: By night, junior high student Yoshimori Sumimura is a "kekkaishi"--a demon-hunter who specializes in creating magical barriers around his prey. By day, Yoshimori's got other demons to battle: an addiction to sweets and a seriously crotchety grandfather! Yoshimori's pretty neighbor and childhood friend, Tokine Yukimura, is also a kekkaishi, but their families are feuding over who is the "true practitioner" of the art. My Grade: B+ Maoh Juvenile Remix: “As crazy as your ideas might be, as long as you believe in yourself and tackle the issue head-on, you can even change the world.” Ando is a high school student who has the power to make others say out loud what he’s thinking. Inukai is the mysterious leader of a vigilante group called Grasshopper, which is at odds with the city’s redevelopment plan. In this chaotic city, these two will come together to weave a story of courage, determination and confrontation. My Grade: B+ Rin-ne: Ever since a childhood incident Sakura Mamiya has had the power to see ghosts. Now her life has gotten a lot more complicated with the arrival of her mysterious classmate Rinne, who seems to know a thing or two about detecting ghosts himself! My Grade: A-

DATE: Thu, 23 Jul 2009
SIZE: 4.24 MB
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Podcast Episode 173: Viz Manga Blitz and Shonen Sunday Part 1

Podcast manga review of the first chapters of Arata: The Legend by Yuu Watase and Hyde & Closer by Haro Aso. Both titles are available for free at www.shonensunday.com Arata: The Legend by Yuu Watase: In a mythical world where humans and gods co-exist, a ceremony marking the new governing princess is about to occur for the first time in 60 years. Only a girl from the Hime Clan may take this position, but the lack of females born to this family means that a boy called Arata must pose for the role. Meanwhile in modern-day Japan, a boy named Arata Hinohara is starting his new life in high school. He wants to put memories of his difficult past behind him, but things aren’t going to be simple when he discovers a mysterious connection to the first Arata... My Grade: A Hyde and Closer by Haro Aso: Shunpei Closer is your average…well, slightly below average kid in junior high who finds himself in the middle of a great battle of dark sorcery. With cursed dolls coming after him one after another, Shunpei Closer’s life is in danger! If that weren’t enough, Hyde, the teddy bear given to him by his grandfather, suddenly comes alive to rescue him. With Hyde’s help, can Shunpei save himself and live to see another day? My Grade: B+

DATE: Wed, 22 Jul 2009
SIZE: 0.05 MB
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New Pictures From Twilight: The Graphic Novel by Young Kim

Here are three more illustrations and sketches from Entertainment Weekly by Young Kim for the upcoming Twilight: The Graphic Novel, based on Stephanie Meyer's novel, due to be published by Yen Press.

DATE: Tue, 21 Jul 2009
SIZE: 4.79 MB
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Podcast Episode 172: Naruto Volume 35

Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 35: The New Two by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: Naruto is a ninja-in-training with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja! The New Two Naruto accelerates his training while the Akatsuki systematically continue their assault on those with the Tailed Beasts inside them. First on the list is Yugito, a ninja from the Land of the Clouds believed to harbor the Two-Tailed Beast. Will yet another ninja fall to the evils of the Akatsuki? My Grade: A+

DATE: Sun, 19 Jul 2009
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Twilight Is Good For Yen, Good For Manga

The manga community has been abuzz the past couple of days over the confirmation that Yen Press is going to be publishing a manhwa adaptation of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight novels. Ok, what should we really classify this book as first? Is it manhwa simply because it is being drawn by Young Kim, a Korean artist? Is it manga? Is it OEL manga? Is it simply a graphic novel series? I'd be curious as to what label Yen is going to stamp it with. I keep on hearing about a Japanese manga adaptation already in existence. Will Yen also get the rights to it? Will they publish it some time in the future as well? As for the Kim version, supposedly Meyer is deeply involved with the project, "reviewing every panel". No word yet on whether Twilight will be directly published in tankoban form or start its run in the Yen Plus anthology magazine. You can find 3 more pictures in the newest issue of Entertainment Weekly. There are a lot of manga fans out there that are bitching about the whole IDEA of Twilight being published by Yen. Simply because they hate the series, (they think it's overrated, poorly written, etc.). I think these people are really dumb. Just think about the exposure and publicity Yen is going to get and thereby manhwa and manga! You're going to have people going into the manga section of the bookstores that might never have visited it. And I'm not talking just about teenage girls. I know plenty of ADULTS that are rabid fans of Twilight. Take in this figure:  IN THE FIRST QUARTER OF 2009, BOOKS BY STEPHANIE MEYER ACCOUNTED FOR 16% OF ALL BOOK SALES! What this means is that for every seven books that were bought during that quarter, on average, ONE was by Meyer. She sold 29.7 million books in 2008! I am not a fan of the series at all. I have read none of the books and have not seen the Twilight movie. If anything, I am predisposed to have a negative reaction to the franchise. But I'm always hostile to really popular stuff. I just like to wait for all the hype and popularity to decrease around a series like Twilight before I try them. I didn't start reading or watching the Harry Potter books and movies till last year! But I can see the positive ramifications that the Twilight adaptation will have for Yen Press and all the books they will be able to publish care of Twilight profits. They're really doing well right now with the Maximum Ride series and the coup of landing the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise. I'm practically in love with the company these days. I really respect them for starting up Yen Plus as well. I think Twilight should be published in Yen Plus first, so they can get a solid following for the magazine that will draw in readers that might not know the first thing about their Korean and Japanese titles. As I'm looking at the future, I can only see the Twilight publication as a win-win for everyone involved, both publisher and reader. My next question is when is Harry Potter gonna follow suit? For more info on Stephanie Meyer and her work check out: www.StephenieMeyer.com  

DATE: Sun, 19 Jul 2009
SIZE: 4.42 MB
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Podcast Episode 171: Solanin

Podcast manga review of Solanin by Inio Asano. Translated by JN Productions. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz Signature, $17.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen. From the back cover: Meiko Inoue is a recent college grad working as an office lady in a job she hates. Her boyfriend Naruo is permanently crashing at her apartment because his job as a freelance illustrator doesn't pay enough for rent. And her parents in the country keep sending her boxes of veggies that just rot in her fridge. Straddling the line between her years as a student and the rest of her life, Meiko struggles with the feeling that she's just not cut out to be a part of the real world. My Grade: A+

DATE: Sat, 18 Jul 2009
SIZE: 2.94 MB
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Podcast Episode 170: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 2

Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 2 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: In an alchemical ritual gone wrong, Edward Elric lost his arm and his leg, and his brother Alphonse became nothing but a soul in a suit of armor. Equipped with mechanical "auto-mail" limbs, Edward becomes a state alchemist, seeking the one thing that can restore his brother and himself...the legendary Philosopher's Stone. There are many types of alchemy in the world. Edward's commanding officer, "Flame Alchemist" Roy Mustang, can control fire. Shou Tucker, the "Sewing-Life Alchemist", specializes in the most difficult alchemy of all...biological transmutation, the ability to alter the tissue of living things. But no matter what their power, alchemists are still human. And when a mysterious killer begins stalking state alchemists, no one can escape his vengeance... My Grade: A+ Podcast review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 1 Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 1 Free Preview

DATE: Wed, 15 Jul 2009
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Manga Review: Honey Hunt Volume 2

Manga review of Honey Hunt Volume 2 by Miki Aihara. Translated by Ari Yasuda. Adapted by Liz Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen. Yura has landed the star role as Natsuki in an ad campaign for noodles that also has a TV show tie-in. Her romantic interest, Q-ta, is doing the theme song, and his brother, Haruka, who seems to be developing an interest in Yura, is acting opposite her. Unfortunately, just as the cast gets together for a photo campaign shoot, Yura's costume is found to have a huge stain on it. How did the stain get there, you might ask? Just ask Minami, another noodle girl, who is extremely jealous of Haruka's attentions towards Yura. Although Yura is able to find a way to save the situation and go on with the shoot, her mettle is constantly tested in this volume. First, she must work with an older actress that has an undying hatred for Yura's mom, and thereby gives Yura a hard time. Even worse, Keiichi begins to market Yura as the daughter of celebrity, playing on her lineage as a selling point to get her noticed. It works, but Keiichi had promised that he would never use her mom and dad to get her breaks or recognition. It only adds to Yura's low self-esteem and refusal to trust anybody. She begins to think about giving up her dream of excelling her mom as an actress. The things I liked about the first volume of Honey Hunt were the plot twists and twisted amorality of almost all the main characters except Yura. It seemed like everyone had some vice, whether hidden or out in the open. Everybody also had their own hidden agenda. The emotional lives of the characters were hateful and unloving. I still remember the scene where Yura's mom and Shin were caught having sex and her mom acted like it was no big deal. She even threw it in her face and said that Shin liked her better than Yura! Even in this volume, Q-ta admits that part of the reason why he likes Yura is because he's a big fan of her dad. All of the characters in Volume 1 probably could have lived quite comfortably in one of Dante's circles of Hell. Volume 2 ratchets down the debauchery a bit and settles more into a typical shojo love triangle motif. Yura likes Q-ta a lot even though she still suspects that he only likes her because of her dad while Haruka finds himself falling for Yura. Minami has become the Sai character that wants to ruin Yura's chances at being a star. Yura's shockingly bad relationship with her parents has receded into the background a bit as she struggles to find the strength to become a real actress. The weakness in the series is definitely the art. It's so bad and thoroughly dull-looking that I found myself staring at some panels, entranced by their amateur quality. All of the character designs are appallingly ugly and unappealing.  Aihara also has some problems drawing heads in certain positions. There's really nothing cute or pretty in Yura's appearance either, so it's kinda hard to imagine that she's going to become a big star. I like the story but if the art doesn't improve, I don't know how much longer I can take it. I doubt it's gonna get any better though. So sad. My Grade: B You can listen to my podcast review of Volume 1: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=463972

DATE: Wed, 15 Jul 2009
SIZE: 2.98 MB
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Podcast Episode 169: Naruto Volume 34

Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 34: The Reunion by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: Naruto is a ninja-in-training with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja! THE REUNION Naruto finally finds Sasuke! But Sasuke won't return to Konoha without a fight. This time it might take all of Team Kakashi to bring him down - and bring him back. The smash-hit manga that's sold more than 4.1 millions books in the U.S.A.!! My Grade: A+

DATE: Mon, 13 Jul 2009
SIZE: 3.32 MB
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Podcast Episode 168: Naruto Volume 33

Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 33: The Secret Mission by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: Naruto is a ninja-in-training with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja! THE SECRET MISSION Morphing out of control, a stronger-than-ever Naruto turns on his own teammates! Orochimaru triggers a frightening change in Naruto as he reveals a sinister plot that's been the death of far more people than anyone knew. My Grade: A+ Free Preview of Naruto Volume 1: http://shonenjump.viz.com/onlinemanga/sjom.php?chap=n-h i-chapter-1

DATE: Sat, 11 Jul 2009
SIZE: 2.51 MB
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Podcast Episode 167: Hunter x Hunter Box Set 1, Episodes 1-5

Podcast anime review of the first 5 episodes of the Hunter x Hunter Box Set 1. Published by Viz Shonen Jump. List Price: $49.95. Rated 16+. Directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi (Zipang, Getbackers, You're Under Arrest). From the back cover: Hunters are a special breed, dedicated to tracking down treasure, magical beasts, and even humans. But such pursuits require a license, and less than one in a hundred thousand can pass the grueling qualification exam. Gon might be a country boy, but he has high aspirations. Despite his aunt's protest, Gon decides to follow in his father's footsteps and become a legendary Hunter. The journey begins on the long, arduous road to the Exam Hall, where he meets Leorio and Kurapika, two applicants with the same determination. Gon and his two companions must now prove their worth and earn the right to call themselves Hunters! My Grade: B  Here's the opening of the anime:

DATE: Fri, 10 Jul 2009
SIZE: 0.12 MB
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Borders Moves Manga to the Kiddy Section

I went to Borders tonight with a coupon for 25% off my purchase, not expecting to find much. After all, I hadn't found anything the week before when I had a similar coupon. Borders is definitely in decline. Whatever section you go into, they have tons of books facing outward to cover up the fact that they do not have a lot of selection. I've seen them try to conceal this in different ways at different stores. One got shorter bookcases and arranged them in U shapes instead of straight rows to give the illusion of taking up more space. It's just so sad. Until the past year or so, Borders had a better selection of books that Barnes&Noble. I would hardly ever go to Barnes. But lately, the situation has reversed. It's really apparent in the manga section. You might see a couple of rows on each shelf with almost all the books facing outward instead of just showing the spine. To me, if they went out of business, it wouldn't make much difference. So when I go to the manga section tonight, there's a cart there filled with manga, and I'm thinking "Cool, they must be new titles", but then I see that almost all of the manga on the shelves are gone, and that there are more carts of manga sitting there as well. I ask this older dude "What's up with the manga?" He tells me they're moving it upstairs. "To the kids section?" I ask. He almost seems ashamed of it, because he's a manga fan and he thinks it's kinda degrading the genre. A younger employee that's helping him move the manga feels the same way (He's cool. He actually gave me a discount before on some manga I was buying just because I had on a Ghost in the Shell shirt!). He too seems to feel bad about putting them in the kids section. I thought it was at least cool that the manager of the store got manga fans to be the pallbearers of the banishment. The manga are now gonna be right next to the "Independent Readers". So how is Gantz or MPD Psycho gonna mix with Old Yeller and Harry Potter? I think it could be a problem if some soccer mom picks up one of them. "Yes, dear, you can get this little comic...oh my! He got his head cut off! Oh, and that dog is licking her ****....Manager! Manager!" (soccer mom passes out and collapses in a senseless heap as young boy salivates over alien murder in Gantz).  Or are they even gonna carry mature titles anymore? I don't really know how I feel about it. I think in a way it knocks down the medium in respectibility. The older guy acted like it was just a reality that kids are the ones buying it. It was kinda funny because even after I had walked away I could hear him speaking to other customers...."Don't worry, we're not getting rid of the manga, we're just moving it upstairs....Ha ha, surrounded by manga!" In the end, what cosmic shift does this move represent? It means I'll have to walk up the stairs to look at manga. Since they never have anything anyway, I might not even go up there.

DATE: Mon, 06 Jul 2009
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Anime DVD Review: Area 88 Volume 3

Area 88 Volume 3: Tightrope at the Speed of Sound. Episodes 7-9. Published by ADV Films. Running Time: 75 minutes. Directed by Isamu Imakake. Screenplay by Hiroshi Ohnogi, $29.98. The supplies are getting pretty low at Area 88 as the enemy has shot down multiple transports that were bringing fuel and ammo for the pilot's aircraft. Of course, the enemy know Area 88's dire straits and send out a raiding party to take out the base. They are not only sending fighters but long range bombers that could destroy the whole area! The base only has enough fuel and ammo to send up three jets. Shin is in charge of the mission and picks the new female flyer, Kitri, and young but talented Kim to go with him. Kitri has a real problem with Kim. She thinks he'st too young and a mediocre pilot that has no right to be flying fighters. Another thorny problem crops up when an enemy sniper takes up position around Area 88 and starts picking off its inhabitants. He's so skilled that if anyone tries to take off in a jet, he either shoots the pilot or takes down the plane before it gets off the ground. Wouldn't you know that Shin is gonna be the one to dare the impossible? The title of this volume refers to the last episode where the Area 88 crew must negotiate a canyon in Death Star-like fashion to avoid radar as they attempt to destroy an enemy base. The presentation of this series has always left me a little cold. It just seems like there's so much more to the story and characters that we're not getting to see. I was really glad that we got a little more backstory last volume and found out how Shin got stuck in Area 88, but it really just skimmed the surface. We only get very tiny glimpses of who the other characters, like Kitri, really are. In fact, I know next to zilch about where she learned to fly and why she got into Area 88. But I can say that about almost all of the characters. For example, what is Matoko's real motivation to capture all these pictures he's taking? Does he get a high off of it, like Speedgrapher, or does he want to show the plight of the pilots? You really needed a 24-26 episode show to get all these things into the light, rather than 12-13. Even if I feel Area 88 keeps the viewer in a box, I still like the show, especially for its dogfight sequences. It would be nice if Viz would republish the manga (I'm not gonna hold my breath). I think they published a couple of volumes back in the good old days of flipped, unnumbered, $17 volumes before Tokyopop enlightened them on how to publish magna. My Grade: B

DATE: Mon, 06 Jul 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Amazon Anime Sale & Japanese Peanuts TV Spots

Just wanted to tell you about another sale. This time Amazon.com is having a markdown sale on anime dvds. Select titles are being discounted up to 50%. It seems to be almost their entire stock except for maybe the very newest releases like Genshiken 2. Just click on the link below: Amazon Anime DVD Sale Also wanted to include an interesting video. It's a Japanese TV commercial for Hot Pepper, a free coupon magazine in Japan. The interesting part of it is when the Peanuts characters enter the picture to scratch turntables. Snoopy is even using a spoon and his dog bowl to keep time! The singer in the video is Kaela Kimura a popular Japanese pop singer. I'll also include a video for one of her songs, called "You":

DATE: Sat, 04 Jul 2009
SIZE: 0.04 MB
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Viz Store 75% Blowout Sale

Viz is having a clearance sale of anime/manga related items, mainly from these franchises: Death Note, Naruto, Bleach, Mar, Inuyasha, Pokemon, and Blue Dragon. They say they are going to add new products so some of the tabs come up empty. There are some great bargains to be had, some even below $1. You can get a Naruto backpack for $6.25, even Naruto and Kakashi cosplay costumes for around $6! Death Note keychains for $1.05. Bleach thermal tees and action figures. You'll just have to look for yourself. Please buy something in memorial of my current poverty! It's not exactly thousands of items and even though it says "storewide sale" I didn't see any manga on sale. I would check back though over the next week. Even though the sale banner says "up to 75% off" I did see some even deeper discounts, more like 85%. The sale lasts through 7/14/09. Here's the link to the sale: http://store.viz.com/

DATE: Sat, 04 Jul 2009
SIZE: 3.08 MB
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Podcast Episode 166: Ouran High School Host Club Volume 1

Manga Podcast review of Ouran High School Host Club Volume 1 by Bisco Hatori. Translated by Kenichiro Yagi. Adapted by Gary Leach. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: In this screwball romantic comedy, a poor girl at a rich kids' school ends up working for the school's swankiest club-- and gets mistaken for a boy! One day, Haruhi, a scholarship student at exclusive Ouran High School, breaks an $80,000 vase that belongs to the "Host Club", a mysterious campus group consisting of six super-rich (and gorgeous) guys. To pay back the damages,  she is forced to work for the club, and it's there that she discovers just how wealthy the members are and how different the rich are from everybody else... My Grade: A Click on the link below for a free preview of the manga at Viz.com: http://www.shojobeat.com/onlinemanga/sbom.php?chap=ohsh c-hi-preview&o=dn

DATE: Fri, 03 Jul 2009
SIZE: 3.39 MB
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Podcast Episode 165: Future Diary Volume 2

Podcast manga review of Future Diary Volume 1 by Sakae Esuno. Translated by Yuya Otake. Adapted by Clint Bickham. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated 16+. From the back cover: Yukiteru, Yuno and Kurusu band together to prevent the battle of Future Diaries from getting out of hand. But when Yukiteru discovers a dark secret about Yuno that changes everything, will he still be able to trust her? Now wary of his new "friends," Yukiteru joins them on an investigation of a priestess from the temple who seems to have mysterious powers. As new Diary owners show up, each with their own ambitions, who, in this dark and desolate world, is friend and who is foe? My Grade: A Listen to my podcast review of Volume 1: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=489030 Here is the first chapter of Volume 2:

DATE: Wed, 01 Jul 2009
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Anime Review: Trigun Volume 2-- Lost Past

Podcast anime dvd review of Trigun Volume 2: Lost Past. Directed by Satoshi Nishimura. Published by Geneon/Pioneer. List Price: 19.99 (Amazon has used copies for around $7). Episodes 5-7, Rated 13+. Vash just can't seem to catch a break. Here he is again, just minding his own business in an Inperil City bar when another group of thugs with the $60 billion reward on their minds comes barging in to kill him. Vash takes them out no problem, but then finds that the ENTIRE city wants to take him down. Even kids are pulling out guns! At one time Inperil was a prosperous city centered around a Lost Technology power plant, but it broke and the city began to wither and die. They want to claim Vash's head so they can pay for the expensive specialists that can reignite the power plant's energy source. Realizing that even an entire city is no match for Vash, the local sherrif lets the Nebraska Brothers out of prison. In a send up of giant robots, one brother is a mad scientist type who rides on his godzilla sized cyborg brother who can shoot his fist like a chained rocket launcher. Unfortunately for Inperil, the Nebraska Brothers do not care how much property is destroyed or how many Inperilities are killed in the pursuit of Vash. I did not like the first volume of this series at all. In fact, if I hadn't checked the first three volumes of this show out from my local library, I would not have watched this second installment. But since it was free, I was like, "what the hell". I was really surprised with Lost Past. I really liked these 3 episodes. I guess sticking with a show past the first volume really does pay off sometimes. What changed my mind about Trigun? Maybe I got used to Vash's personality and humor, and I started finding some of his mannerisms and dialogue funny. Like when he shoots a whole gang of bounty hunters with toy gun darts before they can even draw their guns. I think what really made the show turn around was that the writers made these episodes form a continuity which flowed together whereas Volume 1 seemed disjointed and unconnected. I also was intrigued by Vash's mysterious past, driven home by the fact that he cannot remember the city he supposedly destroyed to earn the price on his head. I know Vash is more than he seems, but his origin is a mystery I really want to solve. The fact that this volume contains only 3 episodes is a bit of a rip-off that could not be pulled today. Just ask Bandai (They tried selling dvds with ONE episode!). But this was par for the anime course back in the day. Since the Trigun show is not really a current show, you should be able to find the dvds pretty easily and at low cost. My Grade: B+ Here's the first part of Episode 5:

DATE: Mon, 29 Jun 2009
SIZE: 3.71 MB
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Podcast Episode 164: The Prince of Tennis Box Set Volume 1

Podcast anime review of The Prince of Tennis Box Set Volume 1. Episodes 1-13. Directed by Takayuki Hamana. Published by Viz. List Price: $39.98. From the back cover: He may be the son of a celebrated tennis player, but when tennis prodigy Ryoma Echizen joins the elite Seishun Academy's tennis team, he'll have to back up his famous genes with raw skills on the court. Based on the popular manga, PRINCE OF TENNIS follows Echizen as he strives to earn his teammates' respect and defeat his far older opponents on the court, including Viper and the nefarious Inui Sadahara. My Grade: B Here's a cool video with scenes from the entire series:

DATE: Sun, 28 Jun 2009
SIZE: 6.66 MB
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Podcast Episode 163: Maid Sama! Volume 1

Manga Podcast review of Maid Sama! Volume 1 by Hiro Fujiwara. Translated by Su Mon Hanr. Adapted by Karen Ahlstrom. Originally published in US by Hakusensha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated T 13+. LISTEN TO THE PODCAST FOR A CHANCE ON HOW TO WIN A COPY OF MAID SAMA! VOLUME 1! EMAIL ME AT: seshos@hotmail.com Last day to send an entry= July 5, 2009. From the back cover: The class president has a little secret she's keeping from the sexy bad boy in school...As President of the Student Council, the overachieving feminist Misaki really socks it to the guys in a n attempt to make the former all-boys' school attract a more female student body. But what will she do when the sexiest boy in class finds out Misaki's after-school gig is in a maid cafe?!It's love at first fight in this shojo romantic comedy-- with a whole new look at the battle between the sexes!My grade: ASee below for a free chapter of the manga:

DATE: Sat, 27 Jun 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: The Law of Ueki Volume 14

Manga review of The Law of Ueki Volume 14 by Tsubasa Fukuchi. Translated and adapted by Kenichiro Yagi. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen. Ai Mori has finally figured out what her power is and its only taken her till the third match of the third round of the King tournament. A LITTLE late if you ask me! I'm not going to spoil it for you, but trust me, her power is just as goofy and apparently useless as every character's in this series is. Even if Ai is able to defeat her opponent, Team Ueki still has to deal with Infernal Hanon, the strange being that has possessed Robert and is intent on making Ueki's path to the final round as difficult as possible. He sabotages their rematch with Team Capucho and is also in league with Ueki's next opponents, the extremely powerful and mysterious Team Barrow. As usual, this series is quite the guilty pleasure for me, seeing as it hits upon almost every tournament manga cliche you've ever encountered. The trick is that Fukuchi makes the journey to the end battle over 16 volumes very funny. His writing is firmly tongue-in-cheek and you sense that he's not taking any of this very seriously. The themes that have come to the surface in my reading are that you have to fight for justice even when you get punched, socked, knocked into the air, kicked across a room, and maybe even burned to a crisp by various superpowered enemies. Ueki is like a priest of right and his sermon to his team and to readers is that you can never give up...on yourself or the people around you. Of course, we have the whole "train until you get more powerful" motif running through the work as well. But the comedy is good and the moral values worth fighting for. Two more volumes to go. I'll be a bit sad when it's all over. My Grade: A-

DATE: Wed, 24 Jun 2009
SIZE: 4.01 MB
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Podcast Episode 162: Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 1 by Hiromu Arakawa. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Adapted by Egan Loo. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: Alchemy: the mystical power to alter the natural world; something between magic, art, and science. When two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, dabbled in this power to grant their dearest wish, one of them lost an arm and a leg...and the other became nothing but a soul locked into a body of living steel. Now Edward is an agent of the government, a slave of the military-alchemical complex, using his unique powers to obey orders...even to kill. Except his powers aren't unique. The world has been ravaged by the abuse of alchemy. And in pursuit of the ultimate alchemical treasure, the Philosopher's Stone, their enemies are even more ruthless than they are... The original manga behind the hit anime and video game series! My grade: A+ 

DATE: Fri, 19 Jun 2009
SIZE: 2.33 MB
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Podcast Episode 161: Welcome to Wakaba-soh Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Welcome to Wakaba-soh Volume 1 by Chaco Abeno. Translated by Hiroya Yamazaki. Originally published in Japan by Houbunsha. Published in US by Yen Press, $10.99, Rated Older Teen. From the back cover: In the throes of his first love, Kentarou Sawai can't even count on beginner's luck to get him closer to Karen Toguin, the girl of his dreams. When he spontaneously enrolls in Karen's high school just to be closer to her, his hopes are crushed when it turns out she's on a leave of absence! Now poor, luckless Kentarou is stuck in a dorm full of girls who aren't Karen and insist on pushing Kentarou to the brink of insanity! Can Kentarou hold on to his love for Karen, or will his new living experience make him swear off all women for good?! My Grade: C

DATE: Wed, 17 Jun 2009
SIZE: 2.34 MB
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Podcast Episode 160: Trigun Volume 1

Podcast anime dvd review of Trigun Volume 1: The $60,000,000,000 Man. Directed by Satoshi Nishimura. Published by Geneon/Pioneer. List Price: 19.99 (Amazon has used copies for around $2). Episodes 1-4, Rated 13+. From the back cover: In the distant future...on a desert planet...there is a legendary gunman. His name is Vash the Stampede. A gunslinger so dangerous, a $60 billion reward has been placed on his head! Vash, also known as "The Humanoid Typhoon", has been credited with the destruction of several towns, but miraculously, there is no record of him ever taking a life. However, only two things ever happen to those who catch up to Vash- they either crawl away wounded (mostly from self-inflicted damage), or they stagger away in disbelief that such a dork could possibly be the man they are looking for! My Grade: D+ Here is the clean opening of the anime:

DATE: Tue, 16 Jun 2009
SIZE: 3.41 MB
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Podcast Episode 159: Hoop Days Complete Collection

Podcast anime DVD review for Hoop Days: The Complete Collection. Directed by Susumu Kudo. Published by Bandai, Episodes 1-26, Running time: 650 minutes, Rated 13+. Spoken Languages: English, Japanese, English subtitles. List Price: $49.95 From the back cover: Do you have what it takes to win the high school national championships? Kazuhiko Aikawa does, and at 5' 8" he can slam dunk that ball like there is no tomorrow. But winning the national championships isn't enough for Kazuhiko. He soon transfers from his old school at Tendouji HS to his new school at Mizuho HS so he can better his game... except there's no boys' basketball team! A one year suspension was given to the team when Fujiwara, a star player, knocked out the former coach. The team has dwindled to just 4 players, and with Kazuhiko the team can be whole again, but for some reason no one wants to play. Kazuhiko needs to take this team to the next level as he shows off his mad basketball skills as well as be his talkative, charming self! My Grade: B+

DATE: Sat, 13 Jun 2009
SIZE: 1.93 MB
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Podcast Episode 158: Animal Academy Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Animal Academy: Hakobune Hakusho by Moyamu Fujino. Transated by Alexis Kirsch. Adapted by Ysabet MacFarlane. Originally published in Japan by MAG Garden. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated 10+. From the back cover: Can you pledge secrecy when you are... a human being? When Neko Fukuta finds herself enrolled in the mysterious Morimori Academy-- a secret school for animal-human shape shifters-- she soon realizes she must pretend to be a magical cat and not allow any of the other students to find out her real identity... But as she struggles with the trials and tribulations of a new school and new friends, Neko's just-discovered feline side might bring out the true human spirit in all of her animal classmates! My Grade: C- Click below for a free preview of the first chapter:

DATE: Thu, 11 Jun 2009
SIZE: 2.83 MB
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Podcast Episode 157: Kurogane Communication Box Set

Podcast Anime DVD Review of Kurogane Communication: Memories of Earth Box Set. Episodes 1-24, 360 minutes, Rated 13+. Published by Anime Works. List Price: $39.95 From the back cover: In the ruins of Japan, Haruka lives with no recollection of what happened to her or her parents. Found by five robots, she finds a new life with them as the last human on Earth. This unique family faces the hardships of a war torn world and must protect each other from the legions of war machines that are still being produced in automated factories. Haruka sets out in search of her past and the desperate dream of human companionship. My Grade: A-  

DATE: Tue, 09 Jun 2009
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Tokyopop, The New Paper Sucks!

Ok, it appears that maybe this has been an issue for months, and other people have already made some comments about it, but the new paper that Tokyopop is using for their manga books sucks!  I just noticed it for the first time when I read Future Diary Volume 1. Are they getting it from a toilet paper company? And the nerve they have to raise the price of their books by a dollar??!! Decrease quality and increase price? At least keep the paper the same. This mess about how they have to buy it from a certain mill is just mess. Felt like I was reading the newspaper. Viz. What can I say. I love the company. But they want to raise prices too. Want? They ARE raising prices. Why?  “VIZ Media made the decision to stay consistent with the pricing in the marketplace for this industry, which in some cases might be a slight increase from previous years." So what they are saying is that they are raising prices simply because they CAN. Not because they NEED to. Greed. That's what this is about. I guess we should thank Del Rey for starting all this about 5 years ago when they were the first to start selling their books for $10.95. They started us down this road. But I have to admit that they operate on a higher level than the other publishers in terms of presentation so I really can't complain. I cannot picture them using this sorry paper. They are too high class for that. Hopefully, the rest of the industry will stay away from the Tokyopop model of costcutting even though it has been reported that other graphic novel publishers are thinking about using this paper as well. I bet it's CMX. The other companies are probably waiting to see the fan reaction before they convert over. Please let Tokyopop know if you're upset about this issue. There's a good article over at Sporadic Sequential about the issue: http://sporadicsequential.blogspot.com/2009/06/gee-than ks-for-more-expensive-lower.html

DATE: Mon, 08 Jun 2009
SIZE: 3.53 MB
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Podcast Episode 156: Future Diary Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Future Diary Volume 1 by Sakae Esuno. Translated by Yuya Otake. Adapted by Clint Bickham. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated 16+. From the back cover: Yukiteru is a lonely student whose only hobby is the daily diary he keeps on his cell phone. But Yukiteru has a secret that nobody knows about...his cellphone can tell the future! Now a vicious game of survival is about to begin among twelve future diary holders-- with the winner crowned god of a new world! Sakae Esuno's chilling shonen masterpiece is a relentless adventure that will have you questioning the boundaries of time and space-- and hoping for the slightest glimmer of hope in a dark, desolate world that may look suprisingly familiar to all of us... My Grade: B- Look below for a free preview:

DATE: Sun, 07 Jun 2009
SIZE: 0.04 MB
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X-men Go Shojo in X-men: Misfits

Del Rey is releasing Volume 1 of X-Men: Misfits on July 28. A cross between X-men and Fruits Basket is what they're calling it. Wolverine is not going to be in it. I guess Del Rey doesn't want to crowd its other Wolverine title. The scary thing is the writers they have tapped for the project. First, there's Dave Roman, editor of Nickelodeon Magazine. Helping him is Raina Telgemeier, the artist behind The Babysitter's Club series. My question is, what do these people know about the characters in the X-men? It just seems like Marvel would have wanted some highly qualified writers to take over the reins of one their most important franchises. Also, with the recruitment of these writers, it seems like maybe they are focusing on a demographic that is too young to be reading shojo manga. When I think Babysitter's club, I'm definitely thinking elementary school. Hopefully, the series will be good. I really liked the reboot of Wolverine: Prodigal Son. But I don't have very good expectations. Click this link for an interview with Roman and Telgemeier: http://www.shojobeat.com/features/48/010.php

DATE: Sun, 07 Jun 2009
SIZE: 2.76 MB
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Podcast Episode 155: Otomen Volume 1

Manga Podcast review of Otomen Volume 1 by Aya Kanno (Soul Rescue, Blank Slate). Translated and adapted by Lindsey Akashi. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: Asuka Masamune is a guy who loves girly things - sewing, knitting, making cute stuffed animals and reading shojo comics. But in a world where boys are expected to act manly, Asuka must hide his beloved hobbies and play the part of a masculine jock instead. Ryo Miyakozuka, on the other hand, is a girl who can't sew or bake a cake to save her life. Asuka finds himself drawn to Ryo, but she likes only the manliest of men! Can Asuka ever show his true self to anyone, much less to the girl he's falling for? My Grade: B+ Click this link for a free preview of the manga: http://www.shojobeat.com/manga/oto/om.php

DATE: Sat, 06 Jun 2009
SIZE: 3.15 MB
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Podcast Episode 154: The Sky Crawlers

Anime Podcast review of the Blu Ray version of The Sky Crawlers. Directed by Mamoru Oshii. Animation by Production I.G. Published by Sony Pictures. List Price: $34.95 (Amazon has it for $22.99). Based on the novels of Hiroshi Mori. From the back cover: From Mamoru Oshii, the world-acclaimed director of Ghost in the Shell, comes an award-winning story of an exciting but endless war with heroes too young to understand the meaning of their battles. A group of eternally young fighter pilots known as Kildren experience the sudden loss of innocence as they battle the enemy in astonishing dogfights above the clouds. With his only childhood memory consisting of intense flight training, the fearless teenage pilot Yuichi's dogfights coexist with his struggle to find his missing past. When his beautiful, young female commander Suito is reluctant to discuss the fate of the pilot that Yuichi is replacing - or the strangely perfect condition of that pilot's former aircraft - Yuichi's curiosity becomes heightened. Special Features: The Sound Design and Animation of The Sky Crawlers, Animation Research for The Sky Crawlers, Sky's the Limit: An Interview with Director Mamoru Oshii. Spoken Languages: English, Japanese, English subtitles. My Grade: A- Here's the opening dogfight (There's a bit of blood):

DATE: Wed, 03 Jun 2009
SIZE: 3.71 MB
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Podcast Episode 153: Geneshaft Complete Collection

Podcast anime dvd review of Geneshaft Complete Collection. Published by Bandai. Directed by Kazuki Akane (Heat Guy J, Escaflowne). 13 episodes on 4 dvds. It is currently out of print but you can find it at Amazon and Ebay for about $20. From the back cover: Witness A New Era of Science Fiction Animation... From Kazuki Akane - Director of Escaflowne!In a final attempt to save the human race, a genetic engineering program was initiated in hopes of creating a new breed of human beings with special skills and abilities to benefit all of society. Successful, the Earth begins to enjoy a new era of peace…until the appearance of a mysterious artifact of unknown origin enters between the Earth and the moon. A group of enhanced humans have been selected to investigate the orbiting visitor. Armed with a prototype ship known only as 'Shaft', this strike team may be the only thing between continued peace and the total destruction of the Earth! My Grade: B- Watch the trailer here:  

DATE: Tue, 02 Jun 2009
SIZE: 2.80 MB
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Podcast 152: Chance Pop Session Collection, Episodes 1-5

Podcast Anime DVD review of the first 5 episodes of the Chance Pop Session collection. Directed by Susumu Kudo. Series Composition by Kazuhiko Soma. Rated 13+. Right Stuf. com has it for $18. You can also watch the show for free on Joost. From the back cover: Three young girls, strangers to each other, share an instinctual passion and talent for music. Brought together from distinctly different worlds, they meet by chance at the concert of their idol. The concert strikes a chord in each of their hearts and unites them with a common dream of stardom. The girls each enroll in the same music school and are brought together again in a special class for exceptional talent. As their voices come together in harmony, the girls realize that they share more than just a passion for song. A mysterious blue stone, a hauntingly beautiful melody... What do these traces of the past have to do with the uncertain future of this gifted trio? My Grade: D http://www.joost.com/search?q=chance+pop+session# Here's the opening of the show:

DATE: Mon, 01 Jun 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Queen Gets Gold Plated Wii

Gaming company THQ, after hearing that Queen Elizabeth of England was a big fan of the Nintendo Wii, has made her a gift of gold plated Wii. Some sources are reporting that it's a promotional stunt for THQ's new game, Big Family Games. I would be curious as to how she responds to the present. Maybe the Queen should become a videogame reviewer? Here's the link to the article: http://videogames.yahoo.com/events/plugged-in/the-royal -wii/1316670

DATE: Mon, 01 Jun 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Summer Is Here!!

School is out and summer is in session. I'm looking forward to taking it easy and not dreading Mondays for about 2 months. I also hope to catch up on a lot of reading and dvds. And I'm not just talking about manga and anime. Of course, I will be podcasting and reviewing much more now that I have a lot of free time. In the Houston area, the weather is perfect to hit the beaches down in Galveston!     Electronic Gaming Monthly is making a comeback. In exactly what form is anyone's guess. The founder, Steve Harris, has bought the rights to the magazine and plans to relaunch it. Here's the link to the article on 1up.com: http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3174453 It was the most honest game review and news magazine out there until it got cancelled. I was under the impression that part of the reason it got cancelled was because they dared to say negative things about sorry games. I remember they would have an award each month called something like "stinker of the month" and it would should show a little pile of poo with flys buzzing around it. It was pretty funny. Now a lot of the mags are afraid to even put a rating like a number or a grade for fear of reprisals from the game companies. But they mask it behind an elitism that says they are above giving a simple qualitative and easy to understand rating.  A lot of the time, you read a review and then are left wondering, "are they saying this is a good game or not?" There was no doubt with EGM, whether it was negative or positive.     Also, I've added a Twitter link over there on the right side column under my XBOX tag, so feel free to follow me. I'm trying to beat Oprah. I like to start small, so right now I only have 3 followers. I just created a Twitter account about a week ago, and tonight was the first time I really started exploring it, mainly finding people I would like to follow, mainly in the fields of manga and anime. Lori over at Manga Xanadu had an article with links to many manga bloggers and publishers in an article at this link:  http://manga.jadedragononline.com/?p=917  

DATE: Mon, 25 May 2009
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Japan's Scariest Toilet Paper!

I came across this article in The Houston Chronicle today and thought it was hilarious: TOKYO — In a country where ghosts are traditionally believed to hide in the loo, a Japanese company is advertising a new literary experience — a horror story printed on toilet paper. Each roll carries several copies of a new nine-chapter novella written by Koji Suzuki, the Japanese author of the horror story "Ring," which has been made into movies in both Japan and Hollywood. "Drop," set in a public restroom, takes up about three feet (90 centimeters) of a roll and can be read in just a few minutes, according to the manufacturer, Hayashi Paper. The company promotes the toilet paper, which will sell for 210 yen ($2.20) a roll, as "a horror experience in the toilet." Toilets in Japan were traditionally tucked away in a dark corner of the house due to religious beliefs. Parents would tease children that a hairy hand might pull them down into the dark pool below. (Article written by Associated Press) I'm sure this will be a big seller in Japan. I could go with all kinds of scatalogical comments about this story, but you know what?, I'm above that sort of thing! I'll leave that to you. But what if you really like the story? Do you call up your friends and say "Hey, I was wiping my butt the other day and I came across this really cool story....", or "Hey, I read a really cool story on the toilet the other day, and I saved it for you. Don't worry about the smell." Like I said, I'm above making tasteless comments like that. It seems like I've heard a news story like this before. There's probably already been manga printed on toilet paper. It's just not something I scour the internet for. Here's the link to the original article: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/world/6439259.ht ml  

DATE: Mon, 25 May 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Anime Review: The Familiar of Zero Box Set, Episodes 5-8

Anime review of episodes 5-8 of The Familiar of Zero Box Set, published by Geneon, List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+. Directed by Yoshiaki Iwasaki (Best Student Council, Hayate the Combat Butler). Series Composition by Takao Yoshioka (Elfen Lied, Dears). Louise is getting nervous. Why? The annual Familiar Exhibition is about to take place at the Institute. It's like a show-off contest where aspiring Magi put their familiars on display for the school elders in an effort to show whose is best. All Louise has to show is Saito, who has never been able to reactivate his excellent sword fighting skills that he showed in defeating a noble a couple of episodes back. In fact, he has trouble just LIFTING his sword, much less putting on a display. To add to Louise's anxiety, Lady Henrietta, Princess of Tristein, is personally going to attend the Exhibition! Things should go a little smoother since Henrietta grew up with Louise...or actually it might make her even more embarrassed and stressed. Henrietta's visit to the Institute also coencides with the arrival of Fouquet the Sculptor, a mysterious thief that has been stealing magical artifacts. Fouquet intends to break into the school while everybody is busy attending to the princess and steal "The Staff of Destruction". I was a little worried after the first disk of this set that The Familiar of Zero could very easily devolve into a heavy fan service harem comedy, what with all the girls around and a semi-horny dude in the midst of them. But, thankfully, that isn't what has happened. We get some nice surprises and characterization in this second group of episodes. Besides Kirche throwing her boobs everywhere, the romance here has an almost decidedly shojo tone of wistful love. Saito and Siesta, a maid, share some charming moments in a bath that Saito rigs up from a large kitchen basin. Even though both of them are naked in the water and in the dark, the writers stay away from the cheap eroticism of bleeding noses. Instead we get the first really tentative conversations of two people that like each other. But at this point, we don't know who Saito really likes. He seems to be closest to Siesta in a romantic way, while he sees Louise as a little sister, and Kirche as an always open avenue to sex. I feel he would be better off with Siesta, but the opening credits of the anime show Saito and Louise kissing with the theme song cranking out lyrics about love which leave me hardpressed to see any other outcome. The animation and character designs are above average and the writers are able to get in all kinds of messages about equal rights and discrimination. My Grade: B+  Hear my podcast review of Episodes 1-4 at this link: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=442420

DATE: Thu, 21 May 2009
SIZE: 0.05 MB
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R.I.P Shojo Beat Magazine

Well, it's official, Shojo Beat is dead as far as the anthology magazine side of it goes. The manga imprint is going to carry on though. It has been reported that the July 2009 issue will be its last. I was kinda taken aback. I thought the magazine was doing well. I always saw it right next to Shonen Jump and saw them as the perfect couple. I was first introduced to the mag when Animerica was cancelled halfway through my subscription and they offered to replace it with Shojo Beat. I said "what the hell" and received the first six issues. I couldn't really get into any of the titles. I wasn't very openminded about shojo series back then, and also, I don't take to anthologies very well. They make me think of literature textbooks that I had to read in college. But I really like Yen+. Speaking of, I wonder how that magazine is doing for Yen? It must be doing allright or they wouldn't have released the first volumes of some of the manga series that are serialized in it. I'm way behind on it. I've bought every issue as it came out all the way to the present (but I've only read the first two issues!) Magazines seem to be a dying breed. First, Animerica, Newtype, PIQ, Electronic Gaming Monthly, and now Shojo Beat. It's been about half a year or so since I saw an issue of Protoculture Addicts at my local book or comic store. What about Otaku USA? I remember a couple of months ago, they were going to go monthly, but scrapped those plans without a word. Anime Insider? Even though it sucked, a sucky anime/manga magazine is better than NO magazine at all.

DATE: Thu, 21 May 2009
SIZE: 0.04 MB
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Manga Review: xxxHolic Volume 5

Manga review of xxxHolic Volume 5 by CLAMP. Translated and adapted by William Flanagan. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated 13+. It's White Day, which in Japan means a guy has to give some sort of "white" gift to the girl that gave him chocolate on Valentine's Day. That is, if he likes her back.  Watanuki not only has to satisfy Yuko (she made him a gift of the chocolate that HE made!) but also has to think of a gift to give to a pretty spirit that gave him chocolate. But a job comes up to interrupt all this contemplation. An "Ame-Warashi", a rain making spirit, comes to Yuko's shop to borrow Watanuki for a rescue mission she says only he can take on. Domeki, his rival and pain in the rear, decides to tag along as well. Naruto fans will get a kick out of the fact that the Ame-Warashi gives Yuko a nine-tailed fox spirit as payment for the services of Watanuki. The fox spirit in xxxHolic is not a force for evil, though. In fact, it seems to have an affection for Watanuki, and ends up saving his life. I wasn't impressed with the last volume of xxxHolic. The stories were ordinary, if not mediocre, and failed to capture the feeling of strangeness that plays to the strengths of the series. Volume 5 was a return to top form by CLAMP. First, the art is gorgeous, beautiful, and even sublime at times. CLAMP are one of a few artists today that never shrink from turning their panels into epic canvases with very wide shots which at times take up two pages. The bigger the panels, the more detail CLAMP adds to the art. There isn't any blank white space or cluttered screen tones thrown onto these super panels either. In fact, CLAMP seem to reserve their best work for them. I'm still trying to figure out how they make Yuko look so sexy, even with her bony figure and totally anti-photorealistic design. As for the story, some parts of this book made my skin crawl, because the creators succeeded in a sorta Lovecraftian way of letting us glimpse a spirit world where human life doesn't amount to a hill of beans. There are immortal spirits all around us that see humans as nuisances at best, and as not worthy of survival at worst and have no desire to interact with mankind unless it serves their own purposes. You get tiny hints of Heaven and Hell in Volume 5 which speaks volumes to the range of CLAMP. My Grade: A+  

DATE: Sun, 10 May 2009
SIZE: 2.66 MB
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Podcast Episode 151: Naruto Volume 31

Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 31: Final Battle by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Kyoko Shapiro. Adapted by Ian Reid. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: Naruto and his fellow ninja engage in deadly conflict with the enemy. If any of them makes the wrong decision, it could be one of Naruto's closest friends who pays the ultimate price. My Grade: A+

DATE: Mon, 27 Apr 2009
SIZE: 3.42 MB
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Podcast Episode 150: Honey Hunt Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Honey Hunt Volume 1 by Miki Aihara (Hot Gimmick, Tokyo Boys and Girls). Translated by Ari Yusuda. Adapted by Liz Forbes. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen. From the back cover: Life's not easy when you're living in the shadow of your famous parents. Can shy Yura, the daughter of an award-winning composer and a world-renowned actress, find the courage to step out on her own now that her super-celebrity parents are getting divorced? The media is abuzz when word gets out that Yura's mega-famous parents are splitting up. Already accustomed to the daily pressure of being the child of celebrities, Yura's frustration explodes in a rant against her parents--and her heated words end up being broadcasted live on national TV! When a powerful talent scout hears her impassioned declaration, he offers to represent her. The door to showbiz is now flung open for this timid wallflower--will she try to become an actress in her own right? My Grade: B+ Here's the link for a free 10 page preview of the manga: http://www.shojobeat.com/manga/hh/om.php

DATE: Sun, 26 Apr 2009
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Spike Spiegel is Wolverine

Ok, probably a lot of you are looking at the title of this post and asking "What the hell!?" I don't know if everybody is aware of this but Steve Blum, the voice of Spike Spiegel in the English dub of Cowboy Bebop, has taken on a new starring role, this time in the realm of American animation. Blum now has the lead role as Wolverine in the Nicktoons show "Wolverine and the X-men", and the first three episodes have just been released on dvd. He actually played him in the direct-video release of "Hulk VS." as well. I know anime voice actors do American cartoon work as well, but at least to me, it was unusual for one to land such a coveted role, what with the popularity of the franchise among comic fans and the oncoming blitz of the Wolverine movie (if you haven't already seen it on the Internet). This dvd release has the first three episodes of the TV series, and is worthy of a rent (I would wait for the first season set to buy) even if you're not a comic book fan. You can also watch the first eight episodes for free at the Nicktoons link I'll put at the end of the post. It had a very anime-like feel in that all the episodes feed into an overarching storyline instead of being stand alone episodes. It also deals with the characters on a very personal level instead of them just donning their costumes and beating people up. If you at least saw the live action movies you should have no trouble enjoying the show. I haven't really kept up with the X-men comic in over 20 years and I still liked this animated version.  Here's the official site where you can check out the first eight episodes: http://nicktoonsnetwork.nick.com/shows/wolverine-and-th e-x-men/commonRoom/index.jhtml

DATE: Thu, 23 Apr 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Hikaru No Go Volume 14

Manga review of Hikaru No Go Volume 14: "Sai vs. Toya Koyo".  Story by Yumi Hotta. Art by Takeshi Obata. Supervised by Yukari Umezawa (5 Dan). Translated and adapted by Naoko Amemiya. English script consulting by Janice Kim (3 Dan). Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated All Ages. Yep, that's right, the main storyline of this volume is the battle between Sai and Toya Meijin. You might ask how Toya is able to play with a ghost, and the question is a good one. Shindo persuaded Toya to play online against his friend, Sai, and Toya finally agreed after some misgivings. He just thought that there was something shady about Sai not wanting to reveal his identity. But what is Shindo going to do, tell him the truth? There's no way he would be taken seriously. Actually, Toya and his son, Akira, are both beginning to wonder about Sai's identity, with both of them initially believing Sai is the online identity of Shindo. While they both come to realize that this is not the case, they are beginning to connect the dots ever so slowly. I'm kinda curious to see if Shindo is ever going to tell anyone about Sai. There is a catch to the match. If Toya wins, Sai will have to reveal his true identity. If Toya loses, he has sworn to retire from the world of professional Go. Shindo doesn't know whether to take him seriously or not. But we know Sai is not going to hold back after waiting to play with a Go opponent of Toya's caliber for 14 volumes (He did play him before through Shindo, but he had handicap himself in order to keep from arousing Toya's suspicions). I love this series, even though I've never played a game of Go in my life. I look forward to the matches between the characters as if they were actual matches. It was really exciting to see Toya and Sai going toe to toe with no reservations like their previous match. I thought for a while last volume there was a chance of the game never actually being played. Another plot element that comes up in this installment is that Shindo is becoming so good he doesn't need Sai's advice as much when he plays his own games. In fact, he is even starting to give Sai some pointers on how to improve HIS playing! This is a far remove from when Shindo first started playing so clumsily in volume 1. What is going to happen to Sai after he makes the "divine move"? And who will be left standing after Shindo and Akira's inevitable showdown that is bound to happen sooner or later? It was postponed because of Toya's heart attack, which seemed like a cheap trick designed to tantalize fans. I mean, to come to the day of the match and then Akira doesn't show up? The art by Takeshi Obata of Death Note fame is up to the same impressive quality that he exhibits in all his work. Check this series out! My Grade: A Check here for a free preview of Volume 1: http://www.shonenjump.com/manga/hikarunogo/om/

DATE: Mon, 20 Apr 2009
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Dragonball Evolution Tanking at Box Office

Wow, have you seen the numbers for Dragonball Evolution? It has only made about 8 million dollars in two weeks! Ok, anything beyond a million isn't chicken scratch, especially to an impoverished soul like me, but in movie money, that is akin to nothing. On top of that, attendence at screenings of the movie dropped by almost 70% in one week. I haven't seen it. In fact, I'm so out of touch I didn't even realize it had been released. I have never read any of the manga or watched any of the various anime incarnations. What these numbers tell me is that either the franchise doesn't have that many fans (which I know is not true)....or the movie just flat out sucks. I still think I might go see it, just to burn the anime/manga flame. I hope the Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Old Boy remake, or the Cowboy Bebop (Is Keanu Reeves an android?) movies are better. It looks like Dragonball is going in the same trash heap as Speed Racer (Hey, I actually liked that movie, even if I had to put on a welding mask because of the gaudy colors).

DATE: Sun, 19 Apr 2009
SIZE: 5.51 MB
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Podcast Episode 149-- Wolverine: Prodigal Son Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Wolverine: Prodigal Son Volume 1. Written by Antony Johnston. Art by Wilson Tortosa. Published by Del Rey, $12.99, Rated 13+. From the back cover: This is not the Wolverine you know. Logan is a teenage rebel with a real good reason for having a real bad attitude. Ever since being left in a nearby forest - with no memory of who he was or how he got there - Logan (or Wolverine, as his classmates sometimes call him) has been stuck in a martial arts school in the icy wilds of Canada. No wonder he's bored, restless, and yearning. There's a whole world out there, and Logan can almost taste it. But he's chained to a past he can't remember and can't escape. Now it just may destroy his future. My Grade: B+ See a free preview: http://www.randomhouse.com/delrey/manga/preview/wolveri ne/

DATE: Sat, 18 Apr 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Manga Review: Eden Volume 11

Manga review of Eden Volume 11 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature 18+. The storyline that started 4 years after the first story arc continues in Eden volume 11. A shaky alliance has been formed between Elijah, Miriam Arona, and a Propater investigator named Wendy McCall. Elijah is in it to avenge Manuela's execution. Arona, a cop, is in it because the same guys killed her partner, who was Helena's boyfriend. Wendy McCall has been sent to find out about some shady connections between factions of Propater and the Wilhelm Corporation, a bio-electronic arms manufacturer. None of them want to stop with the actual killers. They are small fry. Instead, the trio wants to find the big wigs who ordered the hit. The trail takes them all the way from Peru to Australia. Unknowingly, Elijah is coming closer and closer to his missing sister, who was kidnapped a couple of volumes back, and is being held by Propater, along with Maya, a complex artificial life form that has the ability to communicate instantaneously with the emerging intelligence of the Disclosure Virus. And speaking of Maya, do you remember when Elijah made a copy of the AI in the first volume or so of Eden? It has been implanted into a cyborg body of a school-age girl and named itself Letheia Aletheia and joins Elijah on his journey to Australia. The Disclosure Virus is becoming more and more powerful and is taking over more and more cities. Now, a giant colloid has appeared in Australia as well, and Kate Mishima takes a scientific team into its bowels to investigate, and perhaps even communicate with the mind of the virus. I guess I'm getting used to the whole 4 year flash forward deal, because I enjoyed this eleventh volume much more than than the last. Maybe it also has to do with the fact that Endo has finally gotten back to the sci-fi roots of this series after digressing into a long period of gang violence and sex. It's not that the last volumes haven't been awesome in their own right, but a lot of it could've happened in the present day and didn't need such a remote future tag. But in some ways, that's what I like about Hiroki Endo's writing. He doesn't take his sci-fi elements to unbelievable extremes. He simply extends ideas and technology we already have instead, much like Ghost in the Shell. You don't have anything like hyper-spatial travel, galactic empires, or hostile aliens coming to invade like a space opera. Instead, Endo focuses on characterization. That's why I was so upset with the killing of Helena. She played such a big part in Elijah's life and was so important to the plot, and Endo gunned her down just like that with no rhyme or reason as to why she and Elijah broke up. It just seemed like a cheap theatrical trick designed to shake up the reader. Still, I have confidence that Endo will win me back over in coming volumes. I also don't know why Dark Horse took so long to put out this eleventh volume. Volume 10 came out way back in May 2008!  And there has always been a darkness about this title coming from their company, as if its cancellation is always an eminent possibility. I hoped Dark Horse saw that this title reached the New York Times bestseller list for manga the week it was released. That's what I hate about these companies. They don't give you status reports or say a title is cancelled. They just let titles drift into oblivion and show no respect for the fans. Can anybody tell me what happened to Octopus Girl or Reiko the Zombie Shop? As far as I know, those titles are on "hiatus". Why can't they just say CANCELLED!?  If it takes almost a year to publish each volume of Eden, give the license to Del Rey, who would treat the title with the respect it deserves. I'm talking about the big wigs at Dark Horse. It seems as though the staffers that actually deal with Eden really love the title. Kudos to Kumar and Steve for doing such a brilliant job with the translation and the lettering. My Grade: A  

DATE: Wed, 15 Apr 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Eden Volume 10

Manga review of Eden Volume 10 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian.  Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature 18+. After delivering Marihan Ishaq, a Uyghur freedom fighter, into the hands of NOMAD, Kenji believes that he can take a well-deserved rest. But, alas, it's not to be, for Marihan escapes from her captors and goes on the run, not wanting to be caught by Propater, the Chinese government, or Kenji's organization. She again enlists Kenji's aid in an effort to disarm bombs planted by her own people in crowded Chinese public places. One of them has been planted at a shopping mall, so if nothing is done, hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people are going to die. Kenji usually doesn't do anything unless it serves his own purposes or that of his employer, but something in Marihan's sincere fight for her the rights of her people has touched a chord in him. If the entire volume had followed this storyline I would have gushed over volume 10 of this classic series just like I've done over every volume that has come before. Make no mistake. I think Eden is the best manga being printed in English at the moment, and nothing really stands beside it. The characters are just so damn human! Most of the time, Kenji acts like a cold blooded killing machine akin to the Terminator, but here and there, Endo gives glimpses of a very sensitive and vulnerable man who was shaped by the sinister forces of this world to be something he was probably never meant to be. Marihan comes off as his shadow, but while employing violence in her own way, she fights for freedom and civil rights, not for pay. But even she has realized that killing is probably not the best way to achieve political ends. Like I said, if Endo had ended the volume with the conclusion of the Kenji/Marihan storyline, I would've loved this book. But, Endo completely shakes up the cast and story by advancing time by 4 years, just like that, with no warning! In the flash forward world of Eden, a lot has changed. South America is now on the verge of joining Propater. Elijah and Helena are no longer an item. In fact, Helena is living with a just resigned cop named Leo Pessoa (who happens to be a triple agent for the cops, Enoah, and Propater), and Helena is planning to leave the country with him. Leo's former partner, Miriam Arona, steps into the story in what seems to be a major role, and possibly become a new love interest for Elijah. The Closure Virus has evolved beyond what we saw in the earlier volumes of Eden.  It has gained sentience and has started to form "colloids", crystalline structures which assimilate organic and inorganic matter. This new form of the virus has claimed over 2 million lives so far. I haven't decided whether I like the new direction Eden has moved in. Endo seems to kill off a very major character without blinking an eye. While this underlines the fact that anyone can go anytime in the real world, it still didn't seem to serve any purpose. I also would have liked to have seen the how and why of Elijah and Helena's breakup. It probably had something to do with the difference in their ages, but I had too much invested in those characters simply for Endo to gloss over whatever had broken them apart. It also seemed a bit jarring for Elijah to transform into a slick, cool, under control hitman helping in his father's business without knowing what happened to him in the blank of the four year forejump. Arona is too slight and trivial of a character to comfortably exist in Eden. Endo uses her a lot for comedy relief which undercuts her impact on the story. In fact, she is a hotblooded heroine that would be more at home in Gunsmith Cats than such a serious title as Eden. I'm not giving up on this new direction, since it might be just the newness of it that made me enjoy volume 10 less than other entries in this series. My Grade: B+

DATE: Sun, 05 Apr 2009
SIZE: 0.07 MB
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Kairi-Moon, A Great Talent

I've started a new category on the side panel, "Artists", where I will post links to artists that I like. I've put a link to Saelee Oh over there, but there's also another artist I'd like to bring your attention to. Kairi-Moon was featured in the February issue of Neo Magazine. Her real name is Karen Yumi Lusted. She's half Japanese and is in her final year of Animation study. She's currently learning Japanese so she can talk to her family back in Japan and has plans to teach there (she currently lives in England). She would like a job in animation but would enjoy any job where she could be involved with art. You can find her webspace with more art and info at: http://kairi-moon.deviantart.com/ Here's a link to some previews for a comic (manga) she did for Itch Publication, entitled "Final Blossom": http://www.itchpublishing.com/news/final-blossom/

DATE: Sun, 05 Apr 2009
SIZE: 0.11 MB
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Check Out Saelee Oh's Art

I've been meaning to link to to some Asian and Asian-influenced artists for some time now, but have just never got around to it. Giant Robot features one every issue. So I'm taking the plunge with Saelee Oh, who was featured on the magazine a couple of months ago. Of Korean descent and hailing from California, Saelee isn't one of those moody types that likes to stew in solitude. She even likes to invite friends over while she's working, even though she might not be very attentive. She also likes to collaborate with other artists. Her art is very beautiful, with a childlike whimsy mixed with the danger of the adult world, surreal without being unnatural or inorganic. Her art is inviting and makes you smile. Saelee doesn't stay in one place long, preferring a free life, moving among cities. You can check out her blog and more art at: http://saeleeoh.blogspot.com/  

DATE: Sun, 05 Apr 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Manga Review: Eden Volume 9

Manga review of Eden Volume 9 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivabramanian. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature, Ages 18+. Volume 9 of Eden switches abruptly from the crime drama of Elijah, Helena, and Pedro to the oil rich desert of western China. An oil facility has been seized by Muslim terrorists (or, freedom fighters), and hostages have been taken. They are led by a charismatic young woman named Marihan Ishaq. Her forces did not seize the oil field as a random act of terror to take innocent lives. Instead, Marihan wants to bring attention to the plight of her people, an ethnic minority called the Uyghurs, who have little in common with their Chinese rulers. As oil has been found on their ancestral lands, the Chinese government and Propater have embarked on a course of intimidation and genocide to get rid of the Uyghur. Marihan has given them 24 hours to remove all Chinese and Propater troops from Uyghur lands or she will order the destruction of the facility and its important oil pipelines. Normally, Propater would be able to keep this incident off the news, but they haven't reckoned on the fact that NOMAD and Enoah's organized crime syndicate are backing the play of Marihan in an effort to show the true nature of Propater's operations. Meanwhile, the Closure Virus is mutating and seems to be acting almost sentient. Bad news for the human race. This volume does a good job of proving the popular axiom that "one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter". You're always hearing in the news about guys seizing oil platforms around Africa or taking foreign hostages who work for Big Oil. In some cases, they are common criminals just out to make a quick buck, but here and there you'll hear about them doing it to protest the fact that the native people are not getting any of the revenue from the oil, or in some cases, the sale of diamonds. All of the billions of dollars are going to the fat cat government officials to pay for their car armadas or palatial retreats while the common people are living in huts. And they have a legitimate beef. Do you know what happens when an aggressor meets a defender? One side has to lose. What has happened throughout history is that a nation wants something bad enough, it will do whatever is necessary to acquire it. Including genocide, war, and expulsion. The Americas were just the same, when the Indians were practically exterminated and subjugated for their land. Even Japan has its own indigenous natives, the Ainu, and they were treated in much the same way (even though they try to shush it). Even today, some Ainu hide their ancestry to avoid discrimination by the Japanese. Endo also seems to be calling on references to what China has done and continues to do with Tibet. What has happened in all these cases is the goal of the government, be it American or Chinese, or Japanese, to swallow a whole people, Borg-like, and either "assimilate" them, or destroy them, as the case may be. And don't forget Palestine. Hiroki Endo is right up there with the greatest of sci-fi writers merely by the fact he is able to touch on so many global conficts and phobias and is able to pack them into an action comic book that touches the soul of our age. My Grade: A+ You can listen to a podcast of Volume 1 at this link: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=362912

DATE: Sun, 29 Mar 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Manga Review: Eden Volume 7

Manga review of Eden Volume 7 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivabramanian. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature, Ages 18+. Elijah wants revenge on Pedro for torturing Helena, which included plucking her eye out with a knife and cutting off one of her ears. But he's not going to be able to do it by himself. So he goes looking for advice from the Automater, a retired crime syndicate boss who actually got Pedro started in the business. From her he hears about the bloody rise of Pedro in her organization and how he first hooked up with Manuela, his supposed first love, and of the abusive relationship that ensued, with Pedro regularly beating her and her escalating addiction to heroin. It's up to Elijah to decide after the story whether he still wants to kill him or not. As I've said many times, Eden is the greatest manga I've ever read and I would even dare call Hiroki Endo manga's Shakespeare, so deep is his knowledge and insight into the human heart. Again and again, I am reminded of this when I read scenes in Eden where I say to myself "yeah, that's exactly how human beings act and react". You find yourself nodding your head as you read, thinking "this is life". No other manga I have ever read gives me the feeling of being so entwined with the human condition. This is usually a feeling relegated only to what some call "literature" such as Dostoyevsky or Proust. Eden is a horribly beautiful work that always has another layer to peel back. While it has graphic violence on full display, it also has flashes of humor, love, and a genuine passion to understand what makes a soul tick through its dense characterization. Classic. My Grade: A+

DATE: Sun, 29 Mar 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Manga Review: Eden Volume 6

Manga review of Eden Volume 6 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature Ages 18+. Elijah's botched rescue attempt has left his mother in critical condition and his sister still in the hands of Propater. On top of that, the AI Maya seems to have joined sides with the enemy as well and Cherubim has been blown to bits. Plus, Elijah has the blood of a cop on his hands and his friends are going to be none too happy when he arrives in his jail cell. Even if he gets out alive, there is a gang war brewing on the streets between his father's men and an up and coming gangster named Pedro. Helena complicates things even further by buying the prostitute that Pedro loves to work in her brothel in an effort to save her from her destructive heroin addiction. As you can tell from the plot points outlined above, the world of Eden is about as far from the Biblical garden as it is possible to be. In fact, probably the closest approximation is Hell. But there is a certain elegance in the ultimate degradation, and a certain beauty in the worst violence as portrayed by Endo's highly realistic and fluid art. The writer has done a good job of moving Eden from a militaristic ultra gore action piece to a more meditative (albeit still with lots of blood) poem about the lower classes and the gangsters that control the streets. Even Pedro, who does some pretty evil things in this volume, is shown through flashbacks to have a heart and a true love for Manuela, even though his physical abuse would belie otherwise. Eden is the best manga series being printed right now. Nowhere else can you find the masterful combination of art, writing, and honesty about the human condition. My Grade: A+

DATE: Sat, 28 Mar 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: xxxHolic Volume 4

Manga review of xxxHolic Volume 4 by CLAMP. Translated and adapted by William Flanagan. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated T for ages 13+. It's Valentine's Day, which in Japan,  is the day when girls give homemade chocolate to their beloved, or crush, as it may be.  In a lot of cases, the giving of the candy might be the first time that a young girl has revealed their feelings to the object of their affection. Of course, Watanuki is hoping to get some from Himawari, the girl that he likes. None is forthcoming, though, and he finds himself, instead, slaving in the kitchen making chocolate for Yuko! While this reverses the gender roles of the day he still tries to salvage things by intending to let Himawari taste it. Domeki tries some instead in his laidback manner of butting in. But all is not lost for Watanuki. There IS a girl that likes him and wants to give him chocolate, but she also wants to steal Domeki's soul. In the second story arc of this volume, Watanuki and friends get mixed up with twin sisters that have a supernatural bond centered around the power of words and negative thinking. I was a little let down by the writing in this fourth volume. It didn't really have any hooks. I found the Valentine's Day chapters really funny, but the storyline with the twins never paid off. They weren't creepy or scary and the climax was a bit of a letdown. I guess a large portion of the book just didn't have enough of that Twilight Zone feeling that I usually get when I read xxxHolic. Where CLAMP more than makes up for the subpar script in Volume 4 is in the beautiful, and at times, stunning artwork. There are some really nice panels in the Valentine chapters where the characters are backlit against the moon which really highlight CLAMP's mastery of solid blacks and flowing lines in this series. What a contrast to Tsubasa's rough unfinished edges. My Grade: B

DATE: Mon, 23 Mar 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Sorcerer Hunters Volume 7

Manga Review of Sorcerer Hunters Volume 7. Story by Satoru Akahori. Art by Ray Omishi. Translated by Anita Sengupta. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. Beginnings can be deceiving in the case of volume 7 of Sorcerer Hunters as it opens with a fan servicey romp at the beach. The mini-sized speech impeded Master Potato has concocted a potion that will make him the "hero of the story" and be a hit with the babes. Since love potions can be an iffy proposition, his butler convinces Potato to test it on someone else first. Of course, this means the Sorcerer Hunters become the lab rats. Things become more serious as the Hunters finally track down the last Platina Stone, which is the source of Lord Sachen's power. Unfortunately for them, the last guardian they have to defeat is Gateau's sister, Eclair, who goes by the new moniker of Deneb, and has no memory of her beloved brother. Since they trained together when they were young, Gateau hopes he will be able to jog her memory by fighting her, even if he has to sacrifice his own life in the process. Tira and Chocolat have their own score to settle with their adopted father, Lord Sacher, who killed almost all of their foster brothers and sisters back in the day. One of the strengths of this series has always been the ability of Ray Omishi to write a tale that at one point can be a totally fan servicey parody of manga conventions, and at others can be a Shakespearean family tragedy. This volume is a perfect example. Along with Akahori's art, the creative duo make fun of manga conventions from sports to shonen ai romances as each Hunter has their own fantasy of being a hero. But then, after that, we have the final showdown between father and daughters, and brother and sister. When things turn serious, Omishi's writing and Akahori's art become serious as well. When things hit the fan, you're not going to see deformed characters or stupid jokes interrupting the drama which sometimes happens with lesser creators. Definitely a series to check out. My Grade: B+

DATE: Sat, 14 Mar 2009
SIZE: 4.16 MB
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Podcast Episode 148: Dojin Work Volume 1

Anime DVD Podcast review of Dojin Work Volume 1: Pencil and Paper, Episodes 1-4. Directed by Kenichi Yatani. Approximate Running Time: 100 minutes. Published by Media Blasters, Rated 13+. Japanese with English subtitles. From the back cover: Doujin Work follows the life of a young girl named Najimi Osana and her exposure into the doujin world. She was first tempted into becoming a doujin artist after seeing how much one of her friends can make at a convention. Najimi loves to draw, but soon learns, contrary to what she expected, that this new world is anything but easy. As she attends more conventions and meets more people, Najimi eventually manages to find a group of very interesting friends. These friends already have some experience in the field and help her out along the way so that she can someday make a name for herself creating doujinshi. My Grade: B+

DATE: Thu, 12 Mar 2009
SIZE: 9.87 MB
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Podcast Episode 147: The Familiar of Zero Box Set, Episodes 1-4

Podcast review of the first four episodes of The Familiar of Zero Box Set, published by Geneon, List Price: $59.98, Rated 13+. Directed by Yoshiaki Iwasaki (Best Student Council, Hayate the Combat Butler). Series Composition by Takao Yoshioka (Elfen Lied, Dears). From the back cover: In a magical land where two moons shine in the night sky, one young student in the magic school, Louise, has acquired the nickname of "Zero." Why? Her "zero" talent! With a near-perfect failure rate for her spells, the shock that Louise's summoning spell works equals the surprise of her new familiar, a human boy from Japan! When the boy begins exhibiting some unexpected abilities, why do the teachers get so nervous? My Grade: B+

DATE: Mon, 09 Mar 2009
SIZE: 11.4 MB
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Podcast Episode 146: Naruto Volume 30

Podcast manga review of Naruto Volume 30: Puppet Masters by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated and adapted by Naomi Kokubo and Eric-Jon Rossel Waugh. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen. From the back cover: Naruto is a ninja-in-training with an incorrigible knack for mischief. He's got a wild sense of humor, but Naruto is completely serious about his mission to be the world's greatest ninja! Sakura takes her place at the front of the fight to save Naruto. With Granny Chiyo at her side, she must battle Sasori, who can create golems from the undead. But Granny Chiyo is a puppet master too -- only it could be Sakura's strings she's pulling! My Grade: A+ While the podcast is a review of the manga, here is the anime episode it corresponds with:

DATE: Sun, 22 Feb 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Anime Review: Maria Watches Over Us Season 1: Episodes 10-13

Anime DVD review of the fourth disc of the Season 1 box set of Maria Watches Over Us, Episodes 10-13. Published by Right Stuf. Directed by Yukihiro Matsushita, List Price : $49.99, Rated 13+.   As Christmas approaches, Rosa Gigantea takes center stage in Episodes 10 & 11 of Maria Watches Over Us. But it's probably not in a way she wanted. In Episode 10, there is a big buzz at Lilian about a new book named "The Forest of Briars", which purports to be a tell all confessional about life at the all girls academy, disguised as a novel. The author is someone named Sei Suga, which, according to rumor, is none other than Rosa Gigantea (Her real name also happens to be Sei). While most of the Yamayuri Council leaders dismiss the book as beneath their dignity, even if Gigantea is the author, Yumi and some of the younger girls set out to find the truth about its author. In Episode 11, "The White Petals", the yuriness gets turned on full blast as we witness a tragic love affair of the past between Gigantea and a younger girl that she never claimed as her sister. The last two episodes of the disc deal with the results of a contest a couple of episodes back that was sponsored by the school newspaper in which the winners won a date with one of the members of the Yamayuri Council. Yumi is going out with Sachiko, which you think wouldn't be a big deal, given their already established relationship, but Yumi is ready to have a nervous breakdown trying to figure out what Sachiko would enjoy doing on their date. She can't really ask her friends because the extremely jealous Yoshino doesn't even want to hear the word "date" because her beloved sister is being taken from her by a lowly underclassmen, even if it's just a one-time thing. Shimako is also dealing with a bit of tension in this area as her date is the beautiful Shizuka, who happens to be in love with Shimako's sister, Rosa Gigantea (wow, it's all about Gigantea, isn't it?). It doesn't help that the snooping reporter, Tsutako, is stalking all of the couples in hopes of getting  photos for the school paper. I really enjoyed the first season of Maria Watches Over Us, even if the girls, with their beanpole designs,  made CLAMP characters look obese. There was always a sense of disquiet in me, as I wondered what diet these girls were on, which made them look like human straws. But, be that as it may, I really enjoyed the characters. They really stand out in your mind. A lot of times when I write a review or record a podcast, I have to jot down a few notes to keep the cast straight. But I didn't have that trouble with this show, because the characters are so memorable and unique. It's cool that we get to see them in regular street clothes in some of these episodes because their school uniforms are a bit boring and stiff. At times, when you are watching this show, the elegance can be a bit overwhelming, like you've arrived at an aristocrat's dinner gala and are extremely underdressed. Of course, I'd never be admitted except as a servant. But it's still good to be able to look through the window and see how the other half lives. Cool show, but probably will not float everyone's boat. Disc 4 Grade: B Season 1 Grade: B+ Official site: http://maria-sama.rightstuf.com/ My Podcast review of  Episodes 1-3: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=368094  

DATE: Sun, 08 Feb 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Sorcerer Hunters Volume 6

Manga Review of Sorcerer Hunters Volume 6. Story by Satoru Akahori. Art by Ray Omishi. Translated by Anita Sengupta. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. The Sorcerer Hunters continue their hunt for the 5 Platina Stones that are the source of Lord Sacher's power. With every stone they destroy, Sacher's strength decreases. Unfortunately, each stone is protected by a Guardian Spirit, who is willing to fight to the death against the Hunters. Big Mama sends "Daughter", one of the last living winged beings, along with the Hunters set out to eliminated the 3rd Platina Stone. She's being sent along because the stone's Guardian, named Sirius of the Wind, is also a winged being. While Mama might be doing this to have a strategic advantage over Sirius, she also wants Daughter to meet one of her own kind. After a brief interlude in which our heroes help a struggling restaurant owner compete in a cooking contest, the Hunters move on to the search for the fourth Platina Stone, which lands them smack in the middle of two warring ninja clans. Ok, some of the humor of this series can be a bit grating at times, and this is especially apparent when Satoru Akahori relies almost completely on the laughs to move the story forward. Fortunately, the longing of Daughter for another of her kind, and the reciprocal desire of Sirius do more than enough to humanize these otherwise wacky characters. It doesn't hurt that Marron, the usually delicate and refined magic-user of the group, throws down his spells and takes up a sword to get his hands dirty in a battle with the fourth Guardian at the end of the volume. No matter how crazy Omishi's physical comedy gets, Akahori throws in some very human elements. My Grade: B

DATE: Thu, 22 Jan 2009
SIZE: 3.26 MB
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Podcast Episode 145: Akihabara@Deep Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Akihabara@Deep Volume 1. Written by Ira Ishida. Art by Makoto Akane. Translated and adapted by Mayumi Kobayashi. Originally published in Japan by Shinchosa and Coamix. Published in US by Anime Works, $11.99, Rated 16+. From the back cover: Akihabara@DEEP. It is an enterprise that is small but elite and organized by the legendary otaku of Akihabara. Soon, they'll be dragged into the struggle for supremacy in a world of information technology. A battle is about to begin in the Akihabara district for the future of the industry. My Grade: A

DATE: Mon, 05 Jan 2009
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Anime DVD Review: Project Blue Earth SOS Volume 2

Anime DVD review of Project Blue Earth SOS Volume 2: Infiltration. Directed by Tensai Okamura (Wolf's Rain, Darker than Black). Series Composition by Ryota Yamaguchi (Cowboy Bebop, One Piece, Escaflowne). Published by ADV Films (license has been picked up by Funimation),  Running Time: 90 minutes, Episodes 3-4, Rated 15+. The Labyrinth Alliance, backed by the corporation run by Billy Kimura's father, has come up with the ultimate checkmate to use against the aliens. The time is right to take The Invincible, a state of the art flying battleship, out on its maiden voyage. Decked out with the latest new fangled weaponry, it will join the Sky Knight as one of only two ships that can take on the enemy's helmet worms. Meanwhile, the aliens, calling themselves Baguans, continue to wreak destruction around the globe, destroying military targets and some targets meant to hurt us psychologically, like the destruction of the Eiffel Tower. In a most insidious move, the Baguans have begun reanimating and controlling dead human captives as the means to carry out their evil plans. Penny gets quite a shock when some of the alien saboteurs end up being his long missing parents! Suffice it to say, it causes quite a conflict of interest. If that's not enough, the Baguans have devised a way to shut down anything that runs off a G-Reactor, which means almost everything on Earth. It's up to our heroes to find a way to distinguish friend from foe and find a way to turn the lights back on.   I really want to get behind this show and love it because of the great characters and animation, but the writing is beginning to stink. First of all, letting an overconfident brat like Billy make world changing decisions for the military is a little bit much. Billy's plans mostly consist of sending up the latest ships and planes built by his company simply to get shot down by the Baguan flying saucers. He also doesn't seem to have any compunctions about getting innocent people killed as a result of his lamebrained schemes. The fact that Penny has to confront the dead bodies of his parents at least brings him off his high horse and instills his character with a bit of much needed humility and makes him realize that this isn't just some science project he can ace at school. That people are dying in this war. I really like the characters on this show, at least in terms of personality, they give SOS a lot of variety. In the hands of a good writer, Project Blue Earth could have been a really good anime. While it can be fun at times, it crosses the line of goofiness way too many times to ever be taken seriously. And what's up with Lotta Brest? When the opening credits roll, it shows all the characters along with their names. When I watched them for the first time, I assumed the hot and sexy Emely was named Lotta Brest (they appear together on the credits), but ironically, Lotta Brest was the 12 year old? Who the hell came up with these names? I also thought it was kinda sad that all we've seen of the aliens so far is a Doctor Evil "Bwuh, Ha, Ha, Ha!" laughing masked villain who gives the Earth 24 hours to surrender. I mean, if the Baguans are so powerful, why don't they just invade and take over instead of all these penny ante hijinks that our own native terrorists could pull off? The only extra is the clean opening animation. My Grade: C+  

DATE: Sun, 04 Jan 2009
SIZE: 3.58 MB
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Podcast Episode 144--Edu Manga: Ludwig Van Beethoven

Podcast manga review of Edu-Manga: Ludwig Van Beethoven. Written by Takayuki Kanda. Art by Naoko Takase. Translated by Sachiko Sato. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by DMP under their Educational Series imprint, $9.95, Rated All Ages. From the back cover: A true genius, Beethoven stands as one of the greatest musical minds the world has ever seen with such famous works as his Symphony No. 9 ("Ode to Joy") and the classic "Fur Elise." The onset of deafness was only one of many hardships he had to face, but his strength and desire to do battle with his turbulent life led him to create the many musical masterpieces we cherish today. Celebrate Beethoven's amazing life with Astro Boy at your side! Astro Boy is ready to show you how Beethoven created some of the most beautiful music in history while struggling with his own personal highs and lows. Watch the story behind this genius and his amazing musical work come to life right before your eyes. My Grade: A (There was a slight issue getting this episode uploaded, which should be corrected now. For some reason it was not fully uploading into Itunes and my blogpage.)

DATE: Thu, 01 Jan 2009
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Sand Chronicles Volume 2

Manga Review of Sand Chronicles Volume 2 by Hinako Ashihara. Translated by Kinami Watabe. Adapted by John Werry. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan as "Sunadokei". Pubished in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T+ Older Teen It's been three years since Ann's mom dragged her away from Tokyo to her small country hometown of Shimane after a messy divorce with a bankrupt husband. Ann managed to rebuild her life with some new friends, Daigo, Fuji, and his sister Shika. Over time, Daigo even became her boyfriend. She's been living in a dreamworld these past years, never contemplating or wanting to accept that situations and relationships change over time.  Now she is going to have to face reality. First of all, she learns that Fuji is moving to Tokyo to go to a prestigious high school, ruining the blissful comraderie of her circle of friends. Secondly, after being absent from her life for years, Ann's father shows up out of the blue, saying that he has reformed his ways, paid his debts, and that he wants her to move back to Tokyo with him! When her dad reveals that he had stayed out of her life because of a promise to Ann's mother, she faces a hard choice. Should she move to Tokyo to be with her dad or stay in Shimane because she doesn't want to lose Daigo?  Yep, Sand Chronicles is about drama. But it's good drama. Hinako Ashihara wades into themes and situations that most shojo creators would shy away from in fear. Cleverly, she set the whole series up as a flashback. When volume 1 opened, a grown up Ann was getting married and packing to move abroad. This kinda set up a mystery type question. Namely, who is she getting married to and what happened in the intervening years between the events of the manga and the present? Who does she end up with? Has the man she's going to marry even appeared in the manga? Will he ever?  Also, the fact that Ann is so aware of the inherent changeability of  human emotions over time gives her a depth way beyond other shojo heroines. And let's just set the record straight, Ann IS a heroine. Because she is dealing with emotional issues that might permanently break some people in her situation. Even though she doesn't want things to change, she does eventually make decisions, whether for good or bad, instead of waffling for 20 volumes over what she should do. Hopefully, I won't be eating dirt over this statement in the future because she seems to be showing feelings for Fuji these days. I didn't really mention it in the summary but Fuji also has a big role in this volume. Even though he is the scion of his rich family, there has always been a rumor that he was the illegitimate offspring of his mom's many affairs. In this volume, he gets to meet his suspected father, and he might just wish he hadn't. Sand Chronicles is the best shojo manga I have ever read and ranks up there with some of my favorite works, regardless of genre. My Grade: A Check out my podcast review of Volume 1 at this link: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=361894 You can also view a free preview of the first volume of the manga at the Viz website: http://www.shojobeat.com/onlinemanga/sbom.php?chap=san- hi-preview&o=dn

DATE: Wed, 31 Dec 2008
SIZE: 3.41 MB
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Podcast Episode 143: Darker Than Black Volume 1

Podcast anime dvd review of Darker Than Black Volume 1. Episodes 1-5. Directed and written by Tensai Okamura (Naruto Movie, Project Blue Earth SOS, Wolf's Rain). Animation by BONES. Music by Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop). Published by Funimation, Rated 17+, $29.98. From the back cover: A new and deadly breed of covert agent walks the streets. Known as Contractors, these assassins and spies wield bizarre supernatural powers to carry out the dirty work of others. They thrive in the underworld, between rumor and reality, their loyalties always in question. One among these operatives is more mysterious than the rest; the masked killer BK201, the Black Reaper. His true identity and intentions remain unknown, but as his path weaves through the shadows and alleys of Tokyo, blood is spilled on both sides of the law. It's a new age of confusion, and the rules of engagement have changed. My Grade: A Visit the official website to watch the first 3 episodes for free: http://www.funimation.com/darkerthanblack/ Here is the trailer:

DATE: Sun, 28 Dec 2008
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Anime DVD Review: Maria Watches Over Us Season 1, Episodes 7-9

Anime DVD review of Maria Watches Over Us, Episodes 7-9. The first season is available as a boxset from Right Stuf for the list price of $49.99, rated 13+. The big deal going on in these three episodes is the arrival of Valentine's Day at Lillian Girls' Academy and the dilemma of what kind of chocolate Yumi should make for her bouton, Sachiko. Yumi goes around asking all the other girl's advice but noone seems to be able to help her. In fact, they worsen it when one of them tells her that Sachiko is beseiged every year with tons of chocolate from adoring students, but that she usually refuses to receive any of them. Based on this and other disparaging comments that Sachiko makes about chocolate giving, Yumi begins to wonder whether she just hates chocolate or is just disgusted with the whole idea of Valentine's Day. There is also a accelerating breakdown in communication between Yumi and Sachiko as Yumi's consternation about the chocolate combines with the fear that she will be put aside as Sachiko takes on more responsibilities with the Yamayuri Council as its senior members leave for college. The problem is that Yumi keeps all of her anxieties to herself even though Sachiko can sense that something is troubling her and wants to help. Further complications enter the picture when Sachiko is forced into participating in a school contest whose top prize is a date with a bouton. We also meet Mifuyu Uzawa, who wants to replace Yumi as the object of Sachiko's affections. I really like this show so far, even if Sachiko is borderline anal retentive. Actually she IS anal retentive. The original contest as first conceived was about students finding hidden handmade chocolates scattered about campus. Sachiko was instantly against it because she thought it was unseemly and just too unclean to leave food (chocolates) lying around. You get the impression that her room is completely white and germfree and that she is constantly washing her hands. Sachiko needs to get out and deal with the real world instead of stagnating at Lillian with all of her flunkies. She probably wouldn't even be able to change a lightbulb without putting on white gloves, goggles, and a surgical mask! Ok, I could go on hating Sachiko, but I'm gonna call off the dogs. When you get past the mannequin creepiness of the character designs, there's actually quite a heartwarming story of friendship and love here, even if the souer relationships sometimes border on that of slave/master dynamics or platonic lovemaking. If nothing else, the girls of Lillian always seem elegant, even when they're bawling their eyes out. In fact, the series sometimes seems like one long tea ceremony...a tea ceremony you're sharing with a close and engaging friend. My Grade: A You can listen to Podcast 124 for an audio review of Episodes 1-3: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=368094 The official website for the show is: http://maria-sama.rightstuf.com/

DATE: Sun, 28 Dec 2008
SIZE: 3.33 MB
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Podcast Episode 142: Aria the Animation Disc 1

Podcast anime DVD review of the first 4 episodes of Aria the Animation. the first season is available as a box set from Right Stuf, list price: $49.99. Directed and written by Junichi Sato (Kaleido Star, Sailor Moon, Princess Tutu), Rated 13+. From the back cover: Akari Mizunashi, at the age of 15, has left everything behind to travel to a sparkling planet covered in water, Aqua. More than anything, Akari wants to be an "undine" - a female gondolier who navigates the canals of the Aquan city of Neo-Venezia. As she begins her training with the prestigious Aria Company, will she be up to the challenges that await her on the path to achieve her dream? My Grade: A (I didn't notice until I completed the podcast that every character's name on this first disc starts with an A!)

DATE: Sun, 30 Nov 2008
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Funimation Needs Comments on Sgt. Frog Episode 1

Funimation needs your comments about its working print of Sgt. Frog Episode 1. They have the first episode up on Youtube.com. Here's the link (the click here picture to the right doesn't work): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQ5mQPVQmZ8 I don't like dubs so I didn't even watch it. I simply posted the comment that they should also put up the subtitled version as well. It seems like this show has been languishing in the dark and disgusting depths of ADV for years now.

DATE: Sun, 30 Nov 2008
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Anime DVD Review-- Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy Volume 5

Anime dvd review of Ah! My Goddess: Flights of Fancy Volume 5: "That Old Black Magic". Directed and written by Hiroaki Gohda. Published by ADV Films. Episodes 17-20, Running Time: 100 minutes, Rated 13+, List Price: 29.98. Last volume, Marller suceeded in seprating Urd into her two composite halves, demon and goddess. The two bodies were rejoined into one but there are still some imbalance problems between the two personalities. Because her soul is out of sync, one of the personalities will be lost...unless Belldandy and company can find a higher power than themselves to help Urd. They rule out asking the "Almighty", or God, because Belldandy is afraid that he will get rid of her demon side entirely. That leaves only one other entity with the required power...Hilda, the queen of Hell, and the ruler of all demonkind!  She also happens to be Urd's mother.  She and Urd don't really talk much because Urd fears her corrupting influence. Of course, Hilda would like nothing more than for Urd to give up her Goddess life and come live with her. Hilda tells Urd that she will help her in exchange for a unknown favor. Urd agrees as long as the future favor will not conflict with her role as a goddess. Hilda becomes a new character that goads on the ever ineffectual Marller to continue to get out of her depth in an effort to strike a blow for demons everywhere. Marller even sends a magical ninja to take out the goody-two-shoe band of friends. Ironically, as befits Marller's small mind, the ninja is the size of a mouse. It was cool to see Urd's mom, who seems to have been married to the Almighty at some point. Now, that's weird... the queen of Hell sleeping around with God? Does that mean that the Almighty is Urd's dad? Ah My Goddess is a series that is at its least when it tries to get too serious, for instance, when Urd or Belldandy lose control of their powers or are possessed. It is at its best when it moves the story along with lightheartedness, humor, and a mood that almost strikes one as langorous. If you've gotten this far into the second season you should know the characters pretty well so they almost seem like old friends. The show is good at adding new twists and new characters like Hilda, which keep the story fresh and funny. Highly recommended. My Grade: A The six individual volumes of this series were published by ADV Films and you can pick them up at www.Rightstuf.com for $5 each. Funimation has the license now and just came out with the box set this week. Here's the official website:  http://www.funimation.com/ahmygoddess/  

DATE: Fri, 28 Nov 2008
SIZE: 2.59 MB
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Podcast Episode 141: Hayate Cross Blade Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Hayate Cross Blade Volume 1 by Shizuru Hayashiya. Translated by Adrienne Beck. Adapted by Ed Chavez. Originally published by Media Works in Japan. Published in US by Tor/Seven Seas, $9.99, Rated OT 16+. The all-girls boarding school Tenchi Academy isn't just known for its quality academics--it's also known for training the top sword fighters in the country. Students in the special "Sword Bearer" program compete in a school-wide battle known as the Star Stealing, striving to win both money and fame. Enter Kurogane Hayate. With her sister Nagi recovering from a lingering injury, the spunky and cheerful Hayate must take her place at the Academy until Nagi is well enough to return. When Hayate learns of the mountain of debt her old orphanage, the Dandelion Garden, owes to Yakuza loan sharks, she decides to become a sword-bearer and win the Star Stealing. There's just one problem...she needs a partner to compete and the one girl Hayate has her eye on wants nothing to do with her! My Grade: B+ You can view a free manga preview of Hayate Cross Blade at: http://www.gomanga.com/manga/hayatexblade.php

DATE: Wed, 26 Nov 2008
SIZE: 0.04 MB
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Manga Review: Negima! Volume 4

Manga review of Negima Volume 4 by Ken Akamatsu. Translated by Douglas Varenas. Adapted by Peter and Kathleen O'Shea David. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated OT Ages 16+ for Mature Audiences. Most of the third volume of Negima was taken up with Negi's battle with Evangeline McDowell, a vampire who had been cursed by Negi's dad, the Southern Master, and trapped in the body of a young girl. Evangeline believed that his father was dead but Negi tells her the story of how the Southern Master was the one who gave Negi his staff. Negi wants to find him but has no idea of where to look. Evangeline suggests he look in Kyoto, where his dad used to live. In a bit of a selfish act, mixing business with pleasure, Negi proposes that his class go on a field trip there. That way, he won't have to miss work. The headmaster of the school agrees to let them go to Kyoto but he also has a task for Negi to perform. Apparently, Kyoto falls under the territory of the Kansai Magic Association, which has a running dispute with Negi's Kanto branch. In an effort to smooth out the relationship between the two organizations, the headmaster appoints Negi as an ambassador of sorts and gives him a letter to be delivered only into the hands of the leader of the Kansai wizards. Unfortunately, there are elements of the Kansai group that do not want peace with Kanto and want to keep Negi from fulfilling his mission. As always, the first thing that jumps out at you with Negima is the excellent art in which Ken Akamatsu cleverly combines cuteness, comedy, realism, sexiness, and and great layout to create a very unique style. The story is where this book could get a bit muddled. I mean how many times can we stomach someone's clothes getting blown off at least once a volume, if not more, without it becoming a cheap parlor trick? Well, the answer for now is...a lot more! This series hasn't worn out its welcome yet, seeing as how we know so little about the 31 girls in Negi's class. In this volume the spotlight focuses on Miyazaki, who is pining to declare her love to Negi, and Setsuna, a sword bearing student  who is a bit of an enigma. She seems to be obsessed with Konoka, but Negi has to figure out whether she's trying to protect Konoka, or working for the Kansai faction. My Grade: B+

DATE: Tue, 25 Nov 2008
SIZE: 2.79 MB
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Podcast Episode 140: Inukami! Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Inukami! Volume 1. Story by Mamizu Arisawa. Art by Mari Matsuzawa. Character design by Kanna Wakatsuki. Translated by Rhys Moses. Adapted by Lorelei Laird. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Seven Seas/Tor, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. A wacky love comedy about a boy and his dog-goddess. Inukami: a sacred being with a dog-like appearance that forges a contract with a powerful human tamer to help them eliminate evil monsters and demons. Though Kawahira Keita is the descendent of a long line of Inukami-tamers, he seems to lack the necessary ability and has been forsaken by his family. One day, he meets a cute Inukami named Yoko, who, at first glance, looks graceful, obedient, and beautiful...but upon forging a contract with her, Keita discovers that Yoko is a wild and mischievous Inukami that no one has ever been able to control. My Grade: A Here's the opening of the anime version:

DATE: Sun, 23 Nov 2008
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Anime DVD Review: Project Blue Earth SOS Volume 1

Anime DVD review of Project Blue Earth SOS Volume 1: Invasion. Directed by Tensai Okamura (Wolf's Rain, Darker than Black). Series Composition by Ryota Yamaguchi (Cowboy Bebop, One Piece, Escaflowne). Published by ADV Films (license has been picked up by Funimation),  Running Time: 90 minutes, Episodes 1-2, Rated 15+. Something strange happened on the boundaries of space far above the USA in 1995. A pilot named James was testing out the new G-Reaction jet engine, which would allow a plane to circle the Earth in one hour, when a strange sight confronted him. James' last report was that he saw rainbow colored lights, then a flying saucer, and then ground control lost touch with him. Especially hardhit was his friend and commander, Captain Clayton. Now, five years later, strange occurences around G-Reaction powered vehicles have been more and more frequent. Planes, vehicles, and even aircraft carriers have been disappearing. One such incident introuduces us to most of the cast of the show. It is the maiden route of a new G-Reaction train that brings out most of the movers and shakers of Metropolitan, the capital of Earth. That's right, the capital of Earth. Apparently, in this world, all world governments have given up their sovereignty to the United Nations, one consequence being that the world's military is also controlled by the UN. Any weapons which could be seen as other than defensive have been discontinued. Among the important people at the train ceremony is Billy Kimura, the child prodigy and billionaire heir of Kimura Industries, the company responsible for the design of the G-Reactor. Meeting him there is Lotta Brest (what an unfortunate name!), daughter of a famous scientist, and her tutor, the stunning Emely. Just as they are about to board the train, another boy genius named Penny Carter rushes through the crowd with his faithful dog, named Washington, to warn them that something bad is going to happen to the train. At about this moment, cue the rainbow lights, the train is lifted into the air, and disappears in a blink! Billy and Penny reluctantly decide to join forces to figure out exactly what is going on. Little do they know that they are putting themselves into the middle of an alien invasion. On their side is a secret organization named the Labyrinth Alliance which is devoted to protecting humanity from this threat, and a mysterious pilot named Sky Knight, who appears to have the only weapon that can fight the invaders.  What little I had read about this series before viewing it was that it was a retro style anime with roots in 1950s pulp sci-fi magazines. I would say yes to that in theory. Back in the old days of sci-fi you could just name things like "black hole transponder" or "anti-matter gun" without having to explain how it worked and the readers let you get away with it. It almost seemed as if everything worked off of magic because there wasn't any scientific elaboration. Now, readers and viewers are a bit more demanding. While some of the plot devices seemed rooted in the 50's, I felt more reminded of 60's and 70's anime or even some of the old kid-friendly Godzilla movies where the little smug kid knew more of how to solve world threatening problems than the adults could ever dream of. Also, SOS kinda reminded me of Gatchaman and, surprisingly, Scooby Doo. So, I guess that whatever era you think SOS is a homage to, you have to accept it as a nostalgic trip. Almost as if it were written in another era. I enjoyed this show, especially its sometimes flagrant use of goofiness and whimsy. For example, cats and dogs help out our heroes at different times during the show.  The animation is definitely not retro though, and uses the latest cutting edge CG, and doesn't skimp during the action sequences. I thought it was cool that we don't even see a proper alien in these first two episodes (running 40 minutes each), except for a lone female preaching apocalyptic prophecies. Besides her, we see ships and robots for now. In fact, we don't even know if these aliens are FROM another world. So I liked the mystery of it. I also like shows with ensemble casts....as long as the characters are interesting and memorable. And the characters of Project Blue ARE interesting. I especially enjoyed the tug of war between Penny and Billy as they alternated between feelings of rivalry and respect. This is a really good start to a 3 volume series, but don't go in expecting hard sci-fi a la Ghost in the Shell. Just have fun. My Grade: A-

DATE: Sat, 22 Nov 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Gon Volume 4

Manga Review of Gon Volume 4 by Masashi Tanaka. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by CMX, $5.99, Rated T for Teen due to violence. Well, Gon doesn't stay in any one place for long. He's already stomped across most of the world's continents, meeting and beating up animals all along the way. But besides taking bites, giving them super headbutts and kicking them in the face, he's also there to take up for the little guy, or more accurately, Gon is a little guy who takes up for animals that usually serve only as meals for vicious predators. In this fourth volume he inserts himself in a turtle shell, and sees the "survival of the fittest" concept in full bloom as he makes his perilous way to the seashore along with thousands of newly hatched sea turtles. He finds that just making it into the water is only the beginning of these fledgling's fight for life. Then he has to make it across a brutal desert after being thrown there by a powerful tornado along with an ostrich, a monkey, and an impala who show all the selfishness and selflessness of humanity. Lastly, we get to see Gon's posse of various big cat kittens as they strut about the plains of Africa, taking on any bully that gets in their way! Wow, I'm a little behind in this series (it's currently on Volume 6) but it's one of my favorites. First, the drawings of Masashi Tanaka are almost divine. The dude uses no screen tone whatsoever. Even when he colors in shadows, most of it is just crosshatched linework. There is an incredible amount of work that is going into every page of this manga. Sometimes, you just turn a page and you just sit there, awestruck, thinking "Man, just look at this! It's insane!". The artwork is just that damn good. Even though the animals sometimes have anthropomorphic expressions, Tanaka is still able to retain their otherness even as he uses them as metaphors for the human condition. The animals that are dangerous SEEM dangerous, not because they are super villains, but simply because it is in their nature to kill. A scene in which Gon confronts a giant squid is a bit creepy, that is, until Gon kicks the crap out of him. This is masterful storytelling and panel layout that is lightyears beyond most other manga artists. Eden or Akira are two titles I would say are on the same level. And imagine this, Tanaka does this level of work without any dialogue or sound effects at all, only art. A great title. Not to be missed. My Grade: A+    

DATE: Wed, 19 Nov 2008
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Anime DVD Review: Black Blood Brothers Volume 2

Anime DVD Review of Black Blood Brothers Volume 2: Emergence. Directed by Hiroaki Yoshikawa. Series composition by Yuu Sugitani. Episodes 5-8, Running Time: 100 minutes. Published by Funimation, $29.98, Rated 15+. Jiro and Kotaro have made it inside the Special Zone, with the help of Mimiko, professional compromiser. We still don't know exactly why Jiro has travelled to the Special Zone, but he seems to have come at the worst possible time. A Kowloon Child has infiltrated the Special Zone somehow and it appears it is the work of Jiro's old enemy, Cassandra Warlock, whose very presence nearly sends Jiro into a murderous rage. She seems to have something to do with Jiro's lost love, a girl named Alice who he was assigned to protect long ago. Not all is peace and harmony in the Special Zone, where a very delicate balance exists between human and vampire and even between vampire and vampire. Along with Company, three vampire families control everything in the city. All of them are concerned about whose faction Jiro will join, because they know how powerful this legendary hero is. Whoever he casts his lot with will be the main power broker of the Special Zone. Surprisingly, the majority opinion seems to be that the Zone would be better without Jiro in town. Only Zelman Clock, leader of one of the vampire clans, is willing to take Jiro and his brother in. His main goal is not to acquire power, but simply to stave off boredom. But one of his underlings has a different agenda that could start a vampire civil war. Black Blood Brothers is a show that succeeds in spite of the fact that you can tell the creators didn't have a lot of money to spend on character design or animation. The costumes are mostly dreadful and there are quite a bit of static battles with action lines in place of animation. But the director makes up for this by staging the fight scenes with some interesting shots, dramatic effects, and close ups which convey the action quite well, and give you the illusion of more motion than is actually happening. One of the things I like about the show is the humor. Even though Kotaro is an idiotic pain in the butt, he still makes me laugh as he clumsily makes his way through the life and death stakes of the Black Blood world. Mimiko is also quite funny, but her goofiness is tempered by her extreme dedication to helping Jiro and Kotaro. She might even have a "thing" for Jiro, even though she won't admit it to herself. One criticism I have of the show is that it is two thirds over and there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the characters and the plot. I doubt that there are enough episodes left to get through the backstory in anything less than a quick flashback or exposition. Still, this is a series definitely worth watching. My Grade: B+ Funimation just released the box set of this series for $49.98. Best Buy has it for $35.99, but be careful because I picked it up in store and saw it was missing a disc. So check to make sure it's all there before you purchase it. You can also watch the first three episodes for free at Hulu.com. Here is episode 1. Just push the play button. You can also download the series at Funimation.com

DATE: Mon, 17 Nov 2008
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Death Note Anime Box Set 50% Off!

Retail Sesho to the rescue! If you're a fan of the Death Note anime, you should get over to Amazon.com quickly! They are selling the Death Note Box Set, which contains 5 dvds with the first 20 episodes of the series for $34.99. That's 50% off the list price. That's the best price I'm seeing. Plus, you don't have to pay shipping or tax. So put in your pre-order now. Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/Death-Note-Box-Set-1/dp/B001CZJP0 S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1226889503&s r=1-1 I have actually only watched the first volume of the anime but have read the entire manga series. I just never got around to watching the rest of the anime, but now I can. I didn't really have a lot of mony left this week to blow but this was too good a deal to pass up.

DATE: Tue, 11 Nov 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: xxxHolic Volume 2 by CLAMP

Manga review of xxxHolic Volume 2 by CLAMP. Translated and adapted by Bill Flanagan. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated T for Ages 13+. Volume 2 of xxxHolic opens with the arrival of  Syaoran, Sakura, Kurogane, and Fai, events already recounted in Tsubasa Volume 1, the sister manga of this series. After the time/space travellers leave, it's back to business for Yuko and Watanuki. Of course, that return to normalcy means that Watanuki goes back to being the gopher slave of Yuko. But Watanuki has something occupying his mind, or rather his heart. His crush on his classmate, Himawari Kunogi, is becoming more and more intense. But Watanuki is not known to be one of the braver souls in Japan, so he's finding it hard to broach the subject of going out on a date with Himawari. Yuko tries to help him by giving him a quick crash course in divination, seeing as how Himawari is pretty interested in horoscopes and the like. She even agrees to go on a double date with the two lovebirds. Much to Watanuki's annoyance, the fourth member of the party turns out to be a guy named Domeki, Watanuki's hated rival. The question is, rival at what? Currently, it seems that Watanuki fears that Domeki could capture Himawari's heart. It's not going to be a normal date anyway as Yuko plans to have a "100 Ghost Story Night" at the temple where Domeki lives. After finishing the first two volumes of Tsubasa and xxxHolic, I have to say that Holic is by far the superior series. Tsubasa sank into a pit of shonen spirit animal Pokemon fighting which bored me and reminded me why I gave up on the Tsubasa anime after one volume. Tsubasa seems more intent on fitting in every character of the CLAMP universe, no matter how insignificant. Holic doesn't have that burden and is the better for it. Instead of serving as the vehicle for cameos of all stripes, Holic actually concentrates on telling a story. The first thing I have to say about Holic is to make a comment on the beautiful covers that adorn all the volumes, so intricate that they would fit in well on an Oriental rug. Somehow, CLAMP is able to pull out the feat of making you laugh, creeping you out, and expanding your mind with mind-blowing concepts all in the same book. You can tell that CLAMP really went the extra mile in challenging their readers by grappling with the concepts of destiny, love, and the interdependence of all human beings. A really good book. My Grade: B+ You can watch the first 12 episodes of the xxxHolic anime for free at www.hulu.com . Here is the link to the first episode. Just hit the play button on the video panel:

DATE: Tue, 04 Nov 2008
SIZE: 2.64 MB
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Podcast Episode 139: Ghost Slayers Ayashi Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Ghost Slayers Ayashi Volume 1. Story by Sho Aikawa and Bones. Art by Yaeko Ninagawa. Translated by Shoko Oono. Price: $9.99. Rated 16+. In Edo-era Japan, the land is under attack from demons called Youi and a secret group of ghost slayers known as the Ayashi roam the land, seeking to destroy the creatures wherever they appear. Ryuuda Yukiatsu, a vagrant samurai, might be the next ayashi, but will a secret from his past keep him from facing his destiny? My Grade: B

DATE: Sun, 02 Nov 2008
SIZE: 2.81 MB
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Podcast Episode 138: Otoboku Volume 1

Podcast anime dvd review of Otoboku:Maidens Are Falling For Me Volume 1: Crossplay Capers. Episodes 1-5, Running Time: 125 minutes, $19.99, Rated 13+. Directed by Munenori Nawa. Series Composition by Katsumi Hasegawa. Mizuho can't believe his ears when Grandpa's will is read out. Grandpa's final wish is for Mizuho to attend the same academy as Mizuho's mother. The catch is it's an all-girls school. With the help of friend Mariya however, he gets a makeover good enough to fool everyone at the academy. My Grade: B+

DATE: Sun, 19 Oct 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Vampire Knight Volume 2

Manga review of Vampire Knight Volume 2 by Matsuri Hino. Translated and adapted by Tomo Kimura. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen. There was a pretty startling revelation in Volume 1 of Vampire Knight when we learned that Zero Kiryu, vampire hater and hunter, was actually a vampire himself, and had been fighting against his urges for a couple of years. In addition, the blood tablets that the vampires have been using to sate their thirst for blood do not work very well on former humans, so Zero has become more and more unstable. In Volume 2, we find out that Zero is classified as an "Level E" vampire. Yes, that's right, there's a pecking order, or should I say, a "biting" order even in the vampire world. At the top are the Level As, or Purebloods, who are the only ones that can turn humans. Then at Level B, we have the Aristocrats. Both Level As and Bs are the rulers of the vampire world. At Level C, we have the Commons. Level Ds are former humans. This is where we start to have problems. Eventually, Level Ds begin to go crazy with bloodlust and become nothing more than blood-craving maniacs, which are known as Level Es. The "E" stands for "The End". The Level A and Bs are responsible for keeping the Es in check, and sometimes they even kill them when there is no other option. Unfortunately, what this means is that Zero will eventually lose control of himself and turn into a Level E. He has even asked Yuki to kill him if this ever happens. Yuki has a special bracelet, a controlling mechanism a la Inuyasha, that she can use to keep Zero under control. Zero's former sensei, Toga Yagari, a powerful vampire hunter, is brought in as a temporary teacher to keep an eye on Zero. I have a hard time figuring out why vampires are seen as erotic seducters. To me, they are simply superhuge leeches or humanoid mosquitoes. So when Zero takes a bite out of Yuki's neck, I feel a bit of revulsion and disgust, not gothic romanticism. I mean, in the end, vampires cannot live without sucking the life essence out of a human. But I guess humans aren't any different. We have to eat other life for us to have life. It's just meat and vegetables instead of blood. So I'm not into the current fad of urban vampire/werewolf/female detective/student novels/manga. But I do appreciate the characters in Vampire Knight. Sure, it can sink into melodrama at times, almost like a higher stakes Peach Girl, but Zero, Yuki, and Kaname, rise above the material. It also helps that Matsuri Hino is surprisingly adept during action sequences. It makes for quite an intriguing series. I am very curious to see how it all works out and if it has a happy ending. My Grade: B+ Listen to my podcast of Volume 1: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=385148

DATE: Mon, 13 Oct 2008
SIZE: 3.04 MB
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Podcast Episode 137: Afro Samurai Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Afro Samurai Volume 1 by Takashi Okazaki. Translated by Greg Moore. Adapted by Joshua Fialkov. Published by Seven Seas, $10.99, Rated OT Ages 16+. When Afro Samurai was a young child, he witnessed the death of his father, known simply as "Number 1", a swordsman, get brutally killed by "Number 2", a mysterious gunfighter. What these numbers siginify are the ranks of the fighters. So, if you wear the Number 1 headband, it signifies that you are the deadliest warrior in the world. Over the years, a number of legends have sprung up around the Number 1 headband. For example, whoever wears it will rule the world, or the tale that it grants immortality. Nobody knows if any of this or none of it is true. But it doesn't stop people from coveting it anyway. Since then, Afro Samurai has grown into a brutally remorseless warrior, working his way up to Number 2. He now wants to take down Number 1. It has nothing to do with the power he would gain if he wins. It has to do with simple revenge. He wants to kill the guy that killed his father. But the problem when you are wearing one of the top headbands is that you always have those who want your spot. Afro has the additional complication of being a wanted man. A group of underworld kingpins, known as "The Empty Seven", have put out a contract on Afro because some of their number believe that even the Number 2 headband has some sort of divine power. My Grade: B+ Official website: www.afrosamurai.com You can download the entire first season from Funimation for $9.95

DATE: Sun, 12 Oct 2008
SIZE: 2.36 MB
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Podcast Episode 136: Dokkoida Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Dokkoida Volume 1 by Yu Yagami (Those Who Hunt Elves). Original Story by Taro Achi. Translated and adapted by Sheldon Drzka. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by CMX, $9.99, Rated T+. Space alien Tanpopo (who looks like a 10-year-old human girl) has  come to Earth to find a test subject for the Dokkoida Transformation Belt. It was made by a famous toy company called Otankonasu in hopes of landing a lucrative contract with the Galaxy Federation police force to mass produce the suits. Tanpopo enlists unemployed Suzuo to test the suit out. How will it be tested? The Galaxy Federation has let some of its most dangerous criminals loose on Earth to test the effectiveness of the suit. If they can defeat Dokkoida in battle and unmask him, their criminal records will be wiped clean. So, let's just say they are highly motivated. Suzuo also has to compete with Neruloid Girl, another superhero testing a suit for the Emerald Company, who is also vying for the police contract. The Federation has also taken the extremely comedic step of housing the heroes and the villains in the same apartment building! Of course, the characters in Dokkoida are so clueless that they never make the connection between the people they see in normal life every day and the enemies they fight while in costume. Very funny book. My Grade: A

DATE: Thu, 09 Oct 2008
SIZE: 2.48 MB
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Podcast Episode 135: Blank Slate Volume 1

Podcast manga review for Blank Slate Volume 1 by Aya Kanno (Soul Rescue). Translated by John Werry. Adapted by Carla Sinclair. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T+ for Older Teens. Zen has no memories of the past 20 years. All he knows is that he woke up and began to hear a voice in his head that urged him to kill, rob, and commit evil. He followed the commands of that voice and has become the most wanted criminal in Amata. The country of Amata was invaded by Galay 20 years ago and a war ensued that took a number of Amatan lives. Even after two decades, the Galayans have refused to leave the country. Instead, they have imposed their own ultra law and order morality upon the occupied populace. According to the propaganda, Amata is prospering under their rule, but under the surface, there is an Amatan resistance gaining more and more momentum. The biggest thorn in the Galayan side is not the strengthening insurgency, but the fact that Zen has not been captured or killed. To some people, Zen is becoming a sort of folk hero, someone who is unwilling to bend his knee and accept the Galayan occupiers. My Grade: F

DATE: Thu, 09 Oct 2008
SIZE: 2.26 MB
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Podcast Episode 134--Castlevania:Curse of Darkness Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Castlevania: Curse of Darkness Volume 1 by Kou Sasakura. Translated by Ray Yoshimoto. Adapted by Jeremy Black. Originally published in Japan by Media Factory. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated T for Ages 13+. Count Dracula's demon army has swallowed up the land of Walachia in 15th century Europe and is poised to invade the rest of the continent. A vast army was sent to Walachia by the Eastern Orthodox Church several months ago but none of the soldiers ever returned alive. Only a noble named Lord Belmont, a self-styled vampire slayer, has shown any backbone or skill in fighting Dracula's armies. Hoping to dispense of humanity's last hope, Dracula sends one of his two trusted generals, a demon alchemist named Hector, to kill Belmont. Somehow Hector ended up being found half-dead on the side of a road by a nun named Rosalee who has been nursing him back to health. Dracula sends his other general, Isaac, to find out Hector's fate. A young boy named Ted gets caught up in the story when a werewolf on Hector's trail comes to visit his village. My Grade: B+

DATE: Tue, 07 Oct 2008
SIZE: 3.89 MB
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Podcast Episode 133: Tsubasa Volume 1 by CLAMP

Podcast manga review of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle Volume 1 by Clamp. Translated and adapted by Anthony Gerard. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated T ages 13+. Sakura and Sayaoran live in the land of Clow and are currently in love, even though neither has directly stated it to the other. They also don't get to spend too much time together. Sayaoran is too busy helping in the excavation of some buried ruins, while Sakura, the princess of Clow, has very little freedom of movement.Even though she doesn't know it, Sakura is a very special girl. She has the ability to bend space and time and there is a mysterious villain that wants to kidnap her for his own nefarious reasons. Luckily, Sayaoran is able to save her, but in the process, Sakura loses her memory.Sayaoran is sent to Yuko, the mysterious wish granter from xxxHolic, to get help. He soon finds he is not the only one seeking her help. Kurogane is a ninja from Japan who was banished from his dimension by his princess that had grown weary of his ego and bloodlust. His wish is to go home. Fai, a wizard from Seresu also shows up, his goal the opposite of Kurogane's. He NEVER wants to go home. Yuko tells them that their wishes can only be realized if they work together. My Grade: B+

DATE: Sat, 04 Oct 2008
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Manga Review: Arm of Kannon Volume 2

Manga Review of Arm of Kannon Volume 2 by Masakazu Yamaguchi. Translated by Takae Brewer. Adapted by Jordan Capell. Originally published in Japan by Gentosha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+. Mao and Maya have escaped from the clutches of the Garama Industries facility and are hiding in the nearby forest. Unfortunately for them, Garama has been doing all kinds of weird genetic experiments on animals and humans for years and some of these mutated lifeforms are crawling around the surrounding woods. The siblings have a lot of people looking for them. First, there is the swordsman from Isurugi Temple, who tried unsuccessfully to prevent the Arm of Kannon from taking over Mao in Volume 1. It is not known whether he can exorcise the evil from Mao or whether it is now his intent to kill the host body. Garama has called on a group known as Manma, who are imbued with supernatural powers no normal human can hope to defeat...oh, and did I mention that the members of Manma are almost evil incarnate? How evil, you ask? Well, in one scene, they force a husband to watch his wife being raped and then killed. What makes it even worse is that it's his decapitated head watching it all, somehow kept alive with black magic. Another group interested in catching up to Mao, who appear to be on the side of good, is C.I.R.O., or the Cabinet Information Research Office. They work for the government and have been taking an increasing interest in Garama activities. They have special powers as well, but based more on sci-fi than magic. Of course, with all these various factions vying to catch Mao, conflict is sure to ensue, and does. The thing I like about Arm of Kannon is its logical realism that follows comic book cartoon violence and good versus evil to its appropriate end. What I mean is that the "bad guys" do really bad, really evil things and don't just seem like glamorized versions of Dr. Evil. No matter what the Joker does in a Batman comic, it is still sanitized for a young audience. Even the worst comic book villain hardly ever comes close to real monsters like Adolf Hitler or even the fictionalized evils of a writer like Stephen King. But the fact that Yamaguchi is writing for a mature audience allows him to portray some very vile acts and imagery that make you feel horror, an emotion that most writers, artists, and filmmakers, have lost touch with. And the crazy thing is that he does this in the midst of a shonen like battle atmosphere. The art has a creepy 1980s style to it combined with the slightly enlongated designs of CLAMP with a dark and strongly erotic tone. Yes, this title is about sex and action and violence, both graphic and more subtle. So if any one of those things frightens you, stay away. This is definitely not a series you want lying around on shelves that kids can reach. My Grade: A+ Listen to my podcast review of Volume 1: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=358190

DATE: Sat, 04 Oct 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Eden Volume 4

Manga review of Eden Volume 4 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated 18+ for Mature Readers. As Khan and what's left of his crew along with Elijah and Helena try to escape from the clutches of Propater controlled territory, Hiroki Endo takes a little time to bring the deadly knife master Kenji to the forefront, which comes off as a masterful move. Up until now, Kenji has been a strong but silent killer who slaughters even Propater's superhuman genetically modified monsters with relative ease. But Endo reveals Kenji's past with such richness and masterful storytelling that he could have easily been the main character of this series. It's one thing to "design" iconic characters but quite another to give them a background and hidden life that lives up to the surface coolness and fireworks. As always, the art on display here is some of the greatest I've ever seen in a manga. The writing can be a tad suspect when it tries to delve too shallowly in philosophy but that's ok. I'd rather see an attempt at addressing the big issues of life than no attempt at all. That overreaching writing and beautiful art is what makes Eden one of the greatest manga series ever produced. My Grade: A+

DATE: Sat, 04 Oct 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Eden Volume 3

Manga review of Eden Volume 3 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated 18+ for Mature Readers. Colonel Kahn and his crew of deadly freedom fighters are surrounded by attacking Propater forces and it's just a matter of time before they move in for the kill. But his soldiers, along with Elijah, Cherubim, Kachua, and Helena, have had plenty of time to prepare the battleground among the ancient Indian ruins. The whole volume is really just a depiction of one battle but the drama contained therein and the insight we get into the character's pasts and motivations make it as riveting as the opening minutes of the D-Day assault in Saving Private Ryan. Hiroki Endo is playing for keeps in this masterpiece of a manga that has deep connections to the core of human existence. Lots of characters have died in this manga, and many more will in this and future volumes, but that's what happens in war. The coup that Endo pulls off is making us care about these characters, even if all the story isn't out there yet. We don't really have all the details about what the fight is about yet, but I get the feeling that this manga will only get better. The art is EXQUISITE and ranks as some of the best comic art I've ever seen this side of Akira. The characterization, the panel layout and action, the dialogue, all at the levels of genius. I cannot praise Eden enough. One of the best manga out there. Buy it! My Grade: A+ 

DATE: Sat, 04 Oct 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Eden Volume 2

Manga review of Eden Volume 2 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Originally published by Kodansha in Japan. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated 18+ for Mature Readers. The first volume of Eden was a little ambiguous in terms of setting and the reasons why Elijah was in the middle of nowhere with the human-like security robot Cherubim. He was taken captive by a group of fighters led by Colonel Kahn who wanted to use his vehicle to get out of Propater controlled territory. As it turns out in this second volume, most of South America is a battleground between Propater and the United Nations and various assorted warlords, drug kingpins, and bandits. It's pretty much like the Wild West where the person with the most firepower usually wins an argument. When Colonel Kahn's group wipes out a bandit emplacement, they unwittingly pick up two new members, Kachua and Helena, two women who were going to be sex slaves for the competing armies on the frontlines. The problem is that Kahn and the others don't like loose ends or baggage, so they might end up dead anyway, unless Elijah can save them. And Propater soldiers are hot on their tail! I think Eden is great. The art is perfectly rendered and beautiful, beyond anything Western comic book artists are doing. Hiroki Endo captures the complexity of human beings, especially in their out-loud thinking sililoquies on the state of the world one minute showing gentleness and caring and then the next slicing through an enemies neck with blood bursting all over the place. That's really what Eden is all about, terrible moments of battle and violence and then, in the quiet afterwards, the battle between staying human or becoming a mindless killing machine. Cherubim doesn't have a choice at this point, he can simply be programmed to murder, but the humans have a choice.  I look forward to great things from this series. My Grade: A+  

DATE: Sun, 28 Sep 2008
SIZE: 2.80 MB
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Podcast Episode 132: Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino

Podcast manga review of Vampire Knight Volume 1 by Matsuri Hino. Translated and adapted by Tomo Kimura. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T+ Older Teen. Cross Academy, an elite boarding school, holds a hidden secret. Namely, at night it is attended by young and beautiful vampires. I'm not just talking bishojo, I'm talking girl fantasy bishonen as well. Since this book is shojo, there is a heavier focus on the guys. The students that attend class during the day are human and have no idea that the Night Class is composed of vampires. And it's the job of Yuki Cross and Zero Kiryu, acting members of the Disciplinary Committee, to keep it that way. They're also there to keep the vampires in line with their Bloody Rose pistols, which are harmless to humans, but dangerous to vampires. Yuki is indebted to the Night Class president, Kaname Kuran, because he saved her from a hungry vampire 10 years ago. She might even be in love with him. Kaname seems to show a special interest in her as well, which drives Zero up the wall. Zero doesn't have much love for vampires because their hated race killed his parents 4 years ago, not to mention the fact that he might have a crush on Yuki as well. My Grade: B+

DATE: Sat, 20 Sep 2008
SIZE: 2.82 MB
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Podcast Episode 131: Goth by Otsuichi and Kendi Oiwa

Podcast manga review of Goth. Story by Otsuichi and based on his novel. Art by Kendi Oiwa. Translated by Lori Riser. Adapted by Anthony C. Andora. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated Mature 18+. Itsuki Kamiyama is a high school student that has always been a bit weird, if not dangerous, but he's been able to conceal his true nature with a fake smile and a charming personality. It's his inner life that is pretty twisted. Lately, he's been following the infamous wrist-cut case, a tabloidesque series of mutilations in which a psycho has been cutting off the hands of what appear to be random victims. The person is so crazy that even animals are not safe. Itsuki admires the wrist-cut perpetrator and even secretly longs to have some hands himself. Actually, he wants the hands of one girl in particular: Yoru Morino, a girl who is infamous throughout the school for having scar marks on her wrists. Things get even weirder when Itsuki begins to suspect that one of his teachers might be the wrist-cut case perp. This is only the first of four cases that Ituski and Yoru get involved in. My Grade: B-

DATE: Fri, 19 Sep 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Rave Master Volume 2 by Hiro Mashima

Manga Review of Rave Master Volume 2 by Hiro Mashima. Translated by Amy Forsyth. Adapted by James Lucas Jones. Originally published by Kodansha in Japan. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Y for Youth Ages 10+. Haru, along with Plue, has sailed to the main continent of Song after spending most of his young life living a carefree existence. Now he is the Rave Master, the only person that can defeat the evil Demon Card organization with its Dark Bring users. But before he can start an offensive against them, Haru must repair the 10 Powers Sword after breaking it in battle last volume. The only craftsman capable of fixing it is the legendary blacksmith named Musica. Their main problem is that they have no idea where to find him. The first city they reach is Hip Hop Town, which is controlled by Demon Card. It's easy to get into the city but you can't leave unless you pay Demon Card a high fine. In other words, the city is like a prison, and you have to bribe your way out of it. It doesn't take long for Haru to get into a jam when Plue is kidnapped and entered into a dog race run by Georco, the main rep of Demon Card in Hip Hop Town. While trying to rescue Plue, Haru makes a new friend, a girl named Elie, who bets all of her money on the most unlikely candidate to win a dog race....Plue! The main thing that stuck out about this second volume of Rave Master was the wickedly awful job James Lucas Jones did with the English adaptation. There was just too much ghetto eubonic rapper language spread throughout this book. Haru's favorite phrase seems to be "Aw, Snap!". "Dawg" gets used way too much, "Ain't no thang" makes an appearance, and "You goin down" and other phrases bring "down" the language even worse. Of course, I've listed only a few phrases. Oddly enough, a 1950s "Daddy-o" even slips in. Even the backstory and preview page are written in horribly rhymed rap lyrics capped off by a "Word to your mother!". Oh my Lord, the attempt at appealing to street culture comes off as so pathetically bad. This language was cliched and goofy even back in 2003 when this book was first printed. It's even goofier now. The funny thing about Rave Master is that it uses  musical terminology heavily without being in the least about music. None of the characters introduced so far play an instrument or sing. So I'm wondering why there is so much emphasis on musical words without music being an important part of the story. In fact, it's non existent. If you can get past the bad English, Volume 2 is a bit more entertaining that the first volume, and also a bit funnier. Elie seems like she's going to be an interesting character. In fact, the oveall characterization seems a bit better than such a book deserves. I checked out the first two volumes of this series from my local library. I can read these books but Rave Master isn't good enough to spend money on...at least so far. My Grade: C

DATE: Thu, 18 Sep 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Zombie Powder Volume 2 by Tite Kubo

Manga Review of Zombie Powder Volume 2 by Tite Kubo, creator of Bleach. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen. Volume 2 opens with the aftermath of Gamma's battle and ultimate defeat of Ranewater Calder, the leader of the Ash Daughter Bandits, and owner of a Ring of the Dead. Calder left Gamma and the others a present before he died, namely of rigging the entire hideout to explode skyhigh! Then it's on to the town of Alcantara, where rumor is that a Ring of the Dead is housed at the local hospital. Of course, Gamma isn't the only person interested in finding the Ring. A powerful super villain named Balmunk the Mystic arrives on the scene to look for it, sporting magical abilities that let him go toe to toe with Gamma's armor encased limb. Adding to the mix is a crusading investigative reporter named Wolfina Getto who feels it his her duty to protect the hospital from Balmunk. She is a champion of justice, but she also wants to protect her comatose brother, who is housed there. While not as polished or as funny as Bleach can somtimes be, White Powder is nonetheless an interesting and entertaining debut work from Tite Kubo. Wolfina has quickly become one of my favorite characters with her personality stolen from Captain America and boobs supplied by Dolly Parton. She also serves as good comic relief. The art style is nothing new to fans of Bleach even though the character designs are a bit boring in this series. Kubo makes up for this with excellent panel layout and carefully choreographed action sequences. This volume also includes Kubo's very first attempt at writing and drawing a manga, called "Ultra Unholy Hearted Machine". It concerns a mercenary hitman, uncleverly called a "deleter",  and his android TinaTina (a young female right out of the 1980s) who are hired to take down a major drug cartel. That's about all I can tell you about Unholy since it was so dreadful, I didn't make it past the first few pages. One interesting thing about it was the art, which was much more generic and lacked the characteristic Kubo look.    My Grade: B

DATE: Thu, 18 Sep 2008
SIZE: 2.85 MB
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Podcast Episode 130-- Emma: A Victorian Romance Season 1, Episodes 1-3

Podcast anime dvd review of Emma: A Victorian Romance Season 1, Episodes 1-3. Directed by Tsuneo Kobayashi. Written by Mamiko Ikeda. Box Set published by Right Stuf, List Price: $49.99. Emma is a maid in the household of ex-governess Kelly Stoner where she keeps the house spic and span and runs errands for her mistress. It's not a hard life but it's not a good life either. Her room is in the attic and it's pretty spartan. She has a bed and a dresser. That's it. She's beginning to want more. Enter William Jones, the heir of a rich merchant family that was raised by Mrs. Stoner and has to come to pay a visit on his old governess. He's instantly attracted to Emma and begins to court her, even though he would never admit that is what he is doing. After all, his parents want him to marry some noblewoman to bring prestige to their business, not a poor maid! Hakim, an Indian prince and friend of William, arrives on the scene looking for a wife and he also sets his sights on Emma. Uh Oh! A love triangle develops...or actually a quadrangle, because there is a young noblewoman named Eleanor Campbell who is in love with William as well. My Grade: B

DATE: Tue, 16 Sep 2008
SIZE: 2.99 MB
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Podcast Episode 129: Rave Master Volume 1 by Hiro Mashima

Podcast Manga Review of Rave Master Volume 1 by Hiro Mashima. Translated by Amy Forsyth. Adapted by James Lucas Jones. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Y for Youth 10+. There is a war raging on the continent of Song, but Haru and Cattleya Glory know very little about it, living on isolated Garage Island. The brother and sister have been on their own for the past 10 years after the death of their mother and the disapperance of their father 5 years before that. The war is being waged by Demon Card, an organization in control of the Dark Bring, a demon stone wielding the power of darkness. The only force that can oppose it is Rave, a sacred stone imbued with the powers of good. But it needs a new wielder. Could Haru be the new Rave Master? My Grade: C+

DATE: Tue, 16 Sep 2008
SIZE: 0.04 MB
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Manga Review: The Law of Ueki Volume 10

Manga Review of The Law of Ueki Volume 10 by Tsubasa Fukuchi. Translated and adapted by Kenichiro Yagi. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan. Published in US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen. After battling their guts out for 9 volumes, imagine the surprise of Ueki and pals when they find out that their battles were just the FIRST round of the Celestial King Tournament! Something that is different in the second round is that the fighters can form teams of up to 5 people. It goes without saying that Ueki's team consists of himself, Rinko, Seiichiro, and Mori. So all that's left to do is find a fifth member. Rinko remembers hearing of a fearsome combatant named Hideyoshi Soya. The only solid info she can give is that anybody that ever fought against him never wanted to go through the experience twice...oh, and that Soya looks like a gorilla. When they finally do meet him, Ueki and company find out that they are not the only team looking to add Soya. Another team, led by a thug champion named Zack wants Soya on HIS team. Unfortunately for both Ueki and Zack, Soya has decided to set this round out and has no interest in fighting. During this recruitment period leading up to the second round, king candidate champions are allowed to fight each other without penalty. So, technically, you can force someone to join your team...after you beat the snot out of them! I've always enjoyed the wacky nature of this series, with all its dementedly sad super powers, but Volume 10 takes ridiculousness to a new height. For example, one of Zack's goons has the "power to turn beautiful hair into a drill" while another has the the "power to turn rubber balls into acid". I don't want to tell too many of the powers since finding out what they are is half the fun of The Law of Ueki. The character designs are as over the top and gaudy as the powers they wield. Zack, instead of looking the part of the evil villain, looks like someone pressed his head into a point, pulled and extended his eyebrows, and played makeup doll with him. I still enjoyed this volume but it goes a little too far sometimes in terms of goofiness. It is written as a semi-parody of shonen battle manga instead of trying to lay claim to that already cluttered genre. As long as Ueki continues to battle for justice, I will continue to read this series. Just make sure you don't take it too seriously. My Grade: B-

DATE: Sat, 13 Sep 2008
SIZE: 0.18 MB
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Hurricane Ike

Well, I went to sleep last night around 11pm and thought I might not even wake up when Ike came through. Boy, was I wrong! I woke up around 5am with no power and the sound of cyclonic winds hitting my apartment. I've never been through a tornado but the winds were so strong and so loud that I quickly got all of my stuff like flashlights, radio, and batteries into the bathroom. I called my brother and mother and learned that this had been going on since around 2am, so it was nothing new to them. So when I figured out I wasn't going to die right at that moment I felt a little relief. But not much. I laid down on the floor away from the window (which I had barricaded with boxes of books) and tried to get some rest. But it's kinda hard when you're listening to a radio which is declaring that your city hasn't even seen the worst of the storm yet. It was pretty harrowing to sit in the dark and hear just all kinds of weird and unsettling noises like trees splitting, windows shattering, and then you hear the weird ghost sound of something rolling back and forth on top of your roof. And this wasn't a flat roof either. It was sloped and something kept rolling back and forth, back and forth. Who the hell knows what it was. I don't really say "I'm scared" but early this morning I have to admit I was. The last hurricane that hit Houston full blast occurred back in 1983 and I was here for it, but I was a kid and I didn't remember much about it. The really scary thing is that Ike was only a Category 2 storm. I can't even comprehend the damage it would have done if it was a Category 5. With the sunrise, you could really get a sense of the devastation of the storm. My apartment was fine (I had a little water drip from the ceiling), except no power and no running water. But some of the other apartments in my complex suffered a lot of damage. Chimneys had fallen over, entire walls had been ripped off, windows had been shattered. The worst damage was to the roofs. The parking lots and walkways are covered with shingles that blew off during the night. I think the last estimate was something like 3 or 4 million people had no power in the Houston area. Cities closer to the coast suffered even more severe damage. Now I'm at my mom's place. She's the only one among my friends and family that has power and running water. And I've talked to many people in different areas of the city. My workplace has been closed since Friday and is also going to be shut down on Monday. Who knows when I'll get power and water back. But you know what? I count myself lucky. Because a lot of people have lost houses, cars, valuables, and sometimes even their lives. What is my minor inconvenience compared to that? I did manage to read a little manga today on my patio. It kinda helped my get my mind off things. So hopefully, I'll be posting a review later on tonight. Text only, mind you. I didn't bring my microphone.

DATE: Fri, 12 Sep 2008
SIZE: 3.32 MB
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Podcast Episode 128: xxxHolic Volume 1 by CLAMP

Podcast manga review of xxxHolic Volume 1 by CLAMP. Translated and adapted by Anthony Gerard. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated Teen 13+. Kimihiro Watanuki has always been able to see spirits that regular humans can't see. Unfortunately, the spirits can see him as well, and are always annoying him. For some reason they are drawn to his blood like moths to a flame. Sometimes Watanuki can't even walk down the street without being crushed by gigantic amorphous spirits. But there's hope for him yet when he meets Yuko Ichihara, a time space witch that can fulfill his desire to be rid of his power forever. Yuko runs a shop that specializes in granting wishes. But nothing in life is free. In return for the wish you must give Yuko something of great personal value. If the exchange is not even, the laws of the universe are upset and those involved will suffer great calamities. In other words, the more difficult your wish, the more sacrifice you will have to endure. What Watanuki is going to have to give up is his time. Yuko demands that he will have to work part-time at her shop, mostly doing menial work like cleaning, until he has paid off his wish debt. Of course, Watanuki becomes more involved in the business end of Yuko's shop than he wants. My Grade:A-

DATE: Mon, 08 Sep 2008
SIZE: 2.90 MB
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Podcast Episode 127: Zombie Powder Volume 1 by Tite Kubo

Podcast manga review of Zombie Powder Volume 1 by Tite Kubo. Translated by Akira Watanabe. Originally published by Shueisha in Japan. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.99, Rated Older Teen. Zombie Powder was the debut work of Tite Kubo, the artist and writer of Bleach. Gamma Akutabi is a mysterious swordsman with an armor clad right arm that gives him superhuman abilities. He's killed a lot of people in his quest for the Rings of the Dead. If he collects twelve Rings he will be able to create Zombie Powder, a substance that can raise the dead or give the living immortality. Of course, he's not the only one searching for such power. It seems like a lot of the Rings are in the possession of armed gangs who are willing to shoot anyone in search of them. A young teen named Elwood works for one of these gangs called the Grey Ants, run by a powerful thug named Kinqro. Elwood is a good kid. He only works for the gang to make money to pay for his sister's heart operation. But his plans go awry pretty fast when he gets caught in the fight between Kinqro and Gamma. My Grade: B+

DATE: Sun, 07 Sep 2008
SIZE: 2.58 MB
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Podcast Episode 126: Black Blood Brothers Volume 1

Podcast anime dvd review of Black Blood Brothers Volume 1, published by Funimation. Episodes 1-4. Directed by Hiroaki Yoshikawa. Series Composition by Yuu Sugitani. List Price: $29.98. 10 years ago there was a great war in which humans and vampires teamed up to battle the Kowloon Children, a vampire bloodline that can infect and turn humans with just one bite. The normal vampires in this series seem to only use humans as food sources and very rarely if ever kill their victims. In fact, it appears that the only way humans can be turned into vampires is through directly swallowing vampire blood. There is still a lot of tension and suspicion between the Black Bloods (vampires) and the Red Bloods (humans) but a city called The Special Zone is seen as a model of human and vampire cohabitation. A vampire named Jiro and his brother Kotaro are headed towards the Special Zone but get caught up in a hunt for illegal vampire refugees. The Zone leaders and military are afraid that some Kowloon children are mixed in with the vampires and are sent to kill all of them. Of course, Jiro isn't about to sit by and let his beloved brother get executed. My Grade: B+ You can watch the first two episodes for free at: http://www.funimation.com/blackbloodbrothers/ You can also download the entire series at $1.99 per episode at the Funmation website.

DATE: Mon, 01 Sep 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review-- GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 9

Manga Review of GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 9 by Tohru Fujisawa (creator of Rose Hip Zero, Rose Hip Rose, GTO: The Early Years, and Tokko).  Translated and adapted by Dan Papia. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. Ruraka is still trying to avoid the fated prophecy of her dreams in which GTO became her true love. She and her friends were willing to do anything to break the charm, including using black magic cookies to poison Onizuka. They finally have the last ingredient: GTO's pubic hair! Now they intend to cook up some cursed cookies, but how are they gonna get GTO to eat them? Azusa has some problems of her own as she begins to garner more and more attention from her male students. They think she is very cute and are basically willing to become her lapdogs in order to curry favor. This doesn't sit too well with the female students and their jealousy soon turns to rage as they begin to pull all sorts of pranks meant to hurt Asuza. And don't think that after nine volumes, GTO has made peace with all of his students. Miyabi and her pals are still deadset on getting him fired and blackmail another teacher in order to get his aid in their quest. As always, GTO piles on the humor but also touches on some important issues in education. One of the main themes hit upon in this volume is the lack of a significant age gap in young teachers that are starting their careers in high school. Basically, the closer you are in age to your students, the harder it is for them to respect you as an authority figure. It's probably not a good idea for a young 22-year-old teacher straight out of college to begin their career as a high school instructor. Especially if you're a pretty woman or a handsome guy. It brings all kinds of weird factors into play as seen in GTO. Students can sometimes see you as a romantic interest since you are so close in age. Azusa made no moves on any of the guys in her class. Not in the slightest. It just comes naturally to guys to treat pretty women with more kindness than ugly ones. It's just something in the hormones I guess. Probably everybody male or female had a teacher sometime in their school career that was so good looking or pretty that everyone wanted to be in their class simply to be around them. It doesn't help that Azusa is a very kind person and seems a bit helpless. Again, it plays on the male chivalry gene. Fujisawa's art is sparkling and masterful as always and the humor is deadon hilarious. My Grade: A+  

DATE: Sun, 31 Aug 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Hikaru No Go Volume 10

Manga Review of Hikaru No Go Volume 10: "Lifeline". Story by Yumi Hotta. Art by Takeshi Obata (Death Note). Supervised by Yukari Umezawa (5 Dan). Translated and adapted by Andy Nakatani. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz under their Shonen Jump imprint, $7.95, Rated A for All Ages.   Hikaru just barely managed to survive the prelims of the pro test, not because he lacked the skill but because he lacked experience playing against adults. His playing has been pretty insular in terms of variety. He had only really been playing against the formal and quite dry styles of his Go study group. So when he went up against a maverick like Tsubaki he became quite rattled and let what were simply eccentric mannerisms ruin his concentration. But he's gained a ton of confidence after Waya and Isumi took him around to different Go salons last volume. Meanwhile, Akira Toya, still feeling the fear of being beat by Shindo at the beginning of this series, wants to find out just how far his rival has progressed. To do this he wants to set up a teaching match with Ochi. What he wants to do is teach Ochi to use his own style of play so when Ochi plays against Shindo, Toya will be able to tell how his own strategies would work. Unfortunately, Ochi doesn't want to be Toya's lab rat and refuses to accept his help. While he helped Shindo in volume 9, Isumi is currently the one that is suffering from a crisis of confidence and begins to lose games after being spooked by Shindo's newfound skill. I'm still amazed after reading 10 volumes of this series that I still have interest in a book that is simply about playing Go! I mean, would I feel the same if someone wrote a manga about Monopoly? Weirdly enough, if the right Japanese artist and writer were doing it, I would probably give it at least a chance. I don't think a comic like Hikaru No Go could be done by an American comic book dude or dudette. I think the very foreignness of the concept is what attracts me to Hikaru No Go. The very oddity that a game could be taken so deadly serious that people become professional Go players. But really, I guess it's no different than people becoming professional baseball players or some other sport which is just a child's game really. The art by Death Note's Takeshi Obata is spot on as usual and he manages to convey a Rocky-like physicality and dramatic flourish to a game that is essentially an intellectual cat and mouse endeavour. Sorta like Death Note. I question sometimes whether I will get sick of this title. Then I find myself answering with a definite no. At least as long as Shindo and his friends don't develop superpowers and start swordfighting with demons. My Grade: B

DATE: Sat, 23 Aug 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Tetragrammaton Labyrinth volume 3

Manga review of Tetragrammaton Labyrinth Volume 3 by Ei Itou. Translated by Kenji Komiya. Adapted by Shannon Fay. Originally published in Japan by Wani Books. Published in US by Seven Seas under their Strawberry yuri imprint, $11.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. As Meg and Ann continue their mission to Germany by train, we flashback many years ago when Meg and Ann first met in Nepal. At that time Meg was just a child and traveled with her father, a missionary preacher set on seeking out unbelievers to convert them to Christianity. His wanderings had taken him to Katmandu in Nepal where Ann is being worshipped as the earthly incarnation of a local goddess. Unknown to him, some of the natives had begun to grow resentful of his presence and felt threatened by his new religion. Some of the angriest decided to take matters into their own hands and deliberately sabotaged a tall wooden pillar so that it fell and critically wounded Meg. When he learned what really happened, he snapped, completely lost his faith in God, and sought out a darker power to save his daughter and take revenge. Coming back to the present, Meg and Ann are attacked on the train by Prelati, the high ranking demon that showed up last volume, and this time he isn't alone. Thankfully, neither are Meg and Ann as some old acquaintances show up to give them aid and new weapons. First up, this manga should definitely be rated Mature 18+ because it has some pretty graphic violence. There are scenes of dismemberment and even bodies torn in half with their guts hanging out. Even though the title is marketed by Seven Seas as yuri, it has practically no girl on girl entanglements or romance. So if you're into that sort of thing exclusively, you should probably skip this book. The relationship between Meg and Ann is one of friendship. Very intense friendship, but not romantic. Both girls need each other not because they lust for each other, but because they need companionship. In the last volume, Meg was complaining that there were no "normal" people in the organization that they work for and Ann had to put her in check by replying that Meg herself was not normal. The true extent of that statement is fully revealed in this third installment. The fact is that the two girls cling to each other because each is a bulwark against solitude and loneliness. Tetragrammaton Labyrinth's style is more like that of Bleach or Chrono Crusade without as much humor and a better feel for horror. In fact, the author acknowledges his debt to Crusade and even recounts a conversation he had with the creator of that series, Daisuke Moriyama, and got his ok that his own work wasn't a ripoff. Moriyama even contributes a drawing of Ann for this volume. While I enjoyed the first half of Volume 3, the second half has me worried. When two characters from previous volumes show up to help Ann and Meg, it almost plays out like an American superhero comic, and the work suffers for it because it loses its hardwon sense of creepiness. Hopefully, volume 4 will get the series back on track. My Grade: B+

DATE: Wed, 20 Aug 2008
SIZE: 2.08 MB
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Podcast Episode 125: Sola Volume 1

Podcast Episode 125: Manga Review of Sola Volume 1. Art by Chaco Abeno. Story by Naoki Hisaya. Character Designs by Naru Nanao. Translated by Azusa Hatori. Adapted by Jan Suzukawa. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Broccoli Books, $10.99, Rated 13+. Yorito Moriyama, a 15-year-old orphan, doesn't have the ideal life. His parents are dead and his older sister, Aono, is hospitalized with an unknown sickness. So he pretty much has to look after himself and make sure he keeps his sister's spirits up. While his life to some onlookers might seem a bit tragic, he seems to deal with the responsibility pretty well. Things turn a little weird when he meets Matsuri Shihou, a girl who looks Yorito's age, but is really a Yaka, an immortal being. She is actually about 350 years old. Hot on her trail is a swordsman named Takeshi, who wants to kill her and use her blood. My Grade: B+

DATE: Sun, 17 Aug 2008
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Manga Review--GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 8

Manga Review of GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 8 by Tohru Fujisawa. Translated and adapted by Dan Papia. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. Tohru Fujisawa starts Volume 8 of GTO out pretty cleverly by doing a whole chapter from Onizuka's first person point of view. In fact, we never even hear him talk. All the dialogue comes from Saejima, one of his old motorcycle gang buddies that holds an even more surprising job than GTO. Saejima is a cop! But he's not above swiping seized drugs and hiring call girls. He's probably not the best guy to go to in times of moral crisis. But Onizuka is desperate. He's being driven crazy by Urumi Kanzaki, the legendary school terrorist that GTO almost buried alive last volume. She's basically made him her slave by threatening to tell the authorities about the incident. GTO is looking for a way out of the situation or to reach Urumi and turn her to the good side. Or to at least make her value her life. You see, Urumi lost her faith in not only teachers, but in humanity and life in general back in the 6th grade. GTO and some other students, including Urumi, run into Ms. Fujimori, her 5th and 6th grade teacher. Back then, Urumi was recognized as being gifted and talented with a genius level IQ, and she never caused any trouble. Ms. Fujimori did something pretty horrible to her due to her lack of maturity and teaching experience that has caused a wound inside Urumi that continues to fester to this day. It's up to GTO to heal her soul and, as he quite eloquently states, "open up her butthole", to let out all the crap that she's been holding inside of herself. The cool thing about GTO besides all the great art, vulgarity, and humor, is the fact that it takes up some pretty powerful issues that continue to be argued about in education and probably always will be. This volume takes up the debate about whether teachers coming out of college with no experience are equipped to deal with gifted and talented students. Fujisawa appears to give a big NO as the answer to this question. Everyone can probably recall a classmate sometime during their school career that always seemed to have the answer to a teacher's question. You might have also encountered someone that seemed SMARTER than your teacher as well. Some of them would even argue with the teacher when they found something wrong with their reasoning or a fact they found erroneous. The fact is that a lot of really smart kids are BORED in a typical public school. In the best case, these kids should be placed in more advanced classes, or if they must stay in a regular class, the teacher has to give them more intellectually challenging activities. Ms. Fujimori found herself ill equipped to serve Urumi's needs and started to resent her because she began to fear that maybe Urumi was smarter than her because she came from a second rate college. A teacher should never belittle a student because of their own insecurities. Tohru Fujisawa continues to crank out volume after volume of comedy, drama, action, outstanding art, and great theses on what is wrong with the current state of government run, assembly line education models. Excellent series. My Grade: A

DATE: Sat, 16 Aug 2008
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Manga Review: Tetragrammaton Labyrinth Volume 2 by Ei Itou

Tetragrammaton Labyrinth Volume 2 by Ei Itou. Translated by Kenji Komiya. Adapted by Shannon Fay. Originally published by Wani Books in Japan. Published in US by Seven Seas under their Strawberry imprint, $11.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. Angela needed a new weapon after her previous scythe was broken during the intense fighting we saw in Volume 1. The scythe she wants now is held at a Church research facility under lock and key. It is a weapon so powerful that it could kill that which could not be killed, a heavenly angel! In fact, the scythe is still stuck in the fossilized remains of the angel. Many people have tried to wield it, but in the end they were all killed and their spiritual power was added to the scythe. So, every person that has died trying to get their hands on it has made it even more deadly. Not only do Meg and Angela have to deal with the ghosts that haunt it, things get a bit crazier when they remove it from the dead angel and it comes back to life...as a fallen angel, with murder on its mind. After that, the duo are called to Germany for unknown reasons and encounter Hugh Williams, a demon's servant who uses the shipping lanes between England and the mainland to offer sacrifices to his master. The biggest surprise I got from this second volume was the fact that Angela is around 400 years old. Just looking at the two girls from a purely physical standpoint, Meg looks much older, like around 18-20, while Angela looks about 12 or so. What we find out is that it is Angela who is the big sister figure and that even though she says she only exists because Meg needs her, it is Meg who leans on her most of the time instead of the other way around.  Something else that is revealed about Angela is that she has no compunctions about killing innocent people if it serves a greater good. For example, when Hugh Williams takes hostages on the boat, Angela takes out at least 3-4 of them to take away his bargaining chips. Let's just say she takes the Keanu Reeves option from his film Speed of "Shoot the Hostage" to a whole 'nother level. She seems a little inhuman in her dealings with anyone but Meg but it is that very relationship that gives her humanity. It is Angela who reigns as the star in this second volume. It closes with the promise of revealing how Angela and Meg first met in the next installment. My Grade: A Here is my link to my podcast review of the first volume: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=241904

DATE: Wed, 13 Aug 2008
SIZE: 0.04 MB
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Magazine Review: Future Anime Magazine a Big Ripoff

Oh, Future Anime Magazine, of thee I blog, What piece of trash is this that hovers before my eye. What crap on yonder rooftop gleams? Could it be Future Anime Magazine? Yes, it is, quite so. Let me just start with a simple imperative sentence. Do not buy this magazine. I will explain why shortly. First, its pedigree. It is published by Future, US, Inc. If you dont know, Future is also the publisher of such castrated magazines as Nintendo Power, Playstation: The Official Magazine, and the Official Xbox Magazine. All these magazines are barely disguised, if not completely naked, mouthpieces of three huge and bloated companies. Yet all the writers of these magazines say how impartial they are and how their respective companies can't tell them what to like or not to like. That is, until they fire them for being too critical and they find themselves on the street. So you always have to take their coverage and reviews with a grain of salt. Kinda like a presidential news conference. Then there's the editor's note in the opening pages of the magazine where Gary Steinman bitches at anime and manga fans. Bitching about what, you ask? Over the fact that anime and manga fans are no longer buying anime and manga. Instead, they are downloading anime and reading manga in the bookstore aisles. The mistake that Gary makes is that he never qualifies that SOME fans are doing this. Not all. He also probably doesn't realize the failure of both industries to keep their fanbase as they get older. Theoretically, as fans of manga and anime get older, they should be getting better jobs and be able to spend more money on books and dvds. If they kept their fanbase, both mediums should be EXPANDING, not CONTRACTING. I think a lot of kids now that are otaku will leave it behind when they go to college and start families. It's more like a cool fad. There's a difference between passionate, fleeting love for these artforms and passionate, longterm love. Unfortunately, I think the former describes the current state of these markets. I guess before I get any more pretentious I should shut my blog. But sometimes I worry if anime or manga will still be around in 10 years. Hey, I guess I might not be either! Anyway, if you're not familiar with Gary, he used to be Editor-In-Chief of Newtype (which has since folded to be replaced by the already folded PIQ), which was a ventriliquist's dummy for ADV (which could be folding, and whose manga line might be folded....so many foldeds, like a blanket of failure.....) and who is the executive editor for the aforementioned lackey Playstation Magazine. So do you see how this magazine might have some issues? Ok, now for the insides, the primal guts, the meat in the tamale of this magazine. First of all, the entire anime section of the magazine, except for the Gurren Lagann cover story, are written by one person, Lesley Smith. Well, I wouldn't say written, I would say summarized. The anime stories are almost identical to the format that Newtype used, with big anime photos, a tiny blurb summary, and then a more fleshed out summary with very little if any critical response to the show in question. Just like Newtype, this magazine never finds a series it doesn't like. The fact that the entire section of the magazine is written by one person flagrantly throws the fact that this is going to be boring and one dimensional flatly into your face. Even the Gurren Lagann cover story is written by David Smith, who I strongly suspect is Lesley's husband. Maybe Lesley used Shadow Clone Jutsu to write all these articles? Then there's a summer manga guide, written by.........Guess who?.....David and Lesley Smith! Surprise! It also includes 12 "sizzling posters". Now if two page posters are your cup of tea, more power to you. But I don't really want to put up posters with a fold and staple holes in them....owww, they're hot! Once you've gotten past the pyrotechnic display of the posters, you get to the game section, which was such a ripoff, it almost made me lose my cookies. Why? Well, all the games are supposed to be anime related, even though some aren't. They're conveniently renamed "anime-inspired", which means they "look" animeish, but aren't based on any anime properties. So, anyway, they "ask" the editors of Playstation: The Official Magazine to give them their favorite picks. First up, what the hell is wrong with the Wii and the XBOX 360? You could've found plenty of real anime games from all three systems instead of Gary being lazy and relying on his own POM staff. What makes the reviews of the games even more insulting is the fact that they are almost all lifted word for word from the original Playstation Magazine reviews. Some paragraphs or wording has been changed, but very little. They even use the some screenshots, although they not so cleverly reorient and resize the pictures. So in the end, what do I think of this magazine. Is it worth $9.99? Let's just put it this way, if this magazine was thrown on a koala bear, it would turn into a raging bloodthirsty beast. It is a blatant attempt by Future to cash in on a market that doesn't need any more pretenders to be cluttering up shelf space. In fact, you should use the $9.99 you would spend on this litter basket refuse to buy the manga volume that Gary scolded you in his opening statement. In fact, every issue of this magazine that sells does an equivalent exchange for a volume of manga so Gary is just contributing to the problem My Grade: F

DATE: Wed, 13 Aug 2008
SIZE: 3.15 MB
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Podcast Epiosode 124: Maria Watches Over Us Episodes 1-3

Anime DVD review of the first disc of the Season 1 box set of Maria Watches Over Us, Episodes 1-3. Published by Right Stuf. Directed by Yukihiro Matsushita. Yumi Fukuzawa is a first year at the prestigious Lillian Girls' Academy, known for its piousness, elegance, and impeccable uniforms. The school is ruled by the Yamiyuri Council which has installed a system to keep student discipline from being a problem. Under the Souer system, older girls pick a younger classman to be their petite souer, or little sister. In practice, the older girl is supposed to look after the younger like she really is a sister by blood. Soon after her arrival at the school, Yumi encounters one of the members of the Yamiyuri Council, Sachiko Ogasawara, little realizing how entwined their lives are to become. It seems Sachiko, the star of the school, wants to make Yumi her petite souer. While Yumi is in awe of Sachiko (maybe even smitten with her), she refuses her because she is afraid Sachiko has ulterior motives. My Grade: B+

DATE: Tue, 12 Aug 2008
SIZE: 3.63 MB
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Podcast Episode 123--Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion volume 1. Manga by Majiko! Original Story by Ichirou Ohkouchi and Goro Taniguchi. Character Designs by Clamp. Translated by Satsuki Yamashita. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Bandai Entertainment, $9.99, Rated 13+. In the year 2010, war broke out between Japan and the Holy Empire of Britannia. Within a month, Japan had been defeated and absorbed into the Empire. In fact, it is not even recognized as a country anymore. It has been renamed Area 11, and its inhabitants are now called 11s. The Britannians move into nice settlements while the 11s are herded into crappy ghettoes. While we haven't mentioned the word genocide yet,the Britannians seem on the brink of committing such an act. Even as the Empire is tightening its grip, some 11s are trying to fight back, even though they are labeled as terrorists. Ironically enough, even some Brittanians have taken up arms against their own country because of its treatment of Japan. Lelouch Lamperouge, a Britannian, has sworn to bring down the Empire, even though he is the secret heir to its throne. Suzaku, his childhood friend, and also an 11, has joined the Imperial military to bring about a change from within. Both their lives will be changed by the arrival of a mysterious girl with the power to grant Lelouch's wish. My Grade: A

DATE: Mon, 11 Aug 2008
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Anime DVD Review: Bleach Volume 7

Bleach Volume 7: The Entry. Directed by Norikyuki Abe. Series Composition by Masashi Sogo. Published by Viz Video, List Price: $24.98. Ichigo is finally able to make a cannonball, the art needed to pierce the shield surrounding the Seireitei, the fortress of the Soul Reapers. He is able to do this after getting a few pointers from Ganju. He was the last one of his group comprised of Orihime, Chad, and Ishida that had yet to master it. And he still hasn't. While his cannonball packs a lot of power he lacks the skill needed to keep it under control so it tends to explode in his face. Nonetheless, time is running out for Rukia, and the group must rescue her before she is executed. Things don't go as planned when the cannonball gets stuck in the Soul Reaper shield, which causes it to explode and seperate our heroes. Chad and Yoruichi are by themselves, while Ishida is teamed up with the ever stumbling, ever ditzy Orihime. Ichigo lands with Ganju by his side, and they are the first to have to fight Soul Reapers, as they face off against the psychotic Ikkaku (he's not crazy, he just really likes to fight) and the overly vain Yumichika who is all about his looks. Even though both of them seem to have some major psychological hangups, make no mistake, they are deadly fighters, and perhaps too powerful for Ichigo and Ganju to handle. You knew that Ichigo and friends were never going to make it to the Seireitei without getting seperated didn't you? Of course they had to be split up. It wouldn't have been any fun if they had arrived en masse and just started slugging their way to the tower where Rukia is being held. No, they had to be split up so their powers could be diluted and they would have to face foes whose powers might be stronger on an individual level. Through these battles we get to see if our main characters have indeed grown stronger or whether they've just been talking the talk. It's great to see them all rise to the challenge, albeit in very different ways. For example, Ichigo relies on his enormous spiritual energy and his enemy's tendency to underestimate his skills while Ganju uses his speed, wit, and guile to fight. Volume 7 of Bleach was quite good in spite of the fact that maybe some of the fights were a bit too long. But Noriyuki Abe keeps you engaged with some very well orchestrated battle sequences, choreographed with little or no static action lines. He always keeps a sense of coolness about the characters as he reveals their new powers with dramatic relish. My Grade: A

DATE: Sat, 09 Aug 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Rose Hip Zero Volume 2 by Tohru Fujisawa

Manga Review of Rose Hip Zero Volume 2 by Tohru Fujisawa. Translated by Emi Onishi. Adapted by Michael French. Originally published by Kodansha in Japan. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99. Rated Mature 18+ for mild sexuality, intense violence, excessive gore, and moderate fanservice. Shohei and Asakura, alias Rose Hip, were almost killed by the crazed psycho who called himself  "The Sheep" (uh, is that a reference to Silence of the Lambs or what?). But Asakura was able to defeat him and hand him over to police custody. But we found out at the end of the last volume that the Sheep was just a lackey of "The Shepherd". His intent is to kill Asakura because he feels she is standing in the way of his "cleansing" of Tokyo. What he means by cleansing is to get rid of all the scum. And the Shepherd's definition of scum is politician (don't know if I completely disagree with that).  He's bored, sick, and tired of the current corrupt government that is running the show. He probably intends to extend his program to the whole country after he takes care of Tokyo. He has planted what amount to sleeper cells all across the city by using post-hypnotic suggestion. All it takes is a spoken word, whether it be in person or over a phone, to turn a normal person into his mind controlled slave. He even makes one of Shohei and Asakura's teachers blow her brains out! The dude is not messing around. Help arrives in the form of Natsuki Kuonji, who, just like Asakura, was trained to be a killer from an early age. But she isn't called the "Angel of Mercy" like Asakura, who never takes lives. Natsuki's nickname is "Bloody Angel" and also "Kiss Maniac Natsuki", and she is much more prone to take people out with her weapons. Just from their names, you can tell these two girl's methods of dealing with criminals is going to be like fire and ice. But Asakura, Natsuki, and the Shepherd share a connection. They were all raised by a league of assassins called ALICE. John Keats once said that a thing of beauty is a joy forever. I'm tempted to use that in reference to Tohru Fujisawa's art. He's just great. Fujisawa achieves the perfect balance between highly detailed characters, liberal use of elaborate backgrounds, excellent action scene layouts, sympathetic characterization, and sexy women. Don't worry ladies, he draws pretty guys for you as well. We get more of a feel of Asakura's disconnect in this volume when we learn that she lives alone and doesn't ever remember having a family. All she remembers faintly is that she was raised by the assassin organization called ALICE. Fujisawa does a good job of showing that from time to time, if not frequently, Asakura longs for a normal life, longs for a family, regular friends. Maybe at this point, Shohei is the closest thing to that dream. There's even a bit of romantic tension between the two as we get to see that most lovey dovey quintessential scene in manga, the "oops, I fell, making you fall on top of me, isn't this awkward, why are you blushing" scene. Great read, action packed. Not for kids though. Here is the link to Podcast Episode 119 where I did a review of the first volume:   http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=364248 (Is it just me or has Tokyopop been quietly raising prices on some of their titles to $10.99 even though you're not getting any more pages than the $9.99 books? Is this a page from ADV Manga? We all know where they are today, don't we?) My Grade: A

DATE: Sat, 09 Aug 2008
SIZE: 0.08 MB
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Naruto Fangirl and Sesho Confer With Haruhi Suzumiya

Ok, so I'm really horrible at making headlines. Please forgive me. I haven't posted any reviews in a couple of days. I've been too busy completing an online Defensive Driving course for a speeding ticket I got a couple of months ago. Yep, I got caught burning nitrous on the city streets. Drifting on the roof of the Astrodome. Most of the course is actually text you read in small segments but as soon as I'm done I want to get off the computer. And then there's the rapid impending death of summer coming up on Monday when I return to work after a long vacation. But I have been watching anime and reading manga all the while. I plan to do text reviews of Rose Hip Rose Volume 2, Tetragrammaton Labyrinth Volume 2, and and a podcast for Code Geass Volume 1 (the manga) by weekend's end. Also, an anime text review of Bleach Volume 7.  I guess it could be worse. I coulda not had a vacation at all.     Me and my best friend went to a comic store today, and then Borders where I picked up a manga or two. A manga bum that was there actually moved when I wanted to look at the manga! It was incredible! There were also two girls there talking about Yaoi, something about the guy that was on top and the guy that was on bottom (the exact Japanese terms for these positions escapes my mind at the moment....thankfully).  My friend wanted to go into Best Buy so I of course went straight to the anime section. I was standing there looking for about 3 seconds when this girl who looked about 13 or 14 asked "Are you a fan of anime?" I usually don't talk to strangers but we got into a pretty animated discussion about Naruto. She had been watching fansubs of the Naruto Shippuden anime while I had been reading fansubs of the Naruto manga. Yes, I admit that. I have bought all 30 volumes of the manga so far and I will continue to buy them as they come out. But I love that series so much that I don't want to wait another two years to read what the Japanese already have. I also have to admit that this is the only series that I've ever sought out online. We talked about some things that would be spoilers for people that haven't read farther than the current releases....way farther, so I won't go into that. I asked her whether she thought Naruto and Sakura would end up together in the end. She said she thought they would. I think he will end up with Hinata. We also talked about whether in the end, Naruto and Sasuke will become friends again. She emphatically said they would. I think they will too, but I think there will be a lot of tragedy before it happens. I soon found out that she was trying to figure out a way to butter up her mom to buy her a volume of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya! About that time her mom showed up and I heard her say "Mooooom" in a way that kids do when they ask their parents for something that they know there is a chance they could get......"Moooooom, can I get......" I'll never know if she got that dvd or not.....hopefully she did. Speaking of Haruhi, that's a series I need to go back and finish. I own the first volume and that is the only one I have watched. I liked it but for some reason never carried on with it. Now you can get it in a boxed set so maybe I'll wait and save for that.

DATE: Wed, 06 Aug 2008
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Closing Thoughts on the First Issue of Yen Plus

I talked about the individual titles in Yen Plus but I just wanted to make a few general comments about this attempt by Yen Press to put out a more reader friendly rather than boy or girl centered anthology. Of course, I'm talking about Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat. It's not that I don't buy Shojo Beat because I think Shojo manga are too girly. I don't buy it because it TARGETS young girls so explicitly and the bright colors make my eyes hurt. I don't read Shonen Jump (at least, until recently) either (ok, I do buy it, but the only thing I read is Naruto!). But its Donkey Kong leveling up plots can be a little offputting as well. It targets young boys that like to hit people. So I am very glad that Yen Press is trying something a bit different with Yen Plus. They just seem to have put a batch of titles together with no regard for genre readers. There seems to be a little bit of everything for everybody. The danger with this kind of strategy is that by trying to please everyone, you please noone.  Myself, I LIKE variety. But there are some readers that feel uncomfortable wading into strange waters. Witness the incredibly negative reaction that Jack Frost got from some bloggers and board posters. They were put off by the violence and fan service mainly. Has anyone heard the words "dark comedy" before? If someone gets their head cut off and then sits there, oblivious to pain, and commenting on what jerks the two supernatural fighters are, you should know things are not meant to be taken seriously. I remember someone commented on a scene in Maximum Ride when we meet a little girl named Angel and another character named Max is coming to wake her up for breakfast. One reader even said it was "straight up gross". The panel shows the girl fixing to get out of bed. To me, what is creepy is that someone can see the panel and get all kinds of weird connotations out of it. Same thing with a title like Strawberry Marshmallow. Some people have told me how that title is a moe title for perverts, but I don't get that out of it at all. I think it's just cute and funny. I guess some people just bring some weird thoughts into their manga reading experience. In the Editor's letter at the front (back?) of the magazine, JuYoun Lee wrote that this magazine was going to be a way to introduce readers to titles before they are released as tankobans. So I asked myself which of the titles in this first issue would I buy in book form? The titles I could guarantee are Bamboo Blade, Higurashi, and Pig Bride. Borderline purchases would be Jack Frost and Nabari No Ou. I would probably pass up on Sumomomo. Titles I wouldn't take even if  they were free would be Maximum Ride, Sarasah, and Night School. I don't even count One Fine Day as a title. It was pointless drivel. Some people have also complained about the running order of the OEL/Manhwa section, citing mainly the outrageously cute One Fine Day somehow being a antithetic prelude to Jack Frost. My suggested reordering of the titles would go like this. Put Pig Bride as the lead title, followed by One Fine Day, Sarasah, Maximum Ride, Night School, and lastly, Jack Frost. It seems like a more coherent arrangement of content.

DATE: Wed, 06 Aug 2008
SIZE: 0.00 MB
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Japanese Women Have #1 Lifespan in the World

You probably hear all the time about how Japan has one of the longest living populations in the world, but maybe you didn't believe it. Japan's Health Ministry conducted a study in which it concluded that Japanese girls born in 2007 would live to an average age of 86 years old. That makes them #1 in the world. Japanese boys born in 2007 are projected to live an average of 79.2 years, placing them third behind Iceland and Hong Kong. Ironically, even though the Japanese are living longer, they have one of the world's lowest birth rates, and it is projected that around 40% of the population will be 65 or older by the year 2050 if current trends continue. Here's the link to the full article: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080806/lf_nm_life/japan_lo ngevity_dc

DATE: Wed, 06 Aug 2008
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Tropical Storm, Code Geass Manga Inspires, and Best Buy Deals

Ok, so I live right outside of Houston, Texas and if you didn't know we had a tropical storm pass through here today, by the name of Edouard. Of course the local media tried their very best to make it seem like the Four Horsemen were coming to town. I woke up this morning around 10am and had to call someone to find out if it had upgraded to a hurricane or not. There really wasn't a lot of wind or anything. Just rain. But light enough to where there wasn't any widespread flooding. So I decided to hunker down with a manga. I started reading the Code Geass manga and I just loved it. So much that I had to drop it and go to Best Buy to buy the anime. This was after it had stopped raining. It was closed! Barnes and Noble was open and I would say over half of the businesses I saw were as well. Best Buy did end up opening around 4pm and I was there like a flash. So here's the funny thing about the Code Geass dvd release. You can buy the slip cover version for $24.99, which contains volume 1 and 2 of the series...or you can buy volume 1 & 2 seperately for the extremely cheaper price of....$19.99 each! So I'm wondering who in their right mind would buy them seperately? I mean, even if you're just trying the show like I am sight unseen, if you're going to spend $20 on it, why not $5 more for an entire extra volume? It just seems a total waste of space on the retail shelves. There's also a limited edition that I THINK was going for around $40 (I don't buy the boxes or special edition of any show so I didn't really pay attention). Two other releases caught my eye. The Gokusen TV Collection, a repackaging of an earlier show from Anime Works was only $14.99. This is a really funny show and well worth this extremely low price for all 13 episodes. I don't know if this is going to be a steal or not but I also picked up Teknoman: The Complete Collection for $13.99. So get this, for that price you got 6 dvds, 43 Episodes, 1075 minutes of anime! It just sounded like a great deal. I've never seen the show, but I've heard about it. I can't remember if what I have heard is good though. But for that price, what did I have to lose? I think at a $20 price point, people are reluctant to try out shows. But lower that just a bit to $15, and I think you're going to sell a lot more units. Anime Works dvds are usually around that price. I also applaud Bandai Entertainment (not the bloated warthog Visual (are they even a company anymore?)) for releasing a dubless version of their show. I mean, when I started thinking about it, I am subsidizing a anime dvd feature I don't even use. I never watch the dubs (Cowboy Bebop is the exception), so why should I have to pay for the dub? And the hardcore fans like me get to see the show early instead of waiting for the dub as well. So, thank you Bandai Entertainment. But can the seperate volumes. It's a waste of shelf space. Put them out in the 2 volume slipcases only. Thanks for Toward the Terra as well. It seems like only Bandai is trying something different to please their customers. Check out the official Code Geass Site: http://code-geass.bandai-ent.com/

DATE: Mon, 04 Aug 2008
SIZE: 6.38 MB
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Podcast Episode 122: Yen Plus Part 2: The OEL and Manhwa Section

In this podcast I review and discuss the OEL and Korean manhwa titles in the first issue of Yen Plus. Maximum Ride by James Patterson and Narae Lee Nightschool by Svetlana Chmakova Sarasah by Ryang Ruy One Fine Day by Sirial Jack Frost by Jinho Ko See podcast Episode 120 for a review of the Japanese manga section. Simply click on this link to take you there or scroll down the page: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=364318

DATE: Sun, 03 Aug 2008
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Anime DVD Review: Buso Renkin Box Set 1, Disc 3, Episodes 9-13

Anime DVD review of the third disc of Buso Renkin Box Set 1, Episodes 9-13, published by Viz Media. Price for the for the 3-disc set: $49.98 (I usually see it for around $35). Rated T+, Older Teen. Kazuki has been training every day with Captain Bravo and he's worn out physically and spiritually. But he can't resist a challenge when he sees the star of the kendo team, Shusui Hayasaka, effortlessly defeating all comers. When he hears Shusui mention that he wants to get stronger, he senses a kindred spirit, and decides to take him on. Even though Kazuki has no training whatsoever in kendo. The two quickly become friends and training partners, lifting each other to new heights of fighting skill. Unfortunately, Shusui and his twin sister, Ouka, are agents of the League of Extraordinary Elect (LXE). The LXE knows that an alchemical warrior is attending the school, but they do not know which student he or she is. The one person that knows, Papillon, refuses to identify Kazuki because he wants to fight him alone and in his own due time. So the Hayasaka twins are enlisted to find and kill the alchemical warrior. Dr. Butterfly wants it done quietly as well, because the school is somehow involved with his plans to resurrect the king of the Homunculi, he who is neither human nor a Homunculus, but more powerful than both. First thing up with this series is the fact that it should come out and admit its gayness. I don't mean that in an insulting way, but in an honest entreaty. For example, when Kazuki and his friends stop at a public bath house, all the guys start looking at each others schlongs and compare sizes. They seem especially eager to find out Shusui's too, almost falling over themselves to get a look. And then Papillon shows up with a washing bowl hanging off of his! And the League of Extraordinary Elect ratchets up the homosexuality by acting like they are in Rosie O'Donnell's favorite Broadway musical. It doesn't help that they strike effeminate poses and wear leotards either. Moon Face....need I say more. This guy jumps around shouting, or rather, flirtingly cooing "Mooooooooooooon!" as he leaps in the air clicking his heels. And why the hell is Papillion always reaching into his pants to get objects out of his thong? And he seems to be a little more busy in there than just reaching for his kakugane. I have to say that the character designs in Buso Renkin are some of the worst and most ridiculous I have ever seen in a manga or anime. I mean, at times these guys, mostly the villains, made me laugh out loud just looking at them. What makes it more funny is that they think they actually look good in their costumes. Papillon goes on and on about how cool his suit looks, even though he looks like a dandified buffoon. While the villains are a complete wash, the heroes are done with at least a sense of good taste. How could the same guy that did Rurouni Kenshin design characters right out of Michael Jackson's wardrobe fantasies? If you can get past the horrible design choices and the incredibly cheezy characters, Buso Renkin can be quite entertaining in a Shonen Jumpish sort of way. It seems incredible to me that the same writer behind the extremely well received Rurouni Kenshin could present something this goofy. Too often, the series looks very cheap as we are treated to static scenes with tons of action lines the like of which I haven't seen since the last decade. It seems like Xebec didn't spend a lot of time or money animating this show. Is it worth seeing? Yes. Is this show worth buying? I don't know yet. Probably not. I'll have to check out the second box set before I make a choice. Right now, it is not a series that I would watch more than once. Back in the day, the glory days of anime in 2004-05, I would buy almost every new show that came out. But I was burned too often and now I rent first. If I really like it, enough that I would watch it again, then I buy it. Grade for disc 3: B Grade for Box Set 1: B Here is the link for my review of the first two discs, I did Episodes 1-4 in a podcast and 5-8 in a text review: http://sesho.libsyn.com/?search_string=buso+renkin& search=1

DATE: Sun, 03 Aug 2008
SIZE: 2.91 MB
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Podcast Episode 121: xxxHolic Volume 1

Anime DVD podcast review of xxxHolic Volume 1. Directed by Tsutomu Mizushima (Genshiken, Hare+Guu). Series Composition by Ageha Ohkawa of CLAMP and Michiko Yokote (Bleach, Naruto, Genshiken). 100 minutes, Episodes 1-4. Published by Funimation, $29.98, Rated 13+. Kimihiro Watanuki has had a problem ever since he was a child. Ok, he's an orphan but he's been able to do pretty well by himself up to this point. His real problem is that he can not only see spirits, but much like Ichigo in Bleach, he attracts their unwanted attention. It's gotten to be so bad that he can't even walk down the street without them piling on top of him. Of course, when he's rolling around on the street trying to get them off, regular people think he's crazy because the spirits are invisible to them. Watanuki meets a young woman named Yuko Ichihara who runs a wish granting shop. She says she can remove his power but only if he will work part-time for her until his debt is paid. Yuko doesn't do anything for free. She requires something precious from the person asking the wish in exchange for her services. My Grade: B For more info on the series, videos, wallpaper, and icons go to the official xxxHolic site at: http://funimation.com/yuko/

DATE: Sat, 02 Aug 2008
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Anime DVD Review: Aquarion Boxed Set 1, Disc 2, Episodes 6-9

This is a text review of the second disc of the Aquarion Boxed Set 1 comprising Episodes 6-9 from Funimation. Click on the following link to hear podcast review # 104 of  Episodes 1-5: http://sesho.libsyn.com/index.php?post_id=356987 The Elements of Aquarion have become stronger and are functioning better as a team, but the pilots still have a lot to learn. First up, Gen Fudo, the strange Merlin-like commander of the Elements sets up a Thought Projection Exercise. Partners will stand a kilometer away from each other, with one facing away. The goal is to make your partner turn around with the force of your thoughts. You just know everyone is gonna be paired up with their least favorite person. Sirius and Reika are getting kinda cozy and it's starting to drive Silvia crazy. You see, she has a bit of a "brother complex". She wants so bad for him to be the Solar Wing, her reincarnated lover....uh, but if he is, that brings up some pretty weird issues. I think at this point everyone has decided that Apollo is the real deal. Everyone EXCEPT Sirius and Silvia, and that's probably due to their hypocrisy. Surely, the Solar Wing would be reborn as a noble and not as an animalistic street kid. All these weird resentments reach a boiling point when the Shadow Angels use a device that feeds off negative emotions. Two supporting characters take center stage in Episode 8 as Tsugumi and Jun contemplate what it will be like to merge for the first time with all the attendant innuendoes and comparisons to losing their virginity. But when the time comes will they be able to step up to the plate? And then there's a Mythic Beast lurking in the dreams of the Elements that brings A Nightmare on Elm Street to mind.  I'm not really a big fan of giant robot anime but I don't dislike them either. As with any anime genre, if a show is good, it doesn't matter to me what it is about. I will tell you this. I think Evangelion was way overrated and that Rahxephon took the same path but did it even better. Aquarion falls into a cross between Rahxephon and Gravion (I mean the good parts of Gravion) and comes up with a very enjoyable anime. To start with, this show just looks good. The character designs are very beautiful and distinct. The sleek and acrobatic robot designs give a humanity to the battles. There are very few static cut scenes and the CG blends as well as it can with the traditional animation. Everything about this series screams the word EPIC with its attendant 12,000 year old battles between angels and humans and its take on Greek mythology and Christian scriptures. The music of Yoko Kanno just adds to the grandeur with her symphonic and choral score. But, like the director and writers of this show, she never forgets the more intimate characterization elements of the show, composing with simple instruments and singing and a variety of electronic instruments when the mood calls for it. A great show so far. My Grade: A You can view the first two episodes for free at the official Aquarion website: http://funimation.com/aquarion/

DATE: Fri, 01 Aug 2008
SIZE: 0.04 MB
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Boogiepop Arrives at Borders

Just browsing the Borders manga section today, not looking for anything in particular, and was nicely surprised to see a new Boogiepop novel from Seven Seas. This one is entitled Boogiepop at Dawn and supposedly tells Boogiepop's origin. The company had not put out any Boogiepop works since the end of 2006. I love this title in all its incarnations of anime, manga, and the novels and hope that Seven Seas is back on the ball with the franchise. You can read free previews of most of the books at the official Boogiepop webpage at: http://www.gomanga.com/manga/boogiepop.php The best resource on that page is where it says "Read Boogiepop: The Ultimate guide" which is a four part article about the chronology and story arcs of the entire Boogiepop Universe. If you have no experience with this title, I would suggest reading the novels first, then the manga, the movie, and lastly the anime. I say the anime last because it does not adapt the first book and was made for fans already familiar with the novels. You can get the thinpack collection of the anime and live action movie for around $40 at most retailers online like Amazon or Right Stuff, and probably even cheaper on Ebay. The music soundtracks are relatively easy to find as well. Boogiepop at Dawn goes for $7.95 and is bound in the small light novel format that Seven Seas seems to prefer. They give real weight to the term "pocketbook". Seriously, you can actually put these light novels in your back pocket, which is actually pretty cool when you're on the go.

DATE: Fri, 01 Aug 2008
SIZE: 5.14 MB
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Podcast Episode 120: Yen Plus Part 1: The Japanese Manga Section

This is the first of two podcasts reviewing the first issue of Yen Plus Magazine. In Part 1 I will be discussing and reviewing the Japanese manga titles. Part 2 will cover the OEL and manhwa section. Part one contains reviews of the following titles: Soul Eater by Atsushi Ohkubo Sumomomo Momomo by Shinobu Ohtaka Nabari No Ou by Yuhki Kamatani Bamboo Blade by Masahiro Totsuka and Aguri Igarashi Higurashi: When They Cry by Ryukishio7 and Karin Suzuragi

DATE: Thu, 31 Jul 2008
SIZE: 2.51 MB
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Podcast Episode 119: Rose Hip Rose Volume 1 by Tohru Fujisawa

Manga Podcast Review of Rose Hip Rose Volume by Tohru Fujisawa, writer and artist of GTO, GTO: The Early Years, and Rose Hip Zero. Translated by Emi Onishi. Adapted by Michael French. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated Mature 18+. While this is billed by Tokyopop as the sequel to Rose Hip Zero, this series actually came out first, so in fact it is a prequel. Aiba Shohei is a kid not very interested in the elite high school he attends or the life his father has laid out for him. You know, the whole go to a good school, go to a good college, get a good job, have a good life, or face being a loser speech! Shohei would rather be a criminal than live such a life. Him and his friends have been profiting from an internet site they run in which they offer panty shots of unsuspecting girls they photograph on the train. But one of these girls is about to change his pathetic life. Her name is Kasumi Asakura. She catches him trying to take a picture of her and steals the memory card out of his cell phone camera to hold over him as leverage. Little does he know that this sweet looking girl is actually the ace police agent Rose Hip, the Angel of Mercy. He will soon be caught up in her hunt for the homicidal Goldilocks Killer, who has been murdering and mutilating women in Tokyo. My Grade: A

DATE: Thu, 31 Jul 2008
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Obama and McCain Become Comic Book Stars

Well, here we go, it seems John McCain and Barack Obama are going to be the subject of comic book biographies in early October. IDW, the comic book publisher, says that they are going to stick to the facts (Yeah, right). I wonder if any of the crew from Air Gear are gonna be in it? They also say that comic books are a more effective teaching tool than other media. I guess what they mean is any dummy can look at pictures, even if you can't read, and get some idea of a message. The article also says that the comics can already be preordered and will also be available for cell phone download. Here's the link to the full article: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080730/ap_en_ot/presidenti al_comic_books  

DATE: Thu, 31 Jul 2008
SIZE: 0.59 MB
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EGM Does Japan, Naruto, and an Angry Suicide Woman

Electronic Gaming Monthly is doing a 38 page Special on Japanese videogames and features Soulcalibur 4 on the cover. The game was released yesterday. The cool thing about the next-gen consoles, at least Xbox 360 and PS3 (Wii doesn't count), is that you usually have the option to change to the Japanese voice acting with subtitles on a lot of the titles developed there. It's always cooler to me to play an RPG in the original language. Right now I'm playing Naruto: Rise of a Ninja on 360 and it's cool because you have the option of playing it with the English dub actors or the original Japanese actors from the anime. Speaking of, that will probably be the first videogame review I do for this site. There's another Naruto game in development for the PS3 as we speak (or sorta speak).  I got Soulcalibur 4 yesterday and have been playing it a bit. It features an online element as well as a custom character option where you can modify existing models of characters. There was a thread on the 360 forums asking whether anyone had tried making any Inuyasha characters. There wasn't any replies so I guess that was a no. But it got me thinking.....  There was an article in the Houston Chronicle, you know, just one of those little throwaway stories in a far column. It said that a woman had flipped out at a train station in Hiratsuka, about 43 miles southwest of Tokyo. Apparently, she tried to cut her wrist with an army knife, but when she was trying to do it, someone bumped her, and she got pissed, so she stabbed seven men before a crowd held her down. For once it was good that a Japanese train station was crowded! Or was it? I mean she didn't kill herself because she got bumped, but if she had been alone, she wouldn't have stabbed anyone. I think if you try that type of thing in a crowded place, you want to be stopped. On the lighter side of things the second Naruto movie came out yesterday. The cheapest I saw it for was $17.99. I was wondering why it was so expensive but it comes with two dvds in a hard case, almost like a hardback book. Pretty cool. Ok, I'm a Naruto nut but I'm a bit behind on the anime. I've read all the manga volumes and also some that have been translated. I've bought all of the uncut boxed sets as they came out, but I think I've only watched through the fourth set. So, yeah, even though I have both movies, I haven't watched either. Maybe I will watch one tonight.

DATE: Wed, 30 Jul 2008
SIZE: 2.13 MB
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Podcast Episode 118: GTO Volume 7 by Tohru Fujisawa

Podcast manga review of GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka volume 7 by Tohru Fujisawa. Translated by Dan Papia. Originally published by Kodansha in Japan. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. Well, it looks like Onizuka has foiled the plans of Teshigawara and Mrs. Oda. He's become quite the celebrity after rescuing Oda's daughter, Hidemi, from some thugs who had kidnapped her to blackmail Hidemi's father, an important politician. But GTO got shot in the process. Can you believe he not only took the National Scholastic Achievement Test before going to the hospital, but also scored the highest in the country? So his job seems safe for the time being, but a new enemy rears its pretty head in his class. Her name is Urumi Kanzaki, a legendary classroom terror that had dropped out of school, much to the delight of the Holy Forest faculty. Now she's returning with the express purpose of torturing GTO. My Grade: A

DATE: Tue, 29 Jul 2008
SIZE: 2.46 MB
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Podcast Episode 117: Elemental Gelade Volume 1 by Mayumi Azuma

Manga review of Elemental Gelade Volume 1 by Mayumi Azuma. Translated by Alethea Nibley. Adapted by Jordan Capell. Originally published by Mag Garden in Japan. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Teen 13+. Cou has been trying everything he can to fit in with the Red Lynx Sky Pirates but he can't get his fellow crewmembers to respect him or take him seriously. It probably has something to do with the fact that he can't even pilot a plane by himself. Still, things begin to change when he opens a ancient sarcophogus-like object in the ship's treasury and finds a beautiful young girl inside it. At first he thinks it is a doll but then the girl opens her eyes. Her name is Ren and she is an Edel Raid, a living weapon that bonds with another person. She wants to go to a place named Edel Garden and Cou agrees to accompany her. Just then, the Red Lynx is attacked by a trio looking for Ren. My Grade: B+

DATE: Mon, 28 Jul 2008
SIZE: 4.09 MB
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Podcast Episode 116: Beck Volume 2

Podcast Anime DVD review of Beck Volume 2 and a general introduction to the series that will be released as a box set tomorrow from Funimation. Koyuki didn't have too much interest in school before but now that problem is compounded by his increased interest in playing guitar. But his schoollife becomes a bit more complicated when he chips a piece off of Rikiya Kitazawa's Fender Jaguar guitar by accident. Kitazawa is the resident bad-ass of the school and the number one thug. Luckily, he wasn't around when it happened and Kitazawa's friend, Hyodo, promises to keep it secret. That is, IF Koyuki becomes his personal gopher and errand boy, and is willing to loan him money whenever he asks. Yes, that's right...BLACKMAIL. But things are looking up outside of school as Ryusuke's band, which he has dubbed Beck, seems to be fully formed, and Koyuki might even become a member. My Grade: B+

DATE: Sun, 27 Jul 2008
SIZE: 3.67 MB
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Podcast Episode 115: Eden Volume 1 by Hiroki Endo

Podcast manga review of Eden: It's an Endless World Volume 1 by Hiroki Endo. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature 18+. A viral pandemic has ravaged the Earth and killed off a lot of the population. Enoah and Hannah are two of the lucky few who are immune to its spread, and along with Professor Morris Layne, continue to eke out a living at a ruined research facility. They are the only survivors out of a group of scientists and their families who once walled themselves in the biodome type environment in an effort to find a cure for the virus. Now it is in ruins, and Layne is slowly dying. Nobody knows for sure if anyone else on the planet is still alive or whether a cure was ever found. But the arrival of armed troops in helicopters is going to change their little Eden forever. My Grade: A+

DATE: Sun, 27 Jul 2008
SIZE: 7.15 MB
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Podcast Episode 114: Appleseed Ex Machina

Podcast Blu-ray review of Appleseed: Ex Machina. Directed by Shinji Aramaki. Produced by John Woo. Based on the manga by Shiro Masamune. Published by Warner Brothers, List Price: $34.98, Rated PG-13. In a post-apocalyptic world in which war killed over half the world's population, mankind has started rebuilding out of the ruins. Olympus, the shining city on the hill, serves as an example of what humanity can achieve. But there is always someone who wants to throw a wrench into things, isn't there? A lot of the city's inhabitants have cybernetic enhancements or are dependent on a super Blackberry device called a Connexus. A terrorist element is able to send out a signal that can control cyborgs and Connexus users and make them kill, rob, pillage, or whatever strikes their fancy. It's up to Deunan, a human, and Briareos, a cyborg, to hunt down who is behind it all. But a conflict arises as Deunan is forced to partner up with a combat Bioroid named Tereus, who is a clone of her former lover Briareos, and sports all of his former bishonen handsomeness. My Grade: C

DATE: Fri, 25 Jul 2008
SIZE: 3.70 MB
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Podcast Episode 113: Future Anime Magazine, Manga Bums and Guardian Hearts Volume 1 Manga Review

I take a look at the new Anime Insider and a new magazine, Future Anime, which seems more style than substance and way too expensive, and comment on manga bums, which seem to infest bookstores, and are very hard pests to remove. Then it's on to a review of Guardian Hearts Volume 1 by Sae Amatsu, a new manga from Tokyopop which should be published under a new imprint called Tokyoslop! Guardian Hearts Volume 1 by Sae Amatsu. Translated by Monica Seya Chin. Adapted by Erin M. Blakemore. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen Ages 16+. Hina has been sent by the Planet of Light to be the superpowered guardian of Earth. But her track record at beng a superhero isn't too great and this is her last chance to redeem herself. She is advised to not do anything stupid like reveal her secret identity. She says she won't but when she turns around, there is a guy that had been standing there the whole time. His name is Kazuya and he has instantly blown her cover. To make sure Kazuya doesn't reveal her secret, she moves in with him and his mom and also enrolls in his school. Pretty soon, other strange alien girls begin to move in to the house as well. There's Kurusu, who can absorb abilities through clothes, Ooba Maya the space ninja, Chelsea the magical princess, Koto the space Miko, and a little cat girl named Daisy. My Grade: F

DATE: Thu, 24 Jul 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Negima Volume 2 by Ken Akamatsu

Manga Review of Negima volume 2 by Ken Akamatsu, creator of Love Hina and A.I. Love You. Translated by Douglas Varenas. Adapted by Peter David and Kathleen O'Shea David. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated OT ages 16+. Negi sees a lot of students really putting pressure on themselves studying and wonders why his own Class 2A seems to be going about their usual business. When he asks one of the girls what the deal is, she tells him that in 3 days the school will be taking the all-important high school exam. 2A always has the worst average so none of the girls even bother getting upset about it, especially the Baka Rangers. They get a bit more serious when they hear rumors that Negi might be fired or their class might be dissolved if they don't improve their class ranking. The truth is that if Negi can somehow get his class out of last place, he will "officially" become a teacher at the Academy (up to this point he's been in a probationary type position). He starts to come up with some sort of magical solution, but Asuna talks him out of it, saying that the girls should fail or succeed on their own merits. Negi even goes to drastic lengths by taking away his own powers in the 3 days leading up to the test so he won't be tempted to use his magic. Asuna quickly changes her tune when she hears the rumors going round the school and enlists the Baka Rangers to help acquire a mythical book in the school library that supposedly makes you smarter if you read it. The Mahora Library is the largest library in the world and contains millions of books, with a lot of them being rare and irreplacable. Due to the nature of the tomes inside it, there are lots of traps on its first floor to keep out would-be robbers. Traps which Negi and company are going to have to deal with minus his magic. The two things that instantly grab you just flipping through this manga is its beautiful art and sexy fanservice. Akamatsu is pretty much at the top of his form doing harem comedy. But the fact that Negi is so young eleminates some of the horndog nature that you find in some male protagonists of this genre. Instead of being a perverted male surrounded by pure and innocent girls, Negi is the pure and innocent one being played on by females that find him cute and irresistible, especially Ayaka, the class rep. Of course this wouldn't be Akamatsu if the writer didn't find a ton of ways to get the girls bathing naked, have their clothes blown off, or bend over for various reasons for panty shots. It's just the nature of Akamatsu's game. While he focuses a lot on comedy, he is not afraid to draw epic background environments pulled right out of Kurosawa's vast shot forte. This is something a lot of manga artists lack nowadays, the use of wide shots. The character designs are great. I never have trouble recognizing any of the 31 girls of class 2A. They are distinct enough, at least in outward form, so you don't confuse them very easily. We haven't really got to know them all as personalities but then again, this is only the second volume. I look forward to learning more about the characters. Negima is really funny and is a very entertaining adventure. My Grade: A  

DATE: Thu, 24 Jul 2008
SIZE: 2.78 MB
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Podcast Episode 112: Sand Chronicles Volume 1 by Hinako Ashihara

Manga Podcast Review of Sand Chronicles Volume 1 by Hinako Ashihara. Translated by Kinami Watabe. Adapted by John Werry. Published by Viz under their Shojo Beat imprint, $8.99, Rated T+ for Older Teen. Ann is a young woman preparing for marriage to a foreign businessman. As she is packing her stuff, a young girl asks her about a miniature hourglass she finds in Ann's room among her valuables. It makes Ann flashback 14 years ago when she was 12 years old, shortly after her mom and dad got divorced. All those years ago, Ann and her mom visited the Sand Museum in Nima, home of the largest hourglass in the world. Ann and her mom, Miwako, had to move in with Ann's grandparents in the small town of Shimane to make ends meet. This is a crushing defeat for Miwako, who always felt trapped in her old hometown. Meanwhile, Ann has to quickly adjust to life away from Tokyo as well and soon meets a boy named Daigo, whose father hunts, kills, and eats game animals he shoots in the countryside. She also finds out that Daigo's mom and her mom were close friends when they were younger and begins to learn about her mom's dreams and aspirations. She begins to realize she belongs in Shimane even as her mom realizes her disgust with the place has not changed. My Grade: A+

DATE: Mon, 21 Jul 2008
SIZE: 3.11 MB
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Podcast Episode 111-- Batman: Gotham Knight

Podcast Review of the Batman: Gotham Knight dvd, a collaboration between American storytellers Greg Rucka, Alan Burnett, Brian Azzarello, Greg Olson and Japanese Animation studios Studio 4C, Production IG, Madhouse, and Bee Train. Published by Warner Brothers, $19.99, Rated 13+. Also available in a 2-disc special edition and Blu-ray for a higher price. If you ever saw the Animatrix, which bridged the timespan between the first and second Matrix movies, you will be familiar with the concept behind Batman: Gotham Knight. This dvd doesn't really introduce many new characters or storylines taken up in the The Dark Knight movie. It seems to be a device to whet the appetite for Batman fans before the new Dark Knight opens in theaters. Nothing less and nothing more. You get six loosely connected animated tales of Batman from American writers and Japanese anime studios which vary in quality from decent to really good. My Grade: B-

DATE: Fri, 18 Jul 2008
SIZE: 8.23 MB
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Podcast Episode 110: Yggdrasil Volume 1 by Lay Matsuki

Podcast manga review of Yggdrasil Volume 1 by Lay Matsuki. Translated by Christine Schilling. Adapted by Mallory Reaves. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Go Comi, $10.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. In 2010, Wood Soft Inc., a software company, ships the Leaves Operating System, which comes bundled MMORPG game Yggdrasil. It quickly picks up millions of players. Kaoru and Koki, two high schoolers, and buddies since childhood, are among those millions. But something seems to a little screwy in the online world of Yggdrasil. Monsters are appearing out of context, such as a creature usually only found in water appearing on land, or a forest monster appearing in a city. Not only that, but a legendary character from Yggdrasil's beta-test days, called The Phantom, has shown back up, and nobody knows why. My Grade: C-

DATE: Fri, 18 Jul 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review--GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 6 by Tohru Fujisawa

Manga Review of GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 6 by Tohru Fujisawa. Translated by Dan Papia. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. Things were not going very good for GTO at the end of Volume 5. Representatives from "The Mother and Child Victim's Support Group" showed up at school demanding to observe Onizuka's classroom. It seems they have gotten word of inappropriate behavior in his class and they want to check it out for themselves. Wouldn't you know it that GTO is on one of his slightly crazy kicks and is walking the halls wearing nothing but suspenders, a bizarre elephant head tutu around his crotch area, and some boots! In a hard to miss Freudian metaphor, Onizuka sprays some sort of substance, which I can only hope was water, out of his trunk onto the face of the leader of the support group. He's on the verge of losing his position, but Teshigawara, the evil math teacher, wants to make sure Onizuka never gets another teaching job for the rest of his life. He wants to expose him for the unqualified joke that he really is. He proposes a plan to Ms. Oda, the support group leader, in which Onizuka will take the National Scholastic Achievement Test. This is an academic test that students take three times a year. If GTO is able to make the top score in the country, then he will be able to keep his job. If he can't do this then he will have to give up being a teacher forever. Of course, we all know Onizuka is a complete moron so there is little hope he will even pass it, much less ace it. Since he only has a week to prepare, Azusa invites him to stay over at her place so she can coach. You can imagine the fantasies that start going through our hero's head when he hears this proposition. The main thing that this volume and the series as a whole has going for it is its humor. Tohru Fujisawa is a great master of the common joke. He can make you laugh. When Onizuka starts daydreaming about all the fun he's going to have staying over at Azusa's (He actually visualizes the info he has to study being written on her naked body), he is rudely awakened when he finds out the dictatorial study regimen she has laid out for him. And some incredibly horrifying dishes to eat as well. He goes to an almost exclusive diet of grilled tuna head. She even supplies extra tuna eyeballs for him to eat that supposedly increase brain activity. Besides that she has electric head bands, pyramid triangles, wave generators, memoryman headphones, alpha wave music, and computer software to aid him. It doesn't really bode too well for his confidence that she's willing to go to such extreme lengths. The art is great as usual and is drawn very realistically. While there are moments of visual morphing during moments of humor or high emotion, there aren't any chibi figures to be seen in this series. So while the humor can be very funny, it never achieves this through drawing characters in wacky styles. It is done more by having the characters react to certain situations or to each other. Fujisawa also handles the action sequences very well. A great read. A great series.   My Grade: A  

DATE: Thu, 17 Jul 2008
SIZE: 6.34 MB
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Podcast Episode 109: Step Up Love Story Volume 1

Anime DVD review of Step Up Love Story Volume 1: For Better, For Worse. Directed by Yuji Moriyama. Written by Chiaki Konaka. Based on the manga Futari Ecchi by Katsu Aki. Published by Media Works, $19.95, Episodes 1-2, Rated Mature. Makoto and Yura are newly married, both 25 years old, and still virgins. Their first night of romance is ruined when Yura falls asleep before anything can happen. But both partners soon realize that neither have any idea of how to satisfy each other sexually. This is further hammered home by Yura's slutty sister, Rika, who soon realizes that Makoto is clueless in the ways of love and has no idea how to make her sister happy and tries to instruct him on how to change the situation. Yura's friends try to give her advice as well on how to satisfy a man. It doesn't help that two co-workers are coming on to Makoto at work, even though they know he is married. My Grade: C-

DATE: Thu, 17 Jul 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Psycho Busters Volume 2

Manga Review of Psycho Busters Volume 2. Story by Yuya Aoki, creator of Getbackers. Manga by Akinari Nao. Translated and adapted by Stephen Paul. Originally published by Kodansha in Japan. Published by Del Rey in US, $10.95, Rated Older Teen 16+. Kakeru and his new psychic friends are holed up at his house after being attacked by two Category Ones last volume. They won't be disturbed since Kakeru's mom and sisters are on vacation in Hawaii and his dad has been out of the country on business for 3 years. He doesn't exactly have the most tight-knit family. If you remember, there was a ticket mix-up in volume 1 and they were short by one ticket. Instead of cancelling the trip, they dumped Kakeru and went without him! Pretty ghetto if you ask me. We learn a bit more about the "Greenhouse" facility that Ayano, Xiao Long, Kaito, and Joi escaped from. Psychics are taken there by hook or crook and experimented on or made to serve the ends of its directors, the Frontier Committee. Some of the psychics were driven insane or even killed due to the methods the Greenhouse used. Ayano, the faculty member of Kakeru's school is still along for the ride as well, and is beginning to show that she is more than just a simple teacher. While the kids try to get some downtime at the school pool, the Greenhouse sends out one of their most powerful Category Ones, Takemaru, who has a serious inferiority complex, which causes to kill a lot of people with his powers and suffer from delusions of godhood. I'm beginning to really like this series. Mainly because of the changes that are occuring with Kakeru. In Volume 1, he was a computer game geek who looked forward to masturbating to his dad's high school girl porn. Slowly, he has evolved into a hero willing to sacrifice his life for his new friends. This is due mainly to his growing affection for Ayano, to whom he was attracted at first sight when she appeared in all her naked astral form last volume. As he gets to know her, his initial attraction is developing into love, even if he doesn't know it himself.  Kakeru wants to protect Ayano even though he is not really aware of what his psychic power is or how to activate it. It's always nice to see a cliched horndog manga character go beyond themselves and think about something other than sex. The art by Akinari Nao, while not great, is pretty good, and is an odd mix of bishonen and bishojo art styles that will appeal to both genders of manga readers. The story too, is a mix between superpowered battles combined with almost slice of life storytelling showing how all the kids are cohabitating. That's probably another reason Psychic Busters is growing on me. It takes some well known manga conventions and puts them together in an interesting mix. My Grade: A Check out Podcast Episode 100 for a review of Volume 1

DATE: Wed, 16 Jul 2008
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Manga Review: Gunslinger Girl Volume 6 by Yu Aida

Gunslinger Girl Volume 6 by Yu Aida. Translated by Javier Lopez. Originally published by Media Works in Japan. Published in US by ADV Manga, $9.99, Rated 16+. The Social Welfare Agency believes that it has learned from its past mistakes and is ready to begin production of a second generation of cyborg assassins. There will be an initial run of 10 girls with design improvements. While the physical abilities of the cyborgs will be less than that of the first, the new "conditioning" process will double their lifespan and make them easier to maintain. If this new system works, the SWA has even started thinking about a way to make money by selling its cyborg girls commercially. The first candidate is Elizabeta Baranovskaya, a ballet dancer who is suffering from bone cancer in one of her legs. It's gotten so bad that the doctors say the only way to save her life is to amputate it.  But nobody realizes that Elizabeta's dream of being a great ballerina is stronger than her will to live. If she loses her leg, in her eyes at least, her life is over. End of story.  Meanwhile, Giuseppe and Jean take their fratello, Henrietta and Rico, on a rare vacation where they hope to get away from their job. Unfortunately, it ends up dragging up old memories as Jean is reminded of his dead parents, a dead sister, and a fiance killed by Padania. He's not really a happy fellow. Gunslinger Girl really stands out in the writing and characterization departments. That's not to say that Aida can't handle the action sequences as well. In fact, while there is only one short battle in this volume, it is handled exquisitely and cinematically. The way the panels are laid out is something he couldn't do in earlier volumes. It's really cool to see someone mature not just artistically but as a writer too. The new girl, Petrushka, joins a cast that the reader was already very sympathetic to, but in a surprise move, her backstory is front and center. In the past, Aida has glanced over the lives of the girls before they became part of the SWA.  It was merely a footnote, so it was a clever twist for Aida to use the newest member to begin some character exploration. Alessandro, Petrushka's handler, comes across as a bit of a jerk, but maybe he's insensitive simply because of the nature of his job. It's pretty creepy that the handler can actually tell the doctors of the SWA exactly what they want their girl to look like. I mean, the hubris of these guys to play God like they do. Unfortunately, if you like this series, it is currently in publishing limbo. This volume was published in December 2007 and there's been no word when ADV will put out the next book. After losing most of their newer anime titles, I'm beginning to wonder if ADV will even be in business this time next year. My Grade A-

DATE: Wed, 16 Jul 2008
SIZE: 11.5 MB
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Podcast Episode 108: Gunslinger Girl Volume 5 by Yu Aida

Manga Podcast Episode 108: Gunslinger Girl Volume 5 by Yu Aida. Translated by Javier Lopez. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by ADV Manga, $9.99, Rated 16+. A brief overview of the series and then a review of Volume 5. Padania has begun to suffer from a bit of infighting and the first victim is going to be Cristiano, the leader of the Milan faction. His only allies are Franco, Franca, and Pinocchio. All of them feel a sense of loyalty to Cristiano, especially Pinocchio, whose life he saved many years ago. The Prime Minister of the government sees this as the perfect time to eliminate Padania once and for all, so he sends out the SWA girls to begin an offensive. My Grade: A+ Check out Podcast Episode 90 for a review of Volume 1

DATE: Sat, 12 Jul 2008
SIZE: 5.08 MB
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Podcast Episode 107: Arm of Kannon Volume 1 by Masakazu Yamaguchi

Podcast Manga Review 107: Arm of Kannon Volume 1 by Masakazu Yamaguchi. Translated by Erika Jones. Adapted by Jordan Capell. Published in Japan by Gentosha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+. This Podcast contains mature language so keep the kids away!! Mao and Maya's archaeology professor father has been missing for 3 years, but now he's come home to see his kids. But he's not the same devoted familyman he used to be. He has been corrupted by the evil Arm of Senju Kannon which, while granting unlimited power, only lets its host use it for evil until they become a burned out husk. Then the Arm chooses a new vessel. Mao, with his concealed sexual energy and lust for blood, would seem to be the next candidate. A strange nameless swordsman shows up on the scene to stop the transfer even as a military contractor seeks to capture the arm for itself to aid in making monstrous reptilian super soldiers. This first volume contains graphic violence and sexual imagery definitely suited to adults only. Fans of Gantz, Battle Royale, and Eden will dig it. My grade: A

DATE: Fri, 11 Jul 2008
SIZE: 4.38 MB
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Podcast Episode 106: Gantz Volume 1 by Hiroya Oku

Podcast Manga Review of Gantz Volume 1 by Hiroya Oku. Translated by Matthew Johnson. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Dark Horse, $12.95, Rated Mature 18+. The highly violent, highly sexualized, and highly anticipated series is finally out from Dark Horse and it doesn't disappoint. Kei and Kato are saved from death in a subway accident only to find themselves trapped in a room with a group of people from all walks of life whisked away in a similar manner right before they died. They cannot leave and are commanded by a strange black globe to hunt down and kill an alien.  My Grade: A+

DATE: Thu, 10 Jul 2008
SIZE: 2.45 MB
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Podcast Episode 105: Koi Cupid Volume 1

Podcast manga review of Koi Cupid Volume 1 by Mia Ikumi. Translated by Rie Hagihara. Adapted by Jason R. Grissom. Originally published in Japan by Soft Bank Creative. Published in US by Broccoli Books, $9.99, Rated E for Everyone. The job of the cupids Ai, Koi, and Ren, is to make sure that those that are fated to be lovers come together to fulfill their destiny. Sometimes it might be the shyness of the boy or girl that is keeping them apart. Or it could be a job or a misunderstanding. Whatever it is, the three girls must find a way to overcome the obstacle. They not only struggle with their own ineptitude at times, but also must faceoff against cute demons like Lizette, whose goal in life is to foil angel missions. My Grade for 8-10 year old girl readers: B My Grade for readers 11+: C-

DATE: Thu, 10 Jul 2008
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Gurren Lagann Beats Batman

Well, I had put in my order for the Dark Knight Blu-Ray dvd from Amazon, but after reading some negative reviews online, it just did not seem like a safe bet to buy it sight unseen. So I cancelled my order. I'm going to rent it before I put down money on it. But I did find an unknown quantity to buy today. I bought the first volume of Gurren Lagann at Best Buy for $19.99. It's quite a good deal from Bandai Entertainment, which seems a complete antithesis of Bandai Visual with its overpriced monstrosities. Bandai Enter has always had very reasonable prices for its anime dvds. This first volume of Gurren actually has two dvds comprising episodes 1-9. You can't beat getting 225 minutes of anime for that price. Thank you Bandai Entertainment! I've never seen the show, but Gainax is doing it so it can't be that bad. (Even though I pretty much despise Evangelion, I like FLCL, Abenobashi). So, hopefully, my money will be worth it and I will enjoy it.

DATE: Wed, 09 Jul 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Harukaze Bitter Bop Volume 2

Manga Review of Harukaze Bitter Bop Volume 2 by Court Betten. Translated by Christine Schilling. Adapted by Kereth Cowe-Spigai. Originally published in Japan by Mag Garden. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Teen 13+. Souza of the North Wind still hasn't recovered his memory, and it might be a bit late anyway, as he is apparently killed by an assassin named Kurusu of the Sun. Or at least severely wounded.  Kurusu was sent from the Rokka corporation, which on the surface appears to be a normal career placement business. And this is not quite a lie. In reality it takes on ANY assignment as long as the money is right. They have even gone so far as to begin making an "ultimate man" called a "Yoh", which in essence is a kind of super soldier that Rokka can use to complete its missions. Souza was one such operative until he went rogue. Of course, Chiyoharu and Kaede have no idea that Souza has been captured by the company, but they have their own problems. Chiyoharu's buddy, Tomason, has been taken hostage by a Yakuza thug named Sanjuro Araki in an effort to extort money that their teacher, Ayame, owes the mob. I don't think we really know at this point exactly what sum it is or why Ayame had to borrow it from the Yakuza. But I doubt they would be coming after her for petty change. If you listened to Podcast Episode 84 in which I reviewed Volume 1 of this series, you know that I did not particularly care for that book. I actually had second thoughts about buying this next installment but I decided to give it one more chance. Volume 2 was more of the same, but for some reason, I liked it more. Probably because there was some explanation of what was going on. For instance, we find out what Souza is and why his memories have been lost. Since the reader can understand why things are happening now, you can begin to develop a plot, which seemed to be largely absent from Volume 1. It just seemed to be a hodgepodge of different character types and genres thrown together under one title with no rhyme or reason. This is still the basic weakness of the book. You have Yazkuza, girl detectives, evil corporations, martial arts battles, mixed in with some metamanga. It almost becomes a parody of itself, with the characters sometimes being fully aware that they are in a manga. In the end, Harukaze is just meant to be a fun diversion, and is never meant to be taken seriously, even for a millisecond. My Grade: B

DATE: Wed, 09 Jul 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Batman, Geneon, and Barack Obama in Air Gear!

Batman: Gotham Knight is out on DVD and Blu-Ray today featuring the animation of such popular Japanese studios as Production IG, 4c, and Madhouse. I haven't had a chance to see it yet. I looked at Hollywood Video today but for some dumb reason they did not receive any copies. Amazon.com has a pretty good price for the Blu-Ray version: $21.95 which I will probably order tomorrow. I'm pretty excited about the new movie. The official site link is: http://www.warnervideo.com/batmangothamknight/ Funimation has listed some of the release dates of series it picked up from Geneon: August 19: Black Lagoon season 1, Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage volume 1, Elemental Gelade volume 1September 2: Karin volumes 1-4, Kyo kara Maoh! season 2's volume 1-7September 9: Shakugan no Shana series boxSeptember 16: Black Lagoon: The Second Barrage volume 2, Fate/stay nightseries box, Hellsing Ultimate volumes 1-4, Rozen Maiden series boxSeptember 23: Kamichu! series box, Paradise Kiss series boxSeptember 30: When They Cry - Higurashi volumes 1-4(source: ANN) I definitely will pick up the Fate/Stay Night and Kamichu sets. These are both great shows. From what I understand the prices for the box sets will be in line with Funimation, not Geneon. So I would expect them to run around $50. Rozen Maiden would be a borderline purchase for me. Lastly, on Madeleine Rosca's Live Journal, she posted a picture of a new character that was introduced in the Japanese manga Air Gear in chapter 206 who is purported to be a takeoff of presidential candidate Barack Obama. The character is named John Omaha. I can't vouch for the translation but one of the comments on her blog says the panel translates his dialogue as "Why is it on this night when I'm meeting such a lovely person, I have failed to bring my tuxedo" and the side panel reads "the candidate for the next president of the United States". Now if he would just put on some ATs! Of course, Rosca is the artist and writer of the exquisite Hollow Fields from Seven Seas, with two volumes out now. She makes me believe that OEL has a future and can be better than Japanese manga in some cases. You can click on my link to her Live Journal underneath blogs on my webpage.

DATE: Wed, 09 Jul 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Samurai Commando Volumes 1-2

Manga Review of Samurai Commando: Mission 1549 Volumes 1&2. Art by Ark Performance. Story by Harutoshi Fukui. Original idea by Ryo Hanmura. Translated and adapted by Sheldon Drzka. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by CMX, $9.99 each, Rated T+. 35-year-old Yusuke Kashima is having a hard time finding a job that he can hold on to. Currently he's on the verge of losing his eighth one since being discharged from the Japanese Self Defense Force. In the SDF, he was part of the special marine brigade "F Unit" serving under his idol, the charismatic and now deceased Colonel Matoba. After F Unit was disbanded, Kashima became disillusioned with both the military and Matoba and has been trying to adjust to the civilian life ever since. He finds out how little his own problems matter when the military comes a callin'. They show him pictures of strange globes of black energy both large and small that have begun to appear across Japan. These black holes are replacing our space and if they continue not only will Japan be replaced, but our entire dimension. What does all this have to do with Kashima, you ask? Six years ago, his mentor, Matoba, was killed in action. Well, at least, that's what the military said. The actual truth of what happened to him is a pretty amazing tale. 6 years ago, while testing some new military technology, Matoba and his unit were somehow transported back in time to the year 1549! It is believed that these holes are being caused by Matoba changing the past. Their suspicions are correct. Matoba plans on using his technological know-how to conquer not only Japan but the entire world. Kashima is going to be part of a mission to go back in time and bring Matoba back to the present. How long is he given to save the world? 3 days! Whenever you involve time travel in a story, you always run into questions that spawn more questions. For instance, if the black holes are caused by changes in the time continuum, it wouldn't make any difference if you brought Matoba back to the present. The damage has already been done, and any change in the past would result in a completely different reality, especially for Japan. And once the future technology was introduced by Matoba, the cat would be out of the bag as well. For example, Matoba fashions a hybrid armor for his men, blending the craft of  Japanese and European metalwork. It's too much to ask us to believe that someone back in 1549 would not emulate this armor and perhaps change the course of warfare in the past. The art is pretty good if lacking soul and passion. That pretty much sums up this two volume manga as well. Since the plot only allows 3 days to complete its mission, we don't get to spend a lot of time getting to know the characters, so the writer has to paint their personalites and motivations with very broad strokes with very little room to add nuances and depth. The main theme comes across loud and clear and has been echoed through the ages from ancient Rome to current America. Namely, that there are always those who wonder if their present country is living up to the ideals of its ancestors. Matoba and Kashima are very concerned that modern Japan has lost something very vital that it once had. Could it be the fact that our consumer culture has stripped men of everything they once cherished? Is our century even capable of fostering the traits of bravery, loyalty, and sacrifice? These are questions that other nations have asked themselves when the intelligent among them believed their country had lost its way. The problem is that this manga throws the moral of its own sermonizing message directly in your face too many times, especially in the second volume. For better handling of this same plot device, I would highly recommend watching the anime Zipang. This was an ok read, but there just wasn't time to flesh it out. My Grade: C+

DATE: Tue, 08 Jul 2008
SIZE: 3.21 MB
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Episode 104: Aquarion The Complete Series Part 1, Episodes 1-5

Anime DVD review of Episodes 1-5 of the Aquarion Complete Series Box Set Part 1. Published by Funimation. 12,000 years ago the human race was saved from defeat by the Solar Wing, a Shadow Angel who betrayed his own race for the love of a human girl. All of these thousands of years passed with no word of the Shadow Angels but they reawakened in the aftermath of the Great Catastrophe which devastated the planet 11 years ago. Now the only force that can stand against them is Aquarion, a giant mecha composed of three seperate vehicles called Vectors, that unite to battle the Angels. Only those with special psychic abilities, called Elements, can pilot the Vectors, so a world-wide search to find the best candidates has been launched. It is the hope of the searchers to find the reincarnation of the Solar Wing in the hopes that he can save mankind. You can watch the first two episodes for free at the official Aquarion website: http://funimation.com/aquarion/ My Grade: B+

DATE: Tue, 08 Jul 2008
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Manga Review: Sunshine Sketch Volume 1 by Ume Aoki

Manga Review of Sunshine Sketch Volume 1 by Ume Aoki. Translated by Satsuki Yamashita. Originally published by Houbunsha in Japan. Published in US by Yen Press, $10.99, Rated Teen. Sunshine Sketch is about 4 art students attending the prestigious Yamabuki Private High School. They are all neighbors in the Hidamari Apartment Building, which is notorious for housing weirdos from the Arts department. I don't know if you would qualify sophomores Yun and Miyu, and juniors Sae and Hiro as "weirdos" per se, but they are all a bit quirky in their own way. The story is mainly told from the viewpoint of Yuno, the stereotypical klutz airhead of the series. You can see the apple doesn't fall far from the tree when her mom takes her for entrance exams and is last seen waving goodbye to Yuno. Hours later, after the test is over, Yuno exits the building to find that her mom is STILL waving, with a hugely swollen arm! Miyu is the pushy energy ball who shows up as soon as Yuno moves into Hidamari, demanding moving Soba (it's a Japanese tradition to make Soba for your new neighbors). This is just the first act of sponging off of Yuno that Miyu instigates. She sees Yuno as a food source and a servant....and as a friend....I guess. Sae and Hiro live on the floor beneath Yuno and Miyu and since they are a year older, see themselves as kind of big sisters to the younger duo. Sae is the more intelligent of the two and seems much more mature, while Hiro is a bit spacier but hides a sly wit and sarcasm that she uses to insult the other girls. Whether she does this intentionally or not, she always plays off her insults as dumb coencidence. Sunshine Sketch is a series of four panel cartoons that read vertically going down the page a la Azumanga Daioh. Because of this format and the subject matter I found it hard not to compare the two series, much to Sunshine's detriment. While Azumanga's jokes were always clear and almost always brought a laugh, the humor in Sunshine is much more hit and miss. Because the book is broken into pseudo chapters, the punchline for a joke can come pages later, much more like Cromartie High School, instead of being rapid fire like Azumanga. This spacing of the jokes tends to dilute the comedy. There were many times reading this book that I realized a joke had been told and I was supposed to laugh but I just didn't get it. But I felt that this was due more to the obscurity of the original writing than a misunderstanding of the Japanese translation or cultural references. The art is pretty average according to the unremarkable subject matter that is being drawn. The character designs and the personalities of the cast stand out a bit better upon a second reading but at this point are a bit formless and hard to distinguish. Sunshine Sketch shows promise at this point and could be quite funny once you get to know the characters a bit more. My Grade: B

DATE: Sat, 05 Jul 2008
SIZE: 0.03 MB
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Manga Review: Sorcerer Hunters Volume 5 by Ray Omishi and Satoru Akahori

Sorcerer Hunters Volume 5. Art by Ray Omishi. Story by Satoru Akahori. Translated by Anita Sengupta. Originally published by Media Works in Japan. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. The Sorcerer Hunters had quite the Darth Vader moment facing off against the Sorcerer Hunter Killers last volume. Tira and Chocolat learned that the leader of the Killers was none other than their adopted father Sacher Torte, who had rebelled against Big Mama 13 years ago.  Also among Sacher's cronies is Gateau's sister, who he had thought long dead, and apparently has no memory of her brother. She seems more than willing to kill him without a second thought. Years ago, Sacher even tried to kill Tira and Chocolat in a fit of psychotic rage, so Chocolat in particular wants to take revenge on him. He was wounded by Carrot's father in volume 4 but continues to be a threat as long as he can draw on the power of his Platina stones, which allow him to wield a pure form of magic which was reserved only for gods. The Sorcerer Hunters must find these five stones and destroy them if they hope to defeat Sacher. But their mission is not going to be easy because Sacher has posted powerful guardians to watch over each stone. Each battle is different because each guardian is unique and has their own methods of trying to defeat the Hunters, whether they be physical or more psychological. Even though the art has a definite 1990's look to it, Omishi's skills are on proud display as she is a master of action, comedy, and even illustrating a heartfelt flashback at how Carrot and Chocolat met when they were kids. To me, this was the best part of Volume 5. Yeah, we know that Chocolat has a thing for Carrot, but here we find out why. It is a welcome event to reveal that Carrot is not quite the mindless horndog and that Chocolat is not quite the mindless dingbat that she puts on. That there is a loving bond between the two, even though the love each feels might be different. Even at that early of an age Chocolat wanted to find and kill Sacher but Carrot put some sense into her head, knowing that she would only wind up dead if she confronted him. Even NOW, she would probably end up dead! But now she has friends that care about her and will help her out. Akahori almost always finds a way to get some comedy into each story even if there is a particularly serious arc, but it never seems forced or out of place. This series probably should have been rated Mature since it does feature a couple of full-on boob shots along the level of Ai Yori Aoshi. My Grade: A-

DATE: Sat, 05 Jul 2008
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Manga Review: Gunslinger Girl Volume 4 by Yu Aida

Gunslinger Girl Volume 4 by Yu Aida. Translated by Javier Lopez. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by ADV Manga, $9.99, Rated 16+. Volume 4 of Gunslinger Girl begins with a focus on perhaps the saddest member of the cast of girl assassins: Claes. Her handler had begun to doubt the ethics of what he was doing and had thought about exposing the whole operation. To prevent this, he was liquidated by the SWF. The problem is that once a girl bonds to her handler, there is no going back and it is extremely hard, if not impossible, to give her a new partner. So Claes is pretty much excess baggage and is only kept alive for the sake of study and experimentation. Since her memory was wiped clean, she walks around with a sense of something missing from her life. A sadness she can't quite put her finger on. Triela, too, is having some life issues, as she grapples with her first major defeat by the killer Pinocchio. She would have gotten killed by him, but he had a flashback to something in his past and spared her life. She doesn't have a lot of time to dwell on it though, as she and Hillshire are assigned to protect a mob boss daughter because her father has decided to turn state's evidence against his former friends. The aspect of this series that Aida handles so well is that there isn't a lot of exploitation of the "cute" factor that drawing and portraying such young girls could easily slip into. Instead the writer shows how the spirit of each girl finds a way to fight its way up through all the brainwashing and conditioning to desperately grasp at something of a normal life. While the story sometimes flirts with the idea that the girls are in love with their partners, again, this is never taken to moe otaku extremes and is explained by saying it is a result of their conditioning. Aida also handles flashbacks well, using them just enough to explain her character motivations and giving them depth, without causing jarring interruptions in the flow of the current storyline. This is a great series. It's too bad that ADV Manga sucks and a new volume hasn't been published in 6 months. At one time, the release schedule averaged one volume per YEAR. For example, Volume 3 was published in June 2005 while this fourth volume did not come out till July 2007! And now it seems like there has been another interruption. They should really just give up the license, along with Cromartie and Yotsuba and get out of the manga business. My Grade: A

DATE: Wed, 02 Jul 2008
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Manga Review: 10,20, and 30 Volume 2 by Morim Kang

Manga Review: 10,20, and 30 Volume 2 by Morim Kang. Translated by Misun Jang. Published by Net Comics, $9.99, Rated 16+. As this second volume opens, Belle has run away from the Krumb household. Well, if you call going to your mom's house running away. Belle's mom is still on about her finding a man and getting married, even if it means marrying the useless Beau. Meanwhile, Rok is having her own man problems as she continues to question why she treats Angel so badly, lashing out at him for no reason. And she gets even more upset when she finds out her best friend has been hanging out with him. Plus, Rok is trying her best to help her overworked mom juggle her roles of mother and breadwinner. Krumb herself is struggling over the guilt of becoming more and more attached to her boss, Mr. Choe, whose marriage proposal is still on the table. When he tells Krumb he is going to Hong Kong to see about a problem at one of the company's factories, he neglects to tell her that it the main retailer that carries their fashion line has gone out of business. Krumb's employer itself is now facing bankruptcy. This second installment of 10,20, and 30 at times slips a little too close to over the top melodrama for my taste. But a little soap opera is ok if you care about the characters. And Krumb, Belle, and Rok are definitely interesting and sympathetic. You're not going to find any protagonists that have all the answers in their backpocket here. All three women (or should I say two women and 1 young lady) are desperately in search of something, even though they don't always know what it is. Perhaps it is happiness? So they fumble their way towards this goal, sometimes being bitchy and getting on each other's nerves, or snapping at the guys that like them. But in turn, they are just as likely to cry in each other's arms a moment after saying they can't stand each other. It's real life, man! Relationships, whether they are between family members or lovers, can be quite complex, unless you lead a really boring life. Kang's art, is very cartoony and lacks formal realism but she gets it to work within the framework of her story and is able to get just as much emotional mileage out of it as more detailed art might. While the plot is made up mostly of relationship problems, the characters will win you over. My Grade: B+ See Episode 12 of my podcast show for a review of Volume 1. Only two volumes of this series have been printed, but more volumes are available online at  www.netcomics.com  

DATE: Tue, 01 Jul 2008
SIZE: 3.67 MB
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Podcast Episode 103: In Odd We Trust by Dean Koontz and Queenie Chan

Podcast Manga Review of In Odd We Trust by Queenie Chan and Dean Koontz. Published by Del Rey, $10.95. Odd Thomas is a young guy who usually keeps his nose out of other people's business, unless they are dead people. Odd has the ability to see the spirits of the dead. From time to time these spirits seek him out for a bit of help, or just to hang out. Elvis is a pretty firm fixture in the town. A seven-year-old boy is found stabbed to death by a housekeeper along with a letter from the killer. It appears that the murderer was the same person that had been stalking the housekeeper for the past two months. The housekeeper, Sherry, just happens to be the best friend of Odd's girlfriend, Stormy. The authorities think that other children that lived where Sherry was employed could also be on the killer's list of targets. Will Odd Thomas and his pals, along with the spirit of the dead boy,be able to find the psychopath before he strikes again? My Grade: F

DATE: Fri, 27 Jun 2008
SIZE: 2.87 MB
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Podcast Episode 102: Negima Volume 1 by Ken Akamatsu

Manga review of Negima Volume 1 by Ken Akamatsu. Translated by Hajime Honda. Adapted by Peter and Kathleen O'Shea David. Originally published by Kodansha in Japan. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated OT, 16+. 10 year old Negi Springfield has just graduated from magic school when he receives his mystic diploma which dictates a student's career. Negi has been assigned as a teacher in Japan. He arrives at Mahora Academy as their new English professor, replacing the popular Takahata-sensei. He gets off to a bad start with one student in particular, Asuna, who just happens to have a crush on Takahata. When she finds out he is being replaced by Negi she becomes hell-bent on getting him fired. Imagine her surprise when she finds out Negi will be rooming with her and her roommate, Konoka! One limit put on Negi is that nobody can find out about his magic abilities. If someone does, then he could be kicked out of his training and maybe even turned into a hamster. But you know Asuna is going to be watching him like a hawk for any type of weirdness she can take advantage of. And I haven't even mentioned the other thirty girls in his class. My Grade: A

DATE: Fri, 20 Jun 2008
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Manga Review: Gunslinger Girl Volume 3 by Yu Aida

Manga Review: Gunslinger Girl Volume 3 by Yu Aida. Translated by Amy Forsyth. Originally published by Media Works in Japan. Published by ADV Manga in US, $9.99, Rated 16+. One of the Social Welfare Agency's agents has gone missing while on the trail of a mysterious new threat. I know it doesn't sound frightening, but the name of this threat is....Pinocchio! No, he's not the wooden puppet but seriously, his skills as a cold-blooded killer make him a match even for the Agency's cybernetically enhanced girls. He's been enlisted to help the terrorist forces of the Five Republics in their efforts to rebel against the government. The girls are sent into action against these forces and in an effort to protect an important political leader. While action is never far away in Gunslinger Girl, since Volume 2 this series has taken a more quiet and less bloody route in its storytelling. This is a good thing. Here we get a focus on the forces that plot against the Agency and all sides of the conflict seem to get an even break in terms of motivation. It's very hard to see it in terms of bad guys and good guys (or gals). Since both sides are willing to do atrocious things to better their causes. Buy it for the action, the intrigue, and the poignant relationships. Highly recommended! My Grade: A

DATE: Fri, 20 Jun 2008
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Manga Review: Gunslinger Girl Volume 2 by Yu Aida

Manga Review: Gunslinger Girl Volume 2 by Yu Aida. Translated by Eiko McGregor. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by ADV Manga, $9.99, Rated 16+. Volume 2 of Gunslinger Girl has less violence and more character development than the first installment. We start off with the backstory of Claes and end with the backstory of the first girl agent, Angelica. The most touching moments of the series are when the girls remember their humanity despite all the conditioning they receive to rid them of it. Even some of the adult handlers begin to question whether they are on the right side. The middle section of this volume deals with the Agency trying to stop mad bombers and rescuing the money man of an underground organization. But the plot is interspersed with quiet moments such as the girls going out in the dead of night to enjoy a meteor shower, and the tragic story of Angelica, whose own father tried to kill her for insurance money. The same Angelica whose memory is completely shot due to the massive amount of experimentation that was done on her. The premise of Gunslinger Girl is quite disturbing but it does show how adults corrupt the world of children with no regard to their welfare at times. In a war against terrorists just how far would people be willing to go? What is the difference in sending 18 year olds to fight and die? Are they any less children than the girls we see here? Another poignant thing about it is that all the girls seem to have been unwanted, in some cases, even by their own parents. And that they cling to their handlers and to each other as the only family they have. Yu Aida never exploits the plot. I think the author is trying to show how a blank slate can be turned into a killer if properly trained. But there is something in the souls of the girls that is trying to fight its way out and reject this whole messed up situation. Thought provoking manga! Check out Podcast Episode 90 for an audio review of Volume 1. My Grade: A

DATE: Thu, 19 Jun 2008
SIZE: 2.91 MB
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Episode 101: Buso Renkin Box Set 1, Disc 1: Episodes 1-4

Podcast 101: Anime dvd review of the first disc of the Buso Renkin Box Set 1, Episodes 1-4. Kazuki Muto is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is witness to an attack by a Homunculus, a shape shifting human eating monster, on an innocent schoolgirl. Kazuki bravely dies in an attempt to save the girl. She ends up being a Alchemist warrior named Tokiko, who is in the business of exterminating Homunculi. She kills the monster and then revives Kazuki by replacing his heart with a kakugane, an alchemical device that gives its bearer the power of the Buso Renkin, a weapon that takes different forms depending on the mind of its owner. Kazuki decides to join in Tokiko's battle to rid his town of the murderous Homunculi. My Grade: B

DATE: Wed, 18 Jun 2008
SIZE: 3.61 MB
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Episode 100: Psycho Busters Volume 1 by Akinari Nao and Yuya Aoki

Podcast Episode 100: Psycho Busters Volume 1 manga review. Manga by Akinari Nao. Story by Yuya Aoki. Translated and adapted by Stephen Paul. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated Older Teen 16+. Kakeru is a boy bored with reality. He lives mainly through computer games and is just waiting for something exciting and incredible to happen to him. With his mother and sisters gone on vacation to Hawaii and his dad off on a business trip, Kakeru has the run of the house. That's when a ghostly but cute girl appears naked in his room, asking him to come to where her real body is. Kakeru doubts whether he should go but then reminds himself that this type of adventure is exactly what he had been asking for. He quickly becomes involved with psychics on the run from a government facility that grew and used them for their own covert reasons. Joi, the leader of the psychics, declares that Kakeru will save the world, whatever that means. Meanwhile, the psychic hunters are closing in. My Grade: B

DATE: Wed, 11 Jun 2008
SIZE: 2.82 MB
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Episode 99: Dance in the Vampire Bund Volume 1 by Nozomu Tamaki

Podcast Episode 99: Manga Review of Dance in the Vampire Bund Volume 1 by Nozomu Tamaki. Translated by Kenji Komiya. Adapted by Katherine Bell and Adam Arnold. Originally published in Japan by Media Factory. Published in US by Seven Seas, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. Mina Tepes, princess of the vampires, wants to found a vampire settlement off the coast of Japan. After she pays off the nation's budget deficit of 1000 trillion yen, she makes the goverment construct a man-made island called Tokyo Landfill #0. Mina then holds a press conference announcing her intentions. But there are some elements, both human and vampire, that want her dead. It's up to Kaburagi Akira, a young member of the Earth Clan, to protect her life. My Grade: A-

DATE: Sat, 07 Jun 2008
SIZE: 3.36 MB
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Episode 98: Color of Rage by Kazuo Koike and Seisaku Kano

Podcast manga review of Color of Rage. Story by Kazuo Koike. Art by Seisaku Kano. Translated by Naomi Kokubo with assistance of Jeff Carlson. Originally published by Koike Shoin Publishing in 2004. Published in US by Dark Horse, $14.95, Rated Mature 18+. George and King, two slaves, have escaped from their servitude on a whaling ship only to find themselves washed up on the shores of a Japan in crisis. A volcanic eruption has just recently killed 20,000 people, and a poor harvest is causing famine across the land. Peasants have begun rebelling against their masters or abandoning their farms. Neither of which sit very well with the nobility, who count on the farmers to work their lands. George, who is Japanese, can fit into the situation very easily. But what to do about King, an African American, whose skin color alone will cause the two to stand out? It's not only his race that brings unwanted attention. King believes that he has to stand up against anyone that oppresses their fellow man. Even if it means killing a lot of corrupt lords and government officials. King and George fall into adventure as they seek for a place where people are judged on their own merits, not by race or money. My Grade: A-

DATE: Tue, 03 Jun 2008
SIZE: 2.88 MB
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Podcast Episode 97: Heavenshield Volume 1 by Ryu Blackman

Heavenshield Volume 1 by Ryu Blackman podcast manga review. Published by Tokyopop, $10.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. In this vague sci-fi adventure, the evil and demented General Oz has escaped from a high security prison to lead a military coup even as important members of the government are being killed by the Green Light Assassins. Enter Sepulveda Ramos, or Carrot, as she is more commonly called. Carrot is a prostitute who also takes up the government's dirty work as a secret agent. She has been charged with finding out what the connections between all the world's major players are and to find a way to preserve the government in some sort of working condition. If this means killing a few people, she can live with that. She also has a personal grudge against Oz, since he killed her boyfriend 3 years ago. My Grade: F-

DATE: Mon, 12 May 2008
SIZE: 3.51 MB
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Episode 96: Batman Death Mask Issues 1-2 by Yoshinori Natsume

Episode 96: Comic book review of Batman Death Mask issues 1 and 2 by Yoshinori Natsume. Published by DC and CMX, $2.99 each, unflipped in black and white. Yoshinori Natsume, artist and writer of the Japanese manga Togari, tries his hand with an American icon with these first two issues of the four issue Batman: Death Mask. Bruce Wayne is having a bit of a mid-life crisis as he wonders who he really is. Is he Bruce Wayne masquerading as Batman or vice versa? Then he meets an employee of a Japanese corporation holding an art and culture exhibition in Gotham that reminds him of a girl he met 20 years ago in Japan. He was there for martial arts training, but he also encountered the malevolent spirit of a long dead warrior who threatened to possess him. Now the same spirit seems to be running around the city cutting off people's faces! My Grade for issues 1 and 2: B+

DATE: Sat, 10 May 2008
SIZE: 3.67 MB
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Podcast Episode 95: 5 Centimeters Per Second

Podcast Anime Review Episode 95: 5 Centimeters Per Second. Written and directed by Makoto Shinkai. ADV Films, $29.98. Takaki and Akari have been friends since they were young kids but when Akari moves away, their relationship gets a bit strained simply because of the physical distance between them. Now in high school, Takaki finds out he too is moving and he will probably never see Akari again. So he makes a desperate try to reach her via train on a night when heavy snow is making such a trip nigh impossible. Even though 5 Centimeters is packaged as a single movie, it can also be broken down into 3 distinct segments chronicling the continuing breakdown of the love between Takaki and Akari. Well, more accurately, the failure of Takaki to move on with his life when he realizes he will never be with Akari. The second segment offers a bit of hope as a classmate of Takaki's is just dying to tell him that she loves him, but will Takaki even notice? My Grade: A+

DATE: Fri, 25 Apr 2008
SIZE: 2.88 MB
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Podcast Episode 94: Kashimashi Volume 5 by Satoru Akahori and Yukimaru Katsura

Manga Podcast Review of Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl Volume 5. Story by Satoru Akahori. Art by Yukimaru Katsura. Translated by Adrienne Beck. Adapted by Janet Houck. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Seven Seas under their Strawberry imprint, Rated 16+, $10.99. In this concluding volume, Hazumu's life grains are running out, leaving her 30 days to make peace with her friends and decide whether she is going to declare her love for Tomari or Yasuna, or neither of them. Hazumu is trying to work out a plan whereby nobody's feelings will get hurt. But is that even possible in a love triangle? Meanwhile, Tomari and Yasuna are wrestling equally with the only way they can save Hazumu's life. Namely that of sharing their own life grains with Hazumu and sharing her fate for the rest of their lives, knowing that the day they stop loving Hazumu, she will die. Grade for this Volume: A- Grade for the series: B+

DATE: Sun, 13 Apr 2008
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Manga Review: Kashimashi Volume 4 by Satoru Akahori and Yukimaru Katsura

Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl Volume 4. Story by Satoru Akahori. Art by Yukimaru Katsura. Originally published by Media Works in Japan. Published in US by Seven Seas, Rated Older Teen 16+, $10.99. Kashimashi has rapidly changed from a pseudo yuri title to that of a tragic dying soulmate triangle in the space of one volume. In the third installment, we learned that Hazumu's life will end in 30 days due to the fact that her "life grains" have run out. In fact, she was supposed to have died the day he/she was crushed by an alien spaceship. Changing Hazumu into a girl only delayed the inevitable. Her temporary reprieve is over and now she is going to have make peace with her friends and herself. Volume 4 chronicles the different ways that Tomari, Yasuna, Ayuki, and Asuta deal with the news that they are going to lose their best friend, or in some cases, their true love in 30 days. While Yasuna resigns herself and tries to make Hazumu's last days on Earth full of happiness and memories, Tomari reacts with anger at the news. She can't figure out how everybody is taking it so well and remaining calm about the whole tragedy. There is one hope to save Hazumu. If someone wishes strong enough and purely enough to share Hazumu's life and fate, then that person will be able to share some of their own life grains with her. But the day the person puts themselves first without thinking of Hazumu, she will die. Wow, how easily this book transformed from a light comedy or even light drama to a title that almost seems brooding with the ominous nature of Hazumu's impending death. I agree with Tomari that Hazumu's friends seem to be taking it a little too well. It just seems like no matter what your good intentions, if someone you loved was going to die, you would still be haunted by it at certain moments and would not be able to focus as much on making happy memories. The fact that nobody knows how Hazumu is fated to die also seems a bit cruel. Is she going to die without pain or is it going to be a horrible torturous death? Still, the writing is pretty good and is still able to keep a certain pastoral and gentle tone thanks to Katsura's graceful artwork. I'm looking forward to the conclusion of Kashimashi, hoping that Hazumu will be able to change her fate. My Grade: A-

DATE: Thu, 10 Apr 2008
SIZE: 3.02 MB
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Podcast Episode 93: Tweeny Witches Volume 1

Tweeny Witches Volume 1 Anime DVD Podcast review. Episodes 1-7. Directed by Yoshiharu Ashino. Script Writer: Shinji Obara. Anime Works, $24.98, Rated Ages 13+. 11 year old Arusu is bored with our little planet. The only thing that keeps her interested is her belief in magic. Unfortunately, magic is nonfunctional in our world. Her dream comes true when she is transported to a magical forest in the midst of a fairy roundup by some apprentice witches about her own age. The fairies are needed for magic to be worked but Arusu sees them simply as victims of exploitation. She sets out to change this alternate world for the better, and see that magic is only used to bring happiness, never for aggression or fear. When she sets free all of the 100 fairy specimens the witches have collected, Arusu, along with the uptight discipline officer Sheila and her cute friend Eva are sent to gather them up again. My Grade: A+

DATE: Sun, 30 Mar 2008
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Anime DVD Review: Air TV Volume 4

Air TV Volume 4. Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara. Series Composition by Fumihiko Shimo. ADV Films, $29.98. The true finale of Air TV, which took place on Volume 3 as Misuzu fell dead into the arms of her adopted mother was pretty painful to watch. This last volume opens with a recap episode of her short life and ends, again, with her death. The other two episodes on the disc go back to the middle story arc in which the winged girl, Kanna, along with her handmaiden, Uraha, and her warrior guard, Ryuya, are trying to make their way to Kanna's mother while being pursued by soldiers from the temple where Kanna was confined. These two episodes are entirely new and fill out the relationships and adventures the three have, focusing more on the comedic side of things. While the first episode was a waste of space, as are all recap episodes unless you haven't watched a series for a while (does anyone remember the one ripoff volume of Wolf's Rain which was entirely FILLED with recap episodes?!), the last two episodes were really enjoyable. Air TV was always a series that took itself too seriously, suffering from the bipolarity of being a moe comedy at one point, then shifting to a magical girl historical drama, then to a pathological torture session of Misuzu intended to make an otaku weep. The two episodes that close Volume 4 injected something much needed by the series as a whole: a little lightheartedness, a little more comedy, to take the edge off of the tragic hardships most of the characters go through. The final arc focusing on Misuzu's slow decay was especially hard to watch and seemed to have no point. In fact, Air TV had one of the worst endings that I've seen in a long time, even though it doesn't reach the depths of the aforementioned Wolf's Rain in terms of "Uh, what just happened so you're telling me this whole show was for nothing and that the characters are just going to have to repeat their struggles till infinity over and over..." but it comes pretty close. The landscapes of the Japanese countryside and the town are beautiful even though the female characters with their plate sized luminescent blue eyes seem a bit creepy at times. Overall, this series is worth watching, but don't expect to get a satisfactory conclusion. I'll probably be watching the movie version sometime soon. My Volume 4 Rating: B+ My Overall Series Rating: C

DATE: Sat, 29 Mar 2008
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Manga Review: The Law of Ueki Volume 9 by Tsubasa Fukuchi

Manga Review: The Law of Ueki Volume 9 by Tsubasa Fukuchi. Translated and adapted by Yoshiko Tokuhara. Originally published by Shogakukan in Japan. Published by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen. The story of why Robert has such a low opinion of humanity opens up Volume 9 of The Law of Ueki. His treatment by the inhabitants of the town where he grew up as a an orphan explains why he wants to destroy the world if he wins the tournament. It explains WHY but it still does not make it right. The relationship between Ueki and Robert is very similar to that of Naruto and Gaara. Naruto felt a lot of sympathy for Gaara simply because to him, the Sand ninja represented a possibility of what Naruto himself could have become if he had been left to his own devices. Ueki understands why Robert feels the way he does, but he is also disgusted that he let an incident in his childhood cloud his whole future and turned to evil. Ueki always looks for the good in others, a way to change situations to the positive, and to redeem those that have fallen into darkness. In fact, he says that his law of justice has to do with conquering the weakness within ourselves. Big items on that list are: never betraying his friends, never giving up, and respecting all life. But Robert is not agreeable to any of these ideas, so Ueki is going to beat his ideals into him! Ironically, Robert's power is to change ideals into reality. Ueki is going to have to level up a bit more if he hopes to win this battle and also save the lives of his friends. I am a really big fan of this manga, and of Ueki especially. The dude just never gives up, no matter how big the challenge before him. Even if the battle with Robert takes up most of this ninth volume, the action never gets boring or excessively silly. It's all done with good taste. The reader feels that all the fighting will be worth something in the end, that it has a higher metaphorical meaning than that of kids beating each other with goofy powers. Fukuchi always offers the hope that the bad guys can be turned around, if not through reason, then by the purification of battle. The art by Fukuchi is not anything great, but is attractive and is very easy to follow, especially during the battle scenes. The manga is a great read, especially now that the anime is on hiatus due to the collapse of Geneon. My Grade: A

DATE: Sat, 29 Mar 2008
SIZE: 2.42 MB
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Podcast Episode 92: Monkey High Volume 1 by Shouko Akira

Monkey High Volume 1 by Shouko Akira manga podcast review. Translated and adapted by Mai Ihara. Originally published by Shogakukan in Japan. Published in the US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T for Teen. Haruna Aizawa has just transferred from the elite K Academy to Kita High School. Why? Because her politician father was arrested on corruption charges and when her friends at K found out about it, they turned on her and started treating her like a freak. She moved to Kita in the hopes of having a fresh start but because of what happened at her old school, she has distanced herself from her peers. She even compares her fellow students to monkeys jostling and manuevering to be on top of a monkey mountain. She meets a cute boy, named Macharu, that reminds her of a baby monkey. Against her better judgement she begins to fall for him, but Macharu's friend, Atsu, the prince of the school, also has an interest in Haruna. My Grade: C-

DATE: Wed, 26 Mar 2008
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Anime DVD Review: Area 88 Volume 1-- Treacherous Skies

Area 88 Volume 1: Treacherous Skies. Episodes 1-3. ADV Films. Running Time: 75 minutes. Directed by Isamu Imakake. Screenplay by Hiroshi Ohnogi, $29.98. Makoto Shinjo is a war photographer that shows no fear when it comes to capturing the essence of his subject, even if his life is on the line. He's come to the desert of Aslan to document the lives and battles of the mercenary pilots fighting against anti-government forces. It's pretty easy to sign up as a mercenary but very hard to get out after you agree to a 3 year tour of duty. You can break the contract early IF you pay the sum of 1.5 million dollars. Even though the pilots are paid very well for every enemy they shoot down and various missions they fly, they are also required to pay for room and board, food, weapons, and maintenence of their aircraft. So it's very hard for them to save up any amount of money. And that's just how the government forces like it. To have the mercenaries underfoot and in debt. Even if they allow them to break the contract they still get a million dollars to hire another one. Makoto is focused on one pilot in particular, Shin Kazama, the only Japanese pilot on the base, and one of the most enigmatic. He doesn't have much to say but he is possibly the best flyer of the whole group. The only things we know about him is that he is utterly miserable working for Aslan and is desperate to get back to a woman in Japan. As is the problem for most first volume anime dvds that only contain 3 episodes, there is a shortage of material to truly judge the merit of the series. If you enjoyed movies like Top Gun or Stealth or the anime Yukikaze, you'll most likely enjoy Area 88. If dogfighting jets are not your cup of tea, then you would do best to avoid Area 88. The jets are all CG and look quite nice, if a little cold and flimsy, but they make you feel at times as if you are watching a promo video for the latest Ace Combat videogame. The main characters are not given enough space in these episodes to breath and show much individuality. That was Volume 1's main weakness. We don't learn enough about the characters to care about their dreams or hopes for the future or the extreme dangers they find themselves in. I will wait till I watch the other volumes before making an overall judgement about the series. My Grade: C

DATE: Tue, 25 Mar 2008
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Anime DVD Review: 009-1 Volume 2

009-1 Volume 2, ADV Films, $29.98 In the world of 009-1, the Cold War between the Western and Eastern Blocs has gone on for 140 years.  This is not a war fought between great armies on desolate nuclear battlefields. This is a war fought by covert agents on both sides in a cat and mouse contest for technological advantage. Mylene Hoffman, cyborg agent 009-1, is the best spy the Western Bloc has, but she has one distinct weakness. She still has a heart. Time and again, she has faced situations on her missions where her compassion has compromised her original orders. Her superiors are even beginning to wonder whether it's worth the risk to keep her in the field. Her old mentor, ironically named Ironheart, told her a long time ago that the worse thing an agent could do was to let their emotions get the better of them. Wouldn"t you know that Mylene would be seen to talk her one-time mentor into rejoining the Zero Zero Organization or face execution.  She also opens  a heap of worms when pity gets the better of her when she helps a stranded motorist outside Rome who is being chased by gunmen. Mylene  also uses a kid to get closer to a suspected enemy agent and faces another moral quandary. In the last episode we get a flashback to Mylene's past and how she came to become a 00 agent, which is unusual because in most series of this type, the lead character"s past is left a mysterious blank with nary a hint of how they developed. This second volume of 009-1 suffered from a sophomore slump after an intriguing but sometimes flawed first volume. While I respect the complex emotions the writing was going for, the episodes were a bit too predictable. They seemed nothing more than a series of moral debates in search of a storyline, or a sequence of yes or no questions. Will she shoot her old mentor? Will she lie to the young boy? Will she help the stranded motorist?  With questions like this, you have a 50% chance of guessing the outcome of each episode. The animation quality was very high and the 1960's wardrobe and car designs were definitely cool in a chic retro sorta way. But the writing didn't aspire high enough for a series with such a beautiful look. My Grade: B

DATE: Mon, 24 Mar 2008
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Novel Review-- Naruto: Innocent Heart, Demonic Blood

Naruto: Innocent Heart, Demonic Blood by Masatoshi Kusakabe. Original Concept by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Tomo Kimura and Janet Gilbert. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz under their Shonen Jump Fiction imprint. Price: $9.99 12 years ago a nine-tailed fox demon attacked the Hidden Leaf Village, and many of its ninja were killed in the battle. Unable to outright defeat the monster, the Fourth Hokage instead sealed the demon within the navel of a newborn infant named Naruto. The entire village was sworn to secrecy about the matter. But how could the adults react with anything but hatred to the growing Naruto, who held within him the beast that had taken the lives of so many of their loved ones?  Even though the adults kept the secret, their kids quickly picked up on their attitude towards Naruto and started a whole new cycle of hate. Helped along and mentored by Iruka, one of the few adult ninja who treats him with any respect, Naruto vows to become the next Hokage. He sees it as the only course that will make the Village acknowledge him. But first, he has to become a ninja, and he's having a hell of a time just mastering the most basic of skills. Innocent Heart, Demonic Blood is basically a fiction adaptation of the first 4 volumes of the Naruto manga which starts with Naruto's woeful performance at the ninja exams, learning that he has the nine-tailed fox demon within him, the formation of Cell 7 with Kakashi, Sakura, and Sasuke, and their first serious mission, that of escorting the bridge builder Tazuna back to the Land of Waves. A mission that will bring them into a no holds barred confrontation with the deadly ninja Zabuza and his protege, Haku. First off, I would have to say doing fiction adaptations of manga must be a pretty easy job. Why? Because there is nothing new added to the manga, at least with this novel. Most of the pages are taken up with dialogue and what little description is used is very dry and dull. In fact, the feeling I got from reading this book was of moderately polished fan fiction. In fact, I have read BETTER fan fiction than this novel. Kusakabe sticks so religiously to the original manga that there is no room to add any depth or further insight into the characters. The language is so basic and written so simply that this would probably make a good textbook for a Beginning Japanese course. In fact, I could have produced a more entertaining text just reading the Naruto manga in English and turning it into a novel rather than translating directly from Japanese. The book is needless except for the most rabid fan of the franchise. I didn't see the point of it and I am a mildly rabid fan. If you have watched the anime as well, it makes the reading of this book even doubly useless. If Kusakabe had been given a little more freedom, perhaps the novel would have been better. My Grade: C

DATE: Mon, 24 Mar 2008
SIZE: 2.92 MB
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Podcast Review Episode 91: GTO Volume 2 by Tohru Fujisawa

GTO volume 2 by Tohru Fujisawa manga review. Translated by Dan Papia. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. Onizuka's training is over and he is all set to become a full-fledged teacher. He thinks he made such a good impression at Musashino High where he student taught that he will be getting a call anytime telling him that he has been hired. He even skips taking the teacher exam because he thinks the position is his. Imagine his shock when his friend brings his attention to a newscast that states that you have to pass the teacher exam to teach at a city school! Onizuka is relieved to learn that he can still teach at a private school and is able to arrange an interview at Holy Forest Private Academy. On the way there he headbutts a man groping a young woman's ass on the train. An ass that Onizuka himself was thinking about squeezing. By coencidence, it turns out that the young lady, Azusa Fuyutsuki, is also interviewing for a teaching job at Holy Forest. Unfortunately, the Vice Principal that interviews him is the very same bald old dude that he headbutted on the train! Will this be the end of Onizuka's teaching career? My Rating: A+

DATE: Mon, 24 Mar 2008
SIZE: 3.37 MB
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Episode 90: Gunslinger Girl Volume 1 by Yu Aida

Podcast review of Gunlinger Girl Volume 1 by Yu Aida. Translated by Eiko McGregor. Originally published by Media Works in Japan. Published in US by ADV manga, $9.99, Rated Teen 15+. The Social Welfare Agency is seen as a great institution by most peopl because it helps out handicapped youngsters, but in actuality it is a secret government unit that recruits young girls to become cyborg killers. The girls have no choice since they are brainwashed, or conditioned, to follow orders. They are partnered up with older men and sent out on missions ranging anywhere from political assassinations, taking on terrorists, to taking criminal witnesses into custody. Their physical modifications make them deadly, hard to kill, and efficient agents but the psychological scars they bear can never be healed. My Grade: A-

DATE: Sun, 23 Mar 2008
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Manga Review: Sorcerer Hunters Volume 3 by Ray Omishi and Satoru Akahori

Sorcerer Hunters Volume 3. Story by Satoru Akahori. Art by Ray Omishi. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. Volume 3 opens during the climactic battle with Zombie Master, a powerful sorcerer who has further augmented his skills with the Necronomicon, the spellbook of immortality. Then it's on to a little rest and relaxation in Gamblin City, a city that makes Las Vegas look like a tiny village. Carrot is all pumped up to gamble his money away, but this welcome diversion is interrupted when he is arrested by Lord Vegas (don't you just dig that name!) and thrown in a dungeon to wallow in indentured servitude until he works off his debts. One of the card dealers, a girl named Luriko, enlists the Hunters to help find her lost boyfriend who she believes Vegas killed. They also have a run-in with the mysterious Snow Queen in another chapter. Two of the more comedic episodes involve a Lord who mistakes Carrot for the GIRL he loves while the other brings up the ever over used but entertaining hot springs trip. Of course, what hot springs manga chapter or anime episode would be complete without a horny male trying to climb over the wall that seperates the guys from the girls. And yes, this means Carrot!  But he has an unwelcome hanger-on in the form of Count Potato Chips, the pint-sized Lord that wants to score bigtime with the ladies. Sorcerer Hunters has never been a title to make you ponder the deeper meanings of life. Instead it has been a title that offers entertainment and adventure mixed in with a bit of ribaldry. But it's not all fun and games. There is a an underlying current of seriousness that makes it a bit more realistic. The writer, Akahori, is not afraid to kill off characters, or to make some of the situations the Hunters get into tragic or sad for some involved. This is what gives it more of an edge than other titles of this genre where the characters spend most of the panels superdeformed and yelling at the top of their lungs. The art is pretty good, but lacking a lot of backgrounds and firmly rooted in the 1990s. Overall, an entertaining and funny read with a bit of nudity. My Grade: B+

DATE: Thu, 20 Mar 2008
SIZE: 2.95 MB
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Episode 89: Dark Metro Volume 1 by Tokyo Calen and Yoshiken

Podcast Episode 89: Manga Review of Dark Metro Volume 1. Story by Tokyo Calen. Art by Yoshiken. Adapted by Kereth Cowe-Spigai. Published by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. Unknown to humans, the subway tunnels beneath Tokyo are the boundary between our world and the Underworld inhabited by demons, ghosts, and grudges. So it's not really a good place to get stuck during the dead of the night. Sometimes people miss a train, and sometimes they are even lured down there by vengeful spirits. But there is one guy looking out for the living, a pretty dude named Seiya whose job it is to guide spirits to the Underworld...and to keep out those whose time to die has not yet arrived. A collection of shojoesque horror tales. My Grade: D-

DATE: Wed, 19 Mar 2008
SIZE: 0.04 MB
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Seven Seas Light Novels Spotted

It seems the light novels promised by Seven Seas have finally arrived in bookstores, along with some new volumes of manga. I was surprised to see the light novels. They're a bit smaller than regular manga, measuring 10.5 cm x 15cm, containing about 290 pages and costing $7.95. The two volumes I saw were Volume 1 of Pita-Ten and Volume 1 of Strawberry Panic. I'm not a fan of Pita-Ten. Well, I've never read a volume of the series is what I mean. I have the first volume of the Strawberry Panic manga but haven't read it so I felt buying the first novel would be a little dumb....even though I did pick up the second volume of the manga while I was there. I find that Seven Seas books are pretty hard to find so I feel compelled to buy them when the going is good. If I like the manga, I'll get the novel. It had some nice presentation with lots of color plates and information about all the main characters. I almost started to get it, but just by reading a bit of it, the novel seem geared to a very VERY young audience in spite of its subject matter and it didn't seem written very well.  Lots of sound effects written out in the text. Like, instead of writing "She hit him in the face" it was "She hit him in the face. BAM!" or "She was eating her lunch" became "She was eating her lunch. MUNCH MUNCH". (Violence disclaimer--nobody gets hit in this manga...that I know of) I am waiting for some of the more interesting light novel titles like Ballad of a Shinigami and Gun Princess...or at least more interesting to ME. I know there are a lot of Pita-Ten fans out there. I did pick up volume 5 of Kashimashi. Also picked up Volume 2 of Gakuen Alice and High School Debut. WHERE IS BOOGIEPOP!!!???

DATE: Wed, 19 Mar 2008
SIZE: 3.52 MB
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Episode 88: GTO volume 1 by Tohru Fujisawa

Podcast Episode 88: GTO Great Teacher Onizuka Volume 1 by Tohru Fujisawa. Translated by Dan Papia. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. 22 year old virgin at large Eikichi Onizuka dropped out of high school but went on to complete a college degree at Eurasia College but is finding it hard to get a job. It might have something to do with his bleach blond pompadour and his three requirements for his prospective employers: an 8 million yen per year salary, opportunities to meet movie stars, and an unlimited expense account. You could see where he might have a problem, right? It's been 6 years since he came to Tokyo with his pal, Ryuji. Both of them made a promise to become great men. Ryuji has a good job as a store manager. But Eikichi's hopes are sinking lower and lower. Until he stumbles upon the idea of becoming a legendary teacher after meeting a young high school girl named Erica Nakajima seeking comfort from a bad relationship. My Grade: A+

DATE: Tue, 18 Mar 2008
SIZE: 4.97 MB
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Episode 87: Naruto Volume 28 by Masashi Kishimoto

Podcast Episode 87: Naruto Volume 28 by Masashi Kishimoto manga review. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Deric A. Hughes and Benjamin Raab. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen. Well, I'm getting used to my new apartment and I like the extra space but I'm still arguing with people that have ripped off some of my money (I think of them as vampires). But anyway, I'm doing my first giveaway this podcast episode, a free copy of Naruto Volume 28 shipped to your door for one listener...or reader! Two years have passed since Volume 27 and Naruto and Jiraiya have returned to the Hidden Leaf Village after their training tour. Naruto finds out that most of his companions have passed him in terms of formal ninja rank. Naruto has still not even passed his Chunin exam! The Akatsuki are moving out in the open more and more. This secret society not only wants to capture Naruto and bend his demon power to their will, they also want to kidnap Gaara. In the intervening years since the last volume Gaara has become the Kazekage of the Hidden Sand Village. Ironically, he has realized that true strength comes from loving others and being loved. But will this lead to his ultimate defeat by the Akatsuki? My Grade: A I have an extra copy of Naruto Volume 28 to give away to one listener so listen to the podcast episode for details. I will pick a winner on Saturday 3/22/08 email: seshos@hotmail.com

DATE: Fri, 14 Mar 2008
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Gon Volume 3 by Masashi Tanaka

Manga review of Gon Volume 3 by Masashi Tanaka. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha. Published in US by CMX, Price: $5.99, Rated Teen for violence. Gon is the last dinosaur left on the Earth but we don't know if he is a baby or his small size is just the trait of his species. We do know one thing for sure, he is one tough customer. In this globe-trotting volume, he takes on the wildlife of the world. Piranhas in the Amazon, ruins the day of a dingo mother searching for food for her pups in Australia, and takes on a drug crazed bear in the wilds of North America. It's not all about battles though as Gon shows a soft side, battling against a murderous tiger that killed Gon's adopted mother, a she wolf. Now he must help her cubs take revenge. Ok, I guess that counts as a battle as well, but uncharacteristically for this title, it contains a lot more emotional kick than most of Gon's encounters. I would have to say that Gon is one of my favorite series. It is drawn so painstakingly beautiful. The linework is amazing. Tanaka uses absolutely no screen tones, instead relying on the organic detail of hand shading all of the panels. All the animals are drawn very realistically except for the anthropomorphic expressions that regularly cross their faces that remind us that Tanaka is spinning a fable commenting on the human condition and the way we treat each other. In nature, Might DOES make Right, but somewhere down the line of human evolution, there were those with power that decided to use it to help the weak, who became the first lawgivers and law enforcers, and I include Gon in these categories. Don't get me wrong, as I've commented on the podcasts of the first two volumes of Gon, the main character is anything but a saint. But let's lay off the intense social commentary of the title. Gon is hilarious and is one of the funniest manga I have ever read. The aspect that reveals Tanaka's genius is that he is able to accomplish so much with Gon without ever using any dialogue or narration. This gives Gon purity and grace. My Grade: A+

DATE: Sun, 02 Mar 2008
SIZE: 9.74 MB
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Episode 86: Pumpkin Scissors Volume 1 by Ryotaro Iwanaga

Podcast Manga Review Episode 86: Pumpkin Scissors Volume by Ryotaro Iwanaga. Translated and adapted by Ikoi Hiroe. Originally published by Kodansha in Japan. Published in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated Older Teen Ages 16+. Two warring states, the Empire and the Republic of Frost have signed a ceasefire, the so-called Thin Ice Treaty. Now, three years after hostilities, the Empire still suffers from starvation, disease, and rogue soldiers lording over the common people. A special army unit, Section 3,has been formed, dubbed Pumpkin Scissors, to aid in war relief and reconstruction. Its leader, Alice Malvin, born into the nobility, is a crusader who truly believes she can make the lot of the common people better. Joined by her subordinates, Machs and Oreldo, she is prepared to butt heads or battle with sadistic nobles or bloodthirsty soldiers in her quest. Section 3 is joined by Randel Oland, an anti-tank trooper, bred and trained to seek suicidal close range combat with tanks. This is the story of how one unit can bring hope to an entire empire. My Grade: B+

DATE: Sun, 10 Feb 2008
SIZE: 4.52 MB
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Podcast Episode 85: Osamu Tezuka's Phoenix Volume 1: Persistence of Time

Anime DVD Review of Phoenix Volume 1: Persistence of Time. Based on a manga by Osamu Tezuka. Directed by Ryousuke Takahashi, Running Time: 125 minutes, Episodes 1-5, $19.95. Volume 1 is primarily taken up by a storyline set in ancient Japan as an aging queen attacks the Land of Fire to obtain the blood of the Phoenix.It is said that if you drink the blood of this mythical bird, you can gain immortality. As is often the case, when humans try to gain something that will extend their lives beyond their natural course, it usually ends tragically. One of the last survivors of the Land of Fire, a kid named Nagi, is spared and taken as a slave by the Queen's military commander, Sarutahiko. The last episode on the DVD starts a new story arc set on a far future dying Earth. Leona, a scientist trying to harness the power of the Phoenix on the Moon, ends up involved in a huge explosion. To save his life, half of his brain is replaced with cybernetic electronics. This has the weird effect of making him see humans as monsters while he perceives robots as humans! My Grade: A+

DATE: Sun, 03 Feb 2008
SIZE: 2.55 MB
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Episode 84: Harukaze Bitter Bop Volume 1 by Court Betten

Manga Podcast Review Episode 84: Harukaze Bitter Bop Volume 1 by Court Betten. Translated by Christine Schilling and adapted by Kereth Cowe-Spigal. Originally published in Japan by Mag Garden in 2005. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Teen 13+. Highschooler Chiyoharu Hasumi is not enjoying school these days. A while back, him and some of his friends started a fire in one of the classrooms. Chiyo got off with a mere suspension while his friends were punished much more severely with expulsion. They think he somehow ratted on them. His other classmates want nothing to do with him either. That's when he encounters a man that looks like he fell out of a Street Fighter game committing suicide by standing in front of and getting hit by an oncoming train. The passing Kaede Tsubaki, who is actually a Special Female High School Detective arrives on the scene and thinks Chiyo killed the dude but the supposedly dead man gets up after being pulverized and declares that he is Souza of the North Wind. Suffering from amnesia, his name is about all he remembers. My Grade: C-

DATE: Thu, 31 Jan 2008
SIZE: 3.01 MB
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Episode 82: High School Debut Volume 1 by Kazune Kawahara

Podcast Episode 82: High School Debut Volume 1 Manga Review. Story and art by Kazune Kawahara. Translated and adapted by Gemma Collinge. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shojo Beat, $8.99, Rated T for Teen. New high schooler Haruna Nagashima spent all of her middle school years playing softball and reading shojo manga. After dedicating so much of her life to athletics she's ready to move on to a new sport. Namely, that of falling in love and getting a boyfriend. Problem is, the only experience she has with guys is what she's read in the comics. When she gets to high school, she realizes that getting into a relationship is pretty hard. She can't get any guys to notice her at all. Her best friend, Mami, suggests that she needs a coach to advise her on what she us doing wrong. She finds one in the person of Yoh Komiyama. His only condition: Haruna is forbidden to fall in love with him. This is the second posting of this podcast. That's why the episode number is out of order. For some reason it did not convert to the mp3 format the first time around. My Grade: A

DATE: Tue, 29 Jan 2008
SIZE: 3.15 MB
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Episode 83: Gakuen Alice Volume 1 by Tachibana Higuchi

Podcast Episode 83: Manga Review of Gakuen Alice Volume 1 by Tachibana Higuchi. Translated by Haruko Furukawa. Adapted by Jennifer Keating. Originally published in Japan by Hakusensha. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Teen 13+. 10-year-old Mikan Sakura lives in a small village and its just gotten a lot smaller since her best friend Hotaru has gone to Tokyo. She is attending the Alice Academy, the most elite school in the city reserved for those with special abilities called Alices. Mikan runs away from her home and makes her way to Tokyo where she finds that she too has an unknown Alice ability hidden within her. But she has to find out what it is and be accepted by her classmates within a week or she will have to go back home and be parted from Hotaru again. My grade: B+

DATE: Wed, 23 Jan 2008
SIZE: 2.15 MB
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Episode 81: PhD Phantasy Degree Volume 1 by Son Hee-Joon

Manga Review for PhD Phantasy Degree Volume 1 by Son Hee-Joon. Translated by Sarah Kim. Adapted by Paul Morrissey. Originally published by Daiwon in 2001. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated 13+. Sang has come to Hades, the Demon School in quest of a legendary ring. But humans are not allowed inside the school she soon learns as she encounters Dev the demon, Mordicus the vampire, Lukan the werewolf, and Pannus Tyrannus, a mummy. Mordicus turns her into a vampire so she can tour the school, but there's a bit of a problem when a bully named Katana and his demon thugs begin harrassing the group. It seems that demons think that monsters like Mordicus and the others are a lower class of lifeform. My Grade: B

DATE: Mon, 21 Jan 2008
SIZE: 3.54 MB
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Episode 80: Yotsuba Volume 5 by Kiyohiko Azuma

Podcast Episode 80 Manga Review: Yotsuba&! Volume 5 by Kiyohiko Azuma, creator of Azumanga Daioh. Translated by Javier Lopez. Originally published in Japan by Media Works. Published in US by ADV manga, $9.99, Rated All Ages. Yotsuba continues her long road to understanding the world as she encounters the money powered Cardbo, a friendly robot made of cardboard, who is actually Miura. Then it's on to helping Ena's family with their housework, visiting a videostore, a planetarium, and on to a dip in the sea as the whole gang goes on a beach trip. My Rating: A The website I mention in the podcast is: http://www.japanaradio.com/ It plays all kinds of J-pop and anime related music. You can listen for free or you can subscribe for better sound quality. You must download the orban plug-in on the top right corner under tune-in to be able to hear the streams. Then you just click on whatever format and speed you have. Or you can also find it on Itunes when you click on the radio icon then international.

DATE: Mon, 21 Jan 2008
SIZE: 4.23 MB
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Episode 79: Newtype Dies, PiQ Arrives

Podcast Episode 79: My thoughts and information on PiQ magazine, which is replacing Newtype magazine. Also, I talk about the positives and negatives of Newtype, Otaku USA, Anime Insider, and Protoculture Addicts. For more information about PiQ Magazine see Christopher Butcher's blog, Comics 212 at: http://comics212.net/2008/01/18/first-look-advs-new-piq -magazine-mediavendor-kit/

DATE: Wed, 16 Jan 2008
SIZE: 3.59 MB
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Episode 78: Tekkonkinkreet

Podcast Episode 78: Anime DVD review of Tekkonkinkreet. Directed by Michael Arias. Screenplay by Anthony Weintraub. Sony Pictures, $29.95, 100 minutes. Black and White are two kids that have always lived on the streets using their wits and fighting abilities to survive in Treasure Town. But now their romanticized life of adventure is about to end when some Yakuza thugs arrive. Their arrival is just the beginning of a plan by Snake, a developer who wants to turn Treasure Town into a gaudy amusement park. Only Black and White stand in his way, striving to save the soul of their beloved town. My Grade: A+

DATE: Tue, 15 Jan 2008
SIZE: 3.60 MB
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Episode 77: Naruto Volume 22 by Masashi Kishimoto

Podcast Episode 77: Manga Review of Naruto Volume 22: Comrades. Written and drawn by Masashi Kishimoto. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teen. As Choji and Jirobo's battle winds up, Naruto, Shikamaru, Neji, and Kiba continue their pursuit of the Sound Ninja who are desperately trying to deliver Sasuke to Orochimaru before the Third Hokage's curse kills their master. The mission of the Shikamaru team is to rescue Sasuke from their clutches but it wasn't like he was kidnapped. He made the decision to join the Sound Ninja in order to become more powerful after being beaten handily by his hated brother and seeing Naruto's skills improve faster than his own. My Grade: A

DATE: Sat, 12 Jan 2008
SIZE: 3.46 MB
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Episode 76: Yo Yo Girl Cop DVD Review

Podcast review of Yo-Yo Girl Cop, a live action film based on the manga Sukeban Deka by Shinji Wada. Saki Asamiya is sent in as an exchange student at Seisen Academy to find the connection between an underground website's mysterious countdown and rumors of explosives at the school. She has 72 hours before the countdown is over. She also has something else hanging over her head. The trial of her mother on charges of espionage begins as well. If she completes her mission, her mother will be set free. Equipped only with a yo-yo, her wits, and her fighting skills, Saki prepares to enter the dangerous world of misunderstood teenagers and pompous cliques...and track down a killer. My Grade: B

DATE: Tue, 08 Jan 2008
SIZE: 3.22 MB
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Episode 75: Orfina Volume 1 by Kitsune Tennouji

Podcast Episode 75: Manga Review for Orfina Volume 1 by Kitsune Tennouji. Translated and adapted by Sheldon Drzka. Originally published by Kadokawa Shoten in Japan 2005. Published in US by CMX, $12.99, Rated M for Mature. The country of Granze is on the move, invading and conquering other lands with its advanced technology and dragons. Against the swords and Middle Ages style weaponry of Cordia and other nations, Granze uses firearms such as machine guns and pistols. Fana Risol, a girl warrior, has been sent to stop the man responsible for these forbidden powers. Instead, she ends up washing up on a riverbank, half dead. She is found by King Yoguf of Cordia and is brought to his palace, where Fana finds she is the spitting image of the royal princess, Orfina. As the two young women develop a close relationship, Granze sets its sights on Caluritia, the capital city of Cordia. My Grade: C

DATE: Mon, 07 Jan 2008
SIZE: 3.15 MB
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Episode 74: Witchblade Volume 3

Podcast Episode 74: Witchblade Volume 3 Anime DVD Review. Directed by Yoshimitsu Ohashi. Series Composition by Yasuko Kobayashi. Funimation, Episodes 9-12, Running Time: 100 minutes, List Price: $29.98. Takayama is getting a bit more pressure at work in the form of his rival, a man named Wadou who is determined to see Takayama disgraced. Masane and Tozawa are continuing as a team with the scruffy photographer gathering evidence about the secret dealings of Douji Heavy Industries and the NSWF while documenting Masane's battles. Riko is feeling a bit of the strain as well as she faints in the street and has to be hospitalized. The NSWF doesn't really covet the Witchblade as much anymore as it is continuing to make a Cloneblade that is even more powerful than the original. And they already have a psycho kid named Maria to wield it. My Grade: A

DATE: Sun, 06 Jan 2008
SIZE: 4.45 MB
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Episode 73: Naruto Volume 14 by Masashi Kishimoto

Podcast Manga Review Episode 73: Naruto Volume 14 by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated and adapted by Mari Morimoto. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz under their Shonen Jump imprint. $7.95 Rated T for Teen. As the attack on the Hidden Leaf Village continues, Orochimaru prepares to battle his old teacher, the Third Hokage. But it's not going to be a fair battle. Orochimaru summons the souls of the First and Second Hokage to inhabit the bodies of two of his minions and battle against the Third. Meanwhile, Naruto, Sakura, Shikamaru, and Kakashi's tracking dog, Pakkun, try desperately to catch up to Sasuke, who is chasing Gaara's fleeing Sand team. Unfortunately, a group of 9 elite ninja warriors are on the trail of Naruto and company. My Grade: A+

DATE: Wed, 02 Jan 2008
SIZE: 3.58 MB
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Episode 72: Love Attack Volume 1 by Shizuru Seino

Podcast Episode 72 Manga Review: Love Attack Volume 1: Junai Tokko Taicho by Shizuru Seino. Translated by Adrienne Beck. Adapted by Magdalena Sniegocki. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha in 2005. Published in US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated T for Teen 13+. Highschool freshman Chiemi Yusa is about to get expelled for fighting. This is the third time she's gotten in trouble for punching people. Her homeroom teacher offers her a deal that will clear her record. If Chiemi can reform the biggest badass on campus, Akifumi Hirata, better known as the Deranged Devil, she will have a fresh start discipline-wise. Chiemi is perhaps the best choice for this task since she could probably go toe to toe with Hirata. After she kicks him in the face to break up a fight he is engaged in, imagine Chiemi's surprise when Hirata asks her to go out with him! What ensues is a fresh romantic comedy with a bit of fist fighting that will appeal to both girls and guys . My Grade: B+

DATE: Tue, 01 Jan 2008
SIZE: 5.35 MB
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Episode 71: The Other Side of the Mirror Volume 1 by Jo Chen

Podcast Episode 71: Manga review for The Other Side of the Mirror Volume 1 by Jo Chen. Translated by J.Y. Standaert and adapted by Kereth Cowe-Spigai. Published by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. An unemployed college graduate named Lou earns his money in drinking contests but is barely surviving on the mean streets of New York City. He gets an unlikely companion, or actually maybe she's likely, in the form of the rookie prostitute named Sunny, a runaway from an abusive father. What they have in common is their unseemly professions but perhaps together they can break out of their dead-end lives? My Grade: C

DATE: Wed, 26 Dec 2007
SIZE: 3.63 MB
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Episode 70: Wild Ones Volume 1 by Kiyo Fujiwara

Podcast Episode 70: Wild Ones Volume 1 Manga Review. Written and drawn by Kiyo Fujiwara. Translated and adapted by Mai Ihara. Originally published by Hakushensha in Japan in 2005. Published in US by Viz under their Shojo Beat imprint. $8.99, Rated T for Teen. In this romantic comedy, 15-year-old Sachie Wakamura is in a bit of a tight spot. Her mother has just died, leaving her with no living relatives. At least that is what her mother had told her. She's about to be kicked out of her home when a black limousine pulls up and an old man named Raizo Asagi steps out, claiming to be her grandfather. He offers her a place to stay but Sachie is shocked to find out that her grandpa is a Yakuza big shot with plenty of criminal thugs living at his home. A young man named Rakuto is assigned to be her personal bodyguard. He even attends her new school, where he is the student body president and is uber popular. Rakuto and Sachie finds themselves falling for each other, but Rakuto feels that he cannot start a romantic relationship with her because his duty to her grandfather outweighs any personal feelings he has. My Grade: B-

DATE: Mon, 24 Dec 2007
SIZE: 4.06 MB
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Episode 69: Zegapain Volume 1

Zegapain Volume 1 Anime DVD Podcast review. Directed by Masami Shimoda. Series Composition by Mayori Sekishima. Released by Bandai Entertainment, Episodes 1-5, 125 minutes, $29.98. High schooler Kyo Sogoru has no academic interest except swimming, if that counts as an academic subject. He's still able to ace his classes though. His current problem is finding a way to attract new members to the swim team. As of now, he is the only member. His former teammates don't want anything to do with him because a couple years back, he lost his temper and caused an incident at a swim meet which disqualified his team. Bigger events begin to shape his world as a mysterious girl draws him into another world where he is a mecha co-pilot battling against the Gardsorms. Who knows which world is real, or are they both? All he knows is that if he fights, the mysterious girl will consent to be in a film promotion for the swim team! My Grade: C

DATE: Mon, 24 Dec 2007
SIZE: 4.13 MB
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Episode 68:Naruto Volume 4 by Masashi Kishimoto

Podcast Episode 68 Manga Review: Naruto Volume 4 by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Jo Duffy. Originally published in 1999 in Japan by Shueisha. Published in US by Viz under their Shonen Jump imprint. Price: $7.95, Rated T for Teen. After apparently seeing Sasuke get killed by Haku, Naruto flies into a rage, releasing the power of the demon sealed inside of him. Meanwhile Kakashi is locked in his own battle with Zabuza even as Inari tries to marshal the people of his village to rise up against Gato's legions of rogue ninjas and help his new found friends. Even if Cell 7 survives the battle, they will have to face an even tougher test...the Chunin Exam. If they pass, they will progress to the next ninja rank. My Grade: A+

DATE: Sun, 23 Dec 2007
SIZE: 3.62 MB
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Episode 67: Naruto Volume 3 by Masashi Kishimoto

Podcast Episode 67: Manga Review for Naruto Volume 3. Written and drawn by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Jo Duffy. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha in 1999. Published in US by Viz under their Shonen Jump label. $7.95, Rated T for Teen. Instead of waiting around doing nothing while they rest up for a second confrontation with Zabauza, Kakashi prepares a new training exercise for Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura. To teach them how to focus their Chakra, he wants them to climb trees...without using their hands! When they express disbelief at their assignment, Kakashi proceeds to walk up the side of the tree, crutches and all, and hang upside down while he talks to them. Sakura gets to see firsthand what Gato's grip has done to the city as she accompanies Tazuna through its depressing streets filled with people who have lost all hope of things getting any better. Naruto's team hopes to change all that. My Grade: A+

DATE: Wed, 19 Dec 2007
SIZE: 3.68 MB
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Episode 66: Hell Girl Volume 1

Episode 66: Hell Girl Volume 1 Anime DVD review. Directed by Takahiro Omori. Volume 1 has Episodes 1-5 and runs 125 minutes. Funimation, $29.98. There is an urban legend that tells that if you want revenge against someone you can log on to Hell Link at midnight and ask Hell Girl to accept your request. It is true that she use her powers to take revenge on those that are making your life miserable and can send them straight to Hell. The catch is that you too will go to Hell in the end. Are you filled with such hate and anguish that you would give up your own soul to see your tormentor suffer an eternity of pain and agony? My Grade: A-

DATE: Tue, 18 Dec 2007
SIZE: 3.88 MB
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Episode 65: Ai Yori Aoshi Volume 17 by Kou Fumizuki

Podcast Episode 65: An overview of the series Ai Yori Aoshi  and a review of Volume 17 by Kou Fumizuki. Translated by Alethea and Athena Nibley. Adapted by Jamie S. Rich. Originally published in Japan by Hakushensha in 2005. Published in the US by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+. Aoi is still being held by Kaoru's half-brother, an odd sort of doppleganger, who wishes to take Kaoru's place as head of the Hanabishi and become Aoi's husband. He's been holding her captive but Kaoru has arrived on the scene to free her. But even if he does the two lovers still have to get the approval of Aoi's parents if they ever hope to make peace. My Grade: B

DATE: Fri, 14 Dec 2007
SIZE: 3.50 MB
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Episode 64: Naruto Volume 2 by Masashi Kishimoto

Episode 64: Manga Review for Naruto Volume 2 by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Katy Bridges and Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Jo Duffy. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha in 1999. Published in the US by Viz as part of their Shonen Jump, $7.95, Rated T for Teens. Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura have passed their Genin exam with a bit of hardship and now they are all primed for their new duties as junior ninjas. Unfortunately, they get all the crap assignments like hunting down a pet cat for an important government official. Naruto convinces the Hokage to give the team something a bit more challenging. Amused at Naruto's passion and lack of restraint, he gives them a mission a bit out of their league. Naruto's team must escort a bridgebuilder named Tazuna back to his home in the Land of the Waves. They're supposed to protect him from any dangers on the road like bandits, but they quickly find out that a very influential crook wants Tazuna dead, and he's willing to send out some very skilled ninja to do the deed! My Grade: A

DATE: Thu, 13 Dec 2007
SIZE: 3.13 MB
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Episode 63: The Law of Ueki Volume 8 by Tsubasa Fukuchi

Podcast Episode 63: Manga Review for The Law of Ueki Volume 8 by Tsubasa Fukuchi. Translated and adapted by Yoshiko Tokuhara and Filomila Papakonstantinou. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan in 2003. Published in the US by Viz, $9.99, Rated T for Teen. Volume 8 picks up mid-battle in a contest between Rinko and Kabara as they battle in the Cat Field. Basically what this means is that have been shrunk down inside a normal house inhabited by hungry cats. The first one to get eaten by a cat loses the match. In addition, you can turn your opponent into a mouse by touching a cat's nose. Then it's on to one of the main events of volume 8 as Ueki faces off against the seemingly treacherous Sano, who for some inexplicable reason has joined Robert's 10. Can Ueki find out why he switched sides and free him from the clutches of Robert Haydn? See Episode 37 for an overview of the series and a review of Volume 7. My Grade: A

DATE: Wed, 12 Dec 2007
SIZE: 3.39 MB
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Episode 62: Tokyo Majin Volume 1

Podcast Episode 62: Tokyo Majin Volume 1 Anime DVD review. Directed by Shinji Ishihara. Series Composition by Toshizo Nemoto. Character Designs by Jun Nakai. ADV Films, $29.98, Episodes 1-5, 125 minutes. Transfer student Tatsumi signals a marked change in the life of Magami High School in modern day Tokyo. He soon gets into an confrontation with thug and wooden sword wielding Kyouichi and gets challenged by wrestling club captain Yuuya. Aoi, student council president, and her best friend, archery club Komaki try to stop them from fighting, but the contest is put on hold when all the action stirs up a demon spirit. During the course of their struggle with the demon, they find that they have strange powers that augment their natural abilities. For instance, Kyouichi's sword and Komaki's bow give them the means to kill demons, while Tatsumi's martial arts skills become even more powerful. My Grade: A+

DATE: Tue, 11 Dec 2007
SIZE: 3.55 MB
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Episode 61: Glass Fleet Volume 1

Episode 61: Podcast review of Glass Fleet Volume 1. Directed by Minoru Ohara. Series Composition by Shoji Yonemura. Funimation, $29.98, Episodes 1-5, 126 minutes. Vetti Sforza promised to overthrow the Allied Nobility and put in place a government that would do right by the people, but after securing his victory, he declares himself Emperor and enslaves the masses he once promised freedom. Another nobleman named Michel Volban fancies himself the savior of Vetti's duped victims and starts an insurrection, an insurrection that seems to be on the verge of failing until a member of the royal family named Cleo arrives on the scene with his glass-like ship that instantly outclasses any that Vetti can send against it. A space opera with hints of 18th century Europe mixed in. My Grade: C

DATE: Sun, 09 Dec 2007
SIZE: 2.44 MB
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Episode 60: Uzumaki Volume 1 by Junji Ito

Episode 60: Uzumaki Volume 1 by Junji Ito Podcast Review. Translated and adapted by Yuji Oniki. Originally published by Shogakukan in 1998. Published in the US by Viz Signature, $9.99, Rated T+ for Older Teens. Kirie Goshima is just trying to enjoy her high school years in the small coastal Japanese town of Kurozu-cho, but her boyfriend, Shuichi, is beginning to think there is something terribly wrong. His father has become more and more obsessed with spirals, even going so far as to stop working. He just sits in his room all day staring at his collection of items with spiral shapes. He can even make his eyes move in circles independently of each other. Things really get out of hand when Kirie sees Shuichi's father hideously extend his grotesque tongue and then curl it like a snail's shell. This is just the beginning of a collection of horror tales about the mysterious pattern which seems to be taking more and more possession of Kurozu's inhabitants. Awesome art combined with creepy storytelling. My Grade:A+

DATE: Sat, 08 Dec 2007
SIZE: 2.63 MB
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Episode 59: Gon Volume 2 by Masashi Tanaka

Podcast Episode 59: Gon Volume 2 Manga Review. Written and drawn by Masashi Tanaka. Originally published by Kodansha in 1992. Published in the US by CMX, $5.99, Rated T. Gon, the last dinosaur left on Earth, is up to his usual adventures in this second volume of one of my favorite series. First up, he is swallowed by a Great White Shark that gets more than he bargained for. Then, Gon is laid low by one of the smallest creatures....a tick that crawls up his nose! Then he gets involved in a battle with an entire forest when a squirrel steals some of his fruit. Then Gon gets cast as an extra in the March of the Penguins. Beautifully drawn, Brilliantly executed, and hilarious. One of the best manga being published. My Grade: A+

DATE: Wed, 05 Dec 2007
SIZE: 3.79 MB
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Episode 58: My Dearest Devil Princess Volume 1 by Makoto Matsumoto and Maika Netsu

Podcast episode 58: Manga Review for My Dearest Devil Princess Volume 1. Story by Makoto Matsumoto. Art by Maika Netsu. Translated by Satsuki Yamashita. Adapted by Elizabeth Hanel. Originally published by Jive in 2004 Japan. Released in US by Broccoli Books, $9.99, Rated 16+. When highschooler Keita Kusakabe buys a family heirloom from his friend Natsuki which is purported to grant wishes, he doesn't have much faith that it will work. When he opens the magic box, a cute girl comes out of it, floating in the air and right into his arms, which allows for an accidental boob grab. It turns out that the girl is a devil named Maki who wants to make a contract with Keita. She will give him three wishes....if she can have his soul! My Grade: B

DATE: Sun, 25 Nov 2007
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Cromartie High School Volume 12 by Eiji Nonaka

Manga Review for Cromartie High School Volume 12 by Eiji Nonaka. Translated by Javier Lopez. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha in 2005. Published in the US by ADV Manga, $10.95, Rated 13+. When you read Cromartie High School, you can expect some universe shattering questions to pop up periodically on the nature of life and happiness. In Volume 12, one of the questions is the origin of the "Mawashi", the only garment of clothing that sumo wrestlers are allowed to wear in competition. The Gene Simmons lookalike of the Four Great Ones has his own ideas about it when one of his members joins the Cromartie Sumo Club along with Masked Takenouchi and Kamiyama. But are the guys confident enough to show up everyday practically naked except for the Mawashi that covers their privates? As they learn the ins and outs of sumo training, the new members are shocked to learn that they have been entered into a competition against the sumo club of their hated rivals Bass High School! Meanwhile, Maeda learns about the fun of cellphone emailing as Hayashida begins mailing him weird and cryptic pictures of what appear to be random and meaningless objects. With my experience after reading 12 volumes of Cromartie High School, I have realized that it is at its funniest the more episodic it is. When Nonaka dwells on one particular schtick most of the volume, much like the whole adventure in the Planet of the Apes world a volume back, the comedy is dragged down. What makes the good volumes good is Nonaka's ability to write short chapters that focus on one joke which is left behind at the end of that chapter. When I first started reading this series, I was laughing my butt off. Now I'm lucky if I get TWO laughs from the whole volume. While it can still be amusing at times, this series is way past its prime. This could be reversed if Nonaka would focus on short and easily forgettable chapters instead of trying to make overarching story arcs. The characters too have suffered as Cromartie has dragged on. At first, they each had very distinct personalities, but over time, they have ended up all talking and thinking the same, and instead of being characters, have simply become gimmicks that Nonaka uses to convey intellectual jokes that amuse mostly just him. There's always hope with each volume that Cromartie can return to its roots but I'm losing interest in this manga. My Grade: C+

DATE: Sat, 24 Nov 2007
SIZE: 4.38 MB
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Episode 57: Death Note Volume 1

Podcast Episode 57: Death Note Volume 1 Anime DVD review. Directed by Tetsuro Araki. Series Composition by Toshiki Inoue. Published by Viz for $24.98, Episodes 1-4, 100 minutes. Death Note is the story of two beings who are bored with their lives and society. Ryuk, a shinigami, or death spirit, is tired of the lazy and meaningless existences of his fellows in the Shinigami dimension, and decides to spice his life up by dropping his Death Note in the human world. The Death Note has the ability to kill anyone whose name is written in it. A brillant but melancholic high school student named Light Yagami picks it up and begins to test its powers. His first killings are tentative and ill conceived, but he begins to fashion himself a god that will rid society of evil with himself set up as judge, jury, and executioner. Perhaps the only person capable of stopping him is the world's greatest detective, who goes by the alias L. Both L and Light see themselves as defenders of justice and are willing to take extreme measures to make sure it is served to the other. My Grade: B+

DATE: Fri, 23 Nov 2007
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Welcome to the NHK Volume 4 by Tatsuhiko Takimoto and Kendi Oiwa

Manga Review for Welcome to the NHK Volume 4. Story by Tatsuhiko Takimoto. Art by Kendi Oiwa. Translated by Christine Schilling. Adapted by Zachary Rau. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten in 2005. Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Mature 18+. Unlike most otaku, Satou and Yamazaki both find themselves having girl trouble in Volume 4 of Welcome to the NHK. They're both also having parent problems as well. Yamazaki is beginning to make inroads with a classmate named Nanako that he likes but he is being ordered home to take care of the family business. Satou has wants Misaki out of his life and gets another shock when he finds out his old friend from high school, Kashiwa, is getting married, which drags up some feelings that he didn't even know he had for her. Things get even more complicated when Yamazaki invites Nanako to his apartment, the mecca of otakudom. Meanwhile, Satou and Kashiwa are on the cusp of having an affair, which enflames the jealousy of Misaki. Suffice it to say, a lot of hidden feelings come out in this fourth volume. While NHK has always had its share of black comedy tinged with despair, you always felt that the writer was never taking it very seriously, almost as if he were laughing with a trace of a tear on his face. But with this volume we get some very serious relationships right out of slice of life shojo, which just adds another layer to an already virtuoso work. Mostly gone are the uncomfortable underage girl fixations and sexual fantasies of earlier books (that's not to say this one is totally clean), but the two guys are finding it hard to work on their hentai game so a lot of that element is missing. Misaki has gone from guiding light and angel to stalking psycho girl and it seems totally out of the blue, unless that is due to the fact that she didn't know she liked Satou until Kashiwa entered the picture. With its brillant comedy bits of gallows giggling, NHK is one of the best titles out there. My Grade: A

DATE: Fri, 23 Nov 2007
SIZE: 4.63 MB
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Episode 56: Dragon Eye Volume 2 by Kairi Fujiyama

Podcast Episode 56: Dragon Eye Volume 2 by Kairi Fujiyama Manga Review. Translated and adapted by Mari Morimoto. Originally published by Kodansha in 2006. Released in US by Del Rey, $10.95, Rated 13+. After an introduction and overview of the series, it's on to a review of Volume 2 of this promising and quickly improving series. After dealing with a giant chicken Dracule, Issa's command of Squad Zero is in even more danger as his bosses begin to question whether the negatives of him being in charge are outweighing the positives. An observer is sent on Squad Zero's next mission to assess his performance. According to what he reports, Issa could be demoted and/or the squad could be dissolved. Some other Vius from other squads are sent in to back up Zero as they hunt for seveal large Dracule that have been spotted on the outskirts of the city. My Grade: A

DATE: Thu, 22 Nov 2007
SIZE: 5.57 MB
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Episode 55: Naruto Volume 1 by Masashi Kishimoto

Podcast Episode 55: Naruto Volume 1 by Masashi Kishimoto. Translated by Katy Bridges and adapted by Jo Duffy. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha in 1999. Published by Viz as part of their Shonen Jump line, $7.95, Rated T for Teen. Naruto Uzumaki holds a terrible secret even he does not know about. Bound up in his navel is a terrible fox demon that almost destroyed the Hidden Leaf Village 12 years ago. All of the adults are sworn to secrecy but they cannot help hating and despising Naruto and their children have picked up on this. Naruto cannot catch a break. He has already failed the ninja final exam three times. The only way he can earn respect is to become the most powerful ninja, but how is he going to do that when he cannot even pass the test to begin his long journey? My Grade: A+

DATE: Wed, 21 Nov 2007
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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The Drifting Classroom Volume 7 by Kazuo Umezu

 Volume 7 by Kazuo Umezu. Translated by Yuji Oniki. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan in 1974. Published by Viz under their Signature line for $9.99. Rated Mature.The kids of the school prayed for rain and they have technically gotten what they wished for. But instead of a gentle rainfall to soothe their parched throats, the water is sent in the form of a Biblical wave of water moving rapidly across the desert right towards the school. Some of Sho's party out in the wasteland get killed as the water turns parts of the desert into quicksand. Sakiko and some of the other students try to form a human wall against the tsunami like wave to protect their newly planted vegetable garden. Even if they stop the water somehow, the kids will have to contend with the warping nature of the world that is mutating and disfiguring the plantlife into weird-looking mushrooms which only the craziest or most desperate of the kids are willing to eat. And the power dynamics of the school soon shift dramatically when Sekiya, the only adult left on campus, and a psycho to boot, regains his faculties. Previously, he had been reduced to the mental capacity of an infant after suffering the shock of dealing with a huge scorpion-like monster. Now that he's got his memories back, he's ready to seize power. Ok, here we are on Volume 7 of this series, and there's hardly been any explanation as to what happened to this school and why they are being tortured so. I accept that they are in the future sometime, where at least the surrounding vicinity has been reduced to a desolate wasteland. I also understand that somehow in this world, the student's fears and wants are materialized in sometimes monstrous forms, but the question is WHY and HOW? While the series is creepy and scary, I'm beginning to tire of the endless obstacle course Sho and the others are being put through. Does it have any meaning or end? While Battle Royale was a sadistic exercise in cruelty, there was at least a goal in its plot, a reason to excuse all the blood, gore, and exploitation. We don't have any of that for Drifting Classroom. We just have very bad things happening to normal everyday children for no definable reason like Umezu would just sit at his drawing board and think "What can I do to them THIS week?" Still interesting but is beginning to drag My Grade: B

DATE: Mon, 19 Nov 2007
SIZE: 3.57 MB
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Episode 54: 009-1 Volume 3

Cyborg 009-1 Volume 3 Anime DVD Podcast review. ADV Films, Episodes 9-12 plus Bonus Episode, 125 minutes, $29.98. Director: Naoyuki Konno. Series Composition by Shinsuke Onishi. Based on Shotaro Ishinomori's 1960's manga, Mylene Hoffman is a trained to kill without blinking cyborg spy for the Western Bloc, but lately, she's found that doing her job isn't good enough anymore. She has beauty, brawn, and a to die for body, but she doesn't have a family. She doesn't have a normal life. She will probably never have children or settle down. Even though she realizes she can never walk away from her job, this doesn't keep her from longing for things she cannot have. This is brought home in the first two episodes of this dvd when she hitches a ride with a nice family and hooks up with a suspected double agent. Then she has to save the world from nuclear annihilation at the hands of child mutants. My Grade: A

DATE: Sun, 18 Nov 2007
SIZE: 3.67 MB
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Episode 53: Alice On Deadlines Volume 1 by Shiro Ihara

Podcast Episode 53: Alice On Deadlines Volume 1 by Shiro Ihara. Translated by Christine Schilling. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix in 2005. Published in US by Yen Press, $10.99, Rated Older Teen. Pervert Shinigami Lapan is sent to Earth to retrieve a Shibito, a human who has died but has yet to let go of their earthly existence. Shibitos are also frequently guilty of eating human flesh, which could account for a string of serial murders of young girls. Lapan is more intent on porno magazines than doing his job and is looking forward to taking control of a beautiful girl's corpse on Earth to complete his mission. His boss has other plans to keep his mind out of the gutter. He plans on putting Lapan's spirit into a skeleton. Things don't work out as planned when Lapan is placed in a living girl named Alice and Alice's soul is in turn placed in the skeleton! My Grade: F

DATE: Mon, 12 Nov 2007
SIZE: 5.05 MB
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Episode 52: Simoun Volume 1

Simoun Volume 1 Anime DVD podcast review. Will be released by Anime Works on 11/13/07. $19.95, Episodes 1-6, 150 minutes. No English dub. Japanese with English subtitles. In the world of Simoun, all children are born female and remain so until they are seventeen years old. Then they can decide to stay a girl or become a man. Those that have not made that choice and are good pilots are eligible to become Sibyllae, pairs of priestesses that fly Simoun, extremely advanced fightercraft to protect their home, called Simulacrum, from hostile states intent on seizing their technology. After a vicious battle, the Simoun ranks are depleted and new recruits arrive on the scene, including the cocky Aer, who is spoiling for a fight, and has the ambition to pair up with Neveril, the leader of Chor Tempest, the elite Simoun squadron. Yuri romance ensues. My Grade: A+

DATE: Sat, 10 Nov 2007
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Shinshoku Kiss Volume 1 by Kazuko Higashiyama

Shinshoku Kiss Volume 1 Manga Review. Written and drawn by Kazuko Higashiyama, co-creator of Tactics. Translated by Monica Seya Chin. Adapted by Jay Antani. Originally published in Japan by Gentosha Comics in 2004. Published by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. Kotoko Kashiwagi has dolls on the brain, and I'm not talking about android girls, I'm talking about dress-up dolls, which have their very own otaku subculture in Japan which counts females and males among their fandom. Kotoko would like nothing more than to spend the rest of her life designing and making them. She's constantly snapping photos of beautiful men and women to use as models for her dolls and she even enters a doll-making contest. Even though she loses, her work catches the eye of Fool, the hottest doll designer out there, who also works in film and TV. On one of her picture hunts, Kotoko spots a suitable bishonen sitting on a bench who has some curious bandages wrapped around parts of his body. When he touches her, some sort of electrical spark occurs and he ends up kidnapping her and taking her back to his apartment, which he shares with another guy named Yuta, who is also a dollmaker. When he asks Kotoko to help him with his work, she flatout refuses, thinking both these guys are creeps, perverts...or worse.  As she makes a move for the door, Yuta calmly tells her she can go but if she doesn't agree to help him, she is going to die!  Kotoko doesn't even have a clue that Yuta is actually Fool and that he wants her to use a new supernatural ability to help him make dolls. Ok, I'll be the first to admit that I have absolutely no interest in dolls or doll-making. But I had no interest in the game of Go but I love reading the manga Hikaru No Go and would even like to take up playing it someday. After reading volume 1 of Shinshoku Kiss, I can hazard the guess that you'll never catch me dressing up dolls. This manga reminds me a bit of Paradise Kiss, even to the pushy bishonen who use intimidation, both physical and psychological, to get what they want out of the main heroine. But Yuta (Fool) goes to even more disturbing extremes. He repeatedly threatens to kill Kotoko several times in this first volume. And then you have the trademark bad boy seduction scene with Yuta pushing her against the wall and pinning her arms above her head, putting his lips oh so close to hers. It takes a little of the romance out of things when what looks like the male lead early on makes the female lead cough blood. Kazuko seems at cross purposes most of the book as she changes swiftly and jerkily from horror to romance to comedy. Somehow, she thinks, my female readers won't realize how bad this series is if I throw them a couple of mysterious bishonen. I'm not a devout feminist or anything, actually I'm a man, but I don't appreciate male characters threatening to kill women and chalking it up to bad-boy romance. Obviously, any girl that would fall for a would-be murderer would be psychotic themselves. Hey, but even OJ has a girlfriend, so I can't go too far with this line of thought. My Grade: C-  (the only thing that kept it from being a D is that I liked Kotoko, even though she was a bit shallow and only judged people by their appearance)

DATE: Sun, 04 Nov 2007
SIZE: 4.91 MB
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Episode 51: Red Garden Volume 2

Episode 51: Red Garden Volume 2. Director: Kou Matsuo. Series Composition: Tomohiro Yamashita. $29.98, ADV Films, Episodes 5-8, 100 minutes. Release Date: 11/20/07. Volume 1 picks up right where Volume 2 left off as Rachel has a breakdown after beating the brains out of a dog man with a baseball bat. She begins to question, along with the other girls, exactly what they are doing with their second lives. What are these beast men? Why are Rachel, Kate, Rose, and Claire having to kill to survive? Who is Lula and who is she working for? What really happened to Lise? There are no easy answers, and now the four girls are not only having to deal with risking their lives on an almost nightly basis, but there nighttime activities are also beginning to derail what little normalcy they have in their daytime lives. My Grade: A

DATE: Sun, 04 Nov 2007
SIZE: 3.48 MB
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Episode 50: Venus Versus Virus Volume 1

Venus Versus Virus Volume 1: Outbreak Anime DVD podcast Review Episode 50. Directed by Shinichiro Kimura (also directed Burn-Up Excess, Maburaho, Sugar, and Popotan). Series Composition by Yasutomo Yamada. ADV Films, $29.98, Episodes 1-4, 100 minutes. Release date: 11/13/2007. Viruses are demons that are attracted to the few humans who have the ability to see them. They take shapes from the lowliest dark blobs to humanoid/animal crossovers that have superhuman abilities. Those they attack in turn become more Viruses. It's up to the Venus Vanguard to exterminate the Viruses and protect humanity from a threat most of them are ignorant of. Lucia, the cool and beautiful goth-loli gun toting killer, and Sumire, her bumbling partner, are on the front-lines of this battle. Lucia is equipped with anti-Virus bullets and Sumire has the ability to become a living anti-virus, which gives her so much power that she can literally rip Viruses into pieces using her bare hands. The problem is that when she enters this Berserker mode, she cannot differentiate between friend and foe. A stylish action anime that also relies on comedy to get the character's personalities across. My Grade: A

DATE: Sat, 03 Nov 2007
SIZE: 3.20 MB
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Episode 49: Sorcerer Hunters Volume 1

Podcast Episode 49 Manga Review: Sorcerer Hunters Volume 1. Story by Satoru Akahori. Art by Ray Omishi. Translated by Anita Sengupta. Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated Older Teen 16+. Originally published in Japan by Media Works in 1993. The world of Spoolner is ruled by a small minority of sorcerors who lord it over the rest of the non-magic using population called Parsoners. A goddess named Big Mama has enlisted three siblings to kill the most evil, the most dastardly, of the Sorcerers. There's Marron, the calmest of the three, who uses his Eastern magic in battle. Carrot, his older brother, cannot use spells, but he can absorb them, activating the Zoanthropic magic in his genes to transform himself into powerful giant beasts. Their sister, Tira's, main function is as a healer, but she also becomes a crazy dominatrix in order to tame Carrot's beast genes. Collectively, the three are known as Sorcerer Hunters. A great mixture of comedy, stupendous art, and pathos. My Grade: A+

DATE: Sat, 03 Nov 2007
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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I, Otaku: Struggle In Akihabara Volume 1 by Jiro Suzuki

Manga Review for I, Otaku: Struggle in Akihabara Volume 1 by Jiro Suzuki. Translated by Nan Rymer and adapted by Ed Chavez. Published by Seven Seas for $9.99. Originally published in Japan 2003 by Square Enix. Rated Teen. When you hear about someone "coming out of the closet", if you're like me, you're automatically thinking about Tom Cruise. But maybe that's just me. 18-year-old high schooler Enatsu Sota is a closet Otaku and he's always afraid of someone at school finding out about his secret obsession with the dog eared little girl anime character Papico. You see, Sota is the opposite of the stereotyped otaku we all know and love. He's not fat and smelly or bespectacled. Sota is popular at school, athletic, and he even has a girlfriend named Eri! And no, even she doesn't know his secret. His closely guarded secret life begins to unravel when he visits a store in Akihabara named Otakudo Headquarters, whose slogan is "A store where only TRUE otaku are allowed to shop." Unfortunately for Sota, its owner, Mano Takuro, has appointed himself president of imaginary organization called the Closet Otaku Extermination Committee and right off the bat he has a problem with Sota because after purchasing some merchandise, Sota tries to put the shop bag into a normal brown bag so noone will know where he was shopping. Mano proceeds to close all the safety doors in the shop and plans to hold Sota prisoner until he admits that he is an otaku. When Sota finally does, he is tricked into yelling it very loudly.....right in front of his girlfriend Eri! I, Otaku was an enjoyable read but after reading and watching the anime and manga versions of Comic Party and Genshiken and reading the manga series Maniac Road and its sequel Pretty Maniacs, my enjoyment of a series about otaku tends to be a bit muted. For my money Genshiken and Maniac Road did better with the comedy and the educational side of introducing new manga readers to the world of anime and manga fandom in Japan. While I, Otaku did a pretty good job with its comedy bits, I didn't feel drawn into the world of Akihabara with a sense of wonder like I did with some of the other series. The characters didn't have much emotional connect either. I do think that Suzuki's art was very pretty and never became cluttered even during the zaniest moments. This book is better suited to readers that are new to the otaku concept and will not be as enjoyable to those who have read similar works before. Includes two color pages. My Grade: B Check out Ed Chavez's EXCELLENT manga website: www.mangacast.net  Also, you can pick up all 3 volumes of Maniac Road and Pretty Maniacs for $2.00 each at: www.drmasterbooks.com Just click on the manga outlet key on the main page. The two dollar sale also includes volumes of Now, Tomie, Junk Force, Dark Edge,Crayon Shinchan, High School Girls, and volumes of Iron Wok Jan at half off. This is just a smattering of the titles being offered.

DATE: Mon, 29 Oct 2007
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Rescue Me: Mave-Chan Anime DVD Review

Fighting Fairy Girl Rescue Me: Mave-Chan, Bandai, $9.98, 25 minutes. Director: Takeshi Mori (Stratos 4, Vandread, Gunsmith Cats, Otaku No Video) Rei Sugiyama wins a ticket to a Yukikaze/Stratos 4 convention. He's grown up in a small town and he's never been away on his own before so his parents are very reluctant to let him go to the big city. While Rei is being overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people at the convention, he goes through a doorway that leads to another world. He finds himself in a desert where the jets of the anime Yukikaze have taken the form of five cute young girls and women. There's the ditz fighter Mave, the big boobed Super Sylph, the mother hen Sylphide, and the always disrespected duo of One-chan and Two-chan. They are fighting against a super-sized villain named Forgettor. The world that Rei has entered into is the world of the imagination created by the love of the show's fans. But Mave and the other girls exist only as long as the fans interest is not diverted to other anime shows. This lack of attention is embodied in the Demon of the Oblivion, the monstrous Forgettor! If you're not familiar with the anime series Yukikaze or Stratos 4 you might be missing the boat by buying this very brief, almost inconsequential one episode dvd. If you don't know, Yukikaze was about an inter-dimensional gate that opened at the South Pole. Groups of highly advanced fighter craft were sent through the gate to battle aliens. I have watched all of the Stratos 4 series, but have only viewed the first volume of Yukikaze. Even if you are a huge fan of those two shows, there's nothing really here to write home about. While the animation is done quite well, there is not enough time to do anything with the characters and the cheezy storyline is so bad that its really not even worth mentioning. This dvd seems like an overlong promo clip to be shown at conventions to slavering otaku fans who would love any cute girl in military fatigues. For a regular fan of anime, it's simply a waste of money. This should be sold with Freedom Volume 1 as a double rip-off special. Ok, actually this one episode of Mave-chan was Oscar-caliber compared to the HD-DVD release of Freedom Volume 1. At least we're not being charged 40$! My Grade: D-

DATE: Sun, 28 Oct 2007
SIZE: 3.54 MB
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Episode 48: Zombie-Loan Volume 1 by Peach-Pit

Podcast Episode 48: Manga Review for Zombie-Loan Volume 1 by Peach-Pit. Translated by Christine Schilling. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix in 2003. Published in US by Yen Press, $10.99. Rated Older Teen. Michuru Kita does not have much to live for these days. Her aunt and uncle, who are caring for her after her parent's death, have no love for her and see her as a hindrance and a financial burden. They only take care of her in the hopes of getting some of Michiru's inheritance. At school, her uncaring attitude about life makes her the unofficial gopher of the other girls. Her life would have stayed pretty bland, but she runs into two bishonen, Chika and Shito, who happen to be undead zombie hunters. The two guys hunt zombies for money to buy their humanity back from the Zombie Loan shop. And they want to use her Shinigami Eyes, her ability to see those who should be dead,to make their job easier. My Grade: C-

DATE: Sat, 27 Oct 2007
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Innocent Venus Volume 2: Blood of Betrayal

Anime DVD review for Innocent Venus Volume 2: Blood of Betrayal, ADV Films, $29.98, 100 minutes, Episodes 5-8. Jin, Joe, Sana, and Gora are still on the run from Phantom but they manage to find at least a temporary respite from the pursuit by hiding out at the dojo of a man named Chikura. A man who just happens to be Sana's grandfather. He is training rebels for the growing insurgeny against the Logos. He also has a lot of the scientific research left behind by Sana's father, which Jin is mightily interested in. Mysteries deepen when Sana reacts very strongly to particular musical notes as she and Jin play a piano piece, causing her to faint and lose consciousness. But our heroes can't stay in one place for long before Phantom and government forces arrive to root them out. Jin and Joe and the others hook up again with the pirate leader and former Phantom member Toraji Shiba as he transports them to his home city of Satsuma, a city which prides itself on equality and peacefulness. A city, by the way, that is priming a secret war fleet to strike against the Japanese government. Volume 2 of this series really upped the ante in terms of quality as the plot became more clear and the writers came up with some very good character twists. While Volume 1 was good, with all the action and emotional baggage the characters had, the viewer had a hard time making sense of the world of Innocent Venus. Now that we've settled into the show a bit, it's a little easier to understand everything that is going on. The animation of this show is incredible. Even during the fastest battle sequences, the show never uses cheap stills or motion lines to imply action. The mecha battles, which are done with CG, still do not blend extremely well with the rest of the show, but it is less blaring because most of the fights occur at night. Be prepared for a cliffhanger at the end of this volume. Extras are pretty skimpy. Only includes clean opening/closing. My Grade: A-

DATE: Wed, 24 Oct 2007
SIZE: 4.14 MB
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Episode 47: Welcome to the NHK Volume 1 Anime DVD

Podcast Episode 47: Welcome to the NHK Volume 1 anime DVD review. ADV Films, Episodes 1-4, $29.98. 22-year-old Tatsuhiro Sato has a big problem. He is an Hikikomori, a recluse who refuses to leave his apartment except for extreme neccesities like food. He has deluded himself into thinking his problems are all caused by a vast conspiracy being perpetrated by the NHK, a Japanese broadcasting company. Sato believes that by airing so many good anime shows, the NHK has a plan to turn everyone into Hikikomori. Sato does not see any way to change his life until he meets a cute girl named Misaki, who promises to cure him if he will sign a contract with her. He also becomes involved in making an ero game with his next door neighbor in a bid to return to the normal world and to prove to Misaki that he is not a complete loser. My Grade: A

DATE: Mon, 22 Oct 2007
SIZE: 3.34 MB
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Episode 46: He Is My Master Volume 2 by Mattsu and Asu Tsubaki

Episode 46: Manga Podcast Review for He Is My Master Volume 2. Story by Mattsu. Art by Asu Tsubaki. Translated by Beni Axia Conrad. Adapted by Janet Houck and Bambi Eloriaga. Originally published in Japan by Square Enix in 2004. Published here by Seven Seas, $9.99. Rated Older Teen (16+) even though there is no nudity or fan service whatsoever. Compared to other Older Teen titles, Master is quite tame and harmless. Yoshitaka is a young 14-year-old who is filthy rich after his parents die in a car accident. Not knowing how to take care of himself, he hires three girls to be his maids: The two sisters, Izumi and Mitsuki, and Anna. Yoshitaka intends to spend his money indulging all his wildest fantasies, which mostly consist of creating awkward innuendo filled situations with the three girls. But he's not the only pervert in the mansion. Mitsuki's pet alligator, Poochi, has a thing for Izumi, and so does Anna, even if she is a girl too!  A good and goofy episodic comedy, if a bit mindless. My Grade: B+

DATE: Mon, 22 Oct 2007
SIZE: 3.06 MB
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Episode 45: Xenosaga the Animation Volume 1

Episode 45: Anime DVD Pocast Review for Xenosaga the Animation Volume 1, ADV Films, $29.98. Running Time: 100 minutes, Episodes 1-4 4,000 years after humanity has left Earth and colonized the galaxy, we are at war with an alien race known as the Gnosis. Normal weapons are ineffective against them because the Gnosis can dematerialize at will a la Kitty Pryde and let weapons pass through them. Only an attack known as the Hilbert Effect can make them become solid enough to destroy. Shion Uzuki, an engineer for Vector Industries, has helped develop a beautiful anti-Gnosis android weapon named Kos-mos to help in the battle. In addition to being surrounded by 30,000 Gnosians, she is also on the ship that has the Zohar, a mysterious golden monolith that not only attracts aliens but also various human factions that want a slice of its power. My Grade: B+

DATE: Mon, 15 Oct 2007
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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The Drifting Classroom Volume 6 by Kazuo Umezu

Manga Review for The Drifting Classroom Volume 6 by Kazuo Umezu. Translated by Yuji Oniki. Published by Viz in June 2007 under their Signature imprint. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan in 1974. $9.99, Rated "M" for Mature. Boy, do the kids of Yamato Elementary School have it rough. Not only have they had to deal with murderous teachers, bullies, starvation, dehydration, a giant insectoid monster born out of a student's nightmares, a swarm of flesh-eating miniature insectoid monsters, but now they face an outbreak of the Black Plague. Yep, that's bubonic plague for people in the know. The student body has turned on each other with the infected being boarded up in a school building and in danger of being burned alive by the rest of their classmates. Sho and a small group of his friends must devise a way to rescue them. The only way to stop the plague is to get a vaccine but it's not like there's a slight shortage of medicine in the wastelands. Sho is still able to contact his mother telepathically somehow but where could you possibly place the medicine so it will be safe for decades, or possibly hundreds or even thousands of years? And how is she going to get her hands on it? Nobody but her can hear Sho's voice and her husband is starting to think she might be going a bit crazy. The Drifting Classroom is a good read, don't get me wrong, but some of the things that happen in this sixth volume go beyond even the widest range of possibility. Sho tells his mom to put the medicine in a mummy he found in the basement of a ruined hospital but what are the odds that same mummy is going to be in the exact hospital at the exact time that his mother searches for it. And how is medicine going to stay good for years and years through a nuclear war or whatever led to the world that Sho and the others are living in? Medicine has expiration dates for a good reason. Also, the lineup of afflictions that are assailing Yamato Elementary are almost Biblical in proportion and are getting to be quite sadistic. I'm HOPING that all this is going to have a point. Right now, I'm just trying to enjoy the series without thinking too much how it's all going to end. It seems that the kids haven't figured out that their thoughts are having a great effect on the environment. Maybe they should just all chant together "There's no place like home" and they will magically wake up in their own beds in their own homes. My Grade: B

DATE: Mon, 15 Oct 2007
SIZE: 4.49 MB
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Episode 44: Dark Moon Diary Volume 1 by Che Gilson and Brett Uher

Episode 44: Manga Podcast Review for Dark Moon Diary volume 1. Story by Che Gilson. Art by Brett Uher. Published by Tokyopop, $9.99, Rated T for Teen Ages 13+. After her parents die, 15-year-old Priscilla does not have any other family to live with except her Aunt Lilith in the European town of Nachtwald. Little does she know that the town is inhabited by all kinds of weird creatures and supernatural beings such as vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and witches. Her aunt and uncle turn out to be vampires! Priscilla seems to be the only normal human in town. This is not only a social problem as her cousin, Kitten, refers to her as a lowly entree, but a matter of survival as well. The only things to eat in the area are items such as severed toes, raw meat, spiders, and other stomach turning unpalatable refuse. This light-hearted horror comedy is a good read to get into the Halloween mood but falls way short of measuring up to Japanese shojo manga. I DID like it better than St. Lunatic High School though, a Japanese manga that was very similar to this world manga My Grade: C

DATE: Sun, 14 Oct 2007
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Mar Volume 15 by Nobuyuki Anzai

Manga review for Mar Volume 15 by Nobuyuki Anzai. Translated by Kaori Inoue and adapted by Gerard Jones. Published September 2007 by Viz for $7.99  Rated "T" for Teens. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan in 2003. The War Games are over after Team Mar defeated the last Chess Pieces but there is unfinished business still left. Princess Diana kidnapped Snow and is holding her at Lestava Castle. And just because they defeated the Chess Pieces doesn't mean Phantom and the other surviving members are just going to lay down and play dead for Ginta and his pals when they enter the castle. Dorothy still has some unfinished business as well. Even though Diana is her sister, she has sworn to kill her because of all the evil she has done. But Diana's plans extend not only to Mar Heaven but to our world as well. Yeah, that's right, she wants to conquer Earth as well. And what about the KING of the Chess Pieces? Wait till you get a load of him! Will Ginta and the others be able to defeat the King and Queen and will Ginta be able to return to his own world after it's all over? You'll have to read this last volume of Mar to find out. The amazing thing about Mar is that it has been able to keep my attention for 15 volumes without boring me. The wispy plot of the series reduces every moral choice to a battle of the most physical kind. If someone is evil, you fight them, not with words or kind deeds, but by beating the crap out of them until they are either dead or unable to fight. In a series of this type might always makes right, and we're just lucky that the good guys (and girls) seem to be stronger most of the time. That's not to say that there were no moments of reasoning or rational dialogue between combatants or appeals to the better side of humanity. These did occur but only in the midst of beating the snot out of each other. I really liked these characters and their overwhelming drive to not only make themselves better but to also save their world from being destroyed. The artwork by Nobuyuki Anzai was excellent throughout the series but it would be cool to see him team up with a great manga writer to produce something with a bit more complexity and less pummelling. I'm gonna miss this series. My Grade: B+

DATE: Sun, 14 Oct 2007
SIZE: 2.72 MB
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Episode 43: Kamiyadori Volume 3 by Kei Sanbe

Episode 43: Manga Podcast Review for Kamiyadori Volume 3 by Kei Sanbe. Translated by Ray Yoshimoto and adapted by Mike Wellman. Published by Tokyopop for $9.99. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten in 2005. Jillald, Vivi, and other members of their Scudra team are sent, along with a new character, a sexy Right Arm named Kismee, to investigate a research lab where a mysterious red snow has fallen. It is a place with some very bad karma. 16 years ago, at a village near the site, a villager went crazy and slaughtered 30 of his people. Then, 4 years ago, during a red snowfall, a military officer named Clevort went on his own killing spree at the lab and killed 60 scientists. Imagine the team's surprise when they find out Clevort is one of their fellow team members!  Website: www.sesho.libsyn.com email: seshos@hotmail.com My Grade: C+

DATE: Sun, 14 Oct 2007
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Mushi-Shi Volume 1 Anime DVD Review

Mushi-Shi Volume 1 Anime DVD Review. Director and Series Composer: Hiroshi Nagahama. Funimation, $29.98. Volume 1 contains Episodes 1-5 and runs about 125 minutes. Mushi are the oldest lifeforms in existence, even below microorganisms and fungi. They evolved so long ago that most humans cannot even see them in their true form. Most of the time they appear as floating, almost plankton-like organisms drifting through the air and effortlessly passing through anything material in their way. Some can even take human form. Mushi are neither good nor evil. They simply are. But on occasion the very presence of mushi can lead to problems for humans. For example in one of these episodes, a girl becomes extremely sensitive to sunlight and has to stay in the dark all the time with a cloth over her eyes because mushi have taken up residence there. When mushi are involved, using the standard problem solving procedures such as doctors and such meets with very little success. No, someone with special abilities has to be called in. Enter the unassuming and serenely calm Ginko, a travelling Mushishi who tries to end any negative consequences caused by the interaction between humans and mushi. A lot of the victims of the mushi tend to be young such as a girl following a moving swamp which is actually a collective mushi. Or a boy whose drawings come to life and another who has grown extremely sensitive to noise and has grown horns! The problem that keeps Mushishi from being a great show is its single-minded devotion to the mushi. Because of its monster of the....I mean mushi, of the week, the show can get a bit repetitive. Kinda like Inuyasha's over-reliance on Naraku as the main antagonist which can suck the life out of any original ideas. I mean the writers had to somehow turn every episode of Mushishi into a hunt for mushi. I will admit that they did a good job making us sympathize with all of the supporting characters. If you don't care for the people Ginko is helping out, you must be really emotionally remote. I haven't read the manga but the director of the anime, Hiroshi Nagahama took very careful steps to keep the anime version as close to the manga as possible and was a big fan of the series before he got involved with the anime version. Really, the show reminded me a bit of Sergio Leone westerns in which a lone gunfighter comes to town and straightens out the world temporarily. I look forward to finding out more about this mushishi in the next couple of volumes. The manga the anime is based on is currently being published by Del Rey with two volumes out so far. My Grade: B

DATE: Tue, 09 Oct 2007
SIZE: 3.61 MB
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Episode 42: Chibi Vampire Volume 5 by Yuna Kagesaki

Episode 42: Podcast manga review for Chibi Vampire Volume 5 by Yuna Kagesaki. Translated by Alexis Kirsch. Originally published in Japan by Fujimishobo in 2005. Published in the States by Tokyopop for $9.99. For Older Teens 16+. A introduction to new readers of the Chibi Vampire series, then on to a review of Volume 5. Karin is fighting against her love for Kenta because she doesn't know if a relationship between a human and a vampire has any hope of working out. During a brief earthquake her grandmother, Elda Marker, awakes from a deep sleep, eager for the taste of blood, and even sees Karin's classmates as her prey as the gather for the school cultural festival. She also has an passionate hate of humans and a desire to keep the vampire race pure. So there's no telling what she'll do if she finds out Karin is in love with Kenta. A funny comedy with tinges of darkness. My Grade: A

DATE: Mon, 08 Oct 2007
SIZE: 3.64 MB
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Episode 41: The Key to the Kingdom Volume 1 by Kyoko Shitou

Episode 40: Podcast manga review for The Key to the Kingdom Volume 1 by Kyoko Shitou. Translated and adapted by Sheldon Drzka. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten in 2003. Published in US by CMX, $9.99. Rated T+. The King of Landor and his eldest son, Winslott, have been killed in an ongoing civil war that has waged off and on for 300 years. The next in line for the throne is thirteen-year-old Prince Astarion, or Asta, as he is called by his friends. Actually, a lot of the nobles and common people call him Cowardly Prince Ass because he's always been more interested in books and music and looks on fighting as savagery. In a bid to gain more time for him to become worthy of being king, the widowed queen proposes a quest to recover the Key to the Kingdom, a mythical object that would make its possessor king of the world and make the land flourish. Asta and Badd, a Landorian military captain, set out to find it, along with other seekers of royal blood, even as rumors of a Dragon Man being sighted in Landor comes to light. Dragon Men are immortal beings connected to the Key. My Grade: A

DATE: Sun, 07 Oct 2007
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Air TV Volume 2

Air TV Volume 2 Anime DVD Review. Released 9/25/07 by ADV Films, 100 Minutes, List Price: $29.98. Yukito's quest for the winged girl beyond the clouds takes second priority as the girls around him face large problems that could threaten their lives. Misuzu is getting weaker and weaker as her dreams increase in frequency and intensity. He gets angry with Misuzu's mother for being insensitive about her daughter's plight. But then he remembers that his mother told him about a girl that suffered like Misuzu before she passed away. She had the same kind of dreams and a bizarre and frightening condition. The closer the girl becomes to people, the sicker she became. Eventually, she died. Ironically, Yukito comes to believe that his proximity and emotional ties to Misuzu are the very things that are endangering her life! Meanwhile, there's something weird going on between the quiet and introverted Minagi and her best and only friend, the crazy Yukito-bashing Michuru. When Yukito walks Minagi home, he is shocked when Minagi's mom calls her by the name of Michuru which leads to the revelation of a mental illness of Minagi's mom and and an explanation of why Minagi is so withdrawn. Then we go back in time about a thousand years to learn about this famous winged girl named Kanna that everybody's been talking about for the past seven episodes. Kanna is pretty much incarcerated by priests and carted around the country to bless various things because she is seen as a messenger to the gods, even though she can barely fly. Instead of being a divine messenger, she is really just a young girl who is feeling increasingly entrapped in a role she does not feel she is suited for. Two of those near to her, her guard, Ryuya, and her servant, Uraha, plan a daring escape to free her from the shackles of religion and superstition. I must admit that I had a bit of reservation about this second volume because it seemed at first to be more of the same as Volume 1 without any plot progress. But as I got drawn more and more into the strange tale of Minagi and Michiru, I was intrigued by the subtle layering of the story which at times seems strange and at times creepy. The last episode, which began to tell of the events a millenium ago was like a breath of fresh air into a show that was beginning to drag a bit. Hopefully, we'll get some answers in the past that will explain what is happening in the present. Even though I'd like the mysterious atmosphere and strange occurrences to stay in place a little longer. While this show can be a tad too sentimental at times, it has a very quiet beauty and an ethereal feel that can draw you to another time and space that you might not want to come back from. My Grade: B

DATE: Sun, 07 Oct 2007
SIZE: 0.02 MB
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Maison Ikkoku Volume 14: Welcome Home by Rumiko Takahashi

Manga Review for Maison Ikkoku Volume 14: Welcome Home by Rumiko Takahashi. Translated by Mari Morimoto. Adapted by Gerard Jones. This is for the first American edition printed in May 2000 by Viz in a flipped and slightly larger trade paperback size which sold for $16.95 which is out of print but still readily available used. The Maison Ikkoku series was reprinted unflipped in the now standard tankoban format by Viz with the addition of a fifteenth volume due to the differences in the page counts of the two editions. Rumiko Takahashi is known for letting the relationships between her romantic leads drag on for years or even decades without them ever evolving or being consummated (see Inuyasha), but as the last and concluding volume of Maison Ikkoku opens, Godai and Kyoko enter a love hotel. Godai should be in heaven, right? I mean, this is what he's always wished for. But things become a bit awkward when Kyoko says that she is thinking about Soichiro. Godai thinks she's talking about her dead husband, but Kyoko corrects him and says she meant her dog, which happens to have the same name. Is that the truth? Suffice it to say, Godai suffers from impotence at the moment of truth. Things get even more complicated when his ex-girlfriend, Kozue shows up wanting to talk about their relationship. She had already told him a guy proposed to her but she didn't want to say yes because she didn't want to hurt Godai's feelings. On top of all this Godai is going to find out how he did on the teacher certification exams. The only way he can ask Kyoko to marry him is if he passed, so there's a lot riding on the results. I have been reading this series off and on for a little over two years now and I have to admit I got a little misty eyed when I came to certain sections of this last volume. Simply because you never wish good things to come to an end. I used to have that experience a lot with anime and manga series, but it has become rarer lately, probably because there is so much product coming out that you don't have time to lament the end of one before you start another. Instead of just centering a review on this one volume, I'll just make some comments about the series as a whole because in terms of quality they were all about the same. The central conflict of the manga that lasted through the first to most of the last volume was the lack of courage Godai had to make Kyoko his. He bumbled his way through a relationship with Kozue and some childish competition with Mitaka the tennis coach but he was just never aggressive enough to pursue Kyoko with a single-minded determination. He was too wishy-washy. Kyoko too suffered a lot because she wanted to be pursued, hunted, and caught by an alpha male. While this kind of thing makes for a lot of heartache and tragedy in real-life, in the manga world it's the perfect tried and true setup for comedy. And boy was Maison Ikkoku funny!  One of the best comedies I've ever read. I've still never figured out how Takahashi was able to make such a masterpiece from such simple materials and operating mainly with character interaction rather than plot. To me, that's the hardest story to write. Making the lives of everyday people interesting and fun. It's also great to experience a relatively long manga series that has true resolution and ends on an upbeat and happy note. A great manga work. My Grade: A+

DATE: Wed, 03 Oct 2007
SIZE: 3.73 MB
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Hayate the Combat Butler Volume 4 by Kenjiro Hata

Episode 40 gives an introduction to Hayate the Combat Butler for those who have not read any volumes of the series and then focuses on Volume 4. Hayate Ayasaki is a teenager who has had hard luck since the age of nine because both parents are gambling addicts. They owe $156 million yen to the Yakuza and have donated Hayate's organs to pay it off. The problem is that he is still alive and the Yakuza are going to kill him to get the parts. Hayate decides to kidnap a young rich heiress named Nagi Sanzenin and ransom her for the money. But he ends up saving her from some other kidnappers and becoming her butler after Nagi pays off the Yakuza, even though he will have to work for 40 years to cancel the debt. In this fourth volume, Hayate must fight off one of Nagi's relatives that wishes to claim the family fortune for himself, a relative who just happens to be piloting a giant robot. Then when Nagi starts attending an exclusive school for the rich and talented, Hayate begins to miss his own school a bit. This is a hilarious and good hearted comedy manga. My Grade: A Hayate the Combat Butler Volume 4 by Kenjiro Hata. Translated by Yuki Yoshioka and Cindy H. Yamauchi. Adapted by Mark Giambruno. Originally published in Japan by Shogakukan in 2005. Published in the States by Viz, for Older Teens, $9.99.  

DATE: Sun, 30 Sep 2007
SIZE: 5.31 MB
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Episode 39: The Fall of Geneon and a Review for Witchblade Volume 1

First up, some thoughts on the continually expanding mess that is Geneon... Hmmm.....rhymes with Enron...hmmmm...then it's on to a review of the first volume of the Witchblade anime from Funimation. Six years ago Masane Amaha and her daughter Rihoko were found at the epicenter of a giant earthquake that reduced most of Tokyo to rubble and even submerged areas in the sea. She had no memories of her life before that moment when she woke with a child she had no recollection of in her arms. If not for medical records, the authorities would not have known Rihoko was her daughter. Over the past six years Masane has grown to love Rihoko and will not allow the Child Welfare Department to take her away. While languishing in a jail cell, she is attacked by a mysterious organic machine called an Ex-Con, which triggers the sentient Witchblade, an ancient weapon born to destroy and fight. My Grade: A-

DATE: Sun, 30 Sep 2007
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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Street Fighter: Sakura Ganbaru! Volume 1 by Masahiko Nakahira

Manga Review for Street Fighter: Sakura Ganbaru! Volume 1 by Masahiko Nakahira. Translated by Michelle Hayashi and Rie Shibazaki. Adapted by Jim Zubkavich and Matt Moylan. Published by Udon for $12.95, size: 8.1 x 5.8 inches. Originally published in Japan by Shinseisha. 15-year-old Sakura Kasugane has a secret life outside of school that she doesn't want her parents to know about. She is a street fighter being trained by a martial artist from Hong Kong named Dan Hibiki. He  originally came to Japan to study martial arts but he has become more and more intrigued by Sakura's natural talent when it comes to studying fighting techniques. All he has to do is show her a move and she can not only mimic it but incorporate her own personal styles to compliment it. Another student at her school, the heir to the vast Kazuki business empire, Karin Kazuki, is also a street fighter. Her ancestors were great warriors who lived by the motto "In all things, be victorious!" She has translated this belief into becoming the greatest street fighter in the city. She has no equal until she encounters Sakura, and then she sets all her energy into defeating her. I was never a big fan of the Street Fighter videogames, even though I remember when it was strictly a stand up arcade game. There was a time when Street Fighter 2 coming to the Sega Genesis was the biggest news this side of Halo 3. I bought the game and was decidedly underwhelmed by the experience, perhaps because my best friend could beat me easily. But I like the IDEA of the videogames and the design of its characters and I like a bit of fighting manga so I decided to give Sakura Ganbaru a shot. First up, the art is awful. Nakahira's characters all look a bit plump and the two main female leads look the opposite of feminine. Even when there's a panty shot, it feels like you're looking at a guy in his underwear because of Nakahira's lack of knowledge or total denial of the female body. I would even call the art a bit primitive. While the fights should have plenty of money shots, they mostly consist of blurred drawings with what look like small explosions signifying impacts. You really shouldn't have an artist that does poor fight panels doing a manga like Sakura. The personalities of the characters were interesting, if a bit colorless, but the art was just way too ugly. Has six color plates and some bonus pages taken from the Street Fighter Alpha manga showing how Sakura met Ryu. My Rating: C

DATE: Sun, 30 Sep 2007
SIZE: 4.56 MB
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Episode 38: Hikaru No Go Volume 7 by Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata

Podcast #38 of Sesho's Anime and Manga Reviews. A few comments on Xbox 360 failures and Naruto videogame, a manga writing relative of a co-worker, and the rudeness of ANN, then it's on to a review of Volume 7 of the Hikaru No Go manga. Hikaru No Go Volume 7. Written by Yumi Hotta and drawn by Takeshi Obata of Deathnote fame. Translated and adapted by Andy Nakatani. Published by Viz as part of their Shonen Jump line. Originally published in 1998 by Shueisha in Japan. $7.95, For all ages. Hikaru is currently ranked 18th in the Insei B League and does not appear be moving up in the ranks at all. It is three months until the Young Lions Tournament in which Insei play against rookie pros. If Hikaru hopes to play against Akira Toya, he has to at least be ranked 16th in the A League. He has his work cut out for him and the fear in his heart is keeping him from making any progress towards his goal. My Grade: A+

DATE: Sat, 29 Sep 2007
SIZE: 0.01 MB
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St. Lunatic High School Volume 1 by Majiko!

Review for St. Lunatic High School Volume 1 by Majiko! Translated by Alethea and Athena Nibley for Tokyopop, $9.99. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten in 2004. For ages 13+. Niko Kanzaki and her brother Atchan have fallen on hard times. They live alone and are behind on their rent and sometimes there are barely able to keep from starving. But Fate seems to cast a favorable eye on them when Atchan gets a job as a nightschool teacher at the prestigious and elite St. Lunatic High School. The ad that he responded to said the position came along with free housing including a private bath, toilet, and garden. When they arrive on the school grounds they are shocked to discover that they will be living in a hellhole shack even worse than the ratty apartment they were in! The bath and toilet they were promised turns out to be the school restroom facilities that all the students use. The garden just turns out to be the school's landscaped grounds. As an added bonus, Niko is allowed to attend night classes with her brother as homeroom teacher. The aspect of this manga that pushes it from normal school life to the realm of the bizarre and strange is that the students that attend St. Lunatic at night are all DEMONS! And most of them are pretty funky looking. You have skeletons, human sized frogs, pumpkinheads, a walking Easter Island statue, and a penguin that looks like it fell out of Disgaea. There is one fellow student that looks human, a handsome boy named Ren-kun, but even he is a demon who can fly with the use of bone-like wings. Being the only human in the class, Niko faces a lot of discrimination from the demon children but she's trying her best to get along with them and learn at the same time. St. Lunatic High School was a manga that Tokyopop originally offered for sale only on their website, a fate that some titles were subjugated to because of low sales expectations. It turns out that the lack of belief in this title was justified. Relative to the writing and concept, the art was the standout of this first volume. Majiko's style and character designs reminded me a bit of Takeshi Obata's work on Hikaru No Go but with less attention to detail and backgrounds. The writing is where this book suffers the most. First of all, the concept of a demon night school, while not the most original in the world, could've worked if the characters had been anything more than voided lumps of flesh with no personality. The comedy aspects of the book were also flat and humorless. There just wasn't anything interesting going on in this manga and it became rather boring. If you read this book on a Monday, by Friday you won't remember much about it. My Rating: D

DATE: Tue, 25 Sep 2007
SIZE: 3.43 MB
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Episode 37: The Law of Ueki Volume 7 by Tsubasa Fukuchi

Podcast review for The Law of Ueki Volume 7 by Tsubasa Fukuchi. Translated and adapted by Yoshiko Tokuhara and Filomila Papakonstantinou. Originally published in Japan in 2001 by Shogakukan. Released in the states by Viz for $9.99. Rated T for Teen. Ueki has whittled Robert's 10 down to 2 but these last two members might just be the most powerful. First up is Taro Myojin, who is a cheater because he has TWO powers: the power to change whistles into laser beams and the power to change cards into saws. Then a King Candidate named Inumaru reveals that his champion, Seiichiro Sano is the last member of Robert's 10 and that he wishes to save him from the evil influence of Robert Haydn. At this point it's not clear whether Sano joined of his own freewill or he was somehow forced. Ueki and friends proceed to a showdown in Robert's underground hideout, Dogra Mansion. My Grade: B+

DATE: Sun, 23 Sep 2007
SIZE: 2.74 MB
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Episode 36:Ah My Goddess Season 2, Flights of Fancy: Volume 3

Reunited And It Feels So Good. After a brief overview of this series, it's on to a podcast review of the third volume of the second season of Ah My Goddess. Keiichi has his hands full when a fourth goddess, Peorth, arrives on the scene to fulfill his hidden desires. She sets about doing anything to get him alone in order to seduce him into uttering his wish. But even Keiichi is at a loss as to what that wish is. Then an ex-member of the auto club comes to town, and is shocked to see how much the club has changed since she left. Her and Keiichi hit it off and agree to race tiny motorcycles. Urd has her own romantic entanglements as an old lover called the Troubadour returns after years or centuries of questing for the mythical Golden Nightingale. ADV Films, $29.98, 100 minutes. My Grade: B

DATE: Tue, 18 Sep 2007
SIZE: 2.90 MB
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Episode 35: Kamiyadori Volume 2 by Kei Sanbe

Episode 35: Manga Podcast Review for Kamiyadori Volume 2 by Kei Sanbe. Translated by Ray Yoshimoto and adapted by Mike Wellman. Published by Tokyopop for $9.99. First published in Japan in 2004 by Kadokawa Shoten. For Ages 18+. Vivi and Rady are trapped in the Deep Isolation Temple, unable to move against Yotsume and the Infected Liberation Front because they have no weapons. That doesn't keep Vivi from assaulting them kamikaze style, exposed rear end and all. The whole thing appears suicidal because Yotsume seems to have the power of a Right Arm, which no human can beat. Meanwhile, Jillald and the other Scudra forces try to force their way into the complex to help Vivi and Rady before it's too late. My Grade: A

DATE: Sun, 16 Sep 2007
SIZE: 2.78 MB
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Episode 34:Pick of the Litter Volume 1 by Yuriko Suda

Podcast review for Pick of the Litter Volume 1 by Yuriko Suda. Translated by Alethea and Athena Nibley. Adapted by Kristin Bailey Murphy. Published by Tokyopop. First published in Japan in 2004 by Kadokawa Shoten. $9.99 Riku Fukagawa has no memory of ever having a family. He was discovered walking the streets alone five years, knowing only his name. He lived in orphanages for the next couple of years and it was there that he decided his life would be spent helping others. Now, he's living in school dorms and is heavily involved in student life. That's when some weird street vendors show up claiming that he is their lost brother and that Riku was not even born in this world! Maybe that's why one of his brothers has rabbit ears? They take him back to their land through a dimensional gateway to see if it will jog his memory. My Grade: C-

DATE: Sat, 15 Sep 2007
SIZE: 3.12 MB
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Episode 33: Togari Volume 2 by Yoshinori Natsume

Togari Volume 2 by Yoshinori Natsume. Translated by Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt. Published by Viz. First published in Japan in 2001 by Shogakukan. $9.99. Rated T+ for Older Teens. Tobei has been roasting in Hell for around 300 years, ever since he was executed at the young age of 16 for innumerable crimes. In those 300 years of torture and pain he has never once renounced his crimes or felt remorse. Now Lady Ema, the overseer of Hell, offers him a deal. If he can destroy 108 sins, called Toga, in 108 days, he can get out of Hell. He is given a wooden sword called Togari and sent to Earth. One of his guards, Ose, also accompanies him, mainly staying in the form of a dog. If he even thinks about committing a sin, his old execution wound opens. He is also not allowed to hurt the human host of a Toga. If he does, his head is in danger of falling off his body! Will human kindness be able to turn him away from his dark past of killing and stealing? My Grade: A-

DATE: Thu, 13 Sep 2007
SIZE: 3.97 MB
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Episode 32: Red Garden Volume 1

Podcast review for Red Garden Volume 1 anime DVD directed by Kou Matsuo. Series composition by Tomohiro Yamashita. Episodes 1-4, 100 minutes. ADV Films $29.98. 4 girls from the same private school in New York City have two things in common. They have all lost their memories from last night and all of them were friends with a missing student named Lisa Meyer whose dead body was recently found. At first glance, it appears she committed suicide but two police investigators suspect some sort of foul play. The four girls, Rose, Claire, Rachel, and Kate begin to see mysterious butterflys which lead them to a meeting with a mysterious woman named Lula who tells the girls that they are dead! She tells them they were brought back to life, that she tried to save Lise as well, but couldn't secure her body. To continue the pseudo life they are living they will have to fight. Just at that moment a man approaches them with glowing eyes, and running along on all fours making dog noises, his legs deformed into the shape of canine back legs.....Lula tells the four that they have to kill him... My Grade: A-

DATE: Wed, 12 Sep 2007
SIZE: 3.26 MB
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Episode 31: Atelier Marie And Elie Volume 1 by Yoshihiko Ochi

Atelier Marie and Elie: Zarlburg Alchemist Volume 1 by Yoshihiko Ochi manga podcast review. Published by Tokyopop. Originally published in Japan in 2001 by Enterbrain. Translated by Althea and Athena Nibley. $9.99 For Ages 13+. This title is based on a pair of videogames released for the Playstation and Playstation 2 that were only released in Japan back in the 1990's and 2005. Marie, a world-travelling alchemist has decided to return to her hometown, Zarlburg, after spending years adventuring. She doesn't adjust too well to the trappings of normal life and is a bit antsy until she meets Elie. Elie is a recent graduate from the Zarlburg Academy and practically hero worships Marie. After all, Marie did save her life when she was a kid. Elie talks Marie into opening a shop with her in town to use alchemy in a practical fashion to help people. First up, a skyscraper sized monster called a Puni Puni, a hideous globular smiley face that crushes everything in its path, which might include Zarlburg! My Grade: C-

DATE: Tue, 11 Sep 2007
SIZE: 3.91 MB
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Episode 30: Shiki Tsukai Volume 1 by To-Ru Zekuu and Yuna Takanagi

Episode 30: Shiki Tsukai Volume 1 Manga Podcast Review. Story by To-Tu Zekuu and art by Yuna Takanagi. Translated and adapted by Mayumi Kobayashi. Published by Del Rey for $10.95. Originally published in Japan in 2006 by Kodansha. For ages 13+. Akira Kizuki does not like to fight or confront people but he finds himself drawn into a battle between rival Keepers of the Seasons, the Shiki Tsukai, magic-users that can control the seasons, who are fighting amongst themselves about the best way to restore the Earth's climate to its normal state. One side thinks that killing off part of the human population will heal it! Akira is being sought out by the more anti-population faction because they believe him to be the Shinra, a Tsukai that can control all the seasons and bring about their victory. Will Akira gain the ability to defend himself and the strength to make a choice about whose side he is on? My Grade: F

DATE: Sun, 09 Sep 2007
SIZE: 2.52 MB
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Episode 29: Kashimashi Volume 3 by Satoru Akahori and Yukimaru Katsura

Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl Volume 3 Manga podcast review. Story by Satoru Akahori. Art by Yukimaru Katsura. Character designs by Sukune Inugami. Translated by Adrienne Beck. Published by Seven Seas. Originally published in Japan 2005 by Media Works. $10.99 Rated Older Teen (16+). After being killed by a malfunctioning spaceship, Osaragi Hazumu is resurrected as a girl which leads to much romantic confusion with Tomari, his childhood friend, and Yasuna, the girl that rejected his declaration of love. Even his male friend, Asuta, develops a crush on Hazumu now that he's a girl! In this volume Yasuna and Tomari decide that their love for Hazumu will see them through this tough situation and that they don't have to be rivals, but allies. My Grade: B

DATE: Thu, 06 Sep 2007
SIZE: 2.20 MB
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Episode 28: Puri Puri Volume 1 by Chiaki Taro

Puri Puri Volume 1 by Chiaki Taro manga review podcast. Published by DrMaster. Originally published in Japan by Akita Publishing. Price: $9.95 Ages 15+. The students of St. Sophia Girl's School have fallen off the correct path of what is morally right. They fight, they are slovenly, and they do not take care of their personal hygiene. The principal thinks that what the school needs is a boy to change the attitudes of the girls. Masato Kamioda is the first lucky/unlucky boy to be admitted. He has always dreamed of being a priest but it is going to be pretty hard to complete his studies with there being so much animosity at his arrival. My Grade: B+

DATE: Wed, 05 Sep 2007
SIZE: 3.17 MB
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Episode 27: Kurohime Volume 1 by Masanori Ookamigumi Katakura

Manga review podcast for Kurohime Volume 1 by Masanori Ookamigumi Katakura. Published by Viz under their Shonen Jump Advanced line of books. Originally published in Japan by Shueisha in 2000. Price $7.99. For Older Teens. A do-gooder gunslinger named Zero searches for the legendary witch-gunslinger named Kurohime, the woman that saved his life 10 years ago. He's also in love with her but he might change his mind when he meets her in the flesh. It seems that shortly after she saved his life she was cursed with the body of a young girl for daring to aspire to be a god. The only way to break the curse is for her to fall in love! My grade: D

DATE: Tue, 04 Sep 2007
SIZE: 3.80 MB
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Episode 26: Naruto Uncut Box Set 3

Anime DVD Review podcast for Naruto Uncut Box Set 3. Viz Video $49.98. 3 DVD set containing Episodes 26-38 of Naruto. 325 Minutes. Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura enter the Forest of Death to attempt the second part of the Chunin Exam. Half of the three man teams are given Heaven scrolls, the other half Earth scrolls. To complete the test, you must defeat another team and take their scroll, then make your way to the tower in the center of the forest. First up for Naruto's team is a criminal ninja named Orochimaru who was disguised as a examinee, but whose real purpose is to win over Sasuke as a disciple. Extremely tight fight choreography, great animation, and evolving characters make this a sure thing. My Grade: A

DATE: Mon, 03 Sep 2007
SIZE: 3.01 MB
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Episode 25: Naruto Nation

A few thoughts on Naruto and Shonen Jump anime versions vs. manga versions  Month by month releases of the Naruto Nation media blitz starting this week. Movies, dvds, manga, trading cards, art books, novels, ani-manga, reference works, and games are just some of the Naruto items coming out in the next 4 months. If you're a Naruto fan, please prepare to go without food for a couple of months!

DATE: Sat, 01 Sep 2007
SIZE: 2.99 MB
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Episode 24: Innocent Venus Volume 1

Innocent Venus Volume 1 Anime dvd Review. ADV Films $29.98. Episodes 1-4. 100 minutes. After a series of hyper hurricanes kill off half the Earth's population, nations have to find ways to rebuild. Japan develops power suit and mecha technology that gives them a military advantage over their neighbors. It also gives the Logos, the inhabitants of the cities, power to control the Revinus, the inhabitants living in the slums outside the cities. Jin and Joe are trying to whisk Sana Nobuto out of the reach of Logos and their bloodthirsty extreme ops force, Phantom. My Grade: A-

DATE: Thu, 30 Aug 2007
SIZE: 2.39 MB
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Episode 23: Strawberry 100% Volume 1 by Mizuki Kawashita

Strawberry 100% Volume 1 by Mizuki Kawashita manga review.  Published by Viz under their Shonen Jump Advanced line. Rated T+ for Older teen with a parental advisory for Mature content. Price: $7.99 Originally published in 2002 by Shueisha in Japan. Junpei is in his last year of middle school and wants to become a movie director. When he goes onto the roof of his school to watch the sunset, a girl falls from above him and lands on the roof. Junpei becomes captivated by the strawberry panties she is wearing. He doesn't even know who the girl was but when he finds a notebook with the name Aya Tojo on it, he begins his quest to find out who she really was. Smacking more of shojo than shonen, this first volume is an innocent comedy with erotic fixations. My grade: B+

DATE: Mon, 27 Aug 2007
SIZE: 3.69 MB
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Episode 22: Hollow Fields Volume 1 by Madeleine Rosca

Hollow Fields Volume 1 by Madeleine Rosca manga review. Published by Seven Seas for $9.99. Winner of International Manga Award. Rated All Ages. Lucy Snow gets lost in the woods as she takes a shortcut to the St. Galbat's Academy For Young Ladies. What she finds is Hollow Fields, a school that does not charge its students for tuition,food,board, or books. Everything is free as long as you sign a contract to live up to your academic potential. Lucy signs the contract but soon begins to regret her decision when she finds out that the curriculum is designed for the sons and daughters of mad scientists! The student with the lowest grades each week is sent to detention and is never seen again. Will Lucy be able to make the cut, and will she be able to make a friend? My Grade: A

DATE: Sat, 25 Aug 2007
SIZE: 3.76 MB
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Episode 21: Kamiyadori Book 1 by Kei Sanbe

Manga review for Kamiyadori Book 1 by Kei Sanbe. Translated by Ray Yoshimoto and adapted by Mike Wellman. US edition published by Tokyopop in December 2006. Japanese version published in 2004 by Kadokawa Shoten. $9.99. Rated M for Mature. Contains nudity and graphic violence. Kei Sanbe fashions another apocalyptic world after leaving the CMX series Testarotho with a very awkward ending due to it being cancelled. A virus of tenacious contagion spreads across the world, changing its victims, be they plant, animal, or human into grotesque monsters called kamiyadori. Only a special forces unit of the police known as Right Arms, imbued with the power of the Kamiyadori, can battle on equal terms with the monsters. Their job, to exterminate the infected without mercy or pity. Jillald, a Right Arm, has begun to doubt his purpose and the reason why he has killed so many. His partner, Vivi, an uncivilized Rojek, has no such doubts. My Grade: B

DATE: Thu, 23 Aug 2007
SIZE: 5.78 MB
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Episode 20: Hikaru No Go Vol. 6 by Yumi Hotta and Takeshi Obata

Episode 20: Update on the closing of Anime Avalon in Houston. 40% off everything in the store. 5$ rental anime dvds. General overview of the series Hikaru No Go for readers that have not read any of the previous volumes. Then it's on to a review of Volume 6. Story by Yumi Hotta and art by Takeshi Obata, who also worked on Death Note. Supervised by Yukari Umezawa, a pro Go player in Japan. Price: $7.95 Published by Viz under their Shonen Jump line. Rated: All Ages. Hikaru takes the insei exam to rise up another notch in his quest to beat Akira without Sai's help. Akira has a test of his own as he enters the Shinshodan Series, in which new pros take on veterans as a sort of coming out ceremony.

DATE: Wed, 22 Aug 2007
SIZE: 3.05 MB
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Episode 19: Gunbuster 2 Volume 3

Gunbuster 2 Volume 3 anime dvd review. Bandai Visual $39.98. Ages 13+. Directed by Kazuya Tsurumaki from a screenplay by Yoji Enokido. Animated by Gainax. Supervised by Hideaki Anno. Nono and Lal'c have reversed roles from the early episodes. Nono has been revealed to be the super powerful Buster Machine #7 and Lal'c has been cast aside as a useless and dangerous tool. But she will be called back into service as even Nono's godlike powers are not enough to fight alone against the planet sized Exelio Fluctuating Gravity Well! Visually stunning romp that leaves you with lots of questions but still in awe of what Gainax TRIED to do. Email: seshos@hotmail.com My Grade: B+

DATE: Sun, 19 Aug 2007
SIZE: 2.72 MB
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Episode 18: Peach Girl Volume 4

Peach Girl Volume 4 anime dvd review. Released by Funimation, Price: $29.98. Peach Girl is based on a popular Japanese manga series released in America by Tokyopop. It is pure unadulterated shojo school romance at its finest. Momo is finally in a stable and satisfying relationship with Kairi but trouble soon develops when she meets his brother, Ryo. Ryo has made a habit of stealing all of Kairi's girlfriends and Kairi tells Momo that he is a female version of the treacherous Sae. But in a role reversal, it is Momo who fails to heed the warnings from someone she loves. Sae becomes involved as well when she falls for Ryo. Why do the characters in this series always trust the wrong people? Even though it becomes a bit redundant, you still can't help liking this show. My grade: B+

DATE: Sun, 19 Aug 2007
SIZE: 3.05 MB
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Episode 17: Eden Volume 8 by Hiroki Endo

Eden Volume 8 by Hiroki Endo manga review. Translator: Kumar Sivasubramanian. Published by Dark Horse. Price: $12.95. Ages 18+. Originally published in Japan by Kodansha in 2003. Elijah prepares to settle the score with Pedro as he is assigned by the government to assassinate him at an airport as he attempts to leave the country with his brother. Then things heat up as Elijah and Helena begin to delve into a more intimate relationship. Graphic sex, violence, emotions are all on display in this volume. But the emotion of love runs as a invisible but powerful undercurrent beneath all the spectacle. Also, I comment on the recent controversy about Eden's rumored cancellation. My Grade: A

DATE: Thu, 16 Aug 2007
SIZE: 2.53 MB
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Episode 16: Alive Volume 1 by Tadashi Kawashima

Manga Review for Alive: The Final Revolution Volume 1. Story by Tadashi Kawashima. Art by Adachitoka. Published by Del Rey $10.95. Ages 16+. Translated and adapted by Anastasia Moreno. Originally published in Japan 2005 by Kodansha. High school students have to deal with an intelligent alien virus that causes its victims to commit suicide. My Rating: C-

DATE: Thu, 16 Aug 2007
SIZE: 2.52 MB
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Episode 15: Gon Volume 1 by Masashi Tanaka

Manga review for Gon Volume 1 by Masashi Tanaka. Published by CMX, $5.99 Rated T for Teen. This first volume chronicles the adventures of the last little dinosaur left on Earth as he fights against those bigger in size but weaker in spirit and power. Story is told completely with art. No dialogue or sound effects. A pure manga experience. My Rating: A

DATE: Tue, 14 Aug 2007
SIZE: 3.25 MB
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Episode 14: Air TV Volume 1

Air TV Volume 1: ADV Films, $29.98, Episodes 1-4, 100 Minutes, Ages 14+. Directed by Tatsuya Isihara. Animation by Kyoto Animation. A down on his luck puppeteer named Yukito comes to a strange little town searching for a winged girl that lives beyond the sky. Instead he meets a bevy of cute girls who all seem to harbor strange secrets. A strangely surreal dreamlike take on harem anime that soothes and perplexes instead of titillates. My Grade: B

DATE: Sun, 12 Aug 2007
SIZE: 4.14 MB
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Episode 13: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Volume 1

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Volume 1 anime dvd review. Bandai Entertainment.Ages 13+. 100 minutes. Episodes 00-3. Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara. Animated by Kyoto Animation. High schooler Haruhi Suzumiya is bored with the normal world and only wants to meet aliens, espers, and time travelers. The guy that sits in front of her in class, Kyon is able to make a connection with her and together they form the SOS Brigade. They recruit bookworm Yuki, big boobs ditz Mikuru, and mysterious transfer student Itsuki to investigate mysterious phenomena at school and throughout the city. My Grade: B

DATE: Sat, 11 Aug 2007
SIZE: 3.78 MB
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Episode 12: 10,20, and 30 Volume 1 by Morim Kang

Manhwa review for 10,20, and 30 Volume 1 by Morim Kang. Published by Netcomics $9.99 Ages 16+. Translated by Jennifer Park. 10,20, and 30 follows the adventures of three female characters as they feel their way through life and come to terms with what they want out of a relationship. Rok Nah, 16, is not interested in dating boys yet, even though her childhood friend wants to be her boyfriend. Her mother, Krum Yoon, a rising fashion designer, cannot forget her dead husband, even when the president of the company starts to become fond of her. Belle Woo, Krum's niece, is locked in a dead-end relationship with a man who satisfies her sexually, but brings her no closer to happiness. This is a comedy romance drama that looks at life through female eyes from the perspective of three different age groups. Volume 1 was funny, truthful, and authentic. Does contain cartoony nudity and sexual situations.

DATE: Fri, 10 Aug 2007
SIZE: 3.62 MB
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Episode 11: Chunchu The Genocide Fiend Volume 1

Manhwa review for Chunchu the Genocide Fiend Volume 1. Written by Kim Sung-Jae and illustrated by Kim Byung-Jin. Published by Dark Horse Manhwa: $10.95, Ages 16+. Chunchu was cursed from birth with the spirit of a demon. Even though he was the son of the Yoong chief, he was cast out and given to the Mirmidon, a tough and severe clan, where it was thought that he would soon perish. Now Chunchu is all grown up and thirsting for revenge. Or is he merely wondering why he was born? Solid award-winning action title from Korea with lots of violence, characterization, and a tiny smack of romance. My Rating: A-

DATE: Thu, 09 Aug 2007
SIZE: 3.02 MB
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Episode 10: The Death of Anime Avalon

Episode 10: The Death of Anime Avalon. No, this is not a new anime. This podcast is actually a reaction to the closing of  Anime Avalon, the ONLY store specializing in anime and manga in Houston.  They said they could not compete with the big chain stores anymore. This is a disturbing trend that not only touches manga and anime, but also general independent booksellers and music stores.  Who is right, who is wrong?

DATE: Wed, 08 Aug 2007
SIZE: 2.67 MB
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Episode 9: Heroes Are Extinct!! Volume 1 by Ryoji Hido

Heroes Are Extinct!! Volume 1 by Ryoji Hido. DMP , $12.95, Ages 13+. Originally published in Japan 2003 by Shinshokan. Translated by Melanie Schoen. The Bazue Empire has sent its three greatest Grand Galactic Generals along with a starfleet to conquer Earth. Cassiel, its leader, has watched too much anime and thinks that the earthlings possess superheroes and giant mecha defenders. When he finds out his image of Earth is wrong, he sets out to train his own Power Rangeresque team called the Earth Force Terra Rangers. My Rating D-

DATE: Wed, 08 Aug 2007
SIZE: 2.77 MB
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Episode 8: Eureka Seven Volume 7

Eureka Seven Volume 7. Bandai Entertainment $24.98. Directed by Tomoki Kyoda. Written by Dai Sato. Animated by Bones. Holland awaits the anticipated attack of Charles and Ray, while Renton has to decide if he has the strength to defend Eureka. Dominic investigates Renton's past and meets up with Renton's grandfather. Every aspect of this anime puts it among the elite titles. My rating: A+

DATE: Mon, 06 Aug 2007
SIZE: 2.91 MB
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Episode 7 Coyote Ragtime Show by Ufotable

Episode 7-- Manga Review of Coyote Ragtime Show Volume 1 by Ufotable. Art by Tartan Check. $9.99 Broccoli Books;Ages 13+. The planet Graceland is going to be destroyed in seven days. Hidden somewhere on Graceland is a lost treasure of ten billion space dollars, left by the deceased Pirate King, Blues. Mister and his pals want to claim the money for the Pirate King's daughter, Franca, but Madame Marciano of the Criminal Guild and her 12 Sisters, android assassins in maid uniforms, want to get their hands on it as well. Email:seshos@hotmail.com

DATE: Sat, 04 Aug 2007
SIZE: 3.57 MB
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Episode 6: Galaxy Angel AA Volume 1

Galaxy Angel AA Volume 1 is a continuation of the Galaxy Angel anime series and contains lots of laughs, familiar characters, and zany situations as the Angel Brigade continues its lackadaisical quest to find Lost Technology. $24.98 Bandai Entertainment. Podcast correction: Bandai Visual is the Japanese fist in America that is charging too much for anime dvds, not Bandai Entertainment.

DATE: Sat, 04 Aug 2007
SIZE: 3.66 MB
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Episode 5 TetraGrammaton Labyrinth Volume 1 by Ei Itou

Tetragrammaton Labyrinth Volume 1 is a horror manga published by Seven Seas under their Strawberry line. For older teens 16 and up. Sister Meg and the apparently immortal Angela team together to fight occult menaces and evil humans in an effort to keep London safe from the forces of darkness.  Plenty of action and gore and scary designs with a tinge of tragedy. Translated by Kenji Komiya and adapted by Shannon Fay. $11.99  Email  seshos@hotmail.com

DATE: Thu, 02 Aug 2007
SIZE: 4.35 MB
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Episode 4 -- Gintama Volume 1 by Hideaki Sorachi

This is a podcast review for Gintama Volume 1 by Hideaki Sorachi published by Viz under their Shonen Jump Advanced line of manga. Rated for Older Teen $7.99.  Japan's Edo period is ended by the arrival of the Amanto, aliens from outer space, who insinuate themselves into all facets of Japanese society and disenfranchise and outlaw the samurai. Gintoki, Shinpachi, two samurai,  and Kagura, one of the last survivors of an alien warrior race, try to make ends meet any way they can in this adventure comedy that suffers from a bad translation and too much self-awareness. My Rating  F

DATE: Thu, 02 Aug 2007
SIZE: 13.6 MB
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Web Links for Mangacast and Mangablog

Just wanted to post the links for the Mangacast and Mangablog sites: http://community.livejournal.com/mangacast/ http://www.mangablog.net/   I highly recommend these sites for news and views on manga. You can also find the Mangacast podcast on Itunes as well.

DATE: Thu, 02 Aug 2007
SIZE: 3.75 MB
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Episode 3 -- Mar Volume 1 dvd -- Gateway to Mar

Episode 3 is a review of the first dvd volume of Mar,  the story of Ginta Toramizu who is able to travel to the fantasy land of Marchen that he has been seeing in his dreams for 102 nights.  In Marchen he makes some new friends and harnesses Babbo, the most powerful Arm, on his quest to find a way back home. Innocent and harmless kid entertainment. This dvd was released by Viz and has a list price of $19.99.

DATE: Tue, 31 Jul 2007
SIZE: 3.67 MB
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Episode 2-- The Last Uniform Volume 1 by Mera Hakamada

This is a podcast review of Volume 1 of The Last Uniform, a manga written and drawn by Mera Hakamada, translated into English by Nancy Barron and Ben Applegate. It is one of the first volumes of "yuri" manga published by Seven Seas under their "Strawberry" line, which focuses on romantic relationships between girls.  Don't get me wrong, yuri books can have lots of action as well, but The Last Uniform is definitely a school girl romance title. Innocent, wistful, and funny.  Originally published in Japan by Houbunsha in 2005.  Rated 16+ and priced at $11.99. My Rating:  A  


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