Friday, July 24, 2009

Elizabeth and Manga: four reviews of summer reads

We all know that Elizabeth and Manga are like peanut butter and bananas, you can’t separate them in a sandwich no matter how hard you try (did you have those as a kid in your lunch? I also had peanut butter and cucumber sandwiches – try trading that!). Manga is both Cheryl and Beth’s pain control, allowing them to take a mental break from the constant pain. They also are a good media form for depression because while they have multi-layers (sometimes), they are fairly easy to read. So when you have a chronic illness which REQUIRES constantly monitoring of yourself for oxygen, breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, liquid intake, excretion, food intake, core heat, extremity heat and frostbite, and mental functions, it is hard to be allowed to express being depressed. One cannot ‘shut off everything’ because the consequences are too high, but manga allows that indulgence and escape which the mind needs for its’ good health.

Thank you to every single person who has helped me by getting a manga, or a gift card (from Amazon). Cheryl or Linda puts post it notes on the manga so every time it is read or re-read, even if that is 4 a.m. with pain or in the bathroom with G.I. problems, I can be thankful to you. And I am. It is like having a room of friends as I see the names on the front of the covers. Friends here to help me though the dark times.

But, for those who would like to start into manga, I am not going to go on about how it is an important and growing form of book, or how it can accommodate those who have problems reading close text (like me now), I am going to give four reviews. Last time I reviewed some of the manga for the serious or literary minded. This time I want to review four books for ‘light’ reading. Almost a guarantee that there will be no life changing reading going on here, unless you have never tried ‘escapism’.

Tsubasa: Those with Wings – this is by the Creator of Fruit Basket and is a hefty 400 pages of short manga stories all tied together around the Kotobuki, a female short nimble thief and Raimon a military commander who has a mysterious past (and present). This is your basic fun fantasy, which like Nephilim involves plucky determined girls and teasing yet oddly super-capable guys. For instance in Nephalim, she lives in the jungle and is seen naked by him. According to village law he must die by her hand. So for the rest of the book, while he is going to rescue a princess (she assumes for money) she tries to kill him with her knife by dropping out of trees, throwing daggers, etc. He on the other hand always seems to know and for example blocks the daggers with a book he is reading and says, “Hey, I wasn’t finished with that!” or “I thought I told you, no killing during meal time!” In Tsubasa, Raimon is ‘supposed’ to catch Kotobuki but he prefers to watch her antics as she leaps and bounces avoiding the other military. When she decides to quit the thief life and work a job, he quits the militiary and gets a job near her. “Why?!” she demands.

“You are fun to be around.” He says while she fumes and stomps her foot.

Each manga story in this volume is about 40-60 pages long, some shorter. And as they travel through a post-apocalypse world the stories loosely revolve around Tsubasa, a legendary device that grants any wish, and everyone from the military to greedy rich people want it. Meanwhile, Raimon and Kotobuki go from place to place, some towns, some houses, to help people, create justice or just survive themselves, all the time bickering with Kotobuki both angry at the way Raimon doesn’t take her seriously enough and lonely when he isn’t teasing her. I am not sure why I am attracted to stories of nimble 5 foot 2 inch girls who do backflips and all sorts of leaping about with knives. Or why I like the romance of her hanging around a 6 foot guy who holds her up off the ground while scolding her for scaring him by almost getting killed. Maybe it is because the six foot woman are usually some sort of villian who bash things. Not to mention there is no being swept up into anyone’s arms, not when EMT’s discuss how many people have to carry you (“She a big one!”). So this is TOTAL fantasy for me and the stories were drawn before Fruit Basket in volume 1, a bargain for $10 at Amazon, light action stories with a tingle of romance. Raimon is of course a leech who never touches her but is always suggesting things or who will only save her if she kisses him (he works out this theory that if she can learn to kiss him once a day, they might finally sleep together). Good for 15 year old and up. The second book, also $10 at amazon and 400 pages is out in a week and I think is drawn after Fruit Basket. I am curious to see how the whimsical fantasy of a 20 something manga artist changes after the experience of several major series. I hope the light humor leech of Raimon and the ‘I don’t need anyone’ attitude that is being worn down by Raimon still exists in Kotobuki.

You will fall in Love is Boy Love Boy love are two adult males who are in love and means that there is a kiss, or maybe some implied activity but nothing is graphically shown (is is often called Yaoi). A lot of females find that romance is romance and nice looking guys falling in love romantically is still romance. And so do Cheryl and I, two lesbians, enjoy this award winning book. So this a good introduction to this particular artist, whose art and style is highly regarded. The story is both fluff and universally complex: a love triangle over time. Haru is a teacher who ends up back at the school where he did Jyudo, or Japanese Archery as a high school student. This is painful for him as he was a brilliant archer who competed nationally with a beautiful style of archery but left archery suddenly. The reason was never told, and it was because he had fallen in love with Reiichiro, his competitor at school. He felt that his love was shameful, never told anyone and that it was destroying the purity of archery. He returns only to find that the younger brother of Reiichiro, named Tsukasa, is not only leading the archery club at school but has been carrying a crush for him, Haru all this time. Tsukasa knows why Haru left archery as he could see the love in the face of Haru but declares his own love. Though the book, Haru struggles with his feelings of shame and Tsukasa with is insecurity that he will always be second place to absent older brother Reiichiro. The students meanwhile are trying to get Haru to be the club advisor and get him back into archery.

Finally Tsukasa confronts Haru and demands to know if he cares for him. Haru won't answer and says that he will not destroy Tsukasa’s chance to go to the nationals by responding. Tsukasa says that love is love but Haru believes that his archery became erratic due to this ‘forbidden love.’ So Tsukasa tells him that he will prove him wrong, that he loves him and he will win the next tournament, DUE to thinking of his love of Haru, and if he wins, then Haru should kiss him. Haru (the uke, though older) sort of is pushed into agreeing. But during the tournament, who shows up but the lost love and older absent brother Reiichiro, and Tsukasa looks over to see them close together in coversation during his shooting. Can he still win or will he be distracted, and if he does, will it only be to find that Haru loves Reiichiro? It is a highly entertaining book with great art and a good depiction of the sport of Jyudo including a scene where he goes home to find his brother practicing in their own archery range with the lights off (the idea that the zen of pure form means the target is hit whether you see it or not), much like I asked at Sakura-con. Oh dear, does that make me a raving fan-girl? I honestly like the sport of Jyudo and want to try it, just as a sport.

For those who enjoy this book there is a follow up, You will Drown in Love. Here the loser in love in the previous book takes over as manager of the family kimono cloth business (and is horrid at it to start), but finds that the person who he annoys the most is maybe interested in him. Is there love for both brothers? A highly enjoyable series and a good introduction to the non-comedy style of romantic boy love/yaoi books.

If any action readers have made it past all the romance, the next manga is the manga adaptation of Vampire Hunter D. I have Volume one while Volume two and three are on my wish list, going for $9-$10. Each book is the DMP oversized volumes (higher and longer) and 200-250 pages, so a good value of reading. The artist Saiko Takaki has done a great job of making a stand alone series where no previous knowledge of the anime or books are needed. In a different post-apocalypse world with radiation mutations teamed up in the wild lands and vampires are now the nobles of the civilized land, and keepers of the technology. Humans live simple lives and are like serfs to the vampire nobles, who occasionally require an offering. A select few who are well trained take up the job of Vampire Hunter, those who will eliminate those who are wild vampires preying on a town to the nobles themselves. We follow the adventures of Vampire Hunter D who is a Damphir,. A damphir is a long living offspring of a vampire and human, an outsider despised by both. Some vampires have lived 1 year, some 100, and some over 1,000 or 3,000 years in this long period, being the only people left to remember the ‘pre’ earth of today. In Volume 1, D agrees to help a woman freshly bitten by the noble who vows to make her his bride. She is a beautiful woman and the son of the town’s bully sheriff is determined to force her to marry him. D has to play both diplomat and warrior as he is between the townspeople who want to use the woman to appease the noble; the sheriff and son, and the vampire lord and his daughter. Towards the end of the book, we finally get a clue as to what D might stand for, or who D’s vampire father really was. An exciting action book and I am looking forward to the next two in the series.

The final book is another yaoi, but this is not only a romantic comedy but also one for animal lovers, or furries called Part Time Pets. It is by Deux books and a collection of short stories. Deux have book that look like they have more explicit sex but often just imply it and have great romantic stories. For example Ruff Love, by the same company is just as fun. While Idol Pleasures by Deux is another comedy romance about an idol who doesn’t smile and a stuffy man out of work who is made his manager by his sister (he finds out later to make him an eligible catch for dating and marriage). To give you the idea, the serious faced Idol has a room full of teddy bears but the manager doesn’t make him feel bad about it (while all others did), so the next day, all but one teddy bear is gone and when the manager questions why the idol says with a very serious face, “I have you” and then leans on his shoulder. This seems to be the manager’s job and meanwhile the photographers are going, “Did he almost smile? He’s never done that before, on or off camera.” You can see where this is going.

Back to Part Time Pets which is not only a funny take on temp agencies but a wonderful romance of seme’s and uke’s (uke’s are the more compliant ones, who are openly affectionate). The people with cat, dog, or rabbit ears are pet/human hybrids and the book starts out with the advertising pamphlet given to offices which advertise how they can be very efficient in the workplace but also need to be taken care of as a pet. The ‘sales pitch’ has full picture accompaniment of the pro and cons including the humorous warning, “Some of our pets are not fully office trained” picture.

After the intro there are three stories (a bunny, a cat and a dog) about the part time pets. Each is endearing, particularly Tama, the ‘wild cat’ who never keeps jobs, but ends up working with an author who is stern and a good match for Tama’s wild ways. The middle of the book has a two part story about Koimoko: the Love Shrine. Our hero Enishi is the Koimoki, an inherited god-gift from the temple keepers. Anyone who touches the Koimoki increases beauty, anyone who kisses the Koimoki gains success in love and if you have sex with the Koimoki then you WILL be with your true love. It is sort of implied this used to be a job of a female miko (shrine maiden) but Enishi got the gift and hates having it. He hates love and he hates how love makes people crazy, always trying to touch or kiss him, or have sex with him. The story quickly become much more complicated and multi-layered as Enishi himself finally feels the yearning and pain of one sided love (he goes to the doctor to have his heart checked from this pain). However, Enishi’s gift has a dangerous side, which Enishi ignores because he believes that the Koimoki, (he) is only able to bring love to others……never to themselves. Can the Koimoki find love?

We end with a bonus part time pet story of Tama again (the ‘wild cat’) which is the favorite of the author and most readers. Then there is a section from the author about how the book came to be. It was a fun read from beginning to end, and my only wish was it was twice as thick or had a sequel already out. I really can’t emphasis enough how enjoyable this book is (Cheryl liked it too!). If you read Yaoi and want it hot and heavy then maybe this will seem tame, but if you want relationships with humor, love, romance, and some of the cutest Uke’s around, I heavily recommend this book. Mature teens and above though.

So there are the reviews of four of the manga which were bought for me (well I bought Vampire Hunter D 1 but I live in hope for 2 and 3!!!). I hope you find something there that will interest you. I do recommend that only who likes a good summer read or light romance to give one of the yaoi books mentioned here a try as 70% of romances sold in Asia to women are yaoi. Now from teenage girls (and boys) to adults more and more North Americans are buying yaoi or boy love – it has been added to most libraries and is on every major publisher’s lists. The guys are nice to look at, the romance is tense and gives a bit of a thrill, or funny and gives a laugh. Perfect escapism.

I hope you have a good weekend, I am off to a medical appointment so ug, but once that is over it is postcard creation time!


Lene Andersen said...

I'm so glad you have something that helps you through the darkness.

Thanks for the reviews!

wendryn said...

Looks like a lot of fun books to read! I hope the weekend goes well after the medical appointment. :)

Anna said...


Thanks for the manga reviwe. It is really hard to grasp how your brain works:) Sometimes it seems really hard for you and the, you write like this, about something "abstract".

I still can't read or write regurarily because of computer breakdown. Doing sneakpees and writing at work.

Stephanie said...

Tsubasa is by the same author as Fruits Basket? I just finished reading Fruits Basket, which I loooved, and I've seen Tsubasa around sometimes... I should definitely check it out. (I couldn't believe I loved Fruits Basket so much. Normally I can't stand romance!)

Thanks for the reviews!

Neil said...

Thanks for the reviews, dear. But more importantly, I give thanks for your ability to post daily. I can only assume you've been feeling a bit better this week. And that's wonderful.

Love and zen hugs to the three of you!

yanub said...

Peanut butter and cucumber sandwiches? Peanut butter and cucumber sandwiches? Pea.... Was that part of some sadistic plan of your parents to prepare you for a lifetime of disappointments?

Thanks for the manga reviews, Beth. I like book reviews of all sorts, even if I never get around to reading the book.