Haruka – Beyond the Stream of Time – Vol. 1 – Manga Review

 Haruka - Beyond the Stream of Time Cover

Review by: Gretchen Silverstedt

Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat Manga)
Author: Tohko Mizuno
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $8.99 US
Rating: T+
Release Date: April 1, 2008

It’s a seemingly normal day for Akane as she walks to school with her closest male friends Tenma and Shimon. The birds are chirping merrily and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and from somewhere within the darkness a voice calls to Akane. It is then a rip between the fabric of time and space appears and Akane catches a glimpse of a striking mystery man wearing a mask that she and her two friends are transported into another time period.

Welcome to the world of Haruka – Beyond the Stream of Time. If the name and title strike you as familiar it is because Haruka was released in Japan as a game (called Harukanaru Toki no Naka De for the original PlayStation and released by Dynasty Warriors developer Koei) and Shojo Beat’s April 2008 issue even announced that DVDs of the anime will soon reach our DVD players. At last, the first volume of this Neoromance has come to us and I must say that it was well worth the wait.

Beyond the Stream of Time’s first volume finds Akane in the Heian period of ancient Japan after having been summoned from her present time by Akram, leader of the Demon Clan. Confused at first, Akane suddenly realizes that she swallowed eight shining Dragon Jewels during her trip through the time stream. She doesn’t even know why her heart skips a beat in the presence of the handsome and mysterious Akram who tells her that he wishes to destroy the capitol.

In her confusion, Akane even runs into a child who happens to be Princess Fuji as well as the handsome swordsman, Major General Tachibana, that is ordered to protect Akane at all costs. It comes to the young school girl’s attention that she who swallows the eight Dragon Jewels becomes the Priestess of the Dragon God and thus must be appointed Eight Guardians to protect her. Yet she longs to see Akram again, even going as far as defending him from those that call him a Demon. Could it be that it was love at first sight or is Akram attempting to seduce her with his good looks?

To top it all off, both her friends from the present, Shimon and Tenma are also in this timeline along with her. It doesn’t take long for Shimon to come to Akane’s aid while the tough guy that is Tenma finds himself battling bandits as well as attempting to rescue Akane from what he thinks is her captors. During the “rescue”, however, a Dragon Jewel floats out of Akane and enters Tenma’s body. It becomes clear that Tenma is to become one of the Eight Guardians who will protect the newly installed Priestess.

We are later introduced to Yusuaki, an almost impossibly beautiful young sorcerer who is called into a mansion to clear an evil spirit that seduces men to their doom. In the middle of the exorcism, though, Akane “dream”-walked out of her body and was a witness to the exorcism. Unfortunately, Akram makes an appearance and it is there that the once high-school-girl-turned-Priestess realizes that she is in love with the Demon.

Akane is not the only one who is lovestruck, though, because before the flower purifying festival, Tenma – who has been fighting bandits as a member of the police force – declares his love for Akane. Oh, what’s a girl to do when her handsome best friend, a hot-looking demon and an equally attractive bodyguard are all fighting for her attention?

The festival begins but there’s very little to celebrate when wild beasts make their appearance and murder a few people. Akram’s appearance, however, is spoiled by Akane’s protectors who stop at nothing to protect the young girl. It is in the heat of battle that Tenma discovers his powers given to her by the Jewel that entered him and the first volume ends to revelations that – hopefully – will be explored in future volumes. How enjoyable was this volume? I had so much fun reading this and the short (but sweet) extra that offered a brief glimpse of the character’s art design.

The first volume of Haruka – Beyond the Stream of Time is merely just the beginning of an even richer and epic romance that makes this such and interesting and involving manga series. Mizuno brings us vivid storytelling with fabulous art that just makes this such a great first volume and a manga you simply must not miss. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. I assure you that you will definitely become an instant fan.

REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
Mizuno describes Haruka as a Neoromance and I must agree since there’s nothing quite like it. It’s a sweeping tale loaded with surreal mysticism and all those yummy cute male characters that make it hard for Akane to even concentrate. In short, Haruka story and theme is unique and unforgettable.

ART: A+
The art is beyond lovely and you just have to love Mizuno’s soft artistic style that makes textures feel almost dreamy. Even the characters feel like they just spilled out of a softly lucid dream.

OVERALL: A
There’s a reason Viz Media announced the upcoming North American arrival of the Haruka anime on DVD and this is because Beyond the Stream of Time is a real intriguing and delightful work of art. Sure, there are a great number of unique Shojo Beat Manga out there but this one stands out like a vivid dream you just can’t shake from your mind.

Gun Blaze West Vol. 1 – Manga Review

 Gun Blaze West vol.1 Cover

Review by: Clive Owen

Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump Advanced)
Author: Nobuhiro Watsuki
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $7.99 US
Rating: T+
Release Date: April 1, 2008

Like most boys, Viu Bannes has big dreams that can stretch as far as the mighty Mississippi. He’s that little pint-sized kid who is up for the challenge even if the challenge is far bigger than him. Fearless and headstrong, this boy heeds no warnings or cares to hear how impossible a task is because his mind was already set from the very beginning.

This is why the first time we see Viu he is about to arm wrestle a kid twice his size with arms that look like thick tree branches. He doesn’t even listen to his pretty sister, Cissy, who tells him that the 9-year old boy is way too small to beat the older contestant of the town’s arm wrestling championship. No, Viu doesn’t hear her because he wants the top prize … a brand new gun holster. So, giving it his best, Viu wins.

Then the drifter enters the little town and Viu’s life changes forever. You see, this drifter named Marcus Homer steals a few apples from the general store and it is Viu (not the lazy town sheriff) who pursues him. It doesn’t even occur to the young boy that this man is carrying a pistol and all he has is a toy gun. Well, this impresses Marcus – who stole the apples because he was starving – and the boy invites the drifter home to break bread together. Marcus even instantly falls in love with Viu’s sister on the spot.

Yet rumors of a gang of dangerous bandits hits town and when two of them do show up it is Viu and Marcus that put an end to their shenanigans. This, of course, doesn’t sit well with the bandit’s leader who stages a rescue of his two men. Meanwhile, both Viu and Marcus are enjoying their hero status despite the fact that Viu is angry that one of the bandits stole his new holster.

Sensing Viu’s determination to be a gunslinger and head out West, Marcus shows him the handle of his pistol that contains a compass symbol. He tells the boy of a secret place in the West known as Gun Blaze West where only the strongest are allowed to enter. So the pair make a pact to head out there and Marcus sets a training regimen for both of them. So the two run everyday while setting their goal higher and higher.

Suddenly, the leader of the two captured outlaws head into town and the Sheriff and his men attempt to fight them off to no avail. During their training, Viu and Marcus notice the nearby fort under attack so they arrive to help. It is here that both friends battle against the deadly bandit and in the middle of the battle, tragedy places Marcus’ gun in Viu’s hands. Like a true gunslinger, Viu duels with the outlaw and wins.

Five years pass and Viu, now 14-years old, completes his training. Saying goodbye to his town, he heads out to St. Louis (the “Gateway to the West”) with the only clue left behind by his old friend Marcus. It is in the bustling city that he meets a young girl named Carol who manages to convince Viu to eat at the saloon where she works. Unfortunately, the saloon is being harassed by the neighboring saloon and goons start making trouble for Viu, Carol and her employer.

During a skirmish in the saloon, Viu is introduced to a bouncer named Will Johnston who not only happens to be Carol’s older brother but also to owner of a compass that carries the Gun Blaze West symbol. The story ends with a cliffhanger as Viu and Will discover that they are looking for the same thing. Also, that no good “Target” Kevin wants revenge on both of them.

Gun Blaze West is a good story despite the somewhat unbalanced beginning and the different take on the American West. This, of course, doesn’t make it a bad story. It’s actually a good one with a young main character that later turns out to be more interesting than when he first started. Am I looking forward to another volume? Yes, I am and mainly because the last portion of the 182 page story proves to be the best part of what could actually be an epic quest of self-discovery and high-adventure.

REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: B+
The Wild West theme seldom comes off as truly authentic in manga but Gun Blaze West manages to display an interesting twist in the theme. The storytelling is not as involving as Rurouni Kenshin but readers will like the characters and Viu’s quest to follow his dreams.

ART: B
Again, I don’t mean to be nitpicky but we’ve seen better from Watsuki. Still, there are some really amazing-looking panels and the action sequences really come to life on the pages. Also, the Western backgrounds are authentic.

OVERALL: B+
Gun Blaze West’s first volume doesn’t start off as strongly as it could have but what we have here is a wonderfully-crafted yarn that is still quite appealing nonetheless. The ending is where the story really picks up the pace and delivers the right amount of drama and action that best suits the genre. Check it out if you like the gun-slinging fun.

Monkey High! Vol. 1 – Manga Review

 Monkey High Vol.1 Cover

Review by: Karma del Valle

Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat Manga)
Author: Shouko Akira
Genre: Graphic Novel (Shojo)
MSRP: $8.99 US
Rating: T+
Release Date: March 4, 2008

Haruna is right.

Most high schools are like a mountain filled with wild monkeys. It is where cliques are formed, rivalries are made, romance blossoms (and then evaporate) and it is where we learn to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. You see, gorgeous Haruna Aizawa was use to a more sophisticated High school but – thanks to a political scandal that involved Haruna’s father – she decided to transfer away from the accusing stares of her old school.

Of course, to her this school is no different from her own and it isn’t until she is introduced to a boy nicknamed Macharu who – to her and most of her new classmates – reminds her of a baby monkey thanks to his round face and cute monkey-like ears. Macharu is the type of boy who is quick with a smile and his jovial nature vexes the cold and distant Haruna. There’s almost a child-like innocence in Macharu that makes Haruna drop her guard gradually.

Interestingly enough, her first day in a new class has Haruna grudgingly accepting a role in a class play of “Snow White” and she’s also coldly brushing away the advances of Macharu’s closest friend, Atsu (who also happens to be the cutest guy in the Class 2). Because of his rather small stature, Macharu is given the roll of one of the dwarves and Haruna is in charge of costumes. It is here that the cute baby monkey begins to fascinate and annoy her. He even goes as far as giving her his umbrella after school and walks away cheerfully in the rain.

During the play, however, Macharu is weak from a horrible cold he got from walking home in the rain. Haruna feels responsible for his illness and, as a favor, puts on his dwarf costume and takes over for him. This, of course, starts her classmates to spread wild rumors that she’s in love with Macharu. When visiting the boy in the infirmary, Haruna is annoyed that her classmates are spectators to a tender moment between the two. In an outright cry of denial, Haruna tells them she has no feeling for him whatsoever.

The second story arc tests the growing relationship between Haruna and Macharu as the class goes on a camping field trip. Despite the annoyance of her fellow classmates that seem to want to push them together, Haruna finds out that Macharu once had feeling for another girl and this somewhat makes her jealous. There’s also an uncomfortable moment between her and Atsu who seems to resent the pairing of his friend and the beautiful new transfer student.

Yet it is in this camping trip that the young girl discovers that Macharu is willing to go to great lengths to please her and he even gives her his hat after hers fell in the lake. It isn’t until they are physically pushed together by their nosy classmates that the Haruna explodes and tells them he doesn’t see Macharu in the romantic sense.

Oh really?

It is Haruna that races out of the school bus to find Macharu to give him his hat back after he forgot it on the bus. In a tender moment, the pair stand together wondering what these new feelings mean and why Haruna just can’t seem to shake him off her mind. And then she realizes that her family’s problems are becoming less painful because of Macharu.

The final story arc shows the real dramatic element of Monkey High! We are introduced to Haruna’s ex-boyfriend who visits her in her new school to invite her to a Christmas party. He even invites all her classmates in hope that she would go. Haruna reluctantly accepts mainly because Macharu felt it was better for her to go and close the chapter of that part of her life.

In the party, however, things don’t go as smoothly as Haruna thinks because her ex still has feeling for her. Even when she tells him that she has a new boyfriend, her old beau laughs at the thought that somebody as lovely as her could date monkey boy. The story ends with a Christmas kiss. Sorry, I won’t spoil things by telling you who Haruna picks at the end. You have to read it for yourself.

We’ve read good high school-themed shojo manga before but what makes Monkey High! so special and endearing is the way these characters connect in ways that will, no doubt, make you identify with them. It’s a universal theme to be sure and that’s what makes it so charming. Haven’t we all felt the awkwardness of meeting a boyfriend/girlfriend’s parents for the first time? What also makes this such a good manga is the fact that Akira has a wonderful sense of humor (just read the extra feature at the end) that plays out nicely throughout the volume. Even Akira’s artwork is brilliant.

The first volume of Monkey High! is a wonderfully delightful and thoroughly enjoyable good tale that will surely be a new fan favorite. The series is ripe with possibilities and you can practically taste the juicy drama that is sure to unfold (toss in Haruna’s ex and the strong possibility that Atsu will be Macharu’s other rival) in future volumes. Oh yeah, it’s that good and believe me when I say that you will seriously be anticipating the next one like a monkey waiting for feeding time.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A+
Our baby monkey of a male protagonist is who you will remember most and the reason the seemingly ice heart that belongs to Haruna melts right before our eyes. The three main story arcs come together nicely but it’s the final story arc that shows the series’ true potential and the reason you will fall in love with it.

ART: A+
There’s a lot to love about the art in Monkey High! but it’s the characters and flashy backgrounds that makes this one really come to life. There’s just something about Akira’s work that makes her characters seem to really stand out.

OVERALL: A+
I haven’t had this much fun reading a Shojo Beat Manga since the recent release of High School Debut. Monkey High! is one of those manga that stays with you long after you finished the last page and you’ll be hoping/waiting/demanding the next one to come out after the last panel ends. In short, this charming volume will make a fan out of you.

Our New Grading System!

It’s been awhile since I last sounded off on this blog and as the Editor-in-Chief of Animanga Nation I should be doing it a lot. I would love to say thank you to all our readers and we’re happy that we’re getting positive responses from all of you that includes readers as far as Manchester, England (go Manchester United!) and even New Zealand (we love you guys!). In other words, we’re making an impact and we couldn’t be happier. Not bad for a group of students.

At this point I would like to welcome two new members of Animanga Nation. For those who read our old print insert will recognize Gretchen Silversted and Clive Owen. Gretchen is our resident Swede who makes the office light up with her cheerful nature, good-looks and talented writing are welcome addition to the team. Also, with Karma around, these ladies are a real distraction to the guys of the office next door who keep dubbing this office the headquarters for America’s Next Top Model.

Clive Owen – not to be confused with the actor – is a returning reviewer who actually looks more like Johnny Depp. I swear, sometimes we’re in a restaurant and old ladies ask for autographs or pictures. Somewhere there are a group of little old ladies from the UK with cell phone pictures of Clive telling everyone back home they saw Johnny Depp eating in Taco Bell. He’s a fine writer and my go-to guy to cover conventions.

Ok, I’ve gotten off track here. My real intention was to introduce our new grading system for our reviews. We’ve got new reviews for you so they will be up soon with this new grading system. In homage to our student roots, we thought it was best to use a school ranking system. Here it is:

A =  This grade means the manga or anime DVD is, by far, one of the best and should be seriously considered as a Must Buy. If you see an A+ stamped on this review then you know you’re getting quality stuff that, if you miss it, you should be kicking yourself … hard.
B =  This grade means that it’s an excellent product that should be bought if you’re a fan of the genre or interested in it. It also means that it has it’s few problems but it, in no way, makes for a bad one.
C =  This grade means that there are some problems with the product but has some potential to be good down the line. It’s not a complete loss seeing that there are some good redeeming qualities. It’s a good read/view either way but needs improvement.
D =  This grade means that the product in question lacks quality, presentation and a better reason to keep reading or watching. It means that only a true hardcore fan of said product should CONSIDER buying it (or at least skim through it or rent it).
F =  This grade means that there is nothing on this planet that can make this product good. This is the product you must avoid like the plague or hungry apes. There’s nothing here that will appeal to fans new or old.

There it is, folks, our new grading system. We’ll be reviewing new manga and anime very soon so here’s hoping you all like the grading system. School is most definitely in!

Your friendly neighborhood Editor-in-Chief,
Edward Zacharias

Digital Manga Inc. Announces Five New Yaoi Novels for Fall 2008!

 Digital Manga LOGO

Gardena, CA, March 19, 2008 – Digital Manga Publishing, one of the industry’s most innovative manga licensing and publishing companies, has announced the debut of five new novels under its Juné imprint for Fall 2008!

Passion – Forbidden Lovers by Shinobu Gotoh and Shoko Takaku
ISBN: 9781569705742
Available October 21, 2008

Juné Manga celebrates the conclusion of its first yaoi series Passion by Shoko Takaku and Shinobu Gotoh with the release of its original novel – Passion: Forbidden Lovers. Join Hikaru and Shima in their exploration of a forbidden love.

The Guilty by Katsura Izumi and Hinako Takanaga
ISBN: 9781569706145
Available October 21, 2008

Illustrated by Hinako Takanaga, The Devil’s Secret (801 Media: 9781934129227) and Little Butterfly (DMP: 9781569709078), and written by world famous author Katsura Izumi, The Guilty is a four volume series reminiscent of the DMP best seller Love Recipe (9781569708255).

Toya Sakurai only went into the publishing business to work with his favorite author, Kai Hodaka. And now he’s getting the chance to do exactly that! But the demands of the job are more than he ever expected. When his company wants Hodaka to publish ahead of schedule, Toya has to find some way to persuade the author to cooperate. Hodaka takes cruel advantage of the situation, demanding Toya’s body in exchange for his next book. But the love of a fan is not so easily conquered… Let’s just hope his fiancée understands!

All You Need is Love by Jinko Fuyuno and Noboru Takatsuki

ISBN: 9781569706107

Available October 21, 2008

Junya Sawa is an ordinary man—a modestly successful bank employee in Tokyo. But that isn’t the life he wanted for himself. In the eight years since he graduated from high school, he’s been unable to forget the man who could have changed his life—Uzuki Kobayakawa, the heir to a yakuza dynasty in Tokyo. Now, brought together by chance once again, he’s forced to face the choices he made in his youth that tore them apart and to decide whether their differences will keep them apart forever.

Noboru Takatsuki is most famous for the artwork in the popular PC yaoi games Silver Chaos and Hanamachi Monogatari. Jinko Fuyuno has published over 26 yaoi novels in her career. The combination makes for an explosive novel with stunning artwork and a moving plot.

Dark Walker by Hikaru Yura and Hirotaka Kisaragi

ISBN: 9781569706152

Available November 18, 2008

Tomoki Naruse has just started his freshman year in high school. And as with all healthy, young men at his age, he’s been dreaming of sex. But Tomoki isn’t having normal wet dreams like his classmates! In his nightmares, err… dreams his partner is a man and to make things worse, Tomoki is on the bottom! Aside from Tomoki’s unsettling dreams, high school life is fun – especially with his new, handsome, best friend Yugo Oda. But Yugo is no ordinary freshman; he is involved in mysterious activities that Tomoki can’t even begin to imagine…

Secret Moon by Siira Gou and Sato Tomoe

ISBN: 9781569706169

Available December 2, 2008

Akihiro Tomoe has lived been living a lie for decades. A vampire, he has been able to hide his identity and somehow insinuate himself into typical town life. However, this peaceful and somewhat dull life is about to change. One night, he stumbles across a man called Taichi Yamagami. Attracted to the pure but wild Taichi and meaning to cut it off after one night, Akihiro seizes Taichi’s body. But one night of passion isn’t enough to satisfy Akihiro and he finds himself seeking out Taichi again and again. However, Taichi seems to have a few secrets of his own. Whenever the moon shines from the night sky onto the gentle Taichi, his personality transforms…

For more information on Juné Manga’s current and upcoming titles, visit www.junemanga.com.*******************************************************************************

About Digital Manga, Inc.

Digital Manga, Inc. (DMI) specializes in building corporate and cultural bridges from Japan to the Western Hemisphere – specifically through the licensing, importation and preparation of anime (Japanese animation), manga (Japanese comic books) and related merchandise for the North American mainstream and subculture markets. In this capacity, DMI serves as a catalyst for the expansion of Japanese pop-culture institutions into global arenas.

VIZ MEDIA ANNOUNCES LICENSE FOR BLEACH THE MOVIE: MEMORIES OF NOBODY

 Bleach Movie!
BLEACH © by Tite Kubo/SHUEISHA Inc.

New Feature Film Based On Popular Action Manga And Animated Series to Have a Limited Domestic Theatrical Release

San Francisco, CA, March 24, 2008 – VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), one of the entertainment industry’s most innovative and comprehensive publishing, animation and licensing companies, has announced that it has secured the license from TV Tokyo Corporation, Shueisha Inc. and Dentsu Inc. for BLEACH THE MOVIE: MEMORIES OF NOBODY in the Americas, Europe and Oceania. The feature film, which will be aimed primarily at teens and older teens, will have a limited theatrical release in major cities throughout North America this summer with the DVD release to follow winter 2008. Subsequent details will be released in coming weeks.

BLEACH THE MOVIE: MEMORIES OF NOBODY is inspired by the successful animated television series BLEACH airing on Adult Swim, which is based on the best-selling manga series (rated ‘T’ for Teens) by Tite Kubo, also published in North America by VIZ Media.

“We are extremely excited to announce the domestic license for BLEACH THE MOVIE: MEMORIES OF NOBODY,” says Liza Coppola, Sr. Vice President, VIZ Media. “BLEACH has emerged as one of the most popular animated, manga and video game properties in North America and the release of this film will no doubt captivate millions of avid fans. Filled with riveting animation and spectacular battle scenes featuring all the major characters, BLEACH THE MOVIE is ideally suited for a theatrical presentation and we look forward to making it a summer filled with epic action as this film makes its way to theatres in major markets throughout North America.”

BLEACH is a tremendously successful multimedia property internationally. The manga has been licensed to more than a dozen countries, and has sold over 50 million copies in Japan alone. In North America the manga has been a sales hit and the popular animated series (both rated ‘T’ for Teens) is viewed weekly by millions in the United States and Canada. This success has further spawned an array of related video games, apparel, action figures, trading cards and other merchandise. For more information on BLEACH and BLEACH THE MOVIE: MEMORIES OF NOBODY please visit the official BLEACH website at bleach.viz.com or www.viz.com.

About VIZ Media, LLC
Headquartered in San Francisco, CA, VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), is one of the most comprehensive and innovative companies in the field of manga (graphic novel) publishing, animation and entertainment licensing of Japanese content. Owned by three of Japan’s largest creators and licensors of manga and animation, Shueisha Inc., Shogakukan Inc., and Shogakukan Production Co., Ltd. (ShoPro Japan), VIZ Media is a leader in the publishing and distribution of Japanese manga for English speaking audiences in North America and a global licensor of Japanese manga and animation. The company offers an integrated product line including, magazines such as SHONEN JUMP and SHOJO BEAT, graphic novels, videos, DVDs and audio soundtracks and develops and markets animated entertainment from initial production, television placement and distribution, to merchandise licensing and promotions for audiences and consumers of all ages. Contact VIZ Media at 295 Bay Street, San Francisco, CA 94133; Phone (415) 546-7073; Fax (415) 546-7086; and web site at www.VIZ.com.

FAIRY TAIL VOLUME 2 – MANGA REVIEW

 Fairy Tale Volume 2 Cover

Written by Gretchen Silversted

Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Author: Hiro Mashima
Genre: Graphic Novel (Fantasy/Adventure)
MSRP: $10.95 US
Rating: T (Ages 13 +)
Release Date: March 25, 2008

I have a confession to make: Rave Master was one of my favorites to the point that I still take out a volume from my overstuffed bookcase and read them all over again. As a fan of Hiro Mashima, I found myself really anticipating the release of Mashima’s Fairy Tail series that has finally reached our shores. To top it all off, in a first for Del Rey Manga, we not only get one volume of this highly-anticipated series but also the second volume on the same day. Fairy Tail Volume 2 continues what will sure to be a true manga classic.

Volume 2 of Fairy Tail picks up directly after the events of Volume 1 and it is in this volume that we get a clearer sense of what being part of a team in the Fairy Tail guild of wizards. Lucy, our cute and likeable fish-out-of-water, wondered if she had joined a mad house instead of a guild in the first volume but after her first real quest with Natsu and Happy she has come to see that Fairy Tail might have it’s problems but the members of this guild have hearts of gold and the souls of heroes.

The first volume ended with Natsu and Happy bringing up a new quest that involves a rare book their client wants them to steal from an eccentric named Duke Everlue. It so happens that the murderous Everlue is in need of a sexy blonde maid and Lucy thinks she fits the description. Upon arriving to the town, the seemingly wealthy client mentions that the book they are looking for is special and while it legally belongs to Everlue the book wasn’t meant for him. So Lucy, dressed up in a cute maid outfit, rings Everlue’s doorbell only to find that the egg-shaped Duke doesn’t find her attractive at all. In fact, his idea of attractive is greatly distorted. The look on Lucy’s face when she’s told that she’s ugly is just pure comedic gold.

Of course, Natsu’s not-so-brilliant backup plan is to break into Everlue’s mansion and it is there that the three begin search for a book titled “Daybreak.” When they do find it, Lucy discovers that the book was penned by one of her favorite authors of all time and that something is not right about the book. Pleading with Natsu and Happy, Lucy runs off to read the book while her companions are left to defend her from Everlue’s hired goons … professional hired bodyguards known as the Vanish Brothers. As Natsu battles the brothers, Lucy’s discovery of the book’s true worth shocks her to the very core.

In a climatic battle for the book, Lucy – who is a Celestial wizard – summons a crab spirit that offers a haircut instead of assistance in combat. Again, Lucy’s Celestial spirit summons prove to be hilariously unhelpful (although the Rave Master fan in me is dying to see Plue in action again). In the end, the trio win the fight and return the book to the client. Lucy divulges the secrets of “Daybreak” in an emotional scene that once again deals with fathers and sons (much like the first volume does). Mashima is great at playing up the comedy relief but the emotionally charged scenes just hit the right cords without seeming cheap or forced.

Returning to Fairy Tail, though, a mysterious figure enters the rowdy tavern where Natsu and his voyeuristic rival, Gray, fight again. It’s a shock to Lucy that this fierce young woman wearing armor puts every wizard in their place and even causes both Natsu and Gray to tremble with fear. It turns out that this Fairy Tail wizard – who brought down a giant monster single-handedly is in need of help. This armored wizard named Erza picks Natsu, Happy and Gray to join her on a mission and so Lucy decides to tag along.

It seems that Erza, while in a tavern, learns that a dangerous band of wizards are in search of a powerful magical item known as Lullaby. In the wrong hands, this item can cause the deaths of hundreds and so it us up to the team of Fairy Tail wizards to find Lullaby right away. On the train to the possibly whereabouts of the item, Natsu (who passed out on the train after Erza knocked him out) is left behind only to be confronted by one of the members of the dangerous wizards. Natsu finds out that Lullaby is a flute capable of killing anybody within earshot.

Erza and the rest of her group go after the train as Natsu battles the wizard that reveals to him that he is part of the Eisenwald guild who hates Fairy Tail and everything it stands for and that a Death God will soon lead them to their ultimate plan. Volume 2 ends with the group in what will no doubt be a massive confrontation between the two guilds. With so much at stake, each member of Fairy Tail prepares themselves for a battle to the end. Whoa, now that is a cliffhanger.

This volume is slim on the bonuses, although the Translation Notes are still a lovely behind-the-scenes deal worth reading. In his Afterword, Mashima says he was making up the story as he goes and that this is what he’ll be doing in future volumes. Still, for a talented manga-ka like Mashima, the story doesn’t feel unstructured so if the series continues just like this volume you will not hear me complain one bit. Even the brief Preview had me salivating for more.

As much as I loved Rave Master, I find myself loving every single page of Fairy Tail even more and I will certainly look forward to more volumes. Mashima’s writing and art have always been excellent and this series proves this point so here’s hoping we get more Fairy Tail love. Really, I can’t recommend this series enough.

REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: 10/10
I liked the first volume but this second volume has everything you can ask for in a manga. There are memorable moments that true stand out (like the true meaning behind “Daybreak”) and the cliffhanger ending will have you awaiting the next volume.

ART: 10/10
Hiro Mashima is a master of his craft for a reason and his work on Fairy Tail is one of his best yet. Kudos to you Mashima-sama.

OVERALL: 10/10
Fairy Tail Volume 2 delivers on all fronts and will make you glad you love manga. If the first one was a worthy introduction than this second volume is a sign that this series is destined to be a true fan favorite. Kudos to Del Rey Manga for releasing this one at the same time as the first volume.