Review by: Eden Zacarias
Publisher: VIZ Media
Author: Seimu Yoshizaki
Genre: Graphic Novel (VIZ Signature/Ikki Comix)
MSRP: $12.99 US
Rating: T+ (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now
A brilliant (and very famous) manga-ka once told me that art contains a power that is far more intense than any weapon of mass destruction and that power is the ability to invoke emotions. She pointed to a favorite classic manga series of hers that she still turns to every now and then because the series brings forth precious memories and even finds inspiration in the actions of key characters. I don’t have to tell you, our readers, that manga contains this power as well because we all have favorites that have touched us in some way and – maybe – even inspired you.
This fact is what made me pick up the first volume of Kingyo Used Books, a manga series about the emotions manga can evoke. Through its characters that are introduced in each short story, we witness how manga (Kingyo uses real manga series as examples) has the ability to inspire through its pages and stories.
Once again, the Kingyo Used Books store is the focal point of eight short stories as Volume 2 introduces more characters whose lives are about to be touched by the power of manga. In the first story, we meet Sekiguchi, a high school student who is not only the Student Council’s Vice President but also a meek young man who cannot stand up against the President who is a jerk who takes what he wants from others. It isn’t until Sekiguchi discovers a manga series by manga legend, Osamu Tezuka, called “Adolph ni Tsugu.” As it turns out, the characters in that particular manga series (each called Adolph, including Hitler himself) inspire Sekiguchi to finally take a stand against the abusive President once and for all.
In another story, a familiar character from Volume 1 named Okadome shows up again as he – as a Sedori – is contracted by a mega book store called Manga Empire to find a genius bookseller named Naoaki Shiba and bring him to their main office. To sweeten the deal, Okadome is offered the rare classic, “Bara to Yubiwa” in exchange. Well, as it turns out, Okadome finds Shiba who is the same offbeat young manga fanatic who is sleeping in the cellar of Kingyo Used Books. We discover that both these characters have a lot more in common than they both think.
In another story, a young hostess named Anzu who works at a local hostess club discovers a little girl in the backroom where she often goes to take a nap. A bratty girl who comically insults Anzu, the child demands her to read an Osamu Tezuka children’s tale to her. As Anzu tries to unravel the mystery that is the little girl, she comes to discover the joys of the child’s favorite stories from the classic. Perhaps a trip to Kingyo will have a manga that will appeal to the little girl.
Natsuki takes center stage in this volume as we find that the beautiful young employee of Kingyo Used Books decides to participate in a shopping center’s big event by setting up a booth that will represent Kingyo. The task is not as easy as she thought but she gets help from a few returning characters, one of which is Shiba who is still head over heels for the attractive shopkeeper. Meanwhile, Natsuki’s father makes another appearance as he is hiding out from a gorgeous woman who happens to be connected to Natsuki.
We learn a lot more about Natsuki from these two short stories, mainly her relationship with her father and the fact that she’s not as crazy about manga as her grandfather or her cousin Billy.
In another story we meet Captain Ikaruga of Nishi High who is, by appearances, a huge manly student who is respected by all the members of his yelling squad but also the entire school. Despite his tough guy exterior, however, the young man is a closet fan of the shoujo manga classic, “Chiisana Koi no Monogatari.” Unfortunately for him, Ikaruga can’t even bring himself to even ask a bookstore vendor if the latest volume came out.
However, when he hears an older salary man ask for the same manga, a friendship blossoms between the big guy and the older man who inspires Ikaruga to not be embarrassed about his love for a manga about romance. After all, since when does manga have to be solely for one specific gender when it is meant to be enjoyed by everyone?
In the final story, Kawai, the son of the crowned “Manga King” is asked to bring manga from his father’s collection. When asked what kind of manga to bring, a fellow classmate named Tokizane asks for a manga series that will take him far away. So Kawai’s father recommends the classic, “Galaxy Express 999” (great choice, by the way). It inspires the kid to take a train ride someplace far and Kawai, sensing something wrong with his friend, decides to go with him.
As it turns out, the journey on the train turns out to be a personal quest for Tokizane as Kawai comes to realize things about this classmate’s life that he never realized. An unexpected turn of events makes Tokizane come to realize a painful truth that leads to an emotional moment between the boy and a man in his life that he sees as something of a villain.
Finally, we get a short chapter involving Billy and Grandpa who discover the truth behind the spade mark on the spine of a particular manga publishing house. As Grandpa imagines a far more romantic reason for the placement of the symbol, Billy does some research that uncovers the real reason.
With the exception of the story involving a tough guy with a soft spot for a shoujo manga as well as the first introductory tale, Volume 2 just doesn’t make the same impact as the first volume. The first volume contained stories that served as true reminders of why we love manga so much. The majority of the stories here aren’t even inspirational and although we learn more about Natsuki she still isn’t an interesting character.
Failing to capture the emotional resonance that the first volume managed to display so easily in its storytelling and characters, Volume 2 of Kingyo Used Books feels more like an afterthought that misses the mark completely. This is too bad, really, since this manga is about real manga titles that serve to inspire the characters. Still, there are some interesting moments that make this volume worth a glance but if this is the direction the series is going you will find yourself wanting to skip this particular book store.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
The collection of stories includes a young host club waitress who turns to the manga version of a well-known children’s story to connect with a little girl that shows up in the club and, in another story, a manga series involving three characters named Adolph inspires a high school student to stand up against the class jerk. There are even stories involving returning cast of characters like Natsuki, Naoaki Shiba and the sedori characters.
Yoshizaki-sensei’s artwork is topnotch and one of the highlights of this series to be sure. Personally, I’m not all that crazy about the covers for this series but this is just a minor gripe considering the fact that the characters look good and the backgrounds are striking.
Volume 2 of Kingyo Used Books is a disappointing read that just falls flat in its storytelling or its main theme that manga has the power to inspire. Two of the stories do just that but the rest is just not endearing enough to make this a volume I would gladly recommend. Here’s hoping the next volume will remedy the flaws this volume introduces.
Review copy provided by VIZ Media