Durarara!!, Volume 3 – Manga Review

Durarara, Vol3

Review by: Kylee Strutt

Publisher: Yen Press
Author: Ryohgo Narita
Artist: Akiyo Satorigi
Character Design: Suzuhito Yasuda, Masayuki Sato (Cover)
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $11.99 US
Rating: OT (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now

AN Ed Choice Award1

Durarara!! is the type of series that doesn’t disappoint when it comes to surprises as the story slowly, yet deliciously, unravels right before you until you find yourself impressed with Narita-sensei’s brilliance. So far in this manga version of his work, he introduced us to a real city that is home to a cast of twisted and interesting resident but now, with Volume 3, Ikebukuro gets even more fascinating … and dangerous.

In the second volume, the seemingly meek Mikado Ryuugamine encounters a strange girl with a hideous scar on her neck who pleads for his help. You see, she is being chased by the Black Rider but the reason was unknown … until now. You see, in the opening chapter of Volume 3 we find the this mythical headless being who calls herself Celty Sturluson tracking the location of her missing head that she feels is somewhere in Ikebukuro.

On one of her rides around town she runs into Shizuo Heiwajima who wonders why his nemesis, Izaya Orihara, is hanging around his city. It’s clear that both men hate each another but that’s not important to Celty who suddenly encounters the girl with the scar on her neck. You see, the girl’s face is very familiar to Celty who identifies it as hers. Thus, the chase for the girl begins but then the mystery girl runs into Mikado who grabs the girl by the hand and flees from Celty.

Meanwhile, Seiji Yagiri is a witness to the events. He recognizes the girl’s face again as the very thing he has fallen in love with as he tries to stop Celty. Of course, Shizuo grabs a hold of the young man and discovers that Seiji is a little more twisted than we had all expected as he attacks Shizuo for getting in the way of the one he loves.

So now Mikado ends up with a pretty girl in his room and, while his good friend Masaomi Kida makes wild speculation of who she might be, this girl is still the biggest mystery that has made Mikado’s life a lot more interesting. Meanwhile, Celty consults with Shinra Kishitani who is still very much in love with the Irish Dullahan. Not too far away, Shinji is still hurting from his encounter with Shizuo and the fact that his “soul mate” escaped with fellow classmate Mikado. Once again, his sister – Namie Yagiri is willing to do anything for her beloved. She promises to get the girl back … but she has her own twisted agenda.

With no choice but the leave the mystery girl in his apartment, Mikado goes to school only to encounter both Izaya Orihara and the Black Rider waiting for him near the school gates. Orihara has taken a keen interest in the younger boy but it is Celty who wants a word with him. In a comical scene, a very nervous Mikado tries to sneak away from this little encounter only to find them following close behind so he has no choice but to confront them.

It is then that everything will change for Mikado as we discover something about the boy that we could not see coming. At last, Mikado has a “conversation” with Celty who reveals the truth about herself to him and the reason she was chasing the girl. While he still doesn’t trust Orihara, he turns to him for help when they discover that the girl in his apartment is missing and men who rush out and getaway in a Yagiri Pharmaceuticals van.

Suddenly, it is Mikado who continues to prove himself as a character who is stronger than he seems as he shows us his true colors. It is Mikado who organizes and executes a plan to meet with the head of Yagiri Pharmaceuticals who just so happens to be Namie who accepts Mikado’s invitation. Hatching a plan to take the boy down, Mikado quickly turns the tables in the most surprising way.

No, I’m not going to reveal what he does because you really should read it for yourself. Just trust me when I say that you will not see it coming. Again, Narita-sensei proves that he is capable pushing his talents to the limit and producing results that will not fail to impress as he does with this volume. That said, Ikebukuro continues to be a very interesting place with characters who can be twisted yet fascinating while other characters show us there’s more to them than what’s on the surface. This is what makes Durarara!! such an enjoyable read.

Volume 3 of Durarara not only pushes the story forward in the most fascinating of ways but it just keeps getting better with each chapter as we learn more about the residents of this unusual city. The Yagiri sibling’s twisted love lives aside, it is Mikado who proves to be one of the most interesting characters as he shows us who he really is in these chapters. You will not be disappointed by this volume, manga fans.


MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A+
While he manages to escape with the mysterious girl with the face that interests the Black Rider, Mikado’s life changes in a flash to the point that he shows us his true colors … and something else as well. Meanwhile, Celty decides to come clean to Mikado in hopes that he will understand his plight as they – along with the help of Orihara – decides to take on Namie Yagiri who is desperate to get the girl back.

ART: A-
Visually speaking, the final pages of the last chapter of this volume are nothing short of impressive and even more so since Mikado is involved. Other than that, the artwork continues to be a delight.

OVERALL: A+
One of the more powerful and impressively astonishing volumes of this series, Volume 3 will leave you on the edge of your seat and realizing how brilliant this story is as a main character shows us he is more than just a scared kid. As things get even more twisted and dangerous, it is clear that the story can only get even better making Durarara!! a manga worth reading.

Review copy provided by Yen Press

Kingyo Used Books, Volume 2 – Manga Review

Kingyo Used Books, Vol2

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


STORY: C-

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.

ART: A
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.

OVERALL: C-
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

Durarara!!, Volume 2 – Manga Review

Review by: Kylee Strutt

Publisher: Yen Press
Author: Ryohgo Narita
Artist: Akiyo Satorigi
Character Design: Suzuhito Yasuda, Masayuki Sato (Cover)
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $11.99 US
Rating: OT (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now

It takes a lot to impress this girl who likes to think that she has seen it all and read it all but along comes that rare gem that has fellow otaku like me sitting up in their seats totally immersed in the story. That’s the effect that the anime version of Durarara!! had on me and – wouldn’t you know it? – now the manga version has me under its spell despite the fact that I already know the story.

In fact, Volume 1 of the manga made an impression on me because Narita-sensei and Satorigi-san’s collaboration compliments the storytelling in the best way possible. They even tip their hat to familiar properties like Darker Than Black and Black Butler just to name a few of the works that inspire them. In the end, the volume was good enough that I certainly did look forward to a second helping. After an enticing beginning, Volume 2 begins with even more surprises.

As I mentioned in my review of the first book, the mysterious Black Rider is actually Celty Sturluson who is one of the most compelling and original characters to come along in a long time. We have come to discover in the last volume that Celty is what legends call a Dullahan (an Irish folkloric entity that inspired the creation of the Headless Horseman that chased Ichabod Crane in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow). As it turned out, Celty has no head but also of the female persuasion. We also find out she is in Japan in search of her severed head.

In fact, it is because she is female that she puts up with the young Doctor named Shinra Kishitani who found her so long ago and whose father ran tests on her. I mean, how often does a man of science has the chance to study a legendary being whose past certainly does coincide with the Celtic legends. Yet, somehow – despite his seemingly dubious nature – Celty makes a discovery about herself that surprises her and it is connected to the young man.

Somewhere else in Ikebukuro, we meet four members of The Dollars including Yumasaki and Karisawa (who Mikado’s friend, Kida, introduced in the Animate store) who concoct comical torture methods (involving manga, no less) to one of the kidnappers from Volume 1. We also meet their young leader, Dota, who helps break the captured kidnapper and gets him to reveal the group responsible for the kidnappings. They come up with one name: Yagiri Pharmaceuticals.

Meanwhile, Anri Sonohara (the cute girl with glasses), becomes class representative and is joined by Mokado Ryuugamine who suddenly volunteers to be the male class rep. While it was evident from the start that he finds the girl attractive, he also discovers the truth about her. Yes, she’s a bright girl but not everyone finds that a very likeable quality. In fact, when he spots her outside of class, Sonohara is being bullied by a group of girls because she became a class rep.

Oh but things get crazy when Izya Orihara steps in to push the timid Mikado into taking action and defend Sonohara. When the young boy doesn’t take action, Orihara terrorizes the bullies in an almost psychotic manner. As I said in my first review, he’s both sinner and saint but there’s more to Orihara than meets the eye when a man in a bartender outfit named Shizuo Heiwajima who has a serious bone to pick with Orihara. In fact, he throws heavy garbage cans at him as if they weighed nothing at all. There’s definitely bad blood between these two.

Escaping with Sonohara, Mikado gets to spend some time with the girl and gets to know her a little better. He also finds out why she had a rather public almost pleading conversation with Seiji Yagiri who was the last to see Sonohara’s stalker friend, Mika Harima. According to Sonohara, Mika isn’t considered missing since she has been receiving letters from her. Little does she know what fate befell her friend who has a long history of falling in love with guys and stalking them. She once, comically enough, snuck into a boy’s apartment to invite herself to a family vacation she heard her crush mention to his friends.

Speaking of Seiji, we find out even more about this rather complex and seemingly disturbed young man and the role his sexy sister plays in his life. Disturbing is exactly the right word to describe Seiji’s sister, Chief Namie Yagiri, whose obsession with her brother is, well, let’s just say it’s abnormal. Things have gotten even more unsavory ever since Namie showed her then very young brother an item her uncle had shown her a most unusual item.

As a matter of fact, Seiji falls in love with said item and this does not sit well with a dementedly jealous sister who takes action that starts a chain reaction of events that lead to an unbelievable finale at the end of this volume. You see, it is Mikado who – having left Sonohara – is drawn in by the sound of the Black Rider’s motorcycle. Instead, he finds a young girl on the run from the Dullahan … a girl with very familiar physical features.

Ok, Narita-sensei, you have not only officially creeped me out but you also made me your biggest fan with just two volumes.

Injecting even more craziness that only this Ikebukuro can supply, Volume 2 of Durarara wastes no time exposing a story that has no shortage of twists and turns that doesn’t fail to provide readers with a puzzle they can’t wait to see revealed. You just have to love a series that features a Herculean bartender, a truly twisted love story and a “living” severed head. Even if you know the story, the manga version is still a delight. If you’re new to this series, however, you are in for a wild ride.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
The plot thickens as we continue to discover Celty’s past including her connection to the young doctor named Shinra. Meanwhile, members of The Dollars look into the string of kidnappings and discover who is behind it while the streets of Ikebukuro hosts a crazy conflict between Orihara and a man named Shizuo. As Mikado gets to know his cute classmate named Sonohara better, we witness the twisted nature of the Yagiri siblings.

ART: A-
There are a number of stand-out scenes in this volume as Satorigi-san’s artwork manages to display some crazy moments that make this series so fascinating.

OVERALL: A
The story continues to evolve and take shape in the most intriguing way possible as Volume 2 of the series slowly yet spectacularly tears out the layers as it reveal a tale that can only get even more engrossing. Durarara!! is the kind of series that goes for the surprising twists that will leave the reader on the edge of their seats and this volume is undeniable proof of that.

Review copy provided by Yen Press

Durarara!!, Volume 1 – Manga Review

Review by: Kylee Strutt

Publisher: Yen Press
Author: Ryohgo Narita
Art: Akiyo Satorigi, Masayuki Sato (Cover)
Character Design: Suzuhito Yasuda
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $11.99 US
Rating: OT (Older Teen)
Release Date: Available Now

I knew going in that Durarara!! was not going to be your average kind of tale set in a real city. Having seen the anime series and – thanks to my fellow reviewer, Emma Everton – devoured the light novels, I already knew the big reveals and shockers the story had in store yet somehow I found myself still completely absorbed by Volume 1 of the manga version of Durarara!!

In fact, I’d even go as far as saying I had fallen in love with the story all over again thanks to Ryohgo Narita-sensei’s unusual storytelling style (fans of Baccano! know what I’m talking about) and Akiyo Satorigi-san’s enjoyable artwork.

The story introduces us to Mikado Ryuugamine, a young man who has come to Ikebukuro in Tokyo to attend a private high school by the invitation of his closest childhood friend, Masaomi Kida. Very quickly, Mikado finds the truth about the district, including the fact that Ikebukuro Station is considered the second busiest station in Tokyo (really, it barely beats out the Shinjuko Station in my book).

It also happens to be home to the most interesting collection of characters in town, including a number of them that Kida considers should “never be messed with.” On top of that, there are plenty of unsavory groups, one of which is The Dollars who have gained notoriety. And, of course, there’s the mysterious motorcycle rider who has become something of an urban legend around the district. Interestingly enough, Mikado gets a very close look at this figure on his first day in Ikebukuro.

While it’s fun to get to know the shy Mikado and his expressive and comical friend, Kida. Half the fun is getting to know the interesting characters that inhabit the district. Among them is Seiji Yagiri who finds himself trying to shake off a girl who is stalking him until she makes the mistake of following him to his apartment. There’s also Seiji’s sister, who is keeper of her brother’s secret as well as something else. Then there’s an Afro-Russian bruiser who offers a great deal on sushi made by Russians.

One of these other residents is Izaya Orihara who Kida and Mikado run into in the streets. It’s clear that Kida is nervous around this seemingly calm young man and with good reason. You see, when we see Orihara again, he is speaking to two young women who had answered the call of a website that interest those who are interested in taking their own lives. However, there is certainly more to Orihara than meets the eye as we could see from this volume. In his interaction with the two young women it’s hard to tell if he’s something of a saint or a sinister presence.

While Orihara is something of a delightful conundrum, it is the mystery rider who becomes the star of the show. Those who have seen the anime know the secret of Celty Sturluson but for those who don’t, Volume 1 reveals Celty in the most deliciously surprising manner as we discover the connection between the rider and the mythical entity of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Oh yeah, Celty is definitely one of the most original and fascinating characters to be introduced in anime and manga in a long time. Add the fact that Celty is something of a crime-fighting courier who does jobs that include clients like Orihara and you will find yourself drawn to the character. Even more interesting is the young doctor who is not only interested in the supernatural mystery that is Celty but also might actually have a romantic interest as well. Trust me when I say that more of Celty and the young Doctor will keep playing a role in this story.

Narita-sensei knows how to spin a complex yet completely absorbing yarn and Durarara!! is no different. He, once again, fills his story with plenty of intriguing characters and bloody violence. Even the locale is a character as Ikebukuro’s many interesting spots like Sunshine City and the anime and manga fan’s dream mega store, Animate, make appearances. Add Satorigi-san’s art and you have a visually eye-pleasing manga that compliments the anime’s visuals.

A worthy adaptation of a brilliant anime series, the first volume of Durarara!! will not fail to grab you by the throat and not let go until the last page. I liken it the first bite of an exotic dish you always wanted to try only to find that you can’t stop eating it and want seconds. It’s been a long time since a manga version of a story I already know from beginning to end has surprised me. Color me impressed and looking forward to the next volume.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A
Young Mikado comes to Ikebukuro to join his elementary school chum only to discover that this part of Tokyo is home to some eclectic characters that include a young man who crosses the line between sinner and saint at a whim as well as a mystery courier whose identity might be tied to a recognizable mythological figure.

ART: A-
Akiyo Satorigi-san’s artwork is a delight and beautifully detailed when it comes to the backgrounds and how Ikebukuro is represented. The district is certainly another character in the book and Satorigi-san highlights this fact. The cover artwork is simple yet you can’t help but examine it each time you pick up this volume.

OVERALL: A
If you’re not familiar with the anime series or even the light novels, Volume 1 of Durarara!! should come as a pleasant surprise for those looking for something on the unusual side. Sure, this first volume can also come off as confusing at times but believe me when I say that part of the enjoyment is how this story slowly unravels before you until you find yourself glad you took this jaunt to this version of Ikebukuro.

Review copy provided by Yen Press

Monster Hunter Orage, Volume 2 – Manga Review

Review by: Faith McAdams

Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Author: Hiro Mashima
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $10.99 US
Rating: T (Ages 13+)
Release Date: Available Now

Everyone needs companions … or do they?

I have to admit that – as a hardcore gamer – the Monster Hunter games don’t pop into mind when I think of games that would make a great manga series. However, I do believe in the genius that is Hiro Mashima, the talented mangaka who gave us Rave Master and Fairy Tail. It is with his impressive track record that I checked out Volume 2 of Monster Hunter Orage and found myself having a blast without the use of a PlayStation 2 controller or my PSP.

You don’t have to be familiar with the world of the Monster Hunter games but if you are you will find that Mashima has infused his story with recognizable elements from the games. There are even a few visual cues from the Monster Hunter realm such as the crafted weapons and armor as well threat level for each monster. In this world, hunters take on contracts to hunt down the monsters that inhabit this world for money and the chance to score some parts to craft necessary equipment.

Monster Hunter Orage tells the story of three young hunters who have set out on an epic quest to hunt down the legendary Thunder Dragon known by all hunters as Myo Galuna. The group’s only male, Shiki Ryuho follows in his dead master’s footsteps as he travels with said master’s daughter, Ailee Jeskar. Along for the ride is a cute armorer named Sakya who becomes the third member of what is meant to be a four-member party.

Having traveled far together, we have learned very little about Shiki. All we really know is that he carries twin wind blades that a man who calls himself Shadow is looking to get his hands on them and Shiki is, well, he’s a peculiar guy. Think Fairy Tail’s Natsu or One Piece’s Monkey D. Luffy and you get the picture. We don’t even know much about Sakya but in Volume 2 we find out more about Ailee who does not want to recognize Shiki and Sakya as her “companions” (when “comrades” would have been a more fitting word) but we will get into that in a moment.

Their travels take them through a dense forest where they encounter a young man named Kirck running for his life with a massive beast they recognize as a Congalala. All three help the man from the stinky monster as they find out that Kirck is a traveling researcher collecting data on the wildlife especially monsters. His goal is to learn as much as he can about the various monsters so it would help future hunters that might encounter these beasts.

As a reward for helping the young man out, Kirck gives them a map that would better guide them to their destination. They also find out that they will have to cross the sea to their next destination so in the port town of Linka Rinka they find out that the only ship available can only cross if they complete a monster-hunting mission. The mission, they find out from a very peculiar man, requires them to hunt down a sea monster called a Plesioth and the requirement is that they wear tight-fitting armored bikinis. Another condition is that they share the mission with another hunter.

It is during this mission that we get a better understanding of why Ailee no longer wants to be a part of a monster hunting team. You see, long ago she was part of a small crew that she was so affectionately attached to during her early monster hunting days. Then, one of them mentioned that they could make even more money and acquire more parts if they sold their kill to a man known as Shadow. Ailee is opposed to the idea since poaching is an illegal activity and, in the end, winds up in front of a tribunal with the rest of her crew. The reason she is spared the ultimate sentence like her old comrades is the reason she find herself haunted by the thought of having companions.

However, seeing how hard her Shiki and Sakya risk their lives to save her while confronting the Plesioth; she comes to discover that having true comrades might actually be a good thing. There’s more revelations in this volume as we come to understand what Ailee’s father, Greylee Jeskar, means to Shiki and why the boy still has love for his now deceased master. When they meet the curious legendary armorer, Kibalion, we find out a big secret regarding Graylee as they others gather parts for a new kind of weapon that will be helpful in killing Myo Galuna.

A fun read that is not quite as fulfilling as Mashima‘s other two titles, Volume 2 of Monster Hunter Orage is still entertaining and even more so if you’re a fan of the Capcom games that inspired it. Much like Rave Master and Fairy Tail, there are some likeable characters that make the story work and this second volume fleshes key characters as they continue their journey. Give this one a chance if you like a manga series that isn’t afraid to show its readers a good time.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: B-
Continuing on their journey to find the Thunder Dragon known as Myo Galuna, the three young hunters end up saving a young researcher and then paying for their passage across sea by hunting a most dangerous aquatic monster. Meanwhile, we learn a secret about Shiki’s master as well as learn why Ailee is against having companions.

ART: A-
Hiro Mashima’s artwork continues to have that appealing style that comes close to Eiichiro Oda’s “One Piece” and that’s not such a bad thing at all considering how unique his characters and monsters look. The equipment and monsters do look true to the Monster Hunter games.

OVERALL: B-
Much like the video game series it is based on, Volume 2 of Monster Hunter Orage is a good time but not deep enough to make compete with Mashima’s other titles. Still, the story is fun enough to keep you entertained and – since this is just the second volume – there’s a good chance this story could get a lot better. Consider this one worth a look.

Review copy provided by Kodansha Comics

Cage of Eden, Volume 1 – Manga Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Author: Yoshinobu Yamada
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $10.99 US
Rating: OT (Ages 16+)
Release Date: Available Now

Well, at least there’s no black mist monster or the Others on this island.

School excursions … it’s but one of many big moments in a Japanese student’s life where bonds are strengthened between classmates, romance occasionally blossoms and wonderful memories are made. For one class, however, a jaunt to an exotic locale turns into a nightmarish struggle for survival for one group of students in a most unusual island in Volume 1 of Cage of Eden.

We meet Akira Sengoku, a 15-year old student who delays the plane that holds all his classmates by arriving late during boarding. Nobody seems surprised at all seeing as they all know him to be something of a slacker with no real prospects. Still, he is a big part of the class that had traveled from Japan to Guam on a pleasant school excursion that – judging by the class pervert’s video footage – was composed of fun in the sun. Akira’s actually quite a popular guy seeing as his friends include the hottest guy in the class by the name of Arita Kohei and the hottest girl in the school who is a childhood friend who goes by the name of Akagami Rion.

The flight starts off peaceful enough for us to see the interaction between Rion and Akira is on the friendly side but Rion clearly sees the boy in a different light. Meanwhile, we meet the class brain, a boy named Mariya Shiro, and a new flight attendant named Ohmori Kanako. However, the peace is suddenly and violently disturbed when the plane suddenly takes a dip as all instruments begin to fail in the cockpit. Then all hell breaks lose in the cabin as Akira attempts to find Rion who moved out of her seat when an unusual anomaly appears before the boy.

The next thing we know, Akira opens his eyes to see that he is on a strange island rather inside an airplane. He thinks the plane might have crashed and he was thrown out somehow but if that was true where is the wreckage? On top of that, he sees unusual animals in this island such as tiny horses and an odd beaver-like creature. When he hears something that sounded like a voice he realizes he has come face-to-face with a huge man-eating bird that has attacked the class smart kid Mariya and the Ohmori, the flight attendant. Akira manages to lead the bird away in order to regroup with the only two survivors.

Thanks to the fact that Mariya managed to somehow fall out of the plane with his laptop, the brainy kid looks through an encyclopedia only to find out that all the creatures they have seen so far – including the giant man-eating bird called a Diatryma have all be instinct for millions of years now. Since they see no wreckage, Mariya also assumes that only ones that survived. Of course, all of this doesn’t sit well with the attractive and busty Ohmori.

Somehow, Akira manages to keep both his companions composed enough to keep searching anyway. It isn’t until Ohmori decides to take a bath in a stream that she notices a water bottle from the airplane that they realize that the plane has crashed somewhere and there might be survivors like them. When they manage to locate the plane, they also find the class pervert’s video camera that seems to have new footage.

Unfortunately, things get even more terrifying when a carnivorous creature with a huge maw kills a few students and forced them all back into the plane. It is Rion who tried her best to keep everyone calm before things turned badly back inside the plane. What they see on the camera is actually very disturbing as they watch what happened to the survivors on the airplane and how the pilot ended up murdered with a knife stuck into his stomach. Panic takes hold of his classmates that turns into something even more shocking.

Still, Akira manages to be reunited with Rion after figuring out what happened to her and the group tries to make sense of all that has happened so far. The four still don’t know what happened to the others since the camera doesn’t show where everyone went after they all became a panicky mess. As the others take on duties they are capable of carrying out, Akira feels useless. When he goes outside the plane, he is attacked by a person in a mask.

Cage of Eden has an intriguing setup and the “Lost” meets “Jurassic Park” vibe offers a number of interesting possibilities. Still, the series isn’t without its few problems that make some things seem so farfetched. Mariya’s laptop not being broken is one of them and just how did somebody smuggle a switchblade on board? Some might even have a problem with the fan service as well that has detailed panty shots from Rion (that seems out of place) and a nude bathing scene with the buxom Ohmori that seems tacked on just for the sake of adding nudity.

Still, it’s hard not to ignore its good qualities such as the decent characters and the fact that the survivors are going up against extinct animals that include saber-toothed tigers. Then, to add to the intrigue, there’s a maniac with a hockey mask on the loose.

Volume 1 of Cage of Eden has numerous possibilities that make for an interesting and fun read that – hopefully – will become stranger and even more exciting in future volumes. The characters and the island itself are fun to follow but despite a few issues I have with some elements I feel that it could have been a lot better. Still, there’s more than enough good here to make it worth picking up in hopes it gets even more fascinating.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: B
After a fun excursion in Guam, a class trip turns into a terrifying ordeal as the airplane crash lands on a most unusual island. Soon, student Akira finds himself, a fellow classmate and a surviving flight attendant discover that the island is filled with animals that have long been considered extinct. When they manage to locate their crashed plane, they find out that something terrible has happened as their struggle for survival is just beginning.

ART: A-
The artwork in the series is the kind we’ve seen before but, thanks to Yoshinobu Yamada’s attention to detail, you’ll find yourself appreciating the setting and the character design. Then there’s the fan service that can be a bit out of place at times a little too detailed for some, which is why the rating is appropriate for this title.

OVERALL: B
An intriguing survival story with plenty of mystery to boot, Volume 1 of Cage of Eden is off to a good start despite a few weak spots that hold it back from being a truly extraordinary story. Still, there’s plenty of potential in this first volume and, despite its flaws, Cage of Eden is actually a very entertaining read. This is certainly one worth checking out.

Review copy provided by Kodansha Comics

Gon, Volume 1 – Manga Review

Review by: Eduardo Zacarias

Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Author: Masashi Tanaka
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $10.99 US
Rating: T (Ages 10+)
Release Date: Available Now

The story of a little dinosaur who dishes out the hurt on the animal kingdom’s jerks.

Gon is a name that a few people in our side of the shore might know seeing as he’s been around in Japan for a long while now to the point that he even makes an appearance as an unlockable character in one of the Tekken games. If you’re familiar with a dinosaur who has managed to survive the cruelty of the Ice Age to defy the extinction of his kind then you are in for a treat because Kodansha Comics brings us Volume 1 of Gon and he will not fail to put a smile on your face.

First, here’s an interesting fact about Volume 1 of Gon: there are no word or thought balloons to be found nor are there captions with any text at all. Masashi Tanaka tells a story using solely his artwork and that’s more than sufficient seeing as his art is expressive enough to convey emotion from his non-human characters. Through Gon’s actions, we know all we need to about this little yet mighty dinosaur.

In the first chapter of the first volume, we get to see just how might he is as the tiny reptile sleeps so soundly that he doesn’t even feel the field mouse that happened to have landed on his belly. Nor does he wake when a leopard curiously swats at him with his powerful paw and suddenly decides to take a bite with disastrous results for the leopard’s teeth. He doesn’t even wake when a rhino comes charging in and smacks the pint-sized terror across the land. Gon wakes up on his own wondering just how in the world he got so far away from this original resting place.

In another chapter, which takes place a day after Gon’s first birthday, a young American Black Bear stumbles upon a stream filled with delicious Sockeye Salmon going downstream. It manages to catch one and is about to take a much-deserved bite when an older and more aggressive Black Bear shows up. The older bear shows his dominance quite clearly to the point that the younger bear has no choice but to flee and leave his delicious bounty behind.

Then Gon shows up and the older Black Bear tries to show him who is the bigger critter only Gon doesn’t even flinch. The little dinosaur snubs the aggressive bear and totally ignores him as he makes his way to the tasty fish. You better believe the bear won’t stand for this outrage but before it could even think of attacking, Gon head butts the bear and sends the older creature flying back across the stream and breaking a few trees along the way. Oh, the humiliation doesn’t stop there for the bear as it realizes that sometimes age and size do not matter.

In the next chapter, the peace and tranquility of the Serengeti is disturbed as an older lion decides to lunge towards a herd of Blue Wildbeasts. It races after them as the herd scatters and they prove to be faster than the lion who is clearly being too lazy to want to continue giving chase. Then Gon shows up and bites the lion’s head and manages to climb on its back as if he were riding a horse. Yanking the lion’s mane, Gon forces the lion to give chase after a Wildbeast and pushing the poor lion to his limits as it has no choice but to play the part of the dinosaur’s ride.

Then, a busy beaver is in the process of making his dam and is looking mighty proud of his handiwork thus far when the tiny dinosaur shows up and starts construction of his own dam as well. Suddenly, a small competition between beaver and dinosaur heats up as Gon uses his great strength and the fact that he doesn’t care about anyone else. In the end, the beaver makes his damn but Gon’s dam comes at a hilarious price.

Finally, Gon finds himself in the comforting warmth of a Golden Eagle nest as it awaits mama eagle just as eagerly as the babies all around him. Imagine the mother’s surprise when she not only has an extra mouth to feed but the mouth belongs to something that clearly did not come from her. Still, despite the obvious inconvenience, Gon’s presence is suddenly seen as a good thing since a determined bobcat managed to climb up to try and snatch a baby eagle away.

Instead of finding a tasty, defenseless meal, however, the bobcat’s attempt is thwarted by Gon himself who manages to save the babies from it but also ends up giving the bobcat a nightmarish scare and quite a beating as Gon joins a flock of angry Golden Eagles in dishing out the hurt. And so, Gon finds himself an honorary member of mama’s own flock.

As I said, the story of Gon is a visual one and works brilliantly seeing as the animals’ reactions say it all. In fact, it’s the animal reactions are comedy gold and will not fail to make you laugh. The American Black Bear Gon puts in his place is so frightened of Gon after he was sent flying that he much rather play dead than face the little guy. Masashi Tanaka’s art is really something to behold.

Volume 1 of Gon is nothing short of hilarious and absolutely exceptional in ways that make it one of those rarities in manga. Using nothing but gorgeous visuals to tell the story, Tanaka is able to showcase a series of encounters that will make you smile and laugh aloud at the antics of a very likeable little dinosaur. In other words, if you’re looking for a manga series that is actually very funny then this is a series you will certainly need to buy.

MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN

STORY: A+
Meet Gon, the last living dinosaur who somehow survived the Ice Age and walk his own path as he adapts to a different kind of environment in his scrappy manner. Still, despite his short stature, Gon is a mighty little dinosaur who jumps into the circle of life with the strength of a T-Rex as he turns the king of the jungle into his personal ride, beats a beaver in making his own dam and defends a nest of baby golden eagles from a bobcat.

ART: A+
Relying solely on the visuals is quite a feat and a risk but Masashi Tanaka manages to say more with one panel than other authors do with two word balloons. His artwork is not only expressive and amazingly well detailed but the reactions from the animals will not fail to make you really laugh aloud. Really, this is a case of not judging a book by its weak cover.

OVERALL: A+
A brilliant and gorgeous visual feast that will not fail to make you laugh, Volume 1 of Gon is one of those rare gems that uses no words but is still able to convey emotion and hilarity just as easily. On top of that, Gon is a likeably little bugger who unintentionally does what’s right. If you like something different and genuinely funny, give this little dinosaur a try.

Review copy provided by Kodansha Comics