Although I’ve been on a tear, reading a whole lot of manga, I really don’t have the time and energy to write about it all as much as I want to, so here’s the very latest summaries. Most of these are ecchi to downright hentai/adult, and all links should be considered NSFW.
Mahou Sensei Negima: (D) Ok, lets get this one out of the way. Yes, he sent Asuna back in time. Chao has invented cross-universal travel as well as time travel so she and Evangeline drop Asuna off at what has now become a second branch point. So now, as she explains, there’s the original timeline from which she came, and the great disaster happened in the magical world, then there’s the second timeline in which Negi averts it but Asuna doesn’t wake up until 15 years late, and now they’ve just brought her back, which means there’s now a third timeline, in which Negi still has to save the world. Two issues to go. Feh. Akamatsu’s just throwing shit at the wall now.
Ratman:(B+) One of the better offerings I’ve read in a while. In a world where superheroes are mostly corporate shills, Shouta Katsuragi, high-school freshman, wants to be a real hero of justice, like his idol, Shiningman (whom he actually met as a child). There’s a couple of problems though… Shouta is short and weak. One day he gets the chance to gain superpowers and become a hero in order to save his cute but emotionless classmate, Miriea Mizushima. Only, it’s a trick, and he finds out he’s been conned into becoming a super-villian instead of a superhero! His new secret identity, RATMAN, (which is really scary) is supposed to be doing evil deeds, alongside several hilarious sidekicks that never talk, only mime. But why does Mizushima’s older sister Crea, and their grandfather/scientist — the organization’s leaders — not seem to mind when he goes out of his way to do heroic deeds instead of villainous ones? Why are the heroes all such jerks, if not downright evil, themselves? And how can he keep his identity secret from Rio, the pretty, rich daughter of the chairman of the world’s greatest hero organization? Deft humor and a bit of satire mark this series, although the primary characterizations are a bit bland/cliche — surprisingly, the secondary characters are more nuanced.
Velvet Kiss (A) : Technically (well, graphically…), a hentai title, although it’s got by far the best characters and tightest story of any of the series here. Nitta is swindled into assuming a huge debt, then told by the company he owes it to that all he has to do to suspend the payments is befriend a certain young lady…whom he discovers is the daughter of his creditor company’s chairman! Now he’s caught between his salaryman job, and a spoiled, whinny, demanding, and highly-oversexed girl that thinks nothing of calling him away from his job for a casual fuck. Only maybe… they’re less than casual? Then things start getting ominous…
Minamoto-kun Monogatari: C+ Trashy, near-hentai, but kinda fun. Terumi Minamoto was such a pretty-boy that the girls at his jr. high school were jealous and hazed him terribly. Left with a fear of women, he went to an all-boys high school… that was so close to three girls’ schools that the harassment moved from the classroom to the train. Now, he’s pretty much inept where they’re concerned. As he enters college, he’s abruptly kicked out of the house by his father, who’s marrying a younger woman. Forced to live with his young, sexy aunt (a psychology professor at the college he’s attending), he arrives at her place, only to be forcibly drafted in to her research on “Prince Genji’s Story,” about a man who seduced 14 women His job? Like the prince, he must make 14 women his — but if he doesn’t conquer his own cousin as the first, within one week…. he has to sleep with her instead! The problem with having sex with this beauty? He definitely doesn’t have an incest fetish!
VITA Sexualis(F) If the title isn’t enough warning, let the grade finish it off: There is nothing redeeming here, not the storytelling, not the plot, not the characters, not the art, nothing.
Conveni-N: (C) Imagine Fooly Cooly meets Heavy Metal, with a side dish of Benny Hill. It’s that bizarre, but it’s also funny, sexy, definitely adult, and completely absurdist. Page after page of “I can’t believe they did that!” Only 8 issues long, but I don’t think it could have been sustained for much longer, even if it was hilarious to the last zinger.
Mama wa DoukyuuseiL (F) High school boy’s father marries his cute classmate… now his classmate is his mother??? Yeah, I managed to last about three issues without retching.
The Legend of Maian: (unrated) I can’t rate this series for a very good reason… it’s done something almost no other manga (technically manhwa in this case) has manged: it’s made me very angry. This is another one of Kim Dal Il’s bazillion titles that he has ongoing, and it’s a lot lighter than most. Here’s the setup: 1,000 years ago, the most powerful sorceress ever, the immortal Felicia Rand Philistine, with her 11 immortal wizard-knights, conquered the known world and oppressed all Shurians terribly (either humans in general or an ethnic group, can’t tell which). That was, until a great hero, Maian the Brave, rose up, gathered companions, and defeated her after years of warfare. However, he didn’t kill her, but instead sealed her away. Now, 1000 years later, she’s half-mythical, most advanced magic was lost with her, and her knights have gone into hiding. Maian’s not-so-very-heroic wussy nice-guy descendant has just royally screwed up by the numbers and released her to take her revenge and reconquer the world. Only old Maian had an ace up his sleeve: a second binding that placed all her magical power in the young lad that just released her. Of course the only way she can temporarily get access to her power is to kiss him! The timing could have been better, as one of the neighboring kingdoms has declared a war of conquest on all comers,and they have the upper hand, since they seem to have re-discovered a lot of summoning magic. Its demonic armies are poised to destroy everyone, so the local kingdom strikes a deal with her: they will hand over the boy and allow her to search for her 11 lost followers, if she will take on the aggressor country and defeat it. This is known as “picking the devil you don’t know.”
For nearly sixty chapters,
Eventually, even Felix starts manning up, as the secret of his lineage manifests, but even before that, the other companions notice that Felecia is actually getting sweet on her “boy toy.” Eventually, even she notices — and finally admits it to herself. By this time, they’ve discovered that the true power backing the conquering nation is Dhia, another of the 11 immortal knights, who has turned coat and rules from behind the scenes. It is he who is teaching the old summoning magics, and after foiling an assassination plot on an allied king, Felicia and her party decides to suspend the knight search and just go deal with him. She and Felix finally admit their feelings to each other and do the horizontal tango, leading to the discovery afterwards that she has her full powers back. Old Maian seems to have been the canny one, everyone decides… so it looks for all the world, like a fun curbstomp is coming up.
Five years later, Felix resurfaces, only now he’s a rat bastard. No, he’s worse. He’s physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive to Ruby (now grown), who still loves him. All the other knights have disappeared, but he seems to have absorbed a curse from one of them: a homicidal demonic possession that leaves him ready to kill for any reason, or none at all. Worse, Felicia is still alive, but without memories of Felix. It appears that she and Dhia have had a baby during the skip, which is maturing very slowly. Dhia now openly rules and has conquered 2/3 of the remaining countries. Several new characters are introduced, but despite the supposedly comical bickering between two siblings, the overall tone is really, really bleak.
Nobody likes to see the heroes lose, but even more so, no one likes to see the hero cheated out of his prize and turned into a villain. I don’t want to see any more of Felix about to murder someone that didn’t deserve it. I don’t want to see him punching or slapping Ruby again. I don’t want to see Dhia enjoying his time with amnesiac Felecia. If I had some confidence that the story would change for the better, I might slog through the grim pages, but again, this is Kim Dal Il, master of the incomplete story and dangling resolutions. I wasn’t mentally prepared for a typical dark and violent Kim Dal Il storyline, so it really twisted me around when it turned into one. Thanks a lot for ruining my day, asshole.
There was another Kim Dal Il story I was going to talk about, but I can’t find it, and frankly, after the above, I am afraid it’s heading for the same sort of dark crash, so I’ll just stop here.
Follow-up: I don’t know if I was clear enough earlier. What makes me angry is the head fake and artistic failure. Kim looked to be expanding his repertoire here, breaking out into a new direction with a comedic work, almost in the seinen style. Although he backslid a bit once, the story and plot recovered quickly. Then, after my guard was totally down, came the utter “WTF?” events of the last few issues. On top of that, as he does so often, Kim suspended work and moved onto another project. It was an artistic failure as well as a storytelling one — with this reversion to form, Kim Dal Il has shown that he’s not comfortable writing unless he’s putting his characters through hell. I feel ambushed, disappointed, betrayed, and generally pissed off.