Well, if we had the season of the light novel a while back, this is the season of manga. It’s probably not unusual to see four manga made into anime in one season, but what is unusual about it is that I’ve been following all four as manga for some time. So without further ado, I shall enlighten everyone with my totally well thought out critique of these drawings, so just call me Mr. Manga.
Dusk Maiden of Amnesia: I did a review of it based on the first eight chapters here. This story starts off strong and creepy, but it can’t sustain the tone through its full run. It hasn’t really gotten far enough to be making an anime of it, so I suspect it’s going to have a custom ending. One hopes it is done better than Venus Vs. Virus, if that’s the case. Story: Teiichi is a freshman at the Seikyou private school, a complex mix of old, abandoned, and new buildings. Sections are boarded up, walled off, or just left vacant, so you know there are going to be a lot of ghost stories circulating. Somewhere in the old school building, there’s a large mirror, and if you look into it the story goes, you’ll see the ghost of the old school building behind you. Never turn to look over your shoulder at her, for she’ll drag you into the mirror, and you’ll be lost forever!
Of course Teiichi gets lost and wanders into the old area. Finding a huge mirror, when he looks into it, a beautiful girl startles him from behind. She introduces herself as Yuuko Kanoe, and after teasing him a bit, she leads him out of the building. On the way out, she tells him that she’s a ghost — even though she’s quite solid. She used to be a student at the school, but has no memory of her death. Teiichi doesn’t believe her — until the next day when she shows up in the new school building and he realizes that no one else can see her. The rumors have it that the school was built on an ancient burial ground, and to quiet the restless dead, a girl was sacrificed 40 years ago. She enlists his help in finding out what happened to her, even going so far as to “encourage” him to set up an unofficial paranormal investigation club, which starts digging into various school mysteries. Kanoe is flirty, and quickly becomes attached to Teiichi, but more supernatural (and some not so supernatural) incidents keep happening around the school. The manga spends a fair amount of time making Kanoe rather creepy — for a long time, it’s an open question as to whether she herself is a benign apparition or evilly possessing Teiichi. The club gets two other new members, both female, forming a quasi-harem around Teiichi. Of their number, it seems one, Yuuko Kirie, can also see her — but she doesn’t want to. A family history, cloaked in mystery and silence, surrounded by secrets and rumors begins to unravel slowly…
Too slowly. It seems that this manga started as a one-shot, then got a sequel one-shot, then went into full production. It’s creepy, sexy, romantic, and just a touch scary at times, which accounts for its popularity, but the fundamental story at the center — the mystery of Kanoe’s death, reaches a set point and then doesn’t progress for too long, while the manga spends time with filler stories about the school’s other mysteries. Silver Link appears to be playing up Kanoe’s creep factor, although the later manga chapters emphasize her sexiness. Being a ghost, she’s got very little body modesty, but look out if you see her skeleton! It hasn’t gotten anywhere near finishing at this point.
Medaka Box Prior review here. Seinen with tits again, although no one’s match Medaka’s. As I said then: “Fighting and a bit of fanservice, combined with science-fiction and mutants-in-all-but-name. It’s not a manga to read for serious entertainment, just for the occasional T&A and of course, “the lulz.” Just to see what crazy and hyper-powered teen shows up next.” And that’s really it; Medaka is a Haruhi Suzamiya who knows she’s god. Well, not deific, just damn powerful. If she’s Superwoman, then her wannabe-boyfriend and constant companion Zenkichi is Batman, a guy who can hang tough with her from sheer stubbornness. Unfortunately, the spectacularly-endowed Medaka is really it for the drop-dead gorgeous fan-service — imagine Ikkitousen with Hakufu as the only truly sexy girl; in fact, go out of your way to make some of the others repulsive, either in character or physical appearance. That’s Medaka Box. The anime is due for its last chapter soon, so this can actually be a complete story, if they decide to follow the manga.
Mysterious Girlfriend X: This one is unintentionally creepier than Dusk Maiden. I mean, if you noticed right after school that the cute, anti-social girl who sits next to you in class has fallen asleep and drooled all over her desk, what would you do? a) Clean it up. b) call her back and make her clean it up. c) leave it and go home. d) Taste it. I really thought I had a previous write-up on this, but that makes me only slightly less delusional than Tsubaki, who picks d. when Urabe Mikoto leaves a puddle on her desk one day. But shortly afterwards, he falls sick, not from a disease but…because he’s now addicted to her drool and has to have a daily supply? What’s more, by exchanging drool, they can link their emotions and sensations. Urabe also has Senjogahara-level skills with the scissors she keeps in her panties, and a penchant for using them. What develops is a slow-moving, peculiar teen romance that never really goes anywhere, nor explains why Urabe’s saliva has such odd properties. What’s going on here can be summarized in the reader comments at Mangafox: “It was mentioned somewhere that the goal of the author was to show that one should not rush things just to say “hey guys, it’s done ! I had my first time !”, and to protest against the fact that apparently there was more more scandals in Japan about underage kids trying sex stuff while being WAY too young (10-13yo). I’m starting to re-read from the very beginning and found for myself that this is truly what the author is trying to achieve.” And yes, after sixty-four chapters, they have yet to kiss! Even Keichi and Belldandy did better than that.
SankaRea Most scanlators didn’t know how to parse the name, resulting in people thinking it was named Sank-area, but it’s actually Sanka Rea, the name of the female lead. The male lead, Furuya Chihiro is a zombie nut. He collects everything to do with zombies: DVD’s, manga, books… he’s even got his cute, very forward cousin Saouji Ranko (aka “Wanko-san”) interested in zombies. His collection includes a strange book, which hints it may be possible to really make a zombie. Distraught over the death of his pet cat, he tries to create the proper formula to raise it, and is joined the beautiful, distraught daughter of a very wealthy – and strict – family. Sanka sneaks out of her family compound to take walks at night and scream her frustrations into empty buildings – such as the the one Furuya is using for his zombie experiments. When he completes the formula, she grabs and drinks it, half-seriously trying to commit suicide and be reborn as a zombie. Furuya gives the rest to his cat, but nothing happens to either of them… until the next day when Sanka dies in an accident, and is reborn as a zombie! Now Furuya has to placate one very upset father, and find a way to keep Sanka’s mind and body intact. Caught between two quasi-girlfriends, it’s only a question of whether Wanko can muster the courage to confess before Sanka decides Furuya would make a nice meal. Then the cute but antisocial 14-year old genius scientist shows up, wanting to learn from the expert who created the zombie formula… Furuya’s senile grandfather! Like Girlfriend, this series is incomplete, and suffers from establishing the situation, and then proceeding to ignore (or fail to advance it) it for tens of chapters of filler material.
I don’t have high hopes for any of these, although I’m probably most interested in Dusk Maiden; it combines a really good start with interesting characters. Kirie Yuuko is probably the best supporting character among all the series here. Medaka Box is strictly for the lulz, and I’m more interested in Wanko than Sanka herself. Girlfriend X, I am rather blah about; it’s mainly about a slow-motion romance with absolutely no explanation of the female lead at all.