Showing posts with label manga. Show all posts
Showing posts with label manga. Show all posts

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Kiss Him Not Me by Junko


Rating: WARTY!

In Japanese this manga was called Watashi Ga Motete Dōsunda or, What's the Point of Me Getting Popular?. Superficially it purports to tell the tale of a girl who loses weight and suddenly finds herself popular, but in reality it's just another Shōjo designed as teen female wish-fulfillment and as such it's actually harmful because of the 'fat-shaming' attitude employed in it. There's nothing wrong with having a healthy fantasy life as long as it's kept in check (or untethered in creative writing or other art forms!), but the author went about this entirely the wrong way. There are ways of addressing issues or over- or under-weight in characters and this one was a fail in my opinion.

In the story, Kae Serinuma is a fujoshi - essentially a geek - who is into gaming, and who is also obsessed with male homoeroticism, picturing selected boys she knows, as being in gay romances in her fantasies. Since all the boys look like girls in these drawings that makes for rather interesting pairings! There are four boys in her life: Igarashi, Mutsumoi, Nanshima, and Shinomya, and only one of them might have had any real interest in her when she was overweight. Now they all do for sure, This is pretty shallow and she needs to reject them all with the potential exception of the guy in her gaming club, but she does not, despite the protesting title. She seems not so much enamored of them as she is enamored of their attention.

Where I had the real problem with this though, was after an accident where she's dinged by one of the players in a sport she's watching. Serinuma is knocked to the floor, and goes home after a brief recuperation at school. The next morning (or perhaps some unspecified time later - it was hard to tell), when she wakes up she has lost all her excess weight and then some. Not only that, her eyes have grown to huge proportions, her chin (which though prominent) never was a 'double' chin, has shrunk almost to nothing, her hair has become rich, thick, healthy, long, and shining and healthy, her head has shrunk or her facial features have expended to fill the whole face instead of the tiny center portion, and and her wardrobe has fantastically changed from baggy sweats to short, pleated skirts and tight sweaters.

Moreover, her legs have grown long and slim, and her breasts have miraculously tripled in size. In short, instead of a oval shape, she now has an hourglass figure. These factors combined are not the usual outcome of weight-loss, so one has to wonder if this is an illusion or wishful thinking, but by the end of the novel her appearance had not changed and all four boys desperately wanted to date her.

This sounded far more like wish fulfillment than ever it did an honest attempt to write a realistic, thoughtful, and honestly engaging story. But is this type of manga ever intended to be realistic? Wouldn't that defeat the purpose?! Maybe that's so, but this was all wrong for a host of reasons.

First of all, this shallow 'they like me now I'm anorexic and infantilized' is an awful thing to do to a woman. I expect it form some male authors, especially far too many of those who draw graphic novels, but there are different levels of 'fat' and they have all kinds of 'cute' names with which to euphemize them (BBW, chubby, corpulent, full-figured, matronly, plus-sized, portly, robust, rotund, and so on), but the question is not whether a person is overweight so much as whether they're healthy.

Clearly carrying too much weight, and eating poorly and getting no - or too little - exercise is a recipe for medical disaster, but you can be unhealthy whether you are under-, over-, or even at optimal weight, and you can likewise be healthy even when you might appear overweight to some overly-critical eyes. So the real question is over your health, not your weight per se.

In this novel, neither was the issue. The issue we're presented in (literal) black and white - and without a shred of supportive evidence - is that not only does no one love a 'fat' or 'dumpy' girl, but no one even notices her. As it happens, Serinuma is fine with this because she lives largely in her fantasy world anyway, but when she magically (and that's the only term employable here) morphs into 'a total babe' - as a frat boy would (and evidently these schoolboys do) perceive her - she makes no analysis whatsoever of her situation, and never once (not in the parts I read) harks back to how she was or makes comparisons or even tries to understand what happened. This tells me she is so shallow that it doe snot matter whether she is overweight, or a superficial model agency's dream applicant, or anywhere in between she's not worth knowing because there's nothing worth knowing about her.

I had wondered if, by the end of this volume, she might wake up and find she has dreamed this whole thing, or much better yet, that her knock on the head caused her self-perception to change, and everything that happened afterwards was because of this, not because she had literally physically changed. In my opinion, that would have made for a far better, more intelligent, realistic story, and a worthy read but I guess I shall have to write that one.

Women have hard enough time being blasted perennially with commentary from all manner of sources, most of them not even remotely medical, and most of them ads, telling her that she's ugly, fat, her hair is nasty, her clothes suck, she needs more high-heeled shoes, and she is useless in bed. Every time she passes through a supermarket checkout aisle, she has this blasted at her on the one side from women's magazines written by women it shames us all to report, and on the opposite side of that selfsame aisle, she is blasted by fattening snack foods, candies, and sugar-laden sodas. is this a problem? You bet your ass it is. Literally.

It does not help at all to have a manga written by a woman telling women this same thing. It's Junko food, and women need to stop letting authors like this one feed it to them.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Ocean of Secrets Vol 1 by Sophie-Chan


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Despite her name, this author is not Asian as far as I know, but chooses to tell stories and illustrate in that style. I have to say, to be fair, that I am not a fan of manga, but this one sounded interesting. In the end I was quite disappointed by it. I think this artist can draw, and draw well, so I believe she has a career, but I am far from convinced this is the best story to launch it with.

For some reason, the author chose to put a message in between the introductory pages and chapter one, which I found annoying and inappropriate, and which completely took me out of suspension of disbelief. I actually quit reading another ebook just a few days ago because the author did something similar (and misspelled 'shekels' in doing so!). In this case I decided to continue on since I don't normally read introductions anyway, but when I did, the story did not thrill me at all. I quit before the end because it was not entertaining me at all. The story made no sense, and reading it 'backwards' for no good reason did nothing to put me in a favorable mood!

There was a watermark on each page which interfered with appreciating the art (and I realize that this isn't the author's doing). I cannot see the point of the watermark because if lowlifes out there are going to abuse this, then a sorry watermark isn't going to stop them, while for the rest of us, the majority of us, it's nothing but an annoyance which interferes with our appreciation of the writer's work, and worse in this case, with the artist's work.

To me the story was very weak and derivative, using as it does the baseless magic of the four 'elements' of air, earth, fire, and water (as does The Last Avatar for example), which have never made any sense at all to me. I do realize they are a popular go-to for authors who are too lazy to think up a new system, but they're way over-used and unless you're going to do something truly original with them, I think you need to find something else.

Worse than this, though, the story was very much an info-dump, which is a problem with series, and which is one of several reasons why I'm not a fan of series in general, although I'm always holding out hope that I might find one that breaks the mold. The plot made little sense to me and having to read it backwards (as compared with the norm in the west) did not help.

I don't get it in an English version. I can see how an author might be so enamored of the manga form that she might want to try her hand at it, and it would need to be that way if Asian sales are hoped for (who wouldn't want to go on a book tour in Japan?!), but in the electronic age, we could have a regular version for those of us in the west and a reverse version for those in Asia. It's not like it's difficult to achieve this with current technology.

In the print version it's easy-enough to read backwards with little effort. You can even number the pages accordingly, but in the e-version, the pages are numbered wrong because the e-reader is doing the numbering (there are no numbers on the actual pages themselves, and is all-too-common with comic books). Technology has yet to reach the point where you can simply flip your tablet and start at the back! Instead you must navigate to the 'end' to start, and then you have to overcome your swiping habit to go backwards! All of this detracted from focusing on the most important thing - for me more important than the art - which is the story! It was there that my biggest disappointment lay as it happens.

Note that I'm not saying you can't follow your dream and write a manga that has nothing to do with Asian culture, but I think you have to keep in mid that it's your dream, and your potential readers may not be willing to buy into it unless you give them some really good reasons to do so. For me there were insufficient. This is an English book throughout, set in the US (or more accurately in the air above central America), and it has nothing to do with Asia or any Asian topics so for me the justification was weak. If the story had been engrossing, I would have been happy to overlook other issues, but as it happened, taken as a whole, the package simply didn't work for me. It felt annoying and pretentious. I do wish the author every success in her career, but I can't recommend this one.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Emma by Po Tse, Cystal S Chan, Stacy King


Rating: WARTY!

With line drawings by by Po Tse (aka Lemon Po), story adapted by Cystal S Chan (aka Crystal Silvermoon), and English script by Stacy King (aka Stacy King), this manga version of Jane Austen's Emma failed to please me. The adaptation wasn't bad, but reading it backwards isn't natural for we Westerners, and though I liked a manga version of Pride and Prejudice, I feel that i, like Po Tse, have to draw a line here!

In some supplementary material at the back (aka front) of the book, Po's art is praised for his "uncanny talent," but to me every drawing looked the same. It was hard to distinguish the characters except by their hairstyle, and I have never been a fan of that pointed nose, pointed chin, ridiculously large-eye mangled - er manga - style. It strikes me as lazy, where every face is merely a clone of every other, and the only actual difference between them is in the eyes and hair. After this experience I think this is the last manga of this nature I will read.

I have a few observations on the story, too. This is one of Austen's later novels. It was not her last, but it has been praised for good plotting, yet no one seems interested in saying a word about how snobbish and elitist it is. Yes, I get that this is how society was back then, and Austen is merely reporting it, but this only serves my point. Where is the daring, the invention, the scandalous skirting of the rules? I use the word 'skirting' advisedly because Austen no doubt wore skirts. Her book really isn't much more than a dear diary, is it though, in the final analysis?

The snobbery, even from the "heroic" Mr Knightley, is shameful, and it makes it only more obnoxious knowing that this was the acceptable norm back then. The talk is endlessly of people above their station, and poor matches. Love has no place in this world whatsoever, so where is the romance? It cannot breathe here, starved of oxygen as it is.

Emma is a frivolous, immature, vindictive, interfering and very stupid woman, and not at all pleasant to read about. She fails to grow and learn, yet ends up with everything despite her foolish meddlesome behavior, yet we're expected to condemn characters like frank Churchill, Philip Elton and August Hawkins, who are in reality just like Emma, if somewhat more exaggerated. While I confess I do like the movie featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, and I like even more the one featuring Alicia Silverstone, I really can't recommend the story of Emma or this graphic novel version of it.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer by Satoshi Mizukami


Rating: WARTY!

I picked this out at the library because it had a delightfully absurd Manga title, and from a brief look at the first few pages, it seemed like it might be a fun read. Be warned: amusing perusing can hasten the crime of wasting time!

The story is your usual trope bland guy picked out by fate (or in this case a talking lizard) to be the hero who saves the world. Why he's picked out is never made clear despite some five hundred pages (I'm guessing since they're not numbered) of comic. I can't even tell you how this ended because the ending was such a confused mess that I'm honestly not sure what happened. Seriously! The first three fifths or so was ok - not great but moderately entertaining. Unfortunately, the last portion was a complete disaster when it came to intelligible story-telling. Finally I can tell you I found a novel that was three-fifths worth reading! Not really, because the ending sucked and robbed those first three-fifths of all value.

Evidently the bad guy was beaten, and the biscuit hammer did not come down on Earth, but what happened to it was unexplained. Neither did the princess, who was the bland guy's next-door neighbor destroy the Earth herself after she helped to save it. Again, why this was so went completely unexplained - or I missed it somehow, but how and when that happened was not at all clear! It wasn't explained why she ever wanted to destroy the Earth, and why - if that was indeed the case - she was helping save it.

If she so desperately wanted to destroy it, why waste all those days fighting the owner of the biscuit hammer (who we never met, unless it was blond super dude, but this wasn't at all clear - not to me, the reader, anyway, but why would an author care about keeping readers happy?!). Instead of wasting all that time fighting it, why not simply destroy it herself first? Or just stand back and by her inaction be the agent of destruction she wished to be.

Yes! None of this made sense but the first part was entertaining - for the most part. The biggest problem I had with it was the author's clear and present - and creepy - obsession with young girls' panties, a pair of which, in situ on the girl, were exposed every few pages. That was perverse at best. At least I didn't pay for this! Except with my valuable time.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Happy Marriage Volume Two by Maki Enjoji


Rating: WARTY!

This was volume two in a series. I noticed it in the excellent local library and decided to give it a try even though it's not my usual fare, so I picked up the first two volumes (it looks like it runs to maybe half a dozen volumes, but the volumes were not all there, so it was hard to tell. It's a Josei (mature romance) manga about an arranged marriage, but it's not quite what you might think at first glance. Normally I wouldn't go in for this because I'm not a big romance reader. Unless it's done expertly, which tragically few are, it's boring to me. Also I am not a fan of this style of manga, where every character, male and female looks exactly the same and the only way you can distinguish one form another is by clothes and hairstyle. They all have insanely large eyes and ridiculously pointy chins. This one also had issues with assigning the speech balloons - sometimes it was entirely unclear about who was saying what.

Those problems aside, I enjoyed this first volume. The girl, Chiwa Takanashi is far too much of a wuss for my taste, and both of the characters seemed to be as simplistic in their behavior as they were in their art work. over the course of volume one, they seemed to be growing more complex, but over volume two, it was obvious they had not grown at all. They were just as incompetent and stupid in relationships as they had been before they married. Their attitude is juvenile and rigid, especially Hakuto's, and worse, he evolved into a complete jerk and a monstrous control freak, and Chiwa became a passive, compliant lamb. This came to a head in the last chapter of the volume, where she finally decides to get out from under Hakuto's thumb and take a job at a start-up run by an old friend from college. Hakuto refuses to accept her resignation, and then browbeats her college friend into withdrawing his job offer (some friend), and Chiwa completely falls into line with this scheme of imprisonment and control. I'm sorry, but I don't want to read about a slave girl - a woman who is nothing more than a toy doll for a man. I sincerely hope that Japanese women are not like this!


Happy Marriage Volume 1 by Maki Enjoji


Rating: WORTHY!

This was volume one in a series. It's a Josei manga about an arranged marriage but it's not quite what you might think at first glance. Normally I wouldn't go in for this because I'm not a big romance reader. Unless it's done expertly, which tragically few are, it's boring to me. Also I am not a fan of this style of manga, where every character, male and female looks exactly the same and the only way you can distinguish one form another is by clothes and hairstyle. They all have insanely large eyes and ridiculously pointy chins. This one also had issues with assigning the speech balloons - sometimes it was entirely unclear about who was saying what.

Those problems aside, I enjoyed this first volume. The girl is a bit too much of a wuss for my taste, and both of them seemed to be as simplistic in their behavior as they were in their art work, but as the story played out, they started to fill out, growing some character and some foibles, which made it interesting. Each volume has four 'chapters', and the author (who is also the artist) added in some amusing comments here and there about the story and the development of it, and some things she had thought of which were left out, which made it more interesting for me.

Despite some issues, I liked this volume and I recommend it as a worthy read. I can't say the same for volume two, however!


Friday, April 17, 2015

Chiro by Hyekyung Baek


Title: Chiro
Author: Hyekyung Baek (no website found)
Publisher: NETCOMICS
Rating: WARTY!

This is one of the most boring graphic novels I've ever read. It;s done in that really annoying Japanese manga style, but I was willing to put up with it for a good story. Unfortunately, that never came. Instead I got mindless school girl antics which consisted exclusively of an obsession with clothes and boys. The main character is the vacuous Eun-Yo Song whose sole traits are beauty and popularity, because you know girls have nothing else to offer, right? Excuse me, I need to change my barf bag.

Evidently every boy in creation loves her except one, and of course that's the one she wants. What a startlingly original plot! I must remember to steal it for my next novel because it's never been done before. So what's her plan to get Chan-Gyeong? Does she plan on getting to know him, finding out his interests and seeing if they have anything in common? Nope. This genius's plan is to emulate rock star Nan Lee, who Eun-Yo purports to hate, and by this means win the boy who hitherto has shown zero interest in a girl whose sole claim to fame is her claim to fame. Brilliant! How can it fail?

While the art work wasn't bad, except that it was Japanese manga-style with giant eyes, and pointy noses and chins which I detest, the writing was of a level that suggested to me that it had been thrown together by a thirteen-year-old who had never been out of the house except to go to school, who had never seen any movie other than chick-click romance movies, who had read nothing other than romance books and fashion magazines. In other words, she's not interesting at all and neither is what she writes.

And neither was this. I couldn't even read it after the first couple of dozen pages when I saw where it was going and I realized that it never was coming back. I can't recommend this at all. Ah, that's the pharmacy calling with my renewed promethezine script. I'll be right back after these dosages.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Fiji Random by Justin Raimey


Title: Fiji Random
Author: Justin Raimey
Publisher: Magnetic Press
Rating: Worthy!


DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review.

I tend to allow more latitude in my reviews when it comes to graphic novels and children's stories than I do for other books that I review. Not that I will let them get away with being poor or sloppy, but that I tend to hold them to a different, and perhaps more relaxed standard. In this I've been lucky because most of the books that I've reviewed in these categories are great. In fact, I don’t think I've ever reviewed a graphic novel poorly. This is because I get to choose what I review and I seem to have been able to pick really good ones; however, in this case, I can’t recommend this one at all.

It’s not that it’s god-awfully bad by any means, it's just that it really didn’t go anywhere. It felt more like I was paging through an artist's portfolio than reading an actual story. There seemed to be nothing of serious interest going on, and at one point I realized that I had no idea what this was about, what it was trying to do, or why I was continuing to read it! I simply could not see it going anywhere I wanted to follow, and so I quit about halfway through.

This is done very much in manga style, but the color cover is a bit misleading because the interior is not in color: it's all line-drawings with some gray-scale shading. The artwork isn't at all bad. It’s rather good, in fact, but it’s very uneven; on most pages it looks professional, but on others it looks like something my kid did. I don’t know if this was intentional, but it didn’t work for me. The writing is hilarious sometimes, but for the most part it's unremarkable.

The biggest problem with the artwork, however, was the page presentation. As you can see from the image samples, some pages had images that almost filled the page, but on many other pages, the images were reproduced so small that the entire group of panels occupied only some four-fifths (or less) of the entire page. Not only would this be a shameful and tragic waste of paper in a print version, it just made it look scrappy, and worse, it was all but impossible to read the text. Maybe this will be fixed in the final version, but in this era of electronic imagery and word processing, it’s really inexcusable to turn out a novel like this, even as a galley copy, and to have poor text and/or graphics. There are instances where white space can be dramatic and contribute the work, but this was not such a case.

So overall, the artwork was mostly good, but the presentation was uncomfortably uneven, and there was no story and nothing to hold my interest, so I cannot recommend this graphic novel.