Manga Shorts image.Battle Royale Vol. 13

By Koushun Takami and Masayuri Taguchi
Rating 4/5

The program is a reality TV show that pits students from random classes on an isolated island. The object or only rule to this game is to kill everyone and be the last one standing. Each student gets a bag full of the proper survival equipment and other special items. Each bag is randomly packed; some have weapons such as guns or knifes, and some have a frying pan. Welcome to Battle Royale ! Forty-two students entered the island; now only five remain.

Volume thirteen begins with some flashbacks of Mitsuko Souma’s childhood and how wonderful her real father was to her. The past reveals a bitter divorce and the step-father who made Mitsuko who she is today. She pulls out a ring given to her by her real father, and she reflects upon its sentimental value. After a bit of a flashback, she comes out of the house. Seeing the cold-hearted Kazuno Kiriyama, she shoots at him. While Mitsuko has been using her body to kill, Kazuno has been killing without emotion. The two square off in an exchange of bullets, only to see Mitsuko take one in her arm. Using her sexy body to her advantage, she strips and attempts to uses her body as a distraction. The battle ensues, and Mitsuko goes insane when she shows Kazuno her prized possession. The naked sexy body and insanity doesn’t phase Mitsuko. This is Battle Royale, and there can only be one winner.

This volume brings forth a lot of character development with flashbacks of two characters, Mitsuko and Kawada. The more interesting of the two is Kawada, with his past of winning a previous Battle Royale game and his memory of his girlfriend pointing a gun at him. Kawada throughout the series has been depicted as a “kill first, ask questions later” type of person. In this volume, they really bring forth a softer and more compassionate side of him. When compared to the movie, the manga has more depth and development, especially with Kawada. I feel more pity towards Mitsuko, because of how good she could become and how divorce utterly wrecked her life. What I enjoy the most about Battle Royale is the message of how today’s society can corrupt children. The excitement and drama continue, and with only two more volumes remaining in this great series, I am eagerly awaiting the last two. --AC

Manga Shorts image.Blame! Vol. 1

By Tsutomu Nihei
Rating: 4.5/5

If you are a player of tabletop RPGs, then I can describe Blame! easily: it's a cyberpunk run by a solo with a high constitution and a big gun. For everyone else, Blame! is a cyberpunk tale set in a massive metal and stone city complex that encompasses all of a future Earth. Humanity is dying out due to mutations, so the city is scarcely populated. Killy, our main character, is searching the multi-level city for the Net Terminal Genes, something that just might save humanity from the growing number of silicate beings, essentially cyborgs. Killy travels the city, killing anyone who stands in his way, as he learns more and more about the world and the enemy known as The Authority.

Architecture plays a large role in Blame! as one of Nihei's passions, thus we are treated to complex chambers and stairways, as well as intricate shots of the levels stacked below and above Killy. This is definitely one of the attractions to this book. Nihei's style includes sketchy and minimalist renderings of characters, giving the story a sense of impermanence, of a reality that may change at any moment.

This first volume is very low on dialogue and story, serving more as an introduction into the world than anything else. However, the panels flow well, as Killy hardly has a quiet moment. Obviously, there is a lot of blood shed and misery in this book, but if you enjoy Battle Angel Alita, then you will enjoy Blame! as well. --JC

Manga Shorts image.Category: Freaks Vol. 1

By Gokurakuin Sakurako
DrMaster Publications / USD$9.95
Rating: 2/5

Category: Freaks is a supernatural horror manga about paranormal detectives hunting demons that are summoned and possess people. Pretty stock, except the demons are called Freaks, and the majority of the detectives are Stands, the natural enemy of the Freaks, in that they devour them. Thus the chapters are quite predictable: Nanami Paranormal Investigations is called in, the gang shows up and assesses the situation, they make a trap for the Freak, one of the Stand characters eats it, and they get paid. Sakurako tries to make this interesting by covering the stereotype characters in this genre: Asagi Nanami is a mysterious bishie Stand, Tokiko is a cute little girl/animal with rabbit ears/rabbit Stand, Amano is our "normal" sidekick with glasses, and Mahime/Yahiro is a duo personality Stand/Freak... Actually, I have no idea what exactly she is, only that she eats Freaks as well.

Category: Freaks tries so hard, but it never rises from being mediocre. Considering that this book carries an 18+ printed label on both the front and back cover, it is quite tame. One story does take a dive into stock hentai (read: maids), and there is some female nudity in another story, but it's pretty bland. A horror manga should inspire fear, not boredom.

This is my first experience with manga from DrMaster, and I found it to be okay. Printed on coloring book paper, the pages are somewhat resistant to rips and tears, but it makes you feel like you're reading a rather cheap comic book. The translation quality is a level above ComicsOne (which isn't saying much), but it still feels more like a word-for-word fan translation than a quality translation and adaptation. The back cover description uses a hyphen in one word as to keep all of the lines in a straight column (instead of using spacing and font size) and it uses a font that is barely legible, indicating a sloppy job with layout. Will I pick up the next volume? Probably not. There's a lot of overall better manga out there for the same price. --JC

Manga Shorts image.Cosplay Koromo-chan

By Mook
DrMaster Publications / ComicsOne / USD$9.95
Rating: 1/5

Cosplay Koromo-chan lives up to my expectations for a ComicsOne manga. See-through pages? Poor word-for-word translation? Confusing panel layout? A B-level manga title that could be considered as promotion for an A-level manga featured in the same original magazine (in this case, Pita-Ten)? Check, check, check, and double check.

This manga gives you exactly what the title says. Koromo loves cosplay; in fact, her life is cosplaying. Happily, she is blessed with her best friend Haoru, who lives to make cosplay costumes, and Kameko, who lives to take cosplay photos. Oh, and Rumi, a cute elementary student who likes full suit costumes that Koromo introduces into cosplay. Miko-Miko is a Shinto priestess/class president who always gets mistaken for cosplaying. Supposedly, she's Koromo's rival, but the relationship never really cements. There is also the Secret Head of the Rebels, the school monitor who always does the right thing, but she's supposed to be all sorts of rebellious. (I didn't get that running gag either.) A lot of Cosplay Koromo-chan is vague like this. I'm pretty sure it's not entirely due to the fortune cookie translations, where previous knowledge of Japanese culture is required to understand the humor.

If you think of Cosplay Koromo-chan as a collection of daily comic strips, then it becomes slightly more palatable. However, like Peanuts or Garfield anthology books, the repetitious comedy becomes dull fast. If it was presented in a daily or weekly newspaper as a four-panel strip, then I think that this title would shine. As it is, it just bobs around as a Pita-Ten parody/homage manga. Koromo wears bear heads in her hair in the place of Misha's bunnies. In one strip later in the book, she cosplays as an angel, and then does a mock-up of the ending of Pita-Ten. It's like watching the live action La Blue Girl movie; it just feels so wrong. I would only pick up this title if I was going on a long plane trip and there was nothing else to read in the terminal's bookstore. Instead, pick up Pita-Ten and read a good manga. --JC

Manga Shorts image..Remote. Vol. 6

By Seimaru Amagi
Rating: 3.5/5

.Remote. becomes a bit more adult in their newest volume of the series, but it still manages to give an interesting story and some light-hearted comedy that doesn’t feel out of place.

In volume six, Kurumi has to investigate the murder of one of her old high school friends. Her friend who had a dream of being an actress got caught up in the seedy underbelly of Tokyo, working in a peep show where men would pay to watch women from across the street in another building. It’s now up to Kurumi, who has to go undercover at this peep show, with the help of Ayaki and Bob, to try and solve this gruesome murder before it happens to someone else, or just as importantly, before something happens to her.

This is so far one of the longest story in the series run, as it started in volume six and it is still not complete. I was slightly disappointed, because not as much was accomplished, and the more .Remote. goes on, the more you wonder if anything will ever happen between Kurumi and Ayaki, although with just the pure enjoyment I get from reading each volume, that hasn’t mattered too much. .Remote. has been able to mix comedy and adult themes in some really nice mystery stories, and it is still one of the best unsung manga series. --JL

Manga Shorts image.Warcraft: The Sunwell Trilogy Vol. 1

By Richard Knaak and Jae-Hwan Kim
Rating: 2.5/5

The name Warcraft is linked with popular computer games, but for anime fans, it might start to make them think about manga instead, as fantasy writer Richard Knaak brings the series to paper form in a brand new series from TOKYOPOP.

Before the story actually begins, you get this long build up of everything that has happened up to this point that takes almost as long as the actual story to read. Once the story actually starts, it revolves around bunch of people going after the Sunwell to use for their own greedy endeavors, and our heroes are caught up in the middle of it. The Sunwell, as you find out in the background section, was a well used by the elves to help their society. In volume one, we get to meet our female lead, Anveena, who happens to come across our male lead, Kalec, after he gets shot by a group of dragon hunters. She helps him to escape, and later on, they try to find someone who can help them to remove the special collars put on by the dragon hunters. While on their journey, they come across an evil elf who wants to get the power of the Sunwell back.

Warcraft: The Sunwell Trilogy has a few problems that make it only really stand out because of its name. The characters are too stereotypical, as you have the goody good girl who will risk dying to save the life of a person that she just met, the heroic and masculine guy who never wants to risk putting anyone else in danger, the attractive, clingy girlfriend, the mysterious helper, the evil villain... there is absolutely nothing here that you haven’t seen before. For some odd reason, they add in Adam West style Batman sound effects during battle scenes, which make it seem corny. Lastly, although the artwork is very nice, it can almost be too busy at times, ending up as being in the way of what is actually happening. If you’re a fan of the fantasy series, you might enjoy reading about the world of Azeroth, and fantasy fans will have a good amount to enjoy here, but other than that, this seems like a title that everyone else can pass over. --JL

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