Yuri fans, rejoice—it's time to clear some space on those shelves for a sweet, honest, and down-right ad...moreCheck out more reviews at Across the Litoverse
Yuri fans, rejoice—it's time to clear some space on those shelves for a sweet, honest, and down-right adorable depiction of two girls falling in love. For starters, I found the evolution of Mariko and Akiko's relationship had a natural pace to it, and the two girls played their doubts and insecurities off one another well. In the first collection, Mariko's narrative takes the lead, and we see how her admiration of Akiko becomes infatuation, which then matures into Mariko's first love. Throughout this section, readers follow the small, faltering steps Mariko takes before she's able to name her feelings for her best friend, and we're given a view of the unwitting attraction and initial self-denial that accompanies the first crush of an LGBTQ kid.
I also appreciated that Girl Friends doesn't follow a standard coming-out narrative. While the main audience of Girl Friends will likely be younger, queer-identified readers who might find themselves in the same situations as Mariko and Akiko, Morinaga doesn't turn the work into a Coming Out event. In the second collection, Mariko and Akiko do discuss their future, and the girls dream of a time when they'll share their relationship with family and friends—but for now, while the girls are still in high school, they choose to enjoy their time together.
Definitely a welcome addition to any yuri collection!
Ideal for: Yuri fans and queer-identified readers; Manga fans who like a well-crafted romance and the high school drama inherent to falling for a close friend; Folks who liked Sasameki Koto and Aoi Hana in particular.(less)
Desperate to win his lover's hand in marriage, a young man named Heinz appeals to the gods—of cour...moreCheck out more manga reviews on Across the Litoverse
Desperate to win his lover's hand in marriage, a young man named Heinz appeals to the gods—of course, he hadn't planned to be taken captive, mid-prayer, by a beautiful, fiery god…
Apollo, the god of the sun, spirits Heinz away to a miniature garden hidden in the realm of the Gods. Here, the constellations remain fixed, and an endless field of white flowers bloom underfoot. Time cannot be measured in this place, and eternal life will be given to all who enter. Apollo promises to grant Heinz his wish on one condition: Heinz must convince the garden's sole inhabitant that he can escape from this world. A simple premise, but the gods are a fickle lot…
From there, Heinz meets Ganymede, the youngest prince of Troy, who was imprisoned in Apollo's garden hundreds of years ago. After repeated attempts to find the cliff at the end of this realm, Ganymede succumbed to his own self-doubt and despair. Heinz is young by comparison, and he's still blinded by ambition, love, and, worst of all, hope. Can Ganymede free himself from the snares in his mind? Is escape even possible at this point? Or is this a new torment fine-tuned for Apollo's amusement?
Oh, the artwork of Olympos. The ethereal qualities of the ill-fated garden, and the detail behind the gods' character designs, made for a stunning reading experience. I don't often get lost in the art of a manga collection, but Aki creates such beautiful, hypnotic dreamscapes—how could a reader ever avoid the same traps Ganymede fell into?
While I did love the artwork, I found the narrative was rather circular at times. Olympos offers a "philosophical-lite" approach to Greek mythology, and tussles with issues ranging from truth and deception to self-imprisonment and the limits of freedom; however, I realized the manga fell into a pattern of talking heads (à la Socrates and co.) with little action taking place. Granted, our main setting is Ganymede's infinite prison, so there's only so much room to explore—but I often find idea-driven work hard to stick with, especially when the characters are gorgeous and, well, lounging for the most part.
Overall, I'd advise fans of Greek mythology and Western philosophers to proceed with caution, but art aficionados should definitely check out Olympos for a drool-worthy manga experience.
Ideal for: Josei fans feeling underrepresented in the manga marketplace; North American readers who need a lesson on the artistry inherent to manga; Folks with a weaker background in Greek mythology and philosophy, and a strong interest in gorgeous character designs. (less)
Far in the future, children with special abilities have been collected and contained under a set of military...moreFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Far in the future, children with special abilities have been collected and contained under a set of military directives known as the Clover Leaf Project. "Clovers" possess unusual, unexplained powers over various technologies, allowing them to teleport people and objects, to summon weapons from thin air, and more. In this world, Sue is the sole four-leaf Clover, and she has grown up isolated in a gorgeous, clockwork cage. She is barred from all human contact as her attachments to and feelings for others could become weaponized, thereby jeopardizing the nation's security. Instead, she spends her days conversing with the disembodied voice of her "Grandmother" (one of the Elders) and the tragic one-leaf Clover, Ora, who lives out in the world as a singer.
Kazuhiko, a retired black-ops agent, has been called out of retirement to take on a special assignment—General Lee reminds the young agent of his previous court martial and the strings pulled to free him from terrible persecution. Kazuhiko has been instructed to escort Sue to a destination only she knows; however, as the pair move through the dangerous back alleys of the city and encounter the fearsome powers of military and gangster forces, Kazuhiko uncovers his deeper connections to Sue and discovers a greater heartache than he's ever known…
Clover demands great respect for its minimal, breathtaking art. Mokona uses white space to her advantage, and often uses that emptiness to reinforce the acute loneliness of Sue and her fellow Clovers. Sadly, I did find the writing repetitive in numerous places—Sue and Orha compose a song together that captures their shared isolation and their wish for escape and eternal happiness. I loved the lyrics the first few times around, but there came a point where the song became the entire plot line/dialogue and I found myself skimming over large sections of the text.
Overall, manga fans ought to check out Clover for its groundbreaking artwork, but do proceed with caution when it comes to those lyrics…
Ideal for: Science fiction fans who appreciate refined, elaborate technical designs; Steampunk kids looking for outfit inspirations; Manga readers curious about the genre's classics.(less)
K-ON! follows the lives of four high school students who band together to save their scho...moreFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Note: Series Review
K-ON! follows the lives of four high school students who band together to save their school's pop music club from the chopping block. At Sakuragaoka Girl's High School, the once-popular music club's membership has dropped to absolute zero when the girls enter their first year. Ritsu Tainaka, the official drummer and the self-proclaimed president of the club, recruits her best friend Mio Akiyama as the band's bass player. The duo catch the interest of Tsumugi Kotobuki, a skilled keyboard player and a rich girl who brings a collection of expensive teas and cakes to their daily rehearsals. But the group needs four members to survive and the clock is ticking…
Enter: Yui Hirasawa. In the pain and panic to find a club to join, Yui makes the snap decision to join the pop music club despite her inexperience. I mean, a girl can play the castanets in the music club, right? Lucky for the girls, Yui's got a natural talent for the guitar and proves to be a quick study—you know, if she'd just take a moment to sit down and practice. But, sadly, standing in front of the mirror and practicing her posing is a lot easier than concentrating on her actual guitar playing skills. And don't even get the girl started on her exam scores…
K-ON! proves to be an excellent pick for spring reading lists. Each book in the four-volume series offers light-hearted and humorous four-panel comics with the added bonus of over ten pages of full-colour work. Volume One boasts some special bonus features, including an intro to music theory and nine basic chords for beginner guitarists. While I do prefer the anime to the manga—largely because the anime benefits from an awesome soundtrack—readers will find a great deal of fun with the girls of Ho-kago Tea Time.
Ideal for: Manga fans who came of age during the 90s Girl Power movement; High school girls who dream of starting their own band, or girls who were in a high school band; Fans of the anime series who'd like to understand its origins; Kids who like four-panel, punchline-driven manga.(less)
Meiko Inoue is a small town girl and recent college graduate who works as an average drone in the heart of...moreOriginally published on Across the Litoverse
Meiko Inoue is a small town girl and recent college graduate who works as an average drone in the heart of Tokyo. She fetches tea, photocopies reports, and resists the urge to fall asleep at an office that manufactures office equipment. She lives with her boyfriend of six years, Naruo Taneda, who works nights as a part-time freelance illustrator for another nameless design company. With his pittance of a paycheque, Naruo relies on Meiko for shelter and sustenance. But, after two years of working in the same stifling office space, Meiko decides to quit her job without warning—and with nothing more than one year's worth of savings to support her.
With no plan and no guidance, Meiko drifts through her days in search of what will make her feel happy and fulfilled. Meanwhile, Naruo senses the new pressure—in the absence of a regular, substantial income, he is forced to choose between longer hours at a frustrating dead-end job or a last shot at pursuing his music with the band. He must weigh his own confidence against his need to measure up to the world around him; however, the cost of both options turn out to be far too much to bear…
Inio Asano strikes a scene that's at once believable, palpable, and relatable—he captures the unfocused angst of the young adult and renders it both beautiful and tragic. Asano explains in his afterword that he wrote this manga as a twenty-four year old recent graduate who found himself debating whether he could make a decent go as a professional mangaka. His doubts about his artistic talent, his fears over risking his uneventful and good life for the sake of change, and his questions over what constitutes true happiness overwhelm the pages of Solanin, and I think these are universal issues among the twenty-something crowd out there. He handles his characters with great care and humanity, to the point where I could see reflections of myself and my friends within this group's dynamic. Excellent work overall, and a compelling read for folks in their late teens/early twenties.
Ideal for: Manga disbelievers who ought to be converted; Listless, fearful, or dissatisfied twenty-somethings in need of the reassurance that they're not alone in this; Readers who like stories about bands or that special band-induced camaraderie; Artists (in any medium) who need a shot o' inspiration.(less)
Epic in scope though intimate in its details, A Drifting Life offers an impressive and immersive experience of Yoshihiro Tatsumi's formative years, de...moreEpic in scope though intimate in its details, A Drifting Life offers an impressive and immersive experience of Yoshihiro Tatsumi's formative years, depicting that elusive time before he revolutionized the world of manga with his gritty, cinematic style. Clocking in at a staggering 800+ pages, this illustrated memoir introduces readers to the initial inspiration of the young mangaka in post-WWII Japan and documents his initial success as a grade school artist and his first experiments with manga. We see the young man transform his initial passion into a paid profession and witness his creation of a new school of manga known as Gekiga.
Throughout the piece, Tatsumi takes great effort with his cultural and historical context, often striking new scenes with a tour of Japan's development at the time and locating his personal growth within the greater evolution of his home nation. This is necessary reading for all fans of manga as an expressive medium and offers a nod to the great talent surrounding Tatsumi and his close friends/fellow mangakas in the 1940s and onward.
Ideal for: Manga-obsessed readers who need an education on the roots of this medium; Readers who gravitate toward memoirs; Individuals with an eye toward Japan and its mid-20th-century cultural revolutions.(less)