>> Wednesday, March 9, 2011
First, something I never ever do, I'm going to do. That's right, a contest! And it's a retroactive contest. See, during my manga mania, I picked up several books that I either already had or turned out didn't work out for me, including several first in a series: Otomen, Kimi ni todoke, Ratsetsu, Bride of the Water God, and Vampire Knight. I also have volume 20 (don't ask me why) of Fruits Basket over and above the whole set and volume 1 of Night of the Beasts, which I let my manga-obsessed toddler play with so I can't vouch for the condition. I figured I'd make a drawing of all those who took the effort to make a comment throughout the whole manga mania series (including those to come) and draw names out of the hat for each commenter. Then they get to pick which book they want (first come, first serve) and I'll send it to them. Five books, five winners (6-7 winners if anyone wants to take a chance on the state of Night of the Beasts or wants Vol 20 of FB). I'll include anyone who's already commented, though you can bow out if you'd like. Most are in good enough condition for regifting if you want to do that. If no one's interested, hey, I'll donate them to the local library.
Millenium Snow, a two volume manga written by Bisco Hatori (of OHSHC fame).
Anime? No Volumes of manga: 2 Status: Complete
My rating: Has a certain appeal
Age range/taboos: Mostly your normal blood-drinking taboos inherent to anything involving vampires. Really, nothing else comes to mind. I can't see a teenager taking harm from reading this.
Premise: Our heroine, Chiyuki, whose full name means "thousand snows" has a medical condition that has largely kept her in the hospital her whole life and is expected to kill her soon, if not any moment. She sees someone leap from a roof and leaves her hospital bed to find Toya, a vampire with the power to keep a human alive for a thousand years but no inclination to do so or live that long himself. He won't drink blood and so lives on excessive amounts of food instead.
What works: The premise largely works because she wants to live and he, he really has no interest in living. It is his belief that drinking her blood (lifelong) to prolong her life (and apparently it's a step that cannot be undone) would make her miserable and that she would blame him for living too damn long. Apparently, finding a single companion is standard practice for vampires, which works symbiotically for both and precludes that standard blood-drinking rampages. I think that's kind of clever and, at least, a little off the beaten track. It's just twisted enough to appeal.
I actually like both characters even if they are somewhat stiltingly portrayed and Toya spends the first half of the first book largely unlikeable. Toya's minion, the bat, however is quite likeable and the largely selfless and life-loving Chiyuki is appealing. I like that he ends up prolonging her life (and curing her) with a little of his own blood. There is some worthwhile humor as well, though the characters are often quite dense as well. Chiyuki is probably the most appealing of the protagonists because she knows what she wants and she's perfectly patient about getting it. Personality-wise, she's the strongest, which is a nice change. I like that he worries that he loves her too much to be trusted to stay with her.
What I didn't like: I don't like the artwork at all. It's busy, confusing and the characters are drawn in a very unappealing way, despite the descriptions of being "handsome" and the like. Too much shouting going on and the wedge between the two, Toya's reluctance to solve both their problems at once, seems contrived and lasts too long. But the biggest thing I disliked was that the author obviously intended to carry it further and was stopped so it ends feeling very unfinished with no resolution. Irritating in the extreme to me.
Phantom Dream by Natsuki Takaya (who did Fruits Basket)
Anime? No Volumes of manga: 5 Status: Complete
My rating: Has a certain appeal
Age range/taboos: Nudity, teenage sex (though implied more than shown), violence. Older teen is probably most appropriate.
Premise: Summoner who protects humankind from demons intent on turning the world to chaos and eradicating humankind (heavy, I know) is in love with a "normal" girl who turns out to be pivotal to the whole thing.
What works: I've mentioned that mythological stuff appeals to me so this does too. This is also some of my favorite artwork by Takaya which isn't as emotionally impactful as Fruits Basket but is more elaborate and expansive than Tsubasa.
In this case, although I like the main male protagonist well enough, it's the girl I like best, Asahi, who is considered too normal to be a real bride. Her devotion and self-sacrifice for Tamaki is compelling and absolute. That there's more than meets the eye adds something to it all. It's interesting and has dark elements that many manga don't have. I like that. It had a satisfying ending.
What I didn't like: I don't really get Tamaki so much. He doesn't seem terribly bright. Much of the mystique and notions behind the fight between good and bad is confusing and we spend a long time wondering what side Asahi is on. Some of the translation seems stilted and the motivations are confusing.