MangaMania: Special A/Vampire Game

>> Thursday, March 10, 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.

Special A by Minami Maki

Anime? Yes Volumes of manga: 17

My rating: Has a certain appeal

Age range/taboos: Some cross-dressing. Pervasive but non-lethal violence. Pretty safe for teens in my opinion.

Premise: Hikari, the commoner, is rivals with Takashima Kei who is rich, mind-bogglingly brilliant and exceptionally athletic. She isn't the same kind of natural but manages to come up second place through absolute willpower and hard work. Consumed with finally beating him, she's oblivious to the fact he's been desperately in love with her since they were kids. Special A refers to a special class for the most exceptional students in a high end private high school, which is where our protagonists are.

What works: Aside from the ridiculous exaggerations in wealth and abilities, Takashima Kei has my complete sympathy. Having everything easy just means the expectations are ridiculous and the only thing in the world that gives him joy is his interaction with the enthusiastic and well-meaning Hikari. Rather than feeling superior, he's absolutely in awe of her hard work and what she accomplishes without his natural gifts. Since she completely doesn't see romance on the horizon, Kei needs the patience of a saint as he works around her endless misunderstandings and awkward attempts to embrace her feelings.

Hikari is completely innocent, honorable and trusting. She is also quite capable of kicking serious butt, which is always charming in a manga female. It's even pretty easy to see why she's so important to Kei, who would work himself to death if it weren't for her involvement. If she wasn't so unbelievably clueless, she might be quite likable. It is also, quite frequently very humorous, mostly because the richy-rich scenarios and plot-lines are so desperately absurd.

Note: The anime has a certain charm, but it's dubbed (at least what I saw) and sometimes the Japanese originals are a bit grating. But I liked it anyway and watched the whole thing.

What I didn't like: Unfortunately, Hikari is dumb as a post, no matter how well she powers through tests. I admire Kei's patience because she frustrates the ever living hell out of me. The other members of Special A are, in my opinion, relatively hollow characters despite the stories the author's tried to weave around them. The absurdity is frequently humorous, but sometimes it's as wearying as Hikari's immature idiocy.

The artwork doesn't impress me much. I don't find it particularly compelling or polished.

Vampire Game

Anime? No Volumes of manga: 15 Status: Complete

My rating: Has a certain appeal

Age range/taboos: Some sexual (including homosexual) innuendo and violence. Some pretty benign sort of nudity. Cross dressing, too. Still, it's all pretty harmless. I wouldn't be worried if I had a teenager read it.

Premise: Vampire killed in mortal combat with a great hero is reincarnated as a cat set on killing the hero in his reincarnated mode. Instead, he gets mixed up in the convoluted shenanigans surrounding, Ishtar the young and headstrong princess (and descendant of the original hero) and her many suitors.

What works: It's hard not to like both the reincarnated vampire and Ishtar. Although she starts out looking sort of like a care-for-nobody, one soon sees past that and, although the adventures spawned are (surprise!) absurd, they are original and creative. Darres, who Ishtar loves, is somewhat oblivious, but he is devoted and capable (mostly). If wrong-headed and heedless, Ishtar is somewhat capable as well, which is nice. The vampire (whose powers increase and include shapeshifting) is amazingly useful and grows to be very appealing.

There are a host of side characters that end up being quite compelling with little fanfare. I think part of that is that the artwork is appealing and pretty consistent. My daughter loves this one more than I do, but I have to say it was a fun read. And, sometimes, that's all you need.
What I didn't like: I wish Darres wasn't quite so clueless. I would have liked him to be a bit more involved in Ishtar's obvious romance.


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