Sunday, May 23, 2004

Quick Manga Takes

[Zodiac P.I. Book 1 cover]

Zodiac P.I. Book 1

Created and Drawn by Natsumi Ando
Published by Tokyopop, 177 pages $9.99

This looked like it would be fun little book when I saw it at the library. There on the cover was a young attractive girl, who looked like she was very cheerful and as such hoot to read about. Add in the back cover saying it was a mystery, with her as a teen detective and I thought it was a can't miss.

Too bad it really wasn't, as the cute girl, named Lili, is too ditzy to be even a little funny. She isn't really a detective but an astrologer who has a magic ring, that these cute little goddesses (think the laptops from Chobits) come out of and give her a fortune on a given person.

Which she then uses as an excuse to run around making all of these weird proclamations, that rarely turn out to be true. Most annoying, was that the book relies on her super smart childhood male friend to actually solve the cases, because apparently girls just can't do anything right if a guy isn't there to tell them the correct path.

I did have a feeling which I think might mirror how a fan just discovering superhero comics might feel. When Lili goes to confront the bad guy she puts on this strange dress, and calls herself Spica Zodiac .P.I. Which took me the longest to get that it was a secret identity for her, as I wondered why the other characters didn't know who she was.

Especially since the dress isn't that different from what she normally wears, and she doesn't wear a mask or change her hairstyle or how she acts or talks.Yet no one else in the book had any clue to her dual identity.

One of the odd thing I've noticed about the mystery/murder manga books so far, is a trend to make us feel sorry for the murderer. Which seems odd to feel sympathy for people who do some of the truly horrible things in this volume and in other series like Kindachi Case Files. Yet each story turns that way in the end, with trying to paint the murderers deeds in a tragic light.

[Girl Got Game Book 1 cover]

Girl Got Game Book 1

Created and Drawn by Shizuru Seino
Published by Tokyopop, 176 pages $9.99

There are rare times when a series will have a basic idea that sounds really stupid, yet when you read the book it takes that idea in fascinating ways that you didn't expect out of the concept.

This isn't one of them.

Kyo is a young girl about to go off to the prestigious high school she always wanted to go to, and can't be more excited about her future. That is all brought crashing to a screeching halt though, when her dad reveals that he faked her records to make them think she's a boy. Because the school has a highly ranked basketball team, and he wants to live his dream of making the NBA through her.

Everything in this book is so dull, that I found myself just flipping through it before I hit the halfway point. Kyo doesn't want to do what her dad wishes, which is a pretty twisted fantasy since it means she has to room with the boys in their dorm. Yet we don't see her argument, just her magically appearing at the new school with short hair.

I wonder the creator didn't really know of a convincing argument to make the entire idea make sense, so had it happen off panel .

When she gets there she has the typical story of finding a boy she really likes, but who is mean and surly to her. Yet they wind up being roommates, and she eventually wins him over with kindness and good nature. Yet she can't reveal her attraction to him, because it'll give away that she's a girl.

Which actually made me wonder, likely because I was bored, whether this would have worked better without the girl dressed as boy element. Given that outside of a very PROLONGED part about her having her period, it isn't really explored at all. Yet a gay boy in this same role might have held my interest a little longer due to different dynamics.

The art is nice, open and very expressive though. So if the creator ever does anything that makes a bit more sense concept wise, I might try it.

[xxxHOLiC Book 1 cover]

xxxHOLiC Book 1

Created and Drawn by CLAMP
Published by Del Rey, 208 pages $10.95

Watnuki Kimihiro is a young man who is constantly haunted by ghosts, to the point of never getting to have a normal life. He is drawn into a mysterious shop one day, where a witch named Yuko makes him an offer. If he'll come to work for her, she'll take away the ability to see the ghosts.

He accepts but soon finds that he has gotten himself into more than he's bargained for, when he's made her cook, butler and all around errand runner. Yuko also has other customers, people with problems that find themselves in her shop. Who she tries to help, but they all too often are beyond that point and meet less than lovely endings.

The only previous book by CLAMP I'd read was Chobits, about a world where men are obsessed with computers shaped like young women. This book shows that the talent can be very diverse in terms of themes as well as artistic looks.

In Chobits the focus is on city life in the near future, where everything looks either very high tech or at least modern. Here there is a sense of old world styling and atmosphere.

The art styles are near complete opposites as well. Chobits uses very little blacks in its art, leaving lots of white space around the characters and a bright looking world. When it does use black it is to hammer home an emotional scene. Here everything is black and moody looking. With the use of white space to explore an emotional impacting scene.

This book surprised me with its depth. While I can't say I like it yet, the strange mood and settings it places its stories in has me curious enough to want to read more.

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