Saturday, September 11, 2004

Four Mangas To Go

Here are some quick observations of 4 manga titles I read recently.

SGT FROG Volume 4

Yet another fun filled volume of a cute frogish looking alien race, whose plans for invasion keep getting derailed by their own incompetence and interest in the wonders the Earth has to offer.

In this volume the platoon finds themselves on various misadventures, the best of which were an over the top snowball battle, and a story that will make you glad Earth has such things as dentists!

There seemed to be quite a bit more "fan service" this volume, than I had seen in previous ones though. I don't mind playful teasing that much, but at times this volume's multiple stories that amounted to finding ways for teenage girl Natusumi to become naked went a bit too far.

The writing has such imagination and energy that I can look over it for the most part. Yet I think they could do better things, given the talent they've shown. Still this series continues to be the funniest book on the stands today.

The Kindaichi Case Files: Smoke and Mirrors

I never realized how much I loved the old teenage mystery books, Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys, until I started reading the Kindaichi books. This series offers a mystery that readers can play along with the characters to solve, in fun inventive ways.

Its lead is Hajime Kindaichi, the grandson of a famous detective, but a lazy good for nothing when it comes to school. His IQ is extremely high so he isn't stupid, he's just too lazy to put in any effort that will allow him the scholastic success he could achieve.

Which makes his friendship with Miyuki a strange one at times. Miyuki is a hard working, dedicated young woman, who is at the top of her class. Together the two make a great team in the one thing Hajime does have an interest in though, solving mysteries.

In this one it is revealed that the school they go to has a terrible secret, linked to 13 terrible mysteries. Legend has if anyone learns even what all the mysteries are , they will be killed by the "Afterschool Magician."

When a female upperclassman takes an interest in Hajime, and asks him to join the school's Mystery Club. He's intrigued, while Miyuki starts to question her feeling for Hajime when she starts to feel jealous of the pretty upperclassman's interest in Hajime.

When the Mystery Club starts to examine the 13 mysteries, and its members start dying. It will be up to Hajime and Miyuki to join together to solve not only the mysteries of the past, but those behind the deaths in the here and now. In order to save themselves and those around them.

This was a real page turner that had me on the edge of my seat with every page. It was able to have fairly horrific deaths and consequences, with out feeling as if the victims were being objectified or killed for shock value.

There was a sense of danger and intrigue that made the entire thing work in the end, leaving me going "why didn't I see that!" when the final revelations are revealed.


This book is really a tale of two different stories, one I was interested in the other I was left very bored by.

The first chapter is a terrific look at what an extremely intelligent and driven woman, in a place of power in her profession, may have to deal with at times.

Sumire's life was going great, until her boyfriend dumps her because he's intimidated by how much smarter and successful she is than he. Then she's demoted at work for punching out her boss at the Christmas party when he tries to grope her. Finally she learns that those who worked for and with her, who she thought of as friends.

Were jealous of her, and felt she is getting what she deserved for having achieved what they felt was above her station to do as a woman.

This look into what powerful successful women may deal with at times, was very eye opening and intriguing in its depth. No easy cliches or ham handed look at such a unique situation. This was indepth and had me really involved and feeling for Sumire as she went through it.

As a guy I'd never really given much thought to the situation she found herself in. Sure I perhaps intellectually knew some of the problems women in the workforce faced. Yet seeing so strikingly how things like "being too smart" or being judged only by my looks by even those of my same sex (and not in no way in a sexual way most times) was something startling. Because as a a guy it is something I likely will never actually go through myself.

So after reading that great first chapter I was jazzed to see what happened next. Unfortunately the rest of the book pays little more than lip service to that wonderful situation in the first one.

Instead focusing the majority of its attention on Sumire meeting her first love once again. Plus an odd situation with a young man off the street, who becomes something of a cross between a pet dog and kid to her over time.

Perhaps it was only because I was so much more interested in the successful woman angle of the first chapter. Yet the rest of the stuff just seemed like artificial drudgery, that didn't hold my interest one wit. Which is too bad as the first chapter was one of the best parts of a manga as I've read so far.

The Kindaichi Case Files: The Legend of Lake Hiren

Hajime and Miyuki return for another adventure. This time finds the two switching places with one of Miyuki's cousins, in order to go on a free trip to a new exclusive resort club in the woods.

When the other club visitors start being murdered, it is up to the two to find what the mysterious connection between them all is. Which will lead them to their would be assassin and an exploration of the moral dilemma of having to do bad things for good reasons.

The relationship between Hajime and Miyuki takes further steps forward, with this time Hajime finding himself having to contemplate his feelings when an old crush of Miyuki shows up.

This volume is probably the most thought provoking of the series I've read so far. The mystery is okay, but the questions it raises were very intriguing and defied any simple answers. Leaving me wondering for quite some time afterwards, what I would have done if facing similar circumstances.

Which in this age of disposable entertainment, anything I'm still thinking of 2 minutes after I read it has accomplished more than most.

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