Previous Posts: External Book Reviews: April 2008

External Book Reviews: Nightmare Inspector Vol. #2

The more I see of Nightmare Inspector, the more I hope it doesn’t just slip through the cracks and go unnoticed. This has to be one of Viz’s better mainstream acquisitions, a title that satisfies both me the critic and...


Note: This article was originally written for Advanced Media Network. Its editorial style differs from reviews for this site.


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The more I see of Nightmare Inspector, the more I hope it doesn’t just slip through the cracks and go unnoticed. This has to be one of Viz’s better mainstream acquisitions, a title that satisfies both me the critic and me the fan — and while I can often make one or the other happy, you know how hard it is to get both of them to smile?

The first volume introduced us to Hiruko, a baku or dream-eater in human form who holds court in the Silver Star Tea House. Those with nightmares come seeking to dispel them with Hiruko’s aid, and discover things about themselves, not always good, in the process. The unconscious, as Hiruko knows well, is more than just a feeding ground for a baku — it’s a place where the strangest demons can come to life without warning. What’s more, just when you think you’ve plumbed the meaning of what you’ve experienced, it turns out there’s yet another layer to it all.

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Tags: Japan manga review Taishō / Showa


External Book Reviews: Phoenix, Vol. 12: Early Works

I feel as though I am condemned to write nothing but lamentations for Osamu Tezuka whenever I read a new translation of one of his manga. It’s heartbreaking to know that the man responsible for so many brilliant productions has...


Note: This article was originally written for Advanced Media Network. Its editorial style differs from reviews for this site.


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I feel as though I am condemned to write nothing but lamentations for Osamu Tezuka whenever I read a new translation of one of his manga. It’s heartbreaking to know that the man responsible for so many brilliant productions has been dead almost twenty years now. Worse, in lieu of seeing anything “new” by him, those of us in the English-speaking world have to settle for catching up with his life’s work as it’s gradually licensed and released here.

But is that really so bad? And with both Vertical, Inc. and Viz bringing us good-to-excellent reissues of Tezuka’s work, there really isn’t cause for despair — now a whole generation of manga readers who weren’t even born when Tezuka was alive can experience his work. Even better, they can now experience the whole of Tezuka’s most ambitious manga project, Phoenix, in a twelve-volume trade-paperback-sized edition courtesy of Viz. I’ve been following the series for some time since it first kicked off in English, but this is the first time I’ve had the privilege of writing about it for AMN, and it makes me feel obliged to cover the whole series from back to front. Read more

Tags: manga Osamu Tezuka review Vertical Inc.


External Book Reviews: Lunar Legend Tsukihime Volume 5

The fifth volume of Lunar Legend Tsukihime is a slowing-down and a summing-up, a way for both the creators and the audience to catch their collective breaths. There’s nowhere nearly the level of action found in the previous volumes, but...


Note: This article was originally written for Advanced Media Network. Its editorial style differs from reviews for this site.


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The fifth volume of Lunar Legend Tsukihime is a slowing-down and a summing-up, a way for both the creators and the audience to catch their collective breaths. There’s nowhere nearly the level of action found in the previous volumes, but now that I think about it, LLT’s action has always been relatively sparse. A series this dark under the skin benefits from being slowly paced; a lot of bang-bang back-to-back action would just make it rushed.

To that end, the only real action in the whole of this volume is right at the end, with most of the book taken up by two things: Tohno delving into a key portion of his childhood, and he and Arcueid spending a day together and growing that much more … well, if not close, then certainly empathetic. If it weren’t for the fact that one of them (Tohno) carried inhuman powers courtesy of his bloodline and the other (Arcueid) was a centuries-old vampire, they’d be out on a date — something Arcueid and Tohno both realize during the course of things. Maybe it wouldn’t be all that hard for either of them to pretend everything was normal, and just live as if nothing was different …

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Tags: manga review


External Book Reviews: The Guin Saga, Book 4: Prisoner of the Lagon

I’m going to use an adjective to describe the fourth Guin Saga book, Prisoner of the Lagon, which might seem completely out of place for this most fast-moving and hard-hitting of adventures: introspective. After the full-bore action extravaganzas of the...


Note: This article was originally written for Advanced Media Network. Its editorial style differs from reviews for this site.


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I’m going to use an adjective to describe the fourth Guin Saga book, Prisoner of the Lagon, which might seem completely out of place for this most fast-moving and hard-hitting of adventures: introspective. After the full-bore action extravaganzas of the first three volumes, book four slows things down just a bit — but a slowdown here is akin to downgrading to “only” a Lexus from a Lamborghini. There’s still a lot happening between the covers, just in new realms.

Lagon gives us two parallel plots: Guin traversing the far reaches of the Nospherus wastes to enlist the aid of the barbaric Lagon in his fight against the Gohran armies; and intrigue within the ranks of the Gohran forces themselves. Each one ends up a fair distance from where it starts. The former storyline begins with Guin struggling against the elements and enemies of nature, but transforms into a vision quest within Guin’s memory and spirit. The latter presents us with what sounds like a sure-fire formula for gleeful mayhem: the cutthroat and cutpurse Istavan sneaks into the Mongaul army and masquerades as one of their number. But that story, too, evolves from one of subterfuge into something more unexpected and even touching. Read more


Tags: Alexander O. Smith Guin Saga Japan Kaoru Kurimoto review Vertical Inc.


External Book Reviews: Dororo Vol. 1 (Osamu Tezuka)

Tezuka's mythic fantasy of a man whose body was ransomed by demons is a great and compelling piece of work.


Note: This article was originally written for Advanced Media Network. Its editorial style differs from reviews for this site.


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After the psychological / mythological head-rush of Apollo’s Song, the strange and compelling Ode to Kirihito, the gut-wrenching nihilism of MW, and the epic Buddha, what could Vertical, Inc. possibly be bringing us next from Osamu Tezuka? When you’re dealing with a guy whose worst work was still better than most other people’s best, anything they cull from his encyclopedic back catalog is likely to be fascinating.

And so now Vertical has brought us Dororo, a story that at first doesn’t seem to have a lot in common with the other Tezuka works listed here, if only because on first glimpse it looks almost light-hearted in comparison. It’s a rollicking adventure in ancient Japan, abounding with denizens of the supernatural and feats of the superhuman — in short, a story that seems to have a lot more in common with your average Shonen Jump action title than anything with Tezuka’s name on it. Look closer, though, and you’ll quickly realize that the adventure and action is just a wrapper for all the big things Tezuka addressed in all of his stories, big and small. Read more


Tags: Japan manga Osamu Tezuka review Vertical Inc.


External Book Reviews: Metro Survive Vol. 1

Grim story of modern survival in the aftermath of an earthquake covers little more than that but does it well.


Note: This article was originally written for Advanced Media Network. Its editorial style differs from reviews for this site.


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Disaster movies tend to follow a pretty standard formula. Take a group of otherwise-normal people, put them smack in the middle of a catastrophe, and watch them become as much a danger to each other as the earthquake / fire / alien invasion around them is to them. Throw in some social commentary and some emotional stacking-of-the-deck (kids in danger, pining for loved ones, etc), and you’re good to go.

Metro Survive was put together from the above list of ingredients, but there’s a few things about it that keep it consistently interesting and readable. For one, the mere fact that it’s set in Japan — where earthquakes can be unbelievably devastating, as the Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the Hanshin / Kobe earthquake of 1995 demonstrated — gives the social-commentary part of the story a bit more bite than usual. That’s in fact one of the biggest angles that author and artist Yuki Fujisawa takes on the whole thing: do people grow complacent if they don’t have disaster hanging over their heads? Or do they just find new ways to be lazy no matter what the circumstances?

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Tags: Japan manga review


External Book Reviews: The Great Adventure of the Dirty Pair

The first of Kei and Yuri's riotous cosmic-slapstick adventures, in English for the first time.


Note: This article was originally written for Advanced Media Network. Its editorial style differs from reviews for this site.


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Let’s face it. Goody-two-shoes heroes are no fun. There’s nothing more boring than someone who’s right all the time. Small wonder some of our favorite heroes are anti-heroes, or maybe non-heroes. They’re the folks who leave behind at least as big a mess as they came to clean up, but darn it all, we want to see what they do next.

Such is the appeal of Kei and Yuri, the “Lovely Angels” — or The Dirty Pair, depending on whether or not you’ve benefited from their (cough) help. As agents of the Worlds Welfare Work Association, or W3A for short, they’re dispatched to lend a hand throughout the universe wherever there’s trouble. Unfortunately, after most people have a taste of their assistance — which usually means massive property damage at the very least — they tend to try and get by without it after that. Read more


Tags: anime manga review



About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the External Book Reviews category from April 2008.

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