Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

About Jan

http://dearauthor.com/author/jan/

reads any genre as long as the books aren't depressing. Her preferred reads these days are in manga format and come from all manga genres, but she especially likes romance, doubly so when there are beautiful men involved. With each other. Her favorites among currently-running English-translated manga series include NANA, Ze, Ouran High School Host Club, Junjou Romantica, Blood Alone, Vampire Knight, Skip Beat, Silver Diamond and anything by the holy triumvirate of BL: Ayano Yamane, Kazuma Kodaka and Youka Nitta, including any scribbles they might do on the backs of napkins.

Posts by Jan :

Dear Author

REVIEW: Luv-Luv titles and Netcomics

Dear Readers,

Netcomics is a publisher that publishes manga and manhwa online. No e-reader is needed, just $0.25 per chapter. They publish not only their own but Luv Luv and Yaoi Press comics among others. The way it works is that you buy e-cash in $10 amounts, then pay as you view each new chapter.

You don’t own the chapters, not at those prices. You get to view them for 48 hours. But, so you have a chance to look at a manga before starting to pay, the first 1-2 chapters are always available free (one for short works, 2 for longer).

Last, almost all the books are or will be available in hard copy if you find you truly love them and can’t live without them. There are a couple of series I follow that I purchase in hard format. What I love most about Netcomics though is that the net-version is usually 1-2 volumes ahead of the print, and with chapter releases the wait time is generally much less for updates, 2 weeks for my favorite series.

The series tend to be focused on women’s and girls’ comics. There are romances both het and m/m, and fantasy and drama with strong female leads. Only a few of the series are what I’d consider to be male-oriented. There’s a lot of variety though, and a number of the series look interesting. Browsing through their lineup I found 20 series that looked interesting enough to try, a third in various stages of completion, the others completed and (most) also in print.

The comics are quite easy to read on the screen. Some adjustments can be made for size, one or two page viewing, auto vs manual page turning. One thing that does annoy me about the reading window is the scrolling text on the upper left menu bar. It keeps catching my eye and distracting me. But the window can be slid to the side so it’s off screen so it’s not that big a deal. Other than that, I enjoy reading the manga this way. The print and art are clear and crisp, and there seems to be very little issue with things like lag or memory overload.

Today I’m looking at three ladies’ het oneshot manga volumes (single volume series) that can be viewed on the site for a really reasonable cost. The quality of writing varies wildly between them. I’ve not included samples, because the website itself offers a sample of every manga it sells. I’ve linked to the pages for each.

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Luv Luv Press is bringing Japanese adult comics for women to the US. Sadly, the economy is hitting them hard, so if any of the titles here interest you, you may want to try them while you can. Their titles are all complete within one volume. The subject matter is adult romance and relationships. Their latest title on Netcomics is Make Love & Peace by Takane Yonetani. The volume is 7 chapters, or $1.50 (the first chapter is free). It consists of the 5 chapter main story and two oneshots.

The story has Ayame, a college student in a relationship with Koichi, a detective, when he saves her from a mugging. Koichi saves Ayame a lot. Between saving her they have lots and lots of sex (The sex is softcore level of explicitness, ie no graphic depictions of genitalia.). But it’s boring sex, not the least bit erotic to me, for two reasons. One is that the characters look like teens. I know the conventions of a lot of manga result in this, but I prefer manga where the guys look like they’re over fourteen, especially if sex is involved. Second, the art just feels amateurish. Not only are the character designs mediocre, but the pacing of the stories is off, and the drawing of the sex is stiff (no pun intended) and without eroticism. It felt like this was an early comic by someone who didn’t know how to draw sexual tension.

The entire volume had that shortcoming. There wasn’t much story, just several flimsy plotlines about an underwear burglar and lots of boring sex. It was painful to read. Honestly, if I hadn’t bought it for review I would have stopped after one chapter. I’d call this a skip-worth volume. I really found nothing redeeming in it, so I’d have to honestly give it an F.

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The next Luv Luv volume I tried was much better. It’s Real Love by Mitsuki Oda , and is 6 chapters, or only $1.25!

The art in this is beautiful, professional, a complete opposite to the previous volume. It reminds me a lot of Ai Yazawa (Paradise Kiss, NANA) only a little less cluttered. It’s very pleasing to look at. The story is an improvement as well. Of the 6 chapters, the first 4 are devoted to the cover story. The last two chapters are a lesser story about a young woman musician who has to learn to write music from her heart, and it’s fairly average.

I enjoyed the cover story more. A young woman in university, Shu, is surprised to meet the young man, a popular actor named Naomichi, who took her virginity. She had loved him but found he was a cold womanizer and she dropped him. His career went downhill after that and he’s back in school, and determined to win her now. She’s not interested, except the sex was hot and she’s still attracted for that reason. Her waffling and our not being sure of his motive or feelings supplies the tension. As does the presence of her twin brother Shun, who seems to be having some crises of his own centered around both his sister and her ex.

For only having four chapters I thought I got to know the main characters remarkably well. I felt like I’d been reading something several volumes long, not because it was tedious, but because the mangaka told us a lot in the space she had, and that made this feel much deeper than a typical one volume manga.

However the ending of it felt way too rushed. In fact, I was shocked when I turned the page and found another story starting, and that’s not a good thing. I hope there’s a volume 2 being worked on out there that someday makes it to our shores. As it stands, it gets a B-.

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The last single-volume manga I looked at for this group was cm0 (Centimeter Zero) by Kazumi Tohno and published by Netcomics. It’s 5 chapters, so would only cost $1! Honestly, at these prices how can you not try some?

This was a sweet and slow-paced love story about a university student, Hasumi, and a young woman, Miharu, who is one of his professors. They live in the same apartment building and know each other on a friendly basis. When her fiancée dumps her because of rumors about them, she turns to Hasumi for comfort, but that night they spend together drives a wedge between them. Eventually they begin to reconnect, slowly drifting back together, first as friends, then both gradually realizing it’s something more.

I love the artwork in this. The character designs are so normal, and the drawing style is soft and expressive. There is no explicit sex on the pages of this story, though there is some in their relationship that’s referred to.

I do have a complaint about typos and grammar. I’m not one to notice them, so when I do it generally means it’s bad enough to annoy most people. There were several instances of letters dropped off or left out of words. And one thing that annoys me to no end is when someone says “between you and I”. The character is an English professor. I think she’d know that after a preposition you use “me”, not “I”. This is a translation/editing mistake, and one that shouldn’t occur in a professional publication.

However, despite that, the story is a lovely one and I do recommend it the most of the three books here. This book is only available online. I’d give this story a B+.

No matter what I thought of these books though, the fact remains that I read three volumes of manga that would normally put me out $30 plus shipping and leave me stuck with one I wanted to give away but couldn’t because of its adult nature. I only spent $3.75. That makes it a great way to try manga, and a cheap way to buy manga for teens as long as you’re aware of the offerings on the site and what they’re reading. I’ll be reviewing more of the series in upcoming installments, and focusing on both the manhwa and BL (m/m) offerings.

Sincerely,
ジェーン
(Jān)

Dear Author

[Review] A Manga Guide to Japanese Cuisine: Oishinbo by Kariya Tetsu

coverDear Readers,

I just have to tell you about this manga. This isn’t a typical manga for me to review because it’s not a romance manga, and it’s not really about the characters. It’s about food. I’m a serious foodie. I love exploring foods of all cultures, from low cuisine to high. And I love reading about it as well. Viz Manga has decided to bring over to the US part of one of the most influential food manga series of all time, and if you’re a foodie you’ll probably love it.

First, a note about food manga. The Japanese love them. There are a surprising number of action manga where the hero of the series has special food talents. Yakitate! has a boy with a gift for creating breads unique to Japan. Addicted to Curry is about a chef dedicated to, yep, curries. Kitchen Princess is a shoujo (girl’s) romance about the orphan daughter of pastry chefs who has inherited their talent to please everyone with some dessert.

There are also manga that seek to educate adults. The Drops of the Gods is fairly new one that’s educating the Japanese about Western wines. It has sparked an enormous rise in the sales of wines, especially those discussed in each chapter.

The granddaddy of these manga series is Oishinbo. This massive and extremely popular series of 102 volumes, still ongoing, started in 1983 and sought to educate the Japanese about their cuisine and food customs and give them pride in them. The author says in a short essay that the best word for Japanese cuisine(s) is washoku. The wa means Japanese, but also means harmony. That, he says, is the essence of eating Japanese style. All the elements are present and recognizable, but in harmony. This series attempts to explain all the elements and how they fit together.

Now, Viz can’t bring all 102 volumes over. Well, they could, but they’d probably lose money on a lot of them. Even though I’d buy every one. But they are bringing over select chapters and sections on things Westerners tend to be curious about: sake, rice, noodles, sushi/sashimi.

This first volume covers quite a few basics. Some chapters seem downright silly, as in the cook-off between the demanding bastard father and the (anti-)hero over rice. The father’s chef wins because he goes through every grain of rice and pulls out the ones that are broken or odd shaped so each grain finishes at the same time. It’s so anal it’s ridiculous, but it also serves to support a point all cooks know, and that’s that you want portions you’re cooking to be of equal size so they finish cooking together. It’s a good principle applied in a goofy manner so you remember it.

The book covers why sashimi is an art and not just chopping up raw fish, simplicity as a technique, etiquette with chopsticks, purity of ingredients and letting them stand on their own, and making sure your palate as a chef is clean. It explains several dishes (though doesn’t provide recipes) like daishi broth; it’s more concerned with explaining the heart of it than the how of it, though often the how is involved. There’s also a lengthy section of footnotes, 14 pages in the back, that explain all Japanese customs and words that might not be clear to Western readers. It’s quite thorough and good.

There is a plot of sorts. A young man, Yamaoka Shiro, is a gourmet with a very discriminating palate and an ability to cook that matches it. However, he now works at a newspaper and his main concern is betting on the ponies. One day his editor decides that for their 100th anniversary they will serve the ultimate feast, and knowing Yamaoka’s background appoints him to be in charge (along with a young woman to whom he eventually gets married in a minor part of the story which we don’t really see).

This appointment angers the most important gourmet in town, Yamaoka’s nasty father, a renowned potter who demanded such perfection from his wife in their food that it drove his wife to her grave. Yamaoka in revenge destroyed all his father’s artwork. Needlesstosay, they’re not getting along. Yamaoka’s father sets up a rival feast and constantly challenges his son. (He seriously needs his ass kicked.) The most annoying chapters are when he’s right. But even jerks can teach us things.

The graphics in this are really old-style manga. They’re not bad by any means, but they may look dated to people used to newer manga, especially in their use of block panels a la Western comics. They always illustrate points clearly though, and that’s what concerns me most. Here an American friend of Yamaoka’s has been training in how to make water-chilled sashimi to teach some know-it-alls a lesson (as usual, please start reading from the top of the right page, and please forgive my homemade scans).

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As you can see, expressive as they are, the faces leave something to be desired. But the portraits of the food and technique come through clearly. I also included a page from the notes from the back of the book so you could see how useful they are.

The book itself is quality, softbound and larger with a dust-jacket. Viz did a lovely job with it.

I’d read parts of this before, but none of these sections in this first volume. I seriously couldn’t put it down once I got it in the mail yesterday. I found everything about it fascinating, even the irritating father and how he was dealt with by the author, and the anal-retentive bits, because being picky about techniques and ingredients is part of being a good chef. I think anyone with an interest in Japanese cuisines or culture would eat this up. It’s a little choppy because of the way the story was taken apart and put back together, but it should just be read as a series of related short stories, A-.

Sincerely,
ジェーン
(Jān)

Oishinbo, by Kariya Tetsu, illus by Hanasaki Akira. Viz. Retail: $12.99. 272 pages. 1/8 compilation volumes. Rated T for teen (probably because kids probably wouldn’t understand terms and such, but there’s no sex or violence; if you’ve got smart young-uns though go for it.). This book is available for discount at most manga stories like Rightstuf.com