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Manga First Impressions 2: B.O.D.Y, Monkey High, Haruka

Dear Readers,

Here are some more first volumes of shoujo series coming out:

B.O.D.Y. by Ao Mimori. Viz. Retail $9.99. T+ for older teen (kisses, sexual innuendo). 12 volumes (ongoing in Japan, just starting here this month)

I’d never heard of this title but I was taken with it from the first page. The drawing is clear, sharp, and expressive, the characters modern, attractive and easily distinguished, the storyline cute, funny and lively.

Ryoko has a crush on a silent studious type in her class that everyone else thinks is creepy because he’s so morose. But she likes a guy who’s so conscientious about his work, and can’t stop thinking about him. She decides she’s in love and dons her battle armor (mascara, curls, accessories, and courage).

Then she finds out he’s working as a host (a male escort affiliated with a host club, sex not necessarily included) because he likes playing around and getting paid for it, and he has a completely different personality outside school. She rightfully knocks him on his ass and tells him she would absolutely never fall for him. He takes it as a challenge and tells her he’ll win her heart. The fight is on. He starts by ignoring her. Some of this was very funny.

I love Ryoko because she’s kind of serious but not too much, has normal friends, doesn’t let people walk on her, and she goes for what she wants even though she has as many doubts and periods of freaking out as the rest of us do about relationships. And I can’t wait for Ryunosuke, the hero, to fall for her as hard as I have. This looks like a great title and I can’t wait to read more of it. I’ll just pray it doesn’t fall into the pit full of clichés that often sustain longer shoujo series. So far it hasn’t. B+

~~~~~~~~~

Monkey High by Shouko Akira. Viz. Retail $9.99. T for teen (kisses only). 8 volumes (ongoing in Japan, just starting here this year, 1 vol released.)

On the other hand, Monkey High didn’t appeal to me at all. The art is pretty good, but the characters seem younger to me. The hero is a immature energetic good guy that reminds the upper class heroine of a monkey. That doesn’t spell the kind of romance I’m interested in. The cover copy describes the conflict as this: “Will Haruna remain jaded and distance herself from everyone around her? Or will Matcharu win her over with his monkey magic?” Um, no. Just no.

The main problem to me is that the hero doesn’t seem to have hit puberty yet, and while I know kids can fall in love too, it’s not really something that appeals to me. I like romances where I can enjoy and appreciate the attraction between the h/h without feeling like I’m doing something illegal.

In reading parts here and there, I’d have to say this is one for the young ‘uns, 12-13 or so. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to finish it, so DNF for me.

~~~~~~~~~

Haruka, Beyond the Stream of Time by Tohko Mizuno. Viz. Retail $9.99. T+ for older teens (innuendo, non-graphic violence). 14 volumes (ongoing in Japan, just starting here this year.)

I have to admit up front, I’m a fan of this franchise. I have Harukanaru Toki no Naka de wallpaper for my computer. I’ve played the Japanese dating sim that goes with this version of the manga. I lust after one of the main characters. (Thank god he’s not a monkey boy, but a full-grown sexually active male.) So it’s a little strange that I’ve never read this manga.

Then again, maybe not. My attraction to Haruka is largely based on the very popular seiyuu (Japanese voice actors) who give life to the characters. So how does the story hold up without them?

I’m sad to say, not as well.

First, the story. Remember Fushigi Yuugi (FY)? If you’d managed to forget, sorry I reminded you. But this series owes a lot to that one, to be kind about it. Girl transported into Japan’s Heian era where men wear the loveliest costumes. She, Akane, turns out to be that world’s savior, a priestess with special powers to defeat demons, the leader of whom is pretty darned hot. She’s not as stupid as the FY heroine, but she does do some TSTL things.

Akane has the help of 8 prime males, one of each “sort”: sensitive pretty musician, proud silent gorgeous warrior, fiery street fighter, quiet handsome scholar, powerful coolly-attractive magician, sexy flirt of a general, and two friends from home who get pulled into the past with her, the kid brother type and the childhood friend she ends up loving. Maybe. There are several versions of this story where she ends up with other guys, consistent with the dating sim mentality.

So what sets this apart from FY and the rest of its ilk? I’ll be blunt. I like this purely for the eye-candy. The guys are prettier. In the anime they have charisma. They’re conveniently paired up with each other for those who like slashing things. They all have their sad back stories so you can pick the angst of your choice. Frankly, Akane and the plot are just something to brush aside while you pick the man you want. What girl wouldn’t enjoy that? We all need a harem from time to time.

But do I recommend buying it? Well. Bandai Visual is going to start releasing the anime this month. They’re too expensive to buy, especially for subs and no dubs. But you should be able to rent it. I’d say if you’re going for the harem, get the full effect. But the manga isn’t bad. I liked it better than Monkey Boy, though not quite as much as B.O.D.Y. I’ll probably buy books later in the series that focus on characters I like. B-.

Sincerely,

ジェーン

(Jān)

Available for purchase and/or pre-order here: B.O.D.Y, Monkey High, Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time

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.

15 Comments

  1. Estara
    Apr 10, 2008 @ 15:42:40

    Reading your love for B.O.D.Y makes me want to subliminally wallpaper you with the following order: READ KOKOU DEBUT!!! ALSO BY VIZ!!!!

    … oh right, they named it High School Debut here (it’s by the Sensei! mangaka). There are already two volumes out and it beats all the other school love stories to pieces, to my mind.

    I hope they sent you a review copy of that, too.

  2. (Jān)
    Apr 10, 2008 @ 15:56:52

    Oooh, I loved Sensei! Nope, they didn’t send me one of those. I will buy it though.

    But they sent me some other really good ones I’m writing another post on right now. :)

  3. Liviania
    Apr 10, 2008 @ 16:36:46

    B.O.D.Y. is a title I really enjoyed at first, but then it seemed to drag (eighth volume or so). However, I think it’s the first that has one of my all-time favorite moments in manga: to manipulate Ryoko, the guy pretends to confess his love with her. She sees through it and hits him in the head with a trash can. Classic.

  4. Reileen van Kaile
    Apr 10, 2008 @ 17:22:57

    Hey – just wanted to say that I really love these posts about manga. :D

  5. (Jān)
    Apr 10, 2008 @ 18:08:22

    Liviania, the trash can moment made me fall hard for Ryoko. I’m sad to hear it heads into cliche territory. When that happens in long series I tend to skip sections the way I did Naruto anime filler and then pick up the series with the last few volumes. Thanks for the heads up!

  6. (Jān)
    Apr 10, 2008 @ 18:20:49

    Estara, I think my favorite high school romance manga of the MF variety will always be my first, Marmalade Boy. It really had some great characters and triangles and for all the parts with silly cliches, some really heartfelt moments. The anime sucked though.

    For M/M high school romance, the best I’ve read is Yatteraneeze!. It’s a standout is so many ways. It’s not available over here, unfortunately. Or if you don’t mind student / teacher M/M romances, my absolute favorite is Kusatta Kyoshi no Hyouteishiki, which packs more punch into single kisses than you can get from whole books full of porn. But, sadly, it’s not licensed either.

  7. Jules Jones
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 01:38:12

    And the first two volumes of B.O.D.Y. are available for pre-order in the UK. That definitely looks like a series to check out once it’s available.

  8. Jill A
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 10:09:39

    I’m glad you tried out Haruka (so we don’t have to ^_^) I’m a total fangirl of the videogames and have, like, ALL of them (well, all the PS2 versions anyway), but when I tried to read the manga, I was 1. confused, 2. bored, 3. annoyed. I just don’t think these games translate well to a story which has to go in only one direction. The artwork is very pretty though.

    One thing about the anime which I don’t remember you mentioning: the last DVDs come with alternate endings for each character, since pairing up Akane with just one would be too boring. So if you want, you could buy just the ending DVD to get all the moe goodness :D

    And Harutoki 4 is coming out in June for PS2 and Wii, so if you have a Wii, try it out! (Wii doesn’t usually have region-encoding) It looks AWESOME, and I’ve been drooling over it for months already…

  9. Estara
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 11:21:01

    @Jan: With Yatteraneeze! I can only agree. Marmalade Boy or Boys over Flowers I could never quite get into, I did like Kodomo no Omocha though (isn’t that the same mangaka as Marmalade Boy?).

    School comedy love is High School Debut and Love Complex (Kokou Debut has been scanlated up to volume 9 so far and it has avoided the worst pratfalls, although there are clichés like the former lover or the friend who turns into a rival – at last this one only came nine volumes in, so it’s actually believable. And the characterisation stays right on character, with them slowly changing only. I LOOOOOOOVE the heroine even more than the hero.)

    The Love Complex anime won me over and I believe I will have to get the manga, if it’s as good. Manga is being released as Love*Com in the States, also by Viz.

    I haven’t heard anything yet about Kusatta Kyoshi no Hyouteishiki, I think. Could you go into details?

  10. (Jān)
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 11:44:17

    Jill, I watched the anime in fansubs. The DVDs are just starting to be released here in the next couple weeks. I don’t buy R2. But hearing what you say about the last DVD, I’ll absolutely have to buy it in R1. :) I wonder how much Bandai will be charging for all of them though.

  11. (Jān)
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 11:51:51

    Estara, Kusatta Kyoshi no Hyouteishiki is by Kazuma Kodaka, and it’s a bit like Sensei! except with more humor. And two guys.

    A freshman enters his high school because the gentle older boy who tutored him when he was little is the doctor there now. Only he gets there and finds the guy’s brother, a wild one. His emotions transfer, and the next 10 volumes are spent convincing the man to give him a chance.

    It starts out with manic comedy for a couple of volumes and you just have to get past that. Then she starts exploring characters and relationships and it becomes one of the most romantic and best BL manga I’ve read. She gets the mix of innocence and experience just rigt. And, she does it slowly and convincingly. There’s no sex until the very end, but because of the subject matter I don’t think it will ever be released over here. It’s been scanlated though. Plus it’s never been that popular in the States, which is a darned shame. K2 is writing a sequel now that’s in Gold.

    I’ll be looking for the others you mentioned. :)

  12. Estara
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 12:04:11

    Oh Right! They released that as Kiss me, Teacher! in Germany. I loved Kizuna, but I couldn’t get into that one, so I gave my first volume away. I didn’t know the Japanese name, though.
    Kazuma Kodaka

  13. (Jān)
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 12:07:37

    I think a lot of people are put off by the first couple volumes. But it’s worth pushing past that.

  14. Liviania
    Apr 11, 2008 @ 23:34:14

    Some more titles I’ll have to find. And eee, Marmalade Boy! Marmalade Boy was one of the first manga series I read in its entirety, and I still have a soft place for it. I also rather like Boys over Flowers – it verges into the absurb, but it always makes me laugh.

  15. Jodie
    Aug 29, 2008 @ 09:19:10

    I love mokey high! I’ve got the first 2 volumes and can’t wait for the third to come out in september! I also have read the first chapter of B.O.D.Y. and I really think its a good manga! With my birthday in 5 days it looks like I’m off on a manga shopping spree! ^^

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