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Mr. Empty: A Manga That Makes You Fluffy and Happy -__-

I don't know that I've ever been fluffy.
Agh no NEVER I'M NOT FLUFFY, THIS IS AN OLD PICTURE














But if ever there was a manga that deserved this honor, it's definitely gotta be Yotsuba&!, which is so placidly cute it could potentially give you diabetes.
This is "cuteness you can't keep up with"



















The main character is a young girl, Yotsuba, I think she's supposed to be either 2 or 4 or 7, something like that. Basically I think she's a first grader. I don't know. In any event, she doesn't seem to attend school, so it doesn't matter.

YotsubaAmpersandExclamation is one of those manga that doesn't bother with storylines. Every chapter could generally stand on its own. There are some characters that join up, her neighbors, etc. but nothing complicated. There's really not even much to discuss about the series!

It's just so sweet and innocent. It's one of those things where you kind of think, "Maybe I could have a kid." even though for a large portion of your life you've despised the concept and interacting with actual children is obnoxious and cements the preconceptions you've held up to that point, but then you read this and Yotsuba is so adorable and interesting. There's this whole thing where they all joke about her being an alien, but it's so cute! It's all so damn cute.

Jesus save us from the cutes.



Mr. Empty: A Manga You'd Like to See More Of

Ahhh Zombiepowder! I really want Kubo to go back and do more volumes of Zombiepowder. But if you're following the mangathangathan, you know I've already talked about ZP and therefore I will pick another one.

I'm actually going to choose one that wasn't left in the dust, but was rather just achingly short. The manga for FLCL is just agony. Pure agony. It's only two volumes. Two! TWO! If you've ever watched the anime, which has reached cult favorite status, you know that this is some psychotic storytelling we're dealing with, a Japanese Hunter S. Thompson. That's a terrible analogy, but you get some idea of the madness coming down the pipes here.




















What is interesting, is the two volumes actually do a really excellent job of being an expositional aid to the anime. There's a notorious and pretty famous scene of animated manga pages in the anime, and they're interesting to see in their original form. You just want to see more, and more, and more, and you get to the end and just have to throw your arms in the air and flop on the floor like a wild fish because the lack of content has turned you into a trout.

You look exactly like this after reading it.
















The volumes don't work terribly well as manga by themselves, they're very discombobulated, which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. They explore a bit of the relationships between the family, the classmates, and the other characters. I really wanted to see deeper exploration of the characters, the storyline, and the bizarre world. I just wanted more!

Mr. Empty: The Most Annoying Character

I'm trying to think of a manga character who really annoys me. I really don't have a lot, the main thing that irritates me in this world of manga and anime is a bad voice actor. Specifically, female voice actors with high-pitched, whiny voices who get cast as good characters and then wreck them. Luckily I try to pick up versions with subs and original audio when I can.

As far as someone who was actually annoying, the closest I can imagine is Father Anderson from Hellsing.  I don't know what it is, I'm not a big fan of regenerators that don't have adamantium claws, and his dogged Catholicism so flat. I think I always was annoyed that Alucard didn't just power up and shred him.

tiny text = annoying


The ending to the series actually involves Anderson, he uses a religious artifact to go berserk, so now you have a berserking regenerating catholic. Alucard never even fully releases until the final volume, so I felt like there was a bit of a waste when the big, balls-out battle turned out to be the little knife-boy from freaking volume two that should have gotten wasted on the spot.

Now, I wasn't unhappy with the way the series went, at all, I thought the final couple volumes were amazing, but I was unhappy with Anderson as a character and never wanted him to be such a big part of it.

And to add insult to injury, Hirano actually wrote a total, separate story arc about two OTHER Catholics from Anderson's same secret division, and they're totally freaking awesome. One of them is a gunner, the other is a split personality nun. How fun! But of course, they get put on "filler content" duty and only vaguely show up in the main storyline.


Oh, and his full name is Alexander Anderson. Alliterative, which is a literary pet peeve of mine, because if you were to believe fiction, 95% of the population would have alliterative names. They don't. They don't because it sounds weird and parents don't choose weird sounding names. Come on now. It's not that hard, you make up the names, just pick one that doesn't have the same letter at the beginning of both! 

Mr. Empty: A Manga That You Disliked Enough To Stop Reading

Okay. There is literally only one. Innocent W.
I fucking hate you.





















This is literally the worst garbage. One time, Dr. M made me read some nonsense about a guy who ate ramen and got married and it was really gay but then he went to another dimension. That wasn't good. This is actually offensively bad. This is so atrocious that I am literally offended.

The art is trash. As in, the laziest, late 80s, every single character looks exactly the freaking same and has the same hair and face. THERE IS NO DISTINCTION BETWEEN MALES AND FEMALES. Also, this is supposedly about witches. I don't know. The W in the title stands for witches. I'm sitting here, rubbing the skin between my eyebrows in a very tired manner because I don't even know anymore. I can't even express how useless this book is. I literally paid like maybe two dollars for it. I'm mad about that. I could have paid for two dirty hypodermic needles to jam into my tear ducts and give myself a home lobotomy, and I would literally have had more fun. Well, maybe not more fun, but I would definitely have been less unhappy.

This book has violence, and if you've read my other entries, you know I love violence. I really, really do. I think it's really entertaining, even if it's not done well. But this, this is just....bleh. BLEH. I was bored and repulsed at the same time. The characters are so bland, it has all the thrill of watching someone across the dinner table cutting a head of lettuce. Yes, it gets cut, no I'm not having a damn bit of fun watching you do it.

Last but certainly not least, the witches have no power. I don't know what the hell the point is, but they couldn't even defend themselves. They're like, hotline psychic type witches. Excuse me for a minute, I need to rub that bit of skin between my eyebrows in frustration for a few more minutes.

I would not waste another bit of money on this series. In fact, if someone offered them for free, I would not take them. If anyone wants this one for whatever, you can roll some blunts with the pages. Maybe in it's second life, this can bring less misery to the world. But you'll probably get ink poisoning and rot from within when you smoke it. I feel like I need to take it to Mordor or something.

Who's up for a fun trek? We can put it on a necklace and you can carry me and later I'll get a finger bitten off and everyone at CLAMP will cheer.

Mr. Empty: My Favorite Character

I think it's so hard to pick just one character....but if I had to tell who was high on the list, I would definitely say Kurogane from Tsubasa.

He's like, half-ninja, half-samurai. 





















Kurogane is an interesting character. He's a classic antihero, coming across tough at first but later showing a soft side.

He doesn't really get deserving of "favorite character" status until volume 13, however. That's the backstory volume. Excuse me while I choke back tears, remembering the one time I read it. Basically, young Kurogane is the son a legendary monster hunter who protects their town. But when a horde of monsters come after the town, aforementioned father doesn't hack it. Kurogane takes up his father's mantle in a fit of rage and rips apart all the monsters like the badass motherfucker tween he is! But then, after fixing all the bad things, he rolls back to his house, and his mom gets stabbed and dies in his arms.

Did I mention this is another classic CLAMP production? In which every male character loses, or has already lost, an eye? 


The thing that gets me about Kurogane is he has the focus of a missile. They're doing this massive adventure, spanning hundreds of worlds, and the whole time, Kurogane is literally just going, is this going to make me stronger and/or get me back to my town/princess? He doesn't care about the frills. He doesn't care about himself. 

He is a weapon.

Kyo Kara Maoh! -- Manga You'd Like to See More of

Dumb Bishounen Fun
OMG, Ya'll! I just love Kyo Kara Maoh! Even I admit that it is a little weird that I really love a silly male harem story about a boy who gets flushed down a toilet by bullies into a fantasy world where he is the king of the demons and has crazy super powers.

Or maybe it is not weird at all.

This manga and its accompanying anime utilize pretty much every male harem stereotype and theme in service to an adorable, fluffy tale with likable characters and adventures. This manga is chock full of dumb things and unnecessary semi-nude scenes that just kind of happen but are completely innocent, and I love it.

What's happening here? Oh, you know, just some friends chilling at the hot springs.
There is an admirable story line about homogeneity vs difference. You know, humans and demons, can they ever get along? Why are people so mean to people who are different? So, I guess some weighty topics like xenophobia and genocide are covered. But hey, who cares about that serious stuff because seriously, this comic has Bee Bears!!!! Those are bears that are also bees!

Oh, what are those? Bee Bears!
Bee Bears too light and fluffy? How about some angst?

Something sad is happening here.

There is plenty to go around. Demons live a long time, so they have all sorts of drama. Lifetimes. It's good stuff.

Anyway, the manga was licensed by TokyoPop, then TokyPop went under, and the manga did too. Oh, well. I don't know if it will get published in the future because it really is a lowest common denominator story, which can fair well or poorly depending on the times.

Dr. M: Day 30-- A manga that isn’t licensed but SHOULD be

It's the last day of the mangathon for me, Dear Readers, and the final prompt looks hopefully toward the future, asking what I think might need licensed and translated (I'm assuming) on the quick-fast. There are a lot of manga that come out serially in magazines in Japan, and only a fraction of those is picked up by the US market. Sometimes I wonder why certain things are selected over others, but far be it from me to discourage more hentai and demand more grown up characters...that's just me looking out for me and being a little biased. I mean...boobs sell.

Not everything is going to be translated, and that's fine, but a few things strike me as worth some attention.

First, there are some series unfinished by TokyoPop after their demise--there's an audience there that's hungry for those titles, and series to complete. Viz has picked up a few of those titles, but more are available. I hate when a story I love just fades away. Those fans need to be helped first.

Second, there are things written and illustrated by Fumi Yoshinaga that have not yet be licensed in the US.
They are as follows:

Kodomo no Taion (a story about a single father and a son who is himself a father-to-be)
Garden Dreams (about two travelling Arabic musicians)
Kino Nani Tabeta? (about eating...that is not surprising...this is rumored to have been licensed recently)
From Kino Nani Tabeta? 
which translates to What did you Eat Yesterday?
Yoshinaga likes food. 

Let's make these translations happen, world!

And finally, one of the things I honestly want licensed and translated into English before I die is the Mirage of Blaze light novels. There are a few fanslations out there in the universe, but only about 10 volumes of this series have been translated at all. No, it's not manga, but whatever...I want what I want.

Somebody, anybody...MAKE THIS HAPPEN!!!
Dr. M needs more of this crazy story about love and reincarnation!

Thank you, Dear Readers, for sticking through the mangathon with me. Stay tuned for more responses by Shakespeare and Mr. Empty.


Rage aka Reiji - Most Annoying Character

I am so ANNOYING!

I just hate yandere characters, and Reiji is firmly in this category! Reiji is a minor character in Gravitation or Gravitation EX. She's an American girl, and Head of XMR Records, the label Bad Luck is signed to. She falls violently in love with pop singer Shuichi Shindou when he comes to America for a short time after breaking up with heart throb romance novelist Eri Yuki.


There is no way I could possibly get any more ANNOYING!

Reiji carries a bazooka or other weapon. Most Americans in this comic do. If I remember, she also has a giant flying mecha panda. But I kind of blocked it out, because I hated Reiji's whole role in the comic so much. I think, Reiji was really the embodiment of what went wrong with the comic, when it ceased being fun and just started to be annoying. Thus, she became the target of my dislike. Please do not be mad at me when I say this: Gravitation should have ended volumes before Reiji was ever committed to paper.

I mean how many times can Suichi and Eri break up and get back together? How many times does Riuichi act like an idiot savant then put on a genius performance? How many creative crises can the characters collectively have, and how many overbearing, obnoxious, gun toting Americans can show up before the whole thing just falls apart?

I wonder if Maki Murikami can even draw me with my dumb mouth shut?



Reading Reiji is kind of like having to watch this video over and over again until you barf blood out of your ears:



Also, lesson learned from working on this post. Never do a Google keyword image search of "Gravitation Panda" without your safe search filters on. Seriously, you do not want to see it. Fun Fact: Maki Murikami did her own doujinshi of Gravitation, Gravitation Remix, which is super-duper-duper-duper-smutty, and many of its pages show up under that search.

Dr. M: Day 29--A manga you read that was just plain weird

Aren't all manga weird?

How about Bobobo-bo Bo bobo? 


Yes, let's interrupt your victory speech/gloating scene
with a paranoid pickle. Whynot?

Now weird can be good, but it isn't always, sometimes it's just weird. This is just weird.

Sure, that's a plot...fine. 
Bobobo-bo Bo bobo makes my head hurt.

This is actually Bobobo...our hero!
This manga is full of mayonnaise wars and afros full of small creatures on protest.
Oh, and he battles with his nose hairs. 
And it's also an anime...lucky us.


I need a nap after watching this sort of thing. Or seizure medication. Or a lobotomy.

Congrats, Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo you are weird. Bad weird.

Give me some good weird in the comments mangaphiles!

Death Note - A Manga You Disliked Enough To Stop Reading

Death Note Cover
Death Note. Yawn.

This is one of those dark, edgy, morally ambiguous comics that everyone just loves. In fact, it's something I should love. First of all. It's dark, edgy, and morally ambiguous. Second of all, there are detectives and shinigami. Third of all, it's a high school drama. I love high school dramas. But, I don't like this one.

To fill you in, if you have never been anywhere near a manga shop or ever heard the word anime, Death Note, is the wildly popular story of Light Yagama, a high school student who is not a fan of the evil. Who is, really? Light is super smart, and good looking, and a little distant. He has deep thoughts about bad things, why they happen, how to stop them, etc. He studies hard and tolerates his classmates, because one day, if he passes his exams, he will try his hand at ending crime and starting a utopia or something like that. Anyway, Light doesn't have to wait to graduate high school in order to make things right in the world because he finds a notebook that allows him to kill hell-of bad people from the comfort of his writing desk.

The book was dropped to earth by a bored shinigami, Ryuk, and he's not the cute kind of shinigami you're used to seeing in manga. He's no Bleach-y type reaper or adorable Descendents of Darkeness one either. He's big and freakish looking, not exactly the type of thing you want to see when you're making the final transition, if you know what I mean. Ryuk suffers from supernatural ennui, which, I guess, is why the death note book ends up on earth and in Light's hands to begin with. Ryuk was tired of the scene in his realm, and he felt like being entertained by human-types. He decided to stir up some sh*t on Earth and hang out to watch the show.


Ryuk


There are a number of rules involving how the book works but the basic premise is if write someone's name in it while envisioning their face, they will die.  You can choose how they die or just let them spontaneously keel over. Light uses the book to anonymously kill a bunch of people he sees as bad. Since there are a lot of bad people in the world, a lot of people die. This raises some suspicions and a detective known only as "L" enters the scene.

And...this is where I fade out. I have tried a few times to read the manga or watch the anime but never get past this part. And, I don't even have a compelling reason. I guess, I don't like Light. I can't connect with him, and I don't like Ryuk for the same reasons. As a reader, I also feel a sort of manipulated like there's this obvious "there are no good guys; there are no bad guys; it's deep" kind of thing going on. Light is killing people to make the world a better place, but Light is a mass murderer who needs to be stopped.

But mostly, I just find the comic boring. I guess I can't like everything.

If you have read this, and you do like it, I'd love to hear about it. Does it get better? Is it worth continuing?

Dr. M: Day 28--A manga you think is so brilliant it’s like literature

I treat most manga like literature. That "Dr." in front of my name isn't just super-fancy, it's legit. I have a doctorate in literature. Oh, man, I am a dork.

Shakespeare is a Lit. person too, she has multiple degrees in writing and communication. She works with publications every day.

Mr. Empty...he's just cool. He has some degree in something or other, which I should know off the top of my head, but I don't because I'm a bad teacher. Yes, Mr. Empty was actually my student at one point. Now, we're just pals and anime/manga nerds.

I would say that all of us treat at least 60% (if not more) of the manga we read like literature. So, in some ways this isn't a good question for me. It doesn't have to be brilliant to be like literature, in fact not all literature is brilliant. Maybe the question should be about GOOD literature? That's rarer. And that's a hard question.

I've already talked about the complex brilliance that is Loveless, and the a lot of manga are based on eastern literature, things like Saiyuki (very loosely based on Journey to the West) and historical sagas like Basilisk and Lone Wolf and Cub, and even to some extent Inuyasha. There are a lot of stories drawn from western literature as well from classics of Greek and Roman origin, to biblical literature, to more contemporary works.

Sure, a lot of manga are sort of fluffy little bits of distraction (nothing wrong with that) that don't add up to anything especially profound or complex in terms of literary structure or theme, but many more do pay attention to literary storytelling.

Now, if we were talking anime here, I would have an easy answer for you, because I freaking love Gurren Lagaan (the anime not the manga...the manga is less effective), or even the brutal heartbreak of Now and Then, Here and There. Both of those are like literature to me. Pretty much everything done by Studio Ghibli is also like literature (because so much of it draws from literature).

So, why can't I decide on a manga? To be honest, I don't know. Maybe the manga I read is too limited? Maybe I'm just a little burnt out by the mangathon at this point. Maybe I should just go with my gut reaction?

So, I'm going to suggest pretty much anything by Fumi Yoshinaga. Thus, perhaps, reinforcing the idea that Shakespeare and I should just start a Fumi Yoshinaga fanclub. Yoshinaga is an amazing writer. Her work has the kind of depth and characterization that I associate with good literature. Even her "fluffier" and less literary works like Sofelge  have a sort of artistry to the storytelling, but its her multi-dimensional, dynamic characters that really make me think of her work as literary.
Yoshinaga's Antique Bakery...YUM!
Also, great story!

The first work I read of hers was the fantastic Antique Bakery. The characters are adults at a sort of crossroads with their work and personal life. I'm smitten with the coming of age series Flower of Life. I even love the thematic discussion of devotion and sacrifice in her (yaoi) Lovers in the Night. One of the things that impresses me the most about this author is her research ability. I not only learn more about human nature in her manga, but I also learn about cooking and baking (seemingly her favorite topics), history, boxing, art, opera, manga, and about a dozen other topics. She takes time to learn about her character's lives and interests, and it shows in the work and in the characters' knowledge of their fields. She's pretty amazing.

A coming of age story worth a read.
So, I will change the prompt to not, "A manga I think is so brilliant it's like literature," to "a manga writer who writes so well that her work is like literature." Yoshinaga gets my vote.

And when I have time, I will read her whole catalog of works. She's that good.

Mizuki Ashiya - Hana-Kimi - Favorite Manga Character

For You In Full Bloom
Happy Lunar New Year! It's the Year of the Snake, of which I am one, which makes it a most awesome year indeed!

Dr. M posed the question, who is your favorite manga character? And, I thought about it for a  long time, weeks actually. I think, possibly, maybe, my favorite character is Mizuki Ashiya of the beloved manga Hana-Kimi aka For You in Full Bloom.

Hana-Kimi was one of my early favorite mangas for its sweet storyline and gender bending themes. Mizuki Ashiya is a Japanese girl who lives in the US. She is infatuated with a high school high jumping champion Izumo Sanyo who she saw on television. She decides she wants to get near to him and admire his high jump up close. Only a few things stand in her way.

1) Izumo lives in Japan.
2) Izumo goes to an all boys school.
3) Izumo was injured and doesn't high jump anymore.

For Mizuki Ashiya, these are but small obstacles. She convinces her parents to let her move to Japan to go to school. She cuts off her hair and pretends to be a boy. Then she enrolls in Osaka High School, where good fortune would make her Izumo Sanyo's dorm mate. Antics ensue.


Adorable Mizuki Ashiya


Mizuki Ashiya is very adorable, a total ditz, and has a never-give-up attitude that I just love. When I was first sentenced to a cubicle as a full-time adult, I kept a picture of her with her hand held up in the victory pose saying, "Do your best!" Why? Because she's inspiring! She's the kind of character that changes everyone she meets for the better. She's deep enough to have rough moments, and she's resilient enough to come out on the other side with a smile.

I'd love to tell the entire story, but I won't! I want you to read it...or see it! There is an equally adorable live action Taiwanese version of this, which I highly recommend. And apparently other live versions from Japan and Korea. But, this is the one I like:

Hanazakarino Kimitachihe


Dr. M: Day 27--A manga you would never buy

Demon Beast Invasion is the manga that introduced
"Tentacle Porn" to a reading audience. 

First, to each their own. If a person is aroused by the idea of human/cephalopod love, then more power to them, and congratulations on having an interest that is so widely (and graphically) depicted in manga, anime and the like. Personally, that's not my bag.

It's not that cephalopods aren't interesting and cool. I mean I like squids, I just don't like them like them. So, I would never buy a manga that focused on human/cephalopod love. Not even out of curiosity.

Because I don't want to disparage anyone's erotic interests, allow me to provide the video below, which focuses on hot cuttlefish on cuttlefish action.



Dr. M: Day 26--The last manga you read

I just picked up Yuri Narushima's Planet Ladder. 


Here's the synopsis from DMG: "I see the tarot cards in my dreams. I turn them over in hopes of finding all the answers — Who am I? Where do I come from? Why are these people after me? But when I turn over the last card, it is always blank. My name is Kaguya. I thought I was an ordinary high-school girl. That is, until a crazy warrior appeared in my bedroom one night and transported me to another planet where people call me princess. Now, the questions in my dream are more urgent than ever. Will I ever get home again...or is this my home?" 

I am only about 70 pages in, but so far there are weird doll-like orphans with blue eyes, tarot cards, dudes with gold hands, something about a whip, a grumpy older brother, a crazy mom, some sort of scandal with the Ministry of Finance and ancient wars being settled on the earthly plain. And there are two more volumes.

When I am done I will conduct a full review. As of right now I'm sort of "meh," but it does have potential.

Dr. M: Day 25--The best manga oneshot

Here's what I just learned: I need to read more one-shots. Usually, I read short series or trilogies for some reason. Aaaand most of the one-shots I do read are yaoi. (Stop judging me!)

Here's something I really liked:


Kazuo Umezu's Scary Book is scary. Crap...that cover says volume 2.

I think I have to pass on this one, unless you just want to know my favorite one-shot yaoi.

Dr. M: Day 24--The best long manga series

How long is long? That's not a rhetorical question...I need an answer to that. I mean, if long is over 10 volumes that's one thing, but if we consider some series like Bleach (56 volumes ongoing), Inuyasha (56 volumes complete), Fullmetal Alchemist (a measly 28 volumes), or the granddaddy of all series Kochikami (183 volumes...are you kidding me?), or even Detective Conan (Case Closed) (78 volumes) and One Piece (68 volumes).

I'm going to have to go down the list of longest manga and see what I've read.  

I read about 8 volumes from the local library
and then I got really, really bored. 

Okay, at 45 volumes, Oh My Goddess seems to be the longest series I've read a good portion of, but I didn't actually like it, so...let's keep looking?

Whelp, the list I found only gives me the top 100 longest. So, I guess I'll go with...Bleach? Although I've only ever read about 5 volumes of it, so I don't really know. So, my final answer is: I have no idea!

Are there any long-running series that you'd recommend?

Mr. Empty: Day 5: A Manga You Would Recommend to Everyone

This one took some serious, deep thought. I can't even explain the process that went into this. Can you imagine a series you can recommend to everyone? It involved a lot of meditation, some hot yoga, and four gallons of Arizona green tea. The conclusion is this:


Shaman King. It's innocuous but noteworthy. In fact, I started watching the anime version when I was but a young lad in the sweltering heat of a southern summer. Fox ran it, Saturday mornings, and I was glued to the set religiously. It was one of the first instances where I had serious, prolonged contact with an anime series, and it was appropriately true to Japanese form, waiting for one episode every week like a manga magazine. It wasn't until much later I found myself in front of the actual manga for the series, drooling like a wild dog staring down a deer with a gimpy leg. The series has a lot going for it. The story is novel, a boy who can see ghosts. OH WAIT. That's not novel at all. In fact, it's the premise of 75% of the series Shonen Jump boxes up and ships to America. But, Shaman King was one of the first. And, he can do more than just see the ghosts. He can also be possessed by aforementioned ghosts, and utilize them in battle! Novelty, ho! That's not all. This is one of SJ's classic "let's run this series and then run it and then we'll run it some more and we'll be a good company and make money simply by virtue of having MORE MANGA THAN ANYONE ELSE EVER" schemes. Who even knows what number Naruto and Bleach are on now? That's the beautiful thing about Shonen Jump. You don't have to be a great artist, building a body of work across a wide number of different series. No. You need one volume. You take that one volume, and if the 10-14 male demographic likes it at all, you're set for the next 500 books and you can retire on a mountain of tween cash in your early thirties and let your ghost writers handle the spin-offs.

None of that has anything to do with Shaman King. Here's a real, ten solid reasons rundown of why this is worthy of recommendation:

1. It has a lot of volumes; therefore, you can get very involved in the story and it will last you a long time. Nothing's worse than an amazing story that's three volumes long, all you can do is crave.

2. Yoh is one of the best main characters ever. As you learn very early on, Yoh's only motivation is to create a world in which he can relax. He's literally powered by laziness. It's hilarious and genius.

3. It's got sneaky violence. That's the best kind of violence for young boys, because you can fob it off on your unsuspecting parents as not being violent, but then, boom, flashlight under the covers, you've got all your violence right there! Impalements, possessions, necrophilia, necromancy, and a healthy portion of good old-fashioned ass whuppings.

4. It has history. Is any of it accurate? No idea. Would not recommend using information out of Shaman King on your Modern East Asia final exam. But it's fun to read.

5. It has an anime tie-in. That you can only watch if you grew up in the late 90s, early 00s. It is virtually impossible to find or watch now. This point is, uh, not so great. Kind of depressing.

6. The side characters are badass. I could run through the expansive list of seriously cool characters, but if you read it yourself, I guarantee you will not be disappointed. (Faust is a personal favorite of mine, though.)

7.  The story is solid. You don't get the sense that it was warped from an original storyline to be extended. It gets deeper and more complex, but in a convincing way. As you get deeper and deeper, the characters progress and develop, but they stay true to themselves. It is genuinely well written. Not a lot of series that span as many volumes can boast that.

8. Pompadours. Glorious, multiple-feet long, pompadours. Not enough manga has them.

9. It has multiple romantic storylines. Can't dismiss it as typical shonen fare, it has a love triangle, it has lost loves, all sorts of love.

10. It's the classic epic adventure tale. It's like The Hobbit. You just can't go wrong with the formula. It's been tested by time and it's survived for a reason.

There you have it, a manga I would definitely recommend to everyone. No easy feat.



Dr. M: Day 23--Best manga villain

My favorite manga villain shares something with my favorite anime villain. Mostly, they share the fact that they are the same person. 

Dr. Muraki Kazutaka from Descendants of Darkness is just ick-worthy evil. He is chaos in a trench-coat, with a sort of reptilian sexuality, flair for the over-dramatic, and an ego bigger than any other manga villain (including Light from DeathNote, whose god-complex is pretty horrific). 

His torment of the main character Tsuzuki and his partner (literally, this isn't yaoi) and fellow Guardian of Death Hisoka is deliciously evil and predatory. 

One casual, "Do you remember our sensuous night beneath the cherry trees?" from Muraki is enough to make my skin crawl. He is horrible, and because he is so horrible, he is fascinating. 


Seriously, "Stop talking like that you perverted doctor?"

Congratulations to Dr. Muraki for being a total creeper, a superb agent of chaos and disarray, and my pick for Best Manga Villain. 


Apparently someone plays as Dr. Muraki in something called Gaia Online.
I don't know what that is, because I am old and lame, but I do know that is creepy. 


Dr. M: Day 22-- A manga you wish didn’t exist

This might be some sort of anthropomorphous furry-yaoi. 
I'll just refer you to my earlier review of Mr. Tiger and Mr. Wolf which was a So-bad Sunday! post.

Make sure to read the comments because Marfisa makes a very good observation about a point I missed--there is a "hypodermic needle-wielding hunting dog"  in this two-part (why? wasn't one possible furry-yaoi enough?) series, and I didn't even mention it. In my defense, I was very busy trying to decide on a sensible answer to this question: "Was that wolf seriously going to abscond with and marry a tabby cat?" 


Dr. M: Day 21--A manga that deserves more recognition

Dear Readers, I am not an easy person to scare. I mean, yes, I jump at surprises, but everyone does. But to truly scare me you something a little more significant than jumping out of the shrubbery. I am a huge horror movie fan, and maybe that's affected my evil little brain on some level, but there are only a handful of horror movies that I admit scare me. Usually they are darkly twisted stories about human nature...or stories that are just so disturbing on a sort of primal level that they haunt me forever. Or, admittedly, they contain clowns or tight underground spaces (cave-diving is not for me, in fact, I'll stay topside, thank you). I can avoid those things in real life.

Horror fiction, although it always seems like a good idea, is a little more effective than films I suppose, but not always. I can't think of the last time a horror story, or novel actually scared me. The closest Stephen King ever got was Gerald's Game, which wasn't so much scary as just panic inducing. His work isn't scary.

So, when something really, really scares me...it deserves some recognition.

Junji Ito has written some scary things. He is the author of the manga/stories that led to the Ringu/Ring series (which I found pretty frightening actually), and Tomie (which was not scary, but has I believe, about 9 sequels, making it the Japanese equivalent of Friday the 13th, maybe?). He's written some scary things. The scariest thing I've ever read of his absolutely haunts me to this day. Sometimes the story will just pop into my head randomly and I won't be able to get it out of my brain all day. It's that scary!
Oh, the horror of stank-fish!
Actually, rotting fish is a pretty horrible smell.
I might run too. 

Ito's series Gyo (fish) isn't actually one of my favorite reads. It's a series about a weaponized death stench (yup). Basically there are these spindly-legged robots wandering around carrying stinky corpses. Meh. Not his best work, however in the second volume, as a bonus story, I found the scariest story I've ever read:
"The Enigma of the Amagara Fault."

The story begins simply enough, with an earthquake and a fault, but then it gets significantly more horrifying as it progresses.

Okay, that's simple enough. Nothing scary yet.
After the earthquake two women find themselves separately drawn to the fault, and meet one another as they hike into the mountains. The earthquake revealed something interesting, thousands and thousands of human shaped holes carved into the side of the mountain.


Okay, that's creepy. 

I will not tell you what happens next, except to say that it is HORRIBLE! This manga deserves more recognition for being the product of a truly effed up mind and having the ability to haunt you for the rest of your days. Enjoy!