Intense, Volume 1: Night on the Red Road by Kyungha Yi
Genre: Manhwa (Korean Comics)/Boys Love
Intense is a Korean boys love graphic novel series featuring main character Jiwoon Kang. Orphaned by the mafia, yet still tangled up with the warring gangs, Jiwoon is sent to the red light district in a shady-enough-as-it-is town, meant to keep the peace as needed. There he is offered housing with Soohan, a local young man. While Jiwoon is a very quiet person himself–having seen his own father murdered in front of him, he is interested in the fact that Soohan actually talks less than he does, something he never imagined could be a possibility. It turns out Soohan is a mute, hence the lack of vocalization. When Jiwoon kisses Soohan in a moment of vulnerability, their already non-existent relationship may never even blossom.
When my husband bought this for me as a gift, I wasn’t sure what to expect from it. I dived in and figured “Oh, it’s just another gang violence series,” but when Jiwoon shows feelings for Soohan, I was like, “Wait, what?!” Only then did I turn to the back to find the genre “Boys Love” printed there. I enjoy boys love, but this definitely doesn’t have the feeling of a BL such as Love Stage or The World’s Greatest First Love. There is some mafia conflict in this first volume, and just enough to keep me wanting to read. One of the few first volumes where I feel like I really need to read the second one to decide whether I want to stay committed to the series or not. Also, the art is fantastic. An overall enjoyable manga.
Hellgate London by Arvid Nelson and J.M
This manga series serves as the prequel to the video game of the same name. John Fowler, among others, unburies a human skeleton that may be worth something to the finder. Upon closer inspection, the remains have found to be buried in a peculiar way, a way that related to demons. After seeing some kind of spirit, the spirit of the remains and John’s ancestor, Isaac, he is called upon by the Templars, an organization committed to ridding the world of demons. When John himself must take on a demon arm with his own flesh, he finds that he doesn’t seem to belong anywhere. The only way to find his place is to take up his ancestor’s sword and fight the onslaught of demons that is to come.
Having never played the original game may have perhaps hindered my true appreciation of this manga, but it was still somewhat interesting. I find the art to be average and the story to be relatively cliche in the way it forms the call to action for the main character and its use of demons, a very common evil entity across genres. There are also basic ancestral inheritances that are very common among many genres as well, making this series not very unique and non-innovative in the grand scheme of available manga out in the world.
Black Clover by Yuki Tabata
Black Clover follows the story of Asta, a young boy who wants to become the greatest mage of them all: the Wizard King! The only problem is, no matter how much he tries and trains, he has no magic power. How can Asta become the Wizard King without any magic? When his friend and rival, Yuno, obtains the legendary Grimoire with a four leaf clover, others see him potentially predestined to become the Wizard King. Meanwhile, Asta’s Grimoire doesn’t arrive (I mean, you have to be a magic user to get a Grimoire). That is, until he is in the midst of battle against another magic user, and a Grimoire(?) presents itself to Asta, albeit a charred, mottled looking book. With the power of anti-magic, Asta might be able to participate in the magic games to be selected by a guild, and thus develop his skills and follow his heart and dream to become the Wizard King through his sheer force of will and determination.
I actually really enjoyed this book. It is a newer series (2015) but very reminiscent of Hiro Mashima’s works (Fairy Tail and Rave Master). It has the hero’s journey vibe with aspiring (non-magic user) Asta, who wants to be the Wizard King. He has the same feel of Haru Glory (Rave Master) seeking the Rave Stones, or Fairy Tail aiming to be the top magic guild. It is a shounen book to reflect the quest for greatness and features an underdog hero. The art is fun and the ending has me wanting to see how Asta will progress and if he will succeed!
Heaven!! by Shizuru Seino
Heaven is about a girl named Rinne who can see and exorcise ghosts, removing them from possessing others and helping them pass on. When Rinne almost becomes a ghost herself, school punk Uzaki saves her just in time. With his spirit knocked out of his body, a god decides to take over Uzaki’s physical form! Since a god is different than a spirit, smarter, Rinne has more trouble exercising him from Uzaki’s body. Meanwhile, Uzaki’s spirit is thrust into a stuffed pink monkey until Rinne is able to get him back into his own body. And of course, Rinne begins falling for…someone?! Is it the god within Uzaki’s body, or is she actually finding attachment to Uzaki himself? And will she ever be done exercising spirits from where they don’t belong?
Overall, a cute story, but seems very cliche. An imminent love triangle potentially presents itself, and the generic high school setting and heroine with medium powers is a bit overdone among the Japanese genres. If you like the whole high school romance, but with a ghostly twist, there are numerous other volumes that have a better story (some only slightly so and some much more), although occasionally dealing with demons rather than ghosts/spirits. *cough cough* Yu Yu Hakusho is great. Gaba Kawa is similar, with demons rather than ghosts.
The Titan’s Curse (Graphic Novel) by Rick Riordan, Robert Venditti, Attila Futaki, and Greg Guilhaumond
Genre: Young Adult/Graphic Novel/Mythology
Once again the Percy Jackson adaptations blow me away. With this third installment, we follow Percy as he aims to save Anabeth from Atlas. When a prophesy calls for five heroes, saying that one will not make it, Percy is excluded because The Hunters of Artemis, who are likewise seeking to find Artemis, who has gone missing, don’t want a boy to go with them. When Nico finds Percy thinking about following, he encourages it, wanting Percy to keep his sister safe. Percy ultimately ends up joining the group, but cannot keep his promise. The heroes come across a number of trials as they try to avoid some ominous undead soldiers. Percy is also able to call upon the pegasi, having the ability to communicate with horses. That sure comes in handy when Percy wants to get some quick, reliable transportation for him and his friends. With Thalia ultimately joining the Hunters of Artemis, it would appear that Percy is still the demi-god of prophesy who will either save or destroy Olympus when he turns sixteen…that is until a certain someone is claimed by one of the big three…again!
I really enjoyed the Percy Jackson series and like the accessibility of the graphic novels. The art is a bit funky (it took me forever to realize which one was Thalia), but the story adaptation is excellent and an enjoyable way to get the story all over again without having to take the time to read the whole novel. At present this is the most current one (no word of the last two becoming graphic novels yet—please let me know if I am wrong), but I would love to have the refresher and brevity of the last two novels in the series without spending the time to reread them because, let’s face it, there are too many books and too little time!