A Silent Voice-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Manga/Young Adult/Coming-of-Age

Rating: 4/5

This is a fantastic series that shows how rough bullying can be, what it can do to other people, oneself, and what it means to be a good human being. The back of each volume contains the following summation of the series:

“A very powerful story about being different and the consequences of childhood bullying…Read it.” –Anime News Network

“The word heartwarming was made for manga like this.” –Manga Bookshelf

Basically, this is an excellent read that highlights what being different means, the struggle that some families have when they have a member with some kind of disability, and what it means to be a true friend.

The first volume begins with Shoya, a bully who is reunited after six years with Shoko, a girl he bullied so horribly in grade school that she had to switch schools (again). While the main girth of the series follows the events of their senior year in high school, the first volume follows Shoya and Shoko. When Shoko enters Shoya’s class for the first time, she introduces herself with her notebook, explaining that she is deaf and that she would like to get to know her classmates through writing in her notebook.

Things seem okay at first, but Shoya makes a statement by yelling at Shoko, who sits in front of him, just a general yell to test if she really cannot hear. Some of his classmates find this rude and appalling, but as time passes, Shoko’s classmates, and even her teacher, begin to bully her. One girl is tired of Shoko asking what the teacher said (through writing), and begins to brush Shoko off as an annoyance. In choir, Shoko is off key, considering she can’t hear her own voice. This causes even more bullying, as students begin to write terrible things about her on the board in her homeroom. When a teacher offers to teach sign language for Shoko’s sake, nobody cares, except one girl, who becomes bullied because of her interest in sign language.

Shoya, following the lead of bullying that his groups of friends have evoked, eventually rips out Shoko’s hearing aid and destroys it. When school officials question the class, everyone points their fingers at Shoya, his friends and even the teacher who told him to stop the bullying but snickered at his own students remarks, all pointed their fingers at Shoya, not taking their own blame.

Shoya is neglected by who he thought were his friends, becoming the bullied in the same way as Shoko. After Shoko transfers schools again, Shoya enters high school with no friends, and blocking out everyone’s faces with a conscious X, as they are not important and do not matter to him.

Now, reunited with Shoko, who runs at first sight of Shoya, he aims to apologize and repair the wrongs he had done many years ago. He has Shoko’s special communication notebook, which was thrown in the water six years prior, and returns it to her. When she moves on with her life, Shoya aims to find out more about Shoko and wants to learn what it means to be true friends.

When Shoya somewhat grudgingly comes to the aid of a likewise ostracized classmate, they become friends, and discuss what it means to be able to call someone a friend. He also meets Shoko’s sister, Yuzuru, a girl who has chosen to look an act like a boy to defend Shoko from being bullied. Yuzuru does not approve of Shoya’s friendship or aim to make amends for what he did in the past. When she learns that Shoya learned sign language over the years so that he could better communicate when he met Shoko again, Yuzuru eases off, but only after she posts an article that puts Shoya in a bad situation at school.

Eventually, Shoya and Shoko reunite with some of the people from grade school, including those who were likewise bullies, as well as defenders, and together, they learn what friendship truly means.

This series has a great deal of drama, which demonstrates the human feelings we all have when we are harmed or choose to harm others, as well as the effects of bullying and how it can affect our mental state over time. This series was excellently written, powerful, and the beautiful art adds to the height of the reading experience. As an educator, I would recommend this to anyone and everyone in that it demonstrates how differences make us unique and shows how wrong and serious bullying can be.

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On a side note, the movie was recently released in Japan and will be showing for a select time in select theaters in the U.S. October 2017. The art of the movie and the vibrancy of the setting and colors makes it look amazing, and I am hoping the movie will convey the same message that the manga does, even though it will have to take out a number of chapters/scenes for the sake of time. I will also be looking for this as an English Blu-ray release…eventually!


Monster Musume-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Manga/Comedy/Harem/Monster Girls

Rating: 4/5

While the audience for this manga is definitely geared for men, I, a woman, vastly enjoyed this series. At present (by the publication date of this post) there are 11 volumes released in North America by Seven Seas publisher. Volume 12 is scheduled for Late August, 2017, and the NA publisher is keeping up as volumes are being released in Japan. This manga has a rating of OT (older teen, which is 16+) and has an abundance of nude breasts, so be warned.

So what is this multi-genre manga even about? Basically this young man named Kimihito was not signed on for the Interspecies Cultural Exchange Act, but when Smith-san brings a shy Lamia, Miia, to his door, his home becomes open to monster girls, and he is their host. Of course, there is only Miia, but when he encounters a Harpy in the park and a Centaur on the street, he finds that more and more exchange monster girls are in need of a place to stay. Not only do these three girls end up staying with him, but a Mermaid, Arachne, Slime, and Dullahan live with Kimihito too!

Miia is very protective of Kimihito and gets flustered and jealous when the other monster girls are around, because she wants “Darling” all to herself. When the Interspecies Cultural Exchange takes a new step, considering it currently states that humans and monsters cannot physically mingle (sex or harming). With Smith-san the head of many things, she puts forth that Kimihito must select one of the monster girls living with him to marry, so that the cultural exchange can move forward.

A number of other monster girls get involved with our daring “Darling,” some even seeking to kill him!

There is also the MON squad, a group of more human-like monster girls (consisting of a Doppelganger, Zombie, Cyclops, and Oni) that help Smith-san keep the peace between monsters and humans. They, too, get some fun date time with our hero, Kimihito. (Zombina is one of my favorites!)

Even though this series is geared toward men, I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves comedy and can handle a lot of breasts, because bare breasts are an iconic thing in this manga. The thing I personally love most about it is the author’s sense of humor. Okayado knows just the right time and place to implement memes and modern media humor. Included below are photos from some of my favorite jokes implemented from video games:

Prison School-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Pornographic Comedy Manga (Is that even a real genre?!)

Rating: 4.5/5

I was a bit wary about doing a review for this manga, but I decided it is worth the review. The thing that made me possibly not want to review this book was its borderline of being pornographic comedy. This manga is DEFINITELY for people 18 AND OLDER, and the manga has a “mature” rating on the back for its content.

Being an adult, one of the big things I have to say about this manga before jumping in to what it is about, is that the humor is added both visually and verbally, and I have choked out laughing multiple times per volume (there are four volumes current in North America which consist of two of the Japanese volumes each. Since there are 22 Japanese volumes, there will be 11 North American volumes. Volume 5 is scheduled for release in November, 2016). And it’s not even that some of the imagery is vulgar, but just the way some of the facial expressions are drawn is enough for a tumult of laughter. Also, the scenarios that the boys are placed in are absolutely hilarious.

Disclaimer: While I would call this pornographic comedy, and there are definitely lots of pornographic images, there is no intercourse in the series (at least up through volume four, which is as far as I have read thus far in the North American release).

So what is this hyped up adult manga about? An all girls boarding school is finally allowing boys in! Only five boys are admitted-Kiyoshi, Takehito, Shingo, Joe, and Andre-and the girls are not thrilled! Any infraction of the school rules results in a stay at the school’s prison. For this school, and kind of perversity is an infraction. When the five boys are caught in a plan of peeping, they are sent to the prison run by the Shadow Student Council. It is the goal of these women to sexually frustrate these boys, punish them with gross food and harsh manual labor, and eventually get them to do something that would be deemed bad enough for expulsion.

While for mature audiences, the scenarios that the author comes up with are ridiculous and well-positioned for a real laugh-out-loud moment while reading. The facial expressions add to the comedy, and it is the poor fates that these five boys suffer through that really gives this manga its humor.

I would highly recommend this manga for anyone who is not easily offended and who has their own crude sense of humor.

Princess Jellyfish (Vol. 1)-Should You Read It?

Genre: Romantic Comedy/Manga

Rating: 4.5/5

I must say, I absolutely loved the anime, but like many animes, it was produced faster than the writer could finish the manga, and was seemingly cut off a bit short. Excitingly enough, the manga has finally been serialized in the United States by Kodansha Comics, and it is absolutely amazing!

Please, do not judge this by the title. Princess Jellyfish is about a group of five otaku girls all living in an apartment building called Amamizukan. Lets not forget, they are all NEETS (not employed, experienced, or trained) which means they still feed off of allowance, even though most of them are college age. But even otaku girls have dreams of being a princess, right?

Tsukimi is the main character, her interest being jellyfish. Cheiko is into old Japanese dolls and kimonos, Mayaya absolutely loves the Records of the Three Kingdoms, Banba is obsessed with trains, and Jiji absolutely loves old men. Being otaku, these girls are, well, not the most attractive bunch. When Kuranosuke-what these Amars girls call a stylish-helps out Tsukimi with obtaining an ill-treated jellyfish from a pet store, Kuranosuke ends up finding that helping these girls fight with style is his newest goal. Yes, “his.” Kuranosuke is the son of a great political family, but he has always loved his mothers dresses, and despite being straight, he loves dressing as a girl and giving girls advice on style and make-up!

But these otaku women are absolutely against men and stylish people, so Kuranosuke must hide his gender from everyone except Tsukimi, who found out Kuranosuke was a guy after he decided to spend the night on her floor.

When Amamizukan is threatened to be demolished, Kuranosuke brings out the stylish side of these otaku girls to fight against the buyers, to fight nad buy the apartments for themselves!

What Kuranosuke doesn’t expect is his attraction to Tsukimi, even to the “before” Tsukimi that isn’t made up and beautiful, but when she meets his brother, Shu, many new emotions occur for all three of them.

All of that is just the first volume of Princess Jellyfish, and I must say, it is well worth the read! I am so excited about its American release. While the original Japanese serialization is in 20 volumes, Kodansha has combined two volumes together per book, making the American releases 2-in-1 for a total of 10 volumes to be released. This is one of the most fantastic comedies out there, and I would highly recommend the anime for a taste of these otaku girls, and then follow up with the manga, which by volume 2 is already expanding on the story outside of the anime.

Vampire Knight–Should You Read It?

Genre: Paranormal Romance/Manga

Rating: 4/5

Vampire Knight is a well-known, 19 volume Shojo Beat manga (aimed toward a female audience) by Matsuri Hino. This manga is rated T+ for older teens because it does have some sexual connotations as well as some (light?) gore.

The story revolves around Yuki Cross, a girl found at the age of ten covered in blood. Who was it to find her but a vampire, Kaname Kuran. She is then adopted by the headmaster of Cross Academy (hence her last name) and becomes a member of the disciplinary committee at an academy that favors peace between humans and vampires. The day class is made up of humans, while the night class, unknown to the day class, is made up of vampires.

Soon, a boy named Zero joins Yuki and the headmaster in their happy little adoptive family. His whole family was slaughtered by vampires, so Zero has a hard time keeping his cool at Cross Academy. What Yuki doesn’t know (until maybe volume 3 or 4) is that Zero was bitten by a pure-blood vampire, meaning his body is slowly changing into a creature of the night, and he must survive on blood tablets, which is the main source of food for the night class (who do not feed off of humans).

One of the big elements of this series is the love triangle between Yuki and Zero, and Yuki and Kaname. So of course we have the savior, Kaname, who Yuki absolutely adores, but Zero has been in her life just as long, and she has always been there for him. When Zero’s feelings become known, Yuki isn’t too sure what to do. Kaname assures Zero that Yuki will never be with him, for she already belongs to the Kuran family. It becomes even more of an entangled mess when Zero is deemed a vampire hunter, which seems to go against the wishes of Cross Academy.

One of the things that really keeps the reader going is that question, “Is Kaname going to turn her into a vampire?” Okay, so I can’t say SPOILER ALERT here, because what happens next is in volume 9, only halfway through the series. So read this paragraph at your own risk. It turns out that Yuki Cross was actually Yuki Kuran all along, Kaname’s pure-blood vampire sister to whom he is betrothed. Kaname reawakens Yuki’s vampire blood which was set to dormancy to keep her safe from the evil vampire senate.

The second half of the series was not quite as interesting because that question that keeps us going for the first half has already presented the answer. So the second half is all about Kaname and his need to destroy all the pure-bloods and have himself become the special metal that vampire hunters use for their weapons. The original vampire to do this was long dead, but there is a hunter origin story that takes place within the series as well. With this, Yuki sets out to stop him. This is where a lot of the gore takes place in the series, a lot of bloodshed going on.

After being reinstated to her pure-blood state, Yuki and Zero can no longer be friends, according to Zero. But when Kaname is going out to finish his goal, Zero and Yuki team up once more to find him. When they do find him, the climactic ending takes place. I will not say the ending, but I will say that the ending felt like a bit of a cop-out on the author’s side, somewhat similar to the endings of How I Met Your Mother and the Infernal Devices (Cassandra Clare)–MAJOR COP-OUTS FOR THE FEMALE PROTAGONIST! I’m not saying it was a bad ending, I’m just pointing out that getting both lovers in the end, no matter how it is done, doesn’t seem like a realistic ending.

On that note, if you are a girl and you love yourself a nice vampire romance, read this series! It’s pretty fast-paced, even after that midway slowdown where some questions are answered, but new questions arise in place of the old. Most female readers enjoy the cop-out ending anyway, so you might just want to see how she ends up with both of them in this scenario.

If vampires are not your thing, then NO, you should not read this book. If cop-out endings are not your thing, don’t even look at this book! If you are looking for something with a lot of blood, this is not the book to turn to–the gore is very minimal here.

SIDE NOTE: Matsuri Hino has some other great stuff too. For any fan of her writing (although translated) or her art, I would recommend Meru Puri (4 Volumes) and Wanted (1 Volume).

New Release: Vampire Knight Memories–Should You Read It?

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Being a fan of the original series, when I heard about this new release, I was pretty excited. I was hoping to see more of the story, what happens after Kaname is frozen? What happens with Yuki and Zero? While these questions are somewhat answered in Vampire Knight: Memories, I was vastly disappointed by this manga. While it does have a lot of after-the-main-story things, it also has some flashbacks to times past that are somewhat hard to follow about characters that I either do not remember or do not care about. Each chapter is kind of like its own little story, and following along in a formal, cohesive way was not easy. It was like none of the stories had much to do with each other in terms of major plot events. Essentially, the plot is lacking and there is no incentive to continue reading. While Matsuri Hino still does wonderful art, having the stories take place over the course of 1,000 years takes away from the meaning of the stories. By doing all these time skips in the various stories, I almost do not care about any of the characters in this continuation of the series. Rating: 2/5.