Evergreen-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Manga/Romance/Drama

Rating: 4/5

I am beginning to like Seven Seas’ North American branch more and more, as they tend to publish more mature manga and manga of a variety that you do not see as much with other NA publishers, like Viz. I first picked up Evergreen because it had attractive art, the story sounded unique (and in a sense, it is), and there are only four volumes, which makes it easy to collect, keep, and reread.

In this manga, Manga Club captain Hotaka was born with a congenital heart disease that prevents him from doing a lot of activities that other students normally do. The physical scar on his chest has left him to be somewhat insecure about his physical appearance. Everyday he admires swim-team member Awaya Niki, both beautiful and talented. His view from the club window can only do so much though.

When Hotaka has a private appointment to fulfill his PE requirements with the teacher, he swims in the pool and Niki saves him, noticing his scar in the process. Now that he is up close and personal with her, he decides to develop their friendship. Someone begins a rumor that Niki must only be acting like Hotaka’s friend to get close to the class hunk (and womanizer), Soga. Eventually, Hotaka learns the truth, that Niki has been admiring his Manga Club stories for a long time, and she has been collecting every issue. Oddly enough, Hotaka’s own personal story is similar to Niki’s, so she feels that she can relate to him.

For some reason, Niki begins avoiding Hotaka, not wanting to communicate. Hotaka had high hopes and finds this reaction to be very strange. Perhaps they are both afraid to admit their feelings for each other.

When they do finally admit their feelings to each other and begin dating, Niki has a major revelation from her past about who Hotaka is, and it changes their relationship for the rest of their lives.

Overall this was an enjoyable read, but not something I am overly excited to recommend to random passersby. Fans of manga in general might enjoy this one, but the ending didn’t settle well with me and the story was interesting, but also felt a bit wasted. I did give it a higher rating because it did have unique qualities to draw a reader in, and the art was nice. The potential of the story dropped in the last volume though. The twist was extremely interesting, but also a let-down as a reader.

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Manga Classics: The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe-Should You Read It?

Image result for edgar allan poe manga classicsGenre: Manga/Short Story/Horror

Rating: 5/5

This was an absolutely fantastic release for October, 2017. Not only was it released during the fun, spooky month of the year, but I personally was teaching “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven” to my 8th grade class, both of which are artfully illustrated in this Manga Classics Edition.

I am a huge advocate of using manga and graphic novels in the classroom because I believe that they make complex texts more accessible for below grade level readers as well as English learners, which is important when aiming to keep an entire class on the same level of comprehension and understanding, starting with each individual student’s reading and learning level.

This Manga Classics edition is somewhat unique in that it is their first edition that is short stories rather than a novel (although The Jungle Book Manga Classics Edition did have some of the other short works of Kipling). This volume contains “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Raven,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher,” all of which are drawn by a different artist. At the end of most of the short stories is a page of interesting facts about the manuscript, the publishing history, and Poe as it relates to each specific story, such as the fact that Poe was paid $10 for his manuscript of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” nearly $300 in the 2017 economy.

Each story is unique and cryptically drawn, adding a whole new context to each story, which can be good, but also not so good. For example, reading the manga version of “The Tell-Tale Heart” after reading the short story was very different; the meaning, to me, was changed based on the way the story is depicted in the manga. Where in the short story it is unclear and debatable whether or not the narrator is insane or intentionally a murderer, the manga depicts from the beginning that the narrator is telling the story to someone resembling a psychiatrist from the beginning, which would make sense in that the narrator addresses “you” often, and yet we the reader do not know who the “you” is. Either way, the manga version, as all Manga Classics editions do, use the actual text from the original literature, although it might be moved around to justify pacing in manga, or may be shortened, it is still legitimate text written by the author, meaning students can cite thorough textual evidence even from the manga version of the story.

If you do choose to pick this manga up, I would highly suggest reading the short stories first and making your own inferences and speculations about the text before seeing a visual representation, because that could change the way a reader understands the text. It was also fun to read the story first and develop my own imagery in my head and compare that image to that of the manga.

Out of all the manga classics, this one is definitely one of my favorites (and I have them all), within the top three. I would suggest this for English teachers and English learners alike when studying Poe, or anyone who is a manga lover; yes, read this book!

A Centaur’s Life-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Monster Girl/Manga

Rating: 3.5/5

This review will feature instances and portrayal’s from the first four volumes, since reading one may not give a well enough idea of whether one might want to continue the series or not. Monster girl fans (especially centaur fans) will enjoy this one because the main character is a centaur and there are a number of other monster girl races featured in this series.

While this series does not seem to have an overarching plot (although it seems to have some interesting political and historical context that gets sprinkled in a bit in each volume) in the first four volumes, it does feature what a centaur’s life is like. Who do they hang out with, how do they get dressed, how to they bathe or use the toilet, what kinds of worries do they have when dating? These are all questions answered by this manga.

One of the more mature content things I enjoyed was that the very first chapter, Hime, the main centaur girl, gets a love confession by a creature of another race, and her concern is that her female parts are that of a horse, so all her friends compared…This was a hilarious and fun opening, but the rest did not match up from there onward. Within the first four volumes, we get to see what it is like for a centaur in PE and sports, to visit a mermaid school, go swimming, visit family, dress, eat, and get a haircut!

At the end of volume three, a new race is introduced, and interesting race called Antarcticans that have human legs and arms, but are otherwise serpentine in appearance. This is where the politics of the show get interesting. In the community, there are a number of speculations about Antarcticans, but no one knows what is true and what is not because no one has actually seen one in person, until one transfers to Hime’s school. Hime finds this creature to be frightening based off of a horror movie she saw as a child, but she learns that Antarcticans can be just like everyone else. I personally find this race to be interesting and might continue reading just to see the interactions between Hime and her friends and this race.

All-in-all, this series was okay (thus far). I am on the fence about continuing it though. As much of a monster girl fan as I am,  this series is cute and interesting to see different monster girl races, but the lack of an overarching story, or perhaps just the small hints of a major plot, are not enough to keep me reading. I would say at least give volume one a shot if this is your type of thing, that way you can see for yourself if it is worth the investment. The art is great, though, and Hime is such a cute character!

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.