Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Sunday Review

Sai and Hikaru
I started this week by catching up on my Manga anthology reading by going though Shojo Beat and Shonen Jump from the last few months. As I've said before, it was worth subscribing to Shonen Jump just to keep up with Hikaru No Go, which is one of my favorite comic stories, bar none, at the moment. I would easily pay $3 an issue just for Hikaru, and with the subscription I was paying less than that and getting five other decent series as well (along with one crappy/unreadable one). Yes, it's in black and white, but I pay $3 an issue for good b&w independent comic books. Unfortunately, I won't be getting SJ anymore, as Hikaru No Go has been dropped as of the May issue.

Incidentally, if you use my links to Amazon to buy a book, I generally end up using the tiny amount of money I get to buy the latest volume of Hikaru No Go. Which might give you a hint of how little I get through those links. But as long as I get Hikaru No Go, I'm happy.

My main complaint with Shojo Beat is the fluffy and disconnected style of some of the stories. In many shojo stories, the writer assumes that the reader knows the writer's intention without it being explicit. Well, sometimes the writer is correct. Other times the jumps are too much and instead of stark and beautiful it is confusing and annoying. Not every story suffers from the problem, but the ones that do tend to irritate me. Here's my thoughts on the stories I caught up with this week.
  • Absolute Boyfriend: One of my favorite features... it ended in the March issue. And it actually managed to have a decent ending, even! I was a little surprised. This one was a solid adventure from the start.
  • B.O.D.Y. (Preview): Enough to set up the premise, not enough to convince me to try it.
  • Be With You (Preview): The preview was too short to get more than an impression of the style. It's impossible to tell if I'd enjoy this or not. I learned more about the tale from the one-page ads in later issues than from the preview.
  • Crimson Hero: My other favorite story, about a girl determined to be a volleyball player despite her family's wishes. This has been a solid feature of this book.
  • Haruka: Beyond The Stream of Time: All the characters look the same, and it's difficult to tell who is male or female. And it's very fluffy and disconnected.
  • Honey and Clover: At times too fluffy, but overall fairly sweet and readable. The characters have distinct personalities, which sometimes doesn't seem to happen in shojo manga.
  • I-O-N (Preview): Another preview that's a little too short to figure out whether it's worth picking up.
  • Monkey High! (Preview): Now this is how a preview ought to be. Enough of the meat of the tale to know what it's going to be about, enough art to judge the style. It's a cute story, typical shojo. I suspect it will do well.
  • Sand Chronicles: Too much wishy-washy looking at the past. If the story didn't fall into retrospective in every single issue of the magazine, it wouldn't be so bad. But this one goes a little overboard with the "Oh, how neat things were in the past!" meme. Otherwise, a halfway decent story is buried in there.
  • Vampire Knight: I hated this when it started, but I've grown to almost appreciate it since. The main character is a wuss, and annoying. If she'd grow a spine, I think I might start to like this.
Overall, I'm not sure why I bother to subscribe to this anthology. Especially now that Absolute Boyfriend is ended. It doesn't have any one feature that I find so compelling that I have to buy the book, like with Shonen Jump. It's a smaller anthology than Shonen Jump, with less extras and a higher price tag. I tell myself I get it to keep my fingers on the pulse of manga, but I'm not really sure it's worth it.

I've said that I would buy Shonen Jump just for Hikaru No Go, so it's been fortunate for me that I also enjoy some of the other stories. The ones that have been in the book since I started reading it have grown on me. For the most part, I've been able to take these stories as they are intended (shonen=for boys) and appreciate the goofiness. Here's my thoughts on the stories I caught up with this week.
  • Bleach: This one is relatively new to Shonen Jump, and I can't say I like it. I tried reading the first volume some time ago and wasn't impressed. The chapters in Shonen Jump pick up in the middle, and while I try to read it, I'm still not drawn into it yet.
  • Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo: I can't stand this feature. It's poorly drawn, badly plotted, and generally stupid beyond any reasonable level of stupidity. I no longer bother to try to read it.
  • Hikaru No Go: My favorite tale, about an irresponsible kid who is possessed by an ancient master of Go, which changes his life. The last few installments have been REALLY interesting, as the Go master wants to take center stage, as he's been feeling out of the action.
  • Naruto: SJ took a short break from this feature to dump a whole lot of graphic novels on the fans, and get a bit ahead of the story. The new storyline is intriguing, and if they had to jump ahead, I think they did a good job with it.
  • One Piece: Ridiculous, silly, and at times hard to follow... but this one manages to be amusing and have a plotline as well. This one took a long time to grow on me, but I find it funny now.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: I enjoyed the original Yu-Gi-Oh to some extent, as it was a fairly compelling story with a nice history. A bit too much fighting, but most of these stories have too much fighting. This version, set later in time than the original, has it's high points as well.
  • YuYu Hakusho: This one seemed like entirely fighting for the first year or so that I read it. Now it's settling down a little into a bit more than that. Another one that's grown on me.
After I've read SJ and SB I donate the magazines to the local library for the young adult librarian to give away as prizes. I then buy the collections of Hikaru No Go for my library. In the future, I'm only going to be buying the collections, which means the librarian is out some prizes. Sorry, library.

No movie for this week thanks to a full weekend. Hubby-Eric did finish watching the extras on the Dreamgirls DVD set that we got from the library.

TV this week: Classic Doctor Who: "The Invisible Enemy" parts 1 & 2 (I haven't seen this story in ages, it's practically new to me), Robin Hood: "Ducking and Diving" (Josie Lawrence!), Smallville: "Fracture" (yawn), Dinner: Impossible: "Late for the Luau" (most of the foods don't appeal to me, but I'd love to smell them), Torchwood: "Dead Man Walking" (don't listen to headphones during an evacuation), Supernanny: "Wilson-Knutson Family" (poop and songs, a perfect combination!), Ghost Hunters International: "Frankenstein's Castle" (interesting EVP there... but I'm disturbed by one of the Ghost Hunter's disrespect for the location), American Gladiators: "Grand Finale" (rip-roaring fun, and not much else. But then, that's sports in a nutshell), and Ace of Cakes: "The Spy Who Caked Me" (that housekeeping staff has a lot to answer for).

Got the latest Fortean Times, #233, to hit the Americas. This one had a couple of intriguing bits. The cover story, about two Italian guys who listened to messages from space just as the space race was starting, was very interesting. Especially the bits about possibly lost cosmonauts. Yikes. It's certainly something I can imagine the USSR doing to prevent knowledge of its failures, but you would think that somebody would have come forward by now with some hint of what really happened... wouldn't you? I also enjoyed "Rock's greatest lightshow" in which it is theorized that Neolithic rock art was in part inspired by a Southern plasma lightshow, an auroral storm. There was some unexpected Johnny Cash, as well. The reviews weren't very captivating this time, but overall a good issue.

My library book this week was The Doctor Who Was Followed by Ghosts: The Family Saga of a Chinese Woman Doctor by Li Qunying and Louis Han. An excellent book, it's basically the story of a woman's life through the last 80 or so years of China's history. She joined the Communist Army as a teenager, served in Korea, became a doctor and had four children. She survived the Cultural Revolution, and her first-hand account of all the events are amazing and frightening. She brings history alive in this book, in a down-to-earth manner. While not everyone will love this one, it is worth reading. Particularly if you have only a little understanding of China's recent history.

This week's comics arrived a bit late for me... because I was sick and not able to get them the day they arrived in the shop, for once. How do you know Laura is really sick? She doesn't get her comics on Wednesday. Anyway, on to my thoughts on this books... Checkmate #23 lost me a bit. I remember the previous issues in which this character infiltrated Kobra, but I felt like it jumped too quickly into the new plot. I think maybe I'm being nitpicky. Moving on... Justice League of America #18 did nothing for me because I'm not paying attention to the whole salvation run series, or whatever it's called. The various crossovers in DC-land are getting too much. Speaking of crossovers, Brave and the Bold #10 was a solid little tale featuring an almost unknown Aquaman character and a major event in Aquaman's life. And Aqualad actually looked correct in this one, wonder of wonders.

The Spirit #14 was fun, as usual. The old folks home was a nice touch. Witchblade #115 was a standard day-in-the-life story, and worked for what it was. Art was too cheesecake-y, but not as bad as it has been in the past. Conan #49 had lots of gore and not much plot.