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Sunday, 12 June 2016

The Fantastic First Volume: Mangas

Looking for a new manga to embark on? These are a couple of my favourites, reviewed for their first volumes only (though I've read on with many of them). None of this 'oh it gets better later on' stuff. These mangas start being fantastic from the first line. Hope you enjoy them!

Tokyo Ghoul – Sui Ishida

I have recently finished reading the volume 5 and let me tell you, if the bookshop was still open I’d be back down there buying the next one! It’s got a strong story line; one that makes you question right and wrong. After being attacked by a ghoul, Ken Kaneki becomes the only half-ghoul half-human hybrid. The story follows him learning about another side of the monsters that he’d never considered before and trying to survive in both their world and the human one.

It also has a brilliant protagonist already. Kanaki is that mix of brave and weak that I really crave in a lead character. He’s weak physically. He’s weak because he’s over powered by the ghoul’s instincts.

But he is so strong as well.

He’s strong morally and resists eating humans as long as possible. He’s strong in that he stands up against opposition. He stands up against other ghouls that tell him to just get it over with and eat somebody. He’s strong in his new found powers.

The art is beautiful. There is a particularly brilliant sequel of panels at the end of the first chapter in which the doctors save his life and thus transform him into a half ghoul. I liked the picture of the ghoul girl Rize with her hands over his eyes. The style of the title page for the first chapter is also nicely done and has quite a soft look about it in comparison to the style of the manga.

There is fighting! There is action! Both of which are relevant to the story (no needless violence here!) and play out smoothly. Frankly, I found some of the fight scenes exhilarating.

This is most definitely worth a read.

Red River – Chie Shinohara

This story is everything I love all smushed into one book. I first read it online as it is not very widely available in my country but have rectified that mistake via Amazon. The story line is magical. Magic is one of my all-time loves in stories. Yuuri (the leading lady) is taken from 21st Century Japan and transported through time to be used as a sacrifice in an ancient civilization. Bingo! Magic! Love status has been achieved!

The first problem Yuuri encounters is the obvious. A very powerful evil queen wants to use her as a sacrifice. In fact this queen wants to kill her so badly because if she does then her son is certain to become king, even though he is currently only 6th in line.

The next thing I love about this, aside from the magic and evilly brilliant plot lines, is the passionate love story between Yuuri and prince Kail. It’s beautifully presented, yet modest in the way it is drawn.

Incredible artwork is also a must for this devastatingly romantic story! The panels are well laid out and the style is pretty and a very good representation of the mangaka’s skill. The backgrounds and the exotic dress is what really hit me here however, as each costume and set layout are so precise and detailed they really add the finishing touches to this amazing manga.

While the series is a little old now (I don’t think it is still in print) I would well recommend finding it online!

Skip Beat – Yoshiki Nakamura

I know that this post is supposed to be just the first volumes of mangas, but Skip Beat was so incredibly un-put-down-able that I’ve read every chapter that has been released in English so far! God I love this book. Thanks to it being a work-in-progress series I’m can’t spoil the ending for you, but it just gets deeper and better as it goes on.

Okay, back to volume one. The story is about Kyoko Mogami, a young girl who has been used as a house maid by her childhood friend Sho, as he achieves stardom. Thankfully, Sho’s deception is discovered fairly quickly on, and the story follows Kyoko as she tries to get revenge on him by any means possible!

Unfortunately for her, Sho has already become famous in Japan as a singer, and Kyoko can no longer get close enough to throttle him, so she decides to get her revenge by becoming an even bigger star and booting him from the show biz world!

This manga is hilarious from the beginning. Kyoko is such a dynamic and passionate character that she could bring a smile to anyone’s face. She has these little Kyoko-demons which I adore, and she uses to unleash fury upon the other characters too.

The art, as with all of my top 5 choices, is spectacular. I love the way the mangaka does eyes, especially Kyoko’s, as they are big and detailed without being too cartoon like. There is also a nice series of panels where Kyoko is listening on Sho’s conversation with his manager that I particularly like.

It’s a brilliant series about one woman trying desperately to stamp out her own naiveté about love.

Naruto – Masashi Kishimoto

Damn, Naruto is that manga that you think will be an entertaining, funny ninja comic but actually surprises you with attacks of the feels and brilliant portrayals of emotions that will hack your heart out with a metaphorical axe.

I’m going to start with the art style this time, as there is one scene that struck me as so beautifully drawn I have to comment on it. When main character Naruto cries, it is the most honest representation of tears I have ever seen in a manga. That picture of his face scrunched up looks so detailed and so life-like that it broke something inside of me. Don’t get me wrong. The mangaka does draw beautifully all the way through and her style is definitely manga, but the expression was so open and accurate it made me cry.

This was of course partly due to the story as well. Naruto feels something that we all experience at some point in our lives. He feels universally hated. He feels lonely and unloved from the very beginning of the story, yet has such a cheerful mask of indifference you really can’t tell.

He’s been shunned by the village hidden in the leaves for longer than he can remember, but doesn’t realize why. When he fails his ninja exams, an instructor convinces him to steal a sacred scroll from the hokage, with the promise that if he learns one of the techniques on it, he will be automatically passed.

His tutor, Iruka is sent out to try and capture Naruto, and finds him practicing by himself. Mizuki, the instructor that told Naruto about the scroll drops in on the two of them and tries to kill Naruto, revealing his intention to steal the scroll himself. Out of spite Mizuki also reveals to Naruto the reason why the villagers hate him. Cue all of my feels pouring out.

The series covers Naruto’s adventures as a ninja, including fights against enemy ninjas and battles against his rival Sasuke!

There are devastatingly sad moments as well as laugh out loud funny parts. Put together 
they make a really beautiful story.

Inuyasha – Rumiko Takahashi 

Inuyasha is quite a long haul manga, and one that I used for this post because I think people are sometimes put off from starting it once they realise quite how lengthy it is. From the fact that it has made it onto this post we can assume that I did go past the first volume (though I have yet to finish the series, sorry!) and enjoyed every single hour of it. Yes, hours. I didn’t stop reading for hours.

Again, Inuyasha has a beautiful art style and also a very unique one. The images look a lot like paintings and all have that soft edged look that I can’t get enough of, only all the way through. The picture that struck me in the first volume was the very first moment when Kagome Higarashi, our protagonist, discovers the half-dog-demon Inuyasha bound to a tree by a sacred arrow.

After stumbling through a well and into feudal era Japan, Kagome is forced to run for her life from an insect like demon. The demon was awoken by the presence of the shikon jewel, or the jewel of four souls, inside Kagome, which had disappeared from their world over 50 years ago. When she discovers inuyasha, he offers to help her, as long as she releases him from his wrongful imprisonment. Unfortunately, one battle later and the shikon jewel is shattered and the fragments shoot off to Lord knows where, so Inuyasha and a rather reluctant Kagome begin their adventures battling demons and collecting the shards.

As I’ve said, those shards have gone all over the place, and it does take the duo a while to discover them all, but it is well worth the time to read!

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