Archive for the '♦♦♦' Category

24th Mar 2011

Pen & Ink

Rating: ♦♦♦

I always kind of scoffed at the “How To” artbooks that get released. I have an art degree, I know how to draw. The only thing that improves your ability to draw is practice. You have to draw day in and day out, and draw everything you see. Then, eventually, you will start to get better at it. Yes, some people have an innate ability, but even people who profess that they can’t draw really can, once they practice and learn the connection between what your eyes see and how your hand moves.

What I really liked about this release is that it did stress the importance of practice. It had a week long list of exercises for getting used to using a pen, and a list of goals you were supposed to have achieved at the end of each exercise. Using pen and ink requires a completely different set of skills than sketching with a pencil or a marker.

The other nice thing this release covered was the use of tones. I’m lazy. If I’m going to use tones on something, I’m going to throw it in PhotoShop, and do it digitally – but this release gave instructions for using them from a pre-printed sheet. Also part of their weekly exercises was using cross-hatching to create your own gradient shading, instead of using tones. It’s nice to know all the different options that are available to artists.

I also appreciated the interviews with manga artists on how they use different materials to achieve different effects. While I don’t see myself running out to by a lot of the “How-To” books, this release has made me look at them in a bit more favorable light.

Posted by Cynthia | Posted in ♦♦♦, Miscellaneous, Various | 1 Comment »

05th Nov 2010

Stay Close To Me

Rating: ♦♦♦

I knew I was familiar with this artist, I just wasn’t sure where I knew her from. Because I’m too lazy to get up and search through my bookshelves when I’m reading a release, I didn’t realize that this was the artist behind Tea for Two until I sat down to write the review.

While this release has all of the charm of Tea for Two, it is a little lacking in the smut department. Don’t get me wrong, it’s disgustingly cute, but after reading Under Grand Hotel, Kizuna and Finder this week, being presented with a release with all sex being done with a fade to black, I’m just a bit jaded.

Yuzu has always looked up to Icchan, starting back in elementary school when Icchan stuck up for Yuzu. Now that they’re in high school, the problem is that Yuzu still wants to look up to Icchan, and be his princess, but that’s kind of hard to do when you’re much taller than the object of your affections.

It’s cute. It’s fluffy. It’s really well done with some great comedic twists – just don’t go into this one expecting porn.

Posted by Cynthia | Posted in ♦♦♦, Sakuragi, Yaya, Stay Close To Me | Comments Off on Stay Close To Me

26th Sep 2010

How to Control a Sidecar

Rating: ♦♦♦

Tateno is the perfect example of a manga artist taking a BL trope that I should be exhausted with, and managing to keep my interest all the way through.

In this release, we have the straight bartender, Kousaka, fending off seduction from the cute Fumi and bold Kanashiro. But, after Kousaka reads the two incorrectly, he ends up sending Fumi off, heartbroken, and ends up being raped by Kanashiro. Then after threatening Kanashiro with the police, finds that he misses the two of them, and ends up falling of Kanashiro.

Ahh, the wonders of BL, where rape leads to true love. You know, if this wasn’t done so well, I would be getting on my little feminist soap-box and ranting about how brutal rape is and how this is a trigger for so many people, and how we should never be using it as an element in fantasy… Yet, it is just a fantasy, and it’s something that Tateno handles deftly enough to make me look past it, and accept it as part of the BL fantasy.

This isn’t a great release. This is not going to end up on my list of top-ten manga that’s been released this year, but it was a fun read, and it was nice to get back to some of the characters that we were introduced to in How to Capture a Martini. I got a half an hour of happy, escapist fluff. Most of the time, that’s all I really want in a manga.

Posted by Cynthia | Posted in ♦♦♦, How To Control a Sidecar, Tateno, Makoto | 1 Comment »

26th Sep 2010

Cake

Rating: ♦♦♦

I really, really wanted to like this book more than I did. I mean, what’s there not to like about pretty boy vampires, screwing madly? Believe me, the book had quite a bit of that – I guess I was just expecting more from it, knowing how pleased I was with SL Publishings first release, Cethe.

Cake was just a little too over the top for me. Things were resolved too neatly. The main character was too pretty. I think part of this stems from the book being written in first person narrative. I always feel that writing in the first person lends itself to edging into Mary-Sue territory, even if the author has no intention of going there.

Cake revolves around a legally blind, fat, nasty, computer programmer who is kidnapped by a vampire and turned into the perfect submissive, after he is caught preforming some industrial sabotage. After the vampire, Marcus, whittles our programmer into the perfect submissive (looks and all) he is given the choice of becoming a vampire, or staying a human and staying a sex toy.

Programmer-boy chooses to be a vamp, but instead of becoming Marcus’ equal. We find that he’s the last of the lost Blue Bloodline of a Royal House of vampires.

See what I mean about taking it a step too far.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy this book, and won’t be buying the next one when it comes out in print – it’s just not going to be on my list of all time favorite books. Snake has an amazing imagination, and while her books are an enjoying read, they could benefit from paring down of all the ideas that she’s trying to cram into one novel.

Posted by Cynthia | Posted in ♦♦♦, Cake, Snake, Derekica | 3 Comments »

07th Sep 2010

Junjo Romantica 12

Rating: ♦♦♦

As much as I enjoy this series, it is starting to wear a bit thin on me. Yes it’s cute, yes Misaki is unbelievably adorable, yes it’s fun to see his lover molest the hell out of him. But, it’s the same thing we’ve seen for the past 11 volumes. They just don’t seem to get past the stumbling block of Misaki being able to commit to Usagi, and while this leads to comedic gold, it doesn’t lend itself to much plot development. Which, is why I’ve been slightly cranky with this series for the past few volumes.

Not cranky enough to stop buying it, mind you, but cranky enough that I do stop and think about how much money I want to invest in this series before it either jumps the shark, or I lose interest. The cute factor is a big part of why I do keep investing in this series. As cranky as I can get with it, it always does make me laugh.

So, this time, Misaki’s getting ready to graduate from college, and is getting pressure from all around him as to what he’s going to do with his life after college. Usagi would like nothing better than to have him continue as he as been. Cleaning and cooking for him, and having lots of wildly hot sex. But, this being BL and Junjo Romantica, things aren’t quite that simple.

Unfortunately, we have to wait until the next volume, to see if there will be any resolution. The only thing we get out of this volume is some lovely pervy sex, and a promise of a trip to meet Misaki’s favorite manga artist.

I’m going to keep reading and enjoying this series, but it does get hard when every single volume seems to re-tread over the same circumstances and problems.

At least it’s still cute as hell.

Posted by Cynthia | Posted in ♦♦♦, Junjo Romantica, Nakamura, Shungiku | 2 Comments »

13th Jun 2010

Otodama, Voice From The Dead 1

Rating: ♦♦♦

Because of the plagiarism scandal, I have a love/hate relationship with Youka Nitta. On one hand, I love her stories. I enjoy her character designs, and when she’s writing BL, it can be utterly filthy, and it’s wonderful. On the other hand, she’s traced some of her best images from fashion photography. So, while I did enjoy this release, in the back of my mind I’m wondering how much of it was her talent, and how much was taken from outside sources.

Now, this is not a BL release. This kind of sucks, because I could have really used some of her smut styling right about now. Still, I’m going to take it for what it is, a gorgeously drawn murder mystery with pretty boys and an ambiguous relationship. This really does beg to be slashed, and slashed well.

There’s Kaname, a man who can hear things most other’s can not. His hearing is so sensitive, that he can hear the screams of the dead. His friend, Hide, used to work with Kaname for the police, but now both have left the force and are trying their hands at other careers.

Hide is trying his hand at being a private detective, which brings him in contact with a lot of murder victims, which brings him into closer contact with Kaname.

Kaname likes to keep Hide around, because unlike most of the population who’s voices sound distorted, Hide’s sounds clear and true to him.

See what I mean about the slashy bits?

It’s pretty. It’s a fun read, and I’m going to enjoy the rest of the series if it continues in this vein. I just can’t get the nagging thoughts of this not fully being the work of Youka Nitta out of my head, and that’s spoiling the fun for me.

Posted by Cynthia | Posted in ♦♦♦, Nitta, Youka, Otodama, Voice from the Dead | 4 Comments »

16th May 2010

Breath 1

Rating: ♦♦♦

This book has been sitting in my To-Be-Read pile since it came out. I kept getting distracted by other releases, and passing this one over in favor of artists I was familiar with. Now that I’ve broken down and read it, I have mixed feelings. I liked it. It was nicely graphic. The only thing that bothered me a bit was the forcing of our lovely uke-boy into happy butt-sex land.

Now, we all know that in the world of BL, forcing your lover into intimacy = TRUE LOVE – so this is something that I’m used to. It just makes me pause for a minute, when I’m reading a story like this. In any other genre I would be ready to throw the book against the wall, but in BL, I just accept it as happy-fun-time. Weird how this genre messes with your brain like that.

So, there’s Yanagi, who picks up a pretty young man at a bar. Yanagi, looking for nothing more than a night of fun, invites the young man back to a hotel room. There, he discovers that our drunken uke-boy is a virgin, and spends the rest of the night playing with his new toy.

All well and good, right? Well the next morning, our young ex-virgin isn’t too pleased to wake up next to Yanagi. He cusses Yanagi out, and rushes out of the room.

Now, Yanagi is a bit perturbed at this. He had a great night, and wasn’t expecting a boatload of drama, so he sets out to find his mystery man. The mystery man, Arata, is the twin brother of a bartender that Yanagi knows, and is horrified at his behavior.

Now that Yanagi knows who he is, he’s going to leverage Arata’s request for secrecy to have him at his beck and call. But, when things start to get intense, both Yanagi and Arata have to question their motives.

I’m not sure if I’m going to pick up the rest of this series, but I have to admit to being curious as to where they’re going with this. Well, aside from the happy ever after and declarations of true love. That’s standard. I’m curious to see just how much angst there’s going to be while they’re getting there.

Posted by Cynthia | Posted in ♦♦♦, Breath, Ochi, Chifumi | 2 Comments »

24th Mar 2010

Love/Knot

Rating: ♦♦♦

I just like assassins. I don’t really care what shape or form they’re in, I just like them. So, a story revolving around a runaway from a secret government lab, and the assassin who takes him in, makes me a very happy Cyn. Oh, and did I mention that this young runaway has ESP? All the things that make me happy in one release.

Keigo is mainly known as a private detective, but moonlights as an assassin for hire. As he’s returning home one night, he finds a smelly, disheveled waif on his doorstep. He takes the boy in, offers him a bath and crash space for the night. Surprisingly, the boy then asks him if he can stay there indefinitely. Keigo is a bit flummoxed by this, but after the waif points him in the right direction on a case, he agrees.

Emiya, our little waif, just has something about him that charms the crap out of him. It’s a good thing that he’s charming, too, as he’s useless around the house. It turns out that Emiya is a refugee from a government lab. He has the ability to ascertain information about a person, just by touching an object.

Now, obviously, the secret government project wants their little lab-rat back. The problem is that as the relationship between Keigo and Emiya has blossomed, Emiya has lost his powers. True love has wiped him clean, and restored him to being a regular human.

My main complaints with this one, is that things got wrapped up too neatly. I know that Happy Ever Afters are the norm in this genre, but when you’ve got assassins and secret government agencies, I expect there to be ongoing conflict. One feeble kidnapping attempt just doesn’t ring true for me.

Even with that complaint, it’s cute, and kinda fluffy – even with the assassin. I’m not sure I’m madly in love with this one, but it did make me smile. Most days, that’s really all I want my manga to do.

Posted by Cynthia | Posted in ♦♦♦, Ishimaru, Hiroko, Love/Knot | 2 Comments »

17th Jan 2010

Love Full of Scars

Rating: ♦♦♦

I have to give Net Comics a lot of credit for releasing stuff that’s a little left of center. After being inundated with school boys, it’s nice to have something that breaks away from the pack, and shows relationships with a twist.

From transvestites, to street punks to drivers-ed instructors, this is not what I would normally expect to see in a BL release.

It’s also handled very deftly, with a touch of humor. The characters know that they can be ridiculous, and march straight up to the line of being over the top, without crossing over and becoming caricatures of themselves.

My only problem is that it’s an anthology. I would love to see what this author could do given a whole book in which to grow the characters with. There’s only so much character development you can get in 15 pages – and there in lies my problem with anthologies.

I love series that take volumes to tell a story. I want to get to know every aspect of a characters life. I don’t want to be introduced to a character, find out I really like them, and then have to be done with them and introduced to a new one, all in the span of 15 pages.

If there is a release of this artist’s work that is a full story, and not just an anthology, I will be lining up to buy it.

Pick this one up, if only to be introduced to a new artist that you’re not familiar with, just try to not fall in love with the characters. With an anthology, you’re just setting yourself up for heartbreak.

Posted by Cynthia | Posted in ♦♦♦, Delico, Psyche, Love Full of Scars | 2 Comments »

11th Jan 2010

Merry Family Plan

Rating: ♦♦♦

This is a prime example of how great art will make a release. The stories are cute, but even though they touch on subjects that some manga steer clear of (enemas anyone?), on their own, they’re really not that special.

Yet, when you throw in art that brings out the inherent cuteness in the stories, and it turns reading this release into something that’s pure please. Something that’s almost guaranteed to make you smile.

It’s an anthology release, and while I do get tired of those after a while, it is a great way to get introduced to an artist, and their style. This release has stories that are slightly graphic, and stories that are perfectly tame.

I’m always happily surprised when I end up liking a release more than I think I’m going to, and this one managed to surprise me in the best way.

Posted by Cynthia | Posted in ♦♦♦, Merry Family Plan, Morozumi, Sumitomo | 1 Comment »

11th Jan 2010

Junjo Romantica 11

Rating: ♦♦♦

We’re at that point in a series where I start to get bored. I know the characters, I know how they’re going to act in most situations, and I know that we’re going to have a happy ending.
While I still crack a grin at some of Misaki’s misadventures, it’s getting old.

Now, knowing how good this series is, I’m sure that it will pick back up in a few volumes.
But, right now, it’s just pages of drabble, interspersed with some flashes of smut.

There’s the normal Akihiko family drama, with Misaki feeling overwhelmed, and Usagi having to make things better. Then Usagi’s cousin moves in, and develops a crush on Usagi, leaving Misaki floundering, once again.

Jealousy, chocolate and teddy bears rule this volume, and while it’s cute, it’s an overdose of sweetness.

I may back off of this series for a while, or at least just stick to the anime, until I can appreciate its form of insanity again.

Posted by Cynthia | Posted in ♦♦♦, Junjo Romantica, Nakamura, Shungiku | 1 Comment »