Karneval First Impressions (Omnibus Volumes 1-4)

I’ll never get the manga magazine industry. I do understand that whatever manga stays and goes depends on popular vote, but sometimes, it’s really astonishing when something that isn’t all that popular somehow manages to survive for a long time. Seraph of the End and Twin Star Exorcists come to mind. But what about Karneval, published in omnibus form by Yen Press?

In Karneval, a boy named Nai is captured and almost sexually assaulted by some rich woman (who is, apparently, also a mutant of some kind). He’s saved by a dude named Gareki, who notices a necklace on Nai’s person: an I.D. bracelet of someone in the secret service known as Circus. According to Nai, a friend of his, named Karoku, possessed this bracelet (somehow), and wants to find him. So, the two boys team up to seek out this dude, and inevitably get involved in a whole bunch of stuff along with Circus themselves.

Karneval is basically a battle shounen manga that tries to be story driven. There is a lot of plot that gets covered in each chapter… almost too much at once. If I may touch on the artwork early, the panel flow is very wonky, as it cuts away to scenes more abruptly than Family Guy. A lot of times, there’ll be a fight scene happening, and then suddenly, two completely separate people will talk about something that has nothing to do with the fight at all!

Despite the weird cuts, Karneval has a pretty standard issue story. Most of the intrigue revolves around Nai’s strange hearing ability, among other things, as well as what Karoku’s deal is. It progresses towards answering these questions, while asking new ones, at a pretty steady pace. The Circus spaceships are also pretty cool. They’re basically flying mansions that are managed by robot bunny rabbits. Karneval also has a cool explanation for how they get their fantasy superpowers.

The characters are, sadly, pretty unremarkable. Nai is the worst of the bunch, as he is just a weak kid who only exists for his plot relevance. He’s obsessed with Karoku, to the point where it gets super annoying, and he’s also just… dumb; not in the fun way. Gareki is just the designated cool dude, with no real personality. These two protagonists are also lacking in the power progression department. Gareki doesn’t even start his first training arc until the fourth omnibus (volumes 7-8), and Nai is pure baggage, who is incapable of defending himself in any capacity whatsoever.

The people in Circus that they meet are basically just various character tropes. Yogi is the aloof guy, Tsukumo is the loli, Eva is the busty older sister, Hirato is the nonchalant guy… It’s an understatement to say that you’ve likely seen this before.

As for the art, Karneval looks kind of like a shoujo manga when it comes to the shapes of the characters’ faces. Fortunately, they (at least the ones in Circus) are VERY well-dressed. The mangaka creases the clothes so much that your mother will want them to put their clothes back in the dryer. The only issue with the clothing choice is that there are at least three guys in tuxedos and top hats, and I get them very easily confused with one another.

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Current Verdict: 6/10

Is there something I’m not getting? Karneval has been running for thirteen years and counting, yet it’s kind of meh. It’s not the worst manga ever, but that doesn’t make it a masterpiece. If you just want to kick back and relax with a whacky battle shounen manga, then Karneval is there for you.

Radiant First Impressions (Vol.1-7)

I’m not a very good artist. What’s worse, whenever I’ve tried to draw manga, it somehow comes out looking Western, even though I don’t like how most Western GNs look! Maybe I should take lessons from Toni Valente, a French mangaka, whose ongoing series, Radiant, actually managed to get an anime adaption in Japan. Viz Media has brought us English speakers this series, so let’s see if it’s any good.

In Radiant, the world is plagued by Nemesis, who is not a hungry waifu, but a hungry race of demons. These demons are repelled by wizards, who sadly, only earn blatant disrespect from citizens and the Inquisition. But hey, Seth has a dream, and it’s to defeat the Nemeses at the source; the mythical, titular realm known as Radiant.

It’s not surprising that Radiant is a battle shounen, which is the most internationally recognized (and almost synonymous with) anime genre of all time. Fortunately, Radiant actually manages to capture the spirit of the genre in a way that doesn’t come off as mockery.

In fact, it feels almost too shounen-esque, as in- say it with me- it’s a bit generic. Valente doesn’t really put any “French”-ness in this manga at all (I know that Hiro Mashima said that there is in one of the afterwords, but I have no clue what he’s seeing that I’m not). The comedy and personality are all there, but it’s stuff you’ve seen before. I guess I’ve learned that humans really, truly all have the same desires and interests when it comes down to brass tacks.

Some of the characters are pretty uninspired. Seth is a generic battle shounen boy, Doc is comic relief, and Grimm is the mysterious guy. The series is at least graced by the presence of Best Girl Melie, who is a spiritual successor of Lunch from Dragon Ball in that she has a crazy good and crazy mean split personality. She’s just about as much of a hoot as Lunch was, and she’s still pretty powerful even when she’s in nice mode. Strangely enough, most of the minor characters seem to have the more interesting personalities, such as the conman headmaster of the Artemis Institute, or this old guy who can never list off two reasons for anything without mumbling the second one. 

At the very least, Radiant is set in a lovely world. Every town is situated on a sky island of some sort, like in Zelda Skyward Sword, and each island has its own distinct personality. There are also some fun setpieces down on Earth itself, such as a forest which acts as the hyperbolic time chamber from Dragon Ball.

The art in Radiant is great. Valente clearly understands the subtle distinctions that make a manga a manga and a comic a comic, and is able to make something that is clearly the former while also giving it its own style. The character designs are great and their faces are super expressive. If only I could be just as good…

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Current Verdict: 7.75/10

Radiant is a good manga from an unexpected source, but said unexpected source is really the only thing it has going for it. If you just handed this to me with no context, I would’ve seen a fun but typical battle shounen manga. Read it if you want, but there are many better works from Japan: the country that understands manga better than anywhere else.

Dead Mount Death Play First Impressions (Volumes 1-3)

Edgelords are a really popular market no matter where you’re from. Regardless of how kids are raised, a primal urge that goes back to when people would pay to watch Romans slaughter each other makes us yearn for media with wonton violence, gratuitous sexualization, and morally incorrect protagonists, all against our better judgement. It’s such a big market that I feel like I’ve tagged at least twenty of my posts as “edgy”, and I’m running out of insightful ways to describe the genre. So let’s turn off our lights, put up our hoods, and dive into Dead Mount Death Play, the newest manga by the creator of Durarara!!, published in English by Yen Press.

In Dead Mount Death Play, a powerful necromancer called the Corpse God is engaged in battle with his enemy. Right when Mr. Corpse is about to be slain, he uses reincarnation magic to be reborn in the body of Polka Shinoyama, a boy in modern Japan who has just been murdered. The new Polka has a run in with his killer, Misaki Sakimiya, and after killing her and turning her into a zombie, he joins her in her exploits (i.e. killing people for money).

Well, what else can I say? We have literal villains as the main protagonists; it doesn’t get edgier than that. Sure, they have tragic backstories, but who doesn’t these days? 

Unlike Durarara!!, DMDP seems to have a more focused narrative so far. But at the same time, I don’t know what the author wants to do with it. The main conflict revolves around issues in Polka’s family, as well as the exploits of various criminals, such as the bandage-covered Lemmings. It’s a pretty simple plot, but I found it really difficult to tell who’s working for whom (maybe that’s the point?). The intrigue ramps up at the end of volume 3, so maybe it’s just hit its turning point.

But hey, this is our boy Narita, the creator of Durarara!!, here. That means the best part of DMDP is the cast, right? Eeeeeeh… sadly, not quite. Corpse God/Polka is basically your generic, emotionally insecure edgelord, who only stands out thanks to the slit in his throat. I forgot most of the other characters’ names, such as Occulus-wearing guy who is basically the brains of the people that Misaki works for, and these two police officers who are kind of just there. Misaki’s supervisor, Clarissa, is basically your fanservice character (who sometimes has uncensored sex with some of her other employees. Watch out for that). The best character is definitely Misaki herself. She is both ditzy and insane, with by far the best character design out of the lot. Also, she’s a zombie, which makes her extra appealing for those with a monster girl fetish.

The art varies a lot. Most of the time, it’s your standard manga art. But sometimes, it’s like, “Oh hey, here’s something with a lot of linework in it!” Overall, it looks good, but I’ve definitely seen better.

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Current Verdict: 7.6/10

No writer has to worry more about topping a popular series than that series’ own creator. I likely expected a bit much from Narita, especially given that he’s working on other stuff at the same time as this. Furthermore, Durarara!!‘s greatest strength is in it’s prose, which naturally, would end up being lacking in a manga. DMDP is your typical edgelord fare. You’ll know if you’d like it just by looking at the cover art.

For the Kid I Saw in My Dreams First Impressions (Volumes 1-3)

It’s been a couple of years since I read the manga, Erased. But from what I can remember, it was a pleasantly surprising suspense manga with a supernatural twist (although I don’t quite get why people love it like SO much). “Why are you talking about Erased?” you ask. Well, the mangaka of Erased is publishing a new series, For the Kid I Saw in My Dreams, which has recently been released in North America by Yen Press. So, I’m gonna talk about it for a bit.

In this manga, Senri Nakajou is the sole survivor of an attack on his family that results in his parents’ and twin brother’s deaths. His only memory of the killer is a series of scars on his arm that read “fire”, earning the killer the name Fire Man. Years later, he catches a glimpse of said man again, and begins a slow descent into madness trying to track the killer down.

Right off the bat, I can’t really tell what the author is trying to do with this manga. Similar to Erased, the main character’s goal is to track down a murderer… again! Also, there are abusive parents… AGAIN! I can’t fault someone for sticking with what they do best, but For the Kid I Saw in My Dreams is a bit TOO much like Erased for those reasons.

Like the author’s previous work, For the Kid I Saw in My Dreams is best when it’s strictly being an old-school suspense manga. It doesn’t take long at all for the search for Fire Man to get really complicated, as Senri isn’t the only one who’s after his head, and Senri’s family aren’t his only victims. A development at the end of volume 2 adds a cherry even more to the top of the existing mystery cake.

Unfortunately, For the Kid I Saw in My Dreams isn’t too great in the character department. Senri is just a generic angsty boy who slowly loses direction on his moral compass, and it’s not a particularly interesting instance of this character type. The female lead, Enan, seems to be someone who exists just to tell him that what he’s doing is morally incorrect (as if it weren’t obvious enough). Both kids have abusive parents in their lives, and between this and Erased, it seems that the author uses this trope to give us easily sympathizable characters. I hate assuming intentions, but that’s what my critic-brain tells me.

The art is no different from Erased, which is good or bad depending on how you feel about it. The girls still have those nice, full lips; your mileage may vary on that. Admittedly, this artstyle really isn’t the best for a suspense manga, but it at least has a distinct look.

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Current Verdict: 7.3/10

I don’t know what it is, but For the Kid I Saw in My Dreams just doesn’t quite seem to cut it for me. Maybe my standards for suspense have grown too high after reading some of Naoki Urasawa’s stuff? Well, if you love Erased as much as the next guy, then this manga should be just about as good. 

MachiMaho First Impressions (Volumes 1-4)

Every so you often, you get someone’s attempt at making the Magical Girl genre “edgy”. Results have varied wildly over the years, to say the least. To list some examples, Magical Girl Apocalypse went full edgy, not even trying to have a cohesive narrative of any sort, and Magical Girl Spec Ops took itself more seriously, trying to showcase the aftereffects of war trauma on people and society. But what if you just simply turned Sailor Moon’s simple premise on its head? That’s what happens in MachiMaho: I Messed Up and Made the Wrong Person Into a Magical Girl!, published in English by Seven Seas.

In MachiMaho, the usual space cat goes to seek out a chosen girl who is destined to fight a force of one-dimensionally evil demons. But instead of running into an adorable ditz that any twelve-year-old can relate to, he finds Majiba Kayo, a brash young teen whose hobbies include smoking and punching. She doesn’t even remotely want to become a Magical Girl, but her insane negative energy is attracting massive hordes of demons to her, so… She kinda has to at this point.

This premise is the kind of stupid that I enjoy seeing, and it’s even similar to a Magical Girl series I tried to write several years ago. But of course, execution is what counts, and while I ultimately scrapped mine because it sucked, MachiMaho soared to dazzling heights.

And good thing it did, because the story… isn’t really that interesting. Like I said in the premise, the demons are one-dimensionally evil, similar to Sailor Moon‘s almost indistinguishable antagonists. It doesn’t really stir up any intrigue either, other than some hints for what Majiba’s past could’ve been like.

So with a story that’s bunk, what’s left to enjoy? Well, the characters, for starters. If you couldn’t tell from the cover art, almost every egg is put into Majiba’s basket; about as many eggs as what Gaston eats every day. To put it in non-Disney terms, Majiba is the Magical Girl protagonist that we needed all this time. She’s selfish, temperamental, and cusses almost as often as she smokes. “Uh all of these make her sound like a horrible person,” you point out. If you said that, then you must be new to my blog. Some of my favorite main characters have been very… morally incorrect, to say the least, and Majiba’s no different. I love her!

Of course, there are still other characters. There’s Myu, the space cat that tends to be a punching bag that makes an intentionally overabundant amount of cat puns. We also have a rival character in Shusai Nako, a Dark Magical Girl who gets manipulated by her demon, Mon-chan, into thinking that Majiba is evil. We also can’t forget Kuwabara-wannabe Masanido Rei, who despite coming off as weak, can actually hold his own somehow.

More than anything else, the art is what makes MachiMaho so good. From the expressiveness of the characters, to the insane action panels, the art really brings out the edginess in MachiMaho. The best panels are the ones where Majiba smokes and it has the words “HOLY SHIT” written with hearts and sparkles around it. The art does seem a bit TOO similar to Magical Girl Apocalypse, but there really is no other way to draw an edgy Magical Girl series and sell it well besides this.

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Current Verdict: 9/10 

I daresay that MachiMaho is perhaps the greatest entry in the entire Magical Girl genre. It’s fun, stupid, and full of teen angst. I’d even argue that more girls could relate to it than Sailor Moon. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see wild and crazy action!

Saint Young Men First Impressions (Volumes 1-4)

I’ve heard mixed things about Christianity, and know a limited amount of only one country’s iteration of Buddhism. As such, I had no idea what I was getting into when I began to read Saint Young Men, published in English by Kodansha Comics. 

“Christianity? Buddhism? What does any of that have to do with this?” you ask. Well, this manga is set in modern Japan, like your usual manga. It’s about two guys renting an apartment together during their vacation there, see. Those two roomies are none other than Jesus Christ and Buddha. 

At the very least, you don’t need to do research on either religions, for the translators have already done it for you. There are notes in every volume on all the religious references to help you understand what’s going on. Thank God too… for there’s a LOT of stuff to get, especially since Buddhism in particular varies between countries, and this Buddha seems to encapsulate a little of everything.

Let me just say that this is one of the most unique comedic portrayals of religious figures that I have ever seen. In Western culture, most interpretations of religious figures (particularly Jesus) that I’ve seen in pop culture have been done in comedic matters that try to be funny by being offensive on purpose, such as that iconic Family Guy episode where Jesus chainsmokes and is kind of an A-hole (for the record, I do know about the movie, Jesus of Nazareth, but in this post I’m talking about more fictional portrayals). By comparison, Saint Young Men is a simple portrayal of these two kind of just being regular guys; they are on vacation after all. 

With this being a slice-of-life, the characters are where it’s at, since you need incentive to read about people doing boring everyday stuff. In Saint Young Men, Jesus and Buddha are genuinely good friends, which- intentional or not- promotes a social commentary to where people of different faiths can exist in harmony together. I find their interactions to be similar to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. Jesus is aloof and acts more like Laurel, while Buddha plays the straight man and behaves more like Hardy (although he too is a bit of a goofball). Their relationship is fun and wholesome, and gives Saint Young Men a refreshing and relaxing feel. 

As for the art, Saint Young Men is very simple. It reminds me of the Descending Stories manga I covered a while back, but since this manga isn’t as serious, the style doesn’t clash. The characters are very expressive, and the panel flow is strong. 

The one nitpick that I have with Saint Young Men is Jesus and Buddha being in it. “But you just said-” Allow me to explain! As previously mentioned, I’m not at all offended by these figures’ portrayal. However, their existence seems a bit… marketable. Regardless of if the mangaka genuinely wants to make a great manga with this premise, the presence of these figures inherently makes Saint Young Men an easy impulse buy (it worked on me, even). If I merely described it as “two guys live together in a flat in Tokyo”, would you be interested? Probably not. Maybe you’d be interested if I said “a Christian man and a Buddhist man live together in a flat in Tokyo”, but regardless, the actual content of the manga isn’t that much different from a bog-standard slice-of-life. There isn’t even any commentary on the social state of the figures’ respective religions, which might be a turn-off for people who like that kind of stuff. 

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Current Verdict: 8.4/10

Saint Young Men is a great manga. It’s a fun, fluffy comedy about two gods living life. Of course, you will need a mind as open as Breath of the Wild’s overworld in order to enjoy it.

Plunderer First Impressions (Volumes 1-3)

Fanservice and edginess have always been a point of contention in the anime community. Good thing the Winter 2020 anime season will grace us with Plunderer, a series that has both. Today, I will cover all of the source manga material that Yen Press has published thus far.

In a world where you’re born with a number indicating the amount of times you’ve done something, and can command anyone with a lower number than yours, moe-blob Hina seeks out the Fabled Ace of the Waste War… for some reason (probably has to do with her mom getting sucked into a black hole). She finds this Ace, named Licht Bach, but he’s a super edgelord and leaves the scene after saving her life (told you he’s an edgelord). 

If I were to describe Plunderer at this juncture, I would call it a modern take on old-school battle shounen manga, like InuYasha, YuYu Hakusho, and Ruroni Kenshin. Its artstyle, which I’ll get to later, is a big reason, but it’s more so because it shares the “lead female protagonist is a damsel in distress” trope with the aforementioned manga . As a side note, those manga are- ironically enough- among my least favorite battle shounen of all time. I am aware that modern manga can treat its women as objects to “protecc” in the same way as the older mangas, but Plunderer‘s execution felt particularly nineties to me (just to clarify).

Fortunately, Plunderer does have some modern flare to it. Usually, most battle shounen manga (especially those older ones) have no real destination in terms of a narrative at the beginning, but Plunderer introduces intrigue during its first volume. The most notable mechanic is the Ballot system. These are items with their own pre-assigned values that add to their owner’s, and they’re where Licht gets his power. The female lead also has one that- based on its number- is far stronger than his, but it doesn’t get any use yet. It’ll likely be used as a Deus Ex Machina later.

But like I said earlier, Plunderer also has fan service tropes. Our main protagonist, Licht, has a count of -1000 thanks to how often he gets rejected by women. The reason? Because he likes to look up their skirts. And in good ol’ battle shounen fashion, he’s also a “righteous dude” who will protect ALL the waifus, especially from random sleezes who will try to use the number system to sexually assault them (well, except for when he’s in his designated “PTSD edgelord phase”).

His main waifu is Hina, the aforementioned moe-blob. Similar to InuYasha‘s Kagome and Kenshin‘s Kaoru, she ends up being a passive character for Licht to save. She might get powers of her own later, but it’ll probably never amount to much of anything. 

The other waifu, Lynn May, doesn’t fair much better. She’s a moe-blob in the military, and a wholly incompetent one at that. She ends up tagging along when Licht stands up for her in front of a more… d***ish officer. Literally everyone around her makes fun of the shortness of her skirt, making her another mascot to sell the manga.

Jail Murdoch, one of only two other male leads, is pretty much the Vegeta or Piccolo of Plunderer; he starts out as an enemy, and becomes a frenemy not much later. Yeah, it’s a pretty bog-standard cast for the most part. 

But if there’s one thing that I love in a battle shounen manga, it’s art. While Plunderer has a very nineties look in it’s character design, the panels are full of life and impact. Fights are especially good, even if the characters don’t put much thought put into their tactics.

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Current Verdict: 8.75/10

It may sound like I was criticizing Plunderer throughout the bulk of this post, but that’s not quite what I was doing. I, personally, am loving Plunderer so far, but that doesn’t mean I won’t acknowledge that there are some things that would tilt others. I’m not going to be the type of reviewer who will conveniently omit any possible flaw that their favorite things have, for the sake of being “objectively right”. If you like battle shounens, you should have no problem enjoying Plunderer.

Edens Zero First Impressions (Volumes 1-5)

Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail was the fourth manga I ever read. Although I was still sensitive towards fanservice at the time, and exclaimed “Mashima!” every time something stupid happened, I still loved its pacing and youthful energy to pieces. But in 2017, I- and many others- finished the series disappointed. The plot became so convoluted that it went beyond its own standards of suspended disbelief, and not even the fights were fun anymore. But none of that backlash would stop Mashima from creating a new series, Edens Zero (published in English by Kodansha Comics), not even a year after Fairy Tail‘s ending. Let’s see if it’s any good.

Shiki is an orphan boy who lives with robots in the abandoned theme park, Granbell. When a human girl named Rebecca appears, the robots try to execute her; he saves her and they escape into space.  However, all of this was an act to get Shiki off the planet. This is the start of their epic quest to find Mother, who is basically a genderswap King of All Cosmos from Katamari.

A lot of people complained about Fairy Tail for making a drinking game out of the word “friendship”, and yeah… I’ll admit that it did get redundant. That redundancy still carries over to Edens Zero, now in the form of a meme where Shiki tries to touch everyone he sees like Patrick Star at a jellyfishing convention. I admit, it does get kind of annoying at times.

There’s also a lot of that Mashima “WTF is going on?”. Volume 1 ends with a brief, 20,000 year time skip, then volume 2 starts with a cute space girl telling the reader that time holds no meaning in Edens Zero. Then, our heroes end up on this planet that’s fifty years in the past, while the rest of space is still in the present. Plus, there’s all this intrigue surrounding the Demon King that raised Shiki, and what Mother’s role is in the story. In the afterword, Mashima’s stated that he’s improvising Edens Zero more than Rave, but not as much as Fairy Tail, which puts it right in the middle in terms of story planning. It’s impossible to truly tell what happens at this juncture. Even though it seems that they’re one MacGuffin away from being able to start the final arc (after five volumes), it IS still a battle shounen, and those always find a way to not end, even if it would’ve been within reason to.

Characters are always the bread of battle shounen (with art being the butter), and Edens Zero has some seriously whole grain bread. Shiki is your average, dumb shounen protagonist, but he has the power of gravity on his side. His ability doesn’t just affect mass; he can also change its direction, bringing himself away from opponents, or bringing those opponents closer to his fist.

Rebecca is pretty much Lucy from Fairy Tail, except she’s a space YouTuber- called a B-Cuber- and goes on this whole quest just for more subscribers. Happy makes a return from Fairy Tail, except this time he’s a robot that turns into guns. They also recruit a young professor named Wiesz, with his ability to modify any machinery in a flash, and Pino, a cute loli-robot that can use an EMP to stop machinery in its tracks. A cute Best Girl named Homura tags along; she’s super powerful, but has the hilarious quirk of speaking her thoughts out loud without meaning to. There are also some good antagonists, but most of them, so far, are throwaway villains, with the more interesting looking ones merely being teased (such as the new leader of one of Fairy Tail’s Dark Guilds that’s managed to survive into the space age).

Oh, and if you looked at any artwork for Edens Zero and thought you saw Best Girl Erza Scarlet, you’d be wrong. That’s the space pirate Elsie Crimson. She seems to be just as brawn-over-brain as the beloved Erza, but she hasn’t done much in the story at this time. 

Mashima’s art is as good as ever. He’s always been great at drawing cartoony, expressive characters (especially cute girls), and the sci-fi setting lets him try some crazy new ideas. The action scenes are as flashy as always, even if there isn’t much emotional tension early on. But there is still a lot of that Mashima fanservice, and it’s amped up by the designated sexy, body-tight clothes of the future.

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Current Verdict: 8.7/10

Edens Zero is great so far. If this manga doesn’t get axed, and actually ends on a good note, it’ll likely surpass Fairy Tail in every way. I highly recommend it to any battle shounen and Mashima fans!

Jigokuraku First Impressions (Chapters 1-40)

Artwork from Viz site

You’ve gotta love edgelords sometimes. There’s a little charm in their hackneyed “to kill or not to kill” monologues. Oh, and gore too. And out-of-left-field comic mischief. Jigokuraku: Hell’s Paradise, simulpub in English on Viz’s digital Jump subscription, has got all of that to spare!

In a dark period of Japan’s past (sorry, I’m not weeb enough to tell what era it is just by looking at it), the edgy ninja known as Gabimaru the Hollow is pending execution. However, nothing they try will actually kill him! So, the shogunate recruits him, among other criminals, to journey to a strange island and recover the elixir of life. He is accompanied by swordswoman Sagiri Amaemon, who must watch over him, and immediately decapitate him if he steps out of line. But since this is a battle shounen, she’ll probably never do that to him.

So far, it’s pretty fun. The beginning makes you think it’s going to be a battle royale, but they got bigger fish to fry. And by fish, I mean the giant mutant Bosatsu that live on the island. Basically, imagine if Shou Tucker from Fullmetal Alchemist was Buddhist. The island has a very surreal and creepy, yet whimsical feeling to it, and it makes me curious as to what it has to offer. There are also some powerful, human-looking foes that are super swole and can freely genderswap any time that they want. 

The characters, for the most part, are decent enough. Gabimaru is pretty nonchalant, edgy, and fun. Sagiri starts off as a whiny, “character who gets crapped on for being a woman because it’s historically accurate”-type, but she becomes much more resourceful at ten-odd chapters in. One of my favorite characters is probably the sexy female ninja Yuzuriha. Although she looks powerful, she’s very aloof and doesn’t even seem to take the mission seriously. But she’s still fun to see. I also like Gantetsusai, who is a tall, powerful swordsman that ends up being the “frenemy” of the group, and of Gabimaru in particular.

Sadly, I can’t figure out if these characters are based on actual people from history. The only thing I could recognize were two brothers whose dad was one of the 47 Ronin. Hopefully I’ll be a big enough history buff to be able to say something authoritative during the full review of the series, once it ends.

The art in Jigokuraku is great. It’s very rough and sketchy, with vivid details and great action shots. Word of warning, there is complete female frontal nudity, as well as gore, so stay away if you hate that stuff.

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Current Verdict: 8.25/10

Jigokuraku is a fun, enjoyable, and somewhat addicting historical fiction manga. I recommend it to any fans of battle shounen and edgy stuff.

Interspecies Reviewers First Impressions (Volumes 1 & 2)

I never cared for being able to relate to characters in order to enjoy a narrative. However, when I caught the premise of Interspecies Reviewers, published in English by Yen Press, I bought the first two volumes on a whim!

“So, what makes you relate to this lewd-ass manga, you perv?” you ask. Well, it’s simple, really. I’m a pretty big fantasy fan, and I’ve always pondered which cute fantasy girl was the best to have as a… really close friend. And guess what, a group of adventurers set off to all the red light districts in order to answer that very question!

Interspecies Reviewers takes this premise and runs like Jesse Owens with it. The creators actually really went into the… s-s-s-science of what it would be like to do, well, you know, with each species. For example, customers to a fairy brothel need to be measured (including the general), so that their employees don’t get crushed to death. It’s actually made me rethink the prospect of… partnering with girls that I would’ve been totally game with in the past. 

Furthermore, the creators also took into account the fact that every fantasy fan has different preferences. Some of the main characters rotate out, but they always go in groups so that you can see how each person reacts to the same… situation. The bulletins they post after-the-fact are actually very well thought out and can be helpful in similar debates that probably take place in this world.

The cast of Interspecies Reviewers is very one-dimensional, making it either a hit or miss. There are technically five(?) main protagonists, however only three of them really get any spotlight. Among those three are Stunk, who’s basically the team leader, and the one who’s the most willing to try anything. He also has a friend named Zel, with whom he frequently disagrees. Lastly is the punching bag named Crim. He’s one of those “looks-like-a-girl” characters, and he ends up suffering in every… interaction that he comes across. I’m fine with their personalities, since the dialogue concerning… events is the big strength of the manga anyway.

Obviously, no ecchi manga is good without great artwork, and Interspecies Reviewers is… a series of drawings, all right. The art is as if Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon put on weight; the girls are in a cartoony, hyper-moe-blob style similar to Kobayashi, but they’re a lot chunkier. The proportions are often very out-of-whack, which might be a turnoff to some people, but I like it. The good thing is that most of these characters are legal adults, so yay for me- I mean- many people that want to project themselves into the story, none of which are me! (Oh, who am I kidding? I previously said that No Game No Life is my favorite LN of all time…)

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Current Verdict: 8.25/10

Interspecies Reviewers is a great ecchi manga that puts a twist on shipping by not causing arguments over which particular character is the best, but over which species is the best. I’d easily recommend it to fans of the genre, but be warned… this is seriously lewd. You better tread with caution if it’s not your cup of tea, or if you just want to complain about it. I just hope the next volume isn’t the finale, because then I’ll look like an idiot with this post.