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All reviews - Movies (2) - Books (33) - Music (2)

Good final volume

Posted : 8 years, 6 months ago on 10 January 2010 01:39 (A review of Junk Force, Vol. 3)

A fun series comes to an end all too soon with this, the third and final volume. Junk Force is a great idea that could be extended into a regular ongoing series, and I hope that someday this happens.

As our heroes progress ever-closer to their goal, stranger and stranger obstacles stand in their way, including a forest of giants and a castle with a horrifying secret. However, there's a new face in the mix: a mysterious woman named Illian. She is a Martian who is apparently after the same thing the Junk Force is after, but for what reasons...?

The group's sense of family is tested again, though this time mainly through an act of carelessness on Mamet's part, and when Illian shows up good and ready to do her own thing, she is confronted by something she didn't count on. There also seems to be more than meets the eye between Illian and one of Earth's defenders that is unfortunately really only implied and not expanded upon.

The only real fault with this final volume is the apparent hurry it's in to wrap things up once it crosses the halfway mark. An acquaintance mentioned feeling this volume was a bit rushed, and I agree. I don't know if this was due to the authors being restricted to a certain number of pages, a too-heavy-to-manage workload or something else, but they really should have taken more time building towards the climax and pacing it a little more carefully. What ultimately happens is a combination of intense action, dramatic suspense, and slightly too convenient solutions. Some of the things that occur are almost dismissed as quickly as they're presented, severely reducing their impact. It doesn't kill the story, but it certainly hampers its overall effect.

Another minor gripe is the apparent lack of proofreading on ComicOne's part, since there are a few annoying spelling errors that pop up ("your" instead of "you're," for instance) that prove distracting.

Like any good series, Junk Force left me wanting more, and despite its weaknesses, it's a good series and very worth checking out. I just wonder why Illian was on Volume Two's cover when Volume Three is the only one she actually appears in.

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Even better than Volume One

Posted : 8 years, 6 months ago on 7 January 2010 04:29 (A review of Junk Force, Vol. 2)

With Volume 2, we rejoin Liza, Louis, Wooty, Mill and Mamet as they journey across the harsh, post-apocalyptic future-Earth landscape scouring for junk and fighting off foes.

The chapters in this volume present an interesting balance of sorts, as the earlier chapters feature plenty of the series' trademark comedy and fan service, while the later chapters, which still feature these elements, bring in a much stronger line of dramatic events, making the story much more engaging. The Junk Force meet far more Martians this time around, something that does not bode well. It appears there's something more sinister going on than our heroes had any reason to suspect.

The earlier comedic chapters, whose gags revolve largely around nudity and gender stereotypes (or lack thereof in a couple of cases), present mostly for-fun plots, ranging from helping a crash survivor whom Wooty actually falls for to a hilarious fight that breaks out as a result of the trailer's engine overheating, requiring a shut-down of the air conditioner. One of these chapters, in which Liza meets a man with face just like someone important she once lost, features a nice twist I wasn't expecting and leads into territory Junk Force left largely unexplored in Volume 1.

When the focus again turns to Mamet and how she's a wanted fugitive, Junk Force goes full-throttle and shows that it is just as capable of gripping drama as it is of screwball comedy. The importance of defending members of one's family comes to the forefront, and any doubt of the Junk Force members' loyalty to one another is wiped out. Sure, they may harass and fight with one another quite frequently, but when put to the test, their sense of family carries them through. Their encounters with a ruthless unit out to get Mamet leads to a twist that can be seen coming by attentive readers but is brilliant in spite of it.

I again express regret at Junk Force never being adapted into an anime series; its characters and ideas would translate beautifully to the animated medium. Tackling Volume 3 should be a lot of fun.

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Good, fun series

Posted : 8 years, 6 months ago on 5 January 2010 05:01 (A review of Junk Force, Vol. 1)

ComicsOne was a distributor of licensed English-language manga whose company went belly-up, with all of their catalogue going to Dr. Master Publications. Unfortunately, much of said catalogue went out of print. Fortunately, the titles still available can be obtained for VERY low prices.

One such title is this fun little three-volume series. Junk Force, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi/comedy/adventure story with an eerily plausible premise (given the way our technology is advancing, I could see something like this actually happening one day. Hopefully long after I'm dead), follows a single boy, Louis, and his three beautiful female companions: Liza (who is actually the leader), Wooty (a big-busted babe with one hell of a kick) and Mill (the soft-spoken one who can't cook). In this future version of Earth, water is a treasure more precious than gold, and lead ingots are currency. Liza, Louis, Wooty and Mill, the titular Junk Force, travel this world in their armored trailer looking for scrap to use for parts and stuff to sell to get by.

Things get complicated when, during a visit to a town, Louis gets caught up in a woman's desperate flight from a bounty hunter. The hunter wants the woman's daughter, Mamet, a quiet girl with a major secret. Louis only meant to do a little shopping and not embarrass himself in front of Liza and Wooty, but before they know it, the Junk Force find themselves doing whatever they can to keep Mamet from being captured. As this is only a three-volume series, there isn't very far to go, but I'm really looking forward to it. The elements of the story and comedy are very familiar and a bit predictable, but they're still a lot of fun, and the lively writing and great art certainly help. The characters get into some situations with rather interesting problems, and they way they ultimately arrive at their solutions is part of the series' charm. It's just too bad this was never adapted as an anime series, considering how perfectly suitable it would be.

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Great series

Posted : 9 years, 2 months ago on 7 May 2009 01:20 (A review of Lunar Legend Tsukihime Volume 6)

The Tsukihime series has really reeled me in. I first became aware of it because of the anime series, which is quite good (even if its ending is a bit depressing), then I began to read the original visual novel, which has multiple endings and really allows the reader to get to know the cast quite well.

The manga series draws its inspiration far more from the original visual novel rather than the anime, so don't make the mistake of thinking the anime and the manga tell the same story. They really don't. Yeah, the premise is the same, the characters are the same and even some of the dialogue is similar, but the manga tells a slightly better version of the Tsukihime story than the anime did.

By volume six, the manga series has introduced a few of its own ideas, which are not only very good but really add to the richness of the characters, especially Ciel and Akiha (who both get shafted a bit in the development department in the anime). Arcueid, the True Ancestor Princess, is still the main character alongside Shiki Tohno for the most part, but in the manga, we learn a lot more about Akiha and Ciel than the anime allowed, and here in volume six Ciel again gets a good bit of history added, including a heart-wrenching segment that allows us to see the sheer torture the Church put her through before appointing her to the Burial Agency. Ciel's pain is much easier to understand in the manga than it was anywhere else and it's hard to not feel anything for her.

Shiki has problems of his own, as he is now experiencing horrible nightmares that depict gruesome murders that are also occurring in real life. Shiki is wrestling with this massive identity crisis as best he can, but when he's suddenly ambushed, he's pushed to his very limit.

The art in this series is wonderful and the action scenes are well-depicted and quite exciting. There are many wonderful little nods back to the visual novel, and even a couple of clever nods to the anime. The story combines several of the visual novel's arcs into a single narrative, which sounds impossible but is pulled off remarkably well.

My one and only complaint is that the editors at Dr. Master apparently aren't taking the time they should to proofread the books, as every volume has some typos (inappropriate apostrophe use, grammatical errors, the random misplaced or missing word), including this one. The errors are fortunately not as numerous as my description might make them sound, but there are more than enough of them that people like me can't help but spot them instantly, and such distractions really should be prevented. They don't ruin the books by any means, but the editors really should try harder to keep them from sneaking through in the first place.

Anyone who has seen the anime, read the visual novel, or just likes well-told stories about vampires should give this series a read. I noticed there was no blurb for the story to be continued in volume seven (unlike previous volumes), but as the story hardly concludes at the end of volume six, I can only expect that a seventh volume is coming sometime soon. I hope it is, anyway... I would hate for it to all stop now.

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Excellent read

Posted : 9 years, 4 months ago on 8 March 2009 09:13 (A review of Disappearance Diary)

When one sees or hears the name Hideo Azuma, one either immediately thinks of lolita manga or simply asks, "who in the hell is that?" He's known as being the "father of lolicon," with many of his works being pornographic in some way. One would not expect this man to have much interest in drawing things outside of science fiction and lolicon, though he certainly has an impressive list of manga titles to his name.

So an award-winning book like Disappearance Diary comes as a bit of a surprise; it's neither pornographic nor science fiction, and is in fact an autobiography of sorts, told in a very humorous way.

Azuma features himself as a short, fat, goggle-eyed character in this recollection of his days as a hopeless alcoholic and as a homeless person. A story that would otherwise be painful, gut-wrenching and difficult to read is made entertaining and more pleasantly poignant through his use of humor and cartoony artwork. He isn't afraid to tell us the truth, and his sometimes frank presentation is almost as hilarious as his rather dry commentary.

At first we don't really learn what drives him to do this to himself. The book is not presented in chronological order and we are introduced to him when we are thrust into his first experience of being homeless. We do know that his homelessness is a choice rather than an unfortunate circumstance. We come to learn of his dependency on alcohol and cigarettes and his massive workload as an artist as the book progresses, as well as his rather pushover nature and the fact he even as a wife (largely unseen until the second half of the book).

The book is divided into three main sections, each dealing with a different time in his rather lengthy exile from the stresses of his life, and focus on the primary concerns he had during each period. In his first homeless experience, it was worrying about having enough to eat. In the second, it was dealing with certain individuals he worked with, and the ridiculous things he had to put up with from them ("YOU DIDN'T DRAW FEATHERS ON THE ARROWS!"). In another, it was his attempts to avoid difficult fellow patients in a hospital, along with the staff.

Azuma himself says that the manga "has a positive outlook on life, and so it has been made with as much realism removed as possible." It's very likely that some of the things he presents are indeed fictional, comedic twists on his experiences, but some appear to be very honest recollections, such as the threat of cirrhosis hanging over him like the Sword of Damocles, or his first capture by the police, who initially believe him to be the murder suspect they were after. His story is a fascinating one, and upon learning of his stressors and what he had to deal with as a professional artist, we can't really blame him for wanting out, even though his circumstances were largely his own fault. A person can put up with only so much, and it's easy to sympathize when he does everything he can to escape from what feels more and more like a prison to a life that, while certainly not easy, feels manageable by comparison. The dialogue is often as funny, if not funnier, than Azuma's stark narration (during a sequence in which Azuma has a severe coughing fit, a nurse says, "Oh, Doctor, there's blood!" to which the doctor simply responds, "THAT'S not good!"), and his cartoony visuals turn disgusting things into visions of hilarity (it's difficult to not laugh at his frequent vomiting, or the rather blunt depicition of him defecating in the forest). He even indicates that there was more, but that he'll save it for another time, leaving us to wonder if he might really provide a sequel, or if his parting words are another dose of his dry humor.

Disappearance Diary is an engaging, extremely funny manga, and a surprisingly quick read for a 200-page book. One doesn't have to be a fan of Azuma (or even familiar with him at all) to enjoy this story, but it may turn one into a fan before the final page is turned.

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Good entry in the series

Posted : 9 years, 4 months ago on 2 March 2009 07:51 (A review of Negima!: Magister Negi Magi, Volume 06)

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rating: 5 of 5 starsInitially I was hesitant about trying the Negima! series out. Ken Akamatsu's previous series, Love Hina, ultimately underwhelmed and disappointed me. I love the man's artwork, but his writing left a lot to be desired.

So it was with a bit of apprehension that I approached Negima!, even though a couple of my friends insisted it was pretty good. I bought the first two volumes and read them back to back, and while Volume 1 was simply okay, Volume 2 was good enough that I decided to give the series a bigger chance and kept reading. With Volume 3 the series continued to improve, and Volume 4 was fantastic. While 5 didn't quite reach 4's lofty height, Volume 6 certainly does.

Akamatsu has improved as a writer. Negima! is a much more solid read than Love Hina, and Volume 6 is not only amusing, but actually exciting, with a lot of solid action and a very generous helping of cheesecake. Akamatsu is known for including quite a bit of fanservice in his manga, and this volume has it in spades. And I'm certainly not complaining. It helps to have the main character surrounded by thirty very cute girls (especially when so many of them are such good fighters), as well as competent villains. The baddies he's been facing lately are intriguing. It's always better when the villain of the hour is harder to best than your average egomaniac.

Put simply, I'm glad I decided to stick with this series. I'm looking forward to Volume 7.
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Chrno Crusade: Volume 8

Posted : 9 years, 5 months ago on 16 February 2009 07:26 (A review of Chrono Crusade, Volume 8)

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rating: 5 of 5 starsAfter Volume 7 ended on one hell of a cliffhanger, I knew it was going to be difficult to wait until I had a chance to read the final volume, so I picked the very first opportunity I had. In an earlier review I listed Volume 6 as the best of all the series so far, and now I can say Volume 8 ranks right up there with it.

It would be kind of pointless to go over the story at this point; if you don't know what Chrno Crusade is all about, you need to go back and check out Volumes 1 and 2. Volume 8 is the end of the line, and in more than one sense.

With the world on the brink of chaos and her soul almost completely consumed, Rosette uses what little time she has left to track down her brother and convince him she really is who she says she is. Plenty stands in her way, including a major battle between Aion and Chrono, and of course, death itself looms close. It's kind of funny that a volume so packed with action could still have time for wonderful, emotional moments between characters (one reason why I ranked 7 lower than 6 and 8), but Volume 8 has enough of them, and by the time I arrived at this part of the story I cared so much about Rosette that every panel depicting her in tears made me all misty-eyed. Things don't really turn out the way she expected them to, and it's only through her sheer willpower that things take the turn they do. There's no cop-out here, though.

Without actually telling you what happens, all I will say is that the ending is the best possible ending this series could have had. Even in the epilogue there were a couple of surprises I did not see coming, which were effective enough, but the epilogue's overall presentation, showing the aftermath out of sequence and saving the most dramatic moment for the very last pages, effectively sucked me all the way in, made me teary-eyed, and left me in such a state that, even after I was done reading, a few minutes passed before I could even put the book down. I've read plenty of stories that go for the darkest possible ending and plenty of stories that cheat and go for an artificially happy ending, and even stories with endings that, while they made sense, were still disappointing in some way, either because they favored unhappy events or were just anti-climactic. Chrno Crusade's ending was none of the above. The ending was exactly what it should have been, a mixture of happy and sad, and was enormously effective and moving. The only thing I'm sorry about is that such a charming series is over.

I will very likely reread this in the not-to-distant future, and will probably choke up as much over the ending then as I did now. Rosette Christopher jumped right off those pages and into my heart, and she'll stay there evermore.
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