Review: Ugly Duckling’s Love Revolution, vols. 1 and 2

UGLYDUCK_1Ugly Duckling’s Love Revolution, vols. 1 and 2
By Yuuki Fujinari
Rated T, for Teens
Yen Press, $10.99

This story is based on a dating-sim game, which explains a lot—the lack of backstory, plot, and character development, for instance. It’s kind of like a boy-harem version of Aria, a pleasant slice-of-life book in which the characters interact cheerfully but nothing much actually happens.

The main character, Hitomi, is fat and unattractive, and the story makes no bones about that. It wasn’t until I read the Wikipedia entry on the original game (Otometeki Koi Kakumei Love Revo!!) that I learned that she actually does have a backstory—she used to be a beauty queen, in fact, but she gave in to the temptations of junk food and put on a ton of weight. The story ignores all possible physical or psychological explanations for this—we’re here for good-natured fun, not complexity.

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Review: Dystopia

by Judith Park
Rated OT, for Older Teens
Yen Press, $10.99

This book is a disappointment, with one-dimensional characters, an artificial setup, and weak art. The conversations seem weirdly stilted—do you hear teenagers say “That’s very commendable” to one another? Ever?

The story seems like it was thought up in a day, without much reflection; it lacks emotional resonance. Dionne’s older brother, Lyon, has a heart defect, so her parents favor him and pick on her. Lyon tries to compensate by being extra-nice to Dionne. Dionne’s best friend, Shikku, has a crush on Lyon, and we get to watch them go through the paces of their very ordinary romance for a while—there’s a bit of uncertainty and pulling back, and lots of dreamy introspection, but it’s not really very interesting.

And then, just when you’re ready to drop off to sleep, the story takes a bizarre and very manga-ish turn: [Read more…]

Guest Review: Hissing, vols. 1-6

hissing1Hissing, vols. 1-6
By Kang EunYoung
Rated T, for Teens
Yen Press $10.99

Review by Melinda Beasi.

High school freshman Da-Eh is an aspiring manhwa artist who carefully ignores constant cries for attention from her doting younger brother. Fellow freshman Sun-Nam, the youngest of three boys, is bound and determined to become a “bad guy.” Finally, senior Ta-Jun, the school hottie, finds himself drawn to the one girl who can’t stand him, Da-Eh. If this is where the story stopped, there would be nothing at all remarkable about it, and over the course of the first volume or so, that’s seemingly where things stand. Fortunately, both the story and Kang’s method of telling it soon become more complex. [Read more…]

Review: Daemonium, vol. 1

DaemoniumDaemonium, vol. 1
By Kosen
Rated OT, for Older Teen (16+)
Tokyopop, $10.99

Kosen is a Spanish duo who have been writing and drawing BL manga for some time now, and their professionalism shows through in this horror story about a teenage boy whose world gets turned upside down.

Daemonium starts out like a lot of high-school graphic novels. Seisu is returning home from a trip to an amusement park with his parents, everyone is laughing and happy, and then in a moment, the car crashes, Seisu’s parents are dead, and he is left with a terrible scar. Fast forward to high school, where everyone notices the jagged scar running down Seisu’s face and no one notices the fact that aside from that, he’s very handsome. Instead they call him a freak and the school bully beats him up. Seisu’s awesomely beautiful sister, Alys, rescues him from the thugs and cheers him up—just like she always does, apparently.

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Review: Toriko, vol. 1

Toriko1Toriko, vol. 1
By Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro
Rated T, for Teen
Viz, $9.99

There is something very primal about Toriko: It’s a story about hunting for food, and although there is a veneer of gourmet sensibility over some of the quests, it always comes down to the massive, overmuscled Toriko having a showdown with some enormous animal over who is going to eat who.

Other food manga, such as Oishinbo and even Kitchen Princess, hinge on the main character’s refined palate and esoteric knowledge. Toriko’s world is much simpler: The best foods are the ones that are hardest to get. Deliciousness, it seems, scales with difficulty, and the prizes in the first two volume present formidable challenges: Garara Gator, a huge, dinosaur-like creature, and Rainbow Fruit, which grows on a tree protected by massive four-armed apes.

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Guest Review: You’re So Cool, vols. 1-6

ysc1You’re So Cool, vols. 1-6
By YoungHee Lee
Rated T, for Teens
Yen Press $10.99

Review by Melinda Beasi

Tomboyish Nan-Woo is the class klutz. Impulsive, accident-prone, and chronically late, she provides a daily dose of schadenfreude for her eager classmates. Seung-Ha is the class prince. Gorgeous, mature, and kind to everyone, he is admired by students and faculty alike. After Nan-Woo pays accidental witness to Seung-Ha’s rejection of a pretty upperclassman, Seung-Ha explains to her that he’s looking for someone who will accept all of him, “even the dark and selfish parts,” at which point Nan-Woo naïvely proclaims, “If I had the chance, I wouldn’t care. I would love you completely and without regret.”

These prove to be fateful words indeed, for though Nan-Woo is granted her dream boyfriend faster than even most fairy godmothers could reasonably manage, she quickly discovers that the boy she so admires is nothing more than an elaborately constructed fantasy. Though his model-student act is impressively well-practiced, out of uniform Seung-Ha is a bona fide thug who belittles Nan-Woo, bullies her into buying his meals, and gleefully sends her off to be tortured by his ruthless fan club.

Now that she’s met the real Seung-Ha, can Nan-Woo possibly live up to her own rash promise? [Read more…]