Posts Tagged ‘manga’

Book Review: Hetalia: Axis Powers Volume 2 by Hidekaz Himaruya (Series, #2) (Manga)

November 15, 2011 Leave a comment

China Germany and Italy standing on the globeSummary:
The manga featuring the countries from WWII as characters is back this time focusing more on the future of the nations after WWII instead of the history before WWII.  Russia’s dilemmas with his sisters the Ukraine and Belarus are explored.  Canada’s persistent ability to somehow be invisible to most of the rest of the G8 nations (and also to be mistaken for America).  The various vignettes are punctuated with Japan-kun and America-kun visiting each other’s homes and attempting to reach a cultural understanding.

Himaruya’s tongue in cheek representation of global politics and national cultures is just as strong here as in the first entry into the series.  I appreciate that he addressed before and after WWII first.  It puts everything into an interesting historic perspective.

The art is still gorgeous.  The countries who are “relatives” of each other are similar looking but still decipherable from each other (although Canada probably wishes he looked a bit less like America).  There is a lot to feast your eyes upon on every page.

I again found myself laughing uproariously at the wit within the pages.  Every country is teased by the author, including his own.  He points out shortcomings without judging them too harshly.  It is what it is, and the more I read nations as characters, the easier it is to see the world as one big loopy extended family.

I particularly appreciate how Himaruya explains the former Soviet Union nations’ problems so clearly.  It’s something that I must admit as an American we didn’t ever really address in school, so this was all new to me and yet I came away knowing the facts from a manga.

That’s what makes this series awesome.  It’s factual without being judgmental.  It sees the humor in local customs and quirks.  And somehow it teaches you something in the meantime.   Highly recommended to all.  Just remember to start reading it at the back. 😉

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Hetalia: Axis Powers, Vol. 1 (review)

Book Review: Hetalia: Axis Powers by Hidekaz Himaruya (series, #1) (manga)

August 22, 2011 1 comment

Three manga characters.Summary:
The nations involved in WWII and the events leading up to it are personified as over-the-top manga characters and through manga-style scenarios the historic events leading up to WWII are explored.

One of my good friends loaned this to me informing me that I would love it.  I DID. I REALLY DID.  I haven’t seen WWII this funny since Hogan’s Heroes was a mild obsession of mine in middle school, only this is historically accurate.

Each nation’s stereotypes (that are partly true) are blown over the top for the manga characters.  France is proud and snobby but pathetically weak.  The UK acts like a put-upon uncle who really just wants everyone to start acting their age.  Japan is impatient with Germany for including Italy in their alliance.  Italy is really short and loves pasta.  The US can’t stop eating hamburgers long enough to speak with his mouth empty.  It just goes on and on from there.  Every page or two depicts a different historic event that set the scene for WWII to explode across the globe, complete with footnotes to clarify anything that might not be entirely clear from the manga-style interaction.

I was a History major in undergrad, and WWII was “my war.”  (Every History major has a favorite war.  My close second was the Revolutionary War, but I digress).  In any case, I have a lot of knowledge about WWII, and Himaruya clearly knows his stuff, but he also gets the irony and funny aspects of different cultures clashing, and that’s what makes Hetalia so incredible. It felt like reading nonfiction in an incredibly entertaining way.  It reminds me of back when the History Channel was amazingly cool.

I can’t wait to swap this for the next book in the series from my friend.  I’m incredibly curious as to how Himaruya will handle the more serious topics such as the Bataan Death March and the Holocaust in the future entries.

While I loved this book, I primarily recommend it to fans of humorous manga and WWII buffs primarily.  I have the feeling others might not “get it.”

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Borrowed

Buy It

Book Review: Scott Pilgrim By Bryan Lee O’Malley (Graphic Novel) (Series, #1-5)

April 13, 2010 7 comments

Orange and red book cover with Scott Pilgrim pointing his finger.Summary:
Canadian Scott Pilgrim is 23 years old and has a case of what to do with myself quarter life crisis.  He’s living in a studio apartment with Wallace (who is very gay), dating a 17 year old, and doesn’t have a job, but at least he’s got his band.  Then he meets American Ramona Flowers and falls for her.  Dating her comes with a catch, though.  He’s got to defeat her 7 evil exes who really seem to enjoy jumping him when he least expects it.

Scott Pilgrim takes typical 20-something ennui and spices it up with a heavy dose of ninja fighting and videogame references, hitting its target audience dead-on.  It’s the perfect mix of connection over real life issues and over generational references.  It’s more than just a day in the life of Scott mixed with fighting evil exes, though.  There’s a mystery to the whole situation.  Why is Scott such a good fighter?  Why does he fall so quickly for Ramona when nothing seems that special about her?  What is up with Ramona anyway?  It had me wishing that the sixth volume was out already so I could find out.  (It comes out this summer).

The art is relatively average.  Some of the characters and scenes are really well-drawn, but some of the minor characters blend together, particularly the women.  I was left really confused about some of the women until later in the series where O’Malley put together a listing of all the characters.  Even then, I thought they looked a bit too much alike.  On the other hand, the art handles delicate scenes like sex and fighting really well, so it all balances out.

What really makes the series, though, is the creativity of the exes and the battles.  They range from skateboarding to evil robots at concerts to races through value warehouse stores to (my absolute favorite) vegans with superpowers.  Seriously, they have superpowers because they’re vegans.  It’s the most awesome idea!  Plus, there is a recipe for vegan shepherd’s pie given in the context of the story that I absolutely must try.

I definitely recommend this series to all 20-somethings, videogamers, and ninja-lovers.  Plus, the movie version starring Michael Cera is coming out this summer, so you may as well whet your appetite for it by reading the books first.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Borrowed

Books in Series:
Volume 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life
Volume 2: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Volume 3: Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness
Volume 4: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
Volume 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe
Volume 6: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour
(release date: July 20, 2010)

Buy It

Book Review: Battle Royale Ultimate Edition Volume 1 by Koushun Takami (Manga) (Series, #1)

January 22, 2010 4 comments

A Note on Me and Graphic Novels:
This, believe it or not, was my first foray into the world of graphic novels.  I was spurred into this new territory by my intense love of the movie Battle Royale.  I know that there’s also a traditional book out there, but I’d heard the manga is what the author feels really fulfills his vision of the story.  I received the first volume of the ultimate edition, which contains the first three mangas in the series, for Chrismukkah.  I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy reading a graphic novel.  I tend to associate them with superheroes, and I’m not generally a fan of superhero stories (except Ironman. Robert Downey Jr., *swoon*).  But this.  This was a story I already knew I liked, so I came at the genre with a much more open mind than the once or twice I flipped through a superhero graphic novel.  You guys, I absolutely love the feeling of reading a graphic novel.  I could literally feel different parts of my brain working at it than that work when reading a regular book, playing videogames, writing, or watching a movie.  It’s like a portion of my brain was like “Oh hai.  You finally remembered I exist!”  I love that I’m only reading dialogue, because I hate extensive descriptions in books.  I love that the drawings are art that I actually enjoy looking at the fine details of.  I love it that when I flip back to show scenes to other people, I notice things in the drawings I didn’t see the first time around.  I’m officially a convert to the genre, but you still won’t see me reading about superheroes anytime soon.

In an alternate history of Japan, Japan comes under the rule of a totalitarian, isolationist government after WWII.  The government rules through terror, and part of that terror is selecting, supposedly via lottery, one 9th grade class every year to compete in a televised game where it is kill or be killed.  Shuuya never expected to win this lottery, but when his class goes on a field trip, upon arrival they discover that they are this year’s participants on an island location.  They discover collars on their necks that will detonate if more than one is left alive at a certain point and also if they wander into the randomly assigned and changing forbidden zones.  As the teens attempt to survive the game through various methods, flashbacks tell the story of the 9th grade class members.

I absolutely love this story.  I love violent, gory stories, and there are creative deaths galore here.  For instance, the weapons include a scythe, and that scythe gets used.  In one particularly memorable scene, a girl desperately attempts to stuff a boy’s brains back into his skull.  It’s freaking amazing.  There’s also graphic sex, ranging from rape to love.  I don’t like my books to pretend like sex doesn’t happen in the real world, because um, it does.  The fact that sex can be wonderful and about emotions or horrible and about power is wonderfully depicted.

The manner of introducing these characters tossed together in a horrible situation then expanding on who they are via flashbacks is very reminiscent of Lost.  Of course, here the characters knew each other, at least somewhat, before the game.  The flashbacks fit in perfectly with the action of the game, and they reveal just enough about the characters without revealing too much.  From a cooking class that solidified a friendship to crimes committed to lessons learned from an activist uncle, the flashbacks are endlessly fascinating.

Seeing these characters in what most certainly feels like a hopeless situation orchestrated by a powerful government far bigger than they are is truly powerful reading.  It leaves the reader wondering not only what makes people do bad things, but also how to define what is good and bad given various situations.  Is it actually good to team up and attempt to buck the system or will that just cause more pain in the end?  Is suicide a bad thing when it’s kill yourself or kill others?

If you enjoy Lost, The Hunger Games, violence, psychology, or even just graphic novels, you will enjoy this book.  I highly recommend it and can’t wait to read the next volume!

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

Buy It

Reading Goals for 2010

January 4, 2010 4 comments

I don’t want to over-plan my reading for 2010, but I do want to give it a loose structure and maybe broaden my horizons a bit.  I also want to be practical about my reading, for instance the fact that I rarely have time to go to the library (erm, the public one, not the one I work at 5 days a week).  Anywho, with that in mind, my loosely-defined goals for 2010 are:

  • Read the books I bought for undergrad classes but didn’t have time to read then.  Seeing as how my two majors are topics I actually like (History and English and American Literature), I actually do want to read these old “assignments.”  Expect to see a bit of ancient literature, Chekhov, and noir.
  • Read a bit more nonfiction in areas I want to be more educated in, preferably science.  Seeing as how I work in a medical library, this should be pretty easy to pull off cheaply.
  • Utilize Swaptree to get rid of books I weeded from my collection at the end of the year and in turn get books I want to read.  Since I’m doing an exact 1:1 exchange, this should keep my book collection on the smaller side.
  • Courtesy of a challenge from @shaindelr over on Twitter who gasped about my not having read any poetry in 2009–read one book of poetry.  However, I’m not making any promises that it won’t be of the ancient variety.  😉
  • Finally, watching Japanese movies got me pretty into the stories their culture has to offer.  That along with seeing some graphic novels in friends’ houses made me want to give the genre an official shot, so I’ll be reading at least 3 graphic novels/manga in 2010.  I’m super-excited to read my first Battle Royale, which I wanted to read after seeing and loving the movie.