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A Vampire Called God

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 / No Comments
I love horror and mythological manga, especially the ones that don't involve a love story (side-eyeing Black Bird, which I gave up after Kyo had to save Misao for the millionth time. Jeez.). Youkai is definitely a theme that captivates me.

Lately, I've been keeping up with Kami to Yobareta Kyuuketsuki, which literally means A Vampire Called God. Vampires feel like very western supernatural beings to me, despite being frequently illustrated in manga. However, in Kami to, our dear vampire happens to be a Japanese god with his own shrine!

Vlad is a vampire who resides in the Japanese mountains near a small town. Due to some circumstances, he has come to be regarded as the god of the land. As he protects his territory and its residents, he has encounters with humans, youkai and even gods alike.

Unfortunately, Vlad is a clear outcast among the other yukata-wearing characters, hated by the komainu he inherited alongside the shrine (the creatures guarding shrines). Vlad clearly has his own dark past, but his current gentle disposition and earnest wish to help the humans and youkai quickly earns him some friends, if not allies.

Kami to a enjoyable and relaxing read that doesn't require much information to be absorbed. Most issues are resolved quickly and frankly, it is light on dialogue compared to many other manga. Despite the relatively simple and clean art, Sakurai sensei is quite adept at various facial expressions, and pretty much all the characters are pleasing to look at. There are some action scenes as well and the scenery look great, another point I like.

In general, while the characters have distinct personalities, they are not highly developed, which in this case suits the manga, keeping it fairly whimsical without making a big deal about the unfathomable aspect of the supernatural.

I would say this manga is a 7/10. The plot is nothing distinctive, the characters are generally predictable. However, I find it suitable as a light read. Like its main character, this manga feels gentle. I have no urgent need to read it, yet I still want to eventually finish all 6 volumes because it makes me want to.

Written by Nana
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Ballroom e Youkoso

Monday, June 12, 2017 / No Comments

Mention 'ballroom dancing' to me and the only image I can conjure would be that of middle-aged folk in ill-fitting suits and dresses prancing around the dance floor. At least that was the perception I had before reading Ballroom e Youkoso. The manga about competitive ballroom dancing was making huge waves in the community and it would be a waste if I didn't give it a few chapters at least. If I could enjoy an anime about ice skating, I'm sure a manga about ballroom dancing would be a piece of cake. 

Ballroom e Youkoso revolves around 15-year-old Fujita Tatara as he attempts to become a professional ballroom dancer, despite having no experience in the sport at all. To make matters worse, his introduction to the dance floor is purely accidental, chancing upon a dance studio after a hilarious bullying incident. Although he lacks experience, his sharp eyes and tenacity were crucial to his speedy progress. Fortunately, Tatara isn't painted as a prodigy and his lack of experience in competitive ballroom dancing along with his initially poor fitness levels hinder him at various stages in the manga.

The large amount of information is easily digested thanks to the many character interactions and succinct explanations. Speech bubbles and text boxes rarely got in the way of the panels and the exposition hasn't affected the pacing yet, despite each chapter being over 40 pages long due to the manga's monthly format. From basic training routines to how the scoring system works, each point and terminology is explained concisely and I understood what the stakes were for Tatara and the other competitive dancers he met along the way.

Takeuchi Tomo employs two distinct styles through the course of the manga, with blurred lines, shading and watercolours being employed during segments where the characters dance, be it in practice or in a ballroom. The style is reminds me of Tokyo Ghoul and even Haikyuu!! and I enjoyed this method the mangaka uses to show motion when the characters are dancing. That being said, I'm looking forward to Production I.G's anime adaptation next month. There's only so much the manga can do to convey how well or how badly each pair has danced in still frames.

Naturally, the cast expands as Tatara becomes increasingly involved in the competitive circuit. Rivals are not one-dimensional and they quickly turn into mentors, giving him much-needed advice and tips. A mercurial one even saves him from bullying after he enrolls into high school in the earlier chapters. The supporting cast is highly entertaining and multi-faceted, managing to carry several chapters on their back. Every one of them has a captivating backstory and strong conviction to succeed.

There are only 46 chapters currently and although Tatara is nowhere the level of his peers yet, the competition he faces is still stiff and watching an underdog climb his way to the top always makes for a more entertaining story. It's a pity the manga is on hiatus but like I mentioned earlier, an anime adaptation is airing in less than a month so that's one more title I'm adding to an already busy Summer season.

Written by ET

Danberu nan Kiro Moteru?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 / No Comments

During the past year or so, I was much more immersed in anime than manga. Ballroom e Youkoso was the only new manga I picked up recently. Also, there were too many titles that I had to keep up with every week, never mind the boatload of anime had I had to watch each season. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined myself taking the time to read an educational manga about bodybuilding, of all things. But lo and behold, I found myself hooked onto Danberu nan Kiro Moteru? (How Many Kilos Are The Dumbbells You Lift?) after seeing it on 4chan's front page time after time.

Danberu nan Kiro Moteru revolves around high school student Hibiki Sakura's accidental foray into the world of bodybuilding while attempting to lose weight. Along the way, her group of gym buddies grow and she clears up her laundry list of misconceptions about dieting and weightlifting. From the first chapter, I like how close Sakura is to the average reader who might know next to nothing about proper nutrition and fitness regimes. Tidbits of information such as the caloric value of whatever the characters eat are listed, or how performing an exercise incorrectly can affect your body are littered throughout the manga. It successfully strikes a balance between being informative and being entertaining. The seductive character designs definitely kept me scrolling for hours too.

There's fanservice for female readers too, in the form of resident trainer Naruzou Machio and his award-winning physique. He introduces various exercises to the Sakura and gang and dispenses more than a few nuggets of wisdom regarding fitness and nutrition. As a running gag, the girls slowly get used to his over-the-top bodybuilding poses and spontaneously exploding clothes. They even outright ignore him in one of the later chapters. Even though there are only 20-odd chapters released right now, I applaud the different exercises that were introduced to the readers. They are a mix of weightlifting and calisthenic exercises. These include squats, planks, bench presses, lat pulldowns, bicep curls and leg curls. Even dynamic warm-ups are included, so forgot that whole series of stretches you do on the spot before working out.

The mangaka has clearly done his research, highlighting the specific muscles are trained by the different workouts. I, for one, appreciate this image much more than the typical charts you see in gyms everywhere. Expect much more of this when you're flipping through the pages, especially when the characters are demonstrating how the exercises are performed. This is one of the few times where fanservice is appropriate and even used creatively in fact.

Through the course of the manga, Sakura's self-esteem improve thanks to her work at the gym, along with her overall fitness levels. Even though she started exercising because of a superficial reason, she stuck with it thanks to her growing group of gym buddies and perhaps this is the mangaka's way of encouraging the readers to step into the gym. I, too, might need some exercise after being stuck in gyms of the Pokemon variety for a little too long.

Written by ET

Hajimete no Gyaru: My First Gal

Tuesday, May 30, 2017 / No Comments
Spring. The sakura have come and gone but the season of love does not end here! After all, what better time to be engulfed in the dizzying sensation of infatuation than when flowers start blooming?

Unfortunately, love seems perpetually out of reach for Junichi and friends. In order to break the status quo, Junichi's friends have forced him into confessing to the gal, Yame Yukana. Of course, things do not go quite as he expected. A series of "firsts" begins!

Hajimete no Gyaru is a rom-com sprinkled with ecchi. While Junichi isn't the most outstanding protagonist, he does like Yukana a lot and puts in as much effort into a proper relationship as an awkward high-schooler can.

Meanwhile, Yukana is not the stereotypical bold and untamed gal. There's an endearing and shy side to her, plus I do derive some joy from her mischievous teasing of Junichi.

Of course, typical to the rom-com/ecchi genre, the cast of females is larger and more diverse. Two of the guys don't even have properly-drawn eyes!

Overall, the genre and character design pretty much gives you a gist of what to expect. It panders to those who already know what they want and like. However, thanks to the "will they won't they" behaviour of the main characters, it is slightly more interesting than I expected. I'm not the only one who thinks that way, since even with only three volumes out, Hajimete no Gyaru already has an anime series and OVA lined up! Check out the PV below:

Hajimete no Gyaru gets a 5.5/10 from me. The overall premise is still cliche and the art's not outstanding, not to mention the huge disparity between the male and female character designs. I find that the characters can be really shallow at points. Since it's an ecchi manga, I won't complain about the copious amount of fan service though.

How many of you enjoy rom-com manga? It's not common for me but I think I might check out more next time! Maybe just not the ones that scream ecchi.

Written by Nana

Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler

Saturday, May 13, 2017 / No Comments
Hi everyone! It's Nana~ Recently, I have been all about taking risks! After the initial hesitation, there is an adrenaline rush that is quite addictive. So it really is suitable that my current favourite manga Kakegurui, is all about gambling!

At Hyakkaou Private Academy, the sons and daughters of the wealthy have a rigorous curriculum of gambling where the winners live like kings, and the losers are treated like paupers. When Jabami Yumeko enrols, she turns the academy upside-down with her high-roller behaviour.

The premise is simple. What makes this manga more than its description though, is the mental manipulations! There has been many manga about gambling, and what makes them all so interesting aside from the game is the psychological aspect of it all. In different game settings, Yumeko loses control, takes control, and brings people to ruin even as she descends with them.

Yumeko's pretty far out, even for such a radical school.
Her foes are formidable: cheaters, tag teams, people who offer their body parts as stakes and many more. Her allies, not so much. Suzui Ryouta, the only male main character, is a stereotypical 'normal'; he reacts like 'normal' people would, and is basically there as a contrast against Yumeko so that her insane genius shines even brighter. Personally, I am keen to see if he will remain so submissive or if he will step up and take risks! After all, they kind of do nothing but gamble.

Characters and plot aside, the art is definitely also easy on the eye. The art in Kakegurui really reminds me of Kangoku Gakuen! It is stunning and obscene at the same time. The anatomy is definitely exaggerated, and I really love the violently contorted expressions that Naomura sensei draws.

Face closeups are pretty common.

Like, really common.
However, I do find this manga lacking in the character development department. If you ignore the prequel and spin-offs and read it on its own, it lacking in anything beyond the gamble. Personal life is skimmed over. How the school works and its authority is simply answered by adding a student council in. We barely even know what the characters think about each other. With the latest manga chapters involving so-called "family", perhaps we will start finding out more about the main characters, at least.

Overall, I'd give Kakegurui a solid 7 out of 10! I definitely recommend it to everyone who is interested in psychological manga! It might not be absolutely outstanding, but I reckon it makes a good pre-bedtime manga.

Written by Nana

Shogakukan Asia to publish BanG Dream! Manga in English

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 / No Comments

Shogakukan Asia to publish BanG Dream! manga in English
Volume 1 of the BanG Dream! English manga arrives in bookstores in Southeast Asia end March 2017; Shogakukan Asia exploring further opportunities for a release in other territories.

Singapore, February 17, 2017 -- Shogakukan Asia Pte Ltd (Shogakukan Asia), a manga and educational books publisher, has announced its acquisition of the English-language publishing rights to Bushiroad Media's highly popular BanG Dream! manga series.
Written and illustrated by Mami Kashiwabara, BanG Dream! tells the story of 1st year high school student Kasumi Toyama, who endeavours to form a band after a series of chance encounters reunites her with the "beat of the stars" sensation she first experienced as a kid.
While the BanG Dream! manga shares the same premise with the hit television anime series currently airing in Japan, the manga provides more comprehensive details to each character and features additional scenes not seen in the anime.
Volume 1 of the BanG Dream! English manga is slated for an end March release, and is expected to go on sale in bookstores in the following six countries: Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Thailand and The Philippines. Shogakukan Asia is also exploring opportunities with overseas partners to release the manga in other territories beyond Southeast Asia.

About BanG Dream! The newest title from Bushiroad Inc -- the entertainment company behind Cardfight!! Vanguard, Future Card Buddyfight, Detective Milky Holmes, Weiss Schwarz and other titles – BanG Dream! is a media mix project featuring animated music videos, comics, song releases and much more. What’s more, the voice cast for the characters of BanG Dream! also perform in concerts in real-life as the girls’ band “Poppin’Party”.
BanG Dream! Volume 1 synopsis Kasumi Toyama has always been captivated by the "beat of the stars". Since then, she's been searching for something... a spark that'll excite and thrill her! Following a trail of star-shaped stickers, she soon stumbles upon a Random Star guitar at her school mate's house! Could this mark the start of something amazing? A sparkling, heart-racing high school life begins for Kasumi as she decides to form a band!
About Shogakukan Asia Pte Ltd Shogakukan Asia is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Shogakukan Inc in Japan, which was first established on 8 August 1922 as a publishing house that specialises in educational magazines for elementary school children and teachers in Japan. Over the years, Shogakukan gradually expanded both its scale and its range of publications in order to cater to the various needs of its readers from different age groups and demographics.

Established in Singapore on September 2013, Shogakukan Asia was set up to lead the Japanese publisher's business expansion into Asia, especially Southeast Asia. Based in Singapore but with Asia in its vision, Shogakukan Asia adopts the direct publishing model, leveraging the rich experience and know-how in overseas licensing and publication of educational materials.
Since September 2013, Shogakukan Asia has published 95 manga titles and 20 children's educational titles. Its best-selling manga titles include Detective Conan, Silver Spoon, Doraemon, Future Card Buddyfight and Pokémon.

For more information, please visit :
Official Shogakukan Website

Shogakukan Asia Facebook Page

Written by Max

The Magic Behind Manga

Wednesday, February 15, 2017 / No Comments

An acoustic ditty (possibly sung by Urasawa?) plays in the background of the intro animation

Manben, an NHK documentary hosted by Naoki Urasawa, gives us a look into the laborious and sweaty, yet wholly enchanting world of mangakas. Urasawa himself is one of the veteran manga masters, having brought into our world several inimitable thrillers such as Yawara, Monster and 20th Century Boys.

The world of an aspiring mangaka is fraught with financial instability, consequent disapproval from family and possibly worst of all, dealing with the temperamental masses over the years. If you've ever thought about making it as a mangaka, or as a storyteller, this is the series for you. I watched it right after finishing Bakuman, so my brain was totally ramped up. Fun stuff.

So this is how the episode goes:  Cameras are set up in the workspaces of the artists, over hours or days, in order to capture a slice of their usual workflow. After filming, the featured artist and Urasawa engage in a dialogue that takes a deeper look at their thought processes, work philosophies and technical decisions. How did they get started? Where do they get their ideas? What do they draw with? How fast do you have to draw? All these questions and more are thoroughly explored and answered.

Observe Hanazawa-san's suffering as the deadline creeps up on him

The series originally debuted as a one-off special in 2014 featuring Kaiji Kawaguchi (Zipang, Eagle) and Kazumi Yamashita (The Life of Genius Professor Yanagizawa). Fortunately for us all, it was extended to feature twelve more names so far.

Episode list:

1 x 1    Akiko Higashimura (Princess Jellyfish, Kakukaku Shikajika)         
1 x 2    Kazuhiro Fujita (Karakuri Circus)
1 x 3    Inio Asano (Solanin, Goodnight Punpun)    
1 x 4    Takao Saito (Golgo 13)    
2 x 1    Moto Hagio (Poe no Ichizoku)       
2 x 2    Kengo Hanazawa (I am a Hero)        
2 x 3    Daisuke Igarashi (Kaijuu no Kodomo)         
2 x 4    Usamaru Furuya (At Na Chan's)
3 x 1    Ikegami Ryoichi (Heat, Lord)
3 x 2    Miyake Ranjou (Imuri)
3 x 3    Takahashi Tsutomu (Jiraishin)
3 x 4    Urasawa Naoki

What is especially interesting to observe is that regardless of the commercial popularity of their creations, the artists all display an incredible devotion and consistent fascination with the process and the responsibilities that come with being a mangaka. Perhaps you think the art by a particular mangaka isn't great, that you wouldn't mind if that work was wiped off the face of the planet. But it seems that the point isn't to make a perfect, universally-appealing manga. The greatest blessing that we, as readers, can hope for, is for the artist to always have an attitude of improvement and experimentation. That way, they can keep bringing us on new adventures. In exchange, we have the power to make all sorts of fickle, scorching comments like 'this art reeks of laziness' and 'wow totally unoriginal'.

I had encountered most of the works featured before, but carelessly brushed them off in search of something else after judging their covers for like two seconds. That still doesn't even mean I have to look through everything, because it's not a practical possibility. Isn't it tough being a mangaka in this world?

For mangakas working on weekly serials, they have to accept that showing their best work given the sheer crunch is really just good enough, because the most important thing is that manga is being created. That's what keeps the culture going. A constant pushing and pulling between readers, publishers and artists.

The artists push themselves unrelentingly on the problems of plot and characterization
Due to the nature of publishing, mangas sometimes have 'breather' or the more horrible-sounding 'filler' chapters. I'd like to think from now on that these chapters are what reminds me of the living souls behind manga. Manga really isn't created the same way books are written. It is a living, breathing medium that depends on the mind-numbingly long-term intensive efforts and vision of up to dozens of people. Sometimes you have to take a break if you want to be able to run the rest of the marathon. I'll read and enjoy the journey with that in mind.

Since catching the episodes, I've picked up Igarashi Daisuke's fabulously illustrated Children of the Sea.

Igarashi comes from a Fine Art background, and his artistic sensitivity towards composition and colouring is particularly evident. There are several underwater scenes rendered in a beautiful painterly style which are an absolute joy to behold. I've also started on Dead Dead Demon's DedededeDestruction by Asano Inio.

You may recognize his intense, graphic vision from his earlier works. Some spreads from Dedede were featured in his episode and the artwork was just mindblowing so I had to check it out. No regrets.

Dead Dead Demon's DedededeDestruction 
Volumes 1-5 are currently available at Kinokuniya for $16.10 each if you want to dash out and buy them as I often feel like doing when I find something beautiful. This series is in progress.

Children of the Sea 海獣の子供 
Single volumes or the full set of five volumes can be purchased from Amazon JP for ¥771 and ¥1440 respectively.

DVDs and BluRays of Manben's Japanese-language individual episodes are slated for release throughout 2017, with bonus booklets and clips. They can be preordered right now for up to 20% off depending on which site, which works out to be roughly $42 SGD before shipping. I'm a huge fan of Higashimura Akiko and Inio Asano so I'm definitely reserving funds for those. I do wish they'd release a box set actually, preferably at a lower price... Officially translated episodes on Crunchyroll or something would be nice too, as I'd venture to say that this is a topic that people all around the globe are interested in.

At the official NHK Manben site, there are transcripts and extra clips available for viewing. (Japanese only, but easy enough to navigate)

Written by Mana

Two Epic Zombie Mangas You Have To Read

Thursday, January 19, 2017 / No Comments

Watching Train to Busan last year seemed to ignite a zombie fanatic spark in me. From then on, I had become totally enraptured with the genre. I binged on The Walking Dead for a long while, fangirled over Daryl and then dropped it at season 7. (It really started to go downhill when Negan appeared like… That dude has no substance. Nice teeth though. The Governor was the best villain in my opinion. Anyone else agree?? Okay, I should shut up about TWD.)

Back to the point, I’m totally feeling zombies at the moment. I literally can't get enough of them. So I thought I’d share the stuff I’ve been reading, and that is worth reading, so far. Sweet dreams peeps.

I Am a Hero by Kengo Hanazawa


The main character is a struggling mangaka, insecure in both his work and love life. When a zombie plague breaks out, it’s up to him to become the hero of his own story.

There’s a pretty major turning point that occurs in the latter part of the story which includes a plot twist about the zombies. It starts to get extra weird and I would say that it gets even better. I don’t want to pigeonhole such a great manga, but I must admit it begins to take on a very Gantz vibe.

Keeps surprising me with its unpredictable turn of events, WTF moments (those who have read it will know what I’m talking about gosh) and intricate storytelling. I love that the zombies are humanised, there is great character development and the art is beautiful. A unique aspect is its first person perspective sequences which make you feel like you’re in a video game.

A tip for people picking this up for the first time: pay attention to side characters who don’t seem too important at the moment – they have a tendency to reappear as main roles or have unexpected relations to the main characters.

Rating: 5/5 – the best zombie manga I’ve read so far. It’ll be hard to top for sure.

Recommended soundtrack: Kokomo album and Zombie by TheCranberries (I HAD TO GUYS, just imagine an MMV to this holy cow)

Apocalypse no Toride by Kazu Inabe and Yu Kuraishi

Set in a juvenile prison full of OP good looking teenagers, Apocalypse no Toride has perfected the formula for the ultimate zombie romp – badass characters, grotesque violence and a big dose of creativity. It’s loads of fun to read when survival is at the core of the story, and this manga piles on the action with nary a wasted panel.

The characters’ backgrounds are gradually revealed in depth as flashbacks, making them more than just one-dimensional delinquents. Coupled with Hollywood worthy dialogue and seriously cool zombie designs, it entertains while also touching the heart. The only thing that held me back from giving it a full score was the obviously rushed ending, which although was still very satisfying, left a lingering sense of plot holes.

Rating: 4.5/5

Recommended soundtrack: Rock and Metal Mix (Down with the Sickness by Disturbed is absolute perfection for this)

Written by Faelan

March comes in like a Lion

Sunday, September 25, 2016 / No Comments
I can't believe just how some things have passed me by for a pretty long time, yet there has long been an awareness of such lingering around the back of my head. Recently, while browsing in Books Kinokuniya I came across a series of manga that will have an anime adaptation in October (essentially the Fall season). Its drawing style is honestly not something that I would be remotely intrigued by, but like what I have said about the lingering stuff it had actually triggered something in my head. So I made a mental note to sample some. Anybody here reads 3-gatsu no Lion (March comes in like a Lion)?

The series has a rather interesting line-up, with the main character being a professional shogi player since a very young age, and how his life entwines with those of the people around him, in particular a trio of sisters living nearby. The theme of shogi seems to serve as just a backdrop and not overwhelm with its technicalities which is good, because I don't have plans to learn the game anytime soon. The story is also fairly slow-paced and not desperate to go anywhere. Anyway, I should say that my curiosity had suddenly multiplied, and I found myself reading until...Chapter 32 or somewhere around there.

Yeah, so the professional shogi player is Kiriyama Rei, who was 17 at the start of the manga. Rei comes across as severely socially awkward, but we quickly realise the reasons which have shaped him the way that he is. He leads an independent life after staying and training with his shogi teacher, though at one glance it isn't difficult telling that the so-called independence is actually nondescript and worrying. But fate had Rei meet with the Kawamoto sisters, who took an instant liking to him and informally act as his family of sorts. Oh, did I mention that there are also cats in this? The cats have their own voices throughout the manga! 

Spending time over at the Kawamotos gradually opens up Rei's vulnerability and his gentle nature. His life alternates between them, shogi and high school. Apparently, his status as a professional shogi player is larger than imagined, though there are obviously stronger and better players surrounding him. Rei's key opponents in shogi are somewhat a haphazard mix. Sure, they are rivals yet it is just as evident that they also genuinely care for Rei outside of the game. One particular guy stands out: Nikaidou Harunobu. Nikaidou has no sense of shame at all when it comes to Rei. We also realise that Rei has a tough time fighting off Nikaidou's overpowering invasion of personal space and such. Does anybody think that they are friends anyway? 

Besides the anime adaptation, there is a two-part live-action film adaptation which will premiere in March and April next year. I'm more interested in the anime though. Oddly, I don't find myself the least inclined to watch live-action adaptations. It is the same for other manga titles. Hmm. Anyway, I shall attempt to follow this series regularly. There is a subtle charm working!

Eccentrically Yours.

Written by J.Fluffysheep ♪