Manga Friday: More from Del Rey
Del Rey is about the only manga publisher sending me review copies on a regular basis, so they get an extra-large helping of Manga Friday’s love. And this week is no exception; we have no theme, but we do have these three new books from Del Rey…
Minima!, Vol. 1
Del Rey Manga, 2007, $10.95
There will not be a test this week, so you can relax – Minima! does not refer to the mathematical concept of minima. It’s not entirely clear what it does refer to, though I’d guess it’s a vague reference to small, cute, furry things.
Ame Oikawa is a quiet middle-school girl who’s vaguely dissatisfied about something – exactly what is not clear, because she’s so quiet – when she goes with her class to an amusement park. (Her problems are probably related to having a crush on some boy or other, but I couldn’t keep the other characters straight, so that part flew past me.)
But then a cute little stuffed animal that she just bought starts talking and walking around – its name is Nicori, and it’s standing up for her. Whatever the previous problem was – and did I mention that I’m still not sure about that at all? – disappears into the background, as there’s a media frenzy about this talking toy.
The plot lurches forward almost randomly from there, focusing mostly on the relationship between Ame and Nicori, with side-trips into the price of fame, the terrors of junior high, and the dangers of kidnappers before this volume is over. There’s a whole lot of big emotional scenes, mostly because Nicori is embarrassing Ame by misunderstanding things or blurting out her secret crushes.
This was very much not for me – it’s a story for and about tween girls; the kind who go “ohmiGOD” at the slightest thing and who make and break BFFs five times before lunch. For that audience, it’s harmless, but I doubt many (if any) ComicMix readers fit that demographic. However, if you have daughters or nieces, they might love this more than life itself.
Yozakura Quartet, Vol. 1
Del Rey Manga, 2008, $10.95
You know that old joke – He’s a telepathic fireman from planet Mongo! She’s the pyrokinetic heir to the throne of Faerie! They fight crime! – made famous by an Andrew Wheeler who is not me?
Well, Yozakura Quartet is a little bit like an extended version of that joke, taken seriously. Hime is the teenaged superpowered hereditary mayor of the town of Sakurashin. Ao is a satori (demon) who can read minds and has cat ears. Kotoha is “a kotodama user who can conjure up anything she speaks” – whatever “kotodama user” means. And the one boy of the quartet, Akina, seems to be the leader – he runs their office, and gives orders – but he is completely normal.
The set-up promises a harem comedy, but, at least in this first volume, the focus is all on fighting weird and/or supernatural crime. Akina is probably a horndog – he’s a teenage boy in an adventure manga; how could he be otherwise? – but he isn’t seen to be one in these stories. I don’t think he even “accidentally” walks in on one of the girls naked.
The adventures are pretty good, and the characters are easy to tell apart and have distinctive personalities. I’m not completely sold on this world – Hime has been mayor since she was nine? How the heck does that work? – and there’s a lot of world-building that hasn’t happened (or been explained) yet. But it’s pretty good, and, for once, the sidebar pages that explain how tall all of the characters are and who their favorite comedians are (though not, for once, what their blood types and star-signs are, thank god) were actually amusing rather than a window into a very weird incomprehensible culture.
Dragon Eye, Vol. 2
Del Rey Manga, 2007, $10.95
Dragon Eye is still building up in its second volume – Issa, the captain of Squad Zero, is again one-half a slacker goofball and one-half a mysterious superpowered monster fighter with hidden depths. Leila, the new monster-fighter who seemed to be the viewpoint character in the first volume, is moving more and more to a subsidiary role. And Yukimura remains as one-note as before: “My name is Sosei Yukimura. You caused the death of my sister. Prepare to…well, prepare for me to watch you very, very closely so I can destroy you somehow, someday.”
This volume sees the end of the battle against the giant chicken-monster Kaligera. (He wins and slaughters them all! OK, you didn’t buy that for a second, did you?) Then another story starts up, in which our main characters are thrown together with some other colorful VIUS agents and sent far, far from backup to check out a situation that we all know will turn out to be vastly worse than anyone suspects.
Dragon Eye still isn’t pretending to be anything that it isn’t – it’s a melodramatic comic about monster-hunters in a vaguely dystopic world. The characters aren’t quite from Central Casting, but they do fall into definite types. But there’s nothing at all wrong with that, and I do have a soft spot about guys who fight giant talking chicken-monsters with their huge and not-at-all-phallic swords.
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
Publishers who would like their books to be reviewed at ComicMix should contact ComicMix through the usual channels or email Andrew Wheeler directly at acwheele (at) optonline (dot) net.