Manga Friday: I’ve Got a Yen
This week I have three books from the fine folks at Yen Press. All of them are the second volume in their respective series, and I’ve only read the first book of one of them…which means it’s time for me to be confused yet again.
(Don’t worry – I’m well used to it by now.)
Black God, Vol. 2
Story by Dall-Young Lim; Art by Sung-Wao Park
Yen Press, 2008, $10.99
This is yet another series about a young man (Keita) bonded to a gorgeous supernatural girl (Kuro) who doesn’t have much knowledge of the modern world – apparently, he lost his arm in the first book, and she saved his life and bonded permanently with him to get his arm back. (She’s a “mototsumitama,” for those making notes at home. What does that mean? I dunno…)
In a startling reversal, Keita is not a nerdy high school student, but a mid-20s jerk of a videogame designer/programmer. (On the big two-page title spread of the very first story in this book, he’s strangling Kuro awake in the morning because she ruined his life – “ruined” apparently in the sense of “saved him from dying and gave him a connection to vast supernatural hoodoo.”) I think Keita is supposed to be at least mildly attractive to the reader, but I found him a complete ass.
In this book, some of the details of the human-mototsumitama relationship are explained, as Kuro meets another mototsumitama woman, who is bonded to an old man. (Keita’s boyhood friend, the equally cute Akane, also has something to do with the overall plot, but exactly what isn’t clear yet.) And what happens when two super-powered folks meet in a comic book, kids? That’s right – a big fight scene!
The art is clean and detailed, easy to follow for Americans while still being clearly in a manga style. The story is nothing terribly new – psychic battles, girls in their underwear, emotional turmoil – but it moves decently and the dialogue is pretty good. If Keita were anything like an acceptable human being, this could be a solid adventure story.
Alice on Deadlines, Vol. 2
Yen Press, 2008, $10.99
And here’s the series where I actually know what’s going on; I reviewed the first volume a few months ago. To recap: Lapan is a shingami, a minor demon in human form tasked with retrieving recalcitrant dead souls, and he was supposed to be in the body of a skeleton for his most recent mission on Earth. Unfortunately, Lapan is incompetent (not to mention lecherous and a bit dim), so he ended up in the body of cute high-school student Alice, who found herself in the skeleton.
Oh, and fellow shingami Ume – who is the son of the head of the company Lapan works for, and has a huge crush on Lapan – has followed his love to Earth. He was male in the spirit world but is incarnated as another attractive young lady to entice Lapan. Lapan, in a rare fit of good sense, realizes that Ume is completely nuts and wants nothing to do with him.
Meanwhile, the gears of the supernatural bureaucracy are grinding very slowly; the Powers That Be know about the mix-up, and are working to fix it…almost certainly within the year. While he’s on Earth, Lapan-in-Alice’s-body will continue to find and send on “shibito” (souls who refuse to pass on to the afterlife), while also continuing Alice’s normal schoolgirl life.
Alice, on the other hand, is watching her body like a hawk to keep Lapan from utterly embarrassing her, or spending too much time modeling skimpy underwear on him/herself.
So Alice on Deadlines is very much not politically correct – it’s sophomoric and almost entirely focused on jokes about underwear. (The first story in this volume is about a shibito that steals girls’ underwear while they’re still wearing it; that’ll give you an idea of the level here.) I can’t recommend this series to everyone, but, if you’re as tacky and incorrigible as I am, you’ll love it.
Zombie-Loan, Vol. 2
Yen Press, 2008, $10.99
Again I jump into the middle and try to figure out what’s going on. Three high school students are now “zombies” after the events of the first book, and also have heavy debts to pay back to the Z Loan office because of their death and revival. (It’s not clear what makes them zombies, since they don’t shamble, eat brains, or comment satirically on modern American society by their very existence. “Zombie” seems to just be a term for the revived in this universe.)
The central figure of the trio is the obligatory quiet, mousy kid in glasses – since Zombie-Loan appeared in a magazine for girls, this is Michiru, who is very, very slowly learning how to assert herself. (Also since this was originally for an audience of teenage girls, the other two zombies are cute boys who are linked together closely.)
Our main characters are supposed to be bounty hunters for the Z Loan office, but most of this book is taken up with stories about dumpster-diving for food, scrounging new lodgings in a run-down dormitory, and making Michiru kiss another zombie girl (Koyomi) to bring out Koyomi’s alternate personality, who has special zombie-discovery powers. There is a nasty villain lurking in the wings, but the heroes are no closer to finding him at the end than they were at the beginning, so it will probably take a while before he’s finally stopped.
It’s all very scattered and far too focused on Michiru’s wide-eyed helplessness for my tastes. (But I don’t like the hapless loser manga hero when it’s a boy, either.) I’m afraid I like the title far better than the actual story here – for my money, Zombie-Loan should have been something much cooler.
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.