Graphic Novel Round Up, Part 1

Recently I’ve read several graphic novels.  I’m not great at writing full-length, in depth reviews for them as I do for novels, so I thought I would do a compilation post, despite there being no real theme between them.  Here it goes:

Rapunzels RevengeRapunzel’s Revenge
by Shannon and Dean Hale
Illustrated by Nathan Hale (no relation)

A girl-power retelling of Rapunzel.  Rapunzel lives inside the walls of a beautiful, lush castle but cannot help but be curious about what lies beyond her gilded cage.  Going against the wishes of the only mother she’s ever known, Rapunzel scales the castle walls and gets a peak at the other side.  Outside the wall is a vast wasteland of people treated like insects and worked to the bone in the mines.  It is there that she meets her real mother, a woman she remembers to be kind and loving, a woman who is now one of Mother Gothel’s slaves.  Back inside the castle, Rapunzel confronts Mother Gothel with the truth and gets taken to the far reaches of the land and locked in a room atop a very tall tree.  Rapunzel’s story has only just begun.  When she escapes her treetop prison, she is determined to make it back to the castle to save her mother and the slaves.  She meets a handsome thief along the way and they decide to team up, but Rapunzel has a thing or two to teach him about the difference between right and wrong and helping other people.  Will they be able to make it to the castle without getting caught?  Will they be able to make a difference once they get to the castle?

A great graphic retelling of Rapunzel.  I enjoyed Rapunzel’s strength and goodness, and enjoyed when some of the traditional elements of fairy tales were upended.  For example, after saving herself from her treetop prison, she meets a self-proclaimed hero who tells her he is going to go rescue the girl trapped in the tower…well, not actually rescue her because he doesn’t want to incur Mother Gothel’s wrath but he’ll just tell her he’s going to rescue her and she’ll be too dumb to know otherwise.  Rapunzel happily points him to her now vacant tower and tells him to yell really loud since the girl in the tower is hard of hearing.  Full of humor, parts of other fairy tales thrown in (such as Jack and the Bean Stalk), and pretty color illustrations, it is a fun read for fairy tale lovers.

Black BirdBlack Bird, volume 1
by Kanoko Sakurakoji

Misao sees things that others can’t, spirits who constantly trip her or mesmerize her making her a bit of an oddity at school.  The only person she’s ever known who could also see the spirits was her childhood friend Kyo.  He was a bit older than her but she still has very fond, if not vague, memories of him.  He left ten years ago and told her he would be back for her.  While she really wants a boyfriend, no one can stand up to her memories of Kyo.  Now Kyo is back but he is not exactly what Misao remembered; he is a demon.  It turns out that Misao is the bride of prophecy.  Demons who drink her blood are granted a long life, those who eat her flesh gain eternal youth, and those who marry her will ensure prosperity for their people.  Misao just turned sixteen and that is the age the prophecy takes effect.  Now demons will be after her to injure her or kill her just to gain power.  Kyo is a demon and he wants to marry Misao.  Though she has feelings for him she can’t stand the thought that he only wants to be with her because of the power she could give him.  But as he continually saves her from other spirits and demons, even putting his own life at risk, she begins to wonder if he really is only doing it for power, if maybe he feels something else.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the first volume in the series.  My two main issues were: 1. I thought the translation seemed a bit choppy at parts making for unrealistic sounding dialogue and 2. Kyo’s obsession with getting Misao to sleep with him came up at the most awkward times.  The first got better the more I read.  The second continued to jar me out of the story.  I get that he’s trying to persuade her to marry him and the power that both the marriage and their coupling could give him would be great, but he comes across as pretty suave and then all of the sudden he’ll be like “OK, time for sex”.  There were better ways, it seemed, to introduce that topic.  I can definitely see why this one was rated T+.  Overall, though, I got sucked into the story and am looking forward to the release of the next couple of volumes. Go Misao and Kyo!

Vampire Knight

Vampire Knightby Matsuri Hino

Yuki Cross has no memories of her life before the age of five.  Ten years ago, she was attacked by an evil vampire and saved by a powerful, pure-blood vampire, Kaname Kuran.  Kaname took her to live with an ally who opened the Cross Academy where there are two classes, the night class and the day class.  The night class is made up of vampires who have signed a pact not to spill human blood but to live in peace with humans and use a blood pill for nourishment.  The day class is made up of traditional students, humans, who have no idea they share their school with vampires.  What they do know is that the night class is full of beautiful people and are constantly trying to mingle with the night class.  Despite the pact, the night and day class are kept separate.  Since Yuki knows the night class secret, she is one of two people who serve as a disciplinary committee.  She and her partner patrol the grounds and make sure the two classes don’t mingle.  Yuki’s partner is Zero.  Zero has a tragic history of his own.  He was part of a family of vampire hunters and his entire family was murdered by a very powerful vampire.  He came to Cross Academy to live and heal but he is still full of hate.  Yuki tries to keep Zero in good spirits but it is a full-time job on top of all her other duties.  Tensions are high, not only between the classes but between Kuname and Zero who both have their own, strong feelings for Yuki.

Reaction: I am four volumes into this series and I’m pretty much hooked.  I love Zero’s angst and I’m still trying to figure out Kaname.  Yuki is, of course, cute and innocent and does not realize Zero or Kaname’s feelings for her.  Some of the plot twists are predictable…like the appearance of the mysterious new vampire in the third volume, of course I knew who she was, duh!…but it still sucked me in.  I am waiting for something to happen regarding Yuki’s unknown past but so far no hints.  And I can’t say who I would rather see Yuki with.  Both Kaname and Zero have their positives and negatives.  I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of this series.

Tail of the Moon (vols. 1 and 2)

by Rinko Ueda

Usagi’s grandfather is the leader of a prestigious clan of ninjas.  At one time, he had hoped that Usagi would become one of his ninjas but he has given up hope.  Usagi is clumsy and not at all interested in ninja studies.  Since she will never be a ninja, Usagi’s grandfather sends her away to marry Lord Hanzo, another ninja clan leader, and have lots of ninja babies.  At first Usagi is resistant to the idea, then she meets Lord Hanzo and he is the most handsome man she has ever met; now Usagi can’t wait to marry Lord Hanzo.  Too bad Hanzo says that he will never marry.  Usagi is determined to change his mind.

In volume one Usagi learns she has stunningly beautiful competition for Hanzo’s hand in marriage.  In order to win Hanzo’s heart, Usagi decides that maybe she can become a ninja after all.  Though she does her best, Usagi just isn’t cut out for ninja work.  Despite this, she promises Hanzo that she will continue training.  In volume two, Usagi returns to her home village after a fight with Hanzo and her former fiance and childhood friend, Goemon, decides he wants Usagi back.  Usagi tells him that she only loves Hanzo but Goemon still tells everyone that he and Usagi will be married.  Of course word gets back to Hanzo and he’s none too pleased.  After that situation is resolved (no marriage but Goemon’s not giving up!) Usagi turns to helping two friends who love each other but have broken up get back together.

Reaction: Tail of the Moon follows a fairly typical Shojo storyline with a not uber attractive girl who is none-the-less cute and sweet falling for a man who is a 10+ on a hotness scale of 1 to 10.  While hot guy resists attraction, cute girl can’t help but win his affections, even if it is a slow process.  And of course, there are many obstacles in their way.  At first Usagi annoyed me.  She seemed lazy as well as clumsy.  You’re obviously not going to do well at something if you don’t even try.  But she grew one me.  It turns out that she does have a skill and one that she has worked very hard on, proving that she is not as lazy as I first thought.  Her skill is with medicine.  Once her skill is found out, she becomes very valuable and can certainly contribute something very useful to whichever clan she associates.  Also, it becomes obvious that she is truly caring and can be selfless.  Besides being hot, Lord Hanzo is gruff and has high expectations for those around him (as well as himself) but he is also very loyal.  His character is a bit flatter than Usagi’s but there is certainly an air of mystery around him (why does he refuse to marry?) that makes him intriguing.  The first two volumes were fun so I’m looking forward to continuing with the series.

The Demon Ororon (Volume 1)

by Hakase Mizuki

Chiaki notices Ororon alone and hurt on the street and offers to help him. What Chiaki doesn’t know is that Ororon is a demon, the King of Hell to be exact, and is fleeing from the many people (well, things I suppose) that are trying to kill him. For her kindness, Ororon offers to grant Chiaki one wish. Her wish is that Ororon stay with her forever. Chiaki is an orphan. Her parents disappeared when she was very young; she grew up with her grandfather who recently died; she is often approached by ghosts asking for help so rarely ventures outside and barely attends school; and her best friend’s family is moving away. In other words, Chiaki is very lonely and feels like everyone she loves leaves. Soon Chiaki, Ororon, and Ororon’s housekeeper have formed a small family, but Chiaki quickly learns that it is not so easy living with Ororon. Ororon is constantly plagued by demons and others trying to kill him, and Ororon has no qualms killing them in return. Chiaki’s nature is very gentle and she has a hard time with Ororon’s ease at taking another’s life. Is Chiaki truly ready to make a life with the demon Ororon?

Reaction: I don’t read a lot of Manga, so I’m not really sure how to properly review it. I can tell you that I liked the art. I am not an expert on Manga art and I’m not even sure what it is I liked about it, but I know that I’ve picked up Manga titles and put them right back down because I disliked the style of the art. So, that’s probably not helpful for a review, but there it is nonetheless. The story line is what got me to read the book. I was definitely interested in a love story between a demon from hell and a girl who is the half-breed daughter of the archangel Michael and a human (Chiaki is in denial about this so I didn’t mention it in the summary). I love the whole concept of good vs. evil but with blurred concepts of who is good and who is evil. For example, there are angels from heaven whose purpose it is to kill Ororon and Chiaki (because half-breeds are not supposed to be allowed to live). These are angels from heaven, therefore they should be good, but their purpose is to kill, which is wrong, so are they good or evil? What I really liked about this first volume is Chiaki’s genuine kindness but also her blindness regarding the realities of the world. She sees everything in black and white, and will need to grow up and change some of her views if she and Ororon are going to be together.

As with me and most Manga, there were things that went over my head. Take Gomi the cat, for instance. Gomi started out looking like a normal cat, and then all of the sudden there was a person with cat ears. Is this Gomi or someone else (a demon?) who has cat ears? I’m not sure, but it didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the overall text.

What I am really happy about is that The Demon Ororon is only four volumes. I am not a fan for never ending Manga series. I like my stories to have a distinct beginning, middle, and end, and I think that’s one of the main reasons I don’t read more Manga. The unfortunate thing is that my library only carries volume one of the and I doubt they will be obtaining the other volumes since this is an older series, so I will more than likely have to purchase the other volumes. What’s good, though, is that the whole series has been complied into one book for only $13.99, which is a steal because otherwise each volume would cost $9.99. Guess what’s going on my Christmas list?