Renai Kaidan Sayoko-san

Renai Kaidan Sayoko-san

Sayoko is a young woman that can see spirits and bind them to herself. In doing so she helps the spirits out by saving them from an existence of loneliness, but that also results in her having a deathly aura surrounding her that naturally puts people off. However, she’s a kind girl that isn’t willing to simply let spirits be, so she continues to bind them to her regardless. Thus, she has kept a distance between her and others. That changes when Inaba literally crashes into her on his bike. He is immediately apologetic, but Sayoku is more worried about him and how his contact with her could damage him. However, he seems to be immune to the dark aura surrounding her. Furthermore, he treats her nicely, even when she does things that put off others like talking to her spirits. As a result, she immediately falls deeply in love with him. Hence, begins the story of Sayoko pursuing love, wherein she completely lacks any common sense in dealing with others, but makes up for it with her loyal army of spirits.

***

This manga has a core story that is pretty cute with Sayoko pursuing Inaba being the main focus. Overall the relationship development was pretty solid and I thought it ended in a pretty satisfying manner. However, I think it was most interesting at the beginning and as it went on it started getting duller up until a bit of a spike at the end. It starts off being focused around Sayako’s strangeness and bizarre antics in going after Inaba, which was really amusing at first. But this remains the central aspect of the comedy from beginning to end, and to that end it started getting pretty repetitive. It seems to add more serious story later on to add more variety, but I feel these stories weren’t all that great, even if they ultimately did end up arriving at a good conclusion. The main reason for that is that they seem heavily character focused, and though Sayako is pretty interesting, most everyone else felt like pretty weak characters. Inaba had some character but not as much as was needed for one of the two main characters. The side characters felt like they had little to no character whatsoever, completely lacking personality and purpose. This combined with the slow pacing made it feel a lot like everything was simply dragging on at times. The art style too was really interesting at first, being an interesting combination of an art style that looked a bit shoujo like and a horror like art style. As it went on though, once the novelty wore off it didn’t seem all that great, and certain aspects of it like the repeating long faces just looked kind of dumb.

A manga that starts off really interesting, but doesn’t do well in going beyond the initial premise.

7/10 

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Densetsa no Yuusha no Konkatsu (Marriage Hunting of the Legendary Brave)

Densetsu no Yuusha no Konkatsu

Yuri was the hero. He spent his entire life working towards defeating the demon king, and he achieved it. Now the world was no longer plagued by the forces of darkness and was at peace. However, now that he’s reached this point he’s not sure what to do with his life. The marriage of two of his comrades and the happiness they seem to be feeling inspire him to also search for someone to get married to. And if that’s all he wanted he would have no problem, because as the world’s savior there’s no end to the number of women that are interested in him. But he doesn’t just want someone who marries him because he is the hero, but rather someone that truly loves him for being him. Hence, he begins his quest of anonymously travelling the world searching for a partner. And though due to the fact that him single mindedly working towards being a hero has resulted in him having absolutely no understanding of woman or common sense in general, he is optimistic he’ll find someone.

***

This manga has a pretty unique premise and uses it pretty well. It starts off a bit slowly, wherein the chapters mostly repeat a per chapter loop of him interacting with women in a strange way due to his background as a hero, resulting in them not liking him, but then him impressing them with something related to him being a hero, but moving on because then it would be impossible for them to like him for him. This is pretty amusing considering how repetitive each instance was, but didn’t have any depth at all to it. The structure changes tremendously about a third of the way through however, wherein it begins having much longer stories. These stories rather than having mostly one dimensional heroines develop the heroines and a few side characters really well, wherein their motivations and lives are fleshed out very well. Naturally, this also results in the relationship between the hero and heroine feeling much more real, as well as the hero himself feeling much more fleshed out as well and also going through some solid character development, and wherein before he just seemed like a quirky guy you’re kind of rooting for, here he actually begins to feel like a genuinely good guy you’re wishing the best for. The humor from before is still present here and there are a lot of amusing moments, but beyond that these stories are well written, with emotions coming across very well and key moments having a lot of impact, with each story having both strong happy and sad moments. The final arc was sort of messy in that it seemed to be trying too hard to be more than the stories that came before it as a story worthy of being the final one, but largely I think it did a pretty good job and I was very satisfied with the ending. The art was pretty good and I think the framing of key emotional moments was especially really good.

An interesting concept implemented pretty well though a bit messy in the beginning and end.

9/10 

I think they could definitely done more with this concept, but I think the loop continuing to happen to the same guy after a while would kind of start to feel ridiculous. Would like to see another manga similar to this though.

Yuki to Sumi

yukitosumi

Tarou Nakamura is a pretty average high school student. He sits next to Yukino Tachibana, a calligraphy prodigy, well known throughout Japan and even the world. She’s beautiful, elegant, competent, and looked up to by the rest of their school. At least, that’s the image she puts out. In reality, she’s awful at pretty much everything except calligraphy and has a terrible personality based on a vastly over inflated ego. However, she’s determined to keep that a secret and keep up her image as the school idol. And hence in order to do so, she creates a calligraphy club with only her and Tarou, the only one who has seen her true self, as its members, where the goal rather than being calligraphy is to keep up her image. Tarou really doesn’t want to deal with her nonsense, but she’s really persuasive, and she promises to help him with the girl he has a crush on, Amano, so he ends up going along with her whims.

***

I really liked the concept of a guy helping a girl fake being a school idol. I think this implementation didn’t really work though. The main character doesn’t have much personality but is overall fine. The problem is that I don’t think that the heroine really worked well at all. Simply put, she’s only annoying. Being annoying and rude and such is perfectly fine if there was more to her but it never really felt like her good aspects showed, and hence she was never really a likable character. Really, the only thing that it seemed the manga even tried using to paint her in a good light was calligraphy, but that ultimately wasn’t enough. This also results in her not really having any sort of chemistry with the main character either. The side characters and the whole structure didn’t really feel like it was working either with no clear direction at all even 10 chapters in. Hence, I can’t say I’m all that surprised or disappointed it got cancelled and given a pretty pointless ending. Still, for what it was I thought it was amusing, and Yukino did have her moments even if overall I wasn’t all that fond of her. The art was also pretty solid.

An interesting concept that isn’t implemented that well but is funny for how short it is.

7/10 

Aku no Hana (The Flowers of Evil)

akunohana

Takao is a middle school student who views life with all its rules and structure somewhat oddly. This could largely be due to his love of reading books such as Les Fleurs du Mal, also known as The Flowers of Evil. It has led him to look down on most of the world and its pointlessness. Still, there are exceptions, most notably a girl named Saeki in his class whom he has a crush on. One day when he is alone in the classroom after school, he discovers that she forgot her school uniform, and in a panic on a whim he ends up stealing it. This causes quite a ruckus, and he is wracked by guilt. However, he then encounters a major issue in that it seems that a girl named Nakamura seems to have seen him take it. However, far from being disgusted with him, she’s actually rather pleased. She demands that he enter into a contract with her to do whatever she asks of him, and hence not feeling he has much of a choice he does. It turns out that Nakamura like him also looks down on the pointlessness of the world. However, her approach to dealing with it is far from Takao’s simple indifference, in that its much more violent.

***

A lot of stories focus on getting a reader invested in the plot and characters, telling larger than life tales about exaggerated characters. Stories that trend toward this direction generally explain everything pretty clearly and though tastes may differ they are pretty universal in what they convey. There are other stories that focus more on pulling empathy out of the reader, to make them not just understand what a character is going through, but have them feel it, and have them care not as much about where the plot of a story is going, but rather what emotions its invoking in the characters. Stories about angst, especially teen angst, generally lean very heavily towards the latter of these two, and Aku no Hana I think even of the genre especially leans really heavily on pulling empathy out of a reader. The thing with works that focus on empathy though, is that because they forgo simply explaining things to try to have the reader experience things that can’t be easily conveyed through just words through putting themselves into the shoes of the main character, when this fails it really fails. I think that at some point in the story, the main character lost me, and though I understood his story, I lost the ability to empathize with him.

I could empathize with Takao looking down at the world around them and keeping a distance from it in order to avoid having to acknowledge how it doesn’t meet his expectations. I could empathize with him feeling empty and wanting to attach to other things to find meaning. I could empathize with him wanting to escape the current world through any means necessary to find a world beyond it that may have more meaning. I could empathize with coming to the realization that nothing like that exists, and as a result feeling like a ghost who doesn’t see any point in life but also doesn’t want to die. But that’s where my ability to understand and connect with the character ended, or maybe I never properly understood him in the first place and was simply projecting in my empathy regarding the previously mentioned matters. I couldn’t really empathize nor really understand how he made it past that, nor where he found the motivation to face life head on and keep living, with the particular moment he does this and crushes the metaphorical flower of evil especially being unclear, and really making my understanding of what the flower was supposed to represent unclear as well. I don’t understand why he decides to stop running, to confront things, and start living a life that involves more living. I don’t see where this character growth suddenly came from, it seemed incredibly abrupt and random. To a degree I am happy for him, but as it simply doesn’t make that much sense to me, it hence doesn’t have as much of an impact as everything else he experienced, which makes me especially disappointed in that I feel that this is supposed to be the highlight of the manga. I understand him wanting to be truthful with Aya and to finish things properly with everything that happened in his past, because it’s impossible to avoid such things forever and they have a habit of coming up when you least want them to. I don’t understand when and how he decided that his past was something that he had evolved past and now it was simply a mental roadblock he had to overcome at some point in order to keep living life as the new him. I suppose that it also why I do not understand his confrontation in that regard helps him get over everything, especially such that it leads to everything suddenly going to being normal and everyone arriving at the overtly happy ending with not a shred of lingering angst. Though I suppose as a major fan of happy endings, even if I don’t understand it I’ll take it and I’m satisfied. Rather, I’m really fond of Tokiwa so I would even say I really like the ending. Still, at some point the character lost me, and hence I kind of feel like the work as a whole was lost to me.

Now that doesn’t mean I think the work was written badly. Rather I think it was written quite well, with it being paced pretty well with good framing on important scenes, which combined with the realistic but still kind of elegant art style resulting in it being stunning and unsettling at times. But I think in terms of being more than a simple story, in actually trying to convey something, I feel that during the second half it largely didn’t do that well, and in the end I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to take from this. This may well just be a me problem, but ultimately my own experience with the work is all I’m trying to convey here, take it or leave it.

A work about growing up that though well written, ends feeling very muddled.

8/10 

I generally watch the anime before reading the manga when it exists, but the art style for the anime adaptation was so off putting I didn’t with this.

Mayoi Neko Overrun!

mayoinekooverrun

Takumi Tsuzuki was once an orphan but was picked up by Otome Tsuzuki, who now takes care of him. She runs a cake shop known as Stray Cats Confectionery, but is often away from the shop due to being someone that helps anyone that needs help regardless of the circumstances involved. Thus, actually running the shop often lands on the shoulders of Takumi, as well as Fumino Serizawa, Takumi’s childhood friend from the orphanage who has the personality trait of saying the opposite of what she means whenever it involves her feelings. One day when Takumi and Fumino are working at the shop, Otome returns, but to their surprise she seems to have come with another girl Nozomi Kiriya, a runaway that Otome encountered and also decided to take in. She’s a girl that has a hard time expressing her feelings as well, though more in the sense that she closes herself off, so her joining is initially a bit rough, but she quickly becomes part of the family, and even starts going to the same school as Takumi and Fumino. Then Chise Umenomori, the granddaughter of the school chairman and the spoiled heiress to a major corporation, makes them all join her club, which doesn’t have any sort of goal or even a name. But it ends up being kind of fun anyway.

***

This manga is a pretty generic, but a pretty lighthearted and amusing read. In terms of plot, there isn’t much of an overarching story, but is rather composed of a bunch of small episodes with self-contained plots, though some small plot threads do carry over now and then. These small episodes feels very well paced with stories that aren’t especially interesting, but are told pretty well, and that show off the characters well. The cast of characters isn’t particularly novel either, but they all feel pretty solid and likable so its enjoyable enough reading about them. There are two things that really make this manga stand out and be good though. The first is the comedy, which I felt was pretty good from beginning to end. The constant cameos were also very amusing. The second is the art, which is amazing, in that it’s high quality, has good variety, shows facial expressions really well, and is incredibly pleasing just to look at. An issue with this though, is that it got cancelled, by which I mean it didn’t get discontinued and then get the standard few chapters to wrap things up, but rather just stopped abruptly with the last chapter even saying “Look forward to the next chapter”. A lack of a proper ending is somewhat of a disappointment, but discontinued type endings are generally pretty bad or useless anyway, and this isn’t all that story oriented in the first place in that it’s not like there were any major plot threads that were left hanging, so it’s not that much of an issue and not enough to diminish what is there, which hence is still pretty solid.

A manga that has a solid though generic plot and characters, but solid humor and amazing art.

8/10 

Psycho Love Comedy (Psycome)

psycome

Kamiya Kyousuke’s parents were always off on business, so as would be expected he was quite close to the only member of his family that he lived with, his younger sister Ayaka, a girl very mature for her age. Kyousuke was very much of a delinquent, constantly getting into fights and making a name for himself on the streets. However, he very much was not a murdered, despite him ultimately being framed for the murder of twelve other delinquents in a warehouse and being forced to enter the Purgatorium School of Rehabilitation, a high school specifically for juvenile murderers. Furthermore, his 12-kill count is especially high for the school, instantly gaining him popularity and respect among the other murderers. Hence he is stuck in the situation where he can’t just come out and claim that he was framed, as its not like that would help in getting him out, but would instead simply paint him as a weakling which would make him a target for the others. So he decides to try to live up to his title of Warehouse Butcher. As a result, he ends up getting close to a number of other students. There’s Eiri, a very sharp-tongued and elegant girl that comes from a long line of assassins, though seems to have some issues in joining the profession herself. There’s Maina, a girl that seems to be terribly afraid of violence and is a complete pushover, but seems to have a level of clumsiness fatal to those around her. But most importantly, there’s Renko, a girl that’s almost always wearing a gas mask but beneath that is a beautiful and alluring girl, who falls in love with Kyousuke and pursues him with all her might. And though she is generally quite fun to be around, she has the issue of a murderous melody playing in her head when she takes her mask off, resulting in her wanting to murder everyone around her, especially the guy she falls head over heels for, Kyousuke.

***

Note: Spoilers that aren’t related to specific plot events but related to themes and how a character grows are included in this review.

This is a really interesting novel series in that it’s a mish mash of a lot of things that kind of don’t work but also work pretty well. For the most part, it feels a lot like a high school slice of life novel series where the focus is on character relationships and development, even with the extreme violence and craziness throughout. For the most part, there’s not much of an overarching plot, but rather smaller plots per novel that focus on introducing new characters or further developing old ones in regards to their effect on the overarching narrative. These plots are pretty interesting, in that the twist on the slice of life aspect makes it quite unique and allows for a lot of interesting elements, such as a good amount of suspense and crazy twists, as well as the large amount of action. I should note though, that the action was somewhat disappointing a lot of the time, due to the MC not being all that great in terms of this. The series is tagged as “protagonist strong from the start” but that’s not entirely true. His ‘strength’ comes mostly in the form of heavy endurance which allows him to survive taking heavy punishment, but in terms of actual combat ability compared to the other major characters he’s pretty low. That results in him being able to easily take on dozens of small fry, but when he’s put up against the major players, he’s actually pretty weak, and in such situations he doesn’t usually do much, and strength wise he never grows, which was kind of disappointing. He and the other characters do go through a lot of character growth though, and ultimately the character development overall felt really solid. Ayaka comes to have a better view of other people. Maina gains confidence in herself and a will to continue moving forward. Eiri becomes more honest with herself. Renko becomes more human and in tune with her emotions. But most importantly is of course the protagonist Kyousuke. His development is interesting and I quite liked it, though I can see why it may miff some people because I can see why it would be controversial and in the end it’s tied pretty heavily into the whole narrative and is a running theme throughout. When he starts out, he is incredibly wary of the other students, seeing as they’re murderers and all. He begins to make friends with murders that aren’t really murderers and begins to settle in. The tone throughout the first five books is pretty lighthearted, wherein even though the style is pretty dark, in terms of tone and atmosphere it doesn’t feel oppressive at all and though lots of terrible things are described as having been done by characters outside the narrative, nothing truly bad happens during the narrative itself. Hence, while most all the characters are killers there’s nothing to truly make them seem like bad people. As a result, over the course of these books he begins to make friends with the true murderers, the cannibal, the serial killer, the necrophiliac, etc. That they’re killers just gets pushed aside. However, ultimately it very much is brought to the forefront, and Kyousuke has to question himself, as a normal person is it really okay for him to have friendly relations with murderers? And in the end he decides, yes, it is fine even if he doesn’t understand their desire to kill, nor does he want to, for him to respect, be friends with, like, or love them anyway, which is a tremendous shift in world view from how he started in the first book that was slowly built up until it finally clicked near the end. This shift is of course incredibly important to the main relationship in the book, the love triangle between Kyousuke, Renko, and Eiri, wherein though other characters also seem to be in love with Kyousuke they don’t seem as prominent. This relationship is what serves as the core of the ending, and probably what everyone reading up to that point truly cared about. To some degree, the ending was disappointing in that it was an open ending, but at the same time, it did everything really well, and though it was open, it wrote around that incredibly well, so ultimately I was very satisfied with the ending, and look back on the series overall quite fondly.

The art for the illustrations was really good, and I also liked the interesting character designs. I can’t judge the original writing style, but the translation by Yen Press wasn’t very good. It had a pretty stiff writing style, and a number of obvious mistakes regarding sentence subjects, and probably others that I couldn’t tell.

A series with a really unique and darkly comedic premise that has some core tonal and thematic issues but ultimately manages to resolve them in an incredibly interesting fashion.

9/10 

MaMaMa: Mahou Iinchou Mako-chan Mahou Shidou (MaMaMa: Magical Director Mako-chan’s Magical Guidance)

mamama

Mako is an incredibly strict and uptight magic school student has the goal of becoming valedictorian. To achieve this she must ace the graduation exam. This involves making a contract with someone in the human world with very high Good Deed Points (GDP), which are a measure of how many good deeds they’ve performed over the course of their lives. Mako thinks she’s found the perfect candidate for this, Onodera Jun, someone with exceptionally high GDP, however she ends up making a contract with his perverted twin brother Junji, who has absolutely no GDP. With no way to select someone different to make a contract with and determined to still acheive valedictorian status, she has no choice but to reform Junji before the end of the exam. However, that’s not the only problem she’ll have to face.

***

This manga was really messy. It had a somewhat interesting character set, even if it didn’t do a lot with them yet. Plot wise it also started out kind of interesting in terms of premise. However, it wasn’t really the type of concept that could last that long, though I think they could still have done quite a bit more than they already did. As a result, as is the case with a lot of manga, it tried to transition from the old premise into a new premise pretty different from the old one, one that had a lot more potential in terms of being able to be an extended story. However, in doing so it really dropped the ball, and it didn’t work at all. As a result, unsurprisingly, it seems to have been cancelled immediately afterwards. The art was pretty good though.

A manga that starts out as a good short story okay but falls apart when it tries to become something larger.

7/10