I’ve been reading a lot of manga lately, but I haven’t reviewed any of it here on the blog, partly because I don’t feel super-qualified (as a newbie manga reader I don’t really know what I’m talking about) and partly because I just wasn’t sure how well these reviews “fit.” But now that I’ve read five full manga series, I’ve decided that I at least need to post some bite-sized reviews and tell you my thoughts. Hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Library Wars (Volumes 1-15) by Kiiro Yumi
Series: Library Wars
Published by VIZ Media on 2008-2015
Genres: Manga, Shojo, Shounen
My content rating: T+ - Older Teen (Some violence, Nothing more than kissing)
In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves--the Library Forces!
Iku Kasahara has dreamed of joining the Library Defense Force ever since one of its soldiers stepped in to protect her favorite book from being confiscated in a bookstore when she was younger. But now that she's finally a recruit, she's finding her dream job to be a bit of a nightmare. Especially since her hard-hearted drill instructor seems to have it in for her!
Library Wars is my favorite manga series I’ve read so far! I love the fact that it blends action and romance really nicely, not letting either element overpower the other. I’ll admit that while I find action interesting, it’s often the romance in a series that keeps me flipping the pages (which isn’t too different from my novel reading, really).
The plot centers around the Library Forces, who are fighting against the government’s censorship committee and trying to keep books available for everyone. It has turned into a true war—and lives are put on the line. The main character is a young woman named Iku Kasahara, who joined the Library Forces (unbeknownst to her parents) because of an experience she had when she was younger where a brave young Library Forces member rescued her book from being confiscated from her very hands. The premise seems a bit out there, but the topics of censorship and freedom of thought ring true and it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the story as we see Kasahara take a stand time and time again for what she believes in.
Honestly, Kasahara doesn’t always seem like a prime candidate for the vigorous training and dangers of becoming a soldier (she tends to cry a lot throughout the series—I couldn’t decide if that bugged me as a sexist stereotype or if it made me connect to her more—if I’m being honest, though, I think it made me connect to her, since I’d probably be a puddle of tears if I were in many of the situations she finds herself in). The romance element comes in when Kasahara falls for her super tough drill instructor—they had a fun chemistry that I loved. Like I said, it’s really the romance that keeps me coming back for more.
I really wish I could read the novels that this manga series was based on, but unfortunately they haven’t been translated into English. Why? I don’t get it!!!
Between the dramatic battle against censorship, the moral ideals presented in the story, and a romance I adored, I was hooked to this series right from the very start!. I give it 5/5 Stars.
Love*Com (Volumes 1-17) by Aya Nakahara
Published by VIZ Media on 2001-2007
Genres: Manga, Shojo
My content rating: T - Teen (Nothing more than kissing, no violence)
Risa Koizumi is the tallest girl in class, and the last thing she wants is the humiliation of standing next to Atsushi Otoni, the shortest guy. Fate and the whole school have other ideas, and the two find themselves cast as the unwilling stars of a bizarre romantic comedy duo. Rather than bow to the inevitable, Risa and Atsushi join forces to pursue their true objects of affection. But in the quest for love, will their budding friendship become something more complex?
As you might suspect from the title, Love*Com is purely a romance. In fact, this series has pretty much NO plot except for the romance. The entire story is based on the fact that Risa is really tall and Ôtani is really short and they fight a lot, which everyone finds amusing, so they compare them to this Japanese comedy duo (both because of the humor and their heights). People often seem to think the two are dating but they vehemently deny any attraction. Of course, they end up falling for each other. The whole series is spent with Risa fighting her attraction for Ôtani and then wanting to be with him (and ending up jealous when he’s with someone else).
Honestly, I kind of wished the series had been about half as long because the back and forth got a little tiresome. Still, I’ll confess that I found myself flying through the books—I just couldn’t put the series down until I finally saw these two together. And there were parts of the story when my heart was ripped to shreds for poor Risa. I also liked the idea that both Risa and Ôtani had such a hard time seeing beyond their heights (they both felt awkward about themselves, which made it even harder to accept the idea of being together).
While I might have liked to have seen this series be a little shorter (or maybe vary up the plot a bit), I still thoroughly enjoyed it and I blasted through the whole thing incredibly quickly. I give it 4/5 Stars.
A Silent Voice (Volumes 1-7) by Yoshitoki Oima
Series: A Silent Voice
Published by Kodansha Comics on 2011-2014
Genres: Manga, Shounen
My content rating: T - Teen (Themes of bullying and suicide)
LEARNING TO LISTEN
Shoya is a bully. When Shoko, a girl who can’t hear, enters his elementary school class, she becomes their favorite target, and Shoya and his friends goad each other into devising new tortures for her. But the children’s cruelty goes too far. Shoko is forced to leave the school, and Shoya ends up shouldering all the blame. Six years later, the two meet again. Can Shoya make up for his past mistakes, or is it too late?
This manga series is probably the most difficult for me to review because it’s so hard to explain how impactful portions of it were. Honestly, the first book is sort of painful to read. It depicts bullying in a way that feels raw and cruel and horrible, and it’s hard not to hate the characters who inflict such pain on poor deaf Shoko. And it’s equally hard to understand why Shoko accepts their cruelty so readily.
The series is about bullying and it’s told from the perspective of the bully—a perspective we don’t often see. And it shows how cruelty begets cruelty, and how the tables are turned on Shoya (the bully) and how he’s ostracized because of his actions (he becomes a scapegoat).
It’s hard to imagine feeling sorry for the person that we see in the first book, but it happens. He meets up with Shoko again and … slowly but surely we see Shoya changing. Not just because he wants to let go of guilt (though that’s probably how it starts), but because he realizes that the way he’s been living can’t go on—he can’t live his life without connecting to other people.
I honestly wished that we’d gotten to know Shoko a little more … and maybe some of the secondary characters as well, but the overall message of the series was incredibly powerful and I loved Shoya’s development View Spoiler »(and how when he wasn’t “seeing” people, they were portrayed with Xs over their faces—I thought that was a really interesting to portray that) « Hide Spoiler. The series ending was a little more open-ended than perhaps I would have liked (I was honestly a tiny bit disappointed when I closed the final book), but overall the series itself was more than satisfying. I ended up landing on 4.5/5 Stars for this one.
Death Note (Volumes 1-12) by Tsugumi Ohba
Series: Death Note
Published by VIZ Media on 2004-2006
Genres: Manga, Shounen
My content rating: T+ - Older Teen (Violence, Some sexual situations)
Light Yagami is an ace student with great prospects - and he's bored out of his mind. But all that changes when he finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue Shinigami, a death god. Any human whose name is written in the notebook dies, and now Light has vowed to use the power of the Death Note to rid the world of evil. But when criminals begin dropping dead, the authorities send the legendary detective L to track down the killer. With L hot on his heels, will Light lose sight of his noble goal... or his life?
Light tests the boundaries of the Death Note's powers as L and the police begin to close in. Luckily, Light's father is the head of the Japanese National Police Agency and leaves vital information about the case lying around the house. With access to his father's files, Light can keep one step ahead of the authorities. But who is the strange man following him, and how can Light guard against enemies whose names he doesn't know?
Death Note was my very first manga series, and it got me hooked on the genre. It started out incredibly promising because of its exploration of a morally gray topic. Light is a teenager who finds a notebook and discovers that if he writes a name into it that person will die. At first, it’s hard to argue with the people that Light chooses to kill—they are all people who’ve committed atrocious crimes. But soon the police are after this new vigilante murderer and Light finds himself pitted against a brilliant (if quirky) detective. As the series goes on, though, Light starts to get a bit drunk on the God-like power the notebook gives him, and he begins making more and more morally questionable choices.
I read this series along with my 14-year-old son, and I found that it gave us lots of things to talk about—we often debated whether or not Light had gone too far and whether what he was doing was truly for the betterment of the world.
Unfortunately, while I loved the morally gray topic, the strange but brilliant detective, and the supernatural elements (the book includes Shinigami, or death gods), the series went a little downhill for me somewhere about halfway through. As the series went on, I felt like it sort of descended further and further into the absurd, and the story got very convoluted.
Still, I felt like this series was a fun introduction to manga for me, and I can’t bring myself to give the series overall anything less than 4/5 Stars.