Posts Tagged ‘Comics’

Traditional manga reads from right–to–left in order to maintain the original Japanese style, but this one was translated left–to–right to fit into an American format. Personally, I prefer manga in its original form, but I won’t let that affect my opinion of the story.

Also not traditional to Japanese manga is the lack of clean, elegant, and eye-pleasing illustrations. The ones in Black & White are very rough, crewed, and may make one feel as if a kid drew them. This I will let my opinion be affected over.

It wasn’t until I read a little about the author that I understood the reason for his artistic approach. It appears that Matsumoto traveled throughout France to refine his techniques, and so the French comic style leaked into his own. This helped me to forgive the poor style graphics, at least somewhat . . .

Story overview:

Two young boys (I’m guessing between the ages of ten and twelve) live on the streets of a town called “Treasure Town.” Their bed is the inside of an abandoned car, and their means of survival comes from mugging those unlucky enough to cross their paths.

Their names are Black and White (resembling no skin or other features). White is a simple minded boy who is a follower of Black (Black seems to be the reason White can stay alive) whereas Black is intelligent and perceptive (White seems to be the only one who can keep Black somewhat human).

When a mob tries to move into town, Black takes it upon himself to force them out (yes, these boys are young, but brutally effective). In the process Black finds himself entering deeper into the ‘dark side’ (so to say) while White wishes and dreams of the life of a normal boy.

My thoughts:

At first, I could barely stand reading this one. The awful illustrations, the despicable characters, the poor dialog, and the confusing and seemingly pointless story had me forcing myself to turn the pages. It wasn’t until the end that I actually saw a redemptive ray of hope. Still, it wasn’t enough to make me want to read the next book in the series. Not with so many others that have more potential. That does not mean there is not a following and those who have the taste buds for this sort of thing, but this one was not for me.

Things to consider:

Warning. This is not a good manga for kids. I read it because it was on a list of popular manga, and since the story resides around children, it is easy to assume it is safe for children to read. Do not believe this. The language is adult, the situations are crude and brutal, and the drawings sometimes graphic. I wouldn’t rate this for anyone under Young Adult, and even then I’d caution them to not waste their time.

Opportunities for discussion:

The theme seems to surround the evil heart of the boy Black and the simple heart of White; a parallel to the Japanese Yin-Yang balance of good versus evil. It is hard to see the good side of White until we get closer to the end of the story when he tells an old, homeless drunk, “When I hurts people bad and when I lies then I tells God I’m sorry. I says, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I won’t never do it again. I says I’m sorry a lot, but it don’t do no good. Cuz I just keeps on hurtin’ peole and lyin’. God is probably mad at me, right gramps?” To which the old man replies, “Hmm . . . Yeah. Probably. You’re usually right.” Now, here’s the thing. Take this into a Christian perspective. As believers we often struggle with our nature as does White, and we cannot give up on saying we are sorry. The only difference here is that instead of saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I won’t do it no more! I won’t do it no more!” we say, “I’m sorry, please help me to change.” Relying on his own strength is what makes White unable to move forward, where we have the helping hand of Christ.

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kekkaishi_v5When last we were with our favorite ayakashi slayer, Yoshimori, we learned of his older brother and the conflict between them. Yet Yoshimori trusted him enough to share his ultimate goal: to seal off the Karasumori site forever. Why? This he did not share, but as the reader, we know it is mainly to protect Tokine, whom he cares deeply for.

Story overview:

A totoro-like creature shows up at Yoshimori’s school and eats everyone’s food. One of the students—a girl named Yuri—is able to see the creature, as she possesses paranormal abilities. She seeks out Yoshimori (since she knows he seems them too) and the two of them talk. He ensures her that everything is OK, but his investigation is anything but over.

When the creature shows up at Yoshimori’s house, he realizes that it isn’t an ayakashi, but a deity named Lord Uro. It seems that the deity’s bed needs repairing and only a Kekkaishi can do it. Yoshimori ends up jumping into a lake and is transferred to a dimensional world where he fixes the bed by using his restoration magic on a magical box. Though he repaired the bed, the effects of the dimension start to make him forget who he is. Staying behind to get answers about the Karasumori site, he barely escapes being wiped out of existence. With the help of three things written on his arm (Castle Cake, Seal off the Karasumori site, and Tokine–which was scribbled off,) and his grandfather, he makes it back to his world.

Afterwards we learn a little more about his younger brother, Toshimori who seems to be smart like Tokine, but very new to using the family magic. Not much times passes before Yoshimori and Tokine go up against a new opponent—a really strong three-team ayakashi—who just so happens to be observed from a distance. The two of them appear to defeat the offender, but we learn that this may have just been a test from an unknown group.

My thoughts:

It was fun watching Lord Uro mess with people, and I liked learning about the Restoration Magic. The story mentions how this magic is harder to use outside the Karasumori site and that it is best if used by the Shikigami (the helpers created from magical paper.) I always thought it was a little farfetched to believe it was possible to repair the damage done to the school during the nightly battles, but this explanation helped to clear that up for me.

Things to consider:

For ages 13+ and targeted towards boys. Like the others in this series, this book does not contain any real questionable content for this age group.

Opportunities for discussion:

When Yoshimori was in Lord Uro’s dimension, he started to forget who he was or what his purpose in life was. He wrote down three things that were important to him to help him remember. Ask your teen what three things they would have written down and why.

Past reviews in this series:

1) Kekkaishi (Volume 1)
2) Kekkaishi (Volume 2)
3) Kekkaishi (Volume 3)
4) Kekkaishi (Volume 4)

Iron Wok JanI’m going out on a limb here; even though many of the character’s abilities are fantastical, this one really can’t be considered speculative fiction. However, I thought it worth mentioning as I do have a section for manga after all–and manga has become very popular among youth today.
 
Let me start by saying that this is one that I’ve constantly seen on the library shelf. Every time I looked at it I had a hard time making a decision. It’s a manga about . . . cooking?
 
Not being much of a cook myself, this idea did not really appeal to me. Even if I did love to cook, I mean, it’s a manga about . . . cooking . . . okay, so I said that already, but really, the idea seemed so absurd to me that of course I had to give it a shot.
 
Story overview:

Sixteen-year-old Jan shows up at the number 1 Chinese food restaurant in Tokyo Japan. His aggressive demeanor instantly rubs everyone the wrong way, however his talent and skills soon prove him a worthy Chef.
 
Jan’s goal? To become the #1 best Chinese food Chef. How does he go about attempting this? By insulting, challenging, and antagonizing everyone in his path. One being a girl named Kiriko, who is another trainee at the restaurant. She insists that cooking isn’t about “competition” but “heart”.
 
A glimpse into the past shows Jan’s tyrant of a grandfather, which gives us an idea as to why Jan acts the way he does.
 
My thoughts:

I have to say that my mind is not totally made up yet about this one. There was a lot more to the plot and story than I had imagined, and a lot more action than I would have guessed, but I think I need to read a few more before I’m convinced either way (I have the next two volumes at home as we speak). I admit that it’s nice to see a manga that’s not about kung-fu, robots, girls in skimpy school uniforms, or men waiving around big swords. One thing’s for sure: this one’s unique and very original, and its easy to get caught up in the melodrama and bizarre recipes.
 
Things to consider:

The back of the book says thirteen and up, so I’ll stick with that. This seems to be targeting boys, but it’s worth noting that I don’t think it would offend girls at all. Nothing sexual, no extreme violence (save for a suicide scene), and the language is tame.
 
Opportunities for discussion:

This is a good time to challenge your children as to what their motives are in life. Do they do things based on heart? Pride? Competition? Motives are an important topic, and this manga does a great job at addressing that.