Posts Tagged ‘Volume 1’

When at the library, I checked over the manga section to see if anything struck my fancy. I came across this interesting looking cover, so I figured I would try it. And I am glad I did.

Story overview:

In a land of perpetual night (called Amberground), there is no sun. The world is heated from something called Spirit Amber, which is a source of energy that is buried deep beneath the ground. Light (low as it is) seems to come from either the stars in the sky, or a small man-made sun that hovers above the capital, Akatskui (which is restricted only to the “elite” and those with a special Capital Crossing Pass).

An eighteen-year-old man named Gauche Suede, along with his dog, Roda, travel from place to place to deliver messages. This position is called a Letter Bee (basically, they are a postal service). Gauche comes across a town that has been burned down, and to his surprise he finds a package in the form of a young boy (named Lag Seeing). On their journey, both Gauche and Lag inadvertently (and in a strange way) exchange glimpses into each other’s hearts. They form a bond, which five years later, brings Lag to go off on his own to become a Letter Bee himself.

However, that is not Lag’s main goal. You see, the elite of Akatskui captured his mother, and now he seeks to find a way into the Capital. Gauche promised Lag that he would look into the issue, but there was no word from him over these past five years (after Lag was safely delivered to his aunt). Therefore, Lag goes out to have an interview to become a Letter Bee. In the process, he comes across a strange animal-like girl who he ends up helping, which causes him to miss his interview. But in doing so he gains one of the Letter Bee requirements, a “dingo” (a companion, usually a dog, that has a contract with the Letter Bee).

My thoughts:

There is a lot I left out in the overview above, but I did not want to give away too many spoilers, even if I did, there is not enough room to list all that went into this story. One of my requirements for a great story is that it has to have heart. This has that and more. I was refreshed to find a manga with artwork in the elegant and clean style that I appreciate so much. But that’s not all. I love the characters, and a story about a dark world without any sun? It can’t get any better for a speculative fiction buff. I am thoroughly looking forward to reading the next one once it comes out.

Things to consider:

This is rated “Teen” from Viz Media, but honestly, I can see it being appropriate for younger. There is the typical action violence, but it is done without any gore, and there were no inappropriate nude or sexual scenes. The closest was where Lag sees that Nichi is a girl, but this was done in good taste. Now, I cannot say anything for the series as a whole (as they are not yet released in the US), but this one gets a preteen (tween) safety stamp from me.

Opportunities for discussion:

Heart is one of the dominant themes in this tale. Heart is what powers the guns of the Letter Bees, but that is not all. Heart also powers the drive of the main characters. A good discussion topic would be to ask your teen what it is their heart is driven by right now. If the opportunity is open for it, share with them the Bible verse that states, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-24.)

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Dragon Eye v1It’s my pleasure to introduce a new manga series called Dragon Eye. It was first released in 2007 and we’re coming up to Volume 8, which should be out Sep 29, 2009.

Here’s a brief history of what’s going on it the story. Humanity was close to becoming extinct when a virus called the “D Virus” infected the majority of the populace; including animals. Those infected turned into vicious beasts called “Dracules,” which quickly lose their mind and go on murderous rampages.

Those who survived the virus were ones who posed strong antibodies; they were able escape infection 99% of the time. They developed an anti-Dracule civil organization and built cities to protect all future citizens (ones who do not have the high-level of antibodies.)  This group also gathered super-warriors called “VIUS,” who use techniques incorporating sorcery and martial arts. Their purpose is to fight off Dracules and protect those not infected. Those who become infected have only one cure: death.
 
Story overview:

Forty years or so after the infection, in the city of Mikuni, candidates go on a hunt for Dracule in order to pass their final test to become a VIUS. There’s an unexpected turn as high-level Dracules show up. These creatues attack the candidates in order to prevent future, potential enemies, but thankfully there was a hidden enlistment exam inspector named Issa Kazuma.

Issa reviles the secret Dragon Eye (hidden in the center of his forehead) to one of the candidates, Leila Mikami, who said it was her life’s mission to possess one in order to avenge her parent’s death. Easily defeating the foes, Issa tests Leila and finds that her motives may one day be genuine.  He tells her that, in the future, he will give her his eye if she has a good reason (other than revenge) to use it.

Leila finds herself as part of the dreaded Squad Zero, only to learn that Issa is the leader. Since the old Squad Zero had been disbanded, she is the only member. Because of the small group, volunteers join Squad Zero on a mission. In the process one of the volunteers named Sōsei Yukimura attacks Issa. We learn that he was waiting for an opportunity to face Issa so that he could kill him. He claims that Issa killed his twin sister many years ago. Rather than be mad about the accusation, Issa convinces Sōsei to join his squad. The young man agrees as a way of getting more info from Issa and an easier way to fulfill his revenge. On their first mission together as a team, Squad Zero discovers that an extremely powerful Dracule was able to get into the city limits and it’s up to them to work together to stop it.

My thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I love the casual personality of the main character, Issa, who has a serious side he covers up. The other characters are very dynamic as well and a pleasure to watch interact. I also liked the chart of Japanese Honorifics at the beginning which explains the different indications of relationship/status when characters speak to each other. For example -san is similar to “Mr. or Ms.” and can be used like Isaa-san (name first, then the honorific).

Things to consider:

This is targeted more towards boys at around the age of thirteen. Older ages can easily enjoy it too, and Mom and Dad can feel safe that it’s pretty clean in the area of sexuality and foul language. There is a considerable amount of action violence and blood though: great for thirteen-year-old boys 😉

Opportunities for discussion:

There is a strong theme of revenge. We learn that Issa is not an advocate of revenge; instead, he is extremely unbinding. That’s an ironic comment, since we learn that Issa is actually bound by fetters that restrict his powers. But when it comes to Sōsei wanting to kill Issa for revenge, Issa does not refute the accusation, nor does he offer up an excuse. One might expect Issa to jump right in and defend himself, or want to have nothing to do with his accuser. Rather, he takes a hit and offers the young man a position in his team. This is a great example of how we should respond when we feel someone accusing us. Obviously it’s good to defend one’s self and not allow ourselves to be walked on, but if we offer grace for wrath, forgiveness for blame, kindness for hostility, then perhaps, as the Bible says: Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Talk to your kids and ask them when the last time it was that someone accused them of wrongdoing. Ask them how they responded and offer up this solution to them for future incidents.

Kekkaishi v1The author, Yellow Tanabe (nice name, eh?) mentions that when she was a child, her and her friends would play a game in which they pretended to create invisible walls. Their declaration was, “I stretched the barrier from here to there!” And if someone walked into the area, they would get the cold shoulder, as if breaking the most important law of life.

From this imaginative game comes the making of Kekkaishi. In the first volume, we learn that in order to make a barrier, called a kekkai (“protective ward”), a Kekkaishi must perform three acts: (1) say the word “Hoi” to designate a target, (2) say “Joso” to position the Kekkai, and (3) call out “Ketsu” to create the barrier. Once that is established, the user has the option to either say “Kai” to let their prey go, or “Metsu” to destroy it.

Since the first volume is so filled with content—more so than most manga—my brief overview only covers a little bit. So just keep this in mind.

Story overview:

Where a Junior and Senior High School stands, there once towered a castle. Buried deep below the school is the spirit of the master of that castle, who was from the Karasumori clan. He possessed a power that to this day attracts nasty beings called ayakashi. If they spend any significant amount of time in the school grounds, they will grow bigger, more powerful, and dangerous.

Two children, who have special Kekkaishi powers passed down from generation to generation, are designated the guardians of the school. Since ayakashi are creatures of the night these guardians must lose out on a lot of sleep. If that wasn’t enough, it just so happens that their families are in a feud over who should be the true successor. This puts both Yoshimori (age 14) and Tokine (age 16) in an awkward position, as they so often end up working together.

When Yoshimori was nine years old, his naivety lead to the scars on Tokine’s arm. To this day he has two major goals: (1) never allow someone to get hurt in front of him again, and (2) make a castle cake big enough to live in. His dream to build the cake is constantly being overcome by his crotchety grandfather, lack of money, and fighting off ayakashi. As is the case when he finds out that one of Tokine’s teachers happens to posse inhuman powers, and the two of them must put a stop to it.

My thoughts:

The characters are wonderfully designed, the artwork is top rate, and the story is brilliant. A page turner for sure. This is currently one of my favorite manga series.

Things to consider:

I’d target this for boys at around the age of thirteen. There are a few places with slightly crude humor, and ayakashi are often called demons, but remember that demons to the Japanese are more like monsters to us. There is a lot of action violence too, but it’s done with proper cause.

Opportunities for discussion:

Yoshimori shows us that there are times to give second chances and times not to. We must be discerning of such things ourselves. He also shows us how to put someone else above ourselves. Not without emotional insecurities and flaws, his character is noble and pure underneath it all.

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.