Sporadic Sequential
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Reminiscent Recommendation Reviews

Today's tenuous theme linking all of the reviews is "books recommended by others that ended up reminding me of other books."

Book #1: Kekkaishi (Viz)

Recommended by: Shaenon Garrity in one of her wonderful Overlooked Manga Festival entries.

It's Kinda Like... Bleach Adventures — that is, Bleach if Ichigo were younger, had powers more like the Fantastic Four's Invisible Woman, and were drawn by Takeshi Obata.

What Works: I like that Yoshimori's motivations are believably narrow: He's not out to be the best demon-hunter there is; he's not trying to rid the world of all evil; and he's not trying to carry on some proud family legacy. He's really out to protect his closest friend, Tokine, who he feels responsible for putting in harm's way in the past. It's a nice twist on the "specific guilt leads to global altruism" angle that has historically motivated heroes from Spider-Man to Ichigo.

The barrier powers of the kekkaishi are interesting, and creator Yellow Tanabe does a great job of showing why the ability to project force fields would be a pretty cool power. (I can already see how the three-stage process of deploying kekkai would translate well to a video game version requiring an elaborate button sequence to trap and destroy demons.)

Finally, Tanabe's art is great, reminding me a lot of Takeshi Obata's clean linework. And while not quite as inspired as Tite Kubo's hollow designs, Tanabe's demons are definitely distinctive and memorable. And Tanabe really knows how to compose his her panels and pages to stage the action. Consider the following example:

I love the composition of that panel -- how it messes with the serenity/symmetry of the scene to create a sense of unbalance and unease. We know the threat is lurking, but will Yoshimori find out too late?

What Doesn't: Much like Ichigo's comic-relief dad in Bleach, the sparring grandparents in Kekkaishi just make me roll my eyes at the strained attempts at humor.

Will I Read More? I already have, checking out the second volume from the library and putting the next six available volumes on request. From Shaenon's description, it sounds like things are only going to get more interesting the further this series progresses.

Book #2: The Great Catsby (NetComics)

Recommended by: Kai-Ming Cha of PW Comics Week as one of 2006's top manhwa.

It's Kinda Like... The Tokyopop cine-manga of Mel Blanc's Ohama the Cat Dancer anime.

What Works: The artwork is definitely appealing, with a style that makes each panel look like a frame from a top-notch anime film. Check out the example below with its nice comic sensibilities and frenetic sense of movement:

What Doesn't: Pretty much everything else. The characters are all whiny, self-absorbed, and unlikable. The plot meanders about with no real sense of connection between events. And the translation, oh lord, the mangled translation!

And that's probably not even the worst example in the whole book -- it's just one that happened to stick out and continues to haunt me. (I suppose for some there might be the benefit of unintentional humor due to the horrible "Engrish" adaptation.)

Will I Read More? No, not even if there are additional free chapters online.

Book #3: Mushishi (Del Rey)

Recommended by: Jog, and a number of others as well.

It's Kinda Like... The manga version of Hellblazer, with a little bit of Swamp Thing thrown in for good measure.

What Works: The soft, lyrical artwork does a great job depicting the lush settings the stories take place in — consider this spectacular double-page sequence. The enigmatic character of Ginko is intriguing. And some of the imagery is genuinely disturbing, even if it never quite rises to the level of horrifying:

What Doesn't: None of the stories really grabbed my interest. In fact, some didn't even make sense to me. (In the story about the horns appearing on the kid's forehead, hadn't he already tried the actions that eventually ended up getting rid of the mushi?) And as much as I admire the artwork, this is really a series crying out for color:

Will I Read More? This is one I'm on the fence with. I'd like to check out future volumes at the library to see if later stories grow on me, but my library isn't carrying it yet. Perhaps if word on the second volume continues to be strong I'd consider it as one of those not completely enthused "throw it into my cart to qualify for free shipping" purchases.

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