The Volume Rating Thread


Like the topic title says, this thread is for putting a number to the last volume of manga you finished and, like it doesn't say, a few words (or, in my case, paragraphs) to the last volume of manga you read. Easy, yes? Yes, yes it is.


.hack//G.U.+: Volume 1

Reading volume 1 of .hack//G.U.+ reminded me of the first Gankutsuou volume. Like with the Gankutsuou manga, the .hack//G.U. story from the game was changed simply to fit it into a short manga series, and the changes didn't do anything good. The story is being fast-forwarded and isn't working very well without the filler additions that fleshed out the characters in the games, and the changes made so far have took away from my enjoyment rather than added to it.

The changes are really quite silly. For example, in the games story Ovan called Haseo to an old meeting point and told him Tri-Edge would appear at the church where Shino was attacked. In the manga Ovan met Haseo at the church and shut the door AFTER Tri-Edge had appeared, which made it pretty obvious that there was some connection between Ovan and Tri-Edge. Simplifying a story is never a good thing to do.

Haseo, the main character, comes across as pathetic rather than cool in the manga thanks to the artists cute(ish) drawing style and his lack of "Terror of Death" armour. And, instead of the endless stream of c***ish verbal comebacks he had in the games, in the manga he doesn't throw those comments about that much, instead being more passive and, for want of a better word, emo. This is quite a big flaw when Haseo's anti-hero personality is what pulled most fans of the games in.

The art is hit and miss. For the most part it looks quite nice, yet the artist seems to struggle when it comes to drawing breasts (huge flaw, I know) and lacks the ability to make panels flow from into each other. Action sequences aren't clear and I often found myself trying to figure out what was being shown in the smaller panels. There's also the small matter of the characters not quite looking right to fans of the games...or, at the very least, me.

All in all, I don't think this manga is one that will please fans of the games, and I also don't think it'll impress people who haven't played the games. It isn't going to be a very popular series if the quality doesn't improve in the volumes that remain. I can't pass jusgement just yet but, going on the first volume, this is going to be a 6-7/10 series.

Volume 1 rating: 7/10


School Idol
Negima vol. 1
I've never liked shojos that much but this one was no exception. The first chapter was good but I found it hard to keep interest with the rest of the manga with all of the not so funny humor and skirts flying up volume.

I can't be bothered to go into detail with the story...look up on wikipedia >.>

When I've finished collecting the Death Note series I might get vol.2 if I can be bothered =w=



In a nutshell, Deai is a story about Japanese school girls who sell their time and underwear for money. Going on the amount of stories about this kind of thing, it seems to be a serious problem in Japan and not just fictional rubbish. The school girls in this story allow old men to meet them on dating websites and then, providing the men pay, go on dates with them. After the main character, Rika, nearly gets raped, she hires two male high school students as her bodyguards, and the group eventually grows into one with many high school females in it. All goes well until some members of the group start to want more and try to blackmail some of the customers...

Confidential Confessions: Deai - Volume 1

The most obvious issue with the story of Deai is that the author has already covered very, very similar stories in her previous series. Whether it's a story about high school girls selling themselves or a story about high school girls accepting money for their time and/or panties, there isn't too much difference in all honesty. There were a few new aspects thrown in, such as blackmail, but I never felt like I was seeing totally new content when reading Deai.

Adding on to these feelings, the lack of variation in the art that was present in the previous series is also an issue here. I don't know why but it seems like the author can only come up with a few face designs, which resulted in every main character (and the supporting cast) from each of the Confidental Confessions stories looking near identical. Even though the art is very good, it gets tiring seeing the same characters with different names over and over again. It truly is a shame because the art is high quality and the eyes of the characters have an innocence that female artists seem able to capture so well.

If I was to ignore my issues with the author going over old ground then the volume was pretty good, though. The story didn't come across as unbelievable, it giving the same oh-so-real feel of the previous stories wrote by the author. I did feel that the story was dragged out in order for it to last longer than it should've but I had no trouble reading the volume in one sitting.

Overall, it was worth the read and worth the money. The first volume could've been better but it also could've been a hell of a lot worse.

Rating: 7.5-8/10

Confidential Confessions: Deai - Volume 2

Sadly, however, the good section of the story was over once volume 1 had finished. I mentioned that believability was one of the strong points of the first volume, but that wasn't the case with the second volume. It had a thriller story that beats many Hollywood movies but it was far too silly to take seriously, and up to volume 2 the story had been what my mind accepted to be a realistic depiction of reality. Deai quickly dropped in quality, transforming from a hard hitting story to a standard revenge one, complete with a good guy turning out to be a bad guy at the end and stupid acts of revenge.

I'll give an example:

A girl is raped on a train by the man attempting to avenge his past by going on a random punishment spree against high school kids who did nothing to him. This train was full of people. The author tried to explain that no-one did anything to stop the rape because they thought it was a film scene...even though the attacker had to tape her mouth, cut off her panties and have two men keep the girls hands secure. Don't ask why two random men were happy to restrain a random girl and why there happened to be a man with a camera filming, all supposedly oblivious to the fact that it was real rape. And, as if just to make the whole thing even more silly, the attacker punched the girl after he'd finished and "helped" the girl off the train, with no-one on the train thinking it odd that an actress had been really crying during her performance and looked disturbed after the scene had ended. Maybe the author forgot she was supposed to be creating fiction based on reality?

And as for the nice, helpful guy turning out to be an evil guy right at the end, I saw it coming simply because it seemed like something that would happen in a Hollywood flick. His crime spree started after a push somehow resulted in him running after, hitting and stripping a high school girl who'd asked him for help, and he bizarrely decided that it'd be a good plan to traumatize all the kids he knew to have been blackmailing old men from that point onwards because of something that had happened in his past. You gotta love well developed bad guys and respect stories where the bad guys don't appear out of nowhere just to shock people.

It's too bad the author wasn't smart enough to keep the story going in the way it looked to be going at the end of volume 1. I thought it was starting to get a little far-fetched but I was still able to accept it, and I was looking forward to seeing how the remainder of the story would unfold. However, it seems the author hit her head and went down a more illogical path.

I'd describe Deai as a story of two halves. Read the first half if you want to see realistic manga and read the second half if you want to read a daft thriller story. It's too bad the author wasn't smart enough to keep the story going in the way it looked to be going at the end of volume 1...

Rating: 6/10

Since I rated the first volume 7-5/10 and the second 6/10, I feel 7/10 is a fair rating for the series as a whole. I rated the first Confidential Confessions series 9/10, so I'm a little let down by this sequel series. It's worth reading but not something you should go out of your way to read.


Genshiken: Volume 1

It's as good as I expected it to be. Aside from the Saki looking a little different in the manga, there's near to no difference between the manga and the anime adaptation, and that's a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. I know some people expect anime adaptations to take things further and make changes in order for the manga and anime experiences to be different, but I have no issue with an anime that's as faithful as possible to the source material. And it isn't as if a series with no real main plot thread like Genshiken would've been easy to change for the better.

Even though both versions of the story are near identical, I think I'm enjoying reading Genshiken more than I enjoyed watching it. As a story with motion it came across as slow and a bit dull, but as a story told in motionless manga panels I'm able to escape those feelings. I guessed I'd feel this way back when I watched the anime.

I should have no issue reading the series quickly. My only problem is my lack of volume 9 and the fact the 8 volumes I have are the Del Rey American releases... It's going to look messy if the final volume doesn't match-up with the rest. :/ I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and complete my collection in a not-so-ideal way.

Anyway, the volume was easy to read in one sitting and was everything I expected it to be. Looking forward to reading more.

Rating: 8.5/10

Edit: Nevermind, Genshiken hasn't been officially released in the UK, so only the Del Rey releases are in English. Perfectionist crisis averted.


First of all, this isn't a review topic - I just like to type a lot. Don't feel forced to go to toe-to-toe with me in terms of paragraph count. Giving a rating and a sentence or two is fine.

I'm no master of reviewing - I asked for advice myself in the past on here - but I can tell you the simple way I usually go about typing up proper reviews.

- First of all I come up with an introduction paragraph, or use a quote from what I'm reviewing to attract attention. This is done in order to get readers to believe the reviewer isn't an idiot and knows what he's talking about. The better your writing talent the better the introduction will be. It's very important to get readers interested right at the start.

-- The next step is to describe what you're reviewing, going into some detail about the story and characters. Although some readers will already know what the series is about prior to reading, it's important to give a description in case the reader has no clue. Your primary concern as a reviewer should be getting newbies interested.

--- Once you've explained what the series is about, the next step is to be critical or praise what you're reviewing - in other words, this is where you should start giving your own opinions in detail. It depends on the writer how many paragraphs are spent on this but do be aware that you need to back up your opinions if your review is to be respected, so simply saying "It's a bit crap because that's my opinion!!!" won't be good enough.

---- Once the above three steps are cleared, you need to come up with a closing paragraph. This paragraph should briefly summarize your thoughts about the series, not going into too much detail but giving just enough so that the reader can understand what you're saying. The closing paragraph is important because a lot of readers skip right to the final paragraph and rating, not reading anything else.


State Alchemist
Tsubasa v.16 - I still maintain that the "real story" through most of the second half of Tsubasa is not that well judged, but this volume is absolutely awesome 10/10 material for how sad it is when Mokona is calling out to Yuko as Fye is on the verge of death at the end of the volume.
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State Alchemist
Tsubasa 19 - something/10 (6? 7? somewhere around there)

Yeah, this is pretty much what I mean. The story just goes so batshit convoluted (yes, I know that that's sort of the point, but it doesn't make it any "better") around about now that it just feels too much like they're making it up on the fly. Action and art is still good enough to keep its head above water, though, as well as Kurogane and Mokona still being awesome.


My thoughts after reading the first few volumes of Tsubasa were that it was a very, very, very overrated CLAMP series. Or, put in a much harsher way, fan service for CLAMPtards. I doubt reading all 7 of the volumes I own will change my mind.

xxxholic is equally overrated. I think people just give anything CLAMP make 10/10 because they don't know any better, kinda like Narutards do with anything Naruto.


The Boss
Aion said:
My thoughts after reading the first few volumes of Tsubasa were that it was a very, very, very overrated CLAMP series. Or, put in a much harsher way, fan service for CLAMPtards. I doubt reading all 7 of the volumes I own will change my mind.

xxxholic is equally overrated. I think people just give anything CLAMP make 10/10 because they don't know any better, kinda like Narutards do with anything Naruto.
How do you rate them?


At this point, 6-7/10 based on what I've read of Tsubasa and 7/10 based on the first 13 episodes of the xxxholic anime, which is supposed to be faithful to the manga.


The Boss
Aion said:
At this point, 6-7/10 based on what I've read of Tsubasa and 7/10 based on the first 13 episodes of the xxxholic anime, which is supposed to be faithful to the manga.

6/7 is ok then, 7 is good.
are they overrated? well, as a CLAMP fan, I must say that their only work I've enjoyed more then xxxHolics was X/1999.

The manga starts off in a generic way, it's a good read, but not brilliant until you get to volume 7. I understand if non fans give up on the series way before that, but if you rate then good, read a bit further and let me know what you think. Knowing your likes, it's not something that will rock your world, but I believe it's something that may make you rate it a little bit better.

As for Tsubasa, I agree it's a series to make fans happy, but in the ends, isn't it the purpose of most creators?


State Alchemist
Yeah, but it's really nicely done for about the first half or so. Just a bit of light entertainment with a really nice cast of characters - a really easy series to read. Totally agree that it's gone to pot as they've moved into the "proper" story.

xxxHOLIC, however, is the opposite - a bit dull to start with, but truly excellent once the story gets going.

RetroRainbow said:
'shipping'. Just guess which pair. Guess.
Mokona/Yuko? ^^;


Tsubasa made me think of CLAMP as arrogant. I have a picture of one of the group playing Kingdom Hearts and thinking to herself, "Why don't we try to do the same as Disney?" They truly must think of themselves as the Disney of the manga world. Just for thinking so much of themselves because they've put together some decent stories with acceptable art, I'd like to see them fail. It's too bad that isn't going to happen when fans are easily pleased and most idiots will be happy with as long as their needs are tended to.

I liked the Chobits manga quite a lot. I thought the anime wasn't too bad. I thought the X anime had a poor story, but the character development made up for it. I wasn't impressed by the first few Tsubasa volumes. I thought the the xxxholic anime wasn't great, it being no more than an average episodic series with a terrible lead character.

Assuming the X and xxxholic anime adaptations are fairly faithful to CLAMP's original works, I've seen nothing outside of the Chobits manga that suggests CLAMP are anything special. It seems to me that fan love alone has allowed a decent group of manga authors to rise to heights they never should've been able to based on ability alone.

At some point I'll *try* to go through the 7 volumes of Tsubasa I have on my shelf. If I'm as unimpressed after reading the 7th volume then I'll be selling them. I didn't expect I'd find myself wanting to sell a manga that has an average rating of over 8.5/10 on MAL... It just goes to show that you can't trust the opinions of others when dealing with series created by famous people.

I feel similar about Negima. That's also highly rated on MAL, with an average of 8.22/10. Does it deserve it? No. Why? Because it's an attempt to cash-in on Love Hina. It has none of the charm of Love Hina, none of the realism, a terrible lead compared to Keitaro, way too many characters and most chapters focus on Negi, a 9-10 year old boy, doing what all younger men/boys want to do and getting it on with older girls/women. Mr. Akamatsu tries to cover up what Negima is truly about by mixing in weak Harry Potter elements but he fails to hide that the fact that, when it comes down to it, Negima is aimed at men who want to see a young boy come close to doing naughty things with 13-14 year old girls.


Genshiken: Volume 1-9 (yes, I'm cheating =P)

What is Genshiken about? Put simply, it's about a group of college students who hang around in a college club for the 'study' of manga, anime and video games, the club being called Genshiken (The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture). The group go to Comicfest (a convention held twice a year where fanmade manga gets sold) twice a year and hold a school event once a year, but most of the series takes place within the Genshiken club room. Also, there's no real main character -- some characters got more 'page time' then others but there wasn't a character who was focused on a significant amount more than the others.

Genshiken is a very odd series. You'd expect a series with a small amount of main characters, not a lot of variation in the backgrounds and lots of repetitive otaku (people with obsessive interests, with manga, anime and/or video games usually being the interest) fun to get boring after reading for awhile. But that wasn't the case with Genshiken -- whenever I opened up one of the volumes, I found myself able to read the book from back to front without issue. Maybe it's because I'm into anime, manga and video games myself and, to certain extent at least, can relate to the cast? I don't know. All I know for sure is that the dialogue was well written, the art was very well drawn and the author just generally put a lot of effort into his work. As a series made for otaku by an otaku, it succeeds.

A large amount of the chapters involve the cast simply sitting in the club room and talking about whatever the chapter in question focuses on. This allows Genshiken to be easy to pick-up and read, but it also means that the manga will fail in the eyes of someone who isn't able to like or connect with the characters. So, in a nutshell, what makes Genshiken work is the characters, and that's why I'm going to spend most of this review covering the characters in as much non-spoilerific detail as possible.

One of the few negative comments I can throw at Genshiken is that a couple of the characters don't come across as realistic. The majority do, Madarame in particular coming across as very real, but I can't say the same about the best character (in my opinion, of course) in the story, Kasukabe, and her boyfriend Kousaka. It was a smart move by the author to attempt to link the lives of otaku to the the life of a 'normal', clothes loving woman because it allowed people who aren't as crazy as the rest of the cast to connect to at least one character. However, it's hard to believe that, for a period of around four years, a 'normal' woman would hang around with a group of otaku when she doesn't even have much interest in what the rest of the group are into. And as for Kousaka, her boyfriend, have you ever seen or heard of a real otaku that has sex appeal, doesn't wear glasses, spends money on fashionable clothes AND has an incredibly understanding girlfriend? I rest my case. And in terms of personality, he's just an airhead...or, put in a more nasty way, he doesn't seem all the ticket. I assume his character was only created in order to link Kasukabe with Genshiken, and that's exactly why his character was a failure in my eyes -- rather than him having been created as a realistic otaku, he was made completely unrealistic in attempt to make 'normal' Kasukabe loving him realistic. For a story that is supposed to show the lives fictional but real people, the above two just don't quite fit.

I do love Kasukabe's character, though. Believable or not, she has the sort of fiery personality usually reserved for red-heads, and I must confess to having something of a fetish for the 'red-head personality'. Her character alone made the series funny at first with her comments and general lack of understanding with regards to how obsessive manga/anime/video games fans function. It was hard not to laugh when she had a serious discussion about her boyfriend deciding to switch positions during sex (doggy style, if interested) so that he could face the TV when an anime episode was on. Again, I have to question the believability since I find it hard (think anything twisted and you're a pervert) to imagine any male being able to focus on a TV screen whilst having sex with an attractive woman...but, of course, that didn't make the mental image any less funny. Her role did, sadly, become less important as the story went ondue to her becoming more accepting of the group she, for some odd reason, spends a lot of time with for four years of her life. I kept hoping she'd switch from being more of a supporting character and return to being more of a main character but it became clear she wasn't going to once she stopped trying to get the Genshiken club to vanish.

As for the rest of the cast, only Madarame, a true otaku, was a truly memorable character. The rest of the characters have a quirk or two that separates them from each other but very little personality beyond those quirks. Madarame, on the other hand, came across as a person as well as an otaku. He had the 'camera' pointed at him a lot during the first half of the story, just like Kasukabe did, and that resulted in him receiving some decent development as he and Kasukabe, opposites in just about every respect, bounced words off each other. The most interesting aspect of his character is the hidden feelings he holds for Kasukabe and how he hides his true feelings because he knows she'll never return them, which allowed him to become more than just another otaku -- he became a person with understandable emotions; not just an insane guy. One of the best chapters involved Madarame attempting to act normal when alone with Kasukabe in the Genshiken room for the first time, with her oblivious to the fact that he he was sweating like a pig and didn't know where to look or what to do in order to look normal. Sadly, like with every relationship of this kind where, for one reason or another, the male won't reveal his feelings, the scenes the two shared alone never built up to anything beyond friendship, but there was a chapter close to the end that repeated the earlier chapter where the two were alone near the start, and this time around they actually managed to talk, which showed how much they'd both changed over the course of the story.

As the story moved closer to the end, a new character, who ended up getting a huge amount of chapters focused on her, came into the story - Ogiue, an otaku in denial who enjoys drawing hardcore yaoi. The story started focusing more on the characters and less on otaku culture around the time Ogiue came into the picture. She was very difficult to like or understand because what she said (otaku hate) and what she did (joining otaku clubs, reading/drawing yaoi) contradicted each other. The reasoning behind her actions was explained in volume 8, but what was shown didn't seem to be a good enough reason for her to act as bitchy as she did for a lengthy period. Tsundere or not, I was never able to like her very much because what she did and the reasons behind what she did weren't equal enough for me to think, "Oh, I can understand why she was such a pain in the ****. The poor thing..."

...If I keep going like this, talking about each character in detail, it's going to go on all year, so now that I've covered the most important characters I'm going to cover the rest of the important characters in a few sentences:

Sasahara (Kanji) - The first character in the story. He joins Genshiken right after he starts out his new college. He's a passive, rather boring character - the sort that fades from memory quickly. He didn't have much to do until near the end, when he and Ogiue started spending a fair amount of time together. Out of all the characters, he was the most plain and lacked individuality.

Ohno - The cosplay freak. She joined Genshiken in order to cosplay. At first I thought she was just going to be there to show off her gigantic breasts in various costumes and smile (in other words, fan service), but her personality came out quickly once she started arguing about cosplay being a form of expression and the good of yaoi. She was one of the better, most likeable characters.

Tanaka - The model building and costume creating freak. He's not really a very important character, and he fades away like nearly all of the early cast do as the series goes on, but I thought I'd mention him because he's an important character for Ohno -- he makes all of her costumes and is involved in nearly all of cosplay related chapters.

There are a few other members of Genshiken but none of them are important enough for me to spend another couple of paragraphs covering. I'm sure after reading the above you will have a good feel for most of the cast and know if Genshiken sounds like your cup of tea already.

Like I said before I started talking about the characters, Genshiken doesn't have a main plot thread and, aside from a few chapters, most of the stories are self-contained. It's hard to rate the plot because of that. I was going to give the plot a 9 because, in this series, the plot and characters are one and the same...however, the open, inconclusive ending made me reduce the rating to 8 instead. Don't you just hate it when a story ends at a random point, without telling you anything about what happens to the characters? The Count of Monte Cristo did after 1250 pages; Welcome to the NHK, a very similar series to Genshiken, did and Genshiken also did. The blow was softened a little with Genshiken because there was a bonus chapter included that showed the characters talking after the end, but that didn't really make up for the abrupt nature of the ending.

Talking of bonuses, each Genshiken volume was full of extras. Every chapter has at least two four-panel stories, which connect to the chapter they appear after. They're all fairly amusing and added to my overall enjoyment. There was also a couple of bonus chapters, including what I mentioned above, and Del Rey spent a few pages in every volume explaining what certain words meant and what characters were referring to when they talked about certain otaku related things. If you're the sort of person who gets annoyed with buying anime DVDs and discovering no extras were put on the disc then reading the Genshiken volumes will please you.

And, finally, the art needs to be talked about a little. Each character was drawn excellently and I had no problem differentiating between them. It's worth mentioning that the characters often changed clothes between the chapters, which made the characters more real and showed that the author was far from a lazy person. And to back up that point, I'd also like to mention that the backgrounds are very detailed - it was impressive to see that, in an attempt to make the rooms of the main characters look real, lots of games, books and models were included in their messy rooms.
The reason I haven't given the art max points? The Genshiken room. It appeared so much that I was able to memorize the layout, and that's saying a lot when I'm a goldfish. I got a little tired of seeing the exact same background over and over. It's not really a flaw when the series wouldn't have worked if not for the Genshiken room, but still...

Overall, I loved Genshiken. I put it straight into my top five after finishing it. There are few, if any, better character driven stories out there. It's a must read for every manga/anime fan because there aren't any out there that wouldn't see parts of themselves in the characters. If money isn't tight or if you don't like to take the anti-piracy moral high ground then I recommend you read this series as soon as possible because you won't be able to stop reading once you start.

Rating: 9/10


Higurashi: When They Cry- Demoned Away chapter vol 1.

Following my trend recently of picking up manga adaptions of shows i've already seen, as soon as i saw this was out i knew i was going to pick it up.

This was actually pretty good, with relatively few changes from the anime edition (though the story is from the same person so its suposedly truer to the Visual Novel version) the character designs are part of those changes with Rena looking as "adworable" as ever (the manga's words not mine). The other changes are just the way things happen, with and the way that Satoko and Mion are introduced (there's a lot more breast jokes it seems ) with Satoko's fondness for Traps being apparent from the get go.

Since the magna covers all 8 Chapters (all the question arcs and the solution arcs from the games) its going to be fun to see if anything major had been changed.

Rating 8/10


Socrates in Love - 9/10

It was pretty much what I expected it to be - a tragic story of young lovers being forced apart by death - but it was executed really well. Even though the story only lasted for under 200 pages, I found myself caring about the two main characters quite a lot, which says good things about writing. If it had been longer, and more time had been spent showing them as a couple before Aki (the female lead) got ill, then I probably would've given it 10/10, but it's still worthy of a 9/10 score.

I've ordered the novel to see if that goes into more detail. I doubt it has a lot more when it only lasts for something like 170 pages but it's still worth a look.


Thousand Master
Berserk Volume 22:

This series has been one of the most consistently entertaining and for that matter, brilliant manga series I've ever read - and this volume maintains those standards well. I'll try to avoid spoilers, but fair warning that there may be some inadvertantly.

Inevitably after the end of the conviction arc things were going to have to slow down and build up again, however a tense encounter between Guts and Griffith, along with a battle against Zodd keeps things interesting. In particular, I liked the way Guts is becoming increasingly torn between his revenge on Griffith and protecting Casca.

Strangely though, the most effecting part of this volume for me was not about Guts or the main plot but the backstory on Serpico and Farnese. Miura's ability to create original and complex characters really shines here: Serpico's backstory really drew my sympathy while Farnese is coming across more and more as being an unstable, heavily disturbed individual. While at the moment this is nothing more than a side story, even taken aside from the whole it provides a gripping narrative.

The drawings are as ever, superb. Even if the designs and settings are not the most ambitious or imaginative in the series there are still moments of draw dropping artwork. This may actually be one of the weaker recent volumes, but given the strength of the preceeding ones this only serves as testament to the overall quality of Berserk. Like always, I'm desperate for more.



Emma: Volume 1

As unique and refreshing as it is to see a manga about Victorian England, the plot has lacked any real direction in the first 7 volumes. Each chapter has been random up to yet, with only reappearing characters connecting the chapters. There was also a rather surprising lack of Emma and William spending time together in the first volume. I think this is down to Emma being the first attempt at a a lengthy series by the author... I hope she improves her story-telling ability further down the line. I also hope she learns to vary her facial art because every male looks near identical to William -- I thought the late husband of one character was William until it was pointed out he had a different name!

Ignoring the poor structure of the story, it was a fairly enjoyable read. It was nice to see a love story in manga form that wasn't filled with slapstick humour and perverted goings on. I hope there's more interesting content to come in the future than was on show in the opening volume, but I don't think I'll struggle to read the next volume.

Rating: 7.5/10

King of Thorn: Volume 1

Out of the 5 books I ordered on a whim from TBD together, this and Kieli were the two I had doubts about. But, nonetheless, I still went ahead and ordered it because I hadn't experienced a horror manga before reading King of Thrown.

After a rushed start, where 160 people are about to get put into cold sleep (they were put to sleep because of an incurable illness), a small group of characters had to try to survive after they woke up to find thorns everywhere and dinosaur like creatures all around them. The entire volume basically just involved the characters running around from these creatures, and little to no time was spent on development. I still don't even know the names of most characters because the names haven't been said.

The series might improve later and not just be a dull battle to survive against weird creatures in an uncertain future, but at this point I have no real desire to see what happens next. It isn't any fun watching characters you don't give a damn about trying to survive in an impossible situation -- there has to be some emotional attachment for there to be feelings. It's comparable to watching Lost without the flashback episodes that fleshed out the cast.

I *might* pick up volume 2 to see if it gets better since it's only a 6 volume series -- I'm not sure at this point. All I know for sure is that I wish I hadn't spent around £6 without reading a chapter or two online first.

Rating: 6.5/10


Battle Royale: Volumes 1-15

It had to be a bit rubbish. That's what I always thought to myself when I saw Battle Royale mentioned. I assumed this because it doesn't have an anime adaptation. What I didn't know back then was the reason for this -- I thought it was because the series wasn't that interesting. I never suspected it was because what's included in the story is so extreme that it would have to be butchered to make the jump from manga to anime. There's just no way a series that involves someone getting raped whilst dying by a psychotic girl, with flashbacks to her being abused by her stepfather as a child appearing during what was happening, could ever be faithfully adapted into an anime. Once I actually read a description of the story and saw its high ratings I was sold -- it sounded like something different, and it most certainly is different from anything else I've encountered.

Battle Royale was everything I expected it be prior to buying it. Nothing was held back, everything was shown in graphic detail, there was lots of death and the situation the characters found themselves in is the kind that no-one would want to be in...but it's also a situation everyone is interested in from a voyeuristic perspective. A 1 in 42 chance of survival, where survival is only possible if you kill people you once thought of as friends... I wouldn't want to be in that situation, and I don't know how I'd handle it if I was. The story painted a bleak (and accurate) picture of how humans act when there are no laws and only fear and lust governing their actions. I read manga to see what's too extreme or not moe enough for anime, so in many ways Battle Royale was perfect for me.

The story starts with 42 students, all aged 14-15, on a bus. The students think they're going on a school trip. They talk, laugh and act like teenagers do. Then they all start falling asleep, only realizing when it was too late that the bus driver had put a gas mask on and gas was being pumped onto the bus. They then wake up in a classroom, sat at their desks, with some kind of ring around their necks. Once everyone starts to wake up, a person who introduces himself as their new teacher walks into the room, calling himself Mr. Kamon. After pausing to distress the confused students a little more, he reveals to them that their class has been chosen for The Program -- an event that takes place every year (and has done since 1947 in the Battle Royale universe) where a random 9th grade class is selected for an 'educational' battle to the death at a deserted location (the story of Battle Royale takes place on a small island). Smiling, he tells them that if they don't kill they'll be killed, either by their classmates or by the ring around their neck that will explode if there's more than one person left by the deadline.

Kamon is truly great bad guy. He looks more evil than any other character I've seen. He's the sort of character that readers will want to see die as painfully as humanly possible. If I were to describe his looks, I'd say he looks inhuman, like he was modeled from clay, and that suits him perfectly. This guy enjoyed seeing the suffering caused by strangers being put in a truly hopeless situation, joking about how seeing the daughter of a famous person get raped on live television would increase the ratings and even going as far as to push the kids into attacking him during the first few chapters. With an evil grin and perverted tongue movement, he was happy to inform one of the kids that, after the woman in charge of the orphanage he was staying at argued against he and his friend being taken, he gave her "tough love" that she was only too happy to provide after "proper persuasion." He got kicks out of watching him get so angry he cried, then blew his face off after, fueled by pure hate, he charged at him. It's too bad he appeared very little after the start of the story, only speaking when giving updates every 6 hours...

The first volume was fantastic just because of Kamon. He explained the rules of the game to the class of 42 with a smile and happy tone, showing a dead body of a teacher (he was on the bus with the students at the start) who was against them taking part in The Program and killing a female student who was speaking while he was explaining the rules as an example of how little he valued their lives. He then sent them off alone, one by one, onto the island to kill each other. They were sent out with the belongings they had with them on the bus and another bag, which contained a random weapon, map, watch, compass, water and bread. He made it clear that there would be no escape because the ring around their necks would explode if they tried to take it off and, if they still tried to escape knowing their head would be blown off eventually for doing so, then the ships around the island would shoot them in the water. He gave them no time to think, throwing them out into the wilderness with the knowledge that they'd die in a few days if they weren't the last student alive on the island.

Trust is hard to come by once you're given the task of killing everyone else to ensure your own survival. If you were in a class with 41 other people then you'd only be friends with a small percentage, and out of those few how many would you truly be able to trust? Most likely only a few. In that sort of situation the fear alone would cause many to kill -- people would become too paranoid to trust even the friends they'd spoke to daily at school. When a person is presented with a choice between death and friendship, the real person, who had put on an act in the past in order to get on in the world, comes out. It's horrible to think what fear and paranoia can cause a person to do, isn't it?

If there's one thing Battle Royale is then it's over the top. When people go crazy in this they have saliva coming from their mouths, their eyes are as wide as possible, they do the 'zombie walk', with their feet twisted inwards and their knees bent, and they act more like animals than humans. The ability the artist has at depicting extreme emotions is a huge plus in a series like this, where the situation is hopeless and death seems all but inevitable, but he goes too far at times, often showing brains, guts, breasts, dicks and everything else needed to make it near impossible to adapt into an anime. Personally, I would've liked to see a more realistic and less exploitive art. But, on the plus side, the art is very clear and nearly all of the action sequences were easy for me to follow, which isn't something I can say about a lot of the series I've read to date -- I usually have to go over panels numerous times in order to understand how one panel flows from the next.

The over the top comment also goes for the story at times. At this point I can't say if it was anywhere near as silly in the novel because I haven't read up to that point yet, though the novel has come across as somewhat less insane so far, but there's a part of the story in the manga that was impossible for me to take seriously. I'm referring to a scene where a guy runs away from another guy (a sociopath/terminator wannabee called Kazuo) after being shot, with his stomach hanging out, running into a warehouse. In the warehouse he has time to set the bomb he was building before Kazuo enters, as well as the time to wrap duct tape around his stomach, and he then manages to kick the bomb at Kazuo AND jump out of the window as he entered the warehouse, without getting shot. A truck then flies out of the warehouse as a result of the bomb blast, over the head of the guy who escaped through the window, and that's followed by Kazuo appearing out of the truck, unharmed. Kazuo then unloaded his machine gun on the guy who jumped through the window. And, as if to make it all a little more silly, the guy who had just had many bullets inserted into him still had the strength to pick up his handgun in one last attempt, after playing dead, at killing Kazuo. After all that, I wasn't sure whether to praise Battle Royale for being a bit too much or attack it for its distance from reality!

There are some other issues I have. Shuuya, the main character of Battle Royale, is the main problem. The manga artist had the annoying habit of turning Battle Royale into something of a soap opera at times, showing needless flashbacks involving Naruto 2...err, Shuuya being a goodie-goodie, acting on his feelings instead of his brain, and helping his friends back when he was at school (he got to know just about every important character at school after helping them in some way). The artist was determined to highlight the fact that near enough the entire cast liked Shuuya for acting brainless, just like in shounen stories where the main character does stupid things and gets loved for it. The flashbacks involving Shuuya saving the day did stop once all the characters had been introduced...however, they were replaced with (often chapter long) dream sequences that showed Shuuya getting support from his deceased friends. I hate it in anime when the plot advances through dreams/visualizations, and I hate it even more when characters are shown speaking to people long dead in an attempt to add character development... Would it have been so hard to just have Shuuya think for a few panels instead? There was no need for a large amount of chapters, many reusing the same art, to be used for repetitive conversations with the dead. I disliked Shuuya's character because, as well as being an idiot, the very existence of his character resulted in the story lasting 10+ chapters longer than it needed to.

Continuing on from what I said in the above paragraph, the pacing wasn't perfect. The story of Battle Royale takes place over the course of a few days, and it lasts for 15 volumes. If you do the math then you'll see the problem already -- a lot of chapters were created but not a lot of time passed. It's understandable when you consider how many characters are in the series but I must confess to often feeling that the story was dragged out and could've ended sooner. I didn't mind most of the flashbacks, which every main character had in order for them to be fleshed out before their deaths, but it became tiresome when dialogue was repeated time and again for no real reason. Kawada, an experienced character who joins up with and helps Shuuya and his female friend, Noriko, seemed to be pointing out in every conversation that Shuuya needed to kill to survive, no matter if he wanted to play the game or not. if Shuuya didn't get it then I certainly did, and I quickly became bored of seeing it being said. And, sadly, lots of the dialogue was like that, and it wasn't unusual to see panels used to repeat what another character had said in the past. But don't get me wrong: the pacing wasn't awful, it's just that I feel the story could've progressed quicker and, in my opinion, it would've been far more enjoyable if it had. If the pacing had been truly bad then I would've struggled to read 15 volumes in 3 days.

Another issue I had, which also had something to do with the pacing, was the ending. Near enough every story ends in disappointing fashion. No matter how talented the writer, it seems they all struggle to finish their stories in style. Battle Royale was no different. The ending wasn't what I consider bad, and it had a few twists that kept it interesting, but it could've been better. The final battle was rather anti-climatic, with the most prominent bad guy in the series getting shot in the head (after a car chase) and still not dying, like some sort of monster, which took away from what was supposed to be a battle to the death between high school students. He'd shown himself to be near impossible to kill before that but still fighting after taking a bullet to the head took it a tad too far. And, as if to finish the fight in the most boring way possible, Shuuya spent something like 1.5 chapters getting pep talks from his dead friends (in his head, obviously) because he found it too difficult to finish off a guy who'd mercilessly killed most of his classmates. Things did improve for the last stretch once the battle ended and the final the twists started hitting, but I wasn't best pleased with what was a rather upbeat and forced ending to a mostly very, very, very depressing story. Going on the start I was expecting everyone to die, and I feel the story would've been better if not for the final twist.

One final flaw I need to mention isn't anything to do with the actual story -- it's the English translation. There were many occasions throughout where the translator missed a word out of sentences, making what was said not come out right, and there were also a few times where sentences quite simply didn't make sense. The 'F' word was also thrown around a bit too much, as if it was done just to make sure it got a 18+ rating. Seeing a friendly and polite character randomly say "**** a duck" didn't sit right with me. And, although this is a plus or minus depending on how you look at it, some of the characters speak in an informal manner - like any public school kid would in all fairness - and what they say can be a little difficult to follow. The translation isn't a major problem that ruins the experience; it's just an annoyance, but I still expected better.

But enough of the negative. There's far more good than there is bad on show. It's true that Battle Royale is over the top and it's also true that the pacing isn't great and the story is often overly dramatic because of the Shuuya flashbacks/dream sequences that slow down the story. However, Battle Royale is impossible to put down because of the realistic way many of the characters cope with being put in a hopeless situation. There are many different personalities in the series and most offer something the others don't, meaning there's at least one character the reader can connect with and feel for. Like the story itself, there are a few characters who are too far fetched, but there are also those with believable backgrounds. I've always said that a story that's able to get the reader watery-eyed has great characters, and one of the early death scenes, where a female character died in the arms of her childhood friend, made me a little watery-eyed because of how beautifully it was handled. You'd have to be a pretty cold person not to feel anything as you watch her die after only just having seen her fight bravely against a guy trying to rape her AND seeing a flashback of her and her childhood friend together away from the island, back when they were normal high school students.

There are a number of other parts of the plot that will prove hard to forget, two of which I'll mention now as examples. The first is a scene at a lighthouse that involves 6 girls having a complete breakdown of trust and going from working together as a team to suspecting each other of having poisoned someone -- it captured what paranoia can cause in the type of situation the characters found themselves in amazingly well. The other is a showdown between Sugimara, the kindhearted martial artist who doesn't want to kill anyone, and Kazuo, the sociopath who feels nothing and would give the terminator a run for its money. The fight itself was great and the build-up, which involved around 3 chapters of Sugimaru and his girlfriend talking, showing what Sugimaru had to protect, was even better. Because Battle Royale has a huge amount of characters, there were many short stories like those I just mentioned, some one-shot and some lasting for a few chapters, so there wasn't any shortage of tragedy on show, and we all now that what gets the most emotional reactions out people is death. It's a great series to read if you, like me, enjoy seeing short stories that have a chance of pulling on the heart strings.

So, what are my overall thoughts? Well, I think the series was well worth the £30 I paid for it. You know you're dealing with something high quality when you spend time with *insert whatever here* and time seems to speed up. This happened when I read Battle Royale. I read 6 volumes on the day the books arrived, 4 on the following day and 5 on the day after, never having any trouble reading for lengthy periods. I'm not going to say it was a perfect series because it wasn't, its pacing and the insanity of it all often taking away from the experience a little, but as dark, depressing and involving reads go there aren't many better stories in existence. If you think the premise sounds interesting then give it a go -- you'll enjoy it a lot if you can handle lots of death.

Rating: 8.5/10


Maison Ikkoku: Volume 1-14/15

Maison Ikkoku. The name of the popular romantic comedy (rom-com) that started its serialization back in 1980. Its success caused there to be a flood of manga out there about a college loser falling in love with the girl of his dreams and, after many oh-so-comical hardships, getting his girl. By todays standards, if it were to be released it would be something that nearly everyone has seen already, but you have to go into the series understanding that Maison Ikkoku is the reason all those college romantic comedies were created in the first place.

The story is about a group of individuals who live at a boarding house, the boarding house being called Maison Ikkoku. Kyoko Otonashi, a 22 year old widow still trying to come to terms with the death of her husband, moves into Maison Ikkoku as the manager in an attempt to take her mind off her problems. One of her the tenants, Yusaku Godai, was just about to leave in order to find a more peaceful study environment when she walked into the building. He was quick to change his mind about escaping once he looked at her and fell in love at first sight. But, as Godai soon discovered, winning the heart of a woman still in love with her dead husband isn't an easy task...

How to a rate a series that's so heart-warming yet has many bothersome flaws. Reading the series filled me with a warmth I haven't felt since I read Love Hina, another rom-com that copied a lot from Maison and improved a lot. But, during the middle sections of the story in particular, nothing advanced at all in 80% of the chapters. In fact, because the main characters were so indecisive, it took six years for four people to sort out relationship issues that could, and should, have been sorted out in under half the time.

...But I'm not going to get into the negative right from the get-go. That would give readers the wrong impression about the series. I have a habit of going on forever about the negative when something irks me, even when I actually like what I'm talking about. And as you'll see as you read on, that's true in the case of Maison Ikkoku.

Even though Maison Ikkoku may appear to be more of the same to fairly experienced manga readers because many people have seen a rom-com involving college by now, before going into the series you have to understand that it started its serialization back in 1980 - we're now in 2009 and it has been copied to death. And even by todays standards, Maison Ikkoku is still a worthy rival for any other rom-com in existence, it being far more funny and touching than a lot of attempts that have been made at copying it.

Mainson Ikkoku, despite its age, has something many rom-com stories lack: charm and respectability. In this day and age, it's rare to see a comedy manga that doesn't involve much nudity/panty shots - it's almost a requirement these days. But, to its credit, Maison Ikkoku isn't like that, and that adds a mature feel to the relationships of the character that just isn't there in most of the perverse rubbish that's out there. That's why it felt so special when, after over 130 chapters, Godai and Kyoko finally did the deed, touching each other and being intimate for the first time. It's difficult to feel the same way in other rom-coms where the male lead has already felt up and seen the female lead naked in every other chapter.

The charm and general fun vibe the story has carries it when the chapters come across as fillerish. I was able to keep reading without needing breaks because of this. It can become a frustrating experience if you're the sort of person who doesn't like the idea of seeing the development of a relationship stretched to the limit for comedy purposes (I fall into this category myself), but it's undeniable that Maison Ikkoku is incredibly fun to read. I think, somewhere deep inside us, we all have a part of us that wants to see two people fall in love and be happy together, and if the two in question can manage that after providing lots of laughter then all the better.

As for the art, it looks a little old by todays standards, and Rumiko Takahashi (the author/artist) did become a little sloppy during the less important sections, like just about every manga artist tends to, but Takahashi was able to express the characters emotions so well that I didn't care about the minor issues. For example, when Kyoko went into a jealous rage, giving Godai the 'evil eye' and stomping around, I felt her emotions reach out from the page and have an impact on me. It isn't often that black and white manga panels make me feel that way. Takahashi's loved as much as she is for good reason.

Now, I'm going to cover the characters. All my negative points are connected to the characters because Maison Ikkoku is a character driven story with no real main plot thread - the characters push the plot forward rather than the plot forcing the characters onwards. That's not to say there are more negative points than positive ones - that's not true at all - but I'm going to focus on the negative since the flaws annoyed me.

Godai: Quite possibly the most spineless main character ever. I liked him for being a kind-hearted guy, just like I like other male rom-com leads, but he REALLY pissed me off. How on earth can a grown man take six years to get it on with a woman when he's lived with her all that time, well aware of her feelings for him? All he needed to do was stop being such a wimp. It took another character upsetting Kyoko to FINALLY drive him to confessing all to her. If not for him being such a wimp/the author wanting more money, what happened in the last 20 chapters would've occurred around 62 chapters earlier.

The worst thing about it all was that he did nothing even though he had a serious rival in the form of Mitaka. Instead of being a man, he let Mitaka drive around with and grope Kyoko, risking losing her because he couldn't bring himself to do anything. If not for Kyoko being unlucky and later not jumping at the chance to marry Mitaka, Godai would've lost Kyoko. How pathetic does a lead character have to be for him to win the battle for his love because his rival was forced to throw the towel in due to a misunderstanding!?

I ended up feeling happy for Godai because he was a good person who had a lot go wrong for him. It was hard to hate him when, despite his lack of backbone, he truly loved Kyoko and wanted to make her happy. But I would've liked him a hell of a lot more if there had been less chapters and he'd been more of a man.

Kyoko: I'm not sure which of the two leads frustrated me off more. Godai's hard to beat in the spineless rankings but Kyoko sure gave him a run for his money.

For six years she made two men fight over her. Of course, it was their choice to do so, but she never truly rejected either and was always quick to jump at the chance of going out when Mitaka called her. At first it was understandable because she was still in love with her deceased husband and didn't know either Godai or Mitaka very well, but as the years passed the logic behind her stringing both along became less and less respectable. The truth is, she was as spineless as Godai - they were made for each other.

What really got to me about her was how jealous she got over Godai seeing other girls. How could she act how she did when she let Mitaka take her out and feel her up constantly? She was a complete hypocrite. I know human relationships and women don't always follow logic but, nonetheless, she still got to me with her mood swings sometimes. At least, in the end, she started to reject the advances of Mitaka...even if she did still let him drive her around and didn't ever completely reject him.

I must confess to feeling fond of her, despite what I said above. She's one of the few female characters I've seen in manga/anime who didn't cheapen herself by wearing revealing clothes and throwing herself at men. She valued herself and wanted to remain faithful to her dead husband. I liked how Godai described her as a woman who burned with jealousy, yet was perfect in his eyes when she smiled. It's too bad times have changed and it's almost unnatural to see a woman worth chasing after in stories these days...

Mitaka: The stud. The tennis coach. The rich guy. The rival for Kyoko's affections.

Since the story was told from Godai's perspective and, from start to finish, he was the underdog, I naturally felt some level of hostility towards him. That's what the author intended; that's why he was made so perfect. But I didn't truly dislike him. At heart he was a good guy and, in the end, he was toyed with for six years by Kyoko before circumstances forced him out of the race for her. He put his love life on hold for her and suffered because Kyoko wasn't able to be honest about her feelings - I couldn't help but feel at least a little bit sorry for him.

If there's one good thing that Mitaka injected into Maison Ikkoku it was humour. His irrational fear of dogs got the most laughs out of me, sometimes even making me laugh out loud. The image of him, a well-built guy, looking around a corner in fear at a puppy, which he'd bought in an attempt to free himself of his fear, will stay with me for a long time. I never thought something so simple could make me laugh so much.

Putting aside my feelings for the three most important characters, my main criticism lies with the heart of the supporting cast, or rather how the author wasted those three characters. Yotsuya, the snake-like voyeur who sneaks into Godai's room via a hole in the wall, stealing food most of the time, was my favourite character until he began to fade as the series went on; Akemi, the bar hostess/prostitute who enjoys walking around Maison Ikkoku in a see-through top and no bra and the sluttish character every harem type needs and Ichinose, the nosey, fat older woman who gets drunk on a regular basis and dances. I don't have any problem with the characters actual personalities - I feel they all added to the comedy - but the author never fleshed out any of them, never giving any chapters that fully explained their history and took them above the level of humourous plot devices. I would've loved to discover more about Yotsuya and what he did for a living, but instead I was forced to read many chapters that added nothing to the series in any way, shape or form.

There were some other important characters - a school girl with a crush on Godai (Yagami), another girl blindly in love with Godai (Kozue), a girl who falls madly in love with Mitaka (Asuna), the son of the nosey woman mentioned above (Kentaro) and a simple minded late resident of Maison Ikkoku (Nikaido) - but very few of them did anything other than extend the story. While it was obvious she only existed to add to the chapter count, Yagami was a likeable enough character, and her student-teacher relationship put Kyoko's past with her deceased husband into the spotlight, but she was the only worthwhile character out of the bunch. The author had a horrible habit of bringing characters into the picture and then forgetting about them. For example, Kentaro's strained relationship with his parents was never looked into again after around the halfway point, and his character only appeared in a few panels after that. And something similar occurred with Nikaido, a character that appeared for half of a volume, taking center stage, and then only appeared again in a few panels - I can fully understand why he never appeared in the anime. Simply put, the author created too many filler characters and didn't develop a large portion of the cast.

What Maison Ikkoku did wrong in terms of character development and pacing has been corrected by others over the years. Love Hina is the most popular out of all the attempts at taking the rom-com crown away from Maison Ikkoku, and Love Hina fixed a lot of its problems. In Love Hina, all but one of the residents of Hinata House (Love Hina's Maison Ikkoku) had character development and a huge amount of the chapters were devoted to them and them alone - they weren't just there for comedy purposes. This meant that some of the supporting characters became as likeable as the main two. And Keitaro, the main character of Love Hina, actually changed as the story progressed - he didn't stay spineless like Godai. Also, instead of the exam side coming up at the start and then not being touched upon again like in Maison Ikkoku, in Love Hina exam preparation and exams were used to add purpose to the story, preventing it from becoming a completely random series of chapters.

Of course, Love Hina also had flaws that Maison Ikkoku didn't, and Maison Ikkoku had plus points that Love Hina doesn't. Both are great in there own ways. Now that I've read both, Maison Ikkoku will always be the original and Love Hina will be thought of by me as something of a remake. At the end of the day, all that mattered was my enjoyment, and I enjoyed both a lot.

So, to wrap this up, let me express how much enjoyment I got out of Maison Ikkoku. No, it wasn't perfect, and the flaws did bother me at times, but it moved me emotionally like very little else has. For a fictional story that's been copied to death to make me go on a 60+ chapter marathon and make me feel happy because of a love story that was able to warm even my cold heart, it did a lot right.

I was torn at first as to how to rate it because of its flaws and age...however, after the outstanding final 20 or so chapters (once the fillerish material stopped), how on earth can I rate something so heart-warming less than 8.5-9/10? I'm going to give it 8.5/10 and put it above others in my top five based on enjoyment alone.

Rating: 8.5/10